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The Queen's First Visit To Scotland

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Sketch Of The Princess Charlotte








It seems to me that the life of Queen Victoria cannot well be told
without a prefacing sketch of her cousin, the Princess Charlotte, who,
had she lived, would have been her Queen, and who was in many respects
her prototype. It is certain, I think, that Charlotte Augusta of Wales,
that lovely miracle-flower of a loveless marriage, blooming into a noble
and gracious womanhood, amid the petty strifes and disgraceful intrigues
of a corrupt Court, by her virtues and graces, by her high spirit and
frank and fearless character, prepared the way in the loyal hearts of the
British people, for the fair young kinswoman, who, twenty-one years after
her own sad death, reigned in her stead.

Through all the bright life of the Princess Charlotte--from her beautiful
childhood to her no less beautiful maturity--the English people had
regarded her proudly and lovingly as their sovereign, who was to be; they
had patience with the melancholy madness of the poor old King, her
grandfather, and with the scandalous irregularities of the Prince Regent,
her father, in looking forward to happier and better things under a good
woman's reign; and after all those fair hopes had been coffined with her,
and buried in darkness and silence, their hearts naturally turned to the
royal little girl, who might possibly fill the place left so drearily
vacant. England had always been happy and prosperous under Queens, and a
Queen, please God, they would yet have.

The Princess Charlotte was the only child of the marriage of the Prince
Regent, afterwards George IV., with the Princess Caroline of Brunswick,
Her childhood was overshadowed by the hopeless estrangement of her
parents. She seems to have especially loved her mother, and by the
courage and independence she displayed in her championship of that good-
hearted but most eccentric and imprudent woman, endeared herself to the
English people, who equally admired her pluck and her filial piety--on
the maternal side. They took a fond delight in relating stories of
rebellion against her august papa, and even against her awful grandmamma,
Queen Charlotte. They told how once, when a mere slip of a girl, being
forbidden to pay her usual visit to her poor mother, she insisted on
going, and on the Queen undertaking to detain her by force, resisted,
struggling right valiantly, and after damaging and setting comically awry
the royal mob-cap, broke away, ran out of the palace, sprang into a
hackney-coach, and promising the driver a guinea, was soon at her
mother's house and in her mother's arms. There is another--a Court
version of this hackney-coach story--which states that it was not the
Queen, but the Prince Regent that the Princess ran away from--so that
there could have been no assault on a mob-cap. But the common people of
that day preferred the version I have given, as more piquant, especially
as old Queen Charlotte was known to be the most solemnly grand of
grandmammas, and a personage of such prodigious dignity that it was
popularly supposed that only Kings and Queens, with their crowns actually
on their heads, were permitted to sit in her presence.

As a young girl, the Princess Charlotte was by no means without faults of
temper and manner. She was at times self-willed, passionate, capricious,
and imperious, though ordinarily good-humored, kindly, and sympathetic. A
Court lady of the time, speaking of her, says: "She is very clever, but
at present has the manners of a hoyden school-girl. She talked all sorts
of nonsense to me, but can put on dignity when she chooses." This writer
also relates that the royal little lady loved to shock her attendants by
running to fetch for herself articles she required--her hat, a book, or a
chair--and that one summer, when she stayed at a country-house, she would
even run to open the gate to visitors, curtsying to them like a country
lassie. The Earl of Albemarle, who was her playmate in childhood, his
grandmother being her governess, relates that one time when they had the
Prince Regent to lunch, the chop came up spoiled, and it was found that
Her Royal Highness had descended into the kitchen, and, to the dismay of
the cook, insisted on broiling it. Albemarle adds that he, boy-like,
taunted her with her culinary failure, saying: "You would make a
pretty Queen, wouldn't you?" At another time, some years later, she came
in her carriage to make a morning-call at his grandmother's, and seeing a
crowd gathered before the door, attracted by the royal liveries, she ran
out a back-way, came round, and mingled with the curious throng
unrecognized, and as eager to see the Princess as any of them.

