The War Cloud

Duke of Wellington's Death

THE streets of London were thronged with thousands of spectators, clad for the most part in garments of mourning, as with marching squadrons, and with trophies of war and heraldic pomp, the mortal remains of the famous Duke of Wellington were borne, in November, 1852, to the Cathedral of St. Paul's. The news of her great captain's death had come to the Queen in her Highland home. She was in London at the time of the funeral, and from the balcony of Buckingham Palace saw the procession pass up Constitution Hill, and then again, with her children grouped about her, saw it from the windows of St. James's Palace.

Fire At Windsor Castle

In March of the following year, the Queen was enabled by personal experience to sympathise with those of her subjects who have ever had their houses on fire. The Queen was sitting with Prince Albert in the "White Drawing Room," when an alarm was raised on account of the smell of smoke and burning. It was soon found that the upper stories of the "Prince of Wales' Tower" were what the firemen call "well alight." Prince Albert and the gentlemen in the Castle aided in the work of clearing out the splendid Gothic Dining Room and the Crimson Drawing Room, which were threatened with destruction, and all the treasures were taken out of the jewelled armoury. The firemen with their engines did their very best, but it seemed for a time as if Windsor Castle would be burnt out. At length, after five hours' struggle with the flames, the danger was past. The Queen says of it in one of her letters : "Though I was not alarmed, it was a serious affair, and an acquaintance with what a fire is, and with its necessary accompaniments, does not pass from one's mind without leaving a deep impression. For some time it was very obstinate, and no one could tell whether it would spread or not. Thank God, no lives were lost."

Birth of Prince Leopold George Duncan Albert

Three weeks after the fire, Prince Leopold George Duncan Albert was born at Windsor. Baby was about two months old when his brother, the Prince of Wales, was laid up with the measles. Prince Albert took it, and was very ill, and then the Princess Royal, and Princess Alice and the Queen all took it successively in a mild form. Some of the guests who came to baby's christening took back the measles with them to the Courts of Hanover, Belgium and Coburg, and for some time people were amused with the way in which this infantile complaint was showing its want of respect for royal families.

Prince Albert Treacherous Rumours

Early in 1853 the Queen was much troubled by the false accusations that were made against her husband. The fact was that many people were jealous of Prince Albert's blameless life. He made the Court so pure and respectable that they were angry at not being able to indulge more freely in the vices that they loved. And so they took the opportunity of some disagreement between Lord Palmerston and his colleagues to get up lying rumours about Prince Albert's interfering unlawfully in Government matters, and acting treacherously towards England. Crowds of people actually went to Tower Hill expecting to see the Prince taken to prison. Queen Victoria was very grieved and indignant, but the Prince was very calm; and as soon as Parliament met, Lord Aberdeen and Lord John Russell completely refuted the false charges, and all the politicians and newspapers who had joined in the outcry tried to get their folly forgotten as soon as possible.

14th Wedding Anniversary

The fourteenth anniversary of the wedding-day came, and the Queen wrote : " Fourteen happy and blessed years have passed, and I confidently trust many more will, and find us in old age, as we are now, happy and devotedly united. Trials we must have ; but what are they if we are together ? " There were grand doings at the Palace that fourteenth wedding-day. Baroness Bunsen, who was one of the company, tells us how " that evening between five and six o'clock we followed the Queen and Prince Albert a long way, through one large room after another, till we came to one where a red curtain was let down ; and we all sat in the dark till the curtain was drawn aside, and the Princess Alice, who had been dressed to represent Spring, recited some verses taken from Thomson's Seasons, enumerating the flowers which Spring scatters round. And she did it very well ; spoke in a distinct and pleasing manner, with excellent modulation, and a tone, of voice like that of the Queen. Then the curtain was drawn and the whole scene changed, and the Princess Royal represented Summer, with Prince Arthur lying upon some sheaves as if tired with the heat and harvest work. The Princess Royal also recited verses. Then again there was a change ; and Prince Alfred, with a crown of vine leaves and a panther's skin, represented Autumn, and recited also verses and looked very well. Then there was a change to a winter landscape ; and the Prince of Wales represented Winter, with a white beard and a cloak with icicles or snow flakes (or what looked like such), and the Princess Louise, warmly clothed, who seemed watching the fire ; and the Prince also recited well a passage altered from Thomson. Then another change was made, and all the seasons were grouped together ; and far behind on high appeared the Princess Helena, with a long veil hanging on each side down to her feet, and a long cross in her hand, pronouncing a blessing on the Queen and Prince in the name of all the seasons. . . . . The Queen ordered the curtain to be again drawn back, and we saw the whole Royal Family; and they were helped to jump down from their raised platform, and then all came into the light and we saw them well. And the baby, Prince Leopold, was brought in by the nurse and looked at us with big eyes, and wanted to go to his papa, Prince Albert. At the dinner table, the Princesses Helena and Louise and Prince Arthur were allowed to come in and to stand by their mamma, the Queen, as it was a festival day."

War With Russia

The War with Russia broke out in February, 1854. I shall say as little as possible about the War in these pages. The English people at the time were delirious with war fever, but all sensible people got ashamed of the whole thing afterwards. The fact was, we joined the French tyrant to fight against the Russian tyrant, for the sake of the Turkish tyrant, who was the worst of the lot.

British soldiers fought bravely, as they always do, but thousands were killed in battle, or died of cold and starvation ; but it would be hard to say "what good came of it at last," except to wicked contractors, who sold rotten provisions and worthless stores to the army, and to newspaper people, who made vast profits by selling news and pictures referring to the war which they had clamoured for.

The Queen saw her soldiers depart, and wished she had one son to send in the army and one in the navy. There was a gay season in London, and happy visits to Osborne, and then came that gloomy winter of 1854-5, when churches and theatres and all places of public resort looked sombre with the mourning garments that so many were wearing. The British Army was besieging the great stronghold of Sebastopol and suffering fearful hardships. The Queen wrote to Lord Raglan about the needless privations to which the soldiers were subjected, and Florence Nightingale and her trained nurses went out and changed the hospitals from dens of horror and despair into abodes of comfort and peace. The Queen's health suffered from her anxieties. When in February, 1855, the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Raglan, paid a flying visit to Windsor, the Royal children told him, "You must hurry back to Sebastopol and take it, or else it will kill mamma."

Napoleon III Makes A Visit

In April, Queen Victoria's Imperial ally, Napoleon III., came with his beautiful Empress Eugenie to Windsor. The old queen Amélie, the widow of the ex-king Louis Philippe, was now living in England, and visited the Queen and Prince Albert at Windsor two or three days before the I mperial party "It made us both so sad," writes Queen Victoria, " to see her drive away in a plain coach with miserable post horses, and to think that this was the. Queen of the French, and that six years ago her husband was surrounded by the same pomp and grandeur which three days hence would surround his successor."

On the Emperor's arrival he kissed the Queen's hand, and she kissed him on both cheeks. They all seemed very happy together, although the streets of Paris had so lately ran with blood that this man might reign, and crowds of his wretched victims were even now slowly dying in the swamps of Cayenne. At the grand ball, which followed a grand review, the Queen felt it strange that she, " the grand daughter of George III., should dance with the Emperor Napoleon, nephew of England's great enemy, now my nearest and most intimate ally, in the Waterloo Room, and this ally only sixteen years ago, living in this country in exile, poor and unthought of."

The Londoners seemed positively wild with enthusiasm when the Emperor and Empress went to a banquet at the Guildhall, and in the evening through a "sea of human beings cheering and pressing near the carriage," in brightly illuminated streets, to the Opera. On another day, the Queen took her guests to the Crystal Palace-where thousands upon thousands of excited spectators seemed to vie with each other in noisy greetings of the illustrious visitors.

Through the summer of 1855, the War was still raging, and the Queen visited two or three times the invalids and wounded who came home, and dispensed the medals that had been won by bravery.

Queen Victoria Visits France

In August, the Queen, accompanied by Prince Albert and the Prince of Wales, returned the visit of the French Emperor ; they were shown all the sights of Paris, and greeted everywhere with joyful acclamations. St. Cloud was given up to the English Royal Party as a residence during their stay. Visits to the Exhibition, etc., balls, banquets, opera, and what not filled up the time. A grand State Ball at Versailles was a very splendid affair indeed. Queen Victoria made her toilette in Marie Antoinette's boudoir. No ball had been given in this historic Palace since that ball in the Orangery on the night that the Bastille was taken and sacked by the insurgent people. Altogether, this visit to Paris (like the Imperial visit to Windsor), seems to have pleased everybody concerned and to have gratified both nations. For more than four hundred years—that is to say, since the infant Ding Henry VI. was crowned in Paris—no English monarch had visited the capital of France. The two nations had looked upon each other for centuries as "natural enemies." It was now hoped that these mutual courtesies (although a Bonaparte was mixed up in them) might inaugurate " a long period of mutual goodwill, the interchange of mutual kind offices, of the products of nature and art, of the efforts of peace and civilisation." And so a great many people who felt indignant when the "Man of December," stained with so many crimes, kissed the cheeks of our beloved Queen, they kept silence for the sake of the peaceful alliance between two great nations.

The enthusiasm of the French as the English Queen went about amongst them was indescribable. On the return the Emperor accompanied his illustrious guests as far as Boulogne, and there the English Queen witnessed a grand review of the French army. She must have thought of the vast preparations made by the First Napoleon so near the same spot for the projected invasion of England, only sixteen years before her own birth. She had previously been conducted by the Emperor to the marble tomb beneath the gilded dome of the Invalides ; and what must have been Queen Victoria's thoughts as she stood with the nephew in friendly alliance, beside the grave of the uncle, with whom her own family had fought so long as the foe of the human race. The Queen did not fail to explain in the course of a quiet drive, how impossible it would be for her to break off with her friends of the Orleans family in their reverses. The Emperor expressed himself to be fully satisfied.

Sebastopol

Sebastopol was taken in September, and the news was brought to the Queen, then at Balmoral. Then Prince Albert and all the gentlemen and servants went to the top of the hill, and the keepers and ghillies and villagers came flocking from far and near. They lit an enormous bonfire, which the Queen watched from her Palace window, and all about the bonfire there was dancing and shouting, and piping and gun-firing, and squib-lighting and whisky drinking, for joy that the English flag was at length floating above those hitherto impregnable ramparts.