|Letters of Queen Victoria: 1837 - 1861
Extracts concerning Ireland
Edited by Arthur Christopher Benson, M.A.
and Viscount Esher, G.C.V.O., K.C.B
Published by John Murray, 1908
Queen Victoria as a young woman.
|At the time of the first letter, Victoria was seventeen years old.
The Princess Victoria to the King of the Belgians,
MY MOST BELOVED UNCLE, - Sir Henry Harding’s motion was quite lost, I am happy to say, and don’t you think, dearest Uncle, that it has almost done good, as it proves that the Tories have lost all chance of getting in? It was a trial of strength, and the Ministry have triumphed. I have been reading in the papers, what I suppose you already know, that it is believed that the Lords will pass the Irish Corporation Bill; and also that Ministers mean to drop for the present the question about Church Rates, as the Radicals, being angry with Ministers relative to Canada business, would not support them well.
The Princess Victoria to the King of the Belgians, 2nd May
[…] The Irish Tithes question came on last night in the House of Commons, and I am very anxious for the morning papers, to see what has been done…
MY DEAR UNCLE.- …I had a very brilliant Levée again yesterday, at which O’Connell and all his sons, son-in-law, nephew, etc., appeared. I received him, as you may imagine, with a very smiling face; he has been behaving very well this year. It was quite a treat for me to see him, as I had for long wished it….
Viscount Melbourne to Queen
I am afraid that times of some trouble are approaching, for which your Majesty must hold yourself prepared; but your Majesty is too well acquainted with the nature of human affairs not to be well aware that they cannot very well go on even as quietly as they have gone on during the last sixteen months.
Sir Robert Peel to the
SIR, - In consequence of the conversation which I had with your Royal Highness on Thursday last on the subject of Ireland, I beg to mention to your Royal Highness that the Cabinet met again to-day at Lord Aberdeen’s house.
We had a very long discussion.
The prevailing opinion was that if legislation were proposed, that legislation should be as effectual as possible; that there would be no advantage in seeking for new powers unless these powers were commensurate with the full extent of the mischief to be apprehended.
Foreseeing, however, all the difficulties of procuring such powers, and the increased excitement which must follow the demand for them, we were unwilling to come to an immediate decision in favour of recommending new legislation, and resolved therefore to watch the course of events for some time longer, continuing precautionary measures against disturbances of the public peace.
I have not received any material
I have the honour to be, Sir, with
sincere respect, your Royal Highness’ most faithful and humble Servant, ROBERT
MY BELOVED UNCLE, - Here we are in a great state of agitation about one of the greatest measures even proposed. I am sure poor Peel ought to be blessed by all Catholics for the manly and noble way in which he stands forth to protect and do good to poor Ireland. But the bigotry, the wicked blind passions it brings forth is quite dreadful, and I blush for Protestantism! A Presbyterian clergyman said very truly, “Bigotry is more common than shame…”
The Queen has just seen Lord
Bessborough, who presses very much for her going to
It is a journey which must one day or other be undertaken, and which the Queen would be glad to have accomplished, because it must be disagreeable to her that people should speculate whether she dare visit one part of her dominions. Much will depend on the proper moment, for, after those speculations, it ought to succeed if undertaken.
The Queen is anxious that when undertaken it should be a National thing, and the good which it is to do must be a permanent and not a transitory advantage to a particular Government, having the appearance of a party move.
As this is not a journey of pleasure like the Queen’s former ones, but a State act, it will have to be done with a certain degree of State, and ought to be done handsomely. It cannot be expected that the main expense of it should fall upon the Civil List, nor would this be able to bear it.
The Queen has received Lord John
Russell’s letter. The state of
There are ample means of crushing
the Rebellion in
Lord John Russell to the Earl of
I have the satisfaction to inform
your Excellency that I have received the Queen’s commands to acquaint you that
Her Majesty hopes to be able in the course of the present summer to fulfil the
intention, which you are aware she has long entertained, of a visit to
The Queen has received Lord John Russell’s letters. She returns Lord Clarendon’s, and the very kind one of the Primate.
With respect to Lord Clarendon’s
suggestion that the Prince of Wales should be created Duke, or rather, as Lord
John says, Earl of
We are sorry that Lord John does
not intend going to
We hope Lady John and the baby continue to go on well.
MY DEAREST UNCLE, - Though this
letter will only go tomorrow, I will begin it to-day and tell you that
everything has gone off beautifully since we arrived in Ireland, and that our
entrance into Dublin was really a magnificent thing. By my letter to Louise you
will have heard of our arrival in the Cove of Cork. Our visit to
7th.- I was unable to continue till now, and have since
received your kind letter, for which I return my warmest thanks. We went into
We drove out yesterday afternoon
and were followed by jaunting-cars and riders and people running and screaming,
which would have amused you. In the evening we had a dinner party, and so we
have to-night. This morning we visited the Bank, the
George is here, and has a
command here. He rode on one side of our carriage yesterday. You see more
ragged and wretched people here than I ever saw anywhere else. En revanche, the women are really very
handsome – quite in the lowest class – as well at
I must now take my leave. Ever your most affectionate Niece, VICTORIA R.
