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Title: Queen Victoria
Author: Strachey, 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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[Frontispiece: QUEEN VICTORIA, PRINCE ALBERT AND THE ROYAL FAMILY.
_From the Picture by F. Winterhalter_.]



QUEEN VICTORIA


BY

LYTTON STRACHEY



LONDON

CHATTO & WINDUS

1921



TO

VIRGINIA WOOLF



CONTENTS


CHAPTER
TOC
    I. ANTECEDENTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   1
   II. CHILDHOOD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
  III. LORD MELBOURNE  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  51
   IV. MARRIAGE  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  97
    V. LORD PALMERSTON . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149
   VI. LAST YEARS OF THE PRINCE CONSORT  . . . . . . 185
  VII. WIDOWHOOD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 218
 VIII. MR. GLADSTONE AND LORD BEACONSFIELD . . . . . 240
   IX. OLD AGE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 269
    X. THE END . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 307
  ZZZ     BIBLIOGRAPHY  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 311
ETOC



ILLUSTRATIONS


QUEEN VICTORIA, PRINCE ALBERT AND THE ROYAL FAMILY.
  From the picture of F. Winterhalter, at Buckingham
  Palace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

PRINCESS VICTORIA IN 1836.
  From a print after the picture by F. Winterhalter

LORD MELBOURNE.
  From the portrait by Sir Edwin Landseer, R.A., in
  possession of the Earl of Rosebery

QUEEN VICTORIA IN 1838.
  From the portrait by E. Corbould

PRINCE ALBERT IN 1840.
  From the portrait by John Partridge, at Buckingham Palace

QUEEN VICTORIA AND THE PRINCE CONSORT IN 1860

QUEEN VICTORIA IN 1863

QUEEN VICTORIA IN 1876.
  From the portrait by Von Angeli, in possession of
  Coningsby Disraeli, Esq.  Presented by Her Majesty to
  the Earl of Beaconsfield

QUEEN VICTORIA IN 1897



_For facilities afforded in regard to the reproduction of certain of
the above, thanks are due to Mr. John Murray_.



_Authority for every important statement of fact in the following pages
will be found in the footnotes.  The full titles of the works to which
reference is made are given in the Bibliography at the end of the
volume_.

_The author is indebted to the Trustees of the British Museum for their
permission to make use of certain unpublished passages in the
manuscript of the Greville Memoirs_.



{1}

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 sovereigns--it was June, 1814--arrived in
London to celebrate their victory.  Among them, in the suite of the {2}
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.[1]

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.[2]

{3}

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;[3] 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.'[4]

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 {4}
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 observed the royal
_ménage_ 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 {5} 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.  Then, 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.[5]


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.

{6}

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,[6] 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.[7]  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 {7} 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.[8]
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.[9]  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.[10]  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.[11]

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


{8}

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, '_réglé comme du papier à musique_,' and in spite of an income of
£24,000 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 {9} 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 there were no titles in the spiritual 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.[12]

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 {10} 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 £25,000 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 {11} 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 {12} 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 £100 a year.  That sum was afterwards
raised to £400, and finally to £1000; 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 £400 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
£25,000 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 {13} 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.'[13]

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 {14}
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.'[14]  Eventually,
however, Parliament increased the Duke of Kent's annuity by £6000.

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 {15} 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 {16} 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.[15]

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 {17}
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, 'Voilà le
monsieur qui n'a pas déjeuné!'[16]

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 had 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.[17]



[1] Greville, II, 326-8; Stockmar, chap. i, 86; Knight, I, chaps.
xv-xviii and Appendix, and II, chap. i.

[2] Grey, 384, 386-8; _Letters_, II, 40,

[3] Grey, 375-86.

[4] _Letters_, I, 216, 222-3; II, 39-40; Stockmar, 87-90.

[5] Stockmar, _Biograpische Skizze_, and cap. iii.

[6] Creevey, I, 264, 272: 'Prinny has let loose his belly, which now
reaches his knees; otherwise he is said to be well,' 279.

[7] Greville, I, 5-7.

[8] Greville, IV, 2.

[9] Stockmar, 95; Creevey, I, 148; Greville, I, 228; Lieven, 183-4.

[10] Crawford, 24.

[11] _Ibid._, 80, 113.

[12] Stockmar, 112-3; _Letters_, I, 8; Crawford, 27-30; Owen, 193-4,
197-8, 199, 229.

[13] Creevey, I, 267-71.

[14] Creevey, I, 276-7.

[15] _Letters_, I, 1-3: Grey, 373-81, 389; Crawford, 30-4; Stockmar,
113.

[16] Creevey, I, 282-4.

[17] Crawford, 25, 37-8.



{18}

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
'Alexandrina.'  At this the Duke ventured to suggest that another name
might be {19} 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.[1]

[Illustration: PRINCESS VICTORIA IN 1836.  _From the Portrait by F.
Winterhalter._]

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 £7000 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
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 £51,300: 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 {20} attainable, _it is a clear proof to
me that 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 maternal nutriment on the
soil of Old England; and which we shall certainly repeat, if Providence
destines to give us any further increase of family.'[2]

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.'[3]  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.[4]  '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.'[5]  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 {21} 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.[6]  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 £6000 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 {22}
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 délices, 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 £3000 a year; and the
Duchess remained at Kensington.[7]

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.[8]

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 anatgonisms 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 {23} 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.[9]
She declared in public that she put her faith in 'the liberties of the
People.'[10]  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].'[11]  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 {24} suggestions that
the Princess Victoria was in danger from the machinations of her wicked
uncle.[12]

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[13] 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
a 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 Fräulein 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.[14]  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 {25} Baroness de Späth
taught her how to make little cardboard boxes and decorate them with
tinsel and painted flowers;[15] 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.[16]  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.'[17]  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 {26} it was that they were followed,
at a respectful distance, by a gigantic scarlet flunkey.[18]

Warm-hearted, responsive, she loved her dear Lehzen, and she loved her
dear Feodora, and her dear Victoire, and her dear Madame de Späth.  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.[19]

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 {27} 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.[20]


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 £200,000
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 £10,000 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 {28} 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 _protégées_ 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 {29} 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 {30} 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.[21]

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.'[22]  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
{31} 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.[23]

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.[24]  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.[25]  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,[26] and Lablache, to
train the piping treble upon his own {32} 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 schooldays 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.[27]

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 {33} 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 {34} 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 ¼ 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 ½ past 11.'[28]  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 Sévigné's letters, which the Baroness read
aloud, met with more approval.  'How truly elegant and natural her
style is!  It is so full of _naïveté_, 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.'[29]  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 {35}
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 crape
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.'[30]
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 Würtemberg, 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 {36} 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.'[31]  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_.'[32]  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
{37} 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; _cest à 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
_formés_ 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, {38} 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.'[33]  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 quarter-deck 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 {39} exuberance completely got the better 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.[34]  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 {40} 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 rôles of major-domo and Prime
Minister.  Naturally the King fumed over his newspaper at Windsor.
'That woman is a nuisance!  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 {41} Council,
prohibiting the firing of royal salutes to any ships except those which
carried the reigning sovereign or his consort on board.[35]

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 {42} 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!'[36]

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.'[37]  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.'[38]

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 {43} 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 {44} 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.[39]

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 Späth.
Unfortunately, Madame de Späth 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.[40] The Duchess {45} supported Sir John with all the
amplitude 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 Späth, 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.[41]


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 {46} 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.'[42]  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 galop, I could not dance
with him.'[43]  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.'[44]  He now wrote her a letter,
offering her an allowance of £10,000 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; £4000 a year, she said,
would be quite enough for Victoria; as for the remaining £6000, it
would be only proper that she should have that herself.[45]

{47}

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!'[46]  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
correspondence 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.'[47]  On the functions of a monarch, his views were
unexceptionable.  'The business of the highest in a State,' he wrote,
'is {48} certainly, in my opinion, to act with great impartiality and a
spirit of justice for the good of all.'[48]  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.[49]

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 courageous, firm, 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.[50]  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 {49} 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.'[51]  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.[52]  One other sunset he did live to see; and
he died in the early hours of the following morning.  It was 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.[53]  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 {50} right than I
have.'[54]  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.[55]  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 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.[56]



[1] Murray, 62-3; Lee, 11-12.

[2] Owen, Journal, No. 1, February, 1853, 28-9.

[3] _Ibid._, 31.

[4] Croker, I, 155.

[5] Stockmar, 113.

[6] Stockmar, 114-5.

[7] _Letters_, I, 15, 257-8; Grey, App. A.

[8] Granville, I, 168-9.

[9] _Wilberforce, William_, V, 71-2.

[10] _Letters_, I, 17.

[11] Creevey, I, 297-8.

[12] Jerrold, _Early Court_, 15-17.

[13] _Letters_, I, 10.

[14] _Ibid._, I, 14; _Girlhood_, I, 280.

[15] Crawford, 6.

[16] Smith, 21-2.

[17] _Cornhill Magazine_, LXXV, 730.

[18] Hunt, II, 257-8.

[19] _Letters_, I, 10, 18.

[20] _Letters_, I, 11-12; Lee, 26.

[21] _Letters_, I, 14-17.

[22] _Ibid._, I, 16.

[23] Martin, I, 13.

[24] _Letters_, I, 11.

[25] _Girlhood_, I, 42.

[26] Crawford, 87.

[27] Martineau, II, 118-9.

[28] _Girlhood_, I, 66-7.

[29] _Ibid._, I, 129.

[30] _Girlhood_, I, 124-5.

[31] _Girlhood_, I, 78, 82.

[32] _Ibid._, I, 150-3.

[33] _Girlhood_, I, 157-61.

[34] Greville, II, 195-6

[35] Greville, III, 321, 324.

[36] _Letters_, I, 47-8.

[37] _Girlhood_, I, 168.

[38] Greville, III, 377.

[39] Greville, III, 374-6.

[40] _Ibid._, 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
she was, besides, powerfully protected by George IV and William IV, so
that they did not dare to attempt to expel her.'

[41] Greville, IV, 21; Crawford, 128-9.

[42] _Girlhood_, I, 192-3.

[43] _Ibid._, I, 191.

[44] _Ibid._, I, 194.

[45] Greville, III, 407-8.

[46] Creevey, II, 262.

[47] _Letters_, I, 53.

[48] _Letters_, I, 61.

[49] _Girlhood_, I, 175.

[50] _Letters_, I, 70-1.

[51] Torrens, 419.

[52] Huish, 686.

[53] Wynn, 281.

[54] _Girlhood_, I, 195-6.

[55] _Ibid._, I, 196-7.

[56] Greville, III, 414-6.


[Illustration: LORD MELBOURNE.  _From the Portrait by Sir Edwin
Landseer, R.A._]



{51}

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.[1]  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.[2]  Among the outside public
there was a great wave of enthusiasm.  {52} 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.[3]

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 {53} 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.'[4]
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
made the inward truth of her position only 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.[5]
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 {54} 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.'[6]

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
£3000 a year; he remained a member of the Duchess's household, but his
personal intercourse with the Queen came to an abrupt conclusion.[7]


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 {55} 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.[8]  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.[9]  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; {56} 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.[10]  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.[11]  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.[12]  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.'[13]  And Lord Palmerston cited Baron Stockmar as the only
absolutely disinterested {57} man he had come across in life.[14]  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.[15]  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.[16]

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 {58} were his
objects, and such, in fact, were his achievements.  The 'Marquis
Peu-à-peu,' as George IV called him,[17] 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 {59} 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 counsellors.  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 {60} 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 peculiar
to the core.

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, {61} 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.[18]  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.[19]  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 {62} the pages of the
Bible.[20]  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 conversation.[21]  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 {63} 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.[22]

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, {64} 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.[23]

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 {65} 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.[24]


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 {66} 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.'[25]  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.'[26]  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.'[27]
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 {67} social position and the momentousness of
her political one, she was a person of great wealth.  As soon as
Parliament met, an annuity of £385,000 was settled upon her.  When the
expenses of her household had been discharged, she was left with
£68,000 a year of her own.  She enjoyed besides the revenues of the
Duchy of Lancaster, which amounted annually to over £27,000.  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.[28]

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 {68}
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 honeyed 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 ½ 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.'[29]  And then the talk would take a more
personal turn.  Lord {69} 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!).'[30]  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.'[31]  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....  Lord M. said, "The rooks
are my delight."'[32]

[Illustration: QUEEN VICTORIA IN 1838.  _From the painting by E.
Corbould_.]

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.[33]  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 {70} Minister[34]; 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 minutes 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 to-day?' 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.[35]  When
all the guests {71} 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 _à 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.[36]

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.'[37]  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.[38]  But,
undoubtedly, the evenings which she enjoyed most were those on {72}
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.'[39]  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 tablecloth, 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_ {73} 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.[40]

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 régles_?  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 {74} 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.[41]

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.[42]

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 {75} 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.[43]

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.[44]

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.[45]
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 {76} 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.'[46]  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 {77} 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.[47]

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.'[48]  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.  {78} 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.[49]

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.'[50]  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
{79} 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_ it may be, and I repeat it, _all I want in return is some little
sincere affection from you_.'[51]


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 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 {80} 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.[52]  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,
unreasoning; 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.[53]  The state of her {81}
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.[54]

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 {82}
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.[55]  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 {83} 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 difficulties--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';[56] 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 {84} 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.'[57]  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.[58]

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
{85} 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 {86} 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 {87} 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
loophole of escape.  She seized a pen and dashed off a note to Lord
Melbourne.

