When Kensington Palace Was a Prison: The Upbringing of Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria (1819-1901), when Princess

On January 23, 1820 Queen Victoria’s father, the Duke of Kent, died prematurely at the age of 52. He was followed to the grave just six days later by his father, George III, who had been mentally incapacitated for years. At just seven months old, the then-Princess Victoria of Kent became third-in-line to the throne following her uncles, King George IV and Princes Frederick, Duke of York and William, the Duke of Clarence. All three were childless.

Her mother, Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, found herself at the age of 34 twice-widowed and the mother of three children, one of whom she was responsible for molding into a future British monarch. She herself was German – indeed, at the time of her second husband’s death she had not yet fully mastered the English language.

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The Example of Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen

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If there was ever a woman you could forget was queen of the United Kingdom, meet Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen. Wife of William IV and queen consort for a mere seven years, it’s easy to overlook her role in the British Royal Family if for no other reason than it’s easy to forget her husband’s reign. Even so, Adelaide was an inherently decent woman and if the House of Hanover had had the good fortune to be blessed with more of her ilk, there would have been by far less scandal in the 18th and 19th centuries.

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William IV & the FitzClarences

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The coat of arms of the FitzClarence family

In 1791 an actress by the name of “Mrs. Jordan” became acquainted with William, Duke of Clarence, third son of King George III. She was 30-years-old and the mother of four illegitimate children via two different men. Three of them were fathered by Sir Richard Ford, who she moved in with after he promised to marry her. He didn’t and once she met William she promptly jumped ship.

The great love of her life was George Inchbald, another actor, who left her brokenhearted when he failed to propose, and before him came an army lieutenant, Charles Doyne, who did propose and was roundly refused. Her first illegitimate child was fathered by Richard Daly, the manger of an Irish theatre company in Cork. Their child, a daughter named Frances, would eventually follow her mother on the stage.

Mrs. Jordan was born Dorothy Bland, a name by which she was known until she left Doyne for Inchbald and reinvented herself, taking the name from the River Jordan which she claimed to have metaphorically crossed when she left Ireland for England.

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