Victoria and Albert's oldest child was the Princess Royal, named Victoria after her mother. The Princess Royal was born in 1840 and Victoria was concerned that her subjects would be dissapointed that her first child was a girl. Most were delighted that "Uncle Earnest," King of Hanover, was no longer directly in line to inherit the throne. She was called 'Pussy', 'Pussette', or 'Vicky', in the family. Before the age of 3 years she was conversing in English, German, and French. The Queen once commented that "We find Pussy amazingly advanced in inteligence and also in naughtines." The Princess Royal once told her governess, "I'm sorry I was naughty--but I mean to be just as naughty next time." She married Crown Prince Frederick Wilhelm of Prussia who was to become Kaiser Frederick III, but reigned only a few days. She strove to introduce English manners and the precepts of constitutional monarachy, but was opposed by Bismark. Even her influence on her son and grandson were limited by Bismark. When her husband died, she was long estrainged from her bombastic son who became Wilhelm II.
Victoria and Albert's oldest child was the Princess Royal, named Victoria after her 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, 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.
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.
The Princess Royal, Victoria Adelaide Mary Wettin, was born in 1840. Victoria was concerned that her subjects would be dissapointed that her first child was a girl. Most Britons were delighted that "Uncle Earnest,"--King of Hanover, was no longer directly in line to inherit the throne.
The Baroness Lehzen played no official role in the nursery, but Prince Albert constantly found her there gosiping with the superintendent, Mrs. Southey. The Princess Royal was ailing much of the Autumn 1841. The Queen's incompetent, if not dishonest doctor, Sir James Clark, assured the Queen that it was not serious, but Albert for good reason had no confidence in him. Albert was convinced that slackness and ignorance were the cause. The room was kept too hot because Southey was anemic and suffered from poor circulation. Southey refused to let the nurse contradict her. Albert would constantly find Lehzen and Southey gossiping over a ranging fire. The Baroness had been Victoria's governess and was closer to her than her mother. Because of Lehzen's relationship with Victoria, Albert was poweless to act, but was horrified at the way she breathed carraway seeds all over Vicky as she nursed her. Lehzen also enranged Albert at the way she took liberties inserting herself in the royal family's domestic life. The Baroness often bragged about how well she had educated the Queen. Albert saw at once, but could hardly say how poorly Victoria had been educated. When Vicky's illness did not improve, Albert became increasingly concerned. When Vicky took a turn for the worse, Albert criticised the nursery and Victoria came to the defense of the staff she had chosen. This resulted in a major argument between the royal couple, perhaps the worse of their mairrage. Albert was usually more diplomatic, but his concern for the Princess Royal caused his to speak bluntly. The disagreement soon came down to Lehzen's continued presence in the royal household. The two did not speak for a day or two, comminicating with letters. Fortunely Victoria relented and Lehzen left. After which family life became increasingly harmonious.
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. HBC at this time knows little about the relationship between the children. Bertie is often pictures with Alfred so the two may well have been close.
Vicky was the oldest, thus her primary relationships were with the two children nearest her in age, Bertie and Alice. Those relationships, however, were quite different.
Vicky as the oldest child, and quite intelligent. As a result, she dominated the nursery. This was a sharp contrast to her slower, difficult brother--Berie. The two were very close in age and in the nursery thus spent a great deal of time together. Vicky's life in the nursery was somewhat chaotic, primarily becayuse of her mercurial and rather backward little broth--Bertie. Vicky learned to ride her pony bareback and delighted in taunting Bertie because he requied a saddle. This infuriated Bertie whose respnse was to scream and hit his sister and she smacked him right back. Lady Lyttelton had been able to control the two--with difficulty. Subsequent governesses had more difficulty. Vicky in fact could climb trees better than Bertie as well as run faster. [Bennett, pp. 216-217.] She was better in almost everything, especially her studies than Bertie. Prince Albert and the Queen saw this and were unsure how to deal with it. As they grew older, their relationship became closer. They would sometimes appear together, like at the opening of the Great Exposition in the Crystal Palace.
