Thursday, January 20, 2011

January 31, 1854 --- "Albert's in the Tower"

In the House of Lords, the leaders of both parties rise on the first day of the new Parliamentary session to defend Prince Albert, the subject of unprecedented attacks and rumors.  War fever is running high against Russia.  Once again, the Russians were belaboring England's ally, the Turks.  The Prince, allege his detractors, is pro-Tsar and has treasonably forced the resignation from the cabinet of the popular Lord Palmerston, a leading Russophobe.  Papers loyal to Lord Pam gleefully smear the Prince, charging that he has been in league with "the enemies of England and the subservient tools of Russian ambition." 

A rumor sweeps London that the Queen, discovering her husband's disloyalty, has locked him in the Tower.  A popular street ballad of the day goes:
Jolly Turk, now go to work and show the Bear (Russia) your power.
It's rumored over Britain's isle, that A-----'s in the Tower.
Crowds actually gathered hoping to catch a the glimpse of the imprisoned Prince.  Albert, who was not in prison, wrote to his dear friend Dr. Stockmar, "One almost fancies one's self in a lunatic asylum."  Victoria is sympathetic and worries that the attacks are wearing on the Prince's always fragile health: "With his keen and very high feeling of honor, he is wounded, hurt and enraged by the attack on his honor, and is looking very ill, though his spirits do not fail him." 

Finally, the Queen demands that Prime Minister Aberdeen respond to these attacks, arguing that "in attacking the Prince ... the throne is assailed."  The ineffectual Aberdeen bestirs himself to denounce the "scandalous and groundless imputations cast upon the illustrious Prince."  The Tory leader, Lord Derby, joins in the effort, hoping to silence the "mischievous slanders" that have been given too much attention.  From the Lords gallery, the Queen and her Prince looked on and were cheered by all.  Returning to the Palace, the Queen thought the crowds in Westminster were "very friendly."  The press attacks on Albert subsided, leaving The Times to wonder how any one could have credited "such skimble-skamble stuff."

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