Society in London, by a Foreign Resident
Smalley, George W.
CHAPTER II: The Princes and Royal Dukes
THE PRINCES AND ROYAL DUKES.
CHAPTER II: The Princes and Royal Dukes
THE PRINCES AND ROYAL DUKES.
THE four other members of the royal family of whom it is important to convey a right idea are the , the , the , and the . The , the cousin of the Queen, is the visible and permanent official head of the English army. A bluff, fresh, hale country gentleman, somewhat past middle age, with something of the vigorous, healthy frankness of the English skipper, and something, too, of the Prussian martinet; industrious, punctual, rising early, seeking rest late, fond of life and its pleasures, of good dinners, good cigars, pleasant women, of the opera, of the play, slightly given to slumber before dinner is well over, joyous, cheery, still retaining traces of the ardor of youth-this is ; a man of strong feelings and stronger partialities, just by principle, yet liable to be unjust by prejudice; honestly anxious to do the right thing, yet frequently doing the wrong. His role is one of no small difficulty. Constitutionally distrustful of reforms, he is compelled to accept periodic revolutions.
His day begins with exercise on horseback, then follow breakfast and official papers at his house in ; from two to seven, and often later, he is at the in . If necessary, he works again at night; if unnecessary, he dedicates the evening to enjoyment. At least these royal dukes are not drones in the hive.
His life is full of many stories. He has been engaged in many affairs of the heart. He is a man of warm feeling and much loyalty to those whom he loves; tempted to behave heartlessly, he has uniformly comported himself honorably and well. He is to this day the mature child of a passion that is never unprincipled. He finds himself frequently in collision with the parliamentary head of the army, the Secretary of State for Military Affairs, and with the high officials of the War Office, Lord Wolseley, and his men. He bears the vexations which cross his path with equanimity, tempered or relieved by devotional ejaculations. The constitutional spirit which has become part of the Queen's nature, and is as the breath of his nostrils to the , dominates in the main the . He acquiesces, because the Constitution of the realm demands it, in much which he cordially detests. Yet, if he believes in his heart that the army, in consequence of newfangled innovations, is going to the dogs or the devil, he never says so. He is, on the whole, a jovial optimist when he might have been a morose pessimist. He has the facility of his family for details. The dossier of every officer of any distinction in the army is at his fingers' ends. His judgment of individuals is good. He lost his head in the , but is an expert critic of tactics, and knows how troops ought to be handled, whether at or in the . He has an immense regard for and an exaggerated fear of public opinion-especially when that opinion finds articulate expression in print-and has before now given excellent counsel, which has sometimes been obeyed, to the . Take him for all in all, he is not only a favorable specimen of the house of Hanover, but a good specimen of a man.
It is usually supposed that the position which the occupies is reserved for the , who, with the thoroughness and courage of his race, has set himself to learn practically the duties of soldiering. As a cadet at , went through the curriculum of an officer of the . If when he served in three years ago he encountered no alarming amount of peril, that was not his fault. In he has spared himself no labor. He shares his brother's, the Prince of Wales's, accentuated devotion for the minutiae of uniform, a devotion which they each of them inherit from their father and mother. There is no better judge of a march past than the Queen. No one has a quicker eye for buttons, epaulettes,
|and sword-belts than the . The is not to be blamed if one of the articles of his faith is military smartness. He is a good patriot and a good soldier. His face, with its bronzed complexion, well-shaved chin, heavy mustache, is that typical of the English or the German officer. He is singularly modest and unaffected, anxious to learn, and when he thinks he has mastered his lesson, and not before, confident. His return to England is now anticipated with interest, and when he is back you may be sure that he will commit no mistakes-at most the minimum of mistakes permissible to a prince.|
The is a contrast to both his brothers, and is less popular than he deserves to be. His wife, the daughter of the late and the sister of the present Czar, never captivated the hearts of the English people like her sister-in-law, the . But it may be doubted whether there is room in England for two such princesses. As the consort of the Heir-Apparent to the English throne was in possession of the ground long before the had placed her foot upon the soil of Great Britain, how should it not be unavoidable that both the should be eclipsed by the elder brother, upon whom so many of the social and ceremonial duties of sovereignty had already devolved?