Not being allowed the society of her mother, and that of her father not
being considered wholesome for her, the Princess was early advised and
urged to take a companion and counsellor in the shape of a husband. The
Prince of Orange, afterwards King of the Netherlands, was fixed upon as a
good parti by her royal relatives, and he came courting to the English
Court. But the Princess did hot altogether fancy this aspirant, so, after
her independent fashion, she declined the alliance, and "the young man
went away sorrowing."

One of the ladies of the Princess used to tell how for a few minutes
after the Prince had called to make his sad adieux, she hoped that
Her Royal Highness had relented because she walked thoughtfully to the
window to see the last of him as he descended the palace steps and sprang
into his carriage, looking very grand in his red uniform, with a tuft of
green feathers in his hat. But when the Princess turned away with a gay
laugh, saying, "How like a radish he looks," she knew that all was over.
It is an odd little coincidence, that a later Prince of Orange,
afterwards King of the Netherlands, had the same bad luck as a suitor to
the Princess or Queen Victoria.

Charlotte's next lover, Leopold, of Saxe-Coburg, an amiable and able
Prince, was more fortunate. He won the light but constant heart of the
Princess, inspiring her not only with tender love, but with profound
respect. Her high spirit and imperious will were soon tamed to his firm
but gentle hand; she herself became more gentle and reasonable, content
to rule the kingdom of his heart at least, by her womanly charms, rather
than by the power of her regal name and lofty position. This royal love-
marriage took place in May, 1816, and soon after the Prince and Princess,
who had little taste for Court gaieties, went to live at Claremont, the
beautiful country residence now occupied by the young Duke of Albany, a
namesake of Prince Leopold. Here the young couple lived a life of much
domestic privacy and simplicity, practicing themselves in habits of
study, methodical application to business, and wise economy. They were
always together, spending happy hours in work and recreation, passing
from law and politics to music and sketching, from the study of the
British Constitution to horticulture. The Princess especially delighted
in gardening, in watering with her own hands her favorite plants.

This happy pair had an invaluable aid and ally in the learned Baron
Stockmar, early attached to Prince Leopold as private physician, a rare,
good man on whom they both leaned much, as afterwards did Victoria and
Albert and their children. Indeed the Baron seems to have been a
permanent pillar for princes to lean upon. From youth to old age he was
to two or three royal households the chief "guide, philosopher, and
friend"--a Coburg mentor, a Guelphic oracle.

So these royal lovers of Claremont lived tranquilly on, winning the love
and respect of all about them, and growing dearer and dearer to each
other till the end came, the sudden death of the young wife and mother,--
an event which, on a sad day in November, 1817, plunged the whole realm
into mourning. The grief of the people, even those farthest removed from
the Court, was real, intense, almost personal and passionate. It was a
double tragedy, for the child too was dead. The accounts of the last
moments of the Princess are exceedingly touching. When told that her baby
boy was not living, she said: "I am grieved, for myself, for the English
people, but O, above all, I feel it for my dear husband!" Taking an
opportunity when the Prince was away from her bedside, she asked if she
too must die. The physician did not directly reply, but said, "Pray be
calm."

"I know what that means," she replied, then added, "Tell it to my
husband,--tell it with caution and tenderness, and be sure to say to him,
from me, that I am still the happiest wife in England."

It seems, according to the Queen, that it was Stockmar that took this
last message to the Prince, who lacked the fortitude to remain by the
bedside of his dying wife--that it was Stockmar who held her hand till it
grew pulseless and cold, till the light faded from her sweet blue eyes as
her great life and her great love passed forever from the earth. Yet it
seems that through a mystery of transmigration, that light and life and
love were destined soon to be reincarnated in a baby cousin, born in May,
1819, called at first "the little May-flower," and through her earliest
years watched and tended as a frail and delicate blossom of hope.





Next: Birth Of The Princess Victoria

Previous: Louis Philippe's Visit



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