Queen Mary (1867-1953)

Figure 1.-- This is Princess Mary and David (Edward VIII), two of the children of the future Queen Mary and King George V. At the time this portrait was taken, their Greatgrandmother was still queen and their Grandfather Edward VII was still Prince of Wales. .

Queen Mary was the daughter of a Russian Princess. She had a rocky beginning when Albert Victor, in line to inherit the crown, died right before their mairrage. It was decided that she should marry his younger brother George. Queen Mary was a diffident, shy woman. Except in photographs she was almost totally unknown to the British people. She set a social example even more formidable than that of her husband, who behaved in sharp contrast to his father. She was a strong if not always intimate influence on her children, including her grandchildren. Queen Mary, like King George, were both caring and loving when their children were young but appeared unable to express their feelings once the children grew up. After Queen Mary's death, Sir Winston Churchill paid Queen Mary the compliment: "She looked like a Queen and she acted like a Queen". The ocean liner, The Queen Mary was named after her.


Princess Mary was related to the British royal family through her mother. Her father was a rather inconsequential German aristocrat.


Mary's father was Franz Paul Karl Louis von Teck, 1st Duke/Prince of Teck who was born in 1837. Mary's father was the son of Duke Alexander of Wurttemberg and his morganatic wife, Countess Claudine Rhedey. He inherited a dark complexion and good looks from his mother. When his cousin became King of W?rttemberg he conferred on Franz the Dukedom of Teck, which was a subordinate title of the House of Wurttemberg. Franz had lost his inheritance through his father's morganatic marriage. He became an officer in the Austrian 7th Imperial Hussars. He had to live on his military pay and the bounty of the Austrian Emperor, with whom he was a favourite. The Prince of Wales (Edward VII) met Franz at Hannover in 1864 and invited him to England. It was there that Franz met Princess Mary of Cambridge whom he subsequently married. Franz had to resign from the Austrian Army after he mairred Princess Mary. They lived in England on the allowance granted by Parliament to the Princess. This dependence and the lack of a career adversely influenced his outlook on life and probably aggravated the outbursts of temper to which he was prone and which became more frequent as he grew older.


Mary's mother was Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, Princess of Great Britain (1833-97), a daughter of the Duke of Cambride, and thus the grandaughter of George III. Princess Mary was compassionate and an enormously fat extrovert who knew how to raise children. She was, however, extremely extravegent and the family ran into financial problems. To economise, the Duke and Duchess of Teck moved with their children to Florence where Mary acquired a lasting interest in art. As a young woman she displayed great tact.


Teck is an ancient German principality named after a castle built on "The Teck", a limestone peak buit in the Wabian Alps, 12 km southeast of Stuttgart. The principality was held by various families beginning about the 11th century. After 1498 the principality passed to the Dukes of Württenberg. We have little information on Teck and do not yet have a page in our section on the royal families of the German states.


Princess Victoria Mary was born in Kensington Palace in 1867. She was christened Victoria Mary Augusta Louis Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes, but known as Princess "May" in the family.


Prince Mary was the oldest child (1867- ). She had three younger brothers. Her different titles included: Princess May of Teck (1867-1893), Duchess of York (1893-1901), Princess of Wales (1901-1910); Queen Mary (1910-1936); Queen Mother (1936-1953). Her brothers were: Cambridge, Adolphus II of Teck, Duke of Teck (1868- ); Francis Joseph Leopold Frederick of Teck, Prince, Major Dragoons (1870- ), and Cambridge, Alexander George of Teck, 1st Earl of Athlone 1st (1874- ). The only sibling we have any information on is Alexander. Hr was born in Kensington Palace and became a soldier. He waseduvated at Eton and the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. He became a captain in the 7th Hussars and in the Royal House Guards and later was brevetted lieutenany colonel in the 2nd Life Guards. He served in South Africa/Matabeland (1896), Boer War (1899-1900), and in World War I (1914-15), receiving hionoravle mention in dispatches. He was highly decorated in the Boer War. He mairred Princess Aloce, daughter of the Prince Leopold (Duke of Albany) and granddaughter of Qieen Victoria. He served as Governor General in South Africa after World War I (1923-31). He then served in several prestigious positions, including Governopr of Windsor Castle (1931), Chancelloe of London University (1932), and Frand Master of the Order of St. Micahel and St. George (1936). Hewas appointed Governor General of Canada (1940) during World War II.


