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clinging to the obsolete traditions of the Palmerstonian era. It is true that she did her level best to induce the Gladstone Cabinet to postpone the evacuation of Candahar ; but as a set off, she is believed to have been an influence for peace when Mr. Gladstone narrowly escaped embroiling England and Russia in war over the absurd Penj-deh affair.
Nor should it be forgotten even in the most cursory survey of the influence exercised by the Queen on public affairs, that notwithstanding her strong anti-Russian feeling, she rendered good service in preventing Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell from embroiling England by an Anglo-French intervention on behalf of the insurgent Poles. In 1863 Poland had not come to be finally regarded as a mere geographical expression, and when the ill-advised revolutionary nobles and landlords drew the sword against the Russians, the Emperor Napoleon would have eagerly clutched at the opportunity of posing as the champion of Polish nationality. Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell, although full of misgivings, were both inclined to give him more support than the Queen thought desirable. She understood, as no one else in this country did, the significance of the convention concluded between Russia and Prussia. In other words, she realised Bismarck. This remarkable statesman was then but beginning to mount above the horizon. He had visited London, and with audacious frankness had told Mr. Disraeli in advance the history of the next twenty years, and what he meant to do in turning Austria out of the federation and unifying Germany. The support he extended to Russia had a significance which Her Majesty was quick to appreciate, and she exercised her influence without stint in restraining her Ministers from burning their fingers in the Polish fire. She was not able to prevent Earl Russell writing some extraordinarily foolish despatches, which the Russians treated with the contempt that they deserved ; but a Permanent Editor cannot do everything, and she may well consent to allow her temporary assistant to write an occasional foolish article, if at the same time she is able to prevent him from committing the paper to a definite mistaken policy.
But leaving this very incomplete and haphazard glance over the action of the Queen in recent history, I now turn to describe briefly, but with some detail, the action which she took in the most critical moment of modern European politics. It is all forgotten now, save by a few of the actors who took part in that great drama; but it is one of the most notable things in the history of the Monarchy, and well deserves to be rescued from oblivion. Had the Queen not been at her post in 1861, it is probable that we should have been involved in a fratricidal strife with the great American Republic; and had she been missing in 1864, we should in all probability have been embroiled in a suicidal and disastrous struggle with our German kinsfolk on the continent of Europe. The two greatest political crimes and blunders which it was possible for the Empire to commit in these latter days were on the verge of being committed by the action of the chosen representatives of the people. That they were not committed, and that the Empire was delivered from the peril which threatened it, was due to the Queen and the Prince Consort in the case of the United States, to the Queen alone in the case of the Dano-German war.
Far be it from me to attempt to explain all the intricacies of the SchleswigHolstein question. Sir Robert Morier used to be one of the few men who could stand an examination in the question, and Sir Mountstuart Grant Duff was another ; but without entering into all the diplomatic and dynastic complications which made the Schleswig-Holstein question the despair of all those who do not like to have their politics served up like a Chinese puzzle, it is sufficient to recall certain leading facts.
In the great revolutionary wave which swept over Europe in 1848-49, the German
residents in Schleswig and in Holstein took part in the expression of the general wish of the German race for reunion. When the Continent settled down, the question came as to what should be the future. relations of Denmark to the Duchies. Lord Palmerston being at that time in difficulties with Greece, had made a bargain with Baron Brunnow by which, in return for the support of Russia on the Greek question, he supported the Russian view as to the rights of Denmark in Schleswig-Holstein. In fulfilment of this bargain he had become a party to the Protocol of July 4th, 1850, in which England, Austria, Denmark, France, Russia, Sweden, and Norway declared the desire of the signatories that Denmark
should remain in possession of Schleswig-Holstein. THE QUEEN AND PRINCE LEOPOLD. To this Protocol the Queen strongly objected. She (Photograph by Hughes and Mullins, knew the German aspirations for the incorporation of Ryde, Isle of Wight.)
