Classic History Books

Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

magnanimous self-suppression, and fervent piety, and we have a slight outline of a character which, in
the order of Providence, acted very strongly and with a still living force on the destinies of

nineteenth-century England. The Queen had good reasons for the feeling of "confidence and comfort"

that shone in the glance she turned on her bridegroom as they walked away, man and wife at last, from

the altar of the Chapel Royal, on February 10th, 1840. The union she then entered into immeasurably

enhanced her popularity, and strengthened her position as surely as it expanded her nature. Not many

years elapsed before Sir Robert Peel could tell her that, in spite of the inroads of democracy, the

monarchy had never been safer, nor had any sovereign been so beloved, because "the Queen's domestic

life was so happy, and its example so good." Only the Searcher of hearts knoweth how great has been the

holy power of a pure, fair, and noble example constantly shining in the high places of the land.

It was hinted by the would-be wise, in the early days of Her Majesty's married life, that it would be idle
to look for the royally maternal feeling of an Elizabeth towards her people in a wedded constitutional

sovereign. The judgment was a mistake. The formal limitations of our Queen's prerogative, sedulously as

she has respected them, have never destroyed her sense of responsibility; wifehood and motherhood have

not contracted her sympathies, but have deepened and widened them. The very sorrows of her domestic

life have knit her in fellowship with other mourners. No great calamity can befall her humblest subjects,

and she hear of it, but there comes the answering flash of tender pity. She is more truly the mother of her

people, having walked on a level with them, and with "Love, who is of the valley," than if she had

chosen to dwell alone and aloof.

For some years after her marriage the Queen's private life shows like a little isle of brightness in the
midst of a stormy sea. Within and without our borders there was small prospect of settled peace at the

very time of that marriage. We have said that Lord Melbourne was still Premier; but he and his Ministry

had resigned office in the previous May, and had only come back to it in consequence of a curious

misunderstanding known as "the Bedchamber difficulty." Sir Robert Peel, who was summoned to form a

Ministry on Melbourne's defeat and resignation, had asked from Her Majesty the dismissal of two ladies

of her household, the wives of prominent members of the departing Whig Government; but his request

conveyed to her mind the sense that he designed to deprive her of all her actual attendants, and against

this imagined proposal she set herself energetically. "She could not consent to a course which she

conceived to be contrary to usage, and which was repugnant to her feelings." Peel on his part remained

firm in his opinion as to the real necessity for the change which he had advocated. From the deadlock

produced by mere misunderstanding there seemed at the time only one way of escaping; the defeated

Whig Government returned to office. But Ministers who resumed power only because, "as gentlemen,"

they felt bound to do so, had little chance of retaining it. In September 1841, Lord Melbourne was

superseded in the premiership by Sir Robert Peel, and then gave a final proof how single-minded was his

loyal devotion by advising the new Prime Minister as to the tone and style likely to commend him to

their royal mistress - a tone of clear straightforwardness. "The Queen," said Melbourne - who knew of

what he was speaking, if any statesman then did - "is not conceited; she is aware there are many things

she cannot understand, and likes them explained to her elementarily, not at length and in detail, but

shortly and clearly." The counsel was given and was accepted with equal good feeling, such as was

honourable to all concerned; and the Sovereign learned, as years went on, to repose a singular confidence

in the Minister with whom her first relations had been so unpropitious, but whose real honesty, ability,

and loyalty soon approved themselves to her clear perceptions, which no prejudice has long been able to


We are told that in later years Her Majesty referred to the disagreeable incident we have just related as


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