By 1914, Queen Victoria’s children and grandchildren occupied the Courts of Britain, Germany, Spain, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Greece and Roumania and it seemed that Prince Albert’s dream of creating peace through family ties had been successful. In little more than a decade after the Queen’s death, however, that dream would lie shattered on the battlefields of the First World War.
Who were these fascinating royalties? What were they like as people? What drove, inspired and motivated them and what contribution did they make to the world? What led to the downfall of so many Royal Houses in 1918? A deliberate plot to bring down the monarchies, or a series of unfortunate events?
Through articles, links, books, images and information, this site is intended to provide some of the answers and to present an insight into the fabulously interesting world of Queen Victoria, her family and their contemporaries.
Queen Victoria & Her Children
Queen Victoria was born on 24th May 1819, the only child of Edward, Duke of Kent, a younger son of King George III. Two of Victoria’s uncles occupied the throne during her childhood: George IV, whose only daughter, Charlotte died in childbirth; and William IV, who was childless.
When William died in 1837, Victoria became Queen at the age of only 18. She would rule for the next sixty-three- and-a-half-years, giving her name to an era and countless towns, cities, provinces and lakes throughout the world.
Victoria R.I. by Elizabeth Longford
Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. A brilliant artist, musician, academic and statesman, Albert’s influence transformed the monarchy. No longer tainted by the scandals of the Queen’s ‘wicked uncles’, the royal family became the idealised epitome of domestic harmony.
Albert exhausted himself in caring for the Queen and their nine children and applying himself wholeheartedly to improving the lives of the people. He died at the age of only 42 on December 14th 1861.
RECOMMENDED READING: King Without a Crown by Daphne Bennett
Queen Victoria’s eldest child, Victoria – known in the family as ‘Vicky’ – was born in Buckingham Palace on 21st November 1840. A brilliant and quite precocious little girl, she was probably her father’s favourite child. At the age of fourteen she became engaged to Frederick (‘Fritz’) of Prussia (the future German Emperor Frederick III), and three years later they were married. It was a love-match which produced eight children, two of whom died in childhood. Vicky and Fritz hoped to implement many reforms and to create closer ties with Britain but, sadly, Fritz died of throat cancer only three months after his accession, leaving the throne to their erratic son, Wilhelm. Vicky died of cancer on 5th August 1901.
“There was one curious trait in her character: she was never really satisfied with the moment in itself. When she was in Berlin, everything in England was itself. When she was in Berlin, everything in England was perfect: when she was in England, everything German was equally perfect.” (Vicky’s niece, Princess Marie Louise).
“How clever she is and how fascinating! Her faults are all on the surface and one entirely forgets them when in her presence.” (Queen Victoria’s Lady-in-Waiting, Marie Mallett)
A lovely video
RECOMMENDED READING:An Uncommon Woman by Hannah Pakula
Albert Edward (‘Bertie’), the eldest son of Queen Victoria was born on 9th November 1841. Unlike his elder sister, Bertie was not a studious child and his parents, often despairing of his lack of interest in academic learning, imposed an increasingly strict regime upon him. Unsurprisingly, at the first opportunity he leaped at the chance of freedom and threw himself wholeheartedly into what his parents considered a decadent lifestyle. Nonetheless, his charm and tact won him many friends and, as King Edward VII, he proved a very popular king. His marriage to the beautiful Alexandra of Denmark did not curb his passion for other women and he enjoyed numerous affairs until his untimely death in 1910.
“With King Edward’s passing we lost a loveable, wayward and human monarchs. He was one who came to decisions by instinct and not by logic and rarely made a mistake in his judgement of men…The king’s great attraction was that he was a very good listener…All his personal Household loved him and his friends were deeply attached to him…He never posed and never pretended to be any better than he was.” (The King’s Equery, Frederick Ponsonby)
RECOMMENDED READING: The King in Love by Theo Aronson
A second daughter, Alice, was born in April 1843. It was often said that if Vicky had inherited her father’s brilliant brain, Alice had inherited his heart. Renowned for her numerous charitable works and friendships with the great housing and nursing reformers of the era, Alice took over many of her mother’s duties when the Queen was plunged into mourning for the death of Prince Albert. In July 1862, Alice married the future Grand Duke Ludwig of Hesse-Darmstadt and over the next ten years bore seven children (among them, the future Tsarina Alexandra of Russia), the youngest of whom, Frittie, had inherited the family condition haemophilia and died when he was only four years old. Five years later, a diphtheria epidemic swept through Darmstadt and all but one of Alice’s children fell victim to the illness. Alice nursed them herself and all but one, little May, recovered but Alice herself finally contracted the illness and died at the age of only 35 years old.
“She has so many excellent qualities – she is a little too impetuous and says too freely what passes through her head – but that is all…I think it is more irritability of nerves.” (Queen Victoria)
RECOMMENDED READING: The Letters of Princess Alice
Alice, the Enigma
Queen Victoria’s second son, Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh (‘Affie’) was born in 1844 and enjoyed a chequered career in the Royal Navy before inheriting the Dukedom of Coburg in 1893. In January 1874, he married Marie Alexandrovna, daughter of Tsar Alexander III, and had four daughters and one son. His son and namesake, unfortunately, died in controversial circumstances in 1899, and Alfred himself died the following year.
