IT has been the Queen's good fortune to see her own true-love match happily repeated in the marriages of her children. One would almost say that the conspicuous success of that union, the blessing that it brought with it to the nation, had set a new fashion to royalty. There is quite a romantic charm about the first marriage which broke the royal home-circle of England - that of the Queen's eldest child and namesake, Victoria, Princess Royal, with Prince Frederick William, eldest son of the then Prince of Prussia, whose exaltation to the imperial throne of Germany lay dimly and afar - if not altogether undreamed of by some prophetic spirits - in the future. The bride and bridegroom had first met, when the youth was but nineteen and the maiden only ten, at the great Peace Festival, the opening of the first Exhibition. Already the charming grace and rare intelligence of the Princess had attracted attention; and it is on record that at this early period some inkling of a possible attraction between the two had entered one observer's mind, who also notes that the young Prince, greatly interested by all he saw of free England and its rulers, was above all taken with the "perfect domestic happiness which he found pervading the heart, and core, and focus of the greatest empire in the world." Four years later the Prince was again visiting England, a guest of the royal family in its Scottish retreat of Balmoral, where they had just been celebrating with beacon fires and Highland mirth and music the glad news of the fall of Sebastopol. He had the full consent of his own family for his wooing, but the parents of his lady would have had him keep silence at least till the fifteen-year-old maiden should be confirmed. The ease and unconstraint of that mountain home-life, however, were not very favourable to reserve and reticence; a spray of white heather, offered and received as the national emblem of good fortune, was made the flower symbol of something more, and words were spoken that effectually bound the two young hearts, though the formal betrothal was deferred until some time after the Princess, in the following March, had received the rite of Confirmation; and "the actual marriage," said the Prince Consort, "cannot be thought of till the seventeenth birthday is past." "The secret must be kept tant bien que mal," he had written, well knowing that it would be a good deal of an open secret.

The engagement was publicly announced in May, 1857, and though, when first rumoured, it had been coldly looked on by the English public, now it was accepted with great cordiality. The Prince was openly associated with the royal family; he and his future bride appeared as sponsors at the christening of our youngest Princess, Beatrice; he rode with the Prince Consort beside the Queen when she made the first distribution of the Victoria Cross, and was a prominent and heartily welcomed member of the royal group which visited the Art Treasures Exhibition of Manchester. The marriage, which was in preparation all through the grim days of 1857, was celebrated with due splendour on January 25th, 1858, and awakened a universal interest which was not even surpassed when, five years later, the heir to the throne was wedded. "Down to the humblest cottage," said the Prince Consort, "the marriage has been regarded as a family affair." And not only this splendid and entirely successful match, but every joy or woe that has befallen the highest family in the land, has been felt as "a family affair" by thousands of the lowly. This is the peculiar glory of the present reign.

Happy and auspicious as this marriage was, it was nevertheless the first interruption to the pure home bliss that hitherto had filled "the heart of the greatest empire in the world." The Princess Royal, with her "man's head and child's heart," had been the dear companion of the father whose fine qualities she inherited, and had largely shared in his great thoughts. Nor was she less dear to her mother, who had sedulously watched over the "darling flower," admiring and approving her "touching and delightful" filial worship of the Prince Consort, and who followed with longing affection every movement of the dear child now removed from her sheltering care, and making her own way and place in a new world. There she has indeed proved herself, as she pledged herself to do, "worthy to be her mother's child," following her parents in the path of true philanthropy and gentle human care for the suffering and the lowly. So far the ancient prophecy has been well fulfilled which promised good fortune to Prussia and its rulers when the heir of the reigning house should wed a princess from sea-girt Britain. But the wedding so propitious for Germany seemed almost the beginning of sorrows for English royalty. Other betrothals and marriages of the princes and princesses ensued; but the still lamented death of the Prince Consort intervened before one of those betrothals culminated in marriage.

Another event which may be called domestic belongs to the year following this marriage - the coming of age of the Prince of Wales, fixed, according to English use and wont, when the heir of the crown completes his eighteenth year. Every educational advantage that wisdom or tenderness could suggest had been secured for the Prince. We may note in passing that one of his instructors was the Rev. Charles Kingsley, whom Prince Albert had engaged to deliver a series of lectures on history to his son. This honour, as well as that of his appointment as one of Her Majesty's chaplains, was largely due to royal recognition of the practical Christianity, so contagious in its fervour, which distinguished Mr. Kingsley, not less than his great gifts; of his eagerness "to help in lifting the great masses of the people out of the slough of ignorance and all its attendant suffering and vice" - an object peculiarly dear to the Queen and to the Prince, as had been consistently shown on every opportunity.

When the time came that the youth so carefully trained should be emancipated from parental control, it was announced to him by the Queen in a letter characterised by Mr. Greville or his informant as "one of the most admirable ever penned. She tells him," continues the diarist, "that he may have thought the rule they adopted for his education a severe one, but that his welfare was their only object; and well knowing to what seductions of flattery he would eventually be exposed, they wished to prepare and strengthen his mind against them; that he was now to consider himself his own master, and that they should never intrude any advice upon him, although always ready to give it him whenever he thought fit to seek it. It was a very long letter, all in that tone; and it seems to have made a profound impression on the Prince.... The effect it produced is a proof of the wisdom that dictated its composition."

We have chosen this as a true typical instance of the blended prudence and tenderness that have marked the relations between our Sovereign and her children. Aware what a power for good or evil the characters of those children must have on the fortunes of very many others, she and her husband sedulously surrounded them with every happy and healthy influence, never forgetting the supreme need of due employment for their energies. "Without a vocation," said the Prince Consort, "man is incapable of complete development and real happiness": his sons have all had their vocation.

It was the same period, marked by these domestic passages of mingled joy and sorrow, that became memorable in another way, through the various troublous incidents which gave an extraordinary impetus to our national Volunteer movement, which were not remotely connected with the War of Italian Independence, and for a short time overthrew the popular Ministry of Lord Palmerston, who was replaced in office by Lord Derby. The futile plot of Felice Orsini, an Italian exile and patriot, against the life of Louis Napoleon, provoked great anger among the Imperialists of France against England, the former asylum of Orsini. A series of violent addresses from the French army, denouncing Great Britain as a mere harbour of assassins, did but give a more exaggerated form to the representations of French diplomacy, urging the amendment of our law, which appeared incompetent to touch murderous conspirators within our borders so long as their plots regarded only foreign Powers. The tone of France was deemed insolent and threatening; Lord Palmerston, who, in apparent deference to it, introduced a rather inefficient measure against conspiracy to murder, fell at once to the nadir of unpopularity, and soon had no choice but to resign; and the Volunteer movement in England - which had been begun in 1852, owing to the sinister changes that then took place in the French Government - now at once assumed the much more important character it has never since lost. The immense popularity of this movement and its rapid spread formed a significant reply to the insensate calls for vengeance on England which had risen from the French army, and which seemed worthy of attention in view of the vast increase now made in the naval strength of France, and of other preparations indicating that the Emperor meditated a great military enterprise. That enterprise proved to be the war with Austria which did so much for Italy, and which some observers were disposed to connect with the plot of Orsini - a rough reminder to the Emperor, they said, that he was trifling with the cause of Italian unity, to which he was secretly pledged. But Englishmen were slow to believe in such designs on the part of the French ruler. "How should a despot set men free?" was their thought, interpreted for them vigorously enough by an anonymous poet of the day; and they enrolled themselves in great numbers for national defence. With this movement there might be some evils mixed, but its purely defensive and manly character entitles it on the whole to be reckoned among the better influences of the day.

