Alfred, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
|Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha|
15 October 1874|
Buckingham Palace, London
|Died||6 February 1899
Sanitorium Martinnsbrunn, Merano (Meran), Austria–Hungary
|Burial||Coburg, German Empire|
|House||Saxe-Coburg and Gotha|
|Father||Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha|
|Mother||Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia|
Alfred, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, born Prince Alfred of Edinburgh (Alfred Alexander William Ernest Albert; 15 October 1874 – 6 February 1899), was the only son and heir apparent of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, later Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. He died aged 24 under circumstances still not entirely clear.
His father was Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, second eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. His mother was Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, a daughter of Emperor Alexander II of Russia and Princess Marie of Hesse and by Rhine. He was baptised in the Lower Bow Room of Buckingham Palace 23 November 1874 by Archibald Tait, Archbishop of Canterbury and his godparents were the Queen of the United Kingdom, the Emperor of Russia (Alfred's maternal grandfather Alexander II, whose son Czarevich Alexander stood proxy for him), the German Emperor (for whom Alfred's paternal uncle Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn stood proxy), the German Crown Princess (Alfred's paternal aunt, for whom her sister Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein stood proxy), the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (his paternal grand-uncle, for whom Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein stood proxy), and the Prince of Wales (his paternal uncle).
Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
In 1893, his granduncle, Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, brother of his paternal grandfather, died without an heir. Being ineligible under Duchy law to occupy the ducal throne due to his status as the heir apparent to an existing throne, the Prince of Wales had previously renounced his claim to the ducal throne of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Thus, the duchy devolved upon Alfred's father, who was at that time the Duke of Edinburgh. Alfred thus became styled HRH The Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Prince Alfred had lived in Clarence House in the early years of his life with his parents and sisters; after his father's accession to the ducal throne of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, he moved to Schloss Rosenau, near Coburg.
On 28 January 1895, the Court Circular published the following: “We are informed that a marriage has been arranged between his Royal Highness Prince Alfred of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, only son of their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and grandson of Her Majesty, and Her Royal Highness the Duchess Elsa Matilda Marie, elder twin daughter of the late Duke William Eugene of Württemberg by his marriage with the Grand Duchess Vera of Russia.” The marriage never occurred.
The exact circumstances of Alfred's death are not known, and varying accounts have been published. His sister Marie's memoirs simply say his health "broke down", and other writers have said that he had "consumption". The Times published an account stating he had died of a tumor, while the Complete Peerage gives the generally accepted account that he "shot himself". Various authors have speculated on reasons why he may have killed himself, and one author, Frank Bush, claimed to have been a descendant of a secret marriage between Alfred and Mabel Fitzgerald, granddaughter of the 4th Duke of Leinster, and claimed that friction between Alfred and his family over the "secret marriage" was the cause of the suicide. Despite the lack of documentary evidence, and the lack of contemporary reference, other authors have repeated Bush's assertion that Alfred and Mabel married, including John van der Kiste and Bee Jordaan in Dearest Affie, and the assertion is repeated as fact in the official family history (Das Haus von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha).
By 1898, Alfred had begun exhibiting severe symptoms of the syphilis he had acquired as a Guards officer, and was therefore absent from his parents’ silver wedding celebrations on 22 January 1899; however, the reason for his absence was announced as nervous depression. Untreated syphilis results in a syndrome known at the time as "general paresis of the insane" in which mental aberrations are a major symptom and was at the time a frequent cause of institutionalization in insane asylums.
According to theory, Alfred shot himself with a revolver while the rest of the family was gathered for the anniversary celebration. He survived and was looked after at Schloss Friedenstein in Gotha (Thuringia) for three days before being sent to the Martinnsbrunn Sanatorium in Gratsch near Merano (Meran) in the South Tyrol (Austria, now Italy). Alfred died there at 4:15 pm on 6 February 1899, aged 24 years. He was buried in the Ducal Mausoleum of the Glockenburg Cemetery, Coburg, Bavaria (southern Germany).
Later in 1899 Alfred's uncle the Duke of Connaught and his son Prince Arthur of Connaught renounced their succession rights to the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. As a result, his first cousin Prince Charles Edward, Duke of Albany, became heir presumptive.
Titles, styles, honours and arms
- 15 October 1874 – 23 August 1893: His Royal Highness Prince Alfred of Edinburgh
- 23 August 1893 – 6 February 1899: His Royal Highness The Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
As a male-line grandson of the British Sovereign, young Alfred bore the royal arms, with an inescutcheon of the shield of Saxony, all differenced by a label argent of five points, the odd bearing crosses gules and even anchors azure.
- Order of the Red Eagle, 1889
- Yvonne's Royalty Home Page — Royal Christenings
- Sandner, Harold (2004). "II.4.2 Erbprinz Alfred". Das Haus von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha 1826 bis 2001 (in German). Andreas, Prinz von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha (preface). 96450 Coburg: Neue Presse GmbH. pp. 155–156. ISBN 3-00-008525-4.
- Eilers, Marlene (1997). Queen Victoria's Descendants. Falköping, Sweden: Rosvall Royal Books. p. 62. ISBN 91-630-5964-9.
- Cokayne, George (1982). The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct, or Dormant 5. Gloucester England: A. Sutton. p. 8. ISBN 0-904387-82-8.
- Eilers, Marlene (1997). Queen Victoria's Descendants. Falköping, Sweden: Rosvall Royal Books. p. 176, footnote 2. ISBN 91-630-5964-9.
- Unfortunately for this theory, which was first published in the 1940s, and for Bush's claimed ancestry, there is no evidence Alfred and Mabel ever met; at the time of their alleged civil and religious marriages in 1898 (of which no records exist) Mabel was under 14 years old, and when Mabel contracted a documented marriage to William Clarke Hadoke in 1910 she is described as a spinster rather than a widow. (Ibid)
- Heraldica – British Royalty Cadency
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