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

The Princess Opens The Victoria Park At Bath

Birth Of The Prince Of Wales Visit Of The King Of Prussia

Nis! Nis! Nis! Hurrah!



Least Viewed

Mr Gladstone And Lord Beaconsfield

The Queen's Sympathy During The Illness Of President Garfield

First Meeting With Prince Albert Death Of William Iv

Failing Health Of Prince Albert

Sketch Of The Princess Charlotte

Second Attempt On The Queen's Life

Distribution Of Victoria Crosses By The Queen

Marriage Of The Princess Royal

The Emperor And Empress Of France Visit Windsor

Marriage And Delicacy Of The Prince's Position






Marriage








I

It was decidedly a family match. Prince Francis Charles Augustus
Albert Emmanuel of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha--for such was his full title--had
been born just three months after his cousin Victoria, and the same
midwife had assisted at the two births. The children's grandmother,
the Dowager Duchess of Coburg, had from the first looked forward to
their marriage; as they grew up, the Duke, the Duchess of Kent, and
King Leopold came equally to desire it. The Prince, ever since the
time when, as a child of three, his nurse had told him that some day
'the little English May flower' would be his wife, had never thought of
marrying anyone else. When eventually Baron Stockmar himself signified
his assent, the affair seemed as good as settled.

The Duke had one other child--Prince Ernest, Albert's senior by one
year, and heir to the principality. The Duchess was a sprightly and
beautiful woman, with fair hair and blue eyes; Albert was very like her
and was her declared favourite. But in his fifth year he was parted
from her for ever. The ducal court was not noted for the strictness of
its morals; the Duke was a man of gallantry, and it was rumoured that
the Duchess followed her husband's example. There were scandals:
one of the Court Chamberlains, a charming and cultivated man of Jewish
extraction, was talked of; at last there was a separation, followed by
a divorce. The Duchess retired to Paris, and died unhappily in 1831.
Her memory was always very dear to Albert.

He grew up a pretty, clever, and high-spirited boy. Usually
well-behaved, he was, however, sometimes violent. He had a will of his
own, and asserted it; his elder brother was less passionate, less
purposeful, and, in their wrangles, it was Albert who came out top.
The two boys, living for the most part in one or other of the Duke's
country houses, among pretty hills and woods and streams, had been at a
very early age--Albert was less than four--separated from their nurses
and put under a tutor, in whose charge they remained until they went to
the University. They were brought up in a simple and unostentatious
manner, for the Duke was poor and the duchy very small and very
insignificant. Before long it became evident that Albert was a model
lad. Intelligent and painstaking, he had been touched by the moral
earnestness of his generation; at the age of eleven he surprised his
father by telling him that he hoped to make himself 'a good and useful
man.' And yet he was not over-serious; though, perhaps, he had little
humour, he was full of fun--of practical jokes and mimicry. He was no
milksop; he rode, and shot, and fenced; above all did he delight in
being out of doors, and never was he happier than in his long rambles
with his brother through the wild country round his beloved
Rosenau--stalking the deer, admiring the scenery, and returning laden
with specimens for his natural history collection. He was, besides,
passionately fond of music. In one particular it was observed
that he did not take after his father: owing either to his peculiar
upbringing or to a more fundamental idiosyncrasy he had a marked
distaste for the opposite sex. At the age of five, at a children's
dance, he screamed with disgust and anger when a little girl was led up
to him for a partner; and though, later on, he grew more successful in
disguising such feelings, the feelings remained.

The brothers were very popular in Coburg, and, when the time came for
them to be confirmed, the preliminary examination, which, according to
ancient custom, was held in public in the 'Giants' Hall' of the Castle,
was attended by an enthusiastic crowd of functionaries, clergy,
delegates from the villages of the duchy, and miscellaneous onlookers.
There were also present, besides the Duke and the Dowager Duchess,
their Serene Highnesses the Princes Alexander and Ernest of Wuertemberg,
Prince Leiningen, Princess Hohenlohe-Langenburg, and Princess
Hohenlohe-Schillingsfuerst. Dr. Jacobi, the Court chaplain, presided at
an altar, simply but appropriately decorated, which had been placed at
the end of the hall; and the proceedings began by the choir singing the
first verse of the hymn, 'Come, Holy Ghost.' After some introductory
remarks, Dr. Jacobi began the examination. 'The dignified and decorous
bearing of the Princes,' we are told in a contemporary account, 'their
strict attention to the questions, the frankness, decision, and
correctness of their answers, produced a deep impression on the
numerous assembly. Nothing was more striking in their answers than the
evidence they gave of deep feeling and of inward strength of
conviction. The questions put by the examiner were not such as to be
met by a simple "yes" or "no." They were carefully considered in
order to give the audience a clear insight into the views and feelings
of the young princes. One of the most touching moments was when the
examiner asked the hereditary prince whether he intended steadfastly to
hold to the Evangelical Church, and the Prince answered not only "Yes!"
but added in a clear and decided tone: "I and my brother are firmly
resolved ever to remain faithful to the acknowledged truth." The
examination having lasted an hour, Dr. Jacobi made some concluding
observations, followed by a short prayer; the second and third verses
of the opening hymn were sung; and the ceremony was over. The Princes,
stepping down from the altar, were embraced by the Duke and the Dowager
Duchess; after which the loyal inhabitants of Coburg dispersed, well
satisfied with their entertainment.

Albert's mental development now proceeded apace. In his seventeenth
year he began a careful study of German literature and German
philosophy. He set about, he told his tutor, 'to follow the thoughts
of the great Klopstock into their depths--though in this, for the most
part,' he modestly added, 'I do not succeed.' He wrote an essay on the
'Mode of Thought of the Germans, and a Sketch of the History of German
Civilisation,' 'making use,' he said, 'in its general outlines, of the
divisions which the treatment of the subject itself demands,' and
concluding with 'a retrospect of the shortcomings of our time, with an
appeal to every one to correct those shortcomings in his own case, and
thus set a good example to others.' Placed for some months under
the care of King Leopold at Brussels, he came under the influence of
Adolphe Quetelet, a mathematical professor, who was particularly
interested in the application of the laws of probability to political
and moral phenomena; this line of inquiry attracted the Prince, and the
friendship thus begun continued till the end of his life. From
Brussels he went to the University of Bonn, where he was speedily
distinguished both by his intellectual and his social activities; his
energies were absorbed in metaphysics, law, political economy, music,
fencing, and amateur theatricals. Thirty years later his
fellow-students recalled with delight the fits of laughter into which
they had been sent by Prince Albert's mimicry. The verve with which
his Serene Highness reproduced the tones and gestures of one of the
professors who used to point to a picture of a row of houses in Venice
with the remark, 'That is the Ponte Realte,' and of another who fell
down in a race and was obliged to look for his spectacles, was
especially appreciated.

