In the Days of Queen Victoria - E. M. Tappan

The Schooldays of a Princess

Nothing could be more simple than the order of the Princess' day at Kensington. Breakfast was at eight, and it was eaten out of doors whenever the weather was good. The Princess sat in a tiny rosewood chair beside her mother, and the little girl's breakfast was spread on a low table before her. Whatever other children might have, there were no luxuries for this child. Bread and milk and fruit made up her breakfast, and nothing more would have been given her no matter how she might have begged for it. After breakfast she would have liked to play with her beloved Féodore, but Féodore had to go to her lessons. When the weather was fair, however, a pleasure awaited the little girl. Her uncle, the Duke of York, had given her a white donkey, and at this hour she was allowed to ride it in Kensington Gardens. Her nurse walked beside her, and on the other side was an old soldier whom her father had especially liked. This riding was a great delight to the child, but there was sometimes a storm of childish wrath before the hour was over, for the Duchess had said, "She must ride and walk by turns," and when the turn came for walking, the tiny maiden often objected to obeying her mother's orders.

When it was time for the Duchess to eat luncheon, the Princess had her dinner, but it was so simple a meal that many of the servants of the palace would have felt themselves very hardly used if they had had no greater variety and no richer fare. The afternoon was often spent under the trees, and at some time, either before supper or after, came a drive with her mother. Supper was at seven, but the little girl's meal consisted of nothing but bread and milk. At nine o'clock she was put to bed, not in the nursery, but in her mother's room, for the Duchess had no idea of being separated from her children, and the Princess Féodore slept at one side of her mother, while on the other hand stood the little bed of the baby sister.

It was a simple, happy, healthy life. The great objection to it was that the child rarely had a playmate of her own age. Two little girls, daughters of an old friend of the Duke's, came once a week to see her, but they were several years her seniors. Féodore was never weary of playing with her, but Féodore was almost twelve years older, so that when the child was four years old, Féodore was quite a young lady. Perhaps no one realized how much she needed children of her own age, for she was so merry and cheerful, so ready to be pleased and amused, and so friendly with everyone who came near her.

A learned clergyman reported that when he called on the Duchess the little Princess was on the floor beside her mother with her playthings, "of which I soon became one," he added.

One day the Duchess said: "Drina, there is a little girl only a year older than you who plays wonderfully well on the harp. Should you like to hear her?"

"I'm almost four years old," was the child's reply. "What is her name?"

"She is called Lyra," said the Duchess. "Should you like to hear her play?"

The Princess was very fond of music even when she was hardly more than a baby, and she could scarcely wait for the day to come when she could hear the little girl. At last Lyra and her harp were brought to the palace, and the music began. The talented child played piece after piece, then she stopped a moment to rest. This was the Princess' opportunity. Music was good, but a real little girl was a great rarity, and the small hostess began a conversation.

"Does your doll have a red dress?" she asked. "Mine has, and she has a bonnet with swansdown on it. Does yours have a bonnet?"

"I haven't any doll," answered Lyra.

"Haven't you any playroom?" asked the Princess wonderingly.

"No," said the little musician.

The Princess had supposed that all children had dolls and toys, and she said: "I have a playroom upstairs, and there are dolls in it and a house for them and a big, big ship like the one my papa sailed in once. Haven't you any ship or any doll-house?"


"Haven't you any sister Féodore?"


Then the warm-hearted little Princess threw her arm around the child musician and said:

"Come over here to the rug, and let's play. You shall have some of my playthings, and perhaps your mamma will make you a doll-house when you go home."

The Duchess had left the two children for a few minutes, and when she returned they were sitting on the fur rug in front of the fire. The harp was forgotten, and they were having a delightful time playing dolls, just as if they were not the one a princess and the other a musical prodigy. They were too busy to notice the Duchess, and as she stood at the door a moment, she heard her little daughter saying:

"You may have the doll to take home with you, Lyra. Put on her red dress and her white bonnet and her cloak, for she'll be ill if you don't. Her name is Adelaide, for that is my aunt's name."

The Princess was not yet four years old, but her mother was beginning to feel somewhat anxious about her education. Other children might play, but the child who was to be queen of England must not be allowed to give even her babyhood to amusement. The mother began to teach her the alphabet, but the little girl had a very decided will of her own, and she did not wish to learn the alphabet.

"But you will never be able to read books as I do, if you do not learn," said the mother.

