Reign Of Queen Victoria





The reign of Queen Victoria may be aptly described as a period of progress

in all that related to the well-being of the subjects of her vast empire.

In every department of science, literature, politics, and the practical

life of the nation, there has been steady improvement and progress. Our

ships circumnavigate the globe and do the chief carrying trade of the

world. The locomotive binds industrial centres, and abridges time and

space as it speeds along its iron pathway; whilst steam-power does the

work of thousands of hands in our large factories. The telegraph links us

to our colonies, and to the various nationalities of the world, in

commerce and in closer sympathy; and never was the hand and heart of

Benevolence busier than in this later period of the nineteenth century.

Our colonial empire has shared also in the welfare and progress of the

mother-country.



When we come to look into the lives of the Queen and Prince-Consort, we

are thankful for all they have been and done. The wider our survey of

history, and the more we know of other rulers and courts, the more

thankful we shall be that they have been a guiding and balancing power,

allied to all that was progressive, noble, and true, and for the benefit

of the vast empire over which Her Majesty reigns. And the personal example

has been no less valuable in



Wearing the white flower of a blameless life,

Before a thousand peering littlenesses,

In that fierce light which heats upon a throne,

And blackens every blot.



In the year 1819 the family outlook of the British royal house was not a

very bright one. The old king, George III., was lingering on in deep

seclusion, a very pathetic figure, blind and imbecile. His son the Prince

Regent, afterwards George IV., had not done honour to his position, nor

brought happiness to any connected with him. Most of the other princes

were elderly men and childless; and the Prince-Regent's only daughter, the

Princess Charlotte, on whom the hopes of the nation had rested, and whose

marriage had raised those hopes to enthusiasm, was newly laid in her

premature grave.



But almost immediately after Princess Charlotte's death, the king's third

and fourth sons, the Dukes of Clarence and Kent, had married. Of the Duke

of Clarence we need say little more. He and his consort eventually reigned

as William IV. and Queen Adelaide, and they had two children who died in

earliest infancy, and did not further complicate the succession to the

crown.



The Duke of Kent, born in 1767, fourth son of George III.--a tall, stately

man, of soldierly hearing, inclined to corpulency and entirely

bald--married the widowed Princess of Leiningen, already the mother of a

son and a daughter by her first husband. The duke was of active, busy

habits; and he was patron of many charitable institutions--he presided

over no less than seventy-two charity meetings in 1816. Baron Stockmar

describes the Princess of Leiningen after her marriage in 1818, as 'of

middle height, rather large, but with a good figure, with fine brown eyes

and hair, fresh and youthful, naturally cheerful and friendly; altogether

most charming and attractive. She was fond of dress, and dressed well and

in good taste. Nature had endowed her with warm feelings, and she was

naturally truthful, affectionate, and unselfish, full of sympathy, and

generous.' The princely pair lived in Germany until the birth of a child

was expected, when the duke at first thought of taking a house in

Lanarkshire--which would have made Queen Victoria by birth a Scotchwoman.

Eventually, the Duke and Duchess of Kent took up their abode in Kensington

Palace.



On the 24th May 1819, their daughter was born, and she was named

Alexandrina Victoria, after the reigning Emperor of Russia and her mother.

The Prince Regent had wished the name of Georgiana; her own father wished

to call her Elizabeth. The little one was the first of the British royal

house to receive the benefits of Jenner's discovery of vaccination. The

Duke of Kent was so careful of his little girl that he took a cottage at

Sidmouth to escape the London winter. To a friend he wrote: 'My little

girl thrives under the influence of a Devonshire climate, and is, I am

delighted to say, strong and healthy; too healthy, I fear, in the opinion

of some members of my family, by whom she is regarded as an intruder.'

Next winter the Duke came in one day, after tramping through rain and

snow, and played with his little child while in his damp clothes; he thus

contracted a chill from which he never rallied, and died January 23, 1820.



