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The Little Folk








In the midst of all the royalties that were present at the wedding of
the Prince of Wales were the two great novelists of the realm,
Thackeray and Dickens; but Tennyson, the Poet Laureate, was not there.
Again "someone had blundered," and his invitation had been missent.
Both the Queen and Prince Albert felt a sincere admiration and
reverence for the poet, and the Prince had asked the favor of an
autograph with far more hesitation than most schoolboys would have
shown. This is the way in which he made his very modest petition:

"Will you forgive me if I intrude upon your leisure with a request
which I have thought some little time of making, viz., that you would
be good enough to write your name in the accompanying volume of the
'Idylls of the King'?" Prince Albert was very fond of the "Idylls," and
when, only a month after his death, Tennyson brought out a new edition
of the poems, it contained a beautiful dedication, which began:

"These to his memory--since he held them dear."

The lines do not sound as if the poet felt obliged to write them
because he had been appointed Laureate, but rather as if he meant every
word that he wrote. In this dedication he speaks very earnestly of
Prince Albert's wisdom and ability and unselfishness, and gives us the
exquisite line which everyone quotes who writes of the Prince Consort:

"Wearing the white flower of a blameless life."

The following year, just before the wedding of the Prince of Wales,
Tennyson wrote a welcome to the bride, beginning:

"Sea-kings' daughter from over the sea,
Alexandra!
Saxon and Norman and Dane are we,
But all of us Danes in our welcome of thee,
Alexandra!"

The Queen was much pleased with the poem and said, "Thank him very
warmly, and tell him with how much pleasure I have read the lines, and
that I rejoice the sweet and charming bride should be thus greeted."

There is a story that when the Danish Princess was a very young girl,
she and three of her girl friends sat together in the forest talking of
what they should like to do when they were grown up.

"I want to be famous," said one. "I want to paint a picture that
everyone will go to see, or to write a book that all Denmark will be
eager to read."

"If I could do just what I liked," declared the second, "I would travel
all over the world; so I will wish to be a great traveler."

"I want to be rich," said the third, "and then I can travel whenever I
choose, and buy all the books I choose without having to write them,
and all the pictures I choose without having to paint them. But what do
you want, Alix?"

The Princess Alix had been thinking, and she answered slowly, "If I
could have just what I wanted, I would choose that everyone who saw me
should love me."

However it was with the others, the Princess Alexandra surely had her
wish, for everyone who met her seemed to love her. The Queen called her
"the fairy," and so great a dignitary as Dean Stanley thought of her in
the same way, for after he had had a long talk with her in the corner
of the drawing room, telling her how the service of the Church of
England differed from that of the Danish Church, he wrote in his diary,
"She is as charming and beautiful a creature as ever passed through a
fairy tale." "The little gem of Denmark is the pet of the country,"
declared the newspapers. The unbounded admiration that had been shown
to Queen Victoria in the early days of her reign was given to
Alexandra. When the Queen came to the throne, young girls who were
small and had fair hair and blue eyes were happy. Now, it was bliss
to have any feature that resembled the Danish Princess. She had a
custom of letting two curls of brown hair fall on each shoulder, and
straightway English fashions demanded that every girl should wear four
curls hanging on her shoulders. For months London was at the height of
gayety. The Princess represented her royal mother-in-law at the drawing
rooms of the season; no easy task, for so many ladies attended the
first that it took four long hours for them to pass the throne. All
this time the Princess Alexandra and the Princess Alice stood to
receive them, except for one little resting time of twenty minutes.
There were receptions and most magnificent balls, at which all the
dignitaries tried their best to make themselves agreeable to the young
Princess.

Of course the Queen had no heart for these festivities, but she was
glad to have the people pleased, and for one of the most elaborate
entertainments she sent decorations and furnishings from Buckingham
Palace. The Princess Alice and Prince Louis were with her for several
months before the marriage of the Prince of Wales; and only three or
four weeks after the great event, a little Hessian granddaughter was
born at Windsor Castle. The chaplain of the Hessian court came to
England for the christening of the wee maiden. The usual number of
names was given her, but the first two were Victoria Alberta.

