March 10, 2021
A Most English Princess: A Novel of Queen Victoria's Daughter
Newspaper Reporter, Magazine Editor, Author
Minutes of the 23rd Meeting of the 79th Year
President Stephen Schreiber called the meeting to order at 10:15 AM. Attendance was recorded at 158 persons. Lois Shindelman read the abbreviated minutes of the prior meeting.
President Schreiber introduced the meeting's guests:
Halina Bustin, wife and guest of George Bustin; Paul McHugh, University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, guest of Clare McHugh; Martha Nelson, media leader, formerly global editor in chief at Yahoo, editor of People, and founder of Instyle, guest of Clare McHugh; Sarah Jones, guest of Lanny Jones; Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, guest of Stephen Schreiber; Bret Stephens, guest of Stephen Schreiber; Judith Funches, who has applied for membership, guest of John Cotton.
President Schreiber announced that the Speakers’ List for the rest of the year has been sent to all members. The speakers for the next meeting, on March 17, are Sir Angus Deaton and Anne Case, who will speak about "Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism."
Lanny Jones introduced the speaker, Clare McHugh, whose book entitled A Most English Princess, A Novel of Queen Victoria’s Daughter, was published in September 2020 by Harper Collins.
McHugh spent two years writing the novel about Victoria, Princess Royal (Vicky), the oldest child (of nine children) of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Vicky was born in 1842 and died in 1901 at age 59. McHugh chose to write about Vicky because she had a front-row seat to the 1871 unification of the 30 German states after the Franco-Prussian War. McHugh chose to write the history as a novel, since she was interested in Vicky’s personality and wanted to tell the story from Vicky’s point of view, rather than writing a biography at arm’s length.
Vicky was precocious, academically and physically gifted, and was close to her German father, Prince Albert. The two of them shared many interests including his belief in the superiority of liberal democracy above all other systems of government.
Prince Albert and Queen Victoria sought to marry Vicky to the right person and believed that someone from the family that controlled the largest German state of Prussia would be a good choice for her and for the promotion of liberal democracy. At age ten, Vicky met the German aristocrat, 19-year-old Prince Friedrich (called Fritz) who was tall, blonde, and good looking, training to be a soldier, and in the top-ranking social group in Germany. They met again when Vicky was 14, fell in love, and became engaged. They married in January 1858 when Vicky was 17. Upon her marriage, she left London and moved 700 miles away to Germany, where she lived until she died of breast cancer in 1901 at age 60 (only six months after her mother, Queen Victoria, died).
The marriage was a happy one as Vicky and Fritz had complementary skills and loved and respected each other. We know this through as many as 8000 letters Vicky and her mother exchanged. Fritz was a faithful husband to the chagrin of many of his aristocratic peers. He was a virtuous soldier and a good leader of men through three wars during his career. He was a bit tentative and shy socially. Vicky was authoritative, upbeat, and action oriented. Fritz listened to her, making some Prussians think Vicky might be an agent of England telling Fritz what to think and do.
Vicky and Fritz had eight children (two of them died as children). The firstborn, Willy, later Kaiser Wilhelm II, suffered an injury at birth which severed the nerves between his spine and left arm, rendering that arm short and useless.
In the 1860s, the Prussian Otto von Bismarck forged the 30 German states into a unified country of a military and conservative model. Fritz's father, age 73, became Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany, a position he held until 1888 when he was 90 years old.
Prince Albert died in 1861 leaving his daughter Vicky thereafter without his support and protection.
Fritz succeeded his father as Kaiser Friedrich III in 1888, though he lived for only 99 days, dying in March 1888 of throat cancer. During Fritz's brief term in office, Vicky worked for the education of women, for the acceptance of Jews, and the establishment of a nursing corps.
In 1888, Vicky and Fritz’s son Willy succeeded as Kaiser Wilhelm II, who then moved Vicky, age 49, out of Berlin to Frankfurt where she lived for the remaining years of her life. Willy fired Bismarck and took actions that contributed to Germany's defeats in World Wars I and II.
McHugh ended her talk by showing a photograph of her great-grandfather driving a coach for the German royals.
A member asked if the speaker thought there were any parallels between Princess Vicky moving into a foreign family culture and Hollywood celebrity, Meghan Markle, moving into a foreign family culture. McHugh said that the old mindset of tradition, duty, and doing the right thing seemed to motivate Vicky, while the modern mindset of
self-actualization, telling the truth, and living on one’s own terms, seems to motivate Meghan. And different values create antagonism.