Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Princess Viktoria of Prussia


Princess Viktoria of Prussia was the fifth child and second daughter of Victoria, Princess Royal and Prince Frederick of Prussia. She came from two great lineages, as her father was from the House of Hohenzollern, a royal house that had reigned over Prussia for almost two centuries. Her mother was the oldest child of the famous Queen Victoria of Great Britain and her husband, Albert, Prince Consort. She was born Friederike Amalia Wilhelmine Viktoria on April 12, 1866 at the New Palace in Prussia. Viktoria, who was known as “Young Vicky” or “Moretta” by her family, was close to both her mother and her grandmother, unlike the rest of her siblings. She was her parents’ favorite child and had a much easier upbringing than her three surviving older siblings, as the unexpected deaths of two of her brothers at a young age softened the once demanding and strict Princess Victoria. While the Princess Royal had been a highly critical and unpleasant mother to her three eldest children, she was much more easy-going with Viktoria and her two younger sisters, Sophie and Margaret. This change in parenting style brought Viktoria and her younger sisters closer to their mother while the older children – Wilhelm, Charlotte, and Henry – became estranged from their mother and never had a good relationship with her.

Princess Viktoria
One thing that the Princess Royal did not alter in how she raised her children was her integration of English culture into their lives, which Viktoria and all her siblings embraced. Viktoria was especially fond of her mother’s native land and lifestyle and even took after her in many ways, including her appearance (unfortunately, according to contemporaries, Viktoria’s mother was not an attractive woman). She was said to be an impulsive, amiable, and unconventional lady who, in her youth, was hard to command due to the indulgence and favor her parents, especially her father, showered upon her. Viktoria’s mother favored her so heavily that she played a major role in finding a suitable spouse for her beloved daughter, as she wanted nothing more than for Viktoria to be as happy as she was with Frederick. Thus, in 1881, the Princess Royal invited Prince Alexander of Battenberg, the sovereign Prince of Bulgaria, to the Prussian court. Both the Princess Royal and Queen Victoria urged Viktoria to marry Alexander and their efforts worked, as she soon fell in love with the very handsome and dashing prince, who was nine years her senior. However, Viktoria’s grandfather, Emperor Wilhelm I and his chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, were very against the match, as they were worried that if Viktoria married Alexander, Russia would be angered, for Alexander’s rule in Bulgaria aggravated the Russians immensely. After much rather nasty fighting between Bismarck and the royal family, which went on for seven years, Viktoria’s hopes for marriage to Alexander were completely destroyed in 1888 when her father died of throat cancer just three months after his accession as German Emperor. Viktoria’s eldest brother took the throne as Emperor Wilhelm II and, as he was in agreement with Bismarck on the matter of his sister’s marital plans, tossed away any possibility of a marriage between the love-struck Viktoria and her Bulgarian prince.

Princess Viktoria and Prince Adolf
Instead, the heartbroken Princess was pushed into a hasty marriage with Prince Adolf of Schaumburg-Lippe, a younger son of Adolf I, Prince of Schaumburg-Lippe. She was still not over her love for Alexander at the time and had become severely depressed, even going as far as to starve herself to the point of sickliness. Wilhelm had been the one who arranged the match and although Viktoria latter admitted that there had been a degree of mutual attraction between her and Prince Adolf, it never matched the love she had for Alexander. Viktoria’s own mother was wary of the match, as she believed that Adolf wasn’t the right fit for her favorite daughter. Viktoria married Adolf on November 19, 1890 when she was twenty-six (an old age for a bride at the time) and he was thirty-three. The couple settled down in Bonn where Adolf could carry out his military duties. Because of these obligations, Adolf was almost always gone, leaving Viktoria constantly alone. Viktoria was not upset over this, however, as she respected how devoted her husband was to his career. But, she wasn’t faithful to Adolf, as she never really loved him, which was apparent by their childless (she did miscarriage early on in the marriage but never became pregnant again). During her marriage, she actually became attracted to Adolf’s nephew and wanted to divorce Adolf to marry his younger relative, but her brother would never allow such a thing to take place. When World War I broke out in 1914, Viktoria was very sympathetic to the British cause, despite her German roots. 

Princess Viktoria
This was undoubtedly the result of her mother’s pro-English upbringing, for Viktoria took to her mother’s native culture more so than any of her other siblings, as stated previously. Viktoria’s husband died during the war on July 9, 1916 at the age of fifty-six, making the fifty year-old Viktoria a widow. Now a free woman, Viktoria promised herself that she would change her life for the better by seeking out true happiness. She did so in 1927, when she met and fell in love with a Russian immigrant, Alexander Zoubkoff, at a party she held for university students. Zoubkoff, or “Sasha”, as she nicknamed him, was a law student at the University of Bonn and was a scandalous thirty-five years Viktoria’s junior. When the couple became engaged, Viktoria’s entire family was outraged, as Zoubkoff was a lowly Russian commoner (also, it didn’t help that Russia had fought against Germany in WWI). But Viktoria didn’t care what anyone else thought and married Zoubkoff at a Greek Orthodox ceremony on November 19, 1927 when she was sixty-one and he was twenty-six (she wore the lace bridal veil her mother had worn at her own wedding more than fifty years previously). None of Viktoria’s furious family members came to the wedding. Viktoria acknowledged publically that she knew that by marrying Zoubkoff (who had an assortment of odd jobs as an actor, movie extra, dishwasher, waiter, and professional dancer), she would essentially be giving up her royal titles.

Princess Viktoria and her second husband,
Alexander Zoubkoff
Sadly for Viktoria, her hope for a new, happy life with her young second husband would not be as she imagined. Zoubkoff never loved his elderly spouse and had only married her for her money. He quickly wasted what little fortune she had on his own personal indulgences and was almost never home. Zoubkoff was not a well behaved when it came to the law, as he was deported from Germany twice and was even expelled from France and Belgium. At first, Viktoria put up with her horrible spouse and supported him, even following him to the Belgian Congo. But soon after they came back to Bonn, she realized what she had gotten herself into and filed for divorce. It was too late though, as Viktoria’s husband had pushed her into debt and ruin. She was forced to sell her home and almost all of her possessions to pay off Zoubkoff’s enormous debts. Only a few days after she revealed her plans for a divorce, Viktoria was found by an astonished servant in her former gardens in a dazed and emotional state clinging to a tree. Her exile from her family and her tragic marriage to the useless Zoubkoff, as well as her finanical ruin, brought about her mental and physical demise. Viktoria was taken to a hospital after a doctor found she was suffering from pneumonia. She tried to contact her siblings during her last days but her efforts were in vain. Poverty-stricken, desolate, loveless, and effectively banished from her family, Viktoria gave up on life and died on November 13, 1929 at the age of sixty-three. She was buried in the Schlosshotel Kronberg in Taunus, Hesse without her family’s forgiveness or love. 

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