Category Archives: mothers

A King’s Foster-Mother: 1910

Mrs Ann Roberts King George V nurse

KING’S NURSE POOR

Foster Mother of George V Living in Dire Poverty.

 LONGS FOR HER OLD HOME

Hopes Sovereign She Mothered Will Provide for Her.

SACRIFICED HER OWN BABE

Daughter Died While She Was in Attendance on Great Britain’s Future Ruler.

 

 Is Living in Poverty.

Special Dispatch to The Star.

PITTSBURG. Pa., September 10. Mrs Ann Roberts, foster-mother of George V, King of England, has been discovered in poverty here. Mrs. Roberts lost one of her own babes through her attendance upon the infant prince. The royal physicians and retainers would not inform her of own child’s Illness for fear the milk with which she was nourishing the future King of England might become feverish and do him harm. Mrs. Roberts at the suggestion of friends, is writing the English sovereign of her condition and asking some recognition at his hands for what she did for him as an infant. Mrs. Roberts Is the mother of Capt. Henry A. Roberts of the Volunteers of America. She is a native of Wales. She has been living for the past several years with her brother, Richard W. Edmunds of Nunnery Hill, North Side. She was a member of the royal household of Great Britain for ten months and three days. Her own child died in the night without her knowing that she had even been ill. Mrs. Roberts is the only woman in the world who ever nursed the King of England,  including his own mother.

Husband a Tradesman.

Mrs. Roberts went from Bethesda, North Wales, when quite a young girl to seek service in London. She was eventually married there. Her husband was a respectable tradesman, residing close to Buckingham Palace. They were happy and prospered. Among their friends were some of the most influential Welsh people in London. Among these was a Mrs. Jones, then of 20 Hills street. Knightsbridge, also a Welsh woman. Mrs. Jones was a great favorite with the late Queen Victoria, under whom she held authority to select and engage all the domestics for the royal nursery. Mrs. Roberts was then a comely young matron, of splendid physique, and in the enjoyment of perfect health and a robust constitution, which had been developed while romping as a girl over the rock-bound and heather-clad hills of her native Wales.

Mrs. Roberts was at that time about to become a mother. She knew, as did all Britain, that the then Princess Alexandra had similar expectations. Mrs Roberts had a dream in which it appeared to her that she had been selected to nurse the expected child of royalty. Within a day or two thereafter, not then knowing the full extent of Mrs. Jones’ authority, Mrs. Roberts called on her and related her strange dream, and told her also of her seemingly impossible ambition. The surprise of Mrs. Roberts may be imagined when Mrs. Jones informed her that if it was her wish she would then and there appoint her to the position, provided, of course, that the royal physicians approved of her choice.

Passed by Royal Physician.

After the birth of her child, a beautiful girl baby. Mrs. Roberts was ordered by a royal messenger to call on Dr. Farr, one of the royal physicians, in Harley street. Mayfair, who, after a thorough examination and many questions as to family history, pronounced Mrs. Roberts to be in every way fitting to become the foster mother of a royal prince. Mrs. Roberts then applied for permission to spend a few days at her old home in Bethesda, in order that she might see her brothers and sisters and visit the graves of her parents. She had intended to leave for Wales the last day of May, 1865, but becoming uneasy lest her services might suddenly be called for, she hesitated, changed her mind, and finally abandoned the trip.

“It was well that I did so,” said Mrs. Roberts, relating the strange story of her entrance upon royal service, “for on the night of June couriers were sent to Bethesda to fetch me at once. Mounted messengers scoured the hills around my old home all of that night in search of me. My people in Wales, who knew nothing of my appointment, were thrown into consternation and terror. Royal couriers implied nothing but terror to them. They probably concluded that their poor Ann had committed some terrible crime.

“All of this time I had remained in London, and the city bulletins had informed me of the state of affairs I reported for duty at 10 o’clock on the morning of June and began immediately to nurse and to mother the little baby prince, George. I had left my own child in the care of an older sister, who was to manage the household and dairy business for my husband while I was away. A few days after my departure my own baby was taken ill. It pined for its mother, but I was not acquainted with the fact. One of the doctors of the royal household called to see her each day. The child died on the eighth day without my even knowing that she had been ill.

Blow a Cruel One.

“I will never forget the hour that I was told that my beautiful child was dead. The cruel news brought me to my knees on the floor of the royal nursery. The splendor of my surroundings appeared to me as so much dross. It seemed to me that I had been turned into a block of cold marble. The loss of my own beautiful child had that effect upon me regarding the little prince that I soon grew almost to believe that he was truly my own child. I was kept in this position just about one year. When my services were no longer required King Edward, then Prince of Wales, sent for me from the nursery to tell me that I had not only won his own esteem, but that of his beautiful Alexandra, and that I was also esteemed and respected by the royal household.

“When I arrived in my own home once more, after nearly a whole year of absence, it was to find that fortune had withdrawn her smiles and that my husband’s business had been ruined. A cattle disease, then raging, had killed nearly all of our good cows, and every penny that we had saved during our time of prospering had been expended in a vain attempt to stem the disastrous flood. On the very afternoon that I arrived a butcher delegated from the cattle commissioners also arrived to kill the last two remaining cows of what had been an excellent dairy. These appalling conditions at home caused me to decide at once to take up nursing as a profession. I immediately arranged to lay out the money I earned In the royal service in a course of nursing and midwifery. In due time I won my diploma in both branches, and nursed among the noble and the great of Great Britain for thirty-five years.”

Nursed Many Notables.

Mrs. Roberts’ old friend, Mrs. Jones, was again able to help her by securing for her the appointment to nurse and foster the first born of the Princess Christian, at Cumberland Lodge. Windsor. Windsor. The popularity of Mrs. Roberts was at once securely established through her connection with the royal nursery. In the years that followed she nursed the Duchess of Abercorn. the Duchess of Iniskillen, the Countess Lutzow, Lady Vivian (now Lady Swansea), the Lady Church and many other among the noble dames of Britain. She has served at Windsor Castle, where to Welsh people of a few centuries ago entrance was far easier than exit; at Marlborough House, Balmoral Castle. Buckingham Palace, Osbourne, Osbourne, Sandringham and Cumberland Lodge in the discharge of her professional duties.

After this long tenure of service Mrs. Roberts at last became so deaf that she did not feel longer competent for the work and declined to take on any new cases. She was then appointed to the Royal Maternities Charities Society, an institution organised by the then Princess Alexandra, now the beloved Dowager Queen of England, and controlled by her and a committee of London ladies. This position Mrs. Roberts held for several years, when, owing to her advanced age and the dangers and hardships of obeying calls In the poorer districts of London at all hours of the night, she resigned of her own accord, the secretary saying to her that she was leaving with an exceptional record of success and that her name should always remain on the roll call of the society. It is a source of great pleasure to Mrs. Roberts now to know that her name remains living and green in the heart of the field wherein she laboured so long and so diligently.

