Crown Imperial: An Alt British Monarchy

Opo

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He can refute the Prince Regent title (and maybe would never created as Prince of Wales) BUT Cornwall is his own highest title and need to be acknowledged so his style must become Duke of Cornwall and York
I'm not so sure on that point. After all, there are plenty of examples (even today) of members of the Royal Family choosing not to use the highest title they have; the Duchess of Cornwall, Viscount Severn and Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor, the Earl of Dumbarton etc. Either way, for the sake of this TL I think it's easier to follow if I refer to him as Duke of York until he becomes King as there are a lot of 'C' Dukes which could be easy to lose track of! :)

I would say though, he isn't refuting any title. For example, he is Prince Regent, he's simply elected not to be styled that way at court.
 
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I'm not so sure on that point. After all, there are plenty of examples (even today) of members of the Royal Family choosing not to use the highest title they have; the Duchess of Cornwall, Viscount Severn and Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor, the Earl of Dumbarton etc. Either way, for the sake of this TL I think it's easier to follow if I refer to him as Duke of York until he becomes King as there are a lot of 'C' Dukes which could be easy to lose track of! :)

I would say though, he isn't refuting any title. For example, he is Prince Regent, he's simply elected not to be styled that way at court.
Today is a different thing. The future George V changed his style from Duke of York to Duke of Cornwall and York between his father’s ascension and his investiture as Prince of Wales
 

Opo

Monthly Donor
Today is a different thing. The future George V changed his style from Duke of York to Duke of Cornwall and York between his father’s ascension and his investiture as Prince of Wales
That's true. However he wasn't under any duress to do so. And in that situation, the Duke of Clarence had been dead for quite some time before George became Duke of Cornwall etc. Had it been automatic, George might well have felt as Frederick does in this OTL; that the Duke of Cornwall title was closely associated with his elder brother and that a period of time should pass before he began using it even if he was legally Duke of Cornwall. But I admit that's conjecture on my part.

I would say on the modern arrangements however, this wasn't a new invention, the Queen didn't make any special provision for the Royals concerned to use lesser styles. It's very much left up to the individuals to determine what they think is appropriate.
 
GIV: Part 5: The Kew Scandal

Opo

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King George IV

Part 5: The Kew Scandal

The wedding of the Duke of York and Princess Louise (her name now anglicised) was set to take place at Buckingham House on the 1st of July 1819. Leaving Rumpenheim for a brief stopover at Hanover, the couple’s time at Herrenhausen proved bittersweet. The Duchess of Cambridge was safely delivered of a son (named George for his grandfather) but the Duchess of Clarence’s daughter (named Charlotte for her grandmother) died just a few hours after she was born. Princess Louise wanted to stay in Hanover for the baptism of her nephew but the Duke of York insisted that they return to England to begin making preparations for their wedding and to introduce Louise to London society.

In the absence of the King, the Duke’s marriage needed the approval of the Council of Regency. As this was mostly comprised of his brothers and privy councillors, he was assured of their agreement, especially as Princess Louise had never been married and was not a Roman Catholic. Lord Liverpool offered congratulations to the Duke of York and the engagement was gazetted. But there was now the question of where the couple would live after their marriage. Throughout his life, the Duke had owned a variety of properties ranging from Allerton Castle in North Yorkshire to Dover House in London. These had all been vacated, mostly sold, in order to help the Duke pay off gambling debts. Before his change in circumstances in 1817, Frederick had mostly lived in a small collection of spartan rooms at Horse Guards in London but since Princess Charlotte’s death, he had made use of a suite of rooms at Buckingham House.

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Buckingham House pictured in 1710.

Buckingham House had been purchased by George III in 1761 and was intended to be a private retreat for Queen Charlotte. Accordingly, it had become known as The Queen’s House. A 1775 Act of Parliament settled the property on the Queen in exchange for her rights to Somerset House. Upon her death, the property became part of the Crown Estate and its only permanent resident in recent years had been the Duke of York. So taken with the property was the Duke, that he decided that Buckingham House should become his marital home with Kew serving as a kind of retreat in place of Oatlands. These arrangements were of little interest to anybody until the Duke requested a meeting with Lord Liverpool on the 1st of March 1819.

The Duke explained to the Prime Minister that both Buckingham House and Kew were in desperate need of work to make them habitable residences. [1] He asked if the Civil List might be increased to cover the costs. Lord Liverpool was initially reluctant. Britain was burdened with heavy taxation and enormous debt that had spiralled out of control during the Napoleonic Wars. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nicholas Vansittart, caused outrage when he only reduced property tax instead of abolishing it. The tax was abolished in parliament against his wishes and he was forced to borrow heavily. The nation’s finances were being closely examined by the Opposition and by the press. Allocating more funds to the Royal Family would not go unmissed, neither would it be popular.

The Duke had a second request concerning money. When Lord Liverpool had agreed to cover his debts upon his marriage, this agreement had been made just after the annulment of his first marriage when the debts stood at a modest sum. But since 1817, Frederick had become Duke of Cornwall and was entitled to the revenues of that Duchy which had been set aside to provide an income for the heir apparent. Rather than pay off his debts personally with his increase in income, the Duke had simply found he had far more to play with. His gambling addiction had always proved problematic, he adored the card table but had no great aptitude for it. Since 1815, his interest had turned to horses and racing. Whilst before 1817 his debts were high but manageable, since 1817 they had risen by two thirds. The Duke had already felt the strain. The £30,000 annuity he had promised to his ex-wife at the time of their parting couldn’t be afforded and the Duchess had to “make do” with little over half of that sum, £17,000 a year.

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Lord Liverpool.

Lord Liverpool was not surprised that the Duke found himself in financial difficulty. His gambling problem and his lack of financial discipline had been well known for years. But the Prime Minister was concerned that this bail out could become a regular request, something neither the country nor Lord Liverpool could afford to sustain. With that in mind, the Prime Minister offered a compromise. He would increase the Civil List in order to pay for the Duke’s wedding, to pay off his debts, to refurbish Buckingham House and to redesign Kew. There would also be enough to add £3,000 a year to Princess Frederica’s allowance. In return, the Duke must make a gentleman’s agreement that the Civil List would remain frozen for five years and that when it came to renegotiations upon his accession, the Duke (as Sovereign) would not be allowed to request any further increase if his accession fell within those five years as expected. The Duke agreed.

Buoyed by a new sense of financial stability, the Duke settled Princess Louise at Kew. There, they began to invite a series of architects to draw up plans for a redesign of the palace. It had been decided that the old Castellated Palace should be demolished. Parliament had allocated £40,000 in 1800 to salvage the existing structure but by 1819, the cost to do so would stand at around £590,000. To the Duke, he was now providing a saving to the Exchequer rather than asking for an increase. With the Castellated Palace gone, he asked the architect Sir Jeffrey Wyatville to come with designs that added a large extension to the so-called Dutch House which would remain standing and which was currently housing Princess Louise. The proposed cost of this project stood at around £90,000.

Princess Louise was enthused by the plans for Buckingham House and Kew. Her future husband had offered her the chance to refurbish both properties to her own tastes and she busied herself consulting with the most fashionable (but most expensive) interior designers of the day. Costs quickly spiralled and though no work had begun on either residence, the court was abuzz with (unfair) gossip that the Princess had arrived from Rumpenheim and declared the royal residences to be ugly and impractical. Rumours abounded that the future Queen had very expensive tastes and that she had only agreed to a marriage if the Duke would match the annuity given to his ex-wife in a personal income for herself. Most damaging of all, that she had demanded an extension at Kew to accommodate the dreaded “dames d’horreurs”.

At the time, it was customary for the Prime Minister to appoint members of the Royal Household but only those of the King, the Queen and the Prince of Wales. Princess Louise was not yet married and her household was her own affair for the time being. Even then, in the normal way of things, the future Queen would have retained the services of one or two of the most senior of her predecessors’ ladies of the bedchamber. This provided a smooth transition at court and was also regarded as a friendly gesture to those who had given many years of service to the Royal Family. By convention, these ladies departed royal service after a year or so to allow the Prime Minister to replace them. But Princess Louise had other ideas.

In arranging her household at Kew, she retained none of Queen Charlotte’s ladies and instead relied entirely on six women from her father’s court. They came from good German noble families but none could outrank the ladies formerly engaged by Queen Charlotte. Dismissed from service, the Countess of Cork gave the ladies the nickname “the dames d’horreur”, a play on the French “dames d’honneur”. They were regarded as too strict, too grand and unwilling to conform to English customs. One particular sticking point was the reduction in meals to be served, the Princess and her ladies being not only fussy eaters but irregular ones. With less to do, this allowed the Comptroller of the Household (always eager to cut costs) to dismiss junior servants who found they had nothing to do. Those who remained at Kew were put out in other ways. Naturally, the Princess and her ladies conversed only in German. Disgruntled junior servants nicknamed Kew “the German House” (instead of the Dutch House) and Louise was resented for imposing far stricter rules than Queen Charlotte ever had. The Comptroller reminded those who complained that this was only temporary. After her marriage, the new Duchess of York would have to toe the line when it came to the appointment of her household. [2]

Yet none of this was done out of spite or grandeur. Princess Louise had been advised in all things by her mother and had taken that advice as the only way to approach court life in England. Her popularity both inside her palace and outside it was rapidly dwindling as rumours swirled in London. Most were nonsensical but they still took hold and were even printed in newspapers as fact. One suggested that the Princess had refused to wear Queen Charlotte’s jewels and wanted new creations made specifically for her at great expense. Every rumour ended the same way; if Louise did not get what she wanted, she had threatened to go back to Germany. The Duke did not want to be humiliated and so gave in to her every demand.

The Duchess of Kent in her confinement at Kensington Palace heard these rumours and realised how serious the aftereffects could be. She wrote to Princess Louise asking her to be “most careful with the arrangements because the English regard any foreigner with suspicion”. She advised Louise to bring back a senior lady of Queen Charlotte’s household and not to be seen to buy too many new clothes or ornaments for Kew. Louise disregarded the letter. She had heard that the Duchess had proposed her niece, Marie of Württemberg, as a wife for the Duke of York. In the retelling at court, this had translated to the Duchess wanting to outnumber the Hesse-Kassels at the English court. The Duchess of Kent was simply jealous, Louise decided, and continued with her plans. Whilst for a week or so, the Duke’s dire financial situation and the poor choices of Princess Louise were just court politics, on the 11th of March 1819, things took a dramatic and very public turn.

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Sir Francis Burdett.

