Death Passes By

On the 10th of June, 1840, occurred the first mad attempt to assassinate

Queen Victoria--made as she and Prince Albert were driving up

Constitution Hill, near Buckingham Palace, in a small open phaeton.

Prince Albert, in a letter to his grandmamma, gives the clearest account

of it. He says: "We had hardly proceeded a hundred yards from the Palace,

when I noticed, on the foot-path on my side, a little, mean-looking man,

holding something toward us, and, before I could distinguish what it was,

a shot was fired, which almost stunned us both, it was so loud--barely

six paces from us. ... The horses started, and the carriage stopped. I

seized Victoria's hands and asked if the fright, had not shaken her, but

she laughed."

Almost immediately the fellow fired a second shot, from which the Queen

was saved probably by the presence of mind of the Prince, who drew her

down beside him. He states that the ball must have passed just over her

head. The wretch was at once arrested and taken away, and soon after

committed for trial, on the charge of high treason. The Queen was seen to

be very pale, but calm. She rose in the carriage to show the excited

people that she was not hurt, and then ordered the postilions to drive at

once to Ingestrie House, that the Duchess of Kent might hear of the

startling incident first from her and not be frightened by wild rumors.

It was a thoughtful and filial act, and brave, moreover, for there were

those about her who suspected that there might be a revolutionary

conspiracy, and that Oxford was only one of many banded assassins. These

alarmists advised her and her husband to show themselves abroad as little

as possible. How they heeded this advice is shown in another passage of

Prince Albert's letter: "We arrived safely at Aunt Kent's. From thence we

took a drive through the Park, to give Victoria a little air,--also to

show the people that we had not, on account of what had happened, lost

confidence in them."

The Prince does not mention a very pretty incident which I find recorded

elsewhere. As the Queen's carriage reached the Park, it was received with

enthusiastic cheers, smiles, and tears by crowds of people, equestrians

and pedestrians, and the gay world on wheels; and as they neared the

Marble Arch, the gentlemen and ladies on horseback followed them as with

one impulse--all Rotton Row turned out, and escorted them to Buckingham

Palace. It is said, too, that for several days this was repeated--that

whenever the Queen and Prince drove out they were escorted by this

singular volunteer body-guard.

Of course, the whole country was excited, and the Queen, whose life had

been menaced, was more popular than ever. They say that her first visit

to the opera after this shocking attempt was a most memorable occasion.

Her reception was something almost overwhelming. The audience were all on

their feet, cheering and shouting, and waving handkerchiefs and hats, and

there was no quieting them till the National Anthem was sung--and even

then, they broke in with wild cheers at the close of every verse. Her

Majesty stood throughout these demonstrations, bowing and smiling, her

heart melted within her, I doubt not.

Of course there was no conspiracy, and Oxford the pot-boy, "a pot-boy

was, and, nothing more." He was acquitted on the ground of insanity, but

ordered to be confined "during Her Majesty's pleasure," which he was in

Bedlam for some years. Then he was sent to Australia as cured, and where

he went into better business than shooting Queens, and earned an honest

living, they say. He always declared that he was not insane, except from

a mad passion for notoriety--which he got.

The five or six successors of Oxford who have shot at Her Majesty, and

that wretched retired officer, Robert Pate, who waylaid her in 1850, and

struck her a cruel blow across the face with a walking-stick, were

pronounced insane, and confined in mad-houses merely. The English are too

proud and politic to admit that a sane man can lift his hand against the

Constitutional Sovereign of England. When there arrived in London the

news of the shooting of President Garfield, a distinguished English

gentleman said to me, "I think we will not be annexed to the United

States while you shoot your Presidents."

I replied by reminding him of the many attempts on the life of his

beloved Queen, adding, "I believe the homicidal mania is a Monarchical as

well as a Republican affliction,--the difference only is that, unhappily

for us, our madmen are the better shots."

