THE LAST PRINCESS
Beatrice was the last child born to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Her father died when she was four and Victoria came to depend on her youngest daughter absolutely, and also demanded from her complete submission. When Victoria died her daughter became literary executor, a role she conducted with Teutonic thoroughness.
Princess Beatrice, the youngest of Albert and Victoria’s nine children, was a favourite from the day she was born and she was given far more attention than her eldest siblings ever had. However, Beatrice was only four years old when her father died and her mother descended into a state of deep grief she couldn’t bear anyone around her. Beatrice, known as Baby, would become the focus of the widowed Queen’s attention and she was supposed to be the daughter who never married. As the rest of her siblings married, the topic of marriage was forbidden around Beatrice who was destined to be her mother’s longterm companion.
However, Beatrice had other ideas and when she became engaged to Henry of Battenberg, her mother refused to speak to her for six months. Yet, compromises had to be made before Victoria would give her blessing which meant Beatrice had to agree to live in England close to the Queen. Beatrice and Henry would eventually have four children but the demands of motherhood would have to be carefully balanced with the needs of her mother who expected her daughter to remain her secretary. Beatrice’s marriage actually brought the court to life as the Queen was more agreeable to entertainments being held, especially if they were proposed by her new son-in-law. However, Beatrice was destined to join her mother in widowhood when Henry died of malaria in 1896.
Beatrice continued to devote herself to her mother and after the Queen’s death in 1901, she carried out her mother’s last wishes and spent the next thirty years editing the Queen’s extensive diaries. Beatrice was so diligent in her work, historians have long lamented the brutal editing and the lost content. Yet, who exactly was Beatrice?
Matthew Dennison’s book makes a decent attempt at answering this question, however much of it is supposition on his part as Beatrice was an intensely private individual who left nothing behind to reveal her true thoughts about her life. Much of the book focuses on Beatrice’s relationship with her mother and her role as her confidante so there’s not much about her husband and children. Beatrice seems detached from everything except the Queen, yet she was involved in charity work and became patron of The Ypres League, a society founded for veterans of the Ypres Salient. Beatrice’s son, Maurice, died there but we are told precious little about their relationship even though he was said to be her favourite.
While the book was engaging, the overall focus was just too narrow and it didn’t do Beatrice justice.