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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

Comments Upon The Young Queen By A Contemporaneous Writer In Blackwood

Reign Of Queen Victoria

Childhood

Childhood

The Princess Opens The Victoria Park At Bath



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The Queen's Sympathy During The Illness Of President Garfield

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

Marriage And Delicacy Of The Prince's Position

The Condemnation Of The English Duel

Failing Health Of Prince Albert

Marriage Of The Princess Royal

First Meeting With Prince Albert Death Of William Iv

Distribution Of Victoria Crosses By The Queen

Last Years Of The Prince Consort

Second Attempt On The Queen's Life






The End








The evening had been golden; but, after all, the day was to close in
cloud and tempest. Imperial needs, imperial ambitions, involved the
country in the South African War. There were checks, reverses, bloody
disasters; for a moment the nation was shaken, and the public
distresses were felt with intimate solicitude by the Queen. But her
spirit was high, and neither her courage nor her confidence wavered for
a moment. Throwing herself heart and soul into the struggle, she
laboured with redoubled vigour, interested herself in every detail of
the hostilities, and sought by every means in her power to render
service to the national cause. In April 1900, when she was in her
eighty-first year, she made the extraordinary decision to abandon her
annual visit to the South of France, and to go instead to Ireland,
which had provided a particularly large number of recruits to the
armies in the field. She stayed for three weeks in Dublin, driving
through the streets, in spite of the warnings of her advisers, without
an armed escort; and the visit was a complete success. But, in the
course of it, she began, for the first time, to show signs of the
fatigue of age.

For the long strain and the unceasing anxiety, brought by the war, made
themselves felt at last. Endowed by nature with a robust
constitution, Victoria, though in periods of depression she had
sometimes supposed herself an invalid, had in reality throughout her
life enjoyed remarkably good health. In her old age, she had suffered
from a rheumatic stiffness of the joints, which had necessitated the
use of a stick, and, eventually, a wheeled chair; but no other ailments
attacked her, until, in 1898, her eyesight began to be affected by
incipient cataract. After that, she found reading more and more
difficult, though she could still sign her name, and even, with some
difficulty, write letters. In the summer of 1900, however, more
serious symptoms appeared. Her memory, in whose strength and precision
she had so long prided herself, now sometimes deserted her; there was a
tendency towards aphasia; and, while no specific disease declared
itself, by the autumn there were unmistakable signs of a general
physical decay. Yet, even in these last months, the vein of iron held
firm. The daily work continued; nay, it actually increased; for the
Queen, with an astonishing pertinacity, insisted upon communicating
personally with an ever-growing multitude of men and women who had
suffered through the war.

By the end of the year the last remains of her ebbing strength had
almost deserted her; and through the early days of the opening century
it was clear that her dwindling forces were kept together only by an
effort of will. On January 11, she had at Osborne an hour's interview
with Lord Roberts, who had returned victorious from South Africa a few
days before. She inquired with acute anxiety into all the details of
the war; she appeared to sustain the exertion successfully; but, when
the audience was over, there was a collapse. On the following
day her medical attendants recognised that her state was hopeless; and
yet, for two days more, the indomitable spirit fought on; for two days
more she discharged the duties of a Queen of England. But after that
there was an end of working; and then, and not till then, did the last
optimism of those about her break down. The brain was failing, and
life was gently slipping away. Her family gathered round her; for a
little more she lingered, speechless and apparently insensible; and, on
January 22, 1901, she died.

When, two days previously, the news of the approaching end had been
made public, astonished grief had swept over the country. It appeared
as if some monstrous reversal of the course of nature was about to take
place. The vast majority of her subjects had never known a time when
Queen Victoria had not been reigning over them. She had become an
indissoluble part of their whole scheme of things, and that they were
about to lose her appeared a scarcely possible thought. She herself,
as she lay blind and silent, seemed to those who watched her to be
divested of all thinking--to have glided already, unawares, into
oblivion. Yet, perhaps, in the secret chambers of consciousness, she
had her thoughts, too. Perhaps her fading mind called up once more the
shadows of the past to float before it, and retraced, for the last
time, the vanished visions of that long history--passing back and back,
through the cloud of years, to older and ever older memories--to the
spring woods at Osborne, so full of primroses for Lord Beaconsfield--to
Lord Palmerston's queer clothes and high demeanour, and Albert's face

under the green lamp, and Albert's first stag at Balmoral, and Albert
in his blue and silver uniform, and the Baron coming in through a
doorway, and Lord M. dreaming at Windsor with the rooks cawing in the
elm-trees, and the Archbishop of Canterbury on his knees in the dawn,
and the old King's turkey-cock ejaculations, and Uncle Leopold's soft
voice at Claremont, and Lehzen with the globes, and her mother's
feathers sweeping down towards her, and a great old repeater-watch of
her father's in its tortoise-shell case, and a yellow rug, and some
friendly flounces of sprigged muslin, and the trees and the grass at
Kensington.





Next: A Look Back

Previous: Old Age



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