Oliver Walton - October 2019

“Where was Prince Albert’s home? The challenges of identity and belonging for a transnational prince”

Prince Albert’s German-ness is a staple feature of historical and biographical writing about him, and has often been used as a somewhat catch-all explanation for perceived difficulties and idiosyncrasies. Yet this crude national determinism is problematic, not least because Germany was not a political unit, let alone a monolithic one. This paper draws a larger frame of reference to assess the importance of Prince Albert’s national affiliations alongside his attachment to other places, and indeed other kinds of belonging than the purely political. Focusing on ‘home’ allows these factors to be viewed together and offer new insights, based not merely on the places (however defined), but also the emotions and the actions of making himself at home. Thus Albert’s German nationalism can be seen as being shaped by his perspectives from Coburg-Gotha and from Britain. Indeed his attachment to Coburg and Gotha was even stronger than often acknowledged, and was sustained through emotional and financial investment in the life of the duchy. Nonetheless he made serious efforts to make himself at home in Britain, learning about and visiting much of the country, and creating a role for himself in civil society. He also literally placed himself at the centre of royal home-making, both in overseeing the Royal Household, but also in building the new residences at Osborne and Balmoral. For all the oft-repeated supposition that Balmoral looked like Albert’s native Thuringia, the resonances were far more specific and emotional than strictly topographical. These home also reflected profoundly British-centred aims in relation to Albert’s personal and familial needs, but also as assertions of monarchical independence; and in this they were key elements in building a new kind of British monarchy.