The Princess Opens The Victoria Park At Bath





When she was eleven years old, the Princess opened the Victoria Park at

Bath. She began the opening business thus early, and has kept it up

pretty diligently for fifty years--parks, expositions, colleges,

exchanges, law courts, bridges, docks, art schools, and hospitals. Her

sons and daughters are also kept busy at the same sort of work. Indeed

these are almost the only openings for young men of the royal family for

active service, now that crusades and invasions of France have gone out

of fashion. It seems to me that the English people get up all sorts of

opening and unveiling occasions in order to supply employment to their

Princes and Princesses, who, I must say, never shirk such monotonous

duties, however much they may be bothered and bored by them.



Occasionally the Duchess of Kent and her daughter visited Brighton, and

stopped in that grotesque palace of George IV., called the Pavilion. I

have seen a picture of the demure little Princess, walking on the

esplanade, with her mother, governesses, and gentlemen attendants, the

whole elegant party and the great crowd of Brightonians following and

staring at them, wearing the absurd costumes of half a century ago--the

ladies, big bonnets, big mutton-leg sleeves, big collars, heelless

slippers, laced over the instep; the gentlemen, short-waisted coats,

enormous collars, preposterous neckties, and indescribably clumsy hats.



By this time the Princess had learned to bear quietly and serenely, if

not unconsciously, the gaze of hundreds of eyes, admiring or criticising.

She knew that the time was probably coming when the hundreds would

increase to thousands, and even millions--when the world would for her

seem to be made up of eyes, like a peacock's tail. Small wonder that in

her later years, especially since she has missed from her side the

splendid figure which divided and justified the mighty multitudinous

stare, this eternal observation, this insatiable curiosity has become

infinitely wearisome to her.



Several accounts have been given of the manner in which the great secret

of her destiny was revealed to the Princess Victoria, and the manner in

which it was received, but only one has the Queen's indorsement. This was

contained in a letter, written long afterwards to Her Majesty by her dear

old governess, the Baroness Lehzen, who states that when the Regency Bill

(an act naming the Duchess of Kent as Regent, in case of the King dying

before his niece obtained her majority) was before Parliament, it was

thought that the time had come to make known to the Princess her true

position. So after consulting with the Duchess, the Baroness placed a

genealogical table in a historical book, which her pupil was reading.

When the Princess came upon this paper, she said: "Why, I never saw that

before." "It was not thought necessary you should see it," the Baroness

replied. Then the young girl, examining the paper, said thoughtfully: "I

see I am nearer the throne than I supposed." After some moments she

resumed, with a sort of quaint solemnity: "Now many a child would boast,

not knowing the difficulty. There is much splendor, but there is also

much responsibility." "The Princess," says the Baroness, "having lifted

up the forefinger of her right hand while she spoke, now gave me that

little hand, saying: 'I will be good. I understand now why you urged me

so much to learn, even Latin. My aunts, Augusta and Mary, never did, but

you told me Latin was the foundation of English grammar, and all the

elegant expressions, and I learned it, as you wished it; but I understand

all better now,' and the Princess again gave me her hand, repeating, 'I

will be good.'"



God heard the promise of the child of twelve years and held her to it,

and has given her strength "as her day" to redeem it, all through the

dazzling brightness and the depressing shadows, through the glory and the

sorrow of her life, as a Queen and a woman.



The Queen says that she "cried much" over the magnificent but difficult

problem of her destiny, but the tears must have been April showers, for

in those days she was accounted a bright, care-free little damsel, and

was ever welcome as a sunbeam in the noblest houses of England--such as

Eaton Hall, the seat of the Duke of Westminster; Wentworth House,

belonging to Earl Fitzwilliam; Alton Towers, the country house of the

Earl of Shrewsbury; and Chatsworth, the palace of the Duke of Devonshire,

where such royal loyal honors were paid to her that she had a foretaste

of the "splendor," without the "responsibility," of Queenhood.



