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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Regina

The courtship of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

Updated: May 21

Known for their devoted love, feisty arguments and idyllic family image, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are one of history’s most iconic couples. But have you ever wondered where this famous love story began? If so, you're in the right place! Keep reading to join me as I explore the courtship of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert!


Victoria and Albert on 30th June 1854, by Roger Fenton © Royal Collection Trust / HM King Charles III

From the moment they were born, Victoria and Albert had several things in common. They were first cousins (through her mother and his father); they were both brought up in less wealthy families; they both lost a parent young. But did you know that they even shared the same midwife?! However, unlike his future bride, Albert wasn't heir to the British throne!


Almost immediately after his birth plans began for Albert to one day marry Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent (later Queen Victoria). In 1821, the couples mutual grandmother - Dowager Duchess Augusta of Saxe-Conurg - described the prince as the 'pendant to the pretty cousin' (1) and, as a result, Albert grew up knowing of the plans. Victoria, on the other hand, only found out a few years before she ascended the throne!

The staircase at Kensington Palace, where Victoria and Albert met in 1836

Upon greeting her two cousins, the isolated Princess was immediately stunned by the two dashing young men that stood before her. Later that day she rushed off to describe them in her journal. First to be analysed was Prince Ernst, who had 'dark hair, & fine dark eyes & eye-brows ... he has a most kind, honest & intelligent expression in his countenance, & has a very good figure.' However, she was critical of his nose and mouth, which 'are not good' - especially compared to Albert's!


Like Ernst, Albert was equally as tall 'but stouter'. She went on to add that he is extremely handsome; his hair is about the same colour as mine; his eyes are large & blue, & [unlike Ernst] he has a beautiful nose, & a very sweet mouth with fine teeth but the charm of his countenance is his expression, which is most delightful; c'est a la fois, full of goodness & sweetness, & very clever & intelligent.' Compared to Victoria, Albert was much more introverted, well travelled and incredibly intelligent. He took great interest in the sciences, engineering and art but, like Victoria, he had a great sense of humour.


Throughout their visit, the two brothers feature heavily in the young Princess's journal. She often writes of going for walks and playing the piano with Albert in particular. There's also a heavy amount of praise towards the two princes:


"...dearest Ernst and dearest Albert are so grown-up in their manners, so gentle, so kind, so amiable, so agreeable, so very sensible and reasonable, and so really and truly good, and kind-hearted. They have both learnt a great deal, and are very clever, naturally clever, particularly Albert, who is the most reflecting of the two, and they like very much talking about serious and instructive things and yet are so very very merry and gay and happy, like young people ought to be; Albert used always to have some fun and some clever witty answer at breakfast and everywhere; he used to play and fondle Dash so funnily too. Both he and Ernst are extremely attentive to whatever they hear and see, and take interest in everything they see...
- RA VIC/MAIN/ QVJ (W) 10 June 1836 (Queen Victoria's Handwriting)
'Windsor Castle in modern times; Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and Victoria, Princess Royal' by Sir Edwin Landseer, dated 1841-1843 © Royal Collection Trust / HM King Charles III

On 30th May, a ball was held at Kensington Palace to celebrate Victoria's birthday six days earlier. Upon returning to her journal, she notes how she danced with Albert at least twice; including a "very merry" country dance.


At 9am on 10th June, Victoria had a final 'happy happy breakfast, with this dear Uncle, and those dearest, beloved Cousins, whom I do love so very very dearly; much more dearly than any other Cousins in the world'. An hour later, the Duke and his two sons left the palace for Brussels, where they were to spend a year. Following their departure Victoria wrote that she 'cried very bitterly for some time ... and felt very sad and low.'

'When I think that I shall not see my dear Cousins' dear kind faces, any more at breakfast, at dinner, no where, and that we shall have no more merry breakfasts, no more of those delightful walks with dear Ernst, dear Albert, and dear Uncle, no more merry dinners, no more happy evenings, and that we shall no more go with them to the Opera, it makes me quite miserable! Oh me! I cannot hardly think of all this today without shedding tears, it makes me quite sick at heart! Oh! how dreadfully shall I miss them every every where!'
- RA VIC/MAIN/ QVJ (W) 10 June 1836 (Queen Victoria's Handwriting) retrieved 13 May 2024

While the brothers didn't return in the Autumn as Victoria had hoped, Victoria and Albert continued to send frequent letters for the next two years. However, it seems that Victoria continued to see her dear Albert' as nothing more than just a friend and cousin.


