Most ViewedThe First Christening The Season Of 1841
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
Nis! Nis! Nis! Hurrah!
Birth Of The Prince Of Wales Visit Of The King Of Prussia
Least ViewedThe Queen's Sympathy During The Illness Of President Garfield
First Meeting With Prince Albert Death Of William Iv
Marriage And Delicacy Of The Prince's Position
Mr Gladstone And Lord Beaconsfield
Fresh Attempts Against The Queen's Life And The Death Of The Duc D'orleans
Second Attempt On The Queen's Life
The Emperor And Empress Of France Visit Windsor
Failing Health Of Prince Albert
Distribution Of Victoria Crosses By The Queen
Marriage Of The Princess Royal
Marriage And Delicacy Of The Prince's Position
Nowhere does the genuine unselfishness and sweet womanliness of the Queen
show more than in her record of those days. She did not, like too many
brides, think of herself as the only or even the principal person to be
considered. She did not grudge that her bridegroom's heart should feel the
strength of former ties. 'The sacrifice,' in her eyes, was all on his
side, though he would not admit that. He had to leave his brother, his
home, his dear native land. He on his side could ask, 'What am I, that
such happiness should he mine? for excess of happiness it is for me to
know that I am so dear to you.' But her one thought was, 'God grant that I
may be the happy person--the most happy person, to make this dearest,
blessed being happy and contented.' 'Albert has completely won my heart,'
she had written to Baron Stockmar.... 'I feel certain he will make me
very happy. I wish I could say I felt as certain of my making him happy,
but I shall do my best.'
The marriage itself took place on 10th February 1840 in the Chapel Royal,
St James's Palace. It was a cold cheerless morning, but the sun burst
forth just as the Queen entered the chapel. As a grand and beautiful
pageant, it was second only to the Coronation. The Queen was
enthusiastically cheered as she drove between Buckingham Palace and St
James's. She is described as looking pale and anxious, but lovely. Her
dress was of rich white satin, trimmed with orange blossoms; a wreath of
orange blossoms encircled her head, and over it a veil of rich Honiton
lace, which fell over her face. Her jewels were the collar of the Order of
the Garter, and a diamond necklace and ear-rings. She had twelve
bridesmaids, and the ceremony was performed by the Archbishops of
Canterbury and York and the Bishop of London.
Her Majesty bore herself from first to last with quietness and confidence,
and went through the service with due earnestness and solemnity.
The wedding breakfast was at Buckingham Palace. The wedding-cake was no
less than three hundred pounds in weight, fourteen inches in depth, and
three yards in circumference. The young couple proceeded to Windsor, where
they were received by an enthusiastic throng of Eton boys, in white gloves
and white favours.
One of the ladies-in-waiting wrote to her family that 'the Queen's look
and manner were very pleasing: her eyes much swollen with tears, but great
happiness in her countenance: and her look of confidence and comfort at
the prince when they walked away as man and wife, was very pleasing to
see.' And this sympathetic observer adds: 'Such a new thing for her to
dare to be unguarded with anybody; and with her frank and fearless
nature, the restraints she has hitherto been under, from one reason or
another, with everybody, must have been most painful.'
The day after the marriage the Queen wrote to Baron Stockmar: 'There
cannot exist a purer, dearer, nobler being in the world than the prince;'
and she never had cause to take these words back. The blessing of loving
and being loved was certainly given to Queen Victoria.
The royal pair spent three days of honeymoon at Windsor, and then Her
Majesty had to return to London, to hold court, and to receive addresses
of congratulation on her marriage; indeed, she was nearly 'addressed to
death.' The Queen and Prince Albert went everywhere together; to church,
to reviews, to races, theatres, and drawing-rooms; and everywhere the
people were charmed with their beauty and happiness.
One of the trials of royalty is that they are the observed of all
observers, and from the first Prince Albert understood the extreme
delicacy of his position. How well he met the difficulty is told by
General Gray (Early Years):
'From the moment of his establishment in the English palace as the husband
of the Queen, his first object was to maintain, and, if possible, even
raise the character of the court. With this view he knew that it was not
enough that his own conduct should be in truth free from reproach; no
shadow of a shade of suspicion should by possibility attach to it. He knew
that, in his position, every action would be scanned--not always,
possibly, in a friendly spirit; that his goings out and his comings in
would be watched; and that in every society, however little disposed to be
censorious, there would always be found some prone, where an opening
afforded, to exaggerate and even invent stories against him, and to put an
uncharitable construction on the most innocent acts. He therefore, from
the first, laid down strict, not to say severe rules for his guidance. He
imposed a degree of restraint and self-denial upon his own movements which
could not but have been irksome, had he not been sustained by a sense of
the advantage which the throne would derive from it.
