A collective biography of the nine children of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who included King Edward VII; Victoria, Princess Royal, later Empress Frederick; and Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh
Queen Victoria and Albert, Prince Consort, had nine children. Despite different characters and temperaments, they always remained a closely-knit, mutually supportive family group. Some married into European royal families and experienced the painful division of loyalties inevitable in the ever-changing world of 19th-century political and nationalist feeling. The life of Victoria, Princess Royal, later consort of the German Emperor Frederick III, was soured by the merciless opposition of Chancellor Bismarck and later her son, Emperor William II ('Kaiser Bill'). Similarly the marriage of Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, to a Russian Grand Duchess, gave Britain a dynastic alliance with a country whom she had defeated in the Crimean War, and nearly cause her to take up arms against her old enemy once more. Even the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, inadvertently provoked German anger by taking a Danish princess as his bride.
Yet their lives were not totally dominated by political controversy. All made their own contributions to public life in Britain and Europe. Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse, whose children included the last Tsarina of Russia, worked tirelessly throughout her tragically short life on behalf of welfare and educational services in Germany, an example which her younger sisters faithfully followed in England. Leopold, Duke of Albany, was an active patron of the arts, although he died at the early age of 31, while Arthur, Duke of Connaught, served with distinction in the army, and as Governor-General of Canada.
After the death of Edward VII in 1910, the four surviving children of Queen Victoria all lived through the family tragedy of the Great War; all but one witnessed the outbreak of Hitler's conflict in 1939, It was fortunate for Vicky (the Empress Frederick), Alice (Grand Duchess of Hesse) and Affie (Duke of Edinburgh and of Saxe-Coburg Gotha) that they had all died at comparatively early ages, for the heartbreak of being at war with the country of their birth would surely have been too heavy a burden for them to bear.
As it was, there would be distressing divisions of loyalty among the next generation. Charles, Duke of Saxe-Coburg, and Ernest, Grand Duke of Hesse, were sovereign princes in the Fatherland. Like Prince and Princess Henry of Prussia, they were on much more friendly terms with their easy-going relations in England than with the German Emperor and his sabre-rattling military entourage at the unbearably military Berlin court. But family ties counted for as little in 1914 as they had during Bismarck's ascendancy. Again, 'every family feeling was rent asunder'.