Crown Imperial: An Alt British Monarchy

Thanks so much! I wasn't sure if I would continue this past 1827 but I spent the last few days reworking the Royal Family trees of Europe into the modern day. My plan at the moment is to continue this TL past George IV up until 2021 if possible...
Don't bite off more than you can possibly chew. No one could sustain this level of masterful detail for more than a decade, especially as it is set adjacent to a major stream of history.
 
which have provided herbs and vegetables for the Haddon kitchens since the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
I apologise for being a pedant, but writing in the 19th century, one says Queen Elizabeth. No one says Victoria I and no one will until there's a 2nd. Similarly, no one needed to say Elizabeth I until 1952.
 
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Opo

Monthly Donor
Don't bite off more than you can possibly chew. No one could sustain this level of masterful detail for more than a decade, especially as it is set adjacent to a major stream of history.
Thankyou for your kind words!
I apologise for being a pedant, but writing in the 19th century, one says Queen Elizabeth. No one says Victoria I and no one will until there's a 2nd. Similarly, no one needed to says Elizabeth I until 1952.
Ah yes, quite right! My mistake there.
 
I apologise for being a pedant, but writing in the 19th century, one says Queen Elizabeth. No one says Victoria I and no one will until there's a 2nd. Similarly, no one needed to says Elizabeth I until 1952.

Thankyou for your kind words!

Ah yes, quite right! My mistake there.

To be fair, we do not know the vantage point of the writer of the piece, they are clearly not writing contemporaneously to the piece (OTL, the National Trust was only founded in 1895) but is referenced in the very post you mention, so Elizabeth I may very well be acceptable, as from the POV of the writer, there may very well be a Lizzie II or III.
 
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GIV: Part 12: A Cruel Court

Opo

Monthly Donor
King George IV

Part Twelve: A Cruel Court

At Frogmore Cottage the Queen lay on the floor of the drawing room sobbing loudly as she mourned her closest confidant and friend. Though their relationship had grown stale from Pepke’s point of view in the last days of his life, the Queen’s infatuation with the Baron had never waned. The decision to keep the news of his death from her until the royal party returned to Windsor from Scotland had perhaps been a mistake, allowing her to languish at the home she had given to “the Fawn of Rumpenheim”. By order of the King, the cottage had been cleared entirely of Pepke’s belongings before the Queen returned. In the empty rooms, the Queen walked for days on end refusing to eat or sleep, wailing and weeping like a ghost. She insisted on full court mourning for Pepke but only her ladies of the bedchamber observed the ritual, clothing themselves in black crepe, the Queen herself shielding her face from view with a thick black veil. She had also demanded that Pepke be given a funeral at St George’s Chapel, Windsor but Pepke’s body had not yet been released by the coroner investigating the evident murder of the Baron and his lover Cottesloe. When the body was released, it was immediately dispatched to Rumpenheim for burial at the King’s insistence.

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Lord Cholmondeley.

Whilst for the Queen the death of Pepke was a crushing blow, the King seemed to have settled into his role as Sovereign enough by this time to understand the importance of avoiding any scandal connected to the Brook Street murders. Lord Cholmondeley and Sir William Knighton were dispatched to the owners of the London newspapers who were not-so subtly warned that any mention of the deaths should be handled with the utmost discretion and “charity towards the Royal Household” or else face the consequences. The Prime Minister too sought to exert pressure. The true nature of the relationship between Pepke and Cottesloe was to remain hidden from the public and whilst an obituary of Cottesloe was printed announcing “a sudden and tragic loss of a promising young talent”, no mention of Pepke was made at all until six weeks later. On the fourth page of the evening edition of the London Times, a small story appeared reporting that the “Tutor of the Prince of Wales, Baron Joachim Pepke, died in Italy this morning as a result of a sickness that developed during his voyage”.

The investigation into the Brook Street murders continued in as discrete a manner as was possible. It was not until 1955 that the true nature of Pepke and Cottesloe’s demise was made public, every document relating to the case sealed and protected in the National Archives before being lost to time. The official conclusion was that the pair had been startled by an intruder who attacked Cottesloe and killed him with a blow to the head. As Pepke ran for the door to escape, the intruder must have strangled him from behind and then taken the bodies down to the coal cellar to conceal them. The intruder had made off with jewellery and money but unfortunately, could not be traced. The case was closed and the bodies released, Pepke’s remains being transported to Rumpenheim where he was buried in the grounds of the castle whilst Cottesloe’s body was buried quietly in an unmarked grave at Kensal Green Cemetery.

For the court, Pepke’s death was unkindly regarded as an inconvenience. When they departed from Scotland, the King and Queen seemed to have rekindled their marriage to a point where even the Beaufort had been replaced in the King’s affections for a few days. Many were hopeful that the Scottish tour had been so successful that future tours would go ahead throughout England and restore the beleaguered public image of the monarchy. Certainly the tour had bolstered the government’s position on royal expenditure and without it, the increase to the Civil List might not have been so readily agreed by parliament as requested by the King. The increase on the existing sum of £845,000 brought the expenses allocated to the Sovereign to £960,000 with an additional £40,000 allocated for the continuing redesign of Buckingham House into a palace. With the public somewhat entranced by the recent glowing reports of the tour of Scotland, MPs who stood against the increase were accused by a friendly press of being “unpatriotic” and were even branded “wretched radicals” by obsequious London journalists.

But there was a sting in the tail for the Eldon administration. Whilst the Prime Minister assumed that the new arrangements would be subject to a renewed Kew Agreement, that being that the King would not ask for an increase for another five-year period after 1822, the King regarded the agreement as dead and buried. If he wished, he could ask for an increase annually as he saw fit. With this in mind, John Nash was asked to make revisions to some of his plans for Buckingham Palace with far grander works being substituted to reflect a higher budget. The King’s Drawing Room was perhaps the best example of this. Originally designed in a French Neoclassical style, Nash had drawn inspiration from furnishings at Carlton House which had been purchased by the Prince Regent and which were intended to find their new home at Buckingham Palace. With an increase in funds however, it was decided to double the length of the Drawing Room to become the State Ballroom. [1] A clash of styles emerged, the King’s tastes being somewhat incongruous with those of Nash, and instead of the clean white ceiling mouldings set off by gold chandeliers as initially proposed, the King commissioned a fresco for the ceiling which would feature members of the Royal Family depicted as Greek gods and goddesses looking down from the clouds. Naturally George IV was Zeus whilst Queen Louise was Hera and the Prince of Wales, Apollo. The Duke of Clarence was Poseidon, reflecting his naval career, whilst Princess Augusta was Athena.

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The King's Drawing Room today which was never extended to accommodate Nash's ballroom proposals but was still furnished according to the King's tastes. The proposed fresco of divine Greek inspiration was also abandoned.

Queen Louise had little interest in such frivolities. Two months had passed since Pepke’s death and her grief had been replaced by anger, suspicion and bitterness. She blamed the King for forbidding her from travelling to Italy with Pepke. Had she not been in Scotland (she reasoned), Pepke would have been safe at Royal Lodge with her and not at Brook Street. Lady Cholmondeley fell out of favour almost immediately, the Queen raging that the Lord Chamberlain had never been kind to Pepke and “would no doubt have rejoiced at the news of his death”. Lady Campbell recorded that the Queen “spent her days either weeping or raging at those she felt had not shown Pepke respect” and when Lady Melville wore a purple gown (half mourning) instead of a black one, the Queen dismissed her from her presence. Prayers were said for Pepke in the Queen’s presence every morning and at Frogmore Cottage, the Queen commissioned a stone memorial dedicated to “The Beloved Memory of the Queen’s Friend and Servant”. Her relationship with her husband once again diminished and Princess Augusta noted that Louise had become “bitter and harsh, any trace of youthful kindness or promise drained from her countenance to be replaced by a hard and cold expression of permanent displeasure”.

Just before Christmas 1822, it was confirmed that the Queen was once again expecting a child, presumably conceived in Scotland during the King and Queen’s brief reconciliation. As happy as the King was, the Queen made no attempt to put Pepke behind her and refused to receive her husband once more on the grounds that she was ill. Furthermore, Lord Eldon had decided to make changes to the Royal Household to appoint new ladies of the bedchamber, a frequent change the Queen never resigned herself to for as long as she lived. The Queen’s pregnancy laid her low, her doctors becoming concerned that “an excess of grieving” might endanger both the Queen and her unborn child. Sir Andrew Halliday, Royal Physician to the King, prescribed a special diet for the Queen to be accompanied by total and absolute rest.

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Sir Andrew Halliday.

Every morning, the Queen was served a mixture of rum, milk and a raw egg yolk before she was lifted out of bed so as not to disturb the remedy. She was then to be wheeled into the garden in a special bath chair and left to “take the air” for two hours. Her breakfast was comprised of meat dishes such as jugged hare or a selection of offal (which the Queen hated) served with copious amounts of beef tea and port. She was forbidden lunch with a further two hours in the open air preceding an early dinner of thin broths and served with port into which chloral had been stirred in to aid sleep. A popular sedative of the day, Halliday was treating the Queen for “melancholy” but this regime quickly exhausted her. She complained of constant stomach pains and forbidden to walk, she developed gout in her left foot which was so intense that she could not bear to sleep with bedclothes. She quickly caught a chill and a fever developed. The fever broke and Halliday took this as confirmation that his treatment was proving effective. [2]

On the 11th of January 1823 however, the Queen’s household was awoken in the early hours of the morning to agonising screams from the Queen’s bedroom. They found her covered in blood and writhing in pain. She had miscarried. The King was devastated at this loss but rather than showing his wife sympathy, blamed her for allowing herself to “wallow in excesses of melancholy for that devil fawn”. Halliday apologized profusely to the King only to be reassured by His Majesty that it was “the Queen’s own doing”. Louise’s sister, the Duchess of Cambridge, attended her in the aftermath of the loss of her child and tried to cheer her. Rather than sinking further into depression, Louise had become “even more hard, even more bitter” and a few weeks later, Lady Campbell noted that the Queen had taken a walk in the morning mist, dressed in her funereal black, “a spectre of the happy young Queen she was just two years ago”. Louise was becoming even more haughty, even more demanding and arrogant. When she discovered that the King had cancelled her commission of a tombstone for Pepke, she declared indignantly “What a cruel court this is”.

At the end of January, the King paid a visit to the British Museum to mark the first display of the collection of George III which George IV had finally agreed to donate. [3] Some 65,000 books and 19,000 pamphlets, maps and drawings had been given “for the study and enjoyment of academics and the people alike”. His Majesty was accompanied by Lady Elizabeth Somerset, the Queen declining all invitations. One event she could not decline to attend however was a State Banquet to be given at Windsor Castle in honour of the Tsar of Russia. Lord Eldon had proposed the visit in response to Greek War of Independence to assuage fears expressed in Cabinet that Russia may take unilateral action against the Ottoman Empire. Britain and Russia had initially been uniformly hostile to the Greek Revolution and were united in their view that the status quo must be preserved to maintain peace in Europe. Shortly after this unified stance had been taken, Tsar Alexander dispatched an ultimatum to Constantinople which forced the Sultan to make concessions to the Tsar but war had been avoided.

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Tsar Alexander I and his wife.

Lord Sidmouth, the Foreign Secretary, felt this was only a temporary amnesty and that the Tsar, considering himself to be protector of the Orthodox Church, may break rank. On his part, the Tsar had been frustrated with the British reassurance given to the Turks that for as long as they respected Christian subjects in their Empire, friendly relations would be maintained. Whilst the British had ordered the Commissioner of the Ionian Islands to allow the Greeks to cut off certain areas which the Turks depended upon to get important provisions, the Russians were not convinced that the British were showing enough open hostility to the Ottomans and were more concerned with increasing their own influence in the region. Russophobia was growing among the British elite who regarded the Tsar as a war monger and a tyrant but Lord Eldon’s government remained committed to their position that only by securing a united front between the Great Powers of France, Britain and Russia could a full-scale war be avoided. The Russians had tried to force the issue at the Congress of Verona the previous year but the British (supported by the Austrians) had managed to drop the matter from the talks. Now the situation needed direct discussion and so it was that the Tsar was invited to Britain in March 1823. [4]

The Russian Imperial Party was comprised of the Tsar and his wife, recently reconciled following years of estrangement, and the Tsar’s brother Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich. The Tsar’s Ministers and advisors numbered nearly 40 in total and the servants who accompanied the Imperial couple were double that amount, with lodgings found for them all over Windsor because the Castle could not accommodate them all. The Tsar and his wife were welcomed at Dover by Lord Sidmouth before beginning their journey to Windsor where the King and Queen waited to receive them. Lady Campbell wrote in her diary that; “Their Majesties waited for the Russians in complete silence, the Queen persuaded to come out of mourning clothes and dressing instead in a pale lilac gown. But not one word passed between them and the situation was most delicate”. The mood changed somewhat when the Tsar arrived but any hopes that the visit might be focused and have a clear outcome quickly evaporated.

At the banquet itself held that evening in the Queen’s Ballroom, the King was more concerned with relaying tales he had heard concerning the recent clash between the British Army and the Ashanti in what is now modern-day Ghana. A keen military strategist, the King seized items from his place setting (and that of the Tsarina seated next to him) and spent an hour explaining to her the finer points of where Sir Charles McCarthy, the British governor, should attack the Ashanti following the collapse of talks between the two parties. The Tsarina’s boredom could only have been matched by that of Queen Louise who, seated next to the Tsar, was subjected to a passionate lecture on the importance of mysticism in the Orthodox religion. When the dinner was over, the King and the Tsar did not discuss Greece at all and turned instead to discussing the wildlife of Africa with the King ordering books be brought from the Royal Library to show the Tsar drawings which had been discovered in the transfer of documents from Windsor to the British Museum. Behind the scenes, the British and Russian ministers discussed the situation in Greece but without the Tsar present, the Russian ministers could not commit to any new united position.

The following day, the Queen gave the Tsarina tea at Royal Lodge whilst the King excused himself with Lady Elizabeth Somerset so that the Tsar could meet with members of the British government. “It is a curious thing that your King may not attend these talks”, the Tsar noted to Lord Eldon, “These men are his ministers and yet they are not his to command in their approach”. Lord Eldon noted later that he found the Tsar to be “somewhat delirious with his own importance”. He wrote in his diary; “The Tsar spoke at length on the importance of preserving the Orthodox religion and shattering the Turks who threatened God fearing Christians but it appeared empty bluster”. Nonetheless, Eldon was reassured that there seemed “no immediate appetite for unilateral action” and an informal agreement was made that Britain and Russia would work together (with France) to maintain the Concert of Europe.

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Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich.

The Russian visit provides an interest insight into how the marriage of the King and Queen was viewed outside the British court. Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich wrote to his sister, the Grand Duchess Maria, shortly after leaving England and referred to “a strange court full of whispers and secrets”. He described the King as “a great fat drunkard who bores everybody with his military talk and carries his mistress about with him as if she were a prized jewel”. The Queen fared no better in his estimation; “She is a thin and gaunt creature, her eyes hollow and sad, and nobody at all has a kind word for her. She has disgraced herself in recent years by parading her lover who was exiled and died in Italy and so now she mourns for him constantly. She is not yet 30 but has the demeanor of an old woman, her voice is cracked and her manner rude and unfriendly. Contrary to this, the royal children are quite delightful though they too will no doubt transform into hideous replicas of their parents who seem to have no joy in their hearts at all”.

In Europe, the rumour that Baron Pepke had been the Queen’s lover had been taken as fact, especially when the exiled Duchess of Kent gave her full support to the claims. It was the Duchess who was once again to add grist to the mill when she wrote a letter to her sister Antoinette in Russia who had relayed Grand Duke Michael’s assessment of the Imperial visit to Windsor. In this letter, the Duchess of Kent corrected the Grand Duke; “The Fawn was not exiled, rather, he sought to take the Queen with him to Italy to continue their romance but the British ministers foiled the plan and saw to it that he did not leave England alive”. Once again, a convoluted chain of Chinese whispers flashed through the continent with the royal palaces of Europe feasting on every detail of the sordid saga of Baron Pepke. When the rumours reached Prince Leopold, still resident in England, he decided to take action. Perhaps to bolster his own standing with the King, or maybe out of genuine concern, Leopold ensured that his frustration with his sister’s gossiping well known personally to the King. He did not wish to be tarnished with her bitterness, he said, and furthermore, he wished to thank the King for removing her “most poisonous influence” from his niece, Princess Victoria.

But the Duchess of Kent was not the only one with theories as to how Pepke and Cottesloe had died. The court was abuzz with it's own version of events and conspiracies were a popular topic of dinner conversation among the aristocracy. For many years, the files concerning the Brook Street murders were sealed but in 1955, more detail came to light. Initially, the intruder story was accepted by the British authorities, enough for the case to be closed and the bodies of Cottesloe and Pepke to be released for burial. But the coroner’s report shows that this version of events may not have been entirely accurate - indeed, some of the evidence suggests the coroner's report is little more than an invention to protect reputations. Whilst Pepke had indeed been strangled, he had also been stabbed in the left side causing excessive bleeding. Cottesloe’s cause of death was noted as “conclusive with evidence of the use of poison”. When the Brook Street house was examined for evidence, it was found that Cottesloe had been smoking opium and that he possessed bottles of laudanum, chloral and morphia. Whilst none of these were found near to the location of the bodies, the presence of blood in the servant’s quarters, on the steps and floors, suggested that Pepke had been dragged to the cellar by his assailant. The coroner’s notes also recorded that Pepke had died “before Cottesloe but by how long, it remains uncertain”.

In a letter discovered in the papers of Lord Cholmondeley by the National Archives in 2002, Sir Harold Ventham, a retired coroner and friend of Cholmondeley’s asked to assess the findings concluded only one realistic explanation; only Pepke had been murdered. In his view, Cottesloe had killed his lover in a drug induced rage, stabbing him in the side. When this failed to kill Pepke, Cottesloe strangled him to death before taking the body down to the coal cellar where he drank poison and died next to Pepke. But even today, there are those who refuse to accept this as a definitive account. The bodies were discovered because of the door to Brook Street was ajar. Whilst the Ventham theory possibly allows for an escape attempt by Pepke, surely Cottesloe would have closed the door once Pepke was dead and relocated to the coal cellar? Wilder theories have emerged over the years, pointing the finger of suspicion at Cholmondeley or those acting on his orders to rid the court of Pepke. Yet Pepke was set to leave England for Italy, what would be Cholmondeley’s motive? To prevent him talking about his life at court on the continent? To finally end the Queen’s infatuation with the Baron?

Whatever the truth of the case, the Brook Street murders made a long-lasting impression on the Queen. She did not seek to replace Pepke in her affections and becoming deeply suspicious of those around her, she became loathe to trust her household once more. But more than this, she sought to protect herself in a way she had previously never considered; by making powerful allies outside of the court. Sentiment would suggest that she was fuelled by a desire to seek revenge for Pepke’s murder against those she believed to be responsible but her motivation seems to have been more self-preservation than anything else. When it was confirmed in June 1823 that Lady Elizabeth Somerset was once again pregnant with the King’s child, the Queen did not react as the Royal Household predicted. Instead of rage, there was quiet resignation. She threw off mourning for Pepke and to everybody’s surprise, began to spend more time at St James’ Palace where she gave audiences to Bishops and Tory politicians. She did not discuss politics with them of course, rather she seemed to impress them with her desire to learn more about the church and parliament respectively. No longer was the King forbidden from her presence and though she continued to refuse to receive the Beaufort, she agreed with Sir William Knighton that a tour of England would be a positive step forward after the success of the royal visit to Scotland.

As the tour was planned, the Queen visited Buckingham Palace for the first time in months and gave her blessing to the new designs created by Nash and the King. She appeared enthusiastic and began making inventories of items at Kew and Windsor which might be transferred to London to furnish the completed rooms. The King, cheered that his wife seemed to have dispensed with her melancholia and appeared eager to finally embrace her official role, treated her to a visit to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, a public appearance they had never made together but which allowed the people of London to see the King and Queen enjoying each other’s company. Around this time, the Queen requested that the tour of England be postponed for a few months but she had genuine cause. Her mother, Princess Caroline, was in ill health and the Queen’s sister Marie urged Louise to visit Caroline at Rumpenheim as soon as possible. The King naturally agreed but after waving his wife off from Dover aboard the HMS Royal George, Lord Eldon noted in his diary that “His Majesty was overcome by a curious mood and appeared half in fear and half in jest when he joked to me; ‘My God Sir, do you suppose she will come back?”

[1] The State Ballroom wasn't added in the OTL in 1837. The proposals in this TL will be scaled down in a future installment due to excessive cost.

[2] This is based on an actual treatment plan recorded by Dr. G. Fielding Blandford in 1871 but which had been in use for some time previously as a cure for melancholia.

[3] Donated earlier in this TL than the OTL.

[4] This visit was invented to suit the narrative of this TL.
 
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Opo

Monthly Donor
Just delurking to praise the latest addictive instalment. I very much like that Pepke’s suspicious death is left so tantalisingly unresolved.
Thank you so much! I wanted to include something historians might argue over in the future of this TL, I imagined a Channel 4 documentary being made with various experts giving their wild theories x'D
I'm now wondering if this will end up becoming a proto Jack the Ripper. Far too may clues for this to be a one off.
Ah but the murderer is dead. He poisoned himself. Or did he? ;)

As a side note, I'm back at Uni now so I will only be able to give one installment a week but thanks to everyone who has been reading and enjoying so far, I never expected this TL to get any readers at all and I'm absolutely loving working on it!
 
As a side note, I'm back at Uni now so I will only be able to give one installment a week but thanks to everyone who has been reading and enjoying so far, I never expected this TL to get any readers at all and I'm absolutely loving working on it!

For some reason, the way and detail this was reading (and the Dynasty nods), I thought you were older! It is brilliantly written, and with one episode a week, it will become "appointment viewing"
 
GIV: Part 13: Revenge and Reunion

Opo

Monthly Donor
George IV

Part Thirteen: Revenge and Reunion

On the 17th of August 1823, Landgravine Caroline of Hesse-Kassel died at Schloss Rumpenheim. At her bedside were her three daughters; Marie, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge and Queen Louise. Back in England, the King seemed strangely perturbed by his wife’s absence and although their relationship had declined in recent months following the Pepke Affair and the second pregnancy of his mistress, courtiers noted that; “His Majesty was seized in a nervous grip and he sought news from Germany daily. When none came but the death of his mother-in-law, the King wept openly. Yet his weeping was not for the Landgravine, to whom he had never formed any real affection, but to his wife who had not corresponded with him in weeks”. George IV ordered court mourning be observed for his mother-in-law and in a move that surprised the court, he sent Lady Elizabeth Somerset to Lechlade in anticipation of the Queen’s return.

But Queen Louise had no intention of returning to the “cruel court” of recent months. Shortly after the funeral of her mother when she was expected to make her way back to England, she instead opted to travel with her sister and brother-in-law to Hanover where she put into action a plan that she had devised shortly before her departure from England for Rumpenheim. The court at Hanover were far more sympathetic to Louise than their English counterparts and indeed, the Hanoverian people welcomed her as she never had been welcomed in London. When she arrived at Schloss Herrenhausen in mourning for her mother, her face obscured by a long black veil, the crowds who had gathered to see her arrive spontaneously knelt as her carriage passed them. Whether by design or genuinely moved by this gesture, Louise drew back her veil and moved among them, receiving kisses from the women and white roses from the children. The Times reported; “Her Majesty said that in Hanover she found a peace in her sorrow that she would forever carry in her heart and the crowds were united in their affection and love for their Queen”.

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Schloss Herrenhausen, Hanover.

These reports seemed only to make the King’s longing for his wife more intense. She sent word to Sir William Knighton that she would remain with her sister in Hanover for the time being, her heart too heavy with the loss of her beloved mother to return to England. Historians are divided on whether or not this was part of a strategy or a legitimate sentiment but whatever her motivation, absence most definitely made her husband’s heart grow fonder. Finally, Lord Cholmondeley wrote to his wife who had accompanied the Queen to Rumpenheim and begged her to; “insist upon Her Majesty the serious decline in the King’s character and his great distress at her continued absence”. He continued that; “His Majesty takes little food and weeps for the Queen; he has even refused to conduct affairs of state until she is returned to him. I venture that this serious situation can only be remedied by word from Her Majesty and I beg you my dearest heart to make her see that the King truly desires her to come back to him as soon as she feels able”.

At Windsor, the King was examined by Sir Andrew Halliday who diagnosed melancholy which “would very quickly be remedied if he were to be reunited with Her Majesty”. This episode seems to demonstrate that despite the tensions and bitterness that had dominated their marriage, the King had a genuine love for his wife. Whilst it may not have been reciprocated as strongly, the Queen spoke of her affection for the King frequently around this time to Lady Cholmondeley who passed Louise’s words to her husband. When the Prime Minister found he was unable to see the King for a sixth consecutive week due to his illness, Lord Eldon took the unprecedented step of involving himself in the royal marriage. He wrote to the Queen at Rumpenheim begging her to “make amends with His Majesty for there is not one amongst us who does not grieve this current situation and wishes to see Your Majesty return to us and the King cheered”. Her strategy had paid off. Queen Louise finally wrote to her husband in October 1823, four months after her departure.

Of all the letters the King and Queen exchanged during their marriage, the letter from Herrenhausen stands out as an anomaly. Instead of her usual brusque phrases, it is a missive full of compliments and an uncharacteristic display of self-awareness. Louise begins with an apology to “the finest husband a wife could ask for, a most noble and loving gentleman who rules my heart as he does his Kingdom; with sincerity and softness. That my absence has caused you such sorrow, dearest husband, pains me so very greatly and I confess to feeling so very wretched that I have inflicted such agonies upon your heart as you have filled mine with only happiness in the years since we have been together as one”. She goes on to berate herself as a “stubborn and silly person, quite ashamed of my past behaviours” and says that she cannot return to England for “the shame of my ingratitude towards you lays too heavy upon me. If I were to see your darling face I should weep knowing the pains I have settled there and I feel now that I may never return until I know that I will be forgiven for it all”.

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Schloss Rumpenheim.

The letter from Herrenhausen also addresses, for the first and last time on paper, the King’s relationship with Lady Elizabeth Somerset. Though not mentioned by name, the Queen refers to “Your Majesty’s companion at Lechlade” and “mourns most strongly that she has become first in the King’s affection for it has caused such a sorrow these many months which I find quite impossible to put aside”. To add to her woes, the Queen was “humiliated and the subject of the most cruel gossip at the hands of Your Majesty’s sister-in-law who seeps poison and whose bitter untruths have turned all hearts against me, even at Rumpenheim”. In short, the Queen was only too willing to return to the King but felt she could not until her “reputation and position were fully repaired” and until that time, she “grieved most strongly that I should remain in Hanover separated from my heart’s true love and the King rightfully adored by all who know the tenderness of his spirit”.

It is very unlikely that the Queen came across any resentment based on the Duchess of Kent’s gossip at Rumpenheim or Herrenhausen but she was somewhat accurate in that her relationship with Pepke had dealt a blow to her reputation in the courts of Europe. The Duchess of Kent had been kept at arms’ length by her brother Leopold and even by those who had once shown her kindness among the British Royal Family but this was motivated more by a desire to please the King than the Queen. Whilst the King had stopped paying the debts as agreed following the Duke of Kent’s death, as the mother of Princess Victoria, the Duchess of Kent had still been in receipt of a small allowance paid personally by the King and had been promised that she could return to England for a brief reunion with her daughter at Clarence House for Christmas in 1823 if Prince Leopold was present. Upon receiving his wife’s letter, the King was said to “sob like a small child” bemoaning his “most cruel treatment” of the Queen and immediately set about putting things right.

Queen Louise had successfully made the Duchess of Kent a scapegoat. In a furious rage, the King ordered that every portrait of the Duchess be removed from Clarence House and that her name was forbidden to be spoken by anyone within the Royal Household, including the nursery staff who cared for his infant niece Princess Victoria. All letters from the Duchess were to be returned undelivered and she was to have no contact whatsoever with her daughter. Her stipend from the Crown was withdrawn with immediate affect and her personal belongings which remained in England were seized and stored at Windsor. Her name was removed from the list of Royal Family members prayed for in the Chapel Royal and the King commanded that she never again be allowed to return to England. In a painful and uncharacteristically cruel letter to his sister-in-law, the King wrote; “Princess Victoria shall be spared all your poisons and I shall protect my brother’s daughter as if she were my own by declaring you all but dead to her”. A Baroness in the Duchess of Kent’s employ later recalled how the Duchess of Kent received this news; “Like a wounded animal she screamed until she could not be restrained and ran into the gardens calling for her daughter and scratching at her face until she bled”.

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The last portrait of the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria together. Hidden from view by order of the King, it was gifted to Victoria in 1840 by King George V.

Next, the King turned his attention to his mistress. He travelled to Lechlade one last time, remaining in Lady Elizabeth’s company for just one night. She was to be put aside. Heavily pregnant with the King’s child, the King informed her that their relationship must come to an end. He would continue to provide for her and Lechlade would be hers as promised. Their son, the Earl of Ulster, would always be under the King’s protection and care but neither he, nor his mother, could ever be received at court again. Furthermore, the King wished her to travel to Ireland where her child would be born. She would be accompanied by Captain Edward O’Brien, the son of the former High Sheriff of Clare who resided at his family estate, Ennistymon House, in County Clare. It was the King’s “most fervent wish” that she should marry O’Brien before the birth of her second child so as to legitimise the child [1]. Unlike before, the King would not recognise Lady Elizabeth’s baby as his own. Elizabeth was said to be “resigned to the situation, sorrowful but quite prepared to carry out His Majesty’s wishes”. Regardless of her position at court, she would forever have an attachment to the King through her son and perhaps this is why she accepted both O’Brien’s sudden proposal and the King’s decision to end their affair.

The King presumably relayed his actions to the Queen personally but his letter has been lost. What we do know is that the King travelled to Harwich to welcome his wife back to England on the 8th of December 1823. Dressed in pale lilac to reflect half mourning for her mother, the Queen acknowledged the crowds before joining her husband in his carriage where it was noted by The Times that she “took His Majesty’s hand and kissed it tenderly in a most affectionate reunion”. The King and Queen travelled to Windsor and at a lavish banquet that evening, a slightly inebriated George stood unsteadily to propose “toast after toast to his wife which the assembled company found quite baffling and even a little amusing”. The Queen was reunited with her children too, the Prince of Wales and Princess Charlotte Louise brought from the nursery to be with their mother. Also present that evening were the Duke and Duchess of Clarence with Princess Victoria. To the court’s surprise, the Queen asked that Victoria be brought to her. She pulled the little girl up onto her lap and kissed her forehead at which the little Princess laughed causing the courtiers present to applaud.

Amidst this happy scene, the full extent of the Queen’s revenge was being felt by the two women she had successfully banished from her husband’s life for good. On the 22nd of December 1823, Lady Elizabeth Somerset gave birth to a daughter. She was named Isabella O’Brien and her birth certificate made no mention of her true parentage. The King never received his daughter but did provide an allowance of £60 a year for the duration of his lifetime. Lady Elizabeth was widowed the following year and was allowed to return to Lechlade. As Lady Elizabeth O’Brien, she hoped that the King might visit her and rekindle their romance but he never did. Following the King’s death, the allowances paid to Lady Elizabeth and her children were withdrawn and facing huge debts, she married Major General James Orde on the 11th of November 1829. Orde treated his wife terribly and had a series of affairs until eventually, he withdrew to Ireland. Unable to petition for divorce, Elizabeth had to accept her fate. She was widowed in 1850. She died at Lechlade in 1876 at the age of 78, almost penniless after having given half of her fortune away to a 24-year-old military officer who had proposed marriage and fled once her money was his. [2]

As for the Duchess of Kent, a far more distressing fate awaited her. In the immediate aftermath of the King’s ruling, Victoria wrote endless letters to both him and her brother Prince Leopold (still resident in England) begging him to reconsider. Her treaties were ignored. When letters came from the Duchess, they were ordered to be returned to her unopened and those sent to Clarence House were destroyed. The Duchess of Clarence felt uneasy about this, confiding in a friend that whilst the Duchess of Kent had behaved appallingly, “the Queen could never really want her to suffer so”. By 1825, the Duchess had been forced to sell the estate she had inherited from her first husband, Prince Carl of Leiningen. With no income, she settled for a while with her brother Ernst, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld at Rosenau in Coburg but her increasingly erratic behaviour frustrated him.

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Duke Ernst I of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Shortly after arriving at Rosenau, the Duchess of Kent was found wandering in the grounds in her night gown in the pouring rain screaming for her daughter. Ernst immediately asked his physician to find more suitable accommodation for his sister and Victoria was sent to Bonn where she was examined by the psychiatrist, Carl Jacobi. Jacobi was the director of the newly constructed lunatic asylum at Siegburg and with the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld’s agreement, suggested that Victoria be treated there for a time until she was well enough to return to Rosenau. She never would. Whilst at Siegburg, she contracted tuberculosis and died on the 25th of May 1833, the day after her daughter’s 14th birthday. The Duchess was 47 years old. Even in death, she was forbidden to return to England. Instead, her brother Leopold, by then King of the Belgians, arranged for her to be interred in the crypt at the Church of St Moritz in Coburg. Her coffin was later transferred to the Ducal Family Mausoleum in Coburg in 1860 and in the same year, Princess Victoria commissioned a small memorial to her mother which was placed in the Royal Crypt of the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft. [3]

The reunited King and Queen began 1824 with a renewed passion for each other and with her demands now met, Queen Louise seemed to fully embrace her role as Queen for the first time since her marriage. The tour of England which had been postponed when Landgravine Caroline died was now planned for the spring and was to see an ambitious programme lasting three months which would see Their Majesties pay official visits to Oxford, Coventry, Birmingham, Derby, Nottingham, Manchester and York. In the autumn, the King and Queen would set off again visiting Bath, Salisbury, Yeovil, Dorchester, Exeter and Plymouth. In the interim, there were scheduled visits from the King of the Netherlands and the King and Queen of Hawaii to be hosted at St James’ Palace. In preparation for the tour, the peers of England were encouraged to throw their doors open to host the royal party en route and the royal tailors were commissioned to provide 33 waistcoats, 22 tailcoats and 16 pairs of pantaloons for the King and 38 gowns, 26 hats and 88 pairs of white gloves for the Queen. Dubbed “the Royal Progress of England” to evoke a historic nature to the tour, bulletins were placed along the route causing huge excitement, even in areas where anti-monarchist demonstrations had been held during the aftermath of the Peterloo Massacre.

The night before their departure for Oxford, the King and Queen attended a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Sadler’s Wells led by the celebrated actor Edmund Kean. A drawing of the royal couple appeared on the front cover of The Times and was so well liked that demand for reproductions ahead of the visit soared. It quickly became one of the most reproduced images that year and could be seen pasted to the windows of houses and public buildings all along the route of the King and Queen’s progress through England. The King’s Private Secretary, Sir William Knighton, had produced a template for the tour which was replicated in every city en route. Welcomed by local dignitaries on a dais in a suitable location, the King and Queen watched performances of traditional dances or songs before moving on to mingle with selected guests in the open air when the weather permitted. A civic luncheon was held before a reception for important local guests and there were visits to sites of historic interest where plaques were unveiled. Whilst the King focused his attention on visiting civic buildings, the Queen visited hospitals and schools and in the evenings, they were hosted at the nearest large estate before moving on to the next leg of the tour. On Sundays, they attended religious services at the Anglican Cathedrals en route and two days a week were allocated for the King and Queen to rest.

By June, the royal couple were back in London to welcome the King of the Netherlands who was present for the conclusion of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty. The Treaty was designed to solve the issues arising from the British occupation of Dutch colonial possessions during the Napoleonic Wars, in particular, the Dutch demand that the British abandon Singapore. In March 1824, it was agreed that the Netherlands would cede all establishments in Dutch India to the British whilst Britain would cede its possessions in Bengkulu and Sumatra. Singapore was to remain a British possession but the UK agreed not to establish offices on the Carimon Islands or in Batam, Bintan or Lingan. Java was returned to the Dutch for the sum of £100,000 which was to be paid by the Netherlands to London by the end of 1825. The Dutch King and Queen were hosted at St James’ with a lavish banquet held in their honour. It was at this gathering that Queen Louise proudly displayed a new gift from her husband, presumably given as a token of his renewed affection. Guests marvelled at her jewels, a parure of a tiara, necklace, earrings, two brooches and two bracelets made by Garrards of London and fashioned from diamonds and Burmese rubies. The parure was designed around the theme of an English rose and was later worn on the second leg of the royal progress of England. As a reward for their work, Garrards was appointed as the first ever official Crown Jewellers. [4]

With the departure of the Dutch came the anticipation of a visit by King Kamehameha II and Queen Kamamalu of Hawaii. Hawaii was unified in 1810 and had been transformed into an independent constitutional monarchy fashioned in the European tradition. Recognised by the great European powers, King Kamehameha II and his wife commissioned the British whaling ship L’Aigle to carry them to London after a brief stopover at Rio de Janeiro where they were to be received by Emperor Pedro I. Initially, King George IV was aloof towards the prospect of meeting the Hawaiian monarchs and a letter exists in which he asked the Foreign Secretary, Lord Sidmouth, whether it would be necessary to gift any British honours to King Kamehameha. Sidmouth confirmed that it would and so the insignia of a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath was prepared in advance. The Queen meanwhile commissioned Garrards to produce a diamond brooch that she could gift to Queen Kamamalu.

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King Kamehameha II and Queen Kamamalu at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1824.

Accepting that King Kamehameha II was worthy of full diplomatic honours, the King dispatched the Foreign Secretary and Frederick Gerald Byng (then a Gentleman Usher) to greet the royal couple at Portsmouth. The press was confused by the Hawaiian visitors and their curiosity was unfortunately coupled with a great deal of derision too. Byng was charged with ensuring the King and Queen had appropriate attire for the duration of their visit which both found uncomfortable to wear given that the sizes were wrong. Both Kamehameha and his wife were over six feet tall and when they finally arrived in London, the public turned out to gawp and jeer rather than give them a friendly welcome. The press was less than impressed when the King refused to enter Westminster Abbey because he did not wish to desecrate a burial place based on the Hawaiian tradition that only a blood relative of the deceased should enter a mausoleum. That evening, the King and Queen attended the theatre ahead of a busy schedule of public engagements before they were to be received by King George IV and Queen Louise on June the 21st.

Shortly before the meeting however, word reached King George that the Queen of Hawaii had fallen ill after visiting the Royal Military Asylum. Sir Andrew Halliday was dispatched to the Caledonian Hotel where the Hawaiian royal party was staying and diagnosed measles. With no immunity to the disease, Queen Kamamalu quickly declined and on the 8th of July 1824, she died. Her grief-stricken husband, also now infected with measles, died just six days later. At the King’s order, the bodies of the Hawaiian monarchs were taken to the crypt of St Martins in the Fields Church where they awaited transportation back home. High Chief Boki, a senior courtier in the King’s party, was received by George IV at St James Palace instead and in a gesture of sympathy, Boki was awarded the Order of the Bath originally intended for King Kamehameha II. Queen Louise kept the brooch intended for Queen Kamamalu with High Chief Boki’s wife Kuini Liliha gifted a silver hand mirror instead.

With the rest of the royal progress not scheduled until the autumn, George IV and Queen Louise departed London for Windsor where they settled at Royal Lodge. In his diary, George would record this to be “his happiest summer” and free from official duties and reunited with his wife, his contentment was plain to see. The royal couple were often seen arm in arm walking in the grounds of Royal Lodge and the King commissioned a portrait of them in which they were depicted as a Roman consul and his wife. Once completed, the portrait hung above the King’s bed at Windsor and he often referred to it as “a glimpse of heaven”. Lord Eldon, the Prime Minister, remarked at this time that he had “never seen the King and Queen so much in love” and it did not take long before Sir Andrew Halliday confirmed that Queen Louise was once again expecting a child. She was now 30 years old however, then considered a dangerous age to fall pregnant, especially considering her miscarriage the year before. The King was delighted that his wife was to have another baby and to mark the occasion, he commissioned Garrards to fashion a bracelet of gold into which were set the milk teeth of the Prince of Wales and Princess Charlotte Louise.

With the anniversary of her mother’s death approaching, the Queen could be satisfied that she had achieved her objective. Her rivals had been banished, her reputation somewhat improved by her public appearances and finally, she had the full attention of her husband. Though she was not overjoyed to be expecting another baby (and thus would have to miss the second half of the royal progress), those closest to her remarked on her change in attitude. She seemed softer and more mature but she had also realized something that would prove crucial in the years to come; she could catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Whilst she still had temper tantrums and remained prone to sulking when things did not please her, she now concentrated on forging alliances with important courtiers and being somewhat over-friendly towards their wives and families. But whatever her true motives, the King could not be more pleased. In his diary he wrote; “She is my greatest gift and my happiness her greatest achievement. We forge ahead renewed, truly content in the things we share and no longer burdened by those things which caused such sorrow and which I deeply regret. I only wish this paradise to last forever and I regard this to have been my happiest summer”.



[1] In the OTL, Elizabeth married O’Brien in 1823 but I’ve butterflied the date slightly to accommodate the narrative of this TL.

[2] There is no information about Elizabeth’s second marriage to be found anywhere so I’ve invented a narrative of my own for her to suit this TL and add a little drama.

[3] Major butterflies here! But how else could the Duchess’ story end in this TL?

[4] In the OTL, this didn’t occur until 1843 but it makes sense to bring it forward a little here.

[Notes]

Many apologies that this has taken a month since the last installment! The good news for those enjoying this is that I've now written three further installments so you'll be getting updates fairly regularly again. I hope it was worth the wait! All images from Wikipedia.
 

Opo

Monthly Donor
Damm the King to hell!!!!!! The poor Duchess!!!!
I like to think that in a world where this TL was what really happened, the Duchess of Kent would have become a cautionary tale against gossip. Not that she deserved the tragic ending I gave her here but then again, with nothing left and no recourse to changing her situation, I came to the conclusion that sadly this was the most likely outcome for her.
I just discovered this. Wow! What an entertaining story! Looking forward to more...
Thank you so much! I'm really glad you're enjoying it!
 
GIV: Part 14: The King's Troubles

Opo

Monthly Donor
King George IV

Part Fourteen: The King's Troubles

With the Queen pregnant once again, the King was to undertake the second leg of the so-called “Progress of England” alone. He was accompanied by his private secretary, Sir William Knighton, the Lord Chamberlain, the Marquess of Cholmondeley and Sir Andrew Halliday, his personal physician. Also in the royal party was 28-year-old Captain William Smith (known to the King as ‘Honest Billy’) who had been appointed temporary equerry to the King during the Spring tour. A Captain in the Coldstream Guards, Billy Smith became an immediate favourite of the King who appreciated his dry wit and brutal frankness. George appointed Billy his permanent equerry shortly before the Autumn tour began and provided him with a special uniform of blue velvet and silver braid with the King’s monogram embroidered on red velvet lapels. The King’s household was not overly fond of Billy as he quickly became a permanent fixture with personal responsibility for the day to day needs of the Sovereign. Yet the King came to rely upon Billy for everything and was heard to remark; “I have known none so worthy of trust as my Honest Billy”.

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'Honest Billy', later Major General Sir William Smith, Crown Equerry to King George V.

The first stop on the Autumn tour was Bath to be followed by Salisbury, Yeovil, Dorchester, Exeter and Plymouth. Whilst for the majority of the progress the aristocrats and landed gentry of England had flung open their doors to entertain the monarch in grand style, at Salisbury the King opted to stay at Barley Mow, an inn on Greencroft Street close to the Cathedral Church of St Mary. Billy Smith paid the innkeeper, Mr Walter Travers, £10 to clear the inn of all other guests and the King dined on sausages, chops and cheese before spending the night in the largest bedroom the inn had to offer. When the local residents of Salisbury found that the King had spent the night at their local watering hole, Barley Mow was inundated with visitors and Mr Travers took full advantage of his newfound fame charging people a ha’penny to see the room the King had slept in.

After a visit to Yeovil, the royal party made its way to the village of Athelhampton some six miles from Dorchester. Athelhampton was home to Athelhampton Hall, a 15th century country house set in 160 acres of parkland and renowned as one of England’s finest examples of Tudor architecture. The estate belonged to Marquess Wellesley, the elder brother of the Duke of Wellington, currently serving as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. With Athelhampton vacant, the Duke arranged for the King to have use of the house for the weekend with temporary staff brought in to cater to His Majesty’s needs. The housekeeper, Mrs Ambrose, kept meticulous records at Athelhampton and it is from her personal archive that we gain an important glimpse into the King’s lifestyle at this time which also helps to explain why Yeovil became the last stop on the progress.

George was no longer able to ride before breakfast, a past time he had loved all his life but which hemorrhoids now made impossible. He liked to breakfast in style, choosing to take the meal in the Dining Room rather than the Drawing Room as was customary at the time. Nonetheless, breakfast was a relaxed informal meal which the King liked to take with his personal staff. After a cooked breakfast of eggs, kidneys, sausages and chops, there was a “sweet course” which included the King’s favourite plum cake, almond cake and brioche. Whilst the King’s staff drank tea or hot chocolate, the King himself preferred to drink beer. A few hours later at around 1pm, the King sat down to luncheon which during his stay at Athelhampton consisted of cold pigeons, pork pies, slices of cold cow’s tongue, honey cake and a selection of fruit. All this was served with Tokaji, a sweet wine which travelled with the King and came from a vast supply of 60 crates sent as a gift from the Emperor of Austria for the King’s birthday the previous year.

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Athelhampton Hall and Gardens.

Whether he ate alone or entertained guests, the King’s dinner was always a lavish affair and whilst he preferred local produce, vegetables hardly ever featured on the menu unless they were smothered in a rich butter sauce (another of George’s favourites). His most beloved dish however was a whole goose served on a bed of potatoes that had been roasted inside the bird and which was then covered with a spiced bread sauce containing sultanas. Whilst his guests made do with slices of the goose, the King was served a whole bird to himself – and he always picked the bones clean. As if this were not enough, at Athelhampton, the King then dined on partridges wrapped in bacon and served with butter sauce before taking three helpings of flummery, a popular creamy jelly which was richly decorated with seasonal fruits and marzipan shaped resemble flowers, fruits, or even small animals. This extravagant feast was washed down with wine, sherry and port. Whilst in his bedclothes and tucked in for the night, Honest Billy would bring George a silver tray on which was placed six rounds of hot buttered toast which the King ate with stewed cheese, mustard and cold game to be accompanied by a glass or two of madeira.

Whilst the King had always had a big appetite, it seemed to increase ten-fold in 1824. From his increased waist size in the records available at Ede & Ravenscroft, it is estimated that within 18 months George had gained around 60lbs which gave him a 44-inch waist and by modern standards made him morbidly obese. It was during his last few days at Athelhampton that the consequences of this gluttony first made themselves painfully apparent. At 4.30am on the 10th of October 1824, the King woke the entire household at Athelhampton with anguished cries from his bedroom. Sir Andrew Halliday found the King writhing in agony, clutching his side and rocking from side to side. Covered in sweat and begging for pain relief, Halliday diagnosed an attack of the gallbladder. When the pain did not subside, Halliday insisted the rest of the tour of England be cancelled and when the King’s condition allowed, the royal party should return to London immediately where the King could be further examined with a view to possible surgery.

The King’s health was of such concern to Halliday that he made a daily list of his symptoms and ailments which was then hand delivered to the Prime Minister with a note from Halliday detailing the treatments proposed. In October 1824, the King was suffering from hemorrhoids, oedema in the right leg, boils in his armpit, gallstones and “lacklustre movements of the bowel”. But Halliday also recorded a conversation with the King about the state of his health.

The King’s troubles grow daily. I ventured to His Majesty that his symptoms may be eased by applying restrictions to his diet and this did not please him at all. I drew His Majesty’s attention to certain excesses in his intake which I considered to have caused his attacks and at this, the King grew quite furious. “Do you dare to call the King fat Sir? I shall have none of that, none of that at all, how dare you call the King fat Sir when I venture your own belly hides your feet! Ha! What do you think of that Sir?”. I explained to His Majesty that it is healthy for the belly to protrude a little for even if the diet is rich, the digestion may still operate as expected. But in His Majesty’s case the digestion does not and therefore, the diet is too rich. At this, the King dismissed me from his presence and was in poor temper for the duration of the afternoon. His Majesty ate well at dinner.

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Sir Andrew Halliday, the King's physician.

Despite his bravado, the King continued to suffer attacks of his gallbladder and upon returning to London, a makeshift operating theatre was assembled at St James’ Palace where a team of surgeons including Henry Cline (former President of the Royal College of Surgeons) and William Lynn (then incumbent President) carried out a cholecystostomy. Believing it fatal to remove the gallbladder entirely, the procedure involved making an incision into the gallbladder, removing any stones present and then draining fluid which would provide immediate relief. Ether was accepted as the most reliable form of anaesthetic at this time but post-surgical infections and other complications were commonplace making surgery an extremely dangerous venture. Nonetheless, the King’s operation was regarded as a complete success when his gallbladder attacks immediately ceased and both Cline and Lynn were made Baronets for their services to the King. George’s recovery was slow and though he was spared infection of his wound, the oedema in his right leg had grown worse and he could only walk with the aid of a stick, taking Honest Billy’s arm for further support.

Halliday warned the King that his condition would return if he did not improve his diet and for a time, aided by the Queen, the Royal Household managed to persuade the King to forego some of his favourite treats. Bizarre as it may seem in the modern day, Halliday suggested the King take up smoking a pipe as tobacco was believed to restrict appetite but the King found the habit “most deplorable and unpleasant” and quickly dispensed with it. Inevitably, George returned to his poor diet within weeks. His consumption of alcohol increased too, presumably as a form of anaesthetic as his intake seems to rise at the same time as Halliday notes further ailments including a fistula (a common consequence of early gallbladder surgery) and oedema in the right hand which made it difficult for the King to write.

The King’s health was of great concern to Lord Eldon. The Prime Minister had consented to the King being operated upon but it raised a worrying prospect. The Prince of Wales was just four years old and if the King had died during or as a result of his surgery, there were no plans in place for a regency. Eldon also felt that the public were unlikely to stand another period of royal chaos which had defined the previous regency and it was Eldon’s belief that the government must make arrangements for any eventuality with the King and Queen so as to provide continuity and clarity should the worst happen. In the King’s mind, there was no immediate reason to discuss this. His view was that, if he died before his son reached the age of majority, the constitution already allowed for parliament to pass a regency act. But Eldon had another worry which he did not share with the King. With memories of Queen Charlotte ruling the Council of Regency from Kew Palace in previous years, and well aware that Queen Louise was not regarded well by the majority of MPs and the people alike, Eldon wished to keep her away from any such arrangement in the future.

George himself gave the matter some thought when Eldon brought the issue to him after his surgery. The King agreed that a Council of Regency had been “a messy affair” and believed that there should be one regent for his son and heir in the event of him acceding to the throne whilst still in his infancy. For George, there was no better candidate than his brother, the Duke of Clarence. Still devoted to the memory of his late brother however, the King let it be known to Eldon that he did not relish the prospect of his brother using the title of ‘Prince Regent’ and proposed instead that the title of ‘Lord Protector’ be revived. Eldon vetoed this suggestion on the grounds that the title had republican overtones and could not be wrestled from the public memory as belonging to Oliver Cromwell. The compromise was found in that the Duke of Clarence, if so-called upon, would use the title of The King’s Regent. His deputy would be appointed by the Prime Minister with the King indicating a preference for the Duke of Cambridge. The Queen however was to have no role to play, George wishing Louise to “concern herself only to raising our children to be fine servants of this great nation in the model of their beloved late grandfather of happy memory, King George III”.

Queen Louise was predictably displeased. She felt that it was her right to make decisions on behalf of her infant son and she was especially concerned that she may be kept away from the Prince of Wales if he became King at a young age. Whether truly concerned with gaining political power or not, the Queen urged her husband to reconsider but George refused to be drawn on the subject. Instead, he gave his wife a solemn promise that he would leave strict instructions on how he wished the Prince of Wales to be educated, wishes he knew that his brother William would honour. He also indicated that on the subject of the marriages of his children, the Queen’s wishes must be respected above politics and that “following the example of the lamented late Queen Charlotte, it is the responsibility of Her Majesty to consider, arrange and contract marriages for the royal children which I pray to be happy and fruitful ones blessed as my own has been”. This is the closest King George IV ever came to making a will. Whilst he was usually devoted to paperwork and order in his personal affairs, the subject of death seemed to unnerve him and he refused ever to commit to allowing a will to be prepared for him. When asked, he simply replied; “The Queen shall know what to do”.

The Christmas celebrations of 1824 were almost deliberately more lavish than at any other time during the King’s reign. Feeling himself fully recovered from his surgery and with the Queen preparing to go into her confinement at Royal Lodge, the festivities were noted to be “more fine and more abundant than at any time in the courts that came before”. The King threw himself into the excesses on offer and rose so late on Christmas morning after overindulging on Christmas Eve that the church service had to be postponed by two hours to allow him to be washed and dressed. Halliday notes that on Boxing Day 1824, the King complained of “terrible pains in his stomach” which was little wonder considering that (as Halliday records), George had eaten his way through an astonishing 16 servings at dinner.


King George IV in a study from 1824.

Once again laid low, so much so that the proposed celebrations for New Year were cancelled, the King went into 1825 with two immediate priorities. The first was the State Opening of Parliament which he was eager to attend in a fit state of health and without need of a walking stick or Honest Billy’s support. “I will not have those devils see their King weakened”, he remarked somewhat bitterly. Ede & Ravenscroft were asked to prepare a new set of clothes for the King to wear as those from the previous ceremony the year before not longer fit him. The King’s second priority was the imminent arrival of another child as at Royal Lodge, the Queen prepared to give birth. Unlike the births of the Prince of Wales and Princess Charlotte Louise, a team of English doctors were to deliver the baby and whilst she was attended by her sister Augusta, the Duchess of Cambridge, it was the first time Louise had given birth without her mother present. In a letter to her sister Marie, the Queen wrote; “I only pray that it is a daughter to whom I can bestow the name of Caroline as a final gift to our dearest darling Mama”.

The King was to be disappointed on the 3rd of February 1825 as he made his way to the Palace of Westminster for the State Opening of Parliament. Whilst he had managed to walk a short distance without any support at St James’ Palace, this had been practiced without the accouterments of the day and burdened under the weight of his robes the King had no choice but to depend on ‘Honest Billy’ to escort him to the throne in the House of Lords. Frustrated by this, the King was noticeably bad tempered and halfway through his address snapped loudly at John Maberly, the Tory MP for Abingdon, who was suffering from a cold and kept coughing close to where the King was sitting.

“Do you wish to make your King unwell Sir?”, George barked.

“I should not wish His Majesty any ill at all”, Maberly protested.

“Then clear out man! You are a disgrace to yourself”, the King glowered.

Viscount Newry recorded his observations of that day in his diary noting that; “His Majesty appeared in a most shocking state, his face blotched and flushed, his poor temper most visible. He stumbled through his address (which was quite paltry in content I thought) and there was a great deal of hushed commotion when it came time for him to depart for the poor equerry could not lift him out of the throne. It required assistance from a page to take the King’s left side to heave him upward. His Majesty, clearly embarrassed by this, turned to the House and said, “Gentlemen, I beg you pray for your King as he prays for you”. This was quite moving and I believe all of us were sincere in feeling most sorry for His Majesty who appeared on the verge of tears as he finally departed”.

The month of February ended with the King in a far happier mood than he had been at the start of it. In the early hours of the 22nd, the Queen gave birth to a son. Though she had wished for a daughter, Louise was delighted with the addition to her family whom she described as being “very fat, very rosy and very dear”. The new prince was named Edward Charles Adolphus; Edward in honour of the late Duke of Kent, Charles (an anglicised form of Karl and the male version of Caroline) both in memory of the Queen’s mother and grandfather and Adolphus, in honour of the Duke of Cambridge. The King’s happiness continued when he appeared to enjoy some respite from his poor health. Whilst he would remain plagued with health problems for the rest of his life, the month he spent with the Queen at Royal Lodge and his children proved advantageous to his overall mood and encouraged by Honest Billy, he felt able to take walks in the grounds each morning and even curbed his diet skipping luncheon and supper altogether. Though his breakfasts and dinners remained excessive, Halliday reported that the King had lost a little weight and had even been able to walk without the help of Billy Smith (though he retained the use of a walking stick).

In London, the majority of the renovations to Buckingham House (now called Buckingham Palace) had been successfully completed to a stage where the King and Queen could once again reside there. In April, the court moved to Buckingham Palace which was to become the principal primary residence of the British sovereign. The Palace was furnished from a vast supply of antiques, paintings and other artifacts taken from Carlton House and Kew with additional furnishings and furniture having been purchased by the Queen. The first banquet held at the Palace on the 1st of June 1825 was notable as being the first time the Queen’s Service was used, a magnificent silver gilt dining service also known today as the Junior Service as it is compromised of half the number of items in the Grand Service commissioned by Prince George as Prince Regent. A special table was also created for the event known as the River Table. Designed by Nash, the 12-foot-long table was fashioned in English oak and decorated with carved acorns and leaves. In the centre was a specially designed channel into which water was poured and real goldfish encouraged to swim up and down as the guests ate.

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The first banquet to be held at Buckingham Palace following it's renovation.

An unfortunate downside to the banquet was that some of the guests were so overawed at the occasion and were so enthused at being the first to attend such an event at the new Palace that they sought souvenirs. Items from the Queen’s Service including teaspoons and cruets disappeared and had to be replaced and a note in the Royal Archives records that of 33 goldfish placed into the River Table, only 27 were found once the event was over. Nonetheless, the King was proud of his new residence and greatly enjoyed the sprawling gardens which had just been completed and which included a pond on which a small rowing boat could be set out and which became a favourite pastime of the young Prince of Wales. At 5 years old, the little Prince was healthy and strong, a little rotund but considered to be exceptionally bright. As a result, the King now turned to attention to what form his son and heir’s education should take.

Baron Stockmar was a regular visitor to the English court and was widely respected. Educated as a physician, he became the personal doctor of Prince Leopold in 1816. During the tragic final days of Princess Charlotte’s life, Stockmar had begged the royal physicians treating her to change their approach in order to save her but he had been ignored with terrible consequences. Stockmar was now serving Prince Leopold as a kind of private secretary and was called to Buckingham Palace by King George IV to “advise on the approach that should be undertaken for the education of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales”. The Stockmar System, as it became known, urged the King and Queen to waste no time in the education of their son. From the age of 5 until the age of 8, the Prince of Wales was to take afternoon classes in basic reading, writing and arithmetic with a tutor provided from Eton College. After that time, he would begin a rigorous and exhaustive programme of studies in languages, mathematics, the sciences, history and religious studies combined with two hours a day of physical such as gardening or assisting on the farms at Windsor. This would become the Prince of Wales’ life until it was old enough to be sent away to school where Stockmar advised he be treated like any other student. A period of military training was also proposed, preferably in Hanover where his position might not precede him as much as in England.

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Baron Stockmar.

In wistful mood, the King put his thoughts about this to paper in July 1825. “That we hold such a responsibility, to nurture and to educate this fine young mind to carry out the duties which one day will fall upon his shoulders is such a great burden to my heart. But Georgie has one advantage denied to me and that is he shall not be an unexpected King. I pray that when his time comes, O God willing many years from now, he shall be worthy of this great task which no man can truly say he enjoys but which any man to whom it comes must find a way to endure with strength and humility”. Perhaps the reason for the King’s descent into such wistfulness was prompted by the departure once more of the Queen. The birth of Prince Edward had not been without its difficulties and she needed longer to recover than before. Initially she had wished to travel to Hanover again but the King was so anxious at the prospect of his wife being overseas that he begged her not to go abroad. Instead she had settled on Scotland.

The Queen was to stay at Culzean Castle, the recently completed estate of the 10th Earl of Cassilis located on the Ayrshire Coast. The Earl was on tour in Italy and the Marquess of Cholmondeley, a friend of Lord Cassilis, made inquiries as to whether he would be willing to let the Queen use Culzean as a home for the summer. Queen Louise arrived in Ayrshire on the 25th of July accompanied by her ladies in waiting and the wives of a few prominent members of the Cabinet. At Windsor, the King could not bear to be separated from his wife a moment longer and in the middle of the night ordered Honest Billy to cancel all engagements and appointments and ready the court to join the Queen in Ayrshire. Sir Andrew Halliday concerned that the swelling in the King’s leg and right arm was growing worse, begged George not to travel but His Majesty was insistent. Accompanied by a nervous household, the King began his long journey to Scotland, his travels interrupted by frequent stops along the way in order for him to be administered laudanum by Halliday to calm him. “The King’s nerves are exhausted. Lord Cholmondeley raised the spectre of His late Majesty and said, 'We must not forget that the King died mad' but I admonished him for this for there is no indication that the King's mind is at all damaged in this way”, Halliday noted in his diary, “But with this said, I fear that if His Majesty continues on this dangerous course, he shall not return from Scotland at all”.
 
GIV: Part 15: A Terrible Winter

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King George IV

Part Fifteen: A Terrible Winter

By the time George IV arrived at Culzean, his state of health was considered “most precarious” by Sir Andrew Halliday. In addition to his physical symptoms, he had developed a nervousness that made him extremely dependent on his wife. This came as a surprise to George’s courtiers considering that it was not so long ago that he was happily parading his mistress before them with the Queen very much out of favour. It is unclear what caused George’s change of heart but his poor physical health seems to have drawn him closer to his immediate family. Nonetheless, Halliday soon came to believe that being in Scotland for a time had proven beneficial to the King’s health. Free from the day-to-day duties of the Sovereign and kept away from the badgering of politicians and other establishment figures, George was able to relax and his mood was markedly improved in a short time. There was no doubt that the Queen adored her time in Scotland too. Before their planned return to Windsor, she began paying house calls to prominent Scottish peers with a view to seeking out a Scottish estate as a holiday residence for the Royal Family.

This was criticised by some politicians who felt that the extensive and costly renovations to Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle should preclude the acquisition of yet another royal residence. In private Lord Eldon was of the view that there was “no price too great to secure the continued good health of His Majesty the King” but he also worried that royal expenditure would need to be increased again and with a general election looming, he expressed concerns to the Lord Chamberlain that the idea should be temporarily shelved. Eldon was confident that he would secure a mandate of his own rather than the one he inherited from Lord Liverpool and with an increased majority, he hoped to be able to finally draw a line under Catholic emancipation and calls for constitutional reform. He expected to be returned to government with an increased majority, after which time, he promised to support any proposals for a Scottish retreat for the King and Queen.

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Abbotsford in an 1880 painting of the house as seen from the River Tweed.

But a more cost-effective short-term solution presented itself as George IV and Queen Louise returned to Windsor. They had been invited to spend their last few days in Scotland with Sir Walter Scott who had so successfully arranged their tour in 1822. Around the same time, Scott had expanded his estate on the south bank of the River Tweed near Melrose and renamed it “Abbotsford”. Abbotsford was a prominent example of Scottish baronial architecture and Scott completely overhauled the property adding turrets and stepped gabling, stained glass windows with heraldic designs and panelling of oak and cedar in the largest rooms which were intricately carved with coats of arms. Though undoubtedly one of the finest private houses in Scotland, Scott had spent an enormous sum increasing the acreage of his estate until it included nearly 1,000 acres which also included the nearby mansion house of Totfield which was renamed ‘Huntlyburn’. Already in substantial debt, Scott’s financial problems worsened when the UK was hit by a banking crisis.

The Panic of 1825 saw the stock market crash and twelve banks closed their doors overnight. Transitioning from a war time to a peace time economy had proven difficult and unpopular tax rises had been scrapped for political gain. A black hole in the public finances could not be filled without such rises and whilst the Bank of England was saved from collapse by an infusion of gold reserves from the Banque de France, many found they had lost their fortunes overnight. Investors had ploughed their money into speculative interests in Latin America; some were even persuaded to part with vast sums to invest in Poyais, a country ruled by Cazique Gregor MacGregor. Government bonds and land certificates were issued for extremely profitable plantations in Poyais with MacGregor managing to convince people to put their entire life savings into building projects in his country. The only problem was that Poyais did not actually exist. MacGregor was a fraudster and though his confidence trick was exposed, for those who had fallen victim to his scheme they could not recover the money they had already parted with.

For Walter Scott, the Panic of 1825 wiped out his entire fortune. Publicly ruined, Abbotsford was to be placed in a trust belonging to his creditors the month after the King and Queen visited. Scott gave a “last hurrah” for the couple offering them the finest food and wine whilst the King took full advantage of fishing on the Tweed. The King knew Scott was bankrupt but he also knew Scott would not accept financial support from his friends and admirers. Shortly after the King and Queen left Abbotsford, George asked Lord Cholmondeley to inquire as to whether the creditors would be prepared to lease the house to the King and Queen as a summer residence for the period of ten years. Whilst this would not cover the cost of the property itself, it would pay Scott’s debts and allow him to sell Abbotsford after the lease ended. The creditors agreed and Scott was able to remain living at Abbotsford for the majority of the year, departing for Malta in the summer months where he could live cheaply and which gave the King and Queen the use of a Scottish holiday home.

The royal couple returned to Windsor to find young Prince Edward suffering from croup. With a high fever and a barking cough, the little Prince was placed into a small room where iodine was vapourised into the air to assist his breathing. But the royal doctors treating the Prince were concerned that his croup was a symptom of a far more serious disease – diphtheria. When the King and Queen entered the royal nursery, they found their infant son struggling for breath and prepared for the worst, they were advised that the next 48 hours would be crucial in determining Edward’s survival. The Queen sat next to the bedside of her child throughout the night whilst the King, himself not a well man, kneeled on the cold hard stone floor of St George’s Chapel for 12 hours in silent prayer. In his diary, the King noted; “I should give my Crown, my Kingdom and my riches to the lowliest beggar if the Lord spares dear little Eddy”. Following a tense few hours, the Prince passed “the crisis”, his breathing became regular and within a few days, his cough had all but disappeared.

But secretly, the royal doctors had concerns that the little Prince would always remain a sickly child. Sir Andrew Halliday noted; “He is no longer the fat and rosy cheeked baby he was and whatever he is fed, he seems stunted in his ability to gain weight. His condition must be monitored carefully though I fear he shall never grow to adulthood and if he does, his prospects will be limited because of his very weak constitution”. This was kept from the King and Queen who considered themselves extremely fortunate to have been spared the death of their youngest child. Until now, Queen Louise had not displayed a particularly keen maternal instinct but from this time onwards, she insisted that the royal children spent two hours per day in her company and she frequently visited the nursery during the day to ensure that the children were happy and well. When she saw a nursery maid spank Princess Charlotte Louise for some minor misdemeanor, the Queen dismissed her at once without a reference and when the Prince of Wales fell on a gravel path and cut his knee, the Queen raged at his nanny for days threatening her with instant dismissal but relented because of how fond the Prince was of her.

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George, Marquess of Cholmondeley

As Christmas 1825 approached, the King was dealt a personal blow when Lord Cholmondeley offered his resignation as Lord Chamberlain. Cholmondeley was 76 years old and in increasingly poor health, unable to perform his duties and looking forward to a quiet retirement at Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire. The position of Lord Great Chamberlain had become that of a kind of general factotum of the Royal Household during George IV’s reign because of his personal respect and admiration for Cholmondeley. But the position was hereditary and whilst the King welcomed the idea of Cholmondeley’s son and heir, the Earl of Rocksavage, as Cholmondeley’s successor, the Queen did not.
The Earl of Rocksavage was courting Lady Susan Somerset (he later married her), daughter of the Duke of Beaufort and sister to Lady Elizabeth Somerset. For this reason, the position of Lord Great Chamberlain returned to its original form with the Earl spending little time at court. Though Lady Susan might otherwise have found herself welcomed at court as the intended of the Great Chamberlain, she was deliberately ostracised and this anti-Beaufort feeling in the Queen’s Household also saw the Marchioness of Cholmondeley leave court with her husband that year. Lord Eldon replaced her with Anne, Duchess of Buckingham.

On the 15th of December 1825, the court prepared for the upcoming Christmas festivities at Windsor. The King had a busy morning receiving the Foreign Secretary, Lord Sidmouth, George Henry Law (the Bishop of Bath and Wells) and the Earl of Dalhousie, then Governor-General of British North America. After lunch, the King was to receive a deputation from the Royal Society of Literature which had recently been granted a royal charter and wished to present the King with a gift as a token of their gratitude. Following this audience, the King was to meet privately with Lord Radstock to personally express his condolences upon the death of his father, the 1st Baron Radstock, who had once served as Governor of Newfoundland. It was during this audience that the King suddenly began slurring his speech. When he tried to stand, he collapsed and for an instant, it appeared that George had died. Sir Andrew Halliday revived the King but it was evident that he had suffered a stroke.

News of the King’s condition was sent immediately to Lord Eldon who raced to Windsor for a full assessment of the situation. Left partially paralysed for the rest of his life and confined to a wheelchair, the King could still talk (albeit it with a stammer) but he was easily tired and often confused. The Queen became a diligent and devoted nurse to her husband, refusing to leave his side and for the first time in their marriage, she eschewed separate bedrooms so that she could be with George day and night. She wheeled his chair in the grounds of the castle for him to take the air and helped him to recover to the stage where he could feed himself and write a little with his left hand. But the King refused to be seen in public and even when he was well enough to travel to London, he refused to appear in an open carriage for fear that people would see him as a weak man.

The shock of the so-called “terrible winter” saw the King’s remaining hair turn a bright white and his sight was left blurred so that he could not make out faces unless someone stood at close proximity. Halliday wrote to the Prime Minister that in his view, the King remained mentally competent and that “though weakened by his attack, there is no reason to believe that His Majesty is incapable of carrying out his duties albeit on a more relaxed schedule so as to allow time for a full recovery to be made”. Eldon accepted this but in January 1826, he visited the Duke of Clarence in London to discuss the King’s condition. There was also discussion of the upcoming General Election in June, something which was relayed to the Queen who wrote a furious letter to her brother-in-law in which she admonished him for “seeking to remove the King from affairs of state which remain his and which are no concern to you whatsoever”. Clarence apologised to the Queen, protesting that it had been Lord Eldon who raised the matter of the General Election but it was clear that the true source of the Queen’s anger was the realisation that she may soon lose any influence she had at court.

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Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne

Louise was still furious that she was to be cut out of the decision-making process for her son if a regency was required. The King’s close brush with death reinforced the idea of a future in which the Queen had little say or position which alarmed and frustrated her in equal measure. In the months after the King’s stroke, the Queen began receiving important establishment figures including Lord Lansdowne, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer. These visits were supposedly an opportunity to reassure key politicians that the King was able to continue in his post without the need for a regency but in reality, Queen Louise used them to discuss her own role in the future. Lansdowne noted in his diary that the Queen was; “most perturbed that the Duke of Clarence would effectively outrank her and that she would have no say in the day-to-day decisions affecting the Crown. She said that it was unthinkable that she should not be extended the same privilege as the late Queen [Charlotte] and I confess that she presented her case so well that I found it impossible to counter her reasoning. That said, I had to explain that it was not a matter I could raise in the House [of Lords] without giving rise to the notion that the King is incapable and Her Majesty seemed to accept this though she expressed disappointment that the matter could not be resolved”.

The King was unable to attend the State Opening of Parliament in February 1826. Whilst Lord Eldon proposed that his address be read on his behalf by the Duke of Clarence, the King took the decision to leave the task to the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Earl of Rocksavage. George had always enjoyed a close friendship with his younger brother and it highly unlikely that this decision was not taken under the influence of the Queen. Indeed, requests by the Duke of Clarence to visit the King were denied on the grounds that the King was not well enough to receive him but both the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex were admitted to the royal presence and given tea by the Queen after their audience with His Majesty. It was clear that Clarence was being frozen out of the court by his sister-in-law which the Prime Minister privately noted to the Prince was “incredibly short sighted for if the worst happens and Your Royal Highness is called upon to deputise for the Prince of Wales, Her Majesty may find herself desirous of a charity which she has failed to demonstrate in this sudden change of heart which I find most unreasonable”.

But not everybody disapproved of the Queen’s behaviour. The Duke of Cambridge wrote a letter to his brother the Duke of Clarence praising the Queen as “the most devoted wife, putting His Majesty first in all things”. Cambridge advised his brother to “ignore the gossip of the troublemakers of the court and do not think poorly of Louise for she is truly acting in the interests of our dear brother, the King. without a moment’s thought for her own position or needs”. But the Queen majorly overplayed her hand in May 1826, just a month before the General Election was held. Whilst her earlier meeting with the Whig politician Lord Lansdowne could be explained away that he wished to express his sympathy for the King’s poor state of health on behalf of his colleagues on the Opposition benches, further meetings took place with a clear view to the Queen trying to convince the Opposition to push for her involvement in a regency in the future if and when such a bill to provide for the arrangement came before parliament. Lord Eldon was furious that just weeks before he put his case to the public in a general election, the Queen had ignored the demand for political impartiality and had even been seen visiting a gallery with Lord Lansdowne’s wife, Lady Louisa.

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William, Duke of Clarence.

In the event, Eldon was returned with the increased majority predicted. He secured 428 seats for the Tories with Lansdowne’s Whigs winning only 198. In the aftermath of the General Election, there were riots in areas of London with a large Irish population as it became clear that under Eldon as Prime Minister, Catholic emancipation was to be dropped from the political agenda entirely. This would have wider ramifications later on but the riots were quickly put down and Eldon settled into forming his new ministry. Queen Louise was kicked into touch when Eldon asked his ministers to ensure that the Duke of Clarence was given access to government papers usually reserved for the attention of the Sovereign alone. Eldon also wished the Duke to be present during the Prime Minister’s audiences with the King. Whilst the Queen had hoped to keep the Duke away from her husband, she found a solution to this by moving the King to Royal Lodge at Windsor on the pretext that it was a more comfortable place for him to recuperate. In reality, it meant that the Queen herself could be present for the Prime Minister’s audiences and whenever Eldon asked for a private word with the King, the Queen excused herself and the Duke of Clarence forcing him to leave the room. Eldon referred to this as “a grubby little pantomime” and from this point on, he became more boisterous in his private criticism of the Queen.

Her next step was to remove the King from the political scene altogether. Against the advice of his doctors, the Queen insisted that the court move to Abbotsford for the summer months. The lease of the estate had been accepted by Sir Walter Scott’s creditors and the Queen insisted that though the journey would be arduous for the King, the benefits to his health would be worth it given how much better he had felt in Scotland previously. Whilst all other members of the Royal Family were invited to visit Abbotsford during the summer, the Duke and Duchess of Clarence were not. Instead, they remained in London where it became apparent that once again they were being kept away from the King on the orders of the Queen. The Duchess of Clarence wrote to the Duchess of Cambridge expressing her surprise at the way in which Louise was treating them given that she had “shown nothing but kindness to the Queen since her arrival in England”. She lamented “a forgotten friendship” and admitted to feeling “somewhat nervous for the future when, as things stand, we shall be called upon to serve in a way that can only offend the Queen further”.

Lord Lansdowne felt the obvious solution to the problem was to make the Queen a kind of deputy regent to the Duke of Clarence if the time came. Clarence could perform his duties as expected but the Queen would feel she had a clear position and would thus be less inclined to cause difficulty. Eldon disagreed. He believed that the public would resent the concept of a foreigner being involved in decisions of the highest level and besides, the King himself had made clear his intention that the Queen should have no part to play in a regency. The Queen was “a stubborn and headstrong woman who may exert far too much influence in such a position”, Eldon said, “Further to which, her recent display of political bias makes clear how unsuitable it would be for her to have anything to do with the official functions of the Crown”. The Prime Minister also noted that for all her devotion to the King in the first few months after his stroke, she had “risked the King’s life with a foolish journey to Scotland which we all advised against and wish she demanded he undertake to suit her own petty agenda”.

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"His Majesty at Work", painted in 1825 by Sir David Wilkie.

At Abbotsford, the King was blissfully unaware of the chaos his wife was causing and though the after-effects of his stroke were not to subside, he was said to be “in good spirits and high humour”. Halliday noted that his speech was improving but the paralysis was unchanged. However, the King’s eating habits had massively improved and he had lost a substantial amount of weight. He had stopped drinking alcohol entirely and his more simple diet had eased some of his other ailments. But this was only to be a temporary respite. Returning to Windsor in September 1826, the King’s decline was clear for all to see. He was now plagued by oedema of the legs and arms and was diagnosed with “dropsy” by his doctors. To modern physicians, the King’s health problems at this time clearly point to congestive heart failure but at the time, Halliday was more concerned with the King’s short-term condition rather than looking to any future complications.

On the 20th of October that year, the King suddenly took a turn for the worse in the middle of the night. Queen Louise woke the household screaming “His Majesty is dying! Oh God, save him, save him!”. The King was not in fact dying but had suffered an episode of sleep apnoea. Nonetheless, the shock of almost losing her husband gave the Queen such a fright that from this time onward, she refused to sleep at night so that should watch the King sleep instead. The Duchess of Buckingham recorded that Louise was “so desperately tired but refuses to leave His Majesty’s side for a second. She fears he shall die and that she will be removed from court by the Duke of Clarence, forbidden from seeing her children and locked away from public view. There is nothing as callous in the Duke of Clarence’s nature but the Queen is not soothed when we express this, rather she weeps and becomes most anxious”.

In view of the King’s decline, it was agreed that there would be no lavish festivities for Christmas or New Year and George IV was attended constantly by his doctors. Though conscious and able to speak a little, he was now confined to his bed which left him with agonising sores that had to be frequently treated causing him so much pain that he screamed into his pillow. The Queen paced nervously around his bedroom, bringing the children from the nursery to see him for one hour a day. The Duke of Clarence was not refused admittance to the King’s bedchamber but he was never to be left alone with his brother and thus, was frequently accompanied by the King’s sisters. When Princess Augusta saw the King on the 10th of November 1826, she wrote in her diary; “He appears so very frail and every movement causes him anguish and great discomfort. The Queen was kind to me, asking if I wished to have some time alone with him but I could not face it for there seemed nothing to say that would not upset or trouble him further. It is all such a sad business and I wept when I left him for I saw in his face that he is preparing his goodbye to us. But whilst I hope it may be a merciful release for His Majesty, I fear the rest of us will be bruised and battered in the turmoils of what is to come”.
 
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GIV: Part 16: Good King George

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King George IV

Part Sixteen: Good King George

Though regular bulletins concerning the King’s health had appeared in newspapers, none were permitted relating to his final illness. Indeed, it wasn’t until after Christmas Day in 1826 on the 29th of December that a London newspaper was allowed to report on the “concern all true Britons feel for His Majesty the King in his time of trial”. This rather flimsy reporting gave the public the first indication that George IV was gravely ill. The response was resigned but genuine sadness. George had been an unexpected King and though at times he had faced scandal and even outright criticism from certain corners, the country as a whole had come to see him as a benign monarch. He had no interest in politics or involving himself in the great matters of the day. Rather, he was happy to be seen and not often heard, present but not involved. His public appearances had drawn large crowds who were happy to have the chance to see the Sovereign after the long seclusion of King George III. Churches across the country opened their doors inviting people to pray for the King. The press reported a “steady stream of good Christian men and women who braved the cold night air to offer their fervent pleas to God to bring peace, comfort and good health to His Majesty”.

Shortly before leaving the Royal Household, Sir Andrew Halliday was asked to provide an account of the King’s final days by the government. It is a sentimental document and not necessarily the more formal report one might expect from a physician. That said, Halliday had been in the King’s service for his entire reign and was considered a close personal friend of George IV’s. In that spirit, some of Halliday’s anecdotes seem to be embroidered with emotion and many historians doubt that his account is entirely genuine. He opens with a description of the King on Christmas Day 1826. According to Halliday, George IV; “was visited in his bedchamber by the Dean of Windsor who offered the King the greetings of the season before praying with Their Majesties. The King was sorrowful that he could not attend church but the Dean reassured him that this should cause him no concern. Immediately after the Dean left, the King was dressed and with great effort, allowed himself to be placed in an invalid’s chair. The royal children were then admitted and the King was much pleased to see them”.

Queen Louise was said to be devoted to her husband’s care but according to Halliday; “Her Majesty had accepted that the King’s condition was most grave and though she never gave him anything but warm and tender care, she excused herself from the room upon the sight of the King with the children for she could not withhold her tears”. The Duchess of Buckingham later said that Queen Louise was “exhausted and prone to weeping” at this time and clearly a conversation had taken place to prepare her for the worst. The Duchess records how the Queen hated to leave the King “in case she missed his final moments” and at the turn of the New Year, Queen Louise asked that everybody else leave the King’s bedchamber so that they could be alone together for a time. The following morning, the Queen asked Sir William Knighton, the King’s Private Secretary, to send word to his siblings that the King appeared to be in the last days of his life and that if they wished to see him one last time, they should make their way to Windsor immediately.

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Princess Augusta Sophia.

The last of his siblings to hear the King speak was his sister, Princess Augusta Sophia, who visited the King on the 2nd of January 1827 after walking to the castle from her home at Frogmore. According to a letter written to the Duchess of Clarence some time later, the Princess said; “Our poor dear brother looked so very anguished and though his speech was so very badly affected, he asked me to read a little to him from a book by his bedside which I believe Knighton had acquired for him. I read a little and he smiled, saying softly ‘My dear sister’ before he closed his eyes and fell into sleep. I kissed his forehead gently and left the room. I knew then that he could not last”. In the early hours of the 3rd of January 1827, George IV suffered another stroke. His condition was so grave that the Prime Minister and the Archbishops of York and Canterbury were immediately summoned to Windsor. Lord Eldon recalled seeing members of the Royal Family pacing in the grounds awaiting the latest update from Halliday and later said that despite recent tensions between them, when he kissed the Queen’s hand in greeting she clasped it firmly and said, “You are a great comfort to me”.

For the duration of the 4th of January, the King lay silent in his bed, his breathing shallow and his face “clearly distorted from his sufferings”. The Dean of Windsor prayed with members of the Royal Family and the royal children were brought in to kiss their father’s forehead before being led out of the room by their nurse. The Dukes of Clarence, Cambridge, Cumberland and Sussex stood by the window of the King’s Bedchamber, Queen Louise sat on a chair next to the King’s bed holding his hand. Her sister Augusta, the Duchess of Cambridge sat beside her. The Duchess of Clarence, Princess Augusta Sophia and Princess Sophia Matilda stood behind them whilst Prince Leopold had come from Marlborough House to offer his own sympathies and stood at the foot of the King’s bed with Baron Stockmar. According to Halliday, this remained the scene until the King’s death but we know this to be untrue as Prince Leopold wrote a letter to his sister Victoria, Duchess of Kent in the evening in which he described various members of the Royal Family kissing the King goodbye and leaving the room. He also states that he ate with Princess Augusta and Princess Sophia at Frogmore where he was to stay that night.

Halliday also suggests in his account that “the Queen never left His Majesty’s side for a moment at the end”. We know that Queen Louise had exhausted herself by keeping a constant watch during the King’s last weeks but the Duchess of Buckingham writes in a letter that the Queen “was woken by Sir William Knighton at 2am to tell her that His Majesty was at the end of his life” which suggests that the Queen retired to her own bedroom the night the King died. Both Halliday and the Duchess agree however that the Queen was holding the King’s hand when he died at 3.45am on the morning of the 5th of January 1827. He was 63 years old. Sir William Knighton’s diary confirms that he woke the Queen and that she was with him when the King died; “Her Majesty fell to her knees by the King’s bedside and wept before recovering herself. I found myself in great admiration of her as she tenderly kissed the King’s forehead and then departed the room, not even allowing herself a glance back at the King’s body. She asked that he be left alone until the undertakers came and all the lights were extinguished in the room and bedchamber door locked at Her Majesty’s insistence”.

