Fresh Attempts Against The Queen's Life And The Death Of The Duc D'orleans

On the 30th of May a renewed attempt to assassinate the Queen, almost

identical in the circumstances and the motive--or no motive, save morbid

vanity--with the affair of Oxford, awoke the same disgust and

condemnation. This was a double attack, for on the previous day, Sunday,

at two o'clock, as the Queen and the Prince were driving home from the

Chapel Royal, St. James's, in passing along the Mall, near Stafford House,

amidst a crowd of bowing, cheering spectators, the Prince saw a man step

out and present a pistol at him. He heard the trigger snap, but the pistol

missed fire. The Queen, who had been bowing to the people on the opposite

side, neither saw nor heard anything. On reaching the Palace the Prince

questioned the footmen in attendance, but neither had they noticed

anything, and he could judge for himself that no commotion, such as would

have followed an arrest, had taken place. He was tempted to doubt the

evidence of his senses, though he thought it necessary to make a private

statement before the Inspector of Police. Confirmation came in the story

of a stuttering boy named Pearse. He had witnessed the scene, and after a

little delay arrived of his own accord at the Palace, to report what had

happened. Everybody concerned was now convinced of the threatened danger,

but it was judged best to keep it secret. The Prince, writing afterwards

to his father, mentions in his simple straightforward fashion that they

were both naturally much agitated, and that the Queen was very nervous and

unwell; as who would not be with the sword of Damocles quivering ready to

fall on the doomed head? Her Majesty's doctor wished that she should go

out, and the wish coincided with the quiet courage and good sense of the

Royal couple. To have kept within doors might have been to shut

themselves up for months, and the Queen said later, "she never could have

existed under the uncertainty of a concealed attack. She would much

rather run the immediate risk at any time than have the presentiment of

danger constantly hovering over her." But the brave, generous woman, a

true queen in facing the dastardly foe, was careful to save others from

unnecessary exposure. The Annual Register of the year mentions that

she did not permit her female attendants to accompany her according to her

usual practice, on that dangerous drive. Lady Bloomfield, who as Miss

Liddell was one of the Maids of Honour in waiting, amply confirms the

statement. No whisper of what was expected to occur had reached the ladies

of the Household. They waited at home all the afternoon counting on being

summoned to drive with the Queen. Contrary to her ordinary habit and to

her wonted consideration for them, they were neither sent for to accompany

her, nor apprised in time that they were not wanted, so that they might

have disposed of their leisure elsewhere. The Queen went out alone with

Prince Albert. When she returned and everybody knew what she had

encountered, she said to Miss Liddell: "I dare say, Georgy, you were

surprised at not driving with me this afternoon, but the fact was that as

we returned from church yesterday, a man presented a pistol at the

carriage window, which flashed in the pan; we were so taken by surprise

that we had not time to escape, so I knew what was hanging over me, and

was determined to expose no life but my own." The young Maid of Honour, in

speaking warmly of the Queen's courage and unselfishness, shrewdly reminds

her readers that had three ladies driven rapidly by instead of one, the

would-be assassin might have been bewildered and uncertain in his aim. The

Queen and the Prince had driven in the direction of Hampstead in "superb

weather," with "hosts of people on foot" around them--a strange contrast

in their ease and tranquillity to the beating hearts and watchful eyes in

the Royal carriage. There had been no misadventure and nothing suspicious

observed, though every turn, almost every face was scanned, till on the

way home, between the Green Park and the garden wall, at the same spot,

though on the opposite side from where Oxford had stood two years before,

a shot was fired about five paces off. The Prince immediately recognised

the man who had aimed at him the day before, "a little swarthy ill-looking

rascal," who had been already seized, though too late to stop the shot, by

a policeman close at hand.

When the worst was over without harm done, "We felt as if a load had been

taken off our hearts," wrote the Prince, "and we thanked the Almighty for

having preserved us a second time from so great a danger." The Prince

added, "Uncle Mensdorff [Footnote: The Duchess of Kent's eldest sister

married a private gentleman, originally a French emigre, afterwards

a distinguished officer in the Austrian service. His sons were Prince

Albert's early companions and intimate friends.] and mamma were driving

close behind us. The Duchess Bernhard of Weimar was on horseback--not

sixty paces from us."

It was said that when the Queen arrived at the Palace and met the Duchess

of Kent, whom Count Mensdorff had conducted thither, the poor mother was

deeply affected and fell upon her daughter's neck with a flood of tears,

"while the Queen endeavoured to reassure her with cheerful words and

affectionate caresses." Indeed the Queen was greatly relieved, and in the

reaction she recovered her spirits. She wrote to the King of the Belgians

the day afterwards, "I was really not at all frightened, and feel very

proud at dear Uncle Mensdorff calling me 'very courageous,' which I shall

ever remember with peculiar pride, coming from so distinguished an officer

as he is." We may mention that the general impression made on the public

by the Queen's bearing under these treacherous attacks was that of her

utter fearlessness and strength of nerve; a corresponding idea, which we

think quite mistaken, was that the Prince showed himself the more nervous

of the two.

A great crowd assembled to cheer the Queen when she drove out on the

following day. "One long shout of hurrahs," with waving of hats and

handkerchiefs, greeted her. She bowed and smiled and appeared calm and

collected, though somewhat flushed; but when she came back from what is

described as like a triumphal progress, it was observed that, in spite of

her gratification, she looked pale and not so well as she had done on the

day preceding the attack. The bravest heart in a woman's breast could not

surmount unmoved such an ordeal; she was at the Italian Opera the same

evening, however, and heard the national anthem interrupted at every line

by bursts of cheering.

In this case, as in the other, the offender was a mere lad, little over

twenty, named John Francis. He was the son of a stage-carpenter, and had

himself been a young carpenter who had led an irregular life, and been

guilty of dishonesty. He behaved at first with much coolness and

indifference, jeering at the magistrates. Francis was tried in the month

of June for high treason, and sentenced to death, when his bluster ceased,

and he fell back in a fainting fit in the arms of the turnkey.

The Queen was exceedingly anxious that the sentence should not be

executed, though "fully conscious of the encouragement to similar

attempts--which might follow from such leniency," and the sentence of

death was commuted to banishment for life.

On the very day after the commutation of the sentence had been announced,

Sunday, the 3rd of July, the Queen was again fired at as she sat by the

side of her uncle, King Leopold, on her way to the Chapel Royal, St.

James's. The pistol missed fire, and the man who presented it, a

hunchback, was seized by a boy of sixteen called Dasset. So ridiculous did

the group seem, that the very policemen pushed away both captor and

captive as actors in a bad practical joke. Then the boy Dasset, who

retained the pistol, was in danger of being taken up as the real culprit,

trying to throw the blame upon another. At last several witnesses proved

the true state of the case. The pistol was discovered to contain only

powder, paper, and some bits of a tobacco-pipe rammed together. On

examination it was found that the hunchback, another miserable lad named

Bean, was a chemist's assistant, who had written a letter to his father

declaring that he "would never see him again, as he intended doing

something which was not dishonest, but desperate."

The Queen was not aware of Bean's attempt till she came back from St.

James's, "when she betrayed no alarm, but said she had expected a

repetition of the attempts on her life, so long as the law remained

unaltered by which they could be dealt with only as acts of high treason."

"Sir Robert Peel hurried up from Cambridge on hearing what had occurred,

to consult with the Prince as to the steps to be taken. During this

interview her Majesty entered the room, when the Minister, in public so

cold and self-controlled, in reality so full of genuine feeling, out of

his very manliness, was unable to control his emotion, and burst into

tears;" [Footnote: "Life of the Prince Consort"] an honourable sequel to

the difficulties and misunderstanding which had heralded the Premier's

entrance on office.

It was, indeed, high time that a suitable provision should be made to meet

what seemed likely to be a new and base abuse of Royal clemency.

In the meantime, Prince Albert's fair and fearless treatment of the whole

matter was very remarkable. He wrote that he could imagine the

circumstance of Bean's attempt being made the day after Francis received

his pardon would excite much surprise in Germany. But the Prince was

satisfied that Bean's letter making known his intention had been written

days before. Prince Albert was convinced that, as the law then stood,

Francis's execution, notwithstanding the verdict of the jury, would have

been nothing less than a judicial murder, as it was essential that the act

should be committed with intent to kill or wound, and in Francis's case

this, to all appearance, was not the fact; at least it was open to grave

doubt. There was no proof that Francis's pistol was loaded. "In this calm

and wise way," observes Mr. Justin M'Carthy, "did the husband of the

Queen, who had always shared with her whatever of danger there might be in

the attempts, argue as to the manner in which they ought to be dealt

with." The historian adds, "The ambition which moved most or all the

miscreants who thus disturbed the Queen and the country, was that of the

mountebank rather than the assassin." It merited contempt no less than

severity. A bill was brought forward on the 12th of July, and passed on

the 16th, making such attacks punishable, as high misdemeanours, by

transportation for seven years, or imprisonment with or without hard

labour for a term not exceeding three years; the culprit to be publicly or

privately whipped as often and in such manner and form as the court shall

direct, not exceeding thrice. Bean was tried by this law on the 25th of

August, and sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment.

One of the attractions of the season was the reappearance of Rachel,

ravishing all hearts by her acting of Camille in Les Horaces, and

winning ovations of every kind up to roses dropped from the Queen's


Mendelssohn was also in London, and went to Buckingham Palace. He has left

a charming account of one of his visits in a letter to his mother. "I must

tell you," he writes, "all the details of my last visit to Buckingham

Palace.... It is, as G. says, the one really pleasant and thoroughly

comfortable English house where one feels a son aise. Of course I

do know a few others, but yet on the whole I agree with him. Joking apart,

Prince Albert had asked me to go to him on Saturday at two o'clock, so

that I might try his organ before I left England; I found him alone, and

as we were talking away, the Queen came in, also alone, in a simple

morning-dress. She said she was obliged to leave for Claremont in an hour,

and then, suddenly interrupting herself, exclaimed, 'But, goodness, what a

confusion!' for the wind had littered the whole room, and even the pedals

of the organ (which, by the way, made a very pretty picture in the room),

with leaves of music from a large portfolio that lay open. As she spoke

she knelt down, and began picking up the music; Prince Albert helped, and

I too was not idle. Then Prince Albert proceeded to explain the stops to

me, and she said that she would meanwhile put things straight.

"I begged that the Prince would first play me something, so that, as I

said, I might boast about it in Germany. He played a chorale by heart,

with the pedals, so charmingly, and clearly, and correctly, that it would

have done credit to any professional; and the Queen, having finished her

work, came and sat by him and listened, and looked pleased. Then it was

my turn, and I began my chorus from St. Paul, "How lovely are the

messengers." Before I got to the end of the first verse they both joined

in the chorus, and all the time Prince Albert managed the stops for me so

cleverly--first a flute, at the forte the great organ, at the D

major part the whole register, then he made a lovely diminuendo

with the stops, and so on to the end of the piece, and all by heart--that

I was really quite enchanted. Then the young Prince of Gotha came in, and

there was more chatting; and the Queen asked if I had written any new

songs, and said she was very fond of singing my published ones. 'You

should sing one to him,' said Prince Albert, and after a little begging

she said she would try the 'Fruhlingslied' in B flat. 'If it is still

here,' she added, 'for all my music is packed up for Claremont.' Prince

Albert went to look for it, but came back saying it was already packed.

'But one might, perhaps, unpack it,' said I. 'We must send for Lady

----,' she said (I did not catch the name). So the bell was rung, and the

servants were sent after it, but without success; and at last the Queen

went herself, and while she was gone, Prince Albert said to me, 'She begs

you will accept this present as a remembrance,' and gave me a little case

with a beautiful ring, on which is engraved 'V. R., 1842.'

"Then the Queen came back and said, ' Lady ---- is gone, and has taken all

my things with her. It really is most annoying.' You can't think how that

amused me. I then begged that I might not be made to suffer for the

accident, and hoped she would sing another song. After some consultation

with her husband, he said, 'She will sing you something of Gluck's.'

Meantime, the Princess of Gotha had come in, and we five proceeded through

various corridors and rooms to the Queen's sitting-room. The Duchess of

Kent came in too, and while they were all talking, I rummaged about

amongst the music, and soon discovered my first set of songs; so, of

course, I begged her rather to sing one of those than the Gluck, to which

she very kindly consented; and which did she choose? 'Schoner und

schoner schmuck sich,' sang it quite charmingly, in strict time and

tune, and with very good execution. Only in the line 'Der Prosa Lasten

und muh,' where it goes down to D, and then comes up again by

semi-tones, she sang D sharp each time, and as I gave her the note the two

first times, the last time she sang D, where it ought to have been D

sharp. But with the exception of this little mistake it was really

charming, and the last long G I have never heard better, or purer, or more

natural, from any amateur. Then I was obliged to confess that Fanny had

written the song (which I found very hard; but pride must have a fall),

and to beg her to sing one of my own also. 'If I would give her plenty of

help she would gladly try,' she said, and then she sang

'Pilgerspruch,' 'Lass dich nur,' really quite faultlessly,

and with charming feeling and expression. I thought to myself, one must

not pay too many compliments on such an occasion, so I merely thanked her

a great many times, upon which she said. 'Oh, if only I had not been so

frightened! generally I have such long breath.' Then I praised her

heartily, and with the best conscience in the world; for just that part

with the long C at the close, she had done so well, taking it and the

three notes next to it all in the same breath, as one seldom hears it

done, and therefore it amused me doubly that she herself should have begun

about it.'

"After this Prince Albert sang the 'Arndle-lied,' 'Es ist ein

schnitter,' and then he said I must play him something before I went,

and gave me as themes the chorale which he had played on the organ, and

the song he had just sung. If everything had gone as usual I ought to have

improvised dreadfully badly, for it is almost always so with me when I

want it to go well, and then I should have gone away vexed with the whole

morning. But just as if I were to keep nothing but the pleasantest, most

charming recollection of it, I never improvised better; I was in the best

mood for it, and played a long time, and enjoyed it myself so much that,

besides the two themes, I brought in the songs that the Queen had sung

quite naturally; and it all went off so easily, that I would gladly not

have stopped; and they followed me with so much intelligence and

attention, that I felt more at my ease than I ever did in improvising to

an audience. The Queen said several times she hoped I would soon come to

England again, and pay them a visit, and then I took leave; and down below

I saw the beautiful carriages waiting, with their scarlet outriders, and

in a quarter of an hour the flag was lowered, and the Court

Circular announced, 'Her Majesty left the palace at twenty minutes

past three.'"

The Queen and the Prince were enjoying the company of Prince Albert's

brother, Prince Ernest, the hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg Gotha, and

his newly-wedded wife, who were both with the Court during its short stay

at Claremont. There the news reached her Majesty of the sad and

sudden death of the Duc d'Orleans, the eldest son of Louis Philippe, and

the favourite brother of the Queen of the Belgians. The Duc d'Orleans had

been with the King and Queen of France at Neuilly, from which he was

returning in order to join the Duchesse d'Orleans at Plombieres, when the

horses in his carriage started off near the Porte Maillot. Fearing that he

should be overturned the Prince rashly leaped out, when his spurs and his

sword caught in his cloak and helped to throw him to the ground with great

violence. The result was concussion of the brain, from which he died

within three hours, never recovering consciousness. The Duc d'Orleans was

a young man of great promise, and his death was not only a source of deep

distress to all connected with him, it was in the end, so far as men can

judge, fatal to the political interests of his family. Many of us can

recollect still something of the agonised prayer of the poor mother by the

dying Prince, "My God, take me, but save my child!" and the cry of the

bereaved father, the first time he addressed the Chamber afterwards, when

he broke down and could utter nothing save the passionate lamentation of

David of old, "My son, my son!" The Queen and Prince Albert were doubly

and trebly allied to the Orleans family by the marriages of the Queen of

the Belgians, the Duc de Nemours, and later of Princess Clementine, to

three members of the Coburg family--the uncle and two of the cousins of

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. They felt much for the unhappy family in

their terrible bereavement. The Queen grieved especially for her

particular friend, Queen Louise, and for the young widow, a cultured,

intellectual German Princess, with her health already broken. "My poor

dearest Louise, how my heart bleeds for her. I know how she loved poor

Chartres, [Footnote: The Duc de Chartres was the earlier title of the Duc

d'Orleans, which he bore when his father was still Duc d'Orleans, before

he became King of France as "Louis Philippe." Apparently the son continued

"Chartres" to his intimate friends.] and deservedly, for he was so noble

and good. All our anxiety now is to hear how poor dear frail Helene (the

Duchesse d'Orleans) has borne this too dreadful loss. She loved him so,

and he was so devoted to her."

During the night of the 27th of July this year, London was visited by the

most violent thunderstorm which had been experienced for many summers. It

lasted for several hours. The fine spire of the church of St.

Martin-in-the-Fields was struck by the lightning and practically


On the 9th of August the Queen prorogued Parliament, when the Prince and

Princess of Saxe-Coburg Gotha witnessed the interesting ceremony,

occupying chairs near the chair of State, kept vacant for the Prince of

Wales to the right of the Queen, while Prince Albert sat in the chair to

her left.

The Prince of Wales was still at a considerable distance from the

occupancy of that chair. Even as we see him here, in a copy of Mrs.

Thornycroft's graceful statue, he is in the character of a shepherd lad,

like David of old, and not in that of the heir-apparent to the throne.

At the close of this season, the Queen's old friend and servant Baroness

Lehzen withdrew from Court service and retired to Germany to end her days

in her native country, in the company of a sister. Lady Bloomfield saw the

Baroness Lehzen in her home at Buckeburg, within a day's journey of

Hanover, a few years subsequently. "She resided with her sister in a

comfortable small house, where she seemed perfectly contented and happy.

She was as much devoted to the Queen as ever, and her rooms were filled

with pictures and prints of her Majesty." The Prince and Princess of

Buckeburg were very kind to her, and she had as much society as she liked

or desired. What a change from the great monarchy of England to the tiny

princedom of Buckeburg! But the Baroness was a German, and could reconcile

the two ideas in her mind. She was also an ageing woman, to whom the rest

and freedom of domestic life were sweet and the return to the customs of

her youth not unacceptable..