"Then I'll learn," promised the child. "I'll learn very quick."

The alphabet was learned, but the resolutions of three-year old children do not always endure, and the small student objected to further study.

"My little girl does not like her books as well as I could wish," wrote the Duchess to her mother; but the grandmother took the part of the child. "Do not tease your little puss with learning," was her reply. "She is so young still. Albert is only making eyes at a picture book." This Albert was one of the Princess' German cousins, only a few weeks younger than she; and the great delight of the Coburg grandmother was to compare the growth and attainments of the two children and note all their amusing little speeches.

The Duchess, however, did not follow the advice of her mother, but more than a month before her little daughter was four years old she decided to engage a tutor for her. She herself and Féodore were reading English with the Rev. Mr. Davys, the clergyman of a neighboring parish, and during even the first few lessons the Duchess was so charmed with his gentle, kindly manner and his intellectual ability that she said to him one day: "You teach so well that I wish you would teach my little daughter."

So it was that the learned clergyman appeared at the palace one bright April morning armed with a box of alphabet blocks. The Duchess seemed quite troubled and anxious about the small child's intellectual deficiencies, and when the preparations for the lesson had been made, she said:

"Now, Victoria, if you are good and say your lesson well, I will give you the box of bright-colored straw that you wanted."

"I'll be good, mamma," the little girl promised, "but won't you please give me the box first?"

The lesson began with a review of the alphabet; then came a struggle with the mysterious b-a, b-e, b-i, b-o, b-u, b-y, "which we did not quite conquer," the tutor regretfully writes. Mr. Davys kept a journal of the progress of the Princess during the first two years of his instruction, and he records gravely after the second lesson that she pronounced much  as muts, that he did not succeed in teaching her to count as far as five, and that when he tried to show her how to make an o, he could not make her move her hand in the right direction. It seems to have been a somewhat willful little hand, for a week later when he wished her to make an h, she would make nothing but o's. "If you will make h  to-day," said the patient tutor, "you shall have a copy of o's  to-morrow;" but when to-morrow had come and the copy had been prepared, the capricious little maiden did not care to make o, she preferred to make h.

The troubled instructor tried various plans to interest his small charge. He wrote short words on cards and asked her to bring them to him from another part of the room as he named them. He read her stories and nursery rhymes, and one day, when he seems to have been almost at his wit's end, he persuaded the Princess Féodore and her governess to stand with his little pupil and recite as if they were in a class at school. His report for that day records with a good deal of satisfaction, "This seemed to please her." Willful as she was, however, she was very tender-hearted, and when he asked her to spell the word bad, she sobbed and cried, because she fancied that he was applying it to herself.

When Mr. Davys came in the morning, he would frequently inquire if she had been good. One day he asked the Duchess:

"Was the Princess good while she was in the nursery?"

"She was good this morning," replied her mother, "but yesterday there was quite a little storm."

"Yes, mamma," added the honest little girl, "there were two storms, one when I was washed and another when I was dressed."

Sometimes her honesty put her mother into a difficult position. One day the Duchess said:

"Victoria, when you are naughty you make both me and yourself very unhappy."

"No, mamma," the child replied, "not me, but you."

The lessons went on with much regularity, considering that the pupil was a princess. On her fourth birthday she not only had a birthday party, but she was invited to court. "Uncle King," as she called George IV., gave a state dinner, and she was asked to be one of the guests. Most children, however, would have thought the invitation hardly worth accepting, for she was only brought into the room for a few minutes to speak to the King and the royal family, then she was taken away to eat her usual simple meal.

When the Princess had been studying with Mr. Davys about five months, she was taken to the seashore, and from there she wrote, or, rather, printed, a letter to her tutor. It said:


The name Alexandrina had been gradually dropped. The Duchess had feared at first that as "Victoria" was unfamiliar in England, the English people might dislike it. Moreover, as the royal brothers were so unfriendly to her, she did not wish that the use of her name should prejudice them against the child. There was little danger of anyone disliking the child, however, for she was so winsome a young maiden that whoever spoke to her became her friend. One of her most devoted admirers was her Uncle Leopold, and her idea of the highest bliss was to make a visit at his house. A few months after the beginning of her education, she visited him, and Mr. Davys drove to the house twice a week to continue her instruction. Her uncle was present at the lessons, and he was as troubled as the Duchess because little Victoria did not like to read.

