15 January 1892
His Royal Highness Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward, Duke of Clarence and Avondale and Earl of Athlone, was the eldest son of the Prince and Princess of Wales, and was born on January 8, 1864, at Frogmore House. His birth was premature, not having been expected before March; and no preparations had been made, nor was there even a nurse in attendance. However, all went well under the care of Dr. Brown, of Windsor, who had been hastily summoned, and next day the regular physicians of the Court-Drs. Farre and Sieveking and Sir Charles Locock-made their appearance, as did Sir George Grey, the Home Secretary. It is, as everybody knows, the duty of that Minister to be present at the birth of those in the direct line of succession to the Crown, but on this occasion he, like every one else, was taken by surprise. His function of attesting the birth was, however, performed by Lord Granville, who happened to have been invited by the Prince of Wales to stay at Frogmore and to shoot with him. Nothing happened to delay the recovery of the Princess, and the child proved to be healthy, though it may well be that the weakness of constitution which has caused him to succumb to his first serious illness had some connexion with his too early birth. The birth of a son and heir to the Heir Apparent naturally roused popular sympathy and interest, and when Parliament assembled the late Lord Derby, then leader of Opposition in the House of Lords, gave utterance to the general feeling in these words:-
It appears to me that as we advance in life we look with a warmer and kindlier sympathy upon the opening prospects of those who are entering upon that career, towards the close of which so many of us are hurrying. But I am sure there is not one of your lordships who does not view with the deepest interest the happy career of that youthful pair upon the birth of whose heir we are now congratulating the Sovereign. I am sure there is not one of your lordships who does not offer up a fervent prayer to the Throne of Grace that that bright prospect may remain unclouded, and that long after the youngest of your lordships have passed away from this scene the throne of these realms may be occupied by the descendants of the illustrious Prince and his new-born heir.
Lord Derby's aspiration was not destined to be fulfilled; but there was no shadow over the young life then. On March 10, the child was christened in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace. It was his parents' wedding-day; just one year since the joy-bells of Windsor and London had announced their union. The omen was a happy one; and the country rejoiced also to see that Her Majesty the Queen had so far emerged from the seclusion of her grief as to be present at the ceremony, and even to hand the Royal child to the Archbishop and to name him. Naturally, in the 28 years that have passed since then, death has played havoc with the eminent persons who were present at the ceremony; and if the nation can rejoice that it still keeps its beloved Queen and the Prince and Princess of Wales, it has lost Lord Palmerston and Sir George Grey, and Archbishop Longley and Bishops Tait and Wilberforce, and the gracious personality of Arthur Stanley.
There is little to record of the childhood of Prince Albert Victor-or, as he was always called at home, Prince "Eddie." The life that was lived by him and by the brother and sisters who in due time came to occupy the nurseries at Marlborough House and Sandringham was a life directed by wise and enlightened counsels; for it is not too much to say that the children of the Prince of Wales have been brought up with as much care as were those of the Queen and the Prince Consort. In due time the boys, between whose ages there was a difference of only 17 months, were placed under the care of a governor, the Rev. John Neale Dalton, now Canon of Windsor, but at that time curate of Whippingham, near Osborne. Mr. Dalton was a Cambridge man who had obtained first-class honours in the Theological Tripos and the Crosse University Scholarship; but, though his academical distinctions had been theological, his contributions to the volumes which relate the cruise of the Bacchante show that he is very much alive to such mundane matters as statistics, economic problems, and political history. It was in 1871 that he joined the household of the Prince of Wales, and he remained a trusted member of it till his young pupils had returned from their long voyage round the world and had outgrown the need for a governor. Very careful teaching in the elements was given to the young Princes, and in 1877, when the elder was 13, the Prince of Wales determined that they should receive a serious and thorough training in her Majesty's Navy, of which Prince George has ever since remained an active officer. The boys were sent on board the Britannia to receive the same instruction and to pass through the same course of drills and naval exercises as is the case with the humblest cadet. There they remained their full two years, and at the end of that time there began for them the most adventurous period of their lives-that long voyage in her Majesty's ship Bacchante which occupied nearly three years, and the record of which has been published, mainly in the very words of the Princes' letters and journals, in two imposing volumes. To quote Mr. Dalton's words in the preface:-
The regularity and freedom from all outside interruption was just what was required in the case of the two Princes for purposes of school and study, as well as for instruction in a sailor's duties. The period spent at sea was to the Princes the equivalent of a schoolboy's ordinary life; the holiday time was represented by the occasions on which they were away from the ship on leave, or when they went up country. When his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales determined to send his sons to sea, it was chiefly with a view to the mental and moral training they would receive as midshipmen in her Majesty's Navy. In every one of the Queen's ships each officer, man, and boy has his special and individual duties to perform every hour of the day and night, with a routine that should be as precise and unvarying as clockwork. . . As long as they were on board ship the Princes were treated exactly like the other midshipmen, and performed all the duties which usually fall to their lot; they took their turns in all weathers by day or night at watchkeeping and going aloft, at sail drill or boat duty. There was no difference, not even the slightest, of any sort or kind made between them and their gunroom messmates. They were taught seamanship by the first lieutenant, the Ron. H.G. Curzon-Howe, and gunnery by the gunnery-lieutenant. Mr. C.H. Adair. Their mathematical studies were entirely in the hands of Mr. John W. Lawless, their naval instructor, and they read French with Mr. G. Sceales. To the captain, Lord Charles Scott, belonged, of course, the supervision and management of all these, as well as of everything that appertained to their life on board ship.
The Princes joined the Bacchante off Cowes on August 6, 1879, when Prince Albert Victor was 15 years and seven months old. After cruising about in English waters, visiting Portland and being present at the laying of the foundation stone of the new Eddystone lighthouse by the Duke of Edinburgh, the ship finally started on her voyage on September 25, and made for Gibraltar. Thence passing the Straits she touched at Port Mahon, then steamed for Palermo and Messina, and, again passing outward, touched at Madeira and Teneriffe, whence she passed across the Atlantic to Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica, &c., thence to Bermuda, and so home to Portsmouth. It was a delightful cruise, occupying a little over seven months, and no mishap occurring. The time at sea was, as has been said, spent in study and naval duties; and the time on land gave the young Princes endless opportunities for seeing famous places and meeting a great variety of persons of many nationalities, whose reception of them was always more than cordial. On Prince Albert Victor's birthday, January 8, 1880, he and his brother were rated midshipmen, having till that date been naval cadets. They were then at Trinidad, where, as at other stopping-places, they saw the sights, explored the forests, admired the natural wonders, and amused themselves with lawn tennis and cricket, often under the difficulties incident to the tropics in the rainy season.
After a short holiday at home, the Princes rejoined their ship and started for their far longer and more important cruise round the world. The first or experimental voyage had been in every way a success; the lads had gained in health, strength, and knowledge; and the Prince of Wales determined to carry out the more ambitious part of his naval programme. First came a brief cruise with the Channel and Reserve Squadrons, under the command of Rear-Admiral Hood, the Duke of Edinburgh commanding one of the ships, the Hercules. This expedition to Bantry Bay and Vigo gave the young midshipmen their first experiance [sic] of cruising in company, and they learnt something of the complicated signaling, &c., which is necessary at such times. Then the fleet returned to Cowes, and, on September 14, 1880, the final start was made. "Our cruise as now planned," write the Princes, "will take us right round the world in the Training Squadron. We hope to get through the Straits of Magellan by the end of December, into the Pacific, and, after visiting Chili, Peru, Quito, and the Yosemite Valley from San Francisco, to arrive at Vancouver's Island by May; and to proceed by the Sandwich Islands and Japan to China, where we hope to arrive not later than September, in order that during October (if duty permits) a visit may be paid to Pekin." Such was the programme, but it was not carried out. The squadron turned eastward at the Falkland Islands and made for Cape Town; thence crossing to Australia, Fiji, and Japan; thence to Shanghai, Hongkong, Singapore, the Red Sea, and home by the Suez Canal. The time occupied in this elaborate cruise, and in the trips ashore by which it was so pleasantly diversified, was from September 14, 1880, to August 5, 1882-close upon two years, a time of invaluable experience for the young Princes, but, it must be owned, a long period of separation for the Prince and Princess of Wales to consent to.
Actually at sea, no adventures happened to the Princes except what may happen to any sailor, except that in their case the burlesque ceremonies that attend the crossing of the Line were observed with more than usual zeal. They stayed some time in Montevideo, and many pages of their diary are occupied with reflexions on the capabilities and the possible future of that part of South America. Then they proceeded to Cape Town, viá the Falkland Islands, and it was when they were with the Governor that the news came of the disaster of Majuba-hill. They saw Cetywayo and heard him ask to be allowed to go free and "walk through" the Boers. After a while they started for Australia, which they reached in due course, though once in meeting a great gale their rudder was rendered valueless. Everywhere in Australia they were received with loyal enthusiasm, the cities vying with one another in the receptions they gave to the grandsons of the Queen, and the route being often a series of triumphal arches and a blaze of illuminations. Festivities alternated with serious sightseeing; there were banquets, balls, excursions, a descent of a Ballarat gold mine, inspections of Volunteers, and what not. There can be no doubt that this visit of the Princes, which was fairly exhaustive as far as the great cities of Australia were concerned, has been of the greatest value, and did much to quicken the sentiment of Imperial union in those great colonies. From Queensland they went to Fiji, and thence to Japan, where the authorities of the new régime and the older Daimios showed themselves alike eager to introduce the British Princes to the wonders and the attractions of that fascinating country. Afterwards came Shanghai and Hongkong, then Singapore; and then, without visiting India, the Bacchante steamed for home. A somewhat long stay was made in Egypt, Palestine, Crete, and Athens, the famous places and sights being carefully visited and abundantly described in the diary and letters; and finally, without accident or any kind of misadventure, the ship steamed into the Solent, thus completing a successful cruise of 45,000 miles.
The education of a Prince in the direct line of succession must be of the most varied kind. Of this no one is more conscious than the Prince of Wales; and it was therefore without surprise that the world learnt in 1883 that Prince Albert Victor was to proceed to Cambridge. He entered Trinity College in the October term, Mr. Dalton accompanying him as his tutor; and, unlike his father, who had been quartered in his undergraduate days at a private house at Madingley, outside Cambridge, the young Prince had rooms in Trinity College. They were on the second floor in Nevill's Court, that most beautiful and interesting part of the College; Mr. Dalton's adjoined them. The Prince's career at Cambridge was not eventful; but he earned the regard both of his teachers and of his companions by his simple, friendly manners, by his forgetfulness of self, and by his devotion to his work and the occupations of the place. The motto noscitur a sociis is seldom more strictly applicable than to an undergraduate; and in the Prince's case it implies a high testimonial to his character. He had no taste for "fast" or riotous society; he preferred quiet and clever men, who could talk about matters of something more than ephemeral interest. One of his intimate friends was Mr. Goodhart, a scholar of the college, who had been the most brilliant lad of his year at Eton, and who now, after obtaining high distinction in the Tripos and as a lecturer, is Professor of Latin (or, as the Scotch call it, Humanity) at Edinburgh. Another was Mr. J.K. Stephen, now well known for many clever and wayward writings; a third was Mr. H. Cust, now M.P. for Stamford. His rooms were small and very simply furnished, and the only indications of their being his were the pictures that hung on the walls-the portraits of his father and mother and sisters; views of Sandringham; sketches of the Bacchante, and so forth. No special treatment was assigned to him by the authorities, and he was treated by teachers and contemporaries as an equal. After he had left the University, the honorary degree of LL.D. was, as is customary with Princes, conferred upon him; and it was generally felt in Cambridge that the compliment was not unmeaning, since he had come to love the place and Cambridge to regard him with affection. This mutual feeling was specially shown when, in February, 1886, he opened some new buildings of the Union Society, and spoke of the "many pleasant days" that he had passed in Cambridge.
During his Cambridge time there came a very important moment in the Prince's life-his coming of age, on January 8, 1885. There were festivities of an old English kind at Sandringham, and greetings and gifts came from every quarter. But what makes the day in a sense historical is the exchange of letters that took place between the young Prince and Mr. Gladstone, at that time Prime Minister, whose letter to him was received with general admiration on the part of political opponents as well as of political friends. It well deserves to be quoted in full:-
Hawarden Castle, Jan. 7.
Sir,-As the oldest among the confidential servants of her Majesty, I cannot allow the anniversary to pass without notice which will to-morrow bring your Royal Highness to full age, and thus mark an important epoch in your life. The hopes and intentions of those whose lives lie, like mine, in the past, are of little moment, but they have seen much, and what they have seen suggests much for the future. There lies before your Royal Highness in prospect the occupation-I trust at a distant date-of a throne which, to me at least, appears the most illustrious in the world, from its history and associates, from its legal basis, from the weight of the cares it brings, from the loyal love of the people, and from the unparalleled opportunities it gives, in so many ways, and in so many regions, of doing good to the almost countless numbers whom the Almighty has placed beneath the scepter of England. I fervently desire and pray, and there cannot be a more animating prayer, that your Royal Highness may ever grow in the principles of conduct, and may be adorned with all the qualities which correspond with this great and noble vocation.
And, Sir, if sovereignty has been relieved by our modern institutions of some of its burdens, it still, I believe, remains true that there has been no period the world's history at which successors to the Monarchy could more efficaciously contribute to the stability of a great historic system, dependent even more upon love than upon strength, by devotion to their duties, and by a bright example to the country. This result we have happily been permitted to see, and other generations will, I trust, witness it anew. Heartily desiring that in the life of your Royal Highness every private and personal may be joined with every public blessing, I have the honour to remain, Sir, your Royal Highness's most dutiful and faithful servants,
The Prince's reply was as follows:-
Sandringham, Norfolk, Friday, Jan. 9, 1885.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,-I wish I were better able to answer your very kind letter, conveying, as it does, not only the best of good wishes, but carrying with them reflections on the past and advice for the future, for which I wish to thank you. I assure you the letter shall have that attention which words form yourself must deserve. It admirably describes much which demands my most earnest thought on this perhaps the most important birthday of my life. Believe me, I am very grateful for your remembrance of me this day, and that among the many offerings which have reached me I prize nothing more than the letter you have so kindly written, for which pray accept my most sincere thanks. I am glad to believe that your health is restored, and I trust your many friends will have no cause for renewed anxiety on your behalf. With my most kind remembrances to Mrs. Gladstone, believe me, yours very sincerely,
The Prince had learned to be a sailor; he had studied seriously at the University; it remained for him to learn the duties of an officer of the Army. He was therefore gazetted to the 10th Hussars, and at once began to study his new profession with diligence. Quartered first at Aldershot and afterwards for a considerable time at York, he went through the routine with praiseworthy constancy, and became a very fair officer. In 1887, just before the Jubilee celebration, he spent some time at Gibraltar. There, as in quarters at home, his good temper and modest disposition soon gained him the regard of his brother officers, and he was popular in York, where he was a regular visitor at several houses, and where he never attempted to disguise his fondness for a simple life and his dislike of state and pageantry. His friend and mentor was Captain Holford, son of Mr. Holford, of Dorchester-house.
The latter part of the Session of 1889 brought the name of the young Prince and his brother and sisters very prominently before the public, on the occasion of a message from the Queen to the House of Commons expressing a wish to provide for Prince Albert Victor and for the future Duchess of Fife. It is not necessary, at this brief distance of time, to recapitulate the somewhat exciting incidents of the debates that followed, when Mr. Gladstone found himself opposed by Mr. Storey and Mr. Labouchere, then first described by Mr. Chamberlain as "the Nihilists of English politics." The question was settled first by the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the whole circumstances; and, secondly, by the introduction and passing of the Prince of Wales's Children Bill, which assigned an annual sum of £36,000 to the Prince of Wales in trust for his children as a satisfaction of all claims. The debates were remarkable on account of the fine speech by Mr. Gladstone, giving, in answer to the extreme men among his followers, a philosophical and practical defence of the Monarchy, and presenting in weighty language its claims upon the people.
In the same year it was decided that the Prince should visit India, as his father had done 14 years before, though, of course, in a somewhat less ceremonial fashion. With the Prince of Wales and several other Royal personages, including the German Emperor, he went first to Athens, to be present, on October 20, at the marriage of his cousin, the Duke of Sparta, with another cousin of his, the Princess Sophie of Prussia, daughter of the Emperor Frederick. When the brilliant party broke up, the Prince of Wales took his son as far as Egypt, and thence Prince Albert Victor (who was accompanied by Sir Edward Bradford and a suite) proceeded straight to Bombay, where Lord Reay received him. He remained in India till April, seeing and doing much, covering an immense amount of country, and visiting cities and regions distant and diverse enough to make upon him an ineffaceable impression of the vastness of the British Empire in the East, and of the tremendous responsibilities which our rule imposes upon us. He visited several native States; of his journey to Hyderabad and Mysore an interesting account has lately been published by Mr. Rees, under the title of "The Duke of Clarence in Southern India." When he had been received by the Nizam and the Maharajah, and had assisted at an elephant-taking organized by that master of the science, Mr. Sanderson, he went on to Madras, and thence took steamer for Calcutta, where he was received by Lord Lansdowne. The weeks spent in Northern India, especially in visiting the native Princes, were as interesting as those spent in the south; but the record of them would but repeat the tale that is told of every Royal traveler. There is, however, an exception on one point; the Princes were eager to show him not only hospitality, but that loyal welcome which they owed to the grandson of the Queen-Empress, and, as it was hoped and believed, the future successor to her dignities.
On May 2, 1890, the Prince landed at Folkestone, receiving a very cordial greeting from a large crowd. He came to London, and three weeks later was admitted to the peerage under the title of Duke of Clarence and Avonsdale, and Earl of Athlone. He took his seat in the House of Lords almost immediately; and a committee of the House was called to settle his precedence. It was decided that he was to rank next after the Duke of Connaught and before the Dukes of Albany and Cambridge. It may be mentioned here that, like his father, the Prince was an active Freemason; and, also like his father, because [sic] a Bencher of the Middle Temple.
After his return from India, the Duke of Clarence came forward on many occasions to perform the public duties incident to his rank. He visited public institutions, laid foundation-stones, and received and delivered addresses, thus helping to relieve the Prince of Wales from the heavy burden of those constantly-recurring functions.
He had, indeed, made a first appearance some years before-namely, on January 31, 1885, immediately after he had come of age, when he opened a Boys' Club in Leman-street, Whitechapel. Among the words which he uttered at the time these may be quoted:-
I wish to help you to be a credit to this club by asking you to remember two things. First, whatever you do, whether it be blacking a pair of shoes, practicing gymnastics, reading a book, helping a friend-whatever it is, do it as well as you can. "If a thing is worth doing at all it is worth doing well," is a good old English motto. Secondly, never do what you know to be wrong. Often you will feel inclined, either through your own wishes or through the promptings of companions, to do something you would like but which your conscience tells you ought not to be done. Then is the time not to give way; be brave, stand firm, refuse under any circumstances to do what you are not sure is right. May I ask you to remember these two things? If you will do so, then, as you grow up you will be worthy to play your part as English citizens. When you come to years of discretion you will be able to judge for yourselves whether you will remain here in England, or whether you will seek your share in the English lands beyond the seas. There is plenty of room out there, ampler air and larger aims, and here you seem rather crowded. May God bless you all whether here or there.
The majority of his public appearances were of this kind-he interested himself in those efforts which modern philanthropy, taught by experience, is making to get hold of the young lads at the dangerous age between school and manhood. At Manchester in 1888, and at Bethnal-green in 1889, he opened similar institutions; and at York in 1888 he spoke well in support of the movement which has resulted in the Gordon boys' Home. In moving a resolution in favour of a national memorial to General Gordon, as "a fitting tribute to his distinguished career as a soldier, his devotion to duty, his earnest, simple Christian faith, his constant self-abnegation, and the nation's sorrow at his death," the Prince said:-
I think that the resolution sums up the character of the man in honour of whose memory we are met there to-day. If we take each phrase in succession we find qualities which point towards the attainment of the highest perfection which weak mortals can hope for. Amid the excitement aroused by the events which have followed so rapidly on his death, we may have lost sight of the duty which lies before us as Englishmen of raising some sort of memorial to a man who combined in his nature the courage of a hero and the feelings of a saint. I am therefore confident that those who have so cordially responded to the invitations to attend this meeting will pass with unmingled feelings the resolution with which I have been intrusted. I feel more deeply my share in these proceedings, owing to the fact that my father is president of the council of the Gordon National Memorial, and takes the deepest interest in the institution whose cause we have at heart.
Speeches of this kind, and the trouble that he took in performing these benevolent duties, made the young Prince known to thousands. But what brought him most prominently before the public, and what adds an additional element of poignant tragedy to his death, was his engagement to his cousin, the young and very popular Princess Victoria Mary of Teck-"the Princess May." We only announced this betrothal on December 7, and now, in less than six weeks, we have to announce its rupture by the cruel hand of death. The wedding feast gives way to the funeral bakemeats; the wedding chimes to the solemn tolling of the minute bell. The national sorrow will be in proportion to the genuine pleasure with which the news of the coming wedding was received; and to the regret for the young life thus cut off in its early prime there will be joined the deep and respectful sympathy of a whole people, not only with Her Majesty and the stricken parents of the Prince, but with the Princess whose life was to have been linked with his, and whose young happiness is thus suddenly blighted.