'I kissed her dear hand and placed it next my cheek.'
ON 15 MARCH 1861 the Queen went to see her 75-year-old mother at Frogmore where she had been suffering from intermittent attacks of erysipelas for several months. Her close friend and secretary, Sir George Couper, who had brought order to the chaos in which Sir John Conroy had left her affairs, had died a fortnight before and the Duchess was not expected to survive him for long.
She and her daughter had long since overcome the antagonism of earlier years. 'Poor woman,' Lord Holland had written at the beginning of the Queen's reign. 'The importance of her actions and opinions are gone by. She will count for little or nothing in the new court.' This was true and she had much resented it. She had often been told that her daughter was too busy to see her. 'This was neither a happy nor a merry day for me,' she had written on Victoria's birthday in 1837. 'Everything is so changed.' Her apartment at Windsor was 'very far from the room' to which her daughter had moved. There had been constant grumbles, unhappy scenes', 'extraordinary letters'. Lord Liverpool had told Stockmar, 'It is a hard and unfair trial for the Queen, whose mind and health should not be exposed to such absurd vexation and torment . . . Although I should be very sorry to see Mother and Daughter separated, yet anything I am sure is better than the present state of things.' Her mother had 'seemed delighted', the Queen thought, when she had told her that she was to marry Prince Albert; but she had, in fact, complained bitterly that she had not been informed about the engagement earlier -- why, even