This child was destined to be the Empress-Queen, on whose dominion the sun

never sets. Yet so remote did such a destiny then seem, owing to the

possibilities of the Regent's life, and of children being born to the Duke

of Clarence, that in some courtly biographies of George III. there is no

mention made of the birth of the little princess. Even in their accounts

of the death of her father the Duke of Kent, seven months afterwards, they

do not deem it necessary to state that he left a daughter behind him;

though he, poor man, had never had any doubts of her future importance,

and had been in the habit of saying to her attendants, 'Take care of her,

for she may be Queen of England.' The Duke of Kent was a capable and

energetic soldier, of pure tastes and simple pleasures. In presenting new

colours to the Royal Scots in 1876, the Queen said: 'I have been

associated with your regiment from my earliest infancy, as my dear father

was your colonel. He was proud of his profession, and I was always told to

consider myself a soldier's child.'



The position of the widowed Duchess of Kent, a stranger in a foreign

country, was rather sad and lonely. It was further complicated by

narrowness of means. The old king, her father-in-law, died soon after her

husband. The duchess was a woman of sense and spirit. Instead of yielding

to any natural impulse to retire to Germany, she resolved that her little

English princess should have an English rearing. She found a firm friend

and upholder in her brother Leopold, husband of the late Princess

Charlotte, and afterwards King of the Belgians. On discovering her

straitened means he gave her an allowance of £3000 a year, which was

continued until it was no longer necessary in 1831. As the duke came into

a separate income only at a late period of his life, he had died much in

debt. Long afterwards the Queen said to Lord Melbourne: 'I want to pay all

that remains of my father's debts. I must do it. I consider it a sacred

duty.' And she did not rest till she did it. In reply to an address of

congratulation on the coming of age of the Queen, the Duchess of Kent

said:



'My late regretted consort's circumstances, and my duties, obliged us to

reside in Germany; but the Duke of Kent at much inconvenience, and I at

great personal risk, returned to England, that our child should be "born

and bred a Briton." In a few months afterwards my infant and myself were

awfully deprived of father and husband. We stood alone--almost friendless

and alone in this country; I could not even speak the language of it. I

did not hesitate how to act, I gave up my home, my kindred, my duties [the

regency of Leiningen], to devote myself to that duty which was to be the

whole object of my future life. I was supported in the execution of my

duties by the country. It placed its trust in me, and the Regency Bill

gave me its last act of confidence. I have in times of great difficulty

avoided all connection with any party in the state; but if I have done so,

I have never ceased to press on my daughter her duties, so as to gain by

her conduct the respect and affection of the people. This I have taught

her should be her first earthly duty as a constitutional sovereign.'



The little princess was brought up quietly and wisely at Kensington and

Claremont. In a letter from the Queen to her uncle Leopold, written in

1843, we find the following: 'This place [Claremont] has a particular

charm for us both, and to me it brings back recollections of the happiest

days of my otherwise dull childhood, when I experienced such kindness from

you, dearest uncle, kindness which has ever since continued.... Victoria

[the Princess Royal] plays with my old bricks, &c., and I see her running

and jumping in the flower-garden, as old, though I fear still little,

Victoria of former days used to do.'



Bishop Fulford of Montreal remembered seeing her when four months old in

the arms of her nurse. In the following year she might be seen in a

hand-carriage with her half-sister, the Princess Feodora of Leiningen.

Wilberforce in a letter to Hannah More, July 21, 1820, wrote: 'In

consequence of a very civil message from the Duchess of Kent, I waited on

her this morning. She received me with her fine, animated child on the

floor by her side, with its playthings, of which I soon became one.' She

became familiar to many as a pretty infant, riding on her sleek donkey (a

gift from her uncle the Duke of York) in Kensington Gardens. She used to

be seen in a large straw hat and a white cotton frock, watering the plants

under the palace windows, dividing the contents of the watering-pot

between the flowers and her feet, and often took breakfast with her mother

on the lawn there. There are playful stories told of those happy early

days. The little princess was very fond of music, listening as one

spell-bound when first she heard some of Beethoven's glorious

compositions. But like most children, she rebelled against the drudgery of

scales and finger exercises, and on being told that there is 'no royal

road to music,' she sportively locked the piano and announced that 'the

royal road is never to take a lesson till you feel disposed.'



