The biography examines the stalwart face of the House of Windsor, Queen Mary (known as Mary of Teck). A great-granddaughter of George III through her mother Princess Mary Adelaide, “May”, as the princess was known, was born in the month of May at Kensington Palace. (Her father Francis, the Duke of Teck was of German descent.) Comparatively poor but with a flamboyant mother, May was the only daughter of four children. Her “Auntie Queen” Victoria looked on her favorably for her decorum, judgement, and sense as the future bride for her grandson, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, heir to Victoria’s heir Bertie. There are many stories about Albert Victor, most of them linked to his “life of dissipation”. Following Victoria’s orders, May accepted Albert Victor’s marriage proposal, but (probably luckily for May), Albert Victor died only weeks later of influenza. May and Albert Victor’s younger brother George became fond of one another after the loss, and the two eventually wed. They went on to have six children, five boys and the Princess Royal Mary.
May and George seemed genuinely fond of one another and despite George’s mother Alexandra’s possessive hold on her oldest living son, May eventually displaced the older woman in George’s affections. George came to rely on May’s absolute loyalty and devotion to the monarchy and him as her sovereign, her practicality, imperial demeanor, and her no-nonsense attitude. Not a particularly warm or involved mother, May nonetheless instilled her children with the sense of duty she held so dear. May and her mother-in-law Alexandra had a competitive relationship the rest of Alexandra’s life, especially when May succeeded to her title Princess of Wales but most especially when May displaced her as Queen Consort upon Bertie’s early death. When, during WWI, the British royals wished to shed signs of their German heritage, King George changed their name to Windsor, and Mary truly became the matriarch of the royal line that exists to this day. Mary was known for her constancy, loyalty, and for her devotion to the monarchy, the people, and her family’s legacy. Always unflappable and stately in demeanor, Queen Mary lived through two World Wars, oversaw her husband’s reign, the shocking abdication of her oldest son Edward VIII so that he could marry the divorcee Wallis Simpson, and the eventual reigns of her next son George VI and her granddaughter Elizabeth II.
Queen Mary lived a long and honorable life, and the biographer captured the queen consort’s decades of faithful service. Queen Mary was known as much for her love of pomp and decorum as she was for her vast collection of exquisite jewels, her penchant for “acquiring” expensive pieces for the royal collection, and her rigid practicality during war years. This look is a good balance of historical record and personal insights into a woman who was beloved during her time but who has know fallen out of the public consciousness. A fascinating take on the current monarch’s grandmother, who, it seems passed on many characteristics to her “Lillibet”.
Amazon link is here.