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This article was written by Sidney Lee and was published in 1901.
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In the ‘two dreadful first years of loneliness’ that followed the prince's death the queen lived in complete seclusion, dining often by herself or with her half-sister, and seeing only for any length of time members of her own family. But her widowhood rendered her more dependent than before on her personal attendants, and her intimacy with them gradually grew greater. Of the female members of her household on whose support she rested, the chief was Lady Augusta Bruce, and on her marriage to Dean Stanley on 23 December 1863, congenial successors to Lady Augusta were found in Jane Marchioness of Ely, who had been a lady of the bedchamber since 1857 and filled that office till 30 April 1889, and in Jane Lady Churchill, who was a lady of the bedchamber from 4 July 1854 and remained in attendance on the queen till her sudden death on Christmas day 1900 — less than a month before the queen herself died.
Even from the lower ranks of her household she welcomed sympathy and proofs of personal attachment. She found Scotsmen and Scotswomen of all classes, but especially of the humbler, readier in the expression of kindly feeling than Englishmen and Englishwomen. When she paid, in May 1862, the first painful visit of her widowhood to Balmoral, her reception was a real solace to her. Her Scottish chaplain, Dr. Norman Macleod, gave her more real consolation than any clergyman of the south. She found a satisfaction in employing Scots men and women in her domestic service.
John Brown, a son of a farmer on her highland estate, had been an outdoor servant at Balmoral since 1849, and had won the regard of the prince and herself. She soon made him a personal retainer, to be in constant attendance upon her in all the migrations of the court. He was of rugged exterior and uncourtly manners, but she believed in his devotion to her and in his strong common sense, and she willingly pardoned in him the familiarity of speech and manner which old servants are in the habit of acquiring. She took all his brothers into her service, and came to regard him as one of her trustiest friends.
In official business she derived invaluable assistance in the early years of her widowhood from those who were filling more dignified positions in her household. The old objections to the appointment of a private secretary to the queen, now that the prince who had acted in that capacity was no more, were not revived, and it was at once conferred without debate on General the Hon. Charles Grey, a younger son of the second Earl Grey, who had been since 1846 private secretary to the prince, and whose sister, Lady Caroline Barrington, was since 1851 the governess of the royal children.
Some differences of opinion were held outside court circles as to his tact and judgment, but until his death in 1870 his devotion to his work relieved the queen of much pressing anxiety. She also reposed full confidence in Sir Charles Phipps, keeper of the privy purse, who died in 1866, and in Sir Thomas Biddulph, who was master of her household from 1851, and after 1867 sole keeper of the privy purse until his death in 1878. No three men could have served her more single-mindedly than Grey, Phipps, and Biddulph. She was especially fortunate, too, in General Sir Henry Ponsonby, Grey's successor as private secretary, who, as equerry to the prince consort, had been brought within the sphere of influence which the queen deemed the best inspiration for her advisers. Sir Henry remained her secretary for the long period of a quarter of a century — 8 April 1870 to May 1895, when he was succeeded by her last private secretary, Colonel Sir Arthur Bigge.
Outside her household she derived much benefit from the counsel of Gerald Wellesley, son of Lord Cowley, and nephew of the Duke of Wellington, who had been her domestic chaplain since 1849, and was dean of Windsor from 1854 until his death in 1882. She was often in consultation with him, particularly in regard to the church appointments which her ministers suggested to her. In one direction only did the queen relieve herself of any of her official work on the prince's death. It had been her custom to sign (in three places) every commission issued to officers in all branches of the military service, but she had fallen into arrears with the labour of late years, and sixteen thousand documents now awaited her signature. In March 1862 a bill was introduced into parliament enabling commissions to be issued without bearing her autograph, though her right of signing was reserved in case she wished to resume the practice, as she subsequently did. Public business, in accordance with her resolve, occupied her almost as soon as her husband was buried.
On 9 January 1862 she received the welcome news that the authorities at Washington had solved the difficulty of the Trent by acceding to the requests of the English government. She reminded Lord Palmerston that ‘this peaceful issue of the American quarrel was greatly owing to her beloved prince,’ and Palmerston considerately replied that the alterations in the despatch were only one of innumerable instances ‘of the tact and judgment and the power of nice discrimination which excited Lord Palmerston's constant and unbounded admiration.’ A day or two later she assented to Palmerston's proposal to confer the garter on Lord Russell, though she would not hear of a chapter of the order being held, and insisted on conferring the distinction by warrant. On 11 January she presided over a meeting of her privy council.
Two plans of domestic interest which the prince had initiated she at once carried to completion. It had been arranged that the prince of Wales should make a tour to the Holy Land with Dr. A. P. Stanley, the late prince's chaplain. In January 1862 the queen finally settled the tour with Stanley, who visited her at Osborne for the purpose, and from 6 February till 14 June her eldest son was absent from her on the expedition. There was some inevitable delay in the solemnisation of the marriage of Princess Alice, but it was quietly celebrated at Osborne on 1 July. The queen was present in deep mourning. Her brother-in-law, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg, gave the princess away. The queen felt acutely the separation from the daughter who had chiefly stood by her in her recent trial.
During the autumn visit to Balmoral (21 August 1862) the queen laid the foundations of a cairn ‘to the beloved memory of Albert the Great and Good, Prince Consort, raised by his broken-hearted widow.’She and the six children who were with her placed on it stones on which their initials were to be carved. Next month (September 1862) negotiations were in progress for the betrothal of the prince of Wales. His choice had fallen on Princess Alexandra, daughter of Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg, the next heir to the throne of Denmark, to which he ascended shortly afterwards on 15 November 1863. Her mother, Princess Louise of Hesse-Cassel, was niece of Christian VIII of Denmark, and sole heiress of the old Danish royal family. Princess Alexandra was already a distant connection of the queen by marriage, for the queen's aunt, the old Duchess of Cambridge, a member of the princely house of Hesse-Cassel, was also aunt of the princess's father. The queen readily assented to the match, and the princess was her guest at Osborne in November. Her grace and beauty fascinated the queen and the people of England from the first, and although the princess's connection with Denmark did not recommend the alliance to the Prussian government, which anticipated complications with its little northern neighbour, the betrothal had little political significance or influence.
More perplexing was the consideration which it was needful to devote in December 1862 to a question affecting the future of her second son, Alfred, who, under the prince consort's careful supervision, had been educated for the navy.The popular assembly of the kingdom of Greece had driven their king, Otho, from the throne, and resolved to confer the vacant crown on Prince Alfred. The queen regarded the proposal with unconcealed favour, but her ministers declared its acceptance to be impracticable and to be contrary to the country's treaty obligations with the powers. Unhappily for the queen's peace of mind, the ministers' rejection of the invitation to her second son, in which she soon acquiesced, did not relieve her of further debate on the subject.
A substitute for Alfred as a candidate for the Greek throne was suggested in the person of her brother-in-law, Duke Ernest of Saxe-Coburg. He at at once came to England to take the queen's advice, and his conduct greatly harassed her. His attitude to the question threatened a breach between them. The Duke had no children, and his throne of Saxe-Coburg would naturally devolve, should he die childless, on his only brother's eldest son, the prince of Wales; but it had already been agreed that, in view of the prince of Wales's heirship to the English throne, he should transfer to his next brother Alfred his claim to the German duchy. Duke Ernest was quite willing to ascend the Greek throne, but made it a condition that he should not immediately on his accession sever his connection with Coburg. This condition was treated as impossible of acceptance, alike by English ministers and by Greek leaders. For the Duke to abandon Coburg meant its immediate assignment to Prince Alfred. Of this result the queen, who was deeply attached to the principality and was always solicitous of the future fortunes of her younger children, by no means disapproved. But it was congenial neither to Duke Ernest nor to their uncle Leopold, and the Duke thought his sister-in-law's action ambiguous and insufficiently considerate towards his own interests. She endeavoured to soothe him, while resenting his pertinacious criticism, and on 29 January 1863 she wrote to him:
What I can do to remove difficulties, without prejudicing the rights of our children and the welfare of the beloved little country, you may rely upon. You are sure of my sisterly love, as well as my immense love for Coburg and the whole country. ...I am not at all well, and this whole Greek matter has affected me fearfully. Much too much rests upon me, poor woman, standing alone as I do with so many children, and every day, every hour, I feel more and more the horrible void that is ever growing greater and more fearful.
Finally the Duke's candidature for the Greek throne was withdrawn, and the crown was placed by England, in concert with the powers, on the head of George, brother of the Princess Alexandra, who was the affianced bride of the prince of Wales. The settlement freed the queen from the worry of family bickerings.
Through all the ranks of the nation the marriage of the queen's eldest son, the heir to the throne, evoked abundant enthusiasm. There was an anticipation that the queen would make it the occasion of ending the period of gloomy seclusion in which she had chosen to encircle the court. At her request parliament readily granted an annuity of £40,000 for the prince, which, added to the revenues of the duchy of Cornwall, brought his income to over £100,000 a year, while his bride was awarded an immediate annuity of £10,000 and a prospective one of £30,000 in case of widowhood. In accordance with the marriage treaty, which was signed at Copenhagen on 15 January 1863, the marriage took place on 5 March 1863 at St. George's Chapel, Windsor. The queen played no part in the ceremony, but witnessed it from a gallery overlooking the chancel. The sadness of her situation impressed so unsentimental a spectator as Lord Palmerston, who shed tears as he gazed on her. After the prince's marriage the court resumed some of its old routine; state balls and concerts were revived to a small extent, but the queen disappointed expectation by refusing to attend court entertainments herself. She entrusted her place in them to her eldest son and his bride, and to others of her children.
