Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld

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Princess Victoria
Princess of Leiningen
Duchess of Kent and Strathearn
Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld - Rothwell 1832.jpg
Spouse Emich Carl, 2nd Prince of Leiningen
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn
Issue
Carl, 3rd Prince of Leiningen
Feodora, Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg
Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom
Full name
Marie Luise Victoire
House House of Wettin (by birth)
House of Leiningen (by marriage)
House of Hanover (by marriage)
Father Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
Mother Countess Augusta of Reuss-Ebersdorf
Born 17 August 1786
Coburg, Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
Died 16 March 1861(1861-03-16) (aged 74)
Frogmore House, Windsor

Princess Mary Louise Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Princess of Leiningen, Duchess of Kent and Strathearn, (Marie Luise Victoire; 17 August 1786 – 16 March 1861) was the mother of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.

Early life and family background[edit]

Mary Louise Victoria, born 17 August 1786, was the fourth daughter and seventh child of Franz Frederick Anton, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and Countess Augusta of Reuss-Ebersdorf. She had a rough childhood growing up with her brothers and sisters. One of her brothers was Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and another brother, Leopold, married, in 1816, Princess Charlotte of Wales, the only legitimate daughter of the future King George IV, and heiress presumptive to their British throne.

Marriages[edit]

First marriage[edit]

On 21 December 1803 at Coburg, she married (as his second wife) Charles, Prince of Leiningen (1763–1814), whose first wife, Henrietta of Reuss-Ebersdorf, was her aunt. Charles and Victoria had two children:

Name Birth Death Notes
Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Emich, Prince of Leiningen 12 September 1804 13 November 1856(1856-11-13) (aged 52) married, on 13 February 1829, to Countess Maria Klebelsberg (27 March 1806 – 28 October 1880); had issue
Princess Anna Feodora Auguste Charlotte Wilhelmine 7 December 1807 23 September 1872(1872-09-23) (aged 64) married, 1828, to Ernst I, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (1794–1860); had issue

Through her first marriage, she is a direct matrilineal ancestor to various members of royalty in Europe, including Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, Felipe, Prince of Asturias, and Constantine II of Greece.

Second marriage[edit]

The death of Princess Charlotte of Wales, the wife of Victoria's brother Leopold in 1817, prompted a succession crisis, and, with Parliament offering a financial incentive, three of Charlotte's uncles, sons of George III, were prepared to marry. One of Charlotte's uncles, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1767-1820) proposed to Victoria and she accepted The couple were married on 29 May 1818 at Amorbach, and again, on 11 July 1818, at Kew, the second ceremony being a joint ceremony at which Edward's brother, the Duke of Clarence, later King William IV, also married his wife, Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meningen. Shortly after the marriage, the pair moved to Germany, where the cost of living would be cheaper. Soon after, Victoria became pregnant, and the Duke and Duchess, determined to have their child born in England, raced back to England, arriving at Dover on April 23, 1819, and moved into Kensington Palace, where she soon gave birth to a daughter:

Name Birth Death Notes
Victoria of the United Kingdom 24 May 1819 22 January 1901(1901-01-22) (aged 81) married, 1840, to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; had issue.

Widowhood[edit]

The Duchess of Kent by Sir George Hayter in 1835

The Duke of Kent died suddenly of pneumonia in January 1820, a few days before his father, King George III. The widow Duchess had little cause to remain in the United Kingdom, not speaking the language and having a palace at home in Coburg, where she could live cheaply on the incomes of her first husband, the late Prince of Leiningen. However, the British succession at this time was far from assured – of the three brothers superior to Edward in the line of succession, the new King, George IV, and the Duke of York were both estranged from their wives (both wives being past the age when they were likely to bear any children) and the third, the Duke of Clarence (the future William IV) had yet to produce any surviving children through his marriage. The Duchess decided that she would do better by gambling on her daughter's accession than by living quietly in Coburg, and sought support from the British government, having inherited her husband's debts. After the death of Edward and his father, the young Princess Alexandrina Victoria was still only third in line for the throne, and Parliament was not inclined to support yet another impoverished royal. The Duchess of Kent was allowed a suite of rooms in the dilapidated Kensington Palace, along with several other impoverished nobles. There she brought up her daughter, Victoria, who would become Queen of the United Kingdom, and eventually Empress of India.

The Duchess was given little financial support from the Civil List, though she inherited little but debts from her husband. Parliament was not inclined to increase her income, remembering the Duke's extravagance. Her brother, Leopold, was a major support, since he had a huge income of fifty thousand pounds per annum for life, which Parliament allotted to him on his marriage to Princess Charlotte, as he was expected to become the consort of the monarch in due course; but, even after Charlotte's death, Parliament never revoked Prince Leopold's annuity.

In 1831, with George IV dead and the new King, William IV, still without legitimate issue, the young princess' status as heiress-presumptive and the Duchess's prospective place as Regent led to major increases in income. A contributing factor was Leopold's designation as King of the Belgians (he surrendered his British income on election) and the perceived impropriety in having the heiress-presumptive to the Crown supported by a foreign sovereign.

Royal feud[edit]

The Duchess of Kent with her daughter, the future Queen Victoria

The Duchess relied heavily on John Conroy, a Welsh officer whom she engaged as her private secretary. Perhaps because of Conroy's influence, the relationship between the Duchess's household and William IV soon soured, with the Duchess regarding the king as an oversexed oaf.[1] William was denied access to his young niece as much as the Duchess dared. She further offended the King by taking rooms in Kensington Palace that the King had reserved for himself. Both before and during William's reign, she snubbed his illegitimate children, the FitzClarences. All of this led to a scene at a dinner in 1836 when the King, again feeling offended by the Duchess and Conroy, publicly hoped that his reign would continue until Princess Victoria was of age, and decried the influence on the young Princess Victoria by those around her.

Conroy had high hopes for his patroness and himself: he envisioned Victoria succeeding the throne at a young age, thus needing a regency government, which, following the Regency Act of 1831, would be headed by the Princess's mother (who had already served in that capacity in Germany following the death of her first husband). As the personal secretary of the Duchess, Conroy would be the veritable "power behind the throne". He did not count on Victoria's uncle, William IV, surviving long enough for Victoria to reach her majority. He had cultivated her mother as his ally, and ignored and insulted Victoria. Now he had no influence over her, and thus tried to force her to make him her personal secretary upon her accession. This plan, too, backfired, as Victoria came to associate her mother with Conroy's schemes, for pressuring her to sign a paper declaring Conroy her personal secretary. When Victoria became Queen, she relegated the Duchess to separate accommodations, away from her own.

Reconciliation[edit]

Victoria, dowager duchess of Kent in a portrait by Winterhalter

When the Queen's first child, the Princess Royal, was born, the Duchess of Kent unexpectedly found herself welcomed back into Victoria's inner circle. It is likely that this came about as a result of the dismissal of Baroness Lehzen at the behest of Victoria's husband (and the Duchess's nephew), Prince Albert. Firstly, this removed Lehzen's influence, and Lehzen had long despised the Duchess and Conroy, suspecting them of an illicit affair. Secondly, it left the Queen wholly open to Albert's influence, and he likely prevailed upon her to reconcile with her mother. Lastly, Conroy had by now exiled himself to the continent, and that divisive influence was removed. The Duchess's finances, which had been left in shambles by Conroy, were revived thanks to her daughter and her daughter's advisors. She became a doting grandmother, by all accounts, and was closer to her daughter than she ever had been.[2]

Rumours of affair[edit]

There has been some speculation, not only that the Duchess and Conroy were lovers, but that the Duchess had earlier been unfaithful to the Duke of Kent and that Victoria was not his daughter. This has been promoted most prominently by William and Malcolm Potts' 1995 book Queen Victoria's Gene[citation needed]. Those who promote this position point to the absence of porphyria in the British Royal Family among the descendants of Queen Victoria - it had been widespread before her; not to mention the rise of haemophilia, unknown in either the Duke's or Duchess's family, among the best documented families in history. Victoria herself was puzzled by the emergence of the disease, given its absence in either family.

John Röhl's book, Purple Secret, documents evidence of porphyria in Victoria, the Princess Royal's daughter Charlotte and her grand daughter, Feodore. It goes on to say that Prince William of Gloucester was diagnosed with the disease shortly before his own death in a flying accident. [3] (although it should be noted that he is also descendant of George III through Queen Victoria's uncle, the Duke of Cambridge)

In practice, this would have required the Duchess's lover to be haemophiliac – an extremely unlikely survival, given the poor state of medicine at the time.[4] Actual evidence to support this theory has not arisen, and haemophilia occurs spontaneously through mutation in at least 30% of cases.[5] Queen Victoria has also been said by some to have a strong resemblance to her Hanoverian relatives, particularly George IV.

Death[edit]

The Duchess of Kent's Mausoleum at Frogmore

The Duchess died on 16 March 1861, at the age of 74. She is buried in the Duchess of Kent's Mausoleum at Frogmore, Windsor Home Park, near to the royal residence Windsor Castle.

Queen Victoria and Albert dedicated a window in the Royal Chapel of All Saints in Windsor Great Park to her memory.[6]

The Queen was much affected by her mother's death. It was the start to a disastrous year, which would end with Albert's death.

Portrayal[edit]

Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld was portrayed by Alison Leggatt in the ATV drama Edward the Seventh, by Penelope Wilton in the 2001 television serial Victoria and Albert,[7] and by Miranda Richardson in the 2009 film The Young Victoria.[8]

Titles, styles, honours and arms[edit]

Titles and styles[edit]

  • 17 August 1786 – 21 December 1803: Her Ducal Serene Highness Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Duchess in Saxony
  • 21 December 1803 – 9 January 1807: Her Ducal Serene Highness The Hereditary Princess of Leiningen
  • 9 January 1807 – 4 July 1814: Her Ducal Serene Highness The Princess of Leiningen
  • 4 July 1814 – 29 May 1818: Her Ducal Serene Highness The Dowager Princess of Leiningen
  • 29 May 1818 – 16 March 1861: Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Kent and Strathearn

Ancestors[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Farquhar, Michael (2001). A Treasure of Royal Scandals, p.152. Penguin Books, New York. ISBN 0-7394-2025-9.
  2. ^ Packard, p. 85
  3. ^ Röhl, John C. G.; Warren, Martin; Hunt, David (1998) Purple Secret: Genes, "Madness" and the Royal Houses of Europe, London: Bantam Press, ISBN 0-593-04148-8
  4. ^ Packard, p. 43-44
  5. ^ Hemophilia B (Factor IX). National Hemophilia Foundation. 2006. Retrieved 20 June 2010 
  6. ^ Jane Roberts (1997). Royal Landscape: The Gardens and Parks of Windsor. Yale University Press. pp. 347–. ISBN 978-0-300-07079-8. 
  7. ^ "'Victoria & Albert' brings royal couple to life". Telegraph Herald. Knight Ridder. October 21, 2001. Retrieved August 5, 2012. 
  8. ^ Mary Kunz Goldman (2010-08-21). "'The Young Victoria': Royal romance story is beautifully filmed and acted – Gusto". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Packard, Gerrold (1973). Victoria's Daughters. New York: St. Martin's Press

External links[edit]