Saturday, July 21, 2007

Baby grows up

Beatrice knew in her heart that sooner or later her dear Mama---Queen Victoria of all Britain---would give in, eventually, and let her marry the man of her dreams. Wouldn't she?

As I said in an earlier post, the Queen was furious with Beatrice for putting her in this position! She simply couldn't do without her daughter. Didn't everyone understand that? Beatrice was her confidante and she relied on her immensely for so many things. She had the weight of her world on her shoulders, and dear Albert, her husband was gone. Her nerves had been through so much. She couldn't live without Beatrice at her side.

And Beatrice dreamed of her new love night after night, knowing deep in her heart that she had met the man of her dreams, and oh, how could she ever give him up? She didn't want to hurt Mama in any way but why couldn't Mama understand that all Beatrice wanted was what the Queen herself had wanted and cherished...a man to love her and a house filled with children?She wanted to marry sweet "Liko" as he was known---the handsomest of the Battenberg brothers. And what was more, he loved her, too.

And thus began "The Battle Royale"---if there ever was one---this was it. Mother and daughter did not speak to each other. Oh, Beatrice did what she needed to do...she continued to arrange the flow of her mother's day and announce her mothers visitors and did her obligatory secretarial work, but when mealtime came, she sat in silence and ate quietly. She would not speak to her mother unless it was something of the utmost importance, most likely involving matters of the crown. There was no more small talk or gossip or even smiling. If Victoria wanted her to stay that badly, then fine. She'd stay. But she'd be as quiet as a mouse and as lifeless as could be. Needless to say, Beatrice must have been depressed and anxious over the whole situation. It was tearing her to bits. As much as she loved her mother, she was angry, too.

As for Victoria, her nerves began to be strained to the breaking point. During meals, her daughter sat quietly and stoically, ignoring her and barely speaking to anyone. As the days and weeks wore on, Beatrice became a changed woman. The Queen was distressed and quite sick over the whole ordeal. However, Beatrice had to understand that the Queen could not be familiar with anyone else. She needed a confidante and daughter that she could be intimate with. Her other daughters were off and married, some of them in far away lands. And the Queen was so lonely without her dearest husband Albert who had died so young. And he really was her dearest Albert...never had a husband been so loved. (And I mean, really!) What was Beatrice trying to do to her? If she allowed Beatrice to leave Britain and marry, she would not have the strength to go on. Her life was a series of pressures and obligations and she could not bear it.
Do you know this went on...not six weeks...but nearly six months? I don't know many people--or anyone for that matter, that dared to push Victoria's emotions to those limits. But finally the good Queen remembered her sweet, lovely days when she was a newlywed and the times she spent with the one man who she could truly be herself with...Prince Albert. She loved him passionately, wholeheartedly...what would her life have been without him? And...thinking like this...she realized that her baby just wanted the same thing...a man to adore her and a family. Did Victoria have the right, just because of her position, to insist her daughter have less than she herself had had?
She summoned Beatrice and offered a compromise....She could marry Henry of Battenberg---"Liko"---if she promised to remain in England at her side as her confidante, with her new husband and any children that might arrive in the future. Nothing could change. Beatrice's husband and any children would have to stay with the Queen always---and travel with her to her different homes and to London. Beatrice, ecstatic, agreed quickly to the idea and Liko also jumped at the chance. And so they were engaged and a lavish wedding on the grounds of Victoria's house on the Isle of Wight was planned. There would be tents on the grounds, flowers and a royal menu par excellence. Although Victoria was a bit nervous, despite herself, she enjoyed the planning and it did her heart good to see her daughter so contented...and began to become quite fond of Liko herself. The picture on the top left is of the royal wedding gown laid out and prepared before the wedding day. That's what things looked like in their home. For once, Beatrice felt like a Queen. Victoria even allowed Beatrice to wear her very own wedding veil....a sacred thing...and even joined the festivities of the wedding---to the degree that Victoria allowed herself to do that sort of thing. She was a bit teary when Princess Beatrice and her new husband pulled away in the carriage to begin their honeymoon. But, she stoically wiped her tears away. She would not let anyone see her emotion. These feelings would be recorded in her diary.
Beatrice had 3 children with Liko, and the eldest child was named "Ena." Ena was a "favourite" of the Queen's...(that' what the English Royals called it---favourite). Victoria had several grandchildren that she was particularly attached to....but I won't tell you all of that now....we can save that for another day. Queen Victoria allowed the three darlings to run and play in the palaces to a degree that she had never allowed her very own children to do. The children were allowed to be somewhat intimate with their grandmother, which was quite rare. Royal protocol was lessened just a bit when it came to her three grandchildren. Pictures of the Queen during this time show her content...and rarely did she smile, but when she was with the young family, she did smile more and she became more relaxed.
Beatrice stayed extremely close to her mother, so close that at times she felt she neglected her children just a little. Truly, she was a woman caught in the middle and this was difficult for her, but she managed to handle herself with a dignity and grace that--- really--- has not been widely recognized, but should be. Victoria was really at her best then...a tough Queen, seasoned, but very fair...and her legacy at the end of her life--- I think--- is in much part due to the devotion of Beatrice. There is not that much information on Beatrice...but, there will be a book coming out in the future on her. It's called The Last Princess, and it is not available in the United States yet.(sigh) but it is available to those of you in the UK. (Yes, I've thought of getting it from the United Kingdom!)
Beatrice simply adored her husband--and Victoria found him quite "amiable". I daresay---and this is my opinion only---that these happy years reminded Victoria very much of her young married years with Albert. There was laughter and joy again in their homes again, and Liko, in his own way, looked after them in a sort of protective way which I think the Queen needed badly.
Ah....fairytales....they really do come true.
There's some sadness in their story...but, I am not here to make you sad. I'm here to tell you that Beatrice got the joy that she feared would elude her forever...loving a dear man...having her children...and doing the job she was born to do for her beloved "mama'.
And Ena grew up to be a beautiful girl, and a Queen too. She also carried the hemophiliac gene.
Perhaps on another post I can talk more about Beatrice and Liko, and their life together. I'm definitely not finished with Beatrice yet, that's for sure. I've got Beatrice on the brain!
Speaking about what's on the brain, I'm working on a new, long piece for the Royalist. I'm hoping it will turn out good. I'll let you know when it's ready.
I've also been having a grand time on my new My Space page. I worked on it several weeks before I started adding friends. Its a blast!! I love it! Why am I always the last one to find out these things? LOL... My page has a royal theme (how did you ever guess?) and it's really been lots of fun. I also added so many new friends to my Bebo page.
One of my dear friends sold her second book---and I just saw the cover!! Its sooo pretty and once its closer to publication maybe I'll ask her if I can post some information on it here....or perhaps even interview her or something. She loves royalty, castles and all of that too---and her novel is filled with a knight, a castle and a lot of love.
Several writers have written to me to ask if they can link up with this blog---silly! Of course you can. But it's very sweet of them to ask and I'm honored that anyone would like this enough to link to it. Someone also wrote me to ask if they can interview me about writing about Queens....I don't have all the details yet, but that's such compliment. I don't know much really---except about Queens, that is.
It's a lazy Sunday afternoon and my little Prince and my King are food shopping and I am supposed to be cleaning up a little instead of writing about Queens!
Please let me know what you'd like to read about and I'll try to write about it.... I was even thinking of adding an extra page or two for fiction stories & excerpts on my "Queens novels"....its just a thought. Oh, do I dare?
Psssst.....That picture on the top's really Ena's wedding dress laid out. But I didn't want to spoil the get the idea.
And in case you're wondering what Princess Diana's private little nickname was...(you probably haven't been able to sleep nights wondering, I know!) ...only family and very close friends called her this...they called her "Duch."
Stay cozy in your castles this week and treat yourselves like the Queens you are...

Friday, July 06, 2007

Peeking In

What is it about those castles, those princesses, those lives...that makes us want to peek in? What is it about them that draws us in and makes us wonder? Is it the idea of the we want to make sure they lived happily ever after? Will they teach us how? Or could it be the gold and the jewels and the beautiful things that we don't have and wish we did? Maybe we want to be the ones behind those doors looking out.

For me, it is the constancy of royalty that intrigues me and soothes me. They are true stories, but for me, they never end. They are there no matter what. The long, drawn out stories of their lives are there on rainy days and lonely days and happy days and fearful ones. I can depend on them to be the same and never change. It's one thing in this long and changing thing we call life that doesn't go away. All the details are firmly in place and they will stay that way forever. The written word has captured a moment and feeling in time. That's what I like. That's what I crave. I want to be there with them in that moment. Maybe that's what you like too. I guess we all have our own reasons...but, certainly they entertain us all and let us believe in magic a little while reminding us of things that will always be true.

I'll be writing another piece for The Royalist soon and I'm sitting here with biographies and large picture books scattered all over the room in different piles. And I'm thinking. Something on Queen Mary might be nice...the younger Queen Mary when she was known as Princess May of Teck (that's the present Queen's grandmother) or maybe something on the 5 daughters of Queen Victoria. (Oh, they were a lively bunch!) I guess I'll have to think about that over the weekend and decide. Hopefully, it will turn out well. Maybe I'll do a two parter this time.

I have to say that I'm humbled at the response I've received from the writers and readers I've heard from recently about how much they are enjoying the blog. Who would have ever thought? Not me. It took all my courage to throw my work out there, but I'm glad I did. If nothing else, its entertaining. I'll just stick to my formula which is to write about what I know. The majority of these posts are composed as I sit on my bed, from memory. I don't want them to be seriously historic or boring. I just like to relate what I think were some of the more interesting points in their lives, as people. Yes, they had their roles to play in history but they were people too---held to a higher standard than us at times---and somehow they survived it.

I saw the memorial concert for Diana last week and she would be so proud of her boys. In the closet next to me are a collection of old Royalty magazines, with little Wills and Harry on the front. Some of them are even before William's time. It's so sad that Diana's life was cut so short. I know we still miss her. She will never be replaced. What a legacy she left us. She was such a sweet little dynamo, wasn't she? What a Queen she would have made! I still love reading about her and of course, have all her biographies on a special shelf in my bedroom. I'll never forget hearing on the radio, on my birthday---that Prince Charles was engaged. Later that night we saw her on TV in her blue suit, right off the rack. Even then I made a mental note of when the wedding was. I knew that London was 5 hours ahead of us here in the states and I knew I'd have to get up early to watch. I think I got up about 3:30 in the morning. I think I'm the only person who "watched" the calender go from the end of February till July that year. Even way back then I was a royal lover. I couldn't wait for the wedding. I hope sometime within the next five years to be waking up at 3:30 to watch William or Harry's wedding.

Speaking of getting up early---that's what I have to do in the morning. (luckily not at 3:3o---I'd only do that for Diana!) But, I should be signing off. But before I go---do you know the special nickname that Diana's sisters (and a few close friends) had for her? If you don't, I'll tell you next time...
And I won't forget to tell you what happened with "Baby" Princess Beatrice, and if she was able to pull off that wedding or not.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


She was the baby of the family and her story is one of my favorites. This is a picture of Princess Beatrice on her wedding day, wearing her mother's wedding veil. Her mother, of course, was Queen Victoria. Beatrice was the only daughter---and there were many---to be given the privilege of wearing Victoria's own veil of honitan lace. (I'm doing this from I hope I have that right, about the name of the lace!)

It might seem at times that whenever you read about the royals, Queen Victoria's name pops up somehow. That's because Victoria really was considered the "grandmama of Europe." That's because her relatives---and then her children and grandchildren went on to assume many of the thrones of Europe.

But back to Beatrice...the baby. As much as Victoria moaned about being pregnant and loathed it---in the end, the pregnancy and birth of baby Beatrice was to begin one of the fulfilling relationships of her life. It all began on a chilly night in December, 1861. It was the night that young Beatrice's father died in the Blue Room at Windsor. But this just wasn't any father...this was Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's adored--and I mean adored--husband. The night he died, the agonized and grief stricken Queen, picked up her youngest child and carried Beatrice to her own bed, laying with her throughout the night, holding Albert's nightclothes and clutching their youngest child. There was something special about some ways she was the nearest link to Albert. Beatrice comforted her. (I can write about the night Albert died in another post, but I warn you in advance, you may need some kleenex.)

The baby had been a happy and carefree child, full of enthusiasms--but, as Victoria's world crumbled on that terrible night, so would Beatrice's personality. Never again would relatives see the confident, bubbly personality of the old Beatrice. After that night it was buried away forever, and she became guarded. I'm sure it was partly shock--seeing her distraught mother and family--but it was also partly in response to the years of mourning that went on in the daily life of Victoria's court...crying, hushed voices, tension, melancholy, melodrama.

Each elder daughter took her turn in looking after her mother. They acted as liaisons, secretaries and precious shields, keeping away the world. Eventually, Beatrice rightfully assumed her turn. Because Beatrice was the baby, there was no question that she would stay in this needed position. Whilst her other sisters married, marriage for Beatrice could not be a consideration. Quite frankly, Queen Victoria simply couldn't do without her. And that was that.

Beatrice lived a quiet life, in rooms near her mother. She was at the Queen's side from morning till night, reading her letters, taking dictation and notes, keeping callers at bay and keeping her dear mother company. Beatrice was very good at it too. She naturally deferred to her mother's authority and her life was filled with all of the things that a loving companion would naturally do. She was protective, caring and genuinely adored her mother and enjoyed being with her, for the most part. She accompanied her from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle, then to Osborne House and we can't forget Balmoral Castle in Scotland. For the most part they traveled to and from the latter three homes as Victoria was much too nervous to spend too much time in London.

But there always comes a time, when...well, things change. And things changed in a big way for Beatrice. In her late twenties and already a confirmed spinster, she met Henry of Battenberg at a large family event in Darmstadt. She fell in love instantly with the very handsome Battenberg...all the Battenberg brothers were known to be very handsome. And that was that. She could be as stubborn as her mother when it came right down to it. Well, she was her mother's daughter, wasn't she?
She was absolutely determined to marry the man of her dreams and I must say---Queen Victoria was even more determined that things would stay just the same. There would be no marriage, the Queen decreed. She simply couldn't do without her---she would not survive it.
But, as you saw above, the Princess was in her wedding dress and so, did it happen and if so, how the heck did Beatrice pull it off? When I tell you, you won't believe it.
But I'm getting tired now. We'll leave that story for another day.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Osborne; A Queen's Favorite Home

This was originally written and published on The Royalist.

Written by Susan Flanders
Tuesday, 04 April 2006

Victoria and Albert were married only several years and their family was beginning to grow slowly, with the addition of their children. The couple had restored not only dignity to the crown, but were an endless source of fascination for the nation.The young family represented stability and the young Queen took very seriously the many tasks undertook in relation to her role as Head of State. She was supremely happy with her husband and her private life was becoming more and more precious to her. More than anything, what she wanted was a normal family life...just like everyone else.

Whilst the Queen loved the excitement of being in London, she noticed that Albert was much happier while they were in the country. It seemed to soothe and invigorate him. It was therefore always a source of sadness to them when a visit to the country was nearing its close...yet, Victoria couldn’t often be away. Her Ministers would never hear of it.

As monarch, she had use of Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace in London, each one having its advantages as well as its drawbacks. Windsor was much too large and didn’t have the cosiness she craved.In turn, the Palace was really not ideal for the sovereign's growing family, who felt at times as if they were living in a goldfish bowl. Even when trying to go out for a walk, invariably there would be someone there to see them. There was no privacy.Windsor was preferable, and undoubtedly the more beautiful, but both homes belonged to the Crown. Victoria and Albert weren’t free to do as they pleased.

Ever sensitive to her husband's needs, the Queen pondered this and knew that Albert perceived both places as hers, and not his. Why couldn’t they, like any other married couple, have a home of their own?One day as the royal couple were taking a walk, they discussed this at length. If the new home could accommodate their servants and the Privy Council (if needed) it might work. There must also be room for the Prime Minister and important guests, as well as the ever-present aides, such as Private Secretaries.Excitedly, they discussed the options and decided they wanted to find a property of their own, to be paid for with their own money. If this could be achieved, they would own their very own home which, as Victoria mused, "would be so nice".

The young Queen remembered a special place from her youth: the Isle of Wight. That's where Norris Castle was and she had gone there with her mother in the summers while she was young.When thinking back to that carefree time near the sea, it brought with it happy images of her dogs running near the ocean, spending time outdoors, the smell of the sea and sleeping soundly through the night. 'Oh', she thought, 'if only I had bought it years ago when it was offered to me!'Sadly, she had not.

Soon, however, the royal couple were made aware of another home for sale on the Isle of Wight called Osborne. Albert went first to look at the house and property, alone. He arrived home late in the evening and the Queen excitedly awaited his impressions. Albert was happy with what he saw, Victoria recording that he was "much pleased".They decided it would be wise to take a lease on the house for a year and, if they liked it, they could make the arrangements to buy it and make the necessary alterations to accommodate their staff, and to make it comfortable for the family.

