During the next few months many events occurred in Pretoria of vital interest to the whole empire, and especially to the various members of the Royal Family. To these this seems the fittest place to refer, though most of them took place during my various return visits to Pretoria, and are therefore not precisely ranged in due chronologic order.
[Sidenote: Suzerainty turned to Sovereignty.]
It was an ever memorable scene I witnessed in the Kirk Square when the Union Jack was once more formally hoisted in the midst of armed men, a miscellaneous crowd of cheering civilians, and an important group of Basuto chiefs who had been specially invited to witness the ceremonious annexation of the conquered territory and to hear proclaimed the Royal pleasure that the erstwhile "South African Republic" should henceforth be known by the new, yet older, title of "The Transvaal."
So came to an end the Queen's Suzerainty;--an ill-omened term, which had proved fruitful in all conceivable kinds of misinterpretation, and made possible the misunderstandings and controversies that culminated in this cruel and wasteful war. So was resumed the Queen's Sovereignty, which as subsequent events proved, ought never to have been renounced; and so too was made plain the way for that ultimate federation of all South Africa, under one glorious flag, for which Lord Carnarvon and Sir Bartle Frere long years before had laboured apparently in vain. This fresh unfurling of that flag was a pledge of equal liberties alike for Boer and Briton, as well as of fair play to the natives. It was a guarantee that the Pax Britannica would henceforth be maintained from the Zambesi to the Cape, and that in this vast area, well nigh as large as all Europe, there would be nursed into matureness and majestic strength, a new Anglo-Saxon nation, essentially Christian, essentially liberty-loving, and rivalling in wealth, in enterprise and prowess, the ripest promise of united Canada, and newly federated Australia.
In this Imperial conflict the heroic fashion in which both those Commonwealths rallied for the defence of our Imperial flag is one of the most hopeful facts in modern history. "Waterloo," said Wellington, "did more than any other battle I know of toward the true object of all battles--the peace of the world." A similar comment both by victors and vanquished may possibly hereafter be made concerning this deplorable Boer war. But that can come to pass only provided we as a united people strive to cherish more fully the spirit embodied in Kipling's Diamond Jubilee Recessional:
God of our fathers, known of old,--
Lord of our far-flung battle-line,--
Beneath Whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine,--
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget--lest we forget!
* * *
For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard--
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding calls not Thee to guard,--
For frantic boast and foolish word,
Thy mercy on Thy people, Lord!--AMEN.
[Sidenote: Prince Christian Victor.]
To Dr Macgregor the Queen is reported to have said at Balmoral in November 1900, "My heart bleeds for these terrible losses. The war lies heavy on my heart." And Lord Wantage assures us that her Majesty's very last words, spoken only a few weeks later, were "Oh that peace may come!" Both assertions may well find credence; so characteristic are they of her whom all men revered and loved. As the head and representative of the whole empire, every bereavement caused by the war had in it for her a kind of personal element. But her sympathies and sufferings were destined to become more than merely vicarious. As in connection with one of our petty West African wars she was compelled to mourn the death of Prince Henry of Battenberg, so in the course of this South African war death again invaded her own immediate circle. The griefs that hastened her end were strongly personal as well as representative, and so made her all the more the true representative of those she ruled.
It was in the early days of that dull November, tidings reached her and us of the dangerous illness of Prince Christian Victor. Not alone in name was he Christian; and not alone in name was he Victor. On the voyage out, in the Braemar Castle, through the absence of a chaplain, the prince conducted divine worship with the troops. One of our best appointed hospital trains was "The Princess Christian Victor," so called presumably because provided by the bounty of his and her princely hands and hearts. He was what Sir Ascelin declared "The last of the English" to be--"A very perfect knight, beloved and honoured of all men."
It therefore alarmed both town and camp to learn that enteric, the deadliest of all a soldier's foes, had claimed him, like so many a lowlier man, for its prey, and that his life was in mortal peril. At that time he was a patient in the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital which consisted of Mr T. W. Beckett's beautiful mansion, and a formidable array of tents that almost covered the whole of the extensive grounds. Here prince and private alike reaped the fruit of the lavish beneficence which provided and maintained this magnificent hospital. All that wealth could procure was there of skill and tenderness, and such appliances as the healing art requires. All was there, except the power to command success. With what seemed startling suddenness the prince's vital powers collapsed, and the half masting of flags, far and wide, told to friend and foe the tidings of the Queen's irreparable loss.
[Illustration: From a photograph by Mr Jones
Part of I.Y. Hospital in the Grounds Surrounding Mr T. W. Beckett's Mansion at Pretoria.]
[Sidenote: A Royal Funeral.]
It was at first proposed that the body of the prince should be taken to England for interment, and certain companies of the Grenadiers, to which battalion I was still attached, were detailed for escort duty, but finally it was decided all fittingly that he should be laid to rest in the city where he fell, and among the comrades who like him had laid down life in defence of Queen and duty. So Pretoria witnessed a stately funeral, the like of which South Africa had never seen before, as the Queen's own kinsman was borne, by the martial representatives of the whole empire, to the quiet cemetery which this war had so enlarged and so enriched.
Disease and fatal woundings combined cost us in this strangely protracted conflict, scarcely more lives than the one great fight at Waterloo, where on the English side alone 15,000 fell,--for the most part to rise no more. In this South African war, up to January 31st, 1901, about 7700 of our men had died of disease; 700 by accidents; and 4300 of wounds. But this Pretoria cemetery like that at Bloemfontein, where 1500 interments took place in less than fifteen months, affords striking testimony to the common loyalty of all classes throughout the empire. Volunteers belonging to the Imperial Light Horse, raised exclusively in South Africa here lie, side by side, with volunteers belonging to the Imperial Yeomanry, raised exclusively in England. Sons of the empire, from Canadian Vancouver and Australian Victoria, here find a common sepulchre. The soldier prince whose dwelling was in king's palaces here becomes, as in the conflict of the battlefield so in the quiet of a hero's grave, a comrade of the private soldier whose dwelling was a cottage; and be it noted, the death of the lowliest may involve quite as much of heartbreak as the lordliest.
[Sidenote: A touching story.]
At the close of a simple military funeral in this same cemetery, the orderly in charge came to me and said, "I never felt so much over any case. This grave means four orphans left to the care of an invalid mother. I knew the man well, and he was always scheming what to do for his family when he got back: but this is the end of it!" That dead soldier was merely a private. Not one of his own particular comrades was present, but only the necessary fatigue party. No flag was flung over his coffin, no bugle sounded "the last post." No tear was shed. It was only a commonplace "casualty," one among thousands. But it was a tragedy all the same. These tragedies in humble life seldom find a trumpeter; but they are none the less terrible on that account; and if half the truth were known and realised concerning the horrors and heartbreak caused by war, all Christendom would clamour for its speedy superseding by honest Courts of Arbitration.
[Sidenote: The death of the Queen.]
I was still in Pretoria when tidings arrived concerning the illness and death of the Queen; and was present in that same Kirk Square when King Edward VII. was proclaimed "Overlord of the Transvaal." In connection with the former event a memorial service, at which the military were largely represented, was held in Wesley Church on Sunday, January 27th. The Rev. Geo. Weavind, as well as Rev. H. W. Goodwin, took part in the proceedings, and I was privileged to deliver the following address which may serve to illustrate, once for all, the type of teaching given to the troops throughout this campaign:--
"I bowed down mourning as one that bewaileth his mother." --Ps. xxxv. 14 (R.V.).
As there is no relationship on earth so imperishably true and tender as that between a mother and her children, so also there is no mourning on earth so real and reverent as that beside a mother's grave. This saying therefore of the Psalmist describes with exquisite exactness our common attitude to-day; and voices, as scarcely any other single sentence could, our profoundest thought and feeling. We behold at this hour a many peopled empire bowed down mourning; and almost all other nations sharing in our sorrows; but it is not over the death of a mere monarch, however mighty, the whole earth thus feels moved to unfeigned lamentation.