The is a clear-headed, astute, sagacious, and careful man of business. His fortune is not in proportion to his position, and his demands upon it are great. So, therefore, is the necessity for thrift. Naturally this has laid him open to the charge of parsimony; but he is not parsimonious, he is simply wise. He does not throw his money away or cast pearls before swine. But there is no real niggardliness about him, as those who have stayed in his house or cruised with him in his ship know. His manner, it may be admitted, is less charming, polished, and conciliatory than that of his elder brother. He illustrates perhaps a little too aggressively the nil admirari principle which is itself so essentially English. When the is visiting any of his future subjects he takes the utmost interest in everything which concerns them, and lavishes his admiration upon all their possessions, whether it be their wives or their daughters, their houses or estates, their pictures or their wines, their cigars, silver and gold plate, or china.
This is not the way of the . He is apt to be
|brusque, sometimes even a little contemptuous or disparaging, in his comments. If he is shown an heirloom, or introduced to a rare vintage, he spontaneously compares it with something of the same sort which he himself possesses. It is a good wine, but not so good as some in his own cellar. It is an interesting piece of crockery, but he has seen others which would beat it, and, for that matter, he can beat it himself. Or Mr. , the object of whose life it is to irradiate the lives of royalties, reserves for the his best covert in the shooting season, and His Royal Highness acknowledges the compliment in what Mr. Sykes considers a grudging fashion. That all princes are charming is part of the religion of society in London. The standard of perfect charm is afforded by the Prince of Wales, and of that standard the just falls short.|
When the first came to England she was the victim of an untoward combination of circumstances. The English people were in one of those humors which recur at intervals of hostility to . She found herself-and how could she help it?-in an unsympathetic atmosphere. She was greeted with respect, of course, but not with enthusiasm. She reciprocated the tepidity of the sentiment displayed towards her. The English public were not slow to discover that there was less of fascination in her bow, as she drove in Hyde Park, than in that of the , and that her face was seldom brightened by a smile. Those who are better acquainted with her have long since learned her merits. Still her position in the economy of English royalty is subordinate, and even obscure. She is not, and she will never be, a popular personage. But she is a deserving princess, and, as I have said, the place which some expected to see her fill was preoccupied by the wife of her brother-in-law.
I must crave pardon for having left to the last the social ruler of the English realm, the himself. I call him the social ruler, because in all matters appertaining to society and to Court ceremonial he plays vicariously the part of the Sovereign. The English monarchy may be described at the present moment as being in a state of commission. Most of the duties of official routine are performed by the Queen. It is the who transacts its ceremonial business, who shows himself to the masses as the embodiment of the monarchical principle, presides at the opening of exhibitions, at levees, and, with the Princess, at drawing-rooms.
|If there were no there would be no Court in London. The house of the Prince of Wales may be an unsatisfactory substitute for a Court, but it is the only substitute which exists, and it is the best which, under the circumstances, is attainable.|
Every man, so the philosophers say, undergoes a complete change once in seven years. Not a fibre, muscle, particle of flesh, or drop of blood is the same at the end of that period as it was at the beginning. This scientific fact, if royalty is amenable to the operations of science, might explain why the is in very different from what he was in . The vie orageuse is over and forgotten, or remembered only, and only looked at, through the mellowing medium of middle age. The does not enjoy existence less, but more-calmly as one to whom the pleasure which was once a passion has been transformed into an art. The faculty of appreciation remains, but appetite has been curbed by the discipline of time.
His Royal Highness's father was the incarnation of respectability, and the Prince himself has now confirmed the idol of respectability in the highest niche of his country's pantheon. He shows, too, that he has inherited something of the paternal anxiety lavished years ago upon himself. His eldest son is of full age, and might in the ordinary course of things expect an establishment of his own. But the nature of the lad is gentle and submissive. He gives his parents no solicitude. He is content to live under the paternal roof, and has no uncontrollable desire for the possession of the royal substitute for the ordinary latch-key. A thoroughly good boy this; tended by his fond father in all things with a vigilance resembling that exercised by a duenna over a beauty and heiress at a ball. The second son of the Prince and Princess of Wales is, like his elder brother, admirably conducted, is of a more vivacious temperament, has more "go," and may therefore yet give some trouble. As for the girls, they are what English princesses of their age should bemodel young ladies.
The has witnessed the disappearance of most of the intimates of his youth or early manhood. Many of those whom he delighted to honor have not done well. died the other day. and are among the disparus-have, , "gone under." Others have suffered the eclipse of calamity or death. But the survives,
|and, having profited by the lessons of experience, can look back upon a past marked by incidents and vicissitudes, not uniformly wise or decorous, with a feeling of satisfaction at having risen superior to his early eccentricities. His Royal Highness has developed into a sort of censor and inquisitor of society and of the Court. As his royal mother is apt to sit in judgment upon him, so he in his turn criticises, counsels, castigates those who are subject to his authority. He is prodigal of advice on great matters and small. Whether it be a conjugal quarrel or a questionable marriage, the pattern of a coat or the color of a frock, the Prince, if he is interested in those whom the matter concerns, volunteers his advice. It is all meant and done in the kindliest spirit in the world. His Royal Highness wishes to be the mentor as well as the presiding genius of the aristocratic system of England. He is therefore the champion of the proprieties and the gentle but firm reprover of all deviations from the standard of correctness. He attaches great importance to the ordinances of religion, attends church regularly, digests and criticises the sermon, has a quick eye for the mise en scene of the ecclesiastical interior.|
The combines with this devotion to decorum a love of mystery. It pleases him to be selected as the exclusive confidant of any friends, of either sex, in whom he takes a special interest. It would, he frankly tells them, be indiscreet to impart to others the information with which it is right to entrust him. Nor does he ever violate the faith reposed in him. He is as loyal as he is kindly and considerate. If he deems it desirable to make use of what has been told him, he never mentions names, and he only says just enough to convince others that he is in possession of all the facts. Frequently the private intelligence of which he is the depositary seems to require further elucidation. There is a riddle to be solved or an enigma to be unravelled. His Royal Highness in following a clew displays all the patience of a detective policeofficer on his promotion, and quite as much acumen. This is one of his peculiarities, and it is in reality perfectly harmless. He has nothing of the mischief-maker in his composition. He has, moreover, a thoroughly creditable sense of his own responsibility. He wishes to make those about him virtuous and good; and if he considers that the best way of doing this is to superintend, and when necessary investigate, their affairs, who shall say him nay?
The is more than the supreme ruler of society;
|he is the microcosm of society. All its idiosyncrasies are reflected in the person of His Royal Highness: its hopes, its fears, its aspirations, its solicitudes, its susceptibilities, its philosophy, its way of looking at life and of appraising character-of each of these is the Heir-Apparent the mirror. The sympathy which thus exists between the Prince and his social subjects is vivid and intimate; the most ill-natured censor cannot deny that its results are unmixedly good. If a definition of society were sought for I should be inclined to give it as the social area of which the Prince of Wales is personally cognizant, within the limits of which he visits, and every member of which is to some extent in touch with the ideas and wishes of His Royal Highness. But for this central authority society in London would be in imminent danger of falling into the same chaos and collapse as the universe itself were one of the great laws of nature to be suspended for five minutes.|
The introduction of the cigarette or cigar after dinner, when the ladies have retired, and the economy of wine which it promotes; the diffusion of a taste for music and the theatre; the personal as well as the professional welcome accorded to theatrical and operatic artistes in society, and the extent to which at evening parties their services are in requisition; smoking concerts; the growing practice of serving the joint at dinner as the piece de resistance immediately after the fish, and before the entrees; above all things the growing tendency towards curtailment of the menu, though London dinners are still outrageously long-trifling as in themselves they may appear are instances of the potency of the Prince's initiative. Again, the Prince of Wales never misses attendance at church on Sunday, and London society scrupulously follows his example. Nor, while the Prince exercises throughout society a uniformly controlling discipline, has he-a result which might, perhaps, have been fearedreduced it to a dead level of sameness and dulness. On the contrary, he has always encouraged with his approval, within the limits of discretion and decorum, the presence of original and even eccentric characters. Alive to the danger of stagnation, he shows in many ways his wise desire to admit into it fresh currents of social activity and thought. Its innate tendency to sink into a state of vapid conventionality is thus largely neutralized. Moreover, the Prince of Wales does what is possible to perpetuate the ancient virtues in a condition of things highly complex and artificial; there is a risk of such virtues, I mean, as firmness to friends,
