The Last Day Of Victoria's Real Girlhood
It seems to me that the momentous day just described was the last of
Victoria's real girlhood; that premature womanhood was thrust upon her
with all the power, grandeur, and state of a Queen Regnant. I wonder if,
weary and nervously exhausted as she must have been, she slept much, when
at last she went to bed, probably no longer in her mother's room. I
wonder if she did not think, with a sort of fearsome thrill that when the
summer sun faded from her sight, it was only to travel all night,
lighting her vast dominions and her uncounted millions of subjects; and
that, like the splendor of that sun, had become her life--hers, the
little maiden's, but just emerging from the shadow of seclusion, and from
her mother's protecting care and wise authority, and stepping out into
the world by herself!
The next day she went in state to St. James Palace, accompanied by great
lords and ladies, and escorted by squadrons of the Life Guards and Blues,
and was formally proclaimed from the window of the Presence Chamber,
looking out on the court-yard. A Court chronicle states that Her Majesty
wore a black silk dress and a little black chip bonnet, and that she
looked paler than usual. Miss Martineau, speaking of the scene, says:
"There stood the young creature, in simplest mourning, her sleek bands of
brown hair as plain as her dress. The tears ran down her cheeks, as Lord
Melbourne, standing by her side, presented her to the people as their
Sovereign. ... In the upper part of the face she is really pretty, and
with an ingenuous, sincere air which seems full of promise."
After the ceremony of proclamation was over, the "little Queen" remained
for a few moments at the window, bowing and smiling through her tears at
that friendly and enthusiastic crowd of her subjects, and listening to
the National Anthem played for the first time for her, then retired, with
her mother, who had not been "prominent" during the scene, but who had
been observed "to watch her daughter with great anxiety."
At noon the Queen held a Privy Council, at which it was said, "She
presided with as much ease as though she had been doing nothing else all
her life." At 1 P.M. she returned to Kensington Palace, there to remain
in retirement till after the funeral of King William.
It is certain that the behavior of this girl-queen on these first two
days of her reign "confounded the doctors" of the Church and State.
Greville, who never praises except when praise is wrung out of him, can
hardly say enough of her grace and graciousness, calmness and self-
possession. He says, also, that her "agreeable expression, with her
youth, inspire an excessive interest in all who approach her, and which,"
he is condescending enough to add, "I can't help feeling myself." He
quotes Peel as saying he was "amazed at her manner and behavior; at her
apparent deep sense of her situation, her modesty, and at the same time
her firmness. She appeared to be awed, but not daunted."
The Duke of Wellington paid a similar tribute to her courage.
Now, if these great men did not greatly idealize her, under the double
glamour of gallantry and loyalty, Victoria was a most extraordinary young
woman. A few days before the death of the King, Greville wrote: "What
renders speculation so easy and events so uncertain is the absolute
ignorance of everybody of the character, disposition, and capacity of the
Princess. She has been kept in such jealous seclusion by her mother
(never having slept out of her bedroom, nor been alone with anybody but
herself and, the Baroness Lehzen), that not one of her acquaintance, none
of the attendants at Kensington, not even the Duchess of Northumberland,
her governess, can have any idea what she is, or what she promises to
be." The first day of Victoria's accession he writes: "She appears to act
with every sort of good taste and good feeling, as well as good sense,
and nothing can be more favorable than the impression she has made, and
nothing can promise better than her manner and conduct do... William IV.
coming to the throne at the mature age of sixty-five, was so excited by
the exaltation that he nearly went mad... The young Queen, who might well
be either dazzled or confounded with the grandeur and novelty of her
situation, seems neither the one nor the other, and behaves with a
propriety and decorum beyond her years."
Doubtless nature was kind to Victoria in the elements of character, but
she must have owed very much of this courage, calmness, modesty,
simplicity, candor, and sterling good sense to the peculiar, systematic
training, the precept and example of her mother, the much-criticised
Duchess of Kent, so unpopular at the Court of the late King, and whom Mr.
Greville had by no means delighted to honor. Ah, the good, brave Duchess
had her reward for all her years of patient exile, all her loving labor
and watchful care, and rich compensation for all criticisms,
misrepresentations, and fault-finding, that June afternoon, the day of
the Proclamation, when she rode from the Palace of St. James to
Kensington with her daughter, who had behaved so well--her daughter and