We take a closer look at who Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany was, his personal life, and how he influenced the course of history.
Leopold George Duncan Albert was the youngest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Born on the 7th of April, 1853 at Buckingham Palace, London, his birth brought about the sanction to use anesthesia in childbirth by the Queen, who herself used the recently developed chloroform during labor. Prince Leopold was named after King Leopold I of Belgium.
Leopold, being the eighth child of his parents was the Queen’s favorite. He also inherited the disease hemophilia from his mother. Due to the fragility of his health, he had several physicians permanently waiting on him during his early years. Leopold’s constant need to be careful helped channel his energy into intellectual activities. His artistic and literary inclinations were nurtured by his tutor.
Prince Leopold was a student at Christ Church, the University of Oxford where he studied a variety of subjects. During his Oxford days, Prince Leopold was initiated in the Apollo University Lodge and became an active Freemason. Prince Leopold’s interests in intellectual reasoning kindled his love for chess, and he soon rose to become the President of the Oxford University Chess Club. In 1874, he was made a privy councilor, which was an adviser to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom, and for which he was granted an annuity of 15 Thousand pounds (₤15,000).
By 1876, Prince Leopold left the University of Oxford with an honorary doctorate in civil law. His passion for chess continued after graduation as he was a permanent patron of chess, and the London chess tournament in 1883 was held under his patronage.
Prince Leopold served as an unofficial secretary to the Queen and became a patron of the arts and literature. He sought to pursue grander appointments like vice-regal appointments in Canada and the Colony of Victoria but was prevented from doing so by his mother. This led to his quest to get married to become independent.
His sickness made it difficult for him to find a wife despite having many female acquaintances. Eventually, his mother set up a marriage between himself and Princess Helena Friederike, the daughter of Georg Vikor (Reigning Prince of Waldeck-Pyrmont). On the 27th of April 1882, they got married at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Their marriage yielded two children, Princess Alice (Countess of Athlone) and Charles Edward (Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha).
On the 24th of May 1881, Prince Leopold was created Duke of Albany, Earl of Clarence, and Baron Arklow. Even though he was not serving in the military, he had an honorary association with the 72nd Regiment, Duke of Albany’s Own Highlanders. He served as the first Colonel-in-Chief of the Seaforth Highlanders when the regiment was formed in 1881.
In 1884, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany went to his Cannes residence to avoid worsening his illness due to the winter climate in the United Kingdom around February. His pregnant wife stayed back at home. Unfortunately, on the 27th of March 1884, Leopold slipped and fell, hitting his head. In a matter of hours, he was dead from a cerebral hemorrhage.