Princess Beatrice of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Beatrice Leopoldine Victoria; April 20, 1884 – July 13, 1966) was a member of the British royal family. Her father was Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, (reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) the second son of Queen Victoria and Albert, Prince Consort. Her mother was Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, the only surviving daughter of Alexander II of Russia and Princess Marie of Hesse and by Rhine. She was called “Baby Bee” by her family.
Beatrice spent much of her early years in Malta, where her father was serving in the Royal Navy. Along with her elder sister Princess Alexandra of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, she was a bridesmaid at the wedding of their paternal cousins the Duke and Duchess of York (the future King George V and Queen Mary) on July 6, 1893.
On the death of Prince Alfred’s uncle, Ernst II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, on August 22, 1893, the duchy was inherited by the Duke of Edinburgh, since the Prince of Wales, the Duke’s elder brother and future King Edward VII, had renounced his right to the succession. The Duke and Duchess, with their five surviving children, travelled shortly afterwards to Coburg to take up residence.
In 1902, Princess Beatrice had a romance with Russian Grand Duke Michael, the younger brother of Emperor Nicholas II, and at that time the heir presumptive to the Imperial Throne. She began receiving letters from him in September 1902 and, although he was a Russian Grand Duke and she now a German Princess, they corresponded in English, and he nicknamed her “Sima”.
Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia
However she was prevented from marrying the Grand Duke as the Russian Orthodox Church forbade the marriage of first cousins. Although such marriages had been allowed previously in the House of Romanov (Grand Duchess Catherine Pavlovna, whose hand was denied to Napoleon I, was twice allowed to wed first cousins; her descendants became the Russian branch of the Dukes of Oldenburg), the devout Emperor Nicholas II, official head of Russia’s church, refused to relax the rules for the sake of his brother.
In November 1903, Michael wrote to Beatrice telling her that he could not marry her. The situation was aggravated by a letter Beatrice then received from her elder sister Victoria Melita (“Ducky”), in which Michael was blamed for having callously initiated the doomed romance. Years later, ironically, or hypocritically, Ducky, having divorced her first cousin Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse and By Rhine, was told that remarriage to another first cousin, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, would likewise be forbidden by the Tsar, she refused to take no for an answer; the couple eloped and went into exile. The humiliated Beatrice was sent to Egypt to recover from heartbreak, but pined and wrote reproachful letters to Michael until 1905.
Beatrice was then rumoured to be intending to marry King Alfonso XIII of Spain, but this proved to be a false rumour also as he married her cousin Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg in 1906. It was at their wedding that Beatrice met another cousin of King Alfonso, Alfonso de Orleans y Borbón (November 12; 1886 – August 10, 1975), Infante of Spain, 5th Duke of Galliera. The Spanish government objected to an infante’s proposed match with a British Princess who, unlike Queen Victoria Eugenie, had not agreed to convert to Roman Catholicism: the King was obliged to make clear that, should the wedding take place, the couple would have to live in exile.
Genealogy of her husband.
Alfonso de Orleans y Borbón, Infante of Spain, Duke of Galliera (November 12, 1886 – August 6, 1975), was the elder son of Infante Antonio, Duke of Galliera and his wife, Infanta Eulalia of Spain.
Alfonso de Orleans y Borbón, Infante of Spain, Duke of Galliera
His father, Infante Antonio, was the only surviving son of Prince Antoine of Orléans, Duke of Montpensier, and his wife Infanta Luisa Fernanda of Spain, the youngest daughter of King Fernando VII of Spain and his fourth wife Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies. Infante Antonio’s father, Prince Antoine, was the youngest son of King Louis Philippe of France and his wife Maria Amelia Teresa of the Two Sicilies.
Infanta Eulalia of Spain
His mother, Infanta Eulalia of Spain, was the youngest of the five children born to Queen Isabella II of Spain and Francis de Assisi de Borbón, Duke of Cadiz, the second son of Infante Francisco de Paula of Spain, (himself the son of the youngest son of Carlos IV of Spain and Maria Luisa of Parma) and of his wife (and niece), Princess Luisa Carlotta of Naples and Sicily.
Alfonso de Orleans y Borbón, Duke of Galliera was also first cousin of Alfonso XIII of Spain.
Nonetheless, Beatrice and Alfonso married in a Roman Catholic and Lutheran ceremony at Coburg on July 13, 1909. The couple settled in Coburg until, in 1912, Alfonso and Beatrice were allowed to return to Spain and his rank of Infante was restored. In August 1913, Beatrice was received into the Roman Catholic Church.
The couple had three sons:
* Alvaro Antonio Fernando Carlos Felipe (April 20, 1910 – August 22, 1997)
* Alonso María Cristino Justo (May 28, 1912 – November 18, 1936); Killed in action during the Spanish Civil War
* Ataúlfo Carlos Alejandro Isabelo (October 20, 1913 – October 4, 1974)
Princess Beatrice and her eldest son, Infante Alvaro of Spain
Scandal and exile
During King Alfonso XIII’s unhappy marriage, he had numerous affairs and dalliances, some of which produced illegitimate children. He allegedly also made advances toward Princess Beatrice, which she rebuffed. The King expelled her and her husband from Spain, under the pretext of sending Infante Alfonso on a mission to Switzerland. At the same time, the King’s circle of friends, who despised both Beatrice and Queen Ena, started to spread malicious rumours, saying that Beatrice had been expelled because of her bad behaviour, which was not true.
The family moved to England, where their three sons were educated at Winchester College. The Spanish royal family eventually relented, and Beatrice and her family were allowed to return to Spain where they established their home at an estate in Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
The 1930s were an unhappy time for the family, as the collapse of the Spanish monarchy and the subsequent civil war led to the loss of much of the family’s wealth. After the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic in 1931, King Alfonso and his family fled into exile in Italy. In the years that followed, the political situation in Spain worsened as various groups wrestled for power. By the late-1930s, the conflicts had erupted into all-out civil war. Beatrice and Alfonso lost their estate during the war and the couple’s middle son, Alonso, was killed fighting the Republicans.
Beatrice died at her estate of El Botánico in Sanlúcar de Barrameda on July 13, 1966. Her husband survived her by nine years. Their son Ataulfo died, unmarried, in 1974. Their only grandchildren are the children of Prince Alvaro. At the time of her death, Beatrice was the last surviving child of Prince Alfred and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna.