Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Victoria and Ella are confirmed

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March 31, 1880

It was a "beautiful and radiant" day today in Darmstadt, where Queen Victoria witnesses the confirmation of two of her granddaughters, Princesses Victoria and Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine. Victoria, the elder at 17, was named for her maternal grandmother, and Elisabeth, 16, received the name of her paternal grandmother, Princess Elisabeth of Prussia.

Both young ladies, according to the Times' dispatch, "are tall and well grown for their age, with very fair hair, light blue eyes, and fresh complexion." They bear a "striking resemblance to their aunt, Princess Beatrice, and still more to their cousin, Princess Charlotte, eldest daughter of the German Crown Prince." Charlotte, who is married to the Hereditary Grand Duchess of Saxe-Meiningen, arrived in Darmstadt last night with her father, "to witness a ceremony in which she herself was not so very long ago the main actor."

Today's ceremony took place in the Grand Ducal Chapel of the old Castle, which is often used by the English colony. The Court chapel "seems well suited to supply the scanty ritualistic wants of a Sovereign family who adhere to the Lutheran form of worship.

The Cross and the Communion vessels were placed on the altar. "Verdant palms and tropical plants" were places on each side of the chapel. The two princesses sat in the front, and were encircled by two rows of chairs for the "most illustrious participators in the ceremony."

Guests included members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited in Darmstadt, representatives from Hesse and Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, ministers of state, government officials and members of Victoria's Household.

Queen Victoria, leading her granddaughter, Princess Victoria, and supported by their father, Grand Duke Louis, made their way down the aisle and to their seats. Princess Elisabeth was escorted by her paternal grandmother.
Victoria's mourning dress was "relieved by bands and edging of white, took her seat next to her son-in-law.

The Prince of Wales, wearing his Field Marshall uniform with full orders, escorted the Grand Duchess of Baden, and the Princess of Wales followed with the German Crown Prince. The other royal guests sitting in the first two rows with the confirmands were the Hereditary Grand Duchess of Saxe-Meiningen and Prince Heinrich of Hesse.

Victoria and Elisabeth, who is known as  Ella, were dressed in "white silk dresses and mantillas of the same colour, deeply edged with swans' down.

The German Lutheran service, which opened with an anthem, is not very different from "the English ritual."

Dr. Sell, the Lutheran clergyman, who "superintended" the Princess' religious education, gave a sermon, "though long, was never wearisome, being full of practical wisdom." This was also a bittersweet day for Princess Victoria and Princess Ella as they had to "listen to frequent mentions of their departed mother and her numerous virtues." The Queen was also "deeply affected" by the pastor's sermon.

The two princesses were catechized, and their answers to the pastor's questions were "alternately in the usual way, sometimes very long, being returned in a way which argued both surprising strength of nerve and length of memory on the part of the intending communicants."

The consecration followed, as the Princesses knelt before the altar, and each minister "laid each a hand on their heads and pronounced them responsible members of the Christian Church."

This was followed by the choir singing "Praise the Lord, O my soul," and with the Blessing, "the simple and affecting ceremony was over."

The Queen, deeply moved by the ceremony, rose and left the chapel, followed by her two granddaughters. She was followed by Princess Karl (Elisabeth) and the stopped for the Prince of wales who stooped to kiss her hand.

After all the other guest left the chapel, the Queen, accompanied by Princess Beatrice, Grand Duke Louis and his brother, Heinrich, "returned to the altar to the Sacrament with her two granddaughters."

A luncheon was held at the old castle, where the queen is staying. In the afternoon, the Prince and Princess of Wales drove out with their "newly confirmed nieces," who were dressed in sable. Victoria, accompanied by Princess Beatrice and the Grand Duke, rode out in an open carriage to the Rosenhohe to visit the mausoleum, where her daughter, Alice, and two grandchildren, Friedrich and Marie, were laid to rest. The Queen left a wreath of violets and white and yellow immortelles. The inscription read: A mark of tenderest love and affection from her broken-hearted mother."

Victoria spent about 15 minutes at her daughter's grave before returning to the castle. She is expected to visit a hospital, supported by the late Grand Duchess Alice, tomorrow. The Grand Duchess died on December 14, 1878.

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