Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge

Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge (Mary Adelaide Wilhelmina Elizabeth; 27 November 1833 27 October 1897) was a member of the British royal family, a granddaughter of George III, grandmother of Edward VIII and George VI and great grandmother of Elizabeth II. She held the title of Duchess of Teck through marriage.

Princess Mary Adelaide
Duchess of Teck
Mary Adelaide 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
Francis, Duke of Teck
(m. 1866)
IssueMary, Queen of the United Kingdom
Adolphus Cambridge, 1st Marquess of Cambridge
Prince Francis
Alexander Cambridge, 1st Earl of Athlone
Mary Adelaide Wilhelmina Elizabeth
FatherPrince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge
MotherPrincess Augusta of Hesse-Kassel

Mary Adelaide is remembered as the mother of Queen Mary, the wife of George V. She was one of the first royals to patronise a wide range of charities.

Early life

Portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter in the Royal Collection, 1846

Mary Adelaide was born on 27 November 1833 in 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. Her large girth (earning her the disparaging epithet of "Fat Mary"[5][6][7]) and lack of income were contributing factors, as was her advanced age. However, her royal rank prevented her from marrying someone not of royal blood. Her cousin, Queen Victoria, took pity on her and attempted to arrange pairings.

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.[8]

Eventually a suitable candidate was found in Württemberg, Prince Francis of Teck. The Prince 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. With no other options available, Mary Adelaide decided to marry him. The couple were married on 12 June 1866 at St. Anne's Church, Kew, Surrey.

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[9] 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:[10]

Princess Victoria Mary of Teck[11]26 May 186724 March 1953married 1893, Prince George, Duke of York (later George V); had issue
Prince Adolphus of Teck13 August 186823 October 1927later Duke of Teck and Marquess of Cambridge

married 1894, Lady Margaret Evelyn Grosvenor; had issue

Prince Francis of Teck9 January 187022 October 1910No issue.
Prince Alexander of Teck14 April 187416 January 1957later Earl of Athlone

married 1904, Princess Alice of Albany; had issue

Life abroad

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

The Tecks returned from their self-imposed exile in 1885 and continued to live at Kensington Palace and White Lodge in Richmond Park.[9] 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.[9] 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.[9]

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.[12] She was buried in the royal vault at St. George's Chapel, Windsor.[12]

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

Titles, styles, honours and arms

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 Highness Princess Francis of Teck
  • 16 December 1871 – 27 October 1897: Her Royal Highness The 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.


  • Companion of the Imperial Order of the Crown of India, 1878[13]
  • Order of St John Lady of Justice, 1896[14]



  1. "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.
  5. Wilson, A.N. (2014). Victoria: a Life (First US ed.). New York: Penguin Press HC. p. CXCV. ISBN 978-1594205996.
  6. "Mary Adelaide, Princess". Oxford DNB. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  7. Ridley, Jane (2014). The Heir Apparent: a Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince (Digital ed.). New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0812972634. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  8. Queen Sophie (consort of William III, King of the Netherlands). A Stranger in The Hague: The Letters of Queen Sophie of the Netherlands to Lady Malet, 1842-1877. p. 169. Duke University Press, 1989. ISBN 0822308118, 9780822308119
  9. "Queen Mary. Devotion to duty". The Sydney Morning Herald. 21 January 1936. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  10. ‘Teck’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007 accessed 4 Jan 2012
  11. A Right Royal Feast: Menus from Royal Weddings and History's Greatest Banquets, By John Lane, p.22
  12. "Mary of Teck". English Monarchs. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  13. "No. 24539". The London Gazette. 4 January 1878. p. 114.
  14. "No. 26725". The London Gazette. 27 Mar 1896. p. 1960.


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