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Princess Helena Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg (Victoria Louise Sophia Augusta Amelia Helena; May 3, 1870 – March 13, 1948) and Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg (Franziska Josepha Louise Augusta Marie Christina Helena; August 12, 1872 – December 8 1956) were the daughters of Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg (third son of Christian August II, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg and Countess Louise af Danneskjold-Samsøe) and Princess Helena of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (the fifth child and third daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha).

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Their Parents Marriage

In 1863, the Queen Victoria looked for a husband for her daughter Princess Helena. However, as a middle child, the prospect of a powerful alliance with a European royal house was low. Her appearance was also a concern, as by the age of fifteen she was described by her biographer as chunky, dowdy and double-chinned. Despite her biographer saying she was chunky with a double chin, photos from that time period do not provide evidence of that.

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Princess Helena

Furthermore, Victoria insisted that Helena’s future husband had to be prepared to live near the Queen, thus keeping her daughter nearby. Her choice eventually fell on Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, 15 years her senior.

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Princess Helena and Prince Christian at their engagement 1865

The engagement was declared on December 5, 1865, and despite the Prince of Wales’s initial refusal to attend (because of the political issues raised over the twin duchies of Schleswig-Holstein) Alice intervened, and the wedding was a happy occasion. The Queen allowed the ceremony to take place at Windsor Castle, albeit in the Private Chapel rather than the grander St George’s Chapel on July 5 1866.

The couple had six children: Christian Victor in 1867, Albert in 1869, and Helena Victoria and Marie Louise in 1870 and 1872 respectively. Their last two sons died early; Harald died eight days after his birth in 1876, and an unnamed son was stillborn in 1877.

Princess Helena Victoria & Princess Marie Louise

Princess Helena Victoria (always known to her family as Thora) was born at Frogmore House, near Windsor Castle. Princess Marie Louise was born at Cumberland Lodge, in Windsor Great Park. She was known to her family as “Louie”.

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Princess Helena Victoria

On July 6, 1891, Princess Marie Louise married Prince Aribert of Anhalt (June 18, 1866 – December 24, 1933) at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. Prince Aribert was the third son of Friedrich I, Duke of Anhalt, and his wife, Princess Antoinette of Saxe-Altenburg. The bride’s first cousin, the German Emperor Wilhelm II, had been instrumental in arranging the match.

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Princess Marie Louise

Though contemporary sources did not directly suggest it was a cause of his marriage dissolution, a number of contemporaries and subsequent historical accounts suggest Aribert was bisexual or homosexual, and some have suggested an indiscretion with a male attendant was the catalyst for the dissolution and that the marriage had never been consummated. The marriage was annulled on December 13, 1900 by his father. Princess Marie Louise, on an official visit to Canada at the time, immediately returned to Britain and was outraged. According to her memoirs, the marriage was unhappy and despite that, she regarded her marriage vows as binding, therefore she never remarried.

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Princess Helena Victoria never married. She followed her mother’s example in working for various charitable organizations, most notably the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and Princess Christian’s Nursing Home at Windsor. During World War I, she founded the YWCA Women’s Auxiliary Force. As its president, she visited British troops in France and obtained the permission of the Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, to arrange entertainments for them. Between the world wars, she and her sister, Princess Marie Louise, were enthusiastic patrons of music at Schomberg House, their London residence. After a German air raid damaged the house in 1940, the two princesses moved to Fitzmaurice Place, Berkeley Square.

Titles of the Princesses.

As male-line granddaughters of Christian August II, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, Princess Helena Victoria and Princess Marie Louise we’re technically German Princesses and each were styled Her Serene Highness (Durchlaucht) within the German Empire. However, Under Royal Warrant (Letters Patent) of May 15 1866, Queen Victoria had conferred the higher style of Highness upon any children to be born of the marriage of Princess Helena and Prince Christian, although the children were to remain Prince or Princess of Schleswig-Holstein. This higher style was in effect only in the United Kingdom, while in Germany their styles would remain Serene Highness.

In July 1917, during World War I, King George V changed the name of the British Royal House from the very German Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the British sounding House of Windsor. The King also relinquished, on behalf of himself and his numerous German cousins who were British subjects, the use of their German titles, styles, and surnames. Princess Helena Victoria and her younger sister, Princess Marie Louise, thereupon ceased to use the territorial designation “of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg”. Instead, they became known simply as “Her Highness Princess Helena Victoria” and “Her Highness Princess Marie Louise”. Although the two had borne German styles and titles, and belonged to the German Royal House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, (a collateral branch of the Danish/German House of Oldenburg) they were born and raised in England and their upbringing and domicile were entirely English. The Princesses were considered members of the British Royal Family.

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Princess Helena Victoria and Princess Marie Louise

In June 1917, a notice appeared in the Court Circular that a Royal Warrant was to be prepared by George V dispensing with his cousins’ use of the “Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg” part of their titles. However no warrant was ever issued, nor were never they formally granted the titles of Princesses of Great Britain and Ireland nor of the United Kingdom in their own right. Therefore they were simply styled Her Highness Princess Helena Victoria and Her Highness Princess Marie Louise without any reference to a territorial designation.

This approach differed from the one accepted by George V’s other relatives, who relinquished all princely titles, not just their German designations, and in turn received British titles of nobility from the King. Their titles of Princess were derived from their father, and they were not officially princesses of the United Kingdom. However, their unmarried status and their right to be styled Highness dating from Queen Victoria’s concession of 1867 rendered their situations awkward, so that it was easier to allow them to retain their status as princesses while avoiding the question of immediate family membership altogether.

Between the world wars, Helena Victoria and Princess Marie Louise, were enthusiastic patrons of music at Schomberg House, their London residence where they resided together. After a German air raid damaged the house in 1940, the two princesses moved to Fitzmaurice Place, Berkeley Square.

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Helena Victoria

In ill health and using a wheelchair after World War II, one of Princess Helena Victoria’s last major appearance was at the November 20, 1947 wedding of her first cousin twice removed Princess Elizabeth, (future Queen Elizabeth II) to Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark.

Princess Helena Victoria died at Fitzmaurice Place, Berkeley Square, on March 13, 1948? Her funeral took place at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor and she was buried at the Royal Burial Ground, Frogmore, Windsor Great Park. She died at the age of 77, the same age at which her mother, Princess Helena, had also died.

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Marie Louise

Princess Marie Louise attended four coronations in Westminster Abbey, those of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1902; King George V and Queen Mary in 1911; King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937; and Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. In 1956, she published her memoirs, My Memories of Six Reigns. She died at her London home, 10 Fitzmaurice Place, Berkeley Square, a few months later on December 8 1956 aged 84 and is buried at the Royal Burial Ground, Frogmore at Windsor Great Park.