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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. childish 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 Tow; 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 It has nevertheless its parallel-a pa- and dull by the consequences of these
quarrels, and the jealousy which her father early conceived of the political importance of his heiress. Her candid, impulsive nature was manifested even as a child, and won the love of those around her. Bishop Porteus records with delight how the little princess, then but five years of age, on being told that, when she went to bathe at Southend in Essex, she would be in his diocese, dropped on her knees before him and begged his blessing; "which," says the good prelate, “I gave with all my heart, and many secret prayers.” The reve. rential child grew into a pious woman, impulsive to the last, but gifted with a keen intelligence and a noble cordial nature, which combined to steer her past many a shoal, and which gave her, in spite of occasional rashness, power to choose wisely and well who should be intimate among her few companions, her scanty stock of friends; among the most distinguished of whom was Miss Mercer Elphinstone, Baroness Keith and Nairne, wife of our present French Ambassador, Count de Flahaut.
She was but eleven, when an inquiry, miscalled the “Delicate Investigation,” was made as to the conduct of her mother, the Princess of Wales ; and though that inquiry ended temporarily in favour of the party accused, though hard swearing failed to satisfy Ministers that the false profligate husband had a wife as profligate as other ladies who were his habitual associates, though she was reinstated and received by good old George the Third, still the event disturbed all the relations subsisting between mother and child, and was the first assault in that “ war to the knife” which could have but one termination between a man without honour and a woman without dignity, even had she been a better woman than she was.
Perhaps no part of Princess Charlotte's character is more touching' than the efforts she made to offer a divided duty to both her parents—the pity and
he love with which she yearned to her mother, and the submission she trained her naturally impatient spirit to show to her father.
Her personal appearance and attractions are thus described by a contemporary writer:-“In person she was neither “ too tall nor short, about the middle “size, rather inclining to enbonpoint; " but not so much as to impair the sym“metry of her form. Her complexion “ was beautifully fair, her arms deli-, " cately rounded, and her head finely “ placed. There was a mingled sweet“ness and dignity in her look. She “ had a full intelligent eye; and when “ she was engaged in conversation, much “liveliness appeared in the expression “ of her countenance. She had very “ little of the vanity which is said to be “ peculiar to her sex—that of exterior “ ornament and dress; she never in“ dulged in it either before or after her “ marriage. She aimed at little beyond “ neatness; there was no incumbering “superfluity of jewels to be seen upon “her person : in short, nothing that “ distinguished her from one of the fe“male nobility in splendour of apparel. “ Always elegant, modest, and refined, “she had nothing of fashionable life « about her ; but a lofty and generous “sense of the duties imposed upon “her by her elevated rank. She was “ an excellent musician; she performed “ on the harp, the piano, and the guitar, “ with uncommon skill. Her voice " was not powerful, but sweet, and “scientifically modulated : she had a “most accurate ear, and a brilliant exe“cution. She spoke French, German, “Italian, and Spanish, with considerable “fluency; and her accomplishments "comprehended not only the poetry and “classical writers of her own country, “but a considerable acquaintance with "ancient literature. Warmth of feeling, "great elevation of spirit, and openness, “ of heart, marked her conduct through “life: she was justly beloved by all who “ had the good fortune to know her; and “ when she found herself blessed with “the husband of her choice (and that “choice still reflects great honour upon “her memory), she more than once “ declared that she was the happiest “woman in her grandfather's kingdom."
Such was the Princess Charlotte of
England, then the apparent heiress of house was exposed from French hostithe throne of these realms ; and per- lity seem only to have contributed to haps the description of the husband she preserve the purity of his morals ; and selected cannot be better placed than they certainly had a most powerful immediately under her own picture. influence in the development of that Few will read it and not also think of rare moderation, that ardent love of justhe Prince Consort, his nephew, so latelytice, and that manly firmness, which were taken from us !
