LIFE OF HER MOST GRACIOUS MAJESTY THE QUEEN
BY SARAH TYTLER EDITED, WITH AN INTRODUCTION, BY LORD RONALD GOWER, F.S.A.
IN TWO VOLUMES. VOL. I.
Entered according to Act of Parliament of Canada, in the year Eighteen Hundred and Eighty-five, by GEORGE VIRTUE, in the office of the Minister of Agriculture.
I have been asked to write a few words of preface to this work.
If the life-long friendship of my mother with her Majesty, which gained for me the honour of often seeing the Queen, or a deep feeling of loyalty and affection for our sovereign, which is shared by all her subjects, be accepted as a qualification, I gratefully respond to the call, but I feel that no written words of mine can add value to the following pages.
Looking over some papers lately, I found the following note on a sketch which I had accidentally met with in Windsor Castle—a coloured chalk drawing, a mere study of one of the Queen's hands, by Sir David Wilkie, probably made for his picture now in the corridor of the Castle, representing the first council of Victoria. Of this sketch I wrote as follows:—
"I was looking in one of the private rooms at Windsor Castle at a chalk sketch, by Sir David Wilkie, of a fair, soft, long-fingered, dimpled hand, with a graceful wrist attached to a rounded arm. 'Only a woman's hand,' might Swift, had he seen that sketch, have written below. Only a sketch of a woman's hand; but what memories that sketch recalls! How many years ago Wilkie drew it I know not: that great artist died in the month of June, 1841, so that more than forty years have passed, at least, since he made that drawing. The hand that limned this work has long ago suffered 'a sea change.' And the hand which he portrayed? That is still among the living—still occupied with dispensing aid and comfort to the suffering and the afflicted, for the original is that of a Queen, beloved as widely as her realms extend—the best of sovereigns, the kindest-hearted of women."
To write the life of Queen Victoria is a task which many authors might well have felt incompetent to undertake. To succeed in writing it is an honour of which any author may well be proud. This honour I humbly think has been realised in the work of which these poor lines may form the preface.
CHAP. I. Sixty-Three Years Since. II. Childhood. III. Youth. IV. The Accession. V. The Proroguing Of Parliament, The Visit To Guildhall; And The Coronation. VI. The Maiden Queen. VII. The Betrothal. VIII. The Marriage. IX. A Royal Pair. X. Royal Occupations.—An Attempt On The Queen's Life. XI. The First Christening.—The Season Of 1841. XII. Birth Of The Prince Of Wales.—The Afghan Disasters.—Visit Of The King Of Prussia.—The Queen's Plantagenet Ball. XIII. Fresh Attempts Against The Queen's Life.—Mendelssohn.—Death Of The Duc D'Orleans. XIV. The Queen's First Visit To Scotland. XV. A Marriage, A Death, And A Birth In The Royal Family.—A Palace Home. XVI. The Condemnation Of The English Duel.—Another Marriage.—The Queen's Visit To Chateau D'Eu. XVII. The Queen's Trip To Ostend.—Visits To Drayton, Chatsworth, And Belvoir. XVIII. Allies From Afar.—Death And Absence.—Birthday Greetings. XIX. Royal Visitors.—The Birth Of Prince Alfred.—A Northern Retreat. XX. Louis Philippe's Visit.—The Opening Of The Royal Exchange.
CHAPTER I. SIXTY-THREE YEARS SINCE.
The 24th of May, 1819, was a memorable and happy day for England, though like many such days, it was little noticed at the time. Sixty-three years since! Do many of us quite realise what England was like then; how much it differed from the England of to-day, even though some of us have lived as many years? It is worth while devoting a chapter to an attempt to recall that England.
A famous novel had for its second heading, "'Tis sixty years since." That novel—"Waverley"—was published anonymously just five years before 1819, and, we need not say, proved an era in literature. The sixty years behind him to which Walter Scott—a man of forty-three—looked over his shoulder, carried him as far back as the landing of Prince Charlie in Moidart, and the brief romantic campaign of the '45, with the Jacobite songs which embalmed it and kept it fresh in Scotch memories.
The wounds dealt at Waterloo still throbbed and burnt on occasions in 1819. Many a scarred veteran and limping subaltern continued the heroes of remote towns and villages, or starred it at Bath or Tunbridge. The warlike fever, which had so long raged in the country, even when ruined manufacturers and starving mechanics were praying for peace or leading bread-riots, had but partially abated; because whatever wrong to trade, and misery to the poor, closed ports and war prices might have meant, the people still depended upon their armed defenders, and in the hardest adversity found the heart to share their triumphs, to illuminate cities, light bonfires, cheer lustily, and not grudge parliamentary grants to the country's protectors. The "Eagle" was caged on his rock in the ocean, to eat his heart out in less than half-a-dozen years. Still there was no saying what might happen, and the sight of a red coat and a sword remained cheering—especially to soft hearts.
The commercial world was slowly recovering from its dire distress, but its weavers and mechanics were blazing up into fierce, futile struggle with the powers by which masses of the people believed themselves oppressed. If the men of war had no longer anything to do abroad, there was great fear that work might be found for them at home. All Europe was looking on in the expectation that England was about to follow the example of France, and indulge in a revolution on its own account—not bloodless this time.
Rarely since the wars of the Commonwealth had high treason been so much in men's mouths as it was in Great Britain during this and the following year. Sedition smouldered and burst into flame—not in one place alone, but at every point of the compass. The mischief was not confined to a single class; it prevailed mostly among the starving operatives, but it also fired minds of quite another calibre. Rash, generous spirits in every rank became affected, especially after an encounter between the blinded, maddened mobs and the military, when dragoons and yeomanry charged with drawn swords, and women and children went down under the horses' hoofs. Great riotous meetings were dispersed by force at Manchester, Birmingham, Paisley. Political trials went on at every assize. Bands of men lay in York, Lancaster, and Warwick gaols. At Stockport Sir Charles Wolseley told a crowd armed with bludgeons that he had been in Paris at the beginning of the French Revolution, that he was the first man who made a kick at the Bastille, and that he hoped he should be present at the demolition of another Bastille.
On the 22nd of August, 1819, Sir Francis Burdett wrote to his electors at Westminster: "....It seems our fathers were not such fools as some would make us believe in opposing the establishment of a standing army and sending King William's Dutch guards out of the country. Yet would to heaven they had been Dutchmen, or Switzers, or Russians, or Hanoverians, or anything rather than Englishmen who have done such deeds. What! kill men unarmed, unresisting; and, gracious God! women too, disfigured, maimed, cut down, and trampled on by dragoons! Is this England? This a Christian land—a land of freedom?"
For this, and a great deal more, Sir Francis, after a protracted trial, was sentenced to pay a fine of two thousand pounds and to be imprisoned for three months in the Marshalsea of the Court. In the Cato Street conspiracy the notorious Arthur Thistlewood and his fellow-conspirators planned to assassinate the whole of the Cabinet Ministers when they were dining at Lord Harrowby's house, in Grosvenor Square. Forgery and sheep-stealing were still punishable by death. Truly these were times of trouble in England.
In London a serious difficulty presented itself when Queen Charlotte grew old and ailing, and there was no royal lady, not merely to hold a Drawing-room, but to lend the necessary touch of dignity and decorum to the gaieties of the season. The exigency lent a new impetus to the famous balls at Almack's. An anonymous novel of the day, full of society scandal and satire, described the despotic sway of the lady patronesses, the struggles and intrigues for vouchers, and the distinguished crowd when the object was obtained. The earlier hours, alas! only gave longer time for the drinking habits of the Regency.
It is a little difficult to understand what young people did with themselves in the country when lawn-tennis and croquet were not. There was archery for the few, and a good deal more amateur gardening and walking, with field-sports, of course, for the lads.
The theatre in 1819 was more popular than it showed itself twenty years later. Every country town of any pretensions, in addition to its assembly rooms had its theatre, which reared good actors, to which provincial tours brought London stars. Genteel comedy was not past its perfection. Adaptations of the Waverley novels, with musical dramas and melodramas, drew great houses. Miss O'Neill had just retired, but Ellen Tree was making a success, and Macready was already distinguished in his profession. Still the excellence and prestige of the stage had declined incontestably since the days of Mrs. Siddons and John Kemble. Edmund Kean, though he did much for tragedy, had a short time to do it in, and was not equal in his passion of genius to the sustained majesty of the sister and brother.
