British Royalty: Prince Albert Victor (1864-92)


Figure 1.--The future Edward VIII's eldest son wore a short dress for this 1868 portrait. He would have been about 4 years old. Notice the short white socks and curls.

The Prince and Princess of Wales first child was born unexpectedly 2 months early and weighed less than four pounds. His grandmother chose his name, of course Albert Victor. His parents added Christian Edward. Except by the Queen, the heir apparent, was known affectionately as Eddy by the family. Victoria was for ever interfearing in the most mundane matters. As a child he was rather slow an awkward, perhaps afffected by the premature birth. Eddy was made the Duke of Clarence and Avondale, as his father was Prince of Wales longer than any other British monarch. His behavior, however, would have scandalized Britain had it been widely known. He mairred Annie Crook (CIR) and had a daughter. Albert is now little know to all but historians, but in the late 19th century it was assumed that Albert Victor would be king of England.

Parents

Albert Victor was the son of Edward VII who at the time was Prince of Wales and Alexandra, daughter of the King Christian VII of Denmark.

Father

Edward VII (1841-1910) or Bertie as he was called within the family, was the eldest son of the redoubtable Queen Victoria and Prince Consort Albert. Edward was born Albert Edward Saxe-Coburg in 1841 at Buckingham Palace. He was affectionately known as Bertie by his family, as he was christened Albert Edward. The parents soon found that Bertie was going to be difficult to deal with. As heir to the thrown he was of great concern. Despite extrodinary efforts to assist him, he was to cause more difficulty than any of the other children. As a boy, the clothes chosen for him resulted in him affecting boys fashions for decades. He proved to be a rather difficult, volotile child which was not helped by the routine adopted for him and his brothers and sisters. Edward did not want to use his father's name, insisting that there was only one Albert. While he was a backward boy with limited academic abilities, Edward in fact proved to be a succes as king. Like his mother he gave his name to an era--the Edwardian Era. While shortlived, it was an era of the flowering of European culture before the terrible wars of the 20th centurty. Edward played an important role in steering a moderate course which helped to prevent war.

Mother

His mother Alexandria was born in 1844, only a few years after Bertie. Her father was Christian IX (1818- ) of Schleswig-Holstein, King of Denmark. Her mother was Princess Louise Wilhelmina of Hesse-Cassel (1818- ). Alexandra as a girl was raised in rather frugal circumstances in Copenhagen. She and her sisters sewed somer of their own clothes. Occasionally they would wait on tables and perform other household chores. Marriage to the Prince of Wales, however, was no picnic. She passed away in 1925.

Birth

The Prince and Princess of Wales first child was born unexpectedly 2 months early and weighed less than four pounds. This was no small matter in the 19th century. Many babies born that early did not survive. He was, however, strong and well. After the room had been cleared so that Alix could sleep, Bertie later quierly returned and the two quietly weeped with joy as they embraced each other. It may well be that Eddy's slow, awkward behavior as a child was afffected by the premature birth. It was a trying time for Alix as not only was Eddy delivered prematurely, but hostilities were about to break out between Prussia and Denmark. More than once her husband would find her crying in bed with the turn of events for Denmark.

Siblings

Edward and Alexandria had six children, three boys and three girls. The most famous of course was Albert Victor's younger brother who became George V. The two were close in age. George was born in 1865, only one year after his older brother. They were often photographed together, sometimes in identical clothes. Presumably they were quite close, but we have no details at this time.

Victoria

The Queen took a great interest in her grandson. She insisted that his parents consult with her on even the smallest details oncerning the boy and did not at all understand why they should object to this. Little 6-year old Princess Beatrice let it be known that the Queen had chosen his name, of course Albert Victor, before the Queen could more tactifully impose her wishes. Victoria for ever interfearing in the most mundane matters, this was just one example. His parents added Christian Edward. Except by the Queen, the heir apparent, was known affectionately as Eddy by the family.

Personality

Eddy was a rather peculiar child, hardly what was expected for a future king. We have noted few royal children described in such negative terms as Prince Eddy. He even looked not quite right, he had a long neck and languid eyes and as an adult adopted several preposterous moustaches. As a boy he appears to have been apathetic and backward. One report describes him as lacking in "manliness and self-reliance". This was probably why Prince Eddy was such a favorite to the Queen. As a child he appaers to have been a generally good natured, certainly gentle boy, but extremely lackidasical even slugish. Others have described him as dull-witted, perhaps even retarded, maybe even autistic. His personality may have been affected by his premature birth and Alexandra's difficult labor. Precisely how is difficult to assess. Sir Henry Ponsoby suggested that he may have been hearing impaired, which could have explained some of his learning difficulties. [Battiscombe, p. 162.]

