Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

honest statesman who might otherwise have rendered still more conspicuous services to the Sovereign
and the empire. The sudden violent outburst of popular feeling, provoked by a piece of rash assumption

on the part of the reigning Pope, was significant, indeed, as evidencing how little alteration the "Catholic

revival" had worked in the temper of the nation at large; otherwise its historic importance is small. At the

time, however, the current of agitation ran strongly, and swept into immediate oblivion an event which

three years before would have had a European importance - the 'death of Louis Philippe, whose strangely

chequered life came to an end in the old palace of Claremont, just before the "papal aggressions" - rash,

impolitic, and mischievous, as competent observers pronounced it, but powerless to injure English

Protestantism - had thrown all the country into a ferment, which took some months to subside. We are

told that Her Majesty, though naturally interested by this affair, was more alive to the quarter where the

real peril lay than were some of her subjects; but in the universal distress caused by the death of Peel

none joined more truly, none deplored that loss more deeply, than the Sovereign, who would willingly

have shown her value for the true servant she had lost by conferring a peerage on his widow - an honour

which Lady Peel, faithful to the wishes and sharing the feeling of her husband, felt it necessary to

decline.

Amid these agitations, inferior far to many that had preceded them, the year 1850 ran out, and 1851
opened - the year in which Prince Albert's long-pursued project of a great International Exhibition of Arts

and Industries was at last successfully carried out. The idea, as expounded by himself at a banquet given

by the Lord Mayor, was large and noble. "It was to give the world a true test, a living picture, of the point

of industrial development at which the whole of mankind had arrived, and a new starting-point from

which all nations would be able to direct their further exertions." The magnificent success, unflawed by

any vexatious or dangerous incident, with which the idea was carried out, had made it almost impossible

for us to understand the opposition with which the plan was greeted, the ridicule that was heaped upon it,

the foolish fears which it inspired; while the many similar Exhibitions in this and other countries that

have followed and emulated, but never altogether equalled, the first, have made us somewhat oblivious

of the fact that the scheme when first propounded was an absolute novelty. It was a fascination, a

wonder, a delight; it aroused enthusiasm that will never be rekindled on a like occasion.

Paxton's fairy palace of glass and iron, erected in Hyde Park, and canopying in its glittering spaces the
untouched, majestic elms of that national pleasure-ground as well as the varied treasures of industrial and

artistic achievement brought from every quarter of the globe, divided the charmed astonishment of

foreign spectators with the absolute orderliness of the myriads who thronged it and crowded all its

approaches on the great opening day. Perhaps on that day the Queen touched the summit of her rare

happiness. It was the 1st of May - her own month - and the birthday of her youngest son, the godchild

and namesake of the great Duke. She stood, the most justly popular and beloved of living monarchy,

amid thousands of her rejoicing subjects, encompassed with loving friends and happy children, at the

side of the beloved husband whose plan was now triumphantly realised; and she spoke the words which

inaugurated that triumph and invited the world to gaze on it.

"The sight was magical," she says, "so vast, so glorious, so touching...God bless my dearest Albert! God
bless my dearest country, which has shown itself so great to-day! One felt so grateful to the great God,

Who seemed to pervade all and to bless all. The only event it in the slightest degree reminded me of was

the coronation, but this day's festival was a thousand times superior. In fact, it is unique, and can bear no

comparison, from its peculiar beauty and combination of such striking and different objects. I mean the

slight resemblance only as to its solemnity; the enthusiasm and cheering, too, were much more touching,

for in a church naturally all is silent."

 

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