As the baby of Queen Victoria’s massive brood, Princess Beatrice should have had it easy. But nothing could have been further from the truth. From a childhood spent under her domineering mother’s thumb to Beatrice’s devastating rebellion, the princess’s life was certainly no fairy tale—and, when all was said and done, she got the opposite of a happy ending.
1. Her Birth Was An Instant Scandal
Beatrice came into the world in 1857 as the fifth daughter and youngest child of Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert. She caused an immediate uproar. Victoria, never fond of childrearing and especially hating childbirth, had decided to use chloroform to relieve her labor pains when delivering Beatrice, a practice that many stuffy Victorians thought went against nature and God’s laws.
Thus, before she even took her first breath, Beatrice was a scandal in the making. But her life didn’t go the way you might expect.
2. Her Parents Spoiled Her
It’s not a cliché to say that Beatrice was special—it’s just the truth. While both Victoria and Albert had been more stern than doting on their other children, they went gaga over their baby Beatrice. Victoria, who normally despised babies and thought they were ugly, called her “a pretty, plump and flourishing child.” Meanwhile, Prince Albert, who was usually only interested in his children when he could have scientific debates with them, was delighted to find the girl intelligent.
Yet as Beatrice soon found out, their love was a double-edged sword.
3. The Queen Used Her
As Beatrice grew up, all her other siblings were already adults, and she didn’t share her parents’ affections with anyone. This had a disturbing outcome. Before long, the aging Victoria and Albert relied on their youngest daughter to an alarming degree, especially as their eldest son and heir, the future King Edward VII, disappointed them by being a bad boy about London.
By the age of four, Beatrice was offering moral support as well as entertainment to the monarchs. And then they put a burden on her that no child could possibly bear.
4. She Was The Chosen One
In 1861, Beatrice’s maternal grandmother the Duchess of Kent passed, leaving Queen Victoria bereft and grieving for her mother. And while Victoria distanced herself from practically all her other children to mourn, Beatrice alone could comfort her. She pleased Victoria when she reminded her that the Duchess “is in heaven, Beatrice hopes she will return.”
All this might seem cute…until you remember that a four-year-old shouldn’t be your grief therapist. And then it got much, much worse.
5. She Lost Her Father Painfully Young
Just months after her grandmother’s passing, Beatrice went through another agonizing ordeal. On December 14, her father Prince Albert died suddenly, likely from a chronic undiagnosed illness like Crohn’s disease, at the age of just 42. Still a toddler, Beatrice must have been devastated that her beloved father was gone. Nonetheless, Queen Victoria wasn’t about to let the little girl wallow. Instead, a more harrowing path lay ahead of her.
6. She Grew Up Too Fast
If Beatrice was mourning her father, that was nothing compared to her royal mother. Queen Victoria went off the deep end with her grief, almost quite literally. She infamously dressed in black for the rest of her life, truly never got over Albert’s death, and withdrew from her royal and familial duties. So Beatrice virtually lost both parents in one fell swoop. Meanwhile, she gained one disturbing duty.
7. Her Mother Used Her Like A Rag Doll
Although Victoria froze out most of her other children during this time, Beatrice again received the dubious honor of being one of the queen’s few confidants and comforts. The consequences of this were truly creepy. One account describes how the queen would pull Beatrice out of her bed and “lay there sleepless, clasping to her child” while the queen was “wrapped in the nightclothes of a man who would wear them no more.”
Queen Victoria was giving out some real Gothic, Miss Havisham vibes, so it’s no surprise Beatrice grew up mightily messed up.
8. She Endured Intense Pain For Her Mother
Beatrice gave up an incredible amount to be her mother’s companion. Case in point? She was an enthusiastic piano player, yet when she eventually got severe rheumatism—so bad that she couldn’t continue playing—Queen Victoria showed her no mercy. Since the queen loved cold weather, she still forced the princess to go out with her in sub-zero temperatures, even though it made Beatrice’s pain flare up.