'He denied himself the pleasure--which, to one so fond as he was of
personally watching and inspecting every improvement that was in progress,
would have been very great--of walking at will about the town. Wherever he
went, whether in a carriage or on horseback, he was accompanied by his
equerry. He paid no visits in general society. His visits were to the
studio of the artist, to museums of art or science, to institutions for
good and benevolent purposes. Wherever a visit from him, or his presence,
could tend to advance the real good of the people, there his horses might
be seen waiting; never at the door of mere fashion. Scandal itself could
take no liberty with his name. He loved to ride through all the districts
of London where building and improvements were in progress, more
especially when they were such as would conduce to the health or
recreation of the working classes; and few, if any, took such interest as
he did in all that was being done, at any distance east, west, north, or
south of the great city--from Victoria Park to Battersea--from the
Regent's Park to the Crystal Palace, and far beyond. "He would frequently
return," the Queen says, "to luncheon at a great pace, and would always
come through the Queen's dressing-room, telling where he had been--what
new buildings he had seen--what studios he had visited." Riding, for
riding's sake, he disliked. "It bores me so," he said. It was for real
service that Prince Albert devoted his life; and for this end he gave
himself to the very diligent study of the English Constitution. Never
obtrusive, he yet did the work, kept the wheels moving; but in the
background, sinking his individuality in that of the Queen, and leaving
her all the honour.'
A hard-working man himself, the prince and also the Queen were in sympathy
with the working-classes, and erected improved dwellings upon the estates
of Osborne and Balmoral. The prince was also in favour of working-men's
clubs and coffee palaces. It was remarked that whether he spoke to a
painter, sculptor, architect, man of science, or ordinary tradesman, each
of them was apt to think that his speciality was their own calling, owing
to his understanding and knowledge of it. He rose at seven A.M., summer
and winter, dressed, and went to his sitting-room, where in winter a fire
was burning, and a green lamp was lit. He read and answered letters here,
and prepared for Her Majesty drafts of replies to ministers and other
matters. After breakfast, he would read such articles in the papers or
reviews as seemed to his thoughtful mind to be good or important. At ten
he went out with the Queen.
So began the happy years of peaceful married life. The prince liked early
hours and country pleasures, and the Queen, like a loyal wife, not merely
consented to his tastes, but made them absolutely her own. Before she had
been married a year, she made the naive pretty confession that 'formerly I
was too happy to go to London and wretched to leave it, and now, since the
blessed hour of my marriage, and still more since the summer, I dislike
and am unhappy to leave the country, and would be content and happy never
to go to town;' adding ingenuously, 'The solid pleasures of a peaceful,
quiet, yet merry life in the country, with my inestimable husband and
friend, my all in all, are far more durable than the amusements of London,
though we don't despise or dislike them sometimes.'
They took breakfast at nine; then they went through details of routine
business, and sketched or played till luncheon, after which the Queen had
a daily interview with Lord Melbourne (prime-minister till the next year).
Then they drove, walked, or rode, dined at eight o'clock, and had pleasant
social circles afterwards, which were broken up before midnight. Both were
fond of art and music. Indeed the Prince-Consort gave a powerful impulse
to that study of classical music which has since become so universal.
Mendelssohn himself praised the Queen's singing, though without flattering
blindness to its faults and shortcomings. And the brightness of life was
all the brighter because it flowed over a substratum of seriousness and
solemnity. The first time that the Queen and her husband partook of holy
communion together, they spent the preceding evening--the vigil of
Easter--in retirement, occupied with good German books, and soothed and
elevated by Mozart's music, for the prince was master of the organ, and
the Queen of the piano. The prince made his maiden speech at a meeting for
the abolition of the slave-trade, speaking in a low tone, and with 'the
prettiest foreign accent.' While she was driving up Constitution Hill, an
attempt was made upon the Queen's life by a weak-minded youth, but luckily
neither of the pistol shots took effect. There have been at least seven
other happily futile attempts on the life of the Queen.
The Princess Royal was born on the 21st November 1840; and the royal
mother, fondly tended by her husband, made a speedy and happy recovery.
