A special welcome to guest author Leslie Carroll! Leslie is a multi-published author of historical and contemporary fiction as well as historical non-fiction books: Royal Affairs and her latest release, Notorious Royal Marriages. Welcome Leslie! I'm so excited to have you here today, especially since I love your books! Hope you all enjoy Leslie's article today... she's divulging Victoria's Secret...
Most people think of Queen Victoria—the monarch whose name epitomized an era of prudery, priggishness and propriety—as a dour and straitlaced woman. After all, she did respond to a dinner table joke with the acerbic quip, “We are not amused.”
On May 18, 1836, six days shy of her seventeenth birthday, Victoria was introduced to her two Coburg cousins, Albert and his older brother Ernest. Victoria’s immediate reaction to her sixteen-year-old cousin was overwhelmingly positive. According to her diary entry, “. . . Albert . . . is extremely handsome; his hair is about the same color as mine; his eyes are large and blue, and he has a beautiful nose and a very sweet mouth with fine teeth; but the charm of his countenance is his expression, which is most delightful; c’est à la fois [it’s simultaneously] full of goodness and sweetness, and very clever and intelligent.”
However, Albert privately nursed some reservations regarding Victoria’s suitability as a future spouse. His mother had wed his significantly older father at the age of sixteen, but had run off with a handsome army lieutenant when Albert was just five years old. The incident soured his views on females and sex and undoubtedly helped to form Albert’s zero-tolerance policy regarding scandalous women and the men who enabled them. Victoria was ebullient and vivacious; she enjoyed late nights and parties and also delighted in the trivialities and fripperies of court life and etiquette.
Nevertheless, the visit progressed swimmingly. On June 7, Victoria wrote to her mother’s brother Leopold, King of the Belgians, with characteristic effusiveness, “I must thank you, my beloved Uncle, for the prospect of great happiness you have contributed to give me, in the person of dear Albert. Allow me . . . to tell you how delighted I am with him, and how much I like him in every way. He possesses every quality that could be desired to render me perfectly happy. He is so sensible, so kind, and so good, and so amiable, too. He has besides, the most pleasing and delightful exterior and appearance you can possibly see.” The stage had been set for a genuine love match, that rarest of occurrences in the history of royal marriages.
On June 20, 1837, the eighteen-year-old Victoria acceded to the throne on the death of her uncle, William IV. The queen’s modest yet regal demeanor quickly won her the praise of her ministers as well as her subjects. And, almost immediately, those ministers began pressuring her to marry. But Victoria felt unready to wed right away—if at all. “I said I dreaded the thought of marrying; that I was so accustomed to have my own way, that I thought it was 10 to 1 that I shouldn’t agree with anybody,” Victoria wrote in her journal on April 18, 1839. “Oh, but you would have it still,” the PM, Lord Melbourne, hastily assured the young sovereign.
But Melbourne, nearly sixty years old and as much a father figure for Victoria as he was a parliamentarian, argued against the notion of wedding one of her cousins, adding, “Those Coburgs are not very popular abroad; the Russians hate them.”
Her little feet grown even colder at the idea of marriage, Victoria wrote to her uncle Leopold that July, expressing her uneasiness at being older (by a few months) than Albert. Besides, she scarcely knew him and was also worried that they might not suit one another as lovers: “. . . one can never answer beforehand for feelings, and I may not have the feeling for him which is requisite to ensure happiness. I may like him as a friend, and as a cousin, and as a brother, but not more; and should this be the case (which is not likely), I am very anxious that it should be understood that I am not guilty of any breach of promise, for I never gave any. . . .”
So in October 1839 Albert set out once more for England and a second look-see. And upon meeting him again, the reluctant queen became thunderstruck. Her October 10 journal entry records, “. . . It was with some emotion that I beheld Albert—who is beautiful.” The following day her diary was full of praise for his waltzing and his horsemanship. On October 13, she admitted in her journal that she had changed her mind about postponing marriage for a few years. Melbourne counseled her not to wait too long; if they presented Parliament with a royal engagement there was little the legislative body could do to find a way of thwarting it if they so chose. And he urged her to inform Albert of her decision without delay.