Sir Francis Burdett was the Member of Parliament for Westminster, a former Tory who had become more radical with the passing years. A keen reformer, his parliamentary career had been dramatic. In 1810, the Speaker issued a warrant for Burdett’s arrest and he was taken to the Tower of London. Burdett brought legal action against the Speaker but the courts upheld the action of the House. Nonetheless, a crowd of supporters had gathered to wish Burdett well, his reputation for honesty, transparency and reform making him a prominent MP with respect for his work present on all sides of the House. He had also had a previous run-in with the Duke of York. In 1809, it was Sir Francis who led the calls for Frederick to be stripped of his position as Commander in Chief following the Clarke scandal. The Duke was later reinstated, a move which Burdett criticised in the Commons.

Ten years later, Burdett was about to settle that old score. As questions were being put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nicholas Vansittart, Sir Francis relayed information he had been given which troubled him. “Could the Right Honourable Gentleman offer clarity on a matter of concern to many in the House?”, he began, “For I understand it is now the intention of the government to increase the Civil List to fund an extension of Kew Palace for the Duke of York and his future bride. I confess I find this a curious spending commitment in the current financial situation, but I would also remind the Chancellor that under the terms of the Civil List Act 1760, it is for parliament to examine, balance and approve all increases to the royal expenditure. It is not a matter to be decided by gentleman’s agreement at Buckingham House”. Vansittart replied that he was not familiar with the version of events put forward by Burdett but the touch paper had now been lit.

Royal finances had long been a matter of controversy. With the accession of King George III in 1760, it had been agreed that the Crown would surrender the hereditary revenues from the Crown Estate to parliament for the duration of his reign. In return, Parliament would assume responsibility for most of the costs of the civil government. Parliament would continue to defray the expenses of the Royal Household but the King would retain his income from the Duchy of Lancaster. In recent years however, there seemed to be endless demands for increases and pay rises to cover costs. The Whigs, in Opposition in 1819, disagreed with the way the government was approaching the financial crisis in general. They especially resisted the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s scheme which handed military and naval pensions to contractors, which had largely been chaotic and caused a shortfall in payments.

When Burdett introduced the issue of royal finances to the Commons, the Whigs seized an opportunity to attack the government’s approach to spending. Henry Brougham was well respected as an advocate of liberal causes including the abolition of the slave trade and parliamentary reform. He was regarded by some as a future leader of the Whig Party but in 1812 he was heavily defeated in his seat in Liverpool and had been forced to leave parliament until 1816 when he was returned for Winchelsea. He had lost none of his reforming zeal and quickly asserted his place as one of the loudest voices in the House of Commons. Brougham demanded that the full details of current royal expenditure be brought before the Commons and that any details of commitments to increases in the Civil List made between members of the Cabinet and the Council of Regency be published in full.

Other Whigs tried to focus on the government rather than individual members of the Royal Family. For Lord Grey, the issue was not an increase in the Civil List, which he personally took no great stance against, rather the matter cut to the heart of the Tory government’s approach to the public finances which he condemned as “unjust and unruly”. For some time, the Whigs had encouraged those outside Westminster to engage with political debates, particularly among the middle classes and the newspapers they favoured. It was the press who dubbed the latest turn of events “the Kew Scandal” and relayed the situation as follows: The Duke of York’s new wife had demanded a new palace to be built for her at Kew. Lord Liverpool had given his word at Buckingham House and was now trying to sneak in a Civil List increase to pay for it under the guise of “much needed renovations” to the royal residences.

Unfortunately for Lord Liverpool and his government, the public mood was ripe for exploitation. In 1817, a crowd had marched to London to deliver a petition to the Council of Regency demanding parliamentary reform. Magistrates read the Riot Act and the crowd dispersed. The ringleaders were detained for several months under emergency powers introduced to suspend habeas corpus and by September, the so-called “Blanketeers” were again arrested for urging striking weavers to use violence against their employers.

As recently as January 1819, 10,000 cotton loom weavers were rallied by the radical Henry Hunt. He wanted the Council of Regency to dismiss Liverpool and appoint new ministers who would commit to repealing the Corn Laws. These rallies quickly spread to Birmingham and London. The government were working to find legal justification for the magistrates to send in troops to disperse a meeting when a riot was expected but not actually begun. Lord Sidmouth felt a “general uprising” was imminent. The Kew Scandal was to provide petrol to the flames of unrest.

Demonstrations broke out not only in London but in Manchester too where they had turned into full scale riots which needed police intervention to restore order to the streets. At St Peter’s Fields, a popular meeting place for radicals, the demonstrators numbered almost 20,000 and local magistrates began to panic that they could not be dispersed. Whilst the majority of the furore was aimed at the government, the Royal Family did not escape public outrage. On her way to Kensington Palace, Princess Augusta’s carriage was pelted with eggs and fruit from a nearby market stall. The Princess was unharmed but deeply shaken. The Duke of Sussex, leaving a meeting at the Freemason’s Hall in London, was struck on the shoulder as he tried to battle through crowds to get to his carriage. He headed for Kew as soon as possible. The mood was now at boiling point.

Lord Liverpool’s first response was to restore public order. He would then find a way to calm matters politically. He introduced emergency legislation known as the Magistrates Act [3]. This allowed magistrates the power to order that any meeting of 50 people of more in public be dispersed by force. Opportunities for bail were reduced to allow for speedier court processing and habeas corpus was once again suspended. Magistrates were also given powers to provide for more punitive sentences for the authors of opinion pieces which they felt encouraged sedition or rioting. Liverpool’s majority saw the act passed. Brougham called it “the descent into dictatorship” whilst Lord Sidmouth defended the measures as “entirely necessary to curb the gross violations of law and order encouraged by the Whigs, Radicals and other seditious elements in society”.

Within a few days, the demonstrations had fizzled out. Consistently put down by force, only those in Manchester and Birmingham remained committed to the cause for a public fight for reform. In the House of Commons, the Prime Minister insisted that the Duke of York had acted “with dignity and integrity”. It was, he insisted, perfectly reasonable for the regent to request an increase to the Civil List which parliament was always going to have the opportunity to debate and vote upon. The matter had not been brought before the House prior to Burdett’s intervention because, the Prime Minister revealed, the Duke had made a proposition which the government needed time to consider; that this increase was entirely necessary but that His Royal Highness appreciated the current financial situation. Wishing the monarchy to be held to the same principles as everybody else, the Duke had asked that the Civil List be frozen for five years after the increase, a proposal he wished to enshrine in law and which he would not renege upon even after his accession when the existing law allowed for renegotiation. The suggestion that Kew was to be extended was nothing more than gossip, Liverpool added. The main focus of the increase would be Buckingham House and to remove unsafe structures at Kew.

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Wyatville's proposed extension for Kew Palace.

If the Whigs and Radicals had hoped for Liverpool’s scalp, they were bitterly disappointed. Brought to heel, the Press now issued a flurry of grovelling retractions and explanations. How fine it was, one newspaper said, that the Duke recognised the plight of so many of his future subjects. The royal residences were essential to the everyday functioning of the monarchy and whilst an extension of Kew did seem excessive, they were cheered to learn that this was only a proposal and that Princess Louise had never demanded a new residence for herself at all. The press blamed politicians for “causing unrest through opportunistic slurs and slanders” and Burdett in particular was condemned, many remarking that he remained bitter over the Clarke Scandal of 1809 and had “allowed a childish, personal dislike to trigger a dangerous situation for the entire country”.

Privately, the Duke of York heaved a huge sigh of relief. His reputation had been damaged, his future wife cast as a villainess in a palace drama that had incited rioting and violence. But it was now clear to Frederick that his gambling had almost cost him everything and he resolved never to approach the gaming tables or the races ever again. He confessed his financial troubles to his brothers and Lord Liverpool assured him that parliament would now approve the increase to the Civil List on the terms agreed with “some noise but noise that won’t be heard outside of the Commons any longer”. But there would have to be sacrifices. The extension of Kew was to be abandoned. Publicly this was wrapped in sentiment; no member of the Royal Family could bring themselves to live there after the death of Queen Charlotte whose presence was “still very much felt in the corridors of her beloved little red house”.

The Duke’s debts would be paid in full but no future bail out would be given. The monies agreed by parliament in the Civil List would also not be renegotiated until 1824 at the earliest. His financial situation resolved, the Duke agreed that he would only undertake a modest redesign of Buckingham House and make it his permanent residence for the foreseeable future. Frederick and Louise could now turn their attention to their wedding which the Prime Minister suggested should be kept as modest as possible to avoid any more allegations of royal extravagance. The Kew Scandal had been a close-run thing and the public mood could easily reverse back to outrage and anger.

At the close of the scandal however, there was an opportunity for some positive Royal news. On the 24th of May 1819, the Duchess of Kent gave birth to a daughter; Princess Alexandrina Victoria. The middle classes were diverted for a time, lapping up titbits from Kensington Palace nursery where the latest royal arrival slept peacefully in her bassinet. But the working classes were not so easily swayed. The radicals in Manchester would not abandon their cause and across the city, plans were afoot for a much bigger fight.

[1] When Kew was offered to the Duchess of Kent around this time in the OTL, she declined because Kew was "an old house quite unfit for the princess and me to occupy, being very inadequate in accommodation and almost destitute of furniture". George IV in the OTL also spent a small fortune restoring Buckingham House/Palace after his accession because it had not been redecorated or the structure made sound for over 50 years.

[2] This sets the stage for a version of the Bedchamber Scandal which occurred in the OTL during Victoria’s early reign.

[3] A precursor to the Six Acts of the OTL which followed the Peterloo Massacre. This still takes place in this TL with the Kew Scandal acting as another catalyst.
 
GIV: Part 6: Excess and Squalor

Opo

Monthly Donor
King George IV

Part 6: Excess and Squalor

In June 1819, the King’s health rapidly declined. Now totally blind with cataracts and no longer able to speak, the Comptroller of the Household, Lord George Beresford, advised the Duke of York that George III may not live much longer. The Duke rushed to Windsor but within a few days, George III’s condition (though still precarious) stabilized. Frederick seemed “shocked, even a little frightened” at the prospect that his reign was about to begin and he departed Windsor as quickly as possible once the King’s doctors had assured him that his father’s death was not imminent.

Meanwhile at Kew Palace, Princess Louise’s thoughts were very much with her future role. Though not yet married, she had wasted no time in giving people a glimpse as to what the court would look like in the near future. One casualty of this was Louise’s sister-in-law, the Duchess of Kent. The rivalry between the Princess and the Duchess stemmed from court gossip that the Duchess of Kent had somehow promoted her niece, Marie of Württemberg, as a candidate for the Duke of York’s second wife against the interests of Princess Louise. Whilst this was not entirely true, it was enough for Louise to take a dislike to the Duchess of Kent, encouraged by others at the English court who felt the Duchess to be “an intriguer, schemer and plotter”.