The King and Queen gave a brilliant ball in honor of "the thirteenth

birthday of their beloved niece, the Princess Victoria," and somewhat

later, the little royal lady appeared at a Drawing-room, when she is said

to have charmed everybody by her sweet, childish dignity--a sort of

quaint queenliness of manner and expression. She was likewise most

satisfactory to the most religiously inclined of her subjects who were to

be, in her mien and behavior when in the Royal Chapel of St. James, on

the interesting occasion of her confirmation. She is said to have gone

through the ceremony with "profound thoughtfulness and devout solemnity."



The next glimpse I have of her is at a very different scene--the Ascot

races. A brilliant American author, N. P. Willis, who then saw her for

the first time, wrote: "In one of the intervals, I walked under the

King's stand, and saw Her Majesty the Queen, and the young Princess

Victoria, very distinctly. They were leaning over the railing listening

to a ballad-singer, and seeming as much interested and amused as any

simple country-folk could be. The Queen is undoubtedly the plainest woman

in her dominions, but the Princess is much better-looking than any

picture of her in the shops, and for the heir to such a crown as that of

England, quite unnecessarily, pretty and interesting. She will be sold,

poor thing! bartered away by those great-dealers in royal hearts, whose

grand calculations will not be much consolation to her if she happens to

have a taste of her own."



Little did the wise American poet guess that, away in a little fairy

principality of Deutschland, there was a beautiful young fairy prince,

being reared by benevolent fairy godmother-grandmothers, especially to

disprove all such doleful prophecies, and reverse the usual fate of

pretty young Princesses in the case of the "little English mayflower."



Greville relates a little incident which shows that the Princess, when

between sixteen and seventeen, and almost in sight of the throne, was

still amenable to discipline. He describes a reception of much pomp and

ceremony, given to the Duchess and the Princess by the Mayor and other

officers of the town of Burghley, followed by a great dinner, which "went

off well," except that an awkward waiter, in a spasm of loyal excitement,

emptied the contents of a pail of ice in the lap of the Duchess, which,

though she took it coolly, "made a great bustle." I am afraid the

Princess laughed. Then followed a magnificent ball, which was opened by

the Princess, with Lord Exeter for a partner. After that one dance she

"went to bed." Doubtless her good mother thought she had had fatigue and

excitement enough for one day; but it must have been hard for such a

dance-loving girl to take her quivering feet out of the ball-room so

early, and for such a grand personage as she already was, just referred

to in the Mayor's speech, as "destined to mount the throne of these

realms," to be sent away like a child, to mount a solemn, beplumed four-

poster, and to try to sleep, with that delicious dance-music still

ringing in her ears.



Greville also relates a sad Court story connected with the young

Princess, and describes a scene which would be too painful for me to

reproduce, except that it reveals, in a striking manner, Victoria's

tender love for and close sympathy with her mother. It seems that the

King's jealous hostility to the Duchess of Kent had grown with his decay,

and strengthened with his senility, till at last it culminated in a sort

of declaration of war at his own table. The account is given by Greville

second-hand, and so, very likely, over-colored, though doubtless true

in the main. The King invited the Duchess and Princess to Windsor to

join in the celebration of his birthday, which proved to be his last.

There was a dinner-party, called "private," but a hundred guests sat down

to the table. The Duchess of Kent was given a place of honor on one side

of the King, and opposite her sat the Princess Victoria. After dinner

Queen Adelaide proposed "His Majesty's health and long life to him," to

which that amiable monarch replied by a very remarkable speech. He began

by saying that he hoped in God he might live nine months longer, when the

Princess would be of age, and he could leave the royal authority in her

hands and not in those of a Regent, in the person of a lady sitting near

him, etc. Afterwards he said: "I have particularly to complain of the

manner in which that young lady (the Princess Victoria) has been kept

from my Court. She has been repeatedly kept from my Drawing-rooms, at

which she ought always to have been present, but I am resolved that this

shall not happen again. I would have her know that I am King, and am

determined to make my authority respected, and for the future I shall

insist and command that the Princess do, upon all occasions, appear at my

Court, as it is her duty to do."



This pleasant and hospitable harangue, uttered in a loud voice and an

excited manner, "produced a decided sensation." The whole company "were

aghast." Queen Adelaide, who was amiable and well-bred, "looked in deep

distress"; the young Princess burst into tears at the insult offered to

her mother; but that mother sat calm and silent, very pale, but proud and

erect--Duchess of Duchesses!





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