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Curiously enough, Lady Gladstone was born and bred in an essentially Conservative atmosphere, her father, Sir Richard Paget, having been for thirty years Tory M.p. for Somersetshire divisions. And this fact added even more interest to the announcement of her engagement to Lord Gladstone in 1901, an announcement which caused his lordship to be greeted with loud cheers in the House of Commons when, after the news became public, he. made his way to what was then his usual place on the Opposition benches. An interesting fact regarding the engagement is that Lord Gladstone, who has an extreme reverence for his father's memory, gave to his wife for her engagement ring the same great emerald circle that the "G. O. M." gave to his wife when they became engaged.
It also recalls a story of an amusing incident which took place some time previous to his marriage at a suffrage meeting in Yorkshire, at which Lord Gladstone spoke. In the course of his speech he complimented the lady orators on their eloquence, and remarked on the great pleasure it always gave the sterner sex to listen to women talking. The words were scarcely out of his mouth when a deep male voice proceeded from the back of the hall and proclaimed, in broad Yorkshire dialect," Eh, lad, thous't no wed yet thyself, I see."
Some years ago Lord Gladstone visited a certain church, and was asked by the clergyman, who was a friend of his, to join the choir in the evening service. He accepted the invitation, and shared the score of the " Messiah " with a choirman who was a strong Tory. After the service was over the clergyman said to this gentleman, "Do you know that your partner throughout the evening was Mr. Herbert Gladstone, the well known M.p. ?" " No, was he really !" exclaimed the choirman. "Well, I don't like his politics, but, by Jove, he can sing!
It was hinted in some quarters, when the announcement was made that Lord Gladstone was to be the first Governor-general of South Africa, that Lady Gladstone was too young - she is some years younger than her husband - to occupy the onerous position of first lady in that important colony with any measure of success. But Lady Gladstone has proved herself a worthy successor to Lady Selborne in every way, and under her regime social life in South Africa has assumed a very important aspect. And even the most critical have failed to find fault with the manner in which Lord and Lady Gladstone are working to strengthen that union which now binds together Briton and Boer.
By "Madge" (Mrs. Humphry)
Issue of Invitations - Representative Guests - The Royal Hosts - Royalty at Tea - The Want of Manners on the Part of the Guests - How the Time is Spent by Guests - Correct Attire - Refreshments
Invitations to a Royal garden-party are sent out from the Lord Chamberlain's office a week or ten days before the date. Parties usually are given at Buckingham Palace, Windsor, Marlborough House, and Clarence House. To take first those at Buckingham Palace, the procedure is as follows. On the invitation-card particular instructions are given as to the gate by which the guest is to enter the grounds.
As with all entertainments given by Royalty, the visitors arrive from half an hour to a quarter of an hour before the time mentioned. They assemble in the garden, and for the most part remain near the broad flight of steps which leads from the terrace behind Buckingham Palace to the wide gravel path beneath. Anxiety to have a good view of the Royal party dictates this course. It is always well to arrive in good time, as it is very interesting to watch the guests assemble. They are representative of all that is eminent and distinguished in London Society - literature, science, the arts, the drama, dignitaries of the Church, luminaries of the law, statesmen, and diplomacy are all represented. Some years ago the House of Commons was honoured with invitations for a certain number of members, but a few of the Radicals in the House chose, with infamously bad taste, to rebuke King Edward for not having invited the whole of the 670 members and their wives. Very properly, his Majesty took the most dignified way of convicting them of ill-manners by giving no more garden-parties of so wide a scope as that which caused this ebullition of discourtesy.
The first thing that strikes the visitor on arriving at Buckingham Palace is the beauty of the gardens, the well-kept lawns, the variety of trees, and the charming lake in the centre, with its pleasure boats, manned by watermen in the old-world scarlet and gold uniform, which looks so picturesque against the grey-blue of the water and the verdure of the lawns.
The Royal tent, in which the Sovereign and his party have tea, is usually pitched near the Constitution Hill end of the grounds. Everyone knows it by the scarlet carpet and the gilt chairs, upholstered also in scarlet. Two or three other refreshment tents are provided for the visitors.
Invitations - which, by the way, should have been replied to immediately, the answers addressed to the Lord Chamberlai - are usually for four o'clock, and a very few minutes after the hour the Royal party emerges from the central door at the back of the palace, and, crossing the terrace, descends the steps, bowing and smiling on every side. They pass through a kind of lane made by the visitors, and stop to speak to friends or acquaintances whom they recognise.
After a tour of the gardens, with frequent pauses made by the distinguished hosts, who converse in groups here and there, they make their way about a quarter to five to the Royal tent, and are served with tea. Then takes place a scene which is truly extraordinary, considering that we are supposed to be one of the most civilised nations in the world. A great number of the guests assembles at the edge of the lawn, opposite the Royal tent, separated from it only by a stretch of turf, and they gaze unblinkingly at the Sovereign, his Consort, 'and the Royal Princes and Princesses while they have tea. It is extraordinary that an act like this, which any individual of the crowd would hesitate to perpetrate in private life, should be performed without the slightest hesitation by a number of those individuals.