the predominant traits in his character. "In his early youth, this prince mani. In his campaigns, and in the field of fested an excellent understanding, and battle, where all false greatness disa tender and benevolent heart. As he appears, Leopold gave the most undeniadvanced in years he displayed a strong able proofs of courage, and of that clear attachment to literary and scientific pur- intelligence and unshaken fortitude suits, and even at that time all his which are essential in a warrior and a actions were marked with dignified prince. If we add that this young wargravity and unusual moderation. His rior was of most admirable personal propensity to study was seconded by beauty, though of a somewhat dark the efforts of an excellent instructor; and melancholy countenance, Princess and, as he remained a stranger to all Charlotte's choice will not appear extrathose dissipations with which persons ordinary. of his age and rank are commonly in- When the princess, in 1814, attained. dulged, his attainments, so early as his the age of eighteen, the Prince Regent, fifteenth year, were very extensive. anxious to obtain for her a suitable. His extraordinary capacity particularly alliance, fixed upon the Prince of Orange. unfolded itself in the study of the lan. After some serious negotiations, howguages, history, mathematics, botany, ever, the match was broken off. The drawing, and music; he sang beauti reason assigned in Parliament was the fully, and had one of the finest tenor objection entertained by the princess to voices in the world."
a residence in Holland ; the reasons The convulsion which, in 1806, shook assigned by her friends were Russian the north of Germany had been attended intrigues, and her own distaste for her with consequences peculiarly calamitous young suitor. That he did not regard to the House of Coburg. In the her with similar indifference, is proved autumn of that year, when the French by the fact that, when he was obliged to approached the Saxon frontiers, Duke return her miniature with other presents, Francis, who was in very ill health, he secretly caused a copy to be taken, retired with his consort from Coburg which is still preserved in the Palace to Saalfeld; and Prince Leopold, then in the Wood, at the Hague. but fifteen years old, was the companion She had already at this time made and support of his infirm father. The acquaintance with the Prince Leopold ; French appeared before Saalfeld ; the but, the Regent disapproving of the castle was stormed; and the ducal family degree of welcome she seemed willing exposed to all the dangers and horrors to accord him, the prince returned to of that disastrous battle, which cost the Continent. Displeased with the Prince Lewis-Ferdinand of Prussia his failure of the Orange match, and suspilife. This was more than the constitu- cious of the influence of those around tion of Duke Francis, already so much his daughter, the Regent planned and impaired by disease, was capable of sup- executed a kind of domestic coup d'état, porting; he sank under the accumula- changing at once all the ladies of her tion of misfortunes, and died in the household. The Princess Charlotte, beginning of December. Bonaparte then startled and irritated by this exercise of seized the Coburg possessions, which power, which she conceived to be the were not restored till the peace of Tilsit. forerunner of yet greater severity, has
The vicissitudes to which Leopold's tily fled her home at Warwick House, and went, in a hackney-coach, to the on the 14th, to both Houses of Parliaresidence of her mother, at Connaught ment; and on the 15th the House of Place ; whence she was reconducted, in Commons voted the royal pair 60,0001. the dawn of a summer's morning, by a year and a splendid outfit. They the Duke of York and other great per- were married on the evening of the sonages. The measures of the Prince 2d of May, at Buckingham House, the Regent towards his daughter caused an prince wearing the uniform of an Eng. unfavourable impression; and in the lish general, and his beautiful bride a House of Lords the Duke of Sussex dress of silver lama, with a wreath demanded of Lord Liverpool explana of rosebuds and leaves, in brilliants, tions as to the position of the princess round her head; and a little before and the degree of freedom which she midnight the newly-wedded pair arenjoyed. The minister somewhat haugh- rived at Oatlands Park, lent them by tily replied, that the Regent was the the Duke of York; now a popular hotel father of her royal highness, and that Camelford House had been allotted to as such, he had a right to adopt them in London ; a confined and inconwhat measures he pleased with re- venient residence, which in the autumn spect to her. Two months after these of that year they gladly left for Claremont, disputed arrangements the Princess of a home of their own selection, purchased Wales left England, taking a tender for them by Parliament. Here they and, as it proved, a final farewell of lived a retired life, congenial to their her daughter. During the summer the tastes and mutual love-a life in all health of the Princess Charlotte visibly respects the exact parallel of the pure failed, nor can it be doubted that, like domestic existence of our Queen Vicmany a humbler heroine, she was secretly toria and Prince Albert. They were pining for the object of her own prefer never separated, except when the Prince ence. Her love for young Leopold of went out to take the exercise of shooting Saxe-Coburg had been love at first in the morning; and during his absight, but it was one of those cases in sence it was the constant custom of the which a sudden choice has been amply Princess Charlotte, with her own hands justified by subsequent happiness. The to take the prince's linen out of the physicians prescribed sea-bathing and drawer, to air it, to fold his cravat, change of air, and the patient went to and see that hot water was ready Weymouth; whence she returned in for his use; and even to prepare some improved health, and appeared in May, little refreshment, such as she judged 1815, at the Queen's drawing-room. he would like, against his return. In
The Regent, in the course of this year, their social walks, whether in the village became convinced that his daughter or the garden, they generally walked was not to be weaned from her choice, arm in arm; and if they stopped to rest, and at length, in February, 1816, de- whether in the arbour or the alcovespatched a messenger to Berlin to invite in the words of WattsPrince Leopold's return to England. On “ There they would sit, and pass the hour, the 21st of that month he landed at And pity kingdoms and their kings, Dover, amidst the acclamations of the And smile at all their shining things, people, who were already aware of the Their toys of state, and images of power.” feelings of their beloved princess. On When the weather or other circumhis arrival at the Clarendon Hotel stances kept them within doors, their he was waited upon by Lord Castle- employment was chiefly reading. Both reagh, the Secretary of State for Foreign took delight in studying the history Affairs ; and the next day, by special and constitution of the country of invitation, he joined the Regent at which she might naturally expect to be Brighton. On the 10th of March the one day the sovereign. In this study consent of H. R. H. was announced she is understood strongly to have imto the Privy Council convened there; bibed those liberal principles which
raised her family to the throne, and on which alone it can be properly supported. History was varied with poetry or miscellaneous subjects; and the prin cess appears to have taken peculiar pleasure in perfecting the prince in a complete and critical knowledge of the English language, which he spoke accurately, with more distinctness and deliberation than is usual with us.
The Royal couple left Brighton and the brilliant festivities of the Regent's Pa vilion in order to keep Prince Leopold's birthday in their tranquil home. On the birthday of the princess herself (the last that she was permitted to see), the humble inhabitants of Esher illuminated their village abodes in her honour. She kept that day by distributing a hundred pounds in charity, and passed most days in familiar intercourse with her poorer neighbours, while her wayward mother wandered to and fro on the Continent, seeking to fill the void of her wasted life with vulgar pleasures, and the profligacy of her father's tawdry court roused a just indignation among all the better thinking of his people. In illustration of the perfect matrimonial happiness of the young couple is recorded the gentle clerical jest of their chaplain, "Dr. Short, who sent them a flitch of bacon on their marriage anniversary, suggestive of Dunmow and its time-hallowed custom. Little they thought that no other anniversary would find them together to share earthly joy or earthly sorrow. That pleasant May went by, and pleasant June, and the autumn found them still living the same life of serene contentment: doing good ; striving by employment to lessen the depression of trade, and by charity to counteract the effect of “ famine-prices" consequent on the failure of the harvest. Tranquil, happy, hopeful, loving—a model home! The year before, they had been in London ; at the famous “ Nuptial Draw ing-room,” held in their honour, attended by nearly three thousand persons, many of whom, despairing of getting early to their carriages, walked on the grass-plot in the palace yard, “such splendid dresses parading in the open
air as probably never had been bebeld there before.” They had attended theatres and operas in state, and heard the exulting cheers of a welcoming people. They had been called upon to receive and answer loyal addresses, amongst which was the memorable address of congratulation from the county of Kent, “signed by five thousand persons and measuring twenty yards." But this year all was different. The princess “was taking care of herself :” waiting for another precious life ; waiting for the seal and fruition of love ; waiting for her baby: all England waiting and hoping with her : the busy nurse gossiping and wondering at the love and simple habits of the royal pair : and the pair themselves taking their quiet walks and drives together; visiting the farm and overlooking improvements; till the last Sabbath the princess was permitted to see rose in brightness over Claremont, and late on Monday messengers were despatched in various directions to summon the proper officers of state to be present at the birth of a royal infant.
That infant was born DEAD! Every effort was made to restore it to life, but in vain. The young wife and now-made mother humbly said, “It is God's will ” when the news was broken to her; and the young husband ejaculated with a sigh, “Thank heaven, the princess is safe !” But soon a dreadful change became apparent: the nurse who had left the room in obedience to her kindly order, “ Pray go and get your supper, you must be quite exhausted ; Leopold will take care of me meanwhile," was recalled by Prince Leopold, saying he did not think the princess quite so well; and in another hour the blue eyes, so full of vivacity and tenderness, fixed a dying gaze on her husband's face, and the hand pledged to him at the altar lay cold and stiff within his own.
The impression made on a people prepared only for exultation may be gathered from the accounts of the time.
“We were in the most awful suspense about the dreadful news," says one, writing from Bristol, “till the arrival