The Twilight Life After





"There is no one near me to call me 'Victoria' now!" is said to have been

the desolate cry of the Queen, when, on waking from that first sleep, the

cruel morning light, smote upon her with a full consciousness of her

bereavement, and a new sense of her royal isolation. She was on a height

where the storm beat fiercest and there was the least shelter. Her sacred

grief was the business of the world;--she could not long shut herself up

with it, and fold her hands in "blameless idleness"; but as the widowed

mother and housekeeper in humble life struggles up from the great stroke,

and staggers on, resolutely driving back the tears which "hinder needle

and thread," and choking down her sobs, to go wearily about her household

tasks,--so Victoria, after a little time, rose trembling to her feet, and

went through with such imperative State duties as could be delegated to

no one. To a near friend, who expressed joy to find her more calm than at

the time of her mother's death, she said simply, "I have had God's

teaching, and learned to bear all He lays upon me."



There is a record by Lord Beaconsfield of her faithful discharge of such

duties a few years later; but what was true of her then, was almost as

true an account of the routine of her official life, during a large part

of the first years of her widowhood. In a public speech, Beaconsfield

said: "There is not a dispatch received from abroad, or sent from this

country abroad, which is not submitted to the Queen. The whole of the

internal administration of this country greatly depends upon the sign-

manual of our Sovereign, and it may be said that her signature has never

been placed to any public document of which she did not know the purpose

and of which she did not approve. Those cabinet councils of which you all

hear, and which are necessarily the scene of anxious and important

deliberation, are reported, on their termination, by the Minister to the

Sovereign, and they often call from her critical remarks requiring

considerable attention; and I will venture to say that no person likely

to administer the affairs of this country would be likely to treat the

suggestions of Her Majesty with indifference, for at this moment there is

probably no person living who has such complete control over the

political condition of England as the Sovereign herself."



I have come upon few incidents of that first sad year. The Princess Alice

was married very quietly at Osborne, and went away to her German home,

where she lived for seventeen happy years, a noble and beneficent life.

In character she was very like her father--to whose soul hers was so

knit, that, when in her last illness, the anniversary of his death came

round, she seemed to hear his call, and went to him at once in child-

like obedience. She took that fatal illness--the diphtheria--from a dear

child in a kiss, "the kiss of death," as Lord Beaconsfield called it.



The Rev. Norman McLeod has left a record of the widowed Queen's first

visit to Balmoral. It seems he thought she was too unreconciled to her

loss, and felt it his duty to preach what he believed to be "truth in

God's sight, and that which I believe she needed," he said, "though I

felt it would be very trying for her to receive it." She did receive it

very sweetly, and wrote him "a kind, tender letter of thanks for it," She

afterwards summoned him to the castle, and to her own room. He writes:

"She was alone. She met me with an unutterably sad expression, which

filled my eyes with tears, and at once began to speak about the Prince.

... She spoke of his excellencies--his love, his cheerfulness; how he was

everything to her. She said she never shut her eyes to trials, but liked

to look them in the face; how she would never shrink from duty, but that

all was at present done mechanically; that her highest ideas of purity

and love were obtained from him, and that God could not be displeased

with her love."



No, we cannot love enough to displease the God of love, who is not,

whatever men may preach, a "jealous God," in that small way; but perhaps

we may grieve too much to please the Master of Life, of which, in His

eyes, what we call death, is the immortal blossom and crowning.



It seems to me that in her loving tribute to the Prince, the Queen was a

little unjust to her mother, to whose precepts and example she owed very

high "ideas of purity" and that strong sense of duty, and that fortitude,

essentially a womanly, not a manly, virtue, which preserved her through

the temptations of a glad and splendid youth--through the trials and

sorrows of maturer years, and which, when that time of bitterest trial

came, braced up her shattered forces, and held together her broken heart.



Balmoral--the dear mountain-home, so entirely her husband's creation--now

became more than ever dear to the Queen, and has never lost its charm for

her. Her life there has been, from the first, almost pastoral in its

simplicity.



The Highlanders about them, a primitive, but very proud people, regarded

their Sovereign and her husband with no servile awe. With them, even

respect begins, like charity, at home; what there is left, they give

loyally to their superiors in rank. To the Queen and her family they have

given more,--love and free-hearted devotion. Her Majesty has always gone

about among the poorer tenants of the estate, like any laird's wife, in

an unpretending, neighborly way; and they, thanks to their good Scotch

sense and Highland pride, never take advantage of the uncondescending

condescension, to offend her by too great familiarity, or shock her by

servility. Taking up her "Journal," I have chanced upon an account given

by Her Majesty of a round of visits to the cottages of certain "poor old

women," and here is an entry or two:



"Before we went into any, we met a woman who was very poor, and eighty-

eight years old. I gave her a warm petticoat, and the tears rolled down

her old cheeks, and she shook my hands and prayed God to bless me: it was

very touching.



