Our friend Queen Victoria would probably not have existed without the story of a Princess that came before her—Charlotte Augusta of Wales. She was the only child of George (later to become King George IV) and Princess Caroline of Brunswick. Charlotte would have become Queen had she outlived her father and grandfather, but she died during childbirth.
Charlotte Augusta of Wales
Died? In childbirth? There must be more!? There is, and we tell it to you in this podcast. It’s quite a tale, beginning before Charlotte is even born.
*insert that dreamy going back in time music*
Charlotte’s father was, how shall we say, Money Sucking Royalty. And not only that, he was a playah. (yeah, we did. We promise we won’t , ever again.) Prince George attempted to marry his longtime mistress, Maria Fitzherbert, but his father ( King George III) wasn’t about to give the royal nod to that coupling. Prince George, in order to up his allowance, per the Prime Minister William Pitt, needed to marry. What’s a prince to do? He networked 1700’s style for a spouse his father AND his many mistresses would approve of.
Enter Princess Caroline. She was his first cousin and one of the last two choices (choice two being a cousin from the other side of his family tree, Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.) Prince George chose Caroline- not because she was prettier or less tied to scandal because she wasn’t that- but because his mistresses approved of her (probably because she was less of a threat).
But Princess Caroline needed, um, a little work. She arrived in Britain pretty much a hot mess. Not that Prince George was a physical catch himself. We go into some detail, but basically they got along well enough to marry, consummate the marriage and get pregnant. Once.
Charlotte was born January 7th, 1796. What was her childhood like? Well, what would your childhood be like if your parents didn’t live together, were forever quarraling, and you were left to the care of paid staff and hauled out only when your parents needed you for something? Like that.
We do spell it out a bit more, but basically she was a wild child, prone to pulling pranks and, yet, was adored by her people. They were less than thrilled with the current ruler (Mad King George, anyone?) and the next in line (Daddy Dearest) wasn’t any better. She had to be the hope of the people, right?
After an adolescence and entrée into society she pulled some whoppers in the way of impropriety. Just your average, bored teenage Princess. If reality TV was around in her day we would probably be watching Her Minxship instead of Jersey Shore. (Uh, not that we watch Jersey Shore)
Finally she meets HIM. The One. A career military man, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The path to the alter took some time, and some manipulations- but on May 2nd, 1816 the two were married in Carlton House. He was a super dreamboat, she was a popular princess; he calmed her wild ways, she gave him the political position he desired – the country was all over this!
Carlton House, where the wedding was held (also where Charlotte had been born)
Oh my my my my….
And then the waiting game for an heir began. Within two years, and two miscarriages, she finally carries a baby for the full nine months…but then this blissful life takes a turn. Poor medical care meets a very large baby. We talk about this a great deal in the podcast, and we don’t want to spoil it for you- but Charlotte delivers a stillborn son. Hours later, she follows him in death.
Funeral of Princess Charlotte, by James Stephanoff
Leopold and the entire country are thrown into deep grief for their beloved Charlotte.
Leopold will go on to play a crucial role in the life of Queen Victoria. Or should we say, UNCLE Leopold? His sister, Princess Viktoria, will give birth to the future Queen. And Victoria’s Albert? He can also call him Uncle Leopold.
Leopold would eventually become the first King of Belgium and marry again. His wife gave birth to a daughter whom they named Charlotte.
Time Travel with The History Chicks
Books! We recommend Charlotte and Leopold: The true story of the Original People’s Princess by, James Chambers
Poems! George Gordon N. Byron (Lord Byron)
Welcome to the second part of our conversation about Queen Victoria. So much to talk about, we just couldn’t keep it at an hour! We start with a recap , but get down to a good chat pretty quickly starting about the time of the Crimean War.
Victoria and Albert really worked together not only to run the country, but to raise their family. He took his role as the Prince Regent ( Neener! He did what her mother and John Conroy never could!) very seriously, and Victoria took her marriage vows equally as seriously. We had gone on before about Victoria continually having a strong male to support her, and Albert took that role until his death. They really had an almost modern marriage- working very much together in business and in family life raising all those nine children.
Several years before Albert’s death. Big happy fam
Of all the little darlings Victoria bore, none would give them more trouble than our old friend, Bertie. Ahh, Bertie…nearly killed his father, he did. We go into the scandal (because you know we love scandal) in more detail in the podcast, but basically he had taken up with an actress and the gossip reached his parents ears. Albert (the Dad) was already run ragged by the affairs and wars of the country, the last thing he needed was worry about scandal in the family.
