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Chapter I, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9

The Queen's Visit to Ireland - The Queen at Balmoral - Felicity of the Royal Family - The Prince Consort at Edinburgh - The Court returned to Windsor - Investiture of the Order of the Star of India - Illness of the Prince Consort - His death - Its effect on the public mind - Profound grief of the Nation- General and spontaneous mourning - The Funeral - Deep sense of the loss sustained by the country - Message of the Queen to Parliament - Tributes to the Prince's memory - Overwhelming grief of the Queen - Address from Maori chiefs - Services of the Prince Consort to the cause of social progress - Industrial Exhibitions - His interest in the working classes - The Prince as a landlord and employer - Encouragement of agricultural improvements - His management of the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall - Last Report of the Commission of which the Prince Consort was President - General view of the Prince's character - His personal appearance - His talents and temperament - His love of truth, and strong sense of duty, candour, and tolerance - His intense sympathy with earnest workers - His abhorrence of flattery, vice, and meanness - His anxiety to attain perfection in everything - The freshness of his feelings - Sympathy with the young - Felicity of the Prince's marriage - His love to the Queen - Her Majesty's devotion to his memory - Notice of his speeches.
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The year 1861 - in the earlier months of which the Queen had been called to sustain a severe affliction through the death of her mother, the Duchess of Kent - was destined not to close without bringing Her Majesty face to face with a still more terrible bereavement. But all looked bright and prosperous for a time. In the summer, the Queen paid a visit to Ireland, the third since she ascended the throne. In 1849, she made a voyage along the eastern coast, calling at Cork, Waterford, Dublin, and Belfast. In 1853, she visited the Dublin Exhibition, accompanied by the Prince Consort, the Prince of Wales, and Prince Alfred. In 1861, the Prince of Wales had been for some months learning the practical duties of a regimental officer in the Curragh Camp, where, though holding the rank of colonel, he was attached for drill to the 1st Battalion of the Grenadier Guards, acting as captain of the 9th Company, without enjoying any distinction whatever beyond other captains, and undergoing all the toils and inconveniences of camp life, save only that he was lodged in a better hut than the others. On the 21st of August, the royal party, including the Queen, the Prince Consort, the Princess Alice, the Princess Helena, and Prince Arthur, crossed from Holyhead to Kingstown in the royal yacht, arriving in tlie night, and dropping anchor in the middle of the harbour. Next morning, the Lord Lieutenant (the Earl of Carlisle), Lord Gough, Sir Robert Peel (Chief Secretary), and Sir George Brown, went to the pier to welcome their Sovereign, and were received on board the yacht, which was alongside at ten a.m. The royal party proceeded to Dublin by train, and took up their residence at the Yiceregal Lodge in the Park. During the day they drove about Dublin, visiting various public buildings. On the 23rd, the Prince Consort paid an unexpected visit to the Curragh Camp, where he had the satisfaction of seeing his eldest son with his regiment at drill, and acquitting himself well in the discharge of his duties. His royal father lunched with him in his hut, and then returned to Dublin. The Queen enjoyed a similar gratification on the 24th, when she witnessed a grand review of all the troops at the Curragh, which, however, was considerably marred by the heavy rain and storm which prevailed during a great part of the time. On the Monday, the royal party, including the Prince of Wales, started for the lakes of Killarney. The Queen was hailed with great enthusiasm along the whole line by the inhabitants, who thronged in multitudes to see her. The Queen took up her residence in Kenmare House, at Killarney - the beautiful mansion of the Earl of Kenmare, whose son, Lord Castlerosse, had prepared it for the occasion by the. most costly decorations.

The correspondents of the London journals gave rapturous accounts of the scenery. The grounds which fringe the shore of the lake include the beautiful promontory and ruins of Ross Castle. It had been arranged that the Queen should divide her time equally between the two magnates who own equally the wondrous Killarney Lakes - the Earl of Kenmare and Mr. Herbert, whose seat at Muckross is placed amid scenery surpassing even that about Kenmare House, and takes in the interesting ruins of Muckross Abbey. The demesnes of these two lords of the soil surround all the three lakes, and inclose within their precincts scenery surpassing in romantic beauty perhaps any other spot on the earth's surface. The royal party were received on the platform by their intended hosts, Lord Castlerosse ' and Mr. Herbert, and by the Knight of Kerry, chief of one of the surviving branches of the Fitzgeralds, of the South, by Lord Bloomfield, and other distinguished personages. The view of the lake and mountains from the beautiful grounds of Kenmare House sufficed for the enjoyment of that day, and the royal family seemed to appreciate their beauties with the keenest zest. At night there was a display of fireworks from O'Sullivan's prison, which produced a beautiful effect.

On the day after her arrival, the Queen and her party embarked in two state barges, Lord Castlerosse standing by Her Majesty to point out the most remarkable spots around the lakes. More than a hundred boats laden with loyal subjects followed in the wake of the royal barges. They landed at some points, and as scene after scene, lit up with glorious sunshine, burst on the view, the Prince Consort exclaimed again and again, "This is perfectly sublime! " They were enchanted with the marvellous echoes awakened by the bugle, the music of which was repeated by mountain after mountain, till it died away in the far distance. In the evening, the royal party returned to Kenmare House, where the Queen left a memorial of her visit by planting a Wellingtonia gigantea on the lawn. The royal party next visited Muckross, the romantically beautiful seat of Mr. Herbert. In the afternoon, they were entertained with a stag-hunt among the echoing mountains, where the numerous red deer are the largest, fleetest, and wildest of their race. Unfortunately, they had been frightened away by the cheering crowds, and it was not without difficulty that, after long waiting, a hunt was got up. It is no unnoteworthy proof of how much things are changed in Ireland, that James O'Connell, the brother of the great agitator, was an honoured guest of Her Majesty at Muckross; and that O'Connell's nephews were the owners of the hounds and masters of the hunt which then turned out to amuse the Queen of England. On the following day, the Queen left Killarney en route for Scotland, by way of Dublin and Holyhead.

The Queen, the Prince Consort, and the royal family, proceeded at once to Balmoral on their return from Ireland, travelling by rail all night, and only stopping at Perth for breakfast next morning. Erom Aboyne they travelled by carriage, and arrived at their Highland home at three p.m. The time was spent there in the usual pursuits and exercises most conducive to health - in driving, riding, walking, sketching, fishing, deer-stalking, visiting, and rural sports of various kinds. It is not easy to conceive a picture, of greater human felicity than the Queen and her family presented this year. Her eldest daughter had been married to the Prince of Prussia, and had given birth to an heir to the throne of that country. The Prince of Wales, the heir apparent to the throne of England, had, in his American tour and in his residence in Ireland,, by the propriety of his conduct and the affability of his manners, won the hearts of all with whom he came in contact, giving promise that when the day - which appeared far distant - came, he would be a worthy successor of the best of Sovereigns.

Prince Alfred had entered the naval service, and was, if possible, a still greater favourite with the public. The Princess Alice had been engaged to His Royal Highness the Prince Louis of Hesse Darmstadt, who was now on a visit to Balmoral. The rest of the royal children were all that the fondest parents could desire. The Prince Consort was regarded as the best of husbands and fathers; and if any one could have pointed out an individual in Her Majesty's dominions as singularly blessed in all the relations of life, and as likely for many years to enjoy his happy lot, he would have named the husband of the Queen. He enjoyed good health; he was in the prime of life, only forty-two years of age: and never perhaps had he enjoyed life with greater zest. But how soon was this bright prospect overcast! Who could have imagined that before the end of the year, that home would be visited by death, and that the Queen, then so happy, should become a heartbroken widow - smitten down by a calamity the shadow of which was to rest upon her spirit throughout the whole of her future life?

The Queen left Balmoral on the 22nd of October, and slept that night in the palace of Holyrood. On the following day, the Prince Consort laid the foundation stone of the New General Post-office in Edinburgh, and afterwards performed the same ceremonial for the Industrial Museum of Scotland. On the same evening, the royal party resumed their journey to England, and arrived at Windsor Castle at half-past eight the following morning.

On the 1st of November, the Queen, as Sovereign of the most exalted Order of the Star of India, held her first investiture in great state. This Order had been instituted a few months before, to provide a means for adequately recognising and honouring services rendered to the British Crown in India, whether by native princes or by British subjects. It consists of a Grand Master (who is the Viceroy of India for the time being), and twenty-five knights, together with such extra and honorary knights as Her Majesty may from time to time see fit to appoint. The Queen wore the mantle of the Order, which is of light blue satin, lined with white satin, and fastened with a cordon of light silk, with blue and silver tassels. Over the mantle she wore a collar of gold and enamel, composed of the lotus of India, of palm branches, and the united white and red roses. There was an imperial crown in the centre of the collar, from which was suspended the badge, consisting of an onyx cameo of Her Majesty's effigy, set in an oval, which contained the motto of the Order - " Heaven's light our guide," surmounted by a star, all in diamonds. The Prince Consort and the Prince of Wales had been invested as extra knights previous to her entering the throne room. The following knights then received the insignia of the Order: Lord Harris, Lord Gough, Maharajah Duleep Singh, Lord Clyde, Sir John Laird, Sir Andrew Lawrence, and Sir George Pollock.

