Most ViewedThe First Christening The Season Of 1841
The Queen's First Visit To Scotland
The Queen's First Visit To Scotland
The Proroguing Of Parliament The Visit To Guildhall And The Coronation
Comments Upon The Young Queen By A Contemporaneous Writer In Blackwood
Reign Of Queen Victoria
The Princess Opens The Victoria Park At Bath
Least ViewedThe Queen's Sympathy During The Illness Of President Garfield
Fresh Attempts Against The Queen's Life And The Death Of The Duc D'orleans
The Condemnation Of The English Duel
Marriage And Delicacy Of The Prince's Position
Marriage Of The Princess Royal
Last Years Of The Prince Consort
Failing Health Of Prince Albert
The Emperor And Empress Of France Visit Windsor
Distribution Of Victoria Crosses By The Queen
First Meeting With Prince Albert Death Of William Iv
On the western side of Kensington Gardens stands the old Palace,
built originally in the solid Dutch style for King William and Mary.
The great architect, Sir Christopher Wren, made notable additions
to it, and it was still further extended in 1721 for George the First.
Within its walls passed away both William and his Queen, Queen Anne
and her husband, and George the Second. After this time it ceased
to be a royal residence.
The charm of Kensington Gardens, with its beautiful walks and
secluded sylvan nooks--the happy hunting-ground of London children
and the home of 'Peter Pan'--has inspired many writers to sing its
In this lone, open glade I lie,
Screen'd by deep boughs on either hand;
And at its end, to stay the eye,
Those black-crown'd, red-boled pine trees stand!
Birds here make song, each bird has his,
Across the girding city's hum.
How green under the boughs it is!
How thick the tremulous sheep cries come!
Here at my feet what wonders pass,
What endless, active life is here!
What blowing daisies, fragrant grass!
An air-stirred forest, fresh and clear.
Beaconsfield spoke of its "sublime sylvan solitude superior to the
cedars of Lebanon, and inferior only in extent to the chestnut
forests of Anatolia."
Kensington Palace was the birthplace of Queen Victoria, and in the
garden walks she used to play, little knowing that she would one day
be Queen of England. Her doll's house and toys are still preserved
in the rooms which she inhabited as a little girl.
Four years had passed since the battle of Waterloo when the Princess
Victoria was born, and England was settling down to a time of peace
after long years of warfare.
In 1830 George the Fourth died, and was succeeded by his brother,
the Duke of Clarence, as William the Fourth, the 'sailor king.'
Though not in any respect a great monarch, he proved himself to be
a good king and one who was always wishful to do the best that lay
in his power for the country's good.
He was exceedingly hospitable, and gave dinners to thousands of his
friends and acquaintances during the year, particularly inviting all
his old messmates of the Navy. He had two daughters by his marriage,
and as these both died young it was evident that the Princess Victoria
might some day succeed to the throne.
Her father, the Duke of Kent, married the Dowager Princess of
Leiningen, who was the sister of Prince Leopold, afterward King of
the Belgians. As a young man the Duke had seen much service, for when
he was only seventeen years of age he entered the Hanoverian army,
where the discipline was severe and rigid. He afterward served in
the West Indies and Canada, and on his return to England he was made
a peer with the title of Duke of Kent. He was afterward General and
Commander-in-Chief in Canada and Governor of Gibraltar.
At the latter place his love of order and discipline naturally made
him unpopular, and, owing to strong feeling on the part of the troops,
it was considered wise to recall the Duke in 1803.
In 1816 he settled in Brussels, and soon afterward met his future
wife in Germany. Princess Victoire Marie Louise was the youngest
daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and widow of Prince Charles of
Leiningen, who on his death had left her as the regent of his
They were married at Coburg in May 1818. Some months afterward they
came over to England, and on May 24, 1819, their daughter Alexandrina
Victoria was born.
The Duke still kept up his simple, soldierly habits, for throughout
his life he had always believed in regularly ordering one's day. He
rose betimes and took a cup of coffee at six o'clock. Each servant
of the household was allotted his or her regular duties, and was
obliged at least once a day to appear before the Duke. There was a
separate bell for each servant, and punctuality in attendance was
The christening was attended by members of the Royal Family, and a
dinner was held to celebrate the happy event. The Duke and Duchess
removed soon afterward to Devonshire, and they were both much pleased
with the beautiful surroundings of their new home. The Duke wrote
at this time of his daughter: "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. How
largely she contributes to my happiness at this moment it is needless
for me to say to you."
The Duke had been determined from the first that his child should
be born in England, for he wished her to be English both in upbringing
and in feeling. His wife, who is described by those who knew her as
being a singularly attractive woman, full of deep feeling and
sympathy, fully shared his views on this point.
In January 1820, when only fifty-three years of age, the Duke died
quite suddenly from inflammation of the lungs, following upon a
neglected cold. He was a man of deep religious feeling, and once in
talking to a friend about his little daughter's future career he said
earnestly: "Don't pray simply that hers may be a brilliant career,
and exempt from those trials and struggles which have pursued her
father, but pray that God's blessing may rest on her, that it may
overshadow her, and that in all her coming years she may be guided
and guarded by God."
The widowed mother now returned to London, where the Duchess of
Clarence, afterward Queen Adelaide, interested herself greatly in
little Victoria. The Duchess now devoted herself entirely to the care
of her child, and never did any little girl have a more loving and
As much time as possible was spent in the open air, and Victoria went
for rides about Kensington on a donkey, which was led by an old
soldier, a great friend and favourite. She always had her breakfast
and supper with her mother, and at nine o'clock retired to her bed,
which was placed close to her mother's. Until the time of her
accession she led as simple and regular a life as thousands of other
Many stories are told of her early years to illustrate the
thoroughness of her home training. Even as a small child she was
absolutely truthful, and her chief fault--that of wilfulness--was
due to some extent to her high spirits and abundant energy. She was
especially fond of dolls, and possessed a very large number, most
of which were dressed as historical personages. She had practically
no playmates of her own age, and in later life she often spoke of
these early years as being rather dull.
A description of her at this period runs: "She was a beautiful child,
with the cherubic form of features, clustered round by glossy, fair
ringlets. Her complexion was remarkably transparent, with a soft and
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."
There was, as was natural, much correspondence between England and
Saxe-Coburg, the home of the Duchess, for the second son of the Duke
of Coburg, Charles Albert Augustus Emmanuel, was already spoken of
as being destined to be Victoria's husband in the future.
Prince Albert had been born at Rosenau on August 19, 1819, and was
thus slightly younger than his cousin. He is spoken of as being a
very handsome boy, "like a little angel with his fair curls," and
was for a time much spoilt until his father interfered and
superintended the children's education himself.
Ernest, the elder son, gives us a charming picture of his father:
"We children beheld in him, and justly, our ideal of courtesy, and
although he never said a harsh word to us, we bore towards him,
through all our love and confidence, a reverence bordering on fear.
He never lectured, seldom blamed; praised unwillingly; and yet the
effect of his individuality was so powerful that we accomplished more
than if we had been praised or blamed. When he was once asked by a
relative whether we were industrious and well behaved, he answered:
'My children cannot be naughty, and as they know well that they must
learn in order to be worthy men, so I do not trouble myself about
The Duke liked both his sons to listen to the conversation of their
elders and to take an interest in art and literature. Outdoor
exercise, riding, fishing, hunting, and driving formed part of their
education; they were taught from the first to endure cold and
discomfort without complaint or murmur. The religious teaching they
received had a deep and lasting influence upon the two boys, both
at that time and in later years. But they had a thoroughly happy
boyhood and did not suffer from a lack of companions. After their
confirmation their father took them on a visit to several Courts in
Germany, and also to Vienna--a journey which was intended to open
their minds to the great world of which they had learnt so much and
seen so little; and it was about this time that King Leopold, the
brother of the Duke of Coburg, thought it wise to make a careful
inquiry into the life and character of the young Prince.
Next: Early Years
Previous: A Look Back