“His presence in my house during the last year was a source of no satisfaction or comfort. He came only for moments and, when he did, displeased high and low and made mischief. In short he was quite a stranger to me.” (Queen Victoria)
“He was an ornament to our glorious navy and he had already done a deal of good to dear Coburg and has left his mark on the place.” (His sister, Vicky)
A third daughter, Helena (‘Lenchen’) was born in 1846. As a child, Lenchen was outgoing and something of a tomboy but her father’s early death had a great effect upon the young princess who became very withdrawn. Queen Victoria despaired of her ever finding a husband but in 1866 she married a rather impoverished prince, Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, who settled with Lenchen in England. They had five children two girls and three boys, the youngest of whom survived for little more than a week. Like her sister, Alice, Lenchen was active in various charitable foundations and had a particular interest in nursing. Helena died in London in 1923.
“Poor dear Lenchen, though most useful and active and clever and amiable, does not improve in looks and has great difficulties with her figure and her want of calm quiet graceful manners.” (Queen Victoria)
“I cannot say how much I admire her Christian fortitude and resignation, she is so brave but truly heart-broken, but for the Queen’s sake she is determined to keep up and it comforts her to have some definite object in life so she will continue her good works.” (Queen Victoria’s Lady-in-Waiting, Marie Mallett)
Princess Louise, a gifted artist, was born in Buckingham Palace in 1848. She was the only one of the Queen’s children who remained childless, and the only one not to marry a prince. In 1871, with her mother’s blessing, she married John, Marquis of Lorne, heir to the Duchy of Argyll. Seven years later, her husband was appointed Governor of Canada and Louise accompanied him there but a sledge accident and homesickness, as well increasing estrangement from her husband, made her stay unhappy. She returned to England and for the rest of her life remained a patron of the arts. She died in Kensington Palace in 1939, at the age of 91.
“She is in some things clever and great talent for art…but she is very odd; dreadfully contradictory, very indiscreet and, from that, making mischief very frequently.” (Queen Victoria)
“She is at her best when people are in real trouble and this is a redeeming feature in her most complex character.” (Queen Victoria’s Lady-in-Waiting, Marie Mallett)
Queen Victoria’s favourite son, Arthur, Duke of Connaught, was born on the 1st May 1850 and the Duke of Wellington, after whom he was named, acted as his godfather. Unlike his elder brothers, Arthur’s life was untouched by scandal and he earned a fine reputation as a soldier. He travelled extensively taking command of troops in India and Ireland as well as spending time in South Africa and Canada, becoming Governor General of the country and remaining in the post throughout the First World War. Arthur married Margaret of Prussia and the couple had one son and two daughters. He died at his home Bagshot Park in Surrey in 1942.
“Dear boy! he is so good, and innocent, so amiable and affectionate that I tremble to think to what his pure heart and mind might be exposed. There is no blemish in him.” (Queen Victoria)
“He is such a gentleman, so courteous and kind, and they are both very simple in their ways and rather enjoy hardships.” (Queen Victoria’s Lady-in-Waiting, Marie Mallett)
Prince Leopold was, perhaps, the cleverest of Queen Victoria’s sons but his life was unfortunately blighted by the inherited condition, haemophilia. Throughout his childhood he was frequently confined to bed for long periods and even on his wedding day had to use a walking stick, having recently suffered a fall. Nonetheless he lived life to the full and, despite her early misgivings due to his illness, Queen Victoria came to rely on him in much the same way as she had relied on his father. Sadly for Leopold, the Queen’s concern for his health and her wish to keep him close by, prevented him from undertaking many of the journeys and appointments he would have chosen. He married Princess Helena of Waldeck-Pyrmont and had a daughter and son. Leopold did not live to see his son. While visiting Cannes for a recuperative holiday in 1884, he slipped in his hotel and suffered another bout of internal bleeding which (alongside the doctor’s ‘cures’?) led to his early death at the age of only 30.
“He is very clever, taking interest in and understanding everything. He learns, besides French and German, Latin, Greek and Italian; is very fond of music and drawing, takes much interest in politics – in short everything.” (Queen Victoria)
Beatrice was only four-years-old when her father died and consequently her mother seemed determined to keep her youngest child at her side forever. Any mention of marriage was forbidden and it came as a great shock to Queen Victoria to hear that, after attending a niece’s wedding, her ‘baby’ had fallen in love with a dashing German Prince, Henry (‘Liko’) of Battenberg. For a long time, the Queen refused the couple permission to marry but eventually relented on condition that they should come and live with her and follow her annual sojourns between Osborne, Windsor and Balmoral. Dutifully, Beatrice accepted the proviso and she and Liko had four children (one of whom would become the Queen of Spain) all of whom grew up in the Queen’s household. Liko, however, often sought escape from the monotony of living with his mother-in-law and, during an expedition of Africa he contracted malaria and died. Beatrice remained with her mother until the Queen’s death, after which she lived in a cottage on the Osborne estate on the Isle of Wight, before moving into Carisbrooke Castle. She died in 1944 and is now buried at Whippingham, close to her beloved Osborne House.
“Her absence is of course a great trial to me as for 22 years she has only been absent for 10 days once.” (Queen Victoria)
Victoria’s Daughters by Jerrold Packard
Queen Victoria’s Family by Charlotte Zeepvat