This is a guest post by James-Charles Noonan.
Alix and Minnie’s father was born Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg and in royal circles, he was known simply as Glucksburg. As a minor prince, he was penniless and totally without prospects, but his family had origins in the two coveted independent states, as well as distant claims to the Danish throne. His future wife, Louise, was a princess of Hesse-Kassel.
Although the Glucksburgs were now next in line for the Danish throne, they still lived a very middle-class lifestyle. Both Christian and Louise assumed responsibility for educating their children. Louise was proficient in languages. She spoke five modern languages perfectly and passed her linguistic successes on to her children. She also read Latin and could understand a bit of classical Greek, something at the time only men of means had been exposed to. She had a talent for painting and drawing and a wide grasp of art history. Louise was also an expert in music, particularly the piano. The Glucksburg children mastered all these accomplishments.
Christian took charge of physical exercise, particularly fencing, horsemanship, shooting, fishing, gymnastics, and boating. In winters, the family enjoyed ice skating parties at Bernstorff. Alix preferred skating to all other sports. Minnie preferred summer sport – especially riding horses with her father. By age ten, she could rival him in their daily afternoon rides. For skating parties, the girls would bake doughnuts in the morning, keeping them warm in the coals of the fire until the party was finally ready to eat. Then they would dunk their doughnuts into hot beer punch, soaking them through before eating them.
Through it all, simplicity and hard work continued to reign in the Glucksburg home. Louise kept the household accounts. The girls sewed their own clothing and waited on the table when the maids had their day off. They also did laundry when the staff was busy elsewhere.
Throughout their childhood, Alix and Minnie shared a room on the third floor of the Yellow Palace and another in the attics at Bernstorff. Such economies did not disturb Alix. However, Minnie continually dreamed of more glamorous days ahead. By the time they moved full-time to Bernstorff, Frederik was nine, Alix was eight, Willie was seven, and Minnie was five. They each had impressive winter and summer clothes for Sundays and for when they may be called to court. But otherwise, each child had two additional sets of clothes for daywear, nothing more.
Clothes were passed down from one child to the next as in ordinary families. Boots were highly valued and well-cared for because of their cost. They created their own dresses based on Parisian patterns found in magazines family members occasionally sent them. The girls mended the undergarments for the entire family. Their move to Bernstorff brought new horizons for the family, but austerity still endured.
The girls even helped with cooking. They quickly mastered the Danish breakfast favourite Øllebrød – a mixture of day-old black bread boiled in dark beer and poured over brown sugar with heavy cream. Later, when in far off London and Saint Petersburg, the two girls would crave this old family favourite and make it themselves in cavernous kitchens of palatial homes. In summers, when the fruit from the orchards and berry patches ripened, Louise taught her oldest daughters to make Rødgrød with red berries and other red fruits. They would boil the berries, then add flour, sugar and cream and serve it warm.
Their mother was tall and stately with upright posture and a bit Germanic in her demeanour – which is to say quite domineering at home. Crown Princess Louise was determined to secure a prosperous future for her children. As life began to improve, Christian was able to build up his stables behind the Yellow Palace, and the couple purchased a custom phaeton, the first carriage they would personally own. They had it emblazoned with their new coat of arms, proudly confirming their new status as members of the Danish Royal House. Crown Prince and Princess Christian, as the Glucksburg couple were now known, were full-fledged Danish royalty, which meant they belonged to that magical club whose members were addressed as “your royal highness.” With it came entrée across Europe.
As the children became teenagers, the Danes realized just how beautiful the oldest Glucksburg daughter was. In many ways, Alix was most like her mother. She certainly had Louise’s beauty – in fact, she surpassed it – and she also possessed her mother’s calming mannerisms. Alix had a balanced temperament, with few airs or ambitions. She embodied a natural simplicity. She had a delightful ease of interacting with everyone regardless of class or rank, but at times she did possess a stubborn streak.
Minnie, three years younger, was the epitome of high-spirited fun and mischief. She would sew the pockets of her brothers’ trousers closed so when they would reach in to put a small treasure inside; they could not. Minnie would also make special dishes for them, knowing she had heavily laced her concoctions with salt. She once found a mouse in her bedroom just before bedtime and quickly placed it inside Alix’s pillow, waiting in the dark for her sister to scream when the rodent began to move.
When Alix was fourteen, she told Minnie the King was coming to call on their mother. This meant the children would have to quickly bathe and change into their finest clothes. Taking a bath in those days was not an easy process. Water had to be heated and carried to the bathroom three floors above the kitchens. In her excitement, Minnie hadn’t noticed that Alix never bothered to change into her best dress. Of course, King Frederik never came. Alix sat with her needlepoint near the window, waiting patiently for Minnie to return. At first, Minnie thought the King had been delayed until she realized their mother was not home, and none of the servants were scurrying about in preparation as they should. Alix said nothing; she merely enjoyed putting Minnie through her paces.
This sense of fun would continue during various times of their adult lives, including later at Sandringham in the United Kingdom and in the palaces of Saint Petersburg. Alix & Minnie: A Royal Trilogy tells dozens of stories of the raucous humour of these two magnificent women and their families.
Alix & Minnie: A Royal Trilogy is the newest royal biography to be published and one of the largest royal histories to date. It is the story of two sisters who rose out of obscurity to eventually sit upon the two greatest thrones during Europe’s Golden Age of Royalty. This is the story of Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom, who was the great-grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II, and her effervescent sister, Empress Marie of Russia, who was the mother of the ill-fated Tsar Nicholas II and grandmother to the famous Grand Duchess Anastasia. It is written in as close to novel style as possible so as to bring this captivating story to all readers – not just royal history buffs.
The author, James-Charles Noonan, is a noted historian, author, and protocol expert who spent eight years exploring the exciting lives of these sisters and their families. Noonan’s books are available exclusively from Amazon as a three-book history.