Monday, June 6, 2016

Princess Beatrice of the U.K. - Princess of Battenberg



     

Princess Beatrice was the fifth daughter and youngest of the nine children of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. She was born on April 14, 1857 at Buckingham Palace and was given the name Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore. As the baby of the family, Beatrice was treated differently by her parents than her older siblings. She was the favorite of both her parents from the moment she was born. She arrived months before her older sister, Victoria, Princess Royal, married Prince Frederick of Prussia and left for her new home in Germany. Beatrice filled the void her sister left behind. Her mother, who was not fond of babies, even her own, liked Beatrice. She considered her to be an attractive child, unlike some of her other siblings, and commented that she was, “a pretty, plump, and flourishing child … with fine large blue eyes, [a] pretty little mouth and very fine skin”. The Queen also loved her youngest child’s long, golden locks, which she focused on whenever she painted Beatrice. Her father loved her immensely as well and was pleased with the early signs of intelligence his daughter displayed. He said that she was “an extremely attractive, pretty, intelligent child – indeed the most amusing baby we have had”. Beatrice's older siblings were:



Princess Beatrice
(James G. Middleton, 1869-70)


Beatrice was given the pet name “Baby” by her family and had a more casual childhood than her siblings, who had been brought up in a more rigid and demanding manner by their parents. She was a shy child but became the most-well known of the royal offspring among the British people, as she would accompany her mother everywhere when she became her companion. She was gifted at acting and dancing and loved photography and art. Her calm and tender character was her trademark amongst her mother’s subjects and they greatly adored the young, caring Princess. Unfortunately, Beatrice suffered from rheumatism and had to give up playing the piano, a hobby she loved, in her adult years when the pain in her joints became too much for her. When her father’s health began to fail in his later years, her charming persona gave him a great measure of solace during his times of weakness. Beatrice lost her father on December 14, 1861 when she was just four and a half years old. Her mother was so heartbroken over the loss of her partner that she shut herself away from the public, her royal duties, and even her family – with the exception of Beatrice and Princess Alice. On various nights, the Queen would take her young daughter from her room into her own bed and bundle her in the late Albert’s nightclothes. She would lie there all night without sleeping, clutching Beatrice to her for hours. Beatrice would serve as her mother’s source of comfort and solace in the years after the death of the Prince Consort and this period in her life would ultimately shape her future. The Queen began to rely on Beatrice so heavily that she wanted her to remain unmarried and stay with her for the rest of her life as her constant companion.


Princess Beatrice
(1873)
Beatrice began to serve as her mother’s unofficial secretary when she grew older, taking over the job from her sisters Alice and Helena after they married and moved away. She was quiet, loyal, and hardworking, taking up a huge amount of her mother’s responsibilities without complaint. When Beatrice reached a marriageable age, her mother didn’t want her to marry and leave home, so she turned down a multitude of possible suitors for her daughter’s hand. But in 1884, when Beatrice attended the wedding of her cousin, Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, to Prince Louis of Battenberg (who was actually a past suitor of Beatrice’s), she met Louis’s younger brother, Prince Henry of Battenberg, and immediately fell in love. Prince Henry was the third of four children of Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine and Countess Julia Hauke. Since his parents’ marriage was morganatic, Henry and his siblings couldn’t use their father’s title or name and were instead styled after their mother’s ranking (she was later elevated to Princess in 1858). When Beatrice mustered up enough courage to tell her mother of her feelings for Henry and her desire to wed him, the Queen reacted with an alarming, lengthy period of silence. For seven months, Victoria refused to speak to her daughter, even though they lived together, and instead addressed her through notes. 


Princess Beatrice and her fiancée,
Prince Henry of Battenberg
(1885)
However, various members of the royal family – the Prince and Princess of Wales, Alice’s widower Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse, and the Princess Royal - quietly supported Beatrice and urged the Queen to allow the marriage to take place. Eventually, the Queen gave in after being reminded of the happiness she had with Albert and that Beatrice could have the same bliss with Henry. She did have conditions, though, which included Henry renouncing his career, nationality, and home to live with Beatrice and the Queen. Henry agreed to all this, as he returned Beatrice’s feelings, and by the end of 1884 the Queen and Beatrice were at peace and the couple was engaged. On July 23, 1885, the twenty-eight year old Beatrice married Prince Henry, who was just one year her junior, at Saint Mildred’s Church in Whippingham. Beatrice wore the same wedding veil of Honiton lace her mother had worn during her own wedding. Beatrice was the only one of the Queen’s daughters who wore this treasured possession of the Queen, as she hadn’t offered it to anyone but her. She wore a white satin gown trimmed with orange blossom and lace with a lace overskirt held by bouquets of the same blossom intertwined with white heather. The dress had a pointed neckline adorned in lace, as well as the short sleeves, which left her arms bare from the shoulders down. Her mother gifted her with a diamond circlet emblazoned with stars of the same jewel, which she wore on top of her veil.


Princess Beatrice on her wedding day
(1885)
The new Princess Consort of Battenberg spent a short honeymoon with her husband at Quarr Abbey House before returning to the Queen and upholding their commitment to live with her. Beatrice and Henry loved each other as deeply as the Queen had loved Albert and their love only grew stronger as the years passed. Beatrice continued to serve as her mother’s secretary while Henry, who disliked his mother-in-law’s obsessive need for his and his wife’s company, put up with his virtual confinement out of love and respect for Beatrice. During their years together, the couple had three sons and one daughter. Unfortunately, Beatrice was a hemophilia carrier (a trait she inherited from her mother), and passed the disease to Leopold, who died as a result of it at the age of thirty-two. Victoria Eugenie became a carrier and passed the disease on to her own children when she married into the Spanish Royal Family. 

Beatrice and Henry’s children:
  •  Alexander Mountbatten, Marquess of Carisbrooke (1886 – 1960) married: Lady Irene Denison – had issue
  • Victoria Eugenie, Queen of Spain (1887 – 1969) married: King Alfonso XIII of Spain – had issue
  •  Lord Leopold Mountbatten (1889 – 1922) suffered from hemophilia, died unmarried and without issue during a knee operation
  •  Prince Maurice of Battenberg (1891 – 1914) died unmarried and without issue during World War I



Princess Beatrice and her children
(1900)
But even with his new family, Prince Henry was unsatisfied with his boring and repetitive life at the British court. The Queen attempted to mollify him with various positions such as the Governor of the Isle of Wight, a member of the Privy Council, and a Colonel in the army, but he longed for true military adventure. Victoria had constantly opposed allowing him to serve because she feared for his life but eventually gave in to his wishes. She let him join the Ashanti expedition fighting in the Anglo-Asante war in 1895. Beatrice bade her husband farewell on December 6, 1895 but, unbeknownst to her, this would be the last time she would see him alive. Henry arrived in Africa on Christmas Day and by January 10th, he fell extremely ill from malaria. He was sent back to England on the HMS Blonde but he succumbed to his illness off the coast of Sierra Leone on January 20, 1896. He was thirty-seven years old. His body was returned to England where his funeral took place at St. Mildred’s Church on the Isle of Wright, he same place he had been married. His remains were interred at the Church in what is now known as the Battenberg Chapel. Beatrice was devastated by the loss of her treasured spouse and left court for a month to mourn. After this, she returned to her mother’s side as her secretary, just as loyal and devoted as ever. Beatrice spent more and more time with her aging mother, possibly more than that with her own children, which might have been the cause of their apparent rebelliousness in their youth. The Queen gave Beatrice a place of her own in Kensington Palace, where she had once resided with her own mother during her childhood, and also gave her Henry’s governorship of the Isle of Wight.


Princess Beatrice
(Joaquin y Bastida Sorolla, 1908)
Beatrice’s life changed dramatically when her mother died on January 22, 1901 at the age of eighty-one. Beatrice was forty-three at the time and bemoaned the loss of her mother immensely, writing: “…you may imagine what the grief is. I, who had hardly ever been separated from my dear mother, can hardly realize what life will be like without her, who was the center of everything”. Her once principal position at court disappeared when her oldest brother took the throne as Edward VII, as she was not particularly close with him. Their relationship had always been a bit strained and although she was not a part of his inner circle, she did keep up her public appearances. After her mother’s death, Beatrice spent thirty years transcribing and editing her mother’s personal journals, which went all the way back to 1831 when Victoria was just twelve years old. Victoria had asked her to do this before her death, although she did command that Beatrice take out any material that might be harmful to anyone still alive, which resulted in two-thirds of the original content being destroyed. When World War I began, all three of Beatrice’s sons served in the army but she suffered yet another loss when her youngest and favorite child, Maurice, was killed in action in the Ypres Salient in 1914 at the age of twenty-three. Beatrice retired from public life after his death due to her grief. She renounced her German names during the war (just as George V changed the family surname from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor) and she became known as “Mountbatten” instead of “Battenberg”. Her eldest son, Alexander, became Sir Alexander Mountbatten and later Marquess of Carisbrooke. He married Lady Irene Francis, the only daughter of the 2nd Earl of Londesborough, and had one child – a daughter named Iris. It is said that in his later years, Alexander had a longtime male lover. 


Beatrice's daughter - Victoria Eugenie
of Battenberg, Queen of Spain
(mid 1900's)
Beatrice’s younger son, Leopold, became Lord Leopold Mountbatten but as he was a hemophiliac, he died from the disease during a knee operation in 1922, just one month from his thirty-third birthday. Beatrice’s daughter, Victoria Eugenie, was very beautiful and was a highly sought-after bride by many royal European suitors. She eventually married King Alfonso XIII of Spain, which caused much grumbling in Britain, as she converted to Catholicism to marry him. She was not fully accepted in Spain because some frowned upon the King’s decision to marry a previously Protestant woman of low birth (her father was the son of a morganatic marriage, as stated previously). Although the couple was close at the start of their marriage, they grew apart over time and Victoria Eugenie became very unpopular with the Spanish people when she passed the disease of hemophilia to two of their sons, including the heir to the throne (the couple had seven children in total, two daughters and five sons, but one son was stillborn). Alfonso XIII blamed his wife for bringing hemophilia into his family and never forgave her for what he saw as her fault, turning against her by having many affairs with various women.


Princess Beatrice
(1900)
In her later years, Beatrice suffered from arthritis and had to use a wheelchair to get around. She died peacefully in her sleep on October 26, 1944 at the age of eighty-seven at her last home, Brantridge Park, in Sussex. Her funeral was held at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle and she was buried beside her husband in the Battenberg Chapel at St. Mildred’s Church. She was the last of Queen Victoria’s children to die, outliving all her siblings.

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