Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, served his wife faithfully for many years without any claim to the throne. But few people know about how he actually lived in the shadow of the British monarch and what contribution he made to numerous reforms.
Albert married Queen Victoria in 1840, three years after her reign. Seeing that royal custom does not allow making an offer to the ruling monarch, Victoria herself made an offer to her future husband. The couple met back in 1836 and continued their four-year courtship after being introduced by their common uncle, King Leopold I of Belgium.
Despite this, Prince Albert's ethnicity was received slightly negatively by the British public. By law, the spouse of the monarch serves as a consort, and does not receive full monarchical authority in marriage. Historically, the British monarchy has had several consort princes, another example is Prince Philip, husband of the reigning queen Elizabeth I. However, he received the legal title of prince, not prince consort.
Despite his title ban, Prince Albert managed to fully work for his family.
He was criticized for being German, for the branch of Protestantism that he practiced, and for coming from a small insignificant state in comparison to the British Empire, and it is not surprising that all this and much more upset the Prince Consort, but nevertheless, Albert did not give up and continued to stoically endure claims from the parliament, which was skeptical of the young man for seventeen long years.
Victoria's father, Prince Edward, died in 1820, when the future queen was in her infancy. At the time, politics was a male-dominated phenomenon. The Queen lacked a male role model both at home and in her understanding of social and political life, a void that Lord Melbourne would eventually fill.
William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, served as British Prime Minister under Victoria from 1835 to 1841. He will play a huge role and have a political influence on the young queen, who ascended the throne at only eighteen years old. Lord Melbourne led a leftist Whig party that dominated British parliament and political discourse for much of the nineteenth century. Ultimately, the party will form a coalition that will become the modern British Liberal Party.
The Queen and the Prime Minister had a very close relationship, similar to that of a father and daughter. Having lost her father at such a young age, the young queen was greatly influenced by the guardianship of Lord Melbourne. Their close relationship spawned rumors of an incipient romance between them.
In 1841, the Whigs of Lord Melbourne lost the general election to parliament. At that time, Victoria was married for the first year. The Queen's attention and friendships quickly shifted to her husband, with whom she was in love, and her relationship with the former prime minister deteriorated.
The political contrast between the two is rooted in their compassion for the less fortunate, in which the prince has far surpassed the prime minister. Although he did not feel very welcome, Albert enjoyed immense attention from the queen - a position more powerful than any title.
Nine children were born in their marriage, all of whom survived to adulthood: a striking rarity for that era. Victoria's fertility proved to be immeasurable for the British Empire.She married off all of her children (and subsequent grandchildren) to various royal families across Europe - some with Victoria ties and some not. This was not an unusual practice. The European nobility wanted to preserve the royal blood.
In addition to being the father of nine children, Prince Albert was involved in public life in Great Britain. The prince not only had tremendous influence on his wife, helping her with private government documents, but also began to tilt public opinion in his favor. In 1840, Parliament passed the Regency Act, appointing the prince as acting sovereign in the event of the queen's death before one of their children was eighteen. In turn, Albert began to spread his influence over the royal family, creating a legacy that continues to this day.
In a general election in 1841, Lord Melbourne was removed from office in favor of the Conservative government, and Prince Albert was put in charge of a special royal commission. This authority enabled him to bring his enlightened ideals to life by promoting the visual arts and, ultimately, the exhibition in 1851.
Albert's skillful job of overseeing the Royal Commission catapulted his public career. Various assassination attempts on his life (along with the queen) also led to an increase in public opinion about the couple.
Albert's first manifestation of competence came when he rebuilt the royal family's financial portfolio. Over the years, he raised enough funds to buy the Osborne home, making it a private residence where he spent time with his wife and children. As an honest landowner, progressive and forward-thinking Albert abhorred cheap child labor and encouraged free trade.
He was an ardent supporter of educational reform in the UK. His liberal views were manifested in the fact that the royal position moved to more progressive politics in economics, finance, education, the welfare state and even slavery - they were guided by moral example, not political discourse. His educational reform occurred while he was serving as rector of the University of Cambridge. It was then that he incorporated modern history and natural sciences into his new curricula.
During the era of Prince Albert, several educational and cultural institutions were established. West of London, in the area known as South Kensington, Prince Albert oversaw the opening of the British Museum of Natural History, British Science Museum, Imperial College London and Royal Albert Hall (named so only after the prince's death.)
Over the years, he has made a successful and active career, regardless of title. Tory Prime Minister (Conservative) died in 1852, Duke of Wellington - the first of his titles, Duke of Wellington, was the British general who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. With his death, most of his administrative posts were assigned to Albert. Since the financially fickle Tories no longer controlled the military, Albert proposed military reform.
From the point of view of foreign policy, Albert tried to conclude peace between the two great powers, the Russian and Ottoman empires, through diplomatic means, but, unfortunately, this turned out to be impossible. The result of the conflict in 1854 was the Crimean War, in which the British opposed the Russians. However, he played an important role in organizing the mobilization of the army and the strategic warpath. In addition, he had a huge influence on the formation of British politics in his time, and the benevolent queen bestowed on him such a long-awaited title of Prince Consort.
Albert began experiencing severe abdominal cramps as early as 1859. Despite this, he stoically continued his political career. Most notably, the scandal that could have drawn Britain into the American Civil War (which erupted in 1861) was diplomatically smoothed out by Albert and President Abraham Lincoln.
In December 1861, the Prince Consort died of an illness originally attributed to typhoid fever, but later contested. The prince was only forty-two years old. Despite the fact that Victoria remained in power for forty long years, all this time she was saddened and devastated by the loss of her husband, donning black mourning clothes for the rest of her days.
Their marriage was a truly romantic union, not a political ploy of a strategic nature. Perhaps it was Albert who set the apolitical standard of the royal family, which is still practiced today. Having received a political education from Lord Melbourne, Victoria, like her husband, has always adhered to the views of the Whigs, liberals and leftists. However, the prince's legacy set the moral standard for members of the royal family to rise above political operations and act as stoic neutrals to all scandals and political addictions.
With the death of her husband, Queen Victoria severely isolated herself, practically shutting herself off from public life, which ultimately undermined her reputation and public opinion. Victoria died in the eighty-first year of life and was buried next to her husband at the Royal Mausoleum in Frogmore Gardens, Windsor.
Continuing the topic of royal intrigue, read also about which of the men was not indifferent to Queen Elizabeth II and why controversy and gossip still pop up around their names from time to time.
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