Lord Aberdeen, who did not hope very great things from the war which had initiated during his Ministry, had yet deemed it possible that Eastern Europe might reap from it the benefit of a quarter of a century's peace. He was curiously near the mark in this estimate; but neither he nor any other English statesman was unwary enough to risk such a prophecy as to the general tranquillity of the Continent. In fact, the peace of Europe, broken in 1853, has been unstable enough ever since, and from time to time tremendous wars have shaken it. Into none of these, however, has Great Britain been again entrapped, though the sympathies of its people have often been warmly enlisted on this side and that. A war with China, which began in 1857, and cannot be said to have ended till 1860, though in the interim a treaty was signed which secured just a year's cessation of hostilities, was the most important undertaking in which the allied forces of France and England took part after the Crimea. In this war the allies were victorious, as at that date any European Power was tolerably certain to be in a serious contest with China. The closing act of the conflict - the destruction of the Summer Palace at Pekin, in retaliation for the treacherous murder of several French and English prisoners of distinction - was severely blamed at the time, but defended on the ground that only in this way could any effectual punishment of the offence be obtained. That act of vengeance and the war which it closed have an interest of their own in connection with the late General Gordon, who now entered on that course of extraordinary achievement which lacks a parallel in this century, and which began, in the interests of Chinese civilisation, shortly after he had taken a subordinate officer's part in the work of destruction at Pekin.

From this date England did not commit itself to any of the singular series of enterprises which our good ally, the French Emperor, set on foot. A feeling of distrust towards that potentate was invading the minds of the very Englishmen who had most cordially hailed his successes and met his advances. "The Emperor's mind is as full of schemes as a warren is full of rabbits, and, like rabbits, his schemes go to ground for the moment to avoid notice or antagonism," were the strong words of Lord Palmerston in a confidential letter of 1860; and when he could thus think and write, small wonder if calmer and more unprejudiced minds saw need for standing on their guard. Amid all the flattering demonstrations of friendship of which the French court had been lavish, and which had been gracefully reciprocated by English royality, the Prince Consort had retained an undisturbed perception of much that was not quite satisfactory in the qualifications of the despotic chief of the French State for his difficult post. Thus it is without surprise that we find the Queen writing in 1859, as to a plan suggested by the Emperor: "The whole scheme is the often-attempted one, that England should take the chestnuts from the fire, and assume the responsibility of making proposals which, if they lead to war, we should be in honour bound to support by arms." The Emperor had once said of Louis Philippe, that he had fallen "because he was not sincere with England"; it looked now as though he were steering full on the same rock, for his own sincerity was flawed by dangerous reservations.

England remained an interested spectator, but a spectator only, while the French ruler played that curiously calculated game of his, which did so much towards insuring the independence of Italy and its consolidation into one free monarchy. It was no disinterested game, as the cession of Nice and Savoy to France by Piedmont would alone have proved. It was daring to the point of rashness; for as a French general of high rank said, there needed but the slightest check to the French arms, and "it was all up with the dynasty!" Yet the "idea" which furnished the professed motive for the Emperor's warlike action was one dear to English sympathies, and many an English heart rejoiced in the solid good secured for Italy, though without our national co-operation. There was a proud compensating satisfaction in the knowledge that, when a crisis of unexampled and terrible importance had come in our own affairs, England had perforce dealt with it single-handed and with supreme success.

Those who can remember the fearful summer of 1857 can hardly recall its wild events without some recurrence of the thrill of horror that ran through the land, as week after week the Indian news of mutiny and massacre reached us. It was a surprise to the country at large, more than to the authorities, who were informed already that a spirit of disaffection had been at work among our native troops in Bengal, and that there was good reason to believe in the existence of a conspiracy for sapping the allegiance of these troops. Later events have left little doubt that such a conspiracy did exist, and that its aim was the total subversion of British power. Our advance in Hindostan had been rapid, the changes following on it many, and not always such as the Oriental mind could understand or approve. Early in the reign, in 1847, an energetic Governor-General, Lord Dalhousie, went out to India, who introduced railways, telegraphs, and cheap postage, set on foot a system of native education, and vigorously fought the ancient iniquities of suttee, thuggee, and child-murder. Perhaps his aggressive energy worked too fast, too fierily; perhaps his peremptory reforms, not less than his high-handed annexations of the Punjaub, Oude, and other native States, awakened suspicion in the mind of the Hindoo, bound as he was by the immemorial fetters of caste, and dreading with a shuddering horror innovations that might interfere with its distinctions; for to lose caste was to be outlawed among men and accursed in the sight of God.

