YVictoria, Princess Royal (Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa; November 21, 1840 – August 5, 1901) was German Empress and Queen of Prussia by marriage to German Emperor Friedrich III. She was the eldest child of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and was created Princess Royal in 1841. She was the mother of Wilhelm II, German Emperor.
Educated by her father in a politically liberal environment, Victoria was betrothed at the age of sixteen to Prince Friedrich of Prussia the eldest son of German Emperor Wilhelm I and Princess Augusta of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. The engagement of Victoria and Friedrich was publicly announced on May 17, 1856. The immediate reaction in Great Britain was disapproval. The English public complained about the Kingdom of Prussia’s neutrality during the Crimean War of 1853-1856. The Times newspaper characterized the Hohenzollern as a “miserable dynasty” that pursued an inconsistent and unreliable foreign policy, with the maintenance of the throne depending solely on Russia.
The newspaper also criticised the failure of King Friedrich-Wilhelm IV to respect the political guarantees given to the population during the revolution of 1848. In the German Confederation, the reactions to the announcement of the engagement were mixed: several members of the Hohenzollern family and conservatives opposed it, and liberal circles welcomed the proposed union with the British crown.
Victoria supported her husband in his Liberal views that Prussia and the later German Empire should become a constitutional monarchy on the British model. Criticised for this attitude and for her English origins, Victoria suffered ostracism by the Hohenzollerns and the Berlin court. This isolation increased after the arrival of Arch-Conservative Otto von Bismarck (one of her most staunch political opponents) to power in 1862.
Victoria was empress for only a few months, during which she had little opportunity to influence the policy of the German Empire. Friedrich III died in 1888 – just 99 days after his accession – from laryngeal cancer and was succeeded by their son Wilhelm II, who had much more conservative views than his parents. This political division between mother and son resulted in an often difficult and combative relationship.
Crown Princess Victoria with her eldest son Wilhelm
After her husband’s death, she became widely known as Empress Friedrich. The empress dowager then settled in Kronberg im Taunus, where she built Friedrichshof, a castle, named in honour of her late husband.
Victoria was increasingly isolated after the weddings of her younger daughters. In fact, Victoria was completely sequestered from public life by Wilhelm II. With the death of her mother-in-law, the Empress Dowager Augusta in 1890, Victoria had hopes to succeed her as patron of the German Red Cross and the Vaterländischer Frauenverein (Association of Patriotic Women). However, it was her daughter-in-law, Empress Augusta Victoria, who assumed the presidency of these entities, which caused a deep bitterness in Victoria.
In late 1898, physicians diagnosed the empress dowager with inoperable breast cancer, forcing her to stay in bed for long periods. The cancer spread to her spine by the autumn of 1900, and as she worried about her personal letters (in which she detailed her concern over Germany’s future under her son) falling into the hands of the emperor, she requested that the letters be brought back to Great Britain in a cloak-and-dagger operation by Frederick Ponsonby, the private secretary of her brother King Edward VII of the United Kingdom who was making his final visit to his terminally ill sister in Kronberg on February 23, 1901. These letters were later edited by Ponsonby and put into context by his background commentary to form the book that was published in 1928.
Victoria died of breast and spinal cancer on August 5 1901, nearly seven months after the death of her mother, Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, on January 22, 1901. She was 60 years old.
She was buried next to her husband in the royal mausoleum of the Friedenskirche at Potsdam on August 13, 1901. Her tomb has a recumbent marble effigy of herself on top. Her two sons who died in childhood, Sigismund and Waldemar, are buried in the same mausoleum.