Poor May....sitting in her fiancé's sickroom, behind a screen. She shared a chair with Eddy's sister, Princess Maud. Eddy's condition was getting worse--- he had been diagnosed as having pneumonia. Those who could see him were shocked as he writhed back and forth, cried out things that no one understood, and his head would rise up in a stiff manner and then the royal head would fall back into the soft pillows. He was sweating and his mother, Princess Alexandra, The Princess of Wales, wiped his warm, wet brow and tried to soothe him. Many family members filed in and out of the sickroom, including May's mother and father. Dr. Laking had been summoned as soon as Eddy's fever had risen. As a precaution, Dr. Broadbent, the Queens physician had been called for. Dr. Broadbent had treated Eddy's brother George not long before when he suffered from typhoid, so he was well trusted. When Dr. Broadbent had initially arrived, Eddy had seemed better. But the next day he worsened, the fever higher, and Eddy seemed to be in great pain. It appeared that he was actually dying, yet his cries were not indicative of pneumonia. He was feverish, yes, but something just didn't seem right to May. May did not know that others were thinking the same thing...that he had been getting better days earlier and now he was screaming, almost uncontrollable in his agony. Was he suffering from pneumonia, or was it perhaps something else? Eddy's father, the Prince of Wales came in and demanded a report from the Dr. It was hot and stuffy in the room, and it smelled. The Prince left often, obviously unable to bear it. But many stayed, stoic, praying, watching as Eddy's mother tried to soothe him hour by hour.
Everything that could be done was being done. What was May thinking? We can only speculate. She was most likely thinking two things....praying with all her might that God would let him survive and most likely feeling guilty when she thought of what would happen if her fiancé died. Again---she would be alone---she would not be elevated to the position she had so desired... Knowing May, in her stoic fashion, she may have felt nothing. If she felt nothing, then nothing could hurt her. She had always been without prospects. And so if she blocked it out, she did not have to think about it.
After many hours, the worst happened. Eddy, the Duke of Clarence died. It was quiet in the room for some time. There were tears, muffled sighs. It was May that got up first, very quietly, her dress swooshing as she made her way over to the death bed. Her eyes met Eddy's mothers own eyes, and both were filled with tears. May leaned down and kissed Eddy's forehead. As she did, she prayed for him. And then quietly she backed away, weak, and allowed her parents to lead her out of the hot room.
May's fiancé, the second in line to the Throne of England, was gone. So was May's future.
There was to be a very long period of mourning. May settled back into her old life, a life filled with no prospects. All hope was now gone. She wrote that she had trouble reading and writing, and she wrote that after such a shock, how could she begin her life again?
It was some comfort to May to know that England felt her pain, and she became very popular. People felt for her and cared about how she was doing. To be honest she wasn't doing well. She was stoic, yet quite depressed. She knew that Queen Victoria was quite fond of her and that pleased her but all of that... was a thing of the past. Why, oh why did this happen? All of her dreams....had been dashed.
But her mother, Princess Mary Adelaide thought differently. May's mother was a cousin of the Queens, quite large (I don't want to say fat) ...but large. She was quite animated, spoke her mind, thought large and bought large but she and her husband always remained in debt. May's mother was the life of their home, overpowering even her husband----she was always thinking, always planning and the things she said in public sometimes embarrassed May. May and her mother were as different as night and day. May's father remained in his wife's shadow, but seemed happy with the situation. May and her three brothers accepted what was....their father appeared somewhat weak and their mother was determined to get ahead and climb the ladder in their social circles.
May would have been horrified and embarrassed if she found out her mother had contacted Eddy's parents, the Prince and Princess of Wales and suggested they should remember that May was part of their family now and should be included. Princess Mary Adelaide was firm in the resolve that her daughter deserved more after all she had suffered. Secretly, she thought that Eddy's brother Prince George, who had now become the heir, should be joined in marriage with her daughter after a respectable mourning period. She wasn't sure how it would be accomplished, but she was convinced that this was May's rightful place and she wasn't going to give up. Did she divulge her secret plans to her daughter? Probably not. But her pushing worked---an invitation arrived, inviting May to join the Prince of Wales and his family on a trip to Osborne, Queen Victoria's beautiful home on the Isle of Wight. May eagerly accepted and enjoyed her time with them. Were they inspecting her? Certainly Queen Victoria felt she would be a proper royal bride, but what did everyone else think? Each person in the family had a different personality and May tried her best to say and do what was expected of her in every situation. The house faced the sea, the surroundings were beautiful, yet May wondered if anything would come of this...and what faced her. Had they invited her out of pity?
