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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

The Condemnation Of The English Duel

Marriage And Delicacy Of The Prince's Position

Marriage Of The Princess Royal

Last Years Of The Prince Consort

Failing Health Of Prince Albert

The Emperor And Empress Of France Visit Windsor

Distribution Of Victoria Crosses By The Queen

First Meeting With Prince Albert Death Of William Iv






Youth








In the month of August, 1831, the Princess went with her mother to profit
by the soft, sweet breezes of the Isle of Wight. The Duchess and her
daughter occupied Norris Castle for three months, and the ladies of the
family were often on the shore watching the white sails and chatting with
the sailors. Carisbrooke and King Charles the Martyr were brought more
vividly home to his descendant, with the pathetic little tale of the
girl-Princess Elizabeth. We do not know whether the Queen then learnt to
feel a special love for the fair little island with which she has long been
familiar, but of this we are certain, that she could then have had little
idea that her chief home would be within its bounds. Even in 1831 transport
and communication by land and water continued a tedious and troublesome
business. However, the visit to the Isle of Wight was repeated in 1833.
Perhaps to dissipate the gossip and calm the little irritation which had
been created by the Princess's absence from the coronation, she made her
appearance twice in public, on the completion of her thirteenth year, in
1832. That was a year in which there was much call for oil to be cast on
the troubled waters: never since 1819, the date of the Queen's birth had
there been greater restlessness and turmoil throughout the country. For
some time public feeling had been kept at the boiling-point by the question
of the Reform Bill--groaned over by some as the first step to democracy and
destruction; eagerly hailed by others as a new dawn of freedom, peace, and
prosperity. The delay in passing the Bill had rendered the King unpopular,
and brought unmerited blame on Queen Adelaide, for having gone beyond her
prerogative in lending herself to overthrow the King's Whig principles. The
ferment had converted the old enthusiastic homage to the Iron Duke as a
soldier into fierce detestation of him as a statesman. The carrying of the
measure on which the people had set their hearts did not immediately allay
the tempest--a disappointing result, which was inevitable when the
universal panacea failed to work at once like a charm in relieving all the
woes in the kingdom. Men were not only rude, and spoke their minds, the
ringleaders broke out again into riots, the most formidable and alarming of
which were those in Bristol, that left a deep impression on more than one
chance spectator who witnessed them. But the girl Princess--praised for her
proficiency in Horace and Virgil, and her progress in mathematics--could
only hear far off the mutterings of the storm that was passing; and King
William and Queen Adelaide sought to put aside what was perplexing and
harassing them; and tried to forget that when they had shown themselves to
their people lately they had been met--here with indifference--and there
with hootings. The times were waxing more and more evil, as it seemed, to
uneasy, vexed wearers of crowns, unlike those in which old King George and
Queen Charlotte had been received with fervent acclamation wherever they
went, whatever wars were being waged or taxes imposed. The manners of the
Commons were not improving with the extension of their rights. But the King
and Queen would do their duty, which was far from disagreeable to them, in
paying proper respect to their niece and successor. Accordingly their
Majesties gave a ball on the Princess's thirteenth birthday, 24th May,
1832, at which the heroine of the day figured; and four days later, on the
28th of May, she was present for the second time at a Drawing-room.

All the same, it is an open secret that William, living, for the most part,
in that noblest palace of Windsor, considered the Princess led too retired
a life, so far as not appearing often enough at his Court was concerned,
and that he complained of her absence and resented it as a slight to
himself. It is an equally well-established fact that, in spite of the
King's kindness of heart and Queen Adelaide's goodness, King William's
Court was not in all respects a desirable place for a Princess to grow up
in, in addition to the objection that any Court in itself formed an
unsuitable schoolroom for a young girl.

It is doubtful, since even the most magnanimous men have jealous instincts,
whether the King's displeasure on one point would be appeased by what was
otherwise a very natural and judicious step taken by the Duchess of Kent
this year. She made an autumn tour with her daughter through several
counties of England and Wales, in the course of which the royal mother and
daughter paid a succession of visits to seats of different noblemen, taking
Oxford on the way. If there was a place in England which deserved the
notice of its future Queen, it was one of the two great universities--the
cradles of learning, and, in the case of "the most loyal city of Oxford,"
the bulwark of the throne. The party proceeded early in October through
the beautiful scenery of North Wales--the Princess's first experience of
mountains--to Eaton Hall, the home of the Grosvenor family. From Eaton the
travellers drove to the ancient city of Chester, with its quaint arcades
and double streets, its God's Providence House and its cathedral. At
Chester the Princess named the new bridge which was opened on the occasion.
By the wise moderation and self-repression of those around her, the name
bestowed was not the "Victoria," but simply the "Grosvenor Bridge."

From Eaton the Princess was taken to Chatsworth, the magnificent seat of
the Cavendishes. She stayed long enough to see and hear something of
romantic Derbyshire. She visited Hardwick, associated with Building Bess,
whose granddaughter, the unfortunate "Lady Arbell," had been a remote
cousin of this happy young Princess, and she went, like everybody else, to
Matlock. At Belper the party, in diligent search after all legitimate
knowledge, examined the great cotton-mills of the Messrs. Strutt, and the
senior partner had the honour of showing to her Royal Highness, by means of
a model, how cotton was spun.

From Chatsworth the Duchess and her daughter repaired to Alton Abbey, where
the "Talbot tykes" still kept watch and ward; thence to Shugborough, the
seat of the Earl of Lichfield, which enabled the visitors to see another
fine cathedral and to breathe the air which is full of "the great Dr.
Johnson."

At each of the towns the strangers were met by addresses--of course made to
the Duchess and replied to by her. How original these formal compliments
must have sounded to Princess Victoria! On the 27th of October their Royal
Highnesses were at Pitchford Hall, the residence of the Earl of Liverpool,
from which they visited Shrewsbury--another Chester--with a word of its own
for the old fateful battle in which "Percy was slain and Douglas taken
prisoner," and the Welsh power broken in Owen Glendower. After getting a
glimpse of the most picturesque portion of Shropshire, halting at more
noble seats, and passing through a succession of Worcester towns, the royal
party reached Woodstock on the 7th of November, and the same evening rested
at Wytham House, belonging to the Earl of Abingdon. There was hardly time
to realise that the memories of Alice Lee, the old knight Sir Henry, and
the faithful dog Bevis, rivalled successfully the grisly story of Queen
Eleanor and Fair Rosamond. Nay, the magician was still dogging the
travellers' steps; for had he not made the little town of Abingdon his own
by choosing it for the meeting-place of Mike Lambourne and Tressillian, and
rebuilding in its neighbourhood the ruins of Cumnor Hall, on which the dews
fell softly? Alas! the wizard would weave no more spells. A month before
that princely "progress" Sir Walter Scott, after Herculean labours to pay
his debts like an honest man had wrecked even his robust frame and
healthful genius, lay dead at Abbotsford.

On the 8th of November the future Queen entered Oxford with something like
State, in proper form escorted by a detachment of Yeomanry. There is no
need to tell that she was received by the Vice-Chancellor of the
University, and the dons and doctors of the various colleges, in full
array. And she was told of former royal visitors: of Charles in his
tribulation; of her grandfather and grandmother, King George and Queen
Charlotte, when little Miss Barney was there to describe the festivities.
The Princess went the usual round: to superb Christ Church, at which her
sons were to graduate; to the Bodleian and Radclyffe libraries; to All
Souls, New College, &c. She proceeded to view other buildings, which,
unless in a local guide-book, are not usually included among the lions of
Oxford. But this young lady of the land was bound to encourage town as well
as gown; therefore she visited duly the Town Hall and Council Chamber. From
Oxford the tourists returned to Kensington.

There are no greater contrasts than those which are to be found in royal
lives. When the Princess Victoria was about to set out on her pleasant
journey in peace and prosperity, the news came of the arrest of the
Duchesse de Berri, at Nantes. It was the sequel to her gallant but
unsuccessful attempt to raise La Vendee in the name of her young son, Henri
de Bordeaux, and the end to the months in which she had lain in hiding.
She was discovered in the chimney of a house in the Rue Haute-du-Chateau,
where she was concealed with three other conspirators against the
Government of her cousin, Louis Philippe. The search had lasted for several
hours, during which these unfortunate persons were penned in a small space
and exposed to almost intolerable heat. A mantelpiece had been contrived so
as to turn on a swivel and form an opening into a suffocating recess. When
the Duchesse and her companions were found their hands were scorched and
part of their clothes burnt. She was taken to the fortress of Nantes, and
thence transferred to the Castle of Blaze, where she suffered a term of
imprisonment. She had acted entirely on her own responsibility, her wild
enterprise having being disapproved alike by her father-in-law, Charles X.,
and her brother and sister-in-law, the Duc and Duchesse d'Angouleme.

In 1833, we are told, the Duchess of Kent and the fourteen years old
Princess stopped on their way to Weymouth--the old favourite watering-place
of King George and Queen Charlotte--and visited the young Queen of
Portugal, at Portsmouth. Donna Maria da Gloria had been sent from Brazil to
England by her father, Don Pedro, partly for her safety, partly under the
impression, which proved false, that the English Government would take an
active part in her cause against the usurpation of her uncle, Don Miguel.
The Government did nothing. The royal family paid the stranger some courtly
and kindly attentions. One of the least exceptional passages in the late
Charles Greville's Memoirs is the description of the ball given by the
King, at which the two young queens--to be--were present. The chronicle
describes the girls, who were of an age--having been born in the same year:
the sensible face of the fair-haired English Princess, and the extreme
dignity--especially after she had sustained an accidental fall--of the
Portuguese royal maiden, inured to the hot sun of the tropics. Don Miguel
was routed in the course of the following year (1834), and his niece was
established in her kingdom. Within the same twelve months she lost a father
and gained and lost a husband; for among the first news that reached her
English acquaintances was her marriage, before she was sixteen, and her
widowhood within three months. She had married, in January, the Duc de
Leuchtenberg, a brother of her stepmother and a son of Eugene Beauharnais.
He died, after a short illness, in the following March. She married again
in the next year, her re-marriage having been earnestly desired by her
subjects. The second husband was Prince Ferdinand of Coburg, belonging to
the Roman Catholic branch of the Coburgs, and cousin both to the Queen and
the Prince Consort. He was a worthy and, ultimately, a popular prince.
Donna Maria was grand-niece to Queen Amelie of France, and showed much
attachment to the house of Orleans. There is said to have been a project
formed by Louis Philippe, which was frustrated by the English Government,
that she should marry one of his sons, the Duc de Nemours.

In addition to the English tours which the Princess Victoria made with her
mother, the Duchess of Kent was careful that as soon as her daughter had
grown old enough to profit by the association, she should meet the most
distinguished men of the day--whether statesmen, travellers, men of
science, letters, or art. Kensington had one well-known intellectual centre
in Holland House, presided over by the famous Lady Holland, and was soon to
have another in Gore House, occupied by Lady Blessington and Count D'Orsay;
but even if the fourteen years old Princess had been of sufficient age and
had gone into society, such salons were not for her. The Duchess
must "entertain" for her daughter. In 1833 Lord Campbell mentions dining
at Kensington Palace. The company found the Princess in the drawing-room on
their arrival, and again on their return from the dining-room. He records
her bright, pleasant intelligence, perfect manners, and happy liveliness.

In July, 1834, when the Princess was fifteen, she was confirmed in the
Chapel Royal, St. James's, by the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the presence
of the King and Queen and the Duchess of Kent. She was advancing with rapid
steps to the point at which the girl leaves the child for ever behind her,
and stretches forward to her crown of young womanhood. She had in her own
name confirmed the baptismal vow which consecrated her as a responsible
being to the service of the King of kings. Still she was a young creature,
suffered to grow up according to a gracious natural growth, not forced into
premature expansion, permitted to preserve to the last the sweet girlish
trust and confidence, the mingled coyness and fearlessness, pensive dreams
and merry laughter, which constitute the ineffable freshness and tender
grace of youth.

