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Queen Victoria by Lytton Strachey

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administration the inevitable ebb began. The reaction, when it came, was
sudden and complete. The General Election of 1874 changed the whole face of
politics. Mr. Gladstone and the Liberals were routed; and the Tory party, for
the first time for over forty years, attained an unquestioned supremacy in
England. It was obvious that their surprising triumph was pre-eminently due to
the skill and vigour of Disraeli. He returned to office, no longer the dubious
commander of an insufficient host, but with drums beating and flags flying, a
conquering hero. And as a conquering hero Victoria welcomed her new Prime

Then there followed six years of excitement, of enchantment, of felicity, of
glory, of romance. The amazing being, who now at last, at the age of seventy,
after a lifetime of extraordinary struggles, had turned into reality the
absurdest of his boyhood's dreams, knew well enough how to make his own, with
absolute completeness, the heart of the Sovereign Lady whose servant, and
whose master, he had so miraculously become. In women's hearts he had always
read as in an open book. His whole career had turned upon those curious
entities; and the more curious they were, the more intimately at home with
them he seemed to be. But Lady Beaconsfield, with her cracked idolatry, and
Mrs. Brydges-Williams, with her clogs, her corpulence, and her legacy, were
gone: an even more remarkable phenomenon stood in their place. He surveyed
what was before him with the eye of a past-master; and he was not for a moment
at a loss. He realised everything--the interacting complexities of
circumstance and character, the pride of place mingled so inextricably with
personal arrogance, the superabundant emotionalism, the ingenuousness of
outlook, the solid, the laborious respectability, shot through so
incongruously by temperamental cravings for the coloured and the strange, the
singular intellectual limitations, and the mysteriously essential female
elements impregnating every particle of the whole. A smile hovered over his
impassive features, and he dubbed Victoria "the Faery." The name delighted
him, for, with that epigrammatic ambiguity so dear to his heart, it precisely
expressed his vision of the Queen. The Spenserian allusion was very
pleasant--the elegant evocations of Gloriana; but there was more in it than
that: there was the suggestion of a diminutive creature, endowed with
magical--and mythical--properties, and a portentousness almost ridiculously
out of keeping with the rest of her make-up. The Faery, he determined, should
henceforward wave her wand for him alone. Detachment is always a rare quality,
and rarest of all, perhaps, among politicians; but that veteran egotist
possessed it in a supreme degree. Not only did he know what he had to do, not
only did he do it; he was in the audience as well as on the stage; and he took
in with the rich relish of a connoisseur every feature of the entertaining
situation, every phase of the delicate drama, and every detail of his own
consummate performance.

The smile hovered and vanished, and, bowing low with Oriental gravity and
Oriental submissiveness, he set himself to his task. He had understood from
the first that in dealing with the Faery the appropriate method of approach
was the very antithesis of the Gladstonian; and such a method was naturally
his. It was not his habit to harangue and exhort and expatiate in official
conscientiousness; he liked to scatter flowers along the path of business, to
compress a weighty argument into a happy phrase, to insinuate what was in his
mind with an air of friendship and confidential courtesy. He was nothing if
not personal; and he had perceived that personality was the key that opened
the Faery's heart. Accordingly, he never for a moment allowed his intercourse
with her to lose the personal tone; he invested all the transactions of State
with the charms of familiar conversation; she was always the royal lady, the
adored and revered mistress, he the devoted and respectful friend. When once
the personal relation was firmly established, every difficulty disappeared.
But to maintain that relation uninterruptedly in a smooth and even course a
particular care was necessary: the bearings had to be most assiduously oiled.
Nor was Disraeli in any doubt as to the nature of the lubricant. "You have
heard me called a flatterer," he said to Matthew Arnold, "and it is true.
Everyone likes flattery, and when you come to royalty you should lay it on
with a trowel." He practiced what he preached. His adulation was incessant,
and he applied it in the very thickest slabs. "There is no honor and no
reward," he declared, "that with him can ever equal the possession of your
Majesty's kind thoughts. All his own thoughts and feelings and duties and
affections are now concentrated in your Majesty, and he desires nothing more
for his remaining years than to serve your Majesty, or, if that service
ceases, to live still on its memory as a period of his existence most
interesting and fascinating." "In life," he told her, "one must have for one's
thoughts a sacred depository, and Lord Beaconsfield ever presumes to seek that
in his Sovereign Mistress." She was not only his own solitary support; she was
the one prop of the State. "If your Majesty is ill," he wrote during a grave
political crisis, "he is sure he will himself break down. All, really, depends
upon your Majesty." "He lives only for Her," he asseverated, "and works only
for Her, and without Her all is lost." When her birthday came he produced an
elaborate confection of hyperbolic compliment. "To-day Lord Beaconsfield ought
fitly, perhaps, to congratulate a powerful Sovereign on her imperial sway, the
vastness of her Empire, and the success and strength of her fleets and armies.
But he cannot, his mind is in another mood. He can only think of the
strangeness of his destiny that it has come to pass that he should be the
servant of one so great, and whose infinite kindness, the brightness of whose
intelligence and the firmness of whose will, have enabled him to undertake
labours to which he otherwise would be quite unequal, and supported him in all
things by a condescending sympathy, which in the hour of difficulty alike
charms and inspires. Upon the Sovereign of many lands and many hearts may an
omnipotent Providence shed every blessing that the wise can desire and the
virtuous deserve!" In those expert hands the trowel seemed to assume the
qualities of some lofty masonic symbol--to be the ornate and glittering
vehicle of verities unrealised by the profane.