Palmerston's discredit with his countrymen was of short duration, as was his exile from office; he was Premier again in the June of 1859, and was thenceforth "Prime Minister for life." His popularity, which had been for some time increasing, remained now quite unshaken until his death in 1865. Before Lord Derby's Government fell, however, a reform had been carried which could not but have been extremely grateful to Mr. Disraeli, then the Ministerial leader of the House of Commons. The last trace of the disabilities under which the Jews in England had laboured for many generations was now removed, and the Baron Lionel de Rothschild was able quietly to take his seat as one of the members for the City of London. The disabilities in question had never interfered with the ambition or the success of Mr. Disraeli, who at a very early age had become a member of the Christian Church. But his sympathies had never been alienated from the own people, with whom indeed he had always proudly identified himself by bold assertion of their manifold superiority. There are still, undoubtedly, persons in this country whose convictions lead them to think it anything but a wholesome change which has admitted among our legislators men, however able and worthy, who disclaim the name of Christian. But the change was brought about by the conviction, which has steadily deepened among us, that oppression of those of a different faith from our own, either by direct severities or by the withholding of civil rights, is a singularly poor weapon of conversion, and that the adversaries of Christianity are more likely to be conciliated by being dealt with in a Christlike spirit; further, that religious opinion may not be treated as a crime, without violation of God's justice. On the point as to the claim of irreligious opinion to similar consideration, the national feeling cannot be called equally unanimous. In the case of the English Jews, it may be said that the tolerant and equal conduct adopted towards them has been well requited; the ancient people of God are not here, as in lands where they are trampled and trodden down, an offence and a trouble, the cause of repeated violent disturbance and the object of a frenzied hate, always deeply hurtful to those who entertain it.

Other changes and other incidents that now occurred engrossed a greater share of the public attention than this measure of relief. The rapid march of events in Italy had been watched with eager interest, divided partly by certain ugly outbreaks of Turkish fanaticism in Syria, and by our proceedings in the Ionian islands, which finally resulted in the quiet transfer of those isles to the kingdom of Greece. The commercial treaty with France effected, through the agency of Mr. Cobden, on Free Trade lines, and Mr. Gladstone's memorable success in carrying the repeal of the paper duty, and thereby immensely facilitating journalistic enterprise, were hailed with great delight as beneficial and truly progressive measures. But events of a more gigantic character now took place, which at the moment affected our prosperity more directly than any fiscal reform, and appealed more powerfully to us than the savagery of our Turkish proteges or even than the union of Italy under Victor Emmanuel into one free and friendly State. The long-smouldering dissensions between the Northern and Southern States of the American Union at last broke into flame, and war was declared between them, in 1861.

The burning question of slavery was undoubtedly at the bottom of this contest, which has been truly described as a struggle for life between the "peculiar institution" and the principles of modern society. The nobler and more enthusiastic spirits in the Northern States beheld in it a strife between Michael and Satan, the Spirit of Darkness hurling himself against the Spirit of Light in a vain and presumptuous hope to overpower him; and their irritation was great when an eminent English man of letters was found describing it scornfully as "the burning of a dirty chimney," and when English opinion, speaking through very many journalists and public men, appeared half hostile to the Northern cause. Indeed, it might have been thought that opinion in England - England, which at a great cost had freed its own slaves, and which had never ceased by word and deed to attack slavery and the slave-trade - would not have faltered for a moment as to the party it would favour, but would have declared itself massively against the slave-holding South. But the contest at its outset was made to wear so doubtful an aspect that it was possible, unhappily possible, for many Englishmen of distinction to close their eyes to the great evils championed by the Southern troops. The war was not avowedly made by the North for the suppression of slavery, but to prevent the Southern States from withdrawing themselves from the Union: the Southerners on their side claimed a constitutional right so to withdraw if it pleased them, and denounced the attempt to retain them forcibly as a tyranny.