No one could propose to a regnant queen of England. So the twenty-year-old Victoria was impelled to take the initiative and offer her hand, or ask for Albert’s, in marriage. It was one of the few times she took the reins in their relationship. Her diary entry of October 15, 1839, memorializes the proposal:
“At about ½ p. 12 [half past twelve] I sent for Albert; he came to the Closet where I was alone, and after a few minutes I said to him that I thought he must be aware why I wished [him] to come here, and that it would make me happy if he would consent to what I wished [to marry me]; we embraced each other over and over again, and he was so kind, so affectionate; Oh! To feel I was, and am, loved by such an Angel as Albert was too great a delight to describe! He is perfection; perfection in every way—in beauty—in everything! I told him I was quite unworthy of him and kissed his dear hand—he said he would be very happy [to share his life with her] and was so kind and seemed so happy, that I really felt it was the happiest, brightest moment in my life. . . . Oh! how I adore and love him, I cannot say!! How I will strive to make him feel as little as possible the great sacrifice he has made . . .”
That evening, before the queen went to bed, she was handed a letter that read, “Dearest greatly beloved Victoria, How is it that I have deserved so much love, so much affection? . . . I believe that Heaven has sent me an angel whose brightness shall illumine my life. . . . In body and soul ever your slave, your loyal ALBERT.” After reading this tender and effusive declaration, Victoria burst into tears.
According to Victoria’s diary, during Albert’s visit the two of them kissed and snuggled and held hands at every available opportunity. Albert accompanied her to a parade review in Hyde Park, where Victoria may have taken more notice of her fiancé’s physique than the military marches, observing that Albert was wearing a pair of white cashmere breeches with “nothing under them.”
On February 10, 1840, three years after becoming queen, Victoria married her first cousin, Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, in the Chapel Royal, St. James’s.
It’s difficult to imagine how she found the time to write a journal entry on her wedding day, but Victoria’s firsthand description of events could scarcely be matched by another. According to the diary, before breakfast her mother brought her a nosegay of orange blossoms and a wreath of orange blossoms was placed atop her hairdo; the wreath would set the bridal fashion for decades, as would the color of her dress. “I wore a white satin gown with a very deep flounce of Honiton lace, imitation of old. I wore my Turkish diamond necklace and earrings, and Albert’s beautiful sapphire brooch.” Albert wore the uniform of a British Field Marshal, decorated with the Order of the Garter.
“When I arrived at St. James’s, I went into the dressing-room where my 12 young Train-bearers were, dressed all in white with white roses, which had a beautiful effect. Here I waited a little till dearest Albert’s Procession had moved into the Chapel.” His procession, and hers, were both lavish and colorful. But there was a near comical moment when it was clear that Victoria’s bridal train wasn’t long enough to allow all twelve of her bridesmaids to walk normally; like the women’s chorus in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, they had to trip forward with precarious, mincing steps, taking care not to bump into each other.
Witnessed by three hundred guests, “The Ceremony was very imposing, and fine and simple, and I think ought to make an everlasting impression on every one who promises at the Altar to keep what he or she promises . . .,” Victoria wrote. Afterward, she returned to Buckingham Palace alone with Albert, where they had a half hour of conversation to themselves before it was time to set out for Windsor. Victoria changed out of her formal wedding ensemble into a simpler version of the same, “a white silk gown trimmed with swansdown and a bonnet with orange flowers.”
After they reached Windsor and acclimated themselves to their suite of rooms, Albert “took me on his knee, and kissed me. . . . We had dinner in our sitting room; but I had such a sick headache that I could eat nothing and was obliged to lie down in the middle blue room for the remainder of the evening, on the sofa, but, ill or not, I never, never spent such an evening. . . . He called me names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before—was bliss beyond belief! Oh! This was the happiest day of my life!—May God help me to do my duty as I ought and be worthy of such blessings.”
With such effusive joy and vitality, it’s doubtful—despite the raging headache—that Victoria was gritting her teeth and thinking of England as she and Albert consummated their marriage.
On February 11, 1840, the morning after the wedding night, Victoria awoke in a state of bliss, but she still had time to memorialize her feelings in her journal. “When day dawned (for we did not sleep much) and I beheld that beautiful angelic face by my side, it was more than I can express! He does look so beautiful in his shirt only, with his beautiful throat seen. . . .” Later that day she wrote to her uncle Leopold, gushing, “Really, I do not think it possible for any one in the world to be happier, or as happy as I am. . . . What I can do to make him happy will be my greatest delight. . . .”
Victoria’s afterglow remains just as bright in her journal entry of February 12. “Already the 2nd day since our marriage; his love and gentleness is beyond everything, and to kiss that dear soft cheek, to press my lips to his, is heavenly bliss. . . .”
The following day, the woman who after Albert’s death stubbornly refused to acknowledge that women had such vulgar appendages as “legs” wrote with a hint of the erotic, “My dearest Albert put on my stockings for me. I went in and saw him shave; a great delight for me.”
Which only goes to show that the real Victoria (at least as a young bride) was far sexier than any lingerie company could have imagined!
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