Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld

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See Princess Victoria for other Saxe-Coburg princesses named Victoria.
Princess Victoria
Duchess of Kent
Viktoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld - Project Gutenberg 13103.jpg
Princess Victoria, from Project Gutenberg eText
SpousePrince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent (18181820)
Emich Carl, 2nd Prince of Leiningen (18031814)
IssueCarl, 3rd Prince of Leiningen
Princess Feodora of Leiningen
Queen Victoria
Full name
Mary Louise Victoria
German: Marie Luise Viktoria
HouseHouse of Hanover
House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
FatherFranz Frederick Anton, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
MotherAugusta Reuss-Ebersdorf

Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (Mary Louise Victoria; 17 August 178616 March 1861), later HRH The Duchess of Kent, was the mother of Queen Victoria.

Early life

Mary Louise Victoria, born 17 August 1786, was the fourth daughter (but seventh child) of Duke Franz Frederick Anton, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and Auguste Reuss of Ebersdorf und Lobenstein. By her second marriage she was the mother of Queen Victoria.

Marriage

First marriage

On 21 December 1803 at Coburg, she married (as his second wife) Charles, Prince of Leiningen (17631814), whose first wife, Henrietta Reuss of Ebersdorf, was her aunt.

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 180628 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, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (17941860); had issue

Second marriage

On 29 May 1818 at Coburg (and again on 11 July 1818 at Kew Palace) she married Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent (17671820).

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

Widowhood

After the death of the Duke of Kent, his widowed Duchess had little cause to remain in England, 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 (who were probably past childbearing anyway) 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 be better served to gamble on her daughter's accession than to live 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 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, Prince (later King of the Belgians) Leopold was a major support, since he had a huge income of fifty thousand pounds per annum for life, voted when he married Princess Charlotte in the expectation that he would become the consort of the monarch in due course.

In 1831, the young princess's 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 Belgium (he surrendered his British income on election) and the perceived impropriety in having the heiress to the Crown supported by a foreign sovereign.

Royal feud

The Duchess relied heavily on John Conroy, an Irish officer whom she engaged as her private secretary. Perhaps due to Conroy's influence, the relationship between the Duchess's household and William IV soon soured. 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

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 Europe, 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.

Rumours of affair

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[1]. 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 (or that of Prince Albert)--among the best documented families in history. Victoria herself was puzzled by the emergence of the disease, given its absence in either family[2]. Several authors, including Jerrold Packer in his book, Victoria's Daughters have adhered to the theory. In addition, they point to the fact that the Duke failed to have children during his long affair with Madame de Saint-Laurent, his long-time mistress, and suggest that the Duke was sterile. In practice, this would have required the Duchess's lover to be haemophiliac – an unlikely survival, given the poor state of medicine at the time. Actual evidence for this position is not known, and given the fact that haemophilia may arise spontaneously, a spontaneous mutation is a far more likely explanation than an affair by the newly-married Duchess. Queen Victoria has been said by some to have a strong resemblance to her Hanoverian relatives, particularly George IV.

Ancestors

Later life

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

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.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

  • 17 August 178621 December 1803: Her Ducal Serene Highness Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Duchess in Saxony
  • 21 December 1803 – 29 May 1818: Her Ducal Serene Highness The Princess of Leiningen
  • 29 May 1818 – 16 March 1861: Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Kent and Strathearn

References