It is no wonder that the child enjoyed her visits to Claremont. Prince Leopold's home was a large brick mansion, with stately cedars on the lawn, and high up on a column a great bronze peacock that was a source of wonder and amusement. There was a lake, with groves of pines beyond it. There was a farm, with lambs and calves and ducklings. Best of all, there was Uncle Leopold, who was always ready to walk or drive with her, and to tell her wonderful stories.

It was very delightful to visit an uncle who was a prince, but even at Claremont it was never forgotten that the wee child was being trained to be a queen. The stories must not be without a moral; her uncle's charming talks of flowers and animals must be planned to introduce her to botany and natural history; and even in her play she was carefully watched lest some thoughtlessness should be overlooked which ought to be checked. One day she took her tiny rake and began to make a haycock, but before it was done something else interested her, and she dropped the rake. "No, no, Princess," called her governess, "come back and finish the haycock. You must never leave a thing half done."

In Kensington she was never taken to church, lest she should attract too much attention, but service was read in the chapel of the palace. At Claremont, however, she went to the village church. She usually wore a white dress, made as simply as that of any village child, and a plain little straw bonnet; but at the church door the resemblance ended, for while other children might fidget about or perhaps go to sleep, the Princess had some hard work to do. Mr. Davys had said that she was "volatile," and disliked fixing her attention. That fault must be corrected, of course, and so the child was required to remember and repeat to her mother not only the text but the principal heads of the sermon, no matter how uninteresting it might be. The little girl must have longed to do something, somewhere, with no one to watch her. There is a story that when she once went to visit the Duchess of Clarence, her aunt asked: "Now, Victoria, what should you like to do? What will be the greatest treat I can give you?" and, the little child replied, "Oh, Aunt Adelaide, if you will only let me clean the windows, I'd rather do that than anything else."

Money matters had become somewhat easier for the Duchess, as an allowance had been made her which enabled her to give the Princess such surroundings and advantages as ought to be given to one in her position. Nevertheless, the simplicity of the child's daily life was not altered, and her pocket money was not made any more lavish. When the little girl was seven years old, she was taken to a bazaar, where she bought presents for one after another until she had reached the bottom of her rather shallow purse. But there was a half-crown box that she did so want to give to someone!

"I should like this very much," she said wistfully, "but I have no more money to-day."

"That makes no difference," replied the storekeeper, and he began to wrap the box with her other purchases.

"No," objected the governess, "the Princess has not the money, and she must not buy what she cannot pay for."

"Then I will lay it aside until she can purchase it," said the storekeeper, and the little girl exclaimed, "Oh, thank you! if you will be so good."

When the day for the payment of her allowance came, the child did not delay a moment, but long before her breakfast hour she appeared at the store to pay for the box and carry it home with her. She was not at all afraid of carrying bundles, and thought it was a delightful expedition to go to the milliner's with her mother and Féodore to buy a new hat, to wait in the shop until it was trimmed, and then carry it home in her own hand.

The great excitement of her seventh year was the visit that she paid the King. Disagreeable as he often was to the mother, he made himself quite charming to the child, and he was delighted with the frank affection that she showed him in return.

"The band shall play whatever you choose," he said to her. "What shall it be?"

"I should like 'God Save the King,' " replied the little girl.

It was hard to be jealous of such an heir to the throne as that. During her stay the King had taken her to drive, and this was a great event, for he himself had held the reins. When she was saying farewell at the close of the three days' visit, he asked, "What have you enjoyed most during your visit?" and he was much pleased when she answered, "Oh, Uncle King, the drive I had with you." It is no wonder that the grandmother in Coburg wrote, "The little monkey must have pleased and amused him; she is such a pretty, clever child."

The Duchess was beginning to receive the reward that she deserved for giving up her home and her friends, not only in the result of her devotion to her little daughter as shown in the child's character, but also in the appreciation of herself and her efforts which was felt in her adopted country. In both the House of Lords and the House of Commons speeches had been made paying the warmest tributes to the manner in which she was bringing up the little girl who was to become the queen.

Before Victoria was eight years old, it was thought to be time for her education to receive still more attention, though one would suppose that there need have been no anxiety about the intellectual progress of the child, who before she was six years old could repeat the heads of one of the lengthy sermons of the day. Mr. Davys was now formally appointed her tutor, and he went to live at Kensington. Then, indeed, there was work. Miss Lehzen, governess of the Princess Féodore, taught the child as usual; a writing-master made his appearance, who taught her the clear, refined, and dignified hand that never changed; a teacher of singing was engaged; another teacher instructed her in dancing; a Royal Academician taught her drawing; German and French were also studied.

Mr. Davys' special work was to teach her history and English, and the number of books that she read with him is somewhat startling. During the year 1826 there were four books of Scriptural stories and four books of moral stories on her list. The children's books of the day had a fashion of not being satisfied with teaching one thing at a time, and even one of the four natural histories that she read contrived to make the story of each bird contain some profound moral instruction. One book on English history and one on modern history in general appear on the list. Geography and grammar are each represented by two small volumes. Poetry appears in the form of "The Infant's Minstrel," a title which the eight-year old child of to-day would utterly scorn. "General Knowledge" is represented by one book on the famous picture galleries, castles, and other noteworthy structures in England, and another describing the occupations and trades of the land. Even here, however, moral lessons had their allotted place, and each trade was made to teach some moral truth. The third book of the series described the quaint old customs of the kingdom.

During the following three years the instruction of the Princess was continued on similar lines. In 1827, the year in which her eighth birthday occurred, she began a book with the comprehensive title, "An Introduction to Astronomy, Geography, and the Use of the Globes." After she had studied this book with the hard name for two years, it seems a great intellectual downfall to find her "promoted" to "Elements of Geography for the Use of Young Children." In 1828 she began Latin. She also studied the catechism and then an abridgment of the two Testaments. Remembering that the little girl was studying French, German, music, dancing, and drawing, one wonders how she ever "crowded it in." Fortunately, her schedule for the week has been preserved, and it is interesting reading. Her day's work began at half-past nine. On Monday morning the first hour was given to geography and natural history, the second to a drawing lesson. From half-past eleven till three was devoted to dinner and either playing or walking. From three to four she drew or wrote a Latin exercise. The following hour was given to French, and from five to six came music and "repetition"—whatever that may have been—for Mr. Davys. After her three hours of study in the afternoon, without even a ten-minutes' "recess," the day's work was at an end, and from six to nine there was no more studying; but there seems to have been some instructive reading aloud by either the Duchess or Miss Lehzen, for the story has survived that when the Duchess was reading Roman history and read the old story of Cornelia's pointing to her sons and declaring, "These are my jewels," the small critic remarked, "But, mamma, she ought to have said, 'These are my carnelians.' "

No two days in the Princess' week were alike. One hour a week was devoted to learning the catechism, another to a dancing lesson, another to needlework and learning poetry by heart. All this teaching went on for six days in the week, for she had no Saturday holidays; and on Saturday morning came an hour that would alarm most children, for it was devoted to a repetition to Mr. Davys of all that she had learned during the week. Her lessons were made as interesting as possible by explanations and stories and pictures and games. A history and a little German grammar were written expressly for her; but, after all, the little girl was the one who had to do the work. She had to understand and learn and remember, and even if she was a princess, no one could do these things for her. Sir Walter Scott dined with the Duchess of Kent during Victoria's ninth year. He wrote in his journal: "Was presented to the little Princess Victoria, the heir-apparent to the throne as things now stand." It is no wonder that he added, "This lady is educated with much care."

The same year stole away the beloved Féodore, for she married a German prince and went to the Continent to live. This was a great loss to the little Princess, for she was so carefully guarded that Féodore had been almost her only playmate. Other children had companions without number; they went to children's parties and had good times generally; but a party was a great rarity in the life of the Princess, and she was ten years old before she went to a children's ball.

This famous ball which she then attended was her first sight of a court ceremonial. It was given in honor of a little girl of her own age, Maria, Queen of Portugal, who was making a visit to England. The Princess wore a simple white dress, but the little Donna Maria was gorgeous in crimson velvet all ablaze with jewels. Every one was comparing the two children in dress and looks and manners. The plain dress of the Princess was generally preferred, and her graceful manners were admired, but the Portuguese queen was called the prettier. When the King first talked of giving this ball, a lady of the court exclaimed, "Oh, do! It will be so nice to see the two little queens  dancing together." The King was very angry at the speech, but he finally decided to give the ball, and the "two little queens" did dance in the same quadrille. It is rather sad to relate that the small lady from Portugal fell down and hurt herself, and, in spite of the sympathy of the King, she went away crying, while the English Princess danced on and had the most delightful evening of her life. Then Cinderella went to bed, and in the morning she awoke to the workaday world that she had left for a single evening.