Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

crowns of France and Spain was known for a dream of French ambition, and was equally well known to
be an object of dislike and dread to other European Powers. The engagement which the French King had

now given seemed therefore well calculated to disarm suspicion and promote peace; but the one was

reawakened and the other endangered when it became known that he had so used his power over the

Spanish court as to procure that the royal sisters of Spain should be married on one day - Isabella, the

Queen, to the most unfit and uncongenial of all the possible candidates for her hand; Louisa to King

Louis Philippe's son, the Duke of Montpensier. The transaction on the face of it was far from respectable,

since the credit and happiness of the young Spanish Queen seemed to have hardly entered into the

consideration of those who arranged for her the mariage de convenance into which she was led

blindfold; but when regarded as a violation of good faith it was additionally displeasing. Queen Victoria,

to whom the scheme was imparted only when it was ripe for execution, through her personal friend

Louise, Queen of the Belgians, replied to the communication in a tone of earnest, dignified remonstrance;

but apparently the King was now too thoroughly committed to his scheme to be deterred by any

reasoning or reproaches, and the tragical farce was played out. It had no good results for France; England

was chilled and alienated, but the Spanish crown never devolved on the Duchess of Montpensier. Within

two little years from her marriage that princess and all the French royal family fled from France, so

hastily that they had scarcely money enough to provide for their journey, and appeared in England as

fugitives, to be aided and protected by the Queen, who forgot all political resentment, and remembered

only her personal regard for these fallen princes.

The overthrow of the Orleans dynasty in 1848 was a complete surprise, and men have never ceased to
see something disgraceful in its amazing suddenness. Here was a great king, respected for wisdom and

daring, and supposed to understand at every point the character of the land he ruled, his power appearing

unshaken, while it was known to be backed with an army one hundred thousand strong. And almost

without warning a whirlwind of insurrection against this solid power and this able ruler broke out, and in

a few wild hours swept the whole fabric into chaos. Nothing caused more surprise at the moment than the

extreme bitterness of animosity which the insurgents manifested towards the king's person, unless it were

the tameness with which he submitted to his fate and the precipitancy of his flight. There was something

rotten in the state of things, men said, which could thus dissolve, crushed like a swollen fungus by a

casual foot. And indeed, whether with perfect justice or not, Louis Philippe's Administration had come to

be deemed corrupt some time ere his fall. The free-spoken Parisians had openly flouted it as such:

witness a mock advertisement placarded in the streets: "A nettoyer, deux Chambres et une Cour":

"Two Chambers and a Court to clean." A French Government that had been crafty, but

not crafty enough to conceal the fact, that was rather contemned for plotting than dreaded for

unscrupulous energy, was already in peril. The still unsubdued revolutionary spirit, working under the

smooth surface of French society, was the element which accomplished the destruction of this discredited

Government.

The outbreak in France acted like a spark in a powder magazine; ere long great part of Europe was
shaken by the second great revolutionary upheaval, when potentates seemed falling and ancient dynasties

crumbling on all sides - a period of eager hope to many, followed by despair when the reaction set in,

accompanied in too many places by repressive measures of pitiless severity. The contemptuous feeling

with which many Englishmen were wont to view such Continental troubles is well embodied in the lines

which Tennyson put into the mouth of one of his characters, speaking of France:

"Yonder, whiff! there comes a sudden heat,
The gravest citizen seems to lose his head,

 

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