But while ignoring the pleasures of the court, she did not relax her devotion to the business of state. Her main energy was applied to foreign politics. While anxious that the prestige of England should be maintained abroad, she was desirous to keep the peace, and to impress other sovereigns with her pacific example. Her dislike of war in Europe now mainly sprang from family considerations — from her concern for the interests of her married daughters at Berlin and Darmstadt, and in a smaller degree for those of her brother-in-law at Coburg. The fortunes of all, and especially those of the crown princess of Prussia, seemed to her to be involved in every menace of the tranquillity of Europe. Into the precise merits of the difficulties which arose among the nations she did not enter with quite the same fulness as her husband. But the safety of existing dynasties was a principle that had appealed to him, and by that she stood firm. Consequently the points of view from which she and her ministers, Lord Palmerston and Lord John Russell, approached the foreign questions that engrossed the attention of Europe from 1863 to 1866 rarely coincided. But she pressed counsel on them with all her old pertinacity, and constantly had to acquiesce unwillingly in its rejection in detail. Nevertheless she fulfilled her main purpose of keeping her country free from such European complications as were likely to issue in war. And though she was unable to give effective political aid to her German relatives, she was often successful in checking the activity of her ministers' or her people's sympathies with their enemies.
The different mental attitudes in which the queen and her ministers stood to current foreign events is well illustrated by the divergent sentiments which the Polish insurrection excited in them in 1863. Palmerston and his colleague Lord John sympathised with the efforts of Poland to release itself from the grip of Russia, and their abhorrence of the persecution of a small race by a great reflected popular English feeling. France, affecting horror at Russia's cruelty, invited English co-operation in opposing her. Prussia, on the other hand, where Bismarck now ruled, declared that the Poles were meeting their deserts. The queen sternly warned her government against any manner of interference. Her view of the situation altogether ignored the grievances of the Poles. She privately identified herself with their oppressors. The Grand Duke Constantine, who was governor-general of Poland when the insurrection broke out, had been her guest. His life was menaced by the Polish rebels, wherefore his modes of tyranny, however repugnant, became in her sight inevitable weapons of self-defence. The question had driven France and Prussia into opposite camps. Maternal duty called her to the side of Prussia, her eldest daughter's adopted country and future dominion.
Early in the autumn of 1863 the queen visited Germany and examined the foreign situation for herself at close quarters. The main object of her tour was to revive her memories of the scenes of her late husLaeken with her uncle Leopold, she proceeded to Rosenau, Prince Albert's birthplace, and thence passed on to Coburg. The recent death of her husband's constant counsellor, Stockmar, at Coburg, intensified the depression in which public and private anxieties involved her, but she took pleasure in the society of the crown prince and princess, who joined her at Rosenau. Their political prospects, however, filled her with fresh alarms.
The sovereigns of Germany were meeting at Frankfort to consider a reform of the confederation of the German states. For reasons that were to appear later, Prussia declined to join the meeting, and Austria assumed the leading place in the conference. It looked probable that an empire of Germany would come into being under the headship of the emperor of Austria, that Prussia would be excluded from it, and would be ruined in its helpless isolation. The jealousy with which not only Austria, but the smaller German states, regarded Prussia seemed to the queen to render imminent its decay and fall. Domestic instincts spurred her to exert all her personal influence in Germany to set the future of Prussia and her daughter's fortunes on a securer basis. Her brother-in-law, Duke Ernest, was attending the German diet of sovereigns at Frankfort. From Rosenau she addressed to him constant appeals to protect Prussia from the disasters with which the Frankfort meeting threatened it.
On 29 August, after drawing a dismal picture of Prussia's rapid decline, she wrote:
All the more would I beg you, as much as lies in your power, to prevent a weakening of Prussia, which not only my own feeling resists — on account of the future of our children — but which would surely also be contrary to the interest of Germany; and I know that our dear angel Albert always regarded a strong Prussia as a necessity, for which therefore it is a sacred duty for me to work.
Two days later, on 31 August, the king of Prussia, at her request, paid her a visit. Bismarck, who had a year before assumed control of the policy of Prussia and understood the situation better than the queen, was in his master's retinue, but he was not present at the interview. The king's kindly tone did not reassure the queen. She thought he failed to realise his country's and his family's danger. But his apparent pusillanimity did not daunt her energies. A personal explanation with the ruler, from whom Prussia had, in her view, everything to fear, became essential.
Early in September Francis Joseph, the emperor of Austria, was returning to Vienna from the diet at Frankfort. She invited him to visit her on the way at the castle of Coburg. On 3 September he arrived there. It was her first meeting with him. She had been interested in him since his accession to the throne in the eventful year 1848. Ten years later, in August 1858, he had sent to her when at Babelsberg a letter regretting his inability to make her personal acquaintance while she was in the neighbourhood of his dominions; and when his son and heir was born a day or two later, on 22 August 1858, she at once wrote a cordial note of congratulation. Now his interview with her lasted three hours. Only Duke Ernest was present with them. The queen prudently deprecated the notion that she desired to enter in detail into political questions, but her maternal anxiety for her children at Berlin impelled her (she said) to leave no stone unturned to stave off the dangers that threatened Prussia. She knew how greatly Prussia would benefit if she won a sympathetic hearing from the emperor. He heard her respectfully, but committed himself to nothing, and the interview left the situation unchanged. But the interest of the episode cannot be measured by its material result. It is a signal proof of the queen's courageous will and passionate devotion to her family.
Prince Albert statue, Aberdeen
Soon after parting with Emperor Francis Joseph, the queen set her face homewards, only pausing at Darmstadt to see her daughter Alice in her own home. Arrived in England, she paid her customary autumn visit to Balmoral, and spent some days in September with her friends the Duke and Duchess of Athol at Blair Athol. Afterwards she temporarily issued from her seclusion in order to unveil publicly at Aberdeen, on 13 October 1863, a bronze statue of the prince consort, which Marochetti had designed at the expense of the city and county. In reply to the address from the subscribers the queen declared through Sir George Grey, the home secretary, that she had come ‘to proclaim in public the unbounded reverence and admiration, the devoted love that fills my heart for him whose loss must throw a lasting gloom over all my future life.’ The occasion was one of severe and painful trial to her; but it proved the first of numerous occasions on which she presided over a like ceremony. She welcomed the multiplication of statues of the late prince with such warmth that by degrees, as Gladstone said, they ‘covered the land.’
Before the end of the year (1863) there broke out the struggle in central Europe which the conflicting claims of Germany and Denmark to the duchies of Schleswig-Holstein had long threatened. English ministers and the queen had always kept the question well in view. In 1852 a conference in London of representatives of the various parties had arranged, under the English government's guidance, a compromise, whereby the relation of the duchies to Germany and Denmark was so defined as to preserve peace for eleven years. The Danes held them under German supervision. But in the course of 1863 Frederick VII of Denmark asserted new claims on the disputed territory. Although he died just before he gave effect to his intentions, his successor, the princess of Wales's father, Christian IX, at once fully accepted his policy. Opinion in Germany, while at one in its hostility to Denmark and in its deliberate resolve henceforth to exclude her from the duchies, ran in two sharply divided currents in regard to their future status and their relation to Germany.
In 1852 Denmark had bought off a German claimant to the duchies in the person of Duke Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, but his son Duke Frederick declined to be bound by the bargain, and had, in 1863, reasserted an alleged hereditary right to the territory, with the enthusiastic concurrence of the smaller German states and of a liberal minority in Prussia. Two of Duke Frederick's adherents, the kings of Saxony and Hanover, actually sent troops to drive the Danes from Kiel, the chief city of Holstein, in December 1863, and to put him in possession. The government of Prussia, on the other hand, was indifferent to Duke Frederick's pretensions, and anticipating embarrassment from co-operation with the small German states, it took the matter entirely out of their hands. The king of Prussia induced the emperor of Austria to join him exclusively in expelling the Danes from the two duchies, and it was agreed that the two powers, having overcome the Danes, should hold the territories jointly until some final arrangement was reached. There were thus three parties to the dispute — the king of Denmark, Duke Frederick of Augustenburg with his German champions, and the rulers of Prussia and Austria.
Two of the three litigants, the king of Denmark and Duke Frederick, each clamoured for the queen'ssupport and the intervention of English arms. The queen, who narrowly watched the progress of events and surprised ministers at home and envoys from abroad with the minuteness and accuracy of her knowledge, was gravely disturbed. Her sympathies were naturally German and anti-Danish; but between the two sections of German opinion she somewhat hesitated. Duke Frederick was the husband of the daughter of her half-sister Féodore, and she had entertained him at Windsor. The crown prince of Prussia was his close friend, and his cause was also espoused by the queen's daughter Alice and her husband, Prince Louis of Hesse, as well as by her brother-in-law, Duke Ernest of Saxe-Coburg. But while regarding with benevolence the pretensions of Duke Frederick of Augustenburg, and pitying the misfortunes of his family, she could not repress the thought that the policy of Prussia, although antagonistic to his interests, was calculated to increase the strength and prestige of that kingdom, the promotion of which was for her ‘a sacred duty.’
