Princess Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore
- Born: 14 Apr 1857, Buckingham Palace, London, England
- Christened: 16 Jun 1857, Buckingham Palace, London, England
- Marriage: Prince Henry Maurice of Battenburg on 23 Jul 1885 in St. Mildred's Church, Whippingham, Isle of Wight, England
- Died: 26 Oct 1944, Brantridge Park, West Sussex, England at age 87
- Buried: Whippingham Church, Whippingham, Isle of Wight, England
The Princess Beatrice (Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore) was a member of the British Royal Family. She was the fifth daughter and youngest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Beatrice's childhood coincided with Victoria's grief following the death of her husband, Prince Albert, on 14 December 1861. As Beatrice's elder sisters married and left their royal mother, Victoria came to rely on the company of her youngest daughter, whom she called Baby for most of her childhood. Beatrice, who was brought up to stay with her mother always, soon resigned herself to her fate.
Victoria was set against her youngest daughter marrying and refused to discuss the possibility. Nevertheless, many suitors were put forward, including Napoleon Eugene, Prince Imperial, the son of the exiled Emperor Napoleon III of France, and Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse, the widower of Beatrice's older sister Alice. Although she was attracted to the Prince Imperial, and there was talk of a possible marriage, he was killed in the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879.
Beatrice fell in love with Prince Henry of Battenberg, the son of Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine and Julia von Hauke, a commoner. After a year of persuasion, Victoria agreed to the marriage, which took place at Whippingham on the Isle of Wight, on 23 July 1885. Victoria consented on condition that Beatrice and Henry make their home with her and that Beatrice continue her duties as the Queen's unofficial secretary.
Ten years into their marriage, on 20 January 1896, Prince Henry died of malaria while fighting in the Anglo-Asante War. Beatrice remained at her mother's side until Victoria died on 22 January 1901. Thereafter, Beatrice devoted the next thirty years to editing Victoria's journals. She continued to make public appearances after her mother's death and died at the age of eighty-seven on 26 October 1944, outliving all her siblings and several of her children.
Beatrice was born on 14 April 1857, at Buckingham Palace. She was the fifth daughter and youngest of the nine children of the reigning British monarch, Queen Victoria, and her husband, Albert, the Prince Consort. The birth caused controversy when it was announced that Victoria would seek relief from the pains of delivery through the use of chloroform administered by Doctor John Snow. Chloroform was considered dangerous to mother and child and was frowned upon by the Church of England and the medical authorities. Victoria was undeterred and used "that blessed chloroform" for her last pregnancy. A fortnight later, Victoria reported in her journal, "I was amply rewarded and forgot all I had gone through when I heard dearest Albert say 'It's a fine child, and a girl!' "Albert and Victoria chose the names Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore, and she was christened in the private chapel at Buckingham Palace on 16 June 1857. Her godparents were her maternal grandmother, Princess Victoria, Duchess of Kent; her eldest sister Victoria, the Princess Royal, and the Princess Royal's fiancé, Prince Frederick of Prussia.
From birth, Beatrice became a favoured child. The elder favourite daughter of Prince Albert, the Princess Royal, was about to take up residence in Germany with her new husband, Frederick ("Fritz") of Prussia. At the same time, the newly arrived Beatrice showed promise; Albert wrote to Augusta, Fritz's mother, that "Baby practises her scales like a good prima donna before a performance and has a good voice!" Although Victoria was known to dislike most babies, she liked Beatrice, whom she considered attractive. This provided Beatrice with an advantage over her elder siblings. Victoria once remarked that Beatrice was "a pretty, plump and flourishing child ... with fine large blue eyes, [a] pretty little mouth and very fine skin". Her golden, long hair was the focus of paintings commissioned by Victoria, who even enjoyed giving Beatrice her bath, in marked contrast to her bathing preferences for her other children. Beatrice showed intelligence, which further endeared her to the Prince Consort, amused by her childhood precociousness. Despite sharing the rigorous education programme designed by Prince Albert and his close adviser, Baron Stockmar, Beatrice had a more relaxed infancy than her siblings because of her relationship with her parents.
Victoria's devoted companion
In March 1861, Victoria's mother Victoria, Duchess of Kent, died at Frogmore. The Queen broke down in grief and guilt over their estrangement at the beginning of Victoria's reign. Beatrice tried to console her mother by reminding her that the Duchess of Kent was "in heaven, but [Beatrice] hopes she will return". This comfort was significant because Victoria had isolated herself from her children except the eldest unmarried, Princess Alice, and Beatrice. Victoria again relied on Beatrice and Alice after the death of Albert on 14 December of typhoid fever.
The depth of the Queen's grief over the death of her husband surprised her family, courtiers, politicians and subjects. As when her mother died, she shut herself off from her family\emdash most particularly, the Prince of Wales, whom she blamed for her husband's death\emdash with the exception of Alice and Beatrice. Victoria often took Beatrice from her cot, hurried to her bed and "lay there sleepless, clasping to her child, wrapped in the nightclothes of a man who would wear them no more." After 1871, when the last of Beatrice's elder sisters married, Victoria came to rely upon her youngest daughter, who had declared from an early age: "I don't like weddings at all. I shall never be married. I shall stay with my mother." As her mother's secretary, she performed duties such as writing on the Queen's behalf and helping with political correspondence. These mundane duties mirrored those that had been performed in succession by her sisters, Alice, Helena and Louise. However, to these the Queen soon added more personal tasks. During a serious illness in 1871, the Queen dictated her journal entries to Beatrice, and in 1876 she allowed Beatrice to sort the music that she and the Prince Consort had played, unused since his death fifteen years earlier.
The devotion that Beatrice showed to her mother was acknowledged in the Queen's letters and journals, but her constant need for Beatrice grew stronger. The Queen suffered another bereavement in 1883, when her highland servant, John Brown, died at Balmoral. Once again, the Queen plunged into public mourning and relied on Beatrice for support. Unlike her siblings, Beatrice had not shown dislike for Brown, and the two had often been seen in each other's company. They had worked together to carry out the Queen's wishes.
Although the Queen was set against Beatrice marrying anyone in the expectation that she would always stay at home with her, a number of possible suitors were put forward before Beatrice's marriage to Prince Henry of Battenberg. One of these was Napoleon Eugene, the French Prince Imperial, son and heir of the exiled Emperor Napoleon III of France and his wife, The Empress Eugénie. After Prussia defeated France, Napoleon was deposed and moved his family to England in 1870. After the Emperor's death in 1873, Victoria and Empress Eugénie formed a close attachment, and the newspapers reported the imminent engagement of Beatrice to the Prince Imperial. These rumours ended with the death of the Prince Imperial in the Anglo-Zulu War on 1 June 1879. Victoria's journal records their grief: "Dear Beatrice, crying very much as I did too, gave me the telegram... It was dawning and little sleep did I get... Beatrice is so distressed; everyone quite stunned."[
After the death of the Prince Imperial, Beatrice's brother, Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales, suggested that she marry their sister Alice's widower, Louis IV, the Grand Duke of Hesse, who had lost his wife to diphtheria in 1878. Albert Edward argued that Beatrice could act as replacement mother for Louis's young children and spend most of her time in England looking after her mother. He further suggested that the Queen could oversee the upbringing of her Hessian grandchildren with greater ease. However, at the time, it was forbidden by law for Beatrice to marry her sister's widower. This was countered by the Prince of Wales, who vehemently supported passage by the Houses of Parliament of the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill, which would have removed the obstacle. Despite popular support for this measure and although it passed in the House of Commons, it was rejected by the House of Lords because of opposition from the bishops. Although the Queen was disappointed that the bill had failed, she was happy to keep her daughter at her side.
Other candidates, including two of Prince Henry's brothers, Prince Alexander ("Sandro") and Prince Louis of Battenberg, were put forward to be Beatrice's husband, but they did not succeed. Although Alexander never formally pursued Beatrice, merely claiming that he "might even at one time have become engaged to the friend of my childhood, Beatrice of England", Louis was more interested. Victoria invited him to dinner but sat between him and Beatrice, who had been told by the Queen to ignore Louis to discourage his suit. Louis, not realising for several years the reasons for this silence, married Beatrice's niece, Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine. Although her marriage hopes had been dealt another blow, while attending Louis's wedding at Darmstadt, Beatrice fell in love with Prince Henry, who returned her affections.