{88}

'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 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 {89} 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.[59]


{90}

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.'[60]

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 {91} 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.[61]

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.[62]  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 heart-rending; 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 {92} 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.[63]

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.'[64]  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 {93}
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 {94}
'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.'[65]  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;[66] 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.'[67]  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 {95} said, that 'there is _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.'[68]  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.'[69]  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 {96} 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.[70]



[1] Greville, III, 411.

[2] _Ibid._, IV, 7, 9, 14-15.

[3] Walpole, I, 284.

[4] Crawford, 156-7.

[5] Greville, IV, 16.

[6] _Girlhood_, I, 210-1.

[7] Greville, IV, 15.

[8] Greville, IV, 21-2.

[9] Stockmar, 322-3; Maxwell, 159-60.

[10] Stockmar, 109-10.

[11] _Ibid._, 165-6.

[12] _Ibid._, chaps. viii, ix, x, and xi.

[13] _Girlhood_, II, 303.

[14] Stockmar, 324.

[15] _Ibid._, chap. xv, pt. 2.

[16] _Ibid._, chap. xvii.

[17] Stein, VI, 932.

[18] Greville, VI, 247; Torrens, 14; Hayward, I, 336.

[19] Greville, VI, 248.

[20] Greville, III, 331; VI, 254; Haydon, III, 12: 'March 1, 1835.
Called on Lord Melbourne, and found him reading the Acts, with a quarto
Greek Testament that belonged to Samuel Johnson.'

[21] Greville, III, 142; Torrens, 545.

[22] _Girlhood_, II, 148; Torrens, 278, 431, 517; Greville, IV, 331;
VIII, 162.

[23] Greville, VI, 253-4; Torrens, 354.

[24] Greville, IV, 135, 154; _Girlhood_, I, 249.

[25] Creevey, II, 326.

[26] _Girlhood_, I, 203.

[27] _Ibid._, I, 206.

[28] Lee, 79-81.

[29] _Girlhood_, II, 3.

[30] _Girlhood_, II, 29.

[31] _Ibid._, II, 100.

[32] _Ibid._, II, 57, 256.

[33] Lee, 71.

[34] 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, Feb. 26, 1840 (unpublished).

[35] Greville, March 11, 1838 (unpublished).

[36] Greville, IV, 152-3.

[37] _Girlhood_, I, 265-6.

[38] Martineau, II, 119-20; _Girlhood_, II, 121-2.

[39] _Girlhood_, I, 229

[40] _Girlhood_, I, 356-64; Leslie, II, 239.

[41] _Letters_, I, 79.

[42] _Ibid._, I, 80; Greville, IV, 22.

[43] _Letters_, I, 85-6; Greville, IV, 16.

[44] _Ibid._, I, 93.

[45] _Ibid._, I, 93-5.

[46] _Letters_, I, 116.

[47] _Letters_, I, 117-20.

[48] _Ibid._, I, 134.

[49] _Letters_, I, 134-6, 140.

[50] _Ibid._, I, 154.

[51] _Letters_, I, 185.

[52] Greville, IV, 16-17; Crawford, 163-4.

[53] Greville, IV, 178, and August 15, 1839 (unpublished).

[54] 'Nobody cares for the Queen, her popularity has sunk to zero, and
loyalty is a dead letter.'  Greville, March 25, 1839; _Morning Post_,
Sept. 14, 1839.

[55] Greville, August 15, 1839 (unpublished).

[56] _Girlhood_, I, 254.

[57] _Girlhood_, I, 324.

[58] Greville, August 4, 1841 (unpublished); _Girlhood_, II, 154, 162.

[59] _Letters_, I, 154-72; _Girlhood_, II, 163-75; Greville, IV,
206-217, and unpublished passages; Broughton, V, 195; Clarendon, I,
165.  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, printed in _Letters_, 162 and 163.  It may be noted that
the phrase 'the Queen of England will not submit to such trickery' is
omitted in _Girlhood_, 169; and in general there are numerous verbal
discrepancies between the versions of the journal and the letters in
the two books.

[60] Greville, June 7, June 10, June 15, August 15, 1839 (unpublished).

[61] Greville, June 24 and July 7, 1839 (unpublished); Crawford, 222.

[62] Greville, VI, 251-2.

[63] Greville, VI, 251; _Girlhood_, I, 236, 238; II, 267.

[64] Martineau, II, 120.

[65] _Letters_, I, 49.

[66] Grey, 2-19.

[67] _Girlhood_, II, 153.

[68] _Letters_, I, 177-8.

[69] _Girlhood_, II, 215-6.

[70] _Girlhood_, II, 262-9.  Greville's statement (Nov. 27, 1839) that
'the Queen settled everything about her marriage herself, and without
consulting Melbourne at all on the subject, not even communicating to
him her intention,' has no foundation in fact.  The Queen's journal
proves that she consulted Melbourne at every point.


[Illustration: PRINCE ALBERT IN 1840.  _From the Portrait by John
Partridge._]



{97}

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.[1]

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 {98} 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.[2]

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 {99}
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.[3]

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 Würtemberg,
Prince Leiningen, Princess Hohenlohe-Langenburg, and Princess
Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst.  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
{100} 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.[4]

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.'[5]  Placed for some months under
the care of King Leopold at Brussels, he came under the influence of
Adolphe Quetelet, a mathematical {101} 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.[6]  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.[7]

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.  {102} '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.'[8]

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 {103}
Englishman, Lieut. Francis Seymour, who had been engaged to accompany
him, whom he found _sehr liebenswürdig_, 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.  'Voilá un prince dont nous pouvons
être fiers,' said the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who was standing by: 'la
belle danseuse l'attend, le savant l'occupe.'[9]

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 {104} _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.[10]  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.[11]


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 {105} 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 fellow-men.'  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.[12]

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 {106} now, in these final
moments, the old feud burst out with redoubled fury.[13]  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 fixed by
statute, and their opposition prevented it.  She wished her husband to
receive a settlement from the nation of £50,000 a year; and, again
owing to the Tories, he was allowed only £30,000.  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 £30,000 was the whole revenue of Coburg; but her uncle Leopold had
been given £50,000, 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 {107} bitterness of her feelings, and the Duke himself was only too
well aware of all that had passed.[14]

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 roast everywhere.  However,' she
added with asperity, 'that is not a necessity.'[15]  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 {108} a little _strict and
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.'[16]

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 its 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.[17]

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 _Freischütz_
performed by the State band.  It was time to go.  The streets were
packed as he drove through them; for a short space his {109} 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 heart-rending 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.[18]

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 was 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 {110} 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.[19]  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.'[20]  'I know you
never would!'  In {111} 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.[21]  Albert very soon
perceived that he was not master in his own house.[22]  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 {112}
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 {113} receivers of his confidences and the agents of
his will.  From the support and the solace of true companionship he was
utterly cut off.[23]

A friend, indeed, he had--or rather, a mentor.  The Baron, established
once more in the royal residence, was determined to work with as
whole-hearted 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, unknown and insignificant, whose only
assets were 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, {114} 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 rôle 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.[24]  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.  {115} 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.[25]

Minor disagreements made matters worse.  The royal couple differed in
their tastes.  Albert, brought up in a régime 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.[26]  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 {116}
official persons was followed as usual by the round table and the books
of engravings, while the Prince, with three of his attendants, played
game after game of double chess.[27]

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.[28]  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.[29]

{117}

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.[30]  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.[31]  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 {118} 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 betimes, 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.'[32]

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 {119} 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.[33]  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 biassing me either way, though we talk much on the
subject, and his judgment is, as you say, good and mild.'[34]  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
{120} 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.[35]  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 {121} 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.[36]

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.[37]  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.[38]  Time and the
pressure of inevitable circumstances were for him; every day his {122}
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.[39]  Returning to her native Hanover she established herself at
Bückeburg in a small but comfortable house, the walls of which were
entirely covered by portraits of Her Majesty.[40]  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 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 {123} 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, too--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.[41]  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.'[42]  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.[43]  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 {124} 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.'[44]

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.'[45]  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.

{125}

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.[46]  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.'[47]

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,[48] 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.'[49]

Sometimes the delightful routine of domestic existence had to be
interrupted.  It was necessary to {126} 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.[50]  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, practising 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.'[51]  She and
Albert and 'the good King of Saxony,' who happened {127} 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.[52]

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.[53]  The Prince was more
aloof.  They visited Louis Philippe at the Château 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. Héger's _pensionnat_.  'A little, stout, vivacious
lady, very plainly dressed--not much dignity or pretension about her,'
was Charlotte Brontë'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.[54]  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 {128} 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 fêted 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 {129} 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.'[55]


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.[56]  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 {130} 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 gave
cause to Victoria for one moment's pang of jealousy.[57]

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 {131} '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.[58]

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, {132} 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 {133} 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.[59]

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 seventeen, 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 {134} 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 £4 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?[60]

{135}

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.[61]

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, {136} 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.[62]

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.[63]  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.'[64]

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 {137}
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.[65]  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.'[66]  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.[67]


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
{138} 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, _à propos de bottes_,
'I'll be hanged if I'll 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 {139} 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.[68]

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.'[69]

A few days before his death, Victoria, learning that there was no hope
of his recovery, turned her mind for {140} 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.'[70]

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 £200,000.[71]  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
{141} hour that could be snatched from Windsor and London--delightful
hours of deep retirement and peaceful work.[72]  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 of 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.[73]  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 {142} 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.[74]  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 {143} 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.'[75]  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.[76]

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 {144} 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 £200,000 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 {145} 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.[77]

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.[78]

{146}

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 cortège.  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.[79]

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_.'[80]

It was.  The enthusiasm was universal; even the bitterest scoffers were
converted, and joined in the {147} chorus of praise.[81]
Congratulations from public bodies poured in; the City of Paris gave a
great _fête_ 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 £165,000, 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, {148} 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.'[82]



[1] Martin, I, 1-2; Grey, 213-4.

[2] Grey, 7-9; Crawford, 245-6; Panam, 256-7.

[3] Grey, chaps. i to vi; Ernest, I, 18-23.

[4] Grey, App. B.

[5] _Ibid._, 124-7.

[6] Gossart; Ernest, I, 72-3

[7] Grey, 169-73,

[8] Stockmar, 310.

[9] Grey, 133, 415, 416, 419.

[10] Stockmar, 331-2.

[11] Grey, 425.

[12] Grey, 421-5; _Letters_, I, 188.

[13] 'I had much talk with Lady Cowper about the Court.  She lamented
the obstinate character of the Queen, from which she thought that
hereafter great evils might be apprehended.  She said that her
prejudices and antipathies were deep and strong, and her disposition
very inflexible.  Her hatred of Peel and her resentment against the
Duke for having sided with him rather than with her in the old quarrel
are unabated.'  Greville, Nov. 13, 1839 (unpublished).

[14] Greville, Jan.  29, Feb. 15, 1840 (unpublished).

[15] _Letters_, I, 201.

[16] _Letters_, I, 200-8; _Girlhood_, II, 287.

[17] _Dictionary of National Biography_, Art. Sir James Clark;
_Letters_, I. 202.

[18] Grey, 292-303.

[19] Greville, Feb. 15, 1840 (unpublished).

[20] _Letters_, I, 199.

[21] Martin, I, 71, 153.

[22] Grey, 319-20.

[23] Greville, April 3, 1840 (unpublished); Grey, 353-4; Ernest, I,
93-4.

[24] Stockmar, 351.

[25] _Letters_, I, 224.

[26] Blomfield, I, 19.

[27] Grey, 340; _Letters_, I, 256.

[28] Ernest, I, 93.

[29] Jerrold, _Married Life_, 56.

[30] Grey, 320-1, 361-2.

[31] Stockmar, 352-7.

[32] Martin, I, 90-2.

[33] _Letters_, I, 271-4, 284-6.

[34] _Letters_, I, 280.

[35] _Letters_, I, 305; Greville, V, 39-40.

[36] _Letters_, I, 325-6, 329, 330-1, 339-42, 352-4, 360-3, 368.

[37] _Ibid._, I, 291, 295.

[38] _Ibid._, I, 303.

[39] Lyttelton, 282-3.

[40] Bloomfield, I, 215.

[41] Grey, 338-9; Bloomfield, I, 28, 123; Lyttelton, 300, 303, 305-6,
312, 334-5; Martin, I, 488; _Letters_, I, 369.

[42] _Letters_, I, 366.

[43] _Ibid._, III, 439.

[44] Martin, I, 125.

[45] _Girlhood_, II, 135.

[46] _Letters_, I, 366, 464-5, 475, etc.

[47] Lyttelton, 306.

[48] Crawford, 243

[49] Lyttelton, 348.

[50] _Letters_, II, 13; Bunsen, II, 6; Bloomfield, I, 53-4.

[51] _Letters_, II, 12-16.

[52] Martin, I, 224.

[53] Lyttelton, 292; Bloomfield, I, 76-7.

[54] Gaskell, I, 313.

[55] Martin, I, 275, 306.

[56] Lyttelton, 303, 354, 402.

[57] Clarendon, I, 181-2; _Girlhood_, II, 299, 306.

[58] Martin, I, 119-25, 167; Stockmar, 660.

[59] Stockmar, 404-10; Martin, I, 156-60.

[60] _The Times_, Dec., 1840: March, July, Dec., 1841; Feb., Oct.,
1842; July, 1844.

[61] _The Times_ 'Life,' 45.

[62] Stockmar, 409-10; Martin, I, 161.

[63] Greville, VII, 132.

[64] Stockmar, 466-7.

[65] Disraeli, 311; Greville, VI, 367-8.

[66] _Letters_, II, 64.

[67] Greville, V, 329-30.

[68] Torrens, 502, chap. xxxiii; _Letters_, I, 451; II, 140; Greville,
V, 359; VI, 125.

[69] Greville, VI, 255.

[70] _Letters_, II, 203.

[71] Greville, VI, 68-9.

[72] Martin, I, 247-9; Grey, 113.

[73] Stockmar, 363; Martin, I, 316.

[74] Martin, II, 87.

[75] Martin, I, 334.

[76] _Ibid._, II, 224-5.

[77] Martin, II, 225, 243-51, 289, 297-9, 358-9; _Dictionary of
National Biography_, Art. 'Joseph Paxton'; Bloomfield, II, 3-4.

[78] Martin, II, 364-8.

[79] Martin, II, 367 and note.

[80] _Letters_, II, 317-8.

[81] Greville, VI, 413.

[82] Martin, II, 369-72, 386-92, 403-5.



{149}

CHAPTER V

LORD PALMERSTON

I

In 1851 the Prince's fortunes reached their highwater 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 {150} 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.[1]

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 tolerated him only 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 {151} 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 {152} 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 case 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 à point à 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 {153} 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 stationmaster ordered up the train, and the Foreign
Secretary reached London in time for his work, without an accident.[2]
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.'[3]  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, {154} old and young, for whose enjoyment the
parks are maintained.'[4]  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.'[5]

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
{155} 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 hâtions pas, l'héritier viendrait avant le
mari.'[6]  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 {156} 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 served
only 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 Würtemberg.
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 {157} 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.[7]  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
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 Château 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 reopened 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 {158} 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 {159} 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 à notre bonheur
intérieur, le seul vrai dans ce monde, et que vous, madame, savez si
bien apprécier.'[8]  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.[9]


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
{160} 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 an 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 {161} 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 {162} 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 {163} 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 {164} 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.[10]  '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.'[11]  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
{165} 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.'[12]  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.[13]  What shall we say if Canada, Malta, etc.,
begin to trouble us?  It hurts me terribly.'[14]  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 {166} produced very unpleasant diplomatic consequences.[15]
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.[16]  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 {167} 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.[17]  But Lord
John, in reality, needed no pressure.  Attacked by his Sovereign,
ignored by his Foreign Secretary, he led a miserable life.[18]  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 millstones, 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; {168} 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.[19]

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.  {169} 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.[20]

Great was the disappointment of Albert; great was the indignation of
Victoria.  'The House of Commons,' she wrote, 'is becoming very
unmanageable and troublesome.'[21]  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
{170} 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.'[22]  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 {171} 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, and 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
point-blank 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?[23]

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 {172} 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
Hyæna,' 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 'Hyaena!' 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 {173} 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 lamb-like, agreed to everything; the
note was withdrawn and altered, and peace was patched up once more.[24]

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.[25]

{174}

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'état_ 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'état_ 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.[26]

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 {175} all
that was most hostile to him in the spirit of England, and his
redoubtable opponent had been overthrown.[27]  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 {176} 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 {177} 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.[28]  At last the wildest rumours
began to spread.

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,
{178} and large crowds actually collected round the Tower to watch the
incarceration of the royal miscreants.[29]

These fantastic hallucinations were the result of the fevered
atmosphere of approaching war.  The cause of Palmerston's resignation,
indeed, remains wrapped in obscurity, and it is possible that it was
brought about by the continued hostility of the Court.[30]  But the
supposition that Albert's influence had been used to favour the
interests of Russia was devoid of any basis in actual fact.  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 gravest of the charges levelled against the
Prince were certainly without foundation, there were underlying
elements in the situation {179} 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,[31] 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.[32]  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 {180} 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 {181} 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.'[33]

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 {182}
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 {183} 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 faint-hearted 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.'[34]  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 {184}
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 and 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.'[35]  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.



[1] Martin, I, 194-6; _Letters_, I, 510-11.

[2] Bunsen, II, 152.

[3] Dalling, I, 346.

[4] Dalling, III, 413-5.

[5] Ashley, II, 213.

[6] Greville, VI, 33.

[7] _Letters_, I, 511.

[8] _Letters_, II, 100-1.

[9] Dalling, III, chaps. vii and viii; Stockmar, cap. xxi.

[10] _Letters_, II, 181.

[11] _Ibid._, II, 194.

[12] _Letters_, II, 195.

[13] Venice and Lombardy.

[14] _Letters_, II, 199.

[15] _Letters_, II, 221; Ashley, II, 195-6.

[16] Greville, VI, 63-4.

[17] Greville, VI, 324-6; Clarendon, I, 341.

[18] Clarendon, I, 337, 342.

[19] _Letters_, II, 235-7.

[20] _Letters_, II, 261-4.

[21] _Ibid._, II, 253.

[22] _Letters_, II, 238 and 264.

[23] Martin, II, 307-10.

[24] _Letters_, II, 267-70; Martin, II, 324-7; Ashley, II, 169-70.

[25] _Letters_, II, 324-31; Martin, II, 406-11; Spencer Walpole, II,
133-7; Stockmar, 642; Greville, VI, 421-4.

[26] _Letters_, II, 334-43; Martin, II, 411-18; Ashley, II, 200-12;
Walpole, II, 138-42; Clarendon, I, 338.

[27] Ernest, III, 14.

[28] '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;
Martin, II, 539-41; Greville, VII, 127-9.

[29] Martin, II, 540, 562.

    '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!_

[30] Kinglake, II, 27-32.

[31] 'Aberdeen spoke much of the Queen and Prince, of course with great
praise.  He said the Prince's views were generally sound and wise, with
one exception, which was his violent and incorrigible German unionism.
He goes all lengths with Prussia.'--Greville, VI, 305.

[32] Ashley, II, 218.

[33] Martin, II, 545-57.

[34] Martin, II, 259-60.

[35] Martin, II, 563-4.



[Illustration: QUEEN VICTORIA AND THE PRINCE CONSORT IN 1860.]



{185}

CHAPTER VI

LAST YEARS OF THE PRINCE CONSORT

I

The weak-willed youth who took no interest in politics 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.[1]  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 {186} 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,'[2] 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 dächte es wäre
recht so.'[3]  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.[4]

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.[5]  The National Gallery particularly
interested him: he drew up careful regulations for the arrangement of
the pictures according to schools; and he attempted--though {187} in
vain--to have the whole collection transported to South Kensington.[6]
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.'[7]

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 {188} 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.[8]

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 {189} 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 {190} 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.[9]


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 {191} 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 {192} 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.'[10]

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 {193} whole so _gemüthlich_.'[11]  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,[12] 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 walls and the floors were of pitch-pine, and covered
with specially manufactured tartans.  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.[13]

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 {194} building, own laying-out; ... and his great taste, and the
impress of his dear hand, have been stamped everywhere.'[14]

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 more!'  For such
were her 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
{195} 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.'[15]  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.[16]

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 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 {196} 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![17]


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.'[18]  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 {197} 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.[19]  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.[20]  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 depôt 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 {198}
be concentrated and drilled, proved to be the germ of Aldershot.[21]

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,
_naïf_ even, so pleased to be informed {199} 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 _prévention_ 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 "très-compliquée"'[22]

