In a two-part collection, our Historian, Elizabeth Jane Timms, seems again on the death of Prince Albert:
Prince Albert, the beloved husband and Prince Consort of Queen Victoria, died on 14 December 1861, at Windsor Fort. So monumental have been the results of this death, each for the British monarch publicly and Queen Victoria privately, that we will typically overlook the death itself, though any occasion is just rightly assessed by its real influence.
For Queen Victoria – 42, the identical age because the Prince Consort had been when he died – one other half of her life lay forward, and her life as a royal widow had begun. On the similar time, a cult surrounding the Prince Consort’s death had been born, giving solution to a flood of virtually feverish commemorative exercise, within the type of numerous statues, plaques, monuments in addition to quite a few Albert Squares and Albert Streets, except for the ‘Albertopolis’ – the cluster of Kensington Museums that are Prince Albert’s biggest legacy to this nation and of course, the Albert Memorial. Albert’s death, subsequently, in lots of shapes and types, took on an entire new life of its personal.
The cultural reminiscence of the Prince Consort was tattooed onto the streets and squares of Nice Britain and past, in addition to on the personal royal residences, corresponding to Balmoral. It was as if Queen Victoria by so doing, wouldn’t allow him to be forgotten by her topics, though Prince Albert had all the time disliked memorials and effigies. Even the railings in London have been painted black and have remained so ever since, a wierd socio-historic relic of the Prince’s passing. The cult of Prince Albert’s reminiscence was the despair of Charles Dickens, no much less: ‘If you should meet with an inaccessible cave anywhere in that neighbourhood, to which a hermit could retire from the memory of Prince Albert and testimonials to the same, pray let me know of it’ (cit., HRH The Duchess of York with Benita Stoney, Victoria & Albert: A Household Life at Osborne Home, pp. 166-67).
The cult of Prince Albert’s death was, nevertheless, a mere extension of the huge commemorative cult of Queen Victoria’s marriage and youngsters, which had been practised in the course of the Prince’s lifetime, when even the primary tooth misplaced by the Princess Royal in Scotland in 1847, was set right into a gold thistle brooch. Maybe we should always see this as portentous, perhaps not. It might be however a darker model of that cult of happiness.
I view it as essential to recognise that the death of Prince Albert, which turned Queen Victoria from a royal spouse right into a royal widow, however was the identical lady. The solemn, monochrome picture of Queen Victoria doesn’t all the time correspond for a lot of with the supreme private happiness of the Queen earlier than Prince Albert’s death. We should always see that the 2 are interlinked for the grief-stricken widow was additionally the passionate spouse however the identical Queen Victoria.
Opposite to common perception, nevertheless, the Queen – although personally devastated and completely grief-stricken, continued to retain political involvement and her journal entries, although full of her private ache, however are additionally revealing of what I think about to be a relaxed, although surprised, collectiveness. There isn’t any hint of emotional hysteria in them. The first of these journal entries is for 1 January 1862 and is brief. It’s from amongst these of the Queen’s journals which have been copied and edited by the Queen’s youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice at her mom’s instruction, burning the originals as she went.
Any historian of Queen Victoria’s household may really feel a way of solemnity when encountering this easy blue pocket book by Parkin & Gotto, which Princess Beatrice used to finish her copy modifying process on the behest of the Queen. The knowledgeable reader is aware of what Queen Victoria has skilled when taking a look at this new quantity for 1862, which makes the sight of it a profoundly shifting one, as a result of the Queen is starting one other yr, alone.
1861, the yr which had seen for the Queen, the loss of each her mom, the Duchess of Kent in March and Prince Albert in December, was at an finish. The reader may additionally be forgiven a momentary sense of aid that these have occurred, in the identical approach during which anybody studying the Queen’s life, has an ominous feeling all through 1861 that these occasions nonetheless lie forward for her. Understandably, Christmas 1861 is full of memory of the Christmas of 1860 at Windsor, the final in Prince Albert’s life. The final entry within the Queen’s journal for 1861 happens on 13 December 1861, the day earlier than Prince Albert’s death at Windsor. What follows subsequent are clean pages, a telling analogy in themselves, though wanting on the Queen’s entries for the earlier fortnight, we’re, of course, not unprepared for what follows.
In a way, the Queen’s personal phrases completely mirror her state of thoughts on the time, for we see her greedy at hope and the entries virtually learn like an train in self-reassurance, punctuated with sorrow and nervousness. Most telling maybe, there isn’t a entry by any means for 14 December 1861, the day ever after referred to by the Queen as that ‘terrible 14th’. Princess Beatrice’s handwriting – in pink ink – data after the entry for 13 December 1861, that there have been merely no additional entries for this yr. Princess Beatrice, of course, knew the rationale for this, however there isn’t any point out of the death of the Prince Consort, her father. She merely sticks to her royal, familial fee and continues together with her process of copying, modifying and altering. There are not any extra entries within the Queen’s journal till 1 January 1862 – symbolic certainly of the occasion that was so shattering for the Queen that the silence within the diary for a Queen who famously wrote so many phrases – estimated by the writer Giles St Aubyn to have been round 2,500 a day – fairly actually, speaks volumes.
This was as a result of – as Queen Victoria annotated a photograph of herself in mourning at Windsor– ‘Day turned into Night’. A shifting heading within the Queen’s handwriting might be discovered firstly of one of her pocket sketchbooks, dated ‘Aug 6 1864’: ‘III Year of My Great Sorrow’ (Ibid, 176).
