A Home Of Our Own

It is very delightful to live in palaces and entertain kings and

emperors; but Queen Victoria's palaces belonged to the English nation

and not to herself, and, as has been said, their royal tenants had to

suffer many inconveniences because they were not at liberty to manage

their own housekeeping as they chose. "If we only had a home of our

own!" said the Queen and Prince Albert to each other, and at last they

o buy one. They talked the matter over with Sir Robert Peel,

whom they had come to look upon as a faithful friend, and he told them

of a beautiful estate which was for sale.

This property was situated on the Isle of Wight. It was far enough from

London to assure them of privacy, and it was so near that there need be

no delay in matters of government. In this charming place there were

trees and valleys and hills, a wide stretch of sea-beach, with the

woods growing almost to the water's edge; and, best of all, the royal

family could walk and drive and wander about without feeling that they

were on continual exhibition. There was a palace at Brighton which the

Queen had sometimes occupied for the sake of being near the sea; but

Brighton had become so much of a city, and the houses had clustered so

closely about the palace, that there was no longer any view of the

ocean from the lower windows, and no member of the royal family could

go outside of the grounds without being followed by inquisitive crowds.

At Osborne, as the new purchase was named, there was perfect freedom.

Perhaps the "grown ups" of the household appreciated the liberty

indoors quite as much as that out of doors, for here there were no

"departments" to consult, and if a pane of glass was broken, there was

no need of sending over the kingdom for the signatures of five men

before it could be mended.

The house was pretty, but it was too small, and a new one had to be

built. Prince Albert made all the plans for it, and he was as eager as

the Queen to get into a home of their own. Nevertheless even in his

eagerness he did not forget the good of others. The longer the work of

building and beautifying the grounds lasted, the better it was for the

workmen; and so when harvest time came, he discharged large numbers of

his men, saying: "Work in the fields now; then, when the harvest is in,

come to me, and you shall have work here again."

The cost of the house came from the Queen's own purse, from the regular

grant made her by Parliament, though most sovereigns have called upon

the nation to build whatever dwellings they thought desirable. The

people of the kingdom were pleased to hear the English Court called the

most magnificent in Europe, and many statesmen expected that when a new

palace was to be built or a royal guest to be entertained, the

sovereign would ask Parliament for a special grant of money to pay the

expense. Frequently far more was expected of members of the royal

family than their purses could provide, and then came debts. King

Leopold had not been able to live within his grant, and the Duke of

Kent had left indebtedness at his death. The little Princess, who had

not been allowed to buy a box until she had the money to pay for it,

meant, now that she was on the throne, to carry out the principle on

which she had been brought up. The first thing that she did was to pay

her father's debts, and while living in as much splendor as her people

desired, she managed her income so well that she could afford to build

a palace if she chose. Prince Albert heartily approved of this wise

economy, and he carried out the same plan in managing the farm of the

new estate; he spent lavishly in improving the land, but unlike most

"fancy farmers," he made his costly improvements so skillfully that

they were paid for in the generous increase in crops.

When the new house was done, there was a joyful homecoming. As the

Queen passed through the door, one of the maids of honor threw an old

shoe after her, "to bring good luck," she said. To the Prince, entering

into the new home brought memories of his childhood in Coburg, and

after the first dinner he said, "We have a hymn in Germany for such

occasions. It begins:

"Bless, O God, our going forth,

Bless Thou, too, our coming in."

So it was that the new house was opened. Not only the grown folk, but

the merry little company of princes and princesses, were very happy in

it whenever a few days could be spared for its pleasures. As they grew

older, a Swiss cottage was built for them, and this was their house.

There was a charming little kitchen, with a cooking stove, so that the

girls could try all sorts of experiments in the cooking line; and happy

they were when they could persuade their father and mother to partake

of a "banquet" of their own preparing. The boys had a forge and a

carpenter's bench, where they built small boats and chairs and tables

and wheelbarrows. Every child had a garden, and there he raised not

only flowers, but fruit and vegetables. In this little paradise the

children did what they liked, but they were shown the best way of doing

it. A gardener taught them how to manage their gardens, and whenever

their vegetables were a success, they either gave them away or sold

them at market price to the royal kitchen. Prince Albert himself taught

the boys how to use tools, and helped them to begin a museum of

insects, minerals, and all sorts of curiosities like the one that he

and his brother Ernest had had in Coburg when they were boys.

