Queen Victoria’s Children: Prince Alfred

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Full Name: Alfred Ernest Albert

Born: 6th August 1844

Married: Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia

Died: 30th July 1900

Buried: Royal Mausoleum, Coburg

Alfred was born in 1844 at Windsor Castle. Upon his birth, he became 2nd in line to the British throne right behind his elder brother Bertie and remained there until 1864 when Bertie’s wife Alexandra, gave birth to a son. From a young age Alfred was interested in the navy and sought a military career. At 14 he successfully passed the examinations and was appointed midshipman on HMS Euryalus. Alfred was very capable and rose through the ranks and ultimately became Captain in 1866. That same year his mother bestowed the title of Duke of Edinburgh to the Prince. This title had not been used since 1760 by George I grandson, Prince Frederick, who died before becoming King, thus the title dying with him.

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Prince Alfred, 1860 from the National Portrait Gallery here

His naval career took him around the world and he was the first member of the royal family to visit Australia. He visited all the major cities including Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. On a return visit the Prince was involved in an assassination attempt while in Sydney by an anti-royalist. Alfred was shot but made a full recovery.

 

Royal Collection
Prince Alfred (far right) with Maria and her father, Emperor Alexander II of Russia (seated) and her brother Alexei, 1874. From the Royal Collection Trust

In 1872 preparations for Alfred to marry were underway. Having met the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna in 1868, their courtship took several year, much owing to the Duchess being 10 years younger than the Prince. Opposition to the match was strong in both Russia and Britain owing to the still prevalent resentment from the Crimean War. Queen Victoria in particular was against the pairing as she did not want her son to marry a Romanov and felt there would be problem over religion. Nevertheless the pair bonded over their mutual love of music and were formally engaged in July 1873. The wedding took place in January 1874 in the Grand Church St Petersburg. Queen Victoria did not attend, instead sending her son and daughter-in-law, the Prince and Princess of Wales to represent her.

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The married couple established their home at Clarence House in London, but the new Duchess of Edinburgh was disappointed by Britain. She found London dull and constantly rainy. To Maria, Buckingham Palace was shabby in comparison to the Winter Palace in St Petersburg.  Her dislike of the country seemed to be mutual with the British public as her perception was not good. She was considered arrogant by many and her difficult relationship with Queen Victoria exacerbated this. Sadly the Duke and Duchess’s marriage was not a happy one, however they did have 6 children.

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Alfred with his two eldest children, Marie the future Queen of Romania and his heir, Alfred, 1881. From the Royal Collection Trust

In 1893, Alfred’s paternal uncle Ernest II the Duke of Coburg died leaving the Duchy to Alfred. He therefore had to renounce his British titles and move the family home to Coburg which was initially difficult owing to the locals, he eventually became well respected. Alfred’s time as Duke was not for long, as he died in 1900. He was only 55 and had been suffering with throat cancer. He was the third of Queen Victoria’s children to die, and before her.

 

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