She continued her journey to the Castle of Rumpenheim, where was a family gathering. Rumour had preceded her, and when she arrived, the Hessian cousins came around her to know if it "was true," and "what he was like."
The formal betrothal of Princess Alexandra to the heir to the British throne took place on September 9th, 1862, at the Palace of Laeken, where Queen Victoria was visiting her uncle, Leopold I., King of the Belgians.
The unparalleled welcome given to the bride when she made her entry into London, and the stately and resplendent wedding at Windsor on March 10th, 1863, have been described in glowing periods by Dickens and Thackeray, and many another famous writer.
The veteran historian of "Our Own Times" was recently (1910) recalling to me his impressions of Queen Alexandra when she made her first progress through London.
"Her beauty," said Mr. Justin M'carthy, "had been so noisily trumpeted abroad that one's natural instinct was to feel disappointed when she came in sight; but it was impossible to feel disappointment, or anything but admiration at the sight of that bright, fair face, so transparent in the clearness of its complexion, so delicate and refined in its outlines, so sweet and gracious in its expression."
Queen Alexandra's career as Princess of Wales is unique in history - for though there have been many of the title, she undoubtedly created a new role. When she came to England, Queen Victoria was a deeply sorrowing widow, averse to Society gaieties and State functions, and the beautiful wife of the Heir-apparent became the virtual leader of Society. Her tact, joyous nature, and natural grace and charm made all things easy to the young bride.
Though but a girl, with no experience of English Court life, she held the Drawing Rooms as to the manner born. The first was one of the largest on record. It took four hours for the company to pass the throne.
Oueen Alexandra, clad in golden sheen and sparkling with gems, made her never-to-be-forgotten progress up the venerable
Abbey to the Coronation Chair Photo. W. & D. Downey
That discriminating old beau, Lord Pal-merston, pronounced the Prince's bride to be perfect, and when she graced the Guildhall banquet and ball, it was said that "the aldermen flopped themselves about in an agony of delight, and basked in her smile like their own turtles in the sun."
At that ball Disraeli Was her devoted admirer. Queen Victoria called her daughter-in-law the "Fairy," and truly the progress through her first season in London was that of a queen of enchantment.
Possibly severe British matrons thought that this Was all mere frivolity. But when the gay young girl became a mother there was no more devoted mother in all the land. The nurseries at Marlborough House Were perfection, and often the Princess Would snatch an hour from her multitudinous engagements to give "Eddy" his bath. Her eldest son, the lamented Duke of Clarence, Was born at Frogmore House, January 8th, 1864.
A Home-loving Queen
The home-making and home-loving qualities so characteristic of Queen Alexandra Were early displayed at her loved country home of Sandringham. There, when freed from the restraints and engagements of London, she lived a simple country life with her children always about her.
In the first year of her marriage she instituted treats for the village children on her birthday and at Christmas, which were continued annually. She visited the cottagers, tended the sick and infirm With her own hands, and founded technical schools for the young people.
Queen Alexandra loves horses and dogs, and, indeed, most living creatures; and the kennels at Sandringham have always been one of her chief interests. She is a frequent exhibitor at dog shows, and patron of the Ladies' Kennel Club. From childhood her Majesty has been a graceful and fearless rider, and her special stables at Sandringham are the home of many old favourites, whom she constantly visits.
Queen Alexandra's life, passed amongst us so gaily, Was destined to have shadow as well as sunshine. Her painful and protracted illness in 1867 called forth universal concern and sympathy. Again the nation sorrowed With her when her husband lay between life and death in that anxious winter of 1871. It rejoiced with her at the celebration of her Silver Wedding in 1888, and at the marriage of her eldest daughter, the Princess Louise, to the Duke of Fife in the following year, and it mingled its tears with hers when she drank the cup of sorrow to the bitter dregs at the death of her firstborn. The Duke of Clarence died January, 1892.
But again sunshine broke through the shadows, and Queen Alexandra had the happiness of seeing our gracious King George V. married on July 6th, 1893, to the Princess May of Teck, the daughter of her lifelong friend, Princess Mary of Cambridge, Duchess of Teck. Three years later, her youngest daughter, Princess Maud, was married to Prince Carl of Denmark, now King of Norway. Queen Alexandra has nine grandchildren.
Throughout her unprecedented career as Princess of Wales, she was her husband's devoted helpmate in the performance of public duties. Her visits to different parts of the country for the opening of institutions, stone-layings, and kindred functions always gave grace and charm to the occasion. She has interested herself very specially in hospitals for children, and many pleasing and touching incidents are connected with her visits to these institutions.
The second phase of Queen Alexandra's career Was destined to be a brief one. Her reign as Queen Consort began January 22nd, 1901. Again the shadows crossed her path, and all the nation sorrowed with her through those terrible hours when King Edward lay between life and death on the eve of the day appointed for the Coronation.
When the deferred ceremonial took place - August 9th, 1902 - Queen Alexandra had the triumph of her life as, clad in. golden sheen, sparkling with gems and embroidered by Workers in India with the beautiful art of the East, she made her never-to-be-forgotten progress up the venerable Abbey to the Coronation Chair.
Throughout the brief nine years of her reign, Queen Alexandra filled the position of Queen Consort with rare distinction, and held the love of all classes by her kindly interest in the poor and the suffering.
We see her yet again in the third phase of her career as the widowed Queen, comporting herself with Wonderful calmness through the public progresses attendant on the lying-in-state and the funeral of our late revered King Edward VII., until her Woman's heart broke in grief at the final scene, when she knelt beside her husband's coffin in St. George's Chapel, where she had stood at his side a bride. The tide of memory rolled backwards, and in those moments she mourned the lover of her girlhood, the husband of her youth.
When Queen Alexandra emerges from retirement, it will be to play a beautiful and beneficent part in the country of her adoption as Queen-mother at the Court of her son.
Sandringham is her dower-house, and Marlborough House becomes again her London residence. In her own beloved Denmark she has her villa on the Sound. In the Princess Victoria her Majesty has a devoted daughter, while the Hon. Charlotte Knollys and General the Rt. Hon. Sir Dighton Probyn remain the trusted friends of her household.
The future, we doubt not, will link the hearts of the people more closely, if possible, to the Queen-mother, and the later phase in the life of Alexandra will glow with the beauty of an Indian summer