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Marriage and family

For some  time, Victoria went through a period of unpopularity, partly owning to her fondness for gaiety and dancing. All this was changed when she married her cousin, Prince Consort Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

When Victoria and Albert first met, in 1836, both of them were only 17 years old and as different as could be. Victoria hailed from a Hanoverian dynasty known for its vulgar and quarrelsome nature, and she inherited her family's exceptional stubbornness and intolerance. Strongly opinionated, she was also impressionable and poorly educated. Albert, on the other hand, had turned himself into a pillar of virtue and self-discipline in reaction to the debauchery of his father, the Duke of Coburg, and his elder brother Ernest. Unlike Victoria, the intelligent Albert benefited from a splendid education in languages, culture, philosophy, music, and every other kind of learning designed to make him the ideal prince. At 17, the priggish Albert, aware that he had been earmarked for Victoria since infancy, regarded her with indifference and even disdain.

Victoria, by contrast, thought Albert good, sweet, clever, and extremely handsome. Engagement rumours abounded in England at the time, but nothing came of them--yet. The couple met again on Albert's  first court visit at Windsor on the 10th October, 1839.  By then, Victoria had succeeded to the throne of England on the death of her uncle, King William IV, in 1837. Victoria and Albert now found themselves with very different priorities. The reigning monarch was duty-bound to produce heirs, and Albert realized, reluctantly, that he was to be the husband who could make this possible.

As Queen, Victoria outranked the minor German Prince, so there was no question of his proposing to her. She proposed to him five days later, and though he dutifully accepted, he did so without joy, sliding into one of the deep depressions that typified his sensitive nature. They were married on 10th February 1840, in the Chapel Royal at St. James's Palace.

Although he was too shy and solemn to be immediately popular with the British people, Albert was a very intelligent man with a good deal of character. He actively assisted his wife in her royal duties, gradually becoming the queen's advisor and partner in political questions. When once Victoria had struggled to comprehend state papers or policy documents, Albert understood them easily and explained them to her. When Victoria did not have the capacity or patience for it, Albert sent memoranda, comments, and advice to ministers in her name. In 1857, Victoria broke with all precedent and gave Albert the title Prince Consort by Royal Letters Patent, which made the title a personal gift from the sovereign. No queen before or since ever granted such a gift to her male consort.

Victoria gave up the lightheartedness of her early reign and devoted herself to family life and public duties. Between 1841 and 1857, they had nine children, four sons and five daughters. In family matters, Albert's word became law, and Victoria gave their nine children to understand that he was their one and only role model. Several of them, notably the future King Edward VII, who was a thoroughgoing libertine, diverged from this example. When they did so, Victoria tended to interpret their failings as a betrayal of Albert rather than regrettable expressions of their own individuality.

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