The letters of Queen Victoria : a selection from Her Majesty's correspondence between the years 1837 and 1861 : published by authority of His Majesty the king (Volume 1) online

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receive a decision, which I said 1 should ; he was quite
perturbed but this is infamous. I said, besides many


other things, that if he or the Duke of Wellington
had been at the head of the Government when I came
to the Throne, perhaps there might have been a few
more Tory Ladies, but that then if you had come
into Office you would never have dreamt of changing
them. I was calm but very decided, and I think you
would have been pleased to see my composure and
great firmness ; the Queen of England will not submit
to such trickery. Keep yourself in readiness, for you
may soon be wanted.

Extract from the Queens Journal.

Thursday, 9th May 1839.

At half -past two I saw the Duke of Wellington. I
remained firm, and he told Sir Robert that I remained
firm. I then saw Sir Robert Peel, who stopped a few
minutes with me ; he must consult those (of whom I
annex the List) whom he had named :

The DUKE OF WELLINGTON . Secretary for Foreign Affairs.

Sir JAMES GRAHAM . . . Secretary for the Home Department.

LORD STANLEY Secretary for the Colonies.

LORD LYNDHURST .... Lord Chancellor.

LORD ELLENBOROUGH . . . President of the Board of Control.

Sir H. HARDINGE .... Secretary at War.

and he said he would return in two or three hours with
the result, which I said I should await. 1

Queen Victoria to Viscount Melbourne.


The Queen has received Lord Melbourne's letter.
Lord Melbourne will since have heard what has taken
place. Lord Melbourne must not think the Queen
rash in her conduct ; she saw both the Duke and Sir
Robert again, and declared to them she could not

1 It was a curious circumstance, much commented on at the time, that in
the Globe of 9th May, a ministerial evening paper, which would probably have
gone to press at two o'clock in the afternoon, the following paragraph appeared :
" The determination which it is well known Her Majesty has taken, not to
allow the change in the Government to interfere with the ladies of her Court,
has given great offence to the Tories."


change her opinion. The Ladies are not (as the
Duke imagined was stated in the Civil List Bill) in
the place of the Lords ; and the Queen felt this was
an attempt to see whether she could be led and
managed like a child ; if it should lead to Sir Robert
Peel's refusing to undertake the formation of the
Government, which would be absurd, the Queen will
feel satisfied that she has only been defending her own
rights, on a point which so nearly concerned her person,
and which, if they had succeeded in, would have led
to every sort of unfair attempt at power ; the Queen
maintains all her Ladies, and thinks her Prime Min-
ister will cut a sorry figure indeed if he resigns on this.
Sir Robert has gone to consult with his friends, and
will return in two or three hours with his decision.
The Queen also maintained the Mistress of the Robes,
for as he said only those who are in Parliament shall
be removed, I should like to know if they mean to
give the Ladies seats in Parliament ?

We shall see what will be done. The Queen would
not have stood so firmly on the Grooms and Equerries,
but her Ladies are entirely her own affair, and not the

Viscount Melbourne to Queen Victoria.

9th May 1839.

Lord Melbourne presents his humble duty to your
Majesty. Lord Melbourne had certainly never expected
that this demand would be urged, and therefore had
never advised your Majesty as to what was to be done
in such a case. Lord Melbourne strongly advises your
Majesty to hear what the Duke of Wellington and
Sir Robert Peel urge, but to take time before you come
to a peremptory and final decision.

Viscount Melbourne to Queen Victoria.

9th May 1839.

Lord Melbourne presents his humble duty to your
Majesty. This is a matter of so much importance,


and may have such grave results, that any advice
which Lord Melbourne could give would be of little
importance unless it coincided with the opinions of
others, and particularly of all those who were and
intend still [to] continue to be his colleagues.

It will depend upon their determination whether
your Majesty is to be supported or not. The best
course will perhaps be that you should hear Sir
Robert Peel's determination, say nothing, but send for
Lord Melbourne, and lay the matter before him. Lord
Melbourne will then summon a Cabinet to consider of it.

Extract from the Queens Journal.

9th May 1839.

At half-past six came Lord Melbourne and stayed
with me till ten minutes past seven.

