CASTLEBLAYNEY’S SWEDISH ROYAL CONNECTION

© Michael Fisher, The Northern Standard, June 6th 2019 p. 29

Whilst the official visit of President Trump to Ireland today has taken up all the headlines, a state visit last month by the King and Queen of Sweden went by almost without notice. Returning from a Local Ireland awards ceremony in Athlone a fortnight ago, I noticed a long convoy of official cars and Garda outriders on the bypass outside the town. Was it a dress rehearsal for the visit of the US President, I wondered. Or perhaps it was the Swedish royal couple, who had been in Dublin the day before.

Further investigation revealed that the Swedish royals visited the Ericsson research and development site in Athlone to discuss digitalisation and 5G in Europe as part of their three-day state visit. The King and Queen were joined by members of the Swedish Government, including Anders Ygeman, Minister for Energy and Digital Development and Sean Canney TD, Minister of State for Rural Affairs and Natural Resources.

King and Queen of Sweden Visited the Ericsson R&D Facility in Athlone

My thoughts turned to a connection between the Swedish Royal Family and County Monaghan that I had spoken publicly about in Castleblayney 25 years ago. The following information is based largely on the talk which was held in the Glencarn Hotel. It centred around Crown Princess Margaret of Sweden, a daughter of the Duke of Connaught, who lived with his family at Hope Castle in Castleblayney from 1900-1904 (David Hicks in “Irish Country Houses” 2012).

HOPE CASTLE

The Duke of Connaught, son of Queen Victoria, came to Castleblayney on his appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in Ireland. He was then 50, having been born at Buckingham Palace in London on 1st May 1850. It was said at the time that the Duke and Duchess experienced a great deal of difficulty in finding an Irish home as they did not wish to spend all their time in the official residence at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, Dublin. The Irishresidence associated with the office of Commander in Chief was not thought to be suitable for habitation by such high-ranking royals as the grounds of the residence were far from private and its location was thought to be in an inferiorpart of the city (Hicks). Several other houses such as Castletown House in Kildare were considered before the Duke settled on Hope Castle, which he leased from Lord Henry Francis Hope. It is believed that the Castleblayney residence was chosen as it was located near the home of Leonie Leslie, a prominent socialite at the time, who lived at Castle Leslie, Glaslough. She was a close friend of the Duke and Duchess, with the emphasis on the former.

The royal couple arrived in Castle Blayney in June 1900 and received a warm welcome from the local people; both the gates to the castle and the whole town were decorated with bunting and flags. The Duke had taken the castle for the summer season in 1900 with an option of leasing it for a further five years. It was thought at the time that Hope Castle would become an official royal residence and that Queen Victoria would visit her son here, but she died in 1901. The Duke of Duchess of Connaught ended their association with the Castle in 1904 (Hicks).

DUKE OF CONNAUGHT

Of her five children, Prince Arthur (William Patrick Albert) was Queen Victoria’s favourite son. By the time he arrived in ’Blayney, he already had a distinguished military career. He entered the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich in 1866, was created a Knight of the Order of St Patrick in 1869 and by the age of 21, was a Privy Counsellor. He received his title Duke of Connaught and Strathearn in 1874, then served as Assistant Adjutant General in Gibraltar for two years. He was promoted again in 1876, serving as personal ADC to Queen Victoria, a role he fulfilled for four of her successors. In 1879 he was married at St George’s chapel in Windsor Castle, near London.

His wife was Princess Louise of Prussia, who at the age of 18 was 10 years his junior. She had been born in Potsdam in 1860, third daughter of Prinz Friedrich Karl of Prussia. The couple had two children.

bagshot_park_morris_edited1475892211112337545.jpg

Bagshot Park in Surrey, England from Morris’s Country Seats from the time the Duke of Connaught lived there (1880)

Their first child was Margaret Victoria Augusta Charlotte Norah, born at Bagshot Park in Surrey on January 15th 1882 (this is now the private residence of Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex). Just under a year later, the second child, Arthur, was born at Windsor Castle. He later saw active service in the South African war and was Governor General there from 1920-23.

