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Royal weddings of yore

(The following is a post by Taru Spiegel, reference specialist, European Division.)

Inspired by the glamorous wedding earlier this year of Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, we researched some other famous European royal couples featured in our collections. The Library of Congress holds a large amount of material on current and past royalty in books, newspapers, periodicals, photographs, prints, etc. Depending on the research focus, information may be found in a number of languages under subject headings such as “Princes,” “Princesses,” “Kings,” “Queens,” “Royal Houses,” “Royal Weddings,” or searching by individual names, e.g., Otto I, 936-973.

Princess Zita and Archduke Karl

Zita, a princess of Bourbon-Parma (1892-1989), married Archduke Karl (1887-1922), grandnephew of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary, in 1911. The wedding took place in the chapel of Schwarzau Castle in Austria, a Bourbon-Parma family residence. The train of the bride’s wedding dress was decorated with the stylized lily emblem of the House of Bourbon. On her head the bride wore a myrtle wreath, and the long bridal veil was held in place by a magnificent diamond tiara. Monsignor Bisletti, the representative of Pope Pius X, blessed the union and later read a personal letter from the Pope. In the evening, the celebrations continued with a fireworks display and torch-light procession. In 1916, after the death of Emperor Franz Josef, Karl was crowned Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. After the end of World War I, Karl’s government forbade him to take part in state affairs. He moved his family to Switzerland in 1919, and died three years later in 1922. Zita was left to struggle to take care of her eight children, wore mourning to the end of her long life, and never remarried.

Wedding of Archduke Karl and Princess Zita. Emperor (Kaiser) Franz Josef seated next to the groom, 1911. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Her Imperial and Royal Highness Archduchess and Princess Zita of Austria, Princess of Hungary, Bohemia, and Croatia, Princess of Bourbon-Parma, 1914, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty Karl I, the Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary and Croatia, Slavonia, and Dalmatia, date between 1914 and 1918. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Princess Viktoria Luise and Duke Ernst August

Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia (1892-1980) married Ernst August (1887-1953), Duke of Brunswick and Lüneburg, Prince of Hanover (Hannover in German), in May 1913. Viktoria was the only daughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and the great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England. Ernst was a grandson of George V of Hanover and Christian IX of Denmark, as well as great-great-grandson of George III of England. Given these connections, it was not surprising that the couple’s glittering wedding was attended by most European royalty, including King George V of England and Tsar Nicholas II. Viktoria and Ernst were a devoted pair; the Princess indicated later that she fell in love at first sight. The wedding also went a good way toward healing the rift between Prussia and Brunswick that had existed since Ernst’s grandfather, the King of Hanover, was deposed by the Prussians in 1866. Viktoria and Ernst courageously braved the troubles brought by World Wars I and II. Ernst was forced to abdicate in 1918, along with all other German kings, princes, and dukes. Of their five children, Frederica, became the Queen of Greece and mother of the Queen of Spain (the Queen mother of the current King of Spain).

Ernst August, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and his bride Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia, 1913. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Viktoria Luise and Ernst August in Karlsruhe, 1913. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Princess Anastasia and Prince Christopher of Greece

The story of Mrs. William Bateman Leeds, born Nonnie Stewart in 1878, sounds a bit like the 1905 operetta of “The Merry Widow” composed by Franz Lehár (1870-1948). After her multi-millionaire businessman husband died in 1908, Mrs. Leeds (now known as Nancy) inherited his vast fortune made in tin plating. Her 1914 engagement to Prince Christopher of Greece, ten years her junior, was followed by their 1920 wedding in Switzerland. Prince Christopher was the youngest of the eight children of King George I of the Hellenes and the former Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna of Russia. Mrs. Leeds supported the Greek royal family during their exile in Switzerland, Greek political conditions being extremely turbulent during World War I and for years later. After her marriage, Mrs. Leeds acquired the title of Her Royal Highness Princess Anastasia of Greece, and was even declared a Princess in her own right for her loyal support. By all accounts, the marriage was a happy one. Sadly, Princess Anastasia died of cancer in 1923. Her fortune was divided between Prince Christopher and her son from her earlier marriage, William Bateman Leeds, Jr. In 1929 Prince Christopher married French Princess Françoise d’Orleans (1902-53). Prince Christopher died in 1940.

Nonnie “Nancy” Leeds (Princess Anastasia), Dowager Queen Olga of Greece, Prince Christopher of Greece, 1920. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Princess Anastasia and Prince Christopher, 1923 (detail). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Princess Astrid of Sweden and Crown Prince Leopold of Belgium

Princess Astrid of Sweden (1905-35), a niece of King Gustav V, married Crown Prince Leopold (1901-83) of Belgium in 1926—first in a civil ceremony in Stockholm, and then in a religious wedding in Brussels. The beautiful princess was enthusiastically welcomed by the Belgians, and continued to be admired for her charm, simplicity, and work with children’s causes. The couple was also seen to be very much in love, which further added to their charisma. In addition to their many duties and official travels in Asia and Africa, they were devoted to their three children, Joséphine-Charlotte, Baudouin, and Albert. In 1934, King Albert I died, and Leopold succeeded him as King of the Belgians. Queen Astrid died the following year in a tragic car accident. Leopold married the unpopular commoner Mary-Lilian Baels in 1941. He became embroiled in various political troubles with his ministers who accused him of exceeding his powers and siding with the fascists in WWII. King Leopold III abdicated in 1950.

Crown Prince Leopold of Belgium and Crown Princess Astrid, 1926. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Crown Princess Astrid, 1926. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Crown Prince Leopold of Belgium, date between ca. 1910 and ca. 1915. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

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