Louise had an early opportunity to publicly display her dislike of the Duchess when the Duke of Kent asked his brother for a small increase to his household budget in light of the recent birth of his daughter, Princess Alexandrina Victoria. But the fallout from the recent Kew Scandal meant that the Duke of York had no option but to refuse. The Duchess of Kent felt this to be out of Frederick’s character. She blamed Louise and when it came to the christening of the little Princess, only Frederick was asked to stand as a godparent; the future Queen was not. Louise responded by freezing the Kents out of court life. Taking the hint, the Duke and Duchess decided to move into more modest premises away from the pettiness of St James’ or Kew. They leased Woolbrook Cottage on the seaside near Sidmouth, much to the sadness of the Duke of York who bemoaned that he would have few opportunities to see his niece.

Whilst the Duke of Kent made trips to London frequently, his wife did not. Princess Louise had taken to telling anybody who would listen that the Duchess of Kent was cuckolding her husband with his equerry, Captain John Conroy. Conroy was the son of a barrister who had been given a good education before joining the army. He was not particularly well liked and his fellow officers remarked on his “somewhat remarkable ability to avoid battle”. A social climber with lofty ambitions, the court was only too pleased to match two villains together and within weeks, the Duchess of Kent was more disliked than ever before.

But Louise had not entirely won the court over. Indeed, many were still put out by the presence of her German ladies in waiting and had only relented in their complaining with the reassurance that after her marriage, the Prime Minister would reorganize the household. With the public on high alert for any excessive spending at court, the wedding of the Duke of York and Princess Louise was to be a modest affair. Because Buckingham House was being refurbished, the ceremony itself took place on the 1st of July 1819 at the Chapel Royal at St James’ Palace. There were only 50 guests but representation from the immediate families of the bride and groom was limited. From the Duke’s siblings, only two of his brothers (the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of Cambridge) and one of his sisters (Princess Augusta) were in attendance. From Louise’s family, only her brother, the Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and her sister, the Duchess of Cambridge, were present.

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The Wedding of King George IV and Queen Louise at the Chapel Royal of St James' Palace.

There was no grand ball or evening entertainments and though the newspapers dutifully reported on the happy occasion, the event did not particularly capture the public’s interest. The press was now under the constraints of the Magistrates Act and toed a very careful line to avoid accusations of printing anything designed to inflame public opinion. They kept their account of the ceremony brief but for a lengthy description of what the Princess wore. To a keen eye, the suggestion was that whilst the wedding itself was modest by royal standards, the Princess had spared no expense on her attire. According to the Manchester Observer, “the German Princess” wore a “fine gown of French silver satin trimmed with lace which was especially imported from Plauen in Saxony. Her father, the Landgrave, sent her a magnificent tiara of diamonds which she paired with a suite of jewels belonging to the late Queen Charlotte”. To use foreign satin and lace rather than English materials at a time when so many weavers, especially in the north, were without work and destitute, was a subtle criticism but appeared harmless enough to would-be censors.

In the immediate aftermath of their wedding, the couple moved to Kew Palace as the final renovations were made to Buckingham House. The Times told Londoners that “the rooms formerly occupied by Their Majesties have been transformed with every detail overseen personally by Her Royal Highness”. When the household finally moved to Buckingham House, those who had been in royal service for some time were taken aback by what they saw. Lord George Beresford remarked that rooms which had previously “been replicas of anyone might find in any English country house” now seemed “more suited to the excesses of a European palace”. Viscountess Melville thought the Duchess’ rooms; “particularly horrid and not at all practical”. But the Duke was content that the hard-won refurbishment had made Buckingham House more comfortable and he praised his new bride for her hard work in the redesign of their new home.

The move to Buckingham House brought other changes. Though he was not yet King, it had been customary since the Regency Act of 1811 for the Prime Minister to continue to appoint members of the Royal Household for the late Prince of Wales and his daughter (and more recently the Duke of York) in the expectation that they could accede to the throne at any time. This was made all the more expedient in light of the King’s recent decline in health and the advice from His Majesty’s doctors that George III had months, not years, left to live. Privately, senior courtiers were delighted that now the Princess was a member of the British Royal Family, she would be brought under this arrangement and her “German ladies” could be replaced by the wives of English peers.

Lord Liverpool selected six such women to serve as Ladies of the Bedchamber, all of whom would continue in service after the accession of the Duke and Duchess as King and Queen. The two junior ladies in waiting appointed were Lady Charlotte Campbell (who had served in the household of the Dowager Princess of Wales before her return to Germany) and Lady Charlotte Lindsay, the daughter of the former Prime Minister, Lord North. Next came Viscountess Melville and Viscountess Sydney, both of whom had served Queen Charlotte. The last remaining appointments were the Countess of Westmeath and the Marchioness of Cholmondeley.

The Cholmondeley’s had been at court for many years and despite court gossip, were trusted and well-liked by the Royal Family. It was rumoured that Georgiana was an illegitimate daughter of the Prince of Wales, though this had not proven a barrier to her serving the Dowager Princess as a Lady of the Bedchamber in 1795. Her husband, George, 1st Marquess of Cholmondeley, was Lord Steward of the Household and had supposedly been elevated from an Earl because of a love affair between Georgiana and the Duke of Wellington. It was the Duke of York who proposed Georgiana to serve as First Lady of the Bedchamber with a view to being appointed Mistress of the Robes in the future. Lord Liverpool had been agreeable to this too but the one person who bitterly resented the reorganization, particularly the appointment of Lady Cholmondeley, was the Duchess of York.

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Georgiana Cholmondeley, the Marchioness of Cholmondeley.

At first, Louise simply refused to allow any of the new appointments into her presence. Whilst she occupied the Queen’s Apartments with her four German ladies in waiting, the English ladies were made to sit in the Audience Chamber where they were given menial tasks such as mending to carry out. Louise, apparently keen to show everybody that she was not as extravagant as they thought, had decided that all of Queen Charlotte’s dresses should be unpicked and the materials used to make dresses for her household. The Marchioness of Cholmondeley therefore found herself occupied making a gown for a German baroness whom she outranked.

Eventually, Lord Cholmondeley raised the matter with the Prime Minister, who in turn reminded the Duke of York that it was his right to make appointments to the Royal Household, appointments that carried political significance. Whilst the German ladies had no political allegiances in England, they were creating ill-feeling and those prominent figures who had expected more invitations to Buckingham House after their wives had been appointed to important positions only had so much patience. The Duke agreed but proposed a compromise. Two of the ladies from Hesse could stay at the court as unpaid companions to his wife but she must allow the Prime Minister’s appointed ladies to serve her. Louise agreed in theory but in practice, things quickly descended into childish games.

Every morning, the remaining German ladies rose early to wash and dress the Duchess. When the English ladies arrived, they found their services were not required and they were sent back to the Audience Chamber as the Duchess played cards with her German companions. When the First Lady of the Bedchamber, the Marchioness of Cholmondeley, asked for the Duchess’ instructions on the daily routine her ladies should follow, she was referred to one of the German ladies instead of being allowed to speak to the Duchess directly. At church, the German ladies sat next to the Duchess. The English ladies were placed in the row behind. When travelling, the English ladies were forced to ride together in a carriage behind that in which the luggage was being carried. The German ladies travelled with the Duchess.

The situation became unbearable for all concerned and when the Duke ordered Louise to dispense with her German ladies, she threatened to go back to Germany with them. It’s unlikely that she truly countenanced this. Those sympathetic to Louise have highlighted the fact that she was only 25 and that she was simply trying to assert her position in a court which had already shown her animosity. Others have suggested that Louise had quickly learned how important she now was and intended to use her position to get the things she wanted. The Duke of York did not want to send the German ladies back to Hesse and distress his wife but he also had to respect the Prime Minister’s right to appoint the household.

Louise ultimately overplayed her hand. When her husband once again reminded her of the Prime Minister’s wishes, she sent invitations to Countess Grey and Baroness Greville to take tea with her. These were the wives of prominent Whig politicians and though Louise protested that other noble English ladies married to Tory politicians, such as the Countess of Mulgrave, had been present, the Prime Minister was not amused. He advised the Duchess that she should not continue inviting the wives of Opposition to the Palace for as long as she ostracized the wives of Tory peers from her service. Louise would not relent. Friends of Lady Grey, also the wives of Opposition MPs, were invited to tea or to accompany the Duchess of York to picture galleries or the opera. After a week, Lord Liverpool put his foot down. The Duchess was to dismiss her German ladies, accept the appointments he had made and limit her contact with the wives of Opposition MPs or else he would resign. [1]

The Prime Minister had little time to indulge childish royal squabbles. Since the introduction of the Magistrates Act earlier that year, the radical elements in the north of the country seemed to have found more support rather than less. [2] The Act gave magistrates the power to order any meeting of more than 50 people in public be dispersed by force if they considered it to be a breach of public order but the act did not, could not, prevent such meetings being organised in the first place. Neither could magistrates do anything about meetings held in private houses or other buildings, whatever the intention and however large the company. The newspapers had generally been wary of stoking division, publishers now aware that they could be fined or even given short jail sentences for printing things which could be interpreted as “encouraging sedition”. But some, like the Manchester Observer, continued to cover meetings of radical groups such as the Manchester Patriotic Union, led by Joseph Johnson. A fine was issued to the Observer in July 1819 but the paper remained in print and continued to publish news of radical meetings.

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Lord Sidmouth.

John Thacker Saxton, the editor of the Manchester Observer, and the publisher, Richard Carlisle, were both arrested on 10 July 1819 after they printed information about a proposed “great assembly” to be held at St Peter’s Field the following month. The King’s Dragoon Guards had become used to breaking up rallies and meetings at St Peter’s Field. For a month or two, it became an almost daily routine. More than 50 people would gather to hear a speech or an address. A magistrate would read the Riot Act and cite his new powers under the Magistrates Act, after which the Guards would remove the protesters, arresting a few here and there but mostly those present left quietly. By printing a public notice of assembly, Saxton and Carlisle had fallen foul of the Magistrates Act but not enough to warrant gaol. They were fined instead.

Lord Sidmouth, the Home Secretary, worried that some of the magistrates in Lancashire were “sympathetic to the manufacturing classes”. He reminded them that “misplaced sympathy may allow radicals, rebels and revolutionaries to exploit your good nature and bring the entire county into full and open revolt which may take much violence to put down”. In truth, it was not misplaced sympathy that made many magistrates loathe to impose harsh sentences but a fear of inflaming tensions over relatively small misdemeanors. The government was determined to “combine the severity of the law with that of the sword” when it came to radical reformers and their meetings but those locally did not see the likes of Joseph Johnson or Henry Hunt, a radical orator from Wiltshire, as being as much of a threat to the country as Sidmouth or Liverpool did.

