PRINCE ALBERT OF SAXE-COBURG AND GOTHA (Francis Albert Augustus
Charles Emmanuel; 26 August 1819 – 14 December 1861) was the
husband and consort of
He was born in the Saxon duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld , to a family connected to many of Europe's ruling monarchs. At the age of 20, he married his first cousin, Queen Victoria; they had nine children. Initially he felt constrained by his role of consort, which did not afford him any power or responsibilities, but gradually developed a reputation for supporting many public causes, such as educational reform and the abolition of slavery worldwide, and was entrusted with running the Queen's household , office and estates. He was heavily involved with the organisation of the Great Exhibition of 1851 , which was a resounding success.
Victoria came to depend more and more on his support and guidance. He
aided the development of Britain's constitutional monarchy by
persuading his wife to be less partisan in her dealings with
Parliament —although he actively disagreed with the interventionist
foreign policy pursued during Lord Palmerston 's tenure as Foreign
Secretary . In 1857, he was given the formal title of
Albert died at the relatively young age of 42, plunging the Queen
into deep mourning. On her death in 1901, their eldest son succeeded
* 1 Early life * 2 Marriage * 3 Consort of the Queen * 4 Reformer and innovator * 5 Family and public life (1852–1859) * 6 Illness and death * 7 Legacy
* 8 Titles, styles, honours and arms
* 8.1 Titles and styles * 8.2 Honours * 8.3 Arms
* 9 Issue * 10 Ancestry * 11 See also * 12 References * 13 Sources * 14 External links
Albert (left) with his elder brother Ernest and mother Louise , shortly before her exile from court
Albert was born at Schloss Rosenau , near
Albert and his elder brother, Ernest , spent their youth in a close companionship 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 Polzig 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 own niece , his sons' cousin Princess Antoinette Marie of Württemberg ; their marriage was not close, however, and Antoinette Marie had little—if any—impact on her stepchildren's lives.
The brothers were educated privately at home by Christoph Florschütz
and later studied in
Portrait by John Partridge , 1840
By 1836, the idea of marriage between Albert and his cousin,
Victoria, had arisen in the mind of their ambitious uncle Leopold ,
who had been
King of the Belgians
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 came to the throne aged eighteen on 20 June 1837. Her
letters of the time show interest in Albert's education for the role
he would have to play, although she resisted attempts to rush her into
marriage. In the winter of 1838–39, the prince visited Italy,
accompanied by the
Albert returned to the United Kingdom with Ernest in October 1839 to
visit the Queen, with the object of settling the marriage. Albert and
Victoria felt mutual affection and the Queen proposed to him on 15
October 1839. Victoria's intention to marry was declared formally to
the Privy Council on 23 November, and the couple married on 10
February 1840 at the
Chapel Royal , St James\'s Palace . Just before
the marriage, Albert was naturalised by Act of Parliament, and
granted the style of
Initially Albert was not popular with the British public; he was
perceived to be from an impoverished and undistinguished minor state,
barely larger than a small English county. The British Prime Minister
, Lord Melbourne , advised the Queen against granting her husband the
title of "
CONSORT OF THE QUEEN
Portrait by Winterhalter , 1842
The position in which the prince was placed by his marriage, while one of distinction, also offered considerable difficulties; in Albert's own words, "I am very happy and contented; but the difficulty in filling my place with the proper dignity is that I am only the husband, not the master in the house." The Queen's household was run by her former governess, Baroness Lehzen . Albert referred to her as the "House Dragon", and manoeuvred to dislodge the Baroness from her position.
Within two months of the marriage, Victoria was pregnant. Albert started to take on public roles; he became President of the Society for the Extinction of Slavery (slavery had already been abolished throughout the British Empire, but was still lawful in places such as the United States and the colonies of France); and helped Victoria privately with her government paperwork. In June 1840, while on a public carriage ride, Albert and the pregnant Victoria were shot at by Edward Oxford , who was later judged insane. Neither Albert nor Victoria was hurt and Albert was praised in the newspapers for his courage and coolness during the attack. Albert was gaining public support as well as political influence, which showed itself practically when, in August, Parliament passed the Regency Act 1840 to designate him regent in the event of Victoria's death before their child reached the age of majority. Their first child, Victoria , named after her mother, was born in November. Eight other children would follow over the next seventeen years. All nine children survived to adulthood, a fact which biographer Hermione Hobhouse credited to Albert's "enlightened influence" on the healthy running of the nursery. In early 1841, he successfully removed the nursery from Lehzen's pervasive control, and in September 1842, Lehzen left Britain permanently—much to Albert's relief.