I then began by giving him a detailed account
of the whole proceeding, which I shall state here as
briefly as possible. I first again related what took
place in the two first interviews, and when I said
that the Duke said he had assisted my Government
often very much, Lord Melbourne said : " Well, that
is true enough, but the Duke did all he could about
this vote." "Well, then," I said, "when Sir Robert
Peel came this morning, he began first about the
Ministry. I consented, though I said I might have
my personal feelings about Lord Lyndhurst and Lord
Aberdeen, but that I would suppress every personal
feeling and be quite fair. I then repeated that I
wished to retain about me those who were not in
Parliament, and Sir Robert pretended that I had the
preceding day expressed a wish to keep about me
those who were in Parliament. I mentioned my wish
to have Lord Liverpool, to which Sir Robert readily
acceded, saying he would offer him the place of Lord
Steward, or of Lord in Waiting. He then suggested
my having Lord Ashley, 1 which I said I should like,
as Treasurer or Comptroller. Soon after this Sir
Robert said : ' Now, about the Ladies,' upon which I

1 Afterwards Earl of Shaftesbury, the well-known Philanthropist


said I could not give up any of my Ladies, and
never had imagined such a thing. He asked if I
meant to retain all. 'All,' I said. 'The Mistress
of the Robes and the Ladies of the Bedchamber ? '
I replied, 'Air for he said they were the wives of
the opponents of the Government, mentioning Lady
Normanby * in particular as one of the late Ministers'
wives. I said that would not interfere ; that I never
talked politics with them, and that they were related,
many of them, to Tories, and I enumerated those of
my Bedchamber women and Maids of Honour ; upon
which he said he did not mean all the Bedchamber
women and all the Maids of Honour, he meant the
Mistress of the Robes and the Ladies of the Bed-
chamber ; to which I replied they were of more
consequence than the others, and that I could not
consent, and that it had never been done before.
He said I was a Queen Regnant, and that made
the difference. ' Not here,' I said and I maintained
my right. Sir Robert then urged it upon public
grounds only, but I said here I could not consent.
He then begged to be allowed to consult with the
Duke upon such an important matter. I expressed
a wish also to see the Duke, if Sir Robert approved,
which he said he did, and that he would return with
the Duke, if I would then be prepared for the
decision, which I said I would. Well," I continued,
"the Duke and Sir Robert returned soon, and I first

i J. W. Croker wrote to the King of Hanover :

" llth May 1839.

"... This is the sum of the whole affair. Sir R. Peel could not admit
that broad principle that all were to remain. Lady Normanby (whom the
Queen particularly wishes for), for instance, the wife of the very Minister
whose measures have been the cause of the change, two sisters of Lord
Morpeth, the sisters-in-law of Lord John Russell, the daughter of the Prhy
Seal and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. . . .

" Her Majesty's ball last night was, I am told, rather dull, though she
herself seemed in high spirits, as if she were pleased at retaining her
Ministers. She has a great concert on the 13th, but to both, as I hear, the
invitations have been on a very exclusive principle, no Tories being invited
who could on any pretence be left out. These are small matters, but every-
thing tends to create a public impression that Her Majesty takes a personal
and strong interest in the Whigs a new ingredient of difficulty." Croker
Papers, II. 347.


saw the Duke, who talked first of his being ready
to take the post of Secretary for Foreign Affairs,
which I had pressed Peel to urge on him (the Duke
having first wished to be in the Cabinet, without
accepting office), and the Duke said, ' I am able to
do anything,' for I asked him if it would not be too
much for him. Then I told him that I had been
very well satisfied with Sir Robert yesterday, and
asked the Duke if Sir Robert had told him what
had passed about the Ladies. He said he had, and
then I repeated all my arguments, and the Duke
his ; but the Duke and Sir Robert differed consider-
ably on two points. The Duke said the opinions of
the Ladies were nothing, but it was the principle,
whether the Minister could remove the Ladies or
not, and that he (the Duke) had understood it was
stated in the Civil List Bill, 'that the Ladies were
instead of the Lords,' which is quite false, and I
told the Duke that there were not twelve Lords, as
the expense with the Ladies would have been too
great." Lord Melbourne said: "There you had the
better of him, and what did he say ? " " Not much,"
I replied. I repeated many of my arguments, all
which pleased Lord Melbourne, and which he agreed
to, amongst others, that I said to the Duke was
Sir Robert so weak that even the Ladies must be
of his opinion? The Duke denied that. The Duke
then took my decision to Sir Robert, who was waiting
in the next room ; after a few minutes Sir Robert
returned. After stopping a few minutes, as I have
already stated, Sir Robert went to see his colleagues,
and returned at five : said he had consulted with
those who were to have been his colleagues, and that
they agreed that, with the probability of being beat
the first night about the Speaker, and beginning with
a Minority in the House of Commons, that unless
there was some (all the Officers of state and Lords
I gave up) demonstration of my confidence, and if I
retained all my Ladies this would not be, "they
agreed unanimously they could not go on." I replied

