Alexander the Great of England- Charlotte of Wales' Son
Introduction- This WI hypothesizes what might have happened had Princess Charlotte of Wales's son been born alive and what this might have meant for the Hanoverians, Coburgs, British, Europe and the world. As I update the story, I will also update the 'vital stats' of my protagonist's life. My schedule preclude me from posting updates more frequently than on a monthly basis but I welcome constructive criticisms and comments over this.
POD- After a labor of more than two days, on November 5,1817, 21-year-old Princess Charlotte of Wales (the wife of Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg Saalfeld- and the only legitimate child of George, Prince of Wales[Prince Regent of Great Britain for King George III ] gave birth to a stillborn son who went unnamed but termed ‘a Prince’ in genealogical accounting . Despite the physician having brought forceps, those had never been used and the child evidently was strangled in the birth canal while the physicians waited for his mother to give birth. Eight hours later, early in the morning of November 6th, Princess Charlotte of Wales herself died of a hemorrhage- and it was these dual deaths that would have great impact on both the Hanoverian and Saxe-Coburg Dynasties thereafter. This alt history hypothesizes one possible outcome had the baby boy been born alive but his mother Princess Charlotte of Wales died nonetheless (not an uncommon event even amongst noble families in the 18th Century).
Alexander I, King of Great Britain and Ireland ( November 5,1817- )( H.R.H. Prince Alexander of Saxe-Coburg Saalfeld and Great Britain and Ireland-,Duke of Durham November 6,1817- June 26,1830)(reigned 1830-1835, ruled 1835- ). (Father-Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg Saalfeld[later Saxe-Coburg Gotha] -1790- [Prince Regent of Great Britain and Ireland 1830-1835] (Mother- Charlotte, Princess Leopold of Saxe-Coburg Saalfeld born Princess Charlotte of Wales (1796-November 6,1817).
Ancestry- At the time of the future King’s birth, his 79-year-old great-grandfather George III had been King of Great-Britain for 57 years but had been declared insane and deprived of the right to rule in 1811- shut away in Windsor Castle ill-treated and blind. His 73-year-old great-grandmother Queen Charlotte lived in Kew Palace where she kept her three surviving unmarried daughters in close confinement as virtual personal slaves. Meantime, the nation was ruled by his 55-year-old grandfather George, Prince of Wales- the Prince Regent who had almost immediately separated from his detested 49-year-old wife (Alexander’s grandmother) Caroline, Princess of Wales. Of King George III’s surviving 12 offspring, only the Prince of Wales himself had had a legitimate descendent qualified to the throne of Great-Britain- Alexander’s mother, Princess Charlotte of Wales ,aged 21, who had been conceived during her parents’ rather grim honeymoon but was nonetheless of unquestionable legitimacy. Princess Charlotte was her grandfather’s Heiress Presumptive who had married Alexander’s father Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg Saalfeld, aged 27, 18 months earlier in 1816–( the youngest son of a rather small Germanic Dukedom who’d she’d met when he’d arrived in London as part of Czar Alexander I’s negotiating team after the Defeat of Napoleon) having grudgingly received the Prince Regent’s permission to do so.
Birth -After two miscarriages, she and Leopold were anxious to have a healthy son- and after an incredibly exhausting 42 hour labor culminated by desperate use of forceps, their wishes were granted with the birth of the 9 pound Alexander . Due to Prince Leopold having first met Princess Charlotte when he had accompanied his brother-in-law’s brother, Czar Alexander I of Russia to London for the 1815 Peace Accords , they immediately decided that this name should be used for their baby son. Inasmuch as each of them recognized that both their lives had been transformed for the better through having been able to meet via the Czar. Charlotte had been freed of being the focus of her father’s neglect and her mother’s attempts to use her to humiliate her father and paternal relatives while Leopold had been freed of being an impoverished soldier of fortune due to his been the youngest brother of a debt ridden German duke with postage stamp sized domain. Alas, due to Princess Charlotte having been put on a restricted diet with bloodletting and limited exercise- ,Alexander’s birth proved too much to her and she died the next morning ten hours later from an internal hemorrhage . Alexander himself had been grabbed so forcefully by the forceps that his right ear was forever badly mangled. For that reason, whenever possible, he would grow his hair to conceal what he considered the only flaw in his otherwise flawless appearance.
