British Royalty: Prince Albert

Figure 1.--This drawing by Lance shows Prince Albert at about 12 or 13. Unfortunately it tells us little about the clothes that he wore. The outline of the collar does suggest a lace collar.

Albert was the born into the royal family of a small German principality. He was stictly raised and very well educated. His mairrage to Victoria brought him to the throne of the most powerful country of the day. He was only the Prince Cosort and not a co-ruler with his wife. His advise to his poorly educated wife, however, was of great value to England, especially his advise that England not support the South in the American Civil War. He took the education of their heir, the future Edward VII very seriously. Despite the attention given to the care and education of the children, many serious mistakes were made and a program was pursued that was not suitable for a boy of limioted intelligence and volitile temperment. His untimely death devestated the Victoria.


Saxe-Coburg is a small principality in central Germany. It was peopled mostly by peasanys and occupied and dismembered by Napoleon. The royal fanmily was, however, to play an important role on European royalty far beyound the importance of the their small principality.



Albert, the younger son of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was born at Schloss Rosenau in 1819. His father was Francis Frederick of Saxe-Coburg. His mother was Louise of Saxe-Coburg-Altenburg. The two were mairred in 1817, the energetic and sparkling Louise brought with her the larger principality of Gotha, considerably enriching Duke Frederick's domains. Louise was delighted with "her Duke". Duke Ernest, however, only 2 years after the birth of Albrech began to neglect his wife and spend time with a new mistress. Louise isolated and lonely fid likewise. (This and the resulting divorce probably in part expalin Albert's almost obsessional abhorance of sexual license.)


There are rumors that both Victoria and Albert were fathered by their mothers' illicit lovers. Many historians ignore or dismiss these rumors. There are serious, hitorians who report that their is substantial evidence. This would mean their parents were an Irish adventurer and a German Jew. [Wilson]


Albert had one brother, the elder Ernest, who became Ernest II of Saxe-Coburg Saalfeld. Ernest was worn in 1818, much to the delight of the Duke and Duchess' subjects. As boys Ernest and his younger brother were devoted to each other-despite the normal boyhood squables. Ernest was to accompany Albert to London to meet the newly crowned and eligible Victoria. Some have marveled that Victoria was immediately smitten with the shy, more reserved Albert rather than the more outgoing Ernest.

Uncle Leopold

Interestingly, Albert's uncle Leopold--the dashing youngest son of Albert's grandfather had in the face of opposition from her father, mairred the Princess Charlotte who was posed to inherit the English throne. The Prince Refent (future George IV) intensly disliked Leopold, but the German Prince who fought with the Russians against Napoleon swept the Princess Charlotte off her feet. Charlottle had rejected the man her father had chosen for her. Charlotte tragically died in child birth, the child was stillborn. Leopold was eventually offered the Belgian throne as Leopold I. Leopold took a special intgerest in the upbringing of his two nephews. He saw how terribly his brother had treated their mother and in many ways neglected the boys. It was also Leopold with his English experience and contacts that played a major role in bringing Victoria and Albert together.


Francis Albecht (Albert) Augustus Charles Emmanuel Saxe-Coburg (1819-61) was born at Rosenau (near Coburg), now part of Bavaria in Germany. Here Ernest and Albrech grew up togetgher. Their mother played with the boys as they were three children. The younger Albrecht was her favorite and he always in later life spoke of his mother with the greatest tenderness. The happy three-some were separated in 1824 when Ernest and Akbrech were only 5-6 years old. After Duke Ernest had begun to ignore her, Louise took a lover herself and her husband used this to demabd a separation. Louise left Coburg in 1824 and the two were fornmaly divorced in 1827. She was thus separated from the two beings she loved most in all the world. It was probably even more traumatic for the boys. They never saw their mother again--but they never forgot her. Their happy childhood came to a close.

Boyhood Clothes

I have no information on how Albert was dressed as a boy.


Albert and his brother had been wonderfully educated at home by their tutor Florschütz which prepared them well for foprmal education. He was educated in Brussels and Bonn. Albert attended the University of Bonn, 1837 to 1838. The boys could have attended as noblemen meaning they come come and go as they wanted and had no obligation to actually study. It was their uncle, King Leopold who insisted thatvthey enroll as students to get a proper education. As a result, Albert was the only English royal to have a university education until the current Prince of Wales--Prince Charles.


