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´╗┐Title: Queen Victoria
Author: Strachey, Giles Lytton, 1880-1932
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Queen Victoria" ***

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QUEEN VICTORIA

By Lytton Strachey



New York Harcourt, Brace And Company, 1921



CONTENTS

     I.    ANTECEDENTS
     II.   CHILDHOOD
     III.  LORD MELBOURNE
     IV.   MARRIAGE
     V.    LORD PALMERSTON
     VI.   LAST YEARS OF THE PRINCE CONSORT
     VII.  WIDOWHOOD
     VIII. MR. GLADSTONE AND LORD BEACONSFIELD
     IX.   OLD AGE
     X.    THE END
     BIBLIOGRAPHY



QUEEN VICTORIA



CHAPTER I. ANTECEDENTS

I

On November 6, 1817, died the Princess Charlotte, only child of the
Prince Regent, and heir to the crown of England. Her short life had
hardly been a happy one. By nature impulsive, capricious, and vehement,
she had always longed for liberty; and she had never possessed it.
She had been brought up among violent family quarrels, had been early
separated from her disreputable and eccentric mother, and handed over to
the care of her disreputable and selfish father. When she was seventeen,
he decided to marry her off to the Prince of Orange; she, at first,
acquiesced; but, suddenly falling in love with Prince Augustus of
Prussia, she determined to break off the engagement. This was not her
first love affair, for she had previously carried on a clandestine
correspondence with a Captain Hess. Prince Augustus was already married,
morganatically, but she did not know it, and he did not tell her. While
she was spinning out the negotiations with the Prince of Orange, the
allied sovereign--it was June, 1814--arrived in London to celebrate
their victory. Among them, in the suite of the Emperor of Russia, was
the young and handsome Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg. He made several
attempts to attract the notice of the Princess, but she, with her heart
elsewhere, paid very little attention. Next month the Prince Regent,
discovering that his daughter was having secret meetings with Prince
Augustus, suddenly appeared upon the scene and, after dismissing her
household, sentenced her to a strict seclusion in Windsor Park. "God
Almighty grant me patience!" she exclaimed, falling on her knees in an
agony of agitation: then she jumped up, ran down the backstairs and out
into the street, hailed a passing cab, and drove to her mother's house
in Bayswater. She was discovered, pursued, and at length, yielding
to the persuasions of her uncles, the Dukes of York and Sussex, of
Brougham, and of the Bishop of Salisbury, she returned to Carlton House
at two o'clock in the morning. She was immured at Windsor, but no more
was heard of the Prince of Orange. Prince Augustus, too, disappeared.
The way was at last open to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg.

This Prince was clever enough to get round the Regent, to impress the
Ministers, and to make friends with another of the Princess's uncles,
the Duke of Kent. Through the Duke he was able to communicate privately
with the Princess, who now declared that he was necessary to
her happiness. When, after Waterloo, he was in Paris, the Duke's
aide-de-camp carried letters backwards and forwards across the Channel.
In January 1816 he was invited to England, and in May the marriage took
place.

The character of Prince Leopold contrasted strangely with that of
his wife. The younger son of a German princeling, he was at this time
twenty-six years of age; he had served with distinction in the war
against Napoleon; he had shown considerable diplomatic skill at the
Congress of Vienna; and he was now to try his hand at the task of taming
a tumultuous Princess. Cold and formal in manner, collected in speech,
careful in action, he soon dominated the wild, impetuous, generous
creature by his side. There was much in her, he found, of which he could
not approve. She quizzed, she stamped, she roared with laughter; she
had very little of that self-command which is especially required of
princes; her manners were abominable. Of the latter he was a good judge,
having moved, as he himself explained to his niece many years later, in
the best society of Europe, being in fact "what is called in French de
la fleur des pois." There was continual friction, but every scene
ended in the same way. Standing before him like a rebellious boy in
petticoats, her body pushed forward, her hands behind her back, with
flaming cheeks and sparkling eyes, she would declare at last that she
was ready to do whatever he wanted. "If you wish it, I will do it," she
would say. "I want nothing for myself," he invariably answered; "When
I press something on you, it is from a conviction that it is for your
interest and for your good."

Among the members of the household at Claremont, near Esher, where the
royal pair were established, was a young German physician, Christian
Friedrich Stockmar. He was the son of a minor magistrate in Coburg, and,
after taking part as a medical officer in the war, he had settled down
as a doctor in his native town. Here he had met Prince Leopold, who had
been struck by his ability, and, on his marriage, brought him to England
as his personal physician. A curious fate awaited this young man;
many were the gifts which the future held in store for him--many and
various--influence, power, mystery, unhappiness, a broken heart. At
Claremont his position was a very humble one; but the Princess took
a fancy to him, called him "Stocky," and romped with him along the
corridors. Dyspeptic by constitution, melancholic by temperament, he
could yet be lively on occasion, and was known as a wit in Coburg. He
was virtuous, too, and served the royal menage with approbation. "My
master," he wrote in his diary, "is the best of all husbands in all the
five quarters of the globe; and his wife bears him an amount of love,
the greatness of which can only be compared with the English national
debt." Before long he gave proof of another quality--a quality which was
to colour the whole of his life-cautious sagacity. When, in the spring
of 1817, it was known that the Princess was expecting a child, the post
of one of her physicians-in-ordinary was offered to him, and he had
the good sense to refuse it. He perceived that his colleagues would be
jealous of him, that his advice would probably not be taken, but that,
if anything were to go wrong, it would be certainly the foreign doctor
who would be blamed. Very soon, indeed, he came to the opinion that the
low diet and constant bleedings, to which the unfortunate Princess was
subjected, were an error; he drew the Prince aside, and begged him to
communicate this opinion to the English doctors; but it was useless. The
fashionable lowering treatment was continued for months. On November 5,
at nine o'clock in the evening, after a labour of over fifty hours, the
Princess was delivered of a dead boy. At midnight her exhausted strength
gave way. When, at last, Stockmar consented to see her; he went in, and
found her obviously dying, while the doctors were plying her with wine.
She seized his hand and pressed it. "They have made me tipsy," she said.
After a little he left her, and was already in the next room when he
heard her call out in her loud voice: "Stocky! Stocky!" As he ran back
the death-rattle was in her throat. She tossed herself violently from
side to side; then suddenly drew up her legs, and it was over.

The Prince, after hours of watching, had left the room for a few
moments' rest; and Stockmar had now to tell him that his wife was dead.
At first he could not be made to realise what had happened. On their way
to her room he sank down on a chair while Stockmar knelt beside him: it
was all a dream; it was impossible. At last, by the bed, he, too, knelt
down and kissed the cold hands. Then rising and exclaiming, "Now I am
quite desolate. Promise me never to leave me," he threw himself into
Stockmar's arms.

II

The tragedy at Claremont was of a most upsetting kind. The royal
kaleidoscope had suddenly shifted, and nobody could tell how the new
pattern would arrange itself. The succession to the throne, which had
seemed so satisfactorily settled, now became a matter of urgent doubt.

George III was still living, an aged lunatic, at Windsor, completely
impervious to the impressions of the outer world. Of his seven sons, the
youngest was of more than middle age, and none had legitimate offspring.
The outlook, therefore, was ambiguous. It seemed highly improbable that
the Prince Regent, who had lately been obliged to abandon his stays, and
presented a preposterous figure of debauched obesity, could ever again,
even on the supposition that he divorced his wife and re-married, become
the father of a family. Besides the Duke of Kent, who must be noticed
separately, the other brothers, in order of seniority, were the Dukes of
York, Clarence, Cumberland, Sussex, and Cambridge; their situations and
prospects require a brief description. The Duke of York, whose escapades
in times past with Mrs. Clarke and the army had brought him into
trouble, now divided his life between London and a large, extravagantly
ordered and extremely uncomfortable country house where he occupied
himself with racing, whist, and improper stories. He was remarkable
among the princes for one reason: he was the only one of them--so we
are informed by a highly competent observer--who had the feelings of a
gentleman. He had been long married to the Princess Royal of Prussia,
a lady who rarely went to bed and was perpetually surrounded by vast
numbers of dogs, parrots, and monkeys. They had no children. The Duke
of Clarence had lived for many years in complete obscurity with Mrs.
Jordan, the actress, in Bushey Park. By her he had had a large family
of sons and daughters, and had appeared, in effect to be married to her,
when he suddenly separated from her and offered to marry Miss Wykeham, a
crazy woman of large fortune, who, however, would have nothing to say to
him. Shortly afterwards Mrs. Jordan died in distressed circumstances
in Paris. The Duke of Cumberland was probably the most unpopular man in
England. Hideously ugly, with a distorted eye, he was bad-tempered
and vindictive in private, a violent reactionary in politics, and was
subsequently suspected of murdering his valet and of having carried
on an amorous intrigue of an extremely scandalous kind. He had lately
married a German Princess, but there were as yet no children by the
marriage. The Duke of Sussex had mildly literary tastes and collected
books. He had married Lady Augusta Murray, by whom he had two children,
but the marriage, under the Royal Marriages Act, was declared void. On
Lady Augusta's death, he married Lady Cecilia Buggin; she changed her
name to Underwood, but this marriage also was void. Of the Duke of
Cambridge, the youngest of the brothers, not very much was known. He
lived in Hanover, wore a blonde wig, chattered and fidgeted a great
deal, and was unmarried.

Besides his seven sons, George III had five surviving daughters. Of
these, two--the Queen of Wurtemberg and the Duchess of Gloucester--were
married and childless. The three unmarried princesses--Augusta,
Elizabeth, and Sophia--were all over forty.

III

The fourth son of George III was Edward, Duke of Kent. He was now fifty
years of age--a tall, stout, vigorous man, highly-coloured, with bushy
eyebrows, a bald top to his head, and what hair he had carefully dyed a
glossy black. His dress was extremely neat, and in his whole appearance
there was a rigidity which did not belie his character. He had spent
his early life in the army--at Gibraltar, in Canada, in the West
Indies--and, under the influence of military training, had become at
first a disciplinarian and at last a martinet. In 1802, having been sent
to Gibraltar to restore order in a mutinous garrison, he was recalled
for undue severity, and his active career had come to an end. Since then
he had spent his life regulating his domestic arrangements with great
exactitude, busying himself with the affairs of his numerous dependents,
designing clocks, and struggling to restore order to his finances, for,
in spite of his being, as someone said who knew him well "regle comme du
papier a musique," and in spite of an income of L24,000 a year, he
was hopelessly in debt. He had quarrelled with most of his brothers,
particularly with the Prince Regent, and it was only natural that he
should have joined the political Opposition and become a pillar of the
Whigs.

What his political opinions may actually have been is open to doubt; it
has often been asserted that he was a Liberal, or even a Radical; and,
if we are to believe Robert Owen, he was a necessitarian Socialist. His
relations with Owen--the shrewd, gullible, high-minded, wrong-headed,
illustrious and preposterous father of Socialism and Co-operation--were
curious and characteristic. He talked of visiting the Mills at New
Lanark, he did, in fact, preside at one of Owen's public meetings;
he corresponded with him on confidential terms, and he even (so Owen
assures us) returned, after his death, from "the sphere of spirits" to
give encouragement to the Owenites on earth. "In an especial manner,"
says Owen, "I have to name the very anxious feelings of the spirit of
his Royal Highness the Late Duke of Kent (who early informed me
that there were no titles in the spititual spheres into which he had
entered), to benefit, not a class, a sect, a party, or any particular
country, but the whole of the human race, through futurity." "His whole
spirit-proceeding with me has been most beautiful," Owen adds, "making
his own appointments; and never in one instance has this spirit not
been punctual to the minute he had named." But Owen was of a sanguine
temperament. He also numbered among his proselytes President Jefferson,
Prince Metternich, and Napoleon; so that some uncertainty must still
linger over the Duke of Kent's views. But there is no uncertainty about
another circumstance: his Royal Highness borrowed from Robert Owen, on
various occasions, various sums of money which were never repaid and
amounted in all to several hundred pounds.

After the death of the Princess Charlotte it was clearly important, for
more than one reason, that the Duke of Kent should marry. From the point
of view of the nation, the lack of heirs in the reigning family seemed
to make the step almost obligatory; it was also likely to be highly
expedient from the point of view of the Duke. To marry as a public
duty, for the sake of the royal succession, would surely deserve some
recognition from a grateful country. When the Duke of York had married
he had received a settlement of L25,000 a year. Why should not the Duke
of Kent look forward to an equal sum? But the situation was not quite
simple. There was the Duke of Clarence to be considered; he was the
elder brother, and, if HE married, would clearly have the prior claim.
On the other hand, if the Duke of Kent married, it was important
to remember that he would be making a serious sacrifice: a lady was
involved.

The Duke, reflecting upon all these matters with careful attention,
happened, about a month after his niece's death, to visit Brussels, and
learnt that Mr. Creevey was staying in the town. Mr. Creevey was a close
friend of the leading Whigs and an inveterate gossip; and it occurred
to the Duke that there could be no better channel through which to
communicate his views upon the situation to political circles at home.
Apparently it did not occur to him that Mr. Creevey was malicious and
might keep a diary. He therefore sent for him on some trivial pretext,
and a remarkable conversation ensued.

After referring to the death of the Princess, to the improbability of
the Regent's seeking a divorce, to the childlessness of the Duke of
York, and to the possibility of the Duke of Clarence marrying, the Duke
adverted to his own position. "Should the Duke of Clarence not marry,"
he said, "the next prince in succession is myself, and although I trust
I shall be at all times ready to obey any call my country may make upon
me, God only knows the sacrifice it will be to make, whenever I shall
think it my duty to become a married man. It is now seven and twenty
years that Madame St. Laurent and I have lived together: we are of
the same age, and have been in all climates, and in all difficulties
together, and you may well imagine, Mr. Creevey, the pang it will
occasion me to part with her. I put it to your own feelings--in the
event of any separation between you and Mrs. Creevey... As for Madame
St. Laurent herself, I protest I don't know what is to become of her if
a marriage is to be forced upon me; her feelings are already so agitated
upon the subject." The Duke went on to describe how, one morning, a day
or two after the Princess Charlotte's death, a paragraph had appeared in
the Morning Chronicle, alluding to the possibility of his marriage. He
had received the newspaper at breakfast together with his letters, and
"I did as is my constant practice, I threw the newspaper across the
table to Madame St. Laurent, and began to open and read my letters. I
had not done so but a very short time, when my attention was called to
an extraordinary noise and a strong convulsive movement in Madame St.
Laurent's throat. For a short time I entertained serious apprehensions
for her safety; and when, upon her recovery, I enquired into the
occasion of this attack, she pointed to the article in the Morning
Chronicle."

The Duke then returned to the subject of the Duke of Clarence. "My
brother the Duke of Clarence is the elder brother, and has certainly the
right to marry if he chooses, and I would not interfere with him on any
account. If he wishes to be king--to be married and have children, poor
man--God help him! Let him do so. For myself--I am a man of no ambition,
and wish only to remain as I am... Easter, you know, falls very early
this year--the 22nd of March. If the Duke of Clarence does not take any
step before that time, I must find some pretext to reconcile Madame St.
Laurent to my going to England for a short time. When once there, it
will be easy for me to consult with my friends as to the proper steps to
be taken. Should the Duke of Clarence do nothing before that time as to
marrying it will become my duty, no doubt, to take some measures upon
the subject myself." Two names, the Duke said, had been mentioned in
this connection--those of the Princess of Baden and the Princess of
Saxe-Coburg. The latter, he thought, would perhaps be the better of the
two, from the circumstance of Prince Leopold being so popular with the
nation; but before any other steps were taken, he hoped and expected to
see justice done to Madame St. Laurent. "She is," he explained, "of very
good family, and has never been an actress, and I am the first and only
person who ever lived with her. Her disinterestedness, too, has been
equal to her fidelity. When she first came to me it was upon L100 a
year. That sum was afterwards raised to L400 and finally to L1000; but
when my debts made it necessary for me to sacrifice a great part of my
income, Madame St. Laurent insisted upon again returning to her income
of L400 a year. If Madame St. Laurent is to return to live amongst her
friends, it must be in such a state of independence as to command their
respect. I shall not require very much, but a certain number of servants
and a carriage are essentials." As to his own settlement, the Duke
observed that he would expect the Duke of York's marriage to be
considered the precedent. "That," he said, "was a marriage for the
succession, and L25,000 for income was settled, in addition to all his
other income, purely on that account. I shall be contented with the same
arrangement, without making any demands grounded on the difference of
the value of money in 1792 and at present. As for the payment of my
debts," the Duke concluded, "I don't call them great. The nation, on
the contrary, is greatly my debtor." Here a clock struck, and seemed
to remind the Duke that he had an appointment; he rose, and Mr. Creevey
left him.

Who could keep such a communication secret? Certainly not Mr. Creevey.
He hurried off to tell the Duke of Wellington, who was very much amused,
and he wrote a long account of it to Lord Sefton, who received the
letter "very apropos," while a surgeon was sounding his bladder to
ascertain whether he had a stone. "I never saw a fellow more astonished
than he was," wrote Lord Sefton in his reply, "at seeing me laugh as
soon as the operation was over. Nothing could be more first-rate than
the royal Edward's ingenuousness. One does not know which to admire
most--the delicacy of his attachment to Madame St. Laurent, the
refinement of his sentiments towards the Duke of Clarence, or his own
perfect disinterestedness in pecuniary matters."

As it turned out, both the brothers decided to marry. The Duke of Kent,
selecting the Princess of Saxe-Coburg in preference to the Princess
of Baden, was united to her on May 29, 1818. On June 11, the Duke of
Clarence followed suit with a daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Meiningen.
But they were disappointed in their financial expectations; for though
the Government brought forward proposals to increase their allowances,
together with that of the Duke of Cumberland, the motions were defeated
in the House of Commons. At this the Duke of Wellington was not
surprised. "By God!" he said, "there is a great deal to be said
about that. They are the damnedest millstones about the necks of
any Government that can be imagined. They have insulted--PERSONALLY
insulted--two-thirds of the gentlemen of England, and how can it be
wondered at that they take their revenge upon them in the House of
Commons? It is their only opportunity, and I think, by God! they are
quite right to use it." Eventually, however, Parliament increased the
Duke of Kent's annuity by L6000. The subsequent history of Madame St.
Laurent has not transpired.

IV

The new Duchess of Kent, Victoria Mary Louisa, was a daughter of
Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and a sister of Prince Leopold.
The family was an ancient one, being a branch of the great House of
Wettin, which since the eleventh century had ruled over the March of
Meissen on the Elbe. In the fifteenth century the whole possessions of
the House had been divided between the Albertine and Ernestine branches:
from the former descended the electors and kings of Saxony; the latter,
ruling over Thuringia, became further subdivided into five branches,
of which the duchy of Saxe-Coburg was one. This principality was very
small, containing about 60,000 inhabitants, but it enjoyed independent
and sovereign rights. During the disturbed years which followed the
French Revolution, its affairs became terribly involved. The Duke was
extravagant, and kept open house for the swarms of refugees, who fled
eastward over Germany as the French power advanced. Among these was the
Prince of Leiningen, an elderly beau, whose domains on the Moselle
had been seized by the French, but who was granted in compensation
the territory of Amorbach in Lower Franconia. In 1803 he married the
Princess Victoria, at that time seventeen years of age. Three years
later Duke Francis died a ruined man. The Napoleonic harrow passed over
Saxe-Coburg. The duchy was seized by the French, and the ducal family
were reduced to beggary, almost to starvation. At the same time the
little principality of Amorbach was devastated by the French, Russian,
and Austrian armies, marching and counter-marching across it. For years
there was hardly a cow in the country, nor enough grass to feed a
flock of geese. Such was the desperate plight of the family which, a
generation later, was to have gained a foothold in half the reigning
Houses of Europe. The Napoleonic harrow had indeed done its work, the
seed was planted; and the crop would have surprised Napoleon. Prince
Leopold, thrown upon his own resources at fifteen, made a career for
himself and married the heiress of England. The Princess of Leiningen,
struggling at Amorbach with poverty, military requisitions, and a
futile husband, developed an independence of character and a tenacity of
purpose which were to prove useful in very different circumstances. In
1814, her husband died, leaving her with two children and the regency
of the principality. After her brother's marriage with the Princess
Charlotte, it was proposed that she should marry the Duke of Kent; but
she declined, on the ground that the guardianship of her children and
the management of her domains made other ties undesirable. The Princess
Charlotte's death, however, altered the case; and when the Duke of Kent
renewed his offer, she accepted it. She was thirty-two years old--short,
stout, with brown eyes and hair, and rosy cheeks, cheerful and voluble,
and gorgeously attired in rustling silks and bright velvets.

She was certainly fortunate in her contented disposition; for she was
fated, all through her life, to have much to put up with. Her second
marriage, with its dubious prospects, seemed at first to be chiefly a
source of difficulties and discomforts. The Duke, declaring that he was
still too poor to live in England, moved about with uneasy precision
through Belgium and Germany, attending parades and inspecting barracks
in a neat military cap, while the English notabilities looked askance,
and the Duke of Wellington dubbed him the Corporal. "God damme!" he
exclaimed to Mr. Creevey, "d'ye know what his sisters call him? By God!
they call him Joseph Surface!" At Valenciennes, where there was a
review and a great dinner, the Duchess arrived with an old and
ugly lady-in-waiting, and the Duke of Wellington found himself in a
difficulty. "Who the devil is to take out the maid of honour?" he kept
asking; but at last he thought of a solution. "Damme, Freemantle, find
out the mayor and let him do it." So the Mayor of Valenciennes was
brought up for the purpose, and--so we learn from Mr. Creevey--"a
capital figure he was." A few days later, at Brussels, Mr. Creevey
himself had an unfortunate experience. A military school was to be
inspected--before breakfast. The company assembled; everything was
highly satisfactory; but the Duke of Kent continued for so long
examining every detail and asking meticulous question after meticulous
question, that Mr. Creevey at last could bear it no longer, and
whispered to his neighbour that he was damned hungry. The Duke of
Wellington heard him, and was delighted. "I recommend you," he said,
"whenever you start with the royal family in a morning, and particularly
with THE CORPORAL, always to breakfast first." He and his staff, it
turned out, had taken that precaution, and the great man amused himself,
while the stream of royal inquiries poured on, by pointing at Mr.
Creevey from time to time with the remark, "Voila le monsieur qui n'a
pas dejeune!"

Settled down at last at Amorbach, the time hung heavily on the Duke's
hands. The establishment was small, the country was impoverished; even
clock-making grew tedious at last. He brooded--for in spite of his piety
the Duke was not without a vein of superstition--over the prophecy of
a gipsy at Gibraltar who told him that he was to have many losses and
crosses, that he was to die in happiness, and that his only child was
to be a great queen. Before long it became clear that a child was to be
expected: the Duke decided that it should be born in England. Funds were
lacking for the journey, but his determination was not to be set aside.
Come what might, he declared, his child must be English-born. A carriage
was hired, and the Duke himself mounted the box. Inside were the
Duchess, her daughter Feodora, a girl of fourteen, with maids, nurses,
lap-dogs, and canaries. Off they drove--through Germany, through
France: bad roads, cheap inns, were nothing to the rigorous Duke and the
equable, abundant Duchess. The Channel was crossed, London was reached
in safety. The authorities provided a set of rooms in Kensington Palace;
and there, on May 24, 1819, a female infant was born.



CHAPTER II. CHILDHOOD

I

The child who, in these not very impressive circumstances, appeared
in the world, received but scant attention. There was small reason to
foresee her destiny. The Duchess of Clarence, two months before,
had given birth to a daughter, this infant, indeed, had died almost
immediately; but it seemed highly probable that the Duchess would
again become a mother; and so it actually fell out. More than this,
the Duchess of Kent was young, and the Duke was strong; there was every
likelihood that before long a brother would follow, to snatch her faint
chance of the succession from the little princess.

Nevertheless, the Duke had other views: there were prophecies... At any
rate, he would christen the child Elizabeth, a name of happy augury. In
this, however, he reckoned without the Regent, who, seeing a chance
of annoying his brother, suddenly announced that he himself would be
present at the baptism, and signified at the same time that one of the
godfathers was to be the Emperor Alexander of Russia. And so when the
ceremony took place, and the Archbishop of Canterbury asked by what name
he was to baptise the child, the Regent replied "Alexandria." At
this the Duke ventured to suggest that another name might be added.
"Certainly," said the Regent; "Georgina?" "Or Elizabeth?" said the Duke.
There was a pause, during which the Archbishop, with the baby in his
lawn sleeves, looked with some uneasiness from one Prince to the other.
"Very well, then," said the Regent at last, "call her after her mother.
But Alexandrina must come first." Thus, to the disgust of her father,
the child was christened Alexandrina Victoria.

The Duke had other subjects of disgust. The meagre grant of the Commons
had by no means put an end to his financial distresses. It was to be
feared that his services were not appreciated by the nation. His debts
continued to grow. For many years he had lived upon L7000 a year;
but now his expenses were exactly doubled; he could make no further
reductions; as it was, there was not a single servant in his meagre
grant establishment who was idle for a moment from morning to night. He
poured out his griefs in a long letter to Robert Owen, whose sympathy
had the great merit of being practical. "I now candidly state," he
wrote, "that, after viewing the subject in every possible way, I am
satisfied that, to continue to live in England, even in the quiet way
in which we are going on, WITHOUT SPLENDOUR, and WITHOUT SHOW, NOTHING
SHORT OF DOUBLING THE SEVEN THOUSAND POUNDS WILL DO, REDUCTION BEING
IMPOSSIBLE." It was clear that he would be obliged to sell his house for
L51,300, if that failed, he would go and live on the Continent. "If my
services are useful to my country, it surely becomes THOSE WHO HAVE THE
POWER to support me in substantiating those just claims I have for the
very extensive losses and privations I have experienced, during the very
long period of my professional servitude in the Colonies; and if this
is not attainable, IT IS A CLEAR PROOF TO ME THAT THEY ARE THEY ARE NOT
APPRECIATED; and under that impression I shall not scruple, in DUE time,
to resume my retirement abroad, when the Duchess and myself shall have
fulfilled our duties in establishing the ENGLISH birth of my child, and
giving it material nutriment on the soil of Old England; and which we
shall certainly repeat, if Providence destines, to give us any further
increase of family."

In the meantime, he decided to spend the winter at Sidmouth, "in order,"
he told Owen, "that the Duchess may have the benefit of tepid
sea bathing, and our infant that of sea air, on the fine coast of
Devonshire, during the months of the year that are so odious in London."
In December the move was made. With the new year, the Duke remembered
another prophecy. In 1820, a fortune-teller had told him, two members
of the Royal Family would die. Who would they be? He speculated on
the various possibilities: The King, it was plain, could not live much
longer; and the Duchess of York had been attacked by a mortal disease.
Probably it would be the King and the Duchess of York; or perhaps the
King and the Duke of York; or the King and the Regent. He himself was
one of the healthiest men in England. "My brothers," he declared, "are
not so strong as I am; I have lived a regular life. I shall outlive them
all. The crown will come to me and my children." He went out for a
walk, and got his feet wet. On coming home, he neglected to change his
stockings. He caught cold, inflammation of the lungs set in, and on
January 22 he was a dying man. By a curious chance, young Dr. Stockmar
was staying in the house at the time; two years before, he had stood
by the death-bed of the Princess Charlotte; and now he was watching
the Duke of Kent in his agony. On Stockmar's advice, a will was hastily
prepared. The Duke's earthly possessions were of a negative character;
but it was important that the guardianship of the unwitting child,
whose fortunes were now so strangely changing, should be assured to
the Duchess. The Duke was just able to understand the document, and to
append his signature. Having inquired whether his writing was perfectly
clear, he became unconscious, and breathed his last on the following
morning! Six days later came the fulfilment of the second half of the
gipsy's prophecy. The long, unhappy, and inglorious life of George the
Third of England was ended.

II

Such was the confusion of affairs at Sidmouth, that the Duchess found
herself without the means of returning to London. Prince Leopold hurried
down, and himself conducted his sister and her family, by slow and
bitter stages, to Kensington. The widowed lady, in her voluminous
blacks, needed all her equanimity to support her. Her prospects were
more dubious than ever. She had L6000 a year of her own; but her
husband's debts loomed before her like a mountain. Soon she learnt that
the Duchess of Clarence was once more expecting a child. What had she to
look forward to in England? Why should she remain in a foreign country,
among strangers, whose language she could not speak, whose customs she
could not understand? Surely it would be best to return to Amorbach,
and there, among her own people, bring up her daughters in economical
obscurity. But she was an inveterate optimist; she had spent her life
in struggles, and would not be daunted now; and besides, she adored her
baby. "C'est mon bonheur, mes delices, mon existence," she declared;
the darling should be brought up as an English princess, whatever lot
awaited her. Prince Leopold came forward nobly with an offer of an
additional L3000 a year; and the Duchess remained at Kensington.

The child herself was extremely fat, and bore a remarkable resemblance
to her grandfather. "C'est l'image du feu Roi!" exclaimed the Duchess.
"C'est le Roi Georges en jupons," echoed the surrounding ladies, as the
little creature waddled with difficulty from one to the other.

Before long, the world began to be slightly interested in the nursery at
Kensington. When, early in 1821, the Duchess of Clarence's second child,
the Princess Elizabeth, died within three months of its birth, the
interest increased. Great forces and fierce antagonisms seemed to be
moving, obscurely, about the royal cradle. It was a time of faction
and anger, of violent repression and profound discontent. A powerful
movement, which had for long been checked by adverse circumstances, was
now spreading throughout the country. New passions, new desires, were
abroad; or rather old passions and old desires, reincarnated with a new
potency: love of freedom, hatred of injustice, hope for the future
of man. The mighty still sat proudly in their seats, dispensing their
ancient tyranny; but a storm was gathering out of the darkness, and
already there was lightning in the sky. But the vastest forces must
needs operate through frail human instruments; and it seemed for many
years as if the great cause of English liberalism hung upon the life of
the little girl at Kensington. She alone stood between the country and
her terrible uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, the hideous embodiment of
reaction. Inevitably, the Duchess of Kent threw in her lot with her
husband's party; Whig leaders, Radical agitators, rallied round her; she
was intimate with the bold Lord Durham, she was on friendly terms with
the redoubtable O'Connell himself. She received Wilberforce-though, to
be sure, she did not ask him to sit down. She declared in public that
she put her faith in "the liberties of the People." It was certain that
the young Princess would be brought up in the way that she should go;
yet there, close behind the throne, waiting, sinister, was the Duke of
Cumberland. Brougham, looking forward into the future in his scurrilous
fashion, hinted at dreadful possibilities. "I never prayed so heartily
for a Prince before," he wrote, on hearing that George IV had been
attacked by illness. "If he had gone, all the troubles of these villains
(the Tory Ministers) went with him, and they had Fred. I (the Duke of
York) their own man for his life. He (Fred. I) won't live long either;
that Prince of Blackguards, 'Brother William,' is as bad a life, so
we come in the course of nature to be ASSASSINATED by King Ernest I or
Regent Ernest (the Duke of Cumberland)." Such thoughts were not peculiar
to Brougham; in the seething state of public feeling, they constantly
leapt to the surface; and, even so late as the year previous to her
accession, the Radical newspapers were full of suggestions that the
Princess Victoria was in danger from the machinations of her wicked
uncle.

But no echo of these conflicts and forebodings reached the little
Drina--for so she was called in the family circle--as she played with
her dolls, or scampered down the passages, or rode on the donkey her
uncle York had given her along the avenues of Kensington Gardens
The fair-haired, blue-eyed child was idolised by her nurses, and her
mother's ladies, and her sister Feodora; and for a few years there was
danger, in spite of her mother's strictness, of her being spoilt. From
time to time, she would fly into a violent passion, stamp her little
foot, and set everyone at defiance; whatever they might say, she would
not learn her letters--no, she WOULD NOT; afterwards, she was very
sorry, and burst into tears; but her letters remained unlearnt. When
she was five years old, however, a change came, with the appearance
of Fraulein Lehzen. This lady, who was the daughter of a Hanoverian
clergyman, and had previously been the Princess Feodora's governess,
soon succeeded in instilling a new spirit into her charge. At first,
indeed, she was appalled by the little Princess's outbursts of temper;
never in her life, she declared, had she seen such a passionate
and naughty child. Then she observed something else; the child was
extraordinarily truthful; whatever punishment might follow, she never
told a lie. Firm, very firm, the new governess yet had the sense to see
that all the firmness in the world would be useless, unless she could
win her way into little Drina's heart. She did so, and there were no
more difficulties. Drina learnt her letters like an angel; and she
learnt other things as well. The Baroness de Spath taught her how
to make little board boxes and decorate them with tinsel and painted
flowers; her mother taught her religion. Sitting in the pew every Sunday
morning, the child of six was seen listening in rapt attention to the
clergyman's endless sermon, for she was to be examined upon it in
the afternoon. The Duchess was determined that her daughter, from the
earliest possible moment, should be prepared for her high station in a
way that would commend itself to the most respectable; her good,
plain, thrifty German mind recoiled with horror and amazement from the
shameless junketings at Carlton House; Drina should never be allowed to
forget for a moment the virtues of simplicity, regularity, propriety,
and devotion. The little girl, however, was really in small need of such
lessons, for she was naturally simple and orderly, she was pious without
difficulty, and her sense of propriety was keen. She understood very
well the niceties of her own position. When, a child of six, Lady Jane
Ellice was taken by her grandmother to Kensington Palace, she was put
to play with the Princess Victoria, who was the same age as herself. The
young visitor, ignorant of etiquette, began to make free with the toys
on the floor, in a way which was a little too familiar; but "You must
not touch those," she was quickly told, "they are mine; and I may
call you Jane, but you must not call me Victoria." The Princess's most
constant playmate was Victoire, the daughter of Sir John Conroy, the
Duchess's major-domo. The two girls were very fond of one another; they
would walk hand in hand together in Kensington Gardens. But little Drina
was perfectly aware for which of them it was that they were followed, at
a respectful distance, by a gigantic scarlet flunkey.

Warm-hearted, responsive, she loved her dear Lehzen, and she loved her
dear Feodora, and her dear Victoire, and her dear Madame de Spath.
And her dear Mamma, of course, she loved her too; it was her duty; and
yet--she could not tell why it was--she was always happier when she was
staying with her Uncle Leopold at Claremont. There old Mrs. Louis, who,
years ago, had waited on her Cousin Charlotte, petted her to her heart's
content; and her uncle himself was wonderfully kind to her, talking to
her seriously and gently, almost as if she were a grown-up person. She
and Feodora invariably wept when the too-short visit was over, and they
were obliged to return to the dutiful monotony, and the affectionate
supervision of Kensington. But sometimes when her mother had to stay at
home, she was allowed to go out driving all alone with her dear Feodora
and her dear Lehzen, and she could talk and look as she liked, and it
was very delightful.

The visits to Claremont were frequent enough; but one day, on a special
occasion, she paid one of a rarer and more exciting kind. When she was
seven years old, she and her mother and sister were asked by the King
to go down to Windsor. George IV, who had transferred his fraternal
ill-temper to his sister-in-law and her family, had at last grown tired
of sulking, and decided to be agreeable. The old rip, bewigged and
gouty, ornate and enormous, with his jewelled mistress by his side and
his flaunting court about him, received the tiny creature who was one
day to hold in those same halls a very different state. "Give me your
little paw," he said; and two ages touched. Next morning, driving in his
phaeton with the Duchess of Gloucester, he met the Duchess of Kent and
her child in the Park. "Pop her in," were his orders, which, to the
terror of the mother and the delight of the daughter, were immediately
obeyed. Off they dashed to Virginia Water, where there was a great
barge, full of lords and ladies fishing, and another barge with a band;
and the King ogled Feodora, and praised her manners, and then turned to
his own small niece. "What is your favourite tune? The band shall play
it." "God save the King, sir," was the instant answer. The Princess's
reply has been praised as an early example of a tact which was
afterwards famous. But she was a very truthful child, and perhaps it was
her genuine opinion.

III

In 1827 the Duke of York, who had found some consolation for the loss of
his wife in the sympathy of the Duchess of Rutland, died, leaving behind
him the unfinished immensity of Stafford House and L200,000 worth of
debts. Three years later George IV also disappeared, and the Duke of
Clarence reigned in his stead. The new Queen, it was now clear, would
in all probability never again be a mother; the Princess Victoria,
therefore, was recognised by Parliament as heir-presumptive; and the
Duchess of Kent, whose annuity had been doubled five years previously,
was now given an additional L10,000 for the maintenance of the Princess,
and was appointed regent, in case of the death of the King before the
majority of her daughter. At the same time a great convulsion took
place in the constitution of the State. The power of the Tories, who had
dominated England for more than forty years, suddenly began to crumble.
In the tremendous struggle that followed, it seemed for a moment as if
the tradition of generations might be snapped, as if the blind tenacity
of the reactionaries and the determined fury of their enemies could have
no other issue than revolution. But the forces of compromise triumphed:
the Reform Bill was passed. The centre of gravity in the constitution
was shifted towards the middle classes; the Whigs came into power; and
the complexion of the Government assumed a Liberal tinge. One of the
results of this new state of affairs was a change in the position of
the Duchess of Kent and her daughter. From being the protegees of an
opposition clique, they became assets of the official majority of the
nation. The Princess Victoria was henceforward the living symbol of the
victory of the middle classes.

The Duke of Cumberland, on the other hand, suffered a corresponding
eclipse: his claws had been pared by the Reform Act. He grew
insignificant and almost harmless, though his ugliness remained; he was
the wicked uncle still--but only of a story.

The Duchess's own liberalism was not very profound. She followed
naturally in the footsteps of her husband, repeating with conviction the
catchwords of her husband's clever friends and the generalisations
of her clever brother Leopold. She herself had no pretensions to
cleverness; she did not understand very much about the Poor Law and the
Slave Trade and Political Economy; but she hoped that she did her
duty; and she hoped--she ardently hoped--that the same might be said of
Victoria. Her educational conceptions were those of Dr. Arnold, whose
views were just then beginning to permeate society. Dr. Arnold's object
was, first and foremost, to make his pupils "in the highest and truest
sense of the words, Christian gentlemen," intellectual refinements might
follow. The Duchess felt convinced that it was her supreme duty in life
to make quite sure that her daughter should grow up into a Christian
queen. To this task she bent all her energies; and, as the child
developed, she flattered herself that her efforts were not unsuccessful.
When the Princess was eleven, she desired the Bishops of London and
Lincoln to submit her daughter to an examination, and report upon the
progress that had been made. "I feel the time to be now come," the
Duchess explained, in a letter obviously drawn up by her own hand, "that
what has been done should be put to some test, that if anything has been
done in error of judgment it may be corrected, and that the plan for the
future should be open to consideration and revision... I attend almost
always myself every lesson, or a part; and as the lady about the
Princess is a competent person, she assists Her in preparing Her
lessons, for the various masters, as I resolved to act in that manner
so as to be Her Governess myself. When she was at a proper age she
commenced attending Divine Service regularly with me, and I have
every feeling that she has religion at Her heart, that she is morally
impressed with it to that degree, that she is less liable to error by
its application to her feelings as a Child capable of reflection."
"The general bent of Her character," added the Duchess, "is strength
of intellect, capable of receiving with ease, information, and with a
peculiar readiness in coming to a very just and benignant decision
on any point Her opinion is asked on. Her adherence to truth is of so
marked a character that I feel no apprehension of that Bulwark being
broken down by any circumstances." The Bishops attended at the Palace,
and the result of their examination was all that could be wished. "In
answering a great variety of questions proposed to her," they reported,
"the Princess displayed an accurate knowledge of the most important
features of Scripture History, and of the leading truths and precepts of
the Christian Religion as taught by the Church of England, as well as an
acquaintance with the Chronology and principal facts of English History
remarkable in so young a person. To questions in Geography, the use
of the Globes, Arithmetic, and Latin Grammar, the answers which the
Princess returned were equally satisfactory." They did not believe that
the Duchess's plan of education was susceptible of any improvement; and
the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was also consulted, came to the same
gratifying conclusion.

One important step, however, remained to be taken. So far, as the
Duchess explained to the Bishops, the Princess had been kept in
ignorance of the station that she was likely to fill. "She is aware of
its duties, and that a Sovereign should live for others; so that when
Her innocent mind receives the impression of Her future fate, she
receives it with a mind formed to be sensible of what is to be expected
from Her, and it is to be hoped, she will be too well grounded in Her
principles to be dazzled with the station she is to look to." In the
following year it was decided that she should be enlightened on
this point. The well--known scene followed: the history lesson, the
genealogical table of the Kings of England slipped beforehand by the
governess into the book, the Princess's surprise, her inquiries, her
final realisation of the facts. When the child at last understood, she
was silent for a moment, and then she spoke: "I will be good," she
said. The words were something more than a conventional protestation,
something more than the expression of a superimposed desire; they
were, in their limitation and their intensity, their egotism and their
humility, an instinctive summary of the dominating qualities of a life.
"I cried much on learning it," her Majesty noted long afterwards. No
doubt, while the others were present, even her dear Lehzen, the little
girl kept up her self-command; and then crept away somewhere to ease her
heart of an inward, unfamiliar agitation, with a handkerchief, out of
her mother's sight.

But her mother's sight was by no means an easy thing to escape. Morning
and evening, day and night, there was no relaxation of the maternal
vigilance. The child grew into the girl, the girl into the young woman;
but still she slept in her mother's bedroom; still she had no place
allowed her where she might sit or work by herself. An extraordinary
watchfulness surrounded her every step: up to the day of her accession,
she never went downstairs without someone beside her holding her hand.
Plainness and regularity ruled the household. The hours, the days, the
years passed slowly and methodically by. The dolls--the innumerable
dolls, each one so neatly dressed, each one with its name so
punctiliously entered in the catalogue--were laid aside, and a little
music and a little dancing took their place. Taglioni came, to give
grace and dignity to the figure, and Lablache, to train the piping
treble upon his own rich bass. The Dean of Chester, the official
preceptor, continued his endless instruction in Scripture history, while
the Duchess of Northumberland, the official governess, presided over
every lesson with becoming solemnity. Without doubt, the Princess's main
achievement during her school-days was linguistic. German was naturally
the first language with which she was familiar; but English and French
quickly followed; and she became virtually trilingual, though her
mastery of English grammar remained incomplete. At the same time, she
acquired a working knowledge of Italian and some smattering of Latin.
Nevertheless, she did not read very much. It was not an occupation that
she cared for; partly, perhaps, because the books that were given her
were all either sermons, which were very dull, or poetry, which was
incomprehensible. Novels were strictly forbidden. Lord Durham persuaded
her mother to get her some of Miss Martineau's tales, illustrating the
truths of Political Economy, and they delighted her; but it is to be
feared that it was the unaccustomed pleasure of the story that filled
her mind, and that she never really mastered the theory of exchanges or
the nature of rent.

It was her misfortune that the mental atmosphere which surrounded her
during these years of adolescence was almost entirely feminine. No
father, no brother, was there to break in upon the gentle monotony of
the daily round with impetuosity, with rudeness, with careless laughter
and wafts of freedom from the outside world. The Princess was never
called by a voice that was loud and growling; never felt, as a matter
of course, a hard rough cheek on her own soft one; never climbed a wall
with a boy. The visits to Claremont--delicious little escapes into male
society--came to an end when she was eleven years old and Prince Leopold
left England to be King of the Belgians. She loved him still; he was
still "il mio secondo padre or, rather, solo padre, for he is indeed
like my real father, as I have none;" but his fatherliness now came to
her dimly and indirectly, through the cold channel of correspondence.
Henceforward female duty, female elegance, female enthusiasm, hemmed
her completely in; and her spirit, amid the enclosing folds, was hardly
reached by those two great influences, without which no growing life can
truly prosper--humour and imagination. The Baroness Lehzen--for she had
been raised to that rank in the Hanoverian nobility by George IV before
he died--was the real centre of the Princess's world. When Feodora
married, when Uncle Leopold went to Belgium, the Baroness was left
without a competitor. The Princess gave her mother her dutiful regards;
but Lehzen had her heart. The voluble, shrewd daughter of the pastor
in Hanover, lavishing her devotion on her royal charge, had reaped her
reward in an unbounded confidence and a passionate adoration. The girl
would have gone through fire for her "PRECIOUS Lehzen," the "best and
truest friend," she declared, that she had had since her birth. Her
journal, begun when she was thirteen, where she registered day by day
the small succession of her doings and her sentiments, bears on every
page of it the traces of the Baroness and her circumambient influence.
The young creature that one sees there, self-depicted in ingenuous
clarity, with her sincerity, her simplicity, her quick affections and
pious resolutions, might almost have been the daughter of a German
pastor herself. Her enjoyments, her admirations, her engouements were
of the kind that clothed themselves naturally in underlinings and
exclamation marks. "It was a DELIGHTFUL ride. We cantered a good deal.
SWEET LITTLE ROSY WENT BEAUTIFULLY!! We came home at a 1/4 past 1... At
20 minutes to 7 we went out to the Opera... Rubini came on and sang a
song out of 'Anna Boulena' QUITE BEAUTIFULLY. We came home at 1/2
past 11." In her comments on her readings, the mind of the Baroness is
clearly revealed. One day, by some mistake, she was allowed to take up
a volume of memoirs by Fanny Kemble. "It is certainly very pertly and
oddly written. One would imagine by the style that the authoress must be
very pert, and not well bred; for there are so many vulgar expressions
in it. It is a great pity that a person endowed with so much talent, as
Mrs. Butler really is, should turn it to so little account and publish a
book which is so full of trash and nonsense which can only do her harm.
I stayed up till 20 minutes past 9." Madame de Sevigne's letters, which
the Baroness read aloud, met with more approval. "How truly elegant and
natural her style is! It is so full of naivete, cleverness, and grace."
But her highest admiration was reserved for the Bishop of Chester's
'Exposition of the Gospel of St. Matthew.' "It is a very fine
book indeed. Just the sort of one I like; which is just plain and
comprehensible and full of truth and good feeling. It is not one
of those learned books in which you have to cavil at almost every
paragraph. Lehzen gave it me on the Sunday that I took the Sacrament." A
few weeks previously she had been confirmed, and she described the event
as follows: "I felt that my confirmation was one of the most solemn and
important events and acts in my life; and that I trusted that it might
have a salutary effect on my mind. I felt deeply repentant for all what
I had done which was wrong and trusted in God Almighty to strengthen my
heart and mind; and to forsake all that is bad and follow all that is
virtuous and right. I went with the firm determination to become a true
Christian, to try and comfort my dear Mamma in all her griefs, trials,
and anxieties, and to become a dutiful and affectionate daughter to her.
Also to be obedient to DEAR Lehzen, who has done so much for me. I was
dressed in a white lace dress, with a white crepe bonnet with a wreath
of white roses round it. I went in the chariot with my dear Mamma and
the others followed in another carriage." One seems to hold in one's
hand a small smooth crystal pebble, without a flaw and without a
scintillation, and so transparent that one can see through it at a
glance.

Yet perhaps, after all, to the discerning eye, the purity would not be
absolute. The careful searcher might detect, in the virgin soil, the
first faint traces of an unexpected vein. In that conventual existence
visits were exciting events; and, as the Duchess had many relatives,
they were not infrequent; aunts and uncles would often appear from
Germany, and cousins too. When the Princess was fourteen she was
delighted by the arrival of a couple of boys from Wurtemberg, the
Princes Alexander and Ernst, sons of her mother's sister and the
reigning duke. "They are both EXTREMELY TALL," she noted, "Alexander
is VERY HANDSOME, and Ernst has a VERY KIND EXPRESSION. They are both
extremely AMIABLE." And their departure filled her with corresponding
regrets. "We saw them get into the barge, and watched them sailing away
for some time on the beach. They were so amiable and so pleasant to
have in the house; they were ALWAYS SATISFIED, ALWAYS GOOD-HUMOURED;
Alexander took such care of me in getting out of the boat, and rode next
to me; so did Ernst." Two years later, two other cousins arrived, the
Princes Ferdinand and Augustus. "Dear Ferdinand," the Princess wrote,
"has elicited universal admiration from all parties... He is so very
unaffected, and has such a very distinguished appearance and carriage.
They are both very dear and charming young men. Augustus is very
amiable, too, and, when known, shows much good sense." On another
occasion, "Dear Ferdinand came and sat near me and talked so dearly and
sensibly. I do SO love him. Dear Augustus sat near me and talked with
me, and he is also a dear good young man, and is very handsome." She
could not quite decide which was the handsomer of the two. "On the
whole," she concluded, "I think Ferdinand handsomer than Augustus, his
eyes are so beautiful, and he has such a lively clever expression; BOTH
have such a sweet expression; Ferdinand has something QUITE BEAUTIFUL in
his expression when he speaks and smiles, and he is SO good." However,
it was perhaps best to say that they were "both very handsome and VERY
DEAR." But shortly afterwards two more cousins arrived, who threw all
the rest into the shade. These were the Princes Ernest and Albert, sons
of her mother's eldest brother, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg. This time
the Princess was more particular in her observations. "Ernest," she
remarked, "is as tall as Ferdinand and Augustus; he has dark hair, and
fine dark eyes and eyebrows, but the nose and mouth are not good; he has
a most kind, honest, and intelligent expression in his countenance,
and has a very good figure. Albert, who is just as tall as Ernest but
stouter, is extremely handsome; his hair is about the same colour as
mine; his eyes are large and blue, and he has a beautiful nose and a
very sweet mouth with fine teeth; but the charm of his countenance
is his expression, which is most delightful; c'est a la fois full of
goodness and sweetness, and very clever and intelligent." "Both my
cousins," she added, "are so kind and good; they are much more formes
and men of the world than Augustus; they speak English very well, and I
speak it with them. Ernest will be 18 years old on the 21st of June, and
Albert 17 on the 26th of August. Dear Uncle Ernest made me the present
of a most delightful Lory, which is so tame that it remains on your
hand and you may put your finger into its beak, or do anything with
it, without its ever attempting to bite. It is larger than Mamma's grey
parrot." A little later, "I sat between my dear cousins on the sofa and
we looked at drawings. They both draw very well, particularly Albert,
and are both exceedingly fond of music; they play very nicely on the
piano. The more I see them the more I am delighted with them, and the
more I love them... It is delightful to be with them; they are so fond
of being occupied too; they are quite an example for any young person."
When, after a stay of three weeks, the time came for the young men
and their father to return to Germany, the moment of parting was a
melancholy one. "It was our last HAPPY HAPPY breakfast, with this dear
Uncle and those DEAREST beloved cousins, whom I DO love so VERY VERY
dearly; MUCH MORE DEARLY than any other cousins in the WORLD. Dearly as
I love Ferdinand, and also good Augustus, I love Ernest and Albert MORE
than them, oh yes, MUCH MORE... They have both learnt a good deal, and
are very clever, naturally clever, particularly Albert, who is the most
reflecting of the two, and they like very much talking about serious
and instructive things and yet are so VERY VERY merry and gay and happy,
like young people ought to be; Albert always used to have some fun and
some clever witty answer at breakfast and everywhere; he used to play
and fondle Dash so funnily too... Dearest Albert was playing on the
piano when I came down. At 11 dear Uncle, my DEAREST BELOVED cousins,
and Charles, left us, accompanied by Count Kolowrat. I embraced both my
dearest cousins most warmly, as also my dear Uncle. I cried bitterly,
very bitterly." The Princes shared her ecstasies and her italics
between them; but it is clear enough where her secret preference
lay. "Particularly Albert!" She was just seventeen; and deep was the
impression left upon that budding organism by the young man's charm
and goodness and accomplishments, and his large blue eyes and beautiful
nose, and his sweet mouth and fine teeth.

IV

King William could not away with his sister-in-law, and the Duchess
fully returned his antipathy. Without considerable tact and considerable
forbearance their relative positions were well calculated to cause
ill-feeling; and there was very little tact in the composition of the
Duchess, and no forbearance at all in that of his Majesty. A bursting,
bubbling old gentleman, with quarterdeck gestures, round rolling eyes,
and a head like a pineapple, his sudden elevation to the throne after
fifty-six years of utter insignificance had almost sent him crazy. His
natural exuberance completely got the best of him; he rushed about doing
preposterous things in an extraordinary manner, spreading amusement
and terror in every direction, and talking all the time. His tongue
was decidedly Hanoverian, with its repetitions, its catchwords--"That's
quite another thing! That's quite another thing!"--its rattling
indomitability, its loud indiscreetness. His speeches, made repeatedly
at the most inopportune junctures, and filled pell-mell with all the
fancies and furies that happened at the moment to be whisking about
in his head, were the consternation of Ministers. He was one part
blackguard, people said, and three parts buffoon; but those who knew
him better could not help liking him--he meant well; and he was really
good-humoured and kind-hearted, if you took him the right way. If you
took him the wrong way, however, you must look out for squalls, as the
Duchess of Kent discovered.

She had no notion of how to deal with him--could not understand him in
the least. Occupied with her own position, her own responsibilities, her
duty, and her daughter, she had no attention to spare for the peppery
susceptibilities of a foolish, disreputable old man. She was the mother
of the heiress of England; and it was for him to recognise the fact--to
put her at once upon a proper footing--to give her the precedence of a
dowager Princess of Wales, with a large annuity from the privy purse.
It did not occur to her that such pretensions might be galling to a king
who had no legitimate child of his own, and who yet had not altogether
abandoned the hope of having one. She pressed on, with bulky vigour,
along the course she had laid out. Sir John Conroy, an Irishman with
no judgment and a great deal of self-importance, was her intimate
counsellor, and egged her on. It was advisable that Victoria should
become acquainted with the various districts of England, and through
several summers a succession of tours--in the West, in the Midlands, in
Wales--were arranged for her. The intention of the plan was excellent,
but its execution was unfortunate. The journeys, advertised in
the Press, attracting enthusiastic crowds, and involving official
receptions, took on the air of royal progresses. Addresses were
presented by loyal citizens, the delighted Duchess, swelling in sweeping
feathers and almost obliterating the diminutive Princess, read aloud,
in her German accent, gracious replies prepared beforehand by Sir
John, who, bustling and ridiculous, seemed to be mingling the roles
of major-domo and Prime Minister. Naturally the King fumed over his
newspaper at Windsor. "That woman is a nuisance!" he exclaimed. Poor
Queen Adelaide, amiable though disappointed, did her best to smooth
things down, changed the subject, and wrote affectionate letters to
Victoria; but it was useless. News arrived that the Duchess of Kent,
sailing in the Solent, had insisted that whenever her yacht appeared it
should be received by royal salutes from all the men-of-war and all the
forts. The King declared that these continual poppings must cease; the
Premier and the First Lord of the Admiralty were consulted; and they
wrote privately to the Duchess, begging her to waive her rights. But
she would not hear of it; Sir John Conroy was adamant. "As her Royal
Highness's CONFIDENTIAL ADVISER," he said, "I cannot recommend her
to give way on this point." Eventually the King, in a great state of
excitement, issued a special Order in Council, prohibiting the firing
of royal salutes to any ships except those which carried the reigning
sovereign or his consort on board.

When King William quarrelled with his Whig Ministers the situation grew
still more embittered, for now the Duchess, in addition to her other
shortcomings, was the political partisan of his enemies. In 1836 he
made an attempt to prepare the ground for a match between the Princess
Victoria and one of the sons of the Prince of Orange, and at the same
time did his best to prevent the visit of the young Coburg princes to
Kensington. He failed in both these objects; and the only result of
his efforts was to raise the anger of the King of the Belgians, who,
forgetting for a moment his royal reserve, addressed an indignant letter
on the subject to his niece. "I am really ASTONISHED," he wrote, "at
the conduct of your old Uncle the King; this invitation of the Prince
of Orange and his sons, this forcing him on others, is very
extraordinary... Not later than yesterday I got a half-official
communication from England, insinuating that it would be HIGHLY
desirable that the visit of YOUR relatives SHOULD NOT TAKE PLACE
THIS YEAR--qu'en dites-vous? The relations of the Queen and the King,
therefore, to the God-knows-what degree, are to come in shoals and rule
the land, when YOUR RELATIONS are to be FORBIDDEN the country, and
that when, as you know, the whole of your relations have ever been very
dutiful and kind to the King. Really and truly I never heard or saw
anything like it, and I hope it will a LITTLE ROUSE YOUR SPIRIT;
now that slavery is even abolished in the British Colonies, I do not
comprehend WHY YOUR LOT ALONE SHOULD BE TO BE KEPT A WHITE LITTLE SLAVEY
IN ENGLAND, for the pleasure of the Court, who never bought you, as I am
not aware of their ever having gone to any expense on that head, or
the King's ever having SPENT A SIXPENCE FOR YOUR EXISTENCE... Oh,
consistency and political or OTHER HONESTY, where must one look for
you!"

Shortly afterwards King Leopold came to England himself, and his
reception was as cold at Windsor as it was warm at Kensington. "To hear
dear Uncle speak on any subject," the Princess wrote in her diary,
"is like reading a highly instructive book; his conversation is so
enlightened, so clear. He is universally admitted to be one of the first
politicians now extant. He speaks so mildly, yet firmly and impartially,
about politics. Uncle tells me that Belgium is quite a pattern for its
organisation, its industry, and prosperity; the finances are in the
greatest perfection. Uncle is so beloved and revered by his Belgian
subjects, that it must be a great compensation for all his extreme
trouble." But her other uncle by no means shared her sentiments. He
could not, he said, put up with a water-drinker; and King Leopold would
touch no wine. "What's that you're drinking, sir?" he asked him one day
at dinner. "Water, sir." "God damn it, sir!" was the rejoinder. "Why
don't you drink wine? I never allow anybody to drink water at my table."

It was clear that before very long there would be a great explosion; and
in the hot days of August it came. The Duchess and the Princess had
gone down to stay at Windsor for the King's birthday party, and the King
himself, who was in London for the day to prorogue Parliament, paid a
visit at Kensington Palace in their absence. There he found that the
Duchess had just appropriated, against his express orders, a suite of
seventeen apartments for her own use. He was extremely angry, and, when
he returned to Windsor, after greeting the Princess with affection, he
publicly rebuked the Duchess for what she had done. But this was little
to what followed. On the next day was the birthday banquet; there were
a hundred guests; the Duchess of Kent sat on the King's right hand, and
the Princess Victoria opposite. At the end of the dinner, in reply
to the toast of the King's health, he rose, and, in a long, loud,
passionate speech, poured out the vials of his wrath upon the Duchess.
She had, he declared, insulted him--grossly and continually; she had
kept the Princess away from him in the most improper manner; she was
surrounded by evil advisers, and was incompetent to act with propriety
in the high station which she filled; but he would bear it no longer; he
would have her to know he was King; he was determined that his authority
should be respected; henceforward the Princess should attend at every
Court function with the utmost regularity; and he hoped to God that his
life might be spared for six months longer, so that the calamity of a
regency might be avoided, and the functions of the Crown pass directly
to the heiress-presumptive instead of into the hands of the "person now
near him," upon whose conduct and capacity no reliance whatever could
be placed. The flood of vituperation rushed on for what seemed an
interminable period, while the Queen blushed scarlet, the Princess burst
into tears, and the hundred guests sat aghast. The Duchess said not a
word until the tirade was over and the company had retired; then in
a tornado of rage and mortification, she called for her carriage and
announced her immediate return to Kensington. It was only with the
utmost difficulty that some show of a reconciliation was patched up, and
the outraged lady was prevailed upon to put off her departure till the
morrow.

Her troubles, however, were not over when she had shaken the dust
of Windsor from her feet. In her own household she was pursued by
bitterness and vexation of spirit. The apartments at Kensington were
seething with subdued disaffection, with jealousies and animosities
virulently intensified by long years of propinquity and spite.

There was a deadly feud between Sir John Conroy and Baroness Lehzen.
But that was not all. The Duchess had grown too fond of her Major-Domo.
There were familiarities, and one day the Princess Victoria discovered
the fact. She confided what she had seen to the Baroness, and to the
Baroness's beloved ally, Madame de Spath. Unfortunately, Madame de Spath
could not hold her tongue, and was actually foolish enough to reprove
the Duchess; whereupon she was instantly dismissed. It was not so easy
to get rid of the Baroness. That lady, prudent and reserved, maintained
an irreproachable demeanour. Her position was strongly entrenched; she
had managed to secure the support of the King; and Sir John found that
he could do nothing against her. But henceforward the household was
divided into two camps.(*) The Duchess supported Sir John with all the
abundance of her authority; but the Baroness, too, had an adherent who
could not be neglected. The Princess Victoria said nothing, but she had
been much attached to Madame de Spath, and she adored her Lehzen. The
Duchess knew only too well that in this horrid embroilment her daughter
was against her. Chagrin, annoyance, moral reprobation, tossed her
to and fro. She did her best to console herself with Sir John's
affectionate loquacity, or with the sharp remarks of Lady Flora
Hastings, one of her maids of honour, who had no love for the Baroness.
The subject lent itself to satire; for the pastor's daughter, with all
her airs of stiff superiority, had habits which betrayed her origin. Her
passion for caraway seeds, for instance, was uncontrollable. Little bags
of them came over to her from Hanover, and she sprinkled them on her
bread and butter, her cabbage, and even her roast beef. Lady Flora could
not resist a caustic observation; it was repeated to the Baroness, who
pursed her lips in fury, and so the mischief grew.

     (*) Greville, IV, 21; and August 15, 1839 (unpublished).
     "The cause of the Queen's alienation from the Duchess and
     hatred of Conroy, the Duke (of Wellington) said, was
     unquestionably owing to her having witnessed some
     familiarities between them. What she had seen she repeated
     to Baroness Spaeth, and Spaeth not only did not hold her
     tongue, but (he thinks) remonstrated with the Duchess
     herself on the subject. The consequence was that they got
     rid of Spaeth, and they would have got rid of Lehzen, too,
     if they had been able, but Lehzen, who knew very well what
     was going on, was prudent enough not to commit herself, and
     who was, besides, powerfully protected by George IV and
     William IV, so that they did not dare to attempt to expel
     her."

V

The King had prayed that he might live till his niece was of age; and
a few days before her eighteenth birthday--the date of her legal
majority--a sudden attack of illness very nearly carried him off. He
recovered, however, and the Princess was able to go through her
birthday festivities--a state ball and a drawing-room--with unperturbed
enjoyment. "Count Zichy," she noted in her diary, "is very good-looking
in uniform, but not in plain clothes. Count Waldstein looks remarkably
well in his pretty Hungarian uniform." With the latter young gentleman
she wished to dance, but there was an insurmountable difficulty. "He
could not dance quadrilles, and, as in my station I unfortunately cannot
valse and gallop, I could not dance with him." Her birthday present
from the King was of a pleasing nature, but it led to a painful domestic
scene. In spite of the anger of her Belgian uncle, she had remained upon
good terms with her English one. He had always been very kind to her,
and the fact that he had quarrelled with her mother did not appear to
be a reason for disliking him. He was, she said, "odd, very odd and
singular," but "his intentions were often ill interpreted." He now wrote
her a letter, offering her an allowance of L10,000 a year, which he
proposed should be at her own disposal, and independent of her mother.
Lord Conyngham, the Lord Chamberlain, was instructed to deliver the
letter into the Princess's own hands. When he arrived at Kensington, he
was ushered into the presence of the Duchess and the Princess, and, when
he produced the letter, the Duchess put out her hand to take it. Lord
Conyngham begged her Royal Highness's pardon, and repeated the King's
commands. Thereupon the Duchess drew back, and the Princess took the
letter. She immediately wrote to her uncle, accepting his kind proposal.
The Duchess was much displeased; L4000 a year, she said, would be quite
enough for Victoria; as for the remaining L6000, it would be only proper
that she should have that herself.

King William had thrown off his illness, and returned to his normal
life. Once more the royal circle at Windsor--their Majesties, the elder
Princesses, and some unfortunate Ambassadress or Minister's wife--might
be seen ranged for hours round a mahogany table, while the Queen netted
a purse, and the King slept, occasionally waking from his slumbers to
observe "Exactly so, ma'am, exactly so!" But this recovery was of short
duration. The old man suddenly collapsed; with no specific symptoms
besides an extreme weakness, he yet showed no power of rallying; and it
was clear to everyone that his death was now close at hand.

All eyes, all thoughts, turned towards the Princess Victoria; but she
still remained, shut away in the seclusion of Kensington, a small,
unknown figure, lost in the large shadow of her mother's domination. The
preceding year had in fact been an important one in her development. The
soft tendrils of her mind had for the first time begun to stretch out
towards unchildish things. In this King Leopold encouraged her. After
his return to Brussels, he had resumed his correspondance in a more
serious strain; he discussed the details of foreign politics; he laid
down the duties of kingship; he pointed out the iniquitous foolishness
of the newspaper press. On the latter subject, indeed, he wrote with
some asperity. "If all the editors," he said, "of the papers in the
countries where the liberty of the press exists were to be assembled, we
should have a crew to which you would NOT confide a dog that you would
value, still less your honour and reputation." On the functions of a
monarch, his views were unexceptionable. "The business of the highest
in a State," he wrote, "is certainly, in my opinion, to act with great
impartiality and a spirit of justice for the good of all." At the
same time the Princess's tastes were opening out. Though she was still
passionately devoted to riding and dancing, she now began to have a
genuine love of music as well, and to drink in the roulades and arias
of the Italian opera with high enthusiasm. She even enjoyed reading
poetry--at any rate, the poetry of Sir Walter Scott.

When King Leopold learnt that King William's death was approaching, he
wrote several long letters of excellent advice to his niece. "In every
letter I shall write to you," he said, "I mean to repeat to you, as a
FUNDAMENTAL RULE, TO BE FIRM, AND COURAGEOUS, AND HONEST, AS YOU HAVE
BEEN TILL NOW." For the rest, in the crisis that was approaching, she
was not to be alarmed, but to trust in her "good natural sense and the
TRUTH" of her character; she was to do nothing in a hurry; to hurt
no one's amour-propre, and to continue her confidence in the Whig
administration! Not content with letters, however, King Leopold
determined that the Princess should not lack personal guidance, and sent
over to her aid the trusted friend whom, twenty years before, he had
taken to his heart by the death-bed at Claremont. Thus, once again, as
if in accordance with some preordained destiny, the figure of Stockmar
is discernible--inevitably present at a momentous hour.

On June 18, the King was visibly sinking. The Archbishop of Canterbury
was by his side, with all the comforts of the church. Nor did the holy
words fall upon a rebellious spirit; for many years his Majesty had
been a devout believer. "When I was a young man," he once explained at
a public banquet, "as well as I can remember, I believed in nothing but
pleasure and folly--nothing at all. But when I went to sea, got into
a gale, and saw the wonders of the mighty deep, then I believed; and I
have been a sincere Christian ever since." It was the anniversary of the
Battle of Waterloo, and the dying man remembered it. He should be glad
to live, he said, over that day; he would never see another sunset. "I
hope your Majesty may live to see many," said Dr. Chambers. "Oh! that's
quite another thing, that's quite another thing," was the answer. One
other sunset he did live to see; and he died in the early hours of the
following morning. It was on June 20, 1837.

When all was over, the Archbishop and the Lord Chamberlain ordered a
carriage, and drove post-haste from Windsor to Kensington. They arrived
at the Palace at five o'clock, and it was only with considerable
difficulty that they gained admittance. At six the Duchess woke up
her daughter, and told her that the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord
Conyngham were there, and wished to see her. She got out of bed, put on
her dressing-gown, and went, alone, into the room where the messengers
were standing. Lord Conyngham fell on his knees, and officially
announced the death of the King; the Archbishop added some personal
details. Looking at the bending, murmuring dignitaries before her, she
knew that she was Queen of England. "Since it has pleased Providence,"
she wrote that day in her journal, "to place me in this station, I shall
do my utmost to fulfil my duty towards my country; I am very young, and
perhaps in many, though not in all things, inexperienced, but I am sure,
that very few have more real good will and more real desire to do what
is fit and right than I have." But there was scant time for resolutions
and reflections. At once, affairs were thick upon her. Stockmar came to
breakfast, and gave some good advice. She wrote a letter to her uncle
Leopold, and a hurried note to her sister Feodora. A letter came from
the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, announcing his approaching arrival.
He came at nine, in full court dress, and kissed her hand. She saw him
alone, and repeated to him the lesson which, no doubt, the faithful
Stockmar had taught her at breakfast. "It has long been my intention to
retain your Lordship and the rest of the present Ministry at the head
of affairs;" whereupon Lord Melbourne again kissed her hand and shortly
after left her. She then wrote a letter of condolence to Queen Adelaide.
At eleven, Lord Melbourne came again; and at half-past eleven she went
downstairs into the red saloon to hold her first Council. The great
assembly of lords and notables, bishops, generals, and Ministers of
State, saw the doors thrown open and a very short, very slim girl in
deep plain mourning come into the room alone and move forward to her
seat with extraordinary dignity and grace; they saw a countenance, not
beautiful, but prepossessing--fair hair, blue prominent eyes, a small
curved nose, an open mouth revealing the upper teeth, a tiny chin,
a clear complexion, and, over all, the strangely mingled signs of
innocence, of gravity, of youth, and of composure; they heard a high
unwavering voice reading aloud with perfect clarity; and then, the
ceremony was over, they saw the small figure rise and, with the same
consummate grace, the same amazing dignity, pass out from among them, as
she had come in, alone.



CHAPTER III. LORD MELBOURNE

I

The new queen was almost entirely unknown to her subjects. In her public
appearances her mother had invariably dominated the scene. Her private
life had been that of a novice in a convent: hardly a human being from
the outside world had ever spoken to her; and no human being at all,
except her mother and the Baroness Lehzen, had ever been alone with
her in a room. Thus it was not only the public at large that was in
ignorance of everything concerning her; the inner circles of statesmen
and officials and high-born ladies were equally in the dark. When she
suddenly emerged from this deep obscurity, the impression that she
created was immediate and profound. Her bearing at her first Council
filled the whole gathering with astonishment and admiration; the Duke of
Wellington, Sir Robert Peel, even the savage Croker, even the cold and
caustic Greville--all were completely carried away. Everything that was
reported of her subsequent proceedings seemed to be of no less happy
augury. Her perceptions were quick, her decisions were sensible, her
language was discreet; she performed her royal duties with extraordinary
facility. Among the outside public there was a great wave of enthusiasm.
Sentiment and romance were coming into fashion; and the spectacle of
the little girl-queen, innocent, modest, with fair hair and pink cheeks,
driving through her capital, filled the hearts of the beholders with
raptures of affectionate loyalty. What, above all, struck everybody
with overwhelming force was the contrast between Queen Victoria and
her uncles. The nasty old men, debauched and selfish, pig-headed and
ridiculous, with their perpetual burden of debts, confusions, and
disreputabilities--they had vanished like the snows of winter, and here
at last, crowned and radiant, was the spring. Lord John Russell, in an
elaborate oration, gave voice to the general sentiment. He hoped that
Victoria might prove an Elizabeth without her tyranny, an Anne without
her weakness. He asked England to pray that the illustrious Princess who
had just ascended the throne with the purest intentions and the justest
desires might see slavery abolished, crime diminished, and education
improved. He trusted that her people would henceforward derive their
strength, their conduct, and their loyalty from enlightened religious
and moral principles, and that, so fortified, the reign of Victoria
might prove celebrated to posterity and to all the nations of the earth.

Very soon, however, there were signs that the future might turn out to
be not quite so simple and roseate as a delighted public dreamed. The
"illustrious Princess" might perhaps, after all, have something within
her which squared ill with the easy vision of a well-conducted heroine
in an edifying story-book. The purest intentions and the justest
desires? No doubt; but was that all? To those who watched closely, for
instance, there might be something ominous in the curious contour
of that little mouth. When, after her first Council, she crossed the
ante-room and found her mother waiting for her, she said, "And now,
Mamma, am I really and truly Queen?" "You see, my dear, that it is so."
"Then, dear Mamma, I hope you will grant me the first request I make
to you, as Queen. Let me be by myself for an hour." For an hour she
remained in solitude. Then she reappeared, and gave a significant order:
her bed was to be moved out of her mother's room. It was the doom of the
Duchess of Kent. The long years of waiting were over at last; the moment
of a lifetime had come; her daughter was Queen of England; and that very
moment brought her own annihilation. She found herself, absolutely and
irretrievably, shut off from every vestige of influence, of confidence,
of power. She was surrounded, indeed, by all the outward signs of
respect and consideration; but that only made the inward truth of her
position the more intolerable. Through the mingled formalities of Court
etiquette and filial duty, she could never penetrate to Victoria. She
was unable to conceal her disappointment and her rage. "Il n'y a plus
d'avenir pour moi," she exclaimed to Madame de Lieven; "je ne suis plus
rien." For eighteen years, she said, this child had been the sole object
of her existence, of her thoughts, her hopes, and now--no! she would
not be comforted, she had lost everything, she was to the last degree
unhappy. Sailing, so gallantly and so pertinaciously, through the
buffeting storms of life, the stately vessel, with sails still swelling
and pennons flying, had put into harbour at last; to find there
nothing--a land of bleak desolation.

Within a month of the accession, the realities of the new situation
assumed a visible shape. The whole royal household moved from Kensington
to Buckingham Palace, and, in the new abode, the Duchess of Kent was
given a suite of apartments entirely separate from the Queen's. By
Victoria herself the change was welcomed, though, at the moment of
departure, she could afford to be sentimental. "Though I rejoice to go
into B. P. for many reasons," she wrote in her diary, "it is not
without feelings of regret that I shall bid adieu for ever to this my
birthplace, where I have been born and bred, and to which I am really
attached!" Her memory lingered for a moment over visions of the past:
her sister's wedding, pleasant balls and delicious concerts and there
were other recollections. "I have gone through painful and disagreeable
scenes here, 'tis true," she concluded, "but still I am fond of the poor
old palace."

At the same time she took another decided step. She had determined that
she would see no more of Sir John Conroy. She rewarded his past services
with liberality: he was given a baronetcy and a pension of L3000 a
year; he remained a member of the Duchess's household, but his personal
intercourse with the Queen came to an abrupt conclusion.

II

It was clear that these interior changes--whatever else they might
betoken--marked the triumph of one person--the Baroness Lehzen. The
pastor's daughter observed the ruin of her enemies. Discreet and
victorious, she remained in possession of the field. More closely than
ever did she cleave to the side of her mistress, her pupil, and her
friend; and in the recesses of the palace her mysterious figure was at
once invisible and omnipresent. When the Queen's Ministers came in
at one door, the Baroness went out by another; when they retired, she
immediately returned. Nobody knew--nobody ever will know--the precise
extent and the precise nature of her influence. She herself declared
that she never discussed public affairs with the Queen, that she was
concerned with private matters only--with private letters and the
details of private life. Certainly her hand is everywhere discernible in
Victoria's early correspondence. The Journal is written in the style of
a child; the Letters are not so simple; they are the work of a
child, rearranged--with the minimum of alteration, no doubt, and yet
perceptibly--by a governess. And the governess was no fool: narrow,
jealous, provincial, she might be; but she was an acute and vigorous
woman, who had gained by a peculiar insight, a peculiar ascendancy. That
ascendancy she meant to keep. No doubt it was true that technically she
took no part in public business; but the distinction between what is
public and what is private is always a subtle one; and in the case of
a reigning sovereign--as the next few years were to show--it is often
imaginary. Considering all things--the characters of the persons, and
the character of the times--it was something more than a mere matter
of private interest that the bedroom of Baroness Lehzen at Buckingham
Palace should have been next door to the bedroom of the Queen.

But the influence wielded by the Baroness, supreme as it seemed within
its own sphere, was not unlimited; there were other forces at work.
For one thing, the faithful Stockmar had taken up his residence in the
palace. During the twenty years which had elapsed since the death of the
Princess Charlotte, his experiences had been varied and remarkable. The
unknown counsellor of a disappointed princeling had gradually risen to a
position of European importance. His devotion to his master had been not
only whole--hearted but cautious and wise. It was Stockmar's advice
that had kept Prince Leopold in England during the critical years which
followed his wife's death, and had thus secured to him the essential
requisite of a point d'appui in the country of his adoption. It was
Stockmar's discretion which had smoothed over the embarrassments
surrounding the Prince's acceptance and rejection of the Greek crown.
It was Stockmar who had induced the Prince to become the constitutional
Sovereign of Belgium. Above all, it was Stockmar's tact, honesty, and
diplomatic skill which, through a long series of arduous and complicated
negotiations, had led to the guarantee of Belgian neutrality by the
Great Powers. His labours had been rewarded by a German barony and by
the complete confidence of King Leopold. Nor was it only in Brussels
that he was treated with respect and listened to with attention.
The statesmen who governed England--Lord Grey, Sir Robert Peel, Lord
Palmerston, Lord Melbourne--had learnt to put a high value upon his
probity and his intelligence. "He is one of the cleverest fellows I
ever saw," said Lord Melbourne, "the most discreet man, the most
well-judging, and most cool man." And Lord Palmerston cited Baron
Stockmar as the only absolutely disinterested man he had come across in
life, At last he was able to retire to Coburg, and to enjoy for a few
years the society of the wife and children whom his labours in the
service of his master had hitherto only allowed him to visit at long
intervals for a month or two at a time. But in 1836 he had been again
entrusted with an important negotiation, which he had brought to
a successful conclusion in the marriage of Prince Ferdinand of
Saxe-Coburg, a nephew of King Leopold's, with Queen Maria II of
Portugal. The House of Coburg was beginning to spread over Europe; and
the establishment of the Baron at Buckingham Palace in 1837 was to be
the prelude of another and a more momentous advance.

King Leopold and his counsellor provide in their careers an example
of the curious diversity of human ambitions. The desires of man are
wonderfully various; but no less various are the means by which those
desires may reach satisfaction: and so the work of the world gets done.
The correct mind of Leopold craved for the whole apparatus of royalty.
Mere power would have held no attractions for him; he must be an actual
king--the crowned head of a people. It was not enough to do; it was
essential also to be recognised; anything else would not be fitting.
The greatness that he dreamt of was surrounded by every appropriate
circumstance. To be a Majesty, to be a cousin of Sovereigns, to marry a
Bourbon for diplomatic ends, to correspond with the Queen of England,
to be very stiff and very punctual, to found a dynasty, to bore
ambassadresses into fits, to live, on the highest pinnacle, an exemplary
life devoted to the public service--such were his objects, and such,
in fact, were his achievements. The "Marquis Peu-a-peu," as George IV
called him, had what he wanted. But this would never have been the case
if it had not happened that the ambition of Stockmar took a form exactly
complementary to his own. The sovereignty that the Baron sought for
was by no means obvious. The satisfaction of his essential being lay
in obscurity, in invisibility--in passing, unobserved, through a hidden
entrance, into the very central chamber of power, and in sitting there,
quietly, pulling the subtle strings that set the wheels of the
whole world in motion. A very few people, in very high places, and
exceptionally well-informed, knew that Baron Stockmar was a most
important person: that was enough. The fortunes of the master and the
servant, intimately interacting, rose together. The Baron's secret skill
had given Leopold his unexceptionable kingdom; and Leopold, in his turn,
as time went on, was able to furnish the Baron with more and more keys
to more and more back doors.

Stockmar took up his abode in the Palace partly as the emissary of King
Leopold, but more particularly as the friend and adviser of a queen who
was almost a child, and who, no doubt, would be much in need of advice
and friendship. For it would be a mistake to suppose that either of
these two men was actuated by a vulgar selfishness. The King, indeed,
was very well aware on which side his bread was buttered; during an
adventurous and chequered life he had acquired a shrewd knowledge of
the world's workings; and he was ready enough to use that knowledge
to strengthen his position and to spread his influence. But then, the
firmer his position and the wider his influence, the better for Europe;
of that he was quite certain. And besides, he was a constitutional
monarch; and it would be highly indecorous in a constitutional monarch
to have any aims that were low or personal.

As for Stockmar, the disinterestedness which Palmerston had noted was
undoubtedly a basic element in his character. The ordinary schemer is
always an optimist; and Stockmar, racked by dyspepsia and haunted by
gloomy forebodings, was a constitutionally melancholy man. A schemer, no
doubt, he was; but he schemed distrustfully, splenetically, to do good.
To do good! What nobler end could a man scheme for? Yet it is perilous
to scheme at all.

With Lehzen to supervise every detail of her conduct, with Stockmar in
the next room, so full of wisdom and experience of affairs, with her
Uncle Leopold's letters, too, pouring out so constantly their stream of
encouragements, general reflections, and highly valuable tips, Victoria,
even had she been without other guidance, would have stood in no lack of
private counsellor. But other guidance she had; for all these influences
paled before a new star, of the first magnitude, which, rising suddenly
upon her horizon, immediately dominated her life.

III

William Lamb, Viscount Melbourne, was fifty-eight years of age, and
had been for the last three years Prime Minister of England. In every
outward respect he was one of the most fortunate of mankind. He had
been born into the midst of riches, brilliance, and power. His mother,
fascinating and intelligent, had been a great Whig hostess, and he had
been bred up as a member of that radiant society which, during the
last quarter of the eighteenth century, concentrated within itself
the ultimate perfections of a hundred years of triumphant aristocracy.
Nature had given him beauty and brains; the unexpected death of an
elder brother brought him wealth, a peerage, and the possibility of
high advancement. Within that charmed circle, whatever one's personal
disabilities, it was difficult to fail; and to him, with all his
advantages, success was well-nigh unavoidable. With little effort, he
attained political eminence. On the triumph of the Whigs he became one
of the leading members of the Government; and when Lord Grey retired
from the premiership he quietly stepped into the vacant place. Nor was
it only in the visible signs of fortune that Fate had been kind to him.
Bound to succeed, and to succeed easily, he was gifted with so fine
a nature that his success became him. His mind, at once supple and
copious, his temperament, at once calm and sensitive, enabled him not
merely to work, but to live with perfect facility and with the grace of
strength. In society he was a notable talker, a captivating companion,
a charming man. If one looked deeper, one saw at once that he was not
ordinary, that the piquancies of his conversation and his manner--his
free-and-easy vaguenesses, his abrupt questions, his lollings and
loungings, his innumerable oaths--were something more than an amusing
ornament, were the outward manifestation of an individuality that was
fundamental.

The precise nature of this individuality was very difficult to gauge: it
was dubious, complex, perhaps self--contradictory. Certainly there was
an ironical discordance between the inner history of the man and his
apparent fortunes. He owed all he had to his birth, and his birth was
shameful; it was known well enough that his mother had passionately
loved Lord Egremont, and that Lord Melbourne was not his father. His
marriage, which had seemed to be the crown of his youthful ardours,
was a long, miserable, desperate failure: the incredible Lady Caroline,
"With pleasures too refined to please, With too much spirit to be
e'er at ease, With too much quickness to be ever taught, With too much
thinking to have common thought," was very nearly the destruction of
his life. When at last he emerged from the anguish and confusion of her
folly, her extravagance, her rage, her despair, and her devotion, he was
left alone with endless memories of intermingled farce and tragedy, and
an only son, who was an imbecile. But there was something else that he
owed to Lady Caroline. While she whirled with Byron in a hectic frenzy
of love and fashion, he had stayed at home in an indulgence bordering
on cynicism, and occupied his solitude with reading. It was thus that he
had acquired those habits of study, that love of learning, and that wide
and accurate knowledge of ancient and modern literature, which formed so
unexpected a part of his mental equipment. His passion for reading never
deserted him; even when he was Prime Minister he found time to
master every new important book. With an incongruousness that was
characteristic, his favourite study was theology. An accomplished
classical scholar, he was deeply read in the Fathers of the Church;
heavy volumes of commentary and exegesis he examined with scrupulous
diligence; and at any odd moment he might be found turning over the
pages of the Bible. To the ladies whom he most liked, he would lend some
learned work on the Revelation, crammed with marginal notes in his own
hand, or Dr. Lardner's "Observations upon the Jewish Errors with respect
to the Conversion of Mary Magdalene." The more pious among them had high
hopes that these studies would lead him into the right way; but of this
there were no symptoms in his after-dinner conversations.

The paradox of his political career was no less curious. By temperament
an aristocrat, by conviction a conservative, he came to power as the
leader of the popular party, the party of change. He had profoundly
disliked the Reform Bill, which he had only accepted at last as
a necessary evil; and the Reform Bill lay at the root of the very
existence, of the very meaning, of his government. He was far too
sceptical to believe in progress of any kind. Things were best as they
were or rather, they were least bad. "You'd better try to do no good,"
was one of his dictums, "and then you'll get into no scrapes." Education
at best was futile; education of the poor was positively dangerous. The
factory children? "Oh, if you'd only have the goodness to leave them
alone!" Free Trade was a delusion; the ballot was nonsense; and there
was no such thing as a democracy.

Nevertheless, he was not a reactionary; he was simply an opportunist.
The whole duty of government, he said, was "to prevent crime and to
preserve contracts." All one could really hope to do was to carry on. He
himself carried on in a remarkable manner--with perpetual compromises,
with fluctuations and contradictions, with every kind of weakness, and
yet with shrewdness, with gentleness, even with conscientiousness, and
a light and airy mastery of men and of events. He conducted the
transactions of business with extraordinary nonchalance. Important
persons, ushered up for some grave interview, found him in a
towselled bed, littered with books and papers, or vaguely shaving in a
dressing-room; but, when they went downstairs again, they would realise
that somehow or other they had been pumped. When he had to receive a
deputation, he could hardly ever do so with becoming gravity. The worthy
delegates of the tallow-chandlers, or the Society for the Abolition of
Capital Punishment, were distressed and mortified when, in the midst of
their speeches, the Prime Minister became absorbed in blowing a feather,
or suddenly cracked an unseemly joke. How could they have guessed that
he had spent the night before diligently getting up the details of their
case? He hated patronage and the making of appointments--a feeling rare
in Ministers. "As for the Bishops," he burst out, "I positively believe
they die to vex me." But when at last the appointment was made, it
was made with keen discrimination. His colleagues observed another
symptom--was it of his irresponsibility or his wisdom? He went to sleep
in the Cabinet.

Probably, if he had been born a little earlier, he would have been a
simpler and a happier man. As it was, he was a child of the eighteenth
century whose lot was cast in a new, difficult, unsympathetic age.
He was an autumn rose. With all his gracious amenity, his humour, his
happy-go-lucky ways, a deep disquietude possessed him. A sentimental
cynic, a sceptical believer, he was restless and melancholy at heart.
Above all, he could never harden himself; those sensitive petals
shivered in every wind. Whatever else he might be, one thing was
certain: Lord Melbourne was always human, supremely human--too human,
perhaps.

And now, with old age upon him, his life took a sudden, new,
extraordinary turn. He became, in the twinkling of an eye, the intimate
adviser and the daily companion of a young girl who had stepped all at
once from a nursery to a throne. His relations with women had been, like
everything else about him, ambiguous. Nobody had ever been able quite
to gauge the shifting, emotional complexities of his married life; Lady
Caroline vanished; but his peculiar susceptibilities remained. Female
society of some kind or other was necessary to him, and he did not
stint himself; a great part of every day was invariably spent in it. The
feminine element in him made it easy, made it natural and inevitable for
him to be the friend of a great many women; but the masculine element
in him was strong as well. In such circumstances it is also easy, it is
even natural, perhaps it is even inevitable, to be something more than
a friend. There were rumours and combustions. Lord Melbourne was twice a
co-respondent in a divorce action; but on each occasion he won his suit.
The lovely Lady Brandon, the unhappy and brilliant Mrs. Norton... the
law exonerated them both. Beyond that hung an impenetrable veil. But
at any rate it was clear that, with such a record, the Prime Minister's
position in Buckingham Palace must be a highly delicate one. However,
he was used to delicacies, and he met the situation with consummate
success. His behaviour was from the first moment impeccable. His manner
towards the young Queen mingled, with perfect facility, the watchfulness
and the respect of a statesman and a courtier with the tender solicitude
of a parent. He was at once reverential and affectionate, at once the
servant and the guide. At the same time the habits of his life underwent
a surprising change. His comfortable, unpunctual days became subject to
the unaltering routine of a palace; no longer did he sprawl on sofas;
not a single "damn" escaped his lips. The man of the world who had been
the friend of Byron and the regent, the talker whose paradoxes had held
Holland House enthralled, the cynic whose ribaldries had enlivened so
many deep potations, the lover whose soft words had captivated such
beauty and such passion and such wit, might now be seen, evening after
evening, talking with infinite politeness to a schoolgirl, bolt upright,
amid the silence and the rigidity of Court etiquette.

IV

On her side, Victoria was instantaneously fascinated by Lord Melbourne.
The good report of Stockmar had no doubt prepared the way; Lehzen was
wisely propitiated; and the first highly favourable impression was never
afterwards belied. She found him perfect; and perfect in her sight he
remained. Her absolute and unconcealed adoration was very natural; what
innocent young creature could have resisted, in any circumstances, the
charm and the devotion of such a man? But, in her situation, there was
a special influence which gave a peculiar glow to all she felt. After
years of emptiness and dullness and suppression, she had come suddenly,
in the heyday of youth, into freedom and power. She was mistress
of herself, of great domains and palaces; she was Queen of England.
Responsibilities and difficulties she might have, no doubt, and in heavy
measure; but one feeling dominated and absorbed all others--the feeling
of joy. Everything pleased her. She was in high spirits from morning
till night. Mr. Creevey, grown old now, and very near his end, catching
a glimpse of her at Brighton, was much amused, in his sharp fashion, by
the ingenuous gaiety of "little Vic." "A more homely little being you
never beheld, when she is at her ease, and she is evidently dying to be
always more so. She laughs in real earnest, opening her mouth as wide as
it can go, showing not very pretty gums... She eats quite as heartily
as she laughs, I think I may say she gobbles... She blushes and laughs
every instant in so natural a way as to disarm anybody." But it was not
merely when she was laughing or gobbling that she enjoyed herself; the
performance of her official duties gave her intense satisfaction. "I
really have immensely to do," she wrote in her Journal a few days after
her accession; "I receive so many communications from my Ministers, but
I like it very much." And again, a week later, "I repeat what I said
before that I have so many communications from the Ministers, and from
me to them, and I get so many papers to sign every day, that I have
always a very great deal to do. I delight in this work." Through the
girl's immaturity the vigorous predestined tastes of the woman were
pushing themselves into existence with eager velocity, with delicious
force.

One detail of her happy situation deserves particular mention. Apart
from the splendour of her social position and the momentousness of her
political one, she was a person of great wealth. As soon as Parliament
met, an annuity of L385,000 was settled upon her. When the expenses of
her household had been discharged, she was left with L68,000 a year of
her own. She enjoyed besides the revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster,
which amounted annually to over L27,000. The first use to which she put
her money was characteristic: she paid off her father's debts. In
money matters, no less than in other matters, she was determined to be
correct. She had the instincts of a man of business; and she never could
have borne to be in a position that was financially unsound.

With youth and happiness gilding every hour, the days passed merrily
enough. And each day hinged upon Lord Melbourne. Her diary shows us,
with undiminished clarity, the life of the young sovereign during
the early months of her reign--a life satisfactorily regular, full
of delightful business, a life of simple pleasures, mostly
physical--riding, eating, dancing--a quick, easy, highly unsophisticated
life, sufficient unto itself. The light of the morning is upon it; and,
in the rosy radiance, the figure of "Lord M." emerges, glorified and
supreme. If she is the heroine of the story, he is the hero; but indeed
they are more than hero and heroine, for there are no other characters
at all. Lehzen, the Baron, Uncle Leopold, are unsubstantial shadows--the
incidental supers of the piece. Her paradise was peopled by two persons,
and surely that was enough. One sees them together still, a curious
couple, strangely united in those artless pages, under the magical
illumination of that dawn of eighty years ago: the polished high fine
gentleman with the whitening hair and whiskers and the thick dark
eyebrows and the mobile lips and the big expressive eyes; and beside him
the tiny Queen--fair, slim, elegant, active, in her plain girl's dress
and little tippet, looking up at him earnestly, adoringly, with eyes
blue and projecting, and half-open mouth. So they appear upon every page
of the Journal; upon every page Lord M. is present, Lord M. is speaking,
Lord M. is being amusing, instructive, delightful, and affectionate at
once, while Victoria drinks in the honied words, laughs till she shows
her gums, tries hard to remember, and runs off, as soon as she is left
alone, to put it all down. Their long conversations touched upon a
multitude of topics. Lord M. would criticise books, throw out a remark
or two on the British Constitution, make some passing reflections
on human life, and tell story after story of the great people of the
eighteenth century. Then there would be business a despatch perhaps
from Lord Durham in Canada, which Lord M. would read. But first he
must explain a little. "He said that I must know that Canada originally
belonged to the French, and was only ceded to the English in 1760, when
it was taken in an expedition under Wolfe: 'a very daring enterprise,'
he said. Canada was then entirely French, and the British only came
afterwards... Lord M. explained this very clearly (and much better
than I have done) and said a good deal more about it. He then read me
Durham's despatch, which is a very long one and took him more than 1/2
an hour to read. Lord M. read it beautifully with that fine soft voice
of his, and with so much expression, so that it is needless to say I
was much interested by it." And then the talk would take a more personal
turn. Lord M. would describe his boyhood, and she would learn that "he
wore his hair long, as all boys then did, till he was 17; (how handsome
he must have looked!)." Or she would find out about his queer tastes and
habits--how he never carried a watch, which seemed quite extraordinary.
"'I always ask the servant what o'clock it is, and then he tells me what
he likes,' said Lord M." Or, as the rooks wheeled about round the trees,
"in a manner which indicated rain," he would say that he could sit
looking at them for an hour, and "was quite surprised at my disliking
them. M. said, 'The rooks are my delight.'"

The day's routine, whether in London or at Windsor, was almost
invariable. The morning was devoted to business and Lord M. In the
afternoon the whole Court went out riding. The Queen, in her velvet
riding--habit and a top-hat with a veil draped about the brim, headed
the cavalcade; and Lord M. rode beside her. The lively troupe went fast
and far, to the extreme exhilaration of Her Majesty. Back in the Palace
again, there was still time for a little more fun before dinner--a game
of battledore and shuttlecock perhaps, or a romp along the galleries
with some children. Dinner came, and the ceremonial decidedly tightened.
The gentleman of highest rank sat on the right hand of the Queen; on her
left--it soon became an established rule--sat Lord Melbourne. After the
ladies had left the dining-room, the gentlemen were not permitted to
remain behind for very long; indeed, the short time allowed them for
their wine-drinking formed the subject--so it was rumoured--of one of
the very few disputes between the Queen and her Prime Minister;(*) but
her determination carried the day, and from that moment after-dinner
drunkenness began to go out of fashion. When the company was reassembled
in the drawing-room the etiquette was stiff. For a few moments the Queen
spoke in turn to each one of her guests; and during these short uneasy
colloquies the aridity of royalty was apt to become painfully evident.
One night Mr. Greville, the Clerk of the Privy Council, was present; his
turn soon came; the middle-aged, hard-faced viveur was addressed by his
young hostess. "Have you been riding to-day, Mr. Greville?" asked the
Queen. "No, Madam, I have not," replied Mr. Greville. "It was a fine
day," continued the Queen. "Yes, Madam, a very fine day," said Mr.
Greville. "It was rather cold, though," said the Queen. "It was rather
cold, Madam," said Mr. Greville. "Your sister, Lady Frances Egerton,
rides, I think, doesn't she?" said the Queen. "She does ride sometimes,
Madam," said Mr. Greville. There was a pause, after which Mr. Greville
ventured to take the lead, though he did not venture to change the
subject. "Has your Majesty been riding today?" asked Mr. Greville. "Oh
yes, a very long ride," answered the Queen with animation. "Has your
Majesty got a nice horse?" said Mr. Greville. "Oh, a very nice horse,"
said the Queen. It was over. Her Majesty gave a smile and an inclination
of the head, Mr. Greville a profound bow, and the next conversation
began with the next gentleman. When all the guests had been disposed
of, the Duchess of Kent sat down to her whist, while everybody else was
ranged about the round table. Lord Melbourne sat beside the Queen, and
talked pertinaciously--very often a propos to the contents of one of the
large albums of engravings with which the round table was covered--until
it was half-past eleven and time to go to bed.

     (*) The Duke of Bedford told Greville he was "sure there was
     a battle between her and Melbourne... He is sure there was
     one about the men's sitting after dinner, for he heard her
     say to him rather angrily, 'it is a horrid custom-' but when
     the ladies left the room (he dined there) directions were
     given that the men should remain five minutes longer."
     Greville Memoirs, February 26, 1840 (unpublished).

Occasionally, there were little diversions: the evening might be spent
at the opera or at the play. Next morning the royal critic was careful
to note down her impressions. "It was Shakespeare's tragedy of Hamlet,
and we came in at the beginning of it. Mr. Charles Kean (son of
old Kean) acted the part of Hamlet, and I must say beautifully.
His conception of this very difficult, and I may almost say
incomprehensible, character is admirable; his delivery of all the fine
long speeches quite beautiful; he is excessively graceful and all
his actions and attitudes are good, though not at all good-looking in
face... I came away just as Hamlet was over." Later on, she went to see
Macready in King Lear. The story was new to her; she knew nothing about
it, and at first she took very little interest in what was passing on
the stage; she preferred to chatter and laugh with the Lord Chamberlain.
But, as the play went on, her mood changed; her attention was fixed, and
then she laughed no more. Yet she was puzzled; it seemed a strange, a
horrible business. What did Lord M. think? Lord M. thought it was a
very fine play, but to be sure, "a rough, coarse play, written for
those times, with exaggerated characters." "I'm glad you've seen it," he
added. But, undoubtedly, the evenings which she enjoyed most were those
on which there was dancing. She was always ready enough to seize
any excuse--the arrival of cousins--a birthday--a gathering of young
people--to give the command for that. Then, when the band played, and
the figures of the dancers swayed to the music, and she felt her own
figure swaying too, with youthful spirits so close on every side--then
her happiness reached its height, her eyes sparkled, she must go on and
on into the small hours of the morning. For a moment Lord M. himself was
forgotten.

V

The months flew past. The summer was over: "the pleasantest summer I
EVER passed in MY LIFE, and I shall never forget this first summer of
my reign." With surprising rapidity, another summer was upon her. The
coronation came and went--a curious dream. The antique, intricate,
endless ceremonial worked itself out as best it could, like some machine
of gigantic complexity which was a little out of order. The small
central figure went through her gyrations. She sat; she walked; she
prayed; she carried about an orb that was almost too heavy to hold; the
Archbishop of Canterbury came and crushed a ring upon the wrong finger,
so that she was ready to cry out with the pain; old Lord Rolle tripped
up in his mantle and fell down the steps as he was doing homage; she
was taken into a side chapel, where the altar was covered with a
table-cloth, sandwiches, and bottles of wine; she perceived Lehzen in an
upper box and exchanged a smile with her as she sat, robed and crowned,
on the Confessor's throne. "I shall ever remember this day as the
PROUDEST of my life," she noted. But the pride was soon merged once more
in youth and simplicity. When she returned to Buckingham Palace at
last she was not tired; she ran up to her private rooms, doffed her
splendours, and gave her dog Dash its evening bath.

Life flowed on again with its accustomed smoothness--though, of course,
the smoothness was occasionally disturbed. For one thing, there was the
distressing behaviour of Uncle Leopold. The King of the Belgians had
not been able to resist attempting to make use of his family position
to further his diplomatic ends. But, indeed, why should there be any
question of resisting? Was not such a course of conduct, far from being
a temptation, simply "selon les regles?" What were royal marriages
for, if they did not enable sovereigns, in spite of the hindrances of
constitutions, to control foreign politics? For the highest purposes,
of course; that was understood. The Queen of England was his niece--more
than that--almost his daughter; his confidential agent was living, in
a position of intimate favour, at her court. Surely, in such
circumstances, it would be preposterous, it would be positively
incorrect, to lose the opportunity of bending to his wishes by means
of personal influence, behind the backs of the English Ministers, the
foreign policy of England.

He set about the task with becoming precautions. He continued in his
letters his admirable advice. Within a few days of her accession, he
recommended the young Queen to lay emphasis, on every possible occasion,
upon her English birth; to praise the English nation; "the Established
Church I also recommend strongly; you cannot, without PLEDGING yourself
to anything PARTICULAR, SAY TOO MUCH ON THE SUBJECT." And then "before
you decide on anything important I should be glad if you would consult
me; this would also have the advantage of giving you time;" nothing was
more injurious than to be hurried into wrong decisions unawares. His
niece replied at once with all the accustomed warmth of her affection;
but she wrote hurriedly--and, perhaps, a trifle vaguely too. "YOUR
advice is always of the GREATEST IMPORTANCE to me," she said.

Had he, possibly, gone too far? He could not be certain; perhaps
Victoria HAD been hurried. In any case, he would be careful; he would
draw back--"pour mieux sauter" he added to himself with a smile. In his
next letters he made no reference to his suggestion of consultations
with himself; he merely pointed out the wisdom, in general, of refusing
to decide upon important questions off-hand. So far, his advice was
taken; and it was noticed that the Queen, when applications were made to
her, rarely gave an immediate answer. Even with Lord Melbourne, it was
the same; when he asked for her opinion upon any subject, she would
reply that she would think it over, and tell him her conclusions next
day.

King Leopold's counsels continued. The Princess de Lieven, he said,
was a dangerous woman; there was reason to think that she would make
attempts to pry into what did not concern her, let Victoria beware. "A
rule which I cannot sufficiently recommend is NEVER TO PERMIT people
to speak on subjects concerning yourself or your affairs, without you
having yourself desired them to do so." Should such a thing occur,
"change the conversation, and make the individual feel that he has made
a mistake." This piece of advice was also taken; for it fell out as the
King had predicted. Madame de Lieven sought an audience, and appeared
to be verging towards confidential topics; whereupon the Queen, becoming
slightly embarrassed, talked of nothing but commonplaces. The individual
felt that she had made a mistake.

The King's next warning was remarkable. Letters, he pointed out, are
almost invariably read in the post. This was inconvenient, no doubt; but
the fact, once properly grasped, was not without its advantages. "I will
give you an example: we are still plagued by Prussia concerning those
fortresses; now to tell the Prussian Government many things, which we
SHOULD NOT LIKE to tell them officially, the Minister is going to write
a despatch to our man at Berlin, sending it BY POST; the Prussians ARE
SURE to read it, and to learn in this way what we wish them to hear.
Analogous circumstances might very probably occur in England. I tell you
the TRICK," wrote His Majesty, "that you should be able to guard against
it." Such were the subtleties of constitutional sovereignty.

It seemed that the time had come for another step. The King's next
letter was full of foreign politics--the situation in Spain and
Portugal, the character of Louis Philippe; and he received a favourable
answer. Victoria, it is true, began by saying that she had shown the
POLITICAL PART of his letter to Lord Melbourne; but she proceeded to a
discussion of foreign affairs. It appeared that she was not unwilling
to exchange observations on such matters with her uncle. So far so good.
But King Leopold was still cautious; though a crisis was impending
in his diplomacy, he still hung back; at last, however, he could keep
silence no longer. It was of the utmost importance to him that, in his
manoeuvrings with France and Holland, he should have, or at any rate
appear to have, English support. But the English Government appeared to
adopt a neutral attitude; it was too bad; not to be for him was to
be against him, could they not see that? Yet, perhaps, they were only
wavering, and a little pressure upon them from Victoria might still
save all. He determined to put the case before her, delicately yet
forcibly--just as he saw it himself. "All I want from your kind
Majesty," he wrote, "is, that you will OCCASIONALLY express to your
Ministers, and particularly to good Lord Melbourne, that, as far as it
is COMPATIBLE with the interests of your own dominions, you do NOT wish
that your Government should take the lead in such measures as might in a
short time bring on the DESTRUCTION of this country, as well as that of
your uncle and his family." The result of this appeal was unexpected;
there was dead silence for more than a week. When Victoria at last
wrote, she was prodigal of her affection. "It would, indeed, my dearest
Uncle, be VERY WRONG of you, if you thought my feelings of warm and
devoted attachment to you, and of great affection for you, could be
changed--nothing can ever change them"--but her references to foreign
politics, though they were lengthy and elaborate, were non-committal in
the extreme; they were almost cast in an official and diplomatic form.
Her Ministers, she said, entirely shared her views upon the subject; she
understood and sympathised with the difficulties of her beloved uncle's
position; and he might rest assured "that both Lord Melbourne and Lord
Palmerston are most anxious at all times for the prosperity and welfare
of Belgium." That was all. The King in his reply declared himself
delighted, and re-echoed the affectionate protestations of his niece.
"My dearest and most beloved Victoria," he said, "you have written me
a VERY DEAR and long letter, which has given me GREAT PLEASURE AND
SATISFACTION." He would not admit that he had had a rebuff.

A few months later the crisis came. King Leopold determined to make a
bold push, and to carry Victoria with him, this time, by a display of
royal vigour and avuncular authority. In an abrupt, an almost peremptory
letter, he laid his case, once more, before his niece. "You know from
experience," he wrote, "that I NEVER ASK ANYTHING OF YOU... But, as I
said before, if we are not careful we may see serious consequences which
may affect more or less everybody, and THIS ought to be the object
of our most anxious attention. I remain, my dear Victoria, your
affectionate uncle, Leopold R." The Queen immediately despatched this
letter to Lord Melbourne, who replied with a carefully thought-out form
of words, signifying nothing whatever, which, he suggested, she should
send to her uncle. She did so, copying out the elaborate formula, with a
liberal scattering of "dear Uncles" interspersed; and she concluded
her letter with a message of "affectionate love to Aunt Louise and the
children." Then at last King Leopold was obliged to recognise the facts.
His next letter contained no reference at all to politics. "I am glad,"
he wrote, "to find that you like Brighton better than last year. I think
Brighton very agreeable at this time of the year, till the east winds
set in. The pavilion, besides, is comfortable; that cannot be denied.
Before my marriage, it was there that I met the Regent. Charlotte
afterwards came with old Queen Charlotte. How distant all this already,
but still how present to one's memory." Like poor Madame de Lieven, His
Majesty felt that he had made a mistake.

Nevertheless, he could not quite give up all hope. Another opportunity
offered, and he made another effort--but there was not very much
conviction in it, and it was immediately crushed. "My dear Uncle," the
Queen wrote, "I have to thank you for your last letter which I received
on Sunday. Though you seem not to dislike my political sparks, I think
it is better not to increase them, as they might finally take fire,
particularly as I see with regret that upon this one subject we cannot
agree. I shall, therefore, limit myself to my expressions of very
sincere wishes for the welfare and prosperity of Belgium." After that,
it was clear that there was no more to be said. Henceforward there is
audible in the King's letters a curiously elegiac note. "My dearest
Victoria, your DELIGHTFUL little letter has just arrived and went
like AN ARROW TO MY HEART. Yes, my beloved Victoria! I DO LOVE YOU
TENDERLY... I love you FOR YOURSELF, and I love in you the dear child
whose welfare I tenderly watched." He had gone through much; yet, if
life had its disappointments, it had its satisfactions too. "I have
all the honours that can be given, and I am, politically speaking, very
solidly established." But there were other things besides politics,
there were romantic yearnings in his heart. "The only longing I still
have is for the Orient, where I perhaps shall once end my life, rising
in the west and setting in the east." As for his devotion to his
niece, that could never end. "I never press my services on you, nor my
councils, though I may say with some truth that from the extraordinary
fate which the higher powers had ordained for me, my experience, both
political and of private life, is great. I am ALWAYS READY to be useful
to you when and where and it may be, and I repeat it, ALL I WANT IN
RETURN IS SOME LITTLE SINCERE AFFECTION FROM YOU."

VI

The correspondence with King Leopold was significant of much that still
lay partly hidden in the character of Victoria. Her attitude towards
her uncle had never wavered for a moment. To all his advances she had
presented an absolutely unyielding front. The foreign policy of England
was not his province; it was hers and her Ministers'; his insinuations,
his entreaties, his struggles--all were quite useless; and he must
understand that this was so. The rigidity of her position was the more
striking owing to the respectfulness and the affection with which it was
accompanied. From start to finish the unmoved Queen remained the devoted
niece. Leopold himself must have envied such perfect correctitude; but
what may be admirable in an elderly statesman is alarming in a maiden
of nineteen. And privileged observers were not without their fears. The
strange mixture of ingenuous light-heartedness and fixed determination,
of frankness and reticence, of childishness and pride, seemed to augur
a future that was perplexed and full of dangers. As time passed the less
pleasant qualities in this curious composition revealed themselves more
often and more seriously. There were signs of an imperious, a peremptory
temper, an egotism that was strong and hard. It was noticed that the
palace etiquette, far from relaxing, grew ever more and more inflexible.
By some, this was attributed to Lehzen's influence; but, if that was
so, Lehzen had a willing pupil; for the slightest infringements of
the freezing rules of regularity and deference were invariably and
immediately visited by the sharp and haughty glances of the Queen. Yet
Her Majesty's eyes, crushing as they could be, were less crushing than
her mouth. The self-will depicted in those small projecting teeth and
that small receding chin was of a more dismaying kind than that which a
powerful jaw betokens; it was a self--will imperturbable, impenetrable,
unintelligent; a self-will dangerously akin to obstinacy. And the
obstinacy of monarchs is not as that of other men.

Within two years of her accession, the storm-clouds which, from the
first, had been dimly visible on the horizon, gathered and burst.
Victoria's relations with her mother had not improved. The Duchess
of Kent, still surrounded by all the galling appearances of filial
consideration, remained in Buckingham Palace a discarded figure,
powerless and inconsolable. Sir John Conroy, banished from the presence
of the Queen, still presided over the Duchess's household, and the
hostilities of Kensington continued unabated in the new surroundings.
Lady Flora Hastings still cracked her malicious jokes; the animosity of
the Baroness was still unappeased. One day, Lady Flora found the joke
was turned against her. Early in 1839, travelling in the suite of the
Duchess, she had returned from Scotland in the same carriage with Sir
John. A change in her figure became the subject of an unseemly jest;
tongues wagged; and the jest grew serious. It was whispered that Lady
Flora was with child. The state of her health seemed to confirm the
suspicion; she consulted Sir James Clark, the royal physician, and,
after the consultation, Sir James let his tongue wag, too. On this, the
scandal flared up sky-high. Everyone was talking; the Baroness was not
surprised; the Duchess rallied tumultuously to the support of her lady;
the Queen was informed. At last the extraordinary expedient of a medical
examination was resorted to, during which Sir James, according to Lady
Flora, behaved with brutal rudeness, while a second doctor was
extremely polite. Finally, both physicians signed a certificate entirely
exculpating the lady. But this was by no means the end of the business.
The Hastings family, socially a very powerful one, threw itself into
the fray with all the fury of outraged pride and injured innocence; Lord
Hastings insisted upon an audience of the Queen, wrote to the papers,
and demanded the dismissal of Sir James Clark. The Queen expressed her
regret to Lady Flora, but Sir James Clark was not dismissed. The tide
of opinion turned violently against the Queen and her advisers; high
society was disgusted by all this washing of dirty linen in Buckingham
Palace; the public at large was indignant at the ill-treatment of Lady
Flora. By the end of March, the popularity, so radiant and so abundant,
with which the young Sovereign had begun her reign, had entirely
disappeared.

There can be no doubt that a great lack of discretion had been shown by
the Court. Ill-natured tittle-tattle, which should have been instantly
nipped in the bud, had been allowed to assume disgraceful proportions;
and the Throne itself had become involved in the personal malignities
of the palace. A particularly awkward question had been raised by the
position of Sir James Clark. The Duke of Wellington, upon whom it was
customary to fall back, in cases of great difficulty in high places, had
been consulted upon this question, and he had given it as his opinion
that, as it would be impossible to remove Sir James without a public
enquiry, Sir James must certainly stay where he was. Probably the Duke
was right; but the fact that the peccant doctor continued in the
Queen's service made the Hastings family irreconcilable and produced an
unpleasant impression of unrepentant error upon the public mind. As for
Victoria, she was very young and quite inexperienced; and she can hardly
be blamed for having failed to control an extremely difficult situation.
That was clearly Lord Melbourne's task; he was a man of the world, and,
with vigilance and circumspection, he might have quietly put out the
ugly flames while they were still smouldering. He did not do so; he
was lazy and easy-going; the Baroness was persistent, and he let things
slide. But doubtless his position was not an easy one; passions ran
high in the palace; and Victoria was not only very young, she was very
headstrong, too. Did he possess the magic bridle which would curb
that fiery steed? He could not be certain. And then, suddenly, another
violent crisis revealed more unmistakably than ever the nature of the
mind with which he had to deal.

VII

The Queen had for long been haunted by a terror that the day might come
when she would be obliged to part with her Minister. Ever since the
passage of the Reform Bill, the power of the Whig Government had
steadily declined. The General Election of 1837 had left them with a
very small majority in the House of Commons; since then, they had been
in constant difflculties--abroad, at home, in Ireland; the Radical group
had grown hostile; it became highly doubtful how much longer they could
survive. The Queen watched the development of events in great anxiety.
She was a Whig by birth, by upbringing, by every association, public and
private; and, even if those ties had never existed, the mere fact that
Lord M. was the head of the Whigs would have amply sufficed to determine
her politics. The fall of the Whigs would mean a sad upset for Lord M.
But it would have a still more terrible consequence: Lord M. would have
to leave her; and the daily, the hourly, presence of Lord M. had become
an integral part of her life. Six months after her accession she had
noted in her diary "I shall be very sorry to lose him even for one
night;" and this feeling of personal dependence on her Minister steadily
increased. In these circumstances it was natural that she should have
become a Whig partisan. Of the wider significance of political questions
she knew nothing; all she saw was that her friends were in office and
about her, and that it would be dreadful if they ceased to be so. "I
cannot say," she wrote when a critical division was impending, "(though
I feel confident of our success) how low, how sad I feel, when I think
of the possibility of this excellent and truly kind man not remaining my
Minister! Yet I trust fervently that He who has so wonderfully protected
me through such manifold difficulties will not now desert me! I should
have liked to have expressed to Lord M. my anxiety, but the tears were
nearer than words throughout the time I saw him, and I felt I should
have choked, had I attempted to say anything." Lord Melbourne
realised clearly enough how undesirable was such a state of mind in
a constitutional sovereign who might be called upon at any moment to
receive as her Ministers the leaders of the opposite party; he did what
he could to cool her ardour; but in vain.

With considerable lack of foresight, too, he had himself helped to bring
about this unfortunate condition of affairs. From the moment of her
accession, he had surrounded the Queen with ladies of his own party; the
Mistress of the Robes and all the Ladies of the Bedchamber were Whigs.
In the ordinary course, the Queen never saw a Tory: eventually she took
pains never to see one in any circumstances. She disliked the whole
tribe; and she did not conceal the fact. She particularly disliked Sir
Robert Peel, who would almost certainly be the next Prime Minister.
His manners were detestable, and he wanted to turn out Lord M. His
supporters, without exception, were equally bad; and as for Sir James
Graham, she could not bear the sight of him; he was exactly like Sir
John Conroy.

The affair of Lady Flora intensified these party rumours still further.
The Hastings were Tories, and Lord Melbourne and the Court were attacked
by the Tory press in unmeasured language. The Queen's sectarian
zeal proportionately increased. But the dreaded hour was now fast
approaching. Early in May the Ministers were visibly tottering; on a
vital point of policy they could only secure a majority of five in the
House of Commons; they determined to resign. When Victoria heard the
news she burst into tears. Was it possible, then, that all was over? Was
she, indeed, about to see Lord M. for the last time? Lord M. came; and
it is a curious fact that, even in this crowning moment of misery and
agitation, the precise girl noted, to the minute, the exact time of the
arrival and the departure of her beloved Minister. The conversation was
touching and prolonged; but it could only end in one way--the Queen must
send for the Duke of Wellington. When, next morning, the Duke came, he
advised her Majesty to send for Sir Robert Peel. She was in "a state of
dreadful grief," but she swallowed down her tears, and braced herself,
with royal resolution, for the odious, odious interview.

Peel was by nature reserved, proud, and shy. His manners were not
perfect, and he knew it; he was easily embarrassed, and, at such
moments, he grew even more stiff and formal than before, while his
feet mechanically performed upon the carpet a dancing-master's measure.
Anxious as he now was to win the Queen's good graces, his very anxiety
to do so made the attainment of his object the more difficult. He
entirely failed to make any headway whatever with the haughty hostile
girl before him. She coldly noted that he appeared to be unhappy and
"put out," and, while he stood in painful fixity, with an occasional
uneasy pointing of the toe, her heart sank within her at the sight of
that manner, "Oh! how different, how dreadfully different, to the
frank, open, natural, and most kind warm manner of Lord Melbourne."
Nevertheless, the audience passed without disaster. Only at one point
had there been some slight hint of a disagreement. Peel had decided that
a change would be necessary in the composition of the royal Household:
the Queen must no longer be entirely surrounded by the wives and sisters
of his opponents; some, at any rate, of the Ladies of the Bedchamber
should be friendly to his Government. When this matter was touched
upon, the Queen had intimated that she wished her Household to remain
unchanged; to which Sir Robert had replied that the question could be
settled later, and shortly afterwards withdrew to arrange the details of
his Cabinet. While he was present, Victoria had remained, as she herself
said, "very much collected, civil and high, and betrayed no agitation;"
but as soon as she was alone she completely broke down. Then she pulled
herself together to write to Lord Melbourne an account of all that had
happened, and of her own wretchedness. "She feels," she said, "Lord
Melbourne will understand it, amongst enemies to those she most relied
on and most esteemed; but what is worst of all is the being deprived of
seeing Lord Melbourne as she used to do."

Lord Melbourne replied with a very wise letter. He attempted to calm the
Queen and to induce her to accept the new position gracefully; and he
had nothing but good words for the Tory leaders. As for the question of
the Ladies of the Household, the Queen, he said, should strongly urge
what she desired, as it was a matter which concerned her personally,
"but," he added, "if Sir Robert is unable to concede it, it will not do
to refuse and to put off the negotiation upon it." On this point there
can be little doubt that Lord Melbourne was right. The question was
a complicated and subtle one, and it had never arisen before; but
subsequent constitutional practice has determined that a Queen Regnant
must accede to the wishes of her Prime Minister as to the personnel of
the female part of her Household. Lord Melbourne's wisdom, however, was
wasted. The Queen would not be soothed, and still less would she take
advice. It was outrageous of the Tories to want to deprive her of her
Ladies, and that night she made up her mind that, whatever Sir Robert
might say, she would refuse to consent to the removal of a single one
of them. Accordingly, when, next morning, Peel appeared again, she was
ready for action. He began by detailing the Cabinet appointments, and
then he added "Now, ma'am, about the Ladies-" when the Queen sharply
interrupted him. "I cannot give up any of my Ladies," she said. "What,
ma'am!" said Sir Robert, "does your Majesty mean to retain them all?"
"All," said the Queen. Sir Robert's face worked strangely; he could not
conceal his agitation. "The Mistress of the Robes and the Ladies of
the Bedchamber?" he brought out at last. "All," replied once more her
Majesty. It was in vain that Peel pleaded and argued; in vain that
he spoke, growing every moment more pompous and uneasy, of the
constitution, and Queens Regnant, and the public interest; in vain that
he danced his pathetic minuet. She was adamant; but he, too, through all
his embarrassment, showed no sign of yielding; and when at last he left
her nothing had been decided--the whole formation of the Government was
hanging in the wind. A frenzy of excitement now seized upon Victoria.
Sir Robert, she believed in her fury, had tried to outwit her, to take
her friends from her, to impose his will upon her own; but that was
not all: she had suddenly perceived, while the poor man was moving so
uneasily before her, the one thing that she was desperately longing
for--a loop-hole of escape. She seized a pen and dashed off a note to
Lord Melbourne.

"Sir Robert has behaved very ill," she wrote, "he insisted on my giving
up my Ladies, to which I replied that I never would consent, and I never
saw a man so frightened... I was calm but very decided, and I think
you would have been pleased to see my composure and great firmness;
the Queen of England will not submit to such trickery. Keep yourself in
readiness, for you may soon be wanted." Hardly had she finished when the
Duke of Wellington was announced. "Well, Ma'am," he said as he entered,
"I am very sorry to find there is a difficulty." "Oh!" she instantly
replied, "he began it, not me." She felt that only one thing now was
needed: she must be firm. And firm she was. The venerable conqueror
of Napoleon was outfaced by the relentless equanimity of a girl in her
teens. He could not move the Queen one inch. At last, she even ventured
to rally him. "Is Sir Robert so weak," she asked, "that even the Ladies
must be of his opinion?" On which the Duke made a brief and humble
expostulation, bowed low, and departed.

Had she won? Time would show; and in the meantime she scribbled down
another letter. "Lord Melbourne must not think the Queen rash in her
conduct... The Queen felt this was an attempt to see whether she could
be led and managed like a child."(*) The Tories were not only wicked but
ridiculous. Peel, having, as she understood, expressed a wish to remove
only those members of the Household who were in Parliament, now objected
to her Ladies. "I should like to know," she exclaimed in triumphant
scorn, "if they mean to give the Ladies seats in Parliament?"

     (*) The exclamation "They wished to treat me like a girl,
     but I will show them that I am Queen of England!" often
     quoted as the Queen's, is apocryphal. It is merely part of
     Greville's summary of the two letters to Melbourne. It may
     be noted that the phrase "the Queen of England will not
     submit to such trickery" is omitted in "Girlhood," and in
     general there are numerous verbal discrepancies between the
     versions of the journal and the letters in the two books.

The end of the crisis was now fast approaching. Sir Robert returned, and
told her that if she insisted upon retaining all her Ladies he could
not form a Government. She replied that she would send him her final
decision in writing. Next morning the late Whig Cabinet met. Lord
Melbourne read to them the Queen's letters, and the group of elderly
politicians were overcome by an extraordinary wave of enthusiasm. They
knew very well that, to say the least, it was highly doubtful whether
the Queen had acted in strict accordance with the constitution; that in
doing what she had done she had brushed aside Lord Melbourne's advice;
that, in reality, there was no public reason whatever why they should
go back upon their decision to resign. But such considerations vanished
before the passionate urgency of Victoria. The intensity of her
determination swept them headlong down the stream of her desire. They
unanimously felt that "it was impossible to abandon such a Queen
and such a woman." Forgetting that they were no longer her Majesty's
Ministers, they took the unprecedented course of advising the Queen by
letter to put an end to her negotiation with Sir Robert Peel. She did
so; all was over; she had triumphed. That evening there was a ball at
the Palace. Everyone was present. "Peel and the Duke of Wellington came
by looking very much put out." She was perfectly happy; Lord M. was
Prime Minister once more, and he was by her side.

VIII

Happiness had returned with Lord M., but it was happiness in the midst
of agitation. The domestic imbroglio continued unabated, until at last
the Duke, rejected as a Minister, was called in once again in his old
capacity as moral physician to the family. Something was accomplished
when, at last, he induced Sir John Conroy to resign his place about the
Duchess of Kent and leave the Palace for ever; something more when he
persuaded the Queen to write an affectionate letter to her mother. The
way seemed open for a reconciliation, but the Duchess was stormy still.
She didn't believe that Victoria had written that letter; it was not
in her handwriting; and she sent for the Duke to tell him so. The Duke,
assuring her that the letter was genuine, begged her to forget the past.
But that was not so easy. "What am I to do if Lord Melbourne comes up to
me?" "Do, ma'am? Why, receive him with civility." Well, she would make
an effort... "But what am I to do if Victoria asks me to shake hands
with Lehzen?" "Do, ma'am? Why, take her in your arms and kiss her."
"What!" The Duchess bristled in every feather, and then she burst into
a hearty laugh. "No, ma'am, no," said the Duke, laughing too. "I don't
mean you are to take Lehzen in your arms and kiss her, but the
Queen." The Duke might perhaps have succeeded, had not all attempts at
conciliation been rendered hopeless by a tragical event. Lady Flora,
it was discovered, had been suffering from a terrible internal malady,
which now grew rapidly worse. There could be little doubt that she was
dying. The Queen's unpopularity reached an extraordinary height. More
than once she was publicly insulted. "Mrs. Melbourne," was shouted at
her when she appeared at her balcony; and, at Ascot, she was hissed
by the Duchess of Montrose and Lady Sarah Ingestre as she passed. Lady
Flora died. The whole scandal burst out again with redoubled vehemence;
while, in the Palace, the two parties were henceforth divided by an
impassable, a Stygian, gulf.

Nevertheless, Lord M. was back, and every trouble faded under the
enchantment of his presence and his conversation. He, on his side,
had gone through much; and his distresses were intensified by a
consciousness of his own shortcomings. He realised clearly enough that,
if he had intervened at the right moment, the Hastings scandal might
have been averted; and, in the bedchamber crisis, he knew that he had
allowed his judgment to be overruled and his conduct to be swayed by
private feelings and the impetuosity of Victoria. But he was not one
to suffer too acutely from the pangs of conscience. In spite of the
dullness and the formality of the Court, his relationship with the
Queen had come to be the dominating interest in his life; to have been
deprived of it would have been heartrending; that dread eventuality
had been--somehow--avoided; he was installed once more, in a kind of
triumph; let him enjoy the fleeting hours to the full! And so, cherished
by the favour of a sovereign and warmed by the adoration of a girl,
the autumn rose, in those autumn months of 1839, came to a wondrous
blooming. The petals expanded, beautifully, for the last time. For
the last time in this unlooked--for, this incongruous, this almost
incredible intercourse, the old epicure tasted the exquisiteness of
romance. To watch, to teach, to restrain, to encourage the royal
young creature beside him--that was much; to feel with such a constant
intimacy the impact of her quick affection, her radiant vitality--that
was more; most of all, perhaps, was it good to linger vaguely in
humorous contemplation, in idle apostrophe, to talk disconnectedly, to
make a little joke about an apple or a furbelow, to dream. The springs
of his sensibility, hidden deep within him, were overflowing. Often, as
he bent over her hand and kissed it, he found himself in tears.

Upon Victoria, with all her impermeability, it was inevitable that such
a companionship should have produced, eventually, an effect. She was no
longer the simple schoolgirl of two years since. The change was visible
even in her public demeanour. Her expression, once "ingenuous
and serene," now appeared to a shrewd observer to be "bold and
discontented." She had learnt something of the pleasures of power and
the pains of it; but that was not all. Lord Melbourne with his gentle
instruction had sought to lead her into the paths of wisdom and
moderation, but the whole unconscious movement of his character had
swayed her in a very different direction. The hard clear pebble,
subjected for so long and so constantly to that encircling and insidious
fluidity, had suffered a curious corrosion; it seemed to be actually
growing a little soft and a little clouded. Humanity and fallibility are
infectious things; was it possible that Lehzen's prim pupil had caught
them? That she was beginning to listen to siren voices? That the secret
impulses of self-expression, of self-indulgence even, were mastering
her life? For a moment the child of a new age looked back, and wavered
towards the eighteenth century. It was the most critical moment of her
career. Had those influences lasted, the development of her character,
the history of her life, would have been completely changed.

And why should they not last? She, for one, was very anxious that they
should. Let them last for ever! She was surrounded by Whigs, she was
free to do whatever she wanted, she had Lord M.; she could not believe
that she could ever be happier. Any change would be for the worse; and
the worst change of all... no, she would not hear of it; it would be
quite intolerable, it would upset everything, if she were to marry. And
yet everyone seemed to want her to--the general public, the Ministers,
her Saxe-Coburg relations--it was always the same story. Of course, she
knew very well that there were excellent reasons for it. For one thing,
if she remained childless, and were to die, her uncle Cumberland, who
was now the King of Hanover, would succeed to the Throne of England.
That, no doubt, would be a most unpleasant event; and she entirely
sympathised with everybody who wished to avoid it. But there was no
hurry; naturally, she would marry in the end--but not just yet--not for
three or four years. What was tiresome was that her uncle Leopold had
apparently determined, not only that she ought to marry, but that her
cousin Albert ought to be her husband. That was very like her uncle
Leopold, who wanted to have a finger in every pie; and it was true that
long ago, in far-off days, before her accession even, she had written to
him in a way which might well have encouraged him in such a notion. She
had told him then that Albert possessed "every quality that could be
desired to render her perfectly happy," and had begged her "dearest
uncle to take care of the health of one, now so dear to me, and to take
him under your special protection," adding, "I hope and trust all will
go on prosperously and well on this subject of so much importance to
me." But that had been years ago, when she was a mere child; perhaps,
indeed, to judge from the language, the letter had been dictated by
Lehzen; at any rate, her feelings, and all the circumstances, had now
entirely changed. Albert hardly interested her at all.

In later life the Queen declared that she had never for a moment dreamt
of marrying anyone but her cousin; her letters and diaries tell a very
different story. On August 26, 1837, she wrote in her journal: "To-day
is my dearest cousin Albert's 18th birthday, and I pray Heaven to pour
its choicest blessings on his beloved head!" In the subsequent years,
however, the date passes unnoticed. It had been arranged that Stockmar
should accompany the Prince to Italy, and the faithful Baron left her
side for that purpose. He wrote to her more than once with sympathetic
descriptions of his young companion; but her mind was by this time made
up. She liked and admired Albert very much, but she did not want to
marry him. "At present," she told Lord Melbourne in April, 1839, "my
feeling is quite against ever marrying." When her cousin's Italian tour
came to an end, she began to grow nervous; she knew that, according to a
long-standing engagement, his next journey would be to England. He would
probably arrive in the autumn, and by July her uneasiness was intense.
She determined to write to her uncle, in order to make her position
clear. It must be understood she said, that "there is no no engagement
between us." If she should like Albert, she could "make no final promise
this year, for, at the very earliest, any such event could not take
place till two or three years hence." She had, she said, "a great
repugnance" to change her present position; and, if she should not like
him, she was "very anxious that it should be understood that she would
not be guilty of any breach of promise, for she never gave any." To Lord
Melbourne she was more explicit. She told him that she "had no great
wish to see Albert, as the whole subject was an odious one;" she hated
to have to decide about it; and she repeated once again that seeing
Albert would be "a disagreeable thing." But there was no escaping the
horrid business; the visit must be made, and she must see him. The
summer slipped by and was over; it was the autumn already; on the
evening of October 10 Albert, accompanied by his brother Ernest, arrived
at Windsor.

Albert arrived; and the whole structure of her existence crumbled into
nothingness like a house of cards. He was beautiful--she gasped--she
knew no more. Then, in a flash, a thousand mysteries were revealed to
her; the past, the present, rushed upon her with a new significance; the
delusions of years were abolished, and an extraordinary, an irresistible
certitude leapt into being in the light of those blue eyes, the smile
of that lovely mouth. The succeeding hours passed in a rapture. She was
able to observe a few more details--the "exquisite nose," the "delicate
moustachios and slight but very slight whiskers," the "beautiful figure,
broad in the shoulders and a fine waist." She rode with him, danced with
him, talked with him, and it was all perfection. She had no shadow of
a doubt. He had come on a Thursday evening, and on the following Sunday
morning she told Lord Melbourne that she had "a good deal changed her
opinion as to marrying." Next morning, she told him that she had made
up her mind to marry Albert. The morning after that, she sent for her
cousin. She received him alone, and "after a few minutes I said to him
that I thought he must be aware why I wished them to come here--and
that it would make me too happy if he would consent to what I wished
(to marry me.)" Then "we embraced each other, and he was so kind, so
affectionate." She said that she was quite unworthy of him, while he
murmured that he would be very happy "Das Leben mit dir zu zubringen."
They parted, and she felt "the happiest of human beings," when Lord M.
came in. At first she beat about the bush, and talked of the weather,
and indifferent subjects. Somehow or other she felt a little nervous
with her old friend. At last, summoning up her courage, she said, "I
have got well through this with Albert." "Oh! you have," said Lord M.



CHAPTER IV. MARRIAGE

I

It was decidedly a family match. Prince Francis Charles Augustus Albert
Emmanuel of Saxe-Coburg--Gotha--for such was his full title--had been
born just three months after his cousin Victoria, and the same midwife
had assisted at the two births. The children's grandmother, the Dowager
Duchess of Coburg, had from the first looked forward to their marriage,
as they grew up, the Duke, the Duchess of Kent, and King Leopold came
equally to desire it. The Prince, ever since the time when, as a child
of three, his nurse had told him that some day "the little English May
flower" would be his wife, had never thought of marrying anyone else.
When eventually Baron Stockmar himself signified his assent, the affair
seemed as good as settled.

The Duke had one other child--Prince Ernest, Albert's senior by one
year, and heir to the principality. The Duchess was a sprightly and
beautiful woman, with fair hair and blue eyes; Albert was very like her
and was her declared favourite. But in his fifth year he was parted from
her for ever. The ducal court was not noted for the strictness of its
morals; the Duke was a man of gallantry, and it was rumoured that the
Duchess followed her husband's example. There were scandals: one of the
Court Chamberlains, a charming and cultivated man of Jewish extraction,
was talked of; at last there was a separation, followed by a divorce.
The Duchess retired to Paris, and died unhappily in 1831. Her memory was
always very dear to Albert.

He grew up a pretty, clever, and high-spirited boy. Usually
well-behaved, he was, however, sometimes violent. He had a will of
his own, and asserted it; his elder brother was less passionate, less
purposeful, and, in their wrangles, it was Albert who came out top. The
two boys, living for the most part in one or other of the Duke's country
houses, among pretty hills and woods and streams, had been at a very
early age--Albert was less than four--separated from their nurses and
put under a tutor, in whose charge they remained until they went to the
University. They were brought up in a simple and unostentatious manner,
for the Duke was poor and the duchy very small and very insignificant.
Before long it became evident that Albert was a model lad. Intelligent
and painstaking, he had been touched by the moral earnestness of his
generation; at the age of eleven he surprised his father by telling him
that he hoped to make himself "a good and useful man." And yet he was
not over-serious; though, perhaps, he had little humour, he was full
of fun--of practical jokes and mimicry. He was no milksop; he rode, and
shot, and fenced; above all did he delight in being out of doors, and
never was he happier than in his long rambles with his brother through
the wild country round his beloved Rosenau--stalking the deer, admiring
the scenery, and returning laden with specimens for his natural
history collection. He was, besides, passionately fond of music. In one
particular it was observed that he did not take after his father: owing
either to his peculiar upbringing or to a more fundamental idiosyncrasy
he had a marked distaste for the opposite sex. At the age of five, at a
children's dance, he screamed with disgust and anger when a little girl
was led up to him for a partner; and though, later on, he grew more
successful in disguising such feelings, the feelings remained.

The brothers were very popular in Coburg, and, when the time came for
them to be confirmed, the preliminary examination which, according to
ancient custom, was held in public in the "Giants' Hall" of the
Castle, was attended by an enthusiastic crowd of functionaries, clergy,
delegates from the villages of the duchy, and miscellaneous onlookers.
There were also present, besides the Duke and the Dowager Duchess, their
Serene Highnesses the Princes Alexander and Ernest of Wurtemberg,
Prince Leiningen, Princess Hohenlohe-Langenburg, and Princess
Hohenlohe-Schillingsfurst. Dr. Jacobi, the Court chaplain, presided at
an altar, simply but appropriately decorated, which had been placed at
the end of the hall; and the proceedings began by the choir singing the
first verse of the hymn, "Come, Holy Ghost." After some introductory
remarks, Dr. Jacobi began the examination. "The dignified and decorous
bearing of the Princes," we are told in a contemporary account,
"their strict attention to the questions, the frankness, decision, and
correctness of their answers, produced a deep impression on the numerous
assembly. Nothing was more striking in their answers than the evidence
they gave of deep feeling and of inward strength of conviction. The
questions put by the examiner were not such as to be met by a simple
'yes' or 'no.' They were carefully considered in order to give the
audience a clear insight into the views and feelings of,the young
princes. One of the most touching moments was when the examiner asked
the hereditary prince whether he intended steadfastly to hold to the
Evangelical Church, and the Prince answered not only 'Yes!' but added in
a clear and decided tone: 'I and my brother are firmly resolved ever
to remain faithful to the acknowledged truth.' The examination having
lasted an hour, Dr. Jacobi made some concluding observations, followed
by a short prayer; the second and third verses of the opening hymn were
sung; and the ceremony was over. The Princes, stepping down from the
altar, were embraced by the Duke and the Dowager Duchess; after which
the loyal inhabitants of Coburg dispersed, well satisfied with their
entertainment."

Albert's mental development now proceeded apace. In his seventeenth year
he began a careful study of German literature and German philosophy.
He set about, he told his tutor, "to follow the thoughts of the great
Klopstock into their depths--though in this, for the most part," he
modestly added, "I do not succeed." He wrote an essay on the "Mode
of Thought of the Germans, and a Sketch of the History of German
Civilisation," "making use," he said, "in its general outlines, of
the divisions which the treatment of the subject itself demands," and
concluding with "a retrospect of the shortcomings of our time, with an
appeal to every one to correct those shortcomings in his own case, and
thus set a good example to others." Placed for some months under the
care of King Leopold at Brussels, he came under the influence of Adolphe
Quetelet, a mathematical professor, who was particularly interested
in the application of the laws of probability to political and moral
phenomena; this line of inquiry attracted the Prince, and the friendship
thus begun continued till the end of his life. From Brussels he went to
the University of Bonn, where he was speedily distinguished both by his
intellectual and his social activities; his energies were absorbed
in metaphysics, law, political economy, music, fencing, and amateur
theatricals. Thirty years later his fellow--students recalled with
delight the fits of laughter into which they had been sent by Prince
Albert's mimicry. The verve with which his Serene Highness reproduced
the tones and gestures of one of the professors who used to point to
a picture of a row of houses in Venice with the remark, "That is the
Ponte-Realte," and of another who fell down in a race and was obliged to
look for his spectacles, was especially appreciated.

After a year at Bonn, the time had come for a foreign tour, and Baron
Stockmar arrived from England to accompany the Prince on an expedition
to Italy. The Baron had been already, two years previously, consulted
by King Leopold as to his views upon the proposed marriage of Albert
and Victoria. His reply had been remarkable. With a characteristic
foresight, a characteristic absence of optimism, a characteristic sense
of the moral elements in the situation, Stockmar had pointed out what
were, in his opinion, the conditions essential to make the marriage a
success. Albert, he wrote, "was a fine young fellow, well grown for his
age, with agreeable and valuable qualities; and it was probable that
in a few years he would turn out a strong handsome man, of a kindly,
simple, yet dignified demeanour. Thus, externally, he possesses
all that pleases the sex, and at all times and in all countries must
please." Supposing, therefore, that Victoria herself was in favour of
the marriage, the further question arose as to whether Albert's mental
qualities were such as to fit him for the position of husband of the
Queen of England. On this point, continued the Baron, one heard much to
his credit; the Prince was said to be discreet and intelligent; but
all such judgments were necessarily partial, and the Baron preferred to
reserve his opinion until he could come to a trustworthy conclusion from
personal observation. And then he added: "But all this is not enough.
The young man ought to have not merely great ability, but a right
ambition, and great force of will as well. To pursue for a lifetime a
political career so arduous demands more than energy and inclination--it
demands also that earnest frame of mind which is ready of its own accord
to sacrifice mere pleasure to real usefulness. If he is not satisfied
hereafter with the consciousness of having achieved one of the most
influential positions in Europe, how often will he feel tempted to
repent his adventure! If he does not from the very outset accept it as a
vocation of grave responsibility, on the efficient performance of
which his honour and happiness depend, there is small likelihood of his
succeeding."

Such were the views of Stockmar on the qualifications necessary for the
due fulfilment of that destiny which Albert's family had marked out for
him; and he hoped, during the tour in Italy, to come to some conclusion
as to how far the prince possessed them. Albert on his side was much
impressed by the Baron, whom he had previously seen but rarely; he
also became acquainted, for the first time in his life, with a young
Englishman, Lieutenant Francis Seymour, who had been engaged to
accompany him, whom he found sehr liebens-wurdig, and with whom he
struck up a warm friendship. He delighted in the galleries and scenery
of Florence, though with Rome he was less impressed. "But for some
beautiful palaces," he said, "it might just as well be any town in
Germany." In an interview with Pope Gregory XVI, he took the opportunity
of displaying his erudition. When the Pope observed that the Greeks
had taken their art from the Etruscans, Albert replied that, on the
contrary, in his opinion, they had borrowed from the Egyptians: his
Holiness politely acquiesced. Wherever he went he was eager to increase
his knowledge, and, at a ball in Florence, he was observed paying no
attention whatever to the ladies, and deep in conversation with the
learned Signor Capponi. "Voila un prince dont nous pouvons etre fiers,"
said the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who was standing by: "la belle danseuse
l'attend, le savant l'occupe."

On his return to Germany, Stockmar's observations, imparted to King
Leopold, were still critical. Albert, he said, was intelligent,
kind, and amiable; he was full of the best intentions and the noblest
resolutions, and his judgment was in many things beyond his years. But
great exertion was repugnant to him; he seemed to be too willing to
spare himself, and his good resolutions too often came to nothing. It
was particularly unfortunate that he took not the slightest interest
in politics, and never read a newspaper. In his manners, too, there was
still room for improvement. "He will always," said the Baron, "have more
success with men than with women, in whose society he shows too little
empressement, and is too indifferent and retiring." One other feature
of the case was noted by the keen eye of the old physician: the Prince's
constitution was not a strong one. Yet, on the whole, he was favourable
to the projected marriage. But by now the chief obstacle seemed to lie
in another quarter, Victoria was apparently determined to commit herself
to nothing. And so it happened that when Albert went to England he had
made up his mind to withdraw entirely from the affair. Nothing would
induce him, he confessed to a friend, to be kept vaguely waiting;
he would break it all off at once. His reception at Windsor threw an
entirely new light upon the situation. The wheel of fortune turned
with a sudden rapidity; and he found, in the arms of Victoria, the
irrevocable assurance of his overwhelming fate.

II

He was not in love with her. Affection, gratitude, the natural reactions
to the unqualified devotion of a lively young cousin who was also
a queen--such feelings possessed him, but the ardours of reciprocal
passion were not his. Though he found that he liked Victoria very much,
what immediately interested him in his curious position was less her
than himself. Dazzled and delighted, riding, dancing, singing, laughing,
amid the splendours of Windsor, he was aware of a new sensation--the
stirrings of ambition in his breast. His place would indeed be a high,
an enviable one! And then, on the instant, came another thought. The
teaching of religion, the admonitions of Stockmar, his own inmost
convictions, all spoke with the same utterance. He would not be there to
please himself, but for a very different purpose--to do good. He must be
"noble, manly, and princely in all things," he would have "to live and
to sacrifice himself for the benefit of his new country;" to "use his
powers and endeavours for a great object--that of promoting the welfare
of multitudes of his fellowmen." One serious thought led on to another.
The wealth and the bustle of the English Court might be delightful for
the moment, but, after all, it was Coburg that had his heart. "While
I shall be untiring," he wrote to his grandmother, "in my efforts and
labours for the country to which I shall in future belong, and where
I am called to so high a position, I shall never cease ein treuer
Deutscher, Coburger, Gothaner zu sein." And now he must part from Coburg
for ever! Sobered and sad, he sought relief in his brother Ernest's
company; the two young men would shut themselves up together, and,
sitting down at the pianoforte, would escape from the present and the
future in the sweet familiar gaiety of a Haydn duet.

They returned to Germany; and while Albert, for a few farewell months,
enjoyed, for the last time, the happiness of home, Victoria, for the
last time, resumed her old life in London and Windsor. She corresponded
daily with her future husband in a mingled flow of German and English;
but the accustomed routine reasserted itself; the business and the
pleasures of the day would brook no interruption; Lord M. was once
more constantly beside her; and the Tories were as intolerable as ever.
Indeed, they were more so. For now, in these final moments, the old feud
burst out with redoubled fury. The impetuous sovereign found, to her
chagrin, that there might be disadvantages in being the declared enemy
of one of the great parties in the State. On two occasions, the Tories
directly thwarted her in a matter on which she had set her heart. She
wished her husband's rank to be axed by statute, and their opposition
prevented it. She wished her husband to receive a settlement from the
nation of L50,000 a year; and, again owing to the Tories, he was only
allowed L30,000. It was too bad. When the question was discussed in
Parliament, it had been pointed out that the bulk of the population was
suffering from great poverty, and that L30,000 was the whole revenue of
Coburg; but her uncle Leopold had been given L50,000, and it would
be monstrous to give Albert less. Sir Robert Peel--it might have been
expected--had had the effrontery to speak and vote for the smaller sum.
She was very angry; and determined to revenge herself by omitting to
invite a single Tory to her wedding. She would make an exception in
favour of old Lord Liverpool, but even the Duke of Wellington she
refused to ask. When it was represented to her that it would amount to
a national scandal if the Duke were absent from her wedding, she was
angrier than ever. "What! That old rebel! I won't have him:" she
was reported to have said. Eventually she was induced to send him an
invitation; but she made no attempt to conceal the bitterness of her
feelings, and the Duke himself was only too well aware of all that had
passed.

Nor was it only against the Tories that her irritation rose. As the time
for her wedding approached, her temper grew steadily sharper and
more arbitrary. Queen Adelaide annoyed her. King Leopold, too, was
"ungracious" in his correspondence; "Dear Uncle," she told Albert, "is
given to believe that he must rule the roost everywhere. However," she
added with asperity, "that is not a necessity." Even Albert himself
was not impeccable. Engulfed in Coburgs, he failed to appreciate
the complexity of English affairs. There were difficulties about his
household. He had a notion that he ought not to be surrounded by
violent Whigs; very likely, but he would not understand that the only
alternatives to violent Whigs were violent Tories; and it would be
preposterous if his Lords and Gentlemen were to be found voting against
the Queen's. He wanted to appoint his own Private Secretary. But how
could he choose the right person? Lord M. was obviously best qualified
to make the appointment; and Lord M. had decided that the Prince should
take over his own Private Secretary--George Anson, a staunch Whig.
Albert protested, but it was useless; Victoria simply announced that
Anson was appointed, and instructed Lehzen to send the Prince an
explanation of the details of the case.

Then, again, he had written anxiously upon the necessity of maintaining
unspotted the moral purity of the Court. Lord M's pupil considered that
dear Albert was strait-laced, and, in a brisk Anglo-German missive, set
forth her own views. "I like Lady A. very much," she told him, "only she
is a little strict awl particular, and too severe towards others, which
is not right; for I think one ought always to be indulgent towards other
people, as I always think, if we had not been well taken care of, we
might also have gone astray. That is always my feeling. Yet it is always
right to show that one does not like to see what is obviously wrong; but
it is very dangerous to be too severe, and I am certain that as a rule
such people always greatly regret that in their youth they have not been
so careful as they ought to have been. I have explained this so badly
and written it so badly, that I fear you will hardly be able to make it
out."

On one other matter she was insistent. Since the affair of Lady Flora
Hastings, a sad fate had overtaken Sir James Clark. His flourishing
practice had quite collapsed; nobody would go to him any more. But the
Queen remained faithful. She would show the world how little she cared
for their disapproval, and she desired Albert to make "poor Clark" his
physician in ordinary. He did as he was told; but, as it turned out, the
appointment was not a happy one.

The wedding-day was fixed, and it was time for Albert to tear himself
away from his family and the scenes of his childhood. With an aching
heart, he had revisited his beloved haunts--the woods and the valleys
where he had spent so many happy hours shooting rabbits and collecting
botanical specimens; in deep depression, he had sat through the farewell
banquets in the Palace and listened to the Freischutz performed by
the State band. It was time to go. The streets were packed as he drove
through them; for a short space his eyes were gladdened by a sea of
friendly German faces, and his ears by a gathering volume of good
guttural sounds. He stopped to bid a last adieu to his grandmother.
It was a heartrending moment. "Albert! Albert!" she shrieked, and fell
fainting into the arms of her attendants as his carriage drove away. He
was whirled rapidly to his destiny. At Calais a steamboat awaited him,
and, together with his father and his brother, he stepped, dejected, on
board. A little later, he was more dejected still. The crossing was a
very rough one; the Duke went hurriedly below; while the two Princes,
we are told, lay on either side of the cabin staircase "in an almost
helpless state." At Dover a large crowd was collected on the pier, and
"it was by no common effort that Prince Albert, who had continued to
suffer up to the last moment, got up to bow to the people." His sense
of duty triumphed. It was a curious omen: his whole life in England was
foreshadowed as he landed on English ground.

Meanwhile Victoria, in growing agitation, was a prey to temper and to
nerves. She grew feverish, and at last Sir James Clark pronounced
that she was going to have the measles. But, once again, Sir James's
diagnosis was incorrect. It was not the measles that were attacking
her, but a very different malady; she was suddenly prostrated by alarm,
regret, and doubt. For two years she had been her own mistress--the two
happiest years, by far, of her life. And now it was all to end! She was
to come under an alien domination--she would have to promise that she
would honour and obey... someone, who might, after all, thwart her,
oppose her--and how dreadful that would be! Why had she embarked on this
hazardous experiment? Why had she not been contented with Lord M.? No
doubt, she loved Albert; but she loved power too. At any rate, one thing
was certain: she might be Albert's wife, but she would always be Queen
of England. He reappeared, in an exquisite uniform, and her hesitations
melted in his presence like mist before the sun. On February 10, 1840,
the marriage took place. The wedded pair drove down to Windsor; but
they were not, of course, entirely alone. They were accompanied by their
suites, and, in particular, by two persons--the Baron Stockmar and the
Baroness Lehzen.

III

Albert had foreseen that his married life would not be all plain
sailing; but he had by no means realised the gravity and the
complication of the difficulties which he would have to face.
Politically, he was a cipher. Lord Melbourne was not only Prime
Minister, he was in effect the Private Secretary of the Queen, and thus
controlled the whole of the political existence of the sovereign. A
queen's husband was an entity unknown to the British Constitution. In
State affairs there seemed to be no place for him; nor was Victoria
herself at all unwilling that this should be so. "The English," she had
told the Prince when, during their engagement, a proposal had been made
to give him a peerage, "are very jealous of any foreigner interfering in
the government of this country, and have already in some of the papers
expressed a hope that you would not interfere. Now, though I know you
never would, still, if you were a Peer, they would all say, the Prince
meant to play a political part. I know you never would!" In reality, she
was not quite so certain; but she wished Albert to understand her views.
He would, she hoped, make a perfect husband; but, as for governing the
country, he would see that she and Lord M. between them could manage
that very well, without his help.

But it was not only in politics that the Prince discovered that the part
cut out for him was a negligible one. Even as a husband, he found, his
functions were to be of an extremely limited kind. Over the whole of
Victoria's private life the Baroness reigned supreme; and she had not
the slightest intention of allowing that supremacy to be diminished by
one iota. Since the accession, her power had greatly increased. Besides
the undefined and enormous influence which she exercised through her
management of the Queen's private correspondence, she was now the
superintendent of the royal establishment and controlled the important
office of Privy Purse. Albert very soon perceived that he was not master
in his own house. Every detail of his own and his wife's existence was
supervised by a third person: nothing could be done until the consent
of Lehzen had first been obtained. And Victoria, who adored Lehzen with
unabated intensity, saw nothing in all this that was wrong.

Nor was the Prince happier in his social surroundings. A shy young
foreigner, awkward in ladies' company, unexpansive and self-opinionated,
it was improbable that, in any circumstances, he would have been a
society success. His appearance, too, was against him. Though in the
eyes of Victoria he was the mirror of manly beauty, her subjects, whose
eyes were of a less Teutonic cast, did not agree with her. To them--and
particularly to the high-born ladies and gentlemen who naturally saw him
most--what was immediately and distressingly striking in Albert's face
and figure and whole demeanour was his un-English look. His features
were regular, no doubt, but there was something smooth and smug about
them; he was tall, but he was clumsily put together, and he walked with
a slight slouch. Really, they thought, this youth was more like
some kind of foreign tenor than anything else. These were serious
disadvantages; but the line of conduct which the Prince adopted from
the first moment of his arrival was far from calculated to dispel
them. Owing partly to a natural awkwardness, partly to a fear of undue
familiarity, and partly to a desire to be absolutely correct, his
manners were infused with an extraordinary stiffness and formality.
Whenever he appeared in company, he seemed to be surrounded by a thick
hedge of prickly etiquette. He never went out into ordinary society; he
never walked in the streets of London; he was invariably accompanied by
an equerry when he rode or drove. He wanted to be irreproachable and, if
that involved friendlessness, it could not be helped. Besides, he had no
very high opinion of the English. So far as he could see, they cared for
nothing but fox-hunting and Sunday observances; they oscillated between
an undue frivolity and an undue gloom; if you spoke to them of friendly
joyousness they stared; and they did not understand either the Laws of
Thought or the wit of a German University. Since it was clear that with
such people he could have very little in common, there was no reason
whatever for relaxing in their favour the rules of etiquette. In strict
privacy, he could be natural and charming; Seymour and Anson were
devoted to him, and he returned their affection; but they were
subordinates--the receivers of his confidences and the agents of his
will. From the support and the solace of true companionship he was
utterly cut off.

A friend, indeed, he had--or rather, a mentor. The Baron, established
once more in the royal residence, was determined to work with as
wholehearted a detachment for the Prince's benefit as, more than twenty
years before, he had worked for his uncle's. The situations then and
now, similar in many respects, were yet full of differences. Perhaps in
either case the difficulties to be encountered were equally great; but
the present problem was the more complex and the more interesting. The
young doctor who, unknown and insignificant, had nothing at the back of
him but his own wits and the friendship of an unimportant Prince, had
been replaced by the accomplished confidant of kings and ministers, ripe
in years, in reputation, and in the wisdom of a vast experience. It
was possible for him to treat Albert with something of the affectionate
authority of a father; but, on the other hand, Albert was no Leopold.
As the Baron was very well aware, he had none of his uncle's rigidity of
ambition, none of his overweening impulse to be personally great. He was
virtuous and well-intentioned; he was clever and well-informed; but he
took no interest in politics, and there were no signs that he possessed
any commanding force of character. Left to himself, he would almost
certainly have subsided into a high-minded nonentity, an aimless
dilettante busy over culture, a palace appendage without influence or
power. But he was not left to himself: Stockmar saw to that. For ever
at his pupil's elbow, the hidden Baron pushed him forward, with tireless
pressure, along the path which had been trod by Leopold so many years
ago. But, this time, the goal at the end of it was something more than
the mediocre royalty that Leopold had reached. The prize which Stockmar,
with all the energy of disinterested devotion, had determined should be
Albert's was a tremendous prize indeed.

The beginning of the undertaking proved to be the most arduous part
of it. Albert was easily dispirited: what was the use of struggling to
perform in a role which bored him and which, it was quite clear, nobody
but the dear good Baron had any desire that he should take up? It was
simpler, and it saved a great deal of trouble, to let things slide.
But Stockmar would not have it. Incessantly, he harped upon two
strings--Albert's sense of duty and his personal pride. Had the Prince
forgotten the noble aims to which his life was to be devoted? And was he
going to allow himself, his wife, his family, his whole existence, to be
governed by Baroness Lehzen? The latter consideration was a potent one.
Albert had never been accustomed to giving way; and now, more than ever
before, it would be humiliating to do so. Not only was he constantly
exasperated by the position of the Baroness in the royal household;
there was another and a still more serious cause of complaint. He was,
he knew very well, his wife's intellectual superior, and yet he found,
to his intense annoyance, that there were parts of her mind over which
he exercised no influence. When, urged on by the Baron, he attempted
to discuss politics with Victoria, she eluded the subject, drifted into
generalities, and then began to talk of something else. She was treating
him as she had once treated their uncle Leopold. When at last he
protested, she replied that her conduct was merely the result of
indolence; that when she was with him she could not bear to bother her
head with anything so dull as politics. The excuse was worse than the
fault: was he the wife and she the husband? It almost seemed so. But the
Baron declared that the root of the mischief was Lehzen: that it was she
who encouraged the Queen to have secrets; who did worse--undermined
the natural ingenuousness of Victoria, and induced her to give,
unconsciously no doubt, false reasons to explain away her conduct.

Minor disagreements made matters worse. The royal couple differed in
their tastes. Albert, brought up in a regime of Spartan simplicity and
early hours, found the great Court functions intolerably wearisome,
and was invariably observed to be nodding on the sofa at half-past ten;
while the Queen's favourite form of enjoyment was to dance through the
night, and then, going out into the portico of the Palace, watch the sun
rise behind St. Paul's and the towers of Westminster. She loved London
and he detested it. It was only in Windsor that he felt he could really
breathe; but Windsor too had its terrors: though during the day there
he could paint and walk and play on the piano, after dinner black tedium
descended like a pall. He would have liked to summon distinguished
scientific and literary men to his presence, and after ascertaining
their views upon various points of art and learning, to set forth his
own; but unfortunately Victoria "had no fancy to encourage such people;"
knowing that she was unequal to taking a part in their conversation,
she insisted that the evening routine should remain unaltered; the
regulation interchange of platitudes with official persons was followed
as usual by the round table and the books of engravings, while the
Prince, with one of his attendants, played game after game of double
chess.

It was only natural that in so peculiar a situation, in which the
elements of power, passion, and pride were so strangely apportioned,
there should have been occasionally something more than mere
irritation--a struggle of angry wills. Victoria, no more than Albert,
was in the habit of playing second fiddle. Her arbitrary temper flashed
out. Her vitality, her obstinacy, her overweening sense of her own
position, might well have beaten down before them his superiorities and
his rights. But she fought at a disadvantage; she was, in very truth, no
longer her own mistress; a profound preoccupation dominated her, seizing
upon her inmost purposes for its own extraordinary ends. She was madly
in love. The details of those curious battles are unknown to us; but
Prince Ernest, who remained in England with his brother for some
months, noted them with a friendly and startled eye. One story, indeed,
survives, ill-authenticated and perhaps mythical, yet summing up, as
such stories often do, the central facts of the case. When, in wrath,
the Prince one day had locked himself into his room, Victoria, no less
furious, knocked on the door to be admitted. "Who is there?" he asked.
"The Queen of England" was the answer. He did not move, and again there
was a hail of knocks. The question and the answer were repeated many
times; but at last there was a pause, and then a gentler knocking. "Who
is there?" came once more the relentless question. But this time the
reply was different. "Your wife, Albert." And the door was immediately
opened.

Very gradually the Prince's position changed. He began to find the study
of politics less uninteresting than he had supposed; he read Blackstone,
and took lessons in English Law; he was occasionally present when the
Queen interviewed her Ministers; and at Lord Melbourne's suggestion he
was shown all the despatches relating to Foreign Affairs. Sometimes
he would commit his views to paper, and read them aloud to the Prime
Minister, who, infinitely kind and courteous, listened with attention,
but seldom made any reply. An important step was taken when, before
the birth of the Princess Royal, the Prince, without any opposition
in Parliament, was appointed Regent in case of the death of the Queen.
Stockmar, owing to whose intervention with the Tories this happy result
had been brought about, now felt himself at liberty to take a holiday
with his family in Coburg; but his solicitude, poured out in innumerable
letters, still watched over his pupil from afar. "Dear Prince," he
wrote, "I am satisfied with the news you have sent me. Mistakes,
misunderstandings, obstructions, which come in vexatious opposition
to one's views, are always to be taken for just what they are--namely,
natural phenomena of life, which represent one of its sides, and
that the shady one. In overcoming them with dignity, your mind has to
exercise, to train, to enlighten itself; and your character to gain
force, endurance, and the necessary hardness." The Prince had done well
so far; but he must continue in the right path; above all, he was "never
to relax." "Never to relax in putting your magnanimity to the proof;
never to relax in logical separation of what is great and essential from
what is trivial and of no moment; never to relax in keeping yourself
up to a high standard--in the determination, daily renewed, to be
consistent, patient, courageous." It was a hard programme perhaps, for a
young man of twenty-one; and yet there was something in it which touched
the very depths of Albert's soul. He sighed, but he listened--listened
as to the voice of a spiritual director inspired with divine truth. "The
stars which are needful to you now," the voice continued, "and perhaps
for some time to come, are Love, Honesty, Truth. All those whose minds
are warped, or who are destitute of true feeling, will BE APT TO MISTAKE
YOU, and to persuade themselves and the world that you are not the man
you are--or, at least, may become... Do you, therefore, be on the alert
be times, with your eyes open in every direction... I wish for my Prince
a great, noble, warm, and true heart, such as shall serve as the richest
and surest basis for the noblest views of human nature, and the firmest
resolve to give them development."

Before long, the decisive moment came. There was a General Election, and
it became certain that the Tories, at last, must come into power. The
Queen disliked them as much as ever; but, with a large majority in the
House of Commons, they would now be in a position to insist upon their
wishes being attended to. Lord Melbourne himself was the first to
realise the importance of carrying out the inevitable transition with as
little friction as possible; and with his consent, the Prince, following
up the rapprochement which had begun over the Regency Act, opened,
through Anson, a negotiation with Sir Robert Peel. In a series of secret
interviews, a complete understanding was reached upon the difficult
and complex question of the Bedchamber. It was agreed that the
constitutional point should not be raised, but that on the formation of
the Tory Government, the principal Whig ladies should retire, and their
places be filled by others appointed by Sir Robert. Thus, in effect,
though not in form, the Crown abandoned the claims of 1839, and they
have never been subsequently put forward. The transaction was a turning
point in the Prince's career. He had conducted an important negotiation
with skill and tact; he had been brought into close and friendly
relations with the new Prime Minister; it was obvious that a great
political future lay before him. Victoria was much impressed and deeply
grateful. "My dearest Angel," she told King Leopold, "is indeed a great
comfort to me. He takes the greatest interest in what goes on, feeling
with and for me, and yet abstaining as he ought from biasing me either
way, though we talk much on the subject, and his judgment is, as you
say, good and mild." She was in need of all the comfort and assistance
he could give her. Lord M. was going, and she could hardly bring herself
to speak to Peel. Yes; she would discuss everything with Albert now!

Stockmar, who had returned to England, watched the departure of Lord
Melbourne with satisfaction. If all went well, the Prince should now
wield a supreme political influence over Victoria. But would all go
well?? An unexpected development put the Baron into a serious fright.
When the dreadful moment finally came, and the Queen, in anguish, bade
adieu to her beloved Minister, it was settled between them that, though
it would be inadvisable to meet very often, they could continue to
correspond. Never were the inconsistencies of Lord Melbourne's character
shown more clearly than in what followed. So long as he was in office,
his attitude towards Peel had been irreproachable; he had done all he
could to facilitate the change of government, he had even, through more
than one channel, transmitted privately to his successful rival advice
as to the best means of winning the Queen's good graces. Yet, no sooner
was he in opposition than his heart failed him. He could not bear the
thought of surrendering altogether the privilege and the pleasure of
giving counsel to Victoria--of being cut off completely from the power
and the intimacy which had been his for so long and in such abundant
measure. Though he had declared that he would be perfectly discreet in
his letters, he could not resist taking advantage of the opening they
afforded. He discussed in detail various public questions, and, in
particular, gave the Queen a great deal of advice in the matter of
appointments. This advice was followed. Lord Melbourne recommended
that Lord Heytesbury, who, he said, was an able man, should be made
Ambassador at Vienna; and a week later the Queen wrote to the Foreign
Secretary urging that Lord Heytesbury, whom she believed to be a very
able man, should be employed "on some important mission." Stockmar
was very much alarmed. He wrote a memorandum, pointing out the
unconstitutional nature of Lord Melbourne's proceedings and the
unpleasant position in which the Queen might find herself if they were
discovered by Peel; and he instructed Anson to take this memorandum to
the ex-Minister. Lord Melbourne, lounging on a sofa, read it through
with compressed lips. "This is quite an apple-pie opinion," he said.
When Anson ventured to expostulate further, suggesting that it was
unseemly in the leader of the Opposition to maintain an intimate
relationship with the Sovereign, the old man lost his temper. "God
eternally damn it!" he exclaimed, leaping up from his sofa, and dashing
about the room. "Flesh and blood cannot stand this!" He continued to
write to the Queen, as before; and two more violent bombardments from
the Baron were needed before he was brought to reason. Then, gradually,
his letters grew less and less frequent, with fewer and fewer references
to public concerns; at last, they were entirely innocuous. The Baron
smiled; Lord M. had accepted the inevitable.

The Whig Ministry resigned in September, 1841; but more than a year
was to elapse before another and an equally momentous change was
effected--the removal of Lehzen. For, in the end, the mysterious
governess was conquered. The steps are unknown by which Victoria was at
last led to accept her withdrawal with composure--perhaps with relief;
but it is clear that Albert's domestic position must have been greatly
strengthened by the appearance of children. The birth of the Princess
Royal had been followed in November, 1841, by that of the Prince of
Wales; and before very long another baby was expected. The Baroness,
with all her affection, could have but a remote share in such family
delights. She lost ground perceptibly. It was noticed as a phenomenon
that, once or twice, when the Court travelled, she was left behind at
Windsor. The Prince was very cautious; at the change of Ministry, Lord
Melbourne had advised him to choose that moment for decisive action;
but he judged it wiser to wait. Time and the pressure of inevitable
circumstances were for him; every day his predominance grew more
assured--and every night. At length he perceived that he need hesitate
no longer--that every wish, every velleity of his had only to be
expressed to be at once Victoria's. He spoke, and Lehzen vanished for
ever. No more would she reign in that royal heart and those royal halls.
No more, watching from a window at Windsor, would she follow her pupil
and her sovereign walking on the terrace among the obsequious multitude,
with the eye of triumphant love. Returning to her native Hanover she
established herself at Buckeburg in a small but comfortable house, the
walls of which were entirely covered by portraits of Her Majesty. The
Baron, in spite of his dyspepsia, smiled again: Albert was supreme.



IV

The early discords had passed away completely--resolved into the
absolute harmony of married life. Victoria, overcome by a new, an
unimagined revelation, had surrendered her whole soul to her husband.
The beauty and the charm which so suddenly had made her his at first
were, she now saw, no more than but the outward manifestation of the
true Albert. There was an inward beauty, an inward glory which, blind
that she was, she had then but dimly apprehended, but of which now she
was aware in every fibre of her being--he was good--he was great! How
could she ever have dreamt of setting up her will against his wisdom,
her ignorance against his knowledge, her fancies against his perfect
taste? Had she really once loved London and late hours and dissipation?
She who now was only happy in the country, she who jumped out of bed
every morning--oh, so early!--with Albert, to take a walk, before
breakfast, with Albert alone! How wonderful it was to be taught by him!
To be told by him which trees were which; and to learn all about the
bees! And then to sit doing cross-stitch while he read aloud to her
Hallam's Constitutional History of England! Or to listen to him playing
on his new organ 'The organ is the first of instruments,' he said; or
to sing to him a song by Mendelssohn, with a great deal of care over
the time and the breathing, and only a very occasional false note! And,
after dinner, to--oh, how good of him! He had given up his double chess!
And so there could be round games at the round table, or everyone could
spend the evening in the most amusing way imaginable--spinning counters
and rings.' When the babies came it was still more wonderful. Pussy was
such a clever little girl ("I am not Pussy! I am the Princess Royal!"
she had angrily exclaimed on one occasion); and Bertie--well, she could
only pray MOST fervently that the little Prince of Wales would grow up
to "resemble his angelic dearest Father in EVERY, EVERY respect, both in
body and mind." Her dear Mamma, too, had been drawn once more into the
family circle, for Albert had brought about a reconciliation, and the
departure of Lehzen had helped to obliterate the past. In Victoria's
eyes, life had become an idyll, and, if the essential elements of an
idyll are happiness, love and simplicity, an idyll it was; though,
indeed, it was of a kind that might have disconcerted Theocritus.
"Albert brought in dearest little Pussy," wrote Her Majesty in her
journal, "in such a smart white merino dress trimmed with blue, which
Mamma had given her, and a pretty cap, and placed her on my bed,
seating himself next to her, and she was very dear and good. And, as my
precious, invaluable Albert sat there, and our little Love between us, I
felt quite moved with happiness and gratitude to God."

The past--the past of only three years since--when she looked back upon
it, seemed a thing so remote and alien that she could explain it to
herself in no other way than as some kind of delusion--an unfortunate
mistake. Turning over an old volume of her diary, she came upon this
sentence--"As for 'the confidence of the Crown,' God knows! No MINISTER,
NO FRIEND, EVER possessed it so entirely as this truly excellent Lord
Melbourne possesses mine!" A pang shot through her--she seized a
pen, and wrote upon the margin--"Reading this again, I cannot forbear
remarking what an artificial sort of happiness MINE was THEN, and what
a blessing it is I have now in my beloved Husband REAL and solid
happiness, which no Politics, no worldly reverses CAN change; it could
not have lasted long as it was then, for after all, kind and excellent
as Lord M. is, and kind as he was to me, it was but in Society that I
had amusement, and I was only living on that superficial resource, which
I THEN FANCIED was happiness! Thank God! for ME and others, this is
changed, and I KNOW WHAT REAL HAPPINESS IS--V. R." How did she know?
What is the distinction between happiness that is real and happiness
that is felt? So a philosopher--Lord M. himself perhaps--might have
inquired. But she was no philosopher, and Lord M. was a phantom, and
Albert was beside her, and that was enough.

Happy, certainly, she was; and she wanted everyone to know it. Her
letters to King Leopold are sprinkled thick with raptures. "Oh! my
dearest uncle, I am sure if you knew HOW happy, how blessed I feel, and
how PROUD I feel in possessing SUCH a perfect being as my husband..."
such ecstasies seemed to gush from her pen unceasingly and almost
of their own accord. When, one day, without thinking, Lady Lyttelton
described someone to her as being "as happy as a queen," and then grew
a little confused, "Don't correct yourself, Lady Lyttelton," said Her
Majesty. "A queen IS a very happy woman."

But this new happiness was no lotus dream. On the contrary, it was
bracing, rather than relaxing. Never before had she felt so acutely the
necessity for doing her duty. She worked more methodically than ever
at the business of State; she watched over her children with untiring
vigilance. She carried on a large correspondence; she was occupied with
her farm--her dairy--a whole multitude of household avocations--from
morning till night. Her active, eager little body hurrying with quick
steps after the long strides of Albert down the corridors and avenues
of Windsor, seemed the very expression of her spirit. Amid all the
softness, the deliciousness of unmixed joy, all the liquescence, the
overflowings of inexhaustible sentiment, her native rigidity remained.
"A vein of iron," said Lady Lyttelton, who, as royal governess, had good
means of observation, "runs through her most extraordinary character."
Sometimes the delightful routine of domestic existence had to be
interrupted. It was necessary to exchange Windsor for Buckingham
Palace, to open Parliament, or to interview official personages, or,
occasionally, to entertain foreign visitors at the Castle. Then the
quiet Court put on a sudden magnificence, and sovereigns from over
the seas--Louis Philippe, or the King of Prussia, or the King of
Saxony--found at Windsor an entertainment that was indeed a royal one.
Few spectacles in Europe, it was agreed, produced an effect so imposing
as the great Waterloo banqueting hall, crowded with guests in sparkling
diamonds and blazing uniforms, the long walls hung with the stately
portraits of heroes, and the tables loaded with the gorgeous gold plate
of the kings of England. But, in that wealth of splendour, the most
imposing spectacle of all was the Queen. The little hausfrau, who had
spent the day before walking out with her children, inspecting her
livestock, practicing shakes at the piano, and filling up her journal
with adoring descriptions of her husband, suddenly shone forth, without
art, without effort, by a spontaneous and natural transition, the very
culmination of Majesty. The Tsar of Russia himself was deeply impressed.
Victoria on her side viewed with secret awe the tremendous Nicholas. "A
great event and a great compliment HIS visit certainly is," she told
her uncle, "and the people HERE are extremely flattered at it. He is
certainly a VERY STRIKING man; still very handsome. His profile is
BEAUTIFUL and his manners MOST dignified and graceful; extremely
civil--quite alarmingly so, as he is so full of attentions and
POLITENESS. But the expression of the EYES is FORMIDABLE and unlike
anything I ever saw before." She and Albert and "the good King of
Saxony," who happened to be there at the same time, and whom, she said,
"we like much--he is so unassuming-" drew together like tame villatic
fowl in the presence of that awful eagle. When he was gone, they
compared notes about his face, his unhappiness, and his despotic power
over millions. Well! She for her part could not help pitying him, and
she thanked God she was Queen of England.

When the time came for returning some of these visits, the royal pair
set forth in their yacht, much to Victoria's satisfaction. "I do love a
ship!" she exclaimed, ran up and down ladders with the greatest agility,
and cracked jokes with the sailors. The Prince was more aloof. They
visited Louis Philippe at the Chateau d'Eu; they visited King Leopold in
Brussels. It happened that a still more remarkable Englishwoman was in
the Belgian capital, but she was not remarked; and Queen Victoria passed
unknowing before the steady gaze of one of the mistresses in M. Heger's
pensionnat. "A little stout, vivacious lady, very plainly dressed--not
much dignity or pretension about her," was Charlotte Bronte's comment
as the royal carriage and six flashed by her, making her wait on the
pavement for a moment, and interrupting the train of her reflections.
Victoria was in high spirits, and even succeeded in instilling a little
cheerfulness into her uncle's sombre Court. King Leopold, indeed, was
perfectly contented. His dearest hopes had been fulfilled; all his
ambitions were satisfied; and for the rest of his life he had only to
enjoy, in undisturbed decorum, his throne, his respectability, the table
of precedence, and the punctual discharge of his irksome duties.
But unfortunately the felicity of those who surrounded him was less
complete. His Court, it was murmured, was as gloomy as a conventicle,
and the most dismal of all the sufferers was his wife. "Pas de
plaisanteries, madame!" he had exclaimed to the unfortunate successor of
the Princess Charlotte, when, in the early days of their marriage, she
had attempted a feeble joke. Did she not understand that the consort
of a constitutional sovereign must not be frivolous? She understood, at
last, only too well; and when the startled walls of the state apartments
re-echoed to the chattering and the laughter of Victoria, the poor lady
found that she had almost forgotten how to smile.

Another year, Germany was visited, and Albert displayed the beauties of
his home. When Victoria crossed the frontier, she was much excited--and
she was astonished as well. "To hear the people speak German," she noted
in her diary, "and to see the German soldiers, etc., seemed to me
so singular." Having recovered from this slight shock, she found the
country charming. She was feted everywhere, crowds of the surrounding
royalties swooped down to welcome her, and the prettiest groups of
peasant children, dressed in their best clothes, presented her with
bunches of flowers. The principality of Coburg, with its romantic
scenery and its well-behaved inhabitants, particularly delighted her;
and when she woke up one morning to find herself in "dear Rosenau, my
Albert's birthplace," it was "like a beautiful dream." On her return
home, she expatiated, in a letter to King Leopold, upon the pleasures
of the trip, dwelling especially upon the intensity of her affection for
Albert's native land. "I have a feeling," she said, "for our dear little
Germany, which I cannot describe. I felt it at Rosenau so much. It is
a something which touches me, and which goes to my heart, and makes me
inclined to cry. I never felt at any other place that sort of pensive
pleasure and peace which I felt there. I fear I almost like it too
much."

V

The husband was not so happy as the wife. In spite of the great
improvement in his situation, in spite of a growing family and the
adoration of Victoria, Albert was still a stranger in a strange land,
and the serenity of spiritual satisfaction was denied him. It was
something, no doubt, to have dominated his immediate environment; but it
was not enough; and, besides, in the very completeness of his success,
there was a bitterness. Victoria idolised him; but it was understanding
that he craved for, not idolatry; and how much did Victoria, filled
to the brim though she was with him, understand him? How much does the
bucket understand the well? He was lonely. He went to his organ and
improvised with learned modulations until the sounds, swelling and
subsiding through elaborate cadences, brought some solace to his heart.
Then, with the elasticity of youth, he hurried off to play with the
babies, or to design a new pigsty, or to read aloud the "Church History
of Scotland" to Victoria, or to pirouette before her on one toe, like a
ballet-dancer, with a fixed smile, to show her how she ought to behave
when she appeared in public places. Thus did he amuse himself; but there
was one distraction in which he did not indulge. He never flirted--no,
not with the prettiest ladies of the Court. When, during their
engagement, the Queen had remarked with pride to Lord Melbourne that
the Prince paid no attention to any other woman, the cynic had answered,
"No, that sort of thing is apt to come later;" upon which she had
scolded him severely, and then hurried off to Stockmar to repeat what
Lord M. had said. But the Baron had reassured her; though in other
cases, he had replied, that might happen, he did not think it would
in Albert's. And the Baron was right. Throughout their married life no
rival female charms ever had cause to give Victoria one moment's pang of
jealousy.

What more and more absorbed him--bringing with it a curious comfort of
its own--was his work. With the advent of Peel, he began to intervene
actively in the affairs of the State. In more ways than one--in the cast
of their intelligence, in their moral earnestness, even in the uneasy
formalism of their manners--the two men resembled each other; there was
a sympathy between them; and thus Peel was ready enough to listen to the
advice of Stockmar, and to urge the Prince forward into public life.
A royal commission was about to be formed to enquire whether advantage
might not be taken of the rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament to
encourage the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom; and Peel, with great
perspicacity, asked the Prince to preside over it. The work was of a
kind which precisely suited Albert: his love of art, his love of method,
his love of coming into contact--close yet dignified--with distinguished
men--it satisfied them all; and he threw himself into it con amore.
Some of the members of the commission were somewhat alarmed when, in his
opening speech, he pointed out the necessity of dividing the subjects
to be considered into "categories-" the word, they thought, smacked
dangerously of German metaphysics; but their confidence returned when
they observed His Royal Highness's extraordinary technical acquaintance
with the processes of fresco painting. When the question arose as to
whether the decorations upon the walls of the new buildings should,
or should not, have a moral purpose, the Prince spoke strongly for the
affirmative. Although many, he observed, would give but a passing glance
to the works, the painter was not therefore to forget that others
might view them with more thoughtful eyes. This argument convinced the
commission, and it was decided that the subjects to be depicted should
be of an improving nature. The frescoes were carried out in accordance
with the commission's instructions, but unfortunately before very long
they had become, even to the most thoughtful eyes, totally invisible.
It seems that His Royal Highness's technical acquaintance with the
processes of fresco painting was incomplete!

The next task upon which the Prince embarked was a more arduous one:
he determined to reform the organisation of the royal household. This
reform had been long overdue. For years past the confusion, discomfort,
and extravagance in the royal residences, and in Buckingham Palace
particularly, had been scandalous; no reform had been practicable under
the rule of the Baroness; but her functions had now devolved upon
the Prince, and in 1844, he boldly attacked the problem. Three years
earlier, Stockmar, after careful enquiry, had revealed in an elaborate
memorandum an extraordinary state of affairs. The control of the
household, it appeared, was divided in the strangest manner between a
number of authorities, each independent of the other, each possessed
of vague and fluctuating powers, without responsibility, and without
co-ordination. Of these authorities, the most prominent were the Lord
Steward and the Lord Chamberlain--noblemen of high rank and political
importance, who changed office with every administration, who did not
reside with the Court, and had no effective representatives attached
to it. The distribution of their respective functions was uncertain
and peculiar. In Buckingham Palace, it was believed that the Lord
Chamberlain had charge of the whole of the rooms, with the exception of
the kitchen, sculleries, and pantries, which were claimed by the Lord
Steward. At the same time, the outside of the Palace was under the
control of neither of these functionaries--but of the Office of Woods
and Forests; and thus, while the insides of the windows were cleaned by
the Department of the Lord Chamberlain--or possibly, in certain cases,
of the Lord Steward--the Office of Woods and Forests cleaned their
outsides. Of the servants, the housekeepers, the pages, and the
housemaids were under the authority of the Lord Chamberlain; the clerk
of the kitchen, the cooks, and the porters were under that of the Lord
Steward; but the footmen, the livery-porters, and the under-butlers
took their orders from yet another official--the Master of the Horse.
Naturally, in these circumstances the service was extremely defective
and the lack of discipline among the servants disgraceful. They absented
themselves for as long as they pleased and whenever the fancy took
them; "and if," as the Baron put it, "smoking, drinking, and other
irregularities occur in the dormitories, where footmen, etc., sleep
ten and twelve in each room, no one can help it." As for Her Majesty's
guests, there was nobody to show them to their rooms, and they were
often left, having utterly lost their way in the complicated passages,
to wander helpless by the hour. The strange divisions of authority
extended not only to persons but to things. The Queen observed that
there was never a fire in the dining-room. She enquired why. The answer
was "the Lord Steward lays the fire, and the Lord Chamberlain lights
it;" the underlings of those two great noblemen having failed to come
to an accommodation, there was no help for it--the Queen must eat in the
cold.

A surprising incident opened everyone's eyes to the confusion and
negligence that reigned in the Palace. A fortnight after the birth of
the Princess Royal the nurse heard a suspicious noise in the room next
to the Queen's bedroom. She called to one of the pages, who, looking
under a large sofa, perceived there a crouching figure "with a most
repulsive appearance." It was "the boy Jones." This enigmatical
personage, whose escapades dominated the newspapers for several ensuing
months, and whose motives and character remained to the end ambiguous,
was an undersized lad of 17, the son of a tailor, who had apparently
gained admittance to the Palace by climbing over the garden wall and
walking in through an open window. Two years before he had paid a
similar visit in the guise of a chimney-sweep. He now declared that he
had spent three days in the Palace, hiding under various beds, that he
had "helped himself to soup and other eatables," and that he had "sat
upon the throne, seen the Queen, and heard the Princess Royal squall."
Every detail of the strange affair was eagerly canvassed. The Times
reported that the boy Jones had "from his infancy been fond of reading,"
but that "his countenance is exceedingly sullen." It added: "The sofa
under which the boy Jones was discovered, we understand, is one of
the most costly and magnificent material and workmanship, and ordered
expressly for the accommodation of the royal and illustrious visitors
who call to pay their respects to Her Majesty." The culprit was sent
for three months to the "House of Correction." When he emerged, he
immediately returned to Buckingham Palace. He was discovered, and sent
back to the "House of Correction" for another three months, after which
he was offered L4 a week by a music hall to appear upon the stage.
He refused this offer, and shortly afterwards was found by the police
loitering round Buckingham Palace. The authorities acted vigorously,
and, without any trial or process of law, shipped the boy Jones off to
sea. A year later his ship put into Portsmouth to refit, and he at once
disembarked and walked to London. He was re-arrested before he reached
the Palace, and sent back to his ship, the Warspite. On this occasion it
was noticed that he had "much improved in personal appearance and grown
quite corpulent;" and so the boy Jones passed out of history, though
we catch one last glimpse of him in 1844 falling overboard in the
night between Tunis and Algiers. He was fished up again; but it was
conjectured--as one of the Warspite's officers explained in a letter
to The Times--that his fall had not been accidental, but that he
had deliberately jumped into the Mediterranean in order to "see the
life-buoy light burning." Of a boy with such a record, what else could
be supposed?

But discomfort and alarm were not the only results of the mismanagement
of the household; the waste, extravagance, and peculation that also
flowed from it were immeasurable. There were preposterous perquisites
and malpractices of every kind. It was, for instance, an ancient and
immutable rule that a candle that had once been lighted should never be
lighted again; what happened to the old candles, nobody knew. Again, the
Prince, examining the accounts, was puzzled by a weekly expenditure of
thirty-five shillings on "Red Room Wine." He enquired into the matter,
and after great difficulty discovered that in the time of George III
a room in Windsor Castle with red hangings had once been used as a
guard-room, and that five shillings a day had been allowed to provide
wine for the officers. The guard had long since been moved elsewhere,
but the payment for wine in the Red Room continued, the money being
received by a half-pay officer who held the sinecure position of
under-butler.

After much laborious investigation, and a stiff struggle with the
multitude of vested interests which had been brought into being by long
years of neglect, the Prince succeeded in effecting a complete reform.
The various conflicting authorities were induced to resign their powers
into the hands of a single official, the Master of the Household, who
became responsible for the entire management of the royal palaces. Great
economies were made, and the whole crowd of venerable abuses was swept
away. Among others, the unlucky half-pay officer of the Red Room was,
much to his surprise, given the choice of relinquishing his weekly
emolument or of performing the duties of an under-butler. Even the
irregularities among the footmen, etc., were greatly diminished. There
were outcries and complaints; the Prince was accused of meddling, of
injustice, and of saving candle-ends; but he held on his course, and
before long the admirable administration of the royal household was
recognised as a convincing proof of his perseverance and capacity.

At the same time his activity was increasing enormously in a more
important sphere. He had become the Queen's Private Secretary, her
confidential adviser, her second self. He was now always present at her
interviews with Ministers. He took, like the Queen, a special interest
in foreign policy; but there was no public question in which his
influence was not felt. A double process was at work; while Victoria
fell more and more absolutely under his intellectual predominance, he,
simultaneously, grew more and more completely absorbed by the machinery
of high politics--the incessant and multifarious business of a great
State. Nobody any more could call him a dilettante; he was a worker,
a public personage, a man of affairs. Stockmar noted the change with
exultation. "The Prince," he wrote, "has improved very much lately.
He has evidently a head for politics. He has become, too, far more
independent. His mental activity is constantly on the increase, and he
gives the greater part of his time to business, without complaining."

"The relations between husband and wife," added the Baron, "are all one
could desire."

Long before Peel's ministry came to an end, there had been a complete
change in Victoria's attitude towards him. His appreciation of the
Prince had softened her heart; the sincerity and warmth of his nature,
which, in private intercourse with those whom he wished to please, had
the power of gradually dissipating the awkwardness of his manners,
did the rest. She came in time to regard him with intense feelings of
respect and attachment. She spoke of "our worthy Peel," for whom, she
said, she had "an EXTREME admiration" and who had shown himself "a man
of unbounded LOYALTY, COURAGE patriotism, and HIGH-MINDEDNESS, and his
conduct towards me has been CHIVALROUS almost, I might say." She dreaded
his removal from office almost as frantically as she had once dreaded
that of Lord M. It would be, she declared, a GREAT CALAMITY. Six years
before, what would she have said, if a prophet had told her that the day
would come when she would be horrified by the triumph of the Whigs? Yet
there was no escaping it; she had to face the return of her old
friends. In the ministerial crises of 1845 and 1846, the Prince played a
dominating part. Everybody recognised that he was the real centre of the
negotiations--the actual controller of the forces and the functions
of the Crown. The process by which this result was reached had been so
gradual as to be almost imperceptible; but it may be said with certainty
that, by the close of Peel's administration, Albert had become, in
effect, the King of England.



VI

With the final emergence of the Prince came the final extinction of Lord
Melbourne. A year after his loss of office, he had been struck down by
a paralytic seizure; he had apparently recovered, but his old elasticity
had gone for ever. Moody, restless, and unhappy, he wandered like a
ghost about the town, bursting into soliloquies in public places, or
asking odd questions, suddenly, a propos de bottes. "I'll be hanged if
I do it for you, my Lord," he was heard to say in the hall at Brooks's,
standing by himself, and addressing the air after much thought. "Don't
you consider," he abruptly asked a fellow-guest at Lady Holland's,
leaning across the dinner-table in a pause of the conversation, "that
it was a most damnable act of Henri Quatre to change his religion with
a view to securing the Crown?" He sat at home, brooding for hours in
miserable solitude. He turned over his books--his classics and his
Testaments--but they brought him no comfort at all. He longed for the
return of the past, for the impossible, for he knew not what, for the
devilries of Caro, for the happy platitudes of Windsor. His friends had
left him, and no wonder, he said in bitterness--the fire was out. He
secretly hoped for a return to power, scanning the newspapers with
solicitude, and occasionally making a speech in the House of Lords. His
correspondence with the Queen continued, and he appeared from time to
time at Court; but he was a mere simulacrum of his former self; "the
dream," wrote Victoria, "is past." As for his political views, they
could no longer be tolerated. The Prince was an ardent Free Trader, and
so, of course, was the Queen; and when, dining at Windsor at the time of
the repeal of the Corn Laws, Lord Melbourne suddenly exclaimed, "Ma'am,
it's a damned dishonest act!" everyone was extremely embarrassed. Her
Majesty laughed and tried to change the conversation, but without avail;
Lord Melbourne returned to the charge again and again with--"I say,
Ma'am, it's damned dishonest!"--until the Queen said "Lord Melbourne, I
must beg you not to say anything more on this subject now;" and then
he held his tongue. She was kind to him, writing him long letters, and
always remembering his birthday; but it was kindness at a distance, and
he knew it. He had become "poor Lord Melbourne." A profound disquietude
devoured him. He tried to fix his mind on the condition of Agriculture
and the Oxford Movement. He wrote long memoranda in utterly
undecipherable handwriting. He was convinced that he had lost all his
money, and could not possibly afford to be a Knight of the Garter. He
had run through everything, and yet--if Peel went out, he might be sent
for--why not? He was never sent for. The Whigs ignored him in their
consultations, and the leadership of the party passed to Lord
John Russell. When Lord John became Prime Minister, there was much
politeness, but Lord Melbourne was not asked to join the Cabinet. He
bore the blow with perfect amenity; but he understood, at last, that
that was the end.

For two years more he lingered, sinking slowly into unconsciousness and
imbecility. Sometimes, propped up in his chair, he would be heard to
murmur, with unexpected appositeness, the words of Samson:--

     "So much I feel my general spirit droop,
     My hopes all flat, nature within me seems,
     In all her functions weary of herself,
     My race of glory run, and race of shame,
     And I shall shortly be with them that rest."

A few days before his death, Victoria, learning that there was no hope
of his recovery, turned her mind for a little towards that which had
once been Lord M. "You will grieve to hear," she told King Leopold,
"that our good, dear, old friend Melbourne is dying... One cannot
forget how good and kind and amiable he was, and it brings back so many
recollections to my mind, though, God knows! I never wish that time back
again."

She was in little danger. The tide of circumstance was flowing now
with irresistible fullness towards a very different consummation.
The seriousness of Albert, the claims of her children, her own inmost
inclinations, and the movement of the whole surrounding world, combined
to urge her forward along the narrow way of public and domestic duty.
Her family steadily increased. Within eighteen months of the birth of
the Prince of Wales the Princess Alice appeared, and a year later the
Prince Alfred, and then the Princess Helena, and, two years afterwards,
the Princess Louise; and still there were signs that the pretty row of
royal infants was not complete. The parents, more and more involved in
family cares and family happiness, found the pomp of Windsor galling,
and longed for some more intimate and remote retreat. On the advice of
Peel they purchased the estate of Osborne, in the Isle of Wight. Their
skill and economy in financial matters had enabled them to lay aside a
substantial sum of money; and they could afford, out of their savings,
not merely to buy the property but to build a new house for themselves
and to furnish it at a cost of L200,000. At Osborne, by the sea-shore,
and among the woods, which Albert, with memories of Rosenau in his mind,
had so carefully planted, the royal family spent every hour that could
be snatched from Windsor and London--delightful hours of deep retirement
and peaceful work. The public looked on with approval. A few aristocrats
might sniff or titter; but with the nation at large the Queen was now
once more extremely popular. The middle-classes, in particular, were
pleased. They liked a love-match; they liked a household which combined
the advantages of royalty and virtue, and in which they seemed to see,
reflected as in some resplendent looking-glass, the ideal image of the
very lives they led themselves. Their own existences, less exalted,
but oh! so soothingly similar, acquired an added excellence, an added
succulence, from the early hours, the regularity, the plain tuckers, the
round games, the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding oft Osborne. It was
indeed a model Court. Not only were its central personages the patterns
of propriety, but no breath of scandal, no shadow of indecorum, might
approach its utmost boundaries. For Victoria, with all the zeal of a
convert, upheld now the standard of moral purity with an inflexibility
surpassing, if that were possible, Albert's own. She blushed to think
how she had once believed--how she had once actually told HIM--that one
might be too strict and particular in such matters, and that one ought
to be indulgent towards other people's dreadful sins. But she was
no longer Lord M's pupil: she was Albert's wife. She was more--the
embodiment, the living apex of a new era in the generations of mankind.
The last vestige of the eighteenth century had disappeared; cynicism and
subtlety were shrivelled into powder; and duty, industry, morality, and
domesticity triumphed over them. Even the very chairs and tables had
assumed, with a singular responsiveness, the forms of prim solidity. The
Victorian Age was in full swing.

VII

Only one thing more was needed: material expression must be given to
the new ideals and the new forces so that they might stand revealed, in
visible glory, before the eyes of an astonished world. It was for Albert
to supply this want. He mused, and was inspired: the Great Exhibition
came into his head.

Without consulting anyone, he thought out the details of his conception
with the minutest care. There had been exhibitions before in the world,
but this should surpass them all. It should contain specimens of
what every country could produce in raw materials, in machinery and
mechanical inventions, in manufactures, and in the applied and plastic
arts. It should not be merely useful and ornamental; it should teach
a high moral lesson. It should be an international monument to those
supreme blessings of civilisation--peace, progress, and prosperity. For
some time past the Prince had been devoting much of his attention to the
problems of commerce and industry. He had a taste for machinery of every
kind, and his sharp eye had more than once detected, with the precision
of an expert, a missing cog-wheel in some vast and complicated engine. A
visit to Liverpool, where he opened the Albert Dock, impressed upon his
mind the immensity of modern industrial forces, though in a letter
to Victoria describing his experiences, he was careful to retain his
customary lightness of touch. "As I write," he playfully remarked,
"you will be making your evening toilette, and not be ready in time for
dinner. I must set about the same task, and not, let me hope, with the
same result... The loyalty and enthusiasm of the inhabitants are great;
but the heat is greater still. I am satisfied that if the population of
Liverpool had been weighed this morning, and were to be weighed again
now, they would be found many degrees lighter. The docks are wonderful,
and the mass of shipping incredible." In art and science he had been
deeply interested since boyhood; his reform of the household had put
his talent for organisation beyond a doubt; and thus from every point
of view the Prince was well qualified for his task. Having matured his
plans, he summoned a small committee and laid an outline of his scheme
before it. The committee approved, and the great undertaking was set on
foot without delay.

Two years, however, passed before it was completed. For two years the
Prince laboured with extraordinary and incessant energy. At first all
went smoothly. The leading manufacturers warmly took up the idea; the
colonies and the East India Company were sympathetic; the great foreign
nations were eager to send in their contributions; the powerful support
of Sir Robert Peel was obtained, and the use of a site in Hyde Park,
selected by the Prince, was sanctioned by the Government. Out of 234
plans for the exhibition building, the Prince chose that of Joseph
Paxton, famous as a designer of gigantic conservatories; and the work
was on the point of being put in hand when a series of unexpected
difficulties arose. Opposition to the whole scheme, which had long been
smouldering in various quarters, suddenly burst forth. There was
an outcry, headed by The Times, against the use of the park for the
exhibition; for a moment it seemed as if the building would be relegated
to a suburb; but, after a fierce debate in the House, the supporters
of the site in the Park won the day. Then it appeared that the project
lacked a sufficient financial backing; but this obstacle, too, was
surmounted, and eventually L200,000 was subscribed as a guarantee fund.
The enormous glass edifice rose higher and higher, covering acres and
enclosing towering elm trees beneath its roof: and then the fury of
its enemies reached a climax. The fashionable, the cautious, the
Protectionists, the pious, all joined in the hue and cry. It was pointed
out that the Exhibition would serve as a rallying point for all the
ruffians in England, for all the malcontents in Europe; and that on
the day of its opening there would certainly be a riot and probably a
revolution. It was asserted that the glass roof was porous, and that the
droppings of fifty million sparrows would utterly destroy every object
beneath it. Agitated nonconformists declared that the Exhibition was an
arrogant and wicked enterprise which would infallibly bring down God's
punishment upon the nation. Colonel Sibthorpe, in the debate on the
Address, prayed that hail and lightning might descend from heaven on the
accursed thing. The Prince, with unyielding perseverance and infinite
patience, pressed on to his goal. His health was seriously affected; he
suffered from constant sleeplessness; his strength was almost worn out.
But he remembered the injunctions of Stockmar and never relaxed. The
volume of his labours grew more prodigious every day; he toiled at
committees, presided over public meetings, made speeches, and carried on
communications with every corner of the civilised world--and his efforts
were rewarded. On May 1, 1851, the Great Exhibition was opened by the
Queen before an enormous concourse of persons, amid scenes of dazzling
brilliancy and triumphant enthusiasm.

Victoria herself was in a state of excitement which bordered on
delirium. She performed her duties in a trance of joy, gratitude, and
amazement, and, when it was all over, her feelings poured themselves out
into her journal in a torrential flood. The day had been nothing but
an endless succession of glories--or rather one vast glory--one vast
radiation of Albert. Everything she had seen, everything she had felt
or heard, had been so beautiful, so wonderful that even the royal
underlinings broke down under the burden of emphasis, while her
remembering pen rushed on, regardless, from splendour to splendour--the
huge crowds, so well--behaved and loyal-flags of all the nations
floating--the inside of the building, so immense, with myriads of people
and the sun shining through the roof--a little side room, where we left
our shawls--palm-trees and machinery--dear Albert--the place so big
that we could hardly hear the organ--thankfulness to God--a curious
assemblage of political and distinguished men--the March from
Athalie--God bless my dearest Albert, God bless my dearest country!--a
glass fountain--the Duke and Lord Anglesey walking arm in arm--a
beautiful Amazon, in bronze, by Kiss--Mr. Paxton, who might be justly
proud, and rose from being a common gardener's boy--Sir George Grey in
tears, and everybody astonished and delighted.

A striking incident occurred when, after a short prayer by the
Archbishop of Canterbury, the choir of 600 voices burst into the
"Hallelujah Chorus." At that moment a Chinaman, dressed in full national
costume, stepped out into the middle of the central nave, and, advancing
slowly towards the royal group, did obeisance to Her Majesty. The Queen,
much impressed, had no doubt that he was an eminent mandarin; and,
when the final procession was formed, orders were given that, as
no representative of the Celestial Empire was present, he should be
included in the diplomatic cortege. He accordingly, with the utmost
gravity, followed immediately behind the Ambassadors. He subsequently
disappeared, and it was rumoured, among ill-natured people, that, far
from being a mandarin, the fellow was a mere impostor. But nobody ever
really discovered the nature of the comments that had been lurking
behind the matchless impassivity of that yellow face.

A few days later Victoria poured out her heart to her uncle. The
first of May, she said, was "the GREATEST day in our history, the most
BEAUTIFUL and IMPOSING and TOUCHING spectacle ever seen, and the triumph
of my beloved Albert... It was the HAPPIEST, PROUDEST day in my life,
and I can think of nothing else. Albert's dearest name is immortalised
with this GREAT conception, HIS own, and my OWN dear country SHOWED she
was WORTHY of it. The triumph is IMMENSE."

It was. The enthusiasm was universal; even the bitterest scoffers were
converted, and joined in the chorus of praise. Congratulations from
public bodies poured in; the City of Paris gave a great fete to the
Exhibition committee; and the Queen and the Prince made a triumphal
progress through the North of England. The financial results were
equally remarkable. The total profit made by the Exhibition amounted to
a sum of L165,000, which was employed in the purchase of land for the
erection of a permanent National Museum in South Kensington. During
the six months of its existence in Hyde Park over six million persons
visited it, and not a single accident occurred. But there is an end to
all things; and the time had come for the Crystal Palace to be removed
to the salubrious seclusion of Sydenham. Victoria, sad but resigned,
paid her final visit. "It looked so beautiful," she said. "I could not
believe it was the last time I was to see it. An organ, accompanied by
a fine and powerful wind instrument called the sommerophone, was being
played, and it nearly upset me. The canvas is very dirty, the red
curtains are faded and many things are very much soiled, still the
effect is fresh and new as ever and most beautiful. The glass fountain
was already removed... and the sappers and miners were rolling about
the little boxes just as they did at the beginning. It made us all very
melancholy." But more cheerful thoughts followed. When all was over,
she expressed her boundless satisfaction in a dithyrambic letter to
the Prime Minister. Her beloved husband's name, she said, was for ever
immortalised, and that this was universally recognised by the country
was a source to her of immense happiness and gratitude. "She feels
grateful to Providence," Her Majesty concluded, "to have permitted her
to be united to so great, so noble, so excellent a Prince, and this year
will ever remain the proudest and happiest of her life. The day of the
closing of the Exhibition (which the Queen regretted much she could not
witness), was the twelfth anniversary of her betrothal to the Prince,
which is a curious coincidence."



CHAPTER V. LORD PALMERSTON

I

In 1851 the Prince's fortunes reached their high-water mark. The success
of the Great Exhibition enormously increased his reputation and seemed
to assure him henceforward a leading place in the national life. But
before the year was out another triumph, in a very different sphere of
action, was also his. This triumph, big with fateful consequences, was
itself the outcome of a series of complicated circumstances which had
been gathering to a climax for many years.


The unpopularity of Albert in high society had not diminished with time.
Aristocratic persons continued to regard him with disfavour; and he on
his side, withdrew further and further into a contemptuous reserve. For
a moment, indeed, it appeared as if the dislike of the upper classes
was about to be suddenly converted into cordiality; for they learnt with
amazement that the Prince, during a country visit, had ridden to hounds
and acquitted himself remarkably well. They had always taken it for
granted that his horsemanship was of some second-rate foreign quality,
and here he was jumping five-barred gates and tearing after the fox
as if he had been born and bred in Leicestershire. They could hardly
believe it; was it possible that they had made a mistake, and that
Albert was a good fellow after all? Had he wished to be thought so he
would certainly have seized this opportunity, purchased several hunters,
and used them constantly. But he had no such desire; hunting bored
him, and made Victoria nervous. He continued, as before, to ride, as he
himself put it, for exercise or convenience, not for amusement; and it
was agreed that though the Prince, no doubt, could keep in his saddle
well enough, he was no sportsman.

This was a serious matter. It was not merely that Albert was laughed at
by fine ladies and sneered at by fine gentlemen; it was not merely that
Victoria, who before her marriage had cut some figure in society, had,
under her husband's influence, almost completely given it up. Since
Charles the Second the sovereigns of England had, with a single
exception, always been unfashionable; and the fact that the exception
was George the Fourth seemed to give an added significance to the rule.
What was grave was not the lack of fashion, but the lack of other
and more important qualities. The hostility of the upper classes was
symptomatic of an antagonism more profound than one of manners or
even of tastes. The Prince, in a word, was un-English. What that word
precisely meant it was difficult to say; but the fact was patent to
every eye. Lord Palmerston, also, was not fashionable; the great
Whig aristocrats looked askance at him, and only tolerated him as an
unpleasant necessity thrust upon them by fate. But Lord Palmerston was
English through and through, there was something in him that expressed,
with extraordinary vigour, the fundamental qualities of the English
race. And he was the very antithesis of the Prince. By a curious chance
it so happened that this typical Englishman was brought into closer
contact than any other of his countrymen with the alien from over
the sea. It thus fell out that differences which, in more fortunate
circumstances, might have been smoothed away and obliterated, became
accentuated to the highest pitch. All the mysterious forces in Albert's
soul leapt out to do battle with his adversary, and, in the long and
violent conflict that followed, it almost seemed as if he was struggling
with England herself.

Palmerston's whole life had been spent in the government of the country.
At twenty-two he had been a Minister; at twenty-five he had been offered
the Chancellorship of the Exchequer, which, with that prudence which
formed so unexpected a part of his character, he had declined to accept.
His first spell of office had lasted uninterruptedly for twenty-one
years. When Lord Grey came into power he received the Foreign
Secretaryship, a post which he continued to occupy, with two intervals,
for another twenty-one years. Throughout this period his reputation
with the public had steadily grown, and when, in 1846, he became Foreign
Secretary for the third time, his position in the country was almost,
if not quite, on an equality with that of the Prime Minister, Lord John
Russell. He was a tall, big man of sixty-two, with a jaunty air, a large
face, dyed whiskers, and a long sardonic upper lip. His private life was
far from respectable, but he had greatly strengthened his position
in society by marrying, late in life, Lady Cowper, the sister of Lord
Melbourne, and one of the most influential of the Whig hostesses.
Powerful, experienced, and supremely self-confident, he naturally
paid very little attention to Albert. Why should he? The Prince was
interested in foreign affairs? Very well, then; let the Prince pay
attention to him--to him, who had been a Cabinet Minister when Albert
was in the cradle, who was the chosen leader of a great nation, and who
had never failed in anything he had undertaken in the whole course of
his life. Not that he wanted the Prince's attention--far from it: so far
as he could see, Albert was merely a young foreigner, who suffered from
having no vices, and whose only claim to distinction was that he had
happened to marry the Queen of England. This estimate, as he found out
to his cost, was a mistaken one. Albert was by no means insignificant,
and, behind Albert, there was another figure by no means insignificant
either--there was Stockmar.

But Palmerston, busy with his plans, his ambitions, and the management
of a great department, brushed all such considerations on one side; it
was his favourite method of action. He lived by instinct--by a quick eye
and a strong hand, a dexterous management of every crisis as it arose, a
half-unconscious sense of the vital elements in a situation. He was very
bold; and nothing gave him more exhilaration than to steer the ship of
state in a high wind, on a rough sea, with every stitch of canvas on her
that she could carry. But there is a point beyond which boldness becomes
rashness--a point perceptible only to intuition and not to reason;
and beyond that point Palmerston never went. When he saw that the cast
demanded it, he could go slow--very slow indeed in fact, his whole
career, so full of vigorous adventure, was nevertheless a masterly
example of the proverb, "tout vient a point a qui sait attendre." But
when he decided to go quick, nobody went quicker. One day, returning
from Osborne, he found that he had missed the train to London; he
ordered a special, but the station master told him that to put a special
train upon the line at that time of day would be dangerous and he
could not allow it. Palmerston insisted declaring that he had important
business in London, which could not wait. The station-master supported
by all the officials, continued to demur the company, he said, could
not possibly take the responsibility. "On MY responsibility, then!" said
Palmerston, in his off-hand, peremptory way whereupon the station-master
ordered up the train and the Foreign Secretary reached London in time
for his work, without an accident. The story, is typical of the happy
valiance with which he conducted both his own affairs and those of
the nation. "England," he used to say, "is strong enough to brave
consequences." Apparently, under Palmerston's guidance, she was. While
the officials protested and shook in their shoes, he would wave them
away with his airy "MY responsibility!" and carry the country swiftly
along the line of his choice, to a triumphant destination--without an
accident. His immense popularity was the result partly of his diplomatic
successes, partly of his extraordinary personal affability, but chiefly
of the genuine intensity with which he responded to the feelings and
supported the interests of his countrymen. The public knew that it had
in Lord Palmerston not only a high-mettled master, but also a devoted
servant--that he was, in every sense of the word, a public man. When he
was Prime Minister, he noticed that iron hurdles had been put up on
the grass in the Green Park; he immediately wrote to the Minister
responsible, ordering, in the severest language, their instant removal,
declaring that they were "an intolerable nuisance," and that the purpose
of the grass was "to be walked upon freely and without restraint by the
people, old and young, for whose enjoyment the parks are maintained."
It was in this spirit that, as Foreign Secretary, he watched over the
interests of Englishmen abroad. Nothing could be more agreeable for
Englishmen; but foreign governments were less pleased. They found Lord
Palmerston interfering, exasperating, and alarming. In Paris they spoke
with bated breath of "ce terrible milord Palmerston;" and in Germany
they made a little song about him--

     "Hat der Teufel einen Sohn,
     So ist er sicher Palmerston."

But their complaints, their threats, and their agitations were all
in vain. Palmerston, with his upper lip sardonically curving, braved
consequences, and held on his course.

