British Royalty Royalty: Prince Leopold (1853-84)

Figure 1.--Prince Leopold is seen here wearing a dress much like that worn by his sisters. His older brother wears a dark jacket and contrasting long trousers with a stripe. Prince Leopold also appears to also be wearing pantalettes.

The story of Prince Leopold (1853-1884) and his mother, the redoubtable Queen Victoria, might have been entitled the struggles of a single mom with her disabled child. Leopold is probably the least well-known 19th-century British royal. Queen Victoria's nine children have received almost as much attention from biographers as they had in their lifetime from that Victorian invention, the illustrated press. Prince Leopold, her eighth child, has received less than his siblings, probably because his sisters occupied various European thrones and two of his older brothers were in line for (Alfred) or reighed as King of England (Edward VII).


Leopold was Victoria and Albert's next tomlast child and fourth boy. He had a terrible time establishing a kife for himself separate from his string-willed mother.


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 Consort 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 chiodren very seriously--especially heir, the future Edward VII very seriously. Despite the attention given to the care and education of the children. Albert's untimely death devestated the Victoria.


Queen Victoria was Britain's longest serving monarch. Her mairrage with Albert was the love story of the 19th century. She set the moral tone of the nation and helped shape Britain's emergence as a truly democratic nation. Victoria witnessed an extrodinary development of British power and influence. She and Albert changed how Britain's looked on their monarch. She became in many ways the gramdmother of Europe, forging dynastic ties throughout the Continent. She also played a major role in influencing boys clothing around the world by the garments she selected for the young princes.


Leopold was born at Buckingham Palace in London. It appears to have been Victoria's easiest delivery. The Queen's labor pains were eased by the newly developed chloroforum. During labour, Queen Victoria chose to use chloroform She thus sanctioned the use of anesthesia in childbirth which had a major impact on the use of anesthesia. The use of chloroform had recently been developed by Professor James Young Simpson. Baby Leopold unfortunately did not thrive and remained thin. Dr. Clark diagnosed a weak digestion. The wet nurse was quickly changed. The problem of course was haemophilia--but it was undiagnossed for some time. The Prussian Princess Augusta expressed an interest in being the baby's godmother. Albert saw this as an expression of Prussian interest in developing closer ties. His instincts in such matters were usually on the mark, but with Prussia Albert misjudged both Augusta and her family's willingness to persue a modern constitutional government. To help build a close relationship with Prussia, he promoted a Prussian mairrage for his favorite child--the Princess Royal.

Brothers and Sisters

Victoria and Albert 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 exepted from Victoria's dynastic web. Leopold was the youngest boy. He had three brothers and five sisters. Only Princess Beatrice was younger.


Prince Leopold's haemophilia affected his childhood. He was pampered and treated as a semi-invalid. Some authors believe that he also suffered from mild epilepsy. Despite these handicaps, Prince Leopold has been described as daring, strong willed, and full of high spirits. He has also been described as the most intelligent of the children. Prince Albert was mistified as he watched Leopold to see a strong vigorous personality facing his cripling handicap. He was a inteligent, adveturesome boy--in sharp contrast to his older brother Bertie. It was a tragedy for Leopold that is father died when he was so young. His fathered admired the boy's determination and drive and would have helped him flourish. [Bennett, p. 338.] The Queen simlply found him anoying.

Family Relationships

One interesting topic is the family relationships, including the information among the children. We do not yet have much information about Prince Leopold. We assume that they were very close as they were the two youngest brothers separated by 3 years. Thus they would have spent a great deal of time playing together. We do note an early CDV portrait of Prince Leopold and Prince Arthur. The boys were presumably photograpohed together because they were together so much. Prince Arthur has a protective arm around his little brother who seems a little intimidated by the camera. Both boys are dressed up in kilts for the portrait.

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 have 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.


We have little information at this time on Prince Leopold's clothes. We believe all the boys were dressed similarly. So we have a general idea how Prince Leopold was dressed even though we do not yet have aot of portraits of him. Of course there were fashion changes since his older brithers were born, so there was probably some differences. We do know that as a little boy he wore dresses and pantalettes just like his sisters and brothers when they were little. Family portraits at Osbourne show him wearing dresses. Brother Arthur wears a kilt in the same portraits and Bertie and Affie wear short jackets with long trousers. We note Leo wearing kilts as well. A portrait shows Leo with his brother Arthur, both wearing kilts. The boys were always done up in kilts when the family took off for Balmoral. We are not suyre how common kilts were when they were in England. We are not sure what Prince Leopold thought about Scotland as a boy. As he grew older, he cane to hate Balmoral and hac\ving to spend time there with his mother.


