Crown Imperial: An Alt British Monarchy

Great to see that Agnes, with a little help, shock George out of his funk.

HAHAHAHA! That Scotish scene got a laugh out of me.

Dear lord i hope Mary is ok.
Is it possible that George could be convinced to give the Viceroyalty to Cumberland, recognising that this would be a brief assignment, as a bargaining chip to get him to drop the issue of the diamonds that's about to erupt?


Monthly Donor
Is it possible that George could be convinced to give the Viceroyalty to Cumberland, recognising that this would be a brief assignment, as a bargaining chip to get him to drop the issue of the diamonds that's about to erupt?
Those diamonds will definitely be the focus of our next chapter. ;)


Monthly Donor
Great chapter. George seems to be able to accept his true feelings for Agnes and I love it. Has there been anything of note that happened in 1843?
Quite honestly, 1843 was quite a dull year save for the Paulet Affair so I used it to focus a little more on family dramas as going forward, we begin to see a big return to domestic and international politics which I know can be quite heavy going.


Monthly Donor
To add a P.S to that though, whilst 1844 will be remembered as the year the King's Laws were introduced, the background to them falls in 1843 so in that respect, it was an important year ITTL though obviously it's from the following year that they take effect and begin to have consequences.


Monthly Donor
Just a heads up that unfortunately we're still getting these annoying internet outages where I live as new cables are fitted. We were told this would all take two days but alas, the road is still up a week later and the connection here very shaky!

I've got a chapter written but as I can't fact check it as I would usually do, I'm going to hold it back until I can put it through it's usual paces. With apologies for the delay as I really don't like to make people wait too long in between instalments when they've been so committed to the timeline for so long. That said, if I can grab a few hours uninterrupted online, I'll do my best to get another chapter out before the weekend.
GV: Part Three, Chapter Eighteen: Eruptions


Monthly Donor
King George V

Part Three, Chapter Eighteen: Eruptions

Wörlitzer Park, situated some sixteen and a half kilometres from the bustling German city of Dessau, is now a popular tourist destination with visitors from all over Europe pouring through it's gates to marvel at the Chinese Gardens or Dutch Fountains which remain as impressive today as they were when they were first installed some 250 years ago. But in 1844, the park was the private estate of Duke Leopold IV who had ruled in the Duchy of Anhalt-Dessau since his grandfather’s death in 1817. The Dessaus spent almost all of their time not in their sumptuous 16th century palace in the capital, but instead made use of five smaller (but no less lavish) residences in the park settled around the town of Wörlitz to the east. This complex of royal properties was begun in the mid-17th century by Prince John George II to celebrate his marriage to the Dutch Princess Henriette Catharina and almost every guilder of her impressive dowry was spent on transforming the ruins of an old castle and the surrounding fields into a sprawling princely estate complete with a grand baroque schloss renamed the Oranienbaum. The walls of this tribute to Henriette Catharina's ancestry were clad in orange leather and the dining room decorated with 6,600 blue and white Delft tiles especially created to chronicle the life of the Dessau princes. As a final flourish, the gardens were carefully plotted out to match those of the Paleis Huis ten Bosch in The Hague.

But a hundred years later when Duke Leopold III took ownership of Wörlitz, the estate was vastly changed from the traditional royal homestead one might find in the Netherlands to a kind of private village which would become home to no less than four new palaces. Inspired by his Grand Tour of Europe, Leopold III spent vast sums on recreating the sites he had seen which came to include such novelties as a copy of the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli (which he subsequently gave to the emancipated Jewish community as a synagogue) and a fully functioning man-made volcano set on an artificial island gouged out of the earth in the middle of the park. Captivated as he was by his visit to Naples and obsessed with tales from the newly discovered village of Pompeii, Leopold III engaged an engineer who produced a sunken cone from a chamber fitted with three roaring fireplaces which, with the addition of water, would splutter smoke and belch flames and thus (from a distance) gave the impression of a dramatic eruption to entertain the Duke’s guests. [1]


Duke Leopold III's volcano - which is still "erupting" today for visitors at the Wörlitzer Park.

This was highly amusing in the 1790s but 50 years later, such frivolities had cost the Anhalt-Dessaus dear and the reigning Duke Leopold IV had been forced to increase taxes and to cut public spending in order to balance the Duchy’s fortunes. Leopold was therefore far less popular than his gregarious father had been and though the family kept their heads above water thanks to the dowry of Leopold’s wife Frederica, her cold and unfriendly nature forced the Dessaus to live in a kind of gated community moving back to the capital from Wörlitz only when it was absolutely necessary. Even then, their return to Dessau was not marked enthusiastically by those who looked on indifferently as the Ducal carriage procession passed by. There were stirrings in the Duchy that the ruling family were actually a hindrance to progress rather than heralds of a new modern age, Leopold III having set the bar extremely high for his successor when it came to embracing new ideas of government. Though he was a liberal, Leopold IV had found himself frozen out of the day-to-day running of his Duchy - much to his irritation. In order to boost Dessau’s finances (so depleted in the last reign), Leopold IV took Anhalt into the Prussian Customs Union in 1821 which by 1833 had, following a series of treaties, become known as the Zollverein.

Prussia was the driving force behind the creation of the PCU (which ultimately became the Zollverein) and embarked on the project with two major objectives in mind; firstly, to eradicate Austrian influence in Germany and secondly, to create a much larger market for German-made products. Whilst outsiders had to pay a tariff to get their goods in and out of Prussia, members of the Zollverein did not. Initially, this proved hugely advantageous to smaller states such as Anhalt but by 1844, the result was that Prussia’s economy grew whilst other members of the Zollverein saw their treasuries stagnate. There were political difficulties too. Members began to worry that the customs union was nothing more than a front for Prussian expansionism and as the first stirrings of the revolutions of 1848 began to take root, the long-standing political, economic and legal structures that had held many German states together after the fall of the Holy Roman Empire began to buckle under these new pressures. External factors quickly affected the success of the Zollverein too, none more so than when the United Kingdom introduced the Corn Laws. The limitation on grain imports blocked economic recovery in the German states after the Napoleonic Wars and as such there were many among them (Anhalt included) who took a very dim view of Britain and her economic policies. This was only exacerbated in 1834 when the Kingdom of Hanover formed a rival to the Zollverein.

