Home  -  Tutor Videos / Shows   -  Queen Victoria   -  Queen Elizabeth   -  Queen Mary   -  Queen Adelaide   -  Catherine of Aragon   -  King Henry the VIII   -  Windsor Castle

Most Viewed

The First Christening The Season Of 1841

Youth

Comments Upon The Young Queen By A Contemporaneous Writer In Blackwood

The Queen's First Visit To Scotland

The Queen's First Visit To Scotland

Childhood

Childhood

The Proroguing Of Parliament The Visit To Guildhall And The Coronation

Balmoral

Reign Of Queen Victoria



Least Viewed

The Condemnation Of The English Duel

The Queen's Sympathy During The Illness Of President Garfield

Marriage Of The Princess Royal

Distribution Of Victoria Crosses By The Queen

Prince Albert

Failing Health Of Prince Albert

The Emperor And Empress Of France Visit Windsor

Fresh Attempts Against The Queen's Life And The Death Of The Duc D'orleans

Sketch Of The Princess Charlotte

Allies From Afar And Death And Absence






Antecedents








I

On November 6, 1817, died the Princess Charlotte, only child of the
Prince Regent, and heir to the crown of England. Her short life had
hardly been a happy one. By nature impulsive, capricious, and
vehement, she had always longed for liberty; and she had never
possessed it. She had been brought up among violent family quarrels,
had been early separated from her disreputable and eccentric mother,
and handed over to the care of her disreputable and selfish father.
When she was seventeen, he decided to marry her off to the Prince of
Orange; she, at first, acquiesced; but, suddenly falling in love with
Prince Augustus of Prussia, she determined to break off the engagement.
This was not her first love affair, for she had previously carried on a
clandestine correspondence with a Captain Hess. Prince Augustus was
already married, morganatically, but she did not know it, and he did
not tell her. While she was spinning out the negotiations with the
Prince of Orange, the allied sovereigns--it was June, 1814--arrived in
London to celebrate their victory. Among them, in the suite of the
Emperor of Russia, was the young and handsome Prince Leopold of
Saxe-Coburg. He made several attempts to attract the notice of the
Princess, but she, with her heart elsewhere, paid very little
attention. Next month the Prince Regent, discovering that his daughter
was having secret meetings with Prince Augustus, suddenly appeared upon
the scene and, after dismissing her household, sentenced her to a
strict seclusion in Windsor Park. 'God Almighty grant me patience!'
she exclaimed, falling on her knees in an agony of agitation: then she
jumped up, ran down the backstairs and out into the street, hailed a
passing cab, and drove to her mother's house in Bayswater. She was
discovered, pursued, and at length, yielding to the persuasions of her
uncles, the Dukes of York and Sussex, of Brougham, and of the Bishop of
Salisbury, she returned to Carlton House at two o'clock in the morning.
She was immured at Windsor, but no more was heard of the Prince of
Orange. Prince Augustus, too, disappeared. The way was at last open
to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg.

This Prince was clever enough to get round the Regent, to impress the
Ministers, and to make friends with another of the Princess's uncles,
the Duke of Kent. Through the Duke he was able to communicate
privately with the Princess, who now declared that he was necessary to
her happiness. When, after Waterloo, he was in Paris, the Duke's
aide-de-camp carried letters backwards and forwards across the Channel.
In January 1816 he was invited to England, and in May the marriage took
place.



The character of Prince Leopold contrasted strangely with that of his
wife. The younger son of a German princeling, he was at this time
twenty-six years of age; he had served with distinction in the war
against Napoleon; he had shown considerable diplomatic skill at the
Congress of Vienna; and he was now to try his hand at the task of
taming a tumultuous Princess. Cold and formal in manner, collected in
speech, careful in action, he soon dominated the wild, impetuous,
generous creature by his side. There was much in her, he found, of
which he could not approve. She quizzed, she stamped, she roared with
laughter; she had very little of that self-command which is especially
required of princes; her manners were abominable. Of the latter he was
a good judge, having moved, as he himself explained to his niece many
years later, in the best society of Europe, being in fact 'what is
called in French de la fleur des pois.' There was continual
friction, but every scene ended in the same way. Standing before him
like a rebellious boy in petticoats, her body pushed forward, her hands
behind her back, with flaming cheeks and sparkling eyes, she would
declare at last that she was ready to do whatever he wanted. 'If you
wish it, I will do it,' she would say. 'I want nothing for myself,' he
invariably answered; 'when I press something on you, it is from a
conviction that it is for your interest and for your good.'

