One human being, and one alone, felt the full force of what had happened. The Baron, by his fireside at Coburg, suddenly saw the tremendous fabric of his creation crash down into sheer and irremediable ruin. Albert was gone, and he had lived in vain. Even his blackest hypochondria had never envisioned quite so miserable a catastrophe. Victoria wrote to him, visited him, tried to console him by declaring with passionate conviction that she would carry on her husband’s work. He smiled a sad smile and looked into the fire. Then he murmured that he was going where Albert was—that he would not be long. He shrank into himself. His children clustered round him and did their best to comfort him, but it was useless: the Baron’s heart was broken. He lingered for eighteen months, and then, with his pupil, explored the shadow and the dust.
With appalling suddenness Victoria had exchanged the serene radiance of happiness for the utter darkness of woe. In the first dreadful moments those about her had feared that she might lose her reason, but the iron strain within her held firm, and in the intervals between the intense paroxysms of grief it was observed that the Queen was calm. She remembered, too, that Albert had always disapproved of exaggerated manifestations of feeling, and her one remaining desire was to do nothing but what he would have wished. Yet there were moments when her royal anguish would brook no restraints. One day she sent for the Duchess of Sutherland, and, leading her to the Prince’s room, fell prostrate before his clothes in a flood of weeping, while she adjured the Duchess to tell her whether the beauty of Albert’s character had ever been surpassed. At other times a feeling akin to indignation swept over her. “The poor fatherless baby of eight months,” she wrote to the King of the Belgians, “is now the utterly heartbroken and crushed widow of forty-two! My life as a happy one is ended! The world is gone for me!... Oh! to be cut off in the prime of life—to see our pure, happy, quiet, domestic life, which alone enabled me to bear my much disliked position, cut off at forty-two—when I had hoped with such instinctive certainty that God never would part us, and would let us grow old together (though he always talked of the shortness of life)—is too awful, too cruel!” The tone of outraged Majesty seems to be discernible. Did she wonder in her heart of hearts how the Deity could have dared?
But all other emotions gave way before her overmastering determination to continue, absolutely unchanged, and for the rest of her life on earth, her reverence, her obedience, her idolatry. “I am anxious to repeat one thing,” she told her uncle, “and that one is my firm resolve, my irrevocable decision, viz., that his wishes—his plans—about