The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 9 (February 25, 1927)
During this reign Britain was for long periods concerned in war. The Spaniards claimed and used the right of searching English vessels at sea and ill-used the English sailors. This led to an unsuccessful war with Spain.
In 1743 France, Prussia and Bavaria, attempted to obtain and share Austria and her possessions. Britain, alarmed at the union of these powers, assisted Austria in the war of the Austrian Succession, and George II. personally successfully conducted his troops—the last occasion on which an English sovereign has been exposed to the fire of an enemy.
Robert Clive, in command of a British force in India, laid the foundations of our Indian Empire. It will be remembered, how, with 3,000 men, he defeated Surajah Dowlah's force of 60,000 at Plassey, thus securing Bengal for England. The defeat of the French at Wandewash by Colonel Eyre Coote completed the downfall of French power in India.
In North America the French had established colonies in Louisiana and Canada. General Wolfe by the memorable capture of Quebec, in which struggle he was mortally wounded, secured Canada for England.
The Seven Years' War was ended by the First Treaty of Paris which provided, among other things that England should retain Canada, some important isles in the West Indies, and all her conquests in India except Pondicherry.
George II., distinguished as a soldier and leader of men, was a popular king. Although he displayed great interest in his continental possessions he was keen on the advancement of England.
Through the energy and foresight of Pitt, Britain had become the first nation of the world.
The loss of the American colonies due to the imposition of taxes without the consent of the colonists was a noteworthy event of this reign. Representatives of the various American States drew up and passed the “Declaration of Independence,” which, after much fighting, the Motherland was compelled to accept.
In consequence of the alliance of France with the United States, England in 1778 renewed war with France.
To prevent England from searching vessels for goods belonging to an enemy, Russia, Sweden and Denmark entered into an alliance. Later Prussia, Holland, France and Spain joined the League. Britain stood alone, opposed by all Europe.
Rodney won two notable naval battles—one over the Spanish off Cape St. Vincent, the other over the French off St. Lucia in the West Indies—thus greatly assisting in bringing about peace.page 44
Again in 1793, following the French Revolution, considered to be the greatest event of the 18th century, Britain, on account of a decree of the French Convention offering help to all countries desirous of overthrowing their Kings, declared war on France. The Dutch joined the French, and the Cape of Good Hope, Ceylon, and Malacca were seized by the English. Spain opposed Britain, but at the naval battle of Cape St. Vincent, Admiral Sir John Jervis and Commodore Nelson inflicted a crushing defeat on the Spanish. By three smashing naval victories—at Camperdown (1797), the Nile (1798), and Trafalgar (1805)— Nelson shattered Napoleon's hopes of successfully invading England.
Napoleon declared Britain to be in a state of blockade and forbade trade with her. This fact together with the seizure by Napoleon of the Crown of Spain for his brother led to the Peninsular War, which Sir John Moore, Sir Hugh Dalrymple and Sir Arthur Wellesley in turn so successfully conducted. Napoleon was forced to abdicate and retired to Elba. He returned, however, his friends gathered round him and for the first time Wellesley, now Wellington, and Napoleon met in battle at Waterloo. Wellington won the day, and the end of Napoleon's brilliant career was at hand.
After twenty-two years' war forty years of peace followed. In 1801 the Act for the Union of Great Britain and Ireland was passed. Its main provisions were (1) [gap — reason: Page torn text illegible] should be one Parliament for the United Kingdom and, in that Parliament, Ireland should be represented by four bishops, 28 temporal peers and 100 commoners; (2) that free trade should be established between the two countries.
Through the efforts of several reformers, among whom Wilberforce and Thurlow were prominent, the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was passed by Parliament in 1807. It was not until 1833 that slavery in all British Dominions was abolished.
Two other memorable events were the use of gas for street lighting and the launching on the Clyde of the “Comet,” a steam vessel built by Henry Bell.
Geogre Iii. was a good man and a wise King. On coming to the throne he declared that he “gloried in the name of Briton,” and his highest object in life was to improve the land over which he had the honour to rule.
Queen Victoria, 1837–1901.
“In a Palace in a garden—not in a haughty keep, proud with the fame but dark with the violence of ages; not in a regal pile, bright with the splendour but soiled with the intrigues of courts and factions — in a palace in a garden, meet scene for youth and innocence and beauty — came a voice that told the maiden she must ascend her throne.
“Hush! the portals open; she comes; the silence is as deep as that of a noontide forest. Attended for a moment by her royal mother and the ladies of her court, who bow and then retire, Victoria ascends her throne; a girl alone, and for the first time amid an assemblage of men.
“In a sweet and thrilling voice, and with a composed mien, which indicates rather the absorbing sense of august duty than an absence of emotion, the Queen announces her accession to the throne of her ancestors and her humble hope that Divine Providence will guard over the fulfilment of her lofty trust.
“The prelates and captains and chief men of her realm then advance to the throne, and kneeling before her, pledge their troth and take the sacred oaths of allegiance and supremacy.
“Allegiance to one who rules over the land that the great Macedonian could not conquei and over a Continent of which even Columbus never dreamed. To the Queen of every sea and of nations in every zone. Fair and serene, she has the beauty of the Saxon. Will it be her proud destiny at length to bear relief to page 45 suffering millions, and with that soft hand which might inspire troubadours and guerdon knights, break the last links in the chain of Saxon thraldon?”
So wrote Disraeli of the coronation of Queen Victoria, the niece of King William Iv., when at the age of 18 she undertook her royal responsibilities. In her sixty-four years of reign Victoria witnessed remarkable developments in her mighty Empire.
Preceding and subsequent to her ascension to the throne, industrial methods were undergoing great changes. The ingenious devices and labour-aiding appliances then invented explain the vast cities, the huge factories and the complicated machinery of our day.
The Queen married in 1840 Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, the author of the scheme for the first of all Great Exhibitions. Products of industries of all nations were in 1851 exhibited in the Crystal Palace designed for the purpose by Sir Joseph Paxton.
Important Wars.—From 1853 to 1856 the Crimean War, arising from a dispute between Russia and Turkey regarding the guardianship of the Holy Places at Jerusalem and the aggressive designs of the Czar on Turkey, occupied the attention of Britain. The Czar attempted to secure British neutrality, but his offers were rejected, and Britain, allied with France, opposed Russia. Most of the fighting took place in the Crimea. The more famous battles were Alma, Balaclava, made memorable by the charge of the Light Brigade; Inkerman, and the assault of Malakoff Tower. The allied forces won all these battles, and the war.
Following the Indian Mutiny, it was arranged that the power of the East India Company should be transferred to the Crown.
South Africa was the scene of the Boer War of 1899–1900. The suspicion among the Boers that the British Government had been associated with a lawless attack on their freedom, and the ambitions of President Kruger to obtain absolute control over South Africa were the main causes of the war. When the Queen perceived that peace, for which she always strove, could not in this case be maintained, she used her influence with her ministers to conduct the war with promptitude and effect.
On 22nd January, 1901, the great and beloved Queen died at the age of 81 years. Throughout the reign, by exercising her outstanding qualities of courage, sincerity and discretion, she had filled her difficult position with dignity and honour, and her death was the occasion of universal mourning.
On the death of Queen Victoria, her second child and eldest son became King, as Edward Vii. Edward had been educated at Oxford and Cambridge Universities and much care had been taken to train him for his royal post. On ascending the throne His Majesty stated that “he would carry out the duties of kingly office after the noble example of his illustrious mother.”
During his reign great strides were made in science and invention. In aviation such progress had been made that navigable airships were flown in 1909, whilst further improvements in steam locomotives and steamships greatly assisted trade by reducing the time required for transport between the principal centres.
On 6th May, 1910, Edward the Peacemaker passed away. In the Royal Courts of Europe where his knowledge of French and German stood him in good stead, he had enjoyed remarkable popularity which was of great assistance in the maintenance of cordial relationship between the Powers. His courageous spirit, his admiration for every manifestation of heroism, his philanthropic activities, his faculty for business, and his remarkable memory, not only won the affection of the Empire over which he ruled, but made him eminently suitable to represent the nation abroad.
George Fifth, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Dominions beyond the seas; King, Defender of the Faith, and Emperor of India, is the second son of the late King Edward Vii. He was born at Marlborough House in 1865, and at the age of 12 became a naval cadet. Always a keen sailor, his long practical naval experience has been supplemented by the study of hundreds of volumes on naval subjects. King George was regarded by Lord Fisher as the best informed sailor in Europe. “Any idea that while he served in the Navy he was ‘let down gently’ would be erroneous. When his ship was on a North American and West Indian station an American sought permission to look over the vessel. This was granted, and a young officer who bore unmistakable evidence of having recently taken part in coaling operations showed him round. On returning to the shore in a pinnace the visitor expressed, himself as delighted, but regretted that he had not seen the Prince, ‘But you have been talking to him for the best part of an hour!' retorted the officer in charge. ‘Was that the Prince?' said the American in profound astonishment. ‘No wonder he laughed so heartily when I asked him if they kept His Royal Highness in cotton-wool while the coaldust was flying about”'—Wheeler.
It was intended that H.R.H. should remain in the naval service, but the death of his elder brother transformed him from a promising naval commander to Heir-Presumptive. He then proceeded to thoroughly study Imperial questions, and when in 1893 he became Duke of York and took his seat in the House of Lords he received more pleasure from Parliamentary debates than from Court functions.
In 1893 George married Princess Mary of Teck and in 1901, as the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York, they visited Australia (where they opened the first Commonwealth Parliament), New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and Newfoundland. On the death of his father in 1910, he became King, as George V. At the end of 1911 he visited India, where he was welcomed with enthusiasm. He was the first British sovereign to visit that country.
The great World War (1914–1918), caused through German hostility to Great Britain and desire for world power, and the “Near East” troubles, of which we all retain vivid memories, was the greatest upheaval of modern times. King George played a worthy part in attempting to obviate the struggle. The failure of his efforts cannot be attributed to any lack of foresight. On several occasions the King personally visited the troops in France, and discussed the situation with the Allied generals.
The patriotic feeling manifest throughout the Empire at the outbreak of the war convincingly proved that Britain's Dominions still remained loyal to the Homeland. “At the outbreak of the war the Germans expected all the Boers to rise against Britain, but they were disappointed. The Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, General Botha, who had been the best Boer General in the Boer war, not only frustrated the uprising of his old comrades, but conquered German South West Africa for the British Empire. General Smuts, another Boer commander, was prominent in the Peace Conference and showed much wisdom in his recommendations.” All the other Dominions gave their best in the great struggle for freedom.
King George takes particularly keen interest in matters affecting the Empire and his foresight and sound judgment have done and are doing much to consolidate his great Common wealth of Free Nations. Practical schemes for social reform have always had the King's unqualified sympathy.