Longs for Native Land.

“Your United States is a great country,”  continued Mrs. Roberts, “but, after all, you will not blame me when I say that I prefer my native land, and it seems to me that there should be a place for me over there. I cannot feel as my brother does here. He has been here for many years: his children have grown up here, and his family and all of his ties are here. But my heart is over there, where now reigns the young prince whom I nursed. Were I over there now I would be entitled to the old folks’ pension, but don’t you think she who nursed the reigning king is entitled to something more than such a pittance? You have possibly read how truly noble and generous the young King of Spain is acting toward his old nurse. He provides for her every comfort, and she is made much of by court and people. Do you think my Prince George would do less for his old nurse? I refuse to believe it.”

Mrs. Roberts wears a heavy gold brooch that was personally presented to her by the then Princess Alexandra upon the occasion of her leaving the royal nursery. The princess told hereupon that occasion that she would be privileged to refer to the little prince, now king as “my boy.” King Edward, then Prince of Wales, presented her at the same time with a heavy gold watch, which she also now has. There is an Inscription on the inside of the back cover which reads: “To Mrs. Roberts, in remembrance of H. R. H. Prince George.”

Has Brooch From Victoria.

She also has another brooch, presented to her by the late Queen Victoria upon the christening of Prince George. On being called to Osborne on another occasion Mrs. Roberts was presented by the queen with two beautiful photographs, with her signature, one of herself and one of the deceased prince consort, informing her at the same time that they were the best photos ever taken of both. These Mrs. Roberts left with a relative on the other side. She says that as poor as she is their weight in gold would not buy them. She did not care to subject them to the hazards of travel. Mrs. Roberts states that when Sir Arthur Bigge is appointed keeper of the privy purse she intends to appeal to him for a statement of her case to the king. She believes that Sir Dighton Probyn, who held this position under the late lamented King Edward, would never allow her protests and supplications to reach his royal master. Mrs. Roberts believes that if her petitions had been presented some action would have been taken on her case long ago. She claims to have some of Sir Probyn’s official letters now in her possession, possession, in which he is alleged to state that nothing could be done for her. Mrs. Roberts gives it as her belief that these are solely the words of a mercenary. She says that King Edward had ever a kind and grateful heart, and was always good to old servitors.

Faith in Lloyd George.

“I have served in Sir Arthur Bigge’s family,” Mrs. Roberts states. “He knows me, and I am sure he will desire to help me. The Right Hon. Lloyd George would also interfere in my behalf if I appealed to him. The greatest Welshman of us all would not suffer an old country woman who has served the same crown for which he labors so energetically to be utterly disregarded. There is only one burden to my poor old soul: I want to go back to spend my few remaining years in my native land, and to be allowed to go to my long rest in that sacred old .spot where my father sleeps.”

Mrs. Roberts was treated with every consideration by the royal household. She was several times invited upon the royal carpet. She enjoyed many pleasant chats with the late Queen Victoria. Sometimes, upon receiving Welsh newspapers, newspapers, the queen would send for her from the nursery and request her to read selections from them and to translate them. She would ask Mrs. Roberts to pronounce some Welsh words and sayings, and she would utter them after her, doing it far better. Mrs. Roberts says, than some of the young Welsh Americans whom she has met since being in this country.

Mrs. Roberts saw the queen in her grief for her beloved prince consort. On one occasion she invited Mrs. Roberts to visit the grand mausoleum wherein rests his remains. She gave Mrs. Roberts the golden key which opens the door thereto, and sent her head dresser to accompany her, graciously saying that she would meet her there at a certain time. Mrs. Roberts says she will never forget the hour she spent there with the widowed queen and the mortal remains of the consort and husband whom she had loved so deeply.

Has Met Other Royalties.

“I have been formally presented to the Empress Frederick, mother of the present Emperor of Germany, and also the Grand Duchess of Hess.” continued Mrs. Roberts. Roberts. “and I have many times attended the different ladies of the family to their balls and parties. These royal ladies know very well how to show little marks of esteem to favorite servants. I have had them more than once hand their fans to me to hold while their own ladies in waiting would be at their elbows, and, to their credit be it said. I never saw any of these ladies in waiting evince any sign of displeasure at such marked favors.

“All of Victoria’s children, with the possible exception of Princess Beatrice, were very affable and chatty with servants and dependents. The Princess Beatrice (the youngest) was brought up under somewhat different surroundings from the others. Her good father was taken sick while she was yet a child in arms, and she grew up to be the daily companion of her sorrowing mother. This, I always thought, was the reason for her being more reserved and distant than the other children.

“When I was nursing the Duchess of Abercorn the Princess Alexandra came in person to call on her friend, and was surprised and pleased to find me in attendance. It was our first meeting since my departure from her service. She greeted me warmly and shook hands with me, as would any good woman, and made inquiries as to how I was getting along. I was also all impatience to ask questions regarding the little prince and was tempted to tell her how much I should like to see him. I knew he was by this time quite a boy, big enough to romp and play with his elder brother, Prince Albert Victor.

Paid Visit by Prince.

“On leaving the princess called for me and told me that, if such was my wish, she would arrange with the Canon Dalton, then tutor to the princes, for him to accompany them on an afternoon visit to me in a day or two. They came, and I had my hands full for that afternoon. They romped and blew soap bubbles, as would any pair of ordinary healthy boys, and both had a splendid time, untrammelled by court etiquette and unwatched by tutors.

“The late Prince Albert Victor once asked his royal mother why Prince George was ‘my boy’ any more than himself. He was answered that he would be told when he became a man, and that he was to understand that Mrs. Roberts was his dear friend also, and that she had been very good to him. “When Prince George was elected chancellor of the University of Wales, at Bangor, he caused his private secretary, Sir Arthur Bigge, to send me a letter of invitation to attend the celebration. I had at that time a very important and serious case of nursing on my hands, and so sent my son to represent me. I have always regretted that I was unable to attend, for I lost there an opportunity of meeting the boy whom I love so well.

Welsh Expect Great Things.

“Have you ever stopped to think that the Welsh people have a right to expect great things from the new king? There never was a better time than the present to agitate the question of securing the representation of Wales on the national flag. I firmly believe that he suckled my own love of kin and country with his sustenance. One of the royal doctors told me at one time, when speaking of the honor connected with my distinction, that he never was quite sure which one of us was the most honored. ‘But.’ said he, with a twinkle in his eye, “let us hope that your boy will prove a good and wise man, and that he will inherit the good traits of his Welsh foster mother.’

“The doctor was an old man at that time, and a wise and good one, but at that time it was not for him or myself to see that Prince George, who was the second in ‘advance right’ claim, would ascend the throne. But since the death of his elder brother I have often found myself repeating the old doctor’s words, ‘Let us hope that he will be a good man and a wise one.’