The Steuerverein was formed by the Treaty of Einbeck in an effort to forge a new German customs union in the north which consisted of Hanover, Hesse, Oldenburg and Brunswick but the process had not been easy and Hesse eventually backed out, choosing to conclude its own trade agreement with Prussia instead. But Hanover and Brunswick marched on until the Steuerverein could no longer be ignored and in 1837, a convention was signed between the two customs unions reducing duty on imports and installing new measures to suppress smuggling in Zollverein territory. Initially this seemed to redress the balance and saw new members, such as the Principality of Schaumburg-Lippe, become members of the Steuerverein in 1838. But by 1841, Brunswick saw its future as laying more with Prussia than with it’s ancestral links to the House of Hanover and thus, it broke from the Steuerverein and joined the Zollverein instead. This move infuriated the Hanoverian government which, quite rightly, saw that by taking this step, the Steuerverein had been terminally weakened. Tensions between members of the two customs unions were once again exacerbated against a backdrop of new liberal and radical ideas fermenting in villages and towns throughout Germany which sought to overthrow the old established order. [2]

King George V was kept well informed of Hanover’s economic situation and just as he received briefings from the Treasury in the United Kingdom, so too was he kept abreast of the financial policy his government in Hanover was pursuing via the Hanoverian Chancellery at St James’ Palace. But the Chancellery was not always as forthcoming as the King might have wished. In 1844, Count von Ompteda had an audience with the King at Buckingham Palace following the decision of the Duke of Cambridge to resign as Viceroy of Hanover. The conversation was entirely limited to who should succeed him and though Ompteda had been briefed on the rumblings of apathy toward the personal union between the British and Hanoverian crowns in the past, he chose not to put these renewed stirrings before the King himself. Many in the Hanoverian parliament took a dim view of having another member of the British Royal Family imposed upon them as Viceroy without their approval and some were deeply unhappy at the news that Hanover seemed to be in line to become a dumping ground for those members of George V's family who married against his wishes, becoming Princes and Princesses of Hanover rather than Princes and Princesses of the United Kingdom. It was stressed that the designation referred to the Royal House and not to the Kingdom itself but this did little to placate those who felt offended by the move.

But this was the latest in a series of gripes Hanoverian politicians had concerning British involvement in their affairs. Ompteda failed to mention the fact that as the British economy seemed perched on a precipice, there were many in Hanover who now shared the Prussian view (and by extension, those within the Zollverein) that British economic policy (namely the Corn Laws) was adding unreasonable pressure to the situation as Prussia increased its tariffs to offset what it saw as extortionate British duties applied to imports of grain from the east. There was talk in Prussia of withdrawing from the convention signed between the Zollverein and the Steuerverein in 1837 unless the British relaxed the high import charges on Prussian grain but even more worrying was talk in Hanover that the Steuerverein itself was quickly becoming defunct and that Hanover would be far better placed simply to join the Zollverein instead. This would pull Hanover into a sphere of Prussian dominance and potentially weaken its relationship with the United Kingdom – but that association was already fraying at the edges. [3]


The Zollverein (in blue) and the Steuerverein (in orange) in the 1840s.

In his 1983 book The Hanover Question, historian Sir Peter Wilson suggests that February 1844 was “a pivotal moment in the relationship between the United Kingdom and Hanover as the bonds between the Crown and the people of its ‘other Kingdom’ were weakened by the departure of the Duke of Cambridge as Viceroy”. The suggestion here is that the Duke of Cambridge himself was vital to the personal union as an individual but in reality, the advantage of the Cambridge appointment had always been (at least in the view of the British Crown) that he offered a permanent royal representative in Hanover which helped to reinforced the historic bonds between the two Crowns, even when the monarch as an individual showed no real interest in his ancestral homeland (as was true in the reign of King George III). It is true however that when the Duke of Cambridge asked to be allowed to retire his post, it put King George V in a particularly difficult situation because, quite simply, he was not burdened down with royal candidates to succeed his uncle and because he took the view that a permanent royal resident in Hanover had done much to repair the damaged relationship that existed from almost 60 years of monarchical neglect.

The best laid plans of mice and men had been shattered when the Earl of Tipperary married Franziska Fritz and though the King saw his cousin the Earl of Armagh as extremely capable, there were serious concerns that his blindness would act as a barrier to his acceptance in the role of Viceroy. Whilst the Duke of Cambridge vouched that he saw no reason as to why his nephew should not be considered for the office, Count von Ompteda protested that the Earl of Armagh’s disability should automatically disqualify him as a candidate. This privately pleased the King who did not wish to see his cousin leave his court. He disagreed that Prince George could not play a role in public life because of his sight but he had a very different role in mind for the Earl and his new bride; he wished to see them begin to undertake a modest programme of public royal engagements as the Royal Family was small in number and lacked enough members to provide a strong public face of the monarchy. But then, who was to succeed the Duke of Cambridge in Hanover?

Though he did not care much for Lord Betchworth, the King summoned the Foreign Secretary to discuss the situation but Betchworth was labouring under the misapprehension that George V had asked him to come to the Palace to discuss another matter entirely - the Straits Pact. In his last briefing to the King, Betchworth had noted with some concern that in the third week of December the previous year, there were reports from international observers that Russia had violated her quota of ships allowed to pass through the Dardanelles by the convention agreed at Hampton Court in 1841, the precise number of vessels allowed to each nation having been established in Vienna later that same year [4]. Russia had supposedly exceeded their quota by 2 vessels, hardly the Spanish Armada, but Betchworth was concerned that this violation may be a sign that the Russians had only ever signed the Pact for expediency and that it would not hold. The King himself had suggested a cast-iron insurance policy to the Straits Agreement of 1841 which had been proposed by the British government and adopted by the parties present. If a signatory to the agreement exceeded the quota of ships allowed to pass through the Dardanelles, economic sanctions were to be levied against the guilty party. But if that party continued to break the convention, the Straits Agreement called upon all other signatories to demand that the Ottoman Sultan closed the Straits to ships from the offending nation. The question was, should the signatories pursue recriminations against Russia for exceeding it’s quota by just two vessels which, after all, may have been a simple oversight?

Under usual circumstances, George V would have been greatly enthused by an opportunity to involve himself in foreign policy, especially as Lord Betchworth seemed to welcome the King’s advice on the issue. But instead, George made Hanover a priority and told the Foreign Secretary to “keep him informed” on the Straits instead. He asked Betchworth if he considered that a non-royal representative in Hanover would weaken the personal union and whether he felt there was a suitable candidate among the vetted lists for a Governorship elsewhere who may be redirected to Hanover instead? Betchworth promised to review the matter and propose a list of names but surely there was a member of the King’s own family His Majesty had overlooked? Naively, Betchworth asked if the King had considered the Duke of Cumberland as a successor to the Duke of Cambridge. In the frosty silence that followed, Betchworth suggested that, though he was aware that the King had no personal affection for his uncle, the Duke was resident in Hanover and was known to the people there. His tenure would no doubt be a brief one and it would keep the Duke occupied leaving him less time to antagonise the Crown from afar. Betchworth had (albeit unknowingly) overstepped the boundaries. The King said nothing in response, pushed the bell on his desk, and Charlie Phipps entered the Study indicating to the Foreign Secretary that his audience had come to an end. With a clumsy bow as he gathered up his papers, Betchworth left the room and returned to Whitehall.

