1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Victoria, Queen
VICTORIA [ALEXANDRINA VICTORIA], Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India (1819–1901), only child of Edward, duke of Kent, fourth son of King George III., and of Princess Victoria Mary Louisa of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (widow of Prince Emich Karl of Leiningen, by whom she already had two children), was born at Kensington Palace on the 24th of May 1819. The duke and duchess of Kent had been living at Amorbach, in Franconia, owing to their straitened circumstances, but they returned to London on purpose that their child should be born in England. In 1817 the death of Princess Charlotte (only child of the prince regent, afterwards George IV., and wife of Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, afterwards king of the Belgians), had left the ultimate succession to the throne of England, in the younger generation, so uncertain that the three unmarried sons of George III., the dukes of Clarence (afterwards William IV.), Kent and Cambridge, all married in the following year, the two elder on the same day. All three had children, but the duke of Clarence's two baby daughters died in infancy, in 1819 and 1821; and the duke of Cambridge's son George, born on the 26th of March 1819, was only two months old when the birth of the duke of Kent's daughter put her before him in the succession. The question as to what name the child should bear was not settled without bickerings. The duke of Kent wished her to be christened Elizabeth, and the prince regent wanted Georgiana, while the tsar Alexander I., who had promised to stand sponsor, stipulated for Alexandrina. The baptism was performed in a drawing-room of Kensington Palace on the 24th of June by Dr Manners Sutton, archbishop of Canterbury. The prince regent, who was present, named the child Alexandrina; then, being requested by the duke of Kent to give a second name, he said, rather abruptly, “Let her be called Victoria, after her mother, but this name must come after the other.” Six weeks after her christening the princess was vaccinated, this being the first occasion on which a member of the royal family underwent the operation.
In January 1820 the duke of Kent died, five days before his brother succeeded to the throne as George IV. The widowed duchess of Kent was new a woman of thirty-four, handsome, homely, a German at heart, and with little liking for English ways. But she was a woman of experience, and shrewd; and fortunately she had a safe and affectionate adviser in her brother, Prince Leopold of Coburg, afterwards (1831) king of the Belgians, who as the husband of the late Princess Charlotte had once been a prospective prince consort of England. His former doctor and private secretary, Baron Stockmar (q.v.), a man of encyclopedic information and remarkable judgment, who had given special attention to the problems of a sovereign's position in England, was afterwards to play an important rôle in Queen Victoria's life; and Leopold himself took a fatherly interest in the young princess's education, and contributed some thousands of pounds annually to the duchess of Kent's income. Prince Leopold still lived at this time at Claremont, where Princess Charlotte had died, and this became the duchess of Kent's occasional English home; but she was much addicted to travelling, and spent several months every year in visits to watering-places. It was said at court that she liked the demonstrative homage of crowds; but she had good reason to fear lest her child should be taken away from her to be educated according to the views of George IV. Between the king and his sister-in-law there was little love, and when the death of the duke of Clarence's second infant daughter Elizabeth in 1821 made it pretty certain that Princess Victoria would eventually become queen, the duchess felt that the king might possibly obtain the support of his ministers if he insisted that the future sovereign should be brought up under masters and mistresses designated by himself. The little princess could not have received a better education than that which was given her under Prince Leopold's direction. Her uncle considered that she ought to be kept as long as possible from the knowledge of her position, which might raise a large growth of pride or vanity in her and make her unmanageable; so Victoria was twelve years old before she knew that she was to wear a crown. Until she became queen she never slept a night away from her mother's room, and she was not allowed to converse with any grown-up person, friend, tutor or servant without the duchess of Kent or the Baroness Lehzen, her private governess, being present. Louise Lehzen, a native of Coburg, had come to England as governess to the Princess Feodore of Leiningen, the duchess of Kent's daughter by her first husband, and she became teacher to the Princess Victoria when the latter was five years old. George IV. in 1827 made her a baroness of Hanover, and she continued as lady-in-attendance after the duchess of Northumberland was appointed official governess in 1830, but actually performed the functions first of governess and then of private secretary till 1842, when she left the court and returned to Germany, where she died in 1870. The Rev. George Davys, afterwards bishop of Peterborough, taught the princess Latin; Mr J. B. Sale, music; Mr Westall, history; and Mr Thomas Steward, the writing master of Westminster School, instructed her in penmanship.
In 1830 George IV. died, and the duke of York (George III.’s second son) having died childless in 1827, the duke of Clarence became king as William IV. Princess Victoria now became the direct heir to the throne. William IV. cherished affectionate feelings towards his niece; unfortunately he took offence at the duchess of Kent for declining to let her child come and live at his court for several months in each year, and through the whole of his reign there was strife between the two; and Prince Leopold was no longer in England to act as peacemaker.
In the early hours of the 20th of June 1837, William IV. died. His thoughts had dwelt often on his niece, and he repeatedly said that he was sure she would be “a good woman and a good queen. It will touch every sailor’s heart to have a girl queen to fight for. They'll be tattooing her face on their arms, and I’ll be bound they'll all think she was christened after Nelson’s ship.” Dr Howley, archbishop of Canterbury, and the marquis of Conyngham, bearing the news of the king’s death, started in a landau with four horses for Kensington, which they reached at five o'clock. Their servants rang, knocked and thumped; and when at last admittance was gained, the primate and the marquis were shown into a lower room and there left to wait. Presently a maid appeared and said that the Princess Victoria was “in a sweet sleep and could not be disturbed.” Dr Howley, who was nothing if not pompous, answered that he had come on state business, to which everything, even sleep, must give place. The princess was accordingly roused, and quickly came downstairs in a dressing-gown, her fair hair flowing loose over her shoulders. Her own account of this interview, written the same day in her journal (Letters, i. p. 97), shows her to have been quite prepared.
The privy council assembled at Kensington in the morning; and the usual oaths were administered to the queen by Lord Chancellor Cottenham, after which all present did homage. There was a touching incident when the queen’s uncles, the dukes of Cumberland and Sussex, two old men, came forward to perform their obeisance. The queen blushed, and descending from her throne, kissed them both, without allowing them to kneel. By the death of William IV., the duke of Cumberland had become King Ernest of Hanover, and immediately after the ceremony he made haste to reach his kingdom. Had Queen Victoria died without issue, this prince, who was arrogant, ill-tempered and rash, would have become king of Great Britain; and, as nothing but mischief could have resulted from this, the young queen’s life became very precious in the sight of her people. She, of course, retained the late king’s ministers in their offices, and it was under Lord Melbourne’s direction that the privy council drew up their declaration to the kingdom. This document described the queen as Alexandrina Victoria, and all the peers who subscribed the roll in the House of Lords on the 20th of June swore allegiance to her under those names. It was not till the following day that the sovereign’s style was altered to Victoria simply, and this necessitated the issuing of a new declaration and a re-signing of the peers' roll. The public proclamation of the queen took place on the 21st at St James’s Palace with great pomp.
The queen opened her first parliament in person, and in a well-written speech, which she read with much feeling, adverted to her youth and to the necessity which existed for her being guided by enlightened advisers. When both houses had voted loyal addresses, the question of the Civil List was considered, and a week or two later a message was brought to parliament requesting an increase of the grant formerly made to the duchess of Kent. Government recommended an addition of £30,000 a year, which was voted, and before the close of the year a Civil List Bill was passed, settling £385,000 a year on the queen.