Such tributes were delightful, but they remained in the nebulous region of
words, and Disraeli had determined to give his blandishments a more
significant solidity. He deliberately encouraged those high views of her own
position which had always been native to Victoria's mind and had been
reinforced by the principles of Albert and the doctrines of Stockmar. He
professed to a belief in a theory of the Constitution which gave the Sovereign
a leading place in the councils of government; but his pronouncements upon the
subject were indistinct; and when he emphatically declared that there ought to
be "a real Throne," it was probably with the mental addition that that throne
would be a very unreal one indeed whose occupant was unamenable to his
cajoleries. But the vagueness of his language was in itself an added stimulant
to Victoria. Skilfully confusing the woman and the Queen, he threw, with a
grandiose gesture, the government of England at her feet, as if in doing so he
were performing an act of personal homage. In his first audience after
returning to power, he assured her that "whatever she wished should be done."
When the intricate Public Worship Regulation Bill was being discussed by the
Cabinet, he told the Faery that his "only object" was "to further your
Majesty's wishes in this matter." When he brought off his great coup over the
Suez Canal, he used expressions which implied that the only gainer by the
transaction was Victoria. "It is just settled," he wrote in triumph; "you have
it, Madam... Four millions sterling! and almost immediately. There was only
one firm that could do it--Rothschilds. They behaved admirably; advanced the
money at a low rate, and the entire interest of the Khedive is now yours,
Madam." Nor did he limit himself to highly-spiced insinuations. Writing with
all the authority of his office, he advised the Queen that she had the
constitutional right to dismiss a Ministry which was supported by a large
majority in the House of Commons, he even urged her to do so, if, in her
opinion, "your Majesty's Government have from wilfulness, or even from
weakness, deceived your Majesty." To the horror of Mr. Gladstone, he not only
kept the Queen informed as to the general course of business in the Cabinet,
but revealed to her the part taken in its discussions by individual members of
it. Lord Derby, the son of the late Prime Minister and Disraeli's Foreign
Secretary, viewed these developments with grave mistrust. "Is there not," he
ventured to write to his Chief, "just a risk of encouraging her in too large
ideas of her personal power, and too great indifference to what the public
expects? I only ask; it is for you to judge."

