• Paul

A ROYAL RUMBLE


Antony and Cleopatra. William and Mary. Bert and Ernie. Frankly, history is full of power couples. But few among them were quite so utterly devoted to one another than Queen Victoria and her beloved Prince Albert. But as happy as their marriage was, however, even they had their moments.

In 2012, historians working to digitize all 141 of Queen Victoria’s handwritten journals discovered that most rare of occurrences: shortly before Christmas in 1859—as recorded in journal 40/141—the royal power couple had a bitter disagreement. Over, somewhat ironically, the bitterest of liquids.

As the queen later recalled, on the evening of 14 December 1859 she and Albert were dining alone in their private apartment at Osborne House, when Albert happened to knock over a small dipping-bowl of vinegar. The liquid spilt across the table and, before she had had time to react, poured copiously into the queen’s lap.


Queen Victoria: Not amused. Smelled of vinegar. (Public domain)

A little careless, perhaps, but not cause for the world’s most powerful couple to fall out, surely? Well, ordinarily not—except that Albert did that most forbidden of things. He laughed.

The queen, it’s fair to presume, was not amused. As she wrote in her journal the following morning:

Evening meal with dearest Albert ruined by his butter-fingeredness; a dropped knife ... knocking a vessel of vinegar, skittering across the table, soaking [my] lap. All Albert could do was smirk!! Which angered me so that we fell into the most acrimonious of arguments, rumbling ’til night-time. Silence most uncomfortable between us; and broken only by a surly “good-night” near 10 [pm]. Gladly, both our usual selves this morning.


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