[Illustration: The Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria Sir Wm. Beechey Photo W.A. Mansell & Co.]
The Duke still kept up his simple, soldierly habits, for throughout his life he had always believed in regularly ordering one’s day. He rose betimes and took a cup of coffee at six o’clock. Each servant of the household was allotted his or her regular duties, and was obliged at least once a day to appear before the Duke. There was a separate bell for each servant, and punctuality in attendance was insisted upon.
The christening was attended by members of the Royal Family, and a dinner was held to celebrate the happy event. The Duke and Duchess removed soon afterward to Devonshire, and they were both much pleased with the beautiful surroundings of their new home. The Duke wrote at this time of his daughter: “My little girl thrives under the influence of a Devonshire climate, and is, I am delighted to say, strong and healthy; too healthy, I fear, in the opinion of some members of my family, by whom she is regarded as an intruder. How largely she contributes to my happiness at this moment it is needless for me to say to you.”
The Duke had been determined from the first that his child should be born in England, for he wished her to be English both in upbringing and in feeling. His wife, who is described by those who knew her as being a singularly attractive woman, full of deep feeling and sympathy, fully shared his views on this point.
In January 1820, when only fifty-three years of age, the Duke died quite suddenly from inflammation of the lungs, following upon a neglected cold. He was a man of deep religious feeling, and once in talking to a friend about his little daughter’s future career he said earnestly: “Don’t pray simply that hers may be a brilliant career, and exempt from those trials and struggles which have pursued her father, but pray that God’s blessing may rest on her, that it may overshadow her, and that in all her coming years she may be guided and guarded by God.”
The widowed mother now returned to London, where the Duchess of Clarence, afterward Queen Adelaide, interested herself greatly in little Victoria. The Duchess now devoted herself entirely to the care of her child, and never did any little girl have a more loving and devoted mother.
As much time as possible was spent in the open air, and Victoria went for rides about Kensington on a donkey, which was led by an old soldier, a great friend and favourite. She always had her breakfast and supper with her mother, and at nine o’clock retired to her bed, which was placed close to her mother’s. Until the time of her accession she led as simple and regular a life as thousands of other little girls.
Many stories are told of her early years to illustrate the thoroughness of her home training. Even as a small child she was absolutely truthful, and her chief fault—that of wilfulness—was due to some extent to her high spirits and abundant energy. She was especially fond of dolls, and possessed a very large number, most of which were dressed as historical personages. She had practically no playmates of her own age, and in later life she often spoke of these early years as being rather dull.