In the same way, the painters' art hovered on the borders of a brilliant epoch. For Lawrence, with his courtly brush, which preferred flattery to truth and cloying suavity to noble simplicity, was not worthy to be named in the same breath with Reynolds. Raeburn came nearer, but his reputation was Scotch. Blake in his inspiration was regarded, not without reason, as a madman. Flaxman called for classic taste to appreciate him; and the fame of English art would have suffered both at home and abroad if a simple, manly lad had not quitted a Scotch manse and sailed from Leith to London, bringing with him indelible memories of the humour and the pathos of peasant life, and reproducing them with such graphic fidelity, power, and tenderness that the whole world has heard of David Wilkie.
The pause between sunset and sunrise, the interregnum which signifies that a phase in some department of the world's history has passed away as a day is done, and a new development of human experience is about to present itself, was over in literature. The romantic period had succeeded the classic. Scott, Coleridge, Southey (Wordsworth stands alone), Byron, Shelley, Keats, Campbell, Moore, were all in the field as poets, carrying the young world with them, and replacing their immediate predecessors, Cowper, Thompson, Young, Beattie, and others of less note.
Sir Walter Scott had also risen high above the horizon as a poet, and still higher as a novelist.
A great start in periodical literature was made in 1802 by the establishment of The Edinburgh Review, under Jeffrey and Sydney Smith, and again in 1817 by the publication of Blackmoods Magazine, with Christopher North for its editor, and Lockhart, De Quincey, Hogg, and Delta among its earlier contributors. The people's friend, Charles Knight, was still editing The Windsor and Eton Express.
In 1819 Sir Humphry Davy was the most popular exponent of science, Sir James Mackintosh of philosophy. In politics, above the thunderstorm of discontent, there was again the pause which anticipates a fresh advance. The great Whig and Tory statesmen, Charles James Fox and William Pitt, were dead in 1806, and their mantles did not fall immediately on fit successors. The abolition of the slave-trade, for which Wilberforce, Zachary Macaulay, and Clarkson had fought gallantly and devotedly, was accomplished. But the Catholic Emancipation Bill was still to work its way in the teeth of bitter "No Popery" traditions, and Earl Grey's Reform Bill had not yet seen the light.
George III.'s long reign was drawing to a close. What changes it had seen from the War of American Independence to Waterloo! What woeful personal contrasts since the honest, kindly, comely lad, in his simple kingliness, rode out in the summer sunshine past Holland House, where lady Sarah Lennox was making hay on the lawn, to the days when the blind, mad old king sat in bodily and mental darkness, isolated from the wife and children he had loved so well, immured in his distant palace-rooms in royal Windsor.
His silver beard o'er a bosom spread Unvexed by life's commotion, Like a yearly lengthening snow-drift shed On the calm of a frozen ocean:
Still o'er him oblivion's waters lay, Though the stream of time kept flowing When they spoke of our King, 'twas but to say That the old man's strength was going.
At intervals thus the waves disgorge, By weakness rent asunder, A piece of the wreck of the Royal George For the people's pity and wonder.
Lady Sarah, too, became blind in her age, and, alas! she had trodden darker paths than any prepared for her feet by the visitation of God.
Queen Charlotte had come with her sense and spirit, and ruled for more than fifty years over a pure Court in England. The German princess of sixteen, with her spare little person and large mouth which prevented her from being comely, and her solitary accomplishment of playing on the harpsichord with as much correctness and taste as if she had been taught by Mr. Handel himself, had identified herself with the nation, so that no suspicion of foreign proclivities ever attached to her. Queen Charlotte bore her trials gravely; while those who came nearest to her could tell that she was not only a fierce little dragon of virtue, as she has been described, but a loving woman, full of love's wounds and scars.
The family of George III. and Queen Charlotte consisted of seven sons and his daughters, besides two sons who died in infancy.
George, Prince of Wales, married, 1795, his cousin, Princess Caroline of Brunswick, daughter of the reigning Duke and of Princess Augusta, sister of George III. The Prince and Princess of Wales separated soon after their marriage. Their only child was Princess Charlotte of Wales.
Frederick, Duke of York, married, 1791, Princess Frederica, daughter of the reigning King of Prussia. The couple were childless.
William, Duke of Clarence, married, 1818, Princess Adelaide, of Saxe-Meiningen. Two daughters were born to them, but both died in infancy.
Edward, Duke of Kent, married, 1818, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg, widow of the Prince of Leiningen. Their only child is QUEEN VICTORIA.
Ernest, Duke of Cumberland, married, 1815, Princess Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, widow, first of Prince Frederick Louis of Prussia, and second, of the Prince of Saliris-Braunfels. Their only child was George V., King of Hanover.
Augustus, Duke of Sussex, married morganatically.
Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, married, 1818, Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel, daughter of the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel. They had three children—George, Duke of Cambridge; Princess Augusta, Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz; and Princess Mary, Duchess of Teck.
The daughters of King George and Queen Charlotte were:—
The Princess Royal, married, 1797, the Prince, afterwards King, of Wurtemberg. Childless.
Princess Augusta, unmarried.
Princess Elizabeth, married, 1818, the Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg. Childless.
Princess Mary, married, 1816, her cousin, William, Duke of Gloucester. Childless.
Princess Sophia, unmarried.
Princess Amelia, unmarried.
In 1817 the pathetic idyl, wrought out amidst harsh discord, had found its earthly close in the family vault at Windsor, amidst the lamentations of the whole nation. Princess Charlotte, the candid, fearless, affectionate girl, whose youth had been clouded by the sins and follies of others, but to whom the country had turned as to a stay for the future—fragile, indeed, yet still full of hope—had wedded well, known a year of blissful companionship, and then died in giving birth to a dead heir. It is sixty-five years since that November day, when the bonfires, ready to be lit at every town "cross," on every hill-side, remained dark and cold. Men looked at each other in blank dismay; women wept for the blushing, smiling bride, who had driven with her grandmother through the park on her way to be married not so many months before. There are comparatively few people alive who had come to man's or woman's estate when the shock was experienced; but we have all heard from our predecessors the story which has lent to Claremont a tender, pensive grace, especially for royal young pairs.
Old Queen Charlotte nerved herself to make a last public appearance on the 11th of July, 1818, four months before her death. It was in her presence, at Kew, that a royal marriage and re-marriage were celebrated that day. The Duke of Clarence was married to Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, and the Duke of Kent was re-married, in strict accordance with the English Royal Marriage Act, to Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg, the widowed Princess of Leiningen. The last couple had been already united at Coburg in the month of May. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London officiated at the double ceremony. The brides were given away by the Prince Regent. The Queen retired immediately afterwards. But a grand banquet, at which the Prince Regent presided, was given at six o'clock in the evening. An hour later the Duke and Duchess of Kent drove off in her brother, Prince Leopold's, carriage to Claremont.
Of the two bridegrooms we have glimpses from Baron Stockmar, a shrewd observer, who was no flatterer.
The Duke of Clarence, at fifty-three years of age, was the "smallest and least good-looking of the brothers, decidedly like his mother, as talkative as the rest;" and we may add that he was also endowed with a sailor-like frankness, cordiality, and good humour, which did not, however, prevent stormy ebullitions of temper, that recommended him to the nation of that day as a specimen of a princely blue-jacket. Since the navy was not considered a school of manners, he was excused for the absence of much culture or refinement.
"The Duke of Kent, at fifty-one, was a tall, stately man, of soldierlike bearing, already inclined to great corpulence.... He had seen much of the world, and of men. His manner in society was pleasant and easy. He was not without ability and culture, and he possessed great activity. His dependents complained of his strictness and pedantic love of order.... The Duke was well aware that his influence was but small, but this did not prevent him from forwarding the petitions he received whenever it was possible, with his own recommendation, to the public departments.... Liberal political principles were at that time in the minority in England, and as the Duke professed them, it can be imagined how he was hated by the powerful party then dominant. He was on most unfriendly terms with his brothers.... The Duke proved an amiable and courteous, even chivalrous, husband."
