Not the least troublesome of Queen Mary's tasks, for instance, is the settling of social questions raised by society ladies. Jealous of any precedent or privilege which they may consider their right, they overwhelm her Majesty with letters. Perhaps one concerns the debut of a daughter. Another consists of an application for a seat in the Abbey for the Coronation; while a third may complain of being slighted because her name has been omitted from a list of invitations to a certain Court function.
Miss Knollys confessed at the time of King Edward's Coronation in 1902 that she herself was bombarded with letters from women of all stations in life. The applicants seemed to imagine that if they wrote to Queen Alexandra direct they would not receive an answer, and that by writing to Miss Knollys they would be able to enlist sympathy on their behalf. And, although the time was such an anxious and important one, only those letters that were written by apparent cranks were ignored.
Perhaps the most curious fact regarding Miss Knollys' unique position in the Royal entourage is that it was practically the outcome of an ordinary visit to Sandringham. It is true that her father, General Sir William Thomas Knollys, at one time held various offices in the Royal Household, and that her brother, Lord Knollys. had been an intimate friend of the late King Edward since boyhood; but until the visit of Miss Knollys to Sandringham in 1863-the year of Queen Alexandra's marriage-nothing definite had been decided regarding the future of Miss Knollys. She was then the same age as Queen Alexandra-viz., nineteen; and her Majesty, then, of course, Princess of Wales, was so impressed with the charm and quiet dignity of her visitor that, although there was no vacancy in the Royal Household at the moment, she offered to make her an extra Lady of the Bedchamber. On account of her youth. Miss Knollys hesitated to accept this signal mark of Royal favour, and it was only when she saw how much the Princess wished to keep her by her side that she overcame her reluctance. Thus it came about that yet another descendant of the Earl of Banbury-a title now extinct, which was conferred upon the Treasurer of the Household to Queen Elizabeth, one of Miss Knollys' ancestors-was marked out to occupy a position of considerable influence at Court.
A Queen's Companion
From the outset she became Queen Alexandra's constant companion. The Court chronicles of England record no more remarkable example of chivalrous devotion to duty than that of Miss Charlotte Knollys to her Royal mistress. Queen Alexandra had many interests. In London she had her boundless private charities; at Sandringham other charities again, for from the first day of her connection with the famous
Royal residence she showed an active interest in the tenantry, and was closely associated with the late King Edward in the remodelling and rebuilding of the villages on the estates. Then there was her dairy farm, poultry farm, gardens, and her keen interest in dogs, which led to her Majesty breeding and exhibiting at the leading dog shows in the kingdom. In all these matters she was assisted by Miss Knollys, whose manifold duties may be gathered from the fact that she was often responsible for one hundred letters a day. Miss Knollys takes charge of practically the whole of Queen Alexand ra's private corre-spondence, filing and locking away the letters day by day as they are attended to.
At Sand-ringham she had her suite of apartments in very close proximity to the Queen's private suite, and she is the only person not of the blood Royal who may enter the Queen's boudoir without an invitation. Further, she carries a pass key with her that opens all the Queen's jewel - safes, and this, of course, is never out of her possession for a moment. Speaking one day some time ago about the mysteriou s disappearance of the Crown jewels from Dublin Castle, the Queen laughingly said, "I shall really have to write to Lord Aberdeen, and offer to lend him Miss Knollys to mind his jewels, for I am perfectly certain no one would ever touch them if she were in charge.'
It is seldom that Queen Alexandra is seen unaccompanied by Miss Knollys, whether her Majesty is making a visit in London or the country, or is going abroad. Her solicitude for the Queen's health is well nigh maternal in its anxious tenderness. For instance, she was keenly distressed that the Queen felt herself obliged' to go
The Hon. Charlotte Knollys, who for over forty years has served her Royal mistress, Queer
Alexandra, with unwearying devotion in the capacity of private secretary. and by her presence of mind on one occasion saved her life
W. & D. Downey to Berlin in 1909, when she was far from well; and the fatigue which her Majesty risked in attending the first Court of that year was likewise a cause of much anxiety to her devoted Woman of the Bedchamber. Had her Majesty, in defiance of advice, made up her mind to attend the second Court, Miss Knollys would have been driven, in her loyal affection, to adopt some desperate expedient to save the august patient from herself. All the solicitude is not on one side, however, for the Queen is equally concerned that her best friend should take the utmost care of herself.
Years ago Miss Knollys made one last-ing sacrifice for the sake of her Royal mistress. Her hand was sought in marriage by a prominent member of the late King Edward's suite, who had fallen in love with her, and whose affection was reciprocated. It was a great temptation to quit her post as chief friend and confidante of Queen Alexandra, but Miss Knollys refused. The story goes that Queen Alexandra once expressed an earnest hope to her friend that she would never marry, and that Miss Knollys promised never to do so. A couple of years later she had to choose between breaking her promise to the lady whom she had promised to serve for life, and sacrificing her affections for the man she loved. She chose to do the latter, and it was not until long afterwards that her Majesty learnt the whole story of how much Miss Knollys had given up for her sake.
The post of private secretary to the Sovereign is not an ancient office, but it remained for Queen Alexandra to establish the precedent of a lady private secretary to the consort of the British King.