Mary of Teck – A lifetime of gracious service (Part four)

(public domain)

Read part one here.

Read part two here.

Read part three here.

The following year saw Mary suffer another tragedy. Her sixth and youngest child, Prince John, died at the age of 13. He had long suffered from epileptic attacks, and he was kept apart in his own establishment at Wood Farm on the Sandringham estate with his devoted nurse, Mrs Bill. On 18 January 1919, John died in his sleep. Mary recorded in her diary, “At 5.30, Lalla Bill telephoned me from Wood Farm, Wolferton, that our poor little darling Johnnie had passed away suddenly after one of his attacks. The news gave me a great shock, tho’ for the poor little boy’s restless soul, death came as a great release. I broke the news to George & we motored down to Wood Farm. Found Poor Lalla very resigned but heartbroken. Little Johnnie looked very peaceful lying there.” On 21 January, he was quietly buried in the graveyard of Sandringham church. She spoke very little about his loss and her family later found her reserve a barrier. The future King George VI once told his elder brother, “Through all this anxiety she has never once revealed her feelings to any of us. She is really far too reserved; she keeps too much locked up inside herself.”

Meanwhile, her elder son, the Prince of Wales and the future King Edward VIII, was a source of pride for her. His popularity was on the rise after the war, and he was sent on several tours. Mary wrote to her husband, “What a splendid reception David got in New York, he really is a marvel in spite of his “fads” & I confess I feel very proud of him, don’t you?” Their main “fad” of concern was his restlessness. Soon, the question of his marriage was on their mind. The people had no taste for a German Princess after the war. The first of her children to marry was Princess Mary, who became engaged to Henry, Viscount Lascelles, later Earl of Harewood, in November 1921. Mary was delighted by her daughter’s engagement and wrote, “They are both very happy & Mary is simply beaming. We like him very much & it is such a blessing to feel she will not go abroad. I personally feel quite excited as you can imagine.” They married on 28 February 1922 at Westminster Abbey.

When it was all over, Mary wrote, “The wonderful day has come & gone & Mary is married & has flown from her home leaving a terrible blank behind as you can well imagine. Papa & I are feeling very low & sad without her especially as Georgie had to return to Malta yesterday while Harry has, at last, joined the 10th Hussars at Canterbury & Bertie has gone hunting for a few days.” Two months later, she still felt sad when the court moved to Windsor Castle for Easter. “I miss Mary dreadfully here & her passage seems to empty and silent.” And while London’s society began to rise again, Mary and her husband remained out of the limelight. They were both beginning to feel their age and preferred not to entertain. Mary had begun collecting fine objects, and she paid regular visits to the best art dealers in London.

In May of 1922, Mary and George went on a state visit to Belgium and the following year, they went on a state visit to Italy but otherwise, they travelled very little. In early 1923, their second son The Duke of York had become engaged to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the daughter of the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. They were married on 26 April 1923. Mary was happy, but it also highlighted that his elder brother was still unmarried. Mary became a grandmother for the first time on 7 February 1923 when her daughter Mary gave birth to a son named George, later the 7th Earl of Harewood. Her second son Gerald was born on 21 August 1924. This was followed by two grandchildren by The Duke of York, the future Queen Elizabeth II on 21 April 1926 and Princess Margaret Rose on 21 August 1930.

On 19 November 1925, Mary’s mother-in-law, Queen Alexandra, suffered a heart attack. She died the following day. Mary was with her on the 19th and wrote, “Saw darling Mama who knew us & I kissed her hand & her forehead.” While Mary remained in good health, the same could not be said for her husband. In November 1928, George fell dangerously ill. Mary wrote, “George had a chill & had to go to bed – too tiresome.” He was diagnosed with an acute form of septicaemia, and it took the doctors several days to find the source of the infection. The Prince of Wales was sent for, and he raced home. Luckily the King recovered, but he had hovered near death for several days. In February he was transported to the south coast of England to recuperate. In March, he was visited by three-year-old Princess Elizabeth, and Mary wrote, “G. delighted to see her. I played with Lilibet in the garden making sand pies!” George’s health remained a worry, and he underwent two operations. He was still unwell in May 1930 when the 20th anniversary of his accession to the throne occurred. He wrote to Mary, “I can hardly realise that it is 20 years today that dear Papa died, how time flies but what years they have been & what troublous & anxious ones. I do feel grateful to God that he has enabled me to pass through them & I can never sufficiently express my deep gratitude to you, darling May, for the way you have helped & stood by me in these difficult times. This is not sentimental rubbish, but it is what I really feel.”1

Read part five here.

  1. Read more: James Pope-Hennessy – Queen Mary (US & UK)

About Moniek Bloks 2698 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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