Marriage And Delicacy Of The Prince's Position

Nowhere does the genuine unselfishness and sweet womanliness of the Queen

show more than in her record of those days. She did not, like too many

brides, think of herself as the only or even the principal person to be

considered. She did not grudge that her bridegroom's heart should feel the

strength of former ties. 'The sacrifice,' in her eyes, was all on his

side, though he would not admit that. He had to leave his brother, his

home, his dear native land. He on his side could ask, 'What am I, that

such happiness should he mine? for excess of happiness it is for me to

know that I am so dear to you.' But her one thought was, 'God grant that I

may be the happy person--the most happy person, to make this dearest,

blessed being happy and contented.' 'Albert has completely won my heart,'

she had written to Baron Stockmar.... 'I feel certain he will make me

very happy. I wish I could say I felt as certain of my making him happy,

but I shall do my best.'

The marriage itself took place on 10th February 1840 in the Chapel Royal,

St James's Palace. It was a cold cheerless morning, but the sun burst

forth just as the Queen entered the chapel. As a grand and beautiful

pageant, it was second only to the Coronation. The Queen was

enthusiastically cheered as she drove between Buckingham Palace and St

James's. She is described as looking pale and anxious, but lovely. Her

dress was of rich white satin, trimmed with orange blossoms; a wreath of

orange blossoms encircled her head, and over it a veil of rich Honiton

lace, which fell over her face. Her jewels were the collar of the Order of

the Garter, and a diamond necklace and ear-rings. She had twelve

bridesmaids, and the ceremony was performed by the Archbishops of

Canterbury and York and the Bishop of London.

Her Majesty bore herself from first to last with quietness and confidence,

and went through the service with due earnestness and solemnity.

The wedding breakfast was at Buckingham Palace. The wedding-cake was no

less than three hundred pounds in weight, fourteen inches in depth, and

three yards in circumference. The young couple proceeded to Windsor, where

they were received by an enthusiastic throng of Eton boys, in white gloves

and white favours.

One of the ladies-in-waiting wrote to her family that 'the Queen's look

and manner were very pleasing: her eyes much swollen with tears, but great

happiness in her countenance: and her look of confidence and comfort at

the prince when they walked away as man and wife, was very pleasing to

see.' And this sympathetic observer adds: 'Such a new thing for her to

dare to be unguarded with anybody; and with her frank and fearless

nature, the restraints she has hitherto been under, from one reason or

another, with everybody, must have been most painful.'

The day after the marriage the Queen wrote to Baron Stockmar: 'There

cannot exist a purer, dearer, nobler being in the world than the prince;'

and she never had cause to take these words back. The blessing of loving

and being loved was certainly given to Queen Victoria.

The royal pair spent three days of honeymoon at Windsor, and then Her

Majesty had to return to London, to hold court, and to receive addresses

of congratulation on her marriage; indeed, she was nearly 'addressed to

death.' The Queen and Prince Albert went everywhere together; to church,

to reviews, to races, theatres, and drawing-rooms; and everywhere the

people were charmed with their beauty and happiness.

One of the trials of royalty is that they are the observed of all

observers, and from the first Prince Albert understood the extreme

delicacy of his position. How well he met the difficulty is told by

General Gray (Early Years):

'From the moment of his establishment in the English palace as the husband

of the Queen, his first object was to maintain, and, if possible, even

raise the character of the court. With this view he knew that it was not

enough that his own conduct should be in truth free from reproach; no

shadow of a shade of suspicion should by possibility attach to it. He knew

that, in his position, every action would be scanned--not always,

possibly, in a friendly spirit; that his goings out and his comings in

would be watched; and that in every society, however little disposed to be

censorious, there would always be found some prone, where an opening

afforded, to exaggerate and even invent stories against him, and to put an

uncharitable construction on the most innocent acts. He therefore, from

the first, laid down strict, not to say severe rules for his guidance. He

imposed a degree of restraint and self-denial upon his own movements which

could not but have been irksome, had he not been sustained by a sense of

the advantage which the throne would derive from it.

