Many comments have been made on the indifference which the country showed to domestic reform during these years of Liberal Government; but it is not very surprising. It is a familiar fact that when foreign affairs are exciting the people are not eager about social or political reform, a fact upon which Governments have always been able to count. And foreign affairs had been very exciting. Under Lord John and Palmerston our own foreign policy had been bold and peremptory; the policy of France was directed by Napoleon, whose head, as Palmerston said, was as full of schemes as a rabbit-warren is of rabbits; and the quarrel of 1852 between Prussia and Denmark had arisen again in a far acuter form. It was, therefore, natural that popular attention should be constantly turned abroad.
The deaths of those who linked Lady John with her childhood now came quickly. Her father, Lord Minto, died a month after Lord John had taken office. He had been ailing for some time.
LONDON.—PEMBROKE LODGE, May 2, 1859
John at 7 a.m. to Huntingdon to propose Mr. Heathcote at nomination; back to Pembroke Lodge about five, having been very well received, but chiefly by the ill-dressed. Papa surprisingly well—saw him on my way out of town; far the happiest sight I had yet had of him. Dear Papa, he looked so pleased, smiled so brightly when he saw me. “Ah, dear Fanny! How glad I am to see you! How fresh and well you look.” Held my hand all the time I was with him.... I said I hoped in his place I should be as patient—that he was an example to us all, as he always had been.... Said few daughters could look back at my age without being able to remember having heard from their father one word but of love and kindness....
He died on July 31, 1859. His keen interest in public questions continued to the end, with a firm belief in the ultimate triumph of good. “Magna est veritas et prevalebit” were almost the last words he spoke on his death-bed.
During the autumn of 1860 Lord John accompanied the Queen to Coburg, where boar-shooting with the Prince Consort and Court-life (he never liked its formalities) failed to console him for absence from wife and children.
Lady John to Lord John Russell
PEMBROKE LODGE, October 11, 1860
I found two letters from you here.... So you are fairly on your journey and safe so far. And here I am with my large detachment, all well and merry, and all at dear beloved home again after our wanderings. I am so thankful, and I hope to be still more so in five days, when I am no longer doomed to sing “There’s nae luck about the house,” as I have done daily for three weeks.... That you should have killed a wild boar is all but incredible, and makes me expect to see you with a long moustache and green Faeger costume.
In April, 1861, Lord John’s second daughter, Victoria, married Mr. Villiers, son of the Bishop of Durham. Lady John wrote some verses to her on her marriage which are published in Walpole’s “Life of Lord John Russell.”