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Leopold George Duncan Albert (DNB00)


LEOPOLD GEORGE DUNCAN ALBERT, Duke of Albany (1853–1884), fourth and youngest son of Queen Victoria and the prince consort, was born at Buckingham Palace on 7 April 1853. So delicate was his health that his baptism was deferred until the ensuing 28 June (Coronation day), when the rite was performed at Buckingham Palace, his sponsors being George V, king of Hanover (after whom he was named George), Prince Ernest of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, Augusta, princess of Prussia (afterwards German Empress), and Princess Mary of Cambridge, afterwards Duchess of Teck. The prince was named Leopold after his great-uncle, Leopold II, king of the Belgians, Albert after his father, and Duncan in compliment to Scotland. His ill-health debarred him from the ordinary sports of boyhood, and even precluded a systematic course of education. His mind, however, was active, he early evinced a love of books—Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott were his favourite authors—and he showed remarkable aptitude for music and modern languages. He was instructed in the rudiments of religion and science by Canon Duckworth, Dean Stanley, and Professor Tyndall. Later on his principal tutor was Mr. (later Sir) Robert Hawthorn Collins, afterwards comptroller of his household, with whom he went into residence at Oxford in 1872, matriculating at Christ Church (27 Nov.) He lived at Wykeham House, St. Giles's, near the parks; attended, in the garb of a gentleman-commoner, the lectures of the professors of history, poetry, music, fine art, and political economy, and studied science at the museum and modern languages at the Taylorian Institution.

On coming of age in 1874 the prince was sworn of the privy council, and granted an annuity of 15,000l. In the winter of 1874–5 his life was threatened by a severe attack of typhus fever. In 1876 he left the university with the honorary degree of D.C.L., and established himself at Boyton House, Wiltshire, whence he removed in 1879 to Claremont. Part of the intervening years he spent in travel in France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, and in 1880 he made a tour in Canada and the United States. In 1878 he was elected president of the Royal Society of Literature, and in 1879 vice-president of the Society of Arts. He was a graceful and effective public speaker, and took a lively interest in social questions. In 1879 he spoke in favour of the movement for university extension (Mansion House, 19 Feb.), advocated the cause of technical education in presiding at the prize distribution at the Birkbeck Institute, Chancery Lane (25 Feb.), took the chair and spoke at a meeting at Grosvenor House in support of the Royal Institution in aid of the Deaf and Dumb (16 May), and opened Firth College, Sheffield (20 Oct.). In 1880 he laid the foundation-stone of the Oxford High School (14 April). In 1881 he presided at the first meeting of the Kyrle Society (27 Jan.), opened University College, Nottingham (30 June), advocated the establishment of a national conservatoire of music at a soirée at Manchester (12 Dec.), and laid the foundation-stone of the Princess Helena College at Ealing (17 Dec.) Meanwhile the prince had been created (24 May 1881) Duke of Albany, Earl of Clarence, and Baron Arklow, and had taken his seat in the House of Lords (24 June). He spent the following autumn at Frankfort, where he made the acquaintance of Princess Helen Frederica Augusta, daughter of H.S.H. George Victor, prince of Waldeck-Pyrmont, to whom (the queen having given her consent, 29 Nov.) he was married in St. George's Chapel, Windsor, on 27 April 1882. His allowance was now raised to 25,000l., provision being also made for a jointure for the princess of 6,000l. in the event of her widowhood. The prince and princess resided at Claremont, the prince, so far as his health permitted, continuing his exertions in the cause of education, though his public appearances were fewer than formerly. One of the latest of them was the laying of the foundation-stone of the new buildings of the Birkbeck Institute (23 April 1883). In the spring of 1884 his health compelled a visit to the south of France. At first he seemed to be benefited by the change, but a fall in a clubhouse at Cannes led to an attack of epilepsy, of which he died at the Villa Nevada on 28 March. The funeral took place in St. George's Chapel, Windsor, on 6 April. He left a daughter (Princess Alexander of Teck); a posthumous son, born 19 July, became Duke of Saxe-Coburg in 1900.

The prince was K.G., K.T., G.C.S.I., G.C.M.G., D.C.L. of the university of Durham, a bencher of Lincoln's Inn, an elder brother of Trinity House, a freeman of the city of London, and a freemason. He was also honorary colonel of the third battalion Seaforth Highlanders, and a member of various foreign orders.

A portrait by Carl Sohn, jun., belongs to the Duchess of Albany. Sir James Linton painted a picture of the duke's marriage, which is now at Windsor.

[Obituary and other notices in the Times, Morning Post, Ann. Register; Academy, xxv. 242; Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature, 2nd ser.; Journal of the Society of Arts, 1879 et seq.; Hansard Parl. Deb. 3rd ser. ccxxi. 268, 645, 978; Warre's Life and Speeches of H.R.H. Prince Leopold (1884); Martin's Life of the Prince Consort; Foster's Alumni Oxonienses, and Burke's Peerage.]

J. M. R.