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    Chapter 1

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    Reign of Queen Victoria--Outlook of Royalty in 1819--Duke and Duchess of Kent--Birth of Victoria--Wisely trained by Duchess of Kent--Taught by Fraeulein Lehzen--Anecdotes of this Period--Discovers that she is next to the Throne.

    The reign of Queen Victoria may be aptly described as a period of progress in all that related to the well-being of the subjects of her vast empire. In every department of science, literature, politics, and the practical life of the nation, there has been steady improvement and progress. Our ships circumnavigate the globe and do the chief carrying trade of the world. The locomotive binds industrial centres, and abridges time and space as it speeds along its iron pathway; whilst steam-power does the work of thousands of hands in our large factories. The telegraph links us to our colonies, and to the various nationalities of the world, in commerce and in closer sympathy; and never was the hand and heart of Benevolence busier than in this later period of the nineteenth century. Our colonial empire has shared also in the welfare and progress of the mother-country.

    When we come to look into the lives of the Queen and Prince-Consort, we are thankful for all they have been and done. The wider our survey of history, and the more we know of other rulers and courts, the more thankful we shall be that they have been a guiding and balancing power, allied to all that was progressive, noble, and true, and for the benefit of the vast empire over which Her Majesty reigns. And the personal example has been no less valuable in

    Wearing the white flower of a blameless life, Before a thousand peering littlenesses, In that fierce light which heats upon a throne, And blackens every blot.

    In the year 1819 the family outlook of the British royal house was not a very bright one. The old king, George III., was lingering on in deep seclusion, a very pathetic figure, blind and imbecile. His son the Prince Regent, afterwards George IV., had not done honour to his position, nor brought happiness to any connected with him. Most of the other princes were elderly men and childless; and the Prince-Regent's only daughter, the Princess Charlotte, on whom the hopes of the nation had rested, and whose marriage had raised those hopes to enthusiasm, was newly laid in her premature grave.

    But almost immediately after Princess Charlotte's death, the king's third and fourth sons, the Dukes of Clarence and Kent, had married. Of the Duke of Clarence we need say little more. He and his consort eventually reigned as William IV. and Queen Adelaide, and they had two children who died in earliest infancy, and did not further complicate the succession to the crown.

    The Duke of Kent, born in 1767, fourth son of George III.--a tall, stately man, of soldierly hearing, inclined to corpulency and entirely bald--married the widowed Princess of Leiningen, already the mother of a son and a daughter by her first husband. The duke was of active, busy habits; and he was patron of many charitable institutions--he presided over no less than seventy-two charity meetings in 1816. Baron Stockmar describes the Princess of Leiningen after her marriage in 1818, as 'of middle height, rather large, but with a good figure, with fine brown eyes and hair, fresh and youthful, naturally cheerful and friendly; altogether most charming and attractive. She was fond of dress, and dressed well and in good taste. Nature had endowed her with warm feelings, and she was naturally truthful, affectionate, and unselfish, full of sympathy, and generous.' The princely pair lived in Germany until the birth of a child was expected, when the duke at first thought of taking a house in Lanarkshire--which would have made Queen Victoria by birth a Scotchwoman. Eventually, the Duke and Duchess of Kent took up their abode in Kensington Palace.

    On the 24th May 1819, their daughter was born, and she was named Alexandrina Victoria, after the reigning Emperor of Russia and her mother. The Prince Regent had wished the name of Georgiana; her own father wished to call her Elizabeth. The little one was the first of the British royal house to receive the benefits of Jenner's discovery of vaccination. The Duke of Kent was so careful of his little girl that he took a cottage at Sidmouth to escape the London winter. To a friend he wrote: 'My little girl thrives under the influence of a Devonshire climate, and is, I am delighted to say, strong and healthy; too healthy, I fear, in the opinion of some members of my family, by whom she is regarded as an intruder.' Next winter the Duke came in one day, after tramping through rain and snow, and played with his little child while in his damp clothes; he thus contracted a chill from which he never rallied, and died January 23, 1820.

    This child was destined to be the Empress-Queen, on whose dominion the sun never sets. Yet so remote did such a destiny then seem, owing to the possibilities of the Regent's life, and of children being born to the Duke of Clarence, that in some courtly biographies of George III. there is no mention made of the birth of the little princess. Even in their accounts of the death of her father the Duke of Kent, seven months afterwards, they do not deem it necessary to state that he left a daughter behind him; though he, poor man, had never had any doubts of her future importance, and had been in the habit of saying to her attendants, 'Take care of her, for she may be Queen of England.' The Duke of Kent was a capable and energetic soldier, of pure tastes and simple pleasures. In presenting new colours to the Royal Scots in 1876, the Queen said: 'I have been associated with your regiment from my earliest infancy, as my dear father was your colonel. He was proud of his profession, and I was always told to consider myself a soldier's child.'

    The position of the widowed Duchess of Kent, a stranger in a foreign country, was rather sad and lonely. It was further complicated by narrowness of means. The old king, her father-in-law, died soon after her husband. The duchess was a woman of sense and spirit. Instead of yielding to any natural impulse to retire to Germany, she resolved that her little English princess should have an English rearing. She found a firm friend and upholder in her brother Leopold, husband of the late Princess Charlotte, and afterwards King of the Belgians. On discovering her straitened means he gave her an allowance of L3000 a year, which was continued until it was no longer necessary in 1831. As the duke came into a separate income only at a late period of his life, he had died much in debt. Long afterwards the Queen said to Lord Melbourne: 'I want to pay all that remains of my father's debts. I must do it. I consider it a sacred duty.' And she did not rest till she did it. In reply to an address of congratulation on the coming of age of the Queen, the Duchess of Kent said:

    'My late regretted consort's circumstances, and my duties, obliged us to reside in Germany; but the Duke of Kent at much inconvenience, and I at great personal risk, returned to England, that our child should be "born and bred a Briton." In a few months afterwards my infant and myself were awfully deprived of father and husband. We stood alone--almost friendless and alone in this country; I could not even speak the language of it. I did not hesitate how to act, I gave up my home, my kindred, my duties [the regency of Leiningen], to devote myself to that duty which was to be the whole object of my future life. I was supported in the execution of my duties by the country. It placed its trust in me, and the Regency Bill gave me its last act of confidence. I have in times of great difficulty avoided all connection with any party in the state; but if I have done so, I have never ceased to press on my daughter her duties, so as to gain by her conduct the respect and affection of the people. This I have taught her should be her first earthly duty as a constitutional sovereign.'

    The little princess was brought up quietly and wisely at Kensington and Claremont. In a letter from the Queen to her uncle Leopold, written in 1843, we find the following: 'This place [Claremont] has a particular charm for us both, and to me it brings back recollections of the happiest days of my otherwise dull childhood, when I experienced such kindness from you, dearest uncle, kindness which has ever since continued.... Victoria [the Princess Royal] plays with my old bricks, &c., and I see her running and jumping in the flower-garden, as old, though I fear still little, Victoria of former days used to do.'

    Bishop Fulford of Montreal remembered seeing her when four months old in the arms of her nurse. In the following year she might be seen in a hand-carriage with her half-sister, the Princess Feodora of Leiningen. Wilberforce in a letter to Hannah More, July 21, 1820, wrote: 'In consequence of a very civil message from the Duchess of Kent, I waited on her this morning. She received me with her fine, animated child on the floor by her side, with its playthings, of which I soon became one.' She became familiar to many as a pretty infant, riding on her sleek donkey (a gift from her uncle the Duke of York) in Kensington Gardens. She used to be seen in a large straw hat and a white cotton frock, watering the plants under the palace windows, dividing the contents of the watering-pot between the flowers and her feet, and often took breakfast with her mother on the lawn there. There are playful stories told of those happy early days. The little princess was very fond of music, listening as one spell-bound when first she heard some of Beethoven's glorious compositions. But like most children, she rebelled against the drudgery of scales and finger exercises, and on being told that there is 'no royal road to music,' she sportively locked the piano and announced that 'the royal road is never to take a lesson till you feel disposed.'

    Sir Walter Scott records in his diary that he dined with the Duchess of Kent on 19th May 1828. 'I was very kindly received by Prince Leopold, and presented to the little Victoria--the heir-apparent to the crown as things now stand. The little lady is educated with much care, and watched so closely that no busy maid has a moment to whisper "You are heir of England." I suspect if we could dissect the little heart, we should find that some pigeon or other bird of the air had carried the matter, however.' This, it seems, was not the case. Charles Knight has told us how he one morning saw the household breakfasting in the open air, at a table on the lawn. It is also related that Victoria took her airings in Kensington Gardens in a little phaeton drawn by a tiny pony, led by a page. A dog ran between the legs of the pony one day, frightening it, so that the little carriage was upset, and the princess would have fallen on her head, but for the presence of mind of an Irishman who rescued her. Leigh Hunt saw her once 'coming up a cross-path from the Bayswater gate, with a girl of her own age by her side, whose hand she was holding as if she loved her;' and he adds that the footman who followed seemed to him like a gigantic fairy. When the princess was in her fifth year, George IV., who acted as one of her godfathers, sent a message to parliament which resulted in a grant for the cost of the education of his niece.

    In 1824, when the princess was five years old, Fraeulein Lehzen, a German lady, became her governess; afterwards she held the post of the Queen's private secretary, until relieved by the Prince-Consort. She was the daughter of a Hanoverian pastor, and came to England in 1818 as governess to the Princess Feodora of Leiningen. In her home letters she records that 'the princess received her in a pretty, childlike way,' and describes her as 'not tall, but very pretty;' adding that she 'has dark brown hair, beautiful blue eyes, and a mouth which, though not tiny, is very good-tempered and pleasant; very fine teeth, a small but graceful figure, and a very small foot. She was dressed in white muslin with a coral necklet.' The domestic life was that of any other well-regulated and happy family. The princess shared her governess's bedroom. They all took their meals together at a round table. When they did not go to church, the duchess read a sermon aloud and commented pleasantly on it. As early as 1830 Thomas Moore heard the Princess Victoria sing duets with her mother, who also sang some pretty German songs herself.

    Nor are there lacking traces of strict and chastening discipline. The princess had been early taught that there are good habits and duties in the management of money. When she was buying toys at Tunbridge Wells, her wishes outran her little purse, and the box for which she could not pay was not carried away on credit, but set aside for her to fetch away when the next quarter-day would renew her allowance. Fraeulein Lehzen says, 'The duchess wished that when she and the princess drove out, I should sit by her side, and the princess at the back. Several times I could not prevent it, but at last she has given in, and says on such occasions with a laugh to her daughter: "Sit by me, since Fraeulein Lehzen wishes it to be so." But,' says the governess, 'I do not hesitate to remark to the little one, whom I am most anxious not to spoil, that this consideration is not on her account, because she is still a child, but that my respect for her mother disposes me to decline the seat.' Once when the princess was reading how Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi, introduced her sons to the first of Roman ladies with the words, 'These are my jewels,' she looked up from her book, and remarked: 'She should have said my Cornelians.'

    Mrs Oliphant remembers of having in her own youth seen the Princess Victoria, and says: 'The calm full look of her eyes affected me. Those eyes were very blue, serene, still, looking at you with a tranquil breadth of expression which, somehow, conveyed to your mind a feeling of unquestioned power and greatness, quite poetical in its serious simplicity.' While on a visit to Malvern she climbed walls and trees, and rode on a donkey. One day she had climbed an apple tree, and could not get down till relieved by the gardener, who got a guinea for his pains, which was preserved and neatly framed. On another occasion, at Wentworth House, the gardener cautioned her: 'Be careful, miss, it's slape' (using a provincial form for 'slippery'), while she was descending a sloping piece of turf, where the ground was wet. While she was asking, 'What is slape?'her feet slid from beneath her, and the old gardener was able to explain as he lifted her up, 'That's slape, miss.'

    Miss Jane Porter, then resident at Claremont, describes the princess as a beautiful child, with a cherubic form of features, clustered round by glossy, fair ringlets. Her complexion was remarkably transparent, with a soft, but often heightening tinge of the sweet blush-rose upon her cheeks, that imparted a peculiar brilliancy to her clear blue eyes. Whenever she met any strangers in her usual paths, she always seemed, by the quickness of her glance, to inquire who and what they were? The intelligence of her countenance was extraordinary at her very early age, but might easily be accounted for on perceiving the extraordinary intelligence of her mind. At Esher Church, even in her sixth year, the youthful princess was accustomed to devote earnest attention to the sermons preached there, as the Duchess of Kent was in the habit of inquiring not only for the text, but the heads of the discourse. 'The sweet spring of the princess's life,' continues Miss Porter, 'was thus dedicated to the sowing of all precious seeds of knowledge, and the cultivation of all elegant acquirements.... Young as she was, she sang with sweetness and taste; and my brother, Sir Robert (who, when in England, frequently had the honour of dining at Claremont), often had the pleasure of listening to the infant chorister, mingling her cherub-like melody with the mature and delightful harmonies of the Duchess of Kent and Prince Leopold.'

    When Fraeulein Lehzen died in 1870, her old pupil wrote of her as 'my dearest, kindest friend, old Lehzen; she knew me from six months old, and from my fifth to my eighteenth year devoted all her care and energies to me, with the most wonderful abnegation of self, never even taking one day's holiday. I adored, although I was greatly in awe of her. She really seemed to have no thought but for me.' And the future queen profited by it all, for it has been truly said that, 'had she not been the Queen of England, her acquirements and accomplishments would have given her a high standing in society.'

    Dr Davys, the future Bishop of Peterborough, was her instructor in Latin, history, mathematics, and theology, and the Dowager Duchess of Northumberland had also, after her own mother, a considerable share in her training.

    The Duchess of Kent took her daughter to visit many of the chief cities, cathedrals, and other places of interest in the British Isles. Her first public act was to present the colours to a regiment of foot at Plymouth. An American writer has recorded that he saw the widowed lady and her little girl in the churchyard of Brading, in the Isle of Wight. They were seated near the grave of the heroine of a 'short and simple annal of the poor'--the Dairyman's Daughter, whose story, as told by the Rev. Legh Richmond, had a great popularity at the time. The duchess was reading from a volume she carried (probably that one), and the little princess's soft eyes were tearful.

    The princess, it appears, was much devoted to dolls, and played with them until she was nearly fourteen years old. Her favourites were small wooden dolls which she would occupy herself in dressing; and she had a house in which they could be placed. As she had no girl companions, many an hour was solaced in this manner. She dressed these dolls from some costumes she saw in the theatre or in private life. A list of her dolls was kept in a copy-book, the name of each, and by whom it was dressed, and the character it represented, being given. The dolls seem to have been packed away about 1833. Of the 132 dolls preserved, thirty-two were dressed by the princess. They range from three to nine inches in height. The sewing and adornment of the rich coloured silks and satins show great deftness of finger.

    Her wise mother withheld her from the pomp and circumstance of the court. She was not even allowed to be present at the coronation of her uncle, the Duke of Clarence, when he ascended the throne as William IV. He could not understand such reticence, was annoyed by it, and expressed his annoyance angrily. But his consort, good Queen Adelaide, was always kind and considerate: even when she lost all her own little ones, she could be generous enough to say to the Duchess of Kent, 'My children are dead, but yours lives, and she is mine too.'

    All doubts as to the princess's relation to the succession were gradually removed. George IV. had died childless. Both the children of William IV. were dead. The Princess Victoria therefore was the heiress of England. A paper had been placed in the volume of history she had been reading, after perusing which she remarked, 'I never saw this before.'

    'It was not thought necessary you should, princess,' the governess replied.

    'I see,' she said timidly, 'that I am nearer the throne than I thought.'

    'So it is, madam,' said the governess.

    'Now many a child,' observed the princess thoughtfully, 'would boast, but they don't know the difficulty. There is much splendour, but there is more responsibility.' And putting her hand on her governess's, she said solemnly, 'I will be good.' Let that be recorded as among royal vows that have been faithfully fulfilled.

    In August 1835, the Princess Victoria was confirmed in the Chapel Royal, St James's, by the Archbishop of Canterbury; and she was so much moved by the solemn service, that at the close of it she laid her head on her mother's breast, and sobbed with emotion.
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