Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont
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|Duchess of Albany|
17 February 1861|
Arolsen, Waldeck and Pyrmont
|Died||1 September 1922
|Spouse||Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany|
|Issue||Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone
Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
|House||Waldeck and Pyrmont|
|Father||George Victor, Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont|
|Mother||Princess Helena of Nassau|
Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont (Helene Friederike Auguste; later Duchess of Albany; 17 February 1861 – 1 September 1922), who became a member of the British Royal Family by marriage, was the daughter of George Victor, Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont (regions now in Germany) and his wife, Princess Helena of Nassau (also in Germany).
She was born in Arolsen, capital of Waldeck principality, in Germany. She was the sister of Friedrich, last reigning Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont; Marie, the first wife of William II of Württemberg; and of Emma, Queen consort of William III of the Netherlands (and mother of Queen Wilhelmina).
Her maternal grandparents were William, Duke of Nassau and his second wife Princess Pauline of Württemberg. Pauline was a daughter of Prince Paul of Württemberg and his wife Princess Charlotte of Saxe-Hildburghausen.
Paul was a son Frederick I of Württemberg and his wife Duchess Augusta of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. Augusta was the eldest daughter of Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg and Princess Augusta of Great Britain, elder sister of George III of the United Kingdom.
Along with Emma and a third sister, Pauline, Helena was considered as a second wife for William III of the Netherlands. She later met with Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, youngest son of Queen Victoria, at the suggestion of his mother. The two became engaged in November 1881. Leopold was actually a third cousin of Helena's grandmother Princess Pauline of Württemberg, as they were both great great grandchildren of Frederick, Prince of Wales.
On 27 April 1882, Leopold and Helena married in St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. After their wedding, Leopold and Helena resided at Claremont House. The couple had a brief, but happy marriage, ending in the hemophiliac Leopold's death from a fall in Cannes, France, in March 1884. At the time of Leopold's death, Helena was pregnant with their second child.
The couple had two children:
- Princess Alice of Albany (1883-1981), later Countess of Athlone
- Prince Charles, Duke of Albany (1884-1954), born posthumously, later Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
According to the memoirs of Helena's daughter, Princess Alice of Albany, Helena was very intelligent, had a strong sense of duty, and a genuine love of welfare work. The Queen, initially worried that Helena might turn out to be a stereotypically-remote German Princess, remarked in a letter to her eldest daughter The Princess Royal and German Crown Princess that she was pleased Helena liked 'to go among the people.' The Queen soon came to regard her young daughter-in-law with great respect and affection, notwithstanding her initial concerns upon hearing from the match-making Vicky that Helena was an "intellectual", being unusually well-educated for a Princess. Before her marriage, Helena's father had made her Superintendent of the infant schools in his principality, and in this position the Princess had devised the pupils' educational curriculum. Helena particularly enjoyed solving mathematical problems and reading philosophy: during their tragically brief marriage, Prince Leopold proudly introduced his wife to the circle of academics he'd befriended at Oxford University. Helena maintained these friendships for the rest of her life.
In 1894, Helena was one of the founders of the Deptford Fund. Originally dedicated to helping find alternative work for women and girls employed in the dangerous cattle slaughter business, the Fund soon expanded, with many projects instigated to help the local community. In 1899 Helena opened the Albany Institute. This later expanded into a combined community/performance centre with the theatre venue known as the Albany Empire. A centre of 1970s anti-fascist activity and Rock Against Racism, the Empire and Institute buildings were destroyed in an arson attack in 1978. A new Albany Theatre was opened by the Princess of Wales in 1982 and the Deptford Fund continues to this day.
Helena was also involved in several hospital charities and with those dedicated to ending human trafficking. During World War I, she organised much of her charity work along with that of The Princess Beatrice and Princess Marie-Louise to avoid the not-uncommon problem of conflicting (and sometimes misguided) Royal war-work projects.
After Leopold's death, Helena and her two children, Alice and Charles Edward, continued to reside at Claremont House. After the death of The Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1899, Helena's sixteen-year-old son, The Duke of Albany, was selected as the new heir to the German Duchy, and was parted from his mother and sister in order to take up residence there. When the First World War broke out 14 years later, Charles Edward found himself fighting in the German Army. As a result, he was stripped of his British titles by an act of Parliament in 1917. By contrast, her daughter Alice remained in England and made a marriage that made her the sister-in-law of George V's consort, Queen Mary.
Helena died on 1 September 1922 of a heart attack in Hinterriss in Tyrol, Austria, while visiting her son.
Titles, styles and honours
Titles and styles
- 17 February 1861 – 27 April 1882 : Her Serene Highness Princess Helena of Waldeck-Pyrmont
- 27 April 1882 – 11 October 1905 : Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Albany
- 11 October 1905 – 1 September 1922 : Her Royal Highness The Dowager Duchess of Albany
|Princess Alice of Albany||25 February 1883||3 January 1981||later HRH Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone (sister-in-law to Queen Mary)|
|Prince Charles Edward, Duke of Albany||19 July 1884||6 March 1954||Born four months after his father's death; known as 'Charlie'; Leopold Charles Edward George Albert; later reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha|
- "Princess Helen, Duchess of Albany (1861-1922), Wife of Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany; daughter of Prince George Victor of Waldeck-Pyrmont". National Portrait Gallery, London.
- .Her bridesmaids were The Ladies Mary Campbell, Blanche Butler, Feodore Yorke, Florence Bootle-Wilbraham, Ermyntrude Russell, Alexandrina Vane-Tempest, Anne Lindsay and Florence Anson
- Princess Marie Louise (née Princess of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenberg), My Memories of Six Reigns (London: Evans Brothers, 1956)
- Lord Rosebery to marry a Princess?, New York Times, 11 July 1901.
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