Prince Albert Memorandum 4

Sunday, 25th December 1853

Windsor Castle. 

On Christmas Day, Prince Albert found time to record as personal memorandum, further insight into the fraught matter of the necessity of including Palmerston in Government, especially upon news that Palmerston himself “begs to have his resignation considered as not having taken place.”

Prince Albert wrote:

“[Prime Minister] Lord Aberdeen had an Audience of the Queen yesterday afternoon. He reported that some of his colleagues, Sir C. Wood, the Duke of Newcastle, and Mr Gladstone, had been very anxious that Lord Palmerston should be readmitted into the Cabinet; they had had interviews with him in which he had expressed his hope to be allowed to reconsider his step. Lady Palmerston had been most urgent upon this point with her husband. All the people best conversant with the House of Commons stated that the Government had no chance of going on with Lord Palmerston in opposition, and with the present temper of the public, which was quite mad about the Oriental Question and the disaster at Sinope. Even Sir W. Molesworth [the only member of the Radical Party in the Coalition Ministry] shared this opinion.

“Lord Palmerston had written a letter to Lord Aberdeen, in which he begs to have his resignation considered as not having taken place, as it arose entirely from a misapprehension on his part, his having believed that none of the details of the Reform Measure were yet open for consideration, he had quite agreed in the principle of the Measure! Lord Aberdeen saw Lord John and Sir J. Graham, who convinced themselves that under the circumstances nothing else remained to be done. Lord Aberdeen having asked Lord John whether he should tell the Queen that it was a political necessity, he answered: “Yes, owing to the shabbiness of your colleagues,” to which Lord Aberdeen rejoined: “Not shabbiness; cowardice is the word.”

“Lord Aberdeen owns that the step must damage the Government, although it ought to damage Lord Palmerston still more. Lord John’s expression was: “Yes, it would ruin anybody but Palmerston.”

“Lord Aberdeen thinks, however, that he can make no further difficulties about Reform, and he, Lord John, and Graham were determined to make no material alterations in the Bill. Graham is suspicious lest the wish to get Palmerston in again, on the part of a section of the Cabinet, was an intrigue to get the Measure emasculated. Lord Aberdeen does not believe this….

“Lord Aberdeen describes Lord John’s feeling as very good and cordial towards him. He, Lord John, had even made him a long speech to show his gratitude for Lord Aberdeen’s kindness to him.”