Bertie, Bertie, Bertie…
Alberts death in 1861, at age 42, was listed as typhoid fever, but Victoria blamed the ‘ dreadful business” of Bertie’s affair. Victoria, up until now a refreshing ray of sunshine—ok, slight exaggeration, but more upbeat than we had ever given her credit before- Victoria’s life, and the life of her family was plunged into deep mourning.
This is when all that dreadful black comes into play.
Victoria and Albert’s daughters in mourning
Victoria removed herself ,and her family, from public life for many years. She hung out, behind closed curtains, in her royal palaces. It was not a very cheery time for anyone close to the Queen. And again, we are reminded that she does best when she has a man- in some form- near her. That man,at this point of her life, was a servant from her beloved Balmoral Castle in Scotland -John Brown.
John Brown and Queen Victoria by Edwin Landseer
We talk about the portrayal of this phase of her life in the 1997 movie Her Majesty, Mrs Brown. John Brown was a very dedicated servant to the Queen. He was with her a great deal of time, and she trusted and respected him. She also slowly came out of her deep mourning during the time he was with her. Was it an improper relationship? Was there scandal? We speculate. Because it’s fun to speculate. Later in her life she has a similar servant /relationship with Abdul Karim. We speculate about that during the podcast as well. Again…fun!
Several years after John Brown, Victoria hung with The Munshi, Abdul Karim
While all this mourning is in progress, life is going on. Children are marrying, grandbabies are being born, and oh, yes, Great Britain is still a country in need of its Queen. Because of changes in British government ( increased power to the House of Commons, lessening in the House of Lords) the role of the monarchy was shifting. The political roles that the Queen held was waning, although she was still, you know, The Queen. We track several plummets and rises in her popularity in the podcast, but overall she was had more peaks than valleys.
Bertie Marries! Alexandra, Princess of Denmark
In 1866 she attended the first Opening of Parliament since her husband had died, and she got back to business. We discuss the various Prime Ministers that served during her reign, most notably, Benjamin Disraeli.
Queen Victoria’s children were spread all over Europe. If you click the Special Features tab, you will find exactly how Victoria’s bloodline spread throughout Europe. Her bloodline also spread Hemophilia throughout Royal houses. Her own children, Leopold had the disease and Alice and Beatrice were carriers.
People were literally refusing to be placed next to certain others in this picture. You thought your wedding seating was complicated!
Queen Victoria ruled long enough to celebrate both her Golden (50th) and Diamond (60th) Jubilees. BIG parties . Big. And of course we talk about them…hello? Parties?
Four years following her Diamond Jubilee, at the age of 81, Queen Victoria ended her 63 year reign when she passed away at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. She left very detailed instructions for her funeral, and was laid to rest next to Albert at Frogmore Mausoleum.
Time Travel with The History Chicks
Let’s go to Buckingham Palace: http://www.royal.gov.uk/TheRoyalResidences/BuckinghamPalace/BuckinghamPalace.aspx
Victoria and Albert museum in London? http://www.vam.ac.uk/
Too obvious? How about Balmoral Castle? You can rent cottages! Sleepover! http://www.balmoralcastle.com/
Adore all things Victorian? You must check out Victoriana.com: http://victoriana.com/
And here is a link to yet another pretty interesting blog, Lisa’s History Room ( and by” interesting”, we mean you can click links and go on adventures within the posts till long past bedtime): http://lisawallerrogers.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/victoria-albert-art-love/ That blog led us to this wonderful collection of the art of Victoria and Albert! http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/microsites/vanda/index.asp
We kept reading about the bell like quality to her voice—looked at a lot of disappointing YouTube videos, tried to listen to a BBC recording, and never did hear it. Bumming. If anyone finds it, let us know, ok?
1997 Her Majesty, Mrs Brown
Queen Victoria at Home, by Michael De-La Noy (This is the one with the family over front and back covers)
Queen Victoria but Christopher Hibbert
And finally, if you want to get your royal webchatter on..and we know some of you adore those messageboards…for all things royal ( please read the rules and be kind) : http://royaldish.com/
We begin our second season with a woman whose life will take us two episodes to discuss. She wasn’t just black dresses, and talking about herself in the third person, you know! She led a very colorful and unique life! This woman was so influential that she had an entire AGE of improvements, fashion, behavior (and some really fantastic houses) named after her.
A young Queen Victoria circa 1840
Born on the 24th of May, 1819 in Kensington Palace to the Duke and Duchess of Kent, Alexandrina Victoria jumped the line to the throne. We cover the complicated path to the crown in more detail in the podcast, trying to make it as easy as possible to follow. Basically, it had been a race to see who would bear the heir after Princess Charlotte, the only legitimate child of George IV, died during childbirth a few years prior to Victoria’s birth. When Victoria’s father, Edward, died while Victoria was an infant, and his three brothers failed to produce an heir, she moved at a rather quick pace to the head of the line.
Duchess of Kent and about a two year old Victoria
Victoria was raised by her mother in a pretty wacky manner following a set of rules known as, “The Kensington System”. This method gave control over all aspects of Victoria’s life to her mother, as well as Sir John Conroy, a very ambitious and controlling man whom the Duchess had taken into her trust and was her Comptroller. Who Victoria saw, what she learned, where she traveled, even going so far as to not allow her to descend stairs on her own- these two people oversaw all of it, and, at times, spread slander about the heiress presumptive.
Ok, so she did wear a lot of black…
Why? They were bucking for a Regency. They wanted Victoria to sign a document that stated they- Conroy being the brains behind the pair- would have decision making power over her. But our Princess was born to lead. Even when subjected to some of the most manipulative methods possible, she never gave that signature.
We cover details of her life as a child, but that childhood ended at age 18 when her beloved Uncle and King, William IV died in 1834. She dropped the Alexandrina, and simply became Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland- one day a controlled teenager, the next head of the British Empire.
Guess who is walking down stairs by herself?
Guess what Lord Conroy is banned from a certain Queen’s presence?
Which crown will we wear today, Your Highness?
We speculate a lot (because we can) about Victoria’s lifelong reliance on some male to aid her decision making. Not that it’s bad, it’s just how it appeared. First up: Lord Melborne who, at the time of her ascension, was head of the government. We talk about the Whigs and the Tories and the trusting relationship Victoria had with this man. He taught her the political ways , and she learned quickly diving right into the political world and making her impact on it.
We share some really nifty stories about her being the first sovereign to take up residency in Buckingham Palace, and some juicy tales about the early days of her reign as her popularity rose and fell and rose again.
We told you, colorful life!
And made even more so with the entree of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The first cousin to the Queen, Albert and Victoria had met as children, but when the parade of suitors began their common uncle, Leopold (husband to deceased Princess Charlotte) encouraged the two. Leopold had been hard at work back in Germany with young Albert, grooming him for this very role.
Young and dashing Prince Albert
But Victoria has spent her entire life working against manipulation- she can smell it coming. What she can’t see coming is love. Albert and his brothers visit their cousin, and within the week Victoria proposes. It’s a love match that happens to be a smart match as well.
Enter the second man that Victoria relies on as her sounding board. In a very regal wedding, they become Victobert. Ok, Victoria and Albert. This is the stuff novels are made of- partners of equal intelligence, shared convictions and a fiery romance to boot!
A movie that we liked and thought illustrated a great deal of the early part of her life is, The Young Victoria, a 2009 flick starring Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend. We question a few things, like Emily Blount not sharing a physical resemblance to the short, and um, curvy Queen, and the accuracy of the romance of the two, but overall a really great look at the early life of both the Queen and the pair which really are a love match that goes down in history.
Uh, whatcha playing with there little princess, Vicky? ( by Sir Edwin Landseer)
Much to Victoria’s dismay, she learned early on where babies come from. All totalled, the pair would have nine children including our old friend, Bertie- we mean, Albert, who would grow up to impact the lives of our Gilded Age Heiresses
Come back next time when we dive into the life of Victoria without Albert (THAT’S where the black dresses come in!), drama about political games and manipulations of the longest reigning monarch in British history. What does happen to all those kids? Did she or didn’t see have an affair with a strapping Highlander? Mourning ( noon and night)? And more!
The Queen, her prince and a whole mess a’ royal kidlets (Franz Xavier Winterhalter)
Time Travel With The History Chicks
Stay tuned for part two coming soon and we will link you up with a nice list of ways you can learn more about the life of this fascinating woman!
We’ll give you some to tide you over:
If you would like some reading to keep this story going for you, we both recommend We Two, Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Rivals, Partners by Gillian Gill.
And if you like your history visual, The Young Victoria. (Can’t stream it on Netflix, but they do have the DVD)
2009 movie with Emily Blunt
And just one site link because it has a lot of pictures of a young Victoria and talks about her clothes, which- really- we love to look at: http://www.gogmsite.net/early_victorian_-_1837_-_18/queen_victoria/#previous-photo