Sir Walter Scott records in his diary that he dined with the Duchess of

Kent on 19th May 1828. 'I was very kindly received by Prince Leopold, and

presented to the little Victoria--the heir-apparent to the crown as things

now stand. The little lady is educated with much care, and watched so

closely that no busy maid has a moment to whisper "You are heir of

England." I suspect if we could dissect the little heart, we should find

that some pigeon or other bird of the air had carried the matter,

however.' This, it seems, was not the case. Charles Knight has told us how

he one morning saw the household breakfasting in the open air, at a table

on the lawn. It is also related that Victoria took her airings in

Kensington Gardens in a little phaeton drawn by a tiny pony, led by a

page. A dog ran between the legs of the pony one day, frightening it, so

that the little carriage was upset, and the princess would have fallen on

her head, but for the presence of mind of an Irishman who rescued her.

Leigh Hunt saw her once 'coming up a cross-path from the Bayswater gate,

with a girl of her own age by her side, whose hand she was holding as if

she loved her;' and he adds that the footman who followed seemed to him

like a gigantic fairy. When the princess was in her fifth year, George

IV., who acted as one of her godfathers, sent a message to parliament

which resulted in a grant for the cost of the education of his niece.



In 1824, when the princess was five years old, Fräulein Lehzen, a German

lady, became her governess; afterwards she held the post of the Queen's

private secretary, until relieved by the Prince-Consort. She was the

daughter of a Hanoverian pastor, and came to England in 1818 as governess

to the Princess Feodora of Leiningen. In her home letters she records that

'the princess received her in a pretty, childlike way,' and describes her

as 'not tall, but very pretty;' adding that she 'has dark brown hair,

beautiful blue eyes, and a mouth which, though not tiny, is very

good-tempered and pleasant; very fine teeth, a small but graceful figure,

and a very small foot. She was dressed in white muslin with a coral

necklet.' The domestic life was that of any other well-regulated and happy

family. The princess shared her governess's bedroom. They all took their

meals together at a round table. When they did not go to church, the

duchess read a sermon aloud and commented pleasantly on it. As early as

1830 Thomas Moore heard the Princess Victoria sing duets with her mother,

who also sang some pretty German songs herself.



Nor are there lacking traces of strict and chastening discipline. The

princess had been early taught that there are good habits and duties in

the management of money. When she was buying toys at Tunbridge Wells, her

wishes outran her little purse, and the box for which she could not pay

was not carried away on credit, but set aside for her to fetch away when

the next quarter-day would renew her allowance. Fräulein Lehzen says, 'The

duchess wished that when she and the princess drove out, I should sit by

her side, and the princess at the back. Several times I could not prevent

it, but at last she has given in, and says on such occasions with a laugh

to her daughter: "Sit by me, since Fräulein Lehzen wishes it to be so."

But,' says the governess, 'I do not hesitate to remark to the little one,

whom I am most anxious not to spoil, that this consideration is not on her

account, because she is still a child, but that my respect for her mother

disposes me to decline the seat.' Once when the princess was reading how

Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi, introduced her sons to the first of

Roman ladies with the words, 'These are my jewels,' she looked up from her

book, and remarked: 'She should have said my Cornelians.'






Mrs Oliphant remembers of having in her own youth seen the Princess

Victoria, and says: 'The calm full look of her eyes affected me. Those

eyes were very blue, serene, still, looking at you with a tranquil breadth

of expression which, somehow, conveyed to your mind a feeling of

unquestioned power and greatness, quite poetical in its serious

simplicity.' While on a visit to Malvern she climbed walls and trees, and

rode on a donkey. One day she had climbed an apple tree, and could not get

down till relieved by the gardener, who got a guinea for his pains, which

was preserved and neatly framed. On another occasion, at Wentworth House,

the gardener cautioned her: 'Be careful, miss, it's slape' (using a

provincial form for 'slippery'), while she was descending a sloping piece

of turf, where the ground was wet. While she was asking, 'What is

slape?'her feet slid from beneath her, and the old gardener was able

to explain as he lifted her up, 'That's slape, miss.'