After a year at Bonn, the time had come for a foreign tour, and Baron
Stockmar arrived from England to accompany the Prince on an expedition
to Italy. The Baron had been already, two years previously, consulted
by King Leopold as to his views upon the proposed marriage of Albert
and Victoria. His reply had been remarkable. With a characteristic
foresight, a characteristic absence of optimism, a characteristic sense
of the moral elements in the situation, Stockmar had pointed out what
were, in his opinion, the conditions essential to make the marriage a
success. Albert, he wrote, was a fine young fellow, well grown for his
age, with agreeable and valuable qualities; and it was probable that in
a few years he would turn out a strong, handsome man, of a kindly,
simple, yet dignified demeanour. 'Thus, externally, he possesses
all that pleases the sex, and at all times and in all countries must
please.' Supposing, therefore, that Victoria herself was in favour of
the marriage, the further question arose as to whether Albert's mental
qualities were such as to fit him for the position of husband of the
Queen of England. On this point, continued the Baron, one heard much
to his credit; the Prince was said to be discreet and intelligent; but
all such judgments were necessarily partial, and the Baron preferred to
reserve his opinion until he could come to a trustworthy conclusion
from personal observation. And then he added: 'But all this is not
enough. The young man ought to have not merely great ability, but a
right ambition, and great force of will as well. To pursue for a
lifetime a political career so arduous demands more than energy and
inclination--it demands also that earnest frame of mind which is ready
of its own accord to sacrifice mere pleasure to real usefulness. If he
is not satisfied hereafter with the consciousness of having achieved
one of the most influential positions in Europe, how often will he feel
tempted to repent his adventure! If he does not from the very outset
accept it as a vocation of grave responsibility, on the efficient
performance of which his honour and happiness depend, there is small
likelihood of his succeeding.'

Such were the views of Stockmar on the qualifications necessary for the
due fulfilment of that destiny which Albert's family had marked out for
him; and he hoped, during the tour in Italy, to come to some conclusion
as to how far the Prince possessed them. Albert on his side was much
impressed by the Baron, whom he had previously seen but rarely; he also
became acquainted, for the first time in his life, with a young
Englishman, Lieut. Francis Seymour, who had been engaged to accompany
him, whom he found sehr liebenswuerdig, and with whom he struck up a
warm friendship. He delighted in the galleries and scenery of
Florence, though with Rome he was less impressed. 'But for some
beautiful palaces,' he said, 'it might just as well be any town in
Germany.' In an interview with Pope Gregory XVI, he took the
opportunity of displaying his erudition. When the Pope observed that
the Greeks had taken their art from the Etruscans, Albert replied that,
on the contrary, in his opinion, they had borrowed from the Egyptians:
his Holiness politely acquiesced. Wherever he went he was eager to
increase his knowledge, and, at a ball in Florence, he was observed
paying no attention whatever to the ladies, and deep in conversation
with the learned Signor Capponi. 'Voila un prince dont nous pouvons
etre fiers,' said the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who was standing by: 'la
belle danseuse l'attend, le savant l'occupe.'

On his return to Germany, Stockmar's observations, imparted to King
Leopold, were still critical. Albert, he said, was intelligent, kind,
and amiable; he was full of the best intentions and the noblest
resolutions, and his judgment was in many things beyond his years. But
great exertion was repugnant to him; he seemed to be too willing to
spare himself, and his good resolutions too often came to nothing. It
was particularly unfortunate that he took not the slightest interest in
politics, and never read a newspaper. In his manners, too, there was
still room for improvement. 'He will always,' said the Baron, 'have
more success with men than with women, in whose society he shows too
little empressement, and is too indifferent and retiring.' One
other feature of the case was noted by the keen eye of the old
physician: the Prince's constitution was not a strong one. Yet, on
the whole, he was favourable to the projected marriage. But by now the
chief obstacle seemed to lie in another quarter. Victoria was
apparently determined to commit herself to nothing. And so it happened
that when Albert went to England he had made up his mind to withdraw
entirely from the affair. Nothing would induce him, he confessed to a
friend, to be kept vaguely waiting; he would break it all off at once.
His reception at Windsor threw an entirely new light upon the
situation. The wheel of fortune turned with a sudden rapidity; and he
found, in the arms of Victoria, the irrevocable assurance of his
overwhelming fate.


II

He was not in love with her. Affection, gratitude, the natural
reactions to the unqualified devotion of a lively young cousin who was
also a queen--such feelings possessed him, but the ardours of
reciprocal passion were not his. Though he found that he liked
Victoria very much, what immediately interested him in his curious
position was less her than himself. Dazzled and delighted, riding,
dancing, singing, laughing, amid the splendours of Windsor, he was
aware of a new sensation--the stirrings of ambition in his breast. His
place would indeed be a high, an enviable one! And then, on the
instant, came another thought. The teaching of religion, the
admonitions of Stockmar, his own inmost convictions, all spoke
with the same utterance. He would not be there to please himself, but
for a very different purpose--to do good. He must be 'noble, manly,
and princely in all things,' he would have 'to live and to sacrifice
himself for the benefit of his new country,' to 'use his powers and
endeavours for a great object--that of promoting the welfare of
multitudes of his fellow-men.' One serious thought led on to another.
The wealth and the bustle of the English Court might be delightful for
the moment, but, after all, it was Coburg that had his heart. 'While I
shall be untiring,' he wrote to his grandmother, 'in my efforts and
labours for the country to which I shall in future belong, and where I
am called to so high a position, I shall never cease ein treuer
Deutscher, Coburger, Gothaner zu sein.' And now he must part from
Coburg for ever! Sobered and sad, he sought relief in his brother
Ernest's company; the two young men would shut themselves up together,
and, sitting down at the pianoforte, would escape from the present and
the future in the sweet familiar gaiety of a Haydn duet.

They returned to Germany; and while Albert, for a few farewell months,
enjoyed, for the last time, the happiness of home, Victoria, for the
last time, resumed her old life in London and Windsor. She
corresponded daily with her future husband in a mingled flow of German
and English; but the accustomed routine reasserted itself; the business
and the pleasures of the day would brook no interruption; Lord M. was
once more constantly beside her; and the Tories were as intolerable as
ever. Indeed, they were more so. For now, in these final
moments, the old feud burst out with redoubled fury. The impetuous
sovereign found, to her chagrin, that there might be disadvantages in
being the declared enemy of one of the great parties in the State. On
two occasions, the Tories directly thwarted her in a matter on which
she had set her heart. She wished her husband's rank to be fixed by
statute, and their opposition prevented it. She wished her husband to
receive a settlement from the nation of L50,000 a year; and, again
owing to the Tories, he was allowed only L30,000. It was too bad.
When the question was discussed in Parliament, it had been pointed out
that the bulk of the population was suffering from great poverty, and
that L30,000 was the whole revenue of Coburg; but her uncle Leopold had
been given L50,000, and it would be monstrous to give Albert less. Sir
Robert Peel--it might have been expected--had had the effrontery to
speak and vote for the smaller sum. She was very angry, and determined
to revenge herself by omitting to invite a single Tory to her wedding.
She would make an exception in favour of old Lord Liverpool, but even
the Duke of Wellington she refused to ask. When it was represented to
her that it would amount to a national scandal if the Duke were absent
from her wedding, she was angrier than ever. 'What! That old rebel!
I won't have him,' she was reported to have said. Eventually she was
induced to send him an invitation; but she made no attempt to conceal
the bitterness of her feelings, and the Duke himself was only too
well aware of all that had passed.

Nor was it only against the Tories that her irritation rose. As the
time for her wedding approached, her temper grew steadily sharper and
more arbitrary. Queen Adelaide annoyed her. King Leopold, too, was
'ungracious' in his correspondence; 'Dear Uncle,' she told Albert, 'is
given to believe that he must rule the roast everywhere. However,' she
added with asperity, 'that is not a necessity.' Even Albert
himself was not impeccable. Engulfed in Coburgs, he failed to
appreciate the complexity of English affairs. There were difficulties
about his household. He had a notion that he ought not to be
surrounded by violent Whigs; very likely, but he would not understand
that the only alternatives to violent Whigs were violent Tories; and it
would be preposterous if his Lords and Gentlemen were to be found
voting against the Queen's. He wanted to appoint his own Private
Secretary. But how could he choose the right person? Lord M. was
obviously best qualified to make the appointment; and Lord M. had
decided that the Prince should take over his own Private
Secretary--George Anson, a staunch Whig. Albert protested, but it was
useless; Victoria simply announced that Anson was appointed, and
instructed Lehzen to send the Prince an explanation of the details of
the case. Then, again, he had written anxiously upon the necessity of
maintaining unspotted the moral purity of the Court. Lord M.'s pupil
considered that dear Albert was strait-laced, and, in a brisk
Anglo-German missive, set forth her own views. 'I like Lady A. very
much,' she told him, 'only she is a little strict and
particular, and too severe towards others, which is not right; for I
think one ought always to be indulgent towards other people, as I
always think, if we had not been well taken care of, we might also have
gone astray. That is always my feeling. Yet it is always right to
show that one does not like to see what is obviously wrong; but it is
very dangerous to be too severe, and I am certain that as a rule such
people always greatly regret that in their youth they have not been so
careful as they ought to have been. I have explained this so badly and
written it so badly, that I fear you will hardly be able to make it
out.'

On one other matter she was insistent. Since the affair of Lady Flora
Hastings, a sad fate had overtaken Sir James Clark. His flourishing
practice had quite collapsed; nobody would go to him any more. But the
Queen remained faithful. She would show the world how little she cared
for its disapproval, and she desired Albert to make 'poor Clark' his
physician in ordinary. He did as he was told; but, as it turned out,
the appointment was not a happy one.

The wedding-day was fixed, and it was time for Albert to tear himself
away from his family and the scenes of his childhood. With an aching
heart, he had revisited his beloved haunts--the woods and the valleys
where he had spent so many happy hours shooting rabbits and collecting
botanical specimens; in deep depression, he had sat through the
farewell banquets in the Palace and listened to the Freischuetz
performed by the State band. It was time to go. The streets were
packed as he drove through them; for a short space his eyes were
gladdened by a sea of friendly German faces, and his ears by a
gathering volume of good guttural sounds. He stopped to bid a last
adieu to his grandmother. It was a heart-rending moment. 'Albert!
Albert!' she shrieked, and fell fainting into the arms of her
attendants as his carriage drove away. He was whirled rapidly to his
destiny. At Calais a steamboat awaited him, and, together with his
father and his brother, he stepped, dejected, on board. A little
later, he was more dejected still. The crossing was a very rough one;
the Duke went hurriedly below; while the two Princes, we are told, lay
on either side of the cabin staircase 'in an almost helpless state.'
At Dover a large crowd was collected on the pier, and 'it was by no
common effort that Prince Albert, who had continued to suffer up to the
last moment, got up to bow to the people.' His sense of duty
triumphed. It was a curious omen: his whole life in England was
foreshadowed as he landed on English ground.

Meanwhile Victoria, in growing agitation, was a prey to temper and to
nerves. She grew feverish, and at last Sir James Clark pronounced that
she was going to have the measles. But, once again, Sir James's
diagnosis was incorrect. It was not the measles that was attacking
her, but a very different malady; she was suddenly prostrated by alarm,
regret, and doubt. For two years she had been her own mistress--the
two happiest years, by far, of her life. And now it was all to end!
She was to come under an alien domination--she would have to promise
that she would honour and obey ... someone, who might, after all,
thwart her, oppose her--and how dreadful that would be! Why had she
embarked on this hazardous experiment? Why had she not been
contented with Lord M.? No doubt, she loved Albert; but she loved
power too. At any rate, one thing was certain: she might be Albert's
wife, but she would always be Queen of England. He reappeared, in
an exquisite uniform, and her hesitations melted in his presence like
mist before the sun. On February 10, 1840, the marriage took place.
The wedded pair drove down to Windsor; but they were not, of course,
entirely alone. They were accompanied by their suites, and, in
particular, by two persons--the Baron Stockmar and the Baroness Lehzen.


III

Albert had foreseen that his married life would not be all plain
sailing; but he had by no means realised the gravity and the
complication of the difficulties which he would have to face.
Politically, he was a cipher. Lord Melbourne was not only Prime
Minister, he was in effect the Private Secretary of the Queen, and thus
controlled the whole of the political existence of the sovereign. A
queen's husband was an entity unknown to the British Constitution. In
State affairs there seemed to be no place for him; nor was Victoria
herself at all unwilling that this should be so. 'The English,' she
had told the Prince when, during their engagement, a proposal had been
made to give him a peerage, 'are very jealous of any foreigner
interfering in the government of this country, and have already in some
of the papers expressed a hope that you would not interfere. Now,
though I know you never would, still, if you were a Peer, they would
all say, the Prince meant to play a political part.' 'I know you
never would!' In reality, she was not quite so certain; but she
wished Albert to understand her views. He would, she hoped, make a
perfect husband; but, as for governing the country, he would see that
she and Lord M. between them could manage that very well, without his
help.

But it was not only in politics that the Prince discovered that the
part cut out for him was a negligible one. Even as a husband, he
found, his functions were to be of an extremely limited kind. Over the
whole of Victoria's private life the Baroness reigned supreme; and she
had not the slightest intention of allowing that supremacy to be
diminished by one iota. Since the accession, her power had greatly
increased. Besides the undefined and enormous influence which she
exercised through her management of the Queen's private correspondence,
she was now the superintendent of the royal establishment and
controlled the important office of Privy Purse. Albert very soon
perceived that he was not master in his own house. Every detail of
his own and his wife's existence was supervised by a third person:
nothing could be done until the consent of Lehzen had first been
obtained. And Victoria, who adored Lehzen with unabated intensity, saw
nothing in all this that was wrong.

Nor was the Prince happier in his social surroundings. A shy young
foreigner, awkward in ladies' company, unexpansive and
self-opinionated, it was improbable that, in any circumstances, he
would have been a society success. His appearance, too, was against
him. Though in the eyes of Victoria he was the mirror of manly beauty,
her subjects, whose eyes were of a less Teutonic cast, did not agree
with her. To them--and particularly to the high-born ladies and
gentlemen who naturally saw him most--what was immediately and
distressingly striking in Albert's face and figure and whole demeanour
was his un-English look. His features were regular, no doubt, but
there was something smooth and smug about them; he was tall, but he was
clumsily put together, and he walked with a slight slouch. Really,
they thought, this youth was more like some kind of foreign tenor than
anything else. These were serious disadvantages; but the line of
conduct which the Prince adopted from the first moment of his arrival
was far from calculated to dispel them. Owing partly to a natural
awkwardness, partly to a fear of undue familiarity, and partly to a
desire to be absolutely correct, his manners were infused with an
extraordinary stiffness and formality. Whenever he appeared in
company, he seemed to be surrounded by a thick hedge of prickly
etiquette. He never went out into ordinary society; he never walked in
the streets of London; he was invariably accompanied by an equerry when
he rode or drove. He wanted to be irreproachable and, if that involved
friendlessness, it could not be helped. Besides, he had no very high
opinion of the English. So far as he could see, they cared for nothing
but fox-hunting and Sunday observances; they oscillated between an
undue frivolity and an undue gloom; if you spoke to them of friendly
joyousness they stared; and they did not understand either the Laws of
Thought or the wit of a German University. Since it was clear that
with such people he could have very little in common, there was no
reason whatever for relaxing in their favour the rules of etiquette.
In strict privacy, he could be natural and charming; Seymour and Anson
were devoted to him, and he returned their affection; but they were
subordinates--the receivers of his confidences and the agents of
his will. From the support and the solace of true companionship he was
utterly cut off.

A friend, indeed, he had--or rather, a mentor. The Baron, established
once more in the royal residence, was determined to work with as
whole-hearted a detachment for the Prince's benefit as, more than
twenty years before, he had worked for his uncle's. The situations
then and now, similar in many respects, were yet full of differences.
Perhaps in either case the difficulties to be encountered were equally
great; but the present problem was the more complex and the more
interesting. The young doctor, unknown and insignificant, whose only
assets were his own wits and the friendship of an unimportant Prince,
had been replaced by the accomplished confidant of kings and ministers,
ripe in years, in reputation, and in the wisdom of a vast experience.
It was possible for him to treat Albert with something of the
affectionate authority of a father; but, on the other hand, Albert was
no Leopold. As the Baron was very well aware, he had none of his
uncle's rigidity of ambition, none of his overweening impulse to be
personally great. He was virtuous and well-intentioned; he was clever
and well-informed; but he took no interest in politics, and there were
no signs that he possessed any commanding force of character. Left to
himself, he would almost certainly have subsided into a high-minded
nonentity, an aimless dilettante busy over culture, a palace appendage
without influence or power. But he was not left to himself: Stockmar
saw to that. For ever at his pupil's elbow, the hidden Baron pushed
him forward, with tireless pressure, along the path which had
been trod by Leopold so many years ago. But, this time, the goal at
the end of it was something more than the mediocre royalty that Leopold
had reached. The prize which Stockmar, with all the energy of
disinterested devotion, had determined should be Albert's was a
tremendous prize indeed.

The beginning of the undertaking proved to be the most arduous part of
it. Albert was easily dispirited: what was the use of struggling to
perform in a role which bored him and which, it was quite clear, nobody
but the dear good Baron had any desire that he should take up? It was
simpler, and it saved a great deal of trouble, to let things slide.
But Stockmar would not have it. Incessantly, he harped upon two
strings--Albert's sense of duty and his personal pride. Had the Prince
forgotten the noble aims to which his life was to be devoted? And was
he going to allow himself, his wife, his family, his whole existence,
to be governed by Baroness Lehzen? The latter consideration was a
potent one. Albert had never been accustomed to giving way; and now,
more than ever before, it would be humiliating to do so. Not only was
he constantly exasperated by the position of the Baroness in the royal
household; there was another and a still more serious cause of
complaint. He was, he knew very well, his wife's intellectual
superior, and yet he found, to his intense annoyance, that there were
parts of her mind over which he exercised no influence. When, urged on
by the Baron, he attempted to discuss politics with Victoria, she
eluded the subject, drifted into generalities, and then began to talk
of something else. She was treating him as she had once treated their
uncle Leopold. When at last he protested, she replied that her
conduct was merely the result of indolence; that when she was with
him she could not bear to bother her head with anything so dull as
politics. The excuse was worse than the fault: was he the wife and she
the husband? It almost seemed so. But the Baron declared that the
root of the mischief was Lehzen: that it was she who encouraged the
Queen to have secrets; who did worse--undermined the natural
ingenuousness of Victoria, and induced her to give, unconsciously no
doubt, false reasons to explain away her conduct.

Minor disagreements made matters worse. The royal couple differed in
their tastes. Albert, brought up in a regime of Spartan simplicity and
early hours, found the great Court functions intolerably wearisome, and
was invariably observed to be nodding on the sofa at half-past ten;
while the Queen's favourite form of enjoyment was to dance through the
night, and then, going out into the portico of the Palace, watch the
sun rise behind St. Paul's and the towers of Westminster. She
loved London and he detested it. It was only in Windsor that he felt
he could really breathe; but Windsor too had its terrors: though during
the day there he could paint and walk and play on the piano, after
dinner black tedium descended like a pall. He would have liked to
summon distinguished scientific and literary men to his presence, and
after ascertaining their views upon various points of art and learning,
to set forth his own; but unfortunately Victoria 'had no fancy to
encourage such people'; knowing that she was unequal to taking a part
in their conversation, she insisted that the evening routine should
remain unaltered; the regulation interchange of platitudes with
official persons was followed as usual by the round table and the books
of engravings, while the Prince, with three of his attendants, played
game after game of double chess.

