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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

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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!



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The Queen's Sympathy During The Illness Of President Garfield

First Meeting With Prince Albert Death Of William Iv

Second Attempt On The Queen's Life

Marriage And Delicacy Of The Prince's Position

Fresh Attempts Against The Queen's Life And The Death Of The Duc D'orleans

The Emperor And Empress Of France Visit Windsor

Failing Health Of Prince Albert

Sketch Of The Princess Charlotte

Distribution Of Victoria Crosses By The Queen

Marriage Of The Princess Royal






The Betrothal








The Queen's remaining unmarried was becoming the source of innumerable
disturbing rumours and private intrigues for the bestowal of her hand. To
show the extent to which the public discussed the question in every light,
a serious publication like the Annual Register found space in its
pages for a ponderous joke on the subject which was employing all tongues.
Its chronicle professes to report an interview between her Majesty the
Queen and Lord Melbourne, in which the Premier gravely represents to his
sovereign the advisability of her marriage, and ventures to press her to
say whether there is any man for whom she might entertain a preference. Her
Majesty condescends to acknowledge there is one man for whom she could
conceive a regard. His name is "Arthur, Duke of Wellington."

Altogether, King Leopold was warranted in renewing his efforts to
accomplish the union which would best secure the happiness of his niece and
the welfare of a kingdom. He adopted a simple, and at the same time, a
masterly line of policy. He sent the Prince, whose majority had been
celebrated along with his brother's a few months before, over again to
England in the autumn of 1839; Prince Ernest of Saxe-Coburg went once more
with Prince Albert, in order to show that this was not a bridegroom come to
plead his suit in person; this was a mere cousinly visit of which nothing
need come. Indeed, the good king rather overdid his caution, for it seems
he led the Prince to believe that the earlier tacit understanding between
him and his cousin had come to an end, so that Prince Albert arrived more
resolved to relinquish his claims than to urge his rights. In his honest
pride there was hardly room for the thought of binding more closely and
indissolubly the silken cord of love, which had got loosened and warped in
the course of the three years since the pair had parted--a long interval at
the age of twenty. All the same, one of the most notably and deservedly
attractive young men of his generation was to be brought for the second
time, without the compulsory strain of an ulterior motive--declared or
unjustifiably implied--into new contact with a royal maiden, whom a
qualified judge described as possessing "a keen and quick apprehension,
being straightforward, singularly pure-hearted, and free from all vanity
and pretension." In the estimation of this sagacious well-wisher, she was
fitted beforehand "to do ample justice both to the head and heart of the
Prince."

It was at half-past seven on the evening of Thursday, the 10th of October,
that the princely brothers entered again on the scene, no longer young lads
under the guidance of their father, come to make the acquaintance of a
girl-princess, their cousin, who though she might be the heir to a mighty
kingdom, was still entirely under the wing of the Duchess, their aunt and
her mother, in the homely old Palace of Kensington. These were two young
men in the flower of their early manhood, who alighted in due form under
the gateway of one of the stateliest of castles that could ever have
visited their dreams, and found a young Queen as well as a kinswoman
standing first among her ladies, awaiting them at the top of the grand
staircase. However cordial and affectionate, and like herself, she might
be, it had become her part, and she played it well, to take the initiative,
to give directions instead of receiving them, to command where she had
obeyed. It was she, and not the mother she loved and honoured, who was the
mistress of this castle; and it was for her to come forward, welcome her
guests, and graciously conduct them to the Duchess.

King Leopold had furnished the brothers with credentials in the shape of a
letter, recommending them, in studiously moderate terms, as "good, honest
creatures," deserving her kindness, "not pedantic, but really sensible and
trustworthy," whom he had told that her great wish was they should be at
ease with her.

Both of these simply summed-up guests were fine young men, tall, manly,
intelligent, and accomplished. Prince Albert was very handsome and winning,
as all his contemporaries must remember him, with a mixture of thought and
gentleness in his broad forehead, deep-blue eyes, and sweet smile.

The first incident of the visit was a trifle disconcerting, but not more so
than happy, privileged people may be permitted to surmount with a laughing
apology; even to draw additional light-hearted jests from the misadventure.
The baggage of the Princes by some chance was not forthcoming; they could
not appear at a Court dinner in their morning dress, but etiquette was
relaxed for the strangers to the extent that later in the evening they
joined the circle, which included Lord Melbourne, Lord Clanricarde, Lord
and Lady Granville, Baron Brunnow and Lord Normanby, as visitors at Windsor
at the time. The pleasant old courtier, Lord Melbourne, immediately told
the Queen that he was struck with the resemblance between Prince Albert and
herself.

"The way of life at Windsor during the stay of the Princes was much as
follows:--the Queen breakfasting at this time in her own room, they
afterwards paid her a visit there; and at two o'clock had luncheon with her
and the Duchess of Kent. In the afternoon they all rode--the Queen and
Duchess and the two Princes, with Lord Melbourne and most of the ladies and
gentlemen in attendance, forming a large cavalcade. There was a great
dinner every evening, with a dance after it, three times a week."
[Footnote: "Early Years of the Prince Consort."] Surely an ideal palace
life for the young--born to the Stately conditions, bright with all the
freshness of body and sparkle of spirit, unexhausted, undimmed by years and
care. Surely a fair field for true love to cast off its wilful shackles,
and be rid of its half-cherished misunderstandings, to assert itself master
of the situation. And so in five days, while King Leopold was still writing
wary recommendations and temperate praise, the prize which had been deemed
lost was won, and the Queen who had foredoomed herself to years of maidenly
toying with happiness and fruitless waiting, was ready to announce her
speedy marriage, with loyal satisfaction and innocent fearlessness, to her
servants in council.

At the time, and for long afterwards, there were many wonderful little
stories, doubtless fanciful enough, but all taking colour from the one
charming fact of the royal lovers. How the Queen, whose place it was to
choose, had with maidenly grace made known her worthy choice at one of
these palace "dances," in which she had waltzed with her Prince, and
subsided from the liege lady into the loving woman. She had presented him
with her bouquet in a most marked and significant manner. He had accepted
it with the fullest and most becoming sense of the distinction conferred
upon him, and had sought to bestow her token in a manner which should prove
his devotion and gratitude. But his tight-fitting foreign uniform had
threatened to baffle his desire, till, in the exigency of the moment, he
took out a pocket-knife (or was it his sword from its sheath?) and cut a
slit in the breast of his coat on the left side, over the heart, where he
put the flowers. Was this at the end of that second day after the brothers'
arrival, on which, as the Prince mentions, in detailing to a friend the
turn of the tide, "the most friendly demonstrations were directed towards
me?"

On the 14th of October, the Queen told her fatherly adviser, Lord
Melbourne, that she had made her choice; at which he expressed great
satisfaction, and said to her (as her Majesty has stated in one of the
published portions of her Journal), "I think it will be very well received,
for I hear that there is an anxiety now that it should be, and I am very
glad of it;" adding, in quite a paternal tone, "you will be much more
comfortable, for a woman cannot stand alone for any time in whatever
position she may be."

In the circumstances, the ordinary role was of necessity strangely
reversed, and the ordeal of the declaration fell to the maiden and not to
the young man. But the trial could not have come to a better pair. Innate
good sense and dignity, and single-hearted affection on the one hand, and
manly, delicate-minded tenderness on the other, made all things possible,
nay, easy. An intimation was conveyed to the Prince through an old friend,
who was in the suite of the brothers on this visit to England, Baron
Alvensleben, Master of the Horse to the Duke of Coburg, that the Queen
wished to speak to Prince Albert next day. Doubtless, the formality and
comparative length of the invitation had its significant importance to the
receiver of the message, and brought with it a tumult and thrill of
anticipation. But he was called on to show that he had outgrown youthful
impetuosity and impatience, and to prove himself worthy of trust and honour
by perfect self-restraint and composure. So far as the world knows, he
awaited his lady's will without a sign of restlessness or disturbance. If
blissful dreams drove away sleep from the pillows on which two young heads
rested in Royal Windsor that night, none save the couple needed to know of
it. It was not by any means the first time that queenly and princely heads
had courted oblivion in vain beneath the tower of St. George, and under the
banner of England, but never in more natural, lawful, happy wakefulness.

On the morning of the 15th, behaving himself as if nothing had happened, or
was going to happen, according to the code of Saxon Englishmen, Prince
Albert went out early, hunting with his brother, but came back by noon, and
"half an hour afterwards obeyed the Queen's summons to her room, where he
found her alone. After a few minutes' conversation on other subjects, the
Queen told him why she had sent for him."

The Prince wrote afterwards to the oldest of his relations: "The Queen sent
for me alone to her room a few days ago, and declared to me, in a genuine
outburst of love and affection, that I had gained her whole heart, and
would make her intensely happy if I would make her the sacrifice of sharing
her life with her, for she said she looked on it as a sacrifice; the only
thing that troubled her was, that she did not think she was worthy of me.
The joyous openness of manner with which she told me this quite enchanted
me, and I was quite carried away by it."

"The Prince answered by the warmest demonstration of kindness and
affection."

The affair had been settled by love itself in less time than it has taken
to tell it.

There is an entry in her Majesty's Journal of this date, which she has,
with noble and tender confidence, in the best feelings of humanity,
permitted her people to read.

"How I will strive to make him feel, as little as possible, the great
sacrifices he has made! I told him it was a great sacrifice on his
part, but he would not allow it."

This record has been enthusiastically dwelt upon for its thorough
womanliness; and so it is truly womanly, royally womanly. But it seems to
us that less weight has been put on the fine sympathetic intuition of the
Queen which enabled her to look beyond herself, beyond mere outward
appearance and worldly advantages, and see the fact of the sacrifice on the
part of such a man as Prince Albert, which he made with all his heart,
cheerfully, refusing so much as to acknowledge it, for her dear sake. For
the Queen was wisely right, and the Prince lovingly wrong. He not only gave
back in full measure what he got, but, looking at the contract in the light
of the knowledge which the Queen has granted to us of a rare nature, we
recognise that for such a man--so simple, noble, purely scholarly and
artistic; so capable of undying attachment; so fond of peaceful household
charities and the quiet of domestic life; so indifferent to pomp and show;
so wearied and worried in his patience by formality, parade, and the vulgar
strife and noise, glare and blare of the lower, commoner ambitions--it
was a sacrifice to forsake his fatherland, his father's house, the
brother whom he loved as his own soul, the plain living and high thinking,
healthful early hours and refined leisure--busy enough in good thoughts and
deeds--of Germany, for the great shackled responsibility which should rest
on the Queen's husband, for the artificial, crowded, high-pressure life of
an England which did not know him, did not understand him, for many a day.
If Baron Stockmar was right, that the physical constitution of the Prince
in his youth rendered strain and effort unwelcome, and that he was rather
deficient in interest in the ordinary work of the world, and in the broad
questions which concern the welfare of men and nations, than overendowed
with a passion for mastering and controlling them, then the sacrifice was
all the greater.

