“Upon the good education of princes, and especially of those who are destined to govern, the welfare of the world in these days very greatly depends.”
The love of children was always a strong connecting link between the Queen and her people. No trouble was ever spared by her to obtain the best possible advice on the training of her own family. The nursery was as well governed as her kingdom.
Acting upon the advice of Baron Stockmar, the Queen determined to have some one at the head on whom she could thoroughly rely, as her many occupations prevented her from devoting so much time to these duties as she could have wished. Lady Lyttelton, who had been a lady-in-waiting, was appointed governess to the Royal Family in 1842, and for eight years she held this post, winning the affection and respect of her young pupils and the gratitude of the Queen and her husband.
From time to time the Queen wrote her views upon the subject. “The greatest maxim of all is,” she declared, “that the children should be brought up as simply, and in as domestic a way as possible; that (not interfering with their lessons) they should be as much as possible with their parents, and learn to place their greatest confidence in them in all things.”
Training in religion, to be of real and lasting value, must be given by the mother herself, and in 1844 the Queen noted with regret that it was not always possible for her to be with the Princess Royal when the child was saying her prayers.
“I am quite clear,” she said, “that she ought to be taught to have great reverence for God and for religion, but that she should have the feeling of devotion and love which our Heavenly Father encourages His earthly children to have for Him, and not one of fear and trembling; and that the thoughts of death and an after-life should not be represented in an alarming and forbidding view, and that she should be made to know as yet no difference of creeds, and not think that she can only pray on her knees, or that those who do not kneel are less fervent and devout in their prayers.”
On November 21, 1840, the Queen’s first child, Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa, the Princess Royal, was born. The Prince’s care of his wife “was like that of a mother, nor could there be a kinder, wiser, or more judicious nurse.” Only for a moment was he disappointed that his first child was a daughter and not a son.
The children were all brought up strictly and were never allowed to appear at Court until a comparatively late age. They were all taught to use their hands as well as their heads, and at Osborne, in the Swiss cottage, the boys worked at carpentering and gardening, while the girls were employed in learning cooking and housekeeping. Christmas was always celebrated in splendid fashion by the family, and the royal children were always encouraged to give as presents something which they had made with their own hands. Lessons in riding, driving, and swimming also formed part of their training, for the Queen was wise enough to realize that open-air exercise was very necessary for the health of her children.