Queen Victoria: A Personal History

By Christopher Hibbert | Go to book overview

47
SECRETARIES AND MINISTERS

'People were taken by surprise by the sheer force of her personality.'

AMONG THE MANY RULES which the Household were required to observe was an edict that there must be no smoking in any room which the Queen might enter, or, indeed, in the grounds of any of her residences, though she herself had been seen at a summer picnic lighting a cigarette and 'puffing very delicately' to keep midges away. 1

Nor were her secretaries allowed to smoke when handling papers she might have to touch. Before she was persuaded -- apparently by John Brown -- that a little tobacco smoke was 'no bad thing to have about the hoose', cards were framed and hung upon the walls of the royal residences calling attention to the prohibition against smoking; and visitors to Windsor waited until the Queen went to bed and they could go along to the billiard room, the only place in the Castle where smoking was tolerated. 2 But the atmosphere in the billiard room was scarcely more relaxed than it was in the drawing room, particularly when the Queen's second son Prince Alfred was there, since the Duke was a most loquacious and boring talker. 'The Duke of Edinburgh occupies the chair and talks about himself by the hour,' Henry Ponsonby told his wife. 'Those who go [to the billiard room] are quite exhausted. Prince Henry [of Battenberg] has given up smoking in consequence.' 3

Once Count Hatzfeldt, who could not make the effort for the long journey to the billiard room, yet 'could not live without a cigar', was reduced to lying on his bedroom floor and blowing the smoke up the chimney. 4 The King of Saxony was less discreet and profoundly shocked

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