I’ve been reading Julia Gelardi’s Born to Rule: Granddaughters of Victoria, Queens of Europe (2004) and am going to do a series of posts on Queen Victoria’s five granddaughters, all of whom went on to be European queens themselves. All quotations are from that book.
Today we’re going to talk about Princess Maud of Wales, who went on to become Queen of Norway. She was the daughter of Queen Victoria’s eldest son, the future Edward VII. As we discussed in my post on Princess Alicky, Maud was the sister of Prince Albert Victor (“Eddy”), who was a pretty major debauched weirdo and would have gone on to be King of England if he had not predeceased his father at age 28. Maud is therefore also the sister of Edward VII’s younger son (and Eddy’s younger brother), George V. (You might know George V as the mean dad/king in The King’s Speech).
She’s one of my favorites because she was deeply shy, but also a bit of a wild child.
“To the queen [Victoria], Maud and her siblings seemed to unruly. A much more disciplined atmosphere reigned for the Wales children when it came time to visit their grandmother; in fact, Maud once refused to visit Queen Victoria. Princess Alexandra [Maud’s mother] related how just before he daughters were due to set off for Balmoral, ‘they all cried floods’. ‘Little Harry [tomboy Maud’s nickname],’ noted Alexandra, ‘declared at the last minute, “I won’t go”, with a stamp of her foot.’
“Maud’s fearlessness among her young relations and her tomboyish ways did not abate as she grew older. Though sickly, the sports-mad princess delighted in riding horses every day, and cycling became another favourite sport. When she insisted on riding out in public – the first British princess to be seen doing so – Queen Victoria was unamused. The queen reprimanded her granddaughter for such a daring move. Maud replied simply, ‘But grandmother, everyone knows that I have legs!‘ (8-9).
“As a child and young woman, Maud regularly visited her mother’s native Denmark and so became close friends with her first cousins, the Tsarevitch Nicholas and his younger brother, Grand Duke George, sons of Alexandra’s sister, Empress Marie of Russia. As teenagers, Nicholas and George corresponded with Maud. She address Nicholas as ‘Mr Toad‘ or ‘Darling little Nicky’ (often underlining the ‘little’). George took on the more lyircal nickname of ‘Musie’, while Maud often signed off as ‘Stumpy‘.
“During her teenage years, Princess Maud did not hold her Danish relations in high esteem, fun-loving though they were. She especially though her first cousin, Prince Charles of Denmark, immature. When he went off to sea in 1886, seventeen-year-old Maud was convinced this would do the fourteen-year-old prince much good. Writing to ‘my little darling Musie’, Maud did not mince words about Charles: ‘I am sure it will be good for him since he used to be so daft.’ (9).
‘To outsiders, the ‘whispering Wales girls‘ appeared painfully shy. ‘Her Royal Shyness‘ was how people referred to Maud, Louise or Toria, who spoke ‘in a minor key, en sourdine‘, as [Princess] Missy [their cousin] recalled of them. This timidity was a trait Maud shared with her cousin Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt, and with their grandmother. Even as late as 1867, Queen Victoria admitted that ‘I am terribly shy and nervous and always so‘. (16).
“Princess Maud may have harboured fond feelings for Grand Duke George of Russia, but she was increasingly drawn toward Prince Frank, though he was not in the least bit interested in her. Maud’s letters were left unanswered. In one letter to Frank’s sister, May (the future Queen Mary, consort of King George V of England), Maud tried to enlist May’s help to pus her brother to answer” (23).