After the 1841 general election , Melbourne was replaced as Prime
Sir Robert Peel , who appointed Albert as chairman of the
Royal Commission in charge of redecorating the new Palace of
Westminster . The Palace had burned down seven years before , and was
being rebuilt. As a patron and purchaser of pictures and sculpture,
the commission was set up to promote the fine arts in Britain. The
commission's work was slow, and the architect,
Charles Barry , took
many decisions out of the commissioners' hands by decorating rooms
with ornate furnishings that were treated as part of the architecture.
Albert was more successful as a private patron and collector. Among
his notable purchases were early German and Italian paintings—such
Lucas Cranach the Elder
Albert and Victoria were shot at again on both 29 and 30 May 1842,
but were unhurt. The culprit, John Francis, was detained and condemned
to death, although he was later reprieved. Some of their early
unpopularity came about because of their stiffness and adherence to
protocol in public, though in private the couple were more easy-going.
In early 1844, Victoria and Albert were apart for the first time
since their marriage when he returned to
By 1844, Albert had managed to modernise the royal finances and,
through various economies, had sufficient capital to purchase Osborne
House on the
Isle of Wight
Unlike many landowners who approved of child labour and opposed Peel's repeal of the Corn Laws , Albert supported moves to raise working ages and free up trade. In 1846, Albert was rebuked by Lord George Bentinck when he attended the debate on the Corn Laws in the House of Commons to give tacit support to Peel. During Peel's premiership, Albert's authority behind, or beside, the throne became more apparent. He had access to all the Queen's papers, was drafting her correspondence and was present when she met her ministers, or even saw them alone in her absence. The clerk of the Privy Council, Charles Greville , wrote of him: "He is King to all intents and purposes."
REFORMER AND INNOVATOR
Early daguerreotype with hand-colouring , 1848
In 1847, Albert was elected Chancellor of the University of Cambridge after a close contest with the Earl of Powis . Albert used his position as Chancellor to campaign successfully for reformed and more modern university curricula, expanding the subjects taught beyond the traditional mathematics and classics to include modern history and the natural sciences.
That summer, Victoria and Albert spent a rainy holiday in the west of Scotland at Loch Laggan , but heard from their doctor, Sir James Clark , that his son had enjoyed dry, sunny days farther east at Balmoral Castle . The tenant of Balmoral, Sir Robert Gordon , died suddenly in early October, and Albert began negotiations to take over the lease from the owner, the Earl Fife . In May the following year, Albert leased Balmoral, which he had never visited, and in September 1848 he, his wife and the older children went there for the first time. They came to relish the privacy it afforded.
Revolutions spread throughout Europe in 1848 as the result of a widespread economic crisis. Throughout the year, Victoria and Albert complained about Foreign Secretary Palmerston\'s independent foreign policy, which they believed destabilised foreign European powers further. Albert was concerned for many of his royal relatives, a number of whom were deposed. He and Victoria, who gave birth to their daughter Louise during that year, spent some time away from London in the relative safety of Osborne. Although there were sporadic demonstrations in England, no effective revolutionary action took place, and Albert even gained public acclaim when he expressed paternalistic, yet well-meaning and philanthropic, views. In a speech to the Society for the Improvement of the Condition of the Labouring Classes , of which he was President, he expressed his "sympathy and interest for that class of our community who have most of the toil and fewest of the enjoyments of this world". It was the "duty of those who, under the blessings of Divine Providence, enjoy station, wealth, and education" to assist those less fortunate than themselves. The Great Exhibition of 1851 was housed in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London .
A man of progressive and relatively liberal ideas, Albert not only led reforms in university education, welfare, the royal finances and slavery, he had a special interest in applying science and art to the manufacturing industry. The Great Exhibition of 1851 arose from the annual exhibitions of the Society of Arts , of which Albert was President from 1843, and owed most of its success to his efforts to promote it. Albert served as president of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 , and had to fight for every stage of the project. In the House of Lords , Lord Brougham fulminated against the proposal to hold the exhibition in Hyde Park . Opponents of the exhibition prophesied that foreign rogues and revolutionists would overrun England, subvert the morals of the people, and destroy their faith. Albert thought such talk absurd and quietly persevered, trusting always that British manufacturing would benefit from exposure to the best products of foreign countries.
The Queen opened the exhibition in a specially designed and built
glass building known as the Crystal Palace on 1 May 1851. It proved a
colossal success. A surplus of £180,000 was used to purchase land in
FAMILY AND PUBLIC LIFE (1852–1859)
John Camden Neild , an eccentric miser, left Victoria an
unexpected legacy, which Albert used to obtain the freehold of
Balmoral. As usual, he embarked on an extensive program of
improvements. The same year, he was appointed to several of the
offices left vacant by the death of the Duke of Wellington , including
the mastership of
Trinity House and the colonelcy of the Grenadier
Guards . With Wellington's passing, Albert was able to propose and
campaign for modernisation of the army, which was long overdue.
Thinking that the military was unready for war, and that Christian
rule was preferable to Islamic rule, Albert counselled a diplomatic
solution to conflict between the Russian and Ottoman empires .
Palmerston was more bellicose, and favoured a policy that would
prevent further Russian expansion. Palmerston was manoeuvred out of
the cabinet in December 1853, but at about the same time a Russian
fleet attacked the Ottoman fleet at anchor at Sinop . The London press
depicted the attack as a criminal massacre, and Palmerston's
popularity surged as Albert's fell. Within two weeks, Palmerston was
re-appointed as a minister. As public outrage at the Russian action
continued, false rumours circulated that Albert had been arrested for
treason and was being held prisoner in the
Tower of London
By March 1854, Britain and Russia were embroiled in the
Crimean War .
Albert devised a master-plan for winning the war by laying siege to
Sevastopol while starving Russia economically, which became the Allied
strategy after the Tsar decided to fight a purely defensive war.
Early British optimism soon faded as the press reported that British
troops were ill-equipped and mismanaged by aged generals using
out-of-date tactics and strategy. The conflict dragged on as the
Russians were as poorly prepared as their opponents. The Prime
Minister, Lord Aberdeen , resigned and Palmerston succeeded him. A
negotiated settlement eventually put an end to the war with the Treaty
of Paris . During the war, Albert arranged to marry his
fourteen-year-old daughter, Victoria , to Prince Frederick William of
Albert promoted many public educational institutions. Chiefly at
meetings in connection with these he spoke of the need for better
schooling. A collection of his speeches was published in 1857.
Recognised as a supporter of education and technological progress, he
was invited to speak at scientific meetings, such as the memorable
address he delivered as president of the British Association for the
Advancement of Science when it met at Aberdeen in 1859. His espousal
of science met with clerical opposition; he and Palmerston
unsuccessfully recommended a knighthood for
Albert continued to devote himself to the education of his family and
the management of the royal household. His children's governess, Lady
Lyttelton , thought him unusually kind and patient, and described him
joining in family games with enthusiasm. He felt keenly the departure
of his eldest daughter for
ILLNESS AND DEATH
Photograph by J. J. E. Mayall, 1860
Albert was seriously ill with stomach cramps in August 1859. During
a trip to
In March 1861, Victoria's mother and Albert's aunt, the Duchess of Kent , died and Victoria was grief-stricken; Albert took on most of the Queen's duties, despite being ill himself with chronic stomach trouble. The last public event he presided over was the opening of the Royal Horticultural Gardens on 5 June 1861. In August, Victoria and Albert visited the Curragh Camp , Ireland, where the Prince of Wales was doing army service. At the Curragh, the Prince of Wales was introduced, by his fellow officers, to Nellie Clifden , an Irish actress.
By November, Victoria and Albert had returned to Windsor, and the Prince of Wales had returned to Cambridge, where he was a student. Two of Albert's cousins, King Pedro V and Prince Ferdinand of Portugal , died of typhoid fever . On top of this news, Albert was informed that gossip was spreading in gentlemen\'s clubs and the foreign press that the Prince of Wales was still involved with Nellie Clifden. Albert and Victoria were horrified by their son's indiscretion, and feared blackmail, scandal or pregnancy. Although Albert was ill and at a low ebb, he travelled to Cambridge to see the Prince of Wales on 25 November to discuss his son's indiscreet affair. In his final weeks Albert suffered from pains in his back and legs.
