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Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, (Leopold George Duncan Albert; April 7, 1853 – March 28, 1884) Leopold was later created

Leopold was born at Buckingham Palace, London, the eighth child and youngest son of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. During labour, Queen Victoria chose to use chloroform and thereby encouraged the use of anesthesia in childbirth, recently developed by Professor James Young Simpson. The chloroform was administered by John Snow.

As a son of the British sovereign, the newborn was styled His Royal Highness The Prince Leopold at birth. His parents named him Leopold after their common uncle, King Leopold I of Belgium.

Leopold inherited the disease haemophilia from his mother, Queen Victoria, and was a delicate child. There was speculation during his life that Leopold also suffered mildly from epilepsy, like his grand-nephew Prince John, son of George V and Mary of Teck.

In 1872, Prince Leopold entered Christ Church, Oxford, where he studied a variety of subjects and became president of the Oxford University Chess Club. On coming of age in 1874, he was made a privy councillor and granted an annuity of £15,000. He left the university in 1876 with an honorary doctorate in civil law (DCL), and then travelled in Europe. In 1880, he toured Canada and the United States with his sister, Princess Louise, whose husband John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne, was Governor General of Canada. Leopold was a prominent patron of chess, and the London 1883 chess tournament was held under his patronage.

On May 24, 1881, his mother Queen Victoria created Leopold Duke of Albany, Earl of Clarence, and Baron Arklow.

Prince Leopold, stifled by the desire of Queen Victoria to keep him at home, saw marriage as his only hope of independence. Due to his haemophilia, he had difficulty finding a wife. He was acquainted with Alice Liddell, the daughter of the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford for whom Lewis Carroll wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and was godfather of Alice’s second son, who was named after him.

It has been suggested that he considered marrying her, during the four years he spent at Christ Church, but the evidence for this is sparse. Others suggest that he preferred her sister Edith (for whom he later served as pall-bearer on 30 June 1876).

Princess Frederica of Hanover

Leopold also considered his second cousin Princess Frederica of Hanover as a bride; they instead became lifelong friends and confidantes. Other royal and aristocratic women he pursued included heiress Daisy Maynard, Princess Elisabeth of Hesse-Cassel,

Another potential royal bride that was considered was Princess Caroline Mathilde of Schleswig-Holstein. Caroline Mathilde’s elder sister, Augusta Viktoria was German Empress and Queen of Prussia as the wife of Leopold’s nephew, Wilhelm II, German Emperor.

Princess Caroline Mathilde of Schleswig-Holstein

Princess Stéphanie of Belgium and Princess Victoria of Baden were also considered. Leopold was very fond of Mary Baring, daughter of Lord Ashburton, but though she was equally fond of him, at 19, she felt she was too young to marry.

After rejection from these women, Victoria stepped in to bar what she saw as unsuitable possibilities. Insisting that the children of British monarchs should marry into other reigning Protestant families, Victoria suggested a meeting with Princess Helen Frederica, the daughter of Georg Victor, reigning Prince of Waldeck-Pyrmont, one of whose daughters had already married King Willem III of the Netherlands.

On April 27, 1882, Leopold and Helen were married at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, and his income was raised by parliament to £25,000. They enjoyed a happy, albeit brief marriage. In 1883, Leopold became a father when his wife gave birth to a daughter, Alice. However, he did not live to see the birth of his son, Charles Edward.

The Duke and Duchess of Albany. Prince Leopold and Princess Helen of Waldeck and Pyrmount

Illness and death

Prince Leopold had haemophilia diagnosed in childhood, and in early years had various physicians in permanent attendance, including Arnold Royle and John Wickham Legg.

In February 1884, Leopold went to Cannes on doctor’s orders: joint pain is a common symptom of haemophilia and the winter climate in the United Kingdom was always difficult for him. His wife, pregnant at the time, stayed at home but urged him to go.

On March 27, at his Cannes residence, the ‘Villa Nevada’, he slipped and fell, injuring his knee and hitting his head. He died in the early hours of the next morning, apparently from a cerebral haemorrhage. He was buried in the Albert Memorial Chapel at Windsor. The court observed official mourning from March 30, 1884 to May 11, 1884.

Having died six years after his older sister Alice, Leopold was the second, but the youngest of Queen Victoria’s children to die, being only 30 years old at the time of his death.

His mother outlived him by seventeen years, by which time she had also outlived a third child, Alfred. Leopold’s passing was lamented by the Scottish “poet and tragedian” William McGonagall in the poem “The Death of Prince Leopold”. Queen Victoria wrote in her journal:

Another awful blow has fallen upon me & all of us today. My beloved Leopold, that bright, clever son, who had so many times recovered from such fearful illness, & from various small accidents, has been taken from us! To lose another dear child, far from me, & one who was so gifted, & such a help to me, is too dreadful!

The haemophilia gene is carried on the X chromosome, and is normally passed through female descent, as in the past few haemophiliac men survived to beget children. Any daughter of a haemophiliac is a carrier of the gene. Leopold’s daughter Alice inherited the haemophilia gene, and passed it to her elder son Rupert.

Leopold’s posthumous son, Prince Charles Edward, succeeded him as 2nd Duke of Albany upon birth four months later. Charles Edward succeeded his uncle Alfred as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1900. Through Charles Edward, Leopold is the great-grandfather of Carl XVI Gustaf, the current King of Sweden.