Prince-Leopold

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Prince Leopold and Alice Liddell

What follows is one of my favourite titbits of history. Prince Leopold is my second favourite prince and I am very fond of Alice in Wonderland

Prince Leopold was the sickly youngest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He positively repulsed his mother but she was overbearing and possessive of him. Alice Liddell was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. What’s marvellous is, the two were good friends!

Leopold, eventually managing to escape the clutches of his mother, and Alice, her father the Dean of Christ Church College, met at Oxford in 1872. Like princes before and after him, Leopold was drawn to the warm family life the Liddell’s shared and they quickly became a part of his inner circle.

Some have speculated that there was some level of romantic involvement between the pair; whilst others insist Leopold’s interests actually lay with Alice’s younger sister Edith. When Edith died in 1876, Leopold was a pallbearer at her funeral. Documents in the Royal Archives, such as the Queen’s correspondence regarding Leopold, mention no names, but there seems to be no doubt that Leopold was in love with someone, and a number of the pair’s Oxford acquaintances alluded to a link between the prince and one of the Liddell girls.

Some accused Alice’s ambitious mother of orchestrating the relationship. Lewis Carroll himself, whose own relationship with the Liddell’s had long since deteriorated, wrote a satirical piece called The Vision of Three T’s in which he characterised Mrs. Liddell as a ‘King-fisher’, suggesting that she was ‘angling for a royal son-in-law’. Whatever the truth, it is highly unlikely that Queen Victoria would have ever consented to her son marrying a commoner anyway. As Charlotte Zeepvat, Leopold’s biographer suggests, the ‘disappointed romance between Alice Liddell and Leopold has become a part of Alice [in Wonderland] mythology’, and indeed Leopold is often mentioned in Alice reboots, such as The Looking Glass Wars trilogy.

In the spring of 1873, any notions of marriage quashed, Leopold went to Balmoral with his mother and from then on saw the Liddells with increasing infrequency. Later Leopold married Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont and they named their daughter Alice, whilst Liddell, having married cricketer Reginald Hargreaves, called her second son Leopold. Leopold the prince was his godfather.

[Sources: Prince Leopold: Queen Victoria’s Youngest Son by Charlotte Zeepvat | Prince Leopold | Alice Liddell]

Balmoral, 1890 Two nannies taking care of Princess Margaret of Connaught, later Crown Princess of Sweden; Princess Patricia of Connaught, later Lady Patricia Ramsay; Prince Alexander of Battenberg; Prince Waldemar of Prussia; Princess Victoria Eugenia of Battenberg, later Queen of Spain; Prince Arthur of Connaught; Prince Leopold of Battenberg 

Prince Leopold: “Is the Ugliest”

Prince Leopold was the eighth child and fourth son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Leopold inherited the disease haemophilia from his mother and was a delicate child. Evidence suggests that he also suffered mildly from epilepsy, like his grand-nephew Prince John. Anyway, his mother thought he was hideous and had no qualms about sharing her feelings, as is evident in various letters and journal entries of her’s:

“Leopold…is the ugliest.” “I think he is uglier than he ever was.” “I hope, dear, he [Vicky’s young son] won’t be like [Leopold] the ugliest and least pleasing of the whole family.” “[Leopold] walks shockingly—and is dreadfully awkward—holds himself as badly as ever and his manners are despairing, as well as his speech—which is quite dreadful. It is so provoking as he learns so well and reads quite fluently; but his French is more like Chinese than anything else; poor child, he is really very unfortunate.” “I never cared for you near as much as you seem to about the baby; I care much more for the younger ones (poor Leopold perhaps excepted)…” [Quotes from the ever excellent Vintage-Royalty]

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Children of Royalty: Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

  • Victoria, Princess Royal, German Empress
  • Edward VII
  • Princess Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse
  • Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
  • Helena, Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein
  • Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll
  • Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught
  • Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany
  • Beatrice, Princess Henry of Battenberg
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Prince Leopold’s sixth birthday, April 1859.

Leopold was six in April 1859, and his birthday was celebrated with a children’s costume ball at Buckingham Palace. The Queen and Prince Albert collected him from the schoolroom in the morning and took him to see his presents. The excitement rose in the evening as the children put on their costume. Leopold and Arthur appeared as the sons of Henry IV, in tights and short doublets, while their sisters Helena and Louise became Swiss peasants for the night. Writing to her daughter, the Queen remarked ‘ Your sisters and little brothers looked very pretty, particularly Arthur and Louise. 

The evening was a triumph, described in the pages of the Illustrated London News and other society journals. The Queen and Prince ALbert, the Duchess of Kent, and a select gathering of royal parents, stood on a dais to watch just over two hundred guests, all between the ages of six and fourteen, dance a polonaise, a quadrille, waltzes and galops, until supper was served at midnight. ’ The Children all enjoyed it so much,’ said the Queen, 'no one more than little Leopold.’ 

Queen Victoria’s youngest son : The untold story of Prince Leopold