|Marriage of Victoria and Albert by George Hayter|
Victoria became queen at the tender age of eighteen, in 1837. Needless to say, many gentlemen of royal blood throughout Europe were considered for the position of her consort, but Victoria was not exactly welcome to the idea of marriage. She believed she'd like to remain single for several years.
Victoria's uncle, King Leopold of the Belgians, had long thought that his kinsman Albert might make Victoria an excellent husband. It was he who arranged Albert's visit to England in 1836 to meet her. While Victoria apparently liked him all right, it was at Albert's second visit in October of 1839 when the royal sparks flew.
She later said, "It was with some emotion that I beheld Albert, who is beautiful."
She proposed within a few days (poor Albert was forbidden to do the proposing in this instance, considering Victoria was queen). They were married with all pomp and ceremony at St. James' Palace, followed by a lavish breakfast at Buckingham Palace.
Their first child, Victoria Adelaide, was born just over nine months later.
Victoria and Albert's partnership and stable home life restored some of the dignity and respect to the monarchy which had been lost during the excessive years of the Hanoverians. The royal couple produced nine healthy children and worked together on matters of state (indeed, it is acknowledged by many that Albert acted as sovereign more than Victoria did) until Albert's tragic death from typhoid fever in 1861.
His young widow was devastated. "He was my life," she wrote.
While Victoria withdrew from public life for some time, she also ensured that Albert's legacy remained, honoring him and his passions for industry, engineering, and art. A legacy of a different kind remains to this day, as Victoria and Albert's offspring married into European royal families: their grandchildren included the king of England, five queens, a tsarina, and a kaiser.
But today's date recalls a time before legacies and loss. It recalls a happier anniversary. So to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, I lift my teacup in a toast.
And I'll probably watch "The Young Victoria" this weekend, too.