The Beautiful Life And Illustrious Reign Of Queen Victoria.
Chapter I. In The Days Of Infancy.
It is the life history of a queenly woman and a womanly queen which is recorded here. Had Victoria been less worthy as a woman she could not have been so great as a Queen. Every event in her younger days, therefore, which throws light upon her character, her surroundings, and her training, is worth recording here in order that the source of her goodness and her greatness may be traced. Let us, therefore, see into what manner of life the future Sovereign of the British Empire was born. The laws of heredity and of environment make no distinction between King and peasant; and it is to the parentage and early training of the Queen that we must look to see how her character, so distinguished by womanly virtues and domestic graces, has been molded.
We find that her father, Edward, Duke of Kent, fourth son of George III., was deservedly known as the "Popular Duke." He was a tall, stately man of soldierly bearing, characterized by courteous and engaging manners, and was generous to a fault. He was connected with no less than sixty-five charitable organizations at the time of his death.
Fit complement to the soldier-Duke was the Queen's mother, who, without being a beauty, was a charming and attractive woman, elegant in figure, with fine brown eyes and luxuriant brown hair. She was warmly affectionate^ free and gracious in her manner, but withal a duchess of duchesses to her finger-tips, as after events showed. Above everything else, she was distinguished for motherly devotion and the domestic virtues.
It was these characteristics which caused the Duke of Kent to fall in love with her. He was entrusted in 1818, by Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, afterward King of Belgium, then in retirement at Claremont mourning his young wife, the beloved Princess Charlotte, with letters to his sister, the Princess of Leiningen, Victoria Mary Louisa, who was a young widow living a retired life in her castle at Amorbach, Bavaria, superintending the education of her two children. The Duke of Kent, a bachelor of fifty, was entirely charmed by the picture of domestic felicity which he found when he arrived at Castle Amorbach, and in due time became the affianced husband of the widowed Princess.
They were married at Coburg on the 29th of May, 1818, according to the rites of the Lutheran Church, and remarried in England shortly afterwards at a private ceremony at Kew Palace, after which they returned to Bavaria. The prospect of the birth of a child, however, made the Duke of Kent anxious to bring his wife to England, so that his coming heir might be "Briton-born." He thought at first of taking a house in Lanarkshire, in which case the Queen would have been born a Scotchwoman; but he finally decided on a suite of rooms at Kensington Palace.
Brave indeed was the Duchess of Kent to quit her native land and her kindred to undertake a tedious journey by land and sea within a short time of her confinement. So solicitous was the Duke for her safety that throughout the whole of the journey by land he suffered no one to drive her but himself. The Duchess reached Kensington Palace in safety, and at four o'clock on the morning of the 24th of May, 1819, a pretty little Princess was born, who, according to Baron Stockmar, was as "plump as a partridge. The birth took place at about four a. m., and it was immediately notified to the Ministers and Privy Councillors, who had assembled in an adjoining room, and amongst whom were the Duke of Sussex, the Duke of Wellington, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Lansdowne, the Bishop of London, and George Canning.
Although several lives stood between the infant Princess and the throne, her father had a prophetic instinct that she was destined to be Queen of England. "Take care of her" he would say; "she may yet be Queen of England. No disappointment was ever expressed that the child was a girl. The grief which had filled the country when the Princess Charlotte died showed that the people were eager for a Queen, a sentiment referred to by the Dowager Duchess of Coburg when writing congratulations to her daughter, the Duchess of Kent. "Again a Charlotte," she writes, "destined perhaps to play a great part one day, if a brother is not born to take it out of her hands. The English like Queens, and the niece of the ever-lamented, beloved Princess Charlotte will be most dear to them." It was Grandmamma of Coburg who named the new-comer the blossom of May. "How pretty the little Mayflower will be," she writes, "when I see it in a year's time! Siebold [the nurse] cannot sufficiently describe what a dear little love it is." Siebold was a lady doctor from Berlin, popularly known as "Dr. Charlotte," who attended the Duchess of Kent at her confinement, she having declined the services of the male physicians in attendance at the Palace. Three months later Dr. Charlotte returned to Germany to officiate at the birth of a little Prince, one day to be the husband of his pretty cousin the "Mayflower," who was merrily crowing in the old Palace of Kensington. When the children were in their cradles, that charming and vivacious old lady, Grandmamma of Coburg, with match- making propensity, wrote of little Prince Albert, "What a charming pendant he would be to the pretty cousin!" Unfortunately she was not spared to see the day when her fondest wish was realised by the marriage of her grandson with her granddaughter, the "Mayflower," who had blossomed into a sweet young Queen.
Nothing could have been more propitious than the birth of the Queen. She was a thrice- welcome child, born of a happy union between parents distinguished for goodness and piety, and from the hour of her birth she basked in the sunshine of love. She came when the world of nature was fresh and jubilant - the sweet spring-time, when birds were singing, trees budding, and the air fragrant with the odor of flowers. Small wonder that she was a lovely baby. She had flaxen hair, blue eyes, a fair skin, and was the picture of health - chubby, rosy, beautifully formed, and of a happy, lively disposition. The Duchess of Kent nursed her at her own breast, and in the absence of the Princess' special nurse, Mrs. Brock, dressed and undressed the little one herself. Robert Owen, the Socialist, is said to have been the first man who held the Princess in his arms he having called to see the Duke of Kent on business shortly after her arrival.
The christening of the infant Princess took place in the Grand Saloon of Kensington Palace, the gold font from the Tower being brought for the occasion. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London officiated. The sponsors were the Prince Regent in person, the Emperor Alexander of Russia, represented by the Duke of York, the Queen-Dowager of Wurtemberg, represented by the Princess Augusta, and the Dowager Duchess of Coburg, represented by the Dowager Duchess of Gloucester. The Duke of Kent was anxious that his "little Queen" should be named Elizabeth, but the Prince Regent gave the name Alexandrina, after the Emperor of Russia, upon which the Duke asked that another name might be associated with it; then the Prince Regent, who according to Greville was annoyed that the infant was not to be named Georgiana, after himself, said, "Give her her mother's name also." Accordingly the Princess was named Alexandrina Victoria. For a while she was called Princess Alexandrina or ' "little Drina;" but gradually her mother's name prevailed, and she was known only as the Princess Victoria. This choice was confirmed by the Queen herself when she signed her first State document simply Victoria. Shortly after the christening the Duchess of Kent was publicly "churched" at St. Mary Abbott's Kensington, the Duke himself conducting her with much ceremony to the communion table.
The first eight months of the Queen's life were passed at Kensington Palace, where glimpses of her, laughing and crowing at her nursery window, were often caught by strollers through the Gardens.
The Duke was always pleased to have her shown to the people, and when she was only four months old took her in the carriage with him to a review on Hounslow Heath. The Prince Regent, annoyed at the attention which she created, sharply remonstrated, saying, "That infant is too young to be brought into public." At three months old the Princess was vaccinated, and was the first royal baby to be inoculated after the method of Jenner.
In order to escape the rigor of the winter, the Duke and Duchess removed, at the end of the year, with their darling child, into Devonshire, staying at Woolbrook Glen, Sidmouth, a lovely retreat lying back from the sea, and surrounded by picturesque grounds.
There is no more charming glimpse of this period of the Queen's infancy than is recorded by Mrs. Marshall in her "Recollections of Althea Allngham." The Allinghams were living at Sidmonth at the time of the royal visits and we get this graphic picture of the local interest it elicited.
"I have just heard a piece of news," Oliffe said. "The Duke of Kent has taken the Glen at the farther end of the village, and the servants are expected to-morrow to put the place in order for the Duke and Duchess of Kent and the little Princess Victoria." Sidmouth was elated at the prospect of receiving the royal party, and Mrs. Ailingham's little daughters were full of anxiety to see the baby Princess. Their expectations were soon realized, and they frequently saw her being taken out for her daily airing. Mrs. Allingham thus describes her: "She was a very fair and lovely baby, and there was even in her infant days, a charm about her which has never left our gracious Queen. The clear, frank glance of her large blue eyes, and the sweet but firm expression of her mouth, were really remarkable, even when a baby of eight months old."
One bright January morning the Allinghams were returning from an excursion, when they met the Duke and Duchess of Kent, "linked arm in arm," the nurse carrying the little Princess, who looked lovely in a white swansdown hood and pelisse, and was holding out her hand to her father. He took her in his arms so the party drew up in line, respectfully waiting, uncovered and curtseying.
"Stella exclaimed: What a beautiful baby!" The Duchess hearing, smiled and said, Would you like to kiss the baby?" "Stella colored with delight, and looked at me [Mrs. Allingham] for permission.
"The Duke kindly held the little Princess down towards Stella, and said: "I am glad my little May blossom finds favor in your eyes."
"Then a shout was heard from the donkey where Stephen sat. "Me, too, please, Duke."
"Instead of being in the least shocked with my boy's freedom, the Duke laughed, saying: "Dismount, then."
"Stephen scrambled down, and coming up received the longed-for kiss. "Father calls Stella and Benvenuta his May blossoms", Stephen volunteered.