There were other grounds which impelled her to restrain her impulse to identity herself completely with any one party to the strife. Radical divergences of opinion were alive in her own domestic circle. The princess of Wales, the daughter of the king of Denmark, naturally felt acutely her father's position, and when, in December 1863, she and her husband were fellow-guests at Windsor with the crown prince and princess of Prussia, the queen treated Schleswig-Holstein as a forbidden subject at her table. To her ministers and to the mass of her subjects, moreover, the cause of Denmark made a strong appeal. The threats of Prussia and Austria to attack a small power like Denmark seemed to them another instance of brutal oppression of the weak by the strong. Duke Frederick's position was deemed futile. The popularity of the princess of Wales, the king of Denmark's daughter, tended to strengthen the prevailing popular sentiment in favour of the Danes.
In view of interests so widely divided the queen hoped against hope that peace might be preserved. At any rate she was resolved that England should not directly engage in the strife, which she wished to see restricted to the narrowest possible limits of time and space. It was therefore with deep indignation that she learned that active interference in behalf of Denmark was contemplated by her cabinet. Napoleon III was sounded as to whether he would lend his aid, but he had grown estranged from Palmerston, and answered coldly. The ministers' ardour in behalf of Denmark was not diminished by this rebuff. But the queen's repugnance to their Danish sentiment was strengthened. She made no endeavour to conceal her German sympathies, although they became, to her regret, the subject of reproachful comment in the press. Theodor von Bernhardi, the Prussian envoy, had an interview with her at Osborne on 8 January 1864.
She frankly deplored the strength of the Danish party in England, which had won, she said, the leading journalistic organs. She thought that Germany might exert more influence in the same direction. She was dissatisfied, she added, with the position of the crown prince, and lamented the depressed condition of the liberal party in Prussia. At the same time she turned a deaf ear to the urgent appeals of Duke Frederick's friends for material assistance. Within a few hours of her interview with Bernhardi she wrote to her brother-in-law at Coburg that she had come to see with her government that Duke Frederick's claim was unworkable. ‘All my endeavours and those of my government,’ she said, ‘are only directed towards the preservation of peace.’ When her ministers introduced what she regarded as bellicose expressions into the queen's speech at the opening of parliament (4 February 1864), she insisted on their removal.
A more critical stage was reached in the same month, when hostilities actually broke out between Austria and Prussia on the one hand and Denmark on the other. Although the Danes fought bravely, they were soon defeated, and the English government, with the assent of the queen, urged on the belligerents not merely an armistice, but a conference in London, so that an accommodation might be reached and the war abridged. The conference met on 20 April. The queen saw many of the envoys and talked to them with freedom. She recommended mutual concessions. But it was soon seen that the conference would prove abortive. To the queen's annoyance, before it dissolved, her government championed with new vehemence the cause of the Danes, and warlike operations in their behalf were again threatened. Palmerston told the Austrian ambassador, Count Apponyi, that if the Austrian fleet went to the Baltic it would meet the British fleet there. The queen, through Lord Granville, expressed dissatisfaction with the threat, and appealed to the cabinet to aid her against the prime minister. She invited the private support of the leader of the opposition, Lord Derby, in the service of peace, and hinted that, if parliament did not adopt a pacific and neutral policy, she would have resort to a dissolution. Meanwhile her German relatives complained to her of the encouragement that her ministers and subjects were giving the Danes. But in her foreign correspondence, as the situation developed, she displayed scrupulous tact. She deprecated the rumours that she and her ministers were pulling in opposite directions, or that she had it in her power to take a course to which they were adverse. In May the London conference broke up without arriving at any decision. The war was resumed in June with triumphant results to the German allies, who quickly routed the Danes and occupied the whole of the disputed duchies. Throughout these operations England maintained the strictest neutrality, the full credit of which was laid in diplomatic circles at the queen's door.
Much of this agitation waged round the princess of Wales, and while it was at its height a new interest was aroused in her. On 8 January 1864 she became, at Frogmore, the mother of a son (Albert Victor), who was in the direct line of succession to the throne. The happy event, which gave the queen, in the heat of the political anxiety, much gratification, was soon followed by her first public appearance in London since her bereavement. On 30 March she attended a flower show at the Horticultural Gardens, while she permitted her birthday on 24 May to be celebrated for the first time since her widowhood with state formalities. In the autumn Duke Ernest and his wife were her guests at Balmoral, and German politics continued to be warmly debated. But she mainly devoted her time to recreation. She made, as of old, many excursions in the neighbourhood of her highland home. For the second time in Scotland she unveiled a statue of the prince consort, now at Perth; and on her return to Windsor she paid a private visit to her late husband's foundation of Wellington College.
A feeling was growing throughout the country that the queen's seclusion was unduly prolonged, and was contrary to the nation's interest. It was not within the knowledge of the majority of her subjects that she was performing the routine business of her station with all her ancient pertinacity, and she had never failed to give public signs of interest in social and non-political questions affecting the people's welfare. On New Year's Day 1865 she, on her own responsibility, addressed a letter to railway companies, calling their attention to the frequency of accidents, and to their responsibilities for making better provision for the safety of their passengers. In London, in March, she visited the Consumption Hospital at Brompton.
The assassination of President Lincoln on 14 April called forth all her sympathy, and she at once sent to the president's widow an autograph letter of condolence, which excited enthusiasm on both sides of the Atlantic, and did much to relieve the tension that English sympathy with the Southern confederates had introduced into the relations of the governments of London and Washington. But it was obvious at the same time that she was neglecting the ceremonial functions of her office. On three occasions she had failed to open parliament in person. That ceremony most effectually brought into prominence the place of the sovereign in the constitution; it was greatly valued by ministers, and had in the past been rarely omitted. William IV, who had excused his attendance at the opening of parliament in 1837 on the ground of the illness of his sister, the Duchess of Gloucester, had been warned that his absence contravened a principle of the constitution; and Lord Melbourne, the prime minister, wrote to Lord John Russell that that was the first occasion in the history of the country on which a sovereign had failed to present himself at the opening of parliament, except in cases of personal illness or infirmity. The queen was known to be in the enjoyment of good health, and, despite her sorrow, had regained some of her native cheerfulness. When, therefore, early in 1865 the rumour spread that she would resume her place on the throne at the opening of parliament, signs of popular satisfaction abounded. But she did not come, and the disappointment intensified popular discontent.
Radicals, who had no enthusiasm for the monarchical principle, began to argue that the cost of the crown was out of all proportion to its practical use. On 28 September 1865 a cartoon in Punch portrayed the queen as the statue of Hermione in Shakespeare's Winter's Tale, and Britannia figuring as Paulina was represented as addressing to her the words: ‘'Tis time; descend; be stone no more’ (v. iii. 99). On the other hand, chivalrous defenders pointed to the natural womanly sentiment which explained and justified her retirement. In the first number of the Pall Mall Gazette which appeared on 7 February 1865, the day of the opening of the new parliament, the first article, headed The Queen's Seclusion, sympathetically sought to stem the tide of censure. Similarly at a great liberal meeting at St. James's Hall on 4 December 1866, after Mr. A. S. Ayrton, member of parliament for the Tower Hamlets, had denounced the queen in no sparing terms, John Bright, who was present, brought his eloquence to her defence and said: ‘I am not accustomed to stand up in defence of those who are the possessors of crowns. But I think there has been, by many persons, a great injustice done to the queen in reference to her desolate and widowed position; and I venture to say this, that a woman, be she the queen of a great realm, or be she the wife of one of your labouring men, who can keep alive in her heart a great sorrow for the lost object of her life and affection, is not at all likely to be wanting in a great and generous sympathy with you.’ Mr. Ayrton endeavoured to explain his words, but was refused a hearing. Nevertheless the agitation was unrepressed.
A year later there was a revival of the rumour that court life was to resume its former brilliance under the queen's personal auspices. Unmoved by the popular outcry, she peremptorily denied the truth of the report in a communication to the Times newspaper. She said
she would not shrink from any personal sacrifice or exertion, however painful. She had worked hard in the public service to the injury of her health and strength. The fatigue of mere state ceremonies, which could be equally well performed by other members of the royal family, she was unable to undergo. She would do what she could — in the manner least trying to her health, strength, and spirits — to meet the loyal wishes of her subjects; to afford that support and countenance to society, and to give that encouragement to trade, which was desired of her. More the queen could not do, and more the kindness and good feeling of her people would surely not exact of her.
In the autumn of 1865 domestic matters largely occupied her. Accompanied by her family, she paid another visit to her husband's native country, in order to unveil, in the presence of all his relatives, a statue to him at Coburg (26 August). While at Coburg she approved a matrimonial project affecting her third and eldest unmarried daughter, Helena, who had of late years been her constant companion. In view of recent events in Germany the match was calculated strongly to excite political feeling there. Largely at the instance of Duke Ernest, the princess was betrothed to Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, the younger brother of that Duke Frederick whose claim to the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein had been pressed by the smaller German states on Denmark and on the Prussian-Austrian alliance with results disastrous to himself. After the recent Schleswig-Holstein war Bismarck had deprived Duke Frederick and his family of their property and standing, and the claimant's younger brother, Prince Christian, who had previously been an officer in the Prussian army, had been compelled to retire. The sympathy felt by the crown prince and princess for the injured house of Augustenburg rendered the match congenial to them; but it was viewed with no favour at Berlin, and the queen was freely reproached there with a wanton interference in the domestic affairs of Germany. She unmistakably identified herself with the arrangement, and by her private munificence met the difficulty incident to the narrow pecuniary resources of the young prince. She returned to England in good health and spirits, meeting at Ostend her uncle Leopold for what proved to be the last time.
Events in the autumn unfortunately reinvigorated her sense of isolation. In the summer of 1865 a dissolution of parliament had become necessary, and the liberals slightly increased their majority in the new House of Commons. But, before the new parliament met, the death of Palmerston, the prime minister, on 18 October, broke for the queen another link with the past. In the presence of death the queen magnanimously forgot all the trials that the minister had caused her. She only felt, she said, how one by one her servants and ministers were taken from her. She acknowledged the admiration which Lord Palmerston's acts, even those that met with her disapproval, had roused in his fellow-countrymen, and, justly interpreting public sentiment, she directed that a public funeral should be accorded him. She afterwards paid Lady Palmerston a touching visit of condolence.
Without hesitation she turned to Lord John, the oldest minister in her service, who in 1861 had gone to the House of Lords as Earl Russell, and bade him take Palmerston's place. The change was rendered grateful to her by the bestowal of the office of foreign secretary, which Lord Russell had hitherto held, on her trusted friend, Lord Clarendon. But at the same time Gladstone, the chancellor of the exchequer, became leader of the House of Commons in succession to Palmerston, and she was thus for the first time brought into close personal relations with one who was to play a larger part in her subsequent career than proved congenial to her. On 10 December the queen suffered another loss, which brought her acute sorrow — the death of King Leopold. She had depended on him almost since her birth for advice on both public and private questions. There was no member of the Saxe-Coburg family, of which she was herself practically the head henceforth, who could take her uncle's place. Her brother-in-law Ernest, who was vain and quixotic, looked up to her for counsel, and in his judgment she put little faith. In her family circle it was now, more than before, on herself alone that she had to rely.
The forthcoming marriage of Princess Helena coincided with the coming of age of her second son, Prince Alfred. For her son and daughter the queen was anxious that due pecuniary provision should be made by parliament. This circumstance, coupled with the fact that a new parliament was assembling, led her to yield to the request of her ministers and once more, after an interval of five years, open the legislature in person (10 February 1866). She came to London from Windsor only for the day, and she deprived the ceremony of much of its ancient splendour. No flourish of trumpets announced her entrance. The gilded state carriage was replaced by one of more modern build, though it was drawn as of old by the eight cream-coloured horses.
The queen, instead of wearing the royal robes of state, had them laid on a chair at her side, and her speech was read not by herself, as had been her habit hitherto, but by the lord chancellor. The old procedure was never restored by the queen, and on the six subsequent occasions that she opened parliament before the close of her reign, the formalities followed the new precedent of 1866. She was dressed in black, wearing a Marie Stuart cap and the blue riband of the garter. During the ceremony she sat perfectly motionless, and manifested little consciousness of what was proceeding. A month later she showed the direction that her thoughts were always taking by instituting the Albert medal, a new decoration for those endangering their lives in seeking to rescue others from perils of the sea (7 March 1866).
Later in the year she, for the first time after the prince's death, revisited Aldershot, going there twice to review troops — on 13 March and on 5 April. On the second occasion she gave new colours to the 89th regiment, which she had first honoured thus in 1833, and she now bestowed on the regiment the title ‘The Princess Victoria's Regiment,’ permitting the officers to wear on their forage caps the badge of a princess's coronet. The summer was brightened by two marriages. Not only her daughter Helena but her cousin and friend, Princess Mary of Cambridge, had recently become engaged. The latter was betrothed to the Duke of Teck, who was congenial to the queen by reason of his Saxe-Coburg connections. He was her second cousin, being the son, by a morganatic marriage, of Duke Alexander Constantine of Würtemberg, whose mother, of the Saxe-Coburg family, was elder sister of the Duchess of Kent, and thus the queen's aunt. On 12 June, dressed in deep black, she was present at Princess Mary's wedding, which took place at Kew. On 5 July she attended the solemnisation of marriage at Windsor of her third daughter, Helena, with Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein.
Parliament had been conciliatory in the matter of grants to her children. Princess Helena received a dowry of £30,000 and an annuity of £6,000, while Prince Alfred received an annuity of £15,000, to be raised to £25,000 in case of his marriage. There was no opposition to either arrangement. But throughout the session the position of the government and the course of affairs in Germany filled the queen with alarm. It was clear that the disputes between Prussia and Austria in regard to the final allotment of the conquered duchies of Schleswig-Holstein were to issue in a desperate conflict between the two powers. Not otherwise could their long rivalry for the headship of the German states be finally decided.
The prospect of war caused the queen acute distress. The merits of the quarrels were blurred in her eyes by domestic considerations. The struggle hopelessly divided her family in Germany. The crown prince was wholly identified with Prussia, but her son-in-law of Hesse her cousin of Hanover, and her brother-in-law of Saxe-Coburg were supporters of Austria. The likelihood that her two sons-in-law of Prussia and Hesse would fight against each other was especially alarming to her. Her former desire to see Prussia strong and self-reliant was now in conflict with her fear that Prussian predominance meant ruin for all the smaller states of Germany, to which she was personally attached. In the early months of 1866 she eagerly consulted Lord Clarendon with a view to learning how best to apply her influence to the maintenance of peace. She bade Lord Russell, the prime minister, take every step to prevent war; and in March 1866 her ministry, with her assent, proposed to the king of Prussia that she should act as mediator. Bismarck, however, brusquely declined her advances.
Her perplexities were increased in May by her government's domestic difficulties. Lord Russell warned her of the probable defeat of the government on the reform bill, which they had lately introduced into the House of Commons. The queen had already acknowledged the desirability of a prompt settlement of the long-debated extension of the franchise. She had even told Lord Russell that vacillation or indifference respecting it on the government's part, now that the question was in the air, weakened the power of the crown. But the continental complication reduced a home political question to small dimensions in the queen's eye. She declined to recognise a reform bill as a matter of the first importance, and she wrote with some heat to Lord Russell that, whatever happened to his franchise proposals in the commons, she would permit no resignation of the ministers until the foreign crisis was passed. Her ministers begged her to remain at Windsor in May instead of paying her usual spring visit to Balmoral. She declined, with the remark that they were bound at all hazards to avert a ministerial crisis. In June the worst happened, alike at home and abroad.
War was declared between Prussia and Austria, and Lord Russell's government was defeated while its reform bill was in committee in the House of Commons. On 19 June Lord Russell forwarded his resignation to Balmoral and deprecated dissolution. The queen wrote protesting that she was taken completely by surprise. ‘In the present state of Europe,’ she said, ‘and the apathy which Lord Russell himself admits to exist in the country on the subject of reform, the queen cannot think it consistent with the duty which the ministers owe to herself and the country that they should abandon their posts in consequence of their defeat on a matter of detail (not of principle) in a question which can never be settled unless all sides are prepared to make concessions; and she must therefore ask them to reconsider their decision’. Lord Russell retorted that his continuance in office was impracticable, and with his retirement he in effect ended his long public life. The queen in her anger regarded his withdrawal as amounting to desertion, and, failing to hasten her departure from Balmoral, suffered the government for some days to lie in abeyance. At length the conservative leader, Lord Derby, accepted her request to form a new ministry, with Disraeli as chancellor of the exchequer and leader of the House of Commons (6 July 1866).
Meanwhile the Austro-Prussian war was waging in Germany, and many of the queen's relatives were in the field, the crown prince alone fighting for Prussia, the rest supporting Austria. She was in constant communication with her kindred on the two sides, and her anxiety was intense. She took charge of the children of Princess Alice of Hesse-Darmstadt, and sent her at Darmstadt much linen for the wounded. The result was not long in doubt. At the outset, the rapid invasion of Hanover by Prussian troops drove the queen's cousin the king from his throne, and blotted out the kingdom, converting it into a Prussian province. The queen felt bitterly the humiliation of the dissolution of a kingdom which had long been identified with England. She made urgent inquiries after the safety of the expelled royal family of Hanover. The king, who was blind, made his residence at Paris, and in the welfare of him and of his family, especially of his daughter Frederica, whom she called ‘the poor lily of Hanover,’ her affectionate interest never waned.
Elsewhere Prussia's triumph in the war was as quickly assured, and the queen suffered more disappointments. Italy had joined Prussia against Austria. Austria was summarily deprived of Venetia, her last hold on the Italian peninsula, and the union of Italy under Victor Emanuel — a project with which the queen had no sympathy — was virtually accomplished. The Austrians were decisively defeated at the battle at Sadowa near Königgratz on 3 July 1866, and the conflict was at an end seven weeks after it had begun. Thus Prussia was finally placed at the head of the whole of North Germany; its accession to an imperial crown of Germany was in sight, and Austria was compelled to retire from the German confederation. It was with mixed feelings that the queen saw her early hopes of a strong Prussia realised. The price of the victory was abolition of the kingdom of Hanover, loss of territory for her son-in-law of Hesse-Darmstadt, and reduction of power and dignity for the other small German states with which she was lineally associated.
