« AnteriorContinuar »
jingles have been the first to introduce the idea of Royalty! Princes and princesses there were enough in fairyland. But the pussy cat's queen and the queen with bread and honey will be found to supply the substratum of most of our ideas of Royalty. The Bible, the fairy-tale Sunday book, helped in this, as in everything else, to give more definite form to the infantile conception of the Queen. In the New Testament there is only a passing glimpse of a queen, for Herodias' mother, although Herod's wife, does not figure as a queen. In the Old Testament, Pharaoh's daughter was a princess, and Solomon's wives were too numerous to be queens. Esther and Vashti were queens so long as the king loved them, but of queens proper there were only the Queen of Sheba, that fairy princess of Semitic tradition; Queen Athaliah, who came to a bloody end; and Queen Jezebel, who painted her face and tired her hair and looked out of a window, beneath which the dogs were so soon to lick up her blood. The pictures of these queens in the illustrated Bible, which we used to look at as we sat on father's knee, helped to give form and outline to the shadowy idea of the Queen.
How and when and where it was that I first conceived any definite idea of the Queen as a visualised entity actually existing in material shape on the surface of this planet, I do not remember. But I can remember very well the first picture of the
Queen that ever attracted my attention.
It is the portrait by which she is best
unperforated red stamp was commonly RONE PENNYG) called in our home a Queen's Head. I
remember being told when I asked if the Queen was like that, that she was not so good-looking. For there was no idealising of Royalty in our home. Children now-a-days, thanks to photography and illustrated journalism, are familiar with the features of the Queen. But in those days it was otherwise.
In St. Petersburg in every government office and police station you are confronted with the painted or printed picture of the Tsar, who silently looks down upon you from the wall as if to emphasise the fact that everything is done by his autocratic authority. The Queen's portrait confronted us nowhere. Only on the postage stamp did we see the semblance of the Queen's head. And how many millions I wonder to this very hour, all our modern appliances notwithstanding, have never seen any other portrait of Her Majesty but that on a postage stamp? Another image, however, must not be omitted. The conception produced by the postage stamp was modified by the effigy on the penny. They were great cartwheels of copper in those days, bearing in high relief the uncrowned head of Her Majesty. The difference between the two somewhat puzzled the youthful mind, which was thus early introduced to differing authorities.
Thus equipped, with due foundation of nursery rhyme and Bible stories and familiarised by postage stamp and penny piece with the Queen's image, I embarked upon the next stage in the voyage of life—that critical section wherein the vast unknown world of the Printed Page opens its marvels to the eye, and the child learns to read. Reading soon became a delight, and in reading history my ideas of Queens began to expand. It is very laughable the way in which in early and perhaps even in later life we stumble upon our likes and dislikes, without apparent reason, and then having taken up with a prejudice, we hug it to the end. The reminiscence I am about to recall, grotesque though it may appear, brings to mind an incident which irrationally enough, perhaps, has influenced my subsequent life more than most of the philosophers and divines in my library.
While still in my petticoats, I contracted, childlike, a hopeless passion for a pretty
Aunt Bessie, who was sympathetic and kind to me, and who laughed good-humouredly when I declared that if she would only wait for me till I became a man I would inarry her. Poor Aunt Bessie died and left me forlorn, when in a fortunate hour I laid hands on a history book in the Sunday-school library, and discovered to my delight and surprise that Queen Elizabeth was known as Good Queen Bess. The chapter devoted to her reign also contained, as one of the illustrations, the Queen seated upon a white charger addressing the troops at Tilbury, when England expected the coming of the Armada. Now from my earliest days a white horse in a picture has had the same fascination for my eye as it seems to have had for the brush of Wouverman. Even Death in the illustrated Bible lost most of its terrors because he was the Rider of the Pale Horse. The combination of my beloved aunt's name with the heroic figure on the white charger was irresistible. I dreamed about Queen Elizabeth that night, and fell in love with her on the spot. I might have fallen out again, with the usual celerity of boyhood, had not my elder sister, whose name was Mary, happened to make disparaging remarks concerning Queen Bess because, forsooth, she had cut off the head of my sister's namesake—Mary of Scotland. I had a terrible moment. It did seem awful to have fallen in love with a queen who could be so cruel, but it was only for a moment. The woman whom I loved could do no wrong-especially as my sister abused her. Therefore Mary Queen of Scots deserved all she got. So the great feud began in our family, as sooner or later it begins everywhere, between the partizans of the two queens. But from that moment there was one queen in English history who commanded the whole-hearted devotion of her sworn knight errant-ætat. seven.
The incident was not without its bearing upon the relation in which I stood to Queen Victoria then and thereafter. For that infantile passion for Queen Elizabetha passion so intense that I would not look at a book which said a bad word of her, and which would send me to bed in a storm of tears if anyone derided the crowned idol of
my soul-effected what might otherwise have never been accomplished. It broke down for me, a Republican born of Republicans, that passionate hatred of monarchs which otherwise might have reigned with unbroken sway. In the midst of the fierce objurgations which were hurled against despots, kings, and all the crowned enemies of the human race, I always made a mental exception in favour of Queen Elizabeth.
This brings me to the political starting-point which I found waiting for me when I began to think of things. Independents-my father was an Independent ministerwere by tradition opponents of the Monarchy. Oliver Cromwell is the hero-saint of the denomination, which kept his memory green during the dismal years that passed before Thomas Carlyle arose to disinter the Lord Protector from the rubbish heap under which his memory had been buried. Add to this that I was born in the midst of a passionate upheaval of Republican enthusiasm. I was a child of 1848-9. Down to the seventies my political heroes were the Republican apostles, the Mazzinis, the Garibaldis, the Kossuths, the Victor Hugos of the European Revolution. In our home the American Republic was the avowed ideal of my father's political dreams. He was born the son of a Sheffield cutler, in the days when Sheffield cutlers were Radicals much given to rattening. He shared the political passions of Ebenezer Elliott, and to his dying day he never could free himself from his prejudice against the Tory aristocracy as the class that taxed the people's bread. “'Twould be a good thing for England,” he used to say in his grim jocular fashion, “if our whole aristocracy could be put on board an old hulk and scuttled in mid-Atlantic.” As for the Queen, his note was one of contemptuous toleration rather than of active dislike. “A good woman, no doubt,” he said, “but she has only to sign her name. Any goose that could sign her name would do as well.” Notwithstanding which political heresies based on sheer lack of information and the distorting influences of early environment, my father was one of the best of men, the most law-abiding of citizens, and the kindest parent boy could ever have.
It is necessary to make this explanation to render conceivable the curious little feeling of resentment which is the very first feeling I can remember associating with the person of Her Majesty. It must be much more than thirty years ago, if it is a day, but I remember as well as if it only happened yesterday, the odd boyish feeling that something had gone wrong somehow in the world at large when the news came that
our Queen Victoria had gone over to France and had been kissed—actually been kissed-by Louis Napoleon. Who Louis Napoleon was I at that time could have little notion. But to my parents he was the man of the 2nd December, the criminal of the Coup d'État, the usurper who had strangled the Republic in the night after he had sworn before high Heaven to defend it to the death. In common with many others
they resented and rightly—the haste with which Lord Palmerston condoned the treacherous assassination of the Republic, and they bitterly grudged the embrace which our good Queen gave to the usurper whose fingers had dripped with the blood of his massacred fellow-citizens. “She ought not to have let him kiss her," was all that I felt, and in that there lay plainly perceptible now, but unsuspected then, the first germ of the sense of ownership in the Queen, which when fully developed makes every Englishman a prouder man to-day when he reflects upon the glories of the reign. But in my case the budding sense of identity with the Queen, as representative of the whole nation, began with a feeling of anything but pride, rather, indeed, a feeling of humiliation that she had let
that fellow kiss her, and
she the Queen of England !
I used to think, "Ah, if
only I had been living in
the days of Good Queen
Bess!" for like most boys
I idealised the distant
past, and bemoaned my
self much that the days of ro
mance and of chivalry were
have all come to in our time.
I came to it early, and
have grown out of it so
steadily, that now, when I
have reached nearly the
half-century of life, I feel
that never — not even in
the three great epochs
of our history, neither
in the days of the Crusades,
the reign of Eliza
beth, nor in the wars of
the Commonwealth -- has
there been any age so
crowded full with glorious
life, so romance - cram
med and so important in
the history of the world as
that in which we are living THE CROWN PRINCE FREDERICK OF PRUSSIA.
to-day. But Late Emperor Frederick II.) in these early
days of the pinafore there was ever a longing, lingering look behind for the days of Good Queen Bess, and much disparaging regret that we only lived in the prosaic humdrum days of Queen Victoria.
The Crimean war came on. A child of five or even a boy of seven hears but vague echoes of those far-off events. But I remember a picture of the Queen on a white horse reviewing troops about to depart, and my memory vaguely conjures up associations of Her Majesty bidding farewell to a one-armed general, and having something to say to Lord Colin Campbell, who-why I don't remember—was much the most popular hero in our nursery. A floating battery was built at Jarrow shipyard too late to take part in the war, but otherwise my personal association with the