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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ment cannot be better than theirs, and that she would
do wrong to reject their advice."

The Prince, I said, however strongly impressed
for or against a question, thinks it wrong and impolitic,
considering his age and inexperience and his novelty
to the country, to press upon the Queen views of his
own in opposition to those of experienced statesmen.
Sir Robert said he could relieve my mind entirely ;
that he was convinced that all that had taken place
had beew with the most perfect honesty ; that he had
no feeling whatever of annoyance, or of having been
ill-used ; that, on the contrary, he had the feeling, and
should always retain it, of the deepest gratitude to
the Queen for the condescension which Her Majesty
had been pleased to show him, and that it had only


increased his devotion to Her Majesty's person. He
said that much of the reserve which he had shown in
treating with me was not on Jiis own account, but
that he felt from his own experience that events were
by no means certain, and he most cautiously abstained
from permitting Her Majesty in any way to commit
herself, or to bind herself by any engagement which
unforeseen circumstances might render inconvenient.
Sir Robert said it was very natural to try and
remove obstacles which had before created so much
confusion, and he was convinced that they would
have been practically removed by what had passed.
He said that neither Lord Stanley nor Sir James
Graham knew a word of what had passed. That
Mr Greville had asked his friend Mr Arbuthnot
whether some understanding had not been entered
into between Lord Melbourne and him. That
Mr Arbuthnot had replied that he was certain that
nothing of the sort could have passed, 1 as, if it
had, Sir Robert Peel would have informed him
(Mr Arbuthnot) of the fact. Again, Lady de Grey,
the night of the ball at the Palace, came up to him
and said the Duke of Bedford had been speaking to
her about the resignation of the Duchess of Bedford,
and asking her whether she thought it necessary. She
volunteered to find out from Sir Robert whether
he thought it requisite. She asked the question,
which Sir Robert tried to evade, but not being able,
he said it struck him that if it was a question of doubt
the best means of solving it, was for the Duke of
Bedford to ask Lord Melbourne for his opinion.

I added that if the dissolution was a failure,
which it was generally apprehended would be the
case, I felt convinced that Sir Robert would be dealt
with in the most perfect fairness by Her Majesty.

1 " After I had been told by the Duke of Bedford that Peel was going to
insist on certain terms, which was repeated to me by Clarendon, I went to
Arbuthnot, told him Melbourne's impression, and asked him what it all meant.
He said it was all false, that he was certain Peel had no such intentions,
but, on the contrary, as he had before assured me, was disposed to do every-
thing that would be conciliatory and agreeable to the Queen." Greville's
Journal, 19th May 1841.


Viscount Melbourne to Queen Victoria.

SOUTH STREET, <2Uh Mai/ 1841.

Lord Melbourne presents his humble duty to your
Majesty, and has to acquaint your Majesty that in
the House of Commons this evening Sir Robert Peel
gave notice that on Thursday next he would move
a resolution to the following effect: "That Her
Majesty's Ministers not possessing power sufficient to
carry into effect the measures which they considered
necessary, their retention of office was unconsti-
tutional and contrary to usage." 1 These are not the
exact words, but they convey the substance. This
is a direct vote of want of confidence, and Lord
Melbourne would be inclined to doubt whether it will be
carried, and if it is, it certainly will not be by so large a
majority as the former vote. When the Chancellor of
the Exchequer moved the resolution upon the Sugar
duties, Sir Robert Peel seconded the motion, thereby
intending to intimate that he did not mean to interfere
with the Supplies. This course was determined upon
at a meeting held at Sir R. Peel's this morning.

Lord John Russell to Queen Victoria.


Lord John Russell presents his humble duty to
your Majesty, and has the honour to state that Sir
Robert Peel yesterday brought forward his motion
in a remarkably calm and temperate speech.

Sir John Hobhouse and Mr Macaulay completely
exposed the fallacy of his resolution, and success-
fully vindicated the Government. Lord Worsley 2
declared he would oppose the resolution, which
declaration excited great anger, and produced much
disappointment in the Tory party.

