Prince and Princess Christian in 1865. Image from Wikipedia|
Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein has often been related in royal biographies to a one-sentence description as the unambitious husband of Princess Helena of the United Kingdom, who lost an eye during a freak accident.
However, his daughter, Princess Marie Louise, paints a rather different picture of his father – a gentleman full of life who enjoyed sports, gardening and the outdoors, as much as he relished in his cultural and intellectual pursuits. “He was a very remarkable person: extremely handsome – in fact, I used to call him ‘my old knight’—with a pointed white beard, clear blue eyes, and a very aristocratic face,” wrote Princess Marie Louise in her memoir. “He was a splendid shot, a very keen horseman, and had a profound knowledge of forestry. In addition to all these outdoor interests, he loved poetry and literature, and I think I must add, en passant, that he know the whole of Gray’s ‘Elegy’ by heart. It was he who taught us and gave me my love for literature.”
From his mother, Countess Louise Sophie of Danneskiold-Samsøe, the prince inherited his interest for gardening and also enjoyed riding, steeple-chasing. He also took a keen interest in the education of his children, fascinating them with his “wonderful stories and experiences.” Princess Marie Louise recalled all these in her memoir: “My father took the greatest interest in our education, and used to give us German lessons by means of German fairy-tales. We would come down in the evening and sit round his armchair, each of us on our own little stool, to repeat to him what he had taught us the previous evening. I was never very goof at my lessons, and invariably dissolved into tears if I did not know the answers. And then took place what my father used to call ‘Louise’s expensive preparations.’ They consisted of (1) my book was put down; (2) a hunt was made for my handkerchief; (3) I climbed on to a chair; (4) I then climbed on to my father’s knee; (5) I put my head on his shoulder; (6) then I burst into tears!’”
Prince Christian was born on January 22, 1831 on Augustenburg Palace, in Als Island, Denmark. the second son of Christian August, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg. He died on October 28, 1917, at Schomberg House in London.
My Memories of Six Reigns by Princess Marie Louise (1956). London: Evans Brothers.