Queen Victoria – In Memoriam

22 January 1901 – The death of Queen Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria German: Alexandrina Viktoria; B. 24 May 1819), who was the Queen regnant of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837, and the first Empress of India of the British Raj from 1 May 1876, until her death. Her reign as the Queen lasted 63 years and 7 months, longer than that of any other British monarch before or since, and her reign is the longest of any female monarch in history – Queen Elizabeth’s reign is coming up on 59 years.

God save the Queen!

Another interesting aspect of Victoria’s life was her role as a mother of nine and grandmother of dozens, In two generations. Her progeny ruled a huge chunk of Europe, not to mention the places where the sun never sets.

Right, the Princess Victoria, Princess Royal (1840-1901) was Queen Victoria’s first born. She married German Emperor Frederick III and  was the mother of Kaiser Wilhelm II and seven other children who married into a variety of Europoean royal families. This portrait was painted by Winterhalter in 1867 when she was Crown Princess of Prussia.


Edward Albert, Prince of Wales, and later Edward VII (1841–1910) was Victoria’s second child, the longed-for male heir to the throne. He spent most of his life waiting to become king but he reigned only nine years after his mother’s death in 1901.

He and his Queen, Alexandra of Denmark, had six children who also married royals.

Among the  descendents of Queen Victoria are the royal families of the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Spain. Among those families formerly on thrones, count the ex-royals of Greece, Russia and Romania, not to mention a passle of former principalities.

The Wellington Connection: The Duchess of Kent

It is a little known fact that, had it been up to King William IV, the Duke of Wellington would have been appointed Regent in the event that William died before the heir to the throne, Princess Victoria, reached her majority. In theory, Wellington could have acted in the capacity of King until Victoria became eighteen. However, there were some in the government who felt that the Duke of Wellington had more than enough power already, thank you very much. And besides, the Duchess of Kent was jockeying for the position of Regent, with her brother, Prince Leopold supporting her so that he could be the power behind any Regency that might come to pass. 

As Princess Lieven wrote on October 25th “The Duchess of Kent and her brother hold themselves very high, as if the throne is to be theirs tomorrow – and this is most unpleasant to the King. Leopold does not show himself, but works silently underground.”

The Royal Princes, the King’s brothers, were also opposed to Wellington, but the point was ultimately settled by the Regency Act of 1830, which stated that the Duchess of Kent (at right) should be her daughter’s guardian and act as Regent during her minority. No doubt chortling with glee, the Duchess made the first false move in her relations with William IV immediately following the death of George IV.  She was too anxious for recognition, too eager to secure what she thought was due to her, and she did not give the new King the chance of showing his appreciation of her change of circumstances. She wrote instead to the Duke of Wellington, then Prime Minister, asking that a suitable income should be bestowed upon herself and her daughter, over which allowance she should have full control, and that the Princess should be put on the footing of Heir-Apparent.

To the demands of the Duchess, the Duke of Wellington replied that nothing could even be proposed for her until the Civil List was settled, but that nothing should be considered without her knowledge. This reply is said to have much offended the Duchess, and for a long time she ignored the gallant old man when she met him.

Both King and country showed confidence in the Duchess when the Regency Bill was under discussion— an important Bill, for if the King died, a minor would become the Sovereign. It was decided that if Queen Adelaide bore another child she should hold the post of Regent, but otherwise, during the minority of the Princess Victoria, the Duchess of Kent should be Regent. When this Bill was framed, the Duke of Wellington, mindful of his promise, asked the King’s leave to wait upon the Duchess with it. The King agreed, and the Duke wrote to Her Royal Highness saying that he had a communication to make to her on the part of His Majesty, and therefore proposed to wait upon her at Kensington Palace. The Duchess was, however, at Claremont, and from there she sent the following reply :—

” My Lord Duke,

I have just received your letter of this date. As it is not convenient for me to receive Your Grace at Kensington, I prefer having in writing, addressed to me here, the communication you state the King has commanded you to make to me.”

To tell the Duke of Wellington that you doubted his veracity and the likelihood of his relating the message from William IV exactly as William IV had delivered it, and to request that the King put his words in writing, rather than trust them to Wellington’s mouth, was a gross insult upon both the King and Wellington. No one else would dared to have spoken to the Duke in such a manner, much less to imply that he would act less than honourably.  Had she sent her general adviser, Sir John Conroy, to negotiate with the Duke, or had she invited the latter to Claremont, she would have kept within the limits of politeness; as it was, the only thing left for the Duke to do was to send the Bill to her to study, as he could not in writing give all the explanations he had intended. In the meanwhile Lord Lyndhurst had brought up the measure in the House of Lords, and the Duchess of Kent had sent Conroy up to hear him.
A Regency Bill was introduced by Lord Lyndhurst, but a change of Government occurring before it was carried, it devolved upon Lord Brougham, the Lord Chancellor in Lord Grey’s Administration, to take up and adopt the measure. The position was a singular one, because Parliament had to contemplate the possibility that William IV might die leaving a posthumous child. Lord Brougham could not find a parallel case in English history since the death of Geoffrey, son of Henry II, who left a son, Prince Arthur, whose claims were thrust aside by the usurpation of King John. The possibility of posthumous issue in William’s case having been provided for, the Bill passed both Houses and became law. The Duchess of Kent was named guardian of the infant Princess and regent of the kingdom, but she was to be assisted by a Council of Regency drawn from the royal family and the Ministers of State. Some months afterwards further provision was made for the education and maintenance of the Princess, and for the support of her honour and dignity as heiress presumptive. A sum of £10,000 a year was voted, in addition to the original annual grant of £6,000.

The Princess Victoria’s first appearance at Court during the new reign was made at the celebration of Queen Adelaide’s birthday, on the 24th of February 1831. The drawing-room held by her Majesty was stated to have been the most magnificent witnessed since that which signalized the presentation of the Princess Charlotte of Wales on the occasion of her marriage. The Princess Victoria stood on Queen Adelaide’s left hand. Her dress was made entirely of articles manufactured in the United Kingdom. She wore a frock of English blonde over white satin, a pearl necklace, and a rich diamond agrafe fastened the Madonna braids of her fair hair at the back of her head. She was the object of interest and admiration on the part of all assembled. The scene was one of the most splendid ever remembered, and the future Queen of England contemplated all that passed with much dignity, but with evident enjoyment.

When King William prorogued his first Parliament an interesting circumstance occurred, which caused much enthusiasm amongst those who witnessed it. Queen Adelaide and the princesses witnessed the spectacle of
the royal State procession. The people cheered the Queen lustily, but, forgetting herself, that gracious lady took the young Princess Victoria by the hand, led her to the front of the balcony, and introduced her to the happy and loyal multitude. In January 1831 the Princess made her first appearance at the theatre, visiting Covent Garden, and thoroughly entering into the pleasures of the children’s entertainment provided.

All was fine for a time . . . Until the Duchess of Kent began to put her daughter forward as all but England’s Queen – before the present King had died. See our past post to learn how the relationship between the Duchess of Kent and King William IV – and Wellington – further fell apart.

Happy Birthday to Prince Albert

Prince Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was born August 26, 1819. His wife, Queen Victoria, was born on the 24th of May in that year. They were first cousins.

Right: Prince Albert by Charles Brocky, 1841

The exhibition Victoria and Albert in Love can be seen in the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London, until October 31, 2010.

The jewelry, musical compositions, drawings, paintings and furniture exchanged by the royal couple make an interesting statement about the depth of their love and commitment. Many of the items were birthday gifts given to the Prince by the Queen.

Rupert Friend (right) as Prince Albert in the film The Young Victoria. The costumes and settings were sumptuous, but the story left a bit to be desired by those of us who paid attention to the details! 

John Lucas painted Prince Albert in 1841, left. 

Prince Albert, right, by Winterhalter, in 1842.  Albert had an excellent private education. With his older brother Ernest, he was tutored at home and later attended the University of Bonn. He excelled in fencing and riding, and traveled in Italy.  Almost from birth, many considered the possibility of uniting the cousins, and King Leopold encouraged the marriage.  Victoria and Albert met several times and she was eventually quite taken with him, but after she took the throne at age 18 in 1837, she was in no hurry to wed.
After her coronation, however, she wrote to Uncle Leopold: “Albert’s beauty is most striking, and he so amiable and unaffected — in short very fascinating.” Louis Auchincloss in his Persons of Consequence: Queen Victoria and Her Circle (1979) observes: “A principal industry of the German States in the nineteenth century was the production of marriageable princes and princesses.”
The wedding took place on February 10, 1840.  Albert’s role in the realm was unclear, and it changed, evolving over the next few years until he became very influential and quite popular (though only after his death was his popularity recognized by most in the government).  Albert and Victoria became the parents of nine children.

At right is a family portrait, also by Winterhalter, of the family in 1846.

One of Albert’s greatest achievements was the Great Exhibition of 1851.  As a supporter of science and technology, he was particularly influential upon industrial advancements of the day. In addition, he single-handedly modernized and revamped the running of the royal palaces and the financial administration of the monarchy.  

Prince Albert died of typhoid fever 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, leaving the Queen devastated. Though she lived on until 1901, Victoria never shed her widow’s weeds.

In the Enemy Camp, June 19, 2010

As we covered the battles leading up to Waterloo (Quatre Bras, Ligny), we eventually came to Le Caillou, where Napoleon slept the night before the battle.

This is how it usually looked, but on the weekend of the 195th anniversary of the defeat of Napoleon, the museum here and the grounds were chock-a-block with French reenactors for the Sunday battle.  They seemed amazingly upbeat though the outcome had been known for almost two centuries.
Some examples of rather sloppy marching.

Now they’ve got it!

That’s Napoleon in the gray.

I suppose this poor steed had to bear Napoleon into retreat.
Poor old Field Marshal Ney, above and below, tried his darndest and for his efforts, he was shot for treason by the French after Napoleon was sent to St Helena. But he had a very fancy uniform.
Actually there were quite a few fancy uniforms among the French forces.
Inside the museum, a mannequin stood watch over the bed in which Napoleon supposedly slept the night before Waterloo.
Outside the French attempted to uphold their reputation for exceptional cuisine.
The soldier does not seem to appreciate the lady’s cooking!

Look smart, boys.
Above a few civilians who were at the French encampment.  When I suggested to the mademoiselles they looked like characters from Jane Austen’s novels, they were aghast.  “Oh, non, non,” they exclaimed.
Tres amusant!

The Young Victoria – My two Cents Worth

And here I thought that spending an inordinate amount of time researching the Duke of Wellington and Queen Victoria was a good thing . . . it seems not, since all that I’ve learned gets in the way of my enjoying films like Young Victoria. It was a visual delight – the sets, the costumes, the interiors – but I felt that the story itself was disjointed. I followed it with no problem, but I can see that anyone who doesn’t know the full story of Victoria’s early life would be lost. Here are just a few points that grated on my nerves:

We see Victoria with her doll collection, it’s referenced in a conversation between Princes Albert and Ernst, but there’s no explanation of what it means. Why insert it into the film if you’re not going to make a point?

Why show King Leopold getting all pissy over Albert’s neglecting to correspond with him if you’re not going tell the film goer the importance of this?

We see a somber, dark clad woman in attendance on Victoria in a few scenes – then we see her being sent away in a carriage and Victoria telling Albert, “I needed her so much at one time.” Needed who? Do you think the average viewer would have cottoned on to the fact that this Lehzen, Victoria’s nurse and rock through most of her life?

Albert takes a bullet . . . . . I won’t comment.

As I said, these are just a few points. Imagine how my head was spinning while I actually watched the film. I’m surprised it wasn’t more historically accurate, or cohesive, what with Sarah Ferguson being one of the producers. As she is quick to remind us, she’s an authority on Queen Victoria.

I thought the casting was spot on in some places and way off the mark in others. Baron Stockmar, Prince Leopold and Sir John Conroy were excellently cast, as were the Duchess of Kent and Queen Adelaide. Rupert Friend could have been the young Albert reincarnated. On the downside, Emily Blunt did a fine acting job but was too dark, IMHO, to play Victoria. And where was the slight Germanic accent? And Julian Glover as the Duke of Wellington? The fake hookey nose was good, but his body type was miles away from that of the real Duke and I just wanted to scream every time he was on screen.
So, after venting I shall now put my money where my mouth is. Were I to cast the part of the Duke of Wellington in a film, I would choose either Adrian Brody, Daniel Day Lewis or Pierce Brosnan (with prosthetic nose) to play the Duke. Do you agree? Which would be your choice? Or do you have another suggestion? I’m looking forward to your comments . . . . .