If the earlier story of the purchase, or non-purchase, of the box at
Tunbridge Wells reads "like an incident out of 'Sandford and Merton,'"
there is another anecdote fitting into this time which has still more of
the good-fairy ring in it, while it sounds like a general endorsement of
youthful wisdom. Yet it may have had its origin in some eager, youthful
fancy of astonishing another girl, and giving her "the very thing she
wanted" as a reward for her exemplary behaviour. The Princess was visiting
a jeweller's shop incognito (a little in the fashion of Haroun-al-Raschid)
when she saw another young lady hang long over some gold chains, lay down
reluctantly the one which she evidently preferred, and at last content
herself with buying a cheaper chain. The interested on-looker waited till
the purchaser was gone, made some inquiries, directed that both chains
should be tied up and sent together, along with the Princess Victoria's
card, on which a few words were pencilled to the effect that the Princess
had been pleased to see prudence prevail, while she desired the young lady
to accept her original choice, in the hope that she would always persevere
in her laudable self-denial.

In the autumn of 1835 the Duchess of Kent and the Princess went as far
north as York, visiting the Archbishop at Bishopsthorpe, studying the
minster--second only to Westminster among English abbeys--and gracing with
the presence of royalty the great York Musical Festival. On the travellers'
homeward route they were the guests of the Earl of Harewood, at Harewood
House, Earl Fitzwilliam at Wentworth, and the Duke of Rutland at Belvoir.
At Burghley House the Duchess and the Princess visited the Marquis of
Exeter. The late Charles Greville met them there, and gives a few
particulars of their visit. "They arrived from Belvoir at three o'clock, in
a heavy rain, the civic authorities having turned out at Stamford to escort
them and a procession of different people, all very loyal. When they had
lunched, and the Mayor and his brethren had got dry, the Duchess received
the Address, which was read by Lord Exeter, as Recorder. It talked of the
Princess as 'destined to mount the throne of these realms.' Conroy handed
the answer just as the Prime Minister does to the King. They are splendidly
lodged, and great preparations have been made for their reception. The
dinner at Burghley was very handsome; hall well lit, and all went off well,
except that a pail of ice was landed in the Duchess's lap, which made a
great bustle. Three hundred people at the ball, which was opened by Lord
Exeter and the Princess, who, after dancing one dance, went to bed. They
appeared at breakfast next morning at nine o'clock, and at ten set off to
Holkham."

Romance was not much in Mr. Greville's way, but Burghley, apart from the
statesman Cecil and his weighty nod, had been the scene of such a romance
as might well have captivated the imagination of a young princess, though
its heroine was but a village maiden--she who married the
landscape-painter, and was brought by him to Burghley, bidden look around
at its splendour, and told

"All of this is thine and mine."

Tennyson has sung it--how she grew a noble lady, and yet died of the honour
to which she was not born, and how the Lord of Burghley, deeply mourning,
bid her attendants

"Bring the dress and put it on her
Which she wore when we were wed."

In one of those autumns which the Duchess of Kent and her daughter spent at
Ramsgate--not so rural as it had been a dozen years before, but still a
quiet enough retreat--they received a visit from the King and Queen of the
Belgians. Prince Leopold was securely established on the throne which he
filled so well and so long, keeping it when many other European sovereigns
were unseated. He was accompanied by his second wife, Princess Louise of
France, daughter of Louis Philippe. She was a good woman, like all the
daughters of Queen Amelie, while Princess Marie, in addition to goodness,
had the perilous gift of genius. The following is Baron Stockmar's opinion
of the Queen of the Belgians. "From the moment that the (Queen Louise)
entered that circle in which I for so many years have had a place, I have
revered her as a pattern of her sex. We say and believe that men can be
noble and good; of her we know with certainty that she was so. We saw in
her daily a truthfulness, a faithful fulfilment of duty, which makes us
believe in the possible though but seldom evident nobleness of the human
heart. In characters such as the Queen's, I see a guarantee of the
perfection of the Being who has created human nature." We ought to add that
Stockmar had not only the highest opinion of the character of Queen Louise,
but also of her insight and judgment, and he often expressed his opinion
that if anything were to happen to King Leopold the Regency might be
entrusted to the Queen with perfect confidence.

How much the Queen valued Queen Louise, how she became Queen Victoria's
dearest friend, is fully shown at a later date by the extracts from the
Queen's journal, and letters in the "Life of the Prince Consort"

About this time the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria paid a visit to
the Duke of Wellington at Walmer Castle--the old tower with fruit-trees
growing in the dry moat, and a slip from the weeping-willow which hung over
the grave in St. Helena flourishing in its garden, where the Warden of the
Cinque Ports could look across the roadstead of the Downs and count the
ships' masts like trees in a forest, and watch the waves breaking twenty
feet high on the Goodwin Sands. "The cut-throat town of Deal" which poor
Lucy Hutchinson so abhorred, pranked its quaint red houses for so
illustrious and dainty a visitor. The Duke had stood by her font, and if he
had "no small talk," he was a courteous gentleman and gentle warrior when
he fought his battles over again for the benefit of the young Princess.

A winter was spent by the Duchess and the Princess at St. Leonard's, not
far from Battle Abbey, where the last Saxon king of England bit the dust,
and William of Normandy fought and won the great battle which rendered his
invasion a conquest.

1836 was an eventful year in the Queen's life. We read that the Duchess of
Kent and her daughter remained at Kensington till the month of September.
There was a good reason for staying at home in the early summer. The family
entertained friends: not merely valued, kinsfolk, but visitors who might
change the whole current of a life's history and deeply influence a destiny
on which the hopes of many hearts were fixed, that concerned the well-being
of millions of the human race. Princess Victoria had not grown up solitary
in her high estate. It has been already pointed out that she was one in a
group of cousins with whom she had cordial relations. But the time was
drawing near when nature and policy alike pointed to the advisability of
forming a closer tie, which would provide the Princess with companionship
and support stretching beyond those of her mother, and, if it were well and
wisely chosen, afford the people further assurance that the first household
in the kingdom should be such as they could revere. The royal maiden who
had been educated so wisely and grown up so simply and healthfully, was
approaching her seventeenth birthday. Already there were suitors in store
for her hand; as many as six had been seriously thought of--among them,
Prince Alexander of the Netherlands, whose suit was greatly favoured by
King William; Duke Ernest of Wurtemberg; Prince Adalbert of Prussia; and
Prince George of Cambridge. Prince George of Cumberland was hors de
combat, apart from the Duke of Cumberland's pretensions and the
alienation caused by them. Prince George, when a baby, had lost the sight
of one eye, a misfortune which his father shared. A few years later in the
son's boyhood, as he was at play in the gardens of Windsor Castle, he began
to amuse himself with flinging into the air and catching a long silk purse
with heavy gold tassels, when the purse fell on the seeing eye, inflicting
such an injury as to threaten him with total blindness. The last
catastrophe was brought about by the blunder of a famous German oculist
after Prince George had become Crown Prince of Hanover.

How much the Princess knew or guessed of those matrimonial prospects, how
far they fluttered her innocent heart, we cannot tell; but as of all the
candidates mentioned there was only one with whom she had any acquaintance
to speak of, it may be supposed that the generality of the proposed wooers
passed like vague shadows before her imagination.

In the meantime the devoted friends of her whole life had naturally not
left this question--the most important of all--entirely unapproached. Her
English cousins stood to her somewhat in the room of contemporary brothers
and sisters; for her own brother and sister, however united to her in
affection, were removed from her by age, by other ties, and by residence in
a foreign country, to which in 1833 there was still no highway well trodden
by the feet of kings and queens and their heirs-presumptive, as well as by
meaner people, such as we find to-day. But there were other cousins of whom
much had been said and heard, though they had remained unseen and
personally unknown. For that very reason they were more capable of being
idealised and surrounded by a halo of romance.

At the little ducal Court of Coburg there was the perfect young prince of
all knightly legends and lays, whom fate seemed to have mated with his
English cousin from their births within a few months of each other. When he
was a charming baby of three years the common nurse of the pair would talk
to him of his little far-away royal bride. The common grandmother of the
two, a wise and witty old lady, dwelt fondly on the future union of her
youngest charge with the "Mayflower" across the seas.

