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Mary of Teck

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Mary of Teck

Mary of Teck
Mary in tiara and gown wearing a choker necklace and a string of pearls
Queen consort of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, Empress consort of India
Tenure 6 May 1910 – 20 January 1936
Coronation 22 June 1911
Spouse George V
Issue Edward VIII
George VI
Mary, Princess Royal
Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester
Prince George, Duke of Kent
Prince John
Full name
Victoria Mary Augusta Louise Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes
House House of Württemberg
Father Francis, Duke of Teck
Mother Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge
Born (1867-05-26)26 May 1867
Kensington Palace, London
Died 24 March 1953(1953-03-24) (aged 85)
Marlborough House, London
Burial 31 March 1953

Mary of Teck (Victoria Mary Augusta Louise Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes; 26 May 1867 – 24 March 1953) was George V.

Although technically a princess of Duchess of York, Duchess of Cornwall and Princess of Wales.

As Queen Elizabeth II, who had not yet been crowned.

Early life

As an infant with her parents

Princess Victoria Mary ("May") of Teck was born on 26 May 1867 at Claudine Rhédey von Kis-Rhéde. Her mother was Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, the third child and younger daughter of Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, and Princess Augusta of Hesse-Kassel. She was baptised in the Chapel Royal of Kensington Palace on 27 July 1867 by Charles Thomas Longley, Archbishop of Canterbury, and her three godparents were Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII and May's future father-in-law), and Princess Augusta, the Duchess of Cambridge.[1] Before she became Queen, she was known to her family, friends and the public by the diminutive name of "May", after her birth month.[2]

May's upbringing was "merry but fairly strict".[3] She was the eldest of four children, the only girl, and "learned to exercise her native discretion, firmness and tact" by resolving her three younger brothers' petty boyhood squabbles.[4] They played with their cousins, the children of the Prince of Wales, who were similar in age.[5] May was educated at home by her mother and governess (as were her brothers until they were sent to boarding schools).[6] The Duchess of Teck spent an unusually long time with her children for a lady of her time and class,[3] and enlisted May in various charitable endeavours, which included visiting the tenements of the poor.[7]

Although her mother was a grandchild of [8] However, the Duchess of Teck was granted a parliamentary annuity of £5000, and received about £4000 a year from her mother, the Duchess of Cambridge.[9] Despite this, the family was deeply in debt and lived abroad from 1883, in order to economise.[10] The Tecks travelled throughout Europe, visiting their various relations. They stayed in Florence, Italy, for a time, where May enjoyed visiting the art galleries, churches, and museums.[11]

In 1885, the Tecks returned to London, and took up residence at Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and wrote to her every week. During the First World War, the Crown Princess of Sweden helped pass letters from May to her aunt, who lived in enemy territory in Germany until her death in 1916.[12]


In December 1891, May was engaged to her second cousin once removed, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, the eldest son of the Prince of Wales.[13] The choice of May as bride for the Duke owed much to Queen Victoria's fondness for her, as well as to her strong character and sense of duty. However, Albert Victor died six weeks later, in the worldwide influenza pandemic that swept through Britain in the winter of 1891–92.[14]

Albert Victor's brother, [16]

Duchess of York

Young Mary in a tightly-corseted dress
Princess Victoria Mary shortly before her marriage to the Duke of York in 1893

May married John.

The Duchess loved her children, but she put them in the care of a nanny, as was usual in upper-class families at the time. The first nanny was dismissed for insolence and the second for abusing the children. This second woman, anxious to suggest that the children preferred her to anyone else, would pinch Edward and Albert whenever they were about to be presented to their parents, so that they would start crying and be speedily returned to her. On discovery, she was replaced by her effective and much-loved assistant, Charlotte Bill.[19]

Sometimes, Mary appears to have been a distant mother. At first, she failed to notice the nanny's abuse of the young Princes Edward and Albert,[20] and her youngest son, Prince John, was housed in a private farm on the Sandringham Estate, in the care of Mrs. Bill, perhaps to hide his epilepsy from the public. However, despite her austere public image and her strait-laced private life, Mary was a caring mother in many respects, revealing a fun-loving and frivolous side to her children and teaching them history and music. Edward wrote fondly of his mother in his memoirs: "Her soft voice, her cultivated mind, the cosy room overflowing with personal treasures were all inseparable ingredients of the happiness associated with this last hour of a child's day ... Such was my mother's pride in her children that everything that happened to each one was of the utmost importance to her. With the birth of each new child, Mama started an album in which she painstakingly recorded each progressive stage of our childhood".[21] He expressed a less charitable view, however, in private letters to his wife after his mother's death: "My sadness was mixed with incredulity that any mother could have been so hard and cruel towards her eldest son for so many years and yet so demanding at the end without relenting a scrap. I'm afraid the fluids in her veins have always been as icy cold as they are now in death."[22]

