STORY OF HER LIFE AND REIGN
'Her court was pure, her life serene; God gave her peace; her land reposed; A thousand claims to reverence closed In her as Mother, Wife, and Queen.'
'God bless the Queen for all her unwearied goodness! I admire her as a woman, love her as a friend, and reverence her as a Queen. Her courage, patience, and endurance are marvellous to me.'
'A Prince indeed, Beyond all titles, and a household name, Hereafter, through all time, Albert the Good.'
This brief life of Queen Victoria gives the salient features of her reign, including the domestic and public life, with a glance at the wonderful history and progress of our country during the past half-century. In the space at command it has been impossible to give extended treatment. The history is necessarily very brief, as also the account of the public and private life, yet it is believed no really important feature of her life and reign has been omitted.
It is a duty, incumbent on old and young alike, as well as a pleasing privilege, to mark how freedom has slowly 'broadened down, from precedent to precedent,' and how knowledge, wealth, and well-being are more widely distributed to-day than at any former period of our history. And this knowledge can only increase the gratitude of the reader for the golden reign of Queen Victoria, of whom it has been truly written:
A thousand claims to reverence closed In her as Mother, Wife, and Queen.
CHAPTER I.—Reign of Queen Victoria—Outlook of Royalty in 1819—Duke and Duchess of Kent—Birth of Victoria—Anecdotes.
CHAPTER II.—First Meeting with Prince Albert—Death of William IV.—Accession of Queen Victoria—First Speech from the Throne—Coronation—Life at Windsor—Personal Appearance—Betrothal to Prince Albert—Income from the Country.
CHAPTER III.—Marriage—Family Habits—Birth of Princess Royal—Queen's Views of Religious Training—Osborne and Balmoral—Death of the Duke of Wellington.
CHAPTER IV.—Chief Public Events, 1837-49—Rebellion in Canada—Opium War with China—Wars in North-west India—Penny Postage—Repeal of the Corn-laws—Potato Famine—Free Trade-Chartism.
CHAPTER V.—The Crimean War, 1854-55—Interest of the Queen and Prince Consort in the suffering Soldiers—Florence Nightingale—Distribution of Victoria Crosses by the Queen.
CHAPTER VI.—The Indian Mutiny, 1857-58—The Queen's Letter to Lord Canning.
CHAPTER VII.—Marriage of the Princess Royal—Twenty-first Anniversary of Wedding-day—Death of the Prince-Consort.
CHAPTER VIII.—Death of Princess Alice—Illness of Prince of Wales—The Family of the Queen—Opening of Indian Exhibition and Imperial Institute—Jubilee—Death of Duke of Clarence—Marriage of Princess May.
CHAPTER IX.—The Queen as an Artist and Author—In her Holiday Haunts—Norman Macleod—Letter to Mr Peabody—The Queen's Drawing-room—Her pet Animals—A Model Mistress—Diamond Jubilee—Death of the Queen.
CHAPTER X.—Summary of Public Events and Progress of the Nation.
Reign of Queen Victoria—Outlook of Royalty in 1819—Duke and Duchess of Kent—Birth of Victoria—Wisely trained by Duchess of Kent—Taught by Fraeulein Lehzen—Anecdotes of this Period—Discovers that she is next to the Throne.
The reign of Queen Victoria may be aptly described as a period of progress in all that related to the well-being of the subjects of her vast empire. In every department of science, literature, politics, and the practical life of the nation, there has been steady improvement and progress. Our ships circumnavigate the globe and do the chief carrying trade of the world. The locomotive binds industrial centres, and abridges time and space as it speeds along its iron pathway; whilst steam-power does the work of thousands of hands in our large factories. The telegraph links us to our colonies, and to the various nationalities of the world, in commerce and in closer sympathy; and never was the hand and heart of Benevolence busier than in this later period of the nineteenth century. Our colonial empire has shared also in the welfare and progress of the mother-country.
When we come to look into the lives of the Queen and Prince-Consort, we are thankful for all they have been and done. The wider our survey of history, and the more we know of other rulers and courts, the more thankful we shall be that they have been a guiding and balancing power, allied to all that was progressive, noble, and true, and for the benefit of the vast empire over which Her Majesty reigns. And the personal example has been no less valuable in
Wearing the white flower of a blameless life, Before a thousand peering littlenesses, In that fierce light which heats upon a throne, And blackens every blot.
In the year 1819 the family outlook of the British royal house was not a very bright one. The old king, George III., was lingering on in deep seclusion, a very pathetic figure, blind and imbecile. His son the Prince Regent, afterwards George IV., had not done honour to his position, nor brought happiness to any connected with him. Most of the other princes were elderly men and childless; and the Prince-Regent's only daughter, the Princess Charlotte, on whom the hopes of the nation had rested, and whose marriage had raised those hopes to enthusiasm, was newly laid in her premature grave.
But almost immediately after Princess Charlotte's death, the king's third and fourth sons, the Dukes of Clarence and Kent, had married. Of the Duke of Clarence we need say little more. He and his consort eventually reigned as William IV. and Queen Adelaide, and they had two children who died in earliest infancy, and did not further complicate the succession to the crown.
The Duke of Kent, born in 1767, fourth son of George III.—a tall, stately man, of soldierly hearing, inclined to corpulency and entirely bald—married the widowed Princess of Leiningen, already the mother of a son and a daughter by her first husband. The duke was of active, busy habits; and he was patron of many charitable institutions—he presided over no less than seventy-two charity meetings in 1816. Baron Stockmar describes the Princess of Leiningen after her marriage in 1818, as 'of middle height, rather large, but with a good figure, with fine brown eyes and hair, fresh and youthful, naturally cheerful and friendly; altogether most charming and attractive. She was fond of dress, and dressed well and in good taste. Nature had endowed her with warm feelings, and she was naturally truthful, affectionate, and unselfish, full of sympathy, and generous.' The princely pair lived in Germany until the birth of a child was expected, when the duke at first thought of taking a house in Lanarkshire—which would have made Queen Victoria by birth a Scotchwoman. Eventually, the Duke and Duchess of Kent took up their abode in Kensington Palace.
On the 24th May 1819, their daughter was born, and she was named Alexandrina Victoria, after the reigning Emperor of Russia and her mother. The Prince Regent had wished the name of Georgiana; her own father wished to call her Elizabeth. The little one was the first of the British royal house to receive the benefits of Jenner's discovery of vaccination. The Duke of Kent was so careful of his little girl that he took a cottage at Sidmouth to escape the London winter. To a friend he wrote: 'My little girl thrives under the influence of a Devonshire climate, and is, I am delighted to say, strong and healthy; too healthy, I fear, in the opinion of some members of my family, by whom she is regarded as an intruder.' Next winter the Duke came in one day, after tramping through rain and snow, and played with his little child while in his damp clothes; he thus contracted a chill from which he never rallied, and died January 23, 1820.
This child was destined to be the Empress-Queen, on whose dominion the sun never sets. Yet so remote did such a destiny then seem, owing to the possibilities of the Regent's life, and of children being born to the Duke of Clarence, that in some courtly biographies of George III. there is no mention made of the birth of the little princess. Even in their accounts of the death of her father the Duke of Kent, seven months afterwards, they do not deem it necessary to state that he left a daughter behind him; though he, poor man, had never had any doubts of her future importance, and had been in the habit of saying to her attendants, 'Take care of her, for she may be Queen of England.' The Duke of Kent was a capable and energetic soldier, of pure tastes and simple pleasures. In presenting new colours to the Royal Scots in 1876, the Queen said: 'I have been associated with your regiment from my earliest infancy, as my dear father was your colonel. He was proud of his profession, and I was always told to consider myself a soldier's child.'