Mary had a happy and industrious childhood. She was known in the family as May. As a young princess she was regarded as unimportant, in part because of her father's morganatic marriage. Her mother, often referred to as "Fat Mary", was the younger daughter of the Duke of Cambridge, an uncle of Queen Victoria. Because of her mother's extravagance and her father's vagueness about financial matters, the family gradually got into debt and had to retire to a villa in Florence for a couple of years to try to recoup their fortunes. When they returned to England they lived at White Lodge in Richmond Park.


The rather intelectual lady Mademoiselle Bricka was engaged as Mary's governess and reportedly had a great influence on here during her adolescene. Mary was apparently both clever and a hard working student. Mademoiselle Bricka was later hired to teach French to Mary's own children, but with less success. [Battiscombe, p. 241.]

The Wales Cousins

Despite their more limited financial resources, the Tecks socialized with the Prince and Princess of Wales, in part because of their family ties. Mary's mother was friendly with Princess Alexandra. The two hoped that their children would also become friendly. While the children were still in the nursery, Princess May would be invited to Prince George's birthday parties. (I'm not sure why she was not invited to Prince Eddy's birthday parties. Pprobably because before it was known how backward Prince Eddy was, Princess Mary was not considered a suitable potential bride.) She was invited to Marborough House to play whle the Wales were in London. Princessay and Prince George , however, apparently did not get on. The other children also did not become close. The Wales were also invited to the Tecks. Apparently the Tecks on such occasions would put the best toys in nursery away as the Prince of Wales' children were less disciplined and often broke toys when playing with them. Queen Victotria also complaimed about how rowdy her grand children were. as older boys Prince Eddy and George had little in common with the more sophisticated Teck boys. Princess May who became a rather serious, clever little girl found the three Wales princesses boring.


Queen Mary was tall with a long slender neck, golden brown hair, blue eyes. She had a regal and upright carriage, looking every inch a queen, to the point of being imperious. She was studious, sensible, and serious-minded. She was devoted to the monarchy and a traditionlist. Queen Mary shared her artistic interests with her son, the Duke of Kent (future George VI), the only one of her sons who had inherited her love for art and history. She also appeared stiff and unsmiling, but people weren't aware of how shy she was in public and a very different person at home.


Mary was bethrothed to Prince Albert, the Duke of Clarence who died shortly before their upcoming wedding. Prince George was now in line to inherit the crown, his marriage plans now assumed considerable importance. Queen Victoria and the Prince of Whales had personally selected Princess Mary of Teck for Albert Victor to marry. The Princess and Princess of Wales at first hesitated over the chioce of Princess Mary for Prince George which theuy at first saw as an affornt to the memory of their beloved Rince Eddy. After condsiderable thought and impecable behavior on the part of the Princess, they finally decided that Mary would marry the younger brother instead. Prince George apparently had little say in the matter. While this was going on, he was at Heildelburg attempting to learn German, or as hios mother put it, "that old sauerkraut the German language". [Battiscombe, pp. 194-195.] Eventually the two had a chance to get to know each other. Prince George liked her well enough. Certainly the Princess, a bright girl, must have seen that Prince George was a far more suitable partner than Prince Victor Albert ever would have been. The Prince proposed to her in the same place (the estate of his aunt the Duchess of Fife) that Prince Eddy had proposed. Princess Marry accepted. [Battiscombe, p. 195-196.] Prince George dutifully married Princess Mary of Teck in 1893. It was no love match, but the two grew to care for each other deeply. The future Queen Mary lived until 1953, outliving her husband by nearly 3 decades and some of her sons as well.

