Alfred's ciphers as Duke of Edinburgh (left) and of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. (©Diana Mandache's Weblog: Royal History)
On 30 July 1900 Queen Victoria’s second son, Alfred died at Rosenau, Coburg. I would like to present here, as a fitting tribute to the Duke of Saxe Coburg Gotha, extracts from the letters exchanged between his wife, Marie Alexandrovna and Marie of Romania, one of their daughters, documents originating in archive sources, so far unpublished. In May-June 1900, the Duke went for spa treatment to Herculesbad in Austria – Hungary (the spa town is included today within the territory of Romania and is called Baile Herculane) and had a meeting there with his son in law, the Crown Prince Ferdinand of Romania.
The Duchess of Coburg wrote about Alfred’s illness to her daugher on 16 July, just two weeks before his death (nb: the English language inaccuracies in these letters stem from the fact that the Duchess was not a native speaker and Marie left England at a formative age, a fact impeding her early writing styles):
‘I was terribly distressed when I at last heard the truth about Papa! He must have suffered terribly and we know nothing about it. I had a great anguish at heart the whole time and the feeling besides that one could be of no use to him. But it all seemed so distressing to leave him quite alone there. Yet, knowing his character, I never could insist on journey him, which would have made him furious. Is his entourage really dishonest, or were they not alarmed at his condition? How could they otherwise have let me go on all those journeys? I really think, that as Papa insisted himself on this cure and it seemed such a failure he would not talk about it. He has happily put off the séjour at Reinhardsbrunn and all the guests, including the Albany tribe, which is a great relief. Only I don’t know what he is going to propose instead.’
On 23 July, princess Marie wrote impressions about her father’s unbearable suffering:
‘We have been dreadfully anxious about Papa. I do think it is worse than they let you imagine. But Papa’s own telegrams are too curious, he talks as if there was nothing to matter with him, but we received a letter from the doctor in which he did not hide that his condition was really not good. As it seems the abscesses form now continually on the tongue and small operations have frequently to be undertaken, let alone the unbearable suffering, the feeding becomes always more difficult. I honestly tell you Mama it makes my heart heavy as I really think he is in a very bad state! And what will you do with him when he comes home! I believe now one hardly understands what he says his tongue is in such a state. I feel awfully sad about it. Of course there is no reason why he should not get all right but it will be long a wearisome and I always ask myself what on earth will you do with him!’
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