THE Queen has been truly blessed in her children, all of whom have been immeasurable gainers by her admirable training and example. The first on this noble roll-call is the Empress Frederick. On the 13th of November, 1840, the Court returned from Windsor to Buckingham Palace, where on the 21st of that month the Princess Royal of England was born.
The Privy Councillors had, according to custom on such occasions, assembled to testify to the birth of a Royal infant, when Mrs. Peley, the head nurse, entered the room, bearing in her arms the "young stranger," a beautiful, plump, and healthy Princess, carefully wrapped in flannel. Her Royal Highness was for a moment laid upon the table for the observation of the constituted authorities; but the loud tones in which she testified her displeasure at such an exposure, while they proved the soundness of her lungs and the maturity of her frame, rendered it advisable that she should be returned to her chamber, and receive her first attire.
To the Queen's regret, it was decided that the child should have a wet-nurse; so a Royal messenger was sent off to Mr. Charles Day, surgeon, of Cowes, bidding him announce to Mrs. Jane Ratsey, a sail-maker's wife of Medina Terrace, West Cowes, that she had been appointed wet-nurse to the Royal infant, for which high and responsible office she appears to have been admirably qualified, the Queen having singled her out during her residence in the Isle of Wight, because of the unusually healthy appearance of the woman and her children.
The Princess was soon afterwards vaccinated, in the presence of Prince Albert, by Mr. Blagden, one of the Court surgeons. The first operation was unsuccessful, and a second had to be undergone, when the vaccine was taken from a child living at Brompton, who, with her mother, travelled down to Windsor for the purpose.
So quickly did the Queen regain her strength, that she was able to leave town just before Christmas for Windsor, where a nursery and three adjoining rooms - plainly, but most comfortably furnished - had been prepared for the use of the little Princess and her attendants.
It was Her Majesty's custom, as soon as breakfast was over, to go to the nursery, where she sometimes remained half an hour, accompanied by the Prince Consort. Before retiring for the night, the Queen again visited the nursery to satisfy herself that all was well with her infant treasure.
Her Majesty had expressed a very natural wish that the sacred edifice wherein she had given away her hand and heart should also be the scene of her child's admission into the Church of Christ. But the severity of the weather led to the relinquishment of this design, it being deemed inexpedient to remove the Royal infant from Buckingham Palace, whither the Court had returned in the early part of 1841.
Accordingly, the christening took place in the Throne Room at the Palace, where a temporary altar was erected, whereon was displayed the splendid communion plate from the Chapels Royal. The sponsors were the Dowager Queen Adelaide - who came up from Sudbury Hall to be present on the auspicious occasion - the Duchesses of Gloucester, Kent, and Sussex, and the Duke of Saxe-Coburg Gotha, who was represented by the Duke of Wellington. In the costly font of silver-gilt was water brought from the River Jordan; and when the nurse gave the babe into the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury the infant was named "Victoria Adelaide Mary Louise." Throughout the proceedings the little one behaved very well, and - as Lord Melbourne remarked - was as cheerful as if she knew that the festivity was all on her account.
Amongst the many christening presents was one from H.R. H. the Duchess of Kent - a splendid coverlet of richest green satin, lined with white silk, ornamented with flowers, and embroidered in an absolutely unique manner. It was superb in the extreme, and, as was stated at the time, "the whole was of British manufacture and completed by British artists."
Prince Albert was very proud of his firstborn daughter. On one occasion it is said that his English tutor, who was then at Buckingham Palace, having expressed a desire to see the tiny Princess, Prince Albert immediately proceeded to the nursery and brought down the little one in his arms, remarking, "To you, I suppose, children seem nearly all alike, but to my eye this little girl appears more beautiful than any other infant I have ever seen."
Most intelligent and precocious must she have been, as the following proves. In 1842 she was taken with her baby-brother to Walmer Castle, which marine residence the Duke of Wellington had placed at the Queen's disposal after the birth of the Prince of Wales. Mr. Hulke, of Deal, attended the Royal infants in a medical capacity during their visit to Walmer; and his wife, who had presented him with a son on the first anniversary of the Princess Royal's birthday, was honoured by a communication from the Queen expressing a desire that the infant should be named Victor. A few days afterwards Mr. Hulke paid his usual visit to the little Princess, when, in the most graceful manner, she held out to him a gold pencil-case set with jewels, and containing medallion portraits of Her Majesty and the Prince Consort, at the same time asking him in very infantile, but perfectly distinct, accents to "give it to Victor as a present from me."
