A Royal Pair





The Queen and the Prince were only one whole day holding state by

themselves at Windsor. It is not given to a royal couple to flee away into

the wilds or to shut themselves up from their friends and the world like

meaner people; whether a prolonged interval of retirement be spent in

smiling or in sulking, according to cynical bachelors and spinsters, it is

not granted to kings and queens. On the single day of grace which her

Majesty claimed she wrote to Baron Stockmar the emphatic estimate of the

man of her choice. "There cannot exist a dearer, purer, nobler being in the

world than the Prince." A young bride's fond judgment; but to her was given

the deep joy of finding that time only confirmed the proud and glad

conviction of that first day of wedlock.



On Wednesday, the 12th, the royal couple at Windsor were rejoined by the

Duchess of Kent, the Duke of Coburg, the hereditary Prince, and the whole

Court. Then two more days of holiday were spent with something of the

heartiness of old times, when brides and bridegrooms did not seem either as

if they were ashamed of their happiness or too selfish to share it with

their friends. No doubt there were feasting and toasting, and there was

merry dancing each night.



On Friday, the 14th, the Court returned to London, that the principal

person might gratify the people by appearing in public and that she might

take up once more the burden of a sovereign's duties. Addresses were

received from the Houses of Parliament. The theatres were visited in

state. On the 19th of the month the Queen held her first levee after her

marriage, when the Prince took his place at her left hand. On Sunday, the

20th, the newly-married couple attended divine service together in the

Chapel Royal, St. James's, and were loudly cheered on their way through the

Park.



Buckingham Palace was to continue the Queen's town residence, but St.

James's, by virtue of its seniority in age and priority in historical

associations, remained for a considerable time the theatre of all the State

ceremonials which were celebrated in town until gradually modifications of

the rule were established. A chapel was fitted up in Buckingham Palace,

which accommodated the household in comparative privacy, and prevented the

inconvenience of driving in all states of the health and the weather for

public worship at the neighbouring palace chapel. It was found that there

was better accommodation for holding Drawing-rooms, and less crowding and

inconvenience to the ladies attending them, when the Drawing-rooms were

held at Buckingham Palace instead of St. James's. The levees are nearly all

that is left to St. James's, in addition to the fact that it contains the

offices of the Lord Chamberlain, &c. But the place where her Majesty was

proclaimed Queen and wedded deserves a parting word.



The visitor to St. James's passes up the great staircase, which has been

trodden by the feet of so many generations, bound on such different

errands. Here and there, from a picture-frame high up on the wall, a

painted face looks down immovably on the comings and goings below. The

Guard-room has a few stands of glittering arms and one or two women's

portraits; altogether a different Guard-room from what it must have been

when it received its name. Beyond is the Armoury, where arms bristle in

sheaves and piles, surmounted by hauberks and casques, smooth and polished

as if they had never been dinted in battle or rusted with blood. Queen

Anne's Drawing-room, spacious and stately, is resplendent in yellow satin.

Old St. James's has sustained a recent renovation, its faded gorgeousness

has been renewed, not without a difficult compromise between the

unhesitating magnificence of the past and the subdued taste of the present

day. The compromise is honourable to the taste of the decorator, for there

is no stinting of rich effect, stinting which would have been out of place,

in the great doors, picked out and embossed, the elaborately devised and

wrought walls and ceilings, the huge chandeliers, &c. But warm, deep

crimson is relieved by cool pale green, and sage wainscot meets the dull

red of feathery leaves on other walls. The Queen's Closet, which misses its

meaning when it is called a boudoir, with the steel-like embroidery on its

walls, matching the grey blue of its cut velvet hangings, recalls the

natural pauses in a busy life, when the Queen awaits the call of public

duty, or withdraws for a breathing space from the pressure of fatiguing

obligations.



In more than one of the principal rooms there are low brass screens or

railings drawn across the room, to be used as barricades; and the

uninitiated hears with due respect that behind those the ambassadors are

supposed to congregate, while these fence the approach to the throne.



In spite of such precautions, large Drawing-rooms became latterly

hard-pressed crowds struggling to make their way, and the State-rooms of

Buckingham Palace were put in request as affording better facilities for

these ceremonies.



There is a picture gallery where a long row of Kings and Queens, in their

full-length portraits, stand like Banquo's descendants. The portraits begin

with that of bluff King Hal, very bluff and strident. According to Mr.

Hare's account, which he has taken from Holinshed, Henry VIII. got St.

James's when it was an hospital for "fourteen maidens that were leprous,"

and having pensioned off the sisters, "reared a fine mansion and park" in

the room of the hospital. The picture of his young son is a quaint, slim

edition of his father. There is a sad and stiff Mary Tudor, who laid down

her embittered and brokenhearted life in this palace, and by her side, as

she seldom was in the flesh, a high-ruffed, yellow-haired, peaked-chinned

Elizabeth--a noble shrew. The British Solomon has the sword-proof padding

of his doublet and trunk hose very conspicuous. A wide contrast is a

romantic, tragic King Charles, with a melancholy remembrance in his long

face and drooping eyes of the day when he bade farewell to the world at St.

James's and left it for the scaffold at Whitehall. His swarthy periwigged

sons balance the sister queens, Mary and Anne. St. James's, like Kensington

and Hampton Court, seems somehow peculiarly associated with them. Though

other and more striking royal figures dwelt there both before and after the

two last of the reigning Stuarts, they have left a distinct impression of

themselves, together with a Sir Peter Lely and a Sir Godfrey Kneller

flavour about all the more prominent quarters of the palace. The likenesses

of Mary and Anne occur as they must have appeared before they lost the

comeliness of youth, when St. James's was their home, the house of their

father, the Duke of York and Anne his Duchess, where the two sisters wedded

in turn a princely hero and a princely nobody.



In the Throne-room, amidst the portraits of later sovereigns to which royal

robes and the painter's art have supplied an adventitious dignity, there

are fine likenesses of the Queen and Prince Albert, which must have been

taken soon after their marriage, when they were in the first bloom of their

youth and happiness. Her Majesty wears a royal mantle and the riband of the

Garter, like her compeers; behind her rise the towers of Windsor.



In the double corridor, along which two streams of company flow different

ways to and from the Presence-chamber, as the blood flows in the veins and

arteries, are more pictures--those of some charming children. A stout

little Prince Rupert before he ever smelt the smoke of battle or put pencil

to paper. Representations of almost equally old-world-looking children of

the Georgian era by their royal mother's knee, one child bearing such a bow

as figures often in the hands of children in the portraits of the period; a

princely boy in miniature robes of State, with a queen's hand on his

shoulder; a little solitary flaxen-haired child with a tambourine. The bow

has long been unbent, the royal mother and child are together again, the

music of the tambourine is mute.



In the Banqueting-room there are great battle-pieces by land and sea from

Tournay to Trafalgar, like a memory of the Hall of Battles at Versailles.



The Chapel Royal, where the Queen was made a wife, has ceased in a measure

to be a royal place of worship. Still within its narrow bounds and plain

walls a highly aristocratic congregation have, if they choose, a right to

the services of the dean and sub-dean and the five-and-thirty

chaplains--not to say of the bishops duly appointed to officiate on special

occasions. Not only is the royal closet still in readiness furnished with

its chairs of State, there are other closets or small galleries for the

Household, peeresses and their daughters, &c. The simplest pew below

belongs to the Lord Chamberlain, the Lord Steward, peers and their sons, or

members of Parliament, &c. The Chapel Royal, like the State-rooms, is fresh

and spruce from renewal. It has, however, wisely avoided all departure from

the original character of the building, which has nothing but the carved

roof and the great square window to distinguish it from any other chapel of

the same size and style. It is difficult to realise that it was here Queen

Mary listened attentively to Bishop Burnet, and Queen Caroline was guilty

of talking, while Princess Emily brought her little dog under her arm. Nor

is it easy to fancy the brilliance of the scene in the quiet place when it

was lined from floor to ceiling with tier upon tier of seats for the

noblest in the land, when every inch of standing-room had its fit occupant,

and a princely gathering was grouped before the glittering altar to hear a

Queen plight her troth.



St. James's has still a royal resident in the sole surviving member of the

great family of George III., the venerable Duchess of Cambridge, who lives

in the north wing of the palace. Marlborough House and Clarence House are

in the immediate vicinity, indeed the last is so near that it is reached by

a covered way. And as if to make the sense of the neighbourhood of a

cluster of royal establishments more vivid, and the thought of the younger

generation of the Royal Family more present in the old place, as the

visitor passes through its corridors the cannon in the park peals forth the

announcement of the birth of the last of her Majesty's grandchildren.



On the 28th of February, a little more than a fortnight after the marriage,

came the Prince's first practical experience of its cost to him. His father

left on his return to Coburg. "He said to me," the Queen wrote in her

Journal, "that I had never known a father, and could not therefore feel

what he did. His childhood had been very happy. Ernest, he said, was now

the only one remaining here of all his earliest ties and recollections; but

if I continued to love him as I did now, I could make up for all.... Oh!

how I did feel for my dearest, precious husband at this moment! Father,

brother, friends, country, all has he left, and all for me. God grant that

I may be the happy person, the most happy person to make this

dearest, blessed being happy and contented. What is in my power to make

him happy I will do."



Prince Ernest remained in England nearly three months after his father had

left.



Early in March a step was taken to render the Prince's position clearer and

more secure. Letters patent were issued conferring on him precedence next

to the Queen. How necessary the step was, even in this country, towards a

conclusion which appears to us to-day so natural as to be beyond dispute,

may be gathered from the circumstance that, even after the marriage,

objections were made to the Prince's sitting by the Queen's side in the

State carriage on State occasions, and to his occupying a chair of State

next the throne when she opened and prorogued Parliament.



Prince Albert proposed for himself a wise and generous course, which he

afterwards embodied in fitting words--"to sink his own individual existence

in that of his wife, to aim at no power by himself or for himself, to shun

all ostentation, to assume no separate responsibility before the public;

continually and anxiously to watch every part of the public business in

order to be able to advise and assist her at any moment, in any of the

multifarious and difficult questions brought before her--sometimes

political, or social, or personal--as the natural head of the family,

superintendent of her household, manager of her private affairs, her sole

confidential adviser in politics and only assistant in her communications

with the affairs of the Government." In fact, the Prince was the Queen's

private secretary in all save the name, uniting the two departments,

political and social, of such an office which had hitherto been held

separately by Lord Melbourne and Baroness Lehzen.



Prince Albert discharged the double duty with the authority of his rank and

character, and especially of his relations to the Queen. He expressed his

object very modestly in writing to his father: "I endeavour quietly to be

of as much use to Victoria in her position as I can." The post was a most

delicate and difficult one, and would have been absolutely untenable, had

it not been for the perfect confidence and good understanding always

existing between the Queen and the Prince, and for his remarkable command

of temper, and manly forbearance and courtesy, under every provocation, to

all who approached him. Perhaps a still more potent agent was a quality

which was dimly felt from the beginning, and is fully recognised

to-day--his sincerity of nature and honesty of purpose. In the painful

revelations which, alas! time is apt to bring of double-dealing and

self-seeking on the part of men in power, no public character of his day

stands out more honourably in the strong light which posterity is already

concentrating on the words and actions of the past, than does Prince Albert

for undeniable truthfulness and disinterestedness. Men may still cavil at

his conclusions, and maintain that he theorised and systematised and was

tempted to interfere too much, but they have long ceased to question his

perfect integrity and single-heartedness, his rooted aversion to all

trickery and to deceit in every form. "He was an honest man and a noble

prince who did good work," is now said universally of the Queen's husband;

and honesty is not only the highest praise, it is a great power in dealing

with one's fellows.



But it was not in a day or without many struggles that anything approaching

to his aim was achieved. The inevitable irritation caused by the transfer

of power and the disturbance of existing arrangements on the part of a new

comer, the sensitive jealousy which even the Prince's foreign birth

occasioned, had to be overcome before the first approach to success could

be attained.



We can remember that some of the old Scotch Jacobite songs--very sarcastic

where German royal houses were concerned--experienced a temporary revival,

certainly more in jest than in earnest, and with a far higher appreciation

of the fun than of the malice of the sentiment. The favourite was "The wee,

wee German Lairdie," and began in this fashion:--



Wha the Diel hae we gotten for a King,

But a wee, wee German Lairdie?

And when they gaed to bring him hame

He was delvin' in his little kail-yardie.



The last verse declared:--



He'a pu'ed the rose o'English blooms,

He's broken the harp o'Irish, clowns,

But Scotia's thistle will jag his thoomba,

The wee, wee German Lairdie.



A prophecy honoured in its entire breach.



Even tried and trusty friends grown old in Court service could not make up

their minds at once to the changed order of affairs, or resign, without an

effort to retain it, their rule when it came into collision with the wishes

of the new head of the household; Prince Albert, in writing frankly to his

old comrade Prince Lowenstein, said he was very happy and contented, but

the difficulty in filling his place with proper dignity was that he was

only the husband and not the master of the house. The Queen had to assert,

like a true woman, when appealed to on the subject, that she had solemnly

engaged at the altar to obey as well as to love and honour her husband, and

"this sacred obligation she could consent neither to limit nor define."



