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Chapter I, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 2


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Some beautiful and touching things were said about the Prince in both Houses of Parliament. Lord Dufferin, who moved the address in answer to the royal speech, spoke of him as one who - though occupying a position in its very nature incompatible with all personal pre-eminence, alike denying the achievements of warlike renown and political distinction - had succeeded in winning for himself an amount of consideration and confidence seldom attained by the most distinguished of mankind. The Earl of Derby expressed his conviction that deep and earnest as was the national sense of the loss it had sustained, the country was yet unable to do full justice to the Prince's memory. Comparatively few had enjoyed the advantage of his personal acquaintance, but only such were able to estimate at their proper value the powers and cultivation of his mind, and the unremitting personal attention he bestowed on all that tended to promote the happiness, domestic comfort, and mental and moral welfare of every class of Her Majesty's subjects. Lord John Russell ascribed to the impartiality displayed by the late Prince Consort, in viewing political affairs, the happy absence of bitterness between the great political parties which had prevailed for the last twenty years.

In the Queen's answer to the address we have the mournful key-note of many an utterance that has since come from her widowed heart. Her Majesty said: - " I return you my most sincere thanks for your dutiful and affectionate address, especially for the manner in which you have assured me of your feelings on the irreparable loss sustained by myself and the country, in the afflicting dispensation of Providence which bows me to the earth"

Not the least interesting of the addresses of condolence presented to Her Majesty upon this melancholy occasion was one that proceeded from the New Zealand chiefs, twenty in number. It was forwarded by Sir George Grey, then Governor of New Zealand, through the Colonial Secretary. In the poetical style natural to such primitive people, they said: " O Victoria, our mother! we greet you! You who are all that now remains to recall to our recollection Albert the Prince Consort, who can never be gazed upon by the people. We, your Maori children, are now sighing in sorrow together with you. All we can now do is to weep with you, who hast nourished us, your ignorant children of this island, even to this day. We have just heard the crash of the huge- headed forest tree, which has untimely fallen, ere it had attained its full growth of greatness. Oh, my very heart! thou didst shelter me from the sorrows and ills of life. Oh, my pet bird! whose sweet voice welcomed my glad guests; let, then, the body of my beloved be covered with purple robes. Yes, thou the pillar that didst support my palace hast been borne to the skies. Oh, my beloved you used to stand in the very prow of the war canoe, inciting all others to noble deeds. Where, O physicians, was the power of your remedies? What, O priests, availed your prayers? for I have lost my love; no more can he re-visit this world! "

We have already, in the course of this History, repeatedly noticed the labours of the late Prince Consort in connection with various departments of social progress, especially the part he took in getting up the great Industrial Exhibition of 1851, which inaugurated a movement in art, manufactures, and industry in general, that has been productive of the greatest benefit, not only to the United Kingdom, but to Europe and the whole civilised world. What lie thus encouraged others to do on a large scale for the improvement of mankind, he was doing himself in his personal relations as an employer of labour. In the admirable Introduction to the Collection of his Speeches, written under the Queen's superintendence, if not at her dictation, it is truly said, "If any man in England cared for the working classes, it was the Prince. He understood the great difficulty of the time as regards these classes; namely, the providing for them fitting habitations. He was a beneficent landlord, and his first care was to build good cottages for all the Labouring men on his estates. He had entered into minute calculations as to the amount of illness that might be prevented among the poorer classes, by a careful selection of the materials to be used in the building of their dwellings. In a word, he was tender, thoughtful, anxious in his efforts for the welfare of the labouring man." The Prince was much attached to agriculture as a science, and was particularly skilful in his appreciation of improvements in management. No farms throughout the kingdom were more carefully kept, or presented finer examples of economical industry. He was one of the first to appreciate the advantages of deep drainage, to employ steam power in cultivation, and to apply the resources of chemistry to practical agriculture. In former reigns it had been the custom for the Sovereign to appropriate to himself the whole revenues of the duchy of Cornwall during the minority of the Prince of Wales; it had further been the evil custom to grant leases at nominal rents or fines, the whole of which went into the pocket of the recipient for the time being, without any consideration for future possessors. Her Majesty, on the contrary, deemed this appanage of the Prince of "Wales was equitably his property, and that she was merely trustee for his benefit. On the birth of the Prince of Wales, a council was appointed for the management of the duchy property, of which the Prince Consort was president. " The whole aspect of affairs was rapidly changed. As the leases fell in, the farms were re-let on terms of years at full rents, responsible and improving tenants were preferred, the lands were drained, enclosed, and planted, excellent farmhouses and homesteads were built, roads laid out, quarries opened, and the whole property showed the unmistakable signs of able administration. Moreover, the scattered lands were sold, new lands conveniently placed purchased, and plots of ground that had become valuable for building sites were sold for large prices. Sites were granted for schools and chapels, churches were repaired, and the spiritual and educational welfare of the tenantry cared for in a liberal spirit." The lengthened period of the Prince of Wales' minority allowed space for this expenditure to prove reproductive. Before the appointment of the council the net revenue of the duchy had sunk to 11,000: when the commissioners, on the Prince of Wales attaining his majority, presented their final report, the annual gross income approached 50,000. In addition to this, there were accumulations, amounting to 54,000, ready for transference to the Prince's privy purse. The commissioners remarked, " It is unnecessary to allude to the deep interest which His Royal Highness took in all that related to an improved administration of the duchy possessions; but we should not do justice to our own feelings if we did not humbly ask leave to record on this occasion our sense of the irreparable loss which we sustained by his death. To his just mind and clear judgment, his quick perception of what is right, his singular discretion, his remarkable aptitude for the conduct of affairs, we never looked in vain for guidance and advice on any occasion of difficulty. The soundness of his opinions in all our deliberations was rendered more apparent by the toleration with which he listened, and was always ready to defer to those of others. He never lost sight of the improvement of the condition of the tenant and labourer, whilst anxiously seeking to restore the property of the duchy to a state of prosperity; and to him, we may truly say, it is mainly due that the Prince of Wales will now enter into the possession of an estate greatly increased in value, free from nearly all disputes with neighbouring proprietors and others which at one time prevailed."

The character of the Prince Consort was remarkable for its symmetry, the equal development of all the faculties, and for complete harmony between the intellectual powers and the moral feelings. The portraits of the Prince give a fair idea of his features; but there is something in the expression, when the face is lit up by thought, which no portrait can adequately convey. " The Prince had a noble presence, his carriage was erect, his figure betokened strength and activity, and his demeanour was dignified. He had a staid, earnest, and thoughtful look when he was in a grave mood; but when he smiled, his whole countenance was irradiated with pleasure,; and there was a pleasant sound and heartiness about his laugh which will not soon be forgotten by those who were wont to hear it." He is said to have been very handsome as a young man. His face grew finer as he advanced in years; and it was remarked that his countenance never assumed a nobler aspect, nor had more real beauty in it, than in the last year or two of his life. It bore none of those fatal lines which indicate craft or insincerity, greed, or sensuality; but all was clear, open, pure-minded, and honest. Marks of thought, of care, of studiousness were there; but they were accompanied by signs of a soul at peace with itself, and which was troubled chiefly by its love for others and its solicitude for their welfare. His mind was in the best sense original; for, while free from everything like eccentricity, he thought for himself, and formed his own conclusions on all subjects. He was quick in perception, while the resources of his well-stored mind were readily producible on all occasions. Sincere and truth-loving, he delighted in earnest discussion, equally willing either to learn or instruct. He enjoyed wit and humour, and had a keen sense of the ludicrous. In relating amusing anecdotes, he threw just so much of imitation into his manner as to bring the scene vividly before the mind, without descending to anything ungraceful. Guided by a strong sense of duty, he was always sure to go through anything he had undertaken to do, without regard to self-interest or personal inconvenience - willingly taking the measure of responsibility put upon him, but never assuming more. Unlike many who are actuated by a rigid sense of duty, he was singularly free from prejudice, full of candour, and always ready to admit new facts, however they might militate against old convictions. His habit was to investigate carefully, weigh patiently, discuss calmly, and then not swiftly, but after much turning in his mind, to come to a decision. He had one characteristic of a rich and noble mind which is rare indeed. He had the greatest delight in anybody else saying a fine thing or doing a great deed, and would rejoice over it and talk of it for days. " He delighted in humanity doing well on any occasion or in any manner.... But, indeed, throughout his career, the Prince was one of those who threw his life into other people's lives, and lived in them; " and, as we are assured on the best authority, " there never was an instance of more unselfish and chivalrous devotion than his love to his Consort-Sovereign and to his adopted country. That her reign might be great and glorious, that his adopted country might excel in art, in science, in literature, and - what was dearer still to him - in social well-being, formed ever his chief hope and aim." Notwithstanding a certain constitutional shyness sometimes associated with refined natures, which shrink from the expression of all they feel, he was blessed with a buoyant, joyous, happy temperament, which made his home and his household glad. Though not subject to sudden elations or depressions, beneath the joyous current of his feelings, " deep down in the character, there was a vein, not exactly of melancholy, but certainly of pensiveness, which grew a little more sombre as the years went on. It was a pensiveness bred from much pondering upon the difficulty of human affairs, and upon the serious thing that life is."

