SHALL never forget the scene in St. Paul's Cathedral when the highest personages in England were gathered to attend the Thanksgiving for the recovery of the Prince of Wales from a serious illness. The immense building was crowded to its utmost capacity. Nave and choir and aisles, and even galleries erected for the occasion, were thronged with patricians and functionaries of importance; clergymen and prelates and lawyers and judges in their gowns; officers of the army and navy in full uniform; peers and the eldest sons of peers and members of the House of Commons in levee dress. Every one was in his place by nine o'clock, and the doors were closed hours before the Queen arrived. The great space under the dome was allotted to members of Parliament arid the diplomatic corps, and in the centre of this area a dais had been erected, covered with crimson cloth and ruled off with gilded bars to form a sort of pew. The floor of this structure was so high that its occupants stood with their feet on a level with the heads of the peers and the members of the Government, and into the pew thus raised the Queen and the royal family were ushered, every one in the edifice rising. The son of an earl shook up the cushions, and the Archbishop of Canterbury thanked God in the name of the people of England for the recovery of the young man of twenty-eight or twenty-nine, who, with his mother and brother and sisters, knelt above the heads of the nobility and the Government.
But this enforced prostration of all the distinction and dignity of England at the very feet of the royal family in the house of God was the merest of mockeries. The Queen herself is only the shadow of a potentate, and the Prince of Wales is insignificant in everything but ceremony. An absolute abstinence from politics is dictated by the nation, not only to the sovereign, but to the entire reigning family. It is not thought proper for the Prince of Wales to signify a preference for either party in the State. He holds his place on condition that he makes no effort to influence affairs; he must be as gracious to a Conservative minister as to a Liberal; he must take sides neither for nor against any prominent measure. The pill is gilded by the assurance that he belongs to the whole country, and not to a part; that he is above the strife of factions, and too great to be interested in intrigues for place. All of which may be true, but it leaves him a vapid and meaningless life, devoted to forms and filled tip with frivolities.
The Queen, indeed, goes through the ceremonies of authority she holds privy councils and receives ambassadors; and, if not present at cabinet meetings, the result of them is usually announced to her before it is made known to the world at large. She reads despatches, and still, at times, discusses measures of importance with the Prime Minister. But the Prince of Wales, the future King, is never summoned to her counsels. She seems to revenge herself on him for the exclusion from power inflicted on herself. There is no pretence of consulting him. He can hardly be familiar with the forms in which he must one day bear a part, or, so far as practice goes, with the principles by which he must be guided. He will come to the throne as utterly unaccustomed to its graver duties as his own son, if at any moment both Queen and Prince of Wales were suddenly to die. Opportunities for observation, of course, he shares with everybody in the kingdom; good sense he has not often seemed to lack; appreciation of the difficulties and delicacies of his "political" situation he has repeatedly displayed to a greater degree than the Queen; but the absolute experience which he might have acquired had he, the immediate heir to the throne, a man of more than forty years, been summoned to the royal side in interviews with ministers, or consultations such as must occur under even a constitutional monarchy between sovereign and statesmen of this he has been altogether deprived.
Whether it is the ordinary jealousy of a monarch for an heir, which has prevailed against the wisdom of a ruler and the partiality of a parent, or some other cause, I never heard; but the fact remains, that the Prince of Wales has had no opportunity to learn from his mother the lessons in practical sovereignty which the Queen herself received from her sagacious consort, or has acquired from the experience of nearly half a century.
This is unfortunate for the Prince himself, for the country, and for the ministers who may hereafter have to deal with him. I once asked a prominent Englishman what would happen if a prince should come to the throne, ambitious at once and able, determined to rule as well as to reign. My friend at first answered evasively that there was no danger of the conjuncture under the present family; but when I pressed him further, he admitted that, in such an event, the monarch, if he persisted, would lose his crown. Nobody tells a prince such things in ordinary conversation, but the warning might be conveyed if he were present when the Queen is sometimes delicately informed of the necessity of subordinating her will to that of the nation. The Heir Apparent is surrounded by servitors and courtiers, always bowing and backing out before him, till he might easily forget the emptiness of the forms and the impotence of the sway to which he will succeed; and if he were not alive to the reality, a harsh awakening might one day come to him.
It must, however, be acknowledged that His Koyal Highness is scrupulous in conforming to the political necessities. He betrays no preferences, except personal ones, to which he has a right. He involves himself in no difficulties with either party in politics, he makes no attempt to step beyond the limits laid down for him, and confines himself strictly to the ceremonious and arduous life of pleasure and parade which his fate and his mother have decided that he shall lead. It is often said that he does not expect to succeed to the throne, but lives in dread of the evil day that has come to so many of his royal relatives. Apparently, he is determined to do nothing himself to precipitate the political deluge.
Debarred from all participation in affairs of state, he has become a great authority in etiquette. Both the Queen and the Prince of Wales devote themselves to the study of this great science with a fervor that makes it the important business of their lives. Perhaps it compensates for the sacrifice of higher ambitions; and in settling points of precedence and determining questions of ceremony they may seem to themselves to retain some of the prerogatives of Henry VIII and Elizabeth. The Queen corrects the court circular daily; she arranges the order in which the guests sit at her table; she supervises the invitation lists to court balls at which she never is present and the Prince carefully inspects the book kept at his gate, in which visitors inscribe their names.
