AUSPICIOUSLY as the Queen's married life began, it necessarily caused some friction in quarters which were ruled by old Court principles. It was difficult for the officials of the palaces to settle down under the new conditions. All was altered, and Prince Albert found that even in his own home it was necessary to be stern sometimes and to exercise his authority.
The Queen and Prince Albert spent their first Easter together at Windsor, and here also they took the Sacrament in common for the first time. Reference has already been made to the Prince's religious convictions, and the Queen has remarked concerning the taking of the Sacrament: "The Prince had a very strong feeling about the solemnity of the act, and did not like to appear in company either the evening before or on the day on which he took it, and he and the Queen almost always dined alone on these occasions."
At this time the Queen parted with her mother, who now felt it right to retire to a separate establishment. But even this separation did not interrupt the close sympathy and affection which had always existed between mother and child. Her Majesty spent her birthday at Claremont, and in the company of her husband enjoyed her first period of uninterrupted leisure and relaxation from the affairs of State. The attractions of that charming seat afforded great delight to the royal couple, who wandered about at their will, undisturbed by the bustle and cares of a full Court. On one occasion they were caught in a shower, and sought shelter in a cottage inhabited by an old and solitary dame. This good cottager entertained her visitors with many stories touching the Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold, once the owners of Claremont, little imagining the rank of her listeners. When the royal visitors left she lent them her umbrella, with many strict injunctions to Prince Albert that it should be taken care of and faithfully returned.
The first occasion on which the Prince manifested his deep sympathy with humanitarian movements — one of the conspicuous features of his career — was on the 1st of June, when he presided over a meeting called to promote the abolition of the slave trade. He had carefully prepared his speech beforehand, committed it to memory, and repeated it to the Queen. The Prince made a successful entree upon public life. Caroline Fox, the Quaker, makes mention of the Prince's appearance in her Memoirs: "The acclamations attending his entrance were perfectly deafening, and he bore them all with calm, modest dignity, repeatedly bowing with considerable grace. He certainly is a very beautiful young man, a thorough German, and a fine poetic specimen of the race. He uttered his speech in a rather low tone, and with the prettiest foreign accent."
London was startled on the evening of 10th of June by the report of Oxford's attempt to assassinate the Queen. From the various accounts published at the time, and subsequently, it appears that the Queen and Prince Albert left Buckingham Palace by the garden gate opening from Constitution Hill for a drive. The hour was about six o'clock. They were seated in a very low German droschky, drawn by four horses, with postillions, preceded by two outriders and followed by two equerries. As soon as the carriage had proceeded a short distance up Constitution Hill, thus getting clear of spectators, a young man on the park side of the road presented a pistol and fired it directly at the Queen. The Prince, hearing the report, turned his head in the direction whence it came; her Majesty at the same instant rose, but Prince Albert immediately pulled her down by his side. Several persons rushed upon the miscreant. The fellow was quite calm and collected, admitted having fired the pistol, and went quietly with two of the police to the Queen Square Station. He was discovered to be one Edward Oxford, seventeen years of age, and recently employed as barman at a public house in Oxford Street. The Queen, as might naturally be supposed, was seriously alarmed at the occurrence. Rising to show that she was unhurt, she ordered the postillions to drive to Ingestre House, her first thought being for her mother. The Duchess of Kent received her daughter safely before there had been time for her to be shocked by the news of the attempted assassination. The Queen and the Prince remained with the Duchess for a short time, and then returned by way of Hyde Park.
For many days after the dastardly affair there was an exhibition of almost unbounded loyalty. The journals of the day report that thousands of people continued to assemble before the palace, and hundreds of noblemen, members of the Government, and private ladies and gentlemen called to congratulate or inquire, and to present their grateful addresses on such a happy and providential deliverance. Whenever her Majesty and the Prince drove out they were escorted by hundreds of ladies and gentlemen on horseback, who accompanied them like a bodyguard; whilst the immense sympathizing crowds cheered most enthusiastically. At first there was a surmise as to a widespread conspiracy being on foot, but this report was discovered to be unfounded, though there had been some slight countenance for it.