“Often, while holding him in my arms, and thinking of the beautiful child I had sacrificed for him, I would wonder over the possibility of his succeeding to the throne, and would pray God to bless him with a kind and loving heart, so that, when the time came, if fate ordained it so, he would prove a tower of strength and a blessing, not only to his own subjects, subjects, but to the wide, wide world. His, wise and great father, and his saintly grandmother have already given us proof what England’s monarchs can do for the welfare of the world, and I feel like prophesying that King George will follow in their footsteps, with the good of mankind in its entirety as the motive principle of his actions. May God bless him.”

Evening Star [Washing DC] 11 September 1910: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Roberts is a good deal more charitable to her former employers than Mrs Daffodil would have been. Gold brooches and watches, no matter how heavy or suitably inscribed, are, indeed, dross, when it comes to the death of Mrs Robert’s daughter and the doctors’ odious decision (based on the mistaken belief in “maternal influence”) not to tell Mrs Roberts that the tiny infant was ill and pining for her mother. It is possible that the child was ill with a disease untreatable at the time, such as diphtheria, even had her mother been able to nourish her, but at least Mrs Roberts would have been there to hold the child in her last moments. For the Royal physicians, the phrase “special place in Hell” springs to mind.

In the interests of space, Mrs Daffodil will omit her trenchant remarks on the “favour” shown to Mrs Roberts by the ladies who condescended to hand her their fans to hold.

Captain Henry Roberts, Mrs Roberts’s son was incensed at the headlines about Mrs. Roberts living in poverty and issued a corrective statement:

“I was absolutely dumbfounded at receiving a clipping from some Rochester papers saying that Mrs. Ann Roberts, royal nurse, was found here in poverty…As to her being in poverty, she has always paid her own expenses, and has jewels and other gifts to her from royalty. Immediatley upon her arrival here she deposited a good sum of money and jewels in my care until she needs them. In fact, she wants us to purchase some property and make a permant home here, but we decline to do that, as she is very fond of old England and often speaks of returning there after a while.”

He stated that he gave the true version of the story to an editor who interviewed his mother, but that “distortions of the facts have since appeared in several papers.” Democrat and Chronicle [Rochester NY] 8 July 1910: p. 15

Still, Mrs Roberts’s story did come to the eye of the proper authorities and her story has something of a happy ending:

A few weeks ago Mrs. Roberts sailed again for England, and upon her arrival at London she was called upon by a representative of King George, who stated, that he had been sent to learn what could be done for her comfort. She informed him that it was her desire to have a little home of her own among the hills of her own native Wales, in Carnavonshire, and preferably on the Penrhyn estate. Lord Penrhyn was instructed to find a cottage for this purpose and to have it fitted up with all the necessary comforts and she was also told that a substantial annuity was to be settled on her. Word has already been received by her relatives in this country that Mrs. Roberts is comfortably provided for for her remaining years. Bennington [VT] Banner 13 December 1910: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Advertisements

The Crying Child: 1880s

“ONE OF THESE LITTLE ONES ”

By E. M. DUCAT

Mr. and Mrs. Davis are Anglo-Indians, the most hospitable of a proverbially hospitable class. Mr. Davis is also a great sportsman. In India, during one cold weather, they were exceedingly kind to, and entertained for several weeks, a certain Mr. Thompson, who had been, previously, a complete stranger to them, but who had come to their part of the country for big game shooting, and between whom and Mr. Davis a great friendship had sprung up, on account of their mutual sporting proclivities.

On his departure, Mr. Thompson gave a most pressing invitation to his hospitable host and hostess to come, on their return to England, and pay a visit to himself and his wife at their country home in __shire.

Mr. and Mrs. Davis accepted the friendly invitation, and the next time they were home on leave in England they duly paid the visit. They had never before seen Mrs. Thompson, and knew nothing about the family; but Mr. Thompson had told them that his children were grown up, and had left home.

The evening of their arrival, Mrs. Davis went up rather early to dress for dinner. The door between her room and the large room allotted to her husband as a dressing-room was a-jar. She was pottering about her room, arranging her belongings and settling herself comfortably into her new quarters, when she heard a most piteous sobbing and moaning, which seemed to issue from somewhere close by.

She stopped her occupation and listened. Ever persistently the sounds continued, without intermission —emitted evidently by some child in dire distress, who was crying as if its heart were breaking.

Such inconsolable grief was terrible to hear, and Mrs. Davis felt she could not stand it any longer without trying to find out where the child was and what was the matter with it. The noise sounded so close—apparently in the adjoining room— surely no child could be in there, in her husband’s dressing room? Mrs. Davis advanced towards the communicating door to investigate the affair.As she did so, she caught sight of a small figure at the further end of the large room.

It was a little girl of about four years of age, dressed in a brown-holland over-all tied under the arms with a wide, blue ribbon sash. She stood wringing her hands and moaning, and anon bending down and tearing with her wee fingers, and with an air of despairing pertinacity, at one particular spot in the carpet, while tears coursed down her cheeks and sobs convulsed her tiny frame.

For one instant astonishment arrested Mrs. Davis and held her dumb, gazing at the spectacle; the next, she advanced into the dressing-room, exclaiming with concern—“My poor little girl! What is the matter?”

The child took not the slightest notice of the interruption, but continued her strange behaviour and sobbing, as if she had not heard Mrs. Davis speak. Mrs. Davis walked right across the room towards her.

“Tell me, little one, why are you crying?—and what are you trying to do to that carpet ? ”

She was just about to stoop down and touch the child, when, without uttering a word, it turned suddenly away, and burying its face in its hands, ran, still sobbing, out of the room.

Mrs. Davis followed instantly to the door and gazed up and down the passage, looking to see where the child had gone; but not a trace of it was visible in either direction.

It having vanished into thin air and all sounds of sobbing having completely ceased, Mrs. Davis, after standing for a few minutes irresolute in the doorway, turned back and re-entered the room. When her husband came up to dress, she recounted what had taken place, and wondered who the child was, as Mr. Thompson had told them his children were all grown up, and none of them here.

Mr. Davis agreed that it was rather curious, but suggested that probably the little girl was a grandchild, and said, as his wife seemed so concerned about the matter, that he would ask Mr. Thompson who the child was, and tell him it was in distress over something.

Accordingly when they entered the drawing-room—where Mr. and Mrs. Thompson already were—Mr. Davis went up to Mr. Thompson and remarked—“Didn’t you say your children are all grown up? Is that then your grandchild upstairs, who has been crying in our room?”

Mr. Thompson started violently. He turned a countenance towards Mr. Davis the expression of which dumbfounded the latter. Never had he seen any face express such scared agony.

“There is no child in this house,” said Mr. Thompson hurriedly, in a low voice, and speaking as if with difficulty.

