That February Feeling
A Long Walk

An Original Power Couple

I'm thinking about weddings today and specifically a marriage that took place on this day in 1840.

It's an unusual day for a wedding ... February 10th ... or at least it is these days. Most people don't chose the dark days of February or a Monday for their special day - yes February 10 1840 was a Monday!

But the couple who got married on this were different.

Because it was the day chosen by Queen Victoria to marry her Prince -  Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

And for all sorts of reasons it was a significant day not just for the couple, but also for the future of Great Britain, and some might say, the world.

Victoria was a young bride of 20 and she had been the monarch of the British Isles and Ireland since 20 June 1837. She ascended the throne at just 18 after a troubled childhood surrounded by intrigue and control.

Even though she was queen, the conventions of the day meant she had to live with her mother, who had been at the centre of that controlling childhood. One might say Victoria was determined to escape, and quickly.

As Queen of Britain, others knew that she was a good catch and plans for her future were already being cooked up. As early as 1836, even before she ascended to the throne, her maternal uncle Leopold, who was King of the Belgians, hoped she might marry Prince Albert, the son of his brother Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Victoria's cousin.

Apparently the reigning King William IV, Victoria's uncle who she would succeed, wanted her to marry someone else. But in 1836 when she travelled to Coburg to visit her German relatives, including Albert, Victoria was rather taken with him. And like any young girl, it was his looks that grabbed her first. "Extremely handsome... beautiful nose, very sweet mouth, charm of his ... expression which is most delightful" were just some of the things she wrote about her cousin in her diary.

But she was so young, too young to marry and although there was a sort of 'understanding' between the couple, it wasn't until she was queen that the pair's relationship would move to the next level. In the meantime, as was common in the day, their relationship was kept alive through letter writing. 

Move forward to October 1839 and Albert visited England and just five days after he had arrived at Windsor, Victoria had proposed.

Yes, she proposed. She was, after all, Queen! It would not have been up to Albert to ask.

Four months later - on 10 February 1840 - they were married in the Chapel Royal of St James's Palace, in London.  Like his bride, Albert was just 20 years of age.

Looking back at the relationship you could say that it was a marriage of convenience. Victoria had the independence of a married woman and her mother was out of the picture - she was soon moved out of Buckingham Palace. Uncle Leopold had his person at the centre of power across the water from Belgium. He had managed to keep it in the family, and indeed the family that Victoria and Albert went on to have would dominate the ruling houses of Europe for decades.

The couple barely knew each other really, if you think about it. But they had family connections, history and tradition to draw on, as well as one other thing.

Miraculously, the couple had fallen madly and deeply in love. Victoria was said to be 'love struck' on her wedding day.

And I said at the start, this marriage wasn't just significant for them as individuals, but also important for the future of Great Britain, and even the world.

Although Victoria was Queen and, if you believe all you read, rather good at ensuring her husband was aware of that status, they also became a phenomenal 'Power Couple'. 

Initially, we're told Albert felt rather frustrated by his role as Queen's companion - Prince Consort. He had no responsibilities, no power. But he gradually blossomed. He would become an important political adviser to his wife, and took on more roles especially when his wife was pregnant, which she often was. The couple had nine children!

The period of Victoria's reign, which lasted for 63 years (longer than any of her predecessors) has become known as 'The Victorian Age', a time in history renowned for industrial, scientific, political and military change in the United Kingdom and the world. It was also a period of great expansion of the British Empire. In 1876, the British Parliament granted Victoria the additional title of Empress of India.

Prince Albert was at the centre of much of the innovation of ideas. Despite the rather frustrating start, he developed a reputation for supporting public causes like educational reform, the abolition of slavery and scientific and industrial development. The very successful Great Exhibition of 1851 , which showcased many of the new developments and innovations of the time, was organised under Albert's patronage.

As Victoria turned more and more to her husband for guidance and support, he also helped her to understand that she needed to be more impartial when dealing with her governments, which helped to develop the concept of the British constitutional monarchy 

And perhaps more importantly for family dynamics, Albert even managed to help to slowly improve the relationships between his wife and his mother-in-law.

Sadly Albert would die early in 1861, at the age of just 42, which thrust Victoria into deep depression, leading to years of mourning and self-imposed isolation ... she wore black for the rest of her life and mourned him until the day she died in January 1901.

But, as with all couples on their wedding day, the future was unknown to Victoria and Albert on February 10th 1840. They didn't know what lay ahead. They were just full of promise, and love.

So on that I'll note, I'll leave you with a little thought.

Thank goodness we don't know the future.

If we did, it might stop us doing the unusual, dreaming the impossible, braving the unthinkable, daring to think you can change the world, daring to love. 

 

 

 

 

 

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