icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Fairly Briefly

When we spent three months in Portugal, my daughter and I vowed to kiss the ground in front of Publix after we returned. I love the store! And I’m not surprised that they gave a bunch of money to Adam Putnam: both Publix’s founding family, the Jenkins, and the Putnams are old central Florida people. (You know there’s a county named Putnam, don’t you?) I’m also not surprised that some customers are outraged at Publix’s spending “our” money to take sides in the gubernatorial election. The solution: ban corporate contributions to candidates. We did that before, but the US Supreme Court ruled that money was free speech. We should overturn that.

Did you notice the primary elections on May 22? Georgia Democrats nominated Stacey Abrams, who will be the nation’s first female African American governor if she wins in November. Texas Democrats nominated a Latina who is openly gay. You would put this down as impossible in November – unless you remember that Houston elected a lesbian as mayor almost a decade ago.

In Kentucky, where teachers have been revolting, a male math teacher defeated the male incumbent minority leader in the Democratic contest. This is a very big deal. In Republican primaries, it’s the same old, same old – except that West Virginia Republicans did not nominate a billionaire coal baron who thought he’d bought the election. He’s now seeking ways to go around the state’s “sore loser” law to get himself on the November ballot.

“Support Mental Health or I’ll Kill You”

I’ve used that slogan from the 1970s before, so I’ll not explicate it, but I do want you to know that our US Senator Bill Nelson has been thinking about this in a serious way. He is introducing a bill in Congress to dramatically increase the number of school counselors – and he’s doing it in an innovative way that should be workable. First, did you know there’s only one guidance counselor per 2,000 schoolkids? And I know from teaching in a well-funded school that counselors spend most of their time on scheduling and college applications for the bright kids. D and F students get almost no attention.

So Nelson’s plan is to send college students who are majoring in mental health to nearby K-12 schools, with supervision, of course, from their higher ed institution. This would be relatively inexpensive and provide an excellent intern experience. Many kids just need a sympathetic ear and someone who will take seriously the bullying or other emotional problems they are experiencing. If the teen in Santa Fe, Texas had talked with someone slightly older who could have given his teachers a clue about his anger, ten dead people could be alive today.

Like our Florida shooter, the Texas boy was unhappy at school. (And please notice “boy.” All mass shootings have testosterone in common, and that’s another complex area that a scientific society should be researching.) In the short term, though, we can do a number of things to reduce the feelings of failure that cause blind rage. The standard high-school curriculum needs major reform -- and not in adding more STEM or even necessarily vocational ed. Instead of mandatory geometry or even a fourth year of English, kids need options. They especially need electives in art, music, drama, and other areas where they can express themselves. Those subjects help youngsters learn to channel their emotions, as well as giving them a shot at success.

High school bands, for example, not only teach kids to read music and to march, but more importantly, they create teamwork and cooperation that leads to feelings of pride and worthiness. With more options, we could include everyone in a school in some activity, not just the ten percent or so who can make the team or pass the audition. Everyone should belong to something – and guidance counselors can help kids figure out what they want.

Then we need to rework school schedules so that extracurricular is curricular. School is the major factor in the lives of teenagers, and by joining something, kids begin to identify with other schoolkids. This could cut way down on the number who are angry and alienated enough to get a gun. Yes, the school day would be longer, but that will be beneficial in the end. We shouldn’t let teens go home at 2:30 and play video games the rest of the day. Beating a drum at band practice beats beating any number of things – and we could have lots of types of music.

Warring Families

Different subject. I always sort of knew that World War I was a tragic fight between Queen Victoria’s grandchildren, but I never realized quite how much that was true until I read Victoria’s Daughters. I gave my daughter this book at Christmas, and she kindly read it in time to bring it back to me when she visited in March. I’ve been intending to write about it since.

Queen Victoria reigned over the expanding British Empire from 1837 to 1901, and her name is used to define the era. She didn’t expect to be a monarch, but when her uncles died childless, she took the throne at age 18 -- and showed remarkable maturity and judgment from the beginning. She was half-German, and her mother spoke no English. The royal household, in fact, had been fluent in German since Parliament imported George I from Hanover after his distant relative, England’s Queen Anne, died childless in 1714.

Thus it was not surprising that Victoria chose a German husband, Prince Albert – and it helped that she was head-over-heels in love with him. He was a good man, more liberal than she in things such as ending slavery, but she was a strict constitutionalist and heeded the advice of her Parliamentary ministers over that of any family member. Thus Albert had plenty of time to concentrate on fatherhood, which he did with a passion. The couple clearly was passionate, too, as they had nine children, five of them girls. The marriages of these children spread family power throughout Europe.

