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Close Of The Great Exhibition-anecdote








The great Exhibition was closed about the middle of October, on a dark
and rainy day. The last ceremonies were very solemn and impressive. It
had not remained long enough for people to be wearied of it. The Queen,
the Prince and their children seemed never to tire of visiting it, and
the prospect of a sight of them was one of the greatest attractions of
the place to other visitors, especially to simple country-folk--though
these were sometimes disappointed at not beholding the whole party
wearing crowns and trailing royal robes.

I remember a little anecdote of one of Her Majesty's visits to the
Crystal Palace. Among the American manufactures were some fine soaps, and
among these a small head, done in white Castile, and so exactly like
marble that the Queen doubted the soap story, and in her impulsive,
investigating way was about to test it with a scratch of her shawl-pin,
when the Yankee exhibitor stayed her hand, and drew forth a courteous
apology by the loyal remonstrance--"Pardon, your Majesty,--it is the
head of Washington!"

Soon after the Princes and Kings went home, there arrived in London a man
whose heroism and eloquence had thrilled the hearts and filled the
thoughts of the world as those of no monarch living had ever done. He was
not received with royal honors, though with some generous enthusiasm, by
the people. He was looked upon, in high places as that most forlorn
being, an unsuccessful adventurer;--so he turned his face, his sad eyes
wistful with one last hope, towards the setting sun. Alas, his own
political sun had already set!

This man was Louis Kossuth. About the same time another man, without
heroism, without eloquence, but with almost superhuman audacity, struck a
famous political blow, in Paris, called a coup d'état. He exploded
a secret mine, which shattered the republic and heaved him up on to an
imperial throne. Of course this successful adventurer was Louis Napoleon.

I cannot find that, as the Prince-President of that poor, poetic,
impracticable thing, the French Republic, much notice had been taken of
him by the English Government;--but "Emperor" was a more respectable
title, even worn in this way, snatched in the twinkling of an eye by a
political prestidigitateur, and it was of greater worth--it had
cost blood. So Napoleon III. was recognized by England, and at last by
all great powers--royal and republican. Still, for a while, they showed a
wary coldness towards the new Emperor; and he was unhappy because all the
great European sovereigns hesitated to concede his equality to the extent
of addressing him as "mon frère" (my brother). He seemed to take
this so to heart that, after this solemn declaration that his empire
meant peace and not war, the Queen of England put out her friendly little
hand and said frankly, "mon frère"; and the King of Prussia and the
Emperor of Austria followed her example; but the Czar of Russia, put his
iron-gloved hand behind his back and frowned. Louis Napoleon did not
forget that ever--but remembered it "excellent well" a few years later,
when he was sending off his noble army to the Crimea.

I find two charming domestic bits, in letters of the Queen and Prince,
written in May, 1852, from Osborne. After saying that her birthday had
passed very happily and peacefully, Her Majesty adds: "I only feel that I
never can be half grateful enough for so much love, devotion and
happiness. My beloved Albert was, if possible, more than usually kind and
good in showering gifts on me. Mama was most kind, too; and the children
did everything they could to please me."

It is pleasant to see that the dear mother and grandmother never forgot
those family anniversaries, and never was forgotten.

Prince Albert writes, in a letter to the Dowager Duchess of Saxe-Coburg:
"The children are well. They grow apace and develop new virtues daily,
and also new naughtinesses. The virtues we try to retain, and the
naughtinesses we throw away."

This year was a memorable one for the writer of this little book, for it
was that of her first visit to England,--of her first sight of London and
Charles Dickens, of Westminster Abbey and the Duke of Wellington, Windsor
Castle and Queen Victoria.

I had brought a letter, from one of his most esteemed American friends,
to the Earl of Carlisle, and from that accomplished and amiable nobleman
I received many courtesies,--chief among them a ticket, which he obtained
from Her Majesty direct, to one of her reserved seats in the Peeresses'
Gallery of the House of Lords, to witness the prorogation of Parliament.
I trust I may be pardoned if I quote a portion of my description of that
wonderful sight,--written, ah me! so long ago:

... "I found that my seat was one most desirable both for seeing the
brilliant assembly and the august ceremony; it was near the throne, yet
commanded a view of every part of the splendid chamber.

"The gallery was soon filled with ladies, all in full-dress, jewels,
flowers and plumes. Many of the seats of the Peers were also filled by
their noble wives and fair daughters, most superbly and sweetly
arrayed... Among those conspicuous for elegance and loveliness were the
young Duchess of Northumberland and Lady Clementina Villiers, the famous
Court beauty.

