The Birth of Victoria, Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal

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Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa von Sachsen-Coburg and Gotha (1840-1901), Princess of Prussia and German Empress.

Only ten months after pronouncing her vows to her beloved Albert, Queen Victoria delivered forth the first of their children. The birth of Princess Victoria on 20 November 1840 was the first direct heir born to a reigning monarch in nearly 80 years. Needless to say, there were many disappointed by the birth of a princess rather than a male heir to the throne, Princess Victoria’s birth pleased the young queen and her husband. Reportedly, Queen Victoria claimed to “bear pain as well as other people” in her refusal of a sedative during the child’s birth. After learning the child was a female she is credited with saying, “Never mind, the next will be a prince.” The birth of the new princess placed more space between Queen Victoria’s and the Duke of Cumberland’s (who was the king of Hanover at the time) claims to the throne.

Dr. Charles Locock, who was later referred to as “The Great Deliverer of His Country,” served as the queen’s physician through not only this birth, but several afterward. He was paid £1000 for the successful delivery. At her christening, the new princess was given the name Victoria. She was known as “Vicky” within the family. Two months after her birth, Princess Victoria was titled as “Princess Royal.”

Albert recognized that his daughter would spend a great deal of her life in foreign courts, he set about instilling his liberal politics in the child. Even so, there was doubt that Albert truly adored his first child. Although Queen Victoria acted as women of her class did with their children, Albert’s enchantment with his first born (and the 8 children who followed her) took root early on. Victoria saw her child twice per day (at bath time and later in her dressing room when the queen dressed for dinner). Yet, queenly duties did not provide much time for “mothering” the child.

Victoria and Albert were conscious of the necessity of instilling good breeding in all their children, but also taught them something of responsibilities to those less fortunate than they. They spoke to their children of the “order” in society which placed them in the position in which they lived. Even so, they isolated their children from others for fear their positions would place them as pawns for those with untrue motives. So although the pair spoke of themselves as being “above” matters of rank, they isolated their family from many of the queen’s subjects.

While Victoria took pride in her growing brood of children, the Queen saw them as potential “agents” in doing the queen’s work. This is not to say that the Queen’s distance was returned by her children. More so, their mother’s much maligned lack of affections were displayed in her children’s adult life.

In the early days of their marriage, Albert was still trying to find his footing in his role as the Queen’s husband. He had more time for his children than did Victoria, who still did not accept his assistance with her work. He earned a reputation for interfering with the “nursery routine.” He butted heads with his wife’s former governess, Baroness Louise Lehzen, who was “head of the royal home.” Queen Victoria held an allegiance to the baroness for the woman had stood between the young Victoria and her mother’s (along with Conroy) political manipulations. The closeness between Victoria and Lehzen continued after Victoria’s rise to the throne, a situation which left Albert on the outside.

Victoria,_Princess_RoyalEven so, Albert implemented his control over the nursery. Victoria had placed him in a position to supervise their domestic arrangements at both Bukingham Palace and Windsor Castle. “But the prince’s authority was often thwarted by resentful functionaries, the palace and castle having for centuries represented the uncontested fiefdoms of a vast panoply of chamberlains, officials, stewards, high servants, and free-floating hangers-on. With Albert’s ascendancy over the monarchy’s domestic affairs, which would shortly spell the end of Lehzen’s regime, the nursery and its precious cargo was elevated into what became virtually a department of state. To oversee all those responsible for the care of his babies, Albert wrote detailed job descriptions for each staff position, including the various nurses, nursery maids, assistant nursery maids, and wet nurses [Queen Victoria most emphatically did not breast-fee her babies]. The extraordinarily stringent security arrangements that the prince devised would soon mean the introduction of convoluted hallways, secret passages, manned guardrooms blocking access to the nursery, and elaborate locks – the master keys kept, with delicious exclusivity, by Albert himself. The most fundamental rule governing this new, military structure was that the infant princess royal and her future siblings must never under any circumstances, be left alone – an irony in that the queen herself had so resented that status as a child. And as reminder that court etiquette held sway here as much as it did in the palace’s public rooms, the rules specified that the wet nurse must remain standing while feeding any royal child, obviously in recognition of the infant’s exalted station.” [Jerrold M. Packard, Victoria’s Daughters, St. Martin’s, 1998, page 20]

 

 

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About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and contemporary novels.
This entry was posted in British history, Church of England, customs and tradiitons, family, Great Britain, history, Living in the UK, marriage, marriage customs, real life tales, Victorian era and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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