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Queen Victoria and Her Conflict with Lord Palmerston

Moving on with our Queen Victoria series, today we will discuss about Queen Victoria’s “cold” treatment of one of her ministers, Lord Palmerston. We shall see how this long-running conflict began.

Lord Palmerston was also on conflict's edge with the royal couple.
The defeat of the Tories in the 1846 General Elections saw the dismissal of Sir Robert Peel from the office. With the Whigs on the helm of the government, Henry John Temple, the Viscount Palmerston was appointed Minister of the Foreign Office. His ascension to that post ushered in the greatest struggle between the crown and its ministers since the day when George III had dismissed the coalition government of Fox and North.

Lord Palmerston’s long tenure in public office made up almost untouchable
Palmerston’s appointment to the Foreign Office came shortly after he celebrated his 60th birthday, a time when he could proudly look back on his achievements and career in the government that began in 1809, ten years before Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were born. Always confident in his wit and diplomatic skills, he is well-regarded by his colleagues and enemies alike with his strong capacity solve every problem in the office at an instant.

Lord Palmerston’s differences with Prince Albert

Cunning, brave, unpretentious, and disdainful when dealing with other foreign potentates and diplomatic envoys, Lord Palmerson was, in any way, the opposite of Prince Albert’s dignified and rigid personality. This led to a breach in the relationship between the two men. Albert made it known that he never trusted Palmerston. His dislike to him was such that, with the advice of Stockmar, he came to a point of arguing with him over his interpretation of the British Constitution.

In the rivalry that ensued between the two, Victoria, as always, went on Albert’s side. The queen vehemently and passionately opposed Palmerston’s policy and on his interpretation of the British Constitution – a constitution noted for its flexibility and endurance in the passing of time. At the height of the conflict, Lord Clarendon, after a dinner with the royal pair, quipped that the queen and the prince-consort “labored under the curious mistake that the Foreign Office was their peculiar department, and that they had the right to control, if not direct, the foreign policy of England.”

Lord John Russell sides with the royal pair

Amidst the heated quarrel between the royal couple and Lord Palmerston, the former was eventually able to employ the support of the prime minister Lord John (later Earl) Russell. Russell was always at loggerheads with Palmerston for treating his colleagues as casually as he did to the sovereign. He took important decisions to himself and made crucial orders without consulting either the queen or the prime minister.


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