Most ViewedThe First Christening The Season Of 1841
Comments Upon The Young Queen By A Contemporaneous Writer In Blackwood
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
Reign Of Queen Victoria
Least ViewedThe Condemnation Of The English Duel
Victoria The Great
The Emperor And Empress Of France Visit Windsor
Stress And Strain
Victoria's First Christmas At Windsor Castle As Queen
Failing Health Of Prince Albert
Birth Of The Duke Of Connaught
Distribution Of Victoria Crosses By The Queen
Second Attempt On The Queen's Life
My Reasons For Honoring The Queen
My reasons for admiring and honoring Queen Victoria are, perhaps, amply
revealed in this little book, but I will briefly recapitulate them:
First, is her great power of loving, and tenacity in holding on to love.
Next is her loyalty--that quality which makes her stand steadfastly by
those she loves, through good and evil report, arid not afraid to do
honor to a dead friend, be he prince or peasant--that quality which in
her lofty position, makes her friendship for the unfortunate exile "as
the shadow of a great rock in a weary land."
Next I place her sincerity, her downright honesty, which makes falsehood
and duplicity in those she has to do with, something to be wondered over
as well as scorned. Next, is her courage, so abundantly shown in the many
instances in which her life has been menaced. I do not believe that a
braver woman lives than Queen Victoria.
I admire her also for the respect and delicate consideration which she
has always had for the royalty of intellect, for the pride and
sensitiveness of genius. This peculiarity dates far back to when, as the
young Princess Victoria, she timidly asked that such men as the poets
Moore and Rogers, and the actors Charles Kemble and Macready might be
presented to her. Thomas Campbell used to relate an incident showing what
charming compliments she knew how to pay to poets. Wishing to witness the
coronation, he wrote to the Earl Marshal, saying: "There is a place in
the Abbey called 'The Poets' Corner,' which suggests the possibility of
there being room in it for living poets also." This brought him a ticket
of admission. His admiration of the young Queen's behavior was unbounded,
and he says: "On returning home, I resolved out of pure esteem and
veneration, to send her a copy of all say works. Accordingly I had them,
bound up and went personally with them to Sir Henry Wheatley, who, when
he understood my errand, told me that Her Majesty made it a rule to
decline presents of this kind, as it placed her under obligations which
were not pleasant to her. 'Say to Her Majesty, Sir Henry,' I replied,
'that there is nothing which the Queen can touch with her sceptre in any
of her dominions which I covet; and I therefore entreat you to present
them with my devotion as a subject.' But the next day they were returned.
I hesitated to open the parcel, but on doing so I found to my
inexpressible joy a note enclosed, desiring my autograph on them. Having
complied with this wish, I again transmitted the books to Her Majesty,
and in the course of a day or two, received in return this elegant
portrait engraving, with Her Majesty's autograph, as you see, below."
The Queen was the friend of Charles Kingsley, and of Charles Dickens, in
his later days. In presenting the latter with her. book, "Leaves from
a Journal of Our Life in the Highlands" she spoke of herself as "the
humblest of writers," and as almost ashamed to offer it, even with her
priceless autograph, to "one of the greatest." Mr. Tennyson she delights
to honor with her friendship. I have read a little story of her calling
on him at his place, on the Isle of Wight. It seems he had not received
due notice, or that, absorbed in writing, he had forgotten the hour. At
all events, he was taken by surprise, and was obliged to run out to
receive Her Majesty in his dressing-gown and slippers, and with his hair
disheveled, as it had become in the fine frenzy of composition. Just
think of Mr. Tennyson with his hair more than usually disheveled! Of
course it was all right, as far as the Queen was concerned,--but then the
In her youth, the Queen was very fond of the drama, and did honor to its
representations, as we have seen. Rachel used to show, with especial
pride, a costly bracelet, within which was the inscription, "Victoria
à Rachel." When the beautiful English actress, Mrs. Warner, was
slowly dying of cancer, the Queen, I am told, used to send daily one of
her carriages to take her out for a drive--as the actress could not
afford herself such a luxury.
