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


An engrossing biography of Queen Victoria’s youngest daughter that focuses on her relationship with her willful mother—a powerful and insightful look at two women of significant importance and influence in world history

Beatrice was the last child born to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Her father died when she was four and Victoria came to depend on her youngest daughter absolutely, and also demanded from her complete submission. Beatrice succumbed to her mother’s obsessive ...

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

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An engrossing biography of Queen Victoria’s youngest daughter that focuses on her relationship with her willful mother—a powerful and insightful look at two women of significant importance and influence in world history

Beatrice was the last child born to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Her father died when she was four and Victoria came to depend on her youngest daughter absolutely, and also demanded from her complete submission. Beatrice succumbed to her mother’s obsessive love, so that by the time she was in her late teens she was her constant companion. Although Victoria tried to prevent Beatrice from even so much as thinking of love, her guard slipped when Beatrice met Prince Henry of Battenberg. Sadly, Beatrice inherited the hemophilia gene from her mother, which she passed on to two of her four sons and which her daughter Victoria Eugenia, in marrying Alfonso XIII of Spain, in turn passed on to the Spanish royal family. This new examination will restore her to her proper prominence—as Queen Victoria’s second consort.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for The Last Princess

“Fascinating.” —Vogue

“[Dennison’s] compassion for his subjects is obvious.” —Publishers Weekly

“Dennison emerges as a natural storyteller . . . a hugely satisfying biography. . . . Beautifully written, its detail meticulous . . . a confident and disarmingly impressive debut.” —The Daily Telegraph (UK)

“A colourful peephole into Victorian times, as well as the peculiar ways of royalty.” —The Herald (UK)

“Dennison tells a sorry, complex story with tact and sympathy.” —The Times (UK)

“An engaglingly sympathetic, balanced and intelligent biography.” —The Spectator (UK)

“An engrossing biography . . . Beautifully written.” —Tatler (UK)

“Matthew Dennison has researched assiduously in the Royal Archives at Windsor. He writes well.” —Independent on Sunday (UK)

“This is an old fashioned biography about an old-fashioned subject. At a time when non-fiction writers are desperately thinking up fancy new ways to tell stories, there’s something rather comforting about a narrative that has no embarrassment in starting at the beginning.” —The Guardian (UK)

“It is an enthralling story, not just of a mother-daughter relationship but that of a monarch and her favourite subject.” —Majesty Magazine (book of the month) (UK)

“Dennison’s biography is an engrossing tale of a mother and daughter who were also a queen and her subject.” —The Good Book Guide (UK)

Publishers Weekly

After the death of her beloved Prince Albert, Queen Victoria, an only child with a pathological fear of being alone, turned her ninth child, Beatrice, into her permanent companion, infantilizing her and robbing her of any chance of a normal life. The consequences for Beatrice were difficult: as Dennison shows, over the years the spunky young Beatrice turned docile and acquiescent. Some of her siblings resented her proximity to the seat of power. Victoria even determined never to let her companion marry, a vow she abandoned only when Beatrice, at age 27, fell in love with the German Prince Henry of Battenberg, who agreed to abandon his home and career and move in with his wife and mother-in-law. He died 10 years later, in the Ashanti War in Sierra Leone, where he had traveled with British forces in an effort to exert some personal independence. Beatrice mourned, then resumed her duties as her mother's companion. Dennison, a British journalist, does a fine job of laying out facts, but he doesn't spare readers his opinion. Though he's not impressed with Victoria's parenting skills and lack of consideration for Beatrice's emotional well-being, his compassion for his subjects is obvious. That, as much as his detailed portraits, will keep readers engaged. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

Journalist Dennison has written an entertaining biography of Queen Victoria's youngest child, a Royal known, if at all, for a life devoted to her widowed mother. Beatrice was four when her father, Prince Albert, died and her mother plunged into lifelong mourning. Called Baby for most of her childhood, Beatrice was brought up to believe that she must always stay with Victoria, who displayed considerable selfishness by ensuring that her daughter had no close friends. Marriage, the queen determined, was completely out of the question. After all, as she wrote to her eldest (married) daughter, "Youngest daughters have a duty to widowed mothers." And to another correspondent the queen wrote, "I'll take care that She never marries." When Beatrice, at the advanced age of 27, falls in love with Prince Henry of Battenberg, readers will eagerly turn the pages to see what happens. This well-written biography of an often overlooked Victorian princess offers a fascinating look at a way of life nearly impossible to imagine. Strongly recommended for public libraries where biographies, history, and royalty are popular. (Illustrations not seen.)
—Elizabeth Mellett

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews
Dull account of the dull life of Beatrice, the final child of Queen Victoria and her beloved Albert. In his book-length debut, British journalist Dennison strives mightily to find some glitter, maybe even some smut, on this ordinary rock in the English royal garden, whom Victoria designated almost from infancy to be her devoted confidante. About all he can discover is that Beatrice (1857-1944), apparently an attractive and bright child, played well the role that history and heredity gave her. The author early and often festoons his skimpy narrative tree with strings of cliches: Golden days are threatened by clouds of sorrow; a stout heart serves her well; a silk dress shimmers; shadows of the past haunt everyone. The queen comes off as profoundly insecure and grasping, Beatrice as doting and largely devoid of personality. Tutored and educated at home, the princess enjoyed writing and eventually published several books, including a couple of translations from German texts. Victoria, who steered some interested men away from Beatrice, eventually allowed her to marry-but only if she would continue to serve as Royal Lapdog. Prince Henry of Battenberg, nicknamed Liko, agreed to those terms, then became so bored that he spent months alone on his yacht before heading off on a military adventure in Africa, where he contracted an illness that cost him his life. Once the queen died, Beatrice's stock fell, and she lived many of her final 40 years in an apartment in Kensington Palace where she expurgated Victoria's journals, then burned the originals, an egregious act that Dennison finds ways to defend. The author's first clause-"It should not have happened"-refers to Beatrice's unexpected birth; thewords also apply to this soporific biography.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312564971
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/27/2009
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 897,463
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Matthew Dennison is a journalist. He writes for The Daily Telegraph, The Spectator, and Country Life. He is married and lives in London and North Wales.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Author's Note xi

Family Trees xiii

1 'It is a fine Child' 1

2 'The most amusing baby we have had' 10

3 'Paroxysms of despair' 21

4 'The bright spot in this dead home' 30

5 'Beatrice is quite well' 39

6 'A nervous way of speaking and laughing' 49

7 'Auntie Beatrice sends you many loves' 61

8 'Youngest daughters have a duty to widowed mothers' 69

9 'The flower of the flock' 80

10 'A Good, handy, thoughtful servant' 92

11 'She is my constant companion' 102

12 'Dear Beatrice suffered much from rheumatism' 109

13 'If only she could marry now' 116

14 The Handsomest Family in Europe 124

15 'Many daughters have acted virtuously, but thou excelleth them all' 134

16 'Tge fatal day approaches' 144

17 'There now burnt a bewitching fiery passion' 157

18 'Capital fun' 170

19 'A simple life, with no great incidents' 178

20 'Blighted happiness' 187

21 'I have taken up my life again' 197

22 'I . . . can hardly realize what life will be like without her' 208

23 'I have my dear Mother's written instructions' 215

24 'Osborne . . . is like the grave of somebody's happiness' 224

25 'Please God the young couple may be very happy' 232

26 'Days of overwhelming anxiety' 241

27 'The older one gets the more one lives in the past' 250

28 'She struggled so hard to "carry on"' 258

Notes 266

Bibliography 284

Index 290

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