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Fine Arts and Picture Exhibitions of all kinds, little realise what the first striking picture is on an impressionable youth. The attraction of Barker's canvas for the secluded Puritans of the North was its subject. All our culture was Hebraic. The Bible was our literature, our lawgiver, the guide of daily life and the storehouse of political and social wisdom. There were family prayers morning and evening, the chapter to be read privately every day, two week-night services to be punctually attended, while the whole of Sunday was filled up with a series of Sunday-schools, sermons, prayer meetings, and Bible classes. To this saturation in the Hebrew Scriptures was due somewhat of the austerity with which we regarded the Kingship. Whatever texts there were about honouring the King, the whole drift of the sacred volume, as we were taught it, went against kingship, priestcraft, and every institution that came between the individual man and the Infinite personal God. “I gave them a king in my wrath," seemed to come very near to a brand of the Divine displeasure on the Monarchy, and I do not remember ever so much as entertaining even a passing doubt that we should have made a long stride towards establishing the Kingdom of God and His righteousness if Britain were to be restored to the primitive simplicity of Republican institutions.
Into this household, so trained and inspired with supreme reverence for the Divine Book, there came the news one day that a wonderful picture by a great artist was on exhibition at Mr. Turner's Fine Art Gallery in Grey Street, in which the Queen was represented as doing homage to the Bible. To us, in the ardour of our juvenile republicanism, it seemed that the logical consequence of any real homage to the Bible would have been for Her Majesty to step down from the throne and out from the Monarchy, terminating once for all the institution of the Kingship. But although she halted short of that ultimate, it was a sign of grace that she should recognise the Book. So mustering up our pence into the coveted shilling, we went to see “The Secret of England's Greatness.” Most people have seen the picture, which represents an incident in the reception of some native chief by the Queen. The swarthy Africanhighly idealised, I fear-Aashing with gems and picturesque in his native garb, bows low before a youthful queen-resplendent in white satin, if I remember right-who advancing to meet the inquiring savage, presents him with a copy of the Bible as the answer to his question. “ What is the secret of England's greatness ?” In the background, I think, were the Ministers and the Family. All that I remember distinctly is the dusky envoy, with the flashing eye and upturned face, and the white Queen with the sacred Book. The picture stood all by itself in a gallery in which it was not elbowed or profaned by meaner pictures. It was as if Art had solemnly revealed the Monarchy in loyal obeisance before the Book. *
The painting made a great impression on me, and not on me only. I am afraid that I got horribly bored with “ The Secret of England's Greatness” before the picture left Newcastle. How often have I not heard that incident described from the pulpit, from the platform, in Sunday-school! It struck the imagination of the common people, this tribute of earthly Majesty to God's word. Rude coalheavers, with but an imperfect grasp even of the vigorous vernacular of Tyneside, used to tell over and over again how
Alas! I have been informed by several correspondents that the incident which suggested the painting of “ The Secret of England's Greatness" is as apochryphal as the apple story of William Tell. The late Sir Henry Ponsonby is credited with a letter briefly stating in reply to an inquiry as to whe the famous incident took place, that it never took place at all. The historical accuracy of the suggestion which set the artist's brush in motion is, however, comparatively unimportant. It was accepted as authentic history by many thousands at the time, and its effect on our minds is historical even if the episode is purely mythical.
the Queen had given the Book of Books, the Book of our Salvation, to the heathen from afar who sought to know what it was made England great. And so, dimly and half consciously, I began to gain a glimmering of the uses of the Sovereign as Grand Certificator for the truth and excellence of that which is best worth holding by in Church and in State. In the delight of the uncultured artizans and labourers of my native village over the Queen's act in giving the Bible to the savage lay the germ of the sentiment which in its full development proclaims the Queen Fidei Defensor, and regards even the Christian Church itself as somewhat wanting in the necessary credentials until it is surmounted by the royal arms, and certified to be the Church of England as by law established under the sign manual of the Queen. But all that was mercifully hidden from our eyes in those days. Had it been otherwise, I fear Jones Barker's picture would have been regarded as a wolf masquerading in sheep's clothing, a dangerous and damnable heresy in paint invented to lure our Nonconformist souls from the strait and narrow path trodden by those who bore stern testimony against the Erastianism of the Establishment and the foul and adulterous union of Church and State.
During the sixties I passed through my teens. I attained my majority a few days before the declaration of war against Prussia, which revolutionised the map of Europe, destroyed the French Empire, and established the Third Republic. So far as I may be regarded as a sample unit of the millions of undistinguished subjects of Her Majesty, the Crown had distinctly lost ground since the Prince's marriage. The death of the Prince Consort, the retreat of the Queen, the reports widely current as to the selfindulgent habits of the Prince of Wales, had effaced much of the good impression that had been produced between 1850 and 1861. People said frankly that the Monarchy was safe enough as long as the Queen lived, but that “ as for that young man, England would never tolerate another Charles the Second or Prince Regent." The Prince was believed to admire the fast life that was the rule at Paris in the closing days of the Third Empire. Tomahawk published a cartoon representing the Prince as Hamlet, exclaiming to the ghost of George IV., “Nay, I'll follow thee." The popularity of the Princess of Wales tended to swell the reaction against her husband. And all the while the Queen moodily meditated in her Highland retreat over her irreparable loss.
The rehabilitation of monarchy in Britain, which has been one of the most remarkable features of the last quarter of a century, is due to a variety of causes, most of which are obvious enough. First and foremost there was the superb example furnished by the German armies of the efficiency and economy of a system in its essence monarchial. English sympathy was unmistakably with the Germans against the French, and although certain weaklings changed sides after Sedan, the nation as a whole was profoundly impressed by the magnificent spectacle of German loyalty and German discipline, as contrasted with the immeasurable corruption, treachery, and inefficiency of the French, who, although under the Empire, were essentially democratic. For a little while it was possible that the French Republic might, by raising again the old flag of the Revolution, evoke the potent passions which in 1848 shook Europe to its centre. The expectation was disappointed. Garibaldi took the field as an ally of the Republic, but his countrymen occupied Rome in virtual alliance with Germany, and that was all. All hope from that quarter was dashed to the ground by the mad outbreak of the Commune. Paris, after 1871, was no longer the storm centre of Europe. The Republic was only a Republic in name. It was controlled by men who detested every
idea that had made Republicanism the ideal of our youth. The glamour was gone. Judged by the supreme test of wager of battle, the ideas of our modern democrats had been found woefully wanting. The institution of Kingship was vindicated in full day, not as a belated survival or an antiquarian curiosity, but as a supremely capable institution as helpful to the modern man as to his progenitor in the days of Charlemagne.
While this great object-lesson was burning itself with cannon flash and bursting shell into the mind of the nation, the perversity of the House of Lords suddenly compelled Mr. Gladstone to resort to the royal prerogative for the purpose of abolishing Purchase in the Army. Then it was discovered by our Democracy, almost for the first time, that the power of the Crown is a great latent force at the command of the people. The Royal prerogative, and the Royal prerogative alone, can cut the Gordian knot of the rival authority of Lords and Commons. The sceptre of the Sovereign is by our Constitution wielded by the elect of the People. Thus at the same time that the Germans had demonstrated that Kingship was a living reality capable of standing the severest tests, the English suddenly discovered that in their Monarchy they had in reserve an invincible reinforcement for the cause of the People.
