Old and New London: Volume 4. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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The Palaces of England and France compared—The Mulberry Garden—John Dryden's Fondness for Mulberry Tarts—Arlington House—The House originally called Goring House—The First Pound of Tea imported into England—Demolition of Arlington House—Description of the First Buckingham House—John Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham—Singular Conduct of his Widow—The House purchased by George III., and called the "Queen's House"—Northouck's Description of Buckingham House in the Time of George III.—Dr. Johnson's Interview with George III.—Josiah Wedgwood and Mr. Bentley's Visits to the Palace—The Gordon Riots—Princess Charlotte—The Use of the Birch in the Royal Nursery—Queen Charlotte and her Christmas Trees—Building of the Present Palace—The Edifice described—The Gardens and Out-buildings—Queen Victoria takes up her Residence here—Royal Guests from Foreign Parts—"The Boy Jones"—Marriage of the Princess Augusta of Cambridge—The Queen and Charles Dickens—The Board of Green Cloth—Officers of the Queen's Household—Her Majesty's "Court" and "Drawing-rooms."
It has often been said by foreigners that if they were to judge of the dignity and greatness of a country by the palace which its sovereign inhabits, they would not be able to ascribe to Her Majesty Queen Victoria that proud position among the "crowned heads" of Europe which undoubtedly belongs to her. But though Buckingham Palace is far from being so magnificent as Versailles is, or the Tuilleries once were, yet it has about it an air of solidity and modest grandeur, which renders it no unworthy residence for a sovereign who cares more for a comfortable home than for display. Indeed, it has often been said that, with the exception of St. James's, Buckingham Palace is the ugliest royal residence in Europe; and although vast sums of money have been spent at various times upon its improvement and embellishment, it is very far from being worthy of the purpose to which it is dedicated—lodging the sovereign of the most powerful monarchy in the world. It fronts the western end of St. James's Park, which here converges to a narrow point; the Mall, upon the north, and Birdcage Walk, upon the south, almost meeting before its gates.
The present palace occupies the site of what, in the reigns of Charles I. and Charles II., was known as the Mulberry Garden, then a place of fashionable resort. It was so called from the fact that the ground had been planted with mulberry-trees by order of James I., one of whose whims was the encouragement of the growth of silk in England as a source of revenue. With this object in view, he imported many ship-loads of young mulberry-trees, most of which were planted round the metropolis. Indeed, he gave by patent to Walter, Lord Aston, the superintendence of "the Mulberry Garden, near St. James's;" but all Lord Aston's efforts were unable to secure success; the speculation entered into by King James proved a failure, and the Mulberry Garden was afterwards devoted to a public recreation-ground.
Every reader of John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys will remember how they describe these gardens in their day—the former as "the best place about the towne for persons of the best quality to be exceedingly cheated at;" and the latter as "a silly place, with a wilderness somewhat pretty."
The Mulberry Garden is said by Mr. J. H. Jesse to have been a favourite resort of John Dryden, where he used to eat mulberry tarts. To this the author of "Pursuits of Literature" refers when he speaks of "the mulberry tarts which Dryden loved." It was in the years prior to his marriage, in 1665, as we learn from a note in his Life by Sir Walter Scott, that Dryden would repair hither, along with his favourite actress, Mrs. Reeve. "I remember," writes a correspondent of the Gentleman's Magazine for 1745, "plain John Dryden, before he paid his court with success to the great, in one uniform clothing of Norwich drugget. I have ate tarts with him and Madame Reeve at the Mulberry Garden, when our author advanced to a sword and a Chadreux wig." It would appear from the Epilogue of Otway's "Don Carlos," in 1676, that in all probability the connection of this fair lady with Dryden was brought to an end by her retreat into a cloister.
The public recreation-ground does not appear,
however, to have lasted long, for in the course
of a few years we find standing upon the southern
portion of it a mansion known as Arlington House,
the residence of Henry Bennet, Earl of Arlington,
one of the "Cabal" Ministry, under Charles II.
Dr. King thus alludes to these changes in his "Art
"The fate of things lies always in the dark:
What cavalier would know St. James's Park?
For 'Locket's' stands where gardens once did spring,
And wild ducks quack where grasshoppers did sing:
A princely palace on that space does rise,
Where Sedley's noble muse found mulberries."
The house was originally called Goring House; but its name was subsequently changed to that of Arlington House on its being occupied by the Earl of Arlington, whose name is, or ought to be, indissolubly linked with it, on one account at all events; for in the year of the great plague his lordship brought hither from Holland the first pound of tea which was imported into England, and which cost him sixty shillings; so that, as John Timbs remarks, "in all probability the first cup of tea made in England was drank where Buckingham House now stands."
In the "New View of London," published in 1708, the original building is described as "a graceful palace, very commodiously situated at the westerly end of St. James's Park, having at one view a prospect of the Mall and other walks, and of the delightful and spacious canal; a seat not to be contemned by the greatest monarch. It was formerly," adds the writer, "called Arlington House, and being purchased by his Grace the present Duke of Bucks and Normanby, he rebuilt it, in the year 1703, upon the ground near the place where the old foundation stood. It consists of the mansion house, and at some distance from each end of that, conjoined by two arching galleries, are the lodging-rooms for servants on the south side of the court; and opposite, on the north side, are the kitchen and laundry, the fronts of which are elevated on pillars of the Tuscan, Dorick, and Ionick orders, thereby constituting piazzas. The walls are brick; those of the mansion very fine rubb'd and gagg'd (sic), adorned with two ranges of pilasters of the Corinthian and Tuscan orders. On the latter (which are uppermost) is an acroteria of figures, standing erect and fronting the court; they appear as big as life and look noble." They are thus described:—"1. Mercury with his winged chapeau. 2. Secret, reposing its right arm on a pillar, and in the left hand a key. 3. Equity, holding a balance and a plummet. 4. Liberty, having in his right hand a sceptre, and a cap in the left. 5. Truth, holding the sun in his right hand, and treading on a globe. 6. Apollo, holding a lyre. Also, backward, are four figures beholding the west—Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Moreover, on the front of this mansion are these words, depensiled in capital gold characters:—'Sic siti lætantur Lares;' 'Spectator fastidiosus sibi molestus;' 'Rus in urbe;' and 'Lente suscipe, cito perfice.' The hall, partly paved with marble, is adorned with pilasters, the intercolumns are noble painture in great variety, and on a pedestal near the foot of the great staircase (whose steps are entire slabs) are the marble figures of Cain killing his brother Abel. In short, the whole structure is spacious, commodious, rich, and beautiful, but especially in the finishing and furniture. This house is now in the occupation of his Grace the Duke of Buckingham. It has a spacious court on its easterly side, fenced with a handsome wall, iron-work, and a beautiful iron gate, where the duke's coronet, arms, garter, and George are exquisitely represented in iron."
Sheffield's history furnishes another example of the instability of human greatness, and especially of titles. His only son, who held the title but a few short years, died, unmarried, in 1735, when the family honours became extinct. His father's great wealth was carried by his mother into her family by a previous marriage—the Phippses, now Marquises of Normanby. The duchess was grandmother of Mr. Phipps, afterwards Lord Mulgrave, who married the eldest daughter of Lepel, Lady Hervey, the friend of Pope and Horace Walpole. Lady Hervey was often a visitor at Buckingham House, the mansion being at the time an abode of mirth and cheerfulness, if we may judge from her letters.
In a letter to the Duke of Shrewsbury, printed in "London and its Environs," the Duke of Buckingham describes the house, and his style of living there, in the most minute detail. It is said that, at an annual dinner which he gave to his spendthrift friends, he used to propose as a toast, "May as many of us as remain unhanged till next spring meet here again!" He died in this house, and here his remains lay in state previous to their removal to Westminster Abbey, where they were consigned to their tomb in the stately chapel of Henry VII.
The duke's proud widow, Catherine Darnley, the natural daughter of James II. by Catherine Sedley, Countess of Dorchester, lived here after his death. "Here," writes Mr. J. H. Jesse, "on each successive anniversary of the execution of her grandfather, Charles I., she was accustomed to receive her company in the grand drawing-room, herself seated in a chair of state, clad in the deepest mourning, and surrounded by her women, all as black and as dismal looking as herself. Here, too, that eccentric lady breathed her last." "Princess Buckingham," writes Horace Walpole, "is either dead or dying. She sent for Mr. Anstes, and settled the ceremonial of her burial. On Saturday she was so ill that she feared dying before the pomp was come home. She said, 'Why don't they send the canopy for me to see? Let them send it, even though all the tassels are not finished.' But yesterday was the greatest stroke of all. She made her ladies vow to her that, if she should lie senseless, they would not sit down in the room before she was dead." By her own express directions, she was buried with great pomp beside her lord in the Abbey, where there was formerly a waxen figure of her, after the usual royal fashion, adorned with jewels, prepared in her life by her own hands. She was succeeded in her ownership of the house by the duke's natural son, Charles Herbert Sheffield, on whom his Grace had entailed it after the death of his son, the young duke.
George III., in his second year, bought the house for the sum of £21,000, and shortly afterwards removed hither from St. James's Palace. Here all his numerous family was born, with the exception of the Prince of Wales (afterwards George IV.), whose birth took place at St. James's. The King and Queen grew so fond of their new purchase that they took up their abode entirely here; and during their reign, St. James's Palace was kept up for use only on Court days and other occasions of ceremony.
In 1775 the property was legally settled, by Act of Parliament, on Queen Charlotte (in exchange for Somerset House, as we have stated in the previous volume); and henceforth Buckingham House was known in West-end society as the "Queen's House."
