28

I know this question seems a bit absurd, so let me preface this by saying that it stems from a 1994 history-based edutainment game titled Mario's Time Machine in which the main character travels back in time to various historical periods. While it's obviously not the most reliable source, it is supposed to be an educational game, and I've yet to see the game get something completely and utterly incorrect (though it occasionally mixes up when certain events happened for the purposes of relaying information to the player).

This is an in-game image of the character who claims to be the King of England (without providing a name), as well as the relevant line of dialogue below. This is the full script between the main character and the self-purported king. To sum up the script, he is in attendance of one of Michael Faraday's Christmas lectures, and he makes special note of the fact that it's for "juveniles", indicating he is some sort of youth (at the bare minimum, I would consider that to be someone younger than 19, which is probably too generous). He also idolizes Faraday to the point where he is more interested in being a scientist than the king. As the player can only travel back in time to 1831, this year is certain. These all seem like really specific details that would easily narrow down the king's identity, but I've come up with nothing.

The then-reigning king at the time was William IV of the United Kingdom, who took the throne when he was 64 in 1830. His brothers include George IV of the United Kingdom, who was the previous king until he died in 1830, and Ernest Augustus, King of Hanover, who was born in 1771 and thus far too old. The same story goes for all of the children of George III of the United Kingdom (William IV's father): either they had already passed away or they were too old to apply. Even William IV's children would be just too old to qualify. The royal family trees that I've looked at have given me no help.

If I attacked this issue from the opposite direction and looked at any kings or heirs around this time period who were connected to Michael Faraday or science in general. I've thrown every combination of "king", "england", "science" and "faraday" into Google and hoping for the best, and I cannot find anything that's relevant to what I'm looking for, let alone anything that directly answers my question.

Ignoring the time-traveling premise, this game is supposed to help its players learn about history. Either it somehow got this fact completely wrong or it intentionally lied, and both possibilities seem rather odd. At this point, I'm morbidly curious about this more so than anything else. Is there a kernel of truth anywhere to this?

  • 5
    I think you've eliminated all of the potential candidates for 1831. BTW, Faraday didn't host the Christmas Lecture in 1831, that was done by James Rennie. Are you sure it's not a later year? If it was one of the 1851-1860 lectures (that were given by Faraday) then it could be Edward VII (who was born in 1841). – KillingTime Aug 31 '17 at 21:12
  • 5
    Upvote for a well written question - addresses prior work, explains why prior work did not solve the question. Good job. Wish I had an answer. – Mark C. Wallace Aug 31 '17 at 22:54
  • @KillingTime That would be convenient, but it's definitely 1831 - as evidence, I'll supply this in-game screenshot. As I said above, the game occasionally messes with the dates of events, either so that all of the information can be neatly presented to the player or so that the game can near-exclusively focus on a single subject. In this case, the game focuses on Michael Faraday's discovery of electromagnetic induction in 1831. – Reversinator Sep 1 '17 at 2:31
  • 2
    @Reversinator Ah yes, the machine looks professional enough to not have a margin of error of 15%... – Mr Lister Sep 1 '17 at 8:37
  • 2
    I would mention that reading biographical material on Faraday is incredibly interesting and valuable, especially to anyone interested in the history of science. He was sort of the personification of pre-mathematical physics at a time when the physics needed to understand things like electromagnetism required heavy math and he was friendly with Maxwell, a much younger man who did pioneering work in mathematical physics. – Jeff Sep 1 '17 at 9:10
31

According to this book both Prince Albert and Prince Edward (who became King Edward VII) attended lectures by Faraday, but it seems to be Albert who was the real fan.

Michael Faraday (1791-1867), a self-educated, English Physicist and chemist whose lectures for the public in the 1840's became so popular that they helped save the Royal Institution of Great Britain from near bankruptcy. His lectures were attended by Charles Dickens (1812-1870) and by Prince Albert (1819-1861), the husband of Queen Victoria (1819-1901), and Prince Edward (1841-1910), her son (later Edward VII). Faraday so inspired Prince Albert that he studied Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh.

