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Queen Victoria by Lytton Strachey

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On November 6, 1817, died the Princess Charlotte, only child of the Prince
Regent, and heir to the crown of England. Her short life had hardly been a
happy one. By nature impulsive, capricious, and vehement, she had always
longed for liberty; and she had never possessed it. She had been brought up
among violent family quarrels, had been early separated from her disreputable
and eccentric mother, and handed over to the care of her disreputable and
selfish father. When she was seventeen, he decided to marry her off to the
Prince of Orange; she, at first, acquiesced; but, suddenly falling in love
with Prince Augustus of Prussia, she determined to break off the engagement.
This was not her first love affair, for she had previously carried on a
clandestine correspondence with a Captain Hess. Prince Augustus was already
married, morganatically, but she did not know it, and he did not tell her.
While she was spinning out the negotiations with the Prince of Orange, the
allied sovereign--it was June, 1814--arrived in London to celebrate their
victory. Among them, in the suite of the Emperor of Russia, was the young and
handsome Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg. He made several attempts to attract
the notice of the Princess, but she, with her heart elsewhere, paid very
little attention. Next month the Prince Regent, discovering that his daughter
was having secret meetings with Prince Augustus, suddenly appeared upon the
scene and, after dismissing her household, sentenced her to a strict seclusion
in Windsor Park. "God Almighty grant me patience!" she exclaimed, falling on
her knees in an agony of agitation: then she jumped up, ran down the
backstairs and out into the street, hailed a passing cab, and drove to her
mother's house in Bayswater. She was discovered, pursued, and at length,
yielding to the persuasions of her uncles, the Dukes of York and Sussex, of
Brougham, and of the Bishop of Salisbury, she returned to Carlton House at two
o'clock in the morning. She was immured at Windsor, but no more was heard of
the Prince of Orange. Prince Augustus, too, disappeared. The way was at last
open to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg.

This Prince was clever enough to get round the Regent, to impress the
Ministers, and to make friends with another of the Princess's uncles, the Duke
of Kent. Through the Duke he was able to communicate privately with the
Princess, who now declared that he was necessary to her happiness. When, after
Waterloo, he was in Paris, the Duke's aide-de-camp carried letters backwards
and forwards across the Channel. In January 1816 he was invited to England,
and in May the marriage took place.

The character of Prince Leopold contrasted strangely with that of his wife.
The younger son of a German princeling, he was at this time twenty-six years
of age; he had served with distinction in the war against Napoleon; he had
shown considerable diplomatic skill at the Congress of Vienna; and he was now
to try his hand at the task of taming a tumultuous Princess. Cold and formal
in manner, collected in speech, careful in action, he soon dominated the wild,
impetuous, generous creature by his side. There was much in her, he found, of
which he could not approve. She quizzed, she stamped, she roared with
laughter; she had very little of that self-command which is especially
required of princes; her manners were abominable. Of the latter he was a good
judge, having moved, as he himself explained to his niece many years later, in
the best society of Europe, being in fact "what is called in French de la
fleur des pois." There was continual friction, but every scene ended in the
same way. Standing before him like a rebellious boy in petticoats, her body
pushed forward, her hands behind her back, with flaming cheeks and sparkling
eyes, she would declare at last that she was ready to do whatever he wanted.
"If you wish it, I will do it," she would say. "I want nothing for myself," he
invariably answered; "When I press something on you, it is from a conviction
that it is for your interest and for your good."

Among the members of the household at Claremont, near Esher, where the royal
pair were established, was a young German physician, Christian Friedrich
Stockmar. He was the son of a minor magistrate in Coburg, and, after taking
part as a medical officer in the war, he had settled down as a doctor in his
native town. Here he had met Prince Leopold, who had been struck by his
ability, and, on his marriage, brought him to England as his personal
physician. A curious fate awaited this young man; many were the gifts which
the future held in store for him--many and various--influence, power, mystery,
unhappiness, a broken heart. At Claremont his position was a very humble one;
but the Princess took a fancy to him, called him "Stocky," and romped with him
along the corridors. Dyspeptic by constitution, melancholic by temperament, he
could yet be lively on occasion, and was known as a wit in Coburg. He was
virtuous, too, and served the royal menage with approbation. "My master," he
wrote in his diary, "is the best of all husbands in all the five quarters of
the globe; and his wife bears him an amount of love, the greatness of which
can only be compared with the English national debt." Before long he gave
proof of another quality--a quality which was to colour the whole of his
life-cautious sagacity. When, in the spring of 1817, it was known that the
Princess was expecting a child, the post of one of her physicians-in-ordinary
was offered to him, and he had the good sense to refuse it. He perceived that
his colleagues would be jealous of him, that his advice would probably not be
taken, but that, if anything were to go wrong, it would be certainly the
foreign doctor who would be blamed. Very soon, indeed, he came to the opinion
that the low diet and constant bleedings, to which the unfortunate Princess
was subjected, were an error; he drew the Prince aside, and begged him to
communicate this opinion to the English doctors; but it was useless. The
fashionable lowering treatment was continued for months. On November 5, at
nine o'clock in the evening, after a labour of over fifty hours, the Princess
was delivered of a dead boy. At midnight her exhausted strength gave way.
When, at last, Stockmar consented to see her; he went in, and found her
obviously dying, while the doctors were plying her with wine. She seized his
hand and pressed it. "They have made me tipsy," she said. After a little he
left her, and was already in the next room when he heard her call out in her
loud voice: "Stocky! Stocky!" As he ran back the death-rattle was in her
throat. She tossed herself violently from side to side; then suddenly drew up
her legs, and it was over.

The Prince, after hours of watching, had left the room for a few moments'
rest; and Stockmar had now to tell him that his wife was dead. At first he
could not be made to realise what had happened. On their way to her room he
sank down on a chair while Stockmar knelt beside him: it was all a dream; it
was impossible. At last, by the bed, he, too, knelt down and kissed the cold
hands. Then rising and exclaiming, "Now I am quite desolate. Promise me never
to leave me," he threw himself into Stockmar's arms.


The tragedy at Claremont was of a most upsetting kind. The royal kaleidoscope
had suddenly shifted, and nobody could tell how the new pattern would arrange
itself. The succession to the throne, which had seemed so satisfactorily
settled, now became a matter of urgent doubt.

George III was still living, an aged lunatic, at Windsor, completely
impervious to the impressions of the outer world. Of his seven sons, the
youngest was of more than middle age, and none had legitimate offspring. The
outlook, therefore, was ambiguous. It seemed highly improbable that the Prince
Regent, who had lately been obliged to abandon his stays, and presented a
preposterous figure of debauched obesity, could ever again, even on the
supposition that he divorced his wife and re-married, become the father of a
family. Besides the Duke of Kent, who must be noticed separately, the other
brothers, in order of seniority, were the Dukes of York, Clarence, Cumberland,
Sussex, and Cambridge; their situations and prospects require a brief
description. The Duke of York, whose escapades in times past with Mrs. Clarke
and the army had brought him into trouble, now divided his life between London
and a large, extravagantly ordered and extremely uncomfortable country house
where he occupied himself with racing, whist, and improper stories. He was
remarkable among the princes for one reason: he was the only one of them--so
we are informed by a highly competent observer--who had the feelings of a
gentleman. He had been long married to the Princess Royal of Prussia, a lady
who rarely went to bed and was perpetually surrounded by vast numbers of dogs,
parrots, and monkeys. They had no children. The Duke of Clarence had lived for
many years in complete obscurity with Mrs. Jordan, the actress, in Bushey
Park. By her he had had a large family of sons and daughters, and had
appeared, in effect to be married to her, when he suddenly separated from her
and offered to marry Miss Wykeham, a crazy woman of large fortune, who,
however, would have nothing to say to him. Shortly afterwards Mrs. Jordan died
in distressed circumstances in Paris. The Duke of Cumberland was probably the
most unpopular man in England. Hideously ugly, with a distorted eye, he was
bad-tempered and vindictive in private, a violent reactionary in politics, and
was subsequently suspected of murdering his valet and of having carried on an
amorous intrigue of an extremely scandalous kind. He had lately married a
German Princess, but there were as yet no children by the marriage. The Duke
of Sussex had mildly literary tastes and collected books. He had married Lady
Augusta Murray, by whom he had two children, but the marriage, under the Royal
Marriages Act, was declared void. On Lady Augusta's death, he married Lady
Cecilia Buggin; she changed her name to Underwood, but this marriage also was
void. Of the Duke of Cambridge, the youngest of the brothers, not very much
was known. He lived in Hanover, wore a blonde wig, chattered and fidgeted a
great deal, and was unmarried.

Besides his seven sons, George III had five surviving daughters. Of these,
two--the Queen of Wurtemberg and the Duchess of Gloucester--were married and
childless. The three unmarried princesses--Augusta, Elizabeth, and
Sophia--were all over forty.


The fourth son of George III was Edward, Duke of Kent. He was now fifty years
of age--a tall, stout, vigorous man, highly-coloured, with bushy eyebrows, a
bald top to his head, and what hair he had carefully dyed a glossy black. His
dress was extremely neat, and in his whole appearance there was a rigidity
which did not belie his character. He had spent his early life in the army--at
Gibraltar, in Canada, in the West Indies--and, under the influence of military
training, had become at first a disciplinarian and at last a martinet. In
1802, having been sent to Gibraltar to restore order in a mutinous garrison,
he was recalled for undue severity, and his active career had come to an end.
Since then he had spent his life regulating his domestic arrangements with
great exactitude, busying himself with the affairs of his numerous dependents,
designing clocks, and struggling to restore order to his finances, for, in
spite of his being, as someone said who knew him well "regle comme du papier a
musique," and in spite of an income of L24,000 a year, he was hopelessly in
debt. He had quarrelled with most of his brothers, particularly with the
Prince Regent, and it was only natural that he should have joined the
political Opposition and become a pillar of the Whigs.

What his political opinions may actually have been is open to doubt; it has
often been asserted that he was a Liberal, or even a Radical; and, if we are
to believe Robert Owen, he was a necessitarian Socialist. His relations with
Owen--the shrewd, gullible, high-minded, wrong-headed, illustrious and
preposterous father of Socialism and Co-operation--were curious and
characteristic. He talked of visiting the Mills at New Lanark, he did, in
fact, preside at one of Owen's public meetings; he corresponded with him on
confidential terms, and he even (so Owen assures us) returned, after his
death, from "the sphere of spirits" to give encouragement to the Owenites on
earth. "In an especial manner," says Owen, "I have to name the very anxious
feelings of the spirit of his Royal Highness the Late Duke of Kent (who early
informed me that there were no titles in the spititual spheres into which he
had entered), to benefit, not a class, a sect, a party, or any particular
country, but the whole of the human race, through futurity." "His whole
spirit-proceeding with me has been most beautiful," Owen adds, "making his own
appointments; and never in one instance has this spirit not been punctual to
the minute he had named." But Owen was of a sanguine temperament. He also
numbered among his proselytes President Jefferson, Prince Metternich, and
Napoleon; so that some uncertainty must still linger over the Duke of Kent's
views. But there is no uncertainty about another circumstance: his Royal
Highness borrowed from Robert Owen, on various occasions, various sums of
money which were never repaid and amounted in all to several hundred pounds.

After the death of the Princess Charlotte it was clearly important, for more
than one reason, that the Duke of Kent should marry. From the point of view of
the nation, the lack of heirs in the reigning family seemed to make the step
almost obligatory; it was also likely to be highly expedient from the point of
view of the Duke. To marry as a public duty, for the sake of the royal
succession, would surely deserve some recognition from a grateful country.
When the Duke of York had married he had received a settlement of L25,000 a
year. Why should not the Duke of Kent look forward to an equal sum? But the
situation was not quite simple. There was the Duke of Clarence to be
considered; he was the elder brother, and, if HE married, would clearly have
the prior claim. On the other hand, if the Duke of Kent married, it was
important to remember that he would be making a serious sacrifice: a lady was

The Duke, reflecting upon all these matters with careful attention, happened,
about a month after his niece's death, to visit Brussels, and learnt that Mr.
Creevey was staying in the town. Mr. Creevey was a close friend of the leading
Whigs and an inveterate gossip; and it occurred to the Duke that there could
be no better channel through which to communicate his views upon the situation
to political circles at home. Apparently it did not occur to him that Mr.
Creevey was malicious and might keep a diary. He therefore sent for him on
some trivial pretext, and a remarkable conversation ensued.

After referring to the death of the Princess, to the improbability of the
Regent's seeking a divorce, to the childlessness of the Duke of York, and to
the possibility of the Duke of Clarence marrying, the Duke adverted to his own
position. "Should the Duke of Clarence not marry," he said, "the next prince
in succession is myself, and although I trust I shall be at all times ready to
obey any call my country may make upon me, God only knows the sacrifice it
will be to make, whenever I shall think it my duty to become a married man. It
is now seven and twenty years that Madame St. Laurent and I have lived
together: we are of the same age, and have been in all climates, and in all
difficulties together, and you may well imagine, Mr. Creevey, the pang it will
occasion me to part with her. I put it to your own feelings--in the event of
any separation between you and Mrs. Creevey... As for Madame St. Laurent
herself, I protest I don't know what is to become of her if a marriage is to
be forced upon me; her feelings are already so agitated upon the subject." The
Duke went on to describe how, one morning, a day or two after the Princess
Charlotte's death, a paragraph had appeared in the Morning Chronicle, alluding
to the possibility of his marriage. He had received the newspaper at breakfast
together with his letters, and "I did as is my constant practice, I threw the
newspaper across the table to Madame St. Laurent, and began to open and read
my letters. I had not done so but a very short time, when my attention was
called to an extraordinary noise and a strong convulsive movement in Madame
St. Laurent's throat. For a short time I entertained serious apprehensions for
her safety; and when, upon her recovery, I enquired into the occasion of this
attack, she pointed to the article in the Morning Chronicle."