Not only at Osborne, but wherever the royal children were, they were

brought up as simply as the Queen herself had been. Whatever material

was bought for their clothes had to be shown to the Queen, and if it

was rich or expensive, she would refuse to allow it to be used. As soon

as the princes and princesses were old enough, they were taught to take

as much care of their clothes as if they had been a poor man's

children. One of their nurses wrote that they had "quite poor

living--only a bit of roast beef and perhaps a plain pudding;" and she

added, "The Queen is as fit to have been a poor man's wife as a queen."

Baron Stockmar was consulted on all nursery questions, and he said that

it was more difficult to manage a nursery than a kingdom.

The Queen tried to make her children understand that they were no

better than other children just because they were princes or

princesses, and they were obliged to behave with perfect courtesy to

the servants of the palace as well as to kings and emperors. It is said

that once upon a time two of the children thought it very amusing to

take possession of the brushes and blacken the face of a woman who was

cleaning a stove; but when the Queen mother discovered their prank, she

took the small culprits by the hand and led them to the woman's room

and made them apologize most humbly. The little Princess Royal "Vicky"

was so independent a young lady that she would sometimes break through

her mother's teachings. The story is told that one day a sailor lifted

her on board the royal yacht, saying as he sat her down, "There you

are, my little lady." "I'm a princess I'm not a little lady," the child

retorted; but the watchful mother was listening, and she said, "That is

true. Tell the kind sailor that you are not a little lady yet, but that

you hope to be some day." Occasionally this willful little Princess

preferred to bear a punishment rather than give up her own way. The

Queen and the Prince addressed Dr. Brown as "Brown," and the small

child followed their example. "You will be sent to bed if you do that

again," said the Queen, but the next morning when Dr. Brown appeared,

the little girl said with special distinctness: "Good morning, Brown,

and good night, Brown, for I'm going to bed, Brown," and, with her

saucy little head high in the air, she marched off to bed.

Happy as the Queen and the Prince were in their home life, one subject

in connection with her husband always troubled the loving wife, and

that was the annoying question of precedence. She wrote of him in her

journal: "He is above me in everything really, and therefore I wish

that he should be equal in rank to me." In England she could "put the

Prince where she wished him to be," but Parliament had given him no

rank, and therefore out of England some sovereigns, like King Ernest,

positively refused to grant him any honors that were not due to the

younger son of the Duke of Coburg; and when precedence was accorded

him, the Queen had to express gratitude as for a personal favor to

herself. Unknown to the Prince, she had a long talk on the subject with

Baron Stockmar.

"I wish him to have the title of King Consort," she said earnestly.

"A king consort without the authority of a king would be a novelty,"

replied the Baron, "and the English people do not like anything for

which there is no precedent. Queen Anne's husband was never called


"But Queen Anne's husband was stupid and insignificant," declared the

Queen. "There has never been a case like ours before. Albert and I

reign together. He is sovereign as much as I. We discuss all matters

and decide together."

"True," admitted the Baron, "but the constitution does not provide for

such a condition of affairs. I will talk with Peel about it."

Peel felt as Stockmar did, that it was not wise to propose such a

title. The subject arose again some years later, and the shrewd Baron

wrote to the Prince in his usual straightforward fashion: "Never

abandon your firm, powerful position to run after butterflies. You have

the substance; stick by it." The title was never given him, but it was

true that he had "the substance." The Queen no longer met her Ministers

alone; the Prince was always with her to help and suggest. Whenever

either she or the Prince spoke to the Council the word "I" was not

used; it was always "We think so-and-so should be done."

