Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

It is pleasant to turn from scenes of doubt and discord, of strife and sorrow, to that bright domestic life
which was now vouchsafed to the Sovereign, as if in direct compensation for the storms that raved and

beat outside her home - a home now brightened by the presence of five joyous, healthy children. It is a

charming picture of the royal pair and of the manner of life in the palace - styled by one foreigner "the

one really pleasant, comfortable English house, in which one feels at one's ease " - that is given us by the

finely discerning Mendelssohn, invited by the Prince to "come and try his organ" before leaving England

in 1842, on which occasion the Queen joined her husband and his guest at the instrument, enjoying and

aiding in their musical performance, and singing, "quite faultlessly and with charming feeling and

expression," a song written by the great master who was now paying a farewell visit, with nothing of

ceremony in it, to English royalty. With a few touches Mendelssohn makes us see the delightful ease and

comfort of this royal interior, the Queen gathering up the sheets of music strewn by the wind over the

floor - the Prince cleverly managing the organ-stops so as to suit the master while he played - the mighty

rocking-horse and the two birdcages beside the music-laden piano in the Queen's own sitting-room,

beautiful with pictures and richly-bound books - the pretty difficulty about her finding some of

Mendelssohn's own songs to sing to him, since her music was packed up and taken away to Claremont -

her naive confession that she had been "so frightened" at singing before the master, - all are chronicled

with not less zest and affection than the graceful gift of a valuable ring "as a remembrance" to the artist

from the Queen, through Prince Albert. It is a much more pleasing impression that we thus obtain than

can be given by details of State ceremonial and visits from other sovereigns. Of these last there was no

lack, and the princely visitors were entertained with all due pomp and splendour; but neither on account

of these costly entertainments nor on behalf of the royal children did the Sovereign ask the nation for so

much as a shilling, the Civil List sufficing for every unlooked-for outlay, now that Prince Albert, by dint

of persevering effort, had succeeded in putting the arrangements of the royal household on a satisfactory

footing, sweeping away a vast number of time-honoured, thriftless expenses, and rendering a wise and

generous economy possible.

Formerly the great officers of the Crown were charged with the oversight of the commonest domestic
business of the palace. Being non-resident, these overseers did no overseeing, and the actual servants

were practically masterless. Hence arose numberless vexations and extravagant hindrances. In 1843 this

objectionable form of the division of labour was brought to an end, and one Master of the household who

did his work replaced the many officials who, by a fiction of etiquette, had been formerly supposed to do

everything while they did and could do nothing. The long-needed reform could not but be pleasing to the

Queen, being quite in harmony with the upright principles that had always ruled her conduct, she having

begun her reign by paying off the debts of her dead father - debts contracted not in her lifetime nor on her

account, and which a spirit less purely honourable might therefore have declined to recognise.

Thanks to the Prince's able management, the royal pair found it in their power to purchase for themselves
the estate of Osborne, in the Isle of Wight - a charming retreat all their own, which they could adorn for

their delight with no thought of the thronging public; where the Prince could farm and build and garden

to his heart's content, and all could escape from the stately restraints of their burdensome rank, and from

"the bitterness people create for themselves in London." Before very long they found for themselves that

Highland holiday home of Balmoral which was to be so peculiarly dear, and in which Her Majesty -

whose first visit to the then discontented Scotland was deemed quite a risky experiment - was so

completely to win for herself the admiring love of her Scottish subjects.

At Balmoral Mr. Greville saw them some little time after their acquisition of the place, and witnesses to
the "simplicity and ease" with which they lived, to the gay good humour that pervaded their circle - "the

 

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