Queen Victoria: A Personal History

By Christopher Hibbert | Go to book overview

49
'THE HALF-MAD FIREBRAND'

'The Queen does not the least care but rather wishes it shd.
be known that she has the greatest possible disinclination
to take this half crazy & really in many ways ridiculous old man.'

WHEN DISRAELI'S CONSERVATIVES were defeated at the polls in 1880, the Queen did all she could to thwart the return to power of a man who had followed such a 'blind and destructive course' during the election campaign. She had long since decided that she 'never COULD have the slightest particle of confidence' in this awful man Mr Gladstone, 'a most disagreeable person -- half crazy, and so excited', who would become a dictator if he could. 1 She would abdicate rather than have him back; she would have the more tractable Lord Granville as Prime Minister, though she did not rate his talents very highly; or she would, as Disraeli suggested, send for Lord Hartington, even though she strongly disapproved of his liaison with the Duchess of Manchester and his frequent appearances at raffish parties at Marlborough House. 2

Despite the advice which had been given to her by Prince Albert in his efforts to guide her towards the creation of a new English monarchical tradition which placed the throne above party, she had never fully grasped the limits imposed upon a constitutional monarch. Indeed, Prince Albert, who often overstepped the bounds of constitutional propriety by speaking in the Queen's name, never completely comprehended these limits himself. He had seemed, on occasions, to share her endorsement of Baron Stockmar's frequently expressed opinion that the Prime Minister was merely the 'temporary head of the Cabinet', while the monarch was the 'permanent premier'.

-367-

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Queen Victoria: A Personal History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations xi
  • Author's Note and Acknowledgements xv
  • Queen Victoria's Prime Ministers xviii
  • Part One - 1819-1861 1
  • 1 - The Family 3
  • 2 - The Parents 9
  • 3 - The Child 17
  • 4 - Conroy 25
  • 5 - Progresses 30
  • 6 - Uncles 41
  • 7 - The Young Queen 53
  • 8 - Melbourne 60
  • 9 - Coronation 70
  • 10 - The Hastings Affair 76
  • II - A Pleasant Life' 85
  • 12 - A Headstrong Girl 90
  • 13 - German Cousins 98
  • 14 - Prince Albert 107
  • 15 - The Bridegroom 111
  • 16 - Honeymoon 120
  • 17 - Robert Peel 130
  • 18 - The Prince and the Household 137
  • 19 - Royal Quarrels 148
  • 20 - Osborne 157
  • 21 - Travelling 165
  • 22 - Balmoral 175
  • 23 - The Prince of Wales 183
  • 24 - Palmerston 193
  • 25 - Chartists 199
  • 26 - Pam is Out 204
  • 27 - The Great Exhibition 210
  • 28 - Scenes 216
  • 29 - Crimean War 221
  • 30 - Napoleon III 230
  • 31 - The Princess Royal 238
  • 32 - Indian Mutiny 248
  • 33 - The German Grandson 256
  • 34 - Death of the Duchess 264
  • 35 - The Disappointing Heir 268
  • 36 - Death of the Prince 276
  • Part Two - 1861-1901 283
  • 37 - The Grieving Widow 285
  • 38 - Seances and Services 293
  • 39 - Princess Alexandra 298
  • 40 - The Recluse 307
  • 41 - Disraeli 314
  • 42 - John Brown 321
  • 43 - The Royalty Question 331
  • 44 - The Princely Pauper 338
  • 45 - Typhoid Fever 342
  • 46 - Maids-Of-Honour 349
  • 47 - Secretaries and Ministers 353
  • 48 - Regina Et Imperatrix 360
  • 49 - The Half-Mad Firebrand 367
  • 50 - Golden Jubilee 379
  • 51 - Die EnglÄnderin 384
  • 52 - The Daughters 391
  • 53 - The Sons 396
  • 54 - The Grand Children 414
  • 55 - Would-Be Assassins 420
  • 56 - Holidays Abroad 428
  • 57 - Death of Brown 440
  • 58 - The Munshi 446
  • 59 - Diamond Jubilee 455
  • 60 - Life at Court 461
  • 61 - Dinner Parties 468
  • 62 - Books 477
  • 63 - Bookmen 481
  • 64 - Failing Health 484
  • 65 - Death 492
  • 66 - Funeral and Burial 495
  • References 503
  • Sources 523
  • Index 535
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