The Earl of Clarendon to Sir George Grey,
MY DEAR GREY, - If I had known where to direct I should have thanked you sooner for your two welcome letters from Belfast, where everything seems to have gone off to our heart’s desire, and the Queen’s presence, as to the Stipendiary Magistrate writes word, has united all classes and parties in a manner incredible to those who know the distance at which they have hitherto been kept asunder.
The enthusiasm here has not
abated, and there is not an individual in
Even the ex-Clubbists, who threatened broken heads and windows before the Queen came, are now among the most loyal of her subjects, and are ready, according to the police reports, to fight any one who dare say a disrespectful word of Her Majesty.
In short, the people are not only
enchanted with the Queen and the gracious kindness of her manner and the
confidence she has shown in them, but they are pleased with themselves for
their own good feelings and behaviour, which they consider having removed the
barrier that hitherto existed between the Sovereign and themselves, and that
they now occupy a higher position in the eyes of the world. Friend Bright was
with me to-day, and said he would not for the world have missed the embarkation
The Queen has received Lord John
Russell’s explanation respecting the brevet promotions on the occasion of her
visit to Ireland, but cannot say that his objections have convinced her of the
impropriety of such a promotion (to a limited extent). To Lord John’s fears of
the dangerous consequences of the precedent, the Queen has only to answer, that
there can be only one first visit to
Ireland, and that the first visit to
Scotland in 1842 was followed by a few promotions, without this entailing
promotions on her subsequent visits to that part of the country; that even the
first visit to the Channel Islands was followed by promotions, and this under
Lord John’s Government. All the precedents being in accordance with the
proposition made by the Duke, an opposition on the part of the Government would
imply a declaration against all brevets except in the field, which would
deprive the Crown of a most valuable prerogative. If such a brevet as the one
proposed were to lead to great additional expense, the Queen could understand
the objection on the ground of economy; but the giving brevet rank to a few
subaltern officers is too trifling a matter to alarm the Government. Perhaps
the number might be reduced even, but to deviate from the established
precedents for the first time altogether in this case, and that after the
excellent behaviour of the Army in
The Queen therefore wishes Lord John to ask the Duke to send him the former precedents and to consider with his colleagues whether a modified recommendation cannot be laid before her.
MY BELOVED UNCLE,- Not to miss your messenger I write a few
hurried lines to thank you for your two dear letters of the 16th and
the 22nd, the last of which I received yesterday morning here… Would
to God that affairs in
Yesterday was again a bad day. I have felt weak and very nervous, and so low at time; I think so much of dearest mamma, and miss her love and interest and solicitude dreadfully; I feel as if we were no longer cared for, and miss writing to her and telling her everything, dreadfully. At the Review they played one of her marches, which entirely upset me.
Good Lord Carlisle is most kind and amiable, and so much beloved. We start for Killarney at half-past twelve. This is the dearest of days, and one which fills my heart with love, gratitude, and emotion. God bless and protect for ever my beloved Albert – the purest and best of human beings! We miss our four little ones and baby sadly, but have our four eldest (except poor Vicky) with us.
 The Irish Municipal Bill, to
convert Corporations of Municipalities into Electoral Councils, was introduced
in the House of Commons on the 15th of February. The Bill was
opposed by the Conservatives, but passed the House of Commons. In the Lords an
 The Irish Tithe Bill, a measure to facilitate the collection of tithes, was abandoned because the Tories would not consent to any secular appropriation of Church revenues and the Whigs would not consent to the withdrawal of their amendments. A remarkable feature in the Bill was a proposal that a portion of very clergyman’s income should be applied to education, as was already prescribed by a former Act.
 Ever since the Accession, O’Connell’s speeches had been full of expressions of loyalty, and he had been acting in concert with the Whigs.
 In consequence of the Repeal agitation, the Ministers had already introduced an Irish Arms Bill, which was carried.
 The Bill to increase the grant to the Roman Catholic College of Maynooth was carried by Peel in the teeth of opposition from half his party: another measure was passed to establish colleges for purely secular teaching (“godless colleges” they were nicknamed) in Cork, Belfast, and Galway, and affiliate them to a new Irish university.
 As Macaulay had said during
the previous night’s debate: “The Orangeman raises his war whoop, Exeter Hall
sets up its bray, Mr Macneile shudders to see more costly cheer than ever
provided for the priests of Baal at the table of the Queen, and the Protestant
 Lord John George de la Poer Beresford (1773 – 1862) was Archbishop of Armagh from 1822 until his death.
 The late Duke of Cambridge.
 Seditious clubs had been an important factor in the Irish disturbances of 1848.
 Lord Carlisle was Viceroy in both the administrations of Lord Palmerston; as Lord Morpeth he had been Chief Secretary in the Melbourne Government.