Nothing is harder to direct than a man in prosperity; nothing more easily managed than one is adversity. — Plutarch

Story of the English - Helene Guerber




The Childhood of Queen Victoria

George IV. left no children, so his crown passed on to his brother, William IV. As he was once in the navy, he is often called the "Sailor King." He was a good and able man, although somewhat rough in manner, and he was much liked because he was in favour of reform.

During his short reign England prospered greatly. With the building of the first English railway, in 183o, the way was opened for making travel much more rapid and easy. A change was also made in the mode of elections, and when a new House of Commons assembled, there were members from all parts of the country, and all the nation was at last fairly represented.

By the efforts of a man named Wilberforce, slavery was abolished in the colonies. Parliament also made many laws in favour of the poor, and reduced the rate of letter postage.

William IV. and good Queen Adelaide had no children, so their niece Victoria was considered the future Queen of Great Britain. But the crown of Hanover, which had been worn by five kings of England, could not be inherited by a woman; so when William IV. died, his youngest brother, Ernest, became King of Hanover. This separation of the two kingdoms pleased the British, because the possession of land in Germany had often forced them to take more part than they wished in European wars, and had thus put them to great expense.

From early childhood Victoria was educated for the great position she was to occupy, and taught to be conscientious, kind, and affable to all. She was a happy little girl, although her father died when she was a mere baby, for she was constantly with her mother, the Duchess of Kent, a very good woman.

No one was allowed to tell Victoria that she might some day be queen, and she was brought up very plainly. We are told that she had a small allowance, and that she had to keep strict account of every penny she spent. Every one was forbidden to give or lend her any money, so that when she wanted to buy something, she had to wait and save up, if her allowance was already gone.

One day when she was out with her governess, she saw a doll which pleased her much, and she felt badly because she could not buy it at once. The shopkeeper, however, put it aside for her; and as soon as Victoria had saved up enough money, she hastened to the place to secure the coveted treasure. But as she stepped out of the shop, a poor woman begged her for something to eat. Victoria, whose money was all gone, hesitated a moment; then, turning around, she begged the merchant to take back the doll and give her her money, which she immediately bestowed upon the starving woman.

When Victoria was about twelve years old, her mother thought it was time that she should be told that she was heir to the crown. So her teacher made her trace a genealogical table of the kings of England, such as you will find at the end of this book. The little girl finally came to her uncles, and then, looking up, said that she could not see who should come after her uncle William, unless it were she.

Her mother gently told her she was right, and after a few moments' deep silence and thought, little Victoria slipped her hand into her mother's, and solemnly said: "I will be good." This resolution, made by so small a girl, has been faithfully kept. She has been a good daughter, a good pupil, a good wife, a good mother, a good queen, and, what is best of all, a thoroughly good woman.

At five o'clock in the morning, on a beautiful June day in 1837, Victoria was roused from her slumbers to receive the visit of the ministers of state. After a very hasty toilet, she went into the room where they were, and these grave men humbly bent the knee before her, calling her their queen. Although only eighteen years old, Victoria received their homage gently and with great dignity, and made them a little speech, in which she expressed her sorrow for her uncle's death, and her earnest desire to rule her people wisely.

Ever since that day, although Queen Victoria has stood alone, the observed of all observers, she has proved so good and earnest that she has won the respect of all the civilized world.



Contents

Front Matter
Review

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
"Remember"
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee