Daily Archives: August 2, 2015

The United Kingdom in the 1830s.

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The UK entered the 1830s in a state of excitement and turmoil. There were mounting protests for Reform. It was capitalised. Everyone knew this meant Parliamentary Reform.

The Duke of Wellington was Prime Minister. He used his huge prestige to denounce Reform as unacceptable and sure to be disastrous. Reactionaries argued that the British Constitution was the world’s finest. It was also organic and not mechanistic. One could not remove one part of it or the whole thing would die. This specious line of reasoning was demonstrated to be bunkum because of Catholic Emancipation. The UK political system had changed several times before. Some stuck to an outdated view that the constitutional settlement of 1688 was valid for all time. Some were minded to agree to a very limited reform but were worried if they started reforming they would never be able to stop. Ironically Catholic Emancipation made some of the more cunning Tories turn to see Parliamentary Reform as tactically astute. To counter-balance the fact that Catholic could not enter Parliament some Tories thought it needful to enfranchise more of the middle classes who shared pronounced anti-Catholic prejudice. Strongly Nonconformist towns in north-west England were thought to merit greater representation, There had been considerable Irish Catholic transmigration to north-west England. There had been a backlash among some of the English Protestants there.

The middle classes wanted the vote. So did some of the working class.

Repeated vandalism on Wellington’s house made popular opinion known. Street demonstration and riots become frequent in many parts of the country. Threatening letters were sent to the cabinet.

Whigs almost all agreed to some degree of reform. There was much debate about how far such reforms should go. To whom should the vote be given? It should be on a property basis but how much property should one have to own or rent to vote? They agreed to some redistribution of the representation but how much? Which constituencies needed to be abolished?

Some Tories were minded to permit some very limited reform. Many Tories were altogether opposed to any reform. The Tory Ultra position was becoming ever more untenable.

In November 1830 Wellington resigned as Prime Minister.

George IV died in 1830. He was hardly mourned. His only daughter Princess Charlotte had passed away in 1817 after complications arising from giving birth to a stillborn child. As George IV was not survived by any legitimate offspring the Crown solely and rightfully passed to his brother William IV. King William IV was proclaimed king with one assent of tongue and heart. William IV was wise and recognised that reform was required to sate the public desire for it. The situation on the streets was getting out of hand. The teeming slums were pulsating with the demand for Reform even though there was no prospect of the working class being enfranchised. Working people had been persuaded that reform was a panacea for all their ills.

William IV though corpulent did not have the gigantic girth that disgraced his elder brother. He was sager than George IV. It would be hard not to be. He was an accomplished naval officer and he took his monarchical duties seriously. He did not wish to simply savour the trappings of monarchy.  He showed a disinclination to meddle in politics. He would only take a stand when it was really necessary.

Extra parliamentary agitation was reaching fever pitch. The country was convulsed by furious protests. It seemed that Reform could not be long resisted. Rioters burnt down the Duke of Newcastle’s castle in Nottingham. In Bristol there were scenes of frenzy and turmoil. In some towns order could not be restored for days. The Metropolitan police were stretched to the limit. Some of this was politically motivated. Common criminals also took advantage of this breakdown in order to commit robberies. The houses of prominent opponents of reform were attacked and people made off with valuables. These stately homes would then be burnt down. This was partly as a punishment for being a reactionary but also so that it was impossible to ascertain what had been stolen. The police sometimes found caches of weapons that revolutionaries had stockpiled. Purchasing firearms was not unlawful but in this case it seemed like doing so was an act preparatory to treason. It seemed as though the country was slipping into anarchy.

Prominent opponents of Reform found it prudent to leave their stately homes and moved into castellated ones for protection. This sharply reduced their chances of being lynched. Many armed their servants. Despite this alarmism surprisingly few people were killed at this time. Revolutionaries do not seem to have planned to assassinate intransigent anti-Reformers.

There was a revolution in France in 1830. Charles X was ousted and replaced by Louis-Philippe. He was a distant cousin of Charles X. Louis-Philippe promised significant reform. Spain also had a revolution. Belgium broke away from the Netherlands. Such revolutions were imitable in the United Kingdom – so revolutionists said. These revolutions all seemed to be successes and violence ceased almost as soon as change was effected.

In Ireland Daniel O’Connell was leading protests for Reform and for Repeal of the Act of Union. This was depsite O’Connell saying that if Catholic Emancipation were granted he would not make any further demands for change.

This rising tide of demonstrations and the example of revolutions abroad gave heart to radicals. It seemed that established governments were on the retreat.

