Examination Day

When Queen Victoria was a tiny child, she is said to have asked her

mother one day, "Mamma, why is it that when Feodore and I are walking

all the gentlemen raise their hats to me and not to her?" In 1830, when

she was nearly eleven years old, her mother and her teachers thought

that it was time for her question to be answered. The King was so ill

that everyone knew he could not live many months. The Duke of York had

d three years earlier; therefore at the King's death William, Duke

of Clarence, would ascend the throne, and Victoria would succeed him.

It seems quite probable that the bright little girl had before this

time answered the question for herself. There are stories that if she

failed in a lesson a certain teasing boy cousin of hers used to say,

"Yes, a pretty queen you will make!" and then he would suggest that

when a queen did not rule well her head was likely to be cut off.

Another story is that when the child was reading aloud to her mother

about the Princess Charlotte, she suddenly looked up from her book and

asked, "Mamma, shall I ever be a queen?" Tradition says that the

Duchess replied: "It is very possible. I want you to be a good woman,

and then you will be a good queen." Whether there is any truth in these

stories or not, the child was too observing not to have noticed when

very young that she was treated differently from other children, even

her sister Feodore. She lived very simply, and Miss Lehzen was always

at hand to correct the least approach to a fault; but she could not

have failed to see that she was watched wherever she went and that far

more attention was paid to her than to her mother. Indeed, she herself

said long afterwards that the knowledge of her position came to her

gradually and that she "cried much" at the thought of ever having to be

a queen.

The little girl kept these thoughts to herself, and even her mother did

not know that she was dreading a future on a throne. There are several

accounts of just how she was finally told that she would some day wear

the crown, but a version which may be trusted comes from Mr. Davys.

"Princess," he said, "to-morrow I wish you to give me a chart of the

kings and queens of England."

When morning came, she gave him the chart, and he read it carefully.

Then he said:

"It is well done, but it does not go far enough. You have put down

'Uncle King' as reigning, and you have written 'Uncle William' as the

heir to the throne, but who should follow him?"

The little girl hesitated, then she said, "I hardly liked to put down


One story of the way the announcement was made to the Princess was

written--nearly forty years after the event--by her strict and adoring

governess, but it makes her out such a priggish, Pharisaical little

moralizer that one cannot help fancying that the devoted woman

unconsciously put into the mouth of her idol the speeches that seemed

to her appropriate, not to the child, but to the occasion. She says

that when the Princess was told of her position, she declared: "Many a

child would boast, but they don't know the difficulty. There is much

splendor, but there is more responsibility." Then the governess

reminded her that if her Aunt Adelaide should have children they would

be the ones to ascend the throne. According to this account, the child

answered: "If it were so, I should be very glad, for I know by the love

Aunt Adelaide bears me how fond she is of children." It seems probable

that after the Princess had been told what lay before her, Miss Lehzen

made speeches somewhat like these, and that the conscientious,

tender-hearted little girl assented to them.

Mr. Davys told the Duchess about the chart, and she wrote at once to

the Bishop of London that the Princess now understood her position. The

letter ended, "We have everything to hope from this child."

It must have given the little girl of eleven years a strange feeling to

read a chart of sovereigns of her country and know that her own name

would be written in the next vacant place. She had seen the deference

paid to "Uncle King," she knew that his will was law, and it must have

made the child's brain whirl to think "Some day I shall be in his

place." She had always been trained to the most strict obedience, but

she knew that some day whatever order she chose to give would be

obeyed. She seems to have thought more of the responsibility of the

throne than of its glories; but if she had felt ever so much inclined

to boast, she would soon have realized that after all she was only a

little girl who must obey rather than command, for the first

consequence of her queenly prospects was an examination in her lessons

before two learned bishops.

The Duchess believed that the training of the future queen was the most

important matter in the country. She could hardly have helped feeling

that she had been most successful in her efforts to make the child what

she ought to be, but after all, she herself was a German, her child was

to rule an English realm, and the careful mother wished to make sure

that the little girl was having the kind of instruction that would best

prepare her for the difficult position she would have to fill. She

selected two bishops as her advisers, men of much learning and fine

character, and wrote them a long letter about the Princess. She told

them what masters had been chosen for her and in what branch each one

had instructed her. She enclosed a list of the books the Princess had

read, a record of every lesson she had taken, and the schedule of her

study hours. She said that she herself had been present at almost every

lesson, and that Miss Lehzen, whose special task it was to assist the

little girl in preparing her work for the different masters, was always

in attendance.

