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The First Christening The Season Of 1841

Youth

The Queen's First Visit To Scotland

The Queen's First Visit To Scotland

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Baby Drina








"Elizabeth would be a good name for her," said the Duke of Kent.
"Elizabeth was the greatest woman who ever sat on the throne of
England. The English people are used to the name, and they like it."

"But would the Emperor Alexander be pleased?" asked the Duchess. "If he
is to be godfather, ought she not to be named for him?"

"Alexandra--no; Alexandrina," said the Duke thoughtfully. "Perhaps you
are right. 'Queen Alexandrina' has a good sound, and the day may come
when the sovereign of England will be as glad of the friendship of the
Emperor of Russia as the Regent is to-day."

"Are you so sure, Edward, that she will be a sovereign?" asked his wife
with a smile.

"Doesn't she look like a queen?" demanded the Duke. "Look at her golden
hair and her blue eyes! There, see how she put her hand out, just as if
she was giving a command! I don't believe any baby a week old ever did
that before. The next time I review the troops she shall go with me.
You're a soldier's daughter, little one. Come and see the world that
you are to conquer." He lifted the tiny baby, much to the displeasure
of the nurse, and carried her across the room to the window that looked
out upon Kensington Garden. "Now, little one," he whispered into the
baby's ear, "they don't believe us and we won't talk about it, but
you'll be queen some day."

"Is that the way every father behaves with his first baby?" asked the
Duchess.

"They're much alike, your Grace," replied the nurse rather grimly, as
she followed the Duke to the window with a blanket on her arm. The Duke
was accustomed to commanding thousands of men, and every one of them
trembled if his weapons and uniform were not spotless, or if he had
been guilty of the least neglect of duty. In more than one battle the
Duke had stood so firmly that he had received the thanks of Parliament
for his bravery and fearlessness. He would never have surrendered a
city to a besieging army, but now he had met his match, and he laid the
baby in the nurse's arms with the utmost meekness.

The question of a name for the child was not yet decided, for the
wishes of someone else had to be considered, and that was the Prince
Regent, the Duke's older brother, George. He thought it proper that his
niece should be named Georgiana in honor of himself.

"Georgiana let it be," said the Duke of Kent, "her first name shall be
Alexandrina."

"Then Georgiana it shall not be," declared the Prince Regent. "No
niece of mine shall put my name second to any king or emperor here in
my own country. Call her Alexandrina Alexandra Alexander, if you
choose, but she'll not be called Alexandrina Georgiana."

When the time for the christening had arrived the Archbishop of
Canterbury and the Bishop of London came to Kensington in company with
the crimson velvet curtains from the chapel at St. James' and a
beautiful golden font which had been taken from the Tower for the
baptism of the royal baby. The Archbishop and the Bishop, the Prince
Regent, and another brother of the Duke of Kent, who was to represent
the Emperor of Russia as godfather, all stood around the golden font in
the magnificent cupola room, the grand saloon of Kensington Palace. The
godmothers were the child's grandmother and aunt, and they were
represented by English princesses. All the royal family were present.

After the prayers had been said and the promises of the sponsors made,
the Archbishop took the little Princess in his arms and, turning to the
godfathers and the godmothers, he said: "Name this child."

"Alexandrina," responded the Duke of York.

"Give her another name," bade the Duke of Kent in a low tone.

"Name her for her mother, then," said the Prince Regent to the
Archbishop, and the baby was christened Alexandrina Victoria.

It made little difference to either the Duke or the baby how the Prince
Regent might feel about her name, for the Duke was the happiest of
fathers, and the little Drina, as the Princess was called, was a merry,
sweet-tempered baby. Everyone at Kensington loved her, and over the sea
was a grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Coburg, who could hardly wait
for the day to come when she would be able to see the child. "How
pretty the little Mayflower will be," she wrote, "when I see it in a
year's time." Another letter said: "The English like queens, and the
niece of the beloved Princess Charlotte will be most dear to them."
Princess Charlotte was the only child of Prince George, and the nation
had loved her and longed to have her for their queen. She had married
Leopold, the brother of the Duchess of Kent, and had died only two
years before "Princess Drina" was born.

