Besieged by Bismarck
'HERE DO I SEE crumble before my eyes,' wrote old Baron Stockmar, 'that edifice which I have devoted twenty years to construct, prompted by a desire to accomplish something great and good.'1 He had trained Prince Albert to implement the 'Coburg' plan. Now, Albert was dead. His heirs and pupils, the Queen of England and his eldest daughter Princess Victoria, had withdrawn from public affairs. Their inspiration and guide was gone; their will to act seemed buried with him.
For two months, Queen Victoria shut herself up at Osborne. Her ministers hardly dared approach her over Christmas, but with the new year, her sense of duty revived. Devoted to her dead husband's plans and to her family, she began to exercise her influence from her seclusion. She knew how the projected marriages of her children might affect her country's diplomacy; the royal family already had too many relations with duchies across the Rhine. If Princess Alice married Prince Louis of Hesse, there would be yet another English connection with minor German states such as Saxe-Coburg and Hanover that Prussia would have to sweep away in order to unify Germany. And if the Prince of Wales married Princess Alexandra, the Danish Crown would be strengthened in its efforts to hang on to the disputed Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein.
So the Queen went back to her match-making, anxious to prevent the quarrels between the nations from embroiling her family. She needed to occupy her weary days and nights. Within a month of her husband's death, she was tartly reminding Lord John Russell that no letters should be sent to foreign ambassadors until she had seen the last draft. As final