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A portrait silhouette of George IV which accompanied his obituary in The Times.

The King’s body was subjected to a post-mortem led by Andrew Halliday. George IV’s official cause of death was given as “dropsy” (oedema) but Halliday also noted that the King’s heart was enlarged with heavily calcified valves surrounded by a large fat deposit. At his own request, the tradition of allowing members of the Royal Household to see the King’s body before he was placed in his coffin was not observed. Instead, those who had served George during his reign were asked to line the corridor leading to the King’s Bedchamber where they knelt as the coffin was carried past them. This took some time as the undertakers struggled with the weight. George’s body had been placed inside a lead coffin with a plaque bearing his name and the dates of his birth and death, the lead coffin then being placed inside a second coffin made of English oak.

The King’s coffin was taken to the King’s Drawing Room in the State Apartments where the lying in state was to be held. The Times described the scene: “The mortal remains of His Majesty were placed upon a bier covered with dark purple velvet and atop the coffin covered with a black cloth and draped to one side with the Royal Standard, was displayed the Royal crown and the insignia of the Order of the Garter of which, as King, His Majesty had been Sovereign”. Members of the Royal Family and of the Royal Household stood in the King’s Drawing Room as the Archbishop of Canterbury led prayers and four officers of the Coldstream Guards, the regiment the King had once served with in his military career, flanked each corner of the bier with their heads bowed standing vigil throughout the night. The King’s death was announced in the evening edition of newspapers across the country but official proclamations were not to be given until the following morning and thus, most people did not know the King had died until they made their way to market the next day.

To everybody’s surprise, there seemed to be genuine public grief at the King’s death. In his obituary, The Times referred to the late King as “Good King George” and paid tribute to his “steadfast devotion to duty, a duty he could not have expected to inherit but which he did so with a forbearance that was to be found in abundance in his character as a soldier and as a gentleman”. This seemed to capture the public mood and across England houses were decorated with black crepe, their curtains were drawn and in a symbolic gesture that would start a new tradition, white flowers were displayed in vases placed on doorsteps to indicate mourning. It is believed that this began when a florist in Peckham began handing out white flowers in memory of the King from her barrow and once reported in the press, people across the country dashed out to obtain white blooms to decorate their doorsteps with. This would become a popular funerary custom in England but fell out of favour at the turn of the century.

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The lying in state of King George IV.

The King’s funeral was to take place in the evening of the 9th of January 1827 [1] just four days after his death. As news of the King’s death travelled, thousands began to arrive in Windsor, far more than the town could accommodate. Food and beer supplies ran low and innkeepers were criticised for increasing their prices to take full advantage of the sudden influx of people. The lying in state itself proved somewhat chaotic and unfortunately, some were more interested in viewing the spectacle than they were offering genuine sympathies. There were reports of members of the public being knocked to the floor by those who refused to observe the movement of the line and wished to stand for as long as possible before the King’s coffin. As the lying in state ended, some members of the public deliberately stalled so that they could blend in with the admission of the 7,000 people who had been allocated tickets to watch the funeral procession make its way from the State Apartments to St George’s Chapel. As a result, the Lower Ward was filled way over its capacity and it proved difficult to keep the crowd quiet.

At 7.30pm on the 9th of January 1827, the procession assembled at the Norman Gateway. Traditionally, women did not take part in the funeral procession itself and so Queen Louise, the King’s sisters and the ladies of the Queen’s Household went ahead of the procession in closed carriages. The King had requested that (as an old soldier) his coffin should be covered with a black pall and transferred to a gun carriage after which the King’s remains would be taken from the State Apartments through the Norman Gateway and down from the Middle Ward of Windsor Castle to the Lower Ward into St George’s Chapel for the funeral service itself. However when the undertakers reached the Norman Gateway where the gun carriage was waiting for its charge, they found that one of the wheels refused to turn. There was a long delay as they tried to get the carriage moving but eventually had to concede that the King’s coffin would have to be carried down the steep hill of the Lower Ward on foot.

Princess Augusta noted that this resulted in “a most undignified performance with the undertakers stopping every so often which was certainly not the way things should have been done”. The last-minute change of transportation also meant that nothing could remain on top of the coffin until it was safely in St George’s Chapel, least of all the Crown which the undertakers feared would topple off as they processed along the Lower Ward. The procession itself was formed of the Dukes of Clarence, Cumberland, Cambridge and Sussex as well as the Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh and Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. The Knights of the Garter, the Military Knights of Windsor, the Heralds of Arms and the King’s most senior courtiers preceded the incumbents of the Great Offices of State including the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. At the sides of the procession, military personnel bowed their heads with their guns reversed as a sign of respect and pages holding lanterns aloft were evenly spaced so as to light the procession route.

The Great Bell of St George’s tolled as the King’s coffin was taken up the West Steps and into the chapel itself. The Duke of Clarence served as Chief Mourner (a post again denied to women at this time even if they were the spouse or eldest child of the deceased). He sat in a black covered armchair at one end of the coffin with the other Royal Princes sitting in their stalls as Knights of the Garter. Queen Louise and the royal princesses sat in the small gallery adjoining the altar on the north side of the quire known as the Queen’s Closet. In this cramped room, the Queen was at least able to weep for her husband away from prying eyes but Princess Augusta complained that the delay to the procession meant that the ladies were “stuffed shoulder to shoulder into the Queen’s Closet and we felt most uncomfortable for a terribly long time”.

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The Royal Burial Vault, Windsor.

The burial service itself was almost entirely chanted until finally, at 11.00pm, the late King’s style and various titles were proclaimed by Sir George Nayler as Garter Principle King of Arms. The coffin of King George IV was lowered by machinery into the underground passage leading to the Royal Burial Vault where it was temporarily housed on a platform before being placed into a recess in the vault just beneath the coffin of King George III and next to that of the late Prince Regent. At the end of his proclamation, Sir George Nayler announced, “God Save King George V” and the band outside the chapel played God Save the King. The crowd assembled in the Lower Ward sang with such gusto that nobody could hear the rockets let off from the Long Walk. In leaving the chapel, the guests (perhaps exhausted by the day’s events) forgot all protocol and swarmed for the West Steps. As a result, the Royal Family had to wait behind (being seated furthest from the doors) until a path could be cleared for them to exit via the South Door. But the crowds had yet to be dispersed and the carriages intended to return the female guests to the State Apartments could not get through. In the event, Queen Louise and the King’s sisters were forced to wait inside the South Door for an hour before they could be collected.

In London the day after the King’s death, the Accession Council was held at St James’ Palace to give directions for the proclamation of the King’s successor, his eldest son, the Prince of Wales. There was some delay in this when Queen Louise suggested that her son would take the regnal name of King Frederick in honour of both his father’s Christian name and that of her own father, Landgrave Frederick of Hesse-Kassel. However, when the six-year-old King was finally proclaimed across the city of London the following morning, he was proclaimed as King George V. It is unclear as to how this happened but historians have disproved the assertion of Queen Louise in later life that the Duke of Clarence intervened. He was not at the Accession Council, neither did he correspond with any of its members before, during or after it’s meeting. However, the Duke did meet with the Prime Minister at Windsor Castle after the funeral of King George IV to discuss the arrangements for the imminent regency.

King George V was the youngest Sovereign at the time of his accession since King Henry VI in 1421. Henry VI had been just 8 months old. Arrangements for a regency had already been discussed but as parliament had been prorogued upon the death of the Sovereign, the bill to secure the Duke of Clarence as The King’s Regent could not be introduced immediately. According to the Succession to the Crown Act of 1707, parliament was to be recalled as soon as possible and to proceed to act in the usual form. This was scheduled for the 15th of January 1827 and so in the interim, Lord Eldon summoned the Lord Chancellor to Windsor where he affixed the Great Seal of the Realm to Letters Patent naming Lords Commissioners to appoint the Duke of Clarence as regent as the Duke of Cambridge as his deputy according to the late King’s wishes. This was irregular but had precedent, the same procedure being employed in 1811 to provide a regency for the incapacitated King George III. When parliament met again for the first time after the death of King George IV, much of their time was taken up with the Oath of Allegiance to the new sovereign and a vote on an Address to the Crown officially expressing condolences upon the death of King George IV and pledging loyalty to King George V. Thus, it took a further two weeks before the Regency Act 1827 was introduced, debated and passed, confirming the arrangements made at Windsor on the night of George IV’s funeral.

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The Duke of Clarence, The King's Regent.

In the first days of the Regency, the Duke of Clarence returned to London where he received important deputations at Clarence House. He was also asked to sign hundreds of appointments reinstating civil servants and other officers of the Crown who had lost their position as a result of George IV’s death. This practise was later abolished but in the rush of this procedure, it was impossible for Queen Louise to meet with her brother-in-law which she took as a personal affront. In her grief, the Queen’s anxiety that she was to be put aside and kept away from her son became a constant obsession and royal doctors were forced to give her sedatives to calm her. She protested to the Duchess of Buckingham that she believed Clarence had always secretly favoured the Duchess of Kent over her and now he would welcome Kent back to England and treat Louise as George IV had treated Victoria. There was absolutely no basis of truth to this, indeed, the Duke of Clarence had always despised the Duchess of Kent and had no intention of inviting her back to England.

But the Queen’s fears were exacerbated when her agreed meeting with the Duke was postponed and panicked, she travelled to Buckingham Palace where she summoned the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister explained to her that the Duke of Clarence wished to conduct his official duties as regent from Clarence House and that as soon as was possible, he would come to see Louise at the Palace and explain what had been taking place in the days since her husband’s death. The Queen raged at this, insisting that she should have present at all meetings and that any official business in the name of her son, the King, should take place at Buckingham Palace. Furthermore, she insisted that she should have a daily report of the Regent’s diary and that she had the right to be consulted on all matters relating to the King’s day to day schedule. It was now, for the first time, that the Prime Minister felt able to address the Queen in the manner many had wished possible some years ago.

According to the Duchess of Buckingham, Eldon; “informed Her Majesty that she would always be afforded the dignity and respect owed to her as a Dowager Queen and that her maternal interest in the King’s wellbeing would always be considered before any decisions were made. When the Queen protested that she should take the place of the Duke of Cambridge, the Prime Minister became exasperated. He said, ‘Madam, I have simply carried out the wishes of His late Majesty in this. These are the things he wished and which I, as his chief minister and most obedient servant, was duty bound to carry out’. The Queen responded, ‘And what of my wishes Sir? Are they to count for nothing?’. The Prime Minister replied, ‘This is the way of things Ma’am. I am troubled that they grieve you so but this must be the way of things’. He then departed leaving the Queen visibly shaken”. For Louise, the realisation of what her husband's death meant for her began to sink in. Though she would remain at court for most of her son's early reign, she would never again be able to command things as she had. In the words of the Duchess of Buckingham, "Her wings were clipped and she lamented the days of old".

A new reign had begun.


[1] The funerals of George III and the OTL George IV (Prince Regent) took place at 8pm in the evening and not in the daytime as we’ve become used to.

[2] The funeral arrangements here were based on those of George III and the OTL George IV (Prince Regent). The regency arrangements follow the same procedure of 1811.


And that concludes the King George IV timeline! A huge thanks to everyone who has been following this, it was my first TL here and I absolutely loved researching and writing it. So much so that I clearly can't leave it here.

The sequel to this timeline will be a much longer one given that George V's reign will obviously last a lot longer than that of his father. We'll go through the "Second Regency" until George V reaches adulthood and there'll be royal marriages for the King's children as well as Princess Victoria of Kent. Then it's on to the second half of George V's reign as we experience a Britain without Queen Victoria. And of course, Queen Louise's fate will be included!

Because George V's reign will be so long, my plan is to split the Timeline in two. After the first half of his reign, there'll be the biography of Princess Victoria of Kent before we go back to George V. This seems the easiest way to handle it without becoming too sidetracked.

I'm excited to start work on this and I really hope you'll stick with this TL as it moves into the new reign. Because the next installment will be a sequel, I'll continue to post in this thread. Many thanks again!
 
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