05 September 2019, The Tablet

Controlling angel


Controlling angel

A daguerreotype of Prince Albert, taken not long after the first European studio opened
Photo: PA/Topham

 

A consort adored by his Queen while shunned by smart society

Victoria and Albert made an odd couple. They had a shared love of sex, dogs, sketching and Scotland, but that was about it. He was very well educated, to university level (Bonn). She had no education to speak of. He was always sickly; she was usually healthy. She craved intimacy and exclusivity; he craved the opposite. He enjoyed being a parent; she didn’t much. Their relationship, unsurprisingly, was often hideously out of sync. She called him her “most precious angel” and even, rather creepily, her “master”. He had no such epithets for her, seems to have regarded his marriage as a duty and saw her adoration as disturbing. No wonder there were regular, blazing rows that rarely ended in closure. What she craved was a kiss and a hug. What she got were chilly letters, listing her character defects.

And then it all ended, far too soon, in the Blue Room at Windsor Castle in December 1861 – Albert gasping on his deathbed, still only 42, Victoria out of her mind, dissolving, the children praying, courtiers circling. It makes for harrowing reading, even now.

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