| In the Days of Queen Victoria|
|by Eva March Tappan|
|Story of the life of Queen Victoria, a well-beloved woman who became queen at eighteen and for nearly 64 years wore the crown of Great Britain. Relates her training for the monarchy and the exemplary way she executed her duties, while managing a household of nine children. Ages 11-15 |
THE COMING OF THE PRINCE
HE coronation ceremonies in Westminster Abbey were, indeed, magnificent, but it must not be supposed that
England was satisfied with no further celebration of so joyful an event. Throughout the realm there were for
several days fairs, balls, and entertainments of all kinds. London was illuminated, and the theaters were made
free to all who chose to attend them. People's hearts and purses were opened. The rich were not satisfied with
having a good time themselves; they wanted the children of the land and the poor to have a good time also. In
many places feasts were given, and one of the most famous of these was held in a great open field in Cambridge,
where more than fourteen thousand persons were entertained.
In the center of the field was a space for the band, and around it a platform. Much money had
 been subscribed for the feast, but the committee felt sure that large numbers of people would be ready to pay
from seventy-five cents to one dollar and a half for the privilege of walking about on this platform and seeing
what was to be seen. They were right, for there was "a most fashionable and select company," who promenaded
around the circular platform and watched the feasters.
Sixty tables, each two hundred and thirty feet long, stretched out from the central platform like the rays of a
star; and when the signal was given, the fourteen thousand persons, poor people and children of all ages,
marched to their places. It must have been an amusing procession, for each one was obliged to bring his own
plate, knife, fork, and mug for beer. There was roast beef, and there were various other good things; but the
member of the committee who wrote the account of the dinner seems to have been especially interested in the
puddings. "Beautiful puddings," he says they were, and he tells just where each one was boiled. He states, too,
that 2475 pounds of raisins were put into them.
 At the end of the dinner, pipes, tobacco, and snuff were passed to the grown folk. There was a salute of
nineteen guns in honor of the Queen's nineteen years. A balloon, which the enthusiastic committeeman calls a
"stupendous machine," was sent up, and the health of the Queen was drunk. The Sunday-school children sang a
song of better intention than rhyme, which began:
We hail thy gentle rule;
Victoria! the Patroness
Of every Sunday school."
After the singing, came various games and contests. Men tried to climb a well-soaped pole to get a leg of
mutton which was fastened to the top.
Others were tied into sacks and jumped as far as possible in the attempt
to win a pair of boots. There was a wheelbarrow race run by ten blindfolded men. A pig was offered to the man
who could catch the animal and swing it over his shoulder by the well-greased tail. Men grinned through
horse-collars to see who could make the ugliest face and so win a pair of new trousers. Six boys with their
hands tied behind their backs were given penny loaves and
mo-  lasses, and a new hat was waiting for the one who ate his loaf first. Other boys with their hands tied were
"bobbing for apples"—that is, trying to lift apples with their teeth from a tub of water—and another group of
boys were struggling to see who could first swallow a penny-worth of dry biscuit, and so win a new waistcoat.
There were foot races and donkey races and hurdle races, and races among men each with one leg tied up. At last
the day came to an end with fireworks, and all the happy, tired people went home, fully convinced that under
this new sovereign their country would be more prosperous than ever.
It seems very strange that this Queen who was worshiped by her people in the summer of 1838 should in the
course of a few months have become exceedingly unpopular with some of her subjects, but so it was. There were
in England two political parties, the Whigs and the Tories. Queen Victoria's sympathies were with the Whigs.
They were in power when she came to the throne, but in the spring of 1839 the Cabinet proposed an important
bill which Parliament refused to make a law. Under such
 circumstances it is the custom for the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to resign, because such a refusal is
supposed to signify that the people, whom Parliament represents, do not approve of their acts.
