Prince Albert only lived to 42, says Henry Oliver in UnHerd, but in his short life he transformed the monarchy and Britain itself. When he married his first cousin, Queen Victoria, in 1840, the royal household was “still roasting 12 large joints of meat a day” and the monarchy was “on the brink of republicanism”. Albert quickly tamed and modernised it – in 1843 he drove through the streets of Birmingham, side by side with the radical mayor, being cheered by republicans. As chancellor of Cambridge, he introduced courses in natural sciences alongside the traditional maths and classics. And he helped create a swathe of museums in London, including the V&A and the Natural History Museum.
His marriage to Victoria is thought of as “one of the great 19th-century romances” – the pair had nine children. But it wasn’t always a fairy tale. Albert bullied and belittled his wife, sending her scolding letters that sometimes began “Dear Child”, and often insisted on composing the missives she sent to her ministers. Before her marriage, Victoria was a court girl, fond of socialising and late nights. But Albert decided that after a dissolute “generation of Georgian and Regency rolling stones”, the monarchy needed a dose of bourgeois primness. It was the right call. Being a “good old-fashioned family” was essential for the monarchy then – and it remains so today.
Get our daily newsletter in your inbox
We cut through the noise to give you a fresh take on the world – in just five minutes a day. Sign up for the newsletter here.