King William Jealous Of Public Honors To Victoria

The indifference of the Duchess of Kent to the heavy pomps and heavier

gayeties of his Court so offended his unmajestic Majesty, that he finally

became decidedly inimical to the Duchess. Though he insisted on seeing

the little Princess often, he did not like the English people to see too

much of her, or to pay her and her mother too much honor. He objected to

their little journeys, calling them "royal progresses," and by a special

order put a stop to the "poppings," in the way of salutes, to the vessel

which bore them to and from the Isle of Wight--a small piece of state-

business for a King and his Council to be engaged in. The King's

unpopular brother, the Duke of Cumberland, was also supposed to be

unfriendly to the widow of a brother whom he had not loved, and to the

child whom, according to that brother, he regarded from the first as an

"intruder," and who certainly at the last, stood between His Royal

Grossness and the throne--the throne which would have gone down under

him. Yet, in spite of enmity and opposition from high quarters, and

jealousy and harsh criticism from Court ministers and minions, the

Duchess of Kent, who seems to have been a woman of immense firmness and

resolution, kept on her way, rearing her daughter as she thought best,

coming and going as she felt inclined.

Victoria's governess was for many years the accomplished Baroness Lehzen,

who had also been the chief instructress of her sister, Feodore. Until

she was twelve years old, her masters were also German, and she is said

to have spoken English with a German accent. After that time her

teachers, in nearly all branches, were English. Miss Kortright tells me a

little anecdote of the Princess when about twelve years old, related by

one of these teachers. She had been reading in her classical history the

story of Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi--how she proudly presented

her sons to the ostentatious and much-bediamonded Roman dame, with the

words, "These are my jewels." "She should have said my Cornelians,"

said the quick-witted little girl.

Victoria was instructed in some things not in those days thought proper

for young ladies to learn, but deemed necessary for a poor girl who was

expected to do a man's work. She was well grounded in history, instructed

in Latin--though she did not fancy it, and later, in the British

Constitution, and in law and politics. Nor were light accomplishments

neglected: in modern languages, in painting and music, she finally became

singularly proficient. Gifted with a remarkably sweet voice and a correct

ear, she could not well help being a charming singer, under her great

master, Lablache. She danced well, rode well, and excelled in archery.

As I said, the brave Duchess, as conscientious as independent, kept up

the life of retirement from Court pomps and gayeties, and of alternate

hard study and social recreation, which she thought best for her child.

She quietly persevered in the "progresses" which annoyed the irascible

and unreasonable old King, even visiting the Isle of Wight, though the

royal big guns were forbidden to "pop" at sight of the royal standard,

which waved over her, and the young hope of England. Perhaps

recollections of those pleasant visits with her mother at Norris Castle

have helped to render so dear the Queen's own beautiful sea-side home,

Osborne House. I remember a pretty little story, told by a tourist, who

happened to be stopping at the village of Brading during one of those

visits to the lovely island. One afternoon he strolled into the old

church-yard to search out the grave of Elizabeth Wallbridge, the sweet

heroine of Leigh Richmond's beautiful religious story, "The Dairyman's

Daughter." He found seated beside the mound a lady and a young girl, the

latter reading aloud, in a full, melodious voice, the touching tale of

the Christian maiden. The tourist turned away, and soon after was told by

the sexton that those pilgrims to that humble grave were the Duchess of

Kent and the Princess Victoria.

I am told by a Yorkshire lady another story of the Princess, of not quite

so serious a character. She was visiting with her mother, of course, at

Wentworth House, the seat of Earl Fitzwilliam in Yorkshire, and while at

that pleasant place delighted in running about by herself in the gardens

and shrubberies. One wet morning, soon after her arrival, she was thus

disporting herself, flitting from point to point, light-hearted and

light-footed, when the old gardener, who did not then know her, seeing

her about to descend a treacherous bit of ground from the terrace, called

out, "Be careful, Miss; it's slape!"--a Yorkshire word for slippery. The

incautious, but ever-curious Princess, turning her head, asked, "What's

slape?" and the same instant her feet flew from under her, and she came

down. The old gardener ran to lift her, saying, as he did so,

"That's slape, Miss."