'He denied himself the pleasure--which, to one so fond as he was of

personally watching and inspecting every improvement that was in progress,

would have been very great--of walking at will about the town. Wherever he

went, whether in a carriage or on horseback, he was accompanied by his

equerry. He paid no visits in general society. His visits were to the

studio of the artist, to museums of art or science, to institutions for

good and benevolent purposes. Wherever a visit from him, or his presence,

could tend to advance the real good of the people, there his horses might

be seen waiting; never at the door of mere fashion. Scandal itself could

take no liberty with his name. He loved to ride through all the districts

of London where building and improvements were in progress, more

especially when they were such as would conduce to the health or

recreation of the working classes; and few, if any, took such interest as

he did in all that was being done, at any distance east, west, north, or

south of the great city--from Victoria Park to Battersea--from the

Regent's Park to the Crystal Palace, and far beyond. "He would frequently

return," the Queen says, "to luncheon at a great pace, and would always

come through the Queen's dressing-room, telling where he had been--what

new buildings he had seen--what studios he had visited." Riding, for

riding's sake, he disliked. "It bores me so," he said. It was for real

service that Prince Albert devoted his life; and for this end he gave

himself to the very diligent study of the English Constitution. Never

obtrusive, he yet did the work, kept the wheels moving; but in the

background, sinking his individuality in that of the Queen, and leaving

her all the honour.'

A hard-working man himself, the prince and also the Queen were in sympathy

with the working-classes, and erected improved dwellings upon the estates

of Osborne and Balmoral. The prince was also in favour of working-men's

clubs and coffee palaces. It was remarked that whether he spoke to a

painter, sculptor, architect, man of science, or ordinary tradesman, each

of them was apt to think that his speciality was their own calling, owing

to his understanding and knowledge of it. He rose at seven A.M., summer

and winter, dressed, and went to his sitting-room, where in winter a fire

was burning, and a green lamp was lit. He read and answered letters here,

and prepared for Her Majesty drafts of replies to ministers and other

matters. After breakfast, he would read such articles in the papers or

reviews as seemed to his thoughtful mind to be good or important. At ten

he went out with the Queen.

So began the happy years of peaceful married life. The prince liked early

hours and country pleasures, and the Queen, like a loyal wife, not merely

consented to his tastes, but made them absolutely her own. Before she had

been married a year, she made the naive pretty confession that 'formerly I

was too happy to go to London and wretched to leave it, and now, since the

blessed hour of my marriage, and still more since the summer, I dislike

and am unhappy to leave the country, and would be content and happy never

to go to town;' adding ingenuously, 'The solid pleasures of a peaceful,

quiet, yet merry life in the country, with my inestimable husband and

friend, my all in all, are far more durable than the amusements of London,

though we don't despise or dislike them sometimes.'

They took breakfast at nine; then they went through details of routine

business, and sketched or played till luncheon, after which the Queen had

a daily interview with Lord Melbourne (prime-minister till the next year).

Then they drove, walked, or rode, dined at eight o'clock, and had pleasant

social circles afterwards, which were broken up before midnight. Both were

fond of art and music. Indeed the Prince-Consort gave a powerful impulse

to that study of classical music which has since become so universal.

Mendelssohn himself praised the Queen's singing, though without flattering

blindness to its faults and shortcomings. And the brightness of life was

all the brighter because it flowed over a substratum of seriousness and

solemnity. The first time that the Queen and her husband partook of holy

communion together, they spent the preceding evening--the vigil of

Easter--in retirement, occupied with good German books, and soothed and

elevated by Mozart's music, for the prince was master of the organ, and

the Queen of the piano. The prince made his maiden speech at a meeting for

the abolition of the slave-trade, speaking in a low tone, and with 'the

prettiest foreign accent.' While she was driving up Constitution Hill, an

attempt was made upon the Queen's life by a weak-minded youth, but luckily

neither of the pistol shots took effect. There have been at least seven

other happily futile attempts on the life of the Queen.

The Princess Royal was born on the 21st November 1840; and the royal

mother, fondly tended by her husband, made a speedy and happy recovery.

Prince Albert's care for the Queen in these circumstances was like that of

a mother.

The Prince of Wales was born on November 9, 1841, and after that the

little family circle rapidly increased, and with it the parents' sense of

responsibility. 'A man's education begins the first day of his life,' said

the prince's tried friend, the wise Baron Stockmar, and the Queen felt it

'a hard case' that the pressure of public business prevented her from

being always with her little ones when they said their prayers. She has

given us her views on religious training:

'I am quite clear that children should be taught to have great reverence

for God and for religion, but that they should have the feeling of

devotion and love which our Heavenly Father encourages His earthly

children to have for Him, and not one of fear and trembling; and that the

thoughts of death and an after-life should not be presented in an alarming

and forbidding view; and that they should be made to know, as yet, no

difference of creeds.'