Despite this, Beatrice didn’t rebel. Quite the opposite, in fact: She got eerily close to her mother…
9. She Wanted To Be A Spinster
At first, Victoria’s dependence on her daughter, who she nicknamed “Baby,” flattered and delighted the young girl; wherever Victoria was, Beatrice was often there too. When one of her sisters got married, Beatrice even declared after the wedding, “I don’t like weddings at all. I shall never be married. I shall stay with my mother.” Unfortunately, this turned out to be a tragic premonition.
10. Her Mother Was Possessive
In the 1870s, Beatrice entered a marrying age, and as a daughter of Queen Victoria, the princess was one of the more eligible brides in Europe. Her mother’s reaction to this was chilling. Taking Beatrice’s young words to heart, Victoria genuinely didn’t want to give up the girl. She considered it practically Beatrice’s duty to become a spinster and help her out as her personal secretary forever. Yeah, that’s not quite what happened.
11. She Had A Crush On A French Prince
Before long, all the single nobles in England were knocking on Beatrice’s door, and she couldn’t help noticing one of them in particular: Napoleon Eugene, the son of Emperor Napoleon III and Queen Victoria’s close friend Empress Eugenie. With the younger Napoleon’s pedigree and connections, even Victoria started to warm to the idea of letting go of her “Baby.” Until, that is, tragedy hit again.
12. Her Suitor Met A Terrible Fate
In the summer of 1879, Beatrice received a telegram that turned her heart to ice. Napoleon Eugene had entered the Anglo-Zulu war, only to promptly die on the battlefield. When Beatrice gave her mother the telegram that announced this dark news, the pair of them burst out into tears, and the entire palace sat “stunned” at the turn of events. The thing is, it was about to get a whole lot weirder.
13. Her Mother Had A Deranged Plan
After Napoleon Eugene died, Victoria and the rest of Beatrice’s family made a deeply unsettling suggestion: Beatrice should marry her recently deceased sister’s widower, Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse. Yes, you read that right: Beatrice’s oldest sister Alice had died just a year before, and everyone wanted her to marry Alice’s grieving husband. And their reasons for this harebrained plot were even more deranged.
14. She Almost Betrayed Her Sister
According to the infinite wisdom of the British royal family, Beatrice marrying Louis was the perfect solution to a multitude of problems. After all, the late Alice had left behind a brood of young children, and the queen thought Beatrice could act as a substitute mother for them. You know, since what did Beatrice care about finding her own love or happiness? Except there was one glaring issue.
It was literally against the law for a woman to marry her sister’s widower—and although the family tried mightily to change that law, they didn’t succeed and their “brilliant” plan got foiled. Unfortunately, Beatrice had more love disasters to come.
15. She Attracted Male Attention
After this horrible plan dissipated, Queen Victoria seemed to change her mind again on her daughter’s marital fate and decided she really should stay with her forever. However, the men of Europe already had other plans: Several suitors came out of the woodwork, including Prince Louis of Battenberg. Intensely jealous of her baby, Victoria took desperate measures to stop the courtship.
16. She Snubbed A Prince
When Prince Louis started his suit of Beatrice, Queen Victoria pretended to play nice and invited him to an intimate dinner. But she threw one petty twist into the mix. Instead of letting Prince Louis and Beatrice sit beside each other and get to know one another, Victoria sat herself down right between them to prevent any tetes-a-tetes, all while previously instructing Beatrice to completely ignore Louis.
It worked, and it took Louis years to realize why Beatrice had given him the cold shoulder. Yet unbeknownst to her, Queen Victoria had just set in motion a chain of events that would tear Beatrice from her anyway.
17. Her Ex Married Someone Else
Put off by Queen Victoria’s tactics, Louis actually married Beatrice’s niece, Victoria of Hesse, shortly after his disastrous suit. Whether being friendly with his ex or just passive aggressive, Louis invited Princess Beatrice to the royal wedding, and she dutifully attended. It must have been a difficult day to witness…but just as her old suitor went off the market, Beatrice met another.
18. She Went On The Rebound
While attending Prince Louis’s wedding, his brother Prince Henry of Battenberg caught Beatrice’s eye. They spent the wedding together talking, dancing, and becoming more intimate. When Beatrice came back home, she made her mother’s jaw drop. She told—not asked—Queen Victoria that she was going to marry Prince Henry, no matter what she thought about it. Victoria’s answer was infamous.
19. Her Mother Gave Her The Silent Treatment
Everybody in the family knew the queen was going to be incensed at the thought of her Baby leaving her side, but nobody could have predicted just how upset she got. The monarch’s immediate response was cold, cruel silence—as in, she literally said nothing. And then she continued saying nothing, refusing to speak to Beatrice for seven months on end, and only writing notes to her if she needed to communicate something.
And when she did finally speak, she threw Beatrice for a loop.
20. She Had To Make A Big Sacrifice
After more than half a year, Victoria deigned to talk face-to-face with her rebellious daughter. She gave her a horrible ultimatum. Victoria declared she would permit Beatrice to marry Prince Henry…but only on the condition that the couple do the very unconventional thing and move in with her after the wedding. That way, she could always have Beatrice under her thumb.
With few other options, Beatrice agreed. It would eventually end in tears.
21. She Had A Fairytale Wedding
In the summer of 1885, Beatrice finally got what she wanted and married Prince Henry of Battenberg in what was, admittedly, a true fairytale wedding. The princess was so fond of lace, her mother even let her wear her own wedding veil, made from Honiton lace, an honor she didn’t give to any of Beatrice’s sisters. But behind the scenes of the day, there was yet more drama.
22. Her Big Day Was Full Of Tears
Many a girl dreams of walking down the aisle to the love of her life, but Beatrice’s big day came with a big meltdown. According to Queen Victoria herself, she spent the entire ceremony holding back sobs about losing her little girl, only to “fairly give way” the moment Beatrice disappeared through the church doors. If you have any empathy for Victoria, though…you might want to read this next part.
23. She Didn’t Get A Real Honeymoon
Despite the fact that the royal couple probably had more money and assets than they knew what to do with, their honeymoon was a humble, even pitiful affair. Why? Because yet again, Queen Victoria couldn’t resist meddling in their affairs. The newlyweds vacationed at Quarr Abbey House, which was just a few miles from Victoria’s private residence at Osborne. And then the trouble really began.
24. She Lost Her Innocence
Victoria likely spent her daughter’s entire honeymoon breaking out into hives. You see, while Beatrice was young and naïve, the matriarch knew everything that was about to go on in the marriage bed, and she abhorred her daughter’s further loss of “innocence.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, Victoria also insisted they stay away only for a short amount of time.
When the brief respite ended, it was time for Beatrice to pay the piper.
25. She Was Housebound
After rushing through a truncated and uber-local honeymoon, Beatrice and Henry dutifully went back to Victoria’s side as she demanded. The nightmare ramped up immediately. Now that she had Beatrice in her clutches again, Queen Victoria insisted that the couple not travel far away—ever—because she reportedly needed their help too much. It didn’t take long for this to turn into feuding.
26. Her Husband Got Restless
Don’t get me wrong, Prince Henry loved Beatrice dearly—he must have, given what he had to deal with—but he did have other ambitions in life, namely a desire for a glorious military career. Shacking up with Queen Victoria only made him itchier to get out and see the world, and he was soon begging Beatrice to sweet-talk her mother into giving him a plum officer’s position.
Unfortunately, Victoria despised the idea of her son-in-law going out and putting himself in mortal danger for fun, and she banned the thought entirely. So Henry had to start looking for amusement in much more scandalous places…
27. Her Love Strayed
Prince Henry was something of a strapping strongman, and women couldn’t fail to notice his good looks. And, well, the prince noticed them right back. When Henry attended the raucous Ajaccio carnival one year, word got back to Beatrice that he was keeping “low company”—draw conclusions where you will from that one. This led Beatrice to do something supremely cringey.
28. She Spied On Her Husband
Princess Beatrice was many things, but chill cool-girl wife was not one of them. After hearing about her husband’s escapades, she dispatched one of her own Royal Navy officers to tail Henry and keep an eye on him, making sure he didn’t get into any more unsavory situations. Unfortunately for poor Beatrice, this totally ended up backfiring on her.
29. She Was A Clinger
In truth, Beatrice maybe inherited just a tad of her mother’s clinginess. She was utterly devoted to Henry and, for the first years especially, visibly much happier whenever he was around. Henry, however, didn’t always feel the same way. He chafed under his immense filial and marital duties, and his wife’s meddling in his affairs only exacerbated his restlessness.
He started to take even more opportunities to slip away from the palace. Until one year, he went all out in the worst way.
30. Her Husband Ran Away
At one point, Prince Henry—totally fed up with his mother-in-law—actually managed to run away to Corsica on a boy’s trip with his brother Louis. But he faced incredibly harsh consequences. In a truly gob-smacking flex, a furious Queen Victoria sent out a freaking warship to find and bring back Beatrice’s errant husband. Good use of the kingdom’s taxpayer dollars? No. Effective? Very much so.
And Beatrice and Henry soon had much bigger problems to face.
31. She Went Through A Mother’s Worst Nightmare
At the beginning of 1886, Beatrice could no longer hide the truth from her mother: She had indeed been “deflowered” by her husband, and she was now heavily pregnant. Indeed, Beatrice had actually miscarried in the very early months of her marriage, and she was determined not to lose this child, too. She dialed down her activities and social engagements a drastic amount, but this had some unintended—and very unpleasant—consequences.
32. Her Mother Judged Her
While most people around the palace treated Beatrice with kid gloves, her mother did the exact opposite. Queen Victoria got downright stroppy about her daughter staying in her room instead of doing activities with her. Victoria called it “moping” and boasted that when she was pregnant “I regularly came to dinner, except when I was really unwell (even when suffering a great deal) up to the very last day.”
But motherly meddling or not, a baby was coming.
33. She Had A Royal Brood
That November, Beatrice gave birth to Alexander, nicknamed “Drino,” the newest male heir to the British line. And once she got started, she didn’t stop, having three more children—Victoria, Leopold, and Maurice—every other year until 1891. At long last, Beatrice and Henry’s patriotic duties were done. Yet as it happened, the royal couple didn’t settle into contentment. Far from it.
34. Her Husband Wanted To Abandon Her
In 1895, an old ghost came back to haunt Beatrice. With his family life solidified, her husband Prince Henry only grew more restless to join some old boy military endeavor, and renewed his efforts convincing Queen Victoria to let him serve, with a particular eye on the Anglo-Asante War in modern-day Ghana. This time, it worked, and Victoria finally caved. It would be his doom.
35. She Had A Long Goodbye
In December of that year, Beatrice waved goodbye to her beloved Henry as he went off to fight for queen and country. It really couldn’t have gone worse. Within weeks, Henry contracted a bad case of malaria, and his superiors sent their precious cargo home to recover. Tragically, Henry would never make it. A much darker fate was in store for him.
36. Her Husband Died A Horrible Death
After receiving news that her husband was on sick leave from fighting, Princess Beatrice—likely heaving a huge sigh of relief—made her way over to Madeira to await his boat from Africa. She was in for a very rude awakening. A telegram arrived instead of her husband, informing her that Henry had died just two days earlier. The aftermath was hideous.
37. She Was Pitiful
After learning through yet another gloomy telegram that she would never see Prince Henry again, Beatrice was more than heartbroken. Matching her own mother in grief, she left court entirely for a month so she could mourn alone, and when Queen Victoria did see her, the monarch noted, “She is so piteous in her misery.” Beatrice’s grief also began to affect her life in dark ways.
38. She Neglected Her Family
Although Queen Victoria tried to cheer her daughter up, even giving her an entire dark room to practice her new interest in photography, Beatrice was distracted and exhausted for much of the time. When she wasn’t deep in mourning, she was still trying her best to care for Victoria, and this left her utterly neglectful of her own children. They began acting out in school, with her daughter becoming “troublesome and rebellious” and her eldest son Alexander telling “unwarrantable truths.”
And then came probably the most difficult blow of Beatrice’s life.
39. She Lost Her Purpose In Life
On January 22, 1901, Beatrice’s life changed forever. That day, her mother Queen Victoria died, taking the Victorian Age with her and leaving Beatrice truly alone for perhaps the first time ever. But there was a cruel twist. In a supreme irony, Victoria passed on the 5th anniversary of the day Beatrice had learned of her husband’s own death. It was a double blow, and Beatrice didn’t adjust well.
