THE conquest of India and the awakening of Australia and New Zealand were incongruously linked with the falling apart of the Turkish Empire. The bankruptcy of Turkey and the consequent poverty of her subject princes in Egypt made it possible for Mr. Disraeli to achieve the great, melodramatic moment of his career: the purchase of the Khedive's shares in the Suez Canal, in 1875, for the sum of four million pounds.
Britain claimed that she wished to protect the ailing Turks from Russia. At the same time she was able to usurp much of Turkey's influence in the near eastern countries, thus assuring safety for her trade and shipping to Australia and beyond, and strengthening India's bulwarks against Russian aims. In 1839 the British had landed in Aden and in 1857 they had occupied Perim. The southern gates of the Red Sea were therefore already in their keeping. The purchase of the Suez Canal shares in 1875 gave Britain control of the northern gates of the Red Sea until such time as they would be vulnerable from the air.
Mr. Disraeli wrote to his Sovereign,
"It is just settled; you have it, Madam."The Queen was delighted. It was "entirely the doing of Mr. Disraeli
," who had "very large ideas and very lofty views of the position the country should hold."His mind was "so much greater, larger, and his apprehension of things great and small so much quicker than that of Mr. Gladstone. "1
Mr. Disraeli found the Queen "in ecstasies." 2 He went down to Windsor on November 26 and described his visit as "triumphant." What the Queen liked most was the "blow at Bismarck," because the "terrible man" thought Britain's political power was dead. Mr. Disraeli dined with the Queen that night and found her "in the IOth heaven," because she had received a letter from the King of the Belgians, describing the purchase as "the greatest event of modern politics. " 3
Mr. Disraeli had already proved his power over the Queen in May, 1874, when the Tsar of Russia was visiting Britain, after the marriage of his daughter to Prince Alfred. He decided to stay two extra days, beyond the date of the Queen's departure for Balmoral, but she refused to change her plans. The Foreign Secretary wrote to the Prime Minister,
"It will be resented by the Russians, who are as touchy as Yankees ... it will entirely destroy whatever good result may be expected from the marriage and the visit.... Do try what you can to set this businessright. Nobody can have managed the lady better than you have. . . ."