The Royal Skating Mishap That Could Have Changed History

Illustration of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

Eleven years after the first skating club in England was formed in London, a misadventure on the ice almost changed the course of history and the succession of the British Monarchy.

German born Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel; later The Prince Consort) was the husband of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and was a keen skater. In early 1841, Queen Victoria commissioned Wilson Skates to make a pair of skates for her and Prince Albert a pair of ice skates. Wilson Skates had previously been commissioned by the royal family to make skates for King William III.

Illustration of Prince Albert ice skating

One day shy of their first wedding anniversary on February 9, 1841, Prince Albert was skating on the frozen lake at Buckingham Palace. In Queen Victoria's diary, she recorded that "the ice cracked, and Albert was in the water up to his head, even for a moment below. In my agony of fright and despair I screamed and stretched out my arm... My Dearest Albert managed to catch my arm and reached the ground in safety."

Illustration of ice skates designed by Marsden Brothers for Queen Victoria

Prince Albert recounted the same story to Duchess Caroline of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg on February 12, 1841: "The cold has been intense... Nevertheless, I managed, in skating, three days ago, to break through the ice in Buckingham Palace Gardens. I was making my way to Victoria, who was standing on the bank with one of her ladies, and when within some few yards of the bank I fell plump into the water, and had to swim for two or three minutes in order to get out. Victoria was the only person who had the presence of mind to lend me assistance, her lady being more occupied in screaming for help. The shock from the cold was extremely painful, and I cannot thank Heaven enough, that I escaped with nothing more than a severe cold." At that particular point in time, no male heir had been born and had Albert drowned, the entire succession would have been different... and there would have been no Queen Elizabeth II!

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