Prince Alfred Duke of Edingburgh Signed Letter as a Child 1855 Sebastopol Windsor to Lord Breadalbane


Charming signed letter from Prince Alfred, Duke of Edingburgh (1844-1900), written as a young boy aged eleven from Balmoral Castle, dated 11th September 1855, to John Campbell, 2nd Marquess of Breadalbane (1796-1862). Written on stationery for Balmoral Castle engraved with a magnificent Stag on the highlands of Scotland. The letter is concerning a gift of antique knives and the lighting of a bonfire for Sebastopol. On 11th September 1855, the Russians burnt the remaining ships of the Black Sea Fleet. The Siege of Sebastopol which had lasted a year was effectively over. The war did not last much longer. 100,000 Russians are said to have died in the defence of Sevastopol.

"My dear Lord Breadalbane

I thank you very much indeed for the two knives you were so kind to send me. I shall have a regular Museum of knives from you alone. It is really exceedingly kind of you to think so much of what would give me pleasure.

We are all very happy at the news & late last night we lighted our bonfire for the taking of Sebastopol.

I am very truly yours,


He reigned as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha from 1893 to 1900. He was the second son and fourth child of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. He was known as the Duke of Edinburgh from 1866 until he succeeded his paternal uncle Ernest II as the reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in the German Empire.

Prince Alfred was born at Windsor Castle to the reigning British monarch, Queen Victoria, and her husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the second son of Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. He was second in the line of succession behind his elder brother, the Prince of Wales. He was known to his family as "Affie", after a childhood mispronunciation of the name "Alfred".

Alfred was baptized by the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Howley, at the Private Chapel in Windsor Castle on 6 September 1844. His godparents were his mother's first cousin, Prince George of Cambridge (represented by his father, The Duke of Cambridge); his paternal aunt, the Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (represented by his maternal grandmother, the Duchess of Kent); and Queen Victoria's half-brother, Carl, Prince of Leiningen (represented by The Duke of Wellington, Conservative Leader in the Lords).

Alfred studied violin at Holyrood, Edinburgh, where his accompanist was Hungarian expatriate George Lichtenstein.

Alfred remained second in line to the British throne from his birth until 8 January 1864, when his older brother Edward and his wife Alexandra of Denmark had their first son Prince Albert Victor. Any legitimate children of his older brother took priority in the succession list. Alfred became third in line to the throne and as Edward and Alexandra continued to have children, Alfred was further demoted in the order of succession.

In 1856 it was decided that Prince Alfred, in accordance with his own wishes, should enter the Royal Navy. A separate establishment was accordingly assigned to him, with Lieutenant J.C. Cowell, RE, as governor. He passed the examination in August 1858, and was appointed as midshipman in HMS Euryalus at the age of 14. In July 1860, while on this ship, he paid an official visit to the Cape Colony, and made a very favourable impression both on the colonials and on the native chiefs. He took part in a hunt at Hartebeeste-Hoek, resulting in the slaughter of large numbers of game animals. On the abdication of King Otto of Greece, in 1862, Prince Alfred was chosen to succeed him, but the British government blocked plans for him to ascend the Greek throne, largely because of the Queen's opposition to the idea. She and her late husband had made plans for him to succeed to the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg.

Prince Alfred, therefore, remained in the navy, and was promoted to lieutenant on 24 February 1863, serving under Count Gleichen on the corvette HMS Racoon. He was promoted to captain on 23 February 1866 and was appointed to the command of the frigate HMS Galatea in January 1867.

On 12 March 1868, on his second visit to Sydney, he was invited by Sir William Manning, President of the Sydney Sailors' Home, to picnic at the beachfront suburb of Clontarf to raise funds for the home. At the function he was wounded in the back by a revolver fired by Henry James O'Farrell. Alfred was shot just to the right of his spine, and was tended for the next two weeks by six nurses, trained by Florence Nightingale and led by Matron Lucy Osburn, who had just arrived in Australia in February 1868. In the violent struggle during which Alfred was shot, William Vial had managed to wrest the gun away from O'Farrell until bystanders assisted. Vial, a master of a Masonic Lodge, had helped to organise the picnic in honour of the Duke's visit and was presented with a gold watch for securing Alfred's life. Another bystander, George Thorne, was wounded in the foot by O'Farrell's second shot. O'Farrell was arrested at the scene, quickly tried, convicted and hanged on 21 April 1868.