It was only natural that in so peculiar a situation, in which the
elements of power, passion, and pride were so strangely apportioned,
there should have been occasionally something more than mere
irritation--a struggle of angry wills. Victoria, no more than Albert,
was in the habit of playing second fiddle. Her arbitrary temper
flashed out. Her vitality, her obstinacy, her overweening sense of her
own position, might well have beaten down before them his superiorities
and his rights. But she fought at a disadvantage; she was, in very
truth, no longer her own mistress; a profound preoccupation dominated
her, seizing upon her inmost purposes for its own extraordinary ends.
She was madly in love. The details of those curious battles are
unknown to us; but Prince Ernest, who remained in England with his
brother for some months, noted them with a friendly and startled
eye. One story, indeed, survives, ill-authenticated and perhaps
mythical, yet summing up, as such stories often do, the central facts
of the case. When, in wrath, the Prince one day had locked himself
into his room, Victoria, no less furious, knocked on the door to be
admitted. 'Who is there?' he asked. 'The Queen of England,' was the
answer. He did not move, and again there was a hail of knocks. The
question and the answer were repeated many times; but at last there was
a pause, and then a gentler knocking. 'Who is there?' came once more
the relentless question. But this time the reply was different. 'Your
wife, Albert.' And the door was immediately opened.



Very gradually the Prince's position changed. He began to find the
study of politics less uninteresting than he had supposed; he read
Blackstone, and took lessons in English Law; he was occasionally
present when the Queen interviewed her Ministers; and at Lord
Melbourne's suggestion he was shown all the despatches relating to
Foreign Affairs. Sometimes he would commit his views to paper, and
read them aloud to the Prime Minister, who, infinitely kind and
courteous, listened with attention, but seldom made any reply. An
important step was taken when, before the birth of the Princess Royal,
the Prince, without any opposition in Parliament, was appointed Regent
in case of the death of the Queen. Stockmar, owing to whose
intervention with the Tories this happy result had been brought about,
now felt himself at liberty to take a holiday with his family in
Coburg; but his solicitude, poured out in innumerable letters, still
watched over his pupil from afar. 'Dear Prince,' he wrote, 'I am
satisfied with the news you have sent me. Mistakes, misunderstandings,
obstructions, which come in vexatious opposition to one's views, are
always to be taken for just what they are--namely, natural phenomena of
life, which represent one of its sides, and that the shady one. In
overcoming them with dignity, your mind has to exercise, to train, to
enlighten itself; and your character to gain force, endurance, and the
necessary hardness.' The Prince had done well so far; but he must
continue in the right path; above all, he was 'never to relax.'--'Never
to relax in putting your magnanimity to the proof; never to relax in
logical separation of what is great and essential from what is trivial
and of no moment; never to relax in keeping yourself up to a high
standard--in the determination, daily renewed, to be consistent,
patient, courageous.' It was a hard programme, perhaps, for a young
man of twenty-one; and yet there was something in it which touched the
very depths of Albert's soul. He sighed, but he listened--listened as
to the voice of a spiritual director inspired with divine truth. 'The
stars which are needful to you now,' the voice continued, 'and perhaps
for some time to come, are Love, Honesty, Truth. All those whose
minds are warped, or who are destitute of true feeling, will be apt to
mistake you, and to persuade themselves and the world that you are not
the man you are--or, at least, may become.... Do you, therefore, be on
the alert betimes, with your eyes open in every direction.... I wish
for my Prince a great, noble, warm, and true heart, such as shall serve
as the richest and surest basis for the noblest views of human nature,
and the firmest resolve to give them development.'

Before long, the decisive moment came. There was a General Election,
and it became certain that the Tories, at last, must come into power.
The Queen disliked them as much as ever; but, with a large majority in
the House of Commons, they would now be in a position to insist upon
their wishes being attended to. Lord Melbourne himself was the first
to realise the importance of carrying out the inevitable transition
with as little friction as possible; and with his consent, the Prince,
following up the rapprochement which had begun over the Regency Act,
opened, through Anson, a negotiation with Sir Robert Peel. In a series
of secret interviews, a complete understanding was reached upon the
difficult and complex question of the Bedchamber. It was agreed that
the constitutional point should not be raised, but that, on the
formation of the Tory Government, the principal Whig ladies should
retire, and their places be filled by others appointed by Sir
Robert. Thus, in effect, though not in form, the Crown abandoned
the claims of 1839, and they have never been subsequently put forward.
The transaction was a turning-point in the Prince's career. He had
conducted an important negotiation with skill and tact; he had been
brought into close and friendly relations with the new Prime Minister;
it was obvious that a great political future lay before him. Victoria
was much impressed and deeply grateful. 'My dearest Angel,' she told
King Leopold, 'is indeed a great comfort to me. He takes the greatest
interest in what goes on, feeling with and for me, and yet abstaining
as he ought from biassing me either way, though we talk much on the
subject, and his judgment is, as you say, good and mild.' She was
in need of all the comfort and assistance he could give her. Lord M.
was going; and she could hardly bring herself to speak to Peel. Yes;
she would discuss everything with Albert now!

Stockmar, who had returned to England, watched the departure of Lord
Melbourne with satisfaction. If all went well, the Prince should now
wield a supreme political influence over Victoria. But would all go
well? An unexpected development put the Baron into a serious fright.
When the dreadful moment finally came, and the Queen, in anguish, bade
adieu to her beloved Minister, it was settled between them that, though
it would be inadvisable to meet very often, they could continue to
correspond. Never were the inconsistencies of Lord Melbourne's
character shown more clearly than in what followed. So long as he was
in office, his attitude towards Peel had been irreproachable; he
had done all he could to facilitate the change of government; he had
even, through more than one channel, transmitted privately to his
successful rival advice as to the best means of winning the Queen's
good graces. Yet, no sooner was he in opposition than his heart
failed him. He could not bear the thought of surrendering altogether
the privilege and the pleasure of giving counsel to Victoria--of being
cut off completely from the power and the intimacy which had been his
for so long and in such abundant measure. Though he had declared that
he would be perfectly discreet in his letters, he could not resist
taking advantage of the opening they afforded. He discussed in detail
various public questions, and, in particular, gave the Queen a great
deal of advice in the matter of appointments. This advice was
followed. Lord Melbourne recommended that Lord Heytesbury, who, he
said, was an able man, should be made Ambassador at Vienna; and a week
later the Queen wrote to the Foreign Secretary urging that Lord
Heytesbury, whom she believed to be a very able man, should be employed
'on some important mission.' Stockmar was very much alarmed. He wrote
a memorandum, pointing out the unconstitutional nature of Lord
Melbourne's proceedings and the unpleasant position in which the Queen
might find herself if they were discovered by Peel; and he instructed
Anson to take this memorandum to the ex-Minister. Lord Melbourne,
lounging on a sofa, read it through with compressed lips. 'This is
quite an apple-pie opinion,' he said. When Anson ventured to
expostulate further, suggesting that it was unseemly in the leader of
the Opposition to maintain an intimate relationship with the
Sovereign, the old man lost his temper. 'God eternally damn it!' he
exclaimed, leaping up from his sofa, and dashing about the room.
'Flesh and blood cannot stand this!' He continued to write to the
Queen, as before; and two more violent bombardments from the Baron were
needed before he was brought to reason. Then, gradually, his letters
grew less and less frequent, with fewer and fewer references to public
concerns; at last, they were entirely innocuous. The Baron smiled;
Lord M. had accepted the inevitable.

