The Accession

On the day after that on which Princess Victoria celebrated her majority.

Baron Stockmar arrived at Kensington. He came from the King of the Belgians

to assist King Leopold's niece in what was likely to be the great crisis of

her life. During Baron Stockmar's former stay in England he had been in the

character first of Physician in Ordinary to Prince Leopold, and afterwards

of Private Secretary and Comptroller of his household. In those offices he

had spent the greater part of his time in this country from 1816 to 1834.

He had accompanied his master on his ascending the Belgian throne, but had

returned to England in a few years in order to serve him better there.

Baron Stockmar was thus an old and early friend of the Princess's. In

addition he had a large acquaintance with the English political world, and

was therefore well qualified to advise her with the force of a

disinterested adviser in her difficult position. In the view of her

becoming Queen, although her three predecessors, including George III after

he became blind, had appointed and retained private secretaries, the office

was not popular in the eyes of the Government and country, and it was not

considered advisable that the future Queen should possess such a servant,

notwithstanding the weight of business--enormous in the matter of

signatures alone--which would fall on the Sovereign. Without any recognised

position, Stockmar was destined to share with the Prime Minister one

portion of the duties which ought to have devolved on a private secretary.

He was also to act as confidential adviser.

Baron Stockmar, [Footnote: "An active, decided, slender, rather little man,

with a compact head, brown hair streaked with grey, a bold, short nose,

firm yet full mouth, and what gave a peculiar air of animation to his face,

with two youthful, flashing brown eyes, full of roguish intelligence and

fiery provocation. With this exterior, the style of his demeanour and

conversation corresponded; bold, bright, pungent, eager, full of thought,

so that amid all the bubbling copiousness and easy vivacity of his talk, a

certain purpose was never lost sight of in his remarks and

illustrations."--Friedrich Carl Meyer.] who was at this time a man

of fifty, was no ordinary character. He was sagacious, warm-hearted,

honest, straightforward to bluntness, painstaking, just, benevolent to a

remarkable degree; the friend of princes, without forfeiting his

independence, he won and kept their perfect confidence to the end. He loved

them heartily in return, without seeking anything from them; on the

contrary, he showed himself reluctant to accept tokens of their favour.

While lavishing his services on others, and readily lending his help to

those who needed it, he would seem to have wanted comfort himself. An

affectionate family man, he consented to constantly recurring separation

from his wife and children in order to discharge the peculiar functions

which were entrusted to him. For he played in the background--contented,

nay, resolute to remain there--by the lawful exercise of influence alone,

no small part in the destinies of several of the reigning houses in Europe,

and through them, of their kingdoms. Like Carlyle, he suffered during his

whole life from dyspepsia; like Carlyle, too, he was a victim to

hypochondria, the result of his physical state. To these two last causes

may be attributed some whimsicalities and eccentricities which were readily

forgiven in the excellent Baron.

Baron Stockmar did not come too soon; in less than a month, on the 20th of

June, 1837, after an illness which he had borne, patiently and reverently,

King William died peacefully, his hand resting where it had lain for hours,

on the shoulder of his faithful Queen.

The death took place at Windsor, at a little after two o'clock in the

morning. Immediately afterwards the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Howley,

and the Lord Chamberlain, the Marquis of Conyngham, together with the Earl

of Albemarle, the Master of the Horse, and Sir Henry Halford, the late

King's physician, started from Windsor for Kensington. All through the rest

of the summer night these solemn and stately gentlemen drove, nodding with

fatigue, hailing the early dawn, speaking at intervals to pronounce

sentence on the past reign and utter prognostications, of the reign which

was to come. Shortly before five, when the birds were already in full

chorus in Kensington Gardens, the party stood at the main door, demanding

admission. This was another and ruder summons than the musical serenade

which had been planned to wile the gentle sleeper sweetly from her slumbers

and to hail her natal day not a month before. That had been a graceful,

sentimental recognition of a glad event; this was an unvarnished, well-nigh

stern arousal to the world of grave business and anxious care, following

the mournful announcement of a death--not a birth. From this day the

Queen's heavy responsibilities and stringent obligations were to begin.

That untimely, peremptory challenge sounded the first knell to the light

heart and careless freedom of youth.

Though it had been well known that the King lay on his death-bed, and

Kensington without, as well as Kensington within, must have been in a high

state of expectation, it does not appear that there were any watchers on

the alert to rush together at the roll of the three royal carriages.

Instead of the eager, respectful crowd, hurrying into the early-opened

gates of the park to secure good places for all that was to be seen and

heard on the day of the Princess's coming of age, Palace Green seems to

have been a solitude on this momentous June morning, and the individual the

most interested in the event, after the new-made Queen, instead of being

there to pay his homage first, as he had offered his congratulations on the

birthday a year before, was far away, quietly studying at the little

university town on the Rhine.

"They knocked, they rang, they thumped for a considerable time before they

could rouse the porter at the gate," says Miss Wynn, in the "Diary of a

Lady of Quality," of these importunate new-comers. "They were again kept

waiting in the courtyard, then turned into one of the lower rooms, where

they seemed forgotten by everybody. They rang the bell and desired that the

attendant of the Princess Victoria might be sent to inform Her Royal

Highness that they requested an audience on business of importance. After

another delay and another ringing to inquire the cause, the attendant was

summoned, who stated that the Princess was in such a sweet sleep that she

could not venture to disturb her. Then they said, 'We are come on business

of State to the QUEEN, and even her sleep must give way to that.' It did;

and, to prove that she did not keep them waiting, in a few minutes she came

into the room in a loose white nightgown and shawl, her nightcap thrown

off, and her hair falling upon her shoulders, her feet in slippers, tears

in her eyes, but perfectly collected and dignified."

In those days, when news did not travel very fast, and was not always

delivered with strict accuracy, a rumour got abroad that the Queen was

walking in the Palace Garden when the messengers came to tell her she had

succeeded to the Crown. A great deal was made of the poetic simplicity of

the surroundings of the interesting central figure--the girl in her tender

bloom among the lilies and roses, which she resembled. We can remember a

brilliant novel of the time which had a famous chapter beginning with an

impassioned apostrophe to the maiden who met her high destiny "in a palace,

in a garden." Another account asserted that the Queen saw the Archbishop of

Canterbury alone in her ante-room, and that her first request was for his


The Marquis of Conyngham was the bearer to the Queen of a request from the

Queen-dowager that she might be permitted to remain at Windsor till after

the funeral. In reply, her Majesty wrote an affectionate letter of

condolence to her aunt, begging her to consult nothing but her own health

and convenience, and to stay at Windsor just as long as she pleased. The

writer was observed to address this as usual "To the Queen of England." A

bystander interposed, "Your Majesty, you are Queen of England." "Yes,"

answered the unelated, considerate girl-Queen, "but the widowed Queen is

not to be reminded of the fact first by me."

Their message delivered, the messengers returned to London, and the next

arrival was that of the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, who appeared at

nine o'clock, had an interview with the Queen, which lasted for half an

hour, when he also took his leave to issue summonses for a Privy Council,

to he held in the course of the next two hours at Kensington Palace, and

not at St. James's, as had been anticipated.

The little town of Kensington must now have been up and about, for,

perhaps, never had there been such a day in its annals, as far transcending

the birthday celebration as a great reality surpasses the brightest

promise; and Kensington might hug the day with all its might, for it was to

be nearly the last of its kingly, queenly experience. The temporary Court

was to pass away presently, never to come back. No more kings and queens

were likely to be born or to die at the quiet spot, soon to become a great

noisy suburb of great London. No later Sovereign would quit the red-brick

palace of Mary and Anne, and the First George, to reign at Buckingham or

Windsor; no other Council be held in the low-browed, white-pillared room to

dispute the interests of the unique Council which was to be held there this


The first Council of any Sovereign must awaken many speculations, while the

bearing of the principal figure in the assumption of new powers and duties

is sure to be watched with critical curiosity; but in the case of Queen

Victoria the natural interest reached its utmost bounds. The public

imagination was impressed in the most lively manner by the strong contrast

between the tender youth and utter inexperience of the maiden Queen and the

weighty and serious functions she was about to assume--an anomaly best

indicated by the characteristic speech of Carlyle, that a girl at an age

when, in ordinary circumstances, she would hardly be trusted to choose a

bonnet for herself, was called upon to undertake responsibilities from

which an archangel might have shrunk. More than this, the retirement in

which the young Queen had grown up left her nature a hidden secret to those

well-trained, grey-bearded men in authority, who now came to bid her rule

over them. Thus, in addition to every other doubt to be solved, there was

the pressing question as to how a girl would behave under such a tremendous

test; for, although there had been queens-regnant, popular and unpopular

before, Mary and Elizabeth had been full-grown women, and Anne had attained

still more mature years, before the crown and sceptre were committed to the

safe keeping of each in turn. Above all, how would this royal girl, on

whose conduct so much depended, demean herself on this crucial occasion?

Surely if she were overcome by timidity and apprehension, if she were

goaded into some foolish demonstration of pride or levity, allowance must

be made, and a good deal forgiven, because of the cruel strain to which she

was subjected.

Shortly after eleven o'clock, the royal Dukes and a great number of Privy

Councillors, amongst whom were all the Cabinet Ministers and the great

officers of State and the Household, arrived at Kensington Palace, and were

ushered into the State apartments. A later arrival consisted of the Lord

Mayor, attended by the City Marshals in full uniform, on horseback, with

crape on their left arms; the Chamberlain, Sword-bearer, Comptroller, Town

Clerk, and Deputy Town Clerk, &c., accompanied by six aldermen. These City

magnates appeared at the Palace to pay their homage to her Majesty. The

Lord Mayor attended the Council.

We have various accounts--one from an eye-witness wont to be cool and

critical enough--of what passed. "The first thing to be done," writes

Greville, "was to teach her her lesson, which, for this purpose, Melbourne

had himself to learn. I gave him the Council papers and explained all that

was to be done, and he went and explained all this to her. He asked her if

she would enter the room accompanied by the great officers of State, but

she said she would come in alone. When the Lords were assembled, the Lord

President (Lord Lansdowne) informed them of the King's death, and

suggested, as they were so numerous, that a few of them should repair to

the presence of the Queen, and inform her of the event, and that their

lordships were assembled in consequence; and accordingly the two royal

Dukes (the Duke of Cumberland, by the death of William, King of Hanover,

and the Duke of Sussex--the Duke of Cambridge was absent in Hanover), the

two Archbishops, the Chancellor, and Melbourne went with him. The Queen

received them in the adjoining room alone."

It was the first time she had to act for herself. Until then she had been

well supported by her mother, and by the precedence which the Duchess of

Kent took as her Majesty's guardian. But the guardianship was over and the

reign begun. There could be no more sheltering from responsibility, or

becoming deference to, and reliance on, the wisdom of another and a much

older person. In one sense the stay was of necessity removed. The Duchess

of Kent, from this day "treated her daughter with respectful observance as

well as affection." The time was past for advice, instruction, or

suggestion, unless in private, and even then it would be charily and warily

given by the sensible, modest mother of a Queen. Well for her Majesty that

there was no more than truth in what one of the historians of the reign has

said, in just and temperate language, of her character: "She was well

brought up. Both as regards her intellect and her character her training

was excellent. She was taught to be self-reliant, brave, and systematical."

As soon as the deputation had returned, the proclamation was read; "Whereas

it has pleased Almighty God to call to His mercy our late Sovereign Lord,

King William the Fourth, of blessed and glorious memory, by whose decease

the imperial Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland is

solely and rightfully come to the high and mighty Princess Alexandrina

Victoria, saving the rights of any issue of his late majesty, King William

the Fourth, which may be born of his late Majesty's consort; we, therefore,

the lords spiritual and temporal of this realm, being here assisted with

these of his late Majesty's Privy Council, with numbers of others,

principal gentlemen of quality, with the Lord Mayor, aldermen and citizens

of London, do now hereby, with one voice and consent of tongue and heart,

publish and proclaim that the high and mighty Princess Alexandrina Victoria

is now, by the death of our late Sovereign, of happy memory, become our

only lawful and rightful liege Lady, Victoria, by the grace of God Queen of

the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith,

saving, as aforesaid: To whom, saving as aforesaid, we do acknowledge all

faith and constant obedience, with all hearty and humble affection,

beseeching God, by whom kings and queens do reign, to bless the royal

Princess Victoria with long and happy years to reign over us.

"Given at the Court of Kensington this 20th day of June, 1837. (Signed by

all the Lords of the Privy Council present). God Save the Queen."

"Then," resuming Mr. Greville's narrative, "the doors were thrown open,

and the Queen entered, accompanied by her two uncles, who advanced to meet

her. She bowed to the Lords, took her seat (an arm-chair improvised into a

throne, with a footstool), and then read her speech in a clear, distinct,

and audible voice, and without any appearance of fear or embarrassment:--

"'The severe and afflicting loss which the nation has sustained by the

death of his Majesty, my beloved uncle, has devolved upon me the duty of

administering the Government of this empire. This awful responsibility is

imposed upon me so suddenly, and at so early a period of my life, that I

should feel myself utterly oppressed by the burden were I not sustained by

the hope that Divine Providence, which has called me to this work, will

give me strength for the performance of it, and that I shall find in the

purity of my intentions, and in my zeal for the public welfare, that

support and those resources which usually belong to a more mature age and

to longer experience.

"'I place my firm reliance upon the wisdom of Parliament and upon the

loyalty and affection of my people. I esteem it also a peculiar advantage

that I succeed to a Sovereign whose constant regard for the rights and

liberties of his subjects, and whose desire to promote the amelioration of

the laws and institutions of the country, have rendered his name the object

of general attachment and veneration.

"'Educated in England, under the tender and enlightened care of a most

affectionate mother, I have learned from my infancy to respect and love

the Constitution of my native country.

"'It will be my unceasing study to maintain the reformed religion as by law

established, securing at the same time to all the full enjoyment of

religious liberty; and I shall steadily protect the rights and promote, to

the utmost of my power, the happiness and welfare of all classes of my


Her Majesty's speech was after the model of English royal speeches; but one

can feel at this day it was spoken in all ingenuousness and sincerity, and

that the utterance--remarkable already for clearness and distinctness--for

the first time, of the set words, ending in the solemn promise to do a

Sovereign's duty, must have thrilled the hearts both of speaker and


A critical listener was not wanting, according to the testimony of the

witness who, on his own account, certainly did not object to chronicle

detraction of every kind. "The speech was admired, except by Brougham, who

appeared in a considerable state of excitement. He said to Peel (whom he

was standing near, and with whom he was not in the habit of communicating),

'"amelioration;" that is not English. You might perhaps say "melioration,"

but "improvement" is the proper word.'

"'Oh!' said Peel, 'I see no harm in the word; it is generally used.'

"'You object,' said Brougham, 'to the sentiment; I object to the grammar.'

"'No,' said Peel, 'I don't object to the sentiment.'

"'Well, then, she pledges herself to the policy of our Government,'

said Brougham.

"She was quite plainly dressed, and in mourning. After she had read her

speech, and taken and signed the oath (administered by the Archbishop of

Canterbury) for the security of the Church of Scotland, the Privy

Councillors were sworn, the two royal Dukes first by themselves."

The days of violence were ended, and whatever private, hopes he might once

have entertained, Ernest, Duke of Cumberland, was the first to hail his

niece as the high and mighty Princess Alexandrina Victoria, to whom the

imperial Crown of Great Britain and Ireland had solely and rightfully

come--the first to proclaim her, with one voice and consent of tongue and

heart, on the part of himself and his peers, his only lawful and rightful

liege Lady Victoria, to whom he acknowledged all faith and rightful

obedience, with all hearty and humble affection. It may be, the fact that

he had succeeded to the throne of Hanover rendered the step less difficult.

His name was also the first in the signatures of princes, Privy

Councillors, peers, and gentlemen affixed in the next room to the

proclamation. His brother, the Duke of Sussex, followed. They were both

elderly men, with the younger older in infirmities than in years. The King

of Hanover was sixty-six, the Duke of Sussex sixty-four years of age.

"And as these two old men, her uncles, knelt before her, swearing

allegiance and kissing her hand," Greville went on, with a sense of pathos,

curious for him, in the scene, "I saw her blush up to the eyes, as if she

felt the contrast between their civil and their natural relations, and this

was the only sign of emotion which she evinced. Her manner to them was very

graceful and engaging; she kissed them both, and rose from her chair and

moved towards the Duke of Sussex, who was farthest from her, and too infirm

to reach her. She seemed rather bewildered at the multitude of men who were

sworn, and who came one after another to kiss her hand, but she did not

speak to anybody, nor did she make the slightest difference in her manner,

or show any in her countenance, to any individual of any rank, station, or

party. I particularly watched her when Melbourne and the Ministers, and the

Duke of Wellington and Peel approached her. She went through the whole

ceremony, occasionally looking at Melbourne for instruction when she had

any doubt what to do, which hardly ever occurred, and with perfect coolness

and self-possession, but at the same time with a graceful modesty and

propriety particularly interesting and ingratiating. When the business was

done she retired as she had entered, and I could see that nobody was in the

adjoining room."

Mr. Greville's comment on the scene was singularly enthusiastic from such a

man. "Never was anything like the first impression she produced, or the

chorus of praise and admiration which is raised about her manner and

behaviour, and certainly not without justice. It was something very

extraordinary, and something far beyond what was looked for." He quoted Sir

Robert Peel's and the Duke of Wellington's opinions in accordance with his

own. "He (Sir Robert) likewise said how amazed he was at the manner and

behaviour, at her apparent deep sense of her situation, her modesty, and at

the same time her firmness. She appeared, in fact, to be awed, but not

daunted; and afterwards, the Duke of Wellington told me the same thing, and

added, that if she had been his own daughter he could not have desired to

see her perform her part better."

We can understand the fatherly reference of the Duke, and the sort of

personal pride he took in his young Queen. He had been present at her birth

in this very Palace of Kensington; he had known her at every stage of her

life hitherto. She was doing credit not only to herself and her mother, but

to every friend she had, by her perfect fulfilment of what was required of

her. Lord Campbell was equally eulogistic. "As soon as I heard that King

William had expired I hurried to Kensington, to be present at the first

Council of the new Sovereign. This, I think, was the most interesting scene

I have ever witnessed.... I am quite in raptures with the deportment of the

young Queen. Nothing could be more exquisitely proper. She looked modest,

sorrowful, dejected, diffident, but at the same time she was quite cool and

collected, and composed and firm. Her childish appearance was gone. She

was an intelligent and graceful young woman, capable of acting and thinking

for herself. Considering that she was the only female in the room, and that

she had no one about her with whom she was familiar, no human being was

ever placed in a more trying situation."

What was most conspicuous in the Queen had been already remarked upon and

admired in the young girl at Queen Adelaide's Drawing-room. Here were the

same entire simplicity, with its innate dignity only further developed; the

power of being herself and no other, which left her thoughtful of what she

ought to do--not of how she should look and strike others--and rendered her

free to consider her neighbours; the docility to fit guidance, and yet the

ability to judge for herself; the quick sense all the time of her high


That first Council at Kensington has become an episode in history--a very

significant one. It has been painted, engraved, written about many a time,

without losing its fascination. Sir David Wilkie made a famous picture of

it, which hangs in a corridor at Windsor In this picture the artist used

certain artistic liberties, such as representing the Queen in a white

muslin robe instead of a black gown, and the Privy Councillors in the

various costumes of their different callings--uniforms with stars and

ribands, lawyers' gowns and full-bottomed wigs, bishops' lawn, instead of

the ordinary morning dress of the gentlemen of their generation. It must

have tickled Wilkie as he worked to come to an old acquaintance of his

boyhood and youth in John, Lord Campbell, and to recognise how

bewilderingly far removed from the bleak little parish of Cults and the

quiet little town of Cupar was the coincidence which summoned him, the

distinguished painter, in the execution of a royal commission, to draw the

familiar features of his early playmate in those of the Attorney-General,

who appeared as a privileged member of the illustrious throng.

We still turn back wistfully to that bright dawn of a beneficent reign. We

see the slight girlish figure in her simple mourning filling her place

sedately at the head of the Council table. At the foot, facing her Majesty,

sits the Duke of Sussex, almost venerable in his stiffness and lameness,

wearing the black velvet skull-cap by which he was distinguished in those

days. We look at the well-known faces, and think of the famous names among

the crowd of mature men, each of whom was hanging on the words and looks of

his mistress. There is Copley the painter's son, sagacious Lyndhurst, who

lived to be the Nestor of the bench and the peerage; there is his great

opponent, Robertson the historian's grand-nephew, Brougham, a tyrant of

freedom, an illustrious Jack-of-all-trades, the most impassioned, most

public-spirited, most egotistical of men. He was a contradiction to himself

as well as to his neighbours. His strongly-marked face, with its shaggy

brows, high cheek-bones, aggressive nose, mouth drooping at the corners,

had not lost its mobility. He was restless and fault-finding in this

presence as in any other. The Duke of Wellington's Roman nose lent

something of the eagle to his aspect. It was a more patrician attribute

than Sir Robert Peel's long upper lip, with its shy, nervous compression,

which men mistook for impassive coldness, just as the wits blundered in

calling his strong, serviceable capacity, noble uprightness, and patient

labour "sublime mediocrity." William Lamb, Viscount Melbourne, was the type

of an aristocrat, with brains and heart. He was still a very handsome man

at fifty-eight, as he was also "perhaps the most graceful and agreeable

gentleman of the generation." His colleague--destined to marry Lord

Melbourne's sister, the most charming woman who ever presided in turn over

two Ministerial salons, Lord Palmerston, in spite of his early

achievements in waltzing at Almack's, was less personally and mentally

gifted. He had rather an indiarubber-like elasticity and jauntiness than

stateliness, or dignity, or grace. His irregular-featured face was comical,

but he bore the bell in exhaustless spirits, which won him, late in life,

the reputation of perennial juvenility, and the enviable if not altogether

respectful sobriquet of "the evergreen Palm." Lord John Russell, with his

large head and little body, of which Punch made stock, with his

friendship for Moore and his literary turn, as well as his ambition to

serve his country like a true Russell, was at this date wooing and wedding

the fair young widow, Lady Ribblesdale, his devotion to whom had drawn from

the wags a profane pun. They called the gifted little lord "the widow's

mite." When the marriage ceremony was being performed between him and Lady

Ribblesdale the wedding-ring fell from the bride's finger--an evil omen

soon fulfilled for the marriage tie was speedily broken by her early death.

"Plain John Campbell" was a very different man. The son of a minister of

the Church of Scotland, in a presbytery which included among its members

the father of Sir David Wilkie, his Scotch tongue, Scotch shrewdness,

healthy appetite for work, and invulnerable satisfaction with himself and

his surroundings, caused themselves to be felt in another sphere than that

to which he was born.