Judiciously, in the circumstances, neither of the brides was in her first youth, the future Queen Adelaide having been, at twenty-six, the younger of the two. The Duchess of Kent, a little over thirty, had been already married, in 1803, when she was seventeen, to Prince Emich Charles of Leiningen. Eleven years afterwards, in 1814, she was left a widow with a son and daughter. Four years later she married the Duke of Kent. The brides were very different in looks and outward attractions. The Duchess of Clarence, with hair of a peculiar colour approaching to a lemon tint, weak eyes, and a bad complexion, was plain. She was also quiet, reserved, and a little stiff, while she appears to have had no special accomplishments, beyond a great capacity for carpet-work. The Duchess of Kent, with a fine figure, good features, brown hair and eyes, a pretty pink colour, winning manners, and graceful accomplishments—particularly music, formed a handsome, agreeable woman, "altogether most charming and attractive."
But both Duchesses were possessed of qualities in comparison with which beauty is deceitful and favour is vain—qualities which are calculated to wear well. Queen Adelaide's goodness and kindness, her unselfish, unassuming womanliness and devout resignation to sorrow and suffering, did more than gain and keep the heart of her bluff, eccentric sailor-prince. They secured for her the respectful regard of the nation among whom she dwelt, whether as Queen or Queen-dowager. The Archbishop of Canterbury could say of her, after her husband's death, "For three weeks prior to his (King William's) dissolution, the Queen sat by his bedside, performing for him every office which a sick man could require, and depriving herself of all manner of rest and refection. She underwent labours which I thought no ordinary woman could endure. No language can do justice to the meekness and to the calmness of mind which she sought to keep up before the King, while sorrow was pressing on her heart. Such constancy of affection, I think, was one of the most interesting spectacles that could be presented to a mind desirous of being gratified with the sight of human excellence." [Footnote: Dr. Doran] Such graces, great enough to resist the temptations of the highest rank, might well be singled out as worthy of all imitation.
The Duchess of Kent proved herself the best of mothers—as she was the best of wives, during her short time of wedlock—in the self-renunciation and self-devotion with which, through all difficulties, and in spite of every opposition and misconception, she pursued the even tenor of her way. Not for two or ten, but for well-nigh twenty years, she gave herself up unreservedly, turning her back on her country with all its strong early ties, to rearing a good queen, worthy of her high destiny. England owes much to the memories of Queen Adelaide and the Duchess of Kent, who succeeded Queen Charlotte, the one as Queen Consort, the other as mother of the future sovereign, and not only served as the salt to savour their royal circles, but kept up nobly the tradition of honourable women among the queens and princesses of England, handing down the high obligation to younger generations.
The Duke and Duchess of Kent withdrew to Germany after their re-marriage, and resided at the castle of Amorbach, in Bavaria, part of the inheritance of her young son. The couple returned to England that their child might be born there. The Duke had a strong impression that, notwithstanding his three elder brothers, the Crown would come to him and his children. The persuasion, if they knew it, was not likely to be acceptable to the other Princes. Certainly, in the face of the Duke's money embarrassments, his kinsmen granted no assistance to enable the future Queen of England to be born in her own dominions. It was by the help of private friends that the Duke gratified his natural and wise wish.
Apartments in Kensington Palace were assigned to the couple. The old queen had died at Kew, surrounded by such of her daughters as were in the country, and by several of her sons, in the month of November, 1818. George III. was dragging out his days at Windsor. The Prince Regent occupied Carlton House.
The Kensington of 1819 was not the Kensington of today. In spite of the palace and gardens, which are comparatively little altered, the great crowded quarter, with its Museum and Albert Hall, is as unlike as possible to the courtly village to which the Duke and Duchess of Kent came, and where the Queen spent her youth. That Kensington consisted mainly of a fine old square, built in the time of James II., in which the foreign ambassadors and the bishops in attendance at Court congregated in the days of William and Mary, and Anne, and of a few terraces and blocks of buildings scattered along the Great Western Road, where coaches passed several times a day. Other centres round which smaller buildings clustered were Kensington House—which had lately been a school for the sons of French emigres of rank—the old church, and Holland House, the fine seat of the Riches and the Foxes. The High Street extended a very little way on each side of the church and was best known by its Charity School, and its pastrycook's shop, at the sign of the "Pineapple," to which Queen Caroline had graciously given her own recipe for royal Dutch gingerbread. David Wilkie's apartments represented the solitary studio. Nightingales sang in Holland Lane; blackbirds and thrushes haunted the nurseries and orchards. Great vegetable-gardens met the fields. Here and there stood an old country house in its own grounds. Green lanes led but to more rural villages, farms and manor-houses. Notting Barns was a farmhouse on the site of Notting Hill. In the tea-gardens at Bayswater Sir John Hill cultivated medicinal plants, and prepared his "water-dock essence" and "balm of honey." Invalids frequented Kensington Gravel pits for the benefit of "the sweet country air."
Kensington Palace had been bought by William III. from Daniel Finch, second Earl of Nottingham. His father, the first Earl, had built and named the pile of brick-building Nottingham House. It was comparatively a new, trim house, though Evelyn called it "patched up" when it passed into the hands of King William, and as such might please his Dutch taste better than the beautiful Elizabethan Holland House—in spite of the name, at which he is said to have looked, with the intention of making it his residence.
The Duke of Sussex, as well as the Duke and Duchess of Kent, had apartments in the palace. He dwelt in the portion of the southern front understood to belong to the original building. His brother and sister-in-law were lodged not far off, but their apartments formed part of an addition made by King William, who employed Sir Christopher Wren as his architect.
The clumsy, homely structure, with its three courts—the Clock Court, the Princes' Court, and the Princesses' Court—had many interesting associations in addition to its air of venerable respectability. William and Mary resided frequently in the palace which they had chosen; and both died under its roof. Mary sat up in one of these rooms, on a dreary December night in 1694, after she felt herself stricken with small-pox, seeking out and burning all the papers in her possession which might compromise others. The silent, asthmatic, indomitable little man was carried back here after his fall from his horse eight years later, to draw his last breath where Mary had laid down her crown. Here Anne sat, with her fan in her mouth, speaking in monosyllables to her circle. George I.'s chief connection with Kensington Palace was building the cupola and the great staircase. But his successors, George II. and Queen Caroline, atoned for the deficiency. They gave much of their time to the palace so identified with the Protestant and Hanoverian line of succession. Queen Caroline especially showed her regard for the spot by exercising her taste in beautifying it according to the notions of the period. It was she who caused the string of ponds to be united so as to form the Serpentine; and he modified the Dutch style of the gardens, abolishing the clipped monsters in yew and box, and introducing wildernesses and groves to relieve the stiffness and monotony of straight walks and hedges. The shades of her beautiful maids of honour, "sweet Molly Lepell," Mary Bellenden, and Sophy Howe, still haunt the Broad Walk. Molly Lepell's husband, Lord Hervey (the "Lord Fanny" of lampoons and songs), composed and read in these rooms, for the diversion of his royal mistress and the princesses, with their ladies and gentlemen, the false account of his own death, caused by an encounter with footpads on the dangerous road between London and the country palace. He added an audacious description of the manner in which the news was received at Court, and of the behaviour of the principal persons in the circle.
With George II. and Queen Caroline the first glory of the palace departed, for the early Court of George III. and Queen Charlotte took its country pleasures at Kew. Then followed the selection of Windsor for the chief residence of the sovereigns. The promenades in the gardens, to which the great world of London flocked, remained for a season as a vestige of former grandeur. In George II.'s time the gardens were only thrown open on Saturdays, when the Court went to Richmond. Afterwards the public were admitted every day, under certain restrictions. So late as 1820 these promenades were still a feature on Sunday mornings.
Kensington Palace has not yet changed its outward aspect. It still stands, with its forcing-houses, and Queen Anne's banqueting-room— converted into an orangery—in its small private grounds, fenced off by a slight railing and an occasional hedge from the public gardens. The principal entrance, under the clock-tower, leads to a plain, square, red courtyard, which has a curious foreign aspect in its quiet simplicity, as if the Brunswick princes had brought a bit of Germany along with them when they came to reign here; and there are other red courtyards, equally unpretentious, with more or less old-fashioned doors and windows. Within, the building has sustained many alterations. Since it ceased to be a seat of the Court, the palace has furnished residences for various members of the royal family, and for different officials. Accordingly, the interior has been divided and partitioned off to suit the requirements of separate households. But the great staircase, imposing in its broad, shallow steps of black marble and its faded frescoes, still conducts to a succession of dismantled Presence-chambers and State-rooms. The pictures and tapestry have been taken from the walls, the old panelling is bare. The distinctions which remain are the fine proportions of the apartments— the marble pillars and niches of one; the remains of a richly-carved chimneypiece in another; the highly-wrought ceilings, to which ancient history and allegory have supplied grandiose figures—their deep colours unfaded, the ruddy burnish of their gilding as splendid as ever. Here and there great black-and-gold court-stools, raised at the sides, and finished off with bullet heads of dogs, arouse a recollection of Versailles or Fontainebleau, and look as if they had offered seats to Court ladies in hoops and brocades, and gentlemen-in-waiting in velvet coats and breeches and lace cravats. One seat is more capacious than the others, with a round back, and in its heavy black-and-gold has the look of an informal throne. It might easily have borne the gallant William, or even the extensive proportions of Anne.
