The Oddment Emporium

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Prince Leopold and Alice Liddell

What follows is one of my favourite titbits of history. Prince Leopold is my second favourite prince and I am very fond of Alice in Wonderland: 

Prince Leopold was the sickly youngest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He positively repulsed his mother but she was overbearing and possessive of him. Alice Liddell was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. What’s marvellous is, the two were good friends!

Leopold, eventually managing to escape the clutches of his mother, and Alice, her father the Dean of Christ Church College, met at Oxford in 1872. Like princes before and after him, Leopold was drawn to the warm family life the Liddell’s shared and they quickly became a part of his inner circle.

Some have speculated that there was some level of romantic involvement between the pair; whilst others insist Leopold’s interests actually lay with Alice’s younger sister Edith. When Edith died in 1876, Leopold was a pallbearer at her funeral. Documents in the Royal Archives, such as the Queen’s correspondence regarding Leopold, mention no names, but there seems to be no doubt that Leopold was in love with someone, and a number of the pair’s Oxford acquaintances alluded to a link between the prince and one of the Liddell girls.

Some accused Alice’s ambitious mother of orchestrating the relationship. Lewis Carroll himself, whose own relationship with the Liddell’s had long since deteriorated, wrote a satirical piece called The Vision of Three T’s in which he characterised Mrs. Liddell as a ‘King-fisher’, suggesting that she was ‘angling for a royal son-in-law’. Whatever the truth, it is highly unlikely that Queen Victoria would have ever consented to her son marrying a commoner anyway. As Charlotte Zeepvat, Leopold’s biographer suggests, the ‘disappointed romance between Alice Liddell and Leopold has become a part of Alice [in Wonderland] mythology’, and indeed Leopold is often mentioned in Alice reboots, such as The Looking Glass Wars trilogy.

In the spring of 1873, any notions of marriage quashed, Leopold went to Balmoral with his mother and from then on saw the Liddells with increasing infrequency. Later Leopold married Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont and they named their daughter Alice, whilst Liddell, having married cricketer Reginald Hargreaves, called her second son Leopold. Leopold the prince was his godfather.

[Sources: Prince Leopold: Queen Victoria’s Youngest Son by Charlotte Zeepvat | Prince Leopold | Alice Liddell]

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