The Letters of Queen Victoria. A Selection from Her Majesty’s Correspondence between the Years 1837 and 1861. Volume 1 (1837-1843)


Arthur Christopher Benson and Viscount Esher

Series: Historical Figures
BISAC: HIS015000

In her early years, Queen Victoria formed the habit of methodologically preserving her private letters. After her accession to the throne, she treated her official papers similarly and bound them into volumes, resulting in what might be the most extraordinary series of State documents in the world. This book, originally published in 1908, is a collection of those letters that serve to bring out the development of the Queen’s character and disposition and to give typical instances of her methods in dealing with political and social matters. Nothing comes out more strongly in these documents than the laborious patience with which the queen kept herself informed of the minutest details of political and social movements both in her own and other countries.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Editorial Note

Chapter 1. Ancestry of Queen Victoria —Houses of Brunswick, Hanover, and Coburg—Family connections—The English Royal Family—The Royal Dukes—Duke of Cumberland—Family of George III.—Political position of the Queen

Chapter 2. Queen Victoria’s early years —Duke and Duchess of Kent—Parliamentary grant to Duchess of Kent—The Queen of Würtemberg—George IV. and the Princess—Visits to Windsor—Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld—Education of the Princess—The Duchess of Kent’s letter to the Bishops—Religious instruction—Result of examination—Speech by Duchess of Kent—The Princess’s reminiscences of Claremont—William IV. and the Princess—The accession—Queen Victoria’s character and temperament—Her sympathy with the middle classes

Chapter 3. Queen Victoria’s relations and friends —King Leopold’s influence—Queen Adelaide—Baroness Lehzen—Baron Stockmar

Chapter 4 (1821-1835). Observations on the correspondence with King Leopold and others—First letter received by Queen Victoria—Her first letter to Prince Leopold—Birthday letters—King Leopold’s description of his Queen—His valuable advice—The Princess’s visit to Hever Castle—King Leopold’s advice as to reading, and the Princess’s reply—New Year greeting—On autographs—The Princess’s confirmation—King Leopold’s advice as to honesty and sincerity

Chapter 5 (1836). Visit of Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg —Invitation to the Prince of Orange—Arrival of Princes Ernest and Albert—The Princess’s appreciation of Prince Albert—King Leopold’s advice as to conversation—Crisis in Spain—Farewell letter—The Princess and the Church—Death of Charles X.—Abuse of King Leopold—Revolution at Lisbon—The Princess’s name—Newspaper attacks on King Leopold

Chapter 6 (1837). Spain and Portugal —Music with Princes Ernest and Albert—Parliamentary language and political passion—The throne of Greece—Queen of the Belgians’ dowry—The English Press—The Princess’s establishment—Young Belgian cousins—Irish Municipal Bill—Whig Ministers—Birthday rejoicings—King Leopold’s advice and encouragement—Accession imminent—Condition of the King—Reliance on Lord Melbourne—The Princess and the Church—The Accession—The Queen’s journal—Interview with Lord Melbourne—The Queen’s first Council—Letter from the King of the French—Congratulations from King Leopold—Nationality of the Queen—The Queen and her Ministers—Reflection advised—Baron Stockmar—Important subjects for study—Sister Queens—Letter from Queen Adelaide—Buckingham Palace—Madame de Lieven—Parliament prorogued—England and Russia—Discretion advised—Singing lessons—The elections—Prevalence of bribery—End of King Leopold’s visit—Reception at Brighton—Security of letters—England and France—France and the Peninsula—Count Molé—The French in Africa—Close of the session—Prince Albert’s education—Canada—Army estimates—Secretaries of State

Chapter 7 (1838). Lord Melbourne —Canada—Influence of the Crown—Daniel O’Connell—Position of Ministers of State in England and abroad—New Poor Law—Pressure of business—Prince Albert’s education—Favourite [page viii] horses—Deaths of old servants—The Coronation—Address from Bishops—Ball at Buckingham Palace—Independence and progress of Belgium—Anglo-Belgian relations—Foreign policy—Holland and Belgium—Coronation Day—Westminster Abbey—The enthronement—Receiving homage—Popular enthusiasm—Coronation incidents—Pages of honour—Extra holidays for schools—Review in Hyde Park—Lord Durham and Canada—Government of Canada—Ireland and O’Connell—Death of Lady John Russell—The Queen’s sympathy with Lord John Russell—Belgium and English Government—Belgium and Holland—Canada—Resignation of the Earl of Durham—English Church for Malta—Disappointment of Duke of Sussex—Brighton

