Princess Helena was the third daughter of Victoria and Albert who was somewhat overshadowed by the accomplishments of her 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 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 Chapel Royal, Windsor Castle, on 5 July 1866 and the princess was escorted up the aisle by her mother and her eldest brother, the Prince of Wales. Like her sisters before her, Helena wore a white satin dress with deep flounces of floral Honiton guipure lace trimmed with bouquets of orange blossom and myrtle.
The matching veil was held in place by a wreath of orange blossom and myrtle. The train was borne by eight bridesmaids: Lady Margaret Scott; Lady Laura Phipps; Lady Mary Fitzwilliam; Lady Muriel Campbell; Lady Caroline Gordon Lennox; Lady Alberta Hamilton; Lady Alexandrina Murray; and, Lady Ernestine Edgecombe. The bridesmaids wore white tulle skirts over white slips, trimmed with forget-me-knots, roses and heather, with matching wreaths and veils.
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. The newlyweds took up residence at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park after Christian was given the honorary position of the Ranger of Windsor Great Park.