But he made it, led by what was, in him, an overruling sense of right, and
by the sweetest compelling motive, for highest duty and for her his Queen.
Having put his hand to the plough he never looked back. What his hand found
to do, that he did with all his might, and he became one of the hardest
workers of his age. In seeing what he resigned, we also see that the
fullness of his life was rendered complete by the resignation. He was
called to do a grand, costly service, and he did well, at whatever price,
to obey the call. Without the sacrifice his life would have been less
honourable as an example, less full, less perfect, and so, in the end, less
satisfying.

When the troth was plighted, the Queen adds, "I then told him to fetch
Ernest, who congratulated us both and seemed very happy. He told me how
perfect his brother was."

There were other kind friends to rejoice in the best solution of the
problem and settlement of the vexed question. The good mother and aunt, the
Duchess of Kent, rendered as secure as mortal mother could be of the future
contentment and prosperity of her child; the attached kinsman beyond the
Channel; the father of the bridegroom; his female relations; trusty Baron
Stockmar; an early comrade, were all to be told and made happy, and in some
cases sorry also, for the promotion of Prince Albert to be the Queen's
husband meant exile from Germany.

The passages given from the Queen's and Prince's letters to King Leopold
and Baron Stockmar are not only very characteristic, the words express what
those who loved the writers best would have most wished them to say. The
respective utterances are radiant with delight softened by the modest, firm
resolves, the humble hearty conscientiousness which made the proposed
marriage so auspicious of all it was destined to prove.

The King of the Belgians was still in a state of doubt, writing his earnest
but studiously measured praise of his nephews to the Queen. "I am sure you
will like them the more, the longer you see them. They are young men of
merit, and without that puppy-like affectation which is so often found with
young gentlemen of rank; and though remarkably well informed, they are very
free from pedantry.

"Albert is a very agreeable companion. His manners are so quiet and
harmonious that one likes to have him near one's self. I always found him
so when I had him with me, and I think his travels have still improved
him. He is full of talent and fun, and draws cleverly."

At last there is a plainer insinuation. "I trust they will enliven your
sejour in the old castle, and may Albert be able to strew roses
without thorns on the pathway of life of our good Victoria. He is well
qualified to do so...."

On the very day this letter was written, the Queen was addressing her
uncle. "My dearest uncle, this letter will I am sure give you pleasure, for
you have always shown and taken so warm an interest in all that concerns
me. My mind is quite made up, and I told Albert this morning of it. The
warm affection he showed me on learning this, gave me great pleasure. He
seems perfection, and I think I have the prospect of very great happiness
before me. I love him more than I can say, and shall do everything in my
power to render this sacrifice (for such is my opinion it is) as small as I
can.... It is absolutely necessary that this determination of mine should
be known to no one but yourself and to Uncle Ernest, until after the
meeting of Parliament, as it would be considered, otherwise, neglectful on
my part not to have assembled Parliament at once to inform them of it....
Lord Melbourne has acted in this business as he has always done towards me,
with the greatest kindness and affection. We also think it better, and
Albert quite approves of it, that we should be married very soon after
Parliament meets, about the beginning of February."

The King's reply from Wiesbaden is like the man, and is pathetic in the
depth of its gratification. "My dearest Victoria, nothing could have given
me greater pleasure than your dear letter. I had, when I learnt your
decision, almost the feeling of Old Simeon: 'Now lettest thou thy servant
depart in peace.' Your choice has been for these last years my conviction
of what might and would be best for your happiness; and just because I was
convinced of it, and knew how strangely fate often changes what one tries
to bring about as being the best plan one could fix upon--the maximum of a
good arrangement--I feared that it would not happen."

In Prince Albert's letter to Baron Stockmar, written without delay, as he
says, "on one of the happiest days of my life to give you the most welcome
news possible," he goes on to declare that he is often at a loss to believe
that such affection should be shown to him. He quotes as applicable to
himself from Schiller's "Song of the Bell," of which the Prince was very
fond--

Das Auge sieht den Himmel offen,
Es schwimmt das Herz in seligkeit.

The passage from which these lines are taken is the very beautiful one thus
rendered in English by the late Lord Lytton:--

And, lo! as some sweet vision breaks
Out from its native morning skies,
With rosy shame on downcast cheeks,
The virgin stands before his eyes:
A nameless longing seizes him!
From all his wild companions flown;
Tears, strange till then, his eyes bedim,
He wanders all alone.
Blushing he glides where'er she moves,
Her greeting can transport him;
To every mead to deck his love,
The happy wild-flowers court him.
Sweet hope--and tender longing--ye
The growth of life's first age of gold,
When the heart, swelling, seems to see
The gates of heaven unfold.
Oh, were it ever green! oh, stay!
Linger, young Love, Life's blooming may.

In a later letter to Stockmar the Prince writes: "An individuality, a
character which shall win the respect, the love, and the confidence of the
Queen and of the nation, must be the groundwork of my position.... If
therefore I prove a 'noble' Prince in the true sense of the word, as you
call upon me to be, wise and prudent conduct will become easier to me, and
its results more rich in blessings;" and to his stepmother he makes the
thoughtful comment, "With the exception of my relation to her (the Queen),
my future position will have its dark sides, and the sky will not always be
blue and unclouded. But life has its thorns in every position, and the
consciousness of having used one's powers and endeavours for an object so
great as that of promoting the good of so many will surely be sufficient to
support me."

