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XXVII7

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Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 37 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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XXVII7. 2 At the time of the prince consort's death the prince of Wales was in. his twenty-first year. He had spent several terms at marriage each of the two universities of Oxford and Cambridge, of the and he had already travelled much, having visited prince of most of Europe, Egypt and the United States. Wales, His marriage was solemnized at Windsor on the loth of March 1863. The queen witnessed the wedding from the private pew or box of St George's Chapel, Windsor, but she wore the deep mourning which she was never wholly to put off to the end of her life, and she took no part in the festivities of the wedding. In foreign imperial affairs, and in the adjustment of serious parliamentary difficulties, the queen's dynastic influence abroad and her position as above party at home, together with the respect due to her character, good sense and experience, still remained a powerful element in the British polity, as was shown Austro• on more than one occasion. In 1866 the Austro-Prussian Prussian War broke out, and many short-sighted people War. were tempted to side with France when, in 1867, Napoleon III. sought to obtain a " moral compensation " by laying a claim to the duchy of Luxemburg. A conference met in London, and the difficulty was settled by neutralizing the duchy and ordering the evacuation of the Prussian troops who kept garrison there. But this solution, which averted an imminent war, was only arrived at through Queen Victoria's personal intercession. In the words of a French writer " The queen wrote both to the king of Prussia and to the emperor Napoleon. Her letter to the emperor, pervaded with the religious and almost mystic sentiments which predominate in the queen's mind, particularly since the death of Prince Albert, seems to have made a deep impression on the sovereign who, amid the struggles of politics, had never completely repudiated the philanthropic theories of his youth, and who, on the battlefield of Solferino, covered with the dead and wounded, was seized with an unspeakable horror of war." Moreover, Disraeli's two premierships (1868, 1874-8o) did a good deal to give new encouragement to a right idea of the Disraeli constitutional function of the crown. Disraeli thought and that the queen ought to be a power in the state. His Clad- notion of duty—at once a loyal and chivalrous one stone. was that he was obliged to give the queen the best of his advice, but that the final decision in any course lay with her, and that once she had decided, he was bound, what-ever might be his own opinion, to stand up for her decision in public. The queen, not unnaturally, came to trust Disraeli implicitly, and she frequently showed her friendship for him. At his death she paid an exceptional tribute to his " dear and honoured memory " from his " grateful and affectionate sovereign and friend." To something like this position Lord Salisbury after 1886 succeeded. A somewhat different conception of the sovereign's functions was that of Disraeli's great rival, Gladstone, who, though his respect for the person and office of the sovereign was unbounded, not only expected allpeople, the queen included, to agree with him when he changed his mind, but to become suddenly enthusiastic about his new ideas. The queen consequently never felt safe with him. Nor did she like his manner—he spoke to her (she is believed to have said) as if she were a public meeting. The queen was opposed to the Disestablishment of the Irish Church (1869)—the question which brought Gladstone to be premier—and though she yielded with good grace, Gladstone was fretful and astonished because she would not pretend to give a hearty assent to the measure. Through her secretary, General Grey, the queen pointed out that she had not concealed from Gladstone " how deeply she deplored " his having felt himself under the necessity of raising the question, and how apprehensive she was of the possible consequences of the measure; but, when a general election had pronounced on the principle, when the bill had been carried through the House of Commons by unvarying majorities, she did not see what good could be gained by rejecting it in the Lords. Later, when through the skilful diplomacy of the primate the Lords had passed the second reading by a small but sufficient majority (179 to 146), and after amendments had been adopted, the queen 'herself wrote " The queen . . . is very sensible of the prudence and, at the same time, the anxiety for the welfare of the Irish Establishment which the archbishop has manifested during the course of the debates, and she will be very glad if the amendments which have been adopted at his suggestion lead to a settlement of the question; but to effect this, concessions, the queen believes, will have to be made on both sides. The queen must say that she cannot view without alarm possible consequences of another year of agitation on the Irish Church, and she would ask the archbishop seriously to consider, in case the concessions to which the government may agree should not go so far as he may himself wish, whether the postponement of the settlement for another year may not be likely to result in worse rather than in better terms for the Church. The queen trusts, therefore, that the archbishop will himself consider, and, as far as he can, endeavour to induce the others to consider, any concessions that may be offered by the House of Commons in the most conciliatory spirit." The correspondence of which this letter forms a part is one of the few published witnesses to the queen's careful and active interest in home politics during the latter half of her reign; but it is enough to prove how wise, how moderate and how steeped in the spirit of the Constitution she was. Another instance is that of the County Franchise and Redistribution Bills of 1884-85. There, again, a conflict between the two houses was imminent, and the queen's wish for a settlement had considerable weight in bringing about the curious but effective conference of the two parties, of which the first suggestion, it is believed, was due to Lord Randolph Churchill. In 1876 a bill was introduced into parliament for conferring on the queen the title of " Empress of India." It met with much opposition, and Disraeli was accused of ministering simply to a whim of the sovereign, whereas, in fact, "Empress of India. the title was intended to impress the idea of British suzerainty forcibly upon the minds of the native princes, and upon the population of Hindustan. The prince of Wales's voyage to India in the winter of 1875-76 had brought the heir to the throne into personal relationship with the great Indian vassals of the British crown, and it was felt that a further demonstration of the queen's interest in her magnificent dependency would confirm their loyalty. The queen's private life during the decade 187o-8o was one of quiet, broken only by one great sorrow when the Princess Alice died in 1878. In 1867 her majesty had started in author-ship by publishing The Early Days of the Prince life. Private Consort, compiled by General Grey; in 1869 she gave to the world her interesting and simply written diary entitled Leaves from the Journal of our Life in the Highlands, and in 1874 appeared the first volume of The Life and Letters of the Prince Consort (2nd vol. in 188o), edited by Sir Theodore Martin. A second instalment of the Highland journal appeared in 1885. These literary occupations solaced the hours of a life which was mostly spent in privacy. A few trips to the Continent, in which the queen was always accompanied by her youngest daughter, the Princess Beatrice, brought a little variety into the home-life, and aided much in keeping up the good health which the queen enjoyed almost uninterruptedly. So far as public ceremonies were concerned, the prince and princess of Wales were now coming forward more and more to represent the royal family. People noticed meanwhile that the queen had taken a great affection for her Scottish man-servant, John Brown, who had been in her service since 1849; she made him her constant personal attendant, and looked on him more as a friend than as servant. When he died in 1883 the queen's grief was intense. From 188o onwards Ireland almost monopolized the field of domestic politics. The queen was privately opposed to Gladstone's Home Rule policy; but she observed in public a constitutional reticence on the subject. In the year, however, of the Crimes Act 1887, an event took place which was of more intimate personal concern to the queen, and of more attractive import to the country and the empire at large. June loth was the fiftieth anniversary of her accession to the the throne, and on the following day, for the second Jahilee. time in English history, a great Jubilee celebration was held to commemorate so happy an event. The country threw itself into the celebration with unchecked enthusiasm; large sums of money were everywhere subscribed; in every city, town and village something was done both in the way of rejoicing and in the way of establishing some permanent memorial of the event. In London the day itself was kept by a solemn service in Westminster Abbey, to which the queen went in state, surrounded by the most brilliant, royal, and princely escort that had ever accompanied a British sovereign, and cheered on her way by the applause of hundreds of thousands of her subjects. The queen had already paid a memorable visit to the East End, when she opened the People's Palace on the 14th of May. On the and of July she reviewed at Buckingham Palace some 28,000 volunteers of London and the home counties. On the 4th of July she laid the foundation stone of the Imperial Institute, the building at Kensington to which, at the instance of the prince of Wales, it had been determined to devote the large sum of money collected as a Jubilee offering, and which was opened by the queen in 1893. On the 9th of July the queen reviewed 6o,000 men at Aldershot; and, last and chief of all, on the 23rd of July, one of the most brilliant days of a brilliant summer, she reviewed the fleet at Spithead. The year 1888 witnessed two events which greatly affected European history, and in a minor, though still marked, degree The queen the life of the English court. On the 9th of March and the emperor William I. died at Berlin. He was Bismarck. succeeded by his son, the emperor Frederick III., regarded with special affection in England as the husband of the princess royal. But at the time he was suffering from a malignant disease of the throat, and he died on the 15th of June, being succeeded by his eldest son, the emperor William II., the grandson of the queen. Meanwhile Queen Victoria spent some weeks at Florence at the Villa Palmieri, and returned home by Darmstadt and Berlin. In spite of the illness of the emperor Frederick a certain number of court festivities were held in her honour, and she had long conversations with Prince Bismarck, who was deeply impressed by her majesty's personality. Just before, the prince, who was still chancellor, had taken a very strong line with regard to a royal marriage in which the queen was keenly interested—the proposal that Prince Alexander of Battenberg, lately ruler of Bulgaria, and brother of the queen's son-in-law, Prince Henry, should marry Princess Victoria, the eldest daughter of the emperor Frederick. Prince Bismarck, who had' been anti-Battenberg from the beginning, vehemently opposed this marriage, on the ground that for reasons of state policy it would never do for a daughter of the German emperor to marry a prince who was personally disliked by the tsar. This affair caused no little agitation in royal circles, but in the end state reasons were allowed to prevail and the _chancellor had his way. The queen had borne so well the fatigue of the Jubilee that during the succeeding years she was encouraged to make some-1888 89. what more frequent appearances among her subjects. In May 1888 she attended a performance of Sir Arthur Sullivan's Golden Legend at the Albert Hall, and in August she visited Glasgow to open the magnificent new municipal buildings, remaining for a couple of nights at Blythswood, the seat of Sir Archibald Campbell. Early in 1889 she received at Windsor a special embassy, which was the beginning of a memorable chapter of English history: two Matabele chiefs were sent by King Lobengula to present his respects to the " great White Queen," as to whose very existence, it was said, he had up till that time been sceptical. Soon afterwards her majesty went to Biarritz, and the occasion was made memorable by a visit which she paid to the queen-regent of Spain at San Sebastian, the only visit that an English reigning sovereign had ever paid to the Peninsula. The relations between the court and the country formed matter in 1889 for a somewhat sharp discussion in parliament and in the press. A royal message was brought by Mr W. H. Smith on the 2nd of July, expressing, on the one hand, the queen's desire to provide for Prince Albert Victor of Wales, and,on the other, informing the house of the intended marriage of the prince of Wales's daughter, the Princess Louise, to the earl (afterwards duke) of Fife. On the proposal of Mr Smith, seconded by Gladstone, a select committee mentary was appointed to consider these messages and to grant to report to the house as to the existing practice and as the prince to the principles to be adopted for the future. The ofildWarenles's ch evidence laid before the committee explained to the country for the first time the actual state of the royal income, and on the proposal of Gladstone, amending the proposal of the government, it was proposed to grant a fixed addition of 36,000 per annum to the prince of Wales, out of which he should be expected to provide for his children without further application to the country. Effect was given to this proposal in a bill called " The Prince of Wales's Children's Bill," which was carried in spite of the persistent opposition of a small group of Radicals. In the spring of 1890 the queen visited Aix-les-Bains in the hope that the waters of that health resort might alleviate the rheumatism from which she was now frequently 1890 91. suffering. She returned as usual by way of Darmstadt, and shortly after her arrival at Windsor paid a visit to Baron Ferdinand Rothschild at Waddesdon Manor. In February she launched the battleship " Royal Sovereign " at Portsmouth; a week later she visited the Horse Show at Islington. Her annual spring visit to the South was this year paid to the little town of Grasse. At the beginning of 1892 a heavy blow fell upon the queen in the death of the prince of Wales's eldest son Albert Victor, duke of Clarence and Avondale. He had never been Death of a robust constitution, and after a little more than of the a week's illness from pneumonia following influenza; duke of he died at Sandringham. The pathos of his death Clarence. was increased by the fact that only a short time before it had been announced that the prince was about to marry his second cousin, Princess May, daughter of the duke and duchess of Teck. The death of the young prince threw a gloom over the country, and caused the royal family to spend the year in such retirement as was possible. The queen this year paid a visit to Costebelle, and stayed there for some quiet weeks. In 1893 the country, on the expiration of the royal mourning, began to take a more than usual interest in the affairs of the royal family. On the 19th of February the queen 189 left home for a visit to Florence, and spent it in the Villa Palmieri. She was able to display remarkable energy in visiting the sights of the city, and even went as far afield as San Gimignano; and her visit had a notable effect in strengthening the bonds of friendship between the United Kingdom and the Italian people. On 28th April she arrived home, and a few days later the prince of Wales's second son, George, duke of York (see GEORGE V.), who by his brother's death had been left in the direct line of succession to the throne, was betrothed to the Princess May, the marriage being celebrated on 6th July in the Chapel Royal of St James's Palace. In 1894 the queen stayed for some weeks at Florence, and on her return she stopped at Coburg to witness the marriage between two of her grandchildren, the grand duke 1894. of Hesse and the Princess Victoria Melita of Coburg. On the next day the emperor William officially announced the betrothal of the Cesarevitch (afterwards the tsar Nicholas II.) to the princess Alix of Hesse, a granddaughter whom the queen had always regarded with special affection. After a few weeks in London the queen went northwards and stopped at Manchester, where she opened the Ship Canal. Two days afterwards she celebrated her seventy-fifth birthday in quiet at Balmoral. A month later (June 23) took place the birth of a son to the duke and duchess of York, the child receiving the thoroughly English name of Edward. In 1895 the queen lost her faithful and most efficient private secretary, General Sir Henry Ponsonby, who for many years had helped her in the management of her most private affairs and had acted as an intermediary between her and her ministers Death of with singular ability and success. His successor was Prince Sir Arthur Bigge. The following year, 1896, was Henry of marked by a loss which touched the queen even more Batten- nearly and more personalty. At his own urgent berg. request Prince Henry of Battenberg, the queen's son-in-law, was permitted to join the Ashanti expedition, and early in January the prince was struck down with fever. He was brought to the coast and put on board her majesty's ship " Blonde," where, on the 20th, he died. In September 1896 the queen's reign had reached a point at which it exceeded in length that of any other English The sovereign; but by her special request all public Diamond celebrations of the fact were deferred until the follow- Jubilee. ing June, which marked the completion of sixty years from her accession. As the time drew on it was obvious that the celebrations of this Diamond Jubilee, as it was popularly called, would exceed in magnificence those of the Jubilee of 1887. Mr Chamberlain, the secretary for the colonies, induced his colleagues to seize the opportunity of making the jubilee a festival of the British empire. Accordingly, the prime ministers of all the self-governing colonies, with their families, were invited to come to London as the guests of the country to take part in the Jubilee procession; and drafts of the troops from every British colony and dependency were brought home for the same purpose. The procession was, in the strictest sense of the term, unique. Here was a display, not only of Englishmen, Scotsmen, Irishmen, Welsh-men, but of Mounted Rifles from Victoria and New South Wales, from the Cape and from Natal, and from the Dominion of Canada. Here were Hausas from the Niger and the Gold Coast, coloured men from the West India regiments, zaptiehs from Cyprus, Chinamen from Hong Kong, and Dyaks—now civilized into military police—from British North Borneo. Here, most brilliant sight of all, were the Imperial Service troops sent by the native princes of India; while the detachments of Sikhs who marched earlier in the procession received their full 'need of admiration and applause. Altogether the queen was in her carriage for more than four hours, in itself an extraordinary physical feat for a woman of seventy-eight. Her own feelings were shown by the simple but significant message she sent to her people throughout the world: " From my heart I thank my beloved people. May God bless them." The illuminations in London and the great provincial towns were magnificent, and all the hills from Ben Nevis to the South Downs were crowned with bonfires. The queen herself held a great review at Aldershot; but a much more significant display was the review by the prince of Wales of the fleet at Spithead on Saturday, the 26th of June. No less than 165 vessels of all classes were drawn up in four lines, extending altogether to a length of 30 M. The two years that followed the Diamond Jubilee were, as regards the queen, comparatively uneventful. Her health remained good, and her visit to Cimiez in the spring of 1898 was as enjoyable and as beneficial as before. In May 1899, after another visit to the Riviera, the queen performed what proved to be her last ceremonial function in London: she proceeded in " semi-state " to South Kensington, and laid the foundation stone of the new buildings completing the Museum —henceforth to be called the Victoria and Albert Museum—which had been planned more than forty years before by the prince consort. Griefs and anxieties encompassed the queen during the last year of her life. But if the South African War proved more The serious than had been anticipated, it did more to queen's weld the empire together than years of peaceful Last year. progress might have accomplished. The queen's frequent messages of thanks and greeting to her colonies and to the troops sent by them, and her reception of the latter at Windsor, gave evidence of the heartfelt joy with which she saw the sons of the empire giving their lives for the defence of its integrity; and the satisfaction which she showed in the Federation of the Australian colonies was no less keen. The reverses of the first part of the Boer campaign, together with the loss of so many of her officers and soldiers, caused no small part of that " great strain " of which the Court Circular spoke in the ominous words which first told the country that she was seriously ill. But the queen faced the new situation with her usual courage, devotion and strength of will. She reviewed the departing regiments; she entertained the wives and children of the Windsor soldiers who had gone to the war; she showed by frequent messages her watchful interest in the course of the campaign and in the efforts which were being made throughout the whole empire; and her Christmas gift of a box of chocolate to every soldier in South Africa was a touching proof of her sympathy and interest. She relinquished her annual holiday on the Riviera, feeling that at such a time she ought not to leave her country. Entirely on her own initiative, and moved by admiration for the fine achievements of " her brave Irish " during the war, the queen announced her intention of paying a long visit to Dublin; and there, accordingly, she went for the month of April 1900, staying in the Viceregal Lodge, receiving many of the leaders of Irish society, inspecting some 50,000 school children from all parts of Ireland, and taking many a drive amid the charming scenery of the neighbourhood of Dublin. She went even further than this attempt to conciliate Irish feeling, and to show her recognition of the gallantry of the Irish soldiers she issued an order for them to wear the shamrock on St Patrick's Day, and for a new regiment of Irish Guards to be constituted. In the previous November the queen had had the pleasure of receiving, on a private visit, her grandson, the German Emperor, who came accompanied by the empress and by two of their sons. This visit cheered the queen, and the successes of the army which followed the arrival of Lord Roberts in Africa occasioned great joy to her, as she testified by many published messages. But independently of the public anxieties of the war, and of those aroused by the violent and unexpected out-break of fanaticism in China, the year brought deep private griefs to the queen. In 1899 her grandson, the hereditary prince of Coburg, had succumbed to phthisis, and in r9oo his father, the duke of Coburg, the queen's second son, previously known as the duke of Edinburgh, also died (July 30). Then Prince Christian Victor, the queen's grandson, fell a victim to enteric fever at Pretoria; and during the autumn it came to be known that the empress Frederick, the queen's eldest daughter, was very seriously ill. Moreover, just at the end of the year a loss which greatly shocked and grieved the queen was experienced in the sudden death, at Windsor Castle, of the Dowager Lady Churchill, one of her oldest and most intimate friends. These losses told upon the queen at her advanced age. Throughout her life the had enjoyed excellent health, and even in the last few years the only marks of age were rheumatic stiffness of the joints, which prevented walking, and a diminished power of eyesight. In the autumn of 1900, however, her health began definitely to fail, and though arrangements were made Death for another holiday in the South, it was plain that her of the strength was seriously affected. Still she continued queen. the ordinary routine of her duties and occupations. Before Christmas she made her usual journey to Osborne, and there on the 2nd of January she received Lord Roberts on his return from South Africa and handed to him the insignia of the Garter. A fortnight later she commanded a second visit from the field--marshal; she continued to transact business, and until a week before her death she still took her daily drive. A sudden loss of power then supervened, and on Friday evening, the 18th of January, the Court Circular published an authoritative announcement of her illness. On Tuesday, the 22nd of January 29or, she died. Queen Victoria was a ruler of a new type. When she ascended the throne the popular faith in kings and queens was on the decline. She revived that faith; she consolidated her throne; she not only captivated the affections of the multitude, but won the respect of thoughtful men; and all this she achieved by methods which to her predecessors would have seemed impracticable—methods which it required no less shrewdness to discover than force of character and honesty of heart to adopt steadfastly. Whilst all who approached the queen bore witness to her candour and reasonableness in relation to her ministers, all likewise proclaimed how anxiously she considered advice that was submitted to her before letting herself be persuaded that she must accept it for the good of her people. Though richly endowed with saving common sense, the queen was not specially remarkable for high development of any specialized intellectual force. Her whole life, public and private, was an abiding lesson in the paramount importance of character. John Bright said of her that what specially struck him was her absolute truthfulness. The extent of her family connexions, and the correspondence she maintained with foreign sovereigns, together with the confidence inspired by her personal character, often enabled her to smooth the rugged places of international relations; and she gradually became in later years the link between all parts of a democratic empire, the citizens of which felt a passionate loyalty for t heir venerable queen. By her long reign and unblemished record her name had become associated inseparably with British institutions and imperial solidarity. Her own life was by choice, and as far as her position would admit, one of almost austere simplicity and homeliness; and her subjects were proud of a royalty which involved none of the mischiefs of caprice or ostentation, but set an example alike of motherly sympathy and of queenly dignity. She was mourned at her death not by her own country only, nor even by all English-speaking people, but by the whole world. The funeral in London on the 1st and 2nd of February, including first the passage of the coffin from the Isle of Wight to Gosport between lines of warships, and secondly a military procession from London to Windsor, was a memorable solemnity: the greatest of English sovereigns, whose name would in history mark an age, had gone to her rest. There is a good bibliographical note at the end of Mr Sidney Lee's article in the National Dictionary of Biography. Sec also the Letters of Queen Victoria (1907), and the obituary published by The Times, from which some passages have been borrowed above. (H. CH.)
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