Queen Victoria: A Personal History

By Christopher Hibbert | Go to book overview
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39
PRINCESS ALEXANDRA

'May he be only worthy of such a jewel,
there is the rub.'

ALTHOUGH SHE HAD BEEN reluctant to depart from the place where her beloved husband lay awaiting his funeral, the Queen left for Osborne five days after his death. She looked utterly miserable during the crossing, according to her lady-in-waiting, the Duchess of Atholl, who described the 'desolate look of that young [42-year-old] face in Her Widow's cap! for somehow the Queen looked like a child'. She held the Duchess in a 'passionate embrace'; and the older woman thought 'What was there that I would not do for her.' 1

At Osborne she tried to deal with papers and despatches, determined, as she said, to do her duty, struggling to understand the difficulties which the Prince would so carefully have explained to her, the words seeming to swim before her eyes. As at Windsor and, later at Balmoral, she could not escape from the fear that she might go mad.

She felt she could not bear to see her Ministers alone; and she told the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, that they would have to conduct their business either through Princess Alice or General Grey, George Anson's successor as the Prince's Private Secretary and now her own.

When the Prime Minister pressed her to accept the fact that this method of conducting business was impossible she gave way with clearly stated reluctance. But she insisted that she was not up to the strain of attending meetings of the Privy Council. In this difficulty a strange compromise was reached. The recently appointed Clerk of the Council was Arthur Helps, an astute, cultivated and tactful man whom the Queen

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