Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge

Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge
Princess Mary Adelaide
Duchess of Teck
Mary Adelaide in 1897
Spouse Francis, Duke of Teck
Mary, Queen of the United Kingdom
Adolphus, Marquess of Cambridge
Prince Francis
Alexander, Earl of Athlone
Full name
Mary Adelaide Wilhelmina Elizabeth
House House of Württemberg
House of Hanover
Father Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge
Mother Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel
Born 27 November 1833
Died 27 October 1897(1897-10-27) (aged 63)
White Lodge, Richmond Park
Burial St. George's Chapel, Windsor

Princess Mary Adelaide Wilhelmina Elizabeth of Cambridge (27 November 1833 – 27 October 1897) was a member of the British Royal Family, a granddaughter of George III, and great-grandmother of Elizabeth II. She held the title of Duchess of Teck through marriage.

Mary Adelaide is remembered as the mother of Queen Mary, the consort of George V. She was one of the first Royals to patronise a wide range of charities.


Early life

Mary Adelaide was born on 27 November 1833 in Hanover, Germany. Her father was Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, the youngest surviving son of George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Her mother was Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel, the daughter of Prince Frederick of Hesse-Cassel. The young princess was christened on 9 January 1834 at Cambridge House, Hanover by Rev John Ryle Wood, Chaplain to the Duke of Cambridge. Her godmother and paternal aunt The Landgravine of Hesse-Homburg was the only godparent who was present. The rest (who were absent, possibly represented by proxies) were The King and Queen (her paternal uncle and his wife), The Duchess of Gloucester (her paternal aunt), The Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (her maternal aunt) and Princess Frederick Augustus of Anhalt-Dessau (her first cousin). She was named Mary Adelaide Wilhelmina Elizabeth for her aunt Gloucester, the Queen, the King, and her aunt the Landgravine, respectively.[1]

Mary Adelaide spent the early years of her life in Hanover, Germany, where her father acted as viceroy in place of her uncles George IV and later William IV. Her love of food and tendency to overeat led her to become seriously overweight, and to her subsequently being nicknamed "Fat Mary."

After the death of William IV, Mary Adelaide's cousin, Princess Victoria of Kent ascended the throne in 1837. However Salic law prevented Victoria from ascending the throne of Hanover, which instead passed to Prince Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. Thus, the Duke of Cambridge was no longer needed in Hanover, and returned to London with his family, setting up residence in Kensington Palace.


By the age of 30, Mary Adelaide was still unmarried. Her unattractive appearance and lack of income were contributing factors, as was her advanced age. However, her royal rank prevented her marrying someone not of royal blood. Her cousin Queen Victoria took pity on her, and attempted to arrange pairings.

Eventually a suitable candidate was found in Württemberg, Prince Francis of Teck. The Prince was of lower rank than Mary Adelaide, and was also the product of a morganatic marriage and had no succession rights to the throne of Württemberg, but was at least of princely title and of royal blood. With no other options available, Mary Adelaide decided to marry him. The couple were married on 12 June 1866, at St. Anne's Church, Kew, Surrey.

Mary Adelaide requested that her new husband be promoted to the rank of Royal Highness but was refused by Queen Victoria. He was, however, promoted to the rank of Highness in 1887 to celebrate Queen Victoria's golden jubilee.


The Duke and Duchess of Teck chose to reside in London rather than abroad, mainly because Mary Adelaide was the only breadwinner for the Tecks. She received £5,000 per annum as a Parliamentary annuity for carrying out Royal duties. Her mother, the Duchess of Cambridge, also provided her with supplementary income. Requests to Queen Victoria for extra funds were generally refused. However, the Queen did provide the Tecks with apartments at Kensington Palace and White Lodge in Richmond Park as a country house.

Despite their modest income, Mary Adelaide had expensive tastes and lived an extravagant life of parties, expensive food and clothes, and holidays abroad. The debts soon built up and the Tecks were forced to flee the country in 1883 to avoid their creditors. They travelled to Florence, Italy, and also stayed with relatives in Germany and Austria. Initially they travelled under the names of the Count and Countess von Hohenstein. However, Mary Adelaide wished to travel in more style and reverted to her royal style, which commanded significantly more attention and better service.

Later life

The Tecks returned from exile in 1885 and continued to live at White Lodge in Richmond Park. Mary Adelaide began devoting her life to charity, serving as patron to Barnardo's and other children's charities.

In 1891, Mary Adelaide was keen for her daughter, Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (known as "May") to marry one of the sons of the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII. At the same time, Queen Victoria wanted a British-born bride for the future king, though of course one of royal rank and ancestry – not some "lowly" noblewoman – and Mary Adelaide's daughter fulfilled the rank criteria. After Queen Victoria's approval, May became engaged to the second in line to the British throne, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale. The death of the Duke of Clarence only six weeks later looked like a cruel blow. However, Queen Victoria was fond of Princess Mary and persuaded the Duke of Clarence's brother, and next in the line of succession, Prince George, Duke of York, to marry her instead.

The marriage of Mary into the top rankings of the royal family led to a dramatic revival in the fortunes of the Tecks, with their daughter one day to be queen consort. Mary Adelaide never saw her daughter crowned queen, as she died on 27 October 1897 at White Lodge, Richmond Park, Surrey, and was buried in the royal vault at St. George's Chapel, Windsor.

Titles and styles

  • 27 November 1833 – 12 June 1866: Her Royal Highness Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge
  • 12 June 1866 – 16 December 1871: Her Royal Highness Princess Francis of Teck
  • 16 December 1871 – 27 October 1897: Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Teck

As the male-line granddaughter of a King of Hanover, Princess Mary Adelaide also bore the titles of Princess of Hanover and Duchess of Brunswick and Lunenburg



The Duke and Duchess of Teck had four children:

Name Birth Death Notes
Princess Victoria Mary of Teck 26 May 1867 24 March 1953 married 1893, Prince George, Duke of York (later George V); had issue
Prince Adolphus of Teck 13 August 1868 23 October 1927 later Duke of Teck and Marquess of Cambridge

married 1894, Lady Margaret Evelyn Grosvenor; had issue

Prince Francis of Teck 9 January 1870 22 October 1910 No issue.
Prince Alexander of Teck 14 April 1874 16 January 1957 later Earl of Athlone

married 1904, Princess Alice of Albany; had issue

See also

  • List of British princesses


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