Among the members of the household at Claremont, near Esher, where the
royal pair were established, was a young German physician, Christian
Friedrich Stockmar. He was the son of a minor magistrate in
Coburg, and, after taking part as a medical officer in the war, he had
settled down as a doctor in his native town. Here he had met Prince
Leopold, who had been struck by his ability, and, on his marriage,
brought him to England as his personal physician. A curious fate
awaited this young man; many were the gifts which the future held in
store for him--many and various--influence, power, mystery,
unhappiness, a broken heart. At Claremont his position was a very
humble one; but the Princess took a fancy to him, called him 'Stocky,'
and romped with him along the corridors. Dyspeptic by constitution,
melancholic by temperament, he could yet be lively on occasion, and was
known as a wit in Coburg. He was virtuous, too, and observed the royal
menage with approbation. 'My master,' he wrote in his diary, 'is the
best of all husbands in all the five quarters of the globe; and his
wife bears him an amount of love, the greatness of which can only be
compared with the English national debt.' Before long he gave proof of
another quality--a quality which was to colour the whole of his
life--cautious sagacity. When, in the spring of 1817, it was known
that the Princess was expecting a child, the post of one of her
physicians-in-ordinary was offered to him, and he had the good sense to
refuse it. He perceived that his colleagues would be jealous of him,
that his advice would probably not be taken, but that, if anything were
to go wrong, it would be certainly the foreign doctor who would be
blamed. Very soon, indeed, he came to the opinion that the low diet
and constant bleedings, to which the unfortunate Princess was
subjected, were an error; he drew the Prince aside, and begged him to
communicate this opinion to the English doctors; but it was useless.
The fashionable lowering treatment was continued for months. On
November 5, at nine o'clock in the evening, after a labour of over
fifty hours, the Princess was delivered of a dead boy. At midnight her
exhausted strength gave way. Then, at last, Stockmar consented to see
her; he went in, and found her obviously dying, while the doctors were
plying her with wine. She seized his hand and pressed it. 'They have
made me tipsy,' she said. After a little he left her, and was already
in the next room when he heard her call out in her loud voice 'Stocky!
Stocky!' As he ran back the death-rattle was in her throat. She
tossed herself violently from side to side; then suddenly drew up her
legs, and it was over.

The Prince, after hours of watching, had left the room for a few
moments' rest; and Stockmar had now to tell him that his wife was dead.
At first he could not be made to realise what had happened. On their
way to her room he sank down on a chair while Stockmar knelt beside
him: it was all a dream; it was impossible. At last, by the bed, he,
too, knelt down and kissed the cold hands. Then rising and exclaiming,
'Now I am quite desolate. Promise me never to leave me,' he threw
himself into Stockmar's arms.


II

The tragedy at Claremont was of a most upsetting kind. The royal
kaleidoscope had suddenly shifted, and nobody could tell how the new
pattern would arrange itself. The succession to the throne, which had
seemed so satisfactorily settled, now became a matter of urgent doubt.



