Royal Visitors And The Birth Op Prince Alfred





The year 1844 may be instanced as rich in royal visitors to England. On

the 1st of June the King of Saxony arrived and shortly after him a greater

lion, the Emperor of Russia. The King of Saxony came as an honest friend

and sightseer, entering heartily into the obligations of the latter. There

was more doubt as to the motives of the Czar of all the Russias, and

considerable wariness was needed in dealing with the northern eagle, whose

real object might be, if not to use his beak and claws on the English

nation, to employ them on some other nation after he had got an assurance

that England would not interfere with his game. Indeed, jealousy of the

French, and of the friendship between the Queen and Louis Philippe, was at

the bottom of the Emperor's sudden appearance on the scene.



The Emperor had paid England a previous visit so far back as 1816, in the

days of George, Prince Regent, when Prince Leopold and Princess Charlotte

were the young couple at Claremont. He had then won much admiration and

popularity by his strikingly handsome person, stately politeness, and

gallant devotion to the English ladies who caught his fancy. He was still

a handsome man--over six feet, with regular features, remarkable eyes, and

bushy moustaches. He wore on his arrival a cloth cloak lined with costly

fur, and a kind of cap which looked like a turban--rather a telling

costume.



But time and the man's life and character had stamped themselves on what

had once been a goodly mould. There was something oppressive in his

elaborate politeness. There was a glare, not far removed from ferocity,

in the great grey eyes, so little shaded by their lids and light eyelashes

that occasionally a portion of the white eyeball above the iris was

revealed, and there was an intangible brooding melancholy about the

autocrat whose will was still law to millions of his fellow-creatures.



The Queen received her distinguished guest in the great hall at Buckingham

Palace Shortly afterwards there was a dejeuner, at which some of

the Emperor's old acquaintances in the royal family and out of it, met

him--the Duchess of Gloucester, the Princess Sophia, the Duke of

Cambridge, the Duke of Wellington, &c. &c. In the evening there was a

banquet.



The Emperor followed the Queen to Windsor, where, amidst the gaieties of

the Ascot week, he was royally entertained. Two visits were paid to the

racecourse, with which the new-comer associated his name by founding the

five hundred pounds prize. There was a grand review in Windsor Park, at

which both the Emperor of Russia and the King of Saxony were present, as

well as Her Majesty and Prince Albert and the royal children. The Emperor

in a uniform of green and red, the King of Saxony in a uniform of blue and

gold, and Prince Albert in a field-marshal's uniform--all the three

wearing the insignia of the Garter--were the observed of all observers in

the martial crowd. The only incidents of the day which struck Lady

Lyttelton were "the very fine cheer on the old Duke of Wellington passing

the Queen's carriage, and the really beautiful salute of Prince Albert,

who rode by at the head of his regiment, and of course lowered his sword

in full military form to the Queen, with such a look and smile as

he did it! I never saw so many pretty feelings expressed in a minute."



On the return of the Court with its guests to Buckingham Palace, the

Emperor went with Prince Albert to a fete at Chiswick, given by the Duke

of Devonshire, and attended by seven or eight hundred noble guests. The

Czar returned from it loud in the praise of the beauty of English women,

while staunchly faithful to the belles he had admired twenty-eight years

before. The same evening he accompanied the Queen to the opera, when she

took his hand and made him stand with her in the front of the box, that

the brilliant assemblage might see and welcome him.



The Emperor was an adept at saying courteous things. He remarked to the

Queen, of Windsor, which he greatly admired, "It is worthy of you,

Madame." He wished Prince Albert were his son. When the hour of

leave-taking came he found the Queen in the small drawing-room with her

children. He declared with emotion that he might at all times be relied

upon as her most devoted servant, and prayed God to bless her. He kissed

her hand and she kissed him; he embraced and blessed the children. He

besought her to go no farther with him. "I will throw myself at your

knees; pray let me lead you to your room." "But," wrote the Queen, "of

course I would not consent, and took his arm to go to the hall.... At the

top of the few steps leading to the lower hall he again took most kindly

leave, and his voice betrayed his emotion. He kissed my hand and we

embraced. When I saw him at the door I went down the steps, and from the

carriage he begged I would not stand there; but I did, and saw him drive

off with Albert to Woolwich."



The Emperor was rather suspiciously fond of declaring, "I mean what I say,

and what I promise I will perform." Some of his speeches were emphatic

enough. "I esteem England highly, but as for what the French say of me I

care not; I spit upon it." He felt awkward in evening dress; he was so

accustomed to wear military uniform that without it he said he felt as if

they had taken off his skin. To humour him, uniform was worn every evening

at Windsor during his stay. Among his camp habits was one which he had

formed in his youth and kept up to the last: it was that of sleeping every

night on clean straw stuffed into a leathern case. The first thing his

valets did on being shown their master's bedroom in Windsor Castle was to

send out for a truss of straw for the Emperor's bed. The last thing got

for him at Woolwich was the same simple stuffing for his rude mattress.



On the 15th of June, 1844, Thomas Campbell, author of the "Pleasures of

Hope," "Ye Mariners of England," &c., died at Boulogne at the age of

sixty-seven. Although he had not quite reached the threescore and ten, the

span of man's life on earth, he had long survived the authors, Scott,

Byron, &c., with whom his name is linked. He was one of many well-known

men in very different spheres who passed away in 1844. Sir Augustus

Callcott, the painter; Crockford with his house of Turf celebrity;

Beckford, the eccentric author of "Vathek," and the owner of the

art-treasures of Fonthill; Lord Sidmouth, the well-known statesman of the

"Addington Administration;" Sir Francis Burdett, who in recent times was

lodged in the Tower under a charge of high treason.



In the same year an attempt was made to honour the memory of a greater

poet than Thomas Campbell, one whose worldly reward had not been great,

whose history ended in a grievous tragedy. The Scotchmen of the day seized

the opportunity of the return of two of Robert Burns's sons from military

service in India to give them a welcome home which should do something to

atone for any neglect and injustice that had befallen their father. The

festival was not altogether successful, as such festivals rarely are, but

it excited considerable enthusiasm in the poet's native country,

especially in his county of Ayrshire. And when the lord of the Castle of

Montgomery presided over the tribute to the sons of the ploughman who had

"shorn the harvest" with his Highland Mary on the Eglinton "lea-riggs,"

and Christopher North made the speech of the day, the demonstration could

not be considered an entire failure.



Scotch hearts warmed to the belief that the Queen understood and admired

Burns's poetry, and proud reference was made to the circumstance that

during one of her Highland excursions she applied the famous descriptive

passage in the "Birks of Aberfeldy" to the scene before her:



The braes ascend like lofty wa'e,

The foamy stream deep roaring fa's,

O'erhung with fragrant spreading shaws,

The birks of Aberfeldy.



The hoary cliffs are crown'd wi' flowers,

White o'er the linn the burnie pours,

And rising, weets wi' misty showers

The birks of Aberfeldy.



This summer, brown Queen Pomare, and the affairs of far-off Tahiti, had a

strange, inordinate amount of attention from the English public. French

interference in the island, the imprisonment of an English consul and

Protestant missionary, roused the British lion. The dusky island-queen

claimed the help of her English allies, and till Louis Philippe and M.

Guizot disowned the policy which had been practised by their

representatives in the South Seas, there was actually fear of war between

England and France, in spite of the friendly visit to Chateau d'Eu.

Happily the King and his minister made, or appeared to make, reparation as

well as explanation, and the danger blew over.



On the 31st of July, down at Windsor a humble but affectionately loved

friend died. Prince Albert's greyhound Eos--his companion from his

fourteenth to his twenty-fifth year, his avant courier when he came

as a bridegroom to claim his bride--was found dead, without previous

symptom of illness. She lies buried on the top of the bank above the

Slopes, and a bronze model of her marks the spot.



On the 6th of August the Queen's second son was born at Windsor Castle.

The Prince of Prussia (the present Emperor of Germany), the third royal

visitor this year, came over in time for the christening, when the little

prince received the name of the great Saxon King of England, Alfred,

together with the names of his uncle, Ernest, and his father, Albert. The

godfathers were Prince George of Cambridge, the Queen's cousin,

represented by his father; and the Prince of Leiningen, the Queen's

brother, represented by the Duke of Wellington; while the godmother was

the Queen and Prince Albert's sister-in-law, the Duchess of Coburg-Gotha,

represented by the Duchess of Kent. "To see these two children there too,"

the Queen wrote of the Princess Royal and the Prince of Wales, "seems such

a dream to me ... May God bless them all, poor little things." The

engraving represents the sailor-Prince in his childhood.



A tour in Ireland had been projected for the Queen's holiday, but the

excitement in the country consequent on the liberation of O'Connell and

his companions rendered the time and place unpropitious for a royal visit,

so it was decided that Her Majesty should go again to Scotland. On this

occasion the Queen and the Prince took their little four-year-old daughter

with them. The route was not quite the same as formerly. The party went by

a shorter way to the Highlands, the yacht sailing to Dundee, the great

manufacturing city so fortunate in its situation, where the rushing Tay

calms and broadens into a wide Frith, with a background of green hills and

a foreground of the pleasantly broken shores of Forfar and Fife. The

trades held high holiday, and gave the Queen a jubilant welcome, the air

ringing with shouts of gladness as she landed from the yacht, leaning on

Prince Albert's arm, while he led by the hand the small daughter who

reminded the Queen so vividly of herself--as the little Princess of past

years.



The Queen, escorted by the Scots Greys, proceeded by Cupar Angus to

Dunkeld, stopping at one of the hotels to get "some broth for the child,"

who proved an excellent traveller, sleeping in her carriage at her usual

hours, not put out or frightened at noise or crowds--an excellent thing in

a future empress--standing bowing to the people from the windows like a

great lady.



At Moulinearn her Majesty tasted that luscious compound of whisky, honey,

and milk known as "Athol brose."



The Queen's destination was Blair Castle, the seat of Lord Glenlyon--a

white, barrack-like building in the centre of some of the grandest scenery

of the Perthshire Highlands. There a strong body of Murrays met her

Majesty at the gate and ran by the side of the carriages to the portico of

the Castle, where the clansmen, pipers and all, were drawn up in four

companies of forty each, to receive the guests. The Queen occupied the

Castle during her stay, Lord and Lady Glenlyon, with their son and the

other members of their family, being quartered in the lodge for the time.



The Queen and the Prince led the perfectly retired and simple life which

was so agreeable to them. Spent among romantic and interesting scenery, it

was doubly delightful to the young couple. They dispensed as much as

possible with state and ceremony. The Highland Guard were ordered not to

present arms more than twice a day to the Queen, and once a day to the

Prince and the Princess Royal; but in other respects the Guard were so

much impressed by their responsibility that not only would they permit no

stranger to pass their cordon without giving the password, which

was changed every day, they stopped Lord Glenlyon's brother for want of

the necessary "open sesame," telling him that, lord's brother or not, he

could not pass without the word.



Her Majesty's piper, Mackay, had orders to play a pibroch under her

windows every morning at seven o'clock. At the same early hour a bunch of

fresh heather, with a draught of icy-cold water from Glen Tilt, was

brought to the Queen. The Princess Royal, on her Shetland pony,

accompanied the Queen and the Prince in their morning rambles. Sometimes

the little one was carried in her father's arms, while he pointed out to

her any object that would amuse her and call forth her prattle. "Pussy's

cheeks are on the point of bursting, they have grown so red and plump,"

wrote the Prince to his stepmother. "She is learning Gaelic, but makes

wild work with the names of the mountains."



So free was the life that one morning when a lady, plainly dressed and

unaccompanied, left the Castle about seven o'clock no notice was taken of

her, and it was only after she had gone some distance that the rank of the

pedestrian was discovered. With a little hesitation, a body-guard was told

off and followed her Majesty, but she intimated that she would dispense

with their attendance, and went on alone as far as the lodge, where she

inquired for Lord Glenlyon. It was understood afterwards that she had

chosen to be her own messenger with regard to some arrangements to be made

respecting a visit to the Falls of the Bruar.



Lord Glenlyon was not out of bed, and the deputy-porter was electrified by

being told that the Queen had called on his master. On her Majesty's

return to the house she took a different road and lost her way, so that

she had to apply to some Highland reapers whom she met, trudging to one of

the isolated oatfields, to direct her to the Castle. They told her

civilly, but without ceremony, to cross one of the "parks" (fields or

meadows) and climb over a paling--instructions which she obeyed literally,

and found herself at home again.



On a fine September morning the two who were so happy in each other's

company rode on a dun and a grey pony, attended only by Sandy McAra, who

led the Queen's pony through the ford, up the grassy hill of Tulloch, "to

the very top." There they saw a whole circle of stupendous Bens--Ben

Vrackie, Ben-y-Ghlo, Ben-y-Chat, as well as the Falls of the Bruar and the

Pass of Killiecrankie, which the Hanoverian troopers likened to "the mouth

of hell" on the day that Dundee fell on the field at Urrard.



"It was quite romantic," declared the Queen joyfully. "Here we were with

only this Highlander behind us holding the ponies--for we got off twice

and walked about; not a house, not a creature near us, but the pretty

Highland sheep, with their horns and black faces, up at the top of

Tulloch, surrounded by beautiful mountains ... the most delightful, the

most romantic ride I ever had."



There was much more riding and driving in Glen Tilt, with its disputed

"right of way" ease, but there was none to bar the Queen's progress. Her

Majesty showed herself a fearless rider, abandoning the cart-roads and

following the foot-tracks among the mountains. She grew as fond of her

homely Highland pony, Arghait Bhean, with which Lord Glenlyon

supplied her, as she was of her Windsor stud, with every trace of high

breeding in their small heads, arching necks, slender legs, and dainty

hoofs.



One day the foresters succeeded in driving a great herd of red-deer, with

their magnificent antlers, across the heights, so that the Queen had a

passing view of them. On another day she was able to join in the

deer-stalking, scrambling for hours in the wake of the hunters, among the

rocks and heather, when she was not "allowed," as she described it, to

speak above a whisper, in case she should spoil the sport. It was a brief

taste of an ideal, open-air, unsophisticated life, upon which there was no

intrusion, except when stolid sightseers flocked to the little parish

church of Blair Athol for the chance of "seeing royalty at its prayers,

and hardly a regret beyond the lack of time to sketch the groups of

keepers and dogs, the deer, the mountains.



The Queen, as usual, enjoyed and admired everything there was to

admire--the pretty jackets or "short gowns" of the rustic maidens; the

"burns," clear as glass; the mossy stones; the peeps between the trees;



the depth of the shadows; the corn-cutting or "shearing," when a patch of

yellow oats broke the purple shadow of the moor; Ben-y-Ghlo standing like

a mighty sentinel commanding the course of the Garry, as when many a lad

"with his bonnet and white cockade," sped with fleet foot by the flashing

waters, "leaving his mountains to follow Prince Charlie;" Chrianean, where

the eagles sometimes sat; the sunsets when the sky was "crimson, golden

red, and blue," and the hills "looked purple and lilac," till the hues

grew softer and the outlines dimmer. Prince Albert, an ardent admirer of

natural scenery, was in ecstasy with the mountain landscape. But her

Majesty has already permitted her people to share in the halcyon days of

those Highland tours.



On the homeward journey to Dundee, Lord Glenlyon and his brother, Captain

Murray, performed the loyal feat of riding fifty miles, the whole distance

from Blair, by the Queen's carriage.





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