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23-Sep-2017 12:22

Vicky’s brilliant marriage to the future Prussian heir aimed at nothing less than to fashion the political development of Prussia-Germany along British lines and then to facilitate an Anglo-German alliance to keep the peace.The young princess was to nurture the seed of enlightened, liberal thinking on Prussian soil and help steer the new state towards a parliamentary constitutional monarchy.It is not possible here to convey the scale of the tragedy that would engulf these royal first cousins or to describe all the events that would sweep away the Europe of their youth, says Deborah Cadbury.(Bettmann/Getty Images) While Vicky’s experiences influenced Queen Victoria’s views on grand foreign alliances, her enthusiasm for matchmaking remained undimmed.But a century before that, there was another dream of European unity, born out of the ravages of the Napoleonic Wars in which up to 6 million people lost their lives.

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Although Germany was unified by 1871, Albert’s ‘noble’ vision that had inspired Vicky’s marital alliance unravelled in ways that her father could never have envisaged.(GL Archive/Alamy Stock Photo) In the 1850s, Prince Albert grasped the potential of Protestant Prussia to unite all the German states under its banner, and the power this new country could wield in Europe.He did not want a newly unified Germany under Prussian domination to exert its influence as a military dictatorship or autocracy.Each royal union seemed to hold great promise, a potential statement of allied national interests and ideas, bringing hope to the cheering masses – well before there was any concept of a ‘European Union’.

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As the years passed, Queen Victoria had no less than 42 grandchildren and, in the second half of the 19th century, she watched the progress of the next generation flourish into a cousinhood so large it formed a unique network – “the royal mob” as she called it – which occupied a singular place at the top of European society.

Queen Victoria had long understood the importance of dynastic marital alliances to extend royal influence, and with more than 30 grandchildren growing up in palaces across the continent, it was within her unique power to shape the political landscape of Europe.

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