"Toward one o'clock the Peers began to come in, clad in their robes of
State. Taken as a whole they are a noble and refined-looking set of men.
But few eyes dwelt on any of these, when there slowly entered, at the
left of the throne, a white-haired old man, pale and spare, bowed with
years and honors, the hero of many battles in many lands, the conqueror
of conquerors,--the Duke! Leaning on the arm of the fair Marchioness of
Douro, he stood, or rather tottered, before us, the grandest ruin in
England. He presently retired to don his ducal robes and join the royal
party at the entrance by the Victoria tower. ... The pious bishops, in
their sacerdotal robes, made a goodly show before an ungodly world. The
judges came in their black gowns and in all the venerable absurdity of
their enormous wigs. Mr. Justice Talfourd the poet, a small, modest-
looking man, was quite extinguished by his. The foreign Ministers
assembled, nation after nation, making, when standing or seated together,
a most peculiar and picturesque group. They shone in all colors and
dazzled with stars, orders and jewel-bitted swords. ...

"Next to me sat the eleven-year-old Princess Gouromma, daughter of the
Rajah of Coorg. The day before she had received Christian baptism, the
Queen standing as godmother. She is a pretty, bright-looking child, and
was literally loaded with jewels. Opposite her sat an Indian Prince--her
father, I was told. He was magnificently attired--girded about with a
superb India shawl, and above his dusky brow gleamed star-like diamonds,
for the least of which many a hard-run Christian would sell his soul. ...

"At last, the guns announced the royal procession, and in a few moments
the entire house rose silently to receive Her Majesty. The Queen was
conducted by Prince Albert, and accompanied by all the great officers of
State. The long train, borne by ladies, gentlemen and pages, gave a
certain stateliness to the short, plump little person of the fair
sovereign, and she bore herself with much dignity and grace. Prince
Albert, it is evident, has been eminently handsome, but he is growing a
little stout and slightly bald. Yet he is a man of right noble presence.
Her Majesty is in fine preservation, and really a pretty and lovable-
looking woman. I think I never saw anything sweeter than her smile of
recognition, given to some of her friends in the gallery--to the little
Indian Princess in especial. There is much in her face of pure
womanliness and simple goodness; yet it is by no means wanting in
animated intelligence. In short, after seeing her, I can well understand
the loving loyalty of her people, and can heartily join in their prayer
of 'God Save the Queen!'

"Her Majesty wore a splendid tiara of brilliants, matched by bracelets,
necklace and stomacher. Her soft brown hair was dressed very plainly. Her
under-dress was of white satin, striped with gold; her robe was, of
course, of purple velvet, trimmed with gold and ermine."

"The Queen desired the lords to be seated, and commanded that her
'faithful Commons' should be summoned. When the members of. the lower
House had come in, the speaker read a speech, to which, I have recorded,
Her Majesty listened, in a cold, quiet manner, sitting perfectly
motionless, even to her fingers and eyelids. The Iron Duke standing at
her left, bent, and trembled slightly--supporting with evident difficulty
the ponderous sword of State. Prince Albert, sitting tall and soldier-
like, in his handsome Field-Marshal's uniform, looked nonchalant and
serene, but with a certain far-away expression in his eyes. The Earl of
Derby held the crown on its gorgeous-cushion gracefully, like an
accomplished waiter presenting a tray of ices. On a like occasion, some
time ago, I hear the Duke of Argyle had the ill-luck to drop this crown
from the cushion, when some of the costly jewels, jarred from their
setting, flew about like so many bits of broken glass. But there was no
need to cry, 'Pick up the pieces!'

"After the reading of this speech, certain bills were read to Her
Majesty, for her assent, which she gave each time with a gracious
inclination of the head, shaking sparkles from her diamond tiara in dew-
drops of light. At every token of acquiescence a personage whom I took
for a herald, bowed low towards the Queen, then performed a similar
obeisance towards the Commons--crying 'La Reine le veut!'"

"Why he should say it in French--why he did not say "The Queen wills it,"
in her own English, I don't yet know."

I went on: "This ceremony gone through with, the Lord Chancellor,
kneeling at the foot of the throne, presented a copy of the Royal speech
to the Queen (I had supposed she would bring it in her pocket), which she
proceeded to read, in a manner perfectly simple, yet impressive, and in a
voice singularly melodious and distinct. Finer reading I never heard
anywhere; every syllable was clearly enunciated, and the emphasis fell
with unerring precision, though gently, on the right word.

"The Lord Chancellor having formally announced that Parliament stood
prorogued until the 20th of August, Her Majesty rose as majestically as
could be expected from one more remarkable for rosy plumptitude than
regal altitude; Prince Albert took his place at her side; the crown and
sword bearers took theirs in front, the train-bearers theirs in the rear,
and the royal procession swept slowly forth, the brilliant house broke up
and followed, and so the splendid pageant passed away--faded like a piece
of fairy enchantment." That's the way they do it,--except that nowadays
the Queen does not read her own speech.





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