So many great romances deal with trials and tribulations for the sake of love, or rely on the thrill of the forbidden, but every once in awhile the stars align just right, and two people who were destined to be together find each other without drama or fanfare or even much searching.
Princess Victoria had barely turned eighteen when her uncle, William IV, died in 1837, but as the only living child of the sons of George III, she became Queen of England. Although queens before her had ruled without husbands, Victoria’s other uncle wanted her to marry one of her cousins, Albert of Saxe-Coburg, in order to secure ties between Bavaria and Britian.
Fortunately for him, Victoria developed a fondness for the young and dashing Prince Albert, but she didn’t feel ready to marry just yet. As the only heir to the throne, she had spent her entire life under a strict set of rules designed for her safety, and she wasn’t ready to give up the new-found freedom that being the monarch gave her. Eventually, however, Victoria came around and she asked Albert for his hand. Queens, after all, do the proposing.
They were married in February 1840 and although the marriage was arranged, there was no doubt that the young couple were completely besotted with each other. The morning after the wedding, Victoria wrote of her joy in her journal.
I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert … his excessive love & affection gave me feelings of heavenly love & happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms, & we kissed each other again & again! His beauty, his sweetness & gentleness – really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband! … to be called by names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before – was bliss beyond belief! Oh! This was the happiest day of my life!
Within two months, Victoria was carrying their first child. Although it was rumored that Victoria hated pregnancy, they would go on to have eight more. Today, their descendents sit on almost all of the major European thrones.
Many prince consorts might have sat back and enjoyed their wife’s wealth and power, but Albert was a great reformer, as well as an abolitionist and an evolutionist (he wanted to knight Charles Darwin). The fact that all nine of his children lived to adulthood has been credited to his modern ideas about sanitation and health. He and Victoria were partners and with Albert at her side, her rule gave rise to the British Empire.
Victoria: Do you ever feel like a chess piece yourself? In a game being played against your will.
Albert: Do you?
Victoria: Constantly. I see them leaning in and moving me around the board.
Albert: The Duchess and Sir John?
Victoria: Not just them. Uncle Leopold. The king. I’m sure half the politicians are ready to seize hold of my skirts and drag me from square to square.
Albert: Then you had better master the rules of the game until you play it better than they can.
Victoria: You don’t recommend I find a husband to play it for me?
Albert: I should find one to play it with you.
– The Young Victoria, 2009
Unfortunately, Victoria and Albert didn’t get to spend their entire lives together. In December 1861, Albert died of typhoid fever, although historians think he might have had a chronic condition like cancer. He was 42. Victoria went into deep mourning, rarely appearing in public and wearing black for the rest of her life.
Historically, royal couples have a very bad track record when it comes to romance, but Albert and Victoria were the rare royals whose marriage had a solid foundation of love and respect.