The police stood in stiff rows along the muddy route from the palace to the chapel, pushing back rowdy onlookers. Burglars began creeping through the alleys and backyards of London, taking advantage of the fact that the bobbies would be distracted for a day. Meanwhile, along the route from the palace to the chapel, tree branches were collapsing under the weight of the people clinging to them.
When Victoria arrived at St. She gave each of them a small turquoise brooch in the shape of an eagle, as a symbol of courage and strength. Albert waited at the altar, looking dashing in a bright red, tightly fitted uniform decorated with the collar and star of the Order of the Garter, the highest order of chivalry in Britain, with his blue eyes fixed on his solemn little bride as she approached.
Lefevre, who stood close to Victoria during the ceremony, said she was perfectly composed and spoke distinctly and well but that every orange flower in her head was quivering and she was very pale and her eyes red as if she had not slept. But she signed her name like a lion and was so anxious that PA should appear to advantage that she touched his elbow whenever he was going to do wrong, showed him where to sign his name and put him right when he set the ring on the wrong finger.
After the marriage she cleared up and looked quite happy. The next day, the only report Victoria wanted to correct was that she had cried: The feast was a frenzy of nodding, curtsying, beaming, and hand-shaking. The couple finally left at four in the afternoon, trotting off in simple fashion as the sun started to poke fingers through the clouds, with three coaches accompanying them and people cheering and running alongside.
After a three-hour journey, the exhausted couple arrived at Windsor Castle. Victoria had a headache; she changed and lay on the couch, mentally scrolling through images of her chaotic day. Albert played the piano as she rested. It was so much quieter than London; what a relief. She thought back on the past few hours: The happy moment when Albert placed a ring on her finger and it was done.
The rippling, jostling ocean of faces lining the route to the chapel; and at the palace, the thick heat of goodwill, the deafening applause, the sight of elegant Albert in his uniform. The mad cheering of the boys at Eton as they rolled into Windsor.
The profundity of the service. For the rest of her life, she thought with a swelling joy, she would just be Victoria to her Albert. She rolled onto her side and looked at her husband as his fingers glided along the piano keys, playing one of his own compositions.
Albert looked up and came over to her, kissing her. Victoria woke the next morning after a night of little sleep. Luckily for her, the mortifying tradition of the court coming to peer at the royal couple when they first climbed into the same bed had gone out of fashion with George III. She was also lucky in that Albert seems to have been a competent, tender lover. Her elation was palpable in her journal entry: He clasped me in his arms, and we kissed each other again and again! His beauty, his sweetness and gentleness,—really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband!
This was the happiest day of my life! It was a kind of lustful enchantment. I feel a purer more unearthly feel than I ever did. He slid into bed next to her, kissing her over and over; they fell asleep with arms entwined.
Historians have long acknowledged that Victoria had a high libido—some have implied she was some kind of sexual predator who devoured a tolerant but exhausted husband. She was undoubtedly extremely passionate, the fact of which clashes with the strong associations Victoria often carries of dour old age and puritanical condemnation. Cheat Sheet A speedy, smart summary of all the news you need to know and nothing you don't. You are now subscribed to the Daily Digest and Cheat Sheet.
We will not share your email with anyone for any reason. In the nineteenth century, it was assumed that women with strong libidos were pathological: Some were given clitoridectomies or had leeches placed on their perineums.
Others were told to abstain from meat and brandy, use hair pillows, douche with borax, have cold enemas, or adhere to strict vegetable diets. In , a doctor reported that the most likely candidates for nymphomania were virgins, widows, or women with blond hair aged sixteen to twenty-five.
Projection was prevalent in the Victorian medical profession. Most female illnesses were thought to derive from troublesome pelvic organs. The greatest sources of knowledge about the female organs were assumed to be male gynecologists, which made the bodies of women a secret even, or perhaps especially, to themselves. The Medical Registration Act specifically excluded women from becoming qualified doctors. Sex education for girls was unthinkable. British doctor and author of books on masturbation William Acton even argued that some married couples were so ill informed that their marriages were never consummated.
You cannot help but feel some sympathy for Dr. In , Robert Tait wrote: The majority of women enter the married state with but a very hazy notion of what its functions are… there is a false modesty on these subjects ingrained in our English life which has to be paid for in much suffering amongst women. For many married women, sex was a chore, not something to be enjoyed. Albert did not record his views on sex, but it is clear that he satisfied his wife.
And he certainly admired her, writing to his brother approvingly about her oft-praised bosom. Albert loved his wife, but socially and intellectually he preferred male company. While he did not enjoy the after-dinner port drinking and male banter that were then the custom— usually leaving to play chess alone or sing duets with Victoria—his closest friendships were with men.
There is no evidence that Albert had a physical relationship with a man, but many have suspected he did. Lytton Strachey stated that Albert did not take after his cheating father for two possible reasons: His intense attachment to his tutor is unsurprising, given the absence of his mother.
Some have also pointed to the strong culture of homoeroticism at many male colleges such as those that comprised Oxford and Cambridge and public schools such as Eton in the nineteenth century, and there is no reason to think Bonn would be exempt.
Intimate behaviors—passionate declarations of love, sharing of beds, and kissing—that today would be called homosexual did not attract a label. He and Victoria had an intimate and satisfying marriage, and Victoria was the chief protector and creator of the memory of Albert. No one seriously gossiped about it while he was alive, at a time when homosexuality was not considered an identity but something people occasionally dabbled in, often as teenagers and young men and women.
According to Michel Foucault, the beginning of the categorization of homosexuality as an identity did not come until And ultimately, the fact that Albert did not ogle or admire other women was one of the things Victoria loved most about her husband.
It made her feel secure, protected. It was also excellent revenge on the popular, pretentious society women who circled the royal court. It was a stupid thing to say, and Victoria fumed: The marriage between Victoria and Albert is one of the greatest romances of modern history. It was genuine, devoted, and fruitful. Together, they ushered in an era when the monarchy would shift from direct power to indirect influence, and from being the fruit of the aristocracy to becoming the symbol of the middle class.
They restored and raised the stature of the monarchy, preserving it from the revolutions that toppled the aristocracies and royal families in Europe during the same years that Victoria and Albert were widely feted in Britain.
Albert would grow to surpass his wife, for a short time, in influence, but not in longevity, stamina, or sheer will. Albert would soar; Victoria would endure. In giving Albert free rein to work alongside her as she carried nine children, Victoria was soon to discover that the clever, intellectually restless Albert was a great asset.
She spent roughly eighty months pregnant in the s and s—more than six years in total—and even longer recovering from childbirth. During this time, she was able to hand off work to a brilliant, trusted deputy. But her husband had no intention of being a subordinate partner, and this sparked the fiercest fights of their marriage. As he and Victoria embarked on married life, each tried to assert his or her will in what had traditionally been the most unequal of relationships: In this case, the spouse held the trump card: From the book Victoria the Queen by Julia Baird.
Julia Baird is a journalist, broadcaster, and author based in Sydney, Australia. She has a Ph.