Princess Feodora of Leiningen: Queen Victoria’s Half-Sister
While the young Princess Victoria was not allowed to play with other children her age, she was blessed enough to have with her the care and affection of her older, half-sister, Princess Feodora of Leiningen. She was born on December 7, 1807 and was baptized Anna Feodora Auguste Charlotte Wilhelmine. Her father, Emich Carl, was Hereditary Prince of Leiningen, while her mother was Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfed.
In 1814, Prince Emich Carl died and in 1818, Princess Victoria married Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent and fourth son of King George III. A year earlier, Princess Charlotte, the only child of the Prince Regent (who would reign as King George IV, 1820-1830), passed away. Her death led to a succession crisis for she was the only legitimate offspring of all of King George III’s children. While Edward and his brothers have children, all of them were illegitimate and so they were forced to look for a wife for themselves. In 1918, Feodora joined her mother, now the Duchess of Kent, and she and the Duke moved to London where they established their household at Kensington Palace. She was heavily pregnant then and they wanted her child to be born on the British soil.
Feodora’s half-sister, Victoria, was born on May 24, 1819. A few months later the Duke of Kent died. While Feodora and Victoria were 12 years apart in age, they maintained a close relationship way until their old age. However, she was never happy in Kensington Palace and also voiced her desire to leave. In fact, her "only happy time was driving out" with Victoria and her governess Baroness Louise Lehzen because she could "speak and look as she liked."
In early 1828, Feodora finally found the reason to leave Kensington Palace, after marrying Ernst I, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (1794–1860). They had only met twice before their wedding. After their honeymoon, they finally settled in Germany, in the prince’s family seat, the huge but uncomfortable Schloss Langenburg, where she lived until death in 1872. The prince did not actually rule (the principality was mediatised to the Kingdom of Württemberg in 1806).
The correspondence between Victoria and Feodora would go on and they would write to each other as frequently as possible. “I often think, when our children… are grown up and think back upon their happy childhood, how different their feelings will be from what ours are when we think back. We both have not enjoyed a father's love," Feodora once wrote to Queen Victoria.
When Victoria succeeded to the throne, Feodora wrote: "Living but for your duty to your country, difficult as it is, will prove to you a source of happiness."
The Queen would provide her sister an allowance (about £300) each time she told her she wanted to visit England. Feodora and Ernst would have six children, all of which survived to adulthood, although her eldest daughter Elise died at 19 because of tuberculosis.
Feodora and Victoria also endure the grief that widowhood brought almost together. In 1860, Prince Ernst died and the following year, Prince Albert passed away. Victoria hoped Feodora would move permanently with her in England but Feodora thought Victoria’s grief was too much to bear.
In February 1872, Feodora’s youngest daughter Feodora Victoria died. Seven months later, September 23, Feodora died. Victoria paid her sister one last visit when she was terminally ill. Her death was another blow to Queen Victoria, who wrote: “I stand so alone now, no near and dear one near my own age, or older to whom I could look up to, left! All, all gone! She was my last near relative on an equality with me, the last link with my childhood and youth.”
When her personal effects were being searched and sorted, a letter for Queen Victoria dated 1854 was found, a lasting testament to the affection an older sister could have for a younger sibling: “I can never thank you enough for all you have done for me, for your great love and tender affection. These feelings cannot die, they must and will live in my soul – till we meet again, never more to be separated – and you will not forget.”