By John Van der Kiste
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Extra resources for Dearest Vicky, Darling Fritz: The Tragic Love Story of Queen Victoria's Eldest Daughter and the German Emperor
Ironically, the man who had struggled all his life to find a voice in the affairs of his nation died voiceless, robbed of speech by cancer of the larynx. His reign lasted a mere three months, whereupon such political importance as his wife ever possessed ceased abruptly; and, for her remaining thirteen years, she was reluctantly tolerated and often abused by a son under whose rule she found no political satisfaction and only a degree of personal contentment. Was Vicky a courageous, grossly maligned woman determined to do the best for her adopted Prussia – and later Germany – without regard to the personal consequences for herself; or was she the tactless, domineering Englishwoman, a pampered Princess who remained a slavish disciple of her long-dead father, refusing to accept that there was any other way than the English one?
39 At a ball later that week she ‘danced with the Emperor, which frightened her very much’,40 but the Empress went out of her way to make friends with her and soon put her at her ease. A reciprocal visit was paid to Paris four months later, and Vicky and Bertie Prince of Wales, her eldest brother, were allowed to accompany their parents to the Palace of St Cloud. For Vicky it was the height of luxury; at home she had to share a bedroom with her sister Alice, but for a few days in Paris she had her own, amidst pictures and furniture that were the epitome of elegance and sophistication.
23 Alternatively the eminence grise might have been Baron Stockmar, King Leopold’s physician and unofficial family counsellor who supported anything that would bring together ‘the two great Protestant dynasties in Europe’24 and who had first spoken of the issue when Vicky was only six. Finally there was Albert himself, who may not have been the architect but was certainly the catalyst in the match between his daughter and the eventual heir to the Prussian throne. His vision of a progressive Germany, with the Hohenzollerns of Prussia at the helm, living under constitutional law, and allied to England, seemed well within the bounds of possibility.