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EIGHTHWonderSamp (2)

Hello, historical fiction fans.  EIGHTH WONDER: THE THOMAS BETHUNE STORY is officially in the copy editing stage. It’s three weeks away from completion.  From there, I begin the process of building a website and deciding whether to self-publish or go the traditional publishing route.  I’m strongly leaning toward self-publishing.

This is my debut novel and the writing process has been a long, sometimes intimidating journey.  But I’ve been committed to bringing the incredible story of the blind slave, Thomas Bethune, known throughout the world as “Blind Tom” to the page.

Born blind and feeble, left in a sweltering smokehouse for dead, Thomas began playing Mozart at the age of three. His story, as seen through the eyes of the master who saved him, is a gripping, inspirational, and intriguing 19th century tale.

I hope you enjoy the read, and appreciate the great effort I put into sharing his captivating story with you.  Like many authors, it’s been a labor of love.

The book will be out in February 2016.  I’m excited, nervous, and proud to share the story of Thomas Bethune with the world.


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House Slaves

from http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USASdomestic.htm

House slaves usually lived better than field slaves. They usually had better food and were sometimes given the family’s cast-off clothing. William Wells Brown, a slave from Lexington, Kentucky, explained in his autobiography, Narrative of William W. Brown, A Fugitive Slave (1847): “I was a house servant – a situation preferable to that of a field hand, as I was better fed, better clothed, and not obliged to rise at the ringing of the bell, but about half an hour after.”

Not all slave-owners took this view, Harriet Jacobs, a house slave from Edenton, North Carolina, reports that on Sunday her mistress “would station herself in the kitchen, and wait till it was dished, and then spit in all the kettles and pans” to make sure that the slaves did not eat what was left over. Jacobs adds: “She did this to prevent the cook and her children from eking out their meager fare with the remains of the gravy and other scrapings. The slaves could get nothing to eat except what she chose to give them. Provisions were weighed out by the pound and ounce, three times a day. I can assure you she gave them no chance to eat wheat bread from her flour barrel. She knew how many biscuits a quart of flour would make, and exactly what size they ought to be.”

Their living accommodation was also better than those of other slaves. In some cases the slaves were treated like the slave-owners children. However, Lewis Clarke believed that some house slaves were worse off than field slaves: “There were four house-slaves in this family, including myself, and though we had not, in all respects, so hard work as the field hands, yet in many things our condition was much worse. We were constantly exposed to the whims and passions of every member of the family; from the least to the greatest their anger was wreaked upon us. Nor was our life an easy one, in the hours of our toil or in the amount of labor performed. We were always required to sit up until all the family had retired; then we must be up at early dawn in summer, and before day in winter.”

When this happened close bonds of affection and friendship usually developed. Even though it was illegal, some house slaves were educated by the women in the family. Trusted house slaves who had provided good service over a long period of time were sometimes promised their freedom when their master’s died. However, there are many cases where this promise was not kept.

Gad Heuman and James Walvin, the authors of Slave Work (2003): “The domestic life of whites was dominated by slave domestics. Visitors, again, were struck by the huge numbers of black servants working in and around the homes of white people in the slave colonies. Nannies and nurses, cooks, and washers, gardeners and cleaners, each and every conceivable domestic role was undertaken by slaves. Overwhelmingly women, slave domestics faced different problems from their contemporaries in the fields. Though perhaps better-off materially, domestic slaves often had uncomfortable relations with their white owners. They faced all the potential aggravations of close proximity, from sexual threats through to white women’s dissatisfaction and anger.”

19th Century Chinese in Antebellum Times, America and China

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(from Jewishdictionary.com (1905) The first Jew who arrived there was Elias David Sassoon, who, about the year 1850, opened a branch in connection with his father’s Bombay house. Since that period Jews have gradually migrated from India to Shanghai, most of them being engaged from Bombay as clerks by the firm of David Sassoon & Co. The community is composed mainly of Asiatic, German, and Russian Jews, though there are a few of Austrian, French, and Italian origin among them. Jews have undoubtedly taken a considerable part in developing trade in China, and several have served on the municipal councils, among them being S. A. Hardoon, partner in the firm of E. D. Sassoon & Co., who had served on the French and English councils at the same time. During the early days of Jewish settlement in Shanghai the trade in opium and Bombay cotton yarn was mainly in Jewish hands.

Opium was smuggled by merchants from British India into China in defiance of Chinese prohibition laws. Open warfare between Britain and China broke out in 1839. Further disputes over the treatment of British merchants in Chinese ports resulted in the Second Opium War. China was defeated in both wars leaving its government having to tolerate the opium trade. Britain forced the Chinese government into signing the Treaty of Nanking and the Treaty of Tianjin, also known as the Unequal Treaties, which included provisions for the opening of additional ports to unrestricted foreign trade, for fixed tariffs; for the recognition of both countries as equal in correspondence; and for the cession of Hong Kong to Britain

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s fortune was inherited from his maternal grandfather Warren Delano. In 1830 he was a senior partner of Russell & Company. It was their merchant fleet which carried Sassoon’s opium to China and returned with tea. Warren Delano moved to Newburgh, N.Y. In 1851 his daughter Sara Married a well-born neighbor, James Roosevelt – the father of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He always knew the origin of the family fortune but refused to discuss it.

Jews commenced to settle in Singapore in 1840. For a number of years their services were held in a rented house near the business quarter, in a street since known as Synagogue street. About 1877 the community purchased ground in a more convenient situation and built on it the synagogue Maghain Aboth, which was consecrated April 4, 1878. It is attended by both Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews. The most prominent Jewish firms deal largely in opium, rice, and gunny-bags, and the business of most of the Ashkenazim consists chiefly in liquor-dealing, hotel-keeping, and the selling of furniture. The total population of Singapore is 160,000; this includes about 700 Jews, mostly Sephardic and Ashkenazic, the former having come from Bagdad and India, and the latter from Germany. J. N. E Read more: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=821&letter=S&search=opium#ixzz0j2nN1zvs

1839 Start of the Opium War between China and Great Britain.
1842 Treaty of Nanking, first “Unequal Treaty” after China met defeat in Opium War. Opened ports of Canton, Foochow, Amoy, Ningpo, and Shanghai to trade. China ceded Hong Kong to the British.
1848 James Marshall discovered gold at John Sutter’s sawmill on the American River at Coloma. This discovery triggered the California Gold Rush.
1850 Some 500 immigrants out of 57,787 arriving in California were Chinese.
California state legislature passed the first Foreign Miners’ Tax Law, levying a $20-per-month tax on each foreigner engaged in mining.
1851-1864 The T’aip’ing Rebellion. Insurgents seized control of the middle and lower Yangtze Basin. Millions of lives lost.
1852 Of the 11,794 Chinese living in California, only 7 were women.
Chinese immigration increased to 20,000 this year with most individuals proceeding to mining regions. This number decreased to under 8,000 annually during the next two decades.
Re-enactment of the Foreign Miners’ Tax Law aimed at controlling the Chinese and other immigrant populations in California.
1854 People v. Hall. California Supreme Court ruled that a white man charged with murder could not be convicted on the testimony of a Chinese witness.
Weaverville War of 1854 in California between the people of Sze Yup and Heung Shan. Also fighting at Chinese Camp between the Hakkas and Sam Yup People.
1860s The Six Chinese Companies called Tongs formed to represent and organize Chinese interests in San Francisco and California.
1862 Pacific Railroad Bill provided government aid to build transcontinental railroad.
1863 On January 3, the Central Pacific Railroad broke ground.
1865 Crocker hired first 50 Chinese men in response to white workers’ threatening a strike; within two years, 90 percent of the work force on the Central Pacific Railroad was Chinese.
1867 June 25, railroad strike: the Chinese laborers, without support of other workers, won concession over wages.
Workingmen’s Party of California founded in San Francisco. Denis Kearney acted as its president.
Four hundred men (associated with Workingmen’s Party) attacked Chinese in San Francisco.
1868 The Burlingame Treaty recognized the right of free immigration on the part of citizens of the United States and China.
Governor John Bigley delivered anti-Chinese speech; Lai Chun Chuen, Chinese merchants in San Francisco, issued pamphlet in response.
Twelve thousand Chinese working in construction of the railroad. Union Pacific joined the Central Pacific at Promontory Point, Utah, on May 10.
1870 By this time, 3,536 Chinese women had emigrated to California, 61 percent (2,157) listed as prostitutes.
Foreign Miners’ Tax represented 25 to 50 percent of all state revenue. Chinese constituted the largest racial group in the mines, 9,087 out of 36,339.
1870s Diversification of crops developed after railroad was completed. Chinese aided in cultivation techniques as well as harvest of these crops.
Record unemployment hit California.
Chinese involved in commercial fishing along the West Coast. In 1888, there were more than 2,000 Chinese in thirty camps, mostly along the San Francisco Bay and in the Monterey and San Diego areas.

19th Century, Antebellum, Queen Victoria

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I On November 6, 1817, died the Princess Charlotte, only child of the Prince Regent, and heir to the crown of England. Her short life had hardly been a happy one. By nature impulsive, capricious, and vehement, she had always longed for liberty; and she had never possessed it. She had been brought up among violent family quarrels, had been early separated from her disreputable and eccentric mother, and handed over to the care of her disreputable and selfish father. When she was seventeen, he decided to marry her off to the Prince of Orange; she, at first, acquiesced; but, suddenly falling in love with Prince Augustus of Prussia, she determined to break off the engagement. This was not her first love affair, for she had previously carried on a clandestine correspondence with a Captain Hess. Prince


Augustus was already married, morganatically, but she did not know it, and he did not tell her. While she was spinning out the negotiations with the Prince of Orange, the allied sovereigns—it was June, 1814—arrived in London to celebrate their victory. Among them, in the suite of the Emperor of Russia, was the young and handsome Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg. He made several attempts to attract the notice of the Princess, but she, with her heart elsewhere, paid very little attention. Next month the Prince Regent, discovering that his daughter was having secret meetings with Prince Augustus, suddenly appeared upon the scene and, after dismissing her household, sentenced her to a strict seclusion in Windsor Park. ” God Almighty grant me patience!” she exclaimed, falling on her knees in an agony of agitation: then she jumped up, ran down the backstairs and out into the street, hailed a passing cab, and drove to her mother’s house in Bayswater. She was discovered, pursued, and at length, yielding to the persuasions of her uncles, the Dukes of York and Sussex, of Brougham, and of the Bishop of Salisbury, she returned to Carlton House at two o’clock in the morning. She was immured at Windsor, but no more was heard of the Prince of Orange. Prince Augustus, too, disappeared. The way was at last open to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg.1

This Prince was clever enough to get round the Regent, to impress the Ministers, and to make friends with another of the Princess’s uncles, the Duke of Kent. Through the Duke he was able to communicate privately with the Princess, who now declared that he was necessary to her happiness. When, after Waterloo, he was in Paris, the Duke’s aide-de-camp carried letters backwards and forwards across the Channel. In January 1816 he was invited to England, and in May the marriage took place.2

The character of Prince Leopold contrasted strangely with that of his wife. The younger son of a German princeling, he was at this time twenty-six years of age; he had served with distinction in the war against Napoleon; he had shown considerable diplomatic skill at the Congress of Vienna;3 and he was now to try his hand at the task of taming a tumultuous Princess.

Cold and formal in manner, collected in speech, careful in action, he soon dominated the wild, impetuous, generous creature by his side. There was much in her, he found, of which he could not approve. She quizzed, she stamped, she roared with laughter; she had very little of that self-command which is especially required of princes; her manners were abominable. Of the latter he was a good judge, having moved, as he himself explained to his niece many years later, in the best society of Europe, being in fact ” what is called in French de la fleur des pens.” There was continual friction, but every scene ended in the same way. Standing before him like a rebellious boy in petticoats, her body pushed forward, her hands behind her back, with flaming cheeks and sparkling eyes, she would declare at last that she was ready to do whatever he wanted. ” If you wish it, I will do it,” she would say. ” I want nothing for myself,” he invariably answered; ” when I press something on you, it is from a conviction that it is for your interest and for your good.” 1

Here he had met Prince Leopold, who had been struck by his ability, and, on, his marriage, brought him to England as his personal physician. A curious fate awaited this young man; many were the gifta which the future held in store for him—many and various—influence, power, mystery, unhappiness, a broken heart. At Claremont his position was a very humble one; but the Princess took a fancy to him, called him ” Stocky,” and romped with him along the corridors. Dyspeptic by constitution, melancholic by temperament, he could yet be lively on occasion, and was known as a

George IV

wit in Coburg. He was virtuous, too, and observed the royal rainage with approbation. ” My master,” he wrote in his diary, ” is the best of all husbands in all the five quarters of the globe; and his wife bears him an amount of love, the greatness of which can only be compared with the English national debt.” Before long he gave proof of another quality—a quality which was to colour the whole of his life—cautious sagacity. When, in the spring of 1817, it was known that the Princess was expecting a child, the post of one of her physicians-in-ordinary was offered to him, and he had the good sense to refuse it. He perceived that his colleagues would be jealous of him, that his advice would probably not be taken, but that, if anything were to go wrong, it would be certainly the foreign doctor who would be blamed. Very soon, indeed, he came to the opinion that the low diet and constant bleedings, to which the unfortunate Princess was subjected, were an error; he drew the Prince aside, and begged him to communicate this opinion to the English doctors; but it was useless. The fashionable lowering treatment was continued for months. On November 5, at nine o’clock in the evening, after a labour of over fifty hours, the Princess was delivered of a dead boy. At midnight her exhausted strength gave way. Then, at last, Stockmar consented to see her; he went in, and found her obviously dying, while the doctors were plying her with wine. She seized his hand and pressed it. ” They have made me tipsy,” she said. After a little he left her, and was already in the next room when he heard her call out in her loud voice: “Stocky! Stocky!” As he ran back the death-rattle was in her throat. She tossed herself violently from side to side; then suddenly drew up her legs, and it was over.

The Prince, after hours of watching, had left the room for a few moments’ rest; and Stockmar had now to tell him that his wife was dead. At first he could not be made to realise what had happened. On their way to her room he sank down on a chair while Stockmar knelt beside him: it was all a dream; it was impossible. At last, by the bed, he, too, knelt down and kissed the cold hands. Then rising and exclaiming, ” Now I am quite desolate. Promise me never to leave me,” he threw himself into Stockmar’s arms.1



The tragedy at Claremont was of a most upsetting kind. The royal kaleidoscope had suddenly shifted, and nobody could tell how the new pattern would arrange itself. The succession to the throne, which had seemed so satisfactorily settled, now became a matter of urgent doubt.

George III was still living, an aged lunatic, at Windsor, completely impervious to the impressions of the outer world. Of his seven sons, the youngest was of more than middle age, and none had legitimate offspring. The outlook, therefore, was ambiguous. It seemed highly improbable that the Prince Regent, who had lately been obliged to abandon his stays, and presented a preposterous figure of debauched obesity,1 could ever again, even on the supposition that he divorced his wife and re-married, become the father of a family. Besides the Duke of Kent, who must be noticed separately, the other brothers, in order of seniority, were the Dukes of York, Clarence, Cumberland, Sussex, and Cambridge; their situations and prospects require a brief description. The Duke of York, whose escapades in times past with Mrs. Clarke and the army had brought him into trouble, now divided his life between London and a large, extravagantly ordered and extremely uncomfortable country house where he occupied himself with racing, whist, and improper stories. He was remarkable among the princes for one reason: he was the only one of them—so we are informed by a highly competent observer—who had the feelings of a gentleman. He had been long married to the Princess Royal of Prussia, a lady who rarely went to bed and was perpetually surrounded by vast numbers of dogs, parrots, and monkeys.2 They had no children. The Duke of Clarence had lived for many years in complete obscurity with Mrs. Jordan, the actress, in Bushey Park. By her he had had a large family of sons and daughters, and had appeared, in effect, to be married to her, when he suddenly separated from her and offered to marry Miss Wykeham, a crazy woman of large fortune, who, however, would have nothing to say to him. Shortly afterwards Mrs. Jordan died in distressed circumstances in Paris.1 The Duke of Cumberland was probably the most unpopular man in England. Hideously ugly, with a distorted eye, he was bad-tempered and vindictive in private, a violent reactionary in politics, and was subsequently suspected of murdering his valet and of having carried on an amorous intrigue of an extremely scandalous kind.2 He had lately married a German Princess, but there were as yet no children by the marriage. The Duke of Sussex had mildly literary tastes and collected books.3 He had married Lady Augusta Murray, by whom he had two children, but the marriage, under the Royal Marriages Act, was declared void. On Lady Augusta’s death, he married Lady Cecilia Buggin; she changed her name to Underwood; but this marriage also was void. Of the Duke of Cambridge, the youngest of the brothers, not very much was known. He lived in Hanover, wore a blonde wig, chattered and fidgeted a great deal, and was unmarried.1

Besides his seven sons, George III had five surviving daughters. Of these, two—the Queen of Wiirtemberg and the Duchess of Gloucesterwere married and childless. The three unmarried princesses—Augusta, Elizabeth, and Sophia—’ were all over forty.


The fourth son of George III was Edward,

Duke of Kent. He was now fifty years of age—■ a tall, stout, vigorous man, highly-coloured, with bushy eyebrows, a bald top to his head, and what hair he had carefully dyed a glossy black. His dress was extremely neat, and in his whole appearance there was a rigidity which did not belie his character. He had spent his early life in the army—at Gibraltar, in Canada, in the West Indies—and, under the influence of military training, had become at first a disciplinarian and at last a martinet. In 1802, having been sent to Gibraltar to restore order in a mutinous garrison, he was recalled for undue severity, and his active career had come to an end. Since then he had spent his life regulating his domestic arrangements with great exactitude, busying himself with the affairs of his numerous dependents, designing clocks, and struggling to restore order to his finances, for, in spite of his being, as someone said who knew him well “regle comme du papier a musique” and in spite of an income of £24,000 a year, he was hopelessly in debt. He had quarrelled with most of his brothers, particularly with the Prince Regent, and it was only natural that he should have joined the political Opposition and become a pillar of the Whigs. What his political opinions may actually have been is open to doubt; it has often been asserted that he was a Liberal, or even a Radical; and, if we are to believe Robert Owen, he was a necessitarian Socialist. His relations with Owen— the shrewd, gullible, high-minded, wrong-headed, illustrious and preposterous father of Socialism and Co-operation—were curious and characteristic. He talked of visiting the Mills at New Lanark; he did, in fact, preside at one of Owen’s public meetings; he corresponded with him on confidential terms, and he even (so Owen assures us) returned, after his death, from “the sphere of spirits ” to give encouragement to the Owenites on earth. ” In an especial manner,” says Owen, ” I have to name the very anxious feelings of the spirit of his Royal Highness the late Duke of Kent (who early informed me there were no titles in the spiritual spheres into which he had entered), to benefit, not a class, a sect, a party, or any particular country, but the whole of the human race through futurity.” ” His whole spiritproceeding with me has been most beautiful,” Owen adds, ” making his own appointments; and never in one instance has this spirit not been punctual to the minute he had named.” But Owen was of a sanguine temperament. He also numbered among his proselytes President Jefferson, Prince Metterrrich, and Napoleon; so that some uncertainty must still linger over the Duke of Kent’s views. But there is no uncertainty about another circumstance: his Royal Highness borrowed from Robert Owen, on various occasions, various sums of money which were never repaid and amounted in all to several hundred pounds.1 After the death of the Princess Charlotte it was clearly important, for more than one reason, that the Duke of Kent should marry. From the point of view of the nation, the lack of heirs in the reigning family seemed to make the step almost obligatory; it was also likely to be highly expedient from the point of view of the Duke. To marry as a public duty, for the sake of the royal succession, would surely deserve some recognition from a grateful country. When the Duke of York had married he had received a settlement of £25,000 a year. Why should not the Duke of Kent look forward to an equal sum? But the situation was not quite simple. There was the Duke of Clarence to be considered; he was the elder brother, and, if he married, would clearly have the prior claim. On the other hand, if the Duke of Kent married, it was important to remember that he would be making a serious sacrifice: a lady was involved.

i Crawford. 80. lift.

i Stockmar, 112-3; Letters, I, 8; Crawford, 27-80; Owen, 193-4, 197-8, 199, 229.

The Duke, reflecting upon all these matters with careful attention, happened, about a month after his niece’s death, to visit Brussels, and learnt that Mr. Creevey was staying in the town. Mr. Creevey was a close friend of the leading Whigs and an inveterate gossip; and it occurred to the Duke that there could be no better channel through which to communicate his views upon the situation to political circles at home. Apparently it did not occur to him that Mr. Creevey was malicious and might keep a diary. He therefore sent for him on some trivial pretext, and a remarkable conversation ensued.

After referring to the death of the Princess, to the improbability of the Regent’s seeking a divorce, to the childlessness of the Duke of York, and to the possibility of the Duke of Clarence marrying, the Duke adverted to his own position. ” Should the Duke of Clarence not marry,” he said, ” the next prince in succession is myself, and although I trust I shall be at all times ready to obey any call my country may make upon me, God only knows the sacrifice it will be to make, whenever I shall think it my duty to become a married man. It is now seven-and twenty years that Madame St. Laurent and I have lived together: we are of the same age, and have been in all climates, and in all difficulties together, and you may well imagine, Mr. Creevey, the pang it will occasion me to part with her. I put it to your own feelings—in the event of any separation between you and Mrs. Creevey. . . . As for Madame St. Laurent herself, I protest I don’t know what is to become of her if a marriage is to be forced upon me; her feelings are already so agitated upon the subject.” The Duke went on to describe how, one morning, a day or two after the Princess Charlotte’s death, a paragraph had appeared in the Morning Chronicle, alluding to the possibility of his marriage. He had

received the newspaper at breakfast together with his letters, and ” I did as is my constant practice, I threw the newspaper across the table to Madame St. Laurent, and began to open and read my letters. I had not done so but a very short time, when my attention was called to an extraordinary noise and a strong convulsive movement in Madame St. Laurent’s throat. For a short time I entertained serious apprehensions for her safety; and when, upon her recovery, I enquired into the occasion of this attack, she pointed to the article in the Morning Chronicle” The Duke then returned to the subject of Jhe Duke of Clarence. ” My brother the Duke of Clarence is the elder brother, and has certainly the right to marry if he chooses, and I would not interfere with him on any account. If he wishes to be king—to be married and have children, poor man—God help him! let him do y so. For myself—I am a man of no ambition, and wish only to remain as I am. . . . Easter, you know, falls very early this year—the 22nd of March. If the Duke of Clarence does not take any step before that time, I must find some pretext to reconcile Madame St. Laurent to my going to England for a short time. When once there, it will be easy for me to consult with

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my friends as to the proper steps to be taken. Should the Duke of Clarence do nothing before that time as to marrying it will become my duty, no doubt, to take some measures upon the subject myself.” Two names, the Duke said, had been mentioned in this connection—those of the Princess of Baden and the Princess of SaxeCoburg. The latter, he thought, would perhaps be the better of the two, from the circumstance of Prince Leopold being so popular with the nation; but before any other steps were taken, he hoped and expected to see justice done to Madame St. Laurent. ” She is,” he explained, ” of very good family, and has never been an actress, and I am the first and only person who ever lived with her. Her disinterestedness, too, has been equal to her fidelity. When she first came to me it was upon £100 a year. That sum was afterwards raised to £400, and finally to £1000; but when my debts made it necessary for me to sacrifice a great part of my income, Madame St. Laurent insisted upon again returning to her income of £400 a year. If Madame St. Laurent is to return to live amongst her friends, it must be in such a state of independence as to command their respect. I shall not require very much, but a certain number of servants and a carriage are essentials.” As to his own settlement, the Duke observed that he would expect the Duke of York’s marriage to be considered the precedent. ” That,” he said, ” was a marriage for the succession, and £25,000 for income was settled, in addition to all his other income, purely on that account. I shall be contented with the same arrangement, without making any demands grounded on the difference of the value of money in 1792 and at present. As for the payment of my debts,” the Duke concluded, ” I don’t call them great. The nation, on the contrary, is greatly my debtor.” Here a clock struck, and seemed to remind the Duke that he had an appointment; he rose, and Mr. Creevey left him.

