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Early Years








God save thee, weeping Queen!
Thou shalt be well beloved!
The tyrant's sceptre cannot move,
As those pure tears have moved!
E.B. BROWNING


When she was five years old the Princess Victoria began to have
lessons, chiefly with a governess, Miss von Lehzen--"my dearly
beloved angelic Lehzen," as she called her. These two remained
devotedly attached to one another until the latter's death in 1870.
The young Princess was especially fond of music and drawing, and it
was clear that if she had been able to devote more time to study she
would in later years have excelled in both subjects.

Her education was such as to fit her for her future position of Queen
of England. The Princess did not, however, know that she was likely
at any future time to be Queen. She read much, chiefly books dealing
with history, and these were often chosen for her by her uncle, the
King of the Belgians.

The family life was regular and simple. Lessons, a walk or drive,
very few and simple pleasures made up her day. Breakfast was at
half-past eight, luncheon at half-past one, and dinner at seven. Tea
was allowed only in later years as a great treat.

The Queen herself said: "I was brought up very simply--never had a
room to myself till I was nearly grown up--always slept in my mother's
room till I came to the throne."

Sir Walter Scott wrote of her at this period of her life: "This little
lady is educated with much care, and watched so closely that no busy
maid has a moment to whisper, 'You are heir of England.' I suspect
if we could dissect the little heart, we should find some pigeon or
other bird of the air had carried the matter."

In 1830 her uncle, George the Fourth, died, and his brother, William
the Fourth, came to the throne. The young Princess was now the next
in succession. Her governess thought that her pupil should be told
of this fact, and as the Duchess of Kent agreed, the table of
genealogy was placed inside Victoria's history book, where by and
by she found it.

The story goes that she then said, "I see, I am nearer the throne
than I thought," and giving her hand to her governess added: "I will
be good. I understand now, why you urged me so much to learn, even
Latin. My cousins Augusta and Mary never did, but you told me that
Latin was the foundation of English grammar, and of all the elegant
expressions, and I learned it as you wished. But I understand it all
better now." In later years the Queen recollected crying very much
when she heard of it, but could not recall exactly what had happened.

It is interesting to note what those who knew little Victoria at this
time say about her. She was, we are told, exceedingly affectionate,
very full of high spirits, fond of life in the open air, and already
possessed a strong sense of duty and religion.

She had been taught by her devoted uncle Leopold, with whom she
corresponded regularly, how necessary it was for her to understand
thoroughly the duties which fall to the share of a ruler. During the
years which followed she went more into society and paid visits to
the most interesting places in the kingdom. Everywhere she went she
was received with the greatest enthusiasm.

In 1830 the Duke of Coburg, with his two sons, Ernest and Albert,
arrived at Kensington Palace on a visit, and thus the Princess met
for the first time her future husband. Her uncle Leopold had long
desired to carry out the cherished wish of his mother, the Dowager
Duchess of Coburg, that the two cousins should be united in marriage.
During William the Fourth's lifetime all mention of such a marriage
had to be kept secret, as the King much disliked the Coburg family,
and had more than once been very rude to the Duchess of Kent.

Victoria wrote to her uncle saying how much she liked Albert in every
way, and that he possessed every quality that could be desired to
render her perfectly happy. She was very anxious that her uncle
should take her cousin under his special protection.

On May 24, 1837, Victoria attained her majority. She received numbers
of magnificent presents, congratulations from public bodies, and in
the evening a State Ball was given at St James's Palace.

On Tuesday, June 20 of that year, at twelve minutes past two, King
William the Fourth died. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord
Chamberlain set out at once for Kensington to convey the sad news.
They arrived at five in the morning, and were told that the Princess
was asleep. They replied that they were on important business of
State to the Queen, and even her sleep must give way to that. Our
illustration depicts the scene which then ensued.

Even during the first days of her reign, the Queen's dignity, calm,
and knowledge of State affairs astonished her ministers, and were
complete proof of the careful training she had received during her
girlhood days. Greville, Clerk to the Council, wrote: "She presided
with as much ease as if she had been doing nothing else all her
life. . . . The gracefulness of her manner and the good expression
of her countenance give her on the whole a very agreeable appearance,
and with her youth inspire an excessive interest in all who approach
her, and which I can't help feeling myself."

In July the Queen and her mother left their home to take up their
residence in Buckingham Palace, formerly known as the Queen's House.
The present palace occupies the site of Buckingham House, which was
erected by John Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, in 1703. It was bought
by George the Third for his wife in 1761, remodelled by George the
Fourth, and completed by William the Fourth, who, however, had never
lived there.

