'Victoria is too hasty and passionate for
me to be able often to speak of my difficulties.'
IN FEBRUARY 1841, six months before the formation of Sir Robert Peel's administration, the Queen and Prince Albert asked the Duke of Wellington -- now considered by the Queen the 'best friend' that she and her husband had -- to represent the Duke of Saxe-Coburg at the christening of their first child, Victoria.
'I was never so well received,' the Duke had recently written after a visit to Windsor. 'I sat next to the Queen at dinner. She drank wine repeatedly with me; in short, if I was not a Milksop, I should become a Bottle Companion.' 1 He went out of his way to please her. At a military review in Windsor Park he gave orders that the guns should remain silent until she had left the parade ground, knowing that she hated the noise of artillery. There would be no firing, he assured her; but some mistake had been made and no sooner were the words out of his mouth than "bang went the guns all down the line!' It was so irresistibly funny that the Queen 'burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter'. But the Duke was furious; he positively 'blew up'; no one could appease him; and he gave orders for the gunners to leave the field immediately. 2
He was more successful in his attentions to the Queen at a concert at Buckingham Palace. She had a bad cold and ran out of handkerchiefs before the performance was over. The Duke, who was sitting immediately behind her, noticed her plight; and, since he always carried a reserve supply in his pocket, was able to help her. 'I immediately slipped one of