Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The prince who used to be third in line to the British throne

The latest addition to the British Royal Family was never going to be called Alfie.  It's one of the most used boys' names in the UK at the moment and with Alfie Moon on TV four times a week in EastEnders it was just too in use to make it into the exclusive club of future kings' names. 

It was never going to be all about Alfie..the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge present
HRH Prince George to the world on July 23rd 2013
(photo Christopher Neve)
But today marks the anniversary of the death of a Prince Alfie who, for almost twenty years, was number two in line to the British throne.  Alfred Ernest Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was Queen Victoria's second son and for the best part of two decades he played the part of spare to the future Edward VII's heir.  The arrival of Edward and Alexandra's first son in 1864 sent him tumbling down the pecking order to number three but to make up for it, he succeeded his uncle as Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha as his own big brother had renounced any claim to that title to concentrate on being Prince of Wales.

He might look just like Edward VII but unlike the king, Prince Alfred wasn't born to rule
But life on the slide was far from dull for Alfie.  He was the first member of the British royal family to visit Australia - late in his teenage years he joined the Navy and landed there on service although the trip was made into a state event. But the welcome was far from warm as he was shot in a failed assassination attempt.  Nursed back to health he went on to become the first British royal to go to Japan. 
His marriage provided a fantastic opportunity for lacy fans and long gloves at dawn for two royal consorts.  Alfie married the only daughter of Tsar Alexander II of Russia.  The Grand Duchess Maria became Duchess of Edinburgh on their wedding day in 1874 but she had no intention of playing second fiddle to the second lady of Victoria's court.  Alexandra of Denmark was the second most important woman but Maria lobbied the queen to take precedence arguing that the Russian royals outranked the Danish first family.  Victoria was not amused by the request and turned it down.
Maria, Duchess of Edinburgh wasn't so coy at court after her marriage, demanding to be given a higher ranking than the Princess of Wales

Alfie became Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 1893 but enjoyed his new position for just seven years - he died of throat cancer on July 30th 1900.  His only son had died the year before him so his German title passed away from his line while the title of Duke of Edinburgh returned to the Crown to be revived in 1947 for Prince Philip on his marriage to the then Princess Elizabeth. 
Alfie - actually known as Affie by his family - is now largely forgotten by history, a fate that won't await his distant relative Prince George of Cambridge who may be third right now but who is guaranteed the top job in the years to come.

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