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Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale (January 8, 1864 – January 14, 1892) was the eldest child of the Prince and Princess of Wales (later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra) and grandson of the reigning British monarch, Queen Victoria. From the time of his birth, he was second in the line of succession to the British throne, but never became king because he died before his father and grandmother.

Albert Victor was born two months prematurely on January 8, 1864 at Frogmore House, Windsor, Berkshire. He was the first child of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, and his wife Alexandra of Denmark, daughter of was Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg (King Christian IX of Denmark) and her mother was Princess Louise of Hesse-Cassel.

Following his grandmother Queen Victoria’s wishes, he was named Albert Victor, after herself and her late husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. As a grandchild of the reigning British monarch in the male line and a son of the Prince of Wales, he was formally styled His Royal Highness Prince Albert Victor of Wales from birth.

From October 1889 till May 1890 Prince Albert Victor toutred India. On his return from India, Albert Victor was created Duke of Clarence and Avondale and Earl of Athlone on May 24, 1890, Queen Victoria’s 71st birthday.

Prospective brides

Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine

Several women were lined up as possible brides for Albert Victor. The first, in 1889, was his cousin Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, but she did not return his affections and refused his offer of engagement. She would later marry Emperor Nicholas II of Russia, another of Albert Victor’s cousins, in 1894.

Princess Hélène of Orléans

The second, in 1890, was a love match with Princess Hélène of Orléans, the third of eight children born to Prince Philippe VII , Count of Paris, and Infanta Maria Isabel of Spain, daughter of Prince Antoine, Duke of Montpensier and Infanta Luisa Fernanda of Spain. Antoine was the youngest son of Louis-Philippe I, the last King of France, and Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily. Infanta Luisa was the daughter of Ferdinand VII of Spain and her grandfather’s fourth wife Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies. All four of her grandparents and seven of her eight great-grandparents were members of the French Royal House of Bourbon.

Engagement photo of the Duke of Clarence and Princess Mary of Teck

At first, Queen Victoria opposed any engagement because Hélène was Roman Catholic. Victoria wrote to her grandson suggesting another of her grandchildren, Princess Margaret of Prussia, as a suitable alternative, but nothing came of her suggestion, and once Albert Victor and Hélène confided their love to her, the Queen relented and supported the proposed marriage. Hélène offered to convert to the Church of England, and Albert Victor offered to renounce his succession rights to marry her.

To the couple’s disappointment, her father refused to countenance the marriage and was adamant she could not convert. Hélène travelled personally to intercede with Pope Leo XIII, but he confirmed her father’s verdict, and the courtship ended. On June 25, 1895, at the Church of St. Raphael in Kingston upon Thames, Hélène married Prince Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy, 2nd Duke of Aosta (1869–1931).

In late 1891, the Prince was implicated as having been involved with a former Gaiety Theatre chorus girl, Lydia Miller (stage name Lydia Manton), who committed suicide by drinking carbolic acid. In 1891, Albert Victor wrote to Lady Sybil St Clair Erskine that he was in love once again, though he does not say with whom, but by this time another potential bride, Princess Mary of Teck, was under consideration. Mary was the daughter of Queen Victoria’s first cousin Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck. Queen Victoria was very supportive, considering Mary ideal—charming, sensible and pretty. On 3 December 1891 Albert Victor, to Mary’s “great surprise”, proposed to her at Luton Hoo, the country residence of the Danish ambassador to Britain. The wedding was set for February 27, 1892.

as plans for both his marriage to Mary and his appointment as Viceroy of Ireland were under discussion, Albert Victor fell ill with influenza in the pandemic of 1889–92. He developed pneumonia and died at Sandringham House in Norfolk on January 14, 1892, less than a week after his 28th birthday. His parents the Prince and Princess of Wales, his sisters Princesses Maud and Victoria, his brother Prince George, his fiancée Princess Mary, her parents the Duke and Duchess of Teck, three physicians (Alan Reeve Manby, Francis Laking and William Broadbent) and three nurses were present. The Prince of Wales’s chaplain, Canon Frederick Hervey, stood over Albert Victor reading prayers for the dying.

The nation was shocked. Shops put up their shutters. The Prince of Wales wrote to Queen Victoria, “Gladly would I have given my life for his”.