Crown Imperial: An Alt British Monarchy

GV: Part One, Chapter 17: The Long Farewell


Monthly Donor
King George V

Part One, Chapter Seventeen: The Long Farewell

The Duke of Clarence was mistaken in his pessimistic predictions that his death was mere weeks away, however his health was clearly in decline. By March of 1836, the Duke of Cambridge had been forced to deputise for his brother more frequently. Despite his protests, the Duchess of Clarence forbad her husband from receiving Privy Councillors in his bedroom, so determined was he to continue to carry out his official duties. He eventually relented but not because his wife implored him to rest, rather because he was concerned it would set a precedent for members of the Privy Council to sit during meetings. But he would only go so far in meeting the demands of his wife and he had a military-style cot bed moved into his study at Clarence House so that he could still spend a few hours a day at his desk. Every afternoon at 3pm, the Duchess ordered two footmen to lift him out of his chair and place him into a wheelchair so that he could take some fresh air in the gardens, but this did nothing but irritate the Duke who felt he should be working instead.


Clarence House as the Duke of Clarence knew it in his time.

The King’s Physician, Sir John Forbes, visited the Duke daily to assess his condition but he told nobody of his diagnosis. The Duke of Clarence was consistently short of breath, his stomach was distended to twice it’s size and his ankles and feet had swollen so much he could no longer wear shoes. The Duke of Clarence was suffering from advanced heart disease. Forbes privately noted that he would be surprised if the Duke lived longer than 12 months. He urged that the Clarences move to the coast for a time where the Duke could “take the air” and in his view, the Duke should immediately cease from all work and rest as much as possible. Curiously, he also prescribed that garlic should be added to everything the Duke ate in the belief that it would burn away the fat grown round the heart and ease the Duke’s symptoms. Clarence refused to leave London and as for Forbes’ culinary cure, the Duke let it be known that if he was served anything flavoured with garlic once more, he would dismiss every employee in the Clarence House kitchens without a reference.

The Duchess of Clarence was not one to give in easily. Dr Forbes did not give her the full details of her husband’s condition but warned her that; “Any violent feelings would agitate his condition. We know that they can kill the heart in a moment. It is essential that His Royal Highness be relieved of anything that may cause him further emotional or physical strain”. [1] At her wits end, the Duchess of Clarence went to her brother-in-law and asked him to intervene. He must order the Duke of Clarence to take a holiday by the sea and to take some time away from his official duties. Cambridge adored his elder brother and for the first time in their relationship, he gave Clarence an order; he was to go to the coast as soon as possible and have nothing to do with affairs of state until his health improved. Clarence was furious but only temporarily. Begrudgingly, he agreed to take a brief period of rest but only after the visit of the Dutch King and Queen in May was concluded. The Duchess of Clarence knew she would not get a better compromise and so sent the Marchioness of Lansdowne to the Norfolk coast to begin scouting properties which might be leased for two months.

In the meantime, the Duke of Clarence persisted in his duties. He was not the only one feeling the strain of duty. For Lord Lansdowne, the duties of Prime Minister had proved exactly the kind of burden he had wished to avoid. He had never wanted the post and only accepted Clarence’s offer in a collegial gesture to ease tensions between the Palace and the Whig government. He knew all too well that Clarence disliked many of his colleagues and hoped that during his tenure, bridges could be built to allow his successor a far smoother transition to power. He also knew that time was running out. To give the Whigs the best chance of retaining their majority, perhaps even increasing it, he needed to resign and see his successor installed with enough time for him to achieve many of the things the Grey government had promised to introduce but had failed to do so. On the 15th of March 1836, Lansdowne went to see the Duke of Clarence to ask to be allowed to resign. Clarence groaned and barked; “My God man, have you not the decency to spare a dying man such a choice?”.


Lord Lansdowne.

The previous Prime Minister, Lord Grey, had recommended Lord John Russell or Lord Melbourne as his successor, though he had warned that the appointment of either one would undoubtedly split the Whigs into moderates and progressives. Clarence had misgivings about both men and had seen Lansdowne as a compromise candidate he could tolerate but Grey’s prediction had still held firm. Many Whigs were furious that Lord John Russell had been overlooked and were determined to ensure he was appointed as Lansdowne’s successor when the time came. This was not so much because they respected, or even liked, Russell personally. Rather, they knew him to be bold in his approach and believed he would use the Whig majority to the full by pursuing radical reforms. They were also sour that the King’s Regent had seemingly allowed his personal likes or dislikes to interfere with his decision making, something they felt must be put right to reinforce parliament’s sovereignty. Whigs in this camp formed an unofficial grouping meeting once a week and were dubbed “The Russell Group”.

By contrast, there were those Whigs who could not countenance a Russell administration and had thrown their support behind Lord Melbourne as Lansdowne’s successor. Again, this was not so much because they believed in Melbourne as a strong and capable Prime Minister (indeed, some believed him to be a dangerous choice) but perhaps because they feared losing their seats at the next general election – possibly even the Whig majority in the Commons. The Unionist’s “Dirty Campaign” against the Whigs had been turned into an all-out battle of personalities with Lansdowne portrayed as a weak and ineffective placeholder who would eventually bow out and be replaced by the dangerously radical Lord John Russell. If the Russell Group were successful in forcing Lord John as Lansdowne’s successor the electorate may take this as vindication of the Unionists alarmist rhetoric resulting in a huge backlash against the Whigs. Pro-Melbourne Whigs wanted to see the government using its majority to make progress just as much as members of the Russell Group but they believed a strong and stable march towards reform led by Melbourne was a much safer option politically.

