Queen Victoria echoed the spirit, if not the words of Elizabeth's answer, and refused to allow her son to accept the honour. The opinion of the Foreign Office lay in Lord Granville's portentous answer,
"We are insular and there are many advantages in remaining so."The Prince pleaded with his mother, and the Tsar telegraphed to her, repeating his wish. The Queen still said
"no,"and did not change her mind about the suitability of such foreign compliments until she was offered a similar honour herself, some years later.
THE new year began dismally for Mr. Gladstone. At the close of 1873, he had written,1
" Sixty-four years completed to-day — what have they brought me? A weaker neart, stiffened muscles, thin hairs; other strength still remains in my frame."On January 8, he wrote to Lord Granville of the "signs of weakness" that were multiplying in the Liberal party and admitted that his government was ceasing to "possess that amount of power which is necessary for the dignity of the Crown and the welfare of the country." He turned restlessly in his bedroom in Carlton House Terrace, demoralized by bronchitis and haunted by the prospect of an election. He wrote to the Queen of "a tightness in the chest" and confessed his desolation. He could expect indulgence, but little sympathy. In his letter he recalled the recent history of Liberal failure; the defeat of his Irish Universities Bill; the continuous snubbing of his measures in the House of Lords; and the by-elections in which his Liberal candidates were tumbling over like ninepins. Britain was becoming tired of reforms and in need of rest and change. On January 23, while the Queen was reading letters describing the luxurious scenes of her son's wedding2 to the Grand Duchess Marie, in St. Petersburg, Mr. Gladstone sent her an ominous telegram: the cabinet had agreed to dissolve.
In the elections that followed Mr. Gladstone went to Greenwich, like a novice canvassing favours, and stood bareheaded in the drizzling rain, with a cart for a platform. His voice and powers were wonderful as ever: the grand rolling phrases, the rich tones of promise. He was returned to Parliament again, but he led a thinned army. The Tories