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

Queen Victoria’s Privy Council Dress

Queen Victoria’s Privy Council dress and removable white cotton embroidered collar (see detail), worn on the day of her accession on the 20th June 1837. Originally black (because Victoria would have been in morning for her now dead uncle King William IV), over time the silk dress has now faded to this strange brown colour. The dress has been repeatedly recreated for film and television, in screen portrays such as The Young Victoria and Victoria (see below)

May 1829 – Victoria’s Letters – Feodora to Victoria

An extract from a birthday letter to the 10-year-old Victoria from her beloved half sister Feodora, who had a year before moved from England to Germany to marry Ernest, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg.

…If I had wings and could fly like a bird, I should fly in at your window like the little robin to-day, and wish you many happy returns of the 24th and tell you how I love you, dearest sister, and how often I think of you and long to see you. I think if I were at once with you again I could not leave you so soon. I should wish to stay with you, and what would poor Ernest say if I were to leave him so long? He would perhaps try to fly after me, but I fear he could not get far; he is rather tall and heavy for flying. so do you see I have nothing left to do but to write to you, and wish you in this way all possible happiness and joy for this and many, many years to come. I hope you will spend a very merry birthday. how I wish to be with you, dearest Victorie, on that day!…

Source – Victoria’s letters, 2016
Featured Image – Princess Feodora

11th March 1830 – Victoria Learns She Is Heir To The Throne

Until she was eleven years old, Victoria had never been told that she was going to become Queen, although she might have guessed. As Victoria grew older, and less of a child however, the need to gently inform her of her great future became much discussed and pressured on Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent.

In a meeting between the Duchess of Kent and Dr Blomfield on the 10th of March 1830, the Duchess confessed that she was at crossroads on how to break the news to Victoria. She claimed she had been hoping Victoria would ‘come to the knowledge by accident, in pursuing her education’. This accident was arranged to take place the very next day. A ‘chronological table’ (family tree) was placed conveniently inside Victoria’s history schoolbook for her to find.

The account of this extraordinary day comes from the Baroness Lehzen, Victoria’s beloved governess. However, her account was recorded 40 years later in a letter to Victoria herself,  and expectedly takes a good amount of dramatic licence. Below is an extract –

… I spoke to the Duchess of Kent about the necessity, that now, for the first time, Your Majesty ought to know Your place in the accession.  Her Royal Highness agreed with me and I put the chronological table into the historical book.  When Mr. Davys was gone, the Princess Victoria opened, as usual, the book again and seeing the additional paper said:- “I never saw that before”; “It was not thought necessary you should, Princess,” – I answered.- “I see, I am nearer to the Throne, than I thought”. – “So it is, Madam” I said. – After some moments the Princess resumed “Now – many a child would boast, but they don’t know the difficulty; there is much splendour, but there is more responsibility!” – the Princess having lifted up the forefinger of Her right hand, while she spoke, gave me that little hand saying “I will be good! I understand now, why you urged me so much to learn, even latin; my Cousins Augusta and Mary never did; but you told me, latin is the foundation of the English Grammar and of all the elegant expressions; and I learned it, as you wished it, but I understand all better now”; – and the Princess gave me again her hand, repeating: “I will be good!” – I then said: “But your Aunt Adelaide is still young and may have Children, and of course they would ascend the throne after their father William IV, and not you, Princess”. – The Princess answered: “And if it was so, I should never feel disappointed, for I know, by the love Aunt Adelaide bears me, how fond she is of Children!” – When Queen Adelaide lost Her second little Princess, She wrote to the Duchess of Kent: “My Children are dead, but yours lives, and She is mine too!”

  1. Victoria, remembering the incident well herself, corrected Lehzen, writing –

    I cried much on learning it and ever deplored this contingency’.

    As well as –

    ‘I always hoped she would have Children.’ (on her Aunt Adelaide)

    Nether the less, a mere 7 years later she would be Queen of England.

    Sources –

    Becoming Queen, Kate Williams

    The Young Victoria, Alison Plowden

    Queen Victoria’s Scrapbook Website

    Featured Image – Portrait of Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent, 1830 by Richard  Westall

 

24th May 1833 – Diary Entry – Victoria’s 14th Birthday

Extract from Queen Victoria’s diary, Friday 24th May 1833-

…To-day is my birthday. I am to-day fourteen years old! How very old!! I awoke at 1/2 past 5 and got up at 1/2 past 7. I received from Mamma a lovely hyacinth brooch and a china pen tray. From Uncle Leopold a very kind letter, also one from Aunt Louisa and sister Feodora…. At 1/2 past 2 came the Royal Family. The Queen gave me a pair of Diamond Earrings from the King. She herself gave me a brooch of turquoises and gold in the shape of a bow…. At 1/2 past 7 we went… to a Juvenile Ball that was given in honour of my birthday at St James’s by the King and Queen. We went into the Closet. Soon after, the doors were opened, and the King leading me went into the ball-room. Madame Bourdin was there as dancing-mistress. Victorie was also there, as well as many other children whom I knew…. I danced with my cousin George Cambridge, then with Prince George Lieven, then with Lord Brook, then with Lord March, then with Lord Athlone, then with Lord Fitzroy Lennox, then with Lord Emlyn. We then went to supper. It was 1/2 past 11; the King leading me again. I sat between the King and the Queen. We left supper soon. My health was drunk. I then danced one more quadrille with Lord Paget. I danced in all 8 quadrilles. We came home at 1/2 past 12. I was VERY much amused….

Notes – Victoria’s Uncle Leopold was her Mothers brother, and King of the Belgians. The Victorie mentioned is Victorie Conroy, Daughter of John Conroy (the Duchess of Kent’s comptroller). Victorie would have been a companion to Victoria as a child, but Victoria disliked her. George Cambridge was the son of Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, and was hoped by King William (and much of the British Royal Family) to eventually marry Victoria, but the match never happened.

 

Source – Kensington Palace Essential Tales, Historic Royal Palaces

Featured Image – painting of Victoria, 1833 by George Hayter