The brothers remained at Windsor for a happy month, [Footnote: Lady
Bloomfield describes a beautiful emerald serpent ring which the Prince gave
the Queen when they were engaged.] when the royal lovers saw much of each
other, and as a matter of course often discussed the future, particularly
with reference to the Prince's position in his new country, and what his
title was to be. One can easily fancy how interesting and engrossing such
talks would become, especially when they were enlivened by the bright
humour, and controlled by the singular unselfishness, of the object of so
many hopes and plans. It was already blustering wintry weather, but there
was little room to feel the depressing influence of the grey cloudy sky or
the chill of the shrilly whistling wind and driving rain. Prince Ernest had
the misfortune to suffer from an attack of jaundice, but it was a passing
evil, sure to be lightened by ample sympathy, and it did not prevent the
friend of the bridegroom from rejoicing greatly at the sound of the
bridegroom's voice.

Perhaps the fact that a form of secrecy had to be kept up till her Majesty
should announce her marriage to the Council only added an additional
piquant flavour to the general satisfaction. But this did not cause the
Queen to fail in confidence towards the members of her family, for she
wrote herself to the Queen-dowager and to the rest of her kindred
announcing her intended marriage, and receiving their congratulations.

On the 2nd of November there was a review of the battalion of the Rifle
Brigade quartered at Windsor under Colonel, afterwards Sir George Brown, of
Crimean fame, in the Home Park. The Queen was present, accompanied by
Prince Albert, in the green uniform of the Coburg troops. What a picture,
full of joyful content, independent of all accidents of weather, survives
of the scene! "At ten minutes to twelve I set off in my Windsor uniform and
cap (already described) on my old charger 'Leopold,' with my beloved Albert
looking so handsome in his uniform on my right, and Sir John Macdonald, the
Adjutant-General, on my left, Colonel Grey and Colonel Wemyss preceding me,
a guard of honour, my other gentlemen, my cousin's gentlemen, Lady Caroline
Barrington, &c., for the ground.

"A horrid day. Cold, dreadfully blowing, and, in addition, raining hard
when we had been out a few minutes. It, however, ceased when we: came to
the ground. I rode alone down the ranks, and then took my place as usual,
with dearest Albert on my right and Sir John Macdonald on my left, and saw
the troops march past. They afterwards manoeuvred. The Rifles looked
beautiful. It was piercingly cold, and I had my cape on, which dearest
Albert settled comfortably for me. He was so cold, being 'EN GRANDE TENUE,'
with high boots. We cantered home again, and went in to show ourselves to.
poor Ernest, who had seen all from a window."

The Princes left Windsor on the 14th of November, visiting the King of the
Belgians on their way home, so that King Leopold could write to his niece,
"I find them looking well, particularly Albert. It proves that happiness is
an excellent remedy to keep people in better health than any other. He is
much attached to you, and modest when speaking of you. He is besides in
great spirits, full of gaiety and fun."

The bridegroom also sent kind words to his aunt and future mother-in-law,
as well as tender words to his cousin and bride. "Dearest aunt, a thousand
thanks for your two kind letters just received. I see from them that you
are in close sympathy with your nephew--your son-in-law soon to be--which
gratifies me very, very much.... What you say about my poor little bride
sitting all alone in her room, silent and sad, has touched me to the heart.
Oh, that I might fly to her side to cheer her!"

"For 'the poor little bride' there was no lack of those sweet words,
touched with the grateful humility of a manly love, to receive which was a
precious foretaste to her of the happiness of the years to come." "That I
am the object of so much love and devotion often comes over me as something
I can hardly realise," wrote the Prince. "My prevailing feeling is, What am
I that such happiness should be mine? For excess of happiness it is to me
to know that I am so dear to you." Again, in referring to his grandmother's
regret at his departure he added, "Still she hopes, what I am convinced
will be the case, that I may find in you, my dear Victoria, all the
happiness I could possibly desire. And so I SHALL, I can truly tell her for
her comfort." And once more he wrote from "dear old Coburg," brimming over
with loyal joy, "How often are my thoughts with you! The hours I was
privileged to pass with you in your dear little room are the radiant points
of my life, and I cannot even yet clearly picture to myself that I am to be
indeed so happy as to be always near you, always your protector." Last and
most touching assurance of all, touching as it was solemn, when he
mentioned to the Queen that in an hour he was to take the sacrament in
church at Coburg, and went on, "God will not take it amiss, if in that
serious act, even at the altar, I think of you, for I will pray to Him for
you and for your soul's health, and He will not refuse us His blessing."

In the meantime there was much to do in England. On the 20th of November
the Queen, with the Duchess of Kent, left Windsor for Buckingham Palace. On
the 23rd, the Council assembled there in the Bow-room on the ground floor.
The ceremony of declaring her proposed marriage was a mere form, but a very
trying form to a young and modest woman called to face alone a gathering of
eighty-three elderly gentlemen, and to make to them the announcement which
concerned herself so nearly. Of the Privy Councillors some, like the Duke
of Wellington, had known the Queen all her life, some had only served her
since she came to the throne, but all were accustomed to discuss very
different matters with her. How difficult the task was to the Queen we may
judge from the significant note. The Queen always wore a bracelet with the
Prince's picture, "and it seemed," she wrote in her Journal, "to give me
courage at the Council." Her own further account of the scene is as
follows: "Precisely at two I went in. The room was full, but I hardly knew
who was there. Lord Melbourne I saw looking kindly at me with tears in his
eyes, but he was not near me. I then read my short declaration. I felt my
hands shook, but I did not make one mistake. I felt most happy and thankful
when it was over. Lord Lansdowne then rose, and in the name of the Privy
Council asked that this most gracious and most welcome communication might
be printed. I then left the room, the whole thing not lasting above two or
three minutes. The Duke of Cambridge came into the small library where I
was standing and wished me joy."