Miss Jane Porter, then resident at Claremont, describes the princess as a

beautiful child, with a cherubic form of features, clustered round by

glossy, fair ringlets. Her complexion was remarkably transparent, with a

soft, but often heightening tinge of the sweet blush-rose upon her cheeks,

that imparted a peculiar brilliancy to her clear blue eyes. Whenever she

met any strangers in her usual paths, she always seemed, by the quickness

of her glance, to inquire who and what they were? The intelligence of her

countenance was extraordinary at her very early age, but might easily be

accounted for on perceiving the extraordinary intelligence of her mind. At

Esher Church, even in her sixth year, the youthful princess was accustomed

to devote earnest attention to the sermons preached there, as the Duchess

of Kent was in the habit of inquiring not only for the text, but the heads

of the discourse. 'The sweet spring of the princess's life,' continues

Miss Porter, 'was thus dedicated to the sowing of all precious seeds of

knowledge, and the cultivation of all elegant acquirements.... Young as

she was, she sang with sweetness and taste; and my brother, Sir Robert

(who, when in England, frequently had the honour of dining at Claremont),

often had the pleasure of listening to the infant chorister, mingling her

cherub-like melody with the mature and delightful harmonies of the Duchess

of Kent and Prince Leopold.'



When Fräulein Lehzen died in 1870, her old pupil wrote of her as 'my

dearest, kindest friend, old Lehzen; she knew me from six months old, and

from my fifth to my eighteenth year devoted all her care and energies to

me, with the most wonderful abnegation of self, never even taking one

day's holiday. I adored, although I was greatly in awe of her. She really

seemed to have no thought but for me.' And the future queen profited by it

all, for it has been truly said that, 'had she not been the Queen of

England, her acquirements and accomplishments would have given her a high

standing in society.'



Dr Davys, the future Bishop of Peterborough, was her instructor in Latin,

history, mathematics, and theology, and the Dowager Duchess of

Northumberland had also, after her own mother, a considerable share in her

training.



The Duchess of Kent took her daughter to visit many of the chief cities,

cathedrals, and other places of interest in the British Isles. Her first

public act was to present the colours to a regiment of foot at Plymouth.

An American writer has recorded that he saw the widowed lady and her

little girl in the churchyard of Brading, in the Isle of Wight. They were

seated near the grave of the heroine of a 'short and simple annal of the

poor'--the Dairyman's Daughter, whose story, as told by the Rev. Legh

Richmond, had a great popularity at the time. The duchess was reading from

a volume she carried (probably that one), and the little princess's soft

eyes were tearful.



The princess, it appears, was much devoted to dolls, and played with them

until she was nearly fourteen years old. Her favourites were small wooden

dolls which she would occupy herself in dressing; and she had a house in

which they could be placed. As she had no girl companions, many an hour

was solaced in this manner. She dressed these dolls from some costumes she

saw in the theatre or in private life. A list of her dolls was kept in a

copy-book, the name of each, and by whom it was dressed, and the character

it represented, being given. The dolls seem to have been packed away about

1833. Of the 132 dolls preserved, thirty-two were dressed by the princess.

They range from three to nine inches in height. The sewing and adornment

of the rich coloured silks and satins show great deftness of finger.



Her wise mother withheld her from the pomp and circumstance of the court.

She was not even allowed to be present at the coronation of her uncle, the

Duke of Clarence, when he ascended the throne as William IV. He could not

understand such reticence, was annoyed by it, and expressed his annoyance

angrily. But his consort, good Queen Adelaide, was always kind and

considerate: even when she lost all her own little ones, she could be

generous enough to say to the Duchess of Kent, 'My children are dead, but

yours lives, and she is mine too.'



All doubts as to the princess's relation to the succession were gradually

removed. George IV. had died childless. Both the children of William IV.

were dead. The Princess Victoria therefore was the heiress of England. A

paper had been placed in the volume of history she had been reading, after

perusing which she remarked, 'I never saw this before.'



'It was not thought necessary you should, princess,' the governess

replied.



'I see,' she said timidly, 'that I am nearer the throne than I thought.'



'So it is, madam,' said the governess.



'Now many a child,' observed the princess thoughtfully, 'would boast, but

they don't know the difficulty. There is much splendour, but there is more

responsibility.' And putting her hand on her governess's, she said

solemnly, 'I will be good.' Let that be recorded as among royal vows

that have been faithfully fulfilled.



In August 1835, the Princess Victoria was confirmed in the Chapel Royal,

St James's, by the Archbishop of Canterbury; and she was so much moved by

the solemn service, that at the close of it she laid her head on her

mother's breast, and sobbed with emotion.





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