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At “Grand Mama’s Court”


When we look back upon our childhood, all memories come to us through a haze of mystery. Everything seems larger, deeper, further off, full of unraveled possibilities, unexplained…

In later life things never come to us quite in this way. And looking back, I see Queen Victoria or Grand Mama ‘Grand Mama Queen’ as we used to call her to distinguish her from other Grand mama in far-off Russia who was ‘Grand Mama Empress’.

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

And I see ‘Grand Mama Queen’ come towards me down the long, long corridor leaning on her stick. She is all in botchy black silk with a white widow’s cap on her head and she is a tiny weeny old lady, quite, quite small. Tap, tap, goes her stick… and as the long Windsor corridor has a bend in it I hear the tap, tap long before I see her herself and it is extraordinary how the tap, tap of, that stick could make our children’s hearts beat. Then she was there before us and though she was tiny, we were in those days tinier still and she bent towards us to kiss our foreheads whilst we kissed her hand. She was being helped along by an Indian dressed in scarlet, or was it by a Scotchman in kilts? No that was still longer ago – in later years she always leaned upon the arm of one of her Indians: ‘They have such a soft touch’ she used to say.Grand Mama!… and her voice was shy when she talked to us, even her smile was shy, for strange as it may seem, Queen Victoria had something shy about her till the last days of her life. She had tiny even white teeth and just a wee foreign accent when she spoke; and she filled us with awe. Yes awe! That is the only word that adequately expresses it – awe. She was like a living legend, all around her was a halo of royalty that made you feel her presence even a long way off.

She was not an imposing figure, she was not beautiful to look at, nor haughty, nor gorgeously dressed, but she was ‘royal’ through and through astoundingly, fearfully royal. Old and young, felt it, her family her servants, her subjects and so to say even; ‘the stranger within her gaits’. Her personality must have been tremendous because all that had to do with her was imbued with that awe – inspiring feeling. Her ways were simple, she herself was simpler still and yet what a thrill it gave us to seen Queen Victoria’s  outrider come trotting down the ‘Long Walk’ or turning out of one of the hedged lanes on the Isle of Wight, just an oldish man in plain black livery on a sleek gray horse. Trot-trot he came, at a sober equal pace, there was about the sound of that trotting horse something which reminded us of the tap-tap of that stick heard before Queen Victoria herself appeared round the bend in the corridor  …

Queen Victoria & family

Queen Victoria & family - Diana Mandache collection

For us children that room was a regularly treasure – island of discovery. According to the taste of the day it was a very full room crowded with tables, chairs, footstools, pictures, photographs, portraits and a thousand and one souvenirs stood row upon row in every corner, treasures collected during a very long life full of honors, events, grieves and joys. Perhaps it was not a very beautiful room – the Victorian age is not noted for the excellence of its taste but seeing is still through child – hood’s eyes, I see it fearfully excitingly interesting, especially the corner where the bullfinch throned in its shining cage and another infinitely more mysterious corner where there were pictures and photographs of all the dead Uncles and Aunts, and even of dead little children with withered flowers under the glass which protected them, and sad colorless  little curls of hair (Source RNA)

©Diana Mandache and https://royalromania.wordpress.com 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

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