Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge

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Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge
Duchess of Teck
Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck (1833–1897).png
The Duchess of Teck in 1885
Born27 November 1833
Hanover, German Confederation
Died27 October 1897(1897-10-27) (aged 63)
White Lodge, Richmond Park, Surrey, England
Burial3 November 1897
(m. 1866)
Mary Adelaide Wilhelmina Elizabeth
FatherPrince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge
MotherPrincess Augusta of Hesse-Kassel

Princess Mary Adelaide Wilhelmina Elizabeth of Cambridge (27 November 1833 – 27 October 1897), later Duchess of Teck, was a member of the British royal family. She was one of the first royals to patronise a wide range of charities.

Mary Adelaide was the daughter of Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, and Princess Augusta of Hesse-Kassel. Her father was the seventh son of King George III and Queen Charlotte. Mary Adelaide married Francis, Duke of Teck, with whom she had four children. The Duke and Duchess of Teck's daughter, "May", was the wife of King George V and became known as Queen Mary. Through her daughter, Mary Adelaide was the grandmother of the British kings Edward VIII and George VI.

Early life[edit]

Mary Adelaide was born on 27 November 1833 in the Kingdom of Hanover, German Confederation. Her father was Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, the youngest surviving son of George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.[1] Her mother was Princess Augusta of Hesse-Kassel, the daughter of Prince Frederick of Hesse-Kassel.[1] As a male-line granddaughter of a British monarch, she was styled as a British princess with the prefix of Royal Highness.

The young princess was baptized on 9 January 1834 at Cambridge House, Hanover, by Rev John Ryle Wood, Chaplain to the Duke of Cambridge. Her godmother and paternal aunt Princess Elizabeth, Landgravine of Hesse-Homburg, was the only godparent who was present. The others were William IV and Queen Adelaide (her paternal uncle and aunt), Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh (her paternal aunt), Princess Marie of Hesse-Cassel (her maternal aunt) and Princess Marie Luise Charlotte of Hesse-Kassel (her maternal first cousin). She was named Mary Adelaide Wilhelmina Elizabeth for her aunts and uncle.[2][3]

Photograph by Camille Silvy, 1860

Mary Adelaide spent the early years of her life in Hanover, where her father acted as viceroy, in place of her uncles George IV and later William IV.[1]

After the death of William IV Mary Adelaide's first cousin, Princess Victoria of Kent, ascended the throne in 1837.[4] However, Salic law prevented Victoria from ascending the throne of Hanover, which instead passed to Prince Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. Thus, the personal union which had existed for over a century between Britain and Hanover came to an end along with the arrangement of Hanover's ruler living in England as the British monarch and using a viceroy to represent him in Hanover. The Duke of Cumberland moved to Hanover as King and Mary Adelaide's father, no longer needed in Hanover, returned to London with his family, setting up residence in Kensington Palace.


The Duchess of Teck and her family c. 1883; Prince Alexander sits centre with his arm around the Duchess, Princess Mary (later Queen Mary) is seated at far right.

By the age of 30, Mary Adelaide was still unmarried. This situation was largely of her own choosing, as she had declared she did not want to leave Britain, and would not marry a husband who would require her to live abroad. Suitors for her hand included Prince Wilhem of Baden, the duke of Brunswick, the Duke of Saxe-Meiningen, while reportedly Napoleon III considered proposing to her but was deterred by her unwillingness to leave her home country.[5] At one point King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy was thought of as possible husband for Mary Adelaide. He had a scandalous reputation and was a notorious womanizer; it was said that whenever he visited a country he went to the theatre and music halls and sent notes propositioning the chorus girls. His behavior in England did little to enhance his reputation.[6] Mary Adelaide's large girth (earning her the disparaging epithet of "Fat Mary"[7][8][9]) and lack of income were also considered to deter potential suitors, as was her advancing age. However, her royal rank prevented her from marrying someone not of royal blood, and Mary had reportedly resigned herself to living out her days as a "jolly old maid". Her cousin, Queen Victoria, and Victoria's son the Prince of Wales took pity on her and attempted to arrange pairings.[10]

Eventually a suitable candidate was found by the Prince of Wales and his wife Princess Alexandra on a visit to the Austrian court at Vienna in 1865. During the visit, they met and took a liking to a young officer in the Austrian Army, Prince Francis of Teck, a minor member of the royal family of Württemberg. Francis was of lower rank than Mary Adelaide, was the product of a morganatic marriage and had no succession rights to the throne of Württemberg, but was at least of princely title and of royal blood. He was also considered to be "the most handsome man at the Austrian court", where he was known as Der schöne Uhlan, "the handsome cavalry officer". The Prince of Wales invited the young officer to visit the royal court in Britain, and upon Francis's arrival on 6th March 1866 arranged for him to meet Mary Adelaide. "The wooing was but a short affair", according to Mary Adelaide: the pair were introduced on 7th March 1866, and a month later were engaged, much to the satisfaction of Mary Adelaide's family. "Everyone seemed to think it would do", Mary Adelaide's daughter May would later say, "and it did."[11][12][13][14] The couple were married on 12 June 1866 at St. Anne's Church, Kew, Surrey. Despite money problems, and perennial dissatisfaction about their low ranking within the British royal family, it would prove to be a happy marriage.[15]

The Duke and Duchess of Teck chose to reside in London rather than abroad, mainly because Mary Adelaide received £5,000 per annum as a Parliamentary annuity and carried out royal duties. Her mother, the Duchess of Cambridge, also provided her with supplementary income. Requests to Queen Victoria for extra funds were generally refused; however, the queen did provide the Tecks with apartments at Kensington Palace[16] and White Lodge in Richmond Park as a country house.

