Prince Albert (August 26, 1819-December 13, 1861) was a German prince who married Britain's Queen Victoria and helped spark an era of technological innovation as well as personal style. Albert initially was seen by the British as an interloper in British society, but his intelligence, interest in inventions, and capability in diplomatic affairs made him a respected figure. Albert, who eventually held the title prince consort, died in 1861 at age 42, leaving Victoria a widow whose trademark attire became the black of mourning.
Fast Facts: Prince Albert
- Known For: Husband of Queen Victoria, statesman
- Also Known As: Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel, Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
- Born: August 26, 1819 in Rosenau, Germany
- Parents: Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg
- Died: December 13, 1861 in Windsor, Berkshire, England
- Education: University of Bonn
- Spouse: Queen Victoria
- Children: Victoria Adelaide Mary, Albert Edward, Alice Maud Mary, Alfred Ernest Albert, Helena Augusta Victoria, Louise Caroline Alberta, Arthur William Patrick, Leopold George Duncan, Beatrice Mary Victoria
- Notable Quote: "I am only the husband, and not the master in the house."
Albert was born on Aug. 26, 1819, in Rosenau, Germany. He was the second son of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Luise Pauline Charlotte Friederike Auguste, Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, and was greatly influenced by his uncle Leopold, who became king of Belgium in 1831.
As a teenager, Albert traveled to Britain and met Princess Victoria, who was his first cousin and nearly his age. They were friendly but Victoria was not impressed with the young Albert, who was shy and awkward. He attended the University of Bonn in Germany.
The British were interested in finding a suitable husband for the young princess who was to ascend to the throne. British political tradition decreed that a monarch could not marry a commoner, and the British pool of appropriate candidates was small, so Victoria's future husband would have to come from European royalty. A flirtation with Grand Duke Alexander Nikolaevich, heir to the Russian throne, was heartfelt and mutual, but marriage was deemed strategically, politically, and geographically impossible, so matchmakers looked elsewhere.
Albert's relatives on the continent, including King Leopold of Belgium, essentially steered the young man toward becoming Victoria's husband. In 1839, two years after Victoria became queen, Albert returned to England. She proposed marriage and he accepted.
Queen Victoria married Albert on February 10, 1840, at St. James Palace in London. At first, the British public and the aristocracy thought little of Albert. While he was born of European royalty, his family was not wealthy or powerful. He was often portrayed as someone marrying for prestige or money. Albert was quite intelligent, however, and was devoted to helping his wife serve as monarch. Over time he became an indispensable aide to the queen, advising her on political and diplomatic affairs.
Victoria and Albert had nine children, and by all accounts, their marriage was very happy. They loved being together, sometimes sketching or listening to music. The royal family was portrayed as the ideal family, and setting an example for the British public was considered a major part of their role.
Albert also contributed to a tradition familiar to Americans. His German family brought trees into the house at Christmas, and he introduced that tradition to Britain. The Christmas tree at Windsor Castle created a fashion in Britain that was carried across the ocean.
In their early years of marriage, Albert was frustrated that Victoria didn't assign him tasks that he felt were up to his abilities. He wrote to a friend that he was "only the husband, not the master in the house."
Albert busied himself with his interests in music and hunting, but he eventually became involved in serious matters of statesmanship. In 1848, when much of Europe was shaken by the revolutionary movement, Albert cautioned that the rights of working people had to be seriously considered. He was a progressive voice at a crucial time.
Thanks to Albert's interest in technology, he was the main force behind the Great Exhibition of 1851, a grand show of science and inventions held at a stunning new edifice in London, the Crystal Palace. The exhibition, intended to showcase how society was being changed for the better by science and technology, was a great success.
Throughout the 1850s, Albert was often deeply involved in the affairs of state. He was known for clashing with Lord Palmerston, a highly influential British politician who served as foreign minister and also prime minister. In the mid-1850s, when Albert cautioned against the Crimean War against Russia, some in Britain accused him of being pro-Russian.
While Albert was influential, for the first 15 years of his marriage he did not receive a royal title from Parliament. Victoria was disturbed that her husband's rank was not clearly defined. In 1857, the official title of prince consort was finally bestowed upon Albert by Queen Victoria.
In late 1861, Albert was stricken with typhoid fever, a serious disease but not usually a fatal one. His habit of working long hours may have weakened him, and he suffered greatly from the disease. Hopes for his recovery dimmed, and he died on Dec. 13, 1861. His death came as a shock to the British public, especially as he was only 42 years old.
On his deathbed, Albert was involved in helping to lower tensions with the United States over an incident at sea. An American naval vessel had stopped a British ship, the Trent, and seized two emissaries from the Confederate government during the early stages of the American Civil War.
Some in Britain took the American naval action as a grave insult and wanted to go to war with the U.S. Albert viewed the United States as a nation friendly to Britain and helped steer the British government from what surely would have been a pointless war.
The death of her husband devastated Queen Victoria. Her grief seemed excessive even to people of her own time. Victoria lived as a widow for 40 years and was always seen wearing black, which helped create her image as a sullen, remote figure. Indeed, the term Victorian often implies a seriousness that is in part due to Victoria's image as someone in deep grief.
There is no question that Victoria deeply loved Albert. After his death, he was honored by being entombed in an elaborate mausoleum at Frogmore House, not far from Windsor Castle. After her death, Victoria was entombed beside him.
After his death, he became better known for his statesmanship and his service to Queen Victoria. The Royal Albert Hall in London was named in honor of Prince Albert, and his name is also affixed to London's Victoria and Albert Museum. A bridge crossing the Thames, which Albert suggested building in 1860, is also named in his honor.
- "Albert, Prince Consort: British Prince." Encyclopedia Brittanica.
- "Prince Albert Biography." Biography.com
- "Love Before Prince Albert: Queen Victoria's Suitors." History Extra.