Thursday, September 30, 2004

J. H. Emory 1877

A letter written by a young man named J. H. Emory who traveled to Britain to apply for a position of Tutor with one of Britain’s Royals, Princess Helena.

The letter is a lengthy 12-pages and is dated June 5, 1877 which constitutes three 9" x 7" sheets folded.

The letter does not identify the Duchess by name. However, although I'm not positive, I believe the letter is referring to Princess Helena (known also as "Lenchen"), daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The letter gives a physical description of the Duchess—and I believe it is, Helena, to which the writer is referring. In any event, the letter is an interesting, and fascinating description of a young man’s first visit with Victorian era Royalty.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's fifth child and third daughter, was born on May 25, 1846 at Buckingham Palace, one day after Queen Victoria’s 27th birthday. She was named Helena, but for all her life she would be called Lenchen. Helena grew up as a shineless, dutiful and reserved girl. She had a tendency towards fat (which was severely criticized by Queen Victoria although she herself was fat) and was a bit of a tomboy, showing abilities for the less feminine activities like swimming or racing. As Helena grew into womanhood, Queen Victoria began to worry about her future.

Helena’s rather full-figure was compensated by wavy brown hair, a little straight nose and lovely amber eyes. She played the piano, had a distinct gift for drawing and painting in watercolors and had a clear, though not strong soprano voice. She was loyal to her friends. In 1866, Duchess Helena paid a visit to Germany with the Queen. There Helena met for the first time the man who would be her husband, Prince Christian of Schleswig Holstein Sonderburg Augustenburg.

Princess Helena married the Prince and together they had two sons, Christian Victor and Albert, and two daughters, Helena Victoria, and Marie Louise.


"Kensington—June 5, 1877

My Dearest Mother—

I am sure you will be anxious to hear about my interview with the Duchess. I was told to be at Mr. Bullock’s at 4:45 yesterday afternoon. And I was very glad to get a cup of tea then, and to cool a little for it was a humid day. I also wanted to learn how to address the Duchess and how to comport myself in her presence. Mr. Bullock told me that I must call her ‘Your Royal Highness’ or ‘Madame’. I was not to sit in her presence without invitation. I was not to offer any remark or start any subject without being addressed.

I found that saved me the difficulty of taking a prominent part in the proceedings. When we got to the ‘Teck’ apartments, we found the Duchess was out, so we were shown into the Council Room. Here was a large print of Queen Victoria holding her first council…and we were in the very room in which it happened. Probably such an important ceremony has not taken place since.

There were large windows opening into the gardens and here we saw some of the children playing. We went out and I was introduced to one of the three governesses and the younger boy who is only 7, though he looks 10, and the little Princess who is the eldest. I think she is 10. In a few minutes the footman came out to say that the Duchess had returned. She is a ponderous woman with light wavy hair and a pleasant, good-humored expression. In spite of her enormous fat, she was full of life and activity. She shook hands with Mr. Bullock and bowed to me and motioned us each to a chair. She began at once by saying she believed Mr. Bullock had explained to me what was required, but that she understood that I could not give quite so much as three afternoons in the week. I then explained that I could be at liberty, thanks to Ackland’s kindness. On Monday’s at 3, on Wednesdays at 4, and on Saturdays at 3. This she seemed to think would do.

She asked me if my father was a clergyman. She asked about the school, and how long I had been there and how many masters and how many boys there were. She told me that she wished her boys to begin Latin and to read aloud, and I was to take them in these and any other subjects, I thought fit. She thought it desirable that they should work from 3 to 3 to 5 with me and then I was to play or walk with them for a couple of hours and have tea, leaving at 7.
Then she told me a good deal about them—that the eldest had been very ill during the Winter and therefore he was not to be pressed, and the younger was rather the sharpest of the two and she gave me a long anecdote about this recollecting the circumstances of the madness of Charles VI.

All this conversation she conducted with a good deal of Royal dignity, but with a great deal of life and a little action. I sat with my hat on my knees trying to make up little speeches with ‘your royal highness’ in them, but I never got the chance. She ended by deciding that I was to come unless I heard to the contrary, on Monday next.

When we got up, I found that I had to get out of the room without turning my back, as I had secreted my umbrella behind the door and wished to regain possession of it, I was much exercised in this operation. We had not mentioned a word about terms, but when I got back to Bullock’s he told me that he thought Ackland’s suggestion of 3 guineas a week would not be thought too much.

Everything else I suppose I may considered settled….closing….
Your very loving son, J. H. Emory.

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