Seeing the house for the first time made quite an impression on the Queen. After sailing across the Solvent, they approached the property. Victoria was ecstatic. Noting that it was "delightfully private" — which was very important to her — they stayed on for several days to look over the house and spent hours alone investigating the property, going through the woods and strolling along the beach, with its beautiful panorama of blue waters.Victoria was thrilled with the house and grounds and felt it was paradise.

The burden of duties on herself and Albert was causing both to feel prematurely aged. They were tired but now, finally, they would have a place to rest and to be totally alone.What more could the Queen want?Her husband was evidently happy here, on this lush land, and she loved the bracing sea air, which would be so good for them. She pronounced that the house was "so complete and snug."

Victoria, who looked to Albert for wisdom in so many things, saw an excitement in him, an aliveness whilst he was on the property. She could see in his eyes that he loved the land and the sea, and the feeling of it all. She felt confident they would buy Osborne.Albert began to talk to her about what accommodations would need to be arranged, and spoke too about their future. He came up with ideas for the landscape and gardens and they even imagined that there might be a walk to the sea, lined by large evergreens. He reeled off the names of trees and plants that they might want to buy, and walked around the land, studying it's layout, all the time pointing out his ideas to his adoring wife. It was the beginning of a new life.

After some difficulties finalizing the sale, as well as the time it took to acquire the properties surrounding Osborne to assure their privacy, the royal couple's dream began to be realized. Albert made the purchase from their personal finances. Finally, they had their own home!The Queen's Ministers had no real problem with the idea of her "vacation" home, and Albert was excitedly working on the plans for the house. It was wonderful to see him so happy, so content and eager to create for himself and his beloved family the safe haven they needed. They would be in total seclusion.

Victoria and Albert were never more excited.There was also an added bonus to this delightful place: when sailing across the Solent to Osborne, the Queen could disembark on her very own property! About hew new home, Victoria wrote to (her former Prime Minister) Lord Melbourne: "It is impossible to see a prettier place, with woods and valleys and points de vue, which would be beautiful anywhere; but all this near the sea (the woods grow into the sea) is quite perfection. We have a charming beach quite to ourselves. The sea was so blue and calm that the Prince said it was like Naples. And then we can walk about anywhere by ourselves without fear of being followed and mobbed, which Lord Melbourne will easy understand is delightful."

Part II Below

Osborne; A Queen's Favorite Home, Part II

Albert spent much time with the architect Thomas Cubitt reviewing the plans for the new house. It was decided that it was more practical to build a new home instead of adding on to the existing one. Whilst the extensive renovations were undertaken, the Royal family lived in the large, Georgian style home — already there — in which Victoria immediately felt comfortable.Eventually, once ready, the family would move into the new, larger house, the foundation of which was broken on March 16th 1845.
It was an exciting time. Long periods were spent in London and at Windsor Castle, but as soon as they could get away to the Isle of Wight they did. Here they could oversee the plans and watch the construction of their home.Not only was Albert fully aware of every detail of Osborne's progress, he was busily designing the landscape in his mind, and in his letters to family, rendering pictures for them in pen and ink of how the gardens might be laid out.
Everything would have to be just right. The Queen would of course, need a bedroom and sitting room to overlook the magnificence of the blue Solvent, and he wanted to have the children close by as well, so that the environment would be family orientated and intimate. The close knit feeling they were striving for was unusual in comparison to what other royal families had done in the past.
Victoria and Albert chose an Italianate style for their huge, new home, partly because the view reminded the Prince Consort of Italy. The main part of the house was called The Pavilion. A tower was added, as well as a clock, which was scrutinized by Albert.Outside the Pavilion, a terrace was added which they would grow to love.
Many hours were spent there walking amongst the vibrant, colorful plants and flowers, with the waters as a backdrop. Sometimes it was a place to simply relax and converse, and at night time Victoria had the luxury of taking a stroll all by herself, or with Albert, to look at the waters which were sometimes lit up by the moon.
Inside the Pavilion was a massive staircase which traversed many floors, around which were linked many rooms. The guest rooms were situated on the ground floor, included amongst which were the expansive drawing and dining rooms. Pictures of the dining room show that it had light pink walls with splashes of gold and maroon throughout, with heavy mirrors and paintings on the wall. Gleaming, dark furniture was placed under the paintings and heavy drapes hung at the windows, allowing a view of the sea. Enormous, colorful paintings covered every wall of the rooms downstairs, and many statues of the Royal family were placed on stands in the hallways and landings of the house. The hallways in particular took on a classical feeling.
Suites were prepared for the children and their nannies on the third floor. Each room seemed to have windows, almost from floor to ceiling. To protect the children, bars were put across the windows. Just below it on the second floor, for themselves, Victoria and Albert designed a bedroom, sitting rooms and dressings rooms.
The Queen never tired of sitting near her French windows, simply enjoying the scenery or painting watercolor pictures and sketches of the views outside. Painting was a favorite past-time and the pictures she created were light, airy and done in pastel hues.The contents of the rooms were considered comfortable by royal standards, but they were far from opulent. Again, in their private quarters, Albert consumed the walls with his favorite large paintings and a Winterhalter portrait. One luxury they did allow themselves was a bathroom each, with as much hot water as they desired.
The doorways had a unique combination of the letters V and A, intertwined, which adorned the tops. The furniture was all comfortable and picked out personally by Prince Albert. There was chintz on some of the furniture and also at the windows.Victoria loved Windsor Castle, but did note about Osborne “here and dear Windsor, like night and day".
The Queen spent time working on her dispatch boxes and paperwork, while Albert would usually head outside to see about one of his many projects.Victoria was more than pleased that her husband was so happy, noting: "It does one's heart good to see how my beloved Albert enjoys it all, and is so full of all the plans and improvements he means to carry out. He is hardly to be kept at home for a moment." Yes, this was where they belonged. Victoria had no doubt about that.
A wing for the household was also added to the new home. Osborne soon became an impressive building when seen from the sea, as the sailboats and steamships moved about on the Solvent. Sometimes, while watching the dark storm clouds roll in, the Queen could see her yacht, the Victoria and Albert.Her Majesty's carriage, when it arrived, could be pulled up snugly underneath the portico, which was attached to the Pavilion. The exterior of the house was covered in a stucco-like material, made to resemble stone. It was only a 4 hour journey from London to Osborne, making it a wonderful escape for the family and far away from the rigid and formal court life they were used to.
Trips to Osborne caused much anticipation, especially for the Queen, who knew that soon she would be able to spend quiet time alone with her family, and most especially Albert. She loved having him all to herself. Once they left London, at least some of the burdens were lifted from her husband's shoulders and she knew he would relax and she could be herself.Time at Osborne allowed Victoria the intimacy she craved, a level of which her position normally didn't allow. Victoria confided: "Never do I enjoy myself more or more peacefully then when I can be so much with my beloved Albert...follow him everywhere."
It was also during these early years that the Queen swam in the sea for the first time in her life. Heaven! Many years went into the planning and building of Osborne. Guests acknowledged the attention to details within the house and its uniqueness. Visitors were usually comfortable there. It wasn’t long before the family settled themselves into a routine.
Their day usually started at around 7am. Albert got up first and headed to his dressing room where he began to work on his paperwork, focusing on correspondence, current projects or memorandums.Victoria, more relaxed, lounged in her soft, cozy bed for another hour or two. Much of the time she spent there she was pregnant.Sometimes, on warm days, they breakfasted on the terrace with some of the older children. As usual, after they ate, Victoria and Albert strolled through the grounds. Weather permitting, the Queen would sketch or, Albert by her side, spend time with their children. Sometimes they collected shells at the waters edge or explored the property.
The royal children had a large Swiss Cottage, which served as a play house, all of the contents of which were in miniature, even the saucepans.As a treat, Albert would cook his children a surprise: a German meal! He also taught them to garden, each having their own area of land and paid for whatever vegetables they were able to grow.
These were exciting times for the children, some of whom grew to have a lifelong love of the outdoors.Everywhere you looked within this royal home there was a token of love---a piece of a memory---a sprinkle of meaning---and a creation remembered. Truly, the Queen thought, we are living in a dream. It was Victoria’s deepest hope and lifelong desire that the home stay in the family for generations...a place of beloved memories and comfort to her grandchildren and their children.Monarchs have wished for many things, but they do not always possess the power to make a dream come true. Queen Victoria's dream was that Osborne would withstand the torrents of time, going on forever.Sadly, this was one dream which was never destined to be.