Court gossips considered the Queen 'to be very fond of her children, but

severe in her manner, and a strict disciplinarian in her family.' A nurse

in the royal household informed Baron Bunsen that 'the children were kept

very plain indeed: it was quite poor living--only a bit of roast meat, and

perhaps a plain pudding.' Other servants have reported that the Queen

would have made 'an admirable poor man's wife.' We used to hear how the

young princesses had to smooth out and roll up their bonnet strings. By

these trifling side-lights we discern a vigorous, wholesome discipline,

striving to counteract the enervating influences of rank and power, and

their attendant flattery and self-indulgence. 'One of the main principles

observed in the education of the royal children was this--that though they

received the best training of body and mind to fit them for the high

position they would eventually have to fill, they should in no wise come

in contact with the actual court life. The children were scarcely known to

the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, as they only now and then made their

appearance for a moment after dinner at dessert, or accompanied their

parents out driving. The care of them was exclusively intrusted to persons

who possessed the Queen and Prince-Consort's entire confidence, and with

whom they could at all times communicate direct.' An artist employed to

decorate the pavilion in the garden of Buckingham Palace, wrote of Her

Majesty and the prince: 'In many things they are an example to the age.

They have breakfasted, heard morning prayers with the household in the

private chapel, and are out some distance from the palace talking to us in

the summer-house before half-past nine o'clock--sometimes earlier. After

the public duties of the day and before their dinner, they come out again

evidently delighted to get away from the bustle of the world to enjoy each

other's society in the solitude of the garden.'

The seaside villa of Osborne, built at the Queen's own charges at a cost

of £200,000, and the remote castle of Balmoral, the creation of the

Prince-Consort, were the favourite homes of the royal household: the

creations as it were, of their domestic love, and inwrought with their own

personalities, as statelier Windsor could never be. In the Swiss cottage

at Osborne, with its museum, kitchen, storeroom, and little gardens, the

young people learned to do household work and understand the management of

a small establishment. The parents were invited as guests, to enjoy the

dishes which the princesses had prepared with their own hands, and there

each child was free to follow the bent of its own industrial inclination.

In the Highlands, again, among the reserved and dignified Scottish

peasantry, the children were encouraged to visit freely, to make

themselves acquainted with the wants and feelings of the poor, and to

regard them with an understanding sympathy and affection.

Sir Robert Peel, who succeeded Lord Melbourne in 1841 as prime-minister,

had the following advice from his predecessor as to his conduct in office,

which shows the Queen's good sense: 'Whenever he does anything, or has

anything to propose, let him explain to her clearly his reasons. The Queen

is not conceited; she is aware there are many things she cannot

understand, and she likes to have them explained to her elementarily, not

at length and in detail, but shortly and clearly.

One of the minor posts in the new ministry was filled by a young member of

parliament, who was destined in after-years to become as celebrated as

Peel himself. This was the distinguished scholar and orator, William Ewart

Gladstone, the son of Sir John Gladstone, a Scotch merchant who had

settled in Liverpool. He was already a power in parliament, and every year

after this saw him rising into greater prominence.

In the new parliament, too, though not in the ministry, was another

member, who afterwards rose to high office, and became very famous. This

was Benjamin Disraeli, son of Disraeli the elder, a distinguished literary

man. Although very clever, Benjamin Disraeli had not as yet obtained any

influence in the House. His first speech, indeed, had been received with

much laughter; but, as he himself had then predicted, a time came at last

when the House did listen to him.

Lady Bloomfield, while maid-of-honour to the Queen, was much in the

society of royalty. The following are extracts from her Reminiscences,

giving a sketch of the life at Windsor in 1843: 'I went to the Queen's

rooms yesterday, and saw her before we began to sing. She was so

thoroughly kind and gracious. The music went off very well. Costa [Sir

Michael] accompanied, and I was pleased by the Queen's telling me, when I

asked her whether I had not better practise the things a little more,

"that was not necessary, as I knew them perfectly." She also said, "If it

was convenient to me, I was to go down to her room any evening to try

the masses." Just as if anything she desired could be inconvenient. We

had a pleasant interview with the royal children in Lady Lyttelton's room

yesterday, and almost a romp with the little Princess Royal and the

Prince of Wales. They had got a round ivory counter, which I spun for

them, and they went into such fits of laughter, it did my heart good to

hear them. The Princess Royal is wonderfully quick and clever. She is

always in the Queen's rooms when we play or sing, and she seems especially

fond of music, and stands listening most attentively, without moving.

'Dec. 18.--We walked with the Queen and prince yesterday to the Home

Farm, saw the turkeys crammed, looked at the pigs, and then went to see

the new aviary, where there is a beautiful collection of pigeons, fowls,

&c., of rare kinds. The pigeons are so tame that they will perch upon

Prince Albert's hat and the Queen's shoulders. It was funny seeing the

royal pair amusing themselves with farming.

'Dec. l9.--My waiting is nearly over, and though I shall be delighted

to get home, I always regret leaving my dear kind mistress, particularly

when I have been a good deal with Her Majesty, as I have been this

waiting. We sang again last night, and after Costa went away, I sorted a

quantity of music for the Queen; and then Prince Albert said he had

composed a German ballad, which he thought would suit my voice, and he

wished me to sing it. So his royal highness accompanied me, and I sang it

at sight, which rather alarmed me; but I got through it, and it is very

pretty. The Duchess of Kent has promised to have it copied for me.'

In 1847 Baron Stockmar wrote: 'The Queen improves greatly. She makes daily

advances in discernment and experience; the candour, the love of truth,

the fairness, the considerateness with which she judges men and things are

truly delightful, and the ingenuous self-knowledge with which she speaks

about herself is simply charming.' It was not perhaps surprising that the

Queen's views and the prince's views on public questions coincided.

When Lord Shaftesbury, then Lord Ashley, delivered a very able speech on

the Mine and Colliery Bill, the Prince-Consort wrote, 'I have carefully

perused your speech, which you were so good as to send me, and I have been

highly gratified by your efforts, as well as horror-stricken by the

statements which you have brought before the country. I know you do not

wish for praise, and I therefore withhold it; but God's best blessing will

rest with you and support you in your arduous but glorious task.'

In 1848, a year of revolution, the Prince-Consort consulted Lord

Shaftesbury as to his attitude towards the working-classes. The interview

took place at Osborne, and the Queen and Prince-Consort were greatly

alarmed by the revolution in France and the exile of Louis-Philippe. 'They

feared the continuance of commotions in England, and were desirous to know

how they could exercise their influence to soothe the people. The Queen,

on my arrival, expressed this sentiment very warmly, and added at dinner,

"The prince will talk to you to-morrow. We have sent for you to have your

opinion on what we should do in view of the state of affairs to show our

interest in the working-classes, and you are the only man who can advise

us in the matter."'

On the following morning, during a long walk of an hour and a half in the

garden, Lord Shaftesbury counselled the prince to put himself at the head

of all social movements in art and science, and especially of those

movements as they bore upon the poor, and thus would he show the interest

felt by royalty in the happiness of the kingdom. The prince did so with

marked success; and after he had presided at a Labourers' Friend Society,

a noted Socialist remarked, 'If the prince goes on like this, why, he'll

upset our apple-cart.'

The poet-laureate is an official attached to the household of royalty, and

it was long his duty to write an ode on the king's birthday. Towards the

end of the reign of George III. this was dropped. On the death of the poet

Wordsworth on 23d April 1850, the next poet-laureate was Alfred Tennyson.

The Queen, it is said, had picked up one of his earlier volumes, and had

been charmed with his 'Miller's Daughter;' her procuring a copy of the

volume for the Princess Alice gave a great impetus to his popularity. No

poet has ever written more truly and finely about royalty, as witness the

dedication to the Idylls of the King, which enshrines the memory of

the Prince-Consort; or the beautiful dedication to the Queen, dated March

1851, which closes thus:

Her court was pure, her life serene;

God gave her peace; her land reposed;

A thousand claims to reverence closed

In her as Mother, Wife, and Queen.

And statesmen at her council met

Who knew the seasons, when to take

Occasion by the hand, and make

The bounds of freedom wider yet.

'It is perhaps natural,' says a contemporary writer, 'for the laureates to

be loyal, but there is no doubt that the sincere tributes which he paid to

the Queen and to her consort contributed materially to the steadying of

the foundation of the British throne. He almost alone among the poets gave

expression to the inarticulate loyalty of the ordinary Englishman, and he

did it without being either servile or sycophantic. If it were only for

his dedication to the Queen and Prince-Consort, he would have repaid a

thousand times over the value of all the bottles of sherry and the annual

stipends the poet-laureates have received since the days of Ben Jonson.'

