Nis! Nis! Nis! Hurrah!





Few men in England worked as hard as Prince Albert, the uncrowned King.

If a corner stone of a school, a hospital, or a public building was to

be laid, a missionary society to be formed, some new docks to be

founded, a museum to be opened, Prince Albert must be present. He must

attend naval reviews, councils to discuss reforms at Cambridge, dinners

of scientific men, and first meetings of societies to aid superannuated

servants. He must not only be seen, but he must be heard, for he was

expected to make a speech on every occasion. In fact, whenever he

opened the door of his own rooms, some delegation seemed to be waiting

to ask him to attend a meeting and make a speech.



All these demands upon his time took him away from the Queen, and every

absence made her lonely. She wrote to King Leopold: "You cannot think

how forlorn I am when he is away; all the numerous children are as

nothing. It seems as if the whole light of the house and home were

gone." Prince Albert never let a day pass during any of these absences

without writing to her. Once when he went to an important meeting of

scientific men, he sent back the same day a little note that said: "I

have locked myself in to send you two lines as a token of my life and

love. You will be feeling somewhat lonely and forsaken among the two

and a half millions of human beings in London, and I too feel the want

of only one person to give a world of life to everything around me."

The following day he sent her another letter, although it could reach

her only two hours before his own arrival. However pressing his

business might be, he always found time to write a word to her. One of

these notes read:



"Your faithful husband, agreeably to your wishes, reports:



"1. That he is still alive;



"2. That he has discovered the North Pole from Lincoln Cathedral, but

without finding either Captain Ross or Sir John Franklin;



"3. That he has arrived at Brocklesby, and received the address;



"4. That he subsequently rode out, and got home quite covered with

snow, and with icicles on his nose;



"5. That the messenger is waiting to carry off this letter, which you

will have in Windsor by the morning;



"6. Last, not least (in the dinner-speeches' phrase), that he loves his

wife, and remains her devoted husband."



In the midst of all these engagements, the home life and the education

of the children were not neglected. Lord Melbourne and Baron Stockmar

had been consulted in regard to tutors and nursery arrangements as

earnestly as on important political actions. Bishop Davys lived so

simply that the Queen could not disturb him by a royal visit, but

whenever she passed through Peterborough, she had her train delay so

that he could come to her, and she could talk with him about the

children and have his advice in regard to their training and their

future. Lessons were important matters in the royal family, and if the

governess was ill, either the Queen or the Prince heard the children

recite, so that there should be no loss. There is a story that when a

clergyman, who was hearing them say the catechism, remarked, "Your

governess has taught you very thoroughly," they cried, "Oh, mamma

always teaches us our catechism." She was interested in every detail of

their lives, and when the man who made the clothes of the sailors on

the Victoria and Albert made a tiny sailor suit for the little Prince

of Wales, she seemed as pleased as if one suit a year was the limit of

the royal purse.




Royal; Albert Edward, Prince of Wales; Prince Alfred; Princess Alice;

Princess Helena.

(From painting by F. Winterhalter, 1848.)]



Besides the calls of home and state, many other responsibilities fell

upon the sovereign of England. In the latter part of 1851, trade was

very dull in London, and the Queen decided to give a great fancy ball

at Buckingham Palace so that sales might be increased. All the guests

were asked to come in the costume of the time of the Stuarts, and this

was so gay and picturesque that the ballroom must have been a most

brilliant sight. The Queen wore a gray dress, but it was hardly as

simple as one would expect from those two words, for it was glittering

with gold and silver lace, while clusters of diamonds flashed forth

from bows of rose-colored ribbon. The front of the dress opened to

display a cloth-of-gold stomacher and underskirt made gorgeous with

large emeralds. Strings of pearls were braided in with her hair, and

upon her head she wore a small crown of diamonds and emeralds. Her

gloves and shoes were heavily embroidered with gold. The costume of the

Prince was a veritable rainbow, for he was all aglow in an orange coat,

with its sleeves turned up with crimson velvet, breeches of crimson

velvet, and stockings of lavender silk. This was not all by any means,

for there were pink epaulets, pink satin bows, gold lace, a silver

baldric, and a hat with long white ostrich feathers.



The Queen and the Prince retained their seats while the guests entered,

each one making a low bow in passing. No one would have thought a royal

ball complete without "the Duke," and he appeared in the dress of a

Stuart general, his scarlet coat adorned with gold lace and point lace,

and its sleeves slashed with white satin. Blue velvet trunks, crimson

silk sash, white hat with blue plumes, and gold lace wherever there was

room for it, completed his costume. So much he would concede to the

state ball, but he utterly refused to appear in the long curls of the

Stuart period, and in spite of all his gay trappings, he was still the

stern old commander.



Another great ball given by the Lord Mayor of London followed this one,

and it is no wonder that Queen and Prince were glad to leave London for

a little rest. This time and many other times they went to Scotland.

They loved Osborne, but the Prince was feeling the strain of his

intense work, and the physicians thought that the air of the mountains

would be better for him than that of the sea. Therefore they went to

Balmoral, a charming little gray castle that they had bought. It stood

on the banks of the swiftly flowing River Dee, in the midst of hills

and forests. The life at Balmoral was far more simple than that of many

non-royal families. Of course a Cabinet Minister was always in

attendance, and messengers with boxes of state dispatches were

continually coming and going; but there was much greater freedom than

the Queen could enjoy elsewhere. In the early years at Balmoral, the

English court consisted of the Queen, the Prince, their four children,

the two teachers, and four other persons, secretaries and ladies in

attendance.



At Balmoral they climbed mountains, searched for crystals and

cairngorms, took long walks through the woods, made little picnics far

up in the hills and built a cairn, or great pile of stones, each person

placing one in turn, to mark the new ownership of the place. At dinner,

the Prince wore the Scotch dress, and the Queen often wore over her

shoulder a scarf of Stuart plaid. While the Prince was out shooting in

the morning, she frequently ran about among the cottages, chatting

easily and comfortably with the cottagers, comparing the height and

weight of the latest royal baby with the latest baby of the

neighborhood, going to the little stores in the village to buy dresses

for poor people and toys for their children. On Sunday she went to the

kirk like a true Scotchwoman, and one day she wrote in her journal

enthusiastic praise of Dr. McLeod's sermons, because they were so

"simple and eloquent," she said. She was never pleased to have a

minister pay her any special attention in his sermons; she liked to

have him look upon her as only one more of his people; but she wrote

that when Dr. McLeod prayed for her and the Prince, and then said

"Bless their children," it gave her "a lump in the throat."



In their everyday life the royal family were Scotch when they were in

Scotland. The English children of the palace wore kilts and tartans,

they played in the brooks with the Scotch children of the cottages; and

the Princess Royal of England walked into a wasps' nest and met the

same fate that would have befallen any little Scotch girl who had done

the same thing. A Highland dancing master and a fiddler were engaged to

come to Balmoral and teach the Queen and her court how to dance

Scottish reels and strathspeys. One evening, after an early dinner, the

court set off for a fourteen-mile drive to see a Scotch ball at a

neighboring castle. It must have been a weird and beautiful sight. The

dancing floor was out of doors, and all around it stood Highlanders in

their gay plaids, holding blazing torches, while seven pipers provided

the music. One of the reels was danced by eight Highlanders, each

bearing a torch. Another interesting sight was the sword dance. In this

two swords crossed were laid upon the ground, and the performer must

dance around them without touching them.