Lansdowne recommended that the Duke appoint Lord Melbourne as Prime Minister, immediately calming Clarence’s ill-tempered protests. Whilst he had no particular affection for Melbourne, between Lord John Russell (whom Clarence referred to as “that devil”) and Lord Melbourne there could be no contest. Indeed, Clarence was minded to appoint Melbourne instead of Lansdowne the previous year but Melbourne was in the midst of a scandal and Lansdowne had seemed a much safer pair of hands. Melbourne was summoned to Clarence House the same day and was invited to form a government. His appointment as Prime Minister would mark one the last official acts of the Duke of Clarence as the King’s Regent. Recovered from any earlier misgivings, Melbourne jumped at the opportunity to become Prime Minister but advised the Duke that some in his own party may feel aggrieved by his choice; “They are strong for Russell Sir, I feel up to the challenge to convince them otherwise but I cannot promise they shall not protest my appointment for a time”. Clarence waved away such misgivings; “Any man but Russell”, he grumbled, “I’ll have a thousand of you over that devil”. [2]


Lord John Russell.

Melbourne had a year to inspire a new enthusiasm for the Whigs among the electorate and to keep them from being seduced by the “Dirty Campaign” of the Unionists. He took a swipe at the Earl of Winchelsea in the House of Lords shortly after his appointment; “His predictions have proven to be as hollow as his convictions, let every man in the country take note of that and remember it well in the future”. But it would take more than clever words in political debates. Grey had dragged his feet, Lansdowne had barely touched any major reforms; all eyes were on Melbourne and the Russell Group were already snapping at his heels demanding proof that he shared their ambitions for progress. With the Melbourne Cabinet appointed, the new Prime Minister gave his approval to a new raft of bills introduced by the Duke of Cambridge at the State Opening of Parliament. This was held on a reduced scale with the Duke being brought to Westminster by carriage and then sitting in the temporary Lords Chamber with his speech relayed to the Commons by Gentleman Ushers because there was not room for them to fit inside. Melbourne’s agenda was just enough to bring Russell supporters on board, though they remained fiercely attached to Lord John.

The first of these bills was the Salaries Act 1836. [3] For some time, Whigs and moderate Tories such as Sir Robert Peel had argued that MPs should be paid a salary. In this way, the pool of candidates for selection to represent constituencies in parliament would be far more diverse with men from middle class and even working-class backgrounds able to stand for election. More right-wing Tories and Unionists opposed the idea, predicting that the result would be an influx of working-class MPs who would dismantle the old order and reduce the country to “a Parisian commune”. The Earl of Winchelsea went further, calling the proposals; “akin to revolution from within. It will encourage the lower orders to rebel against authority and bring in droves of ill-educated men from entirely the wrong backgrounds who do not understand the way the law operates, let alone how it should be written”. Melbourne had to concede (at least privately) that Winchelsea had a point. At this time, the majority of the great households in England refused to accept servants who could read or write. They believed this to be a disadvantage and until an alternative source of stable and secure employment could be found, parents were reluctant to allow their children to go to school to protect their future interests.

The answer to this problem was to be a vast overhaul of the education system led by the former Lord Chancellor, Henry Brougham. Brougham was known for his particular dedication to the cause of improving education across Britain and with Melbourne’s backing, a Royal Commission was appointed which would set the groundwork for the biggest reform of the British education system in decades, if not centuries. Brougham presented his proposals in the Parish Schools Bill [1], an historic piece of legislation that would create local school boards which would allocate state funding to schools in newly created catchment areas. These catchment areas brought together Sunday schools, private schools, poor schools and non-denominational schools with new “Parish Schools” built in areas without suitable facilities. The new school boards were to be under the authority of a Commissioner for Public Education who would offer an annual report to parliament on the state of education in the United Kingdom and who would also have the final say on how the state education budget should be divided between catchment areas. [4]

Whilst some made the Parish Schools Bill out to be a radical, or even revolutionary, reform intended to tear apart the established social order of the United Kingdom, it was in fact a very logical extension to previous reforms undertaken by both Tory and Whig governments. Since 1833, parliament had been voting sums of money annually for the construction of schools for poor children marking the first time the state had ever become involved in trying to secure programmes for universal education. As a result, Associations of Public Schools had been founded in some areas to campaign for more funding or to expand funding to non-denominational schools, a particular sticking point up until now.


Lord Brougham

But as well-intentioned as the Public Schools Bill was, it still caused unease among the working classes who feared a loss of income. The Unionists quickly learned that this, not hysterical outbursts about “training schools for Parisian revolutionaries”, was the key to pulling the working class away from the Whigs. Unionists began to campaign with rallies held in market squares up and down the country, predicting a surge towards the workhouse as children were banned from working and contributing to their household income. The Whigs replied that the Unionists wanted to keep children poorly educated so that they could maintain the old order of things which only benefitted the aristocracy and the wealthy, not the poor. From his study, the Duke of Clarence wrote to the Duke of Wellington on the Public Schools Bill. Surprisingly, Clarence was in full support of the measures and said that it was “a national disgrace that some among our class would wish to keep poor children in ignorance to preserve their own privileges”. This pro-Whig support would prove to be short lived.

Meanwhile, the Duchess of Clarence had been making arrangements for the Duke’s summer holiday whilst also preparing for the celebrations for Princess Victoria’s 17th birthday. Usually such elaborate and extravagant festivities would not have been held until the following year but this particular party would mark not only Victoria’s birthday but her engagement too. The Dutch Royal Family had been invited to join the British Royal Family at Buckingham Palace and no expense was to be spared in making them feel welcome. For 8 weeks, there was not a corner of the palace which was not inspected, scrubbed, repainted and then inspected again to ensure everything was as perfect as it could be. The ball was to be held on the 24th of May with the Prince and Princess of Orange becoming the first foreign guests to be accommodated for an overnight stay at Buckingham Palace. The Queen’s Ballroom was transformed with garlands of red and white roses interspersed with orange blossoms hanging from the balcony. Banners embroidered with the arms of the Royal Houses of Hanover and Orange were hung from the ceiling and there were ice sculptures of unicorns and lions placed on tables at every corner of the room where footmen in state livery were to serve punch in silver cups to the assembled guests.