Hunt intended to lead a meeting (known as the “great assembly” to the radicals) at St Peter’s Field on the 16th of August 1819. The purpose was to highlight the poverty in Manchester, to express discontent with the current law and to demand parliamentary reform. The government intercepted letters sent from Hunt arranging this meeting and were thereby able to prepare to put it down before things got out of hand. But preparations were not handled well. Initially proposed to be held on the 9th of August, Lord Sidmouth advised General Sir John Byng to ready himself for a clash with radical demonstrators. Byng said he was quite willing to assist but he had a horse running at York Races that day and surely “the civil authorities would not be deterred from doing their duty, thus preventing the need for my involvement in the first place”?

On the day of the Assembly at St Peter’s Field, contingents from Oldham, Royton, Crompton, Lees, Saddleworth and Mossley met with contingents from Middleton, Rochdale and Stockport. They numbered to as many as 60,000 people, all dressed in their Sunday best and all discouraged from bringing weapons. The radicals took some magistrates present by surprise. There was no drunkenness and no violence or vandalism. But the numbers assembled quickly exceeded the limit of 50 allowed by the Magistrates Act. It was decided that the decision on dispersal was to be left to William Hulton, the chairman of the magistrates, watching proceedings from a house on the edge of St Peter’s Field. By the time the magistrates had met at Mount Street to seek Hulton’s advice on how to disperse such large crowds, it was too late.

Things changed when Henry Hunt arrived. The enthusiastic reception he was given by the crowds panicked Hunt and he requested immediate military assistance. He dispatched a letter to Major Thomas Trafford, the commanding officer of the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry Calvary and to the overall military commander of Manchester, Lieutenant Colonel Guy L’Estrange. It read:

“Sir, as Chairman of the Select Committee of Magistrates, I request you to proceed immediately to no. 6 Mount Street, where the magistrates are all assembled. They consider the Civil Power wholly inadequate to preserve the peace”.

Stationed just a few streets away in readiness, the commanders leapt into action. Sixty cavalrymen of the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry led the charge to St Peter’s Field. The scene quickly descended into chaos. Whilst the organisers on the dais addressing the crowds were quickly arrested, it was harder to disperse the remaining radicals who began to fight back. The Cheshire Yeomanry arrived on the scene and, with bayonets fixed, began “cutting at everyone they could reach”. It took ten minutes to disperse the crowds at St Peter’s Field. 11 were killed and 600 were injured. Riots broke out throughout Manchester, spreading to Stockport, Macclesfield and Oldham. Reports of the “massacre at St Peter’s Field” shocked the nation the following morning. Nicknamed “Peterloo”, newspapers broke rank and ignored the restrictions of the Magistrates Act. The public response was one of indignation and outrage. [3]

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The Massacre at Peterloo, August 1819.

Demonstrations erupted in Leeds, Liverpool and London. Across England, taverns and other public buildings flung open their doors to those sympathetic to the radical cause and meetings could be found on most street corners in working class areas to debate the next step forward. The situation was dangerous and the government decided to act with caution in the short-term. Those arrested at Peterloo, and in the demonstrations across the country that followed it, were mostly given fines or short sentences in gaol. Even Henry Hunt and Joseph Johnson were sentenced to just a year’s imprisonment. Lord Liverpool resolved to crack down on reform even more harshly and decided that the Magistrate’s Act was not enough to hold the radicals. Instead, he would introduce the so-called Six Acts which would provide a much clearer raft of restrictions and curtailments for magistrates to follow.

In the meantime, demonstrations continued but were quickly dispersed until the public appetite for them diminished. In their place, local “debates” were held instead to discuss the situation at hand and find new ways to guarantee reform. Lord Sidmouth heaved a sigh of relief. Peterloo had the potential to trigger a general uprising but it had passed. In a moment of high spirits, he wrote a letter to the magistrates of Manchester which was read aloud in the streets near St Peter’s Field. In this letter, Sidmouth said he wished to “pass on the sincere thanks of the Council of Regency, in particular His Royal Highness the Duke of York, for [William Hulton’s] swift actions in the course of preserving the public peace”.

In a debate held in London, Robert Wedderburn, the Jamaican born ultra-radical leader and anti-slavery advocate voiced what many radicals had begun to address at their meetings; “What is the Duke or the King to us? We want no King. He is no use to us at all”. The Whig MP Henry Brougham was said to comment; “the King has been a stranger to the people all these years. You cannot hope them to feel any loyalty or love for a captive crown”. But it was the comment of Sir Frances Burdett, arrested for publishing a pamphlet praising the “martyrs of Peterloo” that summed up the general view; “Whilst the princes of this realm revel in excess, their future subjects wallow in squalor”. In fairness to the Duke of York, when he heard that Sidmouth had put his name to his letter he admonished him for it. Yet many historians agree that his complaint was hollow considering that had he seen the letter first, he no doubt would have allowed its publication with his name attached anyway.

A sense of urgency now spurred Liverpool to deal swiftly with matters at court. If the Duchess wouldn't do as she was told, the Duke must act on her behalf. Her German ladies were sent away and the Marchioness of Cholmondeley was instructed to give the Duke a list of any guest Louise intended to invite to Buckingham House. Feeling cut off and alone at court, the Duchess withdrew from her husband and sulked in her apartment at Buckingham House. She would never forgive the Prime Minister personally, referring to him always as “the Cold One”. She blamed him for removing her last links with her homeland and though she slowly came to accept her English ladies, even retaining one or two of them for many years, she refused to receive the Prime Minister privately, tolerating his presence only in the company of others on occasions where it was vital he attend. [4]

But this sulking continued for almost a month and Louise’s ladies became concerned that her withdrawal had led to illness. By September 1819, she was clearly unwell and was refusing to eat. She protested that she could not eat because, unlike her German companions, the Marchioness of Cholmondeley didn’t know what Louise liked. "The food here is as horrible as the company", she said bitterly. Complaining of headaches and vomiting, Sir Henry Halford, the physician to the Royal Family, was asked to examine Louise. The Duchess had refused to see her husband since he had packed her German ladies off to Dover in the middle of the night without allowing her to say goodbye. Now he paced nervously in her sitting room as Halford attended her. Expecting bad news, the Duke drank port as he waited. When Halford came out of the Duchess’ bedroom, the serious expression he wore as he entered had been exchanged for a smile.

“May I offer you my sincerest congratulations Sir”, said Halford, “Her Royal Highness is with child." [5]


[1] This is a kind of watered-down version of the Bedchamber Crisis of Queen Victoria’s early reign in the OTL. Maybe we’ll call this one the “Teapot Crisis” ;)

[2] This refers to the Magistrates Act of this TL as introduced in the previous installment.

[3] I’ve kept Peterloo pretty much to the OTL with one slight butterfly that the magistrates in Mount Street dithered a little. Under the Act introduced in this TL, any meeting numbering over 50 people had to be dispersed, but as the crowds would have assembled so quickly, I think it’s reasonable they would have sought the opinion of the Chairman, Hulton, allowing for more people to arrive as they deliberated. It doesn't alter the actual events of the day or the immediate aftermath.

[4] This will prove important in a future installment. Battle lines have been drawn!

[5] Goodbye Queen Victoria...
 
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GIV: Part 7: England's Son

Opo

Monthly Donor
King George IV

Part 7: England’s Son

The news of the Duchess of York’s pregnancy was not made public immediately but at court there was much celebration and excitement. The Duke of York had not expected to become a father and though the Duchess remained aloof with him, she softened enough to receive him again. Extending an olive branch to his wife, he asked if she would like her mother to come to London to support her and even agreed that it should be left to the Landgravine to bring with her a suitable midwife. This didn’t please the Medical Household but the Duke had not forgotten the advice of Baron Stockmar during the pregnancy of the late Princess Charlotte. He was determined to see both his wife and child survive and he refused to allow the pride of his doctors to get in the way of making practical decisions on their behalf.

It was in this atmosphere that the Duke and Duchess of Clarence returned to England. Sadly, the pregnant Duchess suffered a miscarriage on their journey and was confined to Clarence House. The Duchess of York began writing letters to Adelaide which sparked a close and long-lasting friendship. As soon as she was well enough, Adelaide was received at Buckingham Palace where she assisted in making arrangements for the Duchess of York’s laying in and the arrival of Louise’s mother. The Duke of Clarence praised his wife’s selflessness and the Duke of York thanked her profusely declaring Adelaide to be; “the most dear, the most tender and the most compassionate sister, friend and companion” to his wife. Whilst many at court still hadn’t warmed to Louise, there was a general thaw in attitudes.

Louise wanted her sister, the Duchess of Cambridge, to accompany her mother to London from Hanover but Louise had only given birth to a son, Prince George, a few months earlier and did not feel she could leave. Instead, the Duchess of Clarence met Landgravine Caroline at Dover just before Christmas 1819 and travelled with her to Buckingham House. Caroline’s arrival cheered Louise but caused turmoil in the royal household. She brought with her four ladies in waiting, two midwives and a wet nurse, and announced that the obstetrician who had cared for the Duchess of Cambridge in Hanover was on his way from Herrenhausen to London. Sir Henry Halford took this as a personal insult and asked to be released from royal service. The Duke of York, scared that any stress would endanger his wife and child, accepted his resignation.

Sir Andrew Halliday was appointed in Croft’s place. He had been instrumental in the annulment of the Duke’s first marriage but had also spent time in Hanover in recent years, earning him praise from the Duchess of Cambridge. He was therefore “let in” to the medical decisions being made concerning the birth of Louise’s child but he confessed to finding himself “surrounded by Germans who regard all English doctors as butchers”. But Halliday main's responsibility was the condition of King George III. On a visit to Windsor in early January 1820, he reported that the King was “confined to bed, his faculties totally diminished and the end expected to follow in days”. The news was not a shock to the Royal Family but it was clear that Frederick and Louise would be King and Queen in a very short time indeed.

Whilst at Windsor, Halliday received an urgent message from Devon. The Duke of Kent was ill with a bad chest cold and the local doctors were not to the Duchess of Kent’s liking. Halliday, with little to do at Buckingham House now the German medical team had been assembled, travelled to Sidmouth to examine the Duke of Kent. Halliday diagnosed pneumonia. The Duke had days to live, if that. Halliday was one of the few at court who enjoyed the company of the Duchess of Kent but even he remarked on her indifference to her husband’s condition. He also noted that the presence of the Duke's unpopular equerry, Captain John Conroy, was "a significant distraction" and it concerned Halliday enough for him to commit it to paper.

