Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Victoria’s Grandchildren: Victoria Melita

Princess Victoria Melita...such a pretty, euphonious name. Unfortunately, it was probably one of the only euphonious things in an often tumultuous life.

Victoria Melita, nicknamed “Ducky”, was born in 1876, the third child of Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria’s second son, and his wife Marie, daughter of Tsar Alexander II of Russia. She was also the younger sister of the future Queen Marie of Romania, whom we have already met. She was born while her father, Queen Victoria’s second son Alfred, was stationed in Malta with the Royal Navy--hence the unusual second name. Unlike her sister Marie, Ducky seems to have been of a darker, more brooding, and often tempestuous temperament, but despite their differences, the sisters were close and would remain so throughout their lives...even when Marie was married off to Ferdinand of Romania in 1893 at 17.

Marriage for Ducky was not far behind. Queen Victoria had already decided that this grand-daughter would make the perfect wife for another of her grandchildren, Ernest, the new Grand Duke of Hesse and son of her daughter Princess Alice. Although Ernest and Ducky were great chums, Ducky had already fallen hard for another cousin, Grand Duke Kirill of Russia...but neither her grandmother or mother would hear of such a match...and though Ducky’s mother was not in favor, the wedding took place in 1894, an event almost overshadowed by the announcement of the engagement of the groom’s sister, Alix, to Nicholas of Russia.

Unfortunately, the marriage was doomed from the start. Ernest was homosexual, and though Ducky gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth, before their first anniversary, they quickly arranged to live as much apart from each other as possible. A visit to Russia in 1896 for Alix and Nicholas’ coronation threw her back into the company of Grand Duke Kirill...and the pair fell in love. Although Ducky desperately wanted a divorce, her grandmother wouldn’t hear of it...and so Ducky and Ernest lived unhappily, occasionally attempting to reconcile, until the old Queen’s death in January 1901. By December, the pair had divorced, to the shock and horror of the royal families of Europe.

Ducky lived quietly with her mother for the next few years, but Kirill was never far from her mind...and in 1905, they married quietly in Germany, much to the fury of the Tsar and Tsarina of Russia (who, after all, was Ernest’s sister). Kirill was stripped of his imperial allowance and naval titles, and the couple went to live quietly in Paris. Only in 1910, when Kirill became third in line to the Russian throne, were they allowed to come back to Russia.

The new Grand Duchess took to her new life until revolution ended the monarchy in 1917. Ducky and Kirill and their children, including a newborn son, managed to flee to Finland, then after the end of WWI, to Germany. Now the pretenders to the defunct Russian throne, they remained in Germany until the mid-twenties, then settled in France, where they lived a very ordinary life, playing golf and bridge with their neighbors, while still insisting on being referred to as Tsar and Tsarina. Ducky died in 1936 after a stroke, and Kirill followed in 1938. Their descendents still to this day still claim their imperial titles.

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