The Cabinet received an anonymous letter, ”Depend upon it gentlemen, the country is ripe for revolution. Then goodbye to England’s king and ministers!”

Reformists proposed a bank strike. Everyone was to withdraw their money at once. This would precipitate a run on the banks. The slogan was ”To break the Iron Duke go for gold.”

Sir Robert Peel had disgusted the Tory Ultras by changing his mind over Catholic Emancipation. He felt he could not be seen to be a turncoat over Reform as well. Privately he recognised that Reform was needed and timely. Publicly he maintained the fiction that the present system was sensible and durable.

Whigs were almost all pro-Reform. They antecedents had been pro-Reform. Charles James Fox had argued in that 1780s that a good Whig must be a reformer. Bear in mind that he was one of the more radical of his party then.

Jeremy Bentham was a Whig MP and philosopher. For decades he had been arguing for the constitution to be amended. Voting should be on an equal footing for all men.

There was a growing consensus among Whigs and the more enlightened Tories that some degree of Reform was necessary. Whom should be admitted to the pale of the constitution. The upper classes could already vote. Some of the middle classes had the right to vote. In some constituencies there were some working class voters. It was generally agreed that some of the middle class ought to be allowed to vote. But how many? Who was too earthy? The issue of just how far reform should go became vexatious. To allow too few people to vote would not satisfy the widespread demand for reform. But if one went too far and allowed too many people the vote then there would be lots of inexperienced and wild electors who would be overly inclined towards radicalism. They would not value liberty. They would vote to confiscate the property of the upper orders. They would disestablish the churches and who knows – perhaps even abolish the monarchy! This would be the end of civilisation. That is what anti-reformists said.

Some Tories argued that the slightest concession to reform was anathema. It would lead to an unravelling of the constitution. It would also be a cowardly surrender to violence. Any truck with Reform was folly of the first magnitude. It would demonstrate weakness and only tantalise radicals. They would be even more shrill in calling for ever greater reform. Tory Ultras maintained that the Radical riots proved that the working class propensity violence meant that there must be no Reform. Even granting the vote to the middling sorts would be quite wrong. The thing was to stand firm and say no reform. Ever.

Some Whigs said that they would agree to this Reform because that would settle the issue forever. One Whig who argued this was Lord John Russell. He was known as Finality Jack for his insistence that this reform would be the final revision of the constitution. Lord John Russell did want those from the middling social sphere to be allowed the vote. He was by no means the most radical Whig. Other Whigs hinted that they would accept this reform for the interim but they hankered after more extensive reform soonish.  Overall, there was little doubt that Reform was inevitable. The question was not if but when and how much?

Fleetingly it appeared that there would be an actual revolution. The May Days of 1832 was a period of sustained rioting. The Duke of Wellington was unwilling to even acquiesce to Reform. He blatantly could not handle the situation. The more cosmopolitan Tories began to acknowledge that a slight reform was needed. The backwoodsmen tended to be oafish and altogether opposed to amending the legislature at all. The king was obliged to sack him.

Earl Grey was appointed Prime Minister. Grey was the first man who self-identified as a Whig to be Prime Minister for many a year. Lord Charles Grey had been to Eton of course. He had then proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge. Trinity then as now was considered to be the most illustrious college in the university. Lord Grey had a first class mind and an exceptional gift for public speaking. He was going to need it.

Earl Grey introduced the Reform Act to Parliament. There were many outbursts of disgust from the Tory benches. Earl Grey was a prominent Northumberland landowner. His area of the country would gain greater representation. He was disliked by the moralists in his own party since it was an open secret that he had carried on an affair with Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. The Duchess of Devonshire was an outspoken Whig. The duchess’ husband had been flagrantly unfaithful to her. She had longed for a handsome man who cared for her. But Lord Grey had been climbing into bed with a lady and not a chambermaid. That was quite different.

One of the most thinking Whigs of the day was Lord Thomas Babbington Macaulay. Macaulay’s dictum was ”Reform that you may preserve.” He did not want a revolution. He recognised that the constitution was dangerously outmoded. The legislature needed to be updated. If this were not done then the entire system would be swept away by a tide of revolution.

There was a brief period in 1832 when Lord Grey was dismissed as Prime Minister and the Duke of Wellington brought back. Then William IV was impelled to sack the duke again and restore Lord Grey to office. By this stage the situation on the streets was critical. Even a man as obdurate against Reform as the Duke of Wellington instructed his Tory acolytes to abstain on the Reform Act.

