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Chapter 32:

Grant at Windsor.

the Queen was at Balmoral when General Grant arrived in London, but soon after Her Majesty's return to Windsor a card was sent to GeneralGrant and Mrs. Grant with these words, partly written and partly engraved:
The Lord Steward

has received Her Majesty's commands to invite
GeneralGrant and Mrs. Grant to dinner at Windsor Castle on Tuesday, 26th June, and to remain until the following day.
Windsor Castle

25th June, 1877.

See other side.

On the other side was engraved:

Buckingham Palace,

Should the ladies or gentlemen to whom invitations are sent be out of town, and not expected to return in time to obey the Queen's commands on the day the invitations are for, the cards are to be brought back.

This is not exactly the form in which ex-sovereigns are invited to Windsor, but it is the fashion in which Her Majesty commands the presence of her own subjects. The American MinisterPierrepont and Mrs. Pierrepont were summoned in precisely the same way, and a similar card was sent to me. The invitations were accepted according to the ordinary etiquette: ‘GeneralGrant and Mrs. Grant had the honor to accept [282] Her Majesty's most gracious invitation, etc.’ The General's youngest son, Jesse, a youth of nineteen, was traveling with his father at this time, and Mrs. Grant naturally desired that he should receive all the attention which the circumstances would allow. Jesse himself did not share this feeling. He was not anxious for royal or aristocratic invitations, and when it was explained to him that so extraordinary an opportunity of meeting distinguished people could hardly happen to a young man again, he replied that the honor was meant for his father, not for him, and that if he should return to England alone, none of these important personages would remember him or invite him. He did not value compliments paid to himself on account of his father.

Notwithstanding this I was desired to send a message to Sir John Cowell, the Master of the Queen's Household, with whom I had been personally acquainted for several years. I telegraphed to him in these words: ‘Personal and confidential to yourself. I would not, of course, make such a suggestion unauthorized, but if it could be proposed to invite General Grant's son, Mr. Jesse Grant, a young man of nineteen or twenty, it would be a great gratification to GeneralGrant and Mrs. Grant. If this is contrary to etiquette, please consider this telegram not sent.’

A card like that addressed to General Grant was immediately forwarded to Jesse, and on the afternoon appointed we set out by train for Windsor. The party included General and Mrs. Grant, the Minister and Mrs. Pierrepont, Jesse and myself, with four or five servants. The Queen's carriages were in waiting at the station, and the Master of the Household received us at the Castle. The Queen was out driving and would not be visible until dinner, so that all the nonsense that was published about Her Majesty welcoming General Grant at the foot of the grand staircase, as she would have done the Shah of Persia, or any other black or white monarch who visited her, was without foundation. Such potentates [283] are allowed to greet their sister sovereign with a royal kiss, but the Queen was not in the house when the ex-President arrived. Undoubtedly Her Majesty's absence was planned.

The General was shown to his rooms, which were the same, we were told, that had been occupied by the Czar as well as by the Duke of Edinburgh, immediately after his marriage. Jesse and I had apartments by ourselves, where Sir John Cowell at once visited me and said with a little embarrassment that Mr. Jesse and I were to dine with the Household and not at Her Majesty's table; but that immediately after dinner we should be taken in and presented to the Queen. The royal Household is always served in a separate room and usually only one or two of the ladies and gentlemen-in-waiting are invited to join Her Majesty's party. Foreign Ministers, the members of the Government, even the Prime Minister, when he is in attendance, all dine with the Household, unless specially invited by Her Majesty. Jesse and I, however, had been specially invited by the Queen, and the invitation was now modified, if not withdrawn.

As soon as Sir John had left the room Jesse declared that he would not dine with the Household. He had been invited by the Queen and if he could not sit at her table he would return to town. We descended to General Grant's apartments and found the Duchess of Roxburgh, one of the ladies-in-waiting, paying a visit to Mrs. Grant. The Duchess was explaining the arrangements for dinner, and stated that the Queen was unable to receive large parties at table, as the number produced giddiness. This explanation was evidently considered necessary, although it was not offered as an excuse. The Duchess also took pains to say that the ladies and gentlemen-in-waiting were all persons of distinction, and then withdrew. The Minister and Mrs. Pierrepont were now present, and Jesse at once repeated that he preferred to return to town rather than dine with the servants. After this a long discussion took place, during which some of the [284] real servants were in the room; these doubtless heard and repeated the wonderful remarks of the democratic youth, for shortly afterward another of Her Majesty's ladies-in-waiting was announced. This was the Marchioness of Ely, who came on the same errand as her predecessor, ostensibly to pay her respects to Mrs. Grant, but in reality to explain that she herself was to be of the party with which Jesse was to dine, and to repeat the story of the Queen's dizziness and inability to receive a large company at table. Of course all this was only gracefully and casually introduced, but when the information was communicated the courtier retired.

