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Princess Victoria: "A Glorified Maid"

Owain Glyndwr was a Welsh national hero. His life story is fascinating.

Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria of Wales (1868–1935)

Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria of Wales (1868–1935)

Princess Toria

Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria Alexandra Olga Mary of Wales was born on the 6th July 1868 at Marlborough House, a short distance from Buckingham Palace in London. Her parents were the future King Edward VII (1841–1910) and Alexandra of Denmark (1844–1925,) known to their family and friends as Bertie and Alix. Victoria was given the name Toria among her relatives to distinguish her from her aunt, Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia (1840–1901).

She had three elder siblings and two younger ones. Albert Victor, George and Louise arrived in 1864, 1865 and 1867 respectively. In November 1869, Maud was born and the tragically short-lived Prince Alexander John completed the family in April 1871.

Marlborough House, London today.

Marlborough House, London today.

The Boisterous Wales'

Christened at Marlborough House with nine royal godparents, including Tsar Alexander II of Russia (1818–1881) and Caroline Amalie, the Dowager Queen of Denmark (1796–1881), Toria was part of a rowdy, playful family that preferred leaping on the fine furniture to quiet pursuits and lessons, which frequently met the disapproval of Queen Victoria, their grandmother.

Alix, always a possessive mother, insisted that her children called her Motherdear. George, the future King George V (1865–1936), was Toria’s favourite. Brother and sister remained devoted to one another all their lives. At Marlborough House and Sandringham in Norfolk, the sisters were educated together by tutors. Summers were often spent in Denmark with her numerous relations.

Toria was described as "mischievous... smart, tall and elegant; she had a wonderful sense of humour and was a good friend to everyone." Throughout her life she enjoyed having pets, even keeping a tamed pigeon, carrying it around in a basket and taking it for walks. She liked cycling, horse riding, dancing and music, but her favourite pastime was photography. She collated several exceptional photo albums that have been used in exhibitions.

The Wales'. Toria is on the far right. The future George V, her favourite sibling, is beside her.

The Wales'. Toria is on the far right. The future George V, her favourite sibling, is beside her.

No Shortage of Suitors

She rejected a marriage proposal from her first cousin Crown Prince Christian of Denmark (1870–1947) and although Carlos of Portugal (1863–1908) reputedly asked for her to marry him she, in agreement with her parents, declined on religious grounds. She had no wish to convert from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism, which was a non-negotiable factor in the match.

The future Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (1868–1918), his cousin Sandro, the Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich (1866–1933) and Nicky’s younger brother Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich (1878–1918) “Misha” all pursued Toria, but their advances came to nothing. Alix persuaded Toria to resist marriage. Louise and Maud succeeded in marrying and she was loathed to let her remaining daughter leave her side. Bertie was hardly ever with her, and she’d endured decades of his infidelities. Alix needed a devoted companion. That role apparently fell to Toria.

The former Prime Minister and widower Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery (1847–1929) proposed to her. Although she was the one who unwillingly uttered the word no, it was her parents, particularly her mother, who decided her fate. Bertie saw no place for politicians in the royal family so he vetoed a marriage but Alix discouraged the match, as she had with the previous suitors, for more selfish reasons. Rosebery did not marry again. Toria never married.

Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery, a former Prime Minister and hopeful suitor.

Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery, a former Prime Minister and hopeful suitor.

"A Glorified Maid"

Her cousin Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia (1882–1960) claimed that Tora was a “glorified maid” to Motherdear. Toria acted as her mother’s companion until the 20th November 1925, Alix’s death. Whilst she loved her mother deeply, there were numerous times when she put her mother’s needs far above her own and this built resentment and her health declined. There were countless frustrating instances in which Alix called for her daughter’s assistance only to have seemingly forgotten why she wanted her by the time she reached her.

It seems highly unlikely that Alix, who presumably felt a sense of entitlement about keeping Toria for herself, appreciated the demands she placed on her daughter. Toria was expected to be content as Motherdear’s companion. Why would she be otherwise? It simply would not have registered in Alix’s mind.

Queen Alexandra and Toria. This image was included in a 1908 charitable publication, Queen Alexandra's Christmas Gift Book.

Queen Alexandra and Toria. This image was included in a 1908 charitable publication, Queen Alexandra's Christmas Gift Book.

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Motherdear's Effects on Toria

Toria increasingly tended towards hypochondria and was said to be bitter about her lot in life. Occasionally her harsh words wounded others. She was labelled a “bitch of the first order” by her nephew David, the petulant King Edward VIII (1894–1972.)

It seems probable that her illnesses and difficult nature were manifestations of her frustration with her stifling existence. Toria’s brother George became king when their father died in May 1910, and he did what he could to ease the strain on her. Toria had little in common with his wife, Queen Mary, so she did not confide in her.

In 1917, in line with the other members of the royal family, she discarded the name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and became a Windsor. Her circumstances remained unaltered for another eight years.

Retirement at Coppins

In late November 1925, Toria grieved for the loss of her mother but she also entered a form of retirement. Leaving Alix’s beloved Sandringham for her brother George to utilise, Toria chose to live at Coppins in the small village of Iver in Buckinghamshire, where she committed herself to the local community’s needs.

She invited guests to stay at Coppins including Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery, whom she retained as a friend in the years after his proposal until his passing in 1929. She pursued photography, gardened and helped a friend design the splendid Cestyll Gardens in Anglesey, Wales. Toria became a patron of three talented musical sisters and never lost her love for music. Her health was a constant drain on her energy.

A postcard showing the village of Iver in Buckinghamshire.

A postcard showing the village of Iver in Buckinghamshire.

Farewell Toria and George

She died on the 3rd December 1935 and was quietly buried at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor four days later and then moved to Frogmore Mausoleum at Windsor. Her favourite brother George was devastated. Already suffering from poor health, the grief proved too much for him. He survived Toria by just five weeks, passing away on the 20th January 1936.

She left Coppins to her nephew George, Duke of Kent (1902–1942). It has since been sold.

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© 2021 Joanne Hayle


fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on August 13, 2021:

Joanne, thank you for a great article, although sad.

Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on August 13, 2021:

Thats a sassy hat and a sad story,

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 13, 2021:

This is a sad but interesting story. I knew virtually nothing about Toria before I read your article. Thank you for sharing the information

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