Tuesday, July 03, 2007

"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.


Elizabeth M. said...

I have just become interested in Vicky, Queen Victoria's eldest daughter. The painting I have never seen before. Do you know who painted it and when?
Elizabeth Martiniak

Elizabeth M. said...

Hi there--
I have been interested in Victoria, the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria. I have never seen this painting you have up on this blog. Can you tell me who painted it and when?