My book, Eczema and Atopic Dermatits: The Best Websites has recently been published. I've also had many articles published, but I'd like to write more non-fiction books and, of course, a novel!
My articles can be seen at many websites, including Life in Italy, Crescent Blues, Paris Eiffel Tower Newsletter, and France This Way.
I am going to write a series about Queen Victoria's children. We will start with her eldest, Princess Vicky. I hope that you enjoy this series. Comments are welcome.
The English Empress
Pope Pius IX told the English representative in Rome, Lord Odo Russell, that “he was an old man, but in the whole course of his long life he had never been more favourably impressed by anyone than by her Royal Highness the Crown Princess of Prussia.” He was not the only one that Princess Vicky impressed, but unfortunately forces were against the ‘uncommon woman’ as Hannah Pakula called her and she led a tragic life.
Queen Victoria’s eldest child, little Princess Vicky startled her parents with her cleverness. She was Prince Albert’s delight and he loved to discuss his liberal beliefs and many different topics with the young princess. Queen Victoria got a little jealous at times of Prince Albert’s liking for this amazing daughter.
Vicky’s parents were keen to arrange a match for her to the German Prince, Frederick, for various reasons. He met her when she was only ten and he was much older. He was pleased when the princess spoke to him in fluent German. The Queen and Prince Albert liked this young man very much and hoped that the couple would fall in love later.
Vicky and Fritz did fall in love later and she married the handsome prince when she was only seventeen. Her parents were sorry to see her go to Germany and thought that she was very young to get married, but they also thought that the match was a very happy one. They were right and the couple did have a long and happy marriage.
The palace that the couple lived in was cold, draughty, old-fashioned, and without amenities. Queen Victoria liked new technologies and gadgets – she was one of the first to install bathrooms and tap-water. Princess Vicky was used to greater comforts and made her opinions known. She was inclined to say that ‘things were better in England.’ This didn’t go over well.
This discomfort was the least of the English princess’s troubles. Fritz shared her liberal philosophies but most of his family believed in autocracy. They were also used to fairly meek women and found the princess too clever. Vicky was shocked that most German women she met didn’t read the papers and had no interest in current events. She found them very ‘unenlightened’ compared with the English women that she was used to. The Prussian elite and Vicky’s in-laws were against ‘the English woman’ from the start.
Fritz was unfortunately rather weak compared with Vicky. His father became King William 1 in 1861 and preferred conservative and autocratic policies, even though many had hoped that he might be a more liberal King than his father. Vicky urged Fritz to stand up to his father but Fritz was very loyal and obedient so he found this difficult.
The Abdication Crisis Soon after Vicky’s father died in 1861, an abdication crisis occurred. William couldn’t get his military reforms approved by the Landtag and he threatened to abdicate. He offered his son the throne but Fritz thought that his father looked like a “poor, broken old man” and that abdicating over a decision of parliament would set a dangerous precedent.
Vicky had other ideas. She wrote to Fritz that ‘he should make this sacrifice for his country’ and that if he didn’t, “I believe that you will regret it one day.” If the Crown Prince had become King then the course of history may well have changed.
The ambitious Otto van Bismarck, who believed in ruling by ‘blood and iron’, was appointed Prime Minister in 1862. Conservative and militaristic, he disliked Vicky and he disagreed with the couple’s liberal philosophies. He persecuted and defamed both of them almost until their deaths.
When Bismarck was appointed Prime Minister, a leader of the liberal Progressive Party “claimed that he would lead Prussia into ‘government without budget, rule by the sword in home affairs, and war in foreign affairs.’ The man was right on every count.” 1.
Soon after Princess Vicky’s beloved father died, Kaiser William 1, Frederick’s father, suppressed the freedom of the press. Frederick bravely made a speech in favour of the press but this was really the only time that he succeeded in standing up to his father who was ruled by Bismarck and the military.
Bismarck led Prussia into three wars – against Demark, Austria and France. The war with Denmark over the territories of Schleswig and Holstein greatly upset Princess Alexandra, Vicky’s sister-in-law, who came from Denmark, and caused trouble between the families.
Frederick fought in most of the wars and commanded one of Prussia’s three armies in the war against Austria. He received the Order of Merit for his leadership and gallantry in the Battle of Königgrätz. Frederick’s men loved and admired him, according to Hannah Pakula.
Vicky established hospitals, nursed the wounded herself, and devoted herself to charity work. She was much admired by the ordinary people but Bismarck and the Prussian elite always regarded her with suspicion and spread scandal about her.
Bismarck has been credited with the unification of Germany but Vicky thought that Fritz did far more work on this and his role was not recognized. Many historians agree with her but others think that Bismarck was largely responsible for the unification.
