"Upon the good education of princes, and especially of those who are destined to govern, the welfare of the world in these days very greatly depends."
The love of children was always a strong connecting link between the Queen and her people. No trouble was ever spared by her to obtain the best possible advice on the training of her own family. The nursery was as well governed as her kingdom.
Acting upon the advice of Baron Stockmar, the Queen determined to have some one at the head on whom she could thoroughly rely, as her many occupations prevented her from devoting so much time to these duties as she could have wished. Lady Lyttelton, who had been a lady-in-waiting, was appointed governess to the Royal Family in 1842, and for eight years she held this post, winning the affection and respect of her young pupils and the gratitude of the Queen and her husband.
From time to time the Queen wrote her views upon the subject. "The greatest maxim of all is," she declared, "that the children should be brought up as simply, and in as domestic a way as possible; that (not interfering with their lessons) they should be as much as possible with their parents, and learn to place their greatest confidence in them in all things."
Training in religion, to be of real and lasting value, must be given by the mother herself, and in 1844 the Queen noted with regret that it was not always possible for her to be with the Princess Royal when the child was saying her prayers.
"I am quite clear," she said, "that she ought to be taught to have great reverence for God and for religion, but that she should have the feeling of devotion and love which our Heavenly Father encourages His earthly children to have for Him, and not one of fear and trembling; and that the thoughts of death and an after-life should not be represented in an alarming and forbidding view, and that she should be made to know as yet no difference of creeds, and not think that she can only pray on her knees, or that those who do not kneel are less fervent and devout in their prayers."
On November 21, 1840, the Queen's first child, Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa, the Princess Royal, was born. The Prince's care of his wife "was like that of a mother, nor could there be a kinder, wiser, or more judicious nurse." Only for a moment was he disappointed that his first child was a daughter and not a son.
The children were all brought up strictly and were never allowed to appear at Court until a comparatively late age. They were all taught to use their hands as well as their heads, and at Osborne, in the Swiss cottage, the boys worked at carpentering and gardening, while the girls were employed in learning cooking and housekeeping. Christmas was always celebrated in splendid fashion by the family, and the royal children were always encouraged to give as presents something which they had made with their own hands. Lessons in riding, driving, and swimming also formed part of their training, for the Queen was wise enough to realize that open-air exercise was very necessary for the health of her children.
In 1846 the question arose as to who should educate the Prince of Wales (born 1841). A pamphlet on the subject had been published and created general interest. Baron Stockmar was again consulted, and gave it as his opinion that the Prince's education should be one "which will prepare him for approaching events"—that is, he was to be so educated that he would be in touch with the movements of the age and able to respond sympathetically to the wishes of the nation. The rapid growth of democracy throughout Europe made it absolutely necessary that his education should be of a different kind. The task of governing well was becoming more and more difficult, and reigning monarchs were criticized in an open fashion, such as had not hitherto been possible. After much thought the post was given to Mr Henry Birch (formerly a master at Eton College, and at that time rector of Prestwich, near Manchester), who had made a very favourable impression upon the Queen and her husband.
Plain people as well as princes must be educated, and this fact was never lost sight of by the Queen and her husband. In 1857 the Prince called attention to the fact that there were at that time no fewer than 600,000 children between the ages of three and fifteen absent from school but known to be employed in some way; he pointed out also—and this seems in these days difficult to believe—that no less than two million children were not attending school, and were, so far as could be ascertained, not employed in any way at all.
The most interesting visitors whom the Queen entertained during her early married life were the Emperor Nicholas of Russia and Louis Napoleon of France. The Emperor Nicholas came to England, as he told the Queen, to see things with his own eyes, and to win, if he could, the confidence of English statesmen. "I esteem England highly; but as to what the French say of me, I care not."
He was, however, undoubtedly jealous of this country's growing friendship with her old enemy, France, but any attempt to weaken this met with no encouragement.
The Queen, in writing to her uncle Leopold, said, "He gives Albert and myself the impression of a man who is not happy, and on whom the burden of his immense power and position weighs heavily and painfully. He seldom smiles, and when he does, the expression is not a happy one. He is very easy to get on with." In a further letter she continued, "By living in the same house together quietly and unrestrainedly (and this Albert, and with great truth, says is the great advantage of these visits, that I not only see these great people, but know them), I got to know the Emperor and he to know me. . . . He is sincere, I am certain, sincere even in his most despotic acts—from a sense that that is the only way to govern. . . . He feels kindness deeply—and his love for his wife and children, and for all children, is very great. He has a strong feeling for domestic life, saying to me, when our children were in the room: 'These are the sweet moments of our life.' One can see by the way he takes them up and plays with them that he is very fond of children." And again she wrote: "He also spoke of princes being nowadays obliged to strive to make themselves worthy of their position, so as to reconcile people to the fact of their being princes."
The effect of this visit was to make France somewhat suspicious, and the Queen expressed her wish that it might not prevent the visit which had been promised by King Louis Philippe.
There was at one time actually danger of war over trouble in the East, but King Leopold, whose kingdom was in the happy position of having its independence guaranteed by the Powers, was able to bring his influence to bear, and the critical period passed over, to the great relief of the Queen.
[Footnote 2: This, however, did not protect Belgium in 1914, when Germany did not hesitate to attack her.]
In 1844 King Louis Philippe paid his promised visit, of which the Queen said, "He is the first King of France who comes on a visit to the Sovereign of this country. A very eventful epoch, indeed, and one which will surely bring good fruits."
The King was immensely pleased with everything he saw, and with the friendly reception he received. He assured the Queen that France did not wish to go to war with England, and he told her how pleased he was that all their difficulties were now smoothed over.
During his stay he was invested with the Order of the Garter—an Order, it is interesting to recollect, which had been created by Edward the Third after the Battle of Cressy, and whose earliest knights were the Black Prince and his companions.
The Corporation of London went to Windsor in civic state to present the King with an address of congratulation. He declared in his answer that "France has nothing to ask of England, and England has nothing to ask of France, but cordial union."
But in 1848 the Orleans dynasty was overthrown, France proclaimed a republic, and King Louis Philippe, his wife and family were forced to flee to England. Here in 1850, broken in health, the King died.
In 1852 Louis Napoleon, who had been elected President for life, created himself Emperor, and in 1855, after the conclusion of the Crimean War and the death of the Emperor Nicholas, he visited England.
A State Ball was held of which the Queen wrote: "How strange to think that I, the granddaughter 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 six years ago living in this country an exile, poor and unthought of! . . . I am glad to have known this extraordinary man, whom it is certainly impossible not to like when you live with him, and not even to a considerable extent to admire. I believe him to be capable of kindness, affection, friendship, and gratitude. I feel confidence in him as regards the future; I think he is frank, means well towards us, and, as Stockmar says, 'that we have insured his sincerity and good faith towards us for the rest of his life.'"
The Queen and her husband paid frequent visits, and made many tours during their early married life. It was a great source of pleasure to both of them to feel that everywhere they went they were received with the greatest delight and enthusiasm.
In 1847 they visited Cambridge University, of which Prince Albert was now Chancellor. "Every station and bridge, and resting-place, and spot of shade was peopled with eager faces watching for the Queen, and decorated with flowers; but the largest, and the brightest, and the gayest, and the most excited assemblage was at Cambridge station itself. . . . I think I never saw so many children before in one morning, and I felt so much moved at the spectacle of such a mass of life collected together and animated by one feeling, and that a joyous one, that I was at a loss to conceive how any woman's sides can bear the beating of so strong a throb as must attend the consciousness of being the object of all that excitement, the centre of attraction to all those eyes. But the Queen has royal strength of nerve."
[Footnote 3: The Duke of Argyll, Queen Victoria.]
In 1849 they paid their first visit to Ireland, and received a royal welcome on landing in Cork. The Queen noticed particularly that "the beauty of the women is very remarkable, and struck us much; such beautiful dark eyes and hair, and such fine teeth; almost every third woman was pretty, and some remarkably so."
The royal children were the objects of great admiration. "Oh! Queen, dear!" screamed a stout old lady, "make one of them Prince Patrick, and all Ireland will die for you."
In Dublin, the capital of a country which had very recently been in revolt, the loyal welcome was, if possible, even more striking.
The Queen writes: "It was a wonderful and striking spectacle, such masses of human beings, so enthusiastic, so excited, yet such perfect order maintained; then the numbers of troops, the different bands stationed at certain distances, the waving of hats and handkerchiefs, the bursts of welcome which rent the air—all made a never-to-be-forgotten scene."
Lord Clarendon, writing of the results of the Irish tour, said, "The people are not only enchanted with the Queen and the gracious kindness of her manner and the confidence she has shown in them, but they are pleased with themselves for their own good feelings and behaviour, which they consider have removed the barrier that hitherto existed between the Sovereign and themselves, and that they now occupy a higher position in the eyes of the world."
In 1850 they visited for the first time the Palace of Holyrood. This was a memorable occasion, for since Mary, Queen of Scots, had been imprisoned there, no queen had ever stayed within its walls.
The Queen took the liveliest interest in the many objects of historical interest which were shown to her. "We saw the rooms where Queen Mary lived, her bed, the dressing-room into which the murderers entered who killed Rizzio, and the spot where he fell, where, as the old housekeeper said to me, 'If the lady would stand on that side,' I would see that the boards were discoloured by the blood. Every step is full of historical recollections, and our living here is quite an epoch in the annals of this old pile, which has seen so many deeds, more bad, I fear, than good."
Both the Queen and her husband had an especial love for animals, and the Queen's suite, when she travelled, always included a number of dogs. Her favourites were Skye terriers and the so-called 'turnspits' which were introduced into this country by Prince Albert. One of the Queen's great delights at Windsor was to walk round the farms and inspect the cattle, which are still, owing largely to the careful methods of feeding and tending instituted by the Prince, among the finest in the world. Kindness to animals was a lesson she taught to all her children, and pictures and statuettes of all her old favourites were to be found in her homes.