Princess Hélène of Orléans
|Duchess of Aosta|
|Spouse||Emanuele Filiberto, 2nd Duke of Aosta
Colonel Otto Campini
|Issue||Prince Amedeo, Duke of Aosta
Prince Aimone, Duke of Aosta
|French: Hélène Louise Henriette d'Orléans|
|House||House of Orléans
House of Savoy
|Father||Prince Philippe, Count of Paris|
|Mother||Princess Marie Isabelle of Orléans|
13 June 1871|
York House, Twickenham
|Died||21 January 1951
Castellammare di Stabia, Italy
|Burial||Basilica dell'Incoronata Madre del Buon Consiglio, Naples, Italy|
Princess Hélène of Orléans (French: Princesse Hélène Louise Henriette d'Orléans; 13 June 1871, York House, Twickenham – 21 January 1951, Castellammare di Stabia, Italy) was a member of the deposed Orléans royal family and, by marriage to the head of a cadet branch of the Italian royal family, Duchess of Aosta. Although her hand in marriage was sought for the heirs to the thrones of the United Kingdom and the Russian Empire, religious differences prevented either alliance.
She was the third of eight children born to Prince Philippe, Count of Paris, and Infanta Maria Isabel of Spain. Her father was a grandson of Louis Philippe I, King of the French, and had been heir-apparent to the throne from 1842 until the exile of the dynasty in 1848. Like her two elder siblings, she was born in exile at York House in Twickenham, England shortly before the law of banishment against the dynasty was repealed. Repatriating to France at the end of June 1871, the family took up residence in Paris at the Hotel Fould on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, as guests of their uncle, Henri, Duke of Aumale, whose wealth and properties in France had not been confiscated in 1852 as had those of the other Orléans princes. On 21 December 1872 the National Assembly enacted a law of restitution, authorising restoration of approximately 40 million of the eighty million francs worth of property which had formerly belonged to the House of Orléans, although the actual re-acquisition of that wealth would take several years.
Meanwhile, a close friend of the Count and Countess of Paris, Maria Brignole-Sale dei marchesi di Groppoli, Duchess di Galliera, placed at their disposal the ground floor and gardens of the Hôtel Matignon on the rue de Varenne in Paris. Along the adjacent rue de Babylone the duchess had a two-story town house built to accommodate the Orléans children, their governesses and tutors, which served as Hélène's home from 1876 until her father was again exiled.
In 1883 the last legitimate prince in the male-line of Louis XV, Henri, Count of Chambord, died childless, leaving the Count of Paris as heir to the Bourbon crown of France in the eyes of French royalists, excepting recalcitrant legitimists. But in the spring of 1886 the celebrations in Paris prior to the marriage in Lisbon of Hélène's eldest sister, Amélie, to Carlos of Braganza-Coburg, Crown Prince of Portugal, evoked such visible expressions of monarchist support for the House of Orléans that on 22 July the French Republic banished the heads of France's former ruling dynasties, the Orléans and Bonapartes. Nearly all of the Orléans promptly left the country, Hélène and her parents first stopping at Tunbridge Wells, England and visiting Scotland before taking up residence in October at Sheen House in East Sheen, England. In 1890 they moved to Stowe House in Buckingham, England.
Hélène's parents had hopes that she would marry an heir to a throne. Most of her siblings married well, including Amélie, Queen of Portugal, Philippe, Duke of Orléans (who married Archduchess Maria Dorothea of Austria) and Isabelle, Duchess of Guise.
Her suitors were no doubt encouraged by the fact that Hélène was considered a great beauty for her day. One contemporary source stated that she was "the personification of womanly health and beauty, distinguished as a graceful athlete and charming linguist".
Relationship with the Duke of Clarence
Encouraged by their mothers, Hélène and Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale ("Eddy", eldest son of the future Edward VII and grandson of then reigning Queen Victoria), fell in love. During the spring and summer of 1890, the couple were allowed to become acquainted at the homes of Clarence's sister Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife in Sheen and Scotland. On 29 August, Clarence obtained permission to meet alone with his grandmother at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, but brought Hélène with him. When the Queen objected to Hélène's offer to convert to Anglicanism (as marriage to a Roman Catholic would have entailed constitutional forfeiture of his claim to the British throne pursuant to the Act of Settlement), she wept, insisting that her willingness to do so was for love. Moved by the couple's desperate plea for her aid, Victoria agreed to help but noted that she thought the obstacles rendered success unlikely, including her expectation that Hélène's father would not consent to his daughter's change of faith. She wrote to her grandson suggesting another of her grandchildren, Princess Margaret of Prussia, as an alternative, but nothing came of her suggestion, and Clarence told his grandmother that his love for another cousin, Alix of Hesse (a match for which the Queen had long hoped) had gone unrequited. Clarence offered to renounce his succession rights if necessary, writing to his brother "You have no idea how I love this sweet girl now, and I feel I could never be happy without her". His mother advocated for the match, and his father approved it.
However Queen Victoria's fears of opposition from multiple sources proved accurate. Her prime minister, Lord Salisbury expressed objections to the alliance to the Queen in writing at length on 9 September. Hélène's father refused to countenance the marriage, was adamant she could not convert and informed the Queen of his decision. He granted permission, nonetheless, for Hélène to personally beseech Pope Leo XIII for a dispensation to convert, but he confirmed her father's verdict and the affair ended. 
Albert Victor never got over his feelings for Hélène; their relationship is commemorated at his tomb at Windsor Castle by a bead wreath with the single word "HELENE" upon it. An engagement to Princess Mary of Teck was later arranged, but he died before their wedding could take place.
Tsarevich Nicholas of Russia
She was the first choice of bride by Alexander III of Russia and Empress Maria Feodorovna for their eldest son, Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich of Russia (later Emperor Nicholas II). The relationship did not progress beyond friendship and Nicholas went on to marry Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt in late 1894.
The Prince of Naples
There were hopes that Hélène would marry the eldest son and heir of Umberto I of Italy, the Prince of Naples. A few years before her marriage to the Duke of Aosta, Hélène traveled to Naples with the hope of attracting the King and Queen's attention. No match resulted, however, and Victor Emmanuel became engaged to Princess Elena of Montenegro in 1896. There were also hopes that she would marry Infante Afonso, Duke of Porto, a brother of her sister Amélie's husband. The rumours proved to be false as he showed no interest in Hélène.
Marriage and children
On 25 June 1895, at the Church of St. Raphael in Kingston upon Thames, Hélène married Prince Emanuele Filiberto Vittorio Eugenio Alberto Genova Giuseppe Maria, 2nd Duke of Aosta (1869–1931). He was a lower match than her parents had desired, but was also first in line to the Italian throne should the main branch die off. The wedding was attended by important royal figures, including Crown Prince Victor Emmanuel of Italy (the former possible match for her hand) and the Duke and Duchess of Connaught. The wedding breakfast was held at Orleans House.
The couple had two sons:
- Prince Amedeo, 3rd Duke of Aosta (21 October 1898 - 3 March 1942)
- Prince Aimone, 4th Duke of Aosta who briefly reigned as King Tomislav II of Croatia. (9 March 1900 - 29 January 1948)
Widowed in 1931, Princess Helene was married for a second time in 1936 to Colonel Otto Campini (1872–1951) (born Oddone Maria Campini).
- Paoli, Dominique (2006). Fortune et Infortune des Princes d'Orléans. France: Editions Artena. pp. 191, 207–208, 219, 248, 260, 271–273, 278, 297–299, 317–318. ISBN 2-35154-004-2.
- "Royal Houses United", The Washington Post, 26 June 1895
- Pope-Hennessy, pp. 196-199.
- "Duke D'Aosta's Bride", The Washington Post, 17 March 1895
- "Colonel Otto Campini", The Peerage, 3 January 2003
- Pope-Hennessy, James (1959). Queen Mary 1867–1953. London: George Allen and Unwin Unlimited. ISBN 0-04-923025-5.
Princess Hélène of Orléans
Cadet branch of the House of BourbonBorn: 13 June 1871 Died: 21 January 1951
Maria Letizia Bonaparte
|Duchess of Aosta||Succeeded by