Monthly Archives: September 2014

Princess Victoria Eugenie and the curse of haemophilia

Victoria Eugenie 1As I mentioned in my last piece regarding the sons of Prince Henry of Battenberg and Princess Beatrice, daughter to Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, the story of Princess Victoria Eugenie Julia Ena was quite a story on its own.

The first half of the twentieth century seemed to be quite a dangerous time for some of the granddaughters of Victoria and the royal curse of haemophilia

Victoria Eugenie known to the family and British public as Ena was no different and below I want to tell her story.

Victoria Eugenie was born on the 24th October 1887 at Balmoral Castle to Prince Henry of Battenberg and Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom. She spent most of her childhood between Balmoral, Osborne House and Windsor Castle. As part of Victoria’s agreement for her daughter Beatrice to marry Henry she had to stay as her full time companion and personal secretary which meant Victoria Eugenie would spent a lot of her time as a child in Victoria’s household.

Victoria Eugenie was bridesmaid to Mary of Teck in her wedding to the future King George V in 1893. In 1896 her father died and in 1901 Queen Victoria herself also died. After this the Battenberg’s took up residence in Kensington Palace, London.

In 1905 King Alfonso XIII of Spain made an official visit to the United Kingdom and King Edward VII hosted a dinner at Buckingham Palace in his honour. It was known that Alfonso was looking for a suitable wife. It was thought that Princess Patricia, another of Edward VII’s nieces was the most suitable match for Alfonso but she was unimpressed by his advances and then his attention turned to Victoria Eugenie.

On his return to Spain Alfonso he wrote to Victoria Eugenie sending her numerous post cards. His mother Maria Christina didn’t approve of his interest in the British princess preferring for her son to marry from her own Habsburg family from Austria. There was also the issue of religion. Spain was a Roman Catholic country and Victoria Eugenie came from a Protestant background. The royal curse of haemophilia was also a concern.

This did not stop Alfonso and he would not be held back from his continued attention to the British princess and after about a year of communication and rumours about who Alfonso would marry, his mother finally caved in and agreed to the marriage. She wrote to Princess Beatrice telling her about the love her son had for Victoria Eugenie and things then moved quickly and a couple of days later at Windsor King Edward congratulated his niece on her future engagement.

Victoria Eugenie 2

Princess Beatrice and Princess Victoria Eugenie travelled to Biarritz on 22nd January 1906 and stayed at the Villa Mauriscot. Alfonso arrived, a couple of days later and spent three days chaperoned getting to know Victoria Eugenie more. Alfonso then took both Victoria Eugenie and her mother to San Sebastian to meet Maria Christina. On the 3rd February he left them to travel to Madrid while the two princess left for Versailles to be instructed in the Roman Catholic faith as would be required for her to be the future Queen of Spain.

King Alfonso XIII and Princess Victoria Eugenie married on 31st May 1906 at the Royal Monastery of San Jeronimo.   The wedding didn’t go without a hitch as an assignation attempt took place. Mateu Morral threw a bomb at the the royal carriage. Victoria Eugenie turned at the same time the bomb was thrown to look at St Mary’s church in the city centre which Alfonso was pointing out to her. This action is believed to have saved her although her dress was splattered with blood from a Guard who was riding alongside the carriage. Fifteen people died. There is a statue to the victims of the bombing at the front of the Royal Monastery of San Jeronimo.

The couple’s first child was Alfonso, Prince of Asturias who was born 10th May 1907. This gained Victoria Eugenie some favour with her new people, to which her early relationship was quite strained. Doctors though on carrying out the new Prince’s circumcision noted that he did not stop bleeding showing that he had inherited the dreaded haemophilia.

King Alfonso never forgave his Queen for this fact. There youngest son also had haemophilia. The couple went on to have seven children in total, five boys and two girls. Once all the children were born the relationship between the couple went even sourer and Alfonso is believed to have had numerous affairs fathering several illegitimate children.

Victoria Eugenie devoted herself to working in hospitals and services for the poor. She was heavily involved in the reorganisation of the Spanish Red Cross. In 1929 in Barcelona a statue was raised to her in nurse’s uniform in recognition of the work she had done. The statue no longer stands and has since been destroyed.