The Duke then returned to the subject of the Duke of Clarence. "My brother the
Duke of Clarence is the elder brother, and has certainly the right to marry if
he chooses, and I would not interfere with him on any account. If he wishes to
be king--to be married and have children, poor man--God help him! Let him do
so. For myself--I am a man of no ambition, and wish only to remain as I am...
Easter, you know, falls very early this year--the 22nd of March. If the Duke
of Clarence does not take any step before that time, I must find some pretext
to reconcile Madame St. Laurent to my going to England for a short time. When
once there, it will be easy for me to consult with my friends as to the proper
steps to be taken. Should the Duke of Clarence do nothing before that time as
to marrying it will become my duty, no doubt, to take some measures upon the
subject myself." Two names, the Duke said, had been mentioned in this
connection--those of the Princess of Baden and the Princess of Saxe-Coburg.
The latter, he thought, would perhaps be the better of the two, from the
circumstance of Prince Leopold being so popular with the nation; but before
any other steps were taken, he hoped and expected to see justice done to
Madame St. Laurent. "She is," he explained, "of very good family, and has
never been an actress, and I am the first and only person who ever lived with
her. Her disinterestedness, too, has been equal to her fidelity. When she
first came to me it was upon L100 a year. That sum was afterwards raised to
L400 and finally to L1000; but when my debts made it necessary for me to
sacrifice a great part of my income, Madame St. Laurent insisted upon again
returning to her income of L400 a year. If Madame St. Laurent is to return to
live amongst her friends, it must be in such a state of independence as to
command their respect. I shall not require very much, but a certain number of
servants and a carriage are essentials." As to his own settlement, the Duke
observed that he would expect the Duke of York's marriage to be considered the
precedent. "That," he said, "was a marriage for the succession, and L25,000
for income was settled, in addition to all his other income, purely on that
account. I shall be contented with the same arrangement, without making any
demands grounded on the difference of the value of money in 1792 and at
present. As for the payment of my debts," the Duke concluded, "I don't call
them great. The nation, on the contrary, is greatly my debtor." Here a clock
struck, and seemed to remind the Duke that he had an appointment; he rose, and
Mr. Creevey left him.

Who could keep such a communication secret? Certainly not Mr. Creevey. He
hurried off to tell the Duke of Wellington, who was very much amused, and he
wrote a long account of it to Lord Sefton, who received the letter "very
apropos," while a surgeon was sounding his bladder to ascertain whether he had
a stone. "I never saw a fellow more astonished than he was," wrote Lord Sefton
in his reply, "at seeing me laugh as soon as the operation was over. Nothing
could be more first-rate than the royal Edward's ingenuousness. One does not
know which to admire most--the delicacy of his attachment to Madame St.
Laurent, the refinement of his sentiments towards the Duke of Clarence, or his
own perfect disinterestedness in pecuniary matters."

As it turned out, both the brothers decided to marry. The Duke of Kent,
selecting the Princess of Saxe-Coburg in preference to the Princess of Baden,
was united to her on May 29, 1818. On June 11, the Duke of Clarence followed
suit with a daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Meiningen. But they were disappointed
in their financial expectations; for though the Government brought forward
proposals to increase their allowances, together with that of the Duke of
Cumberland, the motions were defeated in the House of Commons. At this the
Duke of Wellington was not surprised. "By God!" he said, "there is a great
deal to be said about that. They are the damnedest millstones about the necks
of any Government that can be imagined. They have insulted--PERSONALLY
insulted--two-thirds of the gentlemen of England, and how can it be wondered
at that they take their revenge upon them in the House of Commons? It is their
only opportunity, and I think, by God! they are quite right to use it."
Eventually, however, Parliament increased the Duke of Kent's annuity by L6000.
The subsequent history of Madame St. Laurent has not transpired.


The new Duchess of Kent, Victoria Mary Louisa, was a daughter of Francis, Duke
of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and a sister of Prince Leopold. The family was an
ancient one, being a branch of the great House of Wettin, which since the
eleventh century had ruled over the March of Meissen on the Elbe. In the
fifteenth century the whole possessions of the House had been divided between
the Albertine and Ernestine branches: from the former descended the electors
and kings of Saxony; the latter, ruling over Thuringia, became further
subdivided into five branches, of which the duchy of Saxe-Coburg was one. This
principality was very small, containing about 60,000 inhabitants, but it
enjoyed independent and sovereign rights. During the disturbed years which
followed the French Revolution, its affairs became terribly involved. The Duke
was extravagant, and kept open house for the swarms of refugees, who fled
eastward over Germany as the French power advanced. Among these was the Prince
of Leiningen, an elderly beau, whose domains on the Moselle had been seized by
the French, but who was granted in compensation the territory of Amorbach in
Lower Franconia. In 1803 he married the Princess Victoria, at that time
seventeen years of age. Three years later Duke Francis died a ruined man. The
Napoleonic harrow passed over Saxe-Coburg. The duchy was seized by the French,
and the ducal family were reduced to beggary, almost to starvation. At the
same time the little principality of Amorbach was devastated by the French,
Russian, and Austrian armies, marching and counter-marching across it. For
years there was hardly a cow in the country, nor enough grass to feed a flock
of geese. Such was the desperate plight of the family which, a generation
later, was to have gained a foothold in half the reigning Houses of Europe.
The Napoleonic harrow had indeed done its work, the seed was planted; and the
crop would have surprised Napoleon. Prince Leopold, thrown upon his own
resources at fifteen, made a career for himself and married the heiress of
England. The Princess of Leiningen, struggling at Amorbach with poverty,
military requisitions, and a futile husband, developed an independence of
character and a tenacity of purpose which were to prove useful in very
different circumstances. In 1814, her husband died, leaving her with two
children and the regency of the principality. After her brother's marriage
with the Princess Charlotte, it was proposed that she should marry the Duke of
Kent; but she declined, on the ground that the guardianship of her children
and the management of her domains made other ties undesirable. The Princess
Charlotte's death, however, altered the case; and when the Duke of Kent
renewed his offer, she accepted it. She was thirty-two years old--short,
stout, with brown eyes and hair, and rosy cheeks, cheerful and voluble, and
gorgeously attired in rustling silks and bright velvets.

She was certainly fortunate in her contented disposition; for she was fated,
all through her life, to have much to put up with. Her second marriage, with
its dubious prospects, seemed at first to be chiefly a source of difficulties
and discomforts. The Duke, declaring that he was still too poor to live in
England, moved about with uneasy precision through Belgium and Germany,
attending parades and inspecting barracks in a neat military cap, while the
English notabilities looked askance, and the Duke of Wellington dubbed him the
Corporal. "God damme!" he exclaimed to Mr. Creevey, "d'ye know what his
sisters call him? By God! they call him Joseph Surface!" At Valenciennes,
where there was a review and a great dinner, the Duchess arrived with an old
and ugly lady-in-waiting, and the Duke of Wellington found himself in a
difficulty. "Who the devil is to take out the maid of honour?" he kept asking;
but at last he thought of a solution. "Damme, Freemantle, find out the mayor
and let him do it." So the Mayor of Valenciennes was brought up for the
purpose, and--so we learn from Mr. Creevey--"a capital figure he was." A few
days later, at Brussels, Mr. Creevey himself had an unfortunate experience. A
military school was to be inspected--before breakfast. The company assembled;
everything was highly satisfactory; but the Duke of Kent continued for so long
examining every detail and asking meticulous question after meticulous
question, that Mr. Creevey at last could bear it no longer, and whispered to
his neighbour that he was damned hungry. The Duke of Wellington heard him, and
was delighted. "I recommend you," he said, "whenever you start with the royal
family in a morning, and particularly with THE CORPORAL, always to breakfast
first." He and his staff, it turned out, had taken that precaution, and the
great man amused himself, while the stream of royal inquiries poured on, by
pointing at Mr. Creevey from time to time with the remark, "Voila le monsieur
qui n'a pas dejeune!"

Settled down at last at Amorbach, the time hung heavily on the Duke's hands.
The establishment was small, the country was impoverished; even clock-making
grew tedious at last. He brooded--for in spite of his piety the Duke was not
without a vein of superstition--over the prophecy of a gipsy at Gibraltar who
told him that he was to have many losses and crosses, that he was to die in
happiness, and that his only child was to be a great queen. Before long it
became clear that a child was to be expected: the Duke decided that it should
be born in England. Funds were lacking for the journey, but his determination
was not to be set aside. Come what might, he declared, his child must be
English-born. A carriage was hired, and the Duke himself mounted the box.
Inside were the Duchess, her daughter Feodora, a girl of fourteen, with maids,
nurses, lap-dogs, and canaries. Off they drove--through Germany, through
France: bad roads, cheap inns, were nothing to the rigorous Duke and the
equable, abundant Duchess. The Channel was crossed, London was reached in
safety. The authorities provided a set of rooms in Kensington Palace; and
there, on May 24, 1819, a female infant was born.



The child who, in these not very impressive circumstances, appeared in the
world, received but scant attention. There was small reason to foresee her
destiny. The Duchess of Clarence, two months before, had given birth to a
daughter, this infant, indeed, had died almost immediately; but it seemed
highly probable that the Duchess would again become a mother; and so it
actually fell out. More than this, the Duchess of Kent was young, and the Duke
was strong; there was every likelihood that before long a brother would
follow, to snatch her faint chance of the succession from the little princess.

Nevertheless, the Duke had other views: there were prophecies... At any rate,
he would christen the child Elizabeth, a name of happy augury. In this,
however, he reckoned without the Regent, who, seeing a chance of annoying his
brother, suddenly announced that he himself would be present at the baptism,
and signified at the same time that one of the godfathers was to be the
Emperor Alexander of Russia. And so when the ceremony took place, and the
Archbishop of Canterbury asked by what name he was to baptise the child, the
Regent replied "Alexandria." At this the Duke ventured to suggest that another
name might be added. "Certainly," said the Regent; "Georgina?" "Or Elizabeth?"
said the Duke. There was a pause, during which the Archbishop, with the baby
in his lawn sleeves, looked with some uneasiness from one Prince to the other.
"Very well, then," said the Regent at last, "call her after her mother. But
Alexandrina must come first." Thus, to the disgust of her father, the child
was christened Alexandrina Victoria.

The Duke had other subjects of disgust. The meagre grant of the Commons had by
no means put an end to his financial distresses. It was to be feared that his
services were not appreciated by the nation. His debts continued to grow. For
many years he had lived upon L7000 a year; but now his expenses were exactly
doubled; he could make no further reductions; as it was, there was not a
single servant in his meagre grant establishment who was idle for a moment
from morning to night. He poured out his griefs in a long letter to Robert
Owen, whose sympathy had the great merit of being practical. "I now candidly
state," he wrote, "that, after viewing the subject in every possible way, I am
satisfied that, to continue to live in England, even in the quiet way in which
was clear that he would be obliged to sell his house for L51,300, if that
failed, he would go and live on the Continent. "If my services are useful to
my country, it surely becomes THOSE WHO HAVE THE POWER to support me in
substantiating those just claims I have for the very extensive losses and
privations I have experienced, during the very long period of my professional
servitude in the Colonies; and if this is not attainable, IT IS A CLEAR PROOF
shall not scruple, in DUE time, to resume my retirement abroad, when the
Duchess and myself shall have fulfilled our duties in establishing the ENGLISH
birth of my child, and giving it material nutriment on the soil of Old
England; and which we shall certainly repeat, if Providence destines, to give
us any further increase of family."

In the meantime, he decided to spend the winter at Sidmouth, "in order," he
told Owen, "that the Duchess may have the benefit of tepid sea bathing, and
our infant that of sea air, on the fine coast of Devonshire, during the months
of the year that are so odious in London." In December the move was made. With
the new year, the Duke remembered another prophecy. In 1820, a fortune-teller
had told him, two members of the Royal Family would die. Who would they be? He
speculated on the various possibilities: The King, it was plain, could not
live much longer; and the Duchess of York had been attacked by a mortal
disease. Probably it would be the King and the Duchess of York; or perhaps the
King and the Duke of York; or the King and the Regent. He himself was one of
the healthiest men in England. "My brothers," he declared, "are not so strong
as I am; I have lived a regular life. I shall outlive them all. The crown will
come to me and my children." He went out for a walk, and got his feet wet. On
coming home, he neglected to change his stockings. He caught cold,
inflammation of the lungs set in, and on January 22 he was a dying man. By a
curious chance, young Dr. Stockmar was staying in the house at the time; two
years before, he had stood by the death-bed of the Princess Charlotte; and now
he was watching the Duke of Kent in his agony. On Stockmar's advice, a will
was hastily prepared. The Duke's earthly possessions were of a negative
character; but it was important that the guardianship of the unwitting child,
whose fortunes were now so strangely changing, should be assured to the
Duchess. The Duke was just able to understand the document, and to append his
signature. Having inquired whether his writing was perfectly clear, he became
unconscious, and breathed his last on the following morning! Six days later
came the fulfilment of the second half of the gipsy's prophecy. The long,
unhappy, and inglorious life of George the Third of England was ended.


Such was the confusion of affairs at Sidmouth, that the Duchess found herself
without the means of returning to London. Prince Leopold hurried down, and
himself conducted his sister and her family, by slow and bitter stages, to
Kensington. The widowed lady, in her voluminous blacks, needed all her
equanimity to support her. Her prospects were more dubious than ever. She had
L6000 a year of her own; but her husband's debts loomed before her like a
mountain. Soon she learnt that the Duchess of Clarence was once more expecting
a child. What had she to look forward to in England? Why should she remain in
a foreign country, among strangers, whose language she could not speak, whose
customs she could not understand? Surely it would be best to return to
Amorbach, and there, among her own people, bring up her daughters in
economical obscurity. But she was an inveterate optimist; she had spent her
life in struggles, and would not be daunted now; and besides, she adored her
baby. "C'est mon bonheur, mes delices, mon existence," she declared; the
darling should be brought up as an English princess, whatever lot awaited her.
Prince Leopold came forward nobly with an offer of an additional L3000 a year;
and the Duchess remained at Kensington.

The child herself was extremely fat, and bore a remarkable resemblance to her
grandfather. "C'est l'image du feu Roi!" exclaimed the Duchess. "C'est le Roi
Georges en jupons," echoed the surrounding ladies, as the little creature
waddled with difficulty from one to the other.

Before long, the world began to be slightly interested in the nursery at
Kensington. When, early in 1821, the Duchess of Clarence's second child, the
Princess Elizabeth, died within three months of its birth, the interest
increased. Great forces and fierce antagonisms seemed to be moving, obscurely,
about the royal cradle. It was a time of faction and anger, of violent
repression and profound discontent. A powerful movement, which had for long
been checked by adverse circumstances, was now spreading throughout the
country. New passions, new desires, were abroad; or rather old passions and
old desires, reincarnated with a new potency: love of freedom, hatred of
injustice, hope for the future of man. The mighty still sat proudly in their
seats, dispensing their ancient tyranny; but a storm was gathering out of the
darkness, and already there was lightning in the sky. But the vastest forces
must needs operate through frail human instruments; and it seemed for many
years as if the great cause of English liberalism hung upon the life of the
little girl at Kensington. She alone stood between the country and her
terrible uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, the hideous embodiment of reaction.
Inevitably, the Duchess of Kent threw in her lot with her husband's party;
Whig leaders, Radical agitators, rallied round her; she was intimate with the
bold Lord Durham, she was on friendly terms with the redoubtable O'Connell
himself. She received Wilberforce-though, to be sure, she did not ask him to
sit down. She declared in public that she put her faith in "the liberties of
the People." It was certain that the young Princess would be brought up in the
way that she should go; yet there, close behind the throne, waiting, sinister,
was the Duke of Cumberland. Brougham, looking forward into the future in his
scurrilous fashion, hinted at dreadful possibilities. "I never prayed so
heartily for a Prince before," he wrote, on hearing that George IV had been
attacked by illness. "If he had gone, all the troubles of these villains [the
Tory Ministers] went with him, and they had Fred. I [the Duke of York] their
own man for his life. He [Fred. I] won't live long either; that Prince of
Blackguards, 'Brother William,' is as bad a life, so we come in the course of
nature to be ASSASSINATED by King Ernest I or Regent Ernest [the Duke of
Cumberland]." Such thoughts were not peculiar to Brougham; in the seething
state of public feeling, they constantly leapt to the surface; and, even so
late as the year previous to her accession, the Radical newspapers were full
of suggestions that the Princess Victoria was in danger from the machinations
of her wicked uncle.

But no echo of these conflicts and forebodings reached the little Drina--for
so she was called in the family circle--as she played with her dolls, or
scampered down the passages, or rode on the donkey her uncle York had given
her along the avenues of Kensington Gardens The fair-haired, blue-eyed child
was idolised by her nurses, and her mother's ladies, and her sister Feodora;
and for a few years there was danger, in spite of her mother's strictness, of
her being spoilt. From time to time, she would fly into a violent passion,
stamp her little foot, and set everyone at defiance; whatever they might say,
she would not learn her letters--no, she WOULD NOT; afterwards, she was very
sorry, and burst into tears; but her letters remained unlearnt. When she was
five years old, however, a change came, with the appearance of Fraulein
Lehzen. This lady, who was the daughter of a Hanoverian clergyman, and had
previously been the Princess Feodora's governess, soon succeeded in instilling
a new spirit into her charge. At first, indeed, she was appalled by the little
Princess's outbursts of temper; never in her life, she declared, had she seen
such a passionate and naughty child. Then she observed something else; the
child was extraordinarily truthful; whatever punishment might follow, she
never told a lie. Firm, very firm, the new governess yet had the sense to see
that all the firmness in the world would be useless, unless she could win her
way into little Drina's heart. She did so, and there were no more
difficulties. Drina learnt her letters like an angel; and she learnt other
things as well. The Baroness de Spath taught her how to make little board
boxes and decorate them with tinsel and painted flowers; her mother taught her
religion. Sitting in the pew every Sunday morning, the child of six was seen
listening in rapt attention to the clergyman's endless sermon, for she was to
be examined upon it in the afternoon. The Duchess was determined that her
daughter, from the earliest possible moment, should be prepared for her high
station in a way that would commend itself to the most respectable; her good,
plain, thrifty German mind recoiled with horror and amazement from the
shameless junketings at Carlton House; Drina should never be allowed to forget
for a moment the virtues of simplicity, regularity, propriety, and devotion.
The little girl, however, was really in small need of such lessons, for she
was naturally simple and orderly, she was pious without difficulty, and her
sense of propriety was keen. She understood very well the niceties of her own
position. When, a child of six, Lady Jane Ellice was taken by her grandmother
to Kensington Palace, she was put to play with the Princess Victoria, who was
the same age as herself. The young visitor, ignorant of etiquette, began to
make free with the toys on the floor, in a way which was a little too
familiar; but "You must not touch those," she was quickly told, "they are
mine; and I may call you Jane, but you must not call me Victoria." The
Princess's most constant playmate was Victoire, the daughter of Sir John
Conroy, the Duchess's major-domo. The two girls were very fond of one another;
they would walk hand in hand together in Kensington Gardens. But little Drina
was perfectly aware for which of them it was that they were followed, at a
respectful distance, by a gigantic scarlet flunkey.

Warm-hearted, responsive, she loved her dear Lehzen, and she loved her dear
Feodora, and her dear Victoire, and her dear Madame de Spath. And her dear
Mamma, of course, she loved her too; it was her duty; and yet--she could not
tell why it was--she was always happier when she was staying with her Uncle
Leopold at Claremont. There old Mrs. Louis, who, years ago, had waited on her
Cousin Charlotte, petted her to her heart's content; and her uncle himself was
wonderfully kind to her, talking to her seriously and gently, almost as if she
were a grown-up person. She and Feodora invariably wept when the too-short
visit was over, and they were obliged to return to the dutiful monotony, and
the affectionate supervision of Kensington. But sometimes when her mother had
to stay at home, she was allowed to go out driving all alone with her dear
Feodora and her dear Lehzen, and she could talk and look as she liked, and it
was very delightful.

The visits to Claremont were frequent enough; but one day, on a special
occasion, she paid one of a rarer and more exciting kind. When she was seven
years old, she and her mother and sister were asked by the King to go down to
Windsor. George IV, who had transferred his fraternal ill-temper to his
sister-in-law and her family, had at last grown tired of sulking, and decided
to be agreeable. The old rip, bewigged and gouty, ornate and enormous, with
his jewelled mistress by his side and his flaunting court about him, received
the tiny creature who was one day to hold in those same halls a very different
state. "Give me your little paw," he said; and two ages touched. Next morning,
driving in his phaeton with the Duchess of Gloucester, he met the Duchess of
Kent and her child in the Park. "Pop her in," were his orders, which, to the
terror of the mother and the delight of the daughter, were immediately obeyed.
Off they dashed to Virginia Water, where there was a great barge, full of
lords and ladies fishing, and another barge with a band; and the King ogled
Feodora, and praised her manners, and then turned to his own small niece.
"What is your favourite tune? The band shall play it." "God save the King,
sir," was the instant answer. The Princess's reply has been praised as an
early example of a tact which was afterwards famous. But she was a very
truthful child, and perhaps it was her genuine opinion.


In 1827 the Duke of York, who had found some consolation for the loss of his
wife in the sympathy of the Duchess of Rutland, died, leaving behind him the
unfinished immensity of Stafford House and L200,000 worth of debts. Three
years later George IV also disappeared, and the Duke of Clarence reigned in
his stead. The new Queen, it was now clear, would in all probability never
again be a mother; the Princess Victoria, therefore, was recognised by
Parliament as heir-presumptive; and the Duchess of Kent, whose annuity had
been doubled five years previously, was now given an additional L10,000 for
the maintenance of the Princess, and was appointed regent, in case of the
death of the King before the majority of her daughter. At the same time a
great convulsion took place in the constitution of the State. The power of the
Tories, who had dominated England for more than forty years, suddenly began to
crumble. In the tremendous struggle that followed, it seemed for a moment as
if the tradition of generations might be snapped, as if the blind tenacity of
the reactionaries and the determined fury of their enemies could have no other
issue than revolution. But the forces of compromise triumphed: the Reform Bill
was passed. The centre of gravity in the constitution was shifted towards the
middle classes; the Whigs came into power; and the complexion of the
Government assumed a Liberal tinge. One of the results of this new state of
affairs was a change in the position of the Duchess of Kent and her daughter.
From being the protegees of an opposition clique, they became assets of the
official majority of the nation. The Princess Victoria was henceforward the
living symbol of the victory of the middle classes.

The Duke of Cumberland, on the other hand, suffered a corresponding eclipse:
his claws had been pared by the Reform Act. He grew insignificant and almost
harmless, though his ugliness remained; he was the wicked uncle still--but
only of a story.

The Duchess's own liberalism was not very profound. She followed naturally in
the footsteps of her husband, repeating with conviction the catchwords of her
husband's clever friends and the generalisations of her clever brother
Leopold. She herself had no pretensions to cleverness; she did not understand
very much about the Poor Law and the Slave Trade and Political Economy; but
she hoped that she did her duty; and she hoped--she ardently hoped--that the
same might be said of Victoria. Her educational conceptions were those of Dr.
Arnold, whose views were just then beginning to permeate society. Dr. Arnold's
object was, first and foremost, to make his pupils "in the highest and truest
sense of the words, Christian gentlemen," intellectual refinements might
follow. The Duchess felt convinced that it was her supreme duty in life to
make quite sure that her daughter should grow up into a Christian queen. To
this task she bent all her energies; and, as the child developed, she
flattered herself that her efforts were not unsuccessful. When the Princess
was eleven, she desired the Bishops of London and Lincoln to submit her
daughter to an examination, and report upon the progress that had been made.
"I feel the time to be now come," the Duchess explained, in a letter obviously
drawn up by her own hand, "that what has been done should be put to some test,
that if anything has been done in error of judgment it may be corrected, and
that the plan for the future should be open to consideration and revision... I
attend almost always myself every lesson, or a part; and as the lady about the
Princess is a competent person, she assists Her in preparing Her lessons, for
the various masters, as I resolved to act in that manner so as to be Her
Governess myself. When she was at a proper age she commenced attending Divine
Service regularly with me, and I have every feeling that she has religion at
Her heart, that she is morally impressed with it to that degree, that she is
less liable to error by its application to her feelings as a Child capable of
reflection." "The general bent of Her character," added the Duchess, "is
strength of intellect, capable of receiving with ease, information, and with a
peculiar readiness in coming to a very just and benignant decision on any
point Her opinion is asked on. Her adherence to truth is of so marked a
character that I feel no apprehension of that Bulwark being broken down by any
circumstances." The Bishops attended at the Palace, and the result of their
examination was all that could be wished. "In answering a great variety of
questions proposed to her," they reported, "the Princess displayed an accurate
knowledge of the most important features of Scripture History, and of the
leading truths and precepts of the Christian Religion as taught by the Church
of England, as well as an acquaintance with the Chronology and principal facts
of English History remarkable in so young a person. To questions in Geography,
the use of the Globes, Arithmetic, and Latin Grammar, the answers which the
Princess returned were equally satisfactory." They did not believe that the
Duchess's plan of education was susceptible of any improvement; and the
Archbishop of Canterbury, who was also consulted, came to the same gratifying

One important step, however, remained to be taken. So far, as the Duchess
explained to the Bishops, the Princess had been kept in ignorance of the
station that she was likely to fill. "She is aware of its duties, and that a
Sovereign should live for others; so that when Her innocent mind receives the
impression of Her future fate, she receives it with a mind formed to be
sensible of what is to be expected from Her, and it is to be hoped, she will
be too well grounded in Her principles to be dazzled with the station she is
to look to." In the following year it was decided that she should be
enlightened on this point. The well--known scene followed: the history lesson,
the genealogical table of the Kings of England slipped beforehand by the
governess into the book, the Princess's surprise, her inquiries, her final
realisation of the facts. When the child at last understood, she was silent
for a moment, and then she spoke: "I will be good," she said. The words were
something more than a conventional protestation, something more than the
expression of a superimposed desire; they were, in their limitation and their
intensity, their egotism and their humility, an instinctive summary of the
dominating qualities of a life. "I cried much on learning it," her Majesty
noted long afterwards. No doubt, while the others were present, even her dear
Lehzen, the little girl kept up her self-command; and then crept away
somewhere to ease her heart of an inward, unfamiliar agitation, with a
handkerchief, out of her mother's sight.

But her mother's sight was by no means an easy thing to escape. Morning and
evening, day and night, there was no relaxation of the maternal vigilance. The
child grew into the girl, the girl into the young woman; but still she slept
in her mother's bedroom; still she had no place allowed her where she might
sit or work by herself. An extraordinary watchfulness surrounded her every
step: up to the day of her accession, she never went downstairs without
someone beside her holding her hand. Plainness and regularity ruled the
household. The hours, the days, the years passed slowly and methodically by.
The dolls--the innumerable dolls, each one so neatly dressed, each one with
its name so punctiliously entered in the catalogue--were laid aside, and a
little music and a little dancing took their place. Taglioni came, to give
grace and dignity to the figure, and Lablache, to train the piping treble upon
his own rich bass. The Dean of Chester, the official preceptor, continued his
endless instruction in Scripture history, while the Duchess of Northumberland,
the official governess, presided over every lesson with becoming solemnity.
Without doubt, the Princess's main achievement during her school-days was
linguistic. German was naturally the first language with which she was
familiar; but English and French quickly followed; and she became virtually
trilingual, though her mastery of English grammar remained incomplete. At the
same time, she acquired a working knowledge of Italian and some smattering of
Latin. Nevertheless, she did not read very much. It was not an occupation that
she cared for; partly, perhaps, because the books that were given her were all
either sermons, which were very dull, or poetry, which was incomprehensible.
Novels were strictly forbidden. Lord Durham persuaded her mother to get her
some of Miss Martineau's tales, illustrating the truths of Political Economy,
and they delighted her; but it is to be feared that it was the unaccustomed
pleasure of the story that filled her mind, and that she never really mastered
the theory of exchanges or the nature of rent.

