Home  -  Tutor Videos / Shows   -  Queen Victoria   -  Queen Elizabeth   -  Queen Mary   -  Queen Adelaide   -  Catherine of Aragon   -  King Henry the VIII   -  Windsor Castle

Most Viewed

The First Christening The Season Of 1841

Youth

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

Childhood

Childhood

The Princess Opens The Victoria Park At Bath



Least Viewed

The 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

Failing Health Of Prince Albert

Last Years Of The Prince Consort

The Emperor And Empress Of France Visit Windsor

Distribution Of Victoria Crosses By The Queen

Queen Victoria Absence From The Coronation Of William Iv






First Meeting With Prince Albert Death Of William Iv








The first great event in the young princess's life, and that which was
destined to colour it all for her good and happiness, was her first
meeting in 1836 with her cousins, her mother's nephews, the young princes
Ernest and Albert of Saxe-Coburg. That visit was of about a month's
duration, and from the beginning the attraction was mutual. We can see how
matters went in a letter from Princess Victoria to King Leopold, 7th June
1836. 'I have only now to beg you, my dearest uncle, to take care of the
health of one now so dear to me, and to take him under your special
protection. I hope and trust that all will go on prosperously and well on
this subject, now of so much importance to me.' Although in her heart
preferring Albert, she had been equally kind to both, and her preference
was as yet unknown. And as a mere preference it had for a while to remain,
as the princess was only seventeen, and the education of the prince was
yet incomplete. He was still on his student travels, collecting flowers
and views and autographs for the sweet maiden in England, when in 1837,
news reached him that by the death of William IV. she had attained her
great dignity, and was proclaimed queen.


announcing to the Queen the Death of William IV.]

The death of William IV. took place at 2.30 A.M. on June 20, 1837.
According to a contemporary account, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord
Conyngham reached Kensington Palace about five as bearers of the news.
They desired to see the Queen. They were ushered into an apartment, and
in a few minutes the door opened, and she came in, wrapped in a
dressing-gown, with slippers on her naked feet, and with tearful eyes and
trembling lips. Conyngham told his errand in few words, and as soon as he
uttered the words 'Your Majesty,' she put out her hand to him to be
kissed. He dropped on one knee, and kissed her hand. The archbishop
likewise kissed her hand, and when he had spoken of the king's death, she
asked him for his prayers on her behalf.

The first result of the accession of Victoria was the separation of
Hanover from the British crown. By the Salic law of that realm, a woman
was not permitted to reign; and thus the German principality, which had
come to us with the first George, and which had led us into so many wars
on the Continent, ceased to have any concern with the fortunes of this
country. The crown of Hanover now went to the Duke of Cumberland, the
Queen's uncle.

On 26th June 1837, her cousin Albert wrote: 'Now you are queen of the
mightiest land of Europe, in your hand lies the happiness of millions. May
Heaven assist you, 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.'

The Queen closed her first speech from the throne as follows: 'I ascend
the throne with a deep sense of the responsibility which is imposed upon
me; but I am supported by the consciousness of my own right intentions,
and by my dependence upon the protection of almighty God. It will be my
care to strengthen our institutions, civil and ecclesiastical, by discreet
improvement wherever improvement is required, and to do all in my power to
compose and allay animosity and discord. Acting upon these principles, I
shall upon all occasions look with confidence to the wisdom of parliament
and the affections of my people, which form the true support of the
dignity of the crown, and ensure the stability of the constitution.'

'When called upon by the Duke of Wellington to sign her first
death-warrant, the Queen asked, with tears in her eyes, 'Have you nothing
to say in behalf of this man?'

'Nothing; he has deserted three times,' was the reply.

'Oh, your Grace, think again.'

'Well, your Majesty,' said the duke, 'though he is certainly a very bad
soldier, some witnesses spoke for his character, and, for aught I know
to the contrary, he may be a good man.'

'Oh, thank you for that a thousand times!' the Queen exclaimed; and she
Wrote 'pardoned' across the paper.

