The Story of Princess Helena Victoria and Princess Marie Louise—Part 8: Marriage on the Rocks

Princess Marie Louise

As we continue on our journey in the lives of Princesses Helena Victoria and Marie Louise, let us take a look at the misery that Marie Louise had to endured during her married life: a husband who did not really love, a court that's stiff and unwelcoming, and a sad, lonely life away from home.


 The flame of their initial romance did not flicker for long as it became apparent that Marie Louise’ marriage with Aribert was not going well; in fact, Aribert himself, considered the marriage only for the convenience of getting his wife’s dowry. Aribert, being a younger son, has no prospects of inheriting the principality or his father’s considerable wealth. It was clear to Marie Louise that her husband had no interest in her. They only met at meals while there were times when many days passed by without the two seeing each other.

It soon became evident that, as a serving officer in the German Cavalry, Aribert much preferred the company of his fellow soldiers to that of his wife. Abandoned to her own devices in the medieval atmosphere of dull Dessau, Marie Louise came to the sad and humiliating realisation that her handsome husband had married her solely to conceal his homosexuality and protect his reputation.

“From the Anhalt side I think it was a mariage de convenance.” she wrote many years later, “To marry the granddaughter of the Queen of England was a very important alliance especially as the girl of eighteen was also first cousin to the German Emperor - in fact she was related to the entire Almanach de Gotha.”
Marie Louise, denied even that solace, found herself isolated and trapped by the thousand rules that governed the lives of princesses in Anhalt. Every aspect of her existence was organized according to an ancient code of etiquette that had been in existence for centuries. She was not even permitted to leave her rooms without the prerequisite number of attendants and, as she quickly discovered, if she dared to flout the rules there was always someone on hand to reprimand her. On one occasion, Willy’s wife, the Empress Dona, was appalled to hear that Marie Louise had dared to venture out in an ordinary cab, unaccompanied by footmen and pages.

Marie Louise might have coped with her husband’s predilection for young men had he shown her the least consideration but Aribert not only preferred his male friends but made it clear that he resented her being there at all:

“I was not wanted, my presence was irksome to him, and we were two complete strangers living under the same roof. We occasionally met at meals and when we had guests, otherwise days might pass without our even seeing each other - and from the enthusiastic girl of eighteen, I became a disillusioned woman.”

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