At the different theatres, and at places where public dinners were held, as soon as the news transpired on the Wednesday evening, the day of the attempt, "God Save the Queen" was sung with loyal fervor. A grand concert was being held at the Opera House for the benefit of the New Musical Fund; it was to have terminated with Mozart's overture to Idomeneo, but Sir George Smart, the conductor, stepped forward, and having informed the audience of the attempt on her Majesty's life, proposed to substitute the National Anthem. His suggestion was received with great enthusiasm.
Toward the close of the Parliamentary session of 1840 a Regency bill was introduced. The prospect of an heir to the throne rendered it necessary to make provision for her Majesty's possible death or lengthened disqualification for reigning. Both political parties were consulted in the matter, and a bill was brought forward providing that Prince Albert should be Regent in the event of the death of Queen Victoria before her next lineal descendant and successor should have attained the full age of eighteen years. The measure was well received, and, with the exception of a speech made by the Duke of Sussex in the Lords, it passed both houses unanimously and without objection, and became law.
The daily life of the royal pair has been thus described. The Queen and Prince breakfasted at nine, and took a walk every morning soon afterward. When in London these walks were taken in Buckingham Palace gardens, which the Prince had already enlivened with different kinds of animals and aquatic birds. In their morning walks in the gardens it was a great amusement to the Prince to watch and feed these birds. He taught them to come when he whistled to them from a bridge connecting a small island with the rest of tlie gardens.
After the walk came the usual amount of business (far less heavy, however, then than now), besides which they drew and etched a great deal together, which was a source of great amusement, having the plates bit in the house. Luncheon followed at the usual hour of two o'clock. Lord Melbourne, who was generally staying in the house, came to the Queen in the afternoon; and between five and six the Prince usually drove her out in a pony phaeton. If the Prince did not drive the Queen he rode, in which case she drove with the Duchess of Kent or the ladies. The Prince also read aloud most days to the Queen. The dinner was at eight o'clock, and always with the company. In the evening the Prince frequently played at double chess, a game of which he was very fond, and which he played extremely well.
The Prince made his way with all classes, even with those Tories who at first looked rather askance at him. He was conciliatory and judicious; and to show the way he had advanced in the public esteem, the remark which Melbourne made to the Queen on the Regency bill may be quoted: "Three months ago they would not have done it for him; it is entirely his own character." The Duke of Wellington was so completely won over that he remarked: "Let the Queen put the Prince where she likes, and settle it herself; that is the best way."
The Queen prorogued Parliament on the 11th of August, Prince Albert accompanying her for the first time. Next day the Court left for Windsor. On the 26th his Royal Highness attained his majority, and the event was celebrated by a breakfast at Adelaide Lodge. The Prince went to London on the 28th for the purpose of receiving the freedom of the city. At this ceremony the names of six Aldermen and Common Councilmen, who undertook to vouch for the eligibility of the Prince, were read, together with the declaration upon oath. The oath was as follows: ''We declare, upon the oath we took at the time of our admission to the freedom of the city, that Prince Albert is of good name and fame; that he does not desire the freedom of this city whereby to defraud the Queen or this city of any of their rights, customs or advantages; but that he will pay his scot and bear his lot; and so we all say."
The Chamberlain then proposed the freeman's oath to the Prince, and it was remarked that he was evidendy moved at that part where he swore to keep the peace toward her Majesty. Husbands do not always voluntarily swear to keep the peace toward their wives. The Chamberlain having next addressed his Royal Highness, the Prince delivered the following answer very distinctly and audibly: "It is with the greatest pleasure that I meet you upon this occasion, and offer you my warmest thanks for the honor which has been conferred upon me by the presentation of the freedom of the city of London. The wealth and intelligence of this vast city have raised it to the highest eminence amongst the cities of the world; and it must therefore ever be esteemed a great distinction to be numbered amongst the members of your ancient corporation. I shall always remember with pride and satisfaction the day on which I became your fellow-citizen; and it is especially gratifying to me, as marking your loyalty and affection to the Queen".
Prince Albert was sworn a member of the Privy Council on the 11th of September, and it is stated that so anxious was he to discharge conscientiously every duty which might devolve upon him, that in his retirement at Windsor he set to work to master Hallam's Constitutional History with the Queen, and also began the study of English law with a barrister.
Early in November preparations were made at Buckingham Palace for the approaching accouchement of the Queen. The Court removed from Windsor to London on the 13th, and on the 21st the Princess Royal was born at Buckingham Palace.
The Queen has recorded the traits of tenderness shown by her husband during her seclusion: "He was content to sit by her in a darkened room, to read to her, and to write for her. No one but himself ever lifted her from her bed to her sofa, and he always helped to wheel her on her bed or sofa into the next room. For this purpose he would come instantly, when sent for, from any part of the house. His care for her was like that of a mother, nor could there be a kinder, wiser, more judicious nurse."
The Queen speedily recovered from her accouchement, and opened Parliament in person on the 26th of January, 1841. Prince Albert, in the uniform of a Field Marshal, entered the House of Lords with the royal procession and took his seat on the chair of State appropriated for him on the left of the throne. The Queen's speech was not an exciting document. Happily, affairs were peaceful at home at this time, though abroad there were wars and rumors of wars. England was just passing through one of its many difficulties with China; serious differences had arisen between Spain and Portugal on the navigation of the Douro; and affairs in the Levant were in a serious condition. England had concluded with Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Turkey a convention intended to effect a pacification of the Levant, to maintain the integrity and independence of the Ottoman Empire, and thereby to afford additional security for the peace of Europe. Treaties had also just been concluded with the Argentine Republic and the Republic of Hayti for the suppression of the slave trade.
An accident happened to Prince Albert on the 9th of February, which, but for the Queen's presence of mind, might have had serious consequences. His Royal Highness was skating in Buckingham Palace gardens when the ice suddenly gave way, and he was immersed in deep water. He had to swim for several minutes before he was got out. The Queen was close by the Prince when the accident occurred, and was the only person who had sufficient presence of mind to render him any material assistance.
The christening of the Princess Royal took place on the 10th, in the throne-room at Buckingham Palace. The font, new for the occasion, was very elegant in form and exquisitely finished. It was of silver gilt, elaborately carved with the royal arms, etc. The water used for the ceremony was brought from the river Jordan. The Archbishop of Canterbury officiated, with the assistance of the Bishops of London and Norwich, and the Dean of Carlisle. Queen Adelaide named the royal infant "Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa."
There was great rejoicing at Buckingham Palace on the 9th of November, 1841, when the Queen gave birth to her first-born son, and consequently the heir to the throne. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Premier, and all the great ofiicers of State were summoned to the Palace as early as seven o'clock in the morning, and the Duchess of Kent arrived at nine. The Queen was then very ill, and had been so at intervals during the two preceding hours. Prince Albert manifested the greatest anxiety and interest as he remained in attendance with the medical men. Sir James Clark, Dr. Locock, and Mr. Blagden. Shortly before eleven o'clock the Prince was born. He was conveyed by the nurse to the Privy Councillors and others in the adjoining apartment, who thereupon signed a declaration as to the birth of an heir to the British Crown. Intelligence of the happy event was immediately communicated to all the members of the royal family.
Official etiquette, usually as strong as the law of the Medes and Persians, was for once set aside in the great joy over the birth of a Prince. It appears that almost every influential individual in the household of her Majesty stepped out of his proper sphere and gave directions which belonged to the departments of others. There was a complete confusion of places for at least half an hour after the event, and Court officials rushed hither and thither with the gratifying intelligence of the birth of a Prince; three messengers arrived at Marlborough House within two minutes, all desirous of being the first to convey the news to the Queen Dowager. An act of royal clemency marked the happy occasion of the birth of an heir to the throne. Her Majesty was pleased to notify to the Home Secretary that those convicts who had behaved well should have their punishment commuted; and that those deserving this clemency on board the various hulks should have their liberty at once granted to them. On the 11th of November the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress and the Sheriffs were received at Buckingham Palace. After having had caudle served, the party were conducted by the Lord Chamberlain to the apartments of Prince Albert, to pay a visit of congratulation to his Royal Highness. The infant Prince was brought into the room in which the company were assembled, and was carried around to all the distinguished visitors present. The Archbishop of Canterbury issued a special prayer to be offered up in all churches on behalf of the Queen and the infant Prince.
There was great happiness within the Palace. At Christmas the Queen wrote in her journal: "To think that we have two children now, and one who enjoys the sight already (the Christmas tree); it is like a dream." Prince Albert, writing to his father, said: "This is the dear Christmas Eve on which I have so often listened with impatience for your step, which was to convey us into the gift-room. Today I have two children of my own to make gifts to, who, they know not why, are full of happy wonder at the German Christmas tree and its radiant candles." Her Majesty gives us another sketch of a peaceful "interior": "Albert brought in dearest little Pussy (Princess Victoria) in such a smart, white merino dress, trimmed with blue, which mamma had given her, and a pretty cap, and placed her on my bed, seating himself next to her, and she was very dear and good; and as my precious, invaluable Albert sat there, and our little love between us. I felt quite moved with happiness and gratitude to God." Writing some weeks later to King Leopold, she said: "I wonder very much whom our little boy will be like. You will understand how fervent are my prayers, and I am sure everybody's must be, to see him resemble his father in every respect, both in mind and body." And in another letter she remarked: "We all have our trials and vexations; but if one's home is happy, then the rest is comparatively nothing."
When the baby Prince was a month old the Queen issued a patent creating "our most dear son" Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester. He was already Duke of Saxony, Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Great Steward of Scotland. With regard to his new Welsh dignity the patent ran: "As has been accustomed, we do ennoble and invest him with the said principality and earldom, by gifting him with a sword, by putting a coronet on his head and a gold ring on his finger, and also by delivering a gold rod into his hand, that he may preside there, and may direct and defend those parts."
The christening of the Prince of Wales, which was made a very imposing ceremony, took place on the 25th of January, 1842, in St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. The King of Prussia had arrived at the Castle three days before, on a visit to the Queen, and to stand as chief sponsor at the christening. When the infant Prince was brought in and given into the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the sponsors named him "Albert Edward," by which names he was accordingly christened by his Grace. On the conclusion of the ceremony the "Hallelujah Chorus" was sung by the full choir, by request of Prince Albert, and the overture to Handel's oratorio of "Esther" was performed. The name of Albert was given to the young Prince, after his father, and that of Edward after his maternal grandfather, the Duke of Kent.
After the christening the Queen held a chapter of the Order of the Garter, when the King of Prussia, as "a lineal descendant of King George I," was elected a Knight Companion, the Queen buckling the garter round his knee. Then followed luncheon in the white breakfast-room, and in the evening there was a grand banquet in St. George's Hall. The display of plate was amazing, and there was one immense gold vessel, described as more like a bath than anything else, capable of containing thirty dozen of wine. To the great surprise of the Prussian visitors, it was filled with mulled claret. The Queen paid special honor and deference to her august visitor, the King of Prussia.
There never was a period in her Majesty's life when she was more jubilant in spirits, or more profoundly happy, than this which immediately succeeded upon the birth of the Prince of Wales. Supremely blest in the choice she had made of a husband, she rejoiced to see her royal consort daily making his way in the affections of the people, and now that there was an heir to the crown, the Sovereign and the people were drawn closely together by a new and auspicious bond. The weight of State cares no longer pressed heavily upon her, and her cup of happiness was full even to overflowing.Life and reign of Queen Victoria: being a complete narrative ... including the lives of King Edward VII. and Queen Alexandra (c1901) Authors: Morris, Charles, 1833-1922; Halstead, Murat, 1829-1908