Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont

Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont

Infobox British Royalty|royal
name =Princess Helena
title =Duchess of Albany

imgw =232
spouse =Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany
issue =Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone
Charles, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
full name =Helena Frederica Augusta
titles ="HRH" The Duchess of Albany
"HSH" Princess Helena of Waldeck-Pyrmont
royal house =House of Windsor
House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
House of Waldeck and Pyrmont
father =George Victor of Waldeck-Pyrmont
mother =Helene Wilhelmine of Nassau-Weilburg
date of birth =birth date|1861|2|17|df=y
place of birth =Arolsen, Germany
date of death =death date and age|1922|9|1|1861|2|17|df=y
place of death =Tyrol, Austria|

Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont (Helena Frederica Augusta; later Duchess of Albany; 17 February 18611 September 1922) was the daughter of George Victor of Waldeck-Pyrmont and his wife Helene Wilhelmine of Nassau-Weilburg, who became a member of the British Royal Family by marriage.


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 Wilhelm, Duke of Nassau and his second wife Pauline of Württemberg. Pauline was a daughter of Prince Paul of Württemberg and his wife 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 Charlotte of Wales, 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 Pauline of Württemberg, as they were both great, great grandchildren of Frederick, Prince of Wales. This also meant that Helena was in the line of succession to the British throne but far down the list as compared with Leopold. The "generational disparity" between Leopold and Helena can be attributed to the late age at which George III's sons starting producing legitimate children.

On 27 April 1882, Leopold and Helena married in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle [.Her bridesmaids were The Ladies Mary Campbell, Blanche Butler, Feodore Yorke, Florence Bootle-Wilbraham, Ermyntrude Russell, Alexandrina Vane-Tempest, Anne Lindsay and Florence Anson] . Helena's title was now Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Albany. 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.

Personality and Social Work

According to the memoirs of Helena's daughter, Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, Helena was very intelligent, had an extremely strong sense of duty, and a genuine love of welfare work. Queen Victoria, initially worried that Helena might turn out to be a stereotypically-remote German princess, remarked in a letter to her eldest daughter Vicky (German Empress, Queen of Prussia and Princess Royal) 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.

During her widowhood, Helena became the founder of the Deptford Fund, an organization originally dedicated to helping find alternative work for women and girls employed in the dangerous cattle slaughter business. The Deptford Fund is still in existence today. Helena was also involved in hospital charities and those dedicated to ending human trafficking. During WWI, she organised much of her charity work along with that of her sister-in-law Princess Beatrice, in order to avoid the not-uncommon problem of conflicting and occasionally misguided royal war-work projects.

Later life

After Leopold's death, Helena and her two children, Alice and Charles Edward, continued to reside at Claremont House. After the death of Prince Alfred of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1900, Helena's 16 year old son, Charles Edward, 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.

In 1901, it was speculated that she would marry Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery [ [ Lord Rosebery to marry a Princess?] , "New York Times", July 11, 1901.]

Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont died on 1 September 1922 of a heart attack in Hinterriss in the Tyrol, in Austria, while visiting her son.

Through her son Charles Edward, Helena is the great-grandmother of Carl XVI Gustav, the current king of Sweden.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

*17 February 186127 April 1882: "Her Serene Highness" Princess Helena of Waldeck-Pyrmont
*27 April 1882 – 1 September 1922: "Her Royal Highness" The Duchess of Albany


CI: Companion of the Order of the Star of India
VA: Lady of the Royal Order of Victoria and Albert
RRC: Member of the Royal Red Cross
DJStJ: Dame of Justice of St John



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