With this letter went a report from each instructor, stating not only

what books she had used but what his opinion was of her progress and

ability. Although there was so much temptation to use flattery, these

reports seem to have been written with remarkable sincerity and

truthfulness. The writing master said that his pupil had "a peculiar

talent" for arithmetic, but he was apparently not quite satisfied with

her handwriting, for he closed with the sentence, "If the Princess

endeavors to imitate her writing examples, her success is certain." The

teacher of German wrote, "Her orthography is now tolerably correct,"

but he did not show the least enthusiasm over his statement, "There is

no doubt of her knowing the leading rules of the German language quite

well," though surely this was no small acquisition for a child of

eleven. The French teacher declared that her pronunciation was perfect,

that she was well advanced in knowledge of French grammar and could

carry on a conversation in French, but that she spoke better than she

wrote. He added: "The Princess is much further advanced than is usually

the case with children of her age." Mr. Davys, with his great love for

his little pupil, seems to have had a struggle with himself to keep

from speaking of her as warmly as he longed to speak, but he did allow

himself to say at the close of his report:

"It is my expectation that the disposition and attainments of the

Princess will be such as to gratify the anxious wishes, as well as to

reward the earnest exertions, with which your Royal Highness has

watched over the education of the Princess."

These honest, straightforward reports were sent to the two bishops. The

Duchess asked them to read the papers carefully and then examine the

"singularly situated child," as she called the Princess, to see whether

she had made as much progress as she should have done, and in what

respects they would suggest any change of method and teaching.

Three weeks after the letter was written the two bishops went to

Kensington and examined the little maiden in "Scripture, catechism,

English history, Latin, and arithmetic." Both were gentle, kindly men,

and both had little children of their own. Evidently they knew how to

question the royal child in such a fashion that she was not startled or

made too nervous to do her best, for one of them wrote in his journal

about the examination, "The result was very satisfactory." The bishops

went home from Kensington and three days later they sent the anxious

mother a report of the interview. They wrote that they had asked the

Princess "a great variety of questions," and that her answers showed

she had learned "with the understanding as well as with the memory."

They were so well pleased with the results of their visit, they said,

that they had no change to recommend in the course which had been

pursued. So it was that the little girl began her public life, not by

congratulations and entertainments and rejoicings, but by a thorough

examination in her studies before two learned men.

Two months after the bishops' visit to Kensington the Princess passed

her eleventh birthday. One month later "Uncle King" died, and "Uncle

William" became sovereign, with the title of William IV. At William's

death Victoria would become queen, and as that event might occur before

she was eighteen and capable of ruling for herself, it was necessary to

have a guardian appointed at once, so that, if it should come to pass,

there would be no delay in matters of state.

A law was proposed in Parliament called the Regency Bill. As it was

possible that William would have a child, Victoria was spoken of as the

"heir presumptive"--that is, the one who is presumed or expected to be

the heir, although with a possibility of changes that would put someone

else before her. The bill provided that if she should come to the crown

before she was eighteen, her mother should be her guardian and should

rule the country in her name until she was of age. This bill became a

law, and few laws have been so pleasing to both houses of Parliament

and to the whole country. Speeches were made by prominent statesmen

praising the Duchess of Kent and her manner of training her little

daughter. The grandmother in Coburg wrote, "May God bless and protect

our little darling," and the whole country echoed the prayer.

When Parliament was prorogued, or closed until the next session, the

Princess was with her Aunt Adelaide, who was now the Queen. They stood

together at one of the palace windows watching the procession, while

the people shouted, "Hurrah for Queen Adelaide! Long live the Queen!"

Then the loving aunt took the little girl by the hand and led her out

on the balcony so that all might see her. The people cheered louder

than before, not only for the Princess, but for the generous woman who

had not a thought of jealousy because it was the child of her friend

and not one of her own little girls that stood by her side.

King William was fond of the child, but he did not like the mother. The

Duchess always spoke of him with respect and kindness, but she

contrived to have her own way in bringing up her daughter, and she was

so quick-witted that she could usually prove, though in a most

courteous and deferential manner, that he was in the wrong. He was very

indignant that Victoria was not allowed to spend time at court, but

there was nothing for him to say when the mother quietly took the

ground that the little girl was not strong enough for the excitements

of court life. Soon after his accession he sent the Prime Minister to

the Duchess to express his opinion that the education of the heir

presumptive ought to be in charge of some clergyman of high rank in the

church, and not in that of the minister of a little country parish. The

Duchess replied with the utmost courtesy. "Convey to his Majesty my

gratitude," she said to the Prime Minister, "for the interest that he

has manifested. Say to him that I agree with him perfectly that the

education of the Princess ought to be intrusted to a dignitary of the

church." Then she added: "I have every ground for being satisfied with

Mr. Davys, and I think there can be no reason why he should not be

placed in as high a position as his Majesty could wish." King William

must have raged when he received the message, but he was helpless, and

there was really nothing to do but to follow the suggestion of the

Duchess. This was done, and Mr. Davys became Dean of Chester.

One other official was, however, added to the household of the

Princess, a "state governess," the Duchess of Northumberland. Her

business was to attend the royal child on all state occasions and to

teach her the details of court etiquette that were to be observed. This

lady had nothing to do with the education of the Princess in any other

respect, and Miss Lehzen remained her governess as before.

Miss Lehzen, or Baroness Lehzen, for King George had made her a German

baroness, was a finely educated woman, the daughter of a German

clergyman. She had come to England with the Duchess of Kent as

governess to the Princess Feodore, and she had performed her duties so

satisfactorily that the Duchess was glad to be able to place the

Princess Victoria in her charge. She was a woman of keen, sagacious

judgment, with the ability to see everything that was going on about

her, and not at all afraid to express her opinions. One day when an

aide-de-camp of one of the royal dukes was presented to her, she

greeted him with the frank speech: "I can see that you are not a fop or

a dandy, as most of your Guardsmen are." She was severe in her manner,

but her bluntest speeches were made with such a friendly glance of her

shrewd and kindly eyes that most people who met her became, like the

aide-de-camp, her loyal friends. Many years later her former pupil said

of her: "I adored her, though I was greatly in awe of her. She really

seemed to have no thought but for me."

The education of the schoolgirl Princess went on in much the same way

as during the previous years. Her study hours were observed with such

strictness that even when a favored guest at Kensington was about to

take his departure, she was not allowed to leave her work for a moment

to say good-by. Occasionally, however, an interruption came, and three

months before she was twelve years of age the books had to be closed

for one day that she might make her first appearance at Queen

Adelaide's drawing room. She wore a white dress, hardly more elaborate

than her ordinary gowns, but a diamond ornament was in her hair, and

around her neck was a string of pearls. She stood beside the Queen, and

although the ceremonies were almost as unwonted to her as they would

have been to any other child of her age, she did not appear

embarrassed, but seemed to enjoy her new experience. Baroness Lehzen

wrote a letter to a friend about this time describing the little girl.

She said:

"My Princess will be twelve years old to-morrow. She is not tall, but

very pretty; has dark blue eyes, and a mouth which, though not tiny, is

very good-tempered and pleasant; very fine teeth, a small but graceful

figure, and a very small foot. Her whole bearing is so childish and

engaging that one could not desire a more amiable child." The Baroness

seems to have just returned from some absence when she wrote the

letter, for she adds, "She was dressed to receive me in white muslin,

with a coral necklace."

During this year, 1831, while the glories of Victoria's brilliant

future were beginning to shine faintly about her, the first sorrows of

her life came to her in the death of her grandmother of Coburg and the

departure of her Uncle Leopold for Belgium. The year before, he had

been asked to become king of Greece, but had refused. Now the throne of

Belgium was offered him, and he accepted it. The happiest days of the

little niece had been spent with him, and the child, who, in spite of

her royal birth, had so few pleasures was sadly grieved at his

departure. All her life he had been her devoted friend, always near,

and always ready to do anything to please her. Child as she was, she

knew enough of thrones and sovereigns to understand that the visits of

kings and queens must be few and far between, and that she could never

again have the delightful times of her earlier years.

The coronation of King William took place in September, but neither the

Duchess nor the Princess was present. No one knew the reason of their

absence, and, therefore, all sorts of stories were spread abroad. "The

Princess is not strong enough to attend so long and wearisome a

ceremonial," said one. "Her mother keeps her away to spite the King,"

declared another; and yet another reason assigned--and this was

probably the true one--was that the Princess was not allowed to go

because the King had refused to give her the place in the procession

which her rank and position demanded.

Whatever reason may have been the correct one, the Princess remained at

home, but she did some little traveling during the summer. It was only

around the western part of the Isle of Wight, but to the child whose

journeys until the previous season had been hardly more than from

Kensington to London or to Claremont these little trips were full of


The following summer brought much more of travel. Not only the King but

the people of the kingdom in general were beginning to feel somewhat

aggrieved that so little was seen of the Princess. The Duchess believed

that the best way for the future Queen to know her realm was to see it,

and that the best way to win the loyalty of her future subjects was for

them to see her. She thought that her daughter was now old enough to

enjoy and appreciate journeys through the country. These journeys were

not lengthy, for the travelers did not leave England except for a short

stay at Anglesey, but they could hardly fail to be of interest to a

wide-awake girl of thirteen who wanted to "see things and know things."

The general course of their travel was from Kensington to the

northwest, and its limit was the little island of Anglesey. Of course

the child who had not been allowed to leave a haycock unfinished lest

she should develop a tendency to leave things incomplete was not

permitted to make an expedition like this without a vast amount of

instruction. She was required to keep a journal, and she was seldom

allowed to look upon the manufacture of any article without listening

to an explanation of the process. It speaks well for her intelligence

and her wish to learn that she seems to have been genuinely interested

in these explanations. She found a tiny model of a cotton loom as

fascinating as most children would find a new toy, and she was never

weary of watching the manufacture of nails. As a memento of the visit

to the nail-makers she carried away with the greatest delight a little

gold box that they had presented to her. Within the box was a quill,

and in the quill was a vast number of nails of all varieties, but so

tiny that they could hardly be seen without a magnifying glass. Other

gifts were made her. At the University Press she was presented with a

richly bound Bible and a piece of white satin, on which was printed a

glowing account of her visit. Here in Oxford she was enthusiastic in

her enjoyment of the Bodleian Library. One thing in this library

interested her especially, a book of Latin exercises in which Queen

Elizabeth wrote when she was thirteen, just the age of the Princess. Of

course the little visitor compared her own handwriting with that of

Elizabeth, and the thought must have passed through her mind that some

day her exercises and copybooks would perhaps be put into libraries to

be looked at as she was looking at Queen Elizabeth's.

Other events than receiving gifts and studying manufactures came into

those weeks of travel. The Princess laid the corner stone of a boys'

school; she planted a little oak tree on the estate of one of her

entertainers; in Anglesey she presented the prizes at the National

Eisteddfod, a musical and literary festival which had been celebrated

annually from ancient times; she listened to addresses without number

from mayors and vice chancellors, and she was present at the formal

opening of the new bridge over the Dee, which for this reason was named

the Victoria Bridge. One thing which seems to have made a special

impression upon the child's mind, and which she noted particularly in

her journal, was that she was allowed to dine with her mother and the

guests at seven o'clock.

Traveling in those days was quite a different matter from making a

journey to-day. One or two short railroads had been built in England,

but it was many years too early for the comfortable, rapid express

trains of the present time, and the journeys of the Princess were made

entirely by carriage. She had set off for Kensington with a little

company of attendants, very few, indeed, considering her position as

heir presumptive, but it was hardly possible, without offending the

loyal people of the places through which they passed, to refuse the

honors which were shown to her and her mother and the requests of the

yeomanry of various counties that begged the privilege of escorting

them. In the days of Queen Elizabeth, that lover of gorgeousness used

to make journeys about her kingdom that were regarded as an excuse for

all magnificence and lavishness. These were called progresses, and now

King William often jested about "little Victoria's royal progresses."

He was not exactly pleased, however, and he kept a somewhat jealous

watch of the honors that were paid to her.

