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The stories of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters: Princess Beatrice of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

Princess Beatrice was born Beatrice Leopoldine Victoria on 20 April 1884 at Eastwell Park in Kent. She was the youngest child of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia. Her father was the second son of Queen Victoria and her mother the only daughter of Tsar Alexander II and Princess Marie of Hesse and by Rhine.

Beatrice of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha by Atelier Elvira

Beatrice was given the title of Princess of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland with the style Her Royal Highness as the granddaughter of the British monarch in the male line.

She was baptised at Eastwell House on 17 May 1884. Among her godparents was her aunt Princess Beatrice, the fifth daughter and youngest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Much of her life was spent in Malta during her father’s service in the Royal Navy. She was a bridesmaid at The Duke and Duchess of York’s (the future King George V and Queen Mary) wedding at the Chapel Royal in St James’s Palace on 6 July 1893.

When Prince Alfred’s uncle the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha died on 22 August 1893, the duchy fell to the Duke of Edinburgh. It was to go to the Prince of Wales, the Duke’s elder brother and future King Edward VII, but he had relinquished his right to the succession.

Beatrice and her four siblings along with their parents travelled to Coburg to take up residence soon after. The family would reside in
Schloss Ehrenburg in Coburg. During their time in Coburg, Beatrice’s sisters all married and her brother died of an attempted suicide after a scandal that involved him and his mistress.

Following her father’s death in 1900 from throat cancer, Beatrice resided with her mother as the split their time in two residences. In Coburg, they lived at the Palais Edinburg, that her father purchased in the 1880s and Schloss Rosenau, the birthplace and boyhood home of her grandfather Prince Albert.

She became involved in a relationship with her first cousin, Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia in 1902. The relationship was doomed from the start. The Russian Orthodox Church banned marriages between first cousins and Tsar Nicholas II declined to concede to an exception. The following year, Michael ended the relationship.

The 1906 wedding of Beatrice’s cousin, Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, to King Alfonso XIII of Spain in Madrid would set the stage for romance for Beatrice herself. It was at the wedding she met her future husband Infante Alfonso, son of Infante Antonio, Duke of Galliera, and Infanta Eulalia of Spain.

The couple would marry three years later on 15 July 1909 in Coburg. Three ceremonies took place. A civil ceremony held at Schloss Rosenau, a Catholic Ceremony at St. Augustine’s Church and a Lutheran ceremony at Schloss Callenberg. Contrary to her cousin, Victoria Eugenie, Beatrice decided not to convert to Catholicism before her marriage, although she did later convert four years later in 1913.

With the difference in religion came objection from the Spanish government. The King personally supported the marriage but the government forbid him to give his formal consent. Consequently, the couple were exiled from Spain. Alfonso’s honours and titles including Infante of Spain was revoked. The couple would settle in Coburg until 1912 when they were allowed back in Spain and Alfonso was restored his titles and honours.

In 1916, Beatrice and her husband travelled to Switzerland. The trip was under the assumption they were on an official mission. Rumours at the time were either they left as Beatrice denied King Alfonso XIII romantic advances or the influence that Beatrice had on Queen Victoria Eugenie. Either way, they spent some time in Switzerland before moving to England. It was there that their three sons attended Winchester College for their formal education. It would take eight years until they would be once again allowed back in Spain.

As the Spanish Monarchy was overthrown and the country was deep in the Civil War, Beatrice endured a tragedy every parent dreads, losing a child. Her son Alonso was killed in action during the war. Not only did they lose a son, but the family also lost their property. Once again they were exiled and it was back to England. They would be able to return once again to Spain in 1937. They settled at El Botánico, in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, where they would remain for the rest of their lives.

Beatrice died on 13 July 1966 at El Botánico. She is buried along with her husband at the Convent of Capuchin Fathers in Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

Photo credit: By Atelier Elvira [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons