White and gold are the Papal colours, and they are treated with great deference. When the Holy Father re-entered Rome after the revolution of 1850 he was seated in a huge gilt historic coach, with glass sides, which, like all gala carriages, was swung on long straps. It was drawn by four coal-black horses caparisoned in white and gold.
Spiritual and pontifical powers were resuscitated under Pope Leo XIII.
The Vatican, with its peaceful, changeless halls, seems to have originated in a house which stood in the time of Constantine, and was rebuilt by Pope Innocent in 1200. When one reaches it by the Via San Giovanni, past the ruins of the Coliseum, one is impressed by its picturesque dignity. The pomp of its Court savours of venerable tradition, which seems to ignore the shadowy passing of time. In the Vatican labyrinth are rooms for those picturesque and powerful dignitaries of the Church, the cardinals. The latter are important figures in mundane, as in clerical, functions, and their soutanes are often decorated as profusely as the coat of a general.
Special etiquette prevails regarding cardinals. When one appears at a social gathering, all guests rise on his arrival, and remain standing until he is seated. If he be a monk of a monastic order, low gowns are not worn by the ladies present, and if he should appear at a ball, dancing does not take place until after his departure. He is an imposing-looking figure, in his scarlet robes, cap, and gloves, with the golden pectoral cross, studded with amethysts, on his breast. Servants, carrying lighted torches, precede him when mounting the staircase, and reconduct him to his carriage in the same manner on departure. The great Cardinal Antonelli was said to be the most hated man in Rome. He was the Prime Minister of Pio Nono, and was the last secular cardinal. When he was made Prince of the Church the office of cardinal entailed no vow of celibacy.
The cardinal's major-domo is another characteristic figure in Roman life. He always appears in full evening dress; he walks behind the cardinal at a procession, carrying a green bag, in which to receive the long crimson cloak when it is unhooked from the wearer's shoulders.
The Quirinal, which is the residence of the Court in Rome, is a palace of no great architectural merit or beauty. It stands on the summit of a lofty hill, on the site of part of the baths of Constantine. It was begun in 1574, under Pope Gregory XIII., and finished, under subsequent Popes, by Fontana and Moderna. Sculptured saints frown over the Quirinal door, and over the main gateway are the historic tiara and keys. The Royal private apartments are reached by an unimposing-looking winding staircase, which was formerly infested with rats.
A characteristic Easter scene in Rome, the flower market in the Piazza di Spagna, at the foot of the steps leading to the church of
Santa Trinita dei Monti From the drawing by J. Matama
Two or three Court balls are given during the season, and fortnightly receptions are held during Lent. When Courts are held, invitations are for ten o'clock, but etiquette demands that guests arrive at nine. They proceed up the grand main staircase to the reception rooms, and assemble in the brilliantly lit ballroom. Ladies wear full evening dress, but no trains or veils are worn at the Italian Court, and black is not allowed.
In the stately ballroom, the chief dame d'honneur sorts out the married from the single guests, and relegates each to different apartments. At ten o'clock, the King and Queen enter the ballroom, arm-in-arm, and pass up and down the rooms, chatting affably with the guests. The ambassadresses claim a large share of her attention. Roman society is very exclusive and haughty. It will have nothing to do with the mezzo ceto, or middle class, and emphasises simplicity in dress, as opposed to the gorgeous frocks and flaunting fashion of the numerous rich Americans and members of the haute finance which hover in their vicinity during the season. They are, however, seldom admitted really within the charmed circle, the members of which are tenacious of the traditions of birth, and consider that a wise respect for the past ensures the preservation of privileges which mere money can never buy.
Much has been said and written against the climate of Rome, with its treacherous sudden transitions from heat to cold and the malaria lurking in the plains of the forsaken Campagna. But the extensive planting of eucalyptus trees has done much to diminish this, and a sojourn in Rome need be fraught with no danger to health.
It may be affirmed that nothing can exceed the beauty of the coup d'oeil of the Eternal City on the Seven Hills, when one views the richness of colour and architecture, silhouetted against an azure sky, the noble Via Nazionale, the churches, palaces, and monuments, the youth and beauty chatting on the Corso, and, higher up, the wonderful Scala Santa at the Lateran Gate.
When Victor Emmanuel II. became King of United Italy, in 1861, Sir James Hudson was British Minister in Rome, which was then a Legation, and not an Embassy. He was succeeded in 1863 by Sir Henry Elliot, and in 1867 by Sir Augustus Paget, who was raised to the rank of ambassador there in 1876, when Rome was included among the Great Powers. The Italian Parliament opened in November, 1871.
It has been said that Victor Emmanuel II.
was always ready to sacrifice truth to appearances, but, in any case, his was not a bed of roses. French garrisons were in Rome in 1860 to protect the Romans, the Austrians did not leave until 1866, heavy taxes were levied in order to raise the fleet, and all the drawbacks of a difficult transition stage had to be met. The names of the heroes of the Risorgimento, that Sardinian triumvirate, Mazzini the inspirer, Cavour the diplomatist and planner, and Garibaldi the "Cromwell of Caprera," rang in people's hearts. Volunteers of various nationalities formed the Legion d'antibes, and protected Rome during the years of the gradual French evacuation. In 1878, Sir Augustus Paget presented new ambassadorial credentials to King Humbert I., to whom the Duke of Abercorn was sent about the same time to invest him with the Order of the Garter.
The "Pearl of Savoy"
Three years previous to his accession, King Humbert had married his beautiful and charming cousin, Princess Margherita of Savoy. She was only sixteen at the time, and was called the Queen of Hearts, owing to her amiability and charm. It is mainly due to her sweetness of disposition, strong character, intelligence, and courage that the hearts of the people were won for her morose father-in-law and her indolent, pleasure-loving husband. She was only nineteen when she became Queen, and was then mother of a boy, the Prince of Naples, now King Emmanuel.
Her popularity has never waned, and she is enthroned in the heart of all true Italians. She was a warm friend of the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, who was Ambassadress in Rome, and also of the beautiful and gifted Lady Currie, who, as "Violet Fane," was known and admired in the literary world.
Since Victor Emmanuel III. and his beautiful wife ascended the Italian throne, in 1900, Lady Bertie and Lady Egerton have been successively British Ambassadresses at the Quirinal. The latter was a Russian by birth, nee Princess Lobanow-rostowski.
Lady Rennell Rodd is beloved by all the British colony in Rome, to the members of which she extends the influence of protective kindness. She has literary and artistic tastes, and is a true friend to all "pilgrims of the dispatch-box," proving to them by her genial warm-heartedness that "home" need not depend upon geography, nor distance from one's native land spell "exile."
The romantic story of Queen Margharita's love-match and happy wedded life is well known to readers of Every Woman's Encyclopaedia. An interesting account of her life as queen-consort, and of her heroic endurance of the terrible and unforeseen tragedy which deprived her of her beloved husband, will be found on page 2700 of Vol. 4.