According to the Royal Institution website, Prince Albert and the young princes attended a lecture by Faraday in 1855 on "The distinctive properties of the common metals". As shown in this picture. Which is further supported by a book on Faraday's correspondence that states

More importantly, perhaps, the prince ensured that his two elder sons, the Prince of Wales and Prince Alfred, attended the Christmas Lectures. He and they were present on 27 December 1855, a scene famously depicted by the artist Alexander Blaikley. Only the young princes attended the rest of the series, for which they wrote polite thank-you letters. In the following two seasons the Prince of Wales attended some of Faraday's Christmas Lectures.

The Correspondence of Michael Faraday: 1855-1860

  • 1
    Faraday presented the Christmas Lecture in 1827, 1829, 1832, 1835, 1837, 1841, 1843, 1845, 1848, and all of 1851 through 1860. He was very popular. – Pieter Geerkens Aug 31 '17 at 21:30
  • 3
    That seems like the most reasonable answer: the event literally did happen, just not in the year the game says it did. They probably skewed the date just to make Faraday seem all the more important, having a King of England attending his lectures! It's not a very complex edutainment game, and it annoyingly does that from time to time. – Reversinator Sep 1 '17 at 2:54
12

The person that best fits your description is Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria. Born in 1819, he would have been twelve years old in 1831, which would have made him a "juvenile." That was the year his beloved mother died, which is to say that it was then that he would have taken a serious interest in his studies, particularly "science," as a consolation.

The fly in the ointment is that he did not quite get to become "king of England," although a 12-year-old boy who was given a crystal ball and allowed to travel through time might have reasonably confused "Prince Consort" with such. More to the point, Prince Albert made himself a scientist, or at least the British Royal Family's greatest promoter of science. He was responsible for the Great Exhibition (or World's Fair) of 1851, which showcased the then latest scientific marvels.

It is noteworthy that Michael Faraday did not give give a Christmas lecture in 1831 (although he did so in 1832). More to the point, he did so four times in the 1840s, and every year of the 1850s, when Albert was the Prince Consort and entitled to hear those lectures.

No other person in the British Royal Family in the mid-19th century had nearly the scientific bent of Prince Albert. The one son, Prince Edward was a "people person" who probably took after his mother, while the other, Prince Albert, was fond of music, and served in the navy, with an interest in "applied" but not "pure" science. Much the same could be said for King William IV, except that at age 65 in 1831, he was far from "juvenile."

The reference to 1831 in the game was not a "lie," it probably conflated two events, Prince Albert taking an interest in science, and Prince Albert hearing one of Faraday's lectures. For instance, the "Sound of Music" (which was based on a true story) conflated two major events: 1) the 1927 marriage of the Captain and Maria in 1927, and 2) the 1938 Anschluss by making the second appear to happen right after the first. The "seven children" really were aged 5-16 in 1927, but of course all 11 years older in 1938.

  • 3
    It's perfectly possible for a 65-year-old man to be juvenile -- it means "childish" as well as "of children". ;-) Of course, the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures have always been called just that and have never had "juvenile" in their name, not least because it would come across as patronising. – David Richerby Sep 1 '17 at 10:25
  • @DavidRicherby: The OP defined juvenile in his (worldbuilding style) question as "(at the bare minimum, I would consider that to be someone younger than 19, which is probably too generous).." Prince Albert "qualified" in 1831, KIng William did not. – Tom Au Sep 1 '17 at 16:06
  • My comment wasn't entirely serious. However, it is the video game that uses the word "juvenile" so, really, it's their definition of the term that matters, not the interpretation of the asker. – David Richerby Sep 1 '17 at 16:19
  • Would Prince Albert have been in England at the age of 12 or so? It appears not, at least from a quick glance at the Wikipedia biography: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert,_Prince_Consort – jamesqf Sep 1 '17 at 19:24
  • 1
    I think it would be easy to conflate "future husband of the Queen" with "future King". When I was a kid, I thought Queen Elizabeth II was unmarried because surely her husband would be King! Sorry Prince Philip! – CJ Dennis Dec 2 '17 at 3:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.