Life with Prince Albert
Although Victoria initially hesitated to involve her husband Prince Albert in matters of state, she eventually came to rely on his advice and counsel as much or more than that of any person in the government. Albert himself was intelligent and ambitious, and had definite opinions where politics was concerned. He more often than not sided with the Conservatives in the government, influencing the Queen to do the same in short time, and his understanding of international issues was much more highly developed than his young bride's.
Victoria and Albert were very happy with each other. Victoria gave birth to nine children into the world in a span of eighteen years. Their first child was the Princess Royal Victoria Adelaide Mary Louise, who was born on November twenty-one, 1840. She grew to be very pretty, intelligent, and talented, contrasting with the relative gracelessness of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, Albert Edward, and future King Edward VII, who was born November nine, 1841. Alice Maud Mary was born in 1843. Alfred Ernest Albert was born the following year, and was nicknamed "Affie". Helena Augusta Victoria was born in 1846, and she was nicknamed "Lenchen." Louise Caroline Alberta was born in 1848; Arthur William Patrick, reputably the Queen's favorite son, was born in 1850; Leopold George Duncan, a hemophiliac, was born in 1853. The Queen's last child Beatrice Mary Victoria, nicknamed "Baby," was born in 1857.
Needless to say, Victoria spent much of her first two decades as queen in the state of pregnancy. In her diaries, she often complained about her pregnancies, and seemed to dislike infants. Albert, on the other hand, was very fond of the children as babies, though grew more distant, particularly from his sons, as they grew older. The royal children grew up under the watchful eye of their parents, and Victoria and Albert were very serious about their education, and were the first royal couple in England to send sons to Oxford and Cambridge. The Prince of Wales, however, hated college, and did not graduate after brief stints at both universities.
Desiring to get away from life at Buckingham Palace, which they often found unpleasant, Victoria bought Osborne House on the Isle of Wight in 1845, and together with Albert made it what she called in her diary "a place of our own." Though grand in scale, it was modest and simple compared to her other royal residences, and Osborne House became a favorite retreat of the Queen and her family. Victoria and Albert were also very fond of the Scottish Highlands, and they bought Balmoral Castle in the northeast of Scotland in 1852. Life at Balmoral was comparatively unrefined for the royals, and the Queen enjoyed dressing her sons in kilts, drinking whiskey, and taking long walks through the Scottish hills. The Queen's predilection for Scotland set a trend, and tartans and bagpipes became extremely popular among the middle classes of Britain.
In a manner unlike any previous royal family, Victoria's endeared themselves to the growing middle classes of Britain because they were less distant from them in their manners and tastes. This was true not only in the royals' quiet home- life, relative thriftiness, and penchant for far-less magnificent architecture than had been traditional for British monarchs, but also in Victoria and Albert's support of middle-class pursuits such as industry, finance, and technological advancement. Albert, especially, became known as a great patron of such things throughout Britain, and he also took charge of redesigning the royal households according to more efficient, scientific models.
In 1857, the Queen persuaded Parliament to officially grant Albert the title "Prince Consort." Parliament had been reluctant to grant such a title, but after seventeen years the Prince had established his position of influence in the government and alongside his sovereign Queen, and British officials felt comfortable granting the title. The matter of Albert's title had caused controversy for some time early in his marriage to Victoria. One reason for this controversy was that there had been very few precedents of a sovereign queen with a non-reigning husband at her side. In a time when it was nearly universally acknowledged that the husband was the master of his family and the wife vowed obedience to him in the wedding ceremony, many British people were perplexed over what role Albert, as husband, should play with his wife, who was legally his ruler.
Queen Victoria was thoroughly devoted to Albert and trusted his judgment absolutely. Though queen of all Great Britain, Ireland, and a growing overseas empire, Victoria saw her role as wife and mother in traditional terms and placed these roles at the center of her life. Simultaneously, Victoria was a model of both a new sort of power for women in Britain as well as of traditional feminine virtues.
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