In all human probability these grandmotherly predictions would have come to
nothing had it not been for a more potent arbiter of the fortunes of his
family. King Leopold had once filled the very post which was now vacant,
for which there were so many eager aspirants. None could know as he knew
the manifold and difficult requirements for the office; none could care as
he cared that it should be worthily filled. His interest in England had
never wavered, though he had renounced his English annuity of fifty
thousand a year on his accession to the throne of Belgium. He was deeply
attached to the niece who stood nearly in the same position which Princess
Charlotte had occupied twenty years before. Away in Coburg there was a
princely lad whom he loved as a son, and who held the precise relation to
the ducal house which he himself had once filled. What was there to hinder
King Leopold from following out the comparison? Who could blame him for
seeking to rebuild, in the interest of all, the fair edifice of love and
happiness and loyal service which had been shattered before the dawn of
those lives--that were like the lives of his children--had arisen? Besides,
look where he might, and study character and chances with whatever
forethought, he could not find such another promising bridegroom for the
future Queen of England. Young, handsome, clever, good, endowed with all
winning attributes; with wise, well-balanced judgment in advance of his
years; with earnest, steadfast purpose, gentle, sympathetic temper, and
merry humour.

King Leopold's instinct was not at fault, as the result proved; but it was
not without the most careful consideration and many anxious consultations,
especially with his trusty old friend, Baron Stockmar, that the King
allowed himself to take the initiatory step in the matter. If the young
couple were to love and wed it was certainly necessary that they should
meet, that "the favourable impression" might be made, as the two honourable
conspirators put it delicately. For this there was no more time to be lost,
when so many suitors had already entered the lists, and the maiden only
wanted a year of the time fixed for her majority. But with conscientious
heedfulness for the feelings of the youthful pair, and for their power of
forming separately an unbiassed opinion, it was settled that when an
opportunity of becoming acquainted should be given them, the underlying
motive must be kept secret from the Princess as well as the Prince, that
they might be "perfectly at their ease with each other." This secrecy could
not, however, extinguish the previous knowledge which the Prince at least
possessed, that a marriage between the cousins had been mooted by some of
those most interested in their welfare.

In spite of the obstacles which King William raised, an invitation was sent
by the Duchess of Kent to her brother, the reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg, to
pay her a visit, accompanied by his two sons, in the spring of 1836.
Accordingly, in the month which is the sweetest of the year, in spite of
inconstant skies and chill east winds, when Kensington Gardens were bowery
and fair with the tender green foliage--the chestnut and hawthorn
blossoms--the lilac and laburnum plumes of early summer, the goodly company
arrived, and made the old brick palace gay with the fresh and fitting
gaiety of youth.

We may never know how the royal cousins met--whether the frank, kind,
unconscious Princess came down under the wing of the Duchess as far as
their entrance into the Clock Court; whether there was a little dimness of
agitation and laughing confusion, in spite of the partial secrecy, in two
pairs of blue eyes which then encountered each other for the first time;
whether the courtly company ascended in well-arranged file, or in a little
friendly disorder. It was fortunate that there were more doors and halls
and staircases than one, for it goes without saying that nobody could have
had time and attention to spare for the wonderfully elaborate staircase,
the representation in chiaroscuro of horses and warlike weapons, the
frieze with heads of unicorns and masks of lions. It must have been on
another day that young heads looked up in jest or earnest at Hercules,
Diana, Apollo, and Minerva, and stopped to pick out the heterogeneous
figures in the colonnade--"ladies, yeomen of the guard, pages, a quaker,
two Turks, a Highlander, and Peter the Wild Boy," which testified to the
liberal imagination of Kent, who executed not only the architecture, but
the painting, in the reign of George I.

The guests remained at Kensington for a month, the only drawback to their
pleasure being a little attack of bilious fever, from which Prince Albert
suffered for a few days. There is a published letter to his stepmother in
which the Prince tells his doings in the most unaffected, kindly fashion.
There were the King's levee, "long and fatiguing, but very interesting;"
the dinner at Court, and the "beautiful concert" which followed, at which
the guests had to stand till two o'clock; the King's birthday, with the
Drawing-room at St. James's Palace, where three thousand eight hundred
people passed before the King and Queen, and another great dinner and
concert in the evening. There was also the "brilliant ball" at Kensington
Palace, at which the gentlemen were in uniform and the ladies in fancy
dresses. Duke William of Brunswick, the Prince of Orange and his sons, and
the Duke of Wellington, were among the guests, and the Princes of Coburg
helped to keep up the ball till four o'clock. They spent a day with the
Duke of Northumberland at Sion House, they went to Claremont, and they were
so constantly engaged that they had to make the most of their time in order
to see at least some of the sights of London. To one of the sights the
Queen referred afterwards. The Duke of Coburg and the two Princes
accompanied the Duchess of Kent and the Princess to the wonderful gathering
of the children of the different charity schools in St. Paul's Cathedral,
where Prince Albert listened intently to the sermon. We hardly need to be
told that he was full of interest in everything, paid the greatest
attention to all he saw, and was constantly occupied. Among his pleasant
occupations were the two favourite pursuits--which the cousins
shared--music and drawing. He accompanied the Princess on the piano, and
he drew with and for her. It was a happy, busy time, though some of the
late dinners, at which, the Prince drank only water, were doubtless dull
enough of the young people, and Prince Albert, accustomed to the early
hours and simple habits of Germany, felt the change trying. He confessed
that it was sometimes with the greatest difficulty he could keep awake. The
Princess's birthday came round during her kinsman's visit. The Prince
alluded to the event and to his stay at Kensington in writing to the
Duchess of Kent three years later, when he was the proud and happy
bridegroom of his cousin. He made no note of the date as having had an
effect on their relations to each other, neither did he dwell on any good
wish or gift [Footnote: Lady Bloomfield mentions among the Queen's rings "a
small enamel with a tiny diamond in the centre, the Prince's gift when he
first came to England, a lad of seventeen."] on his part; but in compliance
with a motherly request from his aunt, the Duchess, that he would send her
something he had worn, he returned to her a ring that she had given him on
that May morning. The ring had never left his finger since then. The very
shape proclaimed that it had been squeezed in the grasp of many a manly
hand. The ring had her name upon it, but the name was "Victoria" too, and
he begged her to wear it in remembrance of his bride and himself.

The favourable impression had been made in spite of the perversity of
fortune and the vagaries of human hearts, which, amidst other casualties,
might have led the Princess to accord her preference to the elder brother,
Prince Ernest, who was also "a fine young fellow," though not so well
suited to become prince-consort to the Queen of England. But for once
destiny was propitious, and neither that nor any other mischance befell the
bright prospects of the principal actors in the scene. When the King of the
Belgians could no longer refrain from expressing his hopes, he had the most
satisfactory answer from his royal niece.

"I have only now to beg you, my dearest uncle," she wrote, "to take care of
the health of one now so dear to me, and to take him under your special
protection. I hope and trust that all will now go on prosperously and well
on this subject, now of so much importance to me."

At the same time, though an affectionate correspondence was started and
maintained for a year, no further communication passed which could tend to
enlighten the Prince as to the feelings he had excited. He went away to
complete his education, to study diligently, along with his brother, at
Brussels and Bonn; to feel in full the gladness of opening life and opening
powers of no ordinary description; to rejoice, as few young men have the
same warrant to rejoice, in the days of his unstained, noble youth.

On the King's birthday, the 21st August, the Duchess of Kent and Princess
Victoria were at Windsor Castle on a visit. In spite of some soreness over
the old grievance, the King proposed the Princess Victoria's health very
kindly at the dinner. After he had drunk the Princess Augusta's health he
said, "And now, having given the health of the oldest I will give that of
the youngest member of the royal family. I know the interest which the
public feel about her, and although I have not seen so much of her as I
could have wished, I take no less interest in her, and the more I do see of
her, both in public and private, the greater pleasure it will give me." The
whole thing was so civil and gracious that it could hardly be taken ill,
but, says Greville, "the young Princess sat opposite and hung her head with
not unnatural modesty at being thus talked of in so large a company."

In the September of that year the Duchess and the Princess went again to
Ramsgate, and stayed there till December. It was their last visit to the
quiet little resort within a short pilgrimage of Canterbury--the great
English shrine, not so much of Thomas a Becket, slain before the altar, as
of Edward the Black Prince, with his sword and gauntlets hung up for ever,
and the inscription round the effigy which does not speak of Cressy and
Poictiers, but of the vanity of human pride and ambition. It was the last
seaside holiday which the mother and daughter spent together untrammelled
by State obligations and momentous duties, with none to come between the
two who had been all in all with each other. In their absence a storm of
wind passed over London, and wrought great damage in Kensington Gardens.
About a hundred and thirty of the larger trees were destroyed. In the
forenoon of the 29th of November "a tremendous crash was heard in one of
the plantations near the Black Pond, between Kensington Palace and the
Mount Gate, and on several persons running to the spot twenty-five limes
were found tumbled to the earth by a single blast, their roots reaching
high into the air, with a great quantity of earth and turf adhering, while
deep chasms of several yards in diameter showed the force with which they
had been torn up.... On the Palace Green, Kensington, near the
forcing-garden, two large elms and a very fine sycamore were also laid
prostrate."