The position of the widowed Duchess of Kent, a stranger in a foreign country, was rather sad and lonely. It was further complicated by narrowness of means. The old king, her father-in-law, died soon after her husband. The duchess was a woman of sense and spirit. Instead of yielding to any natural impulse to retire to Germany, she resolved that her little English princess should have an English rearing. She found a firm friend and upholder in her brother Leopold, husband of the late Princess Charlotte, and afterwards King of the Belgians. On discovering her straitened means he gave her an allowance of L3000 a year, which was continued until it was no longer necessary in 1831. As the duke came into a separate income only at a late period of his life, he had died much in debt. Long afterwards the Queen said to Lord Melbourne: 'I want to pay all that remains of my father's debts. I must do it. I consider it a sacred duty.' And she did not rest till she did it. In reply to an address of congratulation on the coming of age of the Queen, the Duchess of Kent said:
'My late regretted consort's circumstances, and my duties, obliged us to reside in Germany; but the Duke of Kent at much inconvenience, and I at great personal risk, returned to England, that our child should be "born and bred a Briton." In a few months afterwards my infant and myself were awfully deprived of father and husband. We stood alone—almost friendless and alone in this country; I could not even speak the language of it. I did not hesitate how to act, I gave up my home, my kindred, my duties [the regency of Leiningen], to devote myself to that duty which was to be the whole object of my future life. I was supported in the execution of my duties by the country. It placed its trust in me, and the Regency Bill gave me its last act of confidence. I have in times of great difficulty avoided all connection with any party in the state; but if I have done so, I have never ceased to press on my daughter her duties, so as to gain by her conduct the respect and affection of the people. This I have taught her should be her first earthly duty as a constitutional sovereign.'
The little princess was brought up quietly and wisely at Kensington and Claremont. In a letter from the Queen to her uncle Leopold, written in 1843, we find the following: 'This place [Claremont] has a particular 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 [the Princess Royal] plays with my old bricks, &c., and I see her running and jumping in the flower-garden, as old, though I fear still little, Victoria of former days used to do.'
Bishop Fulford of Montreal remembered seeing her when four months old in the arms of her nurse. In the following year she might be seen in a hand-carriage with her half-sister, the Princess Feodora of Leiningen. Wilberforce in a letter to Hannah More, July 21, 1820, wrote: 'In consequence of a very civil message from the Duchess of Kent, I waited on her this morning. She received me with her fine, animated child on the floor by her side, with its playthings, of which I soon became one.' She became familiar to many as a pretty infant, riding on her sleek donkey (a gift from her uncle the Duke of York) in Kensington Gardens. She used to be seen in a large straw hat and a white cotton frock, watering the plants under the palace windows, dividing the contents of the watering-pot between the flowers and her feet, and often took breakfast with her mother on the lawn there. There are playful stories told of those happy early days. The little princess was very fond of music, listening as one spell-bound when first she heard some of Beethoven's glorious compositions. But like most children, she rebelled against the drudgery of scales and finger exercises, and on being told that there is 'no royal road to music,' she sportively locked the piano and announced that 'the royal road is never to take a lesson till you feel disposed.'
Sir Walter Scott records in his diary that he dined with the Duchess of Kent on 19th May 1828. 'I was very kindly received by Prince Leopold, and presented to the little Victoria—the heir-apparent to the crown as things now stand. The little lady is educated with much care, and watched so closely that no busy maid has a moment to whisper "You are heir of England." I suspect if we could dissect the little heart, we should find that some pigeon or other bird of the air had carried the matter, however.' This, it seems, was not the case. Charles Knight has told us how he one morning saw the household breakfasting in the open air, at a table on the lawn. It is also related that Victoria took her airings in Kensington Gardens in a little phaeton drawn by a tiny pony, led by a page. A dog ran between the legs of the pony one day, frightening it, so that the little carriage was upset, and the princess would have fallen on her head, but for the presence of mind of an Irishman who rescued her. Leigh Hunt saw her once '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;' and he adds that the footman who followed seemed to him like a gigantic fairy. When the princess was in her fifth year, George IV., who acted as one of her godfathers, sent a message to parliament which resulted in a grant for the cost of the education of his niece.
In 1824, when the princess was five years old, Fraeulein Lehzen, a German lady, became her governess; afterwards she held the post of the Queen's private secretary, until relieved by the Prince-Consort. She was the daughter of a Hanoverian pastor, and came to England in 1818 as governess to the Princess Feodora of Leiningen. In her home letters she records that 'the princess received her in a pretty, childlike way,' and describes her as 'not tall, but very pretty;' adding that she 'has dark brown hair, beautiful blue eyes, and a mouth which, though not tiny, is very good-tempered and pleasant; very fine teeth, a small but graceful figure, and a very small foot. She was dressed in white muslin with a coral necklet.' The domestic life was that of any other well-regulated and happy family. The princess shared her governess's bedroom. They all took their meals together at a round table. When they did not go to church, the duchess read a sermon aloud and commented pleasantly on it. As early as 1830 Thomas Moore heard the Princess Victoria sing duets with her mother, who also sang some pretty German songs herself.
Nor are there lacking traces of strict and chastening discipline. The princess had been early taught that there are good habits and duties in the management of money. When she was buying toys at Tunbridge Wells, her wishes outran her little purse, and the box for which she could not pay was not carried away on credit, but set aside for her to fetch away when the next quarter-day would renew her allowance. Fraeulein Lehzen says, 'The duchess wished that when she and the princess drove out, I should sit by her side, and the princess at the back. Several times I could not prevent it, but at last she has given in, and says on such occasions with a laugh to her daughter: "Sit by me, since Fraeulein Lehzen wishes it to be so." But,' says the governess, 'I do not hesitate to remark to the little one, whom I am most anxious not to spoil, that this consideration is not on her account, because she is still a child, but that my respect for her mother disposes me to decline the seat.' Once when the princess was reading how Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi, introduced her sons to the first of Roman ladies with the words, 'These are my jewels,' she looked up from her book, and remarked: 'She should have said my Cornelians.'
Mrs Oliphant remembers of having in her own youth seen the Princess Victoria, and says: 'The calm full look of her eyes affected me. Those eyes were very blue, serene, still, looking at you with a tranquil breadth of expression which, somehow, conveyed to your mind a feeling of unquestioned power and greatness, quite poetical in its serious simplicity.' While on a visit to Malvern she climbed walls and trees, and rode on a donkey. One day she had climbed an apple tree, and could not get down till relieved by the gardener, who got a guinea for his pains, which was preserved and neatly framed. On another occasion, at Wentworth House, the gardener cautioned her: 'Be careful, miss, it's slape' (using a provincial form for 'slippery'), while she was descending a sloping piece of turf, where the ground was wet. While she was asking, 'What is slape?'her feet slid from beneath her, and the old gardener was able to explain as he lifted her up, 'That's slape, miss.'
Miss Jane Porter, then resident at Claremont, describes the princess as a beautiful child, with a cherubic form of features, clustered round by glossy, fair ringlets. Her complexion was remarkably transparent, with a soft, but often heightening tinge of the sweet blush-rose upon her cheeks, that imparted a peculiar brilliancy to her clear blue eyes. Whenever she met any strangers in her usual paths, she always seemed, by the quickness of her glance, to inquire who and what they were? The intelligence of her countenance was extraordinary at her very early age, but might easily be accounted for on perceiving the extraordinary intelligence of her mind. At Esher Church, even in her sixth year, the youthful princess was accustomed to devote earnest attention to the sermons preached there, as the Duchess of Kent was in the habit of inquiring not only for the text, but the heads of the discourse. 'The sweet spring of the princess's life,' continues Miss Porter, 'was thus dedicated to the sowing of all precious seeds of knowledge, and the cultivation of all elegant acquirements.... Young as she was, she sang with sweetness and taste; and my brother, Sir Robert (who, when in England, frequently had the honour of dining at Claremont), often had the pleasure of listening to the infant chorister, mingling her cherub-like melody with the mature and delightful harmonies of the Duchess of Kent and Prince Leopold.'
When Fraeulein Lehzen died in 1870, her old pupil wrote of her as 'my dearest, kindest friend, old Lehzen; 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, although I was greatly in awe of her. She really seemed to have no thought but for me.' And the future queen profited by it all, for it has been truly said that, 'had she not been the Queen of England, her acquirements and accomplishments would have given her a high standing in society.'
Dr Davys, the future Bishop of Peterborough, was her instructor in Latin, history, mathematics, and theology, and the Dowager Duchess of Northumberland had also, after her own mother, a considerable share in her training.
The Duchess of Kent took her daughter to visit many of the chief cities, cathedrals, and other places of interest in the British Isles. Her first public act was to present the colours to a regiment of foot at Plymouth. An American writer has recorded that he saw the widowed lady and her little girl in the churchyard of Brading, in the Isle of Wight. They were seated near the grave of the heroine of a 'short and simple annal of the poor'—the Dairyman's Daughter, whose story, as told by the Rev. Legh Richmond, had a great popularity at the time. The duchess was reading from a volume she carried (probably that one), and the little princess's soft eyes were tearful.
