At the dawn of the nineteenth century, the Duchy of Coburg, ruled by the Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield (later Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) family, was a small, impoverished German fiefdom with no political influence, and little prospect of improving its lot. Less than fifty years later, the family had transformed its position. Their finances were healthy and they held, or were closely related to, many of the crowns of Europe. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the genes of the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha family ran in no fewer than thirteen royal families. Just how did they achieve this astonishing turnaround?Queen Victoria's marriage to Prince Albert, and the subsequent marriages of their many, highly eligible, offspring, is well known. But Richard Sotnick gives a new twist to the story by concentrating on the earlier, less well-documented period, when the most astute of the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha family - Leopold, Prince Albert's uncle and subsequently King of the Belgians, and his mother, the Dowager Duchess Augusta - worked behind the scenes. Richard Sotnick draws on contemporary family documents, most in the original German and only made available to the public since the reunification of Germany.
He tells of Prince Albert's mother, the tragic Luise, whose scandalous divorce resulted in her being exiled for life and banished from her sons. And he explores the rumours around Albert's paternity, proposing three plausible candidates for his fatherhood.
Richard Sotnick took part in National Service in the RAF before working as a solicitor, based in Portsmouth. In the 1970s he became involved in local politics, becoming Lord Mayor of Portsmouth in 1978-9; from 1979 to 1987 he was Chairman of Portsmouth Cultural Festival and a Director and Trustee of the Mary Rose Trust, and in 1985 he was elected an Honorary Alderman of the city. His passion for music, and work with the London String Quartet Foundation, led to Honorary Membership of Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He lives in North London with his wife, with whom he has three daughters.