Saturday, January 29, 2011

February 10, 1840 --- Victoria & Albert

A rainy Monday morning greets the Queen on her wedding day.  First thing, she writes in her journal: "Monday, February 10 - the last time I slept alone!"

With her mother, the Duchess of Kent, Victoria goes by carriage from Buckingham Palace to the Chapel Royal at St. James' Palace. She wears white satin, trimmed with English lace; among her jewels, she wears a sapphire brooch, a gift from her betrothed, Prince Albert. The Prince wears the uniform of a British Field Marshal with the Ribbon of the Garter. The Morning Chronicle observed the groom's face "lighted up with joy" while the young bride to be seemed "extremely pale." At the altar, both are well-composed and the responses are quite audible. Pledging to "love, cherish and obey" her husband, Victoria shares "a confiding look" with Albert which the Chronicle scribe thought "inimitably chaste and beautiful."

With the exchange of rings, cannons resound across the London parks. Dickens wrote a friend, "Society is unhinged here by Her Majesty's marriage." The make-up of the select congregation (limited to 300) is much discussed; fiercely loyal to her Whig Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, the Queen had wanted no Tories. Melbourne prevailed upon her to invite the Duke of Wellington, at least, and perhaps five Tories in all. Still, The Spectator grumbled that the young Queen seemed "the Sovereign of a faction instead of an united people."

Following a wedding breakfast (at 2 p.m.), the newlyweds leave for a Windsor honeymoon. The Queen, struck almost immediately with a severe headache, is nonetheless enchanted. She writes in her diary: "His beauty, his sweetness, his gentleness - really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband!" The following morning, she sends Melbourne a happy note after a "most gratifying and bewildering" night. Ribald jokes are told and re-told. The Queen is known to be an avid reader and, in a play on the names of a pair of London newspapers, the wags suggested that to satisfy the Queen, the new Prince has vowed to provide her with a Standard and two Globes every night.

At reports that the Queen was seen up early at Windsor, Greville, the Court gossip and diarist, noted tartly: "This was not the way to provide us with a Prince of Wales." In her journal however, Victoria writes. "We did not sleep much."

1 comment:

  1. A selection of very poignant quotations. But may I point out that the photograph accompanying this post is a portrait of Victoria and Albert taken by Roger Fenton in May of 1854 following a Drawing Room. The Queen is wearing court costume, including the ostrich feather and violets. It is NOT their wedding day. They both look very obviously in their mid-thirties.