Peter Takes on History
February 10, 1840
Victoria and Albert Tie The Royal Knot
Her nickname was ‘Drina, short for Alex-andrin-a, named after her godfather, Tsar Alexander the First. This little slip of a girl, who only attained a full height of 4’ 11”, had an outsized temper and threw outrageous tantrums that were particularly worrying. Some feared she’d inherited the madness of her Uncle George! We know this young terror ‘Drina as Queen Victoria.
She was born in Kensington Palace in 1819, fifth in line for the British throne, just behind the four eldest sons of her crazy uncle George III. One of those sons, her father, Edward the fourth passed away when Victoria was only eight months old. By 1837, when King William the fourth died of a heart attack, Victoria, was next in line. At just 18 years and one month old, she became Queen. But she was ready.
Her mom, Duchess Victoria, has taken that potential career path seriously! Young Victoria was drilled in manners, morality, health, languages and intellectual pursuits. She was not permitted contact with other children and was forced to sleep in her mother’s bed. Under constant supervision, she was taught constitutional principles and learned the scope of the powers of a monarch; though mom might have regretted sharing that particular lesson because the moment 18 year old Victoria became queen she grabbed a room of her own, exiled mom to a distant corner of Buckingham and got down to monarching!
She took great pleasure in ceremonies, etiquette and formalities. She stayed up late and slept in. Her court became famous for parties and youthful exuberance. Having been denied as a child, as the queen Victoria feasted! Haddock and beef, mountains of sweets, she was determined to exercise her appetite, first for food but soon, for other pleasures. The young queen who had so far resisted all advice that she take a husband, abruptly changed her tune.
There was no shortage of European princes who could offer both advantageous political and horizontal alliances but at the top of her list … and there at the bottom of the stairs, was her first cousin Albert. She wrote, “I went to the top of the staircase and … it was with some emotion that I beheld Albert.” He had “such beautiful blue eyes, an exquisite nose, and such a pretty mouth.” He had “a beautiful figure, broad in the shoulders and a fine waist”. After five days of dancing, dining and delightful dalliances, Victoria proposed to Albert and he accepted.
A wedding was planned for this day in history, the 10th of February, 1840.
Royal Wedding fever swept England. Charles Dickens wrote, “Society is unhinged here by her majesty’s marriage, and I am sorry to add that I have fallen hopelessly in love with the Queen.” The people saw their young queen as a romantic, virginal figure ready to break with the past ... and she did!
The tradition of the bride wearing white actually began with Victoria. Before Victoria women would get married in their best dress, no matter the color. But Victoria chose white for her and her bridesmaids and forbade anyone else to wear white. The white dresses made Victoria easier to spot in the church and in her golden carriage, on the way to the church, where thousands of her subjects lined the boulevards hoping to catch a glimpse.
Victoria and Albert’s wedding cake was gargantuan; 300 pounds and three yards across. The couple also ordered 100 additional smaller cakes that were sent to relatives, ambassadors and state officials.
But here’s where the “storybook” takes a turn. Their wedding night unleashed an even greater appetite in “Her Little Majesty.” She notes in her journal (she wrote everything down; 122 volumes at her death) that night “we didn’t sleep”. She wrote, “His excessive love and affection gave me feelings of heavenly love and happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before!” Within weeks she was pregnant with her first. Seven of the couple’s nine children were born in the first decade of their marriage. Victoria loved sex but hated the result. She detested being pregnant and despised babies! She wrote in her journal they are “mere little plants for the first six months” and with their “big body and little limbs and that terrible frog-like action” they’re just frightful!
And she didn’t warm to them as they grew. The hovering despot openly ranked her children from favorite to despised.
Victoria was clearly Queen of the Era, but never Mother of the Year.