Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

oppressions abhorrent to the universal conscience of mankind. The public conscience in these realms at
least is better informed and more sensitive than it was in the year of William IV's death and of Victoria's

accession.

 

CHAPTER II. STORM AND SUNSHINE

The beneficent changes we have briefly described were but just inaugurated, and their possible power for
good was as yet hardly divined, when the young Queen entered into that marriage which we may well

deem the happiest action of her life, and the most fruitful of good to her people, looking to the

extraordinary character of the husband of her choice, and to the unobtrusive but always advantageous

influence which his great and wise spirit exercised on our national life.

The marriage had been anxiously desired, and the way for it judiciously prepared, but it was in no sense
forced on either of the contracting parties by their elders who so desired it. Prince Albert of

Saxe-Coburg, second son of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, the Queen's maternal uncle, was nearly

of an age with his royal cousin; he had already, young as he was, given evidence of a rare superiority of

nature; he had been excellently trained; and there is no doubt that Leopold, king of the Belgians, his

uncle, and the Queen's, did most earnestly desire to see the young heiress of the British throne, for whom

he had a peculiar tenderness, united to the one person whose position and whose character combined to

point him out as the fit partner for her high and difficult destinies. What tact, what patience, and what

power of self-suppression the Queen of England's husband would need to exercise, no one could better

judge than Leopold, the widowed husband of Princess Charlotte; no one could more fully have

exemplified these qualities than the prince in whom Leopold's penetration divined them.

The cousins had already met, in 1836, when their mutual attraction had been sufficiently strong; and in
1839, when Prince Albert, with his elder brother Ernest, was again visiting England, the impression

already produced became ineffaceably deep. The Queen, whom her great rank compelled to take the

initiative, was not very long in making up her mind when and how to act. Her favoured suitor himself,

writing to a dear relative, relates how she performed the trying task, inviting him to render her intensely

happy by making "the sacrifice of sharing her life with her, for she said she looked on it as a

sacrifice. The joyous openness with which she told me this enchanted me, and I was quite carried away

by it." This was on October 15th; nearly six weeks after, on November 23rd, she made to her assembled

Privy Council the formal declaration of her intended marriage. There is something particularly touching

in even the driest description of this scene; the betrothed bride wearing a simple morning dress, having

on her arm a bracelet containing Prince Albert's portrait, which helped to give her courage; her voice, as

she read the declaration clear, sweet, and penetrating as ever, but her hands trembling so excessively that

it was surprising she could read the paper she held. It was a trying task, but not so difficult as that which

had devolved on her a short time before, when, in virtue of her sovereign rank, she had first to speak the

words of fate that bound her to her suitor.

Endowed with every charm of person, mind, and manner that can win and keep affection, Prince Albert
was able, in marrying the Queen, who loved him and whom he loved, to secure for her a happiness rare

in any rank, rarest of all on the cold heights of royalty. This was not all; he was the worthy partner of her

greatness. Himself highly cultivated in every sense, he watched with keenest interest over the advance of

all cultivation in the land of his adoption, and identified himself with every movement to improve its

condition. His was the soul of a statesman - wide, lofty, far-seeing, patient; surveying all great things,

disdaining no small things, but with tireless industry pursuing after all necessary knowledge. Add to

these intellectual excellences the moral graces of ideal purity of life, chivalrous faithfulness of heart,

 

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