It may be stated that, in spite of the fidelity and devotion of those who

surrounded the Queen, the old system under which the arrangements of the

palaces were conducted stood in great need of reform. Anything more

cumbrous, complicated, and inconvenient than the plan adopted cannot

easily be conceived. The great establishments were not subject to one

independent, responsible rule, they were divided into various departments

under as many different controlling bodies. Rights and privileges,

sinecures and perquisites, bristled on all sides, and he who would reform

them must face the unpopularity which is almost always the first

experience of every reformer. There is a graphic account of the situation



in the "Life of the Prince Consort," and "Baron Stockmar's Memoirs." "The

three great Officers of State, the Lord Steward, the Lord Chamberlain, and

the Master of the Horse, all of them officials who varied with each change

of the Ministry, and were appointed without regard to any special

qualifications for their office, had each a governing voice in the

regulation of the household.... Thus one section of the palace was

supposed to be under the Lord Chamberlain's charge, another under that of

the Lord Steward, while as to a third it was uncertain whose business it

was to look after it. These officials were responsible for all that

concerned the interior of the building, but the outside had to be taken

care of by the office of Woods and Forests. The consequence was, that as

the inside cleaning of the windows belonged to the Lord Chamberlain's

department, the degree of light to be admitted into the palace depended

proportionably on the well-timed and good understanding between the Lord

Chamberlain's Office and that of Woods and Forests. One portion of the

personnel of the establishment again was under the authority of the

Lord Chamberlain, another under that of the Master of the Horse, and a

third under the jurisdiction of the Lord Steward." "The Lord Steward,"

writes Baron Stockmar, "finds the fuel and lays the fire, and the Lord

Chamberlain lights it.... In the same manner the Lord Chamberlain provides

all the lamps, and the Lord Steward must clean, trim, and light them.

Before a pane of glass or a cupboard door could be mended, the sanction of

so many officials had to be obtained, that often months elapsed before the

repairs were made."



One is irresistibly reminded of the dilemma of the unfortunate King of

Spain, who died from a feverish attack brought on by a prolonged exposure

to a great fire, because it was not etiquette for the monarch to rise, and

the grandee whose prerogative it was to move the royal chair happened to

be out of the way.



"As neither the Lord Chamberlain nor the Master of the Horse has a regular

deputy residing in the palace, more than two-thirds of all the male and

female servants are left without a master in the house. They can come on

and go off duty as they choose, they can remain absent hours and hours on

their days of waiting, or they may commit any excess or irregularity;

there is nobody to observe, to correct, or to reprimand them. The various

details of internal arrangement whereon depend the well-being and comfort

of the whole establishment, no one is cognisant of, or responsible for.

There is no officer responsible for the cleanliness, order, and security

of the rooms and offices throughout the palace."



Doubtless, it was under this remarkable condition of the royal household

that a considerable robbery of silver plate from an attic in which

it was stored took place at Windsor Castle in 1841. Massive silver

encasings of tables, borders of mirrors, fire-dogs and candelabra,

together with the silver ornaments of Tippoo Saib's tent, disappeared in

this way.



It took years to remedy such a state of matters, and it was only by the

exercise of the greatest tact, which, to be sure, was comparatively easy

to the Prince, that the improvement was effected. The necessary reforms

were made to proceed from the officers of State themselves, and the

enforcement of the new regulations was carried out by a Master of the

Household, who resided permanently in the palace which the Queen occupied.

Eventually each royal establishment was brought to a high average of order

and efficiency. If possible, still greater caution had to be practised in

the Prince's dealing with political affairs, for here the jealousy of

foreign influence was national, and among the most deeply rooted of

insular prejudices. In the beginning of their married life the Prince was

rarely with the Queen at her Cabinet Councils, though no objection had

been made to his presence, and he did not take much share in business,

though Lord Melbourne, especially, urged his being made acquainted with it

in all its details. Both in its public and private relations, the path at

starting was not an easy one, while the Prince and the Queen shared its

anxieties and worries. Happily for all, the two, who were alike in sense,

good feeling, and trusting affection, stood firm, and gradually surmounted

the contradictions in their brilliant lot. But it was probably under

these influences that Baron Stockmar, always exacting in the best

interests of those he loved, fancied--even while he had no hesitation in

recording the Prince behaved in his difficult position very well--that a

friend had reason to dread in the young man not yet twenty-one, the old

defects of dislike to intellectual exertion and indifference to politics.

No efforts were wanting on the part of the good old mentor, who in his

absence kept up a constant correspondence with the Prince, to preserve the

latter's "ideal aspirations." Sometimes, the keen observer feared that the

object of his dreams and cares was losing courage for his self-imposed

Herculean labours, but the brave will and loyal heart proved triumphant.



That spring and the next two springs and summers were gay seasons in

London--and London life meant then to the Queen and the Prince an

overwhelming amount of engagements, besides the actual part in the

government of the country. "Levees, Drawing-rooms, presentations of

addresses, great dinners, State visits to the theatre" swelled the long

list. The Prince, like most Germans, was fond of the play, and had a

great admiration of Shakespeare, whose plays were revived at Covent Garden

in 1840, Charles Kemble giving a last glimpse of the glory of the early

Kemble performances. The couple presided over many little balls and dances

which became a Court where the sovereigns were in the heyday of their

youth and happiness. Lady Bloomfield, who as the Hon. Miss Liddell was one

of the Queen's Maids of Honour a little later, gives a pleasant account of

an episode at one of these dances. "One lovely summer's morning we had

danced till dawn, and the quadrangle being then open to the east, her

Majesty went out on the roof of the portico to see the sun rise, which was

one of the most beautiful sights I ever remember. It rose behind St.

Paul's, which we saw quite distinctly; Westminster Abbey and the trees in

the Green Park stood out against a golden sky."



All this innocent gaiety was consecrated by the faithful discharge of duty

and the reverent observance of sacred obligations. At Easter, which was

spent at Windsor, the Queen and the Prince took the Sacrament together for

the first time. "The Prince," the Queen has said, "had a very strong

feeling about the solemnity of the act, and did not like to appear in

company either the evening before or on the day on which, he took it, and

he and the Queen almost always dined alone on these occasions." Her

Majesty has supplied a brief record, in the "Early Years of the Prince

Consort," of one such peaceful evening. "We two dined together. Albert

likes being quite alone before he takes the Sacrament; we played part of

Mozart's Requiem, and then he read to me out of Stunden den Andacht

(Hours of Devotion) the article on Selbster Kentniss (Self-knowledge.)"

The whole sounds like a sweet, solemn, blessed pause in the crowded busy

life.



A sudden shock, which was only that of a great danger happily averted,

broke in on the flush of all that was best worth having and doing in

existence, and seemed to utter a warning against the instability of life

at its brightest and fairest. There was stag-hunting on Ascot Heath, at

which the Queen and the Prince were to be present. He was to join in the

hunt and she was to follow with Prince Ernest in a pony phaeton. As she

stood by a window in Windsor Castle, she saw Prince Albert canter past on

a restless and excited horse. In vain the rider turned the animal round

several times, he got the bit between his teeth and started at the top of

his speed among the trees of the Park; very soon he brushed against a

branch and unseated the Prince, who fell, without, however, sustaining any

serious injury. The Queen saw the beginning but not the end of the

misadventure, and her alarm was only relieved by the return of one of the

grooms in waiting, who told the extent of the accident. Noblesse

oblige. The Prince mounted a fresh horse and proceeded to the hunt,

and the Queen joined him. "Albert received me on the terrace of the large

stand and led me up," the Queen wrote in her Journal. "He looked very

pale, and said he had been much alarmed lest I should have been frightened

by his accident.... He told me he had scraped the skin off his poor arm,

had bruised his hip and knee, and his coat was torn and dirty. It was a

frightful fall."



On the 20th of April, an event took place in France which at this time

naturally was particularly interesting both to the Queen and the Prince.

The Duc de Nemours, second son of Louis Philippe and brother to the Queen

of the Belgians, married Princess Victoire of Saxe-Coburg, only daughter

of the head of the Catholic branch of the family, sister of the King

Consort of Portugal, and first cousin both to the Queen and Prince Albert.

This marriage drew many intertwined family ties still more closely

together. Princess Victoire was a pretty golden-haired girl, and is

described afterwards as a singularly sweet, affectionate, reasonable

woman. She had spent much of her youth at Coburg, and been a favourite

playmate of Prince Albert, whose junior she was by three years. She was

the friend of the Queen from girlhood. "We were like sisters," wrote her

Majesty, "bore the same name, married the same year.... There was in short

a similarity between us, which, since 1839, united us closely and

tenderly." The Duc de Nemours, without the intellectual gifts of some of

his brothers, resembled his good mother, Queen Amelie, in many respects.

He had quiet, domestic tastes, and was affectionately attached to his

wife.





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