|chivalrous regard for the feelings of others, loyalty, good faith, and high honor, being crowded out of existence. It has sometimes occurred to me that the Prince of Wales may be compared to a physician of the body politic whose prescriptions are regarded as infallible, and who decides in exactly what proportions the two opposite principles of social medicine shall be combined by the practitioners who bow to his authority; how far Bohemianism may be blended with Pharisaism; in what quantity the acid of rakishness may be infused into the alkali of respectability. From this point of view the English Heir-Apparent is a great medicine-man, ever beneficently ready with his counsel and specifics, quick to diagnose the patient, to pronounce upon the evils which lie at the root of the malady, and to indicate how they may be removed.|
In his attitude, then, to English society the Prince of Wales, at the age of forty-three years, is a benevolent despot. He wishes it to enjoy itself, to disport itself, to dance, sing, and play to its heart's content. But he desires that it should do so in the right manner, at the right times, and in the right places; and of these condition she holds that he is the best, and, indeed, an infallible judge. This conviction, while it causes him to exercise his authority over his subjects in a more or less peremptory way, causes him also to be exceedingly jealous of any censure, interference, or criticism from outside. Gravely admonishing ladies and gentlemen who are guilty, in his judgment, of some dereliction, he denounces those who presume to find fault independently of himself. Severe and, when necessary, uncompromising, he is just to and jealous of those whom he corrects. He loves while he reproves, and he insists that the chastening power should be reserved for his hand.
There is an institution in London-well managed, but badly situated-called the New Club, and domiciled in Covent Garden. One may pleasantly wind up an evening here, dancing if you will, and being always sure of capital music. The Prince of Wales takes extreme interest in the New Club; it owes, in fact, its existence to his support. A couple of years ago it was the subject of some criticisms. His Royal Highness was exceedingly annoyed. What did these mischievous and ill-natured intermeddlers mean? Another instance of this trait-call it self-sufficiency, irresponsibility, what you will-in the character of the Heir-Apparent: no man in England will work harder or will transact business more efficiently; but the work must be done in his own way and at his own time.
Englishmen, I have found, are easily bored. I will therefore abstain from indulging in any further generalities about the Prince of Wales, such as that he is the most hard-worked of Englishmen; that his manner, which is indeed fascinating, has made him many friends; that he is a patron of the drama; that he occasionally attends, in the capacity of Maecenas, theatrical suppers; and that the machinery of English society could not be worked without him. Again, I regard it as unnecessary to put into language the banalities which readily come to my pen when I contemplate the elegant, delightful, and lovely vision of the Princess of Wales. Her function is to be and to look charming; to preserve, as she does, the appearance of youth without invoking the aid of art; and to retain, as she will retain to the last, the place she won in the English heart when she first came to this country more than two decades ago. As the Princess of Wales has her secretary and librarian, she may be credited with literary tastes and intellectual powers. That she is clever beyond the feminine average, and that she possesses an abundant measure of that common sense which is perhaps uncommon, is proved by the success with which she has played a domestic part that she must have occasionally found difficult and trying. She has avoided blunders, has fallen into none of the snares which Court intrigue might have woven for her. She has never created, or connived at the creation of, any Court faction of her own. With a loyalty and nobility equal to her judgment, she has from the first identified herself with the Prince of Wales, and has insisted resolutely on seeing everything from the right point of view.
It is not enough to say that in doing this she has evinced considerable social dexterity. She has really discharged a constitutional service, and by checking the initial growth of a scandal has strengthened the foundations of the throne. You will be told that Her Royal Highness is much occupied with trivialities, and that her thoughts are centred in her wardrobe. Very well. But pray remember that she is a princess, and that in England the sphere of the activity of princes and princesses is rigidly circumscribed. Like the Queen, the Princess of Wales has her little host of attendant ladies. She displays towards them as much consideration as is practicable, and though their existence may not be uniformly easy, it is not wholly unendurable.
