On This Day: Queen Victoria Gives Birth To Her Last Child

  April 14, 2017 at 6:00 am by

160 years ago, on April 14, 1857, the ninth and final child – “it is a fine child, and a girl!” [1] – of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was born, two weeks overdue, at Buckingham Palace.

Princess Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore was the couple’s fifth daughter, and quickly became a favourite of her parents, who were happy to indulge her in a way they didn’t their older children. ‘Baby’, as she was known amongst the family, was a clever little girl, with a sense of precociousness – following the birth of her first niece, Princess Charlotte of Prussia, Beatrice (then a mere three years old) would often say she was unable to do a task if she did not like it because she needed to write a letter to her niece. Prince Albert called his youngest “the most amusing baby we have had.” [2]

Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom as a child; copyrights expired

Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom as a child; copyright expired

Following the death of her father in December 1861, the young Princess was her mother’s closest companion and source of comfort throughout her prolonged period of grief. This unfortunately had a negative impact on her personality, as she picked up on the feeling in the air and began to withdraw, which eventually led to her shyness as a teen and adult. As she grew older, Beatrice was given more tasks to assist her mother, particularly as her older sisters married and left home. She eventually became Queen Victoria’s unofficial secretary, and was rarely far from her side.

In July 1885, the Princess was married to Prince Henry of Battenberg. Princess Beatrice had gotten to see Prince Henry in a new light whilst in Darmstadt, Germany for the wedding of her niece, Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, to Henry’s brother Louis, and found herself falling in love with him. Despite the strong protests of her mother, who had responded to her daughter’s engagement with seven months of frightening silence, the couple were granted permission to marry by Queen Victoria on the proviso they lived in the United Kingdom with her.

Beatrice and Henry had four children: Alexander, the last surviving grandson of Queen Victoria; Victoria Eugenia, who became Queen of Spain; Leopold, who inherited the Royal Family’s haemophilia and died during a hip operation; and Maurice, who was killed during the First Battle of Ypres in the First World War. Beatrice also suffered a miscarriage four months into her marriage.

The Battenbergs lived alongside Queen Victoria for the duration of their marriage, which was cut short in January 1896, when Henry died after contracting malaria while serving in West Africa. After a brief absence from court to mourn her husband, Princess Beatrice spent the next five years devotedly by her mother’s side. Queen Victoria’s death in January 1901 upended Beatrice’s life, changing her position in the Royal Family, at court and taking away the one person who had been a constant presence in her life since birth.

Princess Beatrice with her mother, Queen Victoria; ca 1881

Princess Beatrice with her mother, Queen Victoria; ca 1881; copyright expired

Princess Beatrice spent the years after her mother’s death concentrating on the important final task Queen Victoria had given her: editing her journals in preparation for publishing. It took Beatrice thirty years to edit and transcribe all her mother’s journals, during which time she removed over half of their original content, on her mother’s instruction to remove content that might be unsuitable to conserve. Her public appearances became less frequent through the reigns of her brother, nephew and great-nephew, and were mostly engagements centred around the late Queen or other family members.

The Princess died at the age of 87 in October 1944. She was the last of Victoria and Albert’s children to pass (the first was Princess Alice, sixty-five years prior). Almost a year later, her body was interred in its final resting place, St Mildred’s Church in Whippingham, next to her husband.

Her descendants can today be found in the Spanish Royal Family.

Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom; copyright expired

Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom; copyright expired

[1] E Longford, Queen Victoria: Born To Succeed, Harper & Row, United States of America, 1964, p. 266.
[2] M Dennison, The Last Princess: The Devoted Life of Queen Victoria’s Youngest Daughter, Phoenix – Orion Publishing Group, London, 2008, p. 13.

Filed under Historical Royals, The United Kingdom
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