SYMHC Classics: Victoria and Albert
Happy Saturday, everyone since Valentine's Day is coming up soon. We thought we would take a moment to look back at a historical love story. And that is Victoria and Albert courtesy of previous hosts, Sarah Andolina, Victoria is definitely one of our problematic favorites, I've very open that she is problematic ruler. And a fascinating woman, and I love her despite her many flaws, but this episode is really focused on the two of them and their relationship and how they got together rather than her time as monarch or the greeter story of what was happening in the world. There are some scandals mentioned though, including the lady flora Hastings scandal that we have done a whole episode on. But otherwise enjoy a Royal love story. We'll come to stuff you missed in history class from how stuff works dot com. Hello and welcome to the podcast. I'm fair dowdy. And I'm forty and to me it really seems like Queen Victoria is our classic background podcast character. We've joked before that she just pops up when you least expect her. She really does. I think somebody even suggested once that we have some stock music noise whenever Queen Victoria appears. But until recently she hadn't gotten a podcast to herself earlier this spring. We finally did an episode on Victoria, focusing on her last great friendship, which was a relationship with her Indian teacher Abdul Karim, and that was sort of a strange lesser known side of Torius life, and it was also late in her life by the time Kareem new, Victoria. She was an elderly woman in the period, we focused on with she was in her seventies eighties. It was it was late in Victoria's reign. Yeah. But listeners are usually more interested in the queen's early years probably largely because of the recent film, young, Victoria, which I'm sure a lot of listeners have seen. It's all about. About romance ribbons and no nine kids in the picture yet for Victoria and Albert. So we're gonna talk about that side of Torius life her romance with her husband's specifically, but we'll also revisit one of our common themes, which is that of these sad, Royal childhood and to understand that we have to I look at why Victoria became Queen in the first place. Yeah. So it's pretty remarkable that the throne went to Victoria, because her father was the fourth adult son of George the third usually if you have that many kids, the throne isn't gonna go to the daughter of the fourth son, however, George the third sons weren't that inclined to marry and produce legitimate offspring at least. So consequently, those crisis developed in eighteen seventeen so George the third in his wife Charlotte had fifteen children and for many years there eldest son had acted as regent for his insane father. He was known as the prince regent and later, George the fourth so the prince regent had a legit air of his own daughter named Charlotte. Mott and for a long time. She was really the darling of the country, and it really seemed like the succession was guaranteed when she married the future king of the Belgians Leopold, but in eighteen seventeen at age twenty one she died in childbirth and her son was stillborn, so two generations right there wiped out at one time and the country went into a deep mourning. Okay. So they're still airs though, it wasn't like there just are no children around. But the air they're mostly middle-aged princes, and they don't have kids. So the race is off the first prince of the blood the first son of George the third to make an air gets his debts cancelled by the prince regent. So pretty good deal. Because a lot of these guys are into gambling and fast living anyway. Yeah. But it's not as easy as it seems right? No. It's not at all. So the prince regent will obviously start with him. He's the eldest son. He was separated from his wife. So there's no chance they're of another air. The same went for the next in line. The Duke of your. Work and after him, there's the Duke of Clarence the third son. So he he took took the challenge up if you could call it that and he married a German Princess, but unfortunately, none of their children survived infancy. So the next son in line all came down to the Duke of Kent, and he dumped his longtime mistress and married. A woman who had already had children. So he knew she was fertile, Victoria, Mary Louisa who is the daughter of the Duke of Saxe cobourg, Saul feld, and she was also the widow of a German print. So bingo, we have our winners in this couple. Finally. Yeah, sounds so unromantic when you say fertile put it that way. But that is what it was all about going for and once the duchess became pregnant, the Duke of Kent started making plans for the child to be born on English soil. They'd been living in Bavaria at the time. And he wrote that they need to get back in order to quote, render the child. My wife bears virtually as well as legally English, but the region had an exactly followed through on that whole cancel your debt steel and the Duke couldn't find the funds to move entourage until March of eighteen nineteen. And so by the time, the duchess actually got back on English soil. She was already eight months along. Yeah. They had trouble getting lodgings too. Because these brothers the prince regent and the Duke of Kent really didn't get along very, well, but the prince regent does grant them apartments in Kensington Palace on may twenty fourth eighteen nineteen Alexandrina Victoria was born. And she was this big healthy baby. And things looked promising. She got her name, though, the Alexandrina part from her godfather who was the Russians are Alexander the first and the story behind that is is kind of strange and also further speaks to this feud between the brothers the region had forbidden Victoria's parents to use any of