Who could keep such a communication secret? Certainly not Mr. Creevey. He hurried off to tell the Duke of Wellington, who was very much amused, and he wrote a long account of it to Lord Sefton, who received the letter “very apropos,” while a surgeon was sounding his bladder to ascertain whether he had a stone. ” I never saw a fellow more astonished than he was,” wrote Lord Sefton in his reply, ” at seeing me laugh as soon as the operation was over. Nothing could be more first-rate than the royal Edward’s ingenuousness. One does not know which to admire most—the delicacy of his attachment to Madame St. Laurent, the refinement of his sentiments towards the Duke of Clarence, or his own perfect disinterestedness in pecuniary matters.”1 As it turned out, both the brothers decided to marry. The Duke of Kent, selecting the Princess of Saxe-Coburg in preference to the Princess of Baden, was united to her on May 29, 1818. On June 11, the Duke of Clarence followed suit with a daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Meiningen. But they were disappointed in their financial expectations; for though the Government brought forward proposals to increase their allowances, together with that of the Duke of Cumberland, the motions were defeated in the House of Commons. At this the Duke of Wellington was not surprised. “By God!” he said, “there is a great deal to be said about that. They are the damnedest millstones about the necks of any Government that can be imagined. They have insulted—personally insulted—two-thirds of the gentlemen of England, and how can it be wondered at that they take their revenge upon them in the House of Commons? It is their only opportunity, and I think, by God! they are quite right to use it.”1 Eventually, however, Parlia’ ment increased the Duke of Kent’s annuity by £6000.

i Creeyey, I, 267-T1.

The subsequent history of Madame St. Laurent has not transpired.


The new Duchess of Kent, Victoria Mary Louisa, was a daughter of Francis, Duke of SaxeCoburg-Saalfeld, and a sister of Prince Leopold. The family was an ancient one, being a branch of the great House of Wettin, which since the eleventh century had ruled over the March of Meissen on the Elbe. In the fifteenth century the whole possessions of the House had been divided between the Albertine and Ernestine branches: from the former descended the electors and kings of Saxony; the latter, ruling over Thuringia, became further subdivided into five branches, of which the duchy of Saxe-Coburg was one. This principality was very small, containing about 60,000 inhabitants, but it enjoyed independent and sovereign rights. During the disturbed years which followed the French Revolution, its affairs became terribly involved. The Duke was extravagant, and kept open house for the swarms of refugees, who fled eastward

19th Century Etiquette, Elderly Girls, Antebellum, Part 9

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A Brisk correspondent writes to us that she finds our restrictions as to the etiquette which single women should follow somewhat embarrassing. Being now thirty-five, and at the head of her father’s house, with no intention of ever marrying, she asks if she requires a chaperon; if it is necessary that she should observe the severe self-denial of not entering an artist’s studio without a guardian angel; if she must never allow a gentleman to pay for her theatre tickets; if she must, in short, assume a matron’s place in the world, and never enjoy a matron’s freedom.

From her letter we can but believe that this young lady of thirty-five is a very attractive person, and that she does “not look her age.” Still, as she is at the head of her father’s house, etiquette does yield a point and allows her to judge for herself as to the proprieties which must bend to her. Of course with every year of a woman’s life after twenty-five she becomes less and less the subject of chaperonage. For one thing, she is better able to judge of the world and its temptations; in the second place, a certain air which may not be less winning, but which is certainly more mature, has replaced the wild grace of a giddy girlhood. She has, with the assumption of

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years, taken on a dignity which, in its way, is fully the compensation for some lost bloom. Many people prefer it.

But we must say here that she is not yet, in European opinion, emancipated from that guardianship which society dispenses with for the youngest widow. She must have a “companion” if she is a rich woman; and if she is a poor one she must join some party of friends when she travels. She can travel abroad with her maid, but in Paris and other Continental cities a woman still young-looking had better not do this. She is not safe from insult nor from injurious suspicion if she signs herself “Miss” Smith, and is without her mother, an elderly friend, a companion, or party.

In America a woman can go anywhere and do almost anything without fear of insult. But in Europe, where the custom of chaperonage is so universal, she must be more circumspect.

As to visiting an artist’s studio alone, there is in art itself an ennobling and purifying influence which should be a protection. But we must not forget that saucy book by Maurice Sand, in which its author says that the first thing he observed in America was that women (even respectable ones) went alone to artists’ studios. It would seem wiser, therefore, that a lady, though thirty-five, should be attended in her visits to studios by a friend or companion. This simple expedient “silences envious tongues,” and avoids even the remotest appearance of evil.

In the matter of paying for tickets, if a lady of thirty-five wishes to allow a gentleman to pay for her

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admission to picture-galleries and theatres she has an indisputable right to do so. But we are not fighting for a right, only defining a law of etiquette, when we say that it is not generally allowed in the best society, abroad or here. In the case of young girls it is quite unallowable, but in the case of a lady of thirty-five it may be permitted as a sort of camaraderie, as one college friend may pay for another. The point is, however, a delicate one. Men, in the freedom of their clubs, recount to each other the clever expedients which many women of society use to extort from them boxes for the opera and suppers at Delmonico’s. A woman should remember that it may sometimes be Very inconvenient to young men who are invited by her to go to concerts and theatres to pay for these pleasures. Many a poor fellow who has become a defaulter has to thank for it the lady who first asked him to take her to Delmonico’s to supper. He was ashamed to tell her that he was poor, and he stole that he might not seem a churl.

Another phase of the subject is that a lady in permitting a gentleman to expend money for her pleasures assumes an obligation to him which time and chance may render oppressive.

With an old friend, however, one whose claim to friendship is well established, the conditions are changed. In his case there can be no question of obligation, and a woman may accept unhesitatingly any of those small attentions and kindnesses which friendly feeling may prompt him to offer to her.

Travelling alone with a gentleman escort was at one time allowed in the West. A Kentucky woman

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of that historic period, “before the war,” would not have questioned the propriety of it, and a Western man of to-day still has the desire to pay everything, everywhere, “for a lady.”

The increase in the population of the Western States and the growth of a wealthy and fashionable society in the large towns have greatly modified this spirit of unwise chivalry, and such customs are passing away even on the frontier. Mr. Howells’s novel, “The Lady of the Aroostook,” has acquainted American readers with the unkind criticism to which a young lady who travels in Europe without a-chaperon is subjected, and we believe that there are few mammas who would desire to see their daughters in the position of Miss Lydia Blood.

“An old maid,” as our correspondent playfully calls herself, may do almost anything without violating etiquette, if she consents to become a chaperon, and takes with her a younger person. Thus an aunt and niece can travel far and wide; the position of an elder sister is always dignified; the youthful head of a house has a right to assert herself–she must do it –therefore etiquette bows to her (as “nice customs courtesy to great kings”). There is very much in the appearance of a woman. It is a part of the injustice of nature that some people look coquettish who are not so. Bad taste in dress, a high color, a natural flow of spirits, or a loud laugh have often caused a very good woman to be misinterpreted. Such a woman should be able to sit in judgment upon herself; and remembering that in a great city, at a crowded theatre, or at a watering-place, judgments must be hasty and superficial,

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she should tone down her natural exuberance, anti-take with her a female companion who is of a different type from herself. Calm and cold Puritanical people may not be more respectable than the fresh-colored and laughing “old maids” of thirty-five, but they look more so, and in this world women must consult appearances. An elderly gift must even think how she looks. A woman who at a watering-place dresses conspicuously, wears a peignoir to breakfast, dyes her hair, or looks as if she did, ties a white blond veil over her locks and sits on a hotel piazza, showing her feet, may be the best, the most cultivated woman in the house, but a superficial observer will not think so. In the mind of every passer-by will lurk the feeling that she lacks the first grace of womanhood, modesty–and in the criticism of a crowd there is strength. A man passing such a person, and contrasting her with modestly dressed and unobtrusive ladies, would naturally form an unfavorable opinion of her; and were she alone, and her name entered on the books of the house as “Miss” Smith, he would not be too severe if he thought her decidedly eccentric, and certainly “bad style.” If, however, “Miss” Smith were very plain and quiet, and dressed simply and in good taste, or if she sat on the sands looking at the sea, or attended an invalid or a younger friend, then Miss Smith might be as independent as she pleased: she would suffer from no injurious comments. Even the foreigner, who does not believe in the eccentricities of the English mees, would have no word to say against her. A good-looking elderly girl might say, “There is, then, a premium

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on ugliness;” but that we do not mean. Handsome women can conduct themselves so well that the breath of reproach need not and does not touch them, and ugly women may and do sometimes gain an undeserved reproach.

There are some people who are born with what we call, for want of a better name, a pinchbeck air. Their jewellery never looks like real gold; their man her is always bad; they have the faux air of fashion, not the real one. Such people, especially if single, receive many a snub which they do not deserve, and to a woman of this style a companion is almost necessary. Fortunately there are almost always two women who can join forces in travelling or in living together, and the independence of such a couple is delightful. We have repeated testimony in English literature of the pleasant lives of the Ladies of Llangollen, of the lives of Miss Jewsbury and Lady Morgan, and of the model sisters Berry. In our own country we have almost abolished the idea that a companion is necessary for women of talent who are physicians or artists or musicians; but to those who are still in the trammels of private life we can say that the presence of a companion need not destroy their liberty, and it may add very much to their respectability and happiness. There is, no doubt, a great pleasure in the added freedom of life which comes to an elderly girl. “I can wear a velvet dress now,” said an exceedingly handsome woman on her thirtieth birthday. In England an unmarried woman of fifty is called “Mrs.,” if she prefers that title. So many delightful women are late in loving, so many

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are true to some buried love, so many are “elderly girls” from choice, and from no neglect of the stronger sex, that to them should be accorded all the respect which is supposed to accrue naturally to the married. “It takes a very superior woman to be an old maids” said Miss Sedgwick.

19th Century Etiquette of Dancing, Ballroom

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Complete Ball-Room Hand Book, 1858

Dance Instruction Manuals
Howe’s complete ball-room hand book, containing upwards of three hundred dances, including all the latest and most fashionable dances from the Library of Congress

There is no scene in which pleasure reigns more triumphantly than in the ball-room. The assemblage of fashion, of beauty, of elegance, and taste. The music rising with its voluptuous swell, the elegant attitudes and airy evolutions of graceful forms, the mirth in every step, unite to give to the spirits a buoyancy,to the heart a gayety, and to the passions a warmth, unequalled by any other species of amusement. Behold! that fair form, whose beauty, elegance, and grace render her the admiring object of attention to every eye; what a vigorous principle and amiable heart she must possess, to soften and subdue the feelings by that humility, modesty, and meekness, which furnish the sex with its brightest ornaments and most durable attractions. The following hints on Ball-Room Etiquette may be of use to persons unacquainted with dancing, or who have not been accustomed to attending balls with ladies.

In calling for the lady you have invited, be punctual at the hour appointed; if you order a carriage hand her in first, and sit opposite to her unless she requests you to change your position. In leaving the carriage you will presede the lady and assist her in descending, you will then conduct her to the ladies’ dressing. room, leaving her in charge of the maid, while you go to the gentlemen’s apartments to divest yourself of overcoat, hat, and boots, adjust your toilet, draw on your gloves, (white or colored). The lady in the meantime, after arranging her dress, retires to the ladies’ sitting-room, or awaits your arrival at the door of the dressing-room, according as the apartments may be arranged. Your first duty is to procure a programme for your partner, and introduce your friends, who place their names on her card for the dances engaged. You should always dance first, with your own partner, afterwards you may exchange partners with a friend or dance again with her, should she not be engaged.

The floor-managers give the order to the orchestra to commence, and who also take the lead in entering the ball-room. You either join in the promenade, or conduct your lady to a seat. Before taking your place in the set, await the signal from the managers or the call of the trumpet. Avoid rushing for places, which we regret to say is so prevalent m our public ball-rooms of the present day; such conduct is offensive to good breeding and derogatory to all rules of politeness, and if persisted in will tend materially to injure the character of such reunions, in the estimation of the enlightened and refined portion of our community, who take a pleasure in the enjoyment of this delightful accomplishment. In taking your position in the set, you ought to take the side, unless you: are well acquainted with the figure, as you will have an opportunity of observing the head couple’s movements, before it comes to your turn to commence.

The head of the sets of Quadrilles or Cotillon is that in which the top couples take their places, being always next to the top of the hall, which you may ascertain on inquiring of the managers. The head of country dances which are danced in lines, the ladies opposite the gentlemen, may be ascertained by giving left hand to your ladies right, so as to have her at your left side, the head of the line is behind you at the same time you are facing down the centre. While dancing, pay particular attention to the figures, as your carelessness may be a cause of embarrassment to ethers. Country dances most always require two couples to go through the figure; where all are perfectly acquainted with the dance, they can continue the figure without leaving a neutral couple, otherwise it would be more convenient for the couples who follow, to let the head couple pass down three couples before commencing.