1 The closing words of the resolution were as follows : " . . . That Her
Majesty's Ministers do not sufficiently possess the confidence of the House of
Commons to enable them to carry through the House measures which they
deem of essential importance to the public welfare, and that their continu-
ance in office under such circumstances is at variance with the spirit of the

2 M.P. for Lincolnshire, who had voted for Lord Sandon's motion.


If the debate is carried on till next week, it is pro-
bable the Ministers may have a majority of one or two.

The accounts from the country are encouraging.

It does not appear that Sir Robert Peel, even
if he carries this motion, intends to obstruct the
measures necessary for a dissolution of Parliament.

Queen Victoria to the King of the Belgians.

31st May 1841.

... I beg you not to be alarmed about what
is to be done ; it is not for a Party triumph that
Parliament (the longest that has sat for many years)
is to be dissolved ; it is the fairest and most consti-
tutional mode of proceeding ; and you may trust
to the moderation and prudence of my whole
Government that nothing will be done without due
consideration ; if the present Government get a
majority by the elections they will go on prosper-
ously ; if not, the Tories will come in for a short
time. The country is quiet and the people very
well disposed. I am happy, dearest Uncle, to give
you these quieting news, which I assure you are
not partial. . . .

The King of the Belgians to Queen Victoria.

LAEKEK, 31st May 1841.

MY DEAREST VICTORIA, Your Mother 1 is safely
arrived, though she was received close to Ostende by
a formidable thunderstorm. I had given directions that
everywhere great civilities should be shown her. She
stood the fatigues better than I had expected, and is less
sleepy than in England. She seems to be pleased with
her sejour here, and inclined in fact to remain rather
than to go on ; but I am sure, when once in Germany
she will be both pleased and interested by it. It will
amuse you to hear from herself her own impressions.

I cannot help to add a few political lines. I regret
much I must confess that the idea of a dissolution
has gained ground, and I will try to show in a very
few words why I am against it. In politics, a great

1 The Duchess of Kent had left England for a tour on the Continent.


rule ought to be to rule with the things which one
knows already, and not to jump into something
entirely new of which no one can do more than guess
the consequences. The present Parliament has been
elected at a moment most favourable to the present
Administration after a most popular accession to the
throne, everything new and fresh, and with the natural
fondness of the great mass of people a change is always
popular ; it was known that you were kindly disposed
towards your Ministers, everything therefore was a
souhait for the election of a new Parliament. In this
respect Ministers have nothing like the favourable
circumstances which smiled upon them at the last
general election. Feeling this, they raise a cry,
which may become popular and embarrass their
antagonists about cheap bread ! I do not think this
is quite befitting their dignity ; such things do for
revolutionaries like Thiers, or my late Ministers. . . .
If the thing rouses the people it may do serious
mischief, if not, it will look awkward for the
Ministers themselves. If you do not grant a
dissolution to your present Ministers you would have,
at the coming in of a new Administration, the right
to tell them that they must go on w r ith the present
Parliament ; and I have no doubt that they could do
so. The statistics of the present House of Commons
are well known to all the men who sit in it, and to
keep it a few years longer would be a real advantage.
You know that I have been rather maltreated by
the Tories, formerly to please George IV., and since
I left the country, because I served in their opinion
on the revolutionary side of the question. I must say,
however, that for your service as well as for the quiet
of the country, it would be good to give them a trial.
If they could not remain in office it will make them
quieter for some time. If by a dissolution the
Conservative interest in the House is too much
weakened, the permanent interests of the country
can but suffer from that. If, on the contrary, the
Conservatives come in stronger, your position will
not be very agreeable, and it may induce them to


be perhaps less moderate than they ought to be. I
should be very happy if you would discuss these, my
hasty views, with Lord Melbourne. I do not give
them for more than what they are, mere practical
considerations ; but, as far as I can judge of the
question, if I was myself concerned I should have no
dissolution ; if even there was but the very banale
consideration quon salt ce qiion a, mais quon ne sait
nullement ce quon aura. The moment is not without
importance, and well worthy your earnest consideration,
and I feel convinced that Lord Melbourne will agree
with me, that, notwithstanding the great political
good sense of the people in England, the machine is
so complicated that it should be handled with great
care and tenderness.

To conclude, I must add that perhaps a permanent
duty on corn may be a desirable thing, but that it
ought to be sufficiently high to serve as a real
protection. It may besides produce this effect, that
as it will be necessary, at least at first, to buy a good
deal of the to be imported corn with money., the
currency will be seriously affected by it. The
countries which would have a chance of selling would
be chiefly Poland in all its parts, Prussia, Austria,
and Russia, the South of Russia on the Black Sea,
and maybe Sicily. Germany does not grow a
sufficient quantity of wheat to profit by such an
arrangement, it will besides not buy more from
England for the present than it does now, owing to
the Zollverein, 1 which must first 'be altered. But I
will not bore you too long, and conclude with my
best love to little Victoria, of whom her Grandmama
speaks with raptures. Ever, my dearest Victoria,
your devoted Uncle, LEOPOLD R.

1 After the fall of Napoleon, the hopes of many Germans for a united
national Germany were frustrated by the Congress of Vienna, which perpetu-
ated the practical independence of a number of German States, as well as the
predominance within the Germanic confederation of Austria, a Power largely
non-German. One of the chief factors in the subsequent unification of
Germany was the Zollverein, or Customs' Union, by which North Germany
was gradually bound together by commercial interest, and thus opposed to
Austria. The success of this method of imperial integration has not been
without influence on the policies of other lands.


Lord John Russell to Queen Victoria.

WILTON CUESCENT, 5th June 1841.

Lord John Russell presents his humble duty to
your Majesty, and has the honour to state that the
House divided about three this morning.

For Sir Robert Peel 312

Against 311


The Opposition were greatly elated by this triumph.
Lord Stanley, and Sir Robert Peel who spoke last in
the debate, did not deny that the Crown might exercise
the prerogative of dissolution in the present case. But
they insisted that no time should be lost in previous
debates, especially on such a subject as the Corn Laws.

Lord John Russell spoke after Lord Stanley, and
defended the whole policy of the Administration.

After the division he stated that he would on
Monday propose the remaining estimates, and
announce the course which he meant to pursue
respecting the Corn Laws.

Queen Victoria to the King of the Belgians.

6th June 1841.

. . . Now, many thanks for two letters of the
31st ult. and 4th June. The former I shall not
answer at length, as Albert has done so, and I think
has given a very fair view of the state of affairs.
Let me only repeat to you again that you need not
be alarmed, and that I think you will be pleased
and beruhigt when you talk to our friend Lord
Melbourne on the subject. . . .

I fear you will again see nothing of the Season,
as Parliament will probably be dissolved by the
21st. . . .

As to my letters, dear Uncle, I beg to assure you
(for Lord Palmerston w r as most indignant at the doubt


when I once asked) that none of our letters nor any
of those coming to us, are ever opened at the Foreign
Office. My letters to Brussels and Paris are quite
safe, and all those to Germany, which are of any real
consequence, I always send through Rothschild,
which is perfectly safe and very quick.

We are, and so is everybody here, so charmed
with Mme. Rachel ; l she is perfect, et puis, such a
nice modest girl ; she is going to declaim at Windsor
Castle on Monday evening.

Now adieu in haste, believe me always, your very
devoted Niece, VICTORIA R.

Really Leopold must come or I shall never forgive

Viscount Melbourne to Queen Victoria.

WIKDSOR CASTLE, Sth June 1841.

Lord Melbourne presents his humble duty to your
Majesty. He is quite well, and has nothing particular
to relate to your Majesty, at least nothing that presses ;
except that he is commissioned by Lord John Russell
respectfully to acquaint your Majesty that his marriage
is settled, and will take place shortly.

Queen Victoria to Viscount Melbourne.

Does Lord Melbourne really mean J. Russell's
marriage ? and to whom ?

Viscount Melbourne to Queen Victoria.

The Lady Fanny Eliot. 2 Lord Melbourne did
not name her before nor does not now, because he
did not remember her Christian name.

1 The young French actress, who made her dtbut in England on 4th May
as Hermione in Racine's Andromaque. She was received with great

2 Daughter of Lord Minto. Lord Melbourne originally wrote The Lady

Eliot at the head of his letter (spelling the surname wrong, which

should be Elliot). The word Fanny is written in subsequently to the
completion of the letter.


Queen Victoria to the King of the Belgians.

NuNEHAM, 1 15th June 1841.

Affairs go on, and all will take some shape or other,
but it keeps one in hot water all the time. In the
meantime, however, the people are in the best possible
humour, and I never was better received at Ascot,
which is a great test, and also along the road yesterday.
This is a most lovely place ; pleasure grounds in the
style of Claremont, only much larger, and with the
river Thames winding along beneath them, and Oxford
in the distance ; a beautiful flower and kitchen garden,
and all kept up in perfect order. I followed Albert
here, faithful to my word, and he is gone to Oxford 2
for the whole day, to my great grief. And here I am
all alone in a strange house, with not even Lehzen as
a companion, in Albert's absence, but I thought she and
also Lord Gardner, 3 and some gentlemen should remain
with little Victoria for the first time. But it is rather
a trial for me.

I must take leave, and beg you to believe me always,
your most devoted Niece, VICTORIA R.

Viscount Melbourne to Queen Victoria.

SOUTH STREET, 16th June 1841.

Lord Melbourne presents his humble duty to your
Majesty. He has just received your Majesty's letter, and
will wait upon your Majesty at half-past five. Lord
Melbourne is sorry to hear that your Majesty has been
at all indisposed. It will suit him much better to wait
upon your Majesty at dinner to-morrow than to-day,
as his hand shows some disposition to gather, and it may
be well to take care of it.

Lord Melbourne is very glad to learn that everything

1 The house of Edward Vernon Harcourt, Archbishop of York.

2 To receive an address at Commemoration.

8 Alan Legge, third and last Lord Gardner (1810-1883) was one of the
Queen's first Lords-in-Waiting.


went off well at Oxford. Lord Melbourne expected that
the Duke of Sutherland a would not entirely escape a little
public animadversion. Nothing can be more violent or
outrageous than the conduct of the students of both
Universities upon such occasions ; the worst and lowest
mobs of Westminster and London are very superior to
them in decency and forbearance.

The Archbishop 2 is a very agreeable man ; but he is
not without cunning, and Lord Melbourne can easily
understand his eagerness that the Queen should not
prorogue Parliament in person. He knows that it will
greatly assist the Tories. It is not true that it is
universal for the Sovereign to go down upon such occa-
sions. George III. went himself in 1784 ; he did not go
in 1807, because he had been prevented from doing so
by his infirmities for three years before. William IV.
went down himself in 1830. 3

Lord Melbourne sends a note which he has received
from Lord Normanby upon this and another subject.

Queen Victoria to the King of the Belgians.


MY DEAREST UNCLE, A few lines I must write
to you to express to you my very great delight at
the certainty, God willing, of seeing you all three next
week, and to express a hope, and a great hope, that you
will try and arrive a little earlier on Wednesday. . . .
I must again repeat I am so sorry you should come
when Society is dispersed and at sixes and sevens, and
in such a state that naturally I cannot at the moment
of the elections invite many Tories, as that tells so
at the elections. But we shall try and do our best to
make it as little dull as we can, and you will kindly
take the will for the deed.

We came back from Nuneham yesterday after-
noon. Albert came back at half-past five on Tuesday

1 Who was, of course, associated with the Whig Ministry.

2 Archbishop Vernon Harcourt, of York, the Queen's host.
8 The Queen prorogued Parliament in person on 22nd June.


from Oxford, where he had been enthusiastically
received, but the students . . . had the bad taste to
show their party feeling in groans and hisses when the
name of a Whig was mentioned, which they ought
not to have done in my husband's presence.

I must now conclude, begging you ever to believe
me, your devoted Niece, VICTORIA R.

My Coiffeur will be quite at Louise's disposal, and
he can coffer in any way she likes, if her dresser tells
him how she wishes it.

Lord Brougham to Queen Victoria. 1

GRAFTON STREET, 19th June 1841.

MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN, I crave leave humbly
to approach your Majesty and to state in writing what
I should have submitted to your Royal consideration at
an Audience, because I conceive that this course will
be attended with less inconvenience to your Majesty.

In the counsel which I ventured with great humility,
but with an entire conviction of its soundness, to tender,
I cannot be biassed by any personal interest, for I am
not a candidate for office ; nor by any Parliamentary
interest, for I have no concern with elections ; nor by
any factious interest, for I am unconnected with party.
My only motive is to discharge the duty which I owe
to both the Crown and the country. Nor am I under
the influence of any prejudice against your Majesty's
servants or their measures ; for I charge your
Majesty's servants with nothing beyond an error, a
great error, in judgment, and I entirely approve of
the measures which they have lately propounded (with
a single exception partially applicable to one of them),
while I lament and disapprove of the time and manner
of propounding them, both on account of the Govern-
ment and of the measures themselves.

1 Mention has been made earlier of the resentment which Brougham
cherished against his late colleagues, after his exclusion from the Whig
Cabinet, and this letter, on the proposal to dissolve Parliament, was, no doubt,
prompted by that feeling.


I feel myself, Madam, under the necessity of stating
that the dissolution of the Parliament appears to me
wholly without justification, either from principle or
from policy. They who advise it must needs proceed
upon the supposition that a majority will be returned
favourable to the continuance of the present Adminis-
tration and favourable to their lately announced policy.
On no other ground is it possible that any such advice
should be tendered to your Majesty. For no one could
ever think of such a proceeding as advising the Crown
to dissolve the Parliament in order to increase the
force of the Opposition to its own future Ministers,
thus perverting to the mere purposes of party the
exercise of by far the most eminent of the Royal
prerogatives ; and I pass over as wholly unworthy of
notice the only other supposition which can with any
decency be made, when there is no conflict between
the two Houses, namely, that of a dissolution in entire
ignorance of the national opinon and for the purpose of
ascertaining to which side it inclines. Your Majesty's
advisers must, therefore, have believed, and they must
still believe, that a majority will be returned favourable
both to themselves and their late policy. I, on the
other hand, have the most entire conviction that there
will be a considerable majority against them, and
against their policy a majority larger still, many of
their supporters having already joined to swell that
majority. Whoever examines the details of the case
must be satisfied that the very best result which the
Government can possibly hope for is a narrow majority
against them an event which must occasion a second
dissolution by whatever Ministry may succeed to the
confidence of your Majesty. But those best acquainted
with the subject have no doubt at all that the majority
will be much more considerable.

I beg leave, Madam, humbly to represent to your
Majesty, in my own vindication for not having laid
my opinion before your Majesty as soon as I returned
from the Continent, that when I first heard of the
course taken by the Government early in May, I

VOL. I. 24,


formed the opinion which 1 now entertain, but con-
ceived that I must have mistaken the facts upon which
they were acting ; and when I arrived twelve days ago
I was confirmed in the belief (seeing the fixed resolu-
tion taken to dissolve) that I must have been under
an erroneous impression as to the probable results of
the elections. But I have since found ample reason
for believing that my original conviction was perfectly
well founded, and that no grounds whatever exist
sufficient to make any one who considers the subject
calmly, and without the bias of either interest or
prejudice, really believe that this ill-fated proceeding
can have any other result than lasting injury to your
Majesty's service, to the progress of sound and just views
of policy, and to the influence of those in whom the
Crown and the country alike should repose confidence.

That a number of short-sighted persons whose
judgments are warped by exclusive attention to a
single subject, or by personal feelings, or by party
views (and these narrow and erroneous), may have
been loudly clamorous for the course apparently about
to be pursued, is extremely possible, and affords no
kind of excuse for it. Many of these will be the
slowest to defend what they have so unfortunately
called for ; some will be among the first to condemn
it when a manifest failure shall have taken place, and
general discomfiture shall throw a few local successes
into the shade.

My advice is humbly offered to your Majesty, as
removed far above such confined and factious views ;
as the parent of all your people ; as both bound and
willing to watch over their true interests ; and as
charged by virtue of your exalted office with the
preservation of the public peace, the furtherance of
the prosperity, and the maintenance of the liberties of

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 30 of 52)