“The revolution broke the Empress’s heart.”
Princess Auguste Viktoria (1858-1921) is an important patron of old roses. She had an ignominious start to her marriage to Kaiser William II. She was the second choice for the mercurial, pompous, vain and ambitious heir apparent to the German Empire, Prince William. He had already been rejected the prettier older sister but needing a wife of status he then decided to pursue the plain Dona as she was nicknamed. He stated she was “a fine young woman with nice manners, an acceptable figure and dignified bearing.” But he considered her beneath him and believed she would not threaten his fragile ego. Dona, keen to be Queen, was more compliant and unconcerned about his withered arm, always a sensitive issue for him.
Auguste Viktoria of Schleswig-Holstein was the daughter of Frederick VIII, the Duke of Augustenburg, and Princess Adelheid of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. Her grandmother was the half sister of Queen Victoria.
The royal couple married in 1881 when she was 23 in a gruelling eight hour ceremony where guests were required to remain standing.
Although she has been described negatively in history as neither clever nor beautiful, she proved to be a loyal and dutiful wife, well suited to the mercurial “Billy”. She played no instruments and is reputed to have bored her husband and she has been described as having no imagination, few intellectual interests and no talents. But she did adore, encourage and support him especially in his more reactionary tendencies.
Interestingly the English press before the war was much more favourably disposed towards her describing her as dignified and glamorous.
The engagement met some opposition in Berlin, mainly because of her lineage, as the daughter of a mere duke with questionable ancestry. Her family was toppled from the throne when the two Duchies were annexed by Bismarck. But William’s mother was initially delighted for her son. In a letter to his mother he said, “Could you only make Grandpa believe how warmly I adore her, how everything I do and think is always in connection with her!”
Dona relished the role of wife to the heir. She fulfilled her husband’s belief that “Women were to marry, love their husbands, have lots of babies, bring them up well, cook nicely, and make their husbands [sic] home comfy for them” by having 6 sons and a daughter. Although she was reputed to have become bigoted and puritanical during her marriage, she was much loved by the German people. She did represented stability in the life of the monarchy. She conscientiously carried out her duties as royal consort particularly those involving charities and welfare. As the marriage evolved she played a large part in widening the breech between her husband and his mother.
Wilhelm believed he ruled by divine right and with Dona at his side ruled for 30 years. He expanded Germany’s army, and her colonial empire. Wilhelm’s headstrong rush into World War I, typical of his temperamental instability and emotionalism destroyed the second Reich. The Kaiser refused to resign despite his defeat and when he was deposed in his absence his reaction was fury and stubbornness.
In his absence the armistice was signed by a three man German commission in the French forest of Compiègne in 1918. Bitter and unbowed, he sought exile in Holland. The laughing girl he married joined him, but was a sick and broken woman. Dona already had a serious heart condition and the shock of abdication, the suicide of her youngest son and exile worsened her condition and she died two years later. Her husband lost no time in remarrying one year later.
Kaiserin Auguste Viktoria was an ardent supporter of Sangerhaussen Rosarium, which is reputedly the world biggest and most famous living rose museum. This outstanding repository of roses is situated in the former Eastern Germany, in the old mining town of the same name south of Berlin is a Mecca for old rose lovers.
The Rose -Kaiserin Auguste Viktoria
Coquette de Lyon x Lady Mary Fitzwilliam
This rose, from the very fertile Lady Mary Fitzwilliam, was herself a prolific pollen parent and an immediate best seller, although she is little grown today. She became famous as a pollen parent of great quality used by breeders all over the world.
It was (and maybe still is) considered to be one of the best white hybrid teas ever raised, although today there are various descriptions of her colour ranging from orange-pink blends to copper-yellow-pink. The one we grow is undoubtedly much paler than those descriptions. I suspect she has suffered the fate of many old roses as they become lost and found and misnamed.
Our rose has shapely blooms, very double when fully open, from typical high pointed buds. Although appearing pure white she does have faint lemon tints in the centre and carries a delicious perfume.
Her bush is vigorous, somewhat twiggy, well foliated with mid green leaves.
Peter Lambert (pronounced Paiter) was the premier German breeder of the period. His nursery was in Trier on the Moselle River on French German border. He was also a pioneer in researching foliage immunity to disease. He believed that black spot is an “old age infirmity” occurring in species where the foliage is long lived. Foliage which gets prematurely old ceases to function properly and become diseased. His family of Lambertiana roses are notoriously healthy perhaps as a result of that research.