There is a word dropped of "old kings" having died in the closed rooms behind these doors. George II., in his old age? or William, worn out in his prime? or it may be heavy, pacific George of Denmark, raised to the kingly rank by the courtesy of vague tradition? The old chapel was in this part of the house. Leigh Hunt tells us it was in this chapel George I. asked the bishops to have good short sermons, because he was an old man, and when he was kept long, he fell asleep and caught cold. It must have been a curious old chapel, with a round window admitting scanty light. The household and servants sat below, while a winding staircase led round and up to a closed gallery in near proximity to the pulpit. It was only a man's conscience, or a sense of what was due to his physical well-being, which could convict him of slumbering in such a peaceful retreat. It is said that her late Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent objected to the obscurity of this place of worship, and, to meet her objections, the present little chapel was fitted up.
The Duchess of Kent's rooms were in an adjacent wing; spacious rooms enough, and only looking the more habitable and comfortable for the moderate height of the ceilings. In a room with three windows on one side, looking out on the private grounds, the Queen was born. It was thinking of it and its occupants that the warm-hearted, quick-witted Duchess-mother, in Coburg, wrote: "I cannot express how happy I am to know you, dearest, dearest Vickel, safe in your bed, with a little one.... Again a Charlotte—destined, perhaps, to play a great part one day, if a brother is not born to take it out of her hands. The English like queens; and the niece (by marriage) of the ever-lamented, beloved Charlotte, will be most dear to them."
In another wide, low room, with white pillars, some eighteen years later, the baby Princess, become a maiden Queen, held her first Council, surrounded by kindred who had stood at her font—hoary heads wise in statecraft, great prelates, great lawyers, a great soldier, and she an innocent girl at their head. No relic could leave such an impression as this room, with its wonderfully pathetic scene. But, indeed, there are few other traces of the life that budded into dawning womanhood here, which will be always linked with the memories of Kensington Palace. An upper room, sunny and cheerful, even on a winter's day, having a pleasant view out on the open gardens, with their straight walks and great pond, where a child might forget sometimes that she had lessons to learn, was a princess's school-room. Here the good Baroness who played the part of governess so sagaciously and faithfully may have slipped into the book of history the genealogical table which was to tell so startling a tale. In another room is a quaint little doll's-house, with the different rooms, which an active-minded child loved to arrange. The small frying-pans and plates still hang above the kitchen dresser; the cook stands unwearied by the range; the chairs are placed round the tables; the tiny tea-service, which tiny fingers delighted to handle, is set out ready for company. But the owner has long done with make-believes, has worked in earnest, discharged great tasks, and borne the burden and heat of the day, in reigning over a great empire.
CHAPTER II CHILDHOOD.
In the months of March and May, 1819, the following announcements of royal births appeared in succession in the newspapers of the day, no doubt to the satisfaction alike of anxious statesmen and village politicians beginning to grow anxious over the chances of the succession:—
"At Hanover, March 26, her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge, of a son; and on March 27, her Royal Highness the Duchess of Clarence, of a daughter, the latter only surviving a few hours."
"24th May, at Kensington Palace, her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent, of a daughter."
"27th May, at her hotel in Berlin, her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cumberland, of a son."
Thus her Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria first saw the light in Kensington Palace on the 24th of May, 1819, one in a group of cousins, all, save herself, born out of England.
The Duke of Sussex, the Duke of Wellington, and other officers of State were in attendance on the occasion, though the probability of her succession to the throne was then very doubtful. The Prince Regent had already made overtures towards procuring a divorce from the Princess of Wales. If he were to revive them, and prove successful, he might marry again and have heirs. The Duchess of Clarence, who had just given birth to an infant that had only survived a few hours, might yet be the joyful mother of living children. The little Princess herself might be the predecessor of a troop of princes of the Kent branch. Still, both at Kensington and in the depths of rural Coburg, there was a little flutter, not only of gladness, but of subdued expectation. The Duke of Kent, on showing his baby to his friends, was wont to say, "Look at her well, for she will be Queen of England." Her christening was therefore an event of more than ordinary importance in the household. The ceremony took place a month afterwards, on the 24th of June, and doubtless the good German nurse, Madame Siebold, who was about to return to the Duchess of Kent's old home to officiate on an equally interesting occasion in the family of the Duchess's brother, the reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, carried with her flaming accounts of the splendour of the ceremonial, as well as pretty tales of the "dear little love" destined to mate with the coming baby, whose big blue eyes were soon looking about in the lovely little hunting-seat of Rosenau. The gold font was brought down from the Tower, where for some time it had been out of request. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London officiated, as they had done the year before at the re-marriage of the Duke and Duchess. The godfathers were the Prince Regent, present in person, and Alexander, Emperor of Russia, then at the height of his popularity in England, represented by the Duke of York. The godmothers were the Queen-dowager of Wurtemberg (the Princess Royal), represented by Princess Augusta, and the Duchess-dowager of Coburg (mother of the Duchess of Kent, and grandmother of both the Queen and the Prince Consort), represented by the Duchess of Gloucester (Princess Mary).
It is said there had been a proposal to name the little princess Georgiana also, after her grandfather and uncle, George III. and George, Prince Regent; but the idea was dropped because the latter would not permit his name to stand second on the list.
Among the other privileged guests at the christening was Prince Leopold, destined to be the child's second father, one of her kindest and wisest friends. It is not difficult to comprehend what the scene must have been to the young man whose cup had been so full two years before, who was how a widower and childless. We have his own reference to his feelings in a letter to one of the late Princess Charlotte's friends. It had been hard for him to be present, but he had felt it to be his duty, and he had made the effort. This was a man who was always facing what was hard, always struggling and overcoming in the name of right. The consequence was that, even in his youth, all connected with him turned to him as to a natural stay. We have a still better idea of what the victory cost him when we read, in the "Life of the Prince Consort," it was not till a great misfortune happened to her that Prince Leopold "had the courage to look into the blooming face of his infant niece." With what manly pity and tenderness he overcame his reluctance, and how he was rewarded, we all know.
In December, 1819, the Duke and Duchess of Kent went for sea-air to Woolbrook Cottage, Sidmouth, Devonshire.
The first baby is always of consequence in a household, but of how much consequence this baby was may be gleaned by the circumstance that a startling little incident concerning the child made sufficient mark to survive and be registered by a future chronicler. A boy shooting sparrows fired unwittingly so near the house that the shot shattered one of the windows of the nursery, and passed close to the head of the child in the nurse's arms. Precious baby-head, that was one day to wear, with honour, a venerable crown, to be thus lightly threatened at the very outset! One can fancy the terror of the nurse, the distress of the Duchess, the fright and ire of the Duke, the horror and humiliation of the unhappy offender, with the gradual cooling down into magnanimous amnesty—or at most dignified rebuke, mollified by penitent tears into reassuring kindness, and just a little quiver of half-affronted, half-nervous laughter.
But there was no more room for laughter at false alarms at Woolbrook Cottage. Within a month the Duke was seized with the illness which ended his life in a few days. The particulars are simple and touching. He had taken a long walk with his equerry and great friend, Captain Conroy, and came in heated, tired, and with his feet so wet that his companion suggested the propriety of immediately changing his boots. But the baby of whom he was so fond and proud came in his way. She was eight months old, able to stretch out her little arms and laugh back to him. He stayed to play with her. In the evening it was evident he had caught a chill; he was hoarse, and showed symptoms of fever. The complaint settled at once on his lungs, and ran its course with great rapidity. We hardly need to be told that the Duchess was his devoted nurse, concealing her anxiety and grief to minister to him in everything.