"I went into a small cabin of old Kitty Kear's, who is eighty-six years

old, quite-erect, and who welcomed us with a great air of dignity. She

sat down and spun. I gave her, also, a warm petticoat. She said, 'May the

Lord ever attend ye and yours, here and hereafter; and may the Lord be a

guide to ye, and keep ye fra all harm.'"



Now, some readers, whose ideas of royal charities are derived from the

kings and queens of melodrama, who fling about golden largess, or "chuck"

plethoric purses at their poor subjects, may be amused at these entries

in a great Queen's journal, but "let them laugh who win"--the flannel

petticoats.



During a later visit to the widowed Queen at Balmoral, Dr. McLeod writes:

"After dinner, the Queen invited me to her room, where I found the

Princess Helena and the Marchioness of Ely. The Queen sat down to spin on

a fine Scotch wheel, while I read Burns to her--'Tam O'Shanter,' and

'A Man's a Man for a' That'--her favorites."



In the Queen's book I find frequent pleasant mention of the young

Highlander, John Brown--a favorite personal attendant, first of Prince

Albert, and afterwards of Her Majesty.



She had the misfortune to lose this "good and faithful servant," in the

early part of this year. In a foot-note in her "Journal," she paid a

grateful tribute to his "attention, care and faithfulness"--to his rare

devotion to her, especially during a period of physical weakness and

nervous prostration, when such service as his was invaluable. She also

says of him, "He has all the independence and elevation of feeling

peculiar to the Highland race, and is singularly straightforward, simple-

minded, kind-hearted and disinterested."



If there is something touching in the nearly life-long service and

devotion of the Highlander, almost always seen so close behind his Liege

Lady, when she appeared in public, that he was named "the Queen's

shadow"--there is something admirable in her grateful appreciation of

that service, in her frank acknowledgment of all she has owed of comfort,

in a constant sense of security, to this man's steadfast faithfulness;

and now that the "shadow" has gone before, I hold it is only fitting and

loyal in her to acknowledge for him, as she does, "friendship," and even

"affection"--not only to lay flowers on his grave, but to pay more

enduring tribute to his honest memory. He was a Highland gillie, of

simple Highland ways and words but "A man's a man for a' that." If

Byron could nurse his dying dog, Boatswain, and erect a monument to his

memory, and not lose, but gain, our respect by so doing, we surely might

let pass, unquestioned, the Queen's grief for a faithful human creature--

for thirty-four years devoted to her--ever at her call--looking up to

her, yet watching over her; a friend, whose humble good sense and canny

bits of counsel must often, in the simpler, yet not simple, affairs of

her complex life, be sorely missed.



That is how it strikes an American, of democratic tendencies.



About a year after the death of Prince Albert, the Duchess of Sutherland

presented to the Queen a richly-bound Bible, the offering of loyal

"English widows."



In her letter of acknowledgment, Her Majesty gives very strong and clear

expression to her faith, not only in the happy continued existence of her

beloved husband, but in his "unseen presence" with her--a faith which she

has often expressed. The letter runs thus:



"MY DEAREST DUCHESS:--I am deeply touched by the gift of a Bible 'from

many widows,' and by the very kind and affectionate address which

accompanied it. ... Pray express to all these kind sister-widows the deep

and heartfelt gratitude of their widowed Queen, who can never feel

grateful enough for the universal sympathy she has received, and

continues to receive, from her loyal and devoted subjects. But what she

values far more is their appreciation of her adored and perfect husband.

To her, the only sort of consolation she experiences is in the constant

sense of his unseen presence and the blessed thought of the Eternal Union

hereafter, which will make the bitter anguish of the present appear as

naught. That our Heavenly Father may impart to 'many widows' those

sources of consolation and support, is their broken-hearted Queen's

earnest prayer ... Believe me ever yours most affectionately, VICTORIA."



Dean Stanley is reported as telling of a touching little circumstance

which he received from the Princess Hohenlohe (Feodore), from which it

seems that Her Majesty was for a long time in the habit of going every

morning to look at the cows on Prince Albert's model farm, because

"he had been used to do so," feeling, perhaps, that the gentle

creatures might miss him--that somewhere in their big dull brains, they

might wonder where their friend could be, and why he did not come. The

Princess also said that her poor sister found her only comfort in the

belief that her husband's spirit was close beside her--for he had

promised her that it should be so.





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