"And you may be proud of them" the Duke said, as he gave the Princess back into her nurse's arms; and the Duchess, with repeated bows and smiles, passed on."
The same month, January, 1820, the baby Princess had a narrow escape from death. A youth, who had obtained a gun, fired at some small birds so near to the residence of their Royal Highnesses that the charge broke the nursery windows and some of the shot passed quite close to the head of the infant Princess, then in the arms of her nurse. The offender was brought before the Duke, but, owing to the kindliness of disposition of His Royal Highness, he escaped with a reprimand on promising not to pursue his pleasures so recklessly.
There seemed little probability that the baby Princess would ever become Queen of England. The Duke of Kent, her father, was but the fourth son of George III., but a series of unexpected events soon brought his daughter nearer the throne. Upon the death of the deeply-lamented Princess Charlotte, only child of George IV., the Duke of York, his next younger brother, had become heir presumptive to the crown. His Royal Highness had no children, however, so the Duke of Clarence, third son of George III., came next in succession. He had married, and his wife, the Princess Adelaide, Bore him a daughter, who, if she had lived, would in the natural order of things have become Queen. But this child died in infancy, leaving the Princess Victoria the only scion of the next generation of the royal stock.
The stay at Sidmouth was destined to have a sad and fatal termination. The Duke of Kent was seized with a severe indisposition, occasioned by delaying to change his wet boots after a walk through the snow. Affection for his child had drawn him to the nursery immediately on reaching home. To a severe chill succeeded inflammation of the chest, with high fever, which resulted fatally. The Duke was perhaps more highly esteemed than any other son of George III. His public conduct was judicious and self-sacrificing. In the army he initiated many healthful reforms; after he ceased from active service in it, he interested himself in humanitarian movements of all kinds, especially devoting himself to the cause of the widow and the orphan.
The result was, that he became known as the "Popular Duke," and no royal personage ever better deserved the title. He was of regular and temperate habits, kind to all, and the firm friend of those who put their trust in him. His generosity was such that it frequently outran discretion, causing embarrassment to himself; but the poor had the benefit of it. The Duke was officially connected with sixty-two societies, every one of which was devoted to some noble religious or charitable object. The personal virtues of the Duke, the love he bore his country, and the untiring exertions he displayed in the cause of philanthropy and religion, justly gave him a high place in the affections of his fellow countrymen. It was auspicious that the Queen should have had such a father, for many of his traits, with the gentleness and uprightness which distinguished the mother, descended in large measure upon the child.
Two days after the death of the Duke, the Duchess of Kent, accompanied by her babe and her brother, Prince Leopold, set out for London. Where all was sad and mournful there was one gleam of sunshine; for the infant, "being held up at the carriage window to bid the assembled population of Sidmouth farewell, sported and laughed joyously, and patted the glasses with her pretty dimpled .hands, in happy unconsciousness of her melancholy bereavement." The likeness of the Duke of York to her lost father deceived the little Princess Victoria, and when the former came on his visit of condolence, and also subsequently, she stretched out her hands to him in the belief that he was her father. The Duke was deeply touched by the appeal, and clasping the child to his bosom, he promised to be indeed a father to her. Many addresses of condolence were received by the Duchess, and as she generally received them with her infant in her arms, there was frequently a painful contrast witnessed between the tear-stained face of the mother and the happy countenance, wreathed with smiles of the daughter.
In his "Reminiscences" Prince Leopold says: "The Duchess, who had lost a most amiable and devoted husband, was in a state of the greatest distress. The poor Duke had left his family deprived of all means of subsistence. The journey to Kensington was very painful, and the weather very severe." From this time forward we find Prince Leopold acting as a father and guardian to his little niece, Victoria. It was he who generously supplemented the jointure of £6,000 which the Duchess of Kent received from the country, and enabled her to rear our future Queen in a manner befitting her position. By her second marriage the Duchess had sacrificed her dowry and she conscientiously yielded the Duke of Kent's estate to his creditors so that all that remained to her was her jointure.
On January 29, the same day on which the Duchess and her infant returned to Kensington, George III. died, and was succeeded by the Prince Regent. This event, coupled with her father's death, placed the Princess two lives nearer to the throne. The Duchess, doubtless actuated by these circumstances, determined to rear her child in the land over which she might eventually rule, and gave up her own natural desire to return to Bavaria. Speaking of herself and infant at this time, she says: "We stood alone - almost friendless and alone in this country; I could not even speak the language of it. I did not hesitate how to act; I gave up my home, my kindred, my duties [the regency of Leiningen] to devote myself to that duty which was to be the whole object of my future life."
Thus nobly did the Duchess of Kent start upon her important work - no light task - the training of a queen. From that day forward she lived at Kensington in stately seclusion, watching over the young "Hope of England," who was never allowed to be an hour out of her sight. From the day of her father's death until she ascended the throne, the Queen had never passed a night outside her mother's bedchamber. She had never been seen in public or even heard of except in conjunction with her mother.
Poor and almost friendless, for she was ill regarded by her royal brothers-in-law, the widowed Duchess of Kent and her tiny baby suffered much until Prince Leopold, brother of the Duchess and little Victoria's uncle, assumed a voluntary guardianship over them both. The child's paternal uncles, George IV. and William IV., were never complaisant to the unhappy Duchess. King George often threatened to take the little Princess from her mother, and the succession of Clarence who became the fourth King William did not mend their family affairs. The Princess Victoria did not attend his coronation and all the relations of the Duchess of Kent with her English brother-in-law were harsh and unhappy.
The apartments occupied by the Duchess of Kent and the Princess Victoria were in the southeast portions of the Palace, beneath the King's gallery. They are now unused; but a visitor will find in one of the rooms on the principal floor, having three windows looking eastward over Kensington Gardens, a gilt plate upon the wall, with this inscription:
In This Room Queen Victoria
Was Born, May 24, 1819.
A room on the top door served as the Princess' nursery, and in one comer still stands a dolls house, a headless horse, and the model of a ship, remnants of the toys which delighted her rather monotonous childhood.
Here, in the old Palace which in days gone by had been the stately abode of kings and queens and the scene of gay court revels, the Princess was nurtured in all that was simple, loving and pure. She had a natural home life free from the formalities of a court. The one misfortune was that she had no companions of her own age:
"For her there was no mate,
A royal child of power and state,"
Her step-sister, the Princess Feodore (daughter of the Duchess of Kent by her first marriage), was eleven years her senior, and though the little Princess was devotedly attached to her as an elder sister, she was no playmate for her.
Interesting stories are told of the times when Princess Victoria appeared, at fifteen months old, in a child's phaeton, tied safely to the vehicle with a broad ribbon round her waist. Her step-sister. Princess Feodore, would draw the child in this carriage. The baby liked to be noticed, and answered all who spoke to her: she would say "lady" and "good morning," and, when told, would hold out her soft dimpled hand to be kissed, with an arch expression on her face. "Her large blue eyes, beautiful bloom, and fair complexion, made her a model of infantile beauty." On one occasion she was nearly killed by the upsetting of the pony carriage. A private soldier, named Maloney, claimed the honor of having saved England's future sovereign on this occasion. He was walking through Kensington Gardens, when he saw a very small pony carriage, in which was seated a child. The pony was led by a page, a lady walked on one side, and a young woman beside the chaise. A large water dog having got between the pony's legs, the startled pony made a sudden plunge on one side, and brought the wheels of the carriage on to the pathway. The child was thrown out head downwards, and would in a moment have been crushed beneath the weight of the carriage, then toppling over, had not Maloney grasped her dress before she came to the ground, and swung her into his arms. He restored her to the lady, and was praised by a number of persons, who speedily collected, for rescuing "the little Drina," as the child was called. He was told to follow the carriage to the Palace, where he received a guinea, and the thanks of the Duchess of Kent, for "saving the life of her dear child, the Princess Alexandrina." Such was the statement of Maloney, made late in life, and published in the daily journals.
William Wilberforce had a very early introduction to the Princess Victoria, and the way in which he records it testifies to the childlike simplicity of his own nature. Writing to Hannah More on the 21st of July, 1820, he says: "In consequence of a very civil message from the Duchess of Kent I waited on her this morning. She received me, with her fine animated child on the floor by her side, with its playthings, of which I soon became one."
The Princess was brought up in the most simple and regular style of living, her whole surroundings being utterly devoid of the pomp and show of royalty. In this early training we find the foundations of that love of simplicity and frugality which always distinguished the gracious Queen.
The little Princess' day was passed in the following manner. She rose early, and breakfasted at eight o'clock in the pretty morning-room of the Palace, sitting beside her mother in a little rosewood chair, a table to match in front of her on which was placed her bread and milk and fruit, her nurse standing beside her. After breakfast her. half-sister, the Princess Feodore, retired with her governess, Fraulein Lezen, to study, and the little Victoria mounted her donkey, a present from her uncle, the Duke of York, and rode round Kensington Gardens. From ten to twelve she received instruction from her mother, assisted by Fraulein Lehzen; then came a good romp through the long suite of rooms with her nurse, Mrs. Brock, whom she affectionately called her "dear, dear Boppy." At two o'clock she dined plainly at her mother's luncheon table, afterwards came lesions again until four o'clock, then she went with her mother for a drive, or, if the weather was hot, spent the afternoon in the Gardens under the trees, coming out early in the evening for a turn in her little pony-chaise.