Victoria, too, became much attached to the Empress, whose looks and
graces she admired without a touch of jealousy.  Eugénie, 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 heartburning 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 Eugénie, cool and modish, floated in an
infinitude of {200} 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.[23]

There were tears when the moment came for parting, and Victoria felt
'quite wehmüthig,' 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
Château 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.[24]  Such were his attentions.  She returned to
England more enchanted than ever.  'Strange indeed,' she exclaimed,
'are the dispensations and ways of Providence!'[25]

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 {201} 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.'[26]  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, {202} genuinely impressed by the Prince's ability and
knowledge.[27]  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 rôle; 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.[28]

Towards the other European storm-centre, also, the Prince's attitude
continued to be very different from 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 {203} 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.[29]
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.'[30]  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
{204} 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.'[31]

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 {205} innate characteristics served
only 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 plaisait à tout le monde,' old Metternich reported to
Guizot, 'mais avait l'air embarrassé et très 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 {206} 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 sub-headings 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_ 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?[32]

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 {207} 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 tittle-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.'[33]

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 {208} 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.[34]  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 {209} 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.

{210}

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.'[35]  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 {211} position
in the country.  'The Queen has a right to claim that her husband
should be an Englishman,' she wrote.[36]  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.[37]  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.'[38]  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 {212} 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.  '£1,000, or even £2,000, 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 names of
the Burgomaster and chief clergyman of Coburg, who were directed to
distribute the interest yearly among a certain number {213} of young
men and women of exemplary character belonging to the humbler ranks of
life.[39]

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 it, 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 {214} 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.[40]  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 were 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.[41]

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 {215} 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.'[42]  He had judged
correctly.  Before he had been ill many days, he told a friend that he
was convinced he would not recover.[43]  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.[44]

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 {216} 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.'[45]  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 {217}
dressing.'  'Es ist 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.[46]



[1] Martin, II, 161.

[2] 'Read this carefully, and tell me if there are any mistakes in it.'

[3] 'Here is a draft I have made for you.  Read it.  I should think
this would do.'

[4] Martin, V, 273-5.

[5] _Ibid._, II, 379.

[6] Martin, IV, 14-15, 60.

[7] _Ibid._, II, 479.

[8] Martin, II, 251-2; Bloomfield, II, 110.

[9] _D.N.B._, Second Supplement, Art. 'Edward VII'; _Quarterly Review_,
CCXIII, 4-7, 16.

[10] _Leaves_, 18, 33, 34, 36, 127-8, 132_n_.

[11] _Leaves_, 73-4, 95-6; Greville, VI, 303-4.

[12] _Leaves_, 99-100.

[13] _Private Life_, 209-11; _Quarterly Review_, CXCIII, 335.

[14] _Leaves_, 103, 111.

[15] _Leaves_, 92-4.

[16] _Ibid._, 102, 113-4.

[17] _Leaves_, 72, 117, 137.

[18] _Letters_, III, 127.

[19] Private information.

[20] Martin, III, v.

[21] Martin, III, 146-7, 168-9, 177-9,

[22] Martin, III, 242, 245, 351; IV, 111.

[23] _Quarterly Review_, CXCIII, 313-4; _Spinster Lady_, 7.

[24] Crawford, 311-2.

[25] Martin, III, 350.

[26] _Leaves_, 105-6.

[27] Martin, II, 429.

[28] _Letters_, III, especially July-December 1859; Martin, IV, 488-91;
V, 189.

[29] _Leaves_, 107.

[30] _Letters_, III, 253.

[31] Martin, IV, 160-9.

[32] _D.N.B._, Second Supplement, 551; _Quarterly Review_, CCXIII,
9-20, 24; Greville, VIII, 217.

[33] Stockmar, 4, 44.

[34] Ernest, I, 140-1.

[35] Theognis, 401 ff.

[36] _Letters_, III, 194.

[37] Grey, 195_n_.

[38] Martin, IV, 298.

[39] Martin, V, 202-4, 217-9.

[40] _D.N.B._, Second Supplement, 557.

[41] Martin, V, 416-27.

[42] Martin, V, 415.

[43] Bloomfield, II, 155.

[44] Martin, V, 427-35; 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, Dec.
17, 1861.

[45] _Letters_, III, 472-3.

[46] Martin, V, 435-42; Hare, II, 286-8; _Spinster Lady_, 176-7.



{218}

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.

[Illustration: QUEEN VICTORIA IN 1863.]

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 {219} 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.[1]  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 lifetime 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 {220} 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."[2]

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 {221} 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.[3]  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 {222} 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.[4]  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 heart-broken 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!'[5]
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 roast' as of old.  She would give him a
hint.  'I {223} 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
postscript--'What a Xmas!  I won't think of it.'[6]

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.[7]  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.[8]

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 {224} 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_.'[9]

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 _crêpe_, 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.[10]  Again and again she felt that she {225} 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 application; 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 {226} 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.[11]

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.'[12]  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.[13]  She did not
realise that the Prussia of the Prince's days 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 {227}
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.[14]  '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.'[15]  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 {228} 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.[16]

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
dress-making, 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 {229} and unassisted--duties which she cannot neglect
without injury to the public service, which weigh unceasingly upon her,
overwhelming her with work and anxiety.'[17]  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.[18]
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!'[19]  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, {230} 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 wonder-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, &c., 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.'[20]  It was too true.


{231}

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.[21]

Mr. Martin was rewarded by a knighthood; and {232} 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 perspicacity, 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 {233} 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
£200,000, a vast and elaborate mausoleum for herself and her
husband.[22]  But that was a private and domestic {234} 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
£60,000 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 £120,000,
since the public subscribed another £10,000, while £50,000 was voted by
Parliament.  Some years later a joint-stock company {235} was formed
and built, as a private speculation, the Albert Hall.[23]

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 {236} 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 t'other--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.[24]

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 {237} 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, &c. &c.'[25]  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 {238} 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 {239} 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.[26]



[1] Clarendon, II, 251.

[2] Vitzthum, II, 161.

[3] Stockmar, 49; Ernest, IV-71

[4] Clarendon, II, 251, 253.

[5] _Letters_, III, 474-5.

[6] _Letters_, III, 476.

[7] Lee, 322-3; Crawford, 368.

[8] Clarendon, II, 257.

[9] Clarendon, II, 261-2.

[10] Martin, _Queen Victoria_, 155.

[11] Clarendon, II, 261; Lee, 327; Martin, _Queen Victoria_, 30.

[12] Robertson, 156.

[13] Morley, II, 102; Ernest, IV, 133: 'I know that our dear angel
Albert always regarded a strong Prussia as a necessity, for which,
therefore, it is a sacred duty for me to work.'--Queen Victoria to the
Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, August 29, 1863.

[14] Fitzmaurice, I, 459, 460.

[15] _Ibid._, I, 472-3.

[16] Clarendon, II, 310-1.

[17] _The Times_, April 6, 1864; Clarendon, II, 290.

[18] Clarendon, II, 292-3.

[19] Fitzmaurice, I, 466, 469.

[20] Martin, _Queen Victoria_, 28-9.

[21] Martin, _Queen Victoria_, 97-106.

[22] Lee, 390

[23] _National Memorial_.

[24] Scott, 177-201, 271.

[25] Scott, 225.

[26] _National Memorial_; Dafforne, 43-4.



{240}

CHAPTER VIII

MR. 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;[1] 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.'[2]  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.

[Illustration: QUEEN VICTORIA IN 1876.  _From the Portrait by Von
Angeli_.]

Her attitude towards the Tory Minister had suddenly {241} 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.'[3]
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 an 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
accomplishment, 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 {242}
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.[4]  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.[5]

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_.[6]  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 {243} with Her Majesty at this period, constantly used the
words 'we authors, ma'am.'[7]  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.'[8]
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.[9]  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.'[10]

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 {244} 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 précis of them.[11]  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.[12]

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 {245} 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.'[13]

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 {246} 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.[14]

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 permeated 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 {247} 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.[15]

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.[16]


{248}

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 had ever 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 £385,000 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 £60,000 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 {249} 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 £20,000 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
£30,000 to the Princess Louise on her marriage with the eldest son of
the Duke of Argyll, together with an annuity of £6,000, there should
have been a serious outcry.[17]

In order to conciliate public opinion, the Queen opened Parliament in
person, and the vote was passed {250} 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 £15,000.  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 £10,000.

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.[18]

{251}

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.'[19]  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 {252} 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 element 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 {253} ambiguity so dear to his heart, it
precisely expressed his vision of the Queen.  The Spenserian allusion
was very pleasant--the elegant evocation 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, {254} 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.'[20]  He practised 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.'[21]  '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.'[22]  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.'[23]  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 {255} 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!'[24]  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 {256} 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.'[25]  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.'[26]  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.'[27]  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.'[28]  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.[29]  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 {257} indifference to what the public
expects?  I only ask; it is for you to judge.'[30]

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, {258} 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.[31]  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.[32]  But such public signs of favour were trivial in
comparison with her private attentions.  During his hours 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.'[33]  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 more used to these
ebullitions.'[34]  She often sent him presents; an illustrated album
arrived for him regularly from Windsor on Christmas Day.[35]  But her
most valued gifts were {259} 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 favourite
flower.'[36]  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 delivered 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.'[37]  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.'[38]  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 {260}
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.'[39]

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 {261} inspiring,'[40] 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,'[41] 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 _rusé_ 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 {262} 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.'[42]  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.[43]  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
{263} 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!_'[44]  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.[45]

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 {264} 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.'[46]  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 {265} 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.'[47]  'The Faery,' Beaconsfield told Lady
Bradford, 'writes every day and telegraphs every hour; this is almost
literally the case.'[48]  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!'[49]  '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.'[50]

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 off 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, {266} which her Majesty
forthwith signed, and sent, without alteration, to the Foreign
Secretary.[51]  But such devices gave only a temporary relief; and it
soon became evident that Victoria's martial ardour was not to be
side-tracked 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.[52]
'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!'[53]  '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.'[54]  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 {267} to remain as it is now.'[55]  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.'[56]

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.'[57]

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 {268} 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.'[58]



[1] Adams, 135.

[2] Clarendon, II, 342.

[3] Buckle, IV, 385.

[4] Buckle, IV, 382-95.

[5] _Ibid._, IV, 592.

[6] Clarendon, II, 346.

[7] Buckle, V, 49.

[8] _Ibid._, V, 48.

[9] _Ibid._, V, 28.

[10] Morley, II, 252, 256.

[11] Martin, _Queen Victoria_, 50-1.

[12] Tait, II, chap. i.

[13] Childers, I, 175-7.

[14] Morley, II, 360-5.

[15] Morley, II, 423-8; Crawford, 356, 370-1.

[16] Private information.

[17] In 1889 it was officially stated that the Queen's total savings
from the Civil List amounted to £824,025, but that out of this sum much
had been spent on special entertainments to foreign visitors (Lee,
499).  Taking into consideration the proceeds from the Duchy of
Lancaster, which were more than £60,000 a year (Lee, 79), 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.

[18] Morley, II, 425-6; Lee, 410-2, 415-8; Jerrold, _Widowhood_, 153-7,
162-3, 169-71.

[19] Martin, _Queen Victoria_, 41-2.

[20] Buckle, VI, 463.

[21] _Ibid._, VI, 226.

[22] _Ibid._, VI, 445,7.

[23] _Ibid._, VI, 254-5.

[24] Buckle, VI, 430.

[25] Buckle, V, 286.

[26] _Ibid._, V, 321.

[27] _Ibid._, V, 448-9.

[28] _Ibid._, II, 246.

[29] Morley, II, 574-5.

[30] Buckle, V, 414.

[31] _Quarterly Review_, CXCIII, 334.

[32] Lee, 434-5.

[33] Buckle, V, 339.

[34] _Ibid_., V, 384.

[35] _Ibid._, VI, 468.

[36] Buckle, VI, 629.

[37] _Ibid._, VI, 248.

[38] _Ibid._, VI, 246-7.

[39] Buckle, VI, 464-7.

[40] Buckle, VI, 238.

[41] _Ibid._, VI, 462.

[42] Buckle, V, 414-5.

[43] _Ibid._, V, 456-8; VI, 457-8.

[44] Buckle, V, 468-9, 473.

[45] Hamilton, 120; _Quarterly Review_, CXXXIX, 334.

[46] Buckle, VI, 106-7.

[47] Buckle, VI, 144.

[48] _Ibid._, VI, 150.

[49] _Ibid._, VI, 154.

[50] _Ibid._, VI, 217.

[51] Buckle, VI, 157-9.

[52] _Ibid._, VI, 132.

[53] _Ibid._, VI, 148.

[54] _Ibid._, VI, 217.

[55] Buckle, VI, 243-5.

[56] _Ibid._. VI, 190.

[57] Lee, 445-6.

[58] Buckle, VI, 613-4.



{269}

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 {270} that his kind
grandmama had suddenly turned into a most terrifying lady, submitted
his will to hers, and bowed very low indeed.[1]

[Illustration: QUEEN VICTORIA IN 1897.]

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.[2]  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, {271} 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 high-bred 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.[3]  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.'[4]  Smith and Grant and Ross and
Thompson--she was devoted to them all; but, beyond the rest, she was
devoted to John Brown.  The {272} 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 dependant 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 {273} 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 in
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 {274} 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.[5]


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 {275} 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
Eugénie, 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 {276} 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 offence, and
was tried upon the same charge, the Prince pronounced 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 be treated only 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 misdemeanour, 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, {277} 'to be publicly or privately whipped, as often, and in
such manner and form, as the Court shall direct, not exceeding
thrice.'[6]  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.'[7]  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.[8]  Their verdict, however, produced a remarkable
consequence.  Victoria, who doubtless carried in her mind {278} 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.[9]

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;[10] and {279} 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.'[11]

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.'[12]

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 {280} 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 'National 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.[13]

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.  {281} 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.[14]


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 {282} 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.
Eventually 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.[15]  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 itself 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.

{283}

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.[16]

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 {284}
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 men; 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 his 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 {285} 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
Fräulein Loisinger, an actress at the court theatre of Darmstadt.[17]

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 {286} 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.[18]

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 minutiae
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,
{287} 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.[19]

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 duologue followed duologue in
constraint and embarrassment, the rest of the assembly stood still,
without a word.[20]  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 {288} 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.[21]

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 _dénouement_ 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 {289}
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.[22]

In general, her æsthetic 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 {290} 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.[23]

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 {291} 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.[24]  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 {292}
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;
Sèvres 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 {293} 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 {294} 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.[25]

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 {295} as he
lay dead, surmounted by a wreath of immortelles.[26]  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.'[27]

At Frogmore, the great mausoleum, perpetually enriched, was visited
almost daily by the Queen when the Court was at Windsor.[28]  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 {296} 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.[29]

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 had 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.' {297} 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.[30]


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 be
supposed that Albert's views would have influenced her.  For Albert, in
matters of religion, {298} was advanced.  Disbelieving altogether in
evil spirits, he had had his doubts about the miracle of the Gadarene
Swine.[31]  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.'[32]  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.[33]  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.[34]  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 {299} 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.[35]  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 {300}
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.'[36]  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.[37]
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 {301} 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 {302}
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.[38]  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 {303} 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, at the age of twelve, had said that she
would be good, 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 {304} 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.[39]
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 {305} 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.'[40]  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; {306} 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.[41]  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.



[1] Hallé, 296.

[2] _Notes and Queries_, May 20, 1920.

[3] Neele, 476-8, 487.

[4] _More Leaves_, _v_.

[5] _More Leaves_, passim; Crawford, 326-31; private information.

[6] Martin, I, 88, 137-43.

[7] _Ibid._, II, 285.

[8] _The Times_, April 20, 1882.

[9] Letter from Sir Herbert Stephen to _The Times_, December 15,1920.

[10] Morley, III, 167.

[11] Private information.

[12] Morley, III, 347-8.

[13] Jerrold, _Widowhood_, 344; private information.

[14] Lee, 487.

[15] _More Leaves_, 23, 29.

[16] Eckardstein, I, 184-7.

[17] Grant Robertson, 458-9; Busch, III, 174-188; Lee, 490-2.

[18] _Quarterly Review_, CXCIII, 305-6, 308-10.

[19] _Quarterly Review_, CXCIII, 315-6; Miss Ethel Smyth, _London
Mercury_, Nov. 1920; private information.

[20] _Ibid._, CXCIII, 325; Miss Ethel Smyth, _London Mercury_, Nov.
1920.

[21] Buckle, V, 339; Morley, III, 347, 514.

[22] Quarterly Review, CXCIII, 315, 316-7, 324-5, 326; _Spinster Lady_,
268-9; Lee, 504-5.

[23] _Quarterly Review_, CXCIII, 322-4; Martin, _Queen Victoria_, 46-9;
private information.

[24] Buckle, V, 349-51; Laughton, II, 226.

[25] _Private Life_, 13, 66, 69, 70-1, 151, 182.

[26] _Private Life_, 19.

[27] _Ibid._, 212, 207.

[28] _Ibid._, 233.

[29] Private information.

[30] Lee, 514-15; Crawford, 362-3.

[31] Wilberforce, Samuel, II, 275.

[32] Martin, II, 185-7.

[33] _Quarterly Review_, CXCIII, 319-20.

[34] Crawford, 349.

[35] Eckardstein, I, 177.

[36] Martin, Queen Victoria, 69-70.

[37] _Girlhood_, II, 142.

[38] Lee, 485; private information.

[39] Lee, 555.

[40] Lyttelton, 331

[41] _Quarterly Review_, CXCIII, 310.



{307}

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 herself 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.[1]

For the long strain and the unceasing anxiety, brought by the war, made
themselves felt at last.  {308} 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 vein 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.[2]

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 kept together only by an
effort of will.  On January 11, 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 {309} 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.[3]

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 {310} 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.



[1] _Quarterly Review_, CXCIII, 318, 336-7.

[2] Lee, 536-7; private information.

[3] Lee, 537-9; _Quarterly Review_, CXCIII, 309.



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Printed by SPOTTISWOODE, BALLANTYNE & CO. LTD.

Colchester, London & Eton, England



_SOME OPINIONS ON 'EMINENT VICTORIANS'_

_NOW IN ITS NINTH EDITION_


'Mr. Lytton Strachey's "Eminent Victorians" has had, I suppose, the
most instant success that any book of account has won in this
generation.  Some of Mr. Strachey's incidental portraits are of
astonishing brilliancy--notably that of Mr. Gladstone, and the book is
sure of long life.  This it will owe to its felicity of style and its
finish and delicacy of moulding, no less than to its cynical wit and
its perfectly serious and critical intention.'--_The Nation_.

'A brilliant and extraordinarily witty book.  Mr. Strachey's method of
presenting his characters is both masterly and subtle.  His purpose is
to penetrate into the most hidden depths of his sitters' characters.
There is something almost uncanny in the author's detachment.'--_The
Times_.

'An unusually interesting volume in a department of literature which,
in England, has fallen to a grievously low level.'--_Manchester
Guardian_.

'Four short biographies which are certainly equal to anything of the
kind which has been produced for a hundred years.  He elucidates with
consummate dexterity--the book is a masterpiece of its kind.'--Mr. J.
C. Squire, in _Land and Water_.

'A brilliant book has recently appeared which illustrates in very
vigorous and striking fashion the interval which seems to divide the
twentieth century from the nineteenth.  Mr. Lytton Strachey's book has
attained a celebrity quite remarkable for literary work produced in
times of war.  There is no doubt as to its literary merits.'--Leading
Article in _The Daily Telegraph_.

'This book is brilliant and witty and iconoclastic enough, but it has
also something in it which gives it greatness.  Regarded as an example
of the manner in which biography can be written, it is almost
unparalleled in English; and many readers will be rejoiced if Mr.
Strachey can be induced to become a Plutarch of the modern
world.'--_Westminster Gazette_.

'It is impossible here even to outline the precise, vivid, and witty
essays which Mr. Strachey has devoted to his four characters.  But he
has certainly done something to redeem English biography from the
reproach under which it suffers when compared with the art as practised
in France; and he comes close to the standard which he sets himself
when he speaks of the "Fontenelles and Condorcets."'--_New Statesman_.

'Mr. Strachey's subtle and suggestive art.'--_Mr. Asquith's Romanes
Lecture at Oxford_.



LONDON: CHATTO & WINDUS





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