The Last Day Of Victoria's Real Girlhood





It seems to me that the momentous day just described was the last of

Victoria's real girlhood; that premature womanhood was thrust upon her

with all the power, grandeur, and state of a Queen Regnant. I wonder if,

weary and nervously exhausted as she must have been, she slept much, when

at last she went to bed, probably no longer in her mother's room. I

wonder if she did not think, with a sort of fearsome thrill that when the

summer sun faded from her sight, it was only to travel all night,

lighting her vast dominions and her uncounted millions of subjects; and

that, like the splendor of that sun, had become her life--hers, the

little maiden's, but just emerging from the shadow of seclusion, and from

her mother's protecting care and wise authority, and stepping out into

the world by herself!



The next day she went in state to St. James Palace, accompanied by great

lords and ladies, and escorted by squadrons of the Life Guards and Blues,

and was formally proclaimed from the window of the Presence Chamber,

looking out on the court-yard. A Court chronicle states that Her Majesty

wore a black silk dress and a little black chip bonnet, and that she

looked paler than usual. Miss Martineau, speaking of the scene, says:

"There stood the young creature, in simplest mourning, her sleek bands of

brown hair as plain as her dress. The tears ran down her cheeks, as Lord

Melbourne, standing by her side, presented her to the people as their

Sovereign. ... In the upper part of the face she is really pretty, and

with an ingenuous, sincere air which seems full of promise."



After the ceremony of proclamation was over, the "little Queen" remained

for a few moments at the window, bowing and smiling through her tears at

that friendly and enthusiastic crowd of her subjects, and listening to

the National Anthem played for the first time for her, then retired, with

her mother, who had not been "prominent" during the scene, but who had

been observed "to watch her daughter with great anxiety."



At noon the Queen held a Privy Council, at which it was said, "She

presided with as much ease as though she had been doing nothing else all

her life." At 1 P.M. she returned to Kensington Palace, there to remain

in retirement till after the funeral of King William.



It is certain that the behavior of this girl-queen on these first two

days of her reign "confounded the doctors" of the Church and State.

Greville, who never praises except when praise is wrung out of him, can

hardly say enough of her grace and graciousness, calmness and self-

possession. He says, also, that her "agreeable expression, with her

youth, inspire an excessive interest in all who approach her, and which,"

he is condescending enough to add, "I can't help feeling myself." He

quotes Peel as saying he was "amazed at her manner and behavior; at her

apparent deep sense of her situation, her modesty, and at the same time

her firmness. She appeared to be awed, but not daunted."



The Duke of Wellington paid a similar tribute to her courage.



Now, if these great men did not greatly idealize her, under the double

glamour of gallantry and loyalty, Victoria was a most extraordinary young

woman. A few days before the death of the King, Greville wrote: "What

renders speculation so easy and events so uncertain is the absolute

ignorance of everybody of the character, disposition, and capacity of the

Princess. She has been kept in such jealous seclusion by her mother

(never having slept out of her bedroom, nor been alone with anybody but

herself and, the Baroness Lehzen), that not one of her acquaintance, none

of the attendants at Kensington, not even the Duchess of Northumberland,

her governess, can have any idea what she is, or what she promises to

be." The first day of Victoria's accession he writes: "She appears to act

with every sort of good taste and good feeling, as well as good sense,

and nothing can be more favorable than the impression she has made, and

nothing can promise better than her manner and conduct do... William IV.

coming to the throne at the mature age of sixty-five, was so excited by

the exaltation that he nearly went mad... The young Queen, who might well

be either dazzled or confounded with the grandeur and novelty of her

situation, seems neither the one nor the other, and behaves with a

propriety and decorum beyond her years."



Doubtless nature was kind to Victoria in the elements of character, but

she must have owed very much of this courage, calmness, modesty,

simplicity, candor, and sterling good sense to the peculiar, systematic

training, the precept and example of her mother, the much-criticised

Duchess of Kent, so unpopular at the Court of the late King, and whom Mr.

Greville had by no means delighted to honor. Ah, the good, brave Duchess

had her reward for all her years of patient exile, all her loving labor

and watchful care, and rich compensation for all criticisms,

misrepresentations, and fault-finding, that June afternoon, the day of

the Proclamation, when she rode from the Palace of St. James to

Kensington with her daughter, who had behaved so well--her daughter and

her Queen!





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