Duke of Edinburgh (1865-1900)
Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1893-1900)
Born 1844 Died 1900
Alfred Ernest Albert, second son and fourth child of Queen Victoria, was born at Windsor Castle on the 6th of August 1844. In 1856 it was decided that the prince, in accordance with his own wishes, should enter the navy, and a separate establishment was accordingly assigned to him, with Lieutenant Sowell, R. E., as governor. He passed a most creditable examination for midshipman in August 1858, and being appointed to the Euryalus, at once began to work hard at the practical part of his profession. In July 1860, while on this ship, he paid an official visit to the Cape, and made a very favourable impression both on the colonials and on the native chiefs.
On the abdication of Otto, king of Greece, in 1862, Prince Alfred was chosen by the whole people to succeed him, but political conventions of long standing rendered it impossible for the British government to accede to their wishes. The prince therefore remained in the navy, and was promoted lieutenant on the 24th of February 1863 and captain on the 23rd of February 1866, being then appointed to the command of the Galatea. On attaining his majority in 1865 the prince was created Duke of Edinburgh and Earl of Ulster, with an annuity of £15,000 granted by parliament.
While still in command of the Galatea the duke started from Plymouth on the 24th of January 1867 for his voyage round the world. On the 11th of June 1867 he left Gibraltar and reached the Cape on the 24th of July, and landed at Glenelg, South Australia, on the 31st of October. Being the first English prince to visit Australia, the duke was received with the greatest enthusiasm. During his stay of nearly five months he visited Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Tasmania; and it was on his second visit to Sydney that, while attending a public picnic at Clonfert in aid of the Sailors' Home, an Irishman named O'Farrell shot him in the back with a revolver. The wound was fortunately not dangerous, and within a month the duke was able to resume command of his ship and return home. He reached Spithead on the 26th of June 1868, after an absence of seventeen months.
The duke's next voyage was to India, where he arrived in December 1869. Both there and at Hong Kong, which he visited on the way, he was the first British prince to set foot in the country. The native rulers of India vied with one another in the magnificence of their entertainments during the duke's stay of three months. On the 23rd of January 1874 the marriage of the duke to the grand-duchess Marie Alexandrovna, only daughter of Alexander II, Emperor of Russia, was celebrated at St Petersburg, and the bride and bridegroom made their public entry into London on the 12th of March. The duke still devoted himself to his profession, showing complete mastery of his duties and unusual skill in naval tactics. He was promoted rear-admiral on the 30th of December 1878; vice-admiral, l0th of November 1882; admiral, 18th of October 1887; and received his baton as admiral of the Fleet, 3rd of June 1893. He commanded the Channel fleet, 1883-1884; the Mediterranean fleet, 1886-1889; and was commander-in-chief at Davenport, 1890-1893. He always paid the greatest attention to his official duties and was most efficient as an admiral.
On the death of his uncle, Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, on the 22nd of August 1893, the vacant duchy fell to the Duke of Edinburgh, for the Prince of Wales had renounced his right to the succession. At first regarded with some coldness as a 'foreigner', he gradually gained popularity, and by the time of his death, on the 30th of July 1900, he had completely won the good opinion of his subjects.
The duke was exceedingly fond of music and an excellent violinist, and took a prominent part in establishing the Royal College of Music. He was also a keen collector of glass and ceramic ware, and his collection, valued at half a million of marks, was presented by his widow to the 'Veste Coburg', near Coburg. When he became Duke of Saxe-Coburg he surrendered his English allowance of £15,000 a year, but the £10,000 granted in addition by parliament on his marriage he retained in order to keep up Clarence House.
The duke had one son, who died unmarried on the 6th of February 1899, and four daughters. The third daughter, Princess Alexandra Louisa Olga Victoria, married the hereditary prince Ernest of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, who became regent of the duchy of Coburg during the minority of the deceased duke's nephew, the young Duke of Albany, to whom the succession fell. (G.F.B.)
Being the entry for ALFRED OF SAXE-COBURG in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.