The Queen's declaration was to this effect: "I have caused you to be
summoned at the present time in order that I may acquaint you with my
resolution in a matter which deeply concerns the welfare of my people and
the happiness of my future life.

"It is my intention to ally myself in marriage with the Prince Albert of
Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Deeply impressed with the solemnity of the
engagement which I am about to contract, I have not come to this decision
without mature consideration, nor without feeling a strong assurance that,
with the blessing of Almighty God, it will at once secure my domestic
felicity and serve the interests of my country.

"I have thought fit to make this resolution known to you at the earliest
period, in order that you may be apprised of a matter so highly important
to me and to my kingdom, and which, I persuade myself, will be most
acceptable to all my loving subjects."

The Queen returned to Windsor with the Duchess of Kent the same evening.

On the 16th of January, 1840, the Queen opened Parliament in person, and
made a similar statement. "Since you were last assembled I have declared my
intention of allying myself in marriage with the Prince Albert of
Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. I humbly implore that the Divine blessing may
prosper this union, and render it conducive to the interests of my people
as well as to my own domestic happiness, and it will be to me a source of
the most lively satisfaction to find the resolution I have taken approved
by my Parliament. The constant proofs which I have received of your
attachment to my person and family persuade me that you will enable me to
provide for such an establishment as may appear suitable to the rank of the
Prince and the dignity of the Crown."

To see and hear the young Queen, still only in her twenty-first year, when
she went to tell her people of her purpose, multitudes lined the streets
and cheered her on her way that wintry day, and every seat in the House
"was filled with the noblest and fairest of the land" ready to give her
quieter but not less heartfelt support. It is no mere courtly compliment to
say that Queen Victoria's marriage afforded the greatest satisfaction to
the nation at large. Not only was it a very desirable measure on political
grounds, but it appealed to the far deeper and wider feelings of humanity.
It had that touch of nature which makes the whole world kin. Sir Robert
Peel's words, when he claimed the right of the Opposition to join with the
Government in its felicitations to both sovereign and country, were not
required to convince the people that their Queen was not only making a
suitable alliance, but was marrying "for love," according to the oldest,
wisest, best plan. They knew the glad truth as if by instinct, and how
heartily high and low entered into her happiness and wished her joy! It is
said there is one spectacle which, whether the spectators own it or not,
hardly ever palls entirely even on the most hardened and worldly, the most
weary and wayworn, the poorest and most wretched--perhaps, least of all on
the last. It is a bridegroom rejoicing to leave his chamber, and a bride
blushing in her sweet bliss. There are after all only three great events in
human history which, projected forward or reflected backward, colour all
the rest--birth, marriage, and death. The most sordid or sullen population
will collect in knots, brighten a little, forget hard fate or mortal wrongs
for a moment, in the interest of seeing a wedding company go by. The
surliest, the most whining of the onlookers will spare a little relenting,
a happier thought, for "two lunatics," "a couple of young fools whose eyes
will soon be opened," "a pore delooded lad," "a soft silly of a gal;" who
are still so enviable in their brief bright day.

What was it then to know of a pair of royal lovers--a great Queen and her
chosen Prince--well mated! It softened all hearts, it made the old young
again, with a renewing breath of late romance and tenderness. And, oh! how
the young, who are old now, gloried in that ideal marriage! What tales they
told of it, what wonderful fancies they had about it! How it knit the
hearts of the Queen and her subjects together more strongly than anything
else save common sorrow could do! for when it comes to that, sorrow is more
universal than joy, sinks deeper, and in this world lasts longer.

Indeed, at this stage, as at every other, it was soon necessary to descend
from heaven to earth; and for the royal couple, as for the meanest of the
people, there were difficulties in connection with the arrangements,
troubles that proved both perplexing and vexatious. It may be said here
that the times were not very propitious for asking even the most just and
reasonable Parliamentary grants. The usual recurring sufferings from
insufficient harvests and from stagnation of trade were depressing the mind
of the country. Parliament was called on to act on the occasion of the
Queen's marriage, and the House was not only divided into two hostile
parties, the hostility had been envenomed by recent contretemps,
notably that which prevented Sir Robert Peel and the Tories from taking
office and kept in the Whig Government. The unpalatable fruits of the
embroilment had to be eaten and digested at the present crisis. Accordingly
there were carping faultfinding, and resistance--even defeat--on every
measure concerning the Prince brought before the Lords and Commons.

The accusation of disloyal retaliation was made against the Tories. On the
other hand the Whigs in power showed such a defiant attitude, in the
absence of any attempt to conciliate their antagonists, even when the
welfare of the Government's motions, and the interests and feelings of the
Queen and the Prince demanded the first consideration, that Lord
Melbourne's party were suspected of a crafty determination to let matters
take their course for the express purpose of prejudicing Prince Albert
against the Tories, and alienating him from them in the very beginning.

Lord Melbourne at least did not deserve this accusation. Whatever share he
had in the injudicious attitude of the Government, or in the blunders it
committed, must be attributed to the sort of high-handed carelessness which
distinguished the man. His singular fairness in the business is thus
recorded by Baron Stockmar. "As I was leaving the Palace, I met Melbourne
on the staircase. He took me aside and used the following remarkable and
true words, strongly characteristic of his great impartiality: 'The Prince
will doubtless be very much irritated against the Tories. But it is not the
Tories alone whom the Prince has to thank for the curtailment of his
appanage. It is the Tories, the Radicals, and a good many of our own
people.' I pressed his hand in approbation of his remarkable frankness.
I said, 'There's an honest man! I hope you will yourself say that to the
Prince.'" [Footnote: Lord Melbourne and Baron Stockmar were always on
excellent terms. At the same time the English Prime Minister was not
without a little jealousy of any suspicion of his Government being dictated
to by King Leopold.]