There is a pathetic little reference to the last illness of the Duke of Kent in one of the Princess Hohenlohe's letters to the Queen. This elder sister (Princess Feodora of Leiningen) was then a little girl of nine or ten years of age, residing with her mother and stepfather. "Indeed, I well remember that dreadful time at Sidmouth. I recollect praying on my knees that God would not let your dear father die. I loved him dearly; he always was so kind to me."
On the afternoon of the 22nd his case was hopeless, and it became a question whether he had sufficient consciousness to sign his will. His old friend, General Wetherall, was brought up to the bed. At the sound of the familiar voice which had always been welcome to him, the sick man, drifting away from all familiar sounds, raised himself, collected his thoughts for the last time, and mentioned several places and people intelligently. The poor Duke had never been negligent in doing what he saw to be his duty. He had been forward in helping others, even when they were not of his flesh and blood. He heard the will read over, and with a great effort wrote the word "Edward," looking at every letter after he wrote it, and asking anxiously if the signature was legible.
In this will, which left the Duchess guardian to the child, and appointed General Wetherall and Captain Conroy trustees of his estate for the benefit of his widow and daughter, it is noticeable that the name in each case is given in the French version, "Victoire." Indeed so rare was the term in England at this date, that it is probable the English equivalent had scarcely been used before the christening of the Queen.
The Duke died on the following day, the 23rd of January, 1820. Only six days later, on the 29th, good old King George expired at Windsor. The son was cut down by violent disease while yet a man in middle life, just after he had become the head of a little household full of domestic promise, and with what might still have been a great public career opening out before him. The father sank in what was, in his case, the merciful decay of age, after he had been unable for ten years to fulfil the duties and charities of life, and after surviving his faithful Queen a year. The language of the official announcement of the physicians was unusually appropriate: "It has pleased the Almighty to release his Majesty from all further suffering." To complete the disasters of the royal family this month, the new King, George IV., who had been labouring under a cold when his father died, was seized immediately after his proclamation with dangerous inflammation of the lungs, the illness that had proved fatal to the Duke of Kent, and could not be present at his brother's or father's funerals; in fact, he was in a precarious state for some days.
The Duke of Kent was buried, according to the custom of the time, by torchlight, on the night of the 12th of February, at Windsor. As an example of the difference which distance made then, it took nearly a week's dreary travelling to convey the Duke's body from Woolbrook Cottage, where it lay in State for some days, to Cumberland Lodge, from which the funeral train walked to Windsor. The procession of mourning-coaches, hearse, and carriages set out from Sidmouth on Monday morning, halting on successive nights at Bridport, Blandford, Salisbury, and Basingstoke, the coffin being deposited in the principal church of each town, under a military guard, till on Friday night Cumberland Lodge was reached. The same night a detachment of the Royal Horse Guards, every third man bearing a flambeau, escorted a carriage containing the urn with the heart to St. George's Chapel, where in the presence of the Dean, the officers of the chapel, and several gentlemen appointed for the duty, urn and heart were deposited in the niche in which the coffin was afterwards to be placed. The body lay in State on the following day, that it might be seen by the inhabitants of Windsor, his old military friends, and the multitude who came down from London for the two mournful ceremonies. At eight o'clock at night the final procession was formed, consisting of Poor Knights, pages, pursuivants, heralds, the coronet on a black velvet cushion, the body under pall and canopy, the supporters of the pall and canopy field-marshals and generals, the chief mourner the Duke of York, the Dukes of Clarence, Sussex, Gloucester, and Prince Leopold in long black cloaks, their trains borne by gentlemen in attendance.
These torchlight funeral processions formed a singular remnant of mediaeval pageantry. How the natural solemnity of night in itself increased the awe and sadness of the scene to all simple minds, we can well understand. Children far away from Windsor remembered after they were grown men and women the vague terror with which they had listened in the dim lamplight of their nurseries to the dismal tolling of the bell out in the invisible church tower, which proclaimed that a royal duke was being carried to his last resting-place. We can easily believe that thousands would flock to look and listen, and be thrilled by the imposing spectacle. The show must have been weirdly picturesque when wild wintry weather, as in this case, added to the effect, "viewed for the distance of three miles, through the spacious Long Walk, amidst a double row of lofty trees, whilst at intervals the glittering of the flambeaux and the sound of martial music were distinctly seen and heard."
The Duke's funeral only anticipated by a few days the still more magnificent ceremonial with which a king was laid in the tomb.
But the real mourning was down in Devonshire, in the Sidmouth cottage. It would be difficult to conceive more trying circumstances for a woman in her station than those in which the young Duchess—she was but little over thirty—found herself left. She had lost a kind husband, her child would miss a doting father. She was a foreigner in a strange country. She had entered into a divided family, with which her connection was in a measure broken by the death of the Duke, while the bond that remained, however precious to all, was too likely to prove a bone of contention. The Duke had died poor. The Duchess had previously relinquished her German jointure, and the English settlement on her was inadequate, especially if it were to be cumbered with the discharge of any of her husband's personal debts. It was not realised then that the Duchess of Kent, in marrying the Duke and becoming his widow and the guardian of their child, had given up not only independence, but what was affluence in her own country, with its modest ways of living—even where princes were concerned—for the mortification and worry of narrow means, the strain of a heavy responsibility, the pain of much unjustifiable and undeserved interference, misconception, and censure, until she lived to vindicate the good sense, good feeling, and good taste with which she had always acted.
But the Duchess was not altogether desolate. Prince Leopold hurried to her and supported her then, and on many another hard day, by brotherly kindness, sympathy, and generous help. It was in his company that she came back with her child to Kensington.
One element of the Coburg character has been described as the sound judgment and quiet reasonableness associated with the temperate blood of the race. Accordingly, we find the Duchess not only submitting with gentle resignation to misfortune, but rousing herself, as her brother might have done in her circumstances—as doubtless he urged her to do—to the active discharge of the duties of her position. On the 23rd of February, before the first month of her widowhood was well by, she received Viscount Morpeth and Viscount Clive, the deputation bearing to her the address of condolence from the House of Commons. She met them with the infant Princess in her arms. The child was not only the sign that she fully appreciated and acknowledged the nature of the tie which united her to the country, it was the intimation of the close inseparable union with her daughter which continued through all the years of the Queen's childhood and youth, till the office of sovereign forced its holder into a separate existence; till she found another fitting protector, when the generous, ungrudging mother gave way to the worthy husband, who became the dutiful, affectionate son of the Duchess's declining years.
Five months after these events the Duchess, at her own request, had an interview with William Wilberforce, then living in the house at Kensington Gore which was occupied later by the Countess of Blessington and Count D'Orsay. "She received me," the good man wrote to Hannah More, "with her fine, animated child on the floor by her side, with its playthings, of which I soon became one. She was very civil, but, as she did not sit down, I did not think it right to stop above a quarter of an hour; and there being but a female attendant and a footman present, I could not well get up any topic so as to carry on a continual discourse. She apologised for not speaking English well enough to talk it; intimated a hope that she might talk it better and longer with me at some future time. She spoke of her situation, and her manner was quite delightful."
The sentence in italics opens our eyes to one of the difficulties of the Duchess to which we might not otherwise have given much consideration. We are apt to take it for granted that, though there is no royal road to mathematics, the power of speaking foreign languages comes to royal personages, if not by nature, at least by inheritance and by force of circumstances. There is some truth in this when there is a foreign father or mother; when royal babies are brought up, like Queen Victoria, to speak several languages from infancy, and when constant contact with foreigners confirms and maintains the useful faculty. Even when a prince or a princess is destined from his or her early youth to share a foreign throne, and is brought up with that end, a provision may be made for an adopted tongue to become second nature. But the Duchess of Kent was not brought up with any such prospect, and during her eleven years of married life in Germany she must have had comparatively little occasion to practise what English she knew; while, at the date of her coming to England, she was beyond the age when one learns a new language with facility. Any one of us who has experienced the fettered, perturbed, bewildered condition which results from being reduced to express ourselves at an important crisis in our history through a medium of speech with which we are but imperfectly acquainted, will know how to estimate this unthought-of obstacle in the Duchess of Kent's path, at the beginning of her widowhood.