Of Americans distinguished for talent, Her Majesty has never failed to
show, when in her power, a generous appreciation. As long ago as 1839,
she invited to Buckingham Palace, Daniel Webster and Mrs. Webster. To our
great statesman--who Miss Mitford, at the time, said was "the grandest-
looking man" she had ever beheld, and whom Sydney Smith called, more
tersely than elegantly, "a steam-engine in breeches"--the Queen was
especially attentive, talking much with him; and he pronounced her "very
intelligent." To Longfellow, purest of poets and sweetest of spirits, she
showed a respect which was almost homage; and I am told that in Mr.
Lowell, she respects the poet and the scholar, even more than the
Minister. Ah, he is one whose poetic genius, whose scholarship, keen wit,
and, above all, exquisite humor, the Prince-Consort would have
appreciated and delighted in.
Artists and men of letters have never been behindhand in tributes to the
Queen. Every sculptor and painter to whom she has sat, has had the same
story as Gibson and Leslie to tell of her kindness, taste and
intelligence. Miss Fox, writing of Landseer, says, "He deeply admires the
Queen's intellect, which he thinks superior to any woman's in Europe. Her
memory is so remarkable that he has known her recall exact words of
speeches, made years ago, which the speakers themselves had forgotten."
That was saying too much, I think, when Mrs. Somerville, Miss Martineau,
and Elizabeth Barrett were living, and working, in England. In the things
pertaining to her station and vocation, Victoria doubtless was, and is,
superior to any woman in Europe. The Duke of Wellington, who thought at
fink that he could not get on with her, because he had "no small talk,"
finally enjoyed conversing with her on the most serious matters of State.
Sir Archibald Alison, in describing an evening with her and Prince
Albert, says: "The Queen took her full share in the conversation, and I
could easily see, from her quickness of apprehension. And the questions
she put to those around her, that she possessed uncommon talent, a great
desire for information, and, in particular, great rapidity of thought--a
faculty often possessed by persons of her rank, and arising not merely
from natural ability, but from the habit of conversing with the first men
of the age."
Ah, I wonder if Her Majesty has ever realized her blessed privilege in
being able to converse freely with "the first men of the age"; to avow
her interest in politics, which is history flowing by; in statesmanship,
that cunning tapestry-work of empire, without fearing to be set down as
"a strong-minded female out of her sphere."
Much has been told me of the Queen's shrewdness and perspicacity. An
English gentleman, who has opportunities of knowing much of her, lately
said to me: "Her Majesty has an eagle-eye; she sees everything--sees
everybody--sees through everybody." And this reminded me of a little
anecdote, told me many years before, by an English fellow-traveler,--the
story of a little informal interview, which amusingly revealed not only
the Queen's quickness of perception, but directness of character.
My informant was a young gentleman of very artistic tastes--a passionate
picture-lover. He had seen all the great paintings in the public
galleries of London, and had a strong desire to see those of Buckingham
Palace, which, that not being a show-house, are inaccessible to an
ordinary connoisseur. Fortune favored him at
State apartments of the palace; and so it chanced that the temptation
came to my friend to put on a workman's blouse and thus enter the royal
precincts, while the flag, indicating the presence of the august family,
floated defiantly over the roof. So he effected an entrance, and, when
once within the royal halls, dropped his assumed character and devoted
himself to the pictures. It happened that he remained in one of the
apartments after the workmen had left, and, while quite alone, the Queen
came tripping in, wearing a plain white morning-dress, and followed by
two or three of her younger children, dressed with like simplicity. She
approached the supposed workman and, said: "Pray can you tell me when the
new carpet will be put down in the Privy Council Chamber?" and he,
thinking he had no right to appear to recognize the Queen under the
circumstances, replied: "Really, madam--I cannot tell--but I will
enquire." "Stay," she said abruptly, but not unkindly; "who are you? I
perceive that you are not one of the workmen." Mr. W----, blushing and
stammering somewhat, yet made a clean breast of it, and told the simple
truth. The Queen seemed much amused with his ruse, and, for the sake of
his love for art, forgave it; then added, smiling, "I knew, for all your
dress, that you were a gentleman, because you did not address me as 'your
Majesty.' Pray look at the pictures as long as you will. Good-morning!
Come, chicks, we must go."
I hear that a distinguished American friend has expressed a fear that I
shall "idealize Queen Victoria." I do not think I have done so. I leave
that to her English biographers and eulogists. In my researches, I have
come upon curious things, in the way of pompous panegyric, which would
have made Minerva the Wise, feel foolish, and which Juno the Superb,
would have pronounced "a little too strong, really." I have not, it is
true, pointed out faults--I have not been near enough to "the Queen's
Most Excellent Majesty" to become acquainted with them. I presume she has
them--I hope she has. I think all writers who deny her human weaknesses,
or betray surprise at any exhibition of ordinary human feeling, pay the
Queen a very poor compliment. There is in England a good deal of
exaggerated expression of loyalty. Such words as "gracious" and
"condescending" are habits and forms of speech. Of the real sentiment of
loyalty, I do not think there is an excess--at least not toward the
Queen. When Her Majesty gives way to natural emotion over the death of a
friend, or over a great public calamity, I do not believe she likes to
have the fact made a circumstance of. For instance, when that dreadful
tragedy occurred in the Victoria Hall, at Sunderland, when hundreds of
children perished, by being trampled underfoot and suffocated, the Court
intelligence, which seemed to deepen the sadness in many minds, was that
"Her Majesty was observed to weep on reading the account." This item went
the rounds, and called forth such expressions of sympathy that one would
have supposed that it was the august mater patriæ at Windsor, who
had been bereaved, and not those poor distracted mothers at Sunderland.
Why should the Queen not weep over such a "massacre of the innocents,"
like any other good, sympathetic, motherly woman? She has not wept away
all her tears for herself.
I remember at the time of the death of Lady Augusta Stanley, who had
formerly been one of Her Majesty's Maids of Honor, much was said of the
Queen's sympathy with the Dean. She attended the funeral, and afterwards,
it is said, "led the widowed mourner into his desolate home." This act,
so simple and sweet in a friend, was, I know, looked upon' by some as
"condescension," in a sovereign; but how could one sorrowing human soul
condescend to another--and that other Arthur Stanley? Sorrow is as great
a leveler as death. Tears wash away all poor human distinctions.
We also took the Queen's sympathy with us, in our great national-
bereavement, too much as though it were something quite super-royal, if
not superhuman. It was the exquisite wording of those telegrams which
touched, melted our hearts; but we should have been neither surprised,
nor overcome. It was beautiful, but it was natural. She could not have
said less, or said it differently. It was very sweet of her to send that
floral offering, known and dear to us all as "the Queen's Wreath," but
she sacrificed no dignity in so doing, as her flowers were to lie on the
coffin of the ruler of a great empire--a ruler who had been as much
greater than an ordinary monarch as election is greater than accident.
Of course, as the Queen is the most interesting personage in all England,
the least little things connected with her have an interest which
Americans can hardly understand. In a handsome semi-official work called
"A Diary of Royal Events," I find gravely related the story of an Osborne
postman, who once lent the Queen and Prince Albert his umbrella, and was
told to call for it at the great house, when he received it back, and
with it a five-pound note. I see nothing very note-worthy in this, except
the fact, honorable to humanity, of a borrowed umbrella being promptly
returned, the owner calling for it. The five-pound note, though, was an
"event" to the postman.
A few concluding words about the Queen's children, who with many
grandchildren "rise up to call her blessed."
