Classic History Books

Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

themselves on one young head. Much of the loyal devotion which had been alienated from the immediate
family of George III. had transferred itself to his grandchild, the Princess Charlotte, sole offspring of the

unhappy marriage between George, Prince of Wales, and Caroline of Brunswick. The people had

watched with vivid interest the young romance of Princess Charlotte's happy marriage, and had bitterly

lamented her too early death - an event which had overshadowed all English hearts with forebodings of

disaster. Since that dark day a little of the old attachment of England to its sovereigns had revived for the

frank-mannered sailor and "patriot king," William IV; but the hopes crushed by the death of the

much-regretted Charlotte had renewed themselves with even better warrant for Victoria. She was the

child of no ill-omened, miserable marriage, but of a fitting union; her parents had been sundered only by

death, not by wretched domestic dissensions. People heard that the mortal malady which deprived her of

a father had been brought about by the Duke of Kent's simple delight in his baby princess, which kept

him playing with the child when he should have been changing his wet outdoor garb; and they found

something touching and tender in the tragic little circumstance. And everything that could be noticed of

the manner in which the bereaved duchess was training up her precious charge spoke well for the

mother's wisdom and affection, and for the future of the daughter.

It was indeed a happy day for England when Edward, Duke of Kent, the fourth son of George III, was
wedded to Victoria of Saxe-Coburg, the widowed Princess of Leiningen - happy, not only because of the

admirable skill with which that lady conducted her illustrious child's education, and because of the pure,

upright principles, the frank, noble character, which she transmitted to that child, but because the family

connection established through that marriage was to be yet further serviceable to the interests of our

realm. Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg was second son of the Duchess of Kent's eldest brother, and thus

first cousin of the Princess Victoria - "the Mayflower," as, in fond allusion to the month of her birth, her

mother's kinsfolk loved to call her: and it has been made plain that dreams of a possible union between

the two young cousins, very nearly of an age, were early cherished by the elders who loved and admired


The Princess's life, however, was sedulously guarded from all disturbing influences. She grew up in
healthy simplicity and seclusion; she was not apprised of her nearness to the throne till she was twelve

years old; she had been little at Court, little in sight, but had been made familiar with her own land and

its history, having received the higher education so essential to her great position; while simple truth and

rigid honesty were the very atmosphere of her existence. From such a training much might be hoped; but

even those who knew most and hoped most were not quite prepared for the strong individual character

and power of self-determination that revealed themselves in the girlish being so suddenly transferred

"from the nursery to the throne." It was quickly noticed that the part of Queen and mistress seemed native

to her, and that she filled it with not more grace than propriety. "She always strikes me as possessed of

singular penetration, firmness, and independence," wrote Dr. Norman Macleod in 1860; acute observers

in 1837 took note of the same traits, rarer far in youth than in full maturity, and closely connected with

the "reasoning, searching" quality of her mind, "anxious to get at the root and reality of things, and

abhorring all shams, whether in word or deed." [Footnote]

[Footnote: "Life of Norman Macleod, D.D." vol. ii.]

It was well for England that its young Sovereign could exemplify virile strength as well as womanly
sweetness; for it was indeed a cloudy and dark day when she was called to her post of lonely grandeur

and hard responsibility; and to fill that post rightly would have overtasked and overwhelmed a feebler

nature. It is true that the peace of Europe, won at Waterloo, was still unbroken. But already, within our


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