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Chapter XXXVII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 2


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In September, 1854, the Emperor being in the north of France, on the pretext of inspecting the camp established there, he had the gratification of being honoured with several royal visits. The King of the Belgians, with his eldest son, and the King of Portugal, with the Duke of Oporto, went to see him at Boulogne, and met with a very cordial reception. But what gratified him more than all was a visit from the Prince Consort. The Emperor, attended by a splendid suite, went down to the quay to receive him, and they both warmly shook hands. Nothing was left undone that could gratify the English visitor, and the Duke of Newcastle, Lord Harding, Lord Seaton, and other noblemen who accompanied him. Reviews, illuminations, fireworks, banquets, balls, followed one another in rapid succession during the time of the visit, which had the effect, no doubt, of strengthening the entente cordiale between the two courts.

It was still more solemnly ratified by the visit of the Emperor and Empress to the Queen on the 16th of April, 1855 - an event which produced a profound impression throughout Europe. It was, indeed, a strange phenomenon that an Emperor of France, the heir and successor of Napoleon, should be a welcome and popular guest in England, honoured by the sovereign and cheered by the people; this guest being, moreover, the author of the coup d'etat. Prince Albert went to Dover to meet the illustrious visitors, who landed amid the salutes of the military and the booming of guns on the heights, the Empress leaning on the Prince's arm. The line of streets between the London terminus and the Great Western Railway was decorated with flags and evergreens, and the Imperial party, as they drove along, were received with enthusiastic cheers. At seven p.m. they arrived at Windsor Castle, and were received by Her Majesty and the royal family, with the great officers of state and of the household, in the grand hall, whence the guests were conducted up the grand staircase, and through the music-room and throne-room, to the reception room. That evening there was a dinner-party in St. George's Hall; next day the same, followed by a brilliant evening party. On Wednesday the Queen made the Emperor a Knight of the Garter - a very significant ceremony under the circumstances, which was performed with the utmost magnificence, the Prince Consort helping Her Majesty to buckle the garter on the left leg of the Emperor. Her Majesty accompanied the Emperor to his apartments, followed by the Empress and the Prince Consort, and attended by the ladies and gentlemen of the royal suites. On the evening of that day the Queen gave a state dinner, when, by Her Majesty's command, the Lord Steward of the Household gave the toast of "The Emperor and Empress of the French." The state apartments which were occupied by the Imperial guests were gorgeously decorated for the occasion.

On Thursday the Emperor and Empress proceeded to London, in order to visit the City, the Queen and the Prince accompanying them to Buckingham Palace. On the route from Nine Elms to the palace they enjoyed a continual ovation. The Emperor and Empress were conveyed thence to the City in six of the Queen's state carriages, the principal one being drawn by cream- coloured horses; the Life Guards escorting the carriages, and Carbineers and Blues keeping the ground. As they proceeded along the Mall, the Strand, Fleet Street, Cheapside, and the Poultry, to Guildhall, a vast and orderly multitude thronged the streets, looked down from the windows and house-tops, from the roofs of omnibuses, and every available position; while the scene was enlivened by a profusion of union-jacks and tricolours lively peals of church bells, hearty cheers from the people, martial music, and brilliant sunshine. It was calculated that more than a million spectators witnessed the sight. They were received at the Guildhall by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, with the City magnates. The Emperor was dressed as a general of division, wearing the insignia of the Garter and of the Legion of Honour. After receiving an address from the Corporation, the Imperial party partook of a dejeuner, and proceeded by a different route to Buckingham Palace. It was stated that the wine served at the Imperial table included sherry 109 years old, and valued at the rate of £600 the butt. In the evening the Queen and her guests paid a state visit to the Royal Italian Opera, the house being fitted up superbly for the occasion; the mirrors in the retiring-rooms multiplying the effect of the statuettes of the Queen, the Emperor and the Empress, of the flowers and the gorgeous decorations. On their entrance they were hailed with enthusiasm, the orchestra playing "Partant pour la Syrie," followed by the National Anthem. When the curtain rose the second time a dense mass of ladies and gentlemen in full dress was seen behind the performers and the chorus. They had purchased the privilege of being there, as there was no room in any other part of the house. In the evening the City and the West-end were splendidly illuminated. On Friday the Queen and her guests visited the Crystal Palace at Sydenham, where an immense assembly had an opportunity of seeing them as they leisurely promenaded through the building. On Saturday the Emperor and Empress departed, accompanied to Dover by the Prince Consort and the Duke of Cambridge. The Emperor was pleased to say that the only fault he had to find with the arrangements of the railway was, "That it conveyed him too quickly out of England." The Imperial visit seems to have been eminently satisfactory to all parties. It was politically important, inasmuch as it arose out of an alliance between nations regarded as hereditary enemies, which was so far from being within the calculations of statesmen that the whole policy of the Continental powers was based upon its assumed impossibility. The Queen was so well pleased that she made the Lord Mayor, Sir Francis Graham Moon, a baronet in honour of the occasion.