When the Trent Affair —the forcible removal of Confederate envoys from a British ship by Union forces during the American Civil War —threatened war between the United States and Britain, Albert was gravely ill, but intervened to soften the British diplomatic response. On 9 December, one of Albert's doctors, William Jenner , diagnosed typhoid fever. Albert died at 10:50 p.m. on 14 December 1861 in the Blue Room at Windsor Castle , in the presence of the Queen and five of their nine children. The contemporary diagnosis was typhoid fever, but modern writers have pointed out that Albert was ill for at least two years before his death, which may indicate that a chronic disease, such as Crohn\'s disease , renal failure , or abdominal cancer , was the cause of death.
The Queen's grief was overwhelming, and the tepid feelings the public had felt previously for Albert were replaced by sympathy. Victoria wore black in mourning for the rest of her long life, and Albert's rooms in all his houses were kept as they had been, even with hot water brought in the morning, and linen and towels changed daily. Such practices were not uncommon in the houses of the very rich. Victoria withdrew from public life and her seclusion eroded some of Albert's work in attempting to re-model the monarchy as a national institution setting a moral, if not political, example. Albert is credited with introducing the principle that the British royal family should remain above politics. Before his marriage to Victoria, she supported the Whigs ; for example, early in her reign Victoria managed to thwart the formation of a Tory government by Sir Robert Peel by refusing to accept substitutions which Peel wanted to make among her ladies-in-waiting.
Albert's body was temporarily entombed in St George\'s Chapel,
Windsor Castle , until a year after his death his remains were
Frogmore Mausoleum , which remained incomplete until
1871. The sarcophagus, in which both he and the Queen were eventually
laid, was carved from the largest block of granite that had ever been
quarried in Britain. Despite Albert's request that no effigies of him
should be raised, many public monuments were erected all over the
country, and across the
Places and objects named after Albert range from Lake Albert in
Africa to the city of
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan , to the Albert
Medal presented by the Royal
Society of Arts . Four regiments of the
British Army were named after him: 11th (Prince Albert\'s Own) Hussars
; Prince Albert\'s Light Infantry ; Prince Albert\'s Own
Leicestershire Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry , and The Prince
Biographies published after his death were typically heavy on eulogy.
Theodore Martin 's five-volume magnum opus was authorised and
supervised by Queen Victoria, and her influence shows in its pages.
Nevertheless, it is an accurate and exhaustive account. Lytton
TITLES, STYLES, HONOURS AND ARMS
Albert robed as a Knight Grand Cross of the Bath , 1842
TITLES AND STYLES
* 26 AUGUST 1819 – 12 NOVEMBER 1826: His
Serene Highness Prince
Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Duke of Saxony
* 12 NOVEMBER 1826 – 6 FEBRUARY 1840: His
Serene Highness Prince
Albert of Saxe-
* KG: Knight of the Garter , 16 December 1839 * KT: Knight of the Thistle * KP: Knight of St Patrick
* Knight Grand Cross, 6 March 1840 * Great Master, 25 May 1847
* KSI: Extra Knight of the Star of India , 25 June 1861 * GCMG: Knight Grand Cross of St Michael and St George
Upon his marriage to
Garter stall plate
See also: Grandchildren of Victoria and Albert Victoria and Albert's family in 1846 by Franz Xaver Winterhalter left to right: Prince Alfred and the Prince of Wales ; the Queen and Prince Albert; Princesses Alice , Helena and Victoria
NAME BIRTH DEATH NOTES
Princess Alice , later Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine 25 April 1843 14 December 1878 married 1862, Prince Louis, later Ludwig IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine ; had issue
Princess Helena 25 May 1846 9 June 1923 married 1866, Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein ; had issue
Princess Louise 18 March 1848 3 December 1939 married 1871, John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne , later 9th Duke of Argyll; no issue
Princess Beatrice 14 April 1857 26 October 1944 married 1885, Prince Henry of Battenberg ; had issue
Prince Albert's 42 grandchildren included four reigning monarchs:
ANCESTORS OF ALBERT, PRINCE CONSORT
16. Francis Josias, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
8. Ernest Frederick, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
4. Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
18. Ferdinand Albert II, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
20. Henry XXIX, Count Reuss of Ebersdorf
10. Henry XXIV, Count Reuss of Ebersdorf
21. Countess Sophie Theodora of Castell-Remlingen
5. Countess Augusta Caroline Reuss of Ebersdorf
23. Countess Ferdinanda of Stolberg-Gedern
1. PRINCE ALBERT OF SAXE-COBURG AND GOTHA
3. Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg
29. Princess Charlotte Sophie of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
15. Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg
31. Countess Luise Reuss of Schleiz
* ^ A B C D "No. 19821".