In the autumn the Queen made the customary visit to Balmoral; but only
a few days after her arrival she took an evening drive that put her
into a great deal of danger, for the carriage turned over, and the
Queen, the Princess Alice, and "Lenchen," as the Princess Helena was
called, were thrown out. Brown, the Queen's favorite Highland
attendant, had little regard for court manners at any time, and less
than ever in this predicament. He called out, "The Lord Almighty have
mercy on us! Who did ever see the like of this before! I thought you
were all killed." The Queen had fallen on her face, and was somewhat
bruised. Princess Alice, with her usual calmness, held a lantern so
that the men could see to cut the horses free. Then while the driver
went for help, the monarch of Great Britain sat in the road wrapped up
in plaids and using the floor of the carriage for a back. The Princess
had brought her page along, a Malay boy whose father had presented him
to a traveler in return for some kindness, and little "Willem" sat in
front with one lantern, while Brown held another. It was a strange
situation, a Queen, with thousands of soldiers at her command, sitting
in a broken carriage waiting for horses and guarded by one Highlander
and a little black boy. She wrote in her journal for that day: "People
were foolishly alarmed when we got upstairs, and made a great fuss. Had
my head bandaged and got to bed rather late."

This soldier's daughter could make little of pain, but she could not so
easily put away sorrow. Every place about Balmoral reminded her of
something that Prince Albert had said or done, and she could not bear
that his presence should be forgotten. On the summit of a hill which
they had often visited together, she built a great cairn, on which was
inscribed, "To the beloved memory of Albert, the great and good Prince
Consort; raised by his broken-hearted widow, Victoria R."

She was touched and grateful when the citizens of Aberdeen wished to
put up a statue of the Prince, and asked her to be present at the
unveiling. It was nearly two years since his death, but she had not yet
taken part in any public ceremony, and she dreaded to have the morning
come. When it did come, however, she wrote in her journal the words
that were the keynote of her courage in meeting difficulties, "Prayed
for help and got up earlier." The rain poured, but the streets of
Aberdeen were thronged with people. Out of sympathy with her grief,
there was no cheering, and no band playing. For more than twenty-five
years she had never appeared on public occasions without both cheering
and music; and although she appreciated the thoughtful sympathy of the
people, the silence only made the contrast greater between the past and
the present. The exercises began with an address to the Queen by the
Lord Provost. She handed him a written reply. Then he knelt before her;
her Minister gave her a sword; and touching the Provost with it on each
shoulder, she said "Rise, Sir Alexander Anderson." Mr. Anderson had
now become a knight, and would be called Sir Alexander all the rest of
his life. After this little ceremony, the bunting was drawn away from
the statue, and what the Queen called a "fearful ordeal" was at an end.

The one upon whom the Queen depended most was Princess Alice. She often
went on little picnics or drives "because Alice advised." The Princess
and Prince Louis spent as much time in England as possible, and when
they were in Germany the letters of the Princess gave her mother a
great deal of pleasure. They were full of the details of her daily
life, some of which might have come from a palace and some from a
cottage. One described a gift just received from the Empress of Russia,
"a splendid bracelet;" and a few days later, the young mother wrote
exultantly that the baby looked about and laughed. This young
housekeeper was deeply interested in all the details of her home. She
was grateful to her Queen mother for the big turkey pie and the other
good things that arrived at Christmas time; and she wrote of her
various little dilemmas, ranging all the way from a half-hour's hunt
for a pen just after a journey to the whirl of making the dining room
into a bedroom to accommodate a guest. One morning she wrote "in the
midst of household troubles," as she said, for the Emperor and Empress
had just sent word that they were coming to breakfast with her, and
"Louis" was out. But of all the bits of home life in her letters, those
about the children--for in a year and a half there was also a little
Elizabeth--must have given the most pleasure to the royal Grandmamma.
On one page the Princess described some political complication between
kingdoms, and on the next was the astounding news that little Victoria
could get on her feet by the help of a chair and could push it across
the room. Before long, she was walking out with her father before
breakfast, with her independent little hands in her jacket pockets.
Money was not especially plenty in the home at Darmstadt, and the
Princess mother wrote at one time of the little Elizabeth's wearing
Victoria's last year's gowns, and at another said that she had just
made seven little dresses for the children. With a German father and an
English mother, the little Victoria spoke at first a comical
combination of German and English, and she announced one day, "Meine
Grossmama, die Konigin, has got a little vatch with a birdie."

