Royal Marriages That Never Happened
- but might have done…
Whilst there can be endless speculation about marriages that might have been in timelines, the more interesting course of action for a discussion article is to look at those which nearly were, or were wanted to be but for an intransigent and immovable object.
I will take half a dozen from the 19th century as examples, as the possible futures created by them occurring are both the easier to project, and the more immediate to comprehend
1 – Alexander of Battenberg and Viktoria of Prussia
In 1879, Alexander of Battenberg, son of a morganatic marriage by a prince of Hesse, was proclaimed as Prince of the newly autonomous state of Bulgaria. High hopes were laid at his door, and it was assumed that he would do what Otho had begun to do in Greece, and what Carol of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was doing in Rumania, that is create a modern and civilised European monarchy out of a former possession of the Ottoman Empire.
But things went badly wrong for Alexander. Russia who had initially sponsored him soon became disillusioned by the fact that he was his own man, trying to do his best for Bulgarian interests, rather than those of Russia. In response Russia backed the opposition to his rule within Bulgaria and an almost constant state of conflict was the result.
In the midst of this Alexander wished to marry Princess Viktoria of Prussia, daughter of the then Crown Prince Frederick, granddaughter of Kaiser Wilhelm I, and a sister of he who would one day become Kaiser Wilhelm II. Concerned from the start about the status of Alexander as both son of a morganatic marriage, and Prince of what seemed an Eastern despotate, rather than a civilised kingdom, there was much opposition within Germany, but ? loved Alexander and wanted it to happen as much as he did.
What really put an end to the possibility was the state of internal politics in Bulgaria, which went from unstable political warfare to outright deposition of Alexander in 1886. Now, the German royal family could in no way even begin to think about countenancing the marriage proposition – Alexander was an exile, an ex-prince with no likely prospect. The marriage was killed stone dead.
Viktoria would go on in 1890 to marry the Prince of Schaumburg-Lippe, whilst in 1889 Alexander married Johanna Loisinger and had two children before his death in 1893.
2 – Michael of Russia and Beatrice of Edinburgh Saxe-Coburg
Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovitch was the only surviving brother, and thus heir presumptive, to Tsar Nicholas II whilst Beatrice was a British princess, daughter of the Duke of Edinburgh (one of Queen Victoria’s sons) who had been made also Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha upon the death of Prince Leopold, his younger brother.
Michael and Beatrice met and fell madly in love, and wanted to marry. The British were concerned mostly because she was known for being somewhat delicate, and because her father, the Duke of Edinburgh had married a Russian Grand Duchess, and it was not a marriage that would be called an unqualified success. But they were open to persuasion.
As a Russian Grand Duke, and especially as heir presumptive to his brother, Michael needed his brother, the Tsar’s, permission to marry, but despite the excellent credentials of the match, Nicholas II, by this time steeped in religious fervour, would not grant it, citing cosanguinity as a reason. It is true that Michael and Beatrice were first cousins, but across most of Europe, and especially within the royal families this was hardly a bar to marriage, and at best was something that a dispensation needed to be obtained for.
But Nicholas II was adamant – Mikhail could not marry Bea. The decision broke the delicate Bea who had a complete breakdown, whereas Mikhail rebounded but was never as serious in his consideration of romantic adventures again – not to say he never felt the same, only that he did not care so much to find a bride that would please the dynastic aims of his brother and instead eventually wooed and married a minor noble, causing his brother to exile him from Russia entirely.
A marriage between Michael and Beatrice would have been a perfect dynastic union, and also a marriage of love. There is no reason to assume it would not have been blessed by children, and Michael would have remained in Russia at his brother’s side, rather than become one of the Romanovs in exile from him, as several of his cousins also had become, through love.
3 – Carol II and one of the Romanov Grand Duchesses
Relations between the royal families of Russia and Romania were very close in the years leading up to the outbreak of the Great War in 1914. In the early Summer of 1914 the two families holidayed together in Moldavia, close to the Russian border.
King Carol I was old, and childless his heir was his nephew, Ferdinand, married to a British princess. Their eldest son Carol (to become Carol II of Romania) was of marriageable age, and a union with one of Tsar Nicholas II’s daughters was considered to be a perfect match, within the grasp of the ambitions of the Romanian dynasty.