George III was still living, an aged lunatic, at Windsor, completely
impervious to the impressions of the outer world. Of his seven sons,
the youngest was of more than middle age, and none had legitimate
offspring. The outlook, therefore, was ambiguous. It seemed highly
improbable that the Prince Regent, who had lately been obliged to
abandon his stays, and presented a preposterous figure of debauched
obesity, could ever again, even on the supposition that he divorced
his wife and re-married, become the father of a family. Besides the
Duke of Kent, who must be noticed separately, the other brothers, in
order of seniority, were the Dukes of York, Clarence, Cumberland,
Sussex, and Cambridge; their situations and prospects require a brief
description. The Duke of York, whose escapades in times past with Mrs.
Clarke and the army had brought him into trouble, now divided his life
between London and a large, extravagantly ordered and extremely
uncomfortable country house where he occupied himself with racing,
whist, and improper stories. He was remarkable among the princes for
one reason: he was the only one of them--so we are informed by a highly
competent observer--who had the feelings of a gentleman. He had been
long married to the Princess Royal of Prussia, a lady who rarely went
to bed and was perpetually surrounded by vast numbers of dogs, parrots,
and monkeys. They had no children. The Duke of Clarence had lived
for many years in complete obscurity with Mrs. Jordan, the actress, in
Bushey Park. By her he had had a large family of sons and daughters,
and had appeared, in effect, to be married to her, when he suddenly
separated from her and offered to marry Miss Wykeham, a crazy woman of
large fortune, who, however, would have nothing to say to him. Shortly
afterwards Mrs. Jordan died in distressed circumstances in Paris.
The Duke of Cumberland was probably the most unpopular man in England.
Hideously ugly, with a distorted eye, he was bad-tempered and
vindictive in private, a violent reactionary in politics, and was
subsequently suspected of murdering his valet and of having carried on
an amorous intrigue of an extremely scandalous kind. He had lately
married a German Princess, but there were as yet no children by the
marriage. The Duke of Sussex had mildly literary tastes and collected
books. He had married Lady Augusta Murray, by whom he had two
children, but the marriage, under the Royal Marriages Act, was declared
void. On Lady Augusta's death, he married Lady Cecilia Buggin; she
changed her name to Underwood; but this marriage also was void. Of the
Duke of Cambridge, the youngest of the brothers, not very much was
known. He lived in Hanover, wore a blonde wig, chattered and fidgeted
a great deal, and was unmarried.

Besides his seven sons, George III had five surviving daughters. Of
these, two--the Queen of Wuertemberg and the Duchess of Gloucester--were
married and childless. The three unmarried princesses--Augusta,
Elizabeth, and Sophia--were all over forty.




III

The fourth son of George III was Edward, Duke of Kent. He was now
fifty years of age--a tall, stout, vigorous man, highly-coloured, with
bushy eyebrows, a bald top to his head, and what hair he had carefully
dyed a glossy black. His dress was extremely neat, and in his whole
appearance there was a rigidity which did not belie his character. He
had spent his early life in the army--at Gibraltar, in Canada, in the
West Indies--and, under the influence of military training, had become
at first a disciplinarian and at last a martinet. In 1802, having been
sent to Gibraltar to restore order in a mutinous garrison, he was
recalled for undue severity, and his active career had come to an end.
Since then he had spent his life regulating his domestic arrangements
with great exactitude, busying himself with the affairs of his numerous
dependents, designing clocks, and struggling to restore order to his
finances, for, in spite of his being, as someone said who knew him
well, 'regle comme du papier a musique,' and in spite of an income of
L24,000 a year, he was hopelessly in debt. He had quarrelled with most
of his brothers, particularly with the Prince Regent, and it was only
natural that he should have joined the political Opposition and become
a pillar of the Whigs.

What his political opinions may actually have been is open to doubt; it
has often been asserted that he was a Liberal, or even a Radical; and,
if we are to believe Robert Owen, he was a necessitarian Socialist.
His relations with Owen--the shrewd, gullible, high-minded,
wrong-headed, illustrious and preposterous father of Socialism and
Co-operation--were curious and characteristic. He talked of
visiting the Mills at New Lanark; he did, in fact, preside at one of
Owen's public meetings; he corresponded with him on confidential terms,
and he even (so Owen assures us) returned, after his death, from 'the
sphere of spirits' to give encouragement to the Owenites on earth. 'In
an especial manner,' says Owen, 'I have to name the very anxious
feelings of the spirit of his Royal Highness the late Duke of Kent (who
early informed me there were no titles in the spiritual spheres into
which he had entered), to benefit, not a class, a sect, a party, or any
particular country, but the whole of the human race through futurity.'
'His whole spirit-proceeding with me has been most beautiful,' Owen
adds, 'making his own appointments; and never in one instance has this
spirit not been punctual to the minute he had named.' But Owen was of
a sanguine temperament. He also numbered among his proselytes
President Jefferson, Prince Metternich, and Napoleon; so that some
uncertainty must still linger over the Duke of Kent's views. But there
is no uncertainty about another circumstance: his Royal Highness
borrowed from Robert Owen, on various occasions, various sums of money
which were never repaid and amounted in all to several hundred
pounds.

After the death of the Princess Charlotte it was clearly important, for
more than one reason, that the Duke of Kent should marry. From the
point of view of the nation, the lack of heirs in the reigning family
seemed to make the step almost obligatory; it was also likely to be
highly expedient from the point of view of the Duke. To marry as a
public duty, for the sake of the royal succession, would surely
deserve some recognition from a grateful country. When the Duke of
York had married he had received a settlement of L25,000 a year. Why
should not the Duke of Kent look forward to an equal sum? But the
situation was not quite simple. There was the Duke of Clarence to be
considered; he was the elder brother, and, if he married, would clearly
have the prior claim. On the other hand, if the Duke of Kent married,
it was important to remember that he would be making a serious
sacrifice: a lady was involved.

The Duke, reflecting upon all these matters with careful attention,
happened, about a month after his niece's death, to visit Brussels, and
learnt that Mr. Creevey was staying in the town. Mr. Creevey was a
close friend of the leading Whigs and an inveterate gossip; and it
occurred to the Duke that there could be no better channel through
which to communicate his views upon the situation to political circles
at home. Apparently it did not occur to him that Mr. Creevey was
malicious and might keep a diary. He therefore sent for him on some
trivial pretext, and a remarkable conversation ensued.

After referring to the death of the Princess, to the improbability of
the Regent's seeking a divorce, to the childlessness of the Duke of
York, and to the possibility of the Duke of Clarence marrying, the Duke
adverted to his own position. 'Should the Duke of Clarence not marry,'
he said, 'the next prince in succession is myself, and although I trust
I shall be at all times ready to obey any call my country may make upon
me, God only knows the sacrifice it will be to make, whenever I shall
think it my duty to become a married man. It is now seven-and-twenty
years that Madame St. Laurent and I have lived together: we are of
the same age, and have been in all climates, and in all difficulties
together, and you may well imagine, Mr. Creevey, the pang it will
occasion me to part with her. I put it to your own feelings--in the
event of any separation between you and Mrs. Creevey.... As for Madame
St. Laurent herself, I protest I don't know what is to become of her if
a marriage is to be forced upon me; her feelings are already so
agitated upon the subject.' The Duke went on to describe how, one
morning, a day or two after the Princess Charlotte's death, a paragraph
had appeared in the Morning Chronicle, alluding to the possibility of
his marriage. He had received the newspaper at breakfast together with
his letters, and 'I did as is my constant practice, I threw the
newspaper across the table to Madame St. Laurent, and began to open and
read my letters. I had not done so but a very short time, when my
attention was called to an extraordinary noise and a strong convulsive
movement in Madame St. Laurent's throat. For a short time I
entertained serious apprehensions for her safety; and when, upon her
recovery, I enquired into the occasion of this attack, she pointed to
the article in the Morning Chronicle.'