Mary Adelaide requested that her new husband be granted the style Royal Highness, but this was refused by Queen Victoria. The queen did, however, promote Francis to the rank of Highness in 1887 in celebration of her Golden Jubilee.


The Tecks had one daughter and three sons:[17]

Name Birth Death Notes
Princess Victoria Mary of Teck[18] 26 May 1867 24 March 1953 married 1893, Prince George, Duke of York (later George V); had issue, including Edward VIII and George VI.
Prince Adolphus of Teck 13 August 1868 23 October 1927 later Duke of Teck and Marquess of Cambridge

married 1894, Lady Margaret Evelyn Grosvenor; had issue

Prince Francis of Teck 9 January 1870 22 October 1910 No issue.
Prince Alexander of Teck 14 April 1874 16 January 1957 later Earl of Athlone

married 1904, Princess Alice of Albany; had issue

Life abroad[edit]

Mary Adelaide, c. 1880

Despite their modest income, Mary Adelaide had expensive tastes and lived an extravagant life of parties, expensive food and clothes and holidays abroad. In 1883 they were forced to live more cheaply abroad to reduce their debts. They travelled to Florence, Italy, and also stayed with relatives in Germany and Austria. Initially, they travelled under the names of the Count and Countess von Hohenstein. However, Mary Adelaide wished to travel in more style and reverted to her royal style, which commanded significantly more attention and better service.

Later life and death[edit]

The Tecks returned from their self-imposed exile in 1885 and continued to live at Kensington Palace and White Lodge in Richmond Park.[16] Mary Adelaide began devoting her life to charity, serving as patron to Barnardo's and other children's charities.

In 1891, Mary Adelaide was keen for her daughter, Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (known as "May") to marry one of the sons of the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII. At the same time, Queen Victoria wanted a British-born bride for the future king, though of course one of royal rank and ancestry, and Mary Adelaide's daughter fulfilled the rank criteria. After Queen Victoria's approval, May became engaged to Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, second in line to the British throne.[16] He died suddenly six weeks later. Queen Victoria was fond of Princess Mary and persuaded the Duke of Clarence's brother and next in the line of succession, Prince George, Duke of York, to marry her instead. They married in the Chapel Royal, St. James's Palace, on 6 July 1893.[16]

Mary Adelaide never lived to see her daughter become Princess of Wales or Queen, as she died on 27 October 1897 at White Lodge, following an emergency operation.[19] She was buried in the royal vault at St. George's Chapel, Windsor.[19]

Mary Adelaide Close, on the edge of Richmond Park, is named after her.

Titles, styles, honours and arms[edit]

Coat of arms of Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge
  • 27 November 1833 – 12 June 1866: Her Royal Highness Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge
  • 12 June 1866 – 16 December 1871: Her Royal HighnessPrincess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, The Duchess of Teck
  • 16 December 1871 – 27 October 1897: Her Royal HighnessPrincess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, Dowager Duchess of Teck

As a male-line granddaughter of the British monarch, she was styled Her Royal Highness Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge. As the male-line granddaughter of a king of Hanover, Princess Mary Adelaide also bore the titles of Princess of Hanover and Duchess of Brunswick-Lüneburg.




  1. ^ a b c "The other Princess of Cambridge". Hello!. 11 July 2013. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  2. ^ "Yvonne's Royalty Home Page: Royal Christenings". Archived from the original on 2011-08-27. Retrieved 2009-07-08.
  3. ^ "No. 19126". The London Gazette. 7 February 1834. p. 227.
  4. ^ "A Queen of great courage". The Bulletin. 20 March 1953. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
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  12. ^ [4]
  13. ^ Nash, Michael L, Royal Wills in Britain from 1509 to 2008 (2017), p.217 [5]
  14. ^ Queen Sophie (consort of William III, King of the Netherlands), Malet, Lady Marian Dora, Jackman, Sydney Wayne, A Stranger in The Hague: The Letters of Queen Sophie of the Netherlands to Lady Malet, 1842-1877 (1989), p.280 [6]
  15. ^ Vovk, Justin C., Imperial Requiem: Four Royal Women and the Fall of the Age of Empires (2014), pp.13-14 [7]
  16. ^ a b c d "Queen Mary. Devotion to duty". The Sydney Morning Herald. 21 January 1936. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  17. ^ ‘Teck’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007 accessed 4 Jan 2012[permanent dead link]
  18. ^ A Right Royal Feast: Menus from Royal Weddings and History's Greatest Banquets, By John Lane, p.22
  19. ^ a b "Mary of Teck". English Monarchs. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  20. ^ "No. 24539". The London Gazette. 4 January 1878. p. 114.
  21. ^ "No. 26725". The London Gazette. 27 Mar 1896. p. 1960.