As the future Queen of England, Princess Victoria was the most eligible bride in Europe. She saw marriage as “the most important business transaction of her life.” Her cousin Prince Albert was raised to make a good marriage, and there was no better marriage prospect than Victoria. Romantic love had little to do with it. Still, somehow these two did make a happy marriage. Gillian Gill brings a fresh perspective on the well-told story of Albert and Victoria in We Two. By looking at them as not only husband and wife, but also co-rulers and often rivals for power, she portrays the pair, often seen as old-fashioned, more like a modern power couple.
This pair who put a name and image to their age didn’t always fit the stereotype. Albert was ambitious and believed he would be king in actuality if not in name. With Victoria’s first pregnancy, his dream seemed to be coming true. He took over the reins of the government, but had to be cautious because the English people did not want a foreign-born ruler. They were loyal to Victoria; they tolerated Albert. By the time of Albert’s death, Gill shows that there were serious power struggles going on within the marriage. The childbearing years were (finally) over for Victoria; she now had the energy to renew her interest in affairs of state. Furthermore, that interest had been whetted as she took on the role of wartime queen during the Crimean War. Letters show that she was beginning to assert herself more in family affairs as well.
Who knows what story we would tell if Albert had shared the other 40 years of Victoria’s reign? Albert’s early death solidified the myth of their perfect marriage and that myth would domesticate Albert’s reputation. He had wanted to be “the Eminent Victorian” and certainly had the brains, drive and administrative skill to make a mark on history. But after his death, Victoria stole the spotlight from her husband as she excessively mourned him, sealing his fate. This is one of the sad ironies of the prince’s life: that a man who hoped to put his stamp on history is mostly known for his marriage.
Faye Jones is dean of learning services at Nashville State Technical College.