It was her misfortune that the mental atmosphere which surrounded her during
these years of adolescence was almost entirely feminine. No father, no
brother, was there to break in upon the gentle monotony of the daily round
with impetuosity, with rudeness, with careless laughter and wafts of freedom
from the outside world. The Princess was never called by a voice that was loud
and growling; never felt, as a matter of course, a hard rough cheek on her own
soft one; never climbed a wall with a boy. The visits to Claremont--delicious
little escapes into male society--came to an end when she was eleven years old
and Prince Leopold left England to be King of the Belgians. She loved him
still; he was still "il mio secondo padre or, rather, solo padre, for he is
indeed like my real father, as I have none;" but his fatherliness now came to
her dimly and indirectly, through the cold channel of correspondence.
Henceforward female duty, female elegance, female enthusiasm, hemmed her
completely in; and her spirit, amid the enclosing folds, was hardly reached by
those two great influences, without which no growing life can truly
prosper--humour and imagination. The Baroness Lehzen--for she had been raised
to that rank in the Hanoverian nobility by George IV before he died--was the
real centre of the Princess's world. When Feodora married, when Uncle Leopold
went to Belgium, the Baroness was left without a competitor. The Princess gave
her mother her dutiful regards; but Lehzen had her heart. The voluble, shrewd
daughter of the pastor in Hanover, lavishing her devotion on her royal charge,
had reaped her reward in an unbounded confidence and a passionate adoration.
The girl would have gone through fire for her "PRECIOUS Lehzen," the "best and
truest friend," she declared, that she had had since her birth. Her journal,
begun when she was thirteen, where she registered day by day the small
succession of her doings and her sentiments, bears on every page of it the
traces of the Baroness and her circumambient influence. The young creature
that one sees there, self-depicted in ingenuous clarity, with her sincerity,
her simplicity, her quick affections and pious resolutions, might almost have
been the daughter of a German pastor herself. Her enjoyments, her admirations,
her engouements were of the kind that clothed themselves naturally in
underlinings and exclamation marks. "It was a DELIGHTFUL ride. We cantered a
good deal. SWEET LITTLE ROSY WENT BEAUTIFULLY!! We came home at a 1/4 past
1... At 20 minutes to 7 we went out to the Opera... Rubini came on and sang a
song out of 'Anna Boulena' QUITE BEAUTIFULLY. We came home at 1/2 past 11." In
her comments on her readings, the mind of the Baroness is clearly revealed.
One day, by some mistake, she was allowed to take up a volume of memoirs by
Fanny Kemble. "It is certainly very pertly and oddly written. One would
imagine by the style that the authoress must be very pert, and not well bred;
for there are so many vulgar expressions in it. It is a great pity that a
person endowed with so much talent, as Mrs. Butler really is, should turn it
to so little account and publish a book which is so full of trash and nonsense
which can only do her harm. I stayed up till 20 minutes past 9." Madame de
Sevigne's letters, which the Baroness read aloud, met with more approval. "How
truly elegant and natural her style is! It is so full of naivete, cleverness,
and grace." But her highest admiration was reserved for the Bishop of
Chester's 'Exposition of the Gospel of St. Matthew.' "It is a very fine book
indeed. Just the sort of one I like; which is just plain and comprehensible
and full of truth and good feeling. It is not one of those learned books in
which you have to cavil at almost every paragraph. Lehzen gave it me on the
Sunday that I took the Sacrament." A few weeks previously she had been
confirmed, and she described the event as follows: "I felt that my
confirmation was one of the most solemn and important events and acts in my
life; and that I trusted that it might have a salutary effect on my mind. I
felt deeply repentant for all what I had done which was wrong and trusted in
God Almighty to strengthen my heart and mind; and to forsake all that is bad
and follow all that is virtuous and right. I went with the firm determination
to become a true Christian, to try and comfort my dear Mamma in all her
griefs, trials, and anxieties, and to become a dutiful and affectionate
daughter to her. Also to be obedient to DEAR Lehzen, who has done so much for
me. I was dressed in a white lace dress, with a white crepe bonnet with a
wreath of white roses round it. I went in the chariot with my dear Mamma and
the others followed in another carriage." One seems to hold in one's hand a
small smooth crystal pebble, without a flaw and without a scintillation, and
so transparent that one can see through it at a glance.

Yet perhaps, after all, to the discerning eye, the purity would not be
absolute. The careful searcher might detect, in the virgin soil, the first
faint traces of an unexpected vein. In that conventual existence visits were
exciting events; and, as the Duchess had many relatives, they were not
infrequent; aunts and uncles would often appear from Germany, and cousins too.
When the Princess was fourteen she was delighted by the arrival of a couple of
boys from Wurtemberg, the Princes Alexander and Ernst, sons of her mother's
sister and the reigning duke. "They are both EXTREMELY TALL," she noted,
"Alexander is VERY HANDSOME, and Ernst has a VERY KIND EXPRESSION. They are
both extremely AMIABLE." And their departure filled her with corresponding
regrets. "We saw them get into the barge, and watched them sailing away for
some time on the beach. They were so amiable and so pleasant to have in the
house; they were ALWAYS SATISFIED, ALWAYS GOOD-HUMOURED; Alexander took such
care of me in getting out of the boat, and rode next to me; so did Ernst." Two
years later, two other cousins arrived, the Princes Ferdinand and Augustus.
"Dear Ferdinand," the Princess wrote, "has elicited universal admiration from
all parties... He is so very unaffected, and has such a very distinguished
appearance and carriage. They are both very dear and charming young men.
Augustus is very amiable, too, and, when known, shows much good sense." On
another occasion, Dear Ferdinand came and sat near me and talked so dearly and
sensibly. I do SO love him. Dear Augustus sat near me and talked with me, and
he is also a dear good young man, and is very handsome." She could not quite
decide which was the handsomer of the two. "On the whole," she concluded, "I
think Ferdinand handsomer than Augustus, his eyes are so beautiful, and he has
such a lively clever expression; BOTH have such a sweet expression; Ferdinand
has something QUITE BEAUTIFUL in his expression when he speaks and smiles, and
he is SO good." However, it was perhaps best to say that they were "both very
handsome and VERY DEAR." But shortly afterwards two more cousins arrived, who
threw all the rest into the shade. These were the Princes Ernest and Albert,
sons of her mother's eldest brother, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg. This time the
Princess was more particular in her observations. "Ernest," she remarked," is
as tall as Ferdinand and Augustus; he has dark hair, and fine dark eyes and
eyebrows, but the nose and mouth are not good; he has a most kind, honest, and
intelligent expression in his countenance, and has a very good figure. Albert,
who is just as tall as Ernest but stouter, is extremely handsome; his hair is
about the same colour as mine; his eyes are large and blue, and he has a
beautiful nose and a very sweet mouth with fine teeth; but the charm of his
countenance is his expression, which is most delightful; c'est a la fois full
of goodness and sweetness, and very clever and intelligent." "Both my
cousins," she added, "are so kind and good; they are much more formes and men
of the world than Augustus; they speak English very well, and I speak it with
them. Ernest will be 18 years old on the 21st of June, and Albert 17 on the
26th of August. Dear Uncle Ernest made me the present of a most delightful
Lory, which is so tame that it remains on your hand and you may put your
finger into its beak, or do anything with it, without its ever attempting to
bite. It is larger than Mamma's grey parrot." A little later, "I sat between
my dear cousins on the sofa and we looked at drawings. They both draw very
well, particularly Albert, and are both exceedingly fond of music; they play
very nicely on the piano. The more I see them the more I am delighted with
them, and the more I love them... It is delightful to be with them; they are
so fond of being occupied too; they are quite an example for any young
person." When, after a stay of three weeks, the time came for the young men
and their father to return to Germany, the moment of parting was a melancholy
one. "It was our last HAPPY HAPPY breakfast, with this dear Uncle and those
DEAREST beloved cousins, whom I DO love so VERY VERY dearly; MUCH MORE DEARLY
than any other cousins in the WORLD. Dearly as I love Ferdinand, and also good
Augustus, I love Ernest and Albert MORE than them, oh yes, MUCH MORE... They
have both learnt a good deal, and are very clever, naturally clever,
particularly Albert, who is the most reflecting of the two, and they like very
much talking about serious and instructive things and yet are so VERY VERY
merry and gay and happy, like young people ought to be; Albert always used to
have some fun and some clever witty answer at breakfast and everywhere; he
used to play and fondle Dash so funnily too... Dearest Albert was playing on
the piano when I came down. At 11 dear Uncle, my DEAREST BELOVED cousins, and
Charles, left us, accompanied by Count Kolowrat. I embraced both my dearest
cousins most warmly, as also my dear Uncle. I cried bitterly, very bitterly."
The Princes shared her ecstasies and her italics between them; but it is clear
enough where her secret preference lay. "Particularly Albert!" She was just
seventeen; and deep was the impression left upon that budding organism by the
young man's charm and goodness and accomplishments, and his large blue eyes
and beautiful nose, and his sweet mouth and fine teeth.


King William could not away with his sister-in-law, and the Duchess fully
returned his antipathy. Without considerable tact and considerable forbearance
their relative positions were well calculated to cause ill-feeling; and there
was very little tact in the composition of the Duchess, and no forbearance at
all in that of his Majesty. A bursting, bubbling old gentleman, with
quarterdeck gestures, round rolling eyes, and a head like a pineapple, his
sudden elevation to the throne after fifty-six years of utter insignificance
had almost sent him crazy. His natural exuberance completely got the best of
him; he rushed about doing preposterous things in an extraordinary manner,
spreading amusement and terror in every direction, and talking all the time.
His tongue was decidedly Hanoverian, with its repetitions, its
catchwords--"That's quite another thing! That's quite another thing!"--its
rattling indomitability, its loud indiscreetness. His speeches, made
repeatedly at the most inopportune junctures, and filled pell-mell with all
the fancies and furies that happened at the moment to be whisking about in his
head, were the consternation of Ministers. He was one part blackguard, people
said, and three parts buffoon; but those who knew him better could not help
liking him--he meant well; and he was really good-humoured and kind-hearted,
if you took him the right way. If you took him the wrong way, however, you
must look out for squalls, as the Duchess of Kent discovered.

She had no notion of how to deal with him--could not understand him in the
least. Occupied with her own position, her own responsibilities, her duty, and
her daughter, she had no attention to spare for the peppery susceptibilities
of a foolish, disreputable old man. She was the mother of the heiress of
England; and it was for him to recognise the fact--to put her at once upon a
proper footing--to give her the precedence of a dowager Princess of Wales,
with a large annuity from the privy purse. It did not occur to her that such
pretensions might be galling to a king who had no legitimate child of his own,
and who yet had not altogether abandoned the hope of having one. She pressed
on, with bulky vigour, along the course she had laid out. Sir John Conroy, an
Irishman with no judgment and a great deal of self-importance, was her
intimate counsellor, and egged her on. It was advisable that Victoria should
become acquainted with the various districts of England, and through several
summers a succession of tours--in the West, in the Midlands, in Wales--were
arranged for her. The intention of the plan was excellent, but its execution
was unfortunate. The journeys, advertised in the Press, attracting
enthusiastic crowds, and involving official receptions, took on the air of
royal progresses. Addresses were presented by loyal citizens, the delighted
Duchess, swelling in sweeping feathers and almost obliterating the diminutive
Princess, read aloud, in her German accent, gracious replies prepared
beforehand by Sir John, who, bustling and ridiculous, seemed to be mingling
the roles of major-domo and Prime Minister. Naturally the King fumed over his
newspaper at Windsor. "That woman is a nuisance!" he exclaimed. Poor Queen
Adelaide, amiable though disappointed, did her best to smooth things down,
changed the subject, and wrote affectionate letters to Victoria; but it was
useless. News arrived that the Duchess of Kent, sailing in the Solent, had
insisted that whenever her yacht appeared it should be received by royal
salutes from all the men-of-war and all the forts. The King declared that
these continual poppings must cease; the Premier and the First Lord of the
Admiralty were consulted; and they wrote privately to the Duchess, begging her
to waive her rights. But she would not hear of it; Sir John Conroy was
adamant. "As her Royal Highness's CONFIDENTIAL ADVISER," he said, "I cannot
recommend her to give way on this point." Eventually the King, in a great
state of excitement, issued a special Order in Council, prohibiting the firing
of royal salutes to any ships except those which carried the reigning
sovereign or his consort on board.

When King William quarrelled with his Whig Ministers the situation grew still
more embittered, for now the Duchess, in addition to her other shortcomings,
was the political partisan of his enemies. In 1836 he made an attempt to
prepare the ground for a match between the Princess Victoria and one of the
sons of the Prince of Orange, and at the same time did his best to prevent the
visit of the young Coburg princes to Kensington. He failed in both these
objects; and the only result of his efforts was to raise the anger of the King
of the Belgians, who, forgetting for a moment his royal reserve, addressed an
indignant letter on the subject to his niece. "I am really ASTONISHED," he
wrote, "at the conduct of your old Uncle the King; this invitation of the
Prince of Orange and his sons, this forcing him on others, is very
extraordinary... Not later than yesterday I got a half-official communication
from England, insinuating that it would be HIGHLY desirable that the visit of
YOUR relatives SHOULD NOT TAKE PLACE THIS YEAR--qu'en dites-vous? The
relations of the Queen and the King, therefore, to the God-knows-what degree,
are to come in shoals and rule the land, when YOUR RELATIONS are to be
FORBIDDEN the country, and that when, as you know, the whole of your relations
have ever been very dutiful and kind to the King. Really and truly I never
heard or saw anything like it, and I hope it will a LITTLE ROUSE YOUR SPIRIT;
now that slavery is even abolished in the British Colonies, I do not
ENGLAND, for the pleasure of the Court, who never bought you, as I am not
aware of their ever having gone to any expense on that head, or the King's
ever having SPENT A SIXPENCE FOR YOUR EXISTENCE... Oh, consistency and
political or OTHER HONESTY, where must one look for you!"

