The Victorian Era - Genesis

The present day, tidings, however fateful or momentous, flash silently over unconscious fells and floods to the uttermost limits of Empire ; but it was otherwise sixty years ago. Throughout the brief night of June 19, 1837, the land echoed to the furious galloping of horses and the ceaseless rattle of flying wheels ; for William the King lay dying at Windsor Castle.

He drew his last breath before dawn on the 20th, and mounted messengers thronged the highways yet more thickly than before in the early hours of morning. Among them were two of very high degree - Dr. Howley, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Marquis of Conyngham, Lord Chamberlain - charged to proceed post haste to Kensington Palace in order to summon the Princess Victoria to the throne of Great Britain and Ireland. Leaving Windsor shortly after two in the morning, they did not reach Kensington till five o'clock. The Palace was wrapped in silence ; it was with great difficulty that even the gate-porter could be roused, and there was further delay inside the courtyard. At last the Archbishop and the Lord Chamberlain obtained admission, were shown into a room, and left to themselves. After waiting some time they rang the bell, and desired the sleepy servant who answered it to convey to the Princess their request for an immediate audience, on business of extreme urgency. Again the impatient dignitaries were left alone, and once more they pealed the bell. This time they were informed by the Princess's attendant that Her Royal Highness was asleep, and must on no account be disturbed.

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"We are come," was their reply, " on business of State to the Queen, and even her sleep must give way to that."

The attendant yielded, and then, to quote the simple but vivid description by Miss Wynn, "in a few minutes she (the Queen) came into the room in a loose white nightgown and shawl, her nightcap thrown off, and her hair falling on her shoulders, her feet in slippers, tears in her eyes, but perfectly collected and dignified."

Next, the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, was summoned, and Charles Greville has described in his diary how the young Queen met the Privy Council at eleven o'clock.

"Never was anything like the first impression she produced, or the chorus of praise and admiration which is raised about her manner and behaviour, and certainly not without justice. It was very extraordinary, and something far beyond what was looked for. Her extreme youth and inexperience, and the ignorance of the world concerning her, naturally excited great curiosity to see how she would act on this trying occasion, and there was a considerable assemblage at the palace, notwithstanding the short notice that was given."

Bowing to the lords present, Queen Victoria, quite simply dressed in black, took her seat, and proceeded to read her speech in clear, calm accents. Then, having taken the oath for the security of the Church of Scotland, she received the allegiance of the Privy Councillors present, the two Royal Dukes having precedence of the others.

"As these two old men," wrote Greville, " her uncles, knelt before her . . . I saw her blush up to the eyes, as if she felt the contrast between their civil and natural relations."

At noon the Queen held a Council, at which the excellent impression she had made already was confirmed. Throughout the trying ceremonies of the first day of her reign she bore herself with a dignity and composure which amazed, as much as it delighted, her Ministers.

The Victorian Era was at it's beginnings.

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