the standard names that Royal baby girls were being called, Charlotte. Elizabeth Georgina can kind of see. His rationale behind Charlotte. Not having the new era named the same thing as his deceased daughter, but still a weird stipulation yen. As a result, the people of England still weren't entirely, sure. What her name was even up to the morning of her a session at age eighteen. Yeah. Alex, Andrine a- or Victoria, even though she had actually always gone by Victoria as a girl in in her home. But the little Princess was really born just in the Nikko time though for this family because only eight months after her birth her father, the Duke of Kent died, and so six days after that, George the third died, and that made the prince regent, finally, George the fourth and that made Victoria third in line to the throne after her two goals, but she gets even closer as the years. Go by in these uncle start to to die off when the eldest of the two uncles died in eighteen twenty seven. She was obviously one step closer in eventually when George the fourth died and her uncle the Duke of Clarence. Came William the fourth Victoria was next in line from the throne so from birth. She was raised to be a likely Queen. Although not guaranteed Queen it, it you still didn't know if somebody might have a kid between her birth and when she came to the throne. Yeah. But it's interesting even though she was raised as a Queen the whole time, nobody really told her of her position until she was about ten years old though. There's that classic story where she had a family tree inserted into a history book and studied it and suddenly pronounced I will be good. And so that's probably likely untrue. He other chew competing versions of that starts pretty good story. But it's a little hard to backup and Victoria herself remembered the realization as being a lot more dramatic, and that makes sense to me for our this girl who was not raised to to know, she was going to be Queen. She said I cried much on learning it and even deplored this contingency. Yeah. But it seems like a really natural reaction as you pointed out because her life turned out to be pretty rich. Aged because of the speaker of hers, she had lots of lessons languages, like talion Latin writing history music, drawing arithmetic, geography, religion, she learned all kinds of. Yes. Maybe that wasn't so bad. But it did make her life pretty busy. But she also didn't get a lot to eat. She had bread and milk served to her a silver bowl and she had a really early bedtime. Lots of exercise and most notably strict 'isolation. Yeah. So we could we could out the lesson than the not much food in the early bedtime in the exercise into the that's kind of standard for the lives of many British aristocratic children at this time. But this strict isolation with something unique. And it was the the design of her mother's companion in adviser a guy named, sir. John Conroy and the duchess herself. And they called it the Kensington system, and it was the wave Ikaria was brought up it was a course of rigorous private studies and 'isolation. From her peers and consequently Victoria's main companion during her early years was her elder half sister Feodor her her mother's daughter by her first marriage and after feud or a left to marry since she was quite a few years older than Victoria, Victoria was pretty distraught. And turn to her governess a woman named Louise lates, and and she really became her her main companion and just sort of heard her defense against her. This conniving Conroy character who was such a strong influence in her household. Yeah. And she really needed it because Conroy even kept her away from her own family. He encouraged the duchess to keep Victoria away from her quote wicked uncles and by isolating Victoria from her paternal family, the Royal family, right Conroy hoped to create a better position for himself. Should William the fourth die before Victoria majority. And that was really the plan because hopefully if hopefully Conroy if William the fourth died, then the. Duchess of Kent would become regent. And because Conroy control the duchess of Kent. He would essentially rule England. So was all a play for power, definitely. And at one point when Victoria was sick with serious illness, Conroy in the duchess even tried to pressure. The sixteen year old Princess into extending her minority from age eighteen to age twenty one. She refused though. Yeah. With the help of her governess actually that was something that really endeared the woman to her. He really wanted to remind you about the end of the world with Josh Clark, a fabulous mind-bending podcast series. That is now complete. So you can binge all ten episodes at once and have yourself a grand old time. Josh Clark is as you probably know co host of stuff, you should know. And for the end of the world, he dives deeply into existential risks the ways that we humans might accidentally wipe ourselves out with the same technology that we're developing to make a brighter future for ourselves. This is heavy heady stuff to be sure. But the end of the world delivers the fascinating science behind existential risks through an immersive experience with a beautiful original score. And cinematic sound is on that takes you from spacecraft trying to navigate interstellar space too deep inside your body, and even to the far future where humans have evolved into a post biological species who live in digital form, which sounds pretty great to me. If you're a curious person who gets jazzed by fascinating science and astounding philosophical questions the end of the world with Josh Clark. Is waiting for you to just binge your heart out, and they will take you under adventure? You can find it on apple podcast the iheartradio app or wherever you get your podcasts. The Kensington system, obviously couldn't maintain the strict privacy con constantly. I mean, she was a Queen to be so in eighteen thirty the duchess of Kent decided that she wanted to sort of validate her own education system, but also show off her daughter to Victoria's future people. So she set up the series of examinations by three clerics and Victoria, performed really. Well, the duchess was valid validated. Because I think the cleric said, yeah, we we couldn't you couldn't do anything better. She's being educated just as she should be. But the duchess also arranged for Victoria travel tham in see her country, and that was pretty a pretty major event in young Victoria's life. Yeah. In eighteen thirty two before Victoria toward the Midlands and north Wales. She was given a journal by her mother, and she kept a journal for the rest of her life. I think we talked about that a lot and be Taurean Abdul Karim up. So yes, so we know that she eventually even starts die. Like journaling in Hindustani, which is pretty impressive. Yeah. But what's interesting is when you look at these early journals, sometimes the politely restrained entries Victoria's journals of that time period. Contrast with the quote behavior books that she kept from eighteen thirty and on for her governess and these books, basically, I mean, you told me a little bit about them. Sarah is basically like her governess wanted her to judge herself. So right down her her opinion on her conduct on her house. She performed in her studies for the day and do that every single day. So a real self judgment. So just to illustrate some differences you'd see between the two sometimes in one behavior. Book entry from September eighteen thirty two she wrote that she had been very very very very horribly naughty with many exclamation points. All caps all caps. But on the same day as the horribly naughty entry all she wrote in her own journal. Is that the heat was intolerable? Yeah. Though. I mean. I think this gives you sort of sense of Victoria as a young girl. She's she sort of dramatic. She has this traumatic flair to her. Maybe melodramatic some would say, but she's also good at at either concealing things or just sort of sort of playing it cool. You know, not divulging everything in her journals. Maybe because no freight a parent might read it or just practicing for the restraints she would need as Queen. So she had a lonely childhood, but not a completely miserable one. She had a ton of pets. She liked playing dress up. She liked to writing she wrote compositions inspired by popular novels, and she also water colored and would paint costumes and poses after attending the theater concerts. And she was also strongly attached to her uncle Leopold, her mother's brother and the one time husband of the Charlotte who had died in childbirth. When we mentioned earlier in this episode. He lived in Surrey until becoming king of the Belgians in eighteen thirty one, and it's through Leopold's work that she meets her. Future match. Yeah. So only three months after Victoria's birth. Her mother in Leopold's other brother, the Duke of Saxe Coburg thal filled auto had a child named Albert in. It's it's really kind of cute Victoria's born in the beginning of the summer and Alberts born at the end of the summer, but Albert was the second son with no fortune coming his way, so all along from his birth. His family kinda hoped for this match with cousin victorious she clearly had some good things come into her. So for Victoria, seventeenth birthday, the plans, the family starts to try to put this plan into action in Albert and his brother Ernest and his father all visited England. But Albert was kind of an awkward teen at this point. He sounds really awkward actually he had fainting spells he didn't really like dancing and Victoria was was sort of a vase young girl. Even though she was raised in such strict 'isolation, and she really had more of a crush on these. Three visiting Persian princes. Anyway, so we're gonna put Albert on the back burner. He didn't make a great first impression. But apparently she put him on the back burners. Well, she did too. But we need to move on anyways. Because Victoria, had some pretty big changes coming her way. Yes. Early on June twentieth. Eighteen thirty seven king. William the fourth died. He had managed to stay alive. Just long enough for his niece to reach majority. She was barely eighteen when he passed away and after being told of her new position, Victoria met with the Privy Council, and they were really impressed with her. She carried herself. Well, she spoke. Well, plus, it was sort of romantic to have this teenage Queen. She's really an unknown quantity at this point because of the Kensington system and the way she's been raised, but for Victoria, it was just total relief. She was free at last and she moved Buckingham Palace. And for the first time, she had a room to herself, and she's sort of on bad terms with her mother because of the way she had brought. John Conroy into her life and all of that and pushed her mother away into faraway apartments in Buckingham Palace and sent Conroy off entirely really enjoyed her independence in sort of lived it up as as you might expect a teenager to. But later said it was the least sensible in satisfactory time in her whole life. So she she clearly realized that she overindulged a little bit in her newfound freedom, didn't maybe take her role as seriously as as she wished. She had later. And there were some errors that she made in that early period. She started a close relationship, for example, with Lord Melbourne than prime minister, he boosted herself confidence. But also shaped her politics, she became a wig at this time and taught her to partly ignore social problems or write them off as the