The Last Princess: The Devoted Life of Queen Victoria’s Youngest Daughter

Beatrice was the last child born to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Her father died when she was four and, as Matthew Dennison relates, Victoria came to depend on her youngest daughter absolutely, while also demanding her complete submission.

It is an enthralling story, not just of a mother-daughter relationship, but of a monarch and subject relationship. Victoria was not above behaving regally even with her own children. She viewed Beatrice, her last child, as both companion and secretary; and on her death ensured that she became her literary executor, a role Beatrice conducted with teutonic thoroughness. She had no hesitation in bowdlerising and editing her mother’s journal and correspondence.

But thankfully Beatrice inherited her mother’s steely qualities. Although Victoria tried to prevent her daughter even so much as thinking of love, her guard slipped when Beatrice was twenty-nine. Perhaps Victoria thought she was over the hill, but Beatrice fell in love with ‘Liko’, Prince Henry of Battenberg. As Dennison puts it, hers was a ‘hard-won victory of love over family prejudice, political reluctance and, most significantly, the Queen’s opposition.’

Sadly, Beatrice also inherited from her mother the haemophilia gene, which she passed on to two of her four sons and which her daughter, Victoria Eugene, in marrying Alfonso XIII of Spain, in turn passed on to the Spanish royal family.

Beatrice, however, did not end up simply as a wife and mother. She loved music, composing a military march which entered the repertoire of British regimental bands.

Matthew Dennison’s impressive debut as a biographer restores Princess Beatrice to her rightful place as a key figure in the Victorian dynasty.