40. She Had A Sibling Rivalry
Upon Victoria’s death, Beatrice’s brother became King Edward VII. You’d think she would be in just as cushy a position as before…but you’d be wrong. Beatrice and Edward had never been particularly close, and the large gap in their ages made it difficult for them to bond. When Edward created his royal inner circle, Beatrice was very much not invited, and she went way down the ladder at court. But that wasn’t all.
41. She Made A Huge Mistake
Old news at court or not, Beatrice was still the sister of the new King of England, and Edward expected her to attend official events, foremost among them his coronation. She almost ruined it with one act. During the solemn service, she accidentally dropped her prayer book onto the table, creating a loud thunk and infuriating her royal brother. Still, nothing could excuse what Edward was about to do to poor Beatrice.
42. Her Brother Betrayed Her
Throughout Beatrice’s relationship with Queen Victoria, she had acted as the monarch’s devoted secretary and the de facto family historian—so she was aghast when Edward decided to sell the queen’s favorite Osborne house, where Beatrice and her husband had spent many days of their marriage. Furious, she begged and pleaded with Edward to keep it and only partially succeeded, with the king extending the grounds for her own Osborne Cottage.
Only, Beatrice had her own controversy ahead.
43. She Knew Queen Victoria’s Deepest Thoughts
After Victoria’s passing, Beatrice had started the daunting task of transcribing and editing the queen’s lengthy and detailed diaries for posterity and publication. There were literally hundreds of volumes, and Victoria was unflinchingly candid in the pages about her views on both her family and her country. Which left Beatrice to make a scandalous decision.
44. She Censored Her Mother
Knowing that her mother valued her privacy, Beatrice elected to cut out enormous swaths of her Victoria’s memories, decimating the journals to just 111 volumes in a job that took a whopping 30 years to complete. Beatrice’s nephew, the future King George V, despised what his aunt was doing to his grandmother’s legacy, but no one could waylay her. Then again, the diary did contain one huge secret…
45. She Knew A Big Secret
Although the queen never got over the death of Beatrice’s father Albert, Victoria did find some comfort and consolation in her Scottish personal attendant John Brown. What kind of consolation? Well, we may never know for sure—and Beatrice is at the center of the mystery. Although Victoria insisted on being buried with a lock of his hair and many of her children loathed Brown for his influence, we don’t have concrete proof of an affair.
That’s because it’s likely Beatrice censored any, er, illuminating diary passages about Victoria’s relationship with Brown.
46. Her Daughter Aggravated Her
Sadly, Beatrice’s later years provided very little in the way of happiness. Her daughter Victoria Eugenie married very high up the aristocratic ladder when she tied the knot with Alfonso XIII of Spain…but the marriage ended up as a disaster. Accordingly, Beatrice often had to console her daughter on her many trips back to England. Even so, one of her deepest tragedies came last.
47. Her Son Repeated History
In 1914, Beatrice saw the outbreak of WWI. With it, she made an enormous sacrifice. Her favorite son Maurice went off to serve just as his father Prince Henry had in the Anglo-Asante conflict. And, just like she also had decades before, Beatrice stayed home and prayed for her young son’s safety in the European theatre. Once again, history repeated itself to horrible effect.
48. She Lost Her Favorite Child
WWI only began in late July of 1914, but Prince Maurice was killed in action before the year was even up, perishing from a shell explosion while leading his men across a ridge. He was barely 23 years old. Beatrice was completely shattered by the news, and all but withdrew from public court life after losing her youngest son. And the hits kept coming.
49. She Carried “The Royal Disease”
We now know that Queen Victoria and her brood spawned the infamous “Royal Disease,” the dangerous and often fatal blood-clotting disorder hemophilia, that spread all across Europe. Queen Victoria was a carrier, and so too was Beatrice—though she came to this realization the hard way. In 1922, her son Leopold, a hemophiliac whose blood couldn’t clot properly, died at the age of 32 after knee surgery.
50. She Was The End Of An Era
In the end, Beatrice endured long past so many of the people she loved; she even outlived her nephew King George V, and publicly laid wreaths in memory of him. She only passed on October 26, 1944, at the ripe old age of 87. In yet another mystical coincidence throughout her life, this was just one day before the 30th anniversary of her son Maurice’s passing.