Childhood

I have few details on Albert Victor's childhood at this time. We know that despite the significant differences in the personality and caharcter, Prince Eddy and George were devoted to each other. As they were close in age, they were essentially raised together.

Childhood Clothing

Dresses

Eddy was attired in dresses until about 5 or 6 years. There are pictures of him in knee-length dresses which he wore with lacy. Boys still in dresses had once wore long pantalletts to cover their bare legs which even for children was thought to be immodest. By the 1860s, pantaletts were worn that just showed at the hem of the boys dress. I have no details on Albert Victor's breeching. I do not know if his parents or nanny made an "even" of it, or if it occurred all at one time.


Figure 2.--Prince Albert Victor like his father wore sailor suits as a boy. He sill wears long curly hair even after graduating from dresses. Note the straw boater rather than a sailor hat. His father wore long pants sailor suits. Albert Victor wears kneepants. Note he still has curls.

Curls

Victorian parents faced the question of whther to breech a boy first or cut his curls first or to do both at the same time. Albert Victor's father had curls as a young boy wearing tunics. His hair was not cut when he was breeched. Albert Victor's hair was also not cut upon breeching. This was the las generation of British royals which had curls past the age of brreching. Alber Victor looks to have ad long hair up to about 8 years of age, but I'm not sure just when his curls were cut.

Sailor suits

After breeching, Eddy and his brother were dressed in the sailor suits that the Queen Victoria was partial to. I'm not sure to what extent the Queen influenced the boys clothing. Or do I know if Edward and Alexandra had thoughts of their own on the matter which varrried from the Queen. Their father had always wore long pants with his sailor suits. By the 1870s kneepants were becoming increasingly popular. Thus the Prince of Wales sons wore sailor suits with the new kneepants style. The sailor suit worn by Albert Victor's father was a small edition of a real British seaman's uniform. The sailor suit worn by Albert Victor, however, appears to differ from that of a authentic sailor suit. Not only does he wear kneepants, but there are colored strips on the sides of the pants. The middy blouse does not appear to have the classic three stripes at the cuffs or collar.

Kilts

Albert Victor like his father also wore kilts. This was another favorite of the Queen's. I'm not sure what the boys themselves thought of kilts. Albert Victor and his brother George wear their kilts with Eton collars and bowties. This became a classic costume. George's children were photographed in virtually identical outfits nearly 30 years later. The boy's father who was the first royal prince tomwear the kilt also wore it with a wide white collar, but I'm not sure it was an Eton collar. He did not wear a bowtie with it. Albert Victor and George wore their kilts with patterned kneesocks. This was common in the 19th Century. It became more common in the 20th Century to wear solid colored kneesocks. Albert Victor and George for dress occasions wore their kilts with patent leather strap shoes. This is one of the few differences with the Highland kilt outfits worn by George's sons. Patent leather pumps are still worn with kilts for formal occasions. Such pumps, however, do not have the strap worn by Albert Victor and George.

Education

We have only limited information on how the children were taught at Sandringham. They were tutored there rather than attending a school. We know that Prince Eddy was tutored with his youger brother Prince George. Their tutor was John Neale Dalton who was subsequently appointed to be Cannon Dalton. As a tutor he was not a conscpicuous success, but this may have been more the boy's fault than his. The differences between the two were all too apparent at an eraly age. Prince George was a lively boy of average intelligence. His brther was beyond education. We do not know if the girls were tutored separately or if there was one classroom at Sandringham. Both boys were trained as naval cadets which Prince George did well at. After their Midshipman cruise together, Prince Eddy was sent to Cambridge where he demonstrated no interest or ability in his studies. Prince George enthusiastically pursued his naval career.

Cambridge

When Prince Eddy returned from the HMS Bacchante cruise he and Prince George were finally parted in June 1883. Prince Eddy was sent to Cambridge. Prince George received a posting on HMS Canada which was assigned to the British West Indies and North American Squadron. [Battiscombe, p. 164.] Prince Eddy's paraents entered him at Trinity College in Cambridge. The hope was to awaken some interest in intellectual matters. The Prince took almost no interest and refused to study.

The Army

After the Cambridge experiment failed, the Prince's parents tried the Army. Prince Eddy was in June 1885 assigned in the Tenth Hussars Cavalry Regiment. He took no more interest in military affairs than he did in the Naby or university. He did enjoy the Polo, although true to character, he didn't practice enough to play very well. The Army did, however, afford him more opportunities for dissipation and amusement. [Ibarra]

Family Relationships

Queen Victoria especially loved Prince Albert Victor and doted on him. Eddy was the first-born son to the Prince of Wales, and therefore, "heir but one" to the British throne. It is liked that Eddy's gentle, calm nature appealed to the queen. He also had charming manners which further endeared him to his grandmother. In his case she did not have a boisterous little boy to contend with. She even complained that Eddy's sisters were wild, so his lackidasical demeanor may have been particularly welcome to the Queen Some authors comment on the Prince of Wales having a good relationship with his younger son George. Such was not the case with Eddy. While Eddy's gentelness endeared him to his mother and sisters, his father thought him "slow" which irritated him. There are even reports that the would snub the boy. [Battiscombe, p. 139.] The Prince of Wales was a playboy and not faithful to his wife. But he seems to have been a kindly gentleman and got on well with his other children. I do not read about the younger royals crying when being brought to see him. In fact the grand children loved to visit Sandriham. The Duke of Windsor reportedly cried when being brought to see Queen Victoria as did Bertie and Alexandra's children.


Figure 3.--Like their father, Albert Victor (Eddy) and George wore kilts in this 1876 photograph. Albert Victor would have been about 13 years old. Note the strap shoes. The outfit was nearly identical to the kilts worn by George's children.

Problems

The royal family as Albert Victor grew up became concerned about the future of the young prince who would eventually be King of England. In this regard, his mother was always grateful to Queen Victoria for her love and understanding. Everything they tried seem to have failed. He was sent to cadet school and then to sea with his younger brother George (later George V) to learn discipline. That proved to be a disaster. Next he was sent to Oxford in the hope of stimulating some intelectual cvuriosity. Up until his time at Cambridge, the chief problem with Prince Eddy was academic. At Oxford he was no longer supervised like a small child or around the restraininf influence of his brother Prince George. It as at this time that larger problems began to emerge. He eventually began to frequent the dark streets of London. What he found there would have astonished the folks back home. Shortly afterwards, it was decided to send Eddy back out to sea on tours of the outer colonies until a suitable bride could be found for him. A HBC reader writes, " You have relied rather heavily on the brief sketch composed by Mr. Jesus Ibarra, which is seriously under-researched and quite misleading (for instance, Ibarra devotes an unwarrantable amount of space to Sickert's theories, which deserve little or no credit, implicating Albert Victor in the Jack-the-Ripper murders)." [Walton]

Marriage

Shortly after these problems began to surface, it was decided to send Eddy back out to sea on tours of the outer colonies until a suitable bride could be found for him. Prince Eddy's parents and Queen Victoria decided that marriage night stabilize the young prince. Finding a suitable bride, however, proved to be a challenge. Several European royals were considered. Finding a bride for Eddy's father had been a problem. Finding a bride for Eddy proved to be an even more difficult one, not the least was the fact that he appears to have found a young lady on his own.

Annie Crook

An unverified account suggest a liason between Prince Eddy and Annie Crook. Sickert claims that in 1883 that he introduced Prince Eddy to Annie Elizabeth Crook. She who worked in a tobacco shop at Cleveland Street. Eddy and Annie fell in love and got secretly married in St. Saviour's Chapel. The only witness to the nuptuials besides Sickert was a Mary Kelly, Annie's friend who also worked at the tobaco shop. Annie soon became pregnant and their child was named Alice Margaret in April 1885. Annie was taken to an insane assylum, where she died in 1920. Sickert paid Mary Kelly to be Alice Margaret's nanny. This was certainly not known to the British public at the time. Alice Margaret reportedly was to have a relationship with Sickert herself. They had one son, Joseph.

Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt

Queen Victoria in 1889 suggested her grandaughter, Princess Alix of Hesse who was to marry Nicholas II and become Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia) to marry Prince Eddy. He was quite taken with the idea. Princess Alix, however, rejected him. Prince Eddy was reportedly devestated. He wrote to his mother: "I don't think she knows how much I love her or she could not be so cruel."

