Part 1 out of 2
STORY OF HER LIFE AND REIGN
[ILLUSTRATION: QUEEN VICTORIA. (From a Photograph by Russell & Son.)]
'Her court was pure, her life serene;
God gave her peace; her land reposed;
A thousand claims to reverence closed
In her as Mother, Wife, and Queen.'
'God bless the Queen for all her unwearied goodness! I admire her as a
woman, love her as a friend, and reverence her as a Queen. Her courage,
patience, and endurance are marvellous to me.'
'A Prince indeed,
Beyond all titles, and a household name,
Hereafter, through all time, Albert the Good.'
This brief life of Queen Victoria gives the salient features of her reign,
including the domestic and public life, with a glance at the wonderful
history and progress of our country during the past half-century. In the
space at command it has been impossible to give extended treatment. The
history is necessarily very brief, as also the account of the public and
private life, yet it is believed no really important feature of her life
and reign has been omitted.
It is a duty, incumbent on old and young alike, as well as a pleasing
privilege, to mark how freedom has slowly 'broadened down, from precedent
to precedent,' and how knowledge, wealth, and well-being are more widely
distributed to-day than at any former period of our history. And this
knowledge can only increase the gratitude of the reader for the golden
reign of Queen Victoria, of whom it has been truly written:
A thousand claims to reverence closed
In her as Mother, Wife, and Queen.
CHAPTER I.--Reign of Queen Victoria--Outlook of Royalty in 1819--Duke and
Duchess of Kent--Birth of Victoria--Anecdotes.
CHAPTER II.--First Meeting with Prince Albert--Death of William
IV.--Accession of Queen Victoria--First Speech from the
Throne--Coronation--Life at Windsor--Personal Appearance--Betrothal to
Prince Albert--Income from the Country.
CHAPTER III.--Marriage--Family Habits--Birth of Princess Royal--Queen's
Views of Religious Training--Osborne and Balmoral--Death of the Duke of
CHAPTER IV.--Chief Public Events, 1837-49--Rebellion in Canada--Opium War
with China--Wars in North-west India--Penny Postage--Repeal of the
Corn-laws--Potato Famine--Free Trade-Chartism.
CHAPTER V.--The Crimean War, 1854-55--Interest of the Queen and Prince
Consort in the suffering Soldiers--Florence Nightingale--Distribution of
Victoria Crosses by the Queen.
CHAPTER VI.--The Indian Mutiny, 1857-58--The Queen's Letter to Lord
CHAPTER VII.--Marriage of the Princess Royal--Twenty-first Anniversary of
Wedding-day--Death of the Prince-Consort.
CHAPTER VIII.--Death of Princess Alice--Illness of Prince of Wales--The
Family of the Queen--Opening of Indian Exhibition and Imperial
Institute--Jubilee--Death of Duke of Clarence--Marriage of Princess May.
CHAPTER IX.--The Queen as an Artist and Author--In her Holiday
Haunts--Norman Macleod--Letter to Mr Peabody--The Queen's
Drawing-room--Her pet Animals--A Model Mistress--Diamond Jubilee--Death of
CHAPTER X.--Summary of Public Events and Progress of the Nation.
Reign of Queen Victoria--Outlook of Royalty in 1819--Duke and Duchess of
Kent--Birth of Victoria--Wisely trained by Duchess of Kent--Taught by
Fräulein Lehzen--Anecdotes of this Period--Discovers that she is next to
The reign of Queen Victoria may be aptly described as a period of progress
in all that related to the well-being of the subjects of her vast empire.
In every department of science, literature, politics, and the practical
life of the nation, there has been steady improvement and progress. Our
ships circumnavigate the globe and do the chief carrying trade of the
world. The locomotive binds industrial centres, and abridges time and
space as it speeds along its iron pathway; whilst steam-power does the
work of thousands of hands in our large factories. The telegraph links us
to our colonies, and to the various nationalities of the world, in
commerce and in closer sympathy; and never was the hand and heart of
Benevolence busier than in this later period of the nineteenth century.
Our colonial empire has shared also in the welfare and progress of the
When we come to look into the lives of the Queen and Prince-Consort, we
are thankful for all they have been and done. The wider our survey of
history, and the more we know of other rulers and courts, the more
thankful we shall be that they have been a guiding and balancing power,
allied to all that was progressive, noble, and true, and for the benefit
of the vast empire over which Her Majesty reigns. And the personal example
has been no less valuable in
Wearing the white flower of a blameless life,
Before a thousand peering littlenesses,
In that fierce light which heats upon a throne,
And blackens every blot.
In the year 1819 the family outlook of the British royal house was not a
very bright one. The old king, George III., was lingering on in deep
seclusion, a very pathetic figure, blind and imbecile. His son the Prince
Regent, afterwards George IV., had not done honour to his position, nor
brought happiness to any connected with him. Most of the other princes
were elderly men and childless; and the Prince-Regent's only daughter, the
Princess Charlotte, on whom the hopes of the nation had rested, and whose
marriage had raised those hopes to enthusiasm, was newly laid in her
But almost immediately after Princess Charlotte's death, the king's third
and fourth sons, the Dukes of Clarence and Kent, had married. Of the Duke
of Clarence we need say little more. He and his consort eventually reigned
as William IV. and Queen Adelaide, and they had two children who died in
earliest infancy, and did not further complicate the succession to the
The Duke of Kent, born in 1767, fourth son of George III.--a tall, stately
man, of soldierly hearing, inclined to corpulency and entirely
bald--married the widowed Princess of Leiningen, already the mother of a
son and a daughter by her first husband. The duke was of active, busy
habits; and he was patron of many charitable institutions--he presided
over no less than seventy-two charity meetings in 1816. Baron Stockmar
describes the Princess of Leiningen after her marriage in 1818, as 'of
middle height, rather large, but with a good figure, with fine brown eyes
and hair, fresh and youthful, naturally cheerful and friendly; altogether
most charming and attractive. She was fond of dress, and dressed well and
in good taste. Nature had endowed her with warm feelings, and she was
naturally truthful, affectionate, and unselfish, full of sympathy, and
generous.' The princely pair lived in Germany until the birth of a child
was expected, when the duke at first thought of taking a house in
Lanarkshire--which would have made Queen Victoria by birth a Scotchwoman.
Eventually, the Duke and Duchess of Kent took up their abode in Kensington
On the 24th May 1819, their daughter was born, and she was named
Alexandrina Victoria, after the reigning Emperor of Russia and her mother.
The Prince Regent had wished the name of Georgiana; her own father wished
to call her Elizabeth. The little one was the first of the British royal
house to receive the benefits of Jenner's discovery of vaccination. The
Duke of Kent was so careful of his little girl that he took a cottage at
Sidmouth to escape the London winter. To a friend he wrote: 'My little
girl thrives under the influence of a Devonshire climate, and is, I am
delighted to say, strong and healthy; too healthy, I fear, in the opinion
of some members of my family, by whom she is regarded as an intruder.'
Next winter the Duke came in one day, after tramping through rain and
snow, and played with his little child while in his damp clothes; he thus
contracted a chill from which he never rallied, and died January 23, 1820.
This child was destined to be the Empress-Queen, on whose dominion the sun
never sets. Yet so remote did such a destiny then seem, owing to the
possibilities of the Regent's life, and of children being born to the Duke
of Clarence, that in some courtly biographies of George III. there is no
mention made of the birth of the little princess. Even in their accounts
of the death of her father the Duke of Kent, seven months afterwards, they
do not deem it necessary to state that he left a daughter behind him;
though he, poor man, had never had any doubts of her future importance,
and had been in the habit of saying to her attendants, 'Take care of her,
for she may be Queen of England.' The Duke of Kent was a capable and
energetic soldier, of pure tastes and simple pleasures. In presenting new
colours to the Royal Scots in 1876, the Queen said: 'I have been
associated with your regiment from my earliest infancy, as my dear father
was your colonel. He was proud of his profession, and I was always told to
consider myself a soldier's child.'
The position of the widowed Duchess of Kent, a stranger in a foreign
country, was rather sad and lonely. It was further complicated by
narrowness of means. The old king, her father-in-law, died soon after her
husband. The duchess was a woman of sense and spirit. Instead of yielding
to any natural impulse to retire to Germany, she resolved that her little
English princess should have an English rearing. She found a firm friend
and upholder in her brother Leopold, husband of the late Princess
Charlotte, and afterwards King of the Belgians. On discovering her
straitened means he gave her an allowance of £3000 a year, which was
continued until it was no longer necessary in 1831. As the duke came into
a separate income only at a late period of his life, he had died much in
debt. Long afterwards the Queen said to Lord Melbourne: 'I want to pay all
that remains of my father's debts. I must do it. I consider it a sacred
duty.' And she did not rest till she did it. In reply to an address of
congratulation on the coming of age of the Queen, the Duchess of Kent
'My late regretted consort's circumstances, and my duties, obliged us to
reside in Germany; but the Duke of Kent at much inconvenience, and I at
great personal risk, returned to England, that our child should be "born
and bred a Briton." In a few months afterwards my infant and myself were
awfully deprived of father and husband. 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. I was supported in the execution of my
duties by the country. It placed its trust in me, and the Regency Bill
gave me its last act of confidence. I have in times of great difficulty
avoided all connection with any party in the state; but if I have done so,
I have never ceased to press on my daughter her duties, so as to gain by
her conduct the respect and affection of the people. This I have taught
her should be her first earthly duty as a constitutional sovereign.'
The little princess was brought up quietly and wisely at Kensington and
Claremont. In a letter from the Queen to her uncle Leopold, written in
1843, we find the following: 'This place [Claremont] has a particular
charm for us both, and to me it brings back recollections of the happiest
days of my otherwise dull childhood, when I experienced such kindness from
you, dearest uncle, kindness which has ever since continued.... Victoria
[the Princess Royal] plays with my old bricks, &c., and I see her running
and jumping in the flower-garden, as old, though I fear still _little_,
Victoria of former days used to do.'
Bishop Fulford of Montreal remembered seeing her when four months old in
the arms of her nurse. In the following year she might be seen in a
hand-carriage with her half-sister, the Princess Feodora of Leiningen.
Wilberforce in a letter to Hannah More, July 21, 1820, wrote: '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.' She
became familiar to many as a pretty infant, riding on her sleek donkey (a
gift from her uncle the Duke of York) in Kensington Gardens. She used to
be seen in a large straw hat and a white cotton frock, watering the plants
under the palace windows, dividing the contents of the watering-pot
between the flowers and her feet, and often took breakfast with her mother
on the lawn there. There are playful stories told of those happy early
days. The little princess was very fond of music, listening as one
spell-bound when first she heard some of Beethoven's glorious
compositions. But like most children, she rebelled against the drudgery of
scales and finger exercises, and on being told that there is 'no royal
road to music,' she sportively locked the piano and announced that 'the
royal road is never to take a lesson till you feel disposed.'
Sir Walter Scott records in his diary that he dined with the Duchess of
Kent on 19th May 1828. 'I was very kindly received by Prince Leopold, and
presented to the little Victoria--the heir-apparent to the crown as things
now stand. The little lady is educated with much care, and watched so
closely that no busy maid has a moment to whisper "You are heir of
England." I suspect if we could dissect the little heart, we should find
that some pigeon or other bird of the air had carried the matter,
however.' This, it seems, was not the case. Charles Knight has told us how
he one morning saw the household breakfasting in the open air, at a table
on the lawn. It is also related that Victoria took her airings in
Kensington Gardens in a little phaeton drawn by a tiny pony, led by a
page. A dog ran between the legs of the pony one day, frightening it, so
that the little carriage was upset, and the princess would have fallen on
her head, but for the presence of mind of an Irishman who rescued her.
Leigh Hunt saw her once 'coming up a cross-path from the Bayswater gate,
with a girl of her own age by her side, whose hand she was holding as if
she loved her;' and he adds that the footman who followed seemed to him
like a gigantic fairy. When the princess was in her fifth year, George
IV., who acted as one of her godfathers, sent a message to parliament
which resulted in a grant for the cost of the education of his niece.
