A bare enumeration of the difficulties which beset the new Prime Minister brings home a sense of his unenviable position. Ireland was on the verge of starvation and revolt; everywhere in Europe the rebellions which culminated in 1848 were beginning to stir, seeming then more formidable than they really were in their immediate consequences; in England the Chartist movement was thought to threaten Crown and Constitution; and, in addition, the country had taken alarm at the weakness of its military defences. Lastly, for power to meet all these emergencies Lord John was dependent, at every juncture, upon the animosity between the Protectionists and Peelites proving stronger than the dislike which either party felt for the Government. There were 325 Liberals in the House; the Protectionists numbered 226; the Conservative Free Traders 105; so the day Protectionists and Peelites came to terms would be fatal to the Government. Such were the troubles of the Prime Minister, who was a man to take them hard. As for his wife, her diaries and letters show that, however high her spirit and firm her principles, her nature was an intensely anxious one.
In December, 1846, they both went down for a short holiday to Chorley Wood, where, on the last night of the year, they held a “grand ball for children and servants. All very merry. John danced a great deal, and I not a little. Darling Johnny danced the first country dance, holding his Papa’s hand and mine.”
On January 1, 1847, Lady John wrote in her diary that the year was beginning most prosperously for her and those dearest to her. “Within my own home all is peace and happiness.” About a month later she became dangerously ill in London.
LONDON, February 21, 1847
I have been very ill since I last wrote.... I felt that life was still dear to me for the sake of those I love and of those who depend on me.... I saw the look of agony of my dearest husband; I thought of my heart’s treasure—my darling boy; I thought of my other beloved children; I thought of those still earlier loved—my dear, dear Papa and Mama, brothers and sisters. But I was calm and ready to go, if such should be God’s will.... Dr. Rigby has been not only the most skilful doctor, but the kindest friend.
In the spring of this year, 1847, the Queen offered Pembroke Lodge to the Prime Minister. He accepted with thankfulness, and throughout life both he and Lady John felt deep gratitude to the Queen for their beautiful home.