The succession to the English crown was in a peculiar condition. The
king, George III., had become insane, and his eldest son, George, was
ruling as Prince Regent. If the Regent lived longer than his father, he
would become George IV. His next younger brother was Frederick, Duke of
York; then came William, Duke of Clarence; and then the Duke of Kent.
George and Frederick had no children, and William's baby girl died on
the very day that the Princess Alexandrina was born. If these three
brothers died without children, the Duke of Kent would become king; but
even then, if the Duke should have a son, the law was that he, rather
than the daughter, should inherit the crown. The baby Princess, then,
stood fifth in the succession to the throne, and a child born to any
one of these three uncles, or a son born to her father, would remove
her still further from sovereignty.

The English people had talked of all these possibilities. The Duke of
Kent had also several younger brothers, but they were all middle-aged
men, the youngest forty-five, and not one of them had a child. If all
the children of George III. died without heirs, the English crown would
descend to a line of Germans who had never walked on English soil. "We
have had one king who could not speak English," said the people, "and
we do not want another." The Duke of Kent was a general favorite among
them, and they hoped that he, and after him his daughter, would become
their ruler. Indeed, they hoped for this so strongly that they began to
feel sure that it would come to pass. Everyone wanted to see the little
Princess. Many a person lingered under the palace windows for hours,
and went away feeling well repaid for the delay if he had caught a
glimpse of the royal baby in her nurse's arms.

When the Princess was four months old, the Duke gave orders one
afternoon that she should be made ready for a drive with him.

"But is it not the day of the military review on Hounslow Heath?" asked
the Duchess.

"Yes," replied the Duke, "and where else should a soldier's daughter be
but at a review? I want to see how she likes the army. You know she
will be at the head of the army some day," he added half in jest and
half in earnest. "Won't you let me have her?" The Duchess shook her
head playfully. Just then the nurse entered the room with the little
Princess in her outdoor wraps. The tall Duke caught up the child and
ran to the carriage like a naughty boy with a forbidden plaything, and
the nurse followed.

At the review the Duke was not so stern a disciplinarian as usual, for
more than one man who was expected to stand "eyes front" took a sly
look at the pretty baby in her nurse's arms, and the proud father
forgot to blame him for the misdemeanor. After the review the people
gathered about the carriage.

"God bless the child," cried an old man. "She'll be a Princess
Charlotte to us."

"Look at her sweet face," said another. "Did you ever see such bright
blue eyes? She'll be a queen who can see what her people want."

There were hurrahs for the Princess and hurrahs for the Duke. Then a
voice in the crowd cried: "Give us a rousing cheer for the Duchess who
cares for her own baby and doesn't leave her to the hired folk."

In all this hubbub and confusion the blue-eyed baby did not cry or show
the least fear. "She's a soldier's child," said the Duke with delight,
and he took her from the nurse and helped her to wave her tiny hand to
the admiring crowd.

Prince George had never been on good terms with his brother, the Duke
of Kent, and after the affair of the name he was less friendly than
ever. He was always jealous of the child, and when he heard of her
reception at the review he was thoroughly angry. "That infant is too
young to be brought into public," he declared.

She was not brought into so public a place again, but she won friends
wherever she went. The Duke could not bear to have her away from him
for an hour, and the greatest honor he could show to a guest was to
allow him to take the little one in his arms. An old friend was at the
Palace, one evening, and when he rose to go, the Duke said: "No, come
with me first and see the child in her crib." As they entered the room
of the little Princess, the Duke said: "We are going to Sidmouth in two
or three days to cheat the winter, and so we may not meet again for
some time. I want you to give my child your blessing. Pray for her, not
merely that her life may be brilliant and free from trouble, but that
God will bless her, and that in all the years to come He will guide her
and guard her." The prayer was made, and the Duke responded with an
earnest "Amen."

In a few days the family set out for Sidmouth. Kensington was becoming
cold and damp, and the precious baby must not be risked in the London
chills of the late autumn. The Duchess, moreover, had devoted herself
so closely to her child that she needed a change and rest.

At Sidmouth the old happy life of the past six months went on for a
little while. The house was so small that it was called "hardly more
than a cottage," but it had pretty verandas and bay windows, shaded by
climbing roses and honeysuckles. It stood on a sunny knoll, with tall
trees circling around it. Just below the knoll was a little brook
running merrily to the sea, a quarter of a mile away, and, following
the lead of the brook, was the road. Sidmouth was a nest of sunbeams,
and the baby Princess was well and strong. "She is too healthy, I
fear," wrote the Duke, "in the opinion of some members of my family by
whom she is regarded as an intruder."

