exertion, either of mind or body; on the contrary, he rather sought difficulties in order to overcome them. The result was such an harmonious development of his powers and faculties as is very seldom arrived at.’
Soon after the prince had settled in Bonn the death of William IV (20 June 1837) opened the succession to the throne to the Princess Victoria, then only eighteen. To this event the prince could not be indifferent, and he heard with great satisfaction of the ‘astonishing self-possession’ shown by the young queen in the difficult and trying position to which she had been so suddenly called. ‘Now,’ he writes to her (26 June), ‘you are queen of the mightiest land of Europe, in your hand lies the happiness of millions. May Heaven assist you and strengthen you with its strength in that high but difficult task! I hope that your reign may be long, happy, and glorious, and that your efforts may be rewarded by the thankfulness and love of your subjects.’
The autumn vacation of 1837 was spent by the two young princes in a walking tour through Switzerland and the north of Italy. On their return to Bonn the prince applied himself to his studies with renewed energy. By this time he must have been well aware of the possible great, but most responsible, future before him, and he set himself strenuously to prepare for its duties. The subject was not, however, broached to him by his uncle, King Leopold, till the beginning of 1838, during a visit of the prince to Brussels. In a letter from the king to Baron Stockmar, recounting what had passed, he says: ‘If I am not very much mistaken, Albert possesses all the qualities required to fit him for the position which he will occupy in England. His understanding is sound, his apprehension clear and rapid, and his heart in the right place. He has great powers of observation and possesses singular prudence, and there is nothing about him that can be called cold or morose.’ He also already displayed that ‘remarkable power of self-control’ which, often tested in his later life, never failed him under the most trying circumstances.
On leaving the university of Bonn it was arranged that the prince should make a tour in Italy, accompanied by Baron Stockmar. Up to this time the prince had known very little of Stockmar, and he was therefore a little surprised at being thus sought out by a comparative stranger. But Stockmar had been more than once through Italy with King Leopold, and this appeared the natural explanation. Florence, Rome, and Naples were visited in succession, and in each the prince left no object of interest unnoticed. He was naturally much courted in society, but showed a marked disinclination to its dissipations, grudging the time it abstracted from his graver studies, or from intercourse with the distinguished men of the country. From Naples he turned back towards Coburg, taking Rome, Tivoli, Viterbo, Sienna, Leghorn, Lucca, Genoa, and Milan on the way. The prince felt that this tour had been of great service to him in extending his range of observation and increasing his power of forming right judgments. He had found Stockmar's society to be ‘most precious and valuable,’ while, on the other hand, he had established a hold upon that austere but invaluable mentor's heart, which grew closer and dearer with every future year.
In a memorandum by Baron Stockmar of the estimate formed by him of the prince's character during the Italian tour he notes that ‘his constitution cannot be called strong, but that with proper dietetic management it might easily gain strength and stability.’ He adds that ‘great exertion is repugnant to him, and his tendency is to spare himself both morally and ph[ysically,’ a ten]dency of which the prince mo[st effectually cu]red himself within a very [short period.] More remarkable was his other peculiarity, which was no less signally overcome, that the prince showed ‘not the slightest interest in politics. Even while the most important events are in progress, and their issues undecided, he does not care to look into a newspaper;’ and this at the time was no doubt true of the man who, as the years advanced, allowed no incident of domestic or foreign politics to escape his notice, and concentrated the whole force of his mind upon their changing phases and possible eventualities. Stockmar's lessons on these points sank deeply into the prince's mind, and on his return to Coburg he set himself the task of making himself master of English history and language.
But the progress of events had now made it desirable that the Princess Victoria's marriage should not be much longer delayed. She was herself by no means inclined to hurry it on; but the prince having, by his uncle's desire, come to England with his brother (10 Oct. 1839), his presence quickly produced a very altered feeling. ‘Albert's beauty,’ said the queen, in writing her first impressions to King Leopold, ‘is most striking, and he is most amiable and unaffected—in short, fascinating.’ On 14 Oct. the queen made Lord Melbourne aware that the conquest of her heart was complete, much to the satisfaction of her prime minister. Not less was the delight of King Leopold on hearing from the queen that the wish he had