Heritage

Who Was Princess Feodora, Queen Victoria's Little-Known Half-Sister?

The TV show Victoria paints her as the Queen's ambitious rival-but is that the real story?
IMAGE GETTY IMAGES/MASTERPIECE PBS
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We're only one episode into the new season of Victoria, and the show has already presented Princess Feodora, Queen Victoria's half-sister, as a possible villain.

There is some historical fact to back up the storyline. Victoria did indeed have a half-sister named Feodora, and they grew up together in Kensington Palace. But the true story of the pair's relationship is far different—and much happier—than the one presented onscreen.

Below, what we know about the real Princess Feodora, Victoria's oft-forgotten relative.

FEODORA AND VICTORIA HAD THE SAME MOTHER, PRINCESS VICTORIA OF SAXE-COBURG-SAALFELD.

Feodora's father, Emich Carl, Prince of Leiningen, died when she was six years old. Her mother went on to marry Queen Victoria's father, the Duke of Kent, and the family promptly relocated from Germany to England so that the future queen could be born on British soil.


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A still from Victoria, in which Victoria and Feodora share a carriage

THE SISTERS ENJOYED EACH OTHER'S COMPANY DURING THEIR CHILDHOOD AT KENSINGTON PALACE.

Victoria and Feodora had a relatively isolated childhood at the palace, and it seems to have brought them closer. Twelve years Victoria's elder, Feodora also served as a role model for the young royal. But their time together ended when Feodora married Ernest I, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, and moved to Germany.

As historian Helen Rappaport told Town & Country, "Victoria was heartbroken when she was sent off to Germany as it left her so solitary at Kensington Palace." The Royal Collection Trust quotes Victoria's own writings on the matter, in which she said she missed Feodora, "for she used to come into my room very often in the day, and used to sit very often in my room writing her letters... and she was always so gay and cheerful."

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THEY CONTINUED A LIFELONG CORRESPONDENCE, ALTHOUGH POLITICS OCCASIONALLY GOT IN THE WAY OF THEIR FRIENDSHIP.

Rappaport notes that their relationship was "a bit up and down, especially when they were on opposite political sides during the Schleswig-Holstein crisis of 1863 and Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1." Still, "they grew closer after Feodora was widowed in 1860 and Victoria the following year, so much so that Victoria begged Feodora to come and live with her in England."

Rappoport went on to clarify that "Feodora strongly resisted the invitation, as she could not bear her sister’s all-consuming grief and found it oppressive."


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Queen Victoria at her writing desk in 1878

FEODORA NEVER FLED FROM GERMANY DUE TO UNREST AT HOME.

The scenario that Victoria paints, in which Feodora appears at the palace seeking refuge, never took place. However, according to Rappaport, it wasn't outside the realm of possibility that Feodora might have been in danger, as "Victoria was very anxious for her safety during the upheavals of 1848 in Europe."

THERE MAY BE SOME TRUTH TO FEODORA'S JEALOUSY OF VICTORIA, AS DEPICTED IN THE TV SERIES.

Of course, when your half-sister is a Queen, it's hard not to feel some envy for her wealth and power—and Feodora's financial situation wasn't always ideal. "She might have been jealous of Victoria’s economic security and comfort," Rappaport said. "1848 had left her and her husband in financial difficulty and they were always short of money and cadging loans from Victoria.

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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Chloe Foussianes
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