When the Foreign Secretary relayed this unpleasant meeting with the King to the Prime Minister, Sir James Graham gave a wry smile.

“Oh dear”, he said with a small chuckle, “I’m afraid you have rather put your foot in it there Harry”

“Well I wish I knew how”, Betchworth shrugged, “His Majesty cannot have it both ways. He wants a member of his family to take up residence at Herrenhausen, therefore he must either accept the rehabilitation of that oaf Cumberland or give the Cambridge boy back his rank and appoint him instead”

Graham sipped at his glass of sherry.

“Oh I’m afraid it’s a little more complicated than that”, he mused, “You see, the King’s uncle has once again proven his flair for creating unpleasantness. I saw His Majesty yesterday and he relayed the whole sorry business to me, so sorry in fact that Princess Sophia has been carried off to Witley Court to recuperate with the Dowager Duchess of Clarence”

“What on earth…?”

Just three days earlier, the King had been in audience with the Duke of Cambridge when their talks were disrupted by the wails of the King’s aunt, Princess Sophia, who had hurried from St James’ to Buckingham Palace on an urgent mission. Aided by her devoted lady in waiting, the blind Princess who had become increasingly eccentric in recent years howled her way along the corridors to the King’s study demanding that she see her nephew without delay, a request Charlie Phipps could not ignore. Upon entering the room, the King and the Duke of Cambridge supplied the Princess with brandy and managed to calm her down enough to get her settled onto a settee but every few minutes she seemed to recall the reason she had darted to the Palace so hurriedly and collapsed into tears once more, leaning on her brother and crying out “I didn’t mean to do it Adolphus! I did not understand it!”. Eventually, the Princess was placated just enough for the whole sordid tale to come spilling forth.


Princess Sophia by Lawrence.

It transpired that on the day before he left England to return to Berlin, the Duke of Cumberland had brought Sir Charles Wetherell to Princess Sophia’s apartments at St James’ Palace. Though she protested that she really didn’t know anything about any outstanding inheritances, Wetherell suggested that this was all the Duke needed to pursue his claim to the jewels he believed were his by virtue of his mother’s will. If the Princess had not been consulted about the decision to keep back the Arcot diamonds from sale, this would suggest that the course of action taken had no validity. Sophia said that she had already signed an affidavit with her sisters to prevent the Arcot diamonds being sent to an auction house but Cumberland asked if she had understood why that had been agreed at the time; “No”, the Princess replied, “Mary and Augusta said it was all for the best so that is why I signed”. Wetherell countered that if she had signed something she did not understand, Sophia had even more reason to sign a new affidavit explaining exactly that. But the affidavit Wetherell proposed also included a clause which stated that Sophia now recognised that her late sister Elizabeth’s claim to the jewels had been inherited by her brother the Duke of Cumberland and that she was in agreement with him that the jewels should now be sold and the proceeds shared according to the terms of Queen Charlotte’s will.

“But I don’t understand…”, Sophia repeated gently, her hand shaking as Wetherell handed her a pen to sign the document, “I don’t understand any of it”

“You understand that Lissie left her share of Mama’s jewels to me”, Cumberland encouraged, “And that I now have a share in them?”

“Yes but…”

“And you understand that if I do not receive my share, I shall be forced to sell my house…”

“Yes I do, I do understand that Ernest but…”

“Then you understand everything my dear”, Cumberland said kindly, “And all you need do is sign the paper Sir Charles has here and the whole sorry business will be resolved”

“But Mary…”

“Sir Charles is going to take the very same paper to Mary, aren’t you Charles?”, Cumberland cajoled, “And Mary will sign it too. Augusta would have signed, Charlotte and Elizabeth too…”

With a nervous sigh, Princess Sophia allowed the Duke to take her hand and guide her to the bottom of the affidavit where she did her best to sign her name. Wetherell witnessed the signature in his own hand, blotted the documented and placed it into his satchel. Sophia rose from the table and stretched out her arm for her lady in waiting.

“I must rest”, she said exhaustedly, “I am so very tired”.

And with that, Wetherell took the affidavit away with him, congratulating the Duke of Cumberland on a job well done and promising him that in a matter of weeks, he would send word to Berlin that what they had agreed had now been put into action. For his part, Cumberland summoned his sister’s butler and told him to have a carriage prepared the following morning. The Duke had grown tired of London and wished to return home a little earlier than planned. In the early morning mist of the city, Cumberland slipped quietly away without a farewell to his sister and boarded a packet steamer at St Katharine Dock to begin his long journey back to Berlin, content that his financial troubles were soon to be resolved and that he could now live the rest of his life in the comfort his rank and station demanded. Later that afternoon, Princess Sophia, consumed by guilt and anxiety, fled to Buckingham Palace to tell the King what had happened. Her nerves shattered, the King summoned Princess Mary and diplomatically evading the cause of Sophia’s agitation, asked his aunt to convey Sophia to Witley Court where his aunt Adelaide might help to recover Sophia’s reason.

The King summoned the Attorney General to assess the damage. In the United Kingdom at this time, disputes over inheritance of property usually fell to the lower courts with appeals lodged to the Law Lords as the Lords of Appeals in Ordinary. Sir Frederick Pollock had no doubt that Cumberland’s case would come before the House of Lords but he could not predict the outcome. It was decided to present a counterclaim to Cumberland’s case on the grounds that the jewels described in the will of the late Landgravine of Hesse-Homburg were not one and the same to the Arcot diamonds and that the King had already compensated the Duke of Cumberland to the sum of £10,000 when the bequest made by Princess Elizabeth could not be met. Pollock would maintain that His Majesty had not been obligated to make this concession but did so in light of the Duke’s beleaguered financial state. Furthermore, he would insist that whilst Princess Sophia had indicated that she wished the Arcot diamonds to be sold at auction and the proceeds divided according to the terms of Queen Charlotte’s will, this could not be met unless all signatories to the affidavit which prevented the sale of the diamonds relented on their original agreement – in other words, Princess Mary must agree, a condition both Pollock and the King were confident would never be met. But this was considered a last resort as Pollock advised that the King should indicate his willingness to go into a process of arbitration removing the Law Lords from the appeal completely. The King was by no means thrilled with that prospect as undoubtedly his uncle would petition for a large sum of money from the Privy Purse to be made over to him which George V regarded as “little more than a reward for this vile behaviour”. [5]

To add to His Majesty’s frustrations, this development threatened to derail the all-important family conference he was to host before his departure for Scotland. As agreed, the Leader of the House was to propose the Succession to the Crown and Royal House Acts before the Commons and following the advice of his Prime Minister, the King had agreed that he should not be resident in London when Members of Parliament began their deliberations on the legislation which would mark a radical change in the way the monarchy operated from 1844 onwards. The King had not discussed the proposals with any member of his family beyond the Duke of Cambridge but even then, their audience had been cut short by the arrival of a very distressed Princess Sophia. Now he could delay no further and so in the Blue Closet at Buckingham Palace almost the entire British Royal Family were assembled; the King, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Earl and Countess of Armagh, the Dowager Duchess of Sussex and Princess Mary. The Duchess of Cambridge was somewhat nervous.

Her husband having offered no indication to the contrary, she believed that the meeting had quite a different objective; to gauge the family’s opinion on the suitability of Princess Agnes of Anhalt-Dessau as a bride. Upon her return to Neustrelitz after Christmas 1843, Grand Duchess Marie had written to her sister Augusta in England in fraught temper, unfairly furious that the King was seeking to replace Marie’s late daughter so quickly. She did not enjoy seeing her son-in-law parade his new love interest before her at Windsor and she was especially aggrieved at the fact that he had allowed Princess Agnes into the royal nursery to spend time (alone) with the Princess Royal, Princess Victoria and the Prince of Wales. “But that Georgie should not even address the subject to us”, she wrote, “to explain the situation openly and honestly (which we may have come to appreciate) was so very unfeeling and especially so in light of poor Sunny’s anniversary which I hear he did not even mark at Windsor as he did last year. Whilst we both understand that he is very young and that he might always have considered a second marriage, neither George nor I can resign ourselves to the fact that it is happening so quickly. It is so very inconsiderate of our feelings and we find ourselves in agreement that we shall not return to England again if she is to be present for whilst there is no kindness in Georgie’s actions, undoubtedly it is the girl herself who provokes such behaviour”.


Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge.

An engagement was far from the King’s mind but the true nature of his words that day would serve to inflame the Duchess of Cambridge’s temper as much as his apparent interest in Princess Agnes had inspired animosity in her sister the Grand Duchess Marie. Calmly and carefully, George explained that after consultation with the Attorney-General, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, the two bills about to be placed before the House of Commons would see no immediate changes imposed on anybody present because neither the Succession to the Crown Act nor the Royal House Act were to be applied retroactively. What had been designed to protect however, quickly gave rise to anger. Whilst Princess Mary nodded soberly, indicating that she thought the solution to overcoming the strictures of the Royal Marriages Act was “very elegant”, the Duchess of Cambridge seemed to grow red in the face and began fiddling feverishly with the lace on her cuffs. The King noticed.

“In the future, we may find we have to adjust a little…”, he said soothingly, “But I assure you all has been done for the best”

The Duchess of Cambridge could no longer hide her outrage. She let out a loud snort. All heads turned to her. She was almost rocking on the edge of her seat, anxious patting her thigh with her clasped hands as she tried to control herself.

“Adjust is it now?”, she said. The words came out before she could stop herself.

“You disagree with my decision I take it?”, the King rounded on his aunt, “Let us have it then Aunt Augusta. I intend to hear all views on the matter”

“What difference will that make?”, Augusta snapped, “The matter has already been decided without us, what should my opinion count for now?”

The Duke of Cambridge hissed at his wife; “Be quiet!”

“No no”, the King called across the room, “Let Aunt Augusta speak her mind”

The Duchess of Cambridge seemed to recoil a little but then found her second wind.

“Why is my son to remain ostracised? Why is he not to benefit from these new arrangements? How am I to adjust to a woman who marries into this family without your consent and receives a similar rank to that which has been so cruelly removed from my own child, a Prince of the Blood no less?”

The King began making his way over to the settee on which his aunt sat.

“This is neither the time nor the place for this discussion…”, he warned in a low voice.

“Oh but I believe it is”, Augusta said frantically, refusing to be calmed, “You say you wish to hear all views, well this is mine. You have reduced my son to a pauper because of his marriage, yet had he waited he should have been lord and master of all regardless. Why is a penalty to be laid on his shoulders that you should not inflict on others?”

“Augusta, please…”, the Duke of Cambridge begged through clenched teeth, “Do not do this now…”

“You may no longer care for the boy but I do”, the Duchess spat back at him, pushing his hand away as he tried to grasp her arm, tears coming into her eyes, “And after all that we have suffered. Do we deserve no gratitude after our long years of service? That this should be our thanks after thirty years…”

“I believe this has gone far enough”, Princess Mary barked, “Really Augusta, this is most unbecoming”

Augusta rounded on Mary, launching a tirade of abuse at her that included a nasty swipe at the Dowager Duchess of Sussex sitting beside her.

“And what have you to lose? You have no children, you were never a mother, what do you know of it? Look at you Mary, sitting with that woman whom you so despised because she has been legitimised when we all know exactly what she is and how she wormed her way in…”


The King’s voice hung in the air like the fading peal of an almighty bell. Nobody dared say anything. The Duchess of Cambridge dabbed at her eyes. Princess Mary glowered at her. The Duke looked embarrassed. The Earl and Countess of Armagh wriggled uneasily in their chairs. The King took a deep breath. He turned to his aunt Augusta, a worryingly familiar flush of crimson in his cheeks.

“I shall say this once Madam, before every member of my family gathered here, and you will listen well and respect me for you will remember that I am your King…”

He leaned in close and fixed Augusta with a stare.

“Your son will never, ever, find a home here again. He is a Prince no longer and my God so long as I draw breath that shall remain the case. You will accept that or you will underestimate me. Now I suggest you remove yourself from my presence Madam, or do I have to remind you of where your sister lodges today and the reason for it?”

The Duchess of Cambridge stood up slowly. She sank into a deep curtsey and left the room, the Duke trailing behind her. The King sank into a chair held his hand in his hands.

“Come now Georgie”, Mary cooed comfortingly, “She will come to terms with it, I assure you”

“Oh it’s all such a bloody mess”, the King sighed, leaning backwards and fishing out a piece of paper from his jacket pocket, “Look at this. George, you must see it too. Aunt Sophia was in ribbons. I simply can’t see a way to resolve it…”

Princess Mary lifted up her lorgnette and holding the paper away from her a little, took in the words.

