MOTHERHOOD EXCESS, AND EMPIRE
Will the Queen never find out that she will have ten times more
influence on her children by treating them with kindness and not
trying to rule them like a despot?
When the Royal family is so large, and our children have (alas)
such swarms of children, to connect some few of them with the great
families of the land—is an immense strength to the Monarchy and
a great link between the Royal Family and the country…. Besides
which, a new infusion of blood is an absolute necessity—as the
race will ehe degenerate bodily and physically.
— Queen Victoria, Your Dear Letter
Victorians liked to observe that the queen ruled her nation as a mother and her household as a monarch. Victoria had the ruling business backward, they suggested. Supposedly the queen should rule her kingdom as a monarch and her household as a mother. Putting the saying right by reversing the reversal exposes a puzzle that the witticism disguises— the problem of a model, a figure, an adequate symbol of this queen's rule. The saying reveals the culture's difficulty in imagining a queen who is also a mother. Linking the queen's maternal role to her monarchical role transgressed boundaries in the cultural imagination, as if the two kinds of authority inherently contradicted each other. Motherhood as a model for a nation appears manifestly humorous. Since nationstates derive their authority from a military model, a mother's role is patriotic} Serving the nation, the good mother sends her sons to war, knits for them, binds their wounds, and buries them. Victoria performed all these functions. During the Boer War, in addition to staying in close contact with her ministers, she "crocheted shawls for her soldiers "for the Christmas of 1898" and she sent out a box of chocolate to every man at the front with a coloured print of herself on it."2
Moreover, Victoria apparently conducted state business as if it were