Then the democrats resumed their discussion. Jesse insisted on going home at once; he said he had not cared to come to Windsor at all, which was true, and that he certainly would not dine with any one but his hostess. The General was, of course, unwilling for the lad to leave, but he thought that his son should dine at the same table with himself. The Queen, however, had not yet returned, and none of the courtiers could decide the question. Finally General Grant desired me to see the Master of the Household, and to say that he had of course no wish to suggest any change in the arrangements, or to ask any innovation in etiquette; but that the invitation had been misunderstood; he had supposed that his son was to dine at the same table with himself, and since this was not to be, he requested that the invitation to Jesse should be withdrawn, so that he might return to town. Sir John was extremely well-bred and simply said that he would convey the message to Her Majesty immediately upon her arrival from her drive. I asked if he wished to see General Grant, but he replied that he would not trouble the General.

Then we waited for an answer. I suppose such a message had never been sent to Her Majesty before since her coronation. If the Queen had been ill-tempered or lacking in taste or tact there might have been an unpleasant complication. [285] It was possible that the entire invitation might be withdrawn, or a message might be sent that would make it impossible for General Grant to remain, and thus necessitate the return of the whole party to London. Even international feeling might be aroused. But General Grant had been assured that he should be treated as an ex-sovereign, and it seemed to him, with his democratic notions, that he was not treated as a private gentleman. Certainly no private gentleman bidden with his son to the White House would have expected that son to dine at a different table and in a different room from himself.

As for me, I was acting as General Grant's aide-de-camp, and could not complain because I was to dine with the aides-de-camp of Her Majesty. Still I felt that I had been invited by a lady and on arriving at her house was requested to sit at a different table from that to which I had been asked. This might be royal etiquette, but it was not good breeding, and it never happened to me at another court. However, I was determined that no question affecting me should complicate the affair or interfere with General Grant's success. Besides this, I was a public officer, accredited to the Queen, and bound perhaps to accept her decisions in the etiquette of her own palace. So no question whatever was made about me.

Finally we all dressed for dinner to be ready for whatever might happen, and before I returned to General Grant's drawing-room the Master of the Household came to me. He had delivered the General's message, and Her Majesty commanded him to say that she would be happy to have Mr. Jesse dine at her table. So the difficulty was obviated by the good sense and good breeding of the Queen.

The party that dined with Her Majesty were all assembled before she entered the room. After speaking with each guest separately the Queen took the arm of her son, Prince Leopold, afterward Duke of Albany, and General Grant was asked to give his arm to the Princess Christian. The [286] General and the Princess followed the Queen, and the Prince Christian with the Princess Beatrice went next. Thus General Grant preceded the Queen's own daughter and her son-in-law; which was a distinct concession to him of rank equal to royalty, and as different as possible from the etiquette observed by the Prince of Wales. Mrs. Grant, however, did not receive the same recognition; two duchesses preceded her and she went in with a lord-in-waiting. Jesse was placed nearly at the tail. The idea seemed to be to give General Grant a place that should indicate extraordinary deference according to royal rules, but not to recognize his democratic family further than courtesy required. The Queen, however, was gracious to all, and the dinner passed pleasantly enough. At table General Grant was not placed next Her Majesty. She had Prince Leopold on one side of her and Prince Christian on the other; then the two Princesses. General Grant was next to the Princess Christian, which brought him below all the royal family and two places from the Queen. His conversation with Her Majesty was therefore not animated.

I went to dinner with the Household in another room. I remember that Sir John Cowell, Lady Ely, Lady Susan Melville, and others of the Queen's ladies and gentlemen were present. My companions were extremely affable, and I thought they seemed to wish to make up for my disappointment, so far as they could. Almost immediately after we rose Sir John disappeared, but came back at once and announced that I was to be taken in and presented to the Queen. I had gone through the forms of presentation at levees and drawing-rooms, but had never exchanged a word with Her Majesty.

She was standing with her dinner company at one end of a long gallery when I was led up to her. She bowed with extreme graciousness, and said immediately that she had to thank me for a book I had once sent her. This was the first [287] volume of my ‘History of General Grant,’ which Dean and Lady Augusta Stanley had presented to the Queen for me seven years before. It had been acknowledged at the tine by a courteous note, but with the royal faculty the circumstance was recalled and the acknowledgment repeated now. Of course I was impressed by the courtesy, and thanked Her Majesty for recollecting my present after so many years. The Queen then went on to ask me how General Grant was enjoying his visit to England. This gave me an opportunity to speak of his reception throughout the country, which I was courtier enough to say ‘culminates to-night.’ At this the Majesty of England positively dropped me a courtesy and was evidently gratified; so that we were equal on one point at least. I think she felt sorry that she had left me out and wanted to atone; at any rate she made me feel very pleasant for a moment or two in spite of my disappointment.

General Grant had received, since his arrival at Windsor, a telegram from the Grand Army of the Republic, which was holding its annual re-union on that day, and had sent its congratulations to its ancient chief. I took the opportunity to speak of this as indicating the satisfaction which a million of Americans felt at the compliment the Queen was paying to their representative; and the royal features beamed again. There is indeed a charm of expression, a winning smile that comes over Her Majesty's countenance, a grace of demeanor when she means to be gracious, which is more than ordinary. It was not because she was a queen, for I have been well received by other queens; and at this moment, as may be supposed, I was not altogether in the mood to admire; but the plain little woman conquered me with a sweetness of look and smile which I had heard of before but had never seen at court. It is of no imaginable consequence, but I forgave her my dinner.

She remained in the room only a few moments longer. I remember that she talked with Mrs. Grant, who told me [288] afterward of a good thing she said to Her Majesty. Considering the etiquette of the dining-room, it seemed to me a perfectly fair reminder between the two women. The Queen said something about her own labors or duties, and Mrs. Grant replied: ‘Yes, I can imagine them: I too have been the wife of a great ruler.’ Mrs. Grant was not to be put down, and I was glad she said it.

As for Jesse, he did not say to his father, as the newspapers declared, ‘Pa, introduce her,’ but behaved with propriety and like a young gentleman. He had held out for his point of etiquette, as well as the royalties, and had won. He could afford to be polite.

After a while, the Queen looked around, and two duchesses approached and laid a lace shawl about her shoulders. Her Majesty courtesied, every one else bowed or courtesied very low, two great doors behind her were opened, and the Queen of England and the Princesses vanished, backward. The remainder of the party were now scattered in two or three of the drawing-rooms. There was music in the distance, according to a printed programme. Some of the company, General Grant among them, played at cards, others talked, and at eleven the ladies retired. Prince Leopold then invited General Grant to the billiard-room, which seemed to be beneath the castle, we descended so far. This is the only place where the Queen allows smoking. I accompanied the General, and Prince Leopold came down in a smoking suit of gorgeous purple and yellow satin, and played a game with the conqueror of Vicksburg. They are both in Hades now. General Grant sat up late, as usual, and it was two o'clock before I got to bed. But I had often sat up with him later still in camp.

Next morning the Queen sent her album for the autographs of the whole party (Jesse's included), and two of her ladies were directed to show us the most famous pictures and the great porcelain. Afterward Her Majesty's carriages and equerries were at General Grant's service. We drove [289] about in the Home Park, visited the mausoleum of the Prince Consort, but saw nothing more of the Queen or the Royal Family. By two o'clock we were back in town.

The intention certainly had been to pay a great compliment to the ex-President of the United States, and I make no doubt that the Queen stretched her conscience or her etiquette when she gave him her daughter to take in to dinner, and put him before the nobility. The episode of the invitations I account for by supposing that at first she intended to have me at her table. She was good-natured, and when the invitation for Jesse was asked, acquiesced, but doubtless then said, ‘Let them both dine with the Household.’ Then, when the question of the table was raised, she admitted Jesse; so that, from her own point of view, she was extremely gracious throughout; and from anybody's point (but mine) she was amiable. I suffered for others, which is, of course, very much to my credit. But I certainly think the Queen should have left out some of her own courtiers on an international occasion, rather than a foreign gentleman whom she had thought it became her dignity to invite to her table.

The Queen of England never saw General Grant again. When he was dying she was on the Continent, and from Aixles-Bains she sent a telegram by Lady Ely to Mrs. Grant, expressing her sympathy and making friendly inquiries. Upon General Grant's death, she directed her Minister in the United States to present her condolences, while the Prince and Princess of Wales made known to the American Minister in London their regret, and the ‘advantage’ they should always consider it had been to them ‘to have made his acquaintance.’ The Prince had called on General Grant in Paris after the English experience. Indeed, there was a sort of sympathy between them on certain points; for the Prince of Wales, when he chooses, can be cordial and as unaffected as General Grant himself was; and, like all people used to the flatteries and diplomatic arts of courts and fashion, he appreciates directness and the beauty of simplicity.

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