“You might not”, she puffed, hauling herself to her feet with a wobble, “But I can”.

Mary bustled her way from the room. The King privately resolved never to attempt a family conference again.

A few days later and the Cambridges discretely left London for their cottage at Kew. The Duke wrote a letter expressing his sincerest apologies for the way in which his wife had behaved but the King was not yet ready to hear it. It had cast a pall over his preparations for his Scottish Tour, a trip he had never been too enthusiastic about but which he now faced embarking upon under a cloud of family discontent. Before he left London, George took himself off to Bloomsbury to Frau Wiedl’s townhouse for a private supper. As usual, he laid his worries out before her and hoped she could offer some respite. He felt somewhat guilty as to just how vociferously he had behaved with his Aunt Augusta and for the first time, he gave some indication as to his true feelings where the Earl of Tipperary were concerned.

“I put those bills together with him in mind”, the King mused sadly, “Well, partly at least. I could very easily restore his rank, extend it to his wife too but…it is a hard thing to accept…betrayal I mean. I had such high hopes for him. We all did. Now I fear I shall never bring myself to resolve it. You see, he is to blame for this mess in Hanover too”

“How so?”

“Had he not taken off as he did, Uncle Cambridge could have retired and I could have appointed George in his place”

Frau Wiedl smiled gently, “He’s too young”

“So is George Cumberland”, the King countered, “And Uncle Cambridge seems to think I should appoint him instead”

“Why don’t you?”

“Because I like having him here”, George shrugged, “I’ve had to give away so much, I can’t send off my dearest friend into the bargain”

Wiedl consoled the King, well aware that though he had shown great improvement in separating his personal feelings from the decisions he must take as King, such incidences always weighed heavy on him. But she also listened to his concerns that the situation was far more important than which of his relations should relocate to Herrenhausen. The King was no fool and even though Count von Ompteda had kept it from him in their audiences, George knew that there was growing animosity in Hanover towards Britain for its economic stance which directly impacted on the fortunes of its own customs union. Some intellectuals had used rumours that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were to leave Herrenhausen to voice their belief that the role of Viceroy was no longer needed, that Hanover would do better to choose its own representative from among its own people – not an unreasonable suggestion. But this was greatly wounding to George personally as he had made such an effort to patch up the relationship between the Crown and the people of Hanover.

Hanover needed a Viceroy who was totally committed to the King’s ideals, someone who would not seek to exert his own personality but who, most importantly, would reaffirm the important ties between Hanover and the monarchy to avoid pushing the "other Kingdom" toward a very different sphere of influence. The King knew that there could be no better person to achieve this, or at least to stand a very real chance of success in Hanover, than the Earl of Armagh. He also knew that his opposition to the Earl's appointment was purely sentimental. But time was running short. Ompteda needed a name to send back to the Landtag at once, though they played no role in the Viceroy's appointment, they were at least entitled to know his identity before it was gazetted in England. As the King boarded the HMY Royal George, he could not help but long to stay in London where so much seemed unresolved, quite the opposite of what he had envisioned ahead of his departure. Yet he sailed off with Princess Mary accompanying him, her wise words that a little distance may do wonders offering him some modest comfort.

At Whitehall, Lord Betchworth too had much to consider, the King having submitted a formal request that the Foreign Office consult it's “approved candidates” list for other Governorships where a “civilian” appointee may be found for the role of Viceroy. Keen to please the King after having unwittingly irritated him during their last audience, Betchworth was trying to make a good job of it and was carefully noting the pros and cons of each prospective Viceroy when his Private Secretary stepped into his office and handed him a letter. The fact that it was not presented on a silver salver indicated to the Foreign Secretary that it was urgent and had been delivered by hand. Indeed, it had come from the Comte de Saint-Aulaire, the French Ambassador to the Court of St James’. It read;

S-E-B, Cp. H.

10 – 2

16 – 5

22 – 3


Betchworth slowly rose from his desk, his eyes firmly locked on contents of the note in his hand.

“Any reply Sir?”, the Private Secretary asked cheerfully.

The Foreign Secretary shook his head.

“No Jenkins”, he said quietly, “Though I should welcome a very large brandy…”


[1] Bizarre but true. You can read more about Leopold III’s “volcano” here:

[2] As in the OTL.

[3] As it did in 1851 in the OTL.

[4] You can read more on the Straits Pact here:

[5] As in the OTL between Queen Victoria and the King of Hanover.

Once again, many apologies for the delay on this new instalment! Thankfully I now have a stable internet connection once more so normal service can resume!

Just a quick note on the development of Hanover here, obviously I'm having to research what happened in the OTL from 1837 onwards and balance that against TTL in which Hanover has remained in personal union with the British Crown to follow what I think is a likely trajectory.

On a more general theme, 1844 will introduce us to some more international politics (and mini PoDs) as well as some interesting domestic issues too. It does mean we may not see much of the inner goings on behind Palace walls as we saw in 1843 but I will try and offer a balance where possible. As ever, many thanks for reading!
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Boy, oh boy! Let's hope that George can hold on to his family's other kingdom, they need that as both a show of personal power and to have a stable foothold on the continent and in german politics.
GV: Part Three, Chapter Nineteen: The Road to Banchory


Monthly Donor
King George V

Part Three, Chapter Nineteen: The Road to Banchory

As the carriage procession bearing the King and Princess Mary began winding its way through the city of London and out towards Tilbury, the cheers of onlookers greatly improved George V’s mood. He was none too enthusiastic about his impending tour of Scotland and with so much ill-feeling among his close family, he truly felt his place was at Buckingham Palace. He privately predicted that his tour would be a disaster and even inquired as to whether some of the itinerary beyond the larger cities might be trimmed a little so as to bring the eight-week trip down to just five. The King must have felt he was eerily accurate in his ominous expectations when, as the royal party passed through Thurrock, sheets of ice-cold rain began to pummel the top of his carriage making it impossible for him to continue much further. Fortunately, Charlie Phipps was well-prepared for all eventualities and he gave the nod to the coachman that rather than drive on to Tilbury, he should head for the village of Orsett instead. The scenery was somewhat grim with beggars and peddlers crowding about the gates to the workhouse on Rowley Road which was under significant pressure at this time and was turning people away toward the church of St Giles and All Saints which had now taken to operating a soup kitchen from the rectory. But within half an hour, the King’s carriage headed out onto a dirt road carved through the fields until just beyond the bare branches of the trees it was possible to make out the welcome sight of Orsett Hall.

