to Mr. Evarts.
Madrid , July 3, 1878. (Received July 20.)
Sir: At my first interview with Mr. Silvela after my return from my furlough, he told me that the Queen was ill. Driving too late, he said, by the side of the lake in the Casa del Campo, she had taken cold; some symptoms of fever had shown themselves; there were fears lest these should assume a typhoidal character; the symptoms were complicated and the diagnosis made less easy by her being with child; as she had already miscarried once, the doctors might order her to keep her bed or a reclining-chair for months to come; naturally there was some anxiety, but her youth and strong constitution were greatly in her favor. Mr. Silvela spoke with a great deal of feeling, but certainly did not give me the impression that the case was so very serious, much less that it was hopeless. It seemed rather to be only a question whether the Queen would be able to hold the reception which had been announced for her birthday (the 24th).
This was on the 19th of June. Two days afterward I read in the morning paper that the case was putting on a grave look, and that the physicians hitherto in attendance (all of them accoucheurs) began to fear that the real disease was gastric fever, all the more to be dreaded in the Queen’s case, as one of her sisters had died of it, and one of her brothers, after lingering a year, of the weakness consequent upon an attack of it. I at once went over to the palace to make inquiries and to inscribe my name in the book placed for the purpose in the Mayordomia Mayor. I did not see Mr. Silvela, but Señor Ferraz, the under secretary, told me that the Queen’s condition was alarming.
Next day the crowd of inquirers (a crowd embracing all classes) became so great that a separate register for the diplomatic corps was placed in the department of state, and regular bulletins began to be issued three times a day.
Up to this time the situation of the Queen could not have been considered as one of imminent danger, for the Duke and Duchess of Mont-pensier had not been summoned and the patient was still attended only by the physicians already mentioned. The first consultation at which eminent practitioners from outside the palace attended, took place on the 24th. Meanwhile, the wildest and, I may say, most atrocious rumors were current among the vulgar, so atrocious, indeed, that I will not shock you with a repetition of them.[Page 793]
From this time forward I went several times every day to ask for news at the palace. Even so late as Tuesday the 25th the case was not thought desperate. On that day I was assured that it was the opinion of the physicians that if the internal hemorrhage (which had been one of the worst features of the case) did not recur during the night, recovery was certain. It did not recur, but nevertheless the weakness of the sufferer became so excessive that extreme unction was administered early on the morning of Wednesday. After this there was a slight rally, followed by a rapid loss of strength and consciousness, ending in death at a quarter past twelve.
During the last few days of the Queen’s illness, the aspect of the city had been strikingly impressive. It was, I think, sensibly less noisy than usual, as if it were all a chamber of death, in which the voice must be bated. Groups gathered and talked in undertone. About the palace there was a silent crowd day and night, and there could be no question that the sorrow was universal and profound. On the last day I was at the palace just when the poor girl was dying. As I crossed the great interior court-yard, which was perfectly empty, I was startled by a dull roar not unlike that of the vehicles in a great city. It was reverberated and multiplied by the huge cavern of the palace court. At first I could see nothing that accounted for it, but presently found that the arched corridors all around the square were filled, both on the ground floor and the first story, with an anxious crowd, whose eager questions and answers, though subdued to the utmost, produced the strange thunder I had heard. It almost seemed for a moment as if the palace itself had become vocal.
At the time of the royal marriage I told you that the crowd in the streets was indifferent and silent. My own impression was confirmed by that of others. The match was certainly not popular, nor did the bride call forth any marks of public sympathy. The position of the young Queen was difficult and delicate, demanding more than common tact and discretion to make it even tenable, much more, influential. On the day of her death the difference was immense. Sorrow and sympathy were in every heart and on every face. By her good temper, good sense, and womanly virtues, the girl of seventeen had not only endeared herself to those immediately about her, but had become an important factor in the destiny of Spain. I know very well what divinity doth hedge royal personages, and how truly legendary they become even during their lives, but it is no exaggeration to say that she had made herself an element of the public welfare, and that her death is a national calamity. Had she lived she would have given stability to the throne of her husband, over whom her influence was wholly for good. She was not beautiful, but the cordial simplicity of her manner, the grace of her bearing, her fine eyes, and the youth and purity of her face gave her a charm that mere beauty never, attains.
Seldom has an event combined more impressive circumstances. Youth, station, love, happiness, promise, every element of hope and confidence, were present to give pathos to the sudden catastrophe. It seemed but yesterday that she had passed through the city in bridal triumph. On that day, as in most Spanish ceremonies of the kind, an empty carriage, called a cache de respeto, was one of the peculiar features of the procession. On the day of the funeral the coche de respeto was the huge vehicle (prophetically, as it should almost seem, named de ambos mundos), drawn by eight white horses, in which we had seen her pass a happy bride. Surely the two worlds were never more impressively brought face to face.
Grief and sympathy were universal, and with these a not unnatural [Page 794] anxiety about the future. The young King has borne himself with great manliness and self-restraint, though his face shows deep marks of the trial he has endured and has still to endure. The Duke and Duchess of Montpensier receive less sympathy, for, as generally on such occasions, there are not wanting those who see in the Queen’s death a blow of retributive justice for the royal marriages of 1846, forgetting into how many obscure households death may have entered on the same day and left behind him the same desolation.
One cannot help recalling the familiar stanza of Malherbe:
The moment I heard of the Queen’s death I sent a note to Mr. Silvela, of which a copy is annexed. I also, on receiving the President’s dispatch, instantly inclosed to him a copy of it. I was very glad that the President thought proper to send it, for it could not fail to be grateful, as, indeed, I am sure it has been.
To-day at noon the diplomatic corps were received in audiences of condolence (painfully trying on both sides) by the King, the Princess of Asturias, and the Duke and Duchess of Montpensier, with their surviving unmarried daughter. The King leaves to-morrow morning for the Escorial, where it is said he will spend a month.
On the 17th of this month a solemn mass for the repose of the late Queen’s soul will be celebrated at the expense and under the direction of the government. The other foreign ministers here have written to their respective governments, asking to be deputed as special envoys for that occasion. I shall accordingly send you a telegram asking whether, in case they should be so deputed, I should assume the same function myself.
I have, &c.,