issues of agitators. Yeah. In that partisanship, which of course, the Queen was not supposed to be vertically partisan like that really lead to trouble in two crises broke out in eight. Eighteen thirty nine and the first was the Hastings affair, and this is just sort of a scandalous would be pregnancy story. But basically, Victoria forced lady flora Hastings who was a maid of honor with Tori connection, so divergent from Victoria's own politics to undergo a pregnancy examination, and it turned out that he's things was not pregnant that was sort of scandal number one, then within a year Hastings died of a tumor that hadn't been diagnosed by Victoria's physician scandal number two while that's going on though. Who's another another issue brewing? Yeah. The bedchamber crisis which occurred when Melbourne resigned in eighteen thirty nine and was replaced by conservative, Sir, Robert peel, but Victoria, wanted to keep her old whig ladies of the bedchamber so peel wouldn't take office and this caused a huge scandal. Yeah. So Victoria's desire to be independent. That's probably kind of at route of the two scandals. We just mentioned but independent as in single. To that desired did not go over well with parliament with her people she needed an air. So Victoria, reluctantly started to interview eligible Protestant princes. It was kind of slim, Pickens. So in eighteen thirty nine she invited cousin Albert back to England from his studies at the university of bun and he's not an awkward teenager anymore victorious smitten. She wrote in her journal Albert really is quite charming. And so extremely handsome a beautiful figure broad in the shoulders and fine waste, my heart is quite going. Yeah. He was the one and she liked what she saw. And since he was not allowed to Victoria proposed marriage. Just a few days later and the couple were married that February February tenth eighteen forty and it wasn't the most popular marriage match that could have been at least, I parliament wasn't pleased. The that the crown was about to get even more German. That's how they saw the couple even spoke German at home. So that was a big deal. And also, the British aristocracy found Albert to be overly moral to academic and to artistic but the marriage also ironed out some of tortillas controversy. We're happy at least that she was married in. There would be an air in the future. Yeah. And it certainly changed the wave toria plan to rule which we're gonna look at as well. Yeah in this is about where the movie young, Victoria leaves off. I think they have the conjoined desks. Limit super cute. But that's not exactly how things were going. So the desks did exist though, I was pleased to win that. So for the first few months, Victoria, was really determined to to stay independent she she liked ruling on her own. And so they did work at those conjoined tandem deaths, but Albert only got to blot her signature which for a very ambitious and talented and educated man, this was pretty frustrating. The brink is a new podcast from how stuff works hosted by Ariel Castanon Jonathan Strickland. It's all about how remarkable entrepreneurs made tough choices while facing potential disaster. The odds were against them. But they did not back down, for instance, Juno that when Walt Disney set his mind to making the first feature length animated film, Snow White in the seven wharfs the rest of the film industry thought he was never going to succeed they called it. Disney's folly his own wife Lillian and his brother ROY try to talk them out of it. But his mind was made up. Disney bet his company and his house on the certainty that he was making movie history on the brink Jonathan area look at stories like Disney's and try to uncover the secrets to success or failure. What motivates someone to keep trying? After multiple setbacks. How do you work up the courage for that last big leap every week? The brink will bring stories of trials and triumph featuring men and women who took a bold step without really knowing this solid. Ground would be the. There to meet their feet on the other side. Listen in subscribe at apple podcasts or on the iheartradio app or wherever you listen to podcasts. Of course, we all know, Victoria, starts to have lots of kids and biology really changed. The course of things for her. She got pregnant within weeks of the wedding and bit by bit Albert started to take on more important tasks he would send dispatches he'd attend meetings with ministers. He even got the key to the secret boxes in overtime. He also started to change the way that toria thought about things and affect her politics. Even her governess was dismissed the who had been the former main influence in her life and in eighteen forty two. There was an attempt on her life. And and the kids just kept on coming to right? Will there were so many of them were just going to list off their names really quickly Princess, Royal Victoria, also known as Vicky principles the later Edward the seventh Princess Alice. Prince Alfred Princess, Helena, Princess, Louise, prince, Arthur pr-. Since Leopold and Princess Beatrice and the grandchildren started arriving only two years after her last child was born. So she did not have a gap in mothering so to speak. No, she really didn't because she was out of commission so much of every year every single year Albert really took on an almost regent like role in. He did. In fact, get a regency Bill that allowed him to act in the event of Victoria's death or incapacity, but by eighteen forty five and observant Charles gravel wrote, quote, it is obvious that while she has the title. He is really discharging the functions of the sovereign. He is the king to all intents and purposes in Albert saw his role, though as adviser to the Queen as he later told the Duke of Wellington his goal was to quote to be the natural head of the family superintendent of her household manager of her private affairs, her soul. Confidential adviser in politics and only assist in her communications with the officers of the government her pride. Secretary and permanent minister, but he do all that at the expense of his own identity and pretty much working himself to death in the process. Yeah. So he wasn't going after titles or were public recognition. He just wanted to play this role in do it for Victoria, and to to hopefully do good or at least the test that that's how he thought. So their marriage, though, was generally considered to be happy one and something that really set a model for people in the Victorian era, they focused heavily on educating their children, they had these sort of middle class taste, especially Victoria, because Burt did after all really like science technology art that sort of thing, but Victoria, liked reading dickens novels and going to circuses and seeing waxworks that sort of thing and the couple also their privacy, and they're really famous for that Albert Bill residences at Osborne and Balmoral Castle for them to escape to. And and as we think we mentioned in the cream of up, so. Those retreats really become even more important may be Victoria in her in her later life, right? But Victoria, also shouldn't be thought of as the model Victorian wife and mother figure she had serious postpartum depression at times, and she did not like being pregnant, and she really didn't like babies that much in general. She didn't even really like kids. She called pregnancy the quote shadow side of marriage and compared herself to Akao or dog while she was pregnant, so that's kind of shocking. I'd say coming from someone who her identity is all tied with these family portrait of her and Albert in all of their little tiny kids sitting around the Christmas tree or sitting around at home, relaxing it. It does seem different. But I mean, it's just to show that this couple had an effect on on their country for sure, but they also led a private personal life too. Yeah. But part of her dislike of childbirth was that. She wish she'd gotten more time with Albert. Loan in late eighteen sixty one Albert who is forty two years old at the time but much older. Looking raced off to Cambridge to chastises eldest son over an affair he'd had with a prostitute. And after that Albert pneumonia and took to bed doctors diagnosed what he had as typhoid fever. But that was probably a mistake. Modern analysis shows there hadn't been typhoid fever in the area at all, right? And so but at the time, that's what they thought it wasn't. They dosed him with brandy until he died and the Victoria always blamed the death on their son Albert head known for some time that he wasn't feeling very well. So it was probably stomach cancer. As what we now think he had he had definitely been sick with something. But Victoria, as as we talked about in the last episode, and as most people know went into deep mourning after Albert's death, and she she said of him without Albert everything loses interest. But we need to talk about their legacy to because the idea. Of the the happy couple Victorian, Albert almost emerges more after the fact because while alive Albert had been often unpopular, and sometimes even used as a scapegoat because he was foreign Victoria's decision to name him as prince concert, for instance, in eighteen fifty seven had been terribly mocked. She she tried to justify it by saying well are adult children are going to start to outrank him because he's a foreign prince. But people just thought it was a ridiculous decision. But over time it became clear that he had greatly assisted Victoria and helped shape her monarchy, and that they're happy and strong marriage had influenced the country's tastes and morals. So people started to think on the couple fondly, especially by the queen's old age, but height of her popularity so the perception of them together definitely changed over the years and looking back to they left quite a legacy. Albert's grand chievements was of course, the eighteen fifty one great exhibition at the Crystal Palace and even over the years that people. Looking back on that realized what a high point it had been for England. And another great legacy of there is is the Victoria and Albert museum which sort of originally came out of the great exhibition, but was was named the Victoria and Albert museum really really late and Victoria's life clearly a sort of touching tribute for her. I'm sure. Thank you so much for joining us on this Saturday. If you have heard an Email address or Facebook, you are L or something similar over. The course of today's episode since it is from the archive that might be out of date. Now, you can Email us at history podcast at how stuff works dot com. And you can find us all over social media at missed in history. And you can subscribe to our show on apple podcast, Google podcast the iheartradio app and wherever else he listened to podcasts. For more on this and other topics. Visit how stuff works dot com. Hey, everybody. I have some incredibly exciting news. We are going to Paris. This is a six might trip. It lasts from June second to ninth twenty nineteen. We're going to take walking tours of the city a trip to ascend river cruise so much more Holly. And I have partnered with defined destinations to plan this trip. And so they're handling all the arrangements, including our combinations. That hotel Josephine expert guides to show us around the city, and you can come with us. You can find all the information and a link to book this trip at defined destinations dot com. Under the tours heading or come to our website at missed in history dot com and click Paris trip in the menu.