KING WITHOUT A CROWN: Albert, Prince Consort of England, 1819-1861 by Daphne Bennett

KING WITHOUT A CROWN: Albert, Prince Consort of England, 1819-1861

Email this review


The author admits to some initial qualms at the prospect of becoming Prince Albert's biographer, fearing a lack of empathy. In fact the Coburg Prince, so handsome, so high-minded, so knowledgeable, has never had a more ardent champion. There was hardly an aspect of statecraft or household management that didn't benefit from Albert's felicitous touch. It was he who instructed the headstrong young Victoria that she must be above party, accepting the detested Tories as well as her beloved Whigs. It was Albert's ""new concept of royalty"" that, according to Bennett, forged closer links between the Crown and the common people. And indeed coal mines, factories, and building sites attracted Albert--though he had no sympathy for Chartists or for the 1848 rebels in Europe. Before his advent, the royal household was still tarnished by Regency laxity: the drains stank, the cesspools stank, the kitchens were filthy; Albert introduced hygiene, fresh air, and exercise, early to bed and early to rise. Bennett charts his progress in England from dismay at the paucity of duties allotted to him--he felt ""unwanted, unemployed and depressed"" at first--to the gradual assumption of great responsibilities as the Queen's Private Secretary and a kind of ombudsman for the monarchy. All suspicions of Albert's being a prudish sanctimonious workaholic are waved aside and even in the delicate question of ""poor Bertie""--the Prince of Wales who always foiled his parents fondest hopes--Albert is held blameless: the boy was simply ""backward."" Bennett does give a fine sense of Albert's ""rationality and scientific outlook"" which prevailed in most affairs of state. And she hints at something more obdurate and less prescient when she says that ""There was a curious blindness in the Queen and Albert which prevented them from understanding that others did not always want the same thing as themselves."" A rounded and involving portrayal if rather too appreciative.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1977
Publisher: Lippincott