The great Duke of Wellington declared that he could not have desired a
daughter of his own to play her part better than did the young queen. She
seemed 'awed, but not daunted.' Nor was the gentler womanly side of life
neglected. She wrote at once to the widowed Queen Adelaide, begging her,
in all her arrangements, to consult nothing but her own health and
convenience, and to remain at Windsor just as long as she pleased. And on
the superscription of that letter she refused to give her widowed aunt her
new style of 'Queen Dowager.' 'I am quite aware of Her Majesty's altered
position,' she said, 'but I will not be the first person to remind her of
it.' And on the evening of the king's funeral, a sick girl, daughter of an
old servant of the Duke of Kent, to whom the duchess and the princess had
been accustomed to show kindness, received from 'Queen Victoria,' a gift
of the Psalms of David, with a marker worked by the royal hands, and
placed in the forty-first psalm.

The first three weeks of her reign were spent at Kensington, and the Queen
took possession of Buckingham Palace on 13th July 1837. Mr Jeaffreson, in
describing her personal appearance, says: 'Studied at full face, she was
seen to have an ample brow, something higher, and receding less abruptly,
than the average brow of her princely kindred; a pair of noble blue eyes,
and a delicately curved upper lip, that was more attractive for being at
times slightly disdainful, and even petulant in its expression. No woman
was ever more fortunate than our young Queen in the purity and delicate
pinkiness of her glowing complexion.... Her Majesty's countenance was
strangely eloquent of tenderness, refinement, and unobtrusive force....
Among the high-born beauties of her day, the young Queen Victoria was
remarkable for the number of her ways of smiling.' Other observers say
that the smallness of her stature was quite forgotten in the gracefulness
of her demeanour. Fanny Kemble thought the Queen's voice exquisite, when
dissolving parliament in July 1837: her enunciation was as perfect as the
intonation was melodious. Charles Sumner was also delighted, and thought
he never heard anything better delivered.

She was proclaimed queen, June 21, 1837: the coronation took place in
Westminster Abbey on June 28, 1838, and has been vividly described by many
pens. At least 300,000 visitors came to London on this occasion. We are
told of the glow of purple, of the acclamations of the crowd, and the
chorus of Westminster scholars, of the flash of diamonds as the assembled
peeresses assumed their coronets when the crown was placed on the head of
the young queen. But we best like the touch of womanly solicitude and
helpfulness with which Her Majesty made a hasty movement forward as an
aged peer, Lord Rolle, tripped over his robes, and stumbled on the steps
of the throne. As she left the Abbey, 'the tender paleness that had
overspread her fair face on her entrance had yielded to a glow of rosy
celestial red.'

Miss Harriet Martineau thus describes the scene before the entrance of the
Queen: 'The stone architecture contrasted finely with the gay colours of
the multitude. From my high seat I commanded the whole north transept, the
area with the throne, and many portions of galleries, and the balconies,
which were called the vaultings. Except the mere sprinkling of oddities,
everybody was in full dress. The scarlet of the military officers mixed in
well, and the groups of clergy were dignified; but to an unaccustomed eye
the prevalence of court dress had a curious effect. I was perpetually
taking whole groups of gentlemen for Quakers till I recollected myself.
The Earl Marshal's assistants, called Gold Sticks, looked well from above,
lightly flitting about in white breeches, silk stockings, blue laced
frocks, and white sashes.

'The throne, covered as was its footstool with cloth of gold, stood on an
elevation of four steps in front of the area. The first peeress took her
seat in the north transept opposite at a quarter to seven, and three of
the bishops came next. From that time the peers and their ladies arrived
faster and faster. Each peeress was conducted by two Gold Sticks, one of
whom handed her to her seat, and the other bore and arranged her train on
her lap, and saw that her coronet, footstool, and book were comfortably
placed.... About nine o'clock the first gleams of the sun started into
the Abbey, and presently travelled down to the peeresses. I had never
before seen the full effect of diamonds. As the light travelled, each lady
shone out like a rainbow. The brightness, vastness, and dreamy
magnificence of the scene produced a strange effect of exhaustion and
sleepiness.... The guns told when the Queen set forth, and there was
unusual animation. The Gold Sticks flitted about; there was tuning in the
orchestra; and the foreign ambassadors and their suites arrived in quick
succession. Prince Esterhazy, crossing a bar of sunshine, was the most
prodigious rainbow of all. He was covered with diamonds and pearls, and as
he dangled his hat, it cast a dazzling radiance all around.... At
half-past eleven the guns told that the Queen had arrived.'