This false colouring at first given to the contest had mischievous results. English feeling was embittered by the great distress in our manufacturing districts, directly caused up the action of the Northern States in blockading the Southern ports, and thus cutting off our supply of raw material in the shape of cotton. On its side the North, which had calculated securely on English sympathy and respect, and was profoundly irritated by the many displays of a contrary feeling; and the exasperation on both sides more than once reached a point which made war appear almost inevitable - a war above all others to be deprecated. First came the affair of the Trent - the English mail-steamer from which two Southern envoys were carried off by an American naval commander, in contempt of the protection of the British flag. The action was technically illegal, and on the demand of the English Government its illegality was acknowledged, and the captives were restored; but the warlike and threatening tone of England on this occasion was bitterly resented at the North, and this resentment was greatly increased when it became known that various armed cruisers, in particular the notorious Alabama, designed to prey on the Northern commerce, were being built and fitted by English shipbuilders in English dockyards under the direction of the Southern foe, while the English Government could not decide if it were legally competent for Her Majesty's Ministers to interfere and detain such vessels. The tardy action at last taken just prevented the breaking out of hostilities. Out of these unfortunate transactions a certain good was to ensue at a date not far distant, when, after the restoration of peace, America and England, disputing as to the compensation due from one to the other for injuries sustained in this matter, gave to the world the great example of two nations submitting a point so grave to peaceful arbitration, instead of calling in the sword to make an end of it - an example more nearly pointing to the possible extinction of war than any other event of the world's history.

Yet another hopeful feature may be noted in connection with this time of trouble. While the Secession war lasted, "the cotton famine" had full sway in Lancashire; unwonted and unwelcome light and stillness replaced the dun clouds of smoke and the busy hum that used to tell of fruitful, well-paid industry; and the patient people, haggard and pale but sadly submissive, were kept, and just kept, from starving by the incessant charitable effort of their countrymen. Never had the attitude of the suffering working classes shown such genuine nobility; they understood that the calamity which lay heavy on them was not brought about by the careless and selfish tyranny of their worldly superiors, but came in the order of God's providence; and their conduct at this crisis proved that an immense advance had been made in kindliness between class and class, and in true intelligence and appreciation of the difficulties proper to each. It was significant of this new temper that when at last peace returned, bringing some gleam of returning prosperity, the workers, who greeted with joyful tears the first bales of cotton that arrived, fell on their knees around the hopeful things and sang hymns of thanksgiving to the Author of all good.

Such were the fruits of that new policy of care and consideration for the toilers and the lowly which had increasingly marked the new epoch, and which had been sedulously promoted by the Queen, in association with her large-thoughted and well-judging husband.

It was in the midst of the troubles which we have just attempted to recall that a new and greater calamity came upon us, affecting the royal family indeed with the sharpest distress, but hardly less felt, even at the moment, by the nation.

The year 1861 had already been darkened for Her Majesty by the death in the month of March, of her mother, the Duchess of Kent, to whose wise guardianship of the Queen's youth the nation owed so much, and who had ever commanded the faithful affection of this her youngest but greatest child, and of all her descendants. This death was the first stroke of real personal calamity to the Queen; it was destined to be followed by another bereavement, even severer in its nature, before the year had closed. The Prince Consort's health, though generally good, was not robust, and signs had not been wanting that his incessant toils were beginning to tell upon him. There had been illnesses, transitory indeed, but too significant of "overwork of brain and body." In addition to personal griefs, such as the death of the Duchess of Kent and of a beloved young Coburg prince and kinsman, the King of Portugal, which had been severely felt, there were the unhappy complications arising out of "the affair of the Trent," which the Prince's statesmanlike wisdom had helped to bring to a peaceful and honourable conclusion. That wisdom, unhappily, was no longer at the service of England when a series of negligences and ignorances on the part of England's statesmen had landed us in the Alabama difficulty.

All these agitations had told upon a frame which was rather harmoniously and finely than vigorously constituted. "If I had an illness," he had been known to say, "I am sure I should not struggle for life. I have no tenacity of life." And in the November of 1861 an illness came against which he was not able to struggle, but which took all the country by surprise when, on December 14th, it terminated in death. Very many had hardly been aware that there was danger until the midnight tolling of the great bell of St. Paul's startled men with an instant foreboding of disaster. What disaster it was that was thus knelled forth they knew not, and could hardly believe the tidings when given in articulate words.

At first it had been said, the Prince had a feverish cold; presently the bulletin announced "fever, unattended with unfavourable symptoms." It was gastric fever, and before long there were unfavourable symptoms - pallid changes in the aspect, hurried breathing, wandering senses - all noted with heart-breaking anxiety by the loving nurses, the Queen and Princess Alice - the daughter so tender and beloved, the "dear little wife," the "good little wife," whose ministerings were so comfortable to the sufferer overwearied with the great burden of life. He was released from it at ten minutes to eleven on the night of Saturday, December 14th; and there fell on her to whom his last conscious look had been turned, his last caress given, a burden of woe almost unspeakable, and for which the heart of the nation throbbed with well-nigh unbearable sympathy. Seldom has the personal grief of a sovereign been so keenly shared by subjects. Indeed, they had cause to lament; the removal of the Prince Consort, just when his faculties seemed ripest and his influence most assured, left a blank in the councils of the nation which has never been filled up. "We have buried our king" said Mr. Disraeli, regretting profoundly this national loss; but for once the English people forgot the public deprivation in compassionating her who was left more conspicuously lonely, more heavily burdened, than even the poor bereaved colliers' wives in the North for whomher compassion was so quick and so sharply sympathetic. Something remorseful mingled then, and may mingle now, with the affection felt for this lost benefactor, who had not only been somewhat jealously eyed by certain classes on his first coming, but who had suffered much silently from misunderstanding and also from deliberate misrepresentation, and only by patient continuance in well-doing had at last won the favour which was his rightful due.

    "That which we have we prize not to the worth 
    While we enjoy it; but being lacked and lost, 
    Why, then we rack the value, then we find 
    The virtue that possession would not show us 
    While it was ours."

A peculiar tenderness was ever after cherished for Princess Alice, who in this dark hour rose up to be her mother's comforter, endeavouring in every way possible to save her all trouble - "all communications from the Ministers and household passed through the Princess's hands to the Queen, then bowed down with grief.... It was the very intimate intercourse with the sorrowing Queen at that time which called forth in Princess Alice that keen interest and understanding in politics for which she was afterwards so distinguished. The gay, bright girl suddenly developed into a wise, far-seeing woman, living only for others."

This ministering angel in the house of mourning had been already betrothed, with her parents' full approval, to Prince Louis of Hesse; and to him she was married on July 1st, 1862, at Osborne, very quietly, as befitted the mournful circumstance of the royal family. Many a heartfelt wish for her happiness followed "England's England-loving daughter" to her foreign home, where she led a beautiful, useful life, treading in her father's footsteps, and continually cherished by the love of her mother; and the peculiarly touching manner of her death, a sort of martyrdom to sweet domestic affections, again stirred the heart of her own people to mournful admiration. A cottager's wife might have died as Princess Alice died, through breathing in the poison of diphtheria as she hung, a constant, loving nurse, over the pillows of her suffering husband and children. This beautiful homeliness that has marked the lives of our Sovereign and her children has been of inestimable value, raising simple human virtues to their proper pre-eminence before the eyes of the English people of to-day, who are very materially, if often unconsciously, swayed by the example set them in high places.

In the May after Prince Consort's death the second International Exhibition was opened, amid sad memories of the first, so joyful in every way, and a certain sense of discouragement because the golden days of universal peace seemed farther off than ten years before.

        "Is the goal so far away? 
        Far, how far no tongue can say; 
        Let us dream our dream to-day."

Far indeed it seemed, with the fratricidal contest raging in America, and shutting out all contributions to this World's Fair from the United States.