At a very tender age the Princess began to evince that solicitude for others, and sympathy with suffering, that has characterised her life. The month of January, 1843, was particularly cold and stormy, and those whose duty compelled them to be out in the night air had a hard time of it. This was the case with the sentries on the terrace at Windsor Castle; and the Princess, snugly tucked up in her little bed, was awakened one very bitter night by the loud and continual coughing of some one outside just under her window. Starting up in some alarm, she asked her sleepy attendant who it was, and was told that it was the sentry on duty beneath the tower. "Oh, poor fellow!" she exclaimed with concern, "he has got a very bad cough!" and it was not until after many repeated expressions of regret for the "poor soldier out in the cold" that she fell asleep again. For several days the weather continued so severe, that the Royal children could not go out of doors; but the first time they were able to leave the Castle they had no sooner reached the terrace from the postern-door, than the Princess was again startled by the same distressing sound that had disturbed her slumbers. Impulsively breaking away from her nurse, she ran up to the sentinel - an old grenadier - and to his great surprise, said, "How is your cough to-day, soldier? I hope it is better." But he was still more surprised later on, when the Queen, hearing of the occurrence, sent him a present of two guineas as a cure for the "poor soldier's very bad cough." Though simply an evidence of precocious thoughtfulness on the part of the child, this incident was full of significance as foreshadowing the intimate connection her future life was destined to have with warriors unnumbered, and with all the consequent horrors and sufferings of war.
At the age of three the Princess - according to her father's letter to Baron Stockmar - could speak "English and French with great fluency and in choice phrases." She was always ready with some witty, if not always appropriate, observation. The Queen was in the habit of reading daily to her a few verses from the Bible. On one occasion, the Creation being the subject, she read out the verse, "And God made man in His own image." The child immediately perceived the apparent inconsistency of the statements as applied to many specimens of the human race, and exclaimed: "Oh, Mama, surely not the doctor!" whom it appears was a remarkably ugly man.
The following is but one out of many instances of the exceptionally quick intelligence of the Princess Royal as an infant. With the persistence of childhood, she had again and again begged her attendants to let her play with some particular object, and they had as firmly refused. At last, unable to stand it any longer, she ran to her mother, crying out, "Queen, Queen, make them obey me"; and, as the child had accurately foreseen, the appeal to her mother in the capacity of sovereign ruler proved irresistible.
In the course of the following year (1844) the Tsar Nicholas of Russia paid a somewhat unexpected visit to the Queen; and at Windsor Castle during some of the Court festivities, notably the grand parade and review in the Great Park, the Princess Royal was allowed to be present - her first appearance at a really great function. The grave and undemonstrative Tsar, whom it is said was seldom seen to laugh, took a great fancy to the Royal children, and, seeing them for the first time, remarked to the Queen, "Voilà les doux moments de notre vie." He frequently played with the little ones, and on saying goodbye kissed them affectionately and said, "Que Dieu les bénisse pour votre bonheur!"
In the same year there arrived at the Castle another Royal visitor, Prince William of Prussia, who unconsciously was destined, by reason of his son Frederick, to stand in a very much closer relationship to the little Princess Victoria of England he then romped with.
At Blair Castle, whither the Princess went that autumn with her parents on a visit to the Duke of Atholl, she went out every day riding or walking, and it was highly amusing to notice the dignity mingled with juvenile humour with which she acknowledged the salutes of the sentries on guard at the castle gate. Of course all she did and said was eagerly noted in that remote part of the country, and the local papers described her as a quick, lively, entertaining child, habitually making the shrewdest remarks upon persons and things, and knowing by heart and able to pronounce the names of all the hills in the neighbourhood - a linguistic feat of no slight merit to a Southron! In commemoration of this Royal visit sundry trees were planted by the Queen and Prince Albert; and, to her great delight, Princess Victoria was permitted to contribute two pines.
