Friday, May 2, 2014

Death of Leopold, Son of of Queen Victoria

Prince Leopold, the Duke of Albany, fourth and youngest son of Queen Victoria, died suddenly in a fit at 2 o'clock this morning at Cannes. He had gone to Cannes only a few days ago for the sake of his health. Nothing serious, however, had been anticipated. He was looking fairly well, and had been taking part in the festivities of the place. 

- The New York Times
March 28, 1884

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert raised a family of nine children.  Leopold, pictured above, was the couple's eighth child.  He was also the youngest of their four male offspring.  Born at Buckingham Palace on April 7, 1853, the young prince was named after his grand-uncle, King Leopold I of Belgium.  On May 24, 1881 (Queen Victoria's birthday), he was given the titles of Duke of Albany, Earl of Clarence and Baron Arklow.

Leopold was considered to be a delicate child and he suffered from hemophilia, a bleeding disorder, which he inherited from his mother.  This genetic mutation manifests almost exclusively in males.  Unfortunately, through two of her daughters (Alice and Beatrice), Queen Victoria passed the disorder to members of royal families across the European continent.

Due to his hemophilia, Leopold was physically weak and he bruised easily.  As if that weren't enough, he also experienced epileptic seizures.  Nevertheless, he managed to lead a very productive and successful life. He also did very well academically.

Beginning in 1872, Leopold spent four years studying at Christ Church, Oxford University, where he served as president of university's chess club and received an honorary doctorate in civil law. While at Oxford, the prince became acquainted with Alice Liddell, the daughter of Henry Liddell, the Dean of Christ Church. Alice is thought to be the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's classic tale, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, although Carroll, whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, later denied this to be so.  Dodgson was a close friend of the Liddell family and he occupied the position of mathematics lecturer at Christ Church.

There has been speculation about a romance between Prince Leopold and Alice Liddell, whom Leopold met when he was an undergraduate at Oxford.  According to a biography of Liddell by Jane Curran on the BBC website, "they fell in love" but a marriage did not take place because Queen Victoria "insisted that he must marry a princess."  Alice eventually married Reginald Hargreaves, a cricketer, on September 15, 1880 at Westminster Abbey. They had three sons: Alan Knyveton Hargreaves. Leopold Reginald "Rex" Hargreaves and Caryl Liddell Hargreaves.  Their second son, Leopold "Rex," was the prince's namesake and godson. Both he and his older brother Alan were killed in World War I.

When Leopold left Oxford University in 1876, he travelled in Europe.  In 1880, he toured Canada and the United States along with his sister, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, whose husband, John Campbell, Marquis of Lorne, was then the 4th Governor General of Canada.

Prince Leopold's ill health prevented him from pursing active military service.  He was, however, an ardent supporter of  the arts and literature.  He was also a prominent chess patron and an active Freemason.  His life was full expect for one thing - the lack of a wife.

The prince was rejected by aristocratic women such as Princess Victoria of Baden and Princess Karoline Mathilde of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonerburg-Augustenberg.  Queen Victoria then stepped in to prevent her son from marrying someone whom she considered unsuitable.  She preferred her son to wed the daughter of a reigning Protestant royal family and she suggested that he meet Princess Helena Friederike, daughter of Gregor, reigning Prince of Waldeck and Pymont (regions now in Germany).

Leopold married Princess Helena on April 27, 1882.  The wedding ceremony took place at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.  In 1883, a few weeks after the birth of Alice Liddell's son, Leopold "Rex," Helena game birth to the couple's first child, a daughter named Alice.

Princess Helena

In early 1884, Prince Leopold's doctors advised that he spend the winter in Cannes, France, as he had done previously.  Helena was pregnant with the couple's second child at the time.  On March 27, 1884, Leopold slipped and fell on the staircase at Villa Nevada, the private residence where he was staying in Cannes, injuring his knee and hitting his head.  His hemophilia. only exacerbated the situation.  At the time of his accident, the 30-year-old Leopold was planning to attend the wedding of his niece, Princess Victoria of Hesse.

After his fall, Prince Leopold was examined by a physician and sent home to rest.  He died the next morning.of a cerebral hemorrhage.  According to the report in  The New York Times at the time, "the cause of the Duke's death was effusion of blood into the stomach and lungs.  There were no unusual premonitions, but the symptoms had long been threatening. He was subject to occasional attacks of internal hemorrhage. He had arranged to leave Cannes on Monday next as his health seemed to restored."

Prince Leopold's funeral took place on April 12, 1884 at St. George's Chapel in Windsor and the Seaforth Highlanders marched at the ceremony.  From 1881 until his death, Leopold served at the Highlanders' first Colonel-in Chief.

The Scottish poet, William McGonagall, wrote a poem lamenting Leopold's demise.  It is titled "The Death of Prince Leopold."  Here is the which Leopold's funeral is described.

ALAS! noble Prince Leopold, he is dead! 
Who often has his lustre shed:
Especially by singing for the benefit of Esher School, 
Which proves he was a wise prince. and no conceited fool. 
Methinks I see him on the platform singing the Sands o’ Dee,
The generous-hearted Leopold, the good and the free, 
Who was manly in his actions, and beloved by his mother; 
And in all the family she hasn’t got such another. 
He was of a delicate constitution all his life, 
And he was his mother’s favourite, and very kind to his wife, 
And he had also a particular liking for his child, 
And in his behaviour he was very mild. 
Oh! noble-hearted Leopold, most beautiful to see, 
Who was wont to fill your audience’s hearts with glee, 
With your charming songs, and lectures against strong drink: 
Britain had nothing else to fear, as far as you could think 
A wise prince you were, and well worthy of the name, 
And to write in praise of thee I cannot refrain; 
Because you were ever ready to defend that which is right, 
Both pleasing and righteous in God’s eye-sight. 
And for the loss of such a prince the people will mourn, 
But, alas! unto them he can never more return, 
Because sorrow never could revive the dead again, 
Therefore to weep for him is all in vain. 
’Twas on Saturday the 12th of April, in the year 1884, 
He was buried in the royal vault, never to rise more 
Until the great and fearful judgment-day, 
When the last trump shall sound to summon him away. 
When the Duchess of Albany arrived she drove through the Royal Arch,– 
A little before the Seaforth Highlanders set out on the funeral march; 
And she was received with every sympathetic respect, 
Which none of the people present seem’d to neglect. 
Then she entered the memorial chapel and stayed a short time, 
And as she viewed her husband’s remains it was really sublime, 
While her tears fell fast on the coffin lid without delay, 
Then she took one last fond look, and hurried away. 
At half-past ten o’clock the Seaforth Highlanders did appear, 
And every man in the detachment his medals did wear; 
And they carried their side-arms by their side, 
With mournful looks, but full of love and pride. 
Then came the Coldstream Guards headed by their band, 
Which made the scene appear imposing and grand; 
Then the musicians drew up in front of the guardroom 
And waited patiently to see the prince laid in the royal tomb. 
First in the procession were the servants of His late Royal Highness, 
And next came the servants of the Queen in deep mourning dress, 
And the gentlemen of his household in deep distress, 
Also General Du Pla, who accompanied the remains from Cannes. 
The coffin was borne by eight Highlanders of his own regiment, 
And the fellows seemed to be rather discontent 
For the loss of the prince they loved most dear, 
While adown their cheeks stole many a silent tear 
Then behind the corpse came the Prince of Wales in field marshal uniform, 
Looking very pale, dejected, careworn, and forlorn; 
Then followed great magnates, all dressed in uniform, 
And last, but not least, the noble Marquis of Lorne. 
The scene in George’s Chapel was most magnificent to behold, 
The banners of the knights of the garter embroidered with gold; 
Then again it was most touching and lovely to see 
The Seaforth Highlanders’ inscription to the Prince’s memory: 
It was wrought in violets, upon a background of white flowers, 
And as they gazed upon it their tears fell in showers; 
But the whole assembly were hushed when Her Majesty did appear, 
Attired in her deepest mourning, and from her eye there fell a tear. 
Her Majesty was unable to stand long, she was overcome with grief, 
And when the Highlanders lowered the coffin into the tomb she felt relief; 
Then the ceremony closed with singing “Lead, kindly light,” 
Then the Queen withdrew in haste from the mournful sight. 
Then the Seaforth Highlanders’ band played “Lochaber no more,” 
While the brave soldiers’ hearts felt depressed and sore; 
And as homeward they marched they let fall many a tear 
For the loss of the virtuous Prince Leopold they loved so dear.

On July 19, 1884, about four months after her husband's passing, Helena gave birth to a son named Charles Edward.


* If you are interested in learning more about the life of Leopold, I suggest that you read Prince Leopold: The Untold Story of Queen Victoria's Youngest Son, by Charlotte Zeepvat.  According to Zeepvat, Leopold was first diagnosed with hemophilia in 1858 or 1859.

*  At birth, Leopold's son, Charles Edward, inherited his father's title and became the Duke of Albany.  In 1900, he became Sovereign Duke of Saxe-Coburg a small German principality  On October 11, 1905, he married Princess Victoria Adelaide of Schleswig-Holstein, Kaiser Wilhelm II's niece-by-marriage.

During World War I, Charles Edward was regarded as a traitor in Britain.  Despite conflicted loyalties, he decided to support Germany in the conflict and held a commission as a general in the German Army.  As a result, he became persona non grata in his own country.  When the war ended in November of 1918, Charles Edward was forced to abdicate as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.  In 1919, he was divested of his British peerages, his title of Royal Highness and his British honours (including his status as Duke of Albany).

Below is a postcard of Charles Edward in a German uniform.

Charles Edward

In 1935, this grandson of Queen Victoria became a member of the German Nazi Party.  He joined the SA (also known as the Brownshirts), the paramilitary wing of the Nazis.  During the 1930s and 1940s, he held many different positions in the Third Reich, including President of the German Red Cross.  In 1936, Adolf Hitler sent Charles Edward to Britain as the president of the Anglo-German Friendship Society.  His mission was to help improve relations between the two countries.

Charles Edward with Hitler

Charles Edward was too old for active service in World War II.  However, at the end of the war, due to his Nazi sympathies, he was placed under house arrest by the American Military Government in Bavaria.  He was later incarcerated with other Nazi officials.

Charles Edward died at his home in Coburg,West Germany on March 6, 1954 at the age of 69.

- Joanne

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