Queen Victoria and Prince Albert,
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From her earliest days she was brought up with the most assiduous and jealous care, both as regards her intellectual and moral character. She was taught to be self-reliant, patient, and unselfish; whilst prudence and economy could not have been more deeply inculcated in her, even though she had been born a peasant’s child. For this noble and exemplary upbringing she and the nation are indebted to her good and pious mother, the Duchess of Kent. Her life, for a royal princess, was one of comparative seclusion, and, as the heir-presumptive to the throne, some made bold enough to say, it was far too much so. But the good Duchess of Kent was not only a woman of high principle, but one possessed of much worldly wisdom, and she wisely defended her daughter from the atmosphere of the Court of that day. Hence it was that, up to her accession, the world knew very little about the Princess Victoria. Nor did this alone apply to her own subjects, and to European Courts connected by the ties of relationship; for even statesmen, who were in almost constant communication with Court circles, knew absolutely nothing of the upbringing of the future Queen, nor of the possibilities which lay within her.
There was naturally aroused an interest and curiosity, both at home and abroad, as to how the young Queen would conduct herself during the trying ceremonies in which she of necessity must take the leading part on the occasion of her accession. The results showed that she was more than equal to all these. She had received the tidings of the death of her uncle, William IV., at five o’clock in the morning, and her first Cabinet Council met in Kensington Palace at eleven o’clock the same day. All through the delicate and trying scene, alike picturesque and memorable, her sensible and dignified carriage called forth unmingled admiration.
The coronation took place on the 28th of June, 1838, one year after her accession. It was a gorgeous pageant throughout; and to show what strange tricks time works on us, one of the most conspicuous figures amidst the kings, princes, marshals, and ambassadors who shed such dazzling splendour on that procession, was that of Marshal Soult, the opponent of Sir John Moore and Wellington in the Peninsular war, the Commander of the Old Guard at Lützen, and one of Napoleon’s greatest chieftains at Waterloo. He had come to represent our old enemy, France, on the occasion; and to show him that not only could we be chivalrous to a former foe, but that we could admire genius and bravery wherever we met with it, nothing could exceed the enthusiasm with which he was everywhere received. The white-haired veteran of a hundred fights was cheered again and again whenever a glimpse of him could be had. The brave old warrior never forgot it. Years after this, in a debate in the French Chamber, when M. Guizot was accused of showing too much partiality to the English alliance, Marshal Soult declared himself one of its warmest champions: “I fought the English down to Toulouse,” he exclaimed with warmth, “when I fired the last cannon in defence of the national independence. In the meantime I have been in London, and France knows the reception I have had there. The English themselves cried out ‘Soult for ever!’ I have learned to estimate the English in the field of battle. I have learned to estimate them in peace; and I repeat that I am a warm partisan of the English alliance.”
When, on the 16th January, 1840, the Queen opened Parliament in person, she publicly announced to her Lords and Commons assembled her intention of marrying her cousin, Prince Albert, of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, an act which she fervently prayed would be conducive to the interests and