Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge

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HRH The Duchess of Teck
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Her Royal Highness Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge (Mary Adelaide Wilhelmina Elizabeth), (November 27, 1833October 27, 1897), was a member of the British Royal Family, a granddaughter of King George III. She later held the title of Duchess of Teck by marriage.

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


Early life

Mary Adelaide was born on November 27, 1833 in Hanover, Germany. Her father was HRH Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, the youngest son of King George III and Queen Charlotte. Her mother was HRH The Duchess of Cambridge (nee Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel), the daughter of Friedrich III, Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel.

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

After the death of King 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 The 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 were her advancing ages. 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, His Serene Highness Prince Francis, Duke of Teck. Francis was of lower royal rank than Mary Adelaide, and was also the product of a morganatic marriage and had no succession rights to the throne of Württemberg. However with no other options available, Mary Adelaide decided to marry him. The couple were married on June 12, 1866, at Kew Church, Surrey. The Duke and Duchess of Teck had four children:

Duchess of Teck

After her marriage, Mary Adelaide was now styled Her Royal Highness Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck. She requested that her new husband be promoted to the rank of His Royal Highness but was refused by Queen Victoria. He was however promoted to the rank of His Highness in 1887 to celebrate Queen Victoria's golden jubilee.


The Duke and Duchess of Teck choose 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, Richmond as a country house.

Despite their modest income, Mary Adelaide had expensive tastes and lived an extravagant lifestyle 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. Mary Adelaide began devoting her life to charity, serving as patron to Barnardos 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 King Edward VII. After Queen Victoria's approval, May became engaged to the second in line to the British throne, HRH Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence. The death of the Duke of Clarence only six weeks later looked like a cruel blow. However, Queen Victoria was fond of Princess May 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 May 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. Unfortunately Mary Adelaide never saw her daughter's coronation as Queen. Mary Adelaide died on October 27, 1897 at White Lodge, Richmond Park, Surrey, and was buried in the royal vault at St. George's Chapel, Windsor.


  • Her Royal Highness Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge
  • Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Teck

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