Queen Victoria and the Liberals
The Political Influence of Queen Victoria, 1861-1901'. By Frank Hardie. (Oxford University Press. 8s. 6d.)
GLADSTONE, writing in 1875, spoke of " a beneficial substitu- tion of influence for power "' in the position of the Crown,
and Mr. Hardie, who quoteS this sentence,. examines and describes the nature and methods of that influence. His book is a careful, balanced and scholarly discussion of this subject. He has studied all the important authorities, and his final chapter is admirable_ both as exposition and as argument. . .
It is impossible in a short review to follow Mr. Hardie in his
full and interesting survey of the Queen's actions in foreign and domestic policy. He has a,deep admiration for her great
.qualities and he does full justice to her services to peace and the dignity and seriousness of public life. But in any such
book the chief and the most dramatic interest must be found in the change that came over her position after the 'seventies. Mr. Hardie does not exaggerate when he speaks of her in these later years as furiously partisan. When the Queen's Letters were published it was a shock to most people to learn that when a Liberal Government was in office she habitually con- sulted the leaders of the Opposition. Mr. Hardie quotes the remarkable correspondence that passed between the Queen and Salisbury when Rosebery was Prime Minister :
" As far as it is possible to ascertain " (Salisbury wrote) " the Unionist party is quite prepared for a dissolution, and would be likely to fare well if one should now take place. Some think it would be better for them now than later, when a lengthened -agitation against the House of Lords has banished the Irish question from men's minds."
It would have been a great shock to respectable Conserva- tives if they had found that the Queen had been consulting Gladstone when Salisbury was in office,' and that Gladstone had explained in recommending her to get rid of Salisbury that the moment was a convenient one for his party. But the Queen went further, for she actually advised. Wolseley on one occasion to resign in order to embarrass her Ministers.
Was this change in the Queen, asks Mr. Hardie, due to per- sonal antipathies or to a fundamental antagonism. between the Crown and progressive forces ? The personal element is, of course, very important ; and there is a dramatic irony in the estrangement between Gladstone and the Queen, for it was brought abOut partly by the accident that he was eon- seivitive and Disraeli radical. Gladstone held that nothing in public life was more important than preserving the general respect for the Crown. He was alarmed about the prospect with " a withdraWn and expensive Queen and a liedOnistio and expensive heir." So he set to work hard for two objects : the first that of inducing the Queen to leave her retirement and take part in public ceremonies ; the second that of giving the Prince of Wales some training in Public affairs. By his persistent and often tactless pursuit of these two distasteful objects he provoked her bitter hostility. Disraeli had none of these- anxieties or scruples., He was confident that he could manage the Queen, and he was ready
for experiments with the Crown. Mr. Hardie points out that the opposition to the Royal Titles Bill--a point on which the
Queen's memory was long and bitter—Was the opposition of people attached to tradition. Hartington led the House oppo- sition in the' Commons ; Shaftesbury in the Lords. Glad- stone and the Queen were both obstinate peOple with grave views of duty and politics. Mr. Hardie says they would have got on better if either of them had a little' more sense of
humour. Disraeli had enough for both and he was a born flatterer, whereas Gladstone thought flattery a crime. In
this agreeable school the Queen learnt to love ideas that she had detested wheh they were Palmerston's. Disraeli turned her into a violent Imperialist, so Jingo that she once declared that England would have no peace until she had fought Riissia. When later she came under Salisbury's influence she unlearnt a good part of this teaching. But she never unlearnt the hatred of Gladstone, with which he had inspired her, and the quarrel which began when he attacked Disraeli's Eastern
policy did not end even with his death. •
Yet, as Mr. Hardie says, the partisan role that the Queen accepted in the last years of 'her reign, if it was accentuated by
her personal dislikes, was due also to the turn that politics had taken. She liked Rosebery as much as she disliked Gladstone, but she treated his Government as she had treated
• Gladstone's. For she had a profound dislike of democraey,
• and however ready she had been under the Prince Consort's influence to be impartial between Whig and Tory Ministries, she could not be impartial when these new issues had been raised. Yet 'the issue that was raised in 1885 prOvided the greatest opportunity in her reign for using the immense influence she possessed over public men. Nobody now can be blind to the disasters that have followed the failure to settle the Irish question at that time. The need for a settlement was clear to men of different parties. Salisbury had chosen a Home Ruler as Viceroy, and that Viceroy had secret talks with Parnell and Justin McCarthy. The ablest officials in Dublin Castle were convinced that the government of Ireland was impossible unless the demand was met. Gladstone was ready to support Salisbury in a policy of reform, but relations between parties were very bitter and suspicious ; they were complicated by the quarrels of Chamberlain and Hartington. If the Queen had used her influence then to persuade the rival leaders to co-operate, both England and Ireland might have escaped some disastrous and shameful chapters in their history. Unhappily, the Queen took the opposite course, and did all she could to embitter the quarrel. Neither her wide experience nor her devotion to duty had ever broken down the prejudices that kept her blind to the gravest problem in her Empire.
J. L. HAMMOND.