Umbrage was taken by the Duke of Wellington at no mention being made of
Prince Albert's Protestantism on the notification of the marriage. With
regard to the income and position to be secured to the Prince, the nearest
precedent which could be found to guide the discussion was that of Prince
George of Denmark, husband to Queen Anne. It was halting in many respects,
such as the fact that he had married the Princess long before she was
Queen, nay, while her succession to the throne was problematical. Besides,
his character and position in the country were only respectable for their
harmlessness, and did not recommend him by way of example of any kind,
either to Queen or people. Statesmen turned rather to the settlement and
dignity accorded to Prince Leopold, when he married Princess Charlotte; but
neither was that quite a case in point. The fittest reference, so far as
income was concerned, seemed to be to the private purses allowed to the
Queen Consorts of the reigning sovereigns of England. To the three last
Queens--Caroline, Charlotte, and Adelaide, the sum of fifty thousand
pounds a year had been granted. This also was the annuity settled on
Prince Leopold. Therefore fifty thousand was the amount confidently asked
by the Government.

After a good deal of wrangling and angry debate, in which, however, the
Queen's name was studiously respected, she and the Prince had the
mortification to learn that the country, by its representatives, had
refused the usual allowance, and voted only thirty thousand a year to the
Queen's husband.

The same ill-fortune attended an attempt to introduce into the bill for the
naturalisation of the Prince, before the House of Lords, a clause which
should secure his taking precedence of all save the Queen. The Duke of
Sussex opposed the clause, in the interest of the King of Hanover, and so
many jealous objections were urged that it was judged better to let the
provision drop than risk a defeat in the House of Lords similar to that in
the House of Commons. The awkward alternative remained that Prince Albert's
position, so far as it had to do with the Lord Chamberlain and the Heralds'
Office, was left undecided and ambiguous. It was only by the issue of
letters patent on the Queen's part, at a later date, that any certainty on
this point could be attained even in England.

The formation of the Prince's household, which one would think might have
been left to his own good feeling and discretion, or at least to the
Queen's judgment in acting for him, proved another bone of contention
calling forth many applications and implied claims.

Baron Stockmar came to England in January, to see to this important element
in the Prince's independence and comfort, as well as to the signing of the
marriage contract. But in spite of the able representative, the Prince's
written wishes, judicious and liberal-minded as might have been expected,
and the Queen's desire to carry them out, at least one of the offices was
filled up in a manner which caused Prince Albert anxiety and pain. The
gentleman who had been private secretary to Lord Melbourne was appointed
private secretary to the Prince, without regard to the circumstance that
the step would appear compromising in Tory eyes--the very result which
Prince Albert had striven to avoid, and that the official would be forced,
as it were, on the Prince's intimacy without such previous acquaintance as
might have justified confidence. It was only the sterling qualities of both
Prince and secretary which obviated the natural consequences of such an
ill-judged proceeding, and ended by producing the genuine liking and honest
friendship which ought to have preceded the connection. The grudging,
suspicions, selfish spirit thus manifested on all hands, was liable to
wound the Queen in the tenderest point, and the disappointment came upon
her with a shock, since she had been rashly assured by Lord Melbourne that
there would be no difficulty either as regarded income or precedence. The
indications were not encouraging to the stranger thus met on the threshold.
But his mission was to disarm adverse criticism, to shame want of
confidence and pettiness of jealousy, to confer benefits totally
irrespective of the spirit in which they might be taken. And even by the
irritated party-men as well as by the body of the people, the Prince was to
be well received for the Queen's sake, with his merits taken for granted,
so far as that went, since the heart of the country was all right, though
its Whig and Tory temper might be at fault.

On the 10th of January, 1840, a death instead of a marriage took place in
the royal family, but it was that of an aged member long expatriated.
Princess Elizabeth, Landgravine of Hesse Homburg, died at Frankfort. It was
twenty-two years since she had married and quitted England, shortly before
the old Queen's death, a year before the birth of Queen Victoria. The
Landgravine had returned once, a widow of sixty-four, and then had gone
back to her adopted country. She had survived her husband eleven years, and
her sister, resident like herself in Germany, the Princess Royal, Queen of
Wurtemberg, twelve years. The Landgravine as Princess Elizabeth showed
artistic talent. She was famous in her middle age for her great
embonpoint; as she was also tall she waxed enormous. Baroness
Bunsen, when Miss Waddington, saw Princess Elizabeth, while she was still
unmarried, dressed for a Drawing-room, with five or six yellow feathers
towering above her head, and refers to her huge dimensions then. It was
alleged afterwards that it required a chain of her husband's faithful
subjects in Homburg to encompass his consort. She accommodated herself
wonderfully, though she was an elderly woman before she had ever been out
of England, to the curious quaint mixture of State and homeliness in the
little German town in which she was held in much respect and regard. The
Landgravine was seventy years of age at the time of her death. After her
widowhood she resided in Hanover, where her brother, King William, gave her
a palace, and then at Frankfort, where she died. Out of her English income
of ten thousand a year, it was said she spared six thousand for the needs
of Hesse Homburg. Its castle and English garden still retain memories of
the English princess who made her quiet home there and loved the place.

The marriage of the Queen was fixed for the 10th of February, and many
eager, aspiring young couples throughout the country elected that it should
be their wedding-day, also. They wished that the gala of their lives should
fit in with hers, and that all future "happy returns of the day" might have
a well-known date to go by, and a State celebration to do them honour.

