Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

THE foregoing is simply an Introduction to + the Prince Consort's Speeches, with some outlines of the Prince's character. It is in no respect meant to anticipate the publication of his Life; and, consequently, no documents have been inserted, or even alluded to, which would be required for the illustration of that life.

One exception, however, to this rule the Queen has graciously consented to make. Amongst the manuscripts left by the Prince, there is a memorandum in his own handwriting on a subject of great importance in itself. But now, alas! the memorandum is of more importance still, as illustrating, in a remarkable manner, the Prince's character and conduct. In this document he clearly defines his own position, and lays out as it were the main scheme and purpose of his life. His words on this occasion are like a lamp raised up high on a vessel, which casts long lines of light upon the waves before and after, showing the course which has been passed over, and that which will be passed over, as the ship speeds right onwards through the dark waters of the uncertain sea.

In the Introduction a character has been drawn, which might be cavilled at from its having so much that is bright in it, and so little that affords any contrast whatever of darkness. The Prince is there depicted as a most self-denying man. Those who lived with him knew that it was so; they knew that the habit of self-denial pervaded his whole life. But it might be difficult for the rest of the world to be assured of the full extent of this self-denial.

After reading the document in question, there will no longer be any doubt upon this point. It can hardly be imagined that anything could be more tempting to a young man, placed as the Prince was, than to have almost within his grasp such a grand and distinct position as that of the Commander-inChief of the British Army. Throughout the memorandum it is evident that the Prince felt the temptation deeply while he abjured it. It was not the cold refusal of a person indifferent to what was offered to him ; but it was the stern self-sacrifice of one who, abounding in noble ambition, would dearly like to take the honour and the labour which he feels it his duty to decline.

The circumstances portrayed in the memorandum are very dramatic, and are exceedingly interesting, it only on that account. We cannot but picture to ourselves the tender wife already but too justly anxious for her Consort's health; the aged Duke, with his well-known and long-tried devotion to the Throne, urging, in his decided manner, upon the Prince the acceptance of this much-coveted post; and the Prince modestly and decisively putting it from him as a thing he must not have. There was wisdom in the motives which led the old warrior and statesman to make the proposal. But there was a higher wisdom in those of the young Prince who steadily refused to entertain the offer : a wisdom not proceeding from a nice perception of what was safe for self-interest, or from a skilful balancing of consequences, but from an instinct of goodness cultivated by chivalry into the highest self-devotion.

The resolution which the Prince announces in this memorandum — to sink his own indi

vidual existence in that of the Queen-had long been acted upon by him even then, and was never afterwards departed from. It was not repented of: it gave a colour to his whole career: it sustained him in long days of wearisome, commonplace labour : it became a part of his being; and he never surrendered it but with his last breath.

Many a reader of the foregoing Introduction, not having met with anything like the Prince's character in ordinary life, might naturally imagine it to have been drawn by too partial a hand. But this thought will vanish, when he sees the Prince unconsciously depicted by himself, and thus learns, from undoubted authority, what was the object, what the meaning, and what the settled purpose of his well-spent life.

In allowing this Memorandum of the Prince to be published, the Queen is also actuated by another motive in addition to those which have already been mentioned. It affords Her Majesty a fitting opportunity for expressing, in the most clear and ample manner, that which for many years she has desired to express. During the Prince's life, the Queen often longed to make

« EelmineJätka »