"The Cabinet Ministers tendered to the Queen the seals of their respective

offices, which her Majesty was most graciously pleased to return, and they

severally kissed hands on their reappointment." The last business done was

to arrange for the public proclamation of the Queen, and to take her

pleasure with regard to the time, which she fixed for the day following,

Wednesday, the 21st of June, at ten o'clock. When Lord Albemarle, for whom

she had sent, went to her and told her he was come to take her orders, she

said, "I have no orders to give. You must know this so much better than I

do, that I leave it all to you. I am to be at St. James's at ten to-morrow,

and must beg you to find me a conveyance proper for the occasion." We are

further informed that the Queen, in the course of the morning, received a

great many noble and distinguished personages. So finished a busy and

exciting day; the herald of many other days crowded with engagements and


The Palace of St. James's, where the proclamation was to take place, had

been for a long time the theatre of all the principal events in the lives

of the kings and queens of England. Even the young Queen already viewed it

in this light, for though she had been baptized at Kensington, she had been

confirmed at St. James's. She had attended her first Drawing-rooms, and

celebrated her coming-of-age ball there. St. James's is a brick building,

like Kensington Palace, but is far older, and full of more stirring and

tragic associations. It has an air of antiquity about it, if it has few

architectural claims on the world's interest; but at least one front, that

which includes the turreted gateway into St. James's Street, is not without

picturesque beauty. The situation of the palace, considering that it is in

the middle of a great city, is agreeable. It has its park, with a stretch

of pleasant water on one side, and commands the leafy avenue of the Mall

and the sweep of Constitution Hill. As a royal residence it dates as far

back as Henry VIII., whose daughter Mary ended her sad life here. Both of

the sons of James I. received it as a dwelling, and were connected with it

in troubled days. Prince Henry fell into his pining sickness and died here.

Charles, after bringing Henrietta Maria under its roof, and owning its

shelter till three of his children were born, was carried to St. James's as

a prisoner. He was taken from it in a sedan-chair to undergo his trial at

his new palace of Whitehall. He was conveyed back under sentence of death.

Here Bishop Juxon preached the last sermon to which the King listened, and

administered to him the Sacrament; and here Charles took leave of his

children--the little Duke of Gloucester and the girl-Princess Elizabeth.

From St. James's the King went to the scaffold on the bitter January

morning, followed by the snowy night in which "the white King" was borne to

his dishonoured burial. Other and less tragic scenes were enacted within

its bounds. A familiar figure in connection with Kensington

Palace--Caroline of Anspach, wife of George II.--died like herself here.

Her King had fallen into a stupor of sorrow across the bed where she lay in

her last agony, and she forbade his being disturbed. She told those who

were praying to pray aloud, that she might hear them; then raising herself

up and uttering the single German word of acquiescence, "So," her

brave spirit passed away.

When the Queen arrived, accompanied by her mother and her ladies, and

attended by an escort, on the June morning of her proclamation, she was

received by the other members of the royal family, the Household, and the

Cabinet Ministers. Already every avenue to the Palace and every balcony and

window within sight were crowded to excess. In the quadrangle opposite the

window where her Majesty was to appear a mass of loyal ladies and gentlemen

was tightly wedged. The parapets above were filled with people, conspicuous

among them the big figure of Daniel O'Connell, the agitator, waving his hat

and cheering with Irish effusion.

"At ten o'clock," says the Annual Register, "the guns in the park

fired a salute, and immediately afterwards the Queen made her appearance at

the window of the tapestried ante-room adjoining the ante-chamber, and was

received with deafening cheers. She stood between Lords Melbourne and

Lansdowne, in their State dresses and their ribands, who were also cheered,

as was likewise her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent. At this and the two

other windows we recognised the King of Hanover, the Dukes of Sussex,

Wellington, and Argyle; Lords Hill, Combermere, Denbigh, Duncannon,

Albemarle, and Winchester; Sir E. Codrington, Sir William Houston, and a

number of other lords and gentlemen, with several ladies.

"Her Majesty looked extremely fatigued and pale, but returned the repeated

cheers with which she was greeted with remarkable ease and dignity. She was

dressed in deep mourning, with a white tippet, white cuffs, and a border of

white lace under a small black bonnet, which was placed far back on her

head, exhibiting her light hair in front simply parted over the forehead.

Her Majesty seemed to view the proceedings with considerable interest. Her

Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent was similarly dressed to the Queen."

"In the courtyard were Garter-King-at-Arms with heralds and pursuivants in

their robes of office, and eight officers of arms on horseback bearing

massive silver maces; sergeants-at-arms with their maces and collars; the

sergeant-trumpeter with his mace and collar; the trumpets, drum-major and

drums, and knights'-marshal and men."

"On Her Majesty showing herself at the Presence Chamber window,

Garter-Principal-King-at-Arms having taken his station in the courtyard

under the window, accompanied by the Duke of Norfolk as Earl-Marshal of

England, read the proclamation containing the formal and official

announcement of the demise of King William IV., and of the consequent

accession of Queen Alexandrina Victoria to the throne of these realms ...

'to whom we acknowledge all faith and constant obedience, with all humble

and hearty affection, beseeching God, by whom kings and queens do reign, to

bless the Royal Princess Alexandrina Victoria with long and happy years to

reign. God save the Queen.' At the termination of this proclamation the

band struck up the National Anthem, and a signal was given for the Park and

Tower guns to fire in order to announce the fact of the proclamation being

made. During the reading of the proclamation her Majesty stood at the

Presence Chamber window, and immediately upon its conclusion the air was

rent with the loudest acclamations by those within the area, which were

responded to by the thousands without."

The scene drew from Elizabeth Barrett Browning the following popular


O, maiden, heir of kings,

A king has left his place;

The majesty of death has swept

All other from his face;

And thou upon thy mother's breast

No longer lean adown,

But take the glory for the rest,

And rule the land that loves thee best.

The maiden wept,

She wept to wear a crown.

* * * * *

God bless thee, weeping Queen,

With blessings more divine,

And fill with better love than earth

That tender heart of thine;

That when the thrones of earth shall be

As low as graves brought down,

A pierced hand may give to thee

The crown which angels shout to see.

Thou wilt not weep

To wear that heavenly crown.

A maiden Queen in her first youth, wearing the crown and wielding the

sceptre, had become un fait accompli and the news spread over the

length and breadth of the land. We have seen how it touched the oldest

statesmen, to whom State ceremonials had become hackneyed--who were perhaps

a little sceptical of virtue in high places. It may be imagined, then, how

the knowledge, with each striking and picturesque detail, thrilled and

engrossed all the sensitive, romantic young hearts in the Queen's

dominions. It seemed as if womanhood and girlhood were exalted in one woman

and girl's person--as if a new era must be inaugurated with such a reign,

and every man worthy of the name would rally round this Una on the throne.

The prosaic side of the question was that the country was torn by the

factions of Whig and Tory, which were then in the full bloom of party

spirit and narrow rancorous animosity. The close of the life of William

IV. had presented the singular and disastrous contradiction of a King in

something like open opposition to his Ministers. William had begun by being

a liberal in politics, but alarmed by the progress of reform, he had hung

back resisted, and ended by being dragged along an unwilling tolerator of a

Whig regime. The Duke of Kent had been liberal in his opinions when

liberality was not the fashion. The Duchess was understood to be on the

same side; her brother and counsellor, the King of the Belgians, was

decidedly so. Accordingly, the Whigs hailed the accession of Queen Victoria

as their triumph, likely to secure and prolong their tenure of office. They

claimed her as their Queen, with a boasting exultation calculated to wound

and exasperate every Tory in the kingdom. Lord Campbell, who, though a

zealous Whig, was comparatively cool and cautious, wrote in his journal,

after the Queen's first Council, "We basked in the full glare of royal

sunshine;" and this tone was generally adopted by his party. They met with

some amount of success in their loud assertion, and the consequence was a

strain of indignant bitterness in the Tory rejoinder. A clever partisan

inscribed on the window-pane of an inn at Huddersfield:

"The Queen is with us," Whigs insulting say,

"For when she found us in, she let us stay."

It may be so; but give me leave to doubt

How long she'll keep you when she finds you out.

There was even some cooling of Tory loyalty to the new Queen. Chroniclers

tell us of the ostentatious difference in enthusiasm with which, at Tory

dinners, the toasts of the Queen, and the Queen-dowager were received.

As a matter of course, Lord Melbourne became the Queen's instructor in the

duties of her position, and as she had no private secretary, he had to be

in constant attendance upon her--to see her, not only daily, but sometimes

three or four times a day. The Queen has given her testimony to the

unwearied kindness and pleasantness, the disinterested regard for her

welfare, even the generous fairness to political opponents, with which her

Prime Minister discharged his task. It seems as if the great trust imposed

on him drew out all that was most manly and chivalrous in a character

which, along with much that was fine and attractive, that won to him all

who came in close contact with him, was not without the faults of the

typical aristocrat, correctly or incorrectly defined by the popular

imagination. Lord Melbourne, with his sense and spirit, honesty and

good-nature, could be haughtily, indifferent, lazily self-indulgent,

scornfully careless even to affectation, of the opinions of his social

inferiors, as when he appeared to amuse himself with "idly blowing a

feather or nursing a sofa-cushion while receiving an important and perhaps

highly sensitive deputation from this or that commercial interest." The

time has come when it is fully recognised that whatever might have been

Lord Melbourne's defects, he never brought them into his relations with the

Queen. To her he was the frank, sincere, devoted adviser of all that it was

wisest and best for her to do. "He does not appear to have been greedy of

power, or to have used any unfair means of getting or keeping it. The

character of the young Sovereign seems to have impressed him deeply. His

real or affected levity gave way to a genuine and lasting desire to make

her life as happy and her reign as successful as he could. The Queen always

felt the warmest affection and gratitude for him, and showed it long after

the public had given up the suspicion that she could be a puppet in the

hands of a Minister. "But men--especially Lord Melbourne's political

adversaries--were not sufficiently large-minded and large-hearted to put

this confidence in him beforehand. They remembered with wrath and disgust

that, even in the language of men of the world, "his morals were not

supposed to be very strict." He had been unhappy in his family life. The

eccentricities and follies of Lady Caroline Lamb had formed the gossip of

several London seasons long years before. Other scandals had gathered round

his name, and though they had been to some extent disproven, it was

indignantly asked, could there be a more unsuitable and undesirable guide

for an innocent royal girl of eighteen than this accomplished, bland

roue of threescore? Should he be permitted to soil--were it but in

thought--the lily of whose stainlessness the nation was so proud? The

result proved that Lord Melbourne could be a blameless, worthy servant to

his Sovereign.

In the meantime the great news of Queen Victoria's accession had travelled

to the princely student at Bonn, who responded to it in a manly, modest

letter, in which he made no claim to share the greatness, while he referred

to its noble, solemn side. Prince Albert wrote on the 26th of June: "Now

you are Queen of the mightiest land of Europe; in your hand lies the

happiness of millions. May Heaven assist you and strengthen you with its

strength in that high but difficult task. I hope that your reign may be

long, happy, and glorious, and that your efforts may be rewarded by the

thankfulness and love of your subjects." To others he expressed his

satisfaction at what he heard of his cousin's astonishing self-possession,

and of the high praise bestowed on her by all parties, "which seemed to

promise so auspiciously for her reign." But so far from putting himself

forward or being thrust forward by their common friends as an aspirant for

her hand, while she was yet only on the edge of that strong tide and giddy

whirl of imposing power and dazzling adulation which was too likely to

sweep her beyond his grasp, it was resolved by King Leopold and the kindred

who were most concerned in the relations of the couple, that, to give time

for matters to settle down, for the young Queen to know her own mind--above

all, to dissipate the premature rumour of a formal engagement between the

cousins which had taken persistent hold of the public mind ever since the

visit of the Saxe-Coburg princes to Kensington Palace in the previous year,

Prince Albert should travel for several months. Accordingly, he set out, in

company with his brother, to make an enjoyable tour, on foot, through

Switzerland and the north of Italy. To a nature like his, such an

experience was full of keen delight; but in the midst of his intoxication

he never forgot his cousin. The correspondence between them had been

suffered to drop, but that she continued present to his thoughts was

sufficiently indicated by the souvenirs he collected specially for her: the

views of the scenes he visited, the Alpenrosen he gathered for her

in its native home, Voltaire's autograph.

The Queen left Kensington, within a month of her uncle's death, we do not

need to be told "greatly to the regret of the inhabitants." She went on the

13th of July to take up her residence at Buckingham Palace. "Shortly after

one o'clock an escort of Lancers took up a position on the Palace Green,

long previous to which an immense concourse of respectable persons had

thronged the avenue and every open space near the Palace." About half-past

one an open carriage drawn by four greys, preceded by two outriders, and

followed by an open barouche, drawn by four bays, drove up from her

Majesty's mews, Pimlico, and stopped before the grand entrance to the

Duchess of Kent's apartments. The Queen, accompanied by the Duchess of

Kent and Baroness Lehzen, almost immediately got into the first carriage.

There was a tumult of cheering, frankly acknowledged. It is said the young

Queen looked "pale and a little sad" at the parting moment. Then with a

dash the carriages vanished in a cloud of July dust, and the familiar

Palace Green, with its spreading trees and the red chimneys beyond--the

High Street--Kensington Gore, were left behind. Kensington's last brief

dream of a Court was brought to an abrupt conclusion. What was worse,

Kensington's Princess was gone, never to return to the changed scene save

for the most fleeting of visits.

We should like to give here one more story of her Majesty's stay at

Kensington--a story that refers to these last days. We have already spoken

of an old soldier-servant of the Duke of Kent's, said to have been named

Stillman, who was quartered with his family--two of them sickly--in a

Kensington cottage of the period, visited by the Duchess of Kent and the

Princess Victoria. The little boy had died; the ailing girl still lived.

The girl's clergyman, a gentleman named Vaughan, went to see her some days

after the Queen had quitted the Palace, and found the invalid looking

unusually bright. He inquired the reason. "Look there!". said the girl,

and drew a book of Psalms from under her pillow, "look what the new Queen

has sent me to-day by one of her ladies, with the message that, though now,

as Queen of England, she had to leave Kensington, she did not forget me."

The lady who had brought the book had said the lines and figures in the

margin were the dates of the days on which the Queen herself had been

accustomed to read the Psalms, and that the marker, with the little peacock

on it, was worked by the Princess's own hand. The sick girl cried, and

asked if this act was not beautiful?

Strife The Betrothal facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail