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Last Years Of The Prince Consort






Victoria's Early Education








Queen Victoria tells little of her childhood, but speaks of it as rather
"dull." It seems, however, to have never been empty or idle. All her
moments were golden--for study, or for work, or healthful exercise and
play. She was taught, and perhaps was inclined, to waste no time, and to
be careful not to cause others to waste it. A dear English friend
contributes the following anecdote, slight, but very significant,
obtained long ago from a lady whose young daughters, then at school at
Hammersmith, had the same writing-master as the Princess Victoria: "Of
course," says my friend, "every incident connected with the little
Princess was interesting to the school-girls, and all that this master (I
think his name was Steward) had to tell went to prove her a kind-hearted
and considerate child.

"She always mentioned to him in advance the days on which she would not
require a lesson, saying: 'I thought, perhaps, you would like to know.'
Sometimes she would say, 'We are going to Windsor to see Uncle King,' or
she would name some other important engagement. By 'Uncle King' she meant
George IV. Mr. Steward, of course, availed himself of the liberty
suggested by the little Princess, then about eight years old, by whose
thoughtful kindness he was saved much time and trouble."

Lord Campbell, speaking of the Princess as a little girl, says: "She
seems in good health, and appears lively and good-humored." It may be
that the good-humor was, in great part, the result of the good health.

The Princess was brought up after the wisest, because most simple, system
of healthful living: perfect regularity in the hours of eating, sleeping,
and exercise; much life in the open air, and the least possible
excitement.

She was taught to respect her own constitution as well as that of the
British Government, and to reverence the laws of health as the laws of
God.

An account which I judge to be authoritative of the daily routine of the
family life in Kensington, runs thus: "Breakfast at 8 o'clock in summer,
the Princess Victoria having her bread and milk and fruit put on a little
table by her mother's side. After breakfast the Princess Feodore studied
with her governess, and the Princess Victoria went out for an hour's walk
or drive. From 10 to 12 her mother instructed her, after which she could
amuse herself by running through the suite of rooms which extended round
two sides of the palace, and in which were many of her toys. At 2 a plain
dinner, while her mother took her luncheon. Lessons again till 4; then
would come a visit or drive, and after that a walk or donkey ride in the
gardens. At the time of her mother's dinner the Princess had her supper,
still at the side of the Duchess; then, after playing with her nurse
(Mrs. Brock, whom she called 'dear, dear Boppy'), she would join the
party at dessert, and at 9 she would retire to her bed, which was placed
at the side of her mother's."

We see regular study, regular exercise, simple food, plenty of outdoor
air, plenty of play, plenty of sleep. It seems that when this admirable
mother laid her child away from her own breast, it was only to lay it on
that of Nature, and very close has Victoria, with all her state and
grandeur, kept to the heart of the great all-mother ever since.

The Duchess of Kent was left not only with very limited means for a lady
of her station, but also burdened by her husband's debts, which, being a
woman with a fine sense of honor, she felt herself obliged to discharge,
or at least to reduce as far and fast as possible. Had it not been for
help from her generous brother, Leopold, she could hardly have afforded
for her daughter the full and fitting education she received. So, had not
her taste and her sense of duty towards her child inclined her to a life
of quiet and retirement, the lack of fortune would have constrained her
to live simply and modestly. As it was, privacy was the rule in the life
of the accomplished Duchess, still young and beautiful, and in that of
her little shadow; very seldom did they appear at Court, or in any gay
Court circle; so, at the time of her accession to the throne, Victoria
might almost have been a fairy-princess, emerging from some enchanted
dell in Windsor forest, or a water-nymph evoked from the Serpentine in
Kensington Gardens by some modern Merlin, for all the world at large--the
world beyond her kingdom at least--knew of her young years, of her
character and disposition. Now few witnesses are left anywhere of her
fair happy childhood, or even of her girlhood, which was like a silvery
crescent, holding the dim promise of full-orbed womanhood and Queenhood.

As the Princess grew older, she found loving and helpful companionship in
her half-brother and sister, Prince Charles and the Princess Feodore of
Leiningen, the three children and their mother forming a close family
union, which years and separations and changes of fortune never
destroyed. They are all gone from her now; the Queen, as daughter and
sister, stands alone.

A kind friend and a well-known English writer, F. Aiken Kortright, for
many years a resident of Kensington, tells some pleasant little local
stories of the Princess Victoria. She says: "In her childhood the
Princess Victoria was frequently seen in a little carriage, drawn over
the gravel-walks of the then rural Kensington Gardens, accompanied by her
elder and half-sister, the Princess Feodore, and attended by a single
servant. Many elderly people still remember the extreme simplicity of the
child's attire, and the quiet and unpretentious appearance and manners of
her sister, who was one day seen to stop the tiny carriage to indulge the
fancy of an unknown little girl by allowing her to kiss her future
Queen."

That "unknown little girl" was an elder sister of Miss Kortright. My
friend also says that the Duchess of Kent and her daughters frequently on
summer afternoons took tea on the lawn, "in sight of admiring
promenaders, with a degree of publicity which now sounds fabulous."

It was then safe and agreeable for that quiet, refined family, only
because the London "Rough"--that ugly, unwholesome, fungous growth on the
fine old oak of English character--had not made his unwelcome appearance
in all the public parks of the metropolis. Our friend also states that so
simple and little-girlish was the Princess in her ways that, later on,
she was known to go with her mother or sister to a Kensington milliner's
to buy a hat, stay to have it trimmed, and then carry it (or more likely
the old one) home in her hand. I should like to see a little Miss
Vanderbilt do a thing of that kind!

The Kents and Leiningens--if I may speak so familiarly of Royal and
Serene Highnesses--when away from the quiet home in Kensington, spent
much time at lovely Claremont as guests of the dear brother and Uncle
Leopold. They seem also to have travelled a good deal in England,
visiting watering-places and in houses of the nobility, but never to have
gone over to the Continent. The Duchess probably felt that the precious
life which she held in trust for the people of England might possibly be
endangered by too long journeys, or by changes of climate; but what it
cost to the true German woman to so long exile herself from her old home
and her kindred none ever knew--at least none among her husband's
unsympathetic family--for she was, as a Princess, too proud to complain;
as a mother, cheerful in her devotion and self-abnegation.





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Previous: Birth Of The Princess Victoria



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