VOL. i. 14


I would reflect, that I felt certain I should not change
my mind, but that I should do nothing in a hurry,
and would write him my decision either that evening
or the next morning. He said, meanwhile, he would
suspend all further proceedings.

I also told Lord Melbourne that I feared I had
embarrassed the Government, that I acted quite
alone. Lord Melbourne saw, and said I could not
do otherwise. " I must summon the Cabinet," said
Lord Melbourne, at half-past nine. " It may have
very serious consequences. If we can't go on with
this House of Commons, we may have to dissolve
Parliament, and we don't know if we may get as
good a House of Commons." I begged him to come,
and he said: "111 come if it is in any time if it's
twelve ; but if it's one or two, I'll write."

After dinner (as usual with the Household) I
went to my room, and sat up till a quarter past two.
At a quarter to two I received the following letter
from Lord Melbourne, written at one o'clock :

Viscount Melbourne to Queen Victoria.

Wth May 1839 (1 A.M.).

Lord Melbourne presents his humble duty to your
Majesty. The Cabinet has sate until now, and, after
much discussion, advises your Majesty to return the
following answer to Sir Robert Peel :

" The Queen having considered the proposal made
to her yesterday by Sir Robert Peel, to remove the
Ladies of her Bedchamber, cannot consent to adopt
a course which she conceives to be contrary to usage,
and which is repugnant to her feelings." 1

1 Greville asserts that the plan adopted by the outgoing Cabinet, of
meeting and suggesting that this letter should be despatched, was " utterly
anomalous and unprecedented, and a course as dangerous as unconstitu-
tional. . . . They ought to have explained to her that until Sir Robert
Peel had formally and finally resigned his commission into her hands, they
could tender no advice. . . . The Cabinet of Lord Melbourne discussed
the proposals of that of Sir Robert Peel, and they dictated to the Queen
the reply in which she refused to consent to the advice tendered to her
by the man who was at that moment her Minister. " Orevilles Journal, 12th
May 1839.


Queen Victoria to Sir Robert Peel.

Wth May 1839.

The Queen having considered the proposal made
to her yesterday by Sir Robert Peel, to remove the
Ladies of her Bedchamber, cannot consent to adopt
a course which she conceives to be contrary to usage,
and which is repugnant to her feelings. 1

Queen Victoria to Viscount Melbourne.


The Queen wrote the letter before she went to
bed, and sent it at nine this morning ; she has received
no answer, and concludes she will receive none, as Sir
Robert told the Queen if the Ladies were not removed,
his party would fall directly, and could not go on, and
that he only awaited the Queen's decision. The Queen
therefore wishes to see Lord Melbourne about half-past
twelve or one, if that would do.

The Queen fears Lord Melbourne has much trouble
in consequence of all this ; but the Queen was fully
prepared, and fully intended to give these people a fair
trial, though she always told Lord Melbourne she knew
they couldn't stand ;' and she must rejoice at having got
out of the hands of people who would have sacrificed
every personal feeling and instinct of the Queen's to
their bad party purposes.

How is Lord Melbourne this morning ?

Queen Victoria to Viscount Melbourne.


Half-past one will do as well as one ; any hour will do
that Lord Melbourne likes, for the Queen will not go out.
There is no answer from Peel.

1 Sixty years later the Queen, during a conversation at Osborne with Sir
Arthur Bigge, her Private Secretary, after eulogising Sir Robert Peel, said :
" I was very young then, and perhaps I should act differently if it was all to
be done again."