The Whig ministry resigned in September, 1841; but more than a year was
to elapse before another and an equally momentous change was
effected--the removal of Lehzen. For, in the end, the mysterious
governess was conquered. The steps are unknown by which Victoria was
at last led to accept her withdrawal with composure--perhaps with
relief; but it is clear that Albert's domestic position must have been
greatly strengthened by the appearance of children. The birth of the
Princess Royal had been followed in November 1841 by that of the Prince
of Wales; and before very long another baby was expected. The
Baroness, with all her affection, could have but a remote share in such
family delights. She lost ground perceptibly. It was noticed as a
phenomenon that, once or twice, when the Court travelled, she was left
behind at Windsor. The Prince was very cautious; at the change of
Ministry, Lord Melbourne had advised him to choose that moment for
decisive action; but he judged it wiser to wait. Time and the
pressure of inevitable circumstances were for him; every day his
predominance grew more assured--and every night. At length he
perceived that he need hesitate no longer--that every wish, every
velleity of his had only to be expressed to be at once Victoria's. He
spoke, and Lehzen vanished for ever. No more would she reign in that
royal heart and those royal halls. No more, watching from a window at
Windsor, would she follow her pupil and her sovereign, walking on the
terrace among the obsequious multitude, with the eye of triumphant
love. Returning to her native Hanover she established herself at
Bueckeburg in a small but comfortable house, the walls of which were
entirely covered by portraits of Her Majesty. The Baron, in spite
of his dyspepsia, smiled again: Albert was supreme.


IV

The early discords had passed away completely--resolved into the
absolute harmony of married life. Victoria, overcome by a new, an
unimagined revelation, had surrendered her whole soul to her husband.
The beauty and the charm which so suddenly had made her his at first
were, she now saw, no more than the outward manifestation of the true
Albert. There was an inward beauty, an inward glory which, blind that
she was, she had then but dimly apprehended, but of which now she was
aware in every fibre of her being--he was good--he was great! How
could she ever have dreamt of setting up her will against his wisdom,
her ignorance against his knowledge, her fancies against his perfect
taste? Had she really once loved London and late hours and
dissipation? She who now was only happy in the country, she who
jumped out of bed every morning--oh, so early!--with Albert, to take a
walk, before breakfast, with Albert alone! How wonderful it was to be
taught by him! To be told by him which trees were which; and to learn
all about the bees! And then to sit doing cross-stitch while he read
aloud to her Hallam's Constitutional History of England! Or to listen
to him playing on his new organ ('The organ is the first of
instruments,' he said); or to sing to him a song by Mendelssohn, with a
great deal of care over the time and the breathing, and only a very
occasional false note! And, after dinner, too--oh, how good of him!
He had given up his double chess! And so there could be round games at
the round table, or everyone could spend the evening in the most
amusing way imaginable--spinning counters and rings. When the
babies came it was still more wonderful. Pussy was such a clever
little girl ('I am not Pussy! I am the Princess Royal!' she had
angrily exclaimed on one occasion); and Bertie--well, she could only
pray most fervently that the little Prince of Wales would grow up to
'resemble his angelic dearest Father in every, every respect, both in
body and mind.' Her dear Mamma, too, had been drawn once more into
the family circle, for Albert had brought about a reconciliation, and
the departure of Lehzen had helped to obliterate the past. In
Victoria's eyes, life had become an idyll, and, if the essential
elements of an idyll are happiness, love and simplicity, an idyll it
was; though, indeed, it was of a kind that might have disconcerted
Theocritus. 'Albert brought in dearest little Pussy,' wrote Her
Majesty in her journal, 'in such a smart white merino dress trimmed
with blue, which Mamma had given her, and a pretty cap, and placed her
on my bed, seating himself next to her, and she was very dear and good.
And as my precious, invaluable Albert sat there, and our little Love
between us, I felt quite moved with happiness and gratitude to God.'

The past--the past of only three years since--when she looked back upon
it, seemed a thing so remote and alien that she could explain it to
herself in no other way than as some kind of delusion--an unfortunate
mistake. Turning over an old volume of her diary, she came upon this
sentence--'As for "the confidence of the Crown," God knows! No
Minister, no friend EVER possessed it so entirely as this truly
excellent Lord Melbourne possesses mine!' A pang shot through her--she
seized a pen, and wrote upon the margin--'Reading this again, I cannot
forbear remarking what an artificial sort of happiness mine was
then, and what a blessing it is I have now in my beloved Husband
real and solid happiness, which no Politics, no worldly reverses

can change; it could not have lasted long as it was then, for after
all, kind and excellent as Lord M. is, and kind as he was to me, it was
but in Society that I had amusement, and I was only living on that
superficial resource, which I then fancied was happiness! Thank God!
for me and others, this is changed, and I know what REAL happiness
is--V.R.' How did she know? What is the distinction between
happiness that is real and happiness that is felt? So a
philosopher--Lord M. himself perhaps--might have inquired. But she was
no philosopher, and Lord M. was a phantom, and Albert was beside her,
and that was enough.



Happy, certainly, she was; and she wanted everyone to know it. Her
letters to King Leopold are sprinkled thick with raptures. 'Oh! my
dearest uncle, I am sure if you knew how happy, how blessed I feel,
and how proud I feel in possessing such a perfect being as my
husband...' such ecstasies seemed to gush from her pen unceasingly and
almost of their own accord. When, one day, without thinking, Lady
Lyttelton described someone to her as being 'as happy as a queen,' and
then grew a little confused, 'Don't correct yourself, Lady Lyttelton,'
said Her Majesty. 'A queen is a very happy woman.'

But this new happiness was no lotus dream. On the contrary, it was
bracing, rather than relaxing. Never before had she felt so acutely
the necessity for doing her duty. She worked more methodically than
ever at the business of State; she watched over her children with
untiring vigilance. She carried on a large correspondence; she was
occupied with her farm--her dairy--a whole multitude of household
avocations--from morning till night. Her active, eager little body
hurrying with quick steps after the long strides of Albert down the
corridors and avenues of Windsor, seemed the very expression of her
spirit. Amid all the softness, the deliciousness of unmixed joy, all
the liquescence, the overflowings of inexhaustible sentiment, her
native rigidity remained. 'A vein of iron,' said Lady Lyttelton, who,
as royal governess, had good means of observation, 'runs through her
most extraordinary character.'

Sometimes the delightful routine of domestic existence had to be
interrupted. It was necessary to exchange Windsor for Buckingham
Palace, to open Parliament, or to interview official personages, or,
occasionally, to entertain foreign visitors at the Castle. Then the
quiet Court put on a sudden magnificence, and sovereigns from over the
seas--Louis Philippe, or the King of Prussia, or the King of
Saxony--found at Windsor an entertainment that was indeed a royal one.
Few spectacles in Europe, it was agreed, produced an effect so imposing
as the great Waterloo banqueting hall, crowded with guests in sparkling
diamonds and blazing uniforms, the long walls hung with the stately
portraits of heroes, and the tables loaded with the gorgeous gold plate
of the Kings of England. But, in that wealth of splendour, the
most imposing spectacle of all was the Queen. The little Hausfrau,
who had spent the day before walking out with her children, inspecting
her livestock, practising shakes at the piano, and filling up her
journal with adoring descriptions of her husband, suddenly shone forth,
without art, without effort, by a spontaneous and natural transition,
the very culmination of Majesty. The Tsar of Russia himself was deeply
impressed. Victoria on her side viewed with secret awe the tremendous
Nicholas. 'A great event and a great compliment his visit certainly
is,' she told her uncle, 'and the people here are extremely flattered
at it. He is certainly a very striking man; still very handsome.
His profile is beautiful, and his manners most dignified and
graceful; extremely civil--quite alarmingly so, as he is so full of
attentions and politeness. But the expression of the eyes is
formidable, and unlike anything I ever saw before.' She and
Albert and 'the good King of Saxony,' who happened to be there at
the same time, and whom, she said, 'we like much--he is so
unassuming'--drew together like tame villatic fowl in the presence of
that awful eagle. When he was gone, they compared notes about his
face, his unhappiness, and his despotic power over millions. Well!
She for her part could not help pitying him, and she thanked God she
was Queen of England.

When the time came for returning some of these visits, the royal pair
set forth in their yacht, much to Victoria's satisfaction. 'I do love
a ship!' she exclaimed, ran up and down ladders with the greatest
agility, and cracked jokes with the sailors. The Prince was more
aloof. They visited Louis Philippe at the Chateau d'Eu; they visited
King Leopold in Brussels. It happened that a still more remarkable
Englishwoman was in the Belgian capital, but she was not remarked; and
Queen Victoria passed unknowing before the steady gaze of one of the
mistresses in M. Heger's pensionnat. 'A little, stout, vivacious
lady, very plainly dressed--not much dignity or pretension about her,'
was Charlotte Bronte's comment as the royal carriage and six flashed by
her, making her wait on the pavement for a moment, and interrupting the
train of her reflections. Victoria was in high spirits, and even
succeeded in instilling a little cheerfulness into her uncle's sombre
Court. King Leopold, indeed, was perfectly contented. His dearest
hopes had been fulfilled; all his ambitions were satisfied; and for the
rest of his life he had only to enjoy, in undisturbed decorum, his
throne, his respectability, the table of precedence, and the punctual
discharge of his irksome duties. But unfortunately the felicity of
those who surrounded him was less complete. His Court, it was
murmured, was as gloomy as a conventicle, and the most dismal of all
the sufferers was his wife. 'Pas de plaisanteries, madame!' he had
exclaimed to the unfortunate successor of the Princess Charlotte, when,
in the early days of their marriage, she had attempted a feeble joke.
Did she not understand that the consort of a constitutional sovereign
must not be frivolous? She understood, at last, only too well; and
when the startled walls of the state apartments re-echoed to the
chattering and the laughter of Victoria, the poor lady found that she
had almost forgotten how to smile.

Another year, Germany was visited, and Albert displayed the beauties of
his home. When Victoria crossed the frontier, she was much
excited--and she was astonished as well. 'To hear the people speak
German,' she noted in her diary, 'and to see the German soldiers, etc.,
seemed to me so singular.' Having recovered from this slight shock,
she found the country charming. She was feted everywhere, crowds of
the surrounding royalties swooped down to welcome her, and the
prettiest groups of peasant children, dressed in their best clothes,
presented her with bunches of flowers. The principality of Coburg,
with its romantic scenery and its well-behaved inhabitants,
particularly delighted her; and when she woke up one morning to find
herself in 'dear Rosenau, my Albert's birthplace,' it was 'like a
beautiful dream.' On her return home, she expatiated, in a letter to
King Leopold, upon the pleasures of the trip, dwelling especially upon
the intensity of her affection for Albert's native land. 'I have a
feeling,' she said, 'for our dear little Germany, which I cannot
describe. I felt it at Rosenau so much. It is a something which
touches me, and which goes to my heart, and makes me inclined to
cry. I never felt at any other place that sort of pensive pleasure and
peace which I felt there. I fear I almost like it too much.'


V

The husband was not so happy as the wife. In spite of the great
improvement in his situation, in spite of a growing family and the
adoration of Victoria, Albert was still a stranger in a strange land,
and the serenity of spiritual satisfaction was denied him. It was
something, no doubt, to have dominated his immediate environment; but
it was not enough; and, besides, in the very completeness of his
success, there was a bitterness. Victoria idolised him; but it was
understanding that he craved for, not idolatry; and how much did
Victoria, filled to the brim though she was with him, understand him?
How much does the bucket understand the well? He was lonely. He went
to his organ and improvised with learned modulations until the sounds,
swelling and subsiding through elaborate cadences, brought some solace
to his heart. Then, with the elasticity of youth, he hurried off to
play with the babies, or to design a new pigsty, or to read aloud the
'Church History of Scotland' to Victoria, or to pirouette before her on
one toe, like a ballet-dancer, with a fixed smile, to show her how she
ought to behave when she appeared in public places. Thus did he
amuse himself; but there was one distraction in which he did not
indulge. He never flirted--no, not with the prettiest ladies of the
Court. When, during their engagement, the Queen had remarked with
pride to Lord Melbourne that the Prince paid no attention to any
other woman, the cynic had answered 'No, that sort of thing is apt to
come later'; upon which she had scolded him severely, and then hurried
off to Stockmar to repeat what Lord M. had said. But the Baron had
reassured her; though in other cases, he had replied, that might
happen, he did not think it would in Albert's. And the Baron was
right. Throughout their married life no rival female charms ever gave
cause to Victoria for one moment's pang of jealousy.

