With the death of Lord Palmerston in 1865, a sort of truce in the strife of parties, which his supremacy had secured, came to an end. That supremacy had been imperilled for a moment when the Government declined to make an armed intervention in the struggle between Denmark and the German Powers in 1864. Such an intervention would have been very popular with the English people, who could hardly know that "all Germany would rise as one man" to repel it if it were risked. But the English Premier's rare command of his audience in Parliament enabled him to overcome even this difficulty; and the gigantic series of contests on the Continent which resulted in the consolidation of the German empire, the complete liberation of Italy, the overthrow of Imperialism in France and of the temporal power of the Pope even in Rome itself, went on its way without our interference also, which would hardly have been the case had we intermeddled in the ill-understood contention between Denmark and its adversaries as to the Schleswig-Holstein succession.

That strange crime, the murder of President Lincoln, in America just when the long contest between North and South had ended and the cause of true freedom had triumphed, was actually fruitful of good as regarded this country and the United States. A cry of horror went up from all England at the news of that "most accursed assassination," which seemed at the moment to brand the losing cause, whose partisan was guilty of it, with the very mark of Cain. Expressions of sympathy with the outraged country and of admiring regret for its murdered head were lavished by every respectable organ of opinion; while the Queen, by writing in personal sympathy, as one widow to another, to the bereaved wife of Lincoln, made herself, as she has often done, the mouthpiece of her people's best feeling. Again and again has it been manifested that America and England are in more cordial relations with each other since the tremendous civil war than before it. It is no matter of statecraft, but a better understanding between two great English-speaking peoples, drawn into closer fellowship by far more easy communication than of old.

A little war with Ashantee, not too successful, a difficulty with Japan, some more serious troubles with New Zealand, exhaust the list of the warlike enterprises of England in the last years of Palmerston. In a year or two after his death we were engaged in a brief and entirely successful campaign against the barbaric King Theodore of Abyssinia, "a compound of savage virtue and more than savage ambition and cruelty," who, imagining himself wronged and slighted by England, had seized a number of British subjects, held them in hard captivity, and treated them with such capricious cruelty as made it very manifest that their lives were not worth an hour's purchase. It fell to the Ministry of Mr. Disraeli, Premier on the resignation of his colleague Lord Derby, who had displaced Earl Russell in that office, to bring this strange potentate to reason by force of arms. Under Sir Robert Napier's management the work was done with remarkable precision; no English life was lost; and but few of our soldiers were wounded; Magdala, the mountain eyrie of King Theodore, was stormed and destroyed, and the captives, having been surrendered under dread of the British arms, were restored to freedom and safety. The honour of our land, imperilled by the oppression of our subjects was triumphantly vindicated; other good was not achieved. Theodore, unwilling to survive defeat, was found dead by his own hand when Magdala was carried, and he was afterwards succeeded on the Abyssinian throne by a chief who had more than all his predecessor's vices and none of his virtues. For this well-managed campaign Sir Robert Napier was raised to the peerage as Lord Napier of Magdala. The swift success, the brilliant promptitude, of his achievement are almost painful to recall to-day, in face of another enterprise for the rescue of a British subject, conducted by a commander not less able and resolute, at the head of troops as daring and as enthusiastic, which was turned into a conspicuous failure by unhappy delayings on the part of the civil authorities, in the fatal winter of 1884-5.

Turning our eyes from foreign matters to the internal affairs of the United Kingdom, we see two great leaders, Mr. Disraeli and Mr. Gladstone - whose "long Parliamentary duel" had begun early in the fifties of this century - outbidding each other by turns for the public favour, and each in his different way ministering to the popular craving for reform. With Mr. Disraeli's first appearance as leader of the house of Commons, this rivalry entered on its most noticeable stage; it only really ceased with the life of the brilliant, versatile, and daring litterateur and statesman who died as Earl Beaconsfield, not very long after his last tenure of office expired in 1880. In 1867 Mr. Disraeli, as Leader of the Lower House, carried a measure for the reform of the franchise in England, and the year following similar measures with regard to Ireland and Scotland. In 1869 it was Mr. Gladstone's turn, and he introduced and carried two remarkable Bills - one for the disestablishment of the Irish Church, and one for the amendment of land tenure in Ireland, the latter passing into law in August, 1870. It had long been felt as a bitter grievance by the mass of Irishmen that the Church established in their country should be one which did not command the allegiance of one-sixth of its people and though opinion in England was sharply divided as to the question of Irish disestablishment, the majority of Englishmen undoubtedly considered the grievance to be something more than a sentimental one, and deserving of removal. Another startling measure of reform was the abolition of purchase in the army, carried in the face of a reluctant House of Lords by means of a sudden exercise of royal prerogative under advice of the Government; the Premier announcing "that as the system of purchase was the creation of royal regulation, he had advised the Queen to take the decisive step of cancelling the royal warrant which made purchase legal" - a step which, however singular, was undoubtedly legal, as was proved by abundant evidence.

