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Monaco

The forgotten princess who links the royal families of Britain and Monaco

While some links between royal houses are well known and rather close, others are a little more distant and perhaps all the more interesting for that. The ties between the House of Windsor and the House of Grimaldi might be stretched, they are still there.

The connection begins in the 19th century when Albert I, Prince of Monaco married a British aristocrat called Lady Mary Victoria Hamilton. Their rather brief union produced one son who went on to become Prince Louis II of Monaco. Louis is the great grandfather of Prince Albert II. Lady Mary Victoria Hamilton’s father was the 11th Duke of Hamilton and her mother was a German princess, Marie of Baden. Marie provides the first link between Albert II and Charles III.

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 great-grandmother of King Charles III. It’s this 17th century ruler of Holland, Jan Willem, who is a shared ancestor of 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 Charles III.

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.

Mary Victoria went on to marry again. Her second husband was Count Tassilo Festetics de Tolna with whom she had four children. They entertained at their home in Hungary where the future Edward VII was sometimes among their guests. However, it is Mary Victoria’s descent from James II of Scotland and Jan Willem, Prince of Orange that means her own descendant, Prince Albert II of Monaco, shares common ancestors with King Charles III.

Two very distant links but enough to allow the current rulers of the House of Windsor and the House of Grimaldi to call each other cousins.

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About author

Lydia Starbuck is Jubilee and Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton who is a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. Her latest book, A History of British Royal Jubilees, is out now. Her new book, The Mysterious Death of Katherine Parr, will be published in March 2024. June is an award winning reporter, producer and editor. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.