The duchess of Kent and her brothers. King Leopold and the duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, had always hoped to arrange that the queen should marry her cousin, Albert (q.v.) of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and the prince himself had been made acquainted with this plan from his earliest years. In 1836 Prince Albert, who was born in the same year as his future wife, had come on a visit to England with his father and with his brother, Prince Ernest, and his handsome face, gentle disposition and playful humour had produced a favourable impression on the princess. The duchess of Kent had communicated her projects to Lord Melbourne, and they were known to many other statesmen, and to persons in society; but the gossip of drawing-rooms during the years 1837-38 continually represented that the young queen had fallen in love with Prince This or Lord That, and the more imaginative babblers hinted at post-chaises waiting outside Kensington Gardens in the night, private marriages and so forth.
The coronation took place on the 28th of June 1838. No more touching ceremony of the kind had ever been performed in Westminster Abbey. Anne was a middle-aged married woman at the time of her coronation; she waddled and wheezed, and made no majestic appearance upon The coronation. her throne. Mary was odious to her Protestant subjects, Elizabeth to those of the unreformed religion, and both these queens succeeded to the crown in times of general sadness; but the youthful Queen Victoria had no enemies except a few Chartists, and the land was peaceful and prosperous when she began to reign over it. The cost of George IV.’s coronation amounted to £240,000; that of William IV. had amounted to £50,000 only; and in asking £70,000 the government had judged that things could be done with suitable luxury, but without waste. The traditional banquet in Westminster Hall, with the throwing down of the glove by the king’s champion in armour, had been dispensed with at the coronation of William IV., and it was resolved not to revive it. But it was arranged that the sovereign’s procession to the abbey through the streets should be made a finer show than on previous occasions; and it drew to London 400,000 country visitors. Three ambassadors for different reasons became objects of great interest on the occasion. Marshal Soult, Wellington’s old foe, received a hearty popular welcome as a military hero; Prince Esterhazy, who represented Austria, dazzled society by his Magyar uniform, which was encrusted all over, even to the boots, with pearls and diamonds; while the Turkish ambassador, Sarim Effendi, caused much diversion by his bewilderment. He was so wonder-struck that he could not walk to his place, but stood as if he had lost his senses, and kept muttering, “All this for a woman!”
Within a year the court was brought into sudden disfavour with the country by two events of unequal importance, but both exciting. The first was the case of Lady Flora Hastings. In February 1839 this young lady, a daughter of the marquis of Hastings, and a maid of honour to the The “Bed-chamber Plot.” duchess of Kent, was accused by certain ladies of the bedchamber of immoral conduct. The charge having been laid before Lord Melbourne, he communicated it to Sir James Clark, the queen’s physician, and the result was that Lady Flora was subjected to the indignity of a medical examination, which, while it cleared her character, seriously affected her health. In fact, she died in the following July, and it was then discovered that the physical appearances which first provoked suspicion against her had been due to enlargement of the liver. The queen’s conduct towards Lady Flora was kind and sisterly from the beginning to the end of this painful business; but the scandal was made public through some indignant letters which the marchioness of Hastings addressed to Lord Melbourne praying for the punishment of her daughter’s traducers, and the general opinion was that Lady Flora had been grossly treated at the instigation of some private court enemies. While the agitation about the affair was yet unappeased, the political crisis known as the “Bedchamber Plot” occurred. The Whig ministry had introduced a bill suspending the Constitution of Jamaica because the Assembly in that colony had refused to adopt the Prisons Act passed by the Imperial Legislature. Sir Robert Peel moved an amendment, which, on a division (6th May), was defeated by a majority of five only in a house of 583, and ministers thereupon resigned. The duke of Wellington was first sent for, but he advised that the risk of forming an administration should be entrusted to Sir Robert Peel. Sir Robert was ready to form a cabinet in which the duke of Wellington, Lords Lyndhurst, Aberdeen and Stanley, and Sir James Graham would have served; but he stipulated that the mistress of the robes and the ladies of the bedchamber appointed by the Whig administration should be removed, and to this the queen would not consent. On the 10th of May she wrote curtly that the course proposed by Sir Robert Peel was contrary to usage and repugnant to her feelings; the Tory leader then had to inform the House of Commons that, having failed to obtain the proof which he desired of her majesty’s confidence, it was impossible for him to accept office. The ladies of the bedchamber were so unpopular in consequence of their behaviour to Lady Flora Hastings that the public took alarm at the notion that the queen had fallen into the hands of an intriguing coterie; and Lord Melbourne, who was accused of wishing to rule on the strength of court favour, resumed office with diminished prestige. The Tories thus felt aggrieved; and the Chartists were so prompt to make political capital out of the affair that large numbers were added to their ranks. On the 14th of June Mr. Attwood, M.P. for Birmingham, presented to the House of Commons a Chartist petition alleged to have been signed by 1,280,000 people. It was a cylinder of parchment of about the diameter of a coach wheel, and was literally rolled up on the floor of the house. On the day after this curious document had furnished both amusement and uneasiness to the Commons, a woman, describing herself as Sophia Elizabeth Guelph Sims, made application at the Mansion House for advice and assistance to prove herself the lawful child of George IV. and Mrs Fitzherbert; and this incident, trumpery as it was, added fuel to the disloyal flame then raging. Going in state to Ascot the queen was hissed by some ladies as her carriage drove on to the course, and two peeresses, one of them a Tory duchess, were openly accused of this unseemly act. Meanwhile some monster Chartist demonstrations were being organized, and they commenced on the 4th of July with riots at Birmingham. It was an untoward coincidence that Lady Flora Hastings died on the 5th of July, for though she repeated on her deathbed, and wished it to be published, that the queen had taken no part whatever in the proceedings which had shortened her life, it was remarked that the ladies who were believed to have persecuted her still retained the sovereign’s favour. The riots at Birmingham lasted ten days, and had to be put down by armed force. They were followed by others at Newcastle, Manchester, Bolton, Chester and Macclesfield.
These troublous events had the effect of hastening the queen’s marriage. Lord Melbourne ascertained that the queen’s dispositions towards her cousin, Prince Albert, were unchanged, and he advised King Leopold, through M. Van der Weyer, the Belgian minister, that the prince The queen’s marriage. should come to England and press his suit. The prince arrived with his brother on a visit to Windsor on the 10th of October 1839. On the 12th the queen wrote to King Leopold: “Albert’s beauty is most striking, and he is so amiable and unaffected—in short, very fascinating.” On the 15th all was settled; and the queen wrote to her uncle, “I love him more than I can say.” The queen’s public announcement of her betrothal was enthusiastically received. But the royal lovers still had some parliamentary mortifications to undergo. The government proposed that Prince Albert should receive an annuity of £50,000, but an amendment of Colonel Sibthorp—a politician of no great repute—for making the annuity £30,000 was carried against ministers by 262 votes to 158, the Tories and Radicals going into the same lobby, and many ministerialists taking no part in the division. Prince Albert had not been described, in the queen’s declaration to the privy council, as a Protestant prince; and Lord Palmerston was obliged to ask Baron Stockmar for assurance that Prince Albert did not belong to any sect of Protestants whose rules might prevent him from taking the Sacrament according to the ritual of the English Church. He got an answer couched in somewhat ironical terms to the effect that Protestantism owed its existence in a measure to the house of Saxony, from which the prince descended, seeing that this house and that of the landgrave of Hesse had stood quite alone against Europe in upholding Luther and his cause. Even after this certain High Churchmen held that a Lutheran was a “dissenter,” and that the prince should be asked to subscribe to the Thirty-Nine Articles.
