Royal of the day: Princess Beatrice

NYREE MCFARLANE
Last updated 05:14 09/04/2014
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HAPPY TIMES: Beatrice and Henry of Battenberg (quite a looker!) on their wedding day.

beatrice
Wikimedia Commons
AS A BRIDE: Beatrice in her ornate wedding gown.
beatrice
Wikimedia Commons
DEFINED HER LIFE: Beatrice with her mother Queen Victoria, who ruled over the early parts of her life.

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Princess Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore was the youngest child of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria - 17 years younger than her eldest sibling, she was a woman who lived a life curtailed by her mother's dominance.

Born at Buckingham Palace in 1857, she is said to have been a lovely baby, and as such was reportedly the first of Queen Victoria's nine children to bring out the maternal side in the woman who ruled over the United Kingdom for 63 years (Victoria was famous for not connecting with her other kids when babies, perhaps today she would have been diagnosed with post natal depression?). 

Beatrice's father, Prince Albert - who is said to have been unlikely to have actually had a Prince Albert, if you get what we're saying - was supposed to have been an involved father. The children's governess, Lady Lyttleton, wrote that he was "unusually kind and caring". Unfortunately, wee Beatrice only knew her beloved dad for four years, as Prince Albert died from what is now thought to have been a chronic illness, possibly cancer, in 1861.

Her husband's death sent Queen Victoria into a deep and unending mourning: she kept all his rooms in the palace exactly as they were and dressed in mourning clothes for the 51 years that she outlived him.

Immediately after her beloved husband and cousin's death, Victoria is said to have found solace in caring for her four-year-old daughter Beatrice (the story goes that she even draped the wee girl in her lost husband's nightgown). 

From that day on Beatrice became her mother's dearest companion and security blanket. She was expected to have no life of her own. Her sisters were all married and sent away, and her brothers were said to be jealous of Victoria's affection for her, and so, for around 28 years she spent almost all of her time apart from others her age, abating her mother's loneliness (remember, 28 was old back then - if 40 is the new 30 these days, then 20 was 50 in the Victorian era).

As such, she was said to have little conversation or confidence as well as very little youthful joy in her life. Joy slipped in however, as it often does, at Louis of Battenberg's wedding, where she fell in love with a handsome Spanish-Italian-German-Polish prince, Henry of Battenberg - happily, he liked her back.

The one spanner in the works, however, was the formidable Queen Victoria, of course. She didn't speak to her favourite daughter for seven months after she found out she wanted to get married. Eventually, Victoria came around to the union on one condition: that Henry give up his German commitments and that the newlyweds lived permanently with the queen. Aka, that her daughter wouldn't leave her. They married in 1885. 

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Henry and Beatrice had four children, but their marriage lasted only 10 years. Stifled by the fact he was forbidden from having a career by Queen Victoria, he volunteered to join a British expedition to Ashanti Land in West Africa - sadly, he caught malaria and died in 1896. 

But, Beatrice is likely to have wielded more power than historians have given her credit for - as her mother grew frail, Beatrice became her 'deputy' if you will - sorting her correspondence from politicians and going to events in her place. 

Her mother's death in 1901 didn't quite break Beatrice free from her shadow - before her death, Vic had tasked her daughter with going through her endless journals and turning them into something altogether more palatable. Controversially, she burnt the originals as she went, with many saying she took out much of her mother's acerbic phrases in an effort to boost her posthumous image. 

Beatrice outlived two of her children - her son Maurice was killed in battle in 1914 (at just 23) and her other son Leopold, who inherited her haemophilia, died during a knee operation at just 32. 

Her only daughter - Eugenie - went on to marry King Alfonso XIII of Spain (meaning Beatrice is the great grandma of the current King of Spain) and died at 81, 38 years after she had left Spain for exile. 

Beatrice died peacefully in her sleep on 26 October 1944 (at 86, the day before the 30th anniversary of her son's death). She was initially buried in the royal vault, but a year later, as was her wish, her body was transferred to lie next to her husband in her favourite place in the world - The Isle Of Wight. 

- Stuff

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