The Queen

THE Queen is the head of the aristocracy. With many of its members, in one way or another, she is allied. A large number of those of ancient lineage quarter the royal arms, very many, it is true, with the bar sinister; but probably a third of the great families of the realm can trace their descent, legitimately or illegitimately, from a former sovereign. In official documents the monarch styles every peer above the rank of baron, "cousin" and the Queen's own children sit in the House of Lords. The Duke of Wellington once refused to apologize to a brother of George IV. for words spoken in that assembly, although the King demanded it, for "there", he said, "we are all peers".


Not a few of the aristocracy are literally cousins of Queen Victoria. The last King, her uncle, ennobled seven of his illegitimate children, while two others married peers. One of these first cousins was for a long time Her Majesty's housekeeper, another her naval aid-de-camp. They are proud of the kinship, too, and sport the royal liveries.

There are connections, however, that Victoria does not recognize. The line seems to be drawn at the descendants of sovereigns. One of the family habitually visits German watering-places with a lady who is not his wife, and duchesses dine with her because of her relations with royalty; but the sullied gentlewoman never went to Windsor. Her Majesty countenances no such conduct in subjects, of whatever degree. It is needless to say that her own life has been a model of purity.

The only marriage with one of her subjects which the Queen has authorized is that of her daughter, the Princess Louise, with the Marquis of Lome, eldest son of the Duke of Argyll. This was the first that had been sanctioned by both Crown and Church since James II married the daughter of Clarendon. Two of the sons of George II, it is true, married into the aristocracy, but the wife was never allowed the precedence of a sovereign's child, and since the time of the Duchess of Cumberland, in 1771, a marriage of one of the royal family has been invalid without the permission of the Crown. The Duke of Sussex, one of the Queen's uncles, was married to the daughter of an earl, who never bore her husband's title, or was received at court; and after that lady's death, he contracted a morganatic marriage, which also gave his wife no rank nor precedence. Yet both were women of unblemished virtue, and the second was made a duchess, though not with her husband's title; the Queen visited her, and the Prince of Wales attended her funeral. She simply could not be admitted to that exalted sphere, reserved for royalty alone, "unmixed with baser matter."

The Queen, however, not only permitted, but made, the marriage of the Princess Louise. If the story universally current is true, the royal maiden returned the regard of her brother's tutor, who had dared to cast his eyes so high, and there was danger of a contingency entirely contrary to royal etiquette, of a marriage beyond even the *morganatic sphere". [*morganatic - Etymology: New Latin matrimonium ad morganaticam, literally, marriage with morning gift; Date: circa 1741: of, relating to, or being a marriage between a member of a royal or noble family and a person of inferior rank in which the rank of the inferior partner remains unchanged and the children of the marriage do not succeed to the titles, fiefs, or entailed property of the parent of higher rank.] To prevent a catastrophe so appalling, a place in the Church was given to the tutor, which separated him from the palace, and the hand of the Princess was offered to several of the young nobility in turn, but the distinction was declined, until finally Lord Lome consented to enter the royal family. The Queen, however, had not foreseen the humiliations which such a connection would impose. "When the Duke of Argyll went to pay his first visit at Windsor after the engagement of his son, he ventured to kiss the lady who was about to become his daughter. One who was present assured me that the Queen reddened and drew back with indignation at the liberty.

Yet Her Majesty sanctioned the marriage of the Princess Helena with a prince who already had a morganatic wife, and she has just given the youngest of her daughters to another, supposed by royalty to be so far beneath its sphere that the imperial family of Germany refused to be present at the ceremony. The connections of the Queen, indeed, range to the very extremities of the (royal) social scale. One of her children is married to the son of the greatest of living potentates, another to the daughter of a Czar, while a third accepted a commoner, the mere heir to a dukedom; and the sister of her favorite son-in-law, a Princess of Sleswig-Holstein, the aunt of Her Majesty's grandchildren, is absolutely married to a physician, and what is worse, with Her Majesty's approval. I knew a doctor's wife in England whom that Princess visited, and who evidently felt that they both belonged to the profession. Whether she was connected with royalty, or royalty with physic and therefore with her, I could not tell, but she always put on airs when she talked of the Princess.

These social faux pas of the Queen she seems at other times inclined to atone for by a rigorous conformity to etiquette. She received the Shah of Persia as a brother monarch, met him at the threshold of Windsor, and offered her cheek to be kissed by the barbarian because he was a reigning sovereign, though she had shuddered to see her daughter saluted by the MacCallum More. Perhaps she thought the dusky embrace might wipe out the memory of the mesalliance. Then, too, when the late Emperor of the French had reached the purple by perfidy and fraud, she buckled the Garter on the adventurer's knee, although years before she had refused him admission to her court. She even kept up the intimacy after he had fallen. Napoleon III was a frequent visitor at Buckingham Palace during his exile, and the Empress is perhaps the one woman whom the Queen of England has ever regarded with the friendship bestowed on equals. With no other crowned head has she been on similar terms. Yet, however dignified the behavior of Eugenie may have been in later days, the career of Mile, de Montijo would certainly have excluded her from the presence of the English Queen. The future sovereign was visiting in the family of a lady whom I know, when the Emperor's passion became evident; and the astute hostess has told me of the advice she thought it necessary to give her guest. "If you never see him alone," she said, "yon will certainly become an empress." The Spanish beauty heeded the sagacious counsel, and mounted the imperial throne. Once a bishop always a bishop, and having worn a crown the parvenu potentates could not be divested of the divinity that doth hedge even upstart kings and successful usurpers, though the French people had dismissed and dethroned them. At least the superstition lingers in royal minds.

Misfortune, however, in some eyes atones for crimes, and the fact that they were fallen gave these ephemeral royalties, perhaps, a claim upon their more fortunate sister. The Queen, indeed, has always shown undiminished deference to the members of dethroned dynasties. The King of Hanover received royal honors in England after his crown was snatched from him by the remorseless Bismarck, and at his death he enjoyed the distinction of a royal funeral. So, too, the Orleans princes during their long exile were always recognized as royal. They, however, were relatives, and entitled to consideration on that score.

But the principle was carried to the extreme in the case of the son of Theodore, His late Majesty of Abyssinia. The British arms had overturned that sable sovereign, who died in defence of his kingdom, and his son became a prisoner and a pensioner in England. I was once at a gathering of the clans in the neighborhood of Balmoral, at which Prince Leopold was present and the Prime Minister of the day. They came together, and in the same carriage was the African Prince of the blood. He looked to me like any little negro boy of nine or ten; but he had his gentlemen in waiting, he took precedence of the Prime Minister, and he stood on the red carpet reserved for royalty alone.

The Queen still exacts for herself the *punctilio of former centuries. [*punctilio - Etymology: Italian & Spanish; Italian puntiglio point of honor, scruple, from Spanish puntillo, from diminutive of punto point, from Latin punctum; Date: 1596; 1 : a minute detail of conduct in a ceremony or in observance of a code; 2 : careful observance of forms (as in social conduct)] Men and women of the highest rank kneel to her today; Cabinet Ministers kiss her hand. She refuses to receive any personal service from a menial, except at table. She never opens a door or directs a letter. Dukes and duchesses cloak her in public, and commoners become "Honorable" for life because they have waited on Her Majesty. At a garden party I have seen a duchess walking behind her to carry a bouquet, or standing at the entrance of a tent while her mistress went within to rest or refresh herself. The sovereign's own daughters arrange her robes when she opens Parliament; the Prince of Wales pays homage as a subject on the same occasion; her children must be presented at court upon their marriage. In the early part of her reign she was visiting Louis Philippe, then King of the French, at his Chateau d'Eu, and one day asked for a glass of water. It was handed her by a servant, but Her Majesty declined to receive it; whereupon the King directed one of his own sons to offer the goblet, which then was graciously accepted.

The ladies and gentlemen in waiting are not expected to sit in the presence of royalty, and countesses and marchionesses get themselves larger shoes because they must stand so long. I knew a personal attendant of the Queen who acted as secretary, a woman of very high rank, and as old as Her Majesty, who often, after writing till she was exhausted, asked permission to finish on her knees.

Those who have the honor of dining at Windsor are shown after dinner into a long gallery where there are no seats, and perforce they stand till Her Majesty is ready to retire. Then I have seen two duchesses approach and throw a shawl across the shoulders of the Queen, literally acting as mistresses of the robes.

Yet the countesses and duchesses are seldom willing to surrender their posts. There seems a fascination about the life, in spite of its irksomeness. Many of the same lords and ladies have been in attendance on the Queen for years, and some of them certainly entertain a profound affection for Her Majesty. Indeed, although at drawing-rooms and on the rare occasions when the Queen is seen in public her demeanor is reserved and her expression almost stern, all this is changed with individuals. The plain and stout lady, rather dowdily dressed, becomes gracious and winning in the last degree. Her whole face is lighted with the desire to please and the certainty that she succeeds. There is something more than suave or urbane in both smile and bearing, something not exactly of condescension, for the consciousness of superiority is necessary for this, and it is the consciousness only of her grandeur, not of your inferiority, that she feels and makes you feel a triumph of manner worthy of the greatest of actresses, or of a queen.

I can speak without prejudice or partiality, for the only opportunity I have had of conversing with Her Majesty was when I thought I had been treated with discourtesy; but even then the sweetness of her behavior overcame my soreness and subdued my not unnatural resentment. Her first utterance was to thank me for a book I had sent her seven years before, and which had been acknowledged at the time, and every syllable she spoke was intended to give me pleasure. The acts of the Queen may sometimes seem ungracious, her action, never, I am told.

I was once strongly reminded of the great geniuses of the stage by the mien and deportment of the Majesty of England. It was at the opening of the Albert Hall. The building was crowded to its utmost, and the Queen walked down the vast amphitheatre to what may be called the stage, preceded and followed by great dignitaries and accompanied by the Prince and Princess of Wales. When she turned to face the multitude eight thousand people were standing in her honor, and the cheers were deafening. And then there came across her features an expression which it is hardly possible to describe; her face fairly shone with gratification at the loyalty of her people and motherly affection for them in return. She courtesied again and again, lower and lower, exactly like a great actress playing a queen who had been called out to receive the plaudits of her audience. But of all the famous mistresses of the stage that I have seen, the women of genius who enraptured nations, none ever surpassed in grace or dignity, at the proudest moments of her mimicry, this real sovereign acknowledging absolute homage.

Source: Aristocracy In England by Adam Badeau - Franklin Square 1886, Copyright, 1885, 1886. Original text, may contain OCR errors.
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