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Comments Upon The Young Queen By A Contemporaneous Writer In Blackwood

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Comments Upon The Young Queen By A Contemporaneous Writer In Blackwood








A writer in Blackwood, speaking of the Queen about this time,
said: "She is 'winning golden opinions from all sorts of people' by her
affability, the grace of her manners, and her prettiness. She is
excessively like the Brunswicks and not like the Coburgs. So much the
more in her favor. The memory of George III. is not yet passed away, and
the people are glad to see his calm, honest, and English physiognomy
renewed in his granddaughter."

Her Majesty's likeness to the obstinate but conscientious old king, whose
honest face is fast fading quite away from old English half-crowns and
golden guineas, has grown with her years.

The same writer, speaking of her personal appearance, says: "She is low
of stature, but well formed; her hair the darkest shade of flaxen, and
her eyes large and light-blue." A friend who saw her frequently at the
time of her accession, said to me the other day: "It is a great mistake
to suppose that the Queen owed all the charming portraits which were
drawn of her at this time, to the fortunate accident of her birth and
destiny. She was really a very lovely girl, with a fine, delicate, rose-
bloom complexion, large blue eyes, a fair, broad brow, and an expression
of peculiar candor and innocence."

A few days later there was a sensation in Buckingham Palace, at the
setting up in the Throne-room of a very magnificent new piece of
furniture--a throne of the latest English fashion, but gorgeous enough to
have served for the Queen of Sheba, Zenobia, Cleopatra, or Semiramis. It
was all crimson velvet and silk, with any amount of gold embroideries,
gold lace, gold fringe, ropes, and tassels. The gay young Queen tried it,
and said it would do; that she had never sat on a more comfortable throne
in all her life.

Two stories of the young Queen have touched me especially--one was
related by the Duke of Wellington. A court-martial death sentence was
presented by him to her, to be signed. She shrank from the dreadful task,
and with tears in her eyes, asked: "Have you nothing to say in behalf of
this man?"

"Nothing; he has deserted three times," replied the Iron Duke.

"O, your Grace, think again!"

"Well, your Majesty, he certainly is a bad soldier, but there was
somebody who spoke as to his good character. He may be a good fellow in
civil life."

"O, thank you!" exclaimed the Queen, as she dashed off the word,
"Pardoned," on the awful parchment, and wrote beneath it her beautiful
signature.

This was not her last act of the kind, and at length Parliament so
arranged matters that this fatal signing business could be done by royal
commission, ostensibly to "relieve Her Majesty of a painful duty," but
really because they could not trust her soft heart. She might have sudden
caprices of commiseration which would interfere with stern military
discipline, and the honest trade of Mr. Marwood.

The other incident was told by Lord Melbourne. Soon after her accession,
in all the dizzy whirl of the new life of splendor and excitement, the
young Queen, in an interview with her Prime Minister, said: "I want to
pay all that remain of my father's debts. I must do it. I consider
it a sacred duty." This was, of course, done--the Queen also sending
valuable pieces of plate to the largest creditors, as a token of her
gratitude. Lord Melbourne said that the childlike directness and
earnestness of that good daughter's manner when she thus expressed her
royal will and pleasure, brought the tears to his eyes. It seems to me it
was almost mission enough for any young woman, to move the hearts of hard
old soldiers like Wellington, and blasé statesmen like Melbourne--
mighty dealers in death and diplomacy, and to bring something like a
second youth of romance and chivalrous feeling into worn and worldly
hearts everywhere.

I suppose it is impossible for young people of this day, especially
Americans, to realize the intense, enthusiastic interest felt forty-six
years ago by all classes, and in nearly all countries, in the young
English Queen. The old wondered and shook their heads over the mighty
responsibility imposed upon her--the young dreamed of her. She almost
made real to young girls the wildest romances of fairy lore. She called
out such chivalrous feelings in young men that they longed to champion
her on some field of battle, or in some perilous knightly adventure. She
stirred the hearts and inspired the imaginations of orators and poets.--
The great O'Connell, when there was some wild talk of deposing "the all
but infant Queen," and putting the Duke of Cumberland in her place, said
in his trumpet-like tones, which gave dignity to brogue: "If necessary, I
can get 500,000 brave Irishmen to defend the life, the honor, and the
person of the beloved young lady by whom England's throne is now filled."
Ah, the difference between then and now. "Brave Irishmen" of this day,
men who know not O'Connell, are more disposed to blow up the English
Queen's palaces, throne and all.