The Queen is wonderfully well considering all the
fatigue of yesterday, and not getting to bed till near
half-past two, which is somewhat of a fatigue for
to-night when the Queen must be very late. Really
all these Fetes in the midst of such very serious and
anxious business are quite overwhelming.

Queen Victoria to Viscount Melbourne.


The Queen forgot to ask Lord Melbourne if he
thought there would be any harm in her writing to
the Duke of Cambridge that she really was fearful
of fatiguing herself, if she went out to a party at
Gloucester House on Tuesday, an Ancient Concert on
Wednesday, and a ball at Northumberland House on
Thursday, considering how much she had to do these
last four days. If she went to the Ancient Concert
on Wednesday, having besides a concert of her own
here on Monday, it would be four nights of fatigue,
really exhausted as the Queen is.

But if Lord Melbourne thinks that as these are only
to be English singers at the Ancient Concert, she ought
to go, she could go there for one act ; but she would
much rather, if possible, get out of it, for it is a
fatiguing time. . . .

As the negotiations with the Tories are quite at an
end, and Lord Melbourne has been here, the Queen
hopes Lord Melbourne will not object to dining with
her on Sunday?

Sir Robert Peel to Queen Victoria.

\0th May 1839.

Sir Robert Peel presents his humble duty to your
Majesty, and has had the honour of receiving your
Majesty's note of this morning.

In respectfully submitting to your Majesty's
pleasure, and humbly returning into your Majesty's
hands the important trust which your Majesty had


been graciously pleased to commit to him, Sir Robert
Peel trusts that your Majesty will permit him to
state to your Majesty his impression with respect to
the circumstances which have led to the termination
of his attempt to form an Administration for the
conduct of your Majesty's Service.

In the interview with which your Majesty honoured
Sir Robert Peel yesterday morning, after he had sub-
mitted to your Majesty the names of those whom he
proposed to recommend to your Majesty for the
principal executive appointments, he mentioned to
your Majesty his earnest wish to be enabled, with
your Majesty's sanction, so to constitute your Majesty's
Household that your Majesty's confidential servants
might have the advantage of a public demonstration
of your Majesty's full support and confidence, and
that at the same time, as far as possible consistently
with that demonstration, each individual appointment
in the Household should be entirely acceptable to
your Majesty's personal feelings.

On your Majesty's expressing a desire that the
Earl of Liverpool 1 should hold an office in the House-
hold, Sir Robert Peel requested your Majesty's per-
mission at once to offer to Lord Liverpool the office
of Lord Steward, or any other which he might prefer.

Sir Robert Peel then observed that he should
have every wish to apply a similar principle to the
chief appointments which are filled by the Ladies of
your Majesty's Household, upon which your Majesty
was pleased to remark that you must reserve the
whole of those appointments, and that it was your
Majesty's pleasure that the whole should continue
as at present, without any change.

The Duke of Wellington, in the interview to which
your Majesty subsequently admitted him, understood
also that this was your Majesty's determination,
and concurred with Sir Robert Peel in opinion that,
considering the great difficulties of the present crisis,

1 Charles Cecil Cope Jenkinson, third Earl, 1784-1851, became Lord
Steward in 1841.


and the expediency of making every effort in the
first instance to conduct the public business of the
country with the aid of the present Parliament, it
was essential to the success of the Commission with
which your Majesty had honoured Sir Robert Peel
that he should have that public proof of your Majesty's
entire support and confidence which would be afforded
by the permission to make some changes in that part
of your Majesty's Household which your Majesty
resolved on maintaining entirely without change.

Having had the opportunity, through your Majesty's
gracious consideration, of reflecting upon this point,
he humbly submits to your Majesty that he is reluc-
tantly compelled, by a sense of public duty and of the
interests of your Majesty's service, to adhere to his
opinion which he ventured to express to your Majesty.

He trusts he may be permitted at the same
time to express to your Majesty his grateful acknow-
ledgments for the distinction which your Majesty
conferred upon him by requiring his advice and
assistance in the attempt to form an Administration,
and his earnest prayers that whatever arrangements
your Majesty may be enabled to make for that purpose
may be most conducive to your Majesty's personal
comfort and happiness, and to the promotion of the
public warfare.

Extract from the Queens Journal.

Friday, 10th May 1839.

Lord Melbourne came to me at two and staved


with me till ten minutes to three. I placed in his
hands Sir Robert Peel's answer, which he read. He
started at one part where he (Sir Robert) says, " some
changes " but some or all, I said, was the same ; and
Lord Melbourne said, " I must submit this to the
Cabinet." Lord Melbourne showed me a letter from
Lord Grey about it a good deal alarmed, thinking
I was right, and yet half doubtful ; one from Spring
Rice, dreadfully frightened, and wishing the Whig


ladies should resign ; and one from Lord Lansdowne
wishing to state that the ladies would have resigned.
Lord Melbourne had also seen the Duke of Richmond ;
and Lord Melbourne said we might be beat ; I said I
never would yield, and would never apply to Peel
again. Lord Melbourne said, " You are for standing
out then?" I said, "Certainly." I asked how the
Cabinet felt. " John Russell, strongly for standing
out," he said ; " Duncannon, very much so ; Holland,
Lord Minto, Hobhouse and the Chancellor, all for
standing out ; Poulett Thomson too, and Normanby
also ; S. Rice and Howick alarmed."









Her Majesty's Confidential Servants having taken
into consideration the letter addressed by Her Majesty
to Sir Robert Peel on the 10th of May, and the reply
of Sir Robert Peel of the same day, are of opinion
that for the purpose of giving to an Administration that
character of efficiency and stability and those marks
of the constitutional support of the Crown, which are
required to enable it to act usefully for the public
service, it is reasonable that the great offices of the
Court and the situations in the Household held by
members of either House of Parliament should be
included in the political arrangements made on a
change of Administration ; but they are not of opinion


that a similar principle should be applied or extended
to the offices held by Ladies in Her Majesty's House-
hold. 1

Her Majesty's Confidential Servants are therefore
prepared to support Her Majesty in refusing to assent
to the removal of the Ladies of her Household, which
Her Majesty conceived to be contrary to usage, and
which is repugnant to her feelings, and are prepared
to continue in their offices on these grounds.

Viscount Howick concurs in the opinion expressed
in the foregoing Minute that the removal of the
Ladies of Her Majesty's Household ought not to form
part of the arrangements consequent upon a change
of Administration, and shares in the readiness his
colleagues have declared to support Her Majesty in
acting upon this opinion ; but he thinks it his duty
to state his conviction that the immediate resumption
of their offices by Her Majesty's Confidential Servants
is not the mode in which their support can be most
effectively afforded, and is not calculated to promote
the good of Her Majesty's service.

He conceives that before it is determined that the
present Administration should be continued, further
explanation should be sought with Sir Robert Peel,
by which it is not impossible that his concession to
Her Majesty's just objection to the removal of the
Ladies of her Household might have been obtained,
while the endeavour to arrive at this result, even
though unsuccessful, would at all events tend to
secure additional support to Her Majesty's present
Servants, and thus to enable them to surmount those
difficulties, which have recently compelled them
humbly to tender their resignations to Her Majesty,
and which he fears will be found not to have been
diminished by the course it has now been determined
to pursue.

In humbly submitting this opinion to Her Majesty,
Viscount Howick begs permission to add that he

1 This paragraph was read by Lord John Russell to the House of Commons,
during the course of the Ministerial explanations on 13th May.


nevertheless acquiesces in the determination of his
colleagues, and will render them the best assistance
in his power in their endeavour to carry on Her
Majesty's service.

Queen Victoria to Viscount Melbourne.


The Queen is very anxious to hear that Lord
Melbourne has not suffered from the ball last night,
as it was very hot at first. The beginning was rather
dull and heavy, but after supper it got very animated,
and we kept it up till a quarter past three ; the Queen
enjoyed herself very much and isn't at all tired ; she
felt much the kindness of many of her kind friends,
who are her only real friends. Lady Cowper and Lord
and Lady Minto, the Duchess of Somerset, and Lord
Anglesey were particularly kind. On the other hand,
there were some gloomy faces to be seen, and the
Duchess of Gloucester was very cross.

The Queen is ashamed to say it, but she has for-

Online LibraryUnknownThe letters of Queen Victoria : a selection from Her Majesty's correspondence between the years 1837 and 1861 : published by authority of His Majesty the king (Volume 1) → online text (page 18 of 52)