Joined: Jan 2011
From: Southeast England
There are lots of good stories in 'Queen Victoria Was Amused' by Alan Hardy. There is a rather charming account by an American visitor to Ascot races, who saw Victoria when she ws a princess, with Queen Adelaide:
'The Queen and the young Princess Victoria were leaning over a railing listening to a ballad singer, and seemed as much interested and amused as any simple country folk could be.'
The letter writer Creeves related how he was introduced at court not long after she became Queen:
'She was told by Lord Conyngham that I had not been presented, upon which a scene took place that to me was truly distressing. The poor little thing could not get her glove off. I never was so annoyed in my whole life; yet what could I do? But she blushed and laughed and pulled, till the thing was done, and I kissed her hand....
A more homely little thing you never beheld, when she is at her ease, and she is evidently dying to be more so. She laughs in real earnest, opening her mouth as wide as it can go, showing not very pretty gums . . . She blushes and laughs every instant in so natural a way as to disarm anybody.'
One of the young maids of honour, Georgianna Liddell, was asked by the Queen to sing:
'One day the Queen expressed a desire to hear me sing, so in fear and trembling I sang one of Grisi's famous airs, but omitted a shake at the end. The Queen's quick ear immediately detected the omission, and smiling Her Majesty said "Does not your sister shake, Lady Normanby?" My sister immediately answered "Oh yes, Ma'am, she is shaking all over." The Queen, much amused, laughed heartily at the joke.'
When the Queen travelled across to France to visit King Louis Phillipe, the following incident occured. Georginana Liddell related how the Queen was asked to move from her seat on deck:
'Move my seat' said the Queen, 'why should I? What possible harm can I be doing here?'
'The fact is, Your Majesty is unwittingly closing the door of the place where the grog tubs are kept, and so the men cannot have their grog!'
'Oh, very well' said the Queen, 'i will move on one condition, viz., that you bring me a glass of grog.'
This was accordingly done, and after tasting it the Queen said, 'I am afraid I can only make the same remark as I did once before, that I think it would be very good if it were stronger!'
There was a similar light-hearted reaction after her arrival when she was the subject of mistaken identity:
'Victoria, visiting one of the French ships, liked some cakes extremely, and a parcel of them were sent over to the Royal yacht. When the messanger saw a woman on the yacht's deck dressed in a common-looking black gown, dark bonnet, and a plain red woollen shawl, he held out the package, saying 'Take this, miss, they are cakes for the Queen. Take care of them! Now mind, don't fail to give them to her.' It was the Queen herself, and she laughed heartily over the mistake.'
John Gore related how 'one moonlight night she was leaning from her window at Windsor Castle, and was softly addressed by a sentimental sentry below. It ws with the most full-blooded laughter that she related how 'he mistook me for a housemaid.'
In 1855, when she visited France again in the reign of the Emperor Napoleon III, Lord Clarendon was amazed at her stamina:
'Conceive her walking in the heat here an hour in the morning, going over the Tuileries, and then for three and a half hours perambulating at the Hotel-de-Ville .. .She knocked up everybody; the emperor went in a great distress for the last league. One of his suite a very fat man, was so knocked up that he gasped "Je donnerais tout - tout - la Venus de Milo y incluse, pour un verre de limonade!" '
Victoria adored the highlands of Scotland, and spent a lot of time there. She related a story of an expedition with John Brown:
'When we were going down Craig-na-Ban - which is very steep and rough, Jane Churchill fell and could not get up again (having caught her feet in her dress) and Johnny Brown (who is our factotum and really the perfection of a servant for he thinks of everything), picked her up like un scene de tragedie and when she thanked him, said "Your ladyship is not so heavy as Her Majesty!" which made us laugh so much. I said "Am I grown heavier do you think?" "Well, I think you are" ws the plain spoken reply. So I mean to be weighed as I always thought I was light.'
At the Great Exhibition in 1851, Queen Victoria was intrigued by a painting of a boy jumping out of a boat watched by a large eye. Naturally curious, Victoria asked what it meant:
'The reply was startling. "The boy, madam, is the Prince of Wales and the eye is the Eye of God looking out with pleasure for the moment when His Royal Highness will land on his kingdom and become the reigning Sovereign!"
The gentlemen in attendance were aghast, but the Queen preserved her countenance till we left the stall, when both she and the Prince Consort laughed heartily. The latter told me that he only knew of one parallel incident. Geroge IV had taken a fancy to a beautiful but silly young lady, and had her frequently near him. On asking whether she was pleased with the court festivities, she replied that she was, but that she was dying to see a coronation.'
At Christmas 1860, Lord Torrington was struck by the happiness and informality of the royal family:
'I have never seen such a much more agreeable sight. It was royalty putting aside its state and becoming in words, acts, and deedes one of ourselves - no forms and not a vestige of ceremony. Even as in a public bazaar, where people jostle one another, so lords, grooms, Queen and princes laughed and talked, forgot to bow, and freely turned their backs on one another. I have never seen more real happiness.'
In 'Recollections of Three Reigns' Fritz Ponsonby relates some good stories:
'In literature the Queen's taste was said to be deplorable, and although she had little time for reading, she never liked the works of the great authors. I remember a discussion taking place once at Balmoral on the subject of Marie Corelli. The Queen said she would rank as one of the greatest writers of the time, while the Empress thought that her writings wee trash. I was seated at the other end of the large dining-room table and therefore had not, unfortunately, heard the commencement of the discussion. The Empress suddenly called across the table to me and asked me what I thought of Marie Corelli. Quite unconscious of the fact that the Queen was an admirer of this authoress, I replied that her books undoubtedly had a large sale, but I thought the secret of her popularity was that her writing appealed to the semi-educated. Whereupon the Empress clapped her hands, and the subject dropped with startling suddenness. It was not till afterwards that I learnt how I had put my foot in it.
Queen Victoria had far too much character and individuality to have good taste. Apart from the creators of art, the majority of human beings acquire by degrees good taste by sinking their own individual likes and dislikes and adopting the suggestions thrust on them by experts. Now although the Queen had every desire to encourage art generally, she invariably refused to be influenced in any way by other people's opinions, and having very fixed ideas of her own she clung to what she liked.'