In spite of slight improvements from time to time, the Prince showed no power of fighting the disease, and on the evening of the 14th December he passed gently away.
It is no exaggeration to say that the death of the Queen’s beloved husband saddened every home in the land; it was a sorrow felt equally by the highest and the lowest. He died in the fulness of his manhood, leaving her whom he had loved and guarded so tenderly to reign in lonely splendour.
In the dedication of Idylls of the King to the memory of Prince Albert, Tennyson, the poet-laureate, wrote:
Break not, O woman’s-heart,
but still endure;
Break not, for thou art Royal, but endure,
Remembering all the beauty of that star
Which shone so close beside Thee that ye made
One light together, but has past and leaves
The Crown a lonely splendour.
When one looks over the vista of years which have passed since that mournful day, it is with sadness mingled with regret. For it is too true that “a prophet is not without honour, save in his own country.”
‘Albert the Good’ was, like many other great men, in advance of his times, and not until he was dead did the nation as a whole realize the blank he had left behind him.
Even so late as 1854 Greville writes in his Diary of the extraordinary attacks which were made upon the Prince in the public Press. Letter after letter, he noted, appeared “full of the bitterest abuse and all sorts of lies. . . . The charges against him are principally to this effect, that he has been in the habit of meddling improperly in public affairs, and has used his influence to promote objects of his own and the interests of his own family at the expense of the interests of this country; that he is German and not English in his sentiments and principles; that he corresponds with foreign princes and with British Ministers abroad without the knowledge of the Government, and that he thwarts the foreign policy of the Ministers when it does not coincide with his own ideas and purposes.” And again: “It was currently reported in the Midland and Northern counties, and actually stated in a Scotch paper, that Prince Albert had been committed to the Tower, and there were people found credulous and foolish enough to believe it.”
English gratitude is always such
To hate the hand which doth oblige too much.
These words of Daniel Defoe help to explain something of the attitude of a part of the nation toward the Prince in his lifetime.
He had given his life in the service of his wife and his adopted country, but he was a ‘foreigner,’ and the insular Briton, brought up in the blissful belief that “one Englishman was as good as three Frenchmen,” could not and would not overcome his distrust of one who had not been, like himself, so singularly blessed in his nationality.
But Time has its revenges, and the services of Prince Albert will “smell sweet and blossom in the dust” long after the very names of once famous lights of the Victorian era have been forgotten.