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The First Months Of Marriage








In this mere sketch of the great life of the Queen of England, I can give
little space to the political questions and events of her reign,
important and momentous as some of them were, even for other lands and
other people than the English. For a clear and concise account of those
questions and events, I refer my readers to "A History of Our Own Times,"
by Justin McCarthy, M.P. I know nothing so admirable of its kind. But
mine must be something less ambitious--a personal and domestic history--
light, gossipy, superficial, as regards the profound mysteries of
politics; in short, "pure womanly."

I shall not even treat of the great wars which stormed over the
Continent, and upset and set up thrones, except as they affected the life
of my illustrious subject. At first they seemed to form a lurid
background to the bright pictures of peace and love presented by her
happy marriage and maternity, and afterwards in the desolation and
mourning they brought, seemed in keeping with the sorrow of her
widowhood.

Happily all was quiet and peace in the United Kingdom, and in the world
at large, when the honeymoon began for that august but simple-hearted
pair of lovers, Victoria and Albert; or, as she would have preferred to
write it, Albert and Victoria. The fiery little spurt of revolt in
Canada, called rather ambitiously, "The Canadian Rebellion," had ended in
smoke, and the outburst of Chartism, from the spontaneous combustion of
sullen and long-smothered discontent among the working classes, had been
extinguished, partly by a fog of misapprehension and misdirection, partly
by a process of energetic stamping out. The shameful Chinese opium war,
the Cabul disasters, and the fearful Sepoy rebellion were, as yet, only
slow, simmering horrors in the black caldron of the Fates. Irish
starvation had not set in, in its acute form, and Irish sedition was, as
yet, taking only the form of words--the bold, eloquent, magnificent, but
not malignant and scarcely menacing words of Daniel O'Connell In the
Infernal Council Chamber below, the clock whose hours are epochs of
crime, had not yet struck for the era of political assassination. France
was resting and cooling from the throes and fires of revolution, and
growing the vine over its old lava courses. The citizen-King and his
family were setting an example of domestic affection and union, of
morality, thrift, and forehandedness--diligently making hay while the
fickle sun of French loyalty was shining. Italy was lying deathly quiet
under the mailed foot of Austria, and under the paternal foot of the old
Pope, shod with a velvet slipper, cross-embroidered, but leaden-soled;
Garibaldi was fighting for liberty in "the golden South Americas";
Mazzini was yet dreaming of liberty--so was Kossuth. Russia was quietly
gathering herself up for new leaps of conquest tinder her most imperial,
inflexible autocrat--the inscrutable, unsmiling Nicholas.

In England and America it was, though a peaceful, a stirring and an
eventful time. English manufacturers, not content with leveling mountains
of American cotton bales, converting them into textile fabrics and
clothing the world therewith, were reaching deep and deeper into the
bowels of the earth, and pulling up sterner stuff to spin into gigantic
threads with which to lace together all the provinces and cities of the
realm. That captive monster, Steam, though in the early days of its
servitude, was working well in harness, while in America Morse was after
the lightning, lassoing it with his galvanic wires. In England the steam-
dragon had begun by killing one of his keepers, and was distrusted by
most English people, who still preferred post-horses and stage-coaches--
all the good old ways beloved by hostel-keepers, Tony Welters, postilions
and pot-boys. There was something fearful, supernatural, almost profane
and Providence-defying in this new, swift, wild, and whizzing mode of
conveyance. Churchmen and Tories were especially set against it; yet I
have been told that later, that Prince of conservatives, F. M., the Duke
of Wellington, did, on the occasion of one of Her Majesty's
accouchements travel from London to Windsor, at the rate of
seventy-five miles an hour, in order to be in at the birth! What were the
perils of Waterloo to this daring, dizzying journey?

Just a month before the Queen's marriage there occurred in London a union
yet more auspicious, not alone for England, but for all Christendom. It
was the wedding, by act of Parliament, of Knowledge and Humanity in the
cheap postage reform--carried through with wonderful ability, energy,
persistence, and pluck by Rowland Hill; blessed be his memory. The Queen
afterwards knighted him, but he did not need the honor, though I doubt
not it was pleasant, coming from her hands. The simple name of the dear
old man was full of dignity, and long before had been stamped--penny-
stamped, on the heart of the world.

So it seemed that life smiled on and around the royal wedded pair on that
winter afternoon, so unwintry to them, when they took leave of relations
and wedding guests at Buckingham Palace, and set out for Windsor Castle.
Even the heavens which had wept in the morning with those who wept,
changed its mood, and smiled on bride and bridegroom, as they drove forth
in an open carriage and four, followed by other open carriages containing
a picked suite of friends and attendants--all with favor-decked
postilions and footmen in the royal red liveries, and everything grand
and gay. The Queen was dressed in a white satin pelisse, profusely
trimmed with swan's-down. She seems, in those days, to have been very
fond of nestling down under that soft, warm, dainty sort of a wrap. How
like a white dove she must have looked that day, for her bonnet was
white, trimmed with white, plumes. Prince Albert wore a fur-trimmed coat,
with a high collar, and had a very high hat, which for the most part was
in his hand, so much saluting was he obliged to do to the saluting
multitude.