Engagement and wedding
When Beatrice, after returning from Darmstadt, told her mother that she planned to marry, the Queen reacted with frightening silence. Although they remained side by side, the Queen did not talk to her for seven months, instead communicating by note. Victoria's behaviour, unexpected even by her family, seemed prompted by the threatened loss of her daughter. The Queen regarded Beatrice as her "Baby"\emdash her innocent child\emdash and viewed the physical sex that would come with marriage as an end to innocence. Subtle persuasions by the Princess of Wales and the Crown Princess of Prussia, who reminded her mother of the happiness that Beatrice had brought the Prince Consort, induced the Queen to resume talking to Beatrice. Victoria consented to the marriage on condition that Henry give up his German commitments and live permanently with Beatrice and the Queen.
Beatrice and Henry were married at St. Mildred's Church at Whippingham, near Osborne, on 23 July 1885. Beatrice, who wore her mother's wedding veil of Honiton lace, was escorted by the Queen and Beatrice's eldest brother, the Prince of Wales. The ceremony\emdash which was not attended by her eldest sister and brother-in-law, the Crown Prince and Princess of Prussia, who were detained in Germany; William Gladstone, or Beatrice's cousin, Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck\emdash ended with the couple's departure for their honeymoon at Quarr Abbey House, a few miles from Osborne. The Queen, taking leave of them, "bore up bravely till the departure and then fairly gave way", as she later admitted to the Crown Princess.
Victoria's last years
After a short honeymoon, Beatrice and her husband fulfilled their promise and returned to the Queen's side. The Queen made it clear that she could not cope on her own and that the couple could not travel without her.
Although the Queen relaxed this restriction shortly after the marriage, Beatrice and Henry travelled only to make short visits with his family. Beatrice's love for Henry, like that of the Queen's for the Prince Consort, seemed to increase the longer they were married. When Henry travelled without Beatrice, she seemed happier when he returned.
The addition of Prince Henry to the family gave new reasons for Beatrice and the Queen to look forward, and the court was brighter than it had been since the Prince Consort's death. Even so, Henry, supported by Beatrice, was determined to take part in military campaigns, and this annoyed the Queen, who opposed his participation in life-threatening warfare. Conflicts also arose when Henry attended the Ajaccio carnival and kept "low company", and Beatrice sent a Royal Navy officer to remove him from temptation. On one occasion, Henry slipped away to Corsica with his brother Louis. The Queen sent a warship to bring him back. Henry was feeling continually oppressed by Victoria's constant need for his and his wife's company.
Despite being married, Beatrice fulfilled her promise to the Queen by continuing as her full-time confidante and secretary. Victoria warmed to Henry, as she often did with other handsome, strong men. However, the Queen criticised Beatrice's conduct during her first pregnancy. When Beatrice stopped coming to the Queen's dinners a week before giving birth, preferring to eat alone in her room, the Queen wrote angrily to her physician, Dr James Reid, that, "I [urged the Princess] coming to dinner, and not simply moping in her own room, which is very bad for her. In my case I regularly came to dinner, except when I was really unwell (even when suffering a great deal) up to the very last day." Beatrice, aided by chloroform, gave birth the following week to her first son, Alexander.[
Victoria gave birth to four children, including a miscarriage in the early months of her marriage. Alexander, called "Drino", was born in 1886; Ena in 1887; Leopold in 1889 and Maurice in 1891. Following this, Beatrice took a polite and encouraging interest in social issues, such as conditions in the coal mines. However, this interest did not extend to changing the conditions of poverty, as it had done with her brother, the Prince of Wales.
Although court entertainments were few after the Prince Consort's death, Beatrice and the Queen enjoyed tableau vivant photography, which was often performed at the many royal residences. Henry, increasingly bored by the lack of activity at court, longed for employment, and in response to this, the Queen made him Governor of the Isle of Wight in 1889. However, he longed for military adventure and pleaded with his mother-in-law to let him join the Ashanti expedition fighting in the Anglo-Asante war. Despite misgivings, the Queen consented, and Henry and Beatrice parted on 6 December 1895. Husband and wife would not meet again. Henry contracted malaria and was sent home. On 22 January 1896, Beatrice, who was waiting for her husband at Madeira, received a telegram informing her of Henry's death two days earlier. Devastated, she left court for a month of mourning before returning to her post at her mother's side. The Queen's journal reports that Victoria "[w]ent over to Beatrice's room and sat a while with her. She is so piteous in her misery."
Despite her grief, Beatrice remained her mother's faithful companion, and as Victoria aged, she relied more heavily on Beatrice for dealing with correspondence. However, realising that Beatrice needed a place of her own, she gave her the Kensington Palace apartments once occupied by the Queen and her mother. In response to Beatrice's interest in photography, the Queen had a dark room installed at Osborne House. The changes in the family, including Beatrice's preoccupation with her mother, may have affected her children, who rebelled at school. It was discovered that the children's governess had been undermining the love and trust they had in their mother. Beatrice also wrote that Ena was "troublesome and rebellious", and that Alexander was telling "unwarrantable untruths".
