Queen Victoria ( Part 7 )

Karishma Mishra
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After the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the British East India Company, which had ruled much of India, was dissolved, and Britain's possessions and protectorates on the Indian subcontinent were formally incorporated into the British Empire. The Queen had a relatively balanced view of the conflict, and condemned atrocities on both sides.[145] She wrote of "her feelings of horror and regret at the result of this bloody civil war",[146] and insisted, urged on by Albert, that an official proclamation announcing the transfer of power from the company to the state "should breathe feelings of generosity, benevolence and religious toleration".[147] At her behest, a reference threatening the "undermining of native religions and customs" was replaced by a passage guaranteeing religious freedom.[147]

Victoria admired Heinrich von Angeli's 1875 portrait of her for its "honesty, total want of flattery, and appreciation of character".[148]

In the 1874 general election, Disraeli was returned to power. He passed the Public Worship Regulation Act 1874, which removed Catholic rituals from the Anglican liturgy and which Victoria strongly supported.[149] She preferred short, simple services, and personally considered herself more aligned with the presbyterian Church of Scotland than the episcopal Church of England.[150] Disraeli also pushed the Royal Titles Act 1876 through Parliament, so that Victoria took the title "Empress of India" from 1 May 1876.[151] The new title was proclaimed at the Delhi Durbar of 1 January 1877.[152]

On 14 December 1878, the anniversary of Albert's death, Victoria's second daughter Alice, who had married Louis of Hesse, died of diphtheria in Darmstadt. Victoria noted the coincidence of the dates as "almost incredible and most mysterious".[153] In May 1879, she became a great-grandmother (on the birth of Princess Feodora of Saxe-Meiningen) and passed her "poor old 60th birthday". She felt "aged" by "the loss of my beloved child".[154]

Between April 1877 and February 1878, she threatened five times to abdicate while pressuring Disraeli to act against Russia during the Russo-Turkish War, but her threats had no impact on the events or their conclusion with the Congress of Berlin.[155] Disraeli's expansionist foreign policy, which Victoria endorsed, led to conflicts such as the Anglo-Zulu War and the Second Anglo-Afghan War. "If we are to maintain our position as a first-rate Power", she wrote, "we must ... be Prepared for attacks and warssomewhere or other, CONTINUALLY."[156] Victoria saw the expansion of the British Empire as civilising and benign, protecting native peoples from more aggressive powers or cruel rulers: "It is not in our custom to annexe countries", she said, "unless we are obliged & forced to do so."[157] To Victoria's dismay, Disraeli lost the 1880 general election, and Gladstone returned as prime minister.[158] When Disraeli died the following year, she was blinded by "fast falling tears",[159] and erected a memorial tablet "placed by his grateful Sovereign and Friend, Victoria R.I."

Later years

Victorian farthing, 1884

On 2 March 1882, Roderick Maclean, a disgruntled poet apparently offended by Victoria's refusal to accept one of his poems,[161] shot at the Queen as her carriage left Windsor railway station. Two schoolboys from Eton College struck him with their umbrellas, until he was hustled away by a policeman.[162] Victoria was outraged when he was found not guilty by reason of insanity,[163] but was so pleased by the many expressions of loyalty after the attack that she said it was "worth being shot at—to see how much one is loved".[164]

On 17 March 1883, Victoria fell down some stairs at Windsor, which left her lame until July; she never fully recovered and was plagued with rheumatism thereafter.[165] Brown died 10 days after her accident, and to the consternation of her private secretary, Sir Henry Ponsonby, Victoria began work on a eulogistic biography of Brown.[166] Ponsonby and Randall DavidsonDean of Windsor, who had both seen early drafts, advised Victoria against publication, on the grounds that it would stoke the rumours of a love affair.[167] The manuscript was destroyed.[168] In early 1884, Victoria did publish More Leaves from a Journal of a Life in the Highlands, a sequel to her earlier book, which she dedicated to her "devoted personal attendant and faithful friend John Brown".[169] On the day after the first anniversary of Brown's death, Victoria was informed by telegram that her youngest son, Leopold, had died in Cannes. He was "the dearest of my dear sons", she lamented.[170] The following month, Victoria's youngest child, Beatrice, met and fell in love with Prince Henry of Battenberg at the wedding of Victoria's granddaughter Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine to Henry's brother Prince Louis of Battenberg. Beatrice and Henry planned to marry, but Victoria opposed the match at first, wishing to keep Beatrice at home to act as her companion. After a year, she was won around to the marriage by their promise to remain living with and attending her.

Victoria was pleased when Gladstone resigned in 1885 after his budget was defeated.[172] She thought his government was "the worst I have ever had", and blamed him for the death of General Gordon at Khartoum.[173] Gladstone was replaced by Lord Salisbury. Salisbury's government only lasted a few months, however, and Victoria was forced to recall Gladstone, whom she referred to as a "half crazy & really in many ways ridiculous old man".[174] Gladstone attempted to pass a bill granting Ireland home rule, but to Victoria's glee it was defeated.[175] In the ensuing election, Gladstone's party lost to Salisbury's and the government switched hands again.

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