Lord Canning, the successor of Lord Dalhousie, entered on his governor-generalship at a moment full of "unsuspected peril"; for the disaffected in Hindostan had so misread the signs of the times as to believe that England's sun was stooping towards its setting, and that the hour had come in which a successful blow could be struck, against the foreign domination of a people alien in faith as in blood from Mohammedan and Buddhist and Brahmin, and apt to treat all alike with the scorn of superiority. A trivial incident, which was held no trifle by the distrustful Sepoys, proved to be the spark that kindled a vast explosion. The cartridges supplied for use with the Enfield rifle, introduced into India in 1856, were greased; and the end would have to be bitten off when the cartridge was used. A report was busily circulated among the troops that the grease used was cow's fat and hog's lard, and that these substances were employed in pursuance of a deep-laid design to deprive every soldier of his caste by compelling him to taste these defiling things. Such compulsion would hardly have been less odious to a Mussulman than to a Hindoo; for swineflesh is abominable to the one, and the cow a sacred animal to the other. Whoever devised this falsehood intended to imply a subtle intention on the part of England to overthrow the native religions, which it was hoped the maddened soldiery would rise to resist. The mischief worked as was desired. In vain the obnoxious cartridges were withdrawn from use; in vain the Governor-General issued a proclamation warning the army of Bengal against the falsehoods that were being circulated. Mysterious signals, little cakes of unleavened bread called chupatties, were being distributed, as the spring of 1857 went on, throughout the native villages under British rule, doing the office of theFiery Cross among the Scotch Highlanders of an earlier day; and in May the great Mutiny broke out.

Some of the Bengal cavalry at Meerut had been imprisoned for refusing to use their cartridges; their comrades rose in rebellion, fired on their officers, released the prisoners, and murdered some Europeans. The British troops rallied and repulsed the mutineers, who fled to Delhi, unhappily reached it in safety, and required and obtained the protection of the feeble old King, the last of the Moguls, there residing. Him they proclaimed their Emperor, and avowed the intention of restoring his dynasty to its ancient supremacy. The native troops in the city and its environs at once prepared to join them; and thus from a mere mutiny, such as had occurred once and again before, the rising assumed the character of a vast revolutionary war. For a moment it seemed that our hard-won supremacy in the East was disappearing in a sea of blood. The foe were numerous, fanatical, and ruthless; we ourselves had trained and disciplined them for war; the sympathies of their countrymen were very largely with them. Yet, with incredible effort and heroism more than mortal, the small and scattered forces of England again snatched the mastery from the hands of the overwhelming numbers arrayed against them.

One name has obtained an immortality of infamy in connection with this struggle - that of the Nana Sahib, who by his hideous treachery at Cawnpore took revenge on confiding Englishmen and women for certain wrongs inflicted on him in regard to the inheritance of his adopted father by the last Governor-General. But many other names have been crowned with deathless honour, the just reward of unsurpassed achievement, of supreme fidelity and valour, at a crisis under which feeble natures would have fainted and fallen. Of these are Lord Canning himself, the noble brothers John and Henry Lawrence, the Generals Havelock, Outram, and Campbell, and others whom space forbids us even to name.

The Governor-General remained calm, resolute, and intrepid amidst the panic and the rage which shook Calcutta when the first appalling news of the Mutiny broke upon it. He disdained the cruel counsels of fear, and steadily refused to confound the innocent with the guilty among the natives; but he knew where to strike, and when, and how. On his own responsibility he stayed the British troops on their way to the scene of war in China, and made them serve the graver, more immediate need of India, doing it with the concurrence of Lord Elgin, the envoy responsible for the Chinese business; and he poured his forces on Delhi, the heart of the insurrection, resolving to make an end of it there before ever reinforcement direct from England could come. After a difficult and terrible siege, the place was carried by storm on September 20th, 1857 - an achievement that cost many noble lives, and chief among them that of the gallant Nicholson, a soldier whose mind and character seem to have made on all who knew him an impression as of supernatural grandeur.

Five days later General Havelock and his little band of heroes - some one thousand Englishmen who had marched with him from Allahabad, recaptured by Neill for England, and on to ghastly Cawnpore - arrived at Lucknow, and relieved the slender British force which since May had been holding the Residency against the fierce and ever-renewed assaults of the thousands of rebels who poured themselves upon it. He came in time to save many a brave life that should yet do good service; but the noblest Englishman of them all, the gentle, dauntless, chivalrous Sir Henry Lawrence, Governor of Oude, had died from wounds inflicted by a rebel shell many weeks before, and lay buried in the stronghold for whose safe keeping he had continued to provide in the hour and article of death. His spirit, however, seemed yet to actuate the survivors. Havelock's march had been one succession of victories won against enormous odds, and half miraculous; but even he could work no miracle, and his troops might merely have shared a tragic fate with the long-tried defenders of Lucknow, but for the timely arrival of Sir Colin Campbell with five thousand men more, to relieve in his turn the relieving force and place all the Europeans in Lucknow in real safety. The news was received in England with a delight that was mingled with mourning for the heroic and saintly Havelock, who sank and died on November 24th. A soldier whose military genius had passed unrecognised and almost unemployed while men far his inferiors were high in command, he had so more than profited by the opportunity for doing good service when it came, that in a few months his name had become one of the dearest in every English home, a glory and a joy for ever. It is rarely that a career so obscured by adverse fortune through all its course blazes into such sunset splendour just at the last hour of life's day.