As opposed to a formal banquet, the Duchess of Clarence wished to stress the family nature of the occasion and so a buffet supper was offered with the River Table designed by Nash brought out for the first time since 1825. The 12-foot-long table fashioned in English oak and decorated with carved acorns and leaves had a specially designed channel in the centre into which water was poured and real goldfish encouraged to swim. On each side of the channel, the Grand Service commissioned by the late Prince Regent was laid out on a bed of foliage and flowers to offer tempting morsels to the guests. Princess Sophia was not thrilled with the new approach to dining at the Palace and likened eating buffet-style to “waiting at a soup kitchen in a tiara”. Nonetheless, the scene was set for Princess Victoria’s special day and on the morning of her birthday, the Clarences made their way to Buckingham Palace to receive the Oranges and their son. Also in attendance were Prince William's two brothers, Prince Alexander and Prince Henry, and his only daughter, Princess Sophie.


The Prince of Orange, aged 16 or 17.

The British Royal Family were truly on parade that evening with the Clarences, and Cambridges joined by the King, Princess Charlotte Louise, Princess Mary (Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh) and Princess Sophia. Princess Augusta had been due to attend but withdrew her acceptance of the Duchess of Clarence’s invitation when she learned that, far from boycotting the event as everybody expected, the Dowager Queen was to be at the ball. Despite her earlier attempts to sabotage Princess Victoria’s chances with the Dutch court, Queen Louise was concerned that the Clarences may use the occasion to turn the head of the King toward Princess Sophie of the Netherlands. The Clarences had no such intentions, especially given that Princess Sophie was just 12 years old. Nonetheless, Louise saw yet another opportunity to push her son and her niece together and made her way to Buckingham Palace that night with Duchess Luise in tow.

She was generally well-behaved, choosing to stick with the Cambridges, barely acknowledging the Dutch royal party. She did not bring a gift for Princess Victoria and when the 17-year old’s birthday cake was wheeled (complete with a likeness of her dog Dash in marzipan on the top tier), Queen Louise was heard to scoff; “How very childish she still is!”. But Queen Louise was about to have the arrogant smirk wiped dramatically from her face as the presentation of gifts began. The Prince and Princess of Orange gifted Victoria a diamond riviere and matching earrings whilst King George V presented his cousin with a diamond and pearl stomacher brooch. The future groom stepped forward to give his gift and on the advice of his father, invited Victoria to take a walk with him on the terrace of the palace for a moment. Lit by torches along the balustrades, the 19-year-old Prince nervously paced in silence for a time before finally asking the question Victoria had spent months preparing to hear. Their engagement was sealed with a ring, William's gift to his future bride.


King William II and Queen Anna of the Netherlands with their children.

Returning to the ballroom, the Duke of Clarence motioned to the band to stop playing and silence filled the air. Two footmen assisted him to the dais where he leaned on two sticks, his wife Adelaide at one side and King George V, the Prince and Princess of Orange on the other. “It gives me the greatest pleasure to announce that tonight, my beloved niece Victoria has become engaged to be married to Prince William of the Netherlands”, he said, his voice slightly tremulous with emotion, “I speak for my wife and I, indeed, Victoria’s entire family, when I say that whilst we feel a great sadness at her leaving us, our love for her matches that sentiment with one of great happiness for her future”. There were champagne toasts to Victoria and William, to the King, to the Prince of Orange, to the United Kingdom and to the Netherlands. Then the Duke of Clarence motioned to a footman who brought forward a familiar looking red leather box. The assembled guests craned their necks as the lid was lifted by the footman to show Victoria the contents. Overcome with emotion, she quite forgot herself and rushed towards the Duke of Clarence, kissing him on both cheeks and holding him for a moment as tears streamed down her face. The Duke was equally emotional, kissing his niece and whispering softly; “As it goes with you, so too does my heart”.

The footman turned to show the contents of the box to the assembled guests. Polite applause and impressed coos filled the ballroom from all corners but one. There in the box was the Mandi Parure, the suite of jewels Queen Louise had commissioned and lost during her time in Germany. For the first time in her life, the Dowager Queen was speechless. The Marchioness of Lansdowne could not help but be amused as the Queen’s face flushed red and she turned away angrily from the dais. The Duke of Clarence had won the last battle. He would never see his sister-in-law again in his lifetime and yet she would never forget the humiliation of their last encounter. In the midst of her embarrassment, she did not hear the King’s speech. According to The London Times, “His Majesty won all hearts when, in an indication of his maturity of character, gave a most touching address in honour of the engagement of the Prince of Orange to Princess Victoria of Kent”. The newspaper also mentioned that the King was engaged for three dances (the galop and two waltzes) with his cousin, Duchess Luise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

For all the emotion of the night before, Princess Victoria was to remain living in England for the rest of the year, albeit engaged in earnest preparation for her wedding. Her life was now to be dominated by Dutch courtiers and government officials, tutors, ministers and ladies of Princess Anna’s household to help ready her for her new life in the Netherlands. Added to this, the Duke of Clarence was now expected to honour his promise as he and his wife left London for the North Norfolk coast. They had leased a townhouse on the Promenade of the seaside town of Sheringham and were joined by a handful of their household and servants to make their stay as comfortable as possible. Whilst Princess Victoria would join them for two weeks at the end of their holiday, opportunities for the Clarences to spend time with their niece would now prove few and far between and these meetings were always filled with the knowledge that her departure was growing ever closer.


Sheringham, North Norfolk as it can be seen today from Beeston Hill.

