Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Victoria’s Children, Part 1 (sort of): Princess Victoria, the Princess Royal

Some time ago it was suggested that readers might find more information about Queen Victoria’s family of interest, so today I’m launching an occasional series on Her Majesty’s nine children…or at least eight of them. As you may recall, we already considered her eldest son Bertie (later King Edward VII) in a previous post on 19th century bad boys…it seemed like a good time to have look at his somewhat less naughty siblings, so here we go!

Poor Queen Victoria. Imagine her shock at discovering, within weeks of her wedding at age 21 to Prince Albert, that she was going to be a mother! Indeed, she was quite indignant at the prospect, not wanting to have to divert any attention away from her beloved husband. Not that she was going to be busy burping and bathing babies: upper class women of the 19th century did almost no direct child care of that type. But still

She was further disappointed, on November 21, 1840, to find that her first-born was not the hoped-for prince, but a princess. During her pregnancy she wrote to her uncle, King Leopold, that "…if all one’s plagues are rewarded only by a nasty girl, I shall drown it, I think." But once Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa was actually born, the Queen quickly changed her attitude…and Prince Albert was delighted though he too had hoped for a boy.

The Princess, also known as ‘Pussette’ and ‘Vicky’, was a bright, willful little girl who excelled at the grinding course of study set by her ambitious parents (she was probably the most intellectual of the Queen’s nine children) and as a result became Albert’s favorite child. Her upbringing in the royal palaces of Windsor, Osborne, and Balmoral was idyllic and sheltered to an almost ridiculous degree, the result of her parents’ determination to be moral role models to the country. But sheltered or not, it was still her duty one day to marry for Britain’s benefit, and it was for this reason that she was subtly cued to take an interest in young Prince Friedrich (‘Fritz’) of Prussia…which she did so successfully that she was privately engaged to him at the tender age of 14. It would prove to be a singularly happy marriage…unfortunately, one of the few happy things in Vicky’s later life.

She and her Fritz were married shortly after her 17th birthday, and went to Berlin to live…where Vicky found herself hated and gossiped about by the Prussian Royal Family and populace alike, who distrusted Britain and were sure she was hopelessly devoted to her birth country...mistakenly, as it turned out. Though she worked tirelessly for her new country on charities and in war relief and hospital work, little news of this ever was allowed to become public knowledge.

Vicky and Fritz had eight children, the eldest of whom, Willy, would become best known to the world as Kaiser Wilhelm II, who pushed Europe into the horrors of World War I. She had a rocky relationship with him and her older children, but her younger daughters were devoted to her.

Queen Victoria and her daughter were drawn together by Prince Albert’s untimely death in 1861 and by Fritz’s equally untimely one in 1888 after less than a year on the German throne, and maintained a voluminous correspondence over the next forty years until the Queen’s death in January 1901. Vicky herself was already mortally ill with cancer, and followed her "dearest and best of mamas" to the grave only seven months later.


QNPoohBear said...

I think it must be terribly difficult to be a young royal, no matter how many fairy tales one reads.

Marissa Doyle said...

Definitely, QNPoohBear... especially in the 19th century when the expectation was that you would be expected to marry for dynastic reasons...not all of Vicky's sisters were as fortunate in their choice of husbands as she was

Dara said...

As much as all little girls want to be a princess, it's a life that really isn't as glamorous it's always made out to be.

If I had to live back in the 1800s or earlier, I'd much rather be the daughter of a farmer or shopkeeper than a king.