The first diplomatic crisis which arose after his return to office,
though the Prince and the Queen were closely concerned with it, passed
off without serious disagreement between the Court and the Minister. For
some years past a curious problem had been perplexing the chanceries
of Europe. Spain, ever since the time of Napoleon a prey to civil
convulsions, had settled down for a short interval to a state of
comparative quiet under the rule of Christina, the Queen Mother, and her
daughter Isabella, the young Queen. In 1846, the question of
Isabella's marriage, which had for long been the subject of diplomatic
speculations, suddenly became acute. Various candidates for her hand
were proposed--among others, two cousins of her own, another Spanish
prince, and Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, a first cousin of Victoria's
and Albert's; for different reasons, however, none of these young men
seemed altogether satisfactory. Isabella was not yet sixteen; and it
might have been supposed that her marriage could be put off for a few
years more; but this was considered to be out of the question. "Vous
ne savez pas," said a high authority, "ce que c'est que ces princesses
espagnoles; elles ont le diable au corps, et on a toujours dit que si
nous ne nous hations pas, l'heritier viendrait avant le mari." It might
also have been supposed that the young Queen's marriage was a matter to
be settled by herself, her mother, and the Spanish Government; but
this again was far from being the case. It had become, by one of those
periodical reversions to the ways of the eighteenth century, which,
it is rumoured, are still not unknown in diplomacy, a question of
dominating importance in the foreign policies both of France and
England. For several years, Louis Philippe and his Prime Minister Guizot
had been privately maturing a very subtle plan. It was the object of the
French King to repeat the glorious coup of Louis XIV, and to abolish
the Pyrenees by placing one of his grandsons on the throne of Spain.
In order to bring this about, he did not venture to suggest that his
younger son, the Duc de Montpensier, should marry Isabella; that would
have been too obvious a move, which would have raised immediate and
insurmountable opposition. He therefore proposed that Isabella
should marry her cousin, the Duke of Cadiz, while Montpensier married
Isabella's younger sister, the Infanta Fernanda; and pray, what possible
objection could there be to that? The wily old King whispered into
the chaste ears of Guizot the key to the secret; he had good reason to
believe that the Duke of Cadiz was incapable of having children, and
therefore the offspring of Fernanda would inherit the Spanish crown.
Guizot rubbed his hands, and began at once to set the necessary springs
in motion; but, of course, the whole scheme was very soon divulged and
understood. The English Government took an extremely serious view of
the matter; the balance of power was clearly at stake, and the French
intrigue must be frustrated at all hazards. A diplomatic struggle of
great intensity followed; and it occasionally appeared that a second War
of the Spanish Succession was about to break out. This was avoided,
but the consequences of this strange imbroglio were far-reaching and
completely different from what any of the parties concerned could have
guessed.

In the course of the long and intricate negotiations there was one point
upon which Louis Philippe laid a special stress--the candidature of
Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg. The prospect of a marriage between a
Coburg Prince and the Queen of Spain was, he declared, at least as
threatening to the balance of power in Europe as that of a marriage
between the Duc de Montpensier and the Infanta; and, indeed, there was
much to be said for this contention. The ruin which had fallen upon the
House of Coburg during the Napoleonic wars had apparently only served
to multiply its vitality, for that princely family had by now extended
itself over Europe in an extraordinary manner. King Leopold was firmly
fixed in Belgium; his niece was Queen of England; one of his nephews
was the husband of the Queen of England, and another the husband of the
Queen of Portugal; yet another was Duke of Wurtemberg. Where was this
to end? There seemed to be a Coburg Trust ready to send out one of
its members at any moment to fill up any vacant place among the ruling
families of Europe. And even beyond Europe there were signs of this
infection spreading. An American who had arrived in Brussels had assured
King Leopold that there was a strong feeling in the United States in
favour of monarchy instead of the misrule of mobs, and had suggested, to
the delight of His Majesty, that some branch of the Coburg family might
be available for the position. That danger might, perhaps, be remote;
but the Spanish danger was close at hand; and if Prince Leopold were to
marry Queen Isabella the position of France would be one of humiliation,
if not of positive danger. Such were the asseverations of Louis
Philippe. The English Government had no wish to support Prince Leopold,
and though Albert and Victoria had some hankerings for the match, the
wisdom of Stockmar had induced them to give up all thoughts of it. The
way thus seemed open for a settlement: England would be reasonable about
Leopold, if France would be reasonable about Montpensier. At the Chateau
d'Eu, the agreement was made, in a series of conversations between the
King and Guizot on the one side, and the Queen, the Prince, and Lord
Aberdeen on the other. Aberdeen, as Foreign Minister, declared that
England would neither recognise nor support Prince Leopold as a
candidate for the hand of the Queen of Spain; while Louis Philippe
solemnly promised, both to Aberdeen and to Victoria, that the Duc de
Montpensier should not marry the Infanta Fernanda until after the Queen
was married and had issue. All went well, and the crisis seemed to be
over, when the whole question was suddenly re-opened by Palmerston,
who had succeeded Aberdeen at the Foreign Office. In a despatch to
the English Minister at Madrid, he mentioned, in a list of possible
candidates for Queen Isabella's hand, Prince Leopold of Coburg; and
at the same time he took occasion to denounce in violent language the
tyranny and incompetence of the Spanish Government. This despatch,
indiscreet in any case, was rendered infinitely more so by being
communicated to Guizot. Louis Philippe saw his opportunity and pounced
on it. Though there was nothing in Palmerston's language to show that he
either recognised or supported Prince Leopold, the King at once assumed
that the English had broken their engagement, and that he was therefore
free to do likewise. He then sent the despatch to the Queen Mother,
declared that the English were intriguing for the Coburg marriage, bade
her mark the animosity of Palmerston against the Spanish Government, and
urged her to escape from her difficulties and ensure the friendship
of France by marrying Isabella to the Duke of Cadiz and Fernanda
to Montpensier. The Queen Mother, alarmed and furious, was easily
convinced. There was only one difficulty: Isabella loathed the very
sight of her cousin. But this was soon surmounted; there was a wild
supper-party at the Palace, and in the course of it the young girl was
induced to consent to anything that was asked of her. Shortly after, and
on the same day, both the marriages took place.

The news burst like a bomb on the English Government, who saw with rage
and mortification that they had been completely outmanoeuvred by the
crafty King. Victoria, in particular, was outraged. Not only had she
been the personal recipient of Louis Philippe's pledge, but he had won
his way to her heart by presenting the Prince of Wales with a box of
soldiers and sending the Princess Royal a beautiful Parisian doll with
eyes that opened and shut. And now insult was added to injury. The Queen
of the French wrote her a formal letter, calmly announcing, as a family
event in which she was sure Victoria would be interested, the marriage
of her son, Montpensier--"qui ajoutera a notre bonheur interieur, le
seul vrai dans ce monde, et que vous, madame, savez si bien apprecier."
But the English Queen had not long to wait for her revenge. Within
eighteen months the monarchy of Louis Philippe, discredited, unpopular,
and fatally weakened by the withdrawal of English support, was swept
into limbo, while he and his family threw themselves as suppliant
fugitives at the feet of Victoria.

II

In this affair both the Queen and the Prince had been too much occupied
with the delinquencies of Louis Philippe to have any wrath to spare
for those of Palmerston; and, indeed, on the main issue, Palmerston's
attitude and their own had been in complete agreement. But in this the
case was unique. In every other foreign complication--and they were many
and serious--during the ensuing years, the differences between the royal
couple and the Foreign Secretary were constant and profound. There was a
sharp quarrel over Portugal, where violently hostile parties were flying
at each other's throats. The royal sympathy was naturally enlisted on
behalf of the Queen and her Coburg husband, while Palmerston gave his
support to the progressive elements in the country. It was not until
1848, however, that the strain became really serious. In that year of
revolutions, when, in all directions and with alarming frequency, crowns
kept rolling off royal heads, Albert and Victoria were appalled to find
that the policy of England was persistently directed--in Germany,
in Switzerland, in Austria, in Italy, in Sicily--so as to favour the
insurgent forces. The situation, indeed, was just such a one as the soul
of Palmerston loved. There was danger and excitement, the necessity
of decision, the opportunity for action, on every hand. A disciple of
Canning, with an English gentleman's contempt and dislike of foreign
potentates deep in his heart, the spectacle of the popular uprisings,
and of the oppressors bundled ignominiously out of the palaces they had
disgraced, gave him unbounded pleasure, and he was determined that there
should be no doubt whatever, all over the Continent, on which side in
the great struggle England stood. It was not that he had the slightest
tincture in him of philosophical radicalism; he had no philosophical
tinctures of any kind; he was quite content to be inconsistent--to be a
Conservative at home and a Liberal abroad. There were very good reasons
for keeping the Irish in their places; but what had that to do with it?
The point was this--when any decent man read an account of the political
prisons in Naples his gorge rose. He did not want war; but he saw that
without war a skilful and determined use of England's power might do
much to further the cause of the Liberals in Europe. It was a difficult
and a hazardous game to play, but he set about playing it with delighted
alacrity. And then, to his intense annoyance, just as he needed all
his nerve and all possible freedom of action, he found himself being
hampered and distracted at every turn by... those people at Osborne.
He saw what it was; the opposition was systematic and informed, and
the Queen alone would have been incapable of it; the Prince was at the
bottom of the whole thing. It was exceedingly vexatious; but Palmerston
was in a hurry, and could not wait; the Prince, if he would insist upon
interfering, must be brushed on one side.

Albert was very angry. He highly disapproved both of Palmerston's policy
and of his methods of action. He was opposed to absolutism; but in his
opinion Palmerston's proceedings were simply calculated to substitute
for absolutism, all over Europe, something no better and very possibly
worse--the anarchy of faction and mob violence. The dangers of
this revolutionary ferment were grave; even in England Chartism was
rampant--a sinister movement, which might at any moment upset the
Constitution and abolish the Monarchy. Surely, with such dangers at
home, this was a very bad time to choose for encouraging lawlessness
abroad. He naturally took a particular interest in Germany. His
instincts, his affections, his prepossessions, were ineradicably German;
Stockmar was deeply involved in German politics; and he had a multitude
of relatives among the ruling German families, who, from the midst of
the hurly-burly of revolution, wrote him long and agitated letters once
a week. Having considered the question of Germany's future from every
point of view, he came to the conclusion, under Stockmar's guidance,
that the great aim for every lover of Germany should be her unification
under the sovereignty of Prussia. The intricacy of the situation was
extreme, and the possibilities of good or evil which every hour might
bring forth were incalculable; yet he saw with horror that Palmerston
neither understood nor cared to understand the niceties of this
momentous problem, but rushed on blindly, dealing blows to right and
left, quite--so far as he could see--without system, and even without
motive--except, indeed, a totally unreasonable distrust of the Prussian
State.

But his disagreement with the details of Palmerston's policy was in
reality merely a symptom of the fundamental differences between the
characters of the two men. In Albert's eyes Palmerston was a coarse,
reckless egotist, whose combined arrogance and ignorance must
inevitably have their issue in folly and disaster. Nothing could be more
antipathetic to him than a mind so strangely lacking in patience, in
reflection, in principle, and in the habits of ratiocination. For to him
it was intolerable to think in a hurry, to jump to slapdash decisions,
to act on instincts that could not be explained. Everything must be done
in due order, with careful premeditation; the premises of the position
must first be firmly established; and he must reach the correct
conclusion by a regular series of rational steps. In complicated
questions--and what questions, rightly looked at, were not
complicated?--to commit one's thoughts to paper was the wisest course,
and it was the course which Albert, laborious though it might be,
invariably adopted. It was as well, too, to draw up a reasoned statement
after an event, as well as before it; and accordingly, whatever
happened, it was always found that the Prince had made a memorandum.
On one occasion he reduced to six pages of foolscap the substance of a
confidential conversation with Sir Robert Peel, and, having read them
aloud to him, asked him to append his signature; Sir Robert, who never
liked to commit himself, became extremely uneasy; upon which the
Prince, understanding that it was necessary to humour the singular
susceptibilities of Englishmen, with great tact dropped that particular
memorandum into the fire. But as for Palmerston, he never even gave one
so much as a chance to read him a memorandum, he positively seemed to
dislike discussion; and, before one knew where one was, without any
warning whatever, he would plunge into some hare-brained, violent
project, which, as likely as not, would logically involve a European
war. Closely connected, too, with this cautious, painstaking
reasonableness of Albert's, was his desire to examine questions
thoroughly from every point of view, to go down to the roots of things,
and to act in strict accordance with some well-defined principle. Under
Stockmar's tutelage he was constantly engaged in enlarging his outlook
and in endeavouring to envisage vital problems both theoretically and
practically--both with precision and with depth. To one whose mind was
thus habitually occupied, the empirical activities of Palmerston, who
had no notion what a principle meant, resembled the incoherent vagaries
of a tiresome child. What did Palmerston know of economics, of science,
of history? What did he care for morality and education? How much
consideration had he devoted in the whole course of his life to the
improvement of the condition of the working-classes and to the general
amelioration of the human race? The answers to such questions were all
too obvious; and yet it is easy to imagine, also, what might have been
Palmerston's jaunty comment. "Ah! your Royal Highness is busy with fine
schemes and beneficent calculations exactly! Well, as for me, I must say
I'm quite satisfied with my morning's work--I've had the iron hurdles
taken out of the Green Park."

The exasperating man, however, preferred to make no comment, and to
proceed in smiling silence on his inexcusable way. The process of
"brushing on one side" very soon came into operation. Important Foreign
Office despatches were either submitted to the Queen so late that there
was no time to correct them, or they were not submitted to her at all;
or, having been submitted, and some passage in them being objected
to and an alteration suggested, they were after all sent off in their
original form. The Queen complained, the Prince complained: both
complained together. It was quite useless. Palmerston was most
apologetic--could not understand how it had occurred--must give the
clerks a wigging--certainly Her Majesty's wishes should be attended to,
and such a thing should never happen again. But, of course, it very soon
happened again, and the royal remonstrances redoubled. Victoria, her
partisan passions thoroughly aroused, imported into her protests a
personal vehemence which those of Albert lacked. Did Lord Palmerston
forget that she was Queen of England? How could she tolerate a state of
affairs in which despatches written in her name were sent abroad without
her approval or even her knowledge? What could be more derogatory to
her position than to be obliged to receive indignant letters from the
crowned heads to whom those despatches were addressed--letters which she
did not know how to answer, since she so thoroughly agreed with them?
She addressed herself to the Prime Minister. "No remonstrance has any
effect with Lord Palmerston," she said. "Lord Palmerston," she told him
on another occasion, "has as usual pretended not to have had time to
submit the draft to the Queen before he had sent it off." She summoned
Lord John to her presence, poured out her indignation, and afterwards,
on the advice of Albert, noted down what had passed in a memorandum: "I
said that I thought that Lord Palmerston often endangered the honour of
England by taking a very prejudiced and one-sided view of a question;
that his writings were always as bitter as gall and did great harm,
which Lord John entirely assented to, and that I often felt quite ill
from anxiety." Then she turned to her uncle. "The state of Germany,"
she wrote in a comprehensive and despairing review of the European
situation, "is dreadful, and one does feel quite ashamed about that once
really so peaceful and happy country. That there are still good people
there I am sure, but they allow themselves to be worked upon in a
frightful and shameful way. In France a crisis seems at hand. WHAT a
very bad figure we cut in this mediation! Really it is quite immoral,
with Ireland quivering in our grasp and ready to throw off her
allegiance at any moment, for us to force Austria to give up her lawful
possessions. What shall we say if Canada, Malta, etc., begin to trouble
us? It hurts me terribly." But what did Lord Palmerston care?

Lord John's position grew more and more irksome. He did not approve of
his colleague's treatment of the Queen. When he begged him to be more
careful, he was met with the reply that 28,000 despatches passed through
the Foreign Office in a single year, that, if every one of these were
to be subjected to the royal criticism, the delay would be most serious,
that, as it was, the waste of time and the worry involved in submitting
drafts to the meticulous examination of Prince Albert was almost too
much for an overworked Minister, and that, as a matter of fact, the
postponement of important decisions owing to this cause had already
produced very unpleasant diplomatic consequences. These excuses would
have impressed Lord John more favourably if he had not himself had to
suffer from a similar neglect. As often as not Palmerston failed to
communicate even to him the most important despatches. The Foreign
Secretary was becoming an almost independent power, acting on his own
initiative, and swaying the policy of England on his own responsibility.
On one occasion, in 1847, he had actually been upon the point of
threatening to break off diplomatic relations with France without
consulting either the Cabinet or the Prime Minister. And such incidents
were constantly recurring. When this became known to the Prince, he saw
that his opportunity had come. If he could only drive in to the utmost
the wedge between the two statesmen, if he could only secure the
alliance of Lord John, then the suppression or the removal of Lord
Palmerston would be almost certain to follow. He set about the business
with all the pertinacity of his nature. Both he and the Queen put every
kind of pressure upon the Prime Minister. They wrote, they harangued,
they relapsed into awful silence. It occurred to them that Lord
Clarendon, an important member of the Cabinet, would be a useful
channel for their griefs. They commanded him to dine at the Palace, and,
directly the meal was over, "the Queen," as he described it afterwards,
"exploded, and went with the utmost vehemence and bitterness into the
whole of Palmerston's conduct, all the effects produced all over the
world, and all her own feelings and sentiments about it." When she had
finished, the Prince took up the tale, with less excitement, but with
equal force. Lord Clarendon found himself in an awkward situation;
he disliked Palmerston's policy, but he was his colleague, and he
disapproved of the attitude of his royal hosts. In his opinion, they
were "wrong in wishing that courtiers rather than Ministers should
conduct the affairs of the country," and he thought that they "laboured
under the curious mistake that the Foreign Office was their peculiar
department, and that they had the right to control, if not to direct,
the foreign policy of England." He, therefore, with extreme politeness,
gave it to be understood that he would not commit himself in any
way. But Lord John, in reality, needed no pressure. Attacked by his
Sovereign, ignored by his Foreign Secretary, he led a miserable life.
With the advent of the dreadful Schleswig-Holstein question--the most
complex in the whole diplomatic history of Europe--his position,
crushed between the upper and the nether mill-stones, grew positively
unbearable. He became anxious above all things to get Palmerston out of
the Foreign Office. But then--supposing Palmerston refused to go?

In a memorandum made by the Prince, at about this time, of an interview
between himself, the Queen, and the Prime Minister, we catch a curious
glimpse of the states of mind of those three high personages--the
anxiety and irritation of Lord John, the vehement acrimony of Victoria,
and the reasonable animosity of Albert--drawn together, as it were,
under the shadow of an unseen Presence, the cause of that celestial
anger--the gay, portentous Palmerston. At one point in the conversation
Lord John observed that he believed the Foreign Secretary would consent
to a change of offices; Lord Palmerston, he said, realised that he had
lost the Queen's confidence--though only on public, and not on personal,
grounds. But on that, the Prince noted, "the Queen interrupted Lord John
by remarking that she distrusted him on PERSONAL grounds also, but I
remarked that Lord Palmerston had so far at least seen rightly; that he
had become disagreeable to the Queen, not on account of his person, but
of his political doings--to which the Queen assented." Then the Prince
suggested that there was a danger of the Cabinet breaking up, and of
Lord Palmerston returning to office as Prime Minister. But on that point
Lord John was reassuring: he "thought Lord Palmerston too old to do much
in the future (having passed his sixty-fifth year)." Eventually it was
decided that nothing could be done for the present, but that the UTMOST
SECRECY must be observed; and so the conclave ended.

At last, in 1850, deliverance seemed to be at hand. There were signs
that the public were growing weary of the alarums and excursions of
Palmerston's diplomacy; and when his support of Don Pacifico, a British
subject, in a quarrel with the Greek Government, seemed to be upon the
point of involving the country in a war not only with Greece but also
with France, and possibly with Russia into the bargain, a heavy cloud
of distrust and displeasure appeared to be gathering and about to burst
over his head. A motion directed against him in the House of Lords was
passed by a substantial majority. The question was next to be discussed
in the House of Commons, where another adverse vote was not improbable,
and would seal the doom of the Minister. Palmerston received the attack
with complete nonchalance, and then, at the last possible moment, he
struck. In a speech of over four hours, in which exposition, invective,
argument, declamation, plain talk and resounding eloquence were mingled
together with consummate art and extraordinary felicity, he annihilated
his enemies. The hostile motion was defeated, and Palmerston was once
more the hero of the hour. Simultaneously, Atropos herself conspired
to favour him. Sir Robert Peel was thrown from his horse and killed. By
this tragic chance, Palmerston saw the one rival great enough to cope
with him removed from his path. He judged--and judged rightly--that
he was the most popular man in England; and when Lord John revived the
project of his exchanging the Foreign Office for some other position in
the Cabinet, he absolutely refused to stir.

Great was the disappointment of Albert; great was the indignation
of Victoria. "The House of Commons," she wrote, "is becoming very
unmanageable and troublesome." The Prince, perceiving that Palmerston
was more firmly fixed in the saddle than ever, decided that something
drastic must be done. Five months before, the prescient Baron had
drawn up, in case of emergency, a memorandum, which had been carefully
docketed, and placed in a pigeon-hole ready to hand. The emergency had
now arisen, and the memorandum must be used. The Queen copied out the
words of Stockmar, and sent them to the Prime Minister, requesting him
to show her letter to Palmerston. "She thinks it right," she wrote, "in
order TO PREVENT ANY MISTAKE for the FUTURE, shortly to explain WHAT
IT IS SHE EXPECTS FROM HER FOREIGN SECRETARY. She requires: (1) That he
will distinctly state what he proposes in a given case, in order
that the Queen may know as distinctly to WHAT she has given her Royal
sanction; (2) Having ONCE GIVEN her sanction to a measure, that it be
not arbitrarily altered or modified by the Minister; such an act she
must consider as failing in sincerity towards the Crown, and justly to
be visited by the exercise of her Constitutional right of dismissing
that Minister." Lord John Russell did as he was bid, and forwarded the
Queen's letter to Lord Palmerston. This transaction, which was of grave
constitutional significance, was entirely unknown to the outside world.

If Palmerston had been a sensitive man, he would probably have resigned
on the receipt of the Queen's missive. But he was far from sensitive; he
loved power, and his power was greater than ever; an unerring instinct
told him that this was not the time to go. Nevertheless, he was
seriously perturbed. He understood at last that he was struggling with
a formidable adversary, whose skill and strength, unless they were
mollified, might do irreparable injury to his career. He therefore wrote
to Lord John, briefly acquiescing in the Queen's requirements--"I have
taken a copy of this memorandum of the Queen and will not fail to attend
to the directions which it contains"--and at the same time, he asked for
an interview with the Prince. Albert at once summoned him to the Palace,
and was astonished to observe, as he noted in a memorandum, that when
Palmerston entered the room "he was very much agitated, shook, and
had tears in his eyes, so as quite to move me, who never under any
circumstances had known him otherwise than with a bland smile on his
face." The old statesman was profuse in protestations and excuses; the
young one was coldly polite. At last, after a long and inconclusive
conversation, the Prince, drawing himself up, said that, in order to
give Lord Palmerston "an example of what the Queen wanted," he would
"ask him a question point-blank." Lord Palmerston waited in respectful
silence, while the Prince proceeded as follows: "You are aware that the
Queen has objected to the Protocol about Schleswig, and of the grounds
on which she has done so. Her opinion has been overruled, the Protocol
stating the desire of the Great Powers to see the integrity of the
Danish monarchy preserved has been signed, and upon this the King of
Denmark has invaded Schleswig, where the war is raging. If Holstein is
attacked also, which is likely, the Germans will not be restrained from
flying to her assistance; Russia has menaced to interfere with arms,
if the Schleswigers are successful. What will you do, if this emergency
arises (provoking most likely an European war), and which will arise
very probably when we shall be at Balmoral and Lord John in another
part of Scotland? The Queen expects from your foresight that you have
contemplated this possibility, and requires a categorical answer as
to what you would do in the event supposed." Strangely enough, to this
pointblank question, the Foreign Secretary appeared to be unable to
reply. The whole matter, he said, was extremely complicated, and the
contingencies mentioned by His Royal Highness were very unlikely to
arise. The Prince persisted; but it was useless; for a full hour he
struggled to extract a categorical answer, until at length Palmerston
bowed himself out of the room. Albert threw up his hands in shocked
amazement: what could one do with such a man?

What indeed? For, in spite of all his apologies and all his promises,
within a few weeks the incorrigible reprobate was at his tricks again.
The Austrian General Haynau, notorious as a rigorous suppressor of
rebellion in Hungary and Italy, and in particular as a flogger of women,
came to England and took it into his head to pay a visit to Messrs.
Barclay and Perkins's brewery. The features of "General Hyena," as he
was everywhere called--his grim thin face, his enormous pepper-and-salt
moustaches--had gained a horrid celebrity; and it so happened that among
the clerks at the brewery there was a refugee from Vienna, who had
given his fellow-workers a first-hand account of the General's
characteristics. The Austrian Ambassador, scenting danger, begged his
friend not to appear in public, or, if he must do so, to cut off his
moustaches first. But the General would take no advice. He went to the
brewery, was immediately recognised, surrounded by a crowd of angry
draymen, pushed about, shouted at, punched in the ribs, and pulled by
the moustaches until, bolting down an alley with the mob at his heels
brandishing brooms and roaring "Hyena!" he managed to take refuge in
a public house, whence he was removed under the protection of several
policemen. The Austrian Government was angry and demanded explanations.
Palmerston, who, of course, was privately delighted by the incident,
replied regretting what had occurred, but adding that in his opinion
the General had "evinced a want of propriety in coming to England at
the present moment;" and he delivered his note to the Ambassador without
having previously submitted it to the Queen or to the Prime Minister.
Naturally, when this was discovered, there was a serious storm. The
Prince was especially indignant; the conduct of the draymen he regarded,
with disgust and alarm, as "a slight foretaste of what an unregulated
mass of illiterate people is capable;" and Palmerston was requested by
Lord John to withdraw his note, and to substitute for it another from
which all censure of the General had been omitted. On this the Foreign
Secretary threatened resignation, but the Prime Minister was firm. For a
moment the royal hopes rose high, only to be dashed to the ground again
by the cruel compliance of the enemy. Palmerston, suddenly lamblike,
agreed to everything; the note was withdrawn and altered, and peace was
patched up once more.

It lasted for a year, and then, in October, 1851, the arrival of Kossuth
in England brought on another crisis. Palmerston's desire to receive the
Hungarian patriot at his house in London was vetoed by Lord John; once
more there was a sharp struggle; once more Palmerston, after threatening
resignation, yielded. But still the insubordinate man could not keep
quiet. A few weeks later a deputation of Radicals from Finsbury and
Islington waited on him at the Foreign Office and presented him with an
address, in which the Emperors of Austria and Russia were stigmatised as
"odious and detestable assassins" and "merciless tyrants and despots."
The Foreign Secretary in his reply, while mildly deprecating these
expressions, allowed his real sentiments to appear with a most
undiplomatic insouciance There was an immediate scandal, and the Court
flowed over with rage and vituperation. "I think," said the Baron, "the
man has been for some time insane." Victoria, in an agitated letter,
urged Lord John to assert his authority. But Lord John perceived that on
this matter the Foreign Secretary had the support of public opinion, and
he judged it wiser to bide his time.

He had not long to wait. The culmination of the long series of
conflicts, threats, and exacerbations came before the year was out. On
December 2, Louis Napoleon's coup d'etat took place in Paris; and on
the following day Palmerston, without consulting anybody, expressed in a
conversation with the French Ambassador his approval of Napoleon's act.
Two days later, he was instructed by the Prime Minister, in accordance
with a letter from the Queen, that it was the policy of the English
Government to maintain an attitude of strict neutrality towards the
affairs of France. Nevertheless, in an official despatch to the British
Ambassador in Paris, he repeated the approval of the coup d'etat which
he had already given verbally to the French Ambassador in London. This
despatch was submitted neither to the Queen nor to the Prime Minister.
Lord John's patience, as he himself said, "was drained to the last
drop." He dismissed Lord Palmerston.

Victoria was in ecstasies; and Albert knew that the triumph was his even
more than Lord John's. It was his wish that Lord Granville, a young man
whom he believed to be pliant to his influence, should be Palmerston's
successor; and Lord Granville was appointed. Henceforward, it seemed
that the Prince would have his way in foreign affairs. After years of
struggle and mortification, success greeted him on every hand. In his
family, he was an adored master; in the country, the Great Exhibition
had brought him respect and glory; and now in the secret seats of power
he had gained a new supremacy. He had wrestled with the terrible Lord
Palmerston, the embodiment of all that was most hostile to him in the
spirit of England, and his redoubtable opponent had been overthrown. Was
England herself at his feet? It might be so; and yet... it is said that
the sons of England have a certain tiresome quality: they never know
when they are beaten. It was odd, but Palmerston was positively still
jaunty. Was it possible? Could he believe, in his blind arrogance,
that even his ignominious dismissal from office was something that could
be brushed aside?

III

The Prince's triumph was short-lived. A few weeks later, owing to
Palmerston's influence, the Government was defeated in the House, and
Lord John resigned. Then, after a short interval, a coalition between
the Whigs and the followers of Peel came into power, under the
premiership of Lord Aberdeen. Once more, Palmerston was in the Cabinet.
It was true that he did not return to the Foreign Office; that was
something to the good; in the Home Department it might be hoped that
his activities would be less dangerous and disagreeable. But the Foreign
Secretary was no longer the complacent Granville; and in Lord Clarendon
the Prince knew that he had a Minister to deal with, who, discreet and
courteous as he was, had a mind of his own. These changes, however, were
merely the preliminaries of a far more serious development.

Events, on every side, were moving towards a catastrophe. Suddenly the
nation found itself under the awful shadow of imminent war. For several
months, amid the shifting mysteries of diplomacy and the perplexed
agitations of politics, the issue grew more doubtful and more dark,
while the national temper was strained to the breaking-point. At the
very crisis of the long and ominous negotiations, it was announced that
Lord Palmerston had resigned. Then the pent-up fury of the people burst
forth. They had felt that in the terrible complexity of events they
were being guided by weak and embarrassed counsels; but they had been
reassured by the knowledge that at the centre of power there was one man
with strength, with courage, with determination, in whom they could put
their trust. They now learnt that that man was no longer among their
leaders. Why? In their rage, anxiety, and nervous exhaustion, they
looked round desperately for some hidden and horrible explanation of
what had occurred. They suspected plots, they smelt treachery in the
air. It was easy to guess the object upon which their frenzy would
vent itself. Was there not a foreigner in the highest of high places, a
foreigner whose hostility to their own adored champion was unrelenting
and unconcealed? The moment that Palmerston's resignation was known,
there was a universal outcry and an extraordinary tempest of anger and
hatred burst, with unparalleled violence, upon the head of the Prince.

It was everywhere asserted and believed that the Queen's husband was a
traitor to the country, that he was a tool of the Russian Court, that
in obedience to Russian influences he had forced Palmerston out of the
Government, and that he was directing the foreign policy of England in
the interests of England's enemies. For many weeks these accusations
filled the whole of the press; repeated at public meetings, elaborated
in private talk, they flew over the country, growing every moment more
extreme and more improbable. While respectable newspapers thundered out
their grave invectives, halfpenny broadsides, hawked through the streets
of London, re-echoed in doggerel vulgarity the same sentiments and the
same suspicions(*). At last the wildest rumours began to spread.

     (*)"The Turkish war both far and near
     Has played the very deuce then,
     And little Al, the royal pal,
     They say has turned a Russian;
     Old Aberdeen, as may be seen,
     Looks woeful pale and yellow,
     And Old John Bull had his belly full
     Of dirty Russian tallow."

     Chorus:
     "We'll send him home and make him groan,
     Oh, Al! you've played the deuce then;
     The German lad has acted sad
     And turned tail with the Russians."

     *    *   *   *   *

     "Last Monday night, all in a fright,
     Al out of bed did tumble.
     The German lad was raving mad,
     How he did groan and grumble!
     He cried to Vic, 'I've cut my stick:
     To St. Petersburg go right slap.'
     When Vic, 'tis said, jumped out of bed,
     And wopped him with her night-cap."

From Lovely Albert! a broadside preserved at the British Museum.


In January, 1854, it was whispered that the Prince had been seized, that
he had been found guilty of high treason, that he was to be committed
to the Tower. The Queen herself, some declared, had been arrested,
and large crowds actually collected round the Tower to watch the
incarceration of the royal miscreants.(*)

     (*)"You Jolly Turks, now go to work,
     And show the Bear your power.
     It is rumoured over Britain's isle
     That A------ is in the Tower;
     The postmen some suspicion had,
     And opened the two letters,
     'Twas a pity sad the German lad
     Should not have known much better!"
     Lovely Albert!

These fantastic hallucinations, the result of the fevered atmosphere of
approaching war, were devoid of any basis in actual fact. Palmerston's
resignation had been in all probability totally disconnected with
foreign policy; it had certainly been entirely spontaneous, and had
surprised the Court as much as the nation. Nor had Albert's influence
been used in any way to favour the interests of Russia. As often happens
in such cases, the Government had been swinging backwards and forwards
between two incompatible policies--that of non-interference and that of
threats supported by force--either of which, if consistently followed,
might well have had a successful and peaceful issue, but which,
mingled together, could only lead to war. Albert, with characteristic
scrupulosity, attempted to thread his way through the complicated
labyrinth of European diplomacy, and eventually was lost in the
maze. But so was the whole of the Cabinet; and, when war came, his
anti-Russian feelings were quite as vehement as those of the most
bellicose of Englishmen.

Nevertheless, though the specific charges levelled against the Prince
were without foundation, there were underlying elements in the situation
which explained, if they did not justify, the popular state of mind. It
was true that the Queen's husband was a foreigner, who had been brought
up in a foreign Court, was impregnated with foreign ideas, and was
closely related to a multitude of foreign princes. Clearly this, though
perhaps an unavoidable, was an undesirable, state of affairs; nor
were the objections to it merely theoretical; it had in fact produced
unpleasant consequences of a serious kind. The Prince's German
proclivities were perpetually lamented by English Ministers; Lord
Palmerston, Lord Clarendon, Lord Aberdeen, all told the same tale; and
it was constantly necessary, in grave questions of national policy, to
combat the prepossessions of a Court in which German views and German
sentiments held a disproportionate place. As for Palmerston, his
language on this topic was apt to be unbridled. At the height of his
annoyance over his resignation, he roundly declared that he had been
made a victim to foreign intrigue. He afterwards toned down this
accusation; but the mere fact that such a suggestion from such a quarter
was possible at all showed to what unfortunate consequences Albert's
foreign birth and foreign upbringing might lead.

But this was not all. A constitutional question of the most profound
importance was raised by the position of the Prince in England. His
presence gave a new prominence to an old problem--the precise definition
of the functions and the powers of the Crown. Those functions and powers
had become, in effect, his; and what sort of use was he making of them?
His views as to the place of the Crown in the Constitution are easily
ascertainable; for they were Stockmar's; and it happens that we possess
a detailed account of Stockmar's opinions upon the subject in a long
letter addressed by him to the Prince at the time of this very crisis,
just before the outbreak of the Crimean War. Constitutional Monarchy,
according to the Baron, had suffered an eclipse since the passing of
the Reform Bill. It was now "constantly in danger of becoming a pure
Ministerial Government." The old race of Tories, who "had a direct
interest in upholding the prerogatives of the Crown," had died out;
and the Whigs were "nothing but partly conscious, partly unconscious
Republicans, who stand in the same relation to the Throne as the wolf
does to the lamb." There was a rule that it was unconstitutional to
introduce "the name and person of the irresponsible Sovereign"
into parliamentary debates on constitutional matters; this was "a
constitutional fiction, which, although undoubtedly of old standing,
was fraught with danger"; and the Baron warned the Prince that "if the
English Crown permit a Whig Ministry to follow this rule in practice,
without exception, you must not wonder if in a little time you find the
majority of the people impressed with the belief that the King, in the
view of the law, is nothing but a mandarin figure, which has to nod
its head in assent, or shake it in denial, as his Minister pleases."
To prevent this from happening, it was of extreme importance, said
the Baron, "that no opportunity should be let slip of vindicating the
legitimate position of the Crown." "And this is not hard to do," he
added, "and can never embarrass a Minister where such straightforward
loyal personages as the Queen and the Prince are concerned." In his
opinion, the very lowest claim of the Royal Prerogative should include
"a right on the part of the King to be the permanent President of his
Ministerial Council." The Sovereign ought to be "in the position of
a permanent Premier, who takes rank above the temporary head of the
Cabinet, and in matters of discipline exercises supreme authority." The
Sovereign "may even take a part in the initiation and the maturing of
the Government measures; for it would be unreasonable to expect that a
king, himself as able, as accomplished, and as patriotic as the best of
his Ministers, should be prevented from making use of these qualities
at the deliberations of his Council." "The judicious exercise of this
right," concluded the Baron, "which certainly requires a master mind,
would not only be the best guarantee for Constitutional Monarchy, but
would raise it to a height of power, stability, and symmetry, which has
never been attained."

Now it may be that this reading of the Constitution is a possible one,
though indeed it is hard to see how it can be made compatible with the
fundamental doctrine of ministerial responsibility. William III presided
over his Council, and he was a constitutional monarch; and it seems
that Stockmar had in his mind a conception of the Crown which would have
given it a place in the Constitution analogous to that which it filled
at the time of William III. But it is clear that such a theory, which
would invest the Crown with more power than it possessed even under
George III, runs counter to the whole development of English public life
since the Revolution; and the fact that it was held by Stockmar, and
instilled by him into Albert, was of very serious importance. For there
was good reason to believe not only that these doctrines were held by
Albert in theory, but that he was making a deliberate and sustained
attempt to give them practical validity. The history of the struggle
between the Crown and Palmerston provided startling evidence that this
was the case. That struggle reached its culmination when, in Stockmar's
memorandum of 1850, the Queen asserted her "constitutional right"
to dismiss the Foreign Secretary if he altered a despatch which had
received her sanction. The memorandum was, in fact, a plain declaration
that the Crown intended to act independently of the Prime Minister.
Lord John Russell, anxious at all costs to strengthen himself against
Palmerston, accepted the memorandum, and thereby implicitly allowed the
claim of the Crown. More than that; after the dismissal of Palmerston,
among the grounds on which Lord John justified that dismissal in the
House of Commons he gave a prominent place to the memorandum of 1850. It
became apparent that the displeasure of the Sovereign might be a reason
for the removal of a powerful and popular Minister. It seemed indeed
as if, under the guidance of Stockmar and Albert, the "Constitutional
Monarchy" might in very truth be rising "to a height of power,
stability, and symmetry, which had never been attained."

But this new development in the position of the Crown, grave as it
was in itself, was rendered peculiarly disquieting by the unusual
circumstances which surrounded it. For the functions of the Crown were
now, in effect, being exercised by a person unknown to the Constitution,
who wielded over the Sovereign an undefined and unbounded influence. The
fact that this person was the Sovereign's husband, while it explained
his influence and even made it inevitable, by no means diminished its
strange and momentous import. An ambiguous, prepotent figure had come
to disturb the ancient, subtle, and jealously guarded balance of the
English Constitution. Such had been the unexpected outcome of the
tentative and fainthearted opening of Albert's political life. He
himself made no attempt to minimise either the multiplicity or the
significance of the functions he performed. He considered that it was
his duty, he told the Duke of Wellington in 1850, to "sink his
OWN INDIVIDUAL existence in that of his wife--assume no separate
responsibility before the public, but make his position entirely a part
of hers--fill up every gap which, as a woman, she would naturally leave
in the exercise of her regal functions--continually and anxiously watch
every part of the public business, in order to be able to advise and
assist her at any moment in any of the multifarious and difficult
questions or duties brought before her, sometimes international,
sometimes political, or social, or personal. As the natural head of her
family, superintendent of her household, manager of her private affairs,
sole CONFIDENTIAL adviser in politics, and only assistant in her
communications with the officers of the Government, he is, besides,
the husband of the Queen, the tutor of the royal children, the private
secretary of the Sovereign, and her permanent minister."
Stockmar's pupil had assuredly gone far and learnt well. Stockmar's
pupil!--precisely; the public, painfully aware of Albert's predominance,
had grown, too, uneasily conscious that Victoria's master had a master
of his own. Deep in the darkness the Baron loomed. Another foreigner!
Decidedly, there were elements in the situation which went far to
justify the popular alarm. A foreign Baron controlled a foreign Prince,
and the foreign Prince controlled the Crown of England. And the Crown
itself was creeping forward ominously; and when, from under its shadow,
the Baron and the Prince had frowned, a great Minister, beloved of the
people, had fallen. Where was all this to end?

Within a few weeks Palmerston withdrew his resignation, and the public
frenzy subsided as quickly as it had arisen. When Parliament met, the
leaders of both the parties in both the Houses made speeches in favour
of the Prince, asserting his unimpeachable loyalty to the country and
vindicating his right to advise the Sovereign in all matters of State.
Victoria was delighted. "The position of my beloved lord and master,"
she told the Baron, "has been defined for once amid all and his merits
have been acknowledged on all sides most duly. There was an immense
concourse of people assembled when we went to the House of Lords, and
the people were very friendly." Immediately afterwards, the country
finally plunged into the Crimean War. In the struggle that followed,
Albert's patriotism was put beyond a doubt, and the animosities of
the past were forgotten. But the war had another consequence, less
gratifying to the royal couple: it crowned the ambition of Lord
Palmerston. In 1855, the man who five years before had been pronounced
by Lord John Russell to be "too old to do much in the future," became
Prime Minister of England, and, with one short interval, remained in
that position for ten years.



CHAPTER VI. LAST YEARS OF PRINCE CONSORT

I

The weak-willed youth who took no interest in polities and never read a
newspaper had grown into a man of unbending determination whose tireless
energies were incessantly concentrated upon the laborious business of
government and the highest questions of State. He was busy now from
morning till night. In the winter, before the dawn, he was to be
seen, seated at his writing-table, working by the light of the green
reading--lamp which he had brought over with him from Germany, and
the construction of which he had much improved by an ingenious device.
Victoria was early too, but she was not so early as Albert; and when, in
the chill darkness, she took her seat at her own writing-table, placed
side by side with his, she invariably found upon it a neat pile of
papers arranged for her inspection and her signature. The day,
thus begun, continued in unremitting industry. At breakfast, the
newspapers--the once hated newspapers--made their appearance, and the
Prince, absorbed in their perusal, would answer no questions, or, if
an article struck him, would read it aloud. After, that there were
ministers and secretaries to interview; there was a vast correspondence
to be carried on; there were numerous memoranda to be made. Victoria,
treasuring every word, preserving every letter, was all breathless
attention and eager obedience. Sometimes Albert would actually ask her
advice. He consulted her about his English: "Lese recht aufmerksam, und
sage wenn irgend ein Fehler ist,"(*) he would say; or, as he handed
her a draft for her signature, he would observe, "Ich hab' Dir hier ein
Draft gemacht, lese es mal! Ich dachte es ware recht so."(**) Thus the
diligent, scrupulous, absorbing hours passed by. Fewer and fewer grew
the moments of recreation and of exercise. The demands of society were
narrowed down to the smallest limits, and even then but grudgingly
attended to. It was no longer a mere pleasure, it was a positive
necessity, to go to bed as early as possible in order to be up and at
work on the morrow betimes.

     (*) "Read this carefully, and tell me if there are any
     mistakes in it."

     (**) "Here is a draft I have made for you. Read it. I should
     think this would do."

The important and exacting business of government, which became at last
the dominating preoccupation in Albert's mind, still left unimpaired
his old tastes and interests; he remained devoted to art, to science,
to philosophy, and a multitude of subsidiary activities showed how his
energies increased as the demands upon them grew. For whenever duty
called, the Prince was all alertness. With indefatigable perseverance he
opened museums, laid the foundation stones of hospitals, made speeches
to the Royal Agricultural Society, and attended meetings of the British
Association. The National Gallery particularly interested him: he drew
up careful regulations for the arrangement of the pictures according to
schools; and he attempted--though in vain--to have the whole collection
transported to South Kensington. Feodora, now the Princess Hohenlohe,
after a visit to England, expressed in a letter to Victoria her
admiration of Albert both as a private and a public character. Nor did
she rely only on her own opinion. "I must just copy out," she said,
"what Mr. Klumpp wrote to me some little time ago, and which is
quite true--'Prince Albert is one of the few Royal personages who can
sacrifice to any principle (as soon as it has become evident to them to
be good and noble) all those notions (or sentiments) to which others,
owing to their narrow-mindedness, or to the prejudices of their rank,
are so thoroughly inclined strongly to cling.' There is something so
truly religious in this," the Princess added, "as well as humane and
just, most soothing to my feelings which are so often hurt and disturbed
by what I hear and see."

Victoria, from the depth of her heart, subscribed to all the eulogies of
Feodora and Mr. Klumpp. She only found that they were insufficient. As
she watched her beloved Albert, after toiling with state documents and
public functions, devoting every spare moment of his time to domestic
duties, to artistic appreciation, and to intellectual improvements; as
she listened to him cracking his jokes at the luncheon table, or playing
Mendelssohn on the organ, or pointing out the merits of Sir Edwin
Landseer's pictures; as she followed him round while he gave
instructions about the breeding of cattle, or decided that the
Gainsboroughs must be hung higher up so that the Winterhalters might be
properly seen--she felt perfectly certain that no other wife had ever
had such a husband. His mind was apparently capable of everything,
and she was hardly surprised to learn that he had made an important
discovery for the conversion of sewage into agricultural manure.
Filtration from below upwards, he explained, through some appropriate
medium, which retained the solids and set free the fluid sewage for
irrigation, was the principle of the scheme. "All previous plans,"
he said, "would have cost millions; mine costs next to nothing."
Unfortunately, owing to a slight miscalculation, the invention proved
to be impracticable; but Albert's intelligence was unrebuffed, and he
passed on, to plunge with all his accustomed ardour into a prolonged
study of the rudiments of lithography.

But naturally it was upon his children that his private interests and
those of Victoria were concentrated most vigorously. The royal nurseries
showed no sign of emptying. The birth of the Prince Arthur in 1850 was
followed, three years later, by that of the Prince Leopold; and in
1857 the Princess Beatrice was born. A family of nine must be, in any
circumstances, a grave responsibility; and the Prince realised to the
full how much the high destinies of his offspring intensified the need
of parental care. It was inevitable that he should believe profoundly
in the importance of education; he himself had been the product of
education; Stockmar had made him what he was; it was for him, in his
turn, to be a Stockmar--to be even more than a Stockmar--to the young
creatures he had brought into the world. Victoria would assist him; a
Stockmar, no doubt, she could hardly be; but she could be perpetually
vigilant, she could mingle strictness with her affection, and she could
always set a good example. These considerations, of course, applied
pre-eminently to the education of the Prince of Wales. How tremendous
was the significance of every particle of influence which went to the
making of the future King of England! Albert set to work with a will.
But, watching with Victoria the minutest details of the physical,
intellectual, and moral training of his children, he soon perceived, to
his distress, that there was something unsatisfactory in the development
of his eldest son. The Princess Royal was an extremely intelligent
child; but Bertie, though he was good-humoured and gentle, seemed to
display a deep-seated repugnance to every form of mental exertion. This
was most regrettable, but the remedy was obvious: the parental efforts
must be redoubled; instruction must be multiplied; not for a single
instant must the educational pressure be allowed to relax. Accordingly,
more tutors were selected, the curriculum was revised, the time-table of
studies was rearranged, elaborate memoranda dealing with every possible
contingency were drawn up. It was above all essential that there should
be no slackness: "Work," said the Prince, "must be work." And work
indeed it was. The boy grew up amid a ceaseless round of paradigms,
syntactical exercises, dates, genealogical tables, and lists of capes.
Constant notes flew backwards and forwards between the Prince, the
Queen, and the tutors, with inquiries, with reports of progress, with
detailed recommendations; and these notes were all carefully preserved
for future reference. It was, besides, vital that the heir to the throne
should be protected from the slightest possibility of contamination from
the outside world. The Prince of Wales was not as other boys; he might,
occasionally, be allowed to invite some sons of the nobility, boys of
good character, to play with him in the garden of Buckingham Palace;
but his father presided, with alarming precision, over their sports. In
short, every possible precaution was taken, every conceivable effort
was made. Yet, strange to say, the object of all this vigilance and
solicitude continued to be unsatisfactory--appeared, in fact, to be
positively growing worse. It was certainly very odd: the more lessons
that Bertie had to do, the less he did them; and the more carefully he
was guarded against excitements and frivolities, the more desirous
of mere amusement he seemed to become. Albert was deeply grieved and
Victoria was sometimes very angry; but grief and anger produced no more
effect than supervision and time-tables. The Prince of Wales, in
spite of everything, grew up into manhood without the faintest sign of
"adherence to and perseverance in the plan both of studies and life--"
as one of the Royal memoranda put it--which had been laid down with such
extraordinary forethought by his father.

II

Against the insidious worries of politics, the boredom of society
functions, and the pompous publicity of state ceremonies, Osborne had
afforded a welcome refuge; but it soon appeared that even Osborne was
too little removed from the world. After all, the Solent was a feeble
barrier. Oh, for some distant, some almost inaccessible sanctuary,
where, in true domestic privacy, one could make happy holiday, just as
if--or at least very, very, nearly--one were anybody else! Victoria,
ever since, together with Albert, she had visited Scotland in the early
years of her marriage, had felt that her heart was in the Highlands. She
had returned to them a few years later, and her passion had grown. How
romantic they were! And how Albert enjoyed them too! His spirits rose
quite wonderfully as soon as he found himself among the hills and the
conifers. "It is a happiness to see him," she wrote. "Oh! What can equal
the beauties of nature!" she exclaimed in her journal, during one of
these visits. "What enjoyment there is in them! Albert enjoys it so
much; he is in ecstasies here." "Albert said," she noted next day, "that
the chief beauty of mountain scenery consists in its frequent changes.
We came home at six o'clock." Then she went on a longer expedition--up
to the very top of a high hill. "It was quite romantic. Here we were
with only this Highlander behind us holding the ponies (for we got off
twice and walked about). . . . We came home at half-past eleven,--the
most delightful, most romantic ride and walk I ever had. I had never
been up such a mountain, and then the day was so fine." The Highlanders,
too, were such astonishing people. They "never make difficulties," she
noted, "but are cheerful, and happy, and merry, and ready to walk,
and run, and do anything." As for Albert he "highly appreciated the
good-breeding, simplicity, and intelligence, which make it so pleasant
and even instructive to talk to them." "We were always in the habit,"
wrote Her Majesty, "of conversing with the Highlanders--with whom one
comes so much in contact in the Highlands." She loved everything about
them--their customs, their dress, their dances, even their musical
instruments. "There were nine pipers at the castle," she wrote after
staying with Lord Breadalbane; "sometimes one and sometimes three
played. They always played about breakfast-time, again during the
morning, at luncheon, and also whenever we went in and out; again before
dinner, and during most of dinner-time. We both have become quite fond
of the bag-pipes."

It was quite impossible not to wish to return to such pleasures again
and again; and in 1848 the Queen took a lease of Balmoral House, a small
residence near Braemar in the wilds of Aberdeenshire. Four years later
she bought the place outright. Now she could be really happy every
summer; now she could be simple and at her ease; now she could
be romantic every evening, and dote upon Albert, without a single
distraction, all day long. The diminutive scale of the house was in
itself a charm. Nothing was more amusing than to find oneself living
in two or three little sitting--rooms, with the children crammed away
upstairs, and the minister in attendance with only a tiny bedroom to do
all his work in. And then to be able to run in and out of doors as one
liked, and to sketch, and to walk, and to watch the red deer coming so
surprisingly close, and to pay visits to the cottagers! And occasionally
one could be more adventurous still--one could go and stay for a night
or two at the Bothie at Alt-na-giuthasach--a mere couple of huts with "a
wooden addition"--and only eleven people in the whole party! And there
were mountains to be climbed and cairns to be built in solemn pomp. "At
last, when the cairn, which is, I think, seven or eight feet high, was
nearly completed, Albert climbed up to the top of it, and placed the
last stone; after which three cheers were given. It was a gay, pretty,
and touching sight; and I felt almost inclined to cry. The view was
so beautiful over the dear hills; the day so fine; the whole so
gemuthlich." And in the evening there were sword-dances and reels.

But Albert had determined to pull down the little old house, and to
build in its place a castle of his own designing. With great ceremony,
in accordance with a memorandum drawn up by the Prince for the occasion,
the foundation-stone of the new edifice was laid, and by 1855 it was
habitable. Spacious, built of granite in the Scotch baronial style, with
a tower 100 feet high, and minor turrets and castellated gables,
the castle was skilfully arranged to command the finest views of the
surrounding mountains and of the neighbouring river Dee. Upon the
interior decorations Albert and Victoria lavished all their care. The
wall and the floors were of pitch-pine, and covered with specially
manufactured tartars. The Balmoral tartan, in red and grey, designed by
the Prince, and the Victoria tartan, with a white stripe, designed by
the Queen, were to be seen in every room: there were tartan curtains,
and tartan chair-covers, and even tartan linoleums. Occasionally the
Royal Stuart tartan appeared, for Her Majesty always maintained that she
was an ardent Jacobite. Water-colour sketches by Victoria hung upon the
walls, together with innumerable stags' antlers, and the head of a boar,
which had been shot by Albert in Germany. In an alcove in the hall,
stood a life-sized statue of Albert in Highland dress.

Victoria declared that it was perfection. "Every year," she wrote, "my
heart becomes more fixed in this dear paradise, and so much more so
now, that ALL has become my dear Albert's own creation, own work, own
building, own lay-out... and his great taste, and the impress of his
dear hand, have been stamped everywhere."

And here, in very truth, her happiest days were passed. In after years,
when she looked back upon them, a kind of glory, a radiance as of
an unearthly holiness, seemed to glow about these golden hours. Each
hallowed moment stood out clear, beautiful, eternally significant. For,
at the time, every experience there, sentimental, or grave, or trivial,
had come upon her with a peculiar vividness, like a flashing of
marvellous lights. Albert's stalkings--an evening walk when she lost her
way--Vicky sitting down on a wasps' nest--a torchlight dance--with what
intensity such things, and ten thousand like them, impressed themselves
upon her eager consciousness! And how she flew to her journal to note
them down! The news of the Duke's death! What a moment--when, as she
sat sketching after a picnic by a loch in the lonely hills, Lord Derby's
letter had been brought to her, and she had learnt that "ENGLAND'S, or
rather BRITAIN'S pride, her glory, her hero, the greatest man she had
ever produced, was no morel." For such were here reflections upon
the "old rebel" of former days. But that past had been utterly
obliterated--no faintest memory of it remained. For years she had
looked up to the Duke as a figure almost superhuman. Had he not been a
supporter of good Sir Robert? Had he not asked Albert to succeed him as
commander-in-chief? And what a proud moment it had been when he stood as
sponsor to her son Arthur, who was born on his eighty-first birthday! So
now she filled a whole page of her diary with panegyrical regrets. "His
position was the highest a subject ever had--above party--looked up to
by all--revered by the whole nation--the friend of the Sovereign... The
Crown never possessed--and I fear never WILL--so DEVOTED, loyal,
and faithful a subject, so staunch a supporter! To US his loss is
IRREPARABLE... To Albert he showed the greatest kindness and the utmost
confidence... Not an eye will be dry in the whole country." These were
serious thoughts; but they were soon succeeded by others hardly less
moving--by events as impossible to forget--by Mr. MacLeod's sermon
on Nicodemus--by the gift of a red flannel petticoat to Mrs. P.
Farquharson, and another to old Kitty Kear.

But, without doubt, most memorable, most delightful of all were the
expeditions--the rare, exciting expeditions up distant mountains, across
broad rivers, through strange country, and lasting several days. With
only two gillies--Grant and Brown--for servants, and with assumed names.
It was more like something in a story than real life. "We had decided
to call ourselves LORD AND LADY CHURCHILL AND AND PARTY--Lady Churchill
passing as MISS SPENCER and General Grey as DR. GREY! Brown once forgot
this and called me 'Your Majesty' as I was getting into the carriage,
and Grant on the box once called Albert 'Your Royal Highness,' which
set us off laughing, but no one observed it." Strong, vigorous,
enthusiastic, bringing, so it seemed, good fortune with her--the
Highlanders declared she had "a lucky foot"--she relished
everything--the scrambles and the views and the contretemps and the
rough inns with their coarse fare and Brown and Grant waiting at table.
She could have gone on for ever and ever, absolutely happy with Albert
beside her and Brown at her pony's head. But the time came for turning
homewards, alas! the time came for going back to England. She could
hardly bear it; she sat disconsolate in her room and watched the snow
falling. The last day! Oh! If only she could be snowed up!

III

The Crimean War brought new experiences, and most of them were pleasant
ones. It was pleasant to be patriotic and pugnacious, to look out
appropriate prayers to be read in the churches, to have news of
glorious victories, and to know oneself, more proudly than ever, the
representative of England. With that spontaneity of feeling which was so
peculiarly her own, Victoria poured out her emotion, her admiration,
her pity, her love, upon her "dear soldiers." When she gave them their
medals her exultation knew no bounds. "Noble fellows!" she wrote to the
King of the Belgians, "I own I feel as if these were MY OWN CHILDREN;
my heart beats for THEM as for my NEAREST and DEAREST. They were so
touched, so pleased; many, I hear, cried--and they won't hear of giving
up their medals to have their names engraved upon them for fear they
should not receive the IDENTICAL ONE put into THEIR HANDS BY ME, which
is quite touching. Several came by in a sadly mutilated state." She and
they were at one. They felt that she had done them a splendid honour,
and she, with perfect genuineness, shared their feeling. Albert's
attitude towards such things was different; there was an austerity
in him which quite prohibited the expansions of emotion. When General
Williams returned from the heroic defence of Kars and was presented at
Court, the quick, stiff, distant bow with which the Prince received him
struck like ice upon the beholders. He was a stranger still.

But he had other things to occupy him, more important, surely, than the
personal impressions of military officers and people who went to Court.
He was at work--ceaselessly at work--on the tremendous task of carrying
through the war to a successful conclusion. State papers, despatches,
memoranda, poured from him in an overwhelming stream. Between 1853 and
1857 fifty folio volumes were filled with the comments of his pen upon
the Eastern question. Nothing would induce him to stop. Weary ministers
staggered under the load of his advice; but his advice continued, piling
itself up over their writing-tables, and flowing out upon them from
red box after red box. Nor was it advice to be ignored. The talent for
administration which had reorganised the royal palaces and planned the
Great Exhibition asserted itself no less in the confused complexities of
war. Again and again the Prince's suggestions, rejected or unheeded at
first, were adopted under the stress of circumstances and found to be
full of value. The enrolment of a foreign legion, the establishment of
a depot for troops at Malta, the institution of periodical reports and
tabulated returns as to the condition of the army at Sebastopol--such
were the contrivances and the achievements of his indefatigable brain.
He went further: in a lengthy minute he laid down the lines for a
radical reform in the entire administration of the army. This was
premature, but his proposal that "a camp of evolution" should be
created, in which troops should be concentrated and drilled, proved to
be the germ of Aldershot.

Meanwhile Victoria had made a new friend: she had suddenly been
captivated by Napoleon III. Her dislike of him had been strong at first.
She considered that he was a disreputable adventurer who had usurped the
throne of poor old Louis Philippe; and besides he was hand-in-glove
with Lord Palmerston. For a long time, although he was her ally, she was
unwilling to meet him; but at last a visit of the Emperor and Empress to
England was arranged. Directly he appeared at Windsor her heart began
to soften. She found that she was charmed by his quiet manners, his
low, soft voice, and by the soothing simplicity of his conversation. The
good-will of England was essential to the Emperor's position in Europe,
and he had determined to fascinate the Queen. He succeeded. There was
something deep within her which responded immediately and vehemently to
natures that offered a romantic contrast with her own. Her adoration
of Lord Melbourne was intimately interwoven with her half-unconscious
appreciation of the exciting unlikeness between herself and that
sophisticated, subtle, aristocratical old man. Very different was the
quality of her unlikeness to Napoleon; but its quantity was at least
as great. From behind the vast solidity of her respectability, her
conventionality, her established happiness, she peered out with a
strange delicious pleasure at that unfamiliar, darkly-glittering foreign
object, moving so meteorically before her, an ambiguous creature of
wilfulness and Destiny. And, to her surprise, where she had dreaded
antagonisms, she discovered only sympathies. He was, she said, "so
quiet, so simple, naif even, so pleased to be informed about things he
does not know, so gentle, so full of tact, dignity, and modesty, so full
of kind attention towards us, never saying a word, or doing a thing,
which could put me out... There is something fascinating, melancholy,
and engaging which draws you to him, in spite of any prevention you may
have against him, and certainly without the assistance of any outward
appearance, though I like his face." She observed that he rode
"extremely well, and looks well on horseback, as he sits high." And
he danced "with great dignity and spirit." Above all, he listened to
Albert; listened with the most respectful attention; showed, in fact,
how pleased he was "to be informed about things he did not know;" and
afterwards was heard to declare that he had never met the Prince's
equal. On one occasion, indeed--but only on one--he had seemed to grow
slightly restive. In a diplomatic conversation, "I expatiated a little
on the Holstein question," wrote the Prince in a memorandum, "which
appeared to bore the Emperor as 'tres compliquee.'"

Victoria, too, became much attached to the Empress, whose looks and
graces she admired without a touch of jealousy. Eugenie, indeed, in
the plenitude of her beauty, exquisitely dressed in wonderful Parisian
crinolines which set off to perfection her tall and willowy figure,
might well have caused some heart-burning in the breast of her hostess,
who, very short, rather stout, quite plain, in garish middle-class
garments, could hardly be expected to feel at her best in such company.
But Victoria had no misgivings. To her it mattered nothing that her
face turned red in the heat and that her purple pork-pie hat was of last
year's fashion, while Eugenie, cool and modish, floated in an infinitude
of flounces by her side. She was Queen of England, and was not that
enough? It certainly seemed to be; true majesty was hers, and she knew
it. More than once, when the two were together in public, it was the
woman to whom, as it seemed, nature and art had given so little, who,
by the sheer force of an inherent grandeur, completely threw her adorned
and beautiful companion into the shade.

There were tears when the moment came for parting, and Victoria felt
"quite wehmuthig," as her guests went away from Windsor. But before long
she and Albert paid a return visit to France, where everything was very
delightful, and she drove incognito through the streets of Paris in a
"common bonnet," and saw a play in the theatre at St. Cloud, and, one
evening, at a great party given by the Emperor in her honour at the
Chateau of Versailles, talked a little to a distinguished-looking
Prussian gentleman, whose name was Bismarck. Her rooms were furnished
so much to her taste that she declared they gave her quite a home
feeling--that, if her little dog were there, she should really imagine
herself at home. Nothing was said, but three days later her little
dog barked a welcome to her as she entered the apartments. The Emperor
himself, sparing neither trouble nor expense, had personally arranged
the charming surprise. Such were his attentions. She returned to England
more enchanted than ever. "Strange indeed," she exclaimed, "are the
dispensations and ways of Providence!"

The alliance prospered, and the war drew towards a conclusion. Both the
Queen and the Prince, it is true, were most anxious that there should
not be a premature peace. When Lord Aberdeen wished to open negotiations
Albert attacked him in a "geharnischten" letter, while Victoria rode
about on horseback reviewing the troops. At last, however, Sebastopol
was captured. The news reached Balmoral late at night, and in a few
minutes Albert and all the gentlemen in every species of attire sallied
forth, followed by all the servants, and gradually by all the population
of the village-keepers, gillies, workmen--"up to the top of the cairn."
A bonfire was lighted, the pipes were played, and guns were shot off.
"About three-quarters of an hour after Albert came down and said the
scene had been wild and exciting beyond everything. The people had
been drinking healths in whisky and were in great ecstasy." The "great
ecstasy," perhaps, would be replaced by other feelings next morning;
but at any rate the war was over--though, to be sure, its end seemed as
difficult to account for as its beginning. The dispensations and ways of
Providence continued to be strange.

IV

An unexpected consequence of the war was a complete change in the
relations between the royal pair and Palmerston. The Prince and the
Minister drew together over their hostility to Russia, and thus it came
about that when Victoria found it necessary to summon her old enemy to
form an administration she did so without reluctance. The premiership,
too, had a sobering effect upon Palmerston; he grew less impatient and
dictatorial; considered with attention the suggestions of the Crown, and
was, besides, genuinely impressed by the Prince's ability and knowledge.
Friction, no doubt, there still occasionally was, for, while the Queen
and the Prince devoted themselves to foreign politics as much as ever,
their views, when the war was over, became once more antagonistic to
those of the Prime Minister. This was especially the case with regard
to Italy. Albert, theoretically the friend of constitutional government,
distrusted Cavour, was horrified by Garibaldi, and dreaded the danger
of England being drawn into war with Austria. Palmerston, on the other
hand, was eager for Italian independence; but he was no longer at the
Foreign Office, and the brunt of the royal displeasure had now to be
borne by Lord John Russell. In a few years the situation had curiously
altered. It was Lord John who now filled the subordinate and the
ungrateful role; but the Foreign Secretary, in his struggle with
the Crown, was supported, instead of opposed, by the Prime Minister.
Nevertheless the struggle was fierce, and the policy, by which the
vigorous sympathy of England became one of the decisive factors in the
final achievement of Italian unity, was only carried through in face of
the violent opposition of the Court.

Towards the other European storm-centre, also, the Prince's attitude
continued to be very different to that of Palmerston. Albert's great
wish was for a united Germany under the leadership of a constitutional
and virtuous Prussia; Palmerston did not think that there was much to
be said for the scheme, but he took no particular interest in German
politics, and was ready enough to agree to a proposal which was warmly
supported by both the Prince and the Queen--that the royal Houses of
England and Prussia should be united by the marriage of the Princess
Royal with the Prussian Crown Prince. Accordingly, when the Princess was
not yet fifteen, the Prince, a young man of twenty-four, came over on
a visit to Balmoral, and the betrothal took place. Two years later,
in 1857, the marriage was celebrated. At the last moment, however, it
seemed that there might be a hitch. It was pointed out in Prussia that
it was customary for Princes of the blood royal to be married in Berlin,
and it was suggested that there was no reason why the present case
should be treated as an exception. When this reached the ears of
Victoria, she was speechless with indignation. In a note, emphatic
even for Her Majesty, she instructed the Foreign Secretary to tell
the Prussian Ambassador "not to ENTERTAIN the POSSIBILITY of such a
question... The Queen NEVER could consent to it, both for public and for
private reasons, and the assumption of its being TOO MUCH for a Prince
Royal of Prussia to come over to marry the Princess Royal of Great
Britain in England is too ABSURD to say the least. . . Whatever may be
the usual practice of Prussian princes, it is not EVERY day that one
marries the eldest daughter of the Queen of England. The question must
therefore be considered as settled and closed." It was, and the
wedding took place in St. James's Chapel. There were great
festivities--illuminations, state concerts, immense crowds, and general
rejoicings. At Windsor a magnificent banquet was given to the bride and
bridegroom in the Waterloo room, at which, Victoria noted in her diary,
"everybody was most friendly and kind about Vicky and full of the
universal enthusiasm, of which the Duke of Buccleuch gave us most
pleasing instances, he having been in the very thick of the crowd and
among the lowest of the low." Her feelings during several days had been
growing more and more emotional, and when the time came for the young
couple to depart she very nearly broke down--but not quite. "Poor dear
child!" she wrote afterwards. "I clasped her in my arms and blessed her,
and knew not what to say. I kissed good Fritz and pressed his hand again
and again. He was unable to speak and the tears were in his eyes. I
embraced them both again at the carriage door, and Albert got into the
carriage, an open one, with them and Bertie... The band struck up. I
wished good-bye to the good Perponchers. General Schreckenstein was much
affected. I pressed his hand, and the good Dean's, and then went quickly
upstairs."

Albert, as well as General Schreckenstein, was much affected. He was
losing his favourite child, whose opening intelligence had already begun
to display a marked resemblance to his own--an adoring pupil, who, in
a few years, might have become an almost adequate companion. An ironic
fate had determined that the daughter who was taken from him should be
sympathetic, clever, interested in the arts and sciences, and endowed
with a strong taste for memoranda, while not a single one of these
qualities could be discovered in the son who remained. For certainly
the Prince of Wales did not take after his father. Victoria's prayer had
been unanswered, and with each succeeding year it became more obvious
that Bertie was a true scion of the House of Brunswick. But these
evidences of innate characteristics only served to redouble the efforts
of his parents; it still might not be too late to incline the young
branch, by ceaseless pressure and careful fastenings, to grow in
the proper direction. Everything was tried. The boy was sent on a
continental tour with a picked body of tutors, but the results were
unsatisfactory. At his father's request he kept a diary which, on his
return, was inspected by the Prince. It was found to be distressingly
meagre: what a multitude of highly interesting reflections might have
been arranged under the heading: "The First Prince of Wales visiting the
Pope!" But there was not a single one. "Le jeune prince plaisit a
tout le monde," old Metternich reported to Guizot, "mais avait l'air
embarrasse et tres triste." On his seventeenth birthday a memorandum
was drawn up over the names of the Queen and the Prince informing their
eldest son that he was now entering upon the period of manhood,
and directing him henceforward to perform the duties of a Christian
gentleman. "Life is composed of duties," said the memorandum, "and in
the due, punctual and cheerful performance of them the true Christian,
true soldier, and true gentleman is recognised... A new sphere of life
will open for you in which you will have to be taught what to do and
what not to do, a subject requiring study more important than any in
which you have hitherto been engaged." On receipt of the memorandum
Bertie burst into tears. At the same time another memorandum was drawn
up, headed "confidential: for the guidance of the gentlemen appointed
to attend on the Prince of Wales." This long and elaborate document laid
down "certain principles" by which the "conduct and demeanour" of the
gentlemen were to be regulated "and which it is thought may conduce to
the benefit of the Prince of Wales." "The qualities which distinguish a
gentleman in society," continued this remarkable paper, "are:--

(1) His appearance, his deportment and dress.

(2) The character of his relations with, and treatment of, others.

(3) His desire and power to acquit himself creditably in conversation or
whatever is the occupation of the society with which he mixes."

A minute and detailed analysis of these subheadings followed, filling
several pages, and the memorandum ended with a final exhortation to the
gentlemen: "If they will duly appreciate the responsibility of their
position, and taking the points above laid down as the outline, will
exercise their own good sense in acting UPON ALL OCCASIONS all
upon these principles, thinking no point of detail too minute to be
important, but maintaining one steady consistent line of conduct
they may render essential service to the young Prince and justify the
flattering selection made by the royal parents." A year later the young
Prince was sent to Oxford, where the greatest care was taken that
he should not mix with the undergraduates. Yes, everything had been
tried--everything... with one single exception. The experiment had never
been made of letting Bertie enjoy himself. But why should it have been?
"Life is composed of duties." What possible place could there be for
enjoyment in the existence of a Prince of Wales?

The same year which deprived Albert of the Princess Royal brought him
another and a still more serious loss. The Baron had paid his last visit
to England. For twenty years, as he himself said in a letter to the King
of the Belgians, he had performed "the laborious and exhausting office
of a paternal friend and trusted adviser" to the Prince and the Queen.
He was seventy; he was tired, physically and mentally; it was time to
go. He returned to his home in Coburg, exchanging, once for all, the
momentous secrecies of European statecraft for the little-tattle of a
provincial capital and the gossip of family life. In his stiff chair
by the fire he nodded now over old stories--not of emperors and
generals--but of neighbours and relatives and the domestic adventures
of long ago--the burning of his father's library--and the goat that ran
upstairs to his sister's room and ran twice round the table and then ran
down again. Dyspepsia and depression still attacked him; but, looking
back over his life, he was not dissatisfied. His conscience was clear.
"I have worked as long as I had strength to work," he said, "and for a
purpose no one can impugn. The consciousness of this is my reward--the
only one which I desired to earn."

Apparently, indeed, his "purpose" had been accomplished. By his wisdom,
his patience, and his example he had brought about, in the fullness of
time, the miraculous metamorphosis of which he had dreamed. The Prince
was his creation. An indefatigable toiler, presiding, for the highest
ends, over a great nation--that was his achievement; and he looked upon
his work and it was good. But had the Baron no misgivings? Did he never
wonder whether, perhaps, he might have accomplished not too little but
too much? How subtle and how dangerous are the snares which fate lays
for the wariest of men! Albert, certainly, seemed to be everything
that Stockmar could have wished--virtuous, industrious, persevering,
intelligent. And yet--why was it--all was not well with him? He was sick
at heart.

For in spite of everything he had never reached to happiness. His work,
for which at last he came to crave with an almost morbid appetite, was
a solace and not a cure; the dragon of his dissatisfaction devoured with
dark relish that ever-growing tribute of laborious days and nights;
but it was hungry still. The causes of his melancholy were hidden,
mysterious, unanalysable perhaps--too deeply rooted in the innermost
recesses of his temperament for the eye of reason to apprehend. There
were contradictions in his nature, which, to some of those who knew him
best, made him seem an inexplicable enigma: he was severe and gentle; he
was modest and scornful; he longed for affection and he was cold. He was
lonely, not merely with the loneliness of exile but with the loneliness
of conscious and unrecognised superiority. He had the pride, at once
resigned and overweening, of a doctrinaire. And yet to say that he
was simply a doctrinaire would be a false description; for the pure
doctrinaire rejoices always in an internal contentment, and Albert was
very far from doing that. There was something that he wanted and that
he could never get. What was it? Some absolute, some ineffable sympathy?
Some extraordinary, some sublime success? Possibly, it was a mixture
of both. To dominate and to be understood! To conquer, by the same
triumphant influence, the submission and the appreciation of men--that
would be worth while indeed! But, to such imaginations, he saw too
clearly how faint were the responses of his actual environment. Who was
there who appreciated him, really and truly? Who COULD appreciate him
in England? And, if the gentle virtue of an inward excellence availed so
little, could he expect more from the hard ways of skill and force? The
terrible land of his exile loomed before him a frigid, an impregnable
mass. Doubtless he had made some slight impression: it was true that
he had gained the respect of his fellow workers, that his probity, his
industry, his exactitude, had been recognised, that he was a highly
influential, an extremely important man. But how far, how very far,
was all this from the goal of his ambitions! How feeble and futile his
efforts seemed against the enormous coagulation of dullness, of folly,
of slackness, of ignorance, of confusion that confronted him! He might
have the strength or the ingenuity to make some small change for the
better here or there--to rearrange some detail, to abolish some anomaly,
to insist upon some obvious reform; but the heart of the appalling
organism remained untouched. England lumbered on, impervious and
self-satisfied, in her old intolerable course. He threw himself across
the path of the monster with rigid purpose and set teeth, but he was
brushed aside. Yes! even Palmerston was still unconquered--was still
there to afflict him with his jauntiness, his muddle-headedness, his
utter lack of principle. It was too much. Neither nature nor the Baron
had given him a sanguine spirit; the seeds of pessimism, once lodged
within him, flourished in a propitious soil. He

     "questioned things, and did not find
     One that would answer to his mind;
     And all the world appeared unkind."

He believed that he was a failure and he began to despair.

Yet Stockmar had told him that he must "never relax," and he never
would. He would go on, working to the utmost and striving for the
highest, to the bitter end. His industry grew almost maniacal.
Earlier and earlier was the green lamp lighted; more vast grew the
correspondence; more searching the examination of the newspapers; the
interminable memoranda more punctilious, analytical, and precise. His
very recreations became duties. He enjoyed himself by time-table, went
deer-stalking with meticulous gusto, and made puns at lunch--it was the
right thing to do. The mechanism worked with astonishing efficiency,
but it never rested and it was never oiled. In dry exactitude the
innumerable cog-wheels perpetually revolved. No, whatever happened, the
Prince would not relax; he had absorbed the doctrines of Stockmar too
thoroughly. He knew what was right, and, at all costs, he would
pursue it. That was certain. But alas! in this our life what are the
certainties? "In nothing be over-zealous!" says an old Greek. "The due
measure in all the works of man is best. For often one who zealously
pushes towards some excellence, though he be pursuing a gain, is really
being led utterly astray by the will of some Power, which makes those
things that are evil seem to him good, and those things seem to him evil
that are for his advantage." Surely, both the Prince and the Baron might
have learnt something from the frigid wisdom of Theognis.

Victoria noticed that her husband sometimes seemed to be depressed and
overworked. She tried to cheer him up. Realising uneasily that he was
still regarded as a foreigner, she hoped that by conferring upon him
the title of Prince Consort (1857) she would improve his position in the
country. "The Queen has a right to claim that her husband should be an
Englishman," she wrote. But unfortunately, in spite of the Royal Letters
Patent, Albert remained as foreign as before; and as the years passed
his dejection deepened. She worked with him, she watched over him, she
walked with him through the woods at Osborne, while he whistled to the
nightingales, as he had whistled once at Rosenau so long ago. When his
birthday came round, she took the greatest pains to choose him presents
that he would really like. In 1858, when he was thirty-nine, she gave
him "a picture of Beatrice, life-size, in oil, by Horsley, a complete
collection of photographic views of Gotha and the country round, which I
had taken by Bedford, and a paper-weight of Balmoral granite and deers'
teeth, designed by Vicky." Albert was of course delighted, and his
merriment at the family gathering was more pronounced than ever: and
yet... what was there that was wrong?

No doubt it was his health. He was wearing himself out in the service of
the country; and certainly his constitution, as Stockmar had perceived
from the first, was ill-adapted to meet a serious strain. He was easily
upset; he constantly suffered from minor ailments. His appearance in
itself was enough to indicate the infirmity of his physical powers. The
handsome youth of twenty years since with the flashing eyes and the soft
complexion had grown into a sallow, tired-looking man, whose body, in
its stoop and its loose fleshiness, betrayed the sedentary labourer,
and whose head was quite bald on the top. Unkind critics, who had once
compared Albert to an operatic tenor, might have remarked that there was
something of the butler about him now. Beside Victoria, he presented a
painful contrast. She, too, was stout, but it was with the plumpness of
a vigorous matron; and an eager vitality was everywhere visible--in her
energetic bearing, her protruding, enquiring glances, her small, fat,
capable, and commanding hands. If only, by some sympathetic magic, she
could have conveyed into that portly, flabby figure, that desiccated and
discouraged brain, a measure of the stamina and the self-assurance which
were so pre-eminently hers!

But suddenly she was reminded that there were other perils besides those
of ill-health. During a visit to Coburg in 1860, the Prince was very
nearly killed in a carriage accident. He escaped with a few cuts and
bruises; but Victoria's alarm was extreme, though she concealed it. "It
is when the Queen feels most deeply," she wrote afterwards, "that she
always appears calmest, and she could not and dared not allow herself
to speak of what might have been, or even to admit to herself (and she
cannot and dare not now) the entire danger, for her head would turn!"
Her agitation, in fact, was only surpassed by her thankfulness to God.
She felt, she said, that she could not rest "without doing something to
mark permanently her feelings," and she decided that she would endow a
charity in Coburg. "L1,000, or even L2,000, given either at once, or
in instalments yearly, would not, in the Queen's opinion, be too much."
Eventually, the smaller sum having been fixed upon, it was invested in
a trust, called the "Victoria-Stift," in the name of the Burgomaster and
chief clergyman of Coburg, who were directed to distribute the interest
yearly among a certain number of young men and women of exemplary
character belonging to the humbler ranks of life.

Shortly afterwards the Queen underwent, for the first time in her life,
the actual experience of close personal loss. Early in 1861 the Duchess
of Kent was taken seriously ill, and in March she died. The event
overwhelmed Victoria. With a morbid intensity, she filled her diary
for pages with minute descriptions of her mother's last hours, her
dissolution, and her corpse, interspersed with vehement apostrophes, and
the agitated outpourings of emotional reflection. In the grief of the
present the disagreements of the past were totally forgotten. It was the
horror and the mystery of Death--Death, present and actual--that seized
upon the imagination of the Queen. Her whole being, so instinct with
vitality, recoiled in agony from the grim spectacle of the triumph of
that awful power. Her own mother, with whom she had lived so closely and
so long that she had become a part almost of her existence, had fallen
into nothingness before her very eyes! She tried to forget, but she
could not. Her lamentations continued with a strange abundance, a
strange persistency. It was almost as if, by some mysterious and
unconscious precognition, she realised that for her, in an especial
manner, that grisly Majesty had a dreadful dart in store.

For indeed, before the year was out, a far more terrible blow was
to fall upon her. Albert, who had for long been suffering from
sleeplessness, went, on a cold and drenching day towards the end of
November, to inspect the buildings for the new Military Academy at
Sandhurst. On his return, it was clear that the fatigue and exposure to
which he had been subjected had seriously affected his health. He was
attacked by rheumatism, his sleeplessness continued, and he complained
that he felt thoroughly unwell. Three days later a painful duty obliged
him to visit Cambridge. The Prince of Wales, who had been placed at that
University in the previous year, was behaving in such a manner that
a parental visit and a parental admonition had become necessary. The
disappointed father, suffering in mind and body, carried through his
task; but, on his return journey to Windsor, he caught a fatal chill.
During the next week he gradually grew weaker and more miserable. Yet,
depressed and enfeebled as he was, he continued to work. It so happened
that at that very moment a grave diplomatic crisis had arisen. Civil
war had broken out in America, and it seemed as if England, owing to a
violent quarrel with the Northern States, was upon the point of being
drawn into the conflict. A severe despatch by Lord John Russell was
submitted to the Queen; and the Prince perceived that, if it was sent
off unaltered, war would be the almost inevitable consequence. At seven
o'clock on the morning of December 1, he rose from his bed, and with a
quavering hand wrote a series of suggestions for the alteration of the
draft, by which its language might be softened, and a way left open for
a peaceful solution of the question. These changes were accepted by the
Government, and war was averted. It was the Prince's last memorandum.

He had always declared that he viewed the prospect of death with
equanimity. "I do not cling to life," he had once said to Victoria. "You
do; but I set no store by it." And then he had added: "I am sure, if I
had a severe illness, I should give up at once, I should not struggle
for life. I have no tenacity of life." He had judged correctly. Before
he had been ill many days, he told a friend that he was convinced he
would not recover. He sank and sank. Nevertheless, if his case had
been properly understood and skilfully treated from the first, he might
conceivably have been saved; but the doctors failed to diagnose his
symptoms; and it is noteworthy that his principal physician was Sir
James Clark. When it was suggested that other advice should be taken,
Sir James pooh-poohed the idea: "there was no cause for alarm," he said.
But the strange illness grew worse. At last, after a letter of fierce
remonstrance from Palmerston, Dr. Watson was sent for; and Dr. Watson
saw at once that he had come too late The Prince was in the grip of
typhoid fever. "I think that everything so far is satisfactory," said
Sir James Clark.(*)

     (*) Clarendon, II, 253-4: "One cannot speak with certainty;
     but it is horrible to think that such a life MAY have been
     sacrificed to Sir J. Clark's selfish jealousy of every
     member of his profession." The Earl of Clarendon to the
     Duchess of Manchester, December 17, 1861.


The restlessness and the acute suffering of the earlier days gave place
to a settled torpor and an ever--deepening gloom. Once the failing
patient asked for music--"a fine chorale at a distance;" and a piano
having been placed in the adjoining room, Princess Alice played on it
some of Luther's hymns, after which the Prince repeated "The Rock of
Ages." Sometimes his mind wandered; sometimes the distant past came
rushing upon him; he heard the birds in the early morning, and was at
Rosenau again, a boy. Or Victoria would come and read to him "Peveril
of the Peak," and he showed that he could follow the story, and then she
would bend over him, and he would murmur "liebes Frauchen" and "gutes
Weibchen," stroking her cheek. Her distress and her agitation were
great, but she was not seriously frightened. Buoyed up by her own
abundant energies, she would not believe that Albert's might prove
unequal to the strain. She refused to face such a hideous possibility.
She declined to see Dr. Watson. Why should she? Had not Sir James Clark
assured her that all would be well? Only two days before the end, which
was seen now to be almost inevitable by everyone about her, she wrote,
full of apparent confidence, to the King of the Belgians: "I do not sit
up with him at night," she said, "as I could be of no use; and there is
nothing to cause alarm." The Princess Alice tried to tell her the truth,
but her hopefulness would not be daunted. On the morning of December
14, Albert, just as she had expected, seemed to be better; perhaps
the crisis was over. But in the course of the day there was a serious
relapse. Then at last she allowed herself to see that she was standing
on the edge of an appalling gulf. The whole family was summoned, and,
one after another, the children took a silent farewell of their father.
"It was a terrible moment," Victoria wrote in her diary, "but, thank
God! I was able to command myself, and to be perfectly calm, and
remained sitting by his side." He murmured something, but she could not
hear what it was; she thought he was speaking in French. Then all at
once he began to arrange his hair, "just as he used to do when well and
he was dressing." "Es kleines Frauchen," she whispered to him; and he
seemed to understand. For a moment, towards the evening, she went into
another room, but was immediately called back; she saw at a glance that
a ghastly change had taken place. As she knelt by the bed, he breathed
deeply, breathed gently, breathed at last no more. His features became
perfectly rigid; she shrieked one long wild shriek that rang through the
terror-stricken castle and understood that she had lost him for ever.



CHAPTER VII. WIDOWHOOD

I

The death of the Prince Consort was the central turning-point in the
history of Queen Victoria. She herself felt that her true life had
ceased with her husband's, and that the remainder of her days upon earth
was of a twilight nature--an epilogue to a drama that was done. Nor is
it possible that her biographer should escape a similar impression. For
him, too, there is a darkness over the latter half of that long career.
The first forty--two years of the Queen's life are illuminated by a
great and varied quantity of authentic information. With Albert's
death a veil descends. Only occasionally, at fitful and disconnected
intervals, does it lift for a moment or two; a few main outlines, a
few remarkable details may be discerned; the rest is all conjecture and
ambiguity. Thus, though the Queen survived her great bereavement for
almost as many years as she had lived before it, the chronicle of those
years can bear no proportion to the tale of her earlier life. We must be
content in our ignorance with a brief and summary relation.

The sudden removal of the Prince was not merely a matter of overwhelming
personal concern to Victoria; it was an event of national, of European
importance. He was only forty-two, and in the ordinary course of nature
he might have been expected to live at least thirty years longer. Had
he done so it can hardly be doubted that the whole development of the
English polity would have been changed. Already at the time of his death
he filled a unique place in English public life; already among the inner
circle of politicians he was accepted as a necessary and useful part of
the mechanism of the State. Lord Clarendon, for instance, spoke of his
death as "a national calamity of far greater importance than the public
dream of," and lamented the loss of his "sagacity and foresight," which,
he declared, would have been "more than ever valuable" in the event of
an American war. And, as time went on, the Prince's influence must have
enormously increased. For, in addition to his intellectual and moral
qualities, he enjoyed, by virtue of his position, one supreme advantage
which every other holder of high office in the country was without: he
was permanent. Politicians came and went, but the Prince was perpetually
installed at the centre of affairs. Who can doubt that, towards the end
of the century, such a man, grown grey in the service of the nation,
virtuous, intelligent, and with the unexampled experience of a whole
life-time of government, would have acquired an extraordinary prestige?
If, in his youth, he had been able to pit the Crown against the mighty
Palmerston and to come off with equal honours from the contest, of what
might he not have been capable in his old age? What Minister,
however able, however popular, could have withstood the wisdom, the
irreproachability, the vast prescriptive authority, of the venerable
Prince? It is easy to imagine how, under such a ruler, an attempt might
have been made to convert England into a State as exactly organised,
as elaborately trained, as efficiently equipped, and as autocratically
controlled, as Prussia herself. Then perhaps, eventually, under some
powerful leader--a Gladstone or a Bright--the democratic forces in the
country might have rallied together, and a struggle might have followed
in which the Monarchy would have been shaken to its foundations. Or, on
the other hand, Disraeli's hypothetical prophecy might have come true.
"With Prince Albert," he said, "we have buried our... sovereign. This
German Prince has governed England for twenty-one years with a wisdom
and energy such as none of our kings have ever shown. If he had outlived
some of our 'old stagers' he would have given us the blessings of
absolute government."

The English Constitution--that indescribable entity--is a living thing,
growing with the growth of men, and assuming ever-varying forms in
accordance with the subtle and complex laws of human character. It is
the child of wisdom and chance. The wise men of 1688 moulded it into the
shape we know, but the chance that George I could not speak English
gave it one of its essential peculiarities--the system of a Cabinet
independent of the Crown and subordinate to the Prime Minister. The
wisdom of Lord Grey saved it from petrifaction and destruction, and
set it upon the path of Democracy. Then chance intervened once more; a
female sovereign happened to marry an able and pertinacious man; and
it seemed likely that an element which had been quiescent within it for
years--the element of irresponsible administrative power--was about
to become its predominant characteristic and to change completely the
direction of its growth. But what chance gave chance took away. The
Consort perished in his prime; and the English Constitution, dropping
the dead limb with hardly a tremor, continued its mysterious life as if
he had never been.

One human being, and one alone, felt the full force of what had
happened. The Baron, by his fireside at Coburg, suddenly saw the
tremendous fabric of his creation crash down into sheer and irremediable
ruin. Albert was gone, and he had lived in vain. Even his blackest
hypochondria had never envisioned quite so miserable a catastrophe.
Victoria wrote to him, visited him, tried to console him by declaring
with passionate conviction that she would carry on her husband's work.
He smiled a sad smile and looked into the fire. Then he murmured that
he was going where Albert was--that he would not be long. He shrank into
himself. His children clustered round him and did their best to comfort
him, but it was useless: the Baron's heart was broken. He lingered for
eighteen months, and then, with his pupil, explored the shadow and the
dust.

II

With appalling suddenness Victoria had exchanged the serene radiance of
happiness for the utter darkness of woe. In the first dreadful moments
those about her had feared that she might lose her reason, but the iron
strain within her held firm, and in the intervals between the intense
paroxysms of grief it was observed that the Queen was calm. She
remembered, too, that Albert had always disapproved of exaggerated
manifestations of feeling, and her one remaining desire was to do
nothing but what he would have wished. Yet there were moments when
her royal anguish would brook no restraints. One day she sent for the
Duchess of Sutherland, and, leading her to the Prince's room, fell
prostrate before his clothes in a flood of weeping, while she adjured
the Duchess to tell her whether the beauty of Albert's character had
ever been surpassed. At other times a feeling akin to indignation swept
over her. "The poor fatherless baby of eight months," she wrote to the
King of the Belgians, "is now the utterly heartbroken and crushed widow
of forty-two! My LIFE as a HAPPY one is ENDED! The world is gone for
ME!... Oh! to be cut off in the prime of life--to see our pure, happy,
quiet, domestic life, which ALONE enabled me to bear my MUCH disliked
position, CUT OFF at forty-two--when I HAD hoped with such instinctive
certainty that God never WOULD part us, and would let us grow old
together (though HE always talked of the shortness of life)--is TOO
AWFUL, too cruel!" The tone of outraged Majesty seems to be discernible.
Did she wonder in her heart of hearts how the Deity could have dared?

But all other emotions gave way before her overmastering determination
to continue, absolutely unchanged, and for the rest of her life on
earth, her reverence, her obedience, her idolatry. "I am anxious to
repeat ONE thing," she told her uncle, "and THAT ONE is my firm resolve,
my IRREVOCABLE DECISION, viz., that HIS wishes--HIS plans--about
everything, HIS views about EVERY thing are to be MY LAW! And NO HUMAN
POWER will make me swerve from WHAT HE decided and wished." She grew
fierce, she grew furious, at the thought of any possible intrusion
between her and her desire. Her uncle was coming to visit her, and it
flashed upon her that HE might try to interfere with her and seek
to "rule the roost" as of old. She would give him a hint. "I am ALSO
DETERMINED," she wrote, "that NO ONE person--may HE be ever so good,
ever so devoted among my servants--is to lead or guide or dictate TO ME.
I know HOW he would disapprove it... Though miserably weak and utterly
shattered, my spirit rises when I think ANY wish or plan of his is to
be touched or changed, or I am to be MADE TO DO anything." She ended her
letter in grief and affection. She was, she said, his "ever wretched but
devoted child, Victoria R." And then she looked at the date: it was the
24th of December. An agonising pang assailed her, and she dashed down a
postcript--"What a Xmas! I won't think of it."

At first, in the tumult of her distresses, she declared that she could
not see her Ministers, and the Princess Alice, assisted by Sir Charles
Phipps, the keeper of the Privy Purse, performed, to the best of her
ability, the functions of an intermediary. After a few weeks, however,
the Cabinet, through Lord John Russell, ventured to warn the Queen that
this could not continue. She realised that they were right: Albert would
have agreed with them; and so she sent for the Prime Minister. But when
Lord Palmerston arrived at Osborne, in the pink of health, brisk, with
his whiskers freshly dyed, and dressed in a brown overcoat, light grey
trousers, green gloves, and blue studs, he did not create a very good
impression.

Nevertheless, she had grown attached to her old enemy, and the thought
of a political change filled her with agitated apprehensions. The
Government, she knew, might fall at any moment; she felt she could not
face such an eventuality; and therefore, six months after the death of
the Prince, she took the unprecedented step of sending a private message
to Lord Derby, the leader of the Opposition, to tell him that she was
not in a fit state of mind or body to undergo the anxiety of a change of
Government, and that if he turned the present Ministers out of office it
would be at the risk of sacrificing her life--or her reason. When this
message reached Lord Derby he was considerably surprised. "Dear me!" was
his cynical comment. "I didn't think she was so fond of them as THAT."

Though the violence of her perturbations gradually subsided, her
cheerfulness did not return. For months, for years, she continued in
settled gloom. Her life became one of almost complete seclusion. Arrayed
in thickest crepe, she passed dolefully from Windsor to Osborne, from
Osborne to Balmoral. Rarely visiting the capital, refusing to take any
part in the ceremonies of state, shutting herself off from the slightest
intercourse with society, she became almost as unknown to her subjects
as some potentate of the East. They might murmur, but they did not
understand. What had she to do with empty shows and vain enjoyments? No!
She was absorbed by very different preoccupations. She was the devoted
guardian of a sacred trust. Her place was in the inmost shrine of the
house of mourning--where she alone had the right to enter, where she
could feel the effluence of a mysterious presence, and interpret,
however faintly and feebly, the promptings of a still living soul. That,
and that only was her glorious, her terrible duty. For terrible indeed
it was. As the years passed her depression seemed to deepen and her
loneliness to grow more intense. "I am on a dreary sad pinnacle of
solitary grandeur," she said. Again and again she felt that she could
bear her situation no longer--that she would sink under the strain. And
then, instantly, that Voice spoke: and she braced herself once more to
perform, with minute conscientiousness, her grim and holy task.

Above all else, what she had to do was to make her own the
master-impulse of Albert's life--she must work, as he had worked, in the
service of the country. That vast burden of toil which he had taken upon
his shoulders it was now for her to bear. She assumed the gigantic
load; and naturally she staggered under it. While he had lived, she had
worked, indeed, with regularity and conscientiousness; but it was work
made easy, made delicious, by his care, his forethought, his advice,
and his infallibility. The mere sound of his voice, asking her to sign
a paper, had thrilled her; in such a presence she could have laboured
gladly for ever. But now there was a hideous change. Now there were no
neat piles and docketings under the green lamp; now there were no simple
explanations of difficult matters; now there was nobody to tell her what
was right and what was wrong. She had her secretaries, no doubt: there
were Sir Charles Phipps, and General Grey, and Sir Thomas Biddulph; and
they did their best. But they were mere subordinates: the whole weight
of initiative and responsibility rested upon her alone. For so it had to
be. "I am DETERMINED"--had she not declared it?--"that NO ONE person is
to lead or guide or dictate to ME;" anything else would be a betrayal of
her trust. She would follow the Prince in all things. He had refused to
delegate authority; he had examined into every detail with his own eyes;
he had made it a rule never to sign a paper without having first, not
merely read it, but made notes on it too. She would do the same. She
sat from morning till night surrounded by huge heaps of despatch--boxes,
reading and writing at her desk--at her desk, alas! which stood alone
now in the room.

Within two years of Albert's death a violent disturbance in foreign
politics put Victoria's faithfulness to a crucial test. The fearful
Schleswig-Holstein dispute, which had been smouldering for more than a
decade, showed signs of bursting out into conflagration. The complexity
of the questions at issue was indescribable. "Only three people,"
said Palmerston, "have ever really understood the Schleswig-Holstein
business--the Prince Consort, who is dead--a German professor, who
has gone mad--and I, who have forgotten all about it." But, though the
Prince might be dead, had he not left a vicegerent behind him?
Victoria threw herself into the seething embroilment with the vigour of
inspiration. She devoted hours daily to the study of the affair in all
its windings; but she had a clue through the labyrinth: whenever the
question had been discussed, Albert, she recollected it perfectly, had
always taken the side of Prussia. Her course was clear. She became an
ardent champion of the Prussian point of view. It was a legacy from the
Prince, she said. She did not realise that the Prussia of the Prince's
day was dead, and that a new Prussia, the Prussia of Bismarck, was born.
Perhaps Palmerston, with his queer prescience, instinctively apprehended
the new danger; at any rate, he and Lord John were agreed upon the
necessity of supporting Denmark against Prussia's claims. But opinion
was sharply divided, not only in the country but in the Cabinet. For
eighteen months the controversy raged; while the Queen, with persistent
vehemence, opposed the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. When at
last the final crisis arose--when it seemed possible that England would
join forces with Denmark in a war against Prussia--Victoria's agitation
grew febrile in its intensity. Towards her German relatives she
preserved a discreet appearance of impartiality; but she poured out
upon her Ministers a flood of appeals, protests, and expostulations. She
invoked the sacred cause of Peace. "The only chance of preserving peace
for Europe," she wrote, "is by not assisting Denmark, who has brought
this entirely upon herself. The Queen suffers much, and her nerves
are more and more totally shattered... But though all this anxiety is
wearing her out, it will not shake her firm purpose of resisting any
attempt to involve this country in a mad and useless combat." She was,
she declared, "prepared to make a stand," even if the resignation of the
Foreign Secretary should follow. "The Queen," she told Lord Granville,
"is completely exhausted by the anxiety and suspense, and misses her
beloved husband's help, advice, support, and love in an overwhelming
manner." She was so worn out by her efforts for peace that she could
"hardly hold up her head or hold her pen." England did not go to war,
and Denmark was left to her fate; but how far the attitude of the Queen
contributed to this result it is impossible, with our present knowledge,
to say. On the whole, however, it seems probable that the determining
factor in the situation was the powerful peace party in the Cabinet
rather than the imperious and pathetic pressure of Victoria.

It is, at any rate, certain that the Queen's enthusiasm for the sacred
cause of peace was short-lived. Within a few months her mind had
completely altered. Her eyes were opened to the true nature of Prussia,
whose designs upon Austria were about to culminate in the Seven Weeks'
War. Veering precipitately from one extreme to the other, she now urged
her Ministers to interfere by force of arms in support of Austria. But
she urged in vain.

Her political activity, no more than her social seclusion, was approved
by the public. As the years passed, and the royal mourning remained
as unrelieved as ever, the animadversions grew more general and more
severe. It was observed that the Queen's protracted privacy not only
cast a gloom over high society, not only deprived the populace of its
pageantry, but also exercised a highly deleterious effect upon the
dressmaking, millinery, and hosiery trades. This latter consideration
carried great weight. At last, early in 1864, the rumour spread that Her
Majesty was about to go out of mourning, and there was much rejoicing
in the newspapers; but unfortunately it turned out that the rumour was
quite without foundation. Victoria, with her own hand, wrote a letter
to The Times to say so. "This idea," she declared, "cannot be too
explicitly contradicted. The Queen," the letter continued, "heartily
appreciates the desire of her subjects to see her, and whatever she CAN
do to gratify them in this loyal and affectionate wish, she WILL do...
But there are other and higher duties than those of mere representation
which are now thrown upon the Queen, alone and unassisted--duties which
she cannot neglect without injury to the public service, which weigh
unceasingly upon her, overwhelming her with work and anxiety." The
justification might have been considered more cogent had it not been
known that those "other and higher duties" emphasised by the Queen
consisted for the most part of an attempt to counteract the
foreign policy of Lord Palmerston and Lord John Russell. A large
section--perhaps a majority--of the nation were violent partisans of
Denmark in the Schleswig-Holstein quarrel; and Victoria's support of
Prussia was widely denounced. A wave of unpopularity, which reminded
old observers of the period preceding the Queen's marriage more than
twenty-five years before, was beginning to rise. The press was rude;
Lord Ellenborough attacked the Queen in the House of Lords; there
were curious whispers in high quarters that she had had thoughts of
abdicating--whispers followed by regrets that she had not done so.
Victoria, outraged and injured, felt that she was misunderstood. She
was profoundly unhappy. After Lord Ellenborough's speech, General Grey
declared that he "had never seen the Queen so completely upset."
"Oh, how fearful it is," she herself wrote to Lord Granville, "to be
suspected--uncheered--unguided and unadvised--and how alone the poor
Queen feels!" Nevertheless, suffer as she might, she was as resolute
as ever; she would not move by a hair's breadth from the course that a
supreme obligation marked out for her; she would be faithful to the end.

And so, when Schleswig-Holstein was forgotten, and even the image of the
Prince had begun to grow dim in the fickle memories of men, the solitary
watcher remained immutably concentrated at her peculiar task. The
world's hostility, steadily increasing, was confronted and outfaced by
the impenetrable weeds of Victoria. Would the world never understand?
It was not mere sorrow that kept her so strangely sequestered; it was
devotion, it was self-immolation; it was the laborious legacy of love.
Unceasingly the pen moved over the black-edged paper. The flesh might be
weak, but that vast burden must be borne. And fortunately, if the world
would not understand, there were faithful friends who did. There was
Lord Granville, and there was kind Mr. Theodore Martin. Perhaps Mr.
Martin, who was so clever, would find means to make people realise the
facts. She would send him a letter, pointing out her arduous labours and
the difficulties under which she struggled, and then he might write an
article for one of the magazines. "It is not," she told him in 1863,
"the Queen's SORROW that keeps her secluded. It is her OVERWHELMING WORK
and her health, which is greatly shaken by her sorrow, and the totally
overwhelming amount of work and responsibility--work which she feels
really wears her out. Alice Helps was wonderfully struck at the Queen's
room; and if Mrs. Martin will look at it, she can tell Mr. Martin what
surrounds her. From the hour she gets out of bed till she gets into it
again there is work, work, work,--letter-boxes, questions, etc., which
are dreadfully exhausting--and if she had not comparative rest and
quiet in the evening she would most likely not be ALIVE. Her brain is
constantly overtaxed." It was too true.

III

To carry on Albert's work--that was her first duty; but there was
another, second only to that, and yet nearer, if possible, to her
heart--to impress the true nature of his genius and character upon the
minds of her subjects. She realised that during his life he had not been
properly appreciated; the full extent of his powers, the supreme quality
of his goodness, had been necessarily concealed; but death had removed
the need of barriers, and now her husband, in his magnificent entirety,
should stand revealed to all. She set to work methodically. She directed
Sir Arthur Helps to bring out a collection of the Prince's speeches and
addresses, and the weighty tome appeared in 1862. Then she commanded
General Grey to write an account of the Prince's early years--from his
birth to his marriage; she herself laid down the design of the book,
contributed a number of confidential documents, and added numerous
notes; General Grey obeyed, and the work was completed in 1866. But
the principal part of the story was still untold, and Mr. Martin
was forthwith instructed to write a complete biography of the Prince
Consort. Mr. Martin laboured for fourteen years. The mass of material
with which he had to deal was almost incredible, but he was extremely
industrious, and he enjoyed throughout the gracious assistance of Her
Majesty. The first bulky volume was published in 1874; four others
slowly followed; so that it was not until 1880 that the monumental work
was finished.

Mr. Martin was rewarded by a knighthood; and yet it was sadly evident
that neither Sir Theodore nor his predecessors had achieved the
purpose which the Queen had in view. Perhaps she was unfortunate in her
coadjutors, but, in reality, the responsibility for the failure must lie
with Victoria herself. Sir Theodore and the others faithfully carried
out the task which she had set them--faithfully put before the public
the very image of Albert that filled her own mind. The fatal drawback
was that the public did not find that image attractive. Victoria's
emotional nature, far more remarkable for vigour than for subtlety,
rejecting utterly the qualifications which perspicuity, or humour,
might suggest, could be satisfied with nothing but the absolute and the
categorical. When she disliked she did so with an unequivocal emphasis
which swept the object of her repugnance at once and finally outside
the pale of consideration; and her feelings of affection were equally
unmitigated. In the case of Albert her passion for superlatives
reached its height. To have conceived of him as anything short of
perfect--perfect in virtue, in wisdom, in beauty, in all the glories and
graces of man--would have been an unthinkable blasphemy: perfect he
was, and perfect he must be shown to have been. And so, Sir Arthur, Sir
Theodore, and the General painted him. In the circumstances, and under
such supervision, to have done anything else would have required talents
considerably more distinguished than any that those gentlemen possessed.
But that was not all. By a curious mischance Victoria was also able to
press into her service another writer, the distinction of whose talents
was this time beyond a doubt. The Poet Laureate, adopting, either from
complaisance or conviction, the tone of his sovereign, joined in the
chorus, and endowed the royal formula with the magical resonance of
verse. This settled the matter. Henceforward it was impossible to forget
that Albert had worn the white flower of a blameless life.

The result was doubly unfortunate. Victoria, disappointed and chagrined,
bore a grudge against her people for their refusal, in spite of all her
efforts, to rate her husband at his true worth. She did not understand
that the picture of an embodied perfection is distasteful to the
majority of mankind. The cause of this is not so much an envy of the
perfect being as a suspicion that he must be inhuman; and thus it
happened that the public, when it saw displayed for its admiration a
figure resembling the sugary hero of a moral story-book rather than a
fellow man of flesh and blood, turned away with a shrug, a smile, and
a flippant ejaculation. But in this the public was the loser as well as
Victoria. For in truth Albert was a far more interesting personage than
the public dreamed. By a curious irony an impeccable waxwork had been
fixed by the Queen's love in the popular imagination, while the creature
whom it represented--the real creature, so full of energy and stress
and torment, so mysterious and so unhappy, and so fallible and so very
human--had altogether disappeared.

IV

Words and books may be ambiguous memorials; but who can misinterpret the
visible solidity of bronze and stone? At Frogmore, near Windsor, where
her mother was buried, Victoria constructed, at the cost of L200,000, a
vast and elaborate mausoleum for herself and her husband. But that was
a private and domestic monument, and the Queen desired that wherever
her subjects might be gathered together they should be reminded of the
Prince. Her desire was gratified; all over the country--at Aberdeen, at
Perth, and at Wolverhampton--statues of the Prince were erected; and
the Queen, making an exception to her rule of retirement, unveiled them
herself. Nor did the capital lag behind. A month after the Prince's
death a meeting was called together at the Mansion House to discuss
schemes for honouring his memory. Opinions, however, were divided upon
the subject. Was a statue or an institution to be preferred? Meanwhile a
subscription was opened; an influential committee was appointed, and the
Queen was consulted as to her wishes in the matter. Her Majesty replied
that she would prefer a granite obelisk, with sculptures at the base, to
an institution. But the committee hesitated: an obelisk, to be worthy
of the name, must clearly be a monolith; and where was the quarry in
England capable of furnishing a granite block of the required size? It
was true that there was granite in Russian Finland; but the committee
were advised that it was not adapted to resist exposure to the open air.
On the whole, therefore, they suggested that a Memorial Hall should be
erected, together with a statue of the Prince. Her Majesty assented; but
then another difficulty arose. It was found that not more than L60,000
had been subscribed--a sum insufficient to defray the double expense.
The Hall, therefore, was abandoned; a statue alone was to be erected;
and certain eminent architects were asked to prepare designs. Eventually
the committee had at their disposal a total sum of L120,000, since
the public subscribed another L10,000, while L50,000 was voted by
Parliament. Some years later a joint stock company was formed and built,
as a private speculation, the Albert Hall.

The architect whose design was selected, both by the committee and by
the Queen, was Mr. Gilbert Scott, whose industry, conscientiousness,
and genuine piety had brought him to the head of his profession.
His lifelong zeal for the Gothic style having given him a special
prominence, his handiwork was strikingly visible, not only in a
multitude of original buildings, but in most of the cathedrals of
England. Protests, indeed, were occasionally raised against his
renovations; but Mr. Scott replied with such vigour and unction in
articles and pamphlets that not a Dean was unconvinced, and he was
permitted to continue his labours without interruption. On one occasion,
however, his devotion to Gothic had placed him in an unpleasant
situation. The Government offices in Whitehall were to be rebuilt; Mr.
Scott competed, and his designs were successful. Naturally, they were in
the Gothic style, combining "a certain squareness and horizontality of
outline" with pillar-mullions, gables, high-pitched roofs, and dormers;
and the drawings, as Mr. Scott himself observed, "were, perhaps, the
best ever sent in to a competition, or nearly so." After the usual
difficulties and delays the work was at last to be put in hand, when
there was a change of Government and Lord Palmerston became Prime
Minister. Lord Palmerston at once sent for Mr. Scott. "Well, Mr. Scott,"
he said, in his jaunty way, "I can't have anything to do with this
Gothic style. I must insist on your making a design in the Italian
manner, which I am sure you can do very cleverly." Mr. Scott was
appalled; the style of the Italian renaissance was not only unsightly,
it was positively immoral, and he sternly refused to have anything to do
with it. Thereupon Lord Palmerston assumed a fatherly tone. "Quite true;
a Gothic architect can't be expected to put up a Classical building;
I must find someone else." This was intolerable, and Mr. Scott, on his
return home, addressed to the Prime Minister a strongly-worded letter,
in which he dwelt upon his position as an architect, upon his having won
two European competitions, his being an A.R.A., a gold medallist of the
Institute, and a lecturer on architecture at the Royal Academy; but it
was useless--Lord Palmerston did not even reply. It then occurred to
Mr. Scott that, by a judicious mixture, he might, while preserving the
essential character of the Gothic, produce a design which would give a
superficial impression of the Classical style. He did so, but no effect
was produced upon Lord Palmerston. The new design, he said, was "neither
one thing nor 'tother--a regular mongrel affair--and he would have
nothing to do with it either." After that Mr. Scott found it necessary
to recruit for two months at Scarborough, "with a course of quinine." He
recovered his tone at last, but only at the cost of his convictions. For
the sake of his family he felt that it was his unfortunate duty to obey
the Prime Minister; and, shuddering with horror, he constructed the
Government offices in a strictly Renaissance style.

Shortly afterwards Mr. Scott found some consolation in building the St.
Pancras Hotel in a style of his own.

And now another and yet more satisfactory task was his. "My idea in
designing the Memorial," he wrote, "was to erect a kind of ciborium to
protect a statue of the Prince; and its special characteristic was
that the ciborium was designed in some degree on the principles of the
ancient shrines. These shrines were models of imaginary buildings, such
as had never in reality been erected; and my idea was to realise one of
these imaginary structures with its precious materials, its inlaying,
its enamels, etc. etc." His idea was particularly appropriate since
it chanced that a similar conception, though in the reverse order of
magnitude, had occurred to the Prince himself, who had designed and
executed several silver cruet-stands upon the same model. At the Queen's
request a site was chosen in Kensington Gardens as near as possible
to that of the Great Exhibition; and in May, 1864, the first sod was
turned. The work was long, complicated, and difficult; a great number
of workmen were employed, besides several subsidiary sculptors and
metal--workers under Mr. Scott's direction, while at every stage
sketches and models were submitted to Her Majesty, who criticised all
the details with minute care, and constantly suggested improvements. The
frieze, which encircled the base of the monument, was in itself a very
serious piece of work. "This," said Mr. Scott, "taken as a whole, is
perhaps one of the most laborious works of sculpture ever undertaken,
consisting, as it does, of a continuous range of figure-sculpture of the
most elaborate description, in the highest alto-relievo of life-size, of
more than 200 feet in length, containing about 170 figures, and executed
in the hardest marble which could be procured." After three years of
toil the memorial was still far from completion, and Mr. Scott thought
it advisable to give a dinner to the workmen, "as a substantial
recognition of his appreciation of their skill and energy." "Two long
tables," we are told, "constructed of scaffold planks, were arranged in
the workshops, and covered with newspapers, for want of table-cloths.
Upwards of eighty men sat down. Beef and mutton, plum pudding and cheese
were supplied in abundance, and each man who desired it had three pints
of beer, gingerbeer and lemonade being provided for the teetotalers, who
formed a very considerable proportion... Several toasts were given and
many of the workmen spoke, almost all of them commencing by 'Thanking
God that they enjoyed good health;' some alluded to the temperance that
prevailed amongst them, others observed how little swearing was ever
heard, whilst all said how pleased and proud they were to be engaged on
so great a work."

Gradually the edifice approached completion. The one hundred and
seventieth life-size figure in the frieze was chiselled, the granite
pillars arose, the mosaics were inserted in the allegorical pediments,
the four colossal statues representing the greater Christian virtues,
the four other colossal statues representing the greater moral virtues,
were hoisted into their positions, the eight bronzes representing the
greater sciences--Astronomy, Chemistry, Geology, Geometry, Rhetoric,
Medicine, Philosophy, and Physiology--were fixed on their glittering
pinnacles, high in air. The statue of Physiology was particularly
admired. "On her left arm," the official description informs us, "she
bears a new-born infant, as a representation of the development of the
highest and most perfect of physiological forms; her hand points
towards a microscope, the instrument which lends its assistance for the
investigation of the minuter forms of animal and vegetable organisms."
At last the gilded cross crowned the dwindling galaxies of superimposed
angels, the four continents in white marble stood at the four corners
of the base, and, seven years after its inception, in July, 1872, the
monument was thrown open to the public.

But four more years were to elapse before the central figure was ready
to be placed under its starry canopy. It was designed by Mr. Foley,
though in one particular the sculptor's freedom was restricted by Mr.
Scott. "I have chosen the sitting posture," Mr. Scott said, "as best
conveying the idea of dignity befitting a royal personage." Mr. Foley
ably carried out the conception of his principal. "In the attitude
and expression," he said, "the aim has been, with the individuality of
portraiture, to embody rank, character, and enlightenment, and to convey
a sense of that responsive intelligence indicating an active, rather
than a passive, interest in those pursuits of civilisation illustrated
in the surrounding figures, groups, and relievos... To identify the
figure with one of the most memorable undertakings of the public life
of the Prince--the International Exhibition of 1851--a catalogue of the
works collected in that first gathering of the industry of all nations,
is placed in the right hand." The statue was of bronze gilt and weighed
nearly ten tons. It was rightly supposed that the simple word "Albert,"
cast on the base, would be a sufficient means of identification.



CHAPTER VIII. GLADSTONE AND LORD BEACONSFIELD

I

Lord Palmerston's laugh--a queer metallic "Ha! ha! ha!" with
reverberations in it from the days of Pitt and the Congress of
Vienna--was heard no more in Piccadilly; Lord John Russell dwindled into
senility; Lord Derby tottered from the stage. A new scene opened; and
new protagonists--Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Disraeli--struggled together
in the limelight. Victoria, from her post of vantage, watched these
developments with that passionate and personal interest which she
invariably imported into politics. Her prepossessions were of an
unexpected kind. Mr. Gladstone had been the disciple of her revered
Peel, and had won the approval of Albert; Mr. Disraeli had hounded Sir
Robert to his fall with hideous virulence, and the Prince had pronounced
that he "had not one single element of a gentleman in his composition."
Yet she regarded Mr. Gladstone with a distrust and dislike which
steadily deepened, while upon his rival she lavished an abundance of
confidence, esteem, and affection such as Lord Melbourne himself had
hardly known.

Her attitude towards the Tory Minister had suddenly changed when
she found that he alone among public men had divined her feelings at
Albert's death. Of the others she might have said "they pity me and not
my grief;" but Mr. Disraeli had understood; and all his condolences
had taken the form of reverential eulogies of the departed. The Queen
declared that he was "the only person who appreciated the Prince."
She began to show him special favour; gave him and his wife two of the
coveted seats in St. George's Chapel at the Prince of Wales's wedding,
and invited him to stay a night at Windsor. When the grant for the
Albert Memorial came before the House of Commons, Disraeli, as leader of
the Opposition, eloquently supported the project. He was rewarded by
a copy of the Prince's speeches, bound in white morocco, with an
inscription in the royal hand. In his letter of thanks he "ventured
to touch upon a sacred theme," and, in a strain which re-echoed with
masterly fidelity the sentiments of his correspondent, dwelt at length
upon the absolute perfection of Albert. "The Prince," he said, "is the
only person whom Mr. Disraeli has ever known who realised the Ideal.
None with whom he is acquainted have ever approached it. There was in
him a union of the manly grace and sublime simplicity, of chivalry with
the intellectual splendour of the Attic Academe. The only character in
English history that would, in some respects, draw near to him is Sir
Philip Sidney: the same high tone, the same universal accomplishments,
the same blended tenderness and vigour, the same rare combination of
romantic energy and classic repose." As for his own acquaintance
with the Prince, it had been, he said, "one of the most satisfactory
incidents of his life: full of refined and beautiful memories, and
exercising, as he hopes, over his remaining existence, a soothing
and exalting influence." Victoria was much affected by "the depth and
delicacy of these touches," and henceforward Disraeli's place in her
affections was assured. When, in 1866, the Conservatives came into
office, Disraeli's position as Chancellor of the Exchequer and leader
of the House necessarily brought him into a closer relation with the
Sovereign. Two years later Lord Derby resigned, and Victoria, with
intense delight and peculiar graciousness, welcomed Disraeli as her
First Minister.

But only for nine agitated months did he remain in power. The Ministry,
in a minority in the Commons, was swept out of existence by a general
election. Yet by the end of that short period the ties which bound
together the Queen and her Premier had grown far stronger than ever
before; the relationship between them was now no longer merely that
between a grateful mistress and a devoted servant: they were friends.
His official letters, in which the personal element had always been
perceptible, developed into racy records of political news and social
gossip, written, as Lord Clarendon said, "in his best novel style."
Victoria was delighted; she had never, she declared, had such letters
in her life, and had never before known EVERYTHING. In return, she sent
him, when the spring came, several bunches of flowers, picked by her own
hands. He despatched to her a set of his novels, for which, she said,
she was "most grateful, and which she values much." She herself had
lately published her "Leaves from the Journal of our Life in the
Highlands," and it was observed that the Prime Minister, in conversing
with Her Majesty at this period, constantly used the words "we authors,
ma'am." Upon political questions, she was his staunch supporter. "Really
there never was such conduct as that of the Opposition," she wrote. And
when the Government was defeated in the House she was "really shocked at
the way in which the House of Commons go on; they really bring discredit
on Constitutional Government." She dreaded the prospect of a change;
she feared that if the Liberals insisted upon disestablishing the Irish
Church, her Coronation Oath might stand in the way. But a change there
had to be, and Victoria vainly tried to console herself for the loss of
her favourite Minister by bestowing a peerage upon Mrs. Disraeli.

Mr. Gladstone was in his shirt-sleeves at Hawarden, cutting down a
tree, when the royal message was brought to him. "Very significant,"
he remarked, when he had read the letter, and went on cutting down his
tree. His secret thoughts on the occasion were more explicit, and were
committed to his diary. "The Almighty," he wrote, "seems to sustain and
spare me for some purpose of His own, deeply unworthy as I know myself
to be. Glory be to His name."

The Queen, however, did not share her new Minister's view of the
Almighty's intentions. She could not believe that there was any divine
purpose to be detected in the programme of sweeping changes which
Mr. Gladstone was determined to carry out. But what could she do? Mr.
Gladstone, with his daemonic energy and his powerful majority in
the House of Commons, was irresistible; and for five years (1869-74)
Victoria found herself condemned to live in an agitating atmosphere
of interminable reform--reform in the Irish Church and the Irish land
system, reform in education, reform in parliamentary elections,
reform in the organisation of the Army and the Navy, reform in the
administration of justice. She disapproved, she struggled, she grew very
angry; she felt that if Albert had been living things would never have
happened so; but her protests and her complaints were alike unavailing.
The mere effort of grappling with the mass of documents which poured
in upon her in an ever-growing flood was terribly exhausting. When the
draft of the lengthy and intricate Irish Church Bill came before her,
accompanied by an explanatory letter from Mr. Gladstone covering a dozen
closely-written quarto pages, she almost despaired. She turned from
the Bill to the explanation, and from the explanation back again to the
Bill, and she could not decide which was the most confusing. But she had
to do her duty: she had not only to read, but to make notes. At last
she handed the whole heap of papers to Mr. Martin, who happened to be
staying at Osborne, and requested him to make a precis of them. When
he had done so, her disapproval of the measure became more marked than
ever; but, such was the strength of the Government, she actually found
herself obliged to urge moderation upon the Opposition, lest worse
should ensue.

In the midst of this crisis, when the future of the Irish Church was
hanging in the balance, Victoria's attention was drawn to another
proposed reform. It was suggested that the sailors in the Navy should
henceforward be allowed to wear beards. "Has Mr. Childers ascertained
anything on the subject of the beards?" the Queen wrote anxiously to the
First Lord of the Admiralty. On the whole, Her Majesty was in favour
of the change. "Her own personal feeling," she wrote, "would be for the
beards without the moustaches, as the latter have rather a soldierlike
appearance; but then the object in view would not be obtained, viz.
to prevent the necessity of shaving. Therefore it had better be as
proposed, the entire beard, only it should be kept short and very
clean." After thinking over the question for another week, the Queen
wrote a final letter. She wished, she said, "to make one additional
observation respecting the beards, viz. that on no account should
moustaches be allowed without beards. That must be clearly understood."

Changes in the Navy might be tolerated; to lay hands upon the Army was a
more serious matter. From time immemorial there had been a particularly
close connection between the Army and the Crown; and Albert had devoted
even more time and attention to the details of military business than
to the processes of fresco-painting or the planning of sanitary cottages
for the deserving poor. But now there was to be a great alteration: Mr.
Gladstone's fiat had gone forth, and the Commander-in-Chief was to
be removed from his direct dependence upon the Sovereign, and made
subordinate to Parliament and the Secretary of State for War. Of all the
liberal reforms this was the one which aroused the bitterest resentment
in Victoria. She considered that the change was an attack upon her
personal position--almost an attack upon the personal position of
Albert. But she was helpless, and the Prime Minister had his way.
When she heard that the dreadful man had yet another reform in
contemplation--that he was about to abolish the purchase of military
commissions--she could only feel that it was just what might have been
expected. For a moment she hoped that the House of Lords would come to
the rescue; the Peers opposed the change with unexpected vigour; but Mr.
Gladstone, more conscious than ever of the support of the Almighty, was
ready with an ingenious device. The purchase of commissions had been
originally allowed by Royal Warrant; it should now be disallowed by the
same agency. Victoria was faced by a curious dilemma: she abominated the
abolition of purchase; but she was asked to abolish it by an exercise of
sovereign power which was very much to her taste. She did not hesitate
for long; and when the Cabinet, in a formal minute, advised her to sign
the Warrant, she did so with a good grace.

Unacceptable as Mr. Gladstone's policy was, there was something else
about him which was even more displeasing to Victoria. She disliked his
personal demeanour towards herself. It was not that Mr. Gladstone,
in his intercourse with her, was in any degree lacking in courtesy or
respect. On the contrary, an extraordinary reverence impregnated
his manner, both in his conversation and his correspondence with the
Sovereign. Indeed, with that deep and passionate conservatism which, to
the very end of his incredible career, gave such an unexpected colouring
to his inexplicable character, Mr. Gladstone viewed Victoria through a
haze of awe which was almost religious--as a sacrosanct embodiment of
venerable traditions--a vital element in the British Constitution--a
Queen by Act of Parliament. But unfortunately the lady did not
appreciate the compliment. The well-known complaint--"He speaks to me
as if I were a public meeting-" whether authentic or no--and the turn
of the sentence is surely a little too epigrammatic to be genuinely
Victorian--undoubtedly expresses the essential element of her antipathy.
She had no objection to being considered as an institution; she was one,
and she knew it. But she was a woman too, and to be considered ONLY as
an institution--that was unbearable. And thus all Mr. Gladstone's zeal
and devotion, his ceremonious phrases, his low bows, his punctilious
correctitudes, were utterly wasted; and when, in the excess of his
loyalty, he went further, and imputed to the object of his veneration,
with obsequious blindness, the subtlety of intellect, the wide reading,
the grave enthusiasm, which he himself possessed, the misunderstanding
became complete. The discordance between the actual Victoria and this
strange Divinity made in Mr. Gladstone's image produced disastrous
results. Her discomfort and dislike turned at last into positive
animosity, and, though her manners continued to be perfect, she
never for a moment unbent; while he on his side was overcome with
disappointment, perplexity, and mortification.

Yet his fidelity remained unshaken. When the Cabinet met, the Prime
Minister, filled with his beatific vision, would open the proceedings by
reading aloud the letters which he had received from the Queen upon the
questions of the hour. The assembly sat in absolute silence while,
one after another, the royal missives, with their emphases, their
ejaculations, and their grammatical peculiarities, boomed forth in all
the deep solemnity of Mr. Gladstone's utterance. Not a single comment,
of any kind, was ever hazarded; and, after a fitting pause, the Cabinet
proceeded with the business of the day.

II

Little as Victoria appreciated her Prime Minister's attitude towards
her, she found that it had its uses. The popular discontent at her
uninterrupted seclusion had been gathering force for many years, and
now burst out in a new and alarming shape. Republicanism was in the air.
Radical opinion in England, stimulated by the fall of Napoleon III and
the establishment of a republican government in France, suddenly grew
more extreme than it ever had been since 1848. It also became for the
first time almost respectable. Chartism had been entirely an affair of
the lower classes; but now Members of Parliament, learned professors,
and ladies of title openly avowed the most subversive views. The
monarchy was attacked both in theory and in practice. And it was
attacked at a vital point: it was declared to be too expensive. What
benefits, it was asked, did the nation reap to counterbalance the
enormous sums which were expended upon the Sovereign? Victoria's
retirement gave an unpleasant handle to the argument. It was pointed out
that the ceremonial functions of the Crown had virtually lapsed; and the
awkward question remained whether any of the other functions which it
did continue to perform were really worth L385,000 per annum. The royal
balance-sheet was curiously examined. An anonymous pamphlet entitled
"What does she do with it?" appeared, setting forth the financial
position with malicious clarity. The Queen, it stated, was granted by
the Civil List L60,000 a year for her private use; but the rest of her
vast annuity was given, as the Act declared, to enable her "to defray
the expenses of her royal household and to support the honour and
dignity of the Crown." Now it was obvious that, since the death of the
Prince, the expenditure for both these purposes must have been very
considerably diminished, and it was difficult to resist the conclusion
that a large sum of money was diverted annually from the uses for which
it had been designed by Parliament, to swell the private fortune of
Victoria. The precise amount of that private fortune it was impossible
to discover; but there was reason to suppose that it was gigantic;
perhaps it reached a total of five million pounds. The pamphlet
protested against such a state of affairs, and its protests were
repeated vigorously in newspapers and at public meetings. Though it is
certain that the estimate of Victoria's riches was much exaggerated,
it is equally certain that she was an exceedingly wealthy woman. She
probably saved L20,000 a year from the Civil List, the revenues of
the Duchy of Lancaster were steadily increasing, she had inherited a
considerable property from the Prince Consort, and she had been left, in
1852, an estate of half a million by Mr. John Neild, an eccentric
miser. In these circumstances it was not surprising that when, in 1871,
Parliament was asked to vote a dowry of L30,000 to the Princess Louise
on her marriage with the eldest son of the Duke of Argyle, together with
an annuity of L6,000, there should have been a serious outcry(*).

     (*) In 1889 it was officially stated that the Queen's total
     savings from the Civil List amounted to L824,025, but that
     out of this sum much had been spent on special
     entertainments to foreign visitors. Taking into
     consideration the proceeds from the Duchy of Lancaster,
     which were more than L60,000 a year, the savings of the
     Prince Consort, and Mr. Neild's legacy, it seems probable
     that, at the time of her death, Victoria's private fortune
     approached two million pounds.


In order to conciliate public opinion, the Queen opened Parliament in
person, and the vote was passed almost unanimously. But a few months
later another demand was made: the Prince Arthur had come of age, and
the nation was asked to grant him an annuity of L15,000. The outcry was
redoubled. The newspapers were filled with angry articles; Bradlaugh
thundered against "princely paupers" to one of the largest crowds that
had ever been seen in Trafalgar Square; and Sir Charles Dilke expounded
the case for a republic in a speech to his constituents at Newcastle.
The Prince's annuity was ultimately sanctioned in the House of Commons
by a large majority; but a minority of fifty members voted in favour of
reducing the sum to L10,000.

Towards every aspect of this distasteful question, Mr. Gladstone
presented an iron front. He absolutely discountenanced the extreme
section of his followers. He declared that the whole of the Queen's
income was justly at her personal disposal, argued that to complain
of royal savings was merely to encourage royal extravagance, and
successfully convoyed through Parliament the unpopular annuities, which,
he pointed out, were strictly in accordance with precedent. When, in
1872, Sir Charles Dilke once more returned to the charge in the House
of Commons, introducing a motion for a full enquiry into the Queen's
expenditure with a view to a root and branch reform of the Civil
List, the Prime Minister brought all the resources of his powerful
and ingenious eloquence to the support of the Crown. He was completely
successful; and amid a scene of great disorder the motion was
ignominiously dismissed. Victoria was relieved; but she grew no fonder
of Mr. Gladstone.

It was perhaps the most miserable moment of her life. The Ministers,
the press, the public, all conspired to vex her, to blame her, to
misinterpret her actions, to be unsympathetic and disrespectful in
every way. She was "a cruelly misunderstood woman," she told Mr. Martin,
complaining to him bitterly of the unjust attacks which were made upon
her, and declaring that "the great worry and anxiety and hard work for
ten years, alone, unaided, with increasing age and never very strong
health" were breaking her down, and "almost drove her to despair." The
situation was indeed deplorable. It seemed as if her whole existence
had gone awry; as if an irremediable antagonism had grown up between the
Queen and the nation. If Victoria had died in the early seventies, there
can be little doubt that the voice of the world would have pronounced
her a failure.

III

But she was reserved for a very different fate. The outburst of
republicanism had been in fact the last flicker of an expiring cause.
The liberal tide, which had been flowing steadily ever since the Reform
Bill, reached its height with Mr. Gladstone's first administration; and
towards the end of that administration the inevitable ebb began. The
reaction, when it came, was sudden and complete. The General Election of
1874 changed the whole face of politics. Mr. Gladstone and the Liberals
were routed; and the Tory party, for the first time for over forty
years, attained an unquestioned supremacy in England. It was obvious
that their surprising triumph was pre-eminently due to the skill
and vigour of Disraeli. He returned to office, no longer the dubious
commander of an insufficient host, but with drums beating and flags
flying, a conquering hero. And as a conquering hero Victoria welcomed
her new Prime Minister.

Then there followed six years of excitement, of enchantment, of
felicity, of glory, of romance. The amazing being, who now at last, at
the age of seventy, after a lifetime of extraordinary struggles, had
turned into reality the absurdest of his boyhood's dreams, knew well
enough how to make his own, with absolute completeness, the heart of the
Sovereign Lady whose servant, and whose master, he had so miraculously
become. In women's hearts he had always read as in an open book. His
whole career had turned upon those curious entities; and the more
curious they were, the more intimately at home with them he seemed
to be. But Lady Beaconsfield, with her cracked idolatry, and Mrs.
Brydges-Williams, with her clogs, her corpulence, and her legacy,
were gone: an even more remarkable phenomenon stood in their place. He
surveyed what was before him with the eye of a past-master; and he was
not for a moment at a loss. He realised everything--the interacting
complexities of circumstance and character, the pride of place mingled
so inextricably with personal arrogance, the superabundant emotionalism,
the ingenuousness of outlook, the solid, the laborious respectability,
shot through so incongruously by temperamental cravings for the
coloured and the strange, the singular intellectual limitations, and the
mysteriously essential female elements impregnating every particle of
the whole. A smile hovered over his impassive features, and he
dubbed Victoria "the Faery." The name delighted him, for, with that
epigrammatic ambiguity so dear to his heart, it precisely expressed
his vision of the Queen. The Spenserian allusion was very pleasant--the
elegant evocations of Gloriana; but there was more in it than that:
there was the suggestion of a diminutive creature, endowed with
magical--and mythical--properties, and a portentousness almost
ridiculously out of keeping with the rest of her make-up. The Faery, he
determined, should henceforward wave her wand for him alone. Detachment
is always a rare quality, and rarest of all, perhaps, among politicians;
but that veteran egotist possessed it in a supreme degree. Not only did
he know what he had to do, not only did he do it; he was in the audience
as well as on the stage; and he took in with the rich relish of a
connoisseur every feature of the entertaining situation, every phase of
the delicate drama, and every detail of his own consummate performance.

The smile hovered and vanished, and, bowing low with Oriental gravity
and Oriental submissiveness, he set himself to his task. He had
understood from the first that in dealing with the Faery the appropriate
method of approach was the very antithesis of the Gladstonian; and such
a method was naturally his. It was not his habit to harangue and exhort
and expatiate in official conscientiousness; he liked to scatter flowers
along the path of business, to compress a weighty argument into a happy
phrase, to insinuate what was in his mind with an air of friendship
and confidential courtesy. He was nothing if not personal; and he had
perceived that personality was the key that opened the Faery's heart.
Accordingly, he never for a moment allowed his intercourse with her to
lose the personal tone; he invested all the transactions of State with
the charms of familiar conversation; she was always the royal lady, the
adored and revered mistress, he the devoted and respectful friend. When
once the personal relation was firmly established, every difficulty
disappeared. But to maintain that relation uninterruptedly in a smooth
and even course a particular care was necessary: the bearings had to be
most assiduously oiled. Nor was Disraeli in any doubt as to the nature
of the lubricant. "You have heard me called a flatterer," he said to
Matthew Arnold, "and it is true. Everyone likes flattery, and when you
come to royalty you should lay it on with a trowel." He practiced what
he preached. His adulation was incessant, and he applied it in the very
thickest slabs. "There is no honor and no reward," he declared, "that
with him can ever equal the possession of your Majesty's kind thoughts.
All his own thoughts and feelings and duties and affections are now
concentrated in your Majesty, and he desires nothing more for his
remaining years than to serve your Majesty, or, if that service
ceases, to live still on its memory as a period of his existence most
interesting and fascinating." "In life," he told her, "one must have for
one's thoughts a sacred depository, and Lord Beaconsfield ever presumes
to seek that in his Sovereign Mistress." She was not only his own
solitary support; she was the one prop of the State. "If your Majesty
is ill," he wrote during a grave political crisis, "he is sure he will
himself break down. All, really, depends upon your Majesty." "He lives
only for Her," he asseverated, "and works only for Her, and without Her
all is lost." When her birthday came he produced an elaborate confection
of hyperbolic compliment. "To-day Lord Beaconsfield ought fitly,
perhaps, to congratulate a powerful Sovereign on her imperial sway, the
vastness of her Empire, and the success and strength of her fleets and
armies. But he cannot, his mind is in another mood. He can only think of
the strangeness of his destiny that it has come to pass that he should
be the servant of one so great, and whose infinite kindness, the
brightness of whose intelligence and the firmness of whose will, have
enabled him to undertake labours to which he otherwise would be quite
unequal, and supported him in all things by a condescending sympathy,
which in the hour of difficulty alike charms and inspires. Upon the
Sovereign of many lands and many hearts may an omnipotent Providence
shed every blessing that the wise can desire and the virtuous deserve!"
In those expert hands the trowel seemed to assume the qualities of
some lofty masonic symbol--to be the ornate and glittering vehicle of
verities unrealised by the profane.

Such tributes were delightful, but they remained in the nebulous region
of words, and Disraeli had determined to give his blandishments a more
significant solidity. He deliberately encouraged those high views of
her own position which had always been native to Victoria's mind and
had been reinforced by the principles of Albert and the doctrines of
Stockmar. He professed to a belief in a theory of the Constitution which
gave the Sovereign a leading place in the councils of government;
but his pronouncements upon the subject were indistinct; and when he
emphatically declared that there ought to be "a real Throne," it was
probably with the mental addition that that throne would be a very
unreal one indeed whose occupant was unamenable to his cajoleries.
But the vagueness of his language was in itself an added stimulant to
Victoria. Skilfully confusing the woman and the Queen, he threw, with a
grandiose gesture, the government of England at her feet, as if in doing
so he were performing an act of personal homage. In his first audience
after returning to power, he assured her that "whatever she wished
should be done." When the intricate Public Worship Regulation Bill was
being discussed by the Cabinet, he told the Faery that his "only object"
was "to further your Majesty's wishes in this matter." When he brought
off his great coup over the Suez Canal, he used expressions which
implied that the only gainer by the transaction was Victoria. "It is
just settled," he wrote in triumph; "you have it, Madam... Four millions
sterling! and almost immediately. There was only one firm that could
do it--Rothschilds. They behaved admirably; advanced the money at a low
rate, and the entire interest of the Khedive is now yours, Madam." Nor
did he limit himself to highly-spiced insinuations. Writing with all
the authority of his office, he advised the Queen that she had the
constitutional right to dismiss a Ministry which was supported by a
large majority in the House of Commons, he even urged her to do so, if,
in her opinion, "your Majesty's Government have from wilfulness, or even
from weakness, deceived your Majesty." To the horror of Mr. Gladstone,
he not only kept the Queen informed as to the general course of business
in the Cabinet, but revealed to her the part taken in its discussions by
individual members of it. Lord Derby, the son of the late Prime Minister
and Disraeli's Foreign Secretary, viewed these developments with grave
mistrust. "Is there not," he ventured to write to his Chief, "just a
risk of encouraging her in too large ideas of her personal power, and
too great indifference to what the public expects? I only ask; it is for
you to judge."

As for Victoria, she accepted everything--compliments, flatteries,
Elizabethan prerogatives--without a single qualm. After the long gloom
of her bereavement, after the chill of the Gladstonian discipline, she
expanded to the rays of Disraeli's devotion like a flower in the sun.
The change in her situation was indeed miraculous. No longer was she
obliged to puzzle for hours over the complicated details of business,
for now she had only to ask Mr. Disraeli for an explanation, and he
would give it her in the most concise, in the most amusing, way. No
longer was she worried by alarming novelties; no longer was she put out
at finding herself treated, by a reverential gentleman in high collars,
as if she were some embodied precedent, with a recondite knowledge of
Greek. And her deliverer was surely the most fascinating of men. The
strain of charlatanism, which had unconsciously captivated her in
Napoleon III, exercised the same enchanting effect in the case of
Disraeli. Like a dram-drinker, whose ordinary life is passed in dull
sobriety, her unsophisticated intelligence gulped down his rococo
allurements with peculiar zest. She became intoxicated, entranced.
Believing all that he told her of herself, she completely regained the
self-confidence which had been slipping away from her throughout
the dark period that followed Albert's death. She swelled with a new
elation, while he, conjuring up before her wonderful Oriental visions,
dazzled her eyes with an imperial grandeur of which she had only dimly
dreamed. Under the compelling influence, her very demeanour altered.
Her short, stout figure, with its folds of black velvet, its muslin
streamers, its heavy pearls at the heavy neck, assumed an almost
menacing air. In her countenance, from which the charm of youth had long
since vanished, and which had not yet been softened by age, the traces
of grief, of disappointment, and of displeasure were still visible, but
they were overlaid by looks of arrogance and sharp lines of peremptory
hauteur. Only, when Mr. Disraeli appeared, the expression changed in an
instant, and the forbidding visage became charged with smiles. For him
she would do anything. Yielding to his encouragements, she began to
emerge from her seclusion; she appeared in London in semi-state, at
hospitals and concerts; she opened Parliament; she reviewed troops and
distributed medals at Aldershot. But such public signs of favour were
trivial in comparison with her private attentions. During his flours of
audience, she could hardly restrain her excitement and delight. "I can
only describe my reception," he wrote to a friend on one occasion, "by
telling you that I really thought she was going to embrace me. She was
wreathed with smiles, and, as she tattled, glided about the room like
a bird." In his absence, she talked of him perpetually, and there was
a note of unusual vehemence in her solicitude for his health. "John
Manners," Disraeli told Lady Bradford, "who has just come from Osborne,
says that the Faery only talked of one subject, and that was her Primo.
According to him, it was her gracious opinion that the Government should
make my health a Cabinet question. Dear John seemed quite surprised at
what she said; but you are used to these ebullitions." She often sent
him presents; an illustrated album arrived for him regularly from
Windsor on Christmas Day. But her most valued gifts were the bunches of
spring flowers which, gathered by herself and her ladies in the woods at
Osborne, marked in an especial manner the warmth and tenderness of her
sentiments. Among these it was, he declared, the primroses that he loved
the best. They were, he said, "the ambassadors of Spring, the gems and
jewels of Nature." He liked them, he assured her, "so much better for
their being wild; they seem an offering from the Fauns and Dryads of
Osborne." "They show," he told her, "that your Majesty's sceptre has
touched the enchanted Isle." He sat at dinner with heaped-up bowls of
them on every side, and told his guests that "they were all sent to me
this morning by the Queen from Osborne, as she knows it is my favorite
flower."

As time went on, and as it became clearer and clearer that the
Faery's thraldom was complete, his protestations grew steadily more
highly--coloured and more unabashed. At last he ventured to import
into his blandishments a strain of adoration that was almost avowedly
romantic. In phrases of baroque convolution, he conveyed the message
of his heart. "The pressure of business," he wrote, had "so absorbed and
exhausted him, that towards the hour of post he has not had clearness
of mind, and vigour of pen, adequate to convey his thoughts and facts to
the most loved and illustrious being, who deigns to consider them." She
sent him some primroses, and he replied that he could "truly say they
are 'more precious than rubies,' coming, as they do, and at such a
moment, from a Sovereign whom he adores." She sent him snowdrops, and
his sentiment overflowed into poetry. "Yesterday eve," he wrote, "there
appeared, in Whitehall Gardens, a delicate-looking case, with a royal
superscription, which, when he opened, he thought, at first, that your
Majesty had graciously bestowed upon him the stars of your Majesty's
principal orders." And, indeed, he was so impressed with this graceful
illusion, that, having a banquet, where there were many stars and
ribbons, he could not resist the temptation, by placing some snowdrops
on his heart, of showing that, he, too, was decorated by a gracious
Sovereign.

Then, in the middle of the night, it occurred to him, that it might all
be an enchantment, and that, perhaps, it was a Faery gift and came from
another monarch: Queen Titania, gathering flowers, with her Court, in
a soft and sea-girt isle, and sending magic blossoms, which, they say,
turn the heads of those who receive them.

A Faery gift! Did he smile as he wrote the words? Perhaps; and yet
it would be rash to conclude that his perfervid declarations were
altogether without sincerity. Actor and spectator both, the two
characters were so intimately blended together in that odd composition
that they formed an inseparable unity, and it was impossible to say that
one of them was less genuine than the other. With one element, he
could coldly appraise the Faery's intellectual capacity, note with some
surprise that she could be on occasion "most interesting and amusing,"
and then continue his use of the trowel with an ironical solemnity;
while, with the other, he could be overwhelmed by the immemorial panoply
of royalty, and, thrilling with the sense of his own strange elevation,
dream himself into a gorgeous phantasy of crowns and powers and
chivalric love. When he told Victoria that "during a somewhat romantic
and imaginative life, nothing has ever occurred to him so interesting as
this confidential correspondence with one so exalted and so inspiring,"
was he not in earnest after all? When he wrote to a lady about the
Court, "I love the Queen--perhaps the only person in this world left to
me that I do love," was he not creating for himself an enchanted palace
out of the Arabian Nights, full of melancholy and spangles, in which
he actually believed? Victoria's state of mind was far more simple;
untroubled by imaginative yearnings, she never lost herself in that
nebulous region of the spirit where feeling and fancy grow confused. Her
emotions, with all their intensity and all their exaggeration, retained
the plain prosaic texture of everyday life. And it was fitting that her
expression of them should be equally commonplace. She was, she told her
Prime Minister, at the end of an official letter, "yours aff'ly V. R.
and I." In such a phrase the deep reality of her feeling is instantly
manifest. The Faery's feet were on the solid earth; it was the ruse
cynic who was in the air.

He had taught her, however, a lesson, which she had learnt with alarming
rapidity. A second Gloriana, did he call her? Very well, then, she would
show that she deserved the compliment. Disquieting symptoms followed
fast. In May, 1874, the Tsar, whose daughter had just been married to
Victoria's second son, the Duke of Edinburgh, was in London, and, by an
unfortunate error, it had been arranged that his departure should not
take place until two days after the date on which his royal hostess had
previously decided to go to Balmoral. Her Majesty refused to modify
her plans. It was pointed out to her that the Tsar would certainly be
offended, that the most serious consequences might follow; Lord Derby
protested; Lord Salisbury, the Secretary of State for India, was much
perturbed. But the Faery was unconcerned; she had settled to go to
Balmoral on the 18th, and on the 18th she would go. At last Disraeli,
exercising all his influence, induced her to agree to stay in London
for two days more. "My head is still on my shoulders," he told Lady
Bradford. "The great lady has absolutely postponed her departure!
Everybody had failed, even the Prince of Wales... and I have no doubt I
am not in favour. I can't help it. Salisbury says I have saved an Afghan
War, and Derby compliments me on my unrivalled triumph." But before very
long, on another issue, the triumph was the Faery's. Disraeli, who had
suddenly veered towards a new Imperialism, had thrown out the suggestion
that the Queen of England ought to become the Empress of India. Victoria
seized upon the idea with avidity, and, in season and out of season,
pressed upon her Prime Minister the desirability of putting his proposal
into practice. He demurred; but she was not to be baulked; and in 1876,
in spite of his own unwillingness and that of his entire Cabinet, he
found himself obliged to add to the troubles of a stormy session
by introducing a bill for the alteration of the Royal Title. His
compliance, however, finally conquered the Faery's heart. The measure
was angrily attacked in both Houses, and Victoria was deeply touched by
the untiring energy with which Disraeli defended it. She was, she said,
much grieved by "the worry and annoyance" to which he was subjected; she
feared she was the cause of it; and she would never forget what she owed
to "her kind, good, and considerate friend." At the same time, her wrath
fell on the Opposition. Their conduct, she declared, was "extraordinary,
incomprehensible, and mistaken," and, in an emphatic sentence which
seemed to contradict both itself and all her former proceedings, she
protested that she "would be glad if it were more generally known that
it was HER wish, as people WILL have it, that it has been FORCED UPON
HER!" When the affair was successfully over, the imperial triumph was
celebrated in a suitable manner. On the day of the Delhi Proclamation,
the new Earl of Beaconsfield went to Windsor to dine with the new
Empress of India. That night the Faery, usually so homely in her attire,
appeared in a glittering panoply of enormous uncut jewels, which had
been presented to her by the reigning Princes of her Raj. At the end of
the meal the Prime Minister, breaking through the rules of
etiquette, arose, and in a flowery oration proposed the health of
the Queen-Empress. His audacity was well received, and his speech was
rewarded by a smiling curtsey.

These were significant episodes; but a still more serious manifestation
of Victoria's temper occurred in the following year, during the crowning
crisis of Beaconsfield's life. His growing imperialism, his desire
to magnify the power and prestige of England, his insistence upon a
"spirited foreign policy," had brought him into collision with Russia;
the terrible Eastern Question loomed up; and when war broke out between
Russia and Turkey, the gravity of the situation became extreme.
The Prime Minister's policy was fraught with difficulty and danger.
Realising perfectly the appalling implications of an Anglo-Russian war,
he was yet prepared to face even that eventuality if he could obtain
his ends by no other method; but he believed that Russia in reality was
still less desirous of a rupture, and that, if he played his game with
sufficient boldness and adroitness, she would yield, when it came to the
point, all that he required without a blow. It was clear that the
course he had marked out for himself was full of hazard, and demanded
an extraordinary nerve; a single false step, and either himself, or
England, might be plunged in disaster. But nerve he had never lacked;
he began his diplomatic egg-dance with high assurance; and then he
discovered that, besides the Russian Government, besides the Liberals
and Mr. Gladstone, there were two additional sources of perilous
embarrassment with which he would have to reckon. In the first place
there was a strong party in the Cabinet, headed by Lord Derby, the
Foreign Secretary, which was unwilling to take the risk of war; but his
culminating anxiety was the Faery.

From the first, her attitude was uncompromising. The old hatred of
Russia, which had been engendered by the Crimean War, surged up again
within her; she remembered Albert's prolonged animosity; she felt the
prickings of her own greatness; and she flung herself into the turmoil
with passionate heat. Her indignation with the Opposition--with anyone
who ventured to sympathise with the Russians in their quarrel with the
Turks--was unbounded. When anti-Turkish meetings were held in London,
presided over by the Duke of Westminster and Lord Shaftesbury, and
attended by Mr. Gladstone and other prominent Radicals, she considered
that "the Attorney-General ought to be set at these men;" "it can't,"
she exclaimed, "be constitutional." Never in her life, not even in the
crisis over the Ladies of the Bedchamber, did she show herself a more
furious partisan. But her displeasure was not reserved for the Radicals;
the backsliding Conservatives equally felt its force. She was even
discontented with Lord Beaconsfield himself. Failing entirely to
appreciate the delicate complexity of his policy, she constantly
assailed him with demands for vigorous action, interpreted each finesse
as a sign of weakness, and was ready at every juncture to let slip the
dogs of war. As the situation developed, her anxiety grew feverish. "The
Queen," she wrote, "is feeling terribly anxious lest delay should cause
us to be too late and lose our prestige for ever! It worries her night
and day." "The Faery," Beaconsfield told Lady Bradford, "writes every
day and telegraphs every hour; this is almost literally the case." She
raged loudly against the Russians. "And the language," she cried,
"the insulting language--used by the Russians against us! It makes the
Queen's blood boil!" "Oh," she wrote a little later, "if the Queen were
a man, she would like to go and give those Russians, whose word one
cannot believe, such a beating! We shall never be friends again till we
have it out. This the Queen feels sure of."

The unfortunate Prime Minister, urged on to violence by Victoria on
one side, had to deal, on the other, with a Foreign Secretary who was
fundamentally opposed to any policy of active interference at all.
Between the Queen and Lord Derby he held a harassed course. He gained,
indeed, some slight satisfaction in playing on the one against the
other--in stimulating Lord Derby with the Queen's missives, and in
appeasing the Queen by repudiating Lord Derby's opinions; on one
occasion he actually went so far as to compose, at Victoria's request,
a letter bitterly attacking his colleague, which Her Majesty forthwith
signed, and sent, without alteration, to the Foreign Secretary. But such
devices only gave a temporary relief; and it soon became evident that
Victoria's martial ardour was not to be sidetracked by hostilities
against Lord Derby; hostilities against Russia were what she wanted,
what she would, what she must, have. For now, casting aside the last
relics of moderation, she began to attack her friend with a series of
extraordinary threats. Not once, not twice, but many times she held over
his head the formidable menace of her imminent abdication. "If England,"
she wrote to Beaconsfield, "is to kiss Russia's feet, she will not be a
party to the humiliation of England and would lay down her crown," and
she added that the Prime Minister might, if he thought fit, repeat her
words to the Cabinet. "This delay," she ejaculated, "this uncertainty by
which, abroad, we are losing our prestige and our position, while Russia
is advancing and will be before Constantinople in no time! Then the
Government will be fearfully blamed and the Queen so humiliated that
she thinks she would abdicate at once. Be bold!" "She feels," she
reiterated, "she cannot, as she before said, remain the Sovereign of
a country that is letting itself down to kiss the feet of the great
barbarians, the retarders of all liberty and civilisation that exists."
When the Russians advanced to the outskirts of Constantinople she fired
off three letters in a day demanding war; and when she learnt that the
Cabinet had only decided to send the Fleet to Gallipoli she declared
that "her first impulse" was "to lay down the thorny crown, which she
feels little satisfaction in retaining if the position of this country
is to remain as it is now." It is easy to imagine the agitating effect
of such a correspondence upon Beaconsfield. This was no longer the
Faery; it was a genie whom he had rashly called out of her bottle, and
who was now intent upon showing her supernal power. More than once,
perplexed, dispirited, shattered by illness, he had thoughts of
withdrawing altogether from the game. One thing alone, he told Lady
Bradford, with a wry smile, prevented him. "If I could only," he wrote,
"face the scene which would occur at headquarters if I resigned, I would
do so at once."

He held on, however, to emerge victorious at last. The Queen was
pacified; Lord Derby was replaced by Lord Salisbury; and at the Congress
of Berlin der alte Jude carried all before him. He returned to England
in triumph, and assured the delighted Victoria that she would very soon
be, if she was not already, the "Dictatress of Europe."

But soon there was an unexpected reverse. At the General Election
of 1880 the country, mistrustful of the forward policy of the
Conservatives, and carried away by Mr. Gladstone's oratory, returned the
Liberals to power. Victoria was horrified, but within a year she was to
be yet more nearly hit. The grand romance had come to its conclusion.
Lord Beaconsfield, worn out with age and maladies, but moving still, an
assiduous mummy, from dinner-party to dinner-party, suddenly moved no
longer. When she knew that the end was inevitable, she seemed, by a
pathetic instinct, to divest herself of her royalty, and to shrink, with
hushed gentleness, beside him, a woman and nothing more. "I send some
Osborne primroses," she wrote to him with touching simplicity, "and I
meant to pay you a little visit this week, but I thought it better you
should be quite quiet and not speak. And I beg you will be very good and
obey the doctors." She would see him, she said, "when we, come back from
Osborne, which won't be long." "Everyone is so distressed at your not
being well," she added; and she was, "Ever yours very aff'ly V.R.I."
When the royal letter was given him, the strange old comedian, stretched
on his bed of death, poised it in his hand, appeared to consider deeply,
and then whispered to those about him, "This ought to be read to me by a
Privy Councillor."



CHAPTER IX. OLD AGE

I

Meanwhile in Victoria's private life many changes and developments had
taken place. With the marriages of her elder children her family
circle widened; grandchildren appeared; and a multitude of new domestic
interests sprang up. The death of King Leopold in 1865 had removed the
predominant figure of the older generation, and the functions he had
performed as the centre and adviser of a large group of relatives in
Germany and in England devolved upon Victoria. These functions
she discharged with unremitting industry, carrying on an enormous
correspondence, and following with absorbed interest every detail in the
lives of the ever-ramifying cousinhood. And she tasted to the full
both the joys and the pains of family affection. She took a particular
delight in her grandchildren, to whom she showed an indulgence which
their parents had not always enjoyed, though, even to her grandchildren,
she could be, when the occasion demanded it, severe. The eldest of them,
the little Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, was a remarkably headstrong child;
he dared to be impertinent even to his grandmother; and once, when she
told him to bow to a visitor at Osborne, he disobeyed her outright.
This would not do: the order was sternly repeated, and the naughty boy,
noticing that his grandmama had suddenly turned into a most terrifying
lady, submitted his will to hers, and bowed very low indeed.

It would have been well if all the Queen's domestic troubles could
have been got over as easily. Among her more serious distresses was the
conduct of the Prince of Wales. The young man was now independent and
married; he had shaken the parental yoke from his shoulders; he was
positively beginning to do as he liked. Victoria was much perturbed,
and her worst fears seemed to be justified when in 1870 he appeared as
a witness in a society divorce case. It was clear that the heir to the
throne had been mixing with people of whom she did not at all approve.
What was to be done? She saw that it was not only her son that was to
blame--that it was the whole system of society; and so she despatched
a letter to Mr. Delane, the editor of The Times, asking him if he would
"frequently WRITE articles pointing out the IMMENSE danger and evil of
the wretched frivolity and levity of the views and lives of the Higher
Classes." And five years later Mr. Delane did write an article upon that
very subject. Yet it seemed to have very little effect.

Ah! if only the Higher Classes would learn to live as she lived in the
domestic sobriety of her sanctuary at Balmoral! For more and more
did she find solace and refreshment in her Highland domain; and twice
yearly, in the spring and in the autumn, with a sigh of relief, she set
her face northwards, in spite of the humble protests of Ministers, who
murmured vainly in the royal ears that to transact the affairs of State
over an interval of six hundred miles added considerably to the cares
of government. Her ladies, too, felt occasionally a slight reluctance to
set out, for, especially in the early days, the long pilgrimage was not
without its drawbacks. For many years the Queen's conservatism forbade
the continuation of the railway up Deeside, so that the last stages
of the journey had to be accomplished in carriages. But, after all,
carriages had their good points; they were easy, for instance, to get
in and out of, which was an important consideration, for the royal train
remained for long immune from modern conveniences, and when it drew up,
on some border moorland, far from any platform, the highbred dames were
obliged to descend to earth by the perilous foot-board, the only pair
of folding steps being reserved for Her Majesty's saloon. In the days of
crinolines such moments were sometimes awkward; and it was occasionally
necessary to summon Mr. Johnstone, the short and sturdy Manager of the
Caledonian Railway, who, more than once, in a high gale and drenching
rain with great difficulty "pushed up"--as he himself described it--some
unlucky Lady Blanche or Lady Agatha into her compartment. But Victoria
cared for none of these things. She was only intent upon regaining, with
the utmost swiftness, her enchanted Castle, where every spot was charged
with memories, where every memory was sacred, and where life was passed
in an incessant and delightful round of absolutely trivial events.

And it was not only the place that she loved; she was equally attached
to "the simple mountaineers," from whom, she said, "she learnt many
a lesson of resignation and faith." Smith and Grant and Ross and
Thompson--she was devoted to them all; but, beyond the rest, she was
devoted to John Brown. The Prince's gillie had now become the Queen's
personal attendant--a body servant from whom she was never parted, who
accompanied her on her drives, waited on her during the day, and
slept in a neighbouring chamber at night. She liked his strength, his
solidity, the sense he gave her of physical security; she even liked his
rugged manners and his rough unaccommodating speech. She allowed him to
take liberties with her which would have been unthinkable from anybody
else. To bully the Queen, to order her about, to reprimand her--who
could dream of venturing upon such audacities? And yet, when she
received such treatment from John Brown, she positively seemed to enjoy
it. The eccentricity appeared to be extraordinary; but, after all, it
is no uncommon thing for an autocratic dowager to allow some trusted
indispensable servant to adopt towards her an attitude of authority
which is jealously forbidden to relatives or friends: the power of a
dependent still remains, by a psychological sleight-of-hand, one's own
power, even when it is exercised over oneself. When Victoria meekly
obeyed the abrupt commands of her henchman to get off her pony or put on
her shawl, was she not displaying, and in the highest degree, the force
of her volition? People might wonder; she could not help that; this was
the manner in which it pleased her to act, and there was an end of it.
To have submitted her judgment to a son or a Minister might have seemed
wiser or more natural; but if she had done so, she instinctively felt,
she would indeed have lost her independence. And yet upon somebody
she longed to depend. Her days were heavy with the long process of
domination. As she drove in silence over the moors she leaned back in
the carriage, oppressed and weary; but what a relief--John Brown was
behind on the rumble, and his strong arm would be there for her to lean
upon when she got out.

He had, too, in her mind, a special connection with Albert. In their
expeditions the Prince had always trusted him more than anyone; the
gruff, kind, hairy Scotsman was, she felt, in some mysterious way,
a legacy from the dead. She came to believe at last--or so it
appeared--that the spirit of Albert was nearer when Brown was near.
Often, when seeking inspiration over some complicated question of
political or domestic import, she would gaze with deep concentration at
her late husband's bust. But it was also noticed that sometimes in such
moments of doubt and hesitation Her Majesty's looks would fix themselves
upon John Brown.

Eventually, the "simple mountaineer" became almost a state personage.
The influence which he wielded was not to be overlooked. Lord
Beaconsfield was careful, from time to time, to send courteous messages
to "Mr. Brown" in his letters to the Queen, and the French Government
took particular pains to provide for his comfort during the visits of
the English Sovereign to France. It was only natural that among the
elder members of the royal family he should not have been popular, and
that his failings--for failings he had, though Victoria would never
notice his too acute appreciation of Scotch whisky--should have been
the subject of acrimonious comment at Court. But he served his mistress
faithfully, and to ignore him would be a sign of disrespect to her
biographer. For the Queen, far from making a secret of her affectionate
friendship, took care to publish it to the world. By her orders two
gold medals were struck in his honour; on his death, in 1883, a long and
eulogistic obituary notice of him appeared in the Court Circular; and a
Brown memorial brooch--of gold, with the late gillie's head on one side
and the royal monogram on the other--was designed by Her Majesty for
presentation to her Highland servants and cottagers, to be worn by them
on the anniversary of his death, with a mourning scarf and pins. In the
second series of extracts from the Queen's Highland Journal, published
in 1884, her "devoted personal attendant and faithful friend" appears
upon almost every page, and is in effect the hero of the book. With an
absence of reticence remarkable in royal persons, Victoria seemed to
demand, in this private and delicate matter, the sympathy of the whole
nation; and yet--such is the world--there were those who actually
treated the relations between their Sovereign and her servant as a theme
for ribald jests.

II

The busy years hastened away; the traces of Time's unimaginable touch
grew manifest; and old age, approaching, laid a gentle hold upon
Victoria. The grey hair whitened; the mature features mellowed; the
short firm figure amplified and moved more slowly, supported by a stick.
And, simultaneously, in the whole tenour of the Queen's existence an
extraordinary transformation came to pass. The nation's attitude
towards her, critical and even hostile as it had been for so many years,
altogether changed; while there was a corresponding alteration in the
temper of--Victoria's own mind.

Many causes led to this result. Among them were the repeated strokes of
personal misfortune which befell the Queen during a cruelly short space
of years. In 1878 the Princess Alice, who had married in 1862 the Prince
Louis of Hesse-Darmstadt, died in tragic circumstances. In the following
year the Prince Imperial, the only son of the Empress Eugenie, to whom
Victoria, since the catastrophe of 1870, had become devotedly attached,
was killed in the Zulu War. Two years later, in 1881, the Queen lost
Lord Beaconsfield, and, in 1883, John Brown. In 1884 the Prince Leopold,
Duke of Albany, who had been an invalid from birth, died prematurely,
shortly after his marriage. Victoria's cup of sorrows was indeed
overflowing; and the public, as it watched the widowed mother weeping
for her children and her friends, displayed a constantly increasing
sympathy.

An event which occurred in 1882 revealed and accentuated the feelings of
the nation. As the Queen, at Windsor, was walking from the train to her
carriage, a youth named Roderick Maclean fired a pistol at her from a
distance of a few yards. An Eton boy struck up Maclean's arm with an
umbrella before the pistol went off; no damage was done, and the culprit
was at once arrested. This was the last of a series of seven attempts
upon the Queen--attempts which, taking place at sporadic intervals over
a period of forty years, resembled one another in a curious manner. All,
with a single exception, were perpetrated by adolescents, whose motives
were apparently not murderous, since, save in the case of Maclean, none
of their pistols was loaded. These unhappy youths, who, after buying
their cheap weapons, stuffed them with gunpowder and paper, and then
went off, with the certainty of immediate detection, to click them in
the face of royalty, present a strange problem to the psychologist. But,
though in each case their actions and their purposes seemed to be so
similar, their fates were remarkably varied. The first of them, Edward
Oxford, who fired at Victoria within a few months of her marriage, was
tried for high treason, declared to be insane, and sent to an asylum for
life. It appears, however, that this sentence did not commend itself to
Albert, for when, two years later, John Francis committed the same of
fence, and was tried upon the same charge, the Prince propounced that
there was no insanity in the matter. "The wretched creature," he told
his father, was "not out of his mind, but a thorough scamp." "I hope,"
he added, "his trial will be conducted with the greatest strictness."
Apparently it was; at any rate, the jury shared the view of the Prince,
the plea of insanity was, set aside, and Francis was found guilty of
high treason and condemned to death; but, as there was no proof of
an intent to kill or even to wound, this sentence, after a lengthened
deliberation between the Home Secretary and the Judges, was commuted for
one of transportation for life. As the law stood, these assaults, futile
as they were, could only be treated as high treason; the discrepancy
between the actual deed and the tremendous penalties involved was
obviously grotesque; and it was, besides, clear that a jury, knowing
that a verdict of guilty implied a sentence of death, would tend to
the alternative course, and find the prisoner not guilty but insane--a
conclusion which, on the face of it, would have appeared to be the more
reasonable. In 1842, therefore, an Act was passed making any attempt
to hurt the Queen a misdemeanor, punishable by transportation for seven
years, or imprisonment, with or without hard labour, for a term not
exceeding three years--the misdemeanant, at the discretion of the Court,
"to be publicly or privately whipped, as often, and in such manner
and form, as the Court shall direct, not exceeding thrice." The four
subsequent attempts were all dealt with under this new law; William
Bean, in 1842, was sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment; William
Hamilton, in 1849, was transported for seven years; and, in 1850, the
same sentence was passed upon Lieutenant Robert Pate, who struck the
Queen on the head with his cane in Piccadilly. Pate, alone among these
delinquents, was of mature years; he had held a commission in the Army,
dressed himself as a dandy, and was, the Prince declared, "manifestly
deranged." In 1872 Arthur O'Connor, a youth of seventeen, fired
an unloaded pistol at the Queen outside Buckingham Palace; he
was immediately seized by John Brown, and sentenced to one year's
imprisonment and twenty strokes of the birch rod. It was for his bravery
upon this occasion that Brown was presented with one of his gold medals.
In all these cases the jury had refused to allow the plea of insanity;
but Roderick Maclean's attempt in 1882 had a different issue. On this
occasion the pistol was found to have been loaded, and the public
indignation, emphasised as it was by Victoria's growing popularity,
was particularly great. Either for this or for some other reason the
procedure of the last forty years was abandoned, and Maclean was tried
for high treason. The result was what might have been expected: the jury
brought in a verdict of "not guilty, but insane"; and the prisoner was
sent to an asylum during Her Majesty's pleasure. Their verdict, however,
produced a remarkable consequence. Victoria, who doubtless carried in
her mind some memory of Albert's disapproval of a similar verdict in
the case of Oxford, was very much annoyed. What did the jury mean, she
asked, by saying that Maclean was not guilty? It was perfectly clear
that he was guilty--she had seen him fire off the pistol herself. It was
in vain that Her Majesty's constitutional advisers reminded her of the
principle of English law which lays down that no man can be found
guilty of a crime unless he be proved to have had a criminal intention.
Victoria was quite unconvinced. "If that is the law," she said, "the law
must be altered:" and altered it was. In 1883 an Act was passed changing
the form of the verdict in cases of insanity, and the confusing anomaly
remains upon the Statute Book to this day.

But it was not only through the feelings--commiserating or indignant--of
personal sympathy that the Queen and her people were being drawn more
nearly together; they were beginning, at last, to come to a close and
permanent agreement upon the conduct of public affairs. Mr. Gladstone's
second administration (1880-85) was a succession of failures, ending in
disaster and disgrace; liberalism fell into discredit with the country,
and Victoria perceived with joy that her distrust of her Ministers was
shared by an ever-increasing number of her subjects. During the crisis
in the Sudan, the popular temper was her own. She had been among the
first to urge the necessity of an expedition to Khartoum, and, when the
news came of the catastrophic death of General Gordon, her voice led the
chorus of denunciation which raved against the Government. In her rage,
she despatched a fulminating telegram to Mr. Gladstone, not in the usual
cypher, but open; and her letter of condolence to Miss Gordon, in which
she attacked her Ministers for breach of faith, was widely published.
It was rumoured that she had sent for Lord Hartington, the Secretary
of State for War, and vehemently upbraided him. "She rated me," he was
reported to have told a friend, "as if I'd been a footman." "Why didn't
she send for the butler?" asked his friend. "Oh," was the reply, "the
butler generally manages to keep out of the way on such occasions."

But the day came when it was impossible to keep out of the way any
longer. Mr. Gladstone was defeated, and resigned. Victoria, at a
final interview, received him with her usual amenity, but, besides the
formalities demanded by the occasion, the only remark which she made
to him of a personal nature was to the effect that she supposed Mr.
Gladstone would now require some rest. He remembered with regret how,
at a similar audience in 1874, she had expressed her trust in him as a
supporter of the throne; but he noted the change without surprise. "Her
mind and opinions," he wrote in his diary afterwards, "have since that
day been seriously warped."

Such was Mr. Gladstone's view,; but the majority of the nation by no
means agreed with him; and, in the General Election of 1886, they
showed decisively that Victoria's politics were identical with theirs
by casting forth the contrivers of Home Rule--that abomination of
desolation--into outer darkness, and placing Lord Salisbury in
power. Victoria's satisfaction was profound. A flood of new unwonted
hopefulness swept over her, stimulating her vital spirits with a
surprising force. Her habit of life was suddenly altered; abandoning
the long seclusion which Disraeli's persuasions had only momentarily
interrupted, she threw herself vigorously into a multitude of public
activities. She appeared at drawing-rooms, at concerts, at reviews; she
laid foundation-stones; she went to Liverpool to open an international
exhibition, driving through the streets in her open carriage in heavy
rain amid vast applauding crowds. Delighted by the welcome which met
her everywhere, she warmed to her work. She visited Edinburgh, where the
ovation of Liverpool was repeated and surpassed. In London, she opened
in high state the Colonial and Indian Exhibition at South Kensington.
On this occasion the ceremonial was particularly magnificent; a blare
of trumpets announced the approach of Her Majesty; the "Natiohal Anthem"
followed; and the Queen, seated on a gorgeous throne of hammered gold,
replied with her own lips to the address that was presented to her. Then
she rose, and, advancing upon the platform with regal port, acknowledged
the acclamations of the great assembly by a succession of curtseys, of
elaborate and commanding grace.

Next year was the fiftieth of her reign, and in June the splendid
anniversary was celebrated in solemn pomp. Victoria, surrounded by the
highest dignitaries of her realm, escorted by a glittering galaxy of
kings and princes, drove through the crowded enthusiasm of the capital
to render thanks to God in Westminster Abbey. In that triumphant hour
the last remaining traces of past antipathies and past disagreements
were altogether swept away. The Queen was hailed at once as the mother
of her people and as the embodied symbol of their imperial greatness;
and she responded to the double sentiment with all the ardour of her
spirit. England and the people of England, she knew it, she felt it,
were, in some wonderful and yet quite simple manner, hers. Exultation,
affection, gratitude, a profound sense of obligation, an unbounded
pride--such were her emotions; and, colouring and intensifying the
rest, there was something else. At last, after so long,
happiness--fragmentary, perhaps, and charged with gravity, but true
and unmistakable none the less--had returned to her. The unaccustomed
feeling filled and warmed her consciousness. When, at Buckingham Palace
again, the long ceremony over, she was asked how she was, "I am very
tired, but very happy," she said.

III

And so, after the toils and tempests of the day, a long evening
followed--mild, serene, and lighted with a golden glory. For an
unexampled atmosphere of success and adoration invested the last period
of Victoria's life. Her triumph was the summary, the crown, of a greater
triumph--the culminating prosperity of a nation. The solid splendour of
the decade between Victoria's two jubilees can hardly be paralleled in
the annals of England. The sage counsels of Lord Salisbury seemed to
bring with them not only wealth and power, but security; and the country
settled down, with calm assurance, to the enjoyment of an established
grandeur. And--it was only natural--Victoria settled down too. For
she was a part of the establishment--an essential part as it seemed--a
fixture--a magnificent, immovable sideboard in the huge saloon of
state. Without her the heaped-up banquet of 1890 would have lost
its distinctive quality--the comfortable order of the substantial
unambiguous dishes, with their background of weighty glamour, half out
of sight.

Her own existence came to harmonise more and more with what was around
her. Gradually, imperceptibly, Albert receded. It was not that he was
forgotten--that would have been impossible--but that the void created
by his absence grew less agonising, and even, at last, less obvious.
At last Victoria found it possible to regret the bad weather without
immediately reflecting that her "dear Albert always said we could not
alter it, but must leave it as it was;" she could even enjoy a good
breakfast without considering how "dear Albert" would have liked the
buttered eggs. And, as that figure slowly faded, its place was taken,
inevitably, by Victoria's own. Her being, revolving for so many years
round an external object, now changed its motion and found its centre
in itself. It had to be so: her domestic position, the pressure of
her public work, her indomitable sense of duty, made anything else
impossible. Her egotism proclaimed its rights. Her age increased still
further the surrounding deference; and her force of character, emerging
at length in all its plenitude, imposed absolutely upon its environment
by the conscious effort of an imperious will.

Little by little it was noticed that the outward vestiges of Albert's
posthumous domination grew less complete. At Court the stringency of
mourning was relaxed. As the Queen drove through the Park in her open
carriage with her Highlanders behind her, nursery-maids canvassed
eagerly the growing patch of violet velvet in the bonnet with its jet
appurtenances on the small bowing head.

It was in her family that Victoria's ascendancy reached its highest
point. All her offspring were married; the number of her descendants
rapidly increased; there were many marriages in the third generation;
and no fewer than thirty-seven of her great-grandchildren were living at
the time of her death. A picture of the period displays the royal family
collected together in one of the great rooms at Windsor--a crowded
company of more than fifty persons, with the imperial matriarch in
their midst. Over them all she ruled with a most potent sway. The small
concerns of the youngest aroused her passionate interest; and the oldest
she treated as if they were children still. The Prince of Wales, in
particular, stood in tremendous awe of his mother. She had steadily
refused to allow him the slightest participation in the business of
government; and he had occupied himself in other ways. Nor could it
be denied that he enjoyed himself--out of her sight; but, in that
redoubtable presence, his abounding manhood suffered a miserable
eclipse. Once, at Osborne, when, owing to no fault of his, he was too
late for a dinner party, he was observed standing behind a pillar and
wiping the sweat from his forehead, trying to nerve himself to go up to
the Queen. When at last he did so, she gave him a stiff nod, whereupon
he vanished immediately behind another pillar, and remained there until
the party broke up. At the time of this incident the Prince of Wales was
over fifty years of age.

It was inevitable that the Queen's domestic activities should
occasionally trench upon the domain of high diplomacy; and this was
especially the case when the interests of her eldest daughter, the
Crown Princess of Prussia, were at stake. The Crown Prince held liberal
opinions; he was much influenced by his wife; and both were detested by
Bismarck, who declared with scurrilous emphasis that the Englishwoman
and her mother were a menace to the Prussian State. The feud was still
further intensified when, on the death of the old Emperor (1888), the
Crown Prince succeeded to the throne. A family entanglement brought on
a violent crisis. One of the daughters of the new Empress had become
betrothed to Prince Alexander of Battenberg, who had lately been
ejected from the throne of Bulgaria owing to the hostility of the Tsar.
Victoria, as well as the Empress, highly approved of the match. Of the
two brothers of Prince Alexander, the elder had married another of her
grand-daughters, and the younger was the husband of her daughter, the
Princess Beatrice; she was devoted to the handsome young man; and she
was delighted by the prospect of the third brother--on the whole the
handsomest, she thought, of the three--also becoming a member of her
family. Unfortunately, however, Bismarck was opposed to the scheme.
He perceived that the marriage would endanger the friendship between
Germany and Russia, which was vital to his foreign policy, and he
announced that it must not take place. A fierce struggle between the
Empress and the Chancellor followed. Victoria, whose hatred of her
daughter's enemy was unbounded, came over to Charlottenburg to join in
the fray. Bismarck, over his pipe and lager, snorted out his alarm. The
Queen of England's object, he said, was clearly political--she wished to
estrange Germany and Russia--and very likely she would have her way. "In
family matters," he added, "she is not used to contradiction;" she would
"bring the parson with her in her travelling bag and the bridegroom in
her trunk, and the marriage would come off on the spot." But the man
of blood and iron was not to be thwarted so easily, and he asked for a
private interview with the Queen. The details of their conversation are
unknown; but it is certain that in the course of it Victoria was forced
to realise the meaning of resistance to that formidable personage, and
that she promised to use all her influence to prevent the marriage. The
engagement was broken off; and in the following year Prince Alexander of
Battenberg united himself to Fraulein Loisinger, an actress at the court
theatre of Darmstad.

But such painful incidents were rare. Victoria was growing very old;
with no Albert to guide her, with no Beaconsfield to enflame her, she
was willing enough to abandon the dangerous questions of diplomacy
to the wisdom of Lord Salisbury, and to concentrate her energies upon
objects which touched her more nearly and over which she could
exercise an undisputed control. Her home--her court--the monuments
at Balmoral--the livestock at Windsor--the organisation of her
engagements--the supervision of the multitudinous details of her daily
routine--such matters played now an even greater part in her existence
than before. Her life passed in an extraordinary exactitude. Every
moment of her day was mapped out beforehand; the succession of her
engagements was immutably fixed; the dates of her journeys--to Osborne,
to Balmoral, to the South of France, to Windsor, to London--were hardly
altered from year to year. She demanded from those who surrounded her
a rigid precision in details, and she was preternaturally quick in
detecting the slightest deviation from the rules which she had laid
down. Such was the irresistible potency of her personality, that
anything but the most implicit obedience to her wishes was felt to be
impossible; but sometimes somebody was unpunctual; and unpunctuality
was one of the most heinous of sins. Then her displeasure--her dreadful
displeasure--became all too visible. At such moments there seemed
nothing surprising in her having been the daughter of a martinet.

But these storms, unnerving as they were while they lasted, were quickly
over, and they grew more and more exceptional. With the return of
happiness a gentle benignity flowed from the aged Queen. Her smile, once
so rare a visitant to those saddened features, flitted over them with an
easy alacrity; the blue eyes beamed; the whole face, starting suddenly
from its pendulous expressionlessness, brightened and softened and cast
over those who watched it an unforgettable charm. For in her last years
there was a fascination in Victoria's amiability which had been lacking
even from the vivid impulse of her youth. Over all who approached
her--or very nearly all--she threw a peculiar spell. Her grandchildren
adored her; her ladies waited upon her with a reverential love. The
honour of serving her obliterated a thousand inconveniences--the
monotony of a court existence, the fatigue of standing, the necessity
for a superhuman attentiveness to the minutia: of time and space. As one
did one's wonderful duty one could forget that one's legs were aching
from the infinitude of the passages at Windsor, or that one's bare arms
were turning blue in the Balmoral cold.

What, above all, seemed to make such service delightful was the detailed
interest which the Queen took in the circumstances of those around
her. Her absorbing passion for the comfortable commonplaces, the small
crises, the recurrent sentimentalities, of domestic life constantly
demanded wider fields for its activity; the sphere of her own family,
vast as it was, was not enough; she became the eager confidante of
the household affairs of her ladies; her sympathies reached out to
the palace domestics; even the housemaids and scullions--so it
appeared--were the objects of her searching inquiries, and of her
heartfelt solicitude when their lovers were ordered to a foreign
station, or their aunts suffered from an attack of rheumatism which was
more than usually acute.

Nevertheless the due distinctions of rank were immaculately preserved.
The Queen's mere presence was enough to ensure that; but, in addition,
the dominion of court etiquette was paramount. For that elaborate code,
which had kept Lord Melbourne stiff upon the sofa and ranged the other
guests in silence about the round table according to the order of
precedence, was as punctiliously enforced as ever. Every evening after
dinner, the hearth-rug, sacred to royalty, loomed before the profane in
inaccessible glory, or, on one or two terrific occasions, actually lured
them magnetically forward to the very edge of the abyss. The Queen, at
the fitting moment, moved towards her guests; one after the other they
were led up to her; and, while dialogue followed dialogue in constraint
and embarrassment, the rest of the assembly stood still, without a word.
Only in one particular was the severity of the etiquette allowed to
lapse. Throughout the greater part of the reign the rule that ministers
must stand during their audiences with the Queen had been absolute. When
Lord Derby, the Prime Minister, had an audience of Her Majesty after
a serious illness, he mentioned it afterwards, as a proof of the royal
favour, that the Queen had remarked "How sorry she was she could not ask
him to be seated." Subsequently, Disraeli, after an attack of gout
and in a moment of extreme expansion on the part of Victoria, had
been offered a chair; but he had thought it wise humbly to decline the
privilege. In her later years, however, the Queen invariably asked Mr.
Gladstone and Lord Salisbury to sit down.

Sometimes the solemnity of the evening was diversified by a concert, an
opera, or even a play. One of the most marked indications of
Victoria's enfranchisement from the thraldom of widowhood had been
her resumption--after an interval of thirty years--of the custom of
commanding dramatic companies from London to perform before the Court at
Windsor. On such occasions her spirits rose high. She loved acting; she
loved a good plot; above all, she loved a farce. Engrossed by everything
that passed upon the stage she would follow, with childlike innocence,
the unwinding of the story; or she would assume an air of knowing
superiority and exclaim in triumph, "There! You didn't expect that, did
you?" when the denouement came. Her sense of humour was of a vigorous
though primitive kind. She had been one of the very few persons who had
always been able to appreciate the Prince Consort's jokes; and, when
those were cracked no more, she could still roar with laughter, in the
privacy of her household, over some small piece of fun--some oddity of
an ambassador, or some ignorant Minister's faux pas. When the jest grew
subtle she was less pleased; but, if it approached the confines of the
indecorous, the danger was serious. To take a liberty called down at
once Her Majesty's most crushing disapprobation; and to say something
improper was to take the greatest liberty of all. Then the royal
lips sank down at the corners, the royal eyes stared in astonished
protrusion, and in fact, the royal countenance became inauspicious in
the highest degree. The transgressor shuddered into silence, while the
awful "We are not amused" annihilated the dinner table. Afterwards,
in her private entourage, the Queen would observe that the person in
question was, she very much feared, "not discreet"; it was a verdict
from which there was no appeal.

In general, her aesthetic tastes had remained unchanged since the days
of Mendelssohn, Landseer, and Lablache. She still delighted in the
roulades of Italian opera; she still demanded a high standard in the
execution of a pianoforte duet. Her views on painting were decided;
Sir Edwin, she declared, was perfect; she was much impressed by Lord
Leighton's manners; and she profoundly distrusted Mr. Watts. From time
to time she ordered engraved portraits to be taken of members of
the royal family; on these occasions she would have the first proofs
submitted to her, and, having inspected them with minute particularity,
she would point out their mistakes to the artists, indicating at the
same time how they might be corrected. The artists invariably discovered
that Her Majesty's suggestions were of the highest value. In literature
her interests were more restricted. She was devoted to Lord Tennyson;
and, as the Prince Consort had admired George Eliot, she perused
"Middlemarch:" she was disappointed. There is reason to believe,
however, that the romances of another female writer, whose popularity
among the humbler classes of Her Majesty's subjects was at one time
enormous, secured, no less, the approval of Her Majesty. Otherwise she
did not read very much.

Once, however, the Queen's attention was drawn to a publication which it
was impossible for her to ignore. "The Greville Memoirs," filled with a
mass of historical information of extraordinary importance, but filled
also with descriptions, which were by no means flattering, of George
IV, William IV, and other royal persons, was brought out by Mr. Reeve.
Victoria read the book, and was appalled. It was, she declared, a
"dreadful and really scandalous book," and she could not say "how
HORRIFIED and INDIGNANT" she was at Greville's "indiscretion,
indelicacy, ingratitude towards friends, betrayal of confidence and
shameful disloyalty towards his Sovereign." She wrote to Disraeli to
tell him that in her opinion it was "VERY IMPORTANT that the book should
be severely censured and discredited." "The tone in which he speaks of
royalty," she added, "is unlike anything one sees in history even,
and is most reprehensible." Her anger was directed with almost equal
vehemence against Mr. Reeve for his having published "such an abominable
book," and she charged Sir Arthur Helps to convey to him her deep
displeasure. Mr. Reeve, however, was impenitent. When Sir Arthur told
him that, in the Queen's opinion, "the book degraded royalty," he
replied: "Not at all; it elevates it by the contrast it offers between
the present and the defunct state of affairs." But this adroit defence
failed to make any impression upon Victoria; and Mr. Reeve, when he
retired from the public service, did not receive the knighthood which
custom entitled him to expect. Perhaps if the Queen had known how many
caustic comments upon herself Mr. Reeve had quietly suppressed in the
published Memoirs, she would have been almost grateful to him; but, in
that case, what would she have said of Greville? Imagination boggles at
the thought. As for more modern essays upon the same topic, Her Majesty,
it is to be feared, would have characterised them as "not discreet."

But as a rule the leisure hours of that active life were occupied with
recreations of a less intangible quality than the study of literature or
the appreciation of art. Victoria was a woman not only of vast property
but of innumerable possessions. She had inherited an immense quantity
of furniture, of ornaments, of china, of plate, of valuable objects of
every kind; her purchases, throughout a long life, made a formidable
addition to these stores; and there flowed in upon her, besides, from
every quarter of the globe, a constant stream of gifts. Over this
enormous mass she exercised an unceasing and minute supervision, and the
arrangement and the contemplation of it, in all its details, filled her
with an intimate satisfaction. The collecting instinct has its roots in
the very depths of human nature; and, in the case of Victoria, it seemed
to owe its force to two of her dominating impulses--the intense sense,
which had always been hers, of her own personality, and the craving
which, growing with the years, had become in her old age almost an
obsession, for fixity, for solidity, for the setting up of palpable
barriers against the outrages of change and time. When she considered
the multitudinous objects which belonged to her, or, better still, when,
choosing out some section of them as the fancy took her, she actually
savoured the vivid richness of their individual qualities, she saw
herself deliciously reflected from a million facets, felt herself
magnified miraculously over a boundless area, and was well pleased.
That was just as it should be; but then came the dismaying
thought--everything slips away, crumbles, vanishes; Sevres
dinner-services get broken; even golden basins go unaccountably astray;
even one's self, with all the recollections and experiences that make
up one's being, fluctuates, perishes, dissolves... But no! It could
not, should not be so! There should be no changes and no losses! Nothing
should ever move--neither the past nor the present--and she herself
least of all! And so the tenacious woman, hoarding her valuables,
decreed their immortality with all the resolution of her soul. She would
not lose one memory or one pin.

She gave orders that nothing should be thrown away--and nothing was.
There, in drawer after drawer, in wardrobe after wardrobe, reposed the
dresses of seventy years. But not only the dresses--the furs and the
mantles and subsidiary frills and the muffs and the parasols and the
bonnets--all were ranged in chronological order, dated and complete. A
great cupboard was devoted to the dolls; in the china room at Windsor a
special table held the mugs of her childhood, and her children's mugs as
well. Mementoes of the past surrounded her in serried accumulations.
In every room the tables were powdered thick with the photographs of
relatives; their portraits, revealing them at all ages, covered the
walls; their figures, in solid marble, rose up from pedestals, or
gleamed from brackets in the form of gold and silver statuettes. The
dead, in every shape--in miniatures, in porcelain, in enormous life-size
oil-paintings--were perpetually about her. John Brown stood upon her
writing-table in solid gold. Her favourite horses and dogs, endowed with
a new durability, crowded round her footsteps. Sharp, in silver gilt,
dominated the dinner table; Boy and Boz lay together among unfading
flowers, in bronze. And it was not enough that each particle of the
past should be given the stability of metal or of marble: the whole
collection, in its arrangement, no less than its entity, should be
immutably fixed. There might be additions, but there might never be
alterations. No chintz might change, no carpet, no curtain, be replaced
by another; or, if long use at last made it necessary, the stuffs and
the patterns must be so identically reproduced that the keenest eye
might not detect the difference. No new picture could be hung upon the
walls at Windsor, for those already there had been put in their places
by Albert, whose decisions were eternal. So, indeed, were Victoria's.
To ensure that they should be the aid of the camera was called in. Every
single article in the Queen's possession was photographed from several
points of view. These photographs were submitted to Her Majesty, and
when, after careful inspection, she had approved of them, they were
placed in a series of albums, richly bound. Then, opposite each
photograph, an entry was made, indicating the number of the article, the
number of the room in which it was kept, its exact position in the room
and all its principal characteristics. The fate of every object which
had undergone this process was henceforth irrevocably sealed. The
whole multitude, once and for all, took up its steadfast station. And
Victoria, with a gigantic volume or two of the endless catalogue always
beside her, to look through, to ponder upon, to expatiate over, could
feel, with a double contentment, that the transitoriness of this world
had been arrested by the amplitude of her might.

Thus the collection, ever multiplying, ever encroaching upon new fields
of consciousness, ever rooting itself more firmly in the depths of
instinct, became one of the dominating influences of that strange
existence. It was a collection not merely of things and of thoughts,
but of states of mind and ways of living as well. The celebration of
anniversaries grew to be an important branch of it--of birthdays and
marriage days and death days, each of which demanded its appropriate
feeling, which, in its turn, must be itself expressed in an appropriate
outward form. And the form, of course--the ceremony of rejoicing
or lamentation--was stereotyped with the rest: it was part of the
collection. On a certain day, for instance, flowers must be strewn on
John Brown's monument at Balmoral; and the date of the yearly departure
for Scotland was fixed by that fact. Inevitably it was around the
central circumstance of death--death, the final witness to human
mutability--that these commemorative cravings clustered most thickly.
Might not even death itself be humbled, if one could recall enough--if
one asserted, with a sufficiently passionate and reiterated emphasis,
the eternity of love? Accordingly, every bed in which Victoria slept had
attached to it, at the back, on the right-hand side, above the pillow,
a photograph of the head and shoulders of Albert as he lay dead,
surmounted by a wreath of immortelles. At Balmoral, where memories came
crowding so closely, the solid signs of memory appeared in surprising
profusion. Obelisks, pyramids, tombs, statues, cairns, and seats of
inscribed granite, proclaimed Victoria's dedication to the dead. There,
twice a year, on the days that followed her arrival, a solemn
pilgrimage of inspection and meditation was performed. There, on August
26--Albert's birthday--at the foot of the bronze statue of him in
Highland dress, the Queen, her family, her Court, her servants, and her
tenantry, met together and in silence drank to the memory of the dead.
In England the tokens of remembrance pullulated hardly less. Not a
day passed without some addition to the multifold assemblage--a gold
statuette of Ross, the piper--a life-sized marble group of Victoria and
Albert, in medieval costume, inscribed upon the base with the words:
"Allured to brighter worlds and led the way-" a granite slab in the
shrubbery at Osborne, informing the visitor of "Waldmann: the very
favourite little dachshund of Queen Victoria; who brought him from
Baden, April 1872; died, July 11, 1881."

At Frogmore, the great mausoleum, perpetually enriched, was visited
almost daily by the Queen when the Court was at Windsor. But there was
another, a more secret and a hardly less holy shrine. The suite of rooms
which Albert had occupied in the Castle was kept for ever shut away
from the eyes of any save the most privileged. Within those precincts
everything remained as it had been at the Prince's death; but the
mysterious preoccupation of Victoria had commanded that her husband's
clothing should be laid afresh, each evening, upon the bed, and that,
each evening, the water should be set ready in the basin, as if he were
still alive; and this incredible rite was performed with scrupulous
regularity for nearly forty years.

Such was the inner worship; and still the flesh obeyed the spirit; still
the daily hours of labour proclaimed Victoria's consecration to duty
and to the ideal of the dead. Yet, with the years, the sense of
self-sacrifice faded; the natural energies of that ardent being
discharged themselves with satisfaction into the channel of public work;
the love of business which, from her girlhood, had been strong within
her, reasserted itself in all its vigour, and, in her old age, to
have been cut off from her papers and her boxes would have been, not a
relief, but an agony to Victoria. Thus, though toiling Ministers might
sigh and suffer, the whole process of government continued, till the
very end, to pass before her. Nor was that all; ancient precedent
had made the validity of an enormous number of official transactions
dependent upon the application of the royal sign-manual; and a great
proportion of the Queen's working hours was spent in this mechanical
task. Nor did she show any desire to diminish it. On the contrary, she
voluntarily resumed the duty of signing commissions in the army, from
which she had been set free by Act of Parliament, and from which,
during the years of middle life, she had abstained. In no case would she
countenance the proposal that she should use a stamp. But, at last, when
the increasing pressure of business made the delays of the antiquated
system intolerable, she consented that, for certain classes of
documents, her oral sanction should be sufficient. Each paper was read
aloud to her, and she said at the end "Approved." Often, for hours at a
time, she would sit, with Albert's bust in front of her, while the word
"Approved" issued at intervals from her lips. The word came forth with
a majestic sonority; for her voice now--how changed from the silvery
treble of her girlhood--was a contralto, full and strong.

IV

The final years were years of apotheosis. In the dazzled imagination
of her subjects Victoria soared aloft towards the regions of divinity
through a nimbus of purest glory. Criticism fell dumb; deficiencies
which, twenty years earlier, would have been universally admitted, were
now as universally ignored. That the nation's idol was a very incomplete
representative of the nation was a circumstance that was hardly noticed,
and yet it was conspicuously true. For the vast changes which, out of
the England of 1837, had produced the England of 1897, seemed scarcely
to have touched the Queen. The immense industrial development of the
period, the significance of which had been so thoroughly understood
by Albert, meant little indeed to Victoria. The amazing scientific
movement, which Albert had appreciated no less, left Victoria perfectly
cold. Her conception of the universe, and of man's place in it, and of
the stupendous problems of nature and philosophy remained, throughout
her life, entirely unchanged. Her religion was the religion which she
had learnt from the Baroness Lehzen and the Duchess of Kent. Here, too,
it might have been supposed that Albert's views might have influenced
her. For Albert, in matters of religion, was advanced. Disbelieving
altogether in evil spirits, he had had his doubts about the miracle
of the Gaderene Swine. Stockmar, even, had thrown out, in a remarkable
memorandum on the education of the Prince of Wales, the suggestion that
while the child "must unquestionably be brought up in the creed of the
Church of England," it might nevertheless be in accordance with
the spirit of the times to exclude from his religious training the
inculcation of a belief in "the supernatural doctrines of Christianity."
This, however, would have been going too far; and all the royal children
were brought up in complete orthodoxy. Anything else would have grieved
Victoria, though her own conceptions of the orthodox were not very
precise. But her nature, in which imagination and subtlety held so small
a place, made her instinctively recoil from the intricate ecstasies
of High Anglicanism; and she seemed to feel most at home in the simple
faith of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. This was what might have
been expected; for Lehzen was the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, and the
Lutherans and the Presbyterians have much in common. For many years Dr.
Norman Macleod, an innocent Scotch minister, was her principal spiritual
adviser; and, when he was taken from her, she drew much comfort from
quiet chats about life and death with the cottagers at Balmoral.
Her piety, absolutely genuine, found what it wanted in the sober
exhortations of old John Grant and the devout saws of Mrs. P.
Farquharson. They possessed the qualities, which, as a child of
fourteen, she had so sincerely admired in the Bishop of Chester's
"Exposition of the Gospel of St. Matthew;" they were "just plain and
comprehensible and full of truth and good feeling." The Queen, who gave
her name to the Age of Mill and of Darwin, never got any further than
that.

From the social movements of her time Victoria was equally remote.
Towards the smallest no less than towards the greatest changes she
remained inflexible. During her youth and middle age smoking had been
forbidden in polite society, and so long as she lived she would not
withdraw her anathema against it. Kings might protest; bishops and
ambassadors, invited to Windsor, might be reduced, in the privacy of
their bedrooms, to lie full-length upon the floor and smoke up the
chimney--the interdict continued! It might have been supposed that a
female sovereign would have lent her countenance to one of the most
vital of all the reforms to which her epoch gave birth--the emancipation
of women--but, on the contrary, the mere mention of such a proposal sent
the blood rushing to her head. In 1870, her eye having fallen upon the
report of a meeting in favour of Women's Suffrage, she wrote to Mr.
Martin in royal rage--"The Queen is most anxious to enlist everyone
who can speak or write to join in checking this mad, wicked folly of
'Woman's Rights,' with all its attendant horrors, on which her poor
feeble sex is bent, forgetting every sense of womanly feeling and
propriety. Lady--ought to get a GOOD WHIPPING. It is a subject which
makes the Queen so furious that she cannot contain herself. God
created men and women different--then let them remain each in their own
position. Tennyson has some beautiful lines on the difference of men and
women in 'The Princess.' Woman would become the most hateful, heartless,
and disgusting of human beings were she allowed to unsex herself; and
where would be the protection which man was intended to give the weaker
sex? The Queen is sure that Mrs. Martin agrees with her." The argument
was irrefutable; Mrs. Martin agreed; and yet the canker spread.

In another direction Victoria's comprehension of the spirit of her age
has been constantly asserted. It was for long the custom for courtly
historians and polite politicians to compliment the Queen upon the
correctness of her attitude towards the Constitution. But such praises
seem hardly to be justified by the facts. In her later years Victoria
more than once alluded with regret to her conduct during the Bedchamber
crisis, and let it be understood that she had grown wiser since. Yet
in truth it is difficult to trace any fundamental change either in her
theory or her practice in constitutional matters throughout her life.
The same despotic and personal spirit which led her to break off the
negotiations with Peel is equally visible in her animosity towards
Palmerston, in her threats of abdication to Disraeli, and in her desire
to prosecute the Duke of Westminster for attending a meeting upon
Bulgarian atrocities. The complex and delicate principles of the
Constitution cannot be said to have come within the compass of her
mental faculties; and in the actual developments which it underwent
during her reign she played a passive part. From 1840 to 1861 the
power of the Crown steadily increased in England; from 1861 to 1901 it
steadily declined. The first process was due to the influence of the
Prince Consort, the second to that of a series of great Ministers.
During the first Victoria was in effect a mere accessory; during the
second the threads of power, which Albert had so laboriously collected,
inevitably fell from her hands into the vigorous grasp of Mr. Gladstone,
Lord Beaconsfield, and Lord Salisbury. Perhaps, absorbed as she was in
routine, and difficult as she found it to distinguish at all clearly
between the trivial and the essential, she was only dimly aware of what
was happening. Yet, at the end of her reign, the Crown was weaker than
at any other time in English history. Paradoxically enough, Victoria
received the highest eulogiums for assenting to a political evolution,
which, had she completely realised its import, would have filled her
with supreme displeasure.

Nevertheless it must not be supposed that she was a second George III.
Her desire to impose her will, vehement as it was, and unlimited by any
principle, was yet checked by a certain shrewdness. She might oppose
her Ministers with extraordinary violence, she might remain utterly
impervious to arguments and supplications; the pertinacity of her
resolution might seem to be unconquerable; but, at the very last moment
of all, her obstinacy would give way. Her innate respect and capacity
for business, and perhaps, too, the memory of Albert's scrupulous
avoidance of extreme courses, prevented her from ever entering an
impasse. By instinct she understood when the facts were too much for
her, and to them she invariably yielded. After all, what else could she
do?

But if, in all these ways, the Queen and her epoch were profoundly
separated, the points of contact between them also were not few.
Victoria understood very well the meaning and the attractions of power
and property, and in such learning the English nation, too, had grown
to be more and more proficient. During the last fifteen years of the
reign--for the short Liberal Administration of 1892 was a mere interlude
imperialism was the dominant creed of the country. It was Victoria's
as well. In this direction, if in no other, she had allowed her mind to
develop. Under Disraeli's tutelage the British Dominions over the seas
had come to mean much more to her than ever before, and, in particular,
she had grown enamoured of the East. The thought of India fascinated
her; she set to, and learnt a little Hindustani; she engaged some Indian
servants, who became her inseparable attendants, and one of whom, Munshi
Abdul Karim, eventually almost succeeded to the position which had
once been John Brown's. At the same time, the imperialist temper of the
nation invested her office with a new significance exactly harmonising
with her own inmost proclivities. The English polity was in the main
a common-sense structure, but there was always a corner in it where
common-sense could not enter--where, somehow or other, the ordinary
measurements were not applicable and the ordinary rules did not apply.
So our ancestors had laid it down, giving scope, in their wisdom, to
that mystical element which, as it seems, can never quite be eradicated
from the affairs of men. Naturally it was in the Crown that the
mysticism of the English polity was concentrated--the Crown, with its
venerable antiquity, its sacred associations, its imposing spectacular
array. But, for nearly two centuries, common-sense had been predominant
in the great building, and the little, unexplored, inexplicable corner
had attracted small attention. Then, with the rise of imperialism, there
was a change. For imperialism is a faith as well as a business; as
it grew, the mysticism in English public life grew with it; and
simultaneously a new importance began to attach to the Crown. The
need for a symbol--a symbol of England's might, of England's worth,
of England's extraordinary and mysterious destiny--became felt more
urgently than ever before. The Crown was that symbol: and the Crown
rested upon the head of Victoria. Thus it happened that while by the end
of the reign the power of the sovereign had appreciably diminished, the
prestige of the sovereign had enormously grown.

Yet this prestige was not merely the outcome of public changes; it was
an intensely personal matter, too. Victoria was the Queen of England,
the Empress of India, the quintessential pivot round which the whole
magnificent machine was revolving--but how much more besides! For one
thing, she was of a great age--an almost indispensable qualification for
popularity in England. She had given proof of one of the most admired
characteristics of the race--persistent vitality. She had reigned for
sixty years, and she was not out. And then, she was a character. The
outlines of her nature were firmly drawn, and, even through the mists
which envelop royalty, clearly visible. In the popular imagination her
familiar figure filled, with satisfying ease, a distinct and memorable
place. It was, besides, the kind of figure which naturally called forth
the admiring sympathy of the great majority of the nation. Goodness they
prized above every other human quality; and Victoria, who had said
that she would be good at the age of twelve, had kept her word. Duty,
conscience, morality--yes! in the light of those high beacons the
Queen had always lived. She had passed her days in work and not in
pleasure--in public responsibilities and family cares. The standard
of solid virtue which had been set up so long ago amid the domestic
happiness of Osborne had never been lowered for an instant. For more
than half a century no divorced lady had approached the precincts of the
Court. Victoria, indeed, in her enthusiasm for wifely fidelity, had laid
down a still stricter ordinance: she frowned severely upon any widow
who married again. Considering that she herself was the offspring of
a widow's second marriage, this prohibition might be regarded as an
eccentricity; but, no doubt, it was an eccentricity on the right side.
The middle classes, firm in the triple brass of their respectability,
rejoiced with a special joy over the most respectable of Queens. They
almost claimed her, indeed, as one of themselves; but this would have
been an exaggeration. For, though many of her characteristics were most
often found among the middle classes, in other respects--in her manners,
for instance--Victoria was decidedly aristocratic. And, in one important
particular, she was neither aristocratic nor middle-class: her attitude
toward herself was simply regal.

Such qualities were obvious and important; but, in the impact of a
personality, it is something deeper, something fundamental and common to
all its qualities, that really tells. In Victoria, it is easy to discern
the nature of this underlying element: it was a peculiar sincerity. Her
truthfulness, her single-mindedness, the vividness of her emotions and
her unrestrained expression of them, were the varied forms which this
central characteristic assumed. It was her sincerity which gave her at
once her impressiveness, her charm, and her absurdity. She moved
through life with the imposing certitude of one to whom concealment was
impossible--either towards her surroundings or towards herself. There
she was, all of her--the Queen of England, complete and obvious; the
world might take her or leave her; she had nothing more to show, or to
explain, or to modify; and, with her peerless carriage, she swept along
her path. And not only was concealment out of the question; reticence,
reserve, even dignity itself, as it sometimes seemed, might be very well
dispensed with. As Lady Lyttelton said: "There is a transparency in her
truth that is very striking--not a shade of exaggeration in describing
feelings or facts; like very few other people I ever knew. Many may be
as true, but I think it goes often along with some reserve. She talks
all out; just as it is, no more and no less." She talked all out; and
she wrote all out, too. Her letters, in the surprising jet of their
expression, remind one of a turned-on tap. What is within pours forth
in an immediate, spontaneous rush. Her utterly unliterary style has at
least the merit of being a vehicle exactly suited to her thoughts and
feelings; and even the platitude of her phraseology carries with it a
curiously personal flavour. Undoubtedly it was through her writings that
she touched the heart of the public. Not only in her "Highland Journals"
where the mild chronicle of her private proceedings was laid bare
without a trace either of affectation or of embarrassment, but also in
those remarkable messages to the nation which, from time to time, she
published in the newspapers, her people found her very close to them
indeed. They felt instinctively Victoria's irresistible sincerity, and
they responded. And in truth it was an endearing trait.

The personality and the position, too--the wonderful combination of
them--that, perhaps, was what was finally fascinating in the case. The
little old lady, with her white hair and her plain mourning clothes,
in her wheeled chair or her donkey-carriage--one saw her so; and
then--close behind--with their immediate suggestion of singularity,
of mystery, and of power--the Indian servants. That was the familiar
vision, and it was admirable; but, at chosen moments, it was right that
the widow of Windsor should step forth apparent Queen. The last and the
most glorious of such occasions was the Jubilee of 1897. Then, as
the splendid procession passed along, escorting Victoria through the
thronged re-echoing streets of London on her progress of thanksgiving
to St. Paul's Cathedral, the greatness of her realm and the adoration
of her subjects blazed out together. The tears welled to her eyes, and,
while the multitude roared round her, "How kind they are to me! How kind
they are!" she repeated over and over again. That night her message flew
over the Empire: "From my heart I thank my beloved people. May God bless
them!" The long journey was nearly done. But the traveller, who had
come so far, and through such strange experiences, moved on with the
old unfaltering step. The girl, the wife, the aged woman, were the same:
vitality, conscientiousness, pride, and simplicity were hers to the
latest hour.



CHAPTER X. THE END

The evening had been golden; but, after all, the day was to close in
cloud and tempest. Imperial needs, imperial ambitions, involved the
country in the South African War. There were checks, reverses, bloody
disasters; for a moment the nation was shaken, and the public distresses
were felt with intimate solicitude by the Queen. But her spirit was
high, and neither her courage nor her confidence wavered for a moment.
Throwing her self heart and soul into the struggle, she laboured with
redoubled vigour, interested herself in every detail of the hostilities,
and sought by every means in her power to render service to the national
cause. In April 1900, when she was in her eighty-first year, she made
the extraordinary decision to abandon her annual visit to the South of
France, and to go instead to Ireland, which had provided a particularly
large number of recruits to the armies in the field. She stayed for
three weeks in Dublin, driving through the streets, in spite of the
warnings of her advisers, without an armed escort; and the visit was
a complete success. But, in the course of it, she began, for the first
time, to show signs of the fatigue of age.

For the long strain and the unceasing anxiety, brought by the war, made
themselves felt at last. Endowed by nature with a robust constitution,
Victoria, though in periods of depression she had sometimes supposed
herself an invalid, had in reality throughout her life enjoyed
remarkably good health. In her old age, she had suffered from a
rheumatic stiffness of the joints, which had necessitated the use of a
stick, and, eventually, a wheeled chair; but no other ailments attacked
her, until, in 1898, her eyesight began to be affected by incipient
cataract. After that, she found reading more and more difficult, though
she could still sign her name, and even, with some difficulty, write
letters. In the summer of 1900, however, more serious symptoms appeared.
Her memory, in whose strength and precision she had so long prided
herself, now sometimes deserted her; there was a tendency towards
aphasia; and, while no specific disease declared itself, by the autumn
there were unmistakable signs of a general physical decay. Yet, even
in these last months, the strain of iron held firm. The daily
work continued; nay, it actually increased; for the Queen, with an
astonishing pertinacity, insisted upon communicating personally with
an ever-growing multitude of men and women who had suffered through the
war.

By the end of the year the last remains of her ebbing strength had
almost deserted her; and through the early days of the opening century
it was clear that her dwindling forces were only kept together by an
effort of will. On January 14, she had at Osborne an hour's interview
with Lord Roberts, who had returned victorious from South Africa a few
days before. She inquired with acute anxiety into all the details of the
war; she appeared to sustain the exertion successfully; but, when
the audience was over, there was a collapse. On the following day her
medical attendants recognised that her state was hopeless; and yet, for
two days more, the indomitable spirit fought on; for two days more she
discharged the duties of a Queen of England. But after that there was
an end of working; and then, and not till then, did the last optimism of
those about her break down. The brain was failing, and life was gently
slipping away. Her family gathered round her; for a little more she
lingered, speechless and apparently insensible; and, on January 22,
1901, she died.

When, two days previously, the news of the approaching end had been made
public, astonished grief had swept over the country. It appeared as if
some monstrous reversal of the course of nature was about to take place.
The vast majority of her subjects had never known a time when Queen
Victoria had not been reigning over them. She had become an indissoluble
part of their whole scheme of things, and that they were about to lose
her appeared a scarcely possible thought. She herself, as she lay
blind and silent, seemed to those who watched her to be divested of all
thinking--to have glided already, unawares, into oblivion. Yet, perhaps,
in the secret chambers of consciousness, she had her thoughts, too.
Perhaps her fading mind called up once more the shadows of the past to
float before it, and retraced, for the last time, the vanished visions
of that long history--passing back and back, through the cloud of years,
to older and ever older memories--to the spring woods at Osborne, so
full of primroses for Lord Beaconsfield--to Lord Palmerston's queer
clothes and high demeanour, and Albert's face under the green lamp,
and Albert's first stag at Balmoral, and Albert in his blue and silver
uniform, and the Baron coming in through a doorway, and Lord M. dreaming
at Windsor with the rooks cawing in the elm-trees, and the Archbishop
of Canterbury on his knees in the dawn, and the old King's turkey-cock
ejaculations, and Uncle Leopold's soft voice at Claremont, and Lehzen
with the globes, and her mother's feathers sweeping down towards her,
and a great old repeater-watch of her father's in its tortoise-shell
case, and a yellow rug, and some friendly flounces of sprigged muslin,
and the trees and the grass at Kensington.



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