Sometimes a life story, regardless of how interesting, can be lost to the sands of time. And so it is with Princess Marie Louise, granddaughter of Queen Victoria.
Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein was born on August 12, 1872, at Cumberland Lodge, the fourth child and younger daughter of Princess Helena and her husband Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein. She was christened Francisca Josepha Louise Augusta Marie Helene Christina. At first the family called her Louise, but later she chose to be known as Marie Louise. Her nickname in the family was 'Cousin Louie'.
On July 6, 1891 she married Prince Aribert of Anhalt but the marriage was unhappy and childless. For her husband the marriage had been one of convenience. She later wrote "As time went on, I became increasingly aware that my husband and I were drifting further and further apart. I had no share in his life" In 1900 her father-in-law, without warning, used his power as sovereign Prince Anhalt to annul the marriage, against her wishes. However, the Princess regarded her marriage vows as binding and never remarried. Of Princess Helena and Prince Christian's five children (one died in infancy), Marie Louise would be the only one to marry.
After her marriage ended she moved in with her sister, Helena Victoria, with whom she spent the last long years of her life in perfect contentment. Thereafter she devoted herself to charitable works, and patronage of the arts, especially music; she was also an intrepid traveller. Her greatest legacy will probably be her work in creating Queen Mary's dolls' house. Conceived as a gift for Queen Mary, this project was her inspiration and she was deeply involved in its creation.
In 1917, when members of the British Royal family relinquished all non-British titles, she ceased to be a Princess of Schleswig-Holstein. Although she was never formally given the title Princess of Great Britain and Ireland, King George V granted her the title of Her Highness Princess Marie Louise.
She was over eighty when, in 1953, she sat for Cecil Beaton, the famed photographer. He began by assuming that she must be 'an old gaga absurdity,' but by the end of the session he thought her 'absolutely enchanting.' She attended the coronations of four sovereigns, Edward VII, George V, George VI and Elizabeth II. In November 1956 she published her memoirs, My Memories Of Six Reigns. She died in London a month later and is buried in the Frogmore burial grounds, Windsor.
© Marilyn Braun 2005
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