In 1846 the question arose as to who should educate the Prince of Wales (born 1841). A pamphlet on the subject had been published and created general interest. Baron Stockmar was again consulted, and gave it as his opinion that the Prince’s education should be one “which will prepare him for approaching events”—that is, he was to be so educated that he would be in touch with the movements of the age and able to respond sympathetically to the wishes of the nation. The rapid growth of democracy throughout Europe made it absolutely necessary that his education should be of a different kind. The task of governing well was becoming more and more difficult, and reigning monarchs were criticized in an open fashion, such as had not hitherto been possible. After much thought the post was given to Mr Henry Birch (formerly a master at Eton College, and at that time rector of Prestwich, near Manchester), who had made a very favourable impression upon the Queen and her husband.
Plain people as well as princes must be educated, and this fact was never lost sight of by the Queen and her husband. In 1857 the Prince called attention to the fact that there were at that time no fewer than 600,000 children between the ages of three and fifteen absent from school but known to be employed in some way; he pointed out also—and this seems in these days difficult to believe—that no less than two million children were not attending school, and were, so far as could be ascertained, not employed in any way at all.
[Illustration: BUCKINGHAM PALACE]
The most interesting visitors whom the Queen entertained during her early married life were the Emperor Nicholas of Russia and Louis Napoleon of France. The Emperor Nicholas came to England, as he told the Queen, to see things with his own eyes, and to win, if he could, the confidence of English statesmen. “I esteem England highly; but as to what the French say of me, I care not.”
He was, however, undoubtedly jealous of this country’s growing friendship with her old enemy, France, but any attempt to weaken this met with no encouragement.
The Queen, in writing to her uncle Leopold, said, “He gives Albert and myself the impression of a man who is not happy, and on whom the burden of his immense power and position weighs heavily and painfully. He seldom smiles, and when he does, the expression is not a happy one. He is very easy to get on with.” In a further letter she continued, “By living in the same house together quietly and unrestrainedly (and this Albert, and with great truth, says is the great advantage of these visits, that I not only see these great people, but know them), I got to know the Emperor and he to know me. . . . He is sincere, I am certain, sincere even in his most despotic acts—from a sense that that is the only way to govern. . . . He feels kindness deeply—and his love for his wife