Saturday, February 13, 2010

Princess Helena



Princess Helena, born on May 25, 1846, lived a quieter life than some of her sisters. Queen Victoria remarked that Helena was lucky to live in England, away from wars and strife.

Little Helena was the 'tomboy' of the family. She liked riding, walking and swimming. She also enjoyed taking things apart. When she was on boats she wanted to know how everything worked. She was close to her brother, Alfred, and his early death at a relatively young age devastated her.

Helena suffered being Queen Victoria's 'crutch' in the Queen's old age. After Princess Alice married, Helena carried out secretarial and other duties for the Queen. Queen Victoria loved having one of her daughters nearby and wanted Helena to remain in England.

Queen Victoria also wanted the Princess to get married so she became determined to find Helena an amenable husband. Helena was the plainest of Queen Victoria's daughters so this wasn't an easy task. Queen Victoria was impressed with Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, who she thought was a 'gentleman' and quiet. He was a good friend of Fritz and Vicky. Princess Alexandra was strongly against the match for political reasons, but Queen Victoria regarded Princess Helena's marriage as more important than political considerations.

Prince Christian was fifteen years older than Princess Helena, 34, and penniless. He was easy-going and agreeable, however, and the marriage appeared to be happy. They were married long enough to celebrate a golden wedding anniversary.

Like Princess Alice, Princess Christian devoted herself to charities. She was one of the founding members of the Red Cross and the President of the Royal British Nurses' Association. She also founded the Royal School of Needlework. She hosted free dinners for children and the unemployed - this was a progressive cause in those days. She also founded a nursing home.

Princess Christian was also quite cultured. She played the piano and her friends included Jenny Lind and Clara Butt.

She had a dominating personality and could sometimes be embarassing. The Archbishop of Canterbury wanted the congregation to pray during a national dock strike for God to interceed. Princess Christian said in a penetrating whisper, "That prayer won't settle any strike!"

The couple had six children. Two of Helena's sons died - Prince Christian Victor died of enteric fever while serving in the Boer war and another son who was still-born.

Princess Christian died in London in 1923. Like Princess Alice, she was greatly loved because of her charitable work.

The images are from Wikimedia Commons. They are of Princess Helena and Princess Helena and Prince Christian shortly after their engagement.

3 comments:

Kittie Howard said...

Thank you, Viola. I'd never really paid any attention to Princess Helena and was pleasantly surprised...and pleased...and loved her comment about the strike.

Viola said...

I'm glad that you like it, Kittie. Her comment about the strike was very funny but true!

I won't be writing about Princess Louise, who is my favourite, for a while.

Cheryl Anderson Brown said...

Thanks for the information on Princess Helena. I've always been interested in her--mostly because I think she had the prettiest name of Victoria's daughters--but I've never spent any time getting to know her. I am about to read a group bio of the daughters, however, so hopefully it will have some good info on her.

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