Monday, March 28, 2011

April 6, 1864 --- More She Cannot Do

In the day's Court column, The Times publishes a statement from Buckingham Palace.  When the letter arrived at Printing House Square, John Delane, the paper's venerable editor, immediately recognized that the handwriting was that of the Queen herself. Victoria bids to counter mounting criticism of her continuing seclusion, now more than two years after Albert's death. On 1 April, April Fools Day, The Times inserted a brief note: "Her Majesty's loyal subjects will be very pleased to hear that their Sovereign is about to break her protracted seclusion."

The Queen's reply, in part, read: "An erroneous idea seems generally to prevail ... that the Queen is about to resume the place in society which she occupied before her great affliction. This idea cannot be too explicitly contradicted.  The Queen heartily appreciates the desire of her subjects to see her, and whatever she can do to gratify them in this loyal and affectionate wish, she will do."  However, she adds that she has no plans to resume any purely ceremonial duties which "can be equally well performed by other members of her family:" Reminding the country of Her Majesty's "utter and ever-abiding desolation," the statement concludes. "More the Queen cannot do and more the kindness and good feeling of her people will surely not extract from her."

Some of the Queen's friends are dismayed by the letter; Lord Clarendon called it "infra dig." Nor did it satisfy all her critics. Rumors of abdication are spread by unfriendly newspapers. Great play is given to a handbill posted on the gates to Buckingham Palace offering the property for rent, "The late occupant having retired from business." In late June, the Queen was allowed to be seen in an open carriage being driven from the Palace to Paddington for her train to Windsor. She wrote to her uncle, King Leopold of Belgium, "It was quite unexpected, and, though very painful, pleased people more than anything."

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