In examining the grief born by the Prince of Wales-Edward VII from July 1900 to August of 1901 our story turns to the relationship he had with his brother, HRH Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg Gotha.
HRH Prince Alfred Ernest Albert was born on August 6, 1844 and was the second son and fourth child of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. He was created Duke of Edinburgh by his mother in 1866 and he succeeded his paternal uncle Ernst II as the reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in the German Empire on August 22, 1893.
On 23 January 1874, the Duke of Edinburgh married Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, the second (and only surviving) daughter of Emperor Alexander II of Russia and his wife Marie of Hesse and by Rhine (daughter of Ludwig II, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine and Wilhelmine of Baden) at the Winter Palace, St Petersburg. The marriage was not a happy one and the Duchess of Edinburgh was thought haughty by London Society. Perhaps there was great truth to this claim and it is evident by her displeasure when she learned that she had to yield precedence to the Princess of Wales and all of Queen Victoria’s daughters.
The Duchess of Edinburgh persistently insisted on taking precedence before the Princess of Wales (the future Queen Alexandra) because she considered the Princess of Wales’ family (King Christian IX and the rest of the Danish Royal Family) as inferior to their own. The Duchess ‘ father, Emperor Alexander II of Russia, shared this opinion. However, Queen Victoria refused this demand, yet in the end compromised with her daughter-in-law and granted her precedence immediately after the Princess of Wales.
To his credit, Prince Albert Edward, Prince of Wales did not allow this issue to dampen relations with his brother. In fact, shortly after the incident, The prince of Wales invited the Czarevitch (future Emperor Alexander III) and his family to Marlborough House, the London residence of the prince and Princess of Wales. During this visit he forged a close relationship with his nephew, the future Emperor Nicholas II of Russia. What I find interesting, and need to read more about this prejudice the Emperor Alexander II had toward the family of King Christian IX of Denmark, is that Alexander II’s own son, future Emperor Alexander III, was, like the prince of Wales, married to a daughter (Princess Dagmar) of King Christian IX of Denmark! Does this mean he didn’t approve of his own daughter-in-law?
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 The Prince of Wales had renounced his right to the succession before he married. Alfred thereupon surrendered his seats in the House of Lords and the Privy Council, but he retained 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.
Duke Alfred of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha died of throat cancer on July 30, 1900. He was buried at the ducal family’s mausoleum in the Friedhof am Glockenberg in Coburg. Alfred 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 because Alfred’s next brother, The Duke of Connaught, and his son, Prince Arthur of Connaught, had renounced their succession rights to the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
The Prince of Wales attended his brother’s funeral and at that time learned that his sister, Victoria, the Princess Royal (Empress Frederick) was also suffering from spinal cancer and was in great pain. Upon his return to London and his Marlborough residence it was reported that the grief stricken Prince of Wales sunk into a “black depression.”
Part III next week!!