Prince Albert's care for the Queen in these circumstances was like that of
The Prince of Wales was born on November 9, 1841, and after that the
little family circle rapidly increased, and with it the parents' sense of
responsibility. 'A man's education begins the first day of his life,' said
the prince's tried friend, the wise Baron Stockmar, and the Queen felt it
'a hard case' that the pressure of public business prevented her from
being always with her little ones when they said their prayers. She has
given us her views on religious training:
'I am quite clear that children should be taught to have great reverence
for God and for religion, but that they should have the feeling of
devotion and love which our Heavenly Father encourages His earthly
children to have for Him, and not one of fear and trembling; and that the
thoughts of death and an after-life should not be presented in an alarming
and forbidding view; and that they should be made to know, as yet, no
difference of creeds.'
Court gossips considered the Queen 'to be very fond of her children, but
severe in her manner, and a strict disciplinarian in her family.' A nurse
in the royal household informed Baron Bunsen that 'the children were kept
very plain indeed: it was quite poor living--only a bit of roast meat, and
perhaps a plain pudding.' Other servants have reported that the Queen
would have made 'an admirable poor man's wife.' We used to hear how the
young princesses had to smooth out and roll up their bonnet strings. By
these trifling side-lights we discern a vigorous, wholesome discipline,
striving to counteract the enervating influences of rank and power, and
their attendant flattery and self-indulgence. 'One of the main principles
observed in the education of the royal children was this--that though they
received the best training of body and mind to fit them for the high
position they would eventually have to fill, they should in no wise come
in contact with the actual court life. The children were scarcely known to
the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, as they only now and then made their
appearance for a moment after dinner at dessert, or accompanied their
parents out driving. The care of them was exclusively intrusted to persons
who possessed the Queen and Prince-Consort's entire confidence, and with
whom they could at all times communicate direct.' An artist employed to
decorate the pavilion in the garden of Buckingham Palace, wrote of Her
Majesty and the prince: 'In many things they are an example to the age.
They have breakfasted, heard morning prayers with the household in the
private chapel, and are out some distance from the palace talking to us in
the summer-house before half-past nine o'clock--sometimes earlier. After
the public duties of the day and before their dinner, they come out again
evidently delighted to get away from the bustle of the world to enjoy each
other's society in the solitude of the garden.'
The seaside villa of Osborne, built at the Queen's own charges at a cost
of £200,000, and the remote castle of Balmoral, the creation of the
Prince-Consort, were the favourite homes of the royal household: the
creations as it were, of their domestic love, and inwrought with their own
personalities, as statelier Windsor could never be. In the Swiss cottage
at Osborne, with its museum, kitchen, storeroom, and little gardens, the
young people learned to do household work and understand the management of
a small establishment. The parents were invited as guests, to enjoy the
dishes which the princesses had prepared with their own hands, and there
each child was free to follow the bent of its own industrial inclination.
In the Highlands, again, among the reserved and dignified Scottish
peasantry, the children were encouraged to visit freely, to make
themselves acquainted with the wants and feelings of the poor, and to
regard them with an understanding sympathy and affection.
Sir Robert Peel, who succeeded Lord Melbourne in 1841 as prime-minister,
had the following advice from his predecessor as to his conduct in office,
which shows the Queen's good sense: 'Whenever he does anything, or has
anything to propose, let him explain to her clearly his reasons. The Queen
is not conceited; she is aware there are many things she cannot
understand, and she likes to have them explained to her elementarily, not
at length and in detail, but shortly and clearly.
One of the minor posts in the new ministry was filled by a young member of
parliament, who was destined in after-years to become as celebrated as
Peel himself. This was the distinguished scholar and orator, William Ewart
Gladstone, the son of Sir John Gladstone, a Scotch merchant who had
settled in Liverpool. He was already a power in parliament, and every year
after this saw him rising into greater prominence.
In the new parliament, too, though not in the ministry, was another
member, who afterwards rose to high office, and became very famous. This
was Benjamin Disraeli, son of Disraeli the elder, a distinguished literary
man. Although very clever, Benjamin Disraeli had not as yet obtained any
influence in the House. His first speech, indeed, had been received with
much laughter; but, as he himself had then predicted, a time came at last
when the House did listen to him.
Lady Bloomfield, while maid-of-honour to the Queen, was much in the
society of royalty. The following are extracts from her Reminiscences,
giving a sketch of the life at Windsor in 1843: 'I went to the Queen's
rooms yesterday, and saw her before we began to sing. She was so
thoroughly kind and gracious. The music went off very well. Costa [Sir
Michael] accompanied, and I was pleased by the Queen's telling me, when I
asked her whether I had not better practise the things a little more,
"that was not necessary, as I knew them perfectly." She also said, "If it
was convenient to me, I was to go down to her room any evening to try
the masses." Just as if anything she desired could be inconvenient. We
had a pleasant interview with the royal children in Lady Lyttelton's room
yesterday, and almost a romp with the little Princess Royal and the
Prince of Wales. They had got a round ivory counter, which I spun for
them, and they went into such fits of laughter, it did my heart good to
hear them. The Princess Royal is wonderfully quick and clever. She is
always in the Queen's rooms when we play or sing, and she seems especially
fond of music, and stands listening most attentively, without moving.