“Oh! but pardon me, my dear fellow, there is!” laughed Mr. Davis, “for my wife saw it not an hour ago! It was in our room, sobbing and crying and seemingly in great distress over something or other. Freda is quite concerned about it, and hopes you will find out what is the matter with the child and do——”

*”Hush-sh!” whispered his host in his ear, laying a restraining hand upon his arm, while he cast an apprehensive glance towards his wife, as if dreading lest she should have overheard Mr. Davis’ speech. ” After dinner I will tell you all about that child; in the meantime, pray say nothing more on the matter. I will explain all, afterwards, in private.”

Following Mr. Thompson’s glance, Mr. Davis perceived that Mrs. Thompson had turned ashy white, was trembling like an aspen and clutching at the edge of the table near her, as if to prevent herself from falling in a faint.

Realizing that he had unwittingly made a faux pas, Mr. Davis hastened, with ready tact, to change the conversation, and welcomed the opportune arrival of the butler, announcing the dinner, as putting an end to a more than proverbially trying mauvais quart d’heure.

After dinner, over their wine, Mr. Thompson, on his own initiative, confided to his friend the following explanation of the skeleton in his cupboard that had that day been laid bare to the gaze of his friends.

The child that Mrs. Davis had seen crying in the bedroom was Mr. and Mrs. Thompson’s own child; but it had been dead for years.

Throughout those years it had continued, at intervals, to appear to various people—always sobbing and wringing its hands and moaning in the broken-hearted manner that Mrs. Thompson had described. It took no notice of any one, and although more than once it had been spoken to by different people who had seen it, it had never paid the slightest attention, nor had it ever replied to any one’s interrogations.

The subject was the more intensely painful to Mr. and Mrs. Thompson, for the reason that the child had died under distressing circumstances, believing itself to be in disgrace and still unforgiven.

The facts were, that the little girl one morning was, as usual, playing in her mother’s room while the latter was dressing, and was amusing herself with her mother’s rings, which were lying on the dressing-table. When the nurse came to fetch the child, it, unknown to any one, went away still holding in its hands one of the rings.

As soon as Mrs. Thompson was dressed, she found that this particular ruby ring was missing, and went at once to the nursery to recover it from the child, who, she felt convinced, must have gone off with it. The children, however, had already departed with the nurse for their walk, and there was no sign of the ring anywhere to be seen.

At midday, when the children returned, Mrs. Thompson immediately sent for the baby and questioned her about the ring. The child at once admitted having taken it, but said she could not tell where it was now, because she had lost it.

Very much vexed, for the ring was a valuable and favorite one, Mrs. Thompson asked the child where she had lost it? The little girl replied that she could not remember.

Mrs. Thompson urged her and coaxed her to try and remember where she had lost it; but all the child would reply was that she had “lost it down a hole,” and whether indoors, or out-of-doors, or where, she could not, or would not, say.

From the child’s manner, Mrs. Thompson felt sure she knew, really, perfectly well where the ring was, but that she didn’t wish to have to part with it, and had, for that reason, hidden it away somewhere on purpose, and refused, willfully, to divulge where.

She therefore told the child that she was a very naughty girl to have taken away the ring and to have lost it, and until she could remember and confess where she had lost it, and restore it, she must consider herself in disgrace.

The child, who was a most sensitive little thing, was very much upset on being told this, and went crying out of the room, reiterating her former asseveration that she could not remember where she had lost the ring, but it was “down a hole.”

Two or three days passed and still the child never divulged where she had put the ring, although she seemed to feel very keenly being in disgrace, and was most unhappy and always begging to be forgiven.

As every one was convinced she could very well tell, if she chose, where “the hole” was, in which she had hidden the ring, it was thought advisable to continue to keep her in disgrace, in order that she might the sooner confess, and the valuable ring be recovered.

Not many days later, however, the child fell ill, and rapidly developed a serious fever. In her delirium she did nothing but rave about the subject of the lost ring. She maintained just what she had declared when well, that she had dropped the ring down some hole, but that she could not remember where the hole was. She implored deliriously for forgiveness.

Mrs. and Mr. Thompson, the nurse, the doctor, every one who attended her bedside, assured her over and over again that she was believed and forgiven,—but in vain. The words conveyed no meaning to the poor little delirious brain ; and it was without regaining consciousness, and while still believing herself to be in disgrace, that the child died.

This was the tale that Mr. Thompson related that night to Mr. Davis, as the two men sat over their wine. The unfortunate father was quite overcome with grief, even at recounting the tragedy. At the conclusion, he said to his friend, in a choked voice—“Neither I nor my wife has ever got over the loss of that child, and this periodic reappearance of our poor little dead girl, still wailing for a forgiveness that we were, and are, unable to make it understand was long ago granted, keeps perpetually opening and bleeding a wound that is too deep ever to heal.”

This painful story, Mr. Davis, at his host’s request, repeated that night to his wife, in explanation of the sight she had witnessed. Miss. Davis, naturally, was much moved at the narration— not only that, she was also greatly excited.

“And has the lost ring never been found?” she inquired eagerly.

Her husband replied no, that he believed that, to that day, it had never been recovered.

“Then I am convinced that where the child was scratching at the carpet is where the ring is! ” exclaimed Mrs. Davis. “It was trying to get at something, in or under the carpet at that spot! That would explain perfectly its extraordinary actions! And all its grief seemed to be caused by its inability to accomplish its purpose! You may be sure that is for what the child comes back!—it wants to recover that ring which it believes must be found before it can obtain its parents’ forgiveness. Do let us ask Mr. Thompson to have the carpet taken up and a search made! I can show the precise spot which the child indicated. Surely it is worth a search!”

“My dear Freda,” replied Mr. Davis, you forget. The child has been dead for years. The carpet must have been up a dozen times between then and now.”

“But no search has ever been made beneath it at that spot, you may be sure ! ” said Mrs. Davis. “Do, do ask to have the carpet taken up that we may see what is under it!”

“I really don’t like to broach the subject again,” said Mr. Davis; “I can’t tell you how frightfully cut up poor Thompson is still about this whole business. He says he shall never get over it. I should hate to have to mention again such a terribly painful subject. We had much better say nothing more about it.”

But Mrs. Davis was so insistent, she prevailed.

Mr. Davis repeated to his host his wife’s remarks and request.

Mr. Thompson said he would be most glad to have a search made if Mrs. Davis would point out the spot. He said that as that room had been the children’s day-nursery formerly, it was quite possible that it was in that room that the ring had been lost by the child, and if the desire to recover and restore the missing property was what prevented the child from resting in her grave, willingly would he order the whole house to be pulled down if there were any chance thereby of obtaining the desired result.

