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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they needn't announce it till Monday,' which we hope
will be the case, as we agreed it wouldn't do for me to
have a ball the day Lord M. had resigned, and before
I had sent for anybody else, and therefore I hoped
that it could be managed that the division did not
take place till Friday. Lord M. said that in case they
resigned, he wished Vernon Smith * to be made a Privy
Councillor ; the only addition to the Peers he mentioned
the other day he wished to make is Surrey ; 2 we agreed
that too many Peers was always a bad thing."

Queen Victoria to the King of the Belgians.

UthMay 1841.

... I am sure you will forgive my writing a very
short letter to-day, but I am so harassed and occupied
with business that I cannot find time to write letters.
You will, I am sure, feel for me ; the probability of
parting from so kind and excellent a being as Lord
Melbourne as a Minister (for a friend he will always
remain) is very, very painful, even if one feels it will not
probably be for long ; to take it philosophically is my
great wish, and quietly I certainly shall, but one cannot
help feelings of affection and gratitude. Albert is the
greatest possible comfort to me in every way, and my
position is much more independent than it was before.

I am glad you see the French feeling in the fight
light. I rejoice that the christening, etc., went off so well.
Believe me ever, your devoted Niece, VICTORIA R.

Extract from the Queens Journal.

Thursday, 13th May 1841.

" Saw Lord Melbourne at a little past four.

" . . . * We have had a Cabinet,' Lord Melbourne
said, * and we have been considering the question
of dissolution, and what is the best course to be
pursued ; if we were to dissolve, John Russell,' he said,

1 Robert Vernon Smith (1800-1873), Under-Secretary for War and the
Colonies, afterwards Lord Lyveden.

2 The Earl of Surrey (1791-1856) was now M.P. for West Sussex, and
Treasurer of the Household, and was afterwards thirteenth Duke of Norfolk.


* would pursue quite a different course ; he would
then announce the Sugar duties at once. I (Lord
Melbourne) said, that I had been considering well
the whole question, and the Chancellor's letter, but
that altogether I did not think it advisable to have
recourse to a dissolution and I think the greater
part lean towards that opinion ; but there are a few
who are very much for a dissolution ; the Chancellor
and Hobhouse very much so, and Palmerston. They
have, however, not quite finally decided the matter.
I understand the debate will certainly go over
to-night,' he said, 'and that they would have time
on Saturday and Sunday to consider about Lord
John's amendment.'

Extract from the Queen's Journal.

Saturday, 15th May 1841.

" Lord Melbourne came to me at twenty minutes
past one, and we talked about this question of disso-
lution. * We shall have a long debate upon it
this morning at the Cabinet,' Lord Melbourne said.
' The worst thing is, that if we carry the Sugar
duties, we must dissolve. If we were to dissolve,'
he continued, 'and were to have the parties equal
as they are now, it would be very bad ; if we were
to have a majority, it would be a great thing ;
but if we were to have a minority it would be
still worse. ... We know that Charles I. and
Charles II., and even Cromwell, appealed to the
country, and had a Parliament returned into their
very teeth ' (so strong an Opposition) * and that
produced deposition, and convulsion, and bloodshed
and death ; but since then the Crown has always had
a majority returned in favour of it. Even Queen
Anne,' he continued, ' who removed Marlborough in
the midst of his most glorious victories and dissolved
Parliament, had an immense majority, though her
measures were miserable; William IV.,' he said, 'even
though he had a majority against him which


prevented him from keeping his Ministers, had a
much stronger feeling for him in that Parliament,
than he ever had before. But I am afraid,' he
added, ' that for the first time the Crown would
have an Opposition returned smack against it ; and
that would be an affront to which I am very
unwilling to expose the Crown.' This is very true."

The King of the Belgians to Queen Victoria.

TUILEBIES, Hth May 1841.

MY DEAREST VICTORIA, I am deeply grateful
for your kind letter, which reached me this morning.
Letters from hence ought not to be longer on their
way than, at the longest, forty hours, forty-eight is
the maximum. I fear that they are delayed at the
Foreign Office ; here it cannot be, as for instance
these lines go this evening.

I can easily understand that the present crisis
must have something very painful for you, and you
will do well for your health and comfort to try to
take it as philosophically as possible ; it is a part of
the Constitutional system which is for the Sovereign
very hard to get over.

Nous savons tous des paroles sur cct air, as the
French say. I was convinced that Lord Melbourne's
right and good feeling would make him pause before
he proposed to you a dissolution. A general election
in England, when great passions must be roused or
created to render it efficacious for one party or
another, is a dangerous experiment, always calculated
to shake the foundations on which have hitherto
reposed the great elements of the political power of
the country. Albert will be a great comfort to you,
and to hear it from yourself has given me the
sincerest delight. His judgment is good, and he is
mild and safe in his opinions ; they deserve your
serious attention ; young as he is, I have really
often been quite surprised how quick and correct his
judgment is. ...


Lord John Russell to Queen Victoria.

WILTON CRESCENT, 16th May 1841.

Lord John Russell presents his humble duty to
your Majesty, and has the honour to state that the
general effect of last week's debate * has been greatly in
favour of the measures of your Majesty's Ministers.

The speeches of Mr Labouchere, Sir George
Grey, and Lord Howick, with the powerful argument
of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Friday night,
have not been met by any corresponding ability on
the other side.

In fact the Opposition seem to have concealed
their own views of policy, and to have imagined that
the Anti-Slavery feeling would carry them through
successfully. But this expectation has been entirely
disappointed ; debate has unmasked the hollow
pretence of humanity, and the meetings at Exeter
Hall and in the country have completely counter-
acted the impressions which Dr Lushington's speech 2
had produced.

Lancashire, Cheshire, and the West Riding of
Yorkshire have been roused to strong excitement by
the prospect of a reduction of the duty on corn.
Several of the large towns have expressed their
opinions without distinction of party.

These symptoms are said to have created some
dissensions among the opponents of your Majesty's
present Government.

Sir Robert Peel, Lord Stanley, and nearly all the
eminent leaders of the party, profess their adherence
to the principles of Mr Huskisson. 3 On the other
hand, the Duke of Buckingham, 4 with many Lords
and Commoners, is opposed to any relaxation of the
present Corn Laws. This difference must ultimately

1 On Lord Sandon's resolution.

3 Against the Budget, on the ground that it tended to encourage slavery.

8 Which were opposed to Protection and the Navigation laws.

* Richard Plantagenet (1797-1861), second Duke of the 1822 creation, M.P.
for Bucks 1818-1839, and author of the " Chandos clause," became Lord Privy
Seal this year, but resigned shortly after. He dissipated his property, and
had to sell the contents of Stowe.


produce serious consequences, and it is possible they
may break out before the present debate is ended.

One consequence of the propositions of the
Ministry is the weakening of the power of the
Chartists, who have relied on the misrepresentation
that neither Whigs nor Tories would ever do any-
thing for the improvement of the condition of the
working classes.

All these circumstances have a bearing on the
question of a dissolution of Parliament, and are to
be weighed against the risks and inconveniences of
so bold a measure.

Extract from the Queens Journal.

Monday, 17th May 1841.

" Lord Melbourne came to me at twenty minutes
to three. There were no new news. He gave me a
letter from the Duke of Roxburgh, 1 saying he could
not support Government on the Corn Laws, and
writing an unnecessarily cold letter. Lord Melbourne
fears this would lose Roxburgh in case of an election.
A great many of the friends of the Government,
however, are against any alteration in the Corn Laws.
Talked of the excellent accounts from the country,
with which the papers are full, and I said I couldn't
help thinking the Government would gain by a
dissolution, and the feeling in the country so strong,
and daily increasing. They would lose the counties,
Lord Melbourne thinks, and the question is whether
their successes in the manufacturing towns would be
sufficient to counterbalance that. The debate may
last longer, Lord Melbourne says, as J. Russell
says he will continue it as long as their friends wish
it. Many of their friends would be very angry if we
did not dissolve. Lord Melbourne says. ' I say
always,' said Lord Melbourne, ' that your Majesty
will be in such a much worse position ' (if a majority
should be returned against us), ' but they say riot,

1 James, sixth Duke. The Duchess was afterwards a Lady of the Bed-


for that the others would dissolve.' I said that if
that was so we must dissolve, for then that it would
come to just the same thing, and that that changed
my opinion very much. * You would like us then
to make the attempt?' Lord Melbourne asked. I
said 'Almost.' I asked if he really thought they
would dissolve. ' I've great reason to believe they
would,' he replied. * Hardinge * told Vivian 2 " we shall
prevent your dissolving, but we shall dissolve." ' . . .
I asked did Lord Melbourne think they (the Con-
servatives) would remain in long, and Melbourne
said : ' One can't tell beforehand what may happen,
but you would find their divisions and dissensions
amongst themselves sufficient to prevent their staying
in long.' . . .

" Saw Lord John Russell, who didn't feel certain
if the debate would end to-night. Talked of the very
good feeling in the country. He said he understood
Sir Edward Knatchbull 3 was exceedingly displeased
at what Peel had said concerning Free Trade, and
said in that case Peel would be as bad as the
present Government. He thinks the Tories, if in
power, might try and collect the Sugar duties without
Law, which would do them a great deal of harm and
be exceedingly unpopular. He does not think the
Tories intend certaiiiiy to dissolve. He thinks they
would not dissolve now, and that they would hereafter
get so entangled by their own dissensions as to render
it unfavourable to them."

Queen Victoria to the King of the Belgians.

18th May 1841.

... I was sure you would feel for me. Since
last Monday, the 10th, we have lived in the daily
expectation of a final event taking place, and the
debate still continues, and it is not certain whether
it will even finish to-night, this being the eighth night,

1 Sir Henry Hardinge (1785-1856) had been Secretary at War, and Chief
Secretary for Ireland under former Tory Governments.

2 Master-General of the Ordnance.

8 M.P. for East Kent. He became Paymaster-General in Peel's Cabinet


it having begun on Friday the 7th, two Saturdays
and two Sundays having intervened ! Our plans are
so unsettled that I can tell you nothing, only that
you may depend upon it nothing will be done without
having been duly, properly, and maturely weighed.
Lord Melbourne's conduct is as usual perfect ; fair,
calm, and totally disinterested, and I am certain that
in whatever position he is, you will treat him just as
you have always done.

My dearest Angel is indeed a great comfort to
me. He takes the greatest interest in what goes on,
feeling with and for me, and yet abstaining as he
ought from biassing me either way, though we talk
much on the subject, and his judgment is, as you say,
good and mild. . . .

P. S. Pray let me hear soon when you come.
You, I know, like me to tell you what I hear, and
for me to be frank with you. I therefore tell you
that it is believed by some people here, and even
by some in the Government, that you wish my
Government to be out. Now, I never for an instant
can believe such an assertion, as I know your liberal
feelings, and your interest in my welfare and in that
of the country too well to think you could wish for
such a thing, and I immediately said I was sure this
was not so ; but I think you would do well to say
to Seymour something which might imply interest in
my present Government.

I know you will understand my anxiety on your
account, lest such a mischievous report should be
believed. It comes, you see, from the idea that your
feelings are very French.

Extract from the Queens Journal.

Tuesday, ISth May 1841.

" Saw Lord Melbourne. 1 He said Lord John Russell
had been to see him, and, ' He now wishes us not to
resign, but to give notice immediately of a Motion

1 After eight days' discussions of Lord Sandon's Motion, the Ministers were
defeated by 317 to 281.


on the Corn Laws. This, he thinks, will make the
others propose a vote of confidence, or make them
oppose the Sugar duties, which, he thinks, will be
better for us to resign upon, and when it would be
clear to our people that we couldn't dissolve. Every-
body says it would be a very bad thing for us to
resign now, upon such a question as this, and we
must consider the party a little.' I said, of course, this
would be agreeable to me as it gave us another chance.
I said it would be awkward if they resigned Thursday,
on account of the Birthday. Lord Melbourne said
I could wait a day and only send for Peel on
Saturday, that that wouldn't signify to Peel, as he
could come down to Claremont. ... I asked, in case
they meant to bring on this Corn Law question, when
would they do so. 'Perhaps about the 30th,' Lord
Melbourne said. It would be a more dangerous
question, but it would make them (the Tories) show
their colours, which is a great advantage. He said
they prevented Sir Edward Knatchbull from speaking
last night."

Wednesday, 19th May.

" At twenty minutes to one came Lord Melbourne.
... I returned him Lord John Russell's letter, and
talked of it, and of John Russell's saying the division
and Peel's speech made it absolutely necessary to
decide to-day whether to resign or dissolve. I asked
what Peel had said in his speech about the Corn
Laws. ' I'll tell you, Ma'am, what he said,' Lord
Melbourne replied, 'that he was for a sliding duty
and not for a fixed duty ; but he did not pledge
himself as to what rate of duty it should be. I
must say,' Lord Melbourne continued, ' I am still
against dissolution. I don't think our chances of
success are sufficient.' I replied that I couldn't quite
believe that, but that I might be wrong. Lord John
is for dissolving. ' You wish it ?' I said I always
did. Talked of the feeling in the city and in the
country being so good. Lord Melbourne don't think
so much of the feeling in the country. Talked of

VOL. i. 23


the majority of thirty-six having not been more than
they expected. . . . Lord Melbourne said people
thought the debate was lengthened to please me. I
said not at all, but that it was more convenient for me.
Anyhow I need do nothing till Saturday. The House
of Commons was adjourned to the next day, and the
House of Lords to Monday. ' Mr Baring says,' he said,
' if there was only a majority one way or another, it
would be better than this state of complete equality.'

" At twenty minutes past four Lord Melbourne
returned. * Well, Ma'am,' he said, * we've considered
this question, and both the sides of it well, and
at last we voted upon it ; and there were - - the
Lord Chancellor or dissolution, Lord Minto 1 for it,
Lord Normanby against it, but greatly modified ; Lord
John for, Lord Palmerston for, Lord Clarendon for,
Lord Morpeth for, Lord Lansdowne for, Labouchere
for, Hobhouse for, Duncannon 2 for, Baring for,
Macaulay for ; and under those circumstances of
course I felt I could not but go with them.' 3 Lord
Melbourne was much affected in saying all this. 'So
we shall go on, bring on the Sugar duties, and then,
if things are in a pretty good state, dissolve. I hope
you approve ? ' I said I did highly . . . and that I
felt so happy to keep him longer. * You are aware
we may have a majority against us ? ' he said ; he
means in our election. The Sugar duties would
probably take a fortnight or three weeks to pass,
and they would dissolve in June and meet again in
October. He thought they must."

Viscount Melbourne to Queen Victoria.

21st May 1841.

Lord Melbourne thinks that what your Majesty
proposes to say will do very well, but it is thought
best to say " Church as Reformed " at the Reformation.

1 Lord Minto was First Lord of the Admiralty.

2 Then First Commissioner of Land Revenue.

8 See Sir John Hobhouse's account of this Cabinet meeting, Edinburgh
Review, vol. 133, p. 336.


If your Majesty could say this, it would be well :

" I am very grateful for your congratulations on
the return of this day. I am happy to take this
opportunity of again expressing to you my firm
determination to maintain the Church of England
as settled at the Reformation, and my firm belief in
her Articles and Creeds, as hitherto understood and
interpreted by her soundest divines."

Nothing could go off better than the dinner.
Everybody was much pleased with the Prince.

Lord Melbourne is not conscious of having slept. 1

The King of the Belgians to Queen Victoria.

BRUSSELS, 20th May 1841.

MY DEAREST VICTORIA, I receive this very
moment your dear letter of the 18th, and without loss
of time I begin my answer here, though the messenger
can only go to-morrow. I cannot sufficiently express
to you my gratitude for the frankness with which you
have written to me and let me entreat you, whenever
you have anything sur le cceur, to do the same. I
shall begin with your postscript concerning the idea
that I wished your present Ministers to retire, because
they had become disagreeable to France. The people
who avancent quelque chose de la sorte probably have
some ill-natured motive which it is not always easy
to guess ; perhaps in the present instance does it mean,
let us say that ; whatever opinion he may then express
we can easily counteract it, representing it as the result
of strong partiality to France. Let us therefore
examine what France has to gain in a change of
Administration. Certainly your present Ministers are
not much loved now in France, not so much in conse-
quence of the political events of last year themselves,
than for the manner in which they came to pass.
Nevertheless, when I was at Paris, King and Council

1 It seems that someone had told the Queen that Lord Melbourne had
fallen asleep at dinner.


were decided to sign the treaty with the four other
Powers, which would put an end to the isolement,
though many people are stoutly for the isolement.
There end the relations which will exist for some time
between the two countries they will be on decent
terms ; that is all I wish for the present, and it is
matter of moonshine who your Ministers are. No
doubt, formerly there existed such a predilection in
favour of Lord Grey's * Administration and those who
continued it, that the coming in of the Tories would
have been considered as a great public calamity ; but
even now, though this affection is gone, the Tories
will also be looked on with some suspicion. Lord
Melbourne's Administration has had the great merit
of being liberal, and at the same time prudent, con-
servative in the good sense of the word, preserving
what was good. Monarchy, by an adherence to this
system, was very safe, and the popular liberal cry

{Continued at) LAEKEN, %\st May.

I regret that the corn question was brought forward
somewhat abruptly ; 2 it is a dangerous one, as it roused
the most numerous and poorest classes of society, and
may easily degenerate into bloodshed. The dissolution
under such circumstances would become still more a
source of agitation, as it generally always is in England.
Lord Melbourne, I am sure, will think so too.

I am delighted by what you say of Albert ; it is
just the proper line for him to take, without biassing
you either way, to show you honestly the consequences
which in his opinion the one or the other may have.
As he has really a very clear and logical judgment,
his opinion will be valuable for you. I feel very much
for you, and these Ministerial complications are of a
most painful and perplexing nature, though less in
England than on the Continent, as the thing is at
least better understood. To amuse you a little, and

1 1830-1834.

2 The Ministerial proposal of a fixed duty instead of a sliding scale.


to prove to you how impartial 1 must be to be in this
way accused by both parties, I must tell you that it
is said in France that, conjointly with Lord Melbourne,
we artfully ruined the Thiers Administration, 1 to the
great detriment of the honour and welfare of France.
But what is still stranger is, that the younger branches
of the family, seeing that my arrival at Paris was
delayed from time to time, became convinced that /
would not come at all, and that my intention was to
cut them completely, not to compromettre myself with
England ! Truly people are strange, and the unneces-
sary suspicions and stories which they love to have,
and to tell, a great bore. . . .

Pray have the goodness of giving my kindest
regards to Lord Melbourne. I will love him very
tenderly in and out of office, as I am really attached
to him. Now last, though first, I offer my sincerest
wishes on the happy return of your birthday ; may
every blessing be always bestowed on your beloved
head. You possess much, let your warm and honest
heart appreciate that. Let me also express the hope
that you always will maintain your dear character true
and good as it is, and let us also humbly express the
hope that our warmth of feeling, a valuable gift, will
not be permitted to grow occasionally a little violent,
and particularly not against your uncle. You may
pull Albertus by the ear, when so inclined, but be
never irritated against your uncle. But I have not to
complain when other people do not instigate such
things ; you have always been kind and affectionate,
and when you look at my deeds for you, and on
behalf of you, these twenty-two years, I think you
will not have many hardships to recollect. I am
happy to hear of my god-daughter's teeth, and that
she is so well. May God keep the whole dear little
family well and happy for ever. My dearest Victoria,
your devoted Uncle, LEOPOLD R.

1 The Thiers Government had resigned in the preceding October owing to
the King objecting to the warlike speech which they wished him to pronounce
to the Chambers. The Soult-Guizot Cabinet was accordingly formed.


Memorandum of Mr Ansons last secret interview with

Sir R. Peel (No. 4.)

Sunday, 23rd May 1841.

Called upon Sir Robert Peel this morning. I said
I could not feel satisfied without seeing him after the
very unexpected course which political affairs had
taken. I wished to know that he felt assured, though
1 trusted there could be no doubt upon his mind,
that there had been perfect honesty of purpose on
my part towards him, and more especially upon the
part of those with whose knowledge I had been
acting. I assured Sir Robert that H.M. had acted
in the most perfect fairness towards kirn, and I was
most anxious that there should be no erroneous
impression upon his mind as to the conduct of either
H.M. or The Prince.

I said (quoting the Prince's expression), "that the
Queen has a natural modesty upon her constitu-
tional views, and when she receives an advice from
men like the Lord Chancellor, Lord John Russell,
Mr Baring, Mr Labouchere, and Lord Clarendon, and
knows that they have been weighing the question
through so many days, she concludes that her judg-

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 29 of 52)