Victoria, the Crown Princess of Germany, is a fine-looking woman, with
the same peculiarly German face, "round as an apple," which she had as a
child. She is very clever, especially in art, and her character, formed
under her father's hand, very noble. The Prince of Wales is a hard-
working man in his way, which means in many ways, for the public benefit-
-industrial, artistic, scientific and social. The people seem bent on
making him true to his old Saxon motto--"Ich dien" (I serve). He
is exceedingly popular, being very genial and affable--not jealous, it is
said, of his dignity as a Prince, but very jealous of his dignity as a
gentleman--and that is right; for kings may come, and kings may go, but
the fine type of the English gentleman goes on forever. No revolution can
depose it; no commune can destroy it--it is proof against dynamite.
A handsome man is the Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Alfred), who no longer
follows the sea, but is settled down in England, with his wife, a
daughter of the late Czar, who testified by this alliance his wish to let
Crimean "by-gones be by-gones"--till the next time, at least.
The Duke resembles his father in his love for and cultivation of music.
There does not seem to be any opening for him to play a part like that of
Alfred the Great, but he can probably play the violin better than that
monarch ever did. They drew another sort of a bow in those old days.
The Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein (Princess Helena) is in
appearance most like her mother, and perhaps in character and tastes, as
she lives a life of quiet retirement, is a devoted wife and-mother, yet
often giving her time and energies to a good work, or an artistic
enterprise. She also is exceedingly fond of music and is an accomplished
pianist. A passion for music belongs to this family by a double
inheritance. Even poor, old, blind George the Third consoled himself at
his organ, for the loss of an empire and the darkening of as world.
The Duke of Connaught, whom we so pleasantly remember in America as
Prince Arthur, is the soldier of the family--a real one, since he won his
spars in Egypt. He has something of the grave, gentle look of his father,
and is much liked and respected.
The Princess Louise (Marchioness of Lome) is a beautiful woman, but with
a somewhat cold and proud expression, a veritable grande dame. She
is remarkably clever and accomplished, especially in art--modeling
admirably well--for a Princess.
Prince Leopold (Duke of Albany) is the scholar of the family--
intellectually and morally more like Prince Albert, it is said, than any
of his brothers. I was once told by the eminent Dr. James Martineau, who
had met and conversed with him, that he was a young man of a very
thoughtful mind, high aims, and quite remarkable acquirements. As Dr.
Martineau is not of the church, being a Unitarian divine, he
cannot be suspected, in pronouncing such eulogies on the Queen's darling
son, of having an eye to preferment-of working for a "living." On the
whole, Her Majesty's sons are a decided improvement on her six royal
uncles, on the paternal side.
We come now to the youngest, the darling and delight of her father, the
little one who "stood and looked at him," when he lay ill, marveling at
the mysterious change in his dear face;--the Princess Beatrice--as
closely associated, as constantly with her mother as was the Princess
Victoria with the Duchess of Kent. She also is accomplished and clever,
nor appears in any way to "unbeseem the promise of her spring." She also
has the love of music which marks her race. She was little more than a
baby when her father went away, and her innocent wonder and questioning
must often have pierced her mother's wounded heart anew; and yet those
little loving hands must have helped to draw that mother from the depths
of gloom and despair in which she was so nearly engulfed. Though the
youngest of all, her father seems to have delegated to her much of his
dearest earthly care, and she the good daughter, is, it may be, led by
unseen hands, and inspired by unspoken words of counsel and acceptance.
So, though the life of the Princess Beatrice is not abounding in the
Court gayeties and excitements which usually fall to the lot of a
Princess, "young, and so fair," none, can question its happiness, for it
is a life of duty and devotion.
* * * * *
And now my little biography is finished--"would it were worthier!"--and I
must take leave of my illustrious subject, "kissing hands" in
imagination, with profound respect. If I back out of the presence, it is
not in unrepublican abasement, but because I am loath to turn my eyes
away, from the kindly and now familiar face of the good woman, and the
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