The Little Folk





In the midst of all the royalties that were present at the wedding of

the Prince of Wales were the two great novelists of the realm,

Thackeray and Dickens; but Tennyson, the Poet Laureate, was not there.

Again "someone had blundered," and his invitation had been missent.

Both the Queen and Prince Albert felt a sincere admiration and

reverence for the poet, and the Prince had asked the favor of an

autograph with far more hesitation than most schoolboys would have

shown. This is the way in which he made his very modest petition:



"Will you forgive me if I intrude upon your leisure with a request

which I have thought some little time of making, viz., that you would

be good enough to write your name in the accompanying volume of the

'Idylls of the King'?" Prince Albert was very fond of the "Idylls," and

when, only a month after his death, Tennyson brought out a new edition

of the poems, it contained a beautiful dedication, which began:



"These to his memory--since he held them dear."



The lines do not sound as if the poet felt obliged to write them

because he had been appointed Laureate, but rather as if he meant every

word that he wrote. In this dedication he speaks very earnestly of

Prince Albert's wisdom and ability and unselfishness, and gives us the

exquisite line which everyone quotes who writes of the Prince Consort:



"Wearing the white flower of a blameless life."



The following year, just before the wedding of the Prince of Wales,

Tennyson wrote a welcome to the bride, beginning:



"Sea-kings' daughter from over the sea,

Alexandra!

Saxon and Norman and Dane are we,

But all of us Danes in our welcome of thee,

Alexandra!"



The Queen was much pleased with the poem and said, "Thank him very

warmly, and tell him with how much pleasure I have read the lines, and

that I rejoice the sweet and charming bride should be thus greeted."



There is a story that when the Danish Princess was a very young girl,

she and three of her girl friends sat together in the forest talking of

what they should like to do when they were grown up.



"I want to be famous," said one. "I want to paint a picture that

everyone will go to see, or to write a book that all Denmark will be

eager to read."



"If I could do just what I liked," declared the second, "I would travel

all over the world; so I will wish to be a great traveler."



"I want to be rich," said the third, "and then I can travel whenever I

choose, and buy all the books I choose without having to write them,

and all the pictures I choose without having to paint them. But what do

you want, Alix?"



The Princess Alix had been thinking, and she answered slowly, "If I

could have just what I wanted, I would choose that everyone who saw me

should love me."



However it was with the others, the Princess Alexandra surely had her

wish, for everyone who met her seemed to love her. The Queen called her

"the fairy," and so great a dignitary as Dean Stanley thought of her in

the same way, for after he had had a long talk with her in the corner

of the drawing room, telling her how the service of the Church of

England differed from that of the Danish Church, he wrote in his diary,

"She is as charming and beautiful a creature as ever passed through a

fairy tale." "The little gem of Denmark is the pet of the country,"

declared the newspapers. The unbounded admiration that had been shown

to Queen Victoria in the early days of her reign was given to

Alexandra. When the Queen came to the throne, young girls who were

small and had fair hair and blue eyes were happy. Now, it was bliss

to have any feature that resembled the Danish Princess. She had a

custom of letting two curls of brown hair fall on each shoulder, and

straightway English fashions demanded that every girl should wear four

curls hanging on her shoulders. For months London was at the height of

gayety. The Princess represented her royal mother-in-law at the drawing

rooms of the season; no easy task, for so many ladies attended the

first that it took four long hours for them to pass the throne. All

this time the Princess Alexandra and the Princess Alice stood to

receive them, except for one little resting time of twenty minutes.

There were receptions and most magnificent balls, at which all the

dignitaries tried their best to make themselves agreeable to the young

Princess.



Of course the Queen had no heart for these festivities, but she was

glad to have the people pleased, and for one of the most elaborate

entertainments she sent decorations and furnishings from Buckingham

Palace. The Princess Alice and Prince Louis were with her for several

months before the marriage of the Prince of Wales; and only three or

four weeks after the great event, a little Hessian granddaughter was

born at Windsor Castle. The chaplain of the Hessian court came to

England for the christening of the wee maiden. The usual number of

names was given her, but the first two were Victoria Alberta.



In the autumn the Queen made the customary visit to Balmoral; but only

a few days after her arrival she took an evening drive that put her

into a great deal of danger, for the carriage turned over, and the

Queen, the Princess Alice, and "Lenchen," as the Princess Helena was

called, were thrown out. Brown, the Queen's favorite Highland

attendant, had little regard for court manners at any time, and less

than ever in this predicament. He called out, "The Lord Almighty have

mercy on us! Who did ever see the like of this before! I thought you

were all killed." The Queen had fallen on her face, and was somewhat

bruised. Princess Alice, with her usual calmness, held a lantern so

that the men could see to cut the horses free. Then while the driver

went for help, the monarch of Great Britain sat in the road wrapped up

in plaids and using the floor of the carriage for a back. The Princess

had brought her page along, a Malay boy whose father had presented him

to a traveler in return for some kindness, and little "Willem" sat in

front with one lantern, while Brown held another. It was a strange

situation, a Queen, with thousands of soldiers at her command, sitting

in a broken carriage waiting for horses and guarded by one Highlander

and a little black boy. She wrote in her journal for that day: "People

were foolishly alarmed when we got upstairs, and made a great fuss. Had

my head bandaged and got to bed rather late."



This soldier's daughter could make little of pain, but she could not so

easily put away sorrow. Every place about Balmoral reminded her of

something that Prince Albert had said or done, and she could not bear

that his presence should be forgotten. On the summit of a hill which

they had often visited together, she built a great cairn, on which was

inscribed, "To the beloved memory of Albert, the great and good Prince

Consort; raised by his broken-hearted widow, Victoria R."



She was touched and grateful when the citizens of Aberdeen wished to

put up a statue of the Prince, and asked her to be present at the

unveiling. It was nearly two years since his death, but she had not yet

taken part in any public ceremony, and she dreaded to have the morning

come. When it did come, however, she wrote in her journal the words

that were the keynote of her courage in meeting difficulties, "Prayed

for help and got up earlier." The rain poured, but the streets of

Aberdeen were thronged with people. Out of sympathy with her grief,

there was no cheering, and no band playing. For more than twenty-five

years she had never appeared on public occasions without both cheering

and music; and although she appreciated the thoughtful sympathy of the

people, the silence only made the contrast greater between the past and

the present. The exercises began with an address to the Queen by the

Lord Provost. She handed him a written reply. Then he knelt before her;

her Minister gave her a sword; and touching the Provost with it on each

shoulder, she said "Rise, Sir Alexander Anderson." Mr. Anderson had

now become a knight, and would be called Sir Alexander all the rest of

his life. After this little ceremony, the bunting was drawn away from

the statue, and what the Queen called a "fearful ordeal" was at an end.



The one upon whom the Queen depended most was Princess Alice. She often

went on little picnics or drives "because Alice advised." The Princess

and Prince Louis spent as much time in England as possible, and when

they were in Germany the letters of the Princess gave her mother a

great deal of pleasure. They were full of the details of her daily

life, some of which might have come from a palace and some from a

cottage. One described a gift just received from the Empress of Russia,

"a splendid bracelet;" and a few days later, the young mother wrote

exultantly that the baby looked about and laughed. This young

housekeeper was deeply interested in all the details of her home. She

was grateful to her Queen mother for the big turkey pie and the other

good things that arrived at Christmas time; and she wrote of her

various little dilemmas, ranging all the way from a half-hour's hunt

for a pen just after a journey to the whirl of making the dining room

into a bedroom to accommodate a guest. One morning she wrote "in the

midst of household troubles," as she said, for the Emperor and Empress

had just sent word that they were coming to breakfast with her, and

"Louis" was out. But of all the bits of home life in her letters, those

about the children--for in a year and a half there was also a little

Elizabeth--must have given the most pleasure to the royal Grandmamma.

On one page the Princess described some political complication between

kingdoms, and on the next was the astounding news that little Victoria

could get on her feet by the help of a chair and could push it across

the room. Before long, she was walking out with her father before

breakfast, with her independent little hands in her jacket pockets.

Money was not especially plenty in the home at Darmstadt, and the

Princess mother wrote at one time of the little Elizabeth's wearing

Victoria's last year's gowns, and at another said that she had just

made seven little dresses for the children. With a German father and an

English mother, the little Victoria spoke at first a comical

combination of German and English, and she announced one day, "Meine

Grossmama, die Konigin, has got a little vatch with a birdie."



