Queen Victoria Had Two Half-Siblings! | All About Princess Feodora Of Leiningen
In today’s post we will be discussing Victoria’s relationship to Princess Feodora of Leiningen and Carl, 3rd Prince of Leiningen. The two older half-siblings of Queen Victoria were born through her mother’s first marriage to Emich Carl, 2nd Prince of Leiningen.
Queen Victoria’s mother, the Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld married Victoria’s father Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn in 1818 but prior to that short-lived union, the German princess had been married to another nobleman for much longer. Prince Carl and Victoria’s mother were married in 1803 and had two children, a son named Carl, after his father, who was born in 1804 just a year after the two had married and then a daughter named Feodora. She was born in the summer of 1807.
The article will discuss Princess Feodora but stay tuned for Prince Carl in part two!
[ Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld & husband Emich Carl, 2nd Prince of Leiningen.]
Susan Flantzer writes in her articled titled Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Duchess of Kent that the young German princess married a much older man and then shortly after married into another very prominent royal British family just four years later.
“At age 17, on December 21, 1803, Victoria became the second wife of Emich Carl, 2nd Prince of Leiningen, who was 23 years her senior. The couple had two children: Karl, 3rd Prince of Leiningen (1804 – 1856) and Princess Feodora of Leiningen (1807 – 1872). Emich Carl died of pneumonia in 1814 and was succeeded by his 10-year-old son Carl.
In November of 1817, the death in childbirth of Princess Charlotte of Wales, the only legitimate grandchild of King George III, necessitated the marriages of the unmarried sons of King George III to provide an heir to the throne. On May 29, 1818, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (fourth son of King George III) married the 32-year-old widow Victoria at Schloss Ehrenburg in Coburg. Edward had never married but had lived for 28 years with his mistress Julie de Montgenêt de Saint-Laurent. Upon the couple’s return to England, they had a second marriage ceremony on July 13, 1818, at Kew Palace in the presence of Edward’s ailing mother Queen Charlotte.
In September of 1818, Edward and Victoria set out for Leiningen, where the Duchess of Kent’s young son was the Sovereign Prince. However, when the Duchess became pregnant, they were determined to return to England so that the possible heir to the throne would be born there. They took up residence in an apartment at Kensington Palace”
Feodora’s mother was Prince Carl’s second marriage. He had been previously married to Henriette, who was the youngest daughter of Countess Karoline Ernestine of Erbach-Schonberg and her husband Heinrich XXIV, Count of Reuss-Ebersdorf. Carl and Henriette married on July 4th, 1787. They had one male child together named Prince Friedrich; however, Feodora’s older half-brother died in childhood and the young princess would never have a chance to know her oldest sibling because the boy died before the death of his mother Henriette. She passed away in 1801 leaving Prince Carl Widowed and looking for a new wife which he found with Feodora’s mother Princess Victoria.
When Princess Victoria’s husband Prince Carl died in 1814 leaving her widowed with two children, it was just four years before Edward, Duke of Kent proposed. The Prince was the fourth son and fifth child of King George III. Princess Victoria married him in 1818. The couple lived in Germany but when the Duchess of Kent became pregnant; the pair rushed back to England so their child could be born at Kensington Palace.
The Royal Splendor’s article titled Princess Feodora of Leiningen: Queen Victoria’s Half-Sister, the importance of where Victoria was born is explained in detail.
“In 1814, Prince Emich Carl died and four years later, Princess Victoria married Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent, the fourth son of King George III. A year earlier, Princess Charlotte, the only child of the Prince Regent (who would reign as King George IV, 1820-1830), passed away. Her death led to a succession crisis, Charlotte being the only legitimate offspring of all of King George III’s children.
While Edward and his brothers had children, all of them were illegitimate who were barred from inheriting the throne. Thus, the royal brothers were forced to look for a legitimate wife. In 1819, Feodora joined her mother, now the Duchess of Kent, who moved to London with the duke to establish their household at Kensington Palace. The duchess was heavily pregnant already but her husband wanted their only child to be born on the British soil. And so, much to her inconvenience, the duke’s will had to prevail.”
The Duchess gave birth in 1819 to Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent, who would later become Queen Victoria in 1837 because she winded up being the only surviving heir of the oldest sons fathered by King George III and naturally inherited the English Throne. King George III’s younger sons did have legitimate heirs but Victoria was higher in the line of succession because her father had been older than George’s younger sons.
Queen Victoria’s father died a year after her birth in 1820, and she would be left living at Kensington Palace with her two older siblings and her newly widowed mother until she became Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland after her uncle King William IV died at Windsor Castle in 1837. He was seventy-one years old.
[Queen Victoria with her mother – The Duchess of Kent]
Princess Feodora lived at Kensington Palace with her mother and siblings which now included her baby sister the future Queen Victoria. The princess and her little sister were extremely close growing up because Feodora was a constant companion to Victoria during her childhood. The young future queen had very limited contact with the outside world because of her royal status and the potential of her becoming the heir presumptive. This made Princess Feodora quite special in the eyes of Victoria. The royal deeply admired and looked up to her older sister while they lived together. Friends were difficult to come by.
As many royals have been, Princess Feodora was privately educated and tutored directly at home. Reports in the History Of Royal Women’s article titled Queen Victoria’s half-sister–Feodora of Leiningen show that a newly married Feodora wrote to Victoria expressing sympathy to the young girl for the lack of companionship available now that she had married and moved away from Kensington Palace. Feodora truly shows her understanding to Victoria’s very strict upbringing and even goes as far as to say she would have married just for the sake of achieving some freedom from their life “imprisonment”
“I escaped some years of imprisonment which you, my poor dear Sister, had to endure after I was married. Often have I praised God that he sent my dear Ernest for I might have married I don’t know whom – merely to get away!”
Princess Feodora apparently became very unhappy under the restrictive lifestyle they had to maintain at Kensington because of her step-father and sister’s royal status. She shared and spent a lot of time with her governess, Baroness Louise Lehzen. The same women who also cared and tutored Queen Victoria throughout her life. The two women were heavily influenced by the loyal governess. This is just one of the numerous similarities that can be seen in both of these women’s lives and what they experienced.
In the Royal Splendor, it is noted that both girl’s enjoyed the company of Baroness Lehzen.
“Feodora’s half-sister, Victoria, was born on May 24, 1819. A few months later the Duke of Kent died. While Feodora and Victoria were 12 years apart in age, they maintained a close relationship which lasted until Feodora’s death. However, she was never happy in Kensington Palace and voiced her desire to leave. In fact, her “only happy time was driving out” with Victoria and her governess Baroness Louise Lehzen because she could “speak and look as she liked.”
The two sisters had many similarities in the lives they led including losing their father at very young ages. The Duke of Kent (Victoria’s father) had died in 1820 when his daughter was less than a year old. The cause of his death was pneumonia during a long winter of illness; moreover, this was only six days prior to George III’s death thus placing Victoria even higher in royal status. Susan Flantzer describes how the Duke Of Kent spent his last days and how his death affected the succession of the English Throne.
“Toward the end of 1819, Edward leased Woolbrook Cottage in Sidmouth, a town on the English Channel, due to the need to economize and the benefits the sea air would have for the Duchess’ health. In early January, Edward caught a cold but insisted on taking a walk out in the chilly weather. Within days, the cold worsened, he became feverish and delirious and developed pneumonia. His condition was aggravated by the bleeding and cupping of the physician sent from London to treat him. Edward became increasingly weaker and died on January 23, 1820, just six days before his father, King George III died.
After King George III’s death, the infant Victoria was third in the line of succession after her uncles, Frederick, Duke of York and William, Duke of Clarence. Neither the new king, George IV, nor his brothers Frederick and William had any heirs, and the Duchess of Kent decided she would take a chance on Victoria’s accession to the throne. The Duchess decided to stay in England rather than return to her homeland.”
