But four more years were to elapse before the central figure was ready to be placed under its starry canopy. It was designed by Mr. Foley, though in one particular the sculptor’s freedom was restricted by Mr. Scott. “I have chosen the sitting posture,” Mr. Scott said, “as best conveying the idea of dignity befitting a royal personage.” Mr. Foley ably carried out the conception of his principal. “In the attitude and expression,” he said, “the aim has been, with the individuality of portraiture, to embody rank, character, and enlightenment, and to convey a sense of that responsive intelligence indicating an active, rather than a passive, interest in those pursuits of civilisation illustrated in the surrounding figures, groups, and relievos... To identify the figure with one of the most memorable undertakings of the public life of the Prince—the International Exhibition of 1851—a catalogue of the works collected in that first gathering of the industry of all nations, is placed in the right hand.” The statue was of bronze gilt and weighed nearly ten tons. It was rightly supposed that the simple word “Albert,” cast on the base, would be a sufficient means of identification.
Lord Palmerston’s laugh—a queer metallic “Ha! ha! ha!” with reverberations in it from the days of Pitt and the Congress of Vienna—was heard no more in Piccadilly; Lord John Russell dwindled into senility; Lord Derby tottered from the stage. A new scene opened; and new protagonists—Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Disraeli—struggled together in the limelight. Victoria, from her post of vantage, watched these developments with that passionate and personal interest which she invariably imported into politics. Her prepossessions were of an unexpected kind. Mr. Gladstone had been the disciple of her revered Peel, and had won the approval of Albert; Mr. Disraeli had hounded Sir Robert to his fall with hideous virulence, and the Prince had pronounced that he “had not one single element of a gentleman in his composition.” Yet she regarded Mr. Gladstone with a distrust and dislike which steadily deepened, while upon his rival she lavished an abundance of confidence, esteem, and affection such as Lord Melbourne himself had hardly known.
Her attitude towards the Tory Minister had suddenly changed when she found that he alone among public men had divined her feelings at Albert’s death. Of the others she might have said “they pity me and not my grief;” but Mr. Disraeli had understood; and all his condolences had taken the form of reverential eulogies of the departed. The Queen declared that he was “the only person who appreciated the Prince.” She began to show him special favour; gave him and his wife two of the coveted seats in St. George’s Chapel at the Prince of Wales’s wedding, and invited him to stay a night at Windsor.