On 23 January 1874, the Duke of Edinburgh married the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, the second (and only surviving) daughter of Emperor Alexander II of Russia and his wife Marie of Hesse and by Rhine, daughter of Ludwig II, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine and Wilhelmine of Baden, at the Winter Palace, St Petersburg. To commemorate the occasion, a small English bakery made the now internationally popular Marie biscuit, with the Duchess' name imprinted on its top. The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh made their public entry into London on 12 March. The marriage, however, was not a happy one, and the bride was thought haughty by London Society. She was surprised to discover that she had to yield precedence to the Princess of Wales and all of Queen Victoria's daughters and insisted on taking precedence before the Princess of Wales (the future Queen Alexandra) because she and her father the Tsar considered the Princess of Wales' family (the Danish Royal Family) as inferior to their own. Queen Victoria refused this demand, yet granted her precedence immediately after the Princess of Wales. Her father gave her the then-staggering sum of £100,000 as a dowry, plus an annual allowance of £28,000.

On the death of his uncle, Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha on 22 August 1893, the duchy fell to the Duke of Edinburgh, since his elder brother (the Prince of Wales) had renounced his right to the succession before he married. Alfred thereupon surrendered his British allowance of £15,000 a year and his seats in the House of Lords and the Privy Council, but he retained the £10,000 granted on his marriage to maintain Clarence House as his London residence. At first regarded with some coldness as a "foreigner", he gradually gained popularity. By the time of his death in 1900, he had generally won the good opinion of his subjects.

Alfred was exceedingly fond of music and took a prominent part in establishing the Royal College of Music. He was a keen violinist, but had little skill. At a dinner party given by his brother, he was persuaded to play. Sir Henry Ponsonby wrote: 'Fiddle out of tune and noise abominable.'

He was also a keen collector of glass and ceramic ware, and his collection, valued at half a million marks, was presented by his widow to the Veste Coburg, the enormous fortress on a hill top above Coburg.

Alfred and Maria's only son, the Hereditary Prince Alfred, became involved in a scandal involving his mistress and shot himself in January 1899, in the midst of his parents' twenty-fifth wedding anniversary celebrations at the Schloss Friedenstein in Gotha. He survived, but his embarrassed mother sent him off to Meran to recover, where he died two weeks later, on 6 February. His father was devastated.

The Duke of Saxe-Coburg died of throat cancer on 30 July 1900 in a lodge adjacent to Schloss Rosenau, the ducal summer residence just north of Coburg. He was buried at the ducal family's mausoleum in the Friedhof am Glockenberg (de) in Coburg. He was succeeded as the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha by his nephew, Prince Charles Edward, Duke of Albany, the posthumous son of his youngest brother, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany because Alfred's next brother, The Duke of Connaught, and his son, Prince Arthur of Connaught, had renounced their succession rights to the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

He was survived by his mother, Queen Victoria, who had already outlived two of her children, Alice and Leopold. She died six months later.

Breadelbane was a Scottish nobleman and Liberal politician. He sat as Member of Parliament for Okehampton from 1820 to 1826 and for Perthshire from 1832 to 1834. The latter year he succeeded his father as second Marquess of Breadalbane and entered the House of Lords. In 1848 he was sworn of the Privy Council and appointed Lord Chamberlain of the Household by Lord John Russell, a post he held until the government fell in 1852. He held the same office under Lord Aberdeen between 1853 and 1855 and under Lord Palmerston between 1855 and 1858.

A freemason, Breadalbane was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland between 1824 and 1826. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1834 and made a Knight of the Thistle in 1838. The following year he was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Argyllshire, a post he held until his death. In 1842 he entertained Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort at Taymouth Castle. He was a supporter of the Free Church of Scotland during the disruption in the 1840s.

Breadalbane was also Rector of the University of Glasgow between 1840 and 1842 and of Marischal College, Aberdeen, between 1843 and 1845, President of the Society of Antiquaries between 1844 and 1862 and Governor of the Bank of Scotland between 1861 and 1862. In 1861 he was sent on a special diplomatic mission to Berlin for the investiture of King William I in the Order of the Garter. He was appointed a Knight of the Order of the Black Eagle of Prussia at the same time.

Lord Breadalbane married Lady Elizabeth ("Eliza"), daughter of George Baillie and sister of George Baillie-Hamilton, 10th Earl of Haddington, in 1821. They had no children. She was a Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Victoria. She died in Mayfair, London, on 28 August 1861, aged 58. Lord Breadalbane survived her by just over a year and died at Lausanne, Switzerland, on 8 November 1862, aged 66. On his death the barony of Breadalbane, earldom of Ormelie and marquessate of Breadalbane became extinct. He was succeeded in the lordship of Glenorchy, viscountcy of Tay and Paintland and earldom of Breadalbane and Holland by his distant relative and namesake, John Campbell. The marquessate was revived in favour of the latter's son in 1885.

Size: 23 x 18 cm approx

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