The next year the Princess and her mother spent considerable time in

their yacht, and the King had a fresh cause of annoyance in the fact

that now they were greeted not only with addresses but with the firing

of guns. He could not endure that anyone but himself should receive the

royal salutes. "The thing is not legal," he said to the naval

authorities. "Stop those poppings." The naval authorities respectfully

insisted that the thing was legal. The King had not learned wisdom

from his previous encounters with the Duchess of Kent, and in his

dilemma he actually tried to compel her to refuse to accept the

salutes. The dignified lady replied with all courtesy: "If the King

wishes to offer me a slight in the face of the people, he can offer it

so easily that he should not ask me to make the task easier." King

William was fairly worsted, but he would not yield. He called the Privy

Council and ordered them to pass an order that even the royal flag

should not be saluted unless the vessel flying it bore either the King

or the Queen.

To turn from royal salutes and mayors' addresses and the laying of

corner-stones to playing with dolls is a little startling, but such was

the course of the Princess' life. She was heir to the throne, and she

could bestow prizes and receive delegations and meet the eager gaze of

thousands without being at all troubled or embarrassed, but she was a

child for all that; she was not allowed to sit at the table when her

mother gave an elaborate dinner party for the King, and she still

retained her liking for the dolls that her lack of playmates had made

so dear to her. There is now in existence a little copybook on which is

written "List of my dolls." By their number and their interest, they

certainly deserve the honor of being catalogued, even at the present

time, for there were 132 of them, and they were often dressed to

imitate noted persons of the day. Most of them were little wooden

creatures from three to nine inches high, with sharply pointed noses,

cheeks red as a cherry in some one spot--wherever the brush of the

maker had chanced to hit--jet black hair, and the most convenient

joints, that enabled the small bodies to be arranged in many attitudes.

The men dolls had small black mustaches, and the women dolls were

distinguished by little yellow "back-combs" painted on the black dab

which represented their hair. The baby dolls were made of rags, upon

which comical little faces were painted.

The fascination of these dolls does not lie in their beauty, but in

their wardrobes. Most of them were dressed between 1831 and 1833, or

when the Princess was from twelve to fourteen years old. One group

represents the play of Kenilworth, which she had evidently seen. The

Earl of Leicester is gorgeous in knee-breeches of pink satin, with

slashes of white silk. His tunic reverses the order and is of white

satin slashed with pink. He wears the blue ribbon of the Order of the

Garter and a wide black velvet hat swept with yellow and white plumes.

Queen Elizabeth appears in cloth of gold with enormous puffed sleeves.

From her shoulders hangs a long train lined with bright crimson plush

and trimmed with ermine. She wears crimson plush shoes and a heavy

girdle of gold beads.

There are all sorts of characters among these little wooden people.

There are court ladies, actors, and dandified young gallants. Perched

on a table is a merry little ballet-dancer in blue satin trimmed with

pink and yellow roses. There are mothers with their babies, and there

is "Mrs. Martha," a buxom housekeeper, with a white lawn frock, full

sleeves, and purple apron pinked all around. She wears a white lace cap

adorned with many frills and tied under her small wooden chin with pink

ribbons. She stands beside a home-made dressing table of cardboard

covered with white brocade.

The conscientious little owner of these dolls marked carefully which

ones she herself dressed and in which she was helped by the Baroness

Lehzen. The wardrobes of thirty-two were made entirely by the fingers

of the little girl, and, remembering the schedule of studies, it is a

wonder how she found the time; one hopes that at least the hour marked

"Needlework and learning poetry by heart" was sometimes devoted to this

purpose, though how any dress-maker, old or young, could learn poetry

with a court costume on her hands is a mystery.

It is equally a mystery how even the most skillful of childish fingers

could manufacture such tiny ruffles and finish two-inch aprons with

microscopic pockets whereon were almost invisible bows. Handkerchiefs

half an inch square have drawn borders and are embroidered with colored

silk initials. Little knitted stockings beautify the pointed wooden

feet; bead bracelets adorn the funny little wooden arms that hang from

the short sleeves; coronets and crowns and wreaths glorify the small

wooden heads.

The Princess had a long board full of pegs into which the feet of these

little favorites of hers fitted, and here she rehearsed dramas and

operas and pantomimes. Even in her play with dolls, however, she could

not be entirely free from the burden of her destiny, for sometimes they

were used by the state governess to explain court ceremonials and teach

the etiquette of various occasions. When the Princess was fully

fourteen, the dolls were packed away, though no one guessed how soon

the little owner would be called upon to decide, not the color of a

doll's gown, but the fate of men and women and the weighty questions of

a nation.