by Scott Mehl
Princess Beatrice of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Duchess of Galliera
Princess Beatrice was the youngest child of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (the second son of Queen Victoria) and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia (the daughter of Tsar Alexander II). She was born Beatrice Leopoldine Victoria on April 20, 1884 at Eastwell Park in Kent, her parents leased country home. She was christened the following month, with her aunt, The Princess Beatrice, as one of her godparents.
Beatrice had four siblings:
- Prince Alfred, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1874-1899) – unmarried, no issue
- Princess Marie (1875-1938) – married King Ferdinand of Romania, had issue
- Princess Victoria Melita (1876-1936) – married (1) Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse and by Rhine (divorced), had issue; (2) Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich of Russia, had issue
- Princess Alexandra (1878-1942) – married Ernst II, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, had issue
Due to her father’s military career, as well as his future role in Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Beatrice grew up in England, Malta and Coburg. The youngest child in the family, she was perhaps more doted upon than her elder sisters and was known as ‘Baby’ or ‘Baby-Bee’. In July 1893, Beatrice was one of the bridesmaids at the wedding of her cousin, The Duke of York, to Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (later King George V and Queen Mary). The following month, her father became the reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha upon the death of his uncle. The family moved permanently to Coburg, taking up residence at Schloss Ehrenburg in Coburg. During their years in Coburg, Beatrice’s sisters were all married, and her brother died of an attempted suicide.
Following her father’s death in 1900, Beatrice remained with her mother in Coburg, living at the Palais Edinburg (which her father had purchased in the mid-1880s) and Schloss Rosenau. In 1902, she became involved in a relationship with her first cousin, Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia. However, the Russian Orthodox Church forbade marriages between first cousins, and Tsar Nicholas II refused to allow an exception. Michael ended the relationship the following year.
In 1906, Beatrice’s cousin, Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, married King Alfonso XIII of Spain in Madrid. It was at the wedding that Beatrice met her future husband, Infante Alfonso, son of Infante Antonio, Duke of Galliera, and Infanta Eulalia of Spain.
The couple was married on July 15, 1909 in Coburg. A civil ceremony was held at Schloss Rosenau, followed by a Catholic Ceremony at St. Augustine’s Church, and a Lutheran ceremony at Schloss Callenberg. Unlike her cousin, Victoria Eugenie, Beatrice chose not to convert to Catholicism prior to her marriage. She did later convert in 1913.
Because of the difference in religion, there was dissent within the Spanish government. While King Alfonso XIII of Spain personally encouraged and supported the marriage, the government would not allow him to give formal consent. Therefore, upon marriage, the couple were banished from Spain, and Alfonso was stripped of his honors and titles, including that of Infante of Spain. They settled in Coburg until 1912, when they were permitted to return to Spain, and Alfonso’s titles and honors were restored. Beatrice and Alfonso had three sons:
- Infante Alvaro (1910-1997) – married, had issue
- Infante Alonso (1912-1936) – killed in action during the Spanish Civil War, unmarried, no issue
- Infante Ataúlfo (1913-1974) – unmarried, no issue
In 1916, the couple was sent to Switzerland. Under the guise of an official mission, rumors quickly spread that it was due to either Beatrice’s influence on Queen Victoria Eugenie, or because she had rebuffed the romantic advances of King Alfonso XIII who was a notorious womanizer. After some time in Switzerland, the couple moved to England where their sons were educated at Winchester College. Eight years later, they were finally permitted to return to Spain.
In the following years, the Spanish monarchy was overthrown and the country was thrown into Civil War. Beatrice’s second son Alonso was killed in action, and the family lost their properties. Initially exiled to England, they eventually returned to Spain in 1937, and settled at a new estate, El Botánico, in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, where they would live for the rest of their lives.
Beatrice died on July 13, 1966 at El Botánico. She is buried with her husband at the Convent of Capuchin Fathers in Sanlúcar de Barrameda.