The Duke then returned to the subject of the Duke of Clarence. 'My
brother the Duke of Clarence is the elder brother, and has certainly
the right to marry if he chooses, and I would not interfere with him on
any account. If he wishes to be king--to be married and have children,
poor man--God help him! let him do so. For myself--I am a man of no
ambition, and wish only to remain as I am.... Easter, you know, falls
very early this year--the 22nd of March. If the Duke of Clarence does
not take any step before that time, I must find some pretext to
reconcile Madame St. Laurent to my going to England for a short time.
When once there, it will be easy for me to consult with my friends as
to the proper steps to be taken. Should the Duke of Clarence do
nothing before that time as to marrying it will become my duty, no
doubt, to take some measures upon the subject myself.' Two names, the
Duke said, had been mentioned in this connection--those of the Princess
of Baden and the Princess of Saxe-Coburg. The latter, he thought,
would perhaps be the better of the two, from the circumstance of Prince
Leopold being so popular with the nation; but before any other steps
were taken, he hoped and expected to see justice done to Madame St.
Laurent. 'She is,' he explained, 'of very good family, and has never
been an actress, and I am the first and only person who ever lived with
her. Her disinterestedness, too, has been equal to her fidelity. When
she first came to me it was upon L100 a year. That sum was afterwards
raised to L400, and finally to L1000; but when my debts made it
necessary for me to sacrifice a great part of my income, Madame St.
Laurent insisted upon again returning to her income of L400 a year. If
Madame St. Laurent is to return to live amongst her friends, it must be
in such a state of independence as to command their respect. I shall
not require very much, but a certain number of servants and a carriage
are essentials.' As to his own settlement, the Duke observed that he
would expect the Duke of York's marriage to be considered the
precedent. 'That,' he said, 'was a marriage for the succession, and
L25,000 for income was settled, in addition to all his other income,
purely on that account. I shall be contented with the same
arrangement, without making any demands grounded on the difference
of the value of money in 1792 and at present. As for the payment of my
debts,' the Duke concluded, 'I don't call them great. The nation, on
the contrary, is greatly my debtor.' Here a clock struck, and seemed
to remind the Duke that he had an appointment; he rose, and Mr. Creevey
left him.

Who could keep such a communication secret? Certainly not Mr. Creevey.
He hurried off to tell the Duke of Wellington, who was very much
amused, and he wrote a long account of it to Lord Sefton, who received
the letter 'very apropos,' while a surgeon was sounding his bladder to
ascertain whether he had a stone. 'I never saw a fellow more
astonished than he was,' wrote Lord Sefton in his reply, 'at seeing me
laugh as soon as the operation was over. Nothing could be more
first-rate than the royal Edward's ingenuousness. One does not know
which to admire most--the delicacy of his attachment to Madame St.
Laurent, the refinement of his sentiments towards the Duke of Clarence,
or his own perfect disinterestedness in pecuniary matters.'

As it turned out, both the brothers decided to marry. The Duke of
Kent, selecting the Princess of Saxe-Coburg in preference to the
Princess of Baden, was united to her on May 29, 1818. On June 11, the
Duke of Clarence followed suit with a daughter of the Duke of
Saxe-Meiningen. But they were disappointed in their financial
expectations; for though the Government brought forward proposals to
increase their allowances, together with that of the Duke of
Cumberland, the motions were defeated in the House of Commons. At this
the Duke of Wellington was not surprised. 'By God!' he said, 'there is
a great deal to be said about that. They are the damnedest
millstones about the necks of any Government that can be imagined.
They have insulted--personally insulted--two-thirds of the gentlemen of
England, and how can it be wondered at that they take their revenge
upon them in the House of Commons? It is their only opportunity, and I
think, by God! they are quite right to use it.' Eventually,
however, Parliament increased the Duke of Kent's annuity by L6000.

The subsequent history of Madame St. Laurent has not transpired.


IV

The new Duchess of Kent, Victoria Mary Louisa, was a daughter of
Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and a sister of Prince Leopold.
The family was an ancient one, being a branch of the great House of
Wettin, which since the eleventh century had ruled over the March of
Meissen on the Elbe. In the fifteenth century the whole possessions of
the House had been divided between the Albertine and Ernestine
branches: from the former descended the electors and kings of Saxony;
the latter, ruling over Thuringia, became further subdivided into five
branches, of which the duchy of Saxe-Coburg was one. This principality
was very small, containing about 60,000 inhabitants, but it enjoyed
independent and sovereign rights. During the disturbed years which
followed the French Revolution, its affairs became terribly involved.
The Duke was extravagant, and kept open house for the swarms of
refugees, who fled eastward over Germany as the French power advanced.
Among these was the prince of Leiningen, an elderly beau, whose
domains on the Moselle had been seized by the French, but who was
granted in compensation the territory of Amorbach in Lower Franconia.
In 1803 he married the Princess Victoria, at that time seventeen years
of age. Three years later Duke Francis died a ruined man. The
Napoleonic harrow passed over Saxe-Coburg. The duchy was seized by the
French, and the ducal family were reduced to beggary, almost to
starvation. At the same time the little principality of Amorbach was
devastated by the French, Russian, and Austrian armies, marching and
counter-marching across it. For years there was hardly a cow in the
country, nor enough grass to feed a flock of geese. Such was the
desperate plight of the family which, a generation later, was to have
gained a foothold in half the reigning Houses of Europe. The
Napoleonic harrow had indeed done its work; the seed was planted; and
the crop would have surprised Napoleon. Prince Leopold, thrown upon
his own resources at fifteen, made a career for himself and married the
heiress of England. The Princess of Leiningen, struggling at Amorbach
with poverty, military requisitions, and a futile husband, developed an
independence of character and a tenacity of purpose which were to prove
useful in very different circumstances. In 1814, her husband died,
leaving her with two children and the regency of the principality.
After her brother's marriage with the Princess Charlotte, it was
proposed that she should marry the Duke of Kent; but she declined, on
the ground that the guardianship of her children and the management of
her domains made other ties undesirable. The Princess Charlotte's
death, however, altered the case; and when the Duke of Kent renewed his
offer, she accepted it. She was thirty-two years old--short,
stout, with brown eyes and hair, and rosy cheeks, cheerful and voluble,
and gorgeously attired in rustling silks and bright velvets.