“Whilst I examined His Royal Highness, the Duchess sat with Conroy in the drawing room. When I left the room to inform her of the Duke’s condition, I was told that she was out walking with Conroy on the sands and that I should leave a note with my instructions”. Halliday took a room at a local tavern and decided to remain in Sidmouth for the next few days. He dispatched a note to the Duke of York informing him of the Duke of Kent’s condition but it was too late for Frederick to make any attempt to see his brother one last time. On the 23rd of January 1820, the Duke of Kent died.

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Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn.

The Duke’s funeral took place at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. His daughter, barely a year old, was kept at Sidmouth in the care of her nanny, Louise Lehzen. The Duchess of Kent travelled to Windsor from Devon with Captain Conroy, arriving to a court which had been feasting on gossip that the pair were having an illicit affair. Worse still, Halliday’s account of the Duke’s last hours had spread like wildfire. It was said that as the Duke of Kent lay dying, his wife was parading in public with John Conroy.

Whether the Duke of York believed the rumours or not [1], he greeted his sister-in-law with anger, not sympathy. When she entered the castle with Conroy, Frederick barked; “How dare you Madam! How dare you bring that creature to this place”. For her part, the Duchess said nothing and simply walked away to the rooms allocated for her stay. But those present had heard the Duke’s words and took it as confirmation that Conroy was the Duchess of Kent’s lover. The Duchess didn’t seem much affected by this.

She had no great desire to remain in England after her second husband’s death. She had a palace in Coburg which was maintained thanks to the revenues she had inherited from her first husband, the Prince of Leiningen. But the Duke of Kent had left her substantial debts and the Kew Scandal had seen a freeze on any increase in royal expenditure for five years. The Duchess was offered a small suite of rooms at Kensington Palace as a permanent residence on the condition that she dismiss Conroy. The Duchess declined both offers. She would return to Coburg after closing the house in Sidmouth. She would take her daughter Victoria with her.

This troubled the Duke of York greatly who wished to see his niece raised at the English court. Though his wife was pregnant, Victoria was still third in line to the throne after the Dukes of York and Clarence and Frederick knew only too well how uncertain life could be. He therefore asked the Duchess of Kent to wait until his child was born before returning to Germany. The Duchess agreed on condition that she be allowed to determine her own staffing arrangements (thereby retaining the services of Captain Conroy) and that the Duke of York would at least consider paying some of the Duke of Kent’s debts, if not all. [2]

As the Duchess prepared to leave Windsor to return to Devon, Halliday asked for an urgent meeting with members of the Royal Family. The King’s condition had significantly declined. The end appeared near. The Archbishop of Canterbury who had led the Duke of Kent’s funeral remained at Windsor to lead prayers as the Dukes of York, Clarence and Sussex sat by George III’s bedside. Just six days after his son’s death, the King breathed his last on the evening of the 29th of January 1820. A tearful Duke of York was led from the King’s bedroom to the Great Drawing Room where Lord Liverpool had assembled various members of the Cabinet and the Privy Council. Frederick was now King. They knelt as the Archbishop of Canterbury prayed for the new sovereign who asked that he reign not as King Frederick but as King George IV, a tribute to his late father and to the elder brother who might have reigned under the same name.

At Buckingham House, the news of the King’s death was conveyed to the new Queen. Her ladies of the bedchamber curtseyed deeply and comforted her as Louise waited patiently for her husband to return from Windsor. The regency was at an end after 9 long years. Britain mourned King George III as a much-respected monarch but many felt that his death was a merciful release. However unfairly, George III would go down in history as the King who descended into madness and was declared unfit to rule. But he had reigned longer than any British monarch before him and this alone saw an outpouring of public sympathy. As the new King’s carriage passed from town to town on the journey from Windsor to London, people lined the streets to bow their heads, to throw flowers and to try to catch a glimpse of the man they would now call His Majesty.

George III’s funeral was set for the 16th of February at Windsor but his successor had to return to London in the interim for the Accession Council. Held at St James’ Palace on the 2nd of February, the new King swore the oath before the council in which he pledged to “maintain and preserve the Church of Scotland” under the Acts of Union of 1707. Immediately after this, the Garter King of Arms stepped out onto the Proclamation Gallery overlooking Friary Court to announce the accession of King George IV. The small crowd allowed to assemble inside the courtyard cheered but the King made no public appearance and remained at St James’ receiving a long list of establishment figures who kissed his hand and were given a moment or two “in the presence”.

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The funeral procession of King George III.

Before the old King was buried, a meeting took place to determine the date of George IV’s coronation and most importantly, how it would be funded. The Kew Scandal had frozen all royal expenditure for five years but even the most ardent critic of the monarchy could accept that the coronation was a special case and that a budget for it should be agreed as quickly as possible. Lord Liverpool secured a budget of £30,000 from government funds with an additional £30,000 made available from the huge war reparations of 100 million francs which had been forced on France by the Treaty of Paris in 1815. [3]

However, the King himself did not favour a particularly extravagant ceremony. He knew that his reputation for lavish spending had not been served well by recent events and he intended to use his coronation to restore a little goodwill among his people and those in the establishment who were determined to see him fail from the off. The ceremony was planned for the 1st of August 1820 [4] and was to be organised by the Lord Great Chamberlain, Lord Gwydyr, and the Earl Marshal. However, the post of Earl Marshal was hereditary and in the possession of the Dukes of Norfolk who were Catholic. Therefore, a Deputy had to be appointed with Lord Henry Howard-Molyneux-Howard (the Duke of Norfolk’s Anglican brother) stepping into his shoes.

At the King’s request, the procession was cut short missing out Westminster Hall altogether. There was to be no coronation banquet with a “coronation breakfast” offered to 200 of the most important guests at Buckingham House immediately after the ceremony. The King and Queen would travel to and from Westminster Abbey in the Gold State Coach made for George III in 1762 which would give the people a chance to see the new Sovereign on the journey from St James Palace.

Public entertainments for the coronation were scaled back but the King personally funded special “coronation breakfasts” with city halls and other large public venues throwing their doors open in poorer areas. Those present for these celebrations were given a basic meal and a ration of beer or barley water “with the compliments of Their Majesties”. The idea of coronation breakfasts quickly caught on and throughout the country, local aristocrats and the gentry were encouraged to open their homes to their tenants and offer a “hearty repast and a little beer to cheer the King”. [5]

Few took up the offer but it gave the press an opportunity to write glowing tributes to George IV who “by his consideration for the poorest in this way has indicated to us the sort of King he shall be; a generous and kindly one worthy of respect and admiration”. Some Tory leaning newspapers were less impressed however, believing that the lack of public ceremonies was “mean-spirited” and “a missed opportunity to revive patriotism among the people in light of recent events”.

The main expenditure for the coronation came in the form of what the King and Queen would wear. The coronation robe of King George III was brought out of storage but George IV could not fit the cloth of gold suit made for his father, therefore he elected to wear his army uniform underneath the robe of 36 yards of crimson velvet decorated with 116 yards of broad gold lace. The Queen would wear a gown of gold brocade (but with shorter sleeves than that traditionally worn by the Queen consort) and with a wired standing collar. Louise asked that the floral emblems of England, Scotland and Ireland be embroidered on the dress thereby starting the tradition. But when Queen Charlotte’s coronation robe was brought out of storage it was found to be damaged and so a new one had to be made by Ede & Ravenscroft at a cost of nearly £3,000.

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The Coronation Robe of George III & George IV. The gold suit is a replica of that worn by George III, George IV choosing to wear the robe over his army uniform instead.

There was also the question of the Crown Jewels. Most of them had been inherited from George IV’s ancestors but had not been used for some time. St Edward’s Crown, made in 1661, was actually only a gold frame with most of the jewels hired to be set in it when it was needed. This brought with it a cost of £24,000. As for the Queen’s crown, that made for Mary of Modena in 1685 was seen as too theatrical and in a poor state of repair. The Modena crown was ruled “unfit for Her Majesty’s use” and Rundell & Bridge were commissioned to create a new crown for Queen Louise. She objected to the practice of hiring jewels for her crown and thus, diamonds were taken from some of the jewels she had inherited from Queen Charlotte to be installed into the new frame. [6]

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The Queen's Diadem made by Rundell & Bridge for Queen Louise in 1820. The pearls are a later addition.

The Queen was due to give birth in April and so it proved impossible to fit her for her coronation gown. Somewhat unwisely, it was determined that Ede & Ravenscroft would make three gowns in different sizes which could be altered to suit the Queen by the time of the coronation. Much of the cost of the event therefore came from the Queen’s wardrobe, something which was reported and criticised in the popular press and even in parliament. Whilst the King had managed to win public support with his economies for his coronation, the Queen’s reputation as a lavish spender was being reinforced, especially when it was also reported that she had commissioned another piece of jewelry from Rundell & Bridge to wear for the coronation breakfast; a crown of diamonds known today as the Queen’s Diadem. [7] Diamonds were taken from jewels already in the Queen’s possession but the design was so elaborate that other stones had to be added to it. The additional diamonds cost £800 to hire but they were never actually returned to Rundell & Bridge and remain in the Diadem today.

Security for the coronation was heightened, again at an additional cost. During the planning of the ceremony, the Cato Street Conspiracy to assassinate the Prime Minister and other members of the Cabinet was revealed and the conspirators arrested and sentenced to death. They would become the last criminals in Britain to be sentenced to death by being hung, drawn and quartered but in the event, the executioner drew the line at dismembering the bodies. In the aftermath of Peterloo, Lord Liverpool had busied himself with introducing the so-called Six Acts to parliament which attempted to suppress so-called revolutionary activity. The Cato Street Conspiracy had given the Prime Minister the justification he needed to maintain the restrictions but radicals still existed and fears that they may make the King and Queen their new targets on coronation day would see a huge military presence on the streets of London.

With the basic arrangements now settled, thoughts turned to the funeral of King George III at St George’s Chapel, Windsor on the 16th of February. The Queen could not attend as she approached the last remaining months of her pregnancy. Her confinement at Buckingham House had begun and preparations were being made for the arrival of the King’s child. The funeral itself was “modest but fine, a ceremony full of sober reflection on the loss of a great King and much-loved public figure”. In the aftermath, the late King’s coffin was placed in the Royal Vault which George III himself had constructed but his successor announced to the assembled mourners afterwards that he intended to build a mausoleum to hold the remains of his parents in the near future. When the coronation budget ran over by some £40,000, the project was abandoned and George III and his wife remain buried in the Royal Vault at Windsor today.

