The First Months Of Marriage

In this mere sketch of the great life of the Queen of England, I can give

little space to the political questions and events of her reign,

important and momentous as some of them were, even for other lands and

other people than the English. For a clear and concise account of those

questions and events, I refer my readers to "A History of Our Own Times,"

by Justin McCarthy, M.P. I know nothing so admirable of its kind. But

mine must be something less ambitious--a personal and domestic history--

light, gossipy, superficial, as regards the profound mysteries of

politics; in short, "pure womanly."

I shall not even treat of the great wars which stormed over the

Continent, and upset and set up thrones, except as they affected the life

of my illustrious subject. At first they seemed to form a lurid

background to the bright pictures of peace and love presented by her

happy marriage and maternity, and afterwards in the desolation and

mourning they brought, seemed in keeping with the sorrow of her


Happily all was quiet and peace in the United Kingdom, and in the world

at large, when the honeymoon began for that august but simple-hearted

pair of lovers, Victoria and Albert; or, as she would have preferred to

write it, Albert and Victoria. The fiery little spurt of revolt in

Canada, called rather ambitiously, "The Canadian Rebellion," had ended in

smoke, and the outburst of Chartism, from the spontaneous combustion of

sullen and long-smothered discontent among the working classes, had been

extinguished, partly by a fog of misapprehension and misdirection, partly

by a process of energetic stamping out. The shameful Chinese opium war,

the Cabul disasters, and the fearful Sepoy rebellion were, as yet, only

slow, simmering horrors in the black caldron of the Fates. Irish

starvation had not set in, in its acute form, and Irish sedition was, as

yet, taking only the form of words--the bold, eloquent, magnificent, but

not malignant and scarcely menacing words of Daniel O'Connell In the

Infernal Council Chamber below, the clock whose hours are epochs of

crime, had not yet struck for the era of political assassination. France

was resting and cooling from the throes and fires of revolution, and

growing the vine over its old lava courses. The citizen-King and his

family were setting an example of domestic affection and union, of

morality, thrift, and forehandedness--diligently making hay while the

fickle sun of French loyalty was shining. Italy was lying deathly quiet

under the mailed foot of Austria, and under the paternal foot of the old

Pope, shod with a velvet slipper, cross-embroidered, but leaden-soled;

Garibaldi was fighting for liberty in "the golden South Americas";

Mazzini was yet dreaming of liberty--so was Kossuth. Russia was quietly

gathering herself up for new leaps of conquest tinder her most imperial,

inflexible autocrat--the inscrutable, unsmiling Nicholas.

In England and America it was, though a peaceful, a stirring and an

eventful time. English manufacturers, not content with leveling mountains

of American cotton bales, converting them into textile fabrics and

clothing the world therewith, were reaching deep and deeper into the

bowels of the earth, and pulling up sterner stuff to spin into gigantic

threads with which to lace together all the provinces and cities of the

realm. That captive monster, Steam, though in the early days of its

servitude, was working well in harness, while in America Morse was after

the lightning, lassoing it with his galvanic wires. In England the steam-

dragon had begun by killing one of his keepers, and was distrusted by

most English people, who still preferred post-horses and stage-coaches--

all the good old ways beloved by hostel-keepers, Tony Welters, postilions

and pot-boys. There was something fearful, supernatural, almost profane

and Providence-defying in this new, swift, wild, and whizzing mode of

conveyance. Churchmen and Tories were especially set against it; yet I

have been told that later, that Prince of conservatives, F. M., the Duke

of Wellington, did, on the occasion of one of Her Majesty's

accouchements travel from London to Windsor, at the rate of

seventy-five miles an hour, in order to be in at the birth! What were the

perils of Waterloo to this daring, dizzying journey?

Just a month before the Queen's marriage there occurred in London a union

yet more auspicious, not alone for England, but for all Christendom. It

was the wedding, by act of Parliament, of Knowledge and Humanity in the

cheap postage reform--carried through with wonderful ability, energy,

persistence, and pluck by Rowland Hill; blessed be his memory. The Queen

afterwards knighted him, but he did not need the honor, though I doubt

not it was pleasant, coming from her hands. The simple name of the dear

old man was full of dignity, and long before had been stamped--penny-

stamped, on the heart of the world.

So it seemed that life smiled on and around the royal wedded pair on that

winter afternoon, so unwintry to them, when they took leave of relations

and wedding guests at Buckingham Palace, and set out for Windsor Castle.

Even the heavens which had wept in the morning with those who wept,

changed its mood, and smiled on bride and bridegroom, as they drove forth

in an open carriage and four, followed by other open carriages containing

a picked suite of friends and attendants--all with favor-decked

postilions and footmen in the royal red liveries, and everything grand

and gay. The Queen was dressed in a white satin pelisse, profusely

trimmed with swan's-down. She seems, in those days, to have been very

fond of nestling down under that soft, warm, dainty sort of a wrap. How

like a white dove she must have looked that day, for her bonnet was

white, trimmed with white, plumes. Prince Albert wore a fur-trimmed coat,

with a high collar, and had a very high hat, which for the most part was

in his hand, so much saluting was he obliged to do to the saluting


All the world was abroad that day--great was the flow of good feeling,

and mighty was the flow of good ale, while the whole air of the Kingdom

was vibrating with the peal of merry marriage-bells. All through the land

free dinners were provided for the poor--good roast beef, plum-pudding--

'alf and 'alf fare--and I am afraid the Queen's pauper-subjects would

have been unwilling to have the occasion indefinitely repeated, with such

observances,--would not have objected to Her Majesty proving a female

Henry VIII.