Tsar Nicholas II’s daughters had said that they did not want to leave Russia, did not want to marry and have to leave the country, but Romania was only just a border away, and of any of the potential places to end up it was the closest, and the easiest to retain ties to the family from.
The Tsar, a weak man in many ways, had promised his daughters that if they did not want to marry outside the country then they would not have to, but a promise given one day can change on another for a plea to do so. If one of the Grand Duchesses, and either the eldest Olga or the second eldest Tatiana, were the ones in the picture had fallen in love with Carol, then they too would have begun to see Rumania as a perect compromise.
But the outbreak of war blasted the potential apart. By 1918 the grand duchesses were dead, executed in the basement of a house in Ekaterinburg, and Carol II (to be) had in the August contracted a highly unsuitable marriage to Joana Maria Valentina-Lambrino, amarriage soon annulled and replaced with a much more suitable marriage to Princess Helen of Greece.
Had the First World War not occurred, or not broken out when it did, then how much more likely would a marriage between Olga, or possibly Tatiana, and Carol have become? Could Carol’s wild ways have been calmed by an early dynastic marriage without the intervening trauma of war and conquest, humiliation and eventual victory for Romania?
4 – Prince Albert Victor of Great Britain
Albert Victor Christian Edward, who would have taken the regnal name of Edward, was the eldest son of Albert Edward, at that time Prince of Wales, but eventually to be known to history as King Edward VII. He was the elder brother of George, Duke of York, who would eventually become King George V, and had had a similar upbringing including attending naval college at Osborne as a young lad.
History is uncertain as to the true nature of Albert Victor. Some see him as thick, and thick-headed, scraping by in his studies only because his tutors dare not fail him. Others see him as intelligent enough, but disinterested in academia. There have been wild theories that he was Jack the Ripper, or that he was secretly gay, but all that can be said with any certainty is that he lived the more or less typical life of an upper class scion of his time, visiting disreputable houses as had his father before him, gambling, and mixing with company the Queen would have refused to set eyes upon.
Princess Helene of Orleans was the daughter of Philippe, Count of Paris, and putative, or titular, King of France. He was the grandson of King Louis Philippe, the son of Ferdinand, who had died in a carriage accident a decade before the Orleans monarchy had been overthrown in 1848, and he was believed by his supporters to have inherited the crown upon Louis Philippe’s abdication. Exiled from France, one of his homes was Britain where some at least of his children were born.
Helene was his second daughter, born in 1871, seven years after Albert Victor had entered the world. But they met and fell in love, and he wished to marry her. It was one of those love stories like Romeo and Juliet, where both sides abhore the idea of marriage to the other, albeit here for reasons of religion rather than for personal animosity, of which there was little between the British and Orleans royal families. But the Orleans were Catholic, and the British Anglican, and not only that but the entire Act of Succession was aimed against letting any Catholic succeed to the throne of England, and barring from doing so any prince who would wed a Catholic wife.
But Albert Victor was either pig-headed, very much in love, or an eternal optimist and he pressed his grandmother, Queen Victoria, for the marriage. Constitutional lawyers delved deep into the bowels of the various acts governing succession to the throne and discovered that were he to marry Helene and they had children brought up in the Anglican tradition, that whilst he may be barred from the throne by his marriage, their children would not be. But Queen Victoria was the classic immovable object, and the marriage was killed, to fade away into the mists soon enough.
In 1892, Albert Victor appeared to have come round, agreeing to marry the dull, and rather straight, Princess Mary of Teck. His parents and Queen Victoria were delighted, and everyone looked forward to the wedding. Princess Mary was descended on her father’s side (the Duke of Teck) from a Wurttemberg morganitic union, but on her mother’s side from the Dukes of Cambridge, and thus in direct succession from King George III.
Then Albert Victor died, a death which shocked the nation, but is oddly forgotten about by most people today, and probably was even ten years later. His status as a quasi-person seemed only to be added to by his intended’s decision to marry his brother, the future King George V
Tsesarevitch Nikolai and Dagmar of Denmark
The eldest son of Tsar Aleksandr II, the Tsesarevitch Nikolai was engaged to be married to Princess Dagmar of Denmark when he died at the age of twenty.
She then went on to marry his brother, the next in line, who became Tsar Aleksandr III