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LIFE OF HER MOST GRACIOUS MAJESTY
BY SARAH TYTLER
EDITED, WITH AN INTRODUCTION, BY
LORD RONALD GOWER, F.S.A.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
Entered according to Act of Parliament of Canada, in the year Eighteen
Hundred and Eighty-five, by GEORGE VIRTUE, in the office of the Minister
I have been asked to write a few words of preface to this work.
If the life-long friendship of my mother with her Majesty, which gained
for me the honour of often seeing the Queen, or a deep feeling of loyalty
and affection for our sovereign, which is shared by all her subjects, be
accepted as a qualification, I gratefully respond to the call, but I feel
that no written words of mine can add value to the following pages.
Looking over some papers lately, I found the following note on a sketch
which I had accidentally met with in Windsor Castle - a coloured chalk
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drawing, a mere study of one of the Queen's hands, by Sir David Wilkie,
probably made for his picture now in the corridor of the Castle,
representing the first council of Victoria. Of this sketch I wrote as
"I was looking in one of the private rooms at Windsor Castle at a chalk
sketch, by Sir David Wilkie, of a fair, soft, long-fingered, dimpled
hand, with a graceful wrist attached to a rounded arm. 'Only a woman's
hand,' might Swift, had he seen that sketch, have written below. Only a
sketch of a woman's hand; but what memories that sketch recalls! How many
years ago Wilkie drew it I know not: that great artist died in the month
of June, 1841, so that more than forty years have passed, at least, since
he made that drawing. The hand that limned this work has long ago suffered
'a sea change.' And the hand which he portrayed? That is still among the
living - still occupied with dispensing aid and comfort to the suffering
and the afflicted, for the original is that of a Queen, beloved as widely
as her realms extend - the best of sovereigns, the kindest-hearted of
To write the life of Queen Victoria is a task which many authors might
well have felt incompetent to undertake. To succeed in writing it is an
honour of which any author may well be proud. This honour I humbly think
has been realised in the work of which these poor lines may form the
I. Sixty-Three Years Since.
IV. The Accession.
V. The Proroguing Of Parliament, The Visit To Guildhall; And The
VI. The Maiden Queen.
VII. The Betrothal.
VIII. The Marriage.
IX. A Royal Pair.
X. Royal Occupations. - An Attempt On The Queen's Life.
XI. The First Christening. - The Season Of 1841.
XII. Birth Of The Prince Of Wales. - The Afghan Disasters. - Visit Of The
King Of Prussia. - The Queen's Plantagenet Ball.
XIII. Fresh Attempts Against The Queen's Life. - Mendelssohn. - Death Of
The Duc D'Orleans.
XIV. The Queen's First Visit To Scotland.
XV. A Marriage, A Death, And A Birth In The Royal Family. - A Palace
XVI. The Condemnation Of The English Duel. - Another Marriage. - The
Queen's Visit To Chateau D'Eu.
XVII. The Queen's Trip To Ostend. - Visits To Drayton, Chatsworth, And
XVIII. Allies From Afar. - Death And Absence. - Birthday Greetings.
XIX. Royal Visitors. - The Birth Of Prince Alfred. - A Northern Retreat.
XX. Louis Philippe's Visit. - The Opening Of The Royal Exchange.
SIXTY-THREE YEARS SINCE.
The 24th of May, 1819, was a memorable and happy day for England, though
like many such days, it was little noticed at the time. Sixty-three years
since! Do many of us quite realise what England was like then; how much
it differed from the England of to-day, even though some of us have lived
as many years? It is worth while devoting a chapter to an attempt to
recall that England.
A famous novel had for its second heading, "'Tis sixty years since." That
novel - "Waverley" - was published anonymously just five years before 1819,
and, we need not say, proved an era in literature. The sixty years behind
him to which Walter Scott - a man of forty-three - looked over his shoulder,
carried him as far back as the landing of Prince Charlie in Moidart, and
the brief romantic campaign of the '45, with the Jacobite songs which
embalmed it and kept it fresh in Scotch memories.
