Most ViewedThe First Christening The Season Of 1841
Comments Upon The Young Queen By A Contemporaneous Writer In Blackwood
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
The Royal Young People
Least ViewedPrince Albert
The Condemnation Of The English Duel
Victoria The Great
The Emperor And Empress Of France Visit Windsor
Stress And Strain
Victoria's First Christmas At Windsor Castle As Queen
Birth Of The Duke Of Connaught
Failing Health Of Prince Albert
Sketch Of The Princess Charlotte
Second Attempt On The Queen's Life
Victoria The Great
The keynote of Queen Victoria's life was simplicity. She was a great
ruler, and at the same time a simple-minded, sympathetic woman, the
true mother of her people. She seemed by some natural instinct to
understand their joys and their sorrows, and this was the more
remarkable as for forty years she reigned alone without the
invaluable advice and assistance of her husband.
Her qualities were not those which have made other great rulers
famous, but they were typical of the age in which she lived.
All her life she was industrious, and never spared herself any time
or trouble, however arduous and disagreeable her duties might be.
She possessed the keenest sense of duty, and in dealing with men and
circumstances she never failed to do or say the right thing. Her daily
intercourse with the leading English statesmen of the time gave her
an unrivalled knowledge of home and foreign politics. In short, her
natural ability and good sense, strengthened by experience, made her
what she was, a perfect model of a constitutional monarch.
During her reign the Crown once again took its proper place: no longer
was there a gulf between the Ruler and the People, and Patriotism,
the love of Queen and Country, became a real and living thing. Pope's
adage, "A patriot is a fool in every age," could no longer be quoted
with any truth.
Queen Victoria was, above all, a great lover of peace, and did all
in her power for its promotion. Her personal influence was often the
means of smoothing over difficulties both at home and abroad when
her Ministers had aggravated instead of lessening them. She formed
her own opinions and held to them, though she was always willing to
listen to reason.
The Memorandum which she drew up in the year 1850 shows how firm a
stand she could take when her country's peace seemed to be
Lord Palmerston, though an able Minister in many respects, was a
wilful, hot-headed man, who was over-fond of acting on the spur of
the moment without consulting his Sovereign. His dispatches, written
as they so often were in a moment of feverish enthusiasm, frequently
gave offence to foreign monarchs and statesmen, and were more than
once nearly the cause of war. It was remarked of him that "the desk
was his place of peril, his pen ran away with him. His speech never
made an enemy, his writing has left many festering sores. The charm
of manner and urbanity which so served him in Parliament and in
society was sometimes wanting on paper, and good counsels were dashed
Lord Palmerston, the Queen complained, did not obey instructions,
and she declared that before important dispatches were sent abroad
the Sovereign should be consulted. Further, alterations were
sometimes made by him when they had been neither suggested nor
approved by the Crown.
Such proceedings caused England, in the Queen's own words, to be
"generally detested, mistrusted, and treated with indignity by even
the smallest Powers."
In the Memorandum the Queen requires:
"(1) That he will distinctly state what he proposes in a given case,
in order that the Queen may know as distinctly to what she has given
her royal sanction.
"(2) Having once given her sanction to a measure, that it be not
arbitrarily altered or modified by the Minister. Such an act she must
consider as a failure in sincerity towards the Crown, and justly to
be visited by the exercise of her Constitutional right of dismissing
that Minister. She expects to be kept informed of what passes between
him and the Foreign Ministers, before important decisions are taken,
based upon that intercourse; to receive the Foreign dispatches in
good time and to have the drafts for her approval sent to her in
sufficient time to make herself acquainted with their contents
before they must be sent off. The Queen thinks it best that Lord John
Russell should show this letter to Lord Palmerston."
More than once the alteration of a dispatch by the Queen prevented
what might easily have plunged this country into a disastrous war.
After the Mutiny in India a proclamation was issued to the native
races, and the Queen insisted upon alterations which would clearly
show that their religious beliefs should in no way be interfered with,
thus preventing a fresh mutiny.