When the Destinies decide to do a thing thoroughly, they neglect no means to secure their end, taking as much care about the thrums and tatters as about the warp and woof. Hence it is necessary in this survey of the pilgrimage of a Republican to the Monarchy, to call attention to an incident which, compared with the events just described, partakes of the nature of the ludicrous. It was just at the very turningpoint of the crisis—the watershed between the two systems—that the malicious Fates deemed it fitting to use one who was then a rising Radical politician for the purpose of forcing home to the sober sense of the nation the lesson of recent events. It was my fortune to be present at the Lecture Room, Newcastle-on-Tyne, when Sir Charles Dilke, Bart., M.P., launched his famous diatribe against the Cost of the Crown. The meeting was crowded and enthusiastic. The Lecture Room audiences in those days familiar with the scathing “Impeachment of the House of Brunswick” by Mr. Bradlaugh, revelled in the youthful baronet's elaborate demonstration that Goldsticksin-Waiting were more expensive than footmen, and that the trappings of a constitutional monarchy cost ever so many more pence than the sombre habiliments of the president of a republic. I remember leaving the meeting with a sense of bitter humiliation. To this depth of insane trifling then had sunk the Republican enthusiasm that had flamed heaven high in 1848! Elaborate arithmetical calculations that we might possibly, by dispensing with the Monarchy, save ourselves the cost of an extra pot of beer! Twopence halfpenny per head all round as the inducement to rouse the British nation to an attack upon the Monarchy of Alfred, of the Edwards, of Elizabeth, and of Victoria—the inducement was too ridiculous, and even, if it had been adequate, it would have been unspeakably sordid.
The intrinsic absurdities of the Dilke campaign contributed to swell the force of the opposing current. It became evident that the events of the previous year had taught their lesson. There was no Republican rally in the provinces. The Radicals carped at Royal allowances, desiring, as the Spectator used to say, to keep the Throne, but to drape it in cotton velvet; but even this pinch-penny Republican propaganda dwindled away and died.
Just about this time the finishing stroke was given to the last lingering remnant of the Old Guard of Republicans. In the interviews and articles which in those days used to appear in the press discussing the probable date for the Overthrow of the Monarchy, it was openly said that while the Queen lived nothing would be done. “But mark my words, sir,” the Republican apostles would declare, “ that young man will never ascend the Throne. It will never be permitted." The reports about the Prince were relied upon as the trump-cards of the Party of the Revolution. “We will not have this man to reign over us," was an expression heard in many places usually free from the contagion of Republican bias.
Then it was that the opportune illness of the Prince of Wales gave the final blow to the house of cards which the Republicans had been so assiduously building. It sounds very brutal to say it, but there were many who, when the disease first seemed likely to be fatal, were by no means disposed to regret a demise which would deliver the nation from a ruler whom they believed unworthy to be the sovereign of a Christian land. I well remember in those days a stalwart Radical coming into the editorial sanctum of the Northern Echo, and saying, “ What are you going to say in your obituary leader ?” I said I had not made up my mind. The Prince was not dead yet. “Well," said my visitor, “ take my advice, and just print a column blank or with asterisks. Then in the centre print this: 'De mortuis nil nisi bonum.'” So saying my Radical friend went his way.
The Prince did not die, but we all wrote obituary notices at great length, and had leading articles in type headed “Death of the Prince of Wales." Then, night after night, we went down and waited till the last bulletin came to hand before writing another leader. And I verily believe that the suspense, prolonged for nearly a whole week, with the intense realising sense of all that was involved in the struggle for life that went on in the sick-bed at Sandringham, finally extinguished the last smouldering embers of Republicanism in England. The typhoid fever did more for the Monarchy than the Monarchy had done for itself, and when the solemn thanksgiving was held in St. Paul's for the Prince's recovery, the nation gave thanks not merely for the Prince restored to health, but for the deliverance of the British Monarchy from the danger which had apparently menaced its security.
It was shortly after the recovery of the Prince of Wales that I first saw the Queen. The moment was one when I was suffering the full force of the cruel disillusion that overwhelmed all ardent Radicals after the General Election of 1874. It is difficult to-day to recall the implicit faith with which, after the establishment of household suffrage and the election of the Radical Parliament of 1869, it was believed that the nation had entered upon an era in which such things as Conservative majorities were to be as impossible as the return of the Mastodon. In the North of England this belief was a fixed idea. Mr. Gladstone was not advanced enough for the dwellers between the Tyne and the Tees. He was too tender to the Establishment. He was, even in things political, a Conservative at heart. He was too much given to compromise. But let the people speak, then we should see all this hesitating, half-hearted shilly-shallying swept by the board, and the enfranchised democracy would make short work of all that stood in the way of reform! The working classes were sound at heart. The mere suggestion of a Conservative working man was hailed with derisive laughter. An appeal to the constituencies was always in our idea, in those deluded days, to be to the Liberal party like the reinvigorating contact between the brawn Antæus and Mother Earth. When Mr. Gladstone dissolved Parliament in the early months of 1874, we all believed that he had taken a short cut to certain victory. So far as the North was concerned, we were right. We knew our own people. The county of Durham in the fell hour of Conservative reaction returned an unbroken phalanx of thirteen Radical members to the New Parliament.
