On the stroke of midnight of April 26, 1867

On the stroke of midnight of April 26, 1867, in the room at Kensington Palace which had once been the nursery of Queen Victoria, the consort of King George V. was born. Her uncle, the Duke of Cambridge, who was in the palace at the time, placed it on record in his diary that the little girl was a "charming, healthy little child, with powerful lungs." How proud the mother-princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck - was of her daughter may be judged from the following delightful description which she wrote shortly after the child's birth:

"She really is as sweet and engaging a child as you can wish to see; full of life and fun, and playful as a kitten, with the deepest blue eyes imaginable; quantities of fair hair, a tiny rosebud of a mouth, a lovely complexion (pink and white), and a most perfect figure! In a word, a model of a baby ! "

And yet Queen Mary once described herself as being "very naughty, very happy, and very uninteresting."

It is scarcely surprising that the Duchess was proud of her daughter. She was her first-born, and proved to be the only girl of the family, three boys being subsequently born to the Duchess.

Queen Mary's mother was singularly popular. As Princess Mary of Cambridge, her geniality, kindness of heart, and the deep interest she took in the welfare of the masses, had endeared her to the public. This popularity was enormously enhanced, however, when she refused a diplomatic marriage with the Emperor of the French, and made a love match with Prince Francis of Teck, the only son of the then Duke Alexander of Wurtem-berg.

W. & D. Downey

W. & D. Downey

Queen Mary

The young Prince Francis of Teck came to England in 1866 to visit the late King Edward - then, of course, Prince of Wales - whom he had met on the Continent, and it was at a dinner at St. James's Palace that he first met the Princess Mary Adelaide. Four weeks later, while walking with her in Kew Gardens, near Kew Cottage, where she lived with her widowed mother, he proposed to the Princess, and was accepted. The wedding took place in Kew Church, after some sixteen weeks'acquaint-ance. and Queen Victoria was present at the ceremony.

As a rule Royalty marry young, but the marriage of Queen Mary's mother was an exception, for the bride was thirty-three, and the bridegroom twenty-nine. It proved an ideal union, however. and the happiness of the couple was complete when their baby girl was born the following year. Two months after the birth the christening took place privately at Kensington Palace. Archbishop Longley, of Canterbury, officiated, and the little Princess received the names of Victoria Mary Augusta Louisa Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes. Her mother, however, bestowed upon her the pretty abbreviation of " May." Nothing could have been more suitable to the English taste, and as " Princess May" she was always affectionately referred to by the public until her marriage.

Queen Mary's Childbood

Although born under the happiest of circumstances, and tended by a devoted mother, it seemed at one time that death would take the bonnie little girl, for shortly after the christening Princess May suffered an ill-ness which, though short, was severe, and was the cause of much anxiety.

It was then thought advisable to remove the little Princess from Kensington, and White Lodge, Richmond - the property of Queen Victoria by inheritance - was lent to the Duke and Duchess for life by her late Majesty. Here the future Queen spent her childhood and youth, with her brothers as companions, quietly and simply - for the Duchess of Teck did not believe in much visiting and gaiety. " A child has quite enough to do," she said on one occasion, " to learn obedience, to attend to her lessons, and to grow, without too many parties and late hours, which take the freshness of childhood away, and the brightness and beauty from girlhood. There are too many grown-up children in the present day."

Like other girls who have the companion-ship of several brothers, little Princess May became somewhat " tomboyish," and a vivacious description of her high spirits and fondness for fun and frolic has been given by one of the gamekeepers of Richmond Park. 'my word, what a bonnie girl she was," he says; "as full of fun as a young kitten ! Many's the time she played rounders and hide-and-seek with my little kiddies, who are grown men and women now. She was no end of a romp. She'd fence with a bit of stick broken off from a tree, and whistle a tune as well as her brothers. I'll tell you another secret. She used to play cricket.

Lafayette, Ltd.

Lafayette, Ltd.

princess Mary

She'd first of all watch our boys play, and laugh and shout over the game; and when they'd gone, she'd bring her brothers along and get them to bowl to her.

" She made great pets of two of my dogs - a brown retriever, called Venus, and another one, called Bob, with four white legs. She could make them do anything. I wonder if she remembers them now ? "

Dogs were always the favourite pets of Queen Mary, but she liked dolls equally as well. She became, under the guidance of her mother, an accomplished needlewoman, and took the keenest delight in making garments for the inhabitants of her dolls'-house; and more than once she exhibited examples of embroidery and cross-stitching at the Exhibi-tions of the Home Arts and Industries at the Royal Albert Hall. Gardening, too, she became very fond of, and a little corner of the ground of White Lodge was handed over to her special care. Here she cultivated flowers, and great was her delight when her father wore one of her blossoms in his coat, and her mother allowed her to provide some for the table decorations.

The Duchess personally superintended and took the greatest interest in the education of her children. Indeed, her diary contains such entries as, "Heard May say her dates "; "Had May down to read the Psalms "; "Had tea in the nursery, and played geographical lotto," and so on.

Her mother's Secretary

The sharp intellect of Princess May, therefore, quickly developed, and, without becoming precocious, the child made rapid strides in her education. At the age of eight she understood German and music (she was very musical); she studied under Signor (now Sir) Paolo Tosti. Her voice was a sweet soprano, though not powerful, and often she sang in the drawing-room of White Lodge. The Duchess allowed Princess May, as she grew up, to act as her secretary.