Beatrice's life was overturned by the death of Queen Victoria on 22 January 1901. She wrote to the Principal of the University of Glasgow in March, "...you may imagine what the grief is. I, who had hardly ever been separated from my dear mother, can hardly realise what life will be like without her, who was the centre of everything." Beatrice's public appearances continued, but her position at court was diminished. She, unlike her sister Louise, was not close to her brother, now King Edward VII, and was not included in the King's inner circle. Nevertheless, though their relationship did not break down completely, it was occasionally strained, for example when she accidentally but noisily dropped her service book from the royal gallery onto a table of gold plate.
After inheriting Osborne, the King had his mother's personal photographs and belongings removed and some of them destroyed, especially material relating to John Brown, whom he detested. Victoria had intended the house to be a private, secluded residence for her descendants, away from the pomp and ceremony of mainland life. However, the new King had no need for the house and consulted his lawyers about disposing of it, transforming the main wing into a convalescent home, opening the state apartments to the public, and constructing a Naval College on the grounds. His plans met with strong disapproval from Beatrice and Louise. Victoria had bequeathed them houses on the estate, and the privacy promised to them by their mother was threatened. When Edward discussed the fate of the house with them, Beatrice argued against allowing the house to leave the family, citing its importance to their parents. However, the King did not want the house himself, and he offered it to his heir, Beatrice's nephew George, who declined, objecting to the high cost of maintenance. Edward subsequently extended the grounds of Beatrice's home, Osborne Cottage, to compensate her for the impending loss of her privacy. Shortly afterwards, the King declared to Arthur Balfour, the Prime Minister, that the main house would go to the nation as a gift. An exception was made for the private apartments, which were closed to all but the royal family members, who made it a shrine to their mother's memory.
Upon Victoria's death, Beatrice began the momentous task of transcribing and editing Victoria's journals, which had been kept since 1831. The hundreds of volumes contained the Queen's personal views of the day-to-day business of her life and included personal and family matters as well as matters of state.
Victoria had given Beatrice the task of editing the journals for publication, which meant removing private material as well as passages that, if published, might be hurtful to living people. Beatrice deleted so much material that the edited journals are only a third as long as the originals. The destruction of such large passages of Victoria's diaries distressed Beatrice's nephew, King George V, and his wife Queen Mary, who were powerless to intervene. Beatrice copied a draft from the original and then copied her draft into a set of blue notebooks. Both the originals and her first drafts were destroyed as she progressed. The task took thirty years and was finished in 1931. The surviving blue notebooks are kept in the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle.
Retirement from public life
Beatrice continued to appear in public after her mother's death. The public engagements she carried out were often related to her mother, Victoria, as the public had always associated Beatrice with their lost Queen.
The beauty of Beatrice's daughter, Ena, was known throughout Europe, and, despite her low rank, she was a desirable bride. Her choice of marriage partner was King Alphonso XIII of Spain. However, the marriage caused controversy in Britain, since it required Ena to convert to Roman Catholicism. This step was opposed by Beatrice's brother, King Edward VII, and Spanish ultra-conservatives opposed their king's marriage to a Protestant of low birth. Nevertheless, Alphonso and Ena were married on 31 May 1906. The marriage began inauspiciously when an anarchist attempted to bomb them on their wedding day. Apparently close at first, the couple drew apart. Ena became unpopular in Spain and grew more so when it was discovered that her son, the heir to the throne, suffered from haemophilia. Alphonso blamed Beatrice for bringing the royal disease to the Spanish royal house and turned bitterly against Ena.
Meanwhile, Beatrice lived at Osborne Cottage and Carisbrooke Castle, home of the Governor of the Isle of Wight. (Victoria had made Beatrice governor after Prince Henry died.) In time, Beatrice chose to abandon Osborne Cottage, and, against the wishes of her nephew, George V, sold it in 1912. She moved into Carisbrooke Castle and kept an apartment at Kensington Palace in London. She had been much involved in collecting material for the Carisbrooke Castle museum, which she opened in 1898.