In 1824, when the princess was five years old, Fräulein Lehzen, a German
lady, became her governess; afterwards she held the post of the Queen's
private secretary, until relieved by the Prince-Consort. She was the
daughter of a Hanoverian pastor, and came to England in 1818 as governess
to the Princess Feodora of Leiningen. In her home letters she records that
'the princess received her in a pretty, childlike way,' and describes her
as 'not tall, but very pretty;' adding that she 'has dark brown hair,
beautiful 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 in white muslin with a coral
necklet.' The domestic life was that of any other well-regulated and happy
family. The princess shared her governess's bedroom. They all took their
meals together at a round table. When they did not go to church, the
duchess read a sermon aloud and commented pleasantly on it. As early as
1830 Thomas Moore heard the Princess Victoria sing duets with her mother,
who also sang some pretty German songs herself.
Nor are there lacking traces of strict and chastening discipline. The
princess had been early taught that there are good habits and duties in
the management of money. When she was buying toys at Tunbridge Wells, her
wishes outran her little purse, and the box for which she could not pay
was not carried away on credit, but set aside for her to fetch away when
the next quarter-day would renew her allowance. Fräulein Lehzen says, 'The
duchess wished that when she and the princess drove out, I should sit by
her side, and the princess at the back. Several times I could not prevent
it, but at last she has given in, and says on such occasions with a laugh
to her daughter: "Sit by me, since Fräulein Lehzen wishes it to be so."
But,' says the governess, 'I do not hesitate to remark to the little one,
whom I am most anxious not to spoil, that this consideration is not on her
account, because she is still a child, but that my respect for her mother
disposes me to decline the seat.' Once when the princess was reading how
Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi, introduced her sons to the first of
Roman ladies with the words, 'These are my jewels,' she looked up from her
book, and remarked: 'She should have said my _Cornelians_.'
[Illustration: Princess Victoria--Early Portrait.]
Mrs Oliphant remembers of having in her own youth seen the Princess
Victoria, and says: 'The calm full look of her eyes affected me. Those
eyes were very blue, serene, still, looking at you with a tranquil breadth
of expression which, somehow, conveyed to your mind a feeling of
unquestioned power and greatness, quite poetical in its serious
simplicity.' While on a visit to Malvern she climbed walls and trees, and
rode on a donkey. One day she had climbed an apple tree, and could not get
down till relieved by the gardener, who got a guinea for his pains, which
was preserved and neatly framed. On another occasion, at Wentworth House,
the gardener cautioned her: 'Be careful, miss, it's slape' (using a
provincial form for 'slippery'), while she was descending a sloping piece
of turf, where the ground was wet. While she was asking, 'What is
_slape?_'her feet slid from beneath her, and the old gardener was able
to explain as he lifted her up, 'That's slape, miss.'
Miss Jane Porter, then resident at Claremont, describes the princess as a
beautiful child, with a cherubic form of features, clustered round by
glossy, fair ringlets. Her complexion was remarkably transparent, with a
soft, but 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? The intelligence of her
countenance was extraordinary at her very early age, but might easily be
accounted for on perceiving the extraordinary intelligence of her mind. At
Esher Church, even in her sixth year, the youthful princess was accustomed
to devote earnest attention to the sermons preached there, as the Duchess
of Kent was in the habit of inquiring not only for the text, but the heads
of the discourse. 'The sweet spring of the princess's life,' continues
Miss Porter, 'was thus dedicated to the sowing of all precious seeds of
knowledge, and the cultivation of all elegant acquirements.... Young as
she was, she sang with sweetness and taste; and my brother, Sir Robert
(who, when in England, frequently had the honour of dining at Claremont),
often had the pleasure of listening to the infant chorister, mingling her
cherub-like melody with the mature and delightful harmonies of the Duchess
of Kent and Prince Leopold.'
When Fräulein Lehzen died in 1870, her old pupil wrote of her as 'my
dearest, kindest friend, old Lehzen; she knew me from six months old, and
from my fifth to my eighteenth year devoted all her care and energies to
me, with the most wonderful abnegation of self, never even taking one
day's holiday. I adored, although I was greatly in awe of her. She really
seemed to have no thought but for me.' And the future queen profited by it
all, for it has been truly said that, 'had she not been the Queen of
England, her acquirements and accomplishments would have given her a high
standing in society.'
Dr Davys, the future Bishop of Peterborough, was her instructor in Latin,
history, mathematics, and theology, and the Dowager Duchess of
Northumberland had also, after her own mother, a considerable share in her
The Duchess of Kent took her daughter to visit many of the chief cities,
cathedrals, and other places of interest in the British Isles. Her first
public act was to present the colours to a regiment of foot at Plymouth.
An American writer has recorded that he saw the widowed lady and her
little girl in the churchyard of Brading, in the Isle of Wight. They were
seated near the grave of the heroine of a 'short and simple annal of the
poor'--the _Dairyman's Daughter_, whose story, as told by the Rev. Legh
Richmond, had a great popularity at the time. The duchess was reading from
a volume she carried (probably that one), and the little princess's soft
eyes were tearful.
The princess, it appears, was much devoted to dolls, and played with them
until she was nearly fourteen years old. Her favourites were small wooden
dolls which she would occupy herself in dressing; and she had a house in
which they could be placed. As she had no girl companions, many an hour
was solaced in this manner. She dressed these dolls from some costumes she
saw in the theatre or in private life. A list of her dolls was kept in a
copy-book, the name of each, and by whom it was dressed, and the character
it represented, being given. The dolls seem to have been packed away about
1833. Of the 132 dolls preserved, thirty-two were dressed by the princess.
They range from three to nine inches in height. The sewing and adornment
of the rich coloured silks and satins show great deftness of finger.
Her wise mother withheld her from the pomp and circumstance of the court.
She was not even allowed to be present at the coronation of her uncle, the
Duke of Clarence, when he ascended the throne as William IV. He could not
understand such reticence, was annoyed by it, and expressed his annoyance
angrily. But his consort, good Queen Adelaide, was always kind and
considerate: even when she lost all her own little ones, she could be
generous enough to say to the Duchess of Kent, 'My children are dead, but
yours lives, and she is mine too.'
All doubts as to the princess's relation to the succession were gradually
removed. George IV. had died childless. Both the children of William IV.
were dead. The Princess Victoria therefore was the heiress of England. A
paper had been placed in the volume of history she had been reading, after
perusing which she remarked, 'I never saw this before.'
'It was not thought necessary you should, princess,' the governess
'I see,' she said timidly, 'that I am nearer the throne than I thought.'
'So it is, madam,' said the governess.
'Now many a child,' observed the princess thoughtfully, 'would boast, but
they don't know the difficulty. There is much splendour, but there is more
responsibility.' And putting her hand on her governess's, she said
solemnly, '_I will be good_.' Let that be recorded as among royal vows
that have been faithfully fulfilled.
In August 1835, the Princess Victoria was confirmed in the Chapel Royal,
St James's, by the Archbishop of Canterbury; and she was so much moved by
the solemn service, that at the close of it she laid her head on her
mother's breast, and sobbed with emotion.
First Meeting with Prince Albert--Death of William IV.--Accession of Queen
Victoria--First Speech from the Throne--Coronation--Life at
Windsor--Personal Appearance--Betrothal to Prince Albert--Income from the
Country--Her Majesty a genuine Ruler.
The first great event in the young princess's life, and that which was
destined to colour it all for her good and happiness, was her first
meeting in 1836 with her cousins, her mother's nephews, the young princes
Ernest and Albert of Saxe-Coburg. That visit was of about a month's
duration, and from the beginning the attraction was mutual. We can see how
matters went in a letter from Princess Victoria to King Leopold, 7th June
1836. 'I have only now to beg you, my dearest uncle, to take care of the
health of one now so dear to me, and to take him under your special
protection. I hope and trust that all will go on prosperously and well on
this subject, now of so much importance to me.' Although in her heart
preferring Albert, she had been equally kind to both, and her preference
was as yet unknown. And as a mere preference it had for a while to remain,
as the princess was only seventeen, and the education of the prince was
yet incomplete. He was still on his student travels, collecting flowers
and views and autographs for the sweet maiden in England, when in 1837,
news reached him that by the death of William IV. she had attained her
great dignity, and was proclaimed queen.
[Illustration: The Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham
announcing to the Queen the Death of William IV.]
The death of William IV. took place at 2.30 A.M. on June 20, 1837.
According to a contemporary account, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord
Conyngham reached Kensington Palace about five as bearers of the news.
They 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, with slippers on her naked feet, and with tearful eyes and
trembling lips. Conyngham told his errand in few words, and as soon as he
uttered the words 'Your Majesty,' she put out her hand to him to be
kissed. He dropped on one knee, and kissed her hand. The archbishop
likewise kissed her hand, and when he had spoken of the king's death, she
asked him for his prayers on her behalf.
The first result of the accession of Victoria was the separation of
Hanover from the British crown. By the Salic law of that realm, a woman
was not permitted to reign; and thus the German principality, which had
come to us with the first George, and which had led us into so many wars
on the Continent, ceased to have any concern with the fortunes of this
country. The crown of Hanover now went to the Duke of Cumberland, the
On 26th June 1837, her cousin Albert wrote: 'Now you are queen of the
mightiest land of Europe, in your hand lies the happiness of millions. May
Heaven assist you, and strengthen you with its strength in that high but
difficult task! I hope that your reign may be long, happy, and glorious;
and that your efforts may be rewarded by the thankfulness and love of your
The Queen closed her first speech from the throne as follows: 'I ascend
the throne with a deep sense of the responsibility which is imposed upon
me; but I am supported by the consciousness of my own right intentions,
and by my dependence upon the protection of almighty God. It will be my
care to strengthen our institutions, civil and ecclesiastical, by discreet
improvement wherever improvement is required, and to do all in my power to
compose and allay animosity and discord. Acting upon these principles, I
shall upon all occasions look with confidence to the wisdom of parliament
and the affections of my people, which form the true support of the
dignity of the crown, and ensure the stability of the constitution.'
'When called upon by the Duke of Wellington to sign her first
death-warrant, the Queen asked, with tears in her eyes, 'Have you nothing
to say in behalf of this man?'
'Nothing; he has deserted three times,' was the reply.
'Oh, your Grace, think again.'
'Well, your Majesty,' said the duke, 'though he is certainly a very bad
_soldier_, some witnesses spoke for his character, and, for aught I know
to the contrary, he may be a good _man_.'
'Oh, thank you for that a thousand times!' the Queen exclaimed; and she
Wrote 'pardoned' across the paper.
The great Duke of Wellington declared that he could not have desired a
daughter of his own to play her part better than did the young queen. She
seemed 'awed, but not daunted.' Nor was the gentler womanly side of life
neglected. She wrote at once to the widowed Queen Adelaide, begging her,
in all her arrangements, to consult nothing but her own health and
convenience, and to remain at Windsor just as long as she pleased. And on
the superscription of that letter she refused to give her widowed aunt her
new style of 'Queen Dowager.' 'I am quite aware of Her Majesty's altered
position,' she said, 'but I will not be the first person to remind her of
it.' And on the evening of the king's funeral, a sick girl, daughter of an
old servant of the Duke of Kent, to whom the duchess and the princess had
been accustomed to show kindness, received from 'Queen Victoria,' a gift
of the Psalms of David, with a marker worked by the royal hands, and
placed in the forty-first psalm.
The first three weeks of her reign were spent at Kensington, and the Queen
took possession of Buckingham Palace on 13th July 1837. Mr Jeaffreson, in
describing her personal appearance, says: 'Studied at full face, she was
seen to have an ample brow, something higher, and receding less abruptly,
than the average brow of her princely kindred; a pair of noble blue eyes,
and a delicately curved upper lip, that was more attractive for being at
times slightly disdainful, and even petulant in its expression. No woman
was ever more fortunate than our young Queen in the purity and delicate
pinkiness of her glowing complexion.... Her Majesty's countenance was
strangely eloquent of tenderness, refinement, and unobtrusive force....
Among the high-born beauties of her day, the young Queen Victoria was
remarkable for the number of her ways of smiling.' Other observers say
that the smallness of her stature was quite forgotten in the gracefulness
of her demeanour. Fanny Kemble thought the Queen's voice exquisite, when
dissolving parliament in July 1837: her enunciation was as perfect as the
intonation was melodious. Charles Sumner was also delighted, and thought
he never heard anything better delivered.
She was proclaimed queen, June 21, 1837: the coronation took place in
Westminster Abbey on June 28, 1838, and has been vividly described by many
pens. At least 300,000 visitors came to London on this occasion. We are
told of the glow of purple, of the acclamations of the crowd, and the
chorus of Westminster scholars, of the flash of diamonds as the assembled
peeresses assumed their coronets when the crown was placed on the head of
the young queen. But we best like the touch of womanly solicitude and
helpfulness with which Her Majesty made a hasty movement forward as an
aged peer, Lord Rolle, tripped over his robes, and stumbled on the steps
of the throne. As she left the Abbey, 'the tender paleness that had
overspread her fair face on her entrance had yielded to a glow of rosy
Miss Harriet Martineau thus describes the scene before the entrance of the
Queen: 'The stone architecture contrasted finely with the gay colours of
the multitude. From my high seat I commanded the whole north transept, the
area with the throne, and many portions of galleries, and the balconies,
which were called the vaultings. Except the mere sprinkling of oddities,
everybody was in full dress. The scarlet of the military officers mixed in
well, and the groups of clergy were dignified; but to an unaccustomed eye
the prevalence of court dress had a curious effect. I was perpetually
taking whole groups of gentlemen for Quakers till I recollected myself.
The Earl Marshal's assistants, called Gold Sticks, looked well from above,
lightly flitting about in white breeches, silk stockings, blue laced
frocks, and white sashes.
'The throne, covered as was its footstool with cloth of gold, stood on an
elevation of four steps in front of the area. The first peeress took her
seat in the north transept opposite at a quarter to seven, and three of
the bishops came next. From that time the peers and their ladies arrived
faster and faster. Each peeress was conducted by two Gold Sticks, one of
whom handed her to her seat, and the other bore and arranged her train on
her lap, and saw that her coronet, footstool, and book were comfortably
placed.... About nine o'clock the first gleams of the sun started into
the Abbey, and presently travelled down to the peeresses. I had never
before seen the full effect of diamonds. As the light travelled, each lady
shone out like a rainbow. The brightness, vastness, and dreamy
magnificence of the scene produced a strange effect of exhaustion and
sleepiness.... The guns told when the Queen set forth, and there was
unusual animation. The Gold Sticks flitted about; there was tuning in the
orchestra; and the foreign ambassadors and their suites arrived in quick
succession. Prince Esterhazy, crossing a bar of sunshine, was the most
prodigious rainbow of all. He was covered with diamonds and pearls, and as
he dangled his hat, it cast a dazzling radiance all around.... At
half-past eleven the guns told that the Queen had arrived.'
An eye-witness says: 'The Queen came in as gay as a lark, and looking like
a girl on her birthday. However, this only lasted till she reached the
middle of the cross of the Abbey, at the foot of the throne. On her rising
from her knees before the "footstool," after her private devotions, the
Archbishop of Canterbury turned her round to each of the four corners of
the Abbey, saying, in a voice so clear that it was heard in the inmost
recesses, "Sirs, I here present unto you the undoubted Queen of this
realm. Will ye all swear to do her homage?" Each time he said it there
were shouts of "Long live Queen Victoria!" and the sounding of trumpets
and the waving of banners, which made the poor little Queen turn first
very red and then very pale. Most of the ladies cried, and I felt I should
not forget it as long as I lived. The Queen recovered herself after this,
and went through all the rest as if she had been crowned before, but
seemed much impressed by the service, and a most beautiful one it is.' The
service was that which was drawn up by St Dunstan, and with a very few
alterations has been used ever since. Then the anointing followed--a
canopy of cloth of gold was held over the Queen's head, a cross was traced
with oil upon her head and hands, and the Dean of Westminster and the
archbishop pronounced the words, 'Be thou anointed with holy oil, as
kings, priests, and prophets were anointed.' Meanwhile, the choir chanted
the 'Anointing of Solomon,' after which the archbishop gave her his
benediction, all the bishops joining in the amen. She was next seated in
St Edward's chair, underneath which is the rough stone on which the
Scottish kings had been crowned, brought away from Scotland by Edward I.
While seated here she received the ring which was a token that she was
betrothed to her people, a globe surmounted by a cross, and a sceptre. The
crown was then placed upon her head; the trumpets sounded, the drums beat,
the cannons were fired, and cheers rose from the multitude both without
and within the building. The archbishop presented a Bible to Her Majesty,
led her to the throne, and bowed before her; the bishops and lords present
in their order of rank did the same, saying, 'I do become your liegeman of
life and limb and of earthly worship, and faith and love I will bear unto
you, to live and die against all manner of folks; so help me God.'
When the ceremony of allegiance was over, the Queen received the holy
communion, and, after the last blessing was pronounced, in splendid array
left the Abbey. Mr Greville, one of the brilliant gossip-mongers of the
court, related that Lord John Thynne, who officiated for the Dean of
Westminster, told him that no one knew but the archbishop and himself what
ceremony was to be gone through, and that the Queen never knew what she
was to do next. She said to Thynne, 'Pray tell me what I am to do, for
they don't know.' At the end, when the orb was put into her hand, she
said, 'What am I to do with it?' 'Your Majesty is to carry it, if you
please, in your hand.' 'Am I?' she said; 'it is very heavy.' The ruby ring
was made for her little finger instead of her fourth; when the archbishop
was to put it on she extended the former, but he said it was to be put on
the latter. She said it was too small, and she could not get it on. He
said it was right to put it there, and, as he insisted, she yielded, but
had first to take off her other rings, and then it was forced on; but it
hurt her very much, and as soon as the ceremony was over, she was obliged
to bathe her finger in iced water in order to get it off. It is said that
she was very considerate to the royal dukes, her uncles, when they
presented themselves to do homage. When the Duke of Sussex, who was old
and infirm, came forward to take the oath of allegiance, she anticipated
him, kissed his cheek, and said tenderly, 'Do not kneel, my uncle, for I
am still Victoria, your niece.'
Lord Shaftesbury wrote of the service, as 'so solemn, so deeply religious,
so humbling, and yet so sublime. Every word of it is invaluable;
throughout, the church is everything, secular greatness nothing. She
declares, in the name and by the authority of God, and almost enforces, as
a condition preliminary to her benediction, all that can make princes rise
to temporal and eternal glory. Many, very many, were deeply impressed.'
[Illustration: Queen Victoria at the Period of her Accession.]
The old crown weighed more than seven pounds; the new one, made for this
coronation, but three pounds. The value of the jewels in the crown was
estimated at £112,760. These precious stones included 1 large ruby and
sapphire; 16 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 4 rubies, 1363 brilliant diamonds;
1273 rose diamonds, 147 table diamonds; 4 drop-shaped pearls; 273 other
pearls. The entire coronation expenses amounted to less than £70,000:
those of George IV. amounted to £238,000 (banquet, £138,000). As the
ceremony lasted four and a half hours, it was well Queen Victoria was
spared the fatigue of a banquet.
Reasons of state and court etiquette required the Duchess of Kent to
retire from the constant companionship of her daughter, lest she should be
suspected of undue influence over her. The young queen of England had
entered upon a time of moral trial. Many of those who had been ready to
applaud her were found equally ready to criticise her. Her mother's
natural pangs at settling down into their new relationship were
maliciously interpreted as consequences of the Queen's coldness and
self-will. It was said that she 'began to exhibit slight signs of a
It is good to know from such a well-informed authority as Mrs Oliphant
that the immediate circle of friends around her fed her with no
flatteries. The life of the Queen at Windsor has been thus described: 'She
rose at a little after eight; breakfasted in her private rooms; then her
ministers were admitted; despatches were read, and there would be a
consultation with Lord Melbourne. After luncheon she rode out, and on her
return amused herself with music and singing and such like recreations
till dinner, which was about 8 P.M. On the appearance of the ladies in the
drawing-room she stood, moving about from one to the other, talking for a
short time to each, and also speaking to the gentlemen as they came from
the dining-room. A whist table would be made up for the Duchess of Kent.
The Queen and the others seated themselves about a large round table and
engaged in conversation.'
'Poor little Queen!' said Carlyle, with a shake of his head at the time,
'she is at an age when a girl can hardly be trusted to choose a bonnet for
herself, yet a task is laid upon her from which an archangel might
shrink.' Her Majesty was not overawed, however, and expressly declared to
her mother that she ascended the throne without alarm. 'She is as merry
and playful as a kitten,' wrote Sir John Campbell.... 'She was in great
spirits, and danced with more than usual gaiety a romping, country-dance
called the Tempest.' An observant writer of this date says: 'She had a
fine vein of humour, a keen sense of the ludicrous; enjoyed equestrian
exercise, and rode remarkably well.'
N. P. Willis, the American poet, who saw her on horseback in Hyde Park,
said: 'Her Majesty rides quite fearlessly and securely; I met her party
full gallop near the centre of the Rotten Row. On came the Queen on a
dun-coloured, highly groomed horse, with her prime-minister on one side of
her, and Lord Byron on the other; her _cortége_ of maids of honour, and
lords and ladies of the court checking their spirited horses, and
preserving always a slight distance between themselves and Her Majesty.
... Victoria's round, plump figure looks exceedingly well in her
dark-green riding dress.... She rode with her mouth open, and seemed
exhilarated with pleasure.' James Gordon Bennett, who saw her at the
opera, describes her as 'a fair-haired little girl, dressed with great
simplicity in white muslin, with hair plain, a blue ribbon at the back....
Her bust is extremely well proportioned, and her complexion very fair.
There is a slight parting of her rosy lips, between which you can see
little nicks of something like very white teeth. The expression of her
face is amiable and good-tempered. I could see nothing like that awful
majesty, that mysterious something which doth hedge a queen.'
Mr Greville, who dined at the Queen's table in Buckingham Palace in 1837,
pronounced the whole thing dull, so dull that he marvelled how any one
could like such a life: but both here and at a ball he declared the
bearing of the Queen to be perfect, noting also that her complexion was
clear, and that the expression of her eyes was agreeable.
Despite her strong attraction to her cousin Albert, she expressed a
determination not to think of marriage for a time. The sudden change from
her quiet, girlish life in Kensington to the prominence and the powers of
a great queen, standing 'in that fierce light which beats upon a throne,'
might well have excused a good deal of wilfulness had the excuse been
Her Majesty decides that 'a worse school for a young girl, or one more
detrimental to all natural feelings and affections, cannot well be
imagined.' Perhaps it was an experience which she needed to convince her
fully of the value and blessedness of the true domesticity which was soon
to be hers. After she had in 1837 placed her life-interest in the
hereditary revenues of the crown at the disposal of the House of Commons,
her yearly income was fixed at £385,000. This income is allocated as
follows: For Her Majesty's privy purse, £60,000; salaries of Her Majesty's
household and retired allowances, £131,260; expenses of household,
£172,500; royal bounty, alms, &c., £13,200; unappropriated moneys, £8040.
The first change from a Whig to a Conservative government ruffled the
waters a little. Her Majesty was advised by the Duke of Wellington to
invite Sir Robert Peel to form a new ministry. She did so, but frankly
told Peel that she was very sorry to lose Lord Melbourne. When arranging
his cabinet, Sir Robert found that objections were raised to the retention
of certain Whig ladies in personal attendance upon the Queen, as being
very likely to influence her. The Duchess of Sutherland and Lady Normanby,
it is believed, were particularly meant. The Queen at first flatly refused
to dismiss her Ladies of the Bedchamber, to whom she had got so
accustomed. As Sir Robert Peel would not yield the point, she recalled
Lord Melbourne, who now retained office till 1841. The affair caused a
great deal of talk in political and non-political circles. The Queen
wrote: 'They wanted to deprive me of my ladies, and I suppose they would
deprive me next of my dresses and my housemaids; but I will show them that
I am Queen of England.' This little episode has since gone by the name of
the 'Bedchamber Plot.'
Of Her Majesty it may safely be said that she has always been a genuine
ruler, in the sense that from the first she trained herself to comprehend
the mysteries of statecraft. She had Lord Melbourne as her first
prime-minister, and from the beginning every despatch of the Foreign
Office was offered to her attention. In 1848, a year of exceptional
activity, these numbered 28,000.
If for a while the Queen thus drew back from actually deciding to marry
the cousin whom, nevertheless, she owned to be 'fascinating,' that cousin
on his side was not one of those of whom it may be said:
He either fears his fate too much,
Or his deserts are small,
That dares not put it to the touch,
To gain or lose it all.
'I am ready,' he said, 'to submit to delay, if I have only some certain
assurance to go upon. But if, after waiting perhaps for three years, I
should find that the Queen no longer desired the marriage, it would place
me in a ridiculous position, and would, to a certain extent, ruin all my
prospects for the future.'
Love proved stronger than girlish pride and independence--the woman was
greater than the queen. The young pair met again on the 10th October 1839,
and on the 14th of the same month the Queen communicated the welcome news
of her approaching marriage to her prime-minister. Her best friends were
all delighted with the news.
'You will be very nervous on declaring your engagement to the Council,'
said the Duchess of Gloucester.
'Yes,' replied the Queen, 'but I did something far more trying to my
nerves a short time since.'
'What was that?' the duchess asked.
'I proposed to Albert,' was the reply.
Etiquette of course forbade the gentleman in this case to speak first; and
we can well believe that the Queen was more nervous over this matter than
over many a state occasion. How the thing took place we may gather in part
from a letter of Prince Albert to his grandmother: 'The Queen sent for me
to her room, and disclosed to me, in a genuine outburst of love and
affection, that I had gained her whole heart.' After the glad announcement
was made, warm congratulations were showered on the young people. Lord
Melbourne expressed great satisfaction on behalf of himself and his
country. 'You will be much more comfortable,' he said, 'for a woman cannot
stand alone for any time in whatever position she may be.' To King
Leopold, who had much to do with the matter, the news was particularly
welcome. In his joyous response to the Queen occur these words: 'I had,
when I learned your decision, almost the feeling of old Simeon, "Now
lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace." Your choice has been, for these
last years, my conviction of what might and would be the best for your
happiness.... In your position, which may, and will perhaps, become in
future even more difficult in a political point of view, you could not
exist without having a happy and agreeable _intérieur_. And I am much
deceived (which I think I am not) or you will find in Albert just the very
qualities and disposition which are indispensable for your happiness, and
will suit your own character, temper, and mode of life.'
[Illustration: The Houses of Parliament. (From a photograph by Frith.)]
To Baron Stockmar, the prince wrote: 'Victoria is so good and kind to me,
that I am often puzzled to believe that I should be the object of so much
affection.' Prince Albert knew he was choosing a position of no ordinary
difficulty and responsibility. 'With the exception of my relation to the
Queen, my future position will have its dark sides, and the sky will not
always be blue and unclouded. But life has its thorns in every position,
and the consciousness of having used one's powers and endeavours for an
object so great as that of promoting the welfare of so many, will surely
be sufficient to support me.'
True love is always humble. Among the entries in the Queen's Journals are
many like this: 'How I will strive to make Albert feel as little as
possible the great sacrifice he has made! I told him it _was_ a great
sacrifice on his part, but he would not allow it.' After they had spent a
month together, the prince returned to Germany. The following extract
occurs in a letter from Prince Albert to the Duchess of Kent: 'What you
say about my poor little bride, sitting all alone in her room, silent and
sad, has touched me to the heart. Oh that I might fly to her side to cheer
On the 23d November, she made the important declaration regarding her
approaching marriage to the privy-councillors, eighty-three of whom
assembled in Buckingham Palace to hear it. She wore upon her slender wrist
a bracelet with the prince's portrait, 'which seemed,' she says, 'to give
her courage.' The Queen afterwards described the scene: 'Precisely at two
I went in. Lord Melbourne I saw kindly looking at me, with tears in his
eyes, but he was not near me. I then read my short declaration. I felt
that my hands shook, but I did not make one mistake. I felt most happy and
thankful when it was over. Lord Lansdowne then rose, and in the name of
the Privy-Council asked that this most gracious, most welcome
communication might be printed. I then left the room, the whole thing not
taking above three minutes.' The Queen had to make the same statement
before parliament, when Sir Robert Peel replied. 'Her Majesty,' he said,
'has the singular good fortune to be able to gratify her private feelings
while she performs her public duty, and to obtain the best guarantee for
happiness by contracting an alliance founded on affection.' Hereupon arose
a discussion both in and out of parliament as to the amount of the grant
to Prince Albert, which was settled at £30,000 a year. But Prince Albert
assured the Queen that this squabbling did not trouble him: 'All I have to
say is, while I possess your love, they cannot make me unhappy.' Another
source of trouble arose from the fact that several members of the royal
family thought it an indignity that they should give precedence to a
Prince Albert was born at Schloss Rosenau, near Coburg, August 26, 1819,
the younger son of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, by his first marriage
with Louisa, daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. After a careful
domestic education, the prince, along with his elder brother, studied at
Brussels and Bonn (1836-38), where, in addition to the sciences connected
with state-craft, he devoted himself with ardour to natural history and
chemistry, and displayed great taste for the fine arts, especially
painting and music. Gifted with a handsome figure, he attained expertness
in all knightly exercises; whilst by Baron Stockmar, his Mentor, he was
imbued with a real interest in European politics.
King Leopold wrote truly of him: 'If I am not very much mistaken, he
possesses all the qualities required to fit him for the position which he
will occupy in England. His understanding is sound, his apprehension is
clear and rapid, and his heart in the right place. He has great powers of
observation, and possesses singular prudence, without anything about him
that can be called cold or morose.' The two met first in 1836, and fell in
love, as we have seen, like ordinary mortals, though the marriage had long
been projected by King Leopold and Baron Stockmar.
Marriage--Delicacy of the Prince's Position--Family Habits--Birth of
Princess Royal--Queen's Views of Religious Training--Osborne and
Balmoral--Bloomfield's _Reminicences_--Death of the Duke of Wellington.
Nowhere does the genuine unselfishness and sweet womanliness of the Queen
show more than in her record of those days. She did not, like too many
brides, think of herself as the only or even the principal person to be
considered. She did not grudge that her bridegroom's heart should feel the
strength of former ties. 'The sacrifice,' in her eyes, was all on his
side, though he would not admit that. He had to leave his brother, his
home, his dear native land. He on his side could ask, 'What am I, that
such happiness should he mine? for excess of happiness it is for me to
know that I am so dear to you.' But her one thought was, 'God grant that I
may be the happy person--the _most_ happy person, to make this dearest,
blessed being happy and contented.' 'Albert has completely won my heart,'
she had written to Baron Stockmar.... 'I feel certain he will make me
very happy. I wish I could say I felt as certain of my making him happy,
but I shall do my best.'
The marriage itself took place on 10th February 1840 in the Chapel Royal,
St James's Palace. It was a cold cheerless morning, but the sun burst
forth just as the Queen entered the chapel. As a grand and beautiful
pageant, it was second only to the Coronation. The Queen was
enthusiastically cheered as she drove between Buckingham Palace and St
James's. She is described as looking pale and anxious, but lovely. Her
dress was of rich white satin, trimmed with orange blossoms; a wreath of
orange blossoms encircled her head, and over it a veil of rich Honiton
lace, which fell over her face. Her jewels were the collar of the Order of
the Garter, and a diamond necklace and ear-rings. She had twelve
bridesmaids, and the ceremony was performed by the Archbishops of
Canterbury and York and the Bishop of London.
Her Majesty bore herself from first to last with quietness and confidence,
and went through the service with due earnestness and solemnity.
The wedding breakfast was at Buckingham Palace. The wedding-cake was no
less than three hundred pounds in weight, fourteen inches in depth, and
three yards in circumference. The young couple proceeded to Windsor, where
they were received by an enthusiastic throng of Eton boys, in white gloves
and white favours.
One of the ladies-in-waiting wrote to her family that 'the Queen's look
and manner were very pleasing: her eyes much swollen with tears, but great
happiness in her countenance: and her look of confidence and comfort at
the prince when they walked away as man and wife, was very pleasing to
see.' And this sympathetic observer adds: 'Such a new thing for her to
_dare_ to be _unguarded_ with anybody; and with her frank and fearless
nature, the restraints she has hitherto been under, from one reason or
another, with everybody, must have been most painful.'
The day after the marriage the Queen wrote to Baron Stockmar: 'There
cannot exist a purer, dearer, nobler being in the world than the prince;'
and she never had cause to take these words back. The blessing of loving
and being loved was certainly given to Queen Victoria.
The royal pair spent three days of honeymoon at Windsor, and then Her
Majesty had to return to London, to hold court, and to receive addresses
of congratulation on her marriage; indeed, she was nearly 'addressed to
death.' The Queen and Prince Albert went everywhere together; to church,
to reviews, to races, theatres, and drawing-rooms; and everywhere the
people were charmed with their beauty and happiness.
One of the trials of royalty is that they are the observed of all
observers, and from the first Prince Albert understood the extreme
delicacy of his position. How well he met the difficulty is told by
General Gray (_Early Years_):
'From the moment of his establishment in the English palace as the husband
of the Queen, his first object was to maintain, and, if possible, even
raise the character of the court. With this view he knew that it was not
enough that his own conduct should be in truth free from reproach; no
shadow of a shade of suspicion should by possibility attach to it. He knew
that, in his position, every action would be scanned--not always,
possibly, in a friendly spirit; that his goings out and his comings in
would be watched; and that in every society, however little disposed to be
censorious, there would always be found some prone, where an opening
afforded, to exaggerate and even invent stories against him, and to put an
uncharitable construction on the most innocent acts. He therefore, from
the first, laid down strict, not to say severe rules for his guidance. He
imposed a degree of restraint and self-denial upon his own movements which
could not but have been irksome, had he not been sustained by a sense of
the advantage which the throne would derive from it.
'He denied himself the pleasure--which, to one so fond as he was of
personally watching and inspecting every improvement that was in progress,
would have been very great--of walking at will about the town. Wherever he
went, whether in a carriage or on horseback, he was accompanied by his
equerry. He paid no visits in general society. His visits were to the
studio of the artist, to museums of art or science, to institutions for
good and benevolent purposes. Wherever a visit from him, or his presence,
could tend to advance the real good of the people, there his horses might
be seen waiting; never at the door of mere fashion. Scandal itself could
take no liberty with his name. He loved to ride through all the districts
of London where building and improvements were in progress, more
especially when they were such as would conduce to the health or
recreation of the working classes; and few, if any, took such interest as
he did in all that was being done, at any distance east, west, north, or
south of the great city--from Victoria Park to Battersea--from the
Regent's Park to the Crystal Palace, and far beyond. "He would frequently
return," the Queen says, "to luncheon at a great pace, and would always
come through the Queen's dressing-room, telling where he had been--what
new buildings he had seen--what studios he had visited." Riding, for
riding's sake, he disliked. "It bores me so," he said. It was for real
service that Prince Albert devoted his life; and for this end he gave
himself to the very diligent study of the English Constitution. Never
obtrusive, he yet did the work, kept the wheels moving; but in the
background, sinking his individuality in that of the Queen, and leaving
her all the honour.'
[Illustration: Marriage of Queen Victoria.]
A hard-working man himself, the prince and also the Queen were in sympathy
with the working-classes, and erected improved dwellings upon the estates
of Osborne and Balmoral. The prince was also in favour of working-men's
clubs and coffee palaces. It was remarked that whether he spoke to a
painter, sculptor, architect, man of science, or ordinary tradesman, each
of them was apt to think that his speciality was their own calling, owing
to his understanding and knowledge of it. He rose at seven A.M., summer
and winter, dressed, and went to his sitting-room, where in winter a fire
was burning, and a green lamp was lit. He read and answered letters here,
and prepared for Her Majesty drafts of replies to ministers and other
matters. After breakfast, he would read such articles in the papers or
reviews as seemed to his thoughtful mind to be good or important. At ten
he went out with the Queen.
So began the happy years of peaceful married life. The prince liked early
hours and country pleasures, and the Queen, like a loyal wife, not merely
consented to his tastes, but made them absolutely her own. Before she had
been married a year, she made the naive pretty confession that 'formerly I
was too happy to go to London and wretched to leave it, and now, since the
blessed hour of my marriage, and still more since the summer, I dislike
and am unhappy to leave the country, and would be content and happy never
to go to town;' adding ingenuously, 'The solid pleasures of a peaceful,
quiet, yet merry life in the country, with my inestimable husband and
friend, my all in all, are far more durable than the amusements of London,
though we don't despise or dislike them sometimes.'
They took breakfast at nine; then they went through details of routine
business, and sketched or played till luncheon, after which the Queen had
a daily interview with Lord Melbourne (prime-minister till the next year).
Then they drove, walked, or rode, dined at eight o'clock, and had pleasant
social circles afterwards, which were broken up before midnight. Both were
fond of art and music. Indeed the Prince-Consort gave a powerful impulse
to that study of classical music which has since become so universal.
Mendelssohn himself praised the Queen's singing, though without flattering
blindness to its faults and shortcomings. And the brightness of life was
all the brighter because it flowed over a substratum of seriousness and
solemnity. The first time that the Queen and her husband partook of holy
communion together, they spent the preceding evening--the vigil of
Easter--in retirement, occupied with good German books, and soothed and
elevated by Mozart's music, for the prince was master of the organ, and
the Queen of the piano. The prince made his maiden speech at a meeting for
the abolition of the slave-trade, speaking in a low tone, and with 'the
prettiest foreign accent.' While she was driving up Constitution Hill, an
attempt was made upon the Queen's life by a weak-minded youth, but luckily
neither of the pistol shots took effect. There have been at least seven
other happily futile attempts on the life of the Queen.
The Princess Royal was born on the 21st November 1840; and the royal
mother, fondly tended by her husband, made a speedy and happy recovery.
Prince Albert's care for the Queen in these circumstances was like that of
The Prince of Wales was born on November 9, 1841, and after that the
little family circle rapidly increased, and with it the parents' sense of
responsibility. 'A man's education begins the first day of his life,' said
the prince's tried friend, the wise Baron Stockmar, and the Queen felt it
'a hard case' that the pressure of public business prevented her from
being always with her little ones when they said their prayers. She has
given us her views on religious training:
'I am quite clear that children should be taught to have great reverence
for God and for religion, but that they should have the feeling of
devotion and love which our Heavenly Father encourages His earthly
children to have for Him, and not one of fear and trembling; and that the
thoughts of death and an after-life should not be presented in an alarming
and forbidding view; and that they should be made to know, _as yet_, no
difference of creeds.'
Court gossips considered the Queen 'to be very fond of her children, but
severe in her manner, and a strict disciplinarian in her family.' A nurse
in the royal household informed Baron Bunsen that 'the children were kept
very plain indeed: it was quite poor living--only a bit of roast meat, and
perhaps a plain pudding.' Other servants have reported that the Queen
would have made 'an admirable poor man's wife.' We used to hear how the
young princesses had to smooth out and roll up their bonnet strings. By
these trifling side-lights we discern a vigorous, wholesome discipline,
striving to counteract the enervating influences of rank and power, and
their attendant flattery and self-indulgence. 'One of the main principles
observed in the education of the royal children was this--that though they
received the best training of body and mind to fit them for the high
position they would eventually have to fill, they should in no wise come
in contact with the actual court life. The children were scarcely known to
the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, as they only now and then made their
appearance for a moment after dinner at dessert, or accompanied their
parents out driving. The care of them was exclusively intrusted to persons
who possessed the Queen and Prince-Consort's entire confidence, and with
whom they could at all times communicate direct.' An artist employed to
decorate the pavilion in the garden of Buckingham Palace, wrote of Her
Majesty and the prince: 'In many things they are an example to the age.
They have breakfasted, heard morning prayers with the household in the
private chapel, and are out some distance from the palace talking to us in
the summer-house before half-past nine o'clock--sometimes earlier. After
the public duties of the day and before their dinner, they come out again
evidently delighted to get away from the bustle of the world to enjoy each
other's society in the solitude of the garden.'
[Illustration: Osborne House.(From a Photograph by Frith.)]
The seaside villa of Osborne, built at the Queen's own charges at a cost
of £200,000, and the remote castle of Balmoral, the creation of the
Prince-Consort, were the favourite homes of the royal household: the
creations as it were, of their domestic love, and inwrought with their own
personalities, as statelier Windsor could never be. In the Swiss cottage
at Osborne, with its museum, kitchen, storeroom, and little gardens, the
young people learned to do household work and understand the management of
a small establishment. The parents were invited as guests, to enjoy the
dishes which the princesses had prepared with their own hands, and there
each child was free to follow the bent of its own industrial inclination.
In the Highlands, again, among the reserved and dignified Scottish
peasantry, the children were encouraged to visit freely, to make
themselves acquainted with the wants and feelings of the poor, and to
regard them with an understanding sympathy and affection.
Sir Robert Peel, who succeeded Lord Melbourne in 1841 as prime-minister,
had the following advice from his predecessor as to his conduct in office,
which shows the Queen's good sense: 'Whenever he does anything, or has
anything to propose, let him explain to her clearly his reasons. The Queen
is not conceited; she is aware there are many things she cannot
understand, and she likes to have them explained to her elementarily, not
at length and in detail, but shortly and clearly.
One of the minor posts in the new ministry was filled by a young member of
parliament, who was destined in after-years to become as celebrated as
Peel himself. This was the distinguished scholar and orator, William Ewart
Gladstone, the son of Sir John Gladstone, a Scotch merchant who had
settled in Liverpool. He was already a power in parliament, and every year
after this saw him rising into greater prominence.
In the new parliament, too, though not in the ministry, was another
member, who afterwards rose to high office, and became very famous. This
was Benjamin Disraeli, son of Disraeli the elder, a distinguished literary
man. Although very clever, Benjamin Disraeli had not as yet obtained any
influence in the House. His first speech, indeed, had been received with
much laughter; but, as he himself had then predicted, a time came at last
when the House _did_ listen to him.
Lady Bloomfield, while maid-of-honour to the Queen, was much in the
society of royalty. The following are extracts from her _Reminiscences_,
giving a sketch of the life at Windsor in 1843: 'I went to the Queen's
rooms yesterday, and saw her before we began to sing. She was so
thoroughly kind and gracious. The music went off very well. Costa [Sir
Michael] accompanied, and I was pleased by the Queen's telling me, when I
asked her whether I had not better practise the things a little more,
"that was not necessary, as I knew them perfectly." She also said, "If it
was _convenient_ to me, I was to go down to her room any evening to try
the _masses_." Just as if anything she desired could be inconvenient. We
had a pleasant interview with the royal children in Lady Lyttelton's room
yesterday, and _almost_ a romp with the little Princess Royal and the
Prince of Wales. They had got a round ivory counter, which I spun for
them, and they went into such fits of laughter, it did my heart good to
hear them. The Princess Royal is wonderfully quick and clever. She is
always in the Queen's rooms when we play or sing, and she seems especially
fond of music, and stands listening most attentively, without moving.
'_Dec_. 18.--We walked with the Queen and prince yesterday to the Home
Farm, saw the turkeys crammed, looked at the pigs, and then went to see
the new aviary, where there is a beautiful collection of pigeons, fowls,
&c., of rare kinds. The pigeons are so tame that they will perch upon
Prince Albert's hat and the Queen's shoulders. It was funny seeing the
royal pair amusing themselves with farming.
'_Dec_. l9.--My waiting is nearly over, and though I shall be delighted
to get home, I always regret leaving my dear kind mistress, particularly
when I have been a good deal with Her Majesty, as I have been this
waiting. We sang again last night, and after Costa went away, I sorted a
quantity of music for the Queen; and then Prince Albert said he had
composed a German ballad, which he thought would suit my voice, and he
wished me to sing it. So his royal highness accompanied me, and I sang it
at sight, which rather alarmed me; but I got through it, and it is very
pretty. The Duchess of Kent has promised to have it copied for me.'
In 1847 Baron Stockmar wrote: 'The Queen improves greatly. She makes daily
advances in discernment and experience; the candour, the love of truth,
the fairness, the considerateness with which she judges men and things are
truly delightful, and the ingenuous self-knowledge with which she speaks
about herself is simply charming.' It was not perhaps surprising that the
Queen's views and the prince's views on public questions coincided.
When Lord Shaftesbury, then Lord Ashley, delivered a very able speech on
the Mine and Colliery Bill, the Prince-Consort wrote, 'I have carefully
perused your speech, which you were so good as to send me, and I have been
highly gratified by your efforts, as well as horror-stricken by the
statements which you have brought before the country. I know you do not
wish for praise, and I therefore withhold it; but God's best blessing will
rest with you and support you in your arduous but glorious task.'
In 1848, a year of revolution, the Prince-Consort consulted Lord
Shaftesbury as to his attitude towards the working-classes. The interview
took place at Osborne, and the Queen and Prince-Consort were greatly
alarmed by the revolution in France and the exile of Louis-Philippe. 'They
feared the continuance of commotions in England, and were desirous to know
how they could exercise their influence to soothe the people. The Queen,
on my arrival, expressed this sentiment very warmly, and added at dinner,
"The prince will talk to you to-morrow. We have sent for you to have your
opinion on what we should do in view of the state of affairs to show our
interest in the working-classes, and you are the only man who can advise
us in the matter."'
On the following morning, during a long walk of an hour and a half in the
garden, Lord Shaftesbury counselled the prince to put himself at the head
of all social movements in art and science, and especially of those
movements as they bore upon the poor, and thus would he show the interest
felt by royalty in the happiness of the kingdom. The prince did so with
marked success; and after he had presided at a Labourers' Friend Society,
a noted Socialist remarked, 'If the prince goes on like this, why, he'll
upset our apple-cart.'
The poet-laureate is an official attached to the household of royalty, and
it was long his duty to write an ode on the king's birthday. Towards the
end of the reign of George III. this was dropped. On the death of the poet
Wordsworth on 23d April 1850, the next poet-laureate was Alfred Tennyson.
The Queen, it is said, had picked up one of his earlier volumes, and had
been charmed with his 'Miller's Daughter;' her procuring a copy of the
volume for the Princess Alice gave a great impetus to his popularity. No
poet has ever written more truly and finely about royalty, as witness the
dedication to the _Idylls of the King_, which enshrines the memory of
the Prince-Consort; or the beautiful dedication to the Queen, dated March
1851, which closes thus:
Her court was pure, her life serene;
God gave her peace; her land reposed;
A thousand claims to reverence closed
In her as Mother, Wife, and Queen.
And statesmen at her council met
Who knew the seasons, when to take
Occasion by the hand, and make
The bounds of freedom wider yet.
'It is perhaps natural,' says a contemporary writer, 'for the laureates to
be loyal, but there is no doubt that the sincere tributes which he paid to
the Queen and to her consort contributed materially to the steadying of
the foundation of the British throne. He almost alone among the poets gave
expression to the inarticulate loyalty of the ordinary Englishman, and he
did it without being either servile or sycophantic. If it were only for
his dedication to the Queen and Prince-Consort, he would have repaid a
thousand times over the value of all the bottles of sherry and the annual
stipends the poet-laureates have received since the days of Ben Jonson.'
Mrs Gilchrist writes: 'Tennyson likes and admires the Queen personally
much, enjoys conversation with her. Mrs Tennyson generally goes too, and
says the Queen's manner towards him is childlike and charming, and they
both give their opinions freely, even when these differ from the Queen's,
which she takes with perfect humour, and is very animated herself.' The
Prince-Consort, to whom Tennyson dedicated his _Idylls of the King_,
Since he held them dear,
Perchance as finding there unconsciously
Some image of himself,
had his copy inscribed with the poet's autograph.
One most characteristic feature of the Queen's reign was the inauguration,
in 1851, of that system of International Exhibitions which has infused a
new and larger spirit into commerce, and whose influence as yet only
begins to work. The idea came from the Prince-Consort, and was carried out
by his unfailing industry, energy, and perseverance. Sir Joseph Paxton's
genius raised a palace of crystal in Hyde Park, inclosing within it some
of the magnificent trees, few, if any, of which were destroyed by the
undertaking. As Thackeray wrote:
A blazing arch of lucid glass
Leaps like a fountain from the grass
To meet the sun.
The Queen took the greatest interest in the work, which she felt was her
husband's. She visited it almost daily, entering into interested
conversation with the manufacturers who had brought their wares for
display. The building was opened on the 1st of May, which the Queen names
in her diary as 'a day which makes my heart swell with pride and glory and
thankfulness.' She dwells lovingly on 'the tremendous cheers, the joy
expressed in every face,' adding, 'We feel happy--so full of thankfulness.
God is indeed our kind and merciful Father.'
After the building had served its purpose, the exhibition building was
removed to Sydenham, a London suburb then almost in the country, and
opened by the Queen, 10th June 1854. Under its new name of the 'Crystal
Palace' it has since been the resort of millions of pleasure-seekers. It
was fondly hoped by its promoters that the Great Exhibition would knit the
nations together in friendship, and 'inaugurate a long reign of peace.'
Yet the year 1851 was not out before Louis Napoleon overthrew the new
French Republic, of which he had been elected president, by a _coup
d'état_, or 'stroke of policy,' as cruel as it was cowardly. Lord
Palmerston's approval of this outrage, without the knowledge of either the
Queen or Lord John Russell, procured him his dismissal from the cabinet.
Two months later, however, Palmerston 'gave Russell his tit-for-tat,'
defeating him over a Militia Bill.
In the year 1852, amid the anxieties consequent on the sudden assumption
of imperial power by Louis Napoleon, the Queen writes thus to her uncle,
King Leopold: 'I grow daily to dislike politics and business more and
more. We women are not made for governing, and if we are good women, we
must dislike these masculine occupations.'
It was about this time that unjust reports were circulated concerning the
political influence of Prince Albert, who was represented as 'inimical to
the progress of liberty throughout the world, and the friend of
reactionary movements and absolute government.' When parliament was
opened, the prince was completely vindicated, and his past services to the
country, as the bosom counsellor of the sovereign, were made clear. The
Queen naturally felt the pain of these calumnies more deeply than did the
prince himself, but on the anniversary of her wedding day she could write:
'Trials we must have; but what are they if we are together?'
[Illustration: Duke of Wellington.]
In 1852 the great Duke of Wellington died, full of years and honours. He
passed quietly away in his sleep, in his simple camp-bed in the castle of
Walmer. Though he had been opposed to the Reform Bill and many other
popular measures, he was still loved and respected by the nation for his
high sense of duty and his many sterling qualities. The hero of Waterloo
was laid beside the hero of Trafalgar in St Paul's Cathedral. He was
lowered into his grave by some of his old comrades-in-arms, who had fought
and conquered under him; and from the Queen to the humblest of her
subjects, it was felt on that day 'that a great man was dead.'
Of his death the Queen wrote: 'What a _loss!_ We cannot think of this
country without "the Duke," our immortal hero! In him centred almost every
earthly honour a subject could possess.... With what singleness of
purpose, what straightforwardness, what courage, were all the motives of
his actions guided! The crown never possessed--and I fear never
_will_--so devoted, loyal, and faithful a subject, so staunch a
An eccentric miser, J. C. Neild, who died 30th August 1852, left £250,000
to Her Majesty. This man had pinched and starved himself for thirty years
in order to accumulate this sum. The Queen satisfied herself that he had
no relations living, before accepting the money.
[Illustration: Great Exhibition of 1851.]
Chief Public Events, 1837-49--Rebellion in Canada--Opium War with
China--Wars in North-west India--Penny Postage--Repeal of the
Corn-laws--Potato Famine--Free Trade--Chartism.
The Queen had been only a few months on the throne when tidings arrived of
a rebellion in Canada. The colonists had long been dissatisfied with the
way in which the government was conducted by the mother-country. In the
year 1840 Upper and Lower Canada were united into one province, and though
the union was not at first a success, the colonists were granted the power
of managing their own affairs; and soon came to devote their efforts to
developing the resources of the country, and ceased to agitate for
complete independence. The principle of union then adopted has since been
extended to most of the other North American colonies; and at the present
time the Dominion of Canada stretches across the whole breadth of the
continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Another contest which marked the early years of the new reign was the
inglorious war with China (1839-42). The Chinese are great consumers of
opium, a hurtful drug, which produces a sort of dreamy stupor or
intoxication. The opium poppy is extensively grown in India, and every
year large quantities were exported to China. The government of the latter
country, professedly anxious to preserve its subjects from the baneful
influence of this drug, entirely prohibited the trade in it. Several
cargoes of opium belonging to British merchants were seized and destroyed,
and the trading ports closed against our vessels. Our government resented
this conduct as an interference with the freedom of commerce, and demanded
compensation and the keeping open of the ports.
As the Chinese refused to submit to the demands of those whom they
considered barbarous foreigners, a British armament was sent to enforce
our terms. The Celestials fought bravely enough, but British discipline
had all its own way. Neither the antiquated junks nor the flimsily
constructed forts of the enemy were any match for our men-of-war. Several
ports had been bombarded and Nankin threatened, when the Chinese yielded.
They were compelled to pay nearly six millions sterling towards the
expenses of the war; to give up to us the island of Hong-Kong; and to
throw open Canton, Shanghai, and three other ports to our commerce.
During this period also the British took a prominent part in upholding the
Sultan of Turkey against his revolted vassal, Mehemet Ali, the Pasha of
Egypt. The latter, a very able prince, had overrun Syria; and there seemed
every likelihood that he would shortly establish his independence, and add
besides a considerable portion of Turkish territory to his dominions. Lord
Palmerston, the British foreign minister, however, brought about an
alliance with Austria and the eastern powers of Europe to maintain the
integrity of the Turkish empire. The Egyptians were driven out of Syria,
and the supremacy of the Turks restored. The energetic action of Lord
Palmerston at this crisis brought him much popularity; and from this time
until his death, twenty-five years later, the nation almost absolutely
trusted him in all foreign affairs.
[Illustration: Sir Robert Peel.]
So necessary at the present day has the penny post become to all classes
of the people, that we can scarcely realise how our forefathers managed to
live without it. Yet even so recently as the accession of Victoria, the
nation was not in the enjoyment of this great blessing. So seldom in those
days did a letter reach the abode of a working-man, that when the postman
did make his approach, he was thought to be the bearer of news of great
The adoption of the penny postage scheme was the only great measure of
Lord Melbourne's ministry during the early years of the new reign. The
credit of it, however, did not in reality belong to the ministers. The
measure was forced upon them by the pressure of public opinion, which had
been enlightened by Rowland Hill's pamphlet upon the question. Hill was
the son of a Birmingham schoolmaster; and thus, like so many other
benefactors of the human race, was of comparatively humble origin. He had
thoroughly studied the question of postal reform, and his pamphlet, which
was first published in 1837, had a great effect upon the public mind.
Previous to this, indeed, several other persons had advocated the reform
of the post-office system, and notably Mr Wallace, member of parliament
Before 1839, the rates of postage had been very heavy, and varied
according to the distance. From one part of London, or any other large
town, to another, the rate was 2d.; from London to Brighton, 8d.; to
Edinburgh, 1s. 1d.; and to Belfast, 1s. 4d. Some of these charges were
almost equal to the daily wages of a labouring-man.
There was considerable opposition to the new measure, especially among the
officials of the postal department. Many prominent men, too, both in and
out of parliament, were afraid it would never pay. The clever and witty
Sydney Smith spoke slightingly of it as the 'nonsensical penny postage
scheme.' In spite of the objections urged against it, however, it was
adopted by parliament in the later part of 1839, and brought into actual
operation in January 1840; and the example set by this country has since
been followed by all civilised states. Every letter was now to be
_prepaid_ by affixing the penny stamp. In this way a letter not exceeding
half-an-ounce in weight could be carried to any part of the United
Kingdom. In 1871 the rate was reduced to a penny for one ounce. The
success of this great measure is best shown by the increase of letters
delivered in Great Britain and Ireland: from 85 millions in 1839, the
number had more than doubled by 1892. Thus, at the present time, the
income from stamps forms no inconsiderable item of the revenue; while it
need scarcely be said that the advantages of the penny post, both to
business men and the public generally, cannot be over-estimated.
Between the years 1839 and 1849 the British were engaged in a series of
military enterprises in the north-west of India, which greatly tried the
bravery of our soldiers, and were attended even with serious disaster.
They resulted, however, in the conquest of the territories in the basin of
the Indus, and in establishing the British sway in India more firmly than
With the view of averting certain dangers which seemed to threaten our
Indian empire in that quarter, the English invaded Afghanistan. The
expedition was, in the first instance, completely successful. Candahar and
Cabul were both occupied by British troops, and a prince friendly to
England was placed upon the throne (1839). The main force then returned to
India, leaving garrisons at Candahar and Cabul to keep the hostile tribes
The troops left behind at Cabul were destined to terrible disaster.
General Elphinstone, who commanded, relying too much on the good faith of
the Afghans, omitted to take wise measures of defence. The Afghans
secretly planned a revolt against the English, and the general, finding
himself cut off from help from India, weakly sought to make terms with the
The Afghans proved treacherous, and General Elphinstone was reduced to
begin a retreat through the wild passes towards India. It was a fearful
march. The fierce tribes who inhabited the hilly country along the route
attacked our forces in front, flank, and rear. It was the depth of winter,
and the sepoy troops, benumbed with cold, and unable to make any defence,
were cut down without mercy. Of the whole army, to the number of 4500
fighting men and 12,000 camp followers, which had left Cabul, only one man
(Dr Brydon) reached Jellalabad in safety. All the rest had perished or
been taken captive. As soon as the news of this disaster reached India,
prompt steps were taken to punish the Afghans and rescue the prisoners who
had been left in their hands. General Pollock fought his way through the
Khyber Pass, and reached Jellalabad. He then pushed forward to Cabul, and
on the way the soldiers were maddened by the sight of the skeletons of
their late comrades, which lay bleaching on the hill-sides along the
route. They exacted a terrible vengeance wherever they met the foe, and
the Afghans fled into their almost inaccessible mountains. General Nott,
with the force from Candahar, united with Pollock at Cabul. The English
prisoners were safely restored to their anxious friends. After levelling
the fortifications of Cabul, the entire force left the country.
Shortly afterwards, war broke out with the Ameers of Scinde, a large
province occupying the basin of the lower Indus. The British commander,
Sir Charles Napier, speedily proved to the enemy that the spirit of the
British army had not failed since the days of Plassey. With a force of
only 3000 men, he attacked and completely defeated two armies much
superior in numbers (1843). The result of these two victories--Meanee and
Dubba--was the annexation of Scinde to the British dominions.
The main stream of the Indus is formed by the junction of five smaller
branches. The large and fertile tract of country watered by these
tributary streams is named the Punjab, or the land of the 'five waters.'
It was inhabited by a people called the Sikhs, who, at first a religious
sect, have gradually become the bravest and fiercest warriors in India.
They had a numerous army, which was rendered more formidable by a large
train of artillery and numerous squadrons of daring cavalry.
After being long friendly to us, disturbances had arisen among them; the
army became mutinous and demanded to be led against the British. Much
severe fighting took place; at length, after a series of victories, gained
mainly by the use of the bayonet, the British army pushed on to Lahore,
the capital, and the Sikhs surrendered (1846).
Three years later they again rose; but after some further engagements,
their main army was routed with great slaughter by Lord Gough, in the
battle of Gujerat. The territory of the Punjab was thereupon added to our
The terrible famine which was passing over Ireland (1846-47), owing to the
failure of the potato crop, had to be dealt with by the ministry. The
sufferings of the Irish peasantry during this trying time were most
fearful; and sympathy was keenly aroused in this country. Parliament voted
large sums of money to relieve the distress as much as possible, the
government started public works to find employment for the poor, and their
efforts were nobly seconded by the generosity of private individuals. But
so great had been the suffering that the population of Ireland was reduced
from eight to six millions during this period.
The measure for which Peel's ministry will always be famous was the Repeal
of the Corn-laws. The population of the country was rapidly increasing;
and as there were now more mouths to fill, it became more than ever
necessary to provide a cheap and plentiful supply of bread to fill them.
For several years the nation had been divided into two parties on this
question. Those who were in favour of protection for the British
wheat-grower were called Protectionists, while those who wished to abolish
the corn-duties styled themselves Free-traders.
In the year 1839 an Anti-Corn-law League had been formed for the purpose
of spreading free-trade doctrines among the people. It had its
headquarters at Manchester, and hence the statesmen who took the leading
part in it were frequently called the 'Manchester Party.' There being no
building at that time large enough to hold the meetings in, a temporary
wooden structure was erected, the site of which is marked by the present
Free-trade Hall. The guiding spirit of the league was Richard Cobden, a
cotton manufacturer, who threw himself heart and soul into the cause. He
was assisted by many other able men, the chief of whom was the great
orator, John Bright. Branches of the league were soon established in all
the towns of the kingdom, and a paid body of lecturers was employed to
carry on the agitation and draw recruits into its ranks.
At the beginning of the year 1845, owing to the success of Peel's
financial measures, the nation was in a state of great prosperity and
contentment; and there seemed little hope that the repealers would be able
to carry their scheme for some time to come. Before the year was out,
however, the aspect of affairs was completely changed. As John Bright said
years afterwards, 'Famine itself, against which we had warred, joined us.'
There was a failure in the harvest, both the corn and potato crops being
blighted. Things in this country were bad enough; but they were far worse
in Ireland, where famine and starvation stared the people in the face.
Under these circumstances the demand for free-trade grew stronger and
stronger; and the league had the satisfaction of gaining over to its ranks
no less a person than Sir Robert Peel himself.
When Peel announced his change of opinion in the House of Commons, the
anger of the Protectionists, who were chiefly Conservatives, knew no
bounds. They considered they had been betrayed by the leader whom they had
trusted and supported. Mr Disraeli, in a speech of great bitterness,
taunted the prime-minister with his change of views. His speech was
cheered to the echo by the angry Protectionists; and from this moment
Disraeli became the spokesman and leader of that section of the
Conservative party which was opposed to repeal.
The next year a measure for the repeal of the corn-laws was introduced
into parliament by the prime-minister. In spite of the fierce opposition
of Mr Disraeli and his friends, it passed both Houses by large majorities.
At the close of the debates, Peel frankly acknowledged that the honour of
passing this great measure was due, not to himself, but to Richard Cobden.
On the very day on which the Corn Bill passed the Lords, the Peel ministry
was defeated in the Commons on a question of Irish coercion, and had to
[Illustration: The Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava.]
The fall of the government was brought about by the Protectionists, who on
this occasion united with their Whig opponents for the purpose of being
avenged upon their old leader.
Peel bore his retirement with great dignity, and firmly refused to accept
any honours either for himself or his family. Four years afterwards, he
was thrown from his horse while riding up Constitution Hill, and the
injuries he received caused his death in a few days. A monument was
erected to him in Westminster Abbey. On its base are inscribed the closing
words of the speech in which he announced his resignation: 'It may be that
I shall leave a name sometimes remembered with expressions of good-will in
the abodes of those whose lot it is to labour, and to earn their daily
bread by the sweat of their brow, when they shall recruit their exhausted
strength with abundant and untaxed food, the sweeter because it is no
longer leavened with a sense of injustice.'
On the retirement of Sir Robert Peel from office in 1846, Lord John
Russell became prime-minister, with Lord Palmerston as foreign secretary.
No very great measures were passed by the new ministry, but the policy of
free trade recently adopted by the country was steadily carried out. But,
although parliament did not occupy itself with any very important reforms
during his tenure of office, Lord Russell had his hands quite full in
other respects. Chartism came to a head during this period; and besides
this, there were fresh difficulties in Ireland in store for the new
For ten years during the early part of the reign of Victoria, Chartism was
like a dark shadow over the land, causing much uneasiness among peaceable
and well-disposed persons. The Reform Bill of 1832 had disappointed the
expectations of the working-classes. They themselves had not been
enfranchised by it; and to this fact they were ready to ascribe the
poverty and wretchedness which still undoubtedly existed among them.
It was not long, therefore, before an agitation was set on foot for the
purpose of bringing about a further reform of parliament. At a meeting
held in Birmingham (1838), the People's Charter was drawn up. It contained
six 'points' which henceforward were to be the watchwords of the party,
until they succeeded in carrying them into law. These points were (1)
universal suffrage; (2) annual parliaments; (3) vote by ballot; (4) the
right of any one to sit in parliament, irrespective of property; (5) the
payment of members; and (6) the redistribution of the country into equal
The agitation came to a head in 1848. Britain had thus her own 'little
flutter' of revolution, like so many other European countries during that
memorable year. On the 10th of April, the Chartists were to muster on
Kennington Common half a million strong. Headed by O'Connor, they were
then to enter London in procession bearing a monster petition to
parliament insisting on their six 'points.' The demonstration, however,
which had called forth all these preparations, proved a miserable failure.
Instead of half a million people, only some twenty or thirty thousand
appeared at the place of meeting, and the peace of the capital was not in
the least disturbed. From this time Chartism fell into contempt, and
speedily died out. Of the six 'points,' all but the second and fifth have
since that time become the law of the land, as the growing requirements of
the nation have seemed to render them necessary.
The Crimean War, 1854-55--Siege of
Sebastopol--Balaklava--Inkermann--Interest of the Queen and Prince-Consort
in the suffering Soldiers--Florence Nightingale--Distribution of Victoria
Crosses by the Queen.
For a long time the Turkish empire had been gradually falling into decay,
and the possessions of the Turk--the 'sick man,' as he has been aptly
termed--had excited the greed of neighbouring countries. Russia especially
had made several attempts to put an end to the 'sick man' by violent
means, and seize upon his rich inheritance.
The year 1853 seemed to the Czar Nicholas to be a favourable time for
accomplishing his designs against Turkey. Great Britain and France both
vigorously remonstrated against the proceedings of the Czar; but believing
that neither of them would fight, he commanded his armies to cross the
Pruth into Turkish territory. By this step the 'dogs of war' were once
more slipped in Europe, after a peace of forty years' duration. The
Russian forces pushed on for the Danube, doubtless expecting to cross that
river and take possession of the long-wished-for prize of Constantinople
before the western powers had made up their minds whether to fight or not.
To their disappointment, however, the Russians met with a most stubborn
resistance from the Turks, and utterly failed to take the fortress of
Silistria, where the besieged were encouraged and directed by some British
Meanwhile, the queen of Great Britain and the emperor of France had both
declared war against Russia, March 28, 1854. Before long, our fleets were
scouring the Baltic and the Black seas, chasing and capturing every
Russian vessel which dared to venture out, bombarding the fortresses, and
blockading the seaports. Two armies also were sent out to the assistance
of Turkey; the British force being commanded by Lord Raglan, and the
French by Marshal St Arnaud.
The Turks having repulsed the Russian armies on the Danube, the allies
resolved to invade the peninsula of the Crimea, and make an assault upon
the Russian fortress of Sebastopol. The great fortress was a standing
menace to Turkey; and to effect its destruction seemed the likeliest means
of humbling Russia and bringing the war to a close. Accordingly a landing
of the allied forces--British, French, and Turkish--to the number of
54,000 men, was made on the Crimea, at Eupatoria, no opposition being
offered by the enemy. The army then set forward along the coast toward the
Russian stronghold, the fleet accompanying it by sea. In order to bar the
progress of the allied forces, the Russian army of the Crimea was strongly
posted on a ridge of heights, with the small stream of the Alma in front,
September 20, 1854. After a severe struggle the heights were gallantly
stormed, and the Russians retreated towards Sebastopol.
The allied armies now laid siege to Sebastopol. It went on for a year,
during which the invaders were exposed to many hardships from the assaults
of the foe, and the severity of the climate during the winter months.
Before the year was out, also, both Lord Raglan and the French general
died, and their places were taken by others. Nor did the Czar Nicholas
live to witness the result of the war which he had commenced. His son,
Alexander, made no change, however, but trod in the footsteps of his sire.
In the early days of the siege, and before the allies had got
reinforcements from home, the Russians made several formidable attacks
upon the camp. Their first attempt was directed against the British lines,
with the design of capturing the port of Balaklava, October 25, 1854. They
were gallantly repulsed, however, chiefly by Sir Colin Campbell and his
Highlanders, who firmly stood their ground against the charge of the
Russian horse. The British cavalry, advancing to the assistance of the
infantry, cut through the masses of their opponents as if they had been
men of straw. It was in this battle that the famous charge of the Light
Brigade took place, when, owing to some misunderstanding on the part of
the commanders, six hundred of our light horsemen, entirely unsupported,
rode at full gallop upon the Russian batteries. It was a brilliant but
disastrous feat; in the space of a few minutes, four hundred of the
gallant men were uselessly sacrificed. 'It is magnificent, but it is not
war,' was the remark of a French general.
Shortly afterwards occurred the desperate fight of Inkermann, November 5,
1854, where about 8000 British troops bravely stood their ground for hours
against 40,000 Russians. Upon their ammunition running short, some of our
brave men, rather than retreat, hurled volleys of stones at the foe.
Ultimately, a strong body of the French came to their aid, and the
Russians were driven from the field.
Not long after this encounter, the besiegers met with a disaster which did
them more harm than all the assaults of the Russian hordes. A terrific
storm swept across the Black Sea and the Crimea, November 14, 1854. A
great number of the vessels in Balaklava harbour were wrecked, and there
was an immense loss of stores of all kinds intended for the troops. The
hurricane also produced the most dreadful consequences on land. Tents were
blown down, fires extinguished, and food and cooking utensils destroyed.
The poor soldiers, drenched to the skin, and without so much as a dry
blanket to wrap round them, had to pass the dreary night as best they
could upon the soft wet ground. For some time afterwards there was a great
scarcity of food and clothing and other necessaries, and much suffering
was endured during the long dreary winter. When tidings of these
misfortunes reached England there was much indignation against the
government, and especially against the officials whose duty it was to keep
the army properly supplied with stores. The prime-minister, the Earl of
Aberdeen, resigned, and was succeeded by Lord Palmerston. Vigorous steps
were now taken to provide for the comfort of the troops, and in a short
time the camp was abundantly supplied with everything necessary.
All through the following summer the siege operations went on. Nearer and
nearer approached the trenches towards the doomed city, which at intervals
was subjected to a terrific bombardment from hundreds of guns. The allied
armies had been strongly reinforced from home, and had also been joined by
a Sardinian force, so that the Russians no longer ventured to attack them
so frequently. At length the advances of the allies were completed, and
the final cannonade took place, and lasted for three days. The storming
columns then carried the main forts; and the Russians, finding that
further resistance was useless, evacuated the town during the night, and
the following day it was taken possession of by the combined armies. With
the capture of Sebastopol, 8th Sept., 1855, the war was virtually at an
end, though peace was not formally declared till six months afterwards by
the Treaty of Paris.
The Queen and prince watched intently every movement of the tremendous
drama. In the terrible winter of 1855, the Queen's thoughts were with her
troops, suffering in the inclement weather, amid arrangements that proved
miserably inadequate to their needs. On 6th December 1854, the Queen wrote
the following letter to Mr Sidney Herbert, Secretary of War. 'Would you
tell Mrs Herbert that I begged she would let me see frequently the
accounts she receives from Miss Nightingale or Mrs Bracebridge, as I hear
no details of the wounded, though I see so many from officers, &c., about
the battlefield; and naturally the former must interest me more than any
one. Let Mrs Herbert also know that I wish Miss Nightingale and the ladies
would tell these poor, noble, wounded and sick men that no one takes a
warmer interest, or feels more for their sufferings, or admires their
courage and heroism more than their Queen. Day and night she thinks of her
beloved troops; so does the prince.' With her own hands she made
comforters, mittens, and other articles of clothing, for distribution
among the soldiers, and she wrote to Lord Raglan that she 'had heard that
their coffee was given to them green, instead of roasted, and some other
things of this kind, which had distressed her, and she besought that they
should be made as comfortable as circumstances can admit.'
The little princes and princesses contributed their childish but very
pretty drawings to an exhibition which was opened for the benefit of the
soldiers' widows and children. As the disabled soldiers returned to this
country, the Queen and the prince took the earliest opportunity of
ascertaining by personal observation in what condition they were, and how
they were cared for. And when the war was over, Miss Florence Nightingale,
the soldier's nurse and friend, was an honoured guest in the royal family,
'putting before us,' writes the prince, 'all the defects of our present
military hospital system, and the reforms that are needed.' On 5th March
1855, the Queen wrote to Lord Panmure suggesting the necessity of
hospitals for sick and wounded soldiers, which eventually took shape in
the great military hospital at Netley.
[Illustration: Victoria Cross.]
Victoria Crosses were distributed by the Queen in Hyde Park, 26th June
1857, to those soldiers who had performed special acts of bravery in
presence of the enemy. This decoration was instituted at the close of the
Crimean War, and has since been conferred from time to time. It is in the
form of a Maltese cross, and is made of bronze. In the centre are the
royal arms, surmounted by the lion, and below, in a scroll, the words 'For
Valour.' The ribbon is blue for the navy, and red for the army. On the
clasp are two branches of laurel, and from it the cross hangs, supported
by the initial 'V.'
[Illustration: Massacre at Cawnpore.]
The Indian Mutiny, 1857-58--Cause of the Mutiny--Massacre of
Cawnpore--Relief of Lucknow--The Queen's Letter to Lord Canning.
Exactly one hundred years after Clive had laid the foundation of our
empire in India by the victory of Plassey, events occurred in that country
which completely cast into the shade the tragic incident of the 'Black
Hole' of Calcutta. During the century which had elapsed since the days of
Clive, the British power had been extended, till nearly the whole of the
great peninsula from the Himalaya Mountains to Cape Comorin was subject to
our sway. A native army had been formed, which far outnumbered the British
force maintained there. The loyalty of these sepoy troops had not hitherto
been suspected; and in fact they had frequently given proofs of their
fidelity in the frontier wars.
Unsuspected by the officers, a spirit of discontent had been gradually
spreading among the sepoy regiments. An impression had become prevalent
among them that the British government intended forcing them to give up
their ancient faith and become Christians. Just about this time, the new
Enfield rifle was distributed among them in place of the old 'brown Bess.'
The cartridges intended for this weapon were greased; and as the ends of
them had to be bitten off before use, the sepoys fancied that the fat of
the cow--an animal they had been taught to consider sacred--had been
purposely used in order to degrade them, and make them lose caste.
The fierce temper of the sepoys was now thoroughly roused, and a general
mutiny took place. It commenced at Meerut, where the native troops rose
against their officers, and put them to death, and then took possession of
the ancient city of Delhi, which remained in their hands for some months.
The rebellion quickly spread to other towns, and for a short time a great
portion of the north and centre of India was in the power of the rebels.
Wherever they got the upper hand, they were guilty of shocking deeds of
cruelty upon the Europeans. The British troops which were stationed in
different places offered the most heroic resistance to the rebels, and the
mutiny was at length suppressed.
Of all the incidents of that terrible year, two stand out in bold relief,
on account of the thrilling interest attaching to them. These are the
massacre of Cawnpore and the relief of Lucknow. Cawnpore, which was in the
heart of the disaffected area, contained about a thousand Europeans, of
whom two-thirds were women and children. The defensive post into which
they had thrown themselves at the beginning of the outbreak was speedily
surrounded by an overwhelming number of the mutineers, led on by the
infamous Nana Sahib. The few defenders held out bravely for a time, but at
last surrendered on a promise of being allowed to depart in safety. The
sepoys accompanied them to the river-side, but as soon as the men were on
board the boats, a murderous fire was opened upon them, and only one man
escaped. The women and children, being reserved for a still more cruel
fate, were carried back to Cawnpore. Hearing that General Havelock was
approaching with a body of troops for the relief of the place, Nana Sahib
marched out to intercept him, but was driven back. Smarting under this
defeat, he returned to Cawnpore, and gave directions for the instant
massacre of his helpless prisoners. His orders were promptly carried out
by his troops, under circumstances of the most shocking cruelty. Shortly
afterwards, Havelock and his little army arrived, but only to find, to
their unutterable grief, that they were too late to rescue their
unfortunate countrywomen and their children.
[Illustration: Relief of Lucknow.]
Havelock now marched to the relief of Lucknow, where the British garrison,
under Sir Henry Lawrence, was surrounded by thousands of the rebels.
Havelock encountered the enemy over and over again on his march, and
inflicted defeat upon them. Step by step, our men fought their way into
the fort at Lucknow, where, if they could not relieve their friends, they
could remain and die with them. But this was not to be. Another deliverer
with a stronger force was coming swiftly up; and very soon the ears of the
anxious defenders were gladdened by the martial sound of the bagpipes,
playing 'The Campbells are coming;' and shortly afterwards, Sir Colin
Campbell and his gallant Highlanders--the victors of Balaklava--were
grasping the hands of their brother veterans, who were thus at length
relieved. The brave Lawrence had died from his wounds before Sir Colin
arrived, and Havelock only survived a few weeks. He lived long enough,
however, to see that by his heroic efforts he had upheld Britain's power
in her darkest moment; and that her forces were now coming on with
irresistible might, to complete the work which he had so gallantly begun.
The power of the rebels in that quarter was now broken. In Central India
Sir Hugh Rose had been equally successful; and the heroic deeds of the
British troops in suppressing the revolt cannot be better described than
in the words of this general, in addressing his soldiers after the triumph
was achieved: 'Soldiers, you have marched more than a thousand miles and
taken more than a hundred guns; you have forced your way through
mountain-passes and intricate jungles, and over rivers; you have captured
the strongest forts, and beat the enemy, no matter what the odds, wherever
you met them; you have restored extensive districts to the government; and
peace and order now reign where before for twelve months were tyranny and
This rising led to an alteration in the government of India. The old East
India Company was abolished, and its power transferred to the crown, which
is represented in parliament by a secretary of state, and in India by a
viceroy. More recently the Queen received the title of Empress of India.
When the mutiny was quelled, nobody deprecated more than the Queen did the
vindictiveness with which a certain section of the English people desired
to treat all the countrymen of the military mutineers whose reported
atrocities had roused their indignation. The Queen wrote to Lord Canning
that she shared 'his feelings of sorrow and indignation at the unchristian
spirit shown towards Indians in general and towards sepoys without
discrimination.... To the nation at large--to the peaceable
inhabitants--to the many kind and friendly natives who have assisted us,
sheltered the fugitives, and been faithful and true--there should be shown
the greatest kindness.... The greatest wish on their Queen's part is to
see them happy, contented, and flourishing.'
Marriage of the Princess Royal--Carriage Accident--Twenty-first
Anniversary of Wedding-day--Death of the Prince-Consort.
Meanwhile a domestic incident had made a great change in the royal family.
The Princess Royal had become engaged to Prince Frederick-William of
Prussia (for three months Emperor of Germany), and the marriage came off
on the 25th of January 1858. It was the first break in the home circle.
The Queen recorded it in her diary as 'the second most eventful day in my
life as regards feelings.' Before the wedding, the Queen and her daughter
were photographed together, but the Queen 'trembled so, that her likeness
came out indistinct.' The correspondence between the mother and her
daughter began and continued, close and confidential, full of trusting
affection and solicitous wisdom.
On November 9, 1858, the Prince of Wales celebrated his eighteenth
birthday. Mr Greville in his journal tells us that on that occasion the
Queen wrote her son 'one of the most admirable letters that ever were
penned.' She told him that he may have thought the rule they adopted for
his education a severe one, but that his welfare was their only object,
and well knowing to what seductions of flattery he would eventually be
exposed, they wished to prepare and strengthen his mind against them; that
he must now consider himself his own master, and that they should never
intrude any advice upon him, although always ready to counsel him whenever
he thought fit to attend. This was a very long letter, which the prince
received with a feeling that proved the wisdom which dictated it.
In 1860, while travelling with the Queen in Germany, the Prince-Consort
met with a severe carriage accident, his comparative escape from which
left the Queen full of happy thanksgiving, though, as she herself says,
'when she feels most deeply, she always appears calmest.' But, she added,
she 'could not rest without doing something to mark permanently her
feelings. In times of old,' she considered, 'a church or a monument would
probably have been erected on the spot.' But her desire was to do
something which might benefit her fellow-creatures.
The outgrowth of this true impulse of the Queen's was the establishment of
the 'Victoria Stift' at Coburg, whereby sums of money are applied in
apprenticing worthy young men or in purchasing tools for them, and in
giving dowries to deserving young women or otherwise settling them in
In the course of the same year the Queen's second daughter, Princess
Alice, afterwards the friend and companion of her mother's first days of
widowhood, was betrothed to Prince Louis of Hesse. In February 1861, the
Queen and the Prince-Consort kept the twenty-first anniversary of their
wedding-day--'a day which has brought us,' says the Queen, 'and I may say,
to the world at large, such incalculable blessings. Very few can say with
me,' she adds, 'that their husband at the end of twenty-one years is not
only full of the friendship, kindness, and affection which a truly happy
marriage brings with it, but of the same tender love as in the very first
days of our marriage.' The Prince-Consort wrote to the aged Duchess of
Kent, 'You have, I trust, found good and loving children in us, and we
have experienced nothing but love and kindness from you.'
Alas! it was the death of that beloved mother which was to cast the first
of the many shadows which have since fallen upon the royal home. The
duchess died, after a slight illness, rather suddenly at last, the Queen
and the prince reaching her side too late for any recognition. It was a
terrible blow to the Queen: she wrote to her uncle Leopold that she felt
'truly orphaned.' Her sister, the Princess Hohenlohe, daughter of the
Duchess of Kent by her first marriage, could not come to England at the
time, but wrote letters full of sympathy and inspiration; yet Her Majesty
became very nervous, and was inclined to shrink into solitude, even from
her children, and to find comfort nowhere but with the beloved consort who
was himself so soon to be taken from her.
The great blow which made the royal lady a widow, and deprived the whole
country of the throne's wisest and most disinterested counsellor, came on
the 14th of December 1861.
In the year 1861, what with public and private anxieties, the prince felt
ill and feverish, and miserable. He passed his last birthday on a visit to
Ireland, where the Prince of Wales was serving in the camp at the Curragh
of Kildare. From Ireland, the Queen, the prince, Prince Alfred, and the