As for Victoria, she accepted everything--compliments, flatteries, Elizabethan
prerogatives--without a single qualm. After the long gloom of her bereavement,
after the chill of the Gladstonian discipline, she expanded to the rays of
Disraeli's devotion like a flower in the sun. The change in her situation was
indeed miraculous. No longer was she obliged to puzzle for hours over the
complicated details of business, for now she had only to ask Mr. Disraeli for
an explanation, and he would give it her in the most concise, in the most
amusing, way. No longer was she worried by alarming novelties; no longer was
she put out at finding herself treated, by a reverential gentleman in high
collars, as if she were some embodied precedent, with a recondite knowledge of
Greek. And her deliverer was surely the most fascinating of men. The strain of
charlatanism, which had unconsciously captivated her in Napoleon III,
exercised the same enchanting effect in the case of Disraeli. Like a
dram-drinker, whose ordinary life is passed in dull sobriety, her
unsophisticated intelligence gulped down his rococo allurements with peculiar
zest. She became intoxicated, entranced. Believing all that he told her of
herself, she completely regained the self-confidence which had been slipping
away from her throughout the dark period that followed Albert's death. She
swelled with a new elation, while he, conjuring up before her wonderful
Oriental visions, dazzled her eyes with an imperial grandeur of which she had
only dimly dreamed. Under the compelling influence, her very demeanour
altered. Her short, stout figure, with its folds of black velvet, its muslin
streamers, its heavy pearls at the heavy neck, assumed an almost menacing air.
In her countenance, from which the charm of youth had long since vanished, and
which had not yet been softened by age, the traces of grief, of
disappointment, and of displeasure were still visible, but they were overlaid
by looks of arrogance and sharp lines of peremptory hauteur. Only, when Mr.
Disraeli appeared, the expression changed in an instant, and the forbidding
visage became charged with smiles. For him she would do anything. Yielding to
his encouragements, she began to emerge from her seclusion; she appeared in
London in semi-state, at hospitals and concerts; she opened Parliament; she
reviewed troops and distributed medals at Aldershot. But such public signs of
favour were trivial in comparison with her private attentions. During his
flours of audience, she could hardly restrain her excitement and delight. "I
can only describe my reception," he wrote to a friend on one occasion, "by
telling you that I really thought she was going to embrace me. She was
wreathed with smiles, and, as she tattled, glided about the room like a bird."
In his absence, she talked of him perpetually, and there was a note of unusual
vehemence in her solicitude for his health. "John Manners," Disraeli told Lady
Bradford, "who has just come from Osborne, says that the Faery only talked of
one subject, and that was her Primo. According to him, it was her gracious
opinion that the Government should make my health a Cabinet question. Dear
John seemed quite surprised at what she said; but you are used to these
ebullitions." She often sent him presents; an illustrated album arrived for
him regularly from Windsor on Christmas Day. But her most valued gifts were
the bunches of spring flowers which, gathered by herself and her ladies in the
woods at Osborne, marked in an especial manner the warmth and tenderness of
her sentiments. Among these it was, he declared, the primroses that he loved
the best. They were, he said, "the ambassadors of Spring, the gems and jewels
of Nature." He liked them, he assured her, "so much better for their being
wild; they seem an offering from the Fauns and Dryads of Osborne." "They
show," he told her, "that your Majesty's sceptre has touched the enchanted
Isle." He sat at dinner with heaped-up bowls of them on every side, and told
his guests that "they were all sent to me this morning by the Queen from
Osborne, as she knows it is my favorite flower."

As time went on, and as it became clearer and clearer that the Faery's
thraldom was complete, his protestations grew steadily more highly--coloured
and more unabashed. At last he ventured to import into his blandishments a
strain of adoration that was almost avowedly romantic. In phrases of baroque
convolution, he conveyed the message of his heart. The pressure of business,
he wrote, had "so absorbed and exhausted him, that towards the hour of post he
has not had clearness of mind, and vigour of pen, adequate to convey his
thoughts and facts to the most loved and illustrious being, who deigns to
consider them." She sent him some primroses, and he replied that he could
"truly say they are 'more precious than rubies,' coming, as they do, and at
such a moment, from a Sovereign whom he adores." She sent him snowdrops, and
his sentiment overflowed into poetry. "Yesterday eve," he wrote, "there
appeared, in Whitehall Gardens, a delicate-looking case, with a royal
superscription, which, when he opened, he thought, at first, that your Majesty
had graciously bestowed upon him the stars of your Majesty's principal orders.
And, indeed, he was so impressed with this graceful illusion, that, having a
banquet, where there were many stars and ribbons, he could not resist the
temptation, by placing some snowdrops on his heart, of showing that, he, too,
was decorated by a gracious Sovereign.

Then, in the middle of the night, it occurred to him, that it might all be an
enchantment, and that, perhaps, it was a Faery gift and came from another
monarch: Queen Titania, gathering flowers, with her Court, in a soft and
sea-girt isle, and sending magic blossoms, which, they say, turn the heads of
those who receive them.

A Faery gift! Did he smile as he wrote the words? Perhaps; and yet it would be
rash to conclude that his perfervid declarations were altogether without
sincerity. Actor and spectator both, the two characters were so intimately
blended together in that odd composition that they formed an inseparable
unity, and it was impossible to say that one of them was less genuine than the
other. With one element, he could coldly appraise the Faery's intellectual
capacity, note with some surprise that she could be on occasion "most
interesting and amusing," and then continue his use of the trowel with an
ironical solemnity; while, with the other, he could be overwhelmed by the
immemorial panoply of royalty, and, thrilling with the sense of his own
strange elevation, dream himself into a gorgeous phantasy of crowns and powers
and chivalric love. When he told Victoria that "during a somewhat romantic and
imaginative life, nothing has ever occurred to him so interesting as this
confidential correspondence with one so exalted and so inspiring," was he not
in earnest after all? When he wrote to a lady about the Court, "I love the
Queen--perhaps the only person in this world left to me that I do love," was
he not creating for himself an enchanted palace out of the Arabian Nights,
full of melancholy and spangles, in which he actually believed? Victoria's
state of mind was far more simple; untroubled by imaginative yearnings, she
never lost herself in that nebulous region of the spirit where feeling and
fancy grow confused. Her emotions, with all their intensity and all their
exaggeration, retained the plain prosaic texture of everyday life. And it was
fitting that her expression of them should be equally commonplace. She was,
she told her Prime Minister, at the end of an official letter, "yours aff'ly
V. R. and I." In such a phrase the deep reality of her feeling is instantly
manifest. The Faery's feet were on the solid earth; it was the ruse cynic who
was in the air.

He had taught her, however, a lesson, which she had learnt with alarming
rapidity. A second Gloriana, did he call her? Very well, then, she would show
that she deserved the compliment. Disquieting symptoms followed fast. In May,
1874, the Tsar, whose daughter had just been married to Victoria's second son,
the Duke of Edinburgh, was in London, and, by an unfortunate error, it had
been arranged that his departure should not take place until two days after
the date on which his royal hostess had previously decided to go to Balmoral.
Her Majesty refused to modify her plans. It was pointed out to her that the
Tsar would certainly be offended, that the most serious consequences might
follow; Lord Derby protested; Lord Salisbury, the Secretary of State for
India, was much perturbed. But the Faery was unconcerned; she had settled to
go to Balmoral on the 18th, and on the 18th she would go. At last Disraeli,
exercising all his influence, induced her to agree to stay in London for two
days more. "My head is still on my shoulders," he told Lady Bradford. "The
great lady has absolutely postponed her departure! Everybody had failed, even
the Prince of Wales... and I have no doubt I am not in favour. I can't help
it. Salisbury says I have saved an Afghan War, and Derby compliments me on my
unrivalled triumph." But before very long, on another issue, the triumph was
the Faery's. Disraeli, who had suddenly veered towards a new Imperialism, had
thrown out the suggestion that the Queen of England ought to become the
Empress of India. Victoria seized upon the idea with avidity, and, in season
and out of season, pressed upon her Prime Minister the desirability of putting
his proposal into practice. He demurred; but she was not to be baulked; and in
1876, in spite of his own unwillingness and that of his entire Cabinet, he
found himself obliged to add to the troubles of a stormy session by
introducing a bill for the alteration of the Royal Title. His compliance,
however, finally conquered the Faery's heart. The measure was angrily attacked
in both Houses, and Victoria was deeply touched by the untiring energy with
which Disraeli defended it. She was, she said, much grieved by "the worry and
annoyance" to which he was subjected; she feared she was the cause of it; and
she would never forget what she owed to "her kind, good, and considerate
friend." At the same time, her wrath fell on the Opposition. Their conduct,
she declared, was "extraordinary, incomprehensible, and mistaken," and, in an
emphatic sentence which seemed to contradict both itself and all her former
proceedings, she protested that she "would be glad if it were more generally
known that it was HER wish, as people WILL have it, that it has been FORCED
UPON HER!" When the affair was successfully over, the imperial triumph was
celebrated in a suitable manner. On the day of the Delhi Proclamation, the new
Earl of Beaconsfield went to Windsor to dine with the new Empress of India.
That night the Faery, usually so homely in her attire, appeared in a
glittering panoply of enormous uncut jewels, which had been presented to her
by the reigning Princes of her Raj. At the end of the meal the Prime Minister,
breaking through the rules of etiquette, arose, and in a flowery oration
proposed the health of the Queen-Empress. His audacity was well received, and
his speech was rewarded by a smiling curtsey.

