House of Coburg & of Hohenzollern: Princess Victoria of Great Britain and Ireland, Princess Royal
Victoria, to her family known as Vicky, was the oldest child of Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert. From an early age, she showed her intelligence. For example, she learned French at the age of 18 months and began her study of German at the age of four. Furthermore she learned Greek and Latin. From the age of only six years onwards her education also included
arithmetic, geography and history, and her father tutored her in politics and philosophy.
In general, Albert raised his daughter as a liberal which would later put her in a difficult position when she married into the Royal House of Prussia at the young age of only 16. While her husband shared her ideas, the court did not. Her father-in-law as well as her son were and would become conservatives. At the same time, there were anti-English sentiments in German circles that made it even harder for Victoria. Adding to that, she was constantly caught in the middle concerning her loyalties. While through her marraige she was expected to be loyal to the German Empire, her mother demanded her loyalty to Britain and her to follow rather British than German customs.
Victoria would only be German Empress and Queen of Prussia for 99 days. Her husband, Frederick III, died on June 15th, 1888, from throat cancer.
Once the emperor’s death was announced, his son and successor William II
ordered the occupation of the imperial residence by soldiers. The
chambers of Frederick and Victoria were carefully checked to find
incriminating documents. However, the search was unsuccessful because
all the couple’s correspondence had been taken to Windsor Castle the
previous year. Several years later, William II stated that the purpose
of this research was to find state documents.
Once widowed, the empress dowager had to leave the Neues Palais in
Potsdam because her son wanted to settle his residence there. Unable to
settle in Sanssouci, she acquired a property in Kronberg im Taunus. There, Victoria built a castle that was named Friedrichshof in honour of her husband. Having inherited several million marks after the death of the wealthy Maria de Brignole-Sale, Duchess of Galliera, the empress dowager was able to finance the construction and expansion of her residence.
With the completion of the works in 1894, she spent most of the year in
the property with her younger daughters, and only left when she
travelled abroad. Contrary to the desires of the emperor, who preferred
that she leave Germany permanently, Vicky formed her own court and
maintained close relations with the liberal circles
In fact, Victoria was completely sequestered from public life by
William II. With the death of her mother-in-law, the Empress Dowager
Augusta in 1890, Victoria had hopes to succeed her as patron of the German Red Cross and the Vaterländischer Frauenverein
(Association of Patriotic Women). However, it was her daughter-in-law,
Empress Augusta Victoria, who assumed the presidency of these entities,
which caused a deep bitterness in Victoria.The empress dowager didn’t hesitate to harshly criticise the policies and behaviour of her son.
In late 1898, physicians diagnosed the empress dowager with inoperable breast cancer,
forcing her to stay in bed for long periods. The cancer spread to her
spine by the autumn of 1900, and as she worried about her personal
letters (in which she detailed her concern over Germany’s
future under her son) falling into the hands of the emperor, she
requested that the letters be brought back to Great Britain in a cloak-and-dagger operation by her godson Frederick Ponsonby,
the private secretary of her brother King Edward VII, who was making
his final visit to his terminally ill sister in Kronberg on 23 February
1901. These letters were later edited by Ponsonby and put into context
by his background commentary to form the book that was published in
Victoria died in Friedrichshof on August 5th, 1901, less than seven months after the death of her mother, Queen Victoria.
According to legend, as per her instructions her corpse was stripped naked, wrapped in the
Union Jack and buried according to the rites of the Church of England. She was buried next to her husband in the royal mausoleum of the Friedenskirche at Potsdam on August 13th, 1901.
// Emily Blunt in The Young Victoria