Mrs Gilchrist writes: 'Tennyson likes and admires the Queen personally

much, enjoys conversation with her. Mrs Tennyson generally goes too, and

says the Queen's manner towards him is childlike and charming, and they

both give their opinions freely, even when these differ from the Queen's,

which she takes with perfect humour, and is very animated herself.' The

Prince-Consort, to whom Tennyson dedicated his Idylls of the King,

Since he held them dear,

Perchance as finding there unconsciously

Some image of himself,

had his copy inscribed with the poet's autograph.

One most characteristic feature of the Queen's reign was the inauguration,

in 1851, of that system of International Exhibitions which has infused a

new and larger spirit into commerce, and whose influence as yet only

begins to work. The idea came from the Prince-Consort, and was carried out

by his unfailing industry, energy, and perseverance. Sir Joseph Paxton's

genius raised a palace of crystal in Hyde Park, inclosing within it some

of the magnificent trees, few, if any, of which were destroyed by the

undertaking. As Thackeray wrote:

A blazing arch of lucid glass

Leaps like a fountain from the grass

To meet the sun.

The Queen took the greatest interest in the work, which she felt was her

husband's. She visited it almost daily, entering into interested

conversation with the manufacturers who had brought their wares for

display. The building was opened on the 1st of May, which the Queen names

in her diary as 'a day which makes my heart swell with pride and glory and

thankfulness.' She dwells lovingly on 'the tremendous cheers, the joy

expressed in every face,' adding, 'We feel happy--so full of thankfulness.

God is indeed our kind and merciful Father.'

After the building had served its purpose, the exhibition building was

removed to Sydenham, a London suburb then almost in the country, and

opened by the Queen, 10th June 1854. Under its new name of the 'Crystal

Palace' it has since been the resort of millions of pleasure-seekers. It

was fondly hoped by its promoters that the Great Exhibition would knit the

nations together in friendship, and 'inaugurate a long reign of peace.'

Yet the year 1851 was not out before Louis Napoleon overthrew the new

French Republic, of which he had been elected president, by a coup

d'état, or 'stroke of policy,' as cruel as it was cowardly. Lord

Palmerston's approval of this outrage, without the knowledge of either the

Queen or Lord John Russell, procured him his dismissal from the cabinet.

Two months later, however, Palmerston 'gave Russell his tit-for-tat,'

defeating him over a Militia Bill.

In the year 1852, amid the anxieties consequent on the sudden assumption

of imperial power by Louis Napoleon, the Queen writes thus to her uncle,

King Leopold: 'I grow daily to dislike politics and business more and

more. We women are not made for governing, and if we are good women, we

must dislike these masculine occupations.'

It was about this time that unjust reports were circulated concerning the

political influence of Prince Albert, who was represented as 'inimical to

the progress of liberty throughout the world, and the friend of

reactionary movements and absolute government.' When parliament was

opened, the prince was completely vindicated, and his past services to the

country, as the bosom counsellor of the sovereign, were made clear. The

Queen naturally felt the pain of these calumnies more deeply than did the

prince himself, but on the anniversary of her wedding day she could write:

'Trials we must have; but what are they if we are together?'

In 1852 the great Duke of Wellington died, full of years and honours. He

passed quietly away in his sleep, in his simple camp-bed in the castle of

Walmer. Though he had been opposed to the Reform Bill and many other

popular measures, he was still loved and respected by the nation for his

high sense of duty and his many sterling qualities. The hero of Waterloo

was laid beside the hero of Trafalgar in St Paul's Cathedral. He was

lowered into his grave by some of his old comrades-in-arms, who had fought

and conquered under him; and from the Queen to the humblest of her

subjects, it was felt on that day 'that a great man was dead.'

Of his death the Queen wrote: 'What a loss! We cannot think of this

country without "the Duke," our immortal hero! In him centred almost every

earthly honour a subject could possess.... With what singleness of

purpose, what straightforwardness, what courage, were all the motives of

his actions guided! The crown never possessed--and I fear never

will--so devoted, loyal, and faithful a subject, so staunch a


An eccentric miser, J. C. Neild, who died 30th August 1852, left £250,000

to Her Majesty. This man had pinched and starved himself for thirty years

in order to accumulate this sum. The Queen satisfied herself that he had

no relations living, before accepting the money.

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