With my interest in royalty I often peruse genealogy charts and biographies to look at the history and events in people’s lives to see if I can capture an accurate picture of who these people were and the times in which they lived. That is what I do when I wear the hat of an historian. I also have a background in psychology and despite having these high and lofty titles they are still human and can and do suffer all the ills associated with the human condition and that includes grief.
When I examine genealogy charts and notice that there are deaths that come close after one another I realize that certain royal family members may be caught up in grief. Often their biographies may detail their grief, as the case with Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, however, there are times when nothing is mentioned. This past July I noticed that King Edward VII of the United Kingdom went through many losses in one year. I envision that it may have been a very difficult time for him.
In 1892 he lost his eldest son and heir, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale (1864-1892) to pneumonia. It has been reported that Prince Albert Victor’s mother, Princess Alexandra, Princess of Wales (at that time) never fully recovered from her son’s death and kept the room in which he died as a shrine. This was typical of those in the Victorian era that made grief seem like an Olympic sport. I suspect that the future King Edward VII also never recovered from the death of his son…what parent ever truly recovers from such a tragedy?
However, it is the year 1899 that we turn to in examining the difficult year for Edward VII. On February 6, 1899 came the death of his nephew, HRH Alfred, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (October 15-February 9, 1899), the only son and heir of HRH Prince Alfred, reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Duke of Edinburgh and brother of King Edward VII. The Hereditary Prince’s mother was, Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia the fifth child and only surviving daughter of Emperor Alexander II of Russia and his first wife Princess Marie of Hesse and by Rhine.
The Hereditary Prince was aged 24 and his death was under circumstances still not entirely clear.Was it due to health reasons such as consumption or was it suicide? He is alleged to have secretly married Lady Mabel Fitzgerald, granddaughter of the 4th Duke of Leinster, and it has been claimed that this caused friction between young Prince Alfred and his parents and was the cause of his suicide. One report is that Alfred shot himself with a revolver while the rest of the family was gathered for the anniversary celebration of his parents marriage, January 23rd 1899. Prince Alfred survived the initial self-inflicted gun shot and was taken to Schloss Friedenstein in Gotha for three days before being sent to the Martinnsbrunn Sanatorium in Gratsch in the South Tyrol (Austria, now part of Italy). Alfred died there at 4:15 pm on February 9, 1899.
Technically this part of the story belongs more to the grief of the Duke and Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha than to Edward VII himself, after all, it wasn’t his son that died. I only relay this story here because it was the start of a string of deaths in the British Royal Family that would run from 1899 until August of 1901 that would have had an emotional impact on the future Edward VII.
In keeping my desire to have these posts be not too length and therefore easily digestible, I will stop here and post the next entry next Friday.