Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa, Princess Royal, was born on November 21st, 1840, at Buckingham Palace. She was the first child and daughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and her husband, Prince Albert. Until the birth of Prince Edward the next year, Victoria was heir-presumptive to the throne. The Queen was disappointed by the birth of a daughter, and upon learning that Victoria was a girl, she said, “Never mind, next time it will be a prince.” Vicky, as the Queen’s daughter was known, was christened on her parents’ first wedding anniversary.
The Queen did not have a particularly great education, so she was determined to educate all her children well. The result of this was a very intelligent young Vicky, who could speak French at just eighteen months old and German by the time she was four. She was taught many other things, such as history, geography, arithmetic, poetry, and music. Vicky idolized her father and grew to have liberal political views like his.
When she was only eleven years old, Vicky met the new Emperor of a new Empire, her relative, the brother of Frederick William IV of Prussia. He had his two children with him while visiting Britain: his daughter, Louise, and his nineteen-year-old son, Frederick, known as Fritz. Frederick was very impressed with Vicky’s intellect and character, and also fascinated with how the unrestricted life of the British royal family was so different from his own formal court life. Vicky’s and Frederick’s parents were very excited that the two were getting along and were sure that they’d be married someday.
Frederick visited again a few years later, and by then, Vicky was a teenager. In Berlin, the government wanted Frederick to marry a Russian Grand Duchess, which didn’t become much of a problem for Vicky and Frederick. Vicky was 4’11”, a little shorter than her mother, and was not considered remarkably beautiful. Queen Victoria worried that Frederick wouldn’t find Vicky pretty enough to be his wife, but her fears were abated when the two got on as well as they had at the time of his first visit. Frederick asked to marry Vicky, and Queen Victoria and Albert granted their permission, though they said that they didn’t want their daughter married until she was seventeen. Their engagement was announced in 1856, and they were married on January 25th, 1858, in London.
Queen Victoria wrote: “My last fear of being overcome vanished, when I saw Vicky’s calm & composed manner. It looked beautiful seeing her kneeling beside Fritz, their hands joined, her long train born by the eight young ladies… hovering round her, as they knelt near her. How it reminded me of my having similarly, proudly, tenderly, confidently knelt beside my beloved Albert, in the very same spot…”
Vicky left London for Berlin before her youngest sibling, Beatrice, was even a year old. She found life in Berlin too rigid and formal compared to her relaxed time in London. The seventeen-year-old princess had to wake up early and stay up late to greet guests and attend receptions. She never forgot to write home throughout all of her royal duties.
Vicky gave birth to her first child just about a year after her marriage. After a very difficult delivery in which Vicky and her child nearly died, she gave birth to a son, Wilhelm, later Kaiser Wilhelm II. The delivery was so horrible that Wilhelm’s left arm ended up being fifteen centimeters shorter than his right. At first, the doctors reassured the couple that Wihelm would recover, though it soon became clear he wouldn’t. Thankfully, the birth of Vicky’s next child, Charlotte, would be much easier. Vicky would go on to have six more children: Henry, Sigismund, Viktoria, Waldemar, Sophie, a future Queen of Greece, and Margaret, a future Queen of Finland. Vicky wrote of having her eighth and last child, Margaret: “for myself alone, a little girl is much nicer.”
Vicky’s father, Albert, died soon after the birth of her second child, followed by the death of Sigismund a few years later, when he was just a year old. It didn’t help that the press was beginning to paint Vicky as a foreign enemy. Vicky’s father-in-law decided to dissolve Parliament and make Otto von Bismarck the Prime Minister. Vicky, who’d inherited her father’s liberal views, was firmly against this, so Bismarck made sure to have the public believe that the princess was an enemy working for Britain. It got worse when her brother married Princess Alexandra of Denmark while Prussia and Denmark were at war. Vicky was still close to her family in Britain and turned a deaf ear to these accusations as much as she could.
Following the Franco-Prussian War and the fall of the Second French Empire, Vicky’s father-in-law was proclaimed Kaiser Wilhelm I, the first Emperor of Germany, in 1871, the 170th anniversary of the start of the House of Hohenzollern. The Hohenzollerns would rule as Kaisers of Germany and Kings of Prussia until Vicky’s son was dethroned after World War I. Vicky and Frederick rejected anti-semitism and made public appearances at synagogues. When there were efforts to take away the rights of Jews, Vicky wrote of how ashamed she was that people would even think of taking away the rights of fellow citizens.
In 1887, Vicky’s father-in-law, the Kaiser, died at the age of ninety. Her husband, Frederick, was now Kaiser Frederick III, but he was not in very good health himself. Frederick was diagnosed with cancer, and it seemed like he and Vicky would never get to rule and introduce their liberal ideas. The crown would go from one conservative Wilhelm to another conservative Wilhelm.
Still, Frederick was now Emperor, though in not very good health. He could barely breathe at one point, but his suffering was eased at least a little after surgery. Queen Victoria went to go visit her daughter, Empress Victoria. The Queen wrote that Vicky completely broke down in front of her mother, saying that the doctors had told them that he would live a few weeks, but no more than a few months. Frederick plastered on a smile and attended their son’s wedding, though it was clear he was dying. Vicky stayed with him as much as she could, leaving his side only if necessary.
Vicky was woken at 3 A.M. one night and told that Frederick wasn’t doing well. It would soon be time to say her goodbyes. Vicky slept on a chair right outside Frederick’s room that night. That morning, around 11 A.M, Frederick died with Vicky at his side. He had been Kaiser for just 99 days. Vicky’s son, Wilhelm, who had never liked his parents, took the news much better than Vicky did.
Wilhelm immediately had his parents’ rooms searched for documents, but didn’t find what he was looking for. He arranged a funeral for his father and ordered an autopsy. Wilhelm wanted Vicky out of the way and she knew it, so she had a country estate built for her. She had it named Schloss Friedrichshof, after her husband. Vicky lived with her unmarried daughters, Viktoria, Sophie, and Margaret, but Sophie married the King of Greece, and Viktoria and Margaret got married soon after, leaving Vicky a lonely old woman. Her granddaughter, Feodora of Saxe-Meiningen, would often stay with Vicky. Vicky continued writing to her mother and was still close to her English relatives.
Vicky soon fell gravely ill, and wrote to her daughter, Queen Sophie: “The attacks of pain so violent, the struggle for breath so dreadful when in bed or lying down, most distressing…” Vicky’s condition deteriorated and she was in a lot of pain. She died on August 5th, 1901, at the age of sixty, at Schloss Friedrichshof. She left the estate to her daughter, Margaret. Just seventeen years later, her son would be dethroned and her family exiled. One can’t help wondering what might have happened if Vicky had still been Empress and her husband Emperor by then…