Charles Edward of Albany, Duke of Albany, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Georg Victor of Waldeck and Pyrmount, Helen of Waldeck and Pyrmount, King George II of Great Britain, Leopold of the United Kingdom, Willem III of the Netherlands
Princess Helen of Waldeck and Pyrmont (later Duchess of Albany; February 17, 1861 – September 1, 1922) was a member of the British royal family by marriage. She was the fifth daughter and child of Georg Victor, Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont, and his first wife, Princess Helena of Nassau.
Princess Helena of Nassau was the ninth child of Wilhelm, Duke of Nassau (1792–1839), by his second wife Princess Pauline of Württemberg (1810–1856), daughter of Prince Paul of Württemberg. She was the half-sister of Adolphe, Grand Duke of Luxembourg (then Hereditary Prince of Nassau). She was related to the Dutch Royal Family and also, distantly, to the British Royal Family through her father and mother, as both were descendants of King George II of Great Britain.
Helen was born in Arolsen, capital of Waldeck principality, in Germany. She was the sister of Friedrich, last reigning Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont; another sister Marie, was the first wife of Wilhelm II of Württemberg; and another sister was Emma, Queen consort of Willem III of the Netherlands (and mother of Queen Wilhelmina).
Along with Emma and a third sister, Pauline, Helen 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, at the suggestion of his mother. The two became engaged in November 1881.
On April 27, 1882, Leopold and Helen married in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. After their wedding, Leopold and Helen 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, Helen was pregnant with their second child.
The couple had two children:
Princess Alice of Albany (1883–1981), later Countess of Athlone
Prince Charles Edward, Duke of Albany (1884–1954), later reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Helen 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.
After Leopold’s death, Helen and her two children, Alice and Charles Edward, continued to reside at Claremont House.
After the death of her nephew, the Prince Arthur of Edinburgh, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1899, Helen’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. As a result, he was stripped of his British titles by an act of Parliament in 1917.
By contrast, her daughter Alice remained in England and by marriage to Prince Alexander of Teck in 1904 became a sister-in-law of Queen Mary, consort of King George V.
Helen died on September 1, 1922 of a heart attack in Hinterriss in Tyrol, Austria, while visiting her beloved son, Charles Edward. Through her son, she is the great-grandmother of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.