Victoria's First Meeting With Prince Albert





In May, 1836, the Princess saw, for the first time, her cousins, Ernest

and Albert, of Saxe-Coburg. These brothers, one eighteen and the other

seventeen, are described as charming young fellows, well-bred and

carefully educated, with high aims, good, true hearts, and frank, natural

manners.



In personal appearance they were very prepossessing. Ernest was handsome,

and Albert more than handsome. They were much beloved by their Uncle

Leopold, then King of Belgium, and soon endeared themselves to their Aunt

Kent and their Cousin Victoria. They spent three weeks at Kensington in

daily intercourse with their relatives, and with their father, the Duke

of Coburg, were much fêted by the royal family. They keenly enjoyed

English society and sights, and learned something of English life and

character, which to one of them, at least, proved afterwards useful.

Indeed this admirable young Prince, Albert, seemed always learning and

assimilating new facts and ideas. He had a soul athirst for knowledge.



On May 24, 1837, the Princess Victoria came of age. She was awakened

early by a matutinal serenade--a band of musicians piping and harping

merrily under her bedroom windows. She received many presents and

congratulatory visits, and had the pleasure of knowing that the day was

observed as a grand holiday in London and throughout England. Boys were

let out of school, and M.P.'s out of Parliament. At night the metropolis

was "brilliantly illuminated"--at least so thought those poor, benighted,

ante-electrical-light Londoners--and a grand state ball was given in St.

James' Palace. Here, for the first time, the Princess took precedence of

her mother, and we may believe she felt shy and awkward at such a

reversal of the laws of nature and the habits of years. But doubtless the

stately Duchess fell back without a sigh, except it were one of joy and

gratitude that she had brought her darling on so far safely.



This could hardly have been a very gay state ball, for their Majesties

were both absent. The King had that very day been attacked with hayfever,

and the Queen had dutifully stayed at home to nurse him. He rallied from

this attack somewhat, but never was well again, and in the small hours of

June 2d the sailor King died at Royal Windsor, royally enough, I believe,

though he had never been a very royal figure or spirit. Of course after

he was gone from his earthly kingdom, the most glowing eulogies were

pronounced upon him in Parliament, in the newspapers, and in hundreds of

pulpits. Even a year later, the Bishop of London, in his sermon at the

Queen's coronation, lauded the late King for his "unfeigned religion,"

and exhorted his "youthful successor" to "follow in his footsteps." Ah,

if she had done so, I should not now be writing Her Majesty's Life!



It must be that in a King a little religion goes a long way. The good

Bishop and other loyal prelates must have known all about the Fitz-

Clarences--those wild "olive branches about the table" of His Majesty;

and they were doubtless aware of that little unfortunate habit of

profanity, acquired on the high-seas, and scarcely becoming to the Head

of the Church; but they, perhaps, considered that His Majesty swore as

the sailor, not as the sovereign. He certainly made a good end, hearing

many prayers, and joining in them as long as he was able, and devoutly

receiving the communion; and what is better, manifesting some tender

anxiety lest his faithful wife and patient nurse should do too much and

grieve too much for him. When he saw her like to break down, he would

say: "Bear up; bear up, Adelaide!" just like any other good husband.

William was not a bad King, as Kings went in those days; he was,

doubtless, an orthodox churchman, and we may believe he was a good

Christian, from his charge to the new Bishop of Ely when he came to "kiss

hands" on his preferment: "My lord, I do not wish to interfere in any way

with your vote in Parliament, except on one subject--the Jews. I trust I

may depend on your always voting against them!"