Frederick’s Reign Frederick became King Frederick III after his father, William, died at 90 years old in 1888. Unfortunately, he was suffering from a terrible cancer of the larynx and endured mistreatment by his doctors. He only reigned for three months which wasn’t enough time to put his plans for constitutional reform into effect.
Vicky had had a tragic life. She suffered great grief when her sons, Sigismund and Waldemar died. Now she had to endure the death of her husband and the loss of her great hopes for her reign as well.
After Frederick’s DeathAfter Frederick’s death Vicky lived in Castle Freidrichshof near Kronberg and devoted herself to her charity work and furthering the cause of education for women by founding schools.
She knew that her son, now the Kaiser, had been brainwashed against her by the Prussian military and Bismarck, so she ensured that her letters to Queen Victoria were smuggled out of Germany to England by Edward VII’s private secretary, Frederick Ponsonby. Indeed, William II did have Vicky’s residence searched for her documents.
Vicky died of breast cancer in 1901 at only sixty years of age. She was a brave and strong woman who devoted herself to changing her adopted country for the better.
Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales, visited North America in 1860 and impressed everyone with his friendliness and joie de vivre. He was the first heir to the throne to visit North America.
Canadian officials requested a royal visit after a Canadian regiment fought in the Crimean War on behalf of Great Britain. The Queen refused to go because she thought that she would find the long sea voyage difficult. After her husband, Prince Albert, and the British Colonial Secretary, Henry Pelham Clinton, pleaded with her, Queen Victoria agreed to send the Prince of Wales instead. They thought that the visit would improve diplomatic relations between North America and Britain and be good for the Prince of Wales. They were right.
The Prince was greeted by enthusiastic crowds in Canada. He inaugurated the Victoria Bridge across the Hudson River in Montreal and he watched the exciting spectacle of Blondin crossing the Niagara Falls on a high wire pushing a man in a wheelchair. He went to many other provinces of Canada, including the beautiful Prince Edward Island. (This is one place that I've always dreamed of seeing!)
Thirty thousand wildly enthusiastic Americans came to cheer his arrival in Detroit. The number rose to fifty thousand in Chicago. The Prince began to suffer headaches from the stress of the celebrations and large crowds so he enjoyed a short hunting trip.
He stayed with President Buchanan in Washington, D.C., where a reception was held for him and he went on a tour.
Prince Edward stayed at the high-class Fifth Avenue Hotel in Madison Square in New York. A ball was held for him at the prestigious Academy of Music. An extra two thousand people came and the weight of these people caused the floor to collapse, to the Prince's astonishment. Luckily no one was seriously injured, although two people were slightly hurt.
The Prince finally went home exhausted after an exciting tour. He'd met the President, Emerson, Longfellow and Holmes and requested to see the opera star, Adelina Patti, after her show. He'd been welcomed by crowds everywhere he went and made a big impression on the people. His tour was long remembered.
In Winterhalter's famous portrait the Empress Elisabeth of Austria wears glittering diamond stars in her rich, brown hair and a diaphanous gown. She looks so beautiful that it is not surprising that she was compared to the Fairy-Queen, Titania. Her beauty came at a price, however. The rather vain Queen spent hours caring for her hair, skin and figure.
Empress Elisabeth, nicknamed 'Sisi', had a 19 inch waist. She was very proud of this and tried hard to stay thin. Many historians think that she had anorexia because she was constantly dieting and hardly ate.
Sisi was also a great believer in tight-lacing, which would have accentuated her small waist. This practice was very dangerous, causing women to faint and even have shortness of breath.
The Queen's addiction to exercise concerned many. It was regarded as rather eccentric. She practised gymnastics, even swinging along on the rings and liked to go on long hikes.
Sisi was also one of the best equestrians of her age. She went hunting with the wildest riders in England and Ireland, including the dangerous rider, Bay Middleton, and she even indulged in circus tricks. She took her riding extremely seriously.
Sisi's lavish chestnut brown hair was almost floor-length. She regarded it as her greatest asset and she engaged a former theatre hairdresser, Fanny Angerer, to care for it. This shocked the court, especially her mother-in-law, Archduchess Sophie. Fanny received the very high annual salary of 2000 guldens.
Sisi's hair was washed every three weeks - usually with a mixture of cognac and egg. This usually took all day. About three hours per day was spent caring for Empress Elisabeth's beautiful hair.
One of Sisi's face masks is not recommended. She apparently liked to use raw veal! Another face mask was made of strawberries, which would be much nicer to use. She also liked to use rose petals and herbal ingredients.
Warm olive baths were also a favourite of the Empress.