It must be that for monarchists born and bred, an anointed head, whether

covered by a silk hat or a straw bonnet, is circled by a

simulacrum of a crown, which dazzles the aim of the would-be regicide,

they are so almost certain to miss, at long or short range. Alas there is

no halo of sovereignty or "hedge of divinity" about our poor Presidents!

It is, perhaps, because of this unsteadiness of nerve and aim, that

Continental regicides are taking to sterner and surer means--believing

that no thrice blessed crown can dazzle off dynamite, and that no most

imperial "divinity" is bomb-proof.

In July an act which was the shadow of a coming event, was passed by

Parliament, and received the Royal assent. It provided that Prince Albert

should be Regent in case that the Queen should die before her next lineal

descendant should attain the age of eighteen years.

In August the Queen prorogued Parliament for the first time since her

marriage, and she brought her handsome husband to show to all the Lords

and gentlemen--bravely attired in his Field-Marshal's uniform, with his

Collars of the Garter and the Bath, and diamond Stars--and she had him

seated only a little lower than herself and very near, in a splendid

chair, gilded, carved, and velvet-cushioned. The Prince wrote to his

father as a piece of good news, "The prorogation of Parliament passed off

very quietly." He had had reason to fear that his right to sit in that

lofty seat would be disputed--that the old Duke of Sussex might come

hobbling up to the throne, calling out, "I object! I object!"

But nothing of the kind happened. The Queen, by her wit and her courage,

had circumvented all the royal old sticklers for precedence--who put

etiquette before nature. The Queen's mother, and her uncle and aunt, the

King and Queen of Belgium, were present,--so it was quite a family-party.

The good Uncle Leopold was observed to smile benignly on both Victoria

and Albert, as though well pleased with his work. The Queen was most

magnificently attired with all her glories on, in the shape of diamonds

and orders, and looked very proud and happy,--and yet there was a dreamy,

half-troubled expression in her eyes at times, which was not usual, but

which her mother understood.

On this day, Prince Albert's status was fixed. He had taken a ride

with his wife, in the State-carriage, with the twelve cream-colored,

long-tailed State horses, and the gorgeous footmen, and he had sat

higher, and nearer the throne than any other man in the House of Lords,

Prince or Peer. The next thing the Queen did for him was to make him a

member of the Privy Council. But a little later, he had a higher

promotion than that; for, on the 21st of November, the Princess Royal was

born in Buckingham Palace, in the early afternoon.

During the morning the Duchess of Kent had been sent for--and came

hurrying over. They also sent for the Duke of Sussex, the Archbishop of

Canterbury, the Bishop of London, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Melbourne,

Lord Palmerston, Lord Errol, Lord Albemarle--Lord John Russell, and other

Privy Councillors, whose constitutional duty it is to be present at the

birth of an heir to the throne of England,--and they came bustling in, as

old ladies come together on a like occasion in country places in New

England. It is probable they all looked for a boy. The girl was an

extraordinary baby, however, for when she was barely two days old, her

papa wrote to her grandpapa at Coburg, "The little one is very well and

very merry." The Prince welcomed her in a fatherly way, though, as he

confesses, sorry that she was the same sort of a human creature as her

mother,--that is, a daughter instead of a son. He wrote to his father

very frankly, "I should certainly have liked it better if she had been a

son, as would Victoria also," and so, strangely enough, would the English

people--unfortunate as they had often been with their Kings, and

fortunate as they had always been with their Queens. The great officers

of the Church and State went away probably saying, "Only a girl!" Dear

"little Pussie," as she was often called, wouldn't have been so "merry"

if she had known how it was. She was looked upon as a temporary stop-gap-

-something to keep out Cumberland, and naturally she did not have so many

silver cups and gold spoons as she would have had if she had been a boy--

nor so many guns, poor thing! When the firing ceased at the feminine

limit, people all over the city said, "Only a girl!"

Some years later, when, at the birth of one of her brothers, the guns

were booming away, Douglas Jerrold exclaimed to a friend at dinner: "How

they do powder these royal babies!"

