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    Chapter 7

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    Chapter 8
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    Marriage of the Princess Royal--Carriage Accident--Twenty-first Anniversary of Wedding-day--Death of the Prince-Consort.

    Meanwhile a domestic incident had made a great change in the royal family. The Princess Royal had become engaged to Prince Frederick-William of Prussia (for three months Emperor of Germany), and the marriage came off on the 25th of January 1858. It was the first break in the home circle. The Queen recorded it in her diary as 'the second most eventful day in my life as regards feelings.' Before the wedding, the Queen and her daughter were photographed together, but the Queen 'trembled so, that her likeness came out indistinct.' The correspondence between the mother and her daughter began and continued, close and confidential, full of trusting affection and solicitous wisdom.

    On November 9, 1858, the Prince of Wales celebrated his eighteenth birthday. Mr Greville in his journal tells us that on that occasion the Queen wrote her son 'one of the most admirable letters that ever were penned.' She told him that he may have thought the rule they adopted for his education a severe one, but that his welfare was their only object, and well knowing to what seductions of flattery he would eventually be exposed, they wished to prepare and strengthen his mind against them; that he must now consider himself his own master, and that they should never intrude any advice upon him, although always ready to counsel him whenever he thought fit to attend. This was a very long letter, which the prince received with a feeling that proved the wisdom which dictated it.

    In 1860, while travelling with the Queen in Germany, the Prince-Consort met with a severe carriage accident, his comparative escape from which left the Queen full of happy thanksgiving, though, as she herself says, 'when she feels most deeply, she always appears calmest.' But, she added, she 'could not rest without doing something to mark permanently her feelings. In times of old,' she considered, 'a church or a monument would probably have been erected on the spot.' But her desire was to do something which might benefit her fellow-creatures.

    The outgrowth of this true impulse of the Queen's was the establishment of the 'Victoria Stift' at Coburg, whereby sums of money are applied in apprenticing worthy young men or in purchasing tools for them, and in giving dowries to deserving young women or otherwise settling them in life.

    In the course of the same year the Queen's second daughter, Princess Alice, afterwards the friend and companion of her mother's first days of widowhood, was betrothed to Prince Louis of Hesse. In February 1861, the Queen and the Prince-Consort kept the twenty-first anniversary of their wedding-day--'a day which has brought us,' says the Queen, 'and I may say, to the world at large, such incalculable blessings. Very few can say with me,' she adds, 'that their husband at the end of twenty-one years is not only full of the friendship, kindness, and affection which a truly happy marriage brings with it, but of the same tender love as in the very first days of our marriage.' The Prince-Consort wrote to the aged Duchess of Kent, 'You have, I trust, found good and loving children in us, and we have experienced nothing but love and kindness from you.'

    Alas! it was the death of that beloved mother which was to cast the first of the many shadows which have since fallen upon the royal home. The duchess died, after a slight illness, rather suddenly at last, the Queen and the prince reaching her side too late for any recognition. It was a terrible blow to the Queen: she wrote to her uncle Leopold that she felt 'truly orphaned.' Her sister, the Princess Hohenlohe, daughter of the Duchess of Kent by her first marriage, could not come to England at the time, but wrote letters full of sympathy and inspiration; yet Her Majesty became very nervous, and was inclined to shrink into solitude, even from her children, and to find comfort nowhere but with the beloved consort who was himself so soon to be taken from her.

    The great blow which made the royal lady a widow, and deprived the whole country of the throne's wisest and most disinterested counsellor, came on the 14th of December 1861.

    In the year 1861, what with public and private anxieties, the prince felt ill and feverish, and miserable. He passed his last birthday on a visit to Ireland, where the Prince of Wales was serving in the camp at the Curragh of Kildare. From Ireland, the Queen, the prince, Prince Alfred, and the Princesses Alice and Helena went to Balmoral; and there the prince enjoyed his favourite pastime of deer-stalking. On the return to Windsor in October, the Queen began to be anxious about her husband. One of the last letters of the prince was to his daughter the Crown Princess of Prussia, on her twenty-first birthday, and it shows the noble spirit which animated his whole career. 'May your life, which has begun beautifully, expand still further to the good of others and the contentment of your own mind! True inward happiness is to be sought only in the internal consciousness of effort systematically devoted to good and useful ends. Success, indeed, depends upon the blessing which the Most High sees meet to vouchsafe to our endeavours. May this success not fail you, and may your outward life leave you unhurt by the storms to which the sad heart so often looks forward with a shrinking dread.'

    In conversation with the Queen, he seemed to have a presentiment that he had not long to live. 'I do not cling to life; you do, but I set no store by it. If I knew that those I love were well cared for, I should be quite ready to die to-morrow.... I am sure, if I had a severe illness, I should give up at once. I should not struggle for life.'

    The fatigue and exposure which he underwent on a visit to Sandhurst to inspect the buildings for the Staff College and Royal Military Hospital, there is no doubt, injured his delicate health. Next Sunday he was full of rheumatic pains; he had already suffered greatly from rheumatism during the previous fortnight. One of his last services to his country was to write a memorandum in connection with the Trent complications; which suggestions were adopted by British ministers and forwarded to the United States. He attended church on Sunday, 1st December, but looked very ill. Dr Jenner was sent for, and for the next few days he grew worse, with symptoms of gastric or low fever.

    Another account says: 'The anxious Queen, still bowed down by the remembrance of the recent death of her mother, the Duchess of Kent, went through her state duties as one "in a dreadful dream." Sunday, the 8th, saw the prince in a more dangerous condition. Of this day one of the Queen's household, in a letter written shortly afterwards, says: "The last Sunday Prince Albert passed on earth was a very blessed one for Princess Alice to look back upon. He was very weak and very ill, and she spent the afternoon alone with him while the others were at church. He begged to have the sofa drawn to the window that he might see the sky and the clouds sailing past. He then asked her to play to him, and she went through several of his favourite hymns and chorales. After she had played some time she looked round and saw him lying back, his hands folded as if in prayer, and his eyes shut. He lay so long without moving that she thought he had fallen asleep. Presently he looked up and smiled. She said, 'Were you asleep, dear papa?' 'Oh no!' he answered; 'only I have such sweet thoughts.' During his illness his hands were often folded in prayer; and when he did not speak, his serene face showed that the 'sweet thoughts' were with him to the end."

    'On the afternoon of Saturday, the 14th of December, it was evident that the end was near. "Gutes Frauchen" ("Good little wife") were his last loving words to the Queen as he kissed her and then rested his head upon her shoulder. A little while afterwards the Queen bent over him and said, "Es ist kleins Frauchen" ("It is little wife"); the prince evidently knew her, although he could not speak, and bowed his head in response. Without apparent suffering he quietly sank to rest, and towards eleven o'clock it was seen that the soul had left its earthly tabernacle. The well-known hymn beginning--

    Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee,

    had been the favourite of Prince Albert in his last illness. His physician expressed one day the hope that he would be better in a few days; but the prince replied, "No, I shall not recover, but I am not taken by surprise; I am not afraid, I trust I am prepared ."

    'When the end came' (we quote the beautiful words of the biographer) 'in the solemn hush of that mournful chamber there was such grief as has rarely hallowed any death-bed. A great light, which had blessed the world, and which the mourners had but yesterday hoped might long bless it, was waning fast away. A husband, a father, a friend, a master, endeared by every quality by which man in such relations can win the love of his fellow-men, was passing into the silent land, and his loving glance, his wise counsels, his firm, manly thought should be known among them no more. The castle clock chimed the third quarter after ten. Calm and peaceful grew the beloved form; the features settled into the beauty of a perfectly serene repose; two or three long but gentle breaths were drawn; and that great soul had fled to seek a nobler scope for its aspirations in the world within the veil, for which it had often yearned, where there is rest for the weary, and where the "spirits of the just are made perfect."'

    The funeral took place on the 23d December, at Frogmore, and the Prince of Wales was the chief mourner. The words on the coffin were as follow: 'Here lies the most illustrious and exalted Albert, Prince-Consort, Duke of Saxony, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Knight of the most noble Order of the Garter, the most beloved husband of the most august and potent Queen Victoria. He died on the 14th day of December 1861, in the forty-third year of his age.'

    A Prince indeed, Beyond all titles, and a household name, Hereafter, through all time, Albert the Good.

    On that sad Christmas which followed the prince's death the usual festivities were omitted in the royal household, and the nation mourned in unison with the Queen for the great and good departed.

    It has been well said by a distinguished writer that it was only 'since his death, and chiefly since the Queen's own generous and tender impulse prompted her to make the nation the confidant of her own great love and happiness, that the Prince-Consort has had full justice.... Perhaps, if truth were told, he was too uniformly noble, too high above all soil and fault, to win the fickle popular admiration, which is more caught by picturesque irregularity than by the higher perfections of a wholly worthy life.'
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