Queen Victoria’s half-sister – Feodora of Leiningen

Photo left: public domain/Photo right: Kate Fleetwood as Princess Feodora in Victoria ITV (screenshot/fair use)

Queen Victoria may have grown up without much contact with the outside world, but she had some company in the form of her elder half-sister. Feodora of Leiningen was born on 7 December 1807 to Emich Carl, 2nd Prince of Leiningen and Victoria of Saxe-Coburg and Saalfeld in Amorbach. She had an elder brother, and together they grew up in Amorbach.

Feodora’s father would die in 1814, and her life would change in 1818 when her mother married Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, who was the fourth son of George III. By 1819 the household would move to England as the new Duchess of Kent was pregnant, and they wanted to have the potential heir to the throne on English soil. Her half-sister Victoria was born on 24 May 1819 at Kensington Palace in London. Feodora’s new stepfather would not see his daughter grow up as he died on 23 January 1820. Feodora was also living at Kensington Palace by then, where she received an education from private tutors.

Though the age difference of 12 years certainly affected their relationship, their bond was a close one. Feodora was not very happy at Kensington Palace, however. She would later write, “I escaped some years of imprisonment which you, my poor dear Sister, had to endure after I was married. Often have I praised God that he sent my dear Ernest for I might have married I don’t know whom – merely to get away!”1

On 18 February 1828, Feodora married a man she had only met twice before, Ernst I, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. He was 13 years her senior and Feodora considered him to be kind and handsome. However, as the half-sister of the future Queen, she could have made a much more magnificent marriage. Victoria acted as a bridesmaid for her sister and Feodora later wrote, “I always see you, dearest, little girl, as you were, dressed in white – which precious lace dress I possess now – going round with the basket presenting favours.”2 Feodora would continue to write with her sister and even received an allowance whenever she wished to visit England. Victoria missed her sister terribly and sent many letters, sending news of her dolls and pouring out her feelings. Feodora would have six children with her husband, all of which survived to adulthood, but her eldest daughter Elise would die at the age of 19 of tuberculosis. Victoria had commissioned a portrait of Elise in 1840, and when Elise died, she sent Feodora a bracelet containing the miniature portrait to which Feodora responded: “I think the miniature very good, and the setting so beautiful, the idea so beautiful … Only with tears, I can thank you!”

Feodora returned to Kensington Palace six years after her marriage, and a delighted Victoria wrote, “At 11 arrived my dearest sister Feodora whom I had not seen for six years. She is accompanied by Ernest, her husband, and her two eldest children Charles and Elise. Dear Feodora looks very well but is grown much stouter since I saw her.”3 Upon her departure in July, Victoria wrote, “I clasped her in my arms, and kissed her and cries as if my heart would break, so did she dearest sister. We then tore ourselves from each other in the deepest grief. When I came home, I was in such a state of grief that I knew not what to do with myself. I sobbed and cried most violently the whole morning.”4

Feodora’s husband died in 1860, and Queen Victoria’s husband Albert followed the next year. Victoria had hoped that her sister would join her in England and share in her grief. Feodora’s visited her sister in 1863 but found Victoria’s grief unbearable.

Feodora would die on 23 September 1872, the same year as her youngest daughter. Feodora and Victoria had last seen each other earlier that year when Feodora was already terminally ill. Victoria wrote after her sister’s death: “Can I write it? My own darling, only sister, my dear excellent, noble Feodora is no more! This was to have been and is still a day of rejoicing for all the good Balmoral people, on account of dear Bertie’s5 first return after his illness; and I am here in sorrow and grief, unable to join in the welcome. God’s will be done, but the loss to me is too dreadful! I stand so alone now, no near and dear one near my own age, or older, to whom I could look up to, left! All, all fone! She was my last near relative on an equality with me, the last link to my childhood and youth. My dear children, so kind and affectionate, but no one can really help me.”6

A letter dated 1854 was found among Feodora’s paper after her death for Victoria: “I can never thank you enough for all you have done for me, for your great love and tender affection. These feelings cannot die, they must and will live in my soul – till we meet again, never more to be separated – and you will not forget.”7

  1. Kate Williams – Becoming Queen p. 182
  2. Kate Williams – Becoming Queen p. 182
  3. Queen Victoria in her Letters and Journals p.13
  4. Kate Williams – Becoming Queen p. 222-223
  5. The Prince of Wales
  6. Queen Victoria in her Letters and Journals
  7.  Queen Victoria: A Biographical Companion by Helen Rappaport

About Moniek Bloks 2698 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.


