Queen Victoria was, above all, a great lover of peace, and did all in her power for its promotion. Her personal influence was often the means of smoothing over difficulties both at home and abroad when her Ministers had aggravated instead of lessening them. She formed her own opinions and held to them, though she was always willing to listen to reason.
The Memorandum which she drew up in the year 1850 shows how firm a stand she could take when her country’s peace seemed to be threatened.
Lord Palmerston, though an able Minister in many respects, was a wilful, hot-headed man, who was over-fond of acting on the spur of the moment without consulting his Sovereign. His dispatches, written as they so often were in a moment of feverish enthusiasm, frequently gave offence to foreign monarchs and statesmen, and were more than once nearly the cause of war. It was remarked of him that “the desk was his place of peril, his pen ran away with him. His speech never made an enemy, his writing has left many festering sores. The charm of manner and urbanity which so served him in Parliament and in society was sometimes wanting on paper, and good counsels were dashed with asperity.”
Lord Palmerston, the Queen complained, did not obey instructions, and she declared that before important dispatches were sent abroad the Sovereign should be consulted. Further, alterations were sometimes made by him when they had been neither suggested nor approved by the Crown.
Such proceedings caused England, in the Queen’s own words, to be “generally detested, mistrusted, and treated with indignity by even the smallest Powers.”
In the Memorandum the Queen requires:
“(1) That he will distinctly state what he proposes in a given case, in order that the Queen may know as distinctly to what she has given her royal sanction.
“(2) Having once given her sanction to a measure, that it be not arbitrarily altered or modified by the Minister. Such an act she must consider as a failure in sincerity towards the Crown, and justly to be visited by the exercise of her Constitutional right of dismissing that Minister. She expects to be kept informed of what passes between him and the Foreign Ministers, before important decisions are taken, based upon that intercourse; to receive the Foreign dispatches in good time and to have the drafts for her approval sent to her in sufficient time to make herself acquainted with their contents before they must be sent off. The Queen thinks it best that Lord John Russell should show this letter to Lord Palmerston.”
More than once the alteration of a dispatch by the Queen prevented what might easily have plunged this country into a disastrous war.
After the Mutiny in India a proclamation was issued to the native races, and the Queen insisted upon alterations which would clearly show that their religious beliefs should in no way be interfered with, thus preventing a fresh mutiny.