The oldest was named for her mother and called “Vicky.” She was very aware of her status and thus a rather difficult child, but that ended when she was married off to Frederick III, called “Fritz”. He eventually became Emperor of Germany – but not before he and Vicky suffered many decades of emotional abuse from his Prussian parents. The grandparents took control of the oldest of Vicky and Fritz’ eight children, alienating him from his parents and turning him into the tyrant that Americans would know in World War I as Kaiser Wilhelm.

I’ve read elsewhere, but not in this book, that Victoria and Albert’s second child, called “Bertie,” grew up believing that Vicky would be the next monarch, just as Mom was, and was dismayed when he realized that because he was male, he would have to become king. The eventual King Edward VII was not at all his mother’s child in being dutiful, and moralists were grateful that he reigned only for nine years. His wife, Alexandra of Denmark, was so aware of his many affairs that she very kindly invited his favorite mistress to his bedside when he died in 1910.

I’m going to skip details on Bertie’s brothers because they are parenthetical to the book, but I should mention that even though they were burdened with the heredity gene that causes hemophilia, all lived long enough to marry. Alfred, the fourth child, married the Grand Duchess of Russia, Marie, and was fortunate enough to die in 1900, before the Russian Revolution in 1918. In contrast, the seventh child, Arthur, lived to 1942, when Britain was deep into World War II. He married Louise, a Prussian princess who died in 1917, during the first war between Victoria’s grandchildren. Leopold was the last son and was named for Victoria’s uncle, who also was king of Belgium. His wife was Helena, another princess from an eastern Germany province of which you’ve never heard (Waldeck-Pyrmont). They had two children prior to his death at age 31.

Back to the Daughters

I’ve spoken of Vicky, and her life appreciably paralleled that of her younger sister Alice, who also married a German prince and lived unhappily there. Prior to that, though, Alice developed a reputation as the family nurse and was the chief caregiver to her father, Prince Albert, who died prematurely in 1861. You doubtless know of Victoria’s legendary grief for Albert, but Alice the Nurse also died well before her mother, in 1878. Alice and Grand Duke Louis IV had seven children, the most historically important of which was Alexandra, called “Alix.” She married Tsar Nicholas II and would die with him and their children in 1918, when they were executed in the Russian Revolution.

The third daughter was Helena, called “Lenchen,” a German term for “independent” or “determined.” She showed that attitude in choosing her husband, another German prince named Christian; he was relatively impoverished, though, and the queen consented to their marriage only if the couple stayed in England, where she expected Lenchen to comfort her in widowhood. They lived in family properties, primarily at Windsor, and their marriage was relatively happy. Prince Christian helped Lenchen break her addiction to laudanum, and some of their five children also married into German royal families.

Fourth was Louise, who was the first to marry a Brit. She chose John, the 9th Duke of Argyll in Scotland, called “Lorne,” but Louise and Lorne did not have a particularly happy marriage. After gossip about their separate lives, Victoria insisted that Louise join Lorne in Canada, where the queen created a job for him as her representative. They did not have children; he died in 1914, the first year of World War I, and she died in 1939, the first year of World War II.

The last daughter, Beatrice, was just four years old when her father died in 1861, and Victoria always depended on Beatrice to remain unwed. After years of dutiful service to her mother, however, Beatrice wanted a life of her own and married Prince Henry of Battenberg, called “Liko.” Like his brother-in-law, Liko consented to live in England, not Germany, and they had four children. The elderly queen enjoyed playing with these youngest grandchildren more than she had enjoyed her own children. (By the way, she had wet nurses for all of them, even though breastfeeding was standard at the time.)

Two of Beatrice’s children went on to expand the realm even deeper into Europe. Victoria Eugenie, called “Ena,” married Alfonso XIII of Spain, and her status as queen of Spain may have helped keep that nation neutral during World War II. The second influential grandchild was another Leopold; after changing the family name from Battenberg to Mountbatten, he established roots in Greece and became the grandfather of Prince Phillip, the husband of current Queen Elizabeth II.

There’s much more, but please ponder two points. First, both English-speaking and German-speaking politicians were to blame for World War I, but it also genuinely was a war between intertwined royal families. That was less true of the second war, but still a factor that few consider. And second and most of all – contrast this with the recent wedding of Prince Harry and his African-American bride! The times really are a’changin.


Doris Weatherford writes a weekly column for La Gaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper. With pages in Spanish, Italian, and English, it has been published in Tampa since 1922.
Make a comment to the author