Prince Albert, Prince Consort

Prince Albert

Albert, Prince Consort 1842 by Franz Xaver Winterhalter

Full Name: Albert Francis Charles Augustus Emmanuel Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
Born: 26th August 1819
Son of Ernest, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Louise of Saxe-Gotha Attenburg
Married: His cousin, Queen Victoria, 10th February 1840

My monthly series on the spouse of the monarch. Albert is a significant first post owing to his title. When Albert and Victoria married, she was already Queen and his title took a while to be established. Victoria interestingly wanted him to be styled King Consort however parliament was not in favour of this and so Prince Consort was finalised. 

The reason this was not previously established, was owing to the fact that there had been so few female monarchs, and within those few, not all had even married. Mary I (or bloody Mary as some still call her) was the first Queen to address the issue of naming the male spouse with her husband Philip II of Spain becoming a King Consort. This was not the case to Albert for several reasons, firstly, he was not popular. He came from a small and poor royal family in Saxony, which was seen as far below the status of Victoria as Queen of Great Britain. As a foreigner, he was also not liked, with satirical magazine, Punch regularly posting offensive cartoons of the Prince. The most important reason why he could not be King Consort was the distinction of ‘King’ over ‘Queen’. When a King by blood marries, his wife is automatically a Queen. This is due to Queen being a lower status to King (technically speaking) which is why Prince is used. 

Albert’s next difficulty, having been granted the Prince Consort title, was creating a role for himself. Again this position had not been established, and Albert found it difficult having to play second fiddle to his wife. An intelligent young many, well educated not only in traditional areas such as music and languages but he had also received a University education studying at the University of Bonn where he excelled in the sciences, politics and law. Albert’s role gradually became more defined. In 1840, only a few months after their wedding, he spoke at the Society for the Abolition of Slavery, which was still in action throughout much of the world even though it had been outlawed in Britain. His speech was a success and showed how beneficial he could be to important causes.

Many more causes and campaigns were championed by Albert, particularly the Arts and sciences. It is thanks to Albert’s interest that science as a subject became much more prominent and was in part a contributor to the Industrial Revolution.  This was showcased in the impressive Great Exhibition of 1851, displaying all of the finest parts of the Empire in one place. In addition to this Albert was made chancellor of the University of Cambridge, a role which he took most seriously.

Nevertheless, despite all of Albert’s triumphs, he died young, with many plans unfulfilled. At only 42 it was a massive blow to his besotted wife, who lived the rest of her life in mourning. Albert’s legacy lives on very visibly today, owing to the sheer quantity of monuments and building named in his honour by none other than his wife. The Royal Albert Hall is one of the most notable. To summarize Albert is challenging, as he achieved a lot in such a short time, however for any consort the main triumph is producing heirs which Albert very much did.

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