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Flag rank

Alfred was stationed in Malta for several years and his third child, Victoria-Melita, was born there in 1876. Promoted rear-admiral on December 30, 1878, he became admiral superintendent of naval reserves, with his flag in the corvette HMS Penelope in November 1879.

Promoted to vice-admiral on November 10, 1882, he became Commander-in-Chief, Channel Fleet, with his flag in the armoured ship HMS Minotaur, in December 1883. He became Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet, with his flag in the armoured ship HMS Alexandra, in March 1886, and having been promoted to admiral on October 18, 1887, he went on to be Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth in August 1890. He was promoted to Admiral of the Fleet on June 3, 1893.

The Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

Percy Scott wrote in his memoirs that “as a Commander-in-Chief, the Duke of Edinburgh had, in my humble opinion, no equal. He handled a fleet magnificently, and introduced many improvement in signals and manoeuvring.” He “took a great interest in gunnery.” “The prettiest ship I have ever seen was the [Duke of Edinburgh’s flagship] HMS Alexandra. I was informed that £2,000 had been spent by the officers on her decoration.”

Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

Ernst II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

On the death of his uncle, Ernst II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha on August 22, 1893, the duchy fell to the Duke of Edinburgh, since his elder brother (the Prince of Wales) had renounced his right to the succession before he married. Alfred thereupon surrendered his British allowance of £15,000 a year and his seats in the House of Lords and the Privy Council, but he retained the £10,000 granted on his marriage to maintain Clarence House as his London residence. At first regarded with some coldness as a “foreigner”, he gradually gained popularity. By the time of his death in 1900, he had generally won the good opinion of his subjects.

Alfred was exceedingly fond of music and took a prominent part in establishing the Royal College of Music. He was a keen violinist, but had little skill. At a dinner party given by his brother, he was persuaded to play. Sir Henry Ponsonby wrote: ‘Fiddle out of tune and noise abominable.’

He was also a keen collector of glass and ceramic ware, and his collection, valued at half a million marks, was presented by his widow to the Veste Coburg, the enormous fortress on a hill top above Coburg.

Later life

Alfred and Maria’s only son, Alfred, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, became involved in a scandal involving his mistress and apparently shot himself in January 1899, in the midst of his parents’ twenty-fifth wedding anniversary celebrations at the Schloss Friedenstein in Gotha. He survived, but his embarrassed mother sent him off to Meran to recover, where he died two weeks later, on February 6, His father was devastated.

The Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

The Duke of Saxe-Coburg died of throat cancer on July 30, 1900 in a lodge adjacent to Schloss Rosenau, the ducal summer residence just north of Coburg. He was 55 years old and was buried at the ducal family’s mausoleum in the Friedhof am Glockenberg in Coburg.

He was succeeded as the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha by his nephew, Prince Charles-Edward, Duke of Albany, the posthumous son of his youngest brother, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany.

He was survived by his mother, Queen Victoria, who had already outlived two of her children, Alice and Leopold. She died six months later.