Birth Of The Duke Of Connaught





Early in this year of 1850, Prince Albert, though not in his usual

health, began in deadly earnest on his colossal labors in behalf of the

great "World's Exhibition." England owed that magnificent manifestation

of her resources and her enterprise far more to him than to any other

man. He met with much opposition from that conservative class who, from

the start, denounce all new ideas and innovations, shrinking like owls

from the advancing day; and that timid class who, while admitting the

grandeur of the idea, feared it was premature. "The time has not come,"

they said; "wait a century or two." Some opposed it on the ground that it

would bring to London a host of foreigners, with foreign ideas and

perilous to English morals and religion.



In the garden of a certain grand English country-place there is a certain

summer-house with a closed door, which, if a curious visitor opens, lets

off some water-works, which give him a spray-douche. So the Prince

received, at door after door, a dash of cold water for his "foreign

enterprise." But he persevered, letting nothing dishearten him--toiling

terribly, and inspiring others to toil, till at last the site he desired

for the building was granted him, and the first Crystal Palace--the first

palace for the people in England--went slowly up, amid the sun-dropped

shades of Hyde Park. Temporary as was that marvelous structure, destined

so soon to pass away, like "the baseless fabric of a vision," I can but

think it the grandest of the monuments to the memory of the Prince-

Consort, though little did he so regard it. To his poetic yet practical

mind it was the universal temple of industry and art, the valhalla of the

heroes of commerce, the fane of the gods of science--the caravansery of

the world. That Exhibition brought together the ends of the earth,--long-

estranged human brethren sat down together in pleasant communion. It was

a modern Babel, finished and furnished, and where there was almost a

fusion, instead of, a confusion, of tongues. The "barbarous Turk" was

there, the warlike Russ, the mercenary Swiss, the passionate Italian, the

voluptuous Spaniard, the gallant Frenchman,--and yet foreboding English

citizens did not find themselves compelled to go armed, or to lock up

their plate, or their wives and daughters. In fact, this beautiful

realized dream, this accomplished fact, quickened the pulses of commerce,

the genius of invention, the soul and the arm of industry, the popular

zeal for knowledge, as nothing had ever done before.



To go back a little to family events:--On May 1st, 1850, Prince Albert,

in writing to his step-mother at Coburg, told a bit of news very

charmingly: "This morning, after rather a restless night (being Walpurgis

night, that was very appropriate), and while the witches were careering

on the Blocksberg, under Ernst Augustus' mild sceptre, a little boy

glided into the light of day and has been received by the sisters with

jubilates. 'Now we are just as many as the days of the week!' was

the cry, and a bit of a struggle arose as to who was to be Sunday. of

well-bred courtesy the honor was conceded to the new-comer. Victoria is

well, and so is the child."



This Prince was called Arthur William Patrick Albert. The first name was

in honor of the Duke of Wellington, on whose eighty-first birthday the

boy was born; William was for the Prince of Prussia, now Emperor of

Germany; Patrick was for Ireland in general, and the "stout old woman" of

Dublin in particular.



This year both the Queen and the country lost a great and valued friend

in Sir Robert Peel, who was killed by being thrown from his horse. There

was much mourning in England among all sorts of people for this rarely

noble, unennobled man. The title of Baronet he had. inherited; it is said

he declined a grander title, and he certainly recorded in his will a wish

that no one of his sons should accept a title on account of his

services to the country--which was a great thing for a man to do in

England; and after his death, his wife was so proud of bearing his name

that she declined a peerage offered to her--which was a greater thing for

a woman to do in England.



Not long after, occurred the death of the ex-King of France, at

Claremont. McCarthy sums up his character very tersely, thus: "The

clever, unwise, grand, mean old man." Louis Philippe's meanness was in

his mercenary and plotting spirit, when a rich man and a king--his grand

qualities were his courage and cheerfulness, when in poverty and exile.



The Royal Family again visited Edinburgh, and stopped for a while at

Holyrood--that quaint old Palace of poor Mary Stuart, whose sad, sweet

memory so pervades it, like a personal atmosphere, that it seems she has

only gone but for a little walk, or ride, with her four Maries, and will

soon come in, laughing and talking French, and looking passing beautiful.

Queen Victoria had then a romantic interest in the hapless Queen of

Scots. She said to Sir Archibald Alison, "I am glad I am descended from

Mary; I have nothing to do with Elizabeth."



From Edinburgh to dear Balmoral, from whence the Prince writes: "We try

to strengthen our hearts amid the stillness and solemnity of the

mountains."



The Queen's heart especially needed strengthening, for she was dreading a

blow which soon fell upon her in the death of her dearest friend, her

aunt, the Queen of the Belgians. She mourned deeply and long for this

lovely and gifted woman, this "angelic soul," as Baron Stockmar called

her.



On April 29, 1851, the Queen paid a private visit to the Exhibition, and

wrote: "We remained two hours and a half, and I came back quite beaten,

and my head bewildered from the myriads of beautiful and wonderful things

which now quite dazzle one's eyes. Such efforts have been made, and our

people have shown such taste in their manufactures. All owing to this

great Exhibition, and to Albert--all to him!"



May 1st, which was the first anniversary of little Arthur's birth, was

the great opening-day, when Princes and people took possession of that

mighty crystal temple, and the "Festival of Peace" began.



The Queen's description in her diary is an eloquent outpouring of pride

and joy, and gratitude. One paragraph ends with these words: "God bless

my dearest Albert. God bless my dearest country, which has shown itself

so great to-day! One felt so grateful to the great God, who seemed to

pervade and bless all."



Her Majesty wrote that the scene in the Park as they drove through--the

countless carriages, the vast crowd, the soldiers, the music, the

tumultuous, yet happy excitement everywhere, reminded her of her

coronation day; but when she entered that great glass house, over which

floated in the sunny air the flags of all nations, within which were the

representatives of all nations, and when she walked up to her place in

the centre, conducted by the wizard who had conjured up for the world

that magic structure, and when the two stood there, with a child on

either hand, before the motley multitude, cheering in all languages--

then, Victoria felt her name, and knew she had come to her real

coronation, as sovereign, wife, and mother.



Shortly after this great day, Prince Albert distinguished himself by a

remarkably fine speech at an immense meeting of the "Society for the

Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts." Such shoals of foreigners

being then in London, the Society felt that they must be casting in their

nets. Lord John Russell wrote to congratulate the Queen, who, next to the

heathen, was most interested in the success of this speech. Her reply was

very characteristic. After saying that she had been quite "sure that the

Prince would say the right thing, from her entire confidence in his tact

and judgment," she added, "The Queen at the risk of not appearing

sufficiently modest (and yet why should a Woman ever be modest about her

husband's merits?) must say that she thinks Lord John will admit now that

the Prince is possessed of very extraordinary powers of mind and heart.

She feels so proud of being his wife, that she cannot refrain from paying

herself a tribute to his noble character."



Ah, English husbands should be loyal beyond measure to the illustrious

lady, who has set such a matchless example of wifely faith, pride and

devotion. But it will be a pity if in preaching up to their wives her

example, they forget the no less admirable example of the Prince-Consort.





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