Albert, called the Prince Consort, was the husband of Queen Victoria of Britain. The son of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, he was born on Aug.26, 1819, near Coburg, Bavaria. He married the young Victoria in 1840. As her closest advisor, Albert exercised a restraining influence on theimpulsive queen, especially in political matters. Among the political leaders of the period, Albert worked well with Sir Robert Peel but quarreled frequently with Viscount Palmerston. In the Trent Affair of 1861 the prince actually moderated the hostility of Palmerston's government toward the United States.
Albert was a patron of the arts and sciences and one of the organizers ofthe Great Exhibition of 1851. His zeal for public moralism in many waysset the tone of mid-Victorian England. Albert's death on Dec. 14, 1861, partly the result of overwork, deeply affected Victoria, who went intoseclusion for several years.
Yet a more promising throne loomed in the near distance. King William IV of Great Britain and his wife, Queen Adelheid Luise, were unable to procreate any children who survived infancy. Their quickly arranged marriage during the Hannoverian wife search in the late 1810’s failed to continue the dynasty. By the time William IV inherited the throne from his brother King George IV in 1830, little Princess Victoria of Kent was the established heiress to the greatest throne of Europe. And when the King of Great Britain died childless in 1837, his eighteen year old niece ascended the throne as Queen Victoria. By the end of Victoria’s second year as monarch, she still remained single. London became the most delightful and promising destination for many young continental princes. Victoria, desperately lonely in her London palace, wanted to find a suitable consort who could keep her company and provide the country with the next generation of princes. Leopold had waited two decades for this opportunity and quickly stepped in with his valuable counsel and matrimonial expertise. Among his several nephews, there was one in particular which Leopold had in mind as Victoria’s future husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Duke Ernst I and Duchess Louise had a very unhappy marriage. The heiress of Gotha had arrived at Coburg in 1817 to find a husband who was not much interested in her. Duke Ernst paid more attention to the aggrandizement of his little duchy than to the youthful girl he had married. Within two years of their wedding the couple had two princes, Ernst and Albert. Once having fulfilled her main role to secure the succession, Ernst paid very little attention to Luise. In her loneliness, the young duchess sought companionship among the courtiers of her husband’s little court. By the mid-1820’s the marriage had collapsed, the ducal couple divorced and Luise fallen in love with a young German aristocrat. Left in Coburg were the two little princes who never again saw much of their mother. Prince Ernst of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha would succeed his father on the ducal throne; Prince Albert needed to find a future. Leopold I and Queen Louise-Marie were tremendously fond of the two princes. Ernst and Albert spent long periods at their uncle’s court in Brussels. While Ernst developed into a licentious young man, Albert remained unspoiled, studious and conscientious of his future possibilities. In 1839 the brothers traveled to London to pay their respects to their royal cousin. Although initially apprehensive about Albert as a husband, Victoria quickly surrendered to his mild manner and good looks. There engagement was announced with great delight in 1839. Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Queen Victoria of Great Britain were married in London on 24 January 1840. No longer were the Coburgs considered a small, forgotten princely house from the depths of the Thuringian woods. In one decade, the Coburgs had attained the thrones of three European countries.