She was certainly fortunate in her contented disposition; for she was
fated, all through her life, to have much to put up with. Her second
marriage, with its dubious prospects, seemed at first to be chiefly a
source of difficulties and discomforts. The Duke, declaring that he
was still too poor to live in England, moved about with uneasy
precision through Belgium and Germany, attending parades and inspecting
barracks in a neat military cap, while the English notabilities looked
askance, and the Duke of Wellington dubbed him the Corporal. 'God
damme!' he exclaimed to Mr. Creevey, 'd'ye know what his sisters call
him? By God! they call him Joseph Surface!' At Valenciennes, where
there was a review and a great dinner, the Duchess arrived with an old
and ugly lady-in-waiting, and the Duke of Wellington found himself in a
difficulty. 'Who the devil is to take out the maid of honour?' he kept
asking; but at last he thought of a solution. 'Damme, Freemantle, find
out the mayor and let him do it.' So the Mayor of Valenciennes was
brought up for the purpose, and--so we learn from Mr. Creevey--'a
capital figure he was.' A few days later, at Brussels, Mr. Creevey
himself had an unfortunate experience. A military school was to be
inspected--before breakfast. The company assembled; everything was
highly satisfactory; but the Duke of Kent continued for so long
examining every detail and asking meticulous question after meticulous
question, that Mr. Creevey at last could bear it no longer, and
whispered to his neighbour that he was damned hungry. The Duke of
Wellington heard him, and was delighted. 'I recommend you,' he said,
'whenever you start with the royal family in a morning, and
particularly with the Corporal, always to breakfast first.' He and
his staff, it turned out, had taken that precaution, and the great man
amused himself, while the stream of royal inquiries poured on, by
pointing at Mr. Creevey from time to time with the remark, 'Voila le
monsieur qui n'a pas dejeune!'

Settled down at last at Amorbach, the time hung heavily on the Duke's
hands. The establishment was small, the country was impoverished; even
clock-making grew tedious at last. He brooded--for in spite of his
piety the Duke was not without a vein of superstition--over the
prophecy of a gipsy at Gibraltar who had told him that he was to have
many losses and crosses, that he was to die in happiness, and that his
only child was to be a great queen. Before long it became clear that a
child was to be expected: the Duke decided that it should be born in
England. Funds were lacking for the journey, but his determination was
not to be set aside. Come what might, he declared, his child must be
English-born. A carriage was hired, and the Duke himself mounted the
box. Inside were the Duchess, her daughter Feodora, a girl of
fourteen, with maids, nurses, lap-dogs, and canaries. Off they
drove--through Germany, through France: bad roads, cheap inns, were
nothing to the rigorous Duke and the equable, abundant Duchess. The
Channel was crossed, London was reached in safety. The authorities
provided a set of rooms in Kensington Palace; and there, on May 24,
1819, a female infant was born.





Next: Childhood

Previous: Civil War In America



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK


Viewed 1286