An eye-witness says: 'The Queen came in as gay as a lark, and looking like
a girl on her birthday. However, this only lasted till she reached the
middle of the cross of the Abbey, at the foot of the throne. On her rising
from her knees before the "footstool," after her private devotions, the
Archbishop of Canterbury turned her round to each of the four corners of
the Abbey, saying, in a voice so clear that it was heard in the inmost
recesses, "Sirs, I here present unto you the undoubted Queen of this
realm. Will ye all swear to do her homage?" Each time he said it there
were shouts of "Long live Queen Victoria!" and the sounding of trumpets
and the waving of banners, which made the poor little Queen turn first
very red and then very pale. Most of the ladies cried, and I felt I should
not forget it as long as I lived. The Queen recovered herself after this,
and went through all the rest as if she had been crowned before, but
seemed much impressed by the service, and a most beautiful one it is.' The
service was that which was drawn up by St Dunstan, and with a very few
alterations has been used ever since. Then the anointing followed--a
canopy of cloth of gold was held over the Queen's head, a cross was traced
with oil upon her head and hands, and the Dean of Westminster and the
archbishop pronounced the words, 'Be thou anointed with holy oil, as
kings, priests, and prophets were anointed.' Meanwhile, the choir chanted
the 'Anointing of Solomon,' after which the archbishop gave her his
benediction, all the bishops joining in the amen. She was next seated in
St Edward's chair, underneath which is the rough stone on which the
Scottish kings had been crowned, brought away from Scotland by Edward I.
While seated here she received the ring which was a token that she was
betrothed to her people, a globe surmounted by a cross, and a sceptre. The
crown was then placed upon her head; the trumpets sounded, the drums beat,
the cannons were fired, and cheers rose from the multitude both without
and within the building. The archbishop presented a Bible to Her Majesty,
led her to the throne, and bowed before her; the bishops and lords present
in their order of rank did the same, saying, 'I do become your liegeman of
life and limb and of earthly worship, and faith and love I will bear unto
you, to live and die against all manner of folks; so help me God.'

When the ceremony of allegiance was over, the Queen received the holy
communion, and, after the last blessing was pronounced, in splendid array
left the Abbey. Mr Greville, one of the brilliant gossip-mongers of the
court, related that Lord John Thynne, who officiated for the Dean of
Westminster, told him that no one knew but the archbishop and himself what
ceremony was to be gone through, and that the Queen never knew what she
was to do next. She said to Thynne, 'Pray tell me what I am to do, for
they don't know.' At the end, when the orb was put into her hand, she
said, 'What am I to do with it?' 'Your Majesty is to carry it, if you
please, in your hand.' 'Am I?' she said; 'it is very heavy.' The ruby ring
was made for her little finger instead of her fourth; when the archbishop
was to put it on she extended the former, but he said it was to be put on
the latter. She said it was too small, and she could not get it on. He
said it was right to put it there, and, as he insisted, she yielded, but
had first to take off her other rings, and then it was forced on; but it
hurt her very much, and as soon as the ceremony was over, she was obliged
to bathe her finger in iced water in order to get it off. It is said that
she was very considerate to the royal dukes, her uncles, when they
presented themselves to do homage. When the Duke of Sussex, who was old
and infirm, came forward to take the oath of allegiance, she anticipated
him, kissed his cheek, and said tenderly, 'Do not kneel, my uncle, for I
am still Victoria, your niece.'

Lord Shaftesbury wrote of the service, as 'so solemn, so deeply religious,
so humbling, and yet so sublime. Every word of it is invaluable;
throughout, the church is everything, secular greatness nothing. She
declares, in the name and by the authority of God, and almost enforces, as
a condition preliminary to her benediction, all that can make princes rise
to temporal and eternal glory. Many, very many, were deeply impressed.'



The old crown weighed more than seven pounds; the new one, made for this
coronation, but three pounds. The value of the jewels in the crown was
estimated at £112,760. These precious stones included 1 large ruby and
sapphire; 16 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 4 rubies, 1363 brilliant diamonds;
1273 rose diamonds, 147 table diamonds; 4 drop-shaped pearls; 273 other
pearls. The entire coronation expenses amounted to less than £70,000:
those of George IV. amounted to £238,000 (banquet, £138,000). As the
ceremony lasted four and a half hours, it was well Queen Victoria was
spared the fatigue of a banquet.

Reasons of state and court etiquette required the Duchess of Kent to
retire from the constant companionship of her daughter, lest she should be
suspected of undue influence over her. The young queen of England had
entered upon a time of moral trial. Many of those who had been ready to
applaud her were found equally ready to criticise her. Her mother's
natural pangs at settling down into their new relationship were
maliciously interpreted as consequences of the Queen's coldness and
self-will. It was said that she 'began to exhibit slight signs of a
peremptory disposition.'

It is good to know from such a well-informed authority as Mrs Oliphant
that the immediate circle of friends around her fed her with no
flatteries. The life of the Queen at Windsor has been thus described: 'She
rose at a little after eight; breakfasted in her private rooms; then her
ministers were admitted; despatches were read, and there would be a
consultation with Lord Melbourne. After luncheon she rode out, and on her
return amused herself with music and singing and such like recreations
till dinner, which was about 8 P.M. On the appearance of the ladies in the
drawing-room she stood, moving about from one to the other, talking for a
short time to each, and also speaking to the gentlemen as they came from
the dining-room. A whist table would be made up for the Duchess of Kent.
The Queen and the others seated themselves about a large round table and
engaged in conversation.'

'Poor little Queen!' said Carlyle, with a shake of his head at the time,
'she is at an age when a girl can hardly be trusted to choose a bonnet for
herself, yet a task is laid upon her from which an archangel might
shrink.' Her Majesty was not overawed, however, and expressly declared to
her mother that she ascended the throne without alarm. 'She is as merry
and playful as a kitten,' wrote Sir John Campbell.... 'She was in great
spirits, and danced with more than usual gaiety a romping, country-dance
called the Tempest.' An observant writer of this date says: 'She had a
fine vein of humour, a keen sense of the ludicrous; enjoyed equestrian
exercise, and rode remarkably well.'

N. P. Willis, the American poet, who saw her on horseback in Hyde Park,
said: 'Her Majesty rides quite fearlessly and securely; I met her party
full gallop near the centre of the Rotten Row. On came the Queen on a
dun-coloured, highly groomed horse, with her prime-minister on one side of
her, and Lord Byron on the other; her cortége of maids of honour, and
lords and ladies of the court checking their spirited horses, and
preserving always a slight distance between themselves and Her Majesty.
... Victoria's round, plump figure looks exceedingly well in her
dark-green riding dress.... She rode with her mouth open, and seemed
exhilarated with pleasure.' James Gordon Bennett, who saw her at the
opera, describes her as 'a fair-haired little girl, dressed with great
simplicity in white muslin, with hair plain, a blue ribbon at the back....
Her bust is extremely well proportioned, and her complexion very fair.
There is a slight parting of her rosy lips, between which you can see
little nicks of something like very white teeth. The expression of her
face is amiable and good-tempered. I could see nothing like that awful
majesty, that mysterious something which doth hedge a queen.'

Mr Greville, who dined at the Queen's table in Buckingham Palace in 1837,
pronounced the whole thing dull, so dull that he marvelled how any one
could like such a life: but both here and at a ball he declared the
bearing of the Queen to be perfect, noting also that her complexion was
clear, and that the expression of her eyes was agreeable.

