Princess Helena of Great Britain and Ireland, later known as Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenberg (25 May 1846 - 9 June 1923), was the fifth-born child and the third daughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
Her Royal Highness The Princess Helena Augusta Victoria was born at Buckingham Palace. She was known in the family as "Lenchen." Like her brothers and sisters, Princess Helena was tutored. In September 1865, while visiting Coburg, she was introducted to His Serene Highness Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein (22 January 1831-28 October 1917), the third son of Duke Charles August of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenberg and Countess Luise of Danneskjold-Samoe. The couple became engaged in December of that year. Queen Victoria gave her permission for the marriage with the proviso that the couple live in England. They married at the Private Chapel at Windsor Castle on 5 July 1866. Seven days before the wedding, the Queen granted her future son-in-law the qualification of Royal Highness. This style was in effect in Great Britain, not Germany were Prince Christian, as a son of the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, was only entited to the style Serene Highness.1
Their Royal Highnessess Prince and Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, as they were known, made their home at Frogmore House in the grounds of Windsor Castle and later at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park. They had six children:
- Prince Christian Victor (14 August 1867-29 October 1900)
- Prince Albert (28 February 1869-13 March 1931)
- Princess Helena Victoria (3 May 1870-13 March 1948).
- Princess Marie Louise (12 August 1872-8 December 1956).
- Prince Harald (12 May 1876-20 May 1876).
- An unnamed still-born son (7 May 1877).
Princess Christian, along with her younger sister, Princess Beatrice, remained close to her mother, especially after the death of Prince Albert. She was the patron of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) and the National Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Children. She worked to improve the country's nursing facilities and founded the Princess Christian Nursing Home at Windsor.
During World War I, rising anti-German sentiment forced the British Royal Family to sever its links to Germany and to discontinue the use of various German titles and styles. In July 1917, Princess Christian's nephew King George V changed the name of the British Royal House to the House of Windsor and discontinued for himself and all other descendants of Queen Victoria who were British subjects all "other German Degrees, Styles, Dignities, Titles, Honours and Appellations." Prince and Princess Christian and their two daughters dropped the territorial designation "of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderberg-Augustenberg" and instead became known as Their Royal Highnesses Prince and Princess Christian, Her Highness Princess Marie Louise, and Her Highness Princess Helena Victoria, respectively.2
Princess Christian died at Schomberg House, her London residence. She was buried next to husband at the Frogmore Royal Burial Ground in Windsor Great Park.
1 The children of Prince and Princess Christian would have borne the titles of Prince or Princess of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderberg-Augustenberg with the style Serene Highness. This was in accordance with both the house laws of the Ducal House of Schleswig-Holstein and English common law, whereby children take the surname and rank of their father, not their mother. Queen Victoria granted the children of Prince and Princess Christian the style of Highness in May 1867. Nonetheless, they remained Princes and Princesses of Schleswig-Holstein and the style of Highness was only in effect in Great Britain.
2 As a daughter of a British Sovereign, Helena was always a Princess of Great Britain and Ireland with the qualification of Royal Highness. This was settled practice dating to 1714 and confirmed by Queen Victoria's Letters Patent of 30 January 1864.
"Princess Christian: A Life of Service, Trained Nurses for the Poor," The Times 10 June 1923, p. 17.
Ronald Allison and Sarah Riddell, eds., The Royal Encyclopedia (London: Macmillan, 1992).
Marlene A. Eilers, Queen Victoria's Descendants (New York: Atlantic International Publishing, 1987).
Jerold M. Packard, Farwell in Splendor: The Passing of Queen Victoria and Her Age (New York: Dutton, 1995).