Queen Victoria (1819-1901) was the grandaughter of King George III and was the niece of her predecessor William IV. The Queen was crowned in 1837 and was to become the longest reigning British monarch, having much of the 19th century named after her. Because of her longevity and extensive family, she became known as the Grandmother of Europe after marrying her family into every Royal House in Europe. Victoria ruled one of the world's largest empires at the peak of its power. She was Queen of England, but so as not to outdone by the German Kaiser (Emperor), was made Empresses of India. Albert and Ernest at Leopold's urging visited their cousin, Queen Victoria in London after receiving a none tompolite invitation from her. The young queen who had been dismissive of Albert before she met him, immediately upon sight fell in love with the dashing German prince.


Although Albert initially had doubts about the relationship, but enthusiastically agreed when Victoria virtually proposed to him. The couple were married in February 1840. They were only 20 and 21 years old. The first year in which Albert was largely excluded from state affairs were very trying. The mairrage proved to be the great love story of the age. Few state mairrages proved as felicitous as this one.

Albert's Role

The mairrage to Victoria brought Albert from a German backwater to the throne of the most powerful country of the day. While he was not formally a co-ruler with his wife and only became Prince Consort in 1857, he became in effect the uncrowned king of England. His counsel and advise to his poorly educated wife was of emense value to Victoria and England. There were at first disagreements between the new couple as to Albert's role, both in the family and on state matters. Victoria was much impressed with herself and had no idea how poorly educated she was. Albert even at his young age was able to tactifully offer her assistance. Gradually she came to rely upon him. Albert's broader education as well as his more tempered judgement were critical in guiding the head-strong Victoria. In addition, his social liberalism led Victoria to champion needed reforms that may have well in the long un saved the monarchy.


Queen Victoria gave birth to nine children. Victoria and Albert over 18 years had nine children, four boys and five girls. They saw themselves and in many ways were suitably enough an ideal Victorian family. The mairrages and offspring of these children are truely remarkable. Victoria in more than name was the grandmother of Europe. Ties were forged with Denmark, Prussia and other German states, Russia, and Spain. Notably France was excepted from Victoria's dynastic web.

The Nursery

HBRC at this time has only limited information on the royal nursery. We believe, however, to understand the royal family, we need to understand how the nursery was set up and organized. There were presumably been at least four nursereies, at Buckingham Palace, Windsor, Osborne, and Balmoral. In addition, there must have been facilities for the children in the royal yacht. The staff of the nursery must have been extensive, There was a superintendent of the nursery, a nurse, and governess and then support staff to assisst. The nursery must have been more than one room for so many children. Some sources suggest that some of the children had their own rooms. We do not know at just what age the children moved out of the nursery.

Family Life

After the daliances of their predecesors, Victoria and Albert sought to set the standard for rectitude. Although historians vary somewhat the young family seems to nave been very happy. The children were not relegated to a nursery and rarely visited by their parents. Albert deloghted in playing with the children. He not only joined in their games, but invented many for them. [Bennett, p. 128.] I'm less sure about Victoria's role. It is clear that the family participated in many activities together. The engaged in familt theatricals. Albert taught them games. They enjoyed producing tableaux vivants. Albert would read from books they could all enjoy like Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. They also traveled together, taking may trips on the royal yacht, Victoria and Albert together. The children grew up thinking that papa knew how to do everything and Victoria her self with her limited outlook and education also came to look to her husband for guidance. In family maters after the Lehzen matter was resolved, Albert was the undisputed head of household. Victoria gradually turned to Albert on matters of state. In this regard, Albert very tactfully gained her confidence. There were little tiffs from time between Victoria and Albert, but they appear to have been a wonderfully happy family. Most of the disputes resolved around Victoria's frustration. She wanted him to be successful and admired, but as he rose in stature there were more demands on his time. This took him away from her which she did not want. The standards set by the royal couple with the chikldren and their family life was to set a standard that many of their descendents found difficult to meet. Edward in fact made no effort to do so and was a notorious philanderer.