the Duchies, which would give them uninterrupted access to the sea and enable them to become some day as powerful on the sea as they had long been on land. The Queen protested against the Protocol, but Lord Palmerston, being on that occasion able to secure the unanimous support of the Cabinet, overruled the Sovereign. The Protocol was signed. Immediately the King of Denmark invaded Schleswig and fighting began. There seemed some prospect of the Danes getting the worst of it. In that case it was quite on the cards that Russia would intervene to defend the Danes, while on the other hand it was not less on the cirds that if the Danes invaded Holstein, Germany would have made common cause with the Holsteiners against Denmark. The Queen was very uneasy on the subject. The Prince Consort closely cross-examined Lord Palmerston as to what he should do in the event of his Protocol bringing about a European war, but after an hour's conversation he reported that he was not able to get a positive answer. The attitude of the Court, however, even so far back as 1335, was one of intense hostility to the whole of the pro-Danish policy of Lord Palmerston.
In 1852 the Treaty based upon the Protocol was signed by the great Powers, recognising the integrity of the Danish Monarchy. This Treaty was never submitted to the German Diet after its conclusion, a circumstance which formed a loophole out of which we were able, with the help of the Queen, to escape from the obligation to defend Denmark against the attack made by Austria and Prussia in 1864.
The new Constitution which had been proclaimed by the Danes, incorporating Schleswig in Denmark, was held by the Germans to be a violation of the promises in virtue of which the Treaty of 1852 was signed. Danish feeling in England, always very strong, had received a fresh and powerful stimulus by the popular enthusiasm with which the Princess Alexandra, “the seaking's daughter from over the sea," had been received as the bride of the Prince of Wales.
THE QUEEN IN 1867. Hence when the trouble began to brew in
(Photograph by Hughes and Mullins.)
Germany, Lord Palmerston did not hesitate to declare from his place in Parliament that if the worst came to the worst, the Danes would not be left to stand alone. Thus encouraged, the Danes went on recklessly to meet their fate. Palmerston, however, reckoned without his Queen, and as Count Vitzthum says in his oft-quoted memoirs, “Her Majesty, like her late husband, was entirely on the side of Germany on this question.” So strongly indeed were Her Majesty's sympathies based, as now are seen, on the real trend of political forces dominating the new Europe, that the friends of peace in this country went about muttering menaces against the Monarchy on the ground that the Queen was encouraging the war party in Austria and Prussia to attack poor little Denmark! As a matter of fact, the policy of Prussia was at that time in the hands of Bismarck, who needed no encouragement from English Queens in the execution of plans which he had carefully laid long beforehand. It was indeed the hostile attitude of Lord Palmerston which alone enabled Bismarck to make the war. The one danger which the Germans had to face was that the Danes would retire from Schleswig without striking a blow, when the future of the Duchy would of necessity have come up for settlement by the signatories of the Treaty of 1852. It was this danger which led Count Beust to deprecate any action on the part of the German Diet. In the following year Bismarck met Beust at Gastein. The former was deploring the absence of the Saxon troops from the Schleswig-Holstein campaign. “You are forgetting," I rejoined, said Count Beust,“ what might have happened had the Danes refused to fight." Whereupon Bismarck made the following cynical but characteristic reply: “I had taken precautions against that. I made the Cabinet at Copenhagen believe that England had threatened us with active intervention if hostilities should be opened, although, as a matter of fact, England did nothing of the kind." It was unfortunate for England that the stateswoman on the throne, who had so clear an appreciation of the forces at work on the Continent, and the character of the man who was directing them, had not power enough to silence Lord Palmerston's mischievous talk which enabled Bismarck to lure the poor Danes on to a hopeless contest. There was only one danger of war so far as this country was concerned, and that was that the popular sympathy with Denmark might lead Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell to plunge this country into a war with the German powers. This it was which the Queen foresaw, and which she, after much striving, succeeded ultimately in checking. Mr. Morley, in his “Life of Cobden," is inclined to credit his hero with the lion's share of having thus prevented a great political blunder ; but those who were behind the scenes at the time, as well as those who are well aware how impotent a popular agitation is against a headstrong Minister, supported by a Party majority, with a great national sentiment at its back, will not need much to convince them that Count Vitzthum was nearer the mark than Mr. Morley.