When Lord Melbourne told the Queen that he must resign, she felt very badly. She must stand at the head of a
great nation, and the one in whose advice she had trusted could advise her no longer. The leaders of the Tories
were "the Duke," as the Duke of Wellington was called, and Sir Robert Peel; and Lord Melbourne told her that
her wisest course would be to ask the Duke to become her Prime Minister and select a Cabinet of Tories. The
Duke had declared before this that he did not know what the Tories would do for a Prime Minister if they should
come into power. "I have no small talk," he said, "and Peel has no manners;" but when the Queen sent for him,
of course he obeyed. She asked him to be her Prime Minister, and said to him honestly: "I cannot help being
very sorry to make a change and give up my Ministers, especially Lord Melbourne, for he has been almost a
father to me."
 The straightforward old soldier was delighted with her frankness, but he said: "I am somewhat deaf, and I am
too old a man to undertake this work and serve you properly. Moreover, it would be much better for one who can
lead the House of Commons to be your Majesty's Prime Minister. I advise you to send for Sir Robert Peel."
Now, this girl of nineteen did not like the man who had "no manners," but she was a lady as well as a Queen,
and when Sir Robert appeared—in full dress, as was required—she received him so courteously that he went away
much pleased, having promised to obey her command and form a Cabinet. This was easily done, and the next
morning he brought her a list of names.
"But you must not expect me to give up the society of Lord Melbourne," she said.
"Certainly not," was Peel's reply. "Moreover, Lord Melbourne is too honorable a man to attempt to influence
your Majesty in any way against the existing government." Sir Robert then suggested several men whom he knew
that she liked for various positions of honor in the
 royal household. Finally he said, perhaps a little bluntly, "It will be desirable to make some changes in the
ladies of your Majesty's household." Then a storm arose.
"I shall not part with any of my ladies," declared the Queen.
"But, your Majesty," said Sir Robert, "most of these ladies are closely related to the former Cabinet
Ministers." The Queen would not yield, but she was willing to discuss the subject later with him and the Duke.
When they appeared before her, they said: "Your Majesty, the ladies of the household are on the same footing as
"No," declared the Queen, "I have lords besides, and I have let you do with them as you chose. If you had just
been put out of office and Lord Melbourne had come in, I am sure that he would not have asked me to give up my
"There are more Whigs than Tories in the House of Commons," said Peel, "and if these ladies who are closely
related to prominent Whigs are retained, all Europe will look upon England as the country that is governed by a
 party which the sovereign dislikes and in which she has no confidence."
"I give you my lords," replied the Queen steadfastly, "but I keep my ladies." The two nobles were in a dilemma.
According to the British constitution, "The Queen can do no wrong"—that is, not she, but the Prime Minister is
held responsible for every public act. Sir Robert could not remain Prime Minister if the Queen positively
refused to yield to a course which he thought necessary.
While the Tory leaders were trying to plan some way out of the difficulty, the Queen sent a letter to Lord
Melbourne which was written in much the same way that an indignant young girl would write to her father. "Do
not fear," she said, "that I was not calm and composed. They wanted to deprive me of my ladies, and I suppose
they would deprive me next of my dressers and housemaids; they wished to treat me like a girl, but I will show
them that I am Queen of England."
Lord Melbourne called his Cabinet together in such haste that one member had to be brought from the opera and
another from a
din-  ner party. He read them the Queen's letter, and asked, "What shall we advise?"
"Advise her to give up two or three of her principal ladies," suggested one, "and perhaps that will satisfy
"Does anyone know exactly what Peel wants," queried another, "and how many ladies he demands shall be removed?"
This was an exceedingly sensible question, and if it had been taken to Peel for an answer, the trouble might
have been brought to an end. He would probably have been satisfied with the resignation of two or three of the
strongest partisans and principal talkers among the ladies; and, although the Queen was insisting upon what she
believed was her right, yet much of her indignation arose from her belief that Peel meant to deprive her of all
who were then her attendants, perhaps even the Baroness Lehzen. The question was not taken to Peel, however,
and the discussion in the Cabinet went on.
"Let us write a letter for the Queen to copy and send to Peel," was the next suggestion, "saying that she will
not consent to a course which she believes to be contrary to custom and
 which is repugnant to her feelings." This suggestion was adopted. The letter was written, and the Queen copied
it to send; but before it reached Sir Robert, he resigned his position, and Lord Melbourne was again Prime
This was the famous "Bedchamber Plot," and it aroused all England. Lord Melbourne and the Whigs said:
"It is a small matter that the Queen should be allowed to retain her favorite attendants."
