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Signed Mourning Card Initialed by Victoria - 1884

Scarce mourning card marking the death of Prince Leopold in 1884, featuring the ink signature “Prince Leopold” bordered in black, above the ink initials of his mother, Queen Victoria. The royal crest of his first cousin once-removed, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, has been affixed to the left, with a simpler, unidentified crest at top center.

The Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany (1853-1884) was a member of the British Royal Family, a son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Leopold was later created the Duke of Albany, Earl of Clarence and Baron Arklow. He was diagnosed with hemophilia as a baby, which later led to his death as an adult.

As a consequence of his hemophilia, Leopold would never be able to pursue a military career like his brothers, and instead undertook royal duties for his mother the Queen, acting as her secretary. He attempted to undertake official appointments in Australia and Canada but both countries would not accept him because of his health issues; he did, however, manage to pursue other aspects of royal duties, and having a passion for literature became a patron of the arts.

Prince Leopold preferred independence beyond the overprotective grasp of his mother who wanted him to stay at home with her. He considered marriage as the only way out of this problem, but because of his condition he was shunned by the many romantic liaisons he worked to develop. Leopold was introduced to Alice Liddell (the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland), and various members of European nobility, but after numerous rejections the Queen stepped in and introduced him to Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont, to whom he was happily married in April 1882.

Prince Leopold’s Death in France

The Prince went to Cannes, France, on doctor’s orders in February 1884: joint pain is a common symptom of hemophilia and the winter climate in England was always difficult for him. His wife, pregnant at the time, stayed home but urged him to go. On 27 March he slipped and fell in the Yacht Club in Villa Nevada, Cannes, injuring his knee and he died in the early hours of the next morning, apparently from the effects of the morphine he had been given and the claret that was served with his supper. He was buried in the Albert Memorial Chapel at Windsor. His posthumous son, Prince Charles Edward, succeeded him as 2nd Duke of Albany upon birth. In 1900, Charles Edward succeeded his uncle Alfred as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

His passing was celebrated by the Scottish “poet and tragedian” William McGonagall in the poem “The Death of Prince Leopold”.

Through Charles Edward, Leopold is the great-grandfather of Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, the current King of Sweden.

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