There are a variety of country dances, in which the couples take their places, the same as in the first four in cotillons, and which may be danced in circles round the hall, or in lines formed the length of the hall. In taking your position in a quadrille, cotillon, or country dance, do not on any account leave your place, until the dance is ended. There is sometimes exhibited a laudable desire on the part of the gentleman to render himself agreeable, by procuring a seat for his lady in the interim of repose. Should all the cavaliers be equally desirous of administering to the comfort of their fair partners, during a momentary respite, what a ludicrous scene it would present. If the lady feels too fatigued to keep her place, the better way would be, to lead her to a seat, and then notify the managers, in case you cannot procure another couple to take your place. It often happens, that for want of knowing how the sets are numbered, a mistake may arise as to which of the side couples ought to take the lead, which may be easily ascertained, by observing that the first couple is at the head of the set, and the third couple to their right, so that in forward two, it is the third lady, and last gentleman, who perform the figure, immediately on the conclusion of the some, by the first four.

In dancing, let your steps be few, but well and easily performed, the feet should be raised but very little from the ground, the motions of the body should be easy and natural, prefering to lead your partner gracefully through the figure, than by exhibiting your agility by a vigorous display of your muscles,in the performance of an entre chats or a pigeons wing, which may do very well for a hornpipe, but would be quite out of place in a Quadrille or Cotillon. Attention should be particularly paid to giving the hands in a proper manner, to the avoiding of affectation in doing so, to keeping the united hands at a height suited to both parties, to shunning the slightest grasping or weighing upon the hands of another, to avoid twisting your partner

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round several times in the same place with hands crossed, instead of turning once round with both hands apart. At the conclusion of the dance conduct your partner to her seat, and pay her that attention which will be most likely to anticipate her wants; she may require her shawl, fan, or refreshments, these you may suggest without being improperly assiduous. Neither in the ball room, or in any other public place, be too ready to take offence. If an intentional insult should be offered, the presence of ladies should make your notice so slight, that none but the aggressor should be aware of it; a contrary line of conduct will not add to your reputation for courage or gallantry, a well bred lady will not thank you for making her a spectacle in a public room, a man of true courage will disguise his sentiments on such an occasion, and seek a proper time for explanation, rather than disturb the harmony of the company by an immediate exhibition of force in repelling the insult. If a lady should decline to dance with you, and afterwards dance with another gentleman, do not notice it; there may be many reasons too delicate to be inquired into which may have influenced her actions, personal preference and the various emotions of the heart, will furnish abundant cause for her decision, therefore do not insist upon the fulfillment to the letter of established regulations; if by indecorous conduct you thwarted her wishes, she would look upon you as a boor, whereas by a judicious blindness, you may probably secure her respect. Recollect the desire of imparting pleasure especially to the fair sex, is one of the essential qualifications of a gentleman.

When dancing with a lady to whom you are a stranger, be cautious in your conversation, not to attempt too much without at the same time being anti-social, trifling incidents may occur during the dance, which will afford a sufficient pretext for an agreeable remark. When the music ends, you bow to your partner, present your right arm, and lead her to her seat; should it happen to be occupied, you will politely ask her to what part of the hall she would like to be conducted; you also bow, as she takes her seat; you are not at liberty to sit by her side, unless you are on terms of intimacy. Should you wish to dance with a lady with whom you are not acquainted, apply first to your friends, should you have any present, who may be successful in procuring for you the desired introduction. If not, make application to one of the floor managers, who will introduce you, should he be intimate with her, Otherwise he may not present you without first demanding the consent of the lady. When introduced to a lady, be particular how you ask her to dance, and the manner in which you bow to her, and also of requesting to see her card; ladies are susceptible of first impressions, and it depends a good deal upon the manner of presenting yourself, whether they are agreeable or not: nothing prepossesses one in another’s favor so much, as a pleasing exterior and agreeable manner. Should a gentleman after being introduced

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to a lady, not know any better than ask her to dance, by saying, will you dance with me, and in presenting his arm poke his elbow into her face, before she has time to rise up, and in conducting her swing his body to and fro, not knowing how to keep the step, his arm on which the lady leans, is kept so loose that her hand is continually slipping, finally when he attempts to dance, his want of ear for the time, and ungainly movements, renders it a painful toil to his partner, in the very place where she most anticipates the fullest enjoyment.

It would be much more polite, to decline dancing altogether, regretting your inability to take part in so agreeable an amusement, than by too great a condescension to be obliging, attempt that which you would be only sure to mar.

In requesting a lady to dance, you stand at a proper distance, bend the body gracefully, accompanied by a slight motion of the right hand in front, you look at her with complaisance, and respectfully say, will you do me the honor to dance with me, or shall I have the pleasure of dancing with you, will you be pleased, or will you favor me with your hand for this or the next dance, remaining in the position you have assumed, until the lady signifies her intention, by saying, with pleasure sir, or I regret I am engaged sir, you then may request to see her card, or to be pleased to name the dance for which she is not engaged, and after having made the necessary arrangements you politely bow, and withdraw. Should there not be as many gentleman as ladies present, two ladies may be permitted to dance together, in order to fill up a set, or two gentlemen, should there be a want of ladies. But it would not be proper for ladies to refuse to dance with gentlemen, and afterwards dance together, or for gentlemen, after having refused to be introduced to ladies. There may be frequently seen in a ball room, young gentlemen so very particular and over-nice, that they consider it a remarkable condescension to dance with a lady, unless she happens to be very pretty and interesting. Those young exquisites rarely bring ladies with them, and are constantly boring their friends and the floor managers to be introduced to the best dancers, and the handsomest young ladies, they may happen to see in the room.

If a dispute should occur in a ball room, which arises more frequently through carelessness or inattention to the simplest rules of etiquette than from any other cause, application should be made to the managers, whose decision should be abided by. It often happens that a couple may stand too far from their vis-a-vis, or even turn their backs to them, and engage in conversation with those in another set. In the mean time a couple take their position in the set, not knowing that it was previously engaged, as soon as the music commences, the first couple claim their right of precedence, and thus by their carelessness, a dispute arises as to places, which might have been easily

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avoided, by being more attentive to the rules necessary to be observed on such occasions.

In taking your place in a set, be sure to secure a vis-a-vis, as you will by that means avoid being left alone, or under the necessity of removing to another set.

Avoid changing from one set to another, it may serve your purpose for the time, but will not add to your character for politeness.

You ought not to engage a lady, for more than four dances during the evening, as it may deprive her of the pleasure of dancing with those of her friends who may arrive at a later hour; besides much familiarity is out of place in a ball room.

Every lady should desist from dancing the moment she feels fatigued, or any difficulty in breathing, for it no longer affords either charm or pleasure, the steps and attitudes loose that easy elegance, that natural grace, which bestows upon dancers the most enchanting appearance.

In conducting a lady to the supper room, you present the right arm, and also on leaving. In ascending or descending, you may with propriety change sides, so that the lady may always have the inside. Before proceeding to the supper room, a military cotillon ending in a march, is customary in the New England States, in which all the sets fall into lines, headed by the managers or those deputed by them, capable of leading off the figure.

In entering the supper room, the head is opposite the door, should the tables run in that direction. If they are laid crosswise as you enter, the head may be either to the right or to the left of the entrance, according as it may have been decided on, by the managers. Should they not have made any previous arrangements, you proceed to the further end, followed by as many as can conveniently be seated. Each couple should keep their position in the lines, so that all may take their places at the table in regular order. There is often a reluctance on the part of some gentlemen to taking the head of the table, from the onerous duty it imposes upon them of carving. It ought to be the pleasing duty of every gentleman to provide for his fair partner, and if a fowl lay before him, requiring his service, he should not hesitate, but use his dexterity to the best of his knowledge. In requesting a lady to take wine, you say, shall I have the pleasure of taking a glass of wine with you? should she consent, you immediately pass the wine, and when ready, you meet her regards with a pleasing smile, politely bowing, holding the glass at the same time in year right hand, you partake of the contents.

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In taking your seat at the supper table, the lady takes her place, to the right of the gentleman.

It is not considered proper for a gentleman to eat with his gloves on, though a lady may do so without being contrary to etiquette.

Before rising from the supper table, wait a reasonable time, and observe if others are prepared to leave; if not, remain until the majority are ready, unless you are ambitious of attracting attention. In leaving, should there not be room enough to present your arm to the lady, let her precede you; when arrived at the door, conduct her to the ball room, or the ladies sitting room, which ever she may prefer, and as soon as dancing is resumed, be ready to take part, with your partner.

Should the lady desire to leave, before the ball is ended, you ought to apprise those to whom you and your lady are engaged, of your intentions to leave, and beg to be excused; you will then order a carriage, and see her safely home.

It is usual, before proceeding with a public ball to form a committee of arrangements, who appoint floor managers, Secretary, and Treasurer. The cards and circulars may be issued a fortnight in advance, directed and signed by the Secretary.

The floor managers, in selecting a hall, ought to see that it is well ventilated, with a smooth floor, free from dust, and nearly square, as being more convenient, particularly for waltzing.

A good Band is indispensable, one that can play in perfect harmony, and time, the most approved selections, from the latest and best composers.

In choosing the head of a new hall, the top may be placed at the end in which the orchestra is situated, if it is at the side, the end next to the ladies apartment should it enter into the hall, may be selected.

Halls already named, the Superintendent will inform you which is the head.

As a badge of distinction, a star, ribbon, bow, or sash, is usually worn by the floor managers.

In making arrangements for the supper, it is necessary to give directions, as to the head of the table, so that in leading into the supper room, the conducting couple will know where to proceed, all following and taking their places at the table in regular order.

The floor managers alone, have the ordering of the music, and the giving directions to the band; in filling up the sets, they may be assisted procure partners, for those who are net dancing.

Are usually composed of relations and friends, and are consequently free from that restraint, which characterizes mixed assemblies cards of invitation are issued a week or ten days in advance, in the name of the lady of the house, in which the ball is to take place, filled with the name &c., and directed in an unsealed envelope. It is to her the answer is to be addressed on the following or succeeding day. A lady also through a friend may give a verbal invitation, which should not be refused, because it is not couched in the formal exactness of a card.

Before entering a private ball room, the usual respects to the lady and gentleman of the house, should not be forgotten. If you come rather late, and they happen to be in the ball room, you seek the first opportunity to make your obeisance to them. The necessary introduction is obtained through the lady or gentleman of the house, or some member of the family.

When introduced to a lady, if not engaged, she will not refuse to dance with you, she may have reasonable grounds to decline, but should she dance with another, it would be considered a breach of etiquette. An introduction at private parties through the Mrs. and Master of the house, may entitle you to further acquaintance; under these circumstances, you must await subsequent recognition to come from the lady, in whose expression you may easily divine whether it will be agreeable or not.

An introduction at a public ball affords you no claim to an intimacy with your partner afterwards.

No gentleman should attempt to dance without being acquainted with the figures, for his blunders place the lady who does him the honor to dance, in an embarrassing situation; the figures are easily learned and sufficient knowledge of them can be obtained from a good master in a few lessons.

When the hour of supper has arrived, you select some lady and request leave to conduct her to the supper table, you remain with her, seeing that she has all that she desires, and then conduct her back to the ball room.

In leaving a private ball room, you should not allow your departure to interfere with the arrangements of the party; you will seek out your hostess and host in a quiet manner, and return them your grateful acknowledgments for the enjoyment you have received, and regret that you must leave so soon.

The etiquette of the ball room differs in the city from that of the country. A gentleman may ask any lady to dance with him at a Is invariably, black superfine dress coat, pair of well fitting pants of the same color, white vest, black or white cravat, tie or stock, pair patent leather boots, low heels, pair white kid gloves, white linen cambric handkerchief slightly perfumed, the hair well dressed, without its being too much curled; the whole should be in perfect keeping with the general appearance, and remarkable for its elegance and good taste.

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Country ball, and after an introduction may enter into conversation or promenade with her round the hall, without being considered guilty of the least presumption in so doing. But, in the city, a regular introduction must take place before the gentleman can be entitled to offer himself as a partner, and though he may be intimately acquainted with the lady, it would be but proper for him to ask the consent of the person accompanying her, as well as the lady herself. A Gentleman having two ladies under his charge, may address a stranger, and offer him a partner, asking his name previously to an introduction, and mentioning that of the lady to him or not, as he chooses.

The first thing for a lady to consider, is simplicity of attire, whether the material be cheap or costly–such simplicity as produces the finest effect with the least apparent labor and the smallest number of articles.

The next thing to be considered is elegance of make and propriety of colors. Fashion in general will determine the former; but the latter must be left to individual taste.

