Victoria, Princess Royal: A Remarkable Life of Influence and Tragedy

Victoria, Princess Royal, born on 21 November 1840, was an influential figure as the German Empress and Queen of Prussia. As the eldest child of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Victoria played a significant role in shaping the political landscape of Germany. Her progressive views and aspirations for a constitutional monarchy aligned with the British model set her apart. In this article, we delve into the remarkable life of Victoria, Princess Royal, her upbringing, marriage, and her lasting impact as a mother and a political influencer.

Early Life and Education

Victoria, Princess Royal, was born at Buckingham Palace, London, on 21 November 1840. As the first child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, she was destined for a unique position. Despite initial disappointment at her gender, Victoria’s parents nurtured her with love and care. Her baptism took place in the Throne Room of Buckingham Palace on 10 February 1841. Queen Adelaide, the King of the Belgians, and other esteemed individuals were her godparents.

Both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were determined to provide their children with an extensive education. Recognizing the importance of a well-rounded upbringing, they ensured Victoria received a comprehensive education. Under the guidance of her father, Victoria gained a deep understanding of politics, philosophy, and history. She excelled academically, showing a thirst for knowledge and a strong intellect. Her education also included languages, such as French, German, Greek, and Latin. Victoria’s education extended beyond the classroom, as she engaged in manual work and practical life lessons at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.

Victoria, Princess Royal: A Remarkable Life of Influence and Tragedy
Image: The Princess Royal as a young child. Portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1842.
Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

First Meeting with Frederick: A Promising Connection

In 1851, at the Great Exhibition in London, Victoria met Prince Frederick of Prussia, who would later become her husband. Despite their age difference, their connection was undeniable. Victoria’s fluency in German and their shared liberal ideals allowed them to communicate effortlessly. This initial meeting left a lasting impression on both individuals, with Frederick admiring Victoria’s innocence, intellectual curiosity, and simplicity.

The correspondence between Victoria and Frederick continued, strengthening their bond. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert saw an opportunity to forge closer ties with Prussia through this marriage. Their efforts to unite liberal ideals with the Prussian monarchy fueled their support for the relationship. It was during this time that Victoria’s father instilled in her a deeper understanding of Prussian politics and history.

Engagement and Marriage: A Union of Hope

Following Frederick’s second visit to Great Britain in 1855, an engagement was announced on 17 May 1856. The news, however, was met with disapproval in Britain due to Prussia’s perceived neutrality during the Crimean War. Nevertheless, the engagement proceeded, and Victoria and Frederick married on 25 January 1858 at the Chapel Royal of St. James’s Palace in London.

As Princess Royal, Victoria retained her title after marriage, emphasizing the significance of her British heritage. However, this decision drew criticism from the anti-British Berlin court. Despite the challenges, Victoria and Frederick remained devoted to their vision of a liberal Prussia and the unification of Germany.

Crown Princess of Prussia: Navigating Challenges

Victoria faced numerous challenges during her tenure as Crown Princess of Prussia. Financial constraints and limited freedom of movement posed significant obstacles. Frederick’s ill health compounded their difficulties, as he battled laryngeal cancer. Despite the political climate and personal hardships, Victoria continued to contribute significantly to the family budget, relying on her dowry and personal allowances.

As her father ascended the throne in 1861, Victoria hoped to advance their shared liberal ideals. However, King William I‘s conservative views hindered their progress. Victoria and Frederick persevered, focusing on symbolic gestures and modest reforms during Frederick’s brief reign as emperor.

German Empress: A Legacy of Influence

Tragically, Frederick’s reign as emperor lasted a mere 99 days before his death in 1888. Victoria, now known as Empress Frederick, faced increased isolation and challenges under the reign of her son, Wilhelm II, who held conservative views. Nonetheless, she continued to exert influence behind the scenes, advocating for causes she believed in and supporting liberal-minded individuals.

In her later years, Empress Frederick dedicated herself to painting and enjoyed visiting the artists’ colony of Kronberg. However, her health deteriorated, and she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1898. Despite her illness, she remained politically astute, ensuring her personal letters were kept away from the prying eyes of the Berlin court.

Empress Frederick passed away on 5 August 1901, less than seven months after her mother, Queen Victoria. She was laid to rest alongside her husband in the royal mausoleum of the Friedenskirche at Potsdam.

Conclusion

Victoria, Princess Royal: A Remarkable Life of Influence and Tragedy
Image: Thomas Heinrich Voigt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Victoria, Princess Royal, made a lasting impact as a progressive thinker and influencer during her time as German Empress and Queen of Prussia. Her vision for a constitutional monarchy and dedication to liberal ideals set her apart from her contemporaries.

Despite facing personal hardships and political obstacles, Victoria’s unwavering commitment to her beliefs ensured her legacy endured. Empress Frederick’s contributions to Germany’s political landscape, her dedication to education, and her influential correspondence with her parents offer valuable insights into a transformative era.

*Feature Image: Thomas Heinrich Voigt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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