In 1931 the whole Spanish Royal family went into exile after elections brought Republicans to power across many major cities and the proclamation of the 2nd Spanish Republic. The family went at first to France before later moving to Italy. Later Alfonso and Victoria Eugenie separated and she started to spend more time in the United Kingdom before she settled on the chateau Vielle Fontaine outside Lausanne, Switzerland.

The whole family though were brought together again in Rome for the baptism of her grandson Juan Carlos in 1938. On 15th January 1941 Alfonso XIII felling that death was close transferred his rights to the Spanish crown to their son Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona. The feeling Alfonso had was true and he suffered a heart attack on 12th February and died sixteen days later.

In 1942 living in Italy Victoria Eugenie was asked to leave for being ‘persona non grata’ to the Italian government. According to Harold Tittmann, a US representative to the Vatican at the time the reason for this was Victoria Eugenie’s ill disguised feelings of support for the Allied armies during the Second World War.

She did return briefly to Spain to stand as godmother to her great grandson Infante Felipe in February 1968. Felipe was the son of Infante Juan Carlos and Princess Sophia of Denmark and Greece. Felipe became King of Spain in June 2014 after the abdication of his father.

Victoria Eugenie 3

Victoria died back in Lausanne on 15th April 1969 aged 81 years old. It was exactly 38 years after she had left Spain in exile. As well as her great grandson being King of Spain her other godchildren include; Albert, Prince of Monaco; Queen Fabiola of Belgium and Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, 18th Duchess of Alba.

She came from a generation and family that spread right across Europe and could include King of United Kingdom, Queen of Norway, Empress of Russia, Queen of Romania, Emperor of Germany, Queen of Sweden and Queen of Greece all as first cousins.

The sons of Prince Henry of Battenberg and Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom

Princess Beatrice was the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of the United Kingdom. She married Prince Henry of Battenberg. They had four children, Alexander, Victoria Eugenie, Leopold and Maurice. This piece will be about the three boys with a further piece will be about Victoria Eugenie who went on to become Queen of Spain.

Alexander Mountbatten, Marquess of Carisbrooke.

Alexander Mountbatten as he would later become was born Prince Alexander Albert of Battenberg, on the 23rd November 1886 at Windsor Castle, Berkshire in England. He was the eldest son of Prince Henry and Princess Beatrice.

He was educated at Stubbington House and Wellington College before going on to join the Royal Navy in 1902. He served until 1908 and in 1910 joined an exclusive dining club called the Castaways Club. This club was for former junior officers who wished to stay in contact after leaving the Navy. He was in good company as the current Duke of Edinburgh; Price Philip was also a member as was also Prince Charles the current Prince of Wales.

After serving in the Navy he transferred to the Army serving in the Grenadier Guards. On 15th August 1913 he became a 2nd Lieutenant and in 1915 reached the rank of Captain. In 1917 Alexander was authorised to wear the insignia of the Russian Order of St Vladimir fourth class with Swords. On 19th November 1919 he resigned his commission.

Alexander of Battenberg (later Alexander Mountbatten), Marquess of Carisbrooke

During the First World War a lot of anti-German sentiment grew in Great Britain and because of this the British Royal family relinquished their German titles and changed their names. Battenberg changed to Mountbatten. This was when Alexander was given the titles of Marquess of Carisbrooke, Earl of Berkampsted and Viscount Launceston.

Alexander also got married in 1917 to Lady Irene Adza Denison (1890-1956) daughter of the 2nd Earl of Londesborough and Lady Grace Adelaide Fane. They married at the Chapel Royal in St James Palace, London. Alexander and Lady Irene had one daughter together, Lady Iris Mountbatten born in 1920.

After the First World War he started life as an ordinary clerk in the offices of Lazard Brothers, the bankers. Later he would become a director of Lazard Brothers.

Early in the Second World War he joined the RAF where he served as a staff officer attached to Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory before moving to Fighter Command Headquarters.