'Dec. 18.--We walked with the Queen and prince yesterday to the Home
Farm, saw the turkeys crammed, looked at the pigs, and then went to see
the new aviary, where there is a beautiful collection of pigeons, fowls,
&c., of rare kinds. The pigeons are so tame that they will perch upon
Prince Albert's hat and the Queen's shoulders. It was funny seeing the
royal pair amusing themselves with farming.
'Dec. l9.--My waiting is nearly over, and though I shall be delighted
to get home, I always regret leaving my dear kind mistress, particularly
when I have been a good deal with Her Majesty, as I have been this
waiting. We sang again last night, and after Costa went away, I sorted a
quantity of music for the Queen; and then Prince Albert said he had
composed a German ballad, which he thought would suit my voice, and he
wished me to sing it. So his royal highness accompanied me, and I sang it
at sight, which rather alarmed me; but I got through it, and it is very
pretty. The Duchess of Kent has promised to have it copied for me.'
In 1847 Baron Stockmar wrote: 'The Queen improves greatly. She makes daily
advances in discernment and experience; the candour, the love of truth,
the fairness, the considerateness with which she judges men and things are
truly delightful, and the ingenuous self-knowledge with which she speaks
about herself is simply charming.' It was not perhaps surprising that the
Queen's views and the prince's views on public questions coincided.
When Lord Shaftesbury, then Lord Ashley, delivered a very able speech on
the Mine and Colliery Bill, the Prince-Consort wrote, 'I have carefully
perused your speech, which you were so good as to send me, and I have been
highly gratified by your efforts, as well as horror-stricken by the
statements which you have brought before the country. I know you do not
wish for praise, and I therefore withhold it; but God's best blessing will
rest with you and support you in your arduous but glorious task.'
In 1848, a year of revolution, the Prince-Consort consulted Lord
Shaftesbury as to his attitude towards the working-classes. The interview
took place at Osborne, and the Queen and Prince-Consort were greatly
alarmed by the revolution in France and the exile of Louis-Philippe. 'They
feared the continuance of commotions in England, and were desirous to know
how they could exercise their influence to soothe the people. The Queen,
on my arrival, expressed this sentiment very warmly, and added at dinner,
"The prince will talk to you to-morrow. We have sent for you to have your
opinion on what we should do in view of the state of affairs to show our
interest in the working-classes, and you are the only man who can advise
us in the matter."'
On the following morning, during a long walk of an hour and a half in the
garden, Lord Shaftesbury counselled the prince to put himself at the head
of all social movements in art and science, and especially of those
movements as they bore upon the poor, and thus would he show the interest
felt by royalty in the happiness of the kingdom. The prince did so with
marked success; and after he had presided at a Labourers' Friend Society,
a noted Socialist remarked, 'If the prince goes on like this, why, he'll
upset our apple-cart.'
The poet-laureate is an official attached to the household of royalty, and
it was long his duty to write an ode on the king's birthday. Towards the
end of the reign of George III. this was dropped. On the death of the poet
Wordsworth on 23d April 1850, the next poet-laureate was Alfred Tennyson.
The Queen, it is said, had picked up one of his earlier volumes, and had
been charmed with his 'Miller's Daughter;' her procuring a copy of the
volume for the Princess Alice gave a great impetus to his popularity. No
poet has ever written more truly and finely about royalty, as witness the
dedication to the Idylls of the King, which enshrines the memory of
the Prince-Consort; or the beautiful dedication to the Queen, dated March
1851, which closes thus:
Her court was pure, her life serene;
God gave her peace; her land reposed;
A thousand claims to reverence closed
In her as Mother, Wife, and Queen.
And statesmen at her council met
Who knew the seasons, when to take
Occasion by the hand, and make
The bounds of freedom wider yet.
'It is perhaps natural,' says a contemporary writer, 'for the laureates to
be loyal, but there is no doubt that the sincere tributes which he paid to
the Queen and to her consort contributed materially to the steadying of
the foundation of the British throne. He almost alone among the poets gave
expression to the inarticulate loyalty of the ordinary Englishman, and he
did it without being either servile or sycophantic. If it were only for
his dedication to the Queen and Prince-Consort, he would have repaid a
thousand times over the value of all the bottles of sherry and the annual
stipends the poet-laureates have received since the days of Ben Jonson.'