Her presence at court further decreased as she aged and the royal family continued to flourish along Edward VII's family line. Devastated by the death of her favourite son, Maurice, during the First World War in 1914, she began to retire from public life. In response to war with Germany, George V changed the royal family surname from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor to distance himself from his German origins. Beatrice and her family were forced to renounce their German names; Beatrice's style reverted from HRH Princess Henry of Battenberg to her birth style, HRH The Princess Beatrice. Her surname was also anglicised to Mountbatten. Her sons gave up their courtesy style, Prince of Battenberg. Alexander, the eldest, became Sir Alexander Mountbatten and was later given the title Marquess of Carisbrooke in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. Her younger surviving son, Leopold, became Lord Leopold Mountbatten and was given the rank of a younger son of a marquess.
Beatrice continued to correspond with her friends and relatives in her seventies and made rare public appearances, such as when, pushed in a wheelchair, she viewed the wreaths after the death of George V in 1936. She published her last work of translation in 1941. Entitled "In Napoleonic Days", it was the personal diary of Queen Victoria's maternal grandmother, Augusta, Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld's. She corresponded with the publisher, John Murray, who greatly approved of the work. She made her last home at Brantridge Park in West Sussex, which was owned by Queen Mary's brother, Alexander Cambridge, the first Earl of Athlone, and his wife, Beatrice's niece, Princess Alice of Albany. There Beatrice died peacefully in her sleep on 26 October 1944, aged eighty-seven. After her funeral service in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, her coffin was placed in the royal vault on 3 November. It was transferred on August 28, 1945, and reunited with that of her husband, Prince Henry, inside Whippingham Church in their joint tomb. Beatrice's final wish, to be buried with her husband on the island most familiar to her, was fulfilled in a private service at Whippingham attended only by her son, the Marquess of Carisbrooke, and his wife.
Beatrice was the shyest of all Victoria's children. However, because she accompanied Victoria almost wherever she went, she became the best known. Despite her shyness, she was an able actor and dancer and was a keen artist and photographer. She was devoted to her children and was concerned when they misbehaved at school. To those who enjoyed her friendship, she was loyal and had a sense of humour, and as a public figure she was driven by a strong sense of duty. Music, a passion that was shared by her mother and the Prince Consort, was something in which Beatrice excelled, and she played the piano to professional standards. Like her mother, she was a devout Christian, fascinated by theology until her death. With her calm temper and warmness, the princess won wide approval.
The demands made on Beatrice during her mother's reign were high. Despite suffering from rheumatism, Beatrice was forced to share her mother's love of cold weather. Beatrice's piano playing suffered as her rheumatism got gradually worse, eliminating an enjoyment in which she excelled, but this did not change her willingness to cater to her mother's needs. Her effort did not go unnoticed by the British public. In 1886, when she agreed to open the Show of the Royal Horticultural Society of Southampton, the organisers sent her a proclamation of thanks, expressing their "admiration of the affectionate manner in which you have comforted and assisted your widowed mother our Gracious Sovereign the Queen". As a wedding present, Sir Moses Montefiore, a Jewish banker and philanthropist, presented Beatrice and Henry with a silver tea service inscribed: "Many daughters have acted virtuously, but thou excelleth them all." The Times newspaper, shortly before Beatrice's marriage, wrote: "The devotion of your Royal Highness to our beloved Sovereign has won our warmest admiration and our deepest gratitude. May those blessings which it has hitherto been your constant aim to confer on others now be returned in full measure to yourself." The sentence was, as far as it dared, criticising the Queen's hold over her daughter.
Many of the buildings with which Beatrice would have been familiar remain today. The main royal residences that she regularly occupied, including Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Balmoral Castle, are all standing, and Osborne House, her mother's favourite home, is accessible to the public. Her Osborne residences, Osborne and Albert Cottages, remain, although they are now in private ownership after their sale by Beatrice in 1912. Kensington Palace and her death place, Brantridge Park, also remain. At her death, she was the only surviving child of Victoria and Albert, and the future Queen Elizabeth II, Beatrice's great-great-niece, was eighteen years of age.
Beatrice married Prince Henry Maurice of Battenburg on 23 Jul 1885 in St. Mildred's Church, Whippingham, Isle of Wight, England. (Prince Henry Maurice of Battenburg was born on 5 Oct 1858 in Milan, Italy, died on 20 Jan 1896 in HMS Blonde, near Sierra Leone, Africa and was buried on 5 Feb 1896 in St. Mildred's Church, Whippingham, Isle of Wight, England.)