Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Royal Weddings Part 6: George, Duke of York and Princess Mary of Teck

I’m starting our final week of Royal Wedding month with the 19th century royal wedding that most resembles this current week’s event: the 1893 wedding of Prince George, Duke of York (and grandson of the reigning monarch) and his bride Princess Mary of Teck.

What’s interesting about this wedding is the fact that George was not the first person Mary was engaged to marry. In December 1891 George’s older brother Eddy, Duke of Clarence, had proposed to Mary, who’d more or less been chosen for him by the Queen. Eddy was not known to be terribly stable or intelligent, while Mary was both—it was thought that she might improve him as he was, after all, in line for the throne after his grandmother and father. But only weeks after their engagement, Eddy was dead of pneumonia following an attack of the flu.

Queen Victoria, however, had decided that her great-niece Mary (a descendent of her father's younger brother, the Duke of Cambridge) was too good to be allowed to slip away, and encouraged a match between her and Eddy’s younger brother George, now second heir to the throne. Her wish was eventually granted, and a little more than a year after Eddy’s death (and after a lot of public speculation as to whether they would or not and doubts on both their part), George and Mary were engaged. Happily, their doubts proved groundless, and they became a devoted if not very demonstrative couple, Mary indeed proving to be a source of strength for her husband, just as the Queen had foreseen.

Their wedding, in the Chapel Royal at St. James's Palace, was attended by a large crowd of royalty, among them the recently engaged Alix of Hesse and her fiancé, Tsarevitch Nicholas of Russia. The weather was perfect, hot and sunny but with a breeze, and Londoners turned out in droves to watch the spectacle. Mary's ten bridesmaids (including two of George's sisters and several cousins) rode to St. James's in open carriages to the delight of spectators. The Queen was a spectator, and wrote in her journal about the wedding "Dear May looked so pretty & quiet and dignified. She was vy. simply and prettily dressed--& wore her mother's lace veil. The bridesmaids looked vy. sweet in white satin, with a little pink & red rose on the shoulder & some small bows of the same on the shoes.... Georgie gave his answers distinctly...while May, though quite self-possessed, spoke vy. low."

After the service, which was performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, and a handful of other bishops, a luncheon was served back at Buckingham Palace, and at 5 pm the couple left Buckingham Palace for Sandringham, the country estate of the Prince of Wales, for their honeymoon--an odd choice, as it had been the place of Prince Eddy's death just the previous year. They would eventually settle in York Cottage on the grounds of Sandringham, and not quite a year later, the couple's first child would be born--a son who would grow up to be King Edward VIII and give up his throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson.

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