Duke of Kent and Strathearn, King William IV of the United Kingdom, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Prince Alexander of the Netherlands, Prince Edward, Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, Royal Marriage, The Prince Consort
From the Emperor’s Desk: I took a short break so I am posting the anniversary of this event today.
Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; May 24, 1819 – January 22, 1901) was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death in 1901. Her reign of 63 years and 216 days was the second longest reign in British history and was known as the Victorian Era.
Victoria was the daughter of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (the fourth son of King George III), and Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, who 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.
After the deaths of her father and grandfather in 1820, Princess Victoria was raised under close supervision by her mother and her comptroller, John Conroy. She inherited the throne aged 18 after her father’s three elder brothers died without surviving legitimate issue.
Though Victoria was now Queen, as an unmarried young woman she was required by social convention to live with her mother, despite their differences over the Kensington System and her mother’s continued reliance on Conroy.
Her mother was consigned to a remote apartment in Buckingham Palace, and Victoria often refused to see her. When Victoria complained to Melbourne that her mother’s proximity promised “torment for many years”, Her first Prime Minster Lord Melbourne sympathised but said it could be avoided by marriage, which Victoria called a “schocking [sic] alternative”.
Prince Albert was born on August 26, 1819, at Schloss Rosenau, near Coburg, within the German Confederation, and the second son of Ernst III, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and his first wife, Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.
In 1825, Albert’s great-uncle, Friedrich IV, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, died without a direct heir which led to a realignment of the Saxon Duchies the following year and Albert’s father became, Ernst I, the first reigning duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Albert and his elder brother, Ernst, spent their youth in close companionship, which was marred by their parents’ turbulent marriage and eventual separation and divorce. After their mother was exiled from court in 1824, she married her lover, Alexander von Hanstein, Count of Pölzig and Beiersdorf.
She presumably never saw her children again, and died of cancer at the age of 30 in 1831. The following year, their father married his niece, his sons’ cousin Princess Marie of Württemberg; their marriage was not close, however, and Marie had little—if any—impact on her stepchildren’s lives.
Princess Marie of Württemberg was a daughter of Duke Alexander of Württemberg and Antoinette of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (her husband’s sister).
The idea of marriage between Albert and his cousin, Victoria, was first documented in an 1821 letter from his paternal grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (Countess Augusta Reuss of Ebersdorf), who said that he was “the pendant to the pretty cousin”. By 1836, this idea had also arisen in the mind of their ambitious uncle Leopold, who had been King of the Belgians since 1831.
King Leopold arranged for his sister, Victoria’s mother, to invite the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and his two sons to visit her in May 1836, with the purpose of meeting Victoria. King William IV, however, disapproved of any match with the Coburgs, and instead favoured the suit of Prince Alexander, second son of the Prince of Orange (future King Willem II of the Netherlands) and Grand Duchess Anna Paulovna of Russia.
Victoria was well aware of the various matrimonial plans and critically appraised a parade of eligible princes. She wrote, “[Albert] is extremely handsome; his hair is about the same colour as mine; his eyes are large and blue, and he has a beautiful nose and a very sweet mouth with fine teeth; but the charm of his countenance is his expression, which is most delightful.” Alexander, on the other hand, she described as “very plain”.
Victoria wrote to her uncle Leopold to thank him “for the prospect of great happiness you have contributed to give me, in the person of dear Albert … He possesses every quality that could be desired to render me perfectly happy.” Although the parties did not undertake a formal engagement, both the family and their retainers widely assumed that the match would take place.
Victoria showed interest in Albert’s education for the possible future role he would have to play as her husband, but she resisted attempts to rush her into wedlock. Victoria had only gained her freedom from the oppressive “Kensington System” under which she was raised, when she assumed the throne.
Albert returned to the United Kingdom with his brother Ernst in October 1839 to visit the Queen, with the objective of settling the marriage.
Albert and Victoria felt mutual affection and the Queen proposed to him on October 15, 1839. Victoria’s intention to marry was declared formally to the Privy Council on November 23, and the couple married on February 10, 1840 at the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace.
Just before the marriage, Albert was naturalised by an Act of Parliament.
In the German Confederation, Albert was styled “His Serene Highness Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha”. He was granted the style of Royal Highness on February 6, 1840.
From February 6, 1840 until June 25, 1857 Albert was known in the United Kingdom as HRH Prince Albert without any territorial designation. Queen Victoria’s attempts to create her husband King Consort or granting him a Peerage title was met with resistance by her Prime Minsters and Parliament. Eventually, on June 25, 1857 Queen Victoria granted her husband the title of Prince Consort.
Victoria was love-struck. She spent the evening after their wedding lying down with a headache, but wrote ecstatically in her diary:
I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert … his excessive love & affection gave me feelings of heavenly love & happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms, & we kissed each other again & again! His beauty, his sweetness & gentleness – really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband! … to be called by names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before – was bliss beyond belief! Oh! This was the happiest day of my life!
Albert became an important political adviser as well as the Queen’s companion, replacing Melbourne who had been the dominant influential figure in the first years of her reign.