Northouck describes Buckingham House, in 1773, in terms which do not imply that the King and Queen had shown much taste in its approaches. "In the front it is enclosed with a semi-circular sweep of iron rails, which are altered very unhappily from the rails which enclosed it before it became a royal residence. Formerly an elegant pair of gates opened in the middle; but now, though a foot-opening leads up to where an opening naturally is expected in front, all entrance is forbidden, by the rails being oddly continued across without affording an avenue through. Whoever seeks to enter must walk round either to the right or left, and in the corners perhaps he may gain admittance. The edifice," he adds, "is a mixture of brick and stone, with a broad flight of steps leading up to the door, which is between four tall Corinthian pilasters, which are fluted and reach up to the top of the second storey." The illustration of the front which he gives shows a great resemblance to Kensington Palace. "Behind the house," he adds, "is a garden and terrace, from which there is a fine prospect of the adjacent country." The house is described, at the beginning of the present century, as having a mean appearance, being low and built of brick, though "it contains within," adds the writer, "apartments as spacious and commodious as any palace in Europe for state parade." On the marriage of the Prince of Wales (George IV.), "a suite of the principal rooms was fitted up in the most splendid manner; the walls of two of the levee rooms being hung with beautiful tapestry, then recently discovered with its colours unfaded in an old chest at St. James's. In the grand levee room," adds the writer, "is a bed of crimson velvet, manufactured in Spitalfields. The canopy of the throne likewise is of crimson velvet, trimmed with broad gold lace, and embroidered with crowns set with fine pearls of great value. This was first used on Queen Charlotte's birthday, after the union of the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland, and the shamrock, the badge of the Irish nation, is interwoven with the other decorations of the crown with peculiar taste and propriety."
At the south-east angle of the old house was an octagonal apartment, which contained for many years the cartoons of Raphael (now in the South Kensington Museum). They were transferred to Windsor Castle, and subsequently exhibited for a time at Hampton Court. The saloon was superbly fitted up as the throne-room, and here Queen Charlotte held her public drawing-rooms. Thus the mansion remained till the reign of George IV., externally "dull, dowdy, and decent; nothing more than a large, substantial, and respectable-looking red brick house," as it was styled by a writer of the time.
At the Queen's House, in February, 1767, when his Majesty had been seated little more than six years upon the throne, Dr. Johnson was honoured by George III. with a personal interview, as related by his biographers. Boswell tells us that the doctor had frequently visited those splendid rooms and noble collection of books, which he used to say was more numerous and curious than he supposed any person could have made in the time which the king had employed. "Mr. Barnard, the librarian, took care that he should have every accommodation that could contribute to his ease and convenience while indulging his literary taste in that place; so that he had here a very agreeable resource at leisure hours.
"His Majesty having been informed of his occasional visits, was pleased to signify a desire that he should be told when Dr. Johnson came next to the library. Accordingly, the next time that Johnson did come, as soon as he was fairly engaged with a book, on which, while he sat by the fire, he seemed quite intent, Mr. Barnard stole round to the apartment where the king was, and, in obedience to his Majesty's commands, mentioned that Dr. Johnson was then in the library. His Majesty said he was at leisure, and would go to him; upon which Mr. Barnard took one of the candles that stood on the king's table, and lighted his Majesty through a suite of rooms, till they came to a private door into the library, of which his Majesty had the key. Being entered, Mr. Barnard stepped forward hastily to Dr. Johnson, who was still in a profound study, and whispered him, 'Sir, here is the king.' Johnson started up, and stood still. His Majesty approached him, and at once was courteously easy."
The king conversed with his learned subject freely and agreeably on the studies of Oxford, the two University libraries, the literary journals in England and abroad, the "Philosophical Transactions," Lord Lyttleton's "History," and other literary topics. Boswell continues: "During the whole of this interview Johnson talked to his Majesty with profound respect, but still in his firm, manly manner, with a sonorous voice, and never in that subdued tone which is commonly used at the levee and in the drawing-room. After the King withdrew, Johnson showed himself highly pleased with his Majesty's conversation and gracious behaviour."
Dr. Johnson, on this occasion, was pleased to pass a high compliment on the elegant manners of the sovereign. In speaking of this interview, the biographer writes: "He said to Mr. Barnard, the king's librarian, 'Sir, they may talk of the king as they will, but he is the finest gentleman I have ever seen.' And he afterwards observed to his friend Langton, 'Sir, his manners are those of as fine a gentleman as we may suppose Louis XIV. or Charles II.'" It was not often that Dr. Johnson condescended to express himself so approvingly of anybody, least of all of one whose position was one of direct antagonism to his beloved Stuart line; but we may well imagine that even the learned doctor's head was a little turned by the unexpected and flattering marks of condescension which he, so lately a poor and struggling man, had received from the King of England.
It is remarkable that Dr. Johnson should have seen four, if not five, of our sovereigns, and been in the actual presence of three, if not four, of them. Queen Anne "touched" him; George I. he probably never saw; but George II. he must frequently have seen, though only in public; George III. he conversed with on the occasion above mentioned; and he once told Sir John Hawkins that, in a visit to Mrs. Percy, who had the care of one of the young princes, at the Queen's House, the Prince of Wales (afterwards George IV.), being a child, came into the room, and began to play about; when Johnson, with his usual curiosity, took an opportunity of asking him what books he was reading, and, in particular, inquired as to his knowledge of the Scriptures. The Prince, in his answers, gave him great satisfaction. It is possible, also, that at that visit he might have seen Prince William Henry (William IV.), who, as well as the Duke of Kent, was afterwards under Mrs. Percy's care.
Among the occasional visitors to Queen Charlotte here were Josiah Wedgwood and his partner Bentley, who often had the opportunity of showing to their Majesties the "newest things" in the way of artistic pottery. "Last Monday," writes Bentley, in 1770, to a friend at Liverpool, "Mr. Wedgwood and I had a long audience of their Majesties, at the Queen's palace, to present some bas-reliefs which the Queen had ordered, and to show some new improvements, with which they were well pleased. They expressed in the most obliging and condescending manner their attention to our manufacture, and entered very freely into conversation on the further improvements of it, and on many other subjects. The King is well acquainted with business, and with the characters of the principal manufactures, merchants, and artists, and seems to have the success of all our manufactures much at heart, and to understand the importance of them. The Queen has more sensibility, true politeness, engaging affability, and sweetness of temper, than any great lady I ever had the honour of speaking to."
During the first two nights of the Gordon Riots, the King sat up with some of the general officers in the Queen's Riding House, whence messengers were constantly dispatched to observe the motions of the mob. "Between three and four thousand troops were in the Queen's Gardens, and surrounded Buckingham House. During the first night the alarm was so sudden, that no straw could be got for the troops to rest themselves on; which being told his Majesty, he, accompanied with one or two officers, went throughout the ranks, telling them, 'My lads, my crown cannot purchase you straw to-night; but depend on it, I have given orders that a sufficiency shall be here to-morrow forenoon; as a substitute for the straw, my servants will instantly serve you with a good allowance of wine and spirits, to make your situation as comfortable as possible; and I shall keep you company myself till morning.' The King did so, walking mostly in the garden, sometimes visiting the Queen and the children in the palace, and receiving all messages in the Riding House, it being in a manner head-quarters. When he was told that part of the mob was attempting to get into St. James's Palace, he forbade the soldiers to fire, but ordered them to keep off the rioters with their bayonets. The mob, in consequence of that, were so daring as to take hold of the bayonets and shake them, defying the soldiers to fire or hurt them; however, nothing further was attempted on the part of the rioters in that quarter."
In 1809 the King gave a reception to the Persian Ambassador, when an honour was conferred upon him that was hitherto confined to the Royal Family, namely, "the great iron gates fronting the park were thrown open for his entrance."
One of the ladies of the Court of the Princess of Wales thus mentions Buckingham House, in 1811:—"I was one of the happy few at H——'s ball, given in B——m House—a house I had been long anxious to see, as it is rendered classical by the pen of Pope and the pencil of Hogarth. It is in a woful condition, and, as I hear, is to be pulled down."
From its doors, in 1816, Princess Charlotte went forth as a bride, attired for her wedding with Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg. The nation even now does not forget how, within a few short months, that brightest gem in the English crown was carried to the tomb.
George III. and Queen Charlotte, while living here, it appears, were strong believers in the literal application of the precept of Solomon, "Spare the rod and spoil the child." "The King," writes the Honourable Amelia Murray, in her "Recollections," "was most anxious 'to train up his children in the way they should go;' but severity was the fashion of the day; and although naturally a tender and affectionate father, he placed his sons under tutors who imagined that the 'rod' of Scripture could mean only bodily punishment. Princess Sophia," she adds, "once told me that she had seen her two eldest brothers, when they were boys of thirteen and fourteen, held by their arms at Buckingham Palace, to be flogged like dogs with a long whip!" Was it wonderful that the results proved anything but satisfactory?
Christmas-trees are now quite a common sight in almost every English household. But this was not the case half a century ago. Queen Charlotte, however, true to her German associations, as we learn in the work quoted above, regularly had one dressed up, either here or at Kew Palace, in the room of her German attendant. "It was hung," writes the authoress, "with presents for the children, who were invited to see it; and I well remember the pleasure that it was to hunt for one's own name, which was sure to be attached to one or more of the pretty gifts."
In 1825 the present edifice was commenced, from the design of John Nash, by command of George IV.; but as William IV. did not like the situation or the building, Buckingham House was not occupied until the accession of Queen Victoria. It was at first intended only to repair and enlarge the old house; and therefore the old site, height, and dimensions were retained. This led to the erection of a clumsy building, as it was considered that Parliament would never have granted the funds for an entirely new palace. On the accession of her present Majesty, several alterations and improvements were effected, and new buildings added on the south side. The principal of these is the private chapel, which occupies the place of the old conservatory. It was consecrated in 1843. The pillars of this building formed a portion of the screen of Carlton House. Four years later other and more extensive alterations were effected by the erection, at a cost of about £150,000, of the east front, under the superintendence of Mr. Blore. The palace, as constructed by Nash, consisted of three sides of a square, Roman-Corinthian, raised upon a Doric basement, with pediments at the ends; the fourth side being enclosed by iron palisades. In front of the central entrance stood, formerly, the Marble Arch, now at the north-east corner of Hyde Park. It was removed to its present situation in 1851. On it was displayed the royal banner of England, denoting the presence of the sovereign. This flag is now displayed on the roof in the centre of the eastern front. The new east front of the palace is the same length as the garden front; the height to top of the balustrade is nearly eighty feet, and it has a central and two arched side entrances, leading direct into the quadrangle. The wings are surmounted by statues representing "Morning," "Noon," and "Night;" the "Hours and the Seasons;" and upon turrets, flanking the central shield (bearing "V. R. 1847"), are colossal figures of "Britannia" and "St. George;" besides groups of trophies, festoons of flowers, &c. Around the entire building is a scroll frieze of the rose, shamrock, and thistle.
