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The First Christening The Season Of 1841

Youth

The Queen's First Visit To Scotland

The Queen's First Visit To Scotland

Comments Upon The Young Queen By A Contemporaneous Writer In Blackwood

The Proroguing Of Parliament The Visit To Guildhall And The Coronation

Reign Of Queen Victoria

Childhood

Childhood

The Princess Opens The Victoria Park At Bath



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The Queen's Sympathy During The Illness Of President Garfield

The Condemnation Of The English Duel

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

Marriage And Delicacy Of The Prince's Position

Failing Health Of Prince Albert

Marriage Of The Princess Royal

Last Years Of The Prince Consort

The Emperor And Empress Of France Visit Windsor

Distribution Of Victoria Crosses By The Queen

Queen Victoria Absence From The Coronation Of William Iv






Old Age








I

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



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

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

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

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

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


II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


III

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


IV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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