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Lady Mary-Victoria Douglas-Hamilton







Mary Victoria Douglas-HamiltonMary Victoria Douglas-Hamilton (11 December 1850 – 14 May 1922) was born in South Lanarkshire; her father was William Hamilton, a Scottish aristocrat who at the time was styled Marquess of Douglas and Clydesdale; in 1852 he inherited his father’s titles and became 11th Duke of Hamilton. Through his mother, the Duke of Hamilton was a grandson of the English novelist William Beckford, once reputed to be the richest commoner in Britain. Hamilton’s education was exquisite; he went to Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, but his destiny really lay in the army. In 1843, after much fighting in Central Europe, he met and married Princess Marie, the youngest daughter of the Grand Duke of Baden and his French-born wife Stéphanie de Beauharnais, who years before had been adopted by Emperor Napoleon himself. It was an unusual marriage for a Scottish nobleman, but his wife soon became accustomed to the Scottish way of life; the family first settled in Brodrick Castle and later went to live at Hamilton Palace, where their three children, including Mary Victoria, were born.


Mary Victoria was the Lanarkshire-born, Scottish great-grandmother of Prince Rainier III of Monaco, the fashion designer Prince Egon von Fürstenberg, the socialite and actress Princess Ira von Fürstenberg and the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Karel Schwarzenberg.  Through her maternal grandmother, she was a third cousin of Emperor Napoléon III of France. She was a first cousin of Queen Carola of Saxony, Queen Stephanie of Portugal, King Carol I of Romania, and Countess Marie of Flanders (mother of King Albert I of the Belgians).

Mary Victoria did not inherit her mother’s capacity to adapt to new lifestyles. Temperamental and somewhat ambicious, she probably accepted the advancements of the future Prince Albert I of Monaco more out of greed that actual passion. Being only 19 at the time of her marriage, it is easy to imagine that her parents pushed her into accepting the wooing prince as her future husband. The couple had met at a ball in Paris in August 1869 which had been organised by Emperor Napoleon III and his wife, the Empress Eugenie. Albert’s formidable grandmother, Caroline (born Maria Caroline Gibert de Lametz, an actress-turned-princess) is thought to have been responsible for arranging the match.

The wedding took place on September 21st 1869, only a month after the couple’s first meeting. Although Albert was not unattractive, his grandmother had unsuccessfully tried to marry him off to Princess Mary of Cambridge, a cousin of Queen Victoria; when the plan failed due mainly to religious differences, Napoleon III convinced Caroline that it was unlikely that the Queen of England would allow any of her relatives to marry into the Grimaldi family. Since the Hamiltons were related to the Emperor, Mary Victoria’s name was forwarded, and her parents hurriedly gave their consent. The marriage ceremony took place at the Grimaldi’s estate, the Château de Marchais, in the French region of Champagne.

Mary Victoria did not like Monaco, which must have seemed incredibly alien and different from her native Scotland; the birth of a son and heir, Louis, did not improve Mary Victoria’s situation in the small principality, and soon her marriage fell apart. Not long after the birth of her son, the Princess of Monaco abandoned her husband. Shortly thereafter a divorce was granted, but the annulment, issued by the Pope, did not arrive until 1880; a special provision was made so that the infant Louis remained legitimate despite his parents’ marital catastrophe.

Albert inherited the Monegasque throne in 1889; that same year he married Marie Alice Heine, the American-born widow of the Duke of Richelieu, but this union was also unhappy, although the couple remained officially married until their death. In his later years Albert kept a number of mistresses, although he was rumoured to suffer from erection difficulty. Massive protests in 1910 forced him to grant Monaco a Constitution a year later; he died in Paris in 1922.

Mary Victoria, no longer Princess of Monaco, settled in Florence, at the time the capital of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. There she married a Hungarian nobleman, Tassilo Festetics de Tolna, the son of the future Austro-Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs. The couple was suitably matched and soon blessed with the birth of a son and three daughters. Their first-born daughter, Maria (1881-1953) married Prince Karl Emil von Fürstenberg, a rich aristocrat; Maria’s three siblings also married German and Austro-Hungarian nobility.

During her second marriage, Mary Victoria Hamilton oversaw the improvements of her husband’s family seat, Festetics Palace, in Western Hungary. She remained on good terms with her brother William, 12th Duke of Hamilton, and often entertained the Prince of Wales at her estate. Many of the books kept in her husband’s library were actually brought to Hungary from Scotland, at Mary Victoria’s wishes. The First World War reshaped her small world, but she was able top keep her property.


She died in Budapest on May 14th 1922, the same year as her first husband; she was 71 years old. Her body was buried in the Festetics family vault near Lake Balaton, where her husband was also laid to rest after his own death eleven years later.

Through her first son, Louis Grimaldi, Mary Victoria is the great-great-grandmother of Prince Albert II of Monaco, the principality’s present-day ruler. Through her second marriage, Mary Victoria is the ancestor of several European nobles and personalities, among them fashion designer Ira von Fürstenberg, musician and photographer Hubertus zu Hohenlohe and Czech Minister for Foreign Affairs Karl (zu) Schwarzenberg. Mary Victoria’s links to European royalty through her mother also made her a first cousin of Queen Carola of Saxony, Queen Stephanie of Portugal, King Carol I of Romania and the Countess of Flanders, the mother of King Albert I of the Belgians. Thus, almost all European Royal families claim a family link with this eccentric and somewhat unusual Scot.



See also:
The Grimaldi family



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Last modified: Wednesday, 18 July 2018