  1. This is a wonderful story. I am so very charmed that Victoria was so fond of her elder sister. I knew very little of Feodora, and I was so happy to have learned about her life and her interactions with Queen Victoria.

  2. @Susan, agreed! We read this article to see if Feodora is going to try some coup or something… that certainly seems to be where the writers are going. We prefer dramas that don’t deviate too much from the facts, so we can be educated in history as well… but perhaps Victoria’s reign was too boring not to embellish???

  3. I as well wanted to know about this half sister of Victoria on the show. However, What I found was a lovely sisterhood that was only broken by death. History is written how the writers want it to be for entertainment.

  4. I agreee with the above comments in regards to the relationship between Her Majesty and her elder sister. I adore historical dramas and especially those Masterpiece produces but it really irritates me when artistic license goes amuck! History is not some fluid concept open to interpretation. History is based on a foundation of facts. I will continue to love Victoria and appreciate the artistry, especially the sets and shooting locations they use but I will be fact checking as I go about.

  5. Darn! I hate it when we viewers (or readers) don’t get the basic facts about the characters we learn to love–or hate! The producers of “Victoria” even chose an un-pretty person for V’s older sister, Feodora, one whose acting skills can make her seem deceitful, scheming, trouble-making for both Victoria and Albert. My heart is alreadyset against Feo. What shall I think about the other characters in this series?

  6. I wish television program about Queen Victoria would stick to the facts. They are so amazing. Victoria was only 18 years old when she inherited the throne. She reigned during one of the most momentous times in British history – Industrial Revolution, Franchise extended, The expansion of the British Empire, huge advances made in medicine and other advances, compulsory elementary education for all children, etc. etc.
    The actual facts are more fascinating and amazing than any fiction the writers can contrive

    • I agree. It is really stupid to alter history for truth is always more interesting than fiction. Once a character like Princess Feodora is altered it casts doubts on every other character in the story.

  7. I, too, decided to find out more about Feodora because watching the latest episode of Masterpiece paints her in such a bad light. I am so glad I researched the truth for myself. I am appalled such liberty was taken to destroy the relationship of Queen Victoria and her half sister. Is nothing sacred? I watch the episodes to gain knowledge of the times. The truth is far more interesting than fiction. Shame on the writers for straying from the facts.

  8. My husband taught American history and refuses to watch historical drama because of the liberties taken by the writers. He and I both want the truth. Although I love the Masterpiece drama “Victoria,” I am angry with Daisy ? for straying from the truth. Queen Victoria and Feodora would be heartbroken by the lies portrayed in the drama. I doubt, for example, that Victoria was madly in love with Melbourne. It was so unbelievable that she could be so in love with Melbourne and then suddenly want to marry Albert. Melbourne was portrayed by a most handsome and charming Rufus Sewell. Their love made a heart-wrenching story that I loved, but I doubt that it was true. It appears from my fact-checking that perhaps Melbourne was either in love with Victoria or at least smitten by her, however. Victoria and Feodora would be heartbroken to know that their relationship was portrayed the way it is in the drama; it is unfair to them.

    • I think “infatuated” is the more accurate word for Victoria’s feelings for Melbourne. Throughout her life Victoria was always searching out strong males to lean on and learn from, partially to replace the father she never knew, partially to replace the main father figure she did grow up with – John Conroy. One of the reasons she was so lost after Albert’s death was the removal of this pillar of strength, especially since over the years she had leaned so much on him to do the work of monarchy as well as the leadership of the family.

      Victoria would not hear anything negative about her father, just as she would hear nothing good of Conroy. This pattern repeated in all of her later male relationships; those she loved (Melbourne, Albert, John Brown, Disraeli, the Munshi) were beyond fault, while those she disliked (Peel, Palmerston, Gladstone, even her son Bertie at times) could do no right.

      • Thanks, Verac’ItyLH, for your comment. I think you are correct, even though I really don’t know all the facts. I like your explanation because it sounds so right-on.

  9. I’m curious – was living at Kensington Palace really that awful for Feodora to call in an “imprisonment”? I get that it was limiting on too many levels, but compared to the majority of women in London, life as a princess was if not ideal, at least more safe, comfortable and pleasant.
    Would you direct me to a previous post or an article that talks more about this?

    • Well, Feodora probably wouldn’t have known how the majority of women in London lived so I am not sure that can’t be compared. I am currently writing a book about Feodora so stay tuned for that 😉

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