Home Life of Queen Victoria

Princess AliceWITHOUT a husband at her side, the young Queen had been liable to many worries and ,vexations from which she was now protected. A time of happiness and contentment set in. The Prince made it his great aim to be of as much use to Victoria as possible, and all the cares of State were lightened by his helpful companionship.

Albert Reorganises The Palace

One of the early duties of the Prince was to reform the Palace arrangements, which were in strange confusion. Thus one part of the Palace was in charge of the Lord Steward, another part under the Lord Chamberlain, whilst for some other part no one was quite sure who was responsible. The Lord Chamberlain was responsible for cleaning the inside of the windows, the Commissioners of Woods and Forests the outsides. For providing fuel and laying fires the Lord Steward was responsible, for lighting them the Lord Chamberlain. So also providing lamps was under a different department from trimming and lighting them. " Before a pane of glass or a cupboard door could be mended," writes Stockmar, " the sanction of so many officials had to be obtained that often months elapsed before the repairs were made." Most of the servants were only responsible to some State official who did not reside in the Palace, and so they absented themselves when they pleased, and were guilty of all sorts of irregularities. But the Prince, by his wise tact, gradually set all these matters right.

Albert Falls From Horse

The career of Prince Albert was providentially saved from being cut short by an accident during the first year of his married life. He was about to join a stag hunt on Ascot Heath when the Queen, who was going to follow in a pony phaeton, saw from one of the windows of Windsor Castle her husband cantering past on an excited horse. She watched the Prince as he struggled with his steed and managed to turn it round two or three times, and then the animal got the bit between his teeth and dashed off amongst the Park trees at the top of his speed. Prince Albert was brushed against a branch and swept off to the ground, but happily escaped without serious injury. A messenger was sent to assure the Queen of his safety, and the Prince mounted a fresh horse and went to the hunt where Her Majesty soon joined him. The Queen thus writes in her journal : " Albert received me on the terrace of the large stand and led me up. He looked very pale and said he had been much alarmed lest I should have been frightened by his accident. . . . He told me he had scraped the skin off his poor arm, had bruised his hip and knee, and his coat was torn and dirty. It was a frightful fall."

Typical Married Couple

The young pair were not only happy in their mutual love, but also in the similarity of their tastes. They sang and played together, drew and painted together ; but a short extract from the Queen's book will best show how a day was spent at this period. " They breakfasted at nine, and took a walk every morning soon afterwards. Then came the usual amount of business (far less heavy, however, than now), besides which they drew and etched a great deal together, which was a source of great amusement, having the plates bit ' in the house. Luncheon followed at the usual hour of two o'clock. Lord Melbourne (the Prime Minister at the time), came to the Queen in the afternoon, and between five and six the Prince generally drove her out in a pony phaeton. If the Prince did not drive the Queen, he rode ; in which case she took a drive with the Duchess of Kent or the ladies. The Prince also read aloud most days to the Queen. The dinner was at eight o'clock, and always with the company. . . . The hours were never late, and it was very seldom that the party had not broken up at eleven o'clock." Of course there were exceptions to this rule, for the Queen gave many dinners, followed by dances. Lady Bloomfield (who was a maid of honour for some time) tells us how, "One lovely summer's morning —we had danced till dawn, and the Quadrangle, being then open to the east—Her Majesty went out on the roof of the portico to see the sun rise, which was one of the most beautiful sights I ever remember. It rose behind St. Paul's, which we saw quite distinctly. Westminster Abbey, and the trees in the Green Park, stood out against a golden sky."

Art Patron

But duties were faithfully discharged, both by the Queen and her consort, amidst all this youthful gaiety. The Prince soon came out as an art patron, and on June 1st identified himself with the advocates of progress and philanthropy by taking the chair at a meeting for the abolition of the slave trade, and making his first speech in English. Caroline Fox, a young Quaker lady who was present, writes in her Memories : "The acclamations that attended the Prince's entrance were perfectly deafening, and he bore them all with calm, modest dignity, repeatedly bowing with considerable grace. lie certainly is a very beautiful young man ; a thorough German, and a fine poetic specimen of the race. He uttered his speech in rather a low tone, and with the prettiest foreign accent."

We have referred to the Queen's exercise of her art talent by etching, and we are enabled to give four specimens of Her Majesty's work in this line, and at the head of this chapter is a single sample of the Prince's skill in the same field. As a young child the Queen had been taught drawing, and soon developed a love of art for its own sake. Throughout her journals there are many such entries as these: " We sat down on the ground, and Lady Canning and I sketched ; " (when Prince Albert had shot a stag) " I sat down and scratched a little sketch of him on a bit of paper which I put on a stone."

Where Does The Prince Sit?

There had been a great deal of absurd nonsense spoken and written about the place that the Prince should take on State occasions. Old-fashioned sticklers wanted to make out that the Queen's uncles, Sussex and Cambridge, were higher in rank than the Queen's husband. But the Prince soon lived down all this trumpery opposition, and the Duke of Wellington said, " Let the Queen put the Prince where she likes, and settle it herself, that is the best way." The Iron Duke's remark was equally to the purpose when Lord Albemarle, Master of the Horse, was tenaciously asserting his right to sit in the Sovereign's coach on State occasions. "The Queen," said Wellington, "can make Lord Albemarle sit at the top of the coach, under the coach, behind the coach, or wherever else Her Majesty pleases."

Silly Old Woman

Before we turn to scenes of a more public character, a little incident may be mentioned connected with the early visits of the Queen and Prince Albert to Claremont, a place associated with so many fond memories and associations. During one of their rambles the royal couple were caught in a shower and took refuge in a cottage. The old woman who dwelt there knowing nothing of the high rank of her visitors, told them many remarkable stories about Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold. At last the old lady offered to lend them an umbrella. But she was careful of her property, and made the Prince promise two or three times to take great care of it and return it soon. You may imagine the old dame's surprise when she afterwards discovered with whom it was she had been gossiping so freely.