The Maiden Queen

Death of King William IV

Queen Victoria, WE have said in the last chapter that the old King died at earliest dawn. The birds were in full song in Kensington Gardens when the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chamberlain and four other gentlemen came from Windsor with the news.

Awoken From Slumber

Miss Wynn, in her Diary, says : " They knocked, they rang, they thumped for a considerable time before they could rouse the porter at the gate. They were again kept waiting in the courtyard, then turned into one of the lower rooms, where they seemed forgotten by everybody. They rang the bell and desired that the attendant of the Princess Victoria might be sent to inform Her Royal Highness that they requested an audience on business of importance. After another delay and another ringing to enquire the cause, the attendant was summoned, who stated that the Princess was in such a sweet sleep that she could not venture to disturb her. Then they said, We are come on business of State to the Queen, and even her sleep must give way to that.' It did, and to prove that she did not keep them waiting, in a few minutes she came into the room in a loose white nightgown and shawl, her nightcap thrown off and her hair falling upon her shoulders, her feet in slippers, tears in her eyes, but perfectly collected and dignified."

Her Reign Begins

After the announcement had been made, the first words spoken by the young Queen were to the Archbishop of Canterbury : " I beg your Grace to pray for me ! " They knelt down together, and so with prayer to God the new reign was inaugurated.

The next thing was to write to the widowed Queen Adelaide at Windsor. The letter was full of sympathizing condolence and affection, and the writer earnestly begged her dear Aunt to stay at Windsor as long as she pleased. It was noticed that the letter was addressed to " Her Majesty the Queen." Some one who had a right to speak observed that this was not correct and that it should be directed to her Majesty the Queen-Dowager.
" I am aware of that," said the girl-queen ; " but I will not be the first to remind her of her altered position."

The Queen got away at length to finish her toilet and talk over matters with her beloved mother. But at nine Lord Melbourne, the Prime Minister, came, and then a Privy Council was summoned for eleven. Princes and peers and high officers of Church and State came to that Council, wondering how the royal girl, of whose inner nature so little was known, would demean herself. England had seen women mount the throne—Mary was thirty-seven, Elizabeth twenty-five, and Anne thirty-eight at their respective accessions—but the present case was something altogether different.

First Council of Victoria

The Council met—a large assembly of the foremost men in England. How the young Queen read the speech Melbourne had prepared for her, and how she passed through the long ordeal of a multitude of men swearing allegiance and kissing her hand, I need not describe in detail. Sir David Wilkie and other artists have painted the scene of that "First Council of Victoria." When her aged uncles, the Dukes of Cumberland and Sussex, knelt to do homage, she was visibly affected, but through all the rest of the ceremony she charmed all beholders with her calm simplicity and dignity. There was a Mr. Greville present who has written a spiteful diary full of all the bad things he could say about everybody, but even he could only praise on this occasion. He says, " Never was anything like the first impression she produced or the chorus of praise and admiration which is raised about her manner and behaviour, and certainly not without justice. It was something very extraordinary and something far beyond what was looked for."

Respecting Wilkie's picture of that First Council, we find him thus writing to Collins : "In October I received a message from the Lord Chamberlain to attend the Queen at Brighton, with a view of beginning the Embassy picture, but was told the Queen had heard of a sketch I had made of her First Council. Accordingly, on seeing Her Majesty, and finding her strongly set upon this, I sent for a canvas from London, and began the figure of the Queen at once. She is placed nearly in profile at the end of a long table covered with red cloth. She sits in a large chair, or throne, a little elevated, to make her the presiding person. Having been accustomed to see the Queen as a child, my reception had a little of the air of an early acquaintance. She is eminently beautifull, her features nicely formed, her skin smooth, her hair worn close to her face in a most simple way; glossy and clean-looking. Her manner, though trained to act the Sovereign, is yet simple and natural. She has all the decision, thought and self-possession of a queen of older years ; has all the buoyancy of youth, and from the smile to the unrestrained laugh, is a perfect child." Among other well-known figures, the picture contains the portraits of the "Iron Duke " and the Duke of Sussex, Lord Melbourne, Lord Lansdowne, Lord John Russell, and Sir Robert Peel.

The young Queen had to receive visits from many noble personages before this busy exciting day was over. Meanwhile, in the City the great bell of St. Paul's was tolling, and flags everywhere were half-mast high, and shops were partially closed in memory of the King who had passed away.

Ceremony of the Proclamation

On the following day the ceremony of the Proclamation took place. The Queen, suitably escorted, passed through the streets crowded with her subjects to St. James's Palace, where according to custom she had to make her appearance at a certain 'window. Around her were great lords in their State robes, and many of the nobility were visible at other windows. The Quadrangle below was tightly packed with favoured spectators. The Queen was dressed in deep mourning, with a white tippet, white cuffs, and a border of white lace under a small black bonnet, which was placed far back on her head exhibiting her light hair in front simply parted over her forehead. Her mother stood beside her and watched her tenderly, as now and then the young Queen seemed moved by the acclamations of her subjects.

Garter King-at-Arms, with heralds and pursuivants in their robes of office, were posted in the court below. Here, too, were officers-at-arms on horseback bearing massive silver maces; sergeantsat-arms and sergeant trumpeters with their maces and collars, and other officers. Presently Garter King-at-Arms read the Proclamation, announcing the accession of Queen Alexandrina Victoria to the throne of these realms—"to whom we acknowledge all faith and constant obedience, with all humble and hearty affection, beseeching God, by whom kings and queens do reign, to bless the royal Princess Alexandrina Victoria with long and happy years to reign. God Save the Queen !"

Then the band struck up the National Anthem, guns were fired in the Park close by, and answered by the guns at the Tower, and the acclamations in the Palace Court were taken up by the thousands outside, till it seemed as if a great thrill of joy spread over London and thence over all the land at the accession of the Maiden Queen.

At that supreme moment of triumphant hope the girl's feelings were too much for her, and she fell upon her mother's neck and wept. Concerning this incident the gifted poetess, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, thus writes :—
" 0 maiden, heir of kings,
A king has left his place ;
The majesty of death has swept
All other from his face;
And thou upon thy mother's breast
No longer lean adown,
But take the glory for the rest,
And rule the land that loves thee best.
The maiden wept,
She wept to wear a crown.

God bless thee, weeping Queen,
With blessings more divine,
And fill with better love than earth
That tender heart of thine ;
That when the thrones of earth shall he
As low as graves brought down,
A pierced hand may give to thee
The crown which angels shout to see.
Thou wilt not weep
To wear that heavenly crown."

Queen Victoria Moves To Buckingham Palace

About three weeks after the proclamation, Queen Victoria bade farewell to her Kensington home, and went to reside at Buckingham Palace. Never did royal Princess changing her residence leave behind her a more pleasant memory. In a cottage at Kensington lived an old soldier servant of the Duke of Kent. The Duchess and her daughter used often to visit the family, in which there were two children in ill health. The little boy died, the girl lived an invalid. Soon after the Queen left Kensington, a clergyman happening to call, found the girl in a very cheerful mood. The new Queen had sent a copy of the Psalms, marked in the margin with the dates on which she herself used to read them, and containing a pretty marker worked by the royal hands. This is only a sample of the kind and considerate conduct which made the people regret their lost Princess, even while they shared the universal joy at her accession to the throne.

Her Majesty's predecessors had been Kings of Hanover as well as of England, but as the Salic Law, which forbids a woman to reign, was part of the law of Hanover, the Queen's uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, became King of that country. It was no real loss to this country, and no doubt we escaped a good deal of trouble by getting rid of all territory on the continent of Europe.

Queen Delivers Speech in Parliament

On July 17th, the Queen went to prorogue Parliament. She was drawn for the first time by the famous cream-coloured horses from the royal stables, and went to sit upon the throne of her ancestors in the House of Lords. Then she read her speech proroguing Parliament. The noted actress, Fanny Kemble, was present, and gives us a clear impression of what the Queen was like at that time. She says : " The Queen was not handsome, but very pretty, and the singularity of her great position lent a sentimental and poetical charm to her youthful face and figure. The serene, serious sweetness of her candid brow and clear soft eyes gave dignity to the girlish countenance, while the want of height only added to the effect of extreme youth of the round but slender person, and gracefully moulded hands and arms. The Queen's voice was exquisite, nor have I ever heard  any spoken words more musical in their gentle distinctness than ' My Lords and Gentlemen,' which broke the breathless silence of the illustrious assembly, whose gaze was riveted on that fair flower of royalty. The enunciation was as perfect as the intonation was melodious, and I think it is impossible to hear a more excellent utterance than that of the Queen's English by the English Queen." The sturdy republican, Charles Sumner (who came prejudiced against the Queen), is equally warm in his praises, and there is abundant independent testimony to show that the young Queen was a very lovely girl, charming all sorts of people by her affability and grace.

Society of Friends

Quakers, Queen VictoriaI need not refer to the numerous deputations from various bodies that thought it necessary to assure the young Queen of their loyalty and good wishes ; but one of these was, perhaps, of a more interesting character than the majority. I allude to the fifty members of the Society of Friends appointed to present Her Majesty with an address which contained, in addition to the usual professions of loyalty, an expression of their hope that she would be guided by the principle of peace. As, is well known, the Friends object to uncovering the head, as a mark of respect or inferiority, before persons of distinction, even before royalty itself. The accompanying engraving shows the manner in which this difficulty was surmounted. As the Friends passed up the broad staircase of St. James's Palace to Queen Anne's Chamber, they had to pass, two by two, between a couple of Yeomen of the Guard, who gently lifted the hat of each Quaker as he passed and put it aside until the ceremony was over. The well-known Friend, Jacob Post, has written a description of the presentation and the incidents connected therewith, which appeared in The Welcome for 1879.

Paying of Father's Debts

At the elections both Whigs and Tories used the name of " Our young Queen " as a war cry, but we need not linger over all this. One of her first cares, now that abundant means were hers, was to pay all her father's debts and the advances which English noblemen had made to her parents to enable them to keep up a royal position in the land. She knew that her mother's embarrassments had been due to her own requirements as heir to the throne, but, personally, she had never been sixpence in debt in her life.

Royal Etiquette

In the earliest period of her reign, the Queen rose at eight, and was very soon occupied in signing despatches and other routine business, which occupied her till breakfast-time, at a quarter to ten. An attendant was then sent to invite the Duchess of Kent to breakfast with the Queen. Without this special summons the Duchess never approached her daughter, and she was careful never to speak about State affairs. All this etiquette was needful to avoid giving cause for suspicion of undue influence. At twelve noon the Queen met her ministers, and the Council was succeeded by riding or walking exercise. There was a select company at dinner, and in the drawing-room afterwards the Queen took her part in singing or playing, in both which accomplishments she was proficient.

Never on Sabbath

One Saturday night, in this first year of Queen Victoria's reign, a certain noble minister came at a late hour to Windsor. He informed the Queen that he had brought down some documents of great importance for her inspection, but that, as they would require to be examined in detail, he would not encroach on Her Majesty's time that night, but would request her attention the next morning. "Tomorrow is Sunday, my lord," said the Queen. " True, your Majesty, but business of the State will not admit of delay." The Queen then consented to attend to the papers after Church the next morning. The nobleman was somewhat surprised that the subject of the sermon next day turned out to be the duties and obligations of the -Christian Sabbath. " How did your lordship like the sermon ?" asked the Queen on their return from Church. " Very much indeed, your Majesty," was the reply. " Well, then," said the Queen, " I will not conceal from you that last night I sent the clergyman the text from which he preached. I hope we shall all be improved by the sermon." Sunday passed over without another word' being said about the State papers, until at night, when the party was breaking up, the Queen said to the nobleman, " Tomorrow morning, my lord, at any hour you please ; as early as seven, my lord, if you like, we will look into the papers." His lordship said he would not think of intruding upon Her Majesty so early as that, and he thought nine o'clock would be quite early enough. "No, no, my lord," said the Queen, "as the papers are of importance I should like them to be attended to very early ; however, if you wish it to be nine, be it so." Accordingly, at nine o'clock next morning, the Queen was in readiness to confer with the nobleman about his papers.

Queen a Softy at Heart

Another anecdote referring to the same period may be related here. It was at that time the Monarch's duty personally to sign death warrants. A court-martial death warrant (says Miss Greenwood) was presented by the Duke of Wellington to the Queen to be signed. "She shrank from the dreadful task, and with tears in her eyes, asked' Have you nothing to say on behalf of this man ? '
" Nothing ; he has deserted three times!' replied the Iron Duke.
" 0, your Grace, think again ! '
" ' Well, your Majesty, he certainly is a bad soldier, but there was somebody who spoke as to his good character. He may be a good fellow in private life.'
" 0, thank you! ' exclaimed the Queen, as she dashed off the word ' Pardoned' on the awful parchment, and wrote beneath it her beautiful signature."

Acts of a similar character on the young Queen's part led Parliament to arrange for the fatal signing to be performed by Royal Commission. The avowed reason was " to relieve Her Majesty of a painful duty," but, in fact, her tender woman's heart was not to be trusted in such an awful piece of business.

Fans and Stalkers

Old folks, who were in their teens in the first year of Victoria's reign, can well remember the loving loyalty that seemed to thrill all classes of the community, even those who were agitating about grievances. The great O'Connell declared, in thunder tones, " If necessary, I can get 500,000 brave Irishmen to defend the life, the honour, and the person of the beloved young lady by whom England's throne is now filled." Charles Dickens (who had just written the Pickwick Papers) was for a time almost beside himself about the young Queen. Some men really went crazy, and took to haunting the outside of the palaces and the Queen's drives quite unpleasantly.

Royal Windsor

In the autumn of 1837, the Queen took possession of " Royal Windsor;" and upon those stately terraces, and as mistress of those lordly halls and towers, rich in historic associations, and grand with the trophies of ancient and modern chivalry, she must have felt that she was Queen of England indeed.

Windsor Castle, Queen Victoria

Lord Mayor's Banquet

On November the 9th, the Queen attended the Lord Mayor's Banquet, at Guildhall. This was her first visit to the City of London, and it was a memorable occasion. In a dress of splendid pink satin, shot with silver, and with a diamond tiara on her head, the Queen rode through dense crowds of her loving subjects, who greeted her with enthusiastic cheers. At Temple Bar the Lord Mayor gave Her Majesty the keys of the City, and she graciously returned them, and then the Lord Mayor and Aldermen, etc., joined the procession and escorted their Queen through the City streets. At St. Paul's, the scholars sang the National Anthem, and the senior scholar delivered an address. Of the splendid banquet and the grand company, there is no need to say much. Her Majesty was pleased to make the Lord Mayor a baronet, and to knight the two Sheriffs. One of the latter was Sir Moses Montefiore, the first Jew who ever received the honour of knighthood from a British Sovereign.

Queen Victoria's Income

Our readers will remember that he died only the other day at the venerable age of nearly 101, full of years and honour. A fortnight afterwards the Queen went, in State, to open her first Parliament. The sum of £385,000 a year was voted as the income of the lady who a few years before had had to leave the purchase of a half-crown box till next Quarter-day. But it must be remembered that a very large portion of this great sum of money was for salaries and expenses not under her immediate control.

It is a curious fact that, out of the large income above mentioned, the sum of one shilling and fourpence should, on one occasion, not have been forthcoming when required. The Royal Family had to pay toll, like other people, for crossing Battersea Bridge, and one day the Queen and fifteen persons rode across ; the last in the cortege was a groom, from whom sixteen pennies were demanded. He happened to have no money with him, and he accordingly handed a silk handkerchief to the turnpike man as a pledge, which he afterwards had to come and redeem.