But elsewhere! To this hour I cannot recall without pain the memory of that overwhelming disappointment. The return of Mr. Disraeli to power at the head of a Conservative majority shattered everything at one fell blow. It seemed as if the underpinning of the world had given way, as if the sun had reversed its course through the sky. Where then was our faith in the people? What had become of our fond confidence in the Democracy? What could be thought of the Sovereign Electorate which had elected such a man as Disraeli to rule over them? Sick and sad at heart, I was pondering these questions when, in a holiday taken after the General Election, I came to Windsor and saw the Queen.
I saw her at Windsor Railway Station, and was not impressed. I was not in my idealising humour. My old idol had fallen shattered, but the ruins rendered impossible the installation of a new idol in the vacant shrine. The familiar scene, the small crowd, the red carpet, the liveried servants, the little figure in black—“not quite so tall as my wife”—walking slowly across the platform to the carriage into which she disappeared from view—that was all. “So that was the Queen !” Like the pussy cat of the nursery rhyme I had been to London and had seen the Queen-and thought nothing of it. But next Sunday at the Congregational Church in Windsor I heard the minister pray for the Queen and all the Royal Family, not as if they were a coat-of-arms, but as if they were living human beings, friends and neighbours of all of us. I remember feeling as if for the first time I realised the personality of the Queen as a living woman.
Republican enthusiasm was sick unto death. The Parisian Commune had burnt up the faith that might have inspired the French Republic. Across the Atlantic the monstrous peculation of Tammany obscured the fair ideal of the men of the Mayflower. At home, what could be thought of a democracy that had just made the Barabbas choice? But I was far from caring much for the Monarchy, and any nascent unconscious faith I might have had in its possibilities of usefulness was rudely tried by the policy of Disraeli. The alteration of the royal title began it, and the sickening orgie of Jingoism ended it. The detestation which Lord Beaconsfield inspired in the Gladstonians in those days was like nothing else in our time. The early Radicals hated Castlereagh as much ; they could not hate him worse. To our thinking Disraeli had tarnished the Crown, disgraced the country, betrayed the cause of humanity in the East, embarked on wanton wars, and, to crown all, had made the very name of Imperialism to stink in the nostrils of sane and sober Englishmen. And through that discreditable chapter of British history the Queen was paraded as the especial friend of the Evil Minister. From whence sprang “Verax” pamphlets and newspaper articles innumerable, to which, mayhap, I in my small way contributed my full share.
But the blight passed. Lord Beaconsfield fell to rise no more, and the evil taint of his Administration lingered but for a short space round the Throne. Within a few months of the formation of the Gladstone Administration, I was in London, and what followed can be told in a few sentences. The nearer I came to the centre and heart of the Administration, the more closely I was able to see the actual workings of the executive government, the more I learnt to appreciate the inestimable advantage of having in the very innermost sanctuary of the Empire a human being, head of a Family which will not pass with an adverse election, with whom in all the graver affairs of State Ministers must take council before they act. I realised more clearly than ever before how the security, the continuity, and the prosperity of Britain depended much less upon the politicians and much more upon the Permanents, the Permanent Family above and the Permanent Services below. When I went abroad, and especially when I visited the Great Republic of my earlier ideals, I realised as I had never done before the enormous advantage of having the national unity and our Imperial greatness embodied in a person who is carefully trained for that position from the cradle, and who in attaining it is not compelled to make intense political enemies of one half of the nation. To have created a centre of equilibrium in the midst of all the forces which surge and sway hither and thither in the turmoil and strain of modern life, to have made this central point the source of all honour and the