Adolf was often away for his military duties and Viktoria disliked his absences. She fell back into her old habits of diet and exercise to the extreme. Adolf was a supportive husband and tried to spend more time at home. Viktoria recognised his efforts, but their mutual disappointment in not having a family was great, especially as her siblings continued to have children. Her mother wrote to Sophie, “How poor Vicky and Adolf long for a baby, I see a shadow of sadness pass over their faces when they look at a photo of you and the baby.” Adolf built a tennis court for Viktoria, and they regularly travelled to the seaside town of Scheveningen in The Netherlands for sea baths, and they would call on Queen Wilhelmina and Queen Emma.
In 1892 or early 1893, Viktoria underwent treatment at a clinic in Bad Schwalbach for anaemia, weight loss and stomach cramps. She was also heartbroken to hear of the death of Alexander in October 1893. Her mother wrote, “Happy as she is with Adolf, the death of the one she first hoped to marry cannot but make a deep impression on her.”
In 1895, Woldemar, Prince of Lippe died without issue, however, his successor Prince Alexander had been declared insane and Waldemar’s will named Adolf as his regent. He accepted the position, hoping that it would give them some direction in life. Viktoria was quite excited about the prospect and loved living in Detmold. However, the will was challenged by Count Ernst of Lippe-Biesterfeld, and two years later Adolf had to relinquish the regency to Ernst, whose son would also eventually succeeded Prince Alexander as Prince of Lippe. Her mother wrote to Sophie, “Poor Vicky is most unlucky in life; if only she had had children, she would not mind so much.”
Christmas 1900 was spent at Friedrichshof, the home of Empress Frederick. It was a sad time with both Queen Victoria and the Empress Frederick likely to die soon. Queen Victoria died on 22 January 1901. Viktoria and Adolf attended the funeral as Empress Frederick was too ill to travel and returned to Friedrichshof to be with the Empress afterwards. Viktoria spent her days by her mother’s side and was just outside taking in some fresh air when the Empress died on 5 August 1901. Viktoria later wrote, “She had been my dearest friend, and all through my life I had looked up to her as possessing most wonderful qualities of mind and heart. Her loss has left a blank in my life, which nothing and nobody can ever fill.”
The First World War was difficult for the family – including Viktoria. She may not have had any children to lose, but she was saddened by her blood relations fighting on opposite sides. When she visited hospitals, she spoke to German and British wounded soldiers alike. Adolf was still in the army, and he left with them a few days after the outbreak of war. Viktoria established a nursing home attached to the German Red Cross. They spent their silver wedding anniversary in 1915 apart. In late 1915, Adolf became seriously ill and was sent to a sanatorium in Godesberg for treatment. He suddenly deteriorated in June and developed pneumonia. He died on 9 July 1916 – still only 57 years old. Viktoria was now a 50-year-old widow, and she quickly became lonely.
In 1917, Viktoria visited her aunt Louise of Prussia, the Dowager Grand Duchess of Baden, at Karlsruhe and she found a city that had been bombed twice and had barely recovered. She was invited by Daisy, Princess of Pless, to spent some time at Berchtesgaden later that year. It was a lovely break for her. As the war violence continued, Viktoria tried to play her part by supporting charities and even lending her car for the transportation of the wounded. As the war came to an end and her brother abdicated his throne, Viktoria stood her ground even as her home was being threatened. As sailors mobbed her house in Bonn, Viktoria went downstairs and demanded to know what they wanted. They asked for cigarettes which she gave them. When they asked for her car, she told them they could borrow it until the morning because she needed it to transport wounded soldiers. They saluted her and promised to send it back in the morning. She was surprised to learn the following morning that they had kept their promise. When Canadians troops occupied the town, Viktoria was forced to hand over part of her home to them.
In 1922, Viktoria was one of the few family members who came over to Doorn to witness the wedding of her brother – the abdicated and recently widowed Emperor Wilhelm II – to Hermine Reuss of Greiz. It was her only visit to Doorn. During the years after the war, Viktoria lived quietly. In September 1927, Viktoria was introduced to the 27-year-old Alexander Zoubkoff, and she became smitten with him and his embellished stories. She was by then 60 years old and desperately lonely. Their engagement was announced not much later. Her family was aghast that she was throwing her life away because of a crook. Viktoria was well beyond caring what her family thought. On 19 November 1927, they were married at the registry office in Bonn. She trusted her new husband with her financial affairs, and he quickly began to spend it all. When he tried to persuade her to have their story made into a Hollywood film, Viktoria was done with her husband’s spending habits. This was also probably the last time they saw each other. He was arrested the following April due to irregularities with his passport.
During this time Viktoria fell seriously ill at Schaumburg Palace, and she was confined to her bed. In early 1929, creditors came knocking and took a full inventory of the palace. She was allowed to remain in her room. In September, a judge ruled that the contents of the palace should be sold at auction and that she should be evicted. The auction took place in October, and a room was found for her in Mehlem. With her final strength, Viktoria began divorce proceedings against her husband. Not being able to pay her, Viktoria sent her last maid away. She was now truly alone and often cried herself to sleep. In early November, she fell ill with pneumonia, and a doctor had her admitted to St. Francis’s Hospital in Bonn. Wilhelm – unable to travel to Germany – called the hospital several times a day to hear how she was doing.
Viktoria died at the hospital on 13 November 1929 at the age of 63. Her body was taken to Friedrichshof where her body was laid to rest in the chapel with some of her nephews who had perished in the First World War. It was a sad end for such a promising Princess.1