Thursday, July 12, 2012

Object of the Day: A Magic Lantern Slide of Mary of Teck and Princess Mary Adelaide

Queen Mary
Regular readers know my deep affection for the late Queen Mary. I have long admired Her Majesty’s dedication to the history of Britain, her adoration of art and jewelry, and her steadfast loyalty to not only the Royal Family but to her people.

Queen Mary’s interest in the history of the Royal Family was quite natural considering that she, herself, was the daughter of Her Serene Highness, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, one of the few remaining granddaughters of King George III.

Queen Mary had a particular fascination with George III and his wife Queen Charlotte whom Mary thought she resembled (she did, in fact, look quite a lot like Queen Charlotte). Princess May—as she was known before her marriage to the future King George V—learned a bit about the history of her family at her mother’s knee and, on her own, researched as much as she could about her lineage.

Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge,
The Duchess of Teck

Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge was a peculiar figure in history. She was wildly popular with the people of Britain. Known as “Fat Mary” due to her girth, she was also known for her equally large personality and generous spirit. The princess was the patron of many a charity and was, more often than not, engaged in helping others in some way. Queen Victoria was terribly fond of her cousin, but also found Mary Adelaide to be problematic. She was loud and opinionated, scatter-brained and dramatic. Queen Victoria often lamented about Mary Adelaide’s inability to answer a simple letter in a timely fashion. But, worst of all, Mary Adelaide could not control her spending. She spent, and spent, and spent some more—jewels, art, carriages, clothes and the best food. She was a singular drain on the Royal Family, and, Victoria feared, totally unmarriageable.

Queen Victoria—while quite strict about other things—was not quite the stickler about rank that others were. As Queen, she herself had to marry someone of a lesser rank (Prince Albert of Saxe, Coburg and Gotha)—after all, there weren’t any unmarried Kings to be her mate. Still this marriage was quite a success, and, therefore, Victoria saw no reason for a woman of higher birth to not marry a man of slightly lower rank. The clear choice for Princess Mary Adelaide was the rather excitable Duke of Teck. Though Princess Mary Adelaide's marriage to the German Duke of Teck was morganatic (meaning that he was, technically, not her equal being simply a Duke while she was a Princess, albeit a Serene Highness and not a Royal Highness), Mary of Teck, as an adult, took Queen Victoria’s point of view and didn’t let these minor differences distract her from realizing the importance of her father’s family history as well.

Mary Adelaide relied heavily on her daughter. Before Mary of Teck’s two engagements—one to Prince Albert Victor (Known as “Eddy”) which ended upon his unexpected death, and the second to his brother and, then, heir presumptive, Prince George—Mary Adelaide enjoyed her daughter’s orderly mind and steady manner to keep her correspondence current and monitor her spending. The two, in fact, were inseparable.

Click above image to enlarge

This magic lantern slide which I recently acquired features a photograph of Mary of Teck and her mother, Princess Mary Adelaide seated together (with a beagle) at their private suite of rooms at Kensington Palace. The photo and the slide both date to early 1893 and were published to mark the occasion of the engagement of “Princess May” to the future King George V.

I looked for a non-lantern version of this photo and gave up since most of the results directed me back to my own web site.  So, I'm sorry to have only the slide to show you.  This is as clear a scan as I can get.

If you’re as much of a fan of Queen Mary as I, you might enjoy our line of “Teck Support” products—available only at our online store.

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