Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

many had hardly been aware that there was danger until the midnight tolling of the great bell of St. Paul's
startled men with an instant foreboding of disaster. What disaster it was that was thus knelled

forth they knew not, and could hardly believe the tidings when given in articulate words.

At first it had been said, the Prince had a feverish cold; presently the bulletin announced "fever,
unattended with unfavourable symptoms." It was gastric fever, and before long there were

unfavourable symptoms - pallid changes in the aspect, hurried breathing, wandering senses - all noted

with heart-breaking anxiety by the loving nurses, the Queen and Princess Alice - the daughter so tender

and beloved, the "dear little wife," the "good little wife," whose ministerings were so comfortable to the

sufferer overwearied with the great burden of life. He was released from it at ten minutes to eleven on the

night of Saturday, December 14th; and there fell on her to whom his last conscious look had been turned,

his last caress given, a burden of woe almost unspeakable, and for which the heart of the nation throbbed

with well-nigh unbearable sympathy. Seldom has the personal grief of a sovereign been so keenly shared

by subjects. Indeed, they had cause to lament; the removal of the Prince Consort, just when his faculties

seemed ripest and his influence most assured, left a blank in the councils of the nation which has never

been filled up. "We have buried our king" said Mr. Disraeli, regretting profoundly this national

loss; but for once the English people forgot the public deprivation in compassionating her who was left

more conspicuously lonely, more heavily burdened, than even the poor bereaved colliers' wives in the

North for whom her compassion was so quick and so sharply sympathetic. Something remorseful

mingled then, and may mingle now, with the affection felt for this lost benefactor, who had not only been

somewhat jealously eyed by certain classes on his first coming, but who had suffered much silently from

misunderstanding and also from deliberate misrepresentation, and only by patient continuance in

well-doing had at last won the favour which was his rightful due.

"That which we have we prize not to the worth
While we enjoy it; but being lacked and lost,

Why, then we rack the value, then we find

The virtue that possession would not show us

While it was ours."

A peculiar tenderness was ever after cherished for Princess Alice, who in this dark hour rose up to be her
mother's comforter, endeavouring in every way possible to save her all trouble - "all communications

from the Ministers and household passed through the Princess's hands to the Queen, then bowed down

with grief.... It was the very intimate intercourse with the sorrowing Queen at that time which called forth

in Princess Alice that keen interest and understanding in politics for which she was afterwards so

distinguished. The gay, bright girl suddenly developed into a wise, far-seeing woman, living only for

others."

This ministering angel in the house of mourning had been already betrothed, with her parents' full
approval, to Prince Louis of Hesse; and to him she was married on July 1st, 1862, at Osborne, very

quietly, as befitted the mournful circumstance of the royal family. Many a heartfelt wish for her

happiness followed "England's England-loving daughter" to her foreign home, where she led a beautiful,

useful life, treading in her father's footsteps, and continually cherished by the love of her mother; and the

peculiarly touching manner of her death, a sort of martyrdom to sweet domestic affections, again stirred

the heart of her own people to mournful admiration. A cottager's wife might have died as Princess Alice

died, through breathing in the poison of diphtheria as she hung, a constant, loving nurse, over the pillows

of her suffering husband and children. This beautiful homeliness that has marked the lives of our

 

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