'It was a great crime to meet her in the grounds . . . and
we all took good care that this should never happen.'
WHEN IN 1894 Frederick Ponsonby had arrived at Osborne aged twenty-seven, he had found that all the senior gentlemen of the Household had grown old in the Queen's service -- two of them were eighty -- and that he himself as Junior Equerry had very little to do. After breakfast he went to the equerries' room where he read the newspapers and wrote private letters. At noon the Queen went out in her pony-chair, accompanied by a lady-in-waiting, a maid-of-honour or one of her daughters, regardless of the weather: it was not considered in the least surprising that Princess Beatrice suffered from rheumatism at an early age. As soon as the Queen had driven away, the Household, who had to remain indoors so long as the Queen was in the house, walked out too. 'But it was like a lunatic asylum,' Ponsonby said, 'as everybody went alone in different directions.'
Luncheon for the gentlemen was served at two o'clock, the Master of the Household carving at one end of the table and the Junior Equerry at the other. 'These luncheons were always very amusing,' Ponsonby discovered, 'as there was much wit among the older men.'
At three o'clock the Queen went out driving again, this time in a carriage and pair with an outrider in front and, if she were going to Cowes or some other town on the island, an equerry riding alongside the carriage, two equerries being required when Her Majesty had to attend some sort of function. Again the gentlemen took the opportunity of the Queen's departure to go out themselves, either for a walk or a ride, using