There was also a little boy in England who was taking much of the

Queen's attention, the baby son of the Prince of Wales. He was born at

Frogmore House, and as all the clothes provided for him were at

Marlborough, he fared no better for raiment at first than if he had

been born in a cottage. The loss was made up to him, however, when he

was christened; for then he was gorgeous in a robe of Honiton lace, the

same one in which his father had been christened, while over the robe

was a cloak of crimson velvet with a lining of ermine. Nothing could be

too rich and costly, for some day, if he lived long enough, he would

wear the English crown. One matter in which the royal family were most

economical was in regard to names, for they used the same ones over and

over. This little boy was named Albert, for his English grandfather;

Victor, for the Queen; Christian, for his Danish grandfather; and

Edward, for his father. Princess "Alix" was as eager to be with her

precious baby as the Queen had been to stay with her children, and she

looked like a mischievous child when she had succeeded in slipping away

from some grand company long enough to give baby "Eddie" his bath and

put him to bed.



The little Princess Beatrice was scarcely more than a baby herself, but

she seems to have felt all the responsibility of being aunt to so many

small people. When she was hardly more than three years old, Princess

"Vicky's" second child was born, and then Prince Albert wrote of the

little girl to his eldest daughter, "That excellent lady has now not a

moment to spare. 'I have no time,' she says when she is asked for

anything. 'I must write letters to my niece!'"



Around her and across the Channel were children in whom she was most

warmly interested, but the Queen's own childhood was rapidly growing

more distant, not only by the passing of time, but also by the death of

those who were most closely associated with her early days. Bishop

Davys died in 1864, and in 1865 the death of King Leopold occurred. He

was well called "the wisest king in Europe," and more than one dispute

between kingdoms had been left to him for settlement. He knew all the

royal secrets, and he made a judicious and kindly use of his knowledge.

Ever since the Queen's accession he had aided her with his counsel, and

now there was no one to whom she could look for disinterested advice.

In that same year the assassination of President Lincoln occurred. The

Queen was not satisfied with a formal telegram of regret; she wrote a

letter, not as the sovereign of England to the wife of the President,

but as one sorrowing woman to another, expressing her warm sympathy.



Few people realized how much severe mental labor the Queen had to

endure. Often in the course of a single year many thousand papers were

presented to her, and of these there were few to which she did not have

to give close thought. For twenty-one years she had discussed

everything with Prince Albert, and when they had come to a conclusion,

he would, as in the Trent affair, write whatever was necessary.

Then they would read the paper together and make any changes that

seemed best. After his death, the Queen had to do all this work alone.

She could wear the Kohinoor diamond, and she could build a

million-dollar palace if she chose, but there were few persons in the

kingdom who worked harder than she. What belonged strictly to matters

of state was more than enough for one person, but besides this there

were schools, hospitals, and bazaars to open, prizes to distribute and

corner-stones to lay. Then there were entertainments, fetes,

receptions, balls, etc., frequently in behalf of some good object,

whose success was sure if it could be said that the Queen would be

present. The Prince and Princess of Wales could not lessen the weight

of the public business that pressed so heavily upon the Queen, but they

could relieve her from the strain of these public appearances, and this

they did. They were both beloved by the people, but after the Queen had

lived for five years in retirement, some of her subjects began to

complain.



"What has she to do," grumbled one, "but to wear handsome clothes, live

in a palace, and bow to people when she drives out?"



"Yes," declared another, "she has nothing to do. Parliament makes the

laws, and she just writes her name."



"She's good to her cottagers in the Highlands," said a Londoner, "but

she ought to care a little for the merchants here in London. Everybody

likes the Princess, but the Queen's the Queen, and there never were

such sales as when she was giving her fancy-dress balls."



"She thinks of nothing but her own sorrow," said another. "She has lost

all sympathy with the people."



This last speech was made at a public meeting. Mr. John Bright, the

"great peace statesman," was present, and he replied to it. His closing

words were, "A woman who can keep alive in her heart a great sorrow for

the lost object of her life and affection is not at all likely to be

wanting in a great and generous sympathy for you."



Little by little the Queen learned the feelings of her people, and

she soon published a response which must have made the grumblers feel

ashamed. She said she was grateful for their wish to see her, but so

much was now thrown upon her which no one else could do that she was

overwhelmed with care and anxiety, and did not dare to undertake

"mere representation," lest she should become unable to fulfill the

duties which were of real importance to the nation. Some months

later, she wrote of herself in a private letter: "From the hour she

gets out of bed till she gets into it again, there is work, work,

work--letter-boxes, questions, etc., which are dreadfully

exhausting."



The Queen wished sincerely not only to do what was best for the people,

but also to please them. She could not go to balls and theaters, but

early in 1866 she determined to open Parliament in person. The London

world rejoiced. They tried to imagine that the old days had come again,

and they put on their jewels and their most splendid robes. All the way

to the Parliament Building the streets were full of crowds who shouted

"Long live the Queen! Hurrah for the Queen!" In the House of Lords

there was a most brilliant assembly. Silks rustled and jewels sparkled

as all rose to welcome the sovereign. As she entered, the Prince of

Wales stepped forward and led her to the throne. The royal

Parliamentary robes with all their glitter of gold and glow of crimson

were laid upon it, for the Queen wore only mourning hues, a robe of

deep purple velvet, trimmed with white miniver. On her head was a Marie

Stuart cap of white lace, with a white gauze veil flowing behind. The

blue ribbon of the Garter was crossed over her breast, and around her

neck was a collar of diamonds. All the radiant look of happiness with

which those were familiar who had seen her on the throne before, was

gone. She was quiet and self-controlled, but grave and sad. Instead of

reading her speech, she gave it to the Lord Chamberlain. At its close,

she stepped down from the throne, kissed the Prince of Wales, and

walked slowly from the room.






The Queen's two daughters, Helena and Louise, had attended her in

opening Parliament. This must have been a little embarrassing for the

older one, inasmuch as the Queen's address declared that the royal

permission had been given for the Princess Helena to marry Prince

Christian of Schleswig-Holstein; but members of the royal family cannot

always consult their own feelings. When they rule different countries,

it is not always easy for them even to remain friendly. The fact that

the Queen, her daughters, and her Danish daughter-in-law were as fond

of one another at the end of 1866 as they were at the beginning of 1864

is proof that the English royal family were very harmonious. Trouble

had arisen between Denmark and the German states in regard to the

duchies of Schleswig-Holstein, and in 1864 war had broken out between

the little kingdom of Denmark and the united powers of Prussia and

Austria. Both countries were anxious to win the help of England.

Princess "Vicky" and Princess Alice naturally sympathized with the

German states; while Princess Alexandra's affection was of course with

her own home land, which had now become her father's kingdom. The

Emperor of France did not wish to have the German states increase in

power, and he was ready to help Denmark, provided England would stand

by him. England was willing, but England's sovereign would not hear to

any talk of war with Germany, and the Ministers hesitated to act

against her decided opposition. Of course the Danish Princess was

grieved that the Queen would not consent to help her beloved country.

Bismarck was the German statesman who was pushing on the war, therefore

he was the man who was most abhorrent to the Princess of Wales. There

is a story that the Queen had promised the little Beatrice a present,

and that when she asked, "What shall it be?" the wee maiden, who had

been carefully tutored by her sister-in-law, replied demurely, "Please,

mamma, I'd like the head of Bismarck on a charger."



Two years later, there was a still more difficult condition of affairs

in the Queen's family, for now that Prussia and Austria held the

Schleswig-Holstein duchies, it was a question to which of the two

powers they should belong; and to complicate matters even more,

Princess Helena had married Prince Christian. Prussia and the north

German states held together, and Austria joined the forces of the south

German states. Prince "Fritz" belonged to the north and Prince Louis to

the south, and therefore the husbands of the two English Princesses

were obliged to fight on opposite sides. The war lasted for only seven

weeks, but it was an anxious time for Queen Victoria, who shared so

fully in the troubles of her daughters. Princess Alice's two little

girls were sent to England to be safe in her care, but in the midst of

the war, a third little daughter was born. The boom of the distant guns

was heard as she lay in her cradle in Darmstadt. Wounded men were being

brought into the town, and the residents were fleeing in all

directions. By and by the end came, and then the little dark-eyed baby

was named Irene, or peace. Never before had a child so many godfathers,

for when Prince Louis said farewell to his cavalry, he delighted them

by asking the two regiments, officers and men, to be sponsors to his

little girl.





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