THE PASSING OF THE DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE

Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge
From The Letters of Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria to the King of the Belgians.
Buckingham Palace, 9th July 1850.
My Dearest Uncle,—We live in the midst of sorrow and death! My poor good Uncle Cambridge breathed his last, without a struggle, at a few minutes before ten last night. I still saw him yesterday morning at one, but he did not see me, and to-day I saw him lifeless and cold. The poor Duchess and the poor children are very touching in their grief, and poor Augusta,1 who arrived just five hours too late, is quite heart-broken. The end was most peaceful; there was no disease; only a gastric fever, which came on four weeks ago, from over-exertion and cold, and which he neglected for the first week, carried him off.
The good Prince of Prussia you will have been pleased to talk to and see. Having lived with him for a fortnight on a very intimate footing, we have been able to appreciate his real worth fully; he is so honest and frank, and so steady of purpose and courageous. Poor dear Peel is to be buried to-day. The sorrow and grief at his death are most touching, and the country mourns over him as over a father. Every one seems to have lost a personal friend.
As I have much to write, you will forgive my ending here. You will be glad to hear that poor Aunt Gloucester is wonderfully calm and resigned. My poor dear Albert, who had been so fresh and well when we came back, looks so pale and fagged again. He has felt, and feels, Sir Robert’s loss dreadfully. He feels he has lost a second father.
May God bless and protect you all, you dear ones! Ever your devoted Niece, Victoria R.

THE DEATH OF WILLIAM IV

William IV, the Sailor King, died on 20 June 1837. He was the third son of George III and younger brother and successor to George IV and was the last king and penultimate monarch of the House of Hanover. While William’s reign was much more sedate than that of his brother, George IV, with less scandal and spending and more attention being paid the business of running the country, William IV did have one bane to his existence – his sister-in-law the Duchess of Kent, mother to Princess Victoria.

King William’s problems with the Duchess began early in his reign – in fact, at his coronation, as related in a book called When William IV was King By John Ashton:

During the procession to the Abbey (for the Coronation of William IV) the weather was fine, and the sight a brilliant one; but, soon after one o’clock, a very heavy rain descended ; the wind, too, blew with great violence, and occasioned rattling and tearing among the canvas canopies of the newly erected stands. It ceased for a short time, between two and three, when it broke out afresh, and was particularly lively when the ceremony was over, at half-past three. It quite spoilt the return procession, some of the carriages driving straight away, and those that fell into rank had their windows up.

In spite of the weather, London was brilliantly illuminated, and the theatres and Vauxhall Gardens were thrown open free. There was a display of fireworks in Hyde Park, at which many were more or less hurt by the falling rocket-sticks, six so seriously as to have to be taken to St. George’s Hospital. Throughout the country the festivity was universal. One little thing marred the universality. The Duchess of Kent was not present at the coronation, neither was the Princess Victoria. It was an open secret that the King and the Duchess were not on friendly terms, but it was thought very bad taste on her part not to be present.

Though more contretemps between the King and the Duchess were to come (as will be shown in future posts), for the time being, all was well in the land. In his Memoirs, Charles Greville included the following entry for July 18th.— King George had not been dead three days before everybody discovered that he was no loss, and King William a great gain. Certainly nobody ever was less regretted than the late King, and the breath was hardly out of his body before the press burst forth in full cry against him, and raked up all his vices, follies, and misdeeds, which were numerous and glaring enough.

The new King began very well. Everybody expected he would keep the Ministers in office, but he threw himself into the arms of the Duke of Wellington with the strongest expressions of confidence and esteem. He proposed to all the Household, as well as to the members of Government, to keep their places, which they all did except Lord Conyngham and the Duke of Montrose. He soon after, however, dismissed most of the equerries, that he might fill their places with the members of his own family. Of course such a King wanted not due praise, and plenty of anecdotes were raked up of his former generosities and kindnesses. His first speech to the. Council was well enough given, but his burlesque character began even then to show itself. Nobody expected from him much real grief, and he does not seem to know how to act it consistently; he spoke of his brother with all the semblance of feeling, and in a tone of voice properly softened and subdued, but just afterward, when they gave him the pen to sign the declaration, he said, in his usual tone, “This is a damned bad pen you have given me.” My worthy colleague, Mr. James Buller, began to swear Privy Councillors in the name of “King George IV.—William, I mean,” to the great diversion of the Council.

A few days after my return I was sworn in, all the Ministers and some others being present. His Majesty presided very decently, and looked like a respectable old admiral. The Duke [of Wellington] told me he was delighted with him— “If I had been able to deal with my late master as I do with my present, I should have got on much better”—that he was so reasonable and tractable, and that he had done more business with him in ten minutes than with the other in as many days.”

CHRISTMAS PAST – IN THEIR OWN WORDS

What would Christmas be without our trimming the tree? Some believe that it was Prince Albert who introduced the custom of the Christmas tree to England, while others maintain that they were introduced to England by King George III’s German wife, Queen Charlotte. However, it was only circa 1848, after the London Illustrated News ran the engraving depicting showing Queen Victoria and Prince Albert celebrating  around the Christmas tree with their children (above) that this tradition caught on with the public.
The painting above, Queen Victoria’s Christmas tree at Windsor in 1850 as painted by James Roberts (1824 – 1867), depicts presents around the tree from Prince Albert. We thought it might prove amusing to see what others had written about the Christmas tree in centuries past.
From Recollections from 1803 to 1837 by Amelia Murray:
“Christmas-trees are now common. In the early part of this century they were seldom seen, but Queen Charlotte always had one dressed up in the room of Madame Berkendorff, her German attendant; it was hung with presents for the children, who were invited to see it, and I well remember the pleasure it was to hunt for one’s own name, which was sure to be attached to one or more of the pretty gifts.”
From 20 Years at Court
The Hon. Eleanor Stanley (maid of honour to Queen Victoria, 1842-1862) to her Mother, Lady Mary Stanley, Windsor Castle, Saturday, Dec. 25th, 1847.
“Dearest Mama,—A merry Xmas, and many happy returns of the day to you and all the family at the dear old Castle. Yesterday evening we were desired, at a quarter to seven, to come down to the Corridor, to get our Gifts; we found all the gentlemen and Mrs. Anson already assembled, and presently the page desired us to go to the Oak-room, where the Queen and Prince already were, standing by a large table covered with a white cloth, in the middle of which was a little fir-tree, in the German fashion, covered with bonbons, gilt walnuts, and little coloured tapers. I send a bonbon as a Christmas box to little Blanche, which I took off the tree. . . . The children had each a little table with their new toys, and were running about in great glee showing them off; Prince Alfred, in a glorious tinsel helmet that almost covered his face, was shooting us all with a new gun, and Princess Alice was making us admire her dolls, etc. They had one Christmas tree among them, like us, but the Queen, Prince, and Duchess had each one, and altogether I never saw anything prettier than the whole arrangement.”
Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck
From The Memoirs of Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck
Cambridge Cottage, January 1, 1848.

“My Dearest Draperchen,  (her former governess, Miss Draper, whom she addressed as ‘Ma chere Draperchen), . . . Our Christmas went off very well. The room was beautifully decorated ; there were four fine trees, and these were connected by wreaths of laurel evergreens and holly.”

by the same author

Cambridge Cottage, January 9, 1849
“The Christmas holidays have been very happily spent by the inmates of Cambridge Cottage, and I have received a number of cadeaux! Our Trees were arranged in the Conservatory, which was hung with festoons of evergreens, from which transparent lamps were suspended. The whole was well lighted up, and looked remarkably pretty, and the three trees were quite covered with bon-bons and fruit.”
Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower

From My Reminiscences By Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower

“At Trentham, Christmas 1854, I find, on turning the pages of that record of my early years, much detail regarding our Christmas gifts and of the Christmas tree; now so general in English homes at Yuletide, but then hardly seen but in a few English houses. Our German tutor claimed to have introduced this pretty custom in this country in our family, the first implanted out of Germany having been erected by him in the hall at Stafford House. Until recently there was always one of these Christmas trees, richly decked, placed in one of the drawing-rooms at Trentham on Christmas Eve; and the household attended to see the illuminations and receive the gifts that were one by one cut off from the lighted boughs. No one was forgotten, from the most honored of the guests down to the kitchen-maids and stable-men. Christmas was worthily maintained in those days at Trentham. Generally after the tree there came a ball for the servants, given in a long gallery overlooking the stable-yard. All took part in the dances, which, with itscountry dances and Highland flings and reels, when the Scotch piper was in great demand, were always most successful festivities.”

From Letters by Lady Harcourt, December 17, 1885

“Yesterday I made an excursion to the city with Hilda Deichmann and her husband to buy things for our Christmas trees. It was most amusing ransacking in all the big wholesale houses, and reminded me of my childish days and similar expeditions to Maiden Lane . . . . . . . . Our shopping was most successful. All the prettiest things come from the German shops. The ginger-bread animals were wonderful,—some horses and dogs with gilt tails and ears most effective. The decorations were really very pretty—the stars and angels quite charming.”

 

by the same author

To G. K. S., Albert Gate, London, December 24, 1885.

“The sisters and I have been shopping all day getting the last things for the tree, which is to be on the 26th. The streets are most animated, full of people, all carrying parcels, and all with smiling faces. . . We wound up at the Army and Navy Stores, and really had some difficulty in getting in. They had quantities of Christmas trees already decorated, which were being sold as fast as they were brought in.”

Wishing you a memorable Christmas!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO QUEEN VICTORIA – 24 May 1819

Victoria H here: I have always had a special feeling for Queen Victoria, obviously because it was the name my father — with his entirely British heritage — chose for me.
The above view of the Queen in 1838 is one of my favorite portraits.
Above, the Queen in her 1838 coronation robes by American artist Thomas Sully (1783–1872). The painting hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City though it has been copied many times and can be found in various configurations many places.

Above, Artist Sir George Hayter (1792-1871) also painted Victoria in her coronation robes.  The ceremony took place on June 28, 1938, about a year after Victoria became Queen at age 18 after the death of her uncle, William IV (1765-1937).

Victoria was Queen until her death in 1901, the longest reign in English history at the time. The Hayter painting is in the National Collection in Britain and a copy of it hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Victoria’s name became the title of an age characterized by a revolution in industry, transportation, communication, medicine, culture, and, perhaps, family relationships and sexual behavior. At the beginning of her reign, horses and sailing ships provided transportation. At the end of her life, we had dirigibles and the Wright Brothers first flew just a couple of years later.  Wonder what Victoria would have thought of blogging?

In celebration of the 200th Anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth this year, Number One London Tour will be exploring all aspects of the Queen’s life, from her birth at Kensington Palace to her death in 1901 at Osborn House on the Isle of Wight, on our 2019 Queen Victoria Tour. Full details and Tour itinerary can be found here.

A BIRTHDAY LETTER FROM KING LEOPOLD

Queen Victoria’s birthday was on May 24th
From: The Letters of Queen Victoria by John Murray

 

The King of the Belgians to Queen Victoria.
Laeken, 21st May 1845.
My Dearest And Most Beloved Victoria,— Receive my sincerest and most heartfelt good wishes on the happy reappearance of your birthday. I need not dwell on my sentiments of devotion to you; they began with your life, and will only end with mine. The only claim I make is to be remembered with some little affection. Thank heaven, I have little to wish you, than that your present happiness may not be disturbed, and that those who are dear to you may be preserved for your happiness.
My gift is Charlotte’s portrait. The face is extremely like, and the likest that exists; the hair is a little too fair, it had become also darker. I take this opportunity to repeat that Charlotte was a noble-minded and highly gifted creature. She was nervous, as all the family have been; she could be violent, but then she was full of repentance for it, and her disposition highly generous and susceptible of great devotion. I am the more bound to say this, as I understood that you had some notion that she had been very imperious, and not mistress of her temper. Before her marriage some people by dint of flattery had tried to give her masculine tastes; and in short had pushed her to become one day a sort of Queen Elizabeth. These sentiments were already a little modified before her marriage. But she was particularly determined to be a good and obedient wife; some of her friends were anxious she should not; amongst these Madame de Flahaut must be mentioned en premiere ligne.
This became even a subject which severed the intimacy between them. Madame de Flahaut, much older than Charlotte, and of a sour and determined character, had gained an influence which partook on Charlotte’s part a little of fear. She was afraid of her, but when once supported took courage.
    People were much struck on the 2nd of May 1816 at Carlton House with the clearness and firmness with which she pronounced “and obey” etc., as there had been a general belief that it would be for the husband to give these promises. The Regent put me particularly on my guard, and said, “If you don’t resist she will govern you with a high hand.” Your own experience has convinced you that real affection changes many sentiments that may have been implanted into the mind of a young girl. With Charlotte it was the more meritorious, as from a very early period of her life she was considered as the heiress of the Crown; the Whigs flattered her extremely, and later, when she got by my intervention reconciled to the Tories, they also made great efforts to please her.
Her understanding was extremely good; she knew everybody, and I even afterwards found her judgment generally extremely correct. She had read a great deal and knew well what she had read. Generous she was almost too much, and her devotion was quite affecting, from a character so much pushed to be selfish and imperious.
I will here end my souvenir of poor dear Charlotte, but I thought that the subject could not but be interesting to you. Her constancy in wishing to marry me, which she maintained under difficulties of every description, has been the foundation of all that touched the family afterwards. You know, I believe, that your poor father was the chief promoter, though also the Yorks were; but our correspondence from 1814 till 1816 was entirely carried on through his kind intervention; it would otherwise have been impossible, as she was really treated as a sort of prisoner. Grant always to that good and generous Charlotte, who sleeps already with her beautiful little boy so long, where all will go to, an affectionate remembrance, and believe me she deserves it.
Forgive my long letter, and see in it, what it really is, a token of the great affection I have for you. Ever, my dearest Victoria, your devoted Uncle,
Leopold R.
Number One London will be celebrating the 200th Anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth during the 2019 Queen Victoria Tour, visiting Kensington Palace, where she was born, Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, the Brighton Pavilion and Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight, where the Queen died in 1901. Complete Tour details can be found here.