Sunday, April 18, 2010

Queen Victoria's Child of Anxiety

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were very concerned when they noticed that their eighth child, Leopold, was thin and weak and bruised very easily. They were horrified when the diagnosis was haemopilia - a hereditary bleeding disease.

Their 'child of anxiety' was born on April 8, 1853. Queen Victoria was inclined to be over-protective of this sickly child who wanted to play normally with his brothers and sisters. He was easily injured and often prevented from playing games because of the danger. Prince Albert was more understanding and a mentor to his son without being too protective. He would ride and walk with his young son.

Leopold was clever, amusing, and curious. He showed some talent in art and enjoyed playing the piano which he was also good at. He learned to read quickly and liked reading. He impressed his mother with his lack of shyness and intelligent conversation and he helped her entertain guests.

Queen Victoria was so pleased with him that she gave him the Order of the Garter a year earlier than her other sons. She liked his persistence and dedication to learning in spite of his illness.

Leopold studied art, science, and modern languages at Christ College, Oxford. He started to acquire an extensive library and collected ceramics and art. He was a cultured man who became friends with Arthur Sullivan and Charles Dodson. He enjoyed the theatre, concerts and the opera.

The delicate young man tried constantly to stand up to his concerned and dominating mother. She didn't want him to travel overseas because of the danger but she gave him permission to visit Italy in 1878. Leopold loved the Continent and wrote to Queen Victoria that he didn't want to return to visit Balmoral. This shocked the Queen who suggested that he stay upstairs at Buckingham Palace instead! Leopold was not to be swayed and stayed longer than he originally intended in Paris.

Queen Victoria respected him more after this and let him travel abroad more often. Leopold toured Canada and visited the US with his sister, Louise, and her husband, the Governor-General of Canada.

Leopold tried not to let his illness stop him from being involved in royal duties and charities. He was very interested in furthering education and supported many educational institutions, such as The Royal Institution for the Deaf and Dumb. He also supported the establishment of a Royal College of Music. The Queen chose him to help her with her private correspondence and despatches. Bertie, the eldest son and heir to the throne, was not pleased about this.

When Leopold was 28 he was created Duke of Albany. He decided to look for a wife. He may have been interested in Alice Liddell's sister. She became engaged to one of his closest friends but tragically died. Leopold was a pall-bearer at her funeral.

He married Helen of Waldeck-Pyrmont, Queen Emma of the Netherland's sister. She was not afraid of Queen Victoria and stood up to her, even though her children usually didn't. In 1883 their first daughter, Princess Alice, was born.

Leopold wanted to be Governor-General of Canada or Australia but the Queen vetoed these ideas. He carried on with his charities and royal duties in England instead but he couldn't sustain the fight against his tragic illness. Harsh winds blew in the February and March of 1884 and Leopold was advised to go to Cannes for his health. He slipped on a tiled floor in Cannes and hit his knee. Two days later he died. The Duchess was pregnant with their second child. Charles Edward never knew his father.

Princess Alice lived to 98 - she had the longest life of the Queen's grandchildren.


Kittie Howard said...

The lady who lives down the street is named Alice. Her parents immigrated to the States decades ago from Canada. Alice is now 83. She was named after Princess Alice. And proudly tells the story!

Viola said...

It's wonderful that you know someone who was named after Princess Alice. I wish that I was named after someone royal! At least there is a princess with my name in 'War and Peace'. If only she wasn't fictitious.

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