Princess Viktoria of Prussia was a woman who had a life many dreamed of. Born into a prestigious and powerful royal house, she discovered her many and complicated regal connections were both blessings and curses. After all, her life was a gilded cage. Poor Viktoria pursued happiness with dogged determination, only to find loneliness and despair in the end.
Viktoria was born into one of the greatest royal families in history—and she was destined to become the scandalous woman amongst them. The second daughter of Crown Prince Frederick William and Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia, she came into the world on April 12, 1866, in the New Palace in Potsdam, Germany. It was a joyous time—but her baptism was no ordinary event.
It occurred on May 24th, which also happened to be the birthday of a very special family member.
Viktoria wasn't just any princess. Her mother was Princess Royal, the eldest daughter of the British monarch—the illustrious Queen Victoria herself. As a result, Viktoria enjoyed a close relationship with one of the world’s most powerful and infamous figures, who just happened to be her grandmother. Unfortunately, no amount of status or luxury could save the princess from life's harsh realities.
Two months after her birth, a heartbreaking tragedy struck young Viktoria and her family. Sigismund, her older brother who was almost two years old, succumbed to a bout of meningitis. The incident destroyed her parents, especially her mother. In the aftermath, the Crown Princess made huge and unconventional changes in the care of her younger children, which greatly affected Viktoria’s upbringing.
After the passing of Viktoria’s brother, her mother decided to make some drastic changes. Instead of placing her younger children in the care of tutors and governesses as she did with her older children, Viktoria's mother chose to personally raise them. Unlike her older siblings, Viktoria was different. She was her parent's golden child and enjoyed a close relationship with them.
But that wasn't the only thing that set her childhood apart.
Although she was a Prussian princess, Viktoria could’ve easily been mistaken for being a British one. Due to her mother’s personal touch in raising her, there was a heavy British influence on her childhood and education. Her nannies were British, and she often visited her relatives in Britain. This seemed innocent enough—but in reality, her upbringing raised eyebrows and caused severe displeasure.
Viktoria’s parents’ beliefs didn’t jive with people in the Prussian court. Some didn’t agree with their progressive views, which they imparted to Viktoria and her younger siblings. When her paternal grandfather became the German Emperor in 1871, her controversial upbringing continued. But despite murmurs of hostility lurking in the shadows, the young princess managed to grow into an astonishing young woman.
The princess’ childhood environment undoubtedly shaped her in a unique way. Viktoria grew up in a laid-back atmosphere and was an energetic and passionate girl. She also had dance lessons on a weekly basis. Possibly due to her parents’ permissive parenting style, she transformed into an impulsive and charismatic—yet strange—young lady.
Soon, it was time for her to leave her youth behind. When Viktoria came of age, a daunting expectation loomed before her: She needed to find a suitor.
In 1881, Viktoria had her first brush with love. At the request of Viktoria’s mother, Alexander of Battenberg, the Prince of Bulgaria, visited Prussia. The Crown Princess and Queen Victoria proposed him as a suitor to the teenage Viktoria, who became interested in the prince. When he visited again the next spring, she caught feelings for him. But things weren’t so easy.
Before Viktoria could marry her prince, she needed to convince her other relatives. Unlike her mother and grandmother, her older siblings, paternal grandparents, and the German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, weren’t fans of Alexander. There were concerns that a marriage between Viktoria and him would create political problems for the Prussian royal family.
It seemed Alexander had already stepped on a few tails.
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Viktoria wasn’t the only one who had family issues. After Alexander became the ruler of Bulgaria, his actions rubbed his cousin, the Russian Tsar Alexander III, the wrong way. Aware of the cousins’ contentious relationship, the Prussian royals didn’t want the possibility of a union upsetting the tsar. Oh, but there was another reason for her family's distaste.
Viktoria's family had concerns about Alexander’s origins. Although his father was of royal blood, his mother wasn’t. This inconvenient fact put Alexander’s status as Prince of Bulgaria in a precarious situation. On the other hand, Viktoria was the daughter of the Crown Prince, which meant she was in a secure position. Still, the headstrong Viktoria wasn't about to give up the love of her life without a fight.
Viktoria wasn’t going to let family drama get in the way of her happiness. She, her parents, and Queen Victoria had faith that the marriage would happen. Sadly, there was no quick fix for this messy debacle. The princess waited a whopping seven years. Unsurprisingly, doubt crept in—and her faith slowly waned. Then, the inevitable happened.
Sometimes, things just don’t work out, and that’s what happened for Viktoria. In 1888, her grandfather and father met their ends within a span of a few months, leaving the throne for her eldest brother, who became Wilhelm II. In his will, Frederick asked Wilhelm to allow Viktoria and Alexander to marry. However, Wilhelm—who himself had a contentious relationship with his parents—had other plans.
Unfortunately for Viktoria, she was on the receiving end of her brother’s contempt for their parents. Out of spite, Wilhelm decided not to honor their father’s request. Instead, he was ruthless. He instructed the Prince of Bulgaria to end the relationship. The fallout was absolutely devastating. Alexander returned all of Viktoria’s presents and letters she gave him, publicly announcing the split.
From there, Viktoria’s deep heartbreak only sparked her brutal downward spiral.
After her failed engagement with Alexander, Viktoria was back on the marriage market. However, she had a few things going against her. Now 22, she was no longer a spring chicken according to the standards of that era, adding to her fears that she would remain unmarried for the rest of her life. Moreover, many, including herself, didn’t consider her to be a beauty.
Feeling the prickle of desperation, Viktoria took matters into her own hands.
The princess decided she needed to do something about her looks. Determined, she took extreme action, even at the cost of her health. She began to control her eating habits—and began to waste away. Concerned, her mother wrote to Queen Victoria about Viktoria’s obsession with her figure and her fears for her well-being. But not all of Viktoria’s family cared for her in the same way.
Poor Viktoria sure had a strong, supportive family—except for the vengeful Wilhelm, of course. Apart from separating her from her first love, he also ostracized her from Berlin’s social circles. As such, Viktoria retreated to Schloss Friedrichshof in Hesse. Still, her melancholy continued. Determined to cure her, her mother, now Empress Frederick, whisked her off to Britain in the hopes of lifting her spirits.
While Viktoria was going through a hard time, her mother and grandmother didn’t give up. Keen to see Viktoria married before she aged out, Empress Frederick and Queen Victoria continued their search for potential suitors. They also brought in the Duchess of Edinburgh and Princess of Leiningen for assistance in their quest. It turned out to be a good idea because Viktoria needed all the help she could get.
Viktoria may have descended from two powerful European royal houses, but it didn’t guarantee her a royal marriage. In her quest for love, she endured the most brutal insults. Prince Carl of Sweden refused to consider her for his wife, while the Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia rejected her marriage offer. Other candidates included Grand Duke Peter Nikolaevich and Prince Carlos of Portugal.
Sadly, after Viktoria went through the royal edition of Tinder, she was left with few suitable prospects.
Viktoria’s family realized she had limited options. When they couldn’t find Viktoria a royal husband, they looked to Europe’s nobility to fill the position. Queen Victoria suggested the British Captain the Hon. Maurice Bourke, the younger son of the 6th Earl of Mayo, and the captain became a serious candidate. However, by then, serious damage had been done to Viktoria.
Poor Viktoria had a lot of drama to deal with—and she constantly fretted over becoming a spinster. Adding to her troubles, her gossipy older sister, Charlotte, started blabbing about her love life with everyone at court. Frustrated, Viktoria believed she was a lost cause and told Queen Victoria she had no interest in getting married. Ever.
Sometimes, things happen when least expected. A surprise arrived for Viktoria in June 1890. The princess, her mother, and her sister, Margaret, visited their relative, Marie of Nassau. One of the other guests was Prince Adolf of Schaumburg-Lippe, a younger son of Adolf I, Prince of Schaumburg-Lippe. During the trip, Viktoria and Adolf became extremely close.
Cupid’s arrow seemed to hit Viktoria right in the sweet spot. While visiting her cousin, she spent time getting to know Prince Adolf. It appeared she made quite an impression on Adolf because he proposed on June 11 during that same trip. Viktoria’s dry spell was finally over. But rather than being happy for her, at least one of her family members had hesitations about her engagement.
The Empress Dowager wasn’t on board with the marriage. In the past, she'd considered Adolf as a marriage prospect for Viktoria, but in the end, had decided he wasn’t good enough for her. Adolf held the mere title of Serene Highness, whereas Viktoria was the daughter of the late German Emperor and held the title of Her Royal Highness. But that wasn't all.
Viktoria’s powerful grandmother, Queen Victoria, shared her mother’s sentiments. Although she gave her blessing, she still had doubts. Other than the difference in social rank, the Queen, like her daughter, felt Viktoria wasn’t truly happy. Still, Viktoria’s mother refused to give in and recommended other suitors. However, others, including Wilhelm II supported the match.
There was no turning back now. The wedding went ahead.
The day that Viktoria never thought would come finally arrived. The celebrations began with a show at the opera and a banquet on the eve of the wedding. The nuptials took place on November 19, 1890, with many of Viktoria’s relatives in attendance. However, perhaps as a sign of things to come, the ceremony excluded many traditions, such as the Fackeltanz or the torchlight dance.
Sadly, the princess' brief moment of hope was terribly brief.
Viktoria started a new phase in her life as a wife. Following their wedding, the newlyweds embarked on a long honeymoon. Their plans included a trip across Europe and the Mediterranean, with a visit to Viktoria’s sister, Sophie, in Greece. It all went wrong. The newlyweds had to leave Greece early and return to Germany due to a medical emergency.
The princess was in trouble.
Early in her marriage, Viktoria suffered a horrible loss. The princess had a miscarriage and rushed back to Germany for treatment, cutting her honeymoon short. But the tragedy didn't end there. Unfortunately, she and her husband would never conceive another child. It was the first sign of trouble in a marriage destined for unhappiness.
Eventually, Viktoria and Adolf settled down. Adolf bought a neoclassical palace in Bonn and added tennis courts at the behest of Viktoria. As her husband was often away from home on military duty, Viktoria spent her time visiting relatives and cultivating new hobbies, such as gardening and decorating. But although she enjoyed a quiet life, the princess was not happy.
Sometimes, moms really know best. Despite her comfortable life, Viktoria was bored and dissatisfied. There was an ugly truth bubbling beneath the surface: She never had feelings for Adolf. Throughout her engagement, the princess had experienced low moods. What's more? She allegedly admitted to her mother that she only married Adolf out of desperation.
The dark turn in her mental state led her back to old, bad habits.
Sadly, Viktoria’s past demons returned—and her life reached a new emotional low. She coped with her situation by returning to her old eating habits. Her condition deteriorated to the point where her family became concerned about her wellbeing. Eventually, she became anemic and received medical attention for it in Hesse in 1893. Fortunately, things got better...sort of.
Viktoria’s condition eventually improved. In 1895, Adolf became the regent of the Principality of Lippe. On May 4th, Viktoria and Adolf moved to Detmold, Lippe’s capital. During the two years she lived in Detmold, Viktoria got a lot of joy out of performing her duties as the regent’s wife, and her mental state recovered. However, the good times didn’t last.
Not all was well in Lippe. There were claims against Adolf’s rights to the regency. After serving as regent for two years, Adolf had no choice but to resign. Viktoria and Adolf left Detmold and returned to their home in Bonn. This series of unfortunate events was only the beginning of even more loss and heartbreak. Viktoria had no clue what was coming.
The next few years were a mixed bag for Viktoria. In 1898, she found out her mother had breast cancer, which spread to her spine. Then came 1901: another year of insurmountable sadness. Viktoria became involved in a scary carriage accident. Not only that but she also lost her beloved mother and grandmother within a span of a few months.
Viktoria's life was falling apart before her very eyes—but this was only the beginning.
Years later, Viktoria’s complicated family dynamics reared their ugly heads. In 1914, Germany fought against Britain in the First World War, pitting Europe’s royal houses against each other despite their kinship. With strong ties to Britain, the German princess found it difficult to reconcile her loyalty to the German Empire and her love for her mother’s native country.
Soon, things got much worse.
During the next four years, Viktoria’s life fell into chaos. Firstly, she lost her husband: Adolf passed in 1916. More upheaval followed: Greece ousted Viktoria’s brother-in-law, and the following year, her brother, the Kaiser, lost his throne. Under the new government, German royalty and nobility ceased to exist.
Still, Viktoria tried to rebuild from the ruins.
After the traumatic events of the last four years, Viktoria became determined to live her life on her own terms. She approached Prince Albert of York, the future King George VI of the United Kingdom, in the hopes of a family reconciliation, but he responded with little optimism. She also tried to get her brother’s blessing to wed one of Adolf’s nephews as she had intended years earlier, but he refused.
You see, Viktoria had an eye for much younger men. Unbeknownst to her, this would lead to her scandalous downfall.
