ALBERT – A NEW KIND OF FATHER
Before Victoria and Albert’s day, royal births traditionally took place in a very public fashion, with ministers, privy councillors, bishops and ladies-in-waiting all in attendance, because of fears that royal babies might be swapped with ‘pretenders’ – babies from other families smuggled into the succession.
But Albert broke with tradition and got rid of these bystanders. He protected Victoria by ensuring that staff did not talk about what was happening over the course of her pregnancy and he did not make the expected formal announcements about the progress of his wife’s condition.
He also challenged tradition by attending the births of his children. Everyone made a fuss about Prince Charles attending the birth of Prince William, but Albert watched the births of all his nine babies.
Once safely delivered, Victoria’s children were handed straight to a wet nurse for breastfeeding. These women were treated well and the wet nurse for Princess Victoria, the Queen’s first child, was paid £1,000 and given a pension of £300 a year (around £150,000 in today’s money). Meanwhile, Albert was a new kind of father, ahead of his time in taking an interest in the royal nursery – in the new East Wing of Buckingham Palace. He loved nothing more than rough play and high jinks with his children.
Victoria and Albert with baby Victoria in the series and (below) an 1846 painting of the Royal Family