The two questions of Poland and Schleswig-Holstein were both occupying the attention of Europe about the same time. Napoleon wanted to fight for Poland, Palmerston for Denmark, but the Queen wished to fight for neither, and by judiciously encouraging the Cabinet in its refusal to attend the Conference proposed by Napoleon for the purpose of revising the Treaties of 1815, she scored the first advantage in the diplomatic game. It cooled Napoleon's zeal for a fighting alliance with England, and rendered it less likely that he would press for joint action with England either against Russia or against Germany.
German national feeling, having found at last a Bismarck to guide it, was beginning to assert itself in the world, and as a first step was preparing to secure for the Fatherland the harbour of Kiel and the Germans of Schleswig-Holstein. To Germans, Schleswig-Holstein was a part of Germania irredenta, and German sentiment was fierce and strong, with a fierceness and a strength of which Lord Palmerston had no idea. Fortunately, there were in the Cabinet Ministers who were much more in sympathy with the Queen than they were with her Prime Minister. Mr. Villiers, who still lingers in life, though hardly in politics, as the oldest living member of the House of Commons, was one of the peace party in the Cabinet. Count Vitzthum, after reporting a conversation with him in the last days of December, 1863, says :
“Mr. Villiers is going to oppose Palmerston's warlike policy at the next meeting of the Cabinet, and do his best to prevent England from taking an active part in the Dano-German war. Once already he has done like service to his country, when, shortly after the present Ministry was formed, the question of war was before the Cabinet, and Palmerston, Russell, and Gladstone were out-voted. It is true that the peace-loving Sir George Cornewall Lewis was then alive, and that behind the scenes stood Prince Albert, who led with a firm hand the so-called Court party—in other words, the supposed ciphers of the Cabinet—in opposition to their nominal head.”
At the beginning of 1864, Her Majesty found herself confronted by a very menacing situation, and Lord Salisbury-then Lord Robert Cecil-was clamouring for war. His article in the Quarterly Review expressed his conviction that the Danish cause was the English cause, and that it was the duty of England to take up arms against Germany. With so little wisdom are the wisest statesmen sometimes imbued in the days of their hot youth. Lord Palmerston was delighted with this warlike declaration on the part of a leading member of the Opposition, and declared in the Cabinet that they would have to fight or be turned out. It was believed by those who were deep in the secrets of German diplomacy, that Lord Palmerston had devised a plan of campaign which was certainly sufficiently comprehensive. One portion of the British fleet was to descend upon the North Sea and Baltic coasts of Germany, while another was to attack Trieste and Venice. Garibaldi was to be subsidised with a million in order to enable him to raise an insurrection against Austria in Venetia, while Kossuth was to be subsidised to the same extent to revive the revolution in Hungary. There is little doubt that if the opposition had followed Lord Robert Cecil's lead, they would have enabled Lord Palmerston to have plunged the country into war, despite all that the Queen could do. But fortunately Her Majesty, although loyally supporting her temporary chief of staff, has never denied herself the opportunity of taking counsel with the leaders of the Opposition when the necessity arose. January, 1864, was one of those occasions when the Queen, threatened by her Prime Minister with the adoption of a disastrous policy to which she was bitterly opposed, invited Lord Derby to visit her at Osborne, and when there she expounded to him, with a fulness of knowledge and intensity of conviction natural to her, the perils with which we were threatened if Lord Palmerston were not checked in time.
Lord Derby was very Danish in his sympathies, but neither he nor Disraeli was oblivious to the arguments which the Queen pressed upon them. Hence, when Lord Derby left Osborne, Her Majesty had scored the second move in the game. Instead of urging Lord Palmerston to fight, it was understood Lord Derby would speak on the other side when Parliament opened. Such at least is a fair inference from the fact that his speech on behalf of peace—in direct opposition to Lord Robert Cecil's policy, and to that which he had himself expressed only a week before his visit to Osborne to Lord Malmesbury-was due to the one event which had happened between the two dateshis interview with the Queen at Osborne. Count Vitzthum, indeed, says point blank, “The conviction prevails among the Tories that Lord Derby's last speech in favour of peace was the result of a promise given by him to the Queen at Osborne." With this trump card in her hand, when Lord Palmerston presented her with a warlike Queen's Speech, she point blank refused to accept it. For some days there was an incipient crisis, red boxes going hither and thither with Queen's messages to Ministers, and Ministers' memoranda of the situation, and it was not until the very day before Parliament opened, after the Queen had returned revised a second draft of the Speech, that Lord Palmerston consented to withdraw his minatory Speech and to substitute a colourless paragraph which committed the country to nothing. Lord Palmerston kept on declaring to his colleagues that the Tories would turn them out if they did not fight. The Queen knew better. When Parliament opened, Lord Derby, instead of hounding the Government out for not threatening war in the Speech from the Throne, delivered an eloquent speech, in which he pleaded passionately for peace, declaring that a war with Germany would be the gravest calamity to England.
Looking back after all these years on the question thus raised between the Queen and her Ministers, it seems almost incredible that it should have been necessary for Her Majesty to have pulled the country out of the burning coals by such a desperate personal effort as this. Lord Malmesbury, in his “ Memoirs of an Ex-Minister," was evidently full of the idea that England should draw sword in the Dano-German quarrel. On December 27th he records with evident approval that the Cabinet had arrived at a very grave decision, which had been communicated by Lord Russell to Her Majesty, and that despatches had been sent off to Berlin and Vienna notifying the hostile attitude which the Government would assume in case the Germans invaded Schleswig. Two days later he mentions that
“The Germans are going into Schleswig, but the Danes can have little chance unless England or France come to their assistance, which the latter, it is said, is ready to do, but the Queen will not hear of going to war with Germany. No doubt this country would like to fight for the Danes, and from what 'is said I infer that the Government is inclined to support them also, but finds great difficulty in the opposition of the Queen."
How disastrous such an intervention would have been Lord Malmesbury himself was compelled to admit when editing his “ Memoirs" for the press. To the passage quoted above he adds the following significant footnote :-“It is perhaps well that we did not enter into this contest, as our army was not armed at that time, like the Prussians, with breechloaders, and we should probably have suffered in consequence the same disaster as the Austrians did two years later.” A significantfootnote indeed ! And here it may be noted by the way that if the British army was not armed with breechloaders in 1864, it was not the fault of the Monarchy. On October 12th, 1861, the Prince Consort wrote a letter to Lord Palmerston, in which he strongly urged the Prime Minister to introduce breechloaders into the British army. “If any change was contemplated," he wrote, “it would be worth considering whether we should not at once go to the breechloaders. They are sure to carry the day eventually, and there are plenty of patents out which answer admirably.” It is indeed ghastly to contemplate what would have been the consequence to Great Britain if, after neglecting the recommendations of the Prince Consort, Lord Palmerston had been strong enough to overrule the protests of the Queen and rush his country into war against United Germany.
Although the Queen had succeeded in preventing things coming to a head at the beginning of the Session, Lord Palmerston more than once afterwards endeavoured to embroil us in war. In February, he declared that our squadron should go to Copenhagen to prevent any invasion or attack upon the Danish capital. But this was only a private opinion, although mischievous enough, inasmuch as it encouraged the hopes entertained by the Danes of English support, which were never realised. At the end of April, Lord Palmerston, feeling, as he told Lord Russell, so little satisfied with the decision of the Cabinet which checked his warlike designs, “determined to make a notch off his own bat.” He went to the Austrian Ambassador and told him, not as English Minister, but as Palmerston, that if the Austrian fleet entered the Baltic to help the German operations against Denmark, he, Lord Palmerston, should look upon it as an affront and insult to England ; that he could not and would not stand such a thing ; and unless a superior British squadron were promptly despatched to act as the case