Fanny Burney

Fanny Burney On Queen Charlotte's Character

On May 3, 1818, Fanny Burney's husband, Alexandre d'Arblay, died in Bath. Fanny then moved to London, where she lived until her own death in 1840.

Tuesday, Nov. 17th. [1818] -- This day, at one o'clock, breathed her last the inestimable Queen of England. Heaven rest and bless her soul!

Sketch of Queen Charlotte's Character, from a Memorandum Book of Madame d'Arblay.

Her understanding was of the best sort; for while it endued her with powers to form a judgment of all around her, it pointed out to her the fallibility of appearances, and thence kept her always open to conviction where she had been led by circumstances into mistake.

From the time of my first entrance into her household her manner to me was most kind and encouraging, for she had formed her previous opinion from the partial accounts of my beloved Mrs. Delany. She saw that, impressed with real respect for her character, and never-failing remembrance of her rank, she might honour me with confidence without an apprehension of imprudence, invite openness without incurring freedom, and manifest kindness without danger of encroachment.

If Mrs. Delany's goodness made her trust me, my own interior view of her made the trust reciprocal, for I had the firmest reliance, not alone on her prudence, but on her honour, which was so inviolate, it might justly be called religious.

When I was alone with her she discarded all royal constraint, all stiffness, all formality, all pedantry of grandeur, to lead me to speak to her with openness and ease; but any inquiries which she made in our tête-à-têtes never awakened an idea of prying into affairs, diving into secrets, discovering views, intentions, or latent wishes, or causes. No, she was above all such minor resources for attaining intelligence; what she desired to know she asked openly, though cautiously if of grave matters, and playfully if of mere news or chit-chat, but always beginning with, "If there is any reason I should not be told, or any that you should not tell, don't answer me." Nor were these words of course, they were spoken with such visible sincerety, that I have availed myself of them fearlessly, though never without regret, as it was a delight to me to be explicit and confidential in return for her condescension. But whenever she saw a question painful, or that it occasioned even hesitation, she promptly and generously started some other subject.

Wednesday, Dec. 2nd. [1818] -- The Queen, the excellent exemplary Queen, was this day interred in the vault of her royal husband's ancestors, to moulder like his subjects, bodily into dust, but mentally not so! She will live in the memory of those who knew her best, and be set up as an example even by those who only after her death know, or at least acknowledge, her virtues.

I heard an admirable sermon on her departure and her character from Mr. Repton in St. James's Church. I wept the whole time, as much from gratitude and tenderness to hear her thus appreciated as from grief at her loss -- to me a most heavy one! for she was faithfully, truly, and solidly attached to me, as I was to her.

Excerpt from: Burney, Fanny: Diary and Letters of Madame d'Arblay. Edited by her niece. London, Henry Colburn, 1854. v. 7, p. 266-268.

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