Her Majesty was pleased to return the Imperial visit on the 18th of August following. In a historical point of view this event was most interesting. No English sovereign had beheld the French capital for four centuries, since the infant Henry VI. was crowned at Paris in 1422; and the following facts bearing on the relations of these two great countries were recalled to the recollection of the public by this interchange of friendly visits between the courts. " In 1444 the English were expelled from France. In 1461 the queen of the captive Henry VI. was a suppliant to the French king. In 1651 the heir of the Stuarts was an exile and a pensioner at the court of Louis XIV. In 1688 the fugitive James received the protection, and occupied the palace, of the Great Monarch, while the Prince of Orange, representing an expelled feudatory of France, sat on the English throne. In 1793 the representative of the Bourbons died on a scaffold in his beautiful capital, and his brothers destined to wear his crown sought the protection, and occupied the palace, of the English king, the descendant of their former guest. In 1815, just 400 years after the expulsion of the Plantagenets, an English army, after giving the great Napoleon his final overthrow, stormed the defences of Paris, and its generals occupied its gates and its palaces as conquerors. They brought back the heir of the Bourbons, and replaced him on the throne, whence his great grandfather had directed hostilities against England to restore the heir of the Stuarts. Fifteen years later his brother, Charles X., fled again to England, and again occupied Holyrood Palace; and the Orleans Bourbons sat on the throne of France. Yet another period of eighteen years, and the Orleans Bourbon fled ignominiously to the English shores, and received the hospitality of the English Queen. He who seized his falling sceptre was the nephew of the great Emperor whom the English arms had overthrown in 1815, and who had died a prisoner on an English island. Himself an exile and poor, he had lived under that general protection which the English laws afford to all who seek their shield and conform to their precepts; he had known our people and our manners; he had comported himself as a citizen of the land of his refuge, and had wielded the special constable's staff on the memorable 10th of April. The exile was now the absolute sovereign of the French people, elected by their will, yet ruling them by the strong hand. But amid all these changes for 400 years, no English sovereign had beheld the marvels of Paris. The visit of the Queen of England to the French Emperor and his capital was therefore, in every point of view, a remarkable event. It signified the final conclusion of the natural enmity that for centuries had exasperated the hostile nations - the sovereigns against the sovereigns, the people against the people: it signified the final discarding of the divine right of the Bourbons to the throne of France: it signified the unreserved recognition of the Napoleonic rights, based on the will of the French people, and the adoption of the Napoleonic house into the dynastic families of Europe: it signified, also, the firm alliance of ' the two great Western Powers, against all who should disturb the tranquillity of the world from abroad, and the renunciation of all ideas of conquest on the part of France: it signified the hope of a long period of mutual goodwill, the interchange of mutual good offices, of the products of nature and art, of the efforts of peace and civilisation."

The Queen, accompanied by the Prince Consort, the Prince of Wales, and the Princess Royal, started from Osborne at half-past four in the morning on the 18th of August, 1855, and arrived at Boulogne at half-past one the same day. The appearance of the royal squadron was announced by discharges from cannon on the heights and batteries on shore, by volleys of musketry, and the cheers of a vast multitude of spectators. A pavilion had been erected on the pier, in which the Emperor, surrounded by a brilliant suite, awaited the approach of his royal guests. The instant the royal yacht ran alongside, he hastened on board and saluted the Queen, kissing her hand and both cheeks. He then shook hands with the Prince Consort, the Prince of Wales, and the Princess Eoyal, and with every mark of joy and welcome conducted them to the pavilion. He rode beside the Queen's carriage to the railway station. At half-past two the train started for Paris. From the terminus of the Strasburg railway to the Palace of St. Cloud, the houses were gaily dressed with tapestry, flowers, and evergreens; the windows and streets were crowded by people in every variety of costume; 200,000 soldiers and National Guards formed double lines five miles long. The glitter of the arms, the splendour and variety of the dresses, mingling their colours with the verdure of the trees in the Champs Elysées and the Bois de Boulogne, presented a spectacle of extraordinary brilliancy and beauty. The Parisians had been on the ground in great numbers from noon, and waited patiently for hours; but, unfortunately, the train was behind time, the evening became dark and cold, and when at length Her Majesty appeared at half-past seven, the demonstration was shorn of much of its splendour. Nevertheless, the boulevards, streets, and avenues were still crowded, and Her Majesty met with an enthusiastic reception. As the carriages approached the Arc de Triomphe the outriders and escort carried torches, which added much to the effect. The Palace of St. Cloud was placed entirely at the disposal of the Queen and her party. She was received by the Empress, the Princess Mathilde, with the ladies of the officers of the household, and the high officers of state. It was Saturday evening, and the next day was devoted to rest, relieved only by a drive in the Bois de Boulogne.

On Monday their Majesties visited the Palais des Beaux Arts, a portion of the great Industrial Exhibition. The route to the building was one dense mass of spectators, who received Her Majesty with every demonstration of joy and respect. The royal party lunched with Prince Napoleon at the Elysée, and then visited Saint Chapelle, Notre Dame, and went through the city to view its principal buildings. The Parisians were everywhere delighted with the Queen and the Royal children, whose gracious bearing and frank manners quite won their hearts. On Tuesday Her Majesty visited the magnificent Palace of Versailles. The Emperor was so charmed with his visitors, that it was remarked he conversed with an animation of manner and countenance quite surprising to those accustomed to his usual impassiveness. Two more visits were paid to the Industrial Exhibition, On Thursday evening the Municipality of Paris gave a ball in the Hotel de Ville, which surpassed in splendour and magnificence all previous experience. There was a grand review next day, and after that a visit to the tomb of Napoleon. On Saturday the Royal party visited the Palace of St. Germains, where Her Majesty examined with much interest the various relics of her unfortunate ancestor, and stood for some time in thought before his tomb. In the evening the Emperor gave a splendid fête at the Palace of Versailles, which outdid even the magnificence of the Hotel de Ville. "On Saturday, night," says the official Moniteur, "the palace of Louis XIV. recovered, as if by magic, the splendour and life which animated it in its best days. In our epoch we are called upon to behold marvels which would have appeared impossible in the greatest ages, and under the most glorious reigns. In a short time, when the éclat of the fêtes and the noise of the cheering shall have ceased, and when time has been given to reflect on the bearing and signification of all that has taken place in this full and brilliant week, the journey and visit of Her Majesty Queen Victoria to the capital of France will be looked upon as one of those events which appear as a dream until realised. All who witnessed that enthusiastic reception, those manifestations of sincere cordiality and deep sympathy between sovereign and sovereign, and nation and nation, will retain a lasting remembrance, which they will love to tell in their old age, and which marks an epoch in the history of individuals, as well as in the history of nations. Versailles had donned its festive apparel to welcome the august guests of the Emperor. The grand court-yard of the chateau was as light as day; the imposing and severe profile of its grand and beautiful architecture stood out in lines of fire, and the marble statues which adorn the double grand staircase appeared astonished at all this bustle and movement. Their Majesties entered by the marble stairs, while the invited guests entered by the Princes' Staircase. Waiting and reposing rooms, boudoirs hung with blue damask and filled with beautiful flowers, had been prepared for the Queen of England and Prince Albert, in the apartments once occupied by Marie Antoinette. The Emperor and Empress withdrew for a few moments into their private rooms. Their Majesties then crossed the state apartments of Louis XIV., which were magnificently lit up, and the immense fire-places of which were turned into gardens of flowers or plots of verdure. The Gallery of the Mirrors offered a most dazzling coup d'œil. At the four angles orchestras had been erected, consisting of 200 artists, directed by Strauss and Dupresne. Flowers and shrubs concealed the stands of the musicians, and the harmony seemed to proceed from invisible instruments through a bower of dahlias, roses, and other flowers. Garlands suspended from the ceiling, and, interlaced with each other, formed the most charming decoration. Thousands of lustres and torches, reflected in the mirrors, threw streams of light upon the rich garments of the guests, covered with gold and glittering with diamonds. On approaching the windows a still more admirable sight presented itself to view. The great sheet of water was enclosed by a series of porches in the Renaissance style, standing out from the background of the park in coloured fire, and joined together by an emerald trellis-work. In the centre a portal two-thirds larger than the rest, built like a triumphal arch, was surmounted by a double shield with the arms of France and England. At the two corners to the right and left were two other porticoes, with the initials of their Majesties. Under these brilliant arches the water sprang up in jets and fell back in cascades. The two basins formed one vast sheet of light, upon which golden dolphins, mounted by Cupids, disported, carrying circular torches and Venetian lights. At half-past ten the Emperor opened the ball with the Queen of England. At eleven the Court proceeded to supper in the theatre. Their Majesties' table was laid in the state box, commanding a view of all the others, which were filled with ladies. Orchestra and pit were turned into a festive hall. On all sides flowers, lights, and brilliant toilettes - everywhere an air of satisfaction, joy, and delight impossible to describe. It was like a glance at fairy-land. Their Majesties left Versailles amid the warmest demonstrations of enthusiasm. After their departure the ball was kept up till morning, and during the whole of the night the road was thronged with brilliant equipages conveying back the guests to Paris. Sunday was dedicated to repose; Monday to travel. Immense crowds lined the streets to witness Her Majesty's departure. The Emperor accompanied his illustrious guests to Boulogne, where Her Majesty reviewed the magnificent army encamped on the heights. The Imperial host and his guests parted about midnight, when the English Court re-embarked, and arrived at Osborne at nine a.m. the following morning."

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Pictures for Chapter XXXVII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 2

Royal progression in Paris
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