I thought I knew a lot about Karl Marx's life, having read several biographies detailing his genius, his carbuncles, his scrounging and procrastination. However, one event was reported in a book I have been reading recently that I had not come across before.
In 1879, Queen Victoria's eldest daughter was curious to find out more about Marx, the famous émigré living in London. Some reports suggest that she had even read Das Kapital. Rather than getting the police to drag him in for questioning, Princess Victoria used the subtle tactic of asking a British politician to check him out, the splendidly named Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff. An invitation for free drinks at the Devonshire Club in London was something Marx could not refuse, and they had a three-hour meeting on 31 January 1879.
It is hard to know how far Marx might have edited his views in such a discussion, although he was not particularly known for letting discretion be the better part of valour. Much of the talk concerned European politics, especially developments in Germany and Russia. This reflected not only Marx's interests but also those of British foreign policy. Duff reported back to the Princess the following day, noting that his impression of Marx was 'not at all unfavourable and I would gladly meet him again'. The letter is here.
Tony Norfield, 16 April 2014