In 1845 the Queen went to Germany with Prince Albert. Princess Victoria pleaded hard to go with them. "Why," she asked, "am I not going with you to Germany?" But the Queen, though, as she stated, very willing to take her, did not feel justified in subjecting so young a child to a journey which in those days was no small undertaking. However, the Princess bore the disappointment bravely, and albeit very sorrowful at parting with her mother and father, did not even cry as the farewells were uttered in the entrance hall at Osborne.
The next year there happened one of the greatest events in her child life - the arrival in London of a mysterious chest bearing the Royal Arms of France, and addressed to no less a personage than "The Doll of the Princess Royal of England." It turned out to be a doll's trousseau and outfit, a present from King Louis Philippe, who had given carte blanche to one of the most eminent modistes of Paris to execute his important commission with the greatest taste and skill. Each gown was a complete chef d'œuvre and the balldresses might have excited the envy of the most fashionable duchess. One dress was of gros de Naples, and another of pink gauze with velvet flowers exquisitely made. With incredible care and perfect workmanship, the tiny embroidered and trimmed pocket-handkerchiefs, the silk stockings, shoes, slippers, cachemire shawls, bonnets, muffs, and black lace scarves, had all been made expressly for the occasion, and the Princess's astonishment culminated when a miniature jewel-case appeared, filled with ornaments set in diamonds of the purest water.
At the age of seven. Princess Victoria began to emerge a little out of the privacy of home life, and was allowed to take trips on board the Royal yacht at Osborne. Occasionally she went to the theatre, and sometimes attended military reviews. Her favourite amusement at this period appears to have been that of galloping up and down the beach at Osborne on her pony, or driving a miniature phaeton along the sunny slopes of the Home Park at Windsor with her brothers and her sister Alice.
The eighth year of the Princess Victoria's life was a very important one as regarded her future happiness. In the April of 1848 Prince William of Prussia, brother to the reigning King, and direct heir to the throne, paid another visit to the Queen at Osborne. Princess Victoria speedily became his greatest favourite, and frequently drove out with him. There can be little doubt that it was during this visit that the idea of a marriage between the Princess and Prince William's only son Frederick, then seventeen years old, was first entertained. Of course not the slightest hint of this was given to the young Princess, who continued her childish amusements in happy ignorance of all these arrangements for her future.
In the autumn Her Royal Highness was at Balmoral, distributing fruit to the children of the district, and entering into their sports with great glee; on one occasion, as she passed the village at Craithie Bridge, she gave away small cakes to every child she met by the wayside.
In her ninth year the Princess Royal for the first time visited Ireland with the Queen. Prince Albert, the Prince of Wales, and Princess Alice. And the same year (1849), also for the first time, she took part in a grand public ceremony, proceeding from Westminster to the City in the Royal barge with her father and her eldest brother, who, on behalf of the Queen, opened the new Coal Exchange in Lower Thames Street.
By this time the Princess Royal rejoiced in a goodly number of brothers and sisters, so that when the present Duke of Connaught was born on May 1, 1850, she made the very apposite remark, "Now we are just as many as there are days in the week." In fact, she never lacked, in all her early years, the great advantage of child companionship.
Very vividly must the Empress Frederick recall the memorable First of May in the year 1851, when, standing next to her parents on the dais beneath the central transept at the Great Exhibition, she was one of the most prominent figures in the Royal group.
Her first experience of a foreign land was in Belgium, whither she went with her father and mother in the following year (1852) on a visit to her great-uncle, King Leopold, her novel surroundings affording her good opportunity for much shrewd observation of people and things.
In honour of Prince Arthur's birthday (1854) a children's costume ball was given at Osborne, to the delight of the Princess Royal, who took the keenest interest in the preparations, and was the life and light of the affair.
At Osborne each child had a small garden of its own, which he or she was expected to maintain in a proper state of cultivation. A taste for gardening was implanted in their juvenile minds by the Prince Consort, who was never so happy as when, in the retirement of the Isle of Wight, he could direct the garden-work and superintend the farm.
The Queen herself, as a child, had been accustomed to the healthful occupation of gardening; and one day at Osborne she stopped to watch her eldest daughter, who, with a pair of new kid gloves on her hands, was busily using her scissors amongst the plants and flowers. "When I was a child," remarked the Queen, "I always did my gardening in old gloves." "Yes," replied her daughter, "but you were not born Princess Royal of England!"
