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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