Top positive review
12 people found this helpful
Alfred: Queen Victoria's Second Son
on 12 April 2014
This book grew out of the author’s original book ‘Dearest Affie’ published in 1984 and reissued in 1995. Given new sources and research, the author has rewritten the original work and this has now been published as the current book.
Alfred Ernest Albert, Duke of Edinburgh and later Duke of Saxe-Coburg Gotha was the fourth child and second son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, born in 1844. Eager from a young age to learn the mechanics of objects, he was desperately keen to join the Navy and at the age of 14 he sailed aboard the HMS Euryalus as a young cadet. In 1866 he was made a Captain.
Alfred was also a keen stamp-collector and photographer and taught himself the violin (a fact which later listeners could credit, as he was apparently not as good at it as he might have liked to believe). By the age of twenty five he had set foot in all five continents, and he was to marry the daughter of a Tsar of Russia. But he was only 17 when his beloved father died. He had been from a young age considered heir to his disreputable Uncle Ernest, Duke of Saxe-Coburg Gotha whose own marriage had remained childless and whose death in 1893 made Alfred the Duke. Alfred seems to have a slightly strained relationship with his mother, particularly after Albert’s death.
His role as Captain took him on numerous voyages and visits to various countries, and this part of his life makes for very interesting reading, as I had no idea he had been to so many places or taken part in so many events overseas. Sadly, in 1899 in the midst of celebrations of Alfred and Marie’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, their only son Alfred, unhappy and unbalanced, and in the grip of venereal disease, shot himself. Sent away to recover from his wounds, he died a few weeks later. In 1900 Alfred himself died of cancer of the larynx, just short of his fifty-sixth birthday.
This book succeeds admirably in bringing a real ‘human-ness’ to the story of a royal Duke whose life is little known, and of whom this is the only existing biography. Reserved, practical and all his life a ‘good Englishman’, Alfred on balance led a somewhat sad life. His years in Saxe-Coburg he found dull and his marriage was not particularly happy. He mourned the unhappy marriages of two of his daughters, and his financial affairs were not well handled. Rather a tragic figure, but I’m glad I could get to know more of the man behind the titles in this really interesting and engaging book.