The people of Sidmouth did not look upon the pretty, blue-eyed baby as
an intruder, and there was great excitement in the village when it was
known that the Duke had taken Woolbrook Glen. Every boy in the country
around was eager to see the soldier Duke who had been in real battles,
and every girl longed for a sight of the little Princess, There was no
difficulty in seeing them when they had once come, for whenever it was
pleasant they were out of doors, walking or driving. A lady who met the
party one morning wrote that the Duke and the Duchess were strolling
along arm in arm, and close to them was the nurse carrying the Princess
with her white swansdown bonnet and cloak. She was holding out her hand
to the Duke, and just as the village people drew near, he took her from
the nurse and lifted her to his shoulder.

When the Duke had been away from the house, his first thought on
returning was the little daughter. One morning, only a few days after
this meeting with the lady and her children, he took a long walk in the
rain. He was hardly over the threshold on his return before he called,
"Where's my daughter? Bring little Drina."

"But, Edward," the Duchess objected, "your boots must be wet through.
Won't you change them first? You will surely be ill."

"Soldiers aren't ill, my lady," replied the Duke, laughing. "I never
was ill in all my life. Where's my queen?"

An hour's romp with the merry baby followed. But then came a chill, and
the strong man was overcome with inflammation of the lungs. In those
days physicians had little knowledge how to treat such a disease. They
had an idea that whenever one was feverish he had too much blood, and
that some of it must be taken away; so the Duke was bled until, if he
had not been in the least ill, the loss of blood would have made him
faint and weak. A messenger was sent to London to bring a famous
doctor, but when he came the Duke was dead. "I could have done nothing
else," said the great man, "except to bleed him much more than you have
done."

Prince Leopold had come to Sidmouth a day or two earlier, and he went
with the Duchess and the Princess to London. The villagers gathered
about the carriage to bid a silent farewell to the sorrowful company.
Many of them were weeping and their tears flowed still faster when the
nurse held the baby up to the carriage window and whispered, "Say
good-by to the people;" for the little one waved her hand and patted
the glass and sprang up and down in her nurse's arms without the least
realization of her loss.

The carriage rolled away, but the people stood watching it until it was
out of sight.

"That's the sweetest child in all England," said one woman, wiping her
eyes with the corner of her apron, "and now the poor little thing will
have no father."

"Did ever you see a man so fond of his child as the Duke?" said another
with a sob.

"King George had nine sons," said a man who stood near, "and the Duke
was every whit the best of them. The King never treated him fairly.
When the others wanted money, they had it; but when the Duke needed it,
his father just said, 'Get along as you can.' There wasn't one of the
sons that the King wasn't kinder to than to the Duke."

"He'll have little more chance to be kind or unkind," declared another.
"Have you not heard the news from London? The King is very ill, and the
Prince Regent will soon be George IV."

"It's bad luck speaking ill of him that's to be king," said one, "but
the man that's gone to London in his coffin was the man that I'd have
liked to see on the throne."

"Will the Duchess go back to her own land, think you?" questioned the
first woman.

"Yes, that she will," replied the second positively "There never was a
woman that loved her own people better than she. Folks say she writes
her mother every day of her life."

"I say she'll not go back," declared one of the men with equal
positiveness. "She'll do her duty, and her duty is to care for the
Princess. God bless her, and make her our queen some day."

So the people in the village talked, and so people were talking
throughout the kingdom. After the first sad days were past the question
had to be decided by the Duchess and her devoted brother Leopold. The
Duchess loved her family and her old home at Amorbach, near Heidelberg.
There she and the Duke had spent the first months of their married
life, and nothing would have helped her more to bear her loneliness
than a return to the Bavarian Palace, in which every room was
associated with memories of him. She was a stranger in England and she
could not even speak the language of the country. The Duke's sisters
loved her, and Adelaide, who had been a German princess before she
became the wife of the Duke of Clarence gave her the warmest sympathy
in this time of sorrow; but the Regent disliked her and had always
seemed indignant at the possibility that his brother's child would
inherit the throne. The Regent had now become king, for his father had
died on the very day of the Duchess's return to London. Unless a child
was born to either the Duke of York or the Duke of Clarence the baby
Princess would become queen at their death. The child who would rule
England ought to be brought up in England.

