Queen Victoria Ascends the Throne

ON THE STEPS OF THE THRONE

IN the year 1830, William IV. ascended the throne of England. Notwithstanding his high position as the ruler of a mighty nation, this monarch often displayed the manners of a rough sailor, and when he was excited or vexed, he frequently used to swear dreadfully. This sort of thing did not at all suit the refined ideas of the Duchess of Kent, and so she still kept her little girl as much as possible from the Court. The Duchess, however, kept up a sincere friendshipwith the King's wife, good Queen Adelaide. The summer of 1830 was spent by Princess Victoria and her mother amongst the pleasant hills of Malvern. We believe the townsfolk have been telling visitors ever since how the Queen, when a girl, used to ride about Malvern on a donkey, and enjoy herself just like any other healthy, happy English girl. During the same summer, Princess Victoria was also taken to Birmingham, Kenilworth Castle, and some other places of note in the Midlands.

First State Appearance

The first State appearance of Princess Victoria at Court took place in February, 1831, on the occasion of a grand drawing-room held by Queen Adelaide. In the midst of all that brilliant throng, the chief centre of attraction was the girl of twelve in her frock of English blonde, standing in simple dignity beside her aunt, the Queen, and taking an interest in all that was going forward. " We can without difficulty," says Miss Tytler, " call up before us the girlish figure in its pure white dress, the soft, open face, the fair hair, the candid blue eyes, the frank lips, slightly apart, showing the white, pearly teeth."

The English Parliament, seeing that Princess Victoria was now next heir to the Crown, gave her mother ten thousand pounds a year, which made things rather more comfortable. Her twelfth birthday passed before the Princess was made aware of her high position. She had been very carefully guarded, and sharp questions as to why the gentlemen bowed to her and not to her sister Feodore, and so forth, had had to be evaded somehow. But the time had now come when it was deemed right fully to reveal her prospects to her. A genealogical table was accordingly placed in the historical work used by the Princess. Her governess, Baroness Lehzen, tells us how " Princess Victoria opened the book as usual, and, seeing the additional paper, said, 'I never saw that before.'
"'It was not thought necessary you should,' I answered.
" I see I am nearer the throne than I thought.' " So it is, madam,' I said.
" After some moments the Princess answered, Now, many a child would boast, but they don't know the difficulty. There is much splendour, but there is much responsibility.'
"The Princess having lifted up the forefinger of her right hand while she spoke, gave me that little hand, saying, 'I will be good. I understand now why you urged me so much to learn even Latin. My aunts, Augusta and Mary, never did ; but you told me Latin is the foundation of English grammar and of all the elegant expressions, and I learned it as you wished it ; but I understand all better now.' And the Princess gave me her hand, repeating, I will be good.' I then said,
'But your aunt Adelaide is still young, and may have children, and of course they would ascend the throne after their father, William IV., and not you, Princess.' The Princess answered, And if it was so, I should never feel disappointed, for I know by the love aunt Adelaide bears me how fond she is of children.' "

Coronation of William IV

William IV, Queen VictoriaThe coronation of William IV and Adelaide took place in the following September, and everybody was surprised that Princess Victoria was absent. The Times and other papers made a great deal of fuss about it, but the matter was soon explained. The Princess had recently had more publicity and excitement than was good for her health, and so her mother on this grand occasion kept her quietly at home.

During the next year or two, whilst England was so full of wild excitement about the Reform Bill, and the great Duke of Wellington who had been almost worshipped as a successful warrior was getting hated as a statesman, Princess Victoria was quietly getting on with her studies. That these studies were some of them difficult, we have already seen. No pains were spared to fit her for the high duties which it now seemed so certain she would be called upon to fulfil. She was evidently a bright quick-witted little maiden. One day she was reading the well known anecdote of the Roman matron, Cornelia, pointing to her sleeping children as "My jewels ! " " She should have said ' My cornelians,' " was the passing remark of the Princess. Like most other children, Her Royal Highness was sometimes a little wilful. She did not always feel in the mood for pianoforte practice, and she was one day told that there was no royal road to perfection and that only by very much practice could she become " mistress of the piano." The Princess at once closed the piano, locked it, and put the key in her pocket.. " Now you see there is a royal way of becoming mistress of the piano " she exclaimed. But having had her little joke, she was soon persuaded to resume her practice.

In the summer of 1831 the Duchess of Kent and her daughter spent three pleasant months at Norris Castle in the Isle of Wight, and the Princess began to love the fair island so intimately connected with the joys of later years. Miss Greenwood tells us of a tourist who happened to visit Arreton Churchyard at the time we are speaking of, and who on nearing the tomb of the "Dairyman's Daughter" found a lady and a young girl sitting beside the mound. The girl was " reading aloud in a full melodious voice the touching tale of the Christian maiden.' He found afterwards, on speaking to the Sexton, that the two ladies were the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria.

Areton Church, Isle of Wight, Queen Victoria

But the Princess had at times to figure in scenes of a more exciting character than the quiet churchyard of Arreton. She was only about twelve when she opened the Victoria Park at Bath—her first experience of a duty to be undertaken times without number in after life. Now and again she stayed at the Pavilion at Brighton, and walked on the Esplanade, where she had the opportunity of learning not to mind being stared at. At Wentworth House and Alton Towers and Chatsworth and other mansions of the nobility, she was an honoured guest, and in her progresses to these places she was taken to inspect cathedrals and colleges and factories, and had to listen whilst prosy addresses were read by mayors, etc., to her mother at various towns they passed through.

