Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

competent for Her Majesty's Ministers to interfere and detain such vessels. The tardy action at last taken
just prevented the breaking out of hostilities. Out of these unfortunate transactions a certain good was to

ensue at a date not far distant, when, after the restoration of peace, America and England, disputing as to

the compensation due from one to the other for injuries sustained in this matter, gave to the world the

great example of two nations submitting a point so grave to peaceful arbitration, instead of calling in the

sword to make an end of it - an example more nearly pointing to the possible extinction of war than any

other event of the world's history.

Yet another hopeful feature may be noted in connection with this time of trouble. While the Secession
war lasted, "the cotton famine" had full sway in Lancashire; unwonted and unwelcome light and stillness

replaced the dun clouds of smoke and the busy hum that used to tell of fruitful, well-paid industry; and

the patient people, haggard and pale but sadly submissive, were kept, and just kept, from starving by the

incessant charitable effort of their countrymen. Never had the attitude of the suffering working classes

shown such genuine nobility; they understood that the calamity which lay heavy on them was not

brought about by the careless and selfish tyranny of their worldly superiors, but came in the order of

God's providence; and their conduct at this crisis proved that an immense advance had been made in

kindliness between class and class, and in true intelligence and appreciation of the difficulties proper to

each. It was significant of this new temper that when at last peace returned, bringing some gleam of

returning prosperity, the workers, who greeted with joyful tears the first bales of cotton that arrived, fell

on their knees around the hopeful things and sang hymns of thanksgiving to the Author of all good.

Such were the fruits of that new policy of care and consideration for the toilers and the lowly which had
increasingly marked the new epoch, and which had been sedulously promoted by the Queen, in

association with her large-thoughted and well-judging husband.

It was in the midst of the troubles which we have just attempted to recall that a new and greater calamity
came upon us, affecting the royal family indeed with the sharpest distress, but hardly less felt, even at the

moment, by the nation.

The year 1861 had already been darkened for Her Majesty by the death in the month of March, of her
mother, the Duchess of Kent, to whose wise guardianship of the Queen's youth the nation owed so much,

and who had ever commanded the faithful affection of this her youngest but greatest child, and of all her

descendants. This death was the first stroke of real personal calamity to the Queen; it was destined to be

followed by another bereavement, even severer in its nature, before the year had closed. The Prince

Consort's health, though generally good, was not robust, and signs had not been wanting that his

incessant toils were beginning to tell upon him. There had been illnesses, transitory indeed, but too

significant of "overwork of brain and body." In addition to personal griefs, such as the death of the

Duchess of Kent and of a beloved young Coburg prince and kinsman, the King of Portugal, which had

been severely felt, there were the unhappy complications arising out of "the affair of the Trent,"

which the Prince's statesmanlike wisdom had helped to bring to a peaceful and honourable conclusion.

That wisdom, unhappily, was no longer at the service of England when a series of negligences and

ignorances on the part of England's statesmen had landed us in the Alabama difficulty.

All these agitations had told upon a frame which was rather harmoniously and finely than vigorously
constituted. "If I had an illness," he had been known to say, "I am sure I should not struggle for life. I

have no tenacity of life." And in the November of 1861 an illness came against which he was not able to

struggle, but which took all the country by surprise when, on December 14th, it terminated in death. Very

 

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