The first child of Arthur's older sister Victoria, the future Wilhelm II, made quite a stir in the royal family. Arthur's younger sister Beatrice was the first to run afoul of Willie when he tossed her muff out the window of the carriage on the way to the Prince of Wales' wedding. At the wedding, Willie who was done up in a higland kilt outfit began playing with the dirk in his kilt. I'm not sure how Leopold was dressed, but he may have been wearing a kilt as well. Willy finally threw the dirk noisily across the floor of the chapel. Prince Arthur who was about 13 years old and Prince Leopoldwho was about 10 and sitting near Willie tried to get him to behave. The result was that Willie bit them on their legs. [Van der Kiste, pp. 9-10.]

Relationship with Mother

Some if the best sources of information on Leopold are the delightfully outspoken letters that Leopold wrote to his old tutor, whom the Queen had dismissed. The Prince appears to have been an attractive and public-spirited prince. His life is a moving tribute to a prince who overcame much suffering, and details on his life gives us a better understanding both of Victorian royal history. The relationship between Leopold and his formidable mother are perhaps the most interesting of all within the royal family. Leopold was the first of Victoria's descendants to show signs of haemophilia, which was to become known as the "royal disease." Hemeophilia was then only beginning to be understood. The Queen found Leopold to be an especially an annoying child, even though she had a large staff to care for the children. It took her many years to come to terms with her son's severe illness. Not only was the boy subject to sudden prolonged bouts of bleeding, but he also seems to hve suffered from epilepsy. At first she put his problems down to clumsiness, but once she realised the truth, she became increasingly protective. This is where Charlotte Zeepvat's biography excels: in portraying the struggles of a widowed mother trying to cope with a disabled child.

Father's Interest

Albert was greatly concerned about his youngest son. He made arrangements for the boy to spend the wunter of 1861-62 in the healthy climate of Cannes under the care of a doctor.

Father's Death

Prince Albert's early death was a tragedy for Leopold, as Albert had more understanding of his youngest son. Leopold was still only a boy when Albert died in 1861. Leopold inherited far more of his father's intellectual and artistic interests than his healthier, more vigorous brothers. The young Prince longed for a normal life--normal, at least, in the sense of his three brothers. He longed to do as much as he could while his mother battled to protect him from life. Her maternal concern was increased by her strong and often selfish desire to keep some of her younger children as companions. Since so many of Queen Victoria's battles were carried on in her extensive correspondance, we have marvellous letters available to follow this struggle in all its ramifications.


The Prince of Wales' fiancee, Princess Alexandra, was met on her arrival at Osborne by Princess Helena who was about 16 and and her younger brother Leopold who was about 9. Alix was to stay with the Queen for a few months befor the marriage. Leopold was worried about the bouquet that had been enbtrusted to him. Alix was charmed, took little Leopold in her arms and kissed him, forging a loving relationship with him. Alix soon made friendships with the Queen's daughters as well, especially Helena who was close to her in age. In later years she became quite close to Princess Louise. [Battiscombe, pp. 40-41.] Throughout Leopold's short like, Alix made a special effort to befriend him.


Prince Albert had purchased Balmoral in Scotland as a gift for his wife (1846). The annual family trip to Bsalmoral was well established v\before Prince Leopold was born. Victoria and Leopold as he grew older frequently clashed, and the Prince could be sarcastic about her in his private correspondence. Their battles often centred on Scotland. While the Queen had dedicated him at birth to her northern kingdom, Leopold grew to detest the cult of Scottishness that she created round her. As he got older, his brothers and sisters were able to occassiinally come up with some excuses to forgo the annual trip to Scoyland, but the younger Leopold always had to go. And he absolutely hated the Queen's laconic servant, John Brown, about whom so much has been written. The Queen inisted tha he accept Brown's brother as a valet. His behavior to Leopold has been described as little short of cruel. Not only that, but he also could not stand the family's isolated and rather primitive Scottish estate, Balmoral. Leopold did everything he could to avoid the long annual visit, but rarely succeeded..


Prince Leopold was home schooled by tutors. He was not considered strong enough to attend schools with other boys. Leopold was, however, the only one of Victoria and Albert's children that expressed any serious interest in scholarly matters. He wanted to attend university, but his mother objected, obstensibly on health grounds. He eventually won the Queen's consent to attend Oxford--Christ Church College. He was, however, forbidden to mix with most undergraduates. He established friendships with leading Victorian writers such as Ruskin and Lewis Carroll. He started to give carefully thought-out speeches supporting social reforms. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Civil Law.

Queen's Secreatry

Leopold eventually he became an unofficial secretary to his mother and helped her with her enormous correspondence. In this period, some authors accuse the Prince of being a political intriguer. Not all historans, however, agree.