Also visiting the Clarences in Norfolk were the King and Princess Charlotte Louise. Both had invited friends; the King being joined by Prince Alexander of Prussia (visiting England at the King’s invitation for the summer) and Princess Charlotte Louise by Lady Anne Anson. The teenagers were to travel incognito and so it was as Henry, Elizabeth, George and Sarah Bailey that they frolicked in the sea and held races against each other on the beach. Honest Billy was on hand to oversee discipline and order and he delighted the group by agreeing to take them on a tour of local historical sites including the ruined Baconsthorpe Castle at Holt, the Old Brick Kilns at Barney and Binham Priory. These were intended to be private visits with no publicity but even in those days, the press had their ways. Unbeknown to the Clarences, the resident housekeeper of their leased townhouse, Mrs Marjorie Warwick, had been paid two pounds to provide the press with news and gossip of the royal holiday and so the Baileys were quickly unmasked, and the decision was taken that the disappointed royal teenagers should return to London.

Back in the capital, the Dowager Queen Louise was still smarting from being humiliated at the ball at Buckingham Palace a month or so before. With nobody else to unleash her temper on, her target was her niece, Duchess Luise. The poor girl was disciplined for imagined transgressions against the household rules and forbidden from taking tea with guests, even her own aunt Augusta, the Duchess of Cambridge, when she visited Marlborough House. The situation had become so unpleasant that Luise had no choice but to write a letter to Augusta asking for help. The Duchess of Cambridge had to engineer a way to ease the burden on her niece and in an attempt to rescue her from the tyranny of Queen Louise, asked if she might borrow the girl for a time. The youngest Cambridge child was Princess Mary Adelaide, then just two years old, and Augusta feigned exhaustion, complaining that the Cambridge’s governess was utterly hopeless. Queen Louise would not relent. Instead, she summoned Madame Fillon out of retirement and sent her to take care of Princess Mary Adelaide, forcing the Duchess of Cambridge to dismiss her exemplary governess Mrs Brewer who remained bitter ever after.


The Duchess of Cambridge with her children George and Augusta.

In need of reinforcements, the Duchess of Cambridge returned to Marlborough House with her husband. For Queen Louise, this was the perfect opportunity to “settle matters”. The Duke of Clarence was clearly ailing and the Duke of Cambridge regent in all but name. He would need a deputy if the Duke of Clarence died, and Louise did not intend to lose out on the post again. It was time for a clear decision one way or the other. She reasoned that “His Majesty will be far too busy at the Royal Military College to take on anything else so the work required must be shared by two”. She also suggested that the Duke of Cambridge had been absent from England for far too long to be familiar with the various courtiers and ministers he would have to deal with on a daily basis. The Duke of Cambridge was put in a terribly awkward position. He had no desire to betray the Duke of Clarence, neither did he wish to disobey his late brother’s instructions that Louise was not to play any role in a regency. He promised to consider the matter carefully.

In a meeting with Lord Melbourne, the Duke of Cambridge admitted to Lord Melbourne that he was being put under pressure by his sister-in-law, the Dowager Queen, to make her his deputy as regent when the time came. He had no intention of doing so but wanted to ensure that his tenure as King’s Regent was not plagued by the same battle of wills his elder brother had faced. Melbourne gave him sound advice. There was no legal requirement for the King’s Regent to have a deputy. In the event that his hand was forced by his sister-in-law, the obvious solution was to appoint the Duke of Sussex on the pretext that the Duke of Cambridge too had been deputy regent whilst also serving as Viceroy of Hanover. This would not please the Dowager Queen of course but Melbourne believed there was more than one way to skin a cat. “Her Majesty wants a role with authority and responsibility”, he counselled, “Therefore you should find her something to do which makes her believe that she has been restored to a position of influence, regardless of the truth of the matter. As a friend she will obey, as a foe she will disrupt”.


The Duke of Cambridge.

The Duke of Cambridge was convinced that Melbourne had the right approach. He must find his sister-in-law a role to play in the future which not only gave her little time to interfere in important matters of state but which could also free Duchess Luise from her clutches. Cambridge did not believe his sister-in-law to be naïve. Whatever he offered must be something she could see the merit in and furthermore, something she enjoyed. As Queen Louise bombarded him with letters demanding a decision be made on the future of the regency, Cambridge hadn’t a clue what course of action to pursue.

That was until one morning when he decided to take a stroll in Hyde Park with his private secretary, George Menkes. Menkes asked if the Duke had seen a newspaper report that morning about the proposed installation of a memorial fountain to King George IV in Kensington Park, formerly the site of Kensington Palace. The Duke shook his head.

“I shall never know why my brother didn’t fight for Kensington”, he said, “It was very short sighted because by the time His Majesty has his own children, we shall all be forced to live no better than rabbits in a hutch”.

“Perhaps it was the expense of rebuilding Sir?”, Menkes replied.

“Perhaps”, Cambridge mused, “It is a good job the damn place didn’t burn during my late brother’s time. Her Majesty would have replaced that little house with Versailles”.

And just like that, the Duke of Cambridge had found a solution to his problem.


[1] A paraphrased quote from an 1851 medical journal on heart disease. Garlic was also regularly advised as a treatment based on Culpepper’s belief that onions and garlic burned away fat from around the heart to improve blood flow.

[2] In the OTL, William IV had a particular hatred for Lord John Russell though his niece, Queen Victoria, counted Russell among her friends in later life.

[3] This was frequently debated between 1800 and 1850 but the political situation always saw it derailed at the last. It was finally introduced in the OTL in 1911. Here there’s enough support for it among the Whigs (the leading proponents of a Salaries Act way back in the 1830s and 40s) and moderate Tories. It passes but realistically, it will change nothing in the short term as selection processes remain the same. We’ll revisit this theme later.

[4] Brougham tried in vain to propose this bill in the OTL but it never made a Second Reading. Here it becomes law.