As in the case of Osborne, it was soon apparent that the pretty little

gray castle was not large enough for the Queen's housekeeping. "Every

bed in the house was full," wrote Mr. Greville when he had been

spending a night at Balmoral. A new house was decided upon, and when

the corner stone was laid, there was one of the little family

celebrations that were so delightful to both Queen and Prince. The sun

shone brightly on the stone, as it hung over the place that it was to

occupy. The servants of the castle stood in a semicircle on one side,

and the workmen behind them. The royal family and their guests came out

of the house together and took their places on the opposite side. A

clergyman offered up a prayer for a blessing on the work and on the new

home. A parchment giving the date on which the stone was laid was

signed by every member of the royal family and put into a bottle,

together with the current coins of the country. The bottle was sealed

and placed in the cavity; the architect gave the Queen a trowel to

spread the mortar; and the stone was lowered. The Queen then struck the

stone with a mallet, and said: "I now declare that this corner stone is

laid." She poured oil upon it in token of plenty, and wine in token of

gladness; the pipers played; the workmen had a feast and a dance; and

the new house was begun.



When the house was partly done, the builder came to Prince Albert and

said:



"The price of materials has risen so greatly that keeping this contract

will ruin me."



"Tell me just what the prices are now and what they were when we made

the contract," said the Prince. The builder made a rapid list and gave

it to him.



A few days later, the Prince sent for the builder and said:



"I find that you are right, and so I have burned my copy of the

contract. I will be the builder myself, and if you will superintend the

work of building, I will pay you the same amount that you expected to

make on the contract."



Only a few days after one of the simple, merry evenings at Balmoral, a

telegram broke into the happiness of the household, saying that the

Duke of Wellington was dead. "One cannot think of this country without

the Duke," wrote the Queen. "Not an eye will be dry. He was Britain's

pride, her glory, her hero, the greatest man she had ever produced." A

public funeral was given him by order of Parliament. His body lay in

state in a great hall whose walls were heavily draped with black,

relieved only by the banners that he had captured in battle. Guardsmen

as motionless as statues stood at intervals along the passage, leaning

upon their muskets, which rested, muzzles down, on the door. On the

coffin lay the Duke's sword and his cocked hat, and around the bier

stood officers on guard, whose scarlet uniforms shone out of the

darkness in the light of the tall wax candles that outlined the bier.

Finally the body of the Duke was borne to St. Paul's on an iron

gun-carriage, followed by the dead commander's horse with its empty

saddle and by a long line of soldiers representing every regiment.

Thousands of people lined the street through which the funeral

cortege marched. They stood with bared heads and in such perfect

silence that not a sound was heard but the steady tramp of feet and the

roll of the funeral drums. So it was that the great soldier was buried

amid the grief of the nation.



Never was he needed more, for the sound of war was coming near. The

Emperor Nicholas, whom the Queen had called so "easy to get along

with," proved to be somewhat less easy than he had been when on a

visit. He had declared that he should protect the Christians in Turkey

from the outrages of the Turks; but France and England believed that

what he was really aiming at was to get possession of Constantinople.

If he succeeded in this, no ship could enter the Black Sea against his

will, and it would not be impossible for him to gain control of the

Asiatic lands then ruled by Great Britain. If this came to pass, Russia

would be far more powerful than any other state in Europe. This was the

belief of England and France, and they wished to oppose him.



The Queen was always against war, but when it was finally declared,

early in 1854, she did everything in her power for the success of

England. When the first regiments that were ready to go to the Crimea

marched through the courtyard of Buckingham Palace, she and the Prince

stood on the balcony as enthusiastic as the troops. Then she hastened

to Osborne to say farewell to the warships that were starting for the

Baltic. Prince Alfred had already made up his mind to be a sailor, and

the Duke's little namesake was destined to follow the Duke's example

and be a soldier, but they were as yet only small children, and the

Queen exclaimed, "How I wish I had two sons in the army now and two in

the navy!" Nothing that affected the war was too great or too small for

her to notice, and she had a definite opinion on every subject.



"Your Majesty," said Lord Aberdeen, the Prime Minister, "it is proposed

to have a day of humiliation and fasting for the success of our arms."



"I approve most heartily of a day of prayer," declared the Queen, "but

not of calling it a day of humiliation. We are not humiliated. It is

not our wickedness, but the selfish ambition and want of honesty of the

Emperor which have brought on this war. We believe that our cause is

just, and that we are contending for what is right."