There is nothing in London society more noticeable than its monotony. If one is permitted to penetrate its most select circle, one
|will find one's self perpetually in the company of the same persons, and one's ears will be full of the discussion of the same topics. The ladies and gentlemen who are the intimates of the Prince and Princess of Wales, who constitute, in fact, a semi-regal court, are not more than thirty or forty in number. I need not catalogue them exhaustively. I will notice only a few of the more prominent, summing up, as I do so, after the names of each, their chief qualities.|
The most constant of courtiers and the most indefatigable of royal Amphitryons is Mr. Christopher Sykes, tall, well-mannered, well-bred, and with an air significant of a curious surprise at the trouble which so many of his fellow-creatures expend upon the serious business of existence. His bearing indeed is that of a chronic inability to comprehend why any one should take life in earnest. Yet he is neither fool nor fribble. He is, on the contrary, a hardheaded Yorkshireman, who has deliberately chosen his metier, and sticks to it. At Sandringham and at Marlborough House he is a species of what the English call tame cat. In return for his domestication his country house in Yorkshire and his London house in Mayfair are ever at the disposal of his august patrons. The social wishes of the Prince of Wales are commands, and when the good Christopher receives an intimation from his royal master that he will dine with him on a certain evening, and that he expects to meet certain guests, any previous engagement is cancelled, and the banquet, big or small, is prepared forthwith. Mr. Sykes is, possibly by the mandate of royalty, unmarried.
Lord Cadogan, another intimate of his Royal Highness, is, equally in appearance and in tastes, a contrast to Mr. Christopher Sykes. His house, with its marble hall and broad staircase, is a palace. He is exceedingly rich, and owns a large proportion of the most fashionable part of Belgravia. A sportsman, a religionist, a social reformer upon Conservative lines; he is the pink of social orthodoxy. His demeanor is perhaps a little too professorial, but he is a good type of an English nobleman. When one hears that the Prince of Wales is his guest, one may be sure that the future King of England is in safe hands.
Lord Fife is also a peer whom the Prince of Wales delights to honor in a marked degree. Had he been born in a lower station, had he been less-the spoiled child of fortune, his Lordship would, ere now, young as he is, have done great things; for he is very highly gifted, and beneath the softest and pleasantest manner in the world
|conceals the quickest perception and the most robust judgment. His life, his establishment, his ideas, his cuisine are those of a true grand seigneur. He is also great equally as courtier and banker. His right-hand man is Mr. Horace Farquhar, a gentleman of great powers of business, but of not too conciliatory address; with a mind so preoccupied by his duty to his patron and himself that he has scarcely leisure to trouble himself with other thoughts. He has had an astonishing career. By dint of will or ability he has reduced success in any enterprise to a certainty. Altogether a strong man.|
Captain Oliver Montagu is a universal favorite in the Prince of Wales's establishment, acceptable in the same degree to each of Their Royal Highnesses, and always willing to make himself useful. If he does not exactly possess the gift of wit, he has a readiness and resourcefulness of mind, a certain aptness for blunt repartee, which is probably understood better than would be an intellectual article of superior make. Lord Charles Beresford, who, as I write, is putting forth his prowess and gallantry in Egypt, is in a perennial state of high favor with the royalties, and enjoys a chartered license. These Beresfords are indeed an extraordinary family. If none of them are overburdened with false modesty, none are conscious of fear. Lord William Beresford is the incarnation of the fighting genius of the English or the Irish race. Lord Charles is not his inferior in this respect, and has a peculiar sense of fun, which he indulges at all seasons, altogether his own. He it was who, when he received at the eleventh hour an invitation to dinner from his royal master, sent this characteristic telegram: "Very sorry; can't come. Lie follows by post."
But I do not propose here to pass in review all those whom the future King and Queen of England honor with their friendship and intimacy. The proper place for mentioning their names and describing their virtues will occur hereafter. The Prince of Wales is both catholic and tolerant in his acquaintances. His dominating idea is to place himself at the head of English society in general, and, though he may have his special favorites, the list of those who are in a general way courtiers would be too lengthy for me to enumerate now. Every one worthy of commendation shall be presented in a different context. To touch upon the ladies of English society whom His Royal Highness distinguishes with exceptional attention would be a delicate task; suffice it to say that he recognizes impartially feminine merit of every degree. If that only is forth-coming
|he has no prejudices. Different nationalities, diverse types of beauty and of character, are equal in his eyes; but in these matters, as in others, he respects the convenances of society. Thus, though the enthusiastic admiration lavished by His Royal Highness upon individuals contributed to create the system of professional beauties, he had no sooner ascertained that the elevation of these divinities into a caste apart from others was prejudicial to the social harmony of the community than he discouraged them. As a consequence, professional beauties are unknown in England-at least by that name-at the present moment.|
The Prince of Wales, while he is the cause of much hospitality, is also himself hospitable. He entertains assiduously and wisely at Marlborough House and Sandringham. He consults in the smallest details the comfort of his guests. The ceremonial is as little irksome as possible, and if the hospitality has a fault, it is that it is conceived and ministered upon too generous a scale. The English royalties are blessed with appetites of singular heartiness. Four substantial meals a day are considered by no means an excessive allowance. The five-o'clock tea, which was once restricted to the beverage whence it derived its name, now includes a repast which among the British bourgeoisie would be esteemed an abundant supper. The plates of thin bread-and-butter, cakes, and hot muffins are but the fringe of the entertainment; the pieces de resistance to which unfailing justice is done are sandwiches of all sorts, pate de foie gras, ham and eggs, cold tongue, and other dainties.
Although the Prince of Wales honors with his company hosts of every degree, you could scarcely imagine how many excellent persons there are, the one unfulfilled ambition of whose existence is to secure His Royal Highness at their table. With this view they plot and plan with infinite ingenuity and patience, making the life of Mr. Francis Knollys a burden to him. The number of invitations sent out to last year's garden-party at Marlborough House was, I have been told, three thousand. It is certain that at least a third of those who were honored with the much-envied cards are constantly occupied with the endeavor to secure royalty as their guest.
Now it is obvious that the Prince of Wales could not perform his duties in this department unless he did so upon a definite principle. The invitations he accepts and the houses he patronizes admit, I believe, of a threefold division. First, there are the great nobles
|and the more or less patrician plutocrats, whose establishments His Royal Highness regards it as his pleasure or his duty, or both, to visit. Secondly, there are the hosts whom he favors because he knows that his enjoyment with them will be complete. Thirdly, there are the representative gatherings whither he is impelled partly, as in the first instance, by a sense of duty, and partly, it may be, by a sense of pleasure. Hence he attends the suppers or dinners of actors and public institutions, for in all things His Royal Highness has a consummate eye to effect. This it is which causes him to distribute his favors impartially between the members of the two parties in the State, and which, when five years ago Mr. Gladstone was called to the Premiership, caused him, although he had only just arrived in London from a Continental trip, to call upon the nation's choice at half-past ten o'clock at night.|
I have already mentioned the name of Mr. Francis Knollys. This reminds me that the Prince of Wales is served most admirably by the officers of his household. Sir William Knollys, Mr. Knollys's father, had the charge of His Royal Highness's affairs from the very first. The traditions of the father have descended to the son, and if the secrets of Marlborough House were divulged it would be found that the knowledge of the world possessed by Mr. Knollys, his cool, cautious judgment, and his courage had rendered services for which alike the Prince and the country may well be grateful. The Prince of Wales has also found trusty servants and wise friends in some distinguished soldiers. In addition to Colonel Arthur Ellis and Lord Suffield, Colonel Teesdale, one of the heroes of Kars, and Sir Dighton Probyn, a beau sabreur, who won his laurels during the Indian mutiny, a born leader of men, who raised a troop of irregular cavalry, known still as Probyn's Light Horse, are among those on regular duty at Marlborough House.