The princess, it appears, was much devoted to dolls, and played with them until she was nearly fourteen years old. Her favourites were small wooden dolls which she would occupy herself in dressing; and she had a house in which they could be placed. As she had no girl companions, many an hour was solaced in this manner. She dressed these dolls from some costumes she saw in the theatre or in private life. A list of her dolls was kept in a copy-book, the name of each, and by whom it was dressed, and the character it represented, being given. The dolls seem to have been packed away about 1833. Of the 132 dolls preserved, thirty-two were dressed by the princess. They range from three to nine inches in height. The sewing and adornment of the rich coloured silks and satins show great deftness of finger.
Her wise mother withheld her from the pomp and circumstance of the court. She was not even allowed to be present at the coronation of her uncle, the Duke of Clarence, when he ascended the throne as William IV. He could not understand such reticence, was annoyed by it, and expressed his annoyance angrily. But his consort, good Queen Adelaide, was always kind and considerate: even when she lost all her own little ones, she could be generous enough to say to the Duchess of Kent, 'My children are dead, but yours lives, and she is mine too.'
All doubts as to the princess's relation to the succession were gradually removed. George IV. had died childless. Both the children of William IV. were dead. The Princess Victoria therefore was the heiress of England. A paper had been placed in the volume of history she had been reading, after perusing which she remarked, 'I never saw this before.'
'It was not thought necessary you should, princess,' the governess replied.
'I see,' she said timidly, 'that I am nearer the throne than I thought.'
'So it is, madam,' said the governess.
'Now many a child,' observed the princess thoughtfully, 'would boast, but they don't know the difficulty. There is much splendour, but there is more responsibility.' And putting her hand on her governess's, she said solemnly, 'I will be good.' Let that be recorded as among royal vows that have been faithfully fulfilled.
In August 1835, the Princess Victoria was confirmed in the Chapel Royal, St James's, by the Archbishop of Canterbury; and she was so much moved by the solemn service, that at the close of it she laid her head on her mother's breast, and sobbed with emotion.
First Meeting with Prince Albert—Death of William IV.—Accession of Queen Victoria—First Speech from the Throne—Coronation—Life at Windsor—Personal Appearance—Betrothal to Prince Albert—Income from the Country—Her Majesty a genuine Ruler.
The first great event in the young princess's life, and that which was destined to colour it all for her good and happiness, was her first meeting in 1836 with her cousins, her mother's nephews, the young princes Ernest and Albert of Saxe-Coburg. That visit was of about a month's duration, and from the beginning the attraction was mutual. We can see how matters went in a letter from Princess Victoria to King Leopold, 7th June 1836. 'I have only now to beg you, my dearest uncle, to take care of the health of one now so dear to me, and to take him under your special protection. I hope and trust that all will go on prosperously and well on this subject, now of so much importance to me.' Although in her heart preferring Albert, she had been equally kind to both, and her preference was as yet unknown. And as a mere preference it had for a while to remain, as the princess was only seventeen, and the education of the prince was yet incomplete. He was still on his student travels, collecting flowers and views and autographs for the sweet maiden in England, when in 1837, news reached him that by the death of William IV. she had attained her great dignity, and was proclaimed queen.
The death of William IV. took place at 2.30 A.M. on June 20, 1837. According to a contemporary account, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham reached Kensington Palace about five as bearers of the news. They desired to see the Queen. They were ushered into an apartment, and in a few minutes the door opened, and she came in, wrapped in a dressing-gown, with slippers on her naked feet, and with tearful eyes and trembling lips. Conyngham told his errand in few words, and as soon as he uttered the words 'Your Majesty,' she put out her hand to him to be kissed. He dropped on one knee, and kissed her hand. The archbishop likewise kissed her hand, and when he had spoken of the king's death, she asked him for his prayers on her behalf.
The first result of the accession of Victoria was the separation of Hanover from the British crown. By the Salic law of that realm, a woman was not permitted to reign; and thus the German principality, which had come to us with the first George, and which had led us into so many wars on the Continent, ceased to have any concern with the fortunes of this country. The crown of Hanover now went to the Duke of Cumberland, the Queen's uncle.
On 26th June 1837, her cousin Albert wrote: 'Now you are queen of the mightiest land of Europe, in your hand lies the happiness of millions. May Heaven assist you, and strengthen you with its strength in that high but difficult task! I hope that your reign may be long, happy, and glorious; and that your efforts may be rewarded by the thankfulness and love of your subjects.'
The Queen closed her first speech from the throne as follows: 'I ascend the throne with a deep sense of the responsibility which is imposed upon me; but I am supported by the consciousness of my own right intentions, and by my dependence upon the protection of almighty God. It will be my care to strengthen our institutions, civil and ecclesiastical, by discreet improvement wherever improvement is required, and to do all in my power to compose and allay animosity and discord. Acting upon these principles, I shall upon all occasions look with confidence to the wisdom of parliament and the affections of my people, which form the true support of the dignity of the crown, and ensure the stability of the constitution.'
'When called upon by the Duke of Wellington to sign her first death-warrant, the Queen asked, with tears in her eyes, 'Have you nothing to say in behalf of this man?'
'Nothing; he has deserted three times,' was the reply.
'Oh, your Grace, think again.'
'Well, your Majesty,' said the duke, 'though he is certainly a very bad soldier, some witnesses spoke for his character, and, for aught I know to the contrary, he may be a good man.'
'Oh, thank you for that a thousand times!' the Queen exclaimed; and she Wrote 'pardoned' across the paper.
The great Duke of Wellington declared that he could not have desired a daughter of his own to play her part better than did the young queen. She seemed 'awed, but not daunted.' Nor was the gentler womanly side of life neglected. She wrote at once to the widowed Queen Adelaide, begging her, in all her arrangements, to consult nothing but her own health and convenience, and to remain at Windsor just as long as she pleased. And on the superscription of that letter she refused to give her widowed aunt her new style of 'Queen Dowager.' 'I am quite aware of Her Majesty's altered position,' she said, 'but I will not be the first person to remind her of it.' And on the evening of the king's funeral, a sick girl, daughter of an old servant of the Duke of Kent, to whom the duchess and the princess had been accustomed to show kindness, received from 'Queen Victoria,' a gift of the Psalms of David, with a marker worked by the royal hands, and placed in the forty-first psalm.
The first three weeks of her reign were spent at Kensington, and the Queen took possession of Buckingham Palace on 13th July 1837. Mr Jeaffreson, in describing her personal appearance, says: 'Studied at full face, she was seen to have an ample brow, something higher, and receding less abruptly, than the average brow of her princely kindred; a pair of noble blue eyes, and a delicately curved upper lip, that was more attractive for being at times slightly disdainful, and even petulant in its expression. No woman was ever more fortunate than our young Queen in the purity and delicate pinkiness of her glowing complexion.... Her Majesty's countenance was strangely eloquent of tenderness, refinement, and unobtrusive force.... Among the high-born beauties of her day, the young Queen Victoria was remarkable for the number of her ways of smiling.' Other observers say that the smallness of her stature was quite forgotten in the gracefulness of her demeanour. Fanny Kemble thought the Queen's voice exquisite, when dissolving parliament in July 1837: her enunciation was as perfect as the intonation was melodious. Charles Sumner was also delighted, and thought he never heard anything better delivered.
She was proclaimed queen, June 21, 1837: the coronation took place in Westminster Abbey on June 28, 1838, and has been vividly described by many pens. At least 300,000 visitors came to London on this occasion. We are told of the glow of purple, of the acclamations of the crowd, and the chorus of Westminster scholars, of the flash of diamonds as the assembled peeresses assumed their coronets when the crown was placed on the head of the young queen. But we best like the touch of womanly solicitude and helpfulness with which Her Majesty made a hasty movement forward as an aged peer, Lord Rolle, tripped over his robes, and stumbled on the steps of the throne. As she left the Abbey, 'the tender paleness that had overspread her fair face on her entrance had yielded to a glow of rosy celestial red.'
Miss Harriet Martineau thus describes the scene before the entrance of the Queen: 'The stone architecture contrasted finely with the gay colours of the multitude. From my high seat I commanded the whole north transept, the area with the throne, and many portions of galleries, and the balconies, which were called the vaultings. Except the mere sprinkling of oddities, everybody was in full dress. The scarlet of the military officers mixed in well, and the groups of clergy were dignified; but to an unaccustomed eye the prevalence of court dress had a curious effect. I was perpetually taking whole groups of gentlemen for Quakers till I recollected myself. The Earl Marshal's assistants, called Gold Sticks, looked well from above, lightly flitting about in white breeches, silk stockings, blue laced frocks, and white sashes.
