[-... back to main menu-]
THE QUEEN AND PRINCE ALBERT.
THE portraits of Queen Victoria, seen in this country, are
generally correct and faithful likenesses. She is of medium height, clear
complexion, and full in the face. It would be supererogatory fur us to say that
her subjects love her - indeed there are thousands who have a gentle affection
for her in America. She is eminently lovable, and certainly deserves praise for
filling her position so well as she does. She is surrounded by gorgeous
temptations, and yet preserves a virtuous court. Her mother, the Duchess of
Kent, gave her a most rigid early education, and that she needed it, with the
blood of the effeminate and besotted GEORGES flowing in her veins, none can
doubt. She inherited a predisposition to inactivity, and a nervous-lethargic
temperament, and her sagacious mother, to counteract it, obliged her in her
youth to take a plenty of exercise in the open air, eat wholesome food, and
sleep upon a hard mattress. The result is, that though possessed of an extremely
delicate nervous organization, the Queen enjoys good health. In disposition, she
is said by those who know her, to be mild and loving. When young, she had a firm
will, and if rumor speaks truly, it is a characteristic of her still. Upon some
public occasion, when she was a girl, she was allowed by her mother to go for a
few minutes to the window and gaze at the crowd of people in [-214-] the street.
In a short time the Duchess called her away, but she did not heed the summons.
Again the command was given, and unheeded, when her mother asked:
"What are you gazing at ?"
"At my people," she answered, in a tone of pride and haughtiness.
One morning while we were in London, the Queen and Prince Albert visited Madame Tassaud's exhibition of waxwork, and orders were given, upon their entrance, to admit no visitors until their departure ; but an original specimen of a Cheshire farmer, by some unaccountable means got in, and knowing nothing of the presence of royal visitors, walked leisurely up to the wax group of the royal family, before which stood the real Queen and Prince Albert. After gazing at the wax group for awhile, the honest old farmer turned to his neighbors, whom he supposed to be ordinary visitors, and said
"Well, now, I doant think they be so very fine-looking after all - do you?"
At that moment the proprietor of the exhibition came up, exclaiming
"How came you here, sir? Are you aware that you are addressing Her Majesty the Queen?"
At the words, " Her Majesty," the old man's hat flew off, and his knees bent with a quickness that would surprise an unused republican. The Royal couple were much amused, and reassured the old farmer, who retired to boast, as long as he lives, of his interview with Prince Albert and Queen Victoria!
In economy, Victoria is said to be an adept, and in her habits exceedingly exemplary. Her popularity is unbounded - everywhere she goes she is received with great demonstrations of applause.
Prince Albert is a handsome man, and is quite popular of [-215-] late throughout England. His devotion to the Great Exhibition, and to several benevolent schemes, have contributed much towards his popularity. At heart he has many sympathies for the working-people.
We had the good fortune last spring to see Her Majesty and the Prince, as they were on their way in their state-carriage to Parliament, and it was the most gorgeous spectacle of the kind which we ever witnessed.
The day was a lovely one of early spring. The sky was blue, warm, and serene, the sun shone with splendor, and as we were stationed in Green Park, the acres of park around us were covered with bright-green grass. As early as twelve o'clock, the whole pathway from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament was crowded by people from all ranks of society. At a little before two o'clock, the Queen came into the Park, preceded by bands of music, the Guards, and splendid carriages containing officers of state. She was drawn by six beautiful cream-colored horses, covered with brilliant trappings, and the state-carriage was truly magnificent. The top was mainly of glass, so that the populace could have a fair view of Her Majesty. She was dressed in excellent taste; her gown was of white brocade satin, trimmed with gold, and upon her head she wore a splendid tiara of diamonds. She rose repeatedly and bowed to the people with exquisite grace. She is not a very beautiful woman, but there is after all a charming expression in her features, a gentle beauty which wins all hearts.
Prince Albert was dressed in his military uniform, and looked very well.
The Duchess of Sutherland was in the carriage with the Queen, and has for years been connected with the court. She is quite old; but still very beautiful. For many years she was considered the most beautiful woman at the English court, but at present we believe that honor is generally con-[-216-]ceded to the Marchioness of Douro. The Duchess is twenty years her superior in age. The Duke of Norfolk rode in the carriage also as Master of Horse.
The Marquis of Westminster came sweeping past in his family carriage. He has the look of a genuine aristocrat - haughty, cold, and yet majestic.
We could not help contrasting this royal pageant with the simpler ceremonies attendant upon the opening of our Congress. The President is open to all, but the Queen is hedged round with grand ceremonies and etiquette, so that but few of her people can ever look at her, save in the open air on state-occasions.
We have been sorry to see that certain American writers persist in saying that the Queen is a woman of no intellect, and partially insane. We know from good authority that such statements are entirely devoid of truth, and if made in England, would expose their authors to laughter and ridicule. Her Majesty is not a woman of extraordinary intellect, but she has good intellectual powers, and in some of the Fine Arts is skilful. Above all, she is strictly moral. That she occasionally is given to seasons of deep melancholy, is a well-known fact, and some have gone so far as to state the cause to be her early love for an English nobleman, whom, according to the Constitution, she could not marry.
This story is probably not true, though before her marriage it is well known that she was quite intimate with a certain Lord, who has since banished himself from the kingdom.
Her nervous temperament is frail, but to say that she is half-idiotic, or half-insane, is not only untrue, but a cruel misrepresentation of her state.
The town residence of the Queen is Buckingham Palace, and was built by the architect Nash under George IV., and it affords proofs of the imbecility of mind of both king and architect. It is universally condemned by all foreigners of [-217-] taste; Von Raumer declared that he would not accept a free residence in it!
St. James' Palace is the place for parades, levees, and drawing-rooms, while Buckingham Palace is the domestic home of the royal family. The park from this palace looks finely at all seasons of the year. In the palace there are seven distinguished apartments-the Green Drawing-Room, the Throne Room, the Picture Gallery, the Yellow Drawing- Room, the Saloon, the Ball-Room, and the State Dining- Room.
The Picture Room is at certain times accessible to the public, and is well worth the trouble of a visit. The paintings in it are by Titian, Rembrandt, Claude, Vandyke, Laurie, Wilkie, and other rare old masters. When the Queen us absent, at Osborne or Windsor, by a proper card of introduction almost any one, especially a foreigner, may view the distinguished collection.
The Throne Room is probably the richest in Buckingham Palace. Its walls of plated glass, its polished marble pillars and pavement, the gorgeous furniture, all of which is tempered by the light that is thrown over all most artfully, so as to elicit every species of richness, combine to make a dazzling room. In 1842 the Queen held a grand Fancy Ball in this palace, and the court of Edward III. and Queen Philippa was renewed. Its gorgeousness has scarcely ever been equalled, and will probably never be surpassed. Upon the occasion Her Majesty wore upon her stomacher alone three hundred thousand dollars worth of diamonds.
St. James' Palace was built in the fifteenth century, but since then has undergone many sweeping changes and additions. It looks finer than Buckingham Palace, but is still inferior to the palaces of the Continent. Its drawing-room is the place where the Queen holds all her levees, and is a splendid apartment.
[----grey numbers in
brackets indicate page number,