Royal Homes

The official London residences of the royal family became Buckingham Pallace amd Windsor Castle. Victoria was the first British monarch to designate Buckingham Palace as a royal residence. The royal family needed, however, somewhere to go to be away from the lime light. There two favored retreats were Balmoral Castle in Scotlnd and Osbourne House on the Isle of Wright. Bot were designed and built under Albert's supervision. He did his best to avoid official duties at Osbourne and devote himself to the Queen and children. Several interesting group photos were taken at Osbourne, but fewer images seem to exist from the other residences--perhaps an indicator that more family time was spent at Osbourne.

Albert and Clothing

HBRC at this time has only limited information on Prince Albert and clothing. We know virtually nothing about his childhood clothes. We do know that a youth he was very interested in clothes--viewed by some as a dandy. We do know that Albert designed dresses for Victoria at special occassions. One dress he designed that Victoria wore to a fancy dress ball in 1845 was judged as rather risqué. [Bennett, p. 131.] He had not yet developed a reputation as a prude. We do not know to what extent he was involved in the children's clothing. Certainly if he had a hand in Victoria's clothes, he may well have been involved with the children's clothing. We do know that he obtained a sewing machine for the nursery.

Children's Clothes

The way Victoria and Albert's children were dressed had an enormous impact on children's fashions for generations. I'm not sure who decided on these fashions. Perhaps it was Victoria. But the use of the kilt made good political sence for the monarch, just the astute step that Albert was likely to have suggested to Victoria. HBC has no details yet, however, on just how the children's clothes were selected and the role of Queen Victoriam Prince Albert, or others. We also do not know to what extent the children's clothes were made in the nursery by staff of the royal household or ordered from outside seamstresses and garment shops. HBRC was somewhat surprises that at least some of the children's clothese were made in the nursery, but it is known that Prince Albert obtained a sewing machine for the nursery.

Figure 2.--This rare photograph was taken at Osborne (the family's Isle of Wright holiday home), in 1857. It shows Victoria and Albert with all nine children. Left to right, Alice, Arthur, Albert, Edward, Leopold, Louise, the Queen holding Beatrice, Alfred, Vicky, and Helena. Note the range of the boys' outfits. Leopold (age 4) appears to be wearing a dress, Arthur (age 7) wears a kilt, and the two older boys Alfred (age 11) and Edward (age 16) wear suits with stiff collars.

Relationship with the Children

Albert by all accounts was a wonderful father, especially with the younger children. One historian reports that he excelled as a young fatherm she describes his as affectionate, patient, and understanding. He actually invented games for the nursery. He was much more involved with the children than previous royal fathers as well as many affluent Victorian fathers. It was not uncommon for the children of wealthy Victorians to be raised in a nursery larefly apart from their parents. He showed no sign of the scarcasm, that his father had used so hurtfully. Some authors have suggested that his children feared him. [Woodham-Smith] Other authors suggest that there is no such evidence. [Bennett, p. 128.] Victoria's letters and Albert's own letters describe him as the consumate father quite unlike his austere Victorian image. He played hide-and-seek with the children and turned somersaults with them. He cased butterdly and flew kites with them. He and the children built houses and forts with blocks on the nursery floor. He taught the children to skate and swim. Londoners noted the Prince seving as coachman of the little sleigh full of children. The Rpyal family seemed to go every where together. They went sailing on the Victoria and Albert ports throughout England, Scotlamd, Wales, and Ireland together. They watched the first races for the America's Cup. He taught them navigation. He loved to watch the children play. He rehersed their amateur theatricals and tableaux vivants. He invited a Shakesparean troop to Windsor. He introduced them to wild animals at Wombwell's menagerie. The chidren as a result grew up confident and self-possed. They met everyone from Barnum's General Tom Thumb to foreign potentates. [Bennett, p. 128]

The children came to revere their father. Vicky was often quited as sayingm "Papa knows how these things are done." "Papa will do it," or "I will ask Papa." The other children echoed her in this regard. Not only the other children, but also his wife--Victoria. In many ways as their relationship grew it became one of father and child. His letters to her often befan, "Dear Child." [Bennett, pp. 128-129] The only exception to this, of course, was Berie. Everyone it seem looked to prince Albert for adviose, his children, the Queen, government ministers--only Bertie lacked confidence. For Prince Albert this must have been a profound sence of disappointment, not only for him as a fater, but knowing how much the boy needed is advise. [Bennett, p. 338]

Children's Education

A topic of great interest to Albert was the education of the royal children. The English royal family is not famed for its scholars. Albert was determined that the children, unlike his wife, receive the best education possible. The first choice was a governess for the children as they emerged from te nursery. Then tutors would be needed for the boys. Albert had a wonderful practical sence for choosing people, but when it came to the questioning of the chilren's education, especially that of Prince Albert Edward, he allowed himself be drawn into a lot of unproductive theorizing when some some more practical judgements may have been more effective. In this regard, the failure with Bertie was not for lack of effort. Albert's role was in sharp contrast with the way George III had neglected im family.