Despite her strong attraction to her cousin Albert, she expressed a
determination not to think of marriage for a time. The sudden change from
her quiet, girlish life in Kensington to the prominence and the powers of
a great queen, standing 'in that fierce light which beats upon a throne,'
might well have excused a good deal of wilfulness had the excuse been
needed.

Her Majesty decides that 'a worse school for a young girl, or one more
detrimental to all natural feelings and affections, cannot well be
imagined.' Perhaps it was an experience which she needed to convince her
fully of the value and blessedness of the true domesticity which was soon
to be hers. After she had in 1837 placed her life-interest in the
hereditary revenues of the crown at the disposal of the House of Commons,
her yearly income was fixed at £385,000. This income is allocated as
follows: For Her Majesty's privy purse, £60,000; salaries of Her Majesty's
household and retired allowances, £131,260; expenses of household,
£172,500; royal bounty, alms, &c., £13,200; unappropriated moneys, £8040.

The first change from a Whig to a Conservative government ruffled the
waters a little. Her Majesty was advised by the Duke of Wellington to
invite Sir Robert Peel to form a new ministry. She did so, but frankly
told Peel that she was very sorry to lose Lord Melbourne. When arranging
his cabinet, Sir Robert found that objections were raised to the retention
of certain Whig ladies in personal attendance upon the Queen, as being
very likely to influence her. The Duchess of Sutherland and Lady Normanby,
it is believed, were particularly meant. The Queen at first flatly refused
to dismiss her Ladies of the Bedchamber, to whom she had got so
accustomed. As Sir Robert Peel would not yield the point, she recalled
Lord Melbourne, who now retained office till 1841. The affair caused a
great deal of talk in political and non-political circles. The Queen
wrote: 'They wanted to deprive me of my ladies, and I suppose they would
deprive me next of my dresses and my housemaids; but I will show them that
I am Queen of England.' This little episode has since gone by the name of
the 'Bedchamber Plot.'

Of Her Majesty it may safely be said that she has always been a genuine
ruler, in the sense that from the first she trained herself to comprehend
the mysteries of statecraft. She had Lord Melbourne as her first
prime-minister, and from the beginning every despatch of the Foreign
Office was offered to her attention. In 1848, a year of exceptional
activity, these numbered 28,000.

If for a while the Queen thus drew back from actually deciding to marry
the cousin whom, nevertheless, she owned to be 'fascinating,' that cousin
on his side was not one of those of whom it may be said:

He either fears his fate too much,
Or his deserts are small,
That dares not put it to the touch,
To gain or lose it all.

'I am ready,' he said, 'to submit to delay, if I have only some certain
assurance to go upon. But if, after waiting perhaps for three years, I
should find that the Queen no longer desired the marriage, it would place
me in a ridiculous position, and would, to a certain extent, ruin all my
prospects for the future.'

Love proved stronger than girlish pride and independence--the woman was
greater than the queen. The young pair met again on the 10th October 1839,
and on the 14th of the same month the Queen communicated the welcome news
of her approaching marriage to her prime-minister. Her best friends were
all delighted with the news.

'You will be very nervous on declaring your engagement to the Council,'
said the Duchess of Gloucester.

'Yes,' replied the Queen, 'but I did something far more trying to my
nerves a short time since.'

'What was that?' the duchess asked.

'I proposed to Albert,' was the reply.

Etiquette of course forbade the gentleman in this case to speak first; and
we can well believe that the Queen was more nervous over this matter than
over many a state occasion. How the thing took place we may gather in part
from a letter of Prince Albert to his grandmother: 'The Queen sent for me
to her room, and disclosed to me, in a genuine outburst of love and
affection, that I had gained her whole heart.' After the glad announcement
was made, warm congratulations were showered on the young people. Lord
Melbourne expressed great satisfaction on behalf of himself and his
country. 'You will be much more comfortable,' he said, 'for a woman cannot
stand alone for any time in whatever position she may be.' To King
Leopold, who had much to do with the matter, the news was particularly
welcome. In his joyous response to the Queen occur these words: 'I had,
when I learned your decision, almost the feeling of old Simeon, "Now
lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace." Your choice has been, for these
last years, my conviction of what might and would be the best for your
happiness.... In your position, which may, and will perhaps, become in
future even more difficult in a political point of view, you could not
exist without having a happy and agreeable intérieur. And I am much
deceived (which I think I am not) or you will find in Albert just the very
qualities and disposition which are indispensable for your happiness, and
will suit your own character, temper, and mode of life.'



