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Christian Friedrich Stockmar, Baron Stockmar (1787-1863)

This article was written by Elizabeth Longford and was published in 1993

StockmarChristian Friedrich Stockmar, Baron Stockmar (1787-1863)Stockmar, Christian Friedrich, Baron Stockmar 1787-1863, adviser of Prince Albert, was born 22 August 1787 in Coburg of German parentage and Swedish descent, the eldest son and second child in the family of two sons and two daughters of Johann Ernest Gotthelf Stockmar, a scientific lawyer. A quiet, unobtrusive youth, Stockmar was educated at Coburg Gymnasium and from 1805 to 1810 studied medicine at the universities of Würzburg, Erlangen, and Jena.

In 1812 Stockmar opened a military hospital in Coburg. Favourably noticed by Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Stockmar was invited in 1816 to be Leopold’s physician-in-ordinary. Leopold made Stockmar promise never to leave him after his wife, Princess Charlotte, died in childbirth in 1817 at Claremont near Windsor. Prudently, ‘Stocky’ had not attended her, just held her hand. He was promoted to be Leopold’s private secretary and in 1831, when his master became king of the Belgians, a Bavarian baron. He helped organize Leopold’s court, devised the constitution, and inspired the Coburg-Portuguese marriage of 1835; above all he promoted the marriage between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Leopold’s nephew, in 1840. Stockmar’s royal career was well under way.

On 20 June 1837 Victoria had ascended the British throne. Sixteen days earlier ‘the Baron’ (as Victoria and Albert called him) had been sent to England by her ‘Uncle Leopold’ as his alter ego, and was Victoria’s guest at breakfast on her first day as queen. He was soon working on a valuable theory of the Crown as above party politics. He left England in 1838 to vet the suitability of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha for Victoria’s consort, returning when they married. For the next seventeen years he spent only the summers in Germany, saying of Albert, ‘I love him as if he were my own son.’ With Albert he planned the royal children’s education and systematized the royal household. Before their reforms all footmen, livery-porters, and under-butlers were under the master of the horse. Stockmar took care not to get involved in court favours, such as the bribe offered by an MP of £10,000 to obtain him a peerage.

Stockmar’s political views were sometimes absurd. ‘The omnipotence of the House of Commons,’ he wrote, ‘is revolution itself and death to the true old English constitution’ — of which he fancied himself the best judge. He distrusted British statesmen: Sir Robert Peel was ‘myopic’, the third Viscount Palmerston (Albert’s opponent) ‘insane’. He advised the monarch to avoid being ‘a Mandarin figure’ but to become a ‘Permanent Premier’. The European revolutions of 1848 he saw as a golden opportunity for introducing constitutional monarchies and a united Germany in alliance with Britain.

By 1855 his health was failing. In the past he had settled several disputes between Victoria and Albert. Now his ‘nerves’ were too weak to make his advice effective. He returned to Germany for good in 1857, moving for a time to Berlin to be near Prince and Princess Frederick William of Prussia (‘Fritz’ and ‘Vicky’). When Prince Albert died in 1861, Stockmar’s hopes were shattered. His absence may even have contributed to the tragedy, for on his deathbed Albert lamented, ‘if only Stockmar were here...’ It was not until his last years that Stockmar enjoyed a real home life, though married in 1821 in Coburg to a cousin, Fanny Sommer, the daughter of a physician. They had two sons and one daughter.

Stockmar died 9 July 1863 in Coburg. His son, Ernest, wrote Stockmar’s Memoirs, describing them as lifting the veil ‘but a little’. An angry Queen Victoria, however, felt it had been lifted far too much, particularly over the clashes between Palmerston as foreign secretary and the prince consort.

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