Accordingly, after Mrs. Davis had marked the position where the child stood, the carpet was removed. No ring was to be seen; but there was a tiny chink between two of the boards in the floor, just at that spot.

There had been no carpet in the room in the days it was used as a nursery—the child had always said the ring was “down a hole ”—perhaps it had fallen through that chink in the boards? A carpenter was called in and the boards were taken up.

Beneath, on the lathes of the ceiling of the room below, like a drop of ruddy heart’s-blood, gleamed the red ruby of the long-lost ring!

Many are the years that have now elapsed since that eventful day, but never, during the whole of that time, has any living soul in that house again set eyes on a forlorn little figure, weeping and wailing and wringing its hands.

The Occult Review January 1909: pp. 19-24

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A painful story. Mrs Daffodil hopes that none of her readers would be so unfeeling as to keep a child in disgrace over a piece of jewellery, no matter how prized or valuable. Mrs Daffodil does not like to be severe, but she feels strongly that, although Mrs Thompson suffered dreadfully in the loss of her little daughter, the mother must accept some blame in the matter for leaving the rings on her dressing-table. When finding the ring gone, Mrs Thompson’s first thought was not to suspect the servant of having taken the ring, but that her daughter had pilfered it. This obviously was not the first time; sadly, it was the last…

Eva M. Ducat was a writer of pony stories, the Ponies of Bunts series, written with Marjorie Mary Oliver.  Mrs Daffodil regrets that she does not know any more about Miss Ducat or how she came to write this story.

Mrs Daffodil has previously shared another story of a lost ruby ring and how it was found in this post.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Lily’s Wardrobe: 1877

blue baby shoes embroidered with forget-me-nots 1875-84

Baby shoes embroidered with forget-me-nots. c. 1875-84 https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/pair-of-baby-s-shoes/sgE9W8oo_ImA-A

Which is Best?

“Oh, what shall I do with them?” said a bereaved mother, as she hung over the little garments whose owner had gone to be with the angels. “Can I ever put them out of my sight? Never! Never!” It was only a week since white crape on the door told the passers-by that death had taken a little child from the home. Now the mother had ventured into the nursery to touch the clothing which her darling had made sacred. They were not elegant garments, at least they were not of finest lace and cambric, but every article told of the love which made it. There were no careless stitches, no sparing of pains could be discovered. Fine, dainty, chaste in every detail, they spoke pathetically of the tenderness which fashioned them. And now what could be done with them? A beautiful box was made; it was of satin-wood and silver, and on the handle was graven the name, “Lily.” Into this, between silver paper, and with sprays of rosemary, was laid the tiny wardrobe. Here the mother came to weep, to open afresh the never-healing wound. Here she recalled each precious word, and look and her lost one; here she tried to imagine the little arms again around her neck, the soft cheek pressed to hers.

Her grief became first selfish, then morbid. The luxury of tears forbade exertion, which is one of God’s laws for healthy spiritual development.

One day a friend came. “My dear,” she said, “what is to become of these little things when you can no longer shed tears over them? Are they to be buried, as sweet Lily’s body was when her soul went up to God?”

“Buried?” said the mother. “I do not know; I suppose not.”

“Would you not rather give them away yourself,” said her friend, “than have less loving hands than yours do so?”

“Oh, I could not give away my darling’s clothes. No other child must wear them.”

“Here are a great many garments,” continued her friend; “and think how many little children are in need. I remember Lily always wanted to give to the poor.”

“Yes,” mused the mother.

The friend said no more, but her words sank deep into the stricken heart. Before her great sorrow she had been generous to the needy. Now she remembered with sharp pain that she had forgotten all those who once depended largely on her bounty. One thought suggested another, and soon she saw her future path shining in clear light—the light of love.

With tender memories, but with a strong resolve, the hoarded treasures were brought forth. Little children were made glad, and mothers’ hearts comforted. And did the angel Lily seem farther away for this sacrifice? Oh, no! When the material bond was broken, the mother’s thought went naturally to greet her child in her heavenly joy. Instead of tears of anguish over the earthly relics, there were tears of joy that her darling was so blessed. Did her love lessen? Never. But her power to love deepened as she thought of those things which are eternal, and realized that her child had entered upon them. Harper’s Bazar.

The Republican [Sycamore, IL] 17 October 1877: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A poignant picture of a devastating loss….

While to-day the bereaved are practically required to “get over” their loss in a few weeks so that no one is rendered uncomfortable by the spectre of their sorrow, the Victorians wisely understood the need for a specified time of grief. However, they also understood the unhealthy nature of what alienists now call “complicated grief.” Queen Victoria, for example, was widely criticised for giving way to excessive mourning to the neglect of her duties. Although it may be a later, apocryphal story, it is said that she turned Prince Albert’s death-room into a shrine, directing that his servants continue to lay out his clothes and bring hot water for shaving.  Certainly she insisted on memorialising her mourning in dozens of photos of herself and her children wearing deepest black, gazing sadly at a bust of the late Prince Consort. In the face of rising public discontent, the press dubbed her “The Widow of Windsor” and there were mutterings overheard about dismantling the monarchy. It seemed that none of her family could guide the bereaved Queen into the sensible outlook of Lily’s mother’s friend, although eventually she was persuaded back into public life by her out-spoken servant and confidant, John Brown.

 

For more on the history of Victorian mourning and death, see Chris Woodyard’s The Victorian Book of the Dead, also available for Kindle.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Royal Cradles Through History

The miniature night nursery from Queen Mary's Dolls House. Note the three feathers on the cradle.

The miniature night nursery from Queen Mary’s Dolls House. Note the three feathers on the cradle.

[This is an encore presentation of a post originally published in 2013 on the birth of Prince George.]

Mrs Daffodil joins the entire Empire in heartiest congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their son and future heir to the Throne. It was rather amusing to see the Duke carefully placing the car seat in the approved rear-facing position in the back seat of the family car. Things were not always so regimented. Mrs Daffodil can recall how the present Duke of Edinburgh was evacuated from Greece in 1921 in an orange crate.

Undoubtedly the young prince will sleep in a modern, safety-tested cot. Let us look at some notes on royal cradles of the past. The newspapers were just as full of “gush” over the details of royal nurseries as those of today.

 

Jan Claudius de Cock (1668-1735)  Two Studies of an elaborately decorated Cradle  This may be the cradle mentioned below.

Jan Claudius de Cock (1668-1735)
Two Studies of an elaborately decorated Cradle
This may be the cradle mentioned below.  From Christie’s Auctions.

The Kaiser is always careful that when a birth takes place in his family the ancestral cradle of the Hohenzollerns shall be used. This celebrated cradle is over 200 years old, and is supposed to protect the baby from convulsions and all sorts of childish ailments. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 5 December 1908: p. 14

This passage tells of the birth of the future Prince Regent:

The ladies who went to see the young prince were admitted into the room, about forty at a time. The cradle in which the royal infant lay, was placed on a small elevation, under a canopy of state. The head and the sides, which came no higher than the bed, were covered with crimson velvet, and lined with white satin. – From the head rose an ornament of carved work, gilt, with a coronet in the middle. The upper sheet was covered with a very broad, beautiful Brussels lace, turning over at the top, upon a magnificent quilt of crimson velvet, and gold lace; the whole breadth of the Brussels lace appearing also along the sides, and hanging down from underneath. Near the cradle sat the nurse, with a small velvet cushion lying on her knee, for the babe to rest on; and on each side stood a fair mute, employed as occasion required, to rock the infant to sleep. Memoirs of Her Most Excellent Majesty Sophia-Charlotte, John Watkins  1819

The next cradle was prepared for Queen Victoria’s first child. You will find a shocking article about a purported royal baby switched-at-birth conspiracy here. In any case, history records that the cradle was occupied by the Princess Royal.

Under the heading

Accouchement of Her Majesty the Queen

Preparations to Receive the Royal infant

About three weeks since an order was transmitted from the board of green cloth to Messrs. Seddon, of Gray’s-inn road, the upholsterers to her Majesty, to design and make the cot and two baths for the expected scion of her illustrious house. The talents and ingenuity of the designer of the establishment, a distinguished French artiste, were accordingly called into operation; and a day or two afterwards a drawing was forwarded to the palace for the inspection of her Majesty and her royal consort, who were graciously pleased to signify their approval of the elegance and taste which had been displayed and to order the completion of these most useful appendages of a nursery with all possible dispatch. On Tuesday night the cot was sent home; and as a description of it will doubles be interesting to the public, the reporter attended at Messrs. Seddon’s, by whose kindness he is enabled to give the following particulars, which may be relied upon. The body of the cot is in the shape of that elegant marine shell, the nautilus, being a happy conception of the designer, that the child of the “Ocean Queen” should enjoy its first slumbers and be cradled in a cot whose very form is emblematic of the main strength and glory of its “island home.” The frame-work is of the choicest Spanish mahogany, and the bottom and sides padded and quilted in flutes; the whole of which, inside and out, is covered with rich green silk, embroidered most splendidly with the white rose of England. Between each flute is a circular rib of mahogany, the edges of which are richly gilt. The cot swings between pillars of mahogany standing on plinths, supported by four lion’s feet, beautifully carved and gilt. The canopy is finely scalloped, and hung with silk drapery of the same design as the lining. The whole is gilt and surmounted with the royal crown, and presents a tout ensemble at once classic and unique. The baths are not yet finished, but are being expedited as rapidly as possible, and it is understood that one will be lined with silver and the other with marble. Weekly Chronicle [London, England] 22 November  1840: p. 5

There is one article in the furniture, list which elicited a spontaneous burst of admiration from us all, especially the ladies, who have been used to seeing homely wooden cradles, if not sugar troughs. It is called the “Regia Cot,” [Regina?] I believe and is thus described:

A cradle carved in Turkey boxwood, symbolizing the Union of the Royal House of England with that of Saxe Coburg and Gotha. One end exhibits in the centre the armorial bearings of her Majesty, the Queen, surrounded by masses of foliage, natural flowers and birds; on the rocker beneath, is seen the head of Night, represented as a beautiful sleeping female crowned with a garland of poppies, supported upon bats’ wings, and surrounded by seven planets.

The other end, or the back of the head of the cradle, is devoted to the arms of H. It. H. Prince Albert; the shield occupies the centre, and round it, among the arabesque foliage, the six crests of the Prince are scattered, with the motto, ” Treu und Pest” Below, on the rocker, is discovered a head of ” Somnus,” with closed eyes, and over the chin a wimple, which, on each side, terminates in poppies.

In the interior of the head of the cradle, guardian angels are introduced; and above, the royal crown is imbedded in foliage. The friezes, forming the most important part of the sides of the body of the cradle, are composed of roses, poppies, conventional foliage, butterflies and birds, while beneath them rise a variety of pinks, studied from nature. The edges and the inside of the rockers are enriched with the insignia of royalty and emblems of repose. Have done quick with this royal baby nest! Buckeye Abroad, Or, Wanderings in Europe and in the Orient,  Samuel Sullivan Cox, 1859 

Mrs Daffodil found herself baffled as to the identity of the royal baby supposed to occupy this masterpiece of the woodcarver’s art.  It was probably carved as a compliment to the Royal Family (or in the hope that they would purchase it) and was merely a showpiece at The Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace. Unless it was the cradle Queen Victoria had commissioned for Princess Louise, born in 1848, seen below.

Cradle commissioned by Queen Victoria for Princess Louise

Cradle commissioned by Queen Victoria for Princess Louise

The child who slept in the cradle below was the French Prince Imperial, Napoléon Eugène Louis Jean Joseph, so unhappily cut down in his youth.

cradle prince imperial

At the end of the room stands the cradle— not that which the city of Paris is preparing for the imperial infant, but still one of great beauty. A lofty fleche at the head, formed of a vine-branch of gilt bronze, gently bends over the part in which the infant is to sleep. From the fleche, curtains of Mechlin lace, lined with blue silk, are suspended at each side, the whole being looped up with gold cords terminating with torsades to match of the same metal. One couvrepied is of white satin, and another of blue, and the whole is covered over with Alencon lace, with the initials N.E. in the centre, the whole producing an effect of the rarest elegance. Opposite the cradle, on the centre-table, stands the robe de bapteme, all of point d’Alencon, with mantle and headdress to match. Near it is a muff of ermine, with a mantle of white satin lined with ermine. On the table lay the child’s coral for the period of teething— in this instance made of amber, the ball for the rattle being hollowed from the solid mass. This little plaything alone cost 600 f. Near it was placed an amber necklace, with a small gold medallion in the centre, to which the Archbishop of Paris has given his benediction. Three corbeilles de bapteme lay near, all lined with blue satin, and covered with Alencon lace, and bearing the imperial cipher and arms. To go on would be to fill a column, and yet not a word has been said of the contents of the other rooms, equally worthy of being examined. We cannot, however, help stating that the articles prepared for the nurse (twelve dozen in number) are also of extraordinary beauty and richness, as may be judged from the fact that her aprons are embroidered with as much care as the articles for the child, and, like them, trimmed with Alencon lace. The taste with which the whole is laid out is not the smallest charm of this exhibition, which, of its kind, has perhaps never been equalled. It adds to the admiration excited to learn that the whole was designed, embroidered and made up in the short space of two months and a half.  Godey’s Lady’s Book [Philadelphia, PA] July 1856

The riches of oriental potentates were lovingly described in the papers.

