Queen Victoria: A Personal History

By Christopher Hibbert | Go to book overview
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'The levity of the man is really inconceivable.'

LORD JOHN RUSSELL, third son of the sixth Duke of Bedford, was an emaciated little man, not noticeably taller than his dumpy monarch who found him stubborn, opinionated and graceless. He would be better company, she said, 'if he had a third subject; for he was interested in nothing except the Constitution of 1688 and himself'. 1 Worse than this, he was either incapable or unwilling to curb the excesses of his tiresome Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston.

Month after month the Queen and Prince had cause to complain of Palmerston's behaviour, his continued habit of sending her drafts of his despatches after the despatches themselves had been sent, his agreeing to alterations and then taking no notice of them, the intemperate language in which some of them were framed, in one case so annoying the Spanish government that they expelled the British Ambassador from Madrid, in another wording a despatch which the Queen described as being 'unworthy of a gentleman'. 2 It made her feel ill, she told her doctor, to read such things. In January 1849 the tiresome man went so far as secretly to supply Garibaldi's rebels in Sicily with arms for use in an uprising against their legitimate sovereign, King Ferdinand II. It really was too bad, the Queen complained: it was she, after all, who had to bear the responsibility for such activities. 3

She told the Prime Minister, not for the first time, that the day might well come when she would have to insist upon having the man dismissed. Could not some other appointment for him be found? Could he be sent


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Queen Victoria: A Personal History
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