« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
of a Swedish “good winter.” And this is also the baptismal day of the eight-day-old royal baby, whose birth I announced in my last letter.
Yesterday I had a note from kind Lady L., telling me I might count upon having tickets of admission to the Chapel Royal to witness the ceremony.
These tickets came; and with a carriage full of other ladies, and Grefyen attired in full uniform, to act as our cavalier—for Swedish ladies seldom appear without a cavalier, nor, if they have the most lingering pretensions to youth, without a matron—we set off to the chapel. The fair Swedes had their heads enveloped in hoods, or tied up in a black silk kerchief; I quietly put on my fur cloak and bonnet, believing that such a costume was most suited to the weather, if not to the occasion, and if I did not go among the Court circle I wished to go as a stranger and foreigner. There were heads with half a conservatory upon them around me; but there were covered ones also, and I passed off very well.
I believe in the whole world such patient sightseers as the Swedes could not be found. We were in the chapel two hours before the appointed time, and we were so far from being the first as to be
considerably removed from the altar, where the baptismal ceremony, curiously enough, is performed.
The Court was in full dress, and all ladies who had been presented at Court had a right to a particular place, and must also appear in full dress ; which, on this occasion, was white for all ages. Men of all classes wore uniforms, either military or civil. The members of the diplomatic corps entered together, each lady being led by another lady's husband. A Russian lady, with her curious Court head-dress, was among these, though not belonging to the tribe.
The ceiling of the chapel is loaded with paintings, and there is a great deal of gilding; but the seats, as in all the Swedish churches, are of the hideous and forbidding box style. There is nothing to be admired in it at any time, but on this occasion the aspect of the altar was most singular. The font is within the rails, though baptisms in the church are of very rare occurrence in Sweden. Just before the altar, with their backs to the assembly, were a range of large throne chairs, for the use of the royal personages; and at one side of it stood an old Bishop, with a glittering mitre on his head of an incredible size. An immense, high, and broad plate of gold, or gilding, rose above the aged face, and made one really fear for the head that was obliged to support such a weight.
The appearance of the altar seemed singularly out of character with the initiatory rite of baptism; and the glittering and warlike aspect of the church no less so.
Deputations from all the corporate bodies came by invitation, wearing their distinctive uniforms. The fine-looking body guards—formed, if I mistake not, by the late King, and wearing the appropriate equipment of the soldiers of Charles XII., frocks of dark blue with buff bandeliers-lined the aisle, and with the more gorgeous, but not more to be admired equipments of the aides-de-camp, the old generals, and the officers of cavalry regiments, rendered the scene a brilliant and effective one. The entrance of a troop of smartly dressed pages, and of chamberlains in their handsome uniforms of dark blue and gold, and of heralds with large plumes, announced the approach of his Majesty Oscar I., who entered in a very plain military dress, of dark blue, with scarcely an ornament or order; and bowing and smiling, his own quiet, amiable smile, looked mildness itself as he walked up the aisle, glancing from pew to pew, or sometimes extending his hand to an officer standing in the aisle.
He was followed by his far more dashing, and, at first sight, it would seem more haughty, sonthe hero of the day—the father of the babyPrince Carl, the Crown Prince of Sweden, who followed his father, “towering in his pride of place," in his brilliant Hussar dress, his breast covered with decorations and gold ; bending his head slightly, without King Oscar's smile, and sometimes quickly glancing his rather haughty eye as if to see if there was anything really worth looking at.
Then came a face which made me say, “Who is that?” An intelligent, an artistic face; but with something in it that made me predict for its owner
“The doom Heaven gives its favourites—early death.” It was the first time I had seen that head and countenance near enough to notice them, and the impression I allude to was instantaneous.
“ That,” said the person I addressed, “is Prince Gustaf, the second and best beloved of our princes. He is much beloved; but the people say Gustaf is a fated name-it is not lucky. And we are sorry he has it.”
Not being able to understand what he meant, I demanded an explanation.
“All who have borne the name in the royal line of Sweden,” he said, “have died, or been unfortunate. Gustaf Adolf fell in battle; Gustaf III. was murdered; Gustaf IV. was dethroned and banished.”
“And yet all of the line of Gustaf Vasa," said I to myself, smiling at the superstitution.*
Then came the young sailor, Prince Oscar; and the youngest prince, who was named Nicholas after his godfather, the Emperor of Russia, but the national hate rather than love to a neighbour, made the Swedes wish to change his name to August.
Then there was a little pause. And then the entry of more heralds, with varied-coloured high feathers, and pages and chamberlains, announced the advance of the Queen.
She came slowly along, dressed in a robe of crimson velvet, made very low in the neck, and with short sleeves; a tiara of diamonds on her
* Since this was written, a letter from a friend sáys, “You would have had a dull winter here, for Stockholm is plunged into mourning by the sudden death of the amiable Prince Gustaf.”