Saturday, July 23, 2016

Maud of Wales, Queen of Norway

Princess Maud of Wales, more formally known as “Princess Maud Charlotte Mary Victoria”, was the third daughter and fifth child of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra of Denmark. Her father was the eldest son and heir of Queen Victoria and eventually succeeded to the British throne as King Edward VII. Her mother, the beautiful and popular Alexandra, was the eldest daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark and Princess Louise of Hesse-Kassel. Maud was born on November 26, 1869 at her family’s home of Marlborough House in London. The Prince and Princess of Wales went against tradition by not naming their youngest surviving child after any particular close relative; “Maud” was simply a variant of the Old German name of “Matilda”, which had its roots it Anglo-Norman history. On the other hand, Maud’s middle names were attributed to some of her female relatives; “Charlotte” was for her maternal great-grandmother, Princess Charlotte of Denmark, and “Victoria” was for her paternal grandmother, Queen Victoria. Maud’s older siblings were: Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, King George V of the U.K., Louise, Princess Royal and Duchess of Fife, and Princess Victoria.

Princess Maud of Wales
Maud and her sisters, who all inherited their mother’s auburn hair, grew up in a sheltered and protected environment as a result of their possessive mother’s “smothering love” and an obsessive longing for her daughters to remain dependent on her, as well as physically and emotionally close to her. Because of this controlling environment, Maud and her two older sisters (they were collectively called the “Wales girls”) had trouble socializing or relating to family outsiders. It also didn’t help that the Prince and Princess of Wales gave their daughters only a limited education. Although Maud’s older siblings called their childhood “oppressive” and “stifled”, Maud always looked back on her upbringing fondly and happily. She was certainly the rebellious child, for she was known for her tomboyish nature, her lively spirit, and her endless energy. The young Maud was even the first British princess to openly ride a bicycle, much to her dignified paternal grandmother’s displeasure.  She was her father’s favorite child and both loved to ride and play sports. Maud even earned the nickname “Harry” after her father’s friend in the Royal Navy, an Admiral who was particularly praised for his bravery during the Crimean War. Maud and her family often went to her mother’s native Denmark to visit her maternal relatives at their annual family reunions, where she got to know her Danish cousins, aunts, and uncles. Though she was close to her own parents and siblings, she was not very fond of her Danish family, particularly her first cousin Prince Carl of Denmark, the son of the future King Frederick VIII and Princess Louise of Sweden. Carl, who was three years Maud’s junior, was viewed by his British cousin as “immature”. Also, when the Wales family traveled to Copenhagen, they sometimes journeyed to Norway and the Mediterranean on cruises.

Princess Maud and her husband,
Prince Carl of Denmark
When Maud was in her teenage years, she fell in love with the elder brother of her sister-in-law, Mary of Teck. Prince Francis of Teck, who was just one year Maud’s junior, was fairly depleted in terms of money from his growing gambling debts and although he could have benefited by marrying Maud because of her status, he had no interest in her and spurned her flirtations. Maud was almost enamored with Grand Duke George of Russia, a grandson of Tsar Nicholas I, for a brief period of time but nothing came of this young crush. But surprisingly enough, Maud found love in her “immature” and “daft” Danish cousin, Prince Carl of Denmark, who had fallen in love with her in 1892. She eventually warmed up to him, finding him to be less childish than she believed, and the two bonded over a mutual love of bicycling. In 1895, Carl proposed to Maud and she accepted. The couple knew that since Carl was unlikely to ever wear the Danish crown (since he was only the second son of his father), the two could live peacefully and quietly in Maud’s home of England. However, there was some hesitation in both the British and Danish royal families regarding the union since the two were so close in blood and Carl’s mother had desperately wanted him to marry Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. But ultimately, both Maud and Carl’s families did agree to the wedding and the couple was quickly married on July 22, 1896 in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace. Maud was twenty-six at the time of the wedding ceremony while Carl was a few weeks shy of his twenty-fourth birthday.

The Wedding of Princess Maud of Wales and Prince Carl of Denmark
(Laurits Tuxen, 1897)

The couple’s first few years of marriage were peaceful, just as Maud wanted. They stayed out of the spotlight in their honeymoon residence of Appleton House on the Sandringham Estate; a country house Maud’s father had given her as a wedding gift. Maud was so hesitant to leave England and her family that she and Carl were still residing in Appleton House five months after the wedding. Eventually, the newlyweds did pack up in December of 1896 for Carl’s home of Denmark (as he had to perform his duties as an officer in the Danish navy), where they settled down at the Bernstorff Palace in Gentofe not too far from Copenhagen. But even here, Maud was not comfortable with her strange surroundings and would travel back to England to visit her family as often as possible, especially when the bitter Danish winters rolled through. Less than five years after Maud married Prince Carl, her grandmother died in January of 1901 and her father was crowned as King Edward VII of the U.K., making her the daughter of a sovereign. It was in England at Appleton House that Maud gave birth to her only child on July 2, 1903 – a son named Prince Alexander.

