Our Island Story - H. E. Marshall
Many years ago, in a big airy schoolroom, a little girl of eleven sat with her governess. The little girl had many lessons to learn, far more it seemed to her than other little girls of the same age, and sometimes they were terribly dull and uninteresting. But to-day they were not so, for she had found in her history book a page which showed how kings were descended from each other. This was very interesting. The little girl read the page carefully, then, looking up into the face of her governess, she said gravely, 'So I shall be Queen of Britain one day.' Then slipping her hand into that of her governess, 'I will be good,' she added, 'I will be good. I see now why I have to learn so many lessons.'
This little girl was Princess Victoria, the daughter of the Duke of Kent, younger brother of William IV. William IV. had two children, but they died while they were babies. The Princess Victoria's father had died when she was a baby, so she was the heir to the throne.
When William lay still and quiet in the great palace at Windsor, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chamberlain stepped into a carriage and drove fast to the palace of Kensington, where the Princess lived with her mother. It was five o'clock in the morning when they arrived there. They knocked and hammered for a long time before they could rouse the sleepy porter, but at last they did so and got into the palace. But it seemed as if they were not to see the Princess, and that was what they had come for.
At last, after they had waited for a long time, a lady came to them. 'The Princess is sleeping so peacefully,' she said, 'I cannot wake her.'
We have come to see the Queen on affairs of state,' said the Archbishop. 'Even her sleep must give way to that.'
The Queen! That was a very different matter.
In a few minutes the new-made Queen came into the room. Her brown hair was hanging over her shoulders, a shawl covered her nightdress, and only slippers were on her little bare feet. She was hardly awake, and she wondered, perhaps, if she might not still be dreaming.
And there, in the early morning sunshine, these two grave gentlemen, the Archbishop and the Lord Chamberlain, knelt to kiss the hand of this girl of eighteen who was their Queen.
Since the time of George I., the kings of Britain had also been kings of Hanover. But in Hanover there was a law that no woman could ascend the throne. Victoria could not be Queen of Hanover, so the crown passed to the Duke of Cumberland, another of the brothers of William IV. The British people were not very sorry to be rid of Hanover, and they were quite glad to be rid of the Duke of Cumberland, for no one loved him.
Not long after Queen Victoria came to the throne she married her cousin, Prince Albert of Coburg Gotha. Very often kings and queens cannot choose whom they will marry as other people can. They have to do as they are advised, and marry for the good of their country and people. But it is pleasant to know that this Queen and Prince really loved each other, and that they were happy together with their children, just like ordinary people.
Britain had been long at peace, and I wish I had no more wars to tell about. But, unfortunately, during the reign of Victoria there were many wars, although wise men did all they could to avoid them, for we see now more and more clearly how cruel and terrible a thing war is.
I cannot tell you about all these wars and their reasons; indeed, I cannot tell you about nearly all the important events which have happened since Victoria began to reign. Things happen and changes come now much more quickly than they used to do, and to tell of all the wonderful events of the nineteenth century would fill a whole book, and much of it would not interest you.