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Life of the Prince Consort online

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The sudden blow, which, on Saturday, the 14th of
Decembei\ 1861, made desolate the family of our
most gracious Queen, is one which was felt to fall
heavily on the nation at large ; and the grief of the
entire community, on hearing the news of the
death of the Prince Consort, appears to be of so
genuine and so permanent a character, that even
the humblest of her Majesty's subjects may well
feel excused if he attempts to supply the public
with a brief and imperfect, but, he trusts, not in-
accurate or worthless outline of the biography of
one whom the hand of Death has so suddenly and
so mysteriously arrested in the midst of his illus«
trious career of practical usefulness. It will be
many a long month before the tears of grief will


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be dried up within the royal walls of Windsor and
of Osborne; and it will be long too before the
name of the Prince Consort will pass away from the
memories of those to whom he was known only by
his public actions; and the author hopes that the
present unpretending volume, which is little more
than a digested collection of the contents of the
public journals during the week that has elapsed
since the decease of His Royal Highness, may tend
in some slight degree to keep his august and
venerated name in the remembrance which it

Before proceeding, however, to a biography of
the Prince himself, it will be not an uninteresting
task to place upon record some of the leading facts
connected with the past history of that illustrious
house which has given to England a Prince Consort
worthy of England^s Queen, and worthy of the
land of his adoption. Our readers will therefore
pardon us, if we dwell at something more than
ordinary length on the rise of the house of Coburg,
of which the late Prince was so noble and hopeful
a scion.

The Dukedom of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, as it is
now more generally termed, is situated in the
heart of Germany, to whose confederation it be-

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lougg. It is 37 German square* miles in extent^
and contains a population of about 150^000 souls.
It consists of two parts — the Dukedom of Coburg,
and the Dukedom of Gotha^ which^ after having
been at different periods joined and again separatedi
were finally united in 1826, on the death of the
reigning Duke of Gotha, whose only child, the
Princess of Gotha, was married a few years previously
to the then reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg, the
father of the Prince «o recently deceased.

Coburg, the smaller of the two divisions, ex-
tends over about 9 4 square miles, and contains
about 50,000 inhabitants, It is bounded by the
Kingdom of Bavaria and the Dukedom of Saxe
Meiningen, It is hilly and well watered, and
produces abundance of corn and fruit, while its
pastures afford nourishment to numerous herds of
cattle. The capital of Coburg, of the same name,
stands on the river Itz, in the most charming part
of the country, and boasts of a fine royal residence,
the castle of Ehrenberg. On a lofty eminence
near the town is situated the fortress of Coburg,
together with an arsenal and a house of correction
The royal c6untry residence of Bosenau (which

* One Gerinau square mile coataiiis about 22 English square

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was Prince Alberfs birth-place) lies in a valley
about three miles distant from the town, surrounded
by a beautiful park. The Dukedom of Coburg,
however, is not so forward as that of Gk)tha in
commercial and industrial pursuits, or in general
social progress; still its capital has a population
of some I0,000,and includes a college with an obser-
vatory, and an establishment for the education of

Gotha, the larger territory, is 27 \ German
miles in extent, and contains about 100,000 inha-
bitants, who are remarkable, as a people, for their
industry and enterprise, and for the high state of
their trade, commerce, and agriculture. The Duke-
dom is bounded by the Kingdom of Prussia, the
Grand Dukedom of Saxe Weimar, the Electorate
of Hesse, the Dukedom of Saxe Meiningen, and the
Principality of Schwarzburg. It is for the most
part mountainous, though it abounds in valleys
watered by the Unstrat and other rivers. Its
capital, Gotha, is well built, situated in an agree-
able country, and surrounded by garden lands. It
boasts of a college, an establishment for the train-
ing of schoolmasters (the oldest of its kind in
Germany), an orphan asylum, hospital, arsenal,
&c., and contains a population which may be

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roughly estimated at 15,000. Its museum contains
an extensive and valuable library, with fine collec-
tions of coins, shells, engravings, and other
treasures. The town is commanded by the lofty
castle of Priedenstein, and at a short distance from
it in the royal park, the pleasure-residence of Fried-
richsthal, and on the summit of the Seeberg, an
observatory of some little reputation, one of the
best establishments of the kind.

The entire Dukedom of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
forms a part of the ancient kingdonfi of Thu-
ringia^ the first of those established in Ger-
many on the death of Attila, King of the Huns.
Its early history is, of course, involved in much ob-
scurity : and we can scarcely regard Merewig, the
first prince who is said to have borne sway in
Thuringia, as a historical personage. We know,
however, that when Clovis had established his
kingdom in Gaul, he made war on Thuringia, which
was reduced to the position of a Franconian pro-
vince, under his sons, a.d. 551.

About the year a.d. 645, Radulf, Duke of Thu-
ringia, shook off the yoke of the Franks so far as to
get himself acknowledged hereditary duke, and it
is said that his son or grandson Gozobert was con-
verted to Christianity by Irish missionaries. But

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ifc is certain that Boniface, " the Apostle of Ger-
many/^ an Anglo-Saxon prelate of great piety and
renown, established the Christian faith in Thu-^
ringia, and became, a.d. 746, the first Bishop of
Menz, in which diocese Thuringia was included.

In the course of time, Thuringia fell under the
Saxon emperors, and in a.d. 918 we find the crown
of Germany bestowed on Henry I. (or the Fowler),
who built and fortified the town of Misnia, on the
Elbe, which became the capital of the Margraviate
of Misnia^ established by this sovereign. We have
not space to record here the various steps and
changes by which the sovereignty of Thuringia
passed from the Saxon emperors to the Margraves
of Misnia, or how it became hereditary in the house
of Wettin; but must content ourselves with re-
marking it as a curious coincidence, that in the
middle of the 12th century, the then Margrave of
Misnia, one of Prince Albert's lineal ancestors, is
handed down to us by historians as one of the
most powerfiil princes that espoused the cause of
the Guelphs against the Ghibelines,

About the middle of the 14th century, the terri-
tory of Coburg was added, by way of a bridal dower,
to the lands of the house of Wettin ; which, in A.n,
1485, was divided iuto two distinct lines, vhe elder

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or electoral line of Eruest, and the younger or
ducal line of Albert— an event to which the late
reigning duke must be supposed to have historically
referred when he christened his two sons Ernest
and Albert respectively.

The second prince of the electoral line was Fre«
derick the Wise, the founder of the University of
Wittenburg, the firm friend and courageous patron
of Luther and the Beformation: the Dukes of
Saxony, of the line of Albert, also adhered to the
Protestant cause; and from that day to the present
the illustrious house from which our late Prince
sprung have proved the surest and strongest sup-
porters of Protestantism and progress in central
Germany, By the powerful aid of the Emperor
Charles Y. the electoral dignity was transferred in
A.D, 1B47 from the line of Ernest to that of Albert,
in the person of Maurice of Saxony, the first prince
in the empire and the chief of the Protestant party ;
and though his dominions suffered a temporary
severance after his death, yet eventually, after a
variety of changes and vicissitudes which we have
not space to record here, they were nearly all re-
united, in 1807, by the Treaty of Tilsit, in the
person of Duke Ernest of Saxe-Coburg and Saal-
field, who, after the battle of Leipsic in IS13,

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joined the Allies and conducted the siege of Maintz
as commander of the 5th division of the German
army. In 1808, after a personal negotiation at
Paris, Dake Ernest returned to Coburg, and exerted
timself with strenuous and laudable zeal to the
work of restoring prosperity to his shattered and
disordered country — a task not easily accomplished
in such troublous and disastrous times. On the
overthrow of Napoleon, in 1814, as is well known,
the German states formed at the Congress of Vienna
a federal union, called ^^ the Germanic Confedera-
tion/^ Duke Ernest attended this Congress, and
obtained for himself the Principality of Lichten-
berg, beyond the Rhine, containing a population of
26,000 inhabitants. He is recorded to have uttered
on this occasion a most spirited protest on behalf
of the King of Saxony, the whole of whose king-
dom was most selfishly designed, by the joint views
of England, Russia, and Prussia, to fall to the
share of the last-named monarchy. After the
return of Napoleon from Elba, Duke Ernest com-
manded the Saxon troops and also a division of the
Austrian army ; and, at the head of their united
forces, he blockaded Schlettstadt and New Breisach.
It should be added, moreover, that he was not long
in following the example of the Grand Duke of

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Weimar, Charles Augustas, by granting to his
subjects the benefit of a free constitution.