The First Melbourne Ministry (1836 - 1838)
  • First Lord of the Treasury and Leader of the House of Lords: William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne
  • Chancellor of the Exchequer: John Ponsonby, 4th Earl of Bessborough
  • Leader of the House of Commons: Sir John Hobhouse, 1st Baron Broughton
  • Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs: Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston
  • Secretary of State for the Home Department: Lord John Russell
  • Secretary of State for War and the Colonies: Thomas Spring Rice
  • Lord Chancellor: Charles Pepys, 1st Earl of Cottenham
  • Lord President of the Council: John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham
  • Lord Privy Seal: George Howard, 6th Earl of Carlisle
  • First Lord of the Admiralty: George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland
  • President of the Board of Control: Charles Grant, 1st Baron Glenelg
  • Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster: Henry Vassall-Fox, 3rd Baron Holland
  • Postmaster-General: Henry Grey, 3rd Earl Grey
N.B - Apologies for the delay in this instalment, I've just got a new PC and there were teething troubles! With a few more chapters of Part One to go, my original plan was to break and give a biography of Princess Victoria before returning to the life of King George V. But then I realised this might lead to spoilers so we may well go into Part Two with Victoria's biography appearing afterwards instead.

I'll also be posting some additions to these two TLs so far in my test thread that I've been working on in the background. The first will be some more details on the illegitimate children of King George IV but I also have some other character profiles to help fill in the blanks of characters created for this TL who have since disappeared. Once again, a huge thanks for reading!
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Monthly Donor
So Louise is being granted permission to redesign Kensington Palace?
Kensington won't be revived as a site for a royal residence but she will be given a project that involves regular trips around the UK to keep her away from London as much as possible. ;)
Kensington won't be revived as a site for a royal residence but she will be given a project that involves regular trips around the UK to keep her away from London as much as possible. ;)

But would that not leave her unsupervised?

Cambridge is a military man, surely "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" would be wise for him to bear in mind.

I'm half surprised she hasn't tried to bring Maria Beatrice of Savoy into play at this point.
Kensington won't be revived as a site for a royal residence but she will be given a project that involves regular trips around the UK to keep her away from London as much as possible. ;)

Will Cambridge provide instructions to the Treasury not to let Louise go overboard on expenses for Kensington?


Monthly Donor
But would that not leave her unsupervised?

Cambridge is a military man, surely "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" would be wise for him to bear in mind.

I'm half surprised she hasn't tried to bring Maria Beatrice of Savoy into play at this point.


Will Cambridge provide instructions to the Treasury not to let Louise go overboard on expenses for Kensington?
Without giving too many spoilers away, rest assured that Louise's dream palace will remain exactly that.

Cambridge wants to distract her with something useful that she enjoys and which gives a feeling of authority. Louise likes to be in charge of things after all. But finding a new site for a suitable royal residence could well take 12 months or longer, the design phase another 12 months or even more...who's to say what could change in that time?
That's a good point. We're only about 18 months away from George reaching majority so he can pull the rug out from under his mother when he does, certainly when he learns how dreadful the Dowager has been to his wife.

And presumably that's why he marries her prior to majority, to get her out of his mothers purview.
Cambridge is a military man, surely "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" would be wise for him to bear in mind.
Makes it easier to find them when you need the gallows anyhow.

like that the Parish School going through will be a major shot in the arm and will give many a smart child the shot to make something more of themselves.
GV: Part One, Chapter 18: A Summer Romance


Monthly Donor
King George V

Part One, Chapter Eighteen: A Summer Romance

In June 1836, the Duke of Cambridge invited his sister-in-law, the Dowager Queen Louise, to Cambridge House for supper. The Duke purchased the House in 1829 to serve as a bolt-hole away from Hanover. An uncharitable view (but possibly most likely) is that he intended it as a place to entertain his mistresses during his regular visits to England whilst his wife remained in Hanover. Certainly the Duke had never regarded Cambridge House as a family home and finding himself back in England permanently with his wife and children had been a difficult adjustment. For all the luxury of Cambridge House, the property was something of a squeeze.

The principal floor was made over to a circuit of reception rooms for entertaining and daily life for the Cambridges was therefore confined to the morning room on the ground floor during the first half of the day and the salon on the first floor during the latter half. Guests were entertained in the dining room or the music room but the Duke’s library and study took up the majority of the remaining space. On the third floor were two large bedrooms each with a bathroom and dressing room and which were occupied by the Duke and Duchess respectively. Like many of their class, the thought of sharing one bedroom was unthinkable. The third bedroom was occupied by the Cambridge’s eldest son Prince George with a fourth shared by Princess Augusta and Princess Mary Adelaide. In reality, the Duchess of Cambridge liked the intimate setup of Cambridge House, preferring it to the vast cold rooms of Herrenhausen but the Duke was less satisfied.


Cambridge House in Piccadilly.

At dinner, the Duke complained that Cambridge House was far too small and that he had hoped Kensington Palace would have provided a secondary residence for his family if they ever returned from Hanover. But with Kensington gone, there were few other options available to them. The Duke was minded to sell Cambridge House to buy a larger property, he claimed, but he didn’t wish to put the property up for sale so soon after his return for fear he would be accused of exploiting his new position at court. Queen Louise sympathised. Never one to miss an opportunity to bash the Clarences, she barked; “It is quite selfish of William. He and Adelaide live in that lovely big house whilst we are all cramped and squeezed into silly little apartments scattered about the place”. Cambridge bit his tongue and agreed. His concerns were not for his own comfort, he insisted, rather “For the next generation who will find themselves living in the strangest little pigeon lofts in London”.

“William should have fought for Kensington”, Louise remarked bitterly, “The late King would never have allowed such an important place to be lost and certainly not because he was frightened of radicals complaining about the cost”.