A year after their initial meeting, Victoria's life changed forever when she succeeded her uncle, King William IV, as Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. While Albert had extremely limited experience with reigning a nation, Victoria often turned to him for advice. It was during this time that her opinion of him changed and she began seeing him as a potential suitor.


Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, dated 1840-1850 Royal Collection Trust / © HM King Charles III

At half past seven on Thursday 10th October 1839, Princes Ernst and Albert once again arrived at Windsor Castle. 'With some emotion', Victoria 'beheld Albert', whom she found 'handsome and pleasing'. Clearly smitten with Albert's improved looks, the twenty-year-old Queen detailed every 'charming' element of his appearance in her journal, particularly his 'pretty mouth and delicate moustachios and slight but very slight whiskers' and his 'beautiful figure', which consisted of broad shoulders 'and a fine waist'.


Within a couple of days, the Queens feelings towards the prospect of marriage had 'a good deal changed' thanks to Albert's presence. On 14th October, she told Lord Melbourne that her mind was made up 'about marrying dearest Albert.'

Lithograph of Queen Victoria proposing to Prince Albert Royal Collection Trust / © HM King Charles III

As Queen, it was protocol that Victoria had to be the one to propose. With this in mind, Victoria turned to Lord M. for advice on how' she should do it, 'for that in general such things were done the other way'


At half past twelve on the 15th October, Queen Victoria experienced the 'happiest brightest moment in her life when she sent for Albert to meet her alone in her closet. After a few minutes she told him that it would make me too happy if he would to consent to what I wished (to marry me)'.


The couple spent the next few days in each other's company and exchanged rings, which were both engraved with the date of their engagement. At the same time, discussions began over where and when the wedding should take place. Still not complete ready for marriage, Victoria hoped the wedding could take place a year later but Lord Melbourne felt that would be too long, and, so, it was decided that the wedding would take place just four months later, in February 1840. Locations that were suggested included the Chapel Royal at St George's Chapel and also Buckingham Palace. Westminster Abbey, however, was dismissed by the Queen, who felt it 'would be like a 2nd Coronation'.


On 14th November Albert left England one final time as an unmarried man. Over the next few months, Victoria fought tirelessly for Albert to be respected by her parliament. Believing he should have the title of 'King', a position she believed 'he ought to have'. However, this was quickly dismissed by the Chancellor (for anyone wondering why it was dismissed, it's because the title 'King' outranks that of 'Queen'). Frustrations rose further when parliament offered the Prince a significantly lower allowance than what Prince Leopold attained upon his marriage to Princess Charlotte in 1816.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on 11th May 1854 Royal Collection Trust/ © HM King Charles III

After all the commotion, Albert was pleasantly surprised by the reception he received upon arriving in Dover on 7th February 1840, three days before the wedding. At half past four the next day, Albert's carriage arrived at Buckingham Palace. Queen Victoria waited patiently at the door, before she 'embraced him and took him by the hand and led him [and the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and Prince Ernst] up to my room', where they were greeted by her Mama and Uncle Leopold, king of Belgium.


Victoria and Albert were married two days later on 10th February, before heading to Windsor Castle for a two day honeymoon. Nine months after their wedding, on 21st November, Victoria gave birth to the couples first child - Princess Victoria. Over the next seventeen years they went on to have a grand total of nine children, - four boys and five girls - all of which survived into adulthood.

Victoria and Albert in March 1861 Royal Collection Trust/ © HM King Charles III

Throughout their marriage the couple purchased two homes, Osborne House and Balmoral Castle, where they enjoyed intimate time as a family. In the winter of 1861, Prince Albert fell ill with typhoid fever and tragically died on 14th December. Upon his death a large yowl could be heard echoing throughout Windsor Castle as Queen Victoria's world came to an end. For the next fourty years she mourned her beloved husband and wore black, every day, until her own death in January 1901, when she was reunited with her love.


Citation:

(1) John Van Der Kiste. Queen Victoria's Children, 2nd Ed. 2009, The History Press


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