In 1825, died Frederick IV., the last reigning
Duke of Saxe-Gotha and Altenburg. His heirs
not being able to come to an amicable understand-^
ing among themselves, had recourse to the
mediation of Frederick Augustus III., the Duke
of Saxony ; and the result of his arbitration was
the agreement of inheritance of 1826, by wliich
the Duke of Coburg relinquished Saalfiold, and
obtained in exchange the Dukedom of Gotha, with
the exception of one small domain, when he
assumed the title of Duke of Saxe-Coburg and

Duke Ernest removed his residence from Coburg
to Gotha, and scon gained the affection of his new
subjects by his extreme humanity and kindness,
and by the unwearied solicitude with which he
watched over the interests of his country. The
reader will be able to form some idea of the spirit
in which the affairs of the Dukedom were now
conducted when we mention that the ecclesiastical
court or- consistory was specially required by the
Duke to '^ promote religious, moral, and intellectual
education throughout his dominions, in conformity
with the spirit of the times and the necessities of

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the people/' The members of it were also required
to ^' take care that the spiritual, moral, and religious
improvement of all classes should be such as to
qualify them for the duties of practical life, and
that everything should be carefully removed from
their view which could possibly lead them into the
errors of superstition or mysticism/'

In 1828, Duke Ernest concurred in the com-
mercial association of central Germany, which was
intended to act as a counterpoise to the Prussian
Commercial Confederation ; but when Hesse with-
drew from the former association, the Duke joined
his strength with the fortunes of Prussia.

As the Grand Duke had grauted to his subjects
a constitution of his own free will, and not under
the force of external pressure, the stormy year
1830, which so violently reminded several conti-
nental sovereigns of broken faith and forgotten
promises, witnessed peace and tranquillity in Saxe-
Coburg-Gotha, though disturbances broke out in
the principality of Lichtenberg, which the Duke
was glad to hand over to Prussia for a yearly
revenue of 80,000 dollars.

On Christmas Day, 1833, the Dukea of Saxe-
UUenburg and Saxe-Meiningen assembled^ by
invitatian of the Duke Ernest, at Friodenstein, to

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celebrate the birthday of the estimable sovereign,
Ernest the Pius, their common ancestor and
the builder of the Castle : and in honour of their
illustrious progenitor they founded an order of merit
under the title of the 'Order of the House of

The late reigning Duke, who died in January,
ISM, was one of a family of nine children, two of
whom died young, while the rest have held in their
day important positions in the Courts of Europe.
His eldest sister married the late Emmanuel
Count Von Mensdorff Pouilly in Bohemia; the
next was the wife of the uncle of the present King
of Wurtemburg ; the third married the late Grand
Dake Constantino of Russia; and the other sister
was the late Duchess of Kent ; his next brother
married the late Queen of Portugal, by whom he
became the father of the late and present Kings
of that country; and his youngest brother, Leopold,
King of the Belgians, who in marrying the Princess
Charlotte very nearly became Prince Consort of
England, and who has founded for himself a
continental sovereignty which is likely, to say the
least, to hold a permanent place among the nations
of Europe.

The truth is that it is impossible to overrate the

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influence of the House of Coburg, the importance
of its bearings upon the politics of Europe, and
the extraordinary run of successes and favours
which have raised it within the last half century
from a position of mediocrity among Continental
Princes to the very highest alliances to which
human ambition can hope to aspire, placing crowns
upon the heads of some of its members, and allying
the rest, more or less intimately, with all that is
powerful and illustrious in Europe. It is indeed no
small matter of boasting, that the late reigningDuke,
while still in the prime of life, found himself before
his death, in 184*4, uncle and father-in-law of the
Queen of England, uncle of the Queen of Portugal,
and brother of the King of the Belgians, and thence
nearly allied to the then Royal Family of France, as
well as being connected by his own and his sister's
marriages with the Royal Houses of England and
Wurtemburg, and thence with nearly all tlie petty
Princes of Germany ; to say nothing of his less im-
mediate connexion with the Sovereigns of Russiaand
Prussia, to whom he was bound by the closest ties
of friendship, or of that acme of elevation which his
son and successor, the present reigning Duke
Ernest, sees to be in store — so far as man can forecast
the future — ^for his father's immediate descendants.

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The following account of the rise of the fortunes
of Prince Albert's family is from an authentic
source. Iua.d. 1547 the electoral dignity passed
over to a collateral line of the same house, whose
present head is the King of Saxony. Students in
genealogic lore have gone centuries hack to find
the records of the family. One distinguished
writer (Mr. Carlyle) has been particularly diligent.
In the Westminster Review for January, 1855, he
favours us with " A Glimpse of Saxony History,''
and, without referring to Prince Albert's own career,
traces that of the family to a very distant date,
pointing to the month of July, 1455, as an
appropriate starting-point for the pedigree of
the Wettin line of Saxon Princes, to which the
Prince Consort belonged. He does so because an
event of a romantic character marked the period.
It is recorded that one Kuuz von Kaufungen, a
fighting captain attached to the forces of the
Elector of Friedrich, encountered certain reverses,
became prisoner, and had to pay ransom to the
amount of £2000. The Elector, for reasons not
explained, refused to indemnify Kunz, who there-
upon became exasperated against his master, vowed
vengeance, and at once sought an opportunity to
inflict it. On the 7th of July, 1455, Kunz, with

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a party of thirty men, assembled at midnight in
the little Saxon town of Altenburgh; by the
treachery of one of the servants the party obtained
an entrance into the castle of the Elector, and suc-
eeeded in carrying off his two children, Prince Ernst
and Prince Albert the younger.

