Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Presenting the Evidence

Marked "Exhibit A"
Last week I wrote about Alexandra (Alicky), granddaughter to Queen Victoria. I promised you evidence to back up my long held view that Queen Victoria dropped the ball as a mother and a queen. I've had a new voice clamoring at me this week. It's saying, "Do we really have to go down this road? What purpose does it serve to air the dirty laundry of a person many hail as the greatest English monarch of all time? I'm tired of hanging out in the moody gloom of the Late Victorian Era. Can't we just move on already?"

Though I don't exactly disagree with the voice, I retain my conviction that taking this slight detour through the Victorian Era serves a noble purpose. The problem is that I'm still not sure how to translate the conviction I have in my heart into words that will make sense. Because I need more time to chew on these morsels myself, I've decided to present the evidence in raw form and give us both another week to digest it further.

What Will Our Children Inherit?
I do know this much: It is vital that we recognize the effects our thoughts, actions, and beliefs will have on future generations. This is one key to becoming a true queen in every sense of the word. Queen Victoria made many excellent contributions to English and American societies, but these contributions alone did not make her an excellent queen.

I want to be an excellent queen, so I must resist the urge to focus solely on the positive contributions our queens have made to society, regardless of how depressing any one given post might turn out to be. I believe that looking at both the positive and negative contributions our queens have made not only on public life, but also in their private lives, will unlock the secrets for us so that we can stop repeating cycles, resist habitual patterns, and break family curses.

Carrolly Erickson, authoress
To that end, I will start with Carrolly Erickson's words about Alice, who was Alicky's mother and Queen Victoria's third child.

Excerpts from Alexandra: The Last Tsarina (p. 2-5).

The scene: Alice lays in bed morbidly sick with diphtheria. A letter has been dispatched to Queen Victoria, notifying her of Alice's worsening condition. All of Alice's children are stationed around her sick bed, offering prayers to a God who they have been taught may not really respond. The whole household assumed a stance of mourning before the worst had even happened.

Alice on her Deathbed
"Several crosses hung from the walls in the sickroom, together with verses from the Bible. There were pictures of Balmoral and of Windsor Castle and its grounds, and portraits of Alice's sisters and brothers, and several tapestries in the fashionable William Morris style. Dominating the room was a stained glass window, dedicated to the memory of Alicky's brother Frederick, or 'Frittie,' who at the age of three had fallen from that very window to his death on the terrace below. Alicky was too young to remember Frittie, she had been an infant when he fell, but she knew that her mother grieved for him and she and the other children went every year to visit his grave. On Frittie's memorial window were the comforting words from the Bible, 'Suffer the little children to come unto me.'"

"Since her marriage to Grand Duke Louis, Alice had thrown herself into the cause of social betterment, never satisfied with what she had done and always striving to do, as she said, 'the little good that is in my power.' Alice had created a stir in quiet Darmstadt, introducing the Art Nouveau style in the grand ducal palace, playing duets with Johannes Brahms (Darmstadters preferred Mozart), substituting informality for formal etiquette at court, even holding daring religious views that aimed, as she said, to separate the historical Jesus from such 'later embellishments' as the resurrection. Though her outraged mother-in-law called Alice 'a complete atheist,' and the quiet Darmsadters clucked their tongues over her outspokenness ('Providence, there is no Providence, no nothing!' Alice burst out when her favorite brother Bertie* was gravely ill, 'and I can't think how anyone can talk such rubbish.'), Alice maintained her opinions truculently, and dared others to refute them.

Female Ice Dragon
"A new and more liberal spirit had come to Hesse with Alice, but in her efforts to make changes and to air her advanced views she had brought disruption and controversy, and even as she lay on her deathbed there were whispers--respectful, quiet whispers--that her demise would restore a welcome peace to the community.

"For Alice's rigorous commitment to modernity was rooted in a mental and spiritual restlessness that made others uneasy. There was something hard and flinty at her core, an icy toughness of mind, that was seemingly at odds with her overall charitableness. She was unforgiving. Demanding a great deal of herself, she demanded as much of those around her, and constantly found them wanting--especially her warm-hearted, stolid husband Louis, who disappointed her at every turn.

Duchess Alice of Hesse
"Alicky, young as she was, understood something of her mother's uniqueness. Alice was not like other mothers; she did not adorn herself or curl her hair or wear colorful gowns. Her gowns were always black,
and her only ornaments were a large gold cross on a chain and a mourning brooch with locks of her father's hair and Frittie's inside. Her pale face bore a perpetual expression of preoccupation and sorrow, a haunted look. She was often very tired. Even when she took the children on a vacation to the seaside...she did not rest or play with them, but went to visit hospitals and schools, taking Alicky with her to give away nosegays of flowers. She was always helping people, and she was always full of sorrow. This much Alicky knew of her suffering mother.

"The following morning Louis sent another telegram to Queen Victoria at Windsor...The date on the telegrams, December 13, carried an ominous implication. Seventeen years earlier Alice's adored father Prince Albert had died of typhoid on December 14, and ever since the anniversary of his death had been marked with prayers and solemnities by his ever-grieving widow and their children. December 14 was feared as a fateful day, and though Alice herself was unaware of the date, or of much else, she did rave in her delirium that she saw her dead father, along with May and Frittie, standing together in heaven welcoming her in.

Prince Albert on his Deathbed
"A little after midnight, early on the morning of the fourteenth...her attendants heard her whisper 'May....dear Papa' before becoming unconscious. By sunrise she was dead.

"A letter arrived from Windsor Castle. 'Poor Dear Children,' Queen Victoria wrote,' you have had the most terrible blow which can befall children--you have lost your precious, dear, devoted Mother who loved you--and devoted her life to you and your dear Papa. That horrid disease which carried off sweet little May and from which you and the others recovered has taken her away from you and poor old Grandmama, who with your other kind Grandmama will try to be a mother to you...God's will be done,' she concluded. 'May He support and help you all. From your devoted and most unhappy Grandmama, VRI [Victoria Regina Imperatrix, Victoria Queen Empress].'"

I realize this is a fairly morbid scene to leave you to digest this week, which inspires me to cheer you up with some beautiful Victorian eye candy. Nothing like a little bling to lift your spirit and put a smile on your face.

Victorian Era Bar Pin
Victorian Era Jelly Opal Locket
Victorian Era Coin Purse

*Just to set the record completely straight from my last post. It is Bertie who married Queen Alexandra of Denmark, our next Queen (of the Edwardian Era of jewelry). His full name is King Albert Edward, named after his father. His family called him Bertie, and his people called him King Edward VII. As I mentioned in my last post, studying the history of England is difficult at best.

I thought Alicky was in line to marry King Edward VII, who is in fact her uncle, but I was so entirely wrong. The Eddy that Victoria hoped to match her up with was her cousin, the son of King Edward VII & Alexandra. The book even states this plainly on page 12, "And Alicky would make the ideal bride for Bertie's oldest son Eddy, who would one day be King of England." The learning curve is indeed steep in this business I've undertaken.

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