It has been asserted that the mismanagement on the part of the Government nearly ruined the artist of the magnificent gates of the arch. Their cost was 3,000 guineas, and they are the largest and most superb in Europe, not excepting the stupendous gates of the Ducal Palace at Venice, and those made by order of Buonaparte for the Louvre at Paris. Yet the Government agents are reported to have conveyed these costly gates from the manufacturer's in a "common stage wagon," when the semi-circular head, the most beautiful portion of the design, was irretrievably mutilated; and, consequently, it has not been fixed in the archway to the present day.
The most important portions of the palace are the Marble Hall and Sculpture Gallery, the Library, the Grand Staircase, the Vestibule, the state apartments, consisting of the New Drawing-room, and the Throne-room, the Picture Gallery (where her present Majesty has placed a valuable collection of paintings), the Grand Saloon, and the State Ballroom.
The Entrance-hall is surrounded by a range of double columns, with gilded bases and capitals, standing on a continuous basement; each column consists of a single piece of Carrara marble. The Grand Staircase is of white marble, the decorations of which were executed by L. Gruner. The State Ball-room, on the south side, was finished in 1856, from Pennethorne's design, and decorated within by Gruner; and it has been more than once stated in print that it cost £300,000. It has ranges of scagliola porphyry Corinthian columns, carrying an entablature and coved ceiling, elaborately gilt. In this room are Winterhalter's portraits of the Queen and the late Prince Consort, also Vandyke's Charles I. and Henrietta Maria. This splendid room was the scene of two superb costume balls in 1842 and 1845: the first in the style of the reign of Edward III.; and the fête in 1845 was in the taste of George II.'s reign. The Library, which is also used as a waiting-room for deputations, is very large, and decorated in a manner combining comfort with elegance; it opens upon a terrace, with a conservatory at one end and the chapel at the other, whilst over the balustrade are seen the undulating surface of the palace gardens. From this noble apartment, as soon as the Queen is ready to receive them, deputations pass across the Sculpture Gallery into the Hall, and thence ascend, by the Grand Staircase through an ante-room and the Green Drawing-room, to the Throne-room. The Sculpture Gallery contains busts of eminent statesmen and members of the Royal Family, and extends through the whole length of the central portion of the front of the edifice. The Green Drawing-room, which opens upon the upper storey of the portico of the old building, is a long and lofty apartment. Visitors on the occasions of state balls and other ceremonies are conducted through the Green Drawing-room to the Picture Gallery and the Grand Saloon. On these occasions refreshments are served in the Garterroom and Green Drawing-room, and supper laid in the principal Dining-room. The concerts, invitations to which seldom exceed 300, are given in the Grand Saloon. The Throne-room, which is in the eastern front, is upwards of sixty feet in length, and has the walls hung with crimson satin, the alcove with crimson velvet, and both are relieved by a profusion of golden hues; the ceiling is richly carved and gilt, emblazoned with armorial bearings, and the fringe adorned with bas-reliefs, illustrative of the Wars of the Roses.
The palace includes a Picture Gallery, containing a choice and extensive collection of specimens of ancient and modern masters; it can be viewed by orders from the Lord Chamberlain, which are granted only to persons who can give good references and guarantees of respectability. The Queen's Gallery contains a variety of the works of Dutch and Flemish artists, together with a few pictures of the Italian and English schools, collected by King George IV., who purchased the nucleus of the whole from Sir Thomas Baring, and was aided in his selection of others by Sir Charles Long, afterwards Lord Farnborough, whose taste in all that concerned fine arts was unquestioned. The gallery itself is an extensive corridor, upwards of 150 feet long, and lighted from the roof by skylights of ground glass, on which are exhibited all the stars of the various European orders. The "private apartments" of the Queen, which are very rarely shown, contain some fine portraits and miniatures of the late and present Royal Families, by Vandyck, Lely, Kneller, Gainsborough, Copley, Lawrence, &c.
The Yellow Drawing-room is generally considered the most magnificent apartment in the palace; the whole of the furniture being elaborately carved, overlaid with burnished gold, and covered with broad-striped yellow satin. Several highly-polished syenite marble pillars are ranged against the walls. In each panel is painted a full-length portrait of some member of the Royal Family. This room, which is on the north side of the palace, communicates with the Queen's private apartments. The saloon, in the centre of the garden front, is superbly decorated; the shafts of the Corinthian columns are composed of purple scagliola, in imitation of lapis lazuli; the entablature, cornice, and ceiling are profusely enriched; and the remaining decorations and furniture are of corresponding magnificence. The South Drawing-room contains three compositions in relief, by the late William Pitts—namely, the apotheosis of Spenser, of Shakespeare, and of Milton.
The last of the state rooms is the Dining-room, which is a very spacious and handsome apartment, lighted by windows on one side only, opening into the garden; the spaces between these windows are filled with immense mirrors. At the southern end is a deep recess, the extremity of which is nearly filled by a large looking-glass, in front of which, during state balls or dinners, the buffet of gold plate is arranged, producing a most magnificent effect. The ceiling is highly enriched with foliage and floral ornamentation. On the eastern side are portraits of former members of the royal family, and Sir Thomas Lawrence's whole-length portrait of George IV. in his coronation robes, which was originally in the Presence Chamber at St. James's Palace.
The garden, or west front, of the palace, architecturally the principal one, has five Corinthian towers, and also a balustraded terrace, on the upper portion of which are statues, trophies, and bas-reliefs, by Flaxman and other distinguished sculptors.
The pleasure grounds cover a space of about forty acres, five of which are occupied by a lake. Upon the summit of a lofty artificial mound, rising from the margin of the lake, is a picturesque pavilion, or garden-house, with a minaret roof. In the centre is an octagonal room, with figures of "Midnight" and "Dawn," and eight lunettes, painted in fresco, from Milton's "Comus," by Eastlake, Maclise, Landseer, Dyce, Stanfield, Uwins, Leslie, and Ross. Another room is decorated in the Pompeian style, and a third is embellished with romantic designs, suggested by the novels and poems of Sir Walter Scott.
The Royal Stables—or mews, as they are generally called—are situated on the north side of the garden, and are concealed from the palace by a lofty mound. They contain a spacious ridingschool, a room expressly for keeping the state harness, stabling for the state horses, and houses for forty carriages. The magnificent stage-coach, which is kept here, was designed by Sir William Chambers, in 1762, and painted by Cipriani with a series of emblematical subjects; its entire cost is said to have been little short of £8,000.
In 1837 it was a common joke of the day that Buckingham Palace could boast at all events of being the cheapest of all royal residences, having been "built for one sovereign and furnished for another." It was in July of the above year that Queen Victoria took up her residence here, since which period this palace has been the constant abode of Her Majesty, when in town. Here, in 1840 and 1841, were born the Princess Royal and the Prince of Wales; and it has been the birthplace of most of the other children of Her Majesty. It is, too, occasionally set apart as the temporary residence of royal guests from foreign parts, when on visits to this country.
In March, 1841, a young lad, named Jones, caused some alarm to the inmates of the palace by making his way into the Queen's private apartments. Unlike the poor demented youth who in more recent times levelled an empty worn-out pistol to Her Majesty as she was leaving her carriage to enter the palace, the only object of "the boy Jones," as he was called, appears to have been notoriety, and this gratification certainly he obtained. Mr. Raikes, in commenting on this incident in his "Journal," says—"A little scamp of an apothecary's errand-boy, named Jones, has the unaccountable mania of sneaking privately into Buckingham Palace, where he is found secreted at night under a sofa, or some other hiding-place close to the Queen's bed-chamber. No one can divine his object, but twice he has been detected and conveyed to the police-office, and put into confinement for a time. The other day he was detected in a third attempt, with apparently as little object. Lady Sandwich wittily wrote that he must undoubtedly be a descendant of In-I-go Jones, the architect."
Here, in 1843, the Princess Augusta of Cambridge was married with great state to Frederick William, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The King of Hanover came over for the occasion. Shortly afterwards, Mr. Raikes happening to be breakfasting with the Duke of Wellington, the latter told the following story:—"When we proceeded to the signatures of the bride and bridegroom, the King of Hanover was very anxious to sign before Prince Albert, and when the Queen approached the table, he placed himself by her side, watching his opportunity. She knew very well what he was about, and just as the Archbishop was giving her the pen, she suddenly dodged round the table, placed herself next to the Prince, then quickly took the pen from the Archbishop, signed, and gave it to Prince Albert, who also signed next, before it could be prevented. The Queen," added the duke, "was also very anxious to give the precedence at Court to King Leopold before the King of Hanover, and she consulted me about it, and how it should be arranged. I told Her Majesty that I supposed it should be settled as we did at the Congress of Vienna. 'How was that,' said she; 'by first arrival?' 'No, Ma'am,' said I, 'but alphabetically; and B. comes before H.' This pleased her very much; and it was done."
It was in front of Buckingham Palace that the Scots Fusilier Guards paraded in the early dawn of a bleak March day in 1854, en route from the Wellington Barracks to Portsmouth, to embark for the Black Sea. The Queen, accompanied by the Prince Consort, the Prince of Wales, then a youth of twelve, and three others of her elder children, looked down from the balcony to bid her soldiers farewell.
All sorts of silly stories are current relative to an interview with which Her Majesty here favoured Mr. Charles Dickens in the last few weeks of his life, just as George III. and Queen Charlotte had favoured Dr. Johnson and Wedgwood a century before; but the true account is given by Mr. John Forster, in his "Life" of the great novelist, in terms of which the following is the substance:—
"It had been hoped to obtain Her Majesty's name and patronage for some amateur theatrical performances on behalf of the family of Douglas Jerrold, in 1857; but, being a public effort on behalf of a private individual, it was feared that offence might be given if a like request should be refused in another case. The Queen, however, sent a request through Sir Charles Phipps, that Charles Dickens would select a room in the palace, and let her see the performance there. There were difficulties, however, in the way, and in return, Dickens proposed that Her Majesty should come on a private night to the Gallery of Illustration, having the room entirely at her own disposal and inviting her own company. This proposal the Queen accepted; and she was so pleased with the performance, that she sent word round to the greenroom, requesting Mr. Dickens to come to the royal box, and accept her thanks. This, however, he could not do, being undressed and begrimed with dirt. Next year the Queen expressed a wish to hear Dickens read 'The Carol;' but this, too, came to nothing. At last," writes Mr. Forster, "there came, in the year of his death, the interview with the author, whose popularity dated from her accession, whose books had entertained a larger number of her subjects than those of any contemporary writer, and whose genius will be accounted one of the stories of her reign. Accident led to it. Dickens had brought with him from America some large and striking photographs of the battle-fields of the Civil War, and the Queen, having heard of this through Mr. Arthur Helps, expressed a wish to look at them. Dickens sent them alone, and went afterwards to Buckingham Palace with Mr. Helps, at Her Majesty's request, that she might see them and thank him in person. This was in the middle of March . . . . . The Queen's kindness left a strong impression on Dickens. Upon Her Majesty's expressing regret that she had not heard his readings, Dickens intimated that they had now been a thing of the past, while he acknowledged gratefully the compliment of Her Majesty in regard to them. She spoke to him of the impression made upon her by his acting in 'The Frozen Deep;' and on his stating, in reply to her inquiry, that the little play had not been very successful on the public stage, said that this did not surprise her, since it no longer had the advantage of his performance in it… … She asked him to give her his writings, and could she have them that afternoon? but he begged to be allowed to send a bound copy. Her Majesty then took from the table her own book upon the 'Highlands,' with an autograph inscription 'to Charles Dickens,' and saying that 'the humblest of writers' would be ashamed to offer it to 'one of the greatest,' but that Mr. Helps, being asked to give it, had remarked to her that it would be valued most from herself; so she closed the interview by placing the book in his hands." Just two months from the day of the above interview with the Queen, Dickens was buried in Westminster Abbey.
The "Board of Green Cloth," the head-quarters of which are at Buckingham Palace, comprises five of the chief officers of Her Majesty's Household—namely, the Lord Steward, the Treasurer, the Comptroller, the Master of the Household, and the Secretary. They have the oversight and government of the Queen's Court bearing the above title, and also the supervision of the Household accounts, the purveyance of the provisions and their payment, and the good government of the servants of the Household. In Murray's "Official Handbook of Church and State," we learn that "the palace anciently formed an exempt jurisdiction, which was subject to the Court of the Lord Steward of the Household, held in his absence by the Treasurer, the Comptroller, or the Steward of the Marshalsea. This Court formerly possessed the power to try all treasons, murders, felonies, and other offences committed in the palace and within the verge; but this extensive jurisdiction, which was in part repealed by George IV., had long previously fallen into disuse, and the civil jurisdiction, which the Court continued to exercise till 1849, was abolished in that year by Act of Parliament. The Lord Steward of the Household fills an ancient office of great trust and dignity. He is the chief officer of the Queen's Household, all the officers and servants of which are under his control, except those belonging to the Chapel, the Chamber, and the Stable. His authority extends over the offices of Treasurer, Comptroller, and Master of the Household. The Lord Steward is at the head of the Court of the Queen's Household—the Board of Green Cloth. He is always sworn a member of the Privy Council. He has precedence before all peers of his own degree. He has no formal grant of his office, but receives his charge immediately from the Queen by the delivery of his white staff of office. He holds his appointment during pleasure, and his tenure depends upon the political party of which he is a member. His salary is £2,000 per annum. The Lord Steward has the selection and appointment of all the subordinate officers and servants of the Household, and also of the Queen's tradesmen, except those connected with the royal stables. The Treasurer of the Household acts for the Lord Steward in his absence. He is always a member of the Privy Council, and a political adherent of the Government in power. His salary is £904 per annum. The Comptroller is subordinate to the two preceding officers, for whom he acts in their absence. He is usually a member of the Privy Council. His particular duty consists in the examination and check of the Household expenses. His office is also dependent upon the Government of the day. His salary is £904 per annum. The Master of the Household stands next in rank to this department. He is an officer under the Treasurer, and examines a portion of the accounts; but his duties consist more especially in superintending the selection, qualification, and conduct of the Household servants. His salary is £1,158 per annum. His appointment is during pleasure, and is not dependent upon party."
In this department an office was held by Mr. William Bray, F.S.A., some years Treasurer of the Society of Antiquaries, and the author (conjointly with Mr. Manning) of the "History of Surrey." He died in November, 1832, aged ninety-six.
