In the play Victoria Regina by Laurence Housman, published in 1931, there is a scene between the prime minister, Lord Melbourne, and Mr. Tudor, British minister at the court of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
Tudor: If your Lordship wishes to prevent the marriage with Prince Albert, it can be done quite easily.
Melbourne: I’ve been trying all I know how. And it’s God damn difficult. She shut me down – as if I were nobody. I’ve tried more than once.
Tudor: It need not be difficult, my Lord. You have merely to state certain facts, and – the match will be off.
Melbourne: Well, now you do interest me exceedingly! Already morganatically married to some German wench, eh?
Tudor: Oh, no, no, no. The Prince has a blameless character. The same cannot be said about his late mother, the Grand-Duchess.
Melbourne: No, so I…. Her parents separated over something, I believe.
Tudor: They separated when the Prince was five years old. She went to live in Paris; he never saw her again. The cause of the separation was of more than five years standing, my Lord. [This is said with meaning.]
Melbourne (rising, with sharp interest): Heh? You don’t say so!
Tudor: After five years the parties forgot to be prudent: the thing got about.
Melbourne (sitting down): Who was – the other party?
Tudor: One of the Court Chamberlains: a very charming and accomplished person, but a commoner, and of Jewish extraction.
Melbourne: Dear me! Dear me! Healthy?
Tudor: Oh quite….You have only to tell Her Majesty that her cousin Prince Albert is not quite so much her cousin as she imagines, and I apprehend that you will have no further difficulty.
• • • • •
When the play was performed on the stage, the Lord Chamberlain insisted the scene be cut. In the play, Lord Melbourne had been informed that Prince Albert’s father, Duke Ernst of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was a hemophiliac. Hemophilia was recognized as a hereditary disease. If true, his son’s marriage with the Queen of England would have been highly undesirable. Since Victoria was determined to marry Prince Albert it was, therefore, a great relief for Lord Melbourne to hear that Albert was not the son of his father but the son of a Jew. Lord Melbourne does not say so in the play, but any actor playing him would no doubt want to show in his expression that this was by far the lesser evil.
The non-fictionalized history books are silent on the subject of hemophilia, as far as can be ascertained after a casual search, but not on the subject of Albert’s alleged Jewish father. The first published allegation that Albert was not the son of Duke Ernst appeared to have been the work of a certain M.L.W. Foss, who stated in Berlin in 1921 that Prince Albert “was to be described as a half-Jew.” In the following year Lytton Strachey, in his book Queen Victoria, wrote “…that there were scandals. One of the court chamberlains, a charming and cultivated man of Jewish extraction, was talked of.…”
In other publications, the court chamberlain was identified as Baron von Meyer. But none of the allegations has been substantiated. What happened was that after the birth of their two children, the marriage between the Duke and the Duchess deteriorated. When Albert was five they split up and his mother married her lover – presumably her only lover – Count Alexander von Hanstein. She died in Paris of cancer four years later.
One piece of evidence against the allegation was the strong physical resemblance between Albert and his father, Duke Ernst. Another is that Albert was “almost obsessional in his abhorrence of sexual licence and always spoke of his mother with great tenderness.… After his father’s death, he had her body transferred to the mausoleum that he and Duke Ernest had built in the Hofgarten in Coburg” (J.R. James, Albert, Prince Consort, a Biography, 1983).
Surely, the most conclusive evidence of all is that if the story was true we would all know about it.