The Duchess of Kent had a ton of responsibility raising such royal children after being widowed twice. Princess Feodora’s father died when the girl was only about seven years old in 1814. The two princess’s never got to know their fathers and their mother was left with only two choices. She could take her children and return to Germany living in the comfort of her family’s castle or stay in England and raise her youngest child because the possibility of Victoria becoming Queen was a very real one.
In the Royal Splendor article, it is detailed how Feodora reflects the pair’s life growing up. At this point they are both mothers and just discussing the experiences they have gone through compared to the upbringings their offsprings were enjoying and living.
“I often think, when our children… are grown up and think back upon their happy childhood, how different their feelings will be from what ours are when we think back, … We both have not enjoyed a father’s love … Living but for your duty to your country, difficult as it is, will prove to you a source of happiness.”
[Princess Feodora & her husband Ernst I, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg]
It was not long before the princess was engaged. After having only met him twice prior to their wedding day, Princess Feodora would marry Ernst I, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg at Kensington Palace on February 18th, 1828. Feodora’s new husband was thirteen years older than her and the son of Prince Charles Louis of Hohenlohe-Langenburg and Countess Amalie Henriette of Solms-Baruth.
According to an article titled Princess Feodora, the author suggest that the marriage occurred rather quickly because Feodora had been caught flirting with the king’s nephew during a social event and then later because it was learned the princess had an unwanted suitor that would not easily be turned by the family. It was King George IV himself!
“The young teenager started to attract the attention of a far more prestigious suitor. The King himself was smitten with Feodora when she paid one of her rare visits to court with her family, and soon, rumors started circulating he was thinking of marrying her.
The Duchess of Kent was appalled. Not only she loathed the King, she also had no intention of seeing Feodora’s children rob her little Victoria of her crown. So, she hastily sent Feodora back to Germany to visit her family. But that wasn’t enough to silence the rumors, so Victoria set out to find a suitable husband for her daughter.
In February 1828, Feodora was quickly married to Prince Ernest of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, who was 12 years older than her. The King agreed to give the bride away at their wedding, but, at the last minute, asked his brother William to take his place.”
The authors at the History Of Royal Women tells readers that Victoria was only nine years old when Feodora married Ernst and the two sisters deeply missed each other. They no longer lived together nor were they even in the same country. This did create some sadness especially in little Victoria who was just a small child. They constantly wrote to each other. Princess Feodora writes to Victoria about how much she is missed.
“I always see you, dearest little girl, as you were, dressed in white–which precious lace dress I possess now–going round with the basket presenting favours.”
The couple settled in Germany shortly after their honeymoon at his family’s royal home in Schloss Langenburg. A large and heavily fortified castle that had been rebuilt sometime in the 15th century. The impressive home shows a history that is long and grand through its architecture that gives display to many Renaissances and Baroque styles.
Feodora didn’t like the home very much. The castle was not in great condition and its grand size was a bit too much for her taste. The Princess had a list of complaints about Schloss Langenburg. In the article Princess Feodora, the authors provides details into the distaste the women felt for the castle. Maybe she had a little home sickness after-all?
“Feodora grew to love her husband, but married life wasn’t easy. Her husband didn’t have much money and their home, Schloss Langenburg was uncomfortable and cold, full of drafts that let the cold wind in. And she missed her little sister a lot. The two girls started a very frequent correspondence and, when possible, Feodora, together with her growing family, went to England, to see her.”
