Princess Beatrice of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1884-1966)

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– Beatrice

Naval Daughter

Beatrice Leopoldine Victoria was born at Eastwell Park, Kent, on 20 April 1884 and was the fourth and youngest daughter of Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia.

Beatrice, known as Baby Bee to distinguish her from her paternal aunt whom she was named after, was baptised at her home on 17 May 1884 and her godparents were Princess Beatrice (her paternal aunt); Helena, Duchess of Albany (her paternal uncle’s wife) and William I, German Emperor.

Since her father was in the Royal Navy, Beatrice spent most of her early years in Malta, however the family moved to Coburg in 1887 while Alfred was posted to Devonport. The duchess held court at the Palais Edinburgh and took charge of the children’s education while their father was absent. When Alfred inherited the dukedom of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1893, the family moved into the Schloss Ehrenburg where the duchess set about refurbishing the other residences they had inherited.

In 1902, Beatrice fell in love with Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia, the younger brother of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, but he and Beatrice were first cousins and the Russian Orthodox faith prohibited first cousins from marrying. The following year, Michael wrote to Beatrice informing her the Tsar would not bend the rules and they would not be allowed to marry. A heartbroken Beatrice was sent to Egypt to recover but she continued to write to Michael until 1905.

In 1906, Beatrice attended the wedding of her cousin Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg to Alfonso XIII of Spain and met Alfonso de Orleans y Borbón, the king’s cousin. The Spanish government objected to a proposed marriage since Beatrice had not agreed to convert, however the couple were married in a Roman Catholic and Lutheran ceremony at Coburg on 15 July 1909. Since Beatrice had not converted, the couple were forced to live in exile in Coburg until 1912 when they were allowed to return to Spain and Alfonso’s rank as Infante was restored.

Beatrice finally converted to Catholicism in August 1913. Unfortunately, Alfonso XIII’s marriage was an unhappy one and when he made advances towards Beatrice, she refused him and the King expelled the couple from Spain on the pretence he was sending them on a mission to Switzerland. The King then began to spread malicious rumours about Beatrice and his wife, Ena, who had disappointed him by bearing two haemophiliac sons, and told everyone Beatrice had been sent away due to her bad behaviour. Afterwards, Beatrice and her family moved to England where her three sons were educated at Winchester College.

Once relations with the Spanish Royal Family had improved, Beatrice and Alfonso were allowed to return to Spain where they settled in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. However, when the Civil War erupted, the royal family was forced into exile and lost much of its wealth. Beatrice and Alfonso lost their estate and their middle son, Alonso, was killed fighting for the Republicans.

Beatrice died at El Botánico in Sanlúcar de Barrameda on 13 July 1966, and was the last surviving child of Prince Alfred and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna.

The Children

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