Vicky's relationship with her sister Alice could not have been more different than that with Bertie. The two were very close, sharing everything. Alice was terribly hurt when pams for Vicky's mairrage were kept from her. Firsrt for being left out. Second because her dearest and closest friend was being taken away from her. Alice also mairred a German and in later life her family often hosted her nephew Wilhelm.
Vicky must have been Albert's favorite although he attempted not to show any favortism. How he muct have wished that lively, intelligent Vicky would have been a boy so she could ingerit the crown. After the Great Exhibition he began to give her Vicky occasional lessons in the evening. The Queen complained that he never would have spared the time for her. Albert was delighted with the responsivness of his inteligent, imaginative daughter and the lessons became a nightly routein that nothing was allowed to interupt. Vicky for her part idolized her Papa and was delighted with this opportunity to please her father.
Victoria was jealous of the attention that Albert gave their oldest daughter. She woukd scold Vicky unfairly and Albert woukd rush to his daughter's defense. More than one argument resulted.
Victoria was called "Pussy," "Pussette," or "Vicky," in the family. Before the age of 3 years she was conversing in English, German, and French. The Queen once commented that we find Pussy amazingly advanced in inteligence and also in naughtines. The Princess Royal once told her governess, I'm sorry I was naughty--but I mean to be just as naughty next time.
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.
Prince Albert is often depicted as mean and too demanding because of Bertie's failure at his studies. It must be noted, however, that Vicky at no difficulty with her studies. The program devised for the royal children was not particularly rigorous. It was in fact much less demanding than that which Albert himself had undergone. Her father was so impressed with Vicky's academic progress that he began to occasionally tutor her in the evening which became a nightly ritual that they both enjoyed. Interestingly, Vicky never took lessons from the gifted tutors employed for Bertie. Affie joined Bertie for lessons, but never Vicky and the other princesses.
Vicky's education was apparently entrusted to her governesss. Prince Albert when she was older tutored her in the evening. During the day she worked with her givenessses. Lady Lyttleton worked with the cildren when they were youbger. I'm not sure if eventually te children had individual governesses, but at age 14 one historian mentions Miss Hildyard taking Vivky to lectures. In the evening Vicky and her father enjoyed going over her notes.
One interesting question is just what Vicky was wearing when she was doing all that romping about and climing trees with Berie. Available photographs sow Vicky and the younger girls dressed in elaborate fully flared out skirts. Cerainly she could not run, let alone climb a tree in such outfits. Bertie could not have been bettered if his sister ad been so dressed. Presumably the children must have been dressed in simpler outfits suc as smocks for play. HBRC has, however, no photographs or drawings of such outfits. Photography was too new for Viicky and Bertie to be so photographed, but photographs exist of the younger children. The potographs, however, show them dressed up, not in play clothes.
One of the big event in the children's lives was the Great Exhibition of 1851 that their father had sponsored. Vicky in particular shown. She was able to assisst the bewildered Prussian Prince Frederich, so ill at ease in England, with her fluent German--even though she was only 1o years old. It was Frederich that she would a few year later marry.
From the moment tat Prince Albert began to consider te mairrage of is eldest daujter, it was a dynastic match with Prussia. The Prince's view of the Prussian Royal family was one of his faulty judgements. There were in fact not many, but this was one of them. He was right that Prussia would evebntually unite Germany, but he was wrong that the Hohenzollers would ever truly accept constitutional government. It was at Balmoral in 1855 that the engagement was settled. It was not immediately announced. Vicky was only 14, do the actual wedding would have to be delayed. Albert monopolized Frederich's time at Balmoral, talking at length about European politics, especially Prussia's "deplorable policies. Soon he would begin instructing Vicky on her future role. The instructions went on until the mairrage and when Vicky set off to Berlin she had essays her father had assigned with his corrections and notes with her.
