The Story of Princess Helena Victoria and Princess Marie Louise—Part 9: Marie Louise Chases Freedom

Princess Marie Louise pictured here attending a bazaar

When Marie Louise finally arrived in Windsor, she was informed the reasons for the urgency of her coming back. Prince Aribert had written a letter, saying that her wife had deserted her marital duties, so he was demanding that the marriage be proclaimed null and void, as if it had never been contracted.  According to the message, her husband found life with her “intolerable.” Marie Louise was horrified while she was listening to the list of ‘obscene’ charges that her husband charged against her.

Her humiliation was absolute and she could only take comfort in the knowledge that “there was one accusation which my husband did not bring against me, because he could not, and that was the charge of infidelity.” Her father-in-law, being the sovereign of Anhalt used this prerogative to annul the marriage, citing the justification that Marie Louise had not given his son any children, a proof for marriage invalidity in Anhalt.

In her memoirs, Marie Louise considered her marriage vows binding, so she never married again.  “The reason I have never married again,” she writes in her book, “is because my marriage was according to the Church of England with its solemn and binding vows, and no arbitrary local family law could absolve me from these marriage vows.”  Nevertheless, she recorded her rage over her marital experience and made it known that she disliked her former husband. Years after her marriage’s annulment, Prince Aribert’s gender preference came under heated debate, and news circulated that he was caught in bed with a servant, either by Marie Louise or by his father.

Eventually Marie Louise found solace in her family: “My parents and my sister were there to meet me in the hall. You can imagine all the babel of talk! I was completely bewildered and could not understand or in the least manner grasp why I had been summoned back across two continents in this peremptory manner by my father-in-law.”

Likewise, the circumstances leading to the couple’s annulment remains unclear to this day. In the 1903 edition of the Almanach de Gotha, it was stated that the couple were divorced on December 13, 1900, while the 1904 edition of "Whitaker's Almanac" stated that "her marriage was dissolved by joint request on account of a new family law of that Ducal House."

Summing up the situation, Princess Marie Louise's uncle, Edward VII, said, "Ach, poor Louise, she has returned as she went--a virgin."

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