May returned to her home at White Lodge and two weeks later was invited to visit the Prince and Princess of Wales at Compton Place. On the day that would have been Eddy and May's wedding---February 27th---May was overwhelmed with gifts from Eddy's parents. She received many precious gems, gold and diamonds, and some were gifts that Eddy himself had ordered for May before he passed away. She thanked Uncle Wales and "Motherdear"----Alexandra, the Princess of Wales was always to be known as that to all her children----for the precious gifts.
It was during this visit that May and Prince George, Eddy's grieving brother, could be seen walking through the grounds at Compton. George was devastated at the loss of his brother, and perhaps May was one of the only people who could truly understand his loss. He had never been reared to be King, but many thought he would make a much better King than Eddy would have. During this time, May looked at George as a man and not her future brother in law and certainly George felt the same way. May noticed his nice smile and sparkling eyes, and the bounce in his step as he walked. He had spent many years in the Navy and felt more at ease in his uniform than civilian clothes. He also had not spent much time with women, or socializing for that matter. He was very attached to "Motherdear" and Motherdear was very attached to him, even more so now that they had lost their beloved Eddy. George had a very good sense of humor but was very simple in his taste and education. May, who was brilliant at assessing a situation, knew that she was far more intellectual than he and quite naturally began to help him by spending time reading to him. She also helped him with his French. He showed her his stamp collection---he was an avid collector---and she patiently listened to his detailed descriptions of the stamps. It didn't take long for May to know she had George's attention...perhaps he thought she was the last link to Eddy. He was very interested in May, and May was thrilled and pleased. She was quite pleased, however, "Motherdear" was quite possessive and saw things differently. She didn't want to share her Georgie with anyone. May could sense that but she pushed it aside, was very respectful, yet encouraged George's feelings to grow. His face was gaunt and he had lost weight due to an illness of his own and his own grief, but over time the color began to come back into his face.
May was back home and word reached her mother that the Prince and Princess of Wales would be vacationing in the South of France. May's mother made the bold decision to turn to one of her wealthy friends to finance a trip with May to the South of France as well. They settled several miles from the hotel that the Wales were staying at, and eventually the Prince of Wales received the news that they were staying nearby. Although he was personally fond of Princess May, he did not think this was appropriate and knew exactly what May's mother was up to. He dispatched a relative to tell May's mother that is might be best to move their vacation spot much further away. May and her mother journeyed to Cannes, which was about 100 miles away.
May was embarrassed, and he spirits were low. She knew that Queen Victoria liked her and she did not see any competition as a match for George. Still, they were still in mourning and she had no idea of her future and if she would see Prince George again. Yes, he had seemed interested but his parents might be arranging for him to meet other Princesses. It was a strain on May, listening to her Mother lament on her future with Prince George, yet, she did not know in truth if there would be any future. Some days she felt that there might be a match, and other days her spirits we very low about it. What she did not know however-- what no one knew-- is that Queen Victoria had made it clear to someone in her circle that this marriage would go forth! The succession had to be assured, this marriage would take place and at the proper time she would make sure it happened.
Several weeks after their move to Cannes, May was delighted and thrilled to receive a note from George saying that he and his father would be coming to Cannes shortly and would be staying in a hotel nearby, and to please not say anything about it to anyone as they would be incognito, but it would be nice if they were invited for a little dinner.
George spent almost every possible moment with May during the days that he was there. Princess May's spirits were lifted and she got to know more about this man...this man who would someday be King. He was very attached to his mother---very much so---and seemed a bit immature. But on the other hand, he seemed stable and solid and truthful and those were things that pleased her greatly. The days with George were wonderful. The newspapers talked of a future engagement.
May was still dressed in black, in mourning and George was set to Germany to study. He wrote to his mother about Princess May and the Princess of Wales was appalled. This was her worst fear, after losing Eddy. She did not think it selfish to want Georgie all to herself. She wrote back to him that "nothing and nobody shall come between me and my darling Georgie boy." She wanted his love and undivided attention and for things to continue as they had in the past. There was no room for another woman. She did not think of the fact that as an heir he must marry to secure the line of succession. She thought only of herself. Her husband had affairs behind her back and all of society knew this. Her children had become everything to her. Her children, her sister and her position were all that mattered. She simply wouldn't share him...at least not now. Alexandra, the Princess of Wales usually got what she wanted. And what she wanted was May out of the picture.
May had no idea of the depth of Alexandra's feelings. And, if she ever found out, knowing George's bond with "Motherdear" how could she possibly fight the future Queen of England?