Thursday, February 5, 2009
Hereditary Prince of Coburg dead at 24
It is idle to speculate on the reasons for his suicide. A legend has been fostered that he married one Mabel Fitzgerald, but no evidence of this exists. Whatever the cause, it is an unhappy story. His life is best summed up by his aunt, Empress Friedrich, who wrote to her daughter Sophie, "I knew how shocked and grieved you would be at the terrible death of your poor cousin. It is indeed terrible. You ask about the cause. It is true that he was giddy and wild, as many young men alas are, and that he contracted an illness of which I know next to nothing, as I have never asked or heard anything about it, one dislikes thinking about it, and still more speaking or writing about it. This was neglected, and the poor boy led a dissipated life besides. Potsdam! -- there was not the place for him. He was too inexperienced and heedless and giddy to resist temptations, bad examples, etc. It is not all too miserable! I loved that boy, but there was something irresistibly taking about him. He was one of those who are not fit to take care of themselves, not from evil disposition but from weakness of character."
The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh were stunned by their son's death; and Queen Marie of Roumania recorded her astonishment at seeing her mother break down and sink sobbing to her knees as her son's coffin was brought back to Gotha.
"All of the church bells of Gotha began ringing and we heard the muffled tones of a funeral march, and Mamma, generally so sober of movement, so undemonstrative, sank to her knees, crossing herself many times and then burst into tears. Mamma! Mamma who always hid every motion; it was an overwhelming sight; Mamma weeping for her first-born.""
And from Queen Victoria's Descendants A Companion Volume
"The Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha’s British titles, which included the Edinburgh dukedom, reverted to the Crown when he died. His only son, the Hereditary Prince Alfred, committed suicide in 1899, having lived a dissipated life that included gambling scandals. He never married nor had issue, but on January 28, 1895, the Court Circular published the following: “We are informed that a marriage has been arranged between his Royal Highness Prince Alfred of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, only son of their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and grandson of her Majesty, and her Royal Highness the Duchess Elsa Matilda Marie, elder twin daughter of the late Duke William Eugene of Württemberg by his marriage with the Grand Duchess Vera of Russia. The Duchess Elsa attains her 19th year on March 1 next, and Prince Alfred, who is a lieutenant à la suite in the German army, comes of age in October this year.”
Two days earlier, the New York Times reported from London that “the Central News learns that Prince Alfred, only son of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, is betrothed to the Duchess Elsa of Württemberg.”