King Theebau’s Expected Heir

Extensive preparations are being made at the palace in Manadalay, Burmah, in prospect of a coming event, viz: the confinement of King Theebau’s head queen, the Soo-pyah-lat….It is reported that the cradle which has just been completely cost the State nearly two lacs of rupees ($100,000). The cradle was first framed with mango wood and encased with sheet gold inside and outside. Over this is ornamented gold work, set with precious stones of all kinds—diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, etc.—and the work is said to be very superior, as it is turned out by the best of first-class goldsmiths of Upper Burmah. The arrangement for fitting up the cradle are as follows: A soft bed or cushion covered with green silk velvet and the sides with embroidered work. This is the manner in which the cradle was to be fixed and how worked. A thick iron rod has been fixed across the room some twelve feet above the floor, and the cradle is suspended by means of golden cords, made of golden wire, for the purpose of swinging, and to work backward and forward, like punkahs in your part of the world.

The King objected to the old method of having the royal cradle pulled by a parcel of old women, so the mechanical and engineering elements of his kingdom were called into requisition, and one of the Italian mechanics has invented a wind-up machine by which the cradle can be set going, once wound up for a day or night, or until further orders, to the great delight of the King. The Vancouver [WA] Independent 8 January 1880: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil has no information on this jewel-encrusted cradle, except that it came from the Ottoman Empire.

Alas, the shell is obscured by the lace

Alas, the shell is obscured by the lace

The lately-born infanta of Spain, Mary Ysabel, sleeps, wakes and cries in a cradle shaped like a conch shell and lined with the palest of pink satin. Her tiny form is covered with point d’Alencon lace, specially made form a pattern designed by the queen of Spain’s mother, in which the arms of Spain and Austria are gracefully blended. She has a couvrepied and tiny pillow, on both of which the lilies of the house of Bourbon and the Y of her pretty name, Ysabel, are laced and interlaced. The other royal baby, the young hereditary prince of  Sweden, has a much less delicate cradle, as becomes a hardy young Norseman. It is shaped like a swan, the wings coming up, if wished and sheltering the little prince, and is well provided with down stuffed accessories. The Vancouver [WA] Independent 25 October 1883: p. 2 [Mary Ysabel was the daughter of King Alfonso XII, he of the “Hoodoo Ring.”]

cradle english prince

All his environment is ancestral and in close touch with his distinguished lineage. Even the swinging cradle in which the wee body takes his long baby sleeps as held the infant forms of many of his royal grand uncles and aunts. It is the one the queen had in the royal nursery for her own children, and it is deemed proper and suitable that this important successor in the line should have a resting place dignified with heredity.

The cradle swings from a graceful frame of rich old mahogany inlaid with gold. Draperies of handsome brocade of a delicate pearl tint are attached and used to shut off intrusive draughts. The sheets for this downy nest are of fine Irish lawn, lace trimmed; the blankets are softest embroidered Pyrenean wool, and the coverlid matches the pearl brocade. The crown and three feathers which surmount the framework are further typical of the royal estate of the small occupant, whose baby eyes look out on many such suggestive emblems. Jackson Citizen [Jackson, MI] 11 September 1894: p. 10

The royal baby in this case was Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David, later King Edward VIII:  he who forgot his duty when ensnared by the American temptress.

Gifts for the royal Dutch baby, Princess Juliana

Gifts for the royal Dutch baby, Princess Juliana

A magnificent cradle of beaten silver will be the gift of the ladies of the Dutch nobility. A life-sized angel hovers over the head of the cradle, while at the foot is an equally life-sized baby. The sides are decorated with the arms of Holland and Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 13 October 1901: p. 8

This was the cradle for the much-longed-for Princess Juliana, the daughter of Queen Wilhelmina of Holland. The people of Holland, in raptures over the happy event, sent lavish gifts. The gifts pictured above include two cradles, a nursery clock, and an incubator—suggested by the Queen’s unhappy obstetrical history.

The Layette of the Royal Baby of Italy.

Little Garments Fashioned by Queen Helene Herself.

The royal child will certainly sleep in the midst of beauty, for even the sheets for the bed and cradle have been in the hands of skillful artists of embroidery. One set of sheets is embroidered simply in a sprays of forget-me-nots around the edge, another shows the embroidery in a pattern with narrow blue ribbon , and in another set the corners are filled with embroidery, and an embroidered ruffle finishes the sides. One set of sheets is trimmed with lace applique and a favorite pattern is the dove of peace hovering near the crown…The cradle, which was watched over and guarded from public gaze by the sculptor who designed it, Monteverde and by Prince Prospero Colonna, mayor of Rome, through whom it was presented by the city, is probably as gorgeous a one as was ever made. The entire structure is over six feet high and three and a half feet wide. The basket is of solid silver; the upper and lower parts are made in a wickerwork design, with the bearings of the divisions of Rome decorating the center. There are fourteen of these coats of arms, representing the quarters of the city—Monty, Trivia, Colonna, Campomarzo, Ponte, Parione, Regola, S. Eustachies, Pignia, Campitello, S. Angelo, Ripa, Trastavere and Borgo. On the bottom of the cradle basket a huge silver rose unfolds in numerous delicate petals. The basket rocks in a support of gilded bronze with four lion paws at the floor. At one extremity is a column bearing the emblem of Rome, a female figure wearing a helmet, and holding in the right hand the royal Italian crown. The column is adorned with Roman trophies and on one side sows the Roma wolf; on another the eagle; on the third, the royal military standard is unfurled, and on the fourth side is the well-known emblem of the hand upheld in the center of the crown. The angel which supports the cradle at the other extremity clasps in its arms the shields united of the house of Savoy and the house of Montenegro. From July Issue of Harper’s Bazaar. Richmond [VA] Dispatch 16 June 1901: p. 13  [Queen Helene was Elena of Montenegro; the King was Emmanuel III of Italy; the baby of this extraordinary cradle was Princess Yolanda of Savoy.]

Descriptions of the infant Czarevitch focused more on the nursery regimen, but a few hints crept in as to the luxury of the Imperial baby. Perhaps descriptions of pomp and wealth were discouraged, so as not to inflame the Bolsheviks who brought the Imperial family to so sad an end.

 Here are some of the gifts that have already been sent to the Czarevitch: A cradle of solid gold from the city of Moscow. The top is carved with the head of the Madonna. On each side there is a draped curtain of gold leaf, forming a canopy for the head of the cradle.  Boston Herald (Boston, MA) 18 September, 1904: p. 45

Young Czarevitch’s Jeweled Cradle

The cradle in which the czarevitch will receive the homage of the nobility of the empire is a superb affair of precious wood inlaid with jewels. It stands on a golden frame and the imperial crown of Russia surmounts a graceful branch from which hang lace curtains of great price. Hygienically speaking, the infant would do better to sleep in a plain brass crib. Denver [CO] Post 25 August 1904: p. 6 [Quite right. It has been “rediscovered” by modern physicians that brass doorknobs, for example, discourage the transmission of germs.]