The Princess Royal accompanied the Queen to Paris in 1855, and during the superb fête at Versailles which concluded the festivities held in honour of the visit, she attracted much attention, as in the centre of the splendid Hall of Mirrors she danced in the quadrille of honour, or waltzed with the Emperor Napoleon. Almost every one belonging to the Royal and Imperial party was ablaze with diamonds; but the Princess Royal of England was dressed as simply as any schoolgirl, in a plain white robe, with a wreath of roses on her head. On taking leave of the host and hostess, the Princess was presented by the latter with a magnificent bracelet set with diamonds and rubies.
This was a memorable year for the Queen's eldest daughter, for on the 29th of September she became engaged to Prince Frederick, who, with the full consent of his parents and of King William IV. of Prussia, had crossed the seas for the express purpose of winning her. Young as she was, barely sixteen, the Princess, Prince Albert said, "really behaved admirably, both at the recent declaration on Saturday, and at the leave-taking. She manifested towards Fritz and us the most childlike candour and the nicest feelings. The young people are very much in love."
Soon afterwards, the Princess was confirmed by Archbishop Sumner, the Duchess of Kent - one of the sponsors at her christening - being present on this occasion.
A few years before this, when at Balmoral, the Princess was a frequent visitor at the humble cottages round the Castle, and soon became versed in all the details of the lowly lives of their inmates, and, it is said, even learnt how to make oatmeal porridge. There was one family, however, in whom Her Royal Highness took special interest, and a new baby having arrived there, she asked to be permitted to attend its christening in the capacity of godmother; but by some mischance she could not get away in time for the ceremony, which had to go on without her. It was barely concluded, however, when the Princess came rushing in, breathless with haste and excitement. On being told how matters stood, her disappointment was intense, and expressed itself in the pathetic appeal, "Oh! but couldn't you do it over again?"
Shortly after the confirmation of the Princess, Prince Frederick came to Osborne on a prolonged visit. It was during this trip to England that the accident happened to his fiancée at Buckingham Palace, which, but for her own presence of mind, might have ended disastrously. In the account of this misadventure, given to me by one who had been with the Empress Frederick ever since her marriage, great stress was laid upon the wonderful presence of mind evinced in one so young, face to face with a possible catastrophe.
It appears that the Princess, quite unattended, was engaged with her correspondence in her private room, when in the act of sealing a letter by means of one of those rolls of wax, formerly so much in use, she set fire to her deep, open sleeve. Instantly recognising the gravity of her position, she snatched up the hearthrug and flinging it round her, partially stifled the flame, and then rang the bell. A footman almost immediately appeared. With the greatest self-possession the Princess told the man - who also displayed much self-command - exactly what to do, and the fire was extinguished before any one else in the Palace was aware that it had occurred. A permanent scar was the result of the accident, though H.I.M. is able to conceal it even when in evening dress.
In the two years that elapsed between the Princess Victoria's engagement and her wedding she rapidly developed those characteristics of kindly manner and courteous demeanour which endeared her to the people, and made her in every sense of the word popular.
One February morning, quite early, she drove from Buckingham Palace to the Mint to see for herself how the current coin of the Realm was produced. She had sent no intimation to Tower Hill of her projected visit, so when she arrived there at 9 a.m. there happened to be present only one of the minor officials. However, he did his best to show his distinguished visitor the various processes of coining, explaining everything to the best of his ability. He was naturally embarrassed at having to address Royalty - to him a new experience - and the Princess perceiving this, in the kindest manner requested him to waive all ceremony and to treat her exactly as he would any lady of his acquaintance who might have called unexpectedly and wished to study the art of money-making. He was at once put at ease, and afterwards said that seldom had he experienced so pleasant a task as that of teaching the Crown Princess of England how £ s. d. were made. On taking her leave, she remarked, "I shall never spend a sovereign again without thinking of the trouble the Royal Mint takes in making money for the public."
And now the most important day in the life of the Princess Victoria was rapidly approaching.
The last time that the Princess was at Balmoral before her wedding, all the dependants were invited to gather on the lawn to say goodbye; but her feelings overcame her and she could not face the ordeal; so Prince Albert had to take her place and bid them adieu on her behalf.
We, in the year 1897, are so accustomed to Royal weddings, and the pageantry and national festivities accompanying them, that we can hardly realize the excitement and interest evoked by the first marriage in the Queen's family. All London turned out to see what they could of it. Unfortunately the route from Buckingham Palace to St. James's Palace does not lend itself kindly to the gathering together of masses of people. The distance is too short, and but a very limited number can get more than a glimpse of the carriages as they pass. I speak from experience, because, child though I was at the time, I was determined at all costs to see something of a national pageant, and trudged at a very early hour from the far north of London to the Mall, only to be rewarded with a glimpse of Royal footmen in gorgeous livery clinging on behind the state-coaches. To this day I chiefly associate the memorable event with the abnormal calves and silk stockings of the servitors aforesaid.
All went well on that 25th of January, 1858. The young couple were duly made one by Archbishop Sumner; the register was signed; everybody returned to Buckingham Palace; and the newly-wedded pair from the window over the central archway leading to the courtyard of the Palace, showed themselves to the cheering multitude below - just as did the Duke and Duchess of York a few years ago. The presents were beyond precedent in their costliness; the bridegroom's gift being a necklet consisting of thirty-six of the rarest pearls, which may be seen round the Crown Princess's neck in Angeli's famous picture painted in 1885. There were eight bridesmaids, one of whom was Lady Villiers, a lineal descendant of Henry Cromwell, the Lord Protector's talented son.
Painful was the Princess's parting from her beloved parents; but it had to be faced; and on the 2nd of February she and her husband embarked for the Continent on board the Victoria and Albert. They walked down the pier between two rows of young ladies attired in blue and white, who strewed their path with roses. Prince Albert accompanied them on board, where he said goodbye; his emotion as he returned ashore could not be concealed. Prince Federick stood uncovered on the deck as the steamer began to move away from the pier-head; and, it is said, that sundry working men amongst the spectators called out to him in a rough, but good-natured manner, "Treat her kindly"; of which characteristic British remark it may be said "Se non è vero, è ben trovato."
Arriving the following day at Antwerp, the Royal couple were met by King Leopold, who escorted them to Brussels, where a grand banquet awaited them, followed by a ball. Next morning they took leave of "Uncle Leopold" and started for Cologne. Then, by way of Hanover, Magdeburg, and Potsdam, they reached the capital of Prussia and made their public entrance into Berlin on Monday, February 8th. Enormous crowds assembled to give them a hearty welcome; in fact, their progress partook of the nature of a joyful triumph, and in its genuineness left nothing to be desired. No expense had been spared to make the reception a magnificent one; the entire nation delighted to do them honour.
A few days after their entry, Prince Frederick received formal deputations from the University of Berlin and the Academy of Arts, when it was revealed to the learned professors that the Princess was an accomplished Latin scholar, the Prince remarking, "My consort understands Latin; she learnt it with her brothers;" and the Academy subsequently enrolled her amongst its members by reason of her talent "as a composer, and as a draughtswoman."
It must have been a great trial to the lively and impulsive young Princess, accustomed to the home life of Balmoral and Osborne, and the comparative absence of restriction at Windsor and Buckingham Palace, to find herself surrounded by rigid Court etiquette - irksome and intolerable to an English-bred lady - and placed in the midst of a highly intellectual military nation, where princesses and women in general do not find so much favour as princes and men; and where the influence of women on politics and public affairs is regarded with jealousy.
All this her own wise father had clearly foreseen, and in the correspondence between him and his daughter she freely poured forth all her troubles, while he lost no opportunity of strengthening his child and encouraging her to persevere in her daily duties and to bear with calmness all that was unpleasant. In one of his letters to her, he said, "The public, just because it has been rapturous, may now grow minutely critical. This need cause you no uneasiness," and he begged her "to overlook her household like a good wife." This latter precept she carried out to the letter, superintending her home like any lady of ordinary rank, with simplicity, thoroughness, and economy.
Soon after her marriage. Her Royal Highness discovered that one of the maids was in the habit of going about her domestic work, dustpan in hand, clad in the height of fashion, and with her hair elaborately dressed. The girl was summoned one morning into the Princess's boudoir, and a present was made her of a brown woollen gown and a white cap, tastefully made, and she was told that in the future she would be expected to wear them when at work.
As a child the Princess had been taught to keep her boxes and drawers tidy and orderly with her own hands. This wholesome practice she continued after her marriage, to the great horror of the Court officials, who told her that it was derogatory to the dignity of a Princess. Her reply was to the effect that as it was the custom of her Royal mother to do the same, it could in no wise be derogatory to that mother's daughter.
