Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Queen Victoria’s Big Brother

No, I’m not referring to our favorite queen mind-controlling her subjects in an alternate dystopian 19th century England, but to the not-very-well-known fact that Queen Victoria did indeed have a brother—an older half-brother—just as we’ve seen she had an older half-sister. Unlike her strong sisterly feelings for Feodore, however, Victoria did not feel much closeness for her brother—for good reason.

Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Emich was the elder child and son of Prince Emich Carl of Leiningen and his wife Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, born on September 12, 1804 in the tiny principality of Leiningen. Prince Emich was much older than his wife, and did not live to see his children grow up, for young Carl became Prince in 1814, at the age of ten. His mother became regent for him until he reached his majority at age 18...and that same year, married her second husband, Edward, Duke of Kent.

In 1819, when the new Duchess of Kent was nearing the time to deliver Carl's new sibling, the whole family left Leiningen (where it was much cheaper to live) and went to England for the birth. Thereafter, Carl (or Charles, as he was known in England) seems to have moved back and forth between the two...after all, he was the prince of Leiningen and had responsibilities to his principality as well as rapacious paternal cousins to keep at bay. But during his visits to England, he became friendly with his mother’s comptroller, Sir John Conroy...and was drawn into that slithery opportunist's camp, supporting his and the Duchess of Kent's efforts to keep Victoria firmly under their thumbs. To be fair, he probably saw nothing wrong with his mother being regent for Victoria--after all, she'd been regent for him for ten years in Leiningen (and interestingly, relied heavily on her household steward, a Herr Schindler, to run things. Hmm.)

In 1829 Charles married Countess Maria von Klebelsberg, who bore him two sons, but he still found time to visit England...and was on hand during the fraught first half of 1837 when a desperate Sir John Conroy was seeing his chances of power slipping through his fingers. Charles at first supported their efforts; but when their Uncle Leopold, King of the Belgians, sent over his eminence grise Baron Stockmar to intervene, Charles began to realize that his little sister was indeed about to become queen, on her own terms...and when just days before the death of King William Conroy stated that Victoria "must be coerced" he did some back-pedaling and advised his mother to do no such thing.

Unfortunately, it's hard to find much about what he did after that, but I was able to find some information: Charles spent some time serving in the Bavarian Army, but Leiningen did not provide much of an income and his family seems to have relied on a pension from Victoria; he and his family were on good terms with Victoria and Albert, and were frequent visitors to England. During the politically restless years of the 1840s in Germany, he became involved in politics, surprisingly on the liberal side, and was (briefly) in 1848 the first prime minister of the first freely-elected parliament for all of Germany, the Frankfurt Parliament. In 1855, he suffered a stroke; a second one the following year proved fatal and he died in November, with his sister Feodore at his side. He was succeeded as prince of tiny Leiningen by his elder son Ernest, who was also an officer in the British Navy.

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