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In November, 1817, shortly after giving birth to a 9lb stillborn son, Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales died. Her death threw the British Royal Family into turmoil as there were no legitimate heirs to the throne among King George III's grandchildren. Due to the King's mental illness, his son George, Prince of Wales was ruling as Prince Regent; Princess Charlotte was the Prince's daughter.
In order to keep the throne in the family, the King's bachelor sons began a quest to find suitable brides and set about the job of fathering a future monarch. Edward, Duke of Kent, the fourth son of King George III, was 50 years old in May 1818 when he met and married Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, 31, the widow of Prince Karl of Leiningen. She was already a mother of two children1, and upon her second marriage she became HRH2 the Duchess of Kent.
Princess Victoria of Kent
On 24 May, 1819, the future Queen Victoria was born as HRH Princess Alexandrina Victoria to the Duchess of Kent at Kensington Palace, London. The parents-to-be had been living in Bavaria but rushed back to London to ensure the expected baby was physically as well as legally English. The princess was born fifth in line to the British throne.
The princess was christened a month later and her four godparents were: the stand-in monarch the Prince Regent, the Emperor Alexander I of Russia, Queen Charlotte of Württemberg and the Dowager Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. Soon after her baptism the Kents moved to Devonshire where they could live less expensively. Victoria's father died of pneumonia less than a year later, so Victoria, her mother, and half-sister Princess Feodora of Leiningen (1807 - 1872) moved back to Kensington Palace where Victoria had been born. George III died on 29 January, 1820, at Windsor Castle, and the Prince Regent became King George IV.
By the 19th Century, dolls' houses were commercially produced for children and regarded mainly as toys. Princess Victoria had a mass-produced dolls' house, of which she was inordinately fond. She kept herself busy drawing and painting, subjects at which she was quite gifted, and kept a regular journal throughout her life. Her handwriting was neat and she was left-handed.
The girls were tutored by a governess, Louise (later Baroness) Lehzen, whom Victoria adored. Lessons would have been conducted in languages, writing, music, history, art, arithmetic, geography and religion. In addition, Victoria was also taught to ride horses and she developed a passion for riding fast. Although she was indulged and owned many pets, her childhood was lonely and secluded. In 1828 Victoria lost her one childhood companion when Feodora moved back to Germany and married Prince Ernst of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, although they regularly corresponded by letter until Feodora's death in 1872.
George IV died in 1830 leaving no legitimate heirs and his brother the Duke of Clarence became William IV - at 64 the oldest man ever to inherit the British throne. Although William fathered four legitimate children, none survived to adulthood, and this unfortunate circumstance upgraded Victoria's position to Heiress apparent3.
Trepidation and Overprotection
At the age of 11 the princess saw a Royal Family tree and supposedly remarked, 'I am nearer to the throne than I thought'. Then she vowed, 'I will be good'. According to Victoria's governess, she 'cried much' on learning that she might one day inherit the throne.
Luckily she was quite a healthy child, except for one bout of tonsillitis which temporarily laid her low. Princess Victoria was chaperoned wherever she went, and she had to share her mother's bedroom, something she resented greatly. As soon as she turned 18 she began to take charge of her own life - one of the first things she organised was her own bedchamber.
In June 1837, King William IV died leaving his 18-year-old niece Victoria the throne. William's other title was King of Hannover but tradition prohibited a female from inheriting it. One of her uncles took the title instead. While arrangements were being made for her coronation, Victoria invested her half-brother, Prince Carl, as a Knight of the Garter.
Although Victoria's hair was dark brown, the artist Richard Lane chose to depict her with auburn hair in his celebrated portrait of the young Queen, dated around 1837. The Queen's later portraits, some of which hang in Osborne House, (see the later Entry 'the Victoria and Albert years'), correctly show her as a brunette.