Crowned and Wedded

Table of contents

1. Crowned and Wedded

When last before her people’s face her own fair face she bent,
Within the meek projection of that shade she was content
To erase the child-smile from her lips, which seemed as if it might
Be still kept holy from the world to childhood still in sight—
To erase it with a solemn vow,—a princely vow—to rule;5
A priestly vow—to rule by grace of God the pitiful;
A very godlike vow—to rule in right and righteousness,
And with the law and for the land!—so God the vower bless!
The minster9 n.1 was alight that day, but not with fire, I ween,9 n.2
And long-drawn glitterings swept adown that mighty aislëd scene.
The priests stood stolëd 11 in their pomp, the sworded chiefs in theirs
And so, the collared 12knights, and so, the civil ministers,
And so, the waiting lords and dames—and little pages best
At holding trains—and legates so, from countries east and west.
So, alien princes, native peers, and high-born ladies bright,
Along whose brows the Queen’s, now crowned, flashed coronets 16to light.
And so, the people at the gates, with priestly hands on high,
Which bring the first anointing to all legal majesty.
And so the dead—who lie in rows beneath the minster floor,
There, verily an awful 20state maintaining evermore;
The statesman whose clean palm will kiss no bribe whate’er it be.
The courtier who, for no fair queen, will rise up to his knee.
The court-dame who, for no court-tire,23 will leave her shroud behind.
The laureate who no courtlier rhyme than “dust to dust”24 can find.
The kings and queens who having made that vow and worn that crown,
Descended unto lower thrones and darker, deep adown!
Dieu et mon droit27 —what is’t to them?-- what meaning can it have?—
The King of kings, the right of death—God’s judgment and the grave.
And when betwixt the quick and dead, the young fair queen had vowed,
The living shouted “May she live! Victoria, live!” aloud.
And as the loyal shouts went up, true spirits prayed between,
“The blessings happy monarchs have, be thine, O crownëd queen!”
But now before her people’s face she bendeth her’s anew,
And calls them, while she vows, to be her witness thereunto.
She vowed to rule, and, in that oath, her childhood put away.
She doth maintain her womanhood, in vowing love to-day.
O, lovely lady!—let her vow!—such lips become such vows,
And fairer goeth bridal wreath than crown with vernal38 brows.
O, lovely lady!—let her vow!—yea, let her vow to love!—
And though she be no less a queen—with purples40hung above,
The pageant of a court behind, the royal kin around,
And woven gold to catch her looks turned maidenly to ground,
Yet may the bride-veil hide from her a little of that state,
While loving hopes, for retinues, about her sweetness wait.
SHE vows to love who vowed to rule—(the chosen at her side)
Let none say, God preserve the queen!—but rather, Bless the bride!
None blow the trump,47 none bend the knee, none violate the dream
Wherein no monarch but a wife she to herself may seem.
Or if ye say, Preserve the queen!—oh, breathe it inward low—
She is a woman, and beloved!—and ’tis enough but so.
Count it enough, thou noble prince who tak’st her by the hand,
And claimest for thy lady-love our lady of the land!
And since, Prince Albert, men have called thy spirit high and rare,
And true to truth and brave for truth, as some at Augsburg54 were,—
We charge thee by thy lofty thoughts, and by thy poet-mind
Which not by glory and degree takes measure of mankind,
Esteem that wedded hand less dear for sceptre than for ring,
And hold her uncrowned womanhood to be the royal thing.
And now, upon our queen’s last vow, what blessings shall we pray?
None, straitened60 to a shallow crown, will suit our lips to-day.
Behold, they must be free as love—they must be broad as free,
Even to the borders of heaven’s light and earth’s humanity.
Long live she!—send up loyal shouts—and true hearts pray between,—
“The blessings happy peasants have, be thine, O crownéd queen!”

2. Note on the text

This poem was entitled “The Crowned and Wedded Queen” when it appeared in the Athenaeum to commemorate the wedding of young Queen Victoria (1819-1901) to her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (1819-1861) on February 10, 1840. When EBB included the poem in her 1844 collection, she paired it with “Crowned and Buried,” which she had written several months later, inspired by the removal of Napoleon Bonaparte’s remains from the remote island of St. Helena for re-burial in Paris. She established the link by changing both titles to create a parallel and by printing “Crowned and Buried” immediately following this one. Though some reviewers admired both poems, they praised this one particularly for its femininity. Complaining that EBB’s imagery too often echoed Dante and Milton one critic judged that “Crowned and Wedded” “admirably” illustrates “the true dignity of her sex”; another believed that the poem “will be mused over by many a happy young wife, with him who calls her his lady-love, by their own fire-side, throughout our broad England,” for its “truth speaks to every heart” (BC 10:363, 377). Although EBB dismissed these lines as “not worth reading” (BC 4:237), and did not reprint them after 1844, she was flattered that her friend Mary Mitford wanted to bring them to the queen’s notice (see BC 4:244-45 & n6, 260, 261n19, 266, 364 [SD1115.1]). Homans, Houston, and Munich a1 consider the poem in the context of Victorian representations of Queen Victoria. On EBB’s contradictory views of Victoria, see notes for “The Young Queen.” See also Avery and Stott (2003). For a text with variants and more extended annotation, see The Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Vol. 2, General Editor, Sandra Donaldson, Volume Editors Marjorie Stone & Beverly Taylor(London: Pickering and Chatto).

3. Explanatory Notes

Victoria had taken the monarch’s oath at her coronation in Westminster Abbey, 28 June 1838. EBB reported her family’s interest in watching the related festivities (BC 4:58).

9 n.1.
minister a church of substantial size and importance; here, London's Westminster Abbey.

9 n.2.
ween think.

stolëd wearing ecclesiastical stoles, narrow lengths of cloth worn over the shoulders and hanging down to the knees or lower.

collared wearing chains or other ornaments around the neck.

coronets crowns worn by nobility, smaller and less distinguished than those of a monarch.

awful awe-inspiring.

tire attire.

“dust to dust” alluding to the Burial of the Dead in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer: “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust….”

Dieu et mon droit God and my right (French), the motto of England.

vernal fresh and youthful.

purples cloths or banners of purple, a color traditionally associated with royalty.

trump trumpet.

Augsburg German city associated with two bold historic events: At the Diet (legislative assembly) of Augsburg in 1527 theologian priest Martin Luther (1483-1546) and humanist scholar Philip Melancthon (1497-1560) formulated the doctrines that became the basis of the Protestant Reformation. The 1555 Peace of Augsburg guaranteed Germans freedom of religion by releasing them from the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

straitened limited, restricted.

Margaret Homans, Royal Representations: Queen Victoria and British Culture, 1837-1876(Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1998; Gail Turley Houston, Royalties: The Queen and Victorian Writers(Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1999); Adrienne Munich, Queen Victoria’s Secrets (NY: Columbia UP, 1996).

EBB Archive HomePoemsAbout the EBB Archive

Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Date: 05-Mar-2009
This page is copyrighted by the EBB Archive