Death of Prince Albert, the Prince Consort
December 14th, 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of His Royal Highness Prince Albert, the Prince Consort’s death at the age of 42 in 1861.
Born His Serene Highness Prince Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield, Duke of Saxony on August 26th, 1819 at the Schloss Rosenau in Coburg, he was the second son of the reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield, Ernest I, and his first wife, Princess Louise of Saxe-Coburg-Altenburg. Albert joined older brother, Prince Ernest. The newborn Prince was christened into the Lutheran faith less than a month after his birth, with five royal and noble godparents – Their Serene Highnesses the Dowager Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield, the Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg and the Duke of Teschen, His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Austria and Count Emanuel von Mensdorff-Pouilly.
When Albert was five, his mother Louise was exiled from the Coburg court following her divorce from the Duke. The couple’s divorce was not amicable, and is widely reported to have scarred their two sons, especially as the Duchess was stripped of access to her children before secretly marrying her lover in 1831, just months prior to her death in Paris. It was also during this time that Duke Ernest inherited the Duchy of Gotha upon the death of the Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, Frederick IV. He thus became the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Prince Albert and his brother received a sound education, firstly tutored privately at home before transferring to Brussels, where their uncle, Leopold, was King. The Prince was interested in law, the political economy, and traditionally, music and sports (particularly fencing). He then went on to study at the University of Bonn, in Germany.
In 1836, when Albert was 17, Uncle Leopold had the idea that he should marry his first cousin, Princess Victoria of Kent, heir to the British throne. Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, was the sister of both King Leopold and Duke Ernest. Quickly, the Duke and his two sons were dispatched to England under the guise of ‘visiting’ their sister/aunt and niece/cousin. Princess Victoria was taken by Albert’s ‘attractiveness’, but no marriage proposal came from the first meeting. It wasn’t until October 1839, after Victoria succeeded the throne, that she proposed to Prince Albert during a subsequent visit. They married on February 10th, 1840 at St James’s Palace. Upon marriage, Albert was upgraded to ‘His Royal Highness’.
The couple welcomed nine children over the course of their marriage:
- Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa, their first child, was born just over nine months after their wedding, on November 21st. She married the future Emperor of Germany, Friedrich III, in 1858. Princess Victoria’s marriage and two eldest children, Prince Wilhelm and Princess Charlotte, were the ones Prince Albert lived to see.
- Albert Edward, the heir and future Edward VI, was born on November 9th, 1841. He married Princess Alix of Denmark in 1863.
- Alice Maud Mary, born on April 25th, 1843. She would become the Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine, following her 1862 marriage to Prince Louis of Hesse.
- Alfred Ernest Albert, born on August 6th, 1844. He married Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia in 1874, and became the reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1893.
- Helena Augusta Victoria, born on May 25th, 1846. Married Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein in 1866.
- Louise Caroline Alberta, born on March 18th, 1848. She was the only one of Albert and Victoria’s children not to marry a fellow royal; instead Louise wed a Scottish nobleman, the Marquess of Lorne and future Duke of Argyll, in 1871.
- Arthur William Patrick Albert, born May 1st, 1850. Married Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia in 1879. Prince Arthur became the Governor-General of Canada in 1911.
- Leopold George Duncan Albert, born April 7th, 1853. He married Princess Helena of Waldeck und Pyrmont in 1882. He was a haemophiliac.
- Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore, born April 14th, 1857. Married Prince Henry of Battenberg in 1885.
The children’s education was left to Prince Albert to arrange and oversee, and the Prince did so with great diligence and expectation. The education program he devised for his children was intense, and was a cause of friction between Albert and his eldest son, Prince Edward, who did not cope well within the education program – it was Princess Victoria who shone through the program, and Prince Albert hoped that she would take her education and his influences with her to Prussia upon marriage.
During his tenure as the consort of the Queen of Great Britain (Prince Albert was given the additional title ‘Prince Consort’ in 1857), the Prince worked on a large number of causes to benefit the realm. He was interested in culture and architecture, with his most famous project most definitely being the Great Exhibition, held in the glass-domed Crystal Palace, in 1851. He also championed welfare, education and slavery reforms, while repairing the royal finances which had been dilapidated by Queen Victoria’s uncles in the previous years. Prince Albert, from the beginning of his marriage, was also involved with the Queen’s official business, often assisting her – or even representing her – with her government papers.
In November 1861, the Prince fell ill prior to visiting Prince Edward at Cambridge. The Prince had been unwell for some time prior to this, and was diagnosed with typhoid fever on December 9th by the court physician. Queen Victoria was beside herself, and when Prince Albert passed away in the late hours of December 14th, she fell into an immense state of grief which lasted for the remainder of her lifetime, to varying degrees. It was Princess Alice who held the family together in the immediate aftermath of her father’s death. The Prince was buried for a short time on December 23rd at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, while the royal mausoleum on the Frogmore Estate was being built. In the years following her husband’s death, Queen Victoria commissioned numerous memorials to Prince Albert, the largest being the Albert Memorial in London.
The marriage between Prince Albert and Queen Victoria produced nine children, forty grandchildren and eighty-five great-grandchildren:
- The Empress Frederick of Germany’s eight children: Emperor Wilhelm II (1859-1941), Princess Charlotte, Duchess of Saxe-Meiningen (1860-1919), Prince Henry (1862-1929), Prince Sigismund (1864-1866), Princess Victoria (1866-1929), Prince Waldemar (1868-1879), Queen Sophie of the Hellenes (1870-1932) and Princess Frederick Charles of Hesse (1872-1954).
- King Edward VII’s six children: Prince Albert Victor (1864-1892), George V of the United Kingdom (1865-1936), Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife (1867-1931), Princess Victoria (1868-1935), Queen Maud of Norway (1869-1938) and Prince Alexander John (1871).
- Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine’s seven children: Victoria, Marchioness of Milford Haven (1863-1950), Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia (1864-1918), Princess Henry of Prussia (1866-1953), Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine (1868-1937), Prince Friedrich (1870-1873), Tsarina Alexandra of Russia (1872-1918) and Princess Marie (1874-1878).
- Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg und Gotha’s five children: Prince Alfred (1874-1899), Queen Marie of Romania (1875-1938), Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna of Russia (1876-1936), Alexandra, Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (1878-1942) and Beatrice, Duchess of Galliera (1884-1966).
- Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein’s five children: Prince Christian Victor (1867-1900), Albert, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein (1869-1931), Princess Helena Victoria (1870-1948), Princess Marie Louise (1872-1956) and Prince Harold (1876).
- Arthur, Duke of Connaught’s three children: Crown Princess Margareta of Sweden (1882-1920), Prince Arthur (1883-1938) and Lady Patricia Ramsay (1886-1974).
- Leopold, Duke of Albany’s two children: Princess Alice, Countess of Althone (1883-1981) and Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg und Gotha (1884-1954).
- Princess Henry of Battenberg’s four children: Alexander, Marquess of Carrisbrooke (1886-1960), Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain (1887-1869), Lord Leopold Mountbatten (1889-1922) and Prince Maurice (1891-1914).
Descendants of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria are presently found in the royal families of Great Britain, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Greece, Romania, Yugoslavia, as well as multiple German royal and princely families.
Read more about Prince Albert here.Filed under British Royals, German Royals, Historical Royals
Tagged Anniversary, Biography, Death, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.