"Dearest Child"

One of my favorite books is one called Dearest Child. It's a book of letters from Queen Victoria to her eldest daughter, Vicky. This is her. Vicky was Princess Frederick of Prussia and later Empress of Prussia---she waited many years for her husband, Fritz, to assume the Prussian Throne and he did not reign long. After her husband's life was cut short, her son "Willy" began his reign and treated his mother with cruelty. Willy was very well known throughout Europe--he had a lame arm, shorter than the other, and kept it in a special constructed pocket, so that it wouldn't be noticed. But Willy was noticed by everyone--he was quite a character. Why though, did he feel it necessary to be cruel to his own mother?
This is where the lives of Royalty parallel our own lives--real life. Vicky suffered at the hands of her child, her eldest son. And like most mothers, she worried about him, cared for him and cherished him. She did everything in her power to heal the arm. No treatment was spared. As a young wife, she wrote to her own mother---Queen Victoria---pouring out her pain and her fears. As a mother, Victoria worried and sympthasied with her daughter and sent advice. Victoria had nine children of her own and so she wasn't inexperienced in child rearing.
The book contains letters---not so much from a Queen to a Princess, but, more as a mother to a daughter. They really loved one another greatly, and the distance they were separated made it all the more poignant and difficult. They wrote constantly to each other, with the letters being sent by a special courier much of the time. The letters are timeless. It shows that nothing much has changed between mother and daughter relationships in the last 150 years.

Let me quote some:

Victoria to Vicky, Buckingham Palace, February 7, 1858.....'I think of you so much and long to know what you are doing---but, alas! I cannot tell! I had hoped to get a telegraph, but have had none, and no one has told me what your toilette was to be these next days! Oh! this terrible separation, till one hears and knows all---it makes one so terribly fidgety and impatient.' and 'Do let Lady Churchill describe all your rooms at the Palace at Berlin and you must tell me exactly how your hours are---what you do---when you dress and undress and have breakfast, etc., for you know what we do to a minute but unfortunately we know nothing and that makes the separation so much more trying.' and 'Get Jane C. to tell me about your rooms---the railway carriages etc. Has the railway carriage got a small room to it? And (you will think me as bad as Leopold B,) were your room on the journey and at Potsdam arranged according to the English fashion? Then I see by the papers you wore a green dress at the Cologne concert. Was that the one with black lace?---You must not be impatient about all these details which I am so anxious to know, for I am anxious to know how all my toilettes succeeded? The pink ball dress as Brussels was much admired. How I do long to hear all about the King and Queen and family.'

Vicky to Queen Victoria, Berlin, February 12, 1858.....'We always breakfast a nine or a quarter past just the same as at home, then I sit down to write, speak to Doctor Wegner, then to the Baron, and usually Heinz has some question to ask about the dinner or about presentations. At twelve everyday we have received deputations and addresses and presents from different towns, it becomes very tiresome at last; they all make long speeches, and poor Fritz has to answer them which he does quite wonderfully. He has such a command of the language. I have never heard him hesitate once. As soon as the business is over we dine out of the town and then walk in the places where we are least tormented by being run after. Our usual dinner hour is at five, as I ever take anything between breakfast and dinner, and then nothing afterwards. And I find that rather pleasant; the gentleman and ladies sit or stand and talk a little after dinner, and then we usually do back to our room and go to bed about half past ten or eleven when there are no balls or opera or parties, but that is a rare case.'

Victoria to Vicky, Buckingham Palace, February 15, 1858.....' Your dear letter of the 12th and 13th arrived safely this morning, with heaps of other letters and newspapers so that I could hardly get through them but yours are always so well written, so well expressed that independent of the happiness of hearing from you, they are a real pleasure to receive. I am happy to think you have a little leisure, for that cutting up of your day is very bad for every thing, for the mind as well as the body. The cold I am sure, dear, helps to keep you so well and brisk---quite as much as the hours (which I can't bear to think of, though I wish particularly to follow them when we visit you)---for you will recollect how you used to shiver when it was damp and mild---whereas the bright, dry frosty, cold always did you good, warmed you and made you less chilly. I think it hardly safe to from 9 &1/4 till 5 without anything? I would advise never to do it if you felt faint or hungry---but take a biscuit or dry crust. You take, I suppose, a cup of tea at night? Only remember that the better you become acquainted with the family and court the more you must watch yourself and keep yourself under restraint. No familiarity---no loud laughing. You know, dearest, how necessary it is to have self control, tiresome as it may be. Kindness, friendliness and civility but no familiarity except with your parents (in-law).'

From Vicky to Victoria, Berlin, February 15, 1958.....'Dear Mama, I did not think you would miss me as you do, I was often such a plague to you; but sweet is the thought that one is missed by those whom one loves so passionately, so intensely as I love Papa and you, and the dear children and the whole of England. It pains me that you should still be sad. If you knew how nearer I feel drawn to you, my beloved parents; instead of feeling myself cut off from you, I feel that I am serving you both and proving my deep gratitude to you, in doing my duty here and in imitating your great and glorious example. I may I hope be of real use to you. How happy that would make me. '
And I think they said it all.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Queen's Heir

I wrote the following article some time ago and it was published on The Royalist. However, since it's in an area which cannot always be accessed, I decided to copy it here.

Victoria and Albert’s Heir: Raising Bertie
The Raising of a Prince of Wales

By Susan Flanders

Victoria looked down at her second born child on November 9, 1841, just hours old and saw a beautiful baby boy with ‘large and dark eyes, a good high forehead, a pretty but rather large nose, a nice little mouth and chin.’ At Buckingham Palace, the Queen rested after the delivery
This baby, who would be named Albert Edward, was the first male heir born to the throne in over 70 years. All throughout Britain there was jubilation and excitement as guns were fired, crowds cheered and Londoners celebrated and sang “God Save the Queen.” Victoria was pleased that a male heir had been born, and thought that if the boy had inherited any of his dear father’s traits and qualities, he would do well.
The young parents entrusted their new baby to the royal nursery where he met his older sister, Vicky, called “Pussy” by the family. Although the baby was well taken care of, over time Victoria found herself growing uneasy about the child and having anxieties. He just didn’t seem to be doing the things that little Vicky had done at the same age. Albert also noticed the difference in his progress. The parents were concerned, but for the time being kept their fears to themselves.
As the children grew, more siblings arrived and before long the nursery was bustling with activity. The Queen was quite happy with the appointment of Lady Lyttleton, who would oversee the nursery. Albert found himself involved in all things relating to the children---from their schedules to what they ate. Their education started very early. Meals were basic and spartan and there would be exercise everyday.
Intellectually, Vicky quickly surpassed her little brother. Bertie couldn’t keep up with his older sister. While “Pussy” was robust and quick, her brother seemed slow and awkward. Little Vicky also had a firm grasp on her studies----she excelled, especially in languages and art ----while Bertie could barely make it through his lessons. To make matters worse for the Prince of Wales, his sister Vicky was poised, and had a quick wit. She dazzled her parents, especially Albert, who loved her more than he believed it was possible to love another human being. It would be difficult for any sibling to measure up, and in Bertie’s case, especially difficult. To Victoria and Albert’s credit, they did shower all the children with attention.
“The boy” as he was referred to by his mother, continued to struggle in his lessons. The education continued, the family grew and soon it was baby Alice who seemed to be catching up to Bertie. The young boy became very close with Alice and she tended to protect and shield him, acting as a buffer when she knew he was hurt. These two youngsters were to have a very special bond between them all of their lives.
About her son, the queen wrote to a favorite relative, “You will understand how fervent are my prayers, and I am sure everybody’s must be, to see him resemble his father in every, every respect, both in body and mind.” Victoria clung to this wish. Inevitably, the parents were a bit disappointed, but were far from giving up hope. .
Eventually, he was put in a class with his younger brother Affie, but the demands upon him did not stop. Fully aware of his future position, his parents went to their counselor and friend Baron Stockmar for guidance. The Baron wrote several memorandums concerning the boy’s education and what needed to be done to promote, ‘the principles of truth and mortality.’ Victoria and Albert had always been studious and had a hard time understanding why their son was having such difficulty in applying himself.
An even stricter regimen of study was imposed on him, with sometimes Sunday being his only day off. Two tutors were brought on----first Mr. Birch and then Mr. Gibbs. Although he tried, he appeared many times to be melancholy and sometimes would break out into fits of temper. It did not help that the Prince of Wales rarely played with boys his own age and knew nothing but life at his mother’s court-----that is, what little he did see of it. He was reported to have been “naughty” and his behavior far from princely, Because of his actions, Albert was forced to go and deal with the boy.
Things changed a little in the summer in 1856. On a state visit to Paris, the Queen and Prince Albert decided that their two eldest children should accompany them. Once in the beautiful city, the Prince was awed by it and also enraptured with Napoleon’s wife, Empress Eugenie. Not only did he find her beautiful----stunning, she was warm and sweet to the children, taking time to talk to them and give them little gifts. It is no wonder that the Prince began to develop his life long love affair with France, and its utter sophistication.
When he turned 17, he was given an allowance by his parents and was allowed to use The White Lodge in Richmond Park as his new home, with supervision. His studies were not to stop, however, but he was given his first taste of freedom.
The Prince of Wales’s “problems” were considered typical conversation within the family. Daughter Vicky had recently married into the royal house of Prussia and was living far from England. Her mother chose her as her confidante----she did not have many----and wrote to her frankly and intimately. The Queen referred to The Prince of Wales without actually writing his name, because she could not bear to. In March, 1858 she wrote that, ‘Affie is going on admirably; he comes to luncheon today and oh! when I see him and Arthur (Affie) and look at …! (You know what I mean!) I am in utter despair! The systematic idleness, laziness-----disregard for everything is enough to break one’s heart, and fills me with indignation.’ She made Vicky promise not to mention this to another human being.
Victoria’s true feelings toward her eldest son did not fade with time. Months later she confided again to Vicky, ‘he is not at all in good looks; his nose and mouth are too enormous and as he pastes his hair down to his head and wears his clothes frightfully---he really is anything but good looking. That coiffure is really too hideous with his small head and enormous features. He is grown however.’
Hearing this was difficult for Vicky, who loved her brother and was now so far from her beloved England. Almost pleadingly, she wrote to her mother, ‘One thing pains me----when I think of it and that is the relation between you and Bertie! In the railway carriage to Dover I thought about it, and wished I could have told you how kindly, nicely, properly and even sensibly he spoke, his heart is full of affection, or warmth of feeling and I am sure it will come out with time and by degrees. He loves his home and feels happy there and those feelings must be nurtured, cultivated for if once lost they will not come again so easily’