The Queen had betaken herself that May to her Highland home, whose joy seemed dead, and where her melancholy pleased itself in the erection of a memorial cairn to the Prince on Craig Lorigan, after she had returned from Princess Alice's wedding. But in May she had sent for Dr. Norman Macleod, who was not only distinguished as one of her own chaplains, but was also a friend already endeared to the Prince and herself; and she found comfort in the counsels of that faithful minister and loyal man, who has left some slight record of her words. "She said she never shut her eyes to trials, but liked to look them in the face; she would never shrink from duty, but all was at present done mechanically; her highest ideas of purity and love were obtained from the Prince, and God could not be displeased with her love.... There was nothing morbid in her grief.... She said that the Prince always believed he was to die soon, and that he often told her that he had never any fear of death." It seemed that in this persuasion the Prince had made haste to live up to the duties of his difficult station to the very utmost, and "being made perfect in a short time fulfilled a long time [Footnote]."

[Footnote: Inscription on the cairn on Craig Lorigan.]

"The more I learn about the Prince Consort," continues Dr. Macleod, "the more I agree with what the Queen said to me about him: 'that he really did not seem to comprehend a selfish character, or what selfishness was.' And on whatever day his public life is revealed to the world, I feel certain this will be recognised."

The Queen, by revealing to the world, with a kind of holy boldness, what the Prince's public and private life was, has justified this confidence of her faithful friend.

Early in 1863, Dr. Macleod was led by the Queen into the mausoleum she had caused to be raised for her husband's last resting-place. Calm and quiet she stood and looked on the beautiful sculptured image of him she had lost: having "that within which passeth show," her grief was tranquil. "She is so true, so genuine, I wonder not at her sorrow; it but expresses the greatest loss that a sovereign and wife could sustain," said the deeply moved spectator.

An event was close at hand which was to mingle a little joy in the bitter cup so long pressed to our Sovereign's lips. The Prince of Wales had formed an attachment to the Princess Alexandra of Denmark, a singularly winning and lovely lady, whose popularity, ever since her sweet face first shone on the surging crowds that shouted her welcome into London, has seemed always at flood-tide. Faithful to her experience and convictions, the Queen smiled gladly on the marriage of affection between this gentle princess and the heir to the throne, and was present as a spectator, though still wearing her sombre weeds, at the splendid show of her son's wedding on March 10th, 1863. "Two things have struck me much," writes Dr. Macleod, from whose Journal we again quote: "one was the whole of the royal princesses weeping, though concealing their tears with their bouquets, as they saw their brother, who was to them but their 'Bertie' and their dear father's son, standing alone waiting for his bride. The other was the Queen's expression as she raised her eyes to heaven while her husband's Chorale was sung. She seemed to be with him alone before the throne of God."

"No possible favour can the Queen grant me, or honour bestow," said the manly writer of these words, "beyond what the poor can give the poor - her friendship." It is rarely that one sitting amid "the fierce light that beats upon the throne" has been able to enjoy the simple bliss of true, disinterested friendship with those of kindred soul but inferior station. Such rare fortune, however, has been the Queen's; and it is worthy of note that her special regard has been won by persons distinguished not less by loftiness and purity of character than by mental power or personal charm. She has not escaped the frequent penalty of strong affection, that of being bereaved of its objects. She has outlived earlier and later friends alike - Lady Augusta Stanley and her husband, the beloved Dean of Westminster; the good and beautiful Duchess of Sutherland; the two eminent Scotchmen, Principal Tulloch and Dr. Macleod himself; and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Tait, with his charming wife. To these might be added, among the more eminent objects of her regard, the late poet laureate, who shared with Macaulay the once unique privilege of having been raised to the peerage more for transcendent ability than for any other motive - a distinction that never would have been so bestowed by our early Hanoverian kings, and which offers a marked contrast to the sort of patronage with which later sovereigns have distinguished the great writers of their time. A new spirit rules now; of this no better evidence could be given than this recently published testimony to the relations between Queen and poet: "Mrs. Tennyson told us that the poet laureate likes and admires the Queen personally very much, and enjoys conversation with her. Mrs. Tennyson generally goes too, and says the Queen's manner towards him is childlike and charming, and they both give their opinions freely, even when those differ from the Queen's, which she takes with perfect good humour, and is very animated herself [Footnote]."

[Footnote: "Anne Gilchrist: her Life and Writings." London: 1887.]