Viktoria’s life had been a romantic wasteland for years—but that was all about to change. In 1927, she hosted a party for students at her home, where she met Alexander Anatolievitch Zoubkoff, a Russian law student who was 35 years younger than her. He claimed to be a baron who'd escaped from the Russian Revolution. Viktoria fell in love with Zoubkoff, who quickly proposed to her.
However, their age gap was no small matter—and soon, tongues began wagging.
Few were happy about Viktoria’s salacious relationship. This time, Viktoria didn’t seek her brother’s approval. She married Zoubkoff, whom she called Sascha, on two occasions, the latter of which took place on the 37th anniversary of her wedding to Adolf. Unsurprisingly, none of her relatives came as the whole affair was a major scandal.
Swept away on a cloud of bliss—Viktoria's bubble was about to be popped in a ruthless way.
Marry in haste, repent at leisure. And that’s exactly what Viktoria did. Sascha started squandering Viktoria’s fortune, which had gradually been shrinking since the end of the war. Before their marriage, Viktoria spoiled Sascha with expensive gifts, worsening her financial situation. It was a recipe for disaster. Sascha's uncontrollable spending led to dire consequences.
Viktoria’s boy toy was in deep trouble. Apart from his lavish lifestyle, Sascha’s terrible behavior in public caused an uproar. It didn’t take long before the Germans had enough of his transgressions and deported him from their country. The former princess was powerless to save him. Unfortunately for her, more humiliation came her way—and it was all thanks to her naughty husband.
Unbeknownst to Viktoria, her husband was about to serve her a dish full of embarrassment. After his deportation, Sascha landed in Luxembourg, where he found work as a waiter. Capitalizing on Sascha’s marriage, the restaurant put up a sign with the words, “The Emperor’s brother-in-law is serving you here”. Although she'd afforded him much of her loyalty, this was one of the last straws.
Viktoria had reached her limit. In 1928, she separated from Sascha. But that wasn't the end of her suffering.
Viktoria’s life was in free fall. Her diminishing fortune meant she had to do the unthinkable. She had to publicly reveal the details of her private life. Sometime in the mid-1920s, Viktoria received a lucrative offer to write her memoirs, which were eventually published in 1929. However, in what was likely an attempt to sell more copies, the book contained altered facts.
Despite her efforts, Viktoria’s financial situation didn’t improve. She had to sell off almost all her possessions. Even more depressing? Her regal past didn’t help to generate much-needed interest in the auction. The proceeds, approximately 900,000 Deutsch marks, could only pay off a third of her liabilities. Afterward, she moved into a rented room, a major downgrade from her former palatial home.
And then there was her twisted marriage to attend to.
In the midst of her financial crisis, Viktoria still hadn’t ended her marriage yet. She had the gossip mill quaking once again when she filed for divorce from her estranged husband. She claimed Zoubkoff’s misconduct led to his deportation and that he couldn’t support her. Moreover, she maintained that “conjugal relations did not exist”. The stress took an obvious toll on Viktoria.
During the last few years of her life, Viktoria’s mental health declined. According to the press, a servant once found her in a disheveled manner, hugging a tree in the gardens of her former home. Despite her difficult circumstances, none of Viktoria’s family members reached out to help her out of her predicament, ignoring her instead. Within a few years, her physical health also deteriorated.
Viktoria’s health grew worse until it was too serious to ignore. A doctor discovered her in her rented room, which she shared with a former servant, and realized she caught a fever. Soon after, Viktoria entered the Hospital of St Francis, where doctors diagnosed her with pneumonia. During this time, she continued with divorce proceedings.
That's when word about her condition reached her family.
Unlike in the past, Viktoria’s family tried to help this time. Unfortunately, there was little they could do for her. For one, they couldn’t provide valuable assistance in ending her terrible marriage soon enough. As Viktoria’s life reached its final hours, Wilhelm and Margaret tried to contact their sister. Sadly, others denied their requests. It was too late for Viktoria.
The end finally came for Viktoria. On November 13, 1929, she crossed over to the other side. The once-beloved princess, who spent her childhood showered with love and privilege, spent the last moments of her life alone, impoverished, and embroiled in scandal. It was a tragic end for a woman who started life with everything, only to end up with nothing.
The princess’ official name was a mouthful, but that didn’t stop her from gaining more names. Amongst the many nicknames she had, there were Vicksey and Young Vicky. Members of the royal family’s inner circle called her Moretta, although its origins are unknown. Viktoria enjoyed the privilege of royalty, but it only led to her twisted end.
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