Shortly afterwards King Leopold came to England himself, and his reception was
as cold at Windsor as it was warm at Kensington. "To hear dear Uncle speak on
any subject," the Princess wrote in her diary, "is like reading a highly
instructive book; his conversation is so enlightened, so clear. He is
universally admitted to be one of the first politicians now extant. He speaks
so mildly, yet firmly and impartially, about politics. Uncle tells me that
Belgium is quite a pattern for its organisation, its industry, and prosperity;
the finances are in the greatest perfection. Uncle is so beloved and revered
by his Belgian subjects, that it must be a great compensation for all his
extreme trouble." But her other uncle by no means shared her sentiments. He
could not, he said, put up with a water-drinker; and King Leopold would touch
no wine. "What's that you're drinking, sir?" he asked him one day at dinner.
"Water, sir." "God damn it, sir!" was the rejoinder. "Why don't you drink
wine? I never allow anybody to drink water at my table."

It was clear that before very long there would be a great explosion; and in
the hot days of August it came. The Duchess and the Princess had gone down to
stay at Windsor for the King's birthday party, and the King himself, who was
in London for the day to prorogue Parliament, paid a visit at Kensington
Palace in their absence. There he found that the Duchess had just
appropriated, against his express orders, a suite of seventeen apartments for
her own use. He was extremely angry, and, when he returned to Windsor, after
greeting the Princess with affection, he publicly rebuked the Duchess for what
she had done. But this was little to what followed. On the next day was the
birthday banquet; there were a hundred guests; the Duchess of Kent sat on the
King's right hand, and the Princess Victoria opposite. At the end of the
dinner, in reply to the toast of the King's health, he rose, and, in a long,
loud, passionate speech, poured out the vials of his wrath upon the Duchess.
She had, he declared, insulted him--grossly and continually; she had kept the
Princess away from him in the most improper manner; she was surrounded by evil
advisers, and was incompetent to act with propriety in the high station which
she filled; but he would bear it no longer; he would have her to know he was
King; he was determined that his authority should be respected; henceforward
the Princess should attend at every Court function with the utmost regularity;
and he hoped to God that his life might be spared for six months longer, so
that the calamity of a regency might be avoided, and the functions of the
Crown pass directly to the heiress-presumptive instead of into the hands of
the "person now near him," upon whose conduct and capacity no reliance
whatever could be placed. The flood of vituperation rushed on for what seemed
an interminable period, while the Queen blushed scarlet, the Princess burst
into tears, and the hundred guests sat aghast. The Duchess said not a word
until the tirade was over and the company had retired; then in a tornado of
rage and mortification, she called for her carriage and announced her
immediate return to Kensington. It was only with the utmost difficulty that
some show of a reconciliation was patched up, and the outraged lady was
prevailed upon to put off her departure till the morrow.

Her troubles, however, were not over when she had shaken the dust of Windsor
from her feet. In her own household she was pursued by bitterness and vexation
of spirit. The apartments at Kensington were seething with subdued
disaffection, with jealousies and animosities virulently intensified by long
years of propinquity and spite.

There was a deadly feud between Sir John Conroy and Baroness Lehzen. But that
was not all. The Duchess had grown too fond of her Major-Domo. There were
familiarities, and one day the Princess Victoria discovered the fact. She
confided what she had seen to the Baroness, and to the Baroness's beloved
ally, Madame de Spath. Unfortunately, Madame de Spath could not hold her
tongue, and was actually foolish enough to reprove the Duchess; whereupon she
was instantly dismissed. It was not so easy to get rid of the Baroness. That
lady, prudent and reserved, maintained an irreproachable demeanour. Her
position was strongly entrenched; she had managed to secure the support of the
King; and Sir John found that he could do nothing against her. But
henceforward the household was divided into two camps.[*] The Duchess
supported Sir John with all the abundance of her authority; but the Baroness,
too, had an adherent who could not be neglected. The Princess Victoria said
nothing, but she had been much attached to Madame de Spath, and she adored her
Lehzen. The Duchess knew only too well that in this horrid embroilment her
daughter was against her. Chagrin, annoyance, moral reprobation, tossed her to
and fro. She did her best to console herself with Sir John's affectionate
loquacity, or with the sharp remarks of Lady Flora Hastings, one of her maids
of honour, who had no love for the Baroness. The subject lent itself to
satire; for the pastor's daughter, with all her airs of stiff superiority, had
habits which betrayed her origin. Her passion for caraway seeds, for instance,
was uncontrollable. Little bags of them came over to her from Hanover, and she
sprinkled them on her bread and butter, her cabbage, and even her roast beef.
Lady Flora could not resist a caustic observation; it was repeated to the
Baroness, who pursed her lips in fury, and so the mischief grew.

[*] Greville, IV, 21; and August 15, 1839 (unpublished). "The cause of the
Queen's alienation from the Duchess and hatred of Conroy, the Duke [of
Wellington] said, was unquestionably owing to her having witnessed some
familiarities between them. What she had seen she repeated to Baroness Spaeth,
and Spaeth not only did not hold her tongue, but (he thinks) remonstrated with
the Duchess herself on the subject. The consequence was that they got rid of
Spaeth, and they would have got rid of Lehzen, too, if they had been able, but
Lehzen, who knew very well what was going on, was prudent enough not to commit
herself, and who was, besides, powerfully protected by George IV and William
IV, so that they did not dare to attempt to expel her."


The King had prayed that he might live till his niece was of age; and a few
days before her eighteenth birthday--the date of her legal majority--a sudden
attack of illness very nearly carried him off. He recovered, however, and the
Princess was able to go through her birthday festivities--a state ball and a
drawing-room--with unperturbed enjoyment. "Count Zichy," she noted in her
diary, "is very good-looking in uniform, but not in plain clothes. Count
Waldstein looks remarkably well in his pretty Hungarian uniform." With the
latter young gentleman she wished to dance, but there was an insurmountable
difficulty. "He could not dance quadrilles, and, as in my station I
unfortunately cannot valse and gallop, I could not dance with him." Her
birthday present from the King was of a pleasing nature, but it led to a
painful domestic scene. In spite of the anger of her Belgian uncle, she had
remained upon good terms with her English one. He had always been very kind to
her, and the fact that he had quarrelled with her mother did not appear to be
a reason for disliking him. He was, she said, "odd, very odd and singular,"
but "his intentions were often ill interpreted." He now wrote her a letter,
offering her an allowance of L10,000 a year, which he proposed should be at
her own disposal, and independent of her mother. Lord Conyngham, the Lord
Chamberlain, was instructed to deliver the letter into the Princess's own
hands. When he arrived at Kensington, he was ushered into the presence of the
Duchess and the Princess, and, when he produced the letter, the Duchess put
out her hand to take it. Lord Conyngham begged her Royal Highness's pardon,
and repeated the King's commands. Thereupon the Duchess drew back, and the
Princess took the letter. She immediately wrote to her uncle, accepting his
kind proposal. The Duchess was much displeased; L4000 a year, she said, would
be quite enough for Victoria; as for the remaining L6000, it would be only
proper that she should have that herself.

King William had thrown off his illness, and returned to his normal life. Once
more the royal circle at Windsor--their Majesties, the elder Princesses, and
some unfortunate Ambassadress or Minister's wife--might be seen ranged for
hours round a mahogany table, while the Queen netted a purse, and the King
slept, occasionally waking from his slumbers to observe "Exactly so, ma'am,
exactly so!" But this recovery was of short duration. The old man suddenly
collapsed; with no specific symptoms besides an extreme weakness, he yet
showed no power of rallying; and it was clear to everyone that his death was
now close at hand.

All eyes, all thoughts, turned towards the Princess Victoria; but she still
remained, shut away in the seclusion of Kensington, a small, unknown figure,
lost in the large shadow of her mother's domination. The preceding year had in
fact been an important one in her development. The soft tendrils of her mind
had for the first time begun to stretch out towards unchildish things. In this
King Leopold encouraged her. After his return to Brussels, he had resumed his
correspondance in a more serious strain; he discussed the details of foreign
politics; he laid down the duties of kingship; he pointed out the iniquitous
foolishness of the newspaper press. On the latter subject, indeed, he wrote
with some asperity. "If all the editors," he said, "of the papers in the
countries where the liberty of the press exists were to be assembled, we
should have a crew to which you would NOT confide a dog that you would value,
still less your honour and reputation." On the functions of a monarch, his
views were unexceptionable. "The business of the highest in a State," he
wrote, "is certainly, in my opinion, to act with great impartiality and a
spirit of justice for the good of all." At the same time the Princess's tastes
were opening out. Though she was still passionately devoted to riding and
dancing, she now began to have a genuine love of music as well, and to drink
in the roulades and arias of the Italian opera with high enthusiasm. She even
enjoyed reading poetry--at any rate, the poetry of Sir Walter Scott.

When King Leopold learnt that King William's death was approaching, he wrote
several long letters of excellent advice to his niece. "In every letter I
shall write to you," he said, "I mean to repeat to you, as a FUNDAMENTAL RULE,
rest, in the crisis that was approaching, she was not to be alarmed, but to
trust in her "good natural sense and the TRUTH" of her character; she was to
do nothing in a hurry; to hurt no one's amour-propre, and to continue her
confidence in the Whig administration! Not content with letters, however, King
Leopold determined that the Princess should not lack personal guidance, and
sent over to her aid the trusted friend whom, twenty years before, he had
taken to his heart by the death-bed at Claremont. Thus, once again, as if in
accordance with some preordained destiny, the figure of Stockmar is
discernible--inevitably present at a momentous hour.

On June 18, the King was visibly sinking. The Archbishop of Canterbury was by
his side, with all the comforts of the church. Nor did the holy words fall
upon a rebellious spirit; for many years his Majesty had been a devout
believer. "When I was a young man," he once explained at a public banquet, "as
well as I can remember, I believed in nothing but pleasure and folly--nothing
at all. But when I went to sea, got into a gale, and saw the wonders of the
mighty deep, then I believed; and I have been a sincere Christian ever since."
It was the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, and the dying man remembered
it. He should be glad to live, he said, over that day; he would never see
another sunset. "I hope your Majesty may live to see many," said Dr. Chambers.
"Oh! that's quite another thing, that's quite another thing," was the answer.
One other sunset he did live to see; and he died in the early hours of the
following morning. It was on June 20, 1837.

When all was over, the Archbishop and the Lord Chamberlain ordered a carriage,
and drove post-haste from Windsor to Kensington. They arrived at the Palace at
five o'clock, and it was only with considerable difficulty that they gained
admittance. At six the Duchess woke up her daughter, and told her that the
Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham were there, and wished to see her.
She got out of bed, put on her dressing-gown, and went, alone, into the room
where the messengers were standing. Lord Conyngham fell on his knees, and
officially announced the death of the King; the Archbishop added some personal
details. Looking at the bending, murmuring dignitaries before her, she knew
that she was Queen of England. "Since it has pleased Providence," she wrote
that day in her journal, "to place me in this station, I shall do my utmost to
fulfil my duty towards my country; I am very young, and perhaps in many,
though not in all things, inexperienced, but I am sure, that very few have
more real good will and more real desire to do what is fit and right than I
have." But there was scant time for resolutions and reflections. At once,
affairs were thick upon her. Stockmar came to breakfast, and gave some good
advice. She wrote a letter to her uncle Leopold, and a hurried note to her
sister Feodora. A letter came from the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne,
announcing his approaching arrival. He came at nine, in full court dress, and
kissed her hand. She saw him alone, and repeated to him the lesson which, no
doubt, the faithful Stockmar had taught her at breakfast. "It has long been my
intention to retain your Lordship and the rest of the present Ministry at the
head of affairs;" whereupon Lord Melbourne again kissed her hand and shortly
after left her. She then wrote a letter of condolence to Queen Adelaide. At
eleven, Lord Melbourne came again; and at half-past eleven she went downstairs
into the red saloon to hold her first Council. The great assembly of lords and
notables, bishops, generals, and Ministers of State, saw the doors thrown open
and a very short, very slim girl in deep plain mourning come into the room
alone and move forward to her seat with extraordinary dignity and grace; they
saw a countenance, not beautiful, but prepossessing--fair hair, blue prominent
eyes, a small curved nose, an open mouth revealing the upper teeth, a tiny
chin, a clear complexion, and, over all, the strangely mingled signs of
innocence, of gravity, of youth, and of composure; they heard a high
unwavering voice reading aloud with perfect clarity; and then, the ceremony
was over, they saw the small figure rise and, with the same consummate grace,
the same amazing dignity, pass out from among them, as she had come in, alone.



The new queen was almost entirely unknown to her subjects. In her public
appearances her mother had invariably dominated the scene. Her private life
had been that of a novice in a convent: hardly a human being from the outside
world had ever spoken to her; and no human being at all, except her mother and
the Baroness Lehzen, had ever been alone with her in a room. Thus it was not
only the public at large that was in ignorance of everything concerning her;
the inner circles of statesmen and officials and high-born ladies were equally
in the dark. When she suddenly emerged from this deep obscurity, the
impression that she created was immediate and profound. Her bearing at her
first Council filled the whole gathering with astonishment and admiration; the
Duke of Wellington, Sir Robert Peel, even the savage Croker, even the cold and
caustic Greville--all were completely carried away. Everything that was
reported of her subsequent proceedings seemed to be of no less happy augury.
Her perceptions were quick, her decisions were sensible, her language was
discreet; she performed her royal duties with extraordinary facility. Among
the outside public there was a great wave of enthusiasm. Sentiment and romance
were coming into fashion; and the spectacle of the little girl-queen,
innocent, modest, with fair hair and pink cheeks, driving through her capital,
filled the hearts of the beholders with raptures of affectionate loyalty.
What, above all, struck everybody with overwhelming force was the contrast
between Queen Victoria and her uncles. The nasty old men, debauched and
selfish, pig-headed and ridiculous, with their perpetual burden of debts,
confusions, and disreputabilities--they had vanished like the snows of winter,
and here at last, crowned and radiant, was the spring. Lord John Russell, in
an elaborate oration, gave voice to the general sentiment. He hoped that
Victoria might prove an Elizabeth without her tyranny, an Anne without her
weakness. He asked England to pray that the illustrious Princess who had just
ascended the throne with the purest intentions and the justest desires might
see slavery abolished, crime diminished, and education improved. He trusted
that her people would henceforward derive their strength, their conduct, and
their loyalty from enlightened religious and moral principles, and that, so
fortified, the reign of Victoria might prove celebrated to posterity and to
all the nations of the earth.

