The Daily Compass


The Gilded Carriage
of Queen Victoria


Same time in May the United Press correspondent sent this message from London:

“Queen Victoria’s gilded state carriage, packed in a huge wooden crate, left today for Baghdad to become the state coach of Prince Regent Abdul Illah of Iraq.” Then followed details concerning the route the crate would take (by ship to Basra on the Persian Gulf and thence to Baghdad), and the insurance value of the carriage.

I can see Abdul Illah of Iraq, the uncle of the boy king, traveling over the dust streets of Baghdad in the shiny gold carriage and the Arabs staring at him with bulging eyes and gaping mouths. Six horses at least will draw the carriage, and the dust will whirl high. Tarbooshed gendarmes will ride alongside and distribute blows with their whips to right and left.

Queen Victoria, who, at the age of 18, ascended the throne of England, went in her gilded carriage to the Parliament to read her royal speeches; in it she traveled to Windsor Castle; in it she showed herself to her people who loved the girl queen, the beautiful woman queen, and the widow queen: in this guilded carriage she rode when Disraeli made her Empress of an Empire. The 63 years of her reign were the years when Britain was queen among the nations.

If, on rummaging through the attic, you found your mother’s wedding gown, would you give it away or sell it? Of course not. But the British have lost all sense of propriety. The gilded coach of Queen Victoria, their great queen, soon will carry Abdul Illah, and donkeys and camels will look at it in amazement, though they never heard of Queen Victoria. Nor did the people of Baghdad hear of her.

Neither a chivalrous Disraeli nor a pious Gladstone could have conceived the idea of wooing an Abdul Illah with part of the regalia of his queen. But in the mind of Bevin, who was boss of the transport workers’ union before he became head of the Foreign Office, Queen Victoria’s gilded coach is a proper conveyance for Abdul Illah. There is an obvious desire to buy the heart of the Prince Regent of Iraq, especially since the treaty of Portsmouth between Great Britain and Iraq was not ratified in Baghdad and to Iraqi Prime Minister who signed it was chased out of the country. I have looked through the annals of Great Britain of the days of Victoria and in all 63 years of her reign I have found no similar instance of such sycophancy on the part of the British Government.

What Iraq needs are not gilded carriages but plows and tractors and people. The Iraqi Government has done nothing to absorb a substantial portion of the human material which drifts as Arab refugees in the Middle East. Neither has Great Britain done anything to help Iraq become again the breadbasket it was in the past when its population was 12 times larger and prospered; its fields were irrigated; and its trade embraced many countries. But that was long ago! Iraq today is far behind what it was 25 centuries ago.

The state treasury of Iraq is empty because the oil of the land does not flow to Haifa. Its fields are dry or swampy; they are not irrigated, not cultivated. Its peasants starve. Its army has shown itself to be impotent. It may be that all these deficiencies are the psychological reason for its Regent’s desire to ride in the gilded carriage of the Queen who lent her name to an era.

“Tekel: Thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting” (Daniel 5:27).

Were not these words spoken of that very country? And wanting it has remained until today.