The Queen in her journal gives a beautiful account of her husband's

devotion to her during her illness. She says, always speaking of herself

in the third person: "During the time the Queen was laid up, his care and

devotion were quite beyond expression. He refused to go to the play, or

anywhere else; generally dining alone with the Duchess of Kent, till the

Queen was able to join them, and was always on hand to do anything in his

power for her comfort. He was content to sit by her in a darkened room,

to read to her or write for her. No one but himself ever lifted her from

her bed to her sofa, and he always helped to wheel her on her sofa into

the next room. For this purpose he would come instantly when sent for

from any part of the house. As years went on, and he became overwhelmed

with work, this was often done at much inconvenience to himself (for his

attentions were the same in all the Queen's subsequent confinements), but

he always came with a sweet smile on his face. In short," the Queen adds,

"his care of her was like that of a mother, nor could there be a kinder,

wiser, or more judicious nurse."

The Prince also during the Queen's illness, conferred with her ministers,

and transacted all necessary business for her. There were nine of these

natural illnesses. I commend the example of the Prince-Consort to the

husbands of America, to husbands all over the world.

It was a glad and grateful Christmas which they spent in Windsor that

year--the first after their marriage,--the first since their union, so

pompously and piously blessed by priests and people, had been visibly

blessed by Heaven.

The next month the Queen opened Parliament in person, and gave the Lords

and gentlemen another elocutionary treat in her admirable reading of her

speech,--that "most excellent thing in woman," a sweet voice, telling

even on the Tories. Prince Albert was with her, of course, and she looked

even prouder and happier than usual. She had found yet new honors for

herself and for him,--the most noble and ancient orders of Maternity and

Paternity,--exceeding old, and yet always new.

That day the young Prince may have felt glowing in his heart a sweet

prescience of the peculiar comfort and joy he afterwards found in the

loving devotion and noble character of his firstborn, that little

blessing that would come, though "only a girl."

That day the Queen wore in her diadem a new jewel, a "pearl of great

price,"--a pure little human soul.

That faithful stand-by, King Leopold, came over to stand as chief sponsor

at the christening of the Princess Royal,--which took place at Buckingham

Palace, on the anniversary of her mother's marriage. The little girl, who

received the names of Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa, is said by her

father to have behaved "with great propriety and like a Christian."

So ended the first year of Queen Victoria's married life. To say it had

been a happy year would seem, after the records we have, to put a very

inadequate estimate on its degree of harmony and content--and yet it were

much to say of any marriage, during the trying period in which many of

the tastes and habits of two separate lives must be harmonized, and some

heroically abandoned. It is a period of readjustment and sacrifice.

Redundant and interfering growths of character must be pruned away, and

yet if the lopping process is carried too far, character itself must

suffer, the juices of its life and power, individuality and will, are


The Queen always contended that it was the Prince who made all the

sacrifices--unselfishly adjusting his life and character to suit hers,

and her position--yet not long after her marriage she records the fact

that she was beginning to sympathize with him in his peculiar tastes,

particularly in his love for a quiet country life. She says: "I told

Albert that formerly I was too happy to go to London, and wretched to

leave it; and now since the blessed hour of my marriage, and still more

since the summer, I dislike and am unhappy to leave the country, and

could be content and happy never to go to town. This pleased him."

I am afraid that there are those of Her Majesty's subjects who bless not

the memory of "Albert the Good," for this metamorphose of their once gay

and thoughtless, ball-giving, riding, driving, play-going Queen. These

malcontents are Londoners proper, mostly tradesmen, newspaper men,

milliners, and Hyde Park idlers. I think American visitors and Cook's

tourists are among those who hold that the Queen's proper place is in her

capital--at least during the season while they are here.

Upon the whole, I should say of that first year of Queen Victoria's

married life, that the honeymoon lasted throughout those twelve bright

and busy (perhaps bright because busy) months. Or, it would seem that

some fairy Godmother had come to that wedding, in homely guise, bringing

as her humble gift, a jar of honey--but a miraculous jar, the honey

gathered from Arcadian flowers, and which perpetually renewed itself,

like the poor widow's blessed cruse of oil.