Cambridge nodded and laughed; “Too busy worrying about the price of their own palace, what?”.

The Duke waited to make his move until after the meal. He asked his sister-in-law if she might be available to meet with him the following afternoon to discuss an important problem that he felt only she could resolve. As ever, flattery was the way to Louise’s heart. She left Cambridge House that evening buoyed by the prospect of having some of her old authority restored to her. She had always hoped that her close relationship to the Cambridges would pay off in this way and now it seemed as if she had been right to do so. Clarence would be dead before the year was out, she predicted and now Cambridge was stretching his legs as Deputy Regent. But had possibly realised that he couldn’t do the job without someone by his side who had not been absent from Britain for the last 20 years. The remaining royal Dukes were clearly out of the running and Princess Augusta had become old, bitter and unhelpful (in the Queen's view). That only left the Dowager Queen. Her ambition was so close to becoming a reality that she could almost taste it.

The Duke of Cambridge was not being entirely disingenuous. There was a feeling among the wider Royal Family that their accommodation was ramshackle and inconvenient compared to their counterparts across Europe. St James’ Palace had not been renovated since a fire in 1809 had destroyed the monarch’s private apartments at the south-east corner. King George III declined to replace the apartments leaving only two suites of rooms considered to be habitable. One of these was set aside for the monarch should they wish to avail themselves of a night at St James’ whilst the other had been given to Princess Sophia when she was evicted from her apartment at Marlborough House. The living quarters of St James’ were in a poor condition compared to the State Rooms which George III had consented to refurbish as they were still to host formal occasions such as levees and public audiences. It was true that George IV had made Buckingham Palace his primary residence and had extended and renovated the building at great expense but there were only four apartments that could be used to accommodate members of the Royal Family: one was reserved for the King, another for the Queen and the remaining two were reserved for visiting heads of state.


St James' Palace, c. 1835.

Windsor Castle had provided a fallback for the last twenty years but it’s distance from the City of London made it unpopular with members of the Royal Family (such as the Clarences or the Cambridges) who had regular business in the capital. Kensington had been used to house various members of the extended Royal Family and whilst the Duke of Clarence had the family’s support in not rebuilding the palace after the fire, it was a little short sighted. Whether a new palace to accommodate future generations was a priority was debatable but the Duke was not seriously contemplating allowing his sister-in-law to rush around London with a blank cheque looking for sites to plonk down an extravagant palace in any case. His motive was two-fold in giving his sister-in-law such a project; firstly, to keep her occupied so that she would not try and influence his decisions as Deputy Regent, and secondly, to try and liberate Duchess Luise from the Dowager Queen’s tyranny to please his wife.

Cambridge recruited the help of his Private Secretary George Menkes, the Master of the Household Sir Frederick Beilby Watson and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Lord Holland who greeted the Dowager Queen when she arrived at Cambridge House the following afternoon. The four gentlemen had been in conference all morning and had come to a resolution. Lord Holland had reservations that it would be ungentlemanly to deceive the King’s mother. Cambridge reassured him that it was “a necessary evil”. The brief was simple; to find a modestly priced house or empty site which the Crown could acquire with a view to providing new accommodation for members of the Royal Family in the future. The Dowager Queen had surpassed herself with the interior design of Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle and nobody could doubt that she had made Marlborough House a far superior residence than it had ever been when King Leopold lived there.

If anybody was to look for a new royal residence for the next generation of the family, Cambridge insisted that it must be his sister-in-law. If a site were found, the Dowager Queen had Cambridge’s permission to engage an architect and to submit designs to Lord Holland who would then consult the government on the matter of cost. When Lord Melbourne heard of this, he was initially appalled that the Duke of Cambridge had seemingly given his sister-in-law permission to run around the country with a blank cheque in her purse. But when Cambridge explained that the process would take at least two years and was unlikely to be concluded until after the King reached the age of majority, Melbourne allowed himself a wry smile. Patting the Duke on the shoulder and sipping his port, he grinned and said, “Very nicely done Sir, we’ll make a politician of you yet!”.


The Duke of Cambridge.

At Marlborough House, Queen Louise began consulting every book she could possibly find on grand houses and estates within 20 miles of London. Baroness Pallenberg looked on nervously. She had her suspicions that all was not as it should be. If the issue with royal accommodation was a lack of available space close to London, why did the Duke not specify that the new palace site should be in the capital? After all, Windsor Castle was only 23 miles away from Buckingham Palace. Pallenberg dare not voice her concerns of course. To her sister Marie, the Dowager Queen wrote, “Adolphus thinks he has been very clever in deceiving us but I know all too well that come his retirement he does not want to live at that dreadfully dirty and cramped little house in Piccadilly with Augusta and those horrid children. But in his selfishness, he has overlooked how much easier it shall be for me when the old buzzards have all been cleared away to a new palace far from London and Georgie, Luise and I are left quite alone, free of their petty squabbles and silly protests, at Buckingham Palace”.

As Queen Louise busied herself house-hunting, the King was looking forward to the summer months. With his studies due to come to an end, he asked permission from the Duke of Clarence to visit Germany once more. Initially the Duke was reluctant. He still believed his death was imminent and he did not welcome the prospect of his nephew being abroad should the worst happen. The Duke of Cambridge was more amenable. In his view, “His Majesty is a young man like any other. He wishes to see the world and enjoy the things he must deny himself later”. For the upper classes, the idea of the Grand Tour was an essential milestone after coming of age since the 17th century. Those who could afford it usually headed to Italy to take in the sights of Venice or Rome but in recent years Germany and Switzerland had become part of the circuit for Grand Tours too. The King was proposing just a few months in Germany where he could spend time with friends before he began his last push towards enrolment at the Royal Military College. “It would be unreasonable to forbid this to him”, Cambridge told his brother, “And might it not also keep him away from Marlborough House for a time?”. Clarence relented.