Prince Albert Victor

It was because of this tact and ability to handle difficult people that she was chosen as bride for the heir-apparent. Prince "Eddy", Duke of Clarence and Avondale, was the eldest son of the Prince of Wales (King Edward VII) and therefor in line to inherit the throne. Like his mother he was congenitally deaf, a condition caused by otosclerosis, the effects of which were aggravated by his poor education. Many regarded him as backward, and only his mother, Alexandria, showed some understanding by recognising his artistic rather than academic bent. It was hoped a marriage to Princess Mary of Teck might steer him in the right direction. He officially died of typhoid shortly after their engagement but even his death is now questioned.

Prince George

While the two did not get on as children, after the death of Prince Eddy it was decided that Princess mary and Prince George should marry. It was not a love match although the two were on friendly terms. Mary, never regarded a beauty but with a regal bearing and dignity, made a much more suitable marriage when she married Eddy's younger brother, the future King George V. Over the years the two were to bdecome devoted to each other.

Young Couple

The new Duchess was unsure of herself. The Teck family was a lesser European nobel family. Many of the Windsor's, especially her sister-in-law, considered the Tecks vastly inferior to their family. Had her family been on a par with the Imperial Windsors, the Duchess might of questioned her husband. Marrying George had instantly removed from the scandal-palagued, indebted Tecks to the premier royal family in the world. She and her husband would reign over the greates Empire in world history. As one historian describes it, May decided to be "queenlier" than any of the Windsors. [McLeod] Part of being Queen in her mind was to obey her husband and soverign. She changed her mame to Mary. One author describes her as a painfully shy, self-conscious young woman "who now found herself at the pinacle of a society that alarmed her". [Nicholson] Her world was quite stunning. the same author describes her world. Queen Mary "lived in a palace lit by two thousand electric light bulbs, with a faithful husband, six loving children, dozens of servants, twelve personal postmen doing their rounds inside the palace, a private police force, and six florists. It felt like a trap." [Nicholson]

Figure 2.--This formal portrait shows Queen Mary with all six chldren. Notice the sailor suits and kilts. This is how her husband George V liked the boys dressed.


Princess Mary's mother-in-law was Princess of Wales Alexandra. The two were a sharp contrast. Part of Princess Alexandra's charm was her child-like simplicity and perpetual good nature. She would not be the perpetual nag that Queen Victoria had been to her. Princess Mary on the other hand was a serious-minded, self contained young woman who wanted a life of her own. While their relationship was warmer than that between Alexandra and Victoria, the choice of York Cottage as a home meant that Alexandra could and did barge in on the family at any hour. Only a small garden separate Sandringham House from York Cottage. Princess Alexandra would not have wanted it any dufferently, Princess Mary would have. Princess Alexandra welcome her daughter-in-law with open arms. The prioblem was just that they were always together. She later wrote in a tactfull understatement, "I sometimes think that when we were married that we were not left alone enough and this led to many little rubs which might have been avoided." [Battiscombe, pp. 197-198.]

Family Relations

Actually Princess May had more trouble with her sister-in-laws than her mother-in-law. Princess May had grown up with three lively, intelligent brothers. Prince George's sisters, on the other hand were "lethargic, uneduacted, and childlike". Thus they had very little in common. Worst still, Princess Victoria's attitude was often unkindly, making comments about how dull she was. This may have in part be do do to the fact that she was jealous that she was still single. [Battiscombe, p. 199.]


As a mother, Queen Mary has been described as indifferent and undemonstrative. Others say distant and exacting. Other writers have described Queen Mary as cold, stiff, and unmaternal. She was unquestionably undemonstrative and not openly affectionate. One close family friend, Lady Airlie, writes, "... the tragedy was that neither had any understanding of a child's mind." She was not, however, as indifferent to her children's feelings and needs as some biographers have suggested. In fact, her relationships with them improved considerably as they matured into adulthood. If we can believe the late Duke of Windsor, she did have some ideas of her own and would considerably relax with the children in the absence of their father. But these instances were relatively rare. Shelike her husband allowed the circumstances of their positions to separate and conscribe their relations with the children. Queen Mary's attitude can be summed up in her own words, "I have constantly to remind myself that their father is also their King."

The most intimate moments David and Bertie shared with their mother were occasional visits to her boudoir. (The Queen and King had private bed rooms.) They would visit before dinner and during these visits, the Queen gave the boys here undivided attention. Her approach wasn't what we would today consider to be very intimate or maternal. Rather she would use the time for productive purposes. She might read book extracts designed to "improve" them from the classics or from royal history. She taught them how to knit woolen comfortors for her many charities. David looking back rembers these moments with his mother as some of the most precious memories from what he considered a very barren childhood. As an adult an exilded from his homeland the Duke of Windsor carried with him a small reg-doll chimley sweep his mother made for him during these sessions.

Certainly her approach was much more formal then deemed appropriate in our modern day. Indeed, it was different than the approach that Princess Alexandra had taken with her husband. It is difficult to really know what was going through her mind (she was Duchess of York when the boys were young) or even the extent to which she vocalized these thoughts even to herself. It seems likely, however, that she wanted to be loved by the children. But she was not willing to challenge or evem irritate her husband by questioning his dictates about how the children should be raised. Opinions differ on her husband's attitudes. Some sight endearing attitudes toward children, other contend he "actively disliked small boys" and wanted little to do with them.

Queen Mary knew when she married her husband that he would someday be king. His eldest brother to whom she was engaged had just died. As a result, Mary clung to a strict code of etiquitte in her relations with her husband and the children--especially the older boys. She felt that her children's love were part of their princely duties to her. She made no concession for the ages of the children. She in fact did not really understand small children, especially boys. She kept a daily diary. "What a curious child he is," she wrote in 1896. "David was `jumpy' yesterday morning, however, he got quieter after being out." He was only 2 years old and sounds to most modren observers as rather normal. Sometimes David behaved better. His mother wrote, "Baby was delicious at tea this evening; he is in a charming frame of mind .... I really believe he begins to like me at last, he is most civil to me."

Figure 3.--George V's many children were born while he and Quenn Mary were still Prince and Princess of Wales. The photographs for this postcard were taken in 1905 or 1906.

The Children and their Upbringing

George V and Queen Mary had 6 children, 5 boys and a girl. They were presented as the model British family. Certainly they did not have the problems the modern English press likes to report with the current royals. They did, of course, have their problems with Edward--eventually resulting in the greatest modern crisis in the monarch. Edward became famous for renouncing the throne to mary a divorced American. His brother Albert who had never been raised to be king, not only inherited the crown, but the great task of leading Britain through the trials of World War II.

Children's Clothing

The mother in most Victorian families was responsible for selecting the childrn's clothing, especially when the children were young. As far as I can tell, the clothes of the young princes were dictated by George V himself, sailor suits and kilts. I'm less certain about Princess Mary, but notably she appears to have been dressed very plainly, smocks and sailor dresses. She may have also dictated her clothes. I have no information on what kind of clothes that Queen Mary may have preferred for the children.


Queen Mary was a diffident, shy woman. Except in photographs she was almost totally unknown to the British people. She set a social example even more formidable than that of her husband, who behaved in sharp contrast to his father. She was a strong if not always intimate influence on her children, including her grandchildren. Queen Mary, like King George, were both caring and loving when their children were young but appeared unable to express their feelings once the children grew up. After Queen Mary's death, Sir Winston Churchill paid Queen Mary the compliment: "She looked like a Queen and she acted like a Queen". The ocean liner, The Queen Mary was named after her. She made one broadcast consisting of twenty-eight words with which she christened the Cunard line ocean liner that was nammed for her.


Battiscombe, Georgina. Queen Alexandra (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1969).

McLeod, Kirsty. Battle Royal (Constable).

Nicholson, Juliet. The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just before the Storm (Grove, 2007), 290p.


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Created: February 26, 1999
Last updated: 11:19 PM 7/24/2008