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Monday, February 18, 2013

A Victorian Love Story


The 2009 film The Young Victoria
is a lush and lovely portrayal of the
relationship between Victoria and Albert.
Writing historical romance is one of my favorite endeavors because it means that I get to spend a good deal of my time reading about the Victorian era. Obviously love stories of the era draw my particular attention. When I considered this month’s blog theme of favorite love story or romance, I couldn’t help think of the many Victorian couples I have read about during my research. One among them necessarily stands out.

Queen Victoria and her Prince Consort, Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, were the Victorian era’s power couple. In terms of setting cultural standards, social standing, and literal power, they were the couple to watch. As an eighteen-year-old queen, many vied for Victoria’s hand and there were two main contenders: her cousin Albert and Prince Alexander of the Netherlands. On visits to her court, Albert made a lasting impression. No one can blame her for preferring the handsomer of the two front runners. In letters to her uncle, Victoria enthused over her choice, saying that Albert had every quality necessary to make her happy and added that he had “the most pleasing and delightful exterior and appearance you can possibly see."

The famous 1846 Winterhauer portrait of Queen Victoria,
 Prince Consort Albert, two of their sons, and three of their daughters.
Victoria kept a diary and wrote in it nearly every day of her life, which is a rich boon for historians. Most of her entries are pretty tame and detail the mundane and repetitive activities of daily life. However, her entry after her wedding night is the stuff of romance novels. She writes that she “NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!!!” The capitalization and exclamation marks are all those of the twenty-year-old queen.

By all accounts, the royal marriage was one of close companionship and sincere affection. Albert became a key advisor and powerful influence on Victoria during the early decades of her reign. Though he was initially unpopular with the British public, the tide eventually turned and the relationship between the queen and her prince became an iconic symbol, a shining example of ideal love. Their marriage was a fruitful one too, with nine children born during the first seventeen years of their marriage.  Tragically, four years after the birth of their ninth child in 1861 Albert contracted typhoid fever and died, leaving Victoria a widow at just forty-one years old.

Albert in 1842, two years
 after his marriage to Victoria.
Queen Victoria was devastated by the loss of her husband, lover, friend, and closest confidante. She wore black for the reminder of her days and significantly reduced her public appearances after Albert’s death. Some criticized her continuing seclusion, and the popularity of the monarchy waned among the British public. However, Victoria continued on the throne until the turn of the century, becoming the longest reigning British monarch in history. She ruled for six decades, but she only had Albert by her side for twenty-one of those years.

The love story of Victoria and Albert is such a compelling one, not just because it was so visible and emblematic of the era, but because it includes all of the hallmarks of a great romance: attraction, passion, a successful partnership, and commitment that endures despite the pressures and challenges of life. So many marriages of the Victorian era, particularly those among the wealthy or titled, were arranged for social and material gain. Marriage for love alone was a rarity. In Albert, Victoria managed to find a husband (she proposed to him) that both satisfied the expectations of others and also answered the desires of her heart.

www.christycarlyle.com

Are there any love stories from history that particularly inspire you?

5 comments:

Madelle Morgan said...

Thanks for this lovely summary of their lives. Victoria was an amazing woman.

Judith Ashley said...

Christy, What comes to my mind isn't maybe about love stories but many historical figures come to mind who remained in their marriages despite challenges. The women of history, whose husbands would be gone for years, who remained true and steadfast, kept the 'home fires burning', raised the children, etc. I'd rather think they lived that way out of love for their husbands than the other reasons that come to mind that are not nearly as romantic.

Christy Carlyle said...

Thanks, Madelle! She was an amazing woman. I can't even imagine taking on the weight of a monarchy at 18 years old, and the loss of her partner in the prime of life must have been so difficult, yet she persevered.

Christy Carlyle said...

Yes, Judith, there were so many women who stayed the course no matter what, weren't there? And it is more pleasant to think of romantic reasons as their motivation.

One thing that has interested me as I research the Victorian era is how sickness and disease impacted relationships (not that it doesn't do so now). Typhoid fever cut down Albert in the prime of his life, but I almost wrote this post about Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. In that case, he lost her and remained unmarried until his own death many years later.

Thanks for your comment.

Paty Jager said...

This is truly a love story and one that while not a happy ending with Albert's demise was a long standing love.