♔ January 23, 1874 – Wedding of Prince Alfred & Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna
Queen Victoria’s son Prince Alfred was determined to make the grand duchess his wife and serious negotiations began. However by then the only seventeen years old, the grand duchess wasn’t enthused about leaving Russia. Nor were her parents keen on seeing their daughter leave the family nest. When Prince Alfred met Tsar Alexander II in 1871 in Germany, the suitor found his father-in-law hesitant. In a letter to Queen Victoria, Alexander II wrote :
"Your praises for our daughter, flattered us a great deal, but [Alfred] has surely told you, Madam, that while not in any way opposing a union between our two families, we have made it a principle never to impose our will upon our children as regards their marriages. Although speaking to him of a term of one year before taking any definitive decision, we expressly declared that neither he nor we would consider ourselves bound in any way, neither before nor after, and he seemed to understand this perfectly. » Queen Victoria was also against the idea that the couple live in Russia. This was simply out of the question and something Victoria declared she could « never consent to."Hence the projected marriage between the Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia and Prince Alfred was delayed. However by the time Marie Alexandrovna was twenty, family life in Russia was no longer blissful. Her father’s acknowledged mistress bore him a son, which created a rift between Alexander II, his wife, and their children. With such a fractious family life in Russia, Marie began warming to the thought of making a future with Prince Alfred abroad.
And so by the beginning of 1873, negotiations were again underway for the marriage. In April 1873, Alfred visited the tsarina and Marie in Sorrento, Italy, to renew his appeal. This meeting was not a great success Alfred had hoped for, as his intended bride fell ill with fever. Even more disappointing, his official engagement did not materialize. Alfred’s sister Alice, who accompanied him, reported to Queen Victoria about « poor Alfred. He is very patient and hopeful. »
With her parents’ marriage in tatters, Marie’s thoughts clung to a happy future as Prince Alfred’s wife. In June 1873, her dearest wish occurred with the announcement of the official engagement. The joyful prospective bride wrote to an aunt : « I know that you will be glad to know how much I love Alfred and how happy I am to belong to him. I feel that my love for him is growing daily; I have a feeling of peace and of inexpressible happiness, and a boundless impatience to be altogether his own.»Share
The wedding took place at St. Petersburg on January 23, 1874 and consisted of two religious ceremonies – Orthodox and Anglican. On her wedding day the grand duchess looked «very pale but sweet and earnest and calmly happy». Marie was dressed as was customary, in the regal finery of a Russian imperial bride, in a gown that trailed off a silver train with an ermine-trimmed purple mantle. On her head she wore a glimmering crown as well as a fabulous tiara embedded with a magnificent pink diamond. Alexander II was so overcome with emotion that at the end of the wedding ceremonies the bride’s father commented resignedly : « It is for her happiness, but the light of my life is gone.» (Read more.)