Prince Albert and the government – how accurate are Tom Hughes’ struggles inVictoria?

Did the real Albert have that much trouble getting money and a title?

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**This article contains some details from episode five of Victoria – if you’d rather avoid historical spoilers, then stop reading now**

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In this week’s Victoria, the young Queen (Jenna Coleman) gets her wish and marries her cousin Albert (Tom Hughes) – but it’s not exactly smooth sailing for the couple, with Albert demanding a title and an allowance as her husband that Victoria’s government are reluctant to provide.

But how true to real-life were the events of tonight’s episode? Was there really such a furore over a simple allowance, or was it inflated for dramatic purposes? And did Albert really care that much about having an English title?

Consort with us a while, and all will be revealed…


Catholic worries

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In tonight’s episode Albert’s German background is disdained by many of Victoria’s ministers, with some (including Peter Bowles’ Duke of Wellington) also suspecting he may be a closet Catholic, which would bar him from joining the royal family in then-deeply Protestant Britain.

Comparing the storyline to the real history, this interpretation of events seems fairly accurate. Many (including the public) were not initially fond of Albert, due to both a deep-seated anti-German sentiment and the fact that his homeland of Saxe-Coburg Gotha was seen as an impoverished, minor state.

And it’s also true that Albert’s religion was controversial, with the Prince coming from a Lutheran Evangelical background that, while still Protestant, was seen as problematic due to its non-Episcopal nature (basically, it wasn’t part of the same organisation as the Church of England). He also had Roman Catholic family members, which stoked further unease.


Money troubles

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The details of Albert’s money allowance in this week’s episode are also drawn from real history, when the traditional £50,000 sum for a monarch’s consort was argued down to a smaller £30,000 by Robert Peel’s Conservative party (who took advantage of Prime Minister Lord Melbourne’s minority government).

However, it’s probably untrue that this lower sum was inspired by Albert’s uncle King Leopold I of Belgium (Alex Jennings) using his own allowance to fund a household for his mistress in London, as is depicted in this week’s episode. Leopold did have mistresses (most notably an actress called Caroline Bauer from 1828-1829, who did briefly live in England for a time), but it’s unlikely his extra-marital affairs had as big an impact on British politics as the TV series suggests.


Peer pressure

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In this week’s Victoria, Robert Peel’s Tory party contest Albert’s ennoblement, and this also really happened – Albert was not granted a peerage or allowed to sit in the House of Lords, stemming from a mix of anti-German sentiment, a desire to keep him from political power and an aim to weaken Prime Minister Melbourne’s government.

However, it’s possible Albert wasn’t as concerned by this turn of events as the ITV drama makes out, with the prince claiming that he had no need of such titles.

“It would almost be a step downwards,” he wrote, “for as a Duke of Saxony, I feel myself much higher than a Duke of York or Kent.”

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Albert was also given membership of the Order of the Garter (as depicted in the series), and was formally titled HRH Prince Albert until Victoria granted him the official title of Prince Consort in 1857.