The Wedding of Princess Helena & Christian of Schleswig-Holstein
Princess Helena was the third daughter of Victoria and Albert who was somewhat overshadowed by the accomplishments of her older sisters, however she shared many common interests with her father and was devastated by his death in 1861. After the marriage of her older sister, Alice, Helena assumed the role of her mother’s secretary, helping her with correspondence and providing companionship. During this time, the princess became close to Carl Ruland, her father’s former librarian, who was teaching German to the Prince of Wales. When the Queen discovered her daughter had developed feelings for the tutor, he was promptly dismissed and a husband was sought for Helena.
Queen Victoria had already dismissed the notion of a high-ranking marriage for Helena as she had already lost two daughters to Europe and wanted to keep Helena nearby. The Queen settled on Christian of Schleswig-Holstein who was fifteen years older than the princess but the choice caused controversy in the family. The Princess of Wales was horrified by the marriage as she still believed the twin duchies of Schleswig-Holstein belonged to the Danish despite the fact they had been taken by Prussia during the Austro-Prussian War. Alexandra was supported by her husband, along with Prince Alfred and Princess Alice, who accused their mother of sacrificing Helena’s happiness for her own selfish reasons. However, Queen Victoria found an unexpected ally in her eldest daughter, Vicky, who was a personal friend of Christian’s family.
Despite the division in the family, Helena found she liked Christian and she was determined to marry him much to her mother’s delight. As a younger son, Christian had no commitments to keep him in Germany so he was free to settle in Britain but Alexandra’s continued hostility upset Victoria and she wasted no time in berating her daughter-in-law. Bertie maintained they would not be attending the wedding but he relented after the intervention of Alice.
The wedding took place in the private chapel at Windsor Castle on 5 July 1866 and it had to be modified to accommodate the number of expected guests. The central pews were removed so chairs could be placed on either side, as well as a temporary gallery for guests, while a Wilton carpet was placed down the central aisle. The guests congregated in the different Drawing Rooms until it was time to be seated in the chapel.
Helena was escorted up the aisle by her mother, who had relaxed her mourning enough to wear a diamond coronet, and her eldest brother, The Prince of Wales. Christian was supported by Edward of Saxe-Weimar and Frederic of Schleswig-Holstein.
The service was performed by Charles Longley, the Archbishop of Canterbury, assisted by the Bishops of Oxford, Winchester and Worcester, and the Very Rev Dean of Windsor. After the ceremony, a private luncheon was served in the Oak Room for the royal family while the other guests attended a buffet in the Waterloo Gallery. Later that afternoon, Helena and Christian departed for Osborne House where they stayed for ten days before departing on a tour of Paris and Switzerland.
Helena wore a white satin dress with deep flounces of Honiton guipure lace trimmed with bouquets of orange blossom and myrtle. The lace was a floral design depicting roses, ivy and myrtle. The train featured the same design and had bouquets of orange blossom and myrtle attached. The matching square veil was held in place by a wreath of orange blossom and myrtle.
The princess wore a necklace, earrings and brooch of opal and diamonds which were gifts from the Queen. She also wore bracelets with miniatures and the Royal Order of Victoria and Albert.
The bridesmaids wore white glacé dresses covered in tulle and trimmed with forget-me-nots, pink roses and white heather, with matching wreaths and veils.
- Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott, daughter of Walter Montagu Douglas Scott, 5th Duke of Buccleuch
- Lady Laura Phipps, daughter of George Phipps, 2nd Marquess of Normanby
- Lady Mary Fitzwilliam, daughter of William Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, 6th Earl Fitzwilliam
- Lady Muriel Campbell. daughter of John Campbell, 2nd Earl Cawdor
- Lady Caroline Gordon Lennox, daughter of Charles Gordon-Lennox, 5th Duke of Richmond
- Lady Alberta Hamilton, daughter of James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Abercorn
- Lady Victoria Alexandrina Murray, sister of Charles Murray, 7th Earl of Dunmore
- Lady Ernestine Edgcumbe, sister of William Edgcumbe, 4th Earl of Mount Edgcumbe
Happily Ever After?
Helena and Christian were devoted to each other and content to live a quieter life away from court. The couple took up residence at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park after Christian was given the honorary position of the Ranger of Windsor Great Park. They had six children, however the youngest two died in infancy, and only one grandchild was born who died childless.