Not only the Council but the whole country were gaining in knowledge of

the Prince's wisdom and devotion to the good of the kingdom, and in

1847 a valued mark of appreciation was given him in his election as

Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, one of the greatest honors

that could have been bestowed upon him. The Queen was delighted,

because she knew that the position was not given out of compliment to

her, but was something that he himself had earned. Soon after the

election, came the installation. The magistrates and Yeomanry went to

the station to meet the Queen, and then marched before her into the

town. She was escorted into the Great Hall of Trinity College and led

to an armchair which stood on a platform under a canopy. Soon after she

had seated herself, the new Chancellor entered at the farther end of

the hall, followed by the long line of university dignitaries. He wore

a robe of black and gold, so long that it had to be held up by two

gentlemen. When he stood in front of the armchair that represented the

throne, he made a low bow and delivered his address. "The situation was

almost absurd for us," said the Queen afterwards, but the Prince read

his address with perfect command of his countenance and the Queen was

quite serious until she caught his eye for a moment at the end of the

speech. She half smiled, but in an instant she was again the dignified

sovereign, and she declared with a little emphasis that brought forth

shouts of applause, "The choice which the university has made of a

Chancellor has my most entire approbation."

Not long afterwards the new Chancellor and his royal wife paid another

visit to Cambridge. It was a little muddy, and the Queen hesitated a

moment before getting out of the carriage. Instantly one of the

students threw his gown upon the ground for her to step on, and others

followed his example.

When Victoria thought of her husband and her children, she was

supremely happy, but when she thought of the different kingdoms of

Europe, and even of her own realm, there was much in 1847 and 1848 to

make her unhappy. All Europe was restless and uneasy. Revolt had broken

out in Italy, France, Germany, and other countries. The reigning

sovereigns in most of these kingdoms were related to her either by

blood or by marriage, and she could but feel grief for their trials,

and, in some instances, fear for their safety. Indeed, the King and

Queen of France had to flee to England and they spent the remainder of

their lives at Claremont. In Victoria's own realm, there was trouble.

Ireland was suffering from a terrible famine. Thousands of Irish were

dying of either starvation or fever. In England there was no

starvation, but everyone felt the hard times more or less. Those who

had money did not dare to invest it, because business was so unsettled

that they were afraid of loss. As capital was not invested, there was

little work to be had, and the poor suffered severely. The rich as well

as the poor felt the general stagnation. Greville said that his income

was only half the usual amount, and even in royal palaces strict

economy was practiced.

There was a special reason for great uneasiness in London. According to

the laws at that time, no one could become a member of the House of

Commons who did not own land enough to receive from it an annual income

of $1500. This law had been made in the belief that a man who owned

land would be more interested in the welfare of his country than a man

who had none. Thousands of workingmen were not allowed even to vote.

When work was plenty, and they were comfortable and busy, they did not

think so much about their rights; but when work failed, they began to

say to one another: "This is all the fault of the laws. If everyone

could vote, and if poor men as well as rich men could become members of

Parliament, laws would be made for the good of the whole nation and not

merely for the landowners."

These men held meetings to discuss such matters, and they concluded to

send in a petition to Parliament, setting forth their wrongs and

demanding that changes should be made. The plan was explained in what

was called the People's Charter, and therefore its supporters were

spoken of as Chartists.

No one would have objected to having as many petitions sent to

Parliament as the house would hold, but among the people were many

hot-headed persons who had much to say about "oppression" and

"revolution." The crowds sometimes became noisy and turbulent, and one

evening some of them rushed wildly toward Buckingham Palace. The only

harm that they did was to break some street lamps; and when their

leader was arrested by the police, he made no resistance, but began to

cry. Nevertheless, people felt very uneasy, and when it was reported

that on the 10th of April the petition would be presented by 1,000,000

men, there was much alarm in the city. Shops were barricaded, weapons

were put where they could be caught up in a moment, and old muskets

that had not been used for half a century were brought down from the

garrets and put in order for the riots that were feared. The Duke of

Wellington, as commander-in-chief of the army, made very wise

preparations. There was no display of soldiers or cannon, but

Buckingham Palace and the public buildings were quietly filled with

armed men, and gunboats were brought up the river. The Queen had shown

again and again that she was no coward, and she would have stayed in

London, but her Ministers persuaded her to take her three-weeks'-old

baby to Osborne House. All London trembled when the 10th of April

arrived; but when night came, those who had feared most laughed

heartiest. The whole affair had ended in a few thousand men starting

for Parliament with the petition. "You cannot cross the bridge in

mass," said the police, and the Chartists went home meekly, sending

their petition in cabs.

The Queen had long wished to go to Ireland, and in 1849 she and the

Prince and the four older children went to that country in the yacht

Victoria and Albert. Now, however indignant the Irish might be

at England's rule of their country they would not give the Queen any

but the most cordial greeting; and when the yacht sailed into the mouth

of the River Lee, the people of the place called Cove of Cork asked

that she would step ashore, if only for a moment. "We wish to change

the name of our town," they said, "so that it may mark the place where

the Queen first set her foot on Irish soil." The flag was run up on

which was written the word "Cove," but as soon as the Queen had gone

back to the yacht, the flag was dropped, and another was run up marked


The Victoria and Albert went on to Cork, and the party also visited

several other places in Ireland. Wherever they went, the crowds pressed

to the water's edge with cheering and shouts of welcome. Cannon were

fired and bells were set to ringing. Every little cottage had its flag,

or at least a wreath of flowers and evergreens. All were interested in

the royal children, and at Kingstown an old lady cried out: "Oh! Queen

dear, make one of them Prince Patrick, and all Ireland will die for


When the Irish visit had come to its end, and the Queen was about to

leave for England, the crowds on the shore cheered her more wildly than

ever, and both the Queen and the Prince climbed the paddlebox and waved

their handkerchiefs again and again. "Go slowly," ordered the Queen,

and the boat moved very slowly along, keeping close to the pier. The

crowds cheered with more enthusiasm than before, and three times a

return was given to their salute by lowering the royal standard. One of

the Queen's party said: "There is not an individual in the town who

does not take the Queen's going on the paddlebox and lowering the royal

standard as a personal compliment to himself."

The year following the visit to Ireland the Queen's seventh child was

born, a boy.

"Now we are just as many as the days of the week," cried the brothers

and sisters joyfully.

"But which of us shall be Sunday?" asked one.

"The new baby," answered Princess "Vicky" decidedly, "because he's just

come, and we must be polite to him and give him the best."

The little boy was named Patrick, as the old woman in Ireland had

suggested, but his first name was Arthur, for the Duke of Wellington,

on whose eighty-first birthday he was born.

The days of the Queen were full of joys and sorrows that came almost

hand in hand. Her home life was perfectly happy, but her duties as a

sovereign took much time that she would have gladly given to her

family. "It is hard," she said, "that I cannot always hear my children

say their prayers." She had the warmest, most devoted friends, but in

the six years preceding 1850, she had lost several who could never be

replaced. Sir Robert Peel and Lord Melbourne had died, the opposing

Ministers who had both won her confidence and gratitude; and the "good

Queen Adelaide," who had loved the little Princess Victoria as if she

had been her own child, was also gone. The sorrow which Prince Albert

felt at the loss of his father had been to his wife a grief almost as

deep; and both she and the Prince were saddened by the loss of the

Coburg grandmother, who loved him so that she was almost heartbroken on

his leaving her to make his home in England, and called piteously after

his carriage, "Oh, Albert, Albert!" The three who had been nearest to

the Queen in her childhood were living, her mother, Dr. Davys, and

Baroness Lehzen. The kind, scholarly clergyman she had made Bishop of

Peterborough, and she saw him from time to time. After the marriage of

the Queen the Baroness Lehzen returned to her friends in Germany, but

the busy sovereign found time to send her long and frequent letters.