Prince Albert, as with many paractical matters, usually exercised excellent judgement. Such was the case of a giverness for the children. He close Lady Lyttelton, an ancestor of Princess Diane. She was a perfect choice for the job. She both loved and understood children and had a wonderful ability to teach. One historian writes that Lady Lyttelton "won the affection of the nursery from the start." [Bennett, p. 129] The royal nursery was thrown into considerable disaray when in the autumn of 1850 that Lady Lyttelton, who was greatly beloved by both te children and parents left te royal service. Her departure was accompanied by sobs and lamentations. She had virtually worn herself out caring for the growing royal brood. Deprived of her kindly guidance the cildren soon were often disruly. [Bennett, pp. 216-217] We are not sure at this time just how the nursery was set up. Was there just one goveness--that hardly seems likely. Perhaps there was a head governess and then additional ones for each child. After Lady Lyttelton left, one source mentions a Miss Hildyard working with Vicky.


Before the next step was taken, the royal household discussed eduvational theories ad infinitum. The royal couple's advisors provie arcane theorizing that had little basis in reality. They convinced both Albert and Victoria that thir task was much more difficult than that of other British parents. Stockmar theorized that children were born "pure" and should be kept that way by surounding them those who are also "pure".


The English royals did not attend schools, but were educated by tutors. This was to change in future generations. Given the situation at the time in England's public (private schools), Albert was not about to challege precedent and send the princes there. The public schools had indifferent if not outright poor teaching and were rife with bullying and neglect. Thomas Hughes' novel, Tom Brown's School Days, describing the situation was not published until 1857, but the nature of the schools was well known to Prince Albert had the staff of the royal household. Two eminent tutors were selected for Bertie whobwas instructed with Affie until the two were separated in 1857. I have nodetails at this time about tutors for the other children.
Vicky: I have no details on Vicky'd tutors, except that Prince Albert tutored her in the evening for some time.
Bertie: Bertie had two different tutors. Both were eminent scholars who found him virtually impossible to deal with.
Affie: Bertie's tutors worked with both him and Affie. Affie looked up to his older brother and would sometimes bisbeaved by copying his brothers antics. The two in 1857 were finally separated, primarily to prevent Affie from ignoring his studies.

Family Background

Although Queen Victoria was the last of the Hanovers, she was also half Coburg. Her mother, Victoria, was the daughter of Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg in the Thuringia province of Germany. The heir of Francis was Albert's brother Ernest I. Therefore, Victoria and Albert together founded a new dynasty in England, that of the House of Saxe-Coburg Gotha (the territory of Gotha was added after the successful conclusion of the Napoleonic wars).

Until the time of Francis, the Coburgs were minor German potentates. Albert was considered penniless when he crossed the channel to marry Victoria. The long history of European wars had not benefited the family especially. Districts such as Saalfield had been taken away from them, while areas such as Gotha had been added with no real change taking place in the family fortune. Nevertheless, what the family did not gain in wars, it acquired through lucrative marriages.

Family Curse

Although arguably Prince Albert made the most brilliant marriage of any Coburg, the family fortune--and misfortune--began when Albert's Uncle Ferdinand married the Hungarian heiress Antoinette Kohary in 1816. The father of the bride was so pleased with the match that he bequeathed all his worldly possessions to his daughter, thereby disinheriting all the rest of the clan. According to Theo Aronson, this rash act prompted one disaffected relative, a Hungarian monk, to place a blood curse upon the entire Coburg family. Aronson writes: Having studied up his Manuale Exorcisorum, he positioned himself in a churchyard at midnight and there pronounced a curse. 'Then verily shall I pray to the Lord Almighty to visit the sins of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of the Coburg line. Thus began the curse of the Coburgs.