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His Majesty King George IV.

A much happier event preceded the coronation later that year when on the 20th of April, Queen Louise finally gave birth to her child. Her labour lasted 13 hours and she was attended by her mother Landgravine Caroline, her sister the Duchess of Cambridge and her sister-in-law the Duchess of Clarence. The King, accompanied by his brothers, sat nervously in the Queen’s Sitting Room next door to the bedroom where the Queen lay, her screams flooding the air and filling all present with anxiety. Most of the assembled company had been present for the delivery of Princess Charlotte’s baby. All had seemed well until the last when Charlotte’s child was born dead. Hours later, the Princess herself would die. The King was said to be “in a terrible state, pacing the floor and praying loudly that all would be well. He became very bad tempered as the day progressed and at one point, he slapped a servant who tried to give him brandy to calm his nerves. His Majesty offered an apology to the wretched servant but all present knew his nervous state was very precarious indeed”.

At just after 2am on the morning of the 20th of April 1820, the royal baby, now first in the line of succession to the British throne, was born at Buckingham House. The German medical team who had attended the Queen informed the King immediately that his wife was in good health and that his child was “of good and substantial weight, in rude health and of perfect constitution”. The King entered the Queen’s bedroom to find his wife tired but smiling as Landgravine Caroline cradled the baby in her arms. Curtsying to the King, she walked towards him and put the baby in his arms.

“You have a son Your Majesty”, she said softly, “England has a son.”

News of the royal birth spread quickly and there were spontaneous celebrations in the streets. In Hyde Park, local tavern keepers rolled barrels of beer and fortified wines onto the grass and the public drank and danced to music provided by street buskers. The crowds quickly grew and under the terms of the Magistrates Act, should have dispersed but under the circumstances, a blind eye was turned. The revelers cheered as a gun salute was fired to announce the royal birth and at the Tower of London, the crowds grew so large to see the salute given that four spectators were pushed into the Thames. The Times reported; “Even this unfortunate incident could not diminish the public’s joy in the happy news”.

The King himself seemed to be in a state of shock. Writing to his brother Ernest Augustus in Hanover, he said; “To think that I should have a son, a son who shall one day succeed me, fills me not only with joy but with an awe for the Almighty who has ordered this so very perfectly”. But the news of the royal birth was not greeted with delight everywhere. A meeting of radicals was broken up in Oldham where news of a new Prince was received with angry denunciations of the monarchy.

A radical preacher was arrested on the streets of York for proclaiming the baby illegitimate because the King’s second marriage was “falsified, as he remains married in the eyes of God to the mad Duchess of York”. And in the corridors of Kensington Palace, the Duchess of Kent was said to have “shown great indifference to the news, retiring early and refusing to celebrate with other members of the Royal Family”. Regardless of this, the Queen slept soundly that night knowing that she had done her duty. Her husband shared her contentment. The future looked bright.

[1] I have left the relationship between the Duchess of Kent and Conroy as ambiguous here as it is in the OTL. It’s a debate that’s not pertinent to this TL really but adds a little drama into it, especially as the Duchess was already not much liked by the Duke’s brothers.

[2] In the OTL, the Duchess of Kent was all set to return to Germany after her husband’s death. She chose not to because her daughter’s position in the line of succession guaranteed her a certain standard of living she might not have had in Coburg. Because Victoria’s position changes in this TL, the Duchess is more inclined to Coburg than Kensington for the future.

[3] The amount allocated in the OTL was much higher and went wildly over budget. However, Frederick is not the same man the Prince Regent was and given past events in this TL, I modeled this segment on the coronation of King William IV and Queen Adelaide instead of that of the late Prince Regent.

[4] This was the original date set for the coronation of George IV in the OTL but it was delayed when his estranged wife returned to England demanding to be crowned alongside him. The Pains and Penalties Bill pushed George IV’s coronation back to July 1821 but in this TL, the original date of the 1st August has no barrier.

[5] In the OTL, these events were staged for the coronation of King Edward VII, though they took place before the event because Edward VII fell ill with appendicitis and his coronation had to be delayed. I felt they fitted quite nicely into this TL.

[6] As was done by Queen Adelaide in the OTL.

[7] The George IV Diadem from the OTL.
 
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I am thinking George for England's latest son, but the middle names remain in the air -

OTL we had George Augustus Frederick, Frederick Augustus, William Henry, Edward Augustus, Ernest Augustus, Augustus Frederick and Adolphus Frederick so Augustus and Frederick are the two obvious options, but a little overused.

Louise's father is a Frederick too, and her eldest brother is a William, who might stand as godfather, as well as the Duke of Clarence in the same.

My guess is George Augustus William for the child.
 
BTW, in killing the Prince Regent, you've just killed the necktie in modern men's fashion.
My initial reaction was to say "Thank God." Yet now I wonder what other ridiculous idea the aristocracy might come up with to make men respectable.
@Opo This TL is most interesting, through your footnotes, I'm learning a little about Regency Era Britain as well. Keep up the good work.
 

Opo

Monthly Donor
I am thinking George for England's latest son, but the middle names remain in the air -

OTL we had George Augustus Frederick, Frederick Augustus, William Henry, Edward Augustus, Ernest Augustus, Augustus Frederick and Adolphus Frederick so Augustus and Frederick are the two obvious options, but a little overused.

Louise's father is a Frederick too, and her eldest brother is a William, who might stand as godfather, as well as the Duke of Clarence in the same.

My guess is George Augustus William for the child.
I love these predictions!

BTW, in killing the Prince Regent, you've just killed the necktie in modern men's fashion.
I can only apologise profusely to those who love the necktie but I will take praise from office workers who despise them. ;)

My initial reaction was to say "Thank God." Yet now I wonder what other ridiculous idea the aristocracy might come up with to make men respectable.
@Opo This TL is most interesting, through your footnotes, I'm learning a little about Regency Era Britain as well. Keep up the good work.
Thank you! I really appreciate that.
 
I am thinking George for England's latest son, but the middle names remain in the air -

OTL we had George Augustus Frederick, Frederick Augustus, William Henry, Edward Augustus, Ernest Augustus, Augustus Frederick and Adolphus Frederick so Augustus and Frederick are the two obvious options, but a little overused.

Louise's father is a Frederick too, and her eldest brother is a William, who might stand as godfather, as well as the Duke of Clarence in the same.

My guess is George Augustus William for the child.
George Frederick William sound as the most likely option for the boy… In alternative William George Frederick or William Frederick George
 
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GIV: Part 8: Wicked Women

Opo

Monthly Donor
King George IV

Part 8: Wicked Women​

The death of King George III on the 29th of January triggered a general election which returned Lord Liverpool’s Tories with a substantial majority over the Whigs. The sixth parliament of the United Kingdom was dissolved on the 29th of February with the new Parliament summoned to meet on the 21st of April, the day after the birth of the King’s son. His Majesty was therefore in high spirits as he rode to parliament to open the new session. George IV used his speech to pay tribute to George III; “In meeting you personally for the first time since the death of my beloved father, I am anxious to assure you, that I shall always continue to imitate his great example, in unceasing attention to the public interests, and in paternal solicitude for the welfare and happiness of all classes of my subjects”. [1]

The King also took the opportunity to “extend the sincerest thanks to you, my Lords and Gentlemen assembled, and to those beyond this place, who have offered their warmest congratulations on the birth of my son, the Duke of Cornwall, whom I have been pleased to name George Frederick William”. A polite round of applause met the King’s announcement, though some of the radical members of the Commons were noticed to roll their eyes and refused to join in. The speech also made mention of the recent “distress of the labouring classes” and the King condemned “acts of open violence and insurrection” whilst praising “the vigilance and activity of the magistrates, and the zealous cooperation of all my subjects whose exertions have been called forth to support the authority of the laws”.

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The Lords Chamber as it existed before the fire of 1834.

There was one part of the King’s speech however that caused concern. Following the Kew Scandal, George IV (then Duke of York) had made a gentleman’s agreement with the Prime Minister, which was then relayed to parliament to placate them and diminish the Kew furore; the Civil List would be frozen for five years. Though the King had the right to renegotiate the settlement on his accession, he had pledged not to do so. But when George addressed parliament, he left the matter of royal expenditure somewhat ambiguous; “I do not desire any arrangement which might lead to the imposition of new burdens upon my people and I can have no wish, under circumstances like those present, that any addition should be made to the Settlement so recently adopted by parliament. I leave entirely at your disposal my interest in the hereditary revenues in the meantime, with sensible arrangements for you to consider on this subject deferred from advancement until such a time as the present distresses are peacefully resolved”.

Those on high alert for an indication as to whether the King would honour his agreement were left anxious. On the one hand, he appeared to be reconfirming his commitment to ask for no increase. On the other, “sensible arrangements to be deferred from advancement until…” left the door open to the prospect that within the next five years, His Majesty may well break his promise. Why George IV chose to be so vague is unclear, perhaps he wanted to assert his authority in parliament at the earliest opportunity. But he certainly didn’t need any more money, indeed, his finances were incredibly sound. Upon his accession, King George IV received an annual Civil List of £845,727. In addition to this, the King was also in receipt of the revenues from the Duchy of Lancaster, the Duchy’s separate identity preserving it from being surrendered with the Crown Estates in exchange for the Civil List by George III in 1760.

The costs of the planned coronation for August 1820 would be made available by the government as previously agreed following George III’s death and Lord Liverpool considered this a perfectly reasonable expense, especially as the new King had promised a more modest ceremony with economies to be made where possible. The King had also managed to keep his gambling debts low and affordable and whilst he had not inherited anywhere near the personal savings George III had once received from his father, George IV’s personal finances were not in any jeopardy. [2] But those concerned that the Kew agreement may be broken raised the matter in the Commons following the King’s speech. Liverpool insisted that the King “had spoken of advancement only in relation to the coronation ceremonies” and that “the government had made clear its position that no increase to the Civil List [would] be considered for the period of five years”. This time, the King was given the benefit of the doubt.

In the meantime, Queen Louise began making preparations for the christening of Prince George. Whilst it was customary for royal children to have four godparents as Princess Victoria had been given, the Queen decided that her son should have six. From the immediate families of his parents, his godparents were; his maternal grandfather Landgrave Frederick of Hesse-Kassel-Rumpenheim, his maternal aunt the Duchess of Cambridge, his paternal uncle the Duke of Clarence and his paternal aunt by marriage the Duchess of Clarence. In an effort to show goodwill to the Dutch with whom relations were somewhat tense following disputes arising from the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814, the King of the Netherlands was invited to stand as a godfather (represented by the Duke of Cambridge) whilst the Empress of Russia stood as another godmother (represented by Princess Sophia). [3]

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Charles Manners-Sutton, Archbishop of Canterbury.

The ceremony was led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Manners-Sutton, and was held at the Chapel Royal at St James’ Palace on the 22nd of May 1820. On the same day, Prince George was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester by his father. [4] The assembled guests were not given any refreshments, much to the irritation of Queen Louise who wished to hold grand celebrations to mark the occasion, because court mourning was still being observed for King George III. Prone to sulking, she was said to scowl throughout the ceremony and when the Archbishop of Canterbury splashed holy water in the baby’s eyes leading the little Prince to scream loudly, she was heard to mutter; “What a foolish man!”. Her mood did not improve when she suddenly realised that her mother, who had been resident at the English court since the start of the Queen’s pregnancy, would now be returning to Rumpenheim. With the Cambridges returning to Hanover, Louise was to be left with none of her relations at court and she once again felt lonely and abandoned.

She complained bitterly that Buckingham House was far too small and though the private apartments of the King and Queen had been renovated at a controversial cost of £70,000 the previous year, now she wanted to redesign the building itself. The King was not unsympathetic. Buckingham House was in a state of disrepair and whilst the rooms they had used before their accession were comfortable and spacious, the other rooms in the mansion were barely ever used. In the usual way of things, the royal residences would be redesigned, refurbished or repaired with money allowed specifically for the purpose by parliament in addition to the existing Civil List. This was not a possibility under the terms of the Kew agreement but the King sided with his wife that the works were urgent. He thereby devised a plan, approved by the Prime Minister, that he would fund the works from the existing Civil List and that any shortfall would be met by selling off Carlton House, the late Prince Regent’s Westminster mansion.

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Nash's proposal for the new Buckingham Palace, 1820.

The Prime Minister advised the King to wait a year before any construction began but keen to give his wife something to focus on, George IV summoned John Nash, the Official Architect to the Office of Woods and Forests, and invited him to work with the Queen on transforming Buckingham House into a palace. Nash’s proposal was to enlarge the building by extending the central block and rebuilding the two wings to the east entirely. This would enclose a grand forecourt with a triumphal arch in the centre that would form part of a ceremonial processional approach to the Palace (known as the New Avenue) which would celebrate Britain’s recent naval and military victories. The art collection at Carlton House, along with all furniture and furnishings from the mansion, were sent to Kew until they could find a permanent home at the new Buckingham Palace. The Queen added to the collection by taking advice from the newly appointed President of the Royal Academy, Sir Thomas Lawrence. Lawrence recorded his belief that the Queen had “no perception of what made a good purchase or not” and said that she “bought as an amateur would despite my advice, advice which allowed the Prince Regent to amass a very fine collection”.

Whilst one Palace was being made fit for a King, another was home to a member of the family who had already proven to be a thorn in George IV’s side. The Duchess of Kent had accepted the King’s offer of a suite of rooms at Kensington as a temporary measure and had agreed to remain in England until the birth of the King’s son. These gestures were not made with any kind sentiment to them, rather, both sides had ulterior motives. The Duchess hoped that by giving the King what he wanted, he would relent and pay the late Duke of Kent’s debts, debts which her private secretary Captain Conroy had found were significantly higher than first thought. The Duchess needed the King’s assistance, otherwise, far from returning to her palace in Coburg with her daughter, the Duchess might be forced to sell it and remain in her shabby suite at Kensington on a very limited annual income.

Since her arrival in England in 1817, the Duchess of Kent had forged few friendships at court. She was regarded as haughty and grand, aloof and a terrible gossip. Despite her precarious position, and ignoring warnings from Conroy, the Duchess grew too bold in assuming that, as she was leaving for Coburg anyway, she was practically untouchable. When she heard about the proposed transformation of Buckingham House into a palace, she wasted no time in criticising the Queen’s lavish spending and bemoaned the fact that the King had money to provide himself with a grand residence but could not honour the memory of his late brother (or secure the future fortunes of his niece) by paying off her late husband’s debts. For three weeks, the Duchess told her visitors that “the wicked little Queen will bankrupt England” and even suggested that the King was growing tired of her constant demands for paintings, furniture and jewels and may "put her aside as easily as he did the other one".

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The Duchess of Kent.

It did not take long before this tittle tattle reached the ears of the King and Queen. Something would have to be done about the Duchess of Kent, and quickly, but there was still a sticking point the King could not find a solution for; he did not want his niece to leave England. It wasn’t only family loyalty but there were practical considerations too. What if his son died in infancy? What if he had no more children? What if the Duchess of Clarence, now expecting again, never had a child live beyond three or four months? Victoria’s position remained somewhat uncertain and would until the Prince of Wales reached maturity. Until he could be sure all was well, the King wanted his niece to remain in England. But he also knew his wife wanted the Duchess of Kent to leave the court as soon as possible. The court could not withstand another public scandal but both parties were stuck between a rock and a hard place. “Why is he bargaining with that woman at all?”, the Queen asked her ladies, “She should be sent away and the little Princess kept here”.

Since the Accession, none of Queen Louise’s ladies of the bedchamber had been removed or replaced as she had previously threatened to do. Indeed, despite her initial reluctance, she had become fond of them and had even taken the Marchioness of Cholmondeley into her confidence. Her husband, the Marquess, had been promoted to Lord Chamberlain of the Household and the couple were quickly becoming favourites of both the King and Queen. Now Georgiana Cholmondeley saw an opportunity to cement this position, ever aware that the Queen was prone to changing her attitudes on a whim. Visiting Kensington Palace, supposedly to to take a gift to Princess Augusta from the Queen, the Marchioness paid a visit to the nursery where the redoubtable Mrs Brock was protecting her charge, Princess Victoria.

Since the death of the Duke of Kent, Mrs Brock, the Princess’ nursemaid, had bombarded Lady Cholmondeley’s husband with complaints. Though she was nursemaid to the Princess and nominally the head of the nursery whilst more junior nursemaids were present, the true power in the nursery was Louise Lehzen. Born in Hanover, Lehzen had come to England as the Governess of the Duchess of Kent’s elder daughter Feodora, born of her first marriage to the Prince of Leiningen. But Lehzen had been thrilled to have such an important baby in her nursery as Princess Victoria and she was increasingly haughty with Mrs Brock who felt her position was constantly being undermined. [5] Lady Cholmondeley had advised her husband to ignore Brock’s protests but when a letter came a few days after the Queen had complained about the Duchess of Kent, Lady Cholmondeley saw a way to secure the Queen’s favour once and for all.

The Marchioness sent an invitation to Mrs Brock to take tea with her where all the grievances she had could be aired. As Brock sat and bemoaned Lehzen’s dominating and unfair nursery regime, Lady Cholmondeley nodded in agreement. She then set her trap. The most worrying thing in her mind, the Marchioness cautioned, was that now the Duchess of Kent was to go back to Germany, Lehzen would undoubtedly take full charge of Princess Victoria and poor Mrs Brock would be left behind in England. “But do not worry Mrs Brock”, Lady Cholmondeley said kindly, “I am sure I could find you a place in the nursery at Buckingham House. Of course, it would be a more junior post…”

Mrs Brock broke down in tears. The idea of losing her precious royal charge was too much to bear, let alone her nursery rival winning the ultimate battle. Lady Cholmondeley continued. It was such a shame, she said, that the relationship between the King and his sister-in-law had deteriorated so. He was even minded to keep Princess Victoria in England when the Duchess of Kent left but this was unlikely. The only thing that would prompt him to take such an extreme decision was the suggestion of scandal. Whilst there were vicious rumours (“quite unsubstantiated I am sure”) that there was something corrupt or immoral in the relationship between the Duchess of Kent and Captain Conroy, nobody could prove it. Of course, if they could that would be another matter entirely. Mrs Brock quickly caught on.

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Louise Lehzen.

Whether there was any truth to her statement or not, she allowed herself to be talked into signing a letter to the Queen (“Who is far more likely to show leniency than His Majesty”) in which she said the entire household of the Duchess of Kent was in turmoil. Her relationship with Captain Conroy was causing “scandal to touch the palace” and she had serious concerns that it may “poison the reputation of the little Princess, something she may carry well into the future and which may even make a good marriage impossible”. In all likelihood, these were simply Lady Cholmondeley’s words committed to paper in Brock’s name. Either way, the Marchioness promised Brock she would not be separated from the little Princess and took the letter to Queen Louise.

The Queen put the letter before the King who, armed with supposed proof that his sister-in-law was having a love affair with John Conroy, made his final decision. The Duchess of Kent must leave England but she would not take his niece with her. How this was to be arranged was another matter entirely. At first, the King tried a soft approach. He was willing to leave the door open for the Duchess to make regular visits to England to visit her daughter who would be lodged with the Duchess’ brother, Prince Leopold. Prince Leopold, the widower of Princess Charlotte and still resident in England, was summoned to Buckingham House. Accompanied by his advisor and confidante, Baron Stockmar, Leopold promised to try and mediate between the King and his sister-in-law, though he left the donkey work to Baron Stockmar.

Stockmar tried to see the Duchess in person but she refused to receive him. She had been estranged from her brother since his love affair with the actress Caroline Bauer had been made public. Unfortunately, Caroline was also Stockmar’s cousin and so the Duchess of Kent left Conroy to meet with Stockmar instead. Stockmar pleaded with Conroy to force the Duchess to see the bigger picture. A brief separation from her daughter would allow things to calm down somewhat, the late Duke of Kent’s creditors would be placated by the payment of a first installment and the Duchess could at least return from Coburg when she wished to visit Victoria. The Princess would be lodged with her uncle who could only have the same best interests at heart for her and after a time, the King may even relent and allow the Duchess to return permanently to England, her debts paid for and her reputation improved. It is unclear as to whether Conroy put this plea to the Duchess personally but when Conroy made a return visit to Stockmar, he made it abundantly clear that the Duchess would not be separated from her daughter under any terms. Neither would she allow her to lodge with Prince Leopold for as long as he was in a relationship with Bauer and Stockmar was in his employ.

Patience with the Duchess ran so thin as to reach breaking point. Stockmar informed the King that Prince Leopold had been unable to mediate with his sister and that the Prince would support the King in whatever course of action he chose to pursue. Unfortunately for the Duchess of Kent, the King asked Queen Louise what should be done, eager to allow her to feel that same sense of importance and influence that his mother had enjoyed when she was Queen consort in all family matters. It was the Queen who passed sentence. The Duchess of Kent would return to Coburg with Princess Feodora and Princess Feodora’s governess, Louise Lehzen. But Princess Victoria would be kept in the charge of Mrs Brock in England. If the Duchess refused to allow Victoria to live with her uncle Leopold, then she would be sent to Clarence House to be raised by the Duke and Duchess of Clarence. Officially, the Duchess of Kent would be said to have returned to Coburg to oversee the running of her estates there and would return regularly to visit Victoria. Privately however, it would be made clear to the Duchess that if she returned without permission of the King or Queen, if she caused scandal, or if she continued to gossip against them, the debt payments would stop and she would never see her daughter again.

