He was born in the Saxon duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, to a family connected to many of Europe's ruling monarchs. At the age of 20, he married his first cousin, Queen Victoria; they had nine children. Initially he felt constrained by his role of consort, which did not afford him power or responsibilities. He gradually developed a reputation for supporting public causes, such as educational reform and the abolition of slavery worldwide, and was entrusted with running the Queen's household, office and estates. He was heavily involved with the organisation of the Great Exhibition of 1851, which was a resounding success.
Victoria came to depend more and more on his support and guidance. He aided the development of Britain's constitutional monarchy by persuading his wife to be less partisan in her dealings with Parliament—although he actively disagreed with the interventionist foreign policy pursued during Lord Palmerston's tenure as Foreign Secretary. In 1857, Albert was given the formal title of Prince Consort.
Albert died at the relatively young age of 42. Victoria was devastated at the loss of her husband, entered into a deep state of mourning and wore black for the rest of her life. On her death in 1901, their eldest son succeeded as Edward VII, the first British monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, named after the ducal house to which Albert belonged.
Albert was born at Schloss Rosenau, near Coburg, Germany, the second son of Ernest III, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and his first wife, Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. Albert's future wife, Victoria, was born earlier in the same year with the assistance of the same midwife, Charlotte von Siebold. Albert was baptised into the Lutheran Evangelical Church on 19 September 1819 in the Marble Hall at Schloss Rosenau with water taken from the local river, the Itz. His godparents were his paternal grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld; his maternal grandfather, the Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg; the Emperor of Austria; the Duke of Teschen; and Emanuel, Count of Mensdorff-Pouilly. In 1825, Albert's great-uncle, Frederick IV, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, died. His death led to a realignment of Saxon duchies the following year and Albert's father became the first reigning duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Albert and his elder brother, Ernest, spent their youth in a close companionship marred by their parents' turbulent marriage and eventual separation and divorce. After their mother was exiled from court in 1824, she married her lover, Alexander von Hanstein, Count of Polzig and Beiersdorf. She presumably never saw her children again, and died of cancer at the age of 30 in 1831. The following year, their father married his own niece, his sons' cousin Princess Marie of Württemberg; their marriage was not close, however, and Marie had little—if any—impact on her stepchildren's lives.
The brothers were educated privately at home by Christoph Florschütz and later studied in Brussels, where Adolphe Quetelet was one of their tutors. Like many other German princes, Albert attended the University of Bonn, where he studied law, political economy, philosophy and the history of art. He played music and excelled at sport, especially fencing and riding. His tutors at Bonn included the philosopher Fichte and the poet Schlegel.