In addition to the four weddings of Queen Victoria’s children which took place at St. George’s Chapel, two other marriages were performed at St. George’s within the Queen’s family during her lifetime, which are far less known – that of Princess Frederica of Hanover, Baroness von Pawel-Rammingen (1848-1926) in 1880 and Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein (1872-1956) in 1891.
The precedent of St. George’s Chapel for royal weddings was first established during Queen Victoria’s reign in 1863, when the first royal wedding there was celebrated between the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra of Denmark, in the presence of the widowed Queen. Princess Frederica of Hanover interested herself in charitable works after her marriage, becoming a patron for example, of the Church Extension Association, formally opening the Princess Frederica School in London in 1889. Princess Frederica lived in an apartment at Hampton Court Palace with her husband, Baron Alfons von Pawel-Rammingen, until 1898; they were frequent guests at Windsor Castle. Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein is perhaps best known for both her remarkable memoirs, ‘My Memories of Six Reigns’, published in 1956 and for conceiving the idea for Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House.
After the death of Queen Victoria, the first royal wedding to be celebrated at St. George’s Chapel was that between Princess Alice Mary of Albany and Prince Alexander of Teck, the future Earl of Athlone, in 1904; Princess Margaret of Connaught also married Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden, later King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden, at St. George’s Chapel the following year.
Importantly, both of these two granddaughters of Queen Victoria chose St. George’s Chapel as the location for their wedding, following the pattern of their respective parents – Princess Margaret’s parents, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia who chose St. George’s in 1879 and Princess Alice Mary of Albany’s parents, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany and Princess Helen of Waldeck-Pyrmont, who also married at the Chapel in 1882.
St. George’s Chapel continued to be used for weddings within the Royal Family; including that of Anne Abel Smith – granddaughter of Princess Alice Mary of Albany – and David Liddell-Grainger in 1957; thereby constituting a continued custom of choosing St. George’s Chapel in three generations, dating back to Prince Leopold.
The first of these little-known weddings at St. George’s during Queen Victoria’s reign, was that of Princess Frederica of Hanover and Baron von Pawel-Rammingen, celebrated a month after the Baron’s having been naturalised as a British subject. Initially, she seems to have been the object of Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany’s admiration, but Frederica was herself already in love with Baron von Pawel-Rammingen, the aide-de-camp and secretary to her father, Georg V, King of Hanover, despite protestations from her brother, the Duke of Cumberland. For Frederica however, the choice of St. George’s Chapel would have been a poignant one. As with the many mixed associations in Queen Victoria’s family, of the use of St. George’s as a place for both marriages and burials, so it was also for Frederica.
The funeral of her father, Georg V of Hanover – Queen Victoria’s first cousin – had been conducted at St. George’s Chapel two years earlier, which Queen Victoria attended with her youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice, observing the service from the Royal Closet, just as an earlier English queen, Catherine Parr, had watched the funeral of Henry VIII from the same oriel window, in 1547.
For Frederica, who had been the favourite daughter of her father, it was surely with mixed feelings, that she stood at her wedding before the altar in St. George’s Chapel, close to which are also the steps of the entrance to the Royal Vault, where her father had been interred on 24 June 1878. Frederica had been present at Windsor Castle on that day; and was referred to by Queen Victoria in her journal entry, by the pet name within the Royal Family that stuck for her – ‘Lily’. Devastatingly for Frederica, her infant daughter and only child, Victoria von Pawel-Rammingen – who was born at Hampton Court Palace on 7 March 1881 and died there a mere twenty days later – would also be buried in the Royal Vault at St. George’s Chapel – on 31 March 1881.
Frederica’s wedding day began by breakfasting with Queen Victoria. The Queen had helped provide Frederica with her entire wedding attire, which included a long dress of white satin, decorated with floral garlands and a matching veil of Irish lace, as opposed to the more fashionable Brussels lace or in the case of Queen Victoria’s family, Honiton. A lovely hand painted photograph of a full-length portrait in the Royal Collection shows Frederica in her wedding dress on her wedding day at Windsor.
