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 Prince Henry of Battenberg

 

Prince Henry of Battenberg

Colonel His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Battenberg was born on 5th October 1858 at Milan, Italy, the youngest son of Prince Alexander of Hesse & By the Rhine (1823-1888) and The Princess of Battenberg, formerly Countess Julia VON Hauke (1825-1895).  Within the family Henry was known as 'Liko' - a childhood nickname derived from the Italian translation of his name, 'Enrico'.  

 

Due to Henry's parents morganatic marriage, from birth Henry was styled Count Henry of Battenberg with the style of Illustrious Highness and was not permitted to use the higher title and style he would have had from his father. Henry and his siblings were all barred from the line of succession to the Hessian Grand Ducal Throne.  On 21st December 1858, Henry's mother was created Princess of Battenberg with the style of Serene Highness which her children shared and subsequently Henry adopted the new style of Prince Henry of Battenberg.  

Henry received a military education and was a strong and uncomplicated child classed as an 'ideal pupil'.  He began his military career in Saxony, but soon took up a commission in the 1st Regiment of the Rhenish Hussars in the Prussian Army in Bonn.  He subsequently served as a Captain in in the Prussian Garde du Corps and was appointed an Honorary Colonel of the 1st Infantry Regiment of Bulgaria, where his elder brother - Alexander I of Bulgaria (1857-1893) was the Sovereign Prince. 

Like many minor Princes with little financial prospects, Henry's only chances of advancement were either being made ruler of an emerging new minor principality/kingdom or an advantageous marriage but Henry's prospects were not encouraging as his only real asset were his good looks.  At this time, Europe was at peace and the Battenberg family either were not considered suitable prospective suitors or were unwelcome at many of the Royal Courts throughout Europe - so the task of success for Henry was difficult.   However in 1877, Henry fell in love with a commoner and proposed to marry the following year.  In January 1878 his elder brother Prince Louis of Battenberg, later 1st Marquess of Milford Haven (Mountbatten's father) wrote to their mother - "it is such a bolt from the blue that I still cannot get over it.  It is quite dreadful... The only good thing is that  Alice [Princess Alice, The Grand Duchess of Hesse & By the Rhine (1843-1878)] is so furious about it...  If only they would go right away from Darmstadt after their wedding it would not be so bad, but sooner or later Henry is sure to come back.  It would be quite dreadful of Alice if she changed her attitude towards us because of this; to judge by what she said to you recently, one might almost believe she had." The romance did not last.

By the Spring of 1884, Henry became romantically involved with the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901) - Princess Beatrice (1857-1944).  She was a shy, plump and unassuming lady who the Queen had forbidden to stray from her side, being her constant companion and unofficial secretary. Naturally The Queen was not keen on the match - not because she did not approve of Henry, but because she selfishly wanted to keep Beatrice close at hand.  After a year of careful persuasion from Beatrice and other family members, The Queen finally relented, however she gave Henry and Beatrice conditions upon granting her approval to their union.  The Queen insisted that Henry renounce his military career, his independence, his nationality, his home, and agree to live with Beatrice (and The Queen) at Windsor Castle.  In January 1885, The Queen wrote to Sir Augustus FitzRoy, 7th Duke of Grafton (1821-1918) - "Prince Henry of Battenberg is however ready to make England his home and the Princess will continue to live with The Queen as heretofore.  He is very amiable, very unassuming and sensible, and in addition very good looking."  

 

The arms of Prince Henry of Battenberg (after 1885)

 

Princess Beatrice (left) with her aged mother - Queen Victoria

 

Henry & Princess Beatrice on their wedding day

 with their 10 bridesmaids

and Henry's two brothers - (back left) Prince Alexander of Bulgaria

& (back right) Prince Franz Joseph of Battenberg

 

Princess Beatrice in her wedding dress

On 22nd July 1885 - the day before his wedding to Beatrice, the Queen invested Henry with the Most Noble Order of the Garter (KG) and granted him the style of Royal Highness - to raise him to the same rank as his future bride. Henry's inferior status of Serene Highness had always been contentious, with the Prussian Court refusing to accept or acknowledge any advancement in Henry's style.  As a result, Henry's new style would only take effect in the UK, but within the German Empire he would still be styled Serene Highness.  

 

Henry and Beatrice were married on 23rd July 1885 at St Mildred's Church, Whippingham on the Isle of Wight - close to Osborne House.  On the morning of the wedding Queen Victoria gave her beloved daughter a ruby ring, which her uncle - Prince Augustus, The Duke of Sussex (1773-1843) had given her on her own wedding day to Prince Albert, The Prince Consort (1819-1861).  She also gave permission for  Beatrice to wear her own 1840 wedding veil of Honiton lace. None of her other daughters received such an honour.  

Beatrice's dress was described as 'simple', but it was anything but - with a tight lace bodice above a long skirt, over which was draped a long lace over-skirt with lush garlanding of orange blossom and foliage. The bridesmaids wore white dresses, with flounced skirts and carried saucer shaped bouquets of stephanotis. The Queen - the bride's mother, who wore her customary black mourning, insisted Henry wore his white uniform of the Prussian Garde du Corps. Henry and Beatrice spent their 5 days of honeymoon at nearby Quarr Abbey House, the family home of her lady-in-waiting - Dame Anne "Minna" Cochrane (1855-1943).

 

Prince Henry of Battenberg & Princess Beatrice

on their wedding day

 

A drawing of the wedding of Prince Henry of Battenberg

& Princess Beatrice at St Mildred's Church, Whippingham

on the Isle of Wight

Princess Beatrice was attended by 10 bridesmaids -

 

HGDH Princess Irene of Hesse & By the Rhine

later Princess Henry of Prussia

(1866-1953)

Daughter of Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse

& By the Rhine & Princess Alice of the UK

HGDH Princess Alix of Hesse & By the Rhine

later Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna,
Empress of Russia

(1872-1918)

Daughter of Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse

& By the Rhine & Princess Alice of the UK

HRH Princess Victoria of Wales

(1868-1935)

Daughter of Prince Albert Edward,

The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII 

HRH Princess Louise of Wales 

later The Princess Royal, The Duchess of Fife
(1867-1931)

Daughter of Prince Albert Edward,

The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII 

HRH Princess Maud of Wales

later The Queen of Norway
(1869-1938)

Daughter of Prince Albert Edward,

The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII 

HH Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein

(1872-1956)

Daughter of Prince Christian

of Schleswig-Holstein &

Princess Helena of the UK

HH Princess Helena Victoria

of Schleswig-Holstein

(1870-1948)

Daughter of Prince Christian

of Schleswig-Holstein &

Princess Helena of the UK 

HRH Princess Marie of Edinburgh,

Princess of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha,

Duchess of Saxony

later The Queen of Roumania

(1875-1938)

Daughter of Prince Alfred,

The Duke of Edinburgh, Duke of Saxe-Coburg

& Gotha 

HRH Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh,

Princess of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha, 

Duchess of Saxony

later The Grand Duchess of Hesse

& By the Rhine and subsequently

Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna

of Russia 

(1876-1936)

Daughter of Prince Alfred,

The Duke of Edinburgh, Duke of Saxe-Coburg

& Gotha

HRH Princess Alexandra of Edinburgh,

Princess of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha,

Duchess of Saxony

later The Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg 

(1878-1942)

Daughter of Prince Alfred,

The Duke of Edinburgh, Duke of Saxe-Coburg

& Gotha

 

St Mildred's Church, Whippingham

on the Isle of Wight