WHEN the Berlin Congress was being planned, the Queen considered her son's advice, seriously and gratefully. In January, 1878, when she wrote her characteristic letter1 to Lord Beaconsfield,
"Oh, if the Queen were a man, she would like to go and give those Russians . . . such a beating,"she had added that
"her son felt more strongly than herself even."The Prince of Wales talked frankly with the Prime Minister's secretary on May 28 and wrote to his mother afterwards that Lord Beaconsfield was
"the only man who can go"to the congress,
"as he would show Russia and the other Powers"that Britain was
"really in earnest."The Prince added,
"Now, do let me implore you to urge Lord Beaconsfield to go."The Queen was reluctant at first and answered,
" ... you know that Lord Beaconsfield is seventy-two and a half, is far from strong, and that he is the firm and wise head and hand that rules the government, and who is my great support and comfort . . . His health and life are of immense value to me and the country, and should on no account be risked...."
The Queen relented and, with Lord Salisbury supporting him, Lord Beaconsfield set out for Berlin, spreading the journey over four days so that they could arrive "quite fresh." He wrote to the Queen, before he sailed,
"In all his troubles and perplexities, he will think of his Sovereign Lady, and that thought will sustain and inspire him."
Lord Beaconsfield arrived in Berlin about eight o'clock in the evening and after he had dined he waited on Prince Bismarck. They had not met for sixteen years. The once "tall, pallid" Prussian with "a wasp-like waist" had become "extremely stout." His face was ruddy and he had grown "a silvery beard."
The first serious interview 2 between the two giants lasted an hour and a quarter. Their second talk was "a monologue; a rambling, amusing, egotistical autobiography." But there was purpose behind the monologue. The British Ambassador in Berlin had warned Lord Beaconsfield that Bismarck would probably try to find out how "squeezable" he was.
The Chancellor said of Lord Beaconsfield,
"Der alte Jude, das ist der Mann,"and it became true. As the deliberations of the congress progressed, "the old Jew" drew the interest and emotions of argument about himself. But he complained of his tiredness, of the evening parties