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Opening of the Great Exhibition, Hyde Park. (After the Picture by Eugène Lamé.) Source: Life and Times, facing p. 482).

Though some of the Royal Family, like the Duke of Cambridge, were afraid that there might be a riot on the opening day, the Queen was not affected in the least by their warnings, asserting that she had the completest faith in the good sense, good humour, and chivalrous loyalty of her people. Nor was this confidence misplaced. On the day of the opening, she was received with passionate demonstrations of loyal enthusiasm from the crowds, amounting in the aggregate to about 700,000 persons, who came forth to see her pass. As for those who entered the building, they seemed awestruck with astonishment at the brilliant scene, radiant with life and colour, which lay before their eyes.

At half-past eleven on the 1st of May the Royal cortège left the Palace, and filed along in a stately procession through the enormous crowds who swarmed in the Green Park and in Hyde Park. "A little rain fell," writes the Queen, "just as we started, but before we came near the Crystal Palace the sun shone and gleamed upon the gigantic edifice, upon which the flags of all the nations were floating. We drove up Rotten Row, and got out at the entrance on that side. The glimpse of the transept through the iron gates, the waving palms, flowers, statues, myriads of people filling the galleries and seats around, gave us a sensation which I can never forget, and I felt much moved. We went for a moment to a little side roomj where we left our shawls, and where we found Maria and Mary [now Princess of Teck], and outside which were standing the other Princes. In a few seconds we proceeded, Albert leading me, having Vicky at his right hand and Bertie [Prince of Wales] holding mine. . . . The tremendous cheers, the joy expressed in every face, the immensity of the building, the mixture of palms, flowers, trees, statues, fountains, the organ (with 200 instruments and 600 voices, which soxmded like nothing), and my beloved husband, the author of this 'Peace-Festival,' which united the industry of all nations of the earth — all this was moving indeed, and it was and is a day to live for ever."*

When the National Anthem had been sung. Prince Albert, at the head of the Commissioners, read their Report to the Queen. She in turn read a short reply. A brief prayer was offered by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and then the "Hallelujah Chorus" was sung. The grand State procession of all the dignitaries was then formed, and walked along the whole length of the crowded nave amidst deafening cheers. "Every one's face," writes the Queen in her Diary, "was bright and smiling, many with tears in their eyes. Many Frenchmen called out 'Vive la Reine!' . . . . The old Duke and Lord Anglesey walked arm in arm, which was a touching sight." When the procession returned to the point from which it started. Lord Breadalbane proclaimed the Exhibition open in the name of the Queen, whereupon there was a flourish of trumpets and more cheering. "Everybody," writes the Queen, "was astonished and delighted. Sir George Grey (Home Secretary) in tears."

On the way home her Majesty again met with a magnificent reception. After entering the Palace, she and the Prince showed themselves on the balcony and bowed their adieus to the vast throng, whose loyal shouts rent the air. The most perfect order was maintained, and, writes the Queen, "the wicked and absurd reports of dangers of every kind which a set of people, namely, soi-disant fashionables and the most violent Protectionists spread, are silenced, ..... I must not," she adds, "omit to mention an interesting episode of this day, namely, the visit of the good old Duke on this his eighty-second birth- day to his little godson, our dear little boy.** He came to us both at five, and gave him a golden cup and some toys, which he himself had chosen, and Arthur gave him a nosegay." From every quarter congratulations on the complete success of the day poured in upon the Queen, and though 700,000 spectators lined the route between the Exhibition and the Palace, no accidents and not a single police case could be traced to this enormous gathering of sightseers. [481-82]

* Martin's Life of the Prince Consort. Ch.v. XLII.

** Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught.

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The Life and Times of Queen Victoria, with which is incorporated "The domestic life of the Queen," by Margaret Oliphant. London: Cassell, 1902. Internet Archive. Contributed by Cornell University Library. Web. 6 October 2017.

Created 6 October 2017