The death of the Prince Consort blights Victoria's life and, although British power is largely undiminished, problems at home and abroad become increasingly prominent.
Palmerston was an elderly gentleman in 1862 when, as prime minister, he had to deal with Queen Victoria’s mental collapse following the death of the Prince Consort. Their relationship had never been cordial, but he appears to have handled the difficult situation with good sense and sensibility.
Palmerston had first become a minister during the Napoleonic wars and his view of the natural world order, which had guided his management of British foreign policy in the 1840s and 50s, was becoming challenged by recent events. He was a sincere and long-serving opponent of slavery, but when the American Civil War started in 1861, like many leading British politicians, he sympathized with the right of the confederacy of southern states with its slave based economy to secede from the United States. The South provided British industry with raw materials such as cotton and tobacco and was an important market for British manufactured goods, whereas the North was becoming a serious manufacturing competitor. Britain declared its neutrality, but Palmerston sent troops to Canada when an American navy boarding party took two confederate envoys from the British ship SS Trent and he adopted a hostile attitude until the two envoys were released. Thereafter Britain maintained its neutral stance.
1862 Confederate naval raider SS Alabama is built and launched from Birkenhead.
~ The art critic John Ruskin (1819-1900) publishes his social and economic tract entitled Unto This Last in which he criticizes Utilitarian economics and the industrial despoliation of nature.
~ Christina Rossetti (1830-94), one of the age’s finest English poets, publishes Goblin Market.
~ George Meredith (1828-1909) publishes Modern Love a collection of sonnets.
~ William G Palgrave (1826-88) explores central Arabia on behalf of the Jesuit order and Napoleon III.
~ The Legislative assembly of Belize in Central America, unable to secure agreement between different business and ethnic groups, asks for direct British rule and is renamed the crown colony of British Honduras.