On 26 November 1869, a daughter was born to the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII and his wife Alexandra of Denmark. This child was their fifth, and they named her Maud. Maud would end being the youngest child of the couple, as her younger brother Alexander John sadly died as a baby. Maud was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom as well as King Christian IX of Denmark so was amongst the highest-ranking royals in Europe.
Princess Alexandra, uncommonly for the time, was in charge of her own children’s upbringings. It is clear she wished for her children to be raised in her own household and away from the meddling of Queen Victoria and other relatives. An example of this is that all six of the babies that Alexandra gave birth to were born prematurely which seems quite unlikely; it is more likely that Alexandra misled the Queen about her due dates so she would not attend the births! Maud grew up between her parents’ home at Marlborough House and Sandringham.
The family household was informal, and her parents were known for their party lifestyle, the little ones had quite a different upbringing to how the Prince of Wales himself was raised by Victoria. Princess Alexandra loved being a mother and enjoyed nothing more than putting on simple clothes and spending time in the nursery playing with the children and washing them herself rather than having the staff to do it all of the time. It is possible that Princess Alexandra poured all of her efforts into raising the children due to her husband’s numerous affairs. Still, the couple did seem happy together despite the infidelities.
Maud was known as the tomboy of the three sisters as they grew up and she was nicknamed Harry after a courageous war Admiral. Maud grew up closest to her two brothers and often joined in their games, and as an adult, she was closest with her brother George who went on to become King George V.
The family often spent time with their many cousins and relatives in England and Denmark. The children did not enjoy visiting their grandmother at Buckingham Palace as the atmosphere was quite depressing after the death of Prince Albert, and on occasion, they would all start crying before setting off on a visit. When visiting Denmark, Maud spent time with her cousins but did not like them much at the time.
When Maud was 20 years old, her sister Louise left the family household to marry Alexander Duff, becoming the Duchess of Fife. After Louise left and her brothers left for military service, the Wales household was forever changed, and Princess Alexandra clung to her remaining daughters Victoria and Maud, treating them like little children and putting them off marrying.
Queen Victoria and Maud’s aunt Victoria, Princess Royal (Empress Frederick) were annoyed at Alexandra for putting off the marriages of Victoria and Maud. Princess Victoria did not want to marry and never did, but Maud was infatuated with Prince Francis of Teck – Mary, his sister, went on to marry Maud’s brother George and the pair later became King and Queen. Maud even wrote to Francis to tell him how she felt, but he ignored her, it seems that he knew he was not the right match for Maud due to his lower rank and high debts. Once the idea of Francis was off the table, Queen Victoria set about looking for a match for Maud.
Several options were discussed and then discounted for Maud’s marriage until eventually Prince Carl (Charles) of Denmark came forward and proposed after admiring Maud for years in secret. Charles was a cousin of Maud’s, one she used to visit as a child and did not like, she even used to call him daft when they were younger, but Charles had fallen for Maud, and she too fell for her good-looking suitor and accepted when he proposed.
The couple were married in July 1896 at Buckingham Palace in the private chapel. The couple were given a house as a wedding gift from the Prince of Wales, Maud’s father. The house was Appleton House, a lovely home in the grounds of the Sandringham estate which the couple would use whenever they stayed in England. Their only child was even born at Appleton; a son named Prince Alexander who was born in 1903 once Maud’s father had become King of the United Kingdom.
In 1905 an unexpected event happened, and the union between Norway and Sweden was officially dissolved. The decision was made that Norway would be a monarchy and Prince Charles, Maud’s husband, was offered the throne. The couple had gone from living a quiet life, with Charles never expected to sit on the Danish throne as he was the second son, to rapidly becoming King and Queen of Norway. It is believed that Charles was chosen due to the fact his father-in-law was the King of the United Kingdom. To make sure that the Norwegian people agreed with the decision, Charles held a referendum, and 79% of the people said they did agree to the monarchy, which was a great result.
Maud was very apprehensive about becoming a queen; she had become used to being able to travel around Europe and visit England for months on end when she felt like it, and she worried about her sister Victoria being left alone with their mother. After becoming Queen, Maud wrote, “Behold! I am a Queen!!! Who would have thought it! And I am the very last person to be stuck on a throne! I am actually getting accustomed to be (sic) called ‘Your Majesty’ and yet often pinch myself to feel if I am not dreaming! We are very comfortably settled now, at least we are trying our utmost to get our rooms as we like. I think those who choose all these things must have been extraordinarily clever, to have discovered such a collection of monstrosities! The crowds always cheer. Little Olav gets tremendous ovations for himself. I never speak Danish very well as to the accent, but now just in Norwegian I get the right accent and they are delighted and think it is alright.”1
On 22 June 1906, the couple were crowned, and Charles took the name King Haakon VII and little Alexander became known as Prince Olav while Maud kept her own name. The couple built their court to be welcoming, informal and democratic and though they would dress in royal regalia when they needed to, they were usually quite casual, and that was the way Maud liked things. She threw herself into the role of Queen Consort; making public appearances and becoming involved in charity work, especially with children’s, women’s and animal charities.
Maud learned to speak Norwegian, took up skiing and often wore folk outfits in order to fit in with her new people, but she was not as well-liked as her husband as she was quite shy in public, so people thought she was too reserved.
In 1910, Maud’s father died, and her brother succeeded as King George V. At the funeral proceedings, Maud ranked above her sisters and supported her mother in her grief. Just four years later, the First World War began, which changed Europe forever. Of course, the United Kingdom was heavily involved in the war. Still, Norway stayed neutral, which was difficult for Maud as she disliked the Germans and because so many of her family members were massively affected by the war and she could do nothing to help.
During the war, Maud could not visit England or her beloved Appleton house as she had to be impartial as Queen of Norway. Over these years her popularity grew in her new country, and she threw herself into fundraising and raising her son. Maud lived a simple life In Norway and was often seen in town doing the shopping, which her English royal family could not believe! After the war, Maud continued to visit her mother and siblings as often as she could in England, and she sent her son Prince Olav to university at Oxford. Olav was over in London when his grandmother Alexandra died in 1925 and has spent time visiting her beforehand. The death of Alexandra brought Maud and her siblings even closer together.
A decade later, Maud experienced the loss of her sister Victoria and then her brother King George V in 1936 which led to the reign and abdication of her nephew Edward VIII which devastated Maud. In 1938, Maud made her last visit to her beloved homeland, but she took ill while on the trip and needed an operation. Her husband flew over to be by her side when he heard that she had to have surgery.
Maud survived the surgery only to die two days later from a heart attack on 20 November 1938. Her body was taken back to Norway where the Queen was buried in Oslo. Maud’s much loved home Appleton was given back after her death and was sadly demolished in 1984 due to damage.
After a long and successful reign, Maud’s husband King Haakon VII was succeeded by her son, who became King Olav V and was very popular. Maud’s grandson currently reigns in Norway as King Harald V.