Home  -  Tutor Videos / Shows   -  Queen Victoria   -  Queen Elizabeth   -  Queen Mary   -  Queen Adelaide   -  Catherine of Aragon   -  King Henry the VIII   -  Windsor Castle

Most Viewed

The First Christening The Season Of 1841

Youth

The Queen's First Visit To Scotland

The Queen's First Visit To Scotland

The Proroguing Of Parliament The Visit To Guildhall And The Coronation

Comments Upon The Young Queen By A Contemporaneous Writer In Blackwood

Reign Of Queen Victoria

The Princess Opens The Victoria Park At Bath

Birth Of The Prince Of Wales Visit Of The King Of Prussia

Nis! Nis! Nis! Hurrah!



Least Viewed

The Queen's Sympathy During The Illness Of President Garfield

First Meeting With Prince Albert Death Of William Iv

Second Attempt On The Queen's Life

Marriage And Delicacy Of The Prince's Position

The Emperor And Empress Of France Visit Windsor

Failing Health Of Prince Albert

Fresh Attempts Against The Queen's Life And The Death Of The Duc D'orleans

Sketch Of The Princess Charlotte

Distribution Of Victoria Crosses By The Queen

Marriage Of The Princess Royal






Lord Melbourne








I

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

Very soon, however, there were signs that the future might turn out to
be not quite so simple and roseate as a delighted public dreamed. The
'illustrious Princess' might perhaps, after all, have something within
her which squared ill with the easy vision of a well-conducted heroine

in an edifying story-book. The purest intentions and the justest
desires? No doubt; but was that all? To those who watched closely,
for instance, there might be something ominous in the curious
contour of that little mouth. When, after her first Council, she
crossed the ante-room and found her mother waiting for her, she said,
'And now, Mamma, am I really and truly Queen?' 'You see, my dear, that
it is so.' 'Then, dear Mamma, I hope you will grant me the first
request I make to you, as Queen. Let me be by myself for an hour.'
For an hour she remained in solitude. Then she reappeared, and gave a
significant order: her bed was to be moved out of her mother's room.
It was the doom of the Duchess of Kent. The long years of waiting were
over at last; the moment of a lifetime had come; her daughter was Queen
of England; and that very moment brought her own annihilation. She
found herself, absolutely and irretrievably, shut off from every
vestige of influence, of confidence, of power. She was surrounded,
indeed, by all the outward signs of respect and consideration; but that
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.
Sailing, so gallantly and so pertinaciously, through the buffeting
storms of life, the stately vessel, with sails still swelling and
pennons flying, had put into harbour at last; to find there nothing--a
land of bleak desolation.

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

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


II

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

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

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

Stockmar took up his abode in the Palace partly as the emissary of King
Leopold, but more particularly as the friend and adviser of a queen who
was almost a child, and who, no doubt, would be much in need of advice
and friendship. For it would be a mistake to suppose that either of
these two men was actuated by a vulgar selfishness. The King, indeed,
was very well aware on which side his bread was buttered; during an
adventurous and chequered life he had acquired a shrewd knowledge of
the world's workings; and he was ready enough to use that knowledge to
strengthen his position and to spread his influence. But then, the
firmer his position and the wider his influence, the better for
Europe; of that he was quite certain. And besides, he was a
constitutional monarch; and it would be highly indecorous in a
constitutional monarch to have any aims that were low or personal. As
for Stockmar, the disinterestedness which Palmerston had noted was
undoubtedly a basic element in his character. The ordinary schemer is
always an optimist; and Stockmar, racked by dyspepsia and haunted by
gloomy forebodings, was a constitutionally melancholy man. A schemer,
no doubt, he was; but he schemed distrustfully, splenetically, to do
good. To do good! What nobler end could a man scheme for? Yet it is
perilous to scheme at all.

With Lehzen to supervise every detail of her conduct, with Stockmar in
the next room, so full of wisdom and experience of affairs, with her
Uncle Leopold's letters, too, pouring out so constantly their stream of
encouragements, general reflections, and highly valuable tips,
Victoria, even had she been without other guidance, would have stood in
no lack of private 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 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, and his
birth was shameful; it was known well enough that his mother had
passionately loved Lord Egremont, and that Lord Melbourne was not his
father. His marriage, which had seemed to be the crown of his
youthful ardours, was a long, miserable, desperate failure: the
incredible Lady Caroline,

... 'with pleasures too refined to please,
With too much spirit to be e'er at ease,
With too much quickness to be ever taught,
With too much thinking to have common thought,'

was very nearly the destruction of his life. When at last he emerged
from the anguish and confusion of her folly, her extravagance, her
rage, her despair, and her devotion, he was left alone with endless
memories of intermingled farce and tragedy, and an only son who was an
imbecile. But there was something else that he owed to Lady Caroline.
While she whirled with Byron in a hectic frenzy of love and fashion, he
had stayed at home in an indulgence bordering on cynicism, and occupied
his solitude with reading. It was thus that he had acquired those
habits of study, that love of learning, and that wide and accurate
knowledge of ancient and modern literature, which formed so unexpected
a part of his mental equipment. His passion for reading never deserted
him; even when he was Prime Minister he found time to master every new
important book. With an incongruousness that was characteristic,
his favourite study was theology. An accomplished classical scholar,
he was deeply read in the Fathers of the Church; heavy volumes of
commentary and exegesis he examined with scrupulous diligence; and at
any odd moment he might be found turning over the pages of the
Bible. To the ladies whom he most liked he would lend some learned
work on the Revelation, crammed with marginal notes in his own hand, or
Dr. Lardner's 'Observations upon the Jewish Errors with respect to the
Conversion of Mary Magdalene.' The more pious among them had high
hopes that these studies would lead him into the right way; but of this
there were no symptoms in his after-dinner conversation. The
paradox of his political career was no less curious. By temperament an
aristocrat, by conviction a conservative, he came to power as the
leader of the popular party, the party of change. He had profoundly
disliked the Reform Bill, which he had only accepted at last as a
necessary evil; and the Reform Bill lay at the root of the very
existence, of the very meaning, of his government. He was far too
sceptical to believe in progress of any kind. Things were best as they
were--or rather, they were least bad. 'You'd better try to do no
good,' was one of his dictums, 'and then you'll get into no scrapes.'
Education at best was futile; education of the poor was positively
dangerous. The factory children? 'Oh, if you'd only have the goodness
to leave them alone!' Free Trade was a delusion; the ballot was
nonsense; and there was no such thing as a democracy. Nevertheless, he
was not a reactionary; he was simply an opportunist. The whole duty of
government, he said, was 'to prevent crime and to preserve contracts.'
All one could really hope to do was to carry on. He himself carried on
in a remarkable manner--with perpetual compromises, with fluctuations
and contradictions, with every kind of weakness, and yet with
shrewdness, with gentleness, even with conscientiousness, and a light
and airy mastery of men and of events. He conducted the transactions
of business with extraordinary nonchalance. Important persons, ushered
up for some grave interview, found him in a towselled bed, littered
with books and papers, or vaguely shaving in a dressing-room; but, when
they went downstairs again, they would realise that somehow or other
they had been pumped. When he had to receive a deputation, he could
hardly ever do so with becoming gravity. The worthy delegates of the
tallow-chandlers, or the Society for the Abolition of Capital
Punishment, were distressed and mortified when, in the midst of their
speeches, the Prime Minister became absorbed in blowing a feather, or
suddenly cracked an unseemly joke. How could they have guessed that he
had spent the night before diligently getting up the details of their
case? He hated patronage and the making of appointments--a feeling
rare in Ministers. 'As for the Bishops,' he burst out, 'I positively
believe they die to vex me.' But when at last the appointment was
made, it was made with keen discrimination. His colleagues observed
another symptom--was it of his irresponsibility or his wisdom? He went
to sleep in the Cabinet.

