was born Victoria Alexandra Olga Mary on 6 July 1868 at Marlborough House, London, the fourth of the six children of and , prince and princess of Wales. Her father became King Edward VII; her mother was the daughter of King Christian IX and Queen Louise of Denmark. Princess Victoria (known familiarly as Toria) was educated at home with her two sisters. She was a lively, naughty child, who became an intelligent, attractive woman, tall and elegant, with large expressive eyes. Although sensitive and reserved, she had a great sense of fun and was good company, lacking any affectation or grandeur. She enjoyed bicycling and horse-riding, designed her own bookbindings, loved reading, music, and dancing, and was a very enthusiastic amateur photographer, who compiled many albums and took part in Kodak exhibitions. The princess was also fond of pets; some of her favourites were dogs, including Sam, Mac, and Punchie. Dovey was a tame dove which she kept for six years and which used to accompany her on holiday, travelling in a little basket.
Princess Victoria had strong family feelings; these embraced more distant relatives, and she was particularly fond of her cousins from the Russian and Greek royal families. One of the most important people in her life was her brother ; they were devoted to one another, and shared a sense of humour and a similar outlook. When she died the king commented How I shall miss her & our daily talks on the telephone. No one had a sister like her (Gore, 436). His own health deteriorated from this time and he died only a month later. For Princess Victoria the importance of the relationship with her brother might have made it difficult for her to accept his wife, no matter who she had been. As it was, she was not greatly in sympathy with Queen Mary, whom she once referred to as being deadly dull (Pope-Hennessy, 279), a feeling which was increased by their differences in character, education, and interests.
Princess Victoria loved her parents dearly, and this feeling was fully reciprocated. She became the good angel of the family who was indispensable to the king and queen, accompanying them on visits and official engagements and generally helping to make their lives easier. But this was achieved only by suppressing her own inclinations, and her life as an adult unmarried daughter at home was not always easy. If she had wanted to marry a prince of equal rank, such as her cousin King Christian X of Denmark, her parents would have been happy to agree, but they were less willing to consider an alliance with, for example, a British commoner. The princess would not hear of marrying her cousin, and refused to marry anyone except for love, but those whom she might have chosen were barred to her, which left this area of her life apparently sad and unfulfilled. After her father's death she lived in the shadow of Queen Alexandra, who was by then elderly, often depressed, and almost stone-deaf. Princess Victoria longed for greater independence, but lacked the stamina and perhaps the self-interest for open rebellion; moreover, she saw it as her duty to care for her mother. Nevertheless, she was always grateful for the occasional holiday and is reported as saying Thank God you can take my place now for a while (De Stoeckl, 161) to a friend who was going to stay with Queen Alexandra at one of these times. But when, in 1920, she and the princess royal had to deputize for their mother on Alexandra Rose day, she wrote in one of her albums that it had been horrible without Mama (Princess Victoria's photograph album, 191922, 18, Royal Archives, RPC 03/0114).
The frustrations of this kind of existence undermined Princess Victoria's health, which had never been robust. Although by nature kind, generous, and unselfish, she gained a reputation for being sometimes sharp-tongued and difficult. Once, on impulse, she said to her doctor Can you realise what it means to have always driven with your back to the horses? (Lord Dawson to George V, 2 Dec 1935, Royal Archives, GV/AA 57/10)metaphorically describing a life spent putting others first and having to bear any consequent discomfort. As a result she was always sympathetic to those in distress, but she had an unfortunate way of showing it. She once visited the Harrogate Infirmary with a friend, taking presents for all the elderly inmates. A number of smiling old ladies were waiting to meet her, but the princess proceeded to sympathize so heartily with them on their plight that she left them sobbing and discontented. She preferred facing unhappiness rather than pretending that it did not exist, and at the time of King Edward VII's last illness was one of the few people who admitted that he was dying and insisted that public bulletins on his health should reflect this.
Queen Alexandra died in 1925 and Princess Victoria set up home at Coppins, Iver, in Buckinghamshire, where she lived until her death, enjoying music and gardening and taking a keen interest in local matters. She was much in sympathy with young people, and among those for whom she felt a special affection were Beatrice Harrison, the cellist, and her sisters, also musicians. They had spent a holiday on the Sandringham estate in 1918, at the princess's invitation, and she wrote afterwards to thank them:
for giving me the time of my life! in actually playing with an orchestra with real live artists!! I never thought it could come to pass … Music is so wonderful so helpful & I have longed to be able to play, or produce in some way the sounds I feel & understand. (Harrison Sisters' Trust, archives, 6 Oct 1918)
As a skilled amateur pianist, she recorded two works by Elgar with the Harrisons in 1928. Her other friends included the Musgrave family, with whom she sometimes stayed (Lady Musgrave was a lifelong friend who was also the princess's lady-in-waiting), the widowed fifth earl of Rosebery, and Violet Vivian, formerly a maid of honour to Queen Alexandra, whose garden at Cestyll, near Cemais Bay, the princess helped to design. Princess Victoria died on 3 December 1935 at Coppins and was interred in the royal burial-ground at Frogmore on 8 January 1936.
The Times (4 Dec 1935) · G. Battiscombe, Queen Alexandra (1969) · private information (2004) · T. Conway, Cestyll garden (Nuclear Electric plc, 1992) · J. Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary (1959) · B. Harrison, The cello and the nightingales, ed. P. Cleveland-Peck (1985) · correspondence, Royal Arch. · Royal Arch., Royal Photograph Collection · J. Gore, King George V: a personal memoir (1941) · Agnes, Baroness de Stoeckl, Not all vanity (1950)
Royal Arch., incl. Royal Photograph Collection | PRONI, letters to Lady Antrim
Royal College of Music, London, Harrison Sisters' Trust, archives
BFINA, current affairs footage
BFINA, news footage
British Movietone News Limited, East Barnet
Reuter's Television Library, London
Symposium Records, East Barnet
K. W. F. Bauerle, oils, 1871, Royal Collection · H. M. Thornycroft, double portrait, marble statue, 1877 (with her sister Princess Maud), Royal Collection · H. von Angeli, oils, 1878, Royal Collection · S. P. Hall, group portrait, oils, 1883 (Daughters of Edward VII), NPG · L. Tuxen, group portrait, oils, 1887 (The royal family at the time of the jubilee), Royal Collection · C. J. Turrell, miniature, 1890, Royal Collection · L. Tuxen, group portrait, oils, 1893 (Marriage of King George and Queen Mary), Royal Collection · E. Hughes, oils, 1896, Royal Collection · L. Tuxen, group portrait, oils, 1896 (Marriage of Princess Maud and Prince Charles of Denmark), Royal Collection · L. Alma-Tadema, drawing, 1897, Royal Collection · P. A. de Laszlo, oils, 1907, NPG · L. Charles, photograph, 1909, Royal Photograph Collection · A. Broom, photographs, NPG · Byrne & Co., photographs, NPG · W. & D. Downey, photographs, NPG · R. Milne, photographs, NPG · J. Russell & Sons, photographs, NPG · photographs, Royal Photograph Collection · photographs, TNA: PRO · portraits, Royal Collection
Wealth at death
£237,455 18s. 9d.: probate, 11 March 1936, CGPLA Eng. & Wales