29 Piazza di Spagna
Feb. 28. 1879
As this is the last letter which I have the honour of writing on the subject of the Prince-Royal's stay in Rome, I venture to address myself directly to your Majesty, instead of, as usual, through the intervention of the Countess Rosen.
I have parted from my dear Prince with the greatest sorrow, but look forward to seeing him again in England. Putting aside every impression of his being a Prince and your Majesty's son, I cannot say how entirely I love him. I have never known a more sincere and truthful character, or one - who - with the most perfect sense of dignity and responsibility of his own position and that of his Father - had such entire freedom from egotism, such absolute humility as regards himself and his own qualities. He is also forbearing to the greatest degree, (and I have often seen him sorely tried), and, as it seems to me, he is unfailingly thoughtful for others - a virtue which is especially commented upon in his respectful attentions and courtesy to aged or infirm persons.
I am quite sure that if your Majesty could see the Prince-Royal now in society, Your Majesty would not think that I exaggerate the improvement which has taken place in him during his stay in Rome. He came here (your Majesty will forgive me) a somewhat awkward boy; subject apparently to fits of interminable gloom; taking little or no part in general conversation; evincing no sympathy or interest in the pursuits of others; speaking French very ill, and English not at all; totally ignorant of all the rudiments, even of most of the names, connected with art (though covering this with great tact). He leaves Rome a very peaceful and gracious young man; bright and cheerful at home; animated and popular in society; full of interest in all that others do, and anxious to learn and improve by all that they can tell him; speaking French very well, and English with great pleasure and facility: and with quite sufficient knowledge of the subjects usually talked about, to pass quite respectably - though on the last point there is still much to be desired, which can only be gained by his being thrown elsewhere as he has here with people gifted with conversational powers.
I think perhaps the change in the Prince strikes M. de Printzsköld less strongly than it does me: but I am certain of my facts. And the same impression has been made upon all his friends here - upon those persons who have never flattered him, and who have had an earnest wish for his welfare in all highest things; as one who may one day have a great influence, if rightly directed now - especially old Lady Morton and the Sermonetas, and the admirable Swedish Countess ?Barnekow, who has made herself deeply liked and respected in Rome, and who is as thoroughly good as she is clever.
I most highly regard all the gentlemen who are with the Prince. I respect the high-bred and high-thinking M. de Printzsköld : I like the honest good natured M. de Lilliehöök : I have a warmer feeling of cordial friendship for the hot-tempered, frank, generous-hearted M. de Krohn, who when they 'get on' together, as they have done perfectly of late, is a capital friend to the Prince, and more of a companion to him than the others. Still, Your Majesty will not think it is any want of appreciation of these faithful friends of your royal house, which makes me perfectly long that, amongst future attendants of the Prince, some young man may be found, who may be more of an intellectual companion to him, who may have information and interest about general things; who may wish to read with him a little, and have the power of stirring up (or rather keeping alive - for nothing more is needed now) his dawning enthusiasm for all that is noble and great, and his wish to ferret out knowledge for himself not only from books, but from passing people and events. The Prince's present devoted companions are so accustomed to the former phase of his character that I think they are hardly yet awakened to the latter, and (Your Majesty will forgive my presumption in having an opinion) are too much accustomed to the boyish state of the Prince to have complete understanding of his newly-awakened young-man aspirations, and so to push them forward. And, will Your Majesty forgive me, if I venture to say that what I long for most of all for my dear Prince, is, that as he nears his majority, he should have more power of self-action and self-decision in small matters, which should bring about more of responsibility for himself to himself. Hitherto he has had none of this, others seem always to act for him, to arrange for him, even to think for him. If he were not what he is, the King and your Majesty could not approve of any change, but, as far as I have discovered, in our most intimate life together, he has no vices and no tendancy to any vice; but he has, with many faults still, a sincere hunger and thirst after a noble life, and - what pleases me most - while he has such intense pride in his Father and Mother, he has no though of himself but in the wish that he may be worthy of them. It is therefore that I regret the impression that he should continue to feel that he is not the responsible person, and that he must constantly in small and slight things (though with no spirit of rebellion) have a sense of being shackled and not his own master, even where he would do well - and I think when Your Majesty sees him again, Your Majesty will trace indications that this feeling is not likely to produce good results, if allowed to become fixed in a temperament which, with all its generous qualities, will always be peculiar. Again, the Prince's own perfect tact, which never fails in dignity, would often make him do a graceful act of courtesy worthy of him and his royal house - which, under the present system of his never being allowed the responsability of his own acts, either cannot be accomplished, or is not worth the ?prefatory ?diverssion. In England, and especially (alas!) if he goes to Sandringham, my Prince will probably meet with the first real trials as to his powers of self-reliance and self-decision. I am not afraid for him, if he is only encouraged by his Mother to meet them bravely himself. We shall be victorious! I do not refer merely to what is sinful, but to powers of resistance to the incessant gambling, and the coarse vulgar (so called) "jokes" practised upon inoffensive persons, which are so unworthy of a noble heart nd life. Many small trials of character of another kind must soon thicken around the Prince, but it is a good time for it now, when all the chivalry of a high nature is beginning to awaken in him - and Your Majesty will feel with me how one battle over want of self-reliance and over moral-cowardice gained will be worth fifty evaded.
The Prince is going to the Princess of Wied to whom he is devoted. Will she not talk to him - as I try to do - of the pleasures and honour of encountering moral difficulties and overcoming them in that the struggle after the highest life need not be a pain, but will be happiness, if only bravely met - and that as the position in which God has placed him is that of a Captain, he cannot desert the standard placed in his hands without …… dishonour.
Will Your Majesty ever forgive me for writing so fully on sublects on which Your Majesty is alone fitted to judge!
During the last fortnight of his stay here, I saw comparitively less than before of the Prince, owing to the Carnival, into the pleasures of which he entered with very young freshness and eagerness. Every evening there were balls, but I only met him at the ?Altieri and Teano palaces and at the Dutch Ministers, where we had a very absurd one o'clock luncheon by candlelight with all the ladies in white satin and diamonds, which was the idea of the American Madame de Westenberg for doing honour to royalty! I wished much that the Prince could have staid here afterwards for a few quiet days of Lent, so that the last impression of Rome might not have been of the carnival-hurricane of bouquets and confetti, and I also greatly regretted that he should go away without seeing ?Albano; but this, it was decided, was impossible. I dined with him on the evening before the day fixed for his departure. When our last moment together came, he took me into his own room and parted with me there with many touching words (of which I can scarcely think now without tears), and he gave me the beautiful Order which the King has so graciously sent to me, which will always be so precious a possession, and for which I return most humble and grateful thanks to His Majesty.
I am, with most profound respect
Your Majesty's most devoted servant
Augustus J C Hare