Prussia and Italy had declared war against Austria, Hanover, Bavaria, and Hesse on the day the Russell Government was defeated. At Custozza the Italians were badly beaten by the Austrians, under the Archduke Charles.
Alas, alas! for poor Italy! Alas for everybody engaged in this most wicked and terrible German war! Surely it is all wrong that two or three bad, ambitious—men should be able to cause the death and misery of thousands upon thousands. Our day at Harrow, Agatha with us, was very happy. I never had heard John so heartily cheered by the boys.
He was in his seventy-fourth year, and he was never again to bear the cares of office. That summer they went down to Endsleigh, which they had not visited since the first years of their marriage,
ENDSLEIGH, August 4, 1866
John, Georgy, and I here about 7.30, after a beautiful journey. Lovely Endsleigh! it is like a dream to be here.... Thoughts of the old happy days haunting me continually. To church, to Fairy Dell. Places all the same—everything else altered.
During 1866 Lord Russell finished his “Life of Fox.” In the autumn and winter he and his family travelled in Italy, where they were often feted by the people of the towns through which they passed. At the close of the seven weeks’ war Austria had ceded Venetia to Italy, and on November 7th they witnessed the entry of Victor Emmanuel into Venice as King of all Italy. It was a magnificent and most impressive sight. Lord Russell was full of thankfulness and joy at the deliverance of Venetia from foreign rule, and the triumph of a free and united Italy.
In the memoir of Count Pasolini by his son (translated by the Countess of Dalhousie) the following passage occurs:
Lord John Russell was then in Venice, and came to view the pageant from our windows in Palazzo Corner. When my mother saw this old friend appear with the tricolor upon his breast, she said, “Fort bien, Milord! nos couleurs italiennes sur votre coeur!” He shook her by the hand, and answered, “Pour moi je les ai toujours portees, Comtesse. Je suis bien content de vous trouver ici aujourd’hui; c’est un des plus beaux jours de notre siecle!”
Somebody then said to Lord Russell what a pity it was that the sun of Italy did not shine more brightly to gild the historical solemnity. “As for that,” said he, “England shows her sympathy by sending you her beloved fog from the Thames.”