Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Alfred Ernest Albert) (born August 1844 and died 30 July 1900), was the third Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha between 1893 and 1900. He was also a member of the British Royal Family, the second son and fourth child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. He was created Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Kent andEarl of Ulster in the peerage of the United Kingdom on 24 May 1866. He succeeded his paternal uncle Ernst as the reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in the German Empire on 23 August 1893.
Alfred was born at Windsor Castle. His mother was the reigning British monarch, Queen Victoria, the only daughter of Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent and Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. His father was Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the second son of Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. As a son of the monarch, he was styled His Royal Highness The Prince Alfred at birth, and was second in the line of succession behind his elder brother, Prince Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales, he was known to his family as Alfie.
Alfred was christened by William Howley, Archbishop of Canterbury at the Private Chapel in Windsor Castle on 6 September 1844. His sponsors were his maternal great-uncle, the Duke of Cambridge (represented by his son, Prince George of Cambridge); his paternal aunt, Alexandrine, Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (represented by his maternal grandmother, the Duchess of Kent); and Queen Victoria's half-brother, Prince Carl of Leiningen (represented by the Duke of Wellington).
Entering the Royal Navy
In 1856 it was decided that Prince Alfred, in accordance with his own wishes, should enter the Royal Navy. A separate establishment was accordingly assigned to him, with Lieutenant Sowell, R. E., as governor. He passed the examination for midshipman in August 1858, and was appointed to the HMS Euryalus. In July 1860, while on this ship, he paid an official visit to the Cape, and made a very favourable impression both on the colonials and on the native chiefs. On the abdication of King Otto of Greece, in 1862,Prince Alfred was chosen to succeed him, but political conventions of long standing rendered it impossible for the British government to accede to their wishes.
Prince Alfred, therefore remained in the navy, and was promoted lieutenant on 24 February 1863, serving under Count Gleichen on HMS Racoon, and captain on 23 February 1866, being then appointed to the command of the frigate HMS Galatea.
In 1868, Alfred survived an assassination attempt while picnicking on the beach in the Sydney suburb of Clontarf while in New South Wales.
Heir to the British throne
Alfred remained second-in-line heir to the British throne from his birth until 8 January 1864. His older brother Edward and his wife Alexandra of Denmark had their first son Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence on this date. Any legitimate children his older brother had took priority in the succession list. Alfred became third-in-line heir to the throne.
As Edward and Alexandra continued to have children, Alfred was further demoted in the order of succession:
- On 3 June 1865 when the future George V of the United Kingdom was born, Alfred became fourth-in-line heir.
- On 20 February 1867 when Princess Louise, Princess Royal and Duchess of Fife was born, Alfred became fifth-in-line heir.
- On 6 July 1868 when Princess Victoria Alexandra of the United Kingdom was born, Alfred became sixth-in-line heir.
- On 26 November 1869 when Maud of Wales was born, Alfred became seventh-in-line heir.
- On 6 April 1871 when Prince Alexander John of Wales was born, Alfred became eighth-in-line heir. However Alexander died the following day and Alfred resumed being the seventh-in-line heir.
Titles and honours
In the Queen's Birthday Honours in May 1866, the prince was created Duke of Edinburgh and Earl of Ulster and of Kent, with an annuity of £15,000 granted by Parliament. He took his seat in the House of Lords on 8 June. Having created him a Knight of the Garter on 24 May 1863, the Queen also conferred upon the Dukedom of Edinburgh the Knighthoods of the Thistle (Scotland) and St. Patrick(Ireland), as well as Grand Crosses of the Orders of the Bath, the Star of India, St. Michael and St. George, the Indian Empire, and the Royal Victorian Order. In addition, he held the principal foreign orders of chivalry including: the Order of the Black Eagle of Prussia, the Order of the Golden Fleece of Spain, the Annunziata of Italy, the Legion of Honour of France, St. Stephen of Austria, St. Andrew of Russia, and the Ostmanieh of the Ottoman Empire.
While still in command of the Galatea, theDuke of Edinburgh started from Plymouth on January 24, 1867 for his voyage round the world. On 7 June 1867, he left Gibraltar and reached the Cape on 24 July and paid a royal visit to Cape Town on 24 August 1867 after landing at Simonstown a while earlier. He landed at Glenelg, South Australia, on October 31.
Being the first English prince to visit Australia, the Duke was received with great enthusiasm. During his stay of nearly five months he visited Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Tasmania.
On March 12, 1868, on his second visit to Sydney whilst picnicking in the beachfront suburb of Clontarf, he was wounded in the back by a revolver fired by Henry James O'Farrell. The Prince was shot in the just to the right of his spine, and was tended for the next two weeks by six Florence Nightingale trained nurses led by Matron Lucy Osburn who were newly arrived in Australia (February 1868).
On the evening of 23 March 1868, the most influential people of Sydney voted for a memorial building to be erected, “to raise a permanent and substantial monument in testimony of the heartfelt gratitude of the community at the recovery of HRH”. This led to a public conscription which paid for the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital's construction.
Prince Alfred soon recovered from his minor injury and was able to resume command of his ship and return home in early April 1868.