The Duke of Connaught became a General in 1893 after serving in Egypt and India and was appointed a Field Marshal in 1902, during the time he was in Castleblayney. He was a significant figure in British society, as can be seen by the rest of his career.

On completing his four years in Ireland, he was appointed Inspector General of the British Forces and President of the Selection Board 1904-07. For the next two years, he was Field Marshal and Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean. He opened the Union Parliament of South Africa, where his son later became Governor General, in 1910.

The following year, the Duke became Governor General of Canada, a post he held for five years and which aroused controversy as he attempted to meddle in Canadian military affairs. He served as Grand Master of the United Lodge of Freemasons from 1901 (a year after his appointment in Ireland) to 1939. He was decorated by several countries, including Spain, Turkey, France, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Greece, Japan (Order of the Chrysanthemum), Ethiopia, the Netherlands, Tunisia, Montenegro, Romania and finally, Monaco. The Duke died at Bagshot Park in Surrey on January 16th 1942, at the age of 91.

CROWN PRINCESS MARGARET

When Princess Margaret of Connaught was 23 and her younger sister Princess Patricia of Connaught was 18, both girls were among the most beautiful and eligible princesses in Europe. Their uncle, King Edward VII, wanted his nieces to marry a European king or crown prince. In January 1905, the Duke and Duchess of Connaught visited Portugal, where they were received by King Carlos and his wife, Amélie of Orléans whose sons Luís Filipe, Duke of Braganza, and Prince Manuel entertained the young British princesses. The Portuguese expected one of the Connaught princesses would become the future Queen of Portugal.

The Connaughts continued their trip to Egypt and Sudan. In Cairo, they met Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden, the future Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden, grandson of the Swedish King Oscar II. Originally, Margaret’s sister Patricia had been considered a suitable match for Gustaf Adolf; without his knowledge, a meeting was arranged with the two sisters. Gustaf Adolf and Margaret fell in love at first sight, and he proposed at a dinner held by Lord Cromer at the British Consulate in Egypt, and was accepted. Margaret’s parents were very happy with the match. Gustaf Adolf and Margaret, then 23, married on 15th June 1905 in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, where her father had also been married. The couple spent their honeymoon at Adare Manor in Co. Limerick and arrived in Sweden on 8th July 1905. One of Margaret’s wedding presents was the Connaught tiara, which remains in the Swedish royal jewellery collection today.

The Crown Prince of Sweden, Gustaf Adolf, was ten months younger than his bride. He came from a military background, like his father-in-law, having entered the Swedish army in 1902. Thirty years later, he became a General. His wife, however, did not survive that long.

During the First World War, she did a lot of work for the Red Cross and as can be seen in her connections with Castleblayney, she seemed to be a caring person. Known in Sweden as Margareta, she died thirty years before her husband’s accession to the throne of Sweden.

At 2 o’clock in the morning on 1st May 1920, her father’s 70th birthday, Crown Princess Margaret, aged 38, died suddenly in Stockholm of “blood poisoning” (sepsis).

Her husband re-married (the second wife was Lady Louise Mountbatten, sister of Earl Mountbatten). At the age of 68, Gustaf Adolf succeeded to the throne, reigning from 1950 to September 1973 as King Gustaf VI Adolf, the last Swedish monarch to hold real political power. He was a noted archaeologist and died aged 90. Since then, his grandson Carl XVI Gustaf has held the title of King and reigns along with Queen Silvia. They are the dignitaries who have just completed a state visit to Ireland.

Following her marriage in 1905, Crown Princess Margaret had five children. The first born in Stockholm on 22nd April 1906 was Gustaf Adolf, Duke of Vaesterbotten, later Prince. He was killed in a flying accident near Copenhagen in 1947, so when the time for succession came, in 1973, it was his son who took the throne and is now the King of Sweden.

He was followed by Sigvard, born at Drottningholm Palace in July 1907, an important year for the Swedish royal family, as Gustaf V came to the throne, shortly after the dissolution of the union between Sweden and Norway. The last three children were all born in Stockholm. Princess Ingrid in March 1910, Bertil in February 1912 and then carl, Duke of Dalecorlia, November 1916.

Some of the children are pictured in postcards which she sent from Stockholm over a period of five years, passing greetings to what she described as he friends in Castleblayney. All are addressed to Mrs JJ Kelly, a correspondence linking Castleblayney and Sweden.

THE KELLY CONNECTION

JJ Kelly was a Local Government Board Inspector and his wife Mary was the postmistress. They lived at Castle Square as it was then called, near the entrance to Hope Castle. Both are buried in the graveyard behind St Mary’s Church. Their daughter Rosa Kelly was a first cousin of my mother and details of the correspondence were kept by her following Rosa’s death in Surrey, where she is buried beside my aunt Dorothy Smyth. My mother then passed on details of the original correspondence including letters to the Swedish royal archives in Stockholm.

THE POSTCARDS

The first is not dated and it’s impossible to decipher the postmark. But the picture shows Crown Princess Margaret and her husband, who is holding a baby, Gustaf Adolf, the Duke of Vaesterbotten, who was born in April 1906. It reads:

“Princess Margaret send many thanks for the shamrock and hopes all the friends at Castle Blayney are well.” So it seems it might have been written in March 1907, some time after St Patrick’s Day (possibly 20th March). Some similar messages follow in the next few years. The Kellys must have sent Princess Margaret shamrock to wear, to remind her of Castleblayney.

“19th December 1909

A happy Xmas & 1910 to all from

Margaret”. The picture shows her with her two children, Gustaf Adolf aged 3, and Sigvard, aged 2.

“March 18 1910. Thank you so much for the shamrock. I hope you and all old friends in Castle Blayney and neighbourhood are well, Margaret.” The picture is probably of Gustaf Adolf again, aged three and wearing a similar outfit to the previous photo.

Postmark 1912

Picture of Prinsessan Margareta on front with a greeting to Mrs Kelly:

“A happy Christmas to you from Princess Margaret, Stockholm”

March 25 1914

Five months before the outbreak of World War I.

“Stockholm. The Crown Princess sends her best thanks for the shamrock and the kind thought which prompted the gift.”

No stamp or postmark. Might have been enclosed with a letter.

The picture is of the Crown Princess in what appears to be national costume with a white head-dress and reading a book.

March 21 1915

“The Crown Princess of Sweden sends most grateful thanks for the shamrock, which arrived here quite safely on St Patrick’s Day.”

Mrs Kelly’s address was given as ‘The Trees’, so by then she seemed to have finished her role as postmistress (according to the street directories). It’s also interesting that this correspondence was seven months after the start of WWI. The picture showed four of Margaret’s five children, Prince Gustaf Adolf, Sigvard, Bertil and Princess Ingrid.

December 15 1915

“The Crown Princess of Sweden sends an Xmas greeting to Castle Blayney”. The picture is of Margaret and captioned Vår Kronprinsessa / Our Crown Princess.

One card simply says: “Wishing you a Happy Christmas and New Year from Margaret.” Her portrait on the front seems to indicate it was from one of the earlier years.

The final postcard which appears to conclude the correspondence was posted in Stockholm and addressed to Mrs Kelly at The Trees, Castle Blayney.

April 17 1916

“The Crown Princess of Sweden sends grateful thanks for the shamrock. She was sorry to hear of your sad loss and sends sincere sympathy.” The reference was probably to the death of Joe Kelly in August 1915.

The picture shows four of Margaret’s children (the fifth wasn’t born until the following year), Gustaf Adolf, Sigvard, Bertil and Princess Ingrid.
The postcards provide a fascinating insight into Castleblayney’s connection with the Swedish Royal Family.

This was first published by me at a talk in Castleblayney in 1994, the third annual lecture in memory of the late Fr Peadar Livingstone..

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