Maud of Wales and her husband, King
Haakon VII, with their son, Crown Prince Olav
In June of 1905, the almost century long union between the countries of Sweden and Norway was dissolved by the Norwegian parliament, the Storting. Norway then began to look for suitable candidates for the newly independent Norwegian Crown and because of Prince Carl’s descent from past Norwegian monarchs and his wife’s high status in the British royal family, he became the great favorite for the throne. After a plebiscite in November, where 79% of the Norwegian people voted in favor of Carl, the Danish prince formally accepted the crown. Carl arrived in his new kingdom on November 25, 1905, along with his wife and their two year-old son. Two days later, he took the oath of succession and was crowned as King Haakon VII. Prince Alexander’s name was changed to Olav and he became the Crown Prince and heir to the throne. Maud, now the Queen Consort of Norway at the age of thirty-six, didn’t change her name but she and her husband were both crowned in a coronation ceremony on June 22, 1906 at the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim.

Maud of Wales, Queen of Norway
Although Maud had never wanted to be a queen and her home country of Britain always held a special place in her heart, she recognized her importance as her husband’s consort to integrate her family into Norwegian culture and society. She made sure that she and her husband were photographed in Norwegian folk costumes and engaging in winter sports like skiing. Like her mother, she used clothes and jewelry as a tool to create a regal impression. Though Crown Prince Olav was raised as though he were a native Norwegian, Maud always remained firmly British and actually never became truly fluent in the Norwegian language. Queen Maud appeared to have a small and discreet public presence but in all actuality, she had a firm grip over familial and ceremonial matters behind closed doors. The people loved her for her dignified persona, friendly nature, and sophistication when it came to high fashion and style. The warm yet bashful Maud disliked some of the luxuries of being queen but she performed all her royal duties with grace, efficiency, and care. She always made sure that she visited England every year and would constantly stay in Appleton House during these annual trips. She was said to be a “forceful and dominant person within the royal court” with a “less visible” public role but overall, she was known as a humorous, friendly, and energetic woman to her family and close friends. Maud took a special interest in charities, especially those that involved animals and children, and supported Norwegian musicians and artists. During World War I, she founded the Dronningens Hjelpekomité (“the Queen’s Relief Committee”), which was designed to help people suffering from very trying conditions caused by the war. She also became active in the fight for women’s rights and promoted the cause for welfare of single women.

Maud of Wales, Queen of Norway
In March of 1929, Crown Prince Olav, who was serving as a naval cadet in the Norwegian army before becoming a colonel in 1936, married Princess Märtha of Sweden, the paternal granddaughter of King Oscar II of Sweden and Olav’s first cousin once removed, as her mother was a daughter of Frederick VIII of Denmark. The couple had a very successful marriage since they both genuinely loved and respected each other. They had three children: two daughters named Princess Ragnhild and Princess Astrid, and a son – the current King Harald V of Norway. Maud became the last surviving child of Edward VII and Alexandra of Denmark when her final remaining sibling, King George V, died in January of 1936. Maud’s last public appearance in Britain as at the coronation of her nephew, King George VI, in May of 1937 at Westminster Abbey. During the ceremony, the elderly Queen Consort of Norway sat with the Queen Dowager Mary of Teck and her niece, Mary, Princess Royal, in the official royal pew of the abbey. In October of 1938, Maud came back to England for another one of her habitual visits but during her stay at a London hotel, she fell ill and was taken to a nursing home where doctors had to perform an abdominal surgery on her on November 16th. Her husband hastened to England to be by his ailing wife’s bedside. Although she lived through the operation, Maud suddenly and unexpectedly died of heart failure at her English home of Appleton House on November 20, 1938, six days before her sixty-ninth birthday. Maud of Wales, the Queen Consort of Norway and a princess of the United Kingdom, was laid to rest in Akershus Castle in Oslo. Her husband survived her by almost nineteen years before his own death on September 21, 1957 at the age of eighty-five, after which he was buried beside his wife. Their son succeeded to the throne as King Olav V at the age of fifty-four and ruled for more than three decades as arguably the most popular monarch in Norwegian history before his death in early 1991 at the age of eighty-seven. 

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