"But it has long been the custom to call such days times of fasting and

prayer," the Prime Minister suggested.



"We will thank God for the blessings we have enjoyed," said the Queen,

"and ask His help and protection, but it is my particular wish that we

call the day one of prayer and supplication."



The war was begun, and during the two years following, no one in the

land suffered more intensely than the Queen. A powerful nation is

always inclined to expect that its enemies may be crushed at a blow,

but Russia was not so easily crushed.



The Queen was prepared for battles lost and battles won, but not for

blunders and poor management; and to a woman as prompt and as careful

of details as she, such faults were unpardonable. Before many months

came the report of the Charge of the Light Brigade, which Tennyson has

made famous in his poem. This useless charge by which six hundred men

were sent to attack an army was caused by a mistake. "Someone had

blundered." Thousands of copies of the poem were printed and sent to

the soldiers who were besieging Sebastopol.



The Queen was in constant anxiety. Telegrams were false and misleading,

and if one brought good news in the morning, she dared not rejoice lest

it should be contradicted before night. It was then that the work of

the "special correspondent" began, for a physician who was at the scene

of the war sent letters to the London Times, and for the first time,

the people at home knew the daily life of their soldiers.



The story told in the columns of the Times was a narration of

terrible suffering, which was all the worse because so much of it

was unnecessary. It does not seem possible that such stupid blunders

could have been made. Food was sent that was not fit to eat. A whole

shipload of much-needed shoes braved the storms of the Atlantic and

Mediterranean--and proved to be all for the left foot! Clothes,

blankets, and medicines in generous quantities lay in the holds of

English vessels off Balaklava Bay, while men were dying for the lack

of them. Shiploads of cattle arrived at Balaklava, and instead of

being driven to the front, where there was sore need of beef, they

were killed at once, and then came a long delay in arranging for

transportation. The trouble was that it was no one's business to

transport the stores, and no one had the right to interfere. The

hospitals were so inefficient that nine-tenths of the men who died,

perished of disease and mismanagement, and not from the bullets of the

Russians.



When such news as this reached England, the whole country was aroused,

but it was helpless. There was no time to change the organization of

the conflicting "departments," and the Minister of War finally decided

to do exactly what the Romans used to do in times of great difficulty:

he appointed a dictator, with full power to go to the Crimea and do

precisely as she thought best in making arrangements for the sick and

wounded soldiers. This dictator was a woman named Florence Nightingale.

She had a large fortune and a beautiful home, but she cared more for

helping the sick than for living in luxury. For more than ten years she

had been studying nursing, not only in England, but in France and

Germany. Late in 1854 she went to the Crimea, taking forty-two nurses

with her. It was no small task that she had undertaken, for in a short

time ten thousand sick men were in her charge. The sanitary

arrangements of the camp and the hospital were all in her hands. She

was a gentle, modest woman, by nature shy and retiring, but where the

comfort of her soldiers was concerned, she would never yield a point to

anyone. "She had a voice of velvet and a will of steel," they said of

her; and as she walked down the long aisles of the hospitals--in one of

them the rows of beds stretched along for nearly two and a half

miles--the poor sufferers kissed her very shadow. It was of her that

Longfellow wrote:



"And slow, as in a dream of bliss,

The speechless sufferer turns to kiss

Her shadow, as it falls

Upon the darkening walls."



Meanwhile, the Queen was doing all in her power for the soldiers and

their families. A Patriotic Fund was begun, and it soon reached

$5,000,000. The "Soldier's Daughter" and her older girls sewed and knit

for the army, the Prince of Wales, who was now thirteen years of age,

painted a picture to be sold for the fund--no small contribution, for

it brought nearly three hundred dollars--and the two older Princesses

talked, as they sat knitting, about Miss Nightingale, and wished they

could go to the Crimea and work by her side. At the opening of

Parliament, the Queen began her speech bravely, but when she spoke of

the war, her self-control failed her, and she struggled through the

sentences as best she could with her eyes full of tears.