The queen's withdrawal to the quiet of Balmoral in October gave welcome relief after such severe political strains. She repeated a short sojourn, which she had made the year before, with the lately widowed Duchess of Athol, a lady of the bedchamber, at Dunkeld, and she opened the Aberdeen waterworks at Invercannie (16 October 1866), when for the first time in her widowhood she herself read the answer to the address of the lord provost. Another public ceremonial in which she took part after her return south revealed the vast store of loyalty which, despite detraction and criticism, the queen still had at her command. On 30 November she visited Wolverhampton to unveil a statue of the prince consort in the market-place. She expressed a desire that her route should be so arranged as to give the inhabitants, both poor and rich, full opportunities of showing their respect. A network of streets measuring a course of nearly three miles was traversed. The queen acknowledged that ‘the heartiness and cordiality of the reception’ left nothing to be desired, and her spirits rose.
But the perpetuation of her husband's memory was still a main endeavour of her life, and she now enlisted biography in her service. Under her direction her private secretary, General Grey, completed in 1866 a very minute account of the early years of the prince consort. She designed the volume, which was based on confidential and intimate correspondence, and only brought the prince's life to the date of his marriage, for private distribution among friends and relatives. But in 1867 she placed the book at the disposal of the wider audience of the general public. The work was well received. At the queen's request Wilberforce reviewed it in the Quarterly. He described it as a cry from the queen's heart for her people's sympathy, and he said that her cry was answered. The queen resolved that the biography should be continued, and on General Grey's death in May 1870 she entrusted the task, on the recommendation of Sir Arthur Helps, clerk of the council, to Sir Arthur's friend, (Sir) Theodore Martin. Much of her time was thenceforth devoted to the sorting of her and her husband's private papers and correspondence, and to the selection of extracts for publication.
Sir Theodore Martin's work was designed on an ample scale, the first volume appearing in 1874, and the fifth and last in 1880. Amazement was felt even by her own children at the want of reserve which characterised the prince's biography. The whole truth best vindicated him, she explained, and it was undesirable to wait before telling it till those who had known him had passed away. The German side of his character, which alienated sympathy in his lifetime, could only be apprehended in a full exposition. Both she and he would suffer, she said, were the work not carried through. At the same time she deprecated indiscretion or levity in writing of the royal family, and in 1874 she was greatly irritated by the publication of the first part of the Greville Memoirs. She judged the work, by its freedom of comment on her predecessors, to be disrespectful to the monarchy. Henry Reeve, the editor, was informed of her displeasure, and she was not convinced by his defence that monarchy had been injured by George IV's depravity and William IV's absurdity, and had only been placed on a sure footing by her own virtues. To illustrate the happy character of her married life, she privately issued in 1867 some extracts from her diary under the title of Leaves from a Journal of our Life in the Highlands from 1848 to 1861. This, too, she was induced to publish at the beginning of the following year (1868). Its unaffected simplicity and naïveté greatly attracted the public, who saw in the book, with its frank descriptions of her private life, proof of her wish to share her joys and sorrows with her people. A second part followed in 1883, covering the years 1862 to 1882.
.The year 1867 abounded in political incidents which absorbed the queen's attention. With her new conservative ministers her relations were invariably cordial. Their views on foreign politics were mainly identical with her own, and there was none of the tension which had marked her relations with Palmerston and Lord Russell in that direction. As proof of the harmony existing between her advisers and herself, she consented to open parliament in person on 5 February In May she again appeared in public, when she laid the foundation of the Royal Albert Hall, which was erected in her husband's memory. Her voice, in replying to the address of welcome, was scarcely audible. It had been with a struggle, she said, that she had nerved herself to take part in the proceedings.
The chief event of the year in domestic politics was the passage of Disraeli's reform bill through parliament. The queen encouraged the government to settle the question. Although she had no enthusiasm for sweeping reforms, her old whig training inclined her to regard extensions of the franchise as favourable to the monarchy and to the foundations of her government.
But foreign affairs still appealed to her more strongly than home legislation. The European sky had not grown clear, despite the storms of the previous year. The queen was particularly perturbed in the early months of 1867 by renewed fear of her former ally, Napoleon III. Although her personal correspondence with him was still as amiable as of old, her distrust of his political intentions was greater than ever, and she always believed him to be secretly fomenting serious disquiet. He now professed to detect a menace to France in the semi-independence of the frontier state — the duchy of Luxemburg — seeing that the new conditions which Prussian predominance created in north Germany gave that power the right to fortify the duchy on its French border. He therefore negotiated with the suzerain of the duchy, the king of Holland, for its annexation to his own dominions, or he was willing to see it annexed to Belgium if some small strip of Belgian territory were assigned to him. Prussia raised protests and Belgium declined his suggestion. The queen urgently appealed to her government to keep the peace, and her appeal had its effect. A conference met in London (11-14 May 1867) with the result that the independence of the duchy of Luxemburg was guaranteed by the powers, though its fortresses were to be dismantled. Napoleon was disappointed by his failure to secure any material advantage from the settlement, and he was inclined to credit the queen with thwarting his ambition.
His relations with her endured a further strain next month when his fatal abandonment in Mexico of her friend and connection, the ArchDuke Maximilian, became known. In 1864 Napoleon had managed to persuade the archDuke, the Austrian emperor's brother, who had married the queen's first cousin, Princess Charlotte of Belgium, and had frequently been the queen's guest, to accept the imperial throne which a French army was setting up in republican Mexico. Few of the inhabitants of the country acknowledged the title of the new emperor, and in 1866, after the close of the American civil war, the government at Washington warned Napoleon that, unless his troops were summarily withdrawn from the North American continent, force would be used to expel them. The emperor pusillanimously offered no resistance to the demand, and the French army was withdrawn, but the archDuke declined to leave with it. His wife, Princess Charlotte of Belgium, as soon as she realised her husband's peril, came to Europe to beg protection for him, and to the queen's lasting sorrow her anxieties permanently affected her intellect. Meanwhile the inhabitants of Mexico restored the republic, and the archDuke was shot by order of a court-martial on 20 June 1867. The catastrophe appalled the queen, whose personal attachment to its victims was great. She wrote a frank letter of condolence to the archDuke's brother, the emperor of Austria, and for the time spoke of Napoleon as politically past redemption. But she still cherished private affection for the empress of the French, and privately entertained her as her guest at Osborne in July. Nor, when misfortune overtook the emperor himself in 1870, did she permit her repugnance to his political action to repress her sense of compassion.
While the Mexican tragedy was nearing its last scene the second great exhibition was taking place at Paris, and Napoleon III, despite the universal suspicion that he excited, succeeded in entertaining many royal personages — among them the tsar Alexander II, the king of Prussia, Abdul Aziz, sultan of Turkey, Ismail Pasha, khedive of Egypt, and the prince of Wales. The queen's ministers recommended that she should renew the old hospitalities of her court and invite the royal visitors in Paris to be her guests. The queen of Prussia had spent several days with her in June, but she demurred to acting as hostess in state on a large scale. She however agreed, with a view to confirming her influence in Eastern Europe, to entertain Abdul Aziz, the sultan of Turkey, and to receive Ismail Pasha, the khedive of Egypt, who had announced his intention of coming, and was in the country from 6 to 18 July. No sultan of Turkey had yet set foot on English soil, and the visit, which seemed to set the seal on the old political alliance between the two governments, evoked intense popular excitement. The sultan was magnificently received on his arrival on 12 July, and was lodged in Buckingham Palace. Though the queen took as small a part as possible in the festivities, she did not withdraw herself altogether from them. Princess Alice helped her in extending hospitalities to her guest, who lunched with her at Windsor and highly commended her attentions. A great naval review by the queen at Spithead was arranged in his honour and he accompanied his hostess on board her yacht, the Victoria and Albert. The weather was bad, and amid a howling storm the queen invested the sultan with the order of the garter on the yacht's deck. When the sultan left on 23 July he exchanged with her highly complimentary telegrams.
At Balmoral, in the autumn, she showed more than her usual energy. On her way thither she made an excursion in the Scottish border country, staying for two days with the Duke and Duchess of Roxburgh at Floors Castle, near Kelso (21 to 23 August). On the 22nd she visited Melrose Abbey, and thence proceeded to Abbotsford, where she was received by Mr. Hope Scott, and was greatly interested in the memorials of Sir Walter Scott. In the study, at her host's request, she wrote her name in Scott's journal, an act of which she wrote in her diary: ‘I felt it to be a presumption in me to do.’ Subsequently she unveiled with some formality a memorial to the Prince Albert at Deeside, and visited the Duke of Richmond at Glenfiddich (24-7 September).
Early in 1868 she accepted, for the seventh time in her experience, a new prime minister, and one with whom her intimacy was to be greater than with any of his six predecessors. In February Lord Derby resigned owing to failing health. The choice of a successor lay between Disraeli and Lord Derby's son, Lord Stanley. Disraeli's steady work for his party for a quarter of a century seemed to entitle him to the great reward, and the queen without any hesitation conferred it on him. Her relations with him had been steadily improving. Though she acknowledged that he was eccentric, his efforts to please her convinced her of his devotion to the crown. As her prime minister Disraeli from the first confirmed her good opinion of him, and by the adroitness of his counsel increased her sense of power and dignity. But his power in parliament was insecure, and she was soon brought face to face with a ministerial crisis in which he contrived that she should play not unwillingly an unwontedly prominent part.