This was the year (1820) of the greatest eclipse of the sun which had been seen for more than a century, when Venus and Mars were both visible, with the naked eye, for a few minutes in the middle of the day. Whatever the portents in the sky might mean, the signs on the earth were not reassuring. When the Bourbon monarchy had seemed fairly restored in France, all the world was shocked by the assassination of the Duc de Berri at the door of the Opera-house in Paris. Three kingdoms which had but recently been delivered from the clutch of the usurper were in revolt against the constituted authorities—Portugal, Spain, and Naples. Of these, the two former were on the brink of wars of succession, when the royal uncles, Don Miguel and Don Carlos, fought against their royal nieces, Donna Maria and Donna Isabella. At home the summer had been a sad one to the royal family and the country. The ferment of discontent was kept up by the very measures—executions and imprisonments—taken to repress anarchy, and by the continuance of crushed trade, want of work, and high prices. The Duchess of York died, making the third member of the royal family dead since the new year; yet she, poor lady, was but a unit in the sum, a single foreign princess who, however, kind she might have been to the few who came near her, was nothing to the mass of the people.
The name of another foreign princess was in every man's mind and on every man's tongue. However, there were many reasons for the anomaly. Caroline of Brunswick was the Queen until she should be proved unworthy to bear the title. Her quarrel with the King had long made her notorious. Though the story reflected little credit on her, it was so utterly discreditable to him that it raised up friends for her where they might have been least expected. His unpopularity rendered her popular. Her name became the rallying-cry for a great political faction. The mob, with its usual headlong, unreasoning appropriation of a cause and a person, elevated her into a heroine, cheered frantically, and was ready to commit any outbreak in her honour.
After six years' absence from England Queen Caroline had come back on the death of George III. to demand her rights. She had landed at Dover and been welcomed by applauding crowds. She had been escorted through Kent by uproarious partisans, who removed the horses from her carriage and dragged her in triumph through the towns. London, in its middle and lower classes, had poured out to meet her and come back in her train, till she was safely lodged in South Audley Street, in the house of her champion, Alderman Wood.
The King had instructed his ministers to lay before the House of Lords a bill of Pains and Penalties against the Queen which, if sustained, would deprive her of every claim to share his rank and would annul the marriage. The Queen was prepared with her defence, and furnished with two of the ablest advocates in the kingdom, Mr. Brougham and Mr. Denman. In the earlier stages of the proceedings she was present almost every day in the House of Lords. She entered in her puce or black sarcenet pelisse and black velvet hat, a large, not uncomely woman, a little over fifty, and took the chair of State provided for her, the House rising to receive the Queen whom it was trying. The trial, in its miserable details of gross folly well-nigh incredible, lasted from July to November—four months of burning excitement—when it collapsed from the smallness of the majority (nine) that voted for the second reading of the bill. The animus of the prosecution and the unworthy means taken to accomplish its purpose, defeated the end in view. It is said that had it been otherwise the country would have broken out into widespread insurrection.
The Queen's supporters, of all classes, sects, and shades, indulged in a perfect frenzy of rejoicing. Festivals, illuminations, every token of triumph for her and condemnation for him accompanied what was equivalent to her acquittal. She went in something like State, with her queer, motley household—Bohemian, English and Italians—and her great ally, Alderman Wood, to offer up thanksgiving in St. Paul's, where, at the same time, she found her name omitted from the Church service. She wore white velvet and ermine, and was surrounded by thousands of shouting followers, as if she had been the most discreet of queens and best of women. The poor passionate, wayward nature, which after all had been cruelly dealt with, was touched as well as elated.
On the very day after Queen Caroline's arrival in London in June, she had dispatched Alderman Wood to Kensington, to condole with the Duchess of Kent on her recent widowhood, and inquire after the health of the infant princess. The message was innocent in itself, but alarming by implication; for Queen Caroline was not a woman to be kept at a distance, or to hesitate in expressing her sentiments if she fancied her overtures slighted by the embarrassed Duchess. In the month of August Queen Caroline had established herself at Brandenburg House—the Margravine of Anspach's house, by the river at Hammersmith—near enough to Kensington Palace, to judge from human nature, to disconcert and provoke a smile against the smiler's will—for Caroline's extravagances would have disturbed the gravity of a judge—in the womanly Princess at the head of the little household soberly settled there. Never were princesses and women more unlike than Caroline of Brunswick and Victoria of Coburg; But poor Queen Caroline was not destined to remain long an awkward enigma—a queen and yet no queen, an aunt and yet no aunt, a scandal and a torment in everybody's path.
In the summer of the following year, when the country was drawn away and dazzled by the magnificent ceremonial of the coronation of George IV., she exercised her last disturbing influence. She demanded to be crowned along with her husband; but her demand was refused by the Privy Council. She appeared at the door of Westminster Abbey, but the way was barred to her. A fortnight afterwards, when King George had gone to Ireland to arouse the nation's loyalty, his wife had passed where Privy Council ushers and yeomen of the guard were powerless, where the enmity of man had no voice in the judgment of God. She had been attacked by severe illness, and in the course of five days she died, in the middle of a wild storm of thunder, wind, and rain. The night before, a boatful of Methodists had rowed up the Thames, within sound of the open windows of her sick-room, and sung hymns to comfort her in her extremity. The heart of a large part of the nation still clung to her because of her misfortunes and the insults heaped upon her. The late Queen's body was conveyed back to Brunswick. The funeral passed through Kensington, escorted by a mighty mob, in addition to companies of soldiers. The last were instructed to conduct the cortege by the outskirts of London to Harwich, where a frigate and two sloops of war were waiting for the coffin. The mob were resolute that their Queen's funeral should pass through the city. The first struggle between the crowd and the military took place at the corner of Church Street, Kensington. The strange, unseemly, contention was renewed farther on more than once; but as bloodshed had been forbidden, the people had their way, and the swaying mass surged in grim determination straight towards the Strand and Temple Bar. The captain of the frigate into whose keeping the coffin was committed in order to be conveyed back to Brunswick had been, by a curious, sorrowful coincidence, the midshipman who, "more than a quarter of a century before, handed the rope to the royal bride whereby to help her on board the Jupiter," which was to bring her to England.
One can fancy that, when that sorry tragedy was ended, and its perpetual noisy ebullitions had sunk into silence, a sense of relief stole over the palace-home at Kensington.
Round the childhood and youth of sovereigns, especially popular sovereigns, a growth of stories will gather like the myths which attend on the infancy of a nation. Such stories or myths are chiefly valuable as showing the later tendency of the individual or people, the character and history of the monarch or of the subjects, in accordance with which, in reversal of the adage that makes the child father to the man, the man is, in a new sense, father to the child, by stamping on his infancy and nonage traits borrowed from his mature years. Mingled with the species of legendary lore attaching to every generation, there is a foundation more or less of authentic annals. It is as affording an example of this human patchwork of fancy and fact, and as illustrating the impression deeply engraved on the popular mind, that the following incidents of the Queen's childhood and youth are given.
First, the people have loved to dwell on the close union between mother and child. The Duchess nursed her baby—would see it washed and dressed. As soon as the little creature could sit alone, her small table was placed by her mother's at meals, though the child was only allowed the food fit for her years. The Princess slept in her mother's room all through her childhood and girlhood. In the entries in the Queen's diary at the time of the Duchess of Kent's death, her Majesty refers to an old repeater striking every quarter of an hour in the sick-room on the last night of the Duchess's life—"a large watch in a tortoiseshell case, which had belonged to my poor father, the sound of which brought back to me all the recollections of my childhood, for I had always used to hear it at night, but had not heard it for now twenty-three years."
When the Princess was a little older, and lessons and play alternated with each other, she was taught to attend to the thing in hand, and finish what she had begun, both in her studies and games. One day she was amusing herself making a little haycock when some other mimic occupation caught her volatile fancy, and she flung down her small rake ready to rush off to the fresh attraction. "No, no, Princess; you must always complete what you have commenced," said her governess, and the small haymaker had to conclude her haymaking before she was at liberty to follow another pursuit.
From the Princess's fifth year Dr. Davys, afterwards Bishop of Peterborough, was her tutor. When it became clear that the little girl would, if she lived, be Queen of England, a prelate high in the Church was proposed to the Duchess of Kent as the successor of Dr. Davys in his office. But the Duchess, with the mild firmness and conscientious fidelity which ruled her conduct, declared that as she was perfectly satisfied with the tutor who had originally been appointed (when the appointment was less calculated to offer temptations to personal ambition and political intrigue), she did not see that any change was advisable. If a clergyman of higher rank was necessary, there was room for the promotion of Dr. Davys. Accordingly he was named Dean of Chester.