There was also a little boy in England who was taking much of the
Queen's attention, the baby son of the Prince of Wales. He was born at
Frogmore House, and as all the clothes provided for him were at
Marlborough, he fared no better for raiment at first than if he had
been born in a cottage. The loss was made up to him, however, when he
was christened; for then he was gorgeous in a robe of Honiton lace, the
same one in which his father had been christened, while over the robe
was a cloak of crimson velvet with a lining of ermine. Nothing could be
too rich and costly, for some day, if he lived long enough, he would
wear the English crown. One matter in which the royal family were most
economical was in regard to names, for they used the same ones over and
over. This little boy was named Albert, for his English grandfather;
Victor, for the Queen; Christian, for his Danish grandfather; and
Edward, for his father. Princess "Alix" was as eager to be with her
precious baby as the Queen had been to stay with her children, and she
looked like a mischievous child when she had succeeded in slipping away
from some grand company long enough to give baby "Eddie" his bath and
put him to bed.

The little Princess Beatrice was scarcely more than a baby herself, but
she seems to have felt all the responsibility of being aunt to so many
small people. When she was hardly more than three years old, Princess
"Vicky's" second child was born, and then Prince Albert wrote of the
little girl to his eldest daughter, "That excellent lady has now not a
moment to spare. 'I have no time,' she says when she is asked for
anything. 'I must write letters to my niece!'"

Around her and across the Channel were children in whom she was most
warmly interested, but the Queen's own childhood was rapidly growing
more distant, not only by the passing of time, but also by the death of
those who were most closely associated with her early days. Bishop
Davys died in 1864, and in 1865 the death of King Leopold occurred. He
was well called "the wisest king in Europe," and more than one dispute
between kingdoms had been left to him for settlement. He knew all the
royal secrets, and he made a judicious and kindly use of his knowledge.
Ever since the Queen's accession he had aided her with his counsel, and
now there was no one to whom she could look for disinterested advice.
In that same year the assassination of President Lincoln occurred. The
Queen was not satisfied with a formal telegram of regret; she wrote a
letter, not as the sovereign of England to the wife of the President,
but as one sorrowing woman to another, expressing her warm sympathy.

Few people realized how much severe mental labor the Queen had to
endure. Often in the course of a single year many thousand papers were
presented to her, and of these there were few to which she did not have
to give close thought. For twenty-one years she had discussed
everything with Prince Albert, and when they had come to a conclusion,
he would, as in the Trent affair, write whatever was necessary.
Then they would read the paper together and make any changes that
seemed best. After his death, the Queen had to do all this work alone.
She could wear the Kohinoor diamond, and she could build a
million-dollar palace if she chose, but there were few persons in the
kingdom who worked harder than she. What belonged strictly to matters
of state was more than enough for one person, but besides this there
were schools, hospitals, and bazaars to open, prizes to distribute and
corner-stones to lay. Then there were entertainments, fetes,
receptions, balls, etc., frequently in behalf of some good object,
whose success was sure if it could be said that the Queen would be
present. The Prince and Princess of Wales could not lessen the weight
of the public business that pressed so heavily upon the Queen, but they
could relieve her from the strain of these public appearances, and this
they did. They were both beloved by the people, but after the Queen had
lived for five years in retirement, some of her subjects began to
complain.

"What has she to do," grumbled one, "but to wear handsome clothes, live
in a palace, and bow to people when she drives out?"

"Yes," declared another, "she has nothing to do. Parliament makes the
laws, and she just writes her name."

"She's good to her cottagers in the Highlands," said a Londoner, "but
she ought to care a little for the merchants here in London. Everybody
likes the Princess, but the Queen's the Queen, and there never were
such sales as when she was giving her fancy-dress balls."

"She thinks of nothing but her own sorrow," said another. "She has lost
all sympathy with the people."

This last speech was made at a public meeting. Mr. John Bright, the
"great peace statesman," was present, and he replied to it. His closing
words were, "A woman who can keep alive in her heart a great sorrow for
the lost object of her life and affection is not at all likely to be
wanting in a great and generous sympathy for you."