Wentworth House

There is a curious little anecdote told of Princess. Victoria on the occasion of her visit to Wentworth House, the seat of Earl Fitzwilliam. One morning, after a rainy night, she was running about the grounds, when an old gardener who saw her on the point of descending a sloping piece of lawn, called out "Be careful, Miss, it's slape ! " " What's slape ? " said the Princess ; but almost immediately her feet slipped from under her, and the future Queen measured her length on the damp grass. The old gardener hastened to help her up, and in reply to her question, gravely said "That's slape, Miss ! " So royal people, like other folks, often have to learn by experience.

Thirteenth Birthday

On the thirteenth birthday of Princess Victoria, a grand juvenile ball was given in her honour by the King and Queen. There was a large number of the children of the nobility present, and Queen Victoria in later years spoke of the scene as one that made a deep impression upon her. All the Kensington tradespeople illuminated their houses in honour of the young Princess, whom they knew so well. A few days afterwards she was at a Drawing Room; but she was not often at Court, and King William IV. began to get jealous of the secluded way in which she was brought up, and also of the popular demonstrations that greeted her when she went about the country.

Narrow Escape

During 1833, the Princess and her mother spent some months in the Isle of Wight, at Norris Castle, and in the yacht "Emerald" visited several towns on the South Coast. During one excursion the Princess again had a narrow escape from being killed. A gale had come on suddenly, and she was watching the stirring scene when the topmast was heard to crack. The pilot sprang to the Princess and lifted her to a place of safety, and immediately afterwards the mast came crashing down on the very spot where she had been standing. That pilot got promoted ; and at his death, some years later, his widow and family were provided for by Queen Victoria.

Jewelry Store

There were no photographs at that time in the shop windows, although certainly there were pictures of royal people more or less like them. Still, comparatively few people knew Princess Victoria by sight, although everybody had heard of her ; so she could easily go about unnoticed. One day she was in a jeweller's shop, when she saw another young lady looking at some gold chains. This young lady had selected one she was evidently anxious to purchase, but presently she laid it down reluctantly and bought a cheaper one. When the young lady had gone, Princess Victoria made some enquiries, and then ordered both the chains to be sent to the young lady's address. In the packet the Princess placed her card with a few words written on it expressing her pleasure at seeing prudence and self-denial, and requesting her to accept as a present the chain originally selected.

About this time the American writer, N. P. Willis, saw Princess Victoria standing beside her aunt, Queen Adelaide, at Ascot Races. " The Queen," he says, " is undoubtedly the plainest woman in her dominions, but the Princess is much better looking than any picture of her in the shops, and for the heir to such a crown as that of England quite unnecessarily pretty and interesting."

Burghley House

The Princess and her mother visited the Northern , parts of England in the summer of 1835. On their way home they were at a grand ball at " Burghley House, by Stamford Town," the seat of the Marquis of Exeter.  At the dinner there was a great bustle because an attendant managed to upset a pail of ice into the Duchess of Kent's lap. Three hundred people were at the ball afterwards; it was opened by Princess Victoria and the Marquis of Exeter, and then, after her one dance, the Princess, like a good girl, went off to bed.

Meets Future Husband Prince Albert

In the following year, Princess Victoria saw, for the first time, her future husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Gotha, and his brother Ernest. They were cousins to the Princess, with whom they spent a very pleasant month at Kensington. They were taken to see all the sights of London, and were present at grand drawing-rooms and balls, and so forth. Sometimes these young Germans, who were used to simple, early habits at home, were kept up so late at State dinners, etc., that, as Prince Albert afterwards confessed, it was sometimes with the utmost difficulty that he could keep awake. But he had to get used to all that sort of thing in after years. Leopold (who had now become King of Belgium, and who was uncle to both the young people, had set his heart on making a match between Victoria and Albert ; but nothing was settled just at present, and the two young men west back to their studies at Bonn University. But amongst the Queen's rings, Lady Bloomfield says there is one, a small enamel with a tiny diamond in the centre, given to her by Prince Albert when he first came to England, a lad of seventeen.

Eighteenth Birthday

In the autumn of this year, the Duchess of Kent and the Princess stayed some time at Ramsgate. This was the last seaside holiday they had together, before the daughter was called upon to accept the cares and obligations of royalty. On May 24th, 1836, the Princess reached her eighteenth birthday, and accordingly came of age, for royal folk in England are allowed that privilege three years earlier than other people. There were serenades and balls, and illuminations, and all sorts of holiday doings. Kensington seemed almost beside itself with flags everywhere, and bells ringing and bands of music playing.

But the old King was too ill to be at the grand ball at St. James's Palace in the evening, and the faithful Queen would not leave the sick-room. The ball was a very brilliant affair; Princess Victoria danced in the first quadrille with young Lord Fitzalan, afterwards Duke of Norfolk, and father of the present Duke. She also danced with the noted Austrian Prince, Esterhazy, whose Court dress sparkled with diamonds from head to foot. It was said that whenever he wore this splendid dress, a great many gems were dropped without his knowing or caring. The Princess had many fine birthday gifts ; amongst others a magnificent grand pianoforte, worth two hundred guineas, from the King. Next day there were addresses presented congratulating the Princess ; and amongst the rest one from Birmingham, brought up by a good man, named Thomas Attwood, who, in a very solemn and earnest manner, spoke a few words, which caused the Duchess of Kent to be deeply moved. At this time Baron Stockmar arrived at Kensington. He was a wise, just, and benevolent man, who had been King Leopold's secretary, and was now sent to act as confidential adviser to Princess Victoria.

Death of King William

King William did not recover from the illness just now spoken of. At the earliest dawn of day on June 20th, 1837, he breathed his last. With all his coarseness and obstinacy, we have had many worse kings.