Victoria and Albert drove that afternoon more than twenty miles between

ranks of frantically loyal, rejoicing people,--past countless festive

decorations, and a world of "V"s and "A"s--under arches so

gay that one wondered where and how at that season all the flowers and

foliage were produced,--if nature had not hurried up her spring work, so

as to be able to come to the wedding. The Queen turned now and then her

happy face on her shouting subjects, in graceful acknowledgment of their

sympathy with her happiness; but much of the time she was observed to be

regarding her husband, intently or furtively. So she had betrayed her

heart during She marriage ceremony, when, as an eye-witness records, she

"was observed to look frequently at Prince Albert,--in fact, she scarcely

ever took her eyes off him." I suppose she found him "goodly to look

upon." It is certain that she worshiped him with her eyes, as well as

with her heart and soul,--then and ever after. For the world, even for

the Court, he grew, as the pitiless, pilfering years went by, a little

too stout, and somewhat bald, while his complexion lost something of its

fine coloring and smoothness, and his eyes their fulness,--but for her,

he seems to have always kept the grace and glory of his youth. Even when

he was dying-when the gray twilight of the fast-coming night was creeping

over his face, clouding the light of his eyes, chilling the glow of his

smile--his beauty was still undimmed for her. She says in her pathetic

account of those sad moments--"his beautiful face, more beautiful than

ever, is grown so thin."

But on this their wedding-day, death and death-bed partings were far

enough from the thoughts of the royal lovers. Life was theirs,--young

life, in all its fulness and richness of health, and hope, and joy, and

that "perfect, love, which casteth out fear."

So essentially young and so light-hearted were they, that they laughingly

welcomed the crowd of shouting, leaping, hat-waving, mad Eton boys, who

as they neared Windsor, turned out to receive them. The Queen jotted down

this jolly incident in her journal thus: "The boys in a body accompanied

the carriage to the castle, cheering and shouting as only schoolboys can.

They swarmed up the mound, as the carriage entered the quadrangle, and,

as the Queen and the Prince descended at the grand entrance, they made

the old castle ring again with their acclamations."

What would Queen Charlotte, or any of the stiff, formal Dutch Queens of

any of the Georges have thought of such a boisterous wedding escort,--of

such a noisy welcome to stately Windsor? They would very likely have

said, "Go away, naughty pays! How dare you!"

Alas, this royal pair, natural, joyous, girl-like and boy-like as they

were still were slaves to, their station. They could not long hide

themselves from the million-eyed world. In a few days the Court came down

upon them from London. "Mamma" came with them--and I hope that she, at

least, was welcome. Then followed show and ceremony, and amusements of

the common, unpoetic, unparadisiacal, Courtly order. There were "fiddling

and dancing every night," and feasting, and full-dressing, and all that.

Still nothing seems to have interfered much with the Queen's happiness

and content, for Lady Lyttleton wrote of her about this time,--"I

understand she is in extremely high spirits. Such a new thing for her to

dare to be unguarded in conversing with anybody, and with her frank and

fearless nature, the restraints she has hitherto been under, from one

reason or another, with everybody, must have been most painful."

Only the day after her marriage, the Queen wrote to Baron Stockmar:

"There cannot exist a purer, dearer, nobler being in the world than the


She never took those words back--she never had cause to take them back,

to lie heavy on her heart. But such utter adoration persisted in year

after year, with cheerful obstinacy, even against the modest protests of

the object, would have spoiled any man who was spoilable.

Her Majesty was soon obliged to return to London, in order to hold

Courts, to receive addresses of congratulation on her marriage. It seemed

that half the men of the Kingdom of any standing, had formed themselves

into delegations. So numerous were they, that Prince Albert was obliged

to "come up to the help of the QUEEN against the mighty"--bore, for she

records that he in one day received and personally answered no less than

twenty-seven addresses! In fact, he was nearly addressed to death.

The Queen after receiving many members of both Houses of Parliament,

bearing addresses--received large delegations from the State Church--the

General Assembly of the Church of Scotland--the English Non-Conformists,

and the Society of Friends--all walking peacefully enough together to the

throne of Victoria, but having widely different ways to the "throne of

grace;"--all uniting in loyal prayers for the divine blessing on the fair

head of their Sovereign, and in the hope that the comely young man of her

choice might do virtuously, and walk humbly, and gingerly by her side--

but a little in the rear, as became him; not, of course, as a husband,

Scripturally regarded, but as the German Consort of an English Queen


This subordinate view of her husband's place the Queen did not fully

accept from anybody, at any time. At that period, it is probable she

would have gladly taken off the crown, to place it on his dear head, and

doffed the ermine mantle to put it on his manly shoulders, and would have

been the first to swear allegiance to "King Albert."

She thought that he might, at least, have the title of "King-Consort,"

and perhaps because of this hope, she deferred for years--till 1857--

conferring on him, by Royal Letters Patent, the title of Prince-Consort.

Doubtless the English people, if they had been on the lookout for a King,

might have gone farther and fared worse,--but the four Georges had

somehow got them out of conceit with the word "King," and William, the

Sailor, had not quite reconciled them to it;--then they were jealous of

foreigners, and last, but not least, there were apprehensions that the

larger title would necessitate a larger grant. But the Prince did not

need the empty honor, which in his position would have been "a

distinction without a difference." I do not believe he cared much for it,

though titles are usually dear to the Teutonic soul, determined, as he

always so wisely was, to "sink his individuality in that of the Queen,"

and when at last, the second best title of Prince-Consort, that by which

the people already named him, was made his legal right, by his fond wife,

grieved to have kept

--"the best man under the sun,

So many years from his due,"

he was well content, because it pleased her.

The Queen certainly did all she constitutionally could to confer honors

on her husband, who after all outdid her, and best honored himself.

Before their marriage, she had invested him with the noble order of the

Garter, and given him the Star, and the Badge, and the Garter itself set

in diamonds. She now invested him with the insignia of a Knight Grand

Cross of the Order of the Bath. It amused her, this investing--she would

have liked to invent a few orders, for royal Albert's sake--he became the

insignia so well! She also made him Colonel of the 11th Regiment of Light

Dragoons--he rode so well!--and she had the name changed to "Prince

Albert's Own Hussars."

Everywhere the Queen and Prince appeared together--at reviews and art

exhibitions, at church and at the theatre (for the Queen was very fond of

the drama in those days), at drawing-rooms and at races--and everywhere

the people delighted in their beauty and their happiness.

Early in April, the Duchess of Kent, in pursuance of what she deemed her

duty, and best for the young people, parted from her darling daughter,

and took up her residence in a separate home in London--Ingestrie House.

She afterwards occupied Clarence House, the present residence of the Duke

of Edinburgh. When the Court was at Windsor, the Duchess resided at

Frogmore, a very lovely place, belonging to the royal estate, and so near

the Castle that she was able to dine and lunch with Victoria almost

daily. Still the partial separation was a trial for a mother and daughter

so closely and tenderly attached, and they both took it hard,--as did,

about that time, Prince Albert his separation from his brother Ernest,

whose long visit was over. The Queen's account of the exceeding

sorrowfulness of that parting must now bring to the lips of the most

sentimental reader, though "a man and a brother," an unsympathetic smile--

unless he happens to remember that those were the earliest days of steam

on sea and land, and that journeys from England to any part of the

Continent were no light undertakings. So the brothers sung together a

mournful college song, and embraced, kissing one another on both cheeks,

doubtless, after the German fashion,--"poor Albert being pale as a sheet,

and his eyes full of tears." Ah, what would he have said could his

"prophetic soul" have beheld his son, Albert Edward, skipping from London

to Paris in eight hours--dashing about the Continent, from Copenhagen to

Cannes, from Brussels to Berlin--from Homburg to St. Petersburg--taking

it all as lightly and gaily as a school-boy takes a "jolly lark" of a

holiday trip to Brighton or Margate! That was not the day of

peregrinating Princes. Now they are as plenty as commercial travelers.

Early in June the Queen and Prince and their Court left busy, smoky

London for a few days of quiet and pure air at lovely Claremont. They

spent part of that restful time in going to the Derby, in four carriages

and four with outriders and postilions--a brave sight to see.

On the first of June, Prince Albert was invited to preside at a great

public meeting in Exeter Hall, for the abolition of the Slave Trade--and

he did preside, and made a good speech, which he had practiced over to

the Queen in the morning. That was an ordeal, for he spoke in English for

the first time, and before a very large and distinguished audience. It

was a very young "Daniel come to judgment" on an ancient wrong--for the

Prince was not yet of age.

That sweet Quakeress, Caroline Fox, thus speaks of the Prince on this

interesting occasion, in her delightful "Memories":--"Prince Albert was

received with tremendous applause, but bore his honors with calm and

modest dignity. He is certainly a very beautiful man,--a thorough German,

and a fine poetical specimen of the race."

Ah, what would that doughty champion of the Slave Trade, William IV.,

have said, could he have seen his niece's husband giving royal

countenance to such a fanatical, radical gathering! It was enough to make

him stir irefully in his coffin at Windsor.

But for that matter, could our ancestors generally, men and women who

devoutly believed in the past, and died in the odor of antiquity, know of

our modern goings-on, in political and humanitarian reforms--know of our

"Science so called," and social ethics, there would be "a rattling among

the dry bones," not only in royal vaults, but in country churchyards,

where "The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep."

The First Christening The Season Of 1841 The Great Exhibition facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail