The Sports of Queens: 1908

Empress Elisabeth of Austria, an expert equestrienne, 1853

Empress Elisabeth of Austria, an expert equestrienne, 1853

HOW QUEENS AMUSE THEMSELVES

They Drive Motor Cars, Play Tennis, Ride on Horseback, and Enjoy All the Healthful Out of Door Sports That Amuse Their Less Exalted Sisters Throughout the World.

It is a mistake to think that the royal women of the world set all the fashions. The women of lesser degree may indeed imitate queens in small matters of gowns and hats and coiffures, but in many of the large affairs of life the great world of women are the leaders and the queens are the followers.

The women of America and England, indeed, have taught the royal women of the world how to amuse themselves. Time was when a queen was a languid creature, too dainty almost to lift her fan. She would not have walked a mile for the sake of her kingdom. She had a page, or a procession of pages to carry her train, and she scorned every sort of physical exercise as beneath her caste.

But when the royal women saw how beautiful and healthful the athletic women of America and England were, they took advantage of the lesson. They found out that there was a good deal of fun to be had in playing golf, fishing, motoring, riding horseback and taking part in other athletic pastimes—and they, too, began to enjoy themselves. Now, outside of the Turkish harems or the courts of the orient, there is hardly a queen or princess to be found in the world who is not devoted to some form of sport. The result is that they are a great deal more vigorous than they were in the old days. Their cheeks are rosier, and they have more of the joy of life.

How Queen Alexandra Keeps Young.

Queen Alexandra always has lived out of doors a great deal, and she attributes keeping young and enjoying good health to this fact. When a young girl she was fond of swimming, rowing, and driving, and even now she never permits a day to go by without taking some exercise. If the weather is too bad for walking she passes several hours at billiards. She is wonderfully skilled with the cue and is proud of her game. The queen has taught all her daughters and her ladies in waiting for play billiards, and the room sometimes becomes lively when there is a championship game.

But in nice weather her favorite exercise is walking. When living at Buckingham palace and at Windsor she walks five or six miles a day, and nearly doubles the amount when at Sandringham. When she was younger she as so fond of walking that she could go miles and miles without getting tired, but since she became lame it is more of an effort.

At Sandringham she visits all parts of her farm twice a day and in the afternoon takes a long walk with the king. This is more of a pleasure than a task, because she usually amuses herself on the way by taking snap shots with her camera or playing with one or more dogs.

Fond though the queen is of outdoor life, she avoids hard exercise. Yachting and driving she enjoys, but she has never played golf, or put a ball over tennis net.

Persistent automobiling, she believes, offers the quickest means known for getting rid of a nice complexion and gaining 10,000 wrinkles. About once in a fortnight she takes a spin for about an hour, but always swathed in veils, quite like a Turkish woman.

Fishing Drives Out the Wrinkles.

Fishing is Queen Alexandra’s favorite sport after walking. She says that fishing rests the mind, steadies the nerves, and drives the wrinkles right out of the complexion. It is impossible to think of anything else while you fish. Her place at Sandringham, as well as the estate in Scotland, is well stocked with a wonderful variety of fish. Even when alone she spends hours in some shady nook waiting for a fish bite, and rarely goes home until she is satisfied with her haul.

When younger she rowed, but since her lameness has begun to annoy her she has a rowing machine at Windsor instead, and here, with the windows wide open she goes boating in a rowing machine. No longer able to ride a bicycle, she has a stationary machine fastened near one of the windows, and she rides it as energetically as if she were spinning over one of the country roads.

Queen Alexandra believes so much in fresh air and exercise out of doors that she often sleeps in a tent she had put up for her Sandringham. One day one of the younger grandchildren came to visit her, and hearing that the queen was sleeping out in a tent, the child asked: “Grandma, are you not afraid to stay there, alone?” The queen kissed the child and answered: “But, dear, I am not alone. I have the stars, God’s sentinels. They are taking care of me.”

At Windsor she has a roof garden, and as soon as it grows warm she sleeps out of doors.

Once asked how she managed to keep young, she said: “Fresh air and exercise are the best elixirs of youth.”

The Margherita Hut, the highest building in Europe, named for the Italian Queen Consort. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margherita_Hut

The Margherita Hut, the highest building in Europe, named for the Italian Queen Consort. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margherita_Hut

Queen of Italy a Mountain Climber.

But Queen Alexandra as a devotee of sports is forced to share honors with Queen Helene of Italy, for she is a Montenegrin, and the women from Montenegro are daring. As a child her time was divided between the field and the mountains, and it were hard to say which she enjoyed the more.

When the king came to court her she said to him mischievously: “I am so glad you came. I want to teach an Italian what mountain climbing means.” Their first day’s climb was not difficult, but her gallant cavalier confessed it was a fairly good ascent for a woman. At the end of the third expedition the king was growing desperate. But when she showed him the side of a mountain as straight as a wall he said, “Never!” But she would not yield, and, seeing that her gallant young escort could not be forced to go, she said: “Never mind. You wait here, and I shall go alone.”

The prince became pale at the thought of making the venture, and still he did not see how she could go alone, even without a guide. She went, he waiting for her below, until she returned that evening with rosy cheeks, but no worse for the climb. When his family opposed the marriage as being too bourgeoisie, he recalled her courage at mountaineering and realized that this was a little plebeian for a woman who would someday share a throne. But shortly after she beat him at tennis and then he explained to his parents. “This Montenegrin is the woman for me; she is as skilful in the fields as in climbing mountain heights.”

When the queen came to Rome she consoled herself for the mountaineering she lost by playing tennis. The first gift the king gave her was a tennis court and when the king was not busy with affairs of state they were seen playing tennis together, and she was as proud of her stroke as of climbing mountains.

Goes on Hunting Trips with King.

The king is fond of hunting and has beautiful hunting estates. She is equally fond of this sport, and they both go on long hunting trips together. Rare is the day on which some trophies do not fall to her gun, for it is hard to find a woman more skilful with a shogun or rifle. She is a beautiful horsewoman, and before her children were a year old she had them ride a pony. They were strapped in a basket so they could not fall.

Both Queen Helene and the king delight in yachting. They have a beautiful yacht and the family spend many happy weeks every year cruising in the Mediterranean.

It is at San Rossore, the country estate where they spend the summer time, that the king, queen and children have an idyllic life. Here they hunt, ride, drive and fish. There are beautiful streams and ponds well stocked with a great variety of fish and here the queen and children pass many happy hours fishing.

Before automobiling became so popular, Queen Helene was enthusiastic about bicycling, a pastime which Queen Margherita, her mother-in-law, before she became a widow, often enjoyed with her. Queen Margherita presented to Queen Helene shortly after her marriage a bicycle fitted with gold and silver and together the two royal women used to cycle in the park daily.

It was Queen Margherita who has made her son and daughter-in-law enthusiastic automobilists. At first they were indifferent about this sport, but the queen mother insisted on their making tours in her car and now they have several handsome machines. Not long ago they made an excursion of 225 miles in their car, completing this distance in fourteen hours. They started at 4 o’clock in the morning, dined in the open fields at Oneglia, and reached their destination that evening, confident it was the most unconventional and pleasantest short journey they ever made.

Queen Margherita has had many daring and exciting adventures; she admits that her happiest days are spent touring. At first she was prejudiced against motor cars and would not be persuaded to ride in one, as she considered them both ugly and dangerous. One day, however, she permitted a friend to persuade her to take a spin. Just as they were ready to speed down hill the brake refused to work and the queen was in a dreadful state of fright. But it cured her fear, and from that day she became wildly enthusiastic about machines.

Queen Margherita Daring Motorist

She keeps few horses in her stables, though she has a finely equipped garage filled with a half dozen machines of different makes. She has the most complete touring car in Europe and one of the handsomest in the world.

One day, with her chauffeur and a lady and gentleman in waiting, Queen Margherita started after luncheon for a spin, saying that they would be home for tea. Five o’clock came, and when they did not return the household grew worried and started a searching party. There was a wild ringing of telephones, flying of horses, and dispatching of servants. Nothing was heard of the machine until a carabineer reported he had seen a similar car in a small village. A little further on, looking through the vines in a garden, they saw the royal party dining at a small bare table while the chauffeur was struggling hard to repair the machine.

She has toured through all parts of Europe. A few years ago she planned an extensive tour through the United States, and it was only her dread of crossing the ocean that led he to change her plans.

The Empress Augusta-Viktoria on horseback.

The Empress Augusta-Viktoria on horseback.

German Empress Plays Tennis.

The emperor of Germany accepts the doctrine of the strenuous life quite as seriously as does President Roosevelt. When not engaged with affairs of state he is enjoying exercise out of doors. The queen shares all of these pastimes with him because she believes in fresh air and has a horror of getting stout. When they were first married she rarely let a day go by without riding or driving with the emperor and she has kept up this practice.

In Berlin they often are seen riding their horses or driving in the park. She has her own stables, selects her horses, and gives her own orders governing them. When younger she said that she never saw a horse she was afraid to mount, and the harder they were to govern the better she liked them. She is one of the few queens who are members of a royal guard, and she can go through a drill as well as a man.

The empress is also fond of playing tennis and has a beautiful court at Potsdam. She has had several unfortunate accidents while playing this game. Only a few months ago while playing she fell, and it was thought at first she had suffered some serious injury. The king begged her to give up this sport, at last for a while, but she could not bear the idea.

When she was younger she liked to play with some of the young officers at court. The emperor, who was then possessed of some of that jealousy natural to youth, always managed to watch the game, though he did not play.

The empress is known throughout Europe for her splendid complexion. One day a royal friend complimented her on this fact, when the empress answered: “I shall give you my recipe—plenty of fresh air and exercise.

The emperor also believes in this doctrine and all outdoor sports have played an important part in his children’s education.

Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin Crown Princess of Germany and Prussia, source: Wikipedia

Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin Crown Princess of Germany and Prussia, source: Wikipedia

Princess Cecelia Is a Crack Whip.

Though the betrothal of the crown prince [Wilhelm, son of the Kaiser] to Princess Cecelia [sic] was not a love match, they had many tastes in common right from the start. They both were interested in photography. They were crack whips, and she could hold her own with him in managing the wildest horses. She is devoted to all outdoor sports, while he would rather be in the field than in the ballroom. Her mother-in-law taught her to play tennis, and she proved such an adept pupil that now she has hard work finding any one to beat her at singles. Her devotion to horses led her to accept the office of patroness of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. And she likewise influenced her father-in-law to abolish the bearing rein it the imperial stables.

Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain and the Duke of Alba. https://albherto.wordpress.com/2013/05/05/jimmy-alba/

Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain and the Duke of Alba. https://albherto.wordpress.com/2013/05/05/jimmy-alba/

Queen Victoria Takes Long Walks.

Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain—whose love for outdoor sports did much to win her a throne—if she were not a queen she could well be dubbed a nice boy, she is ever ready to rough it. The king and she walk miles every day, and she has taught him to play an excellent game of tennis. She is learning to play golf, is enthusiastic about it, and says that he must learn. Before she was married she did more reckless things. When a young girl she acted as stoker and engine driver once in the country.

A very young Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, 1887 https://mimiberlinblog.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/wilhelmina-of-the-netherlands/

The future Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, age 7, 1887 https://mimiberlinblog.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/wilhelmina-of-the-netherlands/

Though the young queen of Holland has few athletic tastes in common with her consort, they met in the fields. They are both skilled in managing horses and he cannot suggest a drive that can tire her. When the queen was a young girl she always begged for the most reckless horses. When the queen mother opposed this she often explained: “No, I must teach them that I am their mistress.”

Queen of Belgium Enjoys Many Sports.

The queen of Belgium is one of the best all round sportswomen. She is a superb and fearless horsewoman and thinks nothing of riding forty or fifty miles. She never gets into the country but she walks and climbs, and the more difficult the ascent the better she likes it. Though known as an equestrienne, she is even a better sailor. She never visits England without enjoying some delightful cruises with the king and queen. She understands all the fine points about yachting and is ever ready with some good sea yarns. [Queen Henriette-Marie died in 1902 so it is clear that there was a delay in publishing this article in the American press.]

Empress Alexandra of Russia

Empress Alexandra of Russia

The czarina of Russia inherits her sister’s love for outdoor life, but the conventionalities of court limit her pleasures. Her court ladies were much shocked when she told the czar that she wanted a billiard table. By means of her splendid tact she succeeded in getting some of her ladies in waiting to enjoy the game. She has wonderful saddle and driving horses.

She can mount and dismount with all the ease and grace natural to a well-trained officer. She rides horseback until the snow and cold force her into a sleigh. A few years ago she had a tennis court laid out at one of her country houses. But her ladies in waiting were so horrified at seeing her chase after a ball that she never again suggested playing tennis.

The Chicago [IL] Tribune 7 June 1908

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: As the Olympics comes to a close, we look at the sports of Queens: their amusements and past-times. It is diverting to think of the Crowned Heads of Europe staging their own Olympic Games. One could compete in such categories as “Bazaar Opening,” “Ribbon-cutting,” “Plaque-unveiling,” and, most strenuously—ship-launching with a bottle. Other events might include clocking how many anodyne remarks can be made in a fifteen-minute walk-about or Synchronised Corgis. Given their fondness for horses, the British Royals would undoubtedly scoop the equestrian events; while the Scandinavian monarchies would provide keen competition in the Tiara Classes.

And, of course, the victors will be crowned with jewelled laurels.

Emerald, pearl, and diamond laurel wreath tiara, c. 1900 https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/18932/lot/150/

Emerald, pearl, and diamond laurel wreath tiara, c. 1900 https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/18932/lot/150/

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

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