Page images
PDF
EPUB

But it was well known that the Prince's state was very critical, and soon it was announced that the Queen was going to Sandringham, which she did on 29th November.

Again and again there was a report of a relapse, and the feeling aroused through the United Kingdom was far greater than any public expression of emotion since the death of Princess Charlotte in 1817. In every town, according to the Times' reports, crowds waited anxiously for the issue of newspapers containing the latest news of the Prince's condition, and the Government found it expedient to forward the medical bulletins to every telegraph office in the United Kingdom. In the churches of every religious communion, prayers were offered, though almost without hope, for the recovery of the Prince.

At length, on 1st December, the Prince recovered consciousness, and his first remark to those about him was, "This is the Princess's birthday." The next coherent utterance came when he heard that the Queen had been at Sandringham. "Has the Queen come from Scotland? Does she know I am ill?" he asked; but this slight rally did not continue, and soon all the Royal family were summoned to Sandringham. On 9th December the fever had spent itself, but the patient's strength was considered to be exhausted. Special prayers were offered up in all churches for the Prince's recovery; and shortly before the service in St. Mary Magdalene's, Sandringham, the Vicar received the following note from the Princess of Wales :

[ocr errors]

"My husband being, thank God, somewhat better, I am coming to church. I must leave, I fear, before the service is concluded, that I may watch by his bedside. Can you not say a few words in prayer in the early part of the service, that I may join with you in prayer for my husband before I return to him? The Vicar, before reading the Collect, in a voice trembling with emotion, which he vainly strove to suppress, said: "The prayers of the congregation are earnestly sought for His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, who is now most seriously ill."

The day following, an article in the Times commenced: "The Prince still lives and we may still therefore hope"; and so the weary days dragged on. On the 16th it was recorded that the patient had enjoyed a quiet and refreshing sleep, and on the 17th, a Sunday,

those of the Royal family who were then at Sandringham were present at church, when, by special request, the Prince and Blegge were recommended to the mercy of God in the same prayer. That same day the Princess visited the poor dying groom, and after his death, which occurred within the next few hours, both she and the Queen found time, in the midst of their terrible anxiety, to visit and comfort his relations.

By Christmas Day the danger may be said to have been over, and on 26th December the Queen wrote the following letter to the nation :

"The Queen is very anxious to express her deep sense of the touching sympathy of the whole nation on the occasion of the alarming illness of her dear son, the Prince of Wales. The universal feeling shown by her people during those painful, terrible days, and the sympathy evinced by them with herself and her beloved daughter, the Princess of Wales, as well as the general joy at the improvement of the Prince of Wales's state, have made a deep and lasting impression on her heart, which can never be effaced.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The Princess of Wales and Princess Alice now felt that their patient was well enough for them to leave him for an hour or two in order to assist at the distribution of Christmas gifts to the labourers on the estate. In the ceiling of the room now occupied by the Princess of Wales as a bed-chamber, the mark of an orifice may still be seen from which projected a hook supporting a trapeze, by the aid of which the Prince, when on the slow and weary road to convalescence, could change his position and pull himself up into a sitting posture.

Another memento of the Prince's terrible illness is the brass lectern in the parish church. On it runs an inscription :

66

TO THE GLORY OF GOD.

A THANK-OFFERING FOR HIS MERCY.
14TH DECEMBER 1871.
ALEXANDRA.

When I was in trouble I called upon the Lord, and He heard me."

The last bulletin was issued on 14th January, and nine days later Sir William Jenner was gazetted a K.C.B. and Dr. W. Gull was

created a baronet—rewards which gave particular satisfaction to the

nation.

It was whispered at the time that the Prince, under Providence, really owed his recovery to one of those sudden inspirations of genius of which the history of medicine is full. His Royal Highness seemed to be actually in extremis, when one of his medical attendants sent in haste for two bottles of old champagne brandy and rubbed the patient with it vigorously all over till returning animation rewarded the doctor's efforts.

The Prince's recovery was hailed with feelings of deep thankfulness by the whole nation, and it was universally deemed appropriate that public thanks should be returned to Almighty God for His great mercy. The utmost interest was taken by all classes of society in the preparations for the proposed National Thanksgiving. Mr. William Longman wrote to the Times urging that, as in 1664 and 1678, subscriptions should be invited for the completion of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in London as a perpetual memorial of His Royal Highness's recovery.

During the interval before the day fixed for the National Thanksgiving, the Prince and Princess paid visits to Windsor and Osborne. When they returned to London one of the first visitors they received was Dr. Stanley, who had now become Dean of Westminster. It was resolved that their Royal Highnesses should attend a private service of thanksgiving in the Abbey, which the Dean thus describes in a letter to an intimate correspondent :

"I went to Marlborough House to suggest, through Fisher and Keppel, that the Prince of Wales should come. He consented at once, and it was agreed that he, the Princess, and the Crown Prince of Denmark, and if in town, Prince Alfred, should come. I kept it a secret except from the Canons. We met them at the great Western door; the nave (as usual) was quite clear. They walked in with me, and took their places on my right. I preached on Psalm cxxii. I. The Prince of Wales heard every word, and has decided that it shall be published, which it will be, and you shall have a copy. It was one of those rare occasions on which I was able to say all that I wished to say. They were conducted again to the West door, and departed."

The day fixed for the public National Thanksgiving in St. Paul's was 27th February, and never, save perhaps on 22nd June 1897, did the Queen and the Prince and Princess of Wales receive a more splendid and heartfelt ovation. Thirteen thousand people were

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]

THANKSGIVING DAY, 1872: THE SCENE AT TEMPLE BAR

From the "Illustrated London News"

admitted to the Cathedral, among them being most of the notabilities of the day, including all the great officers of State.

The procession set out from Buckingham Palace at twelve o'clock. First came the Speaker, the Lord Chancellor, and the Commanderin-Chief, in their carriages, followed by nine Royal equipages, in the last of which sat the Queen, dressed in black velvet trimmed with

broad bands of white ermine, the Princess of Wales in blue silk covered with black lace, the Prince of Wales in the uniform of a British general and wearing the Collars of the Orders of the Garter and the Bath, Prince Albert Victor, then a boy of eight, and Princess Beatrice.

of

In the Green Park the procession was greeted by an army 30,000 children, who sang the National Anthem as the Royal carriages drove by.

St. Paul's was reached at one o'clock, and the Royal party were received at the great West door by the Dean and Chapter. The Queen passed up the nave leaning on the arm of the Prince, who conducted Her Majesty to a pew which had been specially prepared for the occasion.

The service began with the "Te Deum," and after some prayers a special form of thanksgiving which had been officially drawn up was said. Then the Archbishop of Canterbury preached a short sermon from the text, Romans xii. 5, "Members one of another." The service concluded with a thanksgiving hymn which had been specially written for the occasion. The proceedings were over by two o'clock, and the procession returned by a different route, along Holborn and Oxford Street, in the presence of an enthusiastic crowd said to be the largest ever collected in London. As the poet sings:

Bear witness, thou memorable day,

When, pale as yet, and fever-worn, the Prince,
Who scarce had plucked his flickering life again
From halfway down the shadow of the grave,

Past through the people and their love,
And London roll'd one tide of joy thro' all

Her trebled millions and loud leagues of men.

Two days later the Queen wrote from Buckingham Palace to Mr. Gladstone, who was then Prime Minister, one of those touching letters which have on many occasions drawn still more closely together the ties of loyalty and affection between Her Majesty and her people. The Queen wrote that she was anxious "to express publicly her own personal very deep sense of the reception she and her dear children met with on Tuesday, the 27th of February, from

« PreviousContinue »