Sometimes the royal personages do not agree on points of this high consequence, and then Her Majesty asserts the supremacy of the Crown. You cannot be asked to the Queen's ball unless you have been at court the same year. For very great personages the rule may be relaxed, but in ordinary cases it is immutable. Once upon a time, however, a fair American arrived too late in the season for a drawing-room, and, in spite of etiquette, she determined to go to a ball. But the American Minister declined to ask the court to break its own regulations, and our undaunted countrywoman, who had met the Heir Apparent in society, applied to the Prince himself. His Royal Highness likes pretty women, and pretty Americans quite as well as any others; so he good-naturedly promised that if the American Minister would make the request the invitation should arrive. But when this was announced to the wily diplomatist from the United States, that functionary still had the fear of the court before his eyes, and with the art of a Machiavelli he wrote to the Lord Chamberlain that, "at the instance of the Prince of Wales he had the honor to apply, etc." The card was sent and the importunate American went to the ball. But the august Queen of Great Britain and Ireland was indignant at the infringement on her prerogative. She informed the heir to the throne that the ball was her ball, not his; and the Prince was vexed with the minister, and the minister was vexed with his compatriot; and altogether the excitement aroused in exalted circles was very like what occurred at Olympus when Juno and her progeny were interested in the affairs of earth and the gods took different sides.
The lot of the Prince is not without other trials. Nobody in the kingdom is harder worked or undergoes more fatigue of a certain wearing sort than the Prince and Princess of Wales, and in a less degree the other members of the reigning family. They are not only deprived of all privacy, not only always in the world and before the world, always attended by persons of consequence and exposed to comment and criticism from fastidious tastes and censorious tongues, but they are dragged from one ceremony to another, from a gallery to a hospital, from a levee to a procession, from a dinner to a ball, till life must often become a weariness. Yet they must never fail to keep an engagement, and they are bound always to display the especial "politeness of kings'' punctuality. They must be civil when they are worn out, and gracious when they are sleepy; they must remember the names and faces of the tens of thousands to whom their recognition is an honor; for all this is their trade. This is how they earn their living. And they play their part well. They are trained to it from childhood. They do remember people; they are punctual and polite; all of which should be borne in mind when people carp and criticise.
The Prince is personally popular among those who surround him closest. His invitations are an honor as well as a command, and when he visits a country-house the list of the guests who are to meet him is submitted for his inspection. The Princess does not always accompany her consort on these occasions. As sometimes happens with families that are not royal, there are houses favored by the husband which the wife does not frequent, though not so many of these as when the Prince was younger. They both seem to have their American favorites. A number of our compatriots have been asked, not only to Marlborough House, but to Sandringham; but it must be owned these have sometimes been ladies and gentlemen at whose success Americans at home were not a little surprised. The Prince, however, cares nothing for the social antecedents of his transatlantic friends. He cannot distinguish the delicate gradations in a democratic society so visible to some of the democrats themselves. When he was told by a Bostonian whose family had been "good" for nearly three generations that the American Minister of that day was a self-made man, the Prince replied to the aristocratic republican: "I thought you were all self-made in America."
Perhaps the Prince is not to be blamed. He lives in an atmosphere where incense is constantly offered him, and dukes and duchesses prostrate themselves before the royal family with something of the idea of Bunthorne in Patience": "If this great personage is too great for me, what a very great personage this personage must be!" For the reverence shown by the aristocracy for royalty is greater than that of the people at large. The people generally know very little about royalty. The Queen secludes herself, and the other members of the royal family live so far apart from and above the multitude that they hardly enter its thoughts. But the nobility have the Queen and her children constantly in mind. They must go to levees and drawing-rooms ; they are invited to state balls and concerts. The personal attendants of royalty are taken exclusively from the aristocracy. During the London season the members of the aristocracy are continually meeting the royal family, and constantly reminded of the vast difference in rank between the highest of themselves and the Princes of the Blood.
The genuflections they must make in the presence of royalty; the deference in tone and manner they must display if addressed by royalty; the red carpet that must be laid down when royalty visits a house; the ceremonies of reception and departure; the separate table at which royalty must eat at great entertainments; the fact that one should not leave a room until royalty chooses to do so; that one cannot speak first, nor broach a subject of conversation with royal personages; that you must neither present yourself to them, nor by any chance turn your back toward them; even the apparently insignificant matter that you say "Sir" to a Prince, and "Madam" or "Ma'am" to the Queen and the Princesses, and to nobody else in England all this deepens the impression on an ordinary mind, and makes many look up to the members of the royal family with an obsequiousness which, to one who does not share it, is amusing.
One of the most eminent of British statesmen once said to me: "Every Englishman is at heart a lackey. We all want something above us; something to to "He hesitated for a word, and I suggested: "To kotow to?" "Yes," said he, "to kotow to."Source: Aristocracy In England by Adam Badeau - Franklin Square 1886, Copyright, 1885, 1886. [As Written] Original text, may contain OCR errors.
RANK AND TITLE
THE PRINCE OF WALES
AMERICANS AT COURT
THE CROWN IN POLITICS
QUEENS' PERSONAL CHARACTER
SERVANTS' HALL PRECEDENCE
THE HOUSE OF LORDS
THE PRINCESS OF WALES
A NOBLEMAN INDEED
POMPS & VANITIES OF CHURCH
CHURCH & STATE
HOUSE OF COMMONS
LITERATURE & THE LORDS
THE LONDON SEASON
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