“Maud had certainly caught the attention of one admiring young man in the form of her first cousin, Prince Nicholas of Greece, but he was unsuccessful in getting her to marry him. Nevertheless, he took Maud’s rejection in his stride. At one point Queen Victoria had hoped to see Maud married to Ernie, who succeeded his father as Grand Duke of Hesse. But haemophilia in his family plus Maud’s weak constitution scuttled that idea …. Maud at the Hessian court would have been too much for her mother – that that Maud would have wanted to live in Darmstadt. When she was a guest at the wedding of Ernie … Maud launched a verbal attack on Princess Alix’s hometown …. ‘No one would make me marry these German vandals. Imagine, having to live in Darmstadt one’s whole life!’ The Princess of Wales had succeeded in raising Maud to share in her aversion for Germany. When Maud was in Germany in 1886, she disdainfully described her opinions of Germans to her friend, Evie Forbes: ‘You never saw such frights (just like Germans always are!). I hate every sort of German and I must say they are such vulgar people I think‘” (24).
“By September 1895, any hopes of Princess Maud marrying Prince Francis of Teck had been virtually abandoned by the lovelorn princess. ‘Imagine I wrote to F.[rank] and he has never answered’, she lamented to her sister-in-law, May. ‘And also right before we travelled abroad and still no answer, dreadful I call it!’ ….. Besides Frank’s obvious lack of interest in Maud, there were even more worrisome aspects that put him out of the running. Frank, for one, was an inveterate gambler whose gaming habits had reached alarming proportions. The last straw occurred when Frank rashly bet £10,000 on the horses – money which he did not have. This irresponsible behaviour earned him exile to India, where it was hoped that he would come to his senses” (66).
Maud FINALLY met a suitable match in her late twenties in the form of her cousin Prince Carl of Denmark. She got over Prince Frank preeeeeeetty quickly.
“Not long after her marriage, Maud was in raptures about her husband, writing how ‘sometimes I actually think I am dreaming and can not understand that I am married and have a husband, and even one that is so good-looking‘ (75).
“When the welcome news came that Maud, married for over six years, was at last expecting a child, her doctors encouraged her princess to go to England for the birth. Since the child was not destined to reign in Denmark, or anywhere else fro that matter, an accouchement in England seemed perfectly acceptable at the time. On 2 July 1903, a son – Alexander – was born to Maud at Appleton. When Alexander was two days old, the bells of St George Chapel, Windsor, were rung in honour of this infant prince. No one realised he would one day become King of Norway.” (108-09).
In 1905, Norway and Sweden broke apart and became two separate countries. All of a sudden, Norway needed to elect a king. For various political reasons (including the fact that he and Maud already had a son and heir, and the fact that Maud was a prominent British royal who could therefore bring a lot of international political sway), Carl was elected King of Norway.
“In order to identify himself with his Norwegian subjects, [Prince Carl] embraced as his motto ‘Alt for Norge! (All for Norway!)” and took the name of Haakon VII, in deference to the country’s previous kings. Prince Alexander accordingly became Prince Olav. But Maud refused to change her name to something Norwegian-sounding. True to her English roots, Maud felt that since her name had been good enough for a British princess, then surely it was good enough to a Queen of Norway” (143).
When the couple moved from their home to Norway’s Royal Palace, they discovered that it was a “showpiece rather than an inhabited home, years of inactivity had turned the Royal Palace into a neglected pile since its completion in the middle of the nineteenth century. When the family moved in, it could not have seemed more daunting: with no lavatory, only a few baths, running water nonexistent, and little furniture. Maud had her work cut out for her” (154).
She totally refurbished the palace, and she and Haakon VII became some of the most celebrated “Norwegians” in their history. Maud died in 1938.
Haakon was massively popular and did his utmost to be true to Norwegian customs, hobbies, and culture. When Norway was invaded by German forces in the second World War, Germany demanded that Norway stop resisting, give in to German demands, and appoint Vidkun Quisling, the leader of the Norwegian fascist party, as Norway’s new prime minister.
Haakon said that he would not back down and would never agree to appoint Quisling. And if the government felt otherwise, then he would abdicate so as not to stand in their way.
The government, proud of their king’s moral bravery and terrified of losing him, unanimously voted to tell Germany that they could SUCK IT; Norway continued to resist, even despite German assassination attempts which kept them on the run all the way to London. He returned from exile after the war and went on to rule happily for another twelve years until his death.