Welcome to 'Lost in the Myths of History'

It often seems that many prominent people of the past are wronged by often-repeated descriptions, which in time are taken as truth. The same is also true of events, which are frequently presented in a particular way when there might be many alternative viewpoints. This blog is intended to present a different perspective on those who have often been lost in the myths of history.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The Passionate Prince


August 23rd is the birthday of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, one of the greatest and most overlooked figures not only of the 19th century but of the whole shaping of Britain and the British monarchy. To most people he is seen merely as Queen Victoria’s husband, whose death led to her years of seclusion and whom she turned into an almost too good to be true character: angel Albert, the truest, purest icon whose virtues were so many that no other human – least of all her children – could ever hope to emulate him. To others he appears as a rather dour and humourless man; a puritanical figure without passion and with a permanently solemn expression. Prince Albert is, to me, one of the most fascinating and passionate royalties of his era, and one of the most amazingly ‘good’ men who ever lived. In fact, it seems that Queen Victoria’s adulation was pretty accurate and she was one of the most fortunate women to be married to such a man.

In an age where dynastic marriages were often loveless affairs and it was taken for granted that princes and kings had mistresses, it is hardly surprising that Prince Albert’s fidelity was seen as something unusual and, unfortunately, people who do not go along with crowd, are often viewed as odd or uninteresting. Prince Albert’s horror of infidelity could be traced back to his childhood when he witnessed first hand, at only five years old, the departure of his beloved mother who, having been mistreated by his father, embarked on an affair and was banished from the household. At the same time, Albert was a man of such sincerity that dishonesty or deceit were abhorrent to him; and he was a devout man. If he made vows, he honoured them. This did not make him dispassionate – on the contrary, his devotion to his wife and family shows the depths of his passion. He and Victoria often sent each other erotic works of art as presents; she was enthralled by her intimacy with him and, at the same time, he was passionate about his children’s upbringing. Again, in an age where few fathers took a great deal of interest in their children’s education, Albert developed a most forward-thinking curriculum, including not only academic learning but also gardening, creativity, cooking and, above all, a social awareness. His children meant everything to him and he was one of the few princes who paid as much attention to his daughters’ education as to his sons’.

During his early years in England he was treated appallingly not only by various ministers but particularly by member of his and the Queen’s family. Unruffled, he sought at every opportunity to make allowance for people’s prejudices, and he succeeded in restoring the relationship between Queen
Victoria and her mother, as well as doing his utmost to create harmony with the Queen’s very unpleasant uncles. It was Albert’s influence that created a model for the monarchy, which had fallen into disrepute during the reigns of the Queen’s predecessors.

His passions, however, extended far beyond his family. Totally dedicated to the idea that with privilege comes responsibility, he was tireless in his concern for the people. He visited countless factories, mines and other places of work and drew up plans for improving working conditions and housing. His Great Exhibition, one of his greatest passions, was a marvel of the age and he had the foresight to realise that many people would not be able to afford the shilling brochure, so he ensured that a penny brochure was also available. He was passionate about technological advances which would make life easier for workers.

Spiritually and politically, he was passionate. Although a devout Lutheran, who personally found Catholicism conflicted with his own spirituality, he was against any form of intolerance. In the midst of a great anti-Catholic sentiment sweeping across the country, Prince Albert was prepared to stick his neck out against bigotry and it was largely thanks to him that the laws relating to the prohibition of Roman Catholic titles and the establishment of diocese in England were repealed. The idea of him being a puritan, though, is far from the truth. His understanding and gentleness in his descriptions of the promiscuous and unhappy Queen of Spain speak volumes about the heart of this beautiful man.

Time and time again, he was prepared to stand up to Parliament without undermining the constitution. Even on his death bed, he managed to avert a possible war between Britain and the USA as a result of the Trent Affair. As Daphne Bennett writes in her biography, King Without a Crown:

“It is fitting that the last public action of a man of peace was to avert so tragic a conflict.”

Perhaps it was Prince Albert’s passion that eventually wore him out. He died at only 42 years old, utterly exhausted by his fiery commitment to life and to the well-being of others!

Happy Birthday, beloved Prince!

11 comments:

Val said...

An absolutely wonderful man, without a doubt. Thank you for your lovely post about Prince Albert, Christina!

Matterhorn said...

Thank you for another lovely post!

There is an interesting condolence letter from President Lincoln to Queen Victoria, alluding to Prince Albert's role in maintaining peace between the two countries:

http://quod.lib.umich.edu/l/lincoln/lincoln5/1:265?rgn=div1;singlegenre=All;sort=occur;subview=detail;type=simple;view=fulltext;q1=victoria

Christina said...

Thank you, Val, for your kind comment! And thank you, Matterhorn, for the interesting link!

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cheryl said...

Your post was like a great shard of gleaming light invading our dark, dark world. A gift to us.
An exemplary man and model for the ages. Thank you so much.

Christina said...

Thank you for your beautiful comment, which I really appreciate. He was such a beautiful man...and reading of people like Prince Albert makes me think that perhaps it isn't such a dark, dark world since it is still filled with beautiful people (like those who take the time to comment on blog posts! :-) ), fascinating animals, Nature, scenery, learning and lovely light-giving things...
Thank you for your very kind comment :-)

Raminder Kaur said...

Really interesting

Anonymous said...

Thank you

Christina said...

You are most welcome.

Anonymous said...

What wonderful insight you have shown in your article;I have always thought that Prince Albert, in many ways, was the Invisible King who was dismissed as unimportant, but who rose above the low expectations, the prejudice, and indifference of the British people to campaign tirelessly for better working conditions to name just one of this great Prince's "Innovations", most of which are still present in our Great Britain today. T Machiavellie

Anonymous said...

Thankyou for your wonderful comments about a truly kind and caring man