Orsett Hall was a 17th century manor house set in 12 acres of parkland which had been transformed into the heart of a thriving agricultural estate by it’s owner Richard Baker in 1750. By 1844 however, the farms were failing and the house had passed to Richard Baker Wingfield-Baker, a former liberal MP now serving as Chief Justice of the Brecon Circuit. As he was almost always in Wales, Orsett Hall was left vacant and Phipps had added it to a list of “rest houses”, a carefully crafted catalogue of suitable residences which might play host to the King on his travels if something should delay His Majesty’s journey from A to B. Word was always sent ahead to home owners en route that the King may need to avail himself of their hospitality and in this case, Wingfield-Baker had instructed his staff to prepare for every eventuality. They were no doubt delighted to see the King’s carriage rattle along the gravel driveway up to the Hall and to see the Sovereign dash into the property to avoid the chaotic downpour outside. The accompanying carriages were lodged in the Mews, the 14 trunks they had brought from London unloaded into the boot room to keep them from harm. The King’s party was comprised of his Private Secretary (Charlie Phipps) and the Crown Equerry (Major Billy Smith) but also included Captain Lord Frederick Beauclerk. After his temporary stint as Crown Equerry, the King had taken a liking to him and appointed Beauclerk a junior Equerry, though his duties were mostly limited to accompanying the King when he travelled and he did not serve George V on a day-to-day basis at this time.

Princess Mary had brought with her the aged Miss Wilkins, her personal maid, but had also asked Lady Hannah Watson-Taylor to serve as a Lady in Waiting - somewhat begrudgingly. Lady Hannah’s sister (the Countess of Dalhousie) had declined the honour because she was suffering from a weak chest. Mary was disappointed as she had been a long-standing friend to the Hay family (whose ranks included Lady Douro - the future Duchess of Wellington - and the Marquess of Tweeddale) and felt that she should like to be served on the tour by “someone who knows about everything Scotch [sic]”. Lady Dalhousie apologised profusely and suggested Princess Mary might like to take with her instead Lady Hannah who had not long married the ambitious Simon Watson-Taylor who stood in line to inherit a healthy collection of sugar plantations in Jamaica. Watson-Taylor encouraged his wife to accept Princess Mary’s offer because he saw it may be a step up the ladder for his own social progression – though Lady Hannah soon came to regret it. She had only met the Princess once or twice and had forgotten quite how exhausting she could be, especially exacting when it came to mealtimes which (on tour) were very often disrupted or delayed, something which always put Princess Mary in a foul temper. Nonetheless, the royal party arrived at Orsett Hall and quickly settled in, the King complaining bitterly that their sojourn to Scotland was bound to be “the most crashing bore imaginable”.


Orsett Hall.

Two days later and the King was still at Orsett. The weather had turned so tempestuous that it was not deemed safe for the Royal Yacht to dock at Tilbury, let alone begin its journey north. The King was like a caged animal, thoroughly bored and with nothing to do but trapse about Orsett inspecting the library or games room. The only time he settled in fact was when he discovered a cosy niche of his own in the Music Room where he sat down to write letters to his friends and family. To his sister the Tsarevna (expecting her second child in June that year) he wrote a series of witty verses about his current predicament, one of which read “Orsett not Dorset, O! What a disgrace!, for Dorset not Orsett is a far better place”. Then he wrote to inquire as to the health of his aunt Princess Sophia at Witley Court, the poor woman still in a state of shellshock after committing her name to the Duke of Cumberland’s troublesome affidavit. But the vast majority of his letters were sent to Princess Agnes at Wörlitz. He gently teased her that Frau Wiedl had not been able to join him on his Scottish excursion because she had to prepare her Berkshire estate for Agnes’ arrival ahead of the summer months and said that he hoped Agnes was “cheery of disposition knowing that you have left my evenings so totally devoid of amusement that all I can do is sit about thinking of you”. In another letter he writes, “Think of me, your poor Georgie King, wandering the Highlands and wondering why you are not”.

Finally, the skies cleared and despite a three-day delay, the King left Orsett and made his way to Tilbury where the royal party boarded the Royal Yacht and headed for the Firth of Forth. But though the rain had lifted, the sea was incredibly rough and even the redoubtable Princess Mary struggled to keep her composure. Poor Lady Watson-Taylor was so seasick that she locked herself in her cabin and howled with fright in between bouts of vomiting and the King made a promise there and then that if the Prime Minister ever asked him to undertake a tour of Scotland again, Graham was to join the royal party on the voyage “for why should he be spared this absolute hell?”. But eventually the waves subsided a little and the Royal Yacht arrived at Leith to hoards of eager spectators, all desperate to catch a glimpse of the King just as they had done 20 years earlier when George V’s parents had arrived at the start of their tour of Scotland in 1822. Accounts from the King’s arrival boast that “the welcome for His Majesty far surpassed that given to the late King when he came to Edinburgh and the carriage procession through the city was so well-received that the thousands who came to see the King pass by stayed long after His Majesty had departed”. But the King’s journal tells a different story and he suggests that the crowds were “quite plentiful but rather reserved and did not make a great fuss”.

The official welcome to Edinburgh saw the King and Princess Mary step onto a dais where they were greeted formally by the Lord Provost, the Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Governor of Edinburgh Castle, the Principal of the University of Edinburgh and the Bishop of Edinburgh (who was also Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church at this time) whilst a Guard of Honour was formed by the High Constables of the city. There seemed to be some confusion as the royal party then made off for Dalkeith House as the Lord Provost believed that His Majesty was to head to Holyrood Palace instead where he had arranged a peculiar ceremony in which several members of the Merchant Company of Edinburgh were to present “loyal greetings” in the form of beautifully illustrated rolls of parchment from the various Guilds they represented. The Lord Provost watched therefore as the King disappeared into the distance and had to hurry along to Holyrood to explain that he had made a mistake and that everyone present (with their loyal greetings in hand) should return the following day when the King came to Holyrood to host a levée in the Throne Room. But again there had been some miscommunication and when the guests arrived for this grand reception the following day, it turned out that so many invitations had been sent out that their number spilled out into the Morning and Evening Rooms that led on from the Throne Room. The atmosphere was so cramped and so uncomfortable that the King was forced to sit on a chair in the Antechamber (a kind of royal dressing room) and receive deputations in twos and threes with Princess Mary complaining that she didn’t have enough room to see any of those being presented from her position just behind the King’s seat. The result was regular interjections from the frustrated Princess bellowing at the poor Lord Provost; “Who is that?!” or “What did he say she was called?!”. It was hardly the stately occasion the organisers had in mind and the King was greatly relieved when he was allowed to head back to Dalkeith House.


