WHEN friendship between France and Britain was once more threatened in 1857, by overtures between the Russians and the French, a brilliant letter1 from Prince Albert made Britain's position and intentions clear to Napoleon III. Three years before, Palmerston would have resented this intrusion. This time, he asked Prince Albert to cajole the Emperor and agreed that the letter was "most excellent." Lord Clarendon wrote that it ought to "open the Emperor's eyes to the consequences of his adulation of Russia." When Napoleon III was at Osborne, in the same year, he walked in the gardens with Prince Albert and wrote afterwards, "One goes away from him ... more disposed to do good. " 2
It was not easy for the average man to appreciate this saintly Prince who, at the age of eighteen, had sat beside the Pope and talked of Etruscan art and who, in middle age, turned from the problems of the Crimean War to sit over his desk at Windsor, correcting the copybooks of his workmen in the park.
The Prince's talent for detail in his works of charity was equally rare. He was unable to trifle with a problem, as his secretary wrote; his mind had "nothing little" in it. When he was appointed Master of Trinity House, he became interested in the cause of the ballast-heavers and raised the standard of their life and employment so that they almost blessed his name. The story is best told in their own memorial, sent to the Queen after Prince Albert died. "Before he came to our rescue, we could only get work through a body of riverside publicans and middlemen, who made us drink before they would give us a job. ... The consequence was that we were in a pitiable state; this truckdrinking system was ruining us body and soul, and our families too. ... We got no help till we sent our appeal to your late Royal Consort. ... He at once listened to us ... he could put himself down from the throne he shared to the wretched home of us poor men. ... At once our wrongs were redressed and the system that had ruined us swept away." After this the ballast-heavers called him Albert the Good.
The Prince assumed another problem, as he watched the country fall back into the illusions of peace. The government was quick to