Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

youth, was called to rule the land in this wild transitional period. Her royal courage and gracious tact, her
transparent truthfulness, her high sense of duty, and her precocious discretion served her well; but these

young excellences could not have produced their full effect had she not found in her first Prime Minister

a faithful friend and servant, whose loyal and chivalrous devotion at once conciliated her regard, and who

only used the influence thus won to impress on his Sovereign's mind "sound maxims of constitutional

government, and truths of every description which it behoved her to learn." The records of the time show

plainly that Lord Melbourne, the eccentric head of William IV's last Whig Administration, was not

generally credited with either the will or the ability to play so lofty a part. His affectation of a lazy,

trifling, indifferent manner, his often-quoted remonstrance to impetuous would-be reformers, "Can't you

let it alone?" had earned for him some angry disapproval, and caused him to be regarded as the

embodiment of the detested laissez-faire principle. But under his mask of nonchalance he hid

some noble qualities, which at this juncture served Queen and country well.

Considered as a frivolous, selfish courtier by too many of the suffering poor and of their friends, he was
in truth "acting in all things an affectionate, conscientious, and patriotic part" towards his Sovereign,

"endeavouring to make her happy as a woman and popular as a Queen," [Footnote] telling her uncourtly

truths with a blunt honesty that did not displease her, and watching over her with a paternal tenderness

which she repaid with frank, noble confidence. He was faithful in a great and difficult trust; let his

memory have due honour.

[Footnote: C. C. F. Greville: "A Journal of the Reign of Queen Victoria."]

Under Melbourne's pilotage the first months of the new reign went by with some serenity, though the
political horizon remained threatening enough, and the temper of the nation appeared sullen. "The people

of England seem inclined to hurrah no more," wrote Greville of one of the Queen's earliest public

appearances, when "not a hat was raised nor a voice heard" among the coldly curious crowd of

spectators. But the splendid show of her coronation a half-year later awakened great enthusiasm -

enthusiasm most natural and inevitable. It was youth and grace and goodness, all the freshness and the

infinite promise of spring, that wore the crimson and the ermine and the gold, that sat enthroned amid the

ancient glories of the Abbey to receive the homage of all that was venerable and all that was great in a

mighty kingdom, and that bowed in meek devotion to receive the solemn consecrating blessing of the

Primate, according to the holy custom followed in England for a thousand years, with little or no

variation since the time when Dunstan framed the Order of Coronation, closely following the model of

the Communion Service. Some other features special to this coronation heightened the national

delight in it. Its arrangements evidently had for their chief aim to interest and to gratify the people.

Instead of the banquet in Westminster Hall, which could have been seen only by the privileged and the

wealthy, a grand procession through London was arranged, including all the foreign ambassadors, and

proceeding from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey by a route two or three miles in length, so

that the largest possible number of spectators might enjoy the magnificent pageant. And the overflowing

multitudes whose dense masses lined the whole long way, and in whose tumultuous cheering pealing

bells and sounding trumpets and thundering cannon were almost unheard as the young Queen passed

through the shouting ranks, formed themselves the most impressive spectacle to the half-hostile foreign

witnesses, who owned that the sight of these rejoicing thousands of freemen was grand indeed, and

impossible save in that England which, then as now, was not greatly loved by its rivals. An element

which appealed powerfully to the national pride and the national generosity was supplied by the presence

of the Duke of Wellington and of Marshal Soult, his old antagonist, who appeared as French ambassador.

Soult, as he advanced with the air of a veteran warrior, was followed by murmurs of admiring applause,

 

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