The Duchess dined at seven o'clock, at which time the Princess supped at the same table on bread and milk; she then retired for a little play in a farther part of the room along with "dear Boppy," joining her mother again at dessert. At nine o'clock she went to her little French bed with its pretty chintz hangings, placed beside that of her mother. An occasional visit to Windsor to see her "Uncle King," as she called His Majesty George IV., a sojourn at Claremont with her adored Uncle Leopold, and a few weeks at the sea in autumn, were the only breaks in her little life.
On her fourth birthday she had a great excitement, no less than being bidden by "Uncle King" to attend a State dinner party with her mother at Carlton House. She was dressed for the occasion in a simple white frock looped up on the left sleeve by a miniature of the King, set in diamonds, His Majesty's birthday present to his little niece, whose vivacious manners seemed to have delighted him vastly.
The education of the Princess Victoria was conducted at first by her mother with the help of Fraulein Lehzen, who at a later date was formally appointed her governess, and remained with the Queen as confidential secretary for a number of years after her accession. The Princess learned her letters at her mother's knee, but not very willingly, and we find Grandmamma of Coburg taking sides with the little truant. She writes to her daughter, "Do not tease your little puss with learning. She is so young still," adding that her grandson, Prince Albert, was making eyes at a picture-book. When it was made clear to the Princess that until the ABC was mastered she could not read books like her mother, she replied with alacrity, "Me learn too, very quick;" and she did, for there was no lack of ability. Her regular education began in her fifth year. In response to a message from His Majesty, Parliament voted an annual grant of £6,000 to the Duchess of Kent for the education of the young Princess. A suitable preceptor was now sought for, and the choice of the Duchess fell upon the Rev. George Davys, afterwards Bishop of Peterborough. She made it a rule that the Bible should be daily read to the young Princess. The Duchess confided fully in Dr. Davys; and when it was suggested to her, after her daughter became direct heir to the throne, that some distinguished prelate should be appointed instructor, she expressed her perfect approval of Dr. Davys, and declined any change; but hinted that if a clergyman of superior dignity were indispensable to fill the important office of tutor, there would be no objection to Dr. Davys receiving the preferment he had always merited. Earl Grey acted upon the hint, and made Dr. Davys Dean of Chester not long afterwards. The Baroness Lehzen was also retained through the whole term of the Princess' education, and proved an excellent instructress. After six years spent under the care of her tutors, the Princess could lay claim to considerable accomplishments. Owing to the exercise of unusual natural abilities, she could speak French and German with fluency, and was acquainted with Italian; she had made some progress in Latin, being able to read Virgil and Horace with ease; she had commenced Greek, and studied mathematics, in which difficult science she evinced much proficiency and she had likewise made considerable progress in music and drawing.
Occasionally the child longed for companions of her own age, and a delightful anecdote is related in illustration of this. As the youthful Princess took great delight in music, her mother sent for a noted child performer of the day, called Lyra, to amuse her with her remarkable performances on the harp. On one occasion, while the young musician was playing one of her favorite airs, the Duchess of Kent, perceiving how deeply her daughter's attention was engrossed with the music, left the room for a few minutes. When she returned she found the harp deserted. The heiress of England had beguiled the juvenile minstrel from her instrument by the display of some of her costly toys, and the children were discovered, "seated side by side on the hearthrug in a state of high enjoyment, surrounded by the Princess' playthings, from which she was making the most liberal selections for the acceptance of poor little Lyra." The chronicler of this incident states that among the flowery bowers of Claremont the Queen's education was informally yet delightfully promoted by the conversation of her accomplished uncle, Prince Leopold, who, taking advantage of the passionate love his young niece and adopted daughter manifested for flowers, gave her familiar lessons in botany, a science in which he greatly excelled. A daily journal of the studies of the Princess Victoria, of her progress and mode of conduct, was kept by the Baroness Lehzen, and submitted once a month to the inspection of Prince Leopold, whose affectionate solicitude for his niece's welfare was not without its beneficial results.
Lord Albermarle, Leigh Hunt, and others, have testified in almost identical terms to the many charms of the Queen as a young girl, and the natural artlessness and attractiveness of her disposition. From an account written by one of those who saw her in childhood I must quote the following paragraph: Passing accidentally through Kensington Gardens a few days since, I observed at some distance a party consisting of several ladies, a young child, and two men-servants, having in charge a donkey gaily caparisoned with blue ribbons, and accoutered for the use of the infant. The appearance of the party, and the general attention they attracted, led me to suspect they might be the royal inhabitants of the Palace. I soon learned that my conjectures were well founded, and that her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent was in maternal attendance, as is her daily custom, upon her august and interesting daughter in the enjoyment of her healthful exercise. On approaching the royal party, the infant Princess, observing my respectful recognition, nodded, and wished me a 'good morning' with much liveliness, as she skipped along between her mother and her sister, the Princess Feodore, holding a hand of each. Having passed on some paces, I stood a moment to observe the actions of the child, and was pleased to see that the notice with which she honored me was extended in a greater or less degree to almost every person she met. Her Royal Highness is remarkably beautiful, and her gay and animated countenance bespeaks perfect health and good temper. Her complexion is excessively fair, her eyes large and expressive, and her cheeks blooming. She bears a very striking resemblance to her late royal father, and indeed to every member of our reigning family."
Charles Knight, in his Passages of a Working Life, furnishes a glimpse of the Princess as he saw her in 1827. "I delighted to walk in Kensington Gardens," he observes. "As I passed along the broad central walk I saw a group on the lawn before the Palace, which to my mind was a vision of exquisite loveliness. The Duchess of Kent and her daughter were breakfasting in the open air - a single page attending upon them at a respectful distance; the matron looked on with eyes of love, whilst the fair, soft English face was bright with smiles. What a beautiful characteristic it seemed to me of the training of this royal girl, that she should not have been taught to shrink from the public eye; that she should not have been burdened with a premature conception of her probable high destiny; that she should enjoy the freedom and simplicity of a child's nature; that she should not be restrained when she starts up from the breakfast table and runs to gather a flower in the adjoining parterre; that her merry laugh should be as fearless as the notes of the thrush in the groves around her. I passed on, and blessed her; and I thank God that I have lived to see the golden fruits of such training".
Several stories are told of the quick repartee which "Uncle King" received from his amusing little niece of Kent. During one of her visits to Windsor, the King said, "Now, Victoria, the band is waiting to play; what tune would you like to hear best?" "God Save the King,' if you please, uncle," she promptly replied.
And again, when asked what part of her visit had been the greatest treat, she discreetly said, "Oh, the ride in the carriage with you, uncle." On this occasion the King had driven her himself, which was doubtless a great event. We get a further glimpse into these little trips to Windsor in one of Grandmamma Coburg's charming letters. Writing in 1826 to the Duchess of Kent, she says: "I see by the English newspapers that "His Majesty George IV. and H. R. H. the Duchess of Kent went on Virginia Water." The little monkey Princess Victoria must have pleased and amused him. She is such a pretty, clever child."
A few years later "Uncle King" gave a child's ball in honor of the visit of Donna Maria, the little Queen of Portugal, to this country. This was the first Court ceremonial at which the Princess Victoria was present. A lady of the Court, however, gave great offense to the King by saying how "pretty it would be to see the two little Queens dancing together." His Majesty had no mind as yet to hear his niece of Kent dubbed a queen. By all accounts the juvenile ball was a pretty and brilliant affair. The children of the highest nobility were there, and paid mimic court to the little Queen of Portugal, who sat by the side of the King, dressed in a red velvet frock and literally blazing with jewels from head to foot. This was the first occasion upon which that spicy Court chronicler, Mr. Greville, saw the Princess Victoria; but he appears to have been carried off his head by the dark-eyed Donna of Portugal's brilliant appearance. "Our little Princess," he writes, "is a short, plain-looking child, and not near so good-looking as the Portuguese." Another chronicler of the scene, however, remarks that little Victoria was dazzled by so much magnificence; but, the elegant simplicity of the attire and manners of the British heiress formed a strong contrast to the glare and glitter around the precocious queen. These royal young ladies danced in the same quadrille, and though the performance of Donna Maria was greatly admired, all persons of refined taste gave the preference to the modest graces of the English-bred Princess. The Princess Victoria had for partners at her first ball Lord Fitzalan, heir to the Dukedom of Norfolk, Prince William of Saxe-Weimar, the young Prince Esterhazy, and the sons of Lords De-la-Warr and Jersey.
Visits to Uncle King were very rare events, as the Duchess of Kent did not wish her little daughter to see much of Court life; but she took her frequently to see her Uncle Leopold at Claremont, and these visits were the most delightful holidays of all. Writing in after years from Claremont to her uncle, then King of the Belgians, the Queen says: "This place brings back recollections of the happiest days of my otherwise dull childhood - days in which I experienced such kindness from you, dearest uncle. Victoria [the Princess Royal] plays with my old bricks, and I see her running and jumping in the flower garden, as old (though I still feel little) Victoria of former days used to do."
