‘Be mar­ried for mar­ry­ing’s sake’

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the con­nec­tions forged mat­ri­mo­ni­ally between royal houses as an as­pect of for­eign pol­icy. This earnest, re­form­ing prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha had lofty am­bi­tions: in the mar­riages of his chil­dren, he iden­ti­fied a means of dis­pers­ing across Europe the pri­or­i­ties of 19th-cen­tury Bri­tain: no­tably, the spread of lib­eral con­sti­tu­tional govern­ment and a de­ter­mi­na­tion to guar­an­tee peace in the lengthy af­ter­math of the Napoleonic Wars.

His spe­cific fo­cus was Ger­many. He mar­ried his favourite, el­dest daugh­ter, Vicky, to the Crown Prince of Prus­sia, imag­in­ing that her in­flu­ence in Ber­lin in the years be­fore Ger­man uni­fi­ca­tion would help shape a po­lit­i­cally mod­er­ate, peace-lov­ing, An­glophile fed­er­a­tion of Ger­man states. In this mis­sion Vicky failed, de­feated by Bis­marck and her own tact­less­ness.

Al­bert died too young to forge matches of sim­i­lar dy­nas­tic sig­nif­i­cance for his re­main­ing off­spring and none of the mar­riages of Vic­to­ria and Al­bert’s nine chil­dren re­sulted in close or stronger bonds between Bri­tish and Con­ti­nen­tal gov­ern­ments. In the case of her daugh­ters, the choices made by the wid­owed Vic­to­ria re­peat­edly ap­peared to pri­ori­tise her own con­ve­nience and in­cli­na­tion over for­eign pol­icy con­sid­er­a­tions or the girls’ hap­pi­ness, while her sec­ond son, Al­fred, chose his own bride – the only daugh­ter of Alexan­der II of Rus­sia – in the face of pro­nounced ma­ter­nal op­po­si­tion.

Cad­bury deals glanc­ingly with Al­bert’s grand vi­sion and Vic­to­ria’s at­tempts, or oth­er­wise, to im­ple­ment it af­ter his death. She does not ad­dress in de­tail Vic­to­ria’s Ger­man-cen­tric out­look as royal ma­tri­arch (and, in­deed, royal states­man) or its im­pact. Only im­plic­itly does she ac­knowl­edge how sel­dom Vic­to­ria’s mar­riage plans came to fruition, de­spite the queen’s force­ful­ness. Of the mar­riages ex­am­ined here, that of Ni­cholas and Alexan­dra was di­rectly con­trary to Vic­to­ria’s oft-re­peated wishes, like the ear­lier mar­riage of Alexan­dra’s sis­ter Ella to Ni­cholas’s hand­some, re­ac­tionary, prob­a­bly gay un­cle, the Grand Duke Sergei. Mean­while, the mar­riage of Vic­to­ria’s youngest grand­daugh­ter, Vic­to­ria Eu­ge­nie of Bat­ten­berg, known as Ena, to Al­fonso XIII of Spain, came about only af­ter Vic­to­ria’s death, and in­volved a con­ver­sion to Catholi­cism un­likely to have im­pressed Ena’s ro­bustly

The Royal Fam­ily by Win­ter­hal­ter, 1846

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