To Baron Stockmar, the prince wrote: 'Victoria is so good and kind to me,
that I am often puzzled to believe that I should be the object of so much
affection.' Prince Albert knew he was choosing a position of no ordinary
difficulty and responsibility. 'With the exception of my relation to the
Queen, my future position will have its dark sides, and the sky will not
always be blue and unclouded. But life has its thorns in every position,
and the consciousness of having used one's powers and endeavours for an
object so great as that of promoting the welfare of so many, will surely
be sufficient to support me.'

True love is always humble. Among the entries in the Queen's Journals are
many like this: 'How I will strive to make Albert feel as little as
possible the great sacrifice he has made! I told him it was a great
sacrifice on his part, but he would not allow it.' After they had spent a
month together, the prince returned to Germany. The following extract
occurs in a letter from Prince Albert to the Duchess of Kent: 'What you
say about my poor little bride, sitting all alone in her room, silent and
sad, has touched me to the heart. Oh that I might fly to her side to cheer
her!'

On the 23d November, she made the important declaration regarding her
approaching marriage to the privy-councillors, eighty-three of whom
assembled in Buckingham Palace to hear it. She wore upon her slender wrist
a bracelet with the prince's portrait, 'which seemed,' she says, 'to give
her courage.' The Queen afterwards described the scene: 'Precisely at two
I went in. Lord Melbourne I saw kindly looking at me, with tears in his
eyes, but he was not near me. I then read my short declaration. I felt
that my hands shook, but I did not make one mistake. I felt most happy and
thankful when it was over. Lord Lansdowne then rose, and in the name of
the Privy-Council asked that this most gracious, most welcome
communication might be printed. I then left the room, the whole thing not
taking above three minutes.' The Queen had to make the same statement
before parliament, when Sir Robert Peel replied. 'Her Majesty,' he said,
'has the singular good fortune to be able to gratify her private feelings
while she performs her public duty, and to obtain the best guarantee for
happiness by contracting an alliance founded on affection.' Hereupon arose
a discussion both in and out of parliament as to the amount of the grant
to Prince Albert, which was settled at £30,000 a year. But Prince Albert
assured the Queen that this squabbling did not trouble him: 'All I have to
say is, while I possess your love, they cannot make me unhappy.' Another
source of trouble arose from the fact that several members of the royal
family thought it an indignity that they should give precedence to a
German prince.

Prince Albert was born at Schloss Rosenau, near Coburg, August 26, 1819,
the younger son of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, by his first marriage
with Louisa, daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. After a careful
domestic education, the prince, along with his elder brother, studied at
Brussels and Bonn (1836-38), where, in addition to the sciences connected
with state-craft, he devoted himself with ardour to natural history and
chemistry, and displayed great taste for the fine arts, especially
painting and music. Gifted with a handsome figure, he attained expertness
in all knightly exercises; whilst by Baron Stockmar, his Mentor, he was
imbued with a real interest in European politics.

King Leopold wrote truly of him: 'If I am not very much mistaken, he
possesses all the qualities required to fit him for the position which he
will occupy in England. His understanding is sound, his apprehension is
clear and rapid, and his heart in the right place. He has great powers of
observation, and possesses singular prudence, without anything about him
that can be called cold or morose.' The two met first in 1836, and fell in
love, as we have seen, like ordinary mortals, though the marriage had long
been projected by King Leopold and Baron Stockmar.





Next: Marriage And Delicacy Of The Prince's Position

Previous: Reign Of Queen Victoria



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK


Viewed 1153