What was finally passed in June 1832 has become known as the Great Reform Act. Some call it the 1st Reform Act – since there were two others later on. Of course at the time no one knew that further reform would happen. So in 1832 this act was commonly called the Great Reform Act.

The House of Commons passed the Representation of the People Act. There were three separate acts. One for Ireland, one for Scotland and a final one for England and Wales. The House of Lords refused to pass it. William IV then threatened to flood the House of Lords with hundreds of Whigs peers. Tory lords were aghast at the notion of becoming declasse. If William IV created hundreds of Whigs peers they would have to rub shoulders with reform minded men who were not truly noble. Factory owners from the Midlands putting on airs  – perish the thought! It was a fate worse than reform. Thus the House of Peers was induced to pass the legislation that many of them found to be hateful. All but the most fanatical Tories withdrew their opposition to Reform. The splenetic Tory reactionaries who voted against included some Lords Spiritual (bishops of the Church of Ireland and the Church of England).

County representation was made uniform. Many rotten boroughs were done away with. Overall the number of people who had the right to vote rose from 5% of the male population to 7% of the male population. Some women had campaigned for the franchise and noted that the 13th century mediaeval legislation had been written in Latin where it had called for the ”optimum homines” to choose representatives from among themselves. The words in Latin are more ambiguous in English. It could be translated ”men” or ”people”. Women had voted as recently as the 16th century. There had been women in Parliament in the Middle Ages. However, the Great Reform Act was a setback for the feminist causes. It tightened up the wording. It said that the franchise was restricted to ”male persons.”

Birmingham and Manchester became parliamentary boroughs for the first time. Prior to that they had only been represented inasmuch as they were part of counties. Birmingham and Manchester were two of the most prominent new industrial cities. Thomas Attwood’s Birmingham Political Union had been one of the most zealous organisations in campaigning for Reform.

Those who owned pocket boroughs were not compensated. Some had said that the proprietors of such boroughs deserved some money for the loss of such property. Of course borough representation was not officially anyone’s property but in some cases a landlord owned such much of the property in a borough that he could dictate who people voted for or else he would have them turned out of their houses. Men had openly spoken of buying and selling the right to elect a Member of Parliament. They wrote about in letters. It was provable but since there was no law against it no action was taken.

In some scot and lot or potwalloper constituencies some men lost the right to vote.

Three days before the act received the royal assent Jeremy Bentham died. It was fortuitous for him that at least he knew the act was passed. The mental strain of the debates is thought to have hastened his death. His body was preserved as the autoicon – self image – in University College London. He helped found UCL as a non-religious university in 1828. This was the first of its kind in the realm.

Earl Grey has gone down in history as ”Lord Grey of the Reform Bill.” It was a splendid achievement. To bring about any reform was a major accomplishment in itself. He also averted revolution. He played a blinder. In a democratic epoch he is castigated for not having gone further. Had he called for something more extensive then he would have alienated the more traditional men in his own Whig Party. His deeds have been commemorated by having a famous brand of tea named after him.

William IV also comes out of the crisis with credit. He was not petulant like his brother and father. Had he fumbled the situation there could have been a revolution. He showed foresight and calm in equal measure.

Following the Great Reform Act the situation became much more tranquil. However, things did not return to the calm of say 20 years before. There were still radicals who wanted further reform. However, enough of the bougeoisie had been enfranchised to make the difference. Some men who had favoured physical force to change the constitution came to favour moral force. They say that moral force could be crowned with success. Some radicals in their exuberance deluded themselves that votes for all men would come soon.

Perhaps oddly there were very few calls for any changes to the House of Lords. It was composed of Lords Temporal (all hereditary) and Lords Spiritual.

William IV had spent much of his time at sea. Hence he is known as the sailor king. He lived a more prosaic life than his roguish brother. Though William IV had been in America at the time of the Revolution he was not in any wise anti-American. He went out of his way to be courteous to Americans. His bid to patch up relations was successful.

William IV was married but had no children. His brother Edward Duke of Kent had died young. The Duke of Kent had wed Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. This German princess had been delivered of a bonny baby girl also named Victoria. The Crown would devolve upon this child.

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THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY.

Since the 1770s there had been an organised anti-slavery movement in the United Kingdom. At first it attracted support from certain Dissenters. There were even evangelicals within the Church of England who called for slavery to be outlawed.

The Clapham Sect were Anglicans who worshipped in a Church in Clapham, London. The Clapham Sect were all opposed to slavery as part of their evangelical Anglicanism. They included Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce MP. Wilberforce was tireless in exposing the vampirical cruelty of the slavers.

