Princess Hélène of Orléans
|Duchess of Aosta|
13 June 1871|
York House, Twickenham
|Died||21 January 1951
Castellammare di Stabia, Italy
|Burial||Basilica dell'Incoronata Madre del Buon Consiglio, Naples, Italy|
|Spouse||Emanuele Filiberto, 2nd Duke of Aosta
Colonel Otto Campini
|Issue||Prince Amedeo, Duke of Aosta
Prince Aimone, Duke of Aosta
|Father||Prince Philippe, Count of Paris|
|Mother||Princess Marie Isabelle of Orléans|
Princess Hélène of Orléans (French: Princesse Hélène Louise Henriette d'Orléans; 13 June 1871 in York House, Twickenham – 21 January 1951 in Castellammare di Stabia, Italy) was a member of the deposed Orléans royal family of France and, by marriage to the head of a cadet branch of the Italian royal family, the Duchess of Aosta. Although her hand in marriage was sought for the heirs to the thrones of both the United Kingdom and the Russian Empire, religious differences prevented either alliance.
Hélène 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she was born in exile at York House in Twickenham England, shortly before the law of banishment against the dynasty was repealed.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, unlike 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, in the eyes of French royalists excepting recalcitrant legitimists, the Count of Paris as heir to the Bourbon crown of France. However, celebrations in Paris in the spring of 1886 prior to the marriage in Lisbon of Hélène's eldest sister Amélie to Carlos of Braganza-Coburg, Prince Royal of Portugal, evoked such clear expressions of monarchist support for the House of Orléans that on 22 July the French Republic took the precaution of banishing the heads of France's former ruling dynasties, the Orléans and Bonapartes, from the country. Nearly all of the Orléans promptly left France, with Hélène and her parents going on to visit Tunbridge Wells in England and then travelling to Scotland before taking up residence in October at Sheen House in East Sheen, England. In 1890 they moved on to Stowe House in Buckingham, England.
Most of Hélène's siblings had married well, including Amélie, Queen of Portugal, Philippe, Duke of Orléans (who married Archduchess Maria Dorothea of Austria) and Isabelle, Duchess of Guise, and Hélène's parents had hopes that she would marry an heir to a throne. Those hopes were fanned by the fact that Hélène was considered a great beauty for the day, and 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
Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale ("Eddy") was the eldest son of the future Edward VII and grandson of then reigning Queen Victoria. During the spring and summer of 1890, Eddy and Hélène were allowed to become acquainted at the homes of Clarence's sister Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife in Sheen and in Scotland. and, with the encouragement of their mothers, Hélène and Eddy fell in love. On 29 August, Clarence obtained permission to meet alone with his grandmother at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, and brought Hélène with him. Marriage to a Roman Catholic would have entailed constitutional forfeiture of Eddy's claim to the British throne, pursuant to the Act of Settlement), but Hélène offered to become an Anglican. When Queen Victoria expressed surprise at Hélène's offer, Hélène wept and insisted that her willingness to do so was for the sake of love. Moved by the couple's desperate plea for her help, Victoria agreed to support them but warned that she thought there were many obstacles likely to render success unlikely. This included her expectation that Hélène's father would not consent to his daughter's change of faith.
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 agreed with the match, as did his father.
However Queen Victoria's fears of insurmountable 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.
Clarence never got over his feelings for Hélène and their relationship is commemorated at his tomb at Windsor Castle by a bead wreath with the single word "HELENE" written upon it. Victoria wrote to her grandson recommending another of her grandchildren, Princess Margaret of Prussia, as an alternative, but nothing came of that 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. An engagement to Princess Mary of Teck was later arranged, but Clarence died before their wedding could take place.
Tsarevich Nicholas of Russia
Hélène 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 Alix of Hesse 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.
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 less eminent match than her parents had desired, but was the head of a cadet branch of the Italian royal family. The wedding was attended by important 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
- "Duke D'Aosta's Bride", The Washington Post, 17 March 1895
- Pope-Hennessy, pp. 196-199.
- "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