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Albert
Albert
218

The mother's place in watching over the childhood and youth of the young princes was admirably filled by their grandmothers on both father's and mother's side. Albert was a beautiful child, and as winning by his intelligence and playful humour as he was handsome. In 1820 his uncle, Prince Leopold, when on a visit to Coburg, saw him for the first time. The boy formed an extraordinary attachment to him, was 'never happy except when near him.' His uncle shared the feeling, and thus began an intimacy which deepened into a lifelong affection on both sides.

The grandmothers were both remarkable women, accomplished, gifted with strong sense and warm hearts. They vied with each other who should show most attention to the two boys, but were careful not to spoil them. In their earliest years they were most under the eye of their maternal grandmother, and, their riotous spirits having become rather oppressive to the good old lady, they were placed, while at the respective ages of four and five, under the guardianship of a Mr. Florschütz as their tutor. The maternal grandmother dreaded evil from the care of children so young being entrusted to a man. But though he was still so young that he liked to be carried up and down stairs, the Prince Albert hailed the change with delight, having from infancy shown a great dislike to being in the charge of women. The young princes could not have been better placed. Mr. Florschütz was a thoroughly competent tutor. He loved the boys, and they loved and respected him. Albert was his favourite. 'Every grace,' are his own words, 'had been showered by nature on this charming boy. Every eye rested on him with delight, and he won the hearts of all.' From the first his love for acquiring knowledge was remarkable. He learned quickly and retained what he learned. Though far from strong, he carried the same ardour into his sports as into his studies, and in both established a superiority over his companions. To excel in all he undertook was his aim. Sweetness was combined in his character with force then as in his more mature years. His great earnestness and purity of disposition, together with a cheerful joyous spirit, and a keen sense of the ludicrous, became more marked as he grew up from boyhood into youth, as well as a great consideration for the feelings of others, by no means usual at that age. His education covered a range of subjects well fitted to prepare him for the practical business of life. The study of history, geography, mathematics, philosophy, religion, Latin, and the modern European languages was relieved by practice in music and drawing, for both of which the prince showed a decided talent He was an eager and exact observer of natural objects, for which the country round Coburg presented a rich field, and together with his brother he formed a collection of birds, butterflies, stones, and shells, which subsequently formed the nucleus of the 'Albert-Ernest Museum,' now deposited in the Festung at Coburg. In his boyish rambles he acquired the habit of accurate observation, and delight in the sights and sounds of a country life, for which in after years he was distinguished. 'Nothing,' we are told, 'could exceed the intense enjoyment with which a fine or commanding view inspired the young prince.' So it was with him to the last. No feature of a fine landscape no fluctuation of a fine sky escaped his notice. And as he saw outward objects in their just proportion and relations, so in dealing with the facts and phenomena of history, of politics, or social life, the same keenness of insight and the same precision of estimate were apparent. When old enough to join in the field sports which in his native country are the prescriptive pastime of his class, he proved to be an excellent shot ; but, as in after life, he cared for the pursuit of game chiefly for the exercise and the open-air life as a tonic and the recreation of a few hours. As he often said in later life, he could never understand people 'making a business of shooting and going out for the whole day.' To him the mixture of active exercise with the severe studies to which he gave himself in youth, with the definite purpose, as he wrote (1830) to his father, of making himself 'a good and useful man,' proved of great value. The delicate child grew up a strong, active, thoroughly healthy youth.

The young princes remained at home till 1832, when they made a short visit to their uncle, now King Leopold, at Brussels. In 1836 they visited the court of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and afterwards that of Berlin, and produced at both places a most favourable impression. They then made a tour to Dresden, Prague, Vienna, Pesth, and Ofen, and returned to Coburg, where Prince Albert resumed his studies with fresh enthusiasm.

Meanwhile the development of the prince's character was being watched by anxious and observant eyes. The idea that his brother or himself would be a fitting mate for the young Princess Victoria of England had been from the first entertained in the family. The Dowager Duchess of Coburg had settled in her own mind that both by mental and moral qualities Prince Albert would prove well fitted to enable her grandchild to bear 'the