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THE PRINCESS AND THE PRINCE. 1817–1861.
BY THE HON. MRS. NORTON.
The first lesson we try to teach our little rallel so close in all its details of sufferones in the nursery is, that there is ing, that the wonder rather is, how such no royal road to learning; the lesson we events, happening within the memory preach to children of a larger growth of living men, and having filled so many is, that there is no royal road to hap with wonder and anguish, should fade piness. In vain! Still do the busy like a dream, and vanish like a sound. cbildish brains weave for themselves The death of the Princess Charlotte pictures of princes and princesses in is vaguely accepted by the rising genegolden crowns and glittering raiment; ration as a national loss that was greatly still does the maturer mind dream with lamented; but it is to be doubted a half-repining sigh of those lilies in the if the record of her brief life has obgarden of Life, who “neither toil nor tained a visible standing place amongst spin;" whose days are days of pleasant- us, even since the revival of its main ness, and their paths paths of peace; incidents by the publication of gossipwho reap where they have not sowed; ing memoirs of the period. They, howand to whom the delights of existence ever, who recollect these incidents, know offer themselves without struggle or how close is the resemblance between sacrifice.
the blow which shattered the happy Seldom does the converse of this pro- home of Claremont in November, 1817, position force itself on our notice ; sel and that calamity which has lately made dom does the often-preached equality of desolate the royal halls of Windsor human trial become so apparent that and cast a gloom over the English those who run may read the lesson. Christmas of 1861. It is because this But when it does come, it comes with parallel lies on the dim border land which the storm of sorrow : in the cloud and divides our own times from the region the lightning.
of written history, that we would briefly Death is the same in itself to all recapitulate a story which, if invented, mankind, and the spectacle is always would have seemed a most touching solemn and admonishing ; but Divine romance, and, being suffered, was a Providence, sometimes in the course of miserable reality. ages, sets it forth in such strong contrast The Princess Charlotte, daughter of to all that is held great and good to the the Prince Regent, afterwards George human being in possession and expec- IV., was born on the 7th of January, tation, that the most careless heart is 1796 ; an English princess, but with shocked into contemplation."
much German blood in her veins ; of Such a lesson has lately been read to us. that House of Brunswick which claims The grief, the unutterable grief, of the descent from Albert Azo, Marquess of highest lady of our land has passed Tuscany, who, in 1040, married the with an electric thrill to the meanest of heiress of the first Welphs or Guelphs, her subjects. Hearts ache and eyes fill Earls of Altorf in Swabia. The offwith tears at the bare image of her sor- spring of alienated parents, Princess row; and to the younger of the genera- Charlotte's childhood was disturbed by tion, now in its noon, the blow that has domestic feuds and anxieties, of which smitten the royal wife and mother seems she could have no comprehension; and without example!
her youth was made at once restless quarrels, and the jealousy which her Her personal appearance and attracfather early conceived of the political tions are thus described by a contempo importance of his heiress. Her candid, rary writer: "In person she was neither impulsive nature was manifested even “ too tall nor short, about the middle as a child, and won the love of those “size, rather inclining to enbon point; around her. Bishop Porteus records “but not so much as to impair the symwith delight how the little princess, then ·" metry of her form. Her conrplexion but five years of age, on being told that, “ was beautifully fair, her arms deliwhen she went to bathe at Southend "cately rounded, and her head finely in Essex, she would be in his diocese, “placed. There was a mingled sweetdropped on her knees before him and “ness and dignity in her look. She begged his blessing; “which," says the “had a full intelligent eye; and when good prelate, “I gave with all my heart, she was engaged in conversation, much and many secret prayers." The rove- “liveliness appeared in the expression rential child grew into a pious woman, “ of her countenance. She had very impulsive to the last, but gifted with a “ little of the vanity which-is said to be keen intelligence and a noble cordial " peculiar to her sex—that of exterior nature, which combined to steer her " ornament and dress ; she never inpast many a shoal, and which gave her, " dulged in it either before or after her in spite of occasional rashness, power to “ marriage. She aimed at little beyond choose wisely and well who should be “ neatness; there was no incumbering intimate among her few companions, “ superfluity of jewels to be seen upon her scanty stock of friends ; among the “ her person : in short, nothing that most distinguished of whom was Miss “ distinguished her from one of the feMercer Elphinstone, Baroness Keith “male nobility in splendour of apparel. and Nairne, wife of our present French “ Always elegant, modest, and refined, Ambassador, Count de Flahaut.
