The central figure of his time was the statesman-warrior, the great Duke of Wellington, ‘the Duke.’ After the famous Marlborough, England had not been able to boast of such a great commander. He was the best known figure in London, and though he never courted popularity or distinction, yet he served his Queen as Prime Minister when desired. “The path of duty” was for him “the way to glory.” In 1845 the greatest wish of his life was realized when the Queen and her husband paid him a two days’ visit at his residence, Strathfieldsaye.
Alfred Tennyson’s “Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington,” in 1852, praises him as ‘truth-teller’ and ‘truth-lover,’ and mourns for him:
Let the long, long procession
And let the sorrowing crowd about it grow,
And let the mournful, martial music blow;
The last great Englishman is low.
In striking contrast to the ‘Iron Duke’ was the man whom Disraeli could never learn to like, Lord John Russell. Generally depicted in the pages of Punch as a pert, cocksure little fellow, ’little Johnny,’ the leader of the Whig party was a power as a leader. He knew how to interpret the Queen’s wishes in a manner agreeable to herself, yet he did not hesitate, when he thought it advisable, to speak quite freely in criticism of her actions.
His ancestors in the Bedford family had in olden days been advisers of the Crown, and Lord John thus came of a good stock; he himself, nevertheless, was always alert to prevent any encroachment upon the growing powers and rights of the people.
He was a favourite of the Queen, and she gave him as a residence a house and grounds in Richmond Park. He was a man of the world and an agreeable talker, very well read, fond of quoting poetry, and especially pleased if he could indulge in reminiscences in his own circle of what his royal mistress had said at her last visit.
Finally, mention must be made of one who, though he held no high position of State, can with justice be regarded as both friend and adviser of the Queen—John Brown. He entered the Queen’s service at Balmoral, became later a gillie to the Prince Consort, and in 1851 the Queen’s personal outdoor attendant. He was a man of a very straightforward nature and blunt speech, and even his Royal Mistress was not safe at times from criticism. In spite of his rough manner, he possessed many admirable qualities, and on his death in 1883 the Queen caused a granite seat to be erected in the grounds of Osborne with the following inscription:
A TRUER, NOBLER, TRUSTIER HEART,
AND MORE LOYAL, NEVER BEAT WITHIN
A HUMAN BREAST.
CHAPTER XIII: Queen and Empire
What should they know of England who only England know?
The England of Queen Elizabeth was the England of Shakespeare: