Death Of Prince Albert

Death of Queen Victoria's Mother

IN the unpretending mansion of Frogmore, near to the grey towers of Windsor, dwelt the venerable mother of Queen Victoria, in failing health, and cared for and watched over with the utmost tenderness. The Duchess of Kent was now seventy-five years of age ; her health had for some time grown more and more delicate, but there was no special cause for immediate anxiety till March, 1861. Alarming symptoms appeared ; the Queen and Prince Albert hastened to the bedside of the aged sufferer; there was a long sad night of anxious watching and then all was over—" her gentle spirit at rest, her sufferings over."

The Queen was very much affected by her mother's death. Prince Albert writes : " She is greatly upset and feels her childhood rush back upon her memory with the most vivid force. Her grief is extreme. . . . For the last two years her constant care and occupation have been to keep watch over her mother's comfort, and the influence of this upon her own character has been most salutary. In body she is well, though terribly nervous . . . she remains almost entirely alone."

"Trent" affair  

In the retirement of Osborne, the Queen gradually overcame the first excess of grief, and became more resigned ; but a cloud of sadness seemed from this time to shadow her life. Her birthday that year was kept without the usual festivities. In the summer there was a visit to Ireland and the beautiful lakes of Killarney, and subsequently a sojourn at Balmoral, and some delightful Highland excursions. Towards the end of the year what is known as the "Trent" affair occurred. It was whilst the southern portion of the United States was in rebellion, trying to form an independent nation, of which, as they said, slavery should be the chief corner stone ! Two of the rebels were coming to Europe on board the English steamer "Trent," to try and make mischief between England and the United States.

An American captain stopped the "Trent" on its way to England, and took the rebel envoys prisoners. Of course, he had no right to do this, and the English Government and people were very indignant. Lord Palmerston, in his usual bullying way, wrote a fierce and threatening remonstrance—one that would probably have plunged the two nations concerned into war. But the Queen and Prince Albert toned it down into something more conciliatory, yet quite as dignified. The result was that the United States Government at once repudiated the rash action of the naval captain, and set the two prisoners free.

Prince Albert Falls Ill

His amicable efforts, in conjunction with Her Majesty, to bring about a peaceful settlement of this " Trent " affair, were the last public service in the beneficent life of " Albert the Good." He had been for some time far from well; and on December the 2nd the doctors saw symptoms of low fever.

For a few days there were alternations of hope and fear, whilst the Prince strove resolutely against his illness, and refused to go to bed and be regularly laid up. The Queen and Princess Alice read to him. But the symptoms grew more decidedly dangerous, and the anxious Queen went through her State duties as one " in a dreadful dream." On December 8th, the Prince was removed at his own request to a larger and brighter room—it happened to be the one in which both William IV. and George IV. had died. That day was Sunday, and Charles Kingsley preached at the Castle, but the Queen sadly notes in her diary that she " scarcely heard a word."

Death Of Prince Albert

Of this day, one of the Queen's household, in a letter written shortly afterwards, says : " The last Sunday Prince Albert passed on earth was a very blessed one for Princess Alice to look back upon. He was very weak and very ill, and she spent the afternoon alone with him while the others were at church. He begged to have his sofa drawn to the window that he might see the sky and the clouds sailing past. He then asked her to play to him, and she went through several of his favourite hymns and chorales. After she had played some time, she looked round and saw him lying back, his hands folded as if in prayer, and his eyes shut. He lay so long without moving that she thought he had fallen asleep. Presently he looked up and smiled. She said, ' Were you asleep, dear Papa ?' Oh, no,' he answered, only I have such sweet thoughts.'

" During his illness his hands were often folded in prayer; and when he did not speak, his serene face showed that the ' sweet thoughts' were with him to the end."

The fortitude and devotedness of Princess Alice all through this trying time was something that neither the Royal Family nor the nation ever forgot. She shed no tears in her father's presence, but sat by him, conversed with him, and repeated or sang hymns, and when she could bear I no longer, calmly walked to the door and rushed  to her room, returning presently with her calm and face showing no traces of the agitation she had gone through.

It was on the afternoon of Saturday, the 14th of December, that it became evident that the end was approaching. "Gutes Frauchen" were his last loving words to the Queen as he kissed her, and then laid his head against her shoulder. Some time afterwards the Queen bent down and said : "Es ist kicins Franchen ;" the Prince knew her and bowed his head in answer. Quietly and without suffering he continued to sink, and at a few minutes before eleven o'clock he ceased to breathe. Soon after midnight, the solemn tones of the great bell of St. Paul's sounded over the City, proclaiming that a Royal Prince had gone to his eternal rest.

The favourite hymn of the Prince in his last illness had been the well-known one, beginning-
" Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee."

Immense Sorrow for Queen Victoria

To a physician who expressed the hope that he would be better in a few days, he said : " No, I shall not recover ; but I am not taken by surprise ; I am not afraid ; I trust I am prepared." For six months before his death (as the Queen afterwards stated), his mind had often dwelt on death and the future state ; they had often conversed together upon such topics, and he had been much interested in a book called Heaven our Home, which they had read together. He had once remarked, "We don't know in what state we shall meet again ; but that we shall recognise each other, and be together in eternity, I am perfectly certain."
When referring to her bereavement, the Queen said she was a wonder to herself, and she felt sure that she had been so sustained in answer to the prayers of her people. " There's not the bitterness in this trial that I felt when I lost my mother—I was so rebellious then ; but now I can see the mercy and love that are mingled in my trial."

But for a time it seemed as if the Queen would speedily follow her husband. For some days she was prostrate with weakness, and her pulse could hardly be felt. Hope revived, when it was at length announced that Her Majesty had had some hours' sleep. They took her as soon as possible to the quiet home at Osborne, and with solemn rites they laid the body of the Prince in the Royal Chapel at Windsor, whence it was afterwards transferred to a splendid mausoleum built by the Queen in the grounds of Frogmore.

Princess Alice was the right-hand of the Queen in the first sad months of bereavement, and the chief means of communication between the Sovereign and her Ministers. But Her Majesty soon roused herself to her high duties, whilst evermore shrinking from State ceremonials and the mere splendours of royalty as much as possible. Her own sorrows did not make her pass by unnoticed the sorrows of others, and before the first month of her widowhood had passed she was telegraphing from Osborne her " tenderest sympathy for the poor widows and mothers" left desolate, when upwards of two hundred miners perished in the terrible Hartley Colliery accident.

Of the way in which the Queen has discharged her Royal duties during her long widowhood, Lord Beaconsfield has plainly spoken : " There is not a dispatch received from abroad, or sent from this country abroad, which is not submitted to the Queen. The whole of the internal administration of this country greatly depends upon the sign-manual of our Sovereign, and it may be said that her signature has never been placed to any public document of which she did not know the purpose and of which she did not approve. Those Cabinet Councils of which you all hear, and which are necessarily the scene of anxious and important deliberation, are reported on their termination, by the Minister to the Sovereign, and they often call from her critical remarks requiring considerable attention ; and I will say, that no person likely to administer the affairs of this country would be likely to treat the suggestions of Her Majesty with indifference, for at this moment there is probably no person living who has such complete control over the political condition of England as the Sovereign herself."