15th October 1839 – Diary Entry’s – Victoria And Albert Become Engaged 


Transcription of the entry for the 15th October 1839 in Queen Victoria’s journal. This was the day that Victoria proposed to the love of her life, Prince Albert, at Windsor Castle. 

Saw my dear Cousins return safely from hunting. Wrote letters, & saw Esterhazy. — At about ½ p. 12, I sent for Albert, who came to the Closet, where I was alone, & after a few minutes I said, I thought he must be aware why I wished him & his brother to come here, & that it would make me too happy if he would consent to what I wanted (that he should marry me). We embraced each other over & over again & he was so kind & so affectionate. 

To feel I am loved by such an angel as Albert, is too great a happiness to describe, & I really felt it was the happiest & brightest moment in my life, which made up for all I had suffered & endured. I cannot say how I adore him & I shall strive to make him feel as little as possible the great sacrifice he is making. I told him I realized it was a sacrifice, which he would not allow. I then spoke of the great necessity of keeping our engagement a secret, excepting to his father, Uncle Leopold & Stockmar, to whom he said he would send a courier next day, also explaining that the marriage would have to be as early as the beginning of February. I asked Albert to fetch Ernest, which he did, & the latter congratulated us both warmly, & seemed very pleased, I feel the happiest of human beings. 

Ernest then said to me how perfect his brother was, & we talked so comfortably & happily together, till past 1, when I sent them off, & Ld Melbourne came to me. After talking of some appointments, I said I must tell him that I had got well through the interview with Albert, & that he had said he would let no one perceive that anything between us had taken place, — that he seemed very happy, as well as his brother, though the latter observed he was the only looser by our marriage, as his brother had always been everything to him. Ld M. remarked “You will now be able to do much more what you like.” He also said that Ld John Russell’s only wish was that I should be happy, which I answered I had not a doubt of. Talked of whether I should make Albert a Peer or not, but certainly Royal Highness.

We discussed the Household he would require to have & of taking the Pce of Wales’s Household, (formed in 1783) as a guide, as well as those of Queen Mary’s husband Philip of Spain, & Pce George of Denmark, &c. The necessity there was for Albert’s taking precedence of all the Princes, as my Husband. — Lunched with Mama & my dear Cousins, & afterwards wrote. At 4 I walked out with them, Ld Melbourne, Ly Tavistock (who with Ly Caroline Barrington, has came into waiting today) & the other ladies. We walked down to Adelaide Cottage & back. — Wrote to Uncle Leopold, Uncle Ernest, & Stockmar, about my great happiness, & then wrote my Journal. — Our dinner party was the same with the exception of Esterhazy, Uxbridge, & his girls & Alvensleben, & with the addition of Ld John Russell, & Miss Lister. Ernest led me in, & I sat between him & Ld Melbourne. 

Ernest talked to me a good deal of dearest Albert, — his great excellence & steadiness, of his never having been in love before, which he justly observed was a great deal for a young man. When we were sealed after dinner, I had my precious Albert beside me, & Ld M. joined us. Ernest played at Chess & Albert & I played at “Tactics”. We stayed up till ¼ p. 11.

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The Princess Royal’s Wedding photograph

Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and The Princess Royal, Victoria pose in the outfits they wore to the princesses wedding on the 25th January 1858. This picture was actually taken a few days prior to the wedding in preparation. The figure of Queen Victoria is blurred because she moved during the exposure period.

18th May 1836 – Victoria And Albert Meet For The First Time


One of the greatest romances ever to grace this earth all began on a dry, spring afternoon at Kensington Palace, then a dilapidated, faded old building a little outside London.


At half past one in the afternoon on the 18th of May, 1836, within the walls of Kensington Palace a 16-year-old Queen – then Princess – Victoria was playing the piano and singing as she awaited to be told of the arrival of her uncle and two cousins. Her uncle – her mother’s eldest brother Ernest, Duke of Saxe-Coburg – accompanied by his sons, 17 year old Ernest and 16 year old Albert. 

Officially, the Coburgs had come to England for Victoria’s 17th Birthday celebrations, but anyone within the intimate court and family circle knew they were here on orders of King Leopold of the Belgians (Victoria and Albert’s uncle). He had from the births of his niece and nephew dreamed of an alliance between the British royal family and the Coburgs. 20 years before, Leopold had married the daughter – and heir – of the Prince Regent (later George the 4th), Princess Charlotte. However, Leopold’s dreams of being Prince Consort of England were crushed when Charlotte died in childbirth, after birthing a stillborn son. If Leopold could not create the house of Coburg himself, then he would have to look elsewhere in his family.


At quarter to two, the word came of her cousins arrival. She went down into the hall to receive them, accompanied by her governess Letzen and probably her mother.

She recorded in her diary for that day that-

(Ernest ) has dark hair, & fine dark eyes & eye-brows, but the nose & mouth are not good; he has a most kind, honest & intelligent expression in his countenance, & has a very good figure. Albert, who is just as tall as Ernest, but stouter, is extremely handsome; his hair is about the same colour as mine; his eyes are large & blue, & he has a beautiful nose, & a very sweet mouth with fine teeth; but the charm of his countenance is his expression, which is most delightful; c’est a la fois, full of goodness & sweetness, & very clever & intelligent.


Victoria only stayed with the group for a few minutes before she went up to her room to play piano and draw whilst her Coburg Cousins settled in and changed from their travelling clothes.

At around four o’clock all three came to Victoria’s rooms and stayed for just over an hour whilst they generally got to know each other. During this hour Victoria was also delighted when her uncle Ernest gave her a present of a tame rainbow-coloured lory (a type of parrot).

