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.
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.
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.
Queen Victoria’s Journals
Becoming Queen Kate Williams