The birth of Queen Victoria of Spain, on October 24, 1887, was, for two reasons, an event of historical interest. It occurred in the Jubilee year of the late Queen Victoria, and as the happy event took place at Balmoral, the Princess enjoyed the distinction of being the first Royal baby born north of the Tweed for three hundred years.
It is not surprising, in view of the latter fact, that Scotland was quick to celebrate the event, and a great bonfire was kindled on the night of October 24, on Craig Gowan, in honour of the birth of the infant Princess.
She was the second child of Princess Henry of Battenberg, and the only girl, Prince Alexander having been born the previous year, and Prince Leopold and Prince Maurice subsequently. When one remembers the deep attachment which existed between the late Queen Victoria and her ninth child, Princess Beatrice, and how, even after the latter's marriage to Prince Henry of Battenberg, a suite of rooms close to those occupied by her late Majesty was set aside in Windsor Castle and at Osborne, in order that mother and daughter should not be far separated, it is not surprising to learn that Queen Victoria took a deep personal interest in little Princess Ena, and kept her near her as much as possible.
A Fairy Godmother
The christening took place at Balmoral, on November 23, the service being according to the form of baptism of the Scottish Presbyterian Church, Dr. Cameron Lees, of St. Giles's .Cathedral, Edinburgh, officiating at the simple rites. " Victoria Eugenie Julia Ena" were the names bestowed upon the Royal infant, who derived the second from the Empress Eugenie, who, as one of the sponsors, was represented at the christening by Princess Frederica of Hanover.
Nor did the interest of the Empress in her godchild end here. She conceived a great affection for the little golden-haired, blue-eyed English Princess, an affection which was duly reciprocated. Many were the jewels, books, and gifts of all kinds which the Empress showered on her godchild.
The closest friendship has always existed between Princess Henry and the Empress Eugenie, and it was the many long visits that were exchanged between them which led to the warm attachment that sprang up between the Empress and the Queen of Spain.
To revert again to the childhood of the Queen of Spain, it might be mentioned that her most noteworthy characteristics were her sunny temperament and fondness for fun, her brightness and cheerfulness being quite infectious. She once attracted the attention of a foreign nobleman, who did not know who she was. Nodding towards her, he said to a friend standing near:
"It is an English child, just such as I read about in books. She has gold hair, blue eyes, rose and ivory cheeks; she runs and dances, but does not walk; she has been laughing continually at that boy with her now, who has been singing comic songs to her under his breath. A very pretty, very charming, little English child out of a. story book. Who is she? "
"Princess Ena of Battenberg," was the reply.
A High-spirited Princess
Even the somewhat strict discipline of her august grandmother could not check the buoyant spirits and unaffected gaiety of the Princess. At her " coming out " ball, which took place at Kensington Palace in May, 1905, one of the guests, a very shy young man, having been presented to the Princess, asked her in a highly formal manner whether she would honour him with a dance. With laughter in her eyes, Princess Ena replied, "Oh, certainly, if you are quite sure you don't mind."
It was after the death of Queen Victoria, in January, 1901, that Princess Henry occupied apartments in Kensington Palace, but prior to that most of Princess Ena's time was spent at Osborne, with occasional visits to Balmoral and Windsor. Prince Henry was Governor of the Isle of Wight, the governorship being subsequently given to Princess Henry after his death. It was a great blow to Princess Ena when her father died, in 1896, when she was nine years of age. In 1895 he had volunteered for service with the Ashanti Expedition, and in January of the following year was seized with an attack of fever, dying a few days later on board a British ship. He was buried in the little church of Whippingham, Isle of Wight, where, in 1885, he had been married to Princess Beatrice.
Prince Henry had been his children's constant companion, for he was a man who possessed strong ideas on the subject of parental obligations. Princess Ena was lucky in possessing, not only three brothers with whom she could romp and play, but also a father who would join in her games. He it was who taught the Princess and her brothers riding, tennis, and swimming. Many were the frolics they had on the seashore at Osborne, and many were the pranks which their high spirits led them to play on one another.
But while passionately fond of outdoor exercise, and eager to indulge in play at every opportunity, Princess Ena proved herself a clever and capable child at lessons. Her chief tutor was her mother, under whose guidance she learned to become a good linguist, a clever musician, and a capable needlewoman. Although German had been the private tongue of the Royal Family, it was recognised that a complete mastery of English was essential, and, accordingly, the Princess learned all her lessons in English, which was spoken always by her attendants and teachers. All through her girlhood days the value of modern languages was impressed upon her, and Princess Ena learned both to speak and write French and German fluently. It was, in fact, in French that her courtship by King Alfonso was conducted, although she quickly acquired a knowledge of Spanish.
Princess Henry has always been known as the most accomplished musician in the Royal Family. When quite young she developed a wonderful gift of reading difficult music at sight, and this was carefully cultivated. She set to music various poems by Lord Tennyson, and for the first fifteen years after her marriage hardly missed an important musical event in the metropolis, showing not only a keen and intelligent appreciation of both music and drama, but also a very kindly feeling towards artistes.