Victoria, Princess Royal

21 Nov 1840
5 Aug 1901
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Victoria, Princess Royal (Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa; 21 November 1840 – 5 August 1901) was German Empress and Queen of Prussia by marriage to German Emperor Frederick III. After her husband’s death, she became widely known as Empress Frederick (German: Kaiserin Friedrich).

She was the eldest child of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert. She was created Princess Royal of the United Kingdom in 1841. She was the mother of Wilhelm II, German Emperor.

Princess Victoria was born on 21 November 1840 at Buckingham Palace, London. Her mother and namesake was Queen Victoria, the only child of George III’s fourth eldest son, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn and Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.

Her father was Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha the second and younger son of Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. She was baptised in the Throne Room of Buckingham Palace on 10 February 1841 (on her parents’ first wedding anniversary) by the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Howley.

Her godparents were Queen Adelaide (her maternal grandfather’s sister-in-law), King Leopold I of Belgium (materal grandmother’s brother), Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (paternal grandfather; for whom The Duke of Wellington, Tory Leader in the Lords, stood proxy), The Duke of Sussex (maternal grandfather’s brother), The Duchess of Gloucester (maternal grandfather’s sister) and The Duchess of Kent (maternal grandmother).

As a daughter of the sovereign, Victoria was automatically a British princess with the style Her Royal Highness, styled HRH The Princess Victoria (and in addition being heiress presumptive to the throne of the United Kingdom before the birth of her younger brother Prince Albert, later Edward VII on 9 November 1841).

In 1841, the Queen created Victoria Princess Royal, giving her an honorary title sometimes conferred on the eldest daughter of the sovereign. Victoria was then styled HRH The Princess Royal. To her family, she was known simply as “Vicky”.

The education of Victoria was closely supervised by her parents. She was precocious and intelligent, unlike her brother Albert Edward.

She was taught to read and write before the age of five by her governess Lady Lyttelton and to speak French by her French nursery maid. The Princess Royal learned French and German from various governesses, and science, literature, Latin, and history from Sara Ann Hildyard.

Prince Albert tutored her in politics and philosophy. The German astronomer Wilhelm Julius Foerster reported that the Empress visited the Berlin Observatory frequently and took keen interest in his astronomical work, and in the growth of the German Society for Ethical Culture.

in 1851, Victoria met her future husband, Prince Frederick William of Prussia (18 October 1831 – 15 June 1888), when he and his parents were invited to London by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to attend the opening of the Great Exhibition. At the time, Frederick, the son of Prince William of Prussia and Princess Augusta of Saxe-Weimar, was second in line to the Prussian throne (after his father).

The couple became engaged in 1855 while Frederick was on a visit to Balmoral; Victoria was just fourteen, while her future husband was a young man of twenty-four.

The Prussian Court and Buckingham Palace publicly announced the engagement on 19 May 1857. Seventeen-year-old Victoria married Frederick, at Queen Victoria’s insistence, at the Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace, on 25 January 1858. The marriage was both a love match and a dynastic alliance.

The Queen and Prince Albert hoped that Victoria’s marriage to the future king of Prussia would cement close ties between London and Berlin, and possibly lead to the emergence of a unified and liberal Germany. At the time of their wedding, Londoners chanted “God save the Prince and Bride! God keep their lands allied!”

In January 1861, on the death of his childless uncle King Frederick William IV of Prussia and the accession of his father as King William I, Prince Frederick became Crown Prince of Prussia, Victoria therefore became Crown Princess. The new Crown Prince and Crown Princess, however, were politically isolated; their liberal and Anglophile views clashing with the authoritarian rule of the Prussian minister-president, Otto von Bismarck.
Despite their efforts to educate their son, Wilhelm, in British attitudes of democracy, he favoured his German tutors in aspiring to autocratic rule and thus became alienated from his parents, suspecting them of putting Britain’s interests first. The couple had the use of the Crown Prince’s Palace located in the heart of Berlin.

During the three Wars of German Unification – the 1864 Prussian-Danish War, the 1866 Austro-Prussian War, and the 1870–71 Franco-Prussian War – Victoria and Frederick strongly identified with the cause of Prussia and the North German Confederation.

Their sympathies created a rift among Queen Victoria’s extended family, since Victoria’s younger brother, the Prince of Wales, was married to Princess Alexandra of Denmark, the elder daughter of Christian IX of Denmark, who was also reigning duke of the disputed territories of Schleswig and Holstein.

At Versailles on 18 January 1871, the victorious princes of the North German Confederation proclaimed a German Empire with King William I of Prussia as the hereditary German Emperor (Deutscher Kaiser) with the style Imperial and Royal Majesty (Kaiserliche und Königliche Majestät); Frederick and Victoria became German Crown Prince and German Crown Princess with the style Imperial and Royal Highness (Kaiserliche und Königliche Hoheit).

On the death of his father on 9 March 1888, the Crown Prince ascended the throne as the Emperor Frederick III (and as King Frederick III of Prussia) and Victoria adopted the title and style of Her Imperial and Royal Majesty the German Empress, Queen of Prussia. Frederick, however, was terminally ill with throat cancer and died after reigning 99 days. From then on she was known simply as Her Imperial Majesty the Empress Frederick.

She was often known as Die Engländerin (the Englishwoman) due to her origins in the United Kingdom, even though her ancestry was almost entirely German. Indeed, she continued to speak English in her German household. Like her mother, she dressed in mourning clothing for the rest of her life.

The widowed Victoria lived in retirement at Castle Friedrichshof, a castle she had built in memory of her late husband in the hills near Kronberg not far from Frankfurt am Main. Politically, she remained a liberal in contrast with her son Emperor Wilhelm II. Their relationship had earlier been difficult but improved once she was no longer in the limelight.

In Berlin, Victoria established schools for the higher education of girls and for nurses’ training. As a talented and gifted artist in her own right, she was a patron of the arts and learning, becoming one of the organizers of the 1872 Industrial Art Exhibition.

Throughout her married life and widowhood, Victoria kept in close touch with other members of the British Royal Family, particularly her younger brother, the future King Edward VII of the United Kingdom.

She maintained a regular correspondence with her mother. According to the Royal Encyclopaedia, some 3,777 letters from Queen Victoria to her eldest daughter have been catalogued, as well as more than 4,000 from daughter to mother. Many of her letters detailed her concern over Germany’s future under her son.

She was concerned that the letters should not fall into the hands of her son Wilhelm II and that he should not know what had happened to them.

At her request the letters were brought back to England in a cloak-and-dagger operation by Frederick Ponsonby, her godson, the private secretary of Edward VII, who was making his (Edward’s) final visit to his terminally ill sister in Kronberg for a week up to 1 March 1901. These letters were later edited by Ponsonby and put into context by his background commentary to form the book that was published in 1928.

Victoria was diagnosed with inoperable breast cancer in 1899 during a visit to her mother at Balmoral. By the autumn of 1900, the cancer spread to her spine and after much suffering, she died at Castle Friedrichshof on 5 August 1901, less than seven months after the death of her mother, Queen Victoria.

She was buried in the royal mausoleum of the Friedenskirche at Potsdam on 13 August 1901. Her tomb has a recumbent marble effigy of herself on top. Next to her lies her beloved husband.

Two of her eight children, Sigismund (died age 2) and Waldemar (died age 11), are buried in the same mausoleum.

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