Alexandra, Princess of Wales - and her daughter Princess Maud in 1870. | Photo: William & Daniel Downey - wikimedia cc pdm.

Queen Maud of Norway | her background and childhood years

Queen Maud of Norway was born in London in 1869, as Princess Maud of Wales. Her grandmother was none other than the formidable Queen Victoria.

Born in London

Maud Charlotte Mary Victoria was born on 26 November 1869, at Marlborough House in London, just a stone’s throw away from Buckingham Palace. She was born into one of the world’s most powerful families: the British royal family. Her style and title at birth was Her Royal Highness Princess Maud of Wales.

Maud’s parents were Edward and Alexandra, the Prince and Princess of Wales. And her paternal grandparents were Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. When Maud was born, the family was still deeply affected by the death of Albert, in 1861. He died from suspected typhoid fever, at the age of 42. Albert’s passing hit Queen Victoria hard. It was a grief that followed her until her own death in 1901 – 40 years later.

Edward, Maud’s father

Edward was born in London on 9 November 1841, as the second of Victoria and Albert’s nine children. As the heir to the throne, he was under his parents’ strict scrutiny and control from the day he was born. Edward had a warm and outgoing nature, but a behaviour, according to his parents, that was far from suitable for a future king. He resisted Albert and Victoria’s controlling regime with every fibre of his personality. As he grew older, it was womanising, drink, and partying that occupied his mind.

Prior to Albert’s death, he and Victoria had set in motion plans to marry Edward off to a suitable bride, hoping that marriage would calm him down. After much search, they settled on Princess Alexandra of Denmark. She was known for her exceptional beauty and grace. On 10 March 1863, 15 months after Albert’s passing, Edward and Alexandra married in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. He was 21, and she 18.

In the following 8 years, Alexandra gave birth to 6 children: Albert, George, Louise, Victoria, Maud, and Alexander. Victoria and Albert’s hope, that the beautiful Alexandra could be the one to tame Edward’s maverick ways, failed miserably. He was an incorrigible womaniser throughout his life. But despite his infidelities, Edward was much loved by his wife and his children, and he loved them too. His charm and zest for life must have won them over.

Edward and Alexandra - the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1863. | Photo: John Jabez Edwin Mayal  - wikimedia cc pdm.
Edward and Alexandra – the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1863. | Photo: John Jabez Edwin Mayal – wikimedia cc pdm.

Alexandra, Maud’s mother

Alexandra was born in Copenhagen on 1 December 1844 and was the second of six children born to Christian and Louise – the later king and queen of Denmark. At birth, Alexandra was a fairly minor royal, but when she was 8, her father was elected heir presumptive to the Danish throne. By royal standards, Christian and Louise run a simple household in Det Gule Palæ – the yellow house – in Copenhagen, and Louise was a very close and hands-on mother.

Alexandra brought with her the gentle ways of her parents when becoming part of the strict British court – and created a haven for her much loved children. She was a fashion icon, and renowned for her beauty well into her ageing years. She was also a much-respected figure in her new homeland. Despite her husband’s hurtful and humiliating philandering, she pushed through – and thrived. And she created a warm world for Maud and her cherished siblings.

Alexandra of Wales in 1864. | Painting: Franz Xaver Winterhalter - Royal Collection Trust wikimedia cc pdm.
Alexandra of Wales in 1864. | Painting: Franz Xaver Winterhalter – Royal Collection Trust wikimedia cc pdm.

Where was Maud’s childhood home?

Prior to Prince Edward turning 21 in 1862 – and in preparation for his marriage – his parents had decided that he should set up a household of his own. His city residence was to be Marlborough House in London, and they were on the lookout for a suitable country home when Albert suddenly died. Marlborough House was built in 1711, for Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, depicted by the actor Rachel Weisz in the 2018 film The Favourite. Despite Albert’s death, Victoria pushed ahead with their plans for a second home. In the spring of 1862, Edward purchased Sandringham House in Norfolk, on England’s east coast.

Marlborough House today - no longer a royal residence. | Photo: CMallwitz - wikimedia cc pdm.
Marlborough House today – no longer a royal residence. | Photo: CMallwitz – wikimedia cc pdm.

Sandringham was the centre of Maud’s world

Today, Sandringham House is known as the royal family’s Christmas residence, but originally it was Princess Maud’s childhood home – and her paradise on earth. Edward and Alexandra moved into the original Sandringham House three weeks after their wedding. But it turned out to be old-fashioned and far from suitable for the growing family. The royal couple had the whole house demolished to make way for a new building designed for the requirements of the day. It was ready in 1870.

It was at Sandringham that Maud spent most of her childhood. And she loved the freedom of the countryside. It suited her shy nature and love for the outdoors. The only times Maud and her siblings had to leave Sandringham for any length of time, except for their stays in London, was when they went on their annual trips to visit family in Denmark – or at Balmoral in Scotland. Despite the absolute splendour of the Scottish Highlands, the children hated Balmoral and the strict ways of Queen Victoria. According to Alexandra, Maud stamped her feet and refused to go. All through her life, Maud kept coming back to Sandringham. This was where her roots were firmly planted.

Sandringham House, Norfolk, UK. | Photo: John Fielding - wikimedia cc by.
Sandringham House, Norfolk, UK. | Photo: John Fielding – wikimedia cc by.

The loss of a baby brother

It was also at Sandringham that Alexandra and Edward’s youngest child, Prince Alexander, was born prematurely on 6 April 1871. Sadly, he died just a day later.