On rare occasions her indignation got the better of her--once,
notably, when, owing to careless delay on the part of the Ministry,
General Gordon perished at Khartoum, a rescue party failing to reach
him in time. In a letter to his sisters she spoke of this as "a stain
left upon England," and as a wrong which she felt very keenly.
Her style of writing was as simple as possible, yet she always said
the right thing at the right moment, and her letters of sympathy or
congratulation were models of their kind and never failed in their
Few, if any, reigns in history have been so blameless as hers, and
her domestic life was perfect in its harmony and the devotion of the
members of her family to one another. She possessed the 'eye of the
mistress' for every detail, however small, which concerned
housekeeping matters, and though her style of entertaining was
naturally often magnificent, everything was paid for punctually.
After the visits of King Louis Philippe and the Emperor Nicholas of
Russia, Sir Robert Peel acknowledged that "Her Majesty was able to
meet every charge and to give a reception to the Sovereigns which
struck every one by its magnificence without adding one tittle to
the burdens of the country. I am not required by Her Majesty to press
for the extra expenditure of one single shilling on account of these
unforeseen causes of increased expenditure. I think that to state
this is only due to the personal credit of Her Majesty, who insists
upon it that there shall be every magnificence required by her
station, but without incurring one single debt."
When one remembers that the Queen had to superintend the household
arrangements of Buckingham Palace, Balmoral Castle, Osborne, and
Windsor, and that the latter alone gave employment, in one way and
another, to two thousand people, it can be realized that this was
a tremendous undertaking in itself. Method and neatness, first
instituted by the Prince Consort, were always insisted upon in place
of the disorder and waste which had reigned supreme before the Queen
became head of the household.
Before her life was saddened by the untimely loss of her husband the
Queen was the leader of English society, and her influence was, as
may be imagined, thoroughly wholesome and good. She was all her life
a deeply religious woman, and though her observance of Sunday was
strict, she never allowed it to become a day of penance. Her religion
was 'humane'--indeed, her intense sympathy with all sorrow and
suffering was one of her supreme virtues, and her early upbringing
made her dislike all elaborate forms of ceremony during the service.
When in the Highlands she always attended the simple little
Presbyterian church, where the congregation was, for the most part,
made up of the inhabitants of the neighbourhood.
It is this simplicity and 'homeliness' of the Queen which were so
often misunderstood by those who could not realize how much she was
at one with her people. The Queen was never more happy than when she
was visiting some poor sufferer and comforting those in sorrow. Her
memory for the little events which made up the lives and happiness
of those far below her in social rank was amazing. She was a great
and a truly democratic Queen. She gave the greater portion of her
Jubilee present toward a fund to establish institutions to provide
nurses for the sick poor.
During the latter years of her reign, when she was less and less to
be seen at public functions and ceremonies, many complaints were made
about her reputed neglect of royal duties. She felt the injustice
of such statements very keenly and with good reason. No allowances
were made for her poor health, for her years, for the family losses
which left her every year more and more a lonely woman. Her duties,
ever increasing in number and extent, left her no time, even if she
had possessed the inclination, to take part in pomp and ceremony.
The outburst of loyalty and affection on the occasion of her two
Jubilee celebrations proved that she still reigned supreme in the
The Queen was not only a great monarch, but also a great statesman.
Consider for a moment the many and bewildering changes which took
place in her own and other countries during her reign. Our country
was almost continually at war in some portion of the globe. The
British Army fought side by side with the French against Russia in
the Crimea, and against the rebels in the Indian Mutiny; two Boer
wars were fought in South Africa in 1881, and 1899-1902. There were
also lesser wars in China, Afghanistan, Abyssinia, Zululand and
The Queen lived to see France change from a Monarchy to a Republic;
to see Germany beat France to her knees and become a united Empire,
thanks to the foresight of her great statesman Bismarck, and her
great general von Moltke. During the same year (1870) the Italian
army entered Rome, as soon as the French garrison had been withdrawn,
and Italy became a united country under King Victor Emmanuel.
Despite the fact that the map of Europe was continually changing,
England managed to keep clear of international strife, and this was
in no small degree due to the personal influence of the Queen.
The England of her early years would be an absolutely foreign country
to us, if by some magic touch we were to be transplanted back down
the line of years. It was different in thought, feeling, and outlook.
The extraordinary changes in the modes of travelling, by means of
which numbers of people who had never even thought of any other
country beside their own, were enabled to visit other lands, broke
down, bit by bit, the barrier between the Continent and ourselves.
England became less of an insular and more of a continental power.
The social changes were, as has been shown, all for good. Education
became not the privilege of the few but the right of all who wished
for it. Step by step the people gained in power and in the right to
govern themselves. The idea of citizenship, of a patriotism which
extended beyond the narrow limits of these isles, slowly took root
and blossomed. Through all these manifold changes the Queen reigned,
ever alert, and even in her last years taking the keenest interest
in the growth of her mighty kingdom.
"The use of the Queen in a dignified capacity is incalculable,"
declared Walter Bagehot in his famous essay on The English
Constitution. He continues: "Without her in England, the present
English Government would fail and pass away." It is interesting to
read the reasons which such a clear and distinguished thinker gives
to explain the hold which the Monarchy retains upon the English
nation as a whole.
Firstly: there is the Family, of which the Queen is the head; the
Nation looks upon her as its mother, witness its enthusiasm at the
marriage of the Prince of Wales.
Secondly: The Monarchy strengthens the Government with the strength
of religion. It is the duty of a loyal citizen to obey his Queen;
the oath of allegiance is no empty form. The Queen from her very
position acts as a symbol of unity.
Thirdly: The Queen is the head of our society; she represents England
in the eyes of foreign nations.
Fourthly: The Monarchy is the head of our morality. The example of
Queen Victoria's simple life has not been lost upon the nation. It
is now quite a natural thing to expect and to find the domestic
virtues personified in the ruling monarch, and this in spite of the
fact that history has shown what temptations lie in the way of those
possessed of the highest power in the state.
Shakespeare voiced the feeling of the people for the kingship in the
words which he put into the mouth of Henry V:
Upon the king! let us our lives, our souls,
Our debts, our careful wives,
Our children, and our sins, lay on the king:
We must bear all.
O hard condition! twin-born with greatness,
Subject to the breath of every fool, whose sense
No more can feel but his own wringing!
What infinite heart's ease must kings neglect,
That private men enjoy?
And what have kings that privates have not too,
Save ceremony, save general ceremony?
And lastly, the actual Government of the country may change but the
Monarch remains, subject to no changes of Parliament, above and aloof
from the strife of political parties, the steadying influence in
times of transition.
The Sovereign has three rights: "The right to be consulted, the right
to encourage, the right to warn." A comparison of the reigns of the
four Georges with the reign of Queen Victoria shows that it was only
during the latter's reign that the duties of the constitutional
monarch were well and conscientiously performed. The Queen worked
as well as her Ministers, and was their equal and often their superior
in business capacity. To conclude: "The benefits of a good monarch
are almost invaluable, but the evils of a bad monarch are almost
On the death of the Queen, Mr Arthur Balfour, speaking in the House
of Commons, described his visit to Osborne at a time when the Royal
Family was already in mourning. The Queen's desk was still littered
with papers, the inkstand still open and the pen laid beside it. "She
passed away with her children and her children's children to the
third generation around her, beloved and cherished of all. She passed
away without, I well believe, a single enemy in the world. Even those
who loved not England loved her. She passed away not only knowing
that she was, I had almost said, worshipped and reverenced by all
her subjects, but that their feelings towards her had grown in depth
and intensity with every year she was spared to rule over us."
Next: Victoria Life
Previous: Stress And Strain