Helena Richese was a member of House Richese. Upon her wedding to Duke Paulus Atreides, she became known as Lady Helena Atreides. She was the mother of Leto Atreides, and the grandmother of Victor Atreides and Paul Atreides.
Dune: House Atreides
The book describes how, due to failings of House Richese, Helena was wed to Duke Paulus Atreides, to try to salvage some of the House's respect through marital alliances. Helena's other sisters were also wed off in the same fashion.
Leto knew that theirs had been an arranged marriage, a bargain struck among the Houses of the Landsraad to fulfill the requirements of the important families. It had been a desperate action on the part of crumbling Richese, and House Atreides could always hope the former grandeur of the innovative technological House might rise again. In the meantime, the Old Duke had received substantial concessions and rewards for taking in one of the many daughters of House Richese.
~ Dune: House Atreides
It is clear to everyone, including Leto, that the marriage was solely a political one, although Paulus does tell Leto that he once loved Helena. The relationship broke down over the years, and Paulus ended up having many mistresses, and the two began two hate each other, although for appearance's sake, they never show this to the public. She teaches Leto about religion and formality, and believes Leto should not have direct contact with the people of Caladan, which directly contrasts with Paulus' view.
Helena was also against Paulus' decision to send Leto to Ix to stay with Dominic Vernius and his son Rhombur Vernius. This may be because House Vernius and House Richese have a sworn rivalry, although Helena also adds that she does not want to Leto to lose his innocence.
When Rhombur and Kailea Vernius arrived on Caladan, they were treated coldly, yet formally polite, by Helena Richese, who wore the colours of her own House upon the Ixians' first arrival. She presented Kailea with an Orange Catholic Bible as a gift, and also helped to tutor the young Ixian girl.
Paulus' killing at the hands of a Salusan Bull was a plot orchestrated by, Helena, who had plotted with Stablemaster Yresk to drug a Salusan Bull that Paulus was due to fight, and subsequently the Duke was killed. At first, Helena and Yresk, who had come with Helena over from Richese, tried to implicate a young Duncan Idaho, but her own son, the new Duke Leto, together with his Mentat Thufir Hawat uncovered the plot.
As punishment, Leto had Helena removed from Castle Caladan with two of her servants, chosen by him, and she was banished to the Eastern Continent to live under primitive conditions with the Sisters in Isolation, a retrogressive religious commune.
Quotes attributed to Helena Richese
Hope can be the greatest weapon of a downtrodden people, or the greatest enemy of those who are about to fail. We must remain aware of its advantages and its limitations.
Without a goal, a life is nothing. Sometimes the goal becomes a man's entire life, an all-consuming passion. But once that goal is achieved, what then? Oh, poor man, what then?
Memory and History are two sides of the same coin. In time, however, History tends to slant itself toward a favorable impression of events, while Memory is doomed to preserve the worst aspects.
Even innocents carry within them their own guilt in their own way. No one makes it through life without paying, in one fashion or another.
We do what we must. Friendship and loyalty be damned. We do what we must!
A few years later, when the Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV attacked Korona, an artifical moon of Richese, during the Great Spice War; the resulting damage to the planet below was catastrophic. Helena found out about the plight of her maiden people and trekked across Caladan, to ask Leto to help the plight of her former planet. Out of compassion for his mother's House and planet of her youth, Leto agreed to send relief aid.