Sunday, December 28, 2008

10Sep1863, First Day as Maid-of-Honour

WINDSOR, Thursday, September 10th, 1863.
—The much-to-be-remembered day of my first entering upon Maid-of-Honour duties. I left Hagley at 9, inside out with bathing-feel, reached London in time for a scramble of indispensable shopping, and thence to Windsor, which looked noble and ethereal, bathed in hazy sunset light, as we came in sight of it. I was shown up to 2 snug little rooms by a comfortable old body, and soon made the acquaintance of Miss Stopford and Miss Kerr, who came to me. They are both together here by some mistake ; but it is very pleasant for me. Miss Stopford has won my heart, and I wish she was to be my colleague (Miss Cathcart, a dread being, is to be). They were most kind, comforting me by declaring my clothes all right. Lady Ely next came in, and took me to Ly. Caroline Barrington, and next I saw Lady Augusta Bruce for a few minutes. All kind and comfortable. I was prepared for finding the dinner and evening silent and stiff ; but it was much better than I expected. Present, Lady Ely, the two above named Maids-of-Honour, Lord Caithness, General Seymour, Colonel Liddell, Major Cowell, M. Buff, Major Elphinstone. The Queen dines apart now. The sotto-voce conversation on very Courtly and regal subjects was impressive ! And I confess I was also impressed by the 8 noiseless servants and indeed by all I saw. 0 the dignity and beauty of the corridor and rooms ! After dinner, Miss S. and Miss C. having disappeared, I was sitting alone with Ly. Ely, when one of the noiseless servants came and said : " Her Majesty desires your Ladyship to bring Miss Lyttelton into the corridor." So kind Ly. Ely put my arm in hers, and I went, trembling. The Queen came forward from the end of the corridor, and gave me her hand with all the grace and gentle dignity of old times. And 0 what it was to kiss her hand again, for the first time since I saw her at the height of her happiness, without so much as a shadow cast before by the dark sorrow in store for her ! I can't exactly tell what it is in her face which is altered, for she looks well ; but she has gained an expression which there used not to be : her grief has set its stamp there, but so as to refine and ennoble it. Her sweet and kindly smile went to my heart. She asked after Granny, Papa, At. Coque, and "Meriel," saying of the latter, " She has two children, has she not ? " Said more than once that I was like Mamma, but also like Aunt Lavinia. Lady Ely said I was nervous; the Queen said smiling, "Nervous ! 0 no ; she will soon get over that," or words to that effect. She then beckoned up the 2 Princesses who were with her ; they both kissed me. Prss. Louise is very pretty—Prss. Helena asked after " Laddle " [FN: Lady Lyttelton, Lady Frederick's grandmother.] — Prince Alfred was in the distance (grown rather fat), also pretty Prince Arthur. The interview lasted only a few minutes ; but after it was over, I shd have liked nothing better than rushing off somewhere and having a good cry ; instead of which I had to go back in a very tremulous state to the solemn drawing-room, where we sat round a table the rest of the evening, and were rather dull. I went to bed tired with excitement.

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