Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January 6, 1868 --- The All Clear at Osborne

The Home Secretary, Mr. Gathorne Hardy, informs Queen Victoria that the feared Fenian plot to kidnap her from the Isle of Wight appears to have been a hoax.  Lord Monck, the Governor-General of Canada, had sent word in mid-December that two boatloads of Fenians had sailed for England: their mission to abduct the Queen while she spent her Christmas holiday at Osborne House.  The tip could not be ignored.  The Fenians had been active in Britain in 1867 [q.v. 18 September: the Manchester murder & 13 December: the Clerkenwell bombing.] The Queen refused, however, to seek safety at either Windsor Castle ("There are great many nasty people about there.") or Buckingham Palace ("London is full of Irish.")  Instead, security was ratcheted up at Osborne; soldiers augmented the usual local constabulary.  Victoria chafed under the restrictions, calling them "utterly unbearable" and how they had reduced her holiday to "such a bore." 

After two weeks, the Home Office had concluded that it was all a false alarm.  In an angry reply from Osborne House, the Queen singled out poor Lord Monck: he should be "utterly ashamed" for spreading such an "absurd and mad story." 

Though her advisers might panic, the Queen remained steadfast throughout:
To the Queen this is a great satisfaction and a great triumph ... The Queen has now reigned nearly 31 years, is 48 years old, has lived in troubled times.  She has been shot at three times, once knocked on the head, threatening letters have over and over again been received, and yet we never changed our mode of living or going on!  This the Queen hopes will be a lesson for the future, and that these panics (which have affected the Queen's health very much from the annoyance and worry which they entailed) will not be again recurred to every two or three months.
[Painting: Queen Victoria at Osborne House]

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