The London Gazette . 7 February 1840. p.
* ^ Hobhouse 1983 , p. 2; Weintraub 1997 , p. 20; Weir 1996 , p.
* ^ Weintraub 1997 , p. 20.
* ^ Weintraub 1997 , p. 21.
* ^ Ames 1968 , p. 1; Hobhouse 1983 , p. 2.
* ^ e.g. Montgomery-Massingberd 1977 , pp. 259–273.
* ^ Weintraub 1997 , pp. 25–28.
* ^ Hobhouse 1983 , p. 4; Weintraub 1997 , pp. 25–28.
* ^ Weintraub 1997 , pp. 40–41.
* ^ Hobhouse 1983 , p. 16.
* ^ Weintraub 1997 , pp. 60–62.
* ^ Ames 1968 , p. 15; Weintraub 1997 , pp. 56–60.
* ^ Hobhouse 1983 , pp. 15–16; Weintraub 1997 , pp. 43–49.
* ^ Weintraub 1997 , pp. 43–49.
* ^ A B Victoria quoted in Weintraub 1997 , p. 49.
* ^ Weintraub 1997 , p. 51.
* ^ Weintraub 1997 , pp. 53, 58, 64, 65.
* ^ Weintraub 1997 , p. 62.
* ^ Hobhouse 1983 , pp. 17–18; Weintraub 1997 , p. 67.
* ^ Fulford 1949 , p. 42; Weintraub 1997 , pp. 77–81.
* ^ Fulford 1949 , pp. 42–43; Hobhouse 1983 , p. 20; Weintraub
1997 , pp. 77–81.
* ^ Fulford 1949 , p. 45; Hobhouse 1983 , p. 21; Weintraub 1997 ,
* ^ Fulford 1949 , p. 52; Hobhouse 1983 , p. 24.
* ^ "No. 19826".
The London Gazette . 14 February 1840. p. 302.
* ^ Fulford 1949 , p. 45.
* ^ Weintraub 1997 , p. 88.
* ^ Abecasis-Phillips 2004 .
* ^ Murphy 2001 , pp. 28–31.
* ^ Weintraub 1997 , pp. 8–9, 89.
* ^ Fulford 1949 , p. 47; Hobhouse 1983 , pp. 23–24.
* ^ Quoted in Jagow 1938 , p. 37.
* ^ A B "No. 22015".
The London Gazette . 26 June 1857. p. 2195.
* ^ Albert to William von Lowenstein, May 1840, quoted in Hobhouse
1983 , p. 26.
* ^ Or more properly "Lady Attendant".
* ^ Fulford 1949 , pp. 59–74.
* ^ Weintraub 1997 , pp. 102–105.
* ^ Weintraub 1997 , pp. 106–107.
* ^ Weintraub 1997 , p. 107.
* ^ Hobhouse 1983 , p. 28.
* ^ Fulford 1949 , pp. 73–74.
* ^ Ames 1968 , pp. 48–55; Fulford 1949 , pp. 212–213; Hobhouse
1983 , pp. 82–88.
* ^ Ames 1968 , pp. 132–146, 200–222; Hobhouse 1983 , pp.
National Gallery, London , received 25 paintings in 1863
* Abecasis-Phillips, John (2004). "Prince Albert and the Church –
Royal versus Papal Supremacy in the Hampden Controversy". In Davis,
John. Prinz Albert – Ein Wettiner in Großbritannien / Prince Albert
– A Wettin in Great Britain. Munich: de Gruyter. pp. 95–110. ISBN
* Ames, Winslow (1968). Prince Albert and Victorian Taste. London:
Chapman and Hall.
* Armstrong, Neil (2008). "England and German Christmas
Festlichkeit, c.1800–1914". German History. 26 (4): 486–503. doi
* Aveling, S. T.; Boutell, Charles (1890). Heraldry, Ancient and
Modern: Including Boutell\'s Heraldry (2nd ed.). London and New York:
Frederick Warne & Co.
* Cust, Lionel (1907). "The