Before being forced to marry, Victoria’s father, the Duke of Kent lived with his mistress, Madame de Saint Laurent, for many years. After the government urged him to look for a royal wife, he eventually found a suitable bride in the person of Princess Victoria, daughter of Francis Frederick, reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Princess Augusta of Reuss-Ebersdorff.
The bride had been married before to Emich Charles, Prince of Leiningen-Dachsburg-Hardenburg, who died in 1814 and left him with two children – Charles, who succeeded to his father’s title, and Feodora. She met the duke in Amorbach, where she was then living. Her brother, Leopold, who was married to Princess Charlotte, encouraged his sister’s union with his late wife’s uncle.
Money was one of the reasons why the duke decided to get married. He was already encumbered with debts before she met the princess and marrying her will enable him to receive a substantial income from Parliament.
The wedding between the Duke of Kent and Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg was solemnized on July 11, 1818. The only child of the Duke and Duchess of Kent was born on May 24, 1819. Wanting their daughter to be born on the English soil, the couple left Franconia for London just in time before the duchess gave birth.
The newborn royal baby was named Alexandrina Victoria, names which were never been used among royal babies until then. It was the product of a conflict of her father with her uncle the Prince Regent, who refused her to be christened with a “royal” name, like Augusta or Charlotte.
Alas, the duke did not live long after the infant princess’ birth. He succumbed to pneumonia and died on Jan. 23, 1820, six days before his father the king passed away. They were both buried in Windsor.
Left with nothing but debts, the Duchess of Kent and the young princess went to live at Kensington Palace, having the economical support of Prince Leopold. Before his marriage to Princess Charlotte, Parliament provided him with an annuity of L50,000 for life. He continued to live in England, at Claremont House in Usher, Surrey, until 1831 after he was elected first King of the Belgians.
The widowed mother trusted her brother as her best adviser and he was responsible for the general character of Queen Victoria’s education. After he went to Belgium, Victoria and Leopold carried on an affectionate correspondence throughout the 34 years of their joint lives. After her accession, the niece tactfully eluded and quickly terminated the uncle’s attempts to control British policies behind the backs of the British cabinet. Nonetheless, though she could not accept him as an extra-constitutional adviser, Victoria found in correspondence to her uncle, a delightful outlet for her private and unofficial feelings; only to him for example, did she speak of Palmerston and Russell as “those two dreadful men.”
On his death she recorded on her journal that he had been “ever a father” to her.
The young princess’ home was Kensington Palace, though she stayed at times with her uncle at Claremont and frequently traveled on the continent with her mother. Her half-sister Feodora was her nursery companion and remained her friend until her death in 1872.
When Victoria was five and admirable governess was found for her in the person of Fraulein (later Baroness) Louise Lehzen, a native of Coburg. Louise Lehzen won the whole-hearted devotion of the young princess and was the principal influence in her life until her accession to the throne, quite eclipsing the influence of her mother, the duchess of Kent. Victoria’s relation to her mother may be described as correct and usually friendly but no more. Hers is an elusive, pathetic figure. Her influence was of negative character, yet not this reason unimportant.