Saturday, June 20, 2015

"She crossed to Finland in a storm"

Princess number two is the daughter of a king of Sweden, who had trouble in finding a husband for Princess Cecily, inasmuch as she would marry no one who would not promise to take her to England within a year from the wedding day; for the great desire of her life was to see Queen Elizabeth. A marquis of Baden accepted the condition, and on November 12, 1564, they started, by which time she had spent four years learning English and could speak it well. The voyage took ten months, the winter was a severe one, and much of their way lay through countries whose kings were hostile to her father and the inhabitants to every stranger. Leaving Stockholm while her relatives expressed their opinion about her journey by lamentations and fainting-fits, she crossed to Finland in a storm, in which the pilot lost heart to the extent of pointing out the rock on which they were going to be shipwrecked. Finland they left in four days, to escape starvation, during another storm; crossed to Lithuania; thence by land through Poland, North Germany, and Flanders, to Calais. Even from here it was not plain sailing, in any sense of the words; the sea was high when she started; all were sick ("with the cruel surges of the water and the rolling of the unsavoury ship"), except herself, standing on the hatches, looking towards England. But it proved impossible to get into Dover and they had to turn back. "'Alas!' quoth she, 'now must I needs be sick, both in body and in mind,' and therewith taking her cabin, waxed wonderful sick." A second time they tried; and again all were sick but herself; "she sitting always upon the hatches, passed the time in singing the English psalms of David after the English note and ditty." But again they had to turn back and again that made her sick, so sick that they thought she was going to be confined, for she had become pregnant about the time of her starting. A third attempt was successful; and on September 11, 1565, she arrived at Bedford House, Strand; on the 14th Queen Elizabeth arrived there, too, to see her; and on the 15th came the baby. This story ought to end like Della Valle's, that she lived happy ever after; but that cannot truthfully be said, because of what is recorded about Princess Cecily and certain unpaid London tradesmen. Much more would there be to say of her as a tourist, had she written an autobiography; for the rest of her life she continued travelling, spending all her own money on it and much of other people's.