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Grand Duchess Marie Adelaide of Luxembourg- A Symbol of Effective Monarchy 

 

 

 Grand Dutchess Marie Adelaide of Luxembourg - Wikimedia Commons
 
by Kathy Warnes

A beautiful and devout young woman of 19, Grand Duchess Marie Adelaide of Luxembourg came to the throne in 1912 on a wave of popularity. She was the first monarch to be born on Luxembourg soil since 1296, and vowed to rule her country fairly and resolutely.
She had barely resumed her duties as a Catholic ruler when she landed in bitter controversy. In her coronation day speech she had said". . . I will be faithful to the noble motto of our ancient house, ‘I will stand fast!’"

To Grand Duchess Marie Adelaide’s way of thinking, "standing fast" meant promoting the good of her subjects, including defending their Catholic faith to the full extent of the powers that the constitution of Luxembourg afford her. "I will not allow their most precious heritage to be stolen while I have the key," she vowed.

Her father had not schooled Marie Adelaide in statecraft, so she relied heavily on the advice of experienced government ministers, especially Minster of State Paul Eyschen. Minister Eyschen had been a major influence during the reign of Marie Adelaide’s father and gained even more influence after the Grand Duke died and his wife had ruled from 1907 to 1912. Grand Duchess Marie Adelaide stood up to Minister Eyschen more than both of her parents had done. They first argued over the appointments of political radicals to government posts. Communism, socialism, and anti-clericalism gradually gained momentum in Luxembourg and their adherents managed to create opposition to the Catholic monarchy.

Marie Adelaide, herself, was a deeply devout Catholic developed to Carmelite spirituality, and determined to maintain and increase the faith of her people. She revived pilgrimages and processions of the sacraments that her Protestant father had allowed to lapse and took part in them herself. "Their faith must not be less, but greater when I die," she argued.

Grand Duchess Marie Adelaide had her most serious argument with Minister Eyschen when she refused to sign a proposal to reduce religious instruction in the schools that the minister endorsed. Minister Eyschen had prepared to sign his resignation just before he had a heart attack in 1915 and died. The ministries after Minister Eyschen’s death proved to be unstable and leftist political power grew powerful enough to prompt Grand Duchess Marie Adelaide to dissolve the Chambre and call new elections. The new elections produced serious losses to the left wing parties which made them fiercely determined to defeat the Grand Duchess.

Although she took care to keep within constitutional limits, Grand Duchess Marie Adelaide had made many enemies. The left wing parties and the enemies of the Catholic Church used her political difficulties to agitate public sentiment against her and they charged her with yielding to clerical influence and authoritarianism.

The German invasion of Luxembourg soon provided more ammunition to her enemies. The Congress of Vienna created Luxembourg as an independent duchy, but it was surrounded by Belgium, France, and Germany and its neighbors sometimes coveted its land. Although the Treaty of London in 1839 and the Treaty of London in 1867 guaranteed its sovereignty and neutrality, on August 2, 1914, Germany violated Luxembourg neutrality and invaded and occupied the country.

Guided by Grand Duchess Marie Adelaide and her government, the Luxembourgers did not resist the occupying German Army but remained neutral throughout World War I. The Grand Duchess did much Red Cross Work and nursed soldiers from both armies, but later the victorious Allies treated her like she had collaborated with the Germans. Throughout and after the war, hostile leftists worked to discredit her, citing her German blood, her German relatives, and her receiving of the German Kaiser Wilhelm at the palace.

Belgium had waged a diplomatic and propaganda campaign to annex Luxembourg once World War I ended and some of Grand Duchess Marie Adelaide’s domestic political enemies supported the Belgian campaign. The attitude of the Allies after the Armistice also eroded the position of the Grand Duchess since their democratic ideology favored establishing republics everywhere instead of upholding the monarchy.

Many people in Luxembourg believed that Grand Duchess Marie Adelaide had pro German sympathies and this attitude seemed to predominate and eventually bring about her downfall. In December 1918, the French government declared that it didn’t consider it possible to have contact or negotiations with the Government of the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, "whom it considers as gravely compromised with the enemies of France."

The deliberations and machinations of the Luxembourg crisis involved the monarchy, the left, and French and Belgian aspirations. Supporters of the monarchy realized that Marie Adelaide had lost her mandate to rule and supported her abdication and the succession of her sister Charlotte. The leftists continued to demand a republic. Belgium seemed to regard a republic as more favorable to its goal of annexation and France began to regard the monarchy as a bulwark against Belgian claims.

In the end, Grand Duchess Marie Adelaide bowed to the intense pressure and abdicated in favor of her sister, Charlotte. An amendment to the Luxembourg Constitution reduced the power of Charlotte and her successor, and sovereignty now rests with the nation and not the ruler.

Grand Duchess Marie Adelaide found herself embroiled in a struggle over the entire conception of monarchy and overtaken by national and international events. With Grand Duchess Marie Adelaide’s abdication, the figure of the monarch fully exercising constitutional prerogatives and intervening in political debates disappeared.

After she abdicated, Marie Adelaide entered a convent in Italy and took the name of "Sister Marie of the Poor." She tried to study medicine, but ill health forced her to curtail her studies. She died at Hohenburg Castle of influenza and is buried in the Notre-Dame Cathedral in the city of Luxembourg.
The struggle of Grand Duchess Marie Adelaide as a teenage ruler in a tiny country is a microscopic example of the political and spiritual conflict that shaped European nations and is still influencing them today.
 