I. It is the death of the representative MOTHER of our race and age that bids us wrap our mourning robes around us. For any record of such another we ransack in vain the treasure stores of all history. She is the only mother that ever reigned in her own right over any potent realm; and certainly over our own. Queen Mary of unhappy memory, died childless, and her more fortunate sister, "Good Queen Bess," went down to her grave a maiden queen; but in the case of Victoria, four sons and five daughters found their earliest cradle in her queenly arms. She is said to have been in almost all respects as capable as the ablest of her predecessors, and was even to extreme old age unsparingly devoted to the discharge of her royal duties. Yet not by reason of her laboriousness, her linguistic gifts, or gifts of statesmanship will she be longest and most lovingly remembered. Put it on record, as her chief glory, that in her own person she honoured family life and kept it pure, when for generations such pureness had seldom been suffered to show its face. Her most popular portraits represent her as the centre of a group of her own children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren--a chain of living royalties reaching to the fourth generation. It was never so seen in Israel before; and thus have been linked to the throne of England by potent blood bonds almost all the Protestant royalties of Europe. The Queen retained to the last a heart that was young, because to the last she lived in tenderest relationship to the young. I cannot therefore even imagine a more beautifully appropriate or suggestive message than that by which the new King conveyed to the Lord Mayor of London, tidings of the great Queen's death:--
"My beloved Mother passed peacefully away, at 6.30, surrounded by her children and grandchildren."
In the midst of her children she lived; and all fittingly in the midst of her children she died!
As her most signal virtues were of the domestic type, so also her acutest sorrows were domestic. A father's strongly tender love, or wisely-watchful care, she never knew. In one sad year there was taken from her her long-widowed mother, and her almost idolized husband, Albert the Good.
"Who reverenced his conscience as his king;
Whose glory was redeeming human wrong;
Who spake no slander, no, nor listened to it;
... thro' all the tract of years,
Wearing the white flower of a blameless life."
Concerning that great sorrow, the Queen was wont in homely phrase to say that it made so large a hole in her heart, all other sorrows dropped lightly through. Nevertheless of other sorrows too she was called to bear no common share. As you are all well aware, two of the daughters of our widowed Queen have themselves long been widows. Two of her sons perished in their ripening prime. Her favourite daughter, the Princess Alice, and her favourite grandson, the heir-presumptive to her throne, drooped beside her like flowers untimely touched by frost; and within the last few weeks we ourselves have seen yet another of her grandsons laid beneath the sod in this very city of Pretoria. Nor is it with absolutely unqualified regret we call to mind that notably sad event. Like many another of lowlier name he died in the service of his queen--and ours; and perchance the Queen herself rebelled, not as against an utterly unfitting thing, when thus called in her own person to share the griefs of those among her own people, whom recent events have made so desolate.
Reverentially we may venture to say that in all afflictions she was afflicted, and thus endeared herself to those she ruled as no other monarch ever did. Because she was Queen of Sorrows she became also Queen of Hearts.
That of which we have just spoken was indeed her last sore bereavement; and now that to her who shed such countless tears there has come the end of all grief, we have therewith witnessed the full and final prevailings of her Laureate's familiar prayer:--
"May all love
His love unseen, but felt, o'ershadow thee;
The love of all thy sons encompass thee,
The love of all thy daughters cherish thee,
The love of all thy people comfort thee:
Till God's love set thee at his side again."
The day she ceased to breathe was to her as a new, a nobler bridal day. The wife has found her long-lost consort; the mother is at home!
II. Queen Victoria was not merely a model mother in the narrow circle of her own household. She was emphatically the mother of her people--a people multitudinous as the stars of the midnight sky. One fourth of the inhabitants of the entire globe gladly submitted to her gentle sway. The vastest sovereignties of the ancient world were mere satrapies compared with the length and breadth of her domain, and to-day east, west, north and south bow down beneath a common sorrow beside her bier. In synagogue and mosque and temple, in kirk and church of every class and creed, men render thanks for one "who wrought her people lasting good," and humbly own before their God that
"A thousand claims to reverence closed
In her, as mother, wife, and queen."
Almost as a matter of course this monarch and mother of many nations became more and more liberal-minded and large-hearted. For her to have become a bigot would have been a very miracle of perverseness. She rejoiced in all true progress in all places, and made the sorrows of the whole world her own. Famine in the East Indies, or a desolating hurricane in the West, called forth from her an instant telegram of queenly sympathy or, it may be, a queenly gift. Every effort for the betterment of her people awoke her liveliest interest. The east end of London, only less well than the west, was known to her. From Windsor to Woolwich she recently went in midwinter, that with her own hand she might distribute flowers among her wounded soldiers, and with her own lips speak to them words of solace. At that same inclement season she crossed the Irish Channel to show her vulnerable face once more among her Irish people, and I should not marvel if for such a queen some would even dare to die!
It was ever with the simplicity of a sister of the people rather than with the symbolic splendours of a sovereign, she went in and out among us. In the full pomp and pageantry of her high position she seemed to find no special pleasure. Even on Jubilee Day, when her presence crowned the superbest procession England ever saw, she looked immeasurably more like a mighty mother of her martial sons than like a majestic monarch in the midst of her exulting subjects. Filial love and filial loyalty that day reached their climax. Till then the best informed knew not how truly she was the mother of us all!
III. Her prodigious hold upon the hearts of her people was largely due to the unexampled length of her reign.
That she ever reigned is one of the many marvels of divine mercy found in the history of our native land. Note that her father was not the first, but the fourth son of old King George III.; that the three elder sons all died childless, and that her own father died within a few months of her birth. Victoria seems to have been as truly a special gift of God to England as Samuel was to Israel. This longest of all reigns was unmarred by any break of any kind from first to last. Had our princess come to the throne only a few months earlier a regency must have been proclaimed, and had she lingered a few months longer increasing infirmities might have forced that same calamity upon us. But through God's mercy hers was a full orbed reign. There was no abdication of her power for a single day. The first serious illness of her life was also her last, and to her it was granted to cease at once to work and live.
So long ago as September 1852, when her devoted friend and adviser, the famous Duke of Wellington, died, she pathetically said "I shall soon stand sadly alone"; then naming one after another of her recent intimates she added "They are all gone!" That of necessity became increasingly true in the course of the remaining half century of her life. Not one among the many friends of her youth remained at her side amid the deepening shadows of her eventide. Surrounded by new acquaintances and new kinships a loneliness was hers, which few of us are ever likely in any similar measure to experience.
Every throne in Europe except her own has witnessed repeated changes in the course of her strangely eventful career, sometimes as the result of appalling revolutions ans sometimes as the fruit of a dastardly assassin's dagger; but amid all He who was Abraham's shield and exceeding great reward deigned to compass our Queen with songs of deliverance. Never was any monarch so much prayed for; and that she may long reign over us is a petition that in special measure has prevailed. Not three score years and ten, but four score years and two, have been the days of the years of her life, and now that the inevitable end has come, no voice of complaining is heard in our streets. Such a death we commemorate with thankful song!
IV. The Queen's whole reign was frankly based on the fear of God; and to find such in English history I fear we shall have to travel back a full thousand years to the days of Alfred the Great, who was also Alfred the Good, and whose favourite saying was
"Come what may come,
God's will be welcome!"
When Victoria was still a girl of fifteen she was solemnly confirmed in the Chapel Royal, and in her case that impressive service manifestly meant--what alas, it does not always imply--a life henceforth wholly given to God.
At two o'clock in the morning of June 21st, 1837, she was roused from her slumbers in old Kensington Palace, and hastily flinging a shawl over her nightdress, she presently stood in the presence of the Lord Chamberlain and the Archbishop of Canterbury, to learn from their lips that her royal uncle had given up the ghost, and that she, a trembling maid of just eighteen, was Queen. Thereupon, so we are told, her eyes filled with tears, her lips quivered, and turning to the Archbishop she said, "Pray for me!" So that instant all three lowly bowed imploring heaven's help. The Queen began her reign upon her knees. Her first act of conscious royalty was thus to render heartfelt homage to "The Prince of the kings of the earth." Hence came it to pass
"Her court was pure, her life sincere."
Her favourite recreations were consequently not those provided by the ballroom, the card-table, the racecourse, or even the theatre. Music, the simple charms of country life, and, manifold ministries of mercy, were the pastimes that became her best; and she never appeared in the eyes of her people more truly royal than when seen sitting by the bedside of a Highland cottager, reading to the sick out of God's own Gospel the wonderful words of life.
We are here at liberty to use a scriptural phrase and to add that she "married in the Lord." Royal etiquette required that the Queen should herself select the lover destined to share the pleasures and responsibilities of her high position, and her choice fell not on one renowned for gaiety, for wealth or wit, but on one in whom she recognised the double gift of abounding good sense and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. For a choice so supremely wise, and for a marriage so supremely happy, all thoughtful Englishmen still render thanks to God.
Her piety was as broad as it was deep and practical. The head of the Anglican Church, when in England she worshipped with Anglicans only; but when in Scotland she no less regularly repaired to the Presbyterian Kirk, and only a few months ago gave expression to her warm appreciation of the work done for God and man by "The people called Methodists." She would tolerate no intolerance in things pertaining to godliness, and on her Jubilee Day insisted that all creeds should be invited to join in one common act of worship. For that reason among others the Queen required that historic service should be held in the open air, on the steps, it is true, of our stateliest cathedral; but none the less under God's own arching sky, which makes the whole earth a temple. We owe not a little of our religious liberty to the personal influence and example of our much lamented Queen; and we, therefore, show ourselves worthy to have been her subjects, only when we shun utterly all indifference concerning things divine, yet give no place to bigotry; when we seek out not the worst, but the best, in every man, and honestly strive to make the best of that best.
V. With the new century we suddenly find ourselves subjects of a new Sovereign, and with equal sincerity, if not with equal fervour, we say, "God save the King." May his reign also like that of his predecessor bring blessing to many lands! We crave not for him, and seek not in him, unexampled greatness. We desire chiefly that he may "love mercy, do justly, and walk humbly with his God." His rich legacy of newly-created loyalty he will thus assuredly retain and augment.
It is commonly said that this new century, like the last, has begun with a notable lack of notable men, but, nevertheless, never yet have we been left without trusty leaders in the hour of national necessity; and as it has been so will it be!
"We thank Thee, Lord, when Thou hast need,
The man aye ripens for the deed!"
Yet the new century clamours importunately, not so much for great men, as for good men. All greatness perishes that is not broad based on godliness. The best gift for this new era that God Himself can bestow upon our people, is the grace of deep-toned repentance, an impassioned love of righteousness, a never flinching resolve to walk in newness of life; for then will the brightness of even the Victorian era be splendidly outshone, and heaven itself will hasten to make all things new. We who believe in Christ have learned to say:--
"Oh Thou bleeding Lamb
The true morality is love of Thee!"
Along that same path of love divine lies also the truest patriotism and the speediest perfecting of our national life. I pray you, therefore, let the God of your late Queen be yet more completely your God; her Saviour your Saviour; and make this Memorial Service doubly memorable by bowing this moment at His feet,
"In full and glad surrender."
[Sidenote: The King's Coronation.]
On Saturday, March 22nd, 1902, Schalk Burger, late State-Secretary Reitz, and General Lucas Meyer are reported to have appeared in Pretoria, presumably with a view to the submission of those they represent to the sovereign authority of our new King, whose approaching Coronation, Pretoria, even while I write, is preparing to celebrate with unexampled splendour. It is intended to break all previous festival records, and some of the Guards may only too probably still be there to share therein. But that is quite another story, and must find for itself quite another historian. Meanwhile--
"*God send His people peace!*"