In the selection of colors a lady must consider her figure and her complexion. If slender and sylph-like, white or very light colors are generally supposed to be suitable; but if inclined to embonpoint, they should be avoided, as they have the reputation of apparently adding to the hulk of the wearer.

Pale colors, such as pink, salmon, light blue, maize, apple green and white are most in vogue among the blonds, as being thought to harmonize with their complexions. Brilliant colors are more generally selected by the brunettes, for a similar reason.

Harmony of dress involves the idea of contrast. A pale girl looks more wan, and a brunette looks less dark, contrasted with strong colors. But as the blonde and the brunette are both beautiful in themselves, when the contour of the countenance and figure is good, a beautiful young gill blond or brunette, may without fear adopt either

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style, or both, for a change; for a uniform mode of dressing, assumes at last the character of mannerism and formality–a character which is incompatible with the highest excellence in any of the fine arts.

The material of the dress should be of the lightest description–the more gossamer-like the better.

A rich satin slip should always have either crape or net over it; and it is the generally received opinion, that the least trimming the dress has the better. On this point, however, individual taste may sometimes successfully make a deviation from the general rule.

Ladies, also, should remember that gentlemen look more to the effect of dress, in setting off the agate and countenance of a lady, than its cost. Very few gentlemen have any idea of the value of ladies’ dresses. This is a subject for female criticism. Beauty of person and elegance of manners in woman will always command more admiration from the opposite sex than beauty, elegance, or the various fashionable costumes of the day.

It is the fashion at present to wear long dresses; but in having the dresses thus made, orders should be given not to have them so long as to touch the floor; for in that case they are apt to be torn before half the evening is over. It is almost impossible to thread the mazes of the dance without such an accident, if the dress should sweep the floor, except with a careful and accomplished cavalier.

The head-dress should be in unison with the robe, though ladies who have a profusion of beautiful hair require little or no artificial ornament; a simple flower is all that is necessary. To those who are less gifted in this respect wreaths are generally thought becoming.

Tall ladies should avoid wearing anything across the head, as that adds to the apparent height. A “chaplet” or a “drooping wreath” would, therefore, be preferable. White satin shoes are worn with light colored dresses; and black or bronze with dark ones. The gloves should fit to a nicety.

Mourning in any stage–full mourning or half mourning–has always a sombre appearance, and is, therefore, unbecoming in a ball-room; but since the custom of decorating it with scarlet has coma into vogue, an air of cheerfulness has been imparted to its melancholy appearance.

A black satin dress looks best when covered with net, tarlatan, or crape–the latter only to be worn in mourning.

Ladies should avoid affectation, frowning, quizzing, or the slightest indication of ill-temper, or they will infalliably be marked.

No loud laughter, loud talking, staring or any act which appertains to the hoyden, should be seen in a lady’s behaviour.

As it is considered a violation of etiquette, for man and wife to dance together, they should avoid doing so.

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The following Rules are taken from a Foreign work on Dancing.

“These amusements presuppose a fortune and good ton; the practice of society, therefore, and consequently a forgetfulness of the precepts of politeness in respect to them, would be truly preposterous.

When you wish to give a dance, you send out invitations a week Beforehand, that the ladies may have time to prepare articles tot their toilet.

If it is to be a simple evening party, in which we may wear a summer walking-dress, the mistress of the house gives verbal invitations, and does not omit to apprize her friends of this circumstance, or they might appear in unsuitable dresses If, on the contrary, the soirée is to be in reality a ball, the invitations are written, or what is better, printed, and expressed in the third person.

A room appropriated for the purpose, and furnished with cloakpins, to hang up the shawls and other dresses of the ladies, is almost indespensible. Domestics should be there also, to aid them in taking off and putting on their outside garments.

We are not obliged to go exactly at the appointed hour; it is even fashionable to go an hour later. Married ladies are accompanied by their husbands; unmarried ones, by their mother, or by a chaperon. These last ladies place themselves behind the dancers; the master of the house then goes before one and another, procures seats for them, and mingles again among the gentleman who are standing, and who form groups or walk about the room.

A lady cannot refuse the invitation of a gentleman to dance, unless she has already accepted that of another, for she would be guilty of an incivility which might occasion trouble; she would, moreover, seem to show contempt for him whom she refused, and would expose herself to receive in secret an ill compliment from the mistress of the house.

Married or young ladies can not leave a ball-room, or any other party, alone. The former should be accompanied by one or two other married ladies, and the latter by their mother, or by a lady to represent her.

Ladies should avoid talking too much; it will occasion remarks. It has also a bad appearance to whisper continually in the ear of your partner.

The master of the house should see that all the ladies dance; he should take notice particularly of those who seem to serve as the drapery to the walls of the ball-room (or wall-flowers as the familiar expression is), and should see that they are invited to dance. But he must do this wholly unperceived, in order not to wound the self-esteem of the unfortunate ladies.

Gentlemen whom the master of the house requests to dance with

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these ladies, should be ready to accede to his wish, and even appear pleased at dancing with a person thus recommended to their notice.

Ladies who dance much, should be very careful not to boast before those who dance but little or not at all, of the great number of dances for which they are engaged in advance. They should also, without being perceived, recommend to these less fortunate ladies, gentlemen of their acquaintance.

In giving the hand for ladies’ chain or any other figures, those dancing should wear a smile, and accompany it with a polite inclination of the head, in the manner of a salutation. At the end of the dance, the gentleman reconducts the lady to her place, bows and thanks her for the honor which she has conferred. She also bows in silence, smiling with a gracious air.

In these assemblies, we should conduct ourselves with reserve and politeness towards all present, although they may be unknown to us.

Persons who have no ear for music, that is so say, a false one, ought to refrain from dancing.

Never hazard taking part in a quadrille, unless you know how to dance tolerably; for if you are a novice, or but little skilled, you would bring disorder into the midst of pleasure. Being once engaged to take part in a dance, if the figures are not familiar, be careful not to advance first. You can in this way govern your steps by those who go before you. Beware, also, of taking your place in a set of dancers more skilful than yourself. When an unpractised dancer makes a mistake, we may apprize him of his error; but it would be very impolite to have the air of giving him a lesson.

Dance with grace and modesty, neither affect to make a parade of your knowledge; refrain from great leaps and ridiculous jumps, which would attract the attention of all toward you.

In a private ball or party, it is proper to show still more reserve, and not manifest more preference for one gentleman than another: you should dance with all who ask properly.

In public balls, a gentleman offers his partner refreshments, but which she very seldom accepts, unless she is well acquainted with him. But in private parties, the persons who receive the company send round cake and other refreshments, of which every one helps themselves. Near the end of the evening, in a well-regulated ball, it is customary to have a supper; but in a soiree without great preparation, we may dispense with a supper; refreshments are, however, necessary; and not to have them would be the greatest impoliteness.

We should retire incognito, in order not to disturb the master and mistress of the house; and we should make them, during the week, visit of thanks, at which we may converse of the pleasure of the ball, and the good selection of the company.”

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There are various ways of originating Balls. The most common one is for several persons, interested in dancing, to meet together and choose a Committee of Arrangements, or Managers as they are sometimes times called, whose duty it is to procure a hall, engage a quadrille band, make arrangements for the supper, and issue cards of invitations to such persons as they may wish to have attend. It should be the especial duty of some one or more of the committee to attend to each of the above duties. The number of the committee varies from five to twenty, according to the amount of services to be performed. If the invitations are to be sent to adjoining towns, at least one of the committee should be chosen from each, or in case there are several villages in the town, one from each village.

On the evening of the ball, two or more of the committee should be chosen as floor managers, to see that the sets are full, and that all persons wishing for partners are supplied, and also to direct the music when to commence, as well as to decide any questions that may arise in the ball-room.

Military and fire engine companies, clubs and associations often give a single ball, or perhaps a series of parties–the same committee officiating during the different evenings.

It is the custom for teachers of dancing, in connection with their schools, to open their rooms to the public after nine o’clock in the evening, and any proper person may for a small sum (usually fifty cents,) join in the amusements. These parties usually close about twelve o’clock, while bails are generally continued some hours later.

Sometimes balls are got up by some speculator, who generally manages the whole matter himself. Balls of this class are not always select, as the invitations are given to the public in general, and improper persons too frequently gain admission.

In getting up balls and parties, it adds to their reputation to have the “Cards of Invitation” and the “Order of Dances and Engagements” printed neatly, as well as correctly. At common printing offices the facilities are not always such as to get up these matters in the best manner; but, in all large cities, offices may be found, where particular attention is given to this description of work. In Boston, for instance, at No. 4 Spring Lane. Wright & Potter give special care to such styles of printing, and his office is supplied with an immense amount of material especially adapted to the work, specimens of which they are pleased to exhibit to all who may wish to examine.

The Band named on the opposite page is one of the oldest and best Quadrille Bands in the United States. Mr. B. A. Burditt is the agent 69 Court Street, over Clapp’s Music Store.


The floor-managers gave the order to the orchestra to commence, and also took the lead in entering the Victorian ballroom. The Victorian gentleman either joined in the promenade, or conducted his lady to a seat.  Upon entering the ballroom, the gentleman’s first duty was to procure a program for his partner, and to introduce his friends, who placed their names on her card for the d

ances engaged. The sound of a trumpet was generally the signal for the assembly to take their positions on the floor for dancing. A gentleman would, in all cases, dance the first set with the lady in company with him, after which he could exchange partners with

a friend; or dance again with her, as circumstances or inclination would dictate.

A Victorian lady could not refuse the invitation of a gentleman to dance, unless she had already accepted that of another, for she would be guilty of an incivility. Ladies who danced often, would be very careful not to boast of the great number of dances for which they were engaged in advance before those who danced but little or not at all. They would also, without being seen, recommend these less fortunate ladies to gentlemen of their acquaintance.  At a private ball or party, a lady would show reserve, and not show more preference for one gentleman than another; moreover, she would dance with all who asked properly.

The master of the house would see that all the ladies danced; he would take notice particularly of those who appeared to be wall-flowers, and would see that they were invited to dance.  But he would do this wholly unperceived, in order not to wound the self-esteem of the unfortunate ladies. Gentlemen, whom the master of the house requested to dance with these ladies, would be ready to accede to his wish, and even appear pleased at dancing with the lady recommended. Frequently, some young Victorian gentlemen breached the rules of proper etiquette; they were so very particular that they considered it a remarkable inconvenience to dance with a lady unless she happened to be very pretty and interesting. Those young men rarely brought ladies with them, and were constantly bothering their friends and the floor managers to be introduced to the best dancers and the prettiest young ladies that they saw in the room. If there were not as many gentlemen as ladies present; two ladies were permitted to dance together in order to fill up a set, or two gentlemen could dance if there were a shortage of ladies. But it was not proper for ladies to refuse to dance with gentlemen, and afterwards dance together, or for gentlemen to do the same after having refused to be introduced to ladies. Engaged persons would not dance together too often; it was in bad taste; furthermore, it was considered a violation of etiquette for man and wife to dance together.

When introduced to a lady, a Victorian gentleman was particular about how he asked her to dance, and the manner in which he bowed to her, and also of requesting to see her card; ladies were susceptible of first impressions, and it depended a good deal upon the manner in which the gentleman first presented himself.  In requesting a lady to dance, he stood at a proper distance, bent the body gracefully, accompanied by a slight motion of the right hand in front, he looked at her amicably, and respectfully said, “Will you do me the honor to dance with me;” or “Shall I have the pleasure of dancing with you;” or “Will you be pleased, or will you favor me with your hand for this or the next dance.” He remained in the position he had assumed until the lady signified her intention, by saying, “With pleasure sir,” or “I regret I am engaged sir.” The gentleman would then place his name on her card, and after having made the necessary arrangements, he would politely bow and withdraw.

When a Victorian gentleman danced with a lady to whom he was a stranger, he was cautious in his conversation.  When the music ended, he bowed to his partner, presented his right arm, and led her to her seat; if the seat was occupied, he would politely ask her to what part of the hall she would like to be conducted; he would also bow as she took her seat.  The gentleman was not at liberty to sit by her side, unless he was on terms of intimacy.  Would he wish to dance with a lady with whom he was not acquainted, he applied first to his friends, who would try to procure for him the desired introduction.  If not, the Victorian gentleman would make application to one of the floor managers, who would introduce him if he was acquainted with the lady; otherwise the floor manager would not present him without first demanding the consent of the lady. The etiquette of the ballroom differed slightly in the country.  In country ballrooms, generally a gentleman would ask any lady to dance with him and, after an introduction, could enter into conversation or promenade with her through the room without being considered guilty of breeching proper etiquette.