After the war he lived in Kings Cottage overlooking Kew Garderns before moving on to Kensington Palace.

Alexander died in 1960 aged 73 at Kensington Palace and was buried in the Battenberg Chapel, St Mildred’s Church, Whippngham on the Isle of Wight. The title Marquess of Carisbrooke became extinct upon his death. At his death he was the last surviving grandson of Queen Victoria.

Lord Leopold Mountbatten

Prince Leopold Arthur Louis of Battenberg was born on the 21st May 1889 at Windsor Castle and was the second son to Prince Henry and Princess Beatrice. As with the other British Royals at the time he relinquished his German title in 1917 and changed his name from Battenberg to Mountbatten.

Leopold became Sir Leopold Mountbatten due to him being a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order until by a Royal Warrant in September 1917 he was granted the style and precedence of the younger son of a Marquess and became Lord Leopold Mountbatten.

Leopold Mountbatten

Unfortunately Leopold was blighted by the royal curse of haemophilia which he inherited from his mother. He died on 23rd April 1922 aged just 32 during a hip operation. He is buried in the Royal Burial Ground, Frogmore and a memorial tablet to him and his brother Maurice is in Winchester Cathedral.

Prince Maurice of Battenberg

Maurice Victor Donald was the third son of Prince Henry and Princess Beatrice and the youngest of Queen Victoria’s grandchildren. He was names Maurice after his great-grandfather Count Maurice von Hauke, Victor after his maternal grandmother and Donald because he was born at Balmoral Castle. He was born on 3rd October 1891 and is said to have been the closest of the four siblings to resemble his father’s looks.

prince maurice of battenburg

His father died when he was aged just four, which is the same age at which his mother lost her father Prince Albert. He was educated at Lockers Prep School in Hertfordshire before going on to study at Wellington College. He then took his place in the British Army.

He served as a Lieutenant in the Kings Royal Rifle Corps. During the First Battle of Ypres he was mortally wounded by shrapnel and died on the field of battle before his men could lead him to safety.  He is buried in Ypres Town Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery.

As he died before the relinquishment of the German titles by the British Royal family he was always known by his German title Prince of Battenberg even though he fought on the side of the British.

prince maurice grave

Swithelm of Essex

Title : King of Essex

Reign : 660-663

Born :

Died : 663

Spouse :

Parents :

Swithelm ruled in Essex as king between 660-664. With his brother it is believed they killed the previous King Sigeberht II the Good.

The accused Sigeberht of being too friendly towards Christians, but was persuaded to convert to Christianity by Aethelwald, King of East Anglia.

Sigeberht II the Good

Title : King of Essex

Reign : c 653 – c 660

Born :

Died :

Spouse :

Parents : Sigeferth, younger cousin of Sæberht

Sigeberht II was sometimes called the Good or the Blessed. He ruled between c 653 and c 660. Was converted to Christianity during a trip to Northumbria.  The re-Christianity of Essex took place during his reign.

He could have been murdered by his successor Swithelm in a power struggle with in the East Saxon elite.

Sigeberht I the Little

Title : King of Essex

Reign : 617 -653

Born :

Died :

Spouse :

Parents : Sæward, King of Essex

Sigeberht I, was King of Essex between 617 and 653. He is believed to be a pagan and possibly allied with Penda of Mercia who was also a pagan.

Sæward of Essex

Title : King of Essex

Reign : c 616 – c 617

Born :

Died : c.617

Spouse :

Parents : Sæberht, King of Essex

Sæward was King of Essex between c 616 and c 617. He ruled jointly with his brother Sexred.

The brothers were killed in battle with the West Saxons led by Ceawlin and Cwichelm.

Sexred of Essex

Title : King of Essex

Reign : c 616 – c 617

Born :

Died : c.617

Spouse :

Parents : Sæberht, King of Essex

Sexred was King of Essex between c 616 and c 617. He ruled jointly with his brother Sæward.  There is also possibly a third brother, Seaxbald who may also have ruled.

The brothers were killed in battle with the West Saxons led by Ceawlin and Cwichelm.