Netflix’s The Irregulars: Who Was the Real Prince Leopold?

Prince Leopold lost his father, Prince Albert, in 1861 when he was just eight years old. Due to his ill health, he was kept close to his mother and eventually came to replace his father as her unofficial secretary. Leopold was thought to be Victoria’s favourite son, though she failed to protect him from her Balmoral servant John Brown, whose family he called “fearfully insolent”, complaining that they hit him “on the face with spoons for fun”. (Nothing to do with The Irregulars, just a bit of historical colour.)

When Spike in The Irregulars describes Leo as the brain of the group, that tallies with what we know about Prince Leopold. Mentored by Disraeli and John Ruskin, among others, the Prince was an able scholar who – despite his medical complications – graduated from Oxford University in 1876 and afterwards, travelled in Europe. He had a reputation as a learned man, with a talent for chess and a taste for the arts, and was thought to be part of a social circle that included the writers Lewis Carroll and Oscar Wilde.

In the Netflix series, Leo is reluctantly matched with Princess Helena, a visiting European royal from a German principality. In real life, that’s who Prince Leopold married and had two children with – Princess Alice and Prince Charles Edward.

However, Prince Leopold sadly didn’t live long enough to see the birth of his second child. He died at the age of 30 after slipping and banging his head while on a trip to Cannes in the South of France (the bitter irony being that he’d been sent there for the sake of his health). After his death, Queen Victoria mourned greatly for him and was known to wear a locket containing a miniature of him and his older sister Alice, who had died from diphtheria. In Queen Victoria’s diary entry for the day Leopold died, she described his death as “too dreadful”, calling him a dear child who was bright, clever and gifted. The Queen outlived her youngest son by 17 years.

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The Irregulars is streaming now on Netflix.


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