German Ancestors Pt 3 – German Royalty Among the Brits

At the end of my last post I gave a quick account of how it was to be that there was German royalty among the British. Here is a bit more information on how that came to be.

With all the migrants from Germany to Britain, there was a one Prince Albert from the German duchy of Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha. He married Victoria and for a time, revived the unpopularity of the Hanoverian monarchs. The press and popular ballads portrayed him as an opportunistic adventurer. The country distrusted his German connections, and his awkwardness and tactlessness among court circles often caused offense.

Another reason why Germans were willing to migrate to Britain was because of the guarantee of freedom of expression, this brought in many political refugees, attracted by the liberal system of government. Many of these political refugees joined what was the middle class German community which was based in Sydenham which is in south-west London.

Karl Marx is a name many of us have probably heard, during the first half of the 1850’s he and his family lived in poverty in a three room flat in the Soho quarter of London. He spent his days in the British Museum and his evenings in the company of fellow Germans. Many of his encounters with Londoners were disastrous.

German settlement into Victorian Britain was not numerically impressive: 50,000 in a population of 30 million. This is not taking into account those who were, first and foremost, Jewish, though many of them had come from Germany. What made the German settlers unusual was that they entered all tiers of society simultaneously, including the very top. They therefore had a greater effect on British commerce and culture despite their numbers.

There were even German doctors and surgeons, they contributed a lot to medicine at the time. The president of the Royal College of Surgeons, Sir William Jenner was the son of a German, and two Germans – Sir Hermann Weber and Edward Sievenking – served as physicians extraordinary to the Queen. There was said to be around 40 German doctors in London at that time.

Did you know there was even a German hospital set up for all the migrants and anyone who spoke German? With some 50,000 German speaking people it wasn’t a bad idea. Germans also took to teaching throughout the country at schools and universities and as private tutors. Johannes Ronge created the first British children’s garden (kindergarten) in his house in Hampstead: work through play was his philosophy and he trained over 50 teachers, by 1859 there were 15 schools following his example.


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