Lord Melbourne


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 l
rge 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.


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.


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.


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."'


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.


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


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.'


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


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.


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


'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


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