These were significant episodes; but a still more serious manifestation of
Victoria's temper occurred in the following year, during the crowning crisis
of Beaconsfield's life. His growing imperialism, his desire to magnify the
power and prestige of England, his insistence upon a "spirited foreign
policy," had brought him into collision with Russia; the terrible Eastern
Question loomed up; and when war broke out between Russia and Turkey, the
gravity of the situation became extreme. The Prime Minister's policy was
fraught with difficulty and danger. Realising perfectly the appalling
implications of an Anglo-Russian war, he was yet prepared to face even that
eventuality if he could obtain his ends by no other method; but he believed
that Russia in reality was still less desirous of a rupture, and that, if he
played his game with sufficient boldness and adroitness, she would yield, when
it came to the point, all that he required without a blow. It was clear that
the course he had marked out for himself was full of hazard, and demanded an
extraordinary nerve; a single false step, and either himself, or England,
might be plunged in disaster. But nerve he had never lacked; he began his
diplomatic egg-dance with high assurance; and then he discovered that, besides
the Russian Government, besides the Liberals and Mr. Gladstone, there were two
additional sources of perilous embarrassment with which he would have to
reckon. In the first place there was a strong party in the Cabinet, headed by
Lord Derby, the Foreign Secretary, which was unwilling to take the risk of
war; but his culminating anxiety was the Faery.

From the first, her attitude was uncompromising. The old hatred of Russia,
which had been engendered by the Crimean War, surged up again within her; she
remembered Albert's prolonged animosity; she felt the prickings of her own
greatness; and she flung herself into the turmoil with passionate heat. Her
indignation with the Opposition--with anyone who ventured to sympathise with
the Russians in their quarrel with the Turks--was unbounded. When anti-Turkish
meetings were held in London, presided over by the Duke of Westminster and
Lord Shaftesbury, and attended by Mr. Gladstone and other prominent Radicals,
she considered that "the Attorney-General ought to be set at these men;" "it
can't," she exclaimed, "be constitutional." Never in her life, not even in the
crisis over the Ladies of the Bedchamber, did she show herself a more furious
partisan. But her displeasure was not reserved for the Radicals; the
backsliding Conservatives equally felt its force. She was even discontented
with Lord Beaconsfield himself. Failing entirely to appreciate the delicate
complexity of his policy, she constantly assailed him with demands for
vigorous action, interpreted each finesse as a sign of weakness, and was ready
at every juncture to let slip the dogs of war. As the situation developed, her
anxiety grew feverish. "The Queen," she wrote, "is feeling terribly anxious
lest delay should cause us to be too late and lose our prestige for ever! It
worries her night and day." "The Faery," Beaconsfield told Lady Bradford,
"writes every day and telegraphs every hour; this is almost literally the
case." She raged loudly against the Russians. "And the language," she cried,
"the insulting language--used by the Russians against us! It makes the Queen's
blood boil!" "Oh," she wrote a little later, "if the Queen were a man, she
would like to go and give those Russians, whose word one cannot believe, such
a beating! We shall never be friends again till we have it out. This the Queen
feels sure of."

The unfortunate Prime Minister, urged on to violence by Victoria on one side,
had to deal, on the other, with a Foreign Secretary who was fundamentally
opposed to any policy of active interference at all. Between the Queen and
Lord Derby he held a harassed course. He gained, indeed, some slight
satisfaction in playing on the one against the other--in stimulating Lord
Derby with the Queen's missives, and in appeasing the Queen by repudiating
Lord Derby's opinions; on one occasion he actually went so far as to compose,
at Victoria's request, a letter bitterly attacking his colleague, which Her
Majesty forthwith signed, and sent, without alteration, to the Foreign
Secretary. But such devices only gave a temporary relief; and it soon became
evident that Victoria's martial ardour was not to be sidetracked by
hostilities against Lord Derby; hostilities against Russia were what she
wanted, what she would, what she must, have. For now, casting aside the last
relics of moderation, she began to attack her friend with a series of
extraordinary threats. Not once, not twice, but many times she held over his
head the formidable menace of her imminent abdication. "If England," she wrote
to Beaconsfield, "is to kiss Russia's feet, she will not be a party to the
humiliation of England and would lay down her crown," and she added that the
Prime Minister might, if he thought fit, repeat her words to the Cabinet.
"This delay," she ejaculated, "this uncertainty by which, abroad, we are
losing our prestige and our position, while Russia is advancing and will be
before Constantinople in no time! Then the Government will be fearfully blamed
and the Queen so humiliated that she thinks she would abdicate at once. Be
bold!" "She feels," she reiterated, "she cannot, as she before said, remain
the Sovereign of a country that is letting itself down to kiss the feet of the
great barbarians, the retarders of all liberty and civilisation that exists."
When the Russians advanced to the outskirts of Constantinople she fired off
three letters in a day demanding war; and when she learnt that the Cabinet had
only decided to send the Fleet to Gallipoli she declared that "her first
impulse" was "to lay down the thorny crown, which she feels little
satisfaction in retaining if the position of this country is to remain as it
is now." It is easy to imagine the agitating effect of such a correspondence
upon Beaconsfield. This was no longer the Faery; it was a genie whom he had
rashly called out of her bottle, and who was now intent upon showing her
supernal power. More than once, perplexed, dispirited, shattered by illness,
he had thoughts of withdrawing altogether from the game. One thing alone, he
told Lady Bradford, with a wry smile, prevented him. "If I could only," he
wrote, "face the scene which would occur at headquarters if I resigned, I
would do so at once."

He held on, however, to emerge victorious at last. The Queen was pacified;
Lord Derby was replaced by Lord Salisbury; and at the Congress of Berlin der
alte Jude carried all before him. He returned to England in triumph, and
assured the delighted Victoria that she would very soon be, if she was not
already, the "Dictatress of Europe."

But soon there was an unexpected reverse. At the General Election of 1880 the
country, mistrustful of the forward policy of the Conservatives, and carried
away by Mr. Gladstone's oratory, returned the Liberals to power. Victoria was
horrified, but within a year she was to be yet more nearly hit. The grand
romance had come to its conclusion. Lord Beaconsfield, worn out with age and
maladies, but moving still, an assiduous mummy, from dinner-party to
dinner-party, suddenly moved no longer. When she knew that the end was
inevitable, she seemed, by a pathetic instinct, to divest herself of her
royalty, and to shrink, with hushed gentleness, beside him, a woman and
nothing more. "I send some Osborne primroses," she wrote to him with touching
simplicity, "and I meant to pay you a little visit this week, but I thought it
better you should be quite quiet and not speak. And I beg you will be very
good and obey the doctors." She would see him, she said, "when we, come back
from Osborne, which won't be long." "Everyone is so distressed at your not
being well," she added; and she was, "Ever yours very aff'ly V.R.I." When the
royal letter was given him, the strange old comedian, stretched on his bed of
death, poised it in his hand, appeared to consider deeply, and then whispered
to those about him, "This ought to be read to me by a Privy Councillor."



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The evening had been golden; but, after all, the day was to close in cloud and
tempest. Imperial needs, imperial ambitions, involved the country in the South
African War. There were checks, reverses, bloody disasters; for a moment the
nation was shaken, and the public distresses were felt with intimate
solicitude by the Queen. But her spirit was high, and neither her courage nor
her confidence wavered for a moment. Throwing her self heart and soul into the
struggle, she laboured with redoubled vigour, interested herself in every
detail of the hostilities, and sought by every means in her power to render
service to the national cause. In April 1900, when she was in her eighty-first
year, she made the extraordinary decision to abandon her annual visit to the
South of France, and to go instead to Ireland, which had provided a
particularly large number of recruits to the armies in the field. She stayed
for three weeks in Dublin, driving through the streets, in spite of the
warnings of her advisers, without an armed escort; and the visit was a
complete success. But, in the course of it, she began, for the first time, to
show signs of the fatigue of age.

For the long strain and the unceasing anxiety, brought by the war, made
themselves felt at last. Endowed by nature with a robust constitution,
Victoria, though in periods of depression she had sometimes supposed herself
an invalid, had in reality throughout her life enjoyed remarkably good health.
In her old age, she had suffered from a rheumatic stiffness of the joints,
which had necessitated the use of a stick, and, eventually, a wheeled chair;
but no other ailments attacked her, until, in 1898, her eyesight began to be
affected by incipient cataract. After that, she found reading more and more
difficult, though she could still sign her name, and even, with some
difflculty, write letters. In the summer of 1900, however, more serious
symptoms appeared. Her memory, in whose strength and precision she had so long
prided herself, now sometimes deserted her; there was a tendency towards
aphasia; and, while no specific disease declared itself, by the autumn there
were unmistakable signs of a general physical decay. Yet, even in these last
months, the strain of iron held firm. The daily work continued; nay, it
actually increased; for the Queen, with an astonishing pertinacity, insisted
upon communicating personally with an ever-growing multitude of men and women
who had suffered through the war.

By the end of the year the last remains of her ebbing strength had almost
deserted her; and through the early days of the opening century it was clear
that her dwindling forces were only kept together by an effort of will. On
January 14, she had at Osborne an hour's interview with Lord Roberts, who had
returned victorious from South Africa a few days before. She inquired with
acute anxiety into all the details of the war; she appeared to sustain the
exertion successfully; but, when the audience was over, there was a collapse.
On the following day her medical attendants recognised that her state was
hopeless; and yet, for two days more, the indomitable spirit fought on; for
two days more she discharged the duties of a Queen of England. But after that
there was an end of working; and then, and not till then, did the last
optimism of those about her break down. The brain was failing, and life was
gently slipping away. Her family gathered round her; for a little more she
lingered, speechless and apparently insensible; and, on January 22, 1901, she

When, two days previously, the news of the approaching end had been made
public, astonished grief had swept over the country. It appeared as if some
monstrous reversal of the course of nature was about to take place. The vast
majority of her subjects had never known a time when Queen Victoria had not
been reigning over them. She had become an indissoluble part of their whole
scheme of things, and that they were about to lose her appeared a scarcely
possible thought. She herself, as she lay blind and silent, seemed to those
who watched her to be divested of all thinking--to have glided already,
unawares, into oblivion. Yet, perhaps, in the secret chambers of
consciousness, she had her thoughts, too. Perhaps her fading mind called up
once more the shadows of the past to float before it, and retraced, for the
last time, the vanished visions of that long history--passing back and back,
through the cloud of years, to older and ever older memories--to the spring
woods at Osborne, so full of primroses for Lord Beaconsfield--to Lord
Palmerston's queer clothes and high demeanour, and Albert's face under the
green lamp, and Albert's first stag at Balmoral, and Albert in his blue and
silver uniform, and the Baron coming in through a doorway, and Lord M.
dreaming at Windsor with the rooks cawing in the elm-trees, and the Archbishop
of Canterbury on his knees in the dawn, and the old King's turkey-cock
ejaculations, and Uncle Leopold's soft voice at Claremont, and Lehzen with the
globes, and her mother's feathers sweeping down towards her, and a great old
repeater-watch of her father's in its tortoise-shell case, and a yellow rug,
and some friendly flounces of sprigged muslin, and the trees and the grass at


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