PART II Continued Below

The Queen's Heir, Part II

As much as Victoria enjoyed her correspondence with Vicky, which was voluminous, she rebuked her. ‘As regards Bertie---I quite agree with you, dear child----that he must be a little more affectionate and tender in his manner----if he is to expect it from me----and take a little more interest in what interests us if he is to be at all pleasant in the house. And now dearest child, I must say, without I hope making you angry----that you did not quite set about making things better’ She continued writing her letter and added,. ‘He left on Monday. His voice made me so nervous I could hardly bear it. Altogether I never felt in such a state of nerves for noise or sound.’
During these years, the prince attended college and was trained in the military. Being on his own for the first time, he grew very fond of social life, travel and parties, much to the irritation of his parents. The bond was tested but it was not broken. Albert managed to acquire a Norfolk estate for the boy called Sandringham with the funds coming from the Duchy of Cornwall. The house needed major renovations but once they were carried out, the home would be comfortable. This home was to become important to the Prince of Wales in future years, as it become one of his favorite home, bringing him much happiness and solace.
It was at about this time that Victoria and Albert began to seriously discuss whom Bertie might marry. The Prince of Wales asked if he could have a say in who he married. Several princesses were considered and all this took a great deal of time and maneuvering behind the scenes. As they narrowed down the prospects, even Vicky was involved in the process. She met with Princess Alexandra of Denmark and privately supplied this relatively unknown description to her parents, ‘It is very difficult to be impartial when one is captivated, and I never was more so----I never set eyes on a sweeter creature than Princess Alix. She is lovely! Not a dazzling, striking beauty but an indescribable charming. She is a good deal taller than I am, has a lovely figure but very thin, a complexion as beautiful as possible. Very fine white regular teeth and very fine large eyes----with extremely prettily marked eyebrows.. A very fine shaped nose, very narrow, but a little long----her while face is very narrow, her forehead too but well shaped and not at all flat. Her voice, her walk, carriage, manner are perfect, she is one of the most lady-like and aristocratic looking people I ever saw! She is as simple and natural and unaffected as possible---and seems exceedingly well brought up. She speaks English and German without the slightest accent.’
Prince Albert felt good about the match. After seeing her photograph, he reportedly said, “I would marry her in a second.” Vicky felt sure her parents would be “charmed” by Princess Alix, and she urged her parents not to delay making a decision on the matter, as she was worried that another Prince would propose to Alexandra in the meantime.
Since his position required him to “wait”---he did. He filled the time with many things that amused him---pursuits---- such a going to the opera and hunting. He enjoyed the very best foods in large quantities, being with the upper classes and drinking champagne. He enjoyed his whiskey and cigars, house parties and took to traveling and spared no expense to ensure that he was at his most comfortable. Although he was not respected much in his youth, people did gravitate towards him and he could be very kind and great fun. Some of his friends were less than desirable and Bertie had not learned how to be discreet, much to the dismay of his parents.
It was exactly that lack of discretion that began a chain of events that would tragically turn around the young mans life. Somehow, news filtered back and Albert was presented with the fact that his son had a liaison with an actress. Shocked, Albert tried his best to handle it, but it was one of the most difficult things in his life. Didn’t Bertie realize what could happen to the Monarchy if this became public knowledge? He and Victoria had made sure---all throughout the years----that their court was above reproach. What if this woman came back later, claiming that Bertie had fathered a child? How many people knew about this? Crushed and worried, he explained the matter to Victoria, who was beyond upset. Albert decided, for everyone’s good, that he needed to go speak with his son.
Bertie was staying at the time at Madingley Hall, Cambridge. His father traveled to see him there and they were seen walking alone in the cold, damp weather with their heads huddled together. They spoke for some time about the ramifications of what Bertie had done. Several important things were decided as a result of this meeting.. The Prince should propose to Princess Alexandra, whom he had met in September and he should undertake---quickly----a tour of the Near East.
The weather was raw and Albert got a chill. The pain he felt at what his son had done was almost too much for him to bear. When he returned home to Windsor, he did not feel well. He was quickly put to bed and the doctor summoned. Albert assured Victoria that the situation with The Prince Of Wales had been managed and pleaded with her not to worry over it. The Queen, rightly so, was not so quick to forgive or forget, fully aware of how much this crisis had hurt dear Albert.
From that time on, it did not appear that Albert ever got well. Some days were better than others, but as the weeks drew on he became weaker and weaker and the doctor’s stood by helplessly. Bertie was summoned to the sick room. Victoria felt disgust for him and she could not help herself. We do not know exactly what Bertie thought. His eyes went around the room, taking in the details of what would soon be, unbeknownst to him, the last memories of his father. Victoria would not give up hope.
