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might require, he would resign. A nice conversation, this, from a Minister who frankly recognised that a collision between the fleets would mean war between Britain and Prussia and Austria; and one who knew, moreover, that he was in a minority in his own Cabinet, and bitterly opposed by his own Sovereign. On May 2nd he reported what he had said to the Cabinet, and Lord Russell was instructed to draft a despatch to Vienna, embodying the substance of his warning to Count Apponyi. Two days later he wrote to the First Lord of the Amiralty, declaring that it seemed to him we ought to insist that no Austrian ships of war shall at any time, or under any circumstances during the war, enter the Baltic. This was indeed making “a notch off his own bat.” But he had reckoned without the Queen.
No sooner did Her Majesty receive the draft of the despatch which was prepared for transmission to Vienna, than she put down her foot and stopped it summarily. On May 5th Lord Granville wrote to Lord Russell as follows: “ Last night the Queen sent me your two drast despatches to Vienna with a message. Her Majesty does not like Lord Palmerston's conversation with Apponyi, nor the embodiment of it in a despatch with the Cabinet's adoption and approval."
“So,” says Mr. Castell Hopkins, “ the conversation was discredited, and the despatch was modified to an extent which saved England from isolated action and probable war."
No wonder that Count Vitzthum exults in the triumph of the Sovereign over her headstrong and bellicose Premier. “Twice," says he in his book, " St. Petersburg and London,”_"twice in the course of that session did Lord Palmerston attempt to drag the Cabinet with him and carry out his project of a war.” When at last the Session came to a close and Lord Palmerston was fain to escape defeat by accepting such an amendment as would secure him the support of Cobden, Count Vitzthum writes :
“ The Prime Minister is disarmed and his secret schemes of anger and revenge are condemned. The victory of the peace party is a victory of the Queen, maligned, insulted, and reproached for her German sympathies. Her Majesty has checkmated the dictatorship of her Prime Minister and beaten him three times in his own Cabinet on the question of war or peace. The Queen has recognised the true interests, the true wishes of her people in nct allowing herself to be misled by the gossip of the drawing-rooms or the declarations of the British press.”
Count Beust came over to London to attend the abortive Conference held on the question, and in his "Memoirs" we gain an interesting side glimpse into the two currents which were striving with each other in England at that time—the opposing current of German feeling running strong at the Court, and the current of Danish feeling running not less turbulently at the Foreign Office. When Count Beust arrived, he tells us :-“It is scarcely possible to form a conception of the bitter feeling which animated all classes in England, high and low, against Germany." Almost the only exception that he found appears to have been in the very highest place. Soon after his arrival he went by invitation to an evening party at Lady Palmerston's. When he entered, Lord Palmerston shook hands with him, but instead of speaking, continued his conversation with one of his guests. Only two years before Count Beust had been received by him in the most cordial manner. The Count was much offended, and never entered Lord Palmerston's house again. Wherever he turned, he met with similar rudeness, and he was especially cold-shouldered by the family of the Duke of Cambridge. He had been an old friend of the Duchess in former days, but he was treated as a stranger to her and her family. At last he asked Lord Clarendon if he could not have an interview with Her Majesty. Lord Clarendon received Count Beust with extreme coldness, and said he would apply to the Queen, in a tone which clearly meant, “ You will have to wait a long time.” He saw Lord Clarendon soon after his return from Osborne and found him quite like another being, most amiable and polite The Queen at once said “ that she would gladly see me, as I was an old friend,
and she would send me an invitation to Osborne.” Down he went, and no sooner did the Court Circular announce that he had been staying two days there, than the doors of the highest society opened to him on all sides. “The free-born Englishman,” says Count Beust somewhat maliciously, "was always a greater courtier than the enslaved Russian.” Count Beust's account of his visit to Osborne is very interesting. it was not only an honour and a pleasure, but it greatly assisted the cause which he represented. In those days the Queen did not come down to dinner, but she appeared afterwards with her daughters, the Princesses Helena and Louise. “I had a long conversation with Her Majesty, and it was resumed next day in the garden. The Schleswig-Holstein question was the sole topic. The Queen was thoroughly versed in it. The question was, in the highest sense of the word, a legacy of Prince Albert's. Consequently my task was not difficult. I maintained with all the eloquence of conviction that all
Germany would rise as one man
if an armed in tervention of
France or EngJand, which at
that time seemed imminent, were
to take place, and I have been
assured on very trustworthy
authority that in this case the
Queen followed the example of
her grandfather, George III., who
in the early part of his reign re
fused to be fettered by con
stitutional trammels, and fre
quently carried his point by a
personal de cision.” After
concluding this rapid sketch of
the way in which the Queen has
used her influ. ence to check
the mistakes of her Ministers,
and her knowledge and fore
sight to prevent the catastrophes
into which they nearly hurled
the nation, I reread “ Verax's"
famous articles on “ The Crown
and Constitution," which
made so much stir in 1878.
