Comments Upon The Young Queen By A Contemporaneous Writer In Blackwood





A writer in Blackwood, speaking of the Queen about this time,

said: "She is 'winning golden opinions from all sorts of people' by her

affability, the grace of her manners, and her prettiness. She is

excessively like the Brunswicks and not like the Coburgs. So much the

more in her favor. The memory of George III. is not yet passed away, and

the people are glad to see his calm, honest, and English physiognomy

renewed in his granddaughter."



Her Majesty's likeness to the obstinate but conscientious old king, whose

honest face is fast fading quite away from old English half-crowns and

golden guineas, has grown with her years.



The same writer, speaking of her personal appearance, says: "She is low

of stature, but well formed; her hair the darkest shade of flaxen, and

her eyes large and light-blue." A friend who saw her frequently at the

time of her accession, said to me the other day: "It is a great mistake

to suppose that the Queen owed all the charming portraits which were

drawn of her at this time, to the fortunate accident of her birth and

destiny. She was really a very lovely girl, with a fine, delicate, rose-

bloom complexion, large blue eyes, a fair, broad brow, and an expression

of peculiar candor and innocence."



A few days later there was a sensation in Buckingham Palace, at the

setting up in the Throne-room of a very magnificent new piece of

furniture--a throne of the latest English fashion, but gorgeous enough to

have served for the Queen of Sheba, Zenobia, Cleopatra, or Semiramis. It

was all crimson velvet and silk, with any amount of gold embroideries,

gold lace, gold fringe, ropes, and tassels. The gay young Queen tried it,

and said it would do; that she had never sat on a more comfortable throne

in all her life.



Two stories of the young Queen have touched me especially--one was

related by the Duke of Wellington. A court-martial death sentence was

presented by him to her, to be signed. She shrank from the dreadful task,

and with tears in her eyes, asked: "Have you nothing to say in behalf of

this man?"



"Nothing; he has deserted three times," replied the Iron Duke.



"O, your Grace, think again!"



"Well, your Majesty, he certainly is a bad soldier, but there was

somebody who spoke as to his good character. He may be a good fellow in

civil life."



"O, thank you!" exclaimed the Queen, as she dashed off the word,

"Pardoned," on the awful parchment, and wrote beneath it her beautiful

signature.



This was not her last act of the kind, and at length Parliament so

arranged matters that this fatal signing business could be done by royal

commission, ostensibly to "relieve Her Majesty of a painful duty," but

really because they could not trust her soft heart. She might have sudden

caprices of commiseration which would interfere with stern military

discipline, and the honest trade of Mr. Marwood.



The other incident was told by Lord Melbourne. Soon after her accession,

in all the dizzy whirl of the new life of splendor and excitement, the

young Queen, in an interview with her Prime Minister, said: "I want to

pay all that remain of my father's debts. I must do it. I consider

it a sacred duty." This was, of course, done--the Queen also sending

valuable pieces of plate to the largest creditors, as a token of her

gratitude. Lord Melbourne said that the childlike directness and

earnestness of that good daughter's manner when she thus expressed her

royal will and pleasure, brought the tears to his eyes. It seems to me it

was almost mission enough for any young woman, to move the hearts of hard

old soldiers like Wellington, and blasé statesmen like Melbourne--

mighty dealers in death and diplomacy, and to bring something like a

second youth of romance and chivalrous feeling into worn and worldly

hearts everywhere.



I suppose it is impossible for young people of this day, especially

Americans, to realize the intense, enthusiastic interest felt forty-six

years ago by all classes, and in nearly all countries, in the young

English Queen. The old wondered and shook their heads over the mighty

responsibility imposed upon her--the young dreamed of her. She almost

made real to young girls the wildest romances of fairy lore. She called

out such chivalrous feelings in young men that they longed to champion

her on some field of battle, or in some perilous knightly adventure. She

stirred the hearts and inspired the imaginations of orators and poets.--

The great O'Connell, when there was some wild talk of deposing "the all

but infant Queen," and putting the Duke of Cumberland in her place, said

in his trumpet-like tones, which gave dignity to brogue: "If necessary, I

can get 500,000 brave Irishmen to defend the life, the honor, and the

person of the beloved young lady by whom England's throne is now filled."

Ah, the difference between then and now. "Brave Irishmen" of this day,

men who know not O'Connell, are more disposed to blow up the English

Queen's palaces, throne and all.



Charles Dickens, who was then full of romance and fancy, was, it is said,

possessed by such unresting, wondering thoughts of the fair maiden

sovereign, and her magnificent destiny, that for a time his more prosaic

friends regarded his enthusiasm as a sort of monomania. Other imaginative

young men with heads less "level" (to use an American expression) than

that of the great novelist, actually went mad--"clean daft"--the noble

passion of loving loyalty ending in an infatuation as absurd as it was

unhappy. Before the Queen left Kensington Palace she was much annoyed by

the persistent attentions of a provincial admirer, a respectable

gentleman, who labored under the hallucination that it was his destiny

and his duty to espouse the Queen. He may have felt a preference for

private life and rural pleasures, but as a loyal patriot he was ready to

make the sacrifice. He drove in a stylish phaeton every morning to the

Palace to inquire after Her Majesty's health; and on several days he

bribed the men who had charge of the gardens to allow him to assist them

in weeding about the piece of water opposite her apartments, in the fond

hope of seeing her at the windows, and of her seeing him. Every evening,

however, he put on the gentleman of fortune and phaetons, and followed

the Queen and the Duchess in their airings. Drove they fast or drove they

slow, he was just behind them. On their last drive before removing from

Kensington, they alighted in the Harrow Road for a little walk, and were

dismayed at seeing this Mr. ---- spring from his phaeton, and come

eagerly forward. The Duchess sent a page to meet him and beg of him not

to annoy Her Majesty by accosting her; but the page was "no let" to him--

a whole volume of remonstrance would not have availed. He pressed on, and

the august ladies were obliged to re-enter their carriage, and return to

Kensington. When on the next morning they removed from the old home, Mr.

---- was at the gate in his phaeton, and drove before them to Buckingham

Palace, and was there to give them a gracious welcome. He haunted Pimlico

for a time, but his friends finally got possession of him and suppressed

him, and so ended his "love's young dream."



It is likely that the merry young Queen laughed at the absurd

demonstrations and amatory effusions of her demented admirers; but when,

after her marriage, and her appearing always in public with the

handsomest Prince in Christendom at her side, such monomaniacs grew

desperate and took to shooting, the matter became serious. Then no more

gentlemen in phaetons menaced her peace; her demented followers were poor

wretches--so poor that sometimes, after investing in pistols, they had

not a six-pence left for ammunition. One, a distraught Fenian, pointed at

her a broken, harmless weapon, charged with a scrap of red rag. Another,

a humpbacked lad, named Bean, loaded his with paper and a few bits of an

old clay pipe. Bean escaped for a time, and it is said that for several

days there were "hard lines" for all the poor humpbacks of London. Scores

of them were arrested. No unfortunate thus deformed, could appear in the

streets without danger of a policeman smiting him on the shoulders, right

in the tender spot, with a rough, "You are my prisoner." Life became a

double burden to the poor fellows till Bean was caught. But to return to

the young Queen, in her happy, untroubled days.



In August she took possession of Windsor Castle, amid great rejoicing.

The Duchess, her mother, came also; this time not to be reproached or

insulted. They soon had company--a lot of Kings and Queens, among them

"Uncle Leopold" and his second wife, a daughter of Louis Philippe of

France.



The royal young house-keeper seems keenly to have enjoyed showing to her

visitors her new home, her little country place up the Thames. She

conducted them everywhere,



"Up-stairs, down-stairs, and in my lady's chamber,"



peeping into china and silver closets, spicy store-rooms, and huge linen

chests smelling of lavender.



Soon after came a triumphal progress to Brighton, during which the royal

carriage passed under an endless succession of triumphal arches, and

between ranks on ranks of schoolchildren, strewing roses and singing

pæans. At Brighton there was an immense sacrifice of the then fashionable

and costly flower, the dahlia, no fewer than twenty thousand being used

for decorative purposes. But a sadder because a vain sacrifice on this

occasion, was of flowers of rhetoric. An address, the result of much

classical research and throes of poetic labor, and marked by the most

effusive loyalty, was to have been presented to Her Majesty at the gates

of the Pavilion, but by some mistake she passed in without waiting for

it.



About this time the Lunatic Asylums began to fill up. Within one week two

mad men were arrested, proved insane, and shut up for threatening the

life of the Queen and the Duchess of Kent. So Victoria's life was not all

arched over with dahlia-garlands, and strewn with roses, nor were her

subjects all Sunday-school scholars.





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