QUEEN VICTORIA was forty-two years old when her husband died. Less than a year before, she had danced with children at a party at Frogmore. Overnight, she became a solemn woman, pledged to sorrow. One of her nine children was married and two were betrothed. One, Prince Alfred, was a sailor, but there were still five young children to be trained and taught. The Queen was no doubt sincere in the wish expressed to Major Elphinstone, who was in charge of Prince Arthur and Prince Leopold, that she was anxious "NOT to separate herself more from them than is absolutely necessary" and that she wished them to "become very intimate with her. "1 But intimacy between two lonely boys, bereft of friends, and a mother who had lost the talent for happiness, was not easy. Also, the Queen's attention was greatly held by the old, haunting problem of her eldest son. Records of her feelings for the Prince of Wales at this time are confusing. Lady Clarendon wrote in her diary 2 that "the serious misfortune" Lord Palmerston saw "looking ahead" was the Queen's "unconquerable aversion to the Prince of Wales." Lord Clarendon spoke to the Queen on the subject and found the situation "worse than he expected." It was, he said, "a positive monomania with her. She got quite excited while speaking of him, and said that it quite irritated her to see him in the room." Then comes the pathetic sentence, "I believe the poor boy knows of his mother's dislike of him, but seems to have the good taste not to speak of it."
Lord Palmerston's record of a conversation, when he told the Queen that the Prince of Wales was "the difficulty of the moment," adds that, in a flash of loyalty, she said that the Prince was a very good and dutiful son. In the private pages of her journal the Queen admitted, after her talk with Lord Palmerston, that she "felt the same. " Lord Palmerston had told her frankly that the Prince should travel and that he should marry.
The Queen had to wrestle with this problem alone, with none to guide her but the ever dominant voice beyond the grave. In this lonely obedience to a shade, she made the error of treating her heir, not as a future monarch but as an irresponsible boy, unworthy of her trust.
In the old days, Lord Melbourne or the Duke of Wellington might