Royal Occupations An Attempt On The Queen's Life

The family arrangements in the marriage of the Queen and Prince Albert

appear to have been made with the kindest, most judicious consideration

for what was due to former ties, that all the relations of life might be

settled gradually and naturally, on the footing which it was desirable

they should assume. The connection between the Queen and the Duchess of

Kent was very close. It was that of a mother and child who had been nearly

all in all to each other, who, till Queen Victoria's marriage, had not

been separated for a day. Since the Duchess of Kent's arrival in England,

she had never dwelt alone. It was now deemed advisable that she should

have a separate house, which was, however, to be in constant communication

with the Queen's, the intercourse between the two continuing to be of the

most intimate character, mother and daughter meeting daily and sharing the

most of their pleasures. In April, two months after the marriage, the

Duchess removed to Ingestrie House, Belgrave Square.

In another month, on the 7th of May, Prince Ernest left England. The

parting between the brothers was a severe trial to both. They bade

farewell, German student fashion, singing together beforehand the parting

song Abschied.

The young couple were now left in a greater measure to themselves to form

their life, and lead it to noble conclusions. They spent the Queen's

birthday in private at Claremont--a place endeared to her by the happiest

associations of her childhood, and very pleasant to him because of its

country attractions. There the pair could wander about the beautiful

grounds and neighbourhood, as another royal pair had wandered before them,

and do much as they pleased, like simple citizens or great folks living

in villeggiatura. The custom was then established of thus keeping

the real birthday together in retirement, while another day was set apart

for public rejoicing.

There is a story told of the Queen and Prince Albert's early visits to

Claremont--a story certainly not without its parallel in the lives of

other popular young sovereigns in their honeymoons, but probable enough in

this case. The couple were caught in a shower, during one of their longer

rambles, and took refuge in a cottage--the old mistress of which was

totally unacquainted with the high rank of her guests. She entertained

them with many extraordinary anecdotes of Princess Charlotte and Prince

Leopold, the original heroine and hero of Claremont. At last the dame

volunteered to give her visitors the loan of her umbrella, with many

charges to Prince Albert that it should be taken care of and returned to

its owner. The Queen and the Prince started on their homeward way under

the borrowed shelter, and it was not for some time that the donor knew

with whom she had gossipped, and to whom she had dealt her favours.

The Prince's first appearance as an art patron took place in connection

with the Ancient Music Concerts. He had already been named one of the

directors who arrange in turn each concert. He made the selections for his

concert on the 29th of April, and both he and the Queen appeared at the

rehearsal on the 27th. Perhaps the gentle science was what he loved above

every other, being a true German in that as in all else. At this time he

played and sang much with the Queen; the two played together often on the

organ in one of his rooms. Lady Lyttelton has described the effect of his

music. "Yesterday evening, as I was sitting here comfortably after the

drive by candlelight, reading M. Guizot, suddenly there arose from the

room beneath, oh, such sounds! It was Prince Albert, dear Prince Albert,

playing on the organ; and with such master skill, as it appeared to me,

modulating so learnedly, winding through every kind of bass and chord,

till he wound up with the most perfect cadence, and then off again, louder

and then softer. No tune, as I was too distant to perceive the execution

or small touches so I only heard the harmony, but I never listened with

much more pleasure to any music. I ventured at dinner to ask him what I

had heard. 'Oh! my organ, a new possession of mine. I am so fond of the

organ! It is the first of instruments; the only instrument for expressing

one's feelings' (I thought, are they not good feelings that the organ

expresses?), 'and it teaches to play; for on the organ a mistake, oh! such

misery;' and he quite shuddered at the thought of the sostenuto


But while the Prince was an enthusiastic musician, he was likewise fond of

painting; his taste and talent in this respect also having been carefully

cultivated. In these sunshiny early days, sunshiny in spite of their

occasional clouds, he still possessed a moderate amount of leisure,

notwithstanding the late hours night and morning, of which the Queen took

the blame, declaring it was her fault that they breakfasted at ten,

getting out very little--a practice quite different from their later

habits. He seized the opportunity of starting various pursuits which

formed afterwards the chief recreation of his and the Queen's laborious

days. He tried etching, which afforded the two much entertainment, and he

began his essays in landscape gardening, developing a delightful faculty

with which she had the utmost sympathy.

On the 1st of June the Prince took the initiatory step in identifying

himself with moral and social progress, and in placing himself, as the

Queen's representative, at the head of those humane and civilising

movements which recommended themselves to his good judgment and

philanthropic spirit. He complied with the request that he should be

chairman at a meeting to promote the abolition of the slave trade, and

made his first public speech in advocacy of justice between man and man.

This speech was no small effort to a young foreigner, who, however

accomplished, was certainly not accustomed to public speaking in a foreign

tongue. It was like delivering a maiden speech under great difficulties,

and as it was of importance that he should produce a good impression, he

spared no preparation for the task. He composed the speech himself, learnt

it by heart, and repeated it to the Queen in the first instance.

Among the crowd present was the young Quaker lady, Caroline Fox, whose

"Memories" have been given to the world. She wrote at the time: "The

acclamations attending his (the Prince's) entrance were perfectly

deafening, and he bore them all with calm, modest dignity, repeatedly

bowing with considerable grace. He certainly is a very beautiful young

man, a thorough German, and a fine poetic specimen of the race. He uttered

his speech in a rather low tone and with the prettiest foreign accent."

On the 18th of the same month great horror and indignation were excited by

the report of an attempt to assassinate the Queen. About six o'clock on

the June evening, her Majesty was driving, according to her usual custom,

with Prince Albert. The low open phaeton, attended by two equeries, was

proceeding up Constitution Hill, on its way first to the house of the

Duchess of Kent in Belgrave Square and afterwards to Hyde Park. Suddenly a

little man leaning against the park railing drew a pistol from under his

coat and fired at her Majesty, who was sitting at the farther side from

him. He was within six yards of the phaeton--so near, in fact, that the

Queen, who was looking another way, neither saw him nor comprehended for a

moment the cause of the loud noise ringing in her ears. But Prince Albert

had seen the man hold something towards them, and was aware of what had

occurred. The horses started and the carriage stopped. The Prince called

to the postillions to drive on, while he caught the Queen's hands and

asked if the fright had not shaken her, but the brave royal heart only

made light of his alarm. He looked again, and saw the same man still

standing in a theatrical attitude, a pistol in each hand. The next instant

the fellow pointed the second pistol and fired once more. Both the Queen

and the Prince saw the aim, as well as heard the shot, on this occasion,

and she stooped, he pulling her down that the ball might pass over her

head. In another moment the man, who still leant against the railing,

pistols in hand, with much bravado and without any attempt to escape, was

seized by a bystander. In the middle of the consternation and wrath of the

gathering crowd, the Queen and the Prince went on to the Duchess of Kent

that they might be the first to tell her what had happened and assure her

of the safety of her daughter. A little later, in order to show the people

that the Queen had not lost her confidence in them, the couple carried out

their original intention of taking a drive in Hyde Park. There they were

received with a perfect ovation, a crowd of nobility and gentry in

carriages and on horseback forming a volunteer escort on the way back to

Buckingham Palace, where another multitude awaited them, vehemently

cheering, as the Queen, pale but smiling and bowing, re-entered her

palace. The wretched lad who was the author of the attack did not deny it,

but seemed rather sorry that it had failed to inflict any injury, though

he had no motive to allege for such a crime. In spite of the strictest

search no ball could be found, which left the question doubtful whether or

not the pistols had been loaded. On further examination it proved that the

lad, Edward Oxford--not above eighteen years of age, was a discharged

barman from a public-house in Oxford Street. His father, who was dead, had

been a working jeweller in Birmingham.

"It would be difficult to describe the state of loyal excitement into

which the Metropolis has been thrown by this event," says the Annual

Register. "It seems as if only the dastardly deed had been wanted to

bring out the full love and devotion of the people to their young Queen,"

the happy wife and expectant mother, whose precious life might have been

cut short by the unlooked-for shot of an assassin. At the different

theatres and concerts that evening "God save the Queen" was sung with

passionate fervour. When the Queen and Prince Albert drove out the next

afternoon in the same phaeton, at the same hour, in Hyde Park, the

demonstration of the previous day was repeated with effusion. The crowd

was immense, the cheering was again vociferous. An improvised body-guard

of hundreds of gentlemen on horseback surrounded the couple. "The line of

carriages (calling at Buckingham Palace to make inquiries) extended a

considerable way down the Mall." The calls were incessant till the

procession from the Houses of Parliament arrived. Thousands of people

assembled to witness it. The Sheriffs of London came first in four

carriages. Then the Grenadier Guards with their band marched through the

gateway, on which the royal standard was hoisted, and took up their

position in the entrance court. The Cabinet Ministers and chief Officers

of the Household followed. The State carriage of the Speaker led the

hundred and nine carriages filled with Members of the House of Commons.

The Peers' carriages were upwards of eighty in number. The occupants,

beginning with the Barons, rose in rank till they reached the Royal Dukes,

and wound up with the Lord Chancellor. "Many of the Lords wore splendid

uniforms and decorations and various orders; the Duke of Wellington

especially was attired with much magnificence.... The terrace in front of

the house was crowded with distinguished persons in grand costume," as on

a gala-day. The Queen received the address of congratulation on her escape

seated on the throne. What a strange contrast between the scene and its

origin--the emphatically stately and dignified display, and the miserable

act which gave rise to it! What blended feelings cause and effect must

have produced in the principal performers--the inevitable pain and shame

for the base reason, the well-warranted pride and pleasure in the

honourable result!

The first time the Queen went to the opera afterwards she wrote in her

Journal that the moment she and the Prince entered the box "the whole

house rose and cheered and waved hats and handkerchiefs, and went on so

for some time. 'God save the Queen' was sung.... Albert was called for

separately and much cheered."

The trial of Oxford came on during the following month. The question of

bullets or no bullets in the pistols was transferred to the jury. Evidence

of symptoms of insanity and of confirmed insanity in the prisoner, his

father, and grandfather, was shown, and after some difficulty in dealing

with the first question the jury found the prisoner guilty, while he was

at the same time declared insane. Therefore Oxford, like every other

prisoner shielded by the irresponsibility of madness, was delivered up to

be dealt with according to her Majesty's pleasure, which signified his

imprisonment so long as the Crown should see fit.

The sole reason for the outrage on the Queen proved to be the morbid

egotism of an ill-conditioned, ignorant, half-crazy lad; showing that one

more danger exists for sovereigns--a peril born entirely of their high and

solitary rank with its fascination for envious, irritable, distempered


The following routine of the Queen's life at this time is given in the

"Early Years of the Prince Consort": "They breakfasted at nine, and took a

walk every morning soon afterwards."

In London, their walks were in Buckingham Palace gardens, fifty acres in

extent, part of which was once the pleasant "Mulberry Gardens" of James I.

The lake, not far from the palace, covers five acres. Looking across the

velvet sward away to the masses of shady trees, it is hard to realise that

one is still in London. The Prince had already enlivened these gardens

with different kinds of animals and aquatic birds, a modified version of

the Thier-Garten so often found in connection with royal residences

in Germany.

The Queen mentions that, "in their morning walks in the gardens, it was a

great amusement to the Prince to watch and feed these birds. He taught

them to come when he whistled to them from a bridge connecting a small

island with the rest of the gardens.

"Then came the usual amount of business (far less heavy, however, then

than now), besides which they drew and etched a great deal together, which

was a source of great amusement, having the plates bit in the house.

Luncheon followed at the usual hour of two o'clock. Lord Melbourne, who

was generally staying in the house, came to the Queen in the afternoon,

and between five and six the Prince usually drove her out in a pony

phaeton. If the Prince did not drive the Queen he rode, in which case she

drove with the Duchess of Kent or the ladies. The Prince also read aloud

most days to the Queen. The dinner was at eight o'clock, and always with

the company. In the evening the Prince frequently played at double chess,

a game of which he was very fond, and which he played extremely well."

The Prince would return "at a great pace" from his morning rides, which

took him into all the districts of London where improvements were going

on, and "would always come through the Queen's dressing-room, where she

generally was at that time, with that bright loving smile with which he

ever greeted her, telling her where he had been, what new buildings he had

seen, what studios he had visited."

Her Majesty objected to the English custom of gentlemen remaining in the

dining-room after the ladies had left the table. But, by the advice of

Lord Melbourne, in which the Prince concurred, no direct change was made

in what was almost a national institution. The hour when the whole party

broke up, however, was seldom later than eleven.

The story got into circulation that the Queen's habit was to stand

conversing with the ladies till the gentlemen joined them, and that

knowing her practice, the dining-room was soon left empty. Lord Campbell

gives his experience of this portion of a royal dinner some years after

the Queen's marriage. "The Queen and the ladies withdrawing, Prince Albert

came over to her side of the table, and we remained behind about a quarter

of an hour, but we rose within the hour from the time of our sitting down.

A snuff-box was twice carried round and offered to all the gentlemen.

Prince Albert, to my surprise, took a pinch."

The Prince, who was an exceedingly temperate man at table, rather grudged

the time spent in eating and drinking, just as he disliked riding for mere

exercise, without any other object. Yet he was a bold and skilled rider,

and could, without any privilege of rank, come in first in the

hunting-field. It amused the Queen and her husband to find that this

accomplishment, more than any other, was likely to make him popular among

English gentlemen. But though he liked hunting as a recreation, he did not

understand how it or any other sport could be made the business of a man's


By the month of July, the prospect of an heir to the throne rendered it

advisable that provision should be made for the Queen's possible death, or

lengthened disqualification for reigning. The Regency Bill was brought

forward with more caution and better success than had attended on the

Prince's Annuity Bill. In accordance with the prudent counsels of Baron

Stockmar, the Opposition as well as the Ministry were taken into account

and consulted. The consequence was that the Duke of Wellington, the

mouthpiece of the Tories on the former occasion, was altogether propitious

in the name of himself and his party, and it was agreed that the Prince

was the proper person to appoint as Regent in case of any unhappy

contingency. The Bill was passed unanimously and without objection in both

Houses, except for a speech made by the Duke of Sussex in the House of


This conclusion was gratifying in all respects, not the least so in its

testimony to the respect which the Prince's conduct had already called

forth. "Three months ago they would not have done it for him," Lord

Melbourne told the Queen. "It is entirely his own character." It was also

a pleasant proof of the goodwill of the Tories, whom the Prince had done

everything in his power to conciliate, employing his influence to impress

upon the young Queen the constitutional attitude of impartiality and

neutrality towards all political parties.

There was a corresponding withdrawal of the absurd opposition to Prince

Albert's taking his place by the Queen's side on all State occasions. "Let

the Queen put the Prince where she likes and settle it herself, that is

the best way," said the Duke of Wellington cordially. A lively example of

the great Duke's want of toleration for the traditions of Court etiquette

is given in a note to the "Life of the Prince Consort." The late Lord

Albemarle, when Master of the Horse, was very sensitive about his right in

that capacity to sit in the sovereign's coach on State occasions. "The

Queen," said the Duke, when appealed to for his opinion, "can make Lord

Albemarle sit at the top of the coach, under the coach, behind the coach,

or wherever else her Majesty pleases."

On the 11th of August the Queen prorogued Parliament, accompanied by her

husband for the first time. The following day the Court left for Windsor.

The Prince was very fond of the country, and gladly went to it. The Queen,

in her early womanhood, had been, as she said, "too happy to go to London,

and wretched to leave it." But from the time of her marriage she shared

her husband's tastes, and could have been "content and happy never to go

to town." How her Majesty has retained the love of nature, which is a

refuge of sorrow as well as a crown of happiness, we all know.

In the mornings at Windsor there were shooting in the season, and a wider

field for landscape gardening for the Prince before he took to farming. In

the evening there were occasional great dinners and little dances as in

London. The young couple dispensed royal hospitality to a succession of

friendly visitors, who came to see with their own eyes the bright palace

home. The King and the Queen of the Belgians rejoiced in the fruits of his

work. The Princess of Hohenlohe, herself a happy wife and mother, arrived

with her children to witness her sister's felicity. Queen Adelaide did not

shrink from revisiting Windsor, and seeing a beloved niece fill well King

William and his consort's place.

Prince Albert's birthday was celebrated in England for the first time;

there were illuminations in London; down at Windsor the day was kept, for

the most part, in the simple family fashion, which is the best. The Prince

was awakened by a musical reveille; a German chorale, chosen with loving,

ungrudging care, as the first thing which was to greet him, was most

certain, on that day of all others, to carry him back in spirit to his

native country.

The family circle breakfasted by themselves in a favourite cottage in the

park. Princess Feodora's children were in masquerade as Coburg peasants,

doubtless hailing the Coburg Prince with an appropriate greeting. In the

afternoon, in the fine weather, the Prince drove out the Queen; in the

evening, "there was rather a larger dinner than usual."

On the 11th of September the Prince was formally sworn a member of her

Majesty's Privy Council. And so conscientiously anxious was he to

discharge worthily every duty which could be required of him, that, in the

greater leisure of Windsor, he not only read "Hallam's Constitutional

History" with the Queen, he began to read English law with a barrister.

In the meantime, an old historical figure, Princess Augusta of England,

who had appeared at the Queen's marriage, lay terribly ill at Clarence

House. She died on the 22nd of September, having survived her sister,

Princess Elizabeth, the Landgravine of Hesse Homburg, only eight months.

Princess Augusta carried away with her many memories of the Court of

George III. By a coincidence, the lady who may almost be called the

Princess's biographer, at least whose animated sketches and affectionate

praises of her "dear Princess Augusta" were destined to give the world of

England its principal knowledge of an amiable princess, died at a great

age the same year. Madame D'Arblay, as Miss Burney, the distinguished

novelist, had been appointed in 1786, in a somewhat whimsical

acknowledgement of her talents and services to the reading world, one of

the keepers of Queen Charlotte's wardrobe. In this office she resided at

Court for five years, and she has left in her diary the most graphic

account which we have of the English royal life of the day. "Evelina" and

"Cecilia" were old stories even in 1840; it was more than fifty years

since Madame D'Arblay had taken royal service, and now her best-beloved

young patroness had passed away an aged woman, only a few months later

than the gifted and vivacious little keeper of the robes, whose duties, to

be sure, had included reading habitually to the Queen when she was

dressing, and sometimes to the Court circle. Princess Augusta's funeral

went from her house of Frogmore at seven o'clock in the evening of the 2nd

of October, one of the last of the night funerals of a past generation,

and she was buried with the customary honours in St. George's Chapel,

Windsor. Frogmore became from that time the country residence of the

Duchess of Kent.

In November the Court returned to Buckingham Palace for the Queen's

accouchement. Baron Stockmar, at the Prince's earnest entreaty, came to

England for the event, though he remained then as always in the

background. On the 21st of November the Princess Royal was born, the good

news being announced to London by the firing of the Tower guns. The

Cabinet Ministers and Officers of State were in attendance in an adjoining

room, and the new-born child, wrapped in flannel, was carried by the

nurse, escorted by Sir James Clark, into the presence of those who were to

attest her birth, and laid for a moment on a table before them. Both

mother and child were well, and although a momentary disappointment was

felt at the sex of the infant, it did not detract from the general

rejoicing at the Queen's safety with a living successor to the throne. It

was said at the time, kindly gossips dwelling on the utterance with the

utmost pleasure, that on the Prince expressing a fear that the people

might be disappointed, the Queen reassured him in the most cheerful

spirit, "Never mind, the next shall be a boy," and that she hoped she

might have as many children as her grandmother, Queen Charlotte.

A fresh instance of a diseased appetite for notoriety, grafted on vagrant

youthful curiosity and restless love of mischief, astonished and

scandalised the English world. On the day after the birth of the Princess

Royal a rascally boy named Jones was discovered concealed under a sofa in

a room next to the Queen's. The offender was leniently dealt with in

consideration of his immature years, but again and again, at intervals of

a few months, the flibbertigibbet turned up in the most unlooked-for

quarters, impudently asserting, on being questioned, that he had entered

"the same way as before," and that he could, any time he pleased, find his

way into the palace. It was supposed that he climbed over the wall on

Constitution Hill and crept through one of the windows. But he could

hardly have done so if it had not been for the confused palace management,

for which nobody was responsible, with its inevitable disorder, that had

not yet been overcome. The boy had to be committed to the House of

Correction as a rogue and vagabond for three months. Afterwards he served

on board one of her Majesty's ships, where his taste for creating a

sensation seems to have died a natural death.

In the Queen's weakness the young husband and father was continually

developing new traits of manly tenderness. "His care and devotion were

quite beyond expression." He declined to go anywhere, that he might be

always at hand to do anything in his power for her comfort "He was content

to sit by her in a darkened room, to read to her and write for her." "No

one but himself ever lifted her from her bed to her sofa, and he always

helped to wheel her on her bed or sofa into the next room. For this

purpose he would come instantly when sent for from any part of the house."

"His care for her was like that of a mother, nor could there be a kinder,

wiser, more judicious nurse." Happy Queen!

The Queen made an excellent recovery, and the Court was back at Windsor

holding Christmas and New Year relieved from all care and full of

thankfulness. The peace and goodwill of the season, with the interchange

of kindly gifts, were celebrated with pleasant picturesque German, in

addition to old English customs. We have all heard wonderful tales of the

baron of beef, the boar's head, the peacock with spread tail, the plum

soup for which there is only one recipe, and that a royal one. There were

fir-trees in the Queen's and the Prince's rooms and in humbler chambers.

There was a great gathering of the household in a special corridor, where

the Queen's presents were bestowed.

A new year dawned with bright promise on an expectant world. This last

year had been so good in one sense that it could hardly be surpassed. What

had it not done for the family life! It had given a good and loving wife

to a good and loving husband, and a little child, with undreamt-of

possibilities in its slumbering eyes and helpless hands. The public

horizon was tolerably clear. The Welsh riots had been quelled and other

acts of insubordination in the manufacturing districts put down--not

without the use of force--but there was room for trust that such mad

tumults would not be repeated. Father Matthews was reforming Ireland.

There were far-away wars both with China and Afghanistan, certainly, but

the wars were far away in more respects than one, distant enough to have

their origin in the English protection of the opium trade, and

interference--now with a peaceful, timidly conservative race--and again

with fiercely jealous and warlike tribes, slurred over and forgotten, and

only the successes of the national arms dwelt upon with pride and


Across "the silver streak" of the Channel there were more remarkable

events, marked by a curious inconsistency, than the suitable marriage of

the Duc de Nemours. Prince Louis Napoleon Buonaparte landed on the French

coast with a handful of men prepared to invade the country, and was

immediately overpowered and arrested. He was tried and condemned to

imprisonment in the fortress of Ham, from which he escaped in due time,

having earned for himself during long years the sobriquet of "the madman

of Boulogne." The very same year Prince de Joinville, Louis Philippe's

sailor son, was commissioned to bring the ashes of Napoleon from St.

Helena to France. The coffin was conveyed in the Prince's frigate, La

Belle Poule, to Cherbourg, whence a steamboat sailed with the solemn

freight up the Seine to Paris. The funeral formed a splendid pageant,

attended by the royal family, the ministers, and a great concourse of

spectators. The dust of le petit caporal was deposited in a

magnificent tomb in the Hotel des Invalides, before the eyes of a few

survivors of his Old Guard.

Spain and Portugal were still the theatres of civil wars--now smouldering,

now leaping up with brief fury. In Spain the Queen Regent, Christina, was

driven from the kingdom, and had to take refuge in France for a time. In

Portugal, in the middle of a political crisis, Maria da Gloria gave birth

to a daughter, which died soon after its birth, while for days her own

life was despaired of.

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