Maud was probably too young to remember, but still, her baby brother’s death must have been a painful presence through her formative years.

Prince Alexander was buried in the St Mary Magdalene Church cemetery, at the royal Sandringham estate.

Many years later, Maud gave her only son the name Alexander – the later King Olav 5 of Norway – and she baptised him in the very same church.

Upbringing and schooling

The Wales’ children had private tutors, preparing them for their royal duties. In addition to the more traditional subjects, Maud was taught dance and horse riding.

Prince Edward believed that children were best off being brought up by their mothers – and left most of the responsibility to Alexandra. Fathers tend to be far too strict, he argued.

Alexandra was more than happy to take on the task. Some say she was far too protective, preventing her children from becoming independent and prepared for adult life.

But then again, maybe what she did was quite the opposite. Maybe she deliberately guarded them against the pressures of an entire empire.

Regardless, no one could ever accuse Alexandra of not loving her children. She absolutely adored them.

The first princess on a bicycle?

As a child, Maud was known to be a bundle of energy – despite her petite build. Quite the tomboy. She definitely gave the boys a run for their money.

Her nickname within the family was Harry, given to her by her mother Alexandra. A name that followed her into her adulthood.

But she was also shy, and reluctant to speak when outside the family circle. Her Royal Shyness, people called her.

Maud is said to have been the first British princess seen bicycling in public. Queen Victoria was not amused. Was this a suitable activity for a young lady?

The monarch was worried that Maud risked showing off her legs in the process. After all, these were Victorian times.

Maud is said to have replied: But grandmama, everybody knows that I have legs!

The apple seller

One day, when Maud was out cycling around Sandringham, she came across an old lady sitting by the roadside selling apples. Maud stopped and chatted, as she would.

When she realised that sales were poor, she offered to help. Passers-by, who recognised the princess, all stopped to make a purchase, and soon the apples were gone.

Her father got wind of the story and asked her if she thought selling apples was a suitable activity for a princess. Absolutely, Maud said, it was raining, and I felt sorry for the lady.

Later, many similar stories would appear, showing us a personality built on empathy and heart.

Maud’s love for animals

From a very early age, Maud loved animals. Especially horses and dogs. They were never far from her side, and lifelong companions.

When she was 10, her Spanish riding teacher said that she was the best pupil he had ever had. She rode around the Sandringham estate like there was no tomorrow.

It was also at Sandringham that Queen Maud set out riding for the very last time, just a few days before her passing in 1938.

Artistic soul

Princess Alexandra was a very capable painter, and Maud absorbed her mother’s creative skills. She both painted, carved in wood, and played the piano. Most of her work is still stored in her future home, the Royal Palace in Oslo.

A persistent rumour claims that Maud once wrote a play using the pseudonym Graham Irving. But the story has never been verified.

Encouraged by Alexandra, Maud also took up photography. This was another hobby that followed her through her entire life.

The family gatherings in Denmark

Princess Alexandra was very much connected to her parents – the king and queen of Denmark – and her homeland. Every year, the extended and scattered Danish royal family was called home for a family gathering.

The extended Danish royal family gathered at Fredensborg Palace. | Painter: Laurits Tuxen - Amalienborg Museum cc pdm.
The extended Danish royal family gathered at Fredensborg Palace. | Painter: Laurits Tuxen 1886 – Amalienborg Museum cc pdm.

Maud and her siblings played with their cousins and forged strong family bonds.

And what a family it was: Maud’s uncle Frederik was the heir to the Danish throne, her aunt Dagmar was married to the Tsar of Russia, and her uncle William was elected king of Greece.

To the Russians, Dagmar was known as Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, the mother of the last Russian Tsar, Nicholas 2 – Maud’s cousin. And to the Greeks, William was known as King George 1.

George 1 was also the grandfather of Prince Phillip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth 2.

Tragically, both Maud’s uncle George 1 and her cousin Nicholas 2 would be assassinated in their roles as heads of state – in 1913 and 1918. We can only imagine the heartache within the family.

On her father’s side, Maud was first cousin to the German Emperor Wilhelm 2, who lost his empire in 1918.

Through her second oldest brother George, the later King George 5, Maud was the aunt of King George 6, and the great-aunt of Queen Elizabeth 2.

In Denmark she found her love

It was during her holidays in Denmark that Maud met her future husband, her cousin, the handsome Prince Carl of Denmark. In the UK, he went by the name of Charles. They married on 22 July 1896. He was 24, and she 26.

In 1905, when Norway broke out of its union with Sweden, Charles was elected king of Norway, and took the name King Haakon 7. And Maud became his queen consort: Queen Maud of Norway.

King Haakon 7, Queen Maud, and Crown Prince Olav in 1905. | Photo: Sophus  Juncker-Jensen - Norsk Folkemuseum cc pdm.
King Haakon 7, Queen Maud, and Crown Prince Olav in 1905. | Photo: Sophus Juncker-Jensen – Norsk Folkemuseum cc pdm.

Together, Haakon and Maud bonded with the Norwegians, and later, their son Alexander became the much-loved King Olav 5 of Norway.

Shortly before his passing in 1991, Olav said these words about his mother Maud; words of love and deep respect.

«It is my wish that the [Norwegian] public should get to know her many strong sides: her wonderful personality and sense of humour, the warmth and compassion that she gave in abundance to all those close to her. She was in truth a fantastic and joyful human being».

Main source: «Dronning Maud – et portrett» by Arvid Møller – J.W. Cappelens Forlag AS 1992.

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