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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.

During her 40 year marriage to Graf, and later Prince Festetics, Lady Mary oversaw enlargement and improvement of the Festetics' main seat, Festetics Palace, and its gardens, in Keszthely, western Hungary. Festetics Palace Festetics Mausoleum On numerous occasions, she and her husband would entertain her brother the Duke of Hamilton, and his great friend, Prince of Wales. There are still portraits extant in the Palace of numerous members of her family, including one of her father in full Highland dress. Outside the palace, on either side of the main entrance there are the Armorial bearings of both the Lady Mary and her husband.

The Helikon Library at the Palace contains many works that were brought to Keszthely by the Lady Mary from her father and brother's collections at Hamilton Palace.

The Palace grounds, on the shores of Lake Balaton, contains a Mausoleum to the Festetics and is the final resting place of the Lady Mary and her husband.


Her second marriage, on 2 June 1880, was to Count Tassilo Festetics de Tolna. The couple had four children:

• Countess Mária Matild Georgina Festetics de Tolna (24 May 1881, Baden-Baden – 2 Mar 1953, Strobl am Wolfgangsee), who married Prince Karl Emil von Fürstenberg (Grandfather of Princess Ira von Fürstenberg, Prince Egon von Fürstenberg and Prince Karel Schwarzenberg)
• Prince György Tasziló József Festetics de Tolna (4 September 1882, Baden-Baden – 4 August 1941, Keszthely); who married to Countess Marie Franziska von Haugwitz.
• Countess Alexandra Olga Eugénia Festetics de Tolna (1 March 1884, Baden-Baden – 23 April 1963, Vienna); who was married first to Prince Karl von Windisch-Grätz and later to Prince Erwin zu Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Schillingsfürst,
• Countess Karola Friderika Mária Festetics de Tolna (17 January 1888, Vienna — 21 January 1951, Strobl); who was married to Baron Oskar Gautsch von Frankenthurn.


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.


Titles and styles
11 December 1850 – 21 September 1869: Lady Mary Victoria Douglas-Hamilton
21 September 1869 – 3 January 1880: Her Serene Highness The Hereditary Princess of Monaco
3 January 1880 – 2 June 1880: Lady Mary Victoria Douglas-Hamilton
2 June 1880 – 21 June 1911: Countess Mary Victoria Festetics de Tolna
21 June 1911 – 14 May 1922: Her Serene Highness Princess Mary Victoria Festetics de Tolna



The New York Times
June 9, 1872

Our Italian correspondent, in his last letter, tells a curious, miserable story about a young lady, who is, in the present generation the only daughter of a semi-royal historic house, the Princess of Monaco. The recent annuals of her family have certainly been of a melancholy and humiliating character.

The Princess’ grandfather, the 10th Duke of Hamilton, married a daughter of the celebrated Beckford, of Fontill, author of Vathek. The Duke was a man of amazing pride and self-importance; and it is recorded that, when the intended marriage of the Queen with the late Prince Consort was announced, Hs Grace, in acknowledging the announcement of the event, which was forwarded to him, intimated that he thought that Her Majesty might have looked nearer home, which was understood to be his mode of signifying that he would himself have been the most appropriate father-in-law for Queen Victoria.

Eaten up with vanity, he objected to his son marrying a lady of charming disposition, to whom he was deeply attached, because she was not of the highest rank – although she did, curiously enough, subsequently marry a Duke, so his son ultimately married the youngest daughter of the Grand Duke of Baden, which brought very great satisfaction to the foolish old father-in-law, insomuch as his daughter-in-law thus gained recognition abroad as royal, although at the English Court she occupied only a sort of uncomfortable semi-royal position.

The 10th Duke, whose principal occupation in life had for some years been a preparation for his obsequies, which were to include the placing of his body, embalmed by methods for which he sent to Egypt, in an enormous black marble mausoleum, specially erected for the accommodation of his precious corpse, died in 1852. Two years before that event, the decline of his proud family commenced. His only daughter had married the late Duke of Newcastle, when she was eighteen – the marriage being no doubt brought about by the desire to her family to secure a desirable match. In 1850 this lady, having then a family of several children, misconducted herself in a manner which obliged her husband to seek a divorce.

From that time the whole of her family have, with one exception, gone wrong. Her eldest son is a bankrupt, another became mixed up with persons of the worst character, and to this hour it is considered by many very doubtful whether the announcement of his death, followed by a funeral, of which details were given in the papers, was not in truth a mere ruse to escape the penalty for misdemeanors. A third son misbehaved himself in his profession, had to leave it, and has also been through the Bankruptcy Court. The daughter married a drunkard, whose mind gave way through the habits he had contracted. So much for the 10th Duke of Hamilton’s daughter and her children! To turn to the son. His wife had no taste for country life, and preferred the atmosphere of Continental courts, where her pretensions to royal rank gained full admission. So they abandoned the princely homes in England and Scotland, whence they drew seven hundred thousand dollars a year, to live principally at Paris. The Ex-Emperor being the Duchess’ first cousin, received her with the utmost impressments, and indeed, Her Grace was of no little use in giving tone to the Imperial Court, which, being entirely ignored by the Faubourg, was at one time sadly in need of the presence of ladies whose rank and position were unexceptionable.

Some ten years ago, London and Paris were startled to learn that the Duke of Hamilton had died suddenly in the latter capital. The details soon followed. He had been supping at the Maison Dorée, and had been challenged by a friend to see which of them could carry the greater number of petits verres. In leaving the house he fell, struck his head, and within a few hours the 11th Duke of Hamilton and Brandon lay dead. An Imperial frigate carried his body to Scotland, for burial in the mausoleum which his father had erected, and his son, then a youth of eighteen, reigned in his stead.

And a fine reign his had been. Hamilton House in London, after passing into the hands of one of the most noted turf men of the day, was sold to the son of a successful ironmonger. The same gentleman, so knowing in horseflesh, and in those who think that they, too, know about it, rules in Hamilton Palace, and his presence these is almost calculated to bring t he grand old Duke out of the mausoleum to haunt the ‘horsey’ usurper.

The Duke’s only brother was a few weeks ago in the throes of insolvency, and his unfortunate sister is, as we read yesterday, trying to seek refuge for her child from its father, whom she dreads – all because her mother preferred making her a wife of a wretched Princeling of a trumpery petty State, mainly subsisting on the ruined fortunes of gamblers, to seeing her the wife of some honest-hearted Scottish gentleman.



See also:
•  The Grimaldi family

•  The Douglas-Hamilton & Festetics marriage seal



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Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024