One of the finest traits in the Prince's character was his sympathy with earnest workers. He wished for success for all honest human endeavours, whether by the artisan or the statesman. His love of knowledge was intense. Being always singularly impressed with intellectual beauty, he remarked on one occasion to the Queen, " To me a long, closely-connected train of reasoning is like a beautiful strain of music; you can hardly imagine my delight in it." But he loved knowledge, not merely for its own sake, but for what it could do for mankind. On the other hand, to him the most hateful of all deformity was that of falsehood, especially when it assumed the form of flattery and of vice, whose presence depressed, grieved, and horrified him. He had, besides, an unutterable repugnance to what was mean and low in human nature. Accordingly, the conditions he drew up for the prize that is given by Her Majesty at Wellington College are very characteristic. " This prize is not to be awarded to the most bookish boy, to the least faulty boy, to the boy who should be most precise, diligent, and prudent; but to the noblest boy, to the boy who should afford most promise of becoming a large- hearted, high-motived man."

If those about the Prince could see any fault in his character, it was an exaggeration of virtue, an excessive anxiety that everything he did should be perfect, and that " he cared too much about too many things." Everything he did must be supremely well done if it was to please and satisfy Mm. In the choice of a jewel, in the placing of a statue, in the laying out of a walk, in the direction of a party of pleasure, his reasoning mind must be satisfied; and he longed that everything that was to be should be the best of its kind. This anxious desire for perfection, and perpetual effort to reach its summit, put too great a strain upon his energies, which, no doubt, caused his health prematurely to give way, and predisposed him to the disease which terminated his career at the early age of forty-two. It has been well remarked by the author of the Introduction to his Speeches, " that if the Prince had lived to attain what we now think a good old age, he would have become the most accomplished statesman and the most guiding personage in Europe; a man to whose arbitrament fierce national quarrels might have been submitted, and by whose influence calamitous wars might have been averted." He was evidently one of those of whom it has been said, that their hearts never grow old. He had a peculiarly gentle, tender, and pathetic cast of mind; his nature being of a character more German than English. "Though eminently practical, and therefore suited to the people he came to dwell amongst, he had in a high degree that gentleness, that softness, and that romantic nature which belong to his race and his nation, and which make them very pleasant to live with, and very tender in all their social and family relations."

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Pictures for Chapter I, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 2

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