The cradle of the Prince of Asturias.

The cradle of the Prince of Asturias.

 ROYAL HEIR

Of Spain Will be Cradled Under Silk Covers Garlanded in Rosebuds and Butterflies

Madrid. February 23. The preparations for the expected royal heir of Spain are nearing completion. The cradle in which Alfonso III slept will lull the little newcomer to rest as it lies beneath hand-embroidered coverlets of white silk, garlanded in rosebuds and butterflies. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 24 February 1907: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil supposes that Alfonso III is a misprint for Alfonso XIII. Alfonso III of Asturias, “The Great,” would have been rocked in a cradle in the 9th century. Any royal nursemaids worth their keep would have scrubbed even a royal cradle to splinters by 1907. The Princely baby who slumbered under such lovely bed linens was Alfonso Pío Cristino Eduardo Francisco Guillermo Carlos Enrique Eugenio Fernando Antonio Venancio Borbón y Battenberg, Prince of Asturias. Alfonso XIII, of course, lost his throne, so the heir never inherited.

A few additional royal cradles: That of Sweden, used for the first time recently for the Christening of a Princess.

The Cradle of the Prince of Rome

The Cradle of the Prince of Rome

And that of the ill-fated Prince of Rome, Napoleon’s son.

Once again, Mrs Daffodil wishes all the best to the Duke and Duchess and their new little one and trusts that he will have a happier upbringing and fate than some of his royal cousins of the past.

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

The Easy-Going Mother: 1892

 

 

1914 Doucet robe mother with child and puppet

The Easy-Going Mother.

Is the easy-going the ideal mother? After a prolonged study of those who err in other ways, and unconsciously, often with the purest motives, work great harm in the baby lives entrusted to their care, one is almost ready to believe that the ability to “let alone” is the most valuable trait in a mother. Yet on looking closely into her ways, and noting the results of her course, that belief is sadly shaken. Let us observe her a little.

The home of the easy-going is overrun by babies, that being the easiest way to get along. Now nothing is sweeter than a wholesome baby, but who—beside its mother —wants it always in the foreground, its dressing the most important event of the family life, the details of its breakfast occupying the whole household, and its nap throwing a spell of enforced silence on every one within the walls?

Out of the cradle the children become even more pervasive; nothing is forbidden them, and no care is taken to teach them the difference between use and abuse. In consequence, there is not a clean or whole book on the premises, not a chair that is firm, not a table unmutilated. Boys ride the spring furniture and harness the chairs, if they do not hack and destroy to the top of their bent. Girls bang the piano, “take tea” in the parlor, scatter cake and doll rags at will.

They think they have a good time; so does their mother, who consoles herself for present discomfort and the alienation of her friends by the belief that they will outgrow all this lawlessness. “Boys will be boys,” is one of the first articles in her creed. It is as if a gardener should let the weeds grow up among the flowers, in the belief that they can be more easily disposed of when of full size and well rooted, forgetting that the strong growing weeds will, long before that time, have crushed the life out of the flowers, and that even—by great labor—they are pulled up and eradicated then, they will leave a scarred and seamed surface.

Think of the martyrdom of a guest in the home of the easy-going! Not only are the children always under foot, all the chairs sticky, and bread and butter on the sofa, but the small tyrants themselves, with their noise and unrestrained wildness, insist on seeing her, probably soil her gown with greasy fingers, handle her parasol and fan, run off with her umbrella, and often go so far as to demand any little thing in her possession that pleases their fancy.

And how is the untrained child in other people’s houses? Is he not the terror of the hostess, who dreads his encroachments, his violence among the pretty things which her own children have been taught to respect! Is not such a child the true “enfant terrible” for which America is famous?

The effect upon the children themselves is greatest. Left to their own devices, with their wills untrained, the seeds of carelessness and selfishness rapidly grow into weeds which may take a lifetime to root out. A sad wrong is done to children who are defrauded of the necessary discipline, who are not taught to respect the rights of others, and to restrain their own lawlessness. Because of this neglect they are dreaded and feared by everyone who knows them, when with a little control they might have been a credit to parents, a joy to friends, and a welcome guest everywhere.

The daughters of such a household come to womanhood with no habits of neatness or order, and no thoughtful care for others. The case of a son is even worse. A boy with that masterful and all-grasping nature, which, duly controlled is an element of success in his future conflict with the world, needs always careful drilling in respect for the rights of others, including animals. He needs training in personal daintiness, in civility, in gentleness of manner. He is born a little savage with great possibilities; he must be led into the path of a noble manhood: Led, not driven, nor “nagged,” still less allowed to reach maturity with all his barbarisms upon him.

Self-training is a thing rarely attempted by a grown man, accustomed to indulge rather than to fight his inclinations. The world will rudely teach him external decency, a show of regard for the claims of others, and certain appearances indispensable to the respect of his neighbors, but in his own home, in the bosom of his family, he will to the day of his death display the selfishness, the carelessness of the feelings or the wishes of others, the habits of disorder so firmly built into his character in his unfortunate boyhood.

The easy-going mother is frequently the product of a too severe training, in which petty tyranny of some sort destroyed any pleasure in life. “If I ever have a home,” the daughter of such a household is apt to think, when smarting under some of its harsh rules and restrictions, “if I ever have a home, there shall be peace and comfort in it.” And so feeling she naturally falls into the opposite error. In trying honestly and sincerely to do her duty, to secure her household liberty, which is the breath of life, she failed to draw the line at license, and license is as bad in its tendencies as the evil she wished to avoid.

Olive Thorne Miller.

Boston [MA] Herald 31 July 1892: p. 28

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is, of course, Mothering Sunday–an excellent day on which to publicly praise good Mamas and privately blame the bad. Even in 1892 there was debate about the ideal “good mother.”

To-day’s mothers seem torn between the “helicopter” and the “free-range”  models of raising children. Mrs Daffodil can see advantages to both: Learning to pilot a helicopter is excellent for eye-hand co-ordination and free-range is useful for the eggs. It is not necessarily an “either-or” situation.

Mrs Daffodil has always been punctilious about not taking positions in households where there is an “easy-going” mother. Such persons always think that their children are “expressive,” or “high-spirited,” when they are merely destructive. Mrs Daffodil is accustomed to being obeyed and when she has very occasionally had to correct visiting children by gently asking them to, say, refrain from setting Basil, the scullery cat on fire with their firecrackers, she has always been appalled at the insolence with which she is met. Fortunately she had time before their next visit to train Basil to “fetch” burning squibs and return them to their owner. Judging by the calls to the kitchen for aloe, he performed splendidly.

Mrs Daffodil wishes all fond Mamas the very happiest of days! But she will not allow their children to torment Basil or jump on the furniture at the Hall.

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.