On reaching the precincts of the castle, Kunz
handed over the elder boy to a confederate, and
took charge of the other himself. The party then
separated in two, and started off in opposite direc-
tions. Bat pursuers were on the track. The
Electress had discovered her loss, and was promis-
ing anything for the recovery of her children.
The ringing of the alarm-bells startled the pea-
santry, and the course of the vengeful Kunz was
ultimately stopped by a grim-looking charcoal-
burner, who, belabouring Kunz with his "poking
pole,^^ succeeded in vanquishing the captain and in
restoring the Prince to the Electress, the news of
which speedily led to the recovery of the other
child. '^ How was it you dared attack so formid-
able a man as Kunz von Kaufungen?^^ demanded
the delighted mother. ^^ Madam,'' replied the
collier, '^ I drilled him soundly with my ' poking
pole,' " at which they all laughed, and called the
collier '' der Triller''-^the Driller. The upshot of

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the matter was that Kimz had to lay his head
upon the block, while the ^' heaven-born collier," ot
Driller, as he was ever afterwards called, was in*
vited to name whatever reward he coveted. The
Elector and his lady were so overjoyed that they
were ready to confer any boon he might choose to
ask. But the charcoal burner was very modest.
" Only liberty to cut, of scrags and waste wood>
what will suffice for my charring purposes," said
he. This was granted to the man and his posterity j
made sure to him by legal deed ; and to this was
added so many yearly bushels of corn from the
Electoral stock barns, and a handsome little farm
to produce other necessaries for thje good man and
his successors; which properties, it is said, they
enjoy to the present day. Since that time four
eenturies have passed, and twelve generations in
the family have succeeded one another. The house
divided itself into two lines, the '^Ernestine" and
"Albertine," and from each side numerous divi*
sions and subdivisions sprang; properties, duke*
doms, and possessions changing hands in the family
in the meanwhile. The twelfth descendant in a
direct line from the little boy Ernst, whom Kung-
voti-Kaufungen stole, is the subject of the memoir
contained in the following chapter.


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The ancestry of Prince Albert has been traced
with great minuteness by the Rev. Edward Tauer-
^chmidt, in his '' Brief Historical Account of the

/Dukedom and Ducal House of Saxe-Coburg and
Gotha," from the middle of the 10th century, when
it formed a portion of the kingdom of Thuringla,

, down to the present day ; and he gives a regular
list of the twenty-six progenitors through whom
the line of descent has passed down to the illus-
trious Prince whose loss we are now mourning,
from the Earl Dideric or Theodoric, who died a.d.
982 ; and as it is sure to be found of interest to
our readers, especially those who are fond of genea«
logical studies, we venture to repeat it here* It
runs as follows :—

1. Earl Theodoeio or Didebio, of the House of

Bucizi, died a.d. 982.

2. Dedo, Earl of Wettin, died a.d. 1009.

3. DiDEEio, Earl of Wettin, died a.d. 1034.

4. Thimo, or TiMO, Margrave of Misnia, died

aboat A.D. 1104»

5. CoNBAD the Great, Margrave of Misnia., died

A.D. 1157.

6. Otho the Rich, Margrave of Misnia, died a.d.


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7. DiDERic THE Oppressed, Margrave of Mis-

nia, died 1220.

8. Henry the Illustrious, Margrave of Mis-

nia. Landgrave of Thuringia, and Count
Palatine of Saxony, died 1 288.

9. Albrecht the Degenerate, Landgrave of

Thuringia, and Count Palatine of Saxony,
died 1314. ^

10. Frederick with the Wounded Cheek, Mar-

grave of Misnia and Landgrave of Thurin-
gia, died 1824.

11. Frederick the Serious, Margrave of Misnia

and Landgrave of Thuringia, died 1849.

12. Frederick the Severe, Margrave of Misnia

and Landgrave of Thuringia, died 1881.

13. Frederick the Warlike, Elector of Saxony,

&o., died 1428.

14. Frederick the Benignant, Elector of Saxony,

died 1464.

15. Ernest, Elector of Saxony, died 1486.

16. John the Constant, Elector of Saxony, died


17. John Frederick the Magkanimous, Elector

of Saxony, died 1554.

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