Inevitably, the family suffered a loss from which some of them would never fully recover. When he realized his father was-----gone----could it really be so?----he went to his mother, bravely and hugged her. He said the only thing he could say, which was, “Indeed Mama, I will be all I can to you.” He meant it. Victoria looked at her second born child, and in some way knew he meant it. The boy was grief stricken.
The Prince of Wales took on much of the responsibility for funeral and its details. The Queen couldn’t possibly handle it. The family was thrust into a deep mourning.
One thing that helped Victoria a little in the days to come, was knowing that there was unfinished business. There were many things that Albert had wished to see----and it was up to her to make it happen. Albert had very much wanted to see a marriage between the future King Of England and the Danish Princess. Victoria had a firm resolve to do what Albert would have wished and insisted “that his wishes ---his plans----about everything are to be my law!”
In regards to Bertie, “whose future he had traced everything so carefully,” Victoria began to implement his fathers wishes. He was sent away on his Near East Tour beginning on February 6, 1842. When Bertie began this exile all he could do was hope that his mother’s mood would eventually lift. He was fully aware of what his mother thought of him. In some ways, she felt he had a hand in Albert’s early death.
As Bertie stopped in Vienna and then headed for Egypt, Israel and Turkey, Victoria firmed up her plans for the marriage which hopefully would anchor the young man and settle him down. Later that year, Bertie met with Alexandra and clearly fell in love with her. When he formally proposed, she said yes without hesitation, knowing that someday she would be Queen of England.
With Victoria’s continued absence due to her grief and his upcoming marriage, Bertie was becoming quite popular. Clearly, this marriage would be the social event of the year----and quite possibly the decade. The grieving Queen, to her credit, did try her best on this momentous occasion, arranging to watch the wedding privately, away from glaring eyes----in Catherine of Aragon’s balcony, high above the altar of St. George’s chapel. Complimenting Princess Alexandra, Victoria said she was one of those sweet creatures “who seems to come down from the skies to help and bless pour souls.” Most people were dazzled by Alexandra’a beauty and could clearly see the adoration that the couple held for each other.
“I dread the whole thing awfully,” the Queen wrote to her daughter before the wedding. The rest of the country did not. There were screams and cheers when the young princess rode past them in her carriage on a grey, misty day on the way to her wedding. “Here she is!” people screamed. There were 900 seats in the chapel. Those lucky enough to be inside were able to watch the long, beautiful ceremony. Thousands of others were jammed outside. Prime Minister Gladstone described it as “the most gorgeous sight I ever witnessed.” Alexandra was dressed in white and silver satin, with a long train. The train was held by eight bridesmaids. For the ceremony, the Prince of Wales, looking dignified, was attired in a general’s uniform, under his velvet Garter robes. The Queen remained dramatically in her box, dressed in black. Prime Minister Disraeli made note of an amusing moment. He ‘had not seen the Queen since the catastrophe (Albert’s death) and ventured, being nearsighted, to use my glass. I saw Her Majesty well, and unfortunately caught her glance.’ Victoria frowned at him.
The young couple honeymooned on the Isle of Wight and returned to live in Marlborough House, located in London, after they were married. At the same time, they carefully watched the renovations taking place at Sandringham.
Some people predicted that due to the early death of the Prince Consort that the Prince of Wales might begin to have a more prominent place at court. This was not to be. Victoria did not allow him to step into this vacated spot or let him be much help to her at all. Shockingly, the Queen refused to let him see or be a part of anything relating to public life----and this continued not only for one or two years---while he and Alexanadra began their young family. It remained this way for 40 years. Clearly their bond was loosening. .
Life for Victoria and her son soon became a viscous cycle. Victoria simply refused to budge and would not give Bertie anything to do. Bertie chastised his mother because of her utter seclusion, but she retorted back that she did not care for his fast living, nor the company he kept. There was something in common that held them together, yet so much that kept them apart.
Victoria had raised her Prince of Wales, but in many ways held him back. He seemed ready to do what he was born to do, yet his mother would not give up the rights she had inherited. She shuddered to think of what would happen to the Monarchy once he became King. For Bertie’s part, he remained not quite in the background, but not where he felt he should be. In Victoria’s eyes, perhaps she always thought of him as that little baby she had held in her arms. Perhaps she didn’t want him to grow up. Some things can never be known. In some ways, maybe that’s the way it should be. The years went on and each one remained in the comfortable royal haven they had created for themselves, never quite knowing how or when it might end.