"they had glimpsed Prince Albert"
Prince Albert, painted by John Partridge in 1840
Public DomainPrince Albert, painted by John Partridge in 1840 - Credit: Royal Collection

Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, or the Prince Consort, (1819-1861) was the husband of Queen Victoria, his first cousin. Born and brought up in Germany, Albert was highly intelligent and studied law, political economy, art history and philosophy at the University of Bonn. He first visited Victoria in 1836 as part of a plan by his uncle, King Leopold I of Belgium, to marry the two and although the cousins grew fond of each other, there was no rush to marry. It was not until after Victoria’s coronation, in 1839, that Albert visited again and Victoria proposed within five days. They were married on 10th February 1840 at St James’s Palace. At first Albert remained simply ‘Prince Albert’ – due to some unpopular anti-German feeling, he was not named ‘Prince Consort’ until 1857.

Initially struggling with his role of playing second to his wife, with no power or duties, Albert began to take an active role in running the Queen’s household and estates as well as advising and educating her in politics. Causes close to his heart included child labour, the conditions of the slums in London and the abolition of slavery and he became involved in many committees for public reforms. The Great Exhibition of 1851 also owed a lot to his vision and organisation.

Victoria and Albert had nine children and a very happy family life. In 1860 he became ill, severely so in 1861, and died on 14th December 1961 at Windsor Castle. The diagnosis of the time was typhoid fever, but it is now thought that a terminal illness may have been the real cause, due to the length of time he was ill before his death. Distraught, Victoria remained in deep mourning for the remaining forty years of her life – she withdrew from public life, wore black and kept Albert’s rooms exactly as they had been, even having hot water brought each morning. The public feelings towards him changed to great sympathy, brought on by Victoria’s mourning, and monuments were erected to him across the country – the most famous being the Royal Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial in London. After her death, Victoria and Albert were buried together in the mausoleum of Frogmore House at Windsor Castle.

The 2009 film The Young Victoria looks at the early years of Victoria’s reign and her courtship and marriage to Albert.