Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

Who never sold the truth to serve the hour,
Nor paltered with Eternal God for power;

Who let the turbid streams of rumour flow

Through either babbling world of high and low;

Whose life was work, whose language rife

With rugged maxims hewn from life;

Who never spoke against a foe;

Whose eighty winters freeze with one rebuke

All great self-seekers trampling on the right:

Truth-teller was our England's Alfred named;

Truth-lover was our English Duke;

Whatever record leap to light

He never shall be shamed."

When, within so short a period after Wellington's death, the nation once more found itself drawn into a
European war, there were many whose regret for his removal was quickened into greater keenness. "Had

we but the Duke to lead our armies!" was the common cry; but even his military genius might

have found itself disastrously fettered, had he occupied the position which his ancient subordinate and

comrade, Lord Raglan, was made to assume. It may be doubted if Wellington could have been induced to

assume it.

Whether there ever would have been a Crimean war if no special friendliness had existed between France
and England may be fair matter for speculation. The quarrel issuing in that war was indeed begun by

France; but it would have been difficult for England to take no part in it. The apple of discord was

supplied by a long-standing dispute between the Greek and Latin Churches as to the Holy Places situated

in Palestine - a dispute in which France posed as the champion of the Latin and Russia of the Greek right

to the guardianship of the various shrines. The claim of France was based on a treaty between Francis I

and the then Sultan, and related to the Holy Places merely; the Russian claim, founded on a treaty

between Turkey and Catherine II, was far wider, and embraced a protectorate over all Christians of the

Greek Church in Turkey, and therefore over a great majority of the Sultan's European subjects. Such a

construction of the treaty in question, however, had always been refused by England whenever Russia

had stated it; and its assertion at this moment bore an ominous aspect in conjunction with the views

which the reigning Czar Nicholas had made very plain to English statesmen, both when he visited

England in 1844 and subsequently to that visit. To use his own well-known phrase, he regarded Turkey

as "a sick man" - a death-doomed man, indeed - and hoped to be the sick man's principal heir. He had

confidently reckoned on English co-operation when the Turkish empire should at last be dismembered;

he was now to find, not only that co-operation would be withheld, but that strong opposition would be

offered to the execution of the plan, for which it had seemed that a favourable moment was presenting

itself. The delusion under which he had acted was one that should have been dispelled by plain English

speech long before; but now that he found it to be a delusion, he did not recede from his demands upon

the Porte: he rather multiplied them. The upshot of all this was war, in spite of protracted diplomatic

endeavours to the contrary; and into that war French and English went side by side. Once before they had

done so, when Philip Augustus and Richard Coeur de Lion united their forces to wrest the Holy Places

from the Saracens; that enterprise had been disgraced by particularly ugly scandals from which this was

free; but in respect to glory of generalship, or permanent results secured, the Crimean campaign has little

pre-eminence over the Fourth Crusade.

 

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