Very soon, however, there were signs that the future might turn out to be not
quite so simple and roseate as a delighted public dreamed. The "illustrious
Princess" might perhaps, after all, have something within her which squared
ill with the easy vision of a well-conducted heroine in an edifying
story-book. The purest intentions and the justest desires? No doubt; but was
that all? To those who watched closely, for instance, there might be something
ominous in the curious contour of that little mouth. When, after her first
Council, she crossed the ante-room and found her mother waiting for her, she
said, "And now, Mamma, am I really and truly Queen?" "You see, my dear, that
it is so." "Then, dear Mamma, I hope you will grant me the first request I
make to you, as Queen. Let me be by myself for an hour." For an hour she
remained in solitude. Then she reappeared, and gave a significant order: her
bed was to be moved out of her mother's room. It was the doom of the Duchess
of Kent. The long years of waiting were over at last; the moment of a lifetime
had come; her daughter was Queen of England; and that very moment brought her
own annihilation. She found herself, absolutely and irretrievably, shut off
from every vestige of influence, of confidence, of power. She was surrounded,
indeed, by all the outward signs of respect and consideration; but that only
made the inward truth of her position the more intolerable. Through the
mingled formalities of Court etiquette and filial duty, she could never
penetrate to Victoria. She was unable to conceal her disappointment and her
rage. "I1 n'y a plus d'avenir pour moi," she exclaimed to Madame de Lieven;
"je ne suis plus rien." For eighteen years, she said, this child had been the
sole object of her existence, of her thoughts, her hopes, and now--no! she
would not be comforted, she had lost everything, she was to the last degree
unhappy. Sailing, so gallantly and so pertinaciously, through the buffeting
storms of life, the stately vessel, with sails still swelling and pennons
flying, had put into harbour at last; to find there nothing--a land of bleak

Within a month of the accession, the realities of the new situation assumed a
visible shape. The whole royal household moved from Kensington to Buckingham
Palace, and, in the new abode, the Duchess of Kent was given a suite of
apartments entirely separate from the Queen's. By Victoria herself the change
was welcomed, though, at the moment of departure, she could afford to be
sentimental. "Though I rejoice to go into B. P. for many reasons," she wrote
in her diary, "it is not without feelings of regret that I shall bid adieu for
ever to this my birthplace, where I have been born and bred, and to which I am
really attached!" Her memory lingered for a moment over visions of the past:
her sister's wedding, pleasant balls and delicious concerts and there were
other recollections. "I have gone through painful and disagreeable scenes
here, 'tis true," she concluded, "but still I am fond of the poor old palace.

At the same time she took another decided step. She had determined that she
would see no more of Sir John Conroy. She rewarded his past services with
liberality: he was given a baronetcy and a pension of L3000 a year; he
remained a member of the Duchess's household, but his personal intercourse
with the Queen came to an abrupt conclusion.


It was clear that these interior changes--whatever else they might
betoken--marked the triumph of one person--the Baroness Lehzen. The pastor's
daughter observed the ruin of her enemies. Discreet and victorious, she
remained in possession of the field. More closely than ever did she cleave to
the side of her mistress, her pupil, and her friend; and in the recesses of
the palace her mysterious figure was at once invisible and omnipresent. When
the Queen's Ministers came in at one door, the Baroness went out by another;
when they retired, she immediately returned. Nobody knew--nobody ever will
know--the precise extent and the precise nature of her influence. She herself
declared that she never discussed public affairs with the Queen, that she was
concerned with private matters only--with private letters and the details of
private life. Certainly her hand is everywhere discernible in Victoria's early
correspondence. The Journal is written in the style of a child; the Letters
are not so simple; they are the work of a child, rearranged--with the minimum
of alteration, no doubt, and yet perceptibly--by a governess. And the
governess was no fool: narrow, jealous, provincial, she might be; but she was
an acute and vigorous woman, who had gained by a peculiar insight, a peculiar
ascendancy. That ascendancy she meant to keep. No doubt it was true that
technically she took no part in public business; but the distinction between
what is public and what is private is always a subtle one; and in the case of
a reigning sovereign--as the next few years were to show--it is often
imaginary. Considering all things--the characters of the persons, and the
character of the times--it was something more than a mere matter of private
interest that the bedroom of Baroness Lehzen at Buckingham Palace should have
been next door to the bedroom of the Queen.

But the influence wielded by the Baroness, supreme as it seemed within its own
sphere, was not unlimited; there were other forces at work. For one thing, the
faithful Stockmar had taken up his residence in the palace. During the twenty
years which had elapsed since the death of the Princess Charlotte, his
experiences had been varied and remarkable. The unknown counsellor of a
disappointed princeling had gradually risen to a position of European
importance. His devotion to his master had been not only whole--hearted but
cautious and wise. It was Stockmar's advice that had kept Prince Leopold in
England during the critical years which followed his wife's death, and had
thus secured to him the essential requisite of a point d'appui in the country
of his adoption. It was Stockmar's discretion which had smoothed over the
embarrassments surrounding the Prince's acceptance and rejection of the Greek
crown. It was Stockmar who had induced the Prince to become the constitutional
Sovereign of Belgium. Above all, it was Stockmar's tact, honesty, and
diplomatic skill which, through a long series of arduous and complicated
negotiations, had led to the guarantee of Belgian neutrality by the Great
Powers. His labours had been rewarded by a German barony and by the complete
confidence of King Leopold. Nor was it only in Brussels that he was treated
with respect and listened to with attention. The statesmen who governed
England--Lord Grey, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Palmerston, Lord Melbourne--had
learnt to put a high value upon his probity and his intelligence. "He is one
of the cleverest fellows I ever saw," said Lord Melbourne, "the most discreet
man, the most well-judging, and most cool man." And Lord Palmerston cited
Baron Stockmar as the only absolutely disinterested man he had come across in
life, At last he was able to retire to Coburg, and to enjoy for a few years
the society of the wife and children whom his labours in the service of his
master had hitherto only allowed him to visit at long intervals for a month or
two at a time. But in 1836 he had been again entrusted with an important
negotiation, which he had brought to a successful conclusion in the marriage
of Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, a nephew of King Leopold's, with Queen
Maria II of Portugal. The House of Coburg was beginning to spread over Europe;
and the establishment of the Baron at Buckingham Palace in 1837 was to be the
prelude of another and a more momentous advance.

King Leopold and his counsellor provide in their careers an example of the
curious diversity of human ambitions. The desires of man are wonderfully
various; but no less various are the means by which those desires may reach
satisfaction: and so the work of the world gets done. The correct mind of
Leopold craved for the whole apparatus of royalty. Mere power would have held
no attractions for him; he must be an actual king--the crowned head of a
people. It was not enough to do; it was essential also to be recognised;
anything else would not be fitting. The greatness that he dreamt of was
surrounded by every appropriate circumstance. To be a Majesty, to be a cousin
of Sovereigns, to marry a Bourbon for diplomatic ends, to correspond with the
Queen of England, to be very stiff and very punctual, to found a dynasty, to
bore ambassadresses into fits, to live, on the highest pinnacle, an exemplary
life devoted to the public service--such were his objects, and such, in fact,
were his achievements. The "Marquis Peu-a-peu," as George IV called him, had
what he wanted. But this would never have been the case if it had not happened
that the ambition of Stockmar took a form exactly complementary to his own.
The sovereignty that the Baron sought for was by no means obvious. The
satisfaction of his essential being lay in obscurity, in invisibility--in
passing, unobserved, through a hidden entrance, into the very central chamber
of power, and in sitting there, quietly, pulling the subtle strings that set
the wheels of the whole world in motion. A very few people, in very high
places, and exceptionally well-informed, knew that Baron Stockmar was a most
important person: that was enough. The fortunes of the master and the servant,
intimately interacting, rose together. The Baron's secret skill had given
Leopold his unexceptionable kingdom; and Leopold, in his turn, as time went
on, was able to furnish the Baron with more and more keys to more and more
back doors.

Stockmar took up his abode in the Palace partly as the emissary of King
Leopold, but more particularly as the friend and adviser of a queen who was
almost a child, and who, no doubt, would be much in need of advice and
friendship. For it would be a mistake to suppose that either of these two men
was actuated by a vulgar selfishness. The King, indeed, was very well aware on
which side his bread was buttered; during an adventurous and chequered life he
had acquired a shrewd knowledge of the world's workings; and he was ready
enough to use that knowledge to strengthen his position and to spread his
influence. But then, the firmer his position and the wider his influence, the
better for Europe; of that he was quite certain. And besides, he was a
constitutional monarch; and it would be highly indecorous in a constitutional
monarch to have any aims that were low or personal.

As for Stockmar, the disinterestedness which Palmerston had noted was
undoubtedly a basic element in his character. The ordinary schemer is always
an optimist; and Stockmar, racked by dyspepsia and haunted by gloomy
forebodings, was a constitutionally melancholy man. A schemer, no doubt, he
was; but he schemed distrustfully, splenetically, to do good. To do good! What
nobler end could a man scheme for? Yet it is perilous to scheme at all.

With Lehzen to supervise every detail of her conduct, with Stockmar in the
next room, so full of wisdom and experience of affairs, with her Uncle
Leopold's letters, too, pouring out so constantly their stream of
encouragements, general reflections, and highly valuable tips, Victoria, even
had she been without other guidance, would have stood in no lack of private
counsellor. But other guidance she had; for all these influences paled before
a new star, of the first magnitude, which, rising suddenly upon her horizon,
immediately dominated her life.


William Lamb, Viscount Melbourne, was fifty-eight years of age, and had been
for the last three years Prime Minister of England. In every outward respect
he was one of the most fortunate of mankind. He had been born into the midst
of riches, brilliance, and power. His mother, fascinating and intelligent, had
been a great Whig hostess, and he had been bred up as a member of that radiant
society which, during the last quarter of the eighteenth century, concentrated
within itself the ultimate perfections of a hundred years of triumphant
aristocracy. Nature had given him beauty and brains; the unexpected death of
an elder brother brought him wealth, a peerage, and the possibility of high
advancement. Within that charmed circle, whatever one's personal disabilities,
it was difficult to fail; and to him, with all his advantages, success was
well-nigh unavoidable. With little effort, he attained political eminence. On
the triumph of the Whigs he became one of the leading members of the
Government; and when Lord Grey retired from the premiership he quietly stepped
into the vacant place. Nor was it only in the visible signs of fortune that
Fate had been kind to him. Bound to succeed, and to succeed easily, he was
gifted with so fine a nature that his success became him. His mind, at once
supple and copious, his temperament, at once calm and sensitive, enabled him
not merely to work, but to live with perfect facility and with the grace of
strength. In society he was a notable talker, a captivating companion, a
charming man. If one looked deeper, one saw at once that he was not ordinary,
that the piquancies of his conversation and his manner--his free-and-easy
vaguenesses, his abrupt questions, his lollings and loungings, his innumerable
oaths--were something more than an amusing ornament, were the outward
manifestation of an individuality that was fundamental.

The precise nature of this individuality was very difficult to gauge: it was
dubious, complex, perhaps self--contradictory. Certainly there was an ironical
discordance between the inner history of the man and his apparent fortunes. He
owed all he had to his birth, and his birth was shameful; it was known well
enough that his mother had passionately loved Lord Egremont, and that Lord
Melbourne was not his father. His marriage, which had seemed to be the crown
of his youthful ardours, was a long, miserable, desperate failure: the
incredible Lady Caroline, "With pleasures too refined to please, With too much
spirit to be e'er at ease, With too much quickness to be ever taught, With too
much thinking to have common thought," was very nearly the destruction of his
life. When at last he emerged from the anguish and confusion of her folly, her
extravagance, her rage, her despair, and her devotion, he was left alone with
endless memories of intermingled farce and tragedy, and an only son, who was
an imbecile. But there was something else that he owed to Lady Caroline. While
she whirled with Byron in a hectic frenzy of love and fashion, he had stayed
at home in an indulgence bordering on cynicism, and occupied his solitude with
reading. It was thus that he had acquired those habits of study, that love of
learning, and that wide and accurate knowledge of ancient and modern
literature, which formed so unexpected a part of his mental equipment. His
passion for reading never deserted him; even when he was Prime Minister he
found time to master every new important book. With an incongruousness that
was characteristic, his favourite study was theology. An accomplished
classical scholar, he was deeply read in the Fathers of the Church; heavy
volumes of commentary and exegesis he examined with scrupulous diligence; and
at any odd moment he might be found turning over the pages of the Bible. To
the ladies whom he most liked, he would lend some learned work on the
Revelation, crammed with marginal notes in his own hand, or Dr. Lardner's
"Observations upon the Jewish Errors with respect to the Conversion of Mary
Magdalene." The more pious among them had high hopes that these studies would
lead him into the right way; but of this there were no symptoms in his
after-dinner conversations.

The paradox of his political career was no less curious. By temperament an
aristocrat, by conviction a conservative, he came to power as the leader of
the popular party, the party of change. He had profoundly disliked the Reform
Bill, which he had only accepted at last as a necessary evil; and the Reform
Bill lay at the root of the very existence, of the very meaning, of his
government. He was far too sceptical to believe in progress of any kind.
Things were best as they were or rather, they were least bad. "You'd better
try to do no good," was one of his dictums, "and then you'll get into no
scrapes." Education at best was futile; education of the poor was positively
dangerous. The factory children? "Oh, if you'd only have the goodness to leave
them alone!" Free Trade was a delusion; the ballot was nonsense; and there was
no such thing as a democracy.

Nevertheless, he was not a reactionary; he was simply an opportunist. The
whole duty of government, he said, was "to prevent crime and to preserve
contracts." All one could really hope to do was to carry on. He himself
carried on in a remarkable manner--with perpetual compromises, with
fluctuations and contradictions, with every kind of weakness, and yet with
shrewdness, with gentleness, even with conscientiousness, and a light and airy
mastery of men and of events. He conducted the transactions of business with
extraordinary nonchalance. Important persons, ushered up for some grave
interview, found him in a towselled bed, littered with books and papers, or
vaguely shaving in a dressing-room; but, when they went downstairs again, they
would realise that somehow or other they had been pumped. When he had to
receive a deputation, he could hardly ever do so with becoming gravity. The
worthy delegates of the tallow-chandlers, or the Society for the Abolition of
Capital Punishment, were distressed and mortified when, in the midst of their
speeches, the Prime Minister became absorbed in blowing a feather, or suddenly
cracked an unseemly joke. How could they have guessed that he had spent the
night before diligently getting up the details of their case? He hated
patronage and the making of appointments--a feeling rare in Ministers. "As for
the Bishops," he burst out, "I positively believe they die to vex me." But
when at last the appointment was made, it was made with keen discrimination.
His colleagues observed another symptom--was it of his irresponsibility or his
wisdom? He went to sleep in the Cabinet.

Probably, if he had been born a little earlier, he would have been a simpler
and a happier man. As it was, he was a child of the eighteenth century whose
lot was cast in a new, difficult, unsympathetic age. He was an autumn rose.
With all his gracious amenity, his humour, his happy-go-lucky ways, a deep
disquietude possessed him. A sentimental cynic, a sceptical believer, he was
restless and melancholy at heart. Above all, he could never harden himself;
those sensitive petals shivered in every wind. Whatever else he might be, one
thing was certain: Lord Melbourne was always human, supremely human--too
human, perhaps.

And now, with old age upon him, his life took a sudden, new, extraordinary
turn. He became, in the twinkling of an eye, the intimate adviser and the
daily companion of a young girl who had stepped all at once from a nursery to
a throne. His relations with women had been, like everything else about him,
ambiguous. Nobody had ever been able quite to gauge the shifting, emotional
complexities of his married life; Lady Caroline vanished; but his peculiar
susceptibilities remained. Female society of some kind or other was necessary
to him, and he did not stint himself; a great part of every day was invariably
spent in it. The feminine element in him made it easy, made it natural and
inevitable for him to be the friend of a great many women; but the masculine
element in him was strong as well. In such circumstances it is also easy, it
is even natural, perhaps it is even inevitable, to be something more than a
friend. There were rumours and combustions. Lord Melbourne was twice a
co-respondent in a divorce action; but on each occasion he won his suit. The
lovely Lady Brandon, the unhappy and brilliant Mrs. Norton... the law
exonerated them both. Beyond that hung an impenetrable veil. But at any rate
it was clear that, with such a record, the Prime Minister's position in
Buckingham Palace must be a highly delicate one. However, he was used to
delicacies, and he met the situation with consummate success. His behaviour
was from the first moment impeccable. His manner towards the young Queen
mingled, with perfect facility, the watchfulness and the respect of a
statesman and a courtier with the tender solicitude of a parent. He was at
once reverential and affectionate, at once the servant and the guide. At the
same time the habits of his life underwent a surprising change. His
comfortable, unpunctual days became subject to the unaltering routine of a
palace; no longer did he sprawl on sofas; not a single "damn" escaped his
lips. The man of the world who had been the friend of Byron and the regent,
the talker whose paradoxes had held Holland House enthralled, the cynic whose
ribaldries had enlivened so many deep potations, the lover whose soft words
had captivated such beauty and such passion and such wit, might now be seen,
evening after evening, talking with infinite politeness to a schoolgirl, bolt
upright, amid the silence and the rigidity of Court etiquette.


On her side, Victoria was instantaneously fascinated by Lord Melbourne. The
good report of Stockmar had no doubt prepared the way; Lehzen was wisely
propitiated; and the first highly favourable impression was never afterwards
belied. She found him perfect; and perfect in her sight he remained. Her
absolute and unconcealed adoration was very natural; what innocent young
creature could have resisted, in any circumstances, the charm and the devotion
of such a man? But, in her situation, there was a special influence which gave
a peculiar glow to all she felt. After years of emptiness and dullness and
suppression, she had come suddenly, in the heyday of youth, into freedom and
power. She was mistress of herself, of great domains and palaces; she was
Queen of England. Responsibilities and difficulties she might have, no doubt,
and in heavy measure; but one feeling dominated and absorbed all others--the
feeling of joy. Everything pleased her. She was in high spirits from morning
till night. Mr. Creevey, grown old now, and very near his end, catching a
glimpse of her at Brighton, was much amused, in his sharp fashion, by the
ingenuous gaiety of "little Vic." "A more homely little being you never
beheld, when she is at her ease, and she is evidently dying to be always more
so. She laughs in real earnest, opening her mouth as wide as it can go,
showing not very pretty gums... She eats quite as heartily as she laughs, I
think I may say she gobbles... She blushes and laughs every instant in so
natural a way as to disarm anybody." But it was not merely when she was
laughing or gobbling that she enjoyed herself; the performance of her official
duties gave her intense satisfaction. "I really have immensely to do," she
wrote in her Journal a few days after her accession; "I receive so many
communications from my Ministers, but I like it very much." And again, a week
later, "I repeat what I said before that I have so many communications from
the Ministers, and from me to them, and I get so many papers to sign every
day, that I have always a very great deal to do. I delight in this work."
Through the girl's immaturity the vigorous predestined tastes of the woman
were pushing themselves into existence with eager velocity, with delicious

One detail of her happy situation deserves particular mention. Apart from the
splendour of her social position and the momentousness of her political one,
she was a person of great wealth. As soon as Parliament met, an annuity of
L385,000 was settled upon her. When the expenses of her household had been
discharged, she was left with L68,000 a year of her own. She enjoyed besides
the revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster, which amounted annually to over
L27,000. The first use to which she put her money was characteristic: she paid
off her father's debts. In money matters, no less than in other matters, she
was determined to be correct. She had the instincts of a man of business; and
she never could have borne to be in a position that was financially unsound.

With youth and happiness gilding every hour, the days passed merrily enough.
And each day hinged upon Lord Melbourne. Her diary shows us, with undiminished
clarity, the life of the young sovereign during the early months of her
reign--a life satisfactorily regular, full of delightful business, a life of
simple pleasures, mostly physical--riding, eating, dancing--a quick, easy,
highly unsophisticated life, sufficient unto itself. The light of the morning
is upon it; and, in the rosy radiance, the figure of "Lord M." emerges,
glorified and supreme. If she is the heroine of the story, he is the hero; but
indeed they are more than hero and heroine, for there are no other characters
at all. Lehzen, the Baron, Uncle Leopold, are unsubstantial shadows--the
incidental supers of the piece. Her paradise was peopled by two persons, and
surely that was enough. One sees them together still, a curious couple,
strangely united in those artless pages, under the magical illumination of
that dawn of eighty years ago: the polished high fine gentleman with the
whitening hair and whiskers and the thick dark eyebrows and the mobile lips
and the big expressive eyes; and beside him the tiny Queen--fair, slim,
elegant, active, in her plain girl's dress and little tippet, looking up at
him earnestly, adoringly, with eyes blue and projecting, and half-open mouth.
So they appear upon every page of the Journal; upon every page Lord M. is
present, Lord M. is speaking, Lord M. is being amusing, instructive,
delightful, and affectionate at once, while Victoria drinks in the honied
words, laughs till she shows her gums, tries hard to remember, and runs off,
as soon as she is left alone, to put it all down. Their long conversations
touched upon a multitude of topics. Lord M. would criticise books, throw out a
remark or two on the British Constitution, make some passing reflections on
human life, and tell story after story of the great people of the eighteenth
century. Then there would be business a despatch perhaps from Lord Durham in
Canada, which Lord M. would read. But first he must explain a little. "He said
that I must know that Canada originally belonged to the French, and was only
ceded to the English in 1760, when it was taken in an expedition under Wolfe:
'a very daring enterprise,' he said. Canada was then entirely French, and the
British only came afterwards... Lord M. explained this very clearly (and much
better than I have done) and said a good deal more about it. He then read me
Durham's despatch, which is a very long one and took him more than 1/2 an hour
to read. Lord M. read it beautifully with that fine soft voice of his, and
with so much expression, so that it is needless to say I was much interested
by it." And then the talk would take a more personal turn. Lord M. would
describe his boyhood, and she would learn that "he wore his hair long, as all
boys then did, till he was 17; (how handsome he must have looked!)." Or she
would find out about his queer tastes and habits--how he never carried a
watch, which seemed quite extraordinary. "'I always ask the servant what
o'clock it is, and then he tells me what he likes,' said Lord M." Or, as the
rooks wheeled about round the trees, "in a manner which indicated rain," he
would say that he could sit looking at them for an hour, and "was quite
surprised at my disliking them. M. said, ' The rooks are my delight.'"

The day's routine, whether in London or at Windsor, was almost invariable. The
morning was devoted to business and Lord M. In the afternoon the whole Court
went out riding. The Queen, in her velvet riding--habit and a top-hat with a
veil draped about the brim, headed the cavalcade; and Lord M. rode beside her.
The lively troupe went fast and far, to the extreme exhilaration of Her
Majesty. Back in the Palace again, there was still time for a little more fun
before dinner--a game of battledore and shuttlecock perhaps, or a romp along
the galleries with some children. Dinner came, and the ceremonial decidedly
tightened. The gentleman of highest rank sat on the right hand of the Queen;
on her left--it soon became an established rule--sat Lord Melbourne. After the
ladies had left the dining-room, the gentlemen were not permitted to remain
behind for very long; indeed, the short time allowed them for their
wine-drinking formed the subject--so it was rumoured--of one of the very few
disputes between the Queen and her Prime Minister;[*] but her determination
carried the day, and from that moment after-dinner drunkenness began to go out
of fashion. When the company was reassembled in the drawing-room the etiquette
was stiff. For a few moments the Queen spoke in turn to each one of her
guests; and during these short uneasy colloquies the aridity of royalty was
apt to become painfully evident. One night Mr. Greville, the Clerk of the
Privy Council, was present; his turn soon came; the middle-aged, hard-faced
viveur was addressed by his young hostess. "Have you been riding to-day, Mr.
Greville?" asked the Queen. "No, Madam, I have not," replied Mr. Greville. "It
was a fine day," continued the Queen. "Yes, Madam, a very fine day," said Mr.
Greville. "It was rather cold, though," said the Queen. "It was rather cold,
Madam," said Mr. Greville. "Your sister, Lady Frances Egerton, rides, I think,
doesn't she?" said the Queen. "She does ride sometimes, Madam," said Mr.
Greville. There was a pause, after which Mr. Greville ventured to take the
lead, though he did not venture to change the subject. "Has your Majesty been
riding today?" asked Mr. Greville. "Oh yes, a very long ride," answered the
Queen with animation. "Has your Majesty got a nice horse?" said Mr. Greville.
"Oh, a very nice horse," said the Queen. It was over. Her Majesty gave a smile
and an inclination of the head, Mr. Greville a profound bow, and the next
conversation began with the next gentleman. When all the guests had been
disposed of, the Duchess of Kent sat down to her whist, while everybody else
was ranged about the round table. Lord Melbourne sat beside the Queen, and
talked pertinaciously--very often a propos to the contents of one of the large
albums of engravings with which the round table was covered--until it was
half-past eleven and time to go to bed.

[*] The Duke of Bedford told Greville he was "sure there was a battle between
her and Melbourne... He is sure there was one about the men's sitting after
dinner, for he heard her say to him rather angrily, 'it is a horrid custom-'
but when the ladies left the room (he dined there) directions were given that
the men should remain five minutes longer." Greville Memoirs, February 26,
1840 (unpublished).

Occasionally, there were little diversions: the evening might be spent at the
opera or at the play. Next morning the royal critic was careful to note down
her impressions. "It was Shakespeare's tragedy of Hamlet, and we came in at
the beginning of it. Mr. Charles Kean (son of old Kean) acted the part of
Hamlet, and I must say beautifully. His conception of this very difficult, and
I may almost say incomprehensible, character is admirable; his delivery of all
the fine long speeches quite beautiful; he is excessively graceful and all his
actions and attitudes are good, though not at all good-looking in face... I
came away just as Hamlet was over." Later on, she went to see Macready in King
Lear. The story was new to her; she knew nothing about it, and at first she
took very little interest in what was passing on the stage; she preferred to
chatter and laugh with the Lord Chamberlain. But, as the play went on, her
mood changed; her attention was fixed, and then she laughed no more. Yet she
was puzzled; it seemed a strange, a horrible business. What did Lord M. think?
Lord M. thought it was a very fine play, but to be sure, "a rough, coarse
play, written for those times, with exaggerated characters." "I'm glad you've
seen it," he added. But, undoubtedly, the evenings which she enjoyed most were
those on which there was dancing. She was always ready enough to seize any
excuse--the arrival of cousins--a birthday--a gathering of young people--to
give the command for that. Then, when the band played, and the figures of the
dancers swayed to the music, and she felt her own figure swaying too, with
youthful spirits so close on every side--then her happiness reached its
height, her eyes sparkled, she must go on and on into the small hours of the
morning. For a moment Lord M. himself was forgotten.


The months flew past. The summer was over: "the pleasantest summer I EVER
passed in MY LIFE, and I shall never forget this first summer of my reign."
With surprising rapidity, another summer was upon her. The coronation came and
went--a curious dream. The antique, intricate, endless ceremonial worked
itself out as best it could, like some machine of gigantic complexity which
was a little out of order. The small central figure went through her
gyrations. She sat; she walked; she prayed; she carried about an orb that was
almost too heavy to hold; the Archbishop of Canterbury came and crushed a ring
upon the wrong finger, so that she was ready to cry out with the pain; old
Lord Rolle tripped up in his mantle and fell down the steps as he was doing
homage; she was taken into a side chapel, where the altar was covered with a
table-cloth, sandwiches, and bottles of wine; she perceived Lehzen in an upper
box and exchanged a smile with her as she sat, robed and crowned, on the
Confessor's throne. "I shall ever remember this day as the PROUDEST of my
life," she noted. But the pride was soon merged once more in youth and
simplicity. When she returned to Buckingham Palace at last she was not tired;
she ran up to her private rooms, doffed her splendours, and gave her dog Dash
its evening bath.

Life flowed on again with its accustomed smoothness--though, of course, the
smoothness was occasionally disturbed. For one thing, there was the
distressing behaviour of Uncle Leopold. The King of the Belgians had not been
able to resist attempting to make use of his family position to further his
diplomatic ends. But, indeed, why should there be any question of resisting?
Was not such a course of conduct, far from being a temptation, simply "selon
les regles?" What were royal marriages for, if they did not enable sovereigns,
in spite of the hindrances of constitutions, to control foreign politics? For
the highest purposes, of course; that was understood. The Queen of England was
his niece--more than that--almost his daughter; his confidential agent was
living, in a position of intimate favour, at her court. Surely, in such
circumstances, it would be preposterous, it would be positively incorrect, to
lose the opportunity of bending to his wishes by means of personal influence,
behind the backs of the English Ministers, the foreign policy of England.

He set about the task with becoming precautions. He continued in his letters
his admirable advice. Within a few days of her accession, he recommended the
young Queen to lay emphasis, on every possible occasion, upon her English
birth; to praise the English nation; "the Established Church I also recommend
strongly; you cannot, without PLEDGING yourself to anything PARTICULAR, SAY
TOO MUCH ON THE SUBJECT." And then "before you decide on anything important I
should be glad if you would consult me; this would also have the advantage of
giving you time;" nothing was more injurious than to be hurried into wrong
decisions unawares. His niece replied at once with all the accustomed warmth
of her affection; but she wrote hurriedly--and, perhaps, a trifle vaguely too.
"YOUR advice is always of the GREATEST IMPORTANCE to me," she said.

Had he, possibly, gone too far? He could not be certain; perhaps Victoria HAD
been hurried. In any case, he would be careful; he would draw back--"pour
mieux sauter" he added to himself with a smile. In his next letters he made no
reference to his suggestion of consultations with himself; he merely pointed
out the wisdom, in general, of refusing to decide upon important questions
off-hand. So far, his advice was taken; and it was noticed that the Queen,
when applications were made to her, rarely gave an immediate answer. Even with
Lord Melbourne, it was the same; when he asked for her opinion upon any
subject, she would reply that she would think it over, and tell him her
conclusions next day.

King Leopold's counsels continued. The Princess de Lieven, he said, was a
dangerous woman; there was reason to think that she would make attempts to pry
into what did not concern her, let Victoria beware. "A rule which I cannot
sufficiently recommend is NEVER TO PERMIT people to speak on subjects
concerning yourself or your affairs, without you having yourself desired them
to do so." Should such a thing occur, "change the conversation, and make the
individual feel that he has made a mistake." This piece of advice was also
taken; for it fell out as the King had predicted. Madame de Lieven sought an
audience, and appeared to be verging towards confidential topics; whereupon
the Queen, becoming slightly embarrassed, talked of nothing but commonplaces.
The individual felt that she had made a mistake.

The King's next warning was remarkable. Letters, he pointed out, are almost
invariably read in the post. This was inconvenient, no doubt; but the fact,
once properly grasped, was not without its advantages. "I will give you an
example: we are still plagued by Prussia concerning those fortresses; now to
tell the Prussian Government many things, which we SHOULD NOT LIKE to tell
them officially, the Minister is going to write a despatch to our man at
Berlin, sending it BY POST; the Prussians ARE SURE to read it, and to learn in
this way what we wish them to hear. Analogous circumstances might very
probably occur in England. I tell you the TRICK," wrote His Majesty, "that you
should be able to guard against it." Such were the subtleties of
constitutional sovereignty.

It seemed that the time had come for another step. The King's next letter was
full of foreign politics--the situation in Spain and Portugal, the character
of Louis Philippe; and he received a favourable answer. Victoria, it is true,
began by saying that she had shown the POLITICAL PART of his letter to Lord
Melbourne; but she proceeded to a discussion of foreign affairs. It appeared
that she was not unwilling to exchange observations on such matters with her
uncle. So far so good. But King Leopold was still cautious; though a crisis
was impending in his diplomacy, he still hung back; at last, however, he could
keep silence no longer. It was of the utmost importance to him that, in his
manoeuvrings with France and Holland, he should have, or at any rate appear to
have, English support. But the English Government appeared to adopt a neutral
attitude; it was too bad; not to be for him was to be against him, could they
not see that? Yet, perhaps, they were only wavering, and a little pressure
upon them from Victoria might still save all. He determined to put the case
before her, delicately yet forcibly--just as he saw it himself. "All I want
from your kind Majesty," he wrote, "is, that you will OCCASIONALLY express to
your Ministers, and particularly to good Lord Melbourne, that, as far as it is
COMPATIBLE with the interests of your own dominions, you do NOT wish that your
Government should take the lead in such measures as might in a short time
bring on the DESTRUCTION of this country, as well as that of your uncle and
his family." The result of this appeal was unexpected; there was dead silence
for more than a week. When Victoria at last wrote, she was prodigal of her
affection." It would, indeed, my dearest Uncle, be VERY WRONG of you, if you
thought my feelings of warm and devoted attachment to you, and of great
affection for you, could be changed--nothing can ever change them"--but her
references to foreign politics, though they were lengthy and elaborate, were
non-committal in the extreme; they were almost cast in an official and
diplomatic form. Her Ministers, she said, entirely shared her views upon the
subject; she understood and sympathised with the difficulties of her beloved
uncle's position; and he might rest assured "that both Lord Melbourne and Lord
Palmerston are most anxious at all times for the prosperity and welfare of
Belgium." That was all. The King in his reply declared himself delighted, and
re-echoed the affectionate protestations of his niece. "My dearest and most
beloved Victoria," he said, "you have written me a VERY DEAR and long letter,
which has given me GREAT PLEASURE AND SATISFACTION." He would not admit that
he had had a rebuff.

A few months later the crisis came. King Leopold determined to make a bold
push, and to carry Victoria with him, this time, by a display of royal vigour
and avuncular authority. In an abrupt, an almost peremptory letter, he laid
his case, once more, before his niece. "You know from experience," he wrote,
"that I NEVER ASK ANYTHING OF YOU... But, as I said before, if we are not
careful we may see serious consequences which may affect more or less
everybody, and THIS ought to be the object of our most anxious attention. I
remain, my dear Victoria, your affectionate uncle, Leopold R." The Queen
immediately despatched this letter to Lord Melbourne, who replied with a
carefully thought-out form of words, signifying nothing whatever, which, he
suggested, she should send to her uncle. She did so, copying out the elaborate
formula, with a liberal scattering of "dear Uncles" interspersed; and she
concluded her letter with a message of "affectionate love to Aunt Louise and
the children." Then at last King Leopold was obliged to recognise the facts.
His next letter contained no reference at all to politics. "I am glad," he
wrote, "to find that you like Brighton better than last year. I think Brighton
very agreeable at this time of the year, till the east winds set in. The
pavilion, besides, is comfortable; that cannot be denied. Before my marriage,
it was there that I met the Regent. Charlotte afterwards came with old Queen
Charlotte. How distant all this already, but still how present to one's
memory." Like poor Madame de Lieven, His Majesty felt that he had made a

Nevertheless, he could not quite give up all hope. Another opportunity
offered, and he made another effort--but there was not very much conviction in
it, and it was immediately crushed. "My dear Uncle," the Queen wrote, "I have
to thank you for your last letter which I received on Sunday. Though you seem
not to dislike my political sparks, I think it is better not to increase them,
as they might finally take fire, particularly as I see with regret that upon
this one subject we cannot agree. I shall, therefore, limit myself to my
expressions of very sincere wishes for the welfare and prosperity of Belgium."
After that, it was clear that there was no more to be said. Henceforward there
is audible in the King's letters a curiously elegiac note. "My dearest
Victoria, your DELIGHTFUL little letter has just arrived and went like AN
ARROW TO MY HEART. Yes, my beloved Victoria! I DO LOVE YOU TENDERLY... I love
you FOR YOURSELF, and I love in you the dear child whose welfare I tenderly
watched." He had gone through much; yet, if life had its disappointments, it
had its satisfactions too. "I have all the honours that can be given, and I
am, politically speaking, very solidly established." But there were other
things besides politics, there were romantic yearnings in his heart. "The only
longing I still have is for the Orient, where I perhaps shall once end my
life, rising in the west and setting in the east." As for his devotion to his
niece, that could never end. "I never press my services on you, nor my
councils, though I may say with some truth that from the extraordinary fate
which the higher powers had ordained for me, my experience, both political and
of private life, is great. I am ALWAYS READY to be useful to you when and
where and it may be, and I repeat it, ALL I WANT IN RETURN IS SOME LITTLE


The correspondence with King Leopold was significant of much that still lay
partly hidden in the character of Victoria. Her attitude towards her uncle had
never wavered for a moment. To all his advances she had presented an
absolutely unyielding front. The foreign policy of England was not his
province; it was hers and her Ministers'; his insinuations, his entreaties,
his struggles--all were quite useless; and he must understand that this was
so. The rigidity of her position was the more striking owing to the
respectfulness and the affection with which it was accompanied. From start to
finish the unmoved Queen remained the devoted niece. Leopold himself must have
envied such perfect correctitude; but what may be admirable in an elderly
statesman is alarming in a maiden of nineteen. And privileged observers were
not without their fears. The strange mixture of ingenuous light-heartedness
and fixed determination, of frankness and reticence, of childishness and
pride, seemed to augur a future that was perplexed and full of dangers. As
time passed the less pleasant qualities in this curious composition revealed
themselves more often and more seriously. There were signs of an imperious, a
peremptory temper, an egotism that was strong and hard. It was noticed that
the palace etiquette, far from relaxing, grew ever more and more inflexible.
By some, this was attributed to Lehzen's influence; but, if that was so,
Lehzen had a willing pupil; for the slightest infringements of the freezing
rules of regularity and deference were invariably and immediately visited by
the sharp and haughty glances of the Queen. Yet Her Majesty's eyes, crushing
as they could be, were less crushing than her mouth. The self-will depicted in
those small projecting teeth and that small receding chin was of a more
dismaying kind than that which a powerful jaw betokens; it was a self--will
imperturbable, impenetrable, unintelligent; a self-will dangerously akin to
obstinacy. And the obstinacy of monarchs is not as that of other men.

Within two years of her accession, the storm-clouds which, from the first, had
been dimly visible on the horizon, gathered and burst. Victoria's relations
with her mother had not improved. The Duchess of Kent, still surrounded by all
the galling appearances of filial consideration, remained in Buckingham Palace
a discarded figure, powerless and inconsolable. Sir John Conroy, banished from
the presence of the Queen, still presided over the Duchess's household, and
the hostilities of Kensington continued unabated in the new surroundings. Lady
Flora Hastings still cracked her malicious jokes; the animosity of the
Baroness was still unappeased. One day, Lady Flora found the joke was turned
against her. Early in 1839, travelling in the suite of the Duchess, she had
returned from Scotland in the same carriage with Sir John. A change in her
figure became the subject of an unseemly jest; tongues wagged; and the jest
grew serious. It was whispered that Lady Flora was with child. The state of
her health seemed to confirm the suspicion; she consulted Sir James Clark, the
royal physician, and, after the consultation, Sir James let his tongue wag,
too. On this, the scandal flared up sky-high. Everyone was talking; the
Baroness was not surprised; the Duchess rallied tumultuously to the support of
her lady; the Queen was informed. At last the extraordinary expedient of a
medical examination was resorted to, during which Sir James, according to Lady
Flora, behaved with brutal rudeness, while a second doctor was extremely
polite. Finally, both physicians signed a certificate entirely exculpating the
lady. But this was by no means the end of the business. The Hastings family,
socially a very powerful one, threw itself into the fray with all the fury of
outraged pride and injured innocence; Lord Hastings insisted upon an audience
of the Queen, wrote to the papers, and demanded the dismissal of Sir James
Clark. The Queen expressed her regret to Lady Flora, but Sir James Clark was
not dismissed. The tide of opinion turned violently against the Queen and her
advisers; high society was disgusted by all this washing of dirty linen in
Buckingham Palace; the public at large was indignant at the ill-treatment of
Lady Flora. By the end of March, the popularity, so radiant and so abundant,
with which the young Sovereign had begun her reign, had entirely disappeared.

There can be no doubt that a great lack of discretion had been shown by the
Court. Ill-natured tittle-tattle, which should have been instantly nipped in
the bud, had been allowed to assume disgraceful proportions; and the Throne
itself had become involved in the personal malignities of the palace. A
particularly awkward question had been raised by the position of Sir James
Clark. The Duke of Wellington, upon whom it was customary to fall back, in
cases of great difficulty in high places, had been consulted upon this
question, and he had given it as his opinion that, as it would be impossible
to remove Sir James without a public enquiry, Sir James must certainly stay
where he was. Probably the Duke was right; but the fact that the peccant
doctor continued in the Queen's service made the Hastings family
irreconcilable and produced an unpleasant impression of unrepentant error upon
the public mind. As for Victoria, she was very young and quite inexperienced;
and she can hardly be blamed for having failed to control an extremely
difficult situation. That was clearly Lord Melbourne's task; he was a man of
the world, and, with vigilance and circumspection, he might have quietly put
out the ugly flames while they were still smouldering. He did not do so; he
was lazy and easy-going; the Baroness was persistent, and he let things slide.
But doubtless his position was not an easy one; passions ran high in the
palace; and Victoria was not only very young, she was very headstrong, too.
Did he possess the magic bridle which would curb that fiery steed? He could
not be certain. And then, suddenly, another violent crisis revealed more
unmistakably than ever the nature of the mind with which he had to deal.


The Queen had for long been haunted by a terror that the day might come when
she would be obliged to part with her Minister. Ever since the passage of the
Reform Bill, the power of the Whig Government had steadily declined. The
General Election of 1837 had left them with a very small majority in the House
of Commons; since then, they had been in constant difflculties--abroad, at
home, in Ireland; the Radical group had grown hostile; it became highly
doubtful how much longer they could survive. The Queen watched the development
of events in great anxiety. She was a Whig by birth, by upbringing, by every
association, public and private; and, even if those ties had never existed,
the mere fact that Lord M. was the head of the Whigs would have amply sufficed
to determine her politics. The fall of the Whigs would mean a sad upset for

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