On May 28, 1900, the Orange Free State was annexed under the name of the Orange River Colony. In June Lord Roberts entered Pretoria, but the war dragged on until 1902, when a Peace Conference was held and the Boer Republics became part of the British Empire. Very liberal terms were offered to and accepted by the conquered Dutch. But long before this event took place Queen Victoria had passed away. She had followed the whole course of the war with the deepest interest and anxiety, and when Lord Roberts returned to this country, leaving Lord Kitchener in command in South Africa, the Queen was desirous of hearing from his own lips the story of the campaign.
The public was already uneasy about the state of her health, and on January 20th it was announced that her condition had become serious. On Tuesday, January 22, she was conscious and recognized the members of her family watching by her bedside, but on the afternoon of the same day she peacefully passed away. One of the last wishes she expressed was that her body should be borne to rest on a gun-carriage, for she had never forgotten that she was a soldier’s daughter.
On the day of the funeral the horses attached to the gun-carriage became restive, and the sailors who formed the guard of honour took their place, and drew the coffin, draped in the Union Jack, to its last resting-place.
Through the streets of London, which had witnessed two great Jubilee processions, festivals of rejoicing and thanksgiving, the funeral cortege passed, and a great reign and a great epoch in history had come to an end.
The keynote of Queen Victoria’s life was simplicity. She was a great ruler, and at the same time a simple-minded, sympathetic woman, the true mother of her people. She seemed by some natural instinct to understand their joys and their sorrows, and this was the more remarkable as for forty years she reigned alone without the invaluable advice and assistance of her husband.
Her qualities were not those which have made other great rulers famous, but they were typical of the age in which she lived.
All her life she was industrious, and never spared herself any time or trouble, however arduous and disagreeable her duties might be. She possessed the keenest sense of duty, and in dealing with men and circumstances she never failed to do or say the right thing. Her daily intercourse with the leading English statesmen of the time gave her an unrivalled knowledge of home and foreign politics. In short, her natural ability and good sense, strengthened by experience, made her what she was, a perfect model of a constitutional monarch.
During her reign the Crown once again took its proper place: no longer was there a gulf between the Ruler and the People, and Patriotism, the love of Queen and Country, became a real and living thing. Pope’s adage, “A patriot is a fool in every age,” could no longer be quoted with any truth.