Second Attempt On The Queen's Life
At last came 1848--a year packed with political convulsions and
overthrows. The spirit of revolution was rampant, bowling away at all the
thrones of Europe. England heard the storm thundering nearly all round
the horizon, for in the sister isle the intermittent rebellion broke out,
chiefly among the "Young Ireland" party, led by Mitchel, Meagher and
O'Brien. This plucky little uprising was soon put down. The leaders were
brave, eloquent, ardent young men, but their followers were not disposed
to fight long and well--perhaps their stomachs were too empty. The
Chartists stirred again, and renewed their not unreasonable or
treasonable demands; but all in vain. There is really something awful
about the strength and solidity and impassivity of England. When the
French monarchy went down in the earthquake shock of that wild winter,
and a republic came up in its place, it surely would have been no wonder
if a vast tidal-wave of revolution caused by so much subsidence and
upheaving had broken disastrously on the English shores. But it did not.
The old sea-wall of loyalty and constitutional liberty was too strong.
There were only floated up a few waifs, and among them a "forlorn and
shipwrecked brother," calling himself "John Smith," and a poor, gray-
haired, heart-broken woman, "Mrs. Smith," for the nonce. When these came
to land they were recognized as Louis Philippe and Marie AmÃ©lie of
France. Afterwards most of their family, who had been scattered by the
tempest, came also, and joined them in a long exile. The English asylum
of the King and Queen was Claremont, that sanctuary of love and sorrow,
which the Queen, though loving it well, had at once given over to her
unfortunate old friends, whom she received with the most sympathetic
kindness, trying to forget all causes of ill-feeling given her a year or
two before by the scheming King and his ambitious sons.
In the midst of the excitement and anxiety of that time, a gentle,
loving, world-wearied soul passed out of our little mortal day at Gotha,
and a fresh, bright young soul came into it in London. The dear old
grandmother of the Prince died, in her palace of Friedrichsthal, and his
daughter, Louise Caroline Alberta, now Marchioness of Lorne, was born in
Among those ruined by the convulsions in Germany were the Queen's
brother, Prince Leiningen, and her brother-in-law, Prince Hohenlohe. So
the thunderbolt had struck near. At one time it threatened to strike
still nearer, for that spring the Chartists made their great
demonstration, or rather announced one. It was expected that they would
assemble at a given point and march, several hundred thousand strong, on
Parliament, bearing a monster petition. What such a mighty body of men
might do, what excesses they might commit in the capital, nobody could
tell. The Queen was packed off to Osborne with baby Louise, to be out of
harm's way, and 170,000 men enrolled themselves as special constables.
Among these was Louis Napoleon, longing for a fight of some sort in
alliance with England. He did net get it till some years after. There was
no collision, in fact no large compact procession; the Chartists, mostly
very good citizens, quietly dispersed and went home after presenting
their petition. The great scare was over, but the special constables were
as proud as Wellington's army after Waterloo.
When the Chartist leaders had been tried for sedition and sentenced to
terms of imprisonment, and the Irish leaders had been transported, things
looked so flat in England that the young French Prince turned again to
France to try his fortune. It was his third trial. The first two efforts
under Louis Philippe to stir up a revolt and topple the citizen king from
the throne had ended in imprisonment and ridicule; but now he would not
seem to play a Napoleonic game. He would fall in with republican ideas
and run for the Presidency, which he did, and won. But as the countryman
at the circus, after creating much merriment by his awkward riding in his
rural costume, sometimes throws it off and appears as a spangled hero and
the very prince of equestrians; so this "nephew of his uncle," suddenly
emerging from the disguise of a republican President, blazed forth a
full-panoplied warrior-Emperor. But this was not yet.
In September of this year the Queen and Prince first visited a new
property they had purchased in the heart of the Highlands. The Prince
wrote of it: "We have withdrawn for a short time into a complete mountain
solitude, where one rarely sees a human face, where the snow already
covers the mountain-tops and the wild deer come creeping stealthily round
the house. I, naughty man, have also been creeping stealthily after the
harmless stags, and today I shot two red deer." ... "The castle is of
granite, with numerous small turrets, and is situated on a rising-ground,
surrounded by birchwood, and close to the river Dee. The air is glorious
and dear, but icy cold."
What a relief it must have been to them to feel themselves out of the
reach of runaway royalties, and "surprise parties" of Emperors and Grand
In March, 1849, the Prince laid the foundation-stone for the Great
Grimsby Docks, and made a noble speech on the occasion. From that I will
not quote, but I am tempted to give entire a charming note which he wrote
from Brocklesby, Lord Yarborough's place, to the Queen.
It runs thus:
"Your faithful husband, agreeably to your wishes, reports: 1. That he is
still alive. 2. That he has discovered the North Pole from Lincoln
Cathedral, but without finding either Captain Ross or Sir John Franklin.
3. That he arrived at Brocklesby and received the address. 4. That he
subsequently rode out and got home quite covered with snow and with
icicles on his nose. 5. That the messenger is waiting to carry off this
letter, which you will have in Windsor by the morning. 6. Last, but not
least, that he loves his wife and remains her devoted husband."
We may believe the good, fun-loving wife was delighted with this little
letter, and read it to a few of her choicest friends.
A few months later, while the Queen was driving with her children in an
open carriage over that assassin-haunted Constitution Hill, she was fired
at by a mad Irishman--William Hamilton. She did not lose for a moment her
wonderful self-possession, but ordered the carriage to move on, and
quieted with a few calm words the terror of the children.
We have seen that at the time of Oxford's attempt she "laughed at the
thing"; but now there had been so many shootings that "the thing" was
getting tiresome and monotonous, and she did not interfere with the
carrying out of the sentence of seven years' transportation. This was not
the last. In 1872 a Fenian tried his hand against his widowed sovereign,
and we all know of the shocking attempt of two years ago at Windsor. In
truth, Her Majesty has been the greatest royal target in Europe.
Messieurs les assassins are not very gallant.
All this time the Prince-Consort was up to his elbows in work of many
kinds. That which he loved best, planning and planting the grounds of
Osborne and Balmoral and superintending building, he cheerfully
sacrificed for works of public utility. He inaugurated and urged forward
many benevolent and scientific enterprises, and schools of art and music.
This extraordinary man seemed to have a prophetic sense of the value and
ultimate success of inchoate public improvements, and when he once
adopted a scheme allowed nothing to discourage him. He engineered the
Holborn Viaduct enterprise, and I notice that at a late meeting of the
brave Channel Tunnel Company, Sir E. W. Watkin claimed that "the cause
had once the advocacy of the great Prince-Consort, the most sagacious man
of the century."
With all these things he found time to carefully overlook the education
of his children. The Prince of Wales was now thought old enough to be
placed under a tutor, and one was selected--a Mr. Birch (let us hope the
name was not significant), "a young, good-looking, amiable man," who had
himself taken "the highest honors at Cambridge";--doubtless a great point
those highest Cambridge honors, for the instructor of an eight-years-old
boy. For all the ability and learning of his tutor, it is said that the
Prince of Wales never took to the classics with desperate avidity. He was
never inclined to waste his strength or dim his pleasant blue eyes over
the midnight oil.
Prince Albert never gave the training of his boys up wholly to the most
accomplished instructors. His was still, while he lived, the guiding,
guarding spirit. The Queen was equally faithful in the discharge of her
duties to her children--especially to her daughters. In her memoranda I
find many admirable passages which reveal her peculiarly simple,
domestic, affectionate system of home government. The religious training
of her little ones she kept as much as possible in her own hands, still
the cares of State and the duties of royal hospitality would interfere,
and, writing of the Princess Royal, in 1844, she says: "It is a hard case
for me that my occupations prevent me from being with her when she says
Some instructions which she gave to this child's governess should be
printed in letters of gold:
"I am quite clear that she should be taught to have great reverence for
God and for religion, but that she should have the feeling of devotion
and love which our heavenly Father encourages His earthly children to
have for Him, and not one of fear and trembling; and that thoughts of
death and an after life should not be represented in an alarming and
forbidding view; and that she should be made to know as yet no difference
of creeds, and not think that she can only pray on her knees, or that
those who do not kneel are less fervent or devout in their prayers."
In August of this year the Queen and Prince sailed in their favorite
yacht, the Victoria and Albert, for Ireland, taking with them
their three eldest children, the better to show the Irish people that
their sovereign had not lost confidence in them for their recent bit of a
rebellion, which she believed was one-half Popery and the other half
potato-rot. The Irish people justified that faith. At the Cove of Cork,
where the Royal party first landed, and which has been Queenstown ever
since, their reception was most enthusiastic, as it was also in Dublin,
so lately disaffected. The common people were especially delighted with
the children, and one "stout old woman" shouted out, "Oh, Queen, dear,
make one o' thim darlints Patrick, and all Ireland will die for ye!" They
afterwards got their "Patrick" in the little Duke of Connaught, but I
fear were none the more disposed to die for the English Queen. Perhaps he
came a little too late.
The Queen on this trip expressed the intention of creating the Prince of
Wales Earl of Dublin, by way of compliment and conciliation, and perhaps
she did, but still Fenianism grew and flourished In Ireland.
The passage from Belfast to Loch Ryan was very rough--a regular rebellion
against, "the Queen of the Seas," as the Emperor of France afterwards
called Victoria. She records that, "Poor little Affie was knocked down
and sent rolling over the deck, and was completely drenched." The poor
little fellow, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, the bold mariner of the
family, probably cried out then that he would "never, never be a sailor."
In a letter from Balmoral, written on his thirtieth birthday, the Prince-
Consort says: "Victoria is happy and cheerful--the children are well and
grow apace; the Highlands are glorious."
I do not know that the fact has anything to do with Her Majesty's
peculiar love for Scotland, but she came very near being born in that
part of her dominions--the Duke of Kent having proposed a little while
before her birth to take a place in Lanarkshire, belonging to a friend.
Had he done so his little daughter would have been a Highland lassie. I
don't think the Queen would have objected. She said to Sir Archibald
Alison, "I am more proud of my Scotch descent than of any other. When I
first came into Scotland I felt as if I were coming home."
With the occupation of Balmoral this home feeling increased: The Queen
was ever impatient to seek that mountain retreat and regretful to leave
it. She loved above all the outdoor life there--the rough mountaineering,
the deer hunts, the climbing, the following up and fording streams, the
picnics on breezy hill-sides; she loved to get out from under the dark
purple shadow of royalty and nestle down among the brighter purple of the
heather; she loved to go off on wild incognito expeditions and be
addressed by the simple peasants without her awesome titles; even loved
to be at times like the peasants in simplicity and naturalness, to feel
with her "guid mon," like a younger Mistress Anderson with her "jo John."
She seemed to enjoy all weathers at Balmoral. I am told that she used to
delight in walking in the rain and wind and going out protected only by a
thick water-proof, the hood drawn over her head; and that she liked
nothing better than driving in a heavy snow-storm. After the return from
Scotland, the Queen was to have opened the new Coal Exchange in London,
but was prevented by an odd and much-belated ailment, an attack of
chicken-pox. Prince Albert went in her place and took the Princess Royal
and the Prince of Wales, who, Lady Lyttelton writes: "behaved very
civilly and nicely." There was an immense crowd, all shouting and
cheering, and smiling kindly on the children. Some official of immense
size, with a big cloak and wig, and a big voice, is described as making a
pompous speech to little Albert Edward, looking down on him and
addressing him as "Your Royal Highness, the pledge, and promise of a long
race of Kings." Lady Lyttelton adds: "Poor Princey did not seem to guess
at all what he meant."
Soon after this grand affair, a very grand personage came not
unwillingly to the end of all earthly affairs. Adelaide, Dowager Queen of
England, died after a long and painful illness. She had lived a good
life; she was a sweet, charitable, patient, lovable woman. The Queen and
Prince-Consort were deeply grieved. The Queen wrote: "She was truly
motherly in her kindness to us and our children. ... Poor mama is very
much cut up by this sad event. To her the Queen is a great and serious
Queen Adelaide left directions that her funeral should be as private as
possible, and that her coffin should be carried by sailors--a tribute to
the memory of the Sailor-King.
From an English gentleman, who has exceptional opportunities of knowing
much of the private history of Royalty, I have received an anecdote of
this good woman and wife, when Duchess of Clarence--something which our
friend thinks does her more honor than afterwards did her title of Queen.
When she was married she knew, for everybody knew, of the left-hand
marriage of the Duke with the beautiful actress, Mrs. Jordan, from whom
he was then separated. The Duke took his bride to Bushey Park, his
residence, for the honeymoon, and himself politely conducted her to her
chamber. She looked about the elegant room well pleased, but was soon
struck by the picture of a very lovely woman, over the mantel. "Who is
that?" she asked. The poor Duke was aghast, but he had at least the
kingly quality of truth-telling, and stammered out: "That, my dear
Adelaide, is a portrait of Mrs. Jordan. I humbly beg your pardon for its
being here. I gave orders to have it removed, but those stupid servants
have neglected to do it. I will have it done at once--only forgive me."
The Duchess took her husband's hand and said: "No, my dear William, you
must not do it! I know what Mrs. Jordan has been to you in the past--that
you have loved her--that she is the mother of your children, and I wish
her portrait to remain where it is." And it did remain. This was very
noble and generous, certainly; but I cannot help thinking that the
Duchess was not very much in love.