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March 16, 1861: Today is the 160th anniversary of the death of HRH The Duchess of Kent (born Princess Victoire of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld), the mother of Queen Victoria, the sister of King Leopold I of the Belgians and the paternal aunt of her son-in-law Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

This will begin a multiple series on her life.

Victoire was born in Coburg on August 17, 1786 in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and was named Marie Louise Victoire. She was the fourth daughter and seventh child of Franz Friedrich Anton, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and Countess Augusta of Reuss-Ebersdorf. One of her brothers was Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and another brother, Leopold, future king of the Belgians, married, in 1816, Princess Charlotte of Wales, the only legitimate daughter of the future King George IV, and heiress presumptive to the British throne.

First marriage:
On December 21, 1803 at Coburg, a young Victoire married (as his second wife) Emich Carl, 2nd Prince of Leiningen (1763–1814). Victoire was a niece of his late wife, Henriette of Reuss-Ebersdorf, the youngest daughter of Heinrich XXIV, Count of Reuss-Ebersdorf, by his wife, Countess Karoline Ernestine of Erbach-Schönberg. Henriette’s father, Heinrich XXIV, Count of Reuss-Ebersdorf, and Victoire’s mother, Countess Augusta of Reuss-Ebersdorf, were siblings.

She bore him two further children:

Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Emich (12 September 1804 – 13 November 1856); succeeded his father as third prince; married on 13 February 1829, Countess Maria von Klebelsberg zu Thumburg, and had issue.

Princess Anna Feodora Auguste Charlotte Wilhelmine of Leiningen (7 December 1807 – 23 September 1872); married in 1828, Ernst I, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, and had issue. She is an ancestor of various European royals, including Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, Felipe VI of Spain, and Constantine II of Greece.

Emich Carl died at Amorbach on July 4, 1814, and was succeeded by his only surviving son, Carl Friedrich. After the death of her first spouse, Victoire served as regent of the Principality of Leiningen during the minority of their son, Carl.

Second marriage
The death of Britain’s Pincess Charlotte of Wales, the wife of Victoire’s brother Leopold, in 1817, prompted a succession crisis. With Parliament offering them a financial incentive, three of Charlotte’s uncles, sons of George III, were prepared to marry. One of them, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1767–1820) proposed to Victoire and she accepted.

The couple were married on May 29, 1818 at Amorbach and on July 11, 1818 at Kew, a joint ceremony at which Edward’s brother, the Duke of Clarence, later King William IV, married Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen.

Shortly after their marriage, the Kents moved to Germany, where the cost of living would be cheaper. Soon after, Victoire became pregnant, and the Duke and Duchess, determined to have their child born in England, raced back. Arriving at Dover on April 23,  1819, they moved into Kensington Palace, where Victoire gave birth to a daughter on May 24, 1819, Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent, later Queen Victoria. An efficient organiser, Sir John Conroy’s planning ensured the Kents’ speedy return to England in time for the birth of their first child.