Charles Dickens, who was then full of romance and fancy, was, it is said,
possessed by such unresting, wondering thoughts of the fair maiden
sovereign, and her magnificent destiny, that for a time his more prosaic
friends regarded his enthusiasm as a sort of monomania. Other imaginative
young men with heads less "level" (to use an American expression) than
that of the great novelist, actually went mad--"clean daft"--the noble
passion of loving loyalty ending in an infatuation as absurd as it was
unhappy. Before the Queen left Kensington Palace she was much annoyed by
the persistent attentions of a provincial admirer, a respectable
gentleman, who labored under the hallucination that it was his destiny
and his duty to espouse the Queen. He may have felt a preference for
private life and rural pleasures, but as a loyal patriot he was ready to
make the sacrifice. He drove in a stylish phaeton every morning to the
Palace to inquire after Her Majesty's health; and on several days he
bribed the men who had charge of the gardens to allow him to assist them
in weeding about the piece of water opposite her apartments, in the fond
hope of seeing her at the windows, and of her seeing him. Every evening,
however, he put on the gentleman of fortune and phaetons, and followed
the Queen and the Duchess in their airings. Drove they fast or drove they
slow, he was just behind them. On their last drive before removing from
Kensington, they alighted in the Harrow Road for a little walk, and were
dismayed at seeing this Mr. ---- spring from his phaeton, and come
eagerly forward. The Duchess sent a page to meet him and beg of him not
to annoy Her Majesty by accosting her; but the page was "no let" to him--
a whole volume of remonstrance would not have availed. He pressed on, and
the august ladies were obliged to re-enter their carriage, and return to
Kensington. When on the next morning they removed from the old home, Mr.
---- was at the gate in his phaeton, and drove before them to Buckingham
Palace, and was there to give them a gracious welcome. He haunted Pimlico
for a time, but his friends finally got possession of him and suppressed
him, and so ended his "love's young dream."

It is likely that the merry young Queen laughed at the absurd
demonstrations and amatory effusions of her demented admirers; but when,
after her marriage, and her appearing always in public with the
handsomest Prince in Christendom at her side, such monomaniacs grew
desperate and took to shooting, the matter became serious. Then no more
gentlemen in phaetons menaced her peace; her demented followers were poor
wretches--so poor that sometimes, after investing in pistols, they had
not a six-pence left for ammunition. One, a distraught Fenian, pointed at
her a broken, harmless weapon, charged with a scrap of red rag. Another,
a humpbacked lad, named Bean, loaded his with paper and a few bits of an
old clay pipe. Bean escaped for a time, and it is said that for several
days there were "hard lines" for all the poor humpbacks of London. Scores
of them were arrested. No unfortunate thus deformed, could appear in the
streets without danger of a policeman smiting him on the shoulders, right
in the tender spot, with a rough, "You are my prisoner." Life became a
double burden to the poor fellows till Bean was caught. But to return to
the young Queen, in her happy, untroubled days.

In August she took possession of Windsor Castle, amid great rejoicing.
The Duchess, her mother, came also; this time not to be reproached or
insulted. They soon had company--a lot of Kings and Queens, among them
"Uncle Leopold" and his second wife, a daughter of Louis Philippe of
France.

The royal young house-keeper seems keenly to have enjoyed showing to her
visitors her new home, her little country place up the Thames. She
conducted them everywhere,

"Up-stairs, down-stairs, and in my lady's chamber,"

peeping into china and silver closets, spicy store-rooms, and huge linen
chests smelling of lavender.

Soon after came a triumphal progress to Brighton, during which the royal
carriage passed under an endless succession of triumphal arches, and
between ranks on ranks of schoolchildren, strewing roses and singing
pæans. At Brighton there was an immense sacrifice of the then fashionable
and costly flower, the dahlia, no fewer than twenty thousand being used
for decorative purposes. But a sadder because a vain sacrifice on this
occasion, was of flowers of rhetoric. An address, the result of much
classical research and throes of poetic labor, and marked by the most
effusive loyalty, was to have been presented to Her Majesty at the gates
of the Pavilion, but by some mistake she passed in without waiting for
it.

About this time the Lunatic Asylums began to fill up. Within one week two
mad men were arrested, proved insane, and shut up for threatening the
life of the Queen and the Duchess of Kent. So Victoria's life was not all
arched over with dahlia-garlands, and strewn with roses, nor were her
subjects all Sunday-school scholars.





Next: Victoria's First Christmas At Windsor Castle As Queen

Previous: The Sovereignty Of England And Hanover Severed Forever



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