The ghost of death of Prince Albert hovered over Victoria from the start. His impending presence has grown steadily throughout the show and eventually became inevitable as the royal’s dramatic collapse served as a cliffhanger for the season three finale.
Though Albert was a productive man in life, it is his death that he most remembers in history thanks to his widow, Queen Victoria, and the decades of public grief she endured after his untimely end.
Is the shocking climax of season three the last we’ll see of Tom Hughes’ Prince Albert? Or are there more (possible, unconfirmed) future seasons of Victoria? While we don’t yet have details on what is ahead of us for the Masterpiece show, the story offers a few clues:
When did Prince Albert die?
Perhaps the biggest indicator of Albert’s continued presence on Victoria is the timeline. In the season three finale, viewers were treated to the opening day of the Great Exhibition – a ceremony that took place on May 1, 1851 in real life. While Victoria certainly plays a bit with timelines, and Albert’s death immediately after The Crystal Palace opens, the Prince Consort would shorten a full decade of his life, which means that when the show gets a fourth season we will likely see the return of Victoria’s lover become.
“My husband is not going to die because that would kill me.”
As for the real death of Prince Albert, the exact point in history when the symptoms of his fatal illness began is not entirely clear – purchase notes from both the prince himself and the royal doctors indicated orders of increasingly potent drugs for Albert’s long-standing digestive system published in the summer of 1861 – but in December of that year there could be no longer any doubt that Albert was in serious condition.
Albert’s health had been going downhill for weeks, turning into fever and delirium. His doctors argued about the possible causes, citing “low” fever, a form of stomach infection, or the everyday stress and strain for which he was famous in both his professional and private circles.
Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, ca.1854.
Roger FentonGetty Images
Interestingly, shortly before his illness broke out, he had said to his wife: “I am not attached to life. They do; but I don’t care. If I knew that my loved ones are in good hands, I would be ready to die tomorrow … I am sure that if I had a serious illness, I should give up immediately. I shouldn’t be fighting for life. I have no tenacity for life. “
But Albert held on; For the last two weeks of his life, the Prince Consort wandered glassy-eyed and uncomfortable from room to room in Windsor, regularly cared for by his doctors and his third child, Alice, who served as her father’s nanny during his illness.
Even in the worst case scenario of his illness, Victoria stubbornly remained hopeful and said to one of Albert’s doctors, “My husband is not going to die because that would kill me.”
Nevertheless, the Prince Consort died on the evening of December 14, 1861 after several days of alternating ascent and descent at the age of 42, surrounded by his family and his wife, Victoria, in love.
What caused Albert’s death?
Although Albert’s official cause of death has been given as typhoid, modern experts continue to debate this diagnosis.
First of all, typhoid fever, a bacterial infection of the Salmonella genus, is usually transmitted through food or drink that has been exposed to the bacteria – usually from a sewage-contaminated water supply or someone carrying the bacteria to prepare or serve food. without washing their hands. As a result, it was uncommon at the time for a single member of a family to become infected with typhoid while all the others remained healthy (Mary Mallon aka Typhus Mary was known to have caused at least 51 cases of typhoid, including three deaths, in the area of New York in the early 1900s.) No one else in the royal household developed typhoid fever at the time, and although England had been hit by a spate of the disease just a few years before Albert’s death in December 1861, relatively few cases have been reported.
Likewise, Albert had a long history of intermittent but significant gastrointestinal problems that led some scientists to believe that the Prince Consort might have suffered from Crohn’s disease (which could also be responsible for a number of common problems that are spread over the prince complained the whole time) or ulcerative colitis, which, if left untreated, ultimately lead to sepsis.
Prince Albert Mausoleum in Frogmore.
Hulton ArchivesGetty Images
Different possibility? Albert’s mother died of stomach cancer at the age of 30, and a number of experts have argued that those previous stomach problems were just a symptom of cancerous growth.
