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Duke Alfred of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

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Alfred Ernest Albert, duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and duke of Edinburgh (1844-1900), second son and fourth child of Queen Victoria, was born at Windsor Castle on August 6, 1844. In 1856 it was decided that the prince, in accordance with his own wishes, should enter the Royal 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 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 February 24, 1863 and captain on the February 23, 1866, being then appointed to the command of the Galatea. In 1866, 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 January 24, 1867 for his voyage round the world. On June 7, 1867 he left Gibraltar and reached the Cape on the July 24, and landed at Glenelg[?], South Australia, on October 31. 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 Clontarf 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 June 26, 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 March 12. The marriage was not a happy one, and the bride was thought haughty by London society.

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 December 30, 1878; vice-admiral, November 10 1882; admiral, October 18, 1887; and received his baton as admiral of the Fleet, June 3, 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 August 22, 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 July 31, 1900, he had generally 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 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's only son, the Hereditary Prince Alfred, a dissolute character, became involved in a scandal involving his mistress and shot himself on January 23, 1899, in the midst of his parents' twenty-fifth wedding anniversary celebrations. He survived, but his embarrassed parents sent him off to Meran to recover, where he died two weeks later, on February 6. This proved the last straw in the duke and duchess's troubled marriage, and Alfred drank himself to death over the course of the next year, dying on July 30, 1900. He was succeeded as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha by his nephew, the Duke of Albany[?], son of Victoria and Albert's youngest son, Alfred's next brother the Duke of Connaught and his son having disclaimed the succession to the Duchy.

Besides young Alfred, the Duke and Duchess had four daughters. The eldest daughter, Princess Marie[?], married the future King Ferdinand of Romania, and became one of the most important supporters of Romanian intervention on the side of the allies during the World War I. The second daughter, Princess Victoria Melita[?], called "Ducky" by the family, married her first cousin Grand Duke Ernest Louis of Hesse and the Rhine[?]. The match proved an unhappy one, and the couple divorced, with Victoria Melita remarrying another first cousin, Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich of Russia[?]. From them descends Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna[?], the principal claimant to the Russian imperial throne. 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. The youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice, married a Spanish infante, later the Duke of Galliera[?]



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