Those months which made the fame of Havelock had been filled with crime and horror. The first reports of Sepoy outrages which circulated in England were undoubtedly exaggerated, but enough remains of sickening truth as to the cruelties endured by English women and children at the hand of the mutineers to account for the fury which filled the breasts of their avenging countrymen, and seemed to lend them supernatural strength and courage, and, alas! in some instances, to merge that courage in ferocity. Delhi had been deeply guilty, when the mutineers seized it, in respect of inhuman outrage on the helpless non-combatants; but the story of Cawnpore is darker yet, and is still after all these years fresh in our memories. A peculiar blackness of iniquity clings about it. That show of amity with which the Nana Sahib responded to the summons of Sir Hugh Wheeler, the hard-pressed commanding officer in the city, only that he might act against him; those false promises by which the little garrison, unconquerable by any force, was beguiled to give itself up to mere butchery; the long captivity of the few scores of women and children who survived the general slaughter, only, after many dreary days of painful suspense, to be murdered in their prison-house as Havelock drew near the gates of Cawnpore: all these circumstances of especial horror made men regard their chief instigator rather as one of the lower fiends masquerading in human guise than as a fellow-creature moved by any motives common to men. It was perhaps well for the fair fame of Englishmen that the Nana never fell into their hands, but saved himself by flight before the soldiers of Havelock had looked into the slaughter-house all strewn with relics of his victims and grimly marked with signs of murder, or had gazed shuddering at the dreadful well choked up with the corpses of their countrywomen. It required more than common courage, justice, and humanity, to withstand the wild demand for mere indiscriminating revenge which these things called forth. Happily those highest in power did possess these rare qualities. Lord Canning earned for himself the nickname of "Clemency Canning" by his perfect resoluteness to hold the balance of justice even, and unweighted by the mad passion of the hour. Sir John (afterwards Lord) Lawrence, the Chief Commissioner of the Punjaub, who, with his able subordinates, had saved that province at the very outset, and thereby in truth saved India, was equally firm in mercy and in justice. The Queen herself, who had very early appreciated the gravity of the situation and promoted to the extent of her power the speedy sending of aid and reinforcement from England, thoroughly endorsed the wise and clement policy of the Governor-General. Replying to a letter of Lord Canning's which deplored "the rabid and indiscriminate vindictiveness abroad," Her Majesty wrote these words, which we will give ourselves the pleasure to quote entire: -

"Lord Canning will easily believe how entirely the Queen shares his feelings of sorrow and indignation at the unchristian spirit, shown, alas! also to a great extent here by the public, towards Indians in general, and towards Sepoys without discrimination! It is, however, not likely to last, and comes from the horror produced by the unspeakable atrocities perpetrated against the innocent women and children, which make one's blood run cold and one's heart bleed! For the perpetrators of these awful horrors no punishment can be severe enough; and sad as it is, stern justice must be dealt out to all the guilty.

"But to the nation at large, to the peaceable inhabitants, to the many kind and friendly natives who have assisted us, sheltered the fugitive, and been faithful and true, there should be shown the greatest kindness. They should know that there is no hatred to a brown skin - none; but the greatest wish on their Queen's part to see them happy, contented, and flourishing."

These words well became the sovereign who, by serious and cogent argument, had succeeded in inducing her Ministers to strike strongly and quickly on the side of law and order, they having been at first inclined to adopt a "step-by-step" policy as to sending out aid, which would not have been very grateful to the hard-pressed authorities in India; while the Queen and the Prince shared Lord Canning's opinion, that "nothing but a long continued manifestation of England's might before the eyes of the whole Indian empire, evinced by the presence of such an English force as should make the thought of opposition hopeless, would re-establish confidence in her strength."

The necessary manifestation of strength was made; the reputation of England - so rudely shaken, not only in the opinion of ignorant Hindoos, but in that of her European rivals - was re-established fully, and indeed gained by the power she had shown to cope with an unparalleled emergency. The counsels of vengeance were set aside, in spite of the obloquy which for a time was heaped on the true wisdom which rejected them. We did not "dethrone Christ to set up Moloch"; had we been guilty of that sanguinary folly, England and India might yet be ruing that year's doing. On the contrary, certain changes which did ensue in direct consequence of the Mutiny were productive of undoubted good.