The losses of the Queen were many, but with Prince Albert by her side,

she felt that she could bear whatever came; and it was a great

happiness to her that the better he was known in the country, the more

highly the nation thought of him. They could hardly help esteeming him,

for he seemed never to have a thought of himself; all was for the Queen

and for her people. For several years he had had a plan in his mind for

a great industrial exhibition. When he first laid the scheme before the

public, the people were wildly enthusiastic. Then, as the difficulties

arose, there was much criticism. The building would cost $1,000,000,

and subscriptions were slow. Punch brought out a cartoon inscribed,

"Please to remember the Exposition." It represented a boy holding out

his cap for pennies Under the picture was written:

"Pity the sorrows of a poor young Prince ----

Whose costly scheme has borne him to your door;

Who's in a fix--the matter not to mince--

Oh, help him out, and commerce swell your store."

Prince Albert laughed heartily at the cartoon, added it to his

collection, and worked all the harder for the exposition.

There was much opposition to admitting foreign exhibits, for many

English manufacturers had a wild fancy that the sight of them would

prevent the English from patronizing home products. "All the villains

of the Continent will be here," declared the grumblers. "They will

murder the Queen and begin a revolution." In Parliament, one of the

members invoked the lightning to fall from heaven and destroy the

half-finished building. Nevertheless, enormous masses of goods were

constantly arriving, and the mighty structure continued to rise. It was

made of iron and glass, and was like an enormous greenhouse. Thackeray

wrote of it:

"And see, 'tis done!

As though 'twere by a wizard's rod,

A blazing arch of lucid glass

Leaps like a fountain from the grass

To meet the sun."

The Crystal Palace, the people called it, and no better name could have

been given. It stretched out one thousand feet in length, and part of

it was one hundred feet high, so high that two elm trees which had been

growing on its site grew on in freedom under its glass roof. The

ironwork was painted a clear, bright blue. There were scarlet hangings,

fountains, statues, banners, tapestries, flowers, palms, everything

that could make it bright and beautiful.

May 1, 1851, had been named as the day of opening. In the royal family

the day began with birthday gifts for the little Arthur--toys from the

parents, a clock from the Duchess of Kent, and, strange presents for a

baby, a bronze statuette and a beautiful paper-knife from the Prince

and Princess of Prussia. Long before noon, the Queen, the Prince, and

the two older children drove to the Crystal Palace. As they entered,

there was a flourish of trumpets, followed by tremendous cheering. The

Queen was radiant with happiness as she walked down the broad aisle

with her husband. She wore a pink silk dress of Irish poplin, and on

her head was a diamond tiara. She led by the hand the Prince of Wales,

a bright, handsome little fellow. The Princess Royal wore a white

dress, and on her head was a wreath of roses. She held her father's

hand. The cheers grew louder and louder, then the deep tones of the

organ broke in upon them. The music of two hundred instruments and six

hundred voices followed, leading the thousands present in the National

Hymn. After this the Prince left the side of the Queen, and, returning

at the head of the commissioners, he read her the formal report. She

made a short reply. The Archbishop of Canterbury offered up prayer, and

the wonderful "Hallelujah Chorus" resounded through the lofty arches.

While this was being sung, a Chinese mandarin, who had been walking

about most perfectly at his ease and quite indifferent to the gazing

crowds, now took his stand before the Queen and made a very profound

obeisance. He proved to be of considerable use a little later, for when

the long procession of distinguished Englishmen and foreigners was

formed, it occurred to someone that China was not represented, and the

dignified mandarin was taken possession of as an addition to the train.

He made no objections, but marched along with his former tranquillity,

thinking apparently that all foreigners were treated in such manner by

those remarkable people, the Englishmen.

The Duke of Wellington was in the procession and the walk around the

building was to him a triumphal progress, for the women waved their

handkerchiefs and kissed their hands, while the men cheered and

shouted, "The Duke! The Duke!" In the midst of all his glory, he did

not forget his little year-old namesake and godson and later in the

day, his eighty-second birthday, he called at Buckingham Palace with a

golden cup and some toys of his own selection for the little boy.

So ended what Victoria called "the proudest and happiest day of my

life, a thousand times superior to the coronation." In her journal she

wrote: "Albert's name is immortalized, God bless my dearest Albert, God

bless my dearest country!"