Garnet Wolseley: Soldier of Empire

 “I am a Jingo in the best acceptation of that sobriquet... To see England great is my highest aspiration, and to lead in contributing to that greatness is my only real ambition.” By Edgar Holt. 

In a letter written to Queen Victoria written On March 22nd, 1885, General Lord Wolseley, who had narrowly failed to save Gordon at Khartoum and was then waiting in Egypt while the Gladstone Government made up its mind about the Sudan, proudly subscribed himself as “Your Majesty’s most faithful soldier and subject.”

As written, this may have been no more than a characteristic piece of Wolseley bombast—the kind of thing which had made even Lord Beaconsfield, who liked him, call him “an egotist and a braggart.” Yet in the end Wolseley’s claim to have been Queen Victoria’s most faithful soldier seems reasonable, for he served in her Army for forty-eight years and was her leading general, either as field officer or as War Office administrator, for most of the last three decades of her reign.

These were the years in which, under Beaconsfield’s influence and equally after his death, the Queen became so deeply conscious of the concept of Empire and of her own position as Queen-Empress; and it was Wolseley’s good fortune not merely to be an excellent soldier but also to share to the full his Sovereign’s faith in Britain’s Imperial destiny.

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