The late Prince Albert.
Death has entered the highest, and what might but a few hours ago have been called the happiest, household in the land. At a late hour on Saturday night, the 14th December, the booming of the great bell of St. Paul’s aroused the slumbering millions of the metropolis of the empire to the consciousness that a “great man had that day fallen in Israel.”
This sorrow comes on the nation with surprise. To the great majority of the population the announcement that all is over will arrive without premonition—even those who knew most and earliest have scarcely been warned of danger till they are told of death. Febrile symptoms of no alarming aspect were, after about a week’s continuance followed on Thursday by what is understood to have been an attack of gastric fever; a bulletin of the physicians, dated Friday, but really reaching the public, even in the Metropolis, only on Saturday morning, gave a first but rousing note of warning, in announcing that the Prince had passed a restless night, and that since morning the symptoms of his malady had assumed an unfavourable character; on Saturday about noon there appeared a bulletin ostensibly more favourable, but confirming if not increasing the alarm among all who knew how to construe such documents; in the evening it was announced that the Prince was in a “most critical state;” and at ten minutes before eleven, the end had come. That end, which comes alike to Prince and peasant, he met with manly and Christian tranquillity, not unsustained, we may we may venture to assume, by the consciousness that, at giddying heights and amid distracting allurements, he had, during his allotted days, striven with diligence, and steadfastness, and success, to do his duty and remember his obligations not less as a man than as a Prince.
The grief of a nation for the close of a life so loved and valued will be accompanied rather than followed by the deepest sympathy and anxiety for our widowed Queen. When this overwhelming grief has come upon her, Her Majesty was still stooping under a blow which had bereft her of a loved and loving mother. To be orphaned and widowed within a few months are afflictions which would fall crushingly on almost any nature, but there is cause for trembling when a nature so tender, susceptible, and retentive in matters of affection as that of Her Majesty is called upon to bear the loss of such a mother and such a husband. On each in turn, and within the appropriate sphere of each, she had leaned with wise yet implicit trust. For more than twenty years, she had found in Prince Albert not only a husband morally and intellectually worthy to be the head of the highest family in the land, but a wise and calm adviser in the duties and difficulties of her exalted office. It is a great grief—but Her Majesty has great consolation. A whole nation, not to be moved to tears by aught but a deep and sincere sorrow, claims to share her grief, and weeps both with her and for her—a magnificent and consoling tribute alike to herself, and to him whom she and we have lost
When “death calls to the crowd of common men” one so favoured of fortune as the illustrious personage whose premature decease the country today deplores, it is natural to desire to look back upon a career the character of which seems somehow or other affected by its sudden termination. Prominent as has been the position of the Prince Consort for nearly two and twenty years in this country, he has maintained his place with so much unobtrusive and quiet dignity, that a certain just privacy has all along been preserved in a life passed in the full lustre of Royalty. Spiteful gossip and idle rumour have never been allowed to fasten, as they are prone to do, upon the incidents of a domestic career so singularly clear and worthy; the Prince’s public life has always been so becoming and admirable as to challenge only encomium and applause. Occupying a position of the utmost delicacy and difficulty—a position in which the attainment of an enthusiastic popularity was almost as impossible as it would really have been impolitic—Prince Albert from the first compelled the respect, and has latterly gained the esteem and admiration, of the entire body of his fellow countrymen. Deep and universal, however, as were such feelings, the nation at large has yet to understand how truly important to the well being of the Crown and country have been the services of the Prince Consort; to learn how great a national loss has been sustained in his death. Princes are almost proverbially spoken of as accomplished, but Prince Albert was so in no merely conventional sense. Gifted with a clear and comprehensive intellect, he had assiduously improved the multifarious opportunities of culture which his rank afforded—so much so that his varied and high attainments as a student of art, science, and letters, would have obtained for him distinction and reward in any sphere of life. To the fulfilment of the duties of his exalted position, the Prince bent his entire energies with unabating industry and self-devotion. Looking back on the many years he has been familiarly known as a patron of every graceful and useful art and institution, ready at all times to aid by his countenance and encouragement all worthy purposes and projects, yet never courting popularity or obtruding support, the perfect propriety and graceful dignity of his public appearances, that seemed at the time only ordinary and natural, really rise to the rank of virtues. And on all occasions on which he took part in public life, the Prince proved himself no mere ornamental spectator, but a thoroughly intelligent actor. Most of his addresses, read or spoken, were singularly felicitous; brief, but compact, exhibiting original thought clothed in admirably fit expression.
To all who came in contact with him, personally or officially, it was apparent that his Royal Highness took no merely superficial interest in the matters, varied and numerous as they were, to which his attention was directed, [sic: .] A keen and intelligent application to the subject in hand, and a mutual knowledge of its nature and bearing, were observable in his conversation on a very wide range of topics; and we have heard testimony given by a man of the highest eminence in an abstruse and difficult science, to the Prince’s high ability in grappling with the principles and wide knowledge of the details of the study in which our authority himself particularly excelled. The Prince’s appearance as President of the British Association at its meeting in Aberdeen in 1859 was considered in every way worth of the occasion, of the learned body he addressed, and of his own reputation in science and philosophy. This was, so far as we remember, the only occasion on which his Royal Highness delivered a lengthened and detailed address; his speeches on public occasions being usually brief, though always happy and suggestive. Their distinctive character is indicated by the fact that not a few of their sententious phrases have become subjects of regular quotation in our current literature. One of the most characteristic of these addresses was that delivered at the laying of the foundation-stone of the National Gallery for Scotland in this city about ten years ago. It is melancholy to think that our city can also claim the mournful honour of having been the last place at which His Royal Highness actively participated in any public ceremonial of a general or popular character. How few of the thousands of spectators who witnessed with loyal satisfaction the husband and representative of their Sovereign as chief actor in the ceremonies on the 22d October last, could have dreamt that so soon the illustrious personage on whom all eyes were turned was to be withdrawn forever from the scene! How striking an illustration of the truth that “the glories of our blood and state are shadows, not substantial things,” is the fact that he, round whom all the pageant circled, and to whom multitudes paid the respectful but manly homage that a constitutional people are pleased and proud to pay to Royalty, should be so soon, like past “worlds of pomp and state,” “come to the tomb.“
It has been stated by several of our contemporaries that the late Prince contracted his illness, in the first instance, by catching cold while on his recent visit to the Prince of Wales at Madingley Hall, Cambridge. There is no foundation whatever for this statement. The deceased Prince returned from Madingley Hall in excellent health, and, as will be seen by reference to the Court Circular, was afterwards constantly shooting in the preserves of Windsor.
Our first thought, when we heard of the danger and then of the death of the Prince Consort, was—“How will the Queen bear it?” Two such shocks as Her Majesty has suffered during the present year are enough to weaken the health of any woman had she otherwise far less cause for anxiety that the Sovereign of these realms and the mother of a family of Princes. On this score the solicitude of the country may now, we believe, be set at rest. The Queen, though overwhelmed by the suddenness of the event, has not suffered in health, and bears her loss with fortitude and resignation. This news has satisfied everybody. There is in the public mind—it may be said of the great mass of the nation—such a feeling of unselfish goodwill towards Her Majesty, that the question of public business has but a second place in their thoughts. They are glad to know that the Queen is well, and dismiss for the present the consideration of political matters.—Times.
The Emperor and Empress of the French, on receiving news of the death of the Prince (says a Paris letter in the Journal de Rouen) immediately sent a telegraphic despatch to Windsor expressing to the Queen their deep regret, and in the evening a Cabinet courier was to leave for London with two autograph letters for Her Majesty. The Emperor has besides decided that, without waiting for a notification of the demise of His Royal Highness, the Court shall go into mourning.
Yesterday, according to the custom observed on the decease of the Kings of England, the body of his late Royal Highness was dressed in a Field Marshal’s uniform, and placed in the shell, when, by command of Her Majesty, those of the royal household who desired to do so were permitted to take a last farewell, and in the evening the coffin was soldered.
The outer State coffin will not be ready before Saturday next. This will be an exceedingly rich and elaborate case. At the head will be fastened a massive silver-gilt crown in high relief. This is the crown the Prince was entitled to wear as Prince-Consort, and much resembles that of the Imperial house of Austria. In the centre of the coffin will be another massive silver-gilt plate, with the inscription we have already given. At the foot will be the Star and insignia of the Garter, also in silver-gilt. On the coffin, during and after the interment, two heraldic crowns will be laid—that of His Royal Highness as Prince-Consort, and his Crown as Duke of Saxe-Coberg and Gotha.
The Paris Monitor of Tuesday announces that in consequence of the death of the Prince-Consort the Emperor will go into mourning for twenty-one days.
A large and influential meeting has been held in London for the purpose of carrying out the design of a national memorial to the late Prince Consort. A central committee was appointed, and committee are to be organised all over the country for the purpose of receiving subscriptions. Of all our national monumental structures, it is anticipated that this will be the most ambitious.
The Queen continues to receive addresses of condolence from all parts of the kingdom, from all societies, professions, and institutions, and from all places where English people are congregated in Europe and America. There never was so wide or so deep a feeling of sympathy exhibited before on any similar occasion. The Queen still preserves the strictest retirement at Osborne. Her Majesty’s profound sorrow for her irreparable loss finds consolation only in the bosom of her family. The King of the Belgians has been on a visit to her Majesty, and his presence has greatly contributed to solace her affliction.