The Coming Of The Prince

The coronation ceremonies in Westminster Abbey were, indeed,

magnificent, but it must not be supposed that England was satisfied

with no further celebration of so joyful an event. Throughout the realm

there were for several days fairs, balls, and entertainments of all

kinds. London was illuminated, and the theaters were made free to all

who chose to attend them. People's hearts and purses were opened. The

rich were not satisfied with having a good time themselves; they wanted

the children of the land and the poor to have a good time also. In many

places feasts were given, and one of the most famous of these was held

in a great open field in Cambridge, where more than fourteen thousand

persons were entertained.

In the center of the field was a space for the band, and around it a

platform. Much money had been subscribed for the feast, but the

committee felt sure that large numbers of people would be ready to pay

from seventy-five cents to one dollar and a half for the privilege of

walking about on this platform and seeing what was to be seen. They

were right, for there was "a most fashionable and select company," who

promenaded around the circular platform and watched the feasters.

Sixty tables, each two hundred and thirty feet long, stretched out from

the central platform like the rays of a star; and when the signal was

given, the fourteen thousand persons, poor people and children of all

ages, marched to their places. It must have been an amusing procession

for each one was obliged to bring his own plate, knife, fork, and mug

for beer. There was roast beef, and there were various other good

things; but the member of the committee who wrote the account of the

dinner seems to have been especially interested in the puddings.

"Beautiful puddings," he says they were, and he tells just where each

one was boiled. He states, too, that 2475 pounds of raisins were put

into them.

At the end of the dinner, pipes, tobacco, and snuff were passed to the

grown folk. There was a salute of nineteen guns in honor of the Queen's

nineteen years. A balloon, which the enthusiastic committeeman calls a

"stupendous machine," was sent up, and the health of the Queen was

drunk. The Sunday-school children sang a song of better intention than

rhyme, which began:

"Victoria! Victoria!

We hail thy gentle rule;

Victoria! the Patroness

Of every Sunday school."

After the singing, came various games and contests. Men tried to climb

a well-soaped pole to get a leg of mutton which was fastened to the

top. Others were tied into sacks, and jumped as far as possible in the

attempt to win a pair of boots. There was a wheelbarrow race run by ten

blindfolded men. A pig was offered to the man who could catch the

animal and swing it over his shoulder by the well-greased tail. Men

grinned through horse-collars to see who could make the ugliest face

and so win a pair of new trousers. Six boys with their hands tied

behind their backs were given penny loaves and molasses, and a new hat

was waiting for the one who ate his loaf first. Other boys with their

hands tied were "bobbing for apples"--that is, trying to lift apples

with their teeth from a tub of water--and another group of boys were

struggling to see who could first swallow a pennyworth of dry biscuit,

and so win a new waistcoat. There were foot races and donkey races and

hurdle races, and races among men each with one leg tied up. At last

the day came to an end with fireworks, and all the happy, tired people

went home, fully convinced that under this new sovereign their country

would be more prosperous than ever.

It seems very strange that this Queen who was worshiped by her people

in the summer of 1838 should in the course of a few months have become

exceedingly unpopular with some of her subjects, but so it was. There

were in England two political parties, the Whigs and the Tories. Queen

Victoria's sympathies were with the Whigs. They were in power when she

came to the throne, but in the spring of 1839 the Cabinet proposed an

important bill which Parliament refused to make a law. Under such

circumstances it is the custom for the Prime Minister and the Cabinet

to resign, because such a refusal is supposed to signify that the

people, whom Parliament represents, do not approve of their acts.

When Lord Melbourne told the Queen that he must resign, she felt very

badly. She must stand at the head of a great nation, and the one in

whose advice she had trusted could advise her no longer. The leaders of

the Tories were "the Duke," as the Duke of Wellington was called, and

Sir Robert Peel; and Lord Melbourne told her that her wisest course

would be to ask the Duke to become her Prime Minister and select a

Cabinet of Tories. The Duke had declared before this that he did not

know what the Tories would do for a Prime Minister if they should come

into power. "I have no small talk," he said, "and Peel has no manners?"

but when the Queen sent for him, of course he obeyed. She asked him to

be her Prime Minister, and said to him honestly: "I cannot help being

very sorry to make a change and give up my Ministers, especially Lord

Melbourne, for he has been almost a father to me."

The straightforward old soldier was delighted with her frankness, but

he said: "I am somewhat deaf, and I am too old a man to undertake this

work and serve you properly. Moreover, it would be much better for one

who can lead the House of Commons to be your Majesty's Prime Minister.

I advise you to send for Sir Robert Peel."

Now, this girl of nineteen did not like the man who had "no manners,"

but she was a lady as well as a Queen, and when Sir Robert appeared--in

full dress, as was required--she received him so courteously that he

went away much pleased, having promised to obey her command and form a

Cabinet. This was easily done, and the next morning he brought her a

list of names.

"But you must not expect me to give up the society of Lord Melbourne,"

she said.

"Certainly not," was Peel's reply. "Moreover Lord Melbourne is too

honorable a man to attempt to influence your Majesty in any way against

the existing government." Sir Robert then suggested several men whom he

knew that she liked for various positions of honor in the royal

household. Finally he said, perhaps a little bluntly, "It will be

desirable to make some changes in the ladies of your Majesty's

household." Then a storm arose.

"I shall not part with any of my ladies," declared the Queen.

"But, your Majesty," said Sir Robert, "most of these ladies are closely

related to the former Cabinet Ministers." The Queen would not yield,

but she was willing to discuss the subject later with him and the Duke.

When they appeared before her, they said: "Your Majesty, the ladies of

the household are on the same footing as the lords."

"No," declared the Queen, "I have lords besides and I have let you do

with them as you chose. If you had just been put out of office and Lord

Melbourne had come in, I am sure that he would not have asked me to

give up my ladies."

"There are more Whigs than Tories in the House of Commons," said Peel,

"and if these ladies who are closely related to prominent Whigs are

retained, all Europe will look upon England as the country that is

governed by a party which the sovereign dislikes and in which she has

no confidence."

"I give you my lords," replied the Queen steadfastly, "but I keep my

ladies." The two nobles were in a dilemma. According to the British

constitution, "The Queen can do no wrong"--that is, not she, but the

Prime Minister is held responsible for every public act. Sir Robert

could not remain Prime Minister if the Queen positively refused to

yield to a course which he thought necessary.

While the Tory leaders were trying to plan some way out of the

difficulty, the Queen sent a letter to Lord Melbourne which was written

in much the same way that an indignant young girl would write to her

father. "Do not fear," she said, "that I was not calm and composed.

They wanted to deprive me of my ladies, and I suppose they would

deprive me next of my dressers and housemaids; they wished to treat me

like a girl, but I will show them that I am Queen of England."

Lord Melbourne called his Cabinet together in such haste that one

member had to be brought from the opera and another from a dinner

party. He read them the Queen's letter, and asked, "What shall we


"Advise her to give up two or three of her principal ladies," suggested

one, "and perhaps that will satisfy Peel."

"Does anyone know exactly what Peel wants," queried another, "and how

many ladies he demands shall be removed?" This was an exceedingly

sensible question, and if it had been taken to Peel for an answer, the

trouble might have been brought to an end. He would probably have been

satisfied with the resignation of two or three of the strongest

partisans and principal talkers among the ladies; and, although the

Queen was insisting upon what she believed was her right, yet much of

her indignation arose from her belief that Peel meant to deprive her of

all who were then her attendants perhaps even the Baroness Lehzen. The

question was not taken to Peel, however, and the discussion in the

Cabinet went on.

"Let us write a letter for the Queen to copy and send to Peel," was the

next suggestion, "saying that she will not consent to a course which

she believes to be contrary to custom and which is repugnant to her

feelings." This suggestion was adopted. The letter was written, and the

Queen copied it to send; but before it reached Sir Robert, he resigned

his position, and Lord Melbourne was again Prime Minister.

This was the famous "Bedchamber Plot," and it aroused all England. Lord

Melbourne and the Whigs said:

"It is a small matter that the Queen should be allowed to retain her

favorite attendants."

Sir Robert and the Tories replied:

"The Prime Minister is responsible for the acts of the Queen, and it is

a large matter if she refuses to follow his advice when he believes

that the good of the realm demands a certain course. She is not the

Queen of the whole country, she is only the Queen of the Whigs, and the

whole thing is a plot to keep the Whigs in power."

"We are loyal to our sovereign," declared the Whigs.

"We stand by the constitution of Great Britain not by the whims of

a girl of nineteen," retorted the Tories. The amusing part of the

struggle was that the Whigs had always prided themselves on standing by

the constitution and the rights of the people, while the Tories had

favored increasing the power of the sovereign; but in those days the

question was too serious to strike anyone as amusing.

As the weeks of the summer and the early autumn passed, matters only

grew worse. Victoria was spoken of most contemptuously, and was even

hissed in a public assembly. Mr. Greville wrote in his journal: "The

Tories seem not to care one straw for the crown, its dignity or its

authority, because the head on which it is placed does not nod with

benignity to them." Peel was, of course, above such behavior as that of

some of his violent partisans, but he must have been somewhat surprised

at developments. He had been afraid that the Queen's opinions and

judgment were so weak that she would be influenced by the talk of a few

ladies in attendance and would be unable to judge questions fairly and

without prejudice; but he had found that, whatever might be the faults

of the young lady on the throne, she could never be accused of having

no will of her own.

During the first two years of her reign, the friends of the Queen were

watching her with much anxiety. She was an unusual girl, with an

unusual training, but, after all, she was only a girl, and she had

responsibilities to meet from which, as Carlyle said, "an archangel

might have shrunk." Her position was all the more dangerous because she

was too young to realize her difficulties; and when trouble arose,

there was no one in the land of whom she could ask counsel without

arousing the enmity of someone else. Everyone who was capable of

advising her was prominent in one political party or the other. If she

had discussed any of her hard questions with even her own mother, and

it had become evident that suggestions had come from the Duchess of

Kent, there would have been talk at once of "foreign influence."

Meanwhile, "foreign influence" in the person of the wise King Leopold

was busily at work. The young Queen had reigned for more than two

years, and the first novelty of her position had passed. At first it

had been delightful to her to feel that she was "the Queen," and that

she could do precisely as she chose. Even the Bedchamber Plot had

resulted in her having her own way, in keeping her ladies and the Whig

Cabinet; but so clear-minded a woman as Queen Victoria must have

seen--as, indeed, she declared some years later--that she had not

behaved like a constitutional monarch, and she knew that thousands of

her subjects were indignant with her.

Never was a loving uncle more shrewd in his affection than this "wisest

sovereign in Europe;" for just at this time, when his niece was feeling

far less self-sufficient than she had felt some months earlier, he

proposed that Prince Albert and his brother Ernest should pay her a

visit. The young men came, bringing with them a letter from the King

which spoke of them in most matter-of-fact terms as "good, honest

creatures, really sensible and trustworthy." The point of the letter

was in its closing sentence, "I am sure that if you have anything to

recommend to them, they will be most happy to hear it from you."

The Queen knew very well what this sentence signified, and she was more

ready to "recommend" than she would have been some months before. She

had seen her cousins only once, and that was more than three years

earlier. Prince Albert was then a lovable boy, and the Princess was

willing that her relatives should understand that she would marry him

some day. When nearly two years had passed and she had become Queen,

she felt much older and more mature; but she thought of her cousin as

still a boy. She expected to marry him some time in the future, but she

was not willing to permit even any formal engagement at that time. King

Leopold wrote urging her to make some "decisive arrangement" for the

following year. The Queen replied: "Albert and I are both too young to

think of marriage at present. He does not know English well enough, and

there are other studies which he needs to pursue."

King Leopold saw that it was of no use to press the question further at

that time, and he told the Prince that the marriage would have to be

postponed for a few years. The Prince saw the truth in Victoria's

objections. He knew that his position in England would demand all the

skill and knowledge that he could acquire, and he admitted that her

arguments were strong.

"You understand, and you will wait?" asked his uncle.

"Yes," answered the Prince, "I will wait, if I have only some certain

assurance to go on; but I do not want to be left in the ridiculous

position of Queen Elizabeth's suitors. I do not want all Europe talking

for years about my marriage and then laughing at the announcement that

Victoria never meant to marry me."

Another year passed. Then came the Bedchamber trouble. King Leopold

watched every item of news from England. "Now is the time," said the

sagacious King to himself, and he proposed the visit.

There had been little correspondence between the cousins. Prince Albert

had sent the Princess sketches of the places that he had visited in his

travels, and when she became Queen, he wrote her a somewhat formal

little letter, reminding her that the happiness of millions lay in her

hands, and closing rather primly, "I will not be indiscreet and abuse

your time." Victoria must have had in her mind a picture of her cousin

that was a strange combination of a serious young man somewhat given to

sermonizing and the stout, merry boy of seventeen who had slipped down

to the floor of his carriage and pushed his dog's head up to the window

when people pressed around to see the Prince.

With these two conflicting notions in her thoughts, the Queen went to

the head of the staircase in Windsor Palace to welcome her "two dear

cousins." The stout boy had vanished but in his place stood a tall,

manly, handsome young man, with a cheery, thoughtful face. Two days

later a letter went from the Queen to "Uncle Leopold," which said, "My

dear Uncle, Albert is fascinating." Then she remembered that she had

two cousinly guests and added, "The young men are very amiable,

delightful companions, and I am very glad to have them here."

King Leopold wrote at once, "I am sure you will like the cousins the

more, the longer you see them." Then he talked about the Prince.

"Albert is full of talent and fun and draws cleverly. May he be able to

strew roses without thorns on the pathway of life of our good Victoria!

He is well qualified to do so."

While the hopeful uncle was writing this letter, Victoria was talking

with Lord Melbourne.

"My lord," she said, "I have made up my mind at last, and I am ready to

marry Prince Albert whenever he wants me."

"I am very glad of it," replied her fatherly friend. "You will be much

more comfortable; for a woman cannot stand alone for any time, in

whatever position she may be."

"Do you think that my people will be pleased?" she asked.

"I believe that they will," he replied, for he knew very well how eager

they were for her marriage. No one liked the Duke of Cumberland, who

was now King Ernest of Hanover, but if the Queen died without children,

he would come over to England and wear the English crown as well as

that of Hanover. The feeling against him was so strong that it had even

been proposed in Parliament to make a law forbidding him ever to occupy

the throne.

On the fourth morning of their visit, the two Princes went hunting. It

was a long forenoon to the Queen, for she had what she afterwards

called a "nervous" thing to do. They came back at noon, but they had

hardly time to change their hunting clothes before a message was

brought to Prince Albert that the Queen wished to see him.

Now, royal etiquette forbade that this Prince of a little German duchy

should ask the sovereign of Great Britain for her hand; so when Albert

reached the Queen's apartments, he was obliged to wait until she had


"I think you must know why I wished you to come," she said shyly. The

Prince had still to keep silent; he could only bow, but his bow must

have expressed a great deal, for she went on bravely: "It will make me

very happy if you will consent to what I wish."

In just what form the Prince made his reply the Queen did not reveal,

but it was evidently satisfactory, for she wrote, "He is perfection in

every way." That very day she sent a letter to King Leopold in which

she said: "I am so much bewildered by it all that I hardly know how to

write. But I do feel very happy."

A few weeks before this time she had written Baron Stockmar that she

could not think of marrying for three or four years, but that very day

she wrote him: "I do feel so guilty, I know not how to begin my

letter, but I think the news it will contain will be sufficient to

insure your forgiveness. Albert has completely won my heart, and all

was settled between us this morning I feel certain that he will make me

very happy. I wish I could say," continued the modest little sovereign

of Great Britain, "that I felt as certain of making him happy, but I

shall do my best."

Prince Albert, too, had some letters to write; and as Victoria had

written to King Leopold, his first was to Baron Stockmar. After telling

of his happiness and of his love for the Queen, he wrote: "I cannot

write more, I am too much bewildered." It certainly was bewildering. He

had been told not long before that the Queen was determined not to

marry for three or four years at any rate, and that she would not

consent to any formal engagement. He had come to England with a

determination to insist either that she should recognize the informal

engagement between them or that it should be broken off.

The Duchess of Kent had loved Albert from the first, and she was very

happy in the thought of the marriage. She and the Baroness Lehzen,

together with Lord Melbourne and Prince Albert's brother, were the only

ones in England who knew the secret until five or six weeks had passed.

Then came a difficult five minutes for the young Queen. She had to meet

her Council of eighty middle-aged men and tell them of her engagement.

It is no wonder that she "hardly knew who was there." The picture of

the Prince in her bracelet gave her courage, and though Lord Melbourne

was far down the room, she caught a kind look from him and saw the

tears of sympathy in his eyes. Her fingers trembled, but she soon

controlled herself and read: "It is my intention to ally myself in

marriage with the Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha." She went

through the rest of the paper with her usual clear, sweet voice, and

one of the Councilors wrote of the event: "Certainly she did look as

interesting and as handsome as any young lady I ever saw."

When the reading of the paper was finished, the Lord President asked:

"Have we your Majesty's permission to publish this declaration?" The

Queen bowed and left the Council Chamber. About two months later she

had something even harder to do; she had to open Parliament and ask

that an income should be granted to the Prince. Another matter also had

to be settled, and that was what position he should hold in England.

Whether he should enter a room before or after dukes, earls, and

members of the royal family was a question that gave rise to much

discussion. These two questions were not settled as the Queen wished,

for the sum granted to the Prince was but three-fifths of what her

Ministers had asked, and Parliament refused to pass a law giving him

precedence next to herself. The Duke of Wellington said, "Let the Queen

put the Prince just where she wishes him to be;" and this she did, as

far as England was concerned, by issuing an order in Council that he

should stand next to herself. Some of her royal relatives were

indignant and King Ernest declared positively that he would never give

precedence to the younger brother of a German duke. "I won't give way

to any paper royal highness," he declared. The Queen was both hurt and

angry at these decisions but Prince Albert's only fear was lest they

indicated objection to the marriage on the part of the English, and he

wrote: "While I possess your love, they cannot make me unhappy."

A little more than a week after this letter was written, the day of the

wedding came. It had been the custom to celebrate royal weddings in the

evening, though other weddings must by law take place before noon; but

on this, as on most other subjects, the Queen had a very definite

opinion. "I wish to be married as my subjects are married," she said,

"and the ceremony must be at noon."

"Is it the will of your Majesty that the word 'obey' be omitted from

the promise that you make to the Prince?" asked the Archbishop of


"No," she answered with decision. "I am not to be married as a queen,

but as a woman."

The wedding day was stormy, but that made little difference to bride,

groom, or any of the brilliant company assembled in the Chapel of St.

James'. The Prince wore the uniform of a British field-marshal, with

the collar of the Garter, and looked exceedingly handsome. As he came

into the Chapel, the organ burst out into the strains of "See, the

Conquering Hero Comes." He stood by the altar waiting for his bride,

and in a short time she appeared, escorted by the Lord Chamberlain. She

wore a dress of heavy white satin, woven in England. Her veil had made

scores of poor women happy, for she had ordered it of the lace-makers

of Honiton in Devon. She wore no crown, but only a wreath of orange

blossoms. She had diamond earrings and necklace, and a few diamonds in

her hair. Twelve bridesmaids in white tulle and white roses bore her

train; and a hard time they had, for, although it was six yards long,

they found it too short for so many bearers. One of them wrote: "We

were all huddled together, and scrambled rather than walked along,

kicking each other's heels and treading on each other's gowns."


At the moment the ring was placed on the Queen's finger, the guns in

the Park and at the Tower were fired, and the bells rang out their

merriest peals. When the ceremony was over, the party returned to

Buckingham Palace for a wedding breakfast. The bridesmaid who wrote the

account of the wedding said that Prince Albert "seemed a little nervous

about getting into the carriage with a lady with a tail six yards

long," but they all reached the palace in safety. After the breakfast

the sunshine at last beamed down upon them, and the young couple sped

away for their honeymoon at Windsor Castle.

The Closing Years The Condemnation Of The English Duel facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail