Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld is perhaps most remembered for being Queen Victoria’s mother. Born to Francis Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and Countess Augusta of Reuss-Ebersdorf the Princess had a charmed and carefree childhood.
Rather early into what was then considered adulthood, the Princess first married Emich Carl, Prince of Leiningen. This match was considered by many as not just suitable but rather advantageous for both families.
As was the social norm in those days, her brothers and sisters also married into various royal and dukal families. Her brother Leopold tied the knot with the Princess Charlotte of Wales before becoming King of the Belgians as Leopold I of Belgium.
Her sister Princess Juliane of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld married the Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich of Russia. Meanwhile, her eldest brother Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was matched with Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.
At the tender age of 17, Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield was married to Emich Carl, 2nd Prince of Leiningen. Emich Carl, aged 57 at this time, was encouraged to marry Princess Victoria two years after the death of his first wife Princess Henriette of Reuss-Ebersdorf who happened to have also been Victoria’s aunt.
Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and Emich Carl had two children; Carl, 3rd Prince of Leiningen born in 1804 and Princess Feodora of Leiningen born in 1807. Princess Victoria, unfortunately, did not have much time with her then-husband, who passed away shortly after in 1814.
Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld loved her new independence and committed her time by looking after her children (although many scholars believed her to have been a very controlling and manipulative mother). However, the death of Charlotte, Leopold’s wife, jeopardised the family’s future and position as well as that of the British monarchy. With Charlotte having been the only legitimate heir, she was destined to become King George IV‘s successor. As such her death meant there was no clear heir to the throne of England.
Leopold managed to convince Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn to marry his widowed sister. Despite this plan, it was no secret that Victoria never took to the idea with open arms at first.
It is said that Victoria found the Duke wanting, unappealing and unideal for her. Only persistence from Leopold and the Duke prevailed and eventually won her over.
Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld married the Duke on 29th May 1818. The couple moved to Germany to evade the high living costs of England as her new husband the Duke was struggling financially.
While in Germany, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld became pregnant but the Duke wanted to have their child born on British soil, so they had to return once more to Britain.
The couple returned to England and moved into Kensington Palace just in time for their daughter’s birth on 24th May 1819. They named their daughter Alexandrina Victoria who would later become Queen Victoria after Princess Victoria.
Due to the Duke’s mounting debts, they could not afford to live in London. Because of this, the family made the move to Devon where they would try to live incognito.
Not long after, the Duke contracted a heavy cold, which the doctors could not treat. So, shortly after his 52nd birthday, he passed away, less than a year after his daughter’s birth and a mere six days before the death of his father George III. Once more, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld became a widow.
Following the death of her husband, the Queen’s mother never married again but it was rumoured that she had taken a few lovers during this period, most notably Sir John Conroy. The Duke of Clarence was even known to have jokingly referred to Conroy as King John at various occasions.
Princess Victoria also had a very well-documented testing relationship with her daughter partly thanks to Sir John Conroy. It escalated to the point where when Victoria became Queen, she ensured that her mother would be moved in to separate accommodations far away from hers within Buckingham Palace.
It is believed that following Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert and the birth of their children, the Queen and her mother once again reconciled. Following this, they became quite close during Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld‘s later days.
At the age of 74, Princess Victoria died at 09:30 on 16 March 1861 with her daughter at her side during her final hours.