In April Gladstone brought forward his first and main resolution in favour of the disestablishment of the Irish church. The government resisted him, and on 1 May was sharply defeated by a majority of sixty-five. Next day Disraeli went to Windsor and tendered his resignation to the queen. Personally the queen disliked Gladstone's proposal. She regarded the established church throughout her dominions as intimately associated with the crown, and interference with it seemed to her to impair her prerogative. But as a constitutional sovereign she realised that the future of the church establishment in Ireland or elsewhere was no matter for her own decision; it was for the decision of her parliament and people. In the present emergency she desired the people to have full time in which to make up their minds regarding the fate of the Irish church. If she accepted Disraeli's resignation she would be compelled to confer office on Gladstone, and her government would be committed to Irish disestablishment.
Disraeli pointed out that she could at least defer the evil moment by declining to accept his resignation and by dissolving parliament. An immediate dissolution was undesirable if the appeal were to be made, as all parties wished, to the new constituencies which had been created by the late reform bill. The Scottish and Irish reform bills and the boundary bills which were required to complete that measure had yet to pass through their final stages. Consequently the queen's refusal to accept the existing government's resignation meant its continuance in office during the six months which were needed before all the arrangements for the appeal to the newly enfranchised electors could be accomplished. If the opposition failed to keep the government in power during that period, it ran the risk, in the present temper of the sovereign, of provoking a dissolution before the new electoral reform was consummated. Disraeli, while explaining the situation to the queen, left her to choose between the two possible alternatives, the acceptance of his resignation now and the appeal to the country six months later. After two days' consideration, she elected to take the second course. She was prepared to accept full responsibility for her decision, and when Disraeli announced it to parliament on 5 May he described, with her assent, the general drift of his negotiations with her. Grave doubts were expressed in the House of Commons as to whether his conduct was consistent with that of the ministerial adviser of a constitutional sovereign. In his first conversation with the queen he had acted on his own initiative, and had not consulted his colleagues. This self-reliance somewhat damped enthusiasm for his action in the ranks of his own party. The leaders of the opposition boldly argued that the minister was bound to offer the sovereign definite advice, which it behoved her to adopt, that the constitution recognised no power in the sovereign to exercise personal volition, and that the minister was faithless to his trust in offering her two courses and abiding by her voluntary selection of one. But the argument against the minister was pushed too far. The queen had repeatedly exerted a personal choice between accepting a dissolution and a resignation of a ministry in face of an adverse vote in the House of Commons. The only new feature that the present situation offered was Disraeli's open attribution to the queen of responsibility for the final decision. The net effect of his procedure was to bring into clearer relief than before the practical ascendency, within certain limits, which under the constitution a ministerial crisis assured the crown, if its wearer cared to assert it. The revelation was in the main to the advantage of the prestige of the throne. It conflicted with the constitutional fallacy that the monarch was necessarily and invariably an automaton. But the queen had no intention of exceeding her constitutional power, and when, immediately after the settlement of the ministerial difficulty, the House of Commons, by an irresistible vote of the opposition, petitioned her to suspend new appointments in the Irish church in the crown's control, and to place royal patronage at the parliament's disposal, she did not permit any personal predilections to postpone her assent for a day.
On 10 March 1868 the queen, for the first time since her widowhood, held a drawing-room at Buckingham Palace. On 20 June she reviewed twenty-seven thousand volunteers in Windsor Park, and two days later gave a public ‘breakfast’ or afternoon party in the gardens of Buckingham Palace. She appeared to observers to enjoy the entertainment, but she had no intention of introducing any change into her habitually secluded mode of life. By way of illustrating her desire to escape from court functions, she in August paid a first visit to Switzerland, travelling incognito under the name of the Countess of Kent. She forbade any public demonstration in her honour, but accepted the Emperor Napoleon's courteous offer of his imperial train in which to travel through France. On the outward journey she rested for a day at the English embassy in Paris, where the Empress Eugénie paid her an informal visit (6 August). Next day she reached Lucerne, where she had rented the Villa Pension Wallace near the lake. She stayed there, engaged in the recreations of a private pleasure-seeker, till 9 September, when she again passed through France in the emperor's train. She paused at Paris on 10 September to revisit St. Cloud, which revived sad memories of her happy sojourn there thirteen years before. The emperor was absent, but courteous greetings by telegraph passed between him and the queen. Removing, on her arrival in England, to Balmoral, she there gave additional proof of her anxiety to shrink from publicity or court formality. She took up her residence for the first time in a small house, called Glassalt Shiel, which she had built in a wild deserted spot in the hills. She regarded the dwelling as in all ways in keeping with her condition. ‘It was,’ she wrote, ‘the widow's first house, not built by him, or hallowed by his memory.’ On 14 December 1868 a special service was held in her presence at the Frogmore mausoleum, where a permanent sarcophagus had now been placed. It was destined to hold her own remains as well as those of the prince. The whole cost of the completed mausoleum was £200,000.
While she was still in Scotland the general election took place, and Disraeli's government suffered a crushing defeat.The liberals came in with a majority of 128, and Disraeli, contrary to precedent, resigned office without waiting for the meeting of parliament. His last official act excited a passing difference of opinion with the queen, and showed how actively she asserted her authority even in her relation to a minister with whose general policy she was in agreement. The archbishopric of Canterbury became vacant on 28 October, owing to the death of Archbishop Longley. The queen at her own instance recommended for the post Archibald Campbell Tait, bishop of London, in whom she had long taken a personal interest. Disraeli had another candidate. But the queen persisted; Disraeli yielded, and Tait received the primacy. He was the first archbishop of Canterbury with whom she maintained a personal intimacy. Neither with Archbishop Howley, who held office at her accession, nor his successors, Archbishops Sumner and Longley, had she sought a close association. Disraeli's experience in regard to the appointment of Tait was not uncommon with preceding or succeeding prime ministers. Throughout her reign the queen took a serious view of her personal responsibilities in the distribution of church patronage; and though she always received her ministers' advice with respect, she did not confine herself to criticism of their favoured candidates for church promotion; she often insisted on other arrangements than they suggested. In 1845 she refused to accept Sir Robert Peel's recommendation of Buckland for the deanery of Westminster, and conferred the post on a personal acquaintance, Samuel Wilberforce. Subsequently Dean Stanley owed the same benefice to the queen's personal regard for him. To the choice of bishops she attached an ‘immense importance,’ and the principles that in her view ought to govern their selection were sound and statesmanlike. She deprecated the display of religious or political partisanship in the matter. ‘The men to be chosen,’ she wrote to Archbishop Benson, 3 January 1890, ‘must not be taken with reference to satisfying one or the other party in the church, or with reference to any political party, but for their real worth. We want people who can be firm and conciliating, else the church cannot be maintained. We want large broad views, or the difficulties will be insurmountable.’ While holding such wise views, she was not uninfluenced by her personal likes or dislikes of individuals, and she would rather fill an ecclesiastical office with one who was already agreeably known to her than with a stranger. She was always an attentive hearer of sermons and a shrewd critic of them. She chiefly admired in them simplicity and brevity. Any failure of a preacher to satisfy her judgment commonly proved a fatal bar to his preferment. She was tolerant of almost all religious opinions, and respected those from which she differed; only the extreme views and practices of ritualists irritated her. She was proud of her connection with the presbyterian establishment of Scotland, and, without bestowing much attention on the theology peculiar to it, enjoyed its unadorned services, and the homely exhortations of its ministers.
On Disraeli's resignation the queen at once sent for Gladstone, and he for the first time became her prime minister in December 1868. Although she fully recognised his abilities, and he always treated her personally with deferential courtesy, he did not inspire her with sympathy or confidence. Her political intuitions were not illiberal, but the liberalism to which she clung was confined to the old whig principles of religious toleration and the personal liberty of the subject. She deprecated change in the great institutions of government, especially in the army; the obliteration of class distinctions was for her an idle dream. Radicalism she judged to be a dangerous compromise with the forces of revolution; the theory that England had little or no concern with European politics, and no title to exert influence on their course, conflicted with her training and the domestic sentiment that came of her foreign family connections. The mutability of Gladstone's political views, and their tendency to move in the direction which the queen regarded as unsafe, tried her nerves.
During Gladstone's first ministry he and his colleagues undertook a larger number of legislative reforms than any government had essayed during her reign, and the obligation which she felt to be imposed on her of studying the arguments in their favour often overtaxed her strength. New questions arose with such rapidity that she complained that she had not the time wherein to form a judgment. Gladstone, who was unwearied in his efforts to meet her protests or inquiries, had not the faculty of brevity in exposition. His intellectual energy, his vehemence in argument, the steady flow of his vigorous language, tormented her. With perfectly constitutional correctness she acknowledged herself powerless to enforce her opinion against his; but she made no secret of her private reluctance to approve his proposals. Gladstone's social accomplishments, moreover, were not of a kind calculated to conciliate the queen in intercourse outside official business, or to compensate for the divergences between their political points of view. The topics which absorbed him in his private life were far removed from the queen's sphere of knowledge or interest. Some of Gladstone's colleagues in his first ministry were, however, entirely congenial to her. She was already on friendly terms with Lord Granville, the colonial secretary, and with the Duke of Argyll, the Indian secretary, and she had long placed implicit confidence in Lord Clarendon, who now resumed the post of foreign secretary.