'The throne, covered as was its footstool with cloth of gold, stood on an elevation of four steps in front of the area. The first peeress took her seat in the north transept opposite at a quarter to seven, and three of the bishops came next. From that time the peers and their ladies arrived faster and faster. Each peeress was conducted by two Gold Sticks, one of whom handed her to her seat, and the other bore and arranged her train on her lap, and saw that her coronet, footstool, and book were comfortably placed.... About nine o'clock the first gleams of the sun started into the Abbey, and presently travelled down to the peeresses. I had never before seen the full effect of diamonds. As the light travelled, each lady shone out like a rainbow. The brightness, vastness, and dreamy magnificence of the scene produced a strange effect of exhaustion and sleepiness.... The guns told when the Queen set forth, and there was unusual animation. The Gold Sticks flitted about; there was tuning in the orchestra; and the foreign ambassadors and their suites arrived in quick succession. Prince Esterhazy, crossing a bar of sunshine, was the most prodigious rainbow of all. He was covered with diamonds and pearls, and as he dangled his hat, it cast a dazzling radiance all around.... At half-past eleven the guns told that the Queen had arrived.'
An eye-witness says: 'The Queen came in as gay as a lark, and looking like a girl on her birthday. However, this only lasted till she reached the middle of the cross of the Abbey, at the foot of the throne. On her rising from her knees before the "footstool," after her private devotions, the Archbishop of Canterbury turned her round to each of the four corners of the Abbey, saying, in a voice so clear that it was heard in the inmost recesses, "Sirs, I here present unto you the undoubted Queen of this realm. Will ye all swear to do her homage?" Each time he said it there were shouts of "Long live Queen Victoria!" and the sounding of trumpets and the waving of banners, which made the poor little Queen turn first very red and then very pale. Most of the ladies cried, and I felt I should not forget it as long as I lived. The Queen recovered herself after this, and went through all the rest as if she had been crowned before, but seemed much impressed by the service, and a most beautiful one it is.' The service was that which was drawn up by St Dunstan, and with a very few alterations has been used ever since. Then the anointing followed—a canopy of cloth of gold was held over the Queen's head, a cross was traced with oil upon her head and hands, and the Dean of Westminster and the archbishop pronounced the words, 'Be thou anointed with holy oil, as kings, priests, and prophets were anointed.' Meanwhile, the choir chanted the 'Anointing of Solomon,' after which the archbishop gave her his benediction, all the bishops joining in the amen. She was next seated in St Edward's chair, underneath which is the rough stone on which the Scottish kings had been crowned, brought away from Scotland by Edward I. While seated here she received the ring which was a token that she was betrothed to her people, a globe surmounted by a cross, and a sceptre. The crown was then placed upon her head; the trumpets sounded, the drums beat, the cannons were fired, and cheers rose from the multitude both without and within the building. The archbishop presented a Bible to Her Majesty, led her to the throne, and bowed before her; the bishops and lords present in their order of rank did the same, saying, 'I do become your liegeman of life and limb and of earthly worship, and faith and love I will bear unto you, to live and die against all manner of folks; so help me God.'
When the ceremony of allegiance was over, the Queen received the holy communion, and, after the last blessing was pronounced, in splendid array left the Abbey. Mr Greville, one of the brilliant gossip-mongers of the court, related that Lord John Thynne, who officiated for the Dean of Westminster, told him that no one knew but the archbishop and himself what ceremony was to be gone through, and that the Queen never knew what she was to do next. She said to Thynne, 'Pray tell me what I am to do, for they don't know.' At the end, when the orb was put into her hand, she said, 'What am I to do with it?' 'Your Majesty is to carry it, if you please, in your hand.' 'Am I?' she said; 'it is very heavy.' The ruby ring was made for her little finger instead of her fourth; when the archbishop was to put it on she extended the former, but he said it was to be put on the latter. She said it was too small, and she could not get it on. He said it was right to put it there, and, as he insisted, she yielded, but had first to take off her other rings, and then it was forced on; but it hurt her very much, and as soon as the ceremony was over, she was obliged to bathe her finger in iced water in order to get it off. It is said that she was very considerate to the royal dukes, her uncles, when they presented themselves to do homage. When the Duke of Sussex, who was old and infirm, came forward to take the oath of allegiance, she anticipated him, kissed his cheek, and said tenderly, 'Do not kneel, my uncle, for I am still Victoria, your niece.'
Lord Shaftesbury wrote of the service, as 'so solemn, so deeply religious, so humbling, and yet so sublime. Every word of it is invaluable; throughout, the church is everything, secular greatness nothing. She declares, in the name and by the authority of God, and almost enforces, as a condition preliminary to her benediction, all that can make princes rise to temporal and eternal glory. Many, very many, were deeply impressed.'
The old crown weighed more than seven pounds; the new one, made for this coronation, but three pounds. The value of the jewels in the crown was estimated at L112,760. These precious stones included 1 large ruby and sapphire; 16 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 4 rubies, 1363 brilliant diamonds; 1273 rose diamonds, 147 table diamonds; 4 drop-shaped pearls; 273 other pearls. The entire coronation expenses amounted to less than L70,000: those of George IV. amounted to L238,000 (banquet, L138,000). As the ceremony lasted four and a half hours, it was well Queen Victoria was spared the fatigue of a banquet.
Reasons of state and court etiquette required the Duchess of Kent to retire from the constant companionship of her daughter, lest she should be suspected of undue influence over her. The young queen of England had entered upon a time of moral trial. Many of those who had been ready to applaud her were found equally ready to criticise her. Her mother's natural pangs at settling down into their new relationship were maliciously interpreted as consequences of the Queen's coldness and self-will. It was said that she 'began to exhibit slight signs of a peremptory disposition.'
It is good to know from such a well-informed authority as Mrs Oliphant that the immediate circle of friends around her fed her with no flatteries. The life of the Queen at Windsor has been thus described: 'She rose at a little after eight; breakfasted in her private rooms; then her ministers were admitted; despatches were read, and there would be a consultation with Lord Melbourne. After luncheon she rode out, and on her return amused herself with music and singing and such like recreations till dinner, which was about 8 P.M. On the appearance of the ladies in the drawing-room she stood, moving about from one to the other, talking for a short time to each, and also speaking to the gentlemen as they came from the dining-room. A whist table would be made up for the Duchess of Kent. The Queen and the others seated themselves about a large round table and engaged in conversation.'
'Poor little Queen!' said Carlyle, with a shake of his head at the time, 'she is at an age when a girl can hardly be trusted to choose a bonnet for herself, yet a task is laid upon her from which an archangel might shrink.' Her Majesty was not overawed, however, and expressly declared to her mother that she ascended the throne without alarm. 'She is as merry and playful as a kitten,' wrote Sir John Campbell.... 'She was in great spirits, and danced with more than usual gaiety a romping, country-dance called the Tempest.' An observant writer of this date says: 'She had a fine vein of humour, a keen sense of the ludicrous; enjoyed equestrian exercise, and rode remarkably well.'
N. P. Willis, the American poet, who saw her on horseback in Hyde Park, said: 'Her Majesty rides quite fearlessly and securely; I met her party full gallop near the centre of the Rotten Row. On came the Queen on a dun-coloured, highly groomed horse, with her prime-minister on one side of her, and Lord Byron on the other; her cortege of maids of honour, and lords and ladies of the court checking their spirited horses, and preserving always a slight distance between themselves and Her Majesty. ... Victoria's round, plump figure looks exceedingly well in her dark-green riding dress.... She rode with her mouth open, and seemed exhilarated with pleasure.' James Gordon Bennett, who saw her at the opera, describes her as 'a fair-haired little girl, dressed with great simplicity in white muslin, with hair plain, a blue ribbon at the back.... Her bust is extremely well proportioned, and her complexion very fair. There is a slight parting of her rosy lips, between which you can see little nicks of something like very white teeth. The expression of her face is amiable and good-tempered. I could see nothing like that awful majesty, that mysterious something which doth hedge a queen.'
