The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 27
I think it would be interesting to you to know how your Queen in her private life deals with men of science. (Cheers.) We know but little of the reign of Elizabeth, a sovereign of say about six million people, but the little we do know betokens a haughtiness with those about her, and the gracious acts performed for her were to such acts of subserviency, as that of Sir Walter Raleigh, who threw down his cloak to prevent her treading in the mud, but there was nothing in that Queen's condescension which would make a man of science feel as if his knowledge rendered him in the Queen's estimation her equal in that respect. I will read two letters of Sir Charles Lyell in illustration of this subject. The first letter is without date, but that does not matter, because the second gives it. It is as follows:—" My dear Grey,—If you are not too much engaged, will you be my guest at the Geological Society Club, on Wednesday next, and go to the Society's meeting after it if so disposed. We dine very punctually at half-past five o'clock, in order to be in time for the early meeting, where I expect a good discussion. We meet at Clunn's Hotel, Convent Garden, in morning dress. I enclose a card. You need not reply.—Ever page 17 faithfully yours, Chas. Lyell." But he had an invitation himself, and for another day and so this comes:—"53, Harley-street, March 26, 1860. My clear Grey,—I have just received a letter from Colonel Biddulph saying that I am to dine with Her Majesty on Wednesday 'if not inconvenient,' instead of Tuesday (to-morrow) for which I had received a card. So I must go to the Palace instead of receiving you at our club as I had hoped." What I would ask you to do is, consider the sovereign of upwards of one hundred million people sending a message to a man of science saying she would rather he dined with her on another day "if not inconvenient to him." Nothing could be more courteous or kind. Does it not show a sympathy with her subjects which must fill us with admiration for her? (Cheers.) Is it any wonder that in her reign science has made such progress as it has, when these are the terms upon which she lived with the men who have adorned her reign by their discoveries and their abilities. What a lesson from a Queen to all her subjects, to respect the feelings, to be courteous to all with whom they come in contact. Is it wonderful that by such acts she has won the love of rich and poor alike?
I am anxious furthermore, to mention to you one other subject in reference to your Queen. I told you that I thought you would all like to know something of your sovereign. I will tell you what occurred on the day after her accession, and show you what curious work her Ministers first put before her to do. There are some duties which one can conceive the monarch of a great Empire has to perform on such an occasion. Here was a young girl, almost a child, ascending the Throne. There must have been certain things of great importance to which her attention should have been drawn. Immediately after her accession to the Throne, there was a letter to which the Royal sign-manual was attached, and which signature was most beautifully written—the handwriting almost of a child, and very different from her present signature—but written with the greatest care, her desire evidently being while making this her first signature to public documents, to give her subjects a good impression of their sovereign, to show them that nothing was done carelessly by her that was a public duty, although it might only be attaching a signature to a document. She had to write her signature probably to some hundreds of copies of this paper. You may guess the time that would be occupied in signing such a number of documents. And what was this document? It was one in which certain terms in the prayers, collects, and liturgies, customary to be used for the sovereign thoroughout her vast dominions, were to be altered. For instance, wherever the word "King" was used "Queen" was to be used, and wherever the word "William" was used, "Victoria" was to be used. These were directions which every one of her subjects had complied with before this letter could reach the various authorities, page 18 and were absolutely unnecessary, for one proclamation would have done for all, but such was the first duty imposed upon the greatest Queen the world has seen for many centuries. You will have that document in your possession. You will see how your great and good sovereign employed her first day after her accession. Probably the like of it will never occur again. Nevertheless you will see how a great monarch can be occupied in such circumstances. There is another illustration of the use to which these letters may be put. I would wish to draw your attention to this, that if you read these letters carefully you will find that no man in the present century or in the end of the last century, who was a hero or made an idol of by the people, but was distinguished by certain qualities which were little marked, but which in their letters you will find developed, and I will pass to a letter of Lord Nelson's to show how completely this is worked out. The occasion was this—but I would put this to you first of all. Supposing an Admiral in time of war, in command of a fleet, and not a very large fleet, were asked to grant a convoy to the merchant vessels of a foreign government, with whom England was on no particular good footing, don't you think the great majority of these men would say—" Hang these captains; what have I to do with them? It is as much as I can do to take care of Her Maiesty's ships and British vessels; I am not going out of my way to protect people who pay nothing for the cost of this navy, and whose safety would be no advantage to us." You are all aware of the feeling which the United States bore to George III. They believed him to be a tyrant and oppressor. They had wrongs and grievances, and it was to his actions and passions that they were attributed.