Frederick was born in 1831, the son of the future King Wilhelm I of Prussia at Potsdam. When his father succeeded to the throne of Prussia in 1861, Frederick became Crown Prince Frederick William. Frederick was liberal in his political views, uncharacteristic for the Hohenzollerens. He opposed Count von Bismark throught his long term as Chancellor. Prince Frederich was a man of learning and culture. He first meant Vicky as a young man pf age 20 years in London during his father's visit to the Great Exhibition in 1851. Vicky was only 10 years old, but was able to speak to him in inpecable German.
The announcement of the engagement of the Princess Royalm Victoria and Crown Prince Frederick Wilhelm of Prussia who was to become Kaiser Frederick III was generally gteeted with disapproval. The Grmans were hostoric allies against France. Yet Prussia has not joined Brritain in the Crimean War and the Prussian monarchy had not fulfilled their pledges to the liberals after the 1848 uprisings. The wedding took place at St. James Palace, London, England (January 25, 1858). Prince Albert was still alive and was able to see his eldest daughter married. Vicki's brothers and sisters were in attendance, the boys decked out in Hihland finery. Frederick and Victoria, patronized art and literature and encouraged the work
of the royal museums. They shared the liberal principles represented by the constitutional English monarchy. The mairrage was the centerpiece of the royal family and the British Government's policy of
weaving a pattern of family relationships with major royal families of Europe. This was potentially the most important marriage of the 19th century. Both had liberal ideas and could have helped direct Germany down the path of liberal democracy. But such was not to be. She strove to introduce English manners and the precepts of constitutional monarachy, but was opposed by Bismark. Frederick was not well by the time his father died. He reigned only a few days.
The newlyweds arrived in Berlin in the middle of the German winter. Vicky was wearing a stylish but low-cut dress withoutg a coat when she met Queen Elizabeth--who was not pleased with the arranged English marriage. She asked Vicky if she was not frozen. "Completely, except for my heart," she replied--disarming the Queen. Their new home was the Schloss in Berlin--a real shock for a young girl used to the cleaness and modernity of the homes overseen by her forward-looking father. Albert was fascinated by inventions and innovations. At the Schloss there were smelly drains and no bathrooms and running water. Beds were infested with bugs and some unused rooms were littered with dead bats. The Prince's family was unwelcoming and arrogant. If this wan't enough to discourage the still teenage Vicky, she found that King Wilhelm Friderich was senile, the Queen an Anglphobe, and Friederich's parents were constantly bickering. She also found the other German princes (her husbands brothers) to be boorish heel-clicking marinettes who regarded their wives of little consequence except to produce children. [Van der Kiste, p. 4]
V icky was well prepared to be Queen of Prussia and Empress of a new German Empire. She spoke fluent German. She was intelligent and Albert had seen that she was well educated, much better than her mother had been educated. She was charming with a foreceful personality--perhaps from contending with Bertie's antics in the nursery. Shhe was well versed in politics under her father's tutoring and had liberal leanings. Amazingly, Vicky's tutoring did not end with the mairrage. She would send essays home to her father for correction from Berlin. Her husband was not as well educated. Her father excused this, advising this was because a Prussian Prince had to spend so much time "playing soldier".
Vicky came home for visits after the mairrage. Her status within the family changed. Victoria and Albert would speak openly in front of her. She in turn was allowed to express herself. She wanted to help mend the divide between her parents and Bertie. Childhood spats were apparently long forgotten. She said that Bertie's faults did not seem nearly as bad as tose of the Prussian princes. She suggested that since he did not like reading, perhaps other talents could be developed that could be useful when he became king. Her father was not impressed, however, by the comparison with what he described as "some of the most profligate young men in Europe" and scolded Vicky for even suggesting it. [Bennett, p. 342.] Her Father was apaulded to learn when Vicky visited Osbourn the extent to which William I was pursuing royal autocracy rather than constitutional rule. Prince Albert's health and energy was deteriorating, by this time, but the one thing he never neglected was Vicky's letters. In one of his last letters to Vicky he wrote, "Pray Heaven not to make us a present of Herr von Bismark to end the ministerial crisis."