The queen was particularly concerned by the question of the prince’s future status as an Englishman. It was impracticable for him to receive the title of king consort; but the queen naturally desired that her husband should be placed by act of parliament in a position which would secure to him precedence, not only in England, but in foreign courts. Lord Melbourne sought to effect this by a clause introduced in a naturalization bill; but he found himself obliged to drop the clause, and to leave the queen to confer what precedence she pleased by letters-patent. This was a lame way out of the difficulty, for the queen could only confer precedence within her own realms, whereas an act of parliament bestowing the title of prince consort would have made the prince’s right to rank above all royal imperial highnesses quite clear, and would have left no room for such disputes as afterwards occurred when foreign princes chose to treat Prince Albert as having mere courtesy rank in his wife’s kingdom. The result of these political difficulties was to make the queen more than ever disgusted with the Tories. But there was no other flaw in the happiness of the marriage, which was solemnized on the 10th of February 1840 in the Chapel Royal, St James’s. It is interesting to note that the queen was dressed entirely in articles of British manufacture. Her dress was of Spitalfields silk; her veil of Honiton lace; her ribbons came from Coventry; even her gloves had been made in London of English kid—a novel thing in days when the French had a monopoly in the finer kinds of gloves.
From the time of the queen’s marriage the crown played an increasingly active part in the affairs of state. Previously, ministers had tried to spare the queen all disagreeable and fatiguing details. Lord Melbourne saw her every day, whether she was in London or at Windsor, Public affairs. and he used to explain all current business in a benevolent, chatty manner, which offered a pleasant contrast to the style of his two principal colleagues, Lord John Russell and Lord Palmerston. A statesman of firmer mould than Lord Melbourne would hardly have succeeded so well as he did in making rough places smooth for Prince Albert. Lord John Russell and Lord Palmerston were naturally jealous of the prince’s interference—and of King Leopold’s and Baron Stockmar’s—in state affairs; but Lord Melbourne took the common-sense view that a husband will control his wife whether people wish it or not. Ably advised by his private secretary, George Anson, and by Stockmar, the prince thus soon took the de facto place of the sovereign’s private secretary, though he had no official status as such; and his system of classifying and annotating the queen’s papers and letters resulted in the preservation of what the editors of the Letters of Queen Victoria (1907) describe as “probably the most extraordinary collection of state documents in the world”—those up to 1861 being contained in between 500 and 600 bound volumes at Windsor. To confer on Prince Albert every honour that the crown could bestow, and to let him make his way gradually into public favour by his own tact, was the advice which Lord Melbourne gave; and the prince acted upon it so well, avoiding every appearance of intrusion, and treating men of all parties and degrees with urbanity, that within five months of his marriage he obtained a signal mark of the public confidence. In expectation of the queen becoming a mother, a bill was passed through parliament providing for the appointment of Prince Albert as sole regent in case the queen, after giving birth to a child, died before her son or daughter came of age.
The Regency Bill had been hurried on in consequence of the attempt of a crazy pot-boy, Edward Oxford, to take the queen's Attempts on the queen's life. life. On 10th June 1840, the queen and Prince Albert were driving up Constitution Hill in an open carriage, when Oxford fired two pistols, the bullets from which it is said, close by the prince's head. He was arrested on the spot, and when his lodgings were searched a quantity of powder and shot was found, with the rules of a secret society, called “Young England,” whose members were pledged to meet, “carrying swords and pistols and wearing crape masks.” These discoveries raised the surmise that Oxford was the tool of a widespread Chartist conspiracy—or, as the Irish pretended, of a conspiracy of Orangemen to set the duke of Cumberland on the throne; and while these delusions were fresh, they threw well-disposed persons into a paroxysm of loyalty. Even the London street dogs, as Sydney Smith said, joined with O'Connell in barking “God save the Queen.” Oxford seems to have been craving for notoriety; but it may be doubted whether the jury who tried him did right to pronounce his acquittal on the ground of insanity. He feigned madness at his trial, but during the forty years of his subsequent confinement at Bedlam he talked and acted like a rational being, and when he was at length released and sent to Australia he earned his living there as a house painter, and used to declare that he had never been mad at all. His acquittal was to be deprecated as establishing a dangerous precedent in regard to outrages on the sovereign. It was always Prince Albert's opinion that if Oxford had been flogged the attempt of Francis on the queen in 1842 and of Bean in the same year would never have been perpetrated. After the attempt of Bean—who was a hunchback, really insane—parliament passed a bill empowering judges to order whipping as a punishment for those who molested the queen; but somehow this salutary act was never enforced. In 1850 a half-pay officer, named Pate, assaulted the queen by striking her with a stick, and crushing her bonnet. He was sentenced to seven years' transportation; but the judge. Baron Alderson, excused him the flogging. In 1869 an Irish lad, O'Connor, was sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment and a whipping for presenting a pistol at the queen, with a petition, in St James's Park; but this time it was the queen herself who privately remitted the corporal punishment, and she even pushed clemency to the length of sending her aggressor to Australia at her own expense. The series of attempts on the queen was closed in 1882 by Maclean, who fired a pistol at her majesty as she was leaving the Great Western Railway station at Windsor. He, like Bean, was a genuine madman, and was relegated to Broadmoor.
The birth of the princess royal, on the 21st of November 1840, removing the unpopular King Ernest of Hanover from Birth of the princess royal. position of heir-presumptive to the British crown, was a subject of loud congratulations to the people. A curious scare was occasioned at Buckingham Palace, when the little princess was a fortnight old, by the discovery of a boy named Jones concealed under a bed in the royal nursery. Jones had a mania for palace-breaking. Three times he effected a clandestine entry into the queen's residence, and twice he managed to spend several days there. By day he concealed himself in cupboards or under furniture, and by night he groped his way into the royal kitchen to eat whatever he could find. After his third capture, in March 1841, he coolly boasted that he had lain under a sofa, and listened to a private conversation between the queen and Prince Albert. This third time he was not punished, but sent to sea, and turned out very well. The incident strengthened Prince Albert's hands in trying to carry out sundry domestic reforms which were being stoutly resisted by vested interests. The royal residences and grounds used to be under the control of four different officials—the lord chamberlain, the lord steward, the master of the horse and the commissioners of woods and forests. Baron Stockmar, describing the confusion fostered by this state of things, said—
“The lord steward finds the fuel and lays the fire; the lord chamberlain lights it. The lord chamberlain provides the lamps; the lord steward must clean, trim and light them. The inside cleaning of windows belongs to the lord chamberlain's department, but the outer parts must be attended to by the office of woods and forests, so that windows remain dirty unless the two departments can come to an understanding.”
It took Prince Albert four years of firmness and diplomacy before in 1845 he was able to bring the queen's home under the efficient control of a master of the household.
At the general election of 1841 the Whigs returned in a minority of seventy-six, and Lord Melbourne was defeated on Sir Robert Peel's ministry. the Address and resigned. The queen was affected to tears at parting with him; but the crisis had been fully expected and prepared for by confidential communications between Mr Anson and Sir Robert Peel, who now became prime minister (see Letters of Queen Victoria, i. 341 et seq.). The old difficulty as to the appointments to the royal household was tactfully removed, and Tory appointments were made, which were agreeable both to the queen and to Peel. The only temporary embarrassment was the queen's continued private correspondence with Lord Melbourne, which led Stockmar to remonstrate with him; but Melbourne used his influence sensibly; moreover, he gradually dropped out of politics, and the queen got used to his not being indispensable. On Prince Albert's position the change had a marked effect, for in the absence of Melbourne the queen relied more particularly on his advice, and Peel himself at once discovered and recognized the prince's unusual charm and capacity. One of the Tory premier's first acts was to propose that a royal commission should be appointed to consider the best means for promoting art and science in the kingdom, and he nominated Prince Albert as president. The International Exhibition of 1851, the creation of the Museum and Science and Art Department at South Kensington, the founding of art schools and picture galleries all over the country, the spread of musical taste and the fostering of technical education may be attributed, more or less directly, to the commission of distinguished men which began its labours under Prince Albert's auspices.
The queen's second child, the prince of Wales (see Edward VII.), was born on the 9th of November 1841; and Birth of the prince of Wales. this event “filled the measure of the queen's domestic happiness,” as she said in her speech from the throne at the opening of the session of 1842. It is unnecessary from this point onwards to go seriatim through the domestic history of the reign, which is given in the article English History. At this time there was much political unrest at home, and serious difficulties abroad. As regards internal politics, it may be remarked that the queen and Prince Albert were much relieved when Peel, who had come in as the leader of the Protectionist party, adopted Free Trade and repealed the Corn Laws, for it closed a dangerous agitation which gave them much anxiety. When the country was in distress, the queen felt a womanly repugnance for festivities; and yet The court and the country. it was undesirable that the court should incur the reproach of living meanly to save money. There was a conversation between the queen and Sir Robert Peel on this subject in the early days of the Tory administration, and the queen talked of reducing her establishment in order that she might give away larger sums in charities. “I am afraid the people would only say that your majesty was returning them change for their pounds in halfpence,” answered Peel. “Your majesty is not perhaps aware that the most unpopular person in the parish is the relieving officer, and if the queen were to constitute herself a relieving officer for all the parishes in the kingdom she would find her money go a very little way, and she would provoke more grumbling than thanks.” Peel added that a sovereign must do all things in order, not seeking praise for doing one particular thing well, but striving to be an example in all respects, even in dinner-giving.
Meanwhile the year 1842 was ushered in by splendid fêtes in honour of the king of Prussia, who held the prince of Wales at the font. In the spring there was a fancy-dress ball at Buckingham Palace, which remained memorable owing to the offence which it gave in France. Prince Albert was costumed as Edward III., the queen as Queen Philippa, and all the gentlemen of the court as knights of Poitiers. The French chose to view this as an unfriendly demonstration, and there was some talk of getting up a counter-ball in Paris, the duke of Orleans to figure as William the Conqueror. In June the queen took her first railway journey, travelling from Windsor to Paddington on the Great Western line. The master of the horse, The queen’s first railway journey whose business it was to provide for the queen’s ordinary journeys by road, was much put out by this innovation. He marched into the station several hours before the start to inspect the engine, as he would have examined a steed; but greater merriment was occasioned by the queen’s coachman, who insisted that, as a matter of form, he ought to make-believe to drive the engine. After some dispute, he was told that he might climb on to the pilot engine which was to precede the royal train; but his scarlet livery, white gloves and wig suffered so much from soot and sparks that he made no more fuss about his rights in after trips. The motion of the train was found to be so pleasant that the queen readily trusted herself to the railway for a longer journey a few weeks later, when she paid her first visit to Scotland. A report by Sir James Clark led to the queen’s visiting Balmoral in 1848, and to the purchase of the Balmoral estate in 1852, and the queen’s diary of her journeys in Scotland shows what constant enjoyment she derived from her Highland home. Seven years before this the estate of Osborne had been purchased in the Isle of Wight, in order that the queen might have a home of her own. Windsor she considered too stately, and the Pavilion at Brighton too uncomfortable. The first stone of Osborne House was laid in 1845, and the royal family entered into possession in September 1846.
In August 1843 the queen and Prince Albert paid a, visit to King Louis Philippe at the chateau d’Eu. They sailed from Southampton for Treport in a yacht, and, as it happened to be raining. hard when they embarked, the loyal members of the Southampton Corporation remembered Relations with foreign sovereigns. Raleigh, and spread their robes on the ground for the queen to walk over. In 1844 Louis Philippe returned the visit by coming to Windsor. It was the first visit ever paid by a king of France to a sovereign of England, and Louis Philippe was much pleased at receiving the Order of the Garter. He said that he did not feel that he belonged to the “Club” of European sovereigns until he received this decoration. As the father of King Leopold of Belgium’s consort, the queen was much interested in his visit, which went off with great success and goodwill. The tsar Nicholas had visited Windsor earlier that year, in which also Prince Alfred, who was to marry the tsar’s grand-daughter, was born.
In 1846 the affair of the “Spanish marriages” seriously troubled the relations between the United Kingdom and France. Louis Philippe and Guizot had planned the marriage of the duke of Montpensier with the infanta Louisa of Spain, younger sister of Queen Isabella, who, it was thought at the time, was not likely ever to have children. The intrigue, was therefore one for placing a son of the French king on the Spanish throne. (See Spain, History.) As to Queen Victoria’s intervention on this question and on others, these words, written by W. E . Gladstone in 1875, may be quoted:—
“Although the admirable arrangements of the Constitution have now shielded the sovereign from personal responsibility, they have left ample scope for the exercise of direct and personal influence in the whole work of government… The sovereign as compared with her ministers has, because she is the sovereign, the advantage of long experience, wide survey, elevated position and entire dis connexion from the bias of party. Further, personal and domestic relations with the ruling families abroad give openings in delicate cases for saying more, and saying it at once more gently and more efficaciously, than could be ventured in the formal correspondence and rude contacts of government. We know with how much truth, fulness and decision, and with how much tact and delicacy, the queen, aided by Prince Albert, took a principal part on behalf of the nation in the painful question of the Spanish marriages.”
The year 1848, which shook so many continental thrones, left that of the United Kingdom unhurt. Revolutions broke out in Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Madrid, Rome, Naples, Venice, Munich, Dresden and Budapest. The queen and Prince Albert were affected in many private ways by the events abroad. Panic-stricken princes wrote to them for political assistance or pecuniary aid. Louis Philippe abdicated and fled to England almost destitute, being smuggled over the Channel by the cleverness of the British consul at Havre, and the queen employed Sir Robert Peel as her intermediary for providing him with money to meet his immediate wants. Subsequently Claremont was assigned to the exiled royal family of France as a residence. During a few weeks of 1848 Prince William of Prussia (afterwards German emperor) found an asylum in England.
In August 1849 the queen and Prince Albert, accompanied by the little princess royal and the prince of Wales, paid a visit to Ireland, landing at the Cove of Cork, which from that day was renamed Queenstown. The reception was enthusiastic, and so was that at Dublin. Irish trip, 1849. "Such a day of Jubilee," wrote The Times, “such a night of rejoicing, has never been beheld in the ancient capital of Ireland since first it arose on the banks of the Liffey.” The queen was greatly pleased and touched. The project of establishing a royal residence in Ireland was often mooted at this time, but the queen’s advisers never urged it with sufficient warmth. There was no repugnance to the idea on the queen’s part, but Sir Robert Peel thought unfavourably of it as an “empirical” plan, and the question of expense was always mooted as a serious consideration. There is no doubt that the absence of a royal residence in Ireland was felt as a slur upon the Irish people in certain circles.
During these years the queen’s family was rapidly becoming larger. Princess Alice (afterwards grand duchess of Hesse) was born on the 25th of April 1843; Prince Alfred (afterwards duke of Edinburgh and duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) on the 6th of August 1844; Princess Helena (Princess. Christian) on the 25th of May 1846; Princess Louise (duchess of Argyll) on the 18th of March 1848; and Prince Arthur (duke of Connaught) on the 1st of May 1850.
At the end of 1851 an important event took place, which ended a long-standing grievance on the part of the queen, in Lord Palmerston’s dismissal from the office of foreign secretary on account of his expressing approval of Louis Napoleon’s coup d’etat in Paris. The circumstancesThe queen and Lord Palmerston. are of extreme interest for the light they throw on the queen’s estimate of her constitutional position and authority. Lord Palmerston had never been persona grata at court. His Anglo-Irish nature was not sympathetic with the somewhat formal character and German training of Prince Albert; and his views of ministerial independence were not at all in accord with those of the queen and her husband. The queen had more than once to remind her foreign secretary that his dispatches must be seen by her before they were sent out, and though Palmerston assented, the queen’s complaint had to be continually repeated. She also protested to the prime minister (Lord John Russell) In 1848, 1849 and 1850, against various instances in which Palmerston had expressed his own personal opinions in matters of foreign affairs, without his dispatches being properly approved either by herself or by the cabinet. Lord John Russell, who did not want to offend his popular and headstrong colleague, did his best to smooth things over; but the queen remained exceedingly sore, and tried hard to get Palmerston removed, without success. On the 12th of August 1850 the queen wrote to Lord John Russell the following important memorandum, which followed in its terms a private memorandum drawn up for her by Stockmar a few months earlier (Letters, ii. 282):—
“With reference to the conversation about Lord Palmerston which the queen had with Lord John Russell the other day, and Lord Palmerston’s disavowal that he ever intended any disrespect to her by the various neglects of which she has had so long and so often to complain, she thinks it right, in order to avoid any mistakes for the future, to explain what it is she expects from the foreign secretary.
“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 given her sanction to a measure, that it be not arbitrarily altered or modified by the minister. Such an act she must regard as failing in sincerity to the crown, and justly to be visited by the exercise of her constitutional right of dismissing that minister. She expects to be kept informed of what passes between him and the foreign ministers, before important decisions are taken, based upon that intercourse; to receive the foreign dispatches in good time, and to have the drafts for her approval sent her in sufficient time to make herself acquainted with their contents before they must be sent off. The queen thinks it best that Lord John Russell should show this letter to Lord Palmerston.”
Lord Palmerston took a copy of this letter, and promised to attend to its direction. But the queen thoroughly distrusted him, and in October 1851 his proposed reception of Kossuth nearly led to a crisis. Then finally she discovered (December 13) at the time of the coup d'état, that he had, of his own initiative, given assurances of approval to Count Walewski, which were not in accord with the views of the cabinet and with the “neutrality which had been enjoined” by the queen. This was too much even for Lord John Russell, and after a short and decisive correspondence Lord Palmerston resigned the seals of office.
The death of the duke of Wellington in 1852 deeply affected the queen. The duke had acquired a position above parties, Death of the duke of Wellington: Prince Albert's position. and was the trusted adviser of all statesmen and of the court in emergencies. The queen sadly needed such a counsellor, for Prince Albert's position was one full of difficulty, and party malignity was continually putting wrong constructions upon the advice which he gave, and imputing to him advice which he did not give. During the Corn Law agitation offence was taken at his having attended a debate in the House of Commons, the Tories declaring that he had gone down to overawe the house in favour of Peel's measures. After Palmerston's enforced resignation, there was a new and more absurd hubbub. A climax was reached when the difficulties with Russia arose which led to the Crimean War; the prince was accused by the peace party of wanting war, and by the war party of plotting surrender; and it came to be publicly rumoured that the queen's husband had been found conspiring against the state, and had been committed to the Tower. Some said that the queen had been arrested too, and the prince wrote to Stockmar: “Thousands of people surrounded the Tower to see the queen and me brought to it.” This gave infinite pain to the queen, and at length she wrote to Lord Aberdeen on the subject. Eventually, on 31st January 1854, Lord John Russell took occasion to deny most emphatically that Prince Albert interfered unduly with foreign affairs, and in both houses the statesmen of the two parties delivered feeling panegyrics of the prince, asserting at the same time his entire constitutional right to give private advice to the sovereign on matters of state. From this time it may be said that Prince Albert's position was established on a secure footing. He had declined (1850) to accept the post of commander-in-chief at the duke of Wellington's suggestion, and he always refused to let himself be placed in any situation which would have modified ever so slightly his proper relations with the queen. The queen was very anxious that he should receive the title of “King Consort,” and that the crown should be jointly borne as it was by William III. and Mary; but he himself never spoke a word for this arrangement. It was only to please the queen that he consented to take the title of Prince Consort (by letters patent of June 25, 1857), and he only did this when it was manifest that statesmen of all parties approved the change.
For the queen and royal family the Crimean War time was a very busy and exciting one. Her majesty personally The Crimean War. superintended the committees of ladies who organized relief for the wounded; she helped Florence Nightingale in raising bands of trained nurses; she visited the crippled soldiers in the hospitals, and it was through her resolute complaints of the utter insufficiency of the hospital accommodation that Netley Hospital was built. The distribution of medals to the soldiers and the institution of the Victoria Cross (February 1857) as a reward for individual instances of merit and valour must also be noted among the incidents which occupied the queen's time and thoughts. In 1855 the emperor and empress of the French visited the queen at Windsor Castle, and the same year her majesty and the prince consort paid a visit to Paris.
The queen's family life was most happy. At Balmoral and Windsor the court lived in virtual privacy, and the queen and The queen and her family. the prince consort saw much of their children. Countless entries in the queen's diaries testify to the anxious affection with which the progress of each little member of the household was watched. Two more children had been born to the royal pair, Prince Leopold (duke of Albany) on the 7th of April 1853, and on the 14th of April 1857 their last child, the princess Beatrice (Princess Henry of Battenberg), bringing the royal family up to nine—four sons and five daughters. Less than a year after Princess Beatrice's birth the princess royal was married to Prince Frederick William of Prussia, afterwards the emperor Frederick. The next marriage after the princess royal's was that of the princess Alice to Prince Louis (afterwards grand duke) of Hesse-Darmstadt in 1862. In 1863 the prince of Wales married the princess Alexandra of Denmark. In 1866 the princess Helena became the wife of Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein. In 1871 the princess Louise was wedded to the marquis of Lorne, eldest son of the duke of Argyll. In 1874 Prince Alfred, duke of Edinburgh, married Princess Marie Alexandrovna, only daughter of the tsar Alexander II. The duke of Connaught married in 1879 the princess Louise of Prussia, daughter of the soldier-prince Frederick Charles. In 1882 Prince Leopold, duke of Albany, wedded the princess Helen of Waldeck-Pyrmont. Finally came the marriage of Princess Beatrice in 1885 with Prince Henry of Battenberg.
On the occasion of the coming of age of the queen's sons and the marriages of her daughters parliament made provision. The prince of Wales, in addition to the revenues of the duchy of Cornwall, had £40,000 a year, the princess £10,000, and an addition of £36,000 a year for their children was granted by parliament in 1889. The princess royal received a dowry of £40,000 and £8000 a year for life, the younger daughters £30,000 and £6000 a year each. The dukes of Edinburgh, Connaught and Albany were each voted an income of £15,000, and £10,000 on marrying.
The dispute with the United States concerning the “Trent” affair of 1861 will always be memorable for the part played in The American Civil War. its settlement by the queen and the prince consort. In 1861 the accession of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency of the United States of America caused the Southern States of the Union to revolt, and the war began. During November the British West India steamer “Trent” was boarded by a vessel of the Federal Navy, the “San Jacinto,” and Messrs Slidell and Mason, commissioners for the Confederate States, who were on their way to England, were seized. The British government were on the point of demanding reparation for this act in a peremptory manner which could hardly have meant anything but war, but Prince Albert insisted on revising Lord Russell's despatch in a way which gave the American government an opportunity to concede the surrender of the prisoners without humiliation. The memorandum from the queen on this point was the prince consort's last political draft.
The year 1861 was the saddest in the queen's life. On 16th March, her mother, the duchess of Kent, died, and on 14th Death of the prince consort. December, while the dispute with America about the “Trent” affair was yet unsettled, the prince consort breathed his last at Windsor. His death left a void in the queen's life which nothing could ever fill. She built at Frogmore a magnificent mausoleum where she might be buried with him.
Never again during her reign did the queen live in London, and Buckingham Palace was only used for occasional visits of a few days.
At the time of the prince consort's death the prince of Wales
was in his twenty-first year. He had spent several terms at
Wales each of the two universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and he had already travelled much, having visited most of Europe, Egypt and the United States. His marriage was solemnized at Windsor on the 10th of March 1863. The queen witnessed the wedding from the private pew or box of St George's Chapel, Windsor, but she wore the deep mourning which she was never wholly to put off to the end of her life, and she took no part in the festivities of the wedding.
In foreign imperial affairs, and in the adjustment of serious parliamentary difficulties, the queen's dynastic influence abroad and her position as above party at home, together with the respect due to her character, good sense and experience, still remained a powerful element in the British polity, as was shown Austro-Prussian War. on more than one occasion. In 1866 the Austro-Prussian War broke out, and many short-sighted people were tempted to side with France when, in 1867, Napoleon III. sought to obtain a “moral compensation” by laying a claim to the duchy of Luxemburg. A conference met in London, and the difficulty was settled by neutralizing the duchy and ordering the evacuation of the Prussian troops who kept garrison there. But this solution, which averted an imminent war, was only arrived at through Queen Victoria's personal intercession. In the words of a French writer—
“The queen wrote both to the king of Prussia and to the emperor Napoleon. Her letter to the emperor, pervaded with the religious and almost mystic sentiments which predominate in the queen's mind, particularly since the death of Prince Albert, seems to have made a deep impression on the sovereign who, amid the struggles of politics, had never completely repudiated the philanthropic theories of his youth, and who, on the battlefield of Solferino, covered with the dead and wounded, was seized with an unspeakable horror of war.”
Moreover, Disraeli's two premierships (1868, 1874-80) did a good deal to give new encouragement to a right idea of the Disraeli and Gladstone. constitutional function of the crown. Disraeli thought that the queen ought to be a power in the state. His notion of duty—at once a loyal and chivalrous one—was that he was obliged to give the queen the best of his advice, but that the final decision in any course lay with her, and that once she had decided, he was bound, whatever might be his own opinion, to stand up for her decision in public. The queen, not unnaturally, came to trust Disraeli implicitly, and she frequently showed her friendship for him. At his death she paid an exceptional tribute to his “dear and honoured memory” from his “grateful and affectionate sovereign and friend.” To something like this position Lord Salisbury after 1886 succeeded. A somewhat different conception of the sovereign's functions was that of Disraeli's great rival, Gladstone, who, though his respect for the person and office of the sovereign was unbounded, not only expected all people, the queen included, to agree with him when he changed his mind, but to become suddenly enthusiastic about his new ideas. The queen consequently never felt safe with him. Nor did she like his manner—he spoke to her (she is believed to have said) as if she were a public meeting. The queen was opposed to the Disestablishment of the Irish Church (1869)—the question which brought Gladstone to be premier—and though she yielded with good grace, Gladstone was fretful and astonished because she would not pretend to give a hearty assent to the measure. Through her secretary, General Grey, the queen pointed out that she had not concealed from Gladstone “how deeply she deplored” his having felt himself under the necessity of raising the question, and how apprehensive she was of the possible consequences of the measure, but, when a general election had pronounced on the principle, when the bill had been carried through the House of Commons by unvarying majorities, she did not see what good could be gained by rejecting it in the Lords. Later, when through the skilful diplomacy of the primate the Lords had passed the second reading by a small but sufficient majority (179 to 146), and after amendments had been adopted, the queen herself wrote—
“The queen … is very sensible of the prudence and, at the same time, the anxiety for the welfare of the Irish Establishment which the archbishop has manifested during the course of the debates, and she will be very glad if the amendments which have been adopted at his suggestion lead to a settlement of the question; but to effect this, concessions, the queen believes, will have to be made on both sides. The queen must say that she cannot view without alarm possible consequences of another year of agitation on the Irish Church, and she would ask the archbishop seriously to consider, in case the concessions to which the government may agree should not go so far as he may himself wish, whether the postponement of the settlement for another year may not be likely to result in worse rather than in better terms for the Church. The queen trusts, therefore, that the archbishop will himself consider, and, as far as he can, endeavour to induce the others to consider, any concessions that may be offered by the House of Commons in the most conciliatory spirit.”
The correspondence of which this letter forms a part is one of the few published witnesses to the queen's careful and active interest in home politics during the latter half of her reign; but it is enough to prove how wise, how moderate and how steeped in the spirit of the Constitution she was. Another instance is that of the County Franchise and Redistribution Bills of 1884-85. There, again, a conflict between the two houses was imminent, and the queen's wish for a settlement had considerable weight in bringing about the curious but effective conference of the two parties, of which the first suggestion, it is believed, was due to Lord Randolph Churchill.
In 1876 a bill was introduced into parliament for conferring on the queen the title of “Empress of India.” It met with much “Empress of India.” opposition, and Disraeli was accused of ministering simply to a whim of the sovereign, whereas, in fact, the title was intended to impress the idea of British suzerainty forcibly upon the minds of the native princes, and upon the population of Hindustan. The prince of Wales's voyage to India in the winter of 1875-76 had brought the heir to the throne into personal relationship with the great Indian vassals of the British crown, and it was felt that a further demonstration of the queen's interest in her magnificent dependency would confirm their loyalty.
The queen's private life during the decade 1870-80 was one of quiet, broken only by one great sorrow when the Princess Alice Private life. died in 1878. In 1867 her majesty had started in authorship by publishing The Early Days of the Prince Consort, compiled by General Grey; in 1869 she gave to the world her interesting and simply written diary entitled Leaves from the Journal of our Life in the Highlands, and in 1874 appeared the first volume of The Life and Letters of the Prince Consort (2nd vol. in 1880), edited by Sir Theodore Martin. A second instalment of the Highland journal appeared in 1885. These literary occupations solaced the hours of a life which was mostly spent in privacy. A few trips to the Continent, in which the queen was always accompanied by her youngest daughter, the Princess Beatrice, brought a little variety into the home-life, and aided much in keeping up the good health which the queen enjoyed almost uninterruptedly. So far as public ceremonies were concerned, the prince and princess of Wales were now coming forward more and more to represent the royal family. People noticed meanwhile that the queen had taken a great affection for her Scottish man-servant, John Brown, who had been in her service since 1849; she made him her constant personal attendant, and looked on him more as a friend than as servant. When he died in 1883 the queen's grief was intense.
From 1880 onwards Ireland almost monopolized the field of domestic politics. The queen was privately opposed to Gladstone's Home Rule policy; but she observed in public a constitutional reticence on the subject. In the year, however, of the Crimes Act 1887, an event took place which was of more intimate personal concern to the queen, and of more attractive The Jubilee. import to the country and the empire at large. June 20th was the fiftieth anniversary of her accession to the throne, and on the following day, for the second time in English history, a great Jubilee celebration was held to commemorate so happy an event. The country threw itself into the celebration with unchecked enthusiasm; large sums of money were everywhere subscribed; in every city, town and village something was done both in the way of rejoicing and in the way of establishing some permanent memorial of the event. In London the day itself was kept by a solemn service in Westminster Abbey, to which the queen went in state, surrounded by the most brilliant, royal, and princely escort that had ever accompanied a British sovereign, and cheered on her way by the applause of hundreds of thousands of her subjects. The queen had already paid a memorable visit to the East End, when she opened the People's Palace on the 14th of May. On the 2nd of July she reviewed at Buckingham Palace some 28,000 volunteers of London and the home counties. On the 4th of July she laid the foundation stone of the Imperial Institute, the building at Kensington to which, at the instance of the prince of Wales, it had been determined to devote the large sum of money collected as a Jubilee offering, and which was opened by the queen in 1893. On the 9th of July the queen reviewed 60,000 men at Aldershot; and, last and chief of all, on the 25rd of July, one of the most brilliant days of a brilliant summer, she reviewed the fleet at Spithead.
The year 1888 witnessed two events which greatly affected European history, and in a minor, though still marked, degree The queen and Bismarck. the life of the English court. On the 9th of March the emperor William I. died at Berlin. He was succeeded by his son, the emperor Frederick III., regarded with special affection in England as the husband of the princess royal. But at the time he was suffering from a malignant disease of the throat, and he died on the 15th of June, being succeeded by his eldest son, the emperor William II., the grandson of the queen. Meanwhile Queen Victoria spent some weeks at Florence at the Villa Palmieri, and returned home by Darmstadt and Berlin. In spite of the illness of the emperor Frederick a certain number of court festivities were held in her honour, and she had long conversations with Prince Bismarck, who was deeply impressed by her majesty's personality. Just before, the prince, who was still chancellor, had taken a very strong line with regard to a royal marriage in which the queen was keenly interested—the proposal that Prince Alexander of Battenberg, lately ruler of Bulgaria, and brother of the queen's son-in-law, Prince Henry, should marry Princess Victoria, the eldest daughter of the emperor Frederick. Prince Bismarck, who had been anti-Battenberg from the beginning, vehemently opposed this marriage, on the ground that for reasons of state policy it would never do for a daughter of the German emperor to marry a prince who was personally disliked by the tsar. This affair caused no little agitation in royal circles, but in the end state reasons were allowed to prevail and the chancellor had his way.
The queen had borne so well the fatigue of the Jubilee that during the succeeding years she was encouraged to make somewhat 1888-89. more frequent appearances among her subjects. In May 1888 she attended a performance of Sir Arthur Sullivan's Golden Legend at the Albert Hall, and in August she visited Glasgow to open the magnificent new municipal buildings, remaining for a couple of nights at Blythswood, the seat of Sir Archibald Campbell. Early in 1SS9 she received at Windsor a special embassy, which was the beginning of a memorable chapter of English history: two Matabele chiefs were sent by King Lobengula to present his respects to the “great White Queen,” as to whose very existence, it was said, he had up till that time been sceptical. Soon afterwards her majesty went to Biarritz, and the occasion was made memorable by a visit which she paid to the queen-regent of Spain at San Sebastian, the only visit that an English reigning sovereign had ever paid to the Peninsula.
The relations between the court and the country formed matter in 1889 for a somewhat sharp discussion in parliament and in the press. A royal message was brought by Mr W. H. Smith on the 2nd of July, expressing, on the one hand, the queen's desire to provide for Prince Albert Victor of Wales, and, on the other, informing the house of the intended marriage of the prince of Wales's daughter, the Princess Louise, to the Parliamentary grant to the prince of Wales's children. earl (afterwards duke) of Fife. On the proposal of Mr Smith, seconded by Gladstone, a select committee was appointed to consider these messages and to report to the house as to the existing practice and as to the principles to be adopted for the future. The evidence laid before the committee explained to the country for the first time the actual state of the royal income, and on the proposal of Gladstone, amending the proposal of the government, it was proposed to grant a fixed addition of £36,000 per annum to the prince of Wales, out of which be should be expected to provide for his children without further application to the country. Effect was given to this proposal in a bill called “The Prince of Wales's Children's Bill,” which was carried in spite of the persistent opposition of a small group of Radicals.
In the spring of 1890 the queen visited Aix-les-Bains in the hope that the waters of that health resort might alleviate 1890-91. the rheumatism from which she was now frequently suffering. She returned as usual by way of Darmstadt, and shortly after her arrival at Windsor paid a visit to Baron Ferdinand Rothschild at Waddesdon Manor. In February she launched the battleship “Royal Sovereign” at Portsmouth; a week later she visited the Horse Show at Islington. Her annual spring visit to the South was this year paid to the little town of Grasse.
At the beginning of 1892 a heavy blow fell upon the queen in the death of the prince of Wales's eldest son Albert Victor, Death of the duke of Clarence. duke of Clarence and Avondale. He had never been of a robust constitution, and after a little more than a week's illness from pneumonia following influenza, he died at Sandringham. The pathos of his death was increased by the fact that only a short time before it had been announced that the prince was about to marry his second cousin, Princess May, daughter of the duke and duchess of Teck.
The death of the young prince threw a gloom over the country, and caused the royal family to spend the year in such retirement as was possible. The queen this year paid a visit to Costebelle, and stayed there for some quiet weeks. In 1893 the country, on the expiration of the royal mourning, began to take a more than usual interest in the affairs of the 1893. royal family. On the 19th of February the queen left home for a visit to Florence, and spent it in the Villa Palmieri. She was able to display remarkable energy in visiting the sights of the city, and even went as far afield as San Gimignano; and her visit had a notable effect in strengthening the bonds of friendship between the United Kingdom and the Italian people. On 28th April she arrived home, and a few days later the prince of Wales's second son, George, duke of York (see George V.), who by his brother's death had been left in the direct line of succession to the throne, was betrothed to the Princess May, the marriage being celebrated on 6th July in the Chapel Royal of St James's Palace.
In 1894 the queen stayed for some weeks at Florence, and on her return she stopped at Coburg to witness the marriage 1894. between two of her grandchildren, the grand duke of Hesse and the Princess Victoria Melita of Coburg. On the next day the emperor William officially announced the betrothal of the Cesarevitch (afterwards the tsar Nicholas II.) to the princess Alix of Hesse, a granddaughter whom the queen had always regarded with special affection. After a few weeks in London the queen went northwards and stopped at Manchester, where she opened the Ship Canal. Two days afterwards she celebrated her seventy-fifth birthday in quiet at Balmoral. A month later (June 23) took place the birth of a son to the duke and duchess of York, the child receiving the thoroughly English name of Edward.
In 1895 the queen lost her faithful and most efficient private secretary, General Sir Henry Ponsonby, who for many years had helped her in the management of her most private affairs and had acted as an intermediary between her and her ministers Death of Prince Henry of Battenberg. singular ability and success. His successor was Sir Arthur Bigge. The following year, 1896, was marked by a loss which touched the queen even more nearly and more personally. At his own urgent request Prince Henry of Battenberg, the queen’s son-in-law, was permitted to join the Ashanti expedition, and early in January the prince was struck down with fever. He was brought to the coast and put on board her majesty’s ship “Blonde,” where, on the 20th, he died.