Lord Torrington and Colonel--afterwards General--Grey set out for Gotha to
escort the bridegroom to England. They carried with them the Order of the
Garter, with which Prince Albert was invested by his father, himself a
Knight of the Order, amidst much ceremony.

All the world knows that the Order of the Garter is the highest knightly
order of England, dating back to the time of Edward III., and associated
by a gay and gallant tradition with the beautiful Countess of Salisbury.
The first Chapter of the Order was held in 1340, when twenty-five knights,
headed by the King, walked in solemn procession to St. George's Chapel,
founded for their use, and for the maintenance of poor knightly brethren to
pray for the souls of the Knights-Companions--hence "the Poor Knights of
Windsor." The first Knights-Companions dedicated their arms to God and St.
George, and held a high festival and tournament in commemoration of the act
in presence of Queen Philippa and her ladies. The habit of the knights was
always distinguished by its colour, blue. Various details were added at
different times by different kings. Henry VIII. gave the collar and the
greater and lesser medallions of St. George slaying the dragon. Charles
II. introduced the blue riband. It is scarcely necessary to say that the
full dress of the knights is very magnificent. "There are the blue velvet
mantle, with its dignified sweep, the hood of crimson velvet, the heron and
ostrich-plumed cap, the gold medallion, the blazing star, the gold-lettered
garter, to all which may be added the accessories that rank and wealth have
it in their power to display; as, for example, the diamonds worn by the
Marquis of Westminster, at a recent installation, on his sword and badge
alone were Worth the price of a small kingdom; or richer still her present
Majesty's jewels, that seem to have been showered by some Eastern fairy
over her habit of the Order, among, which the most beautiful and striking
feature is, perhaps, the ruby cross in the centre of the dazzling star of
St. George." [Footnote: Knight's "Old England."]

The whole court of Gotha was assembled to see Prince Albert get the Garter;
a hundred and one guns were fired to commemorate the auspicious occasion.
The younger Perthes, under whom the Prince had studied at Bonn, wrote of
the event, "The Grand-ducal papa bound the Garter round his boy's knee
amidst the roar of a hundred and one cannon" (the attaching of the Garter,
however, was done, not by Prince Albert's father, but by the Queen's
brother, the Prince of Leiningen, another Knight of the Order). "The
earnestness and gravity with which the Prince has obeyed this early call to
take a European position, give him dignity and standing in spite of his
youth, and increase the charm of his whole aspect."

The investiture was followed by a grand dinner, when the Duke proposed the
Queen's health, which was drunk by all the company standing, accompanied by
several distinct flourishes of trumpets, the band playing "God save the
Queen," and the artillery outside firing a royal salute. Already the Prince
had written to the Queen, when the marriage was officially declared at
Coburg, that the day had affected him very much, so many emotions had
filled his heart. Her health had been drunk at dinner "with a tempest of
huzzas." The joy of the people had been so great that they had gone on
firing in the streets, with guns and pistols, during the whole night, so
that one might have imagined a battle was going on. This was a repetition
of that earlier festival, only rendered more emphatic and with a touch of
pathos added to it by the impending departure of Prince Albert, to lay hold
of his high destiny. The leave-takings were earnest and prolonged, with
many pretty slightly fantastic German ceremonies, and must have been hard
upon a man whose affections were so tender and tenacious. Especially
painful was the farewell to his mother's mother, the Dowager Duchess of
Gotha, who had partly reared the princely lad. She was much attached to
him, and naturally saw him go with little hope of their meeting again in
this world.

The Prince was accompanied by his father and brother, with various friends
in their train, who, after the celebration of the marriage, were to return
to Germany. But Prince Albert carried with him--to remain in his near
neighbourhood--two old allies, whose familiar faces would be doubly welcome
in a foreign country. The one was his Swiss valet, Cart, a faithful,
devoted servant, "the best of nurses," who, had waited on his master since
the latter was a boy of seven years of age. The other was the beautiful
greyhound, Eos, jet black with the exception of a narrow white streak on
the nose and a white foot. Her master had got her as a puppy of six weeks
old, when he was a boy in his fourteenth year, and had trained the loving,
graceful creature in all imaginable canine, sagacity and cleverness. She
had been the constant companion of his youth. She had already come to
England with him, on the decisive visit of the previous autumn, and was
known and dear to his royal mistress.

It was severe wintry weather when the great cavalcade, in eight travelling
carriages, set out for England, and took its way across Germany, Belgium,
and the north of France, to the coast The whole journey assumed much of the
character of a festive procession. At each halting-place crowds turned out
to do the princes honour. Every court and governing body welcomed them
with demonstrations of respect and rejoicing. But at Aix-la-Chapelle, in a
newspaper which he came across, Prince Albert read the debates and votes in
the Houses of Parliament that cut down the ordinary annuity of the English
sovereign's consort, and left unsettled the question of his position in the
country. The first disappointment told in two ways. Young and
sensitive--though he was also resolute and cheerful-minded--he had been a
little nervous beforehand about the reception which might be accorded to
him in England; he now received a painful impression that the marriage was
not popular with the people. He had indulged in generous dreams of the
assistance and encouragement which he would be able to bestow on men of
letters and artists, when he suddenly found his resources curtailed to
nearly half the amount he had been warranted in counting upon. However, at
Brussels, the next halting-place, in writing to the Queen, and frankly
admitting his mortification at the words and acts of the majority of the
members of both English Houses of Parliament, he could add with perfect
sincerity, "All I have time to say is, that while I possess your love they
cannot make me unhappy."

And King Leopold was there with his sensible, calming counsel, while Baron
Stockmar had been careful to have a letter awaiting the Prince, which
explained the undercurrent of political, not personal, motives that had
influenced the debates.

In fact, so far from being unpopular, the Prince, who was the Queen's
choice, was really the most acceptable of all her suitors in the eyes of
her people. The sole serious objection urged against him in those days was
that of his youth, a fault which was not only daily lessening, but was
speedily forgotten in the conviction of the manly and serious attention to
duty on his part which he quickly inspired.

On the 5th of February the party arrived at Calais. Lord Clarence Paget had
been sent over with the Firebrand to await their arrival, but the
usual difficulties of an adverse tide and an insufficient French harbour
presented themselves, and the company had to sail on the morning of the 6th
in one of the ordinary Dover packet-boats, under a strong gale from the
south-east, with a heavy sea, which rendered the horrors of the Channel
crossing, at the worst, what only those who have experienced them can
realise.

The Prince, like most natives of inland Germany, had been little inured to
sailing, and his constitution rendered him specially liable to
sea-sickness. As a lad of seventeen, facing the insidious and repulsive foe
for the first time, he had expressed his own and his brother's dread of the
unequal encounter. Now he was doomed to feel its ignoble clutch to the last
moment. "The Duke had gone below, and on either side of the cabin staircase
lay the two princes in an almost helpless state."

It was in such unpropitious circumstances that Prince Albert had to rise,
pull himself together, and bow his acknowledgements to the crowds on the
pier ready to greet him. Who that has rebelled against the calm
superiority of the comfortable; amused onlookers at the haggard, giddy
sufferers reeling on shore from the disastrous crossing of a stormy ferry,
cannot comprehend the ordeal!

The Prince surmounted it gallantly, anticipating the time when, at the call
of work or duty, he was known to rise to any effort, to shake off fatigue
and indisposition as if he had been the most muscular of giants, and to
make a brave fight to the last against deadly illness. He had his reward.
The raw inclement day, the disabling, discomfiting malady--which had
appeared in themselves a bad beginning, an inhospitable introduction to his
future life--the recent misgivings he had entertained, were all forgotten
in the enthusiastic reception he received before he put foot on land. A
kind heart responds readily to kindness, and the Prince felt, in spite of
parliamentary votes, the people were glad to see him, with an overflowing
gladness.

It had been fixed that the Prince should not arrive at Buckingham Palace
till the 8th. Accordingly there was time for the much-needed rest and
refreshment, and for a leisurely conclusion of the long journey. The
travellers stayed that night at Dover, the next at Canterbury, the Prince
beginning the long list of fatiguing ceremonials which he was to undergo in
the days to come, by receiving addresses, holding a reception, and showing
himself on the balcony, as well as by the quieter, more congenial interlude
of attending afternoon service in Canterbury Cathedral with his brother.
The weather was still bad; pouring rain had set in, but it could not damp
the spirit of the holiday-makers. As for the hero of the holiday, he was
chafing, lover-like, at the formal delay which was all that interposed
between him and a blissful reunion. He wrote to the Queen before starting
for Canterbury, "Now I am once more in the same country with you. What a
delightful thought for me. It will be hard for me to have to wait till
to-morrow evening. Still, our long parting has flown by so quickly, and
to-morrow's dawn will soon be here.... Our reception has been most
satisfactory. There were thousands of people on the quays, and they saluted
pus with loud and uninterrupted cheers.".

From Canterbury Prince Albert sent on his valet, Cart, with the greyhound
Eos. "Little Dash," if Dash still lived, was to have a formidable rival,
and the Queen speaks in her Journal of the pleasure which the sight of
"dear Eos," the evening before the arrival of the Prince, gave her."
[Footnote: Early Years of the Prince Consort.] Words are not wanted to
picture the bright little scene, the light interruption to "affairs of the
State," always weighty, often harassing, the gay reaction, the hearty
unceremonious recognition on both sides, the warm welcome to the gentle
avant courier. This was not a great queen, but a gleeful girl at the
height of her happiness, who stroked with white taper hand the sleek black
head, looked eagerly into the fond eyes, perhaps went so far as to hug the
humble friend, stretching up fleet shapely paws, wildly wagging a slender
tail, uttering sharp little yelps of delight to greet her. What wealth of
cherished associations, of thrice happy realisation, the mere presence
there, once more of "only a dog," brought to the mistress of the palace,
the lady of the land!

On Saturday, the 8th of the month, Prince Albert proceeded to London, being
cordially greeted along the whole road by multitudes flocking from every
town and village to see him and shout their approval. At half-past four, in
the pale light of a February afternoon, the travellers arrived at
Buckingham Palace, "and were received at the hall door by the Queen and the
Duchess of Kent, attended by the whole household," to whom a worthy master
had come. The fullness of satisfaction and perfect joy of the meeting to
two in the company are sacred.

An hour after his arrival the oath of naturalisation was administered to
the Prince, "and the day ended with a great State dinner. Sunday was a rest
day. Divine service was performed by the Bishop of London in the Bow-room
on the ground floor--the same room in which the Queen had met her assembled
Council in the course of the previous November, and announced to them her
intended marriage. Afterwards the Prince drove out and paid the visits
required of him to the different members of the royal family. In spite of
the season and weather, throngs of Londoners surrounded the Palace, and
watched and cheered him as he went and came. That day the Queen and Prince
exchanged their wedding gifts. She gave him the star and badge of the
Garter and the Garter set in diamonds, and he gave her a sapphire and
diamond brooch.





Next: The Marriage

Previous: The Maiden Queen



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