What more and more absorbed him--bringing with it a curious comfort of
its own--was his work. With the advent of Peel, he began to intervene
actively in the affairs of the State. In more ways than one--in the
cast of their intelligence, in their moral earnestness, even in the
uneasy formalism of their manners--the two men resembled each other;
there was a sympathy between them; and thus Peel was ready enough to
listen to the advice of Stockmar, and to urge the Prince forward into
public life. A royal commission was about to be formed to enquire
whether advantage might not be taken of the rebuilding of the Houses of
Parliament to encourage the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom; and Peel,
with great perspicacity, asked the Prince to preside over it. The work
was of a kind which precisely suited Albert: his love of art, his love
of method, his love of coming into contact--close yet dignified--with
distinguished men--it satisfied them all; and he threw himself into it
con amore. Some of the members of the commission were somewhat
alarmed when, in his opening speech, he pointed out the necessity of
dividing the subjects to be considered into 'categories'--the
word, they thought, smacked dangerously of German metaphysics; but
their confidence returned when they observed His Royal Highness's
extraordinary technical acquaintance with the processes of
fresco-painting. When the question arose as to whether the decorations
upon the walls of the new buildings should, or should not, have a moral
purpose, the Prince spoke strongly for the affirmative. Although many,
he observed, would give but a passing glance to the works, the painter
was not therefore to forget that others might view them with more
thoughtful eyes. This argument convinced the commission, and it was
decided that the subjects to be depicted should be of an improving
nature. The frescoes were carried out in accordance with the
commission's instructions, but unfortunately before very long they had
become, even to the most thoughtful eyes, totally invisible. It seems
that His Royal Highness's technical acquaintance with the processes of
fresco-painting was incomplete.

The next task upon which the Prince embarked was a more arduous one: he
determined to reform the organisation of the royal household. This
reform had been long overdue. For years past the confusion,
discomfort, and extravagance in the royal residences, and in Buckingham
Palace particularly, had been scandalous; no reform had been
practicable under the rule of the Baroness; but her functions had now
devolved upon the Prince, and in 1844 he boldly attacked the problem.
Three years earlier, Stockmar, after careful enquiry, had revealed in
an elaborate memorandum an extraordinary state of affairs. The control
of the household, it appeared, was divided in the strangest manner
between a number of authorities, each independent of the other,
each possessed of vague and fluctuating powers, without responsibility
and without co-ordination. Of these authorities, the most prominent
were the Lord Steward and the Lord Chamberlain--noblemen of high rank
and political importance, who changed office with every administration,
who did not reside with the Court, and had no effective representatives
attached to it. The distribution of their respective functions was
uncertain and peculiar. In Buckingham Palace, it was believed that the
Lord Chamberlain had charge of the whole of the rooms, with the
exception of the kitchen, sculleries, and pantries, which were claimed
by the Lord Steward. At the same time, the outside of the Palace was
under the control of neither of these functionaries--but of the Office
of Woods and Forests; and thus, while the insides of the windows were
cleaned by the department of the Lord Chamberlain--or possibly, in
certain cases, of the Lord Steward--the Office of Woods and Forests
cleaned their outsides. Of the servants, the housekeepers, the pages,
and the housemaids were under the authority of the Lord Chamberlain;
the clerk of the kitchen, the cooks, and the porters were under that of
the Lord Steward; but the footmen, the livery-porters, and the
under-butlers took their orders from yet another official--the Master
of the Horse. Naturally, in these circumstances the service was
extremely defective and the lack of discipline among the servants
disgraceful. They absented themselves for as long as they pleased and
whenever the fancy took them; 'and if,' as the Baron put it, 'smoking,
drinking, and other irregularities occur in the dormitories, where
footmen, etc., sleep ten and twelve in each room, no one can help it.'
As for Her Majesty's guests, there was nobody to show them to
their rooms, and they were often left, having utterly lost their way in
the complicated passages, to wander helpless by the hour. The strange
divisions of authority extended not only to persons but to things. The
Queen observed that there was never a fire in the dining-room. She
enquired why. The answer was, 'The Lord Steward lays the fire, and the
Lord Chamberlain lights it'; the underlings of those two great noblemen
having failed to come to an accommodation, there was no help for
it--the Queen must eat in the cold.

A surprising incident opened everyone's eyes to the confusion and
negligence that reigned in the Palace. A fortnight after the birth of
the Princess Royal the nurse heard a suspicious noise in the room next
to the Queen's bedroom. She called to one of the pages, who, looking
under a large sofa, perceived there a crouching figure 'with a most
repulsive appearance.' It was 'the boy Jones.' This enigmatical
personage, whose escapades dominated the newspapers for several ensuing
months, and whose motives and character remained to the end ambiguous,
was an undersized lad of seventeen, the son of a tailor, who had
apparently gained admittance to the Palace by climbing over the garden
wall and walking in through an open window. Two years before he had
paid a similar visit in the guise of a chimney-sweep. He now declared
that he had spent three days in the Palace, hiding under various beds,
that he had 'helped himself to soup and other eatables,' and that he
had 'sat upon the throne, seen the Queen, and heard the Princess Royal
squall.' Every detail of the strange affair was eagerly canvassed.
The Times reported that the boy Jones had 'from his infancy
been fond of reading,' but that 'his countenance is exceedingly
sullen.' It added: 'The sofa under which the boy Jones was discovered,
we understand, is one of the most costly and magnificent material and
workmanship, and ordered expressly for the accommodation of the royal
and illustrious visitors who call to pay their respects to Her
Majesty.' The culprit was sent for three months to the 'House of
Correction.' When he emerged, he immediately returned to Buckingham
Palace. He was discovered, and sent back to the 'House of Correction'
for another three months, after which he was offered L4 a week by a
music hall to appear upon the stage. He refused this offer, and
shortly afterwards was found by the police loitering round Buckingham
Palace. The authorities acted vigorously, and, without any trial or
process of law, shipped the boy Jones off to sea. A year later his
ship put into Portsmouth to refit, and he at once disembarked and
walked to London. He was re-arrested before he reached the Palace, and
sent back to his ship, the Warspite. On this occasion it was noticed
that he had 'much improved in personal appearance and grown quite
corpulent'; and so the boy Jones passed out of history, though we catch
one last glimpse of him in 1844 falling overboard in the night between
Tunis and Algiers. He was fished up again; but it was conjectured--as
one of the Warspite's officers explained in a letter to The
Times--that his fall had not been accidental, but that he had
deliberately jumped into the Mediterranean in order to 'see the
life-buoy light burning.' Of a boy with such a record, what else could
be supposed?



But discomfort and alarm were not the only results of the mismanagement
of the household; the waste, extravagance, and peculation that also
flowed from it were immeasurable. There were preposterous perquisites
and malpractices of every kind. It was, for instance, an ancient and
immutable rule that a candle that had once been lighted should never be
lighted again; what happened to the old candles nobody knew. Again,
the Prince, examining the accounts, was puzzled by a weekly expenditure
of thirty-five shillings on 'Red Room Wine.' He enquired into the
matter, and





Next: Lord Palmerston

Previous: Lord Melbourne



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 1089