On 22 January 1892, Mary returned to White Lodge with her parents. She wrote, “It is so difficult to begin one’s old life again after such a shock.” Just a few weeks later, she and her parents were invited to Osborne by Queen Victoria, and it did Mary some good. Queen Victoria wrote, “The dear girl looks like a crushed flower, but is resigned & quiet & gentle – it does make one so sad for her. She is grown thinner, but otherwise is not looking ill. Mary still has her wonderful elasticity but is much grieved & talks gt deal about it all & has given me every possible detail. They are most sad.”
Perhaps she already had some hope for the future. Queen Victoria certainly already saw the future quite clearly – Mary should marry the next heir, Prince George. On what would have been her wedding day, Mary visited the Wales family. She wrote in her diary, “This day is a very sad one for me for it was to have been our wedding day. Es wär zu schön gewesen, es hat nicht sollen sein.1 Afterwards the family travelled to Cannes where Mary’s spirits were revived. While there, they were visited by the Wales family and Prince George spent a lot of time with them. Mary and her parents travelled all over Europe and Mary was reluctant to return to England. They did not return until July 1892. At the end of the year, the family went to stay at Sandringham with the Wales family. At Christmas, Prince George sent Mary a brooch.
Prince George too found himself in a bewildering position. He was now the new heir to the throne, and he was expected to abandon his career in the navy. He had barely gotten used to the idea that he would eventually become King. He was anxious and barely slept. The Princess of Wales took her son to Greece and meanwhile he exchanged several affectionate letters with Mary. In the spring of 1893, it was Queen Olga of Greece (born Olga Constantinovna of Russia) who urged him to propose to Mary upon his return to England. In early May, he finally proposed to her. Mary wrote in her diary, “We walked together afterwards (after tea) in the garden and he proposed to me & I accepted him.” The wedding date was set for 6 July. On the morning of the wedding, Mary wrote to George, “I should much like to give you a wedding ring if you will wear it for my sake – I, therefore, send you herewith one or two to try on for size – Let me have the one you choose at once & I will give it to you in the chapel. What a memorable day in our lives this will be. God grant it may bring us much happiness. I love you with all my heart. Yrs for ever & ever – May.”
In a simple dress of white and silver and small lace veil also worn by her mother on her wedding day, Mary married George at the Chapel Royal of St James’s Palace. She was now the Duchess of York. For their honeymoon, they went to York Cottage at Sandringham. They had received the cottage as a wedding present from the Prince of Wales, and they would live in it for 33 years. Mary soon found herself pregnant, and she awaited the birth of her first child at her parents’ home at White Lodge. She gave birth to a son on 23 June 1894 at 10 p.m. It was the first time in the United Kingdom that there had been three direct heirs as well as the sovereign alive. The baby was named Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David and was known by the last of his names.
Until 1901, Mary and George were almost living in a shadow. Since the Prince of Wales was not allowed a role in government, neither was George. They performed a limited number of engagements, and George was all too happy as a country gentleman. On 14 December 1895, Mary gave birth to a second son, Prince Albert. He was born on the anniversary of the Prince Consort’s death to George’s horror. Queen Victoria later wrote to the Princess Royal, “It is a great pleasure to me that he is to be called Albert but in fact, he cld hardly be called by any other name.” On 25 April 1897, Mary gave birth to a daughter also named Mary. The year ended on a sad note when Mary’s mother died on 27 October 1897 after an operation. Mary wrote to her aunt, “It seems impossible to realise that darling Mama, of all people in the world, so full of life & happiness, should have left us, it is awful awful & I dread to think of how we can live without her – For Papa it is cruel & his sad state makes it so much worse, he was so dependent on Mama for everything & now God knows what he will do.” Her father lived on for another two years in seclusion at White Lodge. He died in January 1900 with the Princess of Wales writing, “Poor Franz Teck’s death is a happy release for him & he has virtually been dead to us for nearly two years!” Mary was heavily pregnant when her father died, and on 31 March 1900, she gave birth to a third son named Henry.
The following year life was to change once more. Queen Victoria died on 22 January 1901 in the arms of her grandson, the German Emperor. Mary and George arrived just before she died. Mary wrote, “We got there at 5.30 only just in time to see beloved Grandmama alive for she passed away at 6.30 p.m. surrounded by us all. It was too sad for words. At about 10 we had a short service in her bedroom, darling Grandmama looked so lovely & peaceful dressed all in white with lace & the bed covered with flowers. The thought of England without the Queen is dreadful even to think of. God help us all.”2