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Baron Stockmar.

As for Conroy, his ambition far outweighed any sense of loyalty to the Duchess of Kent. He had seen royal service as the quickest route to riches and a position of influence as a courtier but he was still a Captain in the army when all was said and done had not officially left military service. The Marquess of Cholmondeley decided a commission would be found for Conroy in Ireland. Despite his relatively short length of time in royal service, he would be given a knighthood and a small pension. The pension would be cut off if he engaged in tittle tattle beyond palace walls. The King did not welcome the idea of honouring Conroy but Lord Cholmondeley assured His Majesty that it was the safest way to handle the situation. There could be no hint of scandal for, if there was, the King would hardly honour Conroy in such a way on his departure if he were guilty of adultery with the Duke of Kent’s widow.

It was left to the Queen to impart the judgement, a task she no doubt relished. When the Duchess of Kent arrived at Buckingham House on the 1st of June 1820, she had no idea what was about to transpire. If she had, she might not have been so foolish as to ask Captain Conroy to accompany her. Whilst she was aware of the gossip that surrounded them at court, she refused to be cowed by it and Conroy too wished to impress on everybody that he had nothing to hide and had carried out his duties in an exemplary fashion. It has even been suggested that Conroy asked to accompany the Duchess to her audience with the Queen in the mistaken belief that he might impress Her Majesty and be invited to remain in England to serve another member of the Royal Family after the Duchess of Kent had departed for Coburg. He was quickly disavowed of any such illusions when he was refused entrance to the Queen’s presence. Only the Duchess’ was to be admitted to the audience.

Queen Louise had chosen the cast well. On one side stood her ladies of the bedchamber with the Marchioness of Cholmondeley closest to the Queen. On the other stood the Dowager Princess of Wales, the Duchess of Clarence, Princess Augusta and Princess Sophia. The Duchess of Kent must have known by this assemblage how serious her situation was, nonetheless, Lady Campbell recorded that she; “curtseyed and smiled toward Her Majesty, nodding to her sisters-in-law but ignoring the Queen’s ladies entirely. I thought her most rude but if she had any inclination of what was to follow, she did not show it and one could almost admire her early calm”. The Queen was “somehow taller, more bold in manner, as if she were trying to infuse herself with the spirit of the late Queen who was always so composed yet so firm in such situations”.

The Queen was disarmingly kind to the Duchess at first. She asked if she had closed her house in Sidmouth without too many difficulties and inquired as to the well-being of Princess Victoria. Then she changed course.

“Where is Conroy?”, the Queen asked.

“He is outside Your Majesty”, the Duchess replied.

“That is good”, Queen Louise nodded, “Lord Cholmondeley wishes to speak with him about his new posting. To Ireland”.

The Duchess of Kent may have been surprised by this, even frustrated or upset, but according to Lady Campbell’s account of the meeting, she did not show it; “She stood upright and said nothing but avoided the gaze of the ladies assembled. She dared not look at the Queen in that moment”.

“You will travel soon too, I understand”, the Queen continued, “To Coburg?”

The Duchess replied that regretfully, she would. She had wished to stay in England where she felt her daughter should be raised, indeed, she felt it was what her late husband would have wanted. But with his debts unsettled, she had no choice but to withdraw to Germany with her daughter.

“I think not”, the Queen said coldly, “We have taken advice and we do not believe that Princess Victoria should be raised in Coburg...”

The Duchess of Kent moved forward. The Queen held up a hand. The Duchess froze. She must now have realised that something was afoot, something that would cost her dear. Lady Campbell recalled; “Her voice was suddenly tremulous, she began to talk of the Duke of Kent’s debts, of the King’s past kindness to her, of the poor conditions at Kensington, of her brother Prince Leopold and all manner of things until the Queen held up her hand and the Duchess fell silent”.

“You will make your arrangements to return to Coburg”, the Queen finally dealt the blow, “But Princess Victoria will remain here. With the Duchess of Clarence”.

The Duchess of Kent let out a yelp “like a wounded animal”. She fell to her knees and began to plead with Queen Louise.

“Do not take my daughter from me”, she begged, “No mother could bear the pain of such a thing!”

The Queen gestured toward the Dowager Princess of Wales. [6]

“She bore it well enough”.

The Duchess now became so hysterical that Princess Sophia stood up to hold her still. Lady Campbell recorded that the Princess seemed to offer sympathy which only enraged the Queen all the more.

“Did you really believe Madam we did not hear of your whoring with Conroy? Or that we would let it continue?”, Queen Louise spat, “Your own household brought the proof to us and do you imagine we should let you take His Majesty’s niece to Coburg with the lover you paraded so indecently before the court?”

The Duchess protested that she had never bedded Conroy, she had been foolish to rely on him but she was a poor widow with many difficulties, she had never been liked at court and she had no friends or allies.

“We shall cover your debts”, the Queen said, ignoring her pleas, “And then Madam, you shall take your devious servants and faded fineries and go to Coburg where you will remain. You will return to England only at my invitation and I must tell you Madam, that shall prove a long time in coming”.

With that, the Duchess of Kent, shaking and weeping loudly, clutched to Princess Sophia who led her from the room. “We all felt very much for her in that moment but the Queen did not. As she was carried out by the Princess, the Queen called after her ‘Look upon her not with pity my ladies, for she is a most wicked woman’. It was all quite horrible but we were in full agreement among ourselves that Her Majesty was quite right to act as she did for if Conroy’s sordid behaviour was ever made public, the scandal would be most vicious and put us all in danger of ridicule”. The Duchess of Kent found the corridor outside empty. Conroy had already been given his new commission and had left Buckingham House. The Duchess was shown to her carriage which would take her back to Kensington where she would make her final arrangements to leave England.

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The infant Princess Victoria.

But there was one final indignity left for the Duchess of Kent to face. When she arrived back at Kensington, she found Louise Lehzen and Princess Feodora weeping and comforting each other. Mrs Brock, accompanied by men from the King’s household, had taken the little Princess Victoria to Clarence House. The Duchess was not to be allowed to bid her daughter farewell. Ten days later, the Duchess left England for Germany. The Times reported that Her Royal Highness had decided to withdraw to her private residence in Coburg for a time but wished her daughter to remain in England until the New Year. Until her mother's return, Princess Victoria was to live in the care of her uncle, the Duke of Clarence. All had been arranged personally by the Queen, the report said, “who is so very fond of the child as she is of all small children”.

At Buckingham House, the King expressed regret that the situation had deteriorated so. He wrote to Prince Leopold and promised him that he would always be welcome both at court and at Clarence House to visit his niece; “We were grateful for your efforts and I regret that you could not bring that woman to heel, for the situation had become quite untenable”. The Queen meanwhile was “in vulgar good humour” that night, contented that she had rid the court of the Duchess of Kent whilst also pleasing her husband. Lady Cholmondeley was satisfied too. She had secured her position as the Queen’s favourite, if only temporarily.

But outside of the Queen’s Household, other royal retainers knew the truth of the matter and many felt the Duchess of Kent had been cruelly treated and horribly betrayed. Whilst she had never been wildly popular during her time in England, most thought it a heartless thing to separate her from her daughter, especially to forbid her the chance of a farewell. Some even referred to the Queen as “a wicked woman”.

It did not take long for their gossip to travel outside Palace walls. Whilst the King’s reputation was improving slowly with the passage of time, the Queen’s seemed to be on a course of rapid decline. With his coronation looming, support for the monarchy was dropping but the King seemed oblivious and believed that peace and order had been restored to his court. In the coming months, he would find out just how wrong he was.

[1] This is a modified version of the speech George IV (Prince Regent) gave in the OTL.

[2] These figures are based on the finances of 1820 in the OTL.

[3] Her husband stood as Princess Victoria’s godfather in the OTL and around this time Alexander and Elizabeth had reconciled, therefore it makes sense she would be considered. It also allows a little one upmanship between the Queen and the Duchess of Kent.

[4] If this seems a little quick, bear in mind that George IV (Prince Regent) was created Prince of Wales when he was just a few days old in the OTL. By the same token, in the OTL Queen Victoria created her eldest son Prince of Wales when he was only a month old.

[5] There is some truth to this in that Lehzen eventually pushed Mrs Brock out of the royal nursery in 1824 to be given sole charge over Princess Victoria in the OTL. Lehzen remained with the Princess after her accession until a few years after Victoria’s marriage. Unable to warm to Prince Albert, Lehzen took herself back to Hanover and out of royal service.

[6] The Prince Regent’s widow in this TL who had once been separated from her daughter, the late Princess Charlotte of Wales.

[Note] I found myself in a knot here. The Duchess of Kent had no reason to stay in England in this TL, even if her debts were paid. Her position was uncertain and her residence run down and cramped. She was also universally unpopular. Returning to Coburg meant a much happier life in every way. Whilst in the OTL, she chose to sacrifice that to gamble on her daughter’s position, that position in this TL changed somewhat with the birth of Prince George.

But I wanted to keep Princess Victoria in England for later in the TL. And I doubted the King or his brothers would have approved of her being raised in Germany with the ambitious Conroy and the Duchess making decisions for her, i.e. her later education and marriage prospects. In the OTL, Prince Leopold and Baron Stockmar were instrumental in persuading the Duchess of Kent to stay in England, it seemed right that they should feature here but put Victoria before the Duchess, especially with the estrangement between brother and sister.

Laying the groundwork for the Queen and the Duchess to become rivals meant a clash was inevitable and using some palace intrigue and nursery squabbles allowed me to separate mother and daughter in a way that was (IMO) believable and logical given the TL so far.
 
I hope that the British public slam and destroy Louisa!!! I hope for a thousand political failures and setbacks for the court!!! I hope Louise will be seen as the second coming of Maria Antoinette!!!!

 

Opo

Monthly Donor
Oh, Louise versus Victoria had everything but a lily pond. Joan Collins vs Stephanie Beacham.
x'D I resisted the urge to include "This champagne is burned".
I hope that the British public slam and destroy Louisa!!! I hope for a thousand political failures and setbacks for the court!!! I hope Louise will be seen as the second coming of Maria Antoinette!!!!

I think my objective to make Queen Louise an unpopular figure in this TL has been achieved based on this reply. ;) Thanks for reading!
 
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