Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-HolsteinHer Highness Princess Marie Louise (12 August 1872-8 December 1956), nee Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein, was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and a member of the British Royal Family. She was the younger daughter and the fourth child of HRH Princess Helena, Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, Queen Victoria's third daughter, and her husband, HRH Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenberg.
Her Highness Princess Franziska Josepha Louise Augusta Marie Christina Helena Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenberg was born at Cumberland Lodge, her father's residence as Ranger of Windsor Great Park. While still a child, she decided to use "Marie Louise" out of her long string of Christian names.
On 6 July 1891, Princess Marie Louise was married at Windsor Castle to His Highness Prince Aribert of Anhalt (18 June 1866-24 December 1933), the third son of Leopold, Duke of Anhalt, and his wife, Princess Antoinette of Saxe-Altenberg. The bride's first cousin, the German emperor Wilhelm II, had been instrumental in arranging the match. The marriage, however, was unhappy and childless. In December 1900, her father-in-law used his perogative as reigning Duke of Anhalt to annul the marriage. Princess Marie Louise, on an official visit to Canada at the time, immediately returned to Britain. She regarded her marriage vows as binding and never remarried.1
After the annulment, Princess Marie Louise devoted herself to charitable organizations and patronage of the arts. She inspired the creation of Queen Mary's Doll House to showcase the work of British craftsman. She established the Girl's Club in Bernmondesy, which during World War I, served as a hospital. She was also active in the work of the Princess Christian Nursing Home at Windsor. She was created a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (G.B.E.) in 1919 and a Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (D.G.C.V.O.) in 1953. Princess Marie Louise was also a Lady of the Order of Victoria and Albert (V.A.) and of the Order of the Crown of India (C.I.).
In July 1917, when King George V changed the name of the British Royal House from the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to House of Windsor, he also requested that his numerous cousins and brothers-in-law who were British subjects discontinue the use of their German titles, styles, and surnames. Princess Marie Louise and her unmarried sister, Princess Helena Victoria, became simply known as "HH Princess Marie Louise" and "HH Princess Helena Victoria." 2 Although the two princesses had borne German titles, they were both quintessentially English.
Princess Marie Louise attended four coronations in Westminster Abbey, those of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1901; King George V and Queen Mary in 1911; King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937; and Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. In 1956, she published her memiors, My Memories of Six Reigns. She died at her London home, 10 Fitzmaurice Place, Berkeley Square, a few months later and is buried at Frogmore Royal Burial Ground at Windsor Great Park.
1 The circumstances of the end of the marriage of Princess Marie Louise and Prince Aribert are unclear. The 1903 edition of the Almanach de Gotha states that they were divorced on 13 December 1900. The 1904 edition of Whitaker's Alamanac, on the other hand, states that "her marraige was dissolved by joint request on account of a new family law of that ducal house." Royal genealogist Marlene A. Eilers reports that Prince Aribert had been discovered in a compromising position with another man. Princess Marie Louise's uncle, Edward VII, summed up the situation, saying, "Ach, poor Louise, she has returned as she went-- a virgin."
2 In May 1866, Queen Victoria granted the style of Highness to any children born of the marriage of Prince and Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenberg. However, the children were still Princes or Princess of Holstein-Sonderberg-Augustenberg and the style Highness was only in effect in Great Britain, not in Germany. In 1917, at the request of George V, Princess Marie Louise and Princess Helena Victoria simply stopped using the "Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg" part of their titles. They were never formally granted the titles of Princesses of Great Britain and Ireland.
Ronald Allison and Sarah Riddell, eds., The Royal Encyclopedia (London: Macmillan, 1992).
Marlene A. Eilers, Queen Victoria's Descendants (New York: Atlantic International Publishing, 1987).
Princess Marie Louise (nee Princess of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenberg), My Memories of Six Reigns (London: Evans Brothers, 1956).
"Obituary: Princess Marie Louise, Patron of Social Services," The Times 10 December 1956, p. 14.