The Baroness Lehzen was another of the Queen's earliest guardians who remained at her post throughout her Majesty's youth. Louise Lehzen, daughter of a Hanoverian clergyman, came to England as governess to Princess Feodora Leiningen and remained as governess to Princess Victoria, entering on her duties in 1824. In 1827 she was raised to the rank of a Hanoverian Baroness, by George IV., at the request of Princess Sophia. From that time Baroness Lehzen acted also as lady in attendance. On her death, so late as 1870, her old pupil recorded of her, in a passage in the Queen's journal, which is given in the "Life of the Prince Consort," "My dearest, kindest friend, old Lehzen, expired on the 9th quite gently and peaceably.... She knew me from six months old, and from my fifth to my eighteenth year devoted all her care and energies to me with the most wonderful abnegation of self, never even taking one day's holiday. I adored, though I was greatly in awe of her. She really seemed to have no thought but for me.... She was in her eighty-seventh year." This constancy and permanency in the family relations were in themselves inestimable boons to the child, who thus grew up in an atmosphere of familiar affection and unshaken trust, for the absence of which nothing in the world could have compensated. Another lady of higher rank was of necessity appointed governess to the Queen in 1831, when she became next heir to the throne. This lady, the Dowager Duchess of Northumberland, appears also as the Queen's friend in after life.
The late Bishop Wilberforce was told by Dr. Davys an interesting anecdote of his former pupil. "The Queen always had from my first knowing her a most striking regard to truth. I remember when I had been teaching her one day, she was very impatient for the lesson to be over—once or twice rather refractory. The Duchess of Kent came in, and asked how she had behaved. Lehzen said, 'Oh, once she was rather troublesome.' The Princess touched her and said, 'No, Lehzen, twice, don't you remember?' The Duchess of Kent, too, was a woman of great truth."
It had been judged meet that the future Queen should not be made aware of her coming greatness, which, for that matter, continued doubtful in her earlier years. She was to grow up free from the impending care and responsibility, happy and healthful in her unconscious girlhood—above all, unassailed by the pernicious attempts to bespeak her favour, the crafty flattery, the undermining insinuations which have proved the bane of the youth of so many sovereigns. In order to preserve this reticence, unslumbering care and many precautions were absolutely necessary. It is said the Princess was constantly under the eye either of the Duchess of Kent or the Baroness Lehzen. The guard proved sufficient; yet it was difficult to evade the lively intelligence of an observant sensible child.
"Why do all the gentlemen take off their hats to me and not to my sister Feodora?" the little girl is said to have asked wonderingly on her return from a drive in the park, referring to her elder half-sister, who became Princess of Hohenlohe, between whom and the questioner there always existed the strong sweet affection of true sisters. Perhaps the little lady felt indignant as well as mystified at the strange preference thus given to her, in spite of her sister's superiority in age and wisdom. We do not know what reply was made to this puzzling inquiry, though it would have been easy enough to say that the little Princess was the daughter of an English royal Duke, therefore an English Princess, and the big Princess was German on both sides of the house, while these were English gentlemen who had saluted their young countrywoman. We all know from the best authority that Sir Walter Scott was wrong when he fancied some bird of the air must have conveyed the important secret to the little fair-haired maiden to whom he was presented in 1828. The mystery was not disclosed for years to come.
The child, though brought up in retirement, was by no means secluded from observation, or deprived of the change and variety so advantageous to human growth and development. From her babyhood in the sad visit to Sidmouth in 1820, and from 1821, when she was at that pretentious combination of fantasticalness and gorgeousness, the Pavilion, Brighton, she was carried every year, like any other well-cared-for child, either to the seaside or to some other invigorating region, so that she became betimes acquainted with different aspects of sea and shore in her island. Ramsgate was a favourite resort of the Duchess's. The little Thanet watering-place, with its white chalk cliffs, its inland basin of a harbour, its upper and lower town, connected by "Jacob's Ladder," its pure air and sparkling water, with only a tiny fringe of bathing-machines, was in its blooming time of fresh rural peace and beauty when it was the cradle by the sea of the little Princess.
When she was five she was at Claremont, making music and motion in the quiet house with her gleeful laughter and pattering feet, so happy in being with her uncle that she could look back on this visit as the brightest of her early holidays. "This place," the Queen wrote to the King of the Belgians long afterwards, "has a peculiar charm for us both, and to me it brings back recollections of the happiest days of my otherwise dull childhood,—when I experienced such kindness from you, dearest uncle, kindness which has ever since continued.... Victoria plays with my old bricks, and I see her running and jumping in the flower-garden, as old, though I feel still little, Victoria of former days used to do." In the autumn of 1825 the Queen's grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Coburg, visited England, and the whole family were together at Claremont.
In 1826, "the warm summer," when the Princess was seven years of age, she was invited to Windsor to see another uncle, George IV. That was a more formidable ordeal, but her innocent frank brightness carried her through it successfully. It is not easy for many men to contemplate with satisfaction their heirs, when those heirs are no offspring of theirs. It must have been doubly difficult for the King to welcome the little girl who had replaced his daughter, the child of his wronged brother and of a Princess whom King George persistently slighted and deprived of her due. But we are told his Majesty was delighted with his little niece's liveliness and intelligence.
In the following year, 1827, the Duke of York died, and the Princess, was a step nearer to the throne, but she did not know it. So far from being reared in an atmosphere of self-indulgence, the invaluable lesson was early taught to her that if she were to be honourable and independent in any rank, she must not buy what she could not pay for; if she were to be a good woman she must learn to deny herself. An incident in illustration, which made a small stir in its locality at the time, is often quoted. The Duchess and her daughter were at Tunbridge Wells, dwelling in the neighbourhood of Sir Philip Sidney's Penshurst, retracing the vanished glories of the Pantiles, and conferring on the old pump-woman the never-to-be-forgotten honour of being permitted to present a glass of water from the marble basin to the Princess. The little girl made purchases at the bazaar, buying presents, like any other young visitor, for her absent friends, when she found her money all spent, and at the same time saw a box which would suit an absent cousin. "The shop-people of course placed the box with the other purchases, but the little lady's governess admonished them by saying, 'No. You see the Princess has not got the money; therefore, of course, she cannot buy the box.'" This being perceived, the next offer was to lay by the box till it could be purchased, and the answer was, "Oh, well, if you will be so good as to do that." On quarter-day, before seven in the morning, the Princess appeared on her donkey to claim her purchase.
In the reverence, peace, and love of her pure, refined, if saddened home, everything went well with Princess Victoria, of whom we can only tell that we know the old brick palace where she dwelt, the playground that was hers, the walks she must have taken. We have sat in the later chapel where she said her prayers, a little consecrated room with high pews shutting in the worshippers, a royal gallery, open this time, and an elderly gentleman speaking with a measured, melodious voice. We can guess with tolerable certainty what was the Princess's child-world of books, though from the circumstance that in the light of the future she was made to learn more than was usual then for English girls of the highest rank, she had less time than her companions for reading books which were not study, but the most charming blending of instruction and amusement. That was still the age of Mrs. Barbauld and Miss Edgeworth. "Evenings at Home," "Harry and Lucy," and "Frank and Rosamond," were in every well-conducted school-room. All little girls read with prickings of tender consciences about the lady with the bent bonnet and the scar on her hand, and came under the fascination of the "Purple Jar." A few years later, Harriet Martineau's bristling independence did not prevent her from feeling gratified by the persuasion that the young Princess was reading through her tales on political economy, and that Princess Victoria's favourite character was Ella of the far north.
In the Princess's Roman history one day she came to the passage where the noble matron, Cornelia, in answer to a question as to her precious things, pointed to her sons, and declared, "These are my jewels." "Why," cried the ready-witted little pupil, with a twinkle in her blue eyes, "they must have been cornelians."
When the Princess's lessons took the form of later English history, she was on the very spot for the study. Did her teacher tell her, we wonder, the pretty story of "Bucky," who interrupted grave, saturnine King William at his statescraft in one of yonder rooms? How the small dauntless applicant wiled his father's master, great Louis's rival, into playing at horses in the corridor? Or that sadder story of another less fortunate boy, poor heavy-headed William of Gloucester? Tutors crammed and doctors shook him up, with the best intentions, in vain. In his happier moments he drilled his regiment of little soldiers on that Palace Green before his uncle, King William.
Was the childish passion for exploring old garrets and lumber-rooms excited in this royal little woman by the narrative of the wonderful discovery which Queen Caroline had made in a forgotten bureau in this very palace? Did the little Princess roam about too, in her privileged moments, with a grand vision of finding more and greater art-treasures, other drawings by Holbein or Vandyke, fresh cartoons by Raphael?
All the more valuable paintings had been removed long ago to Windsor, but many curious pictures still remained on the walls of presence chambers and galleries, kings' and queens' great dining-rooms and drawing-rooms, staircases and closets. Did the pictures serve as illustrations to the history lessons? Was the inspection made the recreation of rainy days, when the great suites of State-rooms in which Courts were no longer held or banquets celebrated, but which still echoed with the remembered tread of kings' and courtiers' feet, must have appeared doubly deserted and forlorn?
What was known as the King's Great Drawing-room was not far from the Duchess of Kent's rooms, and was, in fact, put at her disposal in its dismantled, ghostly condition. Among its pictures—freely attributed to many schools and masters—including several battle-pieces and many portraits, there were three representations of English palaces: old Greenwich, where Elizabeth was born; old Hampton, dear to William and Mary; and Windsor, the Windsor of George III. and Queen Charlotte, the Princess's grandfather and grandmother. In the next room, amidst classic and scriptural subjects, and endless examples of "ladies with ruffs," "heads in turbans," &c., there were occasionally family portraits—the old King and Queen more than once; William, Duke of Gloucester; the Queen of Wurtemberg as the girl-Princess Royal, with a dog. (She died in Wurtemberg about this time, 1828. She had quitted England on her marriage in 1797, and in the thirty-one years of her married life only once came back, as an aging and ailing woman. She proved a good wife and stepmother.) A youthful family group of an earlier generation was sure to attract a child—George III. and his brother, Edward, Duke of York, when young, shooting at a target, the Duke of Gloucester in petticoats, Princess Augusta (Duchess of Brunswick, and mother of Caroline, Princess of Wales) nursing the Duke of Cumberland, and Princess Louisa sitting in a chaise drawn by a favourite dog, the scene in Kew Gardens, painted in 1746. Queen Elizabeth was there as a child aged seven, A.D. 1540—three-quarters, with a feather-fan in her hand. Did the guide of the little unconscious Princess pause inadvertently, with a little catch of the breath, by words arrested on the tip of the tongue, before that picture? And was he or she inevitably arrested again before another picture of Queen Elizabeth in her prime, returning from her palace, wearing her crown and holding the sceptre and the globe; Juno, Pallas, and Venus flying before her, Juno dropping her sceptre, Venus her roses, and the little boy Cupid flinging away his bow and arrows, and clinging in discomfiture to his mother because good Queen Bess had conquered all the three in power, wisdom, and beauty? We know the Princess must have loved to look at the pictures. More curious than beautiful as they were, they may have been sufficient to foster in her that love of art which has been the delight of the Queen's maturer years.
English princesses, even though they were not queens in perspective, were not so plentiful in Queen Victoria's young days as to leave any doubt of their hands and hearts proving in great request when the proper time came. Therefore there was no necessity to hold before the little girl, as an incentive to good penmanship, the example of her excellent grandmother, Queen Charlotte, who wrote so fair a letter, expressed with such correctness and judiciousness, at the early age of fifteen, that when the said letter fell, by an extraordinary train of circumstances, into the hands of young King George, he determined there and then to make that painstaking and sensible Princess, and no other, a happy wife and great Queen. There was no strict need for the story, and yet as a gentle stimulant it may have been administered.
Queen Victoria was educated, as far as possible, in the simple habits and familiarity with nature which belongs to the best and happiest training of any child, whatever her rank. There is a pleasant picture in Knight's "Passages of a Working Life": "I delighted to walk in Kensington Gardens in the early summer, on my way to town.... In such a season, when the sun was scarcely high enough to have dried up the dews of Kensington's green alleys, as I passed along the broad central walk I saw a group on the lawn before the palace, which, to my mind, was a vision of exquisite loveliness. The Duchess of Kent and her daughter, whose years then numbered nine, are breakfasting in the open air, a single page attending on them at a respectful distance, the mother looking on with eyes of love, while the fair, soft, English face is bright with smiles. The world of fashion is not yet astir. Clerks and mechanics passing onwards to their occupations are few, and they exhibit nothing of vulgar curiosity."
We have another charming description, by Leigh Hunt, of a glimpse which he had of Princess Victoria in these gardens: "We remember well the peculiar kind of personal pleasure which it gave us to see the future Queen, the first time we ever did see her, coming up a cross-path from the Bayswater Gate, with a girl of her own age by her side, whose hand she was holding as if she loved her. It brought to our minds the warmth of our own juvenile friendships, and made us fancy that she loved everything else that we had loved in like measure—books, trees, verses, Arabian tales, and the good mother who had helped to make her so affectionate. A magnificent footman in scarlet came behind her, with the splendidest pair of calves, in white stockings, that we ever beheld. He looked somehow like a gigantic fairy, personating for his little lady's sake the grandest kind of footman he could think of; and his calves he seemed to have made out of a couple of the biggest chaise-lamps in the possession of the godmother of Cinderella. With or without her big footman, the little Princess could have rambled safely in the grounds which her predecessors had made for her, could have fed the ducks which swam in the round pond before her palace windows, could have drunk from the curious little mineral well, where, in Miss Thackeray's 'Old Kensington,' Frank Raban met Dolly Vanburgh, or peeped out of the little side gate where the same Dolly came face to face with the culprits George and Rhoda. The future owner of all could have easily strayed down the alleys among the Dutch elms which King William brought, perhaps saplings, from the Boomjees, as far as the oak that tradition says King Charles set in the form of an acorn taken from his leafy refuge at Boscobel."
The Duke of Kent had brought an old soldier-servant, called Stillman, and established him, with his wife and family, in a cottage in one of the Kensington lanes. It is said the Duke had recommended this former retainer to the care of the Duchess, and that she and her daughter were in the habit of visiting and caring for the family, in which there were a sickly little boy and girl.
An event happened in 1828 to the household in Kensington Palace which was of importance to all. It was a joyful event, and the preparations for the royal wedding, with the gala in which the preliminaries culminated, must have formed an era in the quiet young life into which a startling announcement and its fulfilment had broken, filling the hours of the short winter days with wonder, admiration, and interest.
Yet all the pleasant stir and excitement; the new member of the family prominent for a brief space; the gifts, the trousseau, the wedding-cake, the wedding guests, were but the deceptive herald of change and loss to the family, whose members were so few that each became deeply precious. The closely united circle was to be broken, and a dear face permanently withdrawn from the group. The Duchess of Kent's elder daughter, Princess Victoria's only sister, was about to marry. It was the most natural and the happiest course, above all when the Princess Feodora wedded worthily—how worthily let the subsequent testimony of the Queen and the Prince Consort prove. It was given at the time of the Prince of Hohenlohe's death, thirty-two years afterwards, in 1860.
The Queen wrote to her own and her sister's uncle, the King of the Belgians, in reference to the Prince of Hohenlohe: "A better, more thoroughly straightforward, upright, and excellent man, with a more unblemished character, or a more really devoted and faithful husband, never existed."
The Prince Consort's opinion of his brother-in-law is to be found in a letter to the Princess William of Prussia: "Poor Ernest Hohenlohe is a great loss. Though he was not a man of great powers of mind, capable of taking comprehensive views of the world, still he was a great character —that is to say, a thoroughly good, noble, spotless, and honourable man, which in these days forms a better title to be recognised as great than do craftiness, Machiavellism, and grasping ambition."
At the time of his marriage the Prince of Hohenlohe was in the prime of manhood, thirty-two years of age.
But the marriage meant the Princess Feodora's return to Germany and her separation from the other members of her family, with the exception of her brother, brought up in his own country. The bride, whom we hear of afterwards as a true and tender woman, was then a sweet maiden of twenty, whose absence must have made a great blank to her mother and sister. Happily for the latter, she was too young to realise in the agreeable excitement of the moment what a deprivation remained in store for her. There were eleven years between the sisters. This was enough difference to mingle a motherly, protecting element with the elder sister's pride and fondness, and to lead the younger, whose fortunes were so much higher, but who was unaware of the fact, to look up with affectionate faith and trust to the grown-up companion, in one sense on a level with the child, in another with so much more knowledge and independence.