William Wilberforce was a Yorkshire Tory whose family made their money by importing timber from Scandinavia. He remains a hero in his native Hull where his statute takes pride of place in a major square. Wilberforce was also an advocate of kindness towards animals. This was highly unusual in an era where field sports, hare coursing, cock fighting and even bare baiting were extraordinarily popular. His anti-slavery activism was fused with strong anti-revolutionary convictions. He detested radicalism. Some put it to him that British plebeians lived little better than slaves. Was there not some linkage between the penury of British workers and the misery of slaves. Wilberforce would have none of it. He seems unclassifiable as belonging to any ideology.

In 1782 the House of Commons had passed an act to abolish slavery. The House of Lords blocked it. The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) was one of the firs Christian denominations to be outspoken in its opposition to slavery. The Pope had issued a bull against slavery centuries before but subsequent popes had done nothing about it. For them enslaving people was a peccadillo compared with something revoltingly sinful like eating meat on Friday.

William IV had been in favour of abolition for some time. The monarch did not have the decisive say on any issue but his influence was nonetheless helpful to the abolitionist caucus. William IV soon learnt not to be outspoken as monarch and to act on the advice of his ministers. If anything went wrong he could always blame them.

By the 1830s there was a majority view in the House of Commons that slavery needed to be ended. Only the especially callous claimed that slavery was not cruel. Some quibbled about how soon it should be abolished. Moderates quibbled about ending it ”gradually.” Fence sitters found reasons for delay such as the impact on the economy and whether slave owners should be compensated. These claims about concerns for the economy could be taken at face value. There is no question that slaves were exploited and denied their freedom. But once they were free would they be employed or left to starve?

There were distractions such as Sierra Leone. Freetown in that country was set up for freed slaves. They were known in Africa as creoles.

Some slave masters felt that insufficient courtesies were paid to them by abolitionists. Had they not rescued these poor ignorant Africans from heathenism and cannibalism? Were they not contributing tremendously to the economy of the empire? Did they not feed, clothe and house the slaves as well as teaching them English? Surely the slaves were morally indebted to their beneficent masters.

Abolitionists asked banteringly is slavery was so enviable would some of the masters wish to change places with the slaves?

The testimony of abolitionists who had met slaves and of former slaves made a mockery of pro-slavery pamphlets.

The slavery lobby was powerful and well-financed. Many MPs were rich owing to wealth whipped out of their slaves in the West Indies. They were stung by highly persuasive abolitionist publicity which exposed the wickedness of slavery and the inanity of pro-slavery discourse.

A string of abolitionists persuaded more and more Tories and Whigs to embrace their cause.

One strident Tory MP would denounced abolition was a Liverpudlian named William Ewart Gladstone. His family owned a plantation in the Bahamas. That is why some people bear the surname of those who once exploited them. W E Gladstone was a product of Eton and Oxford. His schoolfellows had known him for his industry and humourlessness. There is no doubting the sincerity and passion of his reactionary views on all matters political and ecclesiastical.

The abolitionists could not command a majority without making some concessions. That had to agree to the principle of compensation and to slavery being phased out.

In 1833 an act was passed abolishing slavery. However, the slaves would be obliged to remain as apprentices in the custody of their masters’. They would be free in 5 years. The slave owners were paid over 20 000 000 pounds for the loss of the labour of these thralls. This cushioned the financial blow for the exploiters. It also assuaged the pro-slavery argument that liberating slaves would damage the economy.

Slaves were granted their liberty in the West Indies, India, Singapore, Malaya and the new British colonies on the coast of Africa. Only Denmark had abolished slavery prior to this.

Slaves had won their freedom by their own heroic resistance in Haiti some years previously.

This was to be a foretaste of the arguments in the United States on the same head. The abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire was surely ancillary to the cause of abolition in the USA.

The prosperity of the West Indies was not sharply reduced by slaves being manumitted. The slaves were supposed to be free in 1838. In fact this was brought forward by one year and they all gained their rights in 1837.

The legislatures in the Caribbean were organised on British lines with the right to vote restricted to those who owned or rented a set value of property. In practice this meant that the former slaveholders still dominated the legislatures in all cases. No one was denied the right to vote by reason of colour or prior servitude. There were some black voters and their number increased rapidly over time as they acquired wealth. In Dominica the black community comprised the majority of the legislature within only a few years of liberation. Former slaves often continued much the same train de vie as they had experienced under slavery. They usually worked on plantations and often for the same masters. They were sometimes still beaten. However, they had the right to leave. Masters could not treat people as abominably as before. They could not be arbitrarily killed.

