My note: although the wedding of Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom and Prince Henry of Battenberg occurred on July 23 1885, and I’m about a month late, I would still like to present the information today.
Background on the Bride.
Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom, (Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore; April 14, 1857 – October 26, 1944) was born at Buckingham Palace, the fifth daughter and youngest of the nine children of the reigning British monarch, Queen Victoria, and her husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (later the Prince Consort).
Beatrice’s childhood coincided with Queen Victoria’s grief following the death of her husband on December 14, 1861. As her elder sisters married and left their mother, the Queen came to rely on the company of her youngest daughter, whom she called “Baby” for most of her childhood. Beatrice was brought up to stay with her mother always and she soon resigned herself to her fate. The Queen was so set against her youngest daughter marrying that she refused to discuss the possibility.
Background on the Groom.
Prince Henry of Battenberg (Henry Maurice; October 5, 1858 – January 20, 1896) was a morganaticdescendant of the Grand Ducal House of Hesse and By Rhine. Henry was born on October 5, 1858 in Milan, Lombardy–Venetia. His father was Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine, the third son and fourth child of Grand Duke Ludwig II of Hesse and By Rhine and Princess Wilhelmina of Baden. His mother was Countess Julia von Hauke. He was known as “Liko” to his family.
His parents’ marriage was morganatic, as Julia was not considered a proper wife for a prince of a reigning dynasty, being only a countess. As such, at the time of his birth, Henry could not bear his father’s title or name, and was styled His Illustrious Highness Count Henry (Heinrich) Maurice of Battenberg. When Henry’s mother was raised to Princess von Battenberg and given the higher style of Her Serene Highnessby Alexander’s older brother, Ludwig III, Grand Duke of Hesse of and By Rhine, Henry and his siblings shared in their mother’s new rank. He became His Serene Highness Prince Henry of Battenberg, although he remained ineligible to inherit the Grand Ducal throne of Hesse and By Rhine or to receive a civil list stipend.
Possible suitors for Princess Beatrice
Although the Queen was set against Beatrice marrying anyone in the expectation that she would always stay at home with her, a number of possible suitors were put forward before Beatrice’s marriage to Prince Henry of Battenberg. One of these was Napoléon Eugéne, the French Prince Imperial, son and heir of the exiled Emperor Napoleon III of France and his wife, Empress Eugénie.
After Prussia defeated France in the Franco-Prussian War, Napoleon was deposed and moved his family to England in 1870. After the Emperor’s death in 1873, Queen Victoria and Empress Eugénie formed a close attachment, and the newspapers reported the imminent engagement of Beatrice to the Prince Imperial. These rumours ended with the death of the Prince Imperial in the Anglo-Zulu War on June 1, 1879. Queen Victoria’s journal records their grief: “Dear Beatrice, crying very much as I did too, gave me the telegram … It was dawning and little sleep did I get … Beatrice is so distressed; everyone quite stunned.”
Louis Napoléon, Prince Imperial
After the death of the Prince Imperial, the Prince of Wales suggested that Beatrice marry their sister Alice’s widower, Ludwig IV, Grand Duke of Hesse. Alice had died in 1878, and the Prince argued that Beatrice could act as replacement mother for Ludwig’s young children and spend most of her time in England looking after her mother. He further suggested the Queen could oversee the upbringing of her Hessian grandchildren with greater ease.
However, at the time, it was forbidden by law for Beatrice to marry her sister’s widower. This was countered by the Prince of Wales, who vehemently supported passage by the Houses of Parliament of the Deceased Wife’s Sister Bill, which would have removed the obstacle. Despite popular support for this measure and although it passed in the House of Commons, it was rejected by the House of Lords because of opposition from the Lords Spiritual. Although the Queen was disappointed that the bill had failed, she was happy to keep her daughter at her side.
Other candidates, including two of Prince Henry’s brothers, Prince Alexander (“Sandro”) and Prince Louis of Battenberg, were put forward to be Beatrice’s husband, but they did not succeed. Although Alexander never formally pursued Beatrice, merely claiming that he “might even at one time have become engaged to the friend of my childhood, Beatrice of England”, Louis was more interested. Queen Victoria invited him to dinner but sat between him and Beatrice, who had been told by the Queen to ignore Louis to discourage his suit.
Louis, not realising for several years the reasons for this silence, married Beatrice’s niece, Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, the eldest daughter of Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse and By Rhine and Beatrice’s sister, Princess Alice of the United Kingdom” Although her marriage hopes had been dealt another blow, while attending Louis’s wedding at Darmstadt, Beatrice fell in love with Prince Henry, who returned her affections.
When Beatrice, after returning from Darmstadt, told her mother she planned to marry, the Queen reacted with frightening silence. Although they remained side by side, the Queen did not talk to her for seven months, instead communicating by note. Queen Victoria’s behaviour, unexpected even by her family, seemed prompted by the threatened loss of her daughter. The Queen regarded Beatrice as her “Baby” – her innocent child – and viewed the physical sex that would come with marriage as an end to innocence.
Princess Beatrice in her wedding dress, Osborne, 1885. Beatrice wore her mother’s wedding veil of Honiton lace.
Subtle persuasions by the Princess of Wales and the Crown Princess of Prussia, who reminded her mother of the happiness that Beatrice had brought the Prince Consort, induced the Queen to resume talking to Beatrice. Queen Victoria consented to the marriage on condition that Henry give up his German commitments and live permanently with Beatrice and the Queen.
Beatrice and Henry were married at Saint Mildred’s Church at Whippingham, near Osborne, on July 23, 1885. Beatrice, who wore her mother’s wedding veil of Honiton lace, was escorted by the Queen and Beatrice’s eldest brother, the Prince of Wales. Princess Beatrice was attended by ten royal bridesmaids from among her nieces: (see picture below)
(Back row left to right) Prince Alexander of Battenberg, Princess Louise of Wales, Princess Irene of Hesse, Princess Victoria of Wales, Prince Franz Josef of Battenberg, (middle row, left to right) Princess Maud of Wales, Princess Alix of Hesse, Princesses Marie Louise and Helena Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, (front row, left to right) Princesses Victoria Melita, Marie and Alexandra of Edinburgh, Princess Beatrice and Prince Henry of Battenberg. Photograph taken at Osborne.
The bridegroom’s supporters were his brothers, Prince Alexander of Bulgaria and Prince Francis Joseph of Battenberg.
The ceremony – which was not attended by her eldest sister and brother-in-law, the Crown Prince and Princess of Prussia, who were detained in Germany; William Ewart Gladstone; or Beatrice’s cousin, Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck, who was in mourning for her father-in-law – ended with the couple’s departure for their honeymoon at Quarr Abbey House, a few miles from Osborne. The Queen, taking leave of them, “bore up bravely till the departure and then fairly gave way”, as she later admitted to the Crown Princess.
The Grand Duke of Hesse with his children, 23 Jul 1885.
Princess Alix of Hesse, Ernst Ludwig, Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse, Victoria, Princess Louis of Battenberg, Princess Irene of Hesse and Ludwig IV, Grand Duke of Hesse. The group are dressed for the wedding of Prince Henry of Battenberg and Princess Beatrice. Photograph taken at Osborne.
After a short honeymoon, Beatrice and her husband fulfilled their promise and returned to the Queen’s side. The Queen made it clear that she could not cope on her own and that the couple could not travel without her. Although the Queen relaxed this restriction shortly after the marriage, Beatrice and Henry travelled only to make short visits with his family. Beatrice’s love for Henry, like that of the Queen’s for the Prince Consort, seemed to increase the longer they were married. When Henry travelled without Beatrice, she appeared happier when he returned.