Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel; August 26, 1819 – December 14, 1861) was the husband of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Albert was born at Schloss Rosenau, near Coburg, Germany, the second son of Ernst III, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and his first wife, Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, the only daughter of August, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg and his first wife Louise Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, daughter of Friedrich Franz I, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (her namesake).
Albert’s future wife, Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom was born earlier in the same year with the assistance of the same midwife, Charlotte von Siebold. Albert was baptised into the Lutheran Evangelical Church on September 19, 1819 in the Marble Hall at Schloss Rosenau with water taken from the local river, the Itz.
In October of 1839 Albert and his brother Ernest returned to the United Kingdom to visit the Queen, with the objective of settling the marriage issue between Albert and Victoria. Albert and Victoria felt mutual affection and the Queen proposed to him on October 15, 1839. Victoria’s intention to marry was declared formally to the Privy Council on November 23, and the couple married on February 10, 1840 at the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace. Just before the marriage, Albert was naturalised by an Act of Parliament.
In the United Kingdom, Albert was styled “His Serene Highness Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha” He was granted the style of Royal Highness on February 6, 1840, and throughout his marriage his territorial designation was dropped and he was styled HRH Prince Albert and was given the title of Prince Consort on June 25, 1857. However, making Albert a peer (granting him a dukedom) was considered unpopular and Victoria never was able to make him a Prince of the United Kingdom in his own right.
In August 1859, Albert fell seriously ill with stomach cramps He had an accidental brush with death during a trip to Coburg in the autumn of 1860, when he was driving alone in a carriage drawn by four horses that suddenly bolted. As the horses continued to gallop toward a stationary wagon waiting at a railway crossing, Albert jumped for his life from the carriage. One of the horses was killed in the collision, and Albert was badly shaken, though his only physical injuries were cuts and bruises. He confided in his brother and eldest daughter that he had sensed his time had come.
In March 1861, Victoria’s mother and Albert’s aunt, the Duchess of Kent, died and Victoria was grief-stricken; Albert took on most of the Queen’s duties, despite continuing to suffer with chronic stomach trouble. The last public event he presided over was the opening of the Royal Horticultural Gardens on 5 June 1861. In August, Victoria and Albert visited the Curragh Camp, Ireland, where the Prince of Wales was doing army service. At the Curragh, the Prince of Wales was introduced, by his fellow officers, to Nellie Clifden, an Irish actress.
By November, Victoria and Albert had returned to Windsor, and the Prince of Wales had returned to Cambridge, where he was a student. Two of Albert’s young cousins, brothers King Pedro V of Portugal and Prince Ferdinand, died of typhoid fever within five days of each other in early November. On top of this news, Albert was informed that gossip was spreading in gentlemen’s clubs and the foreign press that the Prince of Wales was still involved with Nellie Clifden.
Albert and Victoria were horrified by their son’s indiscretion, and feared blackmail, scandal or pregnancy. Although Albert was ill and at a low ebb, he travelled to Cambridge to see the Prince of Wales on November 25 to discuss his son’s indiscreet affair. In his final weeks Albert suffered from pains in his back and legs.
When the Trent Affair—the forcible removal of Confederate envoys from a British ship by Union forces during the American Civil War—threatened war between the United States and Britain, Albert was gravely ill but intervened to soften the British diplomatic response.
On December 9, 1861 one of Albert’s doctors, William Jenner, diagnosed him with typhoid fever. Albert died at 10:50 p.m. on December 14, the Blue Room at Windsor Castle, in the presence of the Queen and five of their nine children.The contemporary diagnosis for his death was typhoid fever, but modern writers have pointed out that Albert’s ongoing stomach pain, leaving him ill for at least two years before his death, may indicate that a chronic disease, such as Crohn’s disease, renal failure, or abdominal cancer, was the cause of death.