In the following summer (1837) the Princess came of age, as princesses do,
at eighteen, and it was meet that the day should be celebrated with, all
honour and gladness. But the rejoicings were damped by the manifestly
failing health of the aged King, then seventy-one years of age. He had been
attacked by hay fever--to which he had been liable every spring at an
earlier period of his life, but the complaint was more formidable in the
case of an old and infirm man, while he still struggled manfully to
transact business and discharge the duties of his position. At the Levee
and Drawing-room of the 21st May he sat while receiving the company. By
the 24th he was confined to his rooms, and the Queen did not leave him.

At six o'clock in the morning the Union Jack was hoisted on the summit of
the old church, Kensington, and on the flagstaff at Palace Green. In the
last instance the national ensign was surmounted by a white silk flag on
which was inscribed in sky-blue letters "Victoria." The little town adorned
itself to the best of its ability. "From the houses of the principal
inhabitants of the High Street were also displayed the Royal Standard,
Union Jack, and other flags and colours, some of them of extraordinary
dimensions." Soon after six o'clock the gates of Kensington Gardens were
thrown open for the admission of the public to be present at the serenade
which was to be performed at seven o'clock under the Palace windows, with
the double purpose of awaking the Princess in the most agreeable manner,
and of reminding her that at the same place and hour, eighteen years ago,
she had opened her eyes on the May world. The sleep of youth is light as
well as sound, and it may well be that the Princess, knowing all that was
in store for her on the happy day that could not be too long, the many
goodly tokens of her friends' love and gladness--not the least precious
those from Germany awaiting her acceptance--the innumerable congratulations
to be offered to her, was wide awake before the first violin or voice led
the choir.

The bells rang out merry peals, carriages dashed by full of fine company.
Kensington Square must have thought it was the old days of William and
Mary, and Anne, or of George II and Queen Caroline at the latest, come back
again. The last French dwellers in Edwardes Square must have talked volubly
of what their predecessors had told them of Paris before the flood, Paris
before the Orleanists, and the Bonapartists, and the Republic--Paris when
the high-walled, green-gardened hotels of the Faubourg St. Germain were
full of their ancient occupants; when Marie Antoinette was the daughter of
the Caesars at the Tuileries, and the bergere Queen at le Petit
Trianon. Before the sun went down many a bumper was drunk in honour of
Kensington's own Princess, who should that day leave her girlhood all too
soon behind her.

But London as well as Kensington rejoiced, and the festivities were wound
up with a ball given at St. James's Palace by order of the poor King and
Queen, over whose heads the cloud of sorrow and parting was hanging
heavily. We are told that the ball opened with a quadrille, the Princess
being "led off" by Lord Fitzalan, eldest son of the Earl of Surrey and
grandson of the Duke of Norfolk, Premier Duke and Earl, Hereditary Earl
Marshal and Chief Butler of England. Her Royal Highness danced afterwards
with Prince Nicholas Esterhazy, son of the Austrian Ambassador. Prince
Nicholas made a brilliant figure in contemporary annals--not because of his
own merits, not because he married one of the fairest of England's noble
daughters, whose gracious English hospitalities were long remembered in
Vienna, but because of the lustre of the diamonds in his Court suit. He
was said to sparkle from head to heel. There was a legend that he could not
wear this splendid costume without a hundred pounds' worth of diamonds
dropping from him, whether he would or not, in minor gems, just as jewels
fell at every word from the mouth of the enchanted Princess. We have heard
of men and women behind whose steps flowers sprang into birth, but Prince
Nicholas left a more glittering, if a colder, harder track.





Next: The Accession

Previous: Childhood



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