Vicky and Fritz visited Osbourne in July 1861, with their two children. Willie like his sister was still wearing dresses. Albert's problem was how to get rid of Bertie while they visited, as he did not want the limited time that he would have with Vicky and her family spoiled by Bertie's behavior. He also was concerned that if Bertie was there both Fritz and Louios of Hesse (Alice's intended) would see how much he had failed with Bertie and perhaps diminish his stature as a respected family elder.
The birth of Vicky's first child almost ended in disaster. Wilhelm was born in Berlin in 1859. It was breech birth and the German doctors in attendance thought that both Wilhelm and his mother would die--few babies survived breech births in the mid-19th century. Friederich was in dispair. An English doctor probably engaged Dr. Eduard Martin helped save the situation. [Van der Kriste, pp. 4-5.] Victoria's mother, in fact, rose to the English throne because her cousin Princess Charlotte died in child birth. Wilhelm as a consequence of the difficult birth had a largely unusable left arm--a handicap that many historians believe had a great impact on his character.
Friederich and Victoria had eight children, four boys and four girls. The best known of course is Prince Wilhelm who suceeded his father after his untimely death. It was not a large family by German standards. But considering their mother's harrowing experience at Wihelm's birth, it was surprising that she would have six more children.
Wilhelm was especialy close to Henry who was born 3 years after him. We have few details at this time on the children and the
relationships between them. We also have few ideas on how the children were dressed or the relationship between them.
It can easily be said that Vicky was the most important mother in the 19th century. How her first soon Wilhelm develped and the country he guided until 1918 in large measure determined the course of world history in the 20 th century. We are still collecting information on Vicky's role as a mother. She has been described as an indifferent mother. HBRC is not at all sure that this is the case. She clearly doted on babies and unchrasterictically for royal mothers wanted to breast feed her first son. She was, however, clearly estrigned from her eldest son. We are not sure just whose fault this was. HBRC has little information on her maternal role at this time. It is interesting to reflect how her father's tutoring had focused so much on history and politics. Had her husband lived, Vicky could have been a valuable adviser. But what proved crucial since her husband died only a few months after becoming Kaiser, was her relationship with her son, and in fact the two were estraigned. HBRC as not yet been able to persue the relationship between the two.
Victoria, had thought Wilhelm's choice for his wife to be a very suitable choice. This was in part because of a sence of obligation. Victoria and her husband were horrified at how August Victoria's father the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein had been treated. Victoria also viewed her as a pleasant persoin who might help Prince Wilhelm become less arrogant. She was quite wrong in this regard. After mairrage, Victoria tried to helpful to Donna, rembering her own difficult early years in Berlin. Donna does not, however, appear to have been very gratious to her mother-in-law, perhaps reflecting her husbands's increasinglu strained relations with his mother. This was extremely hurtful to the Crown Princess as she had fought so hard to get the Kaiser to agree to the mairrage. HBC observes that despite the numerous available photographs of Wilhelm and Donna with their grandchildre, there are few photographs of Victoria with her grandchildren. It seems as though Wilhelm and Donna may have restivted Victoria's access to her grandchildren.
Both Frederich and Victoria disliked Count Otto von Bismarck and his conservative, ant-democratic policies. Bismarck for his part distrusted Victoria because she was English. He also feared her influence on Crown Prince Frederich who he considered weak. His dislike for Victoria was in part a reflection of the general low esteem in which he held for monarchy throughout Europe--interesting as he in German terms was a strong royalist. He felt that any diplomatic information in which Victoria received would be transmitted to her mother who would then pass it on to her many royal relations and acquaintences throughout Europe. [Ludwig, p. 217.] In this regard, Bismarck had accurately asessed the situation.
Bennett, Daphne. King Without a Crown: Albert Prince Consort of England, 1819-1861 (New York: J.B. Lippincott, 1977).
Bennett, Daphne. Vicky.
Ludwig, Emil. Bismarck: The Story of a Fighter (Lottle Brown, Boston, 1927), 661p.
Woodham-Smith, Cecil. Queen Victoria: Her Life and Times (1972).
Van der Kiste, John. Kaiser Wilhelm II: Germany's Last Emperor (Bodmin: Sutton Publishing, 1999), 244p.
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