Birds here make song, each bird has his,
Across the girding city’s hum.
How green under the boughs it is!
How thick the tremulous sheep cries come!
Here at my feet what wonders pass,
What endless, active life is here!
What blowing daisies, fragrant grass!
An air-stirred forest, fresh and clear.
Beaconsfield spoke of its “sublime sylvan solitude superior to the cedars of Lebanon, and inferior only in extent to the chestnut forests of Anatolia.”
Kensington Palace was the birthplace of Queen Victoria, and in the garden walks she used to play, little knowing that she would one day be Queen of England. Her doll’s house and toys are still preserved in the rooms which she inhabited as a little girl.
[Illustration: Kensington palace]
Four years had passed since the battle of Waterloo when the Princess Victoria was born, and England was settling down to a time of peace after long years of warfare.
In 1830 George the Fourth died, and was succeeded by his brother, the Duke of Clarence, as William the Fourth, the ‘sailor king.’ Though not in any respect a great monarch, he proved himself to be a good king and one who was always wishful to do the best that lay in his power for the country’s good.
He was exceedingly hospitable, and gave dinners to thousands of his friends and acquaintances during the year, particularly inviting all his old messmates of the Navy. He had two daughters by his marriage, and as these both died young it was evident that the Princess Victoria might some day succeed to the throne.
Her father, the Duke of Kent, married the Dowager Princess of Leiningen, who was the sister of Prince Leopold, afterward King of the Belgians. As a young man the Duke had seen much service, for when he was only seventeen years of age he entered the Hanoverian army, where the discipline was severe and rigid. He afterward served in the West Indies and Canada, and on his return to England he was made a peer with the title of Duke of Kent. He was afterward General and Commander-in-Chief in Canada and Governor of Gibraltar.
At the latter place his love of order and discipline naturally made him unpopular, and, owing to strong feeling on the part of the troops, it was considered wise to recall the Duke in 1803.
In 1816 he settled in Brussels, and soon afterward met his future wife in Germany. Princess Victoire Marie Louise was the youngest daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and widow of Prince Charles of Leiningen, who on his death had left her as the regent of his principality.
They were married at Coburg in May 1818. Some months afterward they came over to England, and on May 24, 1819, their daughter Alexandrina Victoria was born.
[Illustration: The Duke of Kent Sir Wm. Beechey Photo W.A. Mansell & Co.]