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Prince Albert

Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel; 26 August 1819 – 14 December 1861) was the husband of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. He was born in the Saxon duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld to a family connected to many of Europe’s ruling monarchs. At the age of 20 he married his first cousin, Queen Victoria, with whom he had nine children. At first, Albert felt constrained by his position as consort, which did not confer any power or duties upon him. Over time he adopted many public causes, such as educational reform and the abolition of slavery, and took on the responsibilities of running the Queen’s household, estates and office. He was heavily involved with the organisation of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Albert aided in the development of Britain’s constitutional monarchy by persuading his wife to show less partisanship in her dealings with Parliament—although he actively disagreed with the interventionist foreign policy pursued during Lord Palmerston’s tenure as Foreign Secretary.

He died at the early age of 42, plunging the Queen into a deep mourning which lasted for the rest of her life. Upon Queen Victoria’s death in 1901, their son, Edward VII, succeeded as the first monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, named after the ducal house to which Albert belonged.

Consort: The position in which the prince was placed by his marriage, while one of distinction, also offered considerable difficulties; in Albert’s own words, “I am very happy and contented; but the difficulty in filling my place with the proper dignity is that I am only the husband, not the master in the house.” The Queen’s household was run by her former governess, Baroness Lehzen. Albert referred to her as the “House Dragon”, and manoeuvred to dislodge the Baroness from her position.

Legacy: Albert’s body was temporarily entombed in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.The mausoleum at Frogmore, in which his remains were deposited a year after his death, was not fully completed until 1871. The sarcophagus, in which both he and the Queen were eventually laid, was carved from the largest block of granite that had ever been quarried in Britain. Despite Albert’s request that no effigies of him should be raised, many public monuments were erected all over the country, and across the British Empire.The most notable are the Royal Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial in London. The plethora of memorials erected to Albert became so great that Charles Dickens told a friend that he sought an “inaccessible cave” to escape from them. All manner of objects are named after Prince Albert, from Lake Albert in Africa to the city of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, to the Albert Medal presented by the Royal Society of Arts. Four regiments of the British Army were named after him: 11th (Prince Albert’s Own) Hussars; Prince Albert’s Light Infantry; Prince Albert’s Own Leicestershire Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry, and The Prince Consort’s Own Rifle Brigade. He and Queen Victoria showed a keen interest in the establishment and development of Aldershot in Hampshire as a garrison town in the 1850s. They had a wooden Royal Pavilion built there in which they would often stay when attending reviews of the army. Albert established and endowed the Prince Consort’s Library at Aldershot, which still exists today.

Biographies published after his death were typically heavy on eulogy. Theodore Martin’s five-volume magnum opus was authorised and supervised by Queen Victoria, and her influence shows in its pages.

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