Victorian gentlemen would attempt to entertain the ladies who danced with them with a little conversation, hopefully more novel than the weather and the heat of the room; and in round dances they would be particularly careful to guard them from collisions, and to see that their dresses were not torn. A gentleman would not engage a lady for more than four dances during the evening, as it could deprive her of the pleasure of dancing with those of her friends who may arrive at a later hour; besides much familiarity was out of place in a ballroom. At the end of the dance, the gentleman conducted the lady to her place, bowed and thanked her for the honor which she had presented. She also bowed in silence, smiling with a gracious air.

Nevertheless, no Victorian gentleman could take advantage of a ballroom introduction because it was given with a view to one dance only, and would certainly not warrant a gentleman in going any further than asking a lady to dance the second time. Out of the ballroom such an introduction had no meaning whatsoever.  If those who had danced together met the next day in the street, the gentleman would not venture to bow, unless the lady chose to recognize him—if he did bow, he would not expect any acknowledgment of his greeting nor take offense if it was withheld.

In a private Victorian ball or party, it was proper for a lady to show reserve, and not manifest more preference for one gentleman than another— she would dance with all who asked properly. Ladies would avoid talking too much during the dance; it was also in bad taste to whisper continually in the ear of her partner. Ladies would avoid affectation, frowning, quizzing, or the slightest indication of ill-temper.  No loud laughter, loud talking, or staring would be seen in a lady’s behavior.  It was recommended that every lady stop dancing the moment she felt fatigued, or had any difficulty in breathing.  Married or young ladies could not leave a ballroom, or any other party, alone. The former would be accompanied by one or two other married ladies, and the latter by their mother, or by a lady to represent her.


Assemblies, such as Victorian balls, would be left quietly in order not to disturb the master and mistress of the house. If the party was small, it was permissible to bow to the hostess; but if the company was large, this was not necessary.  After a private ball it was proper etiquette to call at the house within a week to discuss the pleasure of the ball, and the good selection of the company; but it was also sufficient to leave a card.

19th Century Royalty, Queen Victoria, Antebellum Part 2

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Queen Victoria by Lytton Strachey, 1921
Chapter III. Lord Melbourne

This work is in the public domain

More of this Feature
I. Antecedents
II. Childhood
III. Lord Melbourne
IV. Marriage
V. Lord Palmerston
VI. Last Years of the Prince Consort
VII. Widowhood
VIII. Mr. Gladstone and Lord Beaconsfield
IX: Old Age
X. The End
Related Resources
About Queen Victoria
Parton biography
Queen Victoria Resources
Queen Victoria Quotes
British Women’s History

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from The Victorian Web


THE NEW QUEEN was almost entirely unknown to her subjects. In her public appearances her mother had invariably dominated the scene. Her private life had been that of a novice in a convent: hardly a human being from the outside world had ever spoken to her; and no human being at all, except her mother and the Baroness Lehzen, had ever been alone with her in a room. Thus it was not only the public at large that was in ignorance of everything concerning her; the inner circles of statesmen and officials and high-born ladies were equally in the dark. When she suddenly emerged from this deep obscurity, the impression that she created was immediate and profound. Her bearing at her first Council filled the whole gathering with astonishment and admiration; the Duke of Wellington, Sir Robert Peel, even the savage Croker, even the cold and caustic Greville–all were completely carried away. Everything that was reported of her subsequent proceedings seemed to be of no less happy augury. Her perceptions were quick, her decisions were sensible, her language was discreet; she performed her royal duties with extraordinary facility. Among the outside public there was a great wave of enthusiasm. Sentiment and romance were coming into fashion; and the spectacle of the little girl-queen, innocent, modest, with fair hair and pink cheeks, driving through her capital, filled the hearts of the beholders with raptures of affectionate loyalty. What, above all, struck everybody with overwhelming force was the contrast between Queen Victoria and her uncles. The nasty old men, debauched and selfish, pig-headed and ridiculous, with their perpetual burden of debts, confusions, and disreputabilities–they had vanished like the snows of winter, and here at last, crowned and radiant, was the spring. Lord John Russell, in an elaborate oration, gave voice to the general sentiment. He hoped that Victoria might prove an Elizabeth without her tyranny, an Anne without her weakness. He asked England to pray that the illustrious Princess who had just ascended the throne with the purest intentions and the justest desires might see slavery abolished, crime diminished, and education improved. He trusted that her people would henceforward derive their strength, their conduct, and their loyalty from enlightened religious and moral principles, and that, so fortified, the reign of Victoria might prove celebrated to posterity and to all the nations of the earth.

Very soon, however, there were signs that the future might turn out to be not quite so simple and roseate as a delighted public dreamed. The “illustrious Princess” might perhaps, after all, have something within her which squared ill with the easy vision of a well-conducted heroine in an edifying story-book. The purest intentions and the justest desires? No doubt; but was that all? To those who watched closely, for instance, there might be something ominous in the curious contour of that little mouth. When, after her first Council, she crossed the ante-room and found her mother waiting for her, she said, “And now, Mamma, am I really and truly Queen?” “You see, my dear, that it is so.” “Then, dear Mamma, I hope you will grant me the first request I make to you, as Queen. Let me be by myself for an hour.” For an hour she remained in solitude. Then she reappeared, and gave a significant order: her bed was to be moved out of her mother’s room. It was the doom of the Duchess of Kent. The long years of waiting were over at last; the moment of a lifetime had come; her daughter was Queen of England; and that very moment brought her own annihilation. She found herself, absolutely and irretrievably, shut off from every vestige of influence, of confidence, of power. She was surrounded, indeed, by all the outward signs of respect and consideration; but that only made the inward truth of her position the more intolerable. Through the mingled formalities of Court etiquette and filial duty, she could never penetrate to Victoria. She was unable to conceal her disappointment and her rage. “I1 n’y a plus d’avenir pour moi,” she exclaimed to Madame de Lieven; “je ne suis plus rien.” For eighteen years, she said, this child had been the sole object of her existence, of her thoughts, her hopes, and now–no! she would not be comforted, she had lost everything, she was to the last degree unhappy. Sailing, so gallantly and so pertinaciously, through the buffeting storms of life, the stately vessel, with sails still swelling and pennons flying, had put into harbour at last; to find there nothing–a land of bleak desolation.

Within a month of the accession, the realities of the new situation assumed a visible shape. The whole royal household moved from Kensington to Buckingham Palace, and, in the new abode, the Duchess of Kent was given a suite of apartments entirely separate from the Queen’s. By Victoria herself the change was welcomed, though, at the moment of departure, she could afford to be sentimental. “Though I rejoice to go into B. P. for many reasons,” she wrote in her diary, “it is not without feelings of regret that I shall bid adieu for ever to this my birthplace, where I have been born and bred, and to which I am really attached!” Her memory lingered for a moment over visions of the past: her sister’s wedding, pleasant balls and delicious concerts and there were other recollections. “I have gone through painful and disagreeable scenes here, ’tis true,” she concluded, “but still I am fond of the poor old palace.

At the same time she took another decided step. She had determined that she would see no more of Sir John Conroy. She rewarded his past services with liberality: he was given a baronetcy and a pension of L3000 a year; he remained a member of the Duchess’s household, but his personal intercourse with the Queen came to an abrupt conclusion.


IT WAS CLEAR that these interior changes–whatever else they might betoken–marked the triumph of one person–the Baroness Lehzen. The pastor’s daughter observed the ruin of her enemies. Discreet and victorious, she remained in possession of the field. More closely than ever did she cleave to the side of her mistress, her pupil, and her friend; and in the recesses of the palace her mysterious figure was at once invisible and omnipresent. When the Queen’s Ministers came in at one door, the Baroness went out by another; when they retired, she immediately returned. Nobody knew–nobody ever will know–the precise extent and the precise nature of her influence. She herself declared that she never discussed public affairs with the Queen, that she was concerned with private matters only–with private letters and the details of private life. Certainly her hand is everywhere discernible in Victoria’s early correspondence. The Journal is written in the style of a child; the Letters are not so simple; they are the work of a child, rearranged–with the minimum of alteration, no doubt, and yet perceptibly–by a governess. And the governess was no fool: narrow, jealous, provincial, she might be; but she was an acute and vigorous woman, who had gained by a peculiar insight, a peculiar ascendancy. That ascendancy she meant to keep. No doubt it was true that technically she took no part in public business; but the distinction between what is public and what is private is always a subtle one; and in the case of a reigning sovereign–as the next few years were to show–it is often imaginary. Considering all things–the characters of the persons, and the character of the times–it was something more than a mere matter of private interest that the bedroom of Baroness Lehzen at Buckingham Palace should have been next door to the bedroom of the Queen.

But the influence wielded by the Baroness, supreme as it seemed within its own sphere, was not unlimited; there were other forces at work. For one thing, the faithful Stockmar had taken up his residence in the palace. During the twenty years which had elapsed since the death of the Princess Charlotte, his experiences had been varied and remarkable. The unknown counsellor of a disappointed princeling had gradually risen to a position of European importance. His devotion to his master had been not only whole–hearted but cautious and wise. It was Stockmar’s advice that had kept Prince Leopold in England during the critical years which followed his wife’s death, and had thus secured to him the essential requisite of a point d’appui in the country of his adoption. It was Stockmar’s discretion which had smoothed over the embarrassments surrounding the Prince’s acceptance and rejection of the Greek crown. It was Stockmar who had induced the Prince to become the constitutional Sovereign of Belgium. Above all, it was Stockmar’s tact, honesty, and diplomatic skill which, through a long series of arduous and complicated negotiations, had led to the guarantee of Belgian neutrality by the Great Powers. His labours had been rewarded by a German barony and by the complete confidence of King Leopold. Nor was it only in Brussels that he was treated with respect and listened to with attention. The statesmen who governed England–Lord Grey, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Palmerston, Lord Melbourne–had learnt to put a high value upon his probity and his intelligence. “He is one of the cleverest fellows I ever saw,” said Lord Melbourne, “the most discreet man, the most well-judging, and most cool man.” And Lord Palmerston cited Baron Stockmar as the only absolutely disinterested man he had come across in life, At last he was able to retire to Coburg, and to enjoy for a few years the society of the wife and children whom his labours in the service of his master had hitherto only allowed him to visit at long intervals for a month or two at a time. But in 1836 he had been again entrusted with an important negotiation, which he had brought to a successful conclusion in the marriage of Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, a nephew of King Leopold’s, with Queen Maria II of Portugal. The House of Coburg was beginning to spread over Europe; and the establishment of the Baron at Buckingham Palace in 1837 was to be the prelude of another and a more momentous advance.

King Leopold and his counsellor provide in their careers an example of the curious diversity of human ambitions. The desires of man are wonderfully various; but no less various are the means by which those desires may reach satisfaction: and so the work of the world gets done. The correct mind of Leopold craved for the whole apparatus of royalty. Mere power would have held no attractions for him; he must be an actual king–the crowned head of a people. It was not enough to do; it was essential also to be recognised; anything else would not be fitting. The greatness that he dreamt of was surrounded by every appropriate circumstance. To be a Majesty, to be a cousin of Sovereigns, to marry a Bourbon for diplomatic ends, to correspond with the Queen of England, to be very stiff and very punctual, to found a dynasty, to bore ambassadresses into fits, to live, on the highest pinnacle, an exemplary life devoted to the public service–such were his objects, and such, in fact, were his achievements. The “Marquis Peu-a-peu,” as George IV called him, had what he wanted. But this would never have been the case if it had not happened that the ambition of Stockmar took a form exactly complementary to his own. The sovereignty that the Baron sought for was by no means obvious. The satisfaction of his essential being lay in obscurity, in invisibility–in passing, unobserved, through a hidden entrance, into the very central chamber of power, and in sitting there, quietly, pulling the subtle strings that set the wheels of the whole world in motion. A very few people, in very high places, and exceptionally well-informed, knew that

King Leopold

Baron Stockmar was a most important person: that was enough. The fortunes of the master and the servant, intimately interacting, rose together. The Baron’s secret skill had given Leopold his unexceptionable kingdom; and Leopold, in his turn, as time went on, was able to furnish the Baron with more and more keys to more and more back doors.

Stockmar took up his abode in the Palace partly as the emissary of King Leopold, but more particularly as the friend and adviser of a queen who was almost a child, and who, no doubt, would be much in need of advice and friendship. For it would be a mistake to suppose that either of these two men was actuated by a vulgar selfishness. The King, indeed, was very well aware on which side his bread was buttered; during an adventurous and chequered life he had acquired a shrewd knowledge of the world’s workings; and he was ready enough to use that knowledge to strengthen his position and to spread his influence. But then, the firmer his position and the wider his influence, the better for Europe; of that he was quite certain. And besides, he was a constitutional monarch; and it would be highly indecorous in a constitutional monarch to have any aims that were low or personal.

As for Stockmar, the disinterestedness which Palmerston had noted was undoubtedly a basic element in his character. The ordinary schemer is always an optimist; and Stockmar, racked by dyspepsia and haunted by gloomy forebodings, was a constitutionally melancholy man. A schemer, no doubt, he was; but he schemed distrustfully, splenetically, to do good. To do good! What nobler end could a man scheme for? Yet it is perilous to scheme at all.

With Lehzen to supervise every detail of her conduct, with Stockmar in the next room, so full of wisdom and experience of affairs, with her Uncle Leopold’s letters, too, pouring out so constantly their stream of encouragements, general reflections, and highly valuable tips, Victoria, even had she been without other guidance, would have stood in no lack of private counsellor. But other guidance she had; for all these influences paled before a new star, of the first magnitude, which, rising suddenly upon her horizon, immediately dominated her life.


William Lamb, Viscount Melbourne, was fifty-eight years of age, and had been for the last three years Prime Minister of England. In every outward respect he was one of the most fortunate of mankind. He had been born into the midst of riches, brilliance, and power. His mother, fascinating and intelligent, had been a great Whig hostess, and he had been bred up as a member of that radiant society which, during the last quarter of the eighteenth century, concentrated within itself the ultimate perfections of a hundred years of triumphant aristocracy. Nature had given him beauty and brains; the unexpected death of an elder brother brought him wealth, a peerage, and the possibility of high advancement. Within that charmed circle, whatever one’s personal disabilities, it was difficult to fail; and to him, with all his advantages, success was well-nigh unavoidable. With little effort, he attained political eminence. On the triumph of the Whigs he became one of the leading members of the Government; and when Lord Grey retired from the premiership he quietly stepped into the vacant place. Nor was it only in the visible signs of fortune that Fate had been kind to him. Bound to succeed, and to succeed easily, he was gifted with so fine a nature that his success became him. His mind, at once supple and copious, his temperament, at once calm and sensitive, enabled him not merely to work, but to live with perfect facility and with the grace of strength. In society he was a notable talker, a captivating companion, a charming man. If one looked deeper, one saw at once that he was not ordinary, that the piquancies of his conversation and his manner–his free-and-easy vaguenesses, his abrupt questions, his lollings and loungings, his innumerable oaths–were something more than an amusing ornament, were the outward manifestation of an individuality that was fundamental.

The precise nature of this individuality was very difficult to gauge: it was dubious, complex, perhaps self–contradictory. Certainly there was an ironical discordance between the inner history of the man and his apparent fortunes. He owed all he had to his birth, and his birth was shameful; it was known well enough that his mother had passionately loved Lord Egremont, and that Lord Melbourne was not his father. His marriage, which had seemed to be the crown of his youthful ardours, was a long, miserable, desperate failure: the incredible Lady Caroline, “With pleasures too refined to please, With too much spirit to be e’er at ease, With too much quickness to be ever taught, With too much thinking to have common thought,” was very nearly the destruction of his life. When at last he emerged from the anguish and confusion of her folly, her extravagance, her rage, her despair, and her devotion, he was left alone with endless memories of intermingled farce and tragedy, and an only son, who was an imbecile. But there was something else that he owed to Lady Caroline. While she whirled with Byron in a hectic frenzy of love and fashion, he had stayed at home in an indulgence bordering on cynicism, and occupied his solitude with reading. It was thus that he had acquired those habits of study, that love of learning, and that wide and accurate knowledge of ancient and modern

literature, which formed so unexpected a part of his mental equipment. His passion for reading never deserted him; even when he was Prime Minister he found time to master every new important book. With an incongruousness that was characteristic, his favourite study was theology. An accomplished classical scholar, he was deeply read in the Fathers of the Church; heavy volumes of commentary and exegesis he examined with scrupulous diligence; and at any odd moment he might be found turning over the pages of the Bible. To the ladies whom he most liked, he would lend some learned work on the Revelation,

crammed with marginal notes in his own hand, or Dr. Lardner’s “Observations upon the Jewish Errors with respect to the Conversion of Mary Magdalene.” The more pious among them had high hopes that these studies would lead him into the right way; but of this there were no symptoms in his after-dinner conversations.

The paradox of his political career was no less curious. By temperament an aristocrat, by conviction a conservative, he came to power as the leader of the popular party, the party of change. He had profoundly disliked the Reform Bill, which he had only accepted at last as a necessary evil; and the Reform Bill lay at the root of the very existence, of the very meaning, of his government. He was far too sceptical to believe in progress of any kind. Things were best as they were or rather, they were least bad. “You’d better try to do no good,” was one of his dictums, “and then you’ll get into no scrapes.” Education at best was futile; education of the poor was positively dangerous. The factory children? “Oh, if you’d only have the goodness to leave them alone!” Free Trade was a delusion; the ballot was nonsense; and there was no such thing as a democracy.

Nevertheless, he was not a reactionary; he was simply an opportunist. The whole duty of government, he said, was “to prevent crime and to preserve contracts.” All one could really hope to do was to carry on. He himself carried on in a remarkable manner–with perpetual compromises, with fluctuations and contradictions, with every kind of weakness, and yet with shrewdness, with gentleness, even with conscientiousness, and a light and airy mastery

Leopold and Maria Hendrikka

of men and of events. He conducted the transactions of business with extraordinary nonchalance. Important persons, ushered up for some grave interview, found him in a towselled bed, littered with books and papers, or vaguely shaving in a dressing-room; but, when they went downstairs again, they would realise that somehow or other they had been pumped. When he had to receive a deputation, he could hardly ever do so with becoming gravity. The worthy delegates of the tallow-chandlers, or the Society for the Abolition of Capital Punishment, were distressed and mortified when, in the midst of their speeches, the Prime Minister became absorbed in blowing a feather, or suddenly cracked an unseemly joke. How could they have guessed that he had spent the night before diligently getting up the details of their case? He hated patronage and the making of appointments–a feeling rare in Ministers. “As for the Bishops,” he burst out, “I positively believe they die to vex me.” But when at last the appointment was made, it was made with keen discrimination. His colleagues observed another symptom–was it of his irresponsibility or his wisdom? He went to sleep in the Cabinet.

Probably, if he had been born a little earlier, he would have been a simpler and a happier man. As it was, he was a child of the eighteenth century whose lot was cast in a new, difficult, unsympathetic age. He was an autumn rose. With all his gracious amenity, his humour, his happy-go-lucky ways, a deep disquietude possessed him. A sentimental cynic, a sceptical believer, he was restless and melancholy at heart. Above all, he could never harden himself; those sensitive petals shivered in every wind. Whatever else he might be, one thing was certain: Lord Melbourne was always human, supremely human–too human, perhaps.

And now, with old age upon him, his life took a sudden, new, extraordinary turn. He became, in the twinkling of an eye, the intimate adviser and the daily companion of a young girl who had stepped all at once from a nursery to a throne. His relations with women had been, like everything else about him, ambiguous. Nobody had ever been able quite to gauge the shifting, emotional complexities of his married life; Lady Caroline vanished; but his peculiar susceptibilities remained. Female society of some kind or other was necessary to him, and he did not stint himself; a great part of every day was invariably spent in it. The feminine element in him made it easy, made it natural and inevitable for him to be the friend of a great many women; but the masculine element in him was strong as well. In such circumstances it is also easy, it is even natural, perhaps it is even inevitable, to be something more than a friend. There were rumours and combustions. Lord Melbourne was twice a co-respondent in a divorce action; but on each occasion he won his suit. The lovely Lady Brandon, the unhappy and brilliant Mrs. Norton… the law exonerated them both. Beyond that hung an impenetrable veil. But at any rate it was clear that, with such a record, the Prime Minister’s position in Buckingham Palace must be a highly delicate one. However, he was used to delicacies, and he met the situation with consummate success. His behaviour was from the first moment impeccable. His manner towards the young Queen mingled, with perfect facility, the watchfulness and the respect of a statesman and a courtier with the tender solicitude of a parent. He was at once reverential and affectionate, at once the servant and the guide. At the same time the habits of his life underwent a surprising change. His comfortable, unpunctual days became subject to the unaltering routine of a palace; no longer did he sprawl on sofas; not a single “damn” escaped his lips. The man of the world who had been the friend of Byron and the regent, the talker whose paradoxes had held Holland House enthralled, the cynic whose ribaldries had enlivened so many deep potations, the lover whose soft words had captivated such beauty and such passion and such wit, might now be seen, evening after evening, talking with infinite politeness to a schoolgirl, bolt upright, amid the silence and the rigidity of Court etiquette.


On her side, Victoria was instantaneously fascinated by Lord Melbourne. The good report of Stockmar had no doubt prepared the way; Lehzen was wisely propitiated; and the first highly favourable impression was never afterwards belied. She found him perfect; and perfect in her sight he remained. Her absolute and unconcealed adoration was very natural; what innocent young creature could have resisted, in any circumstances, the charm and the devotion of such a man? But, in her situation, there was a special influence which gave a peculiar glow to all she felt. After years of emptiness and dullness and suppression, she had come suddenly, in the heyday of youth, into freedom and power. She was mistress of herself, of great domains and palaces; she was Queen of England. Responsibilities and difficulties she might have, no doubt, and in heavy measure; but one feeling dominated and absorbed all others–the feeling of joy. Everything pleased her. She was in high spirits from morning till night. Mr. Creevey, grown old now, and very near his end, catching a glimpse of her at Brighton, was much amused, in his sharp fashion, by the ingenuous gaiety of “little Vic.” “A more homely little being you never beheld, when she is at her ease, and she is evidently dying to be always more so. She laughs in real earnest, opening her mouth as wide as it can go, showing not very pretty gums… She eats quite as heartily as she laughs, I think I may say she gobbles… She blushes and laughs every instant in so natural a way as to disarm anybody.” But it was not merely when she was laughing or gobbling that she enjoyed herself; the performance of her official duties gave her intense satisfaction. “I really have immensely to do,” she wrote in her Journal a few days after her accession; “I receive so many communications from my Ministers, but I like it very much.” And again, a week later, “I repeat what I said before that I have so many communications from the Ministers, and from me to them, and I get so many papers to sign every day, that I have always a very great deal to do. I delight in this work.” Through the girl’s immaturity the vigorous predestined tastes of the woman were pushing themselves into existence with eager velocity, with delicious force.

One detail of her happy situation deserves particular mention. Apart from the splendour of her social position and the momentousness of her political one, she was a person of great wealth. As soon as Parliament met, an annuity of L385,000 was settled upon her. When the expenses of her household had been discharged, she was left with L68,000 a year of her own. She enjoyed besides the revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster, which amounted annually to over L27,000. The first use to which she put her money was characteristic: she paid off her father’s debts. In money matters, no less than in other matters, she was determined to be correct. She had the instincts of a man of business; and she never could have borne to be in a position that was financially unsound.

With youth and happiness gilding every hour, the days passed merrily enough. And each day hinged upon Lord Melbourne. Her diary shows us, with undiminished clarity, the life of the young sovereign during the early months of her reign–a life satisfactorily regular, full of delightful business, a life of simple pleasures, mostly physical–riding, eating, dancing–a quick, easy, highly unsophisticated life, sufficient unto itself. The light of the morning is upon it; and, in the rosy radiance, the figure of “Lord M.” emerges, glorified and supreme. If she is the heroine of the story, he is the hero; but indeed they are more than hero and heroine, for there are no other characters at all. Lehzen, the Baron, Uncle Leopold, are unsubstantial shadows–the incidental supers of the piece. Her paradise was peopled by two persons, and surely that was enough. One sees them together still, a curious couple, strangely united in those artless pages, under the magical illumination of that dawn of eighty years ago: the polished high fine gentleman with the whitening hair and whiskers and the thick dark eyebrows and the mobile lips and the big expressive eyes; and beside him the tiny Queen–fair, slim, elegant, active, in her plain girl’s dress and little tippet, looking up at him earnestly, adoringly, with eyes blue and projecting, and half-open mouth. So they appear upon every page of the Journal; upon every page Lord M. is present, Lord M. is speaking, Lord M. is being amusing, instructive, delightful, and affectionate at once, while Victoria drinks in the honied words, laughs till she shows her gums, tries hard to remember, and runs off, as soon as she is left alone, to put it all down. Their long conversations touched upon a multitude of topics. Lord M. would criticise books, throw out a remark or two on the British Constitution, make some passing reflections on human life, and tell story after story of the great people of the eighteenth century. Then there would be business a despatch perhaps from Lord Durham in Canada, which Lord M. would read. But first he must explain a little. “He said that I must know that Canada originally belonged to the French, and was only ceded to the English in 1760, when it was taken in an expedition under Wolfe: ‘a very daring enterprise,’ he said. Canada was then entirely French, and the British only came afterwards… Lord M. explained this very clearly (and much better than I have done) and said a good deal more about it. He then read me Durham’s despatch, which is a very long one and took him more than 1/2 an hour to read. Lord M. read it beautifully with that fine soft voice of his, and with so much expression, so that it is needless to say I was much interested by it.” And then the talk would take a more personal turn. Lord M. would describe his boyhood, and she would learn that “he wore his hair long, as all boys then did, till he was 17; (how handsome he must have looked!).” Or she would find out about his queer tastes and habits–how he never carried a watch, which seemed quite extraordinary. “‘I always ask the servant what o’clock it is, and then he tells me what he likes,’ said Lord M.” Or, as the rooks wheeled about round the trees, “in a manner which indicated rain,” he would say that he could sit looking at them for an hour, and “was quite surprised at my disliking them. M. said, ‘ The rooks are my delight.'”

The day’s routine, whether in London or at Windsor, was almost invariable. The morning was devoted to business and Lord M. In the afternoon the whole Court went out riding. The Queen, in her velvet riding–habit and a top-hat with a veil draped about the brim, headed the cavalcade; and Lord M. rode beside her. The lively troupe went fast and far, to the extreme exhilaration of Her Majesty. Back in the Palace again, there was still time for a little more fun before dinner–a game of battledore and shuttlecock perhaps, or a romp along the galleries with some children. Dinner came, and the ceremonial decidedly tightened. The gentleman of highest rank sat on the right hand of the Queen; on her left–it soon became an established rule–sat Lord Melbourne. After the ladies had left the dining-room, the gentlemen were not permitted to remain behind for very long; indeed, the short time allowed them for their wine-drinking formed the subject–so it was rumoured–of one of the very few disputes between the Queen and her Prime Minister;[*] but her determination carried the day, and from that moment after-dinner drunkenness began to go out of fashion. When the company was reassembled in the drawing-room the etiquette was stiff. For a few moments the Queen spoke in turn to each one of her guests; and during these short uneasy colloquies the aridity of royalty was apt to become painfully evident. One night Mr. Greville, the Clerk of the Privy Council, was present; his turn soon came; the middle-aged, hard-faced viveur was addressed by his young hostess. “Have you been riding to-day, Mr. Greville?” asked the Queen. “No, Madam, I have not,” replied Mr. Greville. “It was a fine day,” continued the Queen. “Yes, Madam, a very fine day,” said Mr. Greville. “It was rather cold, though,” said the Queen. “It was rather cold, Madam,” said Mr. Greville. “Your sister, Lady Frances Egerton, rides, I think, doesn’t she?” said the Queen. “She does ride sometimes,

Madam,” said Mr. Greville. There was a pause, after which Mr. Greville ventured to take the lead, though he did not venture to change the subject. “Has your Majesty been riding today?” asked Mr. Greville. “Oh yes, a very long ride,” answered the Queen with animation. “Has your Majesty got a nice horse?” said Mr. Greville. “Oh, a very nice horse,” said the Queen. It was over. Her Majesty gave a smile and an inclination of the head, Mr. Greville a profound bow, and the next conversation began with the next gentleman. When all the guests had been disposed of, the Duchess of Kent sat down to her whist, while everybody else was ranged about the round table. Lord Melbourne sat beside the Queen, and talked pertinaciously–very often a propos to the contents of one of the large albums of engravings with which the round table was covered–until it was half-past eleven and time to go to bed.

[*] The Duke of Bedford told Greville he was “sure there was a battle between her and Melbourne… He is sure there was one about the men’s sitting after dinner, for he heard her say to him rather angrily, ‘it is a horrid custom-‘ but when the ladies left the room (he dined there) directions were given that the men should remain five minutes longer.” Greville Memoirs, February 26, 1840 (unpublished).

Occasionally, there were little diversions: the evening might be spent at the opera or at the play. Next morning the royal critic was careful to note down her impressions. “It was Shakespeare’s tragedy of Hamlet, and we came in at the beginning of it. Mr. Charles Kean (son of old Kean) acted the part of Hamlet, and I must say beautifully. His conception of this very difficult, and I may almost say incomprehensible, character is admirable; his delivery of all the fine long speeches quite beautiful; he is excessively graceful and all his actions and attitudes are good, though not at all good-looking in face… I came away just as Hamlet was over.” Later on, she went to see Macready in King Lear. The story was new to her; she knew nothing about it, and at first she took very little interest in what was passing on the stage; she preferred to chatter and laugh with the Lord Chamberlain. But, as the play went on, her mood changed; her attention was fixed, and then she laughed no more. Yet she was puzzled; it seemed a strange, a horrible business. What did Lord M. think? Lord M. thought it was a very fine play, but to be sure, “a rough, coarse play, written for those times, with exaggerated characters.” “I’m glad you’ve seen it,” he added. But, undoubtedly, the evenings which she enjoyed most were those on which there was dancing. She was always ready enough to seize any excuse–the arrival of cousins–a birthday–a gathering of young people–to give the command for that. Then, when the band played, and the figures of the dancers swayed to the music, and she felt her own figure swaying too, with youthful spirits so close on every side–then her happiness reached its height, her eyes sparkled, she must go on and on into the small hours of the morning. For a moment Lord M. himself was forgotten.


The months flew past. The summer was over: “the pleasantest summer I EVER passed in MY LIFE, and I shall never forget this first summer of my reign.” With surprising rapidity, another summer was upon her. The coronation came and went–a curious dream. The antique, intricate, endless ceremonial worked itself out as best it could, like some machine of gigantic complexity which was a little out of order. The small central figure went through her gyrations. She sat; she walked; she prayed; she carried about an orb that was almost too heavy to hold; the Archbishop of Canterbury came and crushed a ring upon the wrong finger, so that she was ready to cry out with the pain; old Lord Rolle tripped up in his mantle and fell down the steps as he was doing homage; she was taken into a side chapel, where the altar was covered with a table-cloth, sandwiches, and bottles of wine; she perceived Lehzen in an upper box and exchanged a smile with her as she sat, robed and crowned, on the Confessor’s throne. “I shall ever remember this day as the PROUDEST of my life,” she noted. But the pride was soon merged once more in youth and simplicity. When she returned to Buckingham Palace at last she was not tired; she ran up to her private rooms, doffed her splendours, and gave her dog Dash its evening bath.

Life flowed on again with its accustomed smoothness–though, of course, the smoothness was occasionally disturbed. For one thing, there was the distressing behaviour of Uncle Leopold. The King of the Belgians had not been able to resist attempting to make use of his family position to further his diplomatic ends. But, indeed, why should there be any question of resisting? Was not such a course of conduct, far from being a temptation, simply “selon les regles?” What were royal marriages for, if they did not enable sovereigns, in spite of the hindrances of constitutions, to control foreign politics? For the highest purposes, of course; that was understood. The Queen of England was his niece–more than that–almost his daughter; his confidential agent was living, in a position of intimate favour, at her court. Surely, in such circumstances, it would be preposterous, it would be positively incorrect, to lose the opportunity of bending to his wishes by means of personal influence, behind the backs of the English Ministers, the foreign policy of England.

He set about the task with becoming precautions. He continued in his letters his admirable advice. Within a few days of her accession, he recommended the young Queen to lay emphasis, on every possible occasion, upon her English birth; to praise the English nation; “the Established Church I also recommend strongly; you cannot, without PLEDGING yourself to anything PARTICULAR, SAY TOO MUCH ON THE SUBJECT.” And then “before you decide on anything important I should be glad if you would consult me; this would also have the advantage of giving you time;” nothing was more injurious than to be hurried into wrong decisions unawares. His niece replied at once with all the accustomed warmth of her affection; but she wrote hurriedly–and, perhaps, a trifle vaguely too. “YOUR advice is always of the GREATEST IMPORTANCE to me,” she said.

Had he, possibly, gone too far? He could not be certain; perhaps Victoria HAD been hurried. In any case, he would be careful; he would draw back–“pour mieux sauter” he added to himself with a smile. In his next letters he made no reference to his suggestion of consultations with himself; he merely pointed out the wisdom, in general, of refusing to decide upon important questions off-hand. So far, his advice was taken; and it was noticed that the Queen, when applications were made to her, rarely gave an immediate answer. Even with Lord Melbourne, it was the same; when he asked for her opinion upon any subject, she would reply that she would think it over, and tell him her conclusions next day.

King Leopold’s counsels continued. The Princess de Lieven, he said, was a dangerous woman; there was reason to think that she would make attempts to pry into what did not concern her, let Victoria beware. “A rule which I cannot sufficiently recommend is NEVER TO PERMIT people to speak on subjects concerning yourself or your affairs, without you having yourself desired them to do so.” Should such a thing occur, “change the conversation, and make the individual feel that he has made a mistake.” This piece of advice was also taken; for it fell out as the King had predicted. Madame de Lieven sought an audience, and appeared to be verging towards confidential topics; whereupon the Queen, becoming slightly embarrassed, talked of nothing but commonplaces. The individual felt that she had made a mistake.

The King’s next warning was remarkable. Letters, he pointed out, are almost invariably read in the post. This was inconvenient, no doubt; but the fact, once properly grasped, was not without its advantages. “I will give you an example: we are still plagued by Prussia concerning those fortresses; now to tell the Prussian Government many things, which we SHOULD NOT LIKE to tell them officially, the Minister is going to write a despatch to our man at Berlin, sending it BY POST; the Prussians ARE SURE to read it, and to learn in this way what we wish them to hear. Analogous circumstances might very probably occur in England. I tell you the TRICK,” wrote His Majesty, “that you should be able to guard against it.” Such were the subtleties of constitutional sovereignty.

It seemed that the time had come for another step. The King’s next letter was full of foreign politics–the situation in Spain and Portugal, the character of Louis Philippe; and he received a favourable answer. Victoria, it is true, began by saying that she had shown the POLITICAL PART of his letter to Lord Melbourne; but she proceeded to a discussion of foreign affairs. It appeared that she was not unwilling to exchange observations on such matters with her uncle. So far so good. But King Leopold was still cautious; though a crisis was impending in his diplomacy, he still hung back; at last, however, he could keep silence no longer. It was of the utmost importance to him that, in his manoeuvrings with France and Holland, he should have, or at any rate appear to have, English support. But the English Government appeared to adopt a neutral attitude; it was too bad; not to be for him was to be against him, could they not see that? Yet, perhaps, they were only wavering, and a little pressure upon them from Victoria might still save all. He determined to put the case before her, delicately yet forcibly–just as he saw it himself. “All I want from your kind Majesty,” he wrote, “is, that you will OCCASIONALLY express to your Ministers, and particularly to good Lord Melbourne, that, as far as it is COMPATIBLE with the interests of your own dominions, you do NOT wish that your Government should take the lead in such measures as might in a short time bring on the DESTRUCTION of this country, as well as that of your uncle and his family.” The result of this appeal was unexpected; there was dead silence for more than a week. When Victoria at last wrote, she was prodigal of her affection.” It would, indeed, my dearest Uncle, be VERY WRONG of you, if you thought my feelings of warm and devoted attachment to you, and of great affection for you, could be changed–nothing can ever change them”–but her references to foreign politics, though they were lengthy and elaborate, were non-committal in the extreme; they were almost cast in an official and diplomatic form. Her Ministers, she said, entirely shared her views upon the subject; she understood and sympathised with the difficulties of her beloved uncle’s position; and he might rest assured “that both Lord Melbourne and Lord Palmerston are most anxious at all times for the prosperity and welfare of Belgium.” That was all. The King in his reply declared himself delighted, and re-echoed the affectionate protestations of his niece. “My dearest and most beloved Victoria,” he said, “you have written me a VERY DEAR and long letter, which has given me GREAT PLEASURE AND SATISFACTION.” He would not admit that he had had a rebuff.

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