Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December 14: Sorrowful date for Queen Victoria

During the lifetime of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, December 14 stood out as a date that harbored much sorrow.

On this date in 1861, her beloved husband, Albert, the Prince Consort, died from typhoid fever at the age of 42. The Queen was shattered by his passing, and dressed herself in mourning attire that she would continue to wear for the rest of her long life. For many years afterward, she conducted her homes and the royal court in a permanent state of mourning for Prince Albert. She prohibited laughing, loud talking, balls or banquets of any kind and sequestered herself in one of her many homes, primarily Windsor Castle, Osborne House and Balmoral Castle. This earned her the popular epithet "The Widow of Windsor", and led to a downturn in public affection for the monarchy during the 1860s. She did not even attend the state opening of Parliament for five years. In 1872, after her eldest son, Edward, Prince of Wales, suffered a near-fatal illness, she gradually emerged from her isolation and returned to public duties and appearances.



Not only would December 14 mark the death of her husband, but the same date in the year 1878 also marked the death of one of her children. Queen Victoria's second daughter, Princess Alice, who had married Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse, contracted diphtheria from her children and died shortly after. Her last words were reportedly "Dear Papa". Alice's youngest daughter would grow up to become Empress Alexandra, the ill-fated consort to Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Alice's great-grandson is Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.



One happy event, however, took place on December 14 during Queen Victoria's lifetime. Her great-grandson, Prince Albert of York, son of Victoria's grandson, the future King George V, was born on this date in 1895. The boy's father was worried about how his grandmother would react to the child's birthday falling on such a hallowed date. When they decided to name him in honor of the late Prince Consort, however, Queen Victoria expressed that she was delighted by the news. Prince Albert of York would later become King George VI, and father of the present queen, Elizabeth II
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