Who was Ida Bonanomi?

During a walk around Rosebank Cemetery on Pilrig Street in Edinburgh, I found an interesting headstone for Ida Bonanomi: 



To the Memory of 

Miss Ida Bonanomi,

The faithful and highly esteemed dresser 


Queen Victoria,

Who departed this life Octr 15th, 1854,

In the thirty-seventh year of her age, 

Beloved and respected

By all who knew her.


This stone has been erected 

By Queen Victoria 

As a mark of her regard.


My research has found that Ida died on 15th October 1854 at 9 Princes Street in Edinburgh aged 37 years. Ida was suffering from Heart Disease. As Civil Registration only began in Scotland on 1st January 1855, there is no Death Certificate for Ida. 

From an 1854 map of Edinburgh I have located a cluster of buildings at the junction of North Bridge and Princes Street, unfortunately number 9 cannot be identified. Today The Balmoral Hotel is 1 Princes Street and the Waverley Mall is number 3. No other buildings now exist beyond The Balmoral Hotel and Waverley Mall on Princes Street. 

The 1851 Census records Ida living in the household of Queen Victoria and the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace in London. Ida was aged 32 years and employed as The Queen’s Dresser. Interestingly Ida was born at Amorbach in modern day Germany. When Ida was born around 1817, Amorach was the principal town of the Principality of Leiningen which became part of Bavaria in 1816.

What links Ida, born in Amorbach, with Queen Victoria’s household? I haven’t been able to find when Ida joined the Queen’s household, however as we’ve seen she was already there by 1851. There is no trace of Ida in the earlier census of 1841.


One possible link is through Queen Victoria’s mother, Princess Victoria, Duchess of Kent and Strathearn. The princess was born Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld on 17th August 1786 at Coburg in modern day Germany. Coburg was the capital of the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. In 1825 the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld became the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Coburg. On 21st December 1803, Princess Victoria married as his second wife, Hereditary Prince Emich Carl of Leiningen. On the death of his father in 1807, Hereditary Prince Emich Carl became the 2nd Prince of Leiningen. 


Prince Emich Carl died on 4th July 1814 at Amorbach leaving his wife Princess Victoria not only a  widow but also Regent for their young son Prince Carl, 3rd Prince of Leiningen. 


On 29th May 1818 at Amorbach and again on 11th July at Kew Palace, Princess Victoria married Princess Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn. The Duke of Kent and Strathearn was the fifth child and fourth son of King George III & Queen Charlotte, born Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.


On 24th May 1819 the Duchess of Kent and Strathearn gave birth to the couple’s only child, Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent, the future Queen Victoria. The Duke of Kent and Strathearn died on 23rd January 1820 and is interred in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. The Duchess of Kent and Strathearn died on 16th March 1861 and is buried in the Duchess of Kent’s Mausoleum at Frogmore near Windsor Castle.


On 10th February 1840 at the Chapel Royal of St. James’ Palace in London, Queen Victoria married her first cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Prince Albert was the son of Duke Ernst I of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Prince Albert’s father and Queen Victoria’s mother were brother and sister.


Three of Queen Victoria’s grandparents were German, her husband was German therefore seven out of eight of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s children’s grandparents were German. Queen Victoria’s second dresser, Mina Pfeifer, was born in Karlsruhe capital of the Grand Duchy of Baden and Queen Victoria’s children’s governess, Agnes Illhardt, was born in Gotha in Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. 


We can see that Queen Victoria had a close family relationship with the German States therefore, it’s not surprising to see that several of her close courtiers were from the country of her ancestors. Queen Victoria obviously held Ida in high esteem as she purchased the burial layer and paid for the headstone. 


Additionally, Queen Victoria was the only child born to her parents’ marriage however, she had a half-brother and half-sister from her mother’s marriage to the Prince of Leiningen:


Prince Carl, 3rd Prince of Leiningen


Princess Feodora of Leiningen who married Prince Ernst I, 4th Prince of Hohenlohe Langenburg.


Several of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s descendants married descendants of Queen Victoria’s half-brother and half-sister!


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