Chapter 8 (1839). Murder of Lord Norbury —Holland and Belgium—Dissension in the Cabinet—The Duke of Lucca—Portugal—Ireland and the Government—England and Belgium—Prince Albert’s tour in Italy—Jamaica—Change of Ministry imminent—The Queen’s distress—Interviews with the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel—Lord Melbourne on Sir Robert Peel—The Household—Proposed new Cabinet—Interview with Lord Melbourne—The Ladies of the Household and Sir Robert Peel—Reply to Sir Robert Peel—Resignation of Sir Robert Peel—The Queen’s journal—Cabinet minute—Whigs resume office—Ball at Buckingham Palace—Lord John Russell and Sir Robert Peel—The Queen on the crisis—King Leopold’s approval—The penny postage—The Queen and Prince Albert—Syria—England and the Sultan—Proposed visit of King Louis Philippe—Preparing the Queen’s speech—King Leopold’s feeling for the Queen—Coming visit of Prince Albert—Arrival of Princes Ernest and Albert—The Queen’s engagement to Prince Albert—Lord Melbourne’s congratulations—King Leopold’s satisfaction—Austria and the Porte—The Queen’s happiness—Queen Louise’s congratulations—The Queen’s letters to the Royal Family—The Prince’s religion—Announcement to the Council—Marriage treaty—Question of a peerage—English susceptibilities—Letter from Donna Maria—Household appointments—Mayor of Newport knighted—The word “Protestant”—The Prince’s coat-of-arms—The Prince and Mr Anson—Appointment of Treasurer—The Prince and Lord Melbourne

Chapter 9 (1840). Letters to Prince Albert —Opening of Parliament—The Prince’s grant—The Prince at Brussels—Marriage of the Queen and Prince—Public enthusiasm—Plays in Lent—Debate on the Corn Laws—England and China—Disturbance at the Opera—Murder of Lord William Russell—Mrs Norton—Character of Princess Charlotte—English manners—Oxford’s attempt on the Queen’s life—Egypt and the Four Powers—Prince Louis Napoleon—King Leopold at Wiesbaden—A threatened crisis—France and the East—A difficult question—Serious measures—Palmerston and France—Views of King Louis Philippe—Propositions for settlement—Attitude of France—Pacific instructions—The Porte and Mehemet Ali—Bombardment of Beyrout—Guizot and Thiers—Differing views—The Queen’s influence—An anxious time—Attempt on life of King Louis Philippe—Negotiation with France advised—Thiers more moderate—Death of Lord Holland—Change of Ministry in France—Importance of conciliation—The Prince’s name in the Prayer-book—King Leopold on Lord Palmerston—Birth of the Princess Royal—Settlement of Eastern Question

Chapter 10 (1841). Letter to King Leopold —The Prince and literature—The speech from the throne—Domestic happiness—Duke of Wellington’s illness—England and the United States—Operations in China—Lord Cardigan—Army discipline—The Nottingham election—The Budget—Irish Registration Bill—Sugar duties—Ministerial crisis—Lord Melbourne’s advice—Dissolution or resignation—The Household question—Sir Robert Peel—Mr Anson’s intervention—Interview with Lord Melbourne—King Leopold’s sympathy—The Corn Laws—The Queen’s journal—The Prince’s support—Further interviews—Resignation postponed—The Queen and the Church—King Leopold’s advice—The Queen’s impartiality—Difficulties removed—Vote of want of confidence—The country quiet—King Leopold’s views—Fiscal Policy—Marriage of Lord John Russell—Visit to Nuneham—Archbishop Harcourt—The Prince visits Oxford—Letter from Lord Brougham—Visit to Woburn Abbey—Lord Melbourne and the Garter—A dreaded moment—Debate on the Speech—Overwhelming majority—Resignation—New arrangements—Parting with Lord Melbourne—The Prince in a new position—The Queen and Sir Robert Peel—Lord Melbourne’s opinion of the Prince—The Household question—New Cabinet—Lord Melbourne’s official farewell—Sir Robert Peel’s reception—New appointments—Council at Claremont—The Lord Chamberlain’s department—The French ambassador—Confidential communications—The diplomatic corps—Governor-General of Canada—India and Afghanistan—Lord Ellenborough—Russia and Central Asia—Indian finances—The Spanish mission—Correspondence with Lord Melbourne—Fine Arts Commission—Peers and audiences—Lord Radnor’s claim—The Chinese campaign—English and foreign artists—Lord Melbourne and the Court—The Queen and her Government—Baron Stockmar’s opinion—Lord Melbourne’s influence—Baron Stockmar and Sir Robert Peel—Professor Whewell—Queen Christina—Queen Isabella—French influence in Spain—Holland and Belgium—Dispute with United States—Portugal—The English Constitution—The “Prime Minister”—The “Secretaries of State”—Baron Stockmar expostulates with Lord Melbourne—Birth of Heir-apparent—Created Prince of Wales—The Royal children

Chapter 11 (1842). Letter from Queen Adelaide —Disasters in Afghanistan—The Oxford movement—Church matters—The Duke of Wellington and the christening—Lord Melbourne ill—A favourite dog—The King of Prussia—Marriage of Prince Ernest—Christening of the Prince of Wales—The Corn Laws—Marine excursion—Fall of Cabul—Candidates for the Garter—The Earl of Munster—The Queen and Income Tax—Lambeth Palace—Sale at Strawberry Hill—Selection of a governess—Party politics—A brilliant ball—The Prince and the Army—Lady Lyttelton’s appointment—Goethe and Schiller—Edwin Landseer—The Mensdorff family—Attack on the Queen by Francis—Letters from Queen Adelaide and Lord Melbourne—Successes in Afghanistan—Sir R. Sale and General Pollock—Debate on Income Tax—The Queen’s first railway journey—Conviction of Francis—Presents for the Queen—Another attack on the Queen by Bean—Death of Duke of Orleans—Grief of the Queen—Letters from the King and Queen of the French—Leigh Hunt—Lord Melbourne on marriages—Resignation of Lord Hill—Appointment of Duke of Wellington—Manchester riots—Military assistance—Parliament prorogued—Causes of discontent—Mob in Lincoln’s Inn Fields—Trouble at the Cape—Tour in Scotland—Visit to Lord Breadalbane—Return to Windsor—Royal visitors—A steam yacht for the Queen—Future of Queen Isabella—The Princess Lichtenstein—Historical works—Walmer Castle—Lord Melbourne’s illness—The Crown jewels—Provision for Princess Augusta—Success in China—A treaty signed—Victories in Afghanistan—Honours for the army—The gates of Somnauth—France and Spain—Major Malcolm—The Scottish Church—A serious crisis—Letter from Lord Melbourne—Esteem for Baron Stockmar

Chapter 12 (1843). Recollections of Claremont —Historical writers—Governor-Generalship of Canada—Mr Drummond shot—Mistaken for Sir Robert Peel—Death of Mr Drummond—Demeanour of MacNaghten—Letter from Lord Melbourne—Preparations for the trial—The Royal Family and politics—King Leopold and Sir Robert Peel—The American treaty—Position of the Prince of Wales—Good wishes from Queen Adelaide—Proposed exchange of visits—Mr Cobden’s speech—The new chapel—Fanny Burney’s diary—MacNaghten acquitted—Question of criminal insanity—Princess Mary of Baden—The Prince and the Levées—Sir Robert Peel’s suggestions—Police arrangements—Looking for the comet—Flowers from Lord Melbourne—The Royal children—The toast of the Prince—King of Hanover’s proposed visit—Gates of Somnauth restored—Death of Duke of Sussex—Birth and christening of Princess Alice—Irish agitation—Rebecca riots—Duchess of Norfolk’s resignation—Duelling in the Army—Outpensioners of Chelsea—Crown jewels—Obstruction of business—Lord Melbourne on matrimonial affairs—Visit to Château d’Eu—Increased troubles in Wales—Royal visitors—England and Spain—Arrest of O’Connell—Duc de Bordeaux not received at Court—Duc de Nemours expected—Visit to Cambridge—Duc d’Aumale’s engagement—Indian affairs—Loyalty at Cambridge—Proposed visit to Drayton Manor—Travelling arrangements—Duchesse de Nemours—Birmingham—Canadian seat of government—Chatsworth—American view of monarchy—Prince Metternich and Spain

List of Illustrations
Queen Victoria receiving the News of her Accession to the Throne, 20th June 1837.
From the picture by H. T. Wells, R.A., at Buckingham Palace

T.R.H. The Duchess of Kent and the Princess Victoria.
From the miniature by H. Bone, after Sir W. Beechey, at Windsor Castle

H.R.H. The Princess Victoria, 1827.
By Plant, after Stewart. From the miniature at Buckingham, Palace

H.M. King William IV.
From a miniature at Windsor Castle

H.R.H. The Prince Consort, 1840.
From the portrait by John Partridge at Buckingham Palace

H.M. Queen Victoria, 1841.
From the drawing by E. F. T., after H. E. Dawe, at Buckingham Palace

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