Lord Beaconsfield, whom she regarded with sincere affection, possessed a remarkable influence over the Queen, for the simple reason that he never forgot to treat her as a woman. He was noted throughout his life for his chivalry to the opposite sex, and his devotion to his wife was very touching.
He was a firm believer in the power of the Crown for good. “The proper leader of the people,” he declared, “is the individual who sits upon the throne.” He wished the Sovereign to be in a position to rule as well as to reign, to be at one with the nation, above the quarrels and differences of the political parties, and to be their representative.
When quite a young man, he declared that he would one day be Prime Minister, and with this end in view he entered Parliament against the wishes of his family. He was an untiring worker all his life, and a firm believer in action. “Act, act, act without ceasing, and you will no longer talk of the vanity of life,” was his creed.
His ideas on education were original, and he did everything in his power to improve the training of the young. In 1870 he supported the great measure for a scheme of national education. Some years earlier he declared that “it is an absolute necessity that we should study to make every man the most effective being that education can possibly constitute him. In the old wars there used to be a story that one Englishman could beat three members of some other nation. But I think if we want to maintain our power, we ought to make one Englishman equal really in the business of life to three other men that any other nation can furnish. I do not see otherwise how . . . we can fulfil the great destiny that I believe awaits us, and the great position we occupy.”
He did more than any other Minister to raise the Crown to the position it now occupies, and no monarch ever had a more devoted and faithful servant. His high standard of morals and his force of character especially appealed to the English people, and his loyalty to his friends and colleagues remained unshaken throughout his whole life. He impressed not only his own countrymen, but also foreigners, with his splendid gifts of imagination and foresight.
Bismarck, the man of ‘blood and iron,’ who welded the disunited states of Germany into a united and powerful empire, considered that Queen Victoria was the greatest statesman in Europe, and of the great Beaconsfield he said: “Disraeli is England.”
Disraeli was a master of wit and phrase, and many of his best sayings and definitions have become proverbial, e.g. “the hansom, the ‘gondola’ of London,” “our young Queen and our old institutions,” “critics, men who have failed,” “books, the curse of the human race.”
[Illustration: Sir Robert Peel, Lord Melbourne, Benjamin Disraeli Photo W.A. Mansell & Co.]