As Duke and Duchess of York, George and May carried out a variety of public duties. In 1897, she became the Patron of the London Needlework Guild in succession to her mother. The Guild, initially established as The London Guild in 1882, was renamed several times, and was named after May between 1914 and 2010.[23] Samples of her own embroidery range from chair seats to tea cosies.[24]

Thin Mary wearing a formal dress, a rope of pearls and a tiara
Princess Victoria Mary, Duchess of Cornwall and York, in Ottawa, 1901

On 22 January 1901, British Empire, visiting Gibraltar, Malta, Egypt, Ceylon, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Mauritius, South Africa and Canada. No royal had undertaken such an ambitious tour before. She broke down in tears at the thought of leaving her children, who were to be left in the care of their grandparents, for such a long time.[25]

Princess of Wales

On 9 November 1901, nine days after arriving back in Britain and on the King's sixtieth birthday, George was created Prince of Wales. The family moved their London residence from St James's Palace to Marlborough House. As Princess of Wales, May accompanied her husband on trips to Austria-Hungary and Württemberg in 1904. The following year, she gave birth to her last child, John. It was a difficult labour, and although May recovered quickly, her newborn son suffered respiratory problems.[26]

From October 1905 the Prince and Princess of Wales undertook another eight-month tour, this time of India, and the children were once again left in the care of their grandparents.[27] They passed through Egypt both ways and on the way back stopped in Greece. The tour was almost immediately followed by a trip to Spain for the wedding of King Haakon VII and Queen Maud.[29]

Queen consort

The Queen visiting a coalmine in 1912
The Queen with her daughter Mary during the First World War

On 6 May 1910, Edward VII died. Mary's husband ascended the throne as Queen Victoria.[30] Queen Mary was crowned with the King on 22 June 1911 at Westminster Abbey. Later in the year, the new King and Queen travelled to India for the Delhi Durbar held on 12 December 1911, and toured the sub-continent as Emperor and Empress of India, returning to Britain in February.[31] The beginning of Mary's period as consort brought her into conflict with her mother-in-law, Queen Alexandra. Although the two were on friendly terms, Alexandra could be stubborn; she demanded precedence over Mary at the funeral of Edward VII, was slow in leaving Buckingham Palace, and kept some of the royal jewels that should have been passed to the new Queen.[32]

During the royal house from the German "Saxe-Coburg and Gotha" to the British "Windsor". Other royals anglicised their names; the Battenbergs became the Mountbattens, for example. The Queen's relatives also abandoned their German titles, and adopted the British surname of Cambridge (derived from the Dukedom held by Queen Mary's British grandfather). The war ended in 1918 with the defeat of Germany and the abdication and exile of the Kaiser.

Teck-Cambridge Family
King George V and Queen Mary

Two months after the end of the war, Queen Mary's youngest son, John, died at the age of thirteen. She described her shock and sorrow in her diary and letters, extracts of which were published after her death: "our poor darling little Johnnie had passed away suddenly ... The first break in the family circle is hard to bear but people have been so kind & sympathetic & this has helped us [the King and me] much."[36] Her staunch support of her husband continued during the latter half of his reign. She advised him on speeches, and used her extensive knowledge of history and royalty to advise him on matters affecting his position. He appreciated her discretion, intelligence and judgement.[37] She maintained an air of self-assured calm throughout all her public engagements in the years after the war, a period marked by civil unrest over social conditions, Irish independence and Indian nationalism.[38]

In the late 1920s, George V became increasingly ill with lung problems, exacerbated by his heavy smoking. Queen Mary paid particular attention to his care. During his illness in 1928, one of his doctors, Sir [40]

Queen mother

George V died on 20 January 1936, after his physician, Lord Dawson of Penn, gave him an injection of morphine and cocaine that may have hastened his death.[41] Queen Mary's eldest son, Edward, Prince of Wales, ascended the throne as Edward VIII. She was now officially queen mother, though she did not use that title, and was instead known as Her Majesty Queen Mary.

Within the year, Edward caused a dowager queen to do so.[45] Edward's abdication did not lessen her love for him, but she never wavered in her disapproval of his actions.[16][46]

Elderly Mary and the two girls in formal dress
Queen Mary with her granddaughters, Princesses Margaret (front) and Elizabeth

Mary took an interest in the upbringing of her granddaughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, and took them on various excursions in London, to art galleries and museums. (The Princesses' own parents thought it unnecessary for them to be taxed with any demanding educational regime.)[47]

During the Marlborough House in June 1945, after the war in Europe had resulted in the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Mary was an eager collector of objects and pictures with a royal connection.[51] She paid above-market estimates when purchasing jewels from the estate of Dowager Empress Marie of Russia[52] and paid almost three times the estimate when buying the family's Cambridge Emeralds from Lady Kilmorey, the mistress of her late brother Prince Francis.[53] In 1924, the famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens created Queen Mary's Dolls' House for her collection of miniature pieces.[54] Indeed, she has sometimes been criticised for her aggressive acquisition of objets d'art for the Royal Collection. On several occasions, she would express to hosts, or others, that she admired something they had in their possession, in the expectation that the owner would be willing to donate it.[55] Her extensive knowledge of, and research into, the Royal Collection helped in identifying artefacts and artwork that had gone astray over the years.[56] The Royal Family had lent out many objects over previous generations. Once she had identified unreturned items through old inventories, she would write to the holders, requesting that they be returned.[57]

In 1952, King George VI died, the third of Queen Mary's children to predecease her; her eldest granddaughter, Princess Elizabeth, ascended the throne as Queen Elizabeth II. Mary died the next year of lung cancer (referred to publicly as "gastric problems"[58]) on 24 March 1953 at the age of 85, only ten weeks before her granddaughter's [59]


At her funeral, Mary's coffin was draped in her personal banner of arms.[60]

Sir Henry "Chips" Channon wrote that she was "above politics ... magnificent, humorous, worldly, in fact nearly sublime, though cold and hard. But what a grand Queen."[61]

The ocean liners RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Mary 2;[62] the Royal Navy battlecruiser, HMS Queen Mary, which was destroyed at the Battle of Jutland in 1916; Queen Mary University of London;[63] Queen Mary Reservoir in Surrey, United Kingdom;[64] Queen Mary College, Lahore;[65] Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong; Queen Mary's Peak, the highest mountain in Tristan da Cunha; Queen Mary Land in Antarctica; and Queen Mary's College in Chennai, India, are named in her honour.

Actresses who have portrayed Queen Mary on stage and screen include Dame Wendy Hiller (on the London stage in Crown Matrimonial),[66] Dame Flora Robson (in A King's Story), Dame Peggy Ashcroft (in Edward & Mrs Simpson), Phyllis Calvert (in The Woman He Loved), Gaye Brown (in All the King's Men), Dame Eileen Atkins (in Bertie and Elizabeth), Miranda Richardson (in The Lost Prince), Margaret Tyzack (in Wallis & Edward), Claire Bloom (in The King's Speech) and Judy Parfitt (in W.E.).

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

Queen Mary's coat of arms
  • 26 May 1867 – 6 July 1893: Her Serene Highness Princess Victoria Mary of Teck
  • 6 July 1893 – 22 January 1901: Her Royal Highness The Duchess of York
  • 22 January 1901 – 9 November 1901: Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall and York
  • 9 November 1901 – 6 May 1910: Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales
  • 6 May 1910 – 20 January 1936: Her Majesty The Queen
  • In India: Her Imperial Majesty The Queen-Empress
  • 20 January 1936 – 24 March 1953: Her Majesty Queen Mary



Queen Mary's arms were the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom impaled with her family arms – the arms of her grandfather, Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, in the 1st and 4th quarters, and the arms of her father, Prince Francis, Duke of Teck, in the 2nd and 3rd quarters.[67][68] The shield is surmounted by the imperial crown, and supported by the crowned lion of England and "a stag Proper" as in the arms of Württemberg.[68]


Image Name Birth Death Notes[69]
Edward VIII
later Duke of Windsor
23 June 1894 28 May 1972 married Wallis Simpson 1937; no issue
George VI 14 December 1895 6 February 1952 married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon 1923; two daughters: Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon
Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood 25 April 1897 28 March 1965 married Henry Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood 1922; had issue
Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester 31 March 1900 10 June 1974 married Lady Alice Montagu Douglas Scott 1935; had issue
Prince George, Duke of Kent 20 December 1902 25 August 1942 married Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark 1934; had issue
Prince John 12 July 1905 18 January 1919 died aged 13 of epilepsy


See also

Notes and sources

  1. ^ The Times (London), Monday, 29 July 1867 p. 12 col. E
  2. ^ Pope-Hennessy, p. 24
  3. ^ a b Pope-Hennessy, p. 66
  4. ^ Pope-Hennessy, p. 45
  5. ^ Pope-Hennessy, p. 55
  6. ^ Pope-Hennessy, pp. 68, 76, 123
  7. ^ Pope-Hennessy, p. 68
  8. ^ Pope-Hennessy, pp. 36–37
  9. ^ Pope-Hennessy, p. 114
  10. ^ Pope-Hennessy, p. 112
  11. ^ Pope-Hennessy, p. 133
  12. ^ Pope-Hennessy, pp. 503–505
  13. ^ May's maternal grandfather, Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, was a brother of Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent, who was the father of Queen Victoria, Albert Victor's paternal grandmother.
  14. ^ Pope-Hennessy, p. 201
  15. ^ Edwards, p. 61
  16. ^ a b Prochaska, Frank (September 2004; online edition January 2008), "Mary (1867–1953)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press),  
  17. ^ Her bridesmaids were the Princesses Maud and Victoria of Wales, Victoria Melita, Alexandra and Beatrice of Edinburgh, Helena Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, Margaret and Patricia of Connaught and Strathearn, and Alice and Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg.
  18. ^ Pope-Hennessy, p. 291
  19. ^ Wheeler-Bennett, pp. 16–17
  20. ^ Pope-Hennessy, p. 393
  21. ^ Windsor, pp. 24–25
  22. ^ Ziegler, p. 538
  23. ^ Queen Mother's Clothing Guild official website, retrieved 1 May 2010 
  24. ^ Chair seat at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Tea cosy at Springhill, County Londonderry
  25. ^ Edwards, p. 115
  26. ^ Edwards, pp. 142–143
  27. ^ Edwards, p. 146
  28. ^ The driver of their coach and over a dozen spectators were killed by a bomb thrown by an anarchist, Mateo Morales.
  29. ^ Pope-Hennessy, p. 407
  30. ^ Pope-Hennessy, p. 421
  31. ^ Pope-Hennessy, pp. 452–463
  32. ^ Edwards, pp. 182–193
  33. ^ Edwards, pp. 244–245
  34. ^ Edwards, p. 258
  35. ^ Edwards, p. 262
  36. ^ Pope-Hennessy, p. 511
  37. ^ Pope-Hennessy, p. 549
  38. ^ Edwards, p. 311
  39. ^ Gore, p. 243
  40. ^ The Times (London), Wednesday, 25 March 1953 p. 5
  41. ^ Watson, Francis (1986), "The Death of George V", History Today 36: 21–30 
  42. ^ Airlie, p. 200
  43. ^ Windsor, p. 255
  44. ^ Windsor, p. 334
  45. ^ Pope-Hennessy, p. 584
  46. ^ Edwards, p. 401 and Pope-Hennessy, p. 575
  47. ^ Edwards, p. 349
  48. ^ Pope-Hennessy, p. 596
  49. ^ Mosley, Charles (ed.) (2003), "Duke of Beaufort, 'Seat' section", Burke's Peerage & Gentry, 107th edition, vol. I p. 308 
  50. ^ Pope-Hennessy, p. 600
  51. ^ Pope-Hennessy, p. 412
  52. ^ Clarke, William (1995), The Lost Fortune of the Tsars 
  53. ^ Thomson, Mark (29 August 2005), Document – A Right Royal Affair, BBC Radio 4 
    See also Kilmorey Papers (D/2638) (pdf), Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.
  54. ^ Pope-Hennessy, pp. 531–534
  55. ^ Rose, p. 284
  56. ^ Pope-Hennessy, p. 414
  57. ^ Windsor, p. 238
  58. ^ The Times (London), Wednesday, 25 March 1953 p. 8
  59. ^ Royal Burials in the Chapel by location, St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, retrieved 1 May 2010 
  60. ^ "Queen Mary laid to rest in Windsor", BBC On This Day: 31 March 1953. Retrieved 19 October 2010
  61. ^  
  62. ^ The QMII was named after the original ocean liner, and is only indirectly named after the Queen.
  63. ^ Moss, G. P.; Saville, M. V. (1985), From Palace to College – An illustrated account of Queen Mary College, University of London, pp. 57–62,  
  64. ^ "History of the Queen Mary Reservoir- Sunbury Matters". Village Matters. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  65. ^ "Introduction". Queen Mary College, Lahore. Retrieved 29 October 2014. 
  66. ^ "Dame Wendy Hiller", The Guardian, 16 May 2003, retrieved 1 May 2010 
  67. ^  
  68. ^ a b  
  69. ^  


External links

Royal titles
Preceded by
Alexandra of Denmark
Queen consort of the United Kingdom
Empress of India

Title next held by
Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Prince of Wales
Grand Master of the Order of the British Empire
Succeeded by
The Duke of Edinburgh
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