This is a story about Queen Victoria, which without doubt will be known by every Englishman. During the week of her coronation, when Victoria was still a young lady, she was sitting in the Royal Lodge while Handel’s “Messiah” was being performed. The lady-in-waiting came to her and said, “Everybody in the room with the exception of the Queen will rise and will remain standing for the duration of the music. It is royal etiquette that the Queen should remain seated.” The music continued, sweeter and fuller, it seemed to be sweet enough for heaven. When the “Hallelujah Chorus” began, the people rose and stood with their heads bowed. It was obvious that the Queen was deeply moved. Her lips trembled and her eyes filled with tears, her body shook until the melody sounded, “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” In spite of the royal etiquette the young Queen rose and remained standing with her head bowed till the music ended.
Years later, when Canon (later Dean) Farrar served the Queen as chaplain, he visited her when she was sick. She had been reading a leaflet on the return of Christ and said, “Chaplain, what do you think about the return of Christ?” It is not known what the chaplain answered, but when he left he said, “Your Majesty, why have you asked me that?” “Oh,” she said, “I wish that He returns while I am still alive, because nothing would give me more joy than to pass on the crown of Great Britain and India to Him with my own hands.” In her youth, with most of her life still ahead of her, she crowned Jesus KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS; and then much later, in her latter years, with grey hair and with the many sorrows that she had borne, she wanted to give Him every crown that God had given her.
Translation from the German of “Königin Viktoria” by Ernest A. Francis.
The tradition of standing for the Halellujah Chorus is said to have originated with the first London performance ofMessiah in 1743, which was attended by King George II. As the first notes of the triumphant Hallelujah Chorus rang out, the king rose to his feet and remained standing until the end of the chorus.