25 OCTOBER 1930, Page 38

The Royal Mail

TIIE year 1888 seems a long time ago but the youngest of us have links with it still. Those who want to get back into its atmosphere will eagerly read the new series of Queen Victoria's Letters. This third volume deals with only five years—'86 to '91. In the beginning the first Home Rule Bill occupies the Queen's mind, then comes the joyful event of her Jubilee, and following close upon it the distress of the Emperor Frederick's illness and death, leading up bathe quarrel between the Prince of Wales and the new Emperor. During this latter part of the Queen's life foreign politics, which for Royalty, of course, partake of the nature of domestic affairs, were full of romance—Alexander of Bulgaria turned 'up at the English Court and described in person the adventures already to hand as news. For a King to be kidnapped is no common happening, and kidnapped by a Czar ! Ituritania had not yet been invented ; small wonder if the Queen was passionately absorbed by the tale.

Meanwhile, the Irish members kept the House of Commons in a continual ferment. Reflected in the letters of the Queen and her Ministers we see Parnell with his strange fascination and learn that he did run away with the lady, and did not write letters which the Times, blinded by prejudice hastily attributed to him. So many dramatic figures pass and repass before us as we read and watch the weaving of history. The great figures of Lord Salisbury and Mr. Gladstone, and Sir Stafford Northcote, lose nothing of their dignity when they prekent their " humble duty " to the Queen. Lord Rosebery alone strikes us as going too far in the direction of courtier- like humility. In sorrow for the death of his wife he writes : I cannot but see your Majesty, less my Sovereign, than the wife who has known the same sorrow, and deigns from the sad summit of her experience to associate herself with those that grieve below." On the other hand, in the devotion of Lord Salisbury and the dutiful lack of it in Mr. Gladstone there is a sincerity worthy of all admiration. In and out among these giants dashes the figure of Lord Randolph Churchill, full of genius and mischief, and we are allowed to look for a moment at the muffled form of Sir Charles Dilke, seen through the mists of mysterious accusations slipping sadly behind the scenes. These later letters give a very gracious impression of Edward VII. Judging by them alone we should have had as idea that the Queen and her eldest son were not in harmony. She speaks pathetically often of his " goodness " and kind- ness " to his mother, mentioning such little attentions as his supporting her when the climbing of some steps seemed too much for her strength. His much-discussed quarrel with his nephew William is described by himself in a letter to Prince Christian of Schleswig Holstein. The Prince of Wide.'' (as he then was) wrote to the Emperor thanking him for his kindness to some English officers, telling him that he Wed to meet him shortly in Vienna, where he understood that " William " also would be paying a visit. " To this I never received any answer or acknowledgement, and to my surprise, on reaching Vienna heard that Prince Reuss, the German Ambassador, had informed our Ambassador, Sir A. Puget' that William would rather not meet me there, in fact, that he preferred my room to my company !' This was confirmed by what the Crown Prince Rudolph and Kalnoky told rne. You can imagine may astonishment ! " Naturally, " strained. relations " ensued, and the Emperor refused at first to esplain

himself and then denied all knowledge of the offence. The whole affair is rather complicated but worth following, for the light it throws upon the Kaiser's mentality—and upon Edward VII.'s good heart.

Since we are reminded in Mr. Buckle's preface that " these documents and extracts are chosen with the view of illustrating the character and achievement of the Great Queen " we need make no apology for quoting a little story so wisely included in this collection which may justly endear her to the simplest as to the most instructed reader. Lord Kilmarnock wrote to Sir Henry Ponsonby as follows : " We were horrified to find this evening that one of our little boys who is ill had written to her Majesty, and that the servant had most stupidly posted the letter." He begs Sir Henry Ponsonby to explain the incident to the Queen and hopes she will excuse the child's indiscretion on the score of his extreme youth. The Queen wrote to her Secretary, saying : " Pray tell Lord Kilmarnock that the Queen was delighted with the little letter of his little (toy, as nothing pleases her more than the artless kindness of innocent children. She has written him an answer, and has posted it to him."