There is nothing remarkable, much less incredible, in these stories of

the young Victoria, nor in the one related by her music-teacher, of how

she once rebelled against so much practice, and how, on his telling her

that there was no "royal road" in art, and that only by much practice

could she become "mistress of the piano," she closed and locked the

obnoxious instrument and put the key in her pocket, saying playfully,

"Now you see there is a royal way of becoming `mistress of the

piano.'" But not so simple and natural and girlish are all the things

told of the Queen's young days. Loyal English people have said to me,

"You will find few stories of Her Majesty's childhood, but those few will

all be good."

Yes, too good. The chroniclers of forty and fifty years ago--the same in

whose loyal eyes the fifteen children of George III. were all "children

of light"--could find no words in which to paint their worship for this

rising star of sovereignty. According to them, she was not only the pearl

of Princesses for piety and propriety, for goodness and graciousness, but

a marvel of unchildlike wisdom, a prodigy of cleverness and learning; in

short, a purely perfect creature, loved of the angels to a degree

perilous to the succession. The simplest little events of her daily life

were twisted into something unnaturally significant, or unhealthily

virtuous. If she was taken through a cotton-mill at Manchester, and asked

a score or two of questions about the machinery and the strange processes

of spinning and weaving, it was not childish curiosity--it was a love of

knowledge, and a patriotic desire to encourage British manufactures.

If she gave a few pennies to a blind beggar at Margate, the amiable act

was heralded as one, of almost divine beneficence, and the beggar pitied,

as never before, for his blindness. The poor man had not beheld the face

of the "little angel" who dropped the coin into his greasy hat! If, full

of "high spirits," she took long rides on a donkey at Ramsgate, and ran

races with other children on the sands, it was a proof of the sweetest

human condescension--the donkey's opinion not being taken.

Of course all this is false, unwholesome sentiment, quite

incomprehensible to nineteenth century Americans, though our great-

grandfathers understood this sort of personal loyalty very well, and

gloried in it, till George the Third drove them to the wall; and our

great-grandmothers cherished it as a sacred religious principle till

their tea was taxed. I dare say that if the truth could be got at, we

should find that little Victoria was at times trying enough to mother,

masters, and attendants; that she was occasionally passionate, perverse,

and "pestering," like all children who have any great and positive

elements in them. I dare say she was disposed, like any other "only

child," to be self-willed and selfish, and that she required a fair

amount of wholesome discipline, and that she got it. Had she been the

prim and pious little precocity which some biographers have painted her,

she would have died young, like the "Dairyman's Daughter"; we might have

had an edifying tract, and England a revolution.

One of her biographers speaks with a sort of ecstatic surprise of the

fact that the Princess was "affable--even gay," and that she "laughed and

chatted like other little girls." And yet she must early have perceived

that she was not quite like other little girls, but set up and apart.

Though reared with all the simplicity practicable for a Princess Royal,

she must have been conscious of a magic circle drawn round her, of a

barrier impalpable, but most real, which other children could not

voluntarily overpass. She must have seen that they could not call out to

her to "come and play!" that however shy she might feel, she must propose

the game, or the romp, as later she had to propose marriage. She even was

obliged to quarrel, if quarrel she did, all alone by herself. Any

resistance on the part of her playmates would have been a small variety

of high treason. She must sometimes, with her admirable good sense, have

been wearied and disgusted by so much concession, conciliation, and

consideration, and may have envied less fortunate or unfortunate mortals

who can give and take hard knocks, for whom less is demanded, and of whom

less is expected.

She may have tired of her very name, with its grand prefixes and no

affix, and longed to be Victoria Kent, or Something--Jones, Brown,

or Robinson.

She seems to have been a child of simple, homely tastes, for in 1842,

when Queen, she writes to her Uncle Leopold from Claremont, where she is

visiting, with her husband and little daughter: "This place brings back

recollections of the happiest days of my otherwise dull childhood--days

when I experienced such kindness from you, dearest uncle; Victoria plays

with my old bricks, and I see her running and jumping in the flower-

garden, as old (though I feel still little) Victoria of former days

used to do."

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