Once they had left Victoria was frustrated at having to change for the evening and leave her cousins for a dinner at the Archbishop of York’s home (which awkwardly her cousins had not been invited to). The whole evening thereafter was spent with the dinners guests at the opera. Victoria adored the opera, and in her diary entry for this day she goes into great detail of the performance (which is quite usual for her), but I wonder if her mind wandered to the two young men at home in that crowd of old aristocrats.


Sources-

Queen Victoria’s Journals

Becoming Queen Kate Williams

Victorian Recipes – Avis Crocomb’s Queen Drop Biscuits

Original Text

‘1/2lb of butter beet to a cream, 1/2lb of sugar, 4 eggs ½ lb of currents ¾ of a lb of flour a few drops of almond flavour drop them on paper ‘.

Recipe

½ lb butter

½ lb sugar

3 eggs

¾ lb flour

½ lb currants

a few drops of almond extract

Cream the butter and add the sugar. Mix well, before adding the sifted flour and eggs. Mix until light and fluffy and tip in the currents and almond extract. Using your hands or a tablespoon, drop equal quantities of the mixture onto a greased baking sheet. Don’t put them too close together as the mixture will settle and expand outwards – you will end up with a cross between a cookie and a cake. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for about 10 minutes or until firm to the touch and cool on a rack. This mixture haves about 24 biscuits. Happy baking!

Source – English Heritage

After Albert – Queen Victoria’s Second Love, John Brown

 

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The idea that Queen Victoria was absolutely inconsolable and locked away in seclusion for the rest of her life after Prince Albert’s death is a myth. It is true the Queen took residence immediately after Albert’s death in her more rural homes of Windsor, Balmoral and Osborne, and refused to appear in public for some years. Concern for her health rose, and in 1864, 3 years after the death of Prince Albert, that it was suggested that the Queens outside attendant at Balmoral, John Brown, be sent to Osborne House encourage the Queen to ride out on her pony. He arrived in December that same year, and some time after his arrival Victoria made his position permanent, presenting him the title of ‘ The Queen’s Highland Servant’.

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John Brown was born in 1826, in Crathienaird, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, his father being a tenant farmer. He first came into the queens service in 1848 as a Balmoral gillie to Prince Albert, and within the next 10 years he had become her regular outside attendant, leading her pony out on the highlands and helping the royal party with their needs out on the moors, from lacing Victoria’s tea with whisky to cooking potatoes.

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Although Victoria held much affection for her brash highlander, others found him rude and much jealousy surrounded him due to his relationship with the Queen; the Lord Chamberlin called him a ‘Course animal’.

John would address Victoria as ‘wumman’, whilst Victoria looked past her Highlander’s faults, saying that his independence on whisky made him ‘bashful’. Her relative seclusion and easy relationship with John led to much rumour in the 1870s to their relationship, from a secret marriage to a secret child. The name  Mrs Brown was on everyone’s lips. However, the Foreign Secretary himself, the Earl of Derby did record that Victoria and John slept in adjoining rooms, contrary to etiquette and even decency’. Biographer A N Wilson claims they slept together in the same bed but never consummated their relationship. Controversially, Victoria also used John for séances where they, with close courtiers, would attempt to contact the spirit of Prince Albert. These séances would go on in absolute secrecy in small closets, such as the Blue Drawing Room at Windsor Castle (where Prince Albert died) and the Horn Room at Osborne House.

Despite the rumours they faced, Victoria remained unmoving on any removal of John Brown from her side, whilst he continued his loyal and faithful service. On at least one occasion he disarmed an attacker to the Queen (in 1872) and Victoria relied on him more and more, writing –

‘I feel I have here always in the House a good, devoted soul… whose only object and interest is in my service, & God knows how much I want to be taken care of.’

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For all their closeness and love, be romantic or otherwise, for one another, a life-long relationship was again not to be for Victoria. In March 1883 he caught a chill but refused to go to bed, continuing his devoted service to Victoria. Thus, on the 27th that same month, John Brown died, age 56, at Windsor Castle. Once again, Victoria found herself devastated at the death of the man she loved. She wrote –

‘It is not only the loss of a servant but of a real friend.’

Whilst her private secretary Sir Henry Ponsonby wrote of Brown –

‘He was the only person who could fight and make the Queen do what she did not wish. He did not always succeed, nor was his advice always the best. But I believe he was honest, and with all his want of education, his roughness, his prejudices and his other faults, he was undoubtedly a most excellent servant to her.’

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After John’s death, Victoria commissioned a life-sized statue of her Highland servant, and had it placed in the grounds of Balmoral. She remembered her faithful John until her death in 1901, leaving strict instructions that shy must be buried, among much else, with a lock of his hair, a photograph of him, and wearing a ring given to her by John, that had belonged to his mother.

Although this request had been carried out, upon her death her son the new King Edward VII destroyed much material written by Victoria about Brown, busts and photographs of him, in addition moving Victoria’s statue of John to a less conspicuous site in Balmorals grounds where it remains today. Not only did Edward destroy as much evidence of Brown’s relationship with his mother as possible, Victoria had left her many diaries to her youngest daughter Beatrice to transcribe and edit for publication. This, of course, means much on John Brown, especially if explicit or inappropriate, would have been edited and the originals all burnt.

It seems we will never know the extent of Victoria and John Brown’s relationship, but from what we can piece together Victoria took much comfort, reliance and friendship from John, whilst he was a most loyal and honest servant to her.

Sources – English Heritage, A N Wilson