Saturday, 14 April 2012

Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom, Prince Henry of Battenburg

The baby of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore was born April 14th 1857 at Buckingham Palace. She was the 5th daughter and the last of 9 children of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Beatrice caused some major controversy before she arrived . . .  Queen Victoria announced that she would be using chloroform to ease through those horrible birth pains – something that was definitely frown upon by the Church of England, but Victoria through caution to the wind and used “that blessed chloroform” anyways. Really, who could blame her, this was kid number 9 and by then I’m sure that she was just tired of having children and this was before the days of epidurals. Princess Beatrice quickly became her parents favourite child – for Victoria this was a first; she really was not a fan of children especially babies but things were different with Beatrice. Beatrice was a beautiful and plump baby with golden blonde hair and big blue eyes whom Victoria actually enjoyed to bath. As for Albert, he thoroughly enjoyed his daughter’s precociousness. Unfortunately Albert died when Beatrice was only 4 years old.

After her father’s death, Beatrice attempted to console her mother the best should could – she was only 4 years old after all! After Albert’s death, Victoria began to isolate her children, with the exception of Alice and Beatrice. Then tragedy struck again when Victoria’s own mother, the Duchess of Kent, died and once again, it was up to Beatrice to attempt to comfort her mother. Beatrice remained at her mother’s side as her confidante and as her personal secretary and was quite content to play this role for the rest of her life as she planned on never marrying – and her mother had the same plans, to keep her daughter at her side. Not something that was very common in the British royal family.


Despite the fact that neither Victoria nor Beatrice wanted the latter to marry, there were still many suitors including Napoleon Eugene, Imperial Prince and son of Napoleon III. The Imperial Prince and Beatrice grew quite close and rumours started regarding a pending engagement began however these rumours came to a screeching halt with the death of the Imperial Prince in 1879 during the Anglo-Zulu War. After the Imperial Prince’s death, Beatrice is said to have been inconsolable and feel into a period of deep grief. This coming from the woman who said she would never marry . . . Once Beatrice was officially back on the market, her brother the Prince of Wales attempted to marry her off to her brother-in-law Louis IV, the widow of their sister Alice. This arraignment would allow for Beatrice to remain in England with her mother and to become a mother to Louis and Alice’s children. However this was forbidden by law much to the Prince and Queen’s dismay.

While attending a family wedding in Germany Beatrice met Prince Henry of Battenburg with whom she fell deeply in love with. When Beatrice returned home to England and informed her mother of her intentions to marry, Victoria did not take the news well. In fact Victoria did not speak to her daughter for 7 months, communicating only by written notes. One could say that Victoria was threatened by the loss of her baby and when she finally came around to the idea of the marriage it came with some stipulations – the couple were to remain in England and Henry had to give up his German commitments, terms to which the happy couple happily obliged. 

The wedding took place on July 24th 1885 at Saint Mildred’s Church at Whippingham. Beatrice honoured her mother by wearing Victoria’s own Honiton lace veil as she married the love of her life. Beatrice and Henry enjoyed a marriage much like that of her parents, a love that seemed to get stronger as time went on. The marriage produced 4 children: Alexander born in 1886, Victoria (Ena) in 1887, Leopold in 1889 and Maurice in 1891. Beatrice was widowed in 1896 when Henry died from malaria.

After the death of her mother Queen Victoria in 1901 Beatrice’s position at court changed drastically. She was not close with her brother Edward VII and she was not included in his inner circle. Beatrice spent her later years to transcribe and edit her mother’s journals for publication. Beatrice died peacefully in her sleep on the 26th of October 1944 at 87 years old, out living all of her siblings as well as most of her children. 

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