{122}

1883

IN THE early summer of 1883 Queen Victoria left for the quiet of Osborne, where the Court settled down to more simple habits, after the hurly-burly of London and Windsor. For an hour each morning the Queen sat at her desk. There were the continuous dispatch boxes from Whitehall, or a minister who had stayed overnight, to be briefed before he went back to his duties. The desk was big. The inkstand was a silver boat, with two winged boys and two mortal boys, pushing the craft along a silver beach. The pen wiper was a gold cock's head, with a red cloth comb in which the Queen dried her pens. Spread over the back half of the table was a small forest of silver-framed photographs: all the big company of children and grandchildren whose lives and happiness depended so much on her favour. Among them was a photograph of Prince Leopold, her beloved invalid son who had married Princess Helena of Waldeck the year before. He had just been to stay, with his "very dainty" daughter, Princess Alice. And there were photographs of the Queen's lovely Darmstadt granddaughters, the children of the first Princess Alice: three enchanting girls for whom marriages must be planned. The safety of Osborne permitted no hint of the fate awaiting two of them. One, who married the Grand Duke Serge, was assassinated in 1918. The other, Princess Alexandra, was to marry the Tsar of Russia and meet an equally awful fate, also in 1918. There was a photograph of the Queen's youngest and only unmarried child, Princess Beatrice, who was then seeking a cure for neuritis at Aix-les‐ Bains.

The family was scattered in 1883, and during July the Queen was alone with her ladies. She was sixty-four years old. The photographs on the table included two generations of friends made during those years, many of them dead. In March, at Windsor, John Brown had died. On the seventeenth the Queen had fallen down some stairs in the castle and Brown had been there, to help her into her carriage.

"On coming home, however,"
she
"had to be lifted out."
Ten days later Brown caught cold after searching the grounds, at night, because there was a rumour that some Fenians were prowling in the Park. The search for the Queen's enemies was the last service performed by this

-306-

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