The Romance of Isabel, Lady Burton: The Story of Her Life, Volume 1

Hutchinson & Company

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Publisher
Hutchinson & Company
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Published on
Dec 31, 1897
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Pages
438
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Language
English
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William Henry Wilkins
Caroline Matilda, Queen of Denmark and Norway, Princess of Great Britain and Ireland (a sister of George III.), was born at Leicester House, London, on Thursday, July 22, 1751. She was the ninth and youngest child of Frederick Prince of Wales and of his wife Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, and came into the world a little more than four months after her father’s death. There is a Scandinavian superstition to the effect that children born fatherless are heirs to misfortune. The life of this “Queen of Tears” would seem to illustrate its truth.

Caroline Matilda inherited many of her father’s qualities, notably his warm, emotional temperament, his desire to please and his open-handed liberality. Both in appearance and disposition she resembled her father much more than her mother. Some account of this Prince is therefore necessary for a right understanding of his daughter’s character, for, though she was born after his death, the silent forces of heredity influenced her life.

Frederick Prince of Wales was the elder son of George II. and of his consort Caroline of Ansbach. He was born in Hanover during the reign of Queen Anne, when the prospects of his family to succeed to the crown of England were doubtful, and he did not come to England until he was in his twenty-second year and his father had reigned two years. He came against the will of the King and Queen, whose cherished wish was that their younger son William Duke of Cumberland should succeed to the English throne, and the elder remain in Hanover. The unkindness with which Frederick was treated by his father had the effect of driving him into opposition to the court and the government. He had inherited from his mother many of the graces that go to captivate the multitude, and he soon became popular. Every cast-off minister, every discontented politician, sought the Prince of Wales, and found in him a ready weapon to harass the government and wound the King. The Prince had undoubted grievances, such as his restricted allowance and the postponement of his marriage to a suitable princess. For some years after Frederick’s arrival in England the King managed to evade the question of the marriage, but at last, owing chiefly to the clamour of the opposition, he reluctantly arranged a match between the Prince of Wales and Augusta, daughter of the reigning Duke of Saxe-Gotha. 

Lady Isabel Burton
LADY BURTON began her autobiography a few months before she died, but in consequence of rapidly failing health she made little progress with it. After her death, which occurred in the spring of last year, it seemed good to her sister and executrix, Mrs. Fitzgerald, to entrust the unfinished manuscript to me, together with sundry papers and letters, with a view to my compiling the biography. Mrs. Fitzgerald wished me to undertake this work, as I had the good fortune to be a friend of the late Lady Burton, and one with whom she frequently discussed literary matters; we were, in fact, thinking of writing a romance together, but her illness prevented us.
The task of compiling this book has not been an easy one, mainly for two reasons. In the first place, though Lady Burton published comparatively little, she was a voluminous writer, and she left behind her such a mass of letters and manuscripts that the sorting of them alone was a formidable task. The difficulty has been to keep the book with limits. In the second place, Lady Burton has written the Life of her husband; and though in that book she studiously avoided putting herself forward, and gave to him all the honour and the glory, her life was so absolutely bound up with his, that of necessity she covered some of the ground which I have had to go over again, though not from the same point of view. So much has been written concerning Sir Richard Burton that it is not necessary for me to tell again the story of his life here, and I have therefore been able to write wholly of his wife, an equally congenial task. Lady Burton was as remarkable as a woman as her husband was as a man. Her personality was as picturesque, her individuality is unique, and, allowing for her sex, her life was as full and varied as his.
It has been my aim, wherever possible, throughout this book to let Lady Burton tell the story of her life in her own words, and keep my narrative in the background. To this end I have revised and incorporated the fragment of autobiography which was cut short by her death, and I have also pieced together all her letters, manuscripts, and journals which have a bearing on her travels and adventures. I have striven to give a faithful portrait of her as revealed by herself. In what I have succeeded, the credit is hers alone: in what I have failed, the fault is mine, for no biographer could have wished for a more eloquent subject than this interesting and fascinating woman. Thus, however imperfectly I may have done my share of the work, it remains the record of a good and noble lifeÐa life lifted up, a life unique in its self-sacrifice and devotion.
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