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Victoria, Queen of England
by James Parton, 1868

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From: Eminent women of the age being narratives of the lives and deeds of the most prominent women of the present generation. By James Parton, Horace Greeley, T. W. Higginson, J. S. C. Abbott, Prof. James M. Hoppin, William Winter, Theodore Tilton, Fanny Fern, Grace Greenwood, Mrs. E. C. Stanton, etc. 1868.

Portrait from Eminent Women. Image
© Jone Lewis Licensed to About
GREAT BRITAIN wanted a monarch.

James the Second had abandoned his throne, and had been driven from his country. William and Mary who succeeded him were childless, and without hope of offspring. Anne, seventeen times in her life, gave the kingdom hopes of an heir, and then disappointed those hopes. She was childless, and it was well known to her household that she was destined to die childless. As it was part of the fundamental law of the kingdom that the sovereign must be a Protestant, the son of the exiled king was excluded from the succession. The English are such slaves to habit and precedent, and the wars of the Commonwealth were so fresh in the recollection of the country, that it does not appear to have occurred to a single individual that the realm of England could be governed unless it could find a person to play sovereign on certain days of the year, in the show-rooms of St. James' Palace. America had not yet taught the world the art of nominating, electing, and deposing chief magistrates. There had once been kings in England, and the shadow of one was felt to be necessary still.

Wanted a monarch. No Roman Catholic need apply.

This was the problem for the "Heralds" of that day. In all the world there was but one person who could rightfully succeed Queen Anne, and that was an elderly lady known to the people of England as the Princess Sophia, and to the people. of Hanover as the wife of their sovereign, the elector, Ernest Augustus. King James the First left but two children of the seven who had been born to him. One of these was the unfortunate Charles the First, who lost his crown and his head; the other was the Princess Elizabeth, who in due time married Frederick the Fifth, Elector Palatine, one of the hundred petty sovereigns of Germany. The Princess Sophia was the daughter of this pair, and she was married to Ernest Augustus of Hanover. Being thus the grand-daughter of James the First, and the wife of a Protestant prince, her right to the English throne, in case Queen Anne died without issue, was unquestionable; and hence, in the act of settlement of 1701, she was declared the heiress presumptive.

She had become a widow, and was living in retirement in Hanover as Electoress Dowager, -- an elderly lady of excellent character, but as little fitted to govern all empire as a child. The English, however, did not want any one to govern an empire. They meant to do that themselves. They wanted some benevolent and good-looking person to wear the robes, inhabit the palace, and play the part of monarch, in a serene and dignified manner. For such purpose the good old dowager of Hanover might have answered as well as another. This destiny, however, was not ill reserve for her; for, seventeen days before the death of Queen Anne, she died, leaving her son George, the Elector of Hanover, heir to the British crown. George Lewis was his name, but he is known ill English history as George the First.

Thus it was that the present reigning family came to the English throne. Queen Victoria reigns to-day because of her direct descent, through James the First, from Mary, Queen of Scots, the mother of that pedantic king. On the Hanover side, she can claim an ancestry far more ancient, and far more illustrious than this.

The respect which many persons feel for an old family is perhaps not quite so unreasonable as some of us republicans suppose. Time tries all. As a rule, whatever endures long is excellent of its kind. In families which have long maintained a certain position in the world, we need not look for brilliant genius, nor splendid courage; but if we inquire closely into their history, we shall generally find a full development of what may be termed the preservative virtues, prudence and family pride. A family which produces a genius appears to exhaust itself in the effort, -- it passes away and disappears in the crowd; but where there is robustness of bodily health with a high degree of prudence and family feeling, a race may endure for centuries without producing a single individual of striking merit, or performing any valuable service for mankind. Nevertheless, there must be in such a family real worth and real wisdom. One of the most admirable provisions among the laws of nature is that one which dooms a family of incurable fools to certain and swift extinction.

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