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Queen Victoria Absence From The Coronation Of William Iv






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The indifference of the Duchess of Kent to the heavy pomps and heavier
gayeties of his Court so offended his unmajestic Majesty, that he finally
became decidedly inimical to the Duchess. Though he insisted on seeing
the little Princess often, he did not like the English people to see too
much of her, or to pay her and her mother too much honor. He objected to
their little journeys, calling them "royal progresses," and by a special
order put a stop to the "poppings," in the way of salutes, to the vessel
which bore them to and from the Isle of Wight--a small piece of state-
business for a King and his Council to be engaged in. The King's
unpopular brother, the Duke of Cumberland, was also supposed to be
unfriendly to the widow of a brother whom he had not loved, and to the
child whom, according to that brother, he regarded from the first as an
"intruder," and who certainly at the last, stood between His Royal
Grossness and the throne--the throne which would have gone down under
him. Yet, in spite of enmity and opposition from high quarters, and
jealousy and harsh criticism from Court ministers and minions, the
Duchess of Kent, who seems to have been a woman of immense firmness and
resolution, kept on her way, rearing her daughter as she thought best,
coming and going as she felt inclined.

Victoria's governess was for many years the accomplished Baroness Lehzen,
who had also been the chief instructress of her sister, Feodore. Until
she was twelve years old, her masters were also German, and she is said
to have spoken English with a German accent. After that time her
teachers, in nearly all branches, were English. Miss Kortright tells me a
little anecdote of the Princess when about twelve years old, related by
one of these teachers. She had been reading in her classical history the
story of Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi--how she proudly presented
her sons to the ostentatious and much-bediamonded Roman dame, with the
words, "These are my jewels." "She should have said my Cornelians,"
said the quick-witted little girl.

Victoria was instructed in some things not in those days thought proper
for young ladies to learn, but deemed necessary for a poor girl who was
expected to do a man's work. She was well grounded in history, instructed
in Latin--though she did not fancy it, and later, in the British
Constitution, and in law and politics. Nor were light accomplishments
neglected: in modern languages, in painting and music, she finally became
singularly proficient. Gifted with a remarkably sweet voice and a correct
ear, she could not well help being a charming singer, under her great
master, Lablache. She danced well, rode well, and excelled in archery.

As I said, the brave Duchess, as conscientious as independent, kept up
the life of retirement from Court pomps and gayeties, and of alternate
hard study and social recreation, which she thought best for her child.

She quietly persevered in the "progresses" which annoyed the irascible
and unreasonable old King, even visiting the Isle of Wight, though the
royal big guns were forbidden to "pop" at sight of the royal standard,
which waved over her, and the young hope of England. Perhaps
recollections of those pleasant visits with her mother at Norris Castle
have helped to render so dear the Queen's own beautiful sea-side home,
Osborne House. I remember a pretty little story, told by a tourist, who
happened to be stopping at the village of Brading during one of those
visits to the lovely island. One afternoon he strolled into the old
church-yard to search out the grave of Elizabeth Wallbridge, the sweet
heroine of Leigh Richmond's beautiful religious story, "The Dairyman's
Daughter." He found seated beside the mound a lady and a young girl, the
latter reading aloud, in a full, melodious voice, the touching tale of
the Christian maiden. The tourist turned away, and soon after was told by
the sexton that those pilgrims to that humble grave were the Duchess of
Kent and the Princess Victoria.

I am told by a Yorkshire lady another story of the Princess, of not quite
so serious a character. She was visiting with her mother, of course, at
Wentworth House, the seat of Earl Fitzwilliam in Yorkshire, and while at
that pleasant place delighted in running about by herself in the gardens
and shrubberies. One wet morning, soon after her arrival, she was thus
disporting herself, flitting from point to point, light-hearted and
light-footed, when the old gardener, who did not then know her, seeing
her about to descend a treacherous bit of ground from the terrace, called
out, "Be careful, Miss; it's slape!"--a Yorkshire word for slippery. The
incautious, but ever-curious Princess, turning her head, asked, "What's
slape?" and the same instant her feet flew from under her, and she came
down. The old gardener ran to lift her, saying, as he did so,
"That's slape, Miss."

There is nothing remarkable, much less incredible, in these stories of
the young Victoria, nor in the one related by her music-teacher, of how
she once rebelled against so much practice, and how, on his telling her
that there was no "royal road" in art, and that only by much practice
could she become "mistress of the piano," she closed and locked the
obnoxious instrument and put the key in her pocket, saying playfully,
"Now you see there is a royal way of becoming `mistress of the
piano.'" But not so simple and natural and girlish are all the things
told of the Queen's young days. Loyal English people have said to me,
"You will find few stories of Her Majesty's childhood, but those few will
all be good."

Yes, too good. The chroniclers of forty and fifty years ago--the same in
whose loyal eyes the fifteen children of George III. were all "children
of light"--could find no words in which to paint their worship for this
rising star of sovereignty. According to them, she was not only the pearl
of Princesses for piety and propriety, for goodness and graciousness, but
a marvel of unchildlike wisdom, a prodigy of cleverness and learning; in
short, a purely perfect creature, loved of the angels to a degree
perilous to the succession. The simplest little events of her daily life
were twisted into something unnaturally significant, or unhealthily
virtuous. If she was taken through a cotton-mill at Manchester, and asked
a score or two of questions about the machinery and the strange processes
of spinning and weaving, it was not childish curiosity--it was a love of
knowledge, and a patriotic desire to encourage British manufactures.

If she gave a few pennies to a blind beggar at Margate, the amiable act
was heralded as one, of almost divine beneficence, and the beggar pitied,
as never before, for his blindness. The poor man had not beheld the face
of the "little angel" who dropped the coin into his greasy hat! If, full
of "high spirits," she took long rides on a donkey at Ramsgate, and ran
races with other children on the sands, it was a proof of the sweetest
human condescension--the donkey's opinion not being taken.


Of course all this is false, unwholesome sentiment, quite
incomprehensible to nineteenth century Americans, though our great-
grandfathers understood this sort of personal loyalty very well, and
gloried in it, till George the Third drove them to the wall; and our
great-grandmothers cherished it as a sacred religious principle till
their tea was taxed. I dare say that if the truth could be got at, we
should find that little Victoria was at times trying enough to mother,
masters, and attendants; that she was occasionally passionate, perverse,
and "pestering," like all children who have any great and positive
elements in them. I dare say she was disposed, like any other "only
child," to be self-willed and selfish, and that she required a fair
amount of wholesome discipline, and that she got it. Had she been the
prim and pious little precocity which some biographers have painted her,
she would have died young, like the "Dairyman's Daughter"; we might have
had an edifying tract, and England a revolution.

One of her biographers speaks with a sort of ecstatic surprise of the
fact that the Princess was "affable--even gay," and that she "laughed and
chatted like other little girls." And yet she must early have perceived
that she was not quite like other little girls, but set up and apart.
Though reared with all the simplicity practicable for a Princess Royal,
she must have been conscious of a magic circle drawn round her, of a
barrier impalpable, but most real, which other children could not
voluntarily overpass. She must have seen that they could not call out to
her to "come and play!" that however shy she might feel, she must propose
the game, or the romp, as later she had to propose marriage. She even was
obliged to quarrel, if quarrel she did, all alone by herself. Any
resistance on the part of her playmates would have been a small variety
of high treason. She must sometimes, with her admirable good sense, have
been wearied and disgusted by so much concession, conciliation, and
consideration, and may have envied less fortunate or unfortunate mortals
who can give and take hard knocks, for whom less is demanded, and of whom
less is expected.

She may have tired of her very name, with its grand prefixes and no
affix, and longed to be Victoria Kent, or Something--Jones, Brown,
or Robinson.

She seems to have been a child of simple, homely tastes, for in 1842,
when Queen, she writes to her Uncle Leopold from Claremont, where she is
visiting, with her husband and little daughter: "This place brings back
recollections of the happiest days of my otherwise dull childhood--days
when I experienced such kindness from you, dearest uncle; Victoria plays
with my old bricks, and I see her running and jumping in the flower-
garden, as old (though I feel still little) Victoria of former days
used to do."





Next: The Princess Opens The Victoria Park At Bath

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