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Last Years Of The Prince Consort






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Henceforth the great Queen was 'written widow,' and while striving nobly
in her loneliness to fulfil those public functions, in which she had
hitherto been so faithfully companioned, she shrank at first from courtly
pageantry and from the gay whirl of London life, and lived chiefly in the
quiet homes which she had always loved best, at Osborne and Balmoral. When
she has come out among her people, it has chiefly been for the sake of
some public benefit for the poor and the suffering.

At times there have been murmurs against the Queen for failing in her
widowhood to maintain the gaieties and extravagances of an open court in
the capital of her dominions. It was said that 'trade was bad therefore,'
and times of depression and want of employment were attributed to this
cause. The nation is growing wiser. It is seen that true prosperity does
not consist merely in the quick circulation of money--above all, certainly
not in the transference of wealth gained from the tillers of the soil to
the classes which minister solely to vanity and luxury.

A few months after her father's death, the Princess Alice married her
betrothed, Prince Louis, and since her own death (on the same day of the
year as her father's) in the year 1878, we have had an opportunity of
looking into the royal household from the point of view of a daughter and
a sister. The Prince-Consort's death-bed made a very close tie between the
Queen and the Princess Alice, who herself had a full share of womanly
sorrow in her comparatively short life, and the tone of perfect
self-abnegation which pervades her letters is very touching. On that fatal
14th December 1878, the first of the Queen's children was taken from her.
The Princess Alice fell a victim to her kind-hearted care while nursing
those of her family ill with diphtheria. Her last inquiries were about
poor and sick people in her little capital. And the day before she died,
she expressed to Sir William Jenner her regret that she should cause her
mother so much anxiety. The Queen in a letter thanked her subjects for
their sympathy with her loss of a dear child, who was 'a bright example of
loving tenderness, courageous devotion, and self-sacrifice to duty.'

In 1863, on the 10th of March, the Prince of Wales married the Princess
Alexandra of Denmark, and in 1871, when the fatal date, the 14th of
December came round, he lay at the point of death, suffering precisely as
his father had done. But his life was spared, and in the following spring,
accompanied by the Queen and by his young wife, and in the presence of all
the power, the genius, and the rank of the realm, he made solemn
thanksgiving in St Paul's Cathedral.

On the 3rd November 1871, Mr H. M. Stanley, a young newspaper
correspondent, succeeded in finding Dr Livingstone. This was but the
beginning of greater enterprises, for, catching the noble enthusiasm which
characterised Livingstone, Stanley afterwards crossed the Dark Continent,
and revealed the head-waters of the Congo. Again he plunged into Africa
and succoured Emin Pasha, whose death was announced in the autumn of 1893.

To Mr Stanley, Lord Granville, then Foreign Secretary, sent the present of
a gold snuff-box set with diamonds, and the following letter: 'Sir--I have
great satisfaction in conveying to you, by command of the Queen, Her
Majesty's high appreciation of the prudence and zeal which you have
displayed in opening a communication with Dr Livingstone, relieving Her
Majesty from the anxiety which, in common with her subjects, she had felt
in regard to the fate of that distinguished traveller. The Queen desires
me to express her thanks for the service you have thus rendered, together
with Her Majesty's congratulations on your having so successfully carried
out the mission which you so fearlessly undertook.'

The most notable events of the year 1873 were the death of the Emperor
Napoleon III. in his exile at Chiselhurst, and the visit of the Shah of
Persia, who was received by Her Majesty in state at Windsor. The Prince of
Wales made almost a royal tour through India in 1875-76, and early in the
following year witnessed the proclamation of the Queen as Empress of
India.

In 1886 the Queen opened the Colonial and Indian Exhibition at Kensington,
the results of which, financially and otherwise, were highly satisfactory.
On 21st June 1887, Her Majesty completed the fiftieth year of her reign,
and the occasion was made one of rejoicing not only in Britain, but in all
parts of our world-wide empire. In every town and village of the kingdom,
by high and low, rich and poor, tribute was paid, in one way or other, to
a reign which, above all others, has been distinguished for the splendour
of its achievements in arts, science, and literature, as well as for its
great commercial progress. One notable feature was the release of 23,307
prisoners in India. The Jubilee presents were exhibited in St James's
Palace, and afterwards in Bethnal Green Museum, and attracted large crowds
of sight-seers. The Jubilee celebrations were brought to a close by a
naval review in the presence of the Queen at Spithead. The fleet assembled
numbered 135 war-vessels, with 20,200 officers and men, and 500 guns.

Early in 1887 a movement was set afoot in order to found in London an
Imperial Institute as a permanent memorial of the Queen's Jubilee. Her
Majesty laid the foundation stone on July 4, 1887, and it was formally
opened in 1893. A movement was also commenced having for its object the
receiving of contributions towards a personal Jubilee offering to the
Queen, from the women and girls of all classes, grades, and ages
throughout the United Kingdom. A leaflet was written for general
distribution, which ran as follows: 'The women and girls of the United
Kingdom, of all ages, ranks, classes, beliefs, and opinions, are asked to
join in one common offering to their Queen, in token of loyalty,
affection, and reverence, towards the only female sovereign in history
who, for fifty years, has borne the toils and troubles of public life,
known the sorrows that fall to all women, and as wife, mother, widow, and
ruler held up a bright and spotless example to her own and all other
nations. Contributions to range from one penny to one pound. The nature of
the offering will be decided by the Queen herself, and the names of all
contributors will be presented to Her Majesty.' The Queen selected as this
women's Jubilee gift a replica of Baron Marochetti's Glasgow statue of
Prince Albert, to be placed in Windsor Great Park, opposite the statue of
herself in Windsor.

The amount reached £75,000; nearly 3,000,000 had subscribed, and the
statue was unveiled by the Queen, May 12, 1890. The surplus was devoted to
founding an institution for promoting the education and maintenance of
nurses for the sick poor in their own homes.

In connection with the Jubilee the Queen addressed the following letter to
her people:

WINDSOR CASTLE, June 24, 1887.

I am anxious to express to my people my warm thanks for the kind, and
more than kind, reception I met with on going to and returning from
Westminster Abbey, with all my children and grandchildren.

The enthusiastic reception I met with then, as well as on all these
eventful days, in London, as well as in Windsor, on the occasion of
my Jubilee, has touched me most deeply. It has shown that the labour
and anxiety of fifty long years, twenty-two of which I spent in
unclouded happiness shared and cheered by my beloved husband, while
an equal number were full of sorrows and trials, borne without his
sheltering arm and wise help, have been appreciated by my people.

This feeling and the sense of duty towards my dear country and
subjects, who are so inseparably bound up with my life, will
encourage me in my task, often a very difficult and arduous one,
during the remainder of my life.

The wonderful order preserved on this occasion, and the good
behaviour of the enormous multitudes assembled, merits my highest
admiration.

That God may protect and abundantly bless my country is my fervent
prayer.

VICTORIA, R. & I.



When a Jubilee Memorial Statue of the Queen, presented by the tenantry and
servants on Her Majesty's estates, was unveiled by the Prince of Wales at
Balmoral, the Queen in her reply said, she was 'deeply touched at the
grateful terms in which you have alluded to my long residence among you.
The great devotion shown to me and mine, and the sympathy I have met with
while here, have ever added to the joys and lightened the sorrows of my
life.'

In the Jubilee year the Queen did not grudge to traverse the great east
end of London, that she might grace with her presence the opening of 'the
People's Palace.' But we have not space to notice one half of the public
functions performed by the Queen.

On June 28, 1893, a Jubilee statue of the Queen, executed by Princess
Louise, was unveiled at Broad Walk, Kensington. The statue, of white
marble, represents the Queen in a sitting position, wearing her crown and
coronation robes, whilst the right hand holds the sceptre. The windows of
Kensington Palace--indeed the room in which Her Majesty received the news
of her accession to the throne--command a view of the memorial, which
faces the round pond. The likeness is a good one of Her Majesty in her
youth. The pedestal bears the following inscription:

'VICTORIA R., 1837.

'In front of the Palace where she was born, and where she lived till
her accession, her loyal subjects of Kensington placed this statue,
the work of her daughter, to commemorate fifty years of her reign.'

Sir A. Borthwick read an address to the Queen on behalf of the inhabitants
of Kensington, in which they heartily welcomed her to the scene of her
birth and early years, and of the accession to the throne, 'whence by
God's blessing she had so gloriously directed the destinies of her people
and of that world-wide empire which, under the imperial sway, had made
such vast progress in extent and wealth as well as in development of
science, art, and culture.' The statue representing Her Majesty at the
date of accession would, they trusted, ever be cherished, not for its
artistic merit only, and as being the handiwork of Her Majesty's beloved
daughter, Princess Louise, who had so skilfully traced the lineaments of a
sovereign most illustrious of her line, but also as the only statue
representing the Queen at that early date.

The Queen, in reply, said: 'I thank you sincerely for your loyal address,
and for the kind wish to commemorate my jubilee by the erection of a
statue of myself on the spot where I was born and lived till my accession.
It gives me great pleasure to be here on this occasion in my dear old
home, and to witness the unveiling of this fine statue so admirably
designed and executed by my daughter.'

All the Queen's children are now married. The Princess Helena became
Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein. The Princess Louise has gone
somewhat out of the usual course of British princesses and in 1871 married
the Marquis of Lorne, Duke of Argyll since 1900. Him the Queen described
on her visit to Inveraray in 1847 as 'a dear, white, fat, fair little
fellow, with reddish hair but very delicate features.' The Princess
Beatrice, of whom we all think as the daughter who stayed at home with her
mother, became the wife of Prince Henry of Battenberg, without altogether
surrendering her filial position and duties. A daughter born October 24,
1887, was baptised at Balmoral, the first royal christening which had
taken place in Scotland for three hundred years.

Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, married the favourite child and only daughter
of the late Emperor of Russia, and sister of the Czar. On the death of
Duke Ernst of Coburg-Gotha, brother of the Prince-Consort, he succeeded to
the ducal throne on August 24, 1893, as Duke Alfred of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
He died in 1900. Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, wedded the daughter of
Prince Charles, 'the Red Prince' of Prussia; and Leopold, Duke of Albany,
took for his wife Princess Helena of Waldeck. Prince Leopold had had a
somewhat suffering life from his childhood, and he died suddenly while
abroad, on March 28, 1884, leaving behind his young wife and two little
children, one of whom was born after his death.

On July 27, 1889, Princess Louise, eldest daughter of the Prince of Wales,
was married to the Duke of Fife. Preparations were being made to celebrate
another marriage, that of the Duke of Clarence and Avondale, eldest son of
the Prince of Wales, to Princess Victoria Mary (May) of Teck, in January
1892; but to the sorrow of all, he was stricken down with influenza
accompanied by pneumonia on January 10th, and died on the 14th. The Queen
addressed a pathetic letter to the nation in return for public sympathy,
which was much more than a mere note of thanks and acknowledgement.

OSBORNE, January 26, 1892.

I must once again give expression to my deep sense of the loyalty and
affectionate sympathy evinced by my subjects in every part of my
empire on an occasion more sad and tragical than any but one which
has befallen me and mine, as well as the nation. The overwhelming
misfortune of my clearly loved grandson having been thus suddenly cut
off in the flower of his age, full of promise for the future, amiable
and gentle, and endearing himself to all, renders it hard for his
sorely stricken parents, his dear young bride, and his fond
grandmother to bow in submission to the inscrutable decrees of
Providence.

The sympathy of millions, which has been so touchingly and visibly
expressed, is deeply gratifying at such a time, and I wish, both in
my own name and that of my children, to express, from my heart, my
warm gratitude to all.

These testimonies of sympathy with us, and appreciation of my dear
grandson, whom I loved as a son, and whose devotion to me was as
great as that of a son, will be a help and consolation to me and mine
in our affliction.

My bereavements during the last thirty years of my reign have indeed
been heavy. Though the labours, anxieties, and responsibilities
inseparable from my position have been great, yet it is my earnest
prayer that God may continue to give me health and strength to work
for the good and happiness of my dear country and empire while life
lasts.

VICTORIA, R.I.

On July 6, 1893, the Duke of York was united in marriage to the Princess
May, amidst great national rejoicing. Three years later occurred the death
of Prince Henry of Battenberg, husband of Princess Beatrice, when
returning from the Ashanti Expedition. On 22d July 1896 Princess Maud,
daughter of the Prince of Wales, married Prince Charles, son of Frederick,
Crown Prince of Denmark. The Queen was present on the occasion of the
marriage, which took place in the Chapel Royal, Buckingham Palace. The
visit of the Emperor and Empress of Russia to Balmoral in the autumn was a
memorable occasion, marked by great festivity and rejoicing.

During 1896 the Queen received an immense number of congratulatory
messages on entering upon the sixtieth year of her reign; and on 23d
September she exceeded the limit attained by any previous English
sovereign. Many proposals were made to publicly mark this happy event. One
scheme, supported by the Prince of Wales, had for its object the freeing
of certain London hospitals of debt; but at the Queen's personal request
the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee was reserved until the completion
of the sixtieth year of her reign in June 1897.





Next: The Queen As An Artist And Author

Previous: Marriage Of The Princess Royal



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