Nothing unusual was heard of the royal family till the middle of December; and the heavy toll of the great bell of St. Paul's gave the first intimation to many of the people of London that the Prince Consort had been suffering from any dangerous illness. On the previous Saturday, the Court News had announced that the Queen had driven out in an open carriage, and that the Prince had been confined to his apartments during the week by a feverish cold, attended with pains in the limbs. On the following Wednesday, a bulletin stated that he was suffering from fever unattended by unfavourable symptoms, but likely from its nature to continue for some time. On Saturday, however, rumours were abroad at the West-end that the Prince was dangerously ill, and that he was sinking fast. Then it was reported that he had rallied, and that even at the Castle no serious alarm existed. When, therefore, the bell of St. Paul's tolled at midnight over the hushed city, it inspired a feeling of apprehension which was too sadly realised next morning. The intelligence of the death of the Prince was then flashed along every wire throughout the United Kingdom and over the Continent of Europe. It being Sunday, it was not till the people went to church and noticed the omission of the Prince's name in the Liturgy, that the mournful truth was fully realised. The grief was universal, pervading every household, as if each had lost some dear and honoured relative. The death of the Prince was announced in an extraordinary gazette in the following terms: - " On Saturday night, the 14th instant, at ten minutes before eleven o'clock, the Prince Consort departed this life at Windsor Castle, to the inexpressible grief of Her Majesty and of all the royal family. The death of this illustrious Prince will be deeply mourned by all Her Majesty's attached and faithful subjects, as an irreparable loss to Her Majesty, the royal family, and the nation." There is no exaggeration in this language. There were manifestations of sorrow throughout the nation such as had never been witnessed since the death of the Princess Charlotte. All ranks and classes united in one spontaneous expression of sympathy with the widowed Queen and the bereaved family, who, without warning or presentiment, had suddenly lost the manly soul, the warm heart, the steady judgment, the accomplished mind, the tender voice, and the firm hand, that had cheered and g aided them for twenty-one years. The outward symbols of the nation's grief did not wait for the usual formalities. For several days before the funeral, nearly the whole population appeared in mourning, not only in London and throughout England, but also in Scotland and Ireland. The appearance of the congregations on the Sunday before the funeral was most impressive. The pulpits and reading-desks were hung with the drapery of woe, the worshippers were all dressed in black, and the theme of every sermon on that morning was the death of the Prince.

The funeral took place on the 23rd of December. At the express desire of the departed Prince, it was of a private character; but all the chief men of the State attended the obsequies at the Royal Chapel. Nature seemed to sympathise with the national feeling of depression and gloom. The weather was cold and damp, the sky dull and heavy. There was a procession of state carriages to St. George's Chapel, at the door of which the Prince of Wales and the other royal mourners were assembled to receive the corpse. The grief of the royal children was very affecting; little Prince Arthur especially sobbed as if his heart were breaking. When all was over, and the last of the long, lingering train of mourners had departed, the attendants descended into the vault with lights, and moved the bier and coffin along the narrow passage to the royal vault. The day was observed throughout the realm as one of deep solemnity. The bells of all the churches were tolled, and in many of them special services were performed. In the towns the shops were closed, and the window blinds of private residences were drawn down. No respectable people appeared abroad except in mourning, and in sea-port towns the flags were hoisted half-mast high. The words of the poet laureate were scarcely too strong when he said -

"The shadow of his loss moved like eclipse
Darkening the world. We have lost him: he is gone:
"We know him now: all narrow jealousies
Are silent; and we see him as he moved,
How modest, kindly, all-accomplished, wise;
With what sublime repression of himself,
And in what limits, and how tenderly;
Not swaying to this faction or to that;
Not making his high place the lawless perch
Of wing'd ambitions, nor a vantage ground
For pleasure; but thro' all this tract of years
Wearing the white flower of a blameless life,
Before a thousand peering littlenesses,
In that fierce light which beats upon a throne,
And blackens every blot: for where is he
Who dares foreshadow for an only son
A lovelier life, a more unstain'd than his?"

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Pictures for Chapter I, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9

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