The news that Princess Charlene is expecting her first child came as a bit of a surprise to European royal watchers. The birth of this latest royal baby, at the end of 2014, will give Monaco a new hereditary prince or princess, and secure the succession for the dynasty of Albert II. But it will also give The Queen a new, very distant royal cousin.
The connection between the House of Windsor and the House of Grimaldi begins in the 19th century when Albert I, Prince of Monaco married a beautiful and willful British aristocrat called Lady Mary Victoria Hamilton. Her father was the 11th Duke of Hamilton and her mother was a German princess, Marie of Baden. Marie provides the first link between Princess Charlene’s baby and Elizabeth II.
Marie Amelie Elisabeth Caroline of Baden, born in 1817, was the daughter of Charles, Grand Duke of Baden and, through him, was the great, great, great granddaughter of Jan Willem, Prince of Orange. One of Jan Willem’s great, great, great, great granddaughters was Queen Mary – the grandmother of our present Queen. It’s this 17th century ruler of Holland who connects the current Royal Families of Great Britain and Monaco.
But there is another, even older link between the two houses and again it comes from Lady Mary Victoria. Her father William was an important Scottish peer, and descended from Mary, eldest daughter of James II of Scotland (1437 – 1460). James II’s son, James III, was the direct ancestor of all later Scottish monarchs including Mary, Queen of Scots whose son, James VI, in 1603 united his country’s crown with that of England where he was known as James I. His direct descendant is Elizabeth II.
The woman who provides these links, Lady Mary Victoria, actually spent very little time in Monaco. Her marriage to Albert I was an arranged one and the couple met for the first time around a month before their wedding, which took place at the fabulously romantic Chateau de Marchais in France. Their only child, Louis, was born a year later, but Mary Victoria began to dislike her life in Monaco, and she eventually left her husband. Their marriage was annulled in 1880, nine years before Albert became Monaco’s Sovereign Prince.
But while Mary Victoria may never have been consort of Monaco, she does ensure that the baby of the current consort, Charlene, has links to the British Crown. Elizabeth II is the longest reigning monarch in Europe, but she will still call the continent’s newest royal a cousin when Monaco finally gets its heir at the end of 2014.