Duke of Albany

He was created Duke of Albany Prince Leopold was created Duke of Albany Earl of Clarence and Baron Arklow (1881). Victoria's large family meant that she had to be creative about finding titles to bestow on them. The Duke of Albany is a peerage title that has occasionally been used for younger sons of Scottish kings. It was used by English/British kings, especially the Houses of House of Stuart and House of Hanover. Arklow is even more remote. It wasa amall town located in County Wicklow along the eastern coast of what is now the Republic of Ireland. Many Irish towns are of Viking or English origins bevause the country was largely rural until the arrival of the Vikings and English. The Vikings founded Arlow (9th century). A bloofy battle of the Irish rebellion was fought there (1798).


He saw marriage as the only way of escaping from his mother. He had problems finding a wife,on account of the stigma of his hereditary illness. He is reported to have had a liking for Alice Liddell, daughter of the Vice Chancellor of Oxford University. She was of course the Alice of Alice in Wonderland fame. His mother, however, insisted that he should marry the daughter of one of the reigning Protestant European monarchs. Several princesses were considered. One was his second cousin Princess Frederica of Hanover. That did not work out, but they became lifelong friends. Another possibility was Princess Victoria of Baden Victoria of Baden who instead married King Gustaf V of Sweden. Another princess considered was Princess Caroline of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg. Prince Keopold managed to make an exceptionally happy, although brief, marriage to German Princess Helen of Waldeck. They married at Windor Castle (1882). Princess Helene Friederike, was the daughter of Georg Viktor, reigning Prince of Waldek-Pyrmont. (Waldeck and Pyrmont was a principality in the German Empire. It comprised the area around preseent day Hesse and Lower Saxony.)


Leopold and Helen had two children before the Prince's untimely death, a daughter Alice and a son Charles Edward.

Alice (1883-1981)

There daughter was Princess Alice. She was apparently named after Alice Liddell, although I am not sure how widely known thast was. Leopold died while she was still a baby. She married Prince Alexander of Teck, a brother of Queen Mary, King George V's wife. She and her husband after World War II attempted to help her brother Charles who was a arrested by the Allies as a war criminal. Princess Alice lived until 1981.

Charles (1884-1964)

The vacant title of the title of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was the subject of consultations between Queen Victoria, Prince Arthur and Kaiser Wilhelm II. They eventually decided to convey the principality to Carl-Edward, prince of Great Britain, Duke of Albany, who was the posthumous son of Victoria's youngest son, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany. Leopold had died a victim of hemophilia in 1884. Charles became Duke when his uncle Prince Alfred died. He was only 15 years old at the time. Court sources record that he was bullied by the Kaiser in reputedly "playful" sessions. One witness reported an incident where the Kaiser pinched and slapped so violently that it was more like a beating. Charles-Edward married a niece of the Emperess Augusta of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, wife of Kaiser Wilhelm II. His wife was von Princess Schleswig-Holste (Schleswig-Holstein) Victoria Adelheid. They married in 1905 at Glücksburg Castle in Holstein. They had five children: The oldest was Prince Johann Leopold Wilhelm Albert (1906- ). Princess Sibylla Calma Marie Alice (1908- ) married into the Swedish royal family. Prince Hubertus Frederick William (1909-43) became a Luftwaffe pilot during World War II and in 1943 was killed in Romania, presumably defending the Ploieste oil fields from Allied bombing. The two youngest children were: Princess Caroline Mathilde Ludwige Helena (1912- ) and Prince Friedrich Josias Carl Eduard (1918- ). During World War I (1914-18), the Duke remained loyal to the Kaiser Wilhelm II. This allegiance cost Carl-Edward his English titles. In fact his situation was even more complicated because his only sister, Princess Alice of Albany, was married to the Duke of Teck, Queen Mary's brother. The malestorm of World War I eventually cost him in crown. Carl-Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha abdicated on November 14, 1818.


Leopold suffered from haemophilia. He died from burst blood vessel in his head in 1884 at the age of only 30, only 5 years after his sister Alice. Prince Leopold had been sent to Cannes on 'doctors' orders on account of his haemophilia. He fell in the yacht harbour, had a haemorrhage and died shortly after, before the birth of his son. Some reports suggest that he died from the effects of the morphia used to treat his pain and the red wine he had for lunch. His mother, Queen Victoria, was devestated. Notably at the funeral it was on the arm of Princess of Wales Alix that the Queen wept.


Battiscombe, Georgina. Queen Alexandra (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1969).

Charlotte Zeepvat, Prince Leopold: the Untold Story of Queen Victoria's Youngest Son (Sutton, 1989).

Van der Kriste, John. Kaiser Wilhelm II: Germany's Last Emperor (Bodmin: Sutton Publishing, 1999), 244p.


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Created: February 26, 1999
Last updated: 2:04 AM 6/25/2009