All the world was abroad that day--great was the flow of good feeling,
and mighty was the flow of good ale, while the whole air of the Kingdom
was vibrating with the peal of merry marriage-bells. All through the land
free dinners were provided for the poor--good roast beef, plum-pudding--
'alf and 'alf fare--and I am afraid the Queen's pauper-subjects would
have been unwilling to have the occasion indefinitely repeated, with such
observances,--would not have objected to Her Majesty proving a female
Henry VIII.

Victoria and Albert drove that afternoon more than twenty miles between
ranks of frantically loyal, rejoicing people,--past countless festive
decorations, and a world of "V"s and "A"s--under arches so
gay that one wondered where and how at that season all the flowers and
foliage were produced,--if nature had not hurried up her spring work, so
as to be able to come to the wedding. The Queen turned now and then her
happy face on her shouting subjects, in graceful acknowledgment of their
sympathy with her happiness; but much of the time she was observed to be
regarding her husband, intently or furtively. So she had betrayed her
heart during She marriage ceremony, when, as an eye-witness records, she
"was observed to look frequently at Prince Albert,--in fact, she scarcely
ever took her eyes off him." I suppose she found him "goodly to look
upon." It is certain that she worshiped him with her eyes, as well as
with her heart and soul,--then and ever after. For the world, even for
the Court, he grew, as the pitiless, pilfering years went by, a little
too stout, and somewhat bald, while his complexion lost something of its
fine coloring and smoothness, and his eyes their fulness,--but for her,
he seems to have always kept the grace and glory of his youth. Even when
he was dying-when the gray twilight of the fast-coming night was creeping
over his face, clouding the light of his eyes, chilling the glow of his
smile--his beauty was still undimmed for her. She says in her pathetic
account of those sad moments--"his beautiful face, more beautiful than
ever, is grown so thin."

But on this their wedding-day, death and death-bed partings were far
enough from the thoughts of the royal lovers. Life was theirs,--young
life, in all its fulness and richness of health, and hope, and joy, and
that "perfect, love, which casteth out fear."

So essentially young and so light-hearted were they, that they laughingly
welcomed the crowd of shouting, leaping, hat-waving, mad Eton boys, who
as they neared Windsor, turned out to receive them. The Queen jotted down
this jolly incident in her journal thus: "The boys in a body accompanied
the carriage to the castle, cheering and shouting as only schoolboys can.
They swarmed up the mound, as the carriage entered the quadrangle, and,
as the Queen and the Prince descended at the grand entrance, they made
the old castle ring again with their acclamations."

What would Queen Charlotte, or any of the stiff, formal Dutch Queens of
any of the Georges have thought of such a boisterous wedding escort,--of
such a noisy welcome to stately Windsor? They would very likely have
said, "Go away, naughty pays! How dare you!"

Alas, this royal pair, natural, joyous, girl-like and boy-like as they
were still were slaves to, their station. They could not long hide
themselves from the million-eyed world. In a few days the Court came down
upon them from London. "Mamma" came with them--and I hope that she, at
least, was welcome. Then followed show and ceremony, and amusements of
the common, unpoetic, unparadisiacal, Courtly order. There were "fiddling
and dancing every night," and feasting, and full-dressing, and all that.
Still nothing seems to have interfered much with the Queen's happiness
and content, for Lady Lyttleton wrote of her about this time,--"I
understand she is in extremely high spirits. Such a new thing for her to
dare to be unguarded in conversing 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."

Only the day after her marriage, the Queen wrote to Baron Stockmar:
"There cannot exist a purer, dearer, nobler being in the world than the
Prince."

She never took those words back--she never had cause to take them back,
to lie heavy on her heart. But such utter adoration persisted in year
after year, with cheerful obstinacy, even against the modest protests of
the object, would have spoiled any man who was spoilable.

Her Majesty was soon obliged to return to London, in order to hold
Courts, to receive addresses of congratulation on her marriage. It seemed
that half the men of the Kingdom of any standing, had formed themselves
into delegations. So numerous were they, that Prince Albert was obliged
to "come up to the help of the QUEEN against the mighty"--bore, for she
records that he in one day received and personally answered no less than
twenty-seven addresses! In fact, he was nearly addressed to death.

The Queen after receiving many members of both Houses of Parliament,
bearing addresses--received large delegations from the State Church--the
General Assembly of the Church of Scotland--the English Non-Conformists,
and the Society of Friends--all walking peacefully enough together to the
throne of Victoria, but having widely different ways to the "throne of
grace;"--all uniting in loyal prayers for the divine blessing on the fair
head of their Sovereign, and in the hope that the comely young man of her
choice might do virtuously, and walk humbly, and gingerly by her side--
but a little in the rear, as became him; not, of course, as a husband,
Scripturally regarded, but as the German Consort of an English Queen
regnant.