“she had nothing of fashionable life She was but eleven, when an inquiry, “about her; but a lofty and generous miscalled the “Delicate Investigation,” “sense of the duties imposed upon was made as to the conduct of her mo- “her by her elevated rank. She was ther, the Princess of Wales; and though “ an excellent musician ; she performed that inquiry ended temporarily in fa- “ on the harp, the piano, and the guitar, vour of the party accused, though hard 6 with uncommon skill. Her voice swearing failed to satisfy Ministers that “was not powerful, but sweet, and the false profligate husband had a wife “scientifically modulated : she had a as profligate as other ladies who were “most accurate ear, and a brilliant exehis habitual associates, though she was “cution. She spoke French, German, reinstated and received by good old “Italian, and Spanish, with considerable George the Third, still the event dis “fluency; and her accomplishments turbed all the relations subsisting be- "comprehended not only the poetry and tween mother and child, and was the “classical writers of her own country, first assault in that “ war to the knife" "but a considerable acquaintance with which could have but one termination "ancient literature. Warmth of feeling, between a man without honour and a "great elevation of spirit, and openness woman without dignity, even had she “of heart, marked her conduct through been a better woman than she was. “life: she was justly beloved by all who
Perhaps no part of Princess Char- “ had the good fortune to know her ; and lotte's character is more touching than “ when she found herself blessed with the efforts she made to offer a divided “the husband of her choice (and that duty to both her parents-the pity and “choice still reflects great honour upon the love with which she yearned to her “ her memory), she more than once mother, and the submission she trained “ declared that she was the happiest her naturally impatient spirit to show “woman in her grandfather's kingdom.”
England, then the apparent heiress of the throne of these realms; and perhaps the description of the husband she selected cannot be better placed than immediately under her own picture. Few will read it and not also think of the Prince Consort, his nephew, so lately taken from us !
“In his early youth, this prince manifested an excellent understanding, and a tender and benevolent heart. As he advanced in years he displayed a strong attachment to literary and scientific pur suits, and even at that time all his actions were marked with dignified gravity and unusual moderation. His propensity to study was seconded by the efforts of an excellent instructor; and, as he remained a stranger to all those dissipations with which persons of his age and rank are commonly indulged, his attainments, so early as his fifteenth year, were very extensive. His extraordinary capacity particularly unfolded itself in the study of the lan. guages, history, mathematics, botany, drawing, and music; he sang beautifully, and had one of the finest tenor voices in the world.”
The convulsion which, in 1806, shook the north of Germany had been attended with consequences peculiarly calamitous to the House of Coburg. In the autumn of that year, when the French approached the Saxon frontiers, Duke Francis, who was in very ill health, retired with his consort from Coburg to Saalfeld ; and Prince Leopold, then but fifteen years old, was the companion and support of his infirm father. The French appeared before Saalfeld ; the castle was stormed; and the ducal family exposed to all the dangers and horrors of that disastrous battle, which cost Prince Lewis-Ferdinand of Prussia his life. This was more than the constitution of Duke Francis, already so much impaired by disease, was capable of supporting; he sank under the accumulation of misfortunes, and died in the beginning of December. Bonaparte then seized the Coburg possessions, which were not restored till the peace of Tilsit.
house was exposed from French hostility seem only to have contributed to preserve the purity of his morals; and they certainly had a most powerful influence in the development of that rare moderation, that ardent love of justice, and that manly firmness, which were the predominant traits in his character.
In his cainpaigns, and in the field of battle, where all false greatness disappears, Leopold gave the most undeniable proofs of courage, and of that clear intelligence and unshaken fortitude which are essential in a warrior and a prince. If we add that this young warrior was of most admirable personal beauty, though of a somewhat dark and melancholy countenance, Princess Charlotte's choice will not appear extraordinary.
When the princess, in 1814, attained the age of eighteen, the Prince Regent, anxious to obtain for her a suitable alliance, fixed upon the Prince of Orange. After some serious negotiations, however, the match was broken off. The reason assigned in Parliament was the objection entertained by the princess to a residence in Holland ; the reasons assigned by her friends were Russian intrigues, and her own distaste for her young suitor. That he did not regard her with similar indifference, is proved by the fact that, when he was obliged to return her miniature with other presents, he secretly caused a copy to be taken, which is still preserved in the Palace in the Wood, at the Hague.
She had already at this time made acquaintance with the Prince Leopold ; but, the Regent disapproving of the degree of welcome she seemed willing to accord him, the prince returned to the Continent. Displeased with the failure of the Orange match, and suspicious of the influence of those around his daughter, the Regent planned and executed a kind of domestic coup d'état, changing at once all the ladies of her household. The Princess Charlotte, startled and irritated by this exercise of power, which she conceived to be the forerunner of yet greater severity, hasand went, in a hackney-coach, to the residence of her mother, at Connaught Place; whence she was reconducted, in the dawn of a summer's morning, by the Duke of York and other great personages. The measures of the Prince Regent towards his daughter caused an unfavourable impression; and in the House of Lords the Duke of Sussex demanded of Lord Liverpool explanations as to the position of the princess and the degree of freedom which she enjoyed. The minister somewhat haughtily replied, that the Regent was the father of her royal highness, and that, as such, he had a right to adopt what measures he pleased with respect to her. Two months after these disputed arrangements the Princess of Wales left England, taking a tender and, as it proved, a final farewell of her daughter. During the summer the health of the Princess Charlotte visibly failed, nor can it be doubted that, like many a humbler heroine, she was secretly pining for the object of her own preference. Her love for young Leopold of Saxe-Coburg had been love at first sight, but it was one of those cases in which a sudden choice has been amply justified by subsequent happiness. The physicians prescribed sea-bathing and change of air, and the patient went to Weymouth; whence she returned in improved health, and appeared in May, 1815, at the Queen's drawing-room.
The Regent, in the course of this year, became convinced that his daughter was not to be weaned from her choice, and at length, in February, 1816, despatched a messenger to Berlin to invite Prince Leopold's return to England. On the 21st of that month he landed at Dover, amidst the acclamations of the people, who were already aware of the feelings of their beloved princess. On his arrival at the Clarendon Hotel he was waited upon by Lord Castlereagh, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; and the next day, by special invitation, he joined the Regent at Brighton. On the 10th of March the consent of H. R. H. was announced
on the 14th, to both Houses of Parlia ment; and on the 15th the House of Commons voted the royal pair 60,0001. a year and a splendid outfit. They were married on the evening of the 2d of May, at Buckingham House, the prince wearing the uniform of an English general, and his beautiful bride a dress of silver lama, with a wreath of rosebuds and leaves, in brilliants, round her head; and a little before midnight the newly-wedded pair arrived at Oatlands Park, lent them by the Duke of York ; now a popular hotel Camelford House had been allotted to them in London ; a confined and inconvenient residence, which in the autumn of that year they gladly left for Claremont, a home of their own selection, purchased for them by Parliament. Here they lived a retired life, congenial to their tastes and mutual love-a life in all respects the exact parallel of the pure domestic existence of our Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. They were never separated, except when the Prince went out to take the exercise of shooting in the morning; and during his absence it was the constant custom of the Princess Charlotte, with her own hands to take the prince's linen out of the drawer, to air it, to fold his cravat, and see that hot water was ready for his use; and even to prepare some little refreshment, such as she judged he would like, against his return. In their social walks, whether in the village or the garden, they generally walked arm in arm ; and if they stopped to rest, whether in the arbour or the alcovein the words of Watts“There they would sit, and pass the hour,
And pity kingdoms and their kings,
And smile at all their shining things, Their toys of state, and images of power.”
When the weather or other circumstances kept them within doors, their employment was chiefly reading. Both took delight in studying the history and constitution of the country of which she might naturally expect to be one day the sovereign. In this study she is understood strongly to have im
raised her family to the throne, and on air as probably never had been beheld which alone it can be properly sup- there before.” They had attended ported. History was varied with poetry theatres and operas in state, and heard or miscellaneous subjects; and the prin- the exulting cheers of a welcoming cess appears to have taken peculiar people. They had been called upon pleasure in perfecting the prince in a to receive and answer loyal addresses, complete and critical knowledge of the amongst which was the memorable English language, which he spoke ac- address of congratulation from the curately, with more distinctness and de- county of Kent, “signed by five thouliberation than is usual with us.
sand persons and measuring twenty The Royal couple left Brighton and the yards." But this year all was difbrilliant festivities of the Regent's Pa- ferent. The princess “was taking vilion in order to keep Prince Leopold's care of herself: " waiting for another birthday in their tranquil home. On the precious life ; waiting for the seal and birthday of the princess herself (the fruition of love ; waiting for her baby : last that she was permitted to see), the all England waiting and hoping with humble inhabitants of Esher illumi- her: the busy nurse gossiping and nated their village abodes in her honour. wondering at the love and simple habits She kept that day by distributing a of the royal pair : and the pair themhundred pounds in charity, and passed selves taking their quiet walks and most days in familiar intercourse with drives together; visiting the farm and her poorer neighbours, while her way- overlooking improvements; till the last ward mother wandered to and fro on Sabbath the princess was permitted to the Continent, seeking to fill the void see rose in brightness over Claremont, of her wasted life with vulgar pleasures, and late on Monday messengers were and the profligacy of her father's tawdry despatched in various directions to sumcourt roused a just indignation among all mon the proper officers of state to be the better thinking of his people. In present at the birth of a royal infant. illustration of the perfect matrimonial That infant was born DEAD! Every happiness of the young couple is re- effort was made to restore it to life, but corded the gentle clerical jest of their in vain. The young wife and new-made chaplain, Dr. Short, who sent them mother humbly said, “It is God's will ” a flitch of bacon on their marriage when the news was broken to her; and anniversary, suggestive of Dunmow and the young husband ejaculated with a its time-hallowed custom. Little they sigh, “Thank heaven, the princess is thought that no other anniversary would safe !" But soon a dreadful change find them together to share earthly joy or became apparent: the nurse who had left earthly sorrow. That pleasant May went the room in obedience to her kindly by, and pleasant June, and the autumn order, “Pray go and get your supper, found them still living the same life of you must be quite exhausted ; Leopold serene contentment: doing good ; strive will take care of me meanwhile,” was ing by employment to lessen the depres- recalled by Prince Leopold, saying he sion of trade, and by charity to counteract did not think the princess quite so well ;. the effect of “famine-prices" consequent and in another hour the blue eyes, so on the failure of the harvest. Tranquil, full of vivacity and tenderness, fixed a happy, hopeful, loving—a model home! dying gaze on her husband's face, and The year before, they had been in the hand pledged to him at the altar lay London ; at the famous “ Nuptial Draw- cold and stiff within his own. ing-room,” held in their honour, at The impression made on a people tended by nearly three thousand persons, prepared only for exultation may be many of whom, despairing of getting gathered from the accounts of the time.; early to their carriages, walked on the “ We were in the most awful suspense grass-plot in the palace yard, “such about the dreadful news," says one,