Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December 14, 1861 – Prince Albert Recovers

After a terrible year involving a carriage crash, scandal with the Prince of Wales cavorting with the Irish actress Nellie Clifden, shouldering many of the Queen's duties during her mourning of the death of her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and intervening in harsh diplomatic response to the United States of America blocking Confederate envoys in a raid upon a British ship, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Prince Consort of the United Kingdom, finally had some luck. His chronic illness with what his physician William Jenner had diagnosed as typhoid fever finally began to clear up. It would remain a cold, solemn Christmas, but, by spring, Albert would be well among the living.

Despite his brush with death, Albert continued with his lifelong dedication and energy to his many causes. Up to that time, he had transcended the typically quiet position as consort, where he revolutionized and expanded his and the Queen's many estates with advanced technology and practices. Albert additionally took up causes such as the abolition of slavery and reforms of nearly every policy. He served as Chancellor at the University of Oxford, modernizing the curriculum, as well as president for the society for Advancement of Science. During the turbulent times of the 1840s, Albert supported the government in enacting progressive policies without need for violence. His work to open the international scope of London ultimately succeeded in the Great Exhibition of 1851, made greater by its lowering of entrance prices to a single shilling, making the exhibition accessible to the lower classes and opening the eyes of thousands to the greater world. While Albert attempted to obtain a peaceful diplomatic agreement between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, the Crimean War would break out, causing his popularity to plummet.

Renewed with life in 1862, Albert shifted his attentions to a diplomatic solution in the ongoing American Civil War. A weaker United States would be politically advantageous to the world-leader Britain, though it did not want it as an enemy. Albert told the political envoys that Her Majesty's Government admired the CSA's sense of independence and were willing to contribute, but they simply could not back the institution of slavery on moral grounds. In 1863, the South began a policy of voluntarily freeing slaves with government compensation, and the abolitionist support in the North began to wane. The war would come to an end with separate but equal nations in 1865 after the loss of Abraham Lincoln in the election of 1864.

In 1870, Albert would again try his hand at steadying international conflicts by trying to cool the head of Emperor Louis Napoleon of France, but the Franco-Prussian War would go on, nonetheless. As it ended with the Treaty of Frankfurt, Albert admired his native Germany in its unification and used his rights as Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to address Kaiser Wilhelm on the goods of liberal, paternal governance. He often visited his daughter Victoria and son-in-law Frederick, encouraging them to discipline their son Friedrich Wilhelm and once caning the boy himself for not minding his elders. Biographers record incidents between Albert and the lad who would become Kaiser Wilhelm II as greatly instrumental into shaping him into the mindful, studious man he was.

Building diplomacy with Germany and developing industrial policy would dominate the latter years of Albert's life. Suffering from what modern historians believe to be cancer, but about which his medical documents were politely vague, Albert died in 1879, two days short of matching his father's lifespan. His legacy stands throughout Europe to this day, creating monarchy that is an example of morality to its people, aimed at mutually advantageous diplomatic agreements, and tied tightly to education, industry, and technological development. While many Marxist and radicals call Albert "paternalist" and "deceptively authoritarian", most credit him with enabling a twentieth century where the majority of wars have been colonial or internal affairs dealing with anti-imperial, anarchical threats.





In reality, Prince Albert died after his lungs became congested. The Queen would grieve for him the rest of her life, and Britain, who had received him at times with mediocrity, showered his memory with sympathy. Memorials crowded London and the world, such as Prince Albert Hall, the Prince Albert Memorial, the Albert Medal of the Royal Society of Arts, and Africa's Lake Albert.

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