Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

especially with Imperial France, alternating with messages of encouragement, full of cordiality and
grace, to her successful commander-in-chief in India, Sir Colin Campbell, with plans for the conspicuous

rewarding of the Indian heroes at large, with public visits to various great English towns, and with

preparations for the impending marriage of the Princess Royal; and we realise forcibly that even in those

sunny days, when the Queen was surrounded with her unbroken family of nine blooming and promising

children, and still had at her right hand the invaluable counsellor by whose aid England was governed

with a wisdom and energy all but unprecedented, her position was so far from a sinecure that no subject

who had his daily bread to gain by his wits could have worked much harder.

 

CHAPTER VI. THE BEGINNINGS OF SORROWS.

IT has been the Queen's good fortune to see her own true-love match happily repeated in the marriages of
her children. One would almost say that the conspicuous success of that union, the blessing that it

brought with it to the nation, had set a new fashion to royalty. There is quite a romantic charm about the

first marriage which broke the royal home-circle of England - that of the Queen's eldest child and

namesake, Victoria, Princess Royal, with Prince Frederick William, eldest son of the then Prince of

Prussia, whose exaltation to the imperial throne of Germany lay dimly and afar - if not altogether

undreamed of by some prophetic spirits - in the future. The bride and bridegroom had first met, when the

youth was but nineteen and the maiden only ten, at the great Peace Festival, the opening of the first

Exhibition. Already the charming grace and rare intelligence of the Princess had attracted attention; and

it is on record that at this early period some inkling of a possible attraction between the two had entered

one observer's mind, who also notes that the young Prince, greatly interested by all he saw of free

England and its rulers, was above all taken with the "perfect domestic happiness which he found

pervading the heart, and core, and focus of the greatest empire in the world." Four years later the Prince

was again visiting England, a guest of the royal family in its Scottish retreat of Balmoral, where they had

just been celebrating with beacon fires and Highland mirth and music the glad news of the fall of

Sebastopol. He had the full consent of his own family for his wooing, but the parents of his lady would

have had him keep silence at least till the fifteen-year-old maiden should be confirmed. The ease and

unconstraint of that mountain home-life, however, were not very favourable to reserve and reticence; a

spray of white heather, offered and received as the national emblem of good fortune, was made the

flower symbol of something more, and words were spoken that effectually bound the two young hearts,

though the formal betrothal was deferred until some time after the Princess, in the following March, had

received the rite of Confirmation; and "the actual marriage," said the Prince Consort, "cannot be thought

of till the seventeenth birthday is past." "The secret must be kept tant bien que mal," he had

written, well knowing that it would be a good deal of an open secret.

The engagement was publicly announced in May, 1857, and though, when first rumoured, it had been
coldly looked on by the English public, now it was accepted with great cordiality. The Prince was openly

associated with the royal family; he and his future bride appeared as sponsors at the christening of our

youngest Princess, Beatrice; he rode with the Prince Consort beside the Queen when she made the first

distribution of the Victoria Cross, and was a prominent and heartily welcomed member of the royal

group which visited the Art Treasures Exhibition of Manchester. The marriage, which was in preparation

all through the grim days of 1857, was celebrated with due splendour on January 25th, 1858, and

awakened a universal interest which was not even surpassed when, five years later, the heir to the throne

was wedded. "Down to the humblest cottage," said the Prince Consort, "the marriage has been regarded

as a family affair." And not only this splendid and entirely successful match, but every joy or woe that

has befallen the highest family in the land, has been felt as "a family affair" by thousands of the lowly.

 

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