Victoria Louise of Prussia was born on 13 September 1892 as the seventh child and only daughter of German Emperor Wilhelm II and Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein. Her mother later wrote in her diary, “After six sons, God has given us as our seventh child, a small but very strong little daughter. She was born at half past three in our much beloved Marmor (Marble) Palace during the night of Monday/Tuesday. The pleasure over this little ray of sunshine was great, not just for us parents and the nearest relatives, but indeed the whole nation rejoiced at the birth of the little girl. May she some day become a joy and a blessing for many – as she has created happiness by her appearance – let her have happiness in life. Her father, who up to now had always wanted sons, was very happy and is marvelling still.” Although a particularly healthy child, she was very delicately formed.
Victoria Louise was assigned an English governess, Miss Topham. As the only girl in the family, she grew up wanting to be like her brothers. Her brothers made her march with a small wooden rifle, and she enjoyed wearing Highland dress as it made her look more like them. She grew up with a love for horses and often went riding with her mother. Her confirmation took place in the Friedenskirche in Potsdam on 18 October 1909. A few days later she was made Colonel-in-Chief of the 2nd Guard Hussar Regiment, of which Victoria Louise was very proud. When she presented her regiment in a march past her father the following year she wrote, “When I lie in bed at night my heart beats with joyful excitement at the thought that in four weeks time I am to lead my regiment past you. I can never thank you enough, and I kiss your hand for bestowing me this great favour. I have always regretted not having been a boy, so as to be able to join your army, but now at least I have been consoled by your gesture.”
In May 1911, Victoria Louise accompanied her parents on a state visit to the United Kingdom. Immediately there were rumours that she was to be engaged to the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VIII, who was 17 at the time. She remembered him as nice but also thought he looked terribly young. In any case, the rumours remained rumours. At the beginning of 1912, Victoria Louise became ill with bronchitis and spent several weeks recuperating at St Moritz. While travelling to Bad Homburg to join her mother, news arrived of the death of Prince George Wilhelm of Hanover. He had been on his way to the funeral of King Frederick VIII of Denmark – his uncle – when he was killed in a car accident near Nackel in Mark Brandenburg. Upon her father’s orders, her brothers Prince Eitel Fritz and Prince August Wilhelm went to the lying-in-state and formed a guard of honour. Shortly after this, Prince George Wilhelm’s younger brother Ernst August came by to personally thank the Emperor.
Ernst August was now the heir to the defunct throne of Hanover, from which his family had been deposed by the Prussians. Upon his first meeting with the Emperor and Empress, Victoria Louise found him quite stiff and solemn – he had just lost his brother after all. When the topic came to horses, Victoria Louise offered to show him her thoroughbreds, and the ice seemed to finally have been broken. She later wrote that she was in love with him at first sight. Her mother wrote, “He certainly made an impression on my child from the first. God knows whether it will ever come to anything.” In the end, the Duke of Cumberland, Ernst August’s father, renounced any claims to the Duchy of Brunswick in favour of his son and Ernst August was to refrain from claiming the Hanoverian throne.
In May 1913, they were to be married, and it would turn out to be the last great gathering of foreign royals before the First World War. On 24 May, Victoria Louise put on a wedding dress and was helped with her bridal crown and a veil by her mother. After the exchanging of the vows, a 36-gun salute was fired. The day ended with a banquet attended by a 1,000 guests. Her father made the toast, “My darling daughter, today, as you leave our house, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the joy you have given me and your mother, and for the ray of sunshine which you have been in our house.” They spent their honeymoon climbing the mountains and walking in the woods of Gmunden.
In March 1914, Victoria Louise gave birth to their first child; a son also named Ernst August who had plenty of royal godfathers, such as Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria and the Tsar of Russia. Just a few months later, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated, kickstarting the First World War. Her husband reported to the army and days followed without any news from him. She began to fill her time with the care of the wounded soldiers. A large block of the castle became a hospital. At Christmas, her husband wrote to her, “Today is Christmas Eve and we three are separated. It is a severe sacrifice, but in these times it is the least we can do. The worse it is just now, the better it will be later. God bless you.” All of Victoria Louise’s brothers were now in the army as well. 1