Princess Margaret

Queen Victoria suggested Pussian Princess Maragret, the youngest daughter of Crown Prince Frederich and Queen Victoria's eldest daughter Victoria. The Queen added that she was "not regularly pretty". Prince Eddy rejected her out of hand.

Princess Helene d'Orleans

Prince Eddy tried to marry the unsuitable Catholic Princess Helene d'Orleans. She was the daughter of the Comte de Paris, heir to the lost throne of France. Queen Victoria at first objected to Princess Helene. She was a Roman Catholic and Prince Eddy, as heir presumtive to the English crown was not allowed to marry a Catholic. Prince Eddy's sisters impressed upon their mother how in love the teo were. Princess Louise who had become the Duchess of Fife who lived at Sheen provided a place for the two to meet frquently. Princess Alexandra seeing how attached the two were, she could not bear to see her son disappointed again. She packed them in a carrige, tossed in a picnic lunch, and sent them off to Balmoral, knowing that the Queen had a very sentimental side. [Battiscombe, p. 181.] And indeed when the Queen saw the two together, she relented. Helene would, however, would have to change her religion. Her father, however, was against it and Pope Leo XIII threatened to excomunicate her for trying to marry a "heretic". In the end the Princess decided against the marriage. She is said to have been the love of Prince Eddy's life. [Ibarra]

Lady Sybil

Prince Eddy did not pine long for Princess Helene. He was soon involved with Lady Subil St Clair Erskine whom his mother knew nothing about. Princess Aleandra thought he was still sick with grief.

Princess Mary

Princess Alexandra did not feel that the Teck's were true royalty and had it not been for the difficulty in finding a bride for Prince Eddy, probably would not have accepted her. She and her husband, however, were desperate to find a bride for Prince Eddy. After much deliberation, Princess Mary of Teck was decided upon as Albert Victor's bride. Except for the Teck linage, there was nothing objectionable about the Princess. Prince Eddy liked the Princess and she accepted his proposal. The marriage was set February 27, 1892.

Tragic Death

Princess Mary and her parents arrived in Sandringham January 4, 1892 for the wedding celebrations. The mood at Sandringham was gay, as both his parents were sure they had solved a problen that had been vexing them for some time. Then Prince Eddy began feeling ill and it became worse after he went out on a shoot. His mother remembered him leaving for a hunt and waving his cap at her cheerfully when he saw her at a window. She kept the cap in her bedroom for years after. [Battiscombe, p. 188.] His condition steadily deteriorated. Prince Albert Victor died on January 15, 1892, after succumbing to a sharp attack of influenza, which developed into pneumonia in the left lung. In a letter to her granddaughter Victoria, the Princess Louis of Battenberg, Queen Victoria wrote, When you think that his poor young bride who had who had come to spend his birthday with him, came to see him die--it is one of the most fearful tragedies one can imagine. It would sound unnatural and overdrawn if it was put into a Novel.

Princess Mary (1867-1953)

Princess Mary's father was Francis Paul Charles Louis von Teck, Duke of Teck (1837- ). Her mother was Mary Adelaide of Hannover "Fat Mary" (1833- ). Apparently so much effort had gone into the preparations, that it was decided that Mary should marry Albert Victor's brother, the future George V. Despite her misgivings over the Teck linage, Princess Alexandra did like Princess Mary, or May, as she was called in the family. Once having accepted her for Eddy, it was only natural to accept her for the new heir to the throne. The marriage took place at Windsor on July 6, 1893, only a few months after Albert Victor's death. When Queen Victoria died in 1901, Mary became Princess of Wales and Queen of England when her husband became king. After Queen Mary's death in 1953, Sir Winston Churchill paid Queen Mary the compliment: "She looked like a Queen and she acted like a Queen". Queen Mary, like King George, were both caring and loving when their children were young but appeared unable to express their feelings once these children grew up.

Sources

Aronson, Theo. Prince Eddy and the Homosexual Underworld (London: John Murray, 1994). A HBC reader suggests this work as a more reliable account of Albert Victor's life and personality, than the Ibarra acount we have used. We hav not yet had a chance to review it, but hope to in the future.

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

Ibarra, Jesus. "Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward, Duke of Clarence and Avondale (1864-1892)," internet page accessed June 24, 2002.

Walton, Brad. E-mail message, October 29, 2003.






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Created: February 26, 1999
Last updated: October 29, 2003