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On 24 May 1819, Queen Victoria was born at Kensington Palace, the only daughter of the fourth son of the monarch of the day, George III. Little did the world know that the daughter of the Duke of Kent was to become the longest reigning royal, nor did they suspect that she would become the grandmother of most of modern Europe’s rulers.
In 1817, after the death of her cousin Princess Charlotte of Wales, her grandfather was most worried that none of his bachelorhood-loving sons had yet produced any other heirs. He encouraged them to find wives for the good of the Kingdom. Edward, Duke of Kent, married Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld1. He wasn't the first of the brothers to sire a child and Victoria was born fifth in line to the throne. Victoria moved further closer to the throne as her uncles and father2 died without producing further heirs. Both George IV and William IV died while on the throne.
In 1837, her Uncle William died and the eighteen-year-old Princess ascended to the throne having only just come of age one month earlier3. On 10 February 1840, she married her cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg at the Chapel Royal, St James's. They were to have 9 children4, and through them Victoria was to become 'the Grandmother of the European Royals' as they married into almost all the major Royal Families across the continent.
The happiest days of Victoria's children were probably spent at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Prince Albert had designed this house to be a retreat, somewhere the young royal children could grow up away from the hubbub of London court life. Here they each had their own vegetable garden that they would tend themselves. They also spent time drawing and being creative, and Victoria and Albert loved the times that they spent here as a family. In 1901, Osborne House was also the place where, after reigning for 64 years, Victoria died, surrounded by pictures and mementoes of her beloved Albert5.
Victoria, the eldest child, was the first of many Victorias that would be named throughout the Royal households of Europe in recognition of their Majestic predecessor. She was born on 21 November 1840, and by the age of 15 she had fallen in love with Prince Friedrich Wilhelm6. They were engaged in 1855, although there were some misgivings because of her youth. However, they were married at St James's on 25 January 18587. In 1861, the death of Friedrich Wilhelm IV made Victoria's husband the direct heir to his father. The Queen of England, who maintained constant correspondence with her daughter, referred to her as Princess Royal and Crown Princess, keeping her British title first, although in essence it was the more junior title. The King of Prussia was elevated to Emperor of Germany in 1871.
In 1888, Wilhelm I died and Victoria’s husband succeeded as Emperor. However, by then he was already dying and only survived his father by three months. This short period did make her an Empress, but her mother had prepared herself for her daughter's exalted position and had already made herself Empress of India in 1877.
As well as being related to the German Royals, Victoria's daughter Sophia married King Constantine I of Greece. Their grandchildren are ex-King Constantine II of Greece and Sofia, who is married to King Juan Carlos of Spain.
Albert Edward was born on 9 November 1841 as the Duke of Cornwall, the Duke of Rothesay and all the other titles bestowed upon the heir to the English and Scottish thrones. He became the Prince of Wales a month later. He was to become Edward VII8, and through him would descend the current Royal family of Great Britain, headed by Queen Elizabeth II. One of his daughters married Carl of Sweden, who was created to the reinstated throne of Norway as Hakon VII Charles, grandfather of the current King Harald.
Alice was born on 25 April 1843. She married Frederick of Hesse. One of her daughters, Alix, married into the Russian Royal Family taking the name Alexandra. Unfortunately, she was the consort of Nicholas II - the last Tsar - and perished along with her husband and children in 1918 during the Bolshevik revolution.
Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, was born on 6 August 1844. He followed a naval career and during his duties became the first member of the Royal family to visit Australia. He married Marie Alexandrovna, the daughter of the Russian Emperor Alexander II. He later succeeded his paternal Uncle to the Dukedom of Saxe-Coburg. His daughter Marie married King Ferdinand I of Romania, and their son Carol II was the last King before the communist regime exiled the Royal family. Three of Marie and Ferdinand's children further spread Victoria's line to the other Royal households. Marie married Alexander I of Serbia and their son Peter II became the first King of a united Yugoslavia. Another daughter, Elizabeth, married George II of Greece.
Helena was born on 25 May 1846, she married Prince Christian of Denmark in 1866. Victoria hoped the new couple would stay close, as she had now lost her husband and two eldest daughters abroad. As Christian was not an heir to a major crown, the couple did stay in England and accompanied the Queen dutifully. However, they did stay at their own residence in Windsor Park.
Louise was born on 18 March 1848. She was probably the most talented of Victoria's children, showing some of her father's flair in a painting and sculpting vein. The statue she did of her mother still stands outside Kensington Palace. She broke with tradition and protocol by marrying the Duke of Argyll. They took up residence at Kensington Palace and the Princess often deputised for her widowed mother at important occasions during Victoria's years of seclusion. However there were no children from their marriage. She was the only child not to give Victoria the grandchildren she so admired.
Arthur, Duke of Connaught, was born on 1 May 1850. He had a daughter Margaret who married Gustav VI Adolph of Sweden, from whom the reigning King descends. A daughter of this Swedish marriage, Ingrid, then in turn married Frederik IX of Denmark and they are the parents of Queen Margrethe.
Leopold, Duke of Albany, was born on 7 April 1853. He was a haemophiliac and was very delicate as a young man. Victoria didn't seem to like him as much as her other children and described him as a common looking child, though amusing. He was in the South of France to escape the English winter when his father died. He was married to Princess Helena of Prussia on 27 April 1882. Their daughter Alice was, until recently, the longest living British royal9, only surpassed by HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother10. Their son Leopold inherited the throne of Saxe-Coburg. Leopold’s daughter, Sibylla, married the Crown Prince of Sweden and their son became King Carl XVI Gustav.
In 1884, while his wife was pregnant with his son, Leopold was again advised to remain in Cannes for the winter. While there, he stumbled on a staircase and injured his knee. The injury was accentuated by his haemophilia and caused an internal haemorrhage. Although he did recover, he died suddenly within the month on 28 March 1884. His wife was not in France with him, due to her pregnancy.
Beatrice was born on 14 April 1857 and was only 4 when her father died. Her widowed mother hoped that she would always be around as a companion for her, making her doomed for spinsterhood, like most of her Great Great Aunts. However, when she was 28 she fell in love with Prince Henry of Battenburg and they married on 23 July 1885. Their daughter Victoria married King Alfonso XIII of Spain, the last king before the Spanish Revolution. However, their grandson was reinstated as King Juan Carlos by Franco in 1975.
As you can see, Victoria's line currently sits or has a claim to the thrones of Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Norway, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden and Yugoslavia. But, when you consider that Queen Victoria's Uncle Leopold was the first King of the Belgians, more or less every Royal household has some intimate familial relationship to the House of Windsor, with Victoria as the matriarch of them all.