[Schloss Langenburg – Family home to Ernst I and his wife Princess Feodora]
Princess Feodora and her new husband seemed to really settle into their married life and find genuine affection for each other. They had six children total. [see below]
Prince Carl Ludwig (1829-1907) Princess Elise (1830-1850)
Prince Hermann Ernst (1832-1913) Prince Victor (1833-1891)
Princess Adelaide (1835-1900) Princess Feodora (1839-1872)
Despite the very different locations Feodora and her sister lived as adults, the similarities are just uncanny. The women both loved and admired their husbands and by all reports seemingly had extremely good marriages. Victoria and Feodora also became mothers with a large family. They raised quite a lot of children into adulthood.
Married life surely suited Feodora, and she was much happier living back in Germany. Scott Mehl in his article Feodora of Leiningen, Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, explains how the princess became quite engrossed with matters in her community.
“As her husband was very politically active, serving as a member of the Württemberg Estates Assembly, President of the Estonian Committee and later President of the First Chamber of the Württemberg Landtag, the family also spent much time living in Stuttgart. Feodora maintained a very active social life both at home and in England, where she often visited her mother and sister. She was also very active in charitable causes in Langenburg, founding the Children’s Rescue Center in 1830 to help poor and orphaned children, and, at the time of her silver anniversary in 1853, founding the Poor Preservation Institute for Children and the Sick.”
The two sisters often visited each other throughout their lives after Princess Feodora moved to Germany. In a letter posted by The History Of Royal Women, Victoria who hadn’t seen her sister in six years writes happily of Feodora’s first visit home.
“At 11 arrived my dearest sister Feodora whom I had not seen for six years. She is accompanied by Ernest, her husband, and her two eldest children Charles and Elise. Dear Feodora looks very well but is grown much stouter since I saw her.
Victoria then later writes of her sadness to see her sister’s departure back to Germany with her husband and children. It was a very sad moment for the two royal women.
“I clasped her in my arms, and kissed her and cries as if my heart would break, so did she dearest sister. We then tore ourselves from each other in the deepest grief. When I came home I was in such a state of grief that I knew not what to do with myself. I sobbed and cried most violently the whole morning.”
Difficult times and very sad moments don’t escape anyone in life and not even royalty are spared from death. Princess Feodora’s oldest daughter and second child named Princess Elise was born in 1830 in Germany. Feodora’s daughter would only live to the age of twenty. Elise passed away in 1850 of tuberculosis. The loss of their daughter really affected Feodora and Ernst. In the History Of Royal Women article, the writers share a touching moment between sisters. It tells how much the loss of Elise hurt and even that Queen Victoria was affected by the loss of her niece.
“Feodora would have six children with her husband, all of which survived to adulthood, but her eldest daughter Elise would die at the age of 19 of tuberculosis. Victoria had commissioned a portrait of Elise in 1840, and when Elise died she sent Feodora a bracelet containing the miniature portrait to which Feodora responded: “I think the miniature very good, and the setting so beautiful, the idea so beautiful … Only with tears I can thank you!”
[Princess Elise (1830-1850); commissioned by Queen Victoria]
Princess Feodora’s husband Ernst I, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg died at the age of sixty on April 12th, 1860 just ten years after the death of his oldest daughter. The newly widowed Feodora decided to find a new residence after losing her husband.
The article Feodora of Leiningen, Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg written by Scott Mehl paints a clear picture of the events that were happening at this time. With the death of Feodora’s husband, a lot of changes were underway. The princess had lost a child quite young and then her husband. At this point she was in her early fifties.
“After being widowed in 1860, Feodora moved to Baden-Baden, where, with some financial help from Queen Victoria, she purchased a cottage called Villa Friesenberg. In a letter to Victoria, she described the house as “a Swiss cottage and a garden on a hill, with good air and a lovely view”. Queen Victoria visited Feodora there in the spring of 1872. Following Feodora’s death several months later, Victoria took possession of the house and its contents. She visited again four years later, calling the house Villa Hohenlohe.”
This is definitely a time period were both Princess Feodora and Queen Victoria face loss of epic proportions. The year after Feodora loses her husband, so does her little sister Victoria. The Queen was only in her early forties when Prince Albert died unexpectedly. The two sister’s lose their husband around the same time and still have a lot of life to live. According to BBC’s articles titled Prince Albert (1819 – 1861), Victoria relied heavily on her husband for support in her role as the nation’s leader.
“Albert’s role as advisor to his wife came into full force after the death of Lord Melbourne, the prime minister … Albert began to act as the queen’s private secretary. He encouraged in his wife a greater interest in social welfare and invited Lord Shaftesbury, the driving force behind successive factory acts, to Buckingham Palace to discuss the matter of child labour. His constitutional position was a difficult one, and although he exercised his influence with tact and intelligence, he never enjoyed great public popularity during Victoria’s reign. It wasn’t until 1857 that he was formally recognised by the nation and awarded the title ‘prince consort’.
Albert took an active interest in the arts, science, trade and industry. He masterminded the Great Exhibition of 1851, with a view to celebrating the great advances of the British industrial age and the expansion of the empire. He used the profits to help to establish the South Kensington museums complex in London.
In the autumn of 1861, Albert intervened in a diplomatic row between Britain and the United States and his influence probably helped to avert war between the two countries. When he died suddenly of typhoid on 14 December, Victoria was overwhelmed by grief and remained in mourning until the end of her life. She commissioned a number of monuments in his honour, including the Royal Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens completed in 1876. Albert and Victoria had nine children, most of whom married into the other royal houses of Europe.”
[Queen Victoria & Prince Albert: Married 1840]
Queen Victoria and Princess Feodora not only lost their husbands, but this is not their only major loss. The women’s mother Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld becomes ill and dies in 1861. This is prior to Prince Albert’s death according to Susan Flantzer in her article Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Duchess of Kent.
“In March of 1861, after the Duchess had surgery on her arm to remove an ulcer, a severe infection developed. On March 15, 1861, Queen Victoria was notified that her mother was not expected to survive for more than a few hours. Victoria, Albert, and their daughter Alice immediately traveled from London to Windsor where the Duchess resided at Frogmore Housenear Windsor Castle.
The Queen found her mother in a semi-coma and breathing with great difficulty. At 9:30 on the morning of March 16, 1861, the Duchess of Kent died at the age of 74 without regaining consciousness. Victoria did not deal well with losing her mother and dealt even worse with a death that was to come at the end of 1861, that of her beloved husband Albert.The Duchess of Kent’s final resting place is a mausoleum near Victoria and Albert’s mausoleum at Frogmore in Windsor Home Park.”
The two royal sisters lost the women who had birthed them and their spouses.
Times were rough for Princess Feodora. She retreated to her home in the Grand Duchy of Baden. Feodora’s youngest daughter and child, the Duchess of Saxe-Meiningen, who had been named after the princess herself died in early 1872 of scarlet fever. It was only a year after this that Feodora died
The History of Royal Women offers much insight into the moment as Queen Victoria writes the great sorrow she feels in a journal at the time of her sister’s death.
“Can I write it? My own darling, only sister, my dear excellent, noble Feodora is no more! This was to have been and is still a day of rejoicing for all the good Balmoral people, on account of dear Bertie’s5 first return after his illness; and I am here in sorrow and grief, unable to join in the welcome. God’s will be done, but the loss to me is too dreadful! I stand so alone now, no near and dear one near my own age, or older, to whom I could look up to, left! All, all fone! She was my last near relative on an equality with me, the last link to my childhood and youth. My dear children, so kind and affectionate, but no one can really help me.”
Another letter is also posted that was found in Princess Feodora’s belongings. it was written in 1864 and intended for Queen Victoria. Feodora loved her little sister so much and the letter expresses the emotions felt by the princess for Queen Victoria.
“I can never thank you enough for all you have done for me, for your great love and tender affection. These feelings cannot die, they must and will live in my soul – till we meet again, never more to be separated – and you will not forget.” – Feodora to Victoria
[Queen Victoria Painting – Coronation June 28th, 1838]
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