Victoria's First Christmas At Windsor Castle As Queen





On Lord Mayor's Day, the Queen went in state to dine with her brother-

monarch, the King of "Great London Town." It was a memorable, magnificent

occasion. The Queen was attended by all the great ladies and gentlemen of

her Court, and followed by an immense train of members of the royal

family, ambassadors, cabinet ministers and nobility generally--in all,

two hundred carriages of them. The day was a general holiday, and the

streets all along the line of the splendid procession were lined with

people half wild with loyal excitement, shouting and waving hats and

handkerchiefs. It may have been on this day that Lord Albemarle got off

his famous pun. On the Queen saying to him, "I wonder if my good people

of London are as glad to see me as I am to see them?" he replied by

pointing to the letters "V. R." "Your Majesty can see their loyal cockney

answer-'Ve are.'"



One account states that, "the young sovereign was quite overcome by the

enthusiastic outbursts of loyalty which greeted her all along the route,"

but a description of the scene sent me by a friend, Mrs. Newton Crosland,

the charming English novelist and poet, paints her as perfectly composed.

My friend says: "I well remember seeing the young Queen on her way to

dine with the Lord Mayor, on the 9th of November, 1837, the year of her

accession. The crowd was so great that there were constant stoppages,

and, luckily for me, one of them occurred just under the window of a

house in the Strand, where I was a spectator. I shall never forget the

appearance of the maiden-sovereign. Youthful as she was, she looked every

inch a Queen. Seated with their backs to the horses were a lady and

gentleman, in full Court-dress--(the Duchess of Sutherland, Mistress of

the Robes--and the Earl of Albemarle, Master of the Horse), and in the

centre of the opposite seat, a little raised, was the Queen. All I saw of

her dress was a mass of pink satin and swan's-down. I think she wore a

large cape or wrap of these materials. The swan's-down encircled her

throat, from which rose the fair young face--the blue eyes beaming with

goodness and intelligence--the rose-bloom of girlhood on her cheeks, and

her soft, light brown hair, on which gleamed a circlet of diamonds,

braided as it is seen in the early portraits. Her small, white-gloved

hands were reposing easily in her lap.



"On this occasion not only were the streets thronged, but every window in

the long line of the procession was literally filled, while men and boys

were seen in perilous positions on roofs and lamp-posts, trees and

railings. Loud and hearty cheers, so unanimous they were like one immense

multitudinous shout, heralded the royal carriage.



"A little before this date, a story was told of the lamentations of the

Queen's coachman. He declared that he had driven Her Majesty for six

weeks, without once being able to see her. Of course he could not turn

his head or his eyes from his horses."



At Temple Bar--poor, old Temple Bar, now a thing of the past!--the Queen

was met by the Lord Mayor, who handed her the city keys and sword, which

she returned to his keeping--a little further on, the scholars of

Christ's Hospital--the "Blue-Coat Boys," offered her an address of

congratulation, saying how glad they were to have a woman to rule over

them, which was a good deal for boys to say, and also sung the National

Anthem with a will.



The drawing-room of Guildhall was fitted up most gorgeously. Here the

address of the city magnates was read and replied to,--and here in the

midst of Princes and nobles, Her Majesty performed a brave and memorable

act. She knighted Sheriff Montefiore, the first man of his race to

receive such an honor from a British sovereign, and Sir Moses Montefiore,

now nearly a centenarian, has ever since, by a noble life and good works,

reflected only honor on his Queen. But ah, what would her uncle, the late

King, have said, had he seen her profaning a Christian sword by laying it

on the shoulders of a Jew! He would rather have used it on the

unbeliever's ears, after Peter's fashion.



After this ceremony, they all passed into the Great Hall, which had been

marvellously metamorphosed, by hangings and gildings, and all sorts of

magnificent decorations, by mirrors and lusters, and the display of vast

quantities of gold and silver plate--much of it lent for the occasion by

noblemen and private gentlemen, but rivalled in splendor and value by the

plate of the Corporation and the City Companies. From the roof hung two

immense chandeliers of stained glass and prisms, which with the flashing

of innumerable gas-jets, lighting up gorgeous Court-dresses, and the most

superb old diamonds of the realm, made up a scene of dazzling splendor,

of enchantment, which people who were there go wild over to this day.

Poets say it was like a vision of fairyland, among the highest circles of

that most poetic kingdom--and they know. I think a poet must have managed

the musical portion of the entertainment, for when Victoria appeared

sweet voices sang--



"At Oriana's presence all things smile!"



and presently--



"Oh happy fair!

Your eyes are lode-stars and your tongue's sweet air,

More tunable than lark to shepherd's ear,

When wheat is green, when hawthorn buds appear."



There was a raised platform at the east end of the hall, and on it the

throne, a beautiful state-chair, of dainty proportions, made expressly

for that fairy Princess, who took her seat thereon amid the most joyous

acclamations. On the platform before her, was placed the royal table,

decorated with exquisite flowers, and covered with a costly, gold-fringed

damask cloth, on which were served the most delicate viands and delicious

fruits, in season and out of season. Ah, as the young Queen, seated up

there, received the homage of the richly-robed Aldermen, and the

resplendent Sheriffs, and that effulgent Lord Mayor, she must have

fancied herself something more than a fairy Princess,--say, an Oriental

goddess being adored and sacrificed to by gorgeous Oriental Princes,

Sultans and Satraps, Pashas, Padishas, and the Grand-Panjandrum himself.