The wounds dealt at Waterloo still throbbed and burnt on occasions in
1819. Many a scarred veteran and limping subaltern continued the heroes
of remote towns and villages, or starred it at Bath or Tunbridge. The
warlike fever, which had so long raged in the country, even when ruined
manufacturers and starving mechanics were praying for peace or leading
bread-riots, had but partially abated; because whatever wrong to trade,
and misery to the poor, closed ports and war prices might have meant, the
people still depended upon their armed defenders, and in the hardest
adversity found the heart to share their triumphs, to illuminate cities,
light bonfires, cheer lustily, and not grudge parliamentary grants to the
country's protectors. The "Eagle" was caged on his rock in the ocean, to
eat his heart out in less than half-a-dozen years. Still there was no
saying what might happen, and the sight of a red coat and a sword
remained cheering - especially to soft hearts.
The commercial world was slowly recovering from its dire distress, but
its weavers and mechanics were blazing up into fierce, futile struggle
with the powers by which masses of the people believed themselves
oppressed. If the men of war had no longer anything to do abroad, there
was great fear that work might be found for them at home. All Europe was
looking on in the expectation that England was about to follow the
example of France, and indulge in a revolution on its own account - not
bloodless this time.
Rarely since the wars of the Commonwealth had high treason been so much
in men's mouths as it was in Great Britain during this and the following
year. Sedition smouldered and burst into flame - not in one place alone,
but at every point of the compass. The mischief was not confined to a
single class; it prevailed mostly among the starving operatives, but it
also fired minds of quite another calibre. Rash, generous spirits in
every rank became affected, especially after an encounter between the
blinded, maddened mobs and the military, when dragoons and yeomanry
charged with drawn swords, and women and children went down under the
horses' hoofs. Great riotous meetings were dispersed by force at
Manchester, Birmingham, Paisley. Political trials went on at every
assize. Bands of men lay in York, Lancaster, and Warwick gaols. At
Stockport Sir Charles Wolseley told a crowd armed with bludgeons that he
had been in Paris at the beginning of the French Revolution, that he was
the first man who made a kick at the Bastille, and that he hoped he
should be present at the demolition of another Bastille.
On the 22nd of August, 1819, Sir Francis Burdett wrote to his electors at
Westminster: "....It seems our fathers were not such fools as some would
make us believe in opposing the establishment of a standing army and
sending King William's Dutch guards out of the country. Yet would to
heaven they had been Dutchmen, or Switzers, or Russians, or Hanoverians,
or anything rather than Englishmen who have done such deeds. What! kill
men unarmed, unresisting; and, gracious God! women too, disfigured,
maimed, cut down, and trampled on by dragoons! Is this England? This a
Christian land - a land of freedom?"
For this, and a great deal more, Sir Francis, after a protracted trial,
was sentenced to pay a fine of two thousand pounds and to be imprisoned
for three months in the Marshalsea of the Court. In the Cato Street
conspiracy the notorious Arthur Thistlewood and his fellow-conspirators
planned to assassinate the whole of the Cabinet Ministers when they were
dining at Lord Harrowby's house, in Grosvenor Square. Forgery and
sheep-stealing were still punishable by death. Truly these were times of
trouble in England.
In London a serious difficulty presented itself when Queen Charlotte grew
old and ailing, and there was no royal lady, not merely to hold a
Drawing-room, but to lend the necessary touch of dignity and decorum to
the gaieties of the season. The exigency lent a new impetus to the famous
balls at Almack's. An anonymous novel of the day, full of society scandal
and satire, described the despotic sway of the lady patronesses, the
struggles and intrigues for vouchers, and the distinguished crowd when
the object was obtained. The earlier hours, alas! only gave longer time
for the drinking habits of the Regency.
It is a little difficult to understand what young people did with
themselves in the country when lawn-tennis and croquet were not. There
was archery for the few, and a good deal more amateur gardening and
walking, with field-sports, of course, for the lads.
The theatre in 1819 was more popular than it showed itself twenty years
later. Every country town of any pretensions, in addition to its assembly
rooms had its theatre, which reared good actors, to which provincial
tours brought London stars. Genteel comedy was not past its perfection.
Adaptations of the Waverley novels, with musical dramas and melodramas,
drew great houses. Miss O'Neill had just retired, but Ellen Tree was
making a success, and Macready was already distinguished in his
profession. Still the excellence and prestige of the stage had declined
incontestably since the days of Mrs. Siddons and John Kemble. Edmund
Kean, though he did much for tragedy, had a short time to do it in, and
was not equal in his passion of genius to the sustained majesty of the
sister and brother.
In the same way, the painters' art hovered on the borders of a brilliant
epoch. For Lawrence, with his courtly brush, which preferred flattery to
truth and cloying suavity to noble simplicity, was not worthy to be named
in the same breath with Reynolds. Raeburn came nearer, but his reputation
was Scotch. Blake in his inspiration was regarded, not without reason, as
a madman. Flaxman called for classic taste to appreciate him; and the
fame of English art would have suffered both at home and abroad if a
simple, manly lad had not quitted a Scotch manse and sailed from Leith to
London, bringing with him indelible memories of the humour and the pathos
of peasant life, and reproducing them with such graphic fidelity, power,
and tenderness that the whole world has heard of David Wilkie.
The pause between sunset and sunrise, the interregnum which signifies
that a phase in some department of the world's history has passed away as
a day is done, and a new development of human experience is about to
present itself, was over in literature. The romantic period had succeeded
the classic. Scott, Coleridge, Southey (Wordsworth stands alone), Byron,
Shelley, Keats, Campbell, Moore, were all in the field as poets, carrying
the young world with them, and replacing their immediate predecessors,
Cowper, Thompson, Young, Beattie, and others of less note.
Sir Walter Scott had also risen high above the horizon as a poet, and
still higher as a novelist.
A great start in periodical literature was made in 1802 by the
establishment of _The Edinburgh Review_, under Jeffrey and Sydney
Smith, and again in 1817 by the publication of _Blackmoods Magazine_,
with Christopher North for its editor, and Lockhart, De Quincey, Hogg,
and Delta among its earlier contributors. The people's friend, Charles
Knight, was still editing _The Windsor and Eton Express_.
In 1819 Sir Humphry Davy was the most popular exponent of science, Sir
James Mackintosh of philosophy. In politics, above the thunderstorm of
discontent, there was again the pause which anticipates a fresh advance.
The great Whig and Tory statesmen, Charles James Fox and William Pitt,
were dead in 1806, and their mantles did not fall immediately on fit
successors. The abolition of the slave-trade, for which Wilberforce,
Zachary Macaulay, and Clarkson had fought gallantly and devotedly, was
accomplished. But the Catholic Emancipation Bill was still to work its
way in the teeth of bitter "No Popery" traditions, and Earl Grey's Reform
Bill had not yet seen the light.
George III.'s long reign was drawing to a close. What changes it had seen
from the War of American Independence to Waterloo! What woeful personal
contrasts since the honest, kindly, comely lad, in his simple kingliness,
rode out in the summer sunshine past Holland House, where lady Sarah
Lennox was making hay on the lawn, to the days when the blind, mad old
king sat in bodily and mental darkness, isolated from the wife and
children he had loved so well, immured in his distant palace-rooms in
His silver beard o'er a bosom spread
Unvexed by life's commotion,
Like a yearly lengthening snow-drift shed
On the calm of a frozen ocean:
Still o'er him oblivion's waters lay,
Though the stream of time kept flowing
When they spoke of our King, 'twas but to say
That the old man's strength was going.
At intervals thus the waves disgorge,
By weakness rent asunder,
A piece of the wreck of the _Royal George_
For the people's pity and wonder.
Lady Sarah, too, became blind in her age, and, alas! she had trodden
darker paths than any prepared for her feet by the visitation of God.
Queen Charlotte had come with her sense and spirit, and ruled for more
than fifty years over a pure Court in England. The German princess of
sixteen, with her spare little person and large mouth which prevented
her from being comely, and her solitary accomplishment of playing on the
harpsichord with as much correctness and taste as if she had been taught
by Mr. Handel himself, had identified herself with the nation, so that
no suspicion of foreign proclivities ever attached to her. Queen
Charlotte bore her trials gravely; while those who came nearest to her
could tell that she was not only a fierce little dragon of virtue, as she
has been described, but a loving woman, full of love's wounds and scars.
The family of George III. and Queen Charlotte consisted of seven sons and
his daughters, besides two sons who died in infancy.
George, Prince of Wales, married, 1795, his cousin, Princess Caroline of
Brunswick, daughter of the reigning Duke and of Princess Augusta, sister
of George III. The Prince and Princess of Wales separated soon after
their marriage. Their only child was Princess Charlotte of Wales.
Frederick, Duke of York, married, 1791, Princess Frederica, daughter of
the reigning King of Prussia. The couple were childless.
William, Duke of Clarence, married, 1818, Princess Adelaide, of
Saxe-Meiningen. Two daughters were born to them, but both died in infancy.
Edward, Duke of Kent, married, 1818, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg,
widow of the Prince of Leiningen. Their only child is QUEEN VICTORIA.
Ernest, Duke of Cumberland, married, 1815, Princess Frederica of
Mecklenburg-Strelitz, widow, first of Prince Frederick Louis of Prussia,
and second, of the Prince of Saliris-Braunfels. Their only child was
George V., King of Hanover.
Augustus, Duke of Sussex, married morganatically.
Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, married, 1818, Princess Augusta of
Hesse-Cassel, daughter of the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel. They had three
children - George, Duke of Cambridge; Princess Augusta, Duchess of
Mecklenburg-Strelitz; and Princess Mary, Duchess of Teck.
The daughters of King George and Queen Charlotte were: -
The Princess Royal, married, 1797, the Prince, afterwards King, of
Princess Augusta, unmarried.
Princess Elizabeth, married, 1818, the Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg.
Princess Mary, married, 1816, her cousin, William, Duke of Gloucester.
Princess Sophia, unmarried.
Princess Amelia, unmarried.
In 1817 the pathetic idyl, wrought out amidst harsh discord, had found
its earthly close in the family vault at Windsor, amidst the lamentations
of the whole nation. Princess Charlotte, the candid, fearless,
affectionate girl, whose youth had been clouded by the sins and follies
of others, but to whom the country had turned as to a stay for the
future - fragile, indeed, yet still full of hope - had wedded well, known
a year of blissful companionship, and then died in giving birth to a dead
heir. It is sixty-five years since that November day, when the bonfires,
ready to be lit at every town "cross," on every hill-side, remained dark
and cold. Men looked at each other in blank dismay; women wept for the
blushing, smiling bride, who had driven with her grandmother through the
park on her way to be married not so many months before. There are
comparatively few people alive who had come to man's or woman's estate
when the shock was experienced; but we have all heard from our
predecessors the story which has lent to Claremont a tender, pensive
grace, especially for royal young pairs.
Old Queen Charlotte nerved herself to make a last public appearance on
the 11th of July, 1818, four months before her death. It was in her
presence, at Kew, that a royal marriage and re-marriage were celebrated
that day. The Duke of Clarence was married to Princess Adelaide of
Saxe-Meiningen, and the Duke of Kent was re-married, in strict accordance
with the English Royal Marriage Act, to Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg,
the widowed Princess of Leiningen. The last couple had been already
united at Coburg in the month of May. The Archbishop of Canterbury and
the Bishop of London officiated at the double ceremony. The brides were
given away by the Prince Regent. The Queen retired immediately
afterwards. But a grand banquet, at which the Prince Regent presided, was
given at six o'clock in the evening. An hour later the Duke and Duchess
of Kent drove off in her brother, Prince Leopold's, carriage to
Of the two bridegrooms we have glimpses from Baron Stockmar, a shrewd
observer, who was no flatterer.
The Duke of Clarence, at fifty-three years of age, was the "smallest and
least good-looking of the brothers, decidedly like his mother, as
talkative as the rest;" and we may add that he was also endowed with a
sailor-like frankness, cordiality, and good humour, which did not,
however, prevent stormy ebullitions of temper, that recommended him to
the nation of that day as a specimen of a princely blue-jacket. Since the
navy was not considered a school of manners, he was excused for the
absence of much culture or refinement.
"The Duke of Kent, at fifty-one, was a tall, stately man, of soldierlike
bearing, already inclined to great corpulence.... He had seen much of the
world, and of men. His manner in society was pleasant and easy. He was
not without ability and culture, and he possessed great activity. His
dependents complained of his strictness and pedantic love of order....
The Duke was well aware that his influence was but small, but this did
not prevent him from forwarding the petitions he received whenever it was
possible, with his own recommendation, to the public departments....
Liberal political principles were at that time in the minority in
England, and as the Duke professed them, it can be imagined how he was
hated by the powerful party then dominant. He was on most unfriendly
terms with his brothers.... The Duke proved an amiable and courteous,
even chivalrous, husband."
Judiciously, in the circumstances, neither of the brides was in her first
youth, the future Queen Adelaide having been, at twenty-six, the younger
of the two. The Duchess of Kent, a little over thirty, had been already
married, in 1803, when she was seventeen, to Prince Emich Charles of
Leiningen. Eleven years afterwards, in 1814, she was left a widow with a
son and daughter. Four years later she married the Duke of Kent. The
brides were very different in looks and outward attractions. The Duchess
of Clarence, with hair of a peculiar colour approaching to a lemon tint,
weak eyes, and a bad complexion, was plain. She was also quiet, reserved,
and a little stiff, while she appears to have had no special
accomplishments, beyond a great capacity for carpet-work. The Duchess of
Kent, with a fine figure, good features, brown hair and eyes, a pretty
pink colour, winning manners, and graceful accomplishments - particularly
music, formed a handsome, agreeable woman, "altogether most charming and
But both Duchesses were possessed of qualities in comparison with which
beauty is deceitful and favour is vain - qualities which are calculated to
wear well. Queen Adelaide's goodness and kindness, her unselfish,
unassuming womanliness and devout resignation to sorrow and suffering,
did more than gain and keep the heart of her bluff, eccentric
sailor-prince. They secured for her the respectful regard of the nation
among whom she dwelt, whether as Queen or Queen-dowager. The Archbishop
of Canterbury could say of her, after her husband's death, "For three
weeks prior to his (King William's) dissolution, the Queen sat by his
bedside, performing for him every office which a sick man could require,
and depriving herself of all manner of rest and refection. She underwent
labours which I thought no ordinary woman could endure. No language can
do justice to the meekness and to the calmness of mind which she sought
to keep up before the King, while sorrow was pressing on her heart. Such
constancy of affection, I think, was one of the most interesting
spectacles that could be presented to a mind desirous of being gratified
with the sight of human excellence." [Footnote: Dr. Doran] Such graces,
great enough to resist the temptations of the highest rank, might well be
singled out as worthy of all imitation.
The Duchess of Kent proved herself the best of mothers - as she was the
best of wives, during her short time of wedlock - in the self-renunciation
and self-devotion with which, through all difficulties, and in spite of
every opposition and misconception, she pursued the even tenor of her
way. Not for two or ten, but for well-nigh twenty years, she gave herself
up unreservedly, turning her back on her country with all its strong
early ties, to rearing a good queen, worthy of her high destiny. England
owes much to the memories of Queen Adelaide and the Duchess of Kent, who
succeeded Queen Charlotte, the one as Queen Consort, the other as mother
of the future sovereign, and not only served as the salt to savour their
royal circles, but kept up nobly the tradition of honourable women among
the queens and princesses of England, handing down the high obligation to
The Duke and Duchess of Kent withdrew to Germany after their re-marriage,
and resided at the castle of Amorbach, in Bavaria, part of the
inheritance of her young son. The couple returned to England that their
child might be born there. The Duke had a strong impression that,
notwithstanding his three elder brothers, the Crown would come to him and
his children. The persuasion, if they knew it, was not likely to be
acceptable to the other Princes. Certainly, in the face of the Duke's
money embarrassments, his kinsmen granted no assistance to enable the
future Queen of England to be born in her own dominions. It was by the
help of private friends that the Duke gratified his natural and wise
Apartments in Kensington Palace were assigned to the couple. The old
queen had died at Kew, surrounded by such of her daughters as were in the
country, and by several of her sons, in the month of November, 1818.
George III. was dragging out his days at Windsor. The Prince Regent
occupied Carlton House.
The Kensington of 1819 was not the Kensington of today. In spite of the
palace and gardens, which are comparatively little altered, the great
crowded quarter, with its Museum and Albert Hall, is as unlike as
possible to the courtly village to which the Duke and Duchess of Kent
came, and where the Queen spent her youth. That Kensington consisted
mainly of a fine old square, built in the time of James II., in which the
foreign ambassadors and the bishops in attendance at Court congregated in
the days of William and Mary, and Anne, and of a few terraces and blocks
of buildings scattered along the Great Western Road, where coaches passed
several times a day. Other centres round which smaller buildings
clustered were Kensington House - which had lately been a school for the