Consequently, the Coburgs tended to die prematurely. Duke Ernest's daughter, Victoire, died in childbirth in 1857 while in exile as the wife of the deposed Duc de Nemours. In 1899 the young Prince Alfred, heir to the duchy, shot himself to alleviate his suffering from tuberculosis aggravated by venereal disease. [Weintraub, 599.] Some lived to make disastrous political alliances: Queen Victoria's grandson, Charlie, son of the sickly Prince Leopold, succeeded to the duchy only to become a NAZI under Hitler.

Typhoid was a particular scourge of the family. Prince Ferdinand and King Pedro of Portugal were the son and grandson of the Ferdinand who changed his name to Coburg-Kohary. Both died of typhoid, along with the heir to the throne, in 1861. Lady Elizabeth Longford comments that "The King was only 25 and like a son to Prince Albert. Like him, he had the Coburg melancholy." Concerning these deaths, Queen Victoria wrote on August 20, 1861: What an awful misfortune this is! How the hand of death seems bent on pursuing that poor dear family, once so prosperous. Poor Ferdinand so proud of his children--of his five sons--now the eldest and most distinguished, the head of the family, gone and also another of 15 years, and the youngest still ill!


Albert was primarily concerned about Europe, but Ameriuca had not escaped his attention. The American Cvil War began in April 1861. Many in Britain and France wanted to support te South. France took the opportu ity to impose Maximillian on Mexico. Many in Britain wanted to support the Sout, to divide what was viewed as a developing challenge to Britain. Albert felt differently, sensing that it made more sence to develop a positive relationsip. One of Albert's last official act was to help difuse the Trent affair, te boarding of a British mail steamer by the Federal Navy blockading the South. This could have been a serious incidenr and some British officials wanted a forceful response. Albert with only two weeks to live, advised moderation. Such was the esteme in wich he was now held that his suggetions prevailded. One shuders to think what would have happened to Britain in the 20th century if there had not been a strong, united America.

Untimely Death

Prince Albert died in 1861, 4 years after being given the title of Prince Consort. He was only 42. Albert passed away on December 14, 1861, officially of typhoid fever. There were, however, many compications that do not correspond to typhoid. Incredibly, Bertie saw him just before he took to bed and had no idea his father was not feeling well. A good example of how clueless the Prince of Wales was at this time. His father had traveled all the way to Cambridge on November 22 to see him about his behavior. The two stroled in the country lanes around Cambridge and Bertie managed to get them lost. Albert did not need to be outside after dark in his condition. [Bennett, p. 368] Victoria was later to actually blame Bertie for Albert's death and would constantly throw it up at him when ever the two quarled. Even Victoria, however, had no idea that Albert was so sick. It was a great shock when the doctors told him how sick he was. Despite his position, the prince got incredibly poor medical care. His was a long, protracted decline, yet the royal doctors, Clark and Jenner, repeatedly gave hopeful prognoses, encouraging Albert to leave his sick bed and walk around Windsor Castle. Oddly enough, neither doctor was able to recognize Albert's symptoms as typhoid, even though William Jenner was a noted pathologist who had recently distinguished the germs of typhus and typhoid. [Longford, p. 290] While the doctors kept issuing cheerful bulletins of the Prince Consort's health, Albert kept walking the cold stone halls of the castle like a pale ghost. According to Lady Elizabeth Longford, "After wandering about the passages, occasionally rattling at a door-handle, he at last decided to settle in the Blue Room--the King's Room where both George IV and William IV died." As is condition worsened, Princess Alice brougt in the younger children. Albert passed away there as well. He died on December 14, the Queen holding his hand and the cildren gathered around his bed. The loss of Alber devastated Victoria. The Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens, designed by Sir George Scott, was erected in his memory in 1871.


The HBRC pages concerning Prince Albert, Queen Victoria, their children, court staff, and other related invividuals such as Government officials and European royals is quite involved. It is sometimes difficult to follow this extensive suite of pages without knowing who the different individuals are. We have thus created an alphabetized biography page provide a thumbnail sketch explaining who the various individuals are. Please let us know if we have omitted anyone who should be included are if you think some note should be made on these pages about these individuals.


Bennett, Daphne. King Without a Crown: Albert Prince Consort of England, 1819-1861 (New York: J.B. Lippincott, 1977).

Wilson, A.N. The Victorians, 724p.

Woodham-Smith, Cecil. Queen Victoria: Her Life and Times (1972).


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Created: February 26, 1999
Last updated: May 18, 2001