It was recognised that the "fiction of rule by a trading company" in India must now be swept away; one of the very earliest effects of the outbreak had been to open men's eyes to the weak and sore places of that system. In 1858 an "Act for the better Government of India" was passed, which transferred to Her Majesty all the territories formerly governed by the East India Company, and provided that all the powers it had once wielded should now be exercised in her name, and that its military and naval forces should henceforth be deemed her forces. The new Secretary of State for India, with an assistant council of fifteen members, was entrusted with the care of Indian interests here; the Viceroy, or Governor-General, also assisted by a council, was to be supreme in India itself. The first viceroy who represented the majesty of England to the Queen's Indian subjects was the statesman who had safely steered us through the imminent, deadly peril of the Mutiny, and whom right feeling and sound policy alike designated as the only fit wearer of this honour. Under the new regime race and class prejudices have softened, education is spreading swiftly, native oppression is becoming more difficult, as improved communications bring the light of day into the remoter districts of the immense peninsula. The public mind of England has never quite relapsed into its former scornful indifference to the welfare of India; rather, that welfare has been regarded with much keener interest, and the nation has become increasingly alive to its duty with regard to that mighty dependency, now one in allegiance with ourselves. There was much of happy omen in the reception accorded by loyal Hindoos to the Queen's proclamation when it reached them in 1858. While the mass of the people gladly hailed the rule of the "Empress," by whom they believed the Company "had been hanged for great offences," there were individuals who were intelligent enough to recognise with delight that noble character of "humanity, mercy, and justice," which was impressed by the Queen's own agency on the proclamation issued in her name. We may say that the joy with which such persons accepted the new reign has been justified by events, and that the same great principles have continued to guide all Her Majesty's own action with regard to India, and also that of her ablest representatives there.

We may not leave out of account, in reckoning the loss and gain of that tremendous year, the extraordinary examples of heroism called forth by its trials, which have made our annals richer, and have set the ideal of English nobleness higher. The amazing achievements and the swiftly following death of the gallant Havelock did not indeed eclipse in men's minds the equal patriotism and success of his noble fellows, but the tragic completeness of his story and the antique grandeur of his character made him specially dear to his countrymen; and the fact that he was already in his grave while the Queen and Parliament were busy in assigning to him the honours and rewards which his sixty years of life had hitherto lacked, added something like remorse to the national feeling for him. But the heart of the people swelled high with a worthy pride as we dwelt on his name and those of the Lawrences, the Neills, the Outrams, the Campbells, and felt that all our heroes had not died with Wellington.

Other anxieties and misfortunes had not been lacking while the fate of British India still hung in the balance. The attitude of some European Powers, whom the breaking forth of the Mutiny had encouraged in the idea that England's power was waning, was full of menace, especially in view of what the Prince Consort justly called "our pitiable state of unpreparedness" for resisting attack. Prompted by him, the Queen caused close inquiry to be made into the state of our home defences and of the navy - the first step towards remedying the deficiencies therein existing. Also a "cold wave" seemed to be passing over the commercial community in England; the year 1857 being marked by very great financial depression, which affected more or less every department of our industries. In connection with this calamity, however, there was at least one hopeful feature: the very different temper which the working classes, then, as always, the greatest sufferers by such depression, manifested in the time of trial. They showed themselves patient and loyal, able to understand that their employers too had evils to endure and difficulties to surmount; they no longer held all who were their superiors in station for their natural enemies: a happy change, testifying to the good worked by the new, beneficent spirit of legislation and reform.

It is under the date of this year that we find Mr. Greville, on the authority of Lord Clarendon, thus describing the very thorough and "eminently useful" manner in which the Queen, assisted by the Prince, was exercising her high functions: -

"She held each Minister to the discharge of his duty and his responsibility to her, and constantly desired to be furnished with accurate and detailed information about all important matters, keeping a record of all the reports that were made to her, and constantly referring to them; e.g., she would desire to know what the state of the navy was, and what ships were in readiness for active service, and generally the state of each, ordering returns to be submitted to her from all the arsenals and dockyards, and again, weeks or months afterwards, referring to these returns, and desiring to have everything relating to them explained and accounted for, and so throughout every department....This is what none of her predecessors ever did, and it is, in fact, the act of Prince Albert."

We turn from this picture of the Sovereign's habitual occupations to her public life, and we find it never more full of apparently absorbing excitements - splendid hospitalities exchanged with other Powers, especially with Imperial France, alternating with messages of encouragement, full of cordiality and grace, to her successful commander-in-chief in India, Sir Colin Campbell, with plans for the conspicuous rewarding of the Indian heroes at large, with public visits to various great English towns, and with preparations for the impending marriage of the Princess Royal; and we realise forcibly that even in those sunny days, when the Queen was surrounded with her unbroken family of nine blooming and promising children, and still had at her right hand the invaluable counsellor by whose aid England was governed with a wisdom and energy all but unprecedented, her position was so far from a sinecure that no subject who had his daily bread to gain by his wits could have worked much harder.