This subordinate view of her husband's place the Queen did not fully
accept from anybody, at any time. At that period, it is probable she
would have gladly taken off the crown, to place it on his dear head, and
doffed the ermine mantle to put it on his manly shoulders, and would have
been the first to swear allegiance to "King Albert."

She thought that he might, at least, have the title of "King-Consort,"
and perhaps because of this hope, she deferred for years--till 1857--
conferring on him, by Royal Letters Patent, the title of Prince-Consort.

Doubtless the English people, if they had been on the lookout for a King,
might have gone farther and fared worse,--but the four Georges had
somehow got them out of conceit with the word "King," and William, the
Sailor, had not quite reconciled them to it;--then they were jealous of
foreigners, and last, but not least, there were apprehensions that the
larger title would necessitate a larger grant. But the Prince did not
need the empty honor, which in his position would have been "a
distinction without a difference." I do not believe he cared much for it,
though titles are usually dear to the Teutonic soul, determined, as he
always so wisely was, to "sink his individuality in that of the Queen,"
and when at last, the second best title of Prince-Consort, that by which
the people already named him, was made his legal right, by his fond wife,
grieved to have kept

--"the best man under the sun,
So many years from his due,"

he was well content, because it pleased her.

The Queen certainly did all she constitutionally could to confer honors
on her husband, who after all outdid her, and best honored himself.

Before their marriage, she had invested him with the noble order of the
Garter, and given him the Star, and the Badge, and the Garter itself set
in diamonds. She now invested him with the insignia of a Knight Grand
Cross of the Order of the Bath. It amused her, this investing--she would
have liked to invent a few orders, for royal Albert's sake--he became the
insignia so well! She also made him Colonel of the 11th Regiment of Light
Dragoons--he rode so well!--and she had the name changed to "Prince
Albert's Own Hussars."

Everywhere the Queen and Prince appeared together--at reviews and art
exhibitions, at church and at the theatre (for the Queen was very fond of
the drama in those days), at drawing-rooms and at races--and everywhere
the people delighted in their beauty and their happiness.

Early in April, the Duchess of Kent, in pursuance of what she deemed her
duty, and best for the young people, parted from her darling daughter,
and took up her residence in a separate home in London--Ingestrie House.
She afterwards occupied Clarence House, the present residence of the Duke
of Edinburgh. When the Court was at Windsor, the Duchess resided at
Frogmore, a very lovely place, belonging to the royal estate, and so near
the Castle that she was able to dine and lunch with Victoria almost
daily. Still the partial separation was a trial for a mother and daughter
so closely and tenderly attached, and they both took it hard,--as did,
about that time, Prince Albert his separation from his brother Ernest,
whose long visit was over. The Queen's account of the exceeding
sorrowfulness of that parting must now bring to the lips of the most
sentimental reader, though "a man and a brother," an unsympathetic smile--
unless he happens to remember that those were the earliest days of steam
on sea and land, and that journeys from England to any part of the
Continent were no light undertakings. So the brothers sung together a
mournful college song, and embraced, kissing one another on both cheeks,
doubtless, after the German fashion,--"poor Albert being pale as a sheet,
and his eyes full of tears." Ah, what would he have said could his
"prophetic soul" have beheld his son, Albert Edward, skipping from London
to Paris in eight hours--dashing about the Continent, from Copenhagen to
Cannes, from Brussels to Berlin--from Homburg to St. Petersburg--taking
it all as lightly and gaily as a school-boy takes a "jolly lark" of a
holiday trip to Brighton or Margate! That was not the day of
peregrinating Princes. Now they are as plenty as commercial travelers.

Early in June the Queen and Prince and their Court left busy, smoky
London for a few days of quiet and pure air at lovely Claremont. They
spent part of that restful time in going to the Derby, in four carriages
and four with outriders and postilions--a brave sight to see.

On the first of June, Prince Albert was invited to preside at a great
public meeting in Exeter Hall, for the abolition of the Slave Trade--and
he did preside, and made a good speech, which he had practiced over to
the Queen in the morning. That was an ordeal, for he spoke in English for
the first time, and before a very large and distinguished audience. It
was a very young "Daniel come to judgment" on an ancient wrong--for the
Prince was not yet of age.

That sweet Quakeress, Caroline Fox, thus speaks of the Prince on this
interesting occasion, in her delightful "Memories":--"Prince Albert was
received with tremendous applause, but bore his honors with calm and
modest dignity. He is certainly a very beautiful man,--a thorough German,
and a fine poetical specimen of the race."

Ah, what would that doughty champion of the Slave Trade, William IV.,
have said, could he have seen his niece's husband giving royal
countenance to such a fanatical, radical gathering! It was enough to make
him stir irefully in his coffin at Windsor.

But for that matter, could our ancestors generally, men and women who
devoutly believed in the past, and died in the odor of antiquity, know of
our modern goings-on, in political and humanitarian reforms--know of our
"Science so called," and social ethics, there would be "a rattling among
the dry bones," not only in royal vaults, but in country churchyards,
where "The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep."





Next: Death Passes By

Previous: Prince Albert



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