'Oh! that Englishmen were now what they were!!
But we shall assert our rights -- our position --
& "Britons never will be slaves" will be our Motto.'
ON 24 MAY 1874 Queen Victoria celebrated her fifty-fifth birthday. Three months previously she had been delighted when, in the general election of that year, the Conservatives were returned to power with their first clear majority over the Liberals since 1841 and Mr Gladstone, protesting that he 'deeply desired' what he called 'an interval between Parliament and the grave', decided to retire.
Released from the oppressive presence of the 'old hypocrite' and basking once more in the affectionate flattery of Disraeli, the Queen began to take a far more enthusiastic interest in public affairs than she had ever done before in her life and allowed herself to be persuaded by cajoling encouragement, sometimes with the support of John Brown, to do things no one else could have induced her to do. ' Disraeli has got the length of her foot exactly,' commented Henry Ponsonby. 'He seems to me always to speak in a burlesque . . . with his tongue in his cheek . . . He communicates . . . boundless professions of love and loyalty. He is most clever . . . In fact, I think him cleverer than Gladstone.' 1
The Queen was well aware of the wiles and coaxing blandishments which Disraeli used in his attempt to impose his will upon her. 'He had a way when we differed,' she told Lord Rosebery wistfully after Disraeli's death, 'of saying, "Dear Madam" so persuasively', as he put his head on one side, his ringlets, dyed a deep black, falling over his temples. 2
Persuasive as he was, however, he could not always get his way with