There was something else to be considered, however. When the Duchess
was only a girl of seventeen she had become the wife of the Prince of
Leiningen, and at his death he had made her sole guardian of their two
children, Charles and Feodore. As soon as Charles was old enough he
would succeed his father as ruler of Leiningen but until then his
mother was Regent.

"Is it right for me to neglect my duties in Bavaria?" questioned the
Duchess; "to give up the regency of Leiningen? Shall I neglect Charles
to care for Drina's interest?"

"Charles will be well cared for," said Prince Leopold. "His people love
him already and will be true to him. England is a great kingdom. It is
not an easy land to rule. A queen who has grown up in another country
will never hold the hearts of the people."

"True," said the Duchess. "I must live in England. That is my duty to
my child and to her country."

How the Duchess and her child were to live was a question of much
importance. The King could not refuse to allow them to occupy their old
apartments in Kensington Palace, but the Duchess was almost penniless.
Nearly all the money which her first husband had left her she had been
obliged to give up on her second marriage and she had surrendered all
the Duke's property to his creditors to go as far as it would in paying
his debts. Some money had been settled upon her when she married the
Duke, but that was so tied up that it would be many months before she
could touch it. The only plea that she could make to the King would be
on the ground that her child might become his heir, and nothing would
have enraged him so much as to suggest such a thing. Whatever
Parliament might appropriate to the Princess would be given against the
wishes of the King, and there would, at any rate, be a long delay. It
was a strange condition of affairs. The child would probably have
millions at her command before many years had passed, but for the
present there was no money even to pay the wages of the servants for
their care of her.


Victoria.
(From painting by Sir W. Beechey, R.A.)]

If this story had been a fairy tale, the fairy godmother with the magic
wand would have been called upon to shower golden guineas into the
empty purse, but in this case it was the good uncle who came to the aid
of his Princess niece. When Prince Leopold married the Princess
Charlotte he went to England to live, for he expected that some day his
wife would become Queen of Great Britain. After her death he made his
home in England, but spent much of his time in travelling. He was not
rich, but he was glad to help his sister as much as possible, and after
the death of the Duke of Kent he made her and her children his first
care.

It was decided, then, that the Duchess would remain in England, and
that Kensington Palace should become the home of the Princess
Alexandrina Victoria. This was a large, comfortable-looking abode. It
had been a favorite home of several of the English sovereigns. About it
were gardens cut into beds shaped like scrolls, palm leaves, ovals,
circles, and all sorts of conventional figures so prim and stiff that
one might well have wondered how flowers ever dared to grow in any
shape but rectangular. The yew trees were trimmed into peacocks and
lions and other kinds of birds and beasts. All this was interesting
only as a curiosity, but there was a pretty pond and there were long,
beautiful avenues of trees. There were flowers and shrubs and soft
green turf. It was out of the fog and smoke of the city; indeed it was
so far out that there was danger of robbers to the man who ventured to
walk or drive at night through the unlighted roads. For many years
after the birth of the Princess a bell was rung Sunday evenings so that
all Londoners might meet and guard against danger by going over the
lonely way to their homes in one large company.

The life at Kensington was very quiet. No one would have guessed from
seeing the royal baby that the fate which lay before her was different
from that to be expected for any other child who was not the daughter
of a Prince. She spent much of the time out of doors, at first in the
arms of her nurse, then in a tiny carriage, in which her half-sister,
the Princess Feodore, liked to draw her about. "She must learn never to
be afraid of people," declared the wise mother, and before the child
could speak plainly she was taught to make a little bow when strangers
came near her carriage and say, "Morning, lady," or "Morning, sir."

The little girl was happy, but life was hard for the mother. She had
given up her home and her friends, and now she had to give up even her
own language, for English and not German must be her child's mother
tongue, and she set to work bravely to conquer the mysteries of English
Her greatest comfort in her loneliness was the company of the Duchess
Adelaide, wife of the Duke of Clarence. For many weeks after the death
of the Duke of Kent, the Duchess drove to Kensington every day to spend
some time with her sister-in-law. When the Princess was about a year
and a half old, a little daughter was born to the Duchess Adelaide, but
in three months she was again childless. She had none of the royal
brothers' jealousy of the baby at Kensington, and she wrote to the
Duchess of Kent, "My little girls are dead, but your child lives, and
she shall be mine, too."





Next: The Schooldays Of A Princess

Previous: My Reasons For Honoring The Queen



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