The Queen’s European Royal Cousins – Part 2

20 November 2013 - 09:30am
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Last time, we looked at how the Queen is related to the current and former royal families of Germany, Greece, Denmark, Norway, Russia and Yugoslavia. This time, find out how through Queen Victoria’s five youngest children, the British royal family is linked with Sweden, the Netherlands and Spain.

The Earl and Countess of Wessex frequently attend foreign royal weddings on behalf of The Queen.

The Earl and Countess of Wessex frequently attend foreign royal weddings on behalf of The Queen.

Princess Helena (Lenchen) 1846-1923

Rather unfairly considered the plain daughter of the family, Helena married Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein in 1866 and was from then on known officially as Princess Christian. The couple had six children and remained in Britain, as Victoria liked to have her daughters nearby. Helena was an extremely active member of the royal family, in a time when royals did far less charitable work than they do now, and she was one of the founding members of the Red Cross. Her nickname Lenchen was a common pet name for someone named Helene (the German version of Helena). Although Christian was 15 years Helena’s senior, their marriage was very happy and in 1916 they celebrated their golden wedding anniversary.

Princess Louise 1848-1939

Princess Louise's sculpture of Queen Victoria

Princess Louise’s sculpture of Queen Victoria

Louise was the only one of Victoria’s children not to marry into foreign royalty, and also not to have any children. In 1871 she married the British Marquess of Lorne, who later became the Duke of Argyll. He was a Liberal MP and Victoria was very pleased that Louise would live in England. Louise was considered to be the most beautiful of Victoria’s daughters and was a talented sculptor. Her best known work is probably the sculpture of a young Queen Victoria in her coronation robes which stands in front of Kensington Palace.

Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught 1850-1942

Arthur was another of his siblings to marry into German royalty with his marriage to Princess Louise of Prussia (Louischen). Victoria was at first not impressed, as Louise’s parents were divorced, but the Queen did not refuse to sanction the match and the wedding took place in 1879. The couple’s eldest daughter Margaret married Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden in 1905. Although she died before he became King Gustaf VI Adolf in 1930 (he later married Lady Louise Mountbatten, sister of Louis Mountbatten and aunt of Prince Philip), her grandson (she had five children) is Sweden’s current King Carl XVI Gustaf. His daughter is the Crown Princess Victoria, who is heiress apparent as in Sweden, boys and girls have equal rights of succession. Victoria’s daughter Princess Estelle was born in 2012.

Arthur’s second daughter Patricia married distinguished Naval Admiral Sir Alexander Ramsey and his son, also Arthur, married Princess Alexandra, Duchess of Fife. Alexandra was the granddaughter of Edward VII.


Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel on their wedding day

Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany 1853-1884


Sadly, Leopold was a sufferer of haemophilia, the disorder which impairs the body’s ability to control blood clotting. Victoria was a carrier of the disorder (females are carriers and males are sufferers) and she passed the condition onto her son. Unexpectedly, Leopold did reach adulthood and married Princess Helena of Waldeck-Pyrmont in 1882. Victoria was impressed by Helena’s devotion to her son, especially as she had been warned about Leopold’s haemophilia and the couple had a daughter, Alice, in 1883. Very sadly, in 1884, while Helena was pregnant with their second child, Leopold fell badly during a trip to Cannes and died the next day. Prince Charles Edward was born after his death. While Alice married the Earl of Athlone and became the last surviving grandchild of Queen Victoria, Charles Edward became the fourth and last reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, inheriting the title from his uncle Alfred as the next in line, his uncle Arthur, had renounced his and his son’s rights to the succession. Charles Edward was a controversial figure in Britain because the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was part of the German Empire in World War I and because he later joined the Nazi Party and held a number of official Nazi positions in the 1930s and 1940s. His daughter Sibylla married Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden and their son became Carl XVI Gustaf, Sweden’s current King.

Helena’s sister, Emma, married King William III of the Netherlands, and their daughter reigned as Queen Wilhelmina. Her daughter was Queen Juliana and Juliana’s daughter was Queen Beatrix. The Netherlands saw three Queens Regnant in succession covering the period from 1890 to 2013 when Beatrix abdicated (as is the custom in the Netherlands) allowing her son to succeed her as King Willem-Alexander. He is married to Maxima, and the Netherlands will see another Queen Regnant when Willem-Alexander’s daughter Catharina-Amalia accedes.

The Dutch Royal Family

The Dutch Royal Family

Princess Beatrice 1857-1944

Victoria expected her youngest daughter to remain with her, unmarried, as her unpaid secretary and companion. Beatrice, however, had other ideas. In 1884, she met and fell in love with Prince Henry (known as Liko) of Battenberg.Victoria eventually agreed to their marriage in 1885, but only after not speaking to her daughter for six months and then insisting that the couple should live with her after their marriage. Beatrice had four children and her only daughter, Victoria Eugenie (Ena) married King Alfonso XIII of Spain in 1906. After the wedding ceremony in Spain, an assassination attempt was made on the royals as they drove in the procession back to the Royal Palace. A bomb was thrown at the royal carriage and the King and Queen’s lives were only saved as they were facing the other way to the side at which the bomb exploded. Athough Ena was uninjured, her dress was spotted with blood from a nearby guard who was killed. Her British “stiff upper lip” response to the assassination attempt was not understood by the more emotionally free Spanish, who thought her uncaring.

The Prince and Princess of Asturias, Spain

The Prince and Princess of Asturias, Spain

She was initially unpopular in her adopted country, especially when it was discovered that she was a carrier of haemophilia and had passed the condition onto her eldest and youngest sons. Ena’s grandson Juan Carlos I is the current King of Spain. His Queen, Sofia, was a Princess of Greece and Denmark and her brother is King Constantine II of Greece. Their son Filipe, Prince of Asturias, is married to the popular Letizia, a former journalist and news anchor. Incidentally, Ena was also godmother to Albert II, Prince of Monaco, the son of Rainier III and the actress Grace Kelly.

So there we have it, a run down of the Queen’s relationships with European royalty. There are other links, but we have focussed on the main ones. So now, when we see that the Wessexes are representing the Queen at the next European Royal Wedding, we’ll understand how they are all related – that’s if we’re not too confused by all the cousins!

photo credits: myalexis, Nordiska, Nordiska museet via photopin

Spotted an Error?

  • Jeannie

    Very interesting article. Just one little correction, if I may. The german version of Helena ist Helene and not Helenchen. Lenchen is a pet name for someone named Helene (or Magdalena).

    • Ellen Couzens

      Thank you, that’s very interesting!

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