Domestic Affairs

Prince Frederick William of Prussia

TO Queen Victoria's palace home among the Scottish hills, in the summer of 1855, came Prince Frederick William of Prussia, to woo the Princess Royal of England. The young man was twenty-four, "the little lady" (as Prince Albert calls her) only fifteen. On the heathery side of Craig-naban the Prussian Prince one day plucked a piece of white heather (the emblem of good luck) and gave it to the Princess. And then words were spoken on the subject that both had been thinking about, and the young couple agreed to tread life's pathway side by side. The wedding was not to be for two years yet, but the young Prince came as often as he could to see his promised bride.

Treaty of Peace with Russia

March, 1856, brought the signing of the treaty of peace with Russia, and great were the rejoicings, attended with gun-firing and bell-ringing and grand illuminations. In April, 1857, the last of Queen Victoria's babies was born at Buckingham Palace. Prince Albert, writing to Coburg, says the baby "is thriving famously, and is prettier than babies usually are. . . . She is to receive the historical, romantic, euphonious and melodious names of Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodora."

Princess Victoria Catches Fire

It was decided that the Princess Royal should be married on January 25th, 1858, and Buckingham Palace was filled with gay and illustrious wedding guests as the day approached. The expectant bridegroom had visited England several times in the interval. He was in this country when an accident occurred that might have robbed him for ever of his promised bride. The Princess Royal was sealing a letter when her muslin sleeve caught alight. Her governess, Miss Hildyard, was sitting near her, and Princess Alice was with her music-mistress in the same room. They at once got the hearthrug round the Princess Royal, and extinguished her blazing dress. The arm was burnt from below the elbow to the shoulder, but no serious result followed. Lady Blomfield tells us, "When the Princess burnt her arm she never uttered a cry ; she said, Don't frighten mamma, send for papa first."

Princesss Victoria Marries Federick III

The wedding day came, and about thirty princes and princesses, and three hundred peers and peeresses, assembled in the old chapel of St. James's Palace. We read that the bride looked " very touching and lovely, with such an innocent, confiding, and serious expression, her veil hanging kick over her shoulders." There were eight bridesmaids " in white tulle, with wreaths and bouquets of roses and white heather." A few days afterwards the happy husband took his English bride away to his Prussian home. Thousands of people lined the streets, and many of us can well remember the tear-swollen face of the Princess as she drove in an open carriage through the falling snow. The grief at parting with her mother and misters, for the time overpowered every other emotion. Her father, with " Bertie " and Alfred, accompanied her to Gravesend.

But even the weeping Princess was obliged to laugh when someone in the crowd shouted, " If he doesn't treat you well, come back to us ! " There was no doubt, however, about her being well treated, and she became very popular at the Prussian Court. On the evening after her public entry into Berlin she had to polonaise with twenty-two princes in succession. The Princess Frederick William (as she was now called) was a good deal annoyed at first with the stiff etiquette of the Prussian Court. But she learned to put up with what could not be helped, and resolutely broke through those rules which she felt were too absurd to be put up with.

Princess Victoria

I am not writing the life of the Princess Royal, but I must stay to tell one or two anecdotes about her, because they illustrate the character of the Royal Lady who is the proper subject of this book. A Prussian Princess, it appeared, might not carry chairs about, but on one occasion the Countess Perponcher, a very venerable and important personage, discovered our Princess in the act of carrying a chair across a room and setting it down in another corner. The Countess earnestly remonstrated. " I'll tell you what, my dear Countess," said the English Princess, " you are probably aware of the fact of my mother being Queen of England ? " The Countess bowed in assent. " Well," said the Princess, " then I must reveal to you another fact. Her Majesty, the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, has, not once, but very often, so far forgotten herself as to take up a chair. I speak from personal observation, I can assure you. Nay, if I am not greatly deceived, I noticed, one day, my mother carrying a chair in each hand, in order to set them for her children. Do you really think that my dignity forbids anything which is frequently done by the Queen of England ?"

Baby Beatrice

The Countess Perponcher was dismayed on another occasion at finding the Princess arranging and putting away a quantity of linen. "My mother did it," was again an answer to all objections.
But we must hasten back to England, where, from this time, Princess Alice took her sister's place in the Royal circle. Baby Beatrice, as the latest corner, now attracts much attention. Prince Albert writes : " Little Beatrice is an extremely Attractive, pretty, intelligent child ; indeed, the most amusing baby we have had." Another time ho says : " Beatrice on her first birthday looks charming, with a new light blue cap. Her table of birthday gifts has given her the greatest pleasure, especially a lamb."

In May, 1858, Prince Albert went to see his married daughter, and in the Autumn he went again, accompanied by the Queen. Concerning the meeting the Queen says : " There on the platform stood our darling child, with a nosegay (posie) in her hand. . . . She stepped in, and long and warm was the embrace as she clasped me in her arms ; so much to say, and to tell, and to ask, yet so unaltered ; looking well, and quite the old Vicky still."

Prince Albert Horse Carriage Accident

The Queen was again on the Continent in September, 1860, and met at Coburg her daughter, the Princess Royal, who was now the happy mother of a little Prince and Princess. During this journey an accident occurred to Prince Albert. He was by himself in an open carriage, when the four horses that were drawing it suddenly took fright and galloped wildly at full speed towards the adjacent railway line, where, in front of a bar guarding a level crossing, stood a waggon. The Prince saw that a crash was inevitable, and leaped out, happily escaping with a number of cuts and bruises. The driver stuck to his seat, and when the collision occurred, was thrown out and seriously hurt. One horse was killed on the spot, the others galloped along the road to Coburg. Colonel Ponsonby, the Prince's equerry, happened to meet them, and seeing that something had happened, at once procured a carriage and got two doctors to accompany him to the scene of the accident. They found the Prince doing the best he could for the injured man, and Colonel Ponsonby was sent to give the Queen the first account of the affair. In her deep gratitude for the preservation of the Prince, Her Majesty founded a charity for helping young men and women in their apprenticeships, setting up in business, and marriage.

Prince Alice Marriage to Prince Louis IV Delayed

Before the year was over, Prince Louis of Hesse Darmstadt was at Windsor to win Princess Alice for his bride. The betrothal was soon arranged to the entire satisfaction of all parties ; but two years, marked by sad changes, were to pass away before the wedding could be celebrated.