Infancy and Childhood
As Czar Alexander I of Russia offered to be the child’s godfather, the Prince Regent declared his grandson be named Alexander George Charles Leopold and issued him the title of His Royal Highness , the Duke of Durham via Letters Patent. Almost immediately, this badly provoked the Prince Regent’s younger surviving brothers, other Royal Dukes -as well as Prince Leopold (who was still His Serene Highness). After extensive arguments in which the great-uncles noted that they had never taken precedence behind even their late niece Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold noted that it would be awkward to be so terribly outranked by his son even before the boy’s Accession, reluctantly the Prince Regent compromised and agreed that, during his own lifetime, his grandson would have to take precedence behind his great-uncles and he decreed Prince Leopold a Royal Highness via Letters Patent. Prince Alexander, the Royal Duke of Durham was a healthy 9 pound baby who had a full hair of Hanoverian red hair (which soon darkened to an auburn closer to his father’s brown color) and while the nation was quite saddened at the death of his beloved mother Princess Charlotte of Wales, they were overjoyed that a healthy prince seemed poised to inherit his great-grandfather’s throne in the next few decades. It was observed at his Christening that Prince Leopold was still too stricken over Princess Charlotte’s death to so much as look at their healthy son –even while holding the infant over the font . He only held the infant long enough to get the infant Christened then handed him back to the wetnurse the moment his de rigeur function as a father was finished. Unfortunately, the joy turned to alarm a mere two months later when Prince Alexander suddenly was gripped with a wasting condition and soon was struggling to breathe. The Royal Physicians diagnosed him as having caught diphtheria – a disease which had no cure at the time. At the Prince Regent’s command, desperate prayers were said for his infant heir and, although hardly pious himself despite having to carry out nominal duties in George III’s name as Head of the Church of England, the Prince Regent was soon seen on his knees at a prayer vigil in Westminster Abbey. While there, amongst the Royal and noble tombstones, the Prince Regent happened upon the tombstone of one peasant called Old Tom Parr who, according to his 1635 tombstone, had lived to the age of 152! Immediately, the Prince Regent decreed that if his grandson, Prince Alexander survived, he would do everything in his power to see to it that one day Alexander’s own longevity would inspire great awe. Almost as soon as the very public prayer vigil had come to an end, word was received that Prince Alexander had greatly improved breathing and started throwing off the diphtheria! Immediately, the Prince Regent studied all he could about the life of Old Tom Parr and learned about Old Tom Parr’s vigorous exercise, vegetarian diet and avoidance of refined foods. Immediately, the Prince Regent decreed that Prince Alexander should be moved to Kew Palace with its great gardens and greenhouses so his heir would have a ready supply of the most fresh fruit and vegetables from the further reaches of British domain and commerce year round as soon as he was able to eat solid foods. Meantime, the Prince Regent employed no fewer than four rotating wetnurses who had to vow to avoid any and all alcohol, coffee, tobacco and refined foods during the time of nourishment. Alas, Prince Leopold had no say in any of this because he had been on the Continent visiting his own family during that time and he had not been able to secure passage back to Britain from the time he heard of his son’s near-mortal illness. Relations between father- and son-in-law were further soured when Prince Leopold managed to arrange a meeting with his mother-in-law, Caroline, Princess of Wales to commiserate over Princess Charlotte’s death- as well as promising her to try to appeal to the Prince Regent to be able to have her meet with her only grandchild. This promise infuriated the Prince Regent all the more to the extent that he not only issued orders barring Caroline from even being able to correspond with their grandson (despite him only being months old) but also restricted Prince Leopold’s role in his own son’s life to monthly visits under the strictest of supervision- with the baby Duke of Durham removed from Prince Leopold’s household even before Prince Leopold had returned from the Continent and having his own household set up in a series of farm cottages in close proximity to the Prince Regent’s residences. Meanwhile, the ‘Times of London’ and other newspapers had been shaken at how close the nation had been in dodging a bullet with the Duke of Durham’s near death so soon after Princess Charlotte’s demise and made public knowledge that , while in their prime, King George III and Queen Charlotte had more than done their duties to the good of the nation by bringing forth 15 recognized, legitimate children to the Royal Family, their surviving 12 children had at this time managed to produce no fewer than 56 known grandchildren for their parents. However; due to a few of them being born of unions that neither King George III nor the Prince Regent had officially recognized and approved- and a large number being born of entirely non-marital unions, none of the old King’s 56 grandchildren were eligible for succession to the British throne and only the single legitimate great-grandson (Prince Alexander, Duke of Durham) by the sole , late legitimate, recognized granddaughter (Princess Charlotte of Wales) stood between the Hanoverian Dynasty and Great Britain plunging into dynastic crisis after the deaths of the King’s aging children. Prince Alexander’s great-uncles used this plea and also appealed to the Prince Regent to be able to marry so that Hanover would have heirs- as Hanover fell under Salic Law which forbade succession by women or those from maternal lines to become monarch which would, in effect separate Hanover from Great Britain upon the Prince Regent’s death-as Prince Alexander was ineligible to succeed to Hanover being a maternal descendent. Inasmuch as he detested their arguments, the Prince Regent believed he had no choice but to relucantly agree to grant permission to them to wed ladies of royal and noble birth.
Amongst those wed under this rush was the Prince Regent’s 3rd younger brother Edward, Duke of Kent (aged 50) who wed Victoire, Dowager Princess of Leiningen (aged 32) in June,1818 - Prince Leopold’s older sister who herself had successfully born two children by her late first husband. Prince Leopold had encouraged the match, despite the Duke of Kent being so notoriously sadistic to his army troops that even his Royal connections didn’t prevent him from being forced out of service. The next elder unmarried Duke, William the Duke of Clarence (aged 52) was a lovable old soul but he had ten nonmarital children by his late mistress whom he fully acknowledged and recognized. Although Prince Leopold was hardly a prude, he knew it would be disastrous for his sister to have to be stepmother to that large number of nonmarital children and was relieved when the Duke of Clarence found a 25-year-old pockmarked spinster Princess Adelheid of Saxe-Meiningen willing to shoulder the burden. Despite his cruelties to his troops, the Duke of Kent had always been rather chivalrous to the women in his life- having lived with the same childless mistress for a quarter century. Whilst some may have thought that this would have made it near impossible for the Duke of Kent to sire offspring, Prince Leopold had no fears of this. For the Duke of Kent had been both his and the late Princess Charlotte’s favorite uncle –and it was due to his help in being a courier for their correspondence, that they were able to court and marry at all despite the Prince Regent’s initial antagonism towards the match. Moreover, the Duke of Kent had shared with them the fact that he had had a daughter by a serving maid some 30 years earlier who’d died in childbirth. The Duke of Kent had had not seen nor heard from his daughter since her maternal aunt had spirited her away to Geneva shortly after her birth but whom he had supported (or at least the aunt). In any case, just ten months after the marriage of the middle-aged former army man and much younger widow, Victoire, the Duchess of Kent gave birth to a Princess on May 24,1819 of Kent who was named Alexandrina Victoria by the Prince Regent over parental protests. This princess would have a significant impact on her older double-cousin’s life in the years ahead!
Somewhat oblivious to all the carryings of his father, aunt and great-uncles the young Alexander, who his grandfather doted on, was being raised with the vigor of a peasant . Keenly aware of how his grandson would be an only child, the Prince Regent formed the Durham Regiment- comprised of four other boys of the same age of noble birth each representing a realm of Great Britain’s (England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland) whose fathers eagerly gave them to the Prince Regent’s charge to curry favor and who would be raised in the same household in the same manner as the heir (each allowed to visit their own families only one month per annum) . Of course, this meant for the first few years, they each had their own nursemaid . From the time of his recovery from diphtheria , physicians and courtiers marveled at his astounding growth and robust health. At age seven months, Alexander was able to walk and he started speaking by the age of ten months. His great-grandmother , Queen Charlotte was said to be quite comforted while the infant hugged her and cooed babyish endearments in her ear whilst his grandfather, the Prince Regent held her hand as she died at Kew Palace on November 17,1818 at age 74 only days after the Duke of Durham’s 1st birthday. When he was barely two years old, his great-grandfather George III was released from this world on January 28,1820 (less than a week after the Duke of Kent died after being treated for a cold) and the Duke of Durham was now Heir Presumptive to his grandfather George IV. Although, his son was proving to be as healthy as a field horse, Prince Leopold was somewhat humiliated at how much of a peasant his son looked- especially in contrast to his custodial grandfather who customarily wore greasepaint, corsets and wigs to hide his own girth and thinning ,grey hair. Prince Leopold considered that his son was being used to make a mockery of the House of Saxe-Coburg Saalfeld which would rule. Although, he took some pride in the fact that Alexander was able to read by the age of three and write by age four!
The Coronation of George IV in June,1821 was quite the fete with the King, Prince Alexander , the Royal Dukes and all their attendents in the most heavily embroidered, ornate Tudor attire ! Although his father, Prince Leopold was in attendance at his side wearing the Tudor Chamberlain’s Uniform George IV had chosen for him, he was rather mortified at his son’s appearance as a Tudor page but had been powerless to intervene whilst the child himself was quite content and comfortable. Not surprisingly, it was observed how strained the interaction was between father and son . Already, Alexander considered his father to be a tiresome, lecturing bore who had to be endured once monthly in contrast to his ever present adoring grandfather, nanny , the Durham Regimen and Lady Conyngham(George IV’s longtime married mistress) who were all the family he truly had want of. The crowds could see that the child had the vigor and healthy glow that his grandfather, great-uncles and even his father could barely even mimic a shadow and were quite impressed not only by his appearance but also with how well behaved the small child was while standing at the King (his grandfather’s side) during the long Coronation. However; it was what had occurred shortly before the Coronation itself had started that was to become a legend in the annals for young Alexander. After the King , Royal Dukes and assembled guests had arrived, the coach of the King’s detested wife Queen Caroline had shown up and she made her way to the Westminster Abbey nave door demanding to be let in to be crowned herself. This temporarily stopped the proceedings as she refused to be persuaded to exit despite the entreaties of the ushers. The King and the Royal Dukes were not quite certain as to what their next move should be as the surrounding crowds adored Queen Caroline and it was feared any force seen used against her could turn the crowd against their new King. Whilst King George IV and the senior ushers were arguing over the next move and the other adults were occupied by this, young Alexander slipped away from the throne stand and somehow squeezed his way through the a small unguarded side door. King George saw that his grandson was no longer where he had been and started to send guards to find and retrieve him but before they could do so, a huge cheer was heard from the crowd outside the Abbey. They saw Alexander approach the quarrelling Queen and Usher ! Suddenly, the Queen burst into tears at her very first sight of her only grandchild. Alexander asked her why she would so upset- and Queen Caroline replied that she had wanted to join the others in the Coronation because all she had left to live for was to pay back the King for his contempt for her. Alexander replied that he himself would have preferred spending such a nice summer day climbing trees and catching frogs but he’d come here because he knew it would make ‘Grandpapa’ happy then added that whenever he got into a temper over being deprived of something he’d wanted “Nanny always asks me if I’d prefer a hug instead of staying in a stew! I always like hugs myself. How about you, ma’am?” Alexander was heard to ask the Queen. At that point, Caroline was heard to reply that for him to hug her would more than make up for being left out of the Coronation ‘” .in fact for you to hug me would make up for almost everything that’s happened!’”Caroline said with a sob. At once, Alexander hopped up and gave Caroline a hug which gave the crowds huge cheer so, before the King’s Guards could reach them ,she returned the embrace and set the young Duke down before making her way back to her carriage and driving off while waving to Alexander. Before the King’s guards could reach him, Alexander ran back into the small side door of the Abbey and to his grandfather’s side at a speed even the most experienced of mothers could scarcely believe a small boy his age could achieve. King George was all set to scold his heir for giving him a fright by his leaving without permission ;however, even by the time Alexander had returned , he had heard how Alexander had saved the day for him and, before the proceedings went any further, insisted on the invited guests cheering Alexander for his deed.
Some weeks later, Queen Caroline died but she before her death she insisted that her coffin bear the words ‘Caroline, the Hugged Queen of England’ on the inscription.
In August,1822 King George IV became the first English monarch since Charles II to tour Scotland and brought his 4-year-old grandson along in an effort to educate him about the northern kingdom and show him off . While the King evoked a mixture of Scottish national pride and a bit of ridicule when he appeared in a Royal Stewart tartan kilt (with him being unable to disguise his obesity), the Duke of Durham won the hearts and adoration of his putative future subjects capped off with his execution of a Scottish Sword Dance before a large crowd that proved utterly flawlessly agile despite his very young age- and the fact that he performed it barefoot. On every anniversary of the Edinburgh visit thereafter while George IV was king and during his own rule, Alexander would recreate the dance to an incredibly advanced age.
What the crowds didn’t know was that Alexander while being raised with the best of manners, decorum and thoroughly educated as his grandfather believed fit, he (and the Durham Regimen) often would have been mistaken for stable hands for their regular attire of linen shirts, breeches and vests and never wearing shoes out of doors above freezing temperatures or indoors save for the most formal of occasions . Also, somewhat shocking to those who knew how much the King prized courtly protocol was that the Durham Regimen were granted permission to address the Heir Presumptive by his given name of Alexander rather than ‘ Your Highness’ then ‘Sir’ –something no one outside the Royal Family was permitted (including the Regiments’ families). However; true to form, only Alexander was exempt from addressing the King by any terms less formal than ‘Your Majesty’ then ‘Sir’ –despite the otherwise genial manner in which King treated his grandson’s de facto brothers and they quickly learned to bow and nod along with all the courtiers whilst Alexander alone could address him as ‘Grandpapa’. In addition to considering Kew Palace and its greenhouses+ gardens to be their own personal paradise (which they early on helped tend to), they also looked forward to ‘sea bathing’ in Brighton with the five of them swimming like fish even if none of the adults did more than get soaked to the shoulders.
Meanwhile, Prince Leopold had engaged a series of lawyers to put forth endless suits to Parliament pleading for the return of the Duke of Durham to his sole physical custody. However; despite the growing unpopularity of the King, Parliament was unable to agree that the Heir Presumptive’ s foreign-born father would be a more suitable guardian than the King himself. Prince Leopold spent a good amount of the £50,000/annum allowance employing barristers for the cause. However; Prince Leopold had employed a backup plan to try to rule England .For a week prior to his grandfather-in-law (George III)’s death, Prince Leopold and the Prince Regent’s mutual niece Princess Victoria of Kent had lost her own father Edward, Duke of Kent when she was only eight months old! Not wanting to risk a repeat of a custody loss which had happened via Princess Charlotte failing to make a will naming him their son’s guardian, Prince Leopold had engaged Baron Stockmar to have the dying Duke of Kent granting the Duchess (Leopold’s sister) full custody of the child who would soon be 4th in line to the Throne. Moreover, between pursuing his own Continental and Society interests, Prince Leopold became the closest being to a father Princess Victoria of Kent would know. Prince Leopold hoped he could somehow manage to have his indifferent son (and probable future King) wed his worshipful niece- despite them being double first cousins (albeit one generation removed via Princess Charlotte of Wales).
Meanwhile, although the King had made his primary residence Kew Palace and Gardens (to ensure a ready supply of the freshest and most exotic produce for the Duke of Durham and the Durham Regimen-), the King went on several tours of his realm taking his grandson and the Regimen along to all parts. More importantly, the Regimen were growing up quite vigorously with Alexander not being known to have so much as a cold after the diphtheria crisis and many, including Lady Conyngham believed that seeing them becoming incredibly strong and agile gave the King a new lease on life even if he was only able to peripherally observe. In part this was due to Alexander having read the exploits of a Hindu strongman in Delhi called Swami Gordma ( a Pehlwahi practioner )and prevailing upon the King to summon the yogi to Kew in 1825 to teach him and the Regiment all the exercises and techniques that he’d learned from thousands of years of Hindu and Persian traditions. Swami Gordma brought with him his beautiful young wife and their five children- as well as a man believed to be his older brother (and his own family) to translate his Hindi instructions to English. Within a year, before anyone else in the court had picked up more than a few words, Alexander had learned Hindi and discovered that the Swami’s ‘brother’ was in fact his grandson by his first marriage- and that the Swami who appeared to be in his early 30’s was well into his 70’s when summoned to Kew! While these lessons helped hone the rest of the Regiment into a healthy and vital group of boys, Alexander proved to be a most eager pupil and soon was even overawing the Hindu yogi himself in his agilities and athletic prowess. By the time he was ten, Alexander could speak and was literate in English, French, German and Hindi.
Recollecting many decades after the fact, his cousin Princess Victoria of Kent recalled her first meeting with ‘Uncle King and Cousin Alley when she was seven ‘(in 1826,I think) . “We road in a phaeton and he wore a wig with much greasepaint and was quite fat and gouty and then Uncle King asked me to ‘give me your little paw’. Sensing my discomfort 9-year-oldCousin Alley laughed and said ‘No worries. Grandpapa won’t bite. He’s already been fed!’ . In incredible contrast to Uncle King, Cousin Alley wore a plain white cotton shirt and linen breeches with his hair past neck length - and when Uncle King tried to whip the pair of horses into a gallop, Cousin Alley said he’d take care of them- and before Uncle King or anyone else could stop him- had leaped out from the seat and onto the right-handed horse’s back and it was then riding him bareback, Cousin Alley urged him to go faster for a time [to Mamma’s horror- who was watching in the distance] then pulled back on the mane to compel the lead horse to stop. It was only then, I could see that he was wearing no shoes or stockings. When I pointed that out to Uncle King, he said that his grandson believed that since peasants were going to be part of his kingdom one day that he needed to be every bit as sturdy as them- and then Uncle King laughed and said that the reason he and Cousin Alley got along so well was because each of them were like no one else in the world that they had that in common. Both grandfather and grandson adored my 19-year-old half-sister Feo[Princess Feodora of Leiningen] and while some said that the King would propose to her[despite the presence of Lady Conyngham], I overheard Uncle King say to Cousin Alley ‘ She’s a flower amongst the weeds but alas you’re too young for her and I’m too old! Just as well, My Boy.It wouldn’t suit us to become rivals!’ Although, I often wonder if Uncle King realized that only after she brought up the subject of Uncle Leopold to Cousin Alley and both of them reacted with such disdain despite how privileged Cousin Alley was to have a father in contrast to Feo and myself! At the end of the visit Cousin Alley had the famous Durham Regiment serenade the three of us which was quite touching- although I must say his singing voice was much more flat than his speaking voice would indicate!”
For his part, Alexander recalled the visit and would always remember Feo being his first puppy love despite fate soon removing her from England with a marriage to Adelaide, Duchess of Clarence’s cousin while he considered his double-first cousin Victoria to be ‘a plain, little fusspot- though not as scolding as[her mother] Aunt Kent’ and would consider their praises of Prince Leopold to be the one thing that spoiled the visit.
Alexander was a fearless horseback rider and his hunting skills were such that from the age of eight invariably was able to kill any game he saw fit with a single rifle shot. By the time he was ten, he decided changed his weaponry to archery for the hunt and many times even would use a spear ! Although, he was quite successful in hunting, he rarely would consume the game (eating only one course of meat a week) but would, instead insist the be dressed and distributed to the local impoverished families- often personally carrying it on his increasingly sturdier shoulders without the slightest discomfort or stumbling despite the game sometimes weighing more than most grown men could lift. Also, many a time, Alexander would attempt to mingle amongst the populace by covering his telltale mangled ear and long hair with a large workman’s cap and insisting that he was a motherless orphan game warden’s apprentice named Alisdair or Dare Coburn apprenticing at Kew Gardens –complete with a flawless Scottish burr he’d remembered from his visit in 1821. He chose the name Coburn because he said he felt more of a ‘wild Scot’ at heart even if he was more ‘cultured German’ in lineage. Alexander never made this (or anything else) a secret from his grandfather as the two enjoyed a sincere friendship beyond the formalities of king and heir . Initially, the increasingly reclusively King was shocked at his grandson’s ventures but he couldn’t help but admire his heir’s boldness and soon only insisted that a guard would accompany him (in similar disguise) and any of the Durham Regimen who he was able to talk into joining him. Alexander often was able to lose the guard in crowds and by nimbly climbing trees ,fences and roofs like a cat. Although Alexander had an astoundingly easy temper (especially for a Royal Family member), he would always jump to one of his ‘Regiment Brothers’ defense if anyone in their ventures attempted to go to blows with one of them. More than one hardened adult fighter learned that while the other four members of the Durham Regimen’s hits were no worse than other boys, a blow from Alexander’s powerful fists could be catastrophic- easily smashing bones and even his unshod kicks were recorded as having shattered more than one grown man’s shinbone. Both because of his princely rank being constantly pointed out to them by others, and by his imposing physique and character, the rest of the Durham Regiment viewed him as their leader – as well as their brother who was always favored by others. He was a head taller than the rest of Regimen by the time he was ten. It was when he was ten that he had the best triumph and saddest disclosure of his young life. He was at the Coxswain’s Cup Tavern near Kew disguised as ‘Dare Coburn’ when he asked to enter the bar’s Hercules Challenge in which the participants were to see who could hoist the most. He was able to pick up the large oak serving table from the floor, on his shoulders, then hoist it above his head with both hands like many of the other challengers but he was the only one present who could successfully do with not one but two grown men on the table( a combined weight of more than five times his own bodyweight). While he was hoisted into the air in triumph, there were patrons who were heard to say that were the real Duke of Durham even half as strong as the phenomenal ‘Dare Coburn’, he make a fortune putting on ‘Strength Exhibitions’- to which another wag added that the Duke of Durham could even have his own circus if he invited his grandfather the King to be the ‘fatman/ clown’ with all his ‘foppery’ ! Alexander was furious that his grandfather being derided this way and, without revealing his identity, immediately challenged anyone who spoke so ill to a fisticuff duel over ridiculing the King in this way. Having seen the boy best the burliest of grown workmen in physical strength, the room immediately sank to silence. When he returned back to Kew, everyone was talking about what had transpired but no one had the courage to tell the King while Alexander himself sullenly went to his room in his farm cottage and closed the door- and for the first time since his own infancy was heard to cry. The King heard this and was quite alarmed by hearing his grandson’s sobs and demanded to be let in. Alexander at first didn’t want to tell him but the King was quite adamant. At last, Alexander told him that he didn’t care if others made mockery of himself but he furious that they would make fun of the King and he wished others could see what a great man his grandfather was like he could instead of deriding his appearance. This revelation shook King George IV of Great Britain and Ireland to the core for he had taken to wearing these accoutrements to attempt to recapture what he himself had once looked like but, in attempting to recapture his youth, he had turned his appearance and very self into a sad self-parody. From this point on, the King was no longer seen with greasepaint on his face or a wig and wore much plainer, more pragmatic attire.
The King also took heed of his grandson’s urgings to be a king to ALL his subjects by giving his Irish, Catholic and Scottish subjects the same legal rights the English, Protestant subjects were entitled to – for if the poorest subjects were more prosperous, the wealthiest and privileged subjects could be even wealthier. The King also cut back significantly on his refined food and liquor consumption but, despite Alexander’s pleas , was not willing to start any kind of exercise regimen. Nonetheless, the King’s health did seem to improve over the previous decades. The King often told Alexander that it was his wish that God grant him the chance to see Alexander’s 18th birthday so that he could Abdicate and turn the Throne over to one ‘who had shone far brighter than he himself had ever had in spite of decades of craving the Throne’- and be witness to Alexander’s Coronation that Alexander had meticulously planned from a very early age. However; all those decades of wanton gluttony, alcoholism ,sloth and libations weren’t a to be reversed entirely.
Accension - It was thus on the early morning of June 26th, 1830, 68-year-old King George IV died in his 12-year-old grandson’s arms after having been bedridden some months while his grandson (and the Regiment) spent virtually all waking hours attending the Sovereign. Alexander was already taller than his grandfather at 6 foot 1 inch with a deep baritone voice,a tanned ruddy complexion and shoulder-length auburn hair. Amongst the effects found in George IV’s possession were hundred of locks of women’s hair- but what only he, Alexander and the Regiment knew was that Alexander had supplemented the supply with a few locks of hair from girls he himself had had encounters with in recent months in his ‘Dare Coburn' guise to give cheer to his ailing grandfather. For only the second time since his infancy, Alexander was heard to cry quite loudly and sincerely at the King’s passing. Being told ‘The King is Dead, Long Live the King’ was no solace to the new 12-year-old king . When he saw his 65-year-old great- uncle William, the Duke of Clarence start to leave his the death scene, he pleaded with ‘Uncle Clarence ‘ to stay with him to help him out.
“Lad, I’m no longer the Duke of Clarence. I’m now the King of Hanover so instead of Uncle Clarence, you need call me ‘William’!” William I of Hanover declared.
“But you’re my Uncle and,” Alexander I of Great Britain and Ireland pleaded.
“Yes, but we’re both kings now and boys at heart- and we could each be glad of there being someone left who can address us by our Christian names,” William I laughed.
“But can’t you stay? I know Father won’t wait long to try to take everything over and ..?” Alexander asked.
“I must be off to Hanover to be my subjects’ new king but first, I have an even more important duty,” William exclaimed with a raised eyebrow.
“What’s that?” Alexander asked.
“I must get back to Clarence House to your Aunt Adelaide so I can enjoy the novelty of sleeping with a Queen!” William laughed which brought forth a laugh from Alexander and the rest of the Regiment.
Almost the minute after the new King of Hanover departed, as Alexander (and George IV) had dreaded, the 40-year-old Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg Gotha arrived at Kew Palace and proclaimed himself to be Prince Regent of Great Britain and Ireland in the name of the minor King Alexander of Great Britain and Ireland. For, although, he had been unsuccessful in getting Parliament to return Sole Physical Custody of Alexander to him during George IV’s lifetime, he had been able to persuade Parliament(which had become increasingly frustrated with George IV) to grant him Regency over the minor king until Alexander came of age- despite George IV’s efforts to have Alexander declared of age in the immediate event of his own death.
Next time. Part Two- Ascension and the Leopold Regency