Time for a happy ending!
When we last left young Queen Victoria in my June 18 entry (gulp!), it was 1839 and she'd had to deal with the Flora Hastings scandal, brought on by Sir John Conroy's scheming and her own rather immature behavior. But with Sir John gone, life took on a more even keel...
Or did it?
After Sir John's departure in June and Lady Flora's death in July, Victoria was at loose ends. The fun and excitement of being queen and her own mistress had beguin to pale, and she felt trapped in the round of social and public events, bored and tense. A change was needed, and several around her thought they knew what that change should be: it was time for Victoria to marry. But she resisted the idea of marriage, saying she was quite happy as she was. Her Uncle Leopold, King of Belgium, had other plans. He overcame Victoria's nervous ditherings and sent his nephew (and Victoria's first cousin), Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, to visit England that fall.
Albert was the younger son of the reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, a small German principality comprising about 18 square miles in central Germany. He was born about three months after Victoria, in August 1819, and almost from his birth it was hoped he'd one day marry Victoria (huge squick factor there for us, but in those days it was considered perfectly all right for first cousins to marry). He was a serious, sober youth, fond of nature and beautiful scenery and not at all fond of society. He and his older brother Ernest visited England in 1836 and Victoria had a delightful time with them...but they had all been children then. Albert's proposed visit in 1839 would determine if he and Victoria would make a match of it...both of them knew it, and both of them were horribly nervous. Victoria worried that Albert would still be the slightly undergrown, sickly boy who couldn't keep his eyes open after nine at night that she'd met before, and Albert had heard dreadful rumors about Victoria's love of empty pomp and ceremony and her tendency to party all night and sleep till noon.
Neither need have worried. When Albert arrived at Windsor on Thursday, October 10, Victoria was waiting to meet him...and fell in love on sight. Her diary for that day states, "It was with some emotion that I beheld Albert, who is beautiful." (That's a sketch she made of him at right.) On Friday she confides that "Albert really is quite charming, and so excessively handsome, such beautiful blue eyes, an exquisite nose, and such a pretty mouth with delicate moustachios and slight but very slight whiskers; a beautiful figure, broad in the shoulders and a fine waist; my heart is quite going...." By Sunday she confided to her Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, that she had decided to marry Albert, and on Tuesday, she proposed to him. (That's right--she did the proposing. As a queen, it was up to her to do so). Naturally, he said yes.
The wedding was held three months later, in February 1840, and Victoria never looked back. She worshipped her Albert, and there's no doubt that Albert loved her back. He proved to be a steadying influence on her, moderating her sometimes over-enthusiastic likes and dislikes, and becoming her most trusted political advisor as well. It's sad for Victoria that he died only twenty-one years later, leaving her to a long widowhood...and the picture most people have of her today as a sour old lady dressed in black. But I always think of her as she was on the day she became queen, addressing her ministers for the first time--a petite, slender girl who, according the Duke of Wellington "...not merely filled her chair" but "filled the room."