The news of her engagement to Prince Albert was received by him with the keenest pleasure, and the Queen in writing to her uncle says: “Lord Melbourne, whom I of course have consulted about the whole affair, quite approves my choice, and expresses great satisfaction at the event, which he thinks in every way highly desirable. Lord Melbourne has acted in this business, as he has always done toward me, with the greatest kindness and affection.”
It was a real wrench to the Queen when the time for parting came. Melbourne, with his easy-going nature and somewhat free and easy language, had schooled himself as well as his young pupil, and had become a friend as well as an adviser. Some words of Greville’s might aptly serve for this great statesman’s epitaph:
“It has become his providence to educate, instruct, and form the most interesting mind and character in the world. No occupation was ever more engrossing or involved greater responsibility . . . it is fortunate that she has fallen into his hands, and that he discharges this great duty wisely, honourably, and conscientiously.”
The Queen was equally fortunate in his successor, Sir Robert Peel, a statesman for whom she had every confidence and respect, “a man who thinks but little of party and never of himself.”
Peel was never afraid of making up his mind and then sticking to his plan of action, although, as often happened, it brought him into opposition with members of his own party. In his hands both the Queen and her husband felt that the interests of the Crown were secure.
Peel naturally felt considerable embarrassment on first taking up office, as he had given support in the previous year to a motion which proposed cutting down the Prince’s income. But the Prince felt no resentment, and so frank and cordial was his manner that Peel, following Lord Melbourne’s lead, continued to keep him, from day to day, thoroughly in touch with the course of public affairs.
The relations between the Queen and her Minister were cordial in the extreme. Peel appreciated very fully her simple domestic tastes, and he was able at a later date to bring before her notice Osborne, which might serve as a “loophole of retreat” from the “noise and strife and questions wearisome.”
The Queen was delighted with the estate. “It is impossible to see a prettier place, with woods and valleys and points de vue, which would be beautiful anywhere; but when these are combined with the sea (to which the woods grow down), and a beach which is quite private, it is really everything one could wish.”
In 1845 the Queen asked Lord Aberdeen if she could not show in some way her appreciation of the courage with which Sir Robert Peel had brought forward and supported two great measures, in the face of tremendous opposition. She suggested that he should be offered the Order of the Garter, the highest distinction possible.