The Princess's tastes were then - as now - singularly simple; and in this simplicity, as in everything, she possessed the fullest sympathy of her devoted husband, who had such utter confidence in her judgment that he used to say when any difficult question arose, "Oh, well, we will ask my wife; she knows how to do everything."
As the children grew up around the Royal couple, the Princess's duties were necessarily extended. Seldom has there been a healthier and more natural home, in spite of the endeavour of the demon etiquette to force the children to breathe a false and artificial atmosphere.
The dresses of her little ones were modelled under her own supervision, their food prepared as she desired it, and their education under her personal direction, both she and Prince Frederick being frequently present while the governess gave the children their lessons, which began at six o'clock in the summer and seven in the winter, the Princess maintaining that the uninterrupted early-hours of morning are the best for mental work. After breakfast came recreation; then more lessons again until one o'clook. To show the motherly nature of the Princess, nothing pleased her more than to brush her children's hair before they went to bed.
Her father-in-law had presented her with a farm-estate at Bornstädt;, whither she and her family delighted to retire, enjoying themselves thoroughly in primitive fashion, the Prince looking after his prize cattle, the Princess attending to her dairy and garden, and the little ones revelling in miniature earthworks, cricket, and every kind of outdoor sport; all meeting together at their plain two o'clock dinner.
But the peace and quietude of the domestic life was rudely interrupted from time to time; for her soldier-husband was called away to the battlefield; and, like thousands of other wives in Germany, the Princess had to bear the sickening anxiety of suspense, and the weary waiting for the wars to end. Last of all came the Franco-German War; the proclamation of King William as Emperor of Germany; the entry into Paris; the triumphant return of the conquering hosts to Berlin - and the sword was sheathed.
A new era dawned upon the Fatherland; and years went by in which the Crown Prince and Princess of united Germany were foremost in the work of building up and consolidating the edifice of the Empire, whose foundation the Prince had helped to lay.
One autumn evening in 1886 the illustrious couple, when in the north of Italy, went for a drive with the King and Queen of that country. It grew chilly, and the Crown Prince, who had forgotten his overcoat, caught a severe cold, which ultimately settled in his throat, and was, alas! the "little cloud out of the sea like a man's hand," destined to grow apace and cast its dark shadow over the life of our beloved Princess Royal; for it was to this cold that the Crown Prince attributed the origin of his fatal illness.
On June 14, 1887, the Crown Prince and Princess arrived in England to take part in the Jubilee festivities; but in order to spare the Prince - who by this time had developed serious throat symptoms - the fatigue of talking more than was prudent, they stayed at the Queen's Hotel, Upper Norwood. They used to worship at All Saints' Church, where they occupied the Vicarage pew in the chancel. During their stay in this delightful suburb the Crown Prince greatly endeared himself to everybody. He went about as quietly and unostentatiously as an ordinary private individual, and so fatherly was his nature that he always noticed the little children whom he met in his walks, and often spoke to them.
In the November of the Jubilee year the Crown Prince went to the Villa Zirio, at San Remo, where the operation of tracheotomy was skilfully performed upon the illustrious sufferer by Dr. Bramann, in the presence of Sir Morell Mackenzie. With the tenderest and most assiduous care the Crown Princess nursed her husband. Fatigued as she was with the constant watching, she never lost her thoughtfulness for others. After the operation, the patient's dietary had to be most carefully attended to, and it was one of the duties of "Sister Alice" - his nurse - to look after this. For breakfast a poached egg was sometimes served, but the Crown Prince could not always manage to eat it. One morning the Princess noticed that Sister Alice looked unusually fagged and exhausted, the result of having sat up several nights in succession. "You must eat this at once," said the Princess, bringing her the dish containing the poached egg, and sat down by her side until it was consumed. But consideration for others, even in the smallest matters, has always been part of the Empress Frederick's nature. There is domiciled at the Villa Emily, San Remo, an excellent society, of which she is patroness, its object being to enable gentlewomen in reduced circumstances, whose state of health necessitates their doing so, to pass the winter in the South of France. One of the inmates, a great invalid, was one day lying on the sofa when the door opened, and Sir Morell Mackenzie announced the Crown Princess. The invalid made a spasmodic effort to rise and make obeisance; but the Princess gently pushed her back into her original comfortable position, and said, "Pray do not rise. I only came in to see how the institution was getting on."
During their stay at San Remo the Prince and Princess were brought into frequent contact with Dr. Freeman, the popular resident English physician, with whom a friendship was formed of an enduring nature. Some years afterwards, when the Empress Frederick was residing at the old Schlossat Homburg - Friedrichshof Castle being in course of building - Mr. Freeman happened to be staying at the fashionable little watering-place; and after leaving his name in the visitors' book at the Schloss, he met the Empress returning from her drive. By some mischance she did not recognise him, but as soon as she saw his name in the book she sent off a note inviting him to dinner the next day. When Mr. Freeman entered the room, the Empress, who was sitting on a sofa, motioned him to sit down beside her. She was much affected as she conversed with him about the sad past at San Remo, and when he was leaving she laid her hand upon his, saying, "Mind you always call upon me whenever you are at Homburg."
Reverting to San Remo, however. Months sped by of alternate hope and chilling fear for the future. In March, 1888, the news of the Emperor William's death arrived, and was conveyed in the first instance to the Princess, who in the course of the day communicated the sad intelligence to her husband as he was walking in the grounds. He was deeply affected and retired to his own room, his devoted wife remaining in the garden, sobbing bitterly.
On the evening of March 12th the new Emperor and Empress arrived at Charlottenburg, near Berlin. The Emperor had borne the journey from San Remo very well, but his state of health prevented him from being present at his father's funeral on the 16th. A double burden of no common order the Empress Frederick had now to bear, and bravely did she adapt herself to the extraordinary position in which the decree of Providence had placed her. On the one hand she had an ailing and practically helpless husband, at whose bedside she watched with unremitting care, while on the other she had to undertake on his behalf many of the duties pertaining to their new exalted position.
Shortly after the Emperor William's death, the customary "Court of condolence" was held in the Ritter Saal of the Palace. Hundreds of wax candles faintly illuminated the vast hall, which was entirely draped in
black; all external light was excluded, the blinds being down and the curtains drawn. In front of the silver throne stood the Empress attired in deepest mourning and wearing the broad orange ribbon and insignia of the
order of the Black Eagle. She looked - as she must have felt - ill and weary, for she had been suffering tortures from neuralgia for the ten previous days. Yet this and other ceremonies she had to go through alone.
She was cheered, however, in a special manner and in many ways by the sympathy of thousands of her own sex, who sent her baskets of violets and lilies with heart-felt wishes that she might be rewarded for all her great
devotion by the recovery of her husband. How thoroughly she herself perceived the responsibility of her position, and the conflict of duty which it involved, may best be realised by her own words:
Alas! the Empress's devotion to her husband in this world was not destined to be exercised much longer. Summer came, and with it all the outward signs of leaf and flower, whereby Nature mutely strives to strengthen man's half-hearted belief in a tangible resurrection.
To the poor Emperor it brought eternal rest. With his heartbroken family and several of his devoted servants kneeling around him, his noble spirit was loosed from its suffering body on the morning of June 15, 1888.
The Empress Frederick possesses the rare combination of the highest intellectual powers of man and the impulsive tenderness of woman. It is this impulsiveness, the desire to act upon the spur of the moment, that often causes her to be misunderstood. She sees so clearly the exact bearings of any matter brought before her, her perceptive powers are so great, that she is sometimes accused of too hastily coming to a definite conclusion. Her tastes and predilections are essentially intellectual, and nothing pleases her more than to gather around her, or to correspond with, men and women of science, art, and literary fame. Yet it is in the gentler sphere of philanthropy that she is pre-eminent. To alleviate the sufferings of the sick, to elevate the condition of the poor, and everywhere to improve the social position of her own sex, has been, and is, the nobler work of her later life. "I have always," she once said, "kept in view the moral and intellectual education of women and the advance of hygienic arrangements. I have endeavoured to increase the prosperity of women by opening to them fields for gaining their livelihood, and I hope to attain still more in this direction with the loyal co-operation of the women of Berlin and the whole country."
Popular Royalty by Beaven, Arthur H. (Arthur Henry), 1844-1907. 1904 (From original text; may contain OCR errors.)
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