Mr Greville, who dined at the Queen's table in Buckingham Palace in 1837, pronounced the whole thing dull, so dull that he marvelled how any one could like such a life: but both here and at a ball he declared the bearing of the Queen to be perfect, noting also that her complexion was clear, and that the expression of her eyes was agreeable.
Despite her strong attraction to her cousin Albert, she expressed a determination not to think of marriage for a time. The sudden change from her quiet, girlish life in Kensington to the prominence and the powers of a great queen, standing 'in that fierce light which beats upon a throne,' might well have excused a good deal of wilfulness had the excuse been needed.
Her Majesty decides that 'a worse school for a young girl, or one more detrimental to all natural feelings and affections, cannot well be imagined.' Perhaps it was an experience which she needed to convince her fully of the value and blessedness of the true domesticity which was soon to be hers. After she had in 1837 placed her life-interest in the hereditary revenues of the crown at the disposal of the House of Commons, her yearly income was fixed at L385,000. This income is allocated as follows: For Her Majesty's privy purse, L60,000; salaries of Her Majesty's household and retired allowances, L131,260; expenses of household, L172,500; royal bounty, alms, &c., L13,200; unappropriated moneys, L8040.
The first change from a Whig to a Conservative government ruffled the waters a little. Her Majesty was advised by the Duke of Wellington to invite Sir Robert Peel to form a new ministry. She did so, but frankly told Peel that she was very sorry to lose Lord Melbourne. When arranging his cabinet, Sir Robert found that objections were raised to the retention of certain Whig ladies in personal attendance upon the Queen, as being very likely to influence her. The Duchess of Sutherland and Lady Normanby, it is believed, were particularly meant. The Queen at first flatly refused to dismiss her Ladies of the Bedchamber, to whom she had got so accustomed. As Sir Robert Peel would not yield the point, she recalled Lord Melbourne, who now retained office till 1841. The affair caused a great deal of talk in political and non-political circles. The Queen wrote: 'They wanted to deprive me of my ladies, and I suppose they would deprive me next of my dresses and my housemaids; but I will show them that I am Queen of England.' This little episode has since gone by the name of the 'Bedchamber Plot.'
Of Her Majesty it may safely be said that she has always been a genuine ruler, in the sense that from the first she trained herself to comprehend the mysteries of statecraft. She had Lord Melbourne as her first prime-minister, and from the beginning every despatch of the Foreign Office was offered to her attention. In 1848, a year of exceptional activity, these numbered 28,000.
If for a while the Queen thus drew back from actually deciding to marry the cousin whom, nevertheless, she owned to be 'fascinating,' that cousin on his side was not one of those of whom it may be said:
He either fears his fate too much, Or his deserts are small, That dares not put it to the touch, To gain or lose it all.
'I am ready,' he said, 'to submit to delay, if I have only some certain assurance to go upon. But if, after waiting perhaps for three years, I should find that the Queen no longer desired the marriage, it would place me in a ridiculous position, and would, to a certain extent, ruin all my prospects for the future.'
Love proved stronger than girlish pride and independence—the woman was greater than the queen. The young pair met again on the 10th October 1839, and on the 14th of the same month the Queen communicated the welcome news of her approaching marriage to her prime-minister. Her best friends were all delighted with the news.
'You will be very nervous on declaring your engagement to the Council,' said the Duchess of Gloucester.
'Yes,' replied the Queen, 'but I did something far more trying to my nerves a short time since.'
'What was that?' the duchess asked.
'I proposed to Albert,' was the reply.
Etiquette of course forbade the gentleman in this case to speak first; and we can well believe that the Queen was more nervous over this matter than over many a state occasion. How the thing took place we may gather in part from a letter of Prince Albert to his grandmother: 'The Queen sent for me to her room, and disclosed to me, in a genuine outburst of love and affection, that I had gained her whole heart.' After the glad announcement was made, warm congratulations were showered on the young people. Lord Melbourne expressed great satisfaction on behalf of himself and his country. 'You will be much more comfortable,' he said, 'for a woman cannot stand alone for any time in whatever position she may be.' To King Leopold, who had much to do with the matter, the news was particularly welcome. In his joyous response to the Queen occur these words: 'I had, when I learned your decision, almost the feeling of old Simeon, "Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace." Your choice has been, for these last years, my conviction of what might and would be the best for your happiness.... In your position, which may, and will perhaps, become in future even more difficult in a political point of view, you could not exist without having a happy and agreeable interieur. And I am much deceived (which I think I am not) or you will find in Albert just the very qualities and disposition which are indispensable for your happiness, and will suit your own character, temper, and mode of life.'
To Baron Stockmar, the prince wrote: 'Victoria is so good and kind to me, that I am often puzzled to believe that I should be the object of so much affection.' Prince Albert knew he was choosing a position of no ordinary difficulty and responsibility. 'With the exception of my relation to the Queen, my future position will have its dark sides, and the sky will not always be blue and unclouded. But life has its thorns in every position, and the consciousness of having used one's powers and endeavours for an object so great as that of promoting the welfare of so many, will surely be sufficient to support me.'
True love is always humble. Among the entries in the Queen's Journals are many like this: 'How I will strive to make Albert feel as little as possible the great sacrifice he has made! I told him it was a great sacrifice on his part, but he would not allow it.' After they had spent a month together, the prince returned to Germany. The following extract occurs in a letter from Prince Albert to the Duchess of Kent: 'What you say about my poor little bride, sitting all alone in her room, silent and sad, has touched me to the heart. Oh that I might fly to her side to cheer her!'
On the 23d November, she made the important declaration regarding her approaching marriage to the privy-councillors, eighty-three of whom assembled in Buckingham Palace to hear it. She wore upon her slender wrist a bracelet with the prince's portrait, 'which seemed,' she says, 'to give her courage.' The Queen afterwards described the scene: 'Precisely at two I went in. Lord Melbourne I saw kindly looking at me, with tears in his eyes, but he was not near me. I then read my short declaration. I felt that my hands shook, but I did not make one mistake. I felt most happy and thankful when it was over. Lord Lansdowne then rose, and in the name of the Privy-Council asked that this most gracious, most welcome communication might be printed. I then left the room, the whole thing not taking above three minutes.' The Queen had to make the same statement before parliament, when Sir Robert Peel replied. 'Her Majesty,' he said, 'has the singular good fortune to be able to gratify her private feelings while she performs her public duty, and to obtain the best guarantee for happiness by contracting an alliance founded on affection.' Hereupon arose a discussion both in and out of parliament as to the amount of the grant to Prince Albert, which was settled at L30,000 a year. But Prince Albert assured the Queen that this squabbling did not trouble him: 'All I have to say is, while I possess your love, they cannot make me unhappy.' Another source of trouble arose from the fact that several members of the royal family thought it an indignity that they should give precedence to a German prince.
Prince Albert was born at Schloss Rosenau, near Coburg, August 26, 1819, the younger son of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, by his first marriage with Louisa, daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. After a careful domestic education, the prince, along with his elder brother, studied at Brussels and Bonn (1836-38), where, in addition to the sciences connected with state-craft, he devoted himself with ardour to natural history and chemistry, and displayed great taste for the fine arts, especially painting and music. Gifted with a handsome figure, he attained expertness in all knightly exercises; whilst by Baron Stockmar, his Mentor, he was imbued with a real interest in European politics.
King Leopold wrote truly of him: 'If I am not very much mistaken, he possesses all the qualities required to fit him for the position which he will occupy in England. His understanding is sound, his apprehension is clear and rapid, and his heart in the right place. He has great powers of observation, and possesses singular prudence, without anything about him that can be called cold or morose.' The two met first in 1836, and fell in love, as we have seen, like ordinary mortals, though the marriage had long been projected by King Leopold and Baron Stockmar.
Marriage—Delicacy of the Prince's Position—Family Habits—Birth of Princess Royal—Queen's Views of Religious Training—Osborne and Balmoral—Bloomfield's Reminicences—Death of the Duke of Wellington.
Nowhere does the genuine unselfishness and sweet womanliness of the Queen show more than in her record of those days. She did not, like too many brides, think of herself as the only or even the principal person to be considered. She did not grudge that her bridegroom's heart should feel the strength of former ties. 'The sacrifice,' in her eyes, was all on his side, though he would not admit that. He had to leave his brother, his home, his dear native land. He on his side could ask, 'What am I, that such happiness should he mine? for excess of happiness it is for me to know that I am so dear to you.' But her one thought was, 'God grant that I may be the happy person—the most happy person, to make this dearest, blessed being happy and contented.' 'Albert has completely won my heart,' she had written to Baron Stockmar.... 'I feel certain he will make me very happy. I wish I could say I felt as certain of my making him happy, but I shall do my best.'
The marriage itself took place on 10th February 1840 in the Chapel Royal, St James's Palace. It was a cold cheerless morning, but the sun burst forth just as the Queen entered the chapel. As a grand and beautiful pageant, it was second only to the Coronation. The Queen was enthusiastically cheered as she drove between Buckingham Palace and St James's. She is described as looking pale and anxious, but lovely. Her dress was of rich white satin, trimmed with orange blossoms; a wreath of orange blossoms encircled her head, and over it a veil of rich Honiton lace, which fell over her face. Her jewels were the collar of the Order of the Garter, and a diamond necklace and ear-rings. She had twelve bridesmaids, and the ceremony was performed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishop of London.
Her Majesty bore herself from first to last with quietness and confidence, and went through the service with due earnestness and solemnity.
The wedding breakfast was at Buckingham Palace. The wedding-cake was no less than three hundred pounds in weight, fourteen inches in depth, and three yards in circumference. The young couple proceeded to Windsor, where they were received by an enthusiastic throng of Eton boys, in white gloves and white favours.
One of the ladies-in-waiting wrote to her family that 'the Queen's look and manner were very pleasing: her eyes much swollen with tears, but great happiness in her countenance: and her look of confidence and comfort at the prince when they walked away as man and wife, was very pleasing to see.' And this sympathetic observer adds: 'Such a new thing for her to dare to be unguarded with anybody; and with her frank and fearless nature, the restraints she has hitherto been under, from one reason or another, with everybody, must have been most painful.'
The day after the marriage the Queen wrote to Baron Stockmar: 'There cannot exist a purer, dearer, nobler being in the world than the prince;' and she never had cause to take these words back. The blessing of loving and being loved was certainly given to Queen Victoria.
The royal pair spent three days of honeymoon at Windsor, and then Her Majesty had to return to London, to hold court, and to receive addresses of congratulation on her marriage; indeed, she was nearly 'addressed to death.' The Queen and Prince Albert went everywhere together; to church, to reviews, to races, theatres, and drawing-rooms; and everywhere the people were charmed with their beauty and happiness.
One of the trials of royalty is that they are the observed of all observers, and from the first Prince Albert understood the extreme delicacy of his position. How well he met the difficulty is told by General Gray (Early Years):
'From the moment of his establishment in the English palace as the husband of the Queen, his first object was to maintain, and, if possible, even raise the character of the court. With this view he knew that it was not enough that his own conduct should be in truth free from reproach; no shadow of a shade of suspicion should by possibility attach to it. He knew that, in his position, every action would be scanned—not always, possibly, in a friendly spirit; that his goings out and his comings in would be watched; and that in every society, however little disposed to be censorious, there would always be found some prone, where an opening afforded, to exaggerate and even invent stories against him, and to put an uncharitable construction on the most innocent acts. He therefore, from the first, laid down strict, not to say severe rules for his guidance. He imposed a degree of restraint and self-denial upon his own movements which could not but have been irksome, had he not been sustained by a sense of the advantage which the throne would derive from it.
'He denied himself the pleasure—which, to one so fond as he was of personally watching and inspecting every improvement that was in progress, would have been very great—of walking at will about the town. Wherever he went, whether in a carriage or on horseback, he was accompanied by his equerry. He paid no visits in general society. His visits were to the studio of the artist, to museums of art or science, to institutions for good and benevolent purposes. Wherever a visit from him, or his presence, could tend to advance the real good of the people, there his horses might be seen waiting; never at the door of mere fashion. Scandal itself could take no liberty with his name. He loved to ride through all the districts of London where building and improvements were in progress, more especially when they were such as would conduce to the health or recreation of the working classes; and few, if any, took such interest as he did in all that was being done, at any distance east, west, north, or south of the great city—from Victoria Park to Battersea—from the Regent's Park to the Crystal Palace, and far beyond. "He would frequently return," the Queen says, "to luncheon at a great pace, and would always come through the Queen's dressing-room, telling where he had been—what new buildings he had seen—what studios he had visited." Riding, for riding's sake, he disliked. "It bores me so," he said. It was for real service that Prince Albert devoted his life; and for this end he gave himself to the very diligent study of the English Constitution. Never obtrusive, he yet did the work, kept the wheels moving; but in the background, sinking his individuality in that of the Queen, and leaving her all the honour.'
A hard-working man himself, the prince and also the Queen were in sympathy with the working-classes, and erected improved dwellings upon the estates of Osborne and Balmoral. The prince was also in favour of working-men's clubs and coffee palaces. It was remarked that whether he spoke to a painter, sculptor, architect, man of science, or ordinary tradesman, each of them was apt to think that his speciality was their own calling, owing to his understanding and knowledge of it. He rose at seven A.M., summer and winter, dressed, and went to his sitting-room, where in winter a fire was burning, and a green lamp was lit. He read and answered letters here, and prepared for Her Majesty drafts of replies to ministers and other matters. After breakfast, he would read such articles in the papers or reviews as seemed to his thoughtful mind to be good or important. At ten he went out with the Queen.
So began the happy years of peaceful married life. The prince liked early hours and country pleasures, and the Queen, like a loyal wife, not merely consented to his tastes, but made them absolutely her own. Before she had been married a year, she made the naive pretty confession that 'formerly I was too happy to go to London and wretched to leave it, and now, since the blessed hour of my marriage, and still more since the summer, I dislike and am unhappy to leave the country, and would be content and happy never to go to town;' adding ingenuously, 'The solid pleasures of a peaceful, quiet, yet merry life in the country, with my inestimable husband and friend, my all in all, are far more durable than the amusements of London, though we don't despise or dislike them sometimes.'
They took breakfast at nine; then they went through details of routine business, and sketched or played till luncheon, after which the Queen had a daily interview with Lord Melbourne (prime-minister till the next year). Then they drove, walked, or rode, dined at eight o'clock, and had pleasant social circles afterwards, which were broken up before midnight. Both were fond of art and music. Indeed the Prince-Consort gave a powerful impulse to that study of classical music which has since become so universal. Mendelssohn himself praised the Queen's singing, though without flattering blindness to its faults and shortcomings. And the brightness of life was all the brighter because it flowed over a substratum of seriousness and solemnity. The first time that the Queen and her husband partook of holy communion together, they spent the preceding evening—the vigil of Easter—in retirement, occupied with good German books, and soothed and elevated by Mozart's music, for the prince was master of the organ, and the Queen of the piano. The prince made his maiden speech at a meeting for the abolition of the slave-trade, speaking in a low tone, and with 'the prettiest foreign accent.' While she was driving up Constitution Hill, an attempt was made upon the Queen's life by a weak-minded youth, but luckily neither of the pistol shots took effect. There have been at least seven other happily futile attempts on the life of the Queen.
The Princess Royal was born on the 21st November 1840; and the royal mother, fondly tended by her husband, made a speedy and happy recovery. Prince Albert's care for the Queen in these circumstances was like that of a mother.
The Prince of Wales was born on November 9, 1841, and after that the little family circle rapidly increased, and with it the parents' sense of responsibility. 'A man's education begins the first day of his life,' said the prince's tried friend, the wise Baron Stockmar, and the Queen felt it 'a hard case' that the pressure of public business prevented her from being always with her little ones when they said their prayers. She has given us her views on religious training:
'I am quite clear that children should be taught to have great reverence for God and for religion, but that they should have the feeling of devotion and love which our Heavenly Father encourages His earthly children to have for Him, and not one of fear and trembling; and that the thoughts of death and an after-life should not be presented in an alarming and forbidding view; and that they should be made to know, as yet, no difference of creeds.'
Court gossips considered the Queen 'to be very fond of her children, but severe in her manner, and a strict disciplinarian in her family.' A nurse in the royal household informed Baron Bunsen that 'the children were kept very plain indeed: it was quite poor living—only a bit of roast meat, and perhaps a plain pudding.' Other servants have reported that the Queen would have made 'an admirable poor man's wife.' We used to hear how the young princesses had to smooth out and roll up their bonnet strings. By these trifling side-lights we discern a vigorous, wholesome discipline, striving to counteract the enervating influences of rank and power, and their attendant flattery and self-indulgence. 'One of the main principles observed in the education of the royal children was this—that though they received the best training of body and mind to fit them for the high position they would eventually have to fill, they should in no wise come in contact with the actual court life. The children were scarcely known to the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, as they only now and then made their appearance for a moment after dinner at dessert, or accompanied their parents out driving. The care of them was exclusively intrusted to persons who possessed the Queen and Prince-Consort's entire confidence, and with whom they could at all times communicate direct.' An artist employed to decorate the pavilion in the garden of Buckingham Palace, wrote of Her Majesty and the prince: 'In many things they are an example to the age. They have breakfasted, heard morning prayers with the household in the private chapel, and are out some distance from the palace talking to us in the summer-house before half-past nine o'clock—sometimes earlier. After the public duties of the day and before their dinner, they come out again evidently delighted to get away from the bustle of the world to enjoy each other's society in the solitude of the garden.'
The seaside villa of Osborne, built at the Queen's own charges at a cost of L200,000, and the remote castle of Balmoral, the creation of the Prince-Consort, were the favourite homes of the royal household: the creations as it were, of their domestic love, and inwrought with their own personalities, as statelier Windsor could never be. In the Swiss cottage at Osborne, with its museum, kitchen, storeroom, and little gardens, the young people learned to do household work and understand the management of a small establishment. The parents were invited as guests, to enjoy the dishes which the princesses had prepared with their own hands, and there each child was free to follow the bent of its own industrial inclination. In the Highlands, again, among the reserved and dignified Scottish peasantry, the children were encouraged to visit freely, to make themselves acquainted with the wants and feelings of the poor, and to regard them with an understanding sympathy and affection.
Sir Robert Peel, who succeeded Lord Melbourne in 1841 as prime-minister, had the following advice from his predecessor as to his conduct in office, which shows the Queen's good sense: 'Whenever he does anything, or has anything to propose, let him explain to her clearly his reasons. The Queen is not conceited; she is aware there are many things she cannot understand, and she likes to have them explained to her elementarily, not at length and in detail, but shortly and clearly.
One of the minor posts in the new ministry was filled by a young member of parliament, who was destined in after-years to become as celebrated as Peel himself. This was the distinguished scholar and orator, William Ewart Gladstone, the son of Sir John Gladstone, a Scotch merchant who had settled in Liverpool. He was already a power in parliament, and every year after this saw him rising into greater prominence.
In the new parliament, too, though not in the ministry, was another member, who afterwards rose to high office, and became very famous. This was Benjamin Disraeli, son of Disraeli the elder, a distinguished literary man. Although very clever, Benjamin Disraeli had not as yet obtained any influence in the House. His first speech, indeed, had been received with much laughter; but, as he himself had then predicted, a time came at last when the House did listen to him.
Lady Bloomfield, while maid-of-honour to the Queen, was much in the society of royalty. The following are extracts from her Reminiscences, giving a sketch of the life at Windsor in 1843: 'I went to the Queen's rooms yesterday, and saw her before we began to sing. She was so thoroughly kind and gracious. The music went off very well. Costa [Sir Michael] accompanied, and I was pleased by the Queen's telling me, when I asked her whether I had not better practise the things a little more, "that was not necessary, as I knew them perfectly." She also said, "If it was convenient to me, I was to go down to her room any evening to try the masses." Just as if anything she desired could be inconvenient. We had a pleasant interview with the royal children in Lady Lyttelton's room yesterday, and almost a romp with the little Princess Royal and the Prince of Wales. They had got a round ivory counter, which I spun for them, and they went into such fits of laughter, it did my heart good to hear them. The Princess Royal is wonderfully quick and clever. She is always in the Queen's rooms when we play or sing, and she seems especially fond of music, and stands listening most attentively, without moving.
'Dec. 18.—We walked with the Queen and prince yesterday to the Home Farm, saw the turkeys crammed, looked at the pigs, and then went to see the new aviary, where there is a beautiful collection of pigeons, fowls, &c., of rare kinds. The pigeons are so tame that they will perch upon Prince Albert's hat and the Queen's shoulders. It was funny seeing the royal pair amusing themselves with farming.
'Dec. l9.—My waiting is nearly over, and though I shall be delighted to get home, I always regret leaving my dear kind mistress, particularly when I have been a good deal with Her Majesty, as I have been this waiting. We sang again last night, and after Costa went away, I sorted a quantity of music for the Queen; and then Prince Albert said he had composed a German ballad, which he thought would suit my voice, and he wished me to sing it. So his royal highness accompanied me, and I sang it at sight, which rather alarmed me; but I got through it, and it is very pretty. The Duchess of Kent has promised to have it copied for me.'
In 1847 Baron Stockmar wrote: 'The Queen improves greatly. She makes daily advances in discernment and experience; the candour, the love of truth, the fairness, the considerateness with which she judges men and things are truly delightful, and the ingenuous self-knowledge with which she speaks about herself is simply charming.' It was not perhaps surprising that the Queen's views and the prince's views on public questions coincided.
When Lord Shaftesbury, then Lord Ashley, delivered a very able speech on the Mine and Colliery Bill, the Prince-Consort wrote, 'I have carefully perused your speech, which you were so good as to send me, and I have been highly gratified by your efforts, as well as horror-stricken by the statements which you have brought before the country. I know you do not wish for praise, and I therefore withhold it; but God's best blessing will rest with you and support you in your arduous but glorious task.'
In 1848, a year of revolution, the Prince-Consort consulted Lord Shaftesbury as to his attitude towards the working-classes. The interview took place at Osborne, and the Queen and Prince-Consort were greatly alarmed by the revolution in France and the exile of Louis-Philippe. 'They feared the continuance of commotions in England, and were desirous to know how they could exercise their influence to soothe the people. The Queen, on my arrival, expressed this sentiment very warmly, and added at dinner, "The prince will talk to you to-morrow. We have sent for you to have your opinion on what we should do in view of the state of affairs to show our interest in the working-classes, and you are the only man who can advise us in the matter."'
On the following morning, during a long walk of an hour and a half in the garden, Lord Shaftesbury counselled the prince to put himself at the head of all social movements in art and science, and especially of those movements as they bore upon the poor, and thus would he show the interest felt by royalty in the happiness of the kingdom. The prince did so with marked success; and after he had presided at a Labourers' Friend Society, a noted Socialist remarked, 'If the prince goes on like this, why, he'll upset our apple-cart.'
The poet-laureate is an official attached to the household of royalty, and it was long his duty to write an ode on the king's birthday. Towards the end of the reign of George III. this was dropped. On the death of the poet Wordsworth on 23d April 1850, the next poet-laureate was Alfred Tennyson. The Queen, it is said, had picked up one of his earlier volumes, and had been charmed with his 'Miller's Daughter;' her procuring a copy of the volume for the Princess Alice gave a great impetus to his popularity. No poet has ever written more truly and finely about royalty, as witness the dedication to the Idylls of the King, which enshrines the memory of the Prince-Consort; or the beautiful dedication to the Queen, dated March 1851, which closes thus:
Her court was pure, her life serene; God gave her peace; her land reposed; A thousand claims to reverence closed In her as Mother, Wife, and Queen.
And statesmen at her council met Who knew the seasons, when to take Occasion by the hand, and make The bounds of freedom wider yet.
'It is perhaps natural,' says a contemporary writer, 'for the laureates to be loyal, but there is no doubt that the sincere tributes which he paid to the Queen and to her consort contributed materially to the steadying of the foundation of the British throne. He almost alone among the poets gave expression to the inarticulate loyalty of the ordinary Englishman, and he did it without being either servile or sycophantic. If it were only for his dedication to the Queen and Prince-Consort, he would have repaid a thousand times over the value of all the bottles of sherry and the annual stipends the poet-laureates have received since the days of Ben Jonson.'
Mrs Gilchrist writes: 'Tennyson likes and admires the Queen personally much, enjoys conversation with her. Mrs Tennyson generally goes too, and says the Queen's manner towards him is childlike and charming, and they both give their opinions freely, even when these differ from the Queen's, which she takes with perfect humour, and is very animated herself.' The Prince-Consort, to whom Tennyson dedicated his Idylls of the King,
Since he held them dear, Perchance as finding there unconsciously Some image of himself,
had his copy inscribed with the poet's autograph.
One most characteristic feature of the Queen's reign was the inauguration, in 1851, of that system of International Exhibitions which has infused a new and larger spirit into commerce, and whose influence as yet only begins to work. The idea came from the Prince-Consort, and was carried out by his unfailing industry, energy, and perseverance. Sir Joseph Paxton's genius raised a palace of crystal in Hyde Park, inclosing within it some of the magnificent trees, few, if any, of which were destroyed by the undertaking. As Thackeray wrote:
A blazing arch of lucid glass Leaps like a fountain from the grass To meet the sun.
The Queen took the greatest interest in the work, which she felt was her husband's. She visited it almost daily, entering into interested conversation with the manufacturers who had brought their wares for display. The building was opened on the 1st of May, which the Queen names in her diary as 'a day which makes my heart swell with pride and glory and thankfulness.' She dwells lovingly on 'the tremendous cheers, the joy expressed in every face,' adding, 'We feel happy—so full of thankfulness. God is indeed our kind and merciful Father.'
After the building had served its purpose, the exhibition building was removed to Sydenham, a London suburb then almost in the country, and opened by the Queen, 10th June 1854. Under its new name of the 'Crystal Palace' it has since been the resort of millions of pleasure-seekers. It was fondly hoped by its promoters that the Great Exhibition would knit the nations together in friendship, and 'inaugurate a long reign of peace.' Yet the year 1851 was not out before Louis Napoleon overthrew the new French Republic, of which he had been elected president, by a coup d'etat, or 'stroke of policy,' as cruel as it was cowardly. Lord Palmerston's approval of this outrage, without the knowledge of either the Queen or Lord John Russell, procured him his dismissal from the cabinet. Two months later, however, Palmerston 'gave Russell his tit-for-tat,' defeating him over a Militia Bill.
In the year 1852, amid the anxieties consequent on the sudden assumption of imperial power by Louis Napoleon, the Queen writes thus to her uncle, King Leopold: 'I grow daily to dislike politics and business more and more. We women are not made for governing, and if we are good women, we must dislike these masculine occupations.'
It was about this time that unjust reports were circulated concerning the political influence of Prince Albert, who was represented as 'inimical to the progress of liberty throughout the world, and the friend of reactionary movements and absolute government.' When parliament was opened, the prince was completely vindicated, and his past services to the country, as the bosom counsellor of the sovereign, were made clear. The Queen naturally felt the pain of these calumnies more deeply than did the prince himself, but on the anniversary of her wedding day she could write: 'Trials we must have; but what are they if we are together?'
In 1852 the great Duke of Wellington died, full of years and honours. He passed quietly away in his sleep, in his simple camp-bed in the castle of Walmer. Though he had been opposed to the Reform Bill and many other popular measures, he was still loved and respected by the nation for his high sense of duty and his many sterling qualities. The hero of Waterloo was laid beside the hero of Trafalgar in St Paul's Cathedral. He was lowered into his grave by some of his old comrades-in-arms, who had fought and conquered under him; and from the Queen to the humblest of her subjects, it was felt on that day 'that a great man was dead.'
Of his death the Queen wrote: 'What a loss! We cannot think of this country without "the Duke," our immortal hero! In him centred almost every earthly honour a subject could possess.... With what singleness of purpose, what straightforwardness, what courage, were all the motives of his actions guided! The crown never possessed—and I fear never will—so devoted, loyal, and faithful a subject, so staunch a supporter.'
An eccentric miser, J. C. Neild, who died 30th August 1852, left L250,000 to Her Majesty. This man had pinched and starved himself for thirty years in order to accumulate this sum. The Queen satisfied herself that he had no relations living, before accepting the money.
Chief Public Events, 1837-49—Rebellion in Canada—Opium War with China—Wars in North-west India—Penny Postage—Repeal of the Corn-laws—Potato Famine—Free Trade—Chartism.
The Queen had been only a few months on the throne when tidings arrived of a rebellion in Canada. The colonists had long been dissatisfied with the way in which the government was conducted by the mother-country. In the year 1840 Upper and Lower Canada were united into one province, and though the union was not at first a success, the colonists were granted the power of managing their own affairs; and soon came to devote their efforts to developing the resources of the country, and ceased to agitate for complete independence. The principle of union then adopted has since been extended to most of the other North American colonies; and at the present time the Dominion of Canada stretches across the whole breadth of the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Another contest which marked the early years of the new reign was the inglorious war with China (1839-42). The Chinese are great consumers of opium, a hurtful drug, which produces a sort of dreamy stupor or intoxication. The opium poppy is extensively grown in India, and every year large quantities were exported to China. The government of the latter country, professedly anxious to preserve its subjects from the baneful influence of this drug, entirely prohibited the trade in it. Several cargoes of opium belonging to British merchants were seized and destroyed, and the trading ports closed against our vessels. Our government resented this conduct as an interference with the freedom of commerce, and demanded compensation and the keeping open of the ports.
As the Chinese refused to submit to the demands of those whom they considered barbarous foreigners, a British armament was sent to enforce our terms. The Celestials fought bravely enough, but British discipline had all its own way. Neither the antiquated junks nor the flimsily constructed forts of the enemy were any match for our men-of-war. Several ports had been bombarded and Nankin threatened, when the Chinese yielded. They were compelled to pay nearly six millions sterling towards the expenses of the war; to give up to us the island of Hong-Kong; and to throw open Canton, Shanghai, and three other ports to our commerce.
During this period also the British took a prominent part in upholding the Sultan of Turkey against his revolted vassal, Mehemet Ali, the Pasha of Egypt. The latter, a very able prince, had overrun Syria; and there seemed every likelihood that he would shortly establish his independence, and add besides a considerable portion of Turkish territory to his dominions. Lord Palmerston, the British foreign minister, however, brought about an alliance with Austria and the eastern powers of Europe to maintain the integrity of the Turkish empire. The Egyptians were driven out of Syria, and the supremacy of the Turks restored. The energetic action of Lord Palmerston at this crisis brought him much popularity; and from this time until his death, twenty-five years later, the nation almost absolutely trusted him in all foreign affairs.
So necessary at the present day has the penny post become to all classes of the people, that we can scarcely realise how our forefathers managed to live without it. Yet even so recently as the accession of Victoria, the nation was not in the enjoyment of this great blessing. So seldom in those days did a letter reach the abode of a working-man, that when the postman did make his approach, he was thought to be the bearer of news of great importance.
The adoption of the penny postage scheme was the only great measure of Lord Melbourne's ministry during the early years of the new reign. The credit of it, however, did not in reality belong to the ministers. The measure was forced upon them by the pressure of public opinion, which had been enlightened by Rowland Hill's pamphlet upon the question. Hill was the son of a Birmingham schoolmaster; and thus, like so many other benefactors of the human race, was of comparatively humble origin. He had thoroughly studied the question of postal reform, and his pamphlet, which was first published in 1837, had a great effect upon the public mind. Previous to this, indeed, several other persons had advocated the reform of the post-office system, and notably Mr Wallace, member of parliament for Greenock.
Before 1839, the rates of postage had been very heavy, and varied according to the distance. From one part of London, or any other large town, to another, the rate was 2d.; from London to Brighton, 8d.; to Edinburgh, 1s. 1d.; and to Belfast, 1s. 4d. Some of these charges were almost equal to the daily wages of a labouring-man.
There was considerable opposition to the new measure, especially among the officials of the postal department. Many prominent men, too, both in and out of parliament, were afraid it would never pay. The clever and witty Sydney Smith spoke slightingly of it as the 'nonsensical penny postage scheme.' In spite of the objections urged against it, however, it was adopted by parliament in the later part of 1839, and brought into actual operation in January 1840; and the example set by this country has since been followed by all civilised states. Every letter was now to be prepaid by affixing the penny stamp. In this way a letter not exceeding half-an-ounce in weight could be carried to any part of the United Kingdom. In 1871 the rate was reduced to a penny for one ounce. The success of this great measure is best shown by the increase of letters delivered in Great Britain and Ireland: from 85 millions in 1839, the number had more than doubled by 1892. Thus, at the present time, the income from stamps forms no inconsiderable item of the revenue; while it need scarcely be said that the advantages of the penny post, both to business men and the public generally, cannot be over-estimated.
Between the years 1839 and 1849 the British were engaged in a series of military enterprises in the north-west of India, which greatly tried the bravery of our soldiers, and were attended even with serious disaster. They resulted, however, in the conquest of the territories in the basin of the Indus, and in establishing the British sway in India more firmly than ever.