By the 1850s, England was importing vast quantities of Southern cotton to feed the growing textile industry. When civil war broke out in the U.S. in 1860 and Union ships blockaded southern ports, export of cotton all but stopped.
Queen Victoria had harbored some sympathies for the South. When her opinions became known, her husband Prince Albert strongly cautioned her against any public support for the Confederacy, as it would imply the Crown was meddling in foreign affairs.
Later when a Federal ship seized a British vessel and removed two Confederate agents, there was an outcry in England against the Lincoln administration. Albert did his best to cool the war fever by rewriting a declaration of war submitted by parliament for the Queen’s signature. War would have been disastrous for England and the USA. The Royals were never to involve themselves in “politics,” a hard constraint for Victoria.
Portrait by artist-historian George Stuart.
Courtesy Museum of Ventura County.
Images © copyright by Peter d'Aprix