The first measure which Gladstone as prime minister introduced was the long-threatened bill for the disestablishment of the Irish church. She avowed vehement dislike of it, and talked openly of her sorrow that Gladstone should have started ‘this about the Irish church'. In the correspondence with her daughter Alice she argued that the question would ‘be neither solved nor settled in this way. Injustice to protestants might come of it. The settlement was not well considered.’ She told Gladstone how deeply she ‘deplored the necessity under which he conceived himself to be of raising the question as he had done,’ and how unable she was to divest herself of apprehensions as to the possible consequences. But she was under no illusion as to Gladstone's resolve and power to pass the bill through parliament. She frankly admitted that the House of Commons had been ‘chosen expressly to speak the feeling of the country on the question,’ and she believed that if a second appeal were made to the electorate it would produce the same result. Common sense taught her that the quicker the inevitable pill was swallowed the better for the country's peace. But she saw that a fruitless and perilous resistance was threatened by the House of Lords. In the previous session they had thrown out the bill suspending further appointments in the Irish church which Gladstone had carried through the House of Commons, and Tait, then bishop of London, had voted with the majority. A collision between the two houses always seemed to the queen to shake the constitution, and she knew that in a case like the present the upper house must invite defeat in the conflict. She therefore, on her own initiative, proposed to mediate between the government and the House of Lords. Gladstone welcomed her intervention, and was conciliatory.
Accordingly, the day before parliament opened, 15 February 1869, the queen asked Tait whether the House of Lords could not be persuaded to give way. Gladstone, she said, ‘seems really moderate.’ The principle of disestablishment must be conceded, but the details might well be the subject of future discussion and negotiation. At her request Tait and Gladstone met in consultation. After the bill had passed through the House of Commons with enormous majorities (31 May), she importuned Tait to secure the second reading in the lords, with the result that it was carried by 33 (18 June). But greater efforts on the queen's part were required before the crisis was at an end. The amendments adopted by the lords were for the most part rejected by Gladstone. On 11 June the queen pressed on both sides the need of concessions, and strongly deprecated a continuance of the struggle. At length the government gave way on certain subsidiary points, and the bill passed safely its last stages. How much of the result was due to the queen's interference, and how much to the stress of events, may be matter for argument; but there is no disputing that throughout this episode she oiled the wheels of the constitutional machinery.
During this anxious period the queen's public activities were mainly limited to a review of troops at Aldershot on 17 April. On 25 May she celebrated quietly her fiftieth birthday, and at the end of June entertained for a second time the khedive of Egypt. On 28 June she gave a ‘breakfast’ or afternoon party in his honour at Buckingham Palace — the main festivity in which she took part during the season. In the course of her autumn visit to Balmoral she went on a tour through the Trossachs and visited Loch Lomond. Towards the end of the year, 6 November, she made one of her rare passages through London, and the first since her widowhood. She opened Blackfriars Bridge and Holborn Viaduct, but she came from Windsor only for the day.
The queen occasionally sought at this period a new form of relaxation in intercourse with some of the men of letters whose fame contributed to the glory of her reign. Her personal interest in literature was not strong, and it diminished in her later years; but she respected its producers and their influence. With Tennyson, whose work her husband had admired, and whose In Memoriam gave her much comfort in her grief, she was already in intimate correspondence, which she maintained till his death; and when he visited her at Windsor and Osborne she treated him with the utmost confidence. Through her friends, Sir Arthur Helps and Dean Stanley, she had come to hear much of other great living writers. Lady Augusta Stanley told her of Carlyle, and she sent him a message of condolence on the sudden death of his wife in 1866. In May 1869 the queen visited the Westminster deanery mainly to make Carlyle's personal acquaintance. The Stanleys' guests also included Mr. and Mrs. Grote, Sir Charles and Lady Lyell, and the poet Browning. The queen was in a most gracious humour. Carlyle deemed it ‘impossible to imagine a politer little woman; nothing the least imperious; all gentle, all sincere ...makes you feel too (if you have any sense in you) that she is queen’. She told Browning that she admired his wife's poetry. Among the novels she had lately read was George Eliot's ‘Mill on the Floss,’ but Dickens's work was the only fiction of the day that really attracted her. In him, too, she manifested personal interest. She had attended in 1857 a performance by himself and other amateurs of Wilkie Collins's ‘The Frozen Deep’ at the Gallery of Illustration, and some proposals, which came to nothing, had been made to him to read the ‘Christmas Carol’ at court in 1858. At the sale of Thackeray's property in 1864 she purchased for £25 10s. the copy of the ‘Christmas Carol’ which Dickens had presented to Thackeray. In March 1870 Dickens, at Helps's request, lent her some photographs of scenes in the American civil war, and she took the opportunity that she had long sought of making his personal acquaintance. She summoned him to Buckingham Palace in order to thank him for his courtesy. On his departure she asked him to present her with copies of his writings, and handed him a copy of her ‘Leaves’ with the autograph inscription, ‘From the humblest of writers to one of the greatest.’ Other writers of whom she thought highly included Dr. Samuel Smiles, whose ‘Lives of the Engineers’ she presented to her son-in-law of Hesse-Darmstadt in 1865, and whose ‘Life of Thomas Edward, the Banff Naturalist,’ she examined in 1876 with such effect as to direct the bestowal on Edward of a civil list pension of £50. She was interested, too, in the works of George Macdonald, on whom she induced Lord Beaconsfield to confer a pension in 1877.
In 1870 European politics once more formed the most serious topic of the queen's thought, and the death in July of her old friend, Lord Clarendon, the foreign secretary, increased her anxieties. Despite her personal attachment to Lord Granville, who succeeded to Clarendon's post, she had far smaller faith in his political judgment. Although she watched events with attention, the queen was hopeful until the last that the struggle between France and Germany, which had long threatened, might be averted. In private letters to the rulers of both countries she constantly counselled peace; but her efforts were vain, and in July 1870 Napoleon declared war. She regarded his action as wholly unjustified, and her indignation grew when Bismarck revealed designs that Napoleon was alleged to have formed to destroy the independence of Belgium, a country in whose fortunes she was deeply concerned by reason of the domestic ties that linked her with its ruler. In the opening stages of the conflict that followed her ruling instincts identified her fully with the cause of Germany. Both her sons-in-law, the crown prince and Prince Louis of Hesse-Darmstadt, were in the field, and through official bulletins and the general information that her daughters collected for her, she studied their movements with painful eagerness. She sent hospital stores to her daughter at Darmstadt, and encouraged her in her exertions in behalf of the wounded.
When crushing disaster befell the French arms she regarded their defeat as a righteous judgment. She warmly approved a sermon preached before her by her friend, Dr. Norman Macleod, at Balmoral on 2 October 1870, in which he implicitly described France as ‘reaping the reward of her wickedness and vanity and sensuality’. But many of her subjects sympathised with France, and her own tenderness of heart evoked pity for her French neighbours in the completeness of their overthrow. With a view to relieve their sufferings, she entreated her daughter the crown princess, her son-in-law the crown prince, and her friend and his mother the queen of Prussia to avert the calamity of the bombardment of Paris. Bismarck bitterly complained that ‘the petticoat sentimentality’ which the queen communicated to the Prussian royal family hampered the fulfilment of German designs.
The crown prince's unconcealed devotion to her compromised him in the eyes of Bismarck, who deprecated her son-in-law's faith in her genuine attachment to German interests. Nor did the queen refrain from pressing her ministers to offer her mediation with the object not merely of bringing the war to an early close, but of modifying the vindictive terms which Germany sought to impose on France. But her endeavours were of small avail. English influence was declining in the councils of Europe. Russia had made the preoccupation of France and Germany the occasion for breaking the clause in the treaty of Paris which excluded Russian warships from the Black Sea. And this defiant act was acquiesced in by Gladstone's government. Yet the queen's efforts for France were well appreciated there. Some years later (3 December 1874) she accepted, with sympathetic grace, at Windsor an address of thanks, to which she replied in French, from representatives of the French nation, for the charitable services rendered by English men and women during the war; the elaborate volumes of photographs illustrating the campaigns, which accompanied the address, she placed in the British Museum.
Hatred of Napoleon's policy did not estrange her compassion from him in the ruin that overtook him and his family. The Empress Eugénie fled to England in September 1870, and took up her residence at Chislehurst. The queen at once sent her a kindly welcome, and on 30 November paid her a long visit, which the exile returned at Windsor on 5 December Thenceforth their friendship was unchecked. When Napoleon, on his release from a German prison, joined his wife in March 1871, the queen lost no time in visiting him at Chislehurst, and until his death on 9 January 1873 openly showed her fellow-feeling with him in his melancholy fate.
The course that domestic affairs were taking during 1870 was hardly more agreeable to her than the course of foreign affairs. In April the attempt by a Fenian to assassinate Prince Alfred while on a visit at Port Jackson, New South Wales, greatly disturbed her, but happily the prince recovered; and she had no reason to doubt the genuineness of public sympathy which was given her in full measure. At home she was mainly troubled by the government's resolve to begin the reorganisation of the army, which had been long contemplated. The first step taken by Cardwell, the secretary of state for war, was to subordinate the office of commander-in-chief to his own. Twice before the queen had successfully resisted or postponed a like proposal. She regarded it as an encroachment on the royal prerogative. Through the commander-in-chief chief she claimed that the crown directly controlled the army without the intervention of ministers or parliament; but her ministers now proved resolute, and she, on 28 June 1870, signed an order in council which deposed the commander-in-chief from his place of sole and immediate dependence on the crown. Next session the government scheme for reorganising the army was pushed forward in a bill for the abolition of promotion by purchase which passed through the House of Commons by large majorities. In the House of Lords the Duke of Richmond carried resolutions which meant the ruin of the measure.
Characteristically, the queen deprecated a conflict between the houses, but the government extricated her and themselves from that peril by a bold device which embarrassed her. They advised her to accomplish their reform by exercise of her own authority without further endeavour to win the approval of the upper house. The purchase of commissions had been legalised not by statute, but by royal warrant, which could be abrogated by the sovereign on the advice of her ministers without express sanction of parliament. In the special circumstances the procedure violently strained the power of the prerogative against one branch of the legislature, and the queen accepted the ministerial counsel with mixed feelings. She had small sympathy with the proposed reform, and feared to estrange the House of Lords from the crown by procedure which circumvented its authority; but the assertion of the prerogative was never ungrateful to her, and the responsibility for her action was her minister's.
Despite her industrious pursuit of public business, the mass of the people continued to deplore the infrequency of her public appearances; of the only two public ceremonies in which she engaged to take part in 1870, she fulfilled no more than one. She opened (11 May 1870) the new buildings of London University at Burlington House; but, to the general disappointment, indisposition led her to delegate to the prince of Wales the opening of so notable a London improvement as the Thames Embankment (13 July 1870). The feeling of discontent was somewhat checked by the announcement in October that she had assented to the engagement of her fourth daughter, Princess Louise, with a subject, and one who was in the eye of the law a commoner. The princess had given her hand at Balmoral to the Marquis of Lorne, eldest son of the Duke of Argyll. It was the first time in English history that the sovereign sanctioned the union of a princess with one who was not a member of a reigning house since Mary, youngest daughter of Henry VII and sister of Henry VIII, married, in 1515, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. James II's marriage to Anne Hyde in 1660 did not receive the same official recognition. The queen regarded the match merely from the point of view of her daughter's happiness. It rendered necessary an appeal to parliament for her daughter's provision; and as her third son Arthur was on the point of coming of age, and also needed an income from public sources, it seemed politic to conciliate popular feeling by opening parliament in person. Accordingly, on 9 February 1871, she occupied her throne in Westminster for the third time since her bereavement. Although Sir Robert Peel, son of the former prime minister, denounced as impolitic the approaching marriage of a princess with ‘a son of a member of Her Majesty's government’ (the Duke of Argyll, the Marquis of Lorne's father, being secretary for India), the dowry of £30,000 with an annuity of £6,000 was granted almost unanimously (350 to 1).
Less satisfaction was manifested when the queen requested parliament to provide for Prince Arthur. An annuity of £15,000 was bestowed, but although the minority on the final vote numbered only 11, as many as 51 members voted in favour of an unsuccessful amendment to reduce the sum to £10,000. Meanwhile the court cast off some of its gloom. The marriage of Princess Louise took place at St. George's Chapel, Windsor, with much pomp, on 21 March 1871, in the presence of the queen, who for the occasion lightened her usual mourning attire. With unaccustomed activity in the months that followed she opened the Albert Hall (29 March), inaugurated the new buildings of St. Thomas's Hospital, and reviewed the household troops in Bushey Park, when the young prince imperial joined the royal party (30 June). At Balmoral that year, although the queen suffered severely from rheumatic gout and neuralgia, she entertained a large family party, including the crown prince and princess of Prussia and Princess Alice.
The increasing happiness in the royal circle was menaced at the end of the year by a grief almost as great as that which befell it just ten years before. At the end of November the prince of Wales fell ill of typhoid fever, at his house at Sandringham, and as the illness reached its most critical stage, the gravest fears were entertained. The queen went to Sandringham on 29 November, and news of a relapse brought her thither again on 8 December with her daughter Alice, who was still her guest. Both remained for eleven days, during which the prince's life hung in the balance. Happily, on the fateful 14 December, the tenth anniversary of the prince consort's death, the first indications of recovery appeared, and on the 19th, when the queen returned to Windsor, the danger was passed. A week later the queen issued for the first time a letter to her people, thanking them for the touching sympathy they had displayed during ‘those painful terrible days.’ As soon as her son's health was fully restored the queen temporarily abandoned her privacy to accompany him in a semi-state procession from Buckingham Palace to St. Paul's Cathedral, there to attend a special service of thanksgiving (27 February 1872). She was dressed in black velvet, trimmed with white ermine. For the last time the sovereign was received by the lord mayor with the traditional ceremonies at Temple Bar, the gates of which were first shut against her and then opened (the Bar was removed in the winter of 1878-9).
Next day (28 February) the queen endured renewal of a disagreeable experience of earlier years. A lad, Arthur O'Connor, who pretended to be a Fenian emissary, pointed an unloaded pistol at the queen as she was entering Buckingham Palace. He was at once seized by her attendant, John Brown, to commemorate whose vigilance she instituted a gold medal as a reward for long and faithful domestic service. She conferred the first that was struck on Brown, together with an annuity of £25. On the day following O'Connor's senseless act the queen addressed a second letter to the public, acknowledging the fervent demonstrations of loyalty which welcomed her and her son on the occasion of the public thanksgiving.
That celebration, combined with its anxious cause, strengthened immensely the bonds of sentiment that united the crown and the people. There was need of strengthening these bonds. Every year increased the feeling that the queen's reluctance to resume her old place in public life was diminishing the dignity of the crown. The formation of a republic in France at the same time encouraged the tendency to disparage monarchical institutions. Lord Selborne, the lord chancellor, when the queen's guest at Windsor, was bold enough to tell her that if the French republic held its ground it would influence English public opinion in a republican direction. During the early seventies the cry against the throne threatened to become formidable. Mob-orators prophesied that Queen Victoria would at any rate be the last monarch of England. The main argument of the anti-royalists touched the expenses of the monarchy, which now included large provision for the queen's children. Criticism of her income and expenditure was developed with a pertinacity which deeply wounded her. Pamphlets, some of which were attributed to men of position, compared her income with the modest £10,000 allowed to the president of the United States. A malignant tract, published in 1871, which enjoyed a great vogue, and was entitled Tracts for the Times, No. I.: What does she do with it? by Solomon Temple, builder, professed to make a thoroughgoing examination of her private expenditure.
The writer argued that while the queen was constantly asking parliament for money for her children, she was not spending the annuity originally secured to her by the civil list act on the purposes for which it was designed. A comparatively small proportion of it was applied, it was asserted, to the maintenance of the dignity of the crown, the sole object with which it was granted; the larger part of it went to form a gigantic private fortune which was in some quarters estimated to have already reached £5,000,000. To these savings the writer protested she had no right; any portion of the civil list income that at the end of the year remained unexpended ought to return to the public exchequer. Personally, it was said, the queen was well off, apart from her income from the civil list. Besides Neild's bequest she had derived more than half a million from the estate of the prince consort, and the receipts from the duchy of Lancaster were steadily increasing. The assertions in regard to matters of fact were for the most part false. The queen's savings in the civil list were rarely £20,000 a year, and her opportunities of thrift were grossly misrepresented. But in the hands of the advocates of a republican form of government the pecuniary argument was valuable and it was pressed to the uttermost.
Sir Charles W. Dilke, M.P. for Chelsea, when speaking in favour of an English republic at Newcastle on 6 November 1871, complained that the queen paid no income tax. Ministers found it needful to refute the damaging allegations. Sir Algernon West, one of the treasury officials, was directed by the prime minister to prepare an answer to the obnoxious pamphlet. Robert Lowe, the chancellor of the exchequer, announced that income tax was paid by the queen. Twice at the end of the session of 1871 Gladstone in the House of Commons insisted that the whole of the queen's income was justly at her personal disposal. But the agitators were not readily silenced. Next session, on 19 March 1872, Sir Charles Dilke introduced a motion for a full inquiry into the queen's expenditure with a view to a complete reform of the civil list. His long and elaborate speech abounded in minute details, but he injured his case by avowing himself a republican; and when the same avowal was made by Mr. Auberon Herbert, who seconded his motion, a scene of great disorder followed. Gladstone denied that the queen's savings were on the alleged scale, or that the expenses of the court had appreciably diminished since the prince's death. Only two members of the house, Mr. G. Anderson and Sir Wilfrid Lawson, voted with Sir Charles Dilke and Mr. Herbert, and their proposal was rejected by a majority of 274. In the event the wave of republican sentiment was soon spent, but the conviction that the people paid an unduly high price for the advantages of the monarchy remained fully alive in the minds of large sections of the population, especially of the artisan class, until the queen conspicuously modified her habits of seclusion. The main solvent of the popular grievance, however, was the affectionate veneration which was roused in course of time throughout her dominions, by the veteran endurance of her rule, and by the growth of the new and powerful faith that she embodied in her own person the unity of the British empire.
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