Monday 19 September 2011

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

Pictures of Mutuality.

The timeless love story of Queen Victoria and her Albert is widely known and celebrated as one of inspiration and also criticism. However one point of interest which is of beauty and regard to me is their mutuality.
The British Queen Victoria was independent and strong-willed and doubted her own acceptance of marriage upon her succession to the throne. However at the age of 20, Victoria married her cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Prince Albert was disliked by the people in lieu of their own anti-German feelings. The people of England viewed the prince as a poor, undistinguished patron of a wealthy wife; unfortunately it took years before his contributions to the nation were ever recognized.

 During the first two years of their married life, Albert was not present in any of the queen’s meetings with councilors, ministers or statesmen however after the course of two years Albert begun to be present at every meeting. Much criticism has been issued on this point however Prince Albert knew the queens heart intimately. Victoria, though strong-willed and driven feared that she was inexperienced and she appreciated the presence and advice of her husband and prince. It was at the invitation of the queen that Albert was present at the meetings and almost without question she acted according to his advice given her on those occasions. The Prince himself, in a letter to the Duke of Wellington, stated that his principle of action was "to sink his own individual existence in that of his wife, to aim at no power by himself or for himself, to shun all ostentation and to assume no separate responsibility before the public. He desired to make his position a part of the queen's, he likewise considered it his duty " continually and anxiously to watch every part of the public business, in order to be able to advise and assist her at any moment in any of the multifarious and difficult questions brought before her, (sometimes political, or social, or personal) as the natural head of her family, superintendent of her household, manager of her private affairs; her sole confidential adviser in politics, and only assistant in her communications with the officers of the government."

In full agreement with his heartfelt statement that he desired no power for himself or before the public, upon his deathbed he strongly requested from his wife and children that no memorials, monuments, epitaphs or statues be erected about him or for him.
In the year following his decline to join the army to be of assistance and aid to his wife, he again wrote to his father the following “"I study the politics of the day with great industry, and resolutely hold myself aloof from all parties. I take active interest in all national institutions and associations. I speak quite openly with the ministers on all subjects, so as to obtain information, and meet on all sides with much kindness.... I endeavour quietly to be of as much use to Victoria in her position as I can." Prince Albert has been described as a scholar, brilliant statesman, businessman and philanthropist. 

Albert was concerned for the people and helped Victoria in her reforms to help the people of England. In addition to this Prince Albert vehemently opposed  and worked for the abolition in slavery still taking place in parts of Europe, he also lead reforms in education (he was elected Chancellor of the University of Cambridge), he lead reforms in welfare, the art and industry and the royal finances.
On a personal level Victoria was besotted with her prince and the day after their wedding she wrote in her journal “I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert ... his excessive love & affection gave me feelings of heavenly love & happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms, & we kissed each other again & again! His beauty, his sweetness & gentleness – really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband! ... to be called by names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before – was bliss beyond belief! Oh! This was the happiest day of my life!”

After the death of Victoria’s mother, she fell into a deep and intense grief, Prince Albert hoped to release her from duties that wearied her further and he personally took over her duties, while being chronically ill. This was the nature of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s relationship, each aiding the other. Upon the birth of their first born just some months after their marriage, the queen wrote in her journal that her husband’s care and devotion were beyond any and all expression! No one but himself ever lifted her from her bed to her sofa, and he always helped to wheel her on her bed or sofa into the next room. For this purpose he would come instantly when sent for from any part of the house. As years went on, and he became overwhelmed with work (for his attentions were the same in all the queen's subsequent confinements), this was often done at much inconvenience to himself; but he ever came without a sweet smile on his face. 

Albert later purchased Osborne House on the Isle of Wight as a quiet, family home where they could enjoy some privacy and family life. Victoria noted that “the solid pleasures of a peaceful, quiet, yet merry life in the country, with my inestimable husband and friend, my all in all, are far more durable than the amusements of London, though we don't despise or dislike these sometimes." 

The untimely death of Prince Albert at the age of 42 (it was said that he died of typhoid fever, however historians believe that due to his chronic illness two years prior to his passing suggest that perhaps he died of cancer) plunged Queen Victoria into a state of seclusion and mourning. She lived another 39 years longer than Albert, making her the longest ruling monarch of Britain, however she wore only black as a sign of her mourning and laid his clothes out for him every day until her death at the age of 81. She avoided public appearances altogether and continued to have the linen and towels changed in his bedchamber daily, along with hot water being brought up to his dressing room. Together Victoria and her Albert brought reforms to art, industry, welfare and countless other projects, the Victorian Era – as it later became known – is described as the period where Great Britain entered the height of its power, growing into a colonial empire and enjoying tremendous, industrial expansion. Together the King and Queen, husband and wife oversaw the development of a worldwide, colonial empire which was the richest of its time during the Victorian Age, Britain also begun to be called the “workshop of the world!”  

What inspires me on a deeply, personal level is the profound love and equality in all areas of their lives, this couple displayed. Their love and marriage has been described as one of work, they often fought and made-up, disagreed and agreed to disagree – such is the reality of marriage! Their lives were not idyllic, nor are they as people idolized but they set such a magnificent example of what mutual affection, mutual submission, equality, respect and trust can achieve within marriage. It is such a pity for me that many British people still hold the Prince in disdain, as anti-German feelings persist. One of Prince Albert’s biographers made the interesting conclusion, with which I would like to end “Prince Albert's contributions to the nation went unrecognized for 17 years, and finally it was only in 1857 that the nation finally recognized his contributions and awarded him the title of Prince Consort, just four years before he died. The 42 years of his life was a life that was well spent in the service of his adopted country. His service to his nation was selfless, and not with the intent of gaining any recognition or peerage that was wrongfully denied to him by parliament. Prince Albert indeed was a great statesman, and all services he rendered during a short life span of 42 years was just a practical expression of his beliefs, which was clearly espoused in one of his celebrated speeches: "Wealth is an accident of society, and those that enjoyed its benefits had a duty to those who were, through accident, deprived of it." His abilities as a great statesman were brought to the forefront in 1861, when he intervened in a diplomatic row between Britain and the United States that helped to avert war between the two countries, this he helped achieve a few short weeks before his death.” Many historians have conjectured about how different things could have been, if Albert had not died so soon, we can only imagine that along with more wonderment and reformation - the love of this Queen and Prince would have grew and deepened and we would have more to stand in awe of today.............

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