Mrs Gilchrist writes: 'Tennyson likes and admires the Queen personally
much, enjoys conversation with her. Mrs Tennyson generally goes too, and
says the Queen's manner towards him is childlike and charming, and they
both give their opinions freely, even when these differ from the Queen's,
which she takes with perfect humour, and is very animated herself.' The
Prince-Consort, to whom Tennyson dedicated his Idylls of the King,
Since he held them dear,
Perchance as finding there unconsciously
Some image of himself,
had his copy inscribed with the poet's autograph.
One most characteristic feature of the Queen's reign was the inauguration,
in 1851, of that system of International Exhibitions which has infused a
new and larger spirit into commerce, and whose influence as yet only
begins to work. The idea came from the Prince-Consort, and was carried out
by his unfailing industry, energy, and perseverance. Sir Joseph Paxton's
genius raised a palace of crystal in Hyde Park, inclosing within it some
of the magnificent trees, few, if any, of which were destroyed by the
undertaking. As Thackeray wrote:
A blazing arch of lucid glass
Leaps like a fountain from the grass
To meet the sun.
The Queen took the greatest interest in the work, which she felt was her
husband's. She visited it almost daily, entering into interested
conversation with the manufacturers who had brought their wares for
display. The building was opened on the 1st of May, which the Queen names
in her diary as 'a day which makes my heart swell with pride and glory and
thankfulness.' She dwells lovingly on 'the tremendous cheers, the joy
expressed in every face,' adding, 'We feel happy--so full of thankfulness.
God is indeed our kind and merciful Father.'
After the building had served its purpose, the exhibition building was
removed to Sydenham, a London suburb then almost in the country, and
opened by the Queen, 10th June 1854. Under its new name of the 'Crystal
Palace' it has since been the resort of millions of pleasure-seekers. It
was fondly hoped by its promoters that the Great Exhibition would knit the
nations together in friendship, and 'inaugurate a long reign of peace.'
Yet the year 1851 was not out before Louis Napoleon overthrew the new
French Republic, of which he had been elected president, by a coup
d'état, or 'stroke of policy,' as cruel as it was cowardly. Lord
Palmerston's approval of this outrage, without the knowledge of either the
Queen or Lord John Russell, procured him his dismissal from the cabinet.
Two months later, however, Palmerston 'gave Russell his tit-for-tat,'
defeating him over a Militia Bill.
In the year 1852, amid the anxieties consequent on the sudden assumption
of imperial power by Louis Napoleon, the Queen writes thus to her uncle,
King Leopold: 'I grow daily to dislike politics and business more and
more. We women are not made for governing, and if we are good women, we
must dislike these masculine occupations.'
It was about this time that unjust reports were circulated concerning the
political influence of Prince Albert, who was represented as 'inimical to
the progress of liberty throughout the world, and the friend of
reactionary movements and absolute government.' When parliament was
opened, the prince was completely vindicated, and his past services to the
country, as the bosom counsellor of the sovereign, were made clear. The
Queen naturally felt the pain of these calumnies more deeply than did the
prince himself, but on the anniversary of her wedding day she could write:
'Trials we must have; but what are they if we are together?'
In 1852 the great Duke of Wellington died, full of years and honours. He
passed quietly away in his sleep, in his simple camp-bed in the castle of
Walmer. Though he had been opposed to the Reform Bill and many other
popular measures, he was still loved and respected by the nation for his
high sense of duty and his many sterling qualities. The hero of Waterloo
was laid beside the hero of Trafalgar in St Paul's Cathedral. He was
lowered into his grave by some of his old comrades-in-arms, who had fought
and conquered under him; and from the Queen to the humblest of her
subjects, it was felt on that day 'that a great man was dead.'
Of his death the Queen wrote: 'What a loss! We cannot think of this
country without "the Duke," our immortal hero! In him centred almost every
earthly honour a subject could possess.... With what singleness of
purpose, what straightforwardness, what courage, were all the motives of
his actions guided! The crown never possessed--and I fear never
will--so devoted, loyal, and faithful a subject, so staunch a
An eccentric miser, J. C. Neild, who died 30th August 1852, left £250,000
to Her Majesty. This man had pinched and starved himself for thirty years
in order to accumulate this sum. The Queen satisfied herself that he had
no relations living, before accepting the money.
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