Albert to Aberdeen

Friday, 9th December 1853

From the Pavilion of the family’s holiday home at Osborne on the Isle of Wight, Prince Albert wrote,

“My dear Lord Aberdeen,—The Queen has consulted with Lord John Russell upon the Reform plan, and on the question of Lord Palmerston’s position with regard to it; and he will doubtless give you an account of what passed. She wishes me, however, to tell you likewise what strikes her with respect to Lord Palmerston.

“It appears to the Queen clear that the Reform Bill will have no chance of success unless prepared and introduced in Parliament by a united Cabinet; that, if Lord Palmerston has made up his mind to oppose it and to leave the Government, there will be no use in trying to keep him in it, and that there will be danger in allowing him to attend the discussions of the Cabinet, preparing all the time his line of attack; that if a successor to him would after all have to be found at the Home Office, it will be unfair not to give that important member of the Government full opportunity to take his share in the preparation and deliberation on the measure to which his consent would be asked.

“Under these circumstances it becomes of the highest importance to ascertain

        1. What the amount of objection is that Lord Palmerston entertains to the Measure;
        2. What the object of the declaration was, which he seems to have made to you.

“This should be obtained in writing, so as to make all future misrepresentation impossible, and on this alone a decision can well be taken, and, in the Queen’s opinion, even the Cabinet could alone deliberate.

“Should Lord Palmerston have stated his objections with the view of having the Measure modified it will be right to consider how far that can safely be done, and for the Queen, also, to balance the probable value of the modification with the risk of allowing Lord Palmerston to put himself at the head of the Opposition Party, entailing as it does the possibility of his forcing himself back upon her as leader of that Party.

“Should he on the other hand consider his declaration as a “notice to quit,” the ground upon which he does so should be clearly put on record, and no attempt should be made to damage the character of the Measure in the vain hope of propitiating him. Ever yours truly, Albert.”