Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

Many of the injured being invalided home while the war was in progress, Her Majesty embraced the
opportunity to testify her sympathy and admiration, giving to them in public with her own hands the

medals for service rendered at Alma, at Balaklava, and at Inkerman. It would not be easy to say whether

the Sovereign or the soldiers were more deeply moved on this occasion. Conspicuous among the maimed

and feeble heroes was the gallant young Sir Thomas Troubridge, who, lamed in both feet by a Russian

shot at Inkerman, had remained at his post, giving his orders, while the fight endured, since there was

none to fill his place. He appeared now, crippled for life, but declared himself "amply repaid for

everything," while the Queen decorated him, and told him he should be one of her aides-de-camp. Her

own high courage and resolute sense of duty moved her with special sympathy for heroism like this; and

she obeyed the natural dictates of her heart in conspicuously rewarding it. With a similar impulse, on the

return of the army, she made a welcoming visit to the sick and wounded at Chatham, and testified the

liveliest appreciation of the humane services of Miss Nightingale, to whom a jewel specially designed by

the Prince was presented, in grateful recognition of her inestimable work. The new decoration of the

Victoria Cross, given "for valour" conspicuously shown in deeds of self-devotion in war time, further

proved how keenly the Queen and her consort appreciated soldierly virtue. It was the Prince who first

proposed that such a badge of merit should be introduced, the Queen who warmly accepted the idea, and

in person bestowed the Cross on its first wearers, thereby giving it an unpurchasable value.

 

CHAPTER V. INDIA.

Lord Aberdeen, who did not hope very great things from the war which had initiated during his Ministry,
had yet deemed it possible that Eastern Europe might reap from it the benefit of a quarter of a century's

peace. He was curiously near the mark in this estimate; but neither he nor any other English statesman

was unwary enough to risk such a prophecy as to the general tranquillity of the Continent. In fact, the

peace of Europe, broken in 1853, has been unstable enough ever since, and from time to time tremendous

wars have shaken it. Into none of these, however, has Great Britain been again entrapped, though the

sympathies of its people have often been warmly enlisted on this side and that. A war with China, which

began in 1857, and cannot be said to have ended till 1860, though in the interim a treaty was signed

which secured just a year's cessation of hostilities, was the most important undertaking in which the

allied forces of France and England took part after the Crimea. In this war the allies were victorious, as at

that date any European Power was tolerably certain to be in a serious contest with China. The closing act

of the conflict - the destruction of the Summer Palace at Pekin, in retaliation for the treacherous murder

of several French and English prisoners of distinction - was severely blamed at the time, but defended on

the ground that only in this way could any effectual punishment of the offence be obtained. That act of

vengeance and the war which it closed have an interest of their own in connection with the late General

Gordon, who now entered on that course of extraordinary achievement which lacks a parallel in this

century, and which began, in the interests of Chinese civilisation, shortly after he had taken a subordinate

officer's part in the work of destruction at Pekin.

From this date England did not commit itself to any of the singular series of enterprises which our good
ally, the French Emperor, set on foot. A feeling of distrust towards that potentate was invading the minds

of the very Englishmen who had most cordially hailed his successes and met his advances. "The

Emperor's mind is as full of schemes as a warren is full of rabbits, and, like rabbits, his schemes go to

ground for the moment to avoid notice or antagonism," were the strong words of Lord Palmerston in a

confidential letter of 1860; and when he could thus think and write, small wonder if calmer and more

unprejudiced minds saw need for standing on their guard. Amid all the flattering demonstrations of

friendship of which the French court had been lavish, and which had been gracefully reciprocated by

 

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