Prince Albert returned to Windsor on 26 November, having lectured the Prince of Wales outside at Cambridge within the pouring rain, over his current behaviour with an actress, Nellie Clifden. He spent a sleepless night time, shivering at Madingley Corridor, Cambridge and complained of ‘rheumatic’ ache in his again and his legs (Wilson, 251). He wrote to his eldest daughter, the Crown Princess of Prussia, that he had been affected by ‘a very heavy catarrh and… from headache and pains in my limbs’. (cit., Hibbert, 275).
‘Dearest Papa… is not well, with a cold [and] neuralgia… I never saw him so low’, the Queen wrote to the Crown Princess (cit., Ibid, 276). The Prince’s final Cupboard memorandum was later annotated by the Queen: ‘This draft was the last the beloved Prince ever wrote. He was very unwell at the time & when he brought it to the Queen he said, ‘I could hardly hold my pen’”. (cit., 277).
The Queen went on to element the Prince’s state of collapse, reporting herself to be feeling ‘terribly nervous and depressed’. (cit., Ibid). On 2 December, the Queen wrote: ‘My poor Albert had a sad night of shivering, sleeplessness & great distress. Sent for Dr Jenner, who found him extremely uncomfortable, sad & distressed. Dr Jenner assured me there was no reason to be alarmed.’ (cit., Wilson, 253). The Queen wrote: ‘The Queen was ‘crying much… for I saw no improvement.’ (cit., Ibid).
Prince Albert was stressed and wandered about from room to room. By four December he was not consuming, sipping solely raspberry vinegar in Seltzer water (Ibid, 253). On 6 December, he was judged to have improved, however the next day developed a fever. On 9 December, Dr Jenner pronounced a beneficial flip. The Queen’s journal entries present her oscillating between hope and actuality: ‘Oh! As if my heart must break – oh! Such agony as exceeded all my grief this year…. I seem to live in a dreadful dream. My angel lay on the bed in the bedroom & I sat by him watching him & the tears fell fast’. (cit., Ibid, 278).
The Prince’s temper moved between affection – calling the Queen by her pet names ‘Frauchen’ and ‘Weibchen’, [little wife] and slapping her hand in irritation: ‘poor dear darling’. It was at this level that he requested to be moved into the Blue Room, the place the solar was streaming by means of the home windows. Within the subsequent room, Princess Alice prayed the good Lutheran hymn, Ein feste Burg ist Unser Gott, at which tears crammed Prince Albert’s eyes. Prince Albert reprimanded Princess Alice for less than telling the Crown Princess in a letter that their father’s sickness had grown extra critical, saying: ‘You did wrong. You should have told her I am dying’. (cit., Ibid, 279). By 11 December, the Prince was sitting up and taking broth: ‘He laid his pricey head (his lovely face, extra lovely than ever, has grown so skinny) on my shoulder and remained a short while, saying “It is very comfortable so, dear child’.” (cit., Ibid, 279). On 12 December, his arms have been trembling, and his respiration turned extra speedy the subsequent day. The Prince was given brandy each half an hour (Wilson, 254).
Prince Albert’s thoughts seemed to be wandering, for he began to rearrange his hair and had goals of his childhood, imagining he heard the birds twittering within the woods again residence at Coburg (Hibbert, 281). The Queen went to Prince Albert at seven o’clock every morning, however shortly earlier than the top, wrote: ‘Never can I forget how beautiful my darling looked lying there with his face lit up by the rising sun, his eyes unusually bright…’ The Queen’s docs, Sir James Clark and Dr Jenner, in addition to Sir Henry Holland, have been all extraordinarily anxious however permitted the Queen to go for a brief stroll on the Terrace with Princess Alice.
The Prince of Wales had been despatched for from Cambridge, and with the opposite royal youngsters, they went to Prince Albert. The Prince’s mattress had been moved away from the wall. He had received as much as permit his sheets to be modified for recent ones (Wilson, 254). It was later when the Queen returned that she realised his respiration had modified. The Prince’s valet, Rudolph Loehlein was additionally current, as was Prince Ernst of Leiningen, Colonel Phipps, Common Bruce and the Dean of Windsor, Gerald Wellesley (Ibid, 254). Queen Victoria leant over the Prince and whispered: ‘Es ist das kleine Frauchen, ein Kuss. [It is your little wife, kiss me.] Queen Victoria’s personal phrases to explain this occasion – written later – have been as follows: ‘Two or three long, but perfectly gentle breaths were drawn, the hand clasping mine, & (oh! It turns me sick to write it) all, all was over… I stood up, kissing his dear heavenly forehead & called out in a bitter and agonising cry, ‘Oh! My dear darling!’ after which dropped on my knees in mute, distracted despair, unable to utter a phrase or shed a tear!…’ (cit., Wilson, 255).
The Queen went to put down on a settee within the Pink Room. Sir Howard Elphinstone, Prince Arthur’s Governor, described that Princess Alice was knelt beside her, holding the Queen in her arms, while Princess Helena, was weeping distractedly. Elphinstone wrote: ‘The Prince… had gone without a struggle, but likewise without saying a word… He died in the same room as King William IV’. (cit., Ibid, 281).
Examine again tomorrow for half two of our historical past piece wanting again on the death of the Prince Consort.