When the solemn word went through the old Castle of Windsor, "The King is

dead!" his most loyal ministers, civil and religious, added under their

breath: "Long live the Queen!" and almost immediately the Archbishop of

Canterbury and the Lord Chamberlain left Windsor and travelled as fast as

post-horses could carry them, to Kensington Palace, which they reached in

the gray of the early dawn. Everybody was asleep, and they knocked and

rang a long time before they could rouse the porter at the gate, who at

last grumblingly admitted them. Then they had another siege in the court-

yard; but at length the palace door yielded, and they were let into one

of the lower rooms, "where," says Miss Wynn's account, "they seemed

forgotten by everybody." They rang the bell, called a sleepy servant, and

requested that the special attendant of the Princess Victoria should

inform her Royal Highness that they desired an audience on "very

important business." More delay, more ringing, more inquiries and

directions. At last the attendant of the Princess came, and coolly stated

that her Royal Mistress was "in such a sweet sleep she could not venture

to disturb her." Then solemnly spoke up the Archbishop: "We are come on

business of State, to the Queen, and even her sleep must give way." Lo

it was out! The startled maid flew on her errand, and so effectually

performed it, that Victoria, not daring to keep her visitors waiting

longer, hurried into the room with only a shawl thrown over her night-

gown, and her feet in slippers. She had flung off her night-cap (young

ladies wore night-caps in those queer old times), and her long, light-

brown hair was tumbling over her shoulders. So she came to receive

the first homage of the Church and the State, and to be hailed "Queen!"

and she was Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, of India and the mighty

Colonies! It seems to me that the young girl must have believed herself

at that moment only half awake, and still dreaming. The grand, new title,

"Your Majesty," must have had a new sound, as addressed to her,--

something strange and startling, though very likely she may have often

said it over to herself, silently, to get used to it. The first kiss of

absolute fealty on her little hand must have thrilled through her whole

frame. Some accounts say that as full realization was forced upon her,

she burst into tears; others dwell on her marvellous calm and self-

possession. I prefer to believe in the tears, not only because the

assumption of the "dangerous grandeur of sovereignty" was a solemn and

tremendous matter for one so young, but because something of awe and

sorrow on hearing of the eternal abdication of that sovereignty, by her

rough but not to her unloving old uncle, was natural and womanly, and

fitting. I believe that it has not been questioned that the first words

of the QUEEN were addressed to the Primate, and that they were simply, "I

beg your Grace to pray for me," which the Archbishop did, then and there.

Doubtless, also, as related, the first act of her queenly life was the

writing of a letter of condolence to Queen Adelaide, in which, after

expressing her tender sympathy, she begged her "dear aunt" to remain at

Windsor just as long as she might feel inclined. This letter she

addressed to "Her Majesty, the Queen." Some one at hand reminded her that

the King's widow was now only Queen Dowager. "I am quite aware of that,"

replied Victoria, "but I will not be the first person to remind her of

it." I cannot say how much I like that. Wonderful is the story told by

many witnesses of the calmness and gentle dignity of Her Majesty, when a

few hours later she met the high officers of the Church and State,

Princes and Peers, received their oaths of allegiance and read her first

speech from an improvised throne. The Royal Princes, the Dukes of

Cumberland and Sussex, Her Majesty's uncles, were the first to be sworn,

and Greville says: "As they knelt before her, swearing allegiance and

kissing her hand, I saw her blush up to the eyes, as if she felt the

contrast between their civil and their natural relations; and this was

the only sign of emotion which she evinced."



When she first entered the room she had kissed these old uncles

affectionately, walking toward the Duke of Sussex, who was very feeble.



Greville says that she seemed rather bewildered at the multitude of men

who came to kiss her hand and kneel to her, among them the conqueror of

Napoleon--soldier of soldiers--the Duke!--but that she did not make any

difference in her manner, or show any especial respect, or condescension

in her countenance to any individual, not even to the Premier, Lord

Melbourne, for whom she was known to have a great liking, and who was

long her trusted friend and favorite Minister.



The Queen was also called upon to take an oath, which was for "the

security of the Church of Scotland." This she has most faithfully kept;

indeed, she has now and then been reproached by jealous champions of the

English Establishment for undue graciousness towards the Kirk and its

ministers.



For this grand but solemn ceremony at Kensington--rendered the more

solemn by the fact that while it was going on the great bell of St.

Paul's was tolling for the dead King,--the young Queen was dressed very

simply, in mourning.



She seems to have thought of everything, for she sent for Lord Albemarle,

and after reminding him that according to law and precedent she must be

proclaimed the next morning at 10 o'clock, from a certain window of St.

James' Palace, requested him to provide for her a suitable conveyance and

escort. She then bowed gravely and graciously to the Princes, Archbishops

and Cabinet Ministers, and left the room, as she had entered it--alone.





Victoria's First Christmas At Windsor Castle As Queen Victorian Era facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Feedback