DURING the first months of 1861, the Prince Consort complained continuously, "I am tired, I am tired." But the world was marching on with its old diseases, each momentarily arrested by the salve of diplomacy, but malignant as ever: the ambitions of Russia, with the goal of the Dardanelles, and even the distant mirage of Afghanistan and India before her eyes; the friendly surface and doubtful depths of Napoleon III; the sullen resentment of India and now the growing antagonism between the northern and southern states of America. The old fears were the burden of the Foreign Office and the Services. The new fear, from across the Atlantic, made the Lancashire and Cheshire mills anxious because war, which seemed inevitable, would cut off their supplies of cotton; and cotton had become their blood and their food. Upon all these matters the Prince Consort wrote endless memoranda, with flashes of wisdom such as come to dying men. He wrote to the King of Prussia, "There are so many who make it their business to inspire princes with fear of their people. From this fear it is that the chief faults of governments, as well as the most infamous cruelties of history, have sprung. In what but fear have the ecclesiastical or political persecutions of all ages had their origin?"
There was to be no respite. When he took a few hours' leisure, he would hurry through them with a sense of guilt. "I can't write more," he complained to his brother. "I have so much to do, sad and important things, so much to console and see after."1 There were the fortifications at Portsmouth and Gosport to inspect, the plans for his second Great Exhibition to complete, the possible results of the declaration of Victor Emmanuel as King of Italy and the French occupation of Syria to watch, and the building of more armour-plated ships to be encouraged.
The nerves of the upper part of the Prince's cheeks were inflamed and work was not easy. "My sufferings are frightful," he wrote in the secret pages of his diary. Four days later he wrote to Stockmar, " Sleepless nights and pain have pulled me down."
This was a year of illness and grief, beginning with the death of the King of Prussia. Prince William and the Queen's dear friend, Princess Augusta, were now King and Queen and Princess Victoria was Crown Princess. She had hurried through the streets of Berlin, on foot, with