There I find that Mr. Dunckley, one of the honest and simplest of Radical journalists, expounds, with all sincerity, the belief that the Queen had sunk into the capacity of what the Quarterly Review called “a mere mechanical register of the will of Parliament.” “It is a universal belief,” wrote “Verax," " that the Queen keeps aloof from the wranglings of politics.” It would be just as true to say that the fly-wheel keeps itself aloof from the working of the machine of which it forms a moderating and controlling part. The Queen, as this most imperfect sketch has shown, so far from keeping apart from politics, lives and breathes and has her being in them. While she never dictates, she influences; and although never arrogating to herself the muchchallenged prerogative of command, exercises constantly the far more subtle and influential opportunity of expostulation and argument.
In other words, the Modern Monarch is the Permanent Editor of the Realm. Mr. Dunckley would not have misunderstood the meaning of that analogy, its exact
significance, and the flood of vivifying light which it throws upon the actual working of the British Constitution in its present state of evolution.
Since the foregoing estimate of the Queen's influence as Monarch was penned, two notable pieces of testimony have been forthcoming as to the impression which Her Majesty has made upon contemporary Rulers.
The first came from Russia, where the industry of Professor Martens has unearthed some very interesting letters written by the Tsar Nicholas the First and his Ambassador concerning the Queen when she was quite a young woman. The Queen's estimate of Nicholas can be found in the “ Life of the Prince Consort.” Here are the Russian letters, in which we see how even in those early days Her Majesty impressed the Sovereigns and statesmen of Europe :
“Queen Victoria ascended the throne as Duchess of Kent at the age of eighteen. Her education,' wrote Count Pozzo-di-Borgo on the 20th of June, 1837, 'was a very lonely one. With the exception of her teachers and professors, the young Duchess was strictly prohibited from forming any acquaintances and connections but that of the Dowager Duchess and a few inferior servants whom her mother kept near her with the sole object of watching her and preventing her from speaking to anyone alone. The Duchess of Northumberland, for many years first lady-in-waiting of the Princess Victoria, never once had an opportunity of saying one single word to her otherwise than in the presence of one other person. In that way, no one in existence had the faintest notion of the young Queen's disposition, failings, or inclinations. Mere conjectures are afloat in which one can always trace the opinion or desire of the person who gave utterance to them.'
“After her accession, the young Queen applied herself with remarkable assiduity to the task of learning the ways of government and the characters of her ministers. She first of all freed herselt from the despotic yoke of her mother, the Duchess of Kent, who had hoped to govern England in her daughter's name. Queen Victoria had but one counsellor in whom she placed unlimited confidencePrince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the former candidate to the throne of Greece—who ascended that of Belgium in 1831. Queen Victoria not only loved him as an uncle, but venerated him as an intellectual and gifted politician. At first only Madame Lehzen, her former governess, possessed her entire confidence, but later, King Leopold appointed the Baron Stockmar to be in attendance on the Queen, and by his inter-medium all communications were conducted between Queen Victoria and the King, who afterwards received the honourable title of the Nestor of Europe.'
“ The young Queen occupied herself with the affairs of State with indefatigable zeal. She received Lord Melbourne almost daily, listened to his reports, and signed papers. At the same time the Queen is perfectly circumspect and reserved, and never speaks of anything that has any connection with politics or government; almost every day she invites someone to dine with her, only systematically excluding those belonging to the Opposition Party. Such is the secrecy in which affairs are conducted.'
“So much reserve and secrecy were not particularly pleasing in the eyes of the diplomatists accredited at the Court of St. James, since they had often received the confidence of former English sovereigns in familiar conversation. George III. and George IV. had often openly sided with the representatives of foreign powers in opposition to their own ministers. More than once it had been the fate of S. P. Vorontsoff, for many years Russian Ambassador at London, to hear from the lips of the King of Eng. land the most violent condemnation of the actions and policy of the British ministers, such as William Pitt, Fox, and others.
“Such candour disclosed the impotence of the head of the Government to foreign diplomatists wi:hout adding to his authority in their eyes.
“What attitude was Prince Lieben to observe while listening to the following announcement made to him by George IV. in March, 1823?
** However," said the King, you must thoroughly understand what the King's position is. Owing to circumstances which it is not in his power to alter, his will is frequently disregarded; remember an event which took place recently (the entrance to the Ministry of the abhorred Canning), when I considered it my duty to sacrifice my own very just feelings of dissatisfaction. It is true, that had not circumstances demanded otherwise, I could at once have dismissed a Ministry desirous at all hazards of forcing measures upon me which were at variance with the dictates of my conscience. But where to find people deserving of my confidence who can understand me? And may the cure not be worse than the disease ? I know that you were displeased at the counter-order which forbade the entrance of arms and ammunition into Spain. That measure was taken without my consent, and I strongly disapproved of it-but I must admit that it was difficult to prevent its adoption.'
“When a reigning monarch expresses so clearly his disapproval of the policy of his own Ministers, foreign diplomatists can only wonder at his frankness, and be convinced of the utter incapacity of the head of the nation.
“Queen Victoria never allowed herself to interfere with the affairs of State in such a manner, nor to discredit her Ministers in the eyes of foreign diplomatists, although not all of them were favoured by her personal regard or esteem. From the moment of her ascension to the throne she gave herself to her guiding principle-to submit to the will of the people expressed by its representatives in Parliament. Hence the reason why a Parliamentary form of government in the sense of the well-known aphorism, • La reine règne, mais ne gouverne pas,' could take such deep root in the England of to-day. Firmness, unfailing calm of manner, and a perfectly well-balanced mind, morally and intellectually, are the qualities with which Queen Victoria has armed herself from the very day of her Coronation.
“It is true that not all were satisfied with the young Queen's behaviour. Many were of opinion that the Queen of England ought not, and had no right, to efface herself to the extent of confiding all the reins of government into the hands of her ministers.
“At the same time Count Pozzo-di-Borgo finds that the Royal authority had become Whig-La royanté est Whig,' and adds, somewhat ironically, I say royalty, because the Queen is nothing but a mystical symbol of that power. Lord Melbourne suggests everything to the young Queen, and makes her sign all the documents where her signature is necessary. He controls her house and her occupations. Whatever he desires in the direction of domestic or political affairs, she desires likewise. However,' concludes the Russian Ambassador, 'the unbounded power he possesses in disposing of royal authority gives the members of the Government great opportunities of preserving their own position. Yet Count Pozzo-di-Borgo must have been convinced of his mistake in saying that Queen Victoria had no will of her own, and was quite indifferent to the affairs of State and to her people. If she gave such immense power to Lord Melbourne as head of the Whig party, it can simply be explained by the tendencies and convictions that influenced her at the time. She sympathised with the reforming tendencies of the party, and was in touch with their leader. She liked both Lord Melbourne and Lord Palmerston. It may be that the intimacy between the King of Belgium and Lord Palmerston accounts for the liking. On the other hand, Queen Victoria almost hated the Tories, but especially their Coryphaei, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel. She disliked the former for his pompous manner and unbounded ambition, and could not pardon the latter for his imperious temper, which carried him the length, while Minister of the Tory Cabinet, of interfering in the nomination of those nearest her person, so that when, in 1839, Lord Melbourne suggested combining the Whig and Tory parties for the purpose of keeping his power, she indignantly repudiated the idea. Il,' wrote Count Pozzo-di-Borgo, in May, 1839, the Queen, as may be supposed from her tendencies, places herself at the head of the extreme reform party, then she will succeed in destroying the last fragments of aristocratic and ecclesiastical political power to a mere formality.
“Be this as it may, Queen Victoria conducted herself with a perfect understanding of her queenly dignity, and thanks to the skill with which she kept her prestige within the bounds of established customs, she soon acquired great popularity amongst her people. . . . . As a rule, she knew how to hold her ground. The Baron (Brunoff) who was Russian Ambassador at London in 1839 justly remarks, that the young, Queen is more distinguished by an excess of strength of will, than by a want of energy. All admit her sense of justice and straightforwardness, which do honour to her nature.”
The second illustration is much more recent. President Kruger is one of the most shrewd and capable of the governing men of our time. He is no flatterer, but cultivates the rough candour of the peasant. Twice within a few months he has referred to the Queen in terms which prove that at Pretoria at least there is a ruler who is not misled by forms, and who realises that at the core and kernel of the British Government he has to do not with ministers who pass, but with the Queen who remains. The first occasion was when President Kruger, at the beginning of March, went to Bloemfontein to discuss the new treaty with the Orange Free State. He spoke cautiously concerning the proposed union of the two Boer Republics. But he said, “I must be careful ; I would rather leave it alone. Her Majesty is a stubborn lady.” “Ik zal het mar lieven laten blyven, Hare Majesteit is eene Kwaai vroow.” The precise significance of the phrase “ Kwaai vroow" has been disputed. What is beyond dispute is that President Kruger felt that in dealing with England the personality of the Queen was a factor, perhaps a chief factor, in the problem of Imperial relations, and also that she was not a person that could be cajoled or bullied or ignored. His second utterance was still more significant. A German officer had been talking largely about the support which the Boers would receive from Germany if matters came to an extremity. The President listened for a time, then, turning to the interpreter, he said, “Where was Germany in 1896 ? The old woman sneezed, and Germany was no more to be seen."
It is not a polite phrase, but what could be a more expressive tribute to the influence of the Queen ?