After the dinner, an imposing personage, called the Common Crier, strode

into the middle of the hall, and solemnly cried out: "The Right Honorable

the Lord Mayor gives the health of our Most Gracious Sovereign, Queen

Victoria!" This, of course, was drunk with all the honors, and extra

shouts that made the old hall ring. The Queen rose and bowed her thanks,

and then the Common Crier announced--Her Majesty's toast: "The Lord

Mayor, and prosperity to the City of London." The Queen, it is stated,

honored this toast in sherry one hundred and twenty years old--liquid

gold! Very gracious of her if she furnished the sherry. I hope, at all

events, she drank it with reverence. Why, when that old wine was bottled,

Her Majesty's grandfather lacked some twenty years of being born, and the

American Colonies were as loyal as London;--then the trunk of the royal

old Bourbon tree, whose last branch death lopped away but yesterday at

Frohsdorf, seemed solid enough, though rotten at the core; and, the great

French Revolution was undreamed of, except in the seething brain of some

wild political theorist, or in some poor peasant's nightmare of

starvation. When that old wine was bottled, Temple Bar, under the

garlanded arch of which Her Majesty had just passed so smilingly, was

often adorned with gory heads of traitors, and long after that old wine

was bottled, men and women could be seen of a Friday, dangling from the

front of Newgate prison, and swinging in the morning air, like so many

ghastly pendulums.



This year 1837, Victoria spent her first Christmas as a Queen at Windsor,

right royally I doubt not, and I think it probable she received a few

presents. A few days before, she had gone in state to Parliament, to give

her assent to the New Civil List Act-not a hard duty for her to perform,

it would seem, as that act settled on her for life an annual income of

£385,000. Let Americans who begrudge our President his $50,000, and wail

over our taxation, just put that sum into dollars. The English people did

not grumble at this grant, as they had grumbled over the large sums

demanded by Her Majesty's immediate predecessors. They knew it would not

be recklessly and wickedly squandered, and they liked to have their

bonnie young Queen make a handsome appearance among crowned heads. She

had not then revealed those strong and admirable traits of character

which later won their respect and affection,--but they were fond of her,

and took a sort of amused delight in her, as though they, were all

children, and she a wonderful new doll, with new-fashioned talking and

walking arrangements. The friend from whom I have quoted--Mrs. Crosland--

writes me: "I consider that it would be impossible to exaggerate the

enthusiasm of the English people on the accession of Queen Victoria to

the throne. To be able at all to understand it, we must recollect the

sovereigns she succeeded--the Sailor-King, a most commonplace old man,

with 'a head like a pine-apple'; George IV., a most unkingly king,

extremely unpopular, except with a small party, of High Tories; and poor

George III., who by the generation Victoria followed, could only be

remembered as a frail, afflicted, blind old man--for a long period shut

up at Kew, and never seen by his people. It was not only that Victoria

was a really lovely girl, but that she had the prestige of having

been brought up as a Liberal, and then she kept the hated Duke of

Cumberland from the throne. Possibly he was not guilty of half the

atrocious sins attributed to him, but I do not remember any royal

personage so universally hated."



It was fear of this bogie of a Cumberland that made the English people

anxious for the early marriage of the Queen, and yet caused them to dread

it, for the fate of poor Princess Charlotte had not been forgotten. But I

do not think that political or dynastic questions had much to do with the

popularity of the young Queen. It was the resurrection of the dead

dignity of the Royal House of Brunswick, in her fair person--the

resuscitation of the half-dead principle of loyalty in the hearts of her

people. Of her Majesty's subjects of the better class, actors and quakers

alone seem to have taken her accession with all its splendid accessions,

coolly,--the former, perhaps, because much mock royalty had somehow

cheapened the real thing, and the latter because trained from infancy to

disregard the pomps and show of this world. Macready jots down among the

little matters in his "Diary," the fact of Her Majesty coming to his

theatre, and waiting awhile after the play to see him and congratulate

him. He speaks of her as "a pretty little girl," and does not seem

particularly "set up" by her compliments. Joseph Sturge, the eminent and

most lovable philanthropist of Birmingham,--a "Friend indeed" to all "in

need,"--waited on Her Majesty, soon after her accession, as one of a

delegation of the Society of Friends. Some years after, he related the

circumstance to me, and simply described her to me as "a nice, pleasant,

modest young woman,--graceful, though a little shy, and on the whole,

comely."



"Did you kiss her hand?" I asked. "O yes, and found that act of homage no

hardship, I assure thee. It was a fair, soft, delicate little hand."



I afterwards regretted that I had not asked him what he did with his

broad-brimmed hat when he was about to be presented, knowing that the

principles of Fox and Penn forbade his removing that article in homage to

any human creature; but I have just discovered in a volume of Court

Records, that "the deputation from the Society of Friends, commonly

called Quakers, were uncovered, according to custom, by the Yeoman of the

Guard." As they were all non-resistants, they doubtless bore the

indignity passively and placidly. Moreover, they all bowed, if they did

not kneel, before the throne on which their Queen was seated, and as I

said kissed her hand, in token of their friendly fealty.



In June, 1838, were issued the first gold sovereigns, bearing the head of

the Queen--the same spirited young head that we see now on all the modern

gold and silver pieces of the realm. That on the copper is a little

different, but all are pretty--so pretty that Her Majesty's loyal

subjects prefer them to all other likenesses, even poor men feeling that

they cannot have too many of them.





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