News of victories came, but nothing could be decisive except the

capture of Sebastopol. "If we could only take Sebastopol!" she was

always saying to herself, and one of her children said to a general who

was starting for the Crimea, "Do hurry and take Sebastopol, or it will

kill mamma." In September, 1855, the royal family and the Duchess of

Kent were at Balmoral, when late one evening on the third day after

their arrival, two telegrams were brought in, one for the Queen, and

one for the Cabinet Minister.



"Good news," exclaimed the Queen. "This tells the details of the

destruction of the Russian ships."



"But I have still better news," said the Minister. "Mine reads,

'Sebastopol is in the hands of the allies.'"



"Come and light the bonfire," cried Prince Albert, and he started up

Craig Gowan, the hill opposite the house, where material for a bonfire

had been piled up nearly a year before in the hope that Sebastopol

would fall before the Queen had to return to London.



The gentlemen of the court hastened after the Prince, in full evening

dress as they were. The little Princes were awakened and hurriedly

dressed, and they followed after their father. The servants followed,

the keepers, the workmen, the whole population of the village. The

fires blazed out and shone on all the peaks round about. The people in

the valleys knew what it meant, and they too hurried to the top of the

hill. There was cheering, dancing, shouting, playing of bagpipes, and

firing of guns. "It was a veritable witches' dance," declared the

Prince when he came down. He was soon followed by the rest of the

people, and when they were under the Queen's window, they sang to the

music of the bagpipes, they fired guns, and then they cheered the

Queen, the Prince, the Emperor of France, and last they gave a

deafening "Nis! nis! nis! hurrah, for the fall of Sebastopol!"



It would seem as if this was excitement enough for one month, but four

days later, the young Prince Frederick William of Prussia came to

Balmoral to make a visit; and before the visit had lasted two weeks,

there was a pretty little scene on the mountain side when he gave

Princess "Vicky" a piece of white heather, the emblem of good fortune,

and contrived to make it clear to her that the best fortune which could

happen to him would be the gift of her hand. A few days before this,

the father and mother and their guest had agreed that nothing should be

said to the Princess for six months, but the secret had found its way

out.



The Princess Victoria had always been Baron Stockmar's special

favorite, and she as well as her father wrote their good friend at

once, and sent him the news that the kindly old match-maker had been

waiting for since the Princess was a little child, for such a marriage

would make a strong alliance between England and Prussia, the two great

Protestant powers of Europe. Prince Albert wrote, "The Prince is really

in love, and the little lady does her best to please him. Come to us

soon. We have so much to talk over." A little later, he wrote again of

his hope that he should soon hear the children say, "Do you know, papa,

that the Baron is in his room below?" He closed, "We positively must

have some talk face to face."



The Princess was to be confirmed in the spring, and until that event

was past, nothing was to be said in public of the engagement. The

marriage was not to take place until at least a year after the

confirmation, but Prince Albert felt that the time was far too short

for the preparation that her future position would make desirable; and,

busy man as he was, he set apart an hour every evening to talk with her

on historical topics, and listen to the papers which she prepared on

subjects that he had given her. In the spring came her confirmation,

which was preceded by an examination in the catechism held in the

presence of her father and mother, the Duchess of Kent, and the

Archbishop of Canterbury.



This betrothal of the eldest daughter brought to the Queen mingled

feelings of pleasure and pain; pleasure, because the alliance with

Prussia, so desirable an arrangement for both countries, was to be

brought about by a marriage that promised the happiness of her

daughter; pain, because that marriage was the first break in the family

circle. Nevertheless, in joy or in sorrow, the public life of the

sovereign must go on. Many of the soldiers who had been severely

wounded were sent home. The Queen had often visited them in the

hospitals, and one day she said to her Minister:



"Those brave men ought to have medals that they can hand down to their

children, and I have ordered a number to be made."



As the day appointed for the distribution of the medals drew near, the

Minister asked if she would have them sent to the men.