Henry James O'Farrell was arrested at the scene, quickly tried, convicted and hanged on 21 April 1868.
Prince Alfred reached Spithead on 26 June 1868, after an absence of seventeen months. He was also the first member of the Royal Family to visit New Zealand, arriving in 1869 on HMS Galatea. The Duke's next voyage was to India, where he arrived in December 1869. Both there and at Hong Kong, which he visited on the way, he was the first British prince to set foot in the country. The native rulers of India vied with one another in the magnificence of their entertainments during the Duke's stay of three months.
Marriage and family life
On 23 January 1874, the Duke of Edinburgh married Her Imperial Highness The Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia, the second (and only surviving) daughter of Tsar Alexander II of Russia and his wife Marie of Hesse and by Rhine, daughter of Ludwig II, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine and Wilhelmine of Baden, at the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg. The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh made their public entry into London on 12 March. The marriage, however, was not a happy one, and the bride was thought haughty by London society. She insisted on taking precedence before the Princess of Wales (the future Queen Alexandra) because she and her father the Tsar considered the Princess of Wales' family (the Danish Royal family) as inferior to their own. Queen Victoria refused this demand and granted her precedence immediately after the Princess of Wales. Her father gave her the then staggering sum of £100,000 as a dowry plus an annual allowance of £28,000.
The Duke and Duchess had six children:
- Prince Alfred ("Young Affie") (15 October 1874-6 February 1899), Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha from 22 August 1893.
Princess Marie (29 October 1875-18 July 1938); married 10 January 1893 King Ferdinand I of Romania (1865-1927); and had issue.
Princess Victoria Melita ("Ducky") (25 November 1876 - 2 March 1936); married (1) 19 April 1894 (divorced 21 December 1901) her paternal first cousin Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine (1868-1937), and had issue; (2) 8 October 1905 her maternal first cousin the Grand Duke Cyril of Russia (1876-1938), and had issue.
Princess Alexandra (1 September 1878 - 16 April 1942); married 20 April 1896 Prince Ernst of Hohenloe-Langenburg (1863-1950), and had issue.
An unnamed son (13 October 1879, stillborn).
- Princess Beatrice (20 April 1884 - 13 July 1966); married 15 July 1909, Don Alfonso, Infante of Spain, 3rd Duke of Galliera (1886-1975), and had issue.
Attainment of Flag Rank
The Duke of Edinburgh devoted himself to his profession, showing complete mastery of his duties and unusual skill in naval tactics. He was stationed in Malta for several years and his third child, Victoria Melita, was born there in 1876. He was promoted rear-admiral on 30 December 1878; vice-admiral, 10 November 1882; admiral, 18 October 1887; and received his baton as Admiral of the Fleet, 3 June 1893. He commanded the Channel fleet, 1883-1884; the Mediterranean fleet, 1886-1889; and was commander-in-chief at Devonport, Plymouth, 1890-1893. He always paid the greatest attention to his official duties and was most efficient as an admiral.
Accession to the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
On the death of his uncle, Ernst II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha on August 22, 1893, the vacant duchy fell to the Duke of Edinburgh, since the Prince of Wales had renounced his right to the succession. At first regarded with some coldness as a "foreigner," he gradually gained popularity, and by the time of his death in 1900 he had generally won the good opinion of his subjects. The Duke was exceedingly fond of music and an excellent violinist, and took a prominent part in establishing the Royal College of Music. He was also a keen collector of glass and ceramic ware, and his collection, valued at half a million marks, was presented by his widow to theVeste Coburg, a big fortress near Coburg. When he became Duke of Saxe-Coburg he surrendered his British allowance of £15,000 a year and his seats in the House of Lords and the Privy Council, but retained the £10,000 granted on his marriage in order to maintain Clarence House as his London residence.
The Duke's only son, the Hereditary Prince Alfred, became involved in a scandal involving his mistress and shot himself in January1899, in the midst of his parents' twenty-fifth wedding anniversary celebrations. He survived, but his embarrassed parents sent him off to Meran to recover, where he died two weeks later, on 6 February. The Duke of Saxe-Coburg died of throat cancer on 30 July 1900 at Schloss Rosenau at Coburg. He was buried at the ducal family's cemetery outside Coburg. He was succeeded as the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha by his nephew, Prince Charles Edward, Duke of Albany,the posthumous son of his youngest brother, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany. (Alfred's next brother, the Duke of Connaught and his son, Prince Arthur of Connaught, had renounced their succession rights to the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha).
Titles and honours
Titles from birth to death
Here is a list of titles that Duke Alfred bore from birth to death in chronological order:
- 1844–1866: His Royal Highness The Prince Alfred
- 1866–1893: His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh
- 1893–1900: His Royal Highness The Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
- Order of the Garter
Order of the Thistle
Order of St Patrick
Order of the Bath,
Order of St Michael and St George
Order of the Indian Empire
Royal Victorian Order
Privy Council of the United Kingdom
- Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, the main settlement of Tristan da Cunha was named after Alfred after he visited the remote Islands in 1867 while Duke of Edinburgh.
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