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.
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
The nine children of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert with their signatures.
L to R: Empress Frederick (Victoria, the Princess Royal), Prince Alfred, Princess Louise, Prince Arthur, Princess Beatrice and Queen Victoria, Prince Leopold, Princess Alice, Edward VII, and Princess Helena.
Artists: Franz Xavier Winterhalter, Albert Graefle, Carl Rudolph Sohn , Richard L Alldridge, & Sir Arthur Stockdale Cope.
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]
I have long wanted to speak to you about a subject, which I have very much at heart, & which I have thought much about for some time past. I have always expected & for years cherished the hope of being of use to you as far as would possibly in my power, - and for the affectionate care bestowed on my education up to this time to more or less fit me for such a position I must ever feel most grateful. But beyond a certain point it is impossible that one’s intellectual, moral, or social powers should be properly developed by a continual residence at home… I would most earnestly & with all the emphasis in my power strongly urge, that the time has arrived when (both for you own sake & for mine) residence for a period at a University would be an inestimable benefit & boon. Oxford is close to Windsor, so that I should never be removed in reality more than a short distance from you; the terms too are short… To Modern Literature & to History, to German, French & Italian, to art & to science I would chiefly desire (following dear Papa’s footsteps as much as possible) to direct my attention. Socially besides it cannot but be evident to you, dearest Mamma, what an advantage such a life would be to me. To meet with such companions of my own age as would be carefully selected would tend to take away shyness of manner & general dullness of spirit in conversation & at all times indeed, of which you now so naturally & so much complain, & which must of necessity belong to one who has for so long led such a comparatively solitary life… With all a child’s duty and respect I put these, my very dearest wishes, before you & entreat you, dearest Mamma, to consider them as such…”
Prince Leopold’s letter to his mother Queen Victoria. She was strongly against Leopold attending University, because of his hemophilia she thought her youngest son was happy alone with her and Beatrice, after months of struggle she eventually agreed. Leopold loved Oxford it was one of the happiest time of his short life.
“Hemophilia is as old as man. It has come down through the centuries, misted in legend, shrouded with the dark dread of a hereditary curse. In the Egypt of the Pharaohs, a woman was forbidden to bear further children if her firstborn son bled to death from a minor wound. The ancient Talmud barred circumcision in a family if two successive male children had suffered fatal hemorrhages. Because over the last one hundred years it has appeared in the ruling houses of Britain, Russia and Spain, it has been called ’the royal disease.’ It remains one of the most mysterious and malicious of all the genetic, chronic diseases. Even today, both the cause and the cure are unknown.”