But the unusually severe winter of 1819-20 induced the Duke and Duchess to visit Sidmouth, for the sake of the mild climate of Southern Devonshire. At Salisbury Cathedral, to which he made an excursion during the frosty weather, the Duke caught a slight cold, which, after his return to Sidmouth, became serious, owing, it would seem, to neglect and imprudence. According to the medical custom of those days, the patient was copiously bled, and not improbably owed his death to the exhaustion thus occasioned. He expired on the 23rd of January, 1820, in his fifty-third year; and so small were his means that he left the Duchess and the Princess totally devoid of maintenance. Such was the statement made long afterwards by Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, who was with his sister during the days of her trial and bereavement. Soon after the fatal event, the Prince accompanied the widowed lady to London, where addresses of condolence were voted by both Houses of Parliament. The address of the Commons was presented by Lords Morpeth and Clive, when the Duchess of Kent appeared with the infant Princess in her arms.
Distant View of Windsor Castle
William IV. was a man of very moderate abilities; but a certain simplicity and geniality of character had secured for him the regard and respect of the people, and had carried him through the revolutionary epoch of the Reform Bill with no great loss of popularity, even at a time when he was supposed to be unfriendly to the measure. For the last two years he had ceased to take any interest in the political tendencies of the day, while discharging the routine duties of his high office with conscientious regularity.
In the dawn of June 20th, 1837, immediately after the death of King William IV., the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chamberlain left Windsor for Kensington, to convey the tidings to his late Majesty’s successor. They reached the Palace about five o’clock in the morning, and knocked, rang, and beat at the doors several times before they could obtain admission. When at length the porter was aroused, the visitors were shown into one of the lower rooms, where a long time passed without any attention being paid them. Growing impatient, they rang the bell, and desired that the attendant on the Princess Victoria might be sent to inform her Royal Highness that they requested an audience on business of importance. Another long delay ensued, and again the bell was rung, that some explanation might be given of the difficulty which appeared to exist. On the Princess’s attendant making her appearance, she declared that her Royal Highness was in so sweet a sleep that she could not venture to disturb her. It was now evident that stronger measures must be taken, and one of the visitors said, “We have come on business of State to the Queen, and even her sleep must give way to that.” The attendant disappeared, and a few minutes afterwards the young sovereign came into the room in a loose white robe and shawl, her fair hair falling over her shoulders, her feet in slippers, her eyes dim with tears, but her aspect perfectly calm and dignified