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THERE is certainly no man in the whole of the British Empire about whom more widely different views have been, and are now, entertained than the Prince of Wales. His position as the HeirApparent of a Sovereign whom repeated bereavements have driven into retirement, which is, however, more apparent than real, has been an extremely delicate one. Nearly all his predecessors in the title of Prince of Wales played some part in politics, or interfered, not always successfully, in the affairs of State. But the idea of constitutional monarchy, which the Queen from the beginning placed before herself, is wholly inconsistent with such interference on the part of the Heir-Apparent, and His Royal Highness has most scrupulously carried out this theory of his own position.
No political party has ever been able honestly to claim the Prince of Wales as an adherent, or even as a platonic sympathiser. On the other hand, not his most severe critics have ever accused him of apathy to British interests. In that higher sphere of patriotism, which rises superior to the din of party politics, he has in every possible way earned the title of the typical Englishman.
The Prince of Wales has shown this superiority to party or sectional interests most conspicuously in his choice of those whom he has honoured with his regard and confidence. Among these, politicians are naturally numerous, but the Prince has always been most careful not to show favour to the men of one side rather than the other. Indeed, so delicate is his tact, that he is accustomed to distinguish those who happen at the moment not to be enjoying the sweets of office a little more, if anything, than those who are.
So well understood is this aloofness of his from politics, that the Prince has been able to show on many occasions the esteem and even affection in which he holds both Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone. The only time the Prince and Princess of Wales have ever been photographed together with any conspicuous popular figure was with the aged statesman and his wife, though it need hardly be added that this signal proof of friendship was given after Mr. Gladstone's final retirement from politics.
It would be wearisome to enumerate all the statesmen and politicians on whom the Prince of Wales has conferred various marks of his favour. Mention may, however, be made of Mr. Cecil Rhodes, for whom he entertains a strong admiration which he has never cared to conceal. Indeed, His Royal Highness showed such a marked interest in the famous African statesman that he removed his own name from the Travellers' Club when Mr. Rhodes was blackballed-a course which he has never seen fit to take in any other instance. His Royal Highness was naturally very much interested in the South African Committee, the earlier sittings of which he attended with great regularity.
The political emancipation of the Jews in England evidently had the Prince of Wales's warm sympathy. It now seems a long time ago since the presence of His Royal Highness at the marriage of Mr. Leopold de Rothschild caused much satisfaction and some sensation in Jewish circles, for no British prince had visited a synagogue since 1809, when three of the Royal dukes were present at a Jewish service. The Rothschild family have long been among the Prince's personal friends, both in England and on the Continent, and among his intimates was the late Baron Hirsch, with whom he stayed in Austria, notwithstanding the intense anti-Semitic feeling obtaining at the Austrian Court. The Prince of Wales has thoroughly studied the question of the Russian Jews, and has interested himself on their behalf in such a way as should earn for him the gratitude of every Jew in Europe and America. Nevertheless, the Prince's predilection for the Chosen People has been sometimes misinterpreted, and ascribed to not very creditable motives. People were at one time fond of saying that the Prince was up to the neck in debt, but, on the question being directly asked, Sir
Francis Knollys, the private secretary of the Prince, replied that the Prince had no debts worth speaking of, and that he could pay any moment every farthing he owed; also, that there was not a word of truth in the oft-repeated tales of the mortgage on Sandringham, and that the whole story was a fabrication, and was on a par with similar tales representing the Prince as being assisted by financiers of more or less doubtful honesty.
For Americans the Prince of Wales has also shown a strong liking, but it is false to assert that his favour has been confined to those American men and women whose social position has been entirely purchased by their wealth. He has frequently gone out of his way to show special courtesy to really distinguished American visitors, whether rich or poor; and the diplomatic representative of the United States in London has always found a specially cordial welcome at Marlborough House. This was particularly the case with James Russell Lowell and with Mr. T. F. Bayard. Indeed, it will be remembered that on Mr. Bayard's giving up the post of American Ambassador, the Prince broke his invariable rule and accepted Mr. Bayard's invitation to dinner, thereby paying a signal compliment to the whole American people. The Prince's telegram to the New York World, during the war-scare which followed President Cleveland's Venezuelan Message, will be remembered as having done much to calm the public anxiety in both countries.
American women who have married Englishmen can rely on receiving from the Prince and Princess of Wales the most tactful consideration and courtesy. This has been conspicuously shown in the cases of Lady Harcourt, the daughter of Motley, the great American historian; of Mrs. Joseph Chamberlain; and of the young Duchess of Marlborough.
The Prince of Wales has not been so often painted as his Imperial nephew, the German Emperor; in fact, he has a very great objection to sitting for his portrait. The latest portrait of him, however, was painted by Mr. Julian Story, as a commission from Mr. Astor, in order to commemorate the visit of the Prince to Clieveden. The portrait, which is life size, now hangs in the billiardroom at Clieveden, and the Prince was so much pleased with it that he has ordered a small replica for himself. Mr Frank Holt has
also drawn a portrait of the Prince, as has also Edouard Detaille, the great French military painter; but most of His Royal Highness's friends and relations much prefer the admirable portrait painted by Mr. Archibald Stuart Wortley.
There is probably not a civilised country in the world where the Prince has not at any rate some friends. With France he has many links, dating principally from the days when so much intimacy subsisted between the French and the English Courts. With the House of Orleans the Prince and Princess of Wales and their children enjoy all the intimacy of cousinship, the more so that the Princess's youngest brother, Prince Waldemar, is married to a daughter of the Duc de Chartres.
The Prince is accustomed to utilise his travels for the purpose of keeping up his old friendships and of making new ones. It is interesting to note that he speaks fluently French, German, and Italian, with a little Russian.
Of late years the Prince of Wales's brief holidays have been almost always spent on the Continent. His Royal Highness generally travels when abroad as the Earl of Chester, and sometimes as Baron Renfrew. At Boulogne a private saloon carriage is kept for the use of His Royal Highness. It was constructed by the South-Eastern Railway Company at a cost of about £7000, and cannot be kept in proper order for less than £250 a year. It contains two sleeping-apartments, a dining-car, and a study, and is painted a bright yellow, with the Prince of Wales's feathers introduced at intervals.
Few people are aware what extraordinary precautions are taken when the Prince of Wales is travelling. The general manager of the railway is always apprised of the journey beforehand by His Royal Highness's private secretary, and a notice is sent to every station-master along the line. It is not usual, as in the case of the Queen, to send a pilot engine on ahead, but on the whole the line is kept clear; and a train containing the Prince of Wales is never allowed to go more than fifty miles an hour. This care is taken just as much when the Prince is travelling in an ordinary express as when he has ordered a special.
It has sometimes been asserted that members of the Royal family