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

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


IV

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

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

With youth and happiness gilding every hour, the days passed merrily
enough. And each day hinged upon Lord Melbourne. Her diary shows us,
with undiminished clarity, the life of the young sovereign during the
early months of her reign--a life satisfactorily regular, full of
delightful business, a life of simple pleasures, mostly
physical--riding, eating, dancing--a quick, easy, highly
unsophisticated life, sufficient unto itself. The light of the morning
is upon it; and, in the rosy radiance, the figure of 'Lord M.' emerges,
glorified and supreme. If she is the heroine of the story, he is the
hero; but indeed they are more than hero and heroine, for there are no
other characters at all. Lehzen, the Baron, Uncle Leopold, are
unsubstantial shadows--the incidental supers of the piece. Her
paradise was peopled by two persons, and surely that was enough. One
sees them together still, a curious couple, strangely united in those
artless pages, under the magical illumination of that dawn of eighty
years ago: the polished high fine gentleman with the whitening
hair and whiskers and the thick dark eyebrows and the mobile lips and
the big expressive eyes; and beside him the tiny Queen--fair, slim,
elegant, active, in her plain girl's dress and little tippet, looking
up at him earnestly, adoringly, with eyes blue and projecting, and
half-open mouth. So they appear upon every page of the Journal; upon
every page Lord M. is present, Lord M. is speaking, Lord M. is being
amusing, instructive, delightful, and affectionate at once, while
Victoria drinks in the 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 1/2 an
hour to read. Lord M. read it beautifully with that fine soft voice of
his, and with so much expression, so that it is needless to say I was
much interested by it.' And then the talk would take a more
personal turn. Lord M. would describe his boyhood, and she would
learn that 'he wore his hair long, as all boys then did, till he was
17; (how handsome he must have looked!).' Or she would find out
about his queer tastes and habits--how he never carried a watch, which
seemed quite extraordinary. '"I always ask the servant what o'clock it
is, and then he tells me what he likes," said Lord M.' Or, as the
rooks wheeled about round the trees, 'in a manner which indicated
rain,' he would say that he could sit looking at them for an hour, and
'was quite surprised at my disliking them.... Lord M. said, "The rooks
are my delight."'


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. Dinner came, and the ceremonial
decidedly tightened. The gentleman of highest rank sat on the right
hand of the Queen; on her left--it soon became an established rule--sat
Lord Melbourne. After the ladies had left the dining-room, the
gentlemen were not permitted to remain behind for very long; indeed,
the short time allowed them for their wine-drinking formed the
subject--so it was rumoured--of one of the very few disputes between
the Queen and her Prime Minister; but her determination
carried the day, and from that moment after-dinner drunkenness began to
go out of fashion. When the company was reassembled in the
drawing-room the etiquette was stiff. For a few 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. When
all the guests had been disposed of, the Duchess of Kent sat down
to her whist, while everybody else was ranged about the round table.
Lord Melbourne sat beside the Queen, and talked pertinaciously--very
often a propos to the contents of one of the large albums of
engravings with which the round table was covered--until it was
half-past eleven and time to go to bed.

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


V

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VI

The correspondence with King Leopold was significant of much that still
lay partly hidden in the character of Victoria. Her attitude towards
her uncle had never wavered for a moment. To all his advances she had
presented an absolutely unyielding front. The foreign policy of
England was not his province; it was hers and her Ministers'; his
insinuations, his entreaties, his struggles--all were quite useless;
and he must understand that this was so. The rigidity of her position
was the more striking owing to the respectfulness and the affection
with which it was accompanied. From start to finish the unmoved Queen
remained the devoted niece. Leopold himself must have envied such
perfect correctitude; but what may be admirable in an elderly statesman
is alarming in a maiden of nineteen. And privileged observers were not
without their fears. The strange mixture of ingenuous
light-heartedness and fixed determination, of frankness and reticence,
of childishness and pride, seemed to augur a future perplexed and full
of dangers. As time passed the less pleasant qualities in this curious
composition revealed themselves more often and more seriously. There
were signs of an imperious, a peremptory temper, an egotism that was
strong and hard. It was noticed that the palace etiquette, far from
relaxing, grew ever more and more inflexible. By some, this was
attributed to Lehzen's influence; but, if that was so, Lehzen had
a willing pupil; for the slightest infringements of the freezing rules
of regularity and deference were invariably and immediately visited by
the sharp and haughty glances of the Queen. Yet Her Majesty's
eyes, crushing as they could be, were less crushing than her mouth.
The self-will depicted in those small projecting teeth and that small
receding chin was of a more dismaying kind than that which a powerful
jaw betokens; it was a self-will imperturbable, impenetrable,
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. The state of her
health seemed to confirm the suspicion; she consulted Sir James Clark,
the royal physician, and, after the consultation, Sir James let his
tongue wag, too. On this, the scandal flared up sky-high. Everyone
was talking; the Baroness was not surprised; the Duchess rallied
tumultuously to the support of her lady; the Queen was informed. At
last, the extraordinary expedient of a medical examination was resorted
to, during which Sir James, according to Lady Flora, behaved with
brutal rudeness, while a second doctor was extremely polite. Finally,
both physicians signed a certificate entirely exculpating the lady.
But this was by no means the end of the business. The Hastings family,
socially a very powerful one, threw itself into the fray with all the
fury of outraged pride and injured innocence; Lord Hastings insisted
upon an audience of the Queen, wrote to the papers, and demanded the
dismissal of Sir James Clark. The Queen expressed her regret to Lady
Flora, but Sir James Clark was not dismissed. The tide of opinion
turned violently against the Queen and her advisers; high society was
disgusted by all this washing of dirty linen in Buckingham Palace; the
public at large was indignant at the ill-treatment of Lady Flora. By
the end of March, the popularity, so radiant and so abundant, with
which the young Sovereign had begun her reign, had entirely
disappeared.

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


VII

The Queen had for long been haunted by a terror that the day might come
when she would be obliged to part with her Minister. Ever since
the passage of the Reform Bill, the power of the Whig Government had
steadily declined. The General Election of 1837 had left them with a
very small majority in the House of Commons; since then, they had been
in constant 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'; and this feeling of personal dependence on
her Minister steadily increased. In these circumstances it was natural
that she should have become a Whig partisan. Of the wider significance
of political questions she knew nothing; all she saw was that her
friends were in office and about her, and that it would be dreadful if
they ceased to be so. 'I cannot say,' she wrote when a critical
division was impending, '(though I feel confident of our success) HOW
low, HOW sad I feel, when I think of the POSSIBILITY of this
excellent and truly kind man not remaining my Minister! Yet I trust
fervently that He who has so wonderfully protected me through such
manifold difficulties will not now desert me! I should have
liked to have expressed to Lord M. my anxiety, but the tears were
nearer than words throughout the time I saw him, and I felt I should
have choked, had I attempted to say anything.' Lord Melbourne
realised clearly enough how undesirable was such a state of mind in a
constitutional sovereign who might be called upon at any moment to
receive as her Ministers the leaders of the opposite party; he did what
he could to cool her ardour; but in vain.

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

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

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

Lord Melbourne replied with a very wise letter. He attempted to calm
the Queen and to induce her to accept the new position gracefully; and
he had nothing but good words for the Tory leaders. As for the
question of the Ladies of the Household, the Queen, he said, should
strongly urge what she desired, as it was a matter which concerned her
personally; 'but,' he added, 'if Sir Robert is unable to concede it, it
will not do to refuse and to put off the negotiation upon it.'

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



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

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

The end of the crisis was now fast approaching. Sir Robert returned,
and told her that if she insisted upon retaining all her Ladies he
could not form a Government. She replied that she would send him
her final decision in writing. Next morning the late Whig Cabinet met.
Lord Melbourne read to them the Queen's letters, and the group of
elderly politicians were overcome by an extraordinary wave of
enthusiasm. They knew very well that, to say the least, it was highly
doubtful whether the Queen had acted in strict accordance with the
constitution; that in doing what she had done she had brushed aside
Lord Melbourne's advice; that, in reality, there was no public reason
whatever why they should go back upon their decision to resign. But
such considerations vanished before the passionate urgency of Victoria.
The intensity of her determination swept them headlong down the stream
of her desire. They unanimou





Next: Marriage

Previous: Childhood



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK


Viewed 1245