THE BEGINNINGS OF SORROWS.
[Illustration: Windsor Castle.]
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.
[Illustration: Prince Frederick William.]
[Illustration: Princess Royal.]