It is at Buckingham Palace that Her Majesty usually holds her "Courts" and "Drawing-rooms." A court is held for the reception of the diplomatic and other official bodies, the general circle on the court list, and other persons having special invitations, the presentations being few in number. A writer in the Graphic gives us the following observations on these State receptions:—"A Court," he says, "is not so 'interesting' in some respects as a Drawing-room. The few presentations are principally of an official character, and the youthful débutantes who give such grace to Drawing-room days are but little represented. There is beauty you may be sure, as there must be in any assembly where English ladies compose a large proportion; and, apart from the splendour of the dresses, it forms the chief charm of the scene. And if the débutante element be wanting, there is no lack of youth as well as of beauty; charming faces indeed are everywhere, and fix the attention even more than the dazzling dresses of their owners. At Drawing-rooms, where people attend voluntarily, precautions are always taken to prevent an undue proportion of men being present, as most of us would prefer such an occasion to pay our respects to that of a Levee; so gentlemen have a polite invitation to stay away unless forming the escort of ladies. But here, where notifications are expressly sent by everybody, there is no necessity for the restriction; and the ladies are certainly in no danger of being overshadowed by members of the harder sex. As regards the latter, we notice one peculiarity: there are fewer military uniforms than on Levee and Drawing-room days, when the scarlet of Her Majesty's Forces is just a little in excess. But the dresses present not the less magnificent an appearance on that account. Apart from the foreign costumes, our own official uniforms are splendid enough; and the new general court dress is decidedly more pleasant to the eye than the old style, which, though still represented, is fast giving way to the new fashion sanctioned by authority. One obvious advantage which it possesses is in being something like the garments which gentlemen are accustomed to wear, instead of being a great deal like the garments which gentlemen are accustomed to put upon their footmen. Indeed, the footmen have the best of it as far as splendour is concerned; for the old court dress has none of the bravery of Queen Anne's time, and that of the earlier Georges. It belongs to the period of the middle of the reign of George III., and is rather sombre than otherwise, except in respect to the variegated waistcoat, which is 'fine' in a certain sense of the term, but decidedly ugly to the eye of taste. The new dress is a little formal in cut; but this is a necessity where regulation is imperative; it would never do to have very marked peculiarities of style when the same costume is to be worn by persons of all sizes and variations of figure. There is room, too, for some exercise of the fancy. Private persons—that is to say, persons having no military or official uniform—may wear the coloured cloth suit, embroidered with gold, or they may disport themselves in black velvet from head to foot, with white lace at the collars and wrists. The cloth with its ornaments is more gay; but the velvet has the decided advantage in point of dignity, and the scholarlike appearance which it gives to the wearer. One can fancy Evelyn himself being appropriately clad in a dress of the kind when he wandered through the gallery at Whitehall, and scandalised himself—in the cause of his "Diary"—at the lax manners of Charles II.'s court. It would have been scarcely gay enough for Pepys. In our own day it ought to suit even the simple taste of Mr. Bright, who respectfully but firmly declined to costume himself in the old court style.
"Among the fair owners of the headdresses, of feathers, blonde-lappets, and diamonds, the trains, and other elaborations, are, of course, a large number of men in military uniform, which is, after all, the most effective of any dress, if only for the reason that it seems to belong to the wearers. Not the least gorgeous of these are the Gentlemenat-Arms, each of whom looks like a field-marshal in his own right, though he bears only the rank of a captain. They are on duty to-day, as may be supposed, and so are the Yeomen of the Guard, in their quaint uniform of the time of Henry VIII.; and a Guard of Honour of the Coldstream Guards is mounted in the court of the palace.
"All these important matters pass under our notice while the company is assembling preparatory to entering the royal presence. At the appointed hour Her Majesty, who has arrived from Windsor, takes her place, having been joined by the Prince and Princess of Wales, and other members of the Royal Family, to say nothing of the Maharajah Duleep Singh, and the Nawab Nazim of Bengal—who goes everywhere just now—with their respective attendants. The scene on the staircase—the company being on their way to the Throneroom—is very splendid, and in the Throne-room itself it is gorgeous in the extreme.
"See the lady clad in black, with the coronet of diamonds and sapphires, and the white veil covered with large diamonds also; with the necklace, cross, and brooch of yet more diamonds; on her breast the blue riband and the Star of the Order of the Garter, the Orders of Victoria and Albert and Louise of Prussia, and the Coburg and Gotha Family Order. The dignity of her bearing, apart from all these insignia, would proclaim her to be the principal personage present. As she stands, surrounded by the members of her family, and the ladies and gentlemen of her household, she is evidently reigning actively, as a Queen is always supposed to do; and yet she is the same gentle lady who in her private life has made herself so pleasantly familiar to her subjects.
"Of the assembly who approach her a few are presented in form and kiss the Royal hand; the rest pass by Her Majesty in rotation, and file off by a sidelong retiring movement from the presence. The ceremony occupies a considerable time, as must be, owing to the large number present; and the scene during the continuance could scarcely be surpassed for splendour and costly state. The apartment in which it is enacted, too, is well worthy of the occasion, with its glass, and its gilding, and its crimson draperies.
"When the last lady and gentleman have passed the throne, Her Majesty retires with her suite; then there is a movement downstairs, a general call for carriages, and the first 'Court' of the season has fairly come to an end."