Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's 20-year marriage was sealed in 1840, but it went on to last forever.
She became queen at 18 and reigned proudly until she was 81. She was a mother of nine children and grandmother to 42. But there's no question to the most treasured milestone in Queen Victoria's long and rich life was her wedding to her true love, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
The passionate pair were both 20 when they tied the knot on Feb. 10, 1840. Victoria had proposed to Albert four months earlier during their second face-to-face meeting. Totally smitten the young queen just couldn't wait for him to be hers forever.
“The happiest day of my life,” she wrote of her wedding. “His excessive love and affection gave me feelings of heavenly love and happiness I never could have hoped to have felt... How can I ever be thankful enough to have such a husband!”
Ruled by Love
Victoria was a practical leader but when it came to love, her heart ruled. As her first cousin, German nobleman Albert had always been on her radar. Indeed the two had been groom for each other for years. But after a disastrous set up at her 17th birthday, she had lost interest.
Much would change in three years. In 1839 Albert returned to Buckingham Palace, he was no longer the shy boy Victoria remembered. Muscular, tall, and with piercing blue eyes, he had grown into an archetypal Prince Charming. He loved to sing and dance, just as she did. Victoria was infatuated, “Albert was beautiful,” she wrote.
Three days later the queen proposed in Germa, Albert's native language, and before the words were out, he had smothered her hands with kisses—an unequivocal yes. “How is it that I have deserved so much love, so much affection?” Albert wrote. “I believe that heaven has sent me an angel whose brightness shall illumine my life.”
Married life couldn't have come fast enough for the young lovers. Albert returned to Germany to sort his affairs and when they were finally reunited on the eve of their wedding, an ecstatic Victoria, breaching decorum, threw herself into his arms.
The next day it was her turn to take his breath away. This was the first wedding of a reigning queen since 1554, and she had been adviced to don traditional velvet robes. Instead, the headstrong monarch married her prince in her dream gown: an exquisite white silk satin and lace creation designed by the queen herself and brought to life by her dressmaker Mary Bettans. Her example is the often-cited reason why brides wear white to this day.
On her head was a simple wreath of orange blossoms, a nod to the orange flower brooch the prince gave her upon their engagement. She also sported a sapphire-and-diamond brooch, a wedding gift from her groom.
Evening weddings were traditional but at Victoria's request the ceremony was held at the Chapel Royal, St. James' Palace, in the early afternoon so the public could be part of her day (A wedding “breakfast” at the palace followed). Just 300 guests mostly royals and members of Parliament were present for the vows, but outside the palace immense crowds turned out to celebrate the historic moment. Said the queen, “I felt so happy when the ring was put, and by my precious Albert.”
The newly-weds were unstoppable team. Less than two years after their wedding, the furious passional couple had welcomes two healthy children, named Victoria and Albert. Seven more would follow. Sadly their love story was cut short in 1861 when Albert died of typhoid fever. The queen was devastated. “To see our pure happy, quiet domestic life cut off... when I had hoped that God … would let us grow old together is too awful, too cruel,” for the rest of her days, she threw herself into ruling her country.
After her death in 1901, it was said that “Britain had a worldwide empire on which the sun never set.” Victoria, however, would always remember her life with Albert as the best and brightest days of all.
- Written by Carli Witwell and published by Hello! Canada on its special keepsake edition titled The World's Greatest Royal Weddings.