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VISCOUNT MELBOURNE

Earl Grey fell from office in July 1834. He was succeeded by Viscount Melbourne. Lord Grey is commemorated by a statue of him Newcastle which is near his home. It was erected on the centenary of the Great Reform Act. With the Great Depression afflicting Newcastle severely one would have thought that they might have had better things to spend money on.

Lord Melbourne had also been schooled at Eton and then at Trinity College, Cambridge. Trinity was the college which attracted the well got more so than any other college in Cambridge. Viscount Melbourne was a Whig of the old school. He was personally unambitious and was reluctant to become Prime Minister. He only accepted the position because he felt duty bound to do so. He was so traditional that he had even been opposed to the Great Reform Act. He only came onside to the Reform Act at the last possible minute. He did so to lower the chance of revolution. He longed for civil unrest to cease.

Viscount Melbourne had been one of those Whigs who were so old-fashioned that they were acceptable to the Tories. This is why he had served in the Cabinet in the late 1820s as Secretary of State for Ireland.

He viewed all proposed reforms with deep scepticism. He observed that major social changes such as Catholic Emancipation had not returned the United Kingdom to the calm it had formerly known. His ingenuity was in being undemonstrative and showing moderation. After a mere five months in office he was dismissed by George IV.

After Peel’s five months as Prime Minister his government fell. Melbourne and his Whigs came back into office.

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PEEL’S FIRST MINISTRY

In November 1834 Sir Robert Peel became Prime Minister. The Tories were back in but could not command a majority in the House of Commons. Peel decided to change that. He wanted an election as soon as possible so he requested that the king dissolve Parliament. His wish was granted.

In January 1835 Peel issued his renowned Tamworth Manifesto. It is called this because his constituency was Tamworth. This is the first manifesto in British politics. He adumbrated Conservative policies. He is the first Prime Minister properly regarded as a Conservative rather than a Tory.

Peel spent much of his manifesto explaining his position on Nonconformists. They would be allowed some more rights but not full equality. He was adamant that the two great English universities must remain firmly Anglican.

The Conservatives squeaked home but it was another minority government. The Repeal-Whig alliance thwarted the Conservatives. Peel resigned after three months and Lord Melbourne was back in.

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THE ANTIPODES

This was a period when extensive British settlement commenced in Australia. Terra Australis Incognita (Unknown Land of the South) was what the first cartographers had called it. The toponyms granted at that time reflect the illustrious persons in the United Kingdom.

The city of Melbourne takes its name from the Prime Minister – Lord Melbourne. Another city founded at this time is Adelaide. It is name after Queen Adelaide who was the wife of William IV. Australia was not a country as such. It was several different colonies. There was New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland and so on. Victoria did not have that name at the time because Queen Victoria had not yet ascended the Throne.

New Zealand had just received its new name. Previously it had been called New Holland by its Dutch discoverers. Even the word Zealand comes form the name of a province of the Netherlands. New Zealand was then treated as an extension of New South Wales.

People were still transported to Australia for what we would consider mere rascality.

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THE LICHFIELD HOUSE COMPACT

Radicals, Whigs and the Irish Repealers formed an alliance called the Lichfield House Compact. This is because the agreement was reached at that house.

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THE CHARTISTS

In the 1830s a political group called the Chartists became very prominent. They had the name Charists because they had a charter. A charter is a document that declares rights. They were founded in 1838. Theyy grew out of the London Workingmen’S Association. In fact they Charists were more popular in the English Midlands and northern England than anywhere else.

They took heart from the Great Reform Act. They felt it was a small step in the right direction. However, they proposed to go much further. They wanted democracy. One of the strengths of the Chartists is that they distilled their programme into 6 clear and easily understood objectives:

  1. Manhood suffrage. That is that all men should be suffered to vote. By suffered they mean be allowed to vote.
  2. Annual parliaments. The law then only required an election once every seven years. In fact elections were usually more frequent than that.
  3. The abolition for a property qualification for Members of Parliament. Until then only the very wealthy were allowed to be MPs.
  4. The introduction of the secret ballot. This was because landlords and employers could compel people to vote for their preferred candidate. This would also render bribery useless since it would be impossible to tell if someone voted the way he was paid to do.
  5. Salaries for MPs.
  6. Parliamentary divisions to be of equal population.

The Chartists had their own newspaper. It was called the Northern Star. They held indoor meetings and outdoor meetings all over the realm. They organised enormous petitions. They were a very significant force. Astonishingly they achieved nothing in the short term.

A famous Chartist MP was Feargus O’Connor from Cork.

Radicals shared their aims. Many Chartists were also members of the Anti Corn Law League.

However, the steam had gone out of radical agitation after 1832. This was partly that people had grown bored of politics. It was also because radical feeling was divided between the ACCL and the Chartists. There was no contradiction between the two causes and indeed there was some overlap. There was still talk of revolution in the air but this was less pronounced than in 1832. Many middle class people were content with the set up after 1832. 7% of men had the vote. As people grew richer more and more of them qualified for the vote. Even those who did not have the vote in 1838 anticipated getting it soon enough. Some middle class men still without the franchise stayed aloof from Chartism because they did not want proletarians to have the vote.

In 1839 there was the Newport Rising. John Frost lef a few hundred Chartists in an uprising. Few people were killed and troops easily suppressed the militants. Frost and a few of his lieutenants were sentenced to death. The government shrewdly commuted the sentences to transportation.

In 1839 millions of men signed a petition calling for the aims of the People’s Charter to become law. 9/10 MPs voted to not even hear the petition read out..

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THE CORN LAWS.

In the wake of the Napoleonic Law the Corn Laws had been introduced. This legislation inflated the price of corn. Economic protectionism was widespread at the time. The Corn Laws assisted farmers but were bad for the rest of the populace.

In the 1830s people began to protest against the Corn Laws. The tax on corn was a stomach tax. It was very regressive in that it hit the poorest hardest and hardly touched the affluent. In fact it enriched already wealth landowners.

Whigs came around to the view that the Corn Laws must go. Radicals fulminated against the Corn Laws as flagrantly unjust.

The Tory squirearchy was deeply attached to the Corn Laws.

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QUEEN VICTORIA

In 1837 George IV passed on. He was pleased to have lived long enough to see his niece Victoria attain the age of 18 years. Because she had reached woman’s estate she was no long under the tutelage of her mother. George IV had a notoriously strained relationship with the Duchess of Kent. The Duchess of Kent was Queen Victoria’s mother. Had George IV died before Queen Victoria reached the age of 18 then the Duchess of Kent would probably have been regent.

Viscount Melbourne was Prime Minister when Victoria inherited. He spent hours a day tutoring her and writing to her. He became a paternal figure for her. Some felt it was unseemly for her to be so openly affectionate towards a Prime Minister. It alienated Conservatives. She was conspicuously partial to Whigs and all her ladies of the bedchamber were Whigs.

The 18 year old Queen Victoria was an ebullient and erudite young woman. She was less daunted by her lot than one would expect. She had anticipated becoming queen for some years. Her uncle William IV had not had any surviving children with his wife Queen Adelaide. His dozen or so children outside marriage (mainly by Dorothea Jordan) were of course disbarred from the line of succession. Queen Victoria had been groomed for her role. She was not overawed by her ministers as she knew them well before she became queen.

Queen Victoria had a first cousin only a few months her junior. He was Prince Albert. Some had muttered about altering the rules touching succession. This would enable Albert to succeed. There had not been a queen regnant for well over 100 years.

Victoria took to her duties with panache tempered by wisdom. She did not take long to learn the ropes.

One of the first tasks was the search for a husband. Such a man must ideally be a prince. He must most certainly be a Protestant or at least willing to convert to Protestantism. He should be garnished with the sort of wit that would keep the wry Victoria entertained. Despite her sour puss reputation she was of a sunny disposition. Her mournful image only comes from the few years after the death of her husband in 1861. Victoria showed an eagerness to wed. This was possibly owing to her natural longings but perhaps it also arose from a sense of her duty to provide heirs.

Victoria’s reign ushered in a penchant for men to cease the outlandish and dandiefied mode of dress that had been the norm in previous decades.

Queen Victoria revelled in gossip. She was keenly aware of who had had affairs with whom. However, she set an example of purity on this score. An upper class woman must be faithful even if her husband was not.

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MELBOURNE’S MAJORITY GOVERNMENT

1835-41 Lord Melbourne was able to rule. The Conservatives adopted an attitude of constructive opposition. They would not vote against things just to be obstructive.

Melbourne wanted stability. Although demand for parliamentary reform abated other agitation increased. The Repeal Association in Ireland showed no sign of going away. The Anti Corn Law League campaigned vigorously for the Corn Laws to be scrapped.

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