"No," replied the Queen with decision, "I want to put those medals into

their hands myself. I feel as if those men were my own children."



It was a pitiable company of sufferers that she met. There were men

with deep red scars, men with empty sleeves, men tottering up to her on

crutches to touch the hand of their Queen. Many of them would not give

up their medals to be marked with their names, lest they should not

receive again the very ones that the Queen had given them. One man was

wheeled up in a chair. He had lost one leg and the foot from the other,

but he had refused to give up the command of his battery till the fight

was over, and had given his orders as calmly as if he had not been

touched.



"Such bravery as that," cried the Queen, with tears in her eyes, "calls

for more than a medal, and you shall be one of my aides-de-camp."



"That pays me amply for everything," he replied. The Queen wrote the

account of this incident to King Leopold. "One must revere and love

such soldiers as those," she added.



She was never weary of visiting the hospitals and camps. As the

regiments returned from the Crimea in the spring and summer of 1856,

there were reviews without end. On one occasion she reviewed eighteen

thousand troops. She was dressed in the uniform of a field marshal,

with a dark blue skirt; and as she rode down the front and returned by

the rear, the thousands of men presented arms, and the bands of twenty

regiments gave her a joyful greeting. Then she rode to a little mound

from which she watched her troops as they filed past her.



There was no limit to the enthusiasm and loyalty which were aroused by

the presence of the Queen. One review was held in a pelting rain. The

evolutions were spoiled, and the men had every reason to feel gloomy

and disappointed but the Queen saved the day, for she rose in her

carriage and made them a warm-hearted little speech of welcome that was

like a flash of sunshine. When she closed with, "I thank God that your

dangers are over, while the glory of your deeds remains," there was a

wild outburst of cheers. The men waved their hats, their sabers,

anything and everything that would wave, and shouted till the hills

echoed.



The sailors were no less loyal. During this same summer, there was a

superb naval review off Spitshead which the Queen witnessed from the

royal yacht. Two hundred and forty ships of war were assembled, but

that was not all, for the Queen's suite alone consisted of thirty

steamships, and there were many hundred private steamboats and sailing

vessels. Every foot of the shore that would give a view of the warships

was crowded with spectators, and they had a sight well worth the

seeing. Ships and steamers were beautifully decorated with flags and

crowded with guests. The men-of-war were drawn up in a double line, and

the royal yacht steamed slowly along between them. Every vessel manned

its yards and fired a royal salute as the Queen passed. The most

enthusiastic cheering echoed and reechoed. Then came a mimic naval

attack on Southsea Castle, and the brilliant day was at an end.



One thing more the Queen planned to do for her soldiers, and that was

to give a badge of special honor to those who had been especially

distinguished by some deed of rare bravery. This badge was the Victoria

Cross, which was then bestowed for the first time. With it went a

pension of fifty dollars a year. More than one hundred thousand people

assembled in Hyde Park to see the sixty-two chosen heroes receive their

Crosses. The Queen was now in the scarlet jacket of the army. Prince

Albert rode on one side of her and Prince Frederick William on the

other side. She remained on horseback during the whole ceremony,

leaning forward as one brave fighter after another was led up to her,

and pinning the Cross on his breast.



The woman whose battles had been, not with Russians, but with

mismanagement and inefficiency, lingered in the Crimea until she had

seen every soldier leave for home, then she herself returned as quietly

as if she had been on a pleasure trip. She seemed to have entirely

forgotten that thousands of men in England would have been lying in

Crimean graves had it not been for her; but the men remembered, and

England gave her such a welcome as even the Duke of Wellington had

hardly received. She was an honored guest at Balmoral. Everyone was

longing to do something for her, but what should it be? "Make her a

gift," said the people, "and let her do with it as she will." Two

hundred and fifty thousand dollars was raised by popular subscription

and presented to her. She did with it as she would; she endowed schools

for the training of nurses to carry on the work that she loved.





My Reasons For Honoring The Queen Old Age facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Feedback