Four days later the Queen went in State to dissolve Parliament, and
soon afterward removed to Windsor Castle, where she was joined for
a time by her uncle and his wife.

Prince Albert wrote her a warm letter of congratulation. "You are
now," he said, "Queen of the mightiest land in Europe. In your hands
lie the happiness of millions. May Heaven assist and strengthen you
with its strength in that high but difficult task! I hope that your
reign may be long, happy, and glorious, and that your efforts may
be rewarded by the thankfulness and love of your subjects."

On Thursday, June 28, 1838, the coronation ceremony took place in
Westminster Abbey. Afterward the Queen made a royal progress and was
greeted by immense crowds of her people with the utmost loyalty and
enthusiasm. In her journal she described it as the proudest day of
her life. Mrs Jamieson, an onlooker, wrote of her as follows:

"When she returned, looking pale and tremulous, crowned and holding
her sceptre in a manner and attitude which said, 'I have it, and none
shall wrest it from me,' even Carlyle, who was standing near me,
uttered with emotion, 'A blessing on her head!'"

As a small instance of the Queen's consideration for others, one of
her first thoughts after the ceremony was for the school-children.
She wrote to her minister, Lord Melbourne, asking if it was not usual
to give a week's additional holiday to the schools on such an occasion
as this.

Lord Melbourne was from the moment of her accession the Queen's chief
adviser, and from the many letters which passed between them it is
extremely interesting to see with what affection the young and
inexperienced girl regarded him. "He is not only a clever statesman
and an honest man," she wrote to her uncle, Leopold, "but a good and
a kind-hearted man, whose aim is to do his duty for his country and
not for a party."

Lord Melbourne was almost a second father to her, and there is no
doubt that it was largely due to his excellent and homely advice that
the Queen was able during the early years of her reign to develop
in such an astonishing manner and yet at the same time to retain such
a sweet and womanly character. Of her regularity of life and careful
attention to detail we learn from Greville's diary. She rose soon
after eight o'clock, and after breakfast was occupied with business
the whole morning. During this time Lord Melbourne visited her
regularly. At two o'clock she rode out, attended by her suite, and
amused herself afterward for the rest of the afternoon with music,
singing, or romps with children. Dinner was served at eight o'clock
to the whole household, and the Queen usually retired soon after
eleven. "She orders and regulates every detail herself; she knows
where everybody is lodged in the Castle, settles about the riding
or driving, and enters into every particular with minute attention."
She never signed a single document of any importance until she had
thoroughly mastered its contents.

In October, 1839, her cousins Ernest and Albert paid her a visit,
bringing with them a letter from their uncle Leopold, in which he
recommended them to her care. They were at once upon intimate terms,
and the Queen confided to her uncle that "Albert was very
fascinating." Four days after their arrival she informed Lord
Melbourne that she had made up her mind as to the question of marriage.
He received the news in a very kindly manner and said: "I think it
will be very well received, for I hear that there is an anxiety now
that it should be, and I am very glad of it. You will be much more
comfortable, for a woman cannot stand alone for any time, in whatever
position she may be."

The Queen described her betrothal as follows: "At half-past twelve
I sent for Albert. He came to the closet, where I was alone, and after
a few minutes I said to him that I thought he would be aware why I
wished him to come, and that it would make me happy if he would consent
to what I wished, namely, to marry me. There was no hesitation on
his part, but the offer was received with the greatest demonstrations
of kindness and affection. . . . I told him I was quite unworthy of
him. . . . He said he would be very happy to spend his life with me."

She wrote to her uncle: "I love him more than I can say, and I
shall do everything in my power to render the sacrifice he has made
(for a sacrifice in my opinion it is) as small as I can."

In the following November the news was made public, but it was not
received with any great enthusiasm, as a German alliance was
unpopular. There were other suitors for the Queen's hand, and the
majority would have preferred one of her English cousins to have been
chosen.

On February 10, 1840, the marriage was solemnized at the Chapel Royal,
St James's. The Queen was described by those who saw her as looking
extremely happy, and to her uncle she wrote of her delight at seeing
the huge crowds which lined the streets to see the procession pass.
"God grant that I may be the happy person, the most happy person,
to make this dearest, blessed being happy and contented! What is in
my power to make him happy, I will do."





Next: Husband And Wife

Previous: Childhood Days



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