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Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont (Helene Friederike Auguste; February 17, 1861 – September 1, 1922), who became a member of the British royal family by marriage, was the fifth daughter and child of Georg Victor, Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont and his first wife, Princess Helena of Nassau.


She was born in Arolsen, capital of Waldeck principality, in the German Confederation of the Rhine. She was the sister of Friedrich, last reigning Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont; Marie, the first wife of Wilhelm II of Württemberg; and of Emma, Queen consort of Willem III of the Netherlands (and mother of Queen Wilhelmina).


Along with Emma and a third sister, Pauline, Helena was considered as a second wife for their distant cousin Willem III of the Netherlands. She later met with another distant cousin Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, youngest son of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom at the suggestion of his mother. The two became engaged in November 1881.


On 27 April 1882, Leopold and Helena married in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. After their wedding, Leopold and Helena resided at Claremont House. The couple had a brief, but happy marriage, ending in the hemophiliac Leopold’s death from a fall in Cannes, France, in March 1884. At the time of Leopold’s death, Helena was pregnant with their second child.

The couple had two children:

* Princess Alice of Albany (1883-1981), later Countess of Athlone

* Prince Charles, Duke of Albany (1884-1954), born posthumously, later Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Personality and social work


According to the memoirs of Helena’s daughter, Princess Alice of Albany, Helena was very intelligent, had a strong sense of duty, and a genuine love of welfare work. Queen Victoria, initially worried that Helena might turn out to be a stereotypically-remote German Princess, remarked in a letter to her eldest daughter, German Crown Princess Victoria, that she was pleased Helena liked ‘to go among the people.’ The Queen soon came to regard her young daughter-in-law with great respect and affection, notwithstanding her initial concerns upon hearing from the match-making Vicky that Helena was an “intellectual”, being unusually well-educated for a princess.


In 1894, Helena was one of the founders of the Deptford Fund. Originally dedicated to helping find alternative work for women and girls employed in the dangerous cattle slaughter business, the Fund soon expanded, with many projects instigated to help the local community.

Helena was also involved in several hospital charities and with those dedicated to ending human trafficking. During World War I, she organised much of her charity work along with that of her sister-in-law Princess Beatrice and husband’s niece Princess Marie-Louise to avoid the not-uncommon problem of conflicting (and sometimes misguided) royal war-work projects.

Later life

After Leopold’s death, Helena and her two children, Alice and Charles Edward, continued to reside at Claremont House. After the death of her nephew, the Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1899, Helena’s sixteen-year-old son was selected as the new heir to the German duchy, and was parted from his mother and sister in order to take up residence there. When the First World War broke out 14 years later, Charles Edward found himself fighting in the German Army.

Princess Alice of Albany, Countess of Athlone, (daughter of Princess Helena, Duchess of Albany) with her children May and Rupert, circa 1909.

As a result, he was stripped of his British titles by an act of Parliament in 1917. By contrast, her daughter Princess Alice of Albany remained in England and married her second cousin once-removed, Prince Alexander of Teck, the brother of Princess Mary of Teck, the Princess of Wales (later Queen Mary, consort of George V).

Helena died on September 1, 1922 of a heart attack in Hinterriss in Tyrol, Austria while visiting her son, Carl-Eduard, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. She was 61 years old.

German Emperor Wilhelm II picked out Princess Victoria Adelaide of Schleswig-Holstein, the niece of his wife, Empress Augusta Victoria, as Carl-Eduard’s bride.

Duke and Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

She was the eldest daughter of Friedrich Ferdinand, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, and Princess Karoline Mathilde of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg. They married on October 11, 1905, at Glücksburg Castle, Schleswig-Holstein, and had five children, including Sibylla, the mother of Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.

Princess Victoria Adelaide of Schleswig-Holstein, daughter-in-law of Princess Helena, Duchess of Albany.