1840, Act of Parliament, February 10, King Consort, King Leopold I of the Belgians, King William IV of the United Kingdom, Lord Melbourne, Prince Albert, Queen Victoria
On this date in history: February 10, 1840. Her Majesty Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland married her maternal first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Victoria once complained to her Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, that her mother’s close proximity promised “torment for many years”, Melbourne sympathized but said it could be avoided by marriage, which Victoria called a “schocking alternative”. Although a marriage between Victoria and her cousin Prince Albert had been encouraged by the Coburg family, specifically King Leopold I of the Belgians since 1936, Victoria was ambivalent at best toward the arrangement. She did however, show interest in Albert’s education for the future role he would have to play as her husband, but she resisted attempts to rush her into wedlock. King William IV of the United Kingdom preferred that Victoria marry her paternal first cousin, Prince George of Cambridge.
Victoria continued to praise Albert following his second visit in October 1839 and it was during this visit that genuine romantic feelings began to stir for Victoria. Albert and Victoria felt mutual affection and the Queen proposed to him on 15 October 1839, just five days after he had arrived at Windsor. They were married on 10 February 1840, in the Chapel Royal of St James’s Palace, London. Victoria was besotted. She spent the evening after their wedding lying down with a headache, but wrote ecstatically in her diary:
I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert … his excessive love & affection gave me feelings of heavenly love & happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms, & we kissed each other again & again! His beauty, his sweetness & gentleness – really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband! … to be called by names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before – was bliss beyond belief! Oh! This was the happiest day of my life!
Just before the marriage, Albert was naturalized by Act of Parliament and granted the style of Royal Highness by an Order in Council. This style was only legal in Britain and under the German system of styles and titles Prince Albert remained His Serene Highness. Lord Melbourne advised against the Queen’s strong desire to grant her husband the title of “King Consort”. Parliament even refused to make Prince Albert a peer of the realm—(granting him a title of nobility) partly because of anti-German sentiment and a desire to exclude Albert from any political role.
Initially Albert was not popular with the British public; he was perceived to be from an impoverished and undistinguished minor state, barely larger than a small English county. In time Albert became an important political adviser as well as the Queen’s companion, replacing Lord Melbourne as the dominant, influential figure in the first half of her life.