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Crimea is of the slightest. The Indian Mutiny is not linked with the Queen in my memory.
I have however omitted mentioning one notable link in the chain that almost insensibly brought the Republican family on Tyneside into touch with the Royal Family at Windsor. The first great International Exhibition of 1851 was an event the full significance of which is to this day but imperfectly appreciated. Only last year the Irish Recess Committee reported incidentally that the revival of the industrial and agricultural life of Wurtemburg dates from the effect which that Exhibition produced on the mind of a German visitor. Vague traditions of the marvels and wonders of that great
World Show filtered down
to our village, filling the pro
vincial mind with a vain
and envious regret that the
gates of such a fairyland
should have closed for
But after a time
father brought home as a
cherished treasure the
reports of the Exhibition
which were published, I
believe, as supplements
of the Illustrated London
News. How those “Hish
books" the lisping
children called them
were prized, modern
readers demoralized by
the cheap press
form no conception. They
were thumbed almost to
pieces, then rebound and
thumbed away again. These
“Hish books” were
as the rolling back of the
veil which had hidden
from our eyes the great
world of art and beauty,
of which we had before THE PRINCESS ROYAL, 1856.
but small conception. And (Dowager Empress Frederick.)
underlying it all there was the constant presence of the Prince Consort, and over it the glorifying vision of the Queen.
Those who were born after the fifties can form no conception of the strength of the hold of the Republican idea upon many Englishmen. Byron's vigorous verse and the revolutionary poetry of Shelley were but the most conspicuous expressions of a sentiment which found many minor exponents from Moore to Ebenezer Elliott. The “monarch-murdered soldier” was the mode of describing the victims of war. was assumed that the Republic meant peace, and that with the disappearance of despots all the horrors of war and of armed peace would disappear. The idealist, the visionary, the poet, and the philosopher all talked and thought as if Monarchy
were an anachronism-a belated survival which must speedily vanish from a world in which enlightened humanity would “have no more use for kings.” In the midst of this all but universal assumption that Monarchy was played out, and that the crowned heads existed but to menace the world with war, there came to birth this gigantic object-lesson as to the pacific service which Royalty could render to Humanity. The Exhibition was the Prince Consort's child. It was his idea, and its success was in no small measure the result of his untiring energy, his sagacious prescience, and his capacity to oversee and overrule. Prince Albert could never have achieved this great result had he not been Prince Consort. It was from the steps of the Throne he was able to inaugurate and to direct an enterprise which, to the imagination of our fathers, seemed to promise the dawn of millennial peace. The dream passed. But the memory of the vision and of its artificer remained. In the record of the re-establishment of the prestige of the constitutional monarchy in this country, the Exhibition of 1851 will occupy a more prominent position than any that has yet been accorded to it. It may not have impressed the statesman and the diplomat. But to the silent million which saw and marvelled and rejoiced it was a portent indeed.
The next date in my calendar was the first wedding in the Royal Family. I was then a boy of ten or eleven. We kept up a kind of make-believe that we did not care about such trivialities, but as a matter of fact we carefully cherished a coloured print of the Princess Royal, and worked ourselves up into quite a state of excitement over her future. We did not like the look of the Prince of Prussia as he appeared in the prints. He did not seem good enough for her. And my father, who was ever much exercised in his dear old heart about German neology, shook his head gravely over the marriage. Mother did not like it either, and I think we should have all been devoutly glad if it had been broken off.
But it came to pass, and it is a curious instance of the hold the Family had established even in that Republican household, that I remember the incident of the Royal marriage far more vividly to-day than even any of the ghastly incidents of the Indian Mutiny. We had already begun to take a personal interest in the Family. It was our Family. Republicans though we were, we were English, and as long “as the Monarchy lasted,” &c. Such were the salves with which we plastered our consciences. But looking back upon it now, after the lapse of thirty years, I can better appreciate the inestimable political and imperial advantage of having at the foretop of the State not a politician, but a Family every domestic episode in the life of whose members weaves a new thread of living interest between the head of the State and the humblest of the citizens.
Nor was it only in pleasurable incidents that the Family justified its position. The bond was drawn still more closely by Death than by Wedlock. Of this I can speak from personal experience. When a boy of twelve, I was sent from home for the first time in my life to a boarding-school in Yorkshire. A few months later, as we were going in to supper one night, the passing bell began to toll and the news spread from mouth to mouth that Prince Albert was dead. He had never been much more than a name to me, but the sudden quickening sense of sympathy with those who were mourning their dead revealed the existence of a new link. Queen and plebeian, we stood equal before the bier of Death. How that bell tolled, tolled, tolled that night, each slow and heavy stroke falling heavy on the aching heart, reviving the memories of the departed, and blending sovereign and subject in the communion of a common grief.
Less than two years passed, and joy had succeeded mourning, and the bridal blossom shone bright instead of widow's weeds. What a sudden thrill of delight there ran through the school when it was announced that the marriage of the Prince of Wales to the Princess Alexandra was to be kept as a public holiday, in which the school was to share! A whole holiday at Silcoates in mid-term was a rare, almost unprecedented event, a boon from the gods not to be credited easily or spoken of lightly. Not only were there to be no lessons all day, not even preparation at night; but the boys were to go to town to see the procession, to admire the decorations, and possibly—although this was hardly to be hoped for—to see the illuminations. I think we made more fuss in anticipation over the Prince's wedding than ten years after I made about my own. The Sea King's daughter from over the sea was the universal heroine. Her beauty, her simplicity, her goodness all helped to idealise her to an extent somewhat overshadowing the bridegroom. When the eventful day came and the joy bells pealed from the steeple, the streets were filled with eager multitudes, of whom there was no one more eager and keen than I. It was the first great popular function at which I had ever taken part even as a spectator. It was all so wonderfully novel, so strange, so thrilling. Not even the marvellous spectacle of the Abbey on Jubilee day, when the Queen and all her children knelt in thanksgiving before Almighty God in the presence of all the notables of the Empire, affected me so much as the humble attempt at decoration and the simple procession through the streets of Wakefield twenty-one years before. It was a somewhat dreary day. But what matters mud under foot, when the mind of youth soars on high amid the stars musing on thrones where princes sit and palaces where beauteous princesses await their lords ! It was a day of intense delight, delight which culminated when the volunteers fired a feu de joie. It was but a sputtering and irregular volley of blank cartridges, but what memories did the flashing muzzles and the smell of powder arouse in the boyish mind! They were but Wakefield Volunteers firing a feu de joie, but they represented the whole British Army to me, and in the rolling volley I heard echoes of Hougoumont, and saw again the fire-fringed line before which Napoleon's cuirassiers recoiled smitten and broken into irremediable ruin. Then at night the illuminations were to me marvellous exceedingly, with the blazing gas jets festooned into Prince of Wales's feathers, or running like a fringe of lambent light to the very summit of the lofty spire. Even now, after the lapse of thirty-three years, I can feel my pulse beat faster at the memory of that great day, with its bonfires and its bands, its banners and the roar of saluting cannon. It was a royal day indeed, worthy to be ever remembered for holiday and festive sport, still gleaming bright across the years with a radiance that nothing can extinguish. Thus the work went on-grief and joy, death and love, weaving together ever closer and closer the Nation and the Family at its head. Funeral cars and wedding coaches were alike but shuttles in the hands of the Master Weaver. Whether the thread was white or black, the work of the loom went on.
Then for a period the Crown of England went into eclipse. The retirement of the Queen from the ceremonial of the Court and from all but the indispensable duties of her position, led after a few years had passed to the circulation of malicious rumours not to be repeated here. The nation, escaping from the spell of Lord Palmerston's long ascendency, began to bestir itself. When the disfranchised million clamoured for their admission within the pale of the Constitution, there was scant leisure for noting the grace or the gilding of the Royal Coat-of-Arms that towered aloft. The Queen by necessity of her position took no public part for or against Reform. When Hyde Park railings went down, there were many who regarded their fall as a portent foreshadowing the speedy overthrow of much more ancient institutions.
When Disraeli, placed in power by the party opposed to a moderate reform, dished the Whigs by carrying household suffrage, there were few who did not feel that we were within á measurable distance of an orderly and rapid revolution. The recently published letters of Archbishop Magee have reminded us of the lugubrious forebodings with which the sudden triumph of the Radical Reformers filled the heart of many an acute observer. The enfranchisement of the working classes was followed by the return of Mr. Gladstone to power with a majority of more than a hundred. The Conservatives beheld with pious horror the axe of the Reformer laid at the root of the Irish Church, the Irish Land System, University Tests, and Purchase in the Army. National Education was taken in hand; the House of Peers was openly threatened. The old Monarchy itself seemed likely in no short time to be the object of attack.
It was, I think, some time in the earlier sixties that I saw a picture which imperceptibly softened the somewhat fanatical Republicanism of my youth. Boys are
precocious Jacobins in their way, or Jacobites, as the fit seizes them, and to those who have nurtured themselves upon the Republicanism of Plutarch, of Cromwell, of Washington, and the Revolutionists of the Continent, there seemed something resembling a sacrifice of sound principle even in so innocent a thing as the singing of “God save the Queen.” But in my early teens there came for exhibition in Newcastle-on-Tyne a well-known picture by Mr. Jones Barker, "The Secret of England's Greatness." Up to this time I had never been in a picture gallery. I had never seen an oil painting, except in shop windows, and a few landscapes of more or less doubtful quality in our village home. Those who are brought up within a stone's throw of Galleries of the