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Violets for Valor:  Fate United Bereaved Fathers James Scott and Abraham Lincoln

 

 

Grove Street, Peterborough, New Hampshire, circa 1865 - Robert N. Dennis Collection

 by Kathy Warnes

 Catherine Scott Cummings and her father, James Scott, never dreamed that President Abraham Lincoln would touch their lives and that they would be part of his legacy. Catharine Scott, the daughter of confirmed Yankees James and Sarah Scott of Peterborough, New Hampshire, was born on December 3, 1842. On December 1, 1861, she married Major John A. Cummings of the Sixth New Hampshire Regiment and by August 1862, Confederate sympathizers had buried her on the Potomac shores of Maryland.

Three Wives Journey to Newport News

In July 1862, the Sixth New Hampshire proceeded with other troops to the Peninsula of Virginia and joined General George McClellan in his retreat from the Army of General Robert E. Lee. Lieutenant Colonel Charles Scott was not related to Catharine or her family, but he too, was an officer of the Sixth New Hampshire Regiment, and he fell sick with a combination of measles, fever, and black dysentery at Newport News, Virginia.Lieutenant Colonel Charles Scott’s wife, Catharine Scott Cummings, the wife of Major Cummings, and the wife of Major Dort, arrived safely at Newport News. His wife’s cheerful presence and careful nursing restored Lt. Colonel Scott to good enough health to be transferred to Washington.

The Scotts, the Cummings, the Dorts and their child, 254 soldiers, and four officers and crew embarked on the steamer West Point on Tuesday, August 11, 1862, to make the voyage down the Potomac from Hampton Roads to Washington, D.C. At Fortress Monroe, the West Point took on 17 men, making a total of about 280 people aboard.

About 8 o’clock on the night of Wednesday, August 13, 1862, the steamer Peabody collided with the West Point near Ragged Point on the Potomac River. Captain J.E.G. Doyle estimated that she would sink in less than ten minutes. The Peabody was partially disabled and could only help with the small boats. Altogether, about 73 people were killed and 203 people were rescued.

The West Point Sinks and the Wives Are Lost

During the confusion, Lt. Colonel Scott, Major Dort, and Major Cummings became separated from their wives. The steamer crew picked up Lt. Colonel Scott from the water and he launched a desperate effort to find his wife. Soon he knew that he had no hope of pulling her alive from the water. The West Point sank in four fathoms- about 24 feet of water – approximately one and one half miles from the Maryland shore. A few planks from her decks were all that floated on the surface of the Potomac.Although the people along the shore sympathized with the Confederacy, they helped Colonel Scott search for his wife’s body. The LaBelle Mirror. A small Wisconsin newspaper, later described the scene: "The grey, sullen river refused to give up its dead and the young officer, half frantic with grief, was compelled to go on to Washington."

Within a week, Lt. Colonel Scott received word from Hampton Roads that the body of his wife had been washed ashore and the Confederates who found her body had performed the necessary duties and buried her. Before he could leave to claim her body, the War Department issued orders prohibiting all communication with the Peninsula so that important Union military secrets would not be leaked to the Confederacy. Colonel Scott appealed to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton for leave to return to Virginia to claim his wife’s body, and although Secretary Stanton sympathized with Lt. Colonel Scott’s situation, he refused permission.

Soldier Scott Goes Home and Civilian James Scott Goes to Washington

According to the New York Times version of the story, Lt. Colonel Scott returned home to Peterborough, New Hampshire, and James Scott, the father of Catharine Cummings, decided to travel to Washington and get the necessary permission to bring back the bodies of his daughter and Mrs. Charles Scott. He arrived in Washington and sought permission from Secretary of War Stanton to ride down the Potomac on a federal transport so he could search for the bodies.James Scott knew that President Lincoln was spending Sunday at Soldiers Rest, his retreat cottage a few miles outside of Washington D.C. Scott traveled there and approached the President. President Abraham Lincoln, weighted down with war worries, impatiently refused his request and told him to go to Secretary Stanton.

Dismayed and disheartened, James Scott returned to his hotel room and later a messenger knocked on the door and told him that the President of the United States was waiting below to see him. James Scott hurried downstairs and he and President Lincoln talked like fathers and husbands about their wives and children. President Lincoln undoubtedly talked about his won Eddie who died in 1850 and Willie, who had just died six months ago in February 1862. When the President got up to leave, he told James Scott to go to Secretary Stanton.

James Scott Brings His Daughter Home

James Scott went to Secretary Stanton again, and Stanton again refused, remarking that President Lincoln was always doing something to demoralize the service. Scott returned to the President and told him what his Secretary of War had said. "Demoralizing the service!" President Lincoln exclaimed."We will see about it."President Abraham Lincoln wrote a mandatory order to Secretary Stanton, requiring him to furnish a pass, transportation to the scene of the disaster and all necessary assistance to find the bodies. James Scott finally found himself aboard a federal ship cruising the Maryland shore in the vicinity of the wreck of the West Point. He questioned the citizens of the area about where the bodies were buried and finally he located the bodies and accompanied them back home to New Hampshire.

The La Belle Mirror concluded its story with a touch of Nineteenth Century sentimentality. "Away up in a New Hampshire church yard there is a certain grave carefully watched and tended by faithful love. But every April time the violets on that mound speak not alone of the womanly sweetness and devotion of her who sleeps below – they are tender and tearful with the memory of the murdered President – the year round."

Additional Reading

Furgurson, Ernest, Freedom Rising: Washington in the Civil War. Knopf: First Edition, 2004.Leech, Margaret. Reveille in Washington, 1860-1865. Simon Publications, 2001.

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