Victoria and Albert, by Richard Hough

Cecily. But I don’t like German. It isn’t at all a becoming language. I know perfectly well that I look quite plain after my German lesson.
–Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act II

King Leopold of Belgium had decided that one of the two Saxe-Coburg-Gotha prince brothers, Ernest and Albert, would have to marry young Queen Victoria. They had met her two years before, and on the second visit, in 1839, it was only five days before Victoria proposed to Albert, who accepted. (There was no question of his proposing to her.) From all evidence, it was a true and passionate love from the beginning, proven by a steady stream of little royalty to fill the residence.

There was a period of adjustment in finding something constructive for Albert to do. Victoria at first was determined to leave him out of all state business, even as one of many counselors, in order to avoid strife over policy. Eventually, he kept busy with various engineering and industrial projects–from building the royal getaways Osborne, on the Isle of Wight, and Balmoral, in Scotland, to leading the organization of the Great Exhibition of 1851 and its Crystal Palace. (Balmoral is still a famous Royal getaway, but Osborne was given away by Edward VII, despite his mother’s wish that it remain in the family–no one wanted it.)

Albert died of typhoid fever in 1861, shortly after resolving a diplomatic crisis with the United States involving the capture of four Southerners from the British mail packet Trent. He lived long enough to see their eldest child, Victoria (Vicky), married to Frederick III of Prussia. Albert’s fondest dream was that his own marriage to Queen Victoria would lead to a strengthening of ties between the two countries, and the marriage of Vicky to the King of Prussia seemed to show some promise of such a result.

By 1917, though, the British royal family had to change its name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor.

Queen Victoria with Prince Albert and children (Winterhalter, 1846)


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