She seems to have her hand upon a book, on the table in front of which she is standing – perhaps, the prayer book that Queen Victoria describes as giving to her earlier that day. In contrast to most of Queen Victoria’s daughters and daughters-in-law, Frederica had six bridesmaids, who all wore wreaths of lilies of the valley, possibly a touching play on Frederica’s name – ‘Lily’. Frederica’s own bridal wreath was of traditional orange blossoms and myrtle.
The personal descriptions that Queen Victoria made in her journal of Frederica’s wedding, most particularly the detail that she herself led the Hanoverian princess down the aisle of St. George’s Chapel – in the place of her late father, as she would indeed her own daughter, Princess Louise for example, at St. George’s, in place of Prince Albert – predictably, have parental undertones.
Queen Victoria took a fiercely protective attitude towards those members of her family who had either lost one parent or both, as for example, she did towards the children of her second daughter, Princess Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse, even signing some of her letters as their “mother”, instead of their “grandmother”, a clear sign of how she saw herself. Perhaps there is also a link to her having lost her own father, the Duke of Kent in 1820 before she was aged one; equally, her childhood at Kensington was one of controlled, relative isolation.
In Frederica’s case, Queen Victoria was conscious of the fact that her father, King Georg V of Hannover, had died whilst abroad in Paris in 1878; her mother, Queen Marie, was still alive but living in Austria, at Gmunden, where the family had moved, and did not attend the wedding in Windsor. Frederica and Baron von Pawel-Rammingen, honeymooned at Claremont, the 18th century Palladian royal residence which had so many links with Queen Victoria’s family, not least being the former home of her uncle, Leopold I, King of the Belgians, the place where his first wife Princess Charlotte – daughter of George IV – died, and which would become the home of her own son, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, following his marriage two years later to Princess Helen of Waldeck-Pyrmont, in 1882.
Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein was born at Cumberland Lodge, the residence of her parents, Princess Helena of Schleswig-Holstein – Queen Victoria’s third daughter – and Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein. Frederica’s mother, Queen Marie of Hanover, was in fact, one of Marie Louise’s godmothers. Princess Marie Louise was one of the ten bridesmaids of Queen Victoria’s fifth daughter, Princess Beatrice, at her wedding to Prince Heinrich of Battenberg in 1885, together with her sister, Princess Helena Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein.
Princess Marie Louise’s marriage to Prince Aribert of Anhalt, on 6 July 1891, was performed at St. George’s Chapel. Among the guests at the wedding were the German Emperor and Empress, Wilhelm II and Auguste Viktoria. Marie Louise was led down the aisle by her father, Prince Christian and her brother, “Abby”, Prince Albert of Schleswig-Holstein. Again, as in Frederica’s case, there were six bridesmaids for “Louie”, as Marie Louise was called by Queen Victoria.
In contrast to the weddings of her daughters and daughters-in-law, the marriages of the Queen’s grandchildren were less the subject of photography and memorabilia. Princess Marie Louise was indeed photographed in her wedding dress, but this time there appears to have been no careful preservation of wedding lace flounces, blossoms or cakes, at least on the part of Queen Victoria. A favourite granddaughter, Princess Alix of Hesse – the future Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia – promised to send Queen Victoria some trinkets of her marriage in St. Petersburg in 1894, of the “myrtle and orange blossom I wore at the Wedding, and a bit of the dress as soon as I can”. (Maylunas, A & Mironenko, S, A Lifelong Passion, Pg 113, 1997). Marie Louise wore a dress of white satin, trimmed with orange garlands and myrtle. As we might expect, the magnificent wedding veil was one that had meaning in Queen Victoria’s family. Marie Louise wore that of her mother, Princess Helena, who had herself worn it at her own wedding at the Private Chapel at Windsor, in 1866.
The connections with St. George’s Chapel and these princesses, continued, however, even beyond their weddings, to the last. Following her death in 1926, Princess Frederica, Baroness von Pawel-Rammingen, was interred at St. George’s Chapel, in the Royal Vault. On her death in 1956, Princess Marie Louise was also buried in the Royal Vault, until she was transferred to the Royal Burial Ground at Frogmore on 3 April 1957, in front of the Royal Mausoleum of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
©Elizabeth Jane Timms, 2018.