In September 1896 the queen’s reign had reached a point at which it exceeded in length that of any other English sovereign; but by her special request all public celebrations of the fact were deferred until the following The Diamond Jubilee. June, which marked the completion of sixty years from her accession. As the time drew on it was obvious that the celebrations of this Diamond Jubilee, as it was popularly called, would exceed in magnificence those of the Jubilee of 1887. Mr Chamberlain, the secretary for the colonies, induced his colleagues to seize the opportunity of making the jubilee a festival of the British empire. Accordingly, the prime ministers of all the self-governing colonies, with their families, were invited to come to London as the guests of the country to take part in the Jubilee procession; and drafts of the troops from every British colony and dependency were brought home for the same purpose. The procession was, in the strictest sense of the term, unique. Here was a display, not only of Englishmen, Scotsmen, Irishmen, Welshmen, but of Mounted Rifles from Victoria and New South Wales, from the Cape and from Natal, and from the Dominion of Canada. Here were Hausas from the Niger and the Gold Coast, coloured men from the West India regiments, zaptiehs from Cyprus, Chinamen from Hong Kong, and Dyaks—now civilized into military police—from British North Borneo. Here, most brilliant sight of all, were the Imperial Service troops sent by the native princes of India; while the detachments of Sikhs who marched earlier in the procession received their full meed of admiration and applause. Altogether the queen was in her carriage for more than four hours, in itself an extraordinary physical feat for a woman of seventy-eight Her own feelings were shown by the simple but significant message she sent to her people throughout the world: “From my heart I thank my beloved people. May God bless them.” The illuminations in London and the great provincial towns were magnificent, and all the hills from Ben Nevis to the South Downs were crowned with bonfires. The queen herself held a great review at Aldershot; but a much more significant display was the review by the prince of Wales of the fleet at Spithead on Saturday, the 26th of June. No less than 165 vessels of all classes were drawn up in four lines, extending altogether to a length of 30 m.
The two years that followed the Diamond Jubilee were, as regards the queen, comparatively uneventful. Her health remained good, and her visit to Cimiez in the spring of 1898 was as enjoyable and as beneficial as before. In May 1899, after another visit to the Riviera, the queen performed what proved to be her last ceremonial function in London: she proceeded in “semi-state” to South Kensington, and laid the foundation stone of the new buildings completing the Museum—henceforth to be called the Victoria and Albert Museum—which had been planned more than forty years before by the prince consort.
Griefs and anxieties encompassed the queen during the last year of her life. But if the South African War proved more serious than had been anticipated, it did more to weld the empire together than years of peaceful The queen’s last year. progress might have accomplished. The queen’s frequent messages of thanks and greeting to her colonies and to the troops sent by them, and her reception of the latter at Windsor, gave evidence of the heartfelt joy with which she saw the sons of the empire giving their lives for the defence of its integrity; and the satisfaction which she showed in the Federation of the Australian colonies was no less keen. The reverses of the first part of the Boer campaign, together with the loss of so many of her officers and soldiers, caused no small part of that “great strain” of which the Court Circular spoke in the ominous words which first told the country that she was seriously ill. But the queen faced the new situation with her usual courage, devotion and strength of will. She reviewed the departing regiments; she entertained the wives and children of the Windsor soldiers who had gone to the war; she showed by frequent messages her watchful interest in the course of the campaign and in the efforts which were being made throughout the whole empire; and her Christmas gift of a box of chocolate to every soldier in South Africa was a touching proof of her sympathy and interest. She relinquished her annual holiday on the Riviera, feeling that at such a time she ought not to leave her country. Entirely on her own initiative, and moved by admiration for the fine achievements of “her brave Irish” during the war, the queen announced her intention of paying a long visit to Dublin, and there, accordingly, she went for the month of April 1900, staying in the Viceregal Lodge, receiving many of the leaders of Irish society, inspecting some 50,000 school children from all parts of Ireland, and taking many a drive amid the charming scenery of the neighbourhood of Dublin. She went even further than this attempt to conciliate Irish feeling, and to show her recognition of the gallantry of the Irish soldiers she issued an order for them to wear the shamrock on St Patrick’s Day, and for a new regiment of Irish Guards to be constituted.
In the previous November the queen had had the pleasure of receiving, on a private visit, her grandson, the German Emperor, who came accompanied by the empress and by two of their sons. This visit cheered the queen, and the successes of the army which followed the arrival of Lord Roberts in Africa occasioned great joy to her, as she testified by many published messages. But independently of the public anxieties of the war, and of those aroused by the violent and unexpected outbreak of fanaticism in China, the year brought deep private griefs to the queen. In 1899 her grandson, the hereditary prince of Coburg, had succumbed to phthisis, and in 1900 his father, the duke of Coburg, the queen’s second son, previously known as the duke of Edinburgh, also died (July 30). Then Prince Christian Victor, the queen’s grandson, fell a victim to enteric fever at Pretoria; and during the autumn it came to be known that the empress Frederick, the queen’s eldest daughter, was very seriously ill. Moreover, just at the end of the year a loss which greatly shocked and grieved the queen was experienced in the sudden death, at Windsor Castle, of the Dowager Lady Churchill, one of her oldest and most intimate friends. These losses told upon the queen at her advanced age. Throughout her life she had enjoyed excellent health, and even in the last few years the only marks of age were rheumatic stiffness of the joints, which prevented walking, and a diminished power of eyesight. In the autumn of 1900, however, her health began definitely to fail, and though arrangements were made Death of the queen. for another holiday in the South, it was plain that her strength was seriously affected. Still she continued the ordinary routine of her duties and occupations. Before Christmas she made her usual journey to Osborne, and there on the 2nd of January she received Lord Roberts on his return from South Africa and handed to him the insignia of the Garter. A fortnight later she commanded a second visit from the field-marshal; she continued to transact business, and until a week before her death she still took her daily drive. A sudden loss of power then supervened, and on Friday evening, the 18th of January, the Court Circular published an authoritative announcement of her illness. On Tuesday, the 22nd of January 1901, she died.
Queen Victoria was a ruler of a new type. When she ascended the throne the popular faith in kings and queens was on the decline. She revived that faith, she consolidated her throne; she not only captivated the affections of the multitude, but won the respect of thoughtful men; and all this she achieved by methods which to her predecessors would have seemed impracticable—methods which it required no less shrewdness to discover than force of character and honesty of heart to adopt steadfastly. Whilst all who approached the queen bore witness to her candour and reasonableness in relation to her ministers, all likewise proclaimed how anxiously she considered advice that was submitted to her before letting herself be persuaded that she must accept it for the good of her people.
Though richly endowed with saving common sense, the queen was not specially remarkable for high development of any specialized intellectual force. Her whole life, public and private, was an abiding lesson in the paramount importance of character. John Bright said of her that what specially struck him was her absolute truthfulness. The extent of her family connexions, and the correspondence she maintained with foreign sovereigns, together with the confidence inspired by her personal character, often enabled her to smooth the rugged places of international relations; and she gradually became in later years the link between all parts of a democratic empire, the citizens of which felt a passionate loyalty for their venerable queen.
By her long reign and unblemished record her name had become associated inseparably with British institutions and imperial solidarity. Her own life was by choice, and as far as her position would admit, one of almost austere simplicity and homeliness; and her subjects were proud of a royalty which involved none of the mischiefs of caprice or ostentation, but set an example alike of motherly sympathy and of queenly dignity. She was mourned at her death not by her own country only, nor even by all English-speaking people, but by the whole world. The funeral in London on the 1st and 2nd of February, including first the passage of the coffin from the Isle of Wight to Gosport between lines of warships, and secondly a military procession from London to Windsor, was a memorable solemnity: the greatest of English sovereigns, whose name would in history mark an age, had gone to her rest.
There is a good bibliographical note at the end of Mr Sidney Lee’s article in the National Dictionary of Biography. See also the Letters of Queen Victoria (1907), and the obituary published by The Times, from which some passages have been borrowed above. (H. Ch.)
- The question of her name, as that of one who was to be queen, remained even up to her accession to the throne a much-debated one. In August 1831, in a discussion in parliament upon a grant to the duchess of Kent, Sir M. W. Ridley suggested changing it to Elizabeth as “more accordant to the feelings of the people”; and the idea of a change seems to have been powerfully supported. In 1836 William IV. approved of a proposal to change it to Charlotte; but, to the princess's own delight, it was given up.