Alfred, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1874-1899)

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– Alfred

Young Life Lost

Alfred Alexander William Ernest Albert was born on 15 October 1874 at Buckingham Palace and was the eldest child and only son of Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and Maria Alexandrovna of Russia.

When Alfred, known as Affie, was born his father was still Duke of Edinburgh and the young prince was baptised in the Lower Bow Room of Buckingham Palace on 23 November 1874. His godparents were: Queen Victoria (paternal grandmother); Tsar Alexander II (maternal grandfather); William I, German Emperor; Victoria, Princess Royal (paternal aunt); Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (paternal grand-uncle), and Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (paternal uncle).

Since his father had an active career in the navy, Affie was predominantly raised by his mother and the family spent a great deal of time in Malta where the duke was stationed. However, the family moved to Coburg when his father succeeded to the dukedom of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1891, and Affie became the hereditary prince.

On 23 January 1899, the Duke and Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary when their son tried to commit suicide by shooting himself with a revolver. Although Affie survived the attempt, he was sent to the Martinnsbrunn Sanatorium in Gratsch near Meran in the County of Tyrol where he died on 6 February 1899. There has been much speculation as to why the prince tried to kill himself, however he had been gravely ill for some time with syphilis which he had contracted as a young officer in the German army. Affie’s behaviour had been a cause for concern for some time since he was already a renowned gambler and womaniser.

A court announcement in January 1895 had announced the engagement of Affie to Elsa Matilda Marie, the elder twin daughter of the late Duke William Eugene of Württemberg, however the marriage was never forthcoming. Later, there were reports Affie had secretly married Mabel Fitzgerald, granddaughter of Charles FitzGerald, 4th Duke of Leinster, but this has never been substantiated.

As Affie was his father’s only son and the dukedom could not be inherited by a female, the title should have fallen to Queen Victoria’s third son, Arthur, Duke of Connaught, but he renounced his rights and that of his son in favour of the duchy passing to Charles Edward, the posthumous son of Leopold, Duke of Albany. The dukedom would eventually become obsolete due to the First World War.

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