In the autumn of 1824, Grandmamma of Coburg was a visitor at Claremont, along with the Duchess of Kent and the Princess Victoria; and it has often been said that she brought her little grandson Prince Albert of Coburg with her, but that fact is not clearly established.
One finds a charming account of the royal party in the letters of Miss Jane Porter, author of "The Scottish Chiefs." She dwelt with her mother and sister in a cottage close to the grounds of Claremont and had frequent opportunities for seeing the Princess, who, she was delighted to find; resembled her lamented aunt, the Princess Charlotte. Miss Porter describes her as "a beautiful child, with a cherubic form of features, clustered round by glossy fair ringlets. Her complexion was remarkably transparent, with a soft and often heightening tinge of the sweet blush-rose upon her cheeks, that imparted a peculiar brilliancy to her clear blue eyes. Whenever she met any strangers in her usual paths, she always seemed, by the quickness of her glance, to inquire who and what they were."
At home the Princess was not allowed to attend public worship at Kensington Church for fear of attracting too much attention, service being conducted in the Palace by the Duchess herself during her daughter's earliest years, and afterwards by the Rev. George Davys, her tutor. But while at Claremont she was taken to the little village church at Esher. Fortunate Miss Porter had a seat facing the Claremont pew, and it is to be feared that her devotions were somewhat disturbed by the attention which she gave to the movements of the royal visitors, although she is able, at least on one occasion, to give a very good reason for her attentive scrutiny. "I should not voluntarily have so employed myself in church," she piously writes, "but I had seen a wasp skimming backwards and forwards over the head and before the unveiled summer bonnet of the little Princess; and I could not forbear watching the dangerous insect, fearing it might sting her face. She, totally unobserving it, had meanwhile fixed her eyes on the clergyman, who had taken his seat in the pulpit to preach the sermon, and she never withdrew them thence for a moment during his whole discourse." Next day, from a lady personally intimate at Claremont, Miss Porter learned the reason why the Princess riveted her eyes upon the clergyman, who, according to her account, was not an attractive person, so that she saw not the "dangerous insect" - she was required to give her mother not only the text, but the leading heads of the discourse. Poor little Princess! those were the days of long and formal sermons.
It was in the autumn succeeding this visit to Claremont that the Princess paid the first of her many visits to Ramsgate. Three years before she had taken her first sight of the sea at Brighton. During her seaside visits she was allowed to play with other children on the sands, have donkey rides ad libitum, and to run out to meet the on-coming waves. If they chanced to ripple over her little feet, she was in a high state of glee. Then at Ramsgate she used frequently to go to a delightful old dairy-woman's cottage to have a glass of milk before breakfast. We find a graphic sketch of the Princess at this time by a writer in Eraser's Magazine, who in somewhat florid style thus relates his observations: "When first I saw the pale and pretty daughter of the Duke of Kent, she was fatherless. Her fair, light form was sporting in all the redolence of youth and health on the noble sands of old Ramsgate.
She wore a plain straw bonnet with a white ribbon round it, and a pretty a pair of shoes on as pretty a pair of feet as I ever remember to have seen from China to Kamchatka. I defy you all to find me a prettier pair of feet than those of the belle Victoria, when she played with the pebbles and the tides on Ramsgate sands," The Princess on this while some of the ladies of the household walked by her side. She was then at the height of enjoyment, and, once mounted, not all the king's horses nor all the king's men' could persuade her to come down again.
Her mother had made a little rule that she should ride and walk alternately; but there were not a few scenes, and we fear some screams, in Kensington Gardens when nurse or governess tried to force the little lady to dismount, for she was as wilful as she was engaging. It was only when the old soldier, who was a special favorite, held out his arms for her that she was persuaded to quit her dear donkey's back.
Miss Kortright, an old inhabitant of Kensington, tells of some pretty little incidents relating to this period of the Queen's life. The Princess was known to go with her mother and her step-sister, Feodore, to a milliner's shop in Kensington, buy a new hat, stay while it was trimmed, and carry it home in her hand quite proudly - but surely it was the old one she carried in her hand! Meeting the Princess in her pony-chaise one day, an "unknown little girl" asked to be allowed to kiss her. The Princess Feodore stopped the tiny carriage and indulged the child's wish. The "unknown little girl" who secured a kiss from her future Queen was Miss Kortright's elder sister.
The Princess had a ready wit. On one occasion her teacher had been reading in her classical history the story of Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi - how she had proudly presented her sons to the first of Roman ladies with the words, "These are my jewels." "She should have said my Cornelians," immediately remarked the Princess. Of course, "the divinity that doth hedge a king" extends in popular eyes in some degree to a Princess, and people are apt only to look on the" roseate side. But none knows better than the Queen herself that human nature is a complex thing, and that, however a child may desire perfection, there is a good deal of the old leaven of imperfection in every one. So the Princess Victoria, noble in character as she was, exhibited some of those imperfections which no child is without, unless it be those precocious creatures in whom supernatural goodness is developed from the first at the expense of a healthy organization. The Princess was impulsive, sometimes not a little wilful and imperious; but the affections being strong and the head well trained, these matters always righted themselves, and the young offender was herself quick to acknowledge the wrong. She had an ingrained sense of justice which could always redress the balance.
The first grief which the Princess was able to appreciate to the full arose from the death of the Duke of York. The Princess was at this time in. her eighth year, and as she had ever experienced great kindness and affection at the hands of her uncle, his loss affected her keenly. The Duke of York and the Duchess of Clarence were the two members of the royal family towards whom her youthful heart was most strongly drawn out. At the time of the Duke's death she was unconscious that his demise brought her one step nearer the throne. The marriage of her sister, the Princess Feodore, to Prince Hohenlohe-Langenbourg was another wrench to the child, and one which seriously narrowed her restricted home circle.
Sketching was a favorite occupation with the Princess, her love of form and of the beauties of nature having been observable at a very early age. When taking walks about Esher with her Uncle Leopold, she often pointed out beautiful bits of landscape, and it was at Claremont that she first began sketching from nature. She was fond, too, of looking at pictures and of imagining what the people in them might be saying to each other, a dramatic element in her character which found further expression in the mock ceremonies which she enacted with her retinue of dolls. Upon a long board full of pegs, into which the dolls' feet fitted, she rehearsed court receptions, presentations, and held mimic drawing-rooms and levees. Her dolls numbered one hundred and thirty-two; a large number of them were dressed entirely by herself in artistic costumes to represent historic characters or people she knew. A list of them, with their names and history, was kept in a copybook. She was passionately fond of animals and of seeing natural history collections; her first visit to the British Museum was an unbounded joy, and she begged to be taken there often. Botany, too, delighted her, and she began the study, under the tuition of her Uncle Leopold, among the bowery groves of Claremont. Lord Albemarle remembers seeing her watering her flowers at Kensington Palace, and tells that it was amusing to see how impartially she divided the contents of her watering-pot between the flowers and her own little feet.
And so the childhood of the Queen passed under the watchful eye of that wisest of mothers, and year by year saw her fine natural abilities developing, and her character ripening into thoughtful maiden-hood. In closing this period of the Queen's life, we can but echo the words of Grandmamma of Coburg, who, writing to the Duchess of Kent upon the Princess' eleventh birthday, says: "My blessings and good wishes for the day which gave you the sweet blossom of May! May God preserve and protect the valuable life of that lovely flower from all the dangers that will beset her mind and heart! The rays of the sun are scorching at the height to which she may one day attain. It is only by the blessing of God that all the fine qualities He has put into that young soul can be kept pure and untarnished."
The day on which the Princess Victoria first learned that she would in all probability succeed to the throne of Great Britain may be regarded as one of the important epochs of her life. She was but twelve years of age at the time of her enlightenment on this momentous matter, yet she fully realized the grandeur of the position to which she was moving, and because she felt the difficulty of ruling wisely she was less elated by the splendor than she was impressed by the responsibility of the regal greatness that would in the course of time be hers.
Two years prior to the time when she received this definite information, Sir Walter Scott, after dining with the Princess' mother, the Duchess of Kent, wrote in his diary, "Little Victoria is educated with much care, and watched so closely that no busy maid has a moment to whisper, 'You are heir of England'." Historians differ regarding the manner in which the young Princess first learned the important fact, and there are several stories on this point. It was current gossip of the time that Prince George of Cumberland, a cousin of the Princess, who was very fond of teasing her, twitted her one day with the unpleasant prospect of having to be a Queen, enlarging on the discomforts of the position, and throwing out dark hints regarding the untimely end of Mary, Queen of Scots. If the Princess failed in her lessons, or merited reproof for any cause, Prince George took occasion to say, "A pretty sort of Queen you will make." All such references were received by the Princess with passionate tears. Another version is given by Caroline Fox. Writing in her journal, she details a gossipy visit from her friend Mrs. Corgie, the rightful Lady George Murray, "who told her that the Princess Victoria was first informed of the high position which awaited her by her mother. The Duchess of Kent desired that her daughter should read aloud that portion of English history which related to the death of the Princess Charlotte. In reading, the Princess made a dead halt, and asked if it were possible that she should ever be Queen. Her mother replied: "As this is a very possible circumstance, I am anxious to bring you up as a good woman, when you will be a good Queen also."
It appears also that the Princess' governess, the Baroness Lehzen, and her tutor, the Bev. George Davys, both claim to have informed their pupil of her place in the succession to the throne. In a letter written in her eighty-fourth year by the Baroness to her former pupil, she says: "I ask your Majesty's leave to cite some remarkable words of your Majesty when only twelve years old, while the Regency Bill was in progress. I then said to the Duchess of Kent that now for the first time your Majesty ought to know your place in the succession. Her Royal Highness agreed with me, and I put the genealogical table into the historical book." The Baroness continues her story to the effect that when the Princess opened the book and noticed the additional paper, she said, "I never saw that before."
"It was not thought necessary you should. Princess," the governess replied. "I see," continued the Princess, "I am nearer the throne than I thought." "So it is, madam," replied the Baroness. After some moments, the Princess answered: "Now, many a child would boast, but they don't know the difficulty. There is much splendor, but there is more responsibility;" and laying her hand in that of her governess, she said, "I will be good. I understand now why you urged me so much to learn even Latin."
The Baroness then explained to the Princess that her aunt, Queen Adelaide, might yet have children, in which case she would not succeed to the throne.
"And if it were so," replied the Princess, "I should never feel disappointed, for I know by the love Aunt Adelaide bears me how fond she is of children."
Yet another account of how the momentous tidings were conveyed to the Princess Victoria is as follows: "The story of the Princess discovering that she would be Queen," writes Canon Davys, "has not generally been correctly told. My father had set her to make a chart of the kings and queens. She got as far as 'Uncle William.' Next day my father said to the Princess, "But you have not put down the next heir to the throne." She rather hesitated, and said, 'I hardly like to put down myself.' My father mentioned the matter to the Duchess of Kent, who said she was so glad that the truth had come upon her daughter in this way, as it was time she became aware what responsibility was awaiting her."
The three accounts agree in showing that the Princess' mother, together with her governess and her tutor, all felt, after the accession of William IV., that the time had arrived for the Princess to be informed of her position, and that each of them made a lesson in history the means by which to tell her. As to whether Prince George of Cumberland had previously let the proverbial "cat out of the bag" remains a moot point
The Princess Victoria was now regarded by the people as the heiress-apparent; but the King himself never ceased hoping that a child of his own might yet be born to succeed and at times he displayed jealousy of his niece of Kent and ill-will towards the mother who had borne her. In beautiful contrast was the attitude of the good Queen Adelaide. When her second child died, soon after the birth of the Princess Victoria, she wrote to the Duchess of Kent, "My children are dead, but yours lives, and she is mine too."
A Court lady recalls a pleasing little incident which she witnessed when Queen Adelaide was still Duchess of Clarence. The lady was sitting with Her Royal Highness, when the Duchess of Kent and the Princess Victoria were announced, whereupon she rose to withdraw.
"Do not go yet," said the Duchess of Clarence. "I want you to see little Victoria; she is such a sweet child."
After drawing the Princess towards her with affectionate greeting, the Duchess of Clarence produced a child's tea-service of the prettiest china imaginable, which, in her sweet, kind way, she had provided as a surprise for her little niece. Trivial as the incident is, nothing could better illustrate the love of the childless Queen for the heiress to the throne.
The Princess Victoria attended her first drawing-room on the 24th of February, 1831, on the occasion of Queen Adelaide's birthday. It was a reception of unusual splendor; nothing had been seen like it since the drawing-room at which the Princess Charlotte had been presented on the occasion of her marriage. There were three things to make it of special import: it was the first drawing-room held after the accession of William IV., it was Queen Adelaide's birthday, and the first formal appearance at Court of the heiress of Great Britain.
The Princess set out from Kensington Palace with her mother, attended by a suite of ladies and gentlemen in state carriages, and escorted by a detachment of Life Guards, Some of the people, as they watched her, cheered, and others wept, for there was something both joyous and pathetic in the sight of this young girl upon whose head the weight of a crown might fall all too soon. At the drawing-room she was the centre of observation. She stood on Queen Adelaide's left hand, dressed in a frock of English blonde draped over white satin. Her fair hair was arranged Madonna-like, according to the fashion of the times, and the braids were fastened at the back of her head with a diamond clasp. Around her throat she wore a single row of lovely pearls. It was no small ordeal for a young girl of twelve, reared in the strictest seclusion, to pass through; but she bore herself with modest dignity, and took evident delight in watching the presentations. The gay scene was as novel to her as to the simplest girl in the land.
Two months later another opportunity was taken by Queen Adelaide of giving prominence to the Princess. The Queen and the royal ladies were standing on the balcony watching the pageant which attended William IV. on the prorogation of his first Parliament As the people cheered, Queen Adelaide took the young Princess Victoria by the hand, and, leading her to the front of the balcony, presented her to the assembled crowds. It would be difficult to decide whether the deafening shouts which rent the air were given more in honor of the future Queen or in recognition of the good Queen Adelaide's attitude towards the young girl. In the same year the Princess made her first appearance at the theatre, attending a children's entertainment at Covent Garden.
The Princess Victoria having been brought so far into prominence there was much comment regarding her absence from the coronation of King William IV. and Queen Adelaide in Westminster Abbey, September, 1831. Many reasons were assigned for this omission. Some said that the King, jealous of the attention which the Princess had excited during the last few months would not assign her the place in the procession due to her rank as the heiress-presumptive. On the other hand it was affirmed that the Duchess of Kent pleaded the delicate state of her young daughter's health as an excuse for keeping her away from the ceremonial. It is a matter of history that there was always friction between the Duchess of Kent and the King regarding the comparative seclusion in which the Princess was kept. The Duchess was determined to preserve the girlish innocence and purity of her daughter by withholding her as much as possible from the Court. The King was well known for a coarse wit. 'When he was in a good humor he swore like an admiral and when he was in bad humor he swore like our armies in Flanders." His facetious extravagances at the dinner table were the gossip of the time. Still his sailor-like bluntness and cheery jocosity made him, in spite of his easy morals, a favorite with the populace, and there were many who blamed the Duchess of Kent for persistently opposing him. We find a morning journal reproving her in plain terms for her "impertinence" in keeping her daughter away from the coronation.
The confidence and esteem with which the Duchess of Kent was regarded, however, by the nation was amply testified by the action of Parliament in appointing her to be Regent in the event of the Princess Victoria succeeding to the throne before she came of age. The Regency Bill was passed immediately after the accession of William IV., and during its discussion Cabinet ministers vied with each other in praising the admirable training given by the Duchess of Kent to her daughter. An extract from the speech of Lord Lyndhurst will illustrate the general feeling: "The first question which your lordships will naturally ask is, whom do we propose as the guardian of Her Royal Highness under the circumstances inferred? I am sure, however, that the answer will at once suggest itself to every mind. It would be quite impossible that we should recommend any other individual for that high office than the illustrious Princess, the mother of Her Royal Highness the Princess Victoria. The manner in which Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent has hitherto discharged her duty in the education of her illustrious offspring - and I speak upon the subject not from vague report, but from accurate information - gives us the best ground to hope most favorably of Her Royal Highness' future conduct. Looking at the past, it is evident that we cannot find a better guardian for the time to come."
After the passing of, the Regency Bill, we find another of those charming letters from Grandmamma of Coburg to her daughter. "It is only a just return," she writes to the Duchess of Kent, "for your constant devotion and care to your child. May God bless and protect our little darling. If I could but once see her again! The print you sent me of her is not like the dear picture I have. The quantity of curls hide the well-shaped head, and make it look too large for the lovely little figure."
The tender family circle of the Princess seemed to be narrowing sadly at this period of her early girlhood. Her favorite paternal uncle, the Duke of York, had died; her half-sister, the Princess Feodore, had married the Prince of Hohenlohe and had left England; and in 1831 her beloved Grandmamma of Coburg died. About the same time her Uncle Leopold succeeded to the throne of Belgium. This was perhaps the greatest grief of all, bringing to an end as it did her delightful visits to Claremont. The Queen has herself told us that she "adored" her Uncle Leopold, and his departure from the country filled her with despair. From the hour of her father's death he had been her watchful guardian, advising her mother in all points regarding her training, and even providing additional income. The Princess was a warmhearted girl, passionate in her attachments, as she has remained throughout her life, and one can understand that the break up of so many family ties oppressed her spirits at this time. She had few of the outlets of ordinary girls for throwing dull care aside, the circumstance of her high estate keeping her life monotonous and lonely. Her amusements were all of a quiet kind - chiefly walking in Kensington Gardens, driving her ponies, and playing with her favorite dog Dash, a black-and-tan spaniel. In order to vary this rather too quiet existence, the Duchess of Kent took her daughter on a series of visits to places of interest in her native land. In these days of varied travel, one marvels to find that Her Majesty never set foot off English soil, if we except Wales, until she had been several years upon the throne, and was both wife and mother.
The royal visitors could not enjoy Brighton by reason of the crowds which dogged their footsteps; but at Broadstairs they spent some pleasant times, residing at Pierpont House; and Ramsgate was always a favorite watering-place. In 1830 the Princess spent a long holiday at Malvern where she led a free outdoor life; and displayed agility climbing walls and trees. Unfortunately she did not descend with equal ease, and on one occasion had to be rescued from the bough an apple tree by the gardener. At Tunbridge Wells the old people recall her fearless donkey-riding, and her fondness for coming to drink the water from the widow who kept the well. There comes a story, too, that her mother would not allow her to outrun her exchequer by the purchase of a half-crown box until she had the money to pay for her rather reckless purchase of presents for her friends having reduced the Princess to a temporary state of insolvency. When her next allowance of pocket-money became due, she set forth on her donkey at seven o'clock in the morning to claim the box, which the shopkeeper had retained for her.
She was also taken on visits to country seats; and the story is that during a visit to Wentworth House the Princess was a little too adventurous in racing about the glades and unfrequented parts of the grounds, heedless of the warning which the gardener had given that they were "slape." "What is 'slape'?'' asked the Princess, receiving when she had scarcely uttered the words a practical demonstration as her feet slid from under her on the slippery path. "That is slape, miss," replied the old gardener, with a sense of humor, as he assisted her to her feet.
A note from the diary of Thomas Moore gives a peep behind the scenes when the royal travelers were expected at Watson Taylor's place near Devizes. "Have been invited,'* he writes, to meet the Duchess of Kent and young Victoria . . . rather amused with being behind the scenes to see the fuss of preparation for a royal reception." He then proceeds to describe a musical evening, the Duchess and the Princess singing duets together. "No attempts at bravura or graces," is his criticism, "But all simplicity and expression. Her Royal Highness evidently is very fond of music, and would have gone on singing much longer if there had not been rather premature preparations for bed." To have pleased the ear of so fastidious a judge; Thomas Moore proves that the Princess had a sweet and well-trained voice.
Even during these early jaunts the Princess took part in public functions. We find her opening the Victoria Park at Bath, and distributing colors to a regiment of foot at Plymouth, and later on, when she visited Wales she gave the prizes to the successful competitors at the Eisteddfod.
In 1832 the Princess was taken on a further tour, which, being attended with some ceremonious arrangement, caused the old King to speak with amused cynicism of his niece's jaunts as "royal progresses". The Duchess of Kent and the Princess, attended by a modest retinue, set forth in carriages from Kensington Palace, traveling by way of Shrewsbury and Coventry into Wales. They crossed the Menai Strait, enjoying the lovely scenery at their leisure, and passing over the water to Anglesey made a prolonged stay in the island, returning home by way of the Midland counties. An opportunity was taken in passing through the manufacturing towns to show the Princess the interiors of some of the factories. It is amusing to find, in records of the period, that the interest which she took in what was shown her is gravely interpreted as evidence of her desire to promote British industries. The fact that she was delighted with a working model illustrating cotton-spinning is commented upon as though she had been a second Arkwright come to judgment, instead of a bright, clever girl full of curiosity. During this tour the Duchess of Kent and her daughter paid visits to several historic country seats, among them Eaton Hall, Chatsworth, Alton Towers, and Powls Castle. Wherever they appeared the people came out in great crowds to see them, testifying their loyalty to the young heiress of Britain. The King indeed was not far wrong when he testily spoke of these visits as "royal progresses," for, however desirous the Duchess of Kent might have been to make the Princess' journeys private, the people insisted upon openly displaying their loyalty.
In 1833 the Duchess and her daughter resided for some months at Norris Castle in the Isle of Wight, where the Princess was frequently seen enjoying country rambles, or listening to the stories of the sailors and the coastguardsmen as she lingered about the shore. A pretty incident is told by an American writer who was visiting the island. While in Arreton churchyard, near Brading, he noticed a lady and a little girl seated near the grave of the "Dairyman's Daughter." The lady was reading aloud the story of the humble heroine, and as the visitor regarded the pair he could see that the large blue eyes of the young girl were suffused with tears. He subsequently learned that the ladies were the Duchess of Kent and the Princess Victoria. It was doubtless during this visit of her girlhood that the Queen formed an affection for the Isle of Wight, which induced her, in later years, to select Osborne as a marine residence.
After a period of rest at Norris Castle, the Duchess of Kent and her daughter went on board their yacht, the Emerald, for a cruise in the Channel, visiting Southampton, Plymouth and Torquay. At each place they were welcomed by loyal addresses from the local authorities. The enthusiasm of the people was great; and if the old King had been annoyed at the homage paid to the mother and daughter during their tour by land, he was more chagrined than ever by the popular demonstrations of loyalty which attended their progress by water. He sent forth a royal decree that an end should be put to the continual "poppings" of the ships in the Channel in the way of salutes to the Duchess of Kent's yacht. The naval authorities were of opinion that the royal ladies were legally entitled to the salutes, whereupon the irate King endeavored to coerce the Duchess into waiving her right to them; but Her Royal Highness replied with becoming dignity: "If the King would offer me a slight in the face of his people, he can offer it so easily that he should not ask me to make the task easier." We fear there were young midshipmen irreverent enough to cry, "That's one for the King," as they tossed their caps in the air and gave three cheers for the pretty, blue-eyed Princess, who was so merrily sailing the waters of the Channel under the care of her dignified mamma. The King finally ended the miserable contention by summoning the Privy Council to pass an order that henceforth no salute should be offered to any vessel flying the royal flag unless the King or the Queen were on board. The Court chronicler very fittingly describes this as a "council for a foolish business."
It was during her cruise on the Emerald that the Princess met with her third narrow escape from death. She was sitting on deck when the yacht came into collision with another vessel so violently that the top-mast of the Emerald fell close to the Princess, and would have struck her but for the timely intervention of the pilot, Mr. Saunders, who snatched her up in his arms and carried her to a place of safety. The Queen never forgot her gallant preserver. She promoted him to the rank of Master when she ascended the throne and cared for his widow and children after his death.
While the Princess was thus expanding her mind by travel, her general education was being pursued with strictest care. After the passing of the Regency Bill, and the public recognition of the Princess as heiress-presumptive, Parliament granted an extra £10,000 a year for her education. Her resident governess from childhood was Fraulein Lehzen, the daughter of a Hanoverian clergyman, who came first to Kensington Palace as the instructress of the Princess Feodore. She was made a Baroness by George IV. in recognition of her services to the Princess Victoria. The Queen has related that she regarded her with the warmest affection, although she stood much in awe of her. It has already been told how the Baroness acquainted her pupil with her nearness to the throne, and it would appear from the Baroness' letters of this period that she had been absent for a time from Kensington Palace, and returned there from Paris in May, 1831. "My Princess,'' she writes, "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. She was dressed (to receive me) in white muslin with a coral necklet. Her whole bearing is so childish and engaging that one could not desire a more amiable child." Again she writes, shortly afterwards, that her Princess "flourishes in goodness and beauty."
It was now thought, however, desirable by the King that an English governess should be appointed for the Princess in conjunction with the Baroness, and His Majesty selected for this important post Charlotte Florentia (Olive), third Duchess of Northumberland and second daughter of the first Earl of Powis. It was the duty of the Duchess to instruct her pupil in matters of court etiquette and ceremonial, to train her in deportment, and to generally instruct her in the lighter graces. How apt was the pupil and how well the instructress succeeded in her delicate task was evinced by the almost startling ease and grace of manner which distinguished the girl Queen when she first ascended the throne. It was the universal testimony of all who were about the Queen that she was unsurpassed for graciousness and queenly bearing. Madame Bourdin instructed her in dancing, and the famous vocalist Luigi Lablache, in singing. The Princess must surely have derived some entertainment from her singing-master, for he is reported to have been of such huge dimensions that one of his boots would have made a small portmanteau, and a child might have been clad in one of his gloves. His portentous voice rang through the house like a great bell. His wife is said to have been aroused by a sound in the middle of the night which she took for the tocsin announcing a fire; but it was only Lablache producing in his sleep these bell-like sounds.
Mr. Bernard Sale continued to instruct the Princess in music, and Mr. Richard Westall, B. A., in drawing and painting, in which she grew so proficient that, had she been "Miss'' instead of the Princess Victoria, her tutor was of opinion that she would have been the first woman artist of the day. He once told her tutor that her pencil was a source of great delight to her, and that it was a study in which she would willingly spend more of her time than in any other. This talent has been inherited by all the Queen's daughters, but more especially, by the Princess Louise, who is both artist and sculptor. Mr. Stewart, the writing and arithmetic master at Westminster school, instructed the Princess in those branches of education.
From the well-known riding-master of the day, Mr. Fozard, the Princess was rapidly acquiring that grace in the saddle of which old people never tire of speaking, as they recall the days when they saw the girl Queen cantering down the Row. Her mother was her chief instructress in languages; Mr. Amos trained her in the difficult paths of constitutional history; while her chief preceptor in Greek, Latin, mathematics, theology, and literature continued to be her childhood's tutor, the Rev. George Davys, who had been made Dean of Chester, and was eventually to be Bishop of Peterborough. The Queen constantly spoke of him as "my kind, good master." The Duchess of Kent thought very highly of her daughter's tutor, who also served as domestic chaplain at Kensington Palace. An amusing story used to be told by him. "I like your sermons so much, Mr. Dean," said the Duchess one day, adding, as he bowed low, "because they are so short,". His son, Ganon Davys, gives a corrected version of the story. What the Duchess really said was that she liked the Dean's sermons because they were so good and so short. Bishop Davys' modesty or his sense of humor led him to omit the word "good" when he told the story.
The reverend tutor had a quiet humor, and enjoyed his pupil's clever repartees. The Dean had been preaching from his favorite text, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." The Princess asked, "Do not men reap anything but what they sow?" "Yes," replied the Dean, "if they allow some one to come and sow tares amongst their wheat," "Ah, I know who that some one is," said the Princess, "and I must keep him at arm's length." "At arm's length only, your Royal Highness?" rejoined the Dean. "Well, if I keep him there, he won't do much harm," was the quick reply.
Bishop Davys was fond of telling another story as illustrating his young pupil's fearless truthfulness. The Princess had been giving trouble to her tutor over her lessons one morning, and the Baroness Lehzen had occasion to reprove her. When the Duchess of Kent came into the room, she inquired after her daughter's behavior. The Baroness reported that the Princess had been naughty once. But the little culprit interrupted her with, "Twice, Lehzen; don't you remember?" A less partial judge than Bishop Davys might have discovered a little sauciness in this very truthful statement.
The Bishop was an exceedingly good elocutionist, and it is to his careful training that the Princess owed her clear and expressive intonation. She was very fond of good literature, and read principally in the English classics; Pope, Dryden, and Shakespeare being special favorites. The "Spectator" was the class book chiefly used by the Princess, and she also read the Latin authors under her tutor's direction. To him also she looked for religious guidance in the solemn ceremony of confirmation, for which she was now preparing. There is every evidence to show that her feelings at this period were of a serious and devout kind. On the 30th of August, 1835, the Princess stood in her simple white confirmation dress in the Chapel Royal of St. James's. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London officiated at the ceremony, which was entirely private. There were present the King and Queen, the Duchess of Kent, the Duchess of Saxe-Weimar, and several other members of the royal family. The address of the Archbishop was tender and solemn, and as he dwelt upon the obligations of her high estate, and impressively commended her to the guidance of the Almighty Ruler of the Universe, the Princess turned to her mother, and laying her head upon her bosom, sobbed with emotion; a sight which brought tears to the eyes of most who were present.
During the past year the Princess had been in a delicate state of health; in fact, at the close of her fifteenth year her condition caused general concern. When, after her recovery, she was again seen driving with her mother in Hyde Park, the demonstration of joy shown by the people amounted to an ovation.
We find her now emerging from the unformed period of girlhood into maidenly maturity and comeliness. She was seen more frequently at public places of amusement, and her fresh, fair face, peeping from under the huge bonnet of the period, was the delight of the London crowds. The extreme simplicity of attire which had distinguished her as a child was exchanged for rich and tasteful costumes. In the summer of 1836, she accompanied Queen Adelaide to the Ascot races, and as she drove in the royal procession to the racecourse her pretty appearance was much talked of. She wore a large pink bonnet and a rose-colored satin frock, which matched the roses on her cheeks and contrasted nicely with her fair hair and blue eyes. Nathaniel Parker Willis, the American writer, then visiting London, recorded his impressions of the Princess as he saw her at Ascot. He came to the conclusion that she was quite "unnecessarily pretty and interesting" for a royal princess. "She will be sold, poor thing", continued this youth of eighteen, "bartered away by those great dealers in royal hearts, whose calculations will not be of much consolation to her if she happens to have a taste of her own." Not so fast, Mr. Willis; the Prince Charming will shortly appear to woo and win the fair Princess in the pink bonnet and the rose-colored dress, and she has "a taste of her own, and will show it."
In the autumn of this year the Princess and her mother made another "royal progress," this time through East Anglia. Loyal demonstrations met them everywhere, and at King's Lynn the railway navvies took the horses from the carriage and drew it for some distance. At Burghley great preparations were made for their reception. Mr. Greville records that all passed off well at the official dinner, except that a pail of ice was "landed" by a nervous waiter in the Duchess of Kent's lap, which made a great bustle. The Court chronicler does not say so, but it is probable that the Princess laughed at the contretemps. A ball followed, which was opened by Lord Exeter and the Princess, who after dancing one dance went to bed; the Duchess never allowing any festivity to interfere with the simple routine of her daughter's life. Next day the royal ladies set off to Holkham, where they were the guests of the Lady Anne Oake. Separate bedrooms had been prepared for the Princess and her mother; but the Duchess desired that a bed should be provided for her daughter in her own room, as they never slept apart. The Earl of Albemarle, who came to assist his sister, Lady Anne Coke, to entertain the royal visitors, records in his autobiography that the Princess "had most sweet and winning manners."
In May, 1836, when the Princess was seventeen, there came to Kensington Palace some very interesting visitors - the Duke of Coburg and his two sons, Ernest and Albert. It was the first meeting of the Princess Victoria and her cousin Prince Albert. Fond relatives had destined the two for each other from their cradles; but the happiness of the Princess was too dear both to her mother and to her uncle, King Leopold, for any coercion to be used. It was arranged for the young people to meet without reference being made to any tenderer tie than that of cousinship. They passed several weeks in each other's society, playing duets on the piano, sketching, walking and riding in Kensington Gardens, and attending some functions in town. Prince Albert, writing home regarding this visit, said: "Dear aunt is very kind to us, and does everything she can to please us, and our cousin also is very amiable." The Queen, in after years, gave the following description of her husband at this period: "The Prince was at this time very handsome, but very stout, which he entirely grew out of afterwards. He was most amiable, natural, unaffected, and merry - full of interest in everything. "Baron Stockmar, that judicious person whose business it was to attentively scrutinize the Prince Albert, had already reported to "Uncle Leopold" that he was endowed with the personal characteristics "likely to please the sex," and that his mental qualities were also of a high order.
At the end of a month the Duke of Coburg and his sons left Kensington and returned to Germany. The Princess parted from each of her cousins with equal affectionateness, but we find that Prince Albert is mentioned with special tenderness in a letter to her Uncle Leopold. Prince Albert, too, during his Continental travels, which followed the visit to Kensington, collected views of the places which he visited, and sent them in an album to the Princess, together with a rose gathered from the top of the Rigi. Now a rose is a rose the whole world over when passed between man and maid, even though it be a dried one from the top of the Rigi.
Still we are told that there was nothing between Princess Victoria and her handsome cousin at this time. It was well known that the King did not favor such an alliance for his niece, and was disposed to give his help to one of the other suitors, for, like "Portia," the young Princess was bewildered by the number of Princes who came wooing. There were five suitors at this time besides Prince Albert. We find a letter of the period in which an application is made on behalf of Prince Adalbert of Prussia that he might be permitted "to place himself on the list of those who pretend to the hand of the Princess Victoria". The Duchess of Kent replied that such an application must be referred to the King, adding, "But if I know my duty to the King, I know also my maternal ones, and I am of opinion that the Princess should not marry till she is much older." So in the meantime Prince Albert was traveling and studying in order to be a fit consort, if fortune favored him, for the Queen of Great Britain; the other five suitors were kept at a distance, and the Princess continued to live her happy, quiet life at Kensington Palace.
On Sunday, August 21, 1836, the Princess appeared at a grand dinner given by William IV. at Windsor Castle, in celebration of the seventy-first anniversary of his birth. On former occasions the Sailor King had given the Duchess of Kent a piece of his mind, - just that piece of it which a proper concern for his own dignity would have made him careful to keep for himself. But in his several outbreaks of ill-humor to the Duchess he does not seem to have ever exceeded the boorish extravagance of his last assault on her feelings.
The private dinner in celebration of the monarch's seventy-first birthday was a banquet of a hundred covers. Comprising the most important members of the Royal family, the company numbered other personages of high quality, belonging to the court of the neighborhood. It was at a Sunday and birthday dinner of this impressive kind that the King's health was drunk, at Queen Adelaide's desire, with fit enthusiasm. In the speech with which he acknowledged this display of loyal and affectionate regard, it pleased King William to utter these remarkable words: "I trust in God that my life may be spared nine months longer, after which period, in event of my death, no regency will take place. I shall then have the satisfaction of leaving the Royal authority to the personal exercise of that young lady (here the speaker indicated Princess Victoria, who sat on the opposite side of the table), the heiress-presumptive of the crown, not in the hands of a person now near me (here the orator turned quarter-way about, and glanced angrily at the Duchess of Kent, who sat by his side), who is surrounded by evil advisers, and who is herself incompetent to act with propriety in the station in which she would be placed [if she became Regent]. I have no hesitation in saying that I have been insulted - grossly and continually insulted - by that person; but I am determined to endure no longer a course of misbehavior so disrespectful to me. Amongst many other things, I have particularly to complain of the manner in which that young lady has been kept away from my court; she has been kept away from my drawing rooms, at which she ought always to have been present; but I am fully resolved that this shall not happen again. I would have her know that I am King, and I am determined to make my authority respected, and for the future I shall insist and command that the Princess do upon all occasions appear at my court, as it is her duty to do"
Spoken in loud and angry tones, these words extinguished whatever social enjoyment had previously animated the party. Readers may be left to imagine how Queen Adelaide glanced alternately at the King and the Duchess of Kent, throwing looks of entreaty towards the Sovereign, and looks of sympathy to the Duchess, who displayed her emotion neither by word nor gesture, though her changing color showed she was acutely sensible of the indignity put upon her. Whilst the orator took his course, heedless of the Queen's imploring countenance, the Princess Victoria was moved to tears. It may be suggested that this account of the affair, which is accepted as historically accurate, may be sensationally exaggerated. But the critical reader fails to discover any reason for this claim. It accords with what is known as the King's irritability, his 'sailorlike" bluntness, and his antipathy to the Duchess. Moreover, the original reporter of the unseemly business was Lord Adolphus Fitz Clarence, who would have been more disposed to modify than to accentuate the particulars of his father's misdemeanor.
On withdrawing from the outrageous scene, at which she had borne herself with characteristic dignity, the Duchess of Kent ordered her carriage, and would have returned at once to Kensington, had she not been induced by Queen Adelaide (ever a peace-maker) to remain at Windsor till Tuesday. A partial reconciliation was effected, which on His Majesty's part was a mere engagement to be fairly civil to the Duchess whilst she should remain under his roof, if she would forbear to "irritate him past all endurance." If the King kept his promise he barely kept it; for though he may have been formally polite to Her Royal Highness in her presence, he did not hesitate to speak offensively about her when she was absent. On the day following the outbreak, he declared privately to his son, Lord Adolphus Fitz-CIarence, that he had been insulted by her in a measure that was past all endurance, and he would not endure it any longer; and at a later moment of the same day he spoke of her even more offensively, in the hearing of a numerous company.
King William had his prayer, and survived the day (May 24, 1837), on which the Princess Victoria completed her eighteenth birthday and passed from her nonage. The event was celebrated in London and throughout the country with an enthusiasm that cannot have failed to gratify the Princess and her mother. From early morning, when the Princess was serenaded by a band of vocal and instrumental performers, till night, when the town was illuminated, Londoners surrendered themselves to gladness. From noon till evening the great world moved towards Kensington Palace, in order to pay due respect to the heiress-apparent.
The birthday gifts were countless; and if they were as costly as successive writers have declared them, King William's sufficient offering of a grand piano, appraised at £210, can scarcely have been the richest of all the rich gifts. At the west end of the town the event of the closing hours of the festival was the State ball at St James' Palace. It was remarked by the guests at this brilliant gathering that the Princess took precedence of her mother, and in the intervals between the dances occupied the principal chair of state, sitting between the Duchess of Kent and the Princess Augusta.
The festivities of the birthday were followed by the reception of successive bevies of municipal authorities, appointed to carry addresses of congratulation to Kensington Palace. With respect to the 'addresses to the Princess and the Duchess of Kent from the city of London, there had been some difference in the common council, where a minority of the councilors, more desirous of humoring the King's sensibility than thoughtful for their fellow-citizens, asked indiscreet questions and made foolish speeches about an alleged absence of sufficient precedents for the proposed address to the heiress-presumptive.
The weak opposition, however, was overborne by the good sense of the municipal chamber; and the addresses to the Princess Victoria and the Duchess having been duly presented, similar addresses followed to Their Highnesses at Kensington from all parts of the country.
Shortly before the eighteenth anniversary of the Princess Victoria's birthday, William IV, offered to arrange that she should have a separate allowance of £10,000 a year, which should be put at her own disposal, and wholly beyond her mother's control. The King made this offer in a letter, which he sent to his niece by the hands of Lord Conyngham, whom he commanded to deliver the epistle to the Princess herself, - an order which the Lord Chamberlain, on coming to Kensington Palace, could not execute without first declining to give the missive to the Duchess. More has been written than is known of this offer and its consequences. The Princess is said to have written to the King accepting the offer and thanking him for it, although it was accompanied with a stipulation that he should appoint the officers of her establishment. The Princess is also said to have declined the offer on account of this significant stipulation. It has been said that, while deeming £10,000 a year no excessive allowance for the heiress-presumptive to the throne of Great Britain, the Duchess of Kent was of the opinion that £6,000 of the annuity should be put under the control of the heiress' mother, and only £4,000 be put at the absolute disposal of so youthful a Princess. It is certain that the Duchess and the King differed about the arrangement which he was ready to make for his niece's advantage and for his own authority over her. It is certain, also, that their difference of opinion on this delicate subject was fruitful of contention, that endured even to King William's death.
At the present time the points in dispute are chiefly interesting because they brought about a conference which disposed the Princess Victoria to think highly of the statesman who soon became her favorite companion and most confidential friend. Though she took no part in the discussion of the several questions, the Princess was present at the conferences that took place between her mother and Lord Melbourne at Kensington about the proposed allowance. Listening attentively to all that passed between the Duchess and the statesman, the Princess observed how strongly the Prime Minister spoke in the King's behalf on the points in respect to which he thought His Majesty was in the right. It does not appear that the Princess concurred in Lord Melbourne's views and arguments; but she thought the way in which he took the part of the King, whom he knew to be failing, was an evidence "of his honesty and determination to do what he thought right."
Appearing for the last time as Princess Victoria at court on May 29, 1837, when she attended the drawing-room held in celebration of her majority, the heiress-presumptive, somewhat later in the season, made her last public appearance in the same character when she came to the ball that was held at the Opera house for the relief of the Spitalfields weavers.
While the Princess Victoria was playing her bright and youthful part so as to be daily growing in the favor of the people. King William was sinking to his last hour. Instead of yielding to the treatment of the physicians, his illness was taking its course towards an event about which the ladies and gentlemen of the royal household were silent. It being a rule of court etiquette that death is not to be recognized until its work is almost accomplished, the King's intimates assured one another that he was recovering, while they saw clearly that in reality he was growing worse.
Early in the morning of June 20, 1837, William IV. yielded his last breath. Lord Archbishop Howley and the Chamberlain, Lord Conyngham, left Windsor immediately, taking a coach to London for the purpose of announcing to the Princess Victoria her accession to the throne of the British Empire. The aged King of seventy-six was succeeded by the maiden of eighteen.
Lord Archbishop Howlet and Lord Conyngham reached Kensington Palace about five o'clock in the morning, and knocked, rang, and beat at the doors several times before they could gain admission. When at length the porter was aroused, the visitors were shown into one of the lower rooms, where a long time passed without any attention being paid to them. Growing impatient, they rang the bell, and desired that the attendant on .the Princess Victoria might be sent to inform her Royal Highness that they requested an audience on business of importance. Another long delay ensued, and again the bell was rung, that some explanation might be given of the difficulty which appeared to exist. On the Princess' attendant making her appearance, she declared that Her Royal Highness was in so sweet a sleep that she could not venture to disturb her. It was now evident that stronger measures must be taken, and one of the visitors said, "We have come on business of state to the Queen and even her sleep must give way to that." The attendant disappeared, and a few minutes afterwards the young Sovereign came into the room in a loose white nightgown and shawl, her nightcap thrown off, and her hair falling upon her shoulders, her feet in slippers, tears in her eyes, but perfectly collected and dignified.
This piquant bit of description, regarding the young Queen's appearance, is from Miss Wynn's Diaries of a Lady of Quality"; and although it is repeated by most biographers of Her Majesty, and has been given the dignity of historic record by Mr. Justin McCarthy in his "History of Our Own Times," it must not be overlooked that Mr. Greville, Clerk of the Council, who arrived at the Palace a few hours later, and received his information from the Lord Chamberlain, relates that, "On the morning of the King's death the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham arrived at Kensington at five o'clock, and immediately desired to see "the Queen." They were ushered into an apartment, and in a few minutes the door opened, and she came in wrapped in a dressing-gown, and with slippers on her naked feet" It is probable that the Queen would and did put on her dressing-gown before giving audience to the Primate and Chamberlain, although in the excitement of the occasion some one may have mistaken it for her nightdress.
In 1863, when Dean Stanley was on a visit to Osborne, he asked Her Majesty if she would give him an account of how the news of her accession was conveyed to her, which she did in the following words: "It was about 6 a. m. that mamma came and called me, and said I must go to see Lord Conyngham directly - alone. I got up, put on my dressing-gown, and went into a room where I found Lord Conyngham, who knelt and kissed my hand, and gave me the certificate of the King's death. In an hour from that time Baron Stockmar came. He had been sent over by King Leopold on hearing of the King's dangerous illness. At 2 p. m. that same day I went to the Council led by my two uncles, the King of Hanover and the Duke of Cambridge." All accounts agree that, immediately the momentous tidings of her accession were conveyed to the Queen, she turned to the Primate, and said, "I ask your Grace to pray for me." And so was begun, with the tears and prayers of a pure young girl, the glorious reign of Victoria.
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Queen Victoria: It is the life history of a queenly woman and a womanly queen which is recorded here.