Queen Elizabeth I died on March 24, but she was not the only English monarch to die on this day. George V’s queen consort, Mary of Teck, died on March 24, 1953 — exactly 350 years after the death of Queen Elizabeth. Coincidently, Mary’s death occurred in the first year in the reign of her granddaughter, Elizabeth II.
Mary (known as May to friends and family) was the great-granddaughter of George III via his 10th child, Prince Adolphus. Queen Victoria, her godmother, loved her to bits … which is how May became engaged to Victoria’s grandson and heir to the British throne, Albert Victor.
Sadly, this did not work out, inasmuch as Albert died shortly after the betrothal. Another of Queen Victoria’s grandson’s George, Duke of York, became next in line to the throne in his brother’s place. George also became close to May … in part because they were both sorely bereaved by Albert’s death. Their mutual comfort of one another turned into romantic love.
Mary of Teck became the Duchess of Cornwall and the Princess of Wales in the summer of 1893, and Queen Mary in 1911. She and George seemed to have been mutually devoted to each other.
They had six children, whom they raised (with the best of intentions) in the strict Victorian mode that tends to damage children’s fragile psychologies.
Their eldest son, Edward VIII, was a Nazi sympathizer who abdicated his throne to marry a twice-divorced American.
His brother Albert, who became George VI, was a better human being, but was also scarred by the stern and distant school of Victorian parenting:
He often suffered from ill health and was described as “easily frightened and somewhat prone to tears” … He had a stammer that lasted for many years, and was forced to write with his right hand although he was naturally left-handed. He suffered from chronic stomach problems as well as knock knees, for which he was forced to wear painful corrective splints.
Their daughter, Princess Mary of York, was forced into an arranged marriage and remained loyal to the former Edward VIII (now the Duke of Windsor) because he had tried to prevent it.
Their fourth child, Prince Henry, “was an extremely nervous child, and was often victim to spontaneous fits of crying or giggling, and … had a combination of speech disorders.” He was also a little too “fond” of whiskey as an adult.
Prince George, who died heroically in a military plane accident during WWII in 1942, was a drug addict with a multitude of lovers.
Prince John, who had epilepsy and some kind of learning disability, died of a seizure at age 13. In later years, King George and Queen Mary would roundly criticized for having hidden him away in the countryside:
However, records show that the Prince was in some ways given favourable treatment by his parents, in comparison to his siblings, and his mother had love and concern for him … [May] 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.”
The upper-crust Victorians usually did a really crap job of child-rearing, regardless of how much they loved their offspring. They were a bit warmer as grandparents, though. May was apparently doting when it came to the future Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret, and was on excellent terms with her nieces and nephews.
Although May sadly fit into the mold of Bad Victorian Mommy, she was a good queen and a good wife. King George said, “I cannot trust myself to speak of the Queen when I think of all I owe her.” Anglo-American author Sir Henry Channon, described her as “magnificent, humorous, worldly, in fact nearly sublime, though cold and hard. But what a grand Queen.”