Although the typhoid theory has lost its popularity in recent years, it cannot be completely ruled out. Albert’s doctor, Dr. William Jenner, was best known for his studies of typhoid fever after treating hundreds of cases of the disease. He diagnosed Albert with the disease in early December after a characteristic rash appeared on his abdomen, which was considered a key symptom of typhoid (a blood test for typhoid was not to be invented for another 30 years).
However, despite the supposed certainty of his doctor, typhoid was not officially recorded in Albert’s records until seven days after his death.
Funeral of Prince Albert, 1861.
Pressure collectorGetty Images
How Albert’s Death Affected the Nation
Regardless of the cause, the Prince Consort’s death had a strong impact on England.
In addition to the enormous success of his idea, the Great Exhibition, which made him popular with the people, Albert was also known to have taken an active role in the monarchy and often served in the queen’s place when she was prevented from doing state business during her nine years Pregnancies. Shortly before his death, Albert’s last political act had helped smooth out British neutrality in the American Civil War, leading Prime Minister Palmerston to say, “Better for England to wage a ten-year war with America than to lose Prince Albert.” . ”
But they lost him. Shops closed their doors and theatrical performances were canceled in honor of the king’s death; Christmas, a little over a week after Albert’s death, was a grim affair across the kingdom that year.
Before Victoria’s accession to the throne, her family home, the Hanoverians, was not popular with the masses; Generations of runaway spending and debauchery had earned the royal family a less than good reputation. But together, Victoria and Albert have worked to rehabilitate the royal image and make themselves and their children icons of courtesy, education and family life that have made them both accessible and popular with the common people.
A great obsession: Victoria, Albert and the death that changed the British monarchy
Ironically, then, that it was Albert’s death that almost ruined all of his work. After his death, Victoria sank into a deep depression, refusing to perform public duties and leading some to wonder what she was doing to earn the Crown’s annual salary from tax dollars. In the late 1860s, the queen was even asked to abdicate and leave the throne open for her eldest son Bertie, future King Edward VII.
It was only when Bertie was struck by a serious illness on the tenth anniversary of Albert’s death that sentiment began to turn in the Queen’s favor, leading to widespread speculation that the heir would die just like his father. Bertie miraculously recovered a few weeks later, causing Victoria to hold a public thanksgiving service – her first official state ceremony in ten years. The wave of public favor returned to the royal widow as she returned to the affairs of state, and over the years she herself became a beloved symbol of England.
Why did Victoria blame her son for Albert’s death?
Despite the lingering medical mystery surrounding Albert’s death, there is one possibility that definitely did not lead to the Prince Consort’s death, but which Victoria blamed in part for the rest of her life: her son Bertie.
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Before his death, Albert had confronted his eldest son and heir to the throne about a romantic involvement Bertie had with a woman named Nellie Clifton (sometimes referred to as Nelly Clifden). The morally minded Albert was appalled that his unmarried son would have taken a lover and also feared that Clifton would become pregnant or try to blackmail the crown, which led to a shameful scandal.
It was only after his return to the royal house from this disguise that Albert’s health deteriorated noticeably. Attributing her husband’s demise to the stress of Bertie’s behavior, Victoria refused to even see the young prince for a time, sending him on an extensive trip abroad just a few weeks after his father’s death (supposedly to finish his practical training).
The diplomat tried again and again to intervene for Bertie, Victoria’s uncle, King Leopold I, and wrote of his efforts: “It is entirely your fault, since the poor boy demands nothing better than to devote himself to the comfort of his mother and with him that goal … is happy to give up his overseas expedition, but she didn’t want to hear about it and just seems anxious to get rid of him.
Apparently the Queen confirmed the feeling and wrote to her daughter Vicky shortly after Albert’s death: “Many would like to shake my resolution and keep it [Bertie] here “, but that would” force a contact that I find unbearable more than ever “.
Although Victoria eventually remained in contact with Bertie all her life, she prevented the Prince of Wales from holding any other position of political power or influence until after her death, almost four decades later.
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