The Other Victoria: The Princess Royal and the Great Game of Europe

By Andrew Sinclair | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER THREE
Divided Loyalty

'YOU AND YOUR child must look like two babies together,' Queen Victoria wrote to her daughter, 'as you have such a child's face still.'1 The Princess Royal doted on her son, and took three months to recover from his birth. When she was able to return to court circles, she found her father turning to her for Intelligence during an international crisis. The King of Sardinia and his minister Cavour were intriguing with Emperor Napoleon III to drive the Austrians out of northern Italy. Prussia was undecided whether to join Austria against the hated French or to stand off, like England, and try to profit from the affair.

In a way, Austria was the obstacle to a united Germany as well as to a united Italy, and the French goal of making a new nation by expelling Austria was an example to Prussia in the future. Until the outbreak of war, the Prince Consort was like a terrier of personal diplomacy. At times he seemed to be trying to keep the peace almost single-handed from England. Queen Victoria complained that he worked too hard and wore himself out by all he did. His attempts to preserve the peace tried his nerves, while the endless contradictory telegrams arriving every hour raised and dashed his hopes continually.2

Some of the disturbing news was coming from the Princess Royal. Although her letters home dealt mainly with her baby son and household arrangements, she was an accurate mirror of Prussian attitudes, reflecting them almost artlessly. She was also beginning to engage in her own sort of diplomacy, telling her mother that the Prussian situation was a very critical one. If Prussia stayed neutral and the Austrians won a war, it would damage the reputation of the country and its army. If Austria

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