Little by little the Queen learned the feelings of her people, and
she soon published a response which must have made the grumblers feel
ashamed. She said she was grateful for their wish to see her, but so
much was now thrown upon her which no one else could do that she was
overwhelmed with care and anxiety, and did not dare to undertake
"mere representation," lest she should become unable to fulfill the
duties which were of real importance to the nation. Some months
later, she wrote of herself in a private letter: "From the hour she
gets out of bed till she gets into it again, there is work, work,
work--letter-boxes, questions, etc., which are dreadfully
exhausting."

The Queen wished sincerely not only to do what was best for the people,
but also to please them. She could not go to balls and theaters, but
early in 1866 she determined to open Parliament in person. The London
world rejoiced. They tried to imagine that the old days had come again,
and they put on their jewels and their most splendid robes. All the way
to the Parliament Building the streets were full of crowds who shouted
"Long live the Queen! Hurrah for the Queen!" In the House of Lords
there was a most brilliant assembly. Silks rustled and jewels sparkled
as all rose to welcome the sovereign. As she entered, the Prince of
Wales stepped forward and led her to the throne. The royal
Parliamentary robes with all their glitter of gold and glow of crimson
were laid upon it, for the Queen wore only mourning hues, a robe of
deep purple velvet, trimmed with white miniver. On her head was a Marie
Stuart cap of white lace, with a white gauze veil flowing behind. The
blue ribbon of the Garter was crossed over her breast, and around her
neck was a collar of diamonds. All the radiant look of happiness with
which those were familiar who had seen her on the throne before, was
gone. She was quiet and self-controlled, but grave and sad. Instead of
reading her speech, she gave it to the Lord Chamberlain. At its close,
she stepped down from the throne, kissed the Prince of Wales, and
walked slowly from the room.



The Queen's two daughters, Helena and Louise, had attended her in
opening Parliament. This must have been a little embarrassing for the
older one, inasmuch as the Queen's address declared that the royal
permission had been given for the Princess Helena to marry Prince
Christian of Schleswig-Holstein; but members of the royal family cannot
always consult their own feelings. When they rule different countries,
it is not always easy for them even to remain friendly. The fact that
the Queen, her daughters, and her Danish daughter-in-law were as fond
of one another at the end of 1866 as they were at the beginning of 1864
is proof that the English royal family were very harmonious. Trouble
had arisen between Denmark and the German states in regard to the
duchies of Schleswig-Holstein, and in 1864 war had broken out between
the little kingdom of Denmark and the united powers of Prussia and
Austria. Both countries were anxious to win the help of England.
Princess "Vicky" and Princess Alice naturally sympathized with the
German states; while Princess Alexandra's affection was of course with
her own home land, which had now become her father's kingdom. The
Emperor of France did not wish to have the German states increase in
power, and he was ready to help Denmark, provided England would stand
by him. England was willing, but England's sovereign would not hear to
any talk of war with Germany, and the Ministers hesitated to act
against her decided opposition. Of course the Danish Princess was
grieved that the Queen would not consent to help her beloved country.
Bismarck was the German statesman who was pushing on the war, therefore
he was the man who was most abhorrent to the Princess of Wales. There
is a story that the Queen had promised the little Beatrice a present,
and that when she asked, "What shall it be?" the wee maiden, who had
been carefully tutored by her sister-in-law, replied demurely, "Please,
mamma, I'd like the head of Bismarck on a charger."

Two years later, there was a still more difficult condition of affairs
in the Queen's family, for now that Prussia and Austria held the
Schleswig-Holstein duchies, it was a question to which of the two
powers they should belong; and to complicate matters even more,
Princess Helena had married Prince Christian. Prussia and the north
German states held together, and Austria joined the forces of the south
German states. Prince "Fritz" belonged to the north and Prince Louis to
the south, and therefore the husbands of the two English Princesses
were obliged to fight on opposite sides. The war lasted for only seven
weeks, but it was an anxious time for Queen Victoria, who shared so
fully in the troubles of her daughters. Princess Alice's two little
girls were sent to England to be safe in her care, but in the midst of
the war, a third little daughter was born. The boom of the distant guns
was heard as she lay in her cradle in Darmstadt. Wounded men were being
brought into the town, and the residents were fleeing in all
directions. By and by the end came, and then the little dark-eyed baby
was named Irene, or peace. Never before had a child so many godfathers,
for when Prince Louis said farewell to his cavalry, he delighted them
by asking the two regiments, officers and men, to be sponsors to his
little girl.





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Previous: The Queen In Sorrow



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