A measure which may not improbably prove to have affected the fortunes of this country more extensively than any of those already enumerated was the Education Bill introduced by Mr. Forster in 1870, and designed to secure public elementary education for even the humblest classes throughout England and Wales. Hitherto the teaching of the destitute poor had been largely left to private charity or piety, and in the crowded towns it had been much neglected, with the great exception of the work done in Ragged Schools - those gallant efforts made by unpaid Christian zeal to cope with the multitudinous ignorance and misery of our overgrown cities. It was very slowly that the national conscience was aroused to the peril and sin of allowing the masses to grow up in heathen ignorance; but at last the English State shook off its sluggish indifference to the instruction of its poor, and became as active as it had been supine. Mr. Forster's Bill is the measure which indicates this turning of the tide. We do not propose now to discuss the provisions of this Act, which were sharply canvassed at the time, and which certainly have not worked without friction; but we may say that the stimulus then given to educational activity, if judged by subsequent results, must be acknowledged to have been advantageous. The system of schools under the charge of various religious bodies, which existed before the Education Act, has not been superseded; that indeed would have been a deep misfortune, for it is more needed than ever; the masses of the population have been, to an appreciable extent, reached and instructed; and we shall not much err in connecting as cause and effect the wider instruction with the diminution of pauperism and crime which the statistics of recent years reveal.

The same member who honoured himself and benefited his country by this great effort to promote the advance of the "angel Knowledge" also introduced, in 1871, the Ballot Bill, designed to do away with all the violence and corruption that had long disgraced Parliamentary elections in this free land, and that showed no symptom of a tendency to reform themselves. The new system of secret voting which was now adopted has required, it is true, to be further purified by the recent Corrupt Practices Bill and its stringent provisions; but no one, whose memory is long enough to recall the tumultuous and discreditable scenes attendant on elections under the old system, will be inclined to deny that much that was flagrantly disgraceful as well as dishonest has been swept away by the reforming energy of our own day.

It is to the same period, made memorable by these internal reforms, that we have to refer the final settlement of the long-standing controversy between Great Britain and the United States as to the Alabamaclaims. We have already referred to these claims and the peaceful though very costly manner of their adjustment. That the award on the whole should go against us was not very grateful to the English people; but when the natural irritation of the hour had time to subside, the substantial justice of the decision was little disputed. While England was thus busied in strengthening her walls and making straight her ways, her great neighbour and rival was passing through a very furnace of misery. The colossal-seeming Empire, whose head was rather of strangely mingled Corinthian metal than of fine gold, and whose iron feet were mixed with miry clay, was tottering to its overthrow, and fell in the wild days of 1870 with a world-awakening crash. Again it was a dispute concerning the throne of Spain which precipitated the fall of a French sovereign. It would seem as if interference with the affairs of its Southern neighbour was ever to be ominous of evil to France. The first great Napoleon had had to rue such interference; it had been disastrous to Louis Philippe; now Louis Napoleon, making the candidature of Leopold of Hohenzollern for the Spanish crown a pretext for war with Prussia, forced on the strife which was to dethrone himself, to cast down his dynasty, and to despoil France of two fair provinces, Alsace and Lorraine, once taken from Germany, now reconquered for United Germany. With that strife, which resulted in the exaltation of the Prussian King, our Princess Royal's father-in-law, as German Emperor, England had absolutely nothing to do, except to pity the fallen and help the suffering as far as in her lay; but it awakened profoundest interest, especially while the long siege of Paris dragged on through the hard winter of 1870-71; hardly yet is the interest of the subject exhausted.

A certain fleeting effect was produced in England by the erection of a New Republic in France in place of the fallen Empire, while the family of the defeated ruler - rejected by his realm more for lack of success than for his bad government - escaped to the safety of this country from the angry hatred of their own. A few people here began to talk republicanism in public, and to commend the "logical superiority" of that mode of government, oblivious of the fact that practical Britain prefers a system, however illogical, that actually works well, to the most beautifully reasoned but untested paper theory. But the wild excesses of the Commune in Paris, outdoing in horror the sufferings of the siege, quickly produced the same effect here that was wrought in the last century by the French Reign of Terror, and English republicanism relapsed into the dormant state from which it had only just awakened. The dangerous illness that attacked the Prince of Wales in the last days of 1871, calling forth such keen anxiety throughout the land that it seemed as if thousands of families had a son lying in imminent peril of death, showed at once that the nation was yet loyal to the core. True prayers were everywhere offered up in sympathy with the mother, the sister, the wife, who watched at the bedside of the heir to the throne; and when, on the very anniversary of the Prince Consort's death, the life that had seemed ebbing away turned to flow upward again; a sort of sob of relief rose from the heart of the people, who rejoiced to be able, at a later day, to share with their Queen her solemn act of thanksgiving for mercy shown, as she went with her restored son, her son's wife, and her son's sons, to worship and give praise in the great cathedral of St. Paul's.

Princess Alice, who had shared and softened the grief of her mother ten years before, had been again at her side during all the protracted anxiety of this winter, and had helped to nurse her brother. The Princess's experience of nursing had been terribly increased during the awful wars, when she had been incessantly busied in hospital organisation and work, suffering from the sight of suffering as a sensitive nature must, but ever toiling to lighten it; and she had come with her children to recover a little strength in her mother's Highland home. Thus it was that she was found at Sandringham when her brother's illness declared itself, "fulfilling the same priceless offices" of affection as in her maiden days, and endearing herself the more to the English people, who grieved for her when, in the ensuing year, a mournful accident robbed her of one darling child, and who felt it like a personal domestic loss when in 1878 the beautiful life ended. Other royal marriages have from time to time awakened public interest, and one, celebrated between the Princess Louise and the Marquis of Lorne, heir of the dukedom of Argyll, had just preceded the illness of the Prince and was regarded with much more attention because no British subject since the days of George II's legislation as to royal alliances had been deemed worthy of such honour. But not even the more outwardly splendid match between the Queen's sailor son, Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, and the daughter of the Czar Alexander, could eclipse in popularity the quiet marriage, overclouded with sorrow, and the tranquil, hard-working life of the good and gifted lady who was to die the martyr of her true motherly and wifely devotion.

From these glimpses of the joys and troubles affecting the household that is cherished in the heart of England, we return to the more stormy records of our public doings. A sort of link between the two exists in the long and very successful tour which the Prince of Wales, some time after his restoration to health, made of the vast Indian dominions of the crown. Extensive travels and wide acquaintance with the great world to which Britain is bound by a thousand ties have entered largely into the royal scheme of education for the future King. No princes of England in former days have seen so much of other lands as the sons of Queen Victoria; and this particular journey is understood to have had an excellent political effect.

Mr. Gladstone's five years' lease of power, which had been signalised by so many important changes, came to an end in 1874, just before the time when Sir Garnet Wolseley, sent to bring the savage King of Ashantee to reason, returned successful to England, having snatched a complete victory "out of the very jaws of approaching sun and fever" on the pestilent West Coast of Africa in the early days of 1874. The last Ministry of Mr. Disraeli, who now assumed office, was marked by several noticeable events: the proclamation of the Queen as "Empress of India," in formal definite recognition of the new relation between little England and the gigantic, many-peopled realm which through strange adventure has come directly under our Sovereign's sway; the Russo-Turkish war, following on the evil doings in Turkey known as the "Bulgarian atrocities," and terminating in a peace signed at Berlin, with which the English Premier, now known as Lord Beaconsfield, had very much to do; and the acquisition by England of the 176,000 shares in the Suez Canal originally held by the Khedive of Egypt - a transaction to which France, also largely interested in the Canal, was a consenting party. To this period belong the distressful Afghan and Zulu wars, the latter unhappily memorable by the tragic fate that befell the young son of Louis Napoleon, a volunteer serving with the English army. Deep sympathy was felt for his imperial mother, widowed since 1873, and now bereaved of her only child; and by none was her sorrow more keenly realised than by the Queen, who herself had to mourn the loss of the beloved Princess Alice, the first of her children to follow her father into the silent land. The death of the Prince Louis Napoleon at the hands of savage Zulus was severely felt by the still strong Bonapartism of France; but Englishmen, remembering the early melancholy death of the heir of the first Napoleon, were struck by the fatal coincidence, while they could honestly deplore the premature extinction of so much youth, gallantry, and hope-fulness, cast away in our own ill-starred quarrel.

An agitation distinctly humanitarian and domestic had been going on during the early years of this Ministry, which resulted in the passing of the Merchant Shipping Bill, intended to remedy the many wrongs to which our merchant seamen were subject, a measure almost entirely procured by the fervent human sympathy and resoluteness of one member of Parliament, Samuel Plimsoll; and other measures belonging to this period, and designed to benefit the toilers of the land principally, were initiated by the energy of the Home Secretary, Mr. Cross. But neither the imposing foreign action of Lord Beaconsfield's Government, nor the domestic improvements wrought during its period of power, could maintain it in public favour. There was great and growing distress in the country; depression of trade, severe winters, sunless summers, all produced suffering, and suffering discontent. An appeal to the country, made in the spring of 1880, shifted the Parliamentary majority from the Conservative to the Liberal side. Lord Beaconsfield resigned, and Mr. Gladstone returned to power.

The history of the Gladstone Ministry does not come well within the scope of this work. Certain very memorable events must be touched upon; there are dark chapters of our national story, stains and blots on our great name, which force themselves upon us. But to follow the Government through its years of struggle with the ever-growing bulk of Irish difficulty, and to track it through its various enactments designed still further to improve the condition of the English people, would require a small volume to itself. England still remembers the thrill, half fury, half anguish, which ran through her at the tidings that the new Chief Secretary for Ireland, charged with a message of peace and conciliation, had been stabbed to death within twenty-four hours of his landing on that unhappy shore. She cannot forego the deep instinctive feeling - so generally manifested at the time of Lincoln's murder - that the lawless spilling of life for any cause dishonours and discredits that cause; nor have various subsequent efforts made to terrorise public opinion here been differently judged.

But it was a far more cruel shock that was inflicted through the series of ill-advised proceedings that brought about the great disaster of Khartoum. Before we deal with these, we must glance at the African and Afghan troubles, again breaking out and again quieted, the first by a peace with the Boers of the Transvaal that awakened violent discussion not yet at an end, and the second, after some successes of the British arms, by a judicious arrangement designed to secure the neutrality of Afghanistan, interposed by nature as a strong, all but insurmountable, barrier between India and Central Asia. These transactions, the theme of sharp contention at the time, were cast into the shade by events in which we were concerned in Egypt, our newly acquired interests in the Suez Canal making that country far more important to us than of yore. Its condition was very wretched, its government at once feeble and oppressive, and, despite the joint influence which France and England had acquired in Egyptian councils, an armed rebellion broke out, under the leadership of Arabi Pasha. France declining to act in this emergency, the troops and fleet of England put down this revolt single-handed; and in their successes the Queen's third son, Arthur, Duke of Connaught, took his part, under the orders of Sir Garnet (afterwards Lord) Wolseley. There were again rejoicings in Balmoral, where the Queen, with her soldierly son's young wife beside her, was preparing to receive another bride - Princess Helen of Waldeck, just wedded to our youngest Prince, Leopold, Duke of Albany.

But this gleam of brightness was destined to be followed by darker disaster far than that which seemed averted for the moment. A mightier rebellion was arising in the Soudan, a vast tract of country annexed by the ambition of Ismail, the former Khedive of Egypt, to be ill governed by his officials and ravaged by the slave-trade. These evils were checked for a few years by the strong hand of Charles George Gordon, already famous through his achievements in China, and invested with unlimited power by Ismail; but, that potentate being overthrown, the great Englishman left his thankless post, no longer tenable by him. Then it seemed that chaos had come again; and a bold and keen, though probably hypocritical, dervish, self-styled the Mahdi, or Mohammedan Messiah, was able to kindle new flames of revolt, which burned with the quenchless fury of Oriental fanaticism. His Arab and negro soldiers made short work of the poor Egyptian fellaheen sent to fight them, though these were under the command of Englishmen. The army led by Hicks Pasha utterly vanished in the deserts, as that of Cambyses did of old. The army under Baker Pasha did not, indeed, disappear in the same mysterious manner, but it too was routed with great slaughter.

The English Government, willing to avoid the vast task of crushing the revolt, had counselled the abandonment of the Soudan, and the Khedive's Ministers reluctantly acquiesced. But there were Egyptian garrisons scattered throughout the Soudan which must not be abandoned with the country. Above all, there was Khartoum, an important town at the junction of the Blue and the White Nile, with a large European settlement and an Egyptian garrison, all in pressing danger, loyal as yet, but full of just apprehension. These troops, these officials, these women and children, who only occupied their perilous position through the action of the Khedive's Government, had a right to protection - a right acknowledged by Her Majesty's Ministers; but they wished to avoid hostilities. General Graham, left in command on the Red Sea littoral, was allowed to take action against the Mahdi's lieutenant who was threatening Suakim, and who was driven back with heavy loss; but he might not follow up the victory.

The English Government hoped to withdraw the garrisons in safety, without force of arms. They had been for some time urging on the Khedive that the marvellous influence which Gordon was known to have acquired in his old province should now be utilised, and that to him should be entrusted the herculean task of tranquillising the Soudan, by reinstating its ancient dynasties of tribal chiefs and withdrawing all Egyptian and European troops and officials. Their plan was at last accepted; then Gordon, hitherto unacquainted, like the public at large, with the Government designs, was informed of them and invited to carry them out. He consented; and, with the chivalric promptitude which essentially belonged to his character, he departed the same night on his perilous errand. Passing through Cairo, he received plenary powers from the Khedive, and went on almost alone to Khartoum, where he was received with an overflowing enthusiasm. But, with all his eager haste, he was too late to bring about the desired results by peaceful means. "He should have come a year ago," muttered his native well-wishers. Week after week and month after month, his position in Khartoum became more perilous; the Mahdi's power waxed greater, and his hordes drew round the city, which long defied them, while garrison after garrison fell into their hands elsewhere. It was in vain that General Gordon urged the despatch of British troops, a few hundred of whom would at one time have sufficed to turn the tide, and insure success in his enterprise. They were still withheld; and he would not secure his own safety by deserting the people whom his presence had induced to stand out against the impostor and his hosts. The city endured a long, cruel siege, and fell at last, reduced by hunger and treachery, just as a tardily despatched British force was making its way to relieve it - a force commanded by Lord Wolseley, who half a year before had been protesting against the "indelible disgrace" of leaving Gordon to his fate. He was not able even to bury his friend and comrade, slain by the fanatic enemy when they broke into the city in the early morning of January 26th, 1885.

"I have done my best for the honour of our country," were the parting words of the dead hero. His country felt itself profoundly dishonoured by the manner in which it had lost this its famous son - a man distinguished at once by commanding ability, unsullied honour, heroic valour; a man full of tenderest beneficence towards his fellows, and of utter devotion to his God; "the grandest figure," said an American admirer, "that has crossed the disc of this planet for centuries." Him England had fatally delayed to help, withheld by the dread of costly and cruel warfare; and then just failed to save him by a war enormously costly and cruelly fatal indeed. A general lamentation, blent with cries of anger, rose up from the land. Her Majesty shared the common sorrow, as her messages of sympathy to the surviving relations of Gordon testified. Various charitable institutions, modelled on the lines which he had followed in his work among the poor, rose to keep his memory green; and thus the objects of his Christlike care during his life are now profiting by the world-famous manner of his death. But there is still a deep feeling that even time itself can hardly efface the stain that has been left on our national fame. An English expedition, well commanded, full of ardour and daring, sent to accomplish a specific object, and failing in that object; its commander, entirely guiltless of blame, having to abandon the scene of his triumphs to a savage, fanatic foe as was now the case - this was evil enough; but that our beloved countryman, a true knight without fear and without reproach, should have been betrayed to desertion and death through his own magnanimity and our sluggishness, added a rankling, poisonous sense of shame to our humiliation. That the same year saw further electoral privileges extended to the humble classes in England, beyond what even the last Reform Bill had conferred, which might prove of advantage afterwards, but was an imperfect consolation at the time. Another grief fell upon the Queen in this year in the early death of Leopold, Duke of Albany, a Prince whose intellectual gifts were nearly allied to those of his father, but on whom lifelong delicacy of health had enforced a life of comparative quietude. His widowed bride and infant children have ever since been cared for tenderly by his royal mother.