Women's Liberal Federation in the Grosvenor Gallery, Gladstone took the opportunity of publicly shaking hands with him.
On one important subject Gladstone found himself in 1889 at variance with many of his supporters. The maturity of Prince Albert Victor (afterwards Duke of Clarence) [q. v. Suppl.], now twenty-four, and the approaching marriage of Princess Louise of Wales to the Duke of Fife, induced Queen Victoria to ask for an addition to the grants made by parliament for the maintenance of the royal family. A select committee, of which Gladstone was a member, was appointed by the House of Commons to consider the queen's message. In the committee Gladstone proposed, and the government agreed, that a quarterly payment of 9,000l. should be granted to the prince of Wales, that out of this he should provide for his own children, and that no further application should be made to parliament. When, on 25 July, W. H. Smith, as leader of the house, moved the adoption of this report, it was opposed by the radicals. Gladstone strongly supported the government, and, in an eloquent speech, rapturously applauded by the conservative party, pleaded for maintaining the British monarchy, not only with dignity, but with splendour. He carried with him the Irish vote. But the radicals went into the other lobby. On 26 July 1889 Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone celebrated their golden wedding. Perhaps the most interesting part of the anniversary was an affectionate letter to Mrs. Gladstone from the venerable Cardinal Manning, who had been estranged from her husband by the controversy over the Vatican decrees, but was a warm supporter of home rule for Ireland.
At the beginning of September 1889 Gladstone, always anxious to promote friendly relations with France, paid a week's visit to Paris with his wife. On the 7th he was entertained at dinner by a number of politicians, chiefly free-traders, and in response to the toast of his health, proposed by M. Léon Say, delivered in French a cordial speech on the natural links between the two countries. His presence and his remarks met with a warm welcome from the French press. At the end of the year Parnell spent some days as a guest at Hawarden.
During the spring and summer of 1890 the prospects of the liberal party were highly favourable. The by-elections were going against the government, and many conservatives were beginning to doubt the wisdom of Mr. Balfour's policy in Ireland. But in November there came a sudden change. Parnell had been made co-respondent in a divorce case, and on 17 Nov. judgment was given against him. On 22 Nov., after the annual meeting of the national liberal conference at Sheffield, Sir William Harcourt and Mr. Morley, who were present, informed Gladstone that, in the unanimous opinion of the liberal delegates, the continuance of Parnell at the head of the nationalist party would mean the abandonment of home rule by English liberals. On 24 Nov. Gladstone wrote a letter to Mr. Morley, which was to be shown to Parnell and to Mr. Justin McCarthy, but not to the other Irish nationalists, if Parnell voluntarily retired. Gladstone wrote that, if Parnell remained where he was, many friends of home rule would be estranged and Gladstone's own leadership would be made 'almost a nullity.' The letter was sent to Mr. McCarthy, who failed in his efforts to communicate with Parnell, and on the 25th, the day of the meeting of parliament, Parnell was unanimously re-elected chairman by his colleagues. At that date the terms of Gladstone's letter were not known to the Irish members. It was published immediately afterwards. On 29 Nov. Parnell replied in a manifesto, which informed the Irish people that he was being thrown to the 'English wolves.' He said that when he stayed at Hawarden in December 1889, Gladstone told him that under the next home rule bill the Irish members were to be reduced in number to thirty-four, and the imperial parliament was to have exclusive control over the question of Irish land. The judges and the police were also to be withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the Irish legislature. Parnell added that, on 10 Nov. 1890, he refused Mr. Morley's offer of the chief secretaryship for Ireland, and of a legal office under the crown, which it was resolved to confer on another Irish member. He declared that Irish nationalists were now independent of all English parties. Both Gladstone and Mr. Morley immediately denied altogether Parnell's statements in regard to their intercourse with him.
In consequence of Gladstone's letter a second meeting of the Irish party was held on 1 Dec. in committee-room 15 of the House of Commons, and Parnell was called upon to resign. He agreed to do so if Gladstone gave an assurance that Ireland should be allowed to manage her own police and legislate for her own land. Gladstone refused any pledge, but intimated that no home rule bill could be carried or ought to be proposed which did not meet with the general concurrence of the Irish people.