It was arranged that the King would travel in the Royal Yacht to the continent and make his way to Coburg. Duke Ernst I was to spend the summer at Callenberg Castle in Beiersdorf and with his second wife Marie living separately at Schloss Ketschendorf in Buchberg, this left the Ehrenburg Palace vacant. Duke Ernst was only too happy to allow the King the full use of Ehrenburg in his absence and this gave George V the chance to reunite with his childhood friends, Hereditary Duke Ernst and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. His new confidant Prince Alexander of Prussia was invited to join them and from the Windsor Brigade, the Earls of Arundel and Campbell completed the party. Major Smith was on hand to oversee discipline but otherwise, the young gentlemen would be completely unsupervised (save for a small security detail) and allowed to determine their own itinerary. Whilst it may seem to the modern reader that allowing a group of young wealthy men a free reign at a palace for the summer was inviting disaster, both the Dukes of Clarence and Cambridge were under no illusion that a taste of freedom would result in some rowdy behaviour. It was not only expected but somehow encouraged. After all, George V’s opportunities to enjoy himself free of the constraints of the Crown would soon become few and far between.


Ehrenburg Palace today.

The King was delighted that he was to be able to spend his summer as he wished and he became a fanatical devotee of the recently published (but not so succinctly named) Murray’s Handbook for Travellers on the Continent; a Guide through Holland, Belgium, Prussia and Northern Germany and along the Rhine from Holland to Switzerland. From Ehrenburg, the King wished to visit Heidelberg before moving on to Zurich where the summer tour would come to an end. He was initially surly when a visit to his grandfather at Rumpenheim was added to the schedule but quickly changed his mind when his Uncle Adolphus hinted that he could either do things the proper way or not at all. A visit to the ailing Prince Frederick of Hesse-Kassel was a necessary sacrifice.

The Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, tried to inveigle his way into the tour party and suggested several diplomatic meetings that could be scheduled en route. The Duke of Cambridge was amused by this and asked Palmerston if he truly wished to spend his summer with “a pack of young roustabouts set free on the continent for the first time in their lives”. Palmerston took the hint and the trip remained an entirely private one. Travelling incognito, the King made his way across the channel and to Coburg where he was reunited with Hereditary Duke Ernst and Prince Albert. Prince Alexander of Prussia arrived the following day and Ehrenburg was suddenly alive with chaos and rough housing. The rowdy behaviour the Duke of Cambridge had predicted thrilled the royal party but the servants of Ehrenburg were less impressed.

The young men treated the palace as their own and thought nothing of staying up until the small hours and sleeping in late in the mornings, throwing the strict schedule of Duke Ernst’s household entirely out of balance. Most of their daily activities were noisy but harmless. They bumped and rolled down the staircase on mattresses and played hide and seek with the last to be found forced to undertake some disgusting forfeit such as eating a handful of mud. Other activities caused more of a problem. Major Smith had to step in when they staged a “smashing contest”, seeing how far they could pitch dinner plates from an upper storey window.

Hereditary Duke Ernst obtained a business of ferrets which the boys raced in the Duke’s Sitting Room, only to cause a commotion when the ferrets headed straight for the door and got loose in the palace. One of the female servants was distraught when she climbed into bed that evening and got a nasty bite on the foot from one of the ferrets who had sought refuge in her room. This story so amused the King that he told it for years to come, always throwing in an impression of the poor maid shrieking and grabbing her injured toe. Overall these were childish pranks and whilst Honest Billy may not have entirely approved, he did not seek to curtail the King’s freedom too much. However, as every parent knows, an inch soon becomes a mile.


The Duke's Sitting Room at Ehrenburg.

For the most part, Major Smith could overlook what he saw as the predictable testing of the waters that a group of young men away from home would indulge in. He turned a blind eye when the King smoked, he ignored some of the bad language and bawdy stories being told by Hereditary Duke Ernst and he didn’t raise an eyebrow when a drinking contest got out of hand. The following morning, Honest Billy went to great lengths to find a piper in Coburg who was asked to wander up and down the gravel path closest to the King’s bedroom blasting out music until the young King woke from his slumber feeling thoroughly miserable. Whilst the other boys were mostly undeterred from repeating the experience, for the rest of his life George V limited himself to only one glass of wine with his dinner and one glass of brandy afterwards. Whilst he had no issue with others drinking alcohol, he condemned those who drank to excess as “scatter brained foozlers” [1] and he did not care to see the ladies of his court take more than one glass of champagne or white wine, believing that spirits and darker drinks were reserved for gentlemen.

But his time at Ehrenburg also revealed another side to the King’s character which impressed Major Smith. On the evening of the 13th of August 1836, the King and his friends attended a performance at the Herzoglich-Sächsisches Hoftheater which had been founded by 1827 by Duke Ernst I with a permanent theatrical company. Seated in the royal box, the young men behaved impeccably but unbeknown to King George, his friends had planned a very different evening for him than he might have assumed. Half way through the performance, Hereditary Duke Ernst excused himself and left complaining of a stomach ache. Prince Albert was in total ignorance of Ernst and Alexander’s prank and kindly offered to accompany his brother back to the palace but Ernst declined.

At the close of the performance, the young men were to go to a small inn close to the Schlossplatz which Prince Alexander had hired for the evening. But as they approached the inn, Prince Alexander encouraged the King to enter first holding the rest of the party back. A bemused Prince Albert found himself dashing back to the palace with the Prince and the Earls of Arundel and Campbell as the King was led to a backroom by the innkeeper where he was told his table had been prepared. Seated at the table was Hansine Metting, the 26-year-old leading lady of the Hoftheater company. The King displayed no surprise and dined with Miss Metting, complimenting her performance and thanking her for sharing a meal with him. The innkeeper had been prompted by Hereditary Duke Ernst to present the King with a key to one of the upstairs rooms in the inn.

George excused himself from the table and taking the innkeeper to one side berated him for playing a part in such a vulgar prank. He accompanied Miss Metting back to her rooms near the theatre and the following morning that staff at Ehrenburg gathered at the closed doors of the Duke’s Sitting Room as the King tore a strip from Hereditary Duke Ernst whom he blamed entirely for the unfortunate prank. Ernst was told to go immediately to the Hoftheater and apologise in person to Miss Metting. Furthermore, Ernst would not accompany the royal party on the rest of the tour. This marked a turning point in their friendship which was never as close as it once had been. The King far preferred the company of Prince Albert who shared his more sober and serious outlook on things and indeed, Prince Albert later wrote of the young King George V; “He acquired a sober nature as a young man and above all things, he detests unfairness and unkindness. He tolerates no man who is not a perfect gentleman and likewise, conducts himself as an exemplary model for all men to follow”.

From Coburg the remaining party made its way to Frankfurt before moving on to Rumpenheim. Though the King had been reluctant to include any family visits on his tour, he noted in his journal that he was “deeply ashamed” to have considered skipping a reunion with his grandfather. His uncle Prince William treated his nephew’s party to a grand week of hunting and parties and by the time the group were due to leave Rumpenheim for Heidelberg, George asked if they might stay a week longer. But his interest in extending his time at his grandfather’s castle was not entirely due to the hospitality of his Hessian relations. George had been reunited with his cousins during his visit and his eye had been taken by Prince William’s daughter, Princess Louise of Hesse-Kassel. Three years his senior, Louise was an unconventional beauty but had a friendly nature that could not fail to impress her British cousin.


Princess Louise of Hesse-Kassel in later life as Queen consort of Denmark.

For most of the year, Prince William and his family lived in Denmark. His wife Charlotte was a Princess of Denmark, the sister of the future Christian VIII who would succeed their half-first cousin Frederick VI as King of Denmark in 1839. William and Charlotte’s children were therefore very close to the Danish succession, especially given that most of their relatives in Copenhagen who might come before them were elderly and childless. It was easy to see that the agnatic succession from King Frederick III of Denmark would probably become extinct and thus, Louise enjoyed the remainder provisions of the Danish succession according to Semi-Salic Law. This made Louise an important figure at the Danish court.

George V was present in Rumpenheim when Louise celebrated her 19th birthday, and it was evident to everybody assembled that the King had taken quite a shine to his cousin. He trailed after her and waited on her hand and foot, leaving flowers around the castle for her and offering to take her on little guided walks in the gardens. It was not to be. Leaving Rumpenheim, George pined for Louise writing her letters from Zurich and trying to find ways to return to Rumpenheim on the way back to England rather than travelling through France. Queen Louise (of Denmark) later said of him; “Georgie was such a dear, I felt quite cruel because I never answered his letters from Switzerland on the advice of my mother. It was all quite impossible, but I must confess that for a day or two I quite fancied that I might be Queen of England (sic). Yet here I am the Queen of Denmark and I believe God arranged everything quite well in the end".

Princess Louise’s aunt and namesake found the whole thing far less amusing. In a letter to his sister, Prince William wrote that he had been greatly cheered to see his nephew at Rumpenheim and that the visit had “brought our dear Papa many smiles and happy memories of what I’m sad to say I believe may well be their final meeting”. It is unlikely William intended to mock his sister or cause any ill-feeling and in all good-humour he joked that; “Georgie was very taken with Louise who was most flattered by his attention during his time here. I fear he shall be a little lovesick for a while but young men’s hearts are always the quickest to mend!”. The Dowager Queen was furious. She demanded an audience with the Duke of Cambridge and insist that Major Smith be dismissed as Crown Equerry for allowing the King to “humiliate and embarrass himself at my father’s court”. Cambridge said he had done no such thing and that his sister-in-law could hardly expect the King not to take an interest in pretty girls. The Duke’s wife Augusta did her best to calm matters but characteristically, Louise raged on the subject for weeks.

It was becoming clear to her that no real progress had been made with her plan to see her niece, Duchess Luise, become her successor as Queen consort. Her son was now showing an interest in girls who could not be discounted as low-class or unsuitable and once he turned 18, there was very little chance of her forcing a marriage between her son and his cousin and thereby securing her position at court. “I shall light a fire under that boy if it is the last thing I do”, Louise warned Baroness Pallenberg, “The King shall marry as I wish or he shan’t marry at all”.

As his mother began to plot and scheme, the King pined for a different Louise at Windsor. This marked the first time the King seriously spoke of his future and he confided in Major Smith that “of all the young ladies I have ever met, it is Louise whom I adore the most”. His infatuation for Princess Louise did not last but neither would it prove as quick to dissipate as that which the King had previously experienced with Charlotte Bodelschwingh at Potsdam.

His mother had a challenge on her hands, one she intended to match…and win.

[1] A lovely Victorian insult meaning "a bungler" or "one who is clumsy, sometimes through drink".


Monthly Donor
Just to update everyone who follows this TL, I had a bit of an unexpected trip to hospital this weekend and I'm still resting up for a few days yet. The next instalment will probably be with you guys this weekend or early next week but I wanted to keep you in the loop as you've all been so great in following this for so long.

Thanks again and fingers crossed you won't have to wait too long for an update!
Just to update everyone who follows this TL, I had a bit of an unexpected trip to hospital this weekend and I'm still resting up for a few days yet. The next instalment will probably be with you guys this weekend or early next week but I wanted to keep you in the loop as you've all been so great in following this for so long.

Thanks again and fingers crossed you won't have to wait too long for an update!
Hope it’s something that’s merely annoying and not worse!