Sir Robert and the Tories replied:
"The Prime Minister is responsible for the acts of the Queen, and it is a large matter if she refuses to follow
his advice when he believes that the good of the realm demands a certain course. She is not the Queen of the
whole country, she is only the Queen of the Whigs, and the whole thing is a plot to keep the Whigs in power."
"We are loyal to our sovereign," declared the Whigs.
"We stand by the constitution of Great Britain, not by the whims of a girl of nineteen," retorted
the Tories. The amusing part of the struggle was that the Whigs had always prided themselves on standing by the
 the rights of the people, while the Tories had favored increasing the power of the sovereign; but in those days
the question was too serious to strike anyone as amusing.
As the weeks of the summer and the early autumn passed, matters only grew worse. Victoria was spoken of most
contemptuously, and was even hissed in a public assembly. Mr. Greville wrote in his journal: "The Tories seem
not to care one straw for the crown, its dignity or its authority, because the head on which it is placed does
not nod with benignity to them." Peel was, of course, above such behavior as that of some of his violent
partisans, but he must have been somewhat surprised at developments. He had been afraid that the Queen's
opinions and judgment were so weak that she would be influenced by the talk of a few ladies in attendance, and
would be unable to judge questions fairly and without prejudice; but he had found that, whatever might be the
faults of the young lady on the throne, she could never be accused of having no will of her own.
During the first two years of her reign, the friends of the Queen were watching her with
 much anxiety. She was an unusual girl, with an unusual training, but, after all, she was only a girl, and she
had responsibilities to meet from which, as Carlyle said, "an archangel might have shrunk." Her position was
all the more dangerous because she was too young to realize her difficulties; and when trouble arose, there was
no one in the land of whom she could ask counsel without arousing the enmity of someone else. Everyone who was
capable of advising her was prominent in one political party or the other. If she had discussed any of her hard
questions with even her own mother, and it had become evident that suggestions had come from the Duchess of
Kent, there would have been talk at once of "foreign influence."
Meanwhile, "foreign influence" in the person of the wise King Leopold was busily at work. The young Queen had
reigned for more than two years, and the first novelty of her position had passed. At first it had been
delightful to her to feel that she was "the Queen," and that she could do precisely as she chose. Even the
Bedchamber Plot had resulted in her having her own way, in keeping her ladies and the
 Whig Cabinet; but so clear-minded a woman as Queen Victoria must have seen—as, indeed, she declared some years
later—that she had not behaved like a constitutional monarch, and she knew that thousands of her subjects were
indignant with her.
Never was a loving uncle more shrewd in his affection than this "wisest sovereign in Europe;" for just at this
time, when his niece was feeling far less self-sufficient than she had felt some months earlier, he proposed
that Prince Albert and his brother Ernest should pay her a visit. The young men came, bringing with them a
letter from the King which spoke of them in most matter-of-fact terms as "good, honest creatures, really
sensible and trustworthy." The point of the letter was in its closing sentence, "I am sure that if you have
anything to recommend to them, they will be most happy to hear it from you."
The Queen knew very well what this sentence signified, and she was more ready to "recommend" than she would
have been some months before. She had seen her cousins only once, and that was more than three years earlier.
 Prince Albert was then a lovable boy, and the Princess was willing that her relatives should understand that
she would marry him some day. When nearly two years had passed and she had become Queen, she felt much older
and more mature; but she thought of her cousin as still a boy. She expected to marry him some time in the
future, but she was not willing to permit even any formal engagement at that time. King Leopold wrote urging
her to make some "decisive arrangement" for the following year. The Queen replied: "Albert and I are both too
young to think of marriage at present. He does not know English well enough, and there are other studies which
he needs to pursue."
King Leopold saw that it was of no use to press the question further at that time, and he told the Prince that
the marriage would have to be postponed for a few years. The Prince saw the truth in Victoria's objections. He
knew that his position in England would demand all the skill and knowledge that he could acquire, and he
admitted that her arguments were strong.
"You understand, and you will wait?" asked his uncle.
 "Yes," answered the Prince, "I will wait, if I have only some certain assurance to go on; but I do not want to
be left in the ridiculous position of Queen Elizabeth's suitors. I do not want all Europe talking for years
about my marriage, and then laughing at the announcement that Victoria never meant to marry me."
Another year passed. Then came the Bedchamber trouble. King Leopold watched every item of news from England.
"Now is the time," said the sagacious King to himself, and he proposed the visit.
There had been little correspondence between the cousins. Prince Albert had sent the Princess sketches of the
places that he had visited in his travels, and when she became Queen, he wrote her a somewhat formal little
letter, reminding her that the happiness of millions lay in her hands, and closing rather primly, "I will not
be indiscreet and abuse your time." Victoria must have had in her mind a picture of her cousin that was a
strange combination of a serious young man somewhat given to sermonizing, and the stout, merry boy of seventeen
who had slipped down to the floor of his
car-  riage and pushed his dog's head up to the window when people pressed around to see the Prince.
With these two conflicting notions in her thoughts, the Queen went to the head of the staircase in Windsor
Palace to welcome her "two dear cousins." The stout boy had vanished, but in his place stood a tall, manly,
handsome young man, with a cheery, thoughtful face. Two days later a letter went from the Queen to "Uncle
Leopold," which said, "My dear Uncle, Albert is fascinating." Then she remembered that she had two cousinly
guests and added, "The young men are very amiable, delightful companions, and I am very glad to have them
King Leopold wrote at once, "I am sure you will like the cousins the more, the longer you see them." Then he
talked about the Prince. "Albert is full of talent and fun and draws cleverly. May he be able to strew roses
without thorns on the pathway of life of our good Victoria! He is well qualified to do so."
While the hopeful uncle was writing this letter, Victoria was talking with Lord Melbourne.
 "My lord," she said, "I have made up my mind at last, and I am ready to marry Prince Albert whenever he wants
"I am very glad of it," replied her fatherly friend. "You will be much more comfortable; for a woman cannot
stand alone for any time, in whatever position she may be."
"Do you think that my people will be pleased?" she asked.
"I believe that they will," he replied, for he knew very well how eager they were for her marriage. No one
liked the Duke of Cumberland, who was now King Ernest of Hanover, but if the Queen died without children, he
would come over to England and wear the English crown as well as that of Hanover. The feeling against him was
so strong that it had even been proposed in Parliament to make a law forbidding him ever to occupy the throne.
On the fourth morning of their visit, the two Princes went hunting. It was a long forenoon to the Queen, for
she had what she afterwards called a "nervous" thing to do. They came back at noon, but they had hardly time to
change their hunting clothes before a message was
 brought to Prince Albert that the Queen wished to see him.
Now, royal etiquette forbade that this Prince of a little German duchy should ask the sovereign of Great
Britain for her hand; so when Albert reached the Queen's apartments, he was obliged to wait until she had
"I think you must know why I wished you to come," she said shyly. The Prince had still to keep silent; he could
only bow, but his bow must have expressed a great deal, for she went on bravely: "It will make me very happy if
you will consent to what I wish."
In just what form the Prince made his reply the Queen did not reveal, but it was evidently satisfactory, for
she wrote, "He is perfection in every way." That very day she sent a letter to King Leopold in which she said:
"I am so much bewildered by it all that I hardly know how to write. But I do feel very happy."
A few weeks before this time she had written Baron Stockmar that she could not think of marrying for three or
four years, but that very day she wrote him:
"I do feel so guilty, I know not how to begin my letter, but I
think the news
 it will contain will be sufficient to insure your forgiveness. Albert has completely won my heart, and all was
settled between us this morning. I feel certain that he will make me very happy. I wish I could say," continued
the modest little sovereign of Great Britain, "that I felt as certain of making him happy, but I shall do my
Prince Albert, too, had some letters to write; and as Victoria had written to King Leopold, his first was to
Baron Stockmar. After telling of his happiness and of his love for the Queen, he wrote: "I cannot write more, I
am too much bewildered." It certainly was bewildering. He had been told not long before that the Queen was
determined not to marry for three or four years at any rate, and that she would not consent to any formal
engagement. He had come to England with a determination to insist either that she should recognize the informal
engagement between them or that it should be broken off.
The Duchess of Kent had loved Albert from the first, and she was very happy in the thought of the marriage. She
and the Baroness Lehzen,
 together with Lord Melbourne and Prince Albert's brother, were the only ones in England who knew the secret
until five or six weeks had passed. Then came a difficult five minutes for the young Queen. She had to meet her
Council of eighty middle-aged men and tell them of her engagement. It is no wonder that she "hardly knew who
was there." The picture of the Prince in her bracelet gave her courage, and though Lord Melbourne was far down
the room, she caught a kind look from him and saw the tears of sympathy in his eyes. Her fingers trembled, but
she soon controlled herself and read: "It is my intention to ally myself in marriage with the Prince Albert of
Saxe-Coburg and Gotha." She went through the rest of the paper with her usual clear, sweet voice, and one of
the Councilors wrote of the event: "Certainly she did look as interesting and as handsome as any young lady I
When the reading of the paper was finished, the Lord President asked: "Have we your Majesty's permission to
publish this declaration?" The Queen bowed and left the Council Chamber. About two months later she had
 harder to do; she had to open Parliament and ask that an income should be granted to the Prince. Another matter
also had to be settled, and that was what position he should hold in England. Whether he should enter a room
before or after dukes, earls, and members of the royal family was a question that gave rise to much discussion.
These two questions were not settled as the Queen wished, for the sum granted to the Prince was but
three-fifths of what her Ministers had asked, and Parliament refused to pass a law giving him precedence next to
herself. The Duke of Wellington said, "Let the Queen put the Prince just where she wishes him to be;" and this
she did, as far as England was concerned, by issuing an order in Council that he should stand next to herself.
Some of her royal relatives were indignant, and King Ernest declared positively that he would never give
precedence to the younger brother of a German duke. "I won't give way to any paper royal highness," he
declared. The Queen was both hurt and angry at these decisions; but Prince Albert's only fear was lest they
indicated objection to the marriage on the part of the English, and he wrote: "While I
pos-  sess your love, they cannot make me unhappy."
A little more than a week after this letter was written, the day of the wedding came. It had been the custom to
celebrate royal weddings in the evening, though other weddings must by law take place before noon; but on this,
as on most other subjects, the Queen had a very definite opinion. "I wish to be married as my subjects are
married," she said, "and the ceremony must be at noon."
"Is it the will of your Majesty that the word 'obey' be omitted from the promise that you make to the Prince?"
asked the Archbishop of Canterbury.
"No," she answered with decision. "I am not to be married as a queen, but as a woman."
The Prince Consort.
The wedding day was stormy, but that made little difference to bride, groom, or any of the brilliant company
assembled in the Chapel of St. James'. The Prince wore the uniform of a British field-marshal, with the collar
of the Garter, and looked exceedingly handsome. As he came into the Chapel, the organ burst out into the
strains of "See, the Conquering Hero Comes."
 He stood by the altar waiting for his bride, and in a short time she appeared, escorted by the Lord
Chamberlain. She wore a dress of heavy white satin, woven in England. Her veil had made scores of poor women
happy, for she had ordered it of the lace-makers of Honiton in Devon. She wore no crown, but only a wreath of
orange blossoms. She had diamond earrings and necklace, and a few diamonds in her hair. Twelve bridesmaids in
white tulle and white roses bore her train; and a hard time they had, for although it was six yards long, they
found it too short for so many bearers. One of them wrote: "We were all huddled together, and scrambled rather
than walked along, kicking each other's heels and treading on each other's gowns."
At the moment the ring was placed on the Queen's finger, the guns in the Park and at the Tower were fired, and
the bells rang out their merriest peals. When the ceremony was over, the party returned to Buckingham Palace
for a wedding breakfast. The bridesmaid who wrote the account of the wedding said that Prince Albert "seemed a
little nervous about getting into
 the carriage with a lady with a tail six yards long," but they all reached the palace in safety. After the
breakfast the sunshine at last beamed down upon them, and the young couple sped away for their honeymoon at
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics