EARLY in the new year Queen Victoria was considering designs for the Victoria Cross. She marked the drawing she liked with an X and asked that the inscription should be For Valour, not For the Brave, which might suggest that only those who won the decoration had been brave. She was excited by the stories of Florence Nightingale walking down the arcades of Scutari hospital with her lamp, being blessed by the dying men as she paused over them. In other wars British women had merely watched and waited. Now, in an age ruled by a woman, they were going out to the burning edge of battle. The Queen wrote, "Dear Miss Nightingale. ... I need hardly repeat to you how warm my admiration is for your services, which are fully equal to those of my dear and brave soldiers." With the letter the Queen sent a brooch, the "form and emblems" of which commemorated Miss Nightingale's "great and blessed work."

Peace came in April and while the soldiers were sheathing their swords, the statesmen and diplomats returned to their arguments. Prince Albert wrote to his brother, "Our allies would certainly not have continued the war and we could not have followed them to the Rhine." He was "satisfied" with the terms of peace which made the Black Sea secure for the time being, assured Turkey her safety, and humiliated Russia, especially through the destruction of her fleet. The Prince continued in his letter, "The French come begging to our camps, where there is plenty. This does not appear in the newspapers, but exactly for this reason, it is true. "1

Queen Victoria became the focus for all rejoicing. Londoners who had waited at the Tower to see her brought in as a prisoner, now cheered her through the railings of Buckingham Palace. Two miles of ships were aligned for a review at Spithead and fourteen thousand men were drawn up on the plain at Aldershot to see her ride past on a chestnut charger. The short, plump woman, for whom the people had varied from blame to devotion, now took on the magnificence of Queen of a victorious country. The soldiers flung their helmets and shakos towards the sky and the dragoons waved their glittering sabres in the sun. Aldershot rang and rang with the cry, "God save the Queen."


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Reign of Queen Victoria
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