More from Lytton Strachey’s chapter on Florence Nightingale in Eminent Victorians:
It was not until July, 1856—four months after the Declaration of Peace—that Miss Nightingale left Scutari for England. Her reputation was now enormous, and the enthusiasm of the public was unbounded. The Royal approbation was expressed by the gift of a brooch, accompanied by a private letter.
You are, I know, well aware [wrote Her Majesty] of the high sense I entertain of the Christian devotion which you have displayed during this great and bloody war, and I need hardly repeat to you how warm my admiration is for your services, which are truly equal to those of my dear and brave soldiers, whose sufferings you have had the privilege of alleviating in so merciful a manner. I am, however, anxious of marking my feelings
in a manner which I trust will be agreeable to you, and therefore send you with this letter a brooch, the form and emblems of which commemorate your great and blessed work, and which I hope you will wear as a mark of the high approbation of your Sovereign!
“It will be a very great satisfaction me,” Her Majesty added, “to make the acquaintance of one who has set so bright an example to our sex.”
The brooch, which was designed by the Prince Consort, bore a St. George’s cross in red enamel, and the Royal cypher surmounted by diamonds. The whole was encircled by the inscription, “Blessed are the Merciful.”
I love reading about the Victorians; I feel like I’m learning huge swathes of this really important, sort of traditional history that’s been learnt by generations of school children. It’s empowering to feel like I’m actually gaining some cultural literacy.