Dalkeith House today.

At Dalkeith, George V was to host a “drawing room” for the “ladies of Scotland”, most of whom missed out on being presented at debutantes in London at Queen Charlotte’s Ball and so instead “came out” at Dalkeith House instead. The last of these ceremonies to be held in the presence of the King had taken place in 1822 and had been a great success with 457 ladies presented to King George IV to curtsey before the Sovereign. Custom dictated that the King acknowledge this obeisance with a kiss on the cheek which had amused King George IV enormously but which his son opted to dispense with, signalling his acknowledgement of each lady who sank to the floor before him with gracious nod instead. At first, the presentations went quite smoothly with each girl to be presented accompanied by a senior female family member such as an elderly spinster aunt or grand dowager of sufficiently impressive social rank. Each “sponsor” presented the footmen at Dalkeith with a small card on which they had written the name of the debutante and who was presenting them, the cards would then be slipped off the table in order of their presentation and handed to the Lord Provost who announced the guests to His Majesty. Alas, a clumsy debutante managed to sweep half of these cards onto the floor and in the muddle, the order was confused. The drawing room was scheduled to last for just two hours but went on for an interminable five as ladies were forced to push through the assembled throng from all directions upon hearing their name called much earlier or far later than they expected. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was to be the last time such a drawing room was ever held in the King’s presence and by 1856, the practise had come to an end entirely with Scottish debs forced to make the journey to London for their “coming out” instead.

Thus far, the King had been proven entirely correct in his gloomy prediction that his tour of Scotland would be a disaster and his visit to Portobello Sands to receive representatives of the Clans did little to ease his anxieties that the whole trip was doomed to failure. The weather was so atrocious that the whole ceremony had to be relocated to the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh where a grand ball was to take place that evening for the Clansmen and their guests. Because of this change of location, those in charge of arranging the Assembly Rooms for the evening’s entertainments could not put anything in place and so there was a ridiculous to-and-fro whereby the King and his guests were forced to return home and then come back to the Assembly Rooms two hours later than scheduled for an eight-course banquet and dancing. The guests were finally served pudding at 11.45am by which time nobody much had the enthusiasm for whirling about the floor and they were left disappointed. As if he wasn’t irritated enough, the King then noticed that Princess Mary was wearing a tiara with which he was unfamiliar. The sapphire and diamond bandeau was widely admired and eventually he asked Charlie Phipps whether it was new. Somewhat awkwardly, Phipps explained that the tiara in question was the Clans Tiara, gifted to the King’s mother in 1822 when she visited Scotland. Princess Mary protested that it would have been rude not to show off the piece to those who had given it two decades earlier but the whole business did little to cheer George V who by now longed to get as far away from Edinburgh as possible.

Finally, the royal party moved on to Glasgow where fortunately the sun shone as the King made his way to the newly christened George Square to unveil a statue of his late father. Luncheon was then given at the University in High Street where the King seemed somewhat cheered by his meetings with some of the students whom, to his great surprise, were mostly English. Then it was onto Glasgow Cathedral which had been Crown property since 1587 following the Scottish Reformation. The King was shown the Cathedral interior by the incumbent minister Duncan Macfarlane who had recently retired as the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland after a critical term which oversaw the Great Disruption. In 1843, 450 evangelical ministers broke away from the Church of Scotland to form the new Free Church, furious that the British government was exerting its authority to control clerical positions and benefits in what had always been regarded as a national church and not a state one. The King had no great interest in church politics and listened to Macfarlane somewhat half-heartedly as the former Moderator explained the intricacies of the arguments that had led to the schism of the previous year. Then Macfarlane said, “Of course Your Majesty, when you come here, you’re just one of us”, an apparent attempt to point out that in Scotland the monarch attends Kirk services not as Supreme Governor (as they do in the Church of England) but simply as another member of the congregation. George muttered in reply, “What it is to be ordinary”. [1]

One man who was never inclined to be ordinary was the 2nd Earl Digby, the long serving Lord Lieutenant of Dorset who just so happened to own Sherbrooke Castle in Pollokshields and who had fought tooth and nail to host the King before he left Glasgow for Stirling. In 1838, Digby had been left in high dudgeon when George V and Queen Louise visited Dorset and chose to stay at Highcliffe Castle with the Stuart de Rothesays instead of bunking at Lord Digby’s house at Sherborne. This time however, the Earl was not to be pipped at the post and was given the privilege of hosting the King and Princess Mary at Sherbrooke Castle in Glasgow which George III had visited in 1789 on his way to Stirling Castle. When George V arrived at Sherbrook he was thoroughly confused to see an honour guard formed of the Dorset Militia – of which Lord Digby had appointed himself Colonel in 1824 – and the King unwittingly committed a faux pas later that night at dinner when he complained that he had been “forced to bed down in a horrid little house at Orsett because of the rain”. The King had no idea that Orsett Hall’s owner, Richard Baker Wingfield Baker, was Lord Digby’s nephew and the poor Earl found himself nodding in agreement, lying through his teeth that he had never visited Orsett but hoped it hadn’t been as uncomfortable as the King suggested.

From Sherbrook, the King wrote to Rosalinde Wiedl begging her to join him at Banchory in the final fortnight of his tour. “Everything here is so very ghastly from the awful food to the horrid weather. The townspeople are so indifferent as to be rude and the officials so desperate for a whisper of civilization that all they do is fawn and scrape about in a way I find most displeasing. O! It is all such a bore and I simply cannot bear the idea of the dreaded Highlands. So please do come to Banchory if you possibly can for I shall be locked away in some piss pit of a castle no doubt owned by some other tedious toad of a Laird and quite frankly I believe I shall go quite mad”. Released from Lord Digby’s somewhat over zealous clutches, the King moved onto Stirling Castle which had last received a royal visit in 1789. To George V’s delight, his grandfather had been most displeased to find the castle in so poor a state and had spent a small fortune renovating it. 55 years later, George marvelled at Stirling’s home comforts and entered into the spirit of things when an impromptu display of Scottish country dancing was staged for him in the Great Hall, boldly attempting a reel in his newly acquired kilt. For the next few days, the King was able to relax as his diary was left empty and though he had not yet embraced Scotland and all it’s virtues, he was softening in his attitude, his letters to Frau Wiedl being somewhat more optimistic.


The Ruins of St Andrews.

The weather was once again to prove problematic at Dundee a week later when the King arrived at the docks to unveil the “Royal Arch”, though he was touched by the idea and expressed how sorry he was that he had to formally open the monument from the confines of the town hall, promising he would return to see the Arch at a later date. This surprised Charlie Phipps who up until now assumed that George V would never again set foot beyond Hadrian’s Wall but when he asked the King if he had meant what he said, His Majesty replied “Of course Charlie! If it were not for the rain I consider this place might be quite pleasant”. The further north the King went, the warmer the welcome seemed to become and en route to St Andrews there was not a village passed without crowds emerging at the roadside to wave or cheer. Slowly but surely, the King was warming to the Scottish people and when he visited the castle ruins at St Andrews, he veered off track leaving his tour guide behind to go and greet the assembled throng who had been pushed back behind a rope. One elderly woman craned so far forward to see the King that she toppled forward, George rushing to her aid and helping her up. Quite spontaneously, the old woman kissed the King on the cheek and in return, George did likewise with a hearty laugh declaring to the delight of the crowd, “Well now I really do feel welcome in Bonnie Scotland!”.

Strangely, the King seemed to be gaining enthusiasm for his visit and by the time the royal party reached Aberdeen, he was eager to see more of the sights. Unfortunately, the only thing planned for Aberdeen was a whistle stop carriage procession en route to Banchory, a particular shame because the sun had broken through the clouds and hundreds of people had turned out to see the King drive past. Again, quite spontaneously, the King ordered his coachman to stop as the royal procession turned into Westburn where a great number of spectators had gathered at the park. George descended from his carriage and went among them, a particularly well received gesture widely reported in the London press with special mention made of the fact that “the King complained somewhat that the sun had done little to warm the chilly afternoon and so a man in the crowd leaned forward and in jocular fashion offered His Majesty a ‘nip’ from his flask. The King was not only amused but took a 'wee dram' to the delight of those who saw it”. It was the end of March and the King had been in Scotland for four weeks, his official tour now concluded, but in order that he might recover from his arduous programme, the Burnetts at Crathes had offered him the use of their castle in Banchory for a two-week holiday. At the start of his trip, George could think of nothing worse than a fortnight in a draughty Highland castle - now he seemed to welcome it.

But upon his arrival at Banchory there was a familiar face to be found whose presence threatened to take the shine off of the King’s recovered good humour. As he entered Crathes, John and Mary Burnett (the 5th Laird and his wife) were delighted to welcome the Sovereign under their roof and introduced George and Princess Mary to the Burnett children, the eldest of whom (George Burnett) would one day serve as Lord Lyon King of Arms. Hovering in a doorway behind the Burnetts however was none other than the Foreign Secretary, Lord Betchworth.

“My apologies Lord Betchworth”, Mrs Burnett said quickly, motioning him to come forward. “Lord Betchworth arrived yesterday Sir”, she explained to the King, “He-“

“Oh I know who he is”, George shrugged, “Well Betchworth, I assume you aren’t here for the dancing but whatever it is, you shall have to wait. I am damp through and I want to see this beautiful house, if Mrs Burnett would be so kind as to give me the grand tour?”

The King offered Mrs Burnett his arm gallantly as she blushed a little and led him through into the Great Hall. As the royal party followed, Charlie Phipps hung back a little.

“What the devil are you doing here Harry?”, he whispered.

“I must see His Majesty as soon as possible”, Betchworth replied in hushed tones, “I am to return to London in the morning”

“What’s to do?”, Phipps hissed, “He won’t like it”

“The French Ambassador…news from the Straits...“

“Oh do keep up Charlie!”, the King’s voice boomed back along the Great Hall into the vestibule, “You’re slowing us all down!”

Phipps shook his head and dashed forward leaving Betchworth to pace nervously.

Perhaps a little unkindly, the King made the Foreign Secretary wait until well after dinner before he would grant him a private audience. John Burnett made his study available to His Majesty who sat warming himself by a roaring fire as Phipps was finally told to bring Lord Betchworth inside.

“Now then”, the King began with a sigh, “What is so important that I had to be bothered with it so urgently? I’m on my holiday man, can’t I be allowed a few weeks peace at the very least?”

“I do apologise Your Majesty”, Betchworth said hurriedly, and with enormous patience considering the King did not seem to appreciate the extraordinarily long and difficult journey Betchworth had undertaken to get to Banchory, “But just before you left London I received a message from the French Ambassador, the Comte St-Aulaire”

“Mad Louis? What’s he griping about now?”

“He passed on some intelligence, Sir. From the Dardanelles…Gallipoli to be exact…it’s a small town on the-“

“I know where Gallipoli is…”, the King huffed.

Betchworth straightened his tie nervously. “Yes of course Sir…well, Your Majesty will remember that it was agreed by the signatories to the Straits Pact in Vienna that an international body of observers would be stationed there to monitor ship movements and to ensure that the terms of the Pact were being met, specifically the quotas agreed for each nation”

The King lit a cigar and blew a cloud of smoke up into the air, avoiding eye contact with the Foreign Secretary.


“Well I regret to inform Your Majesty that we now have sufficient evidence to conclude that the Russians have been violating the terms of the Pact with alarming regularity. Indeed, the intelligence from the French government, which we have now confirmed with our independent observers in the Dardanelles, suggests that in the space of little over a fortnight, the Russians sent 10 ships through the Straits”

“War ships?”

“Possibly Sir”, Betchworth replied, “We are waiting on further clarification from our observers at Cape Hellas. The point is Your Majesty, they ought not to be there regardless of their intent because it exceeds the Russian quota and as such, we are honour bound to uphold the penalties agreed in Vienna. At the very least this shall mean economic sanctions but the terms of the agreement allow for the remaining signatories to demand that the Sultan close the Dardanelles to all Russian vessels whilst keeping them open to others because there is clearly a pattern of habitual violation of the terms of the Pacts"

The King stood up, finally looking Betchworth in the eye.

“Closing the Dardanelles to Russia alone will infuriate the Tsar beyond belief Betchworth. He's bound to respond...forcefully too...I presume you have concerns that such actions may lead to military action in the Straits?"

“That is the sum of it, yes Your Majesty”

The King paced a little. He knew well the consequences of violating the Straits Pact for he himself had counselled the government on what those consequences should be when the talks during the Hampton Court conference stalled. After a time, George motioned to Betchworth to sit down on the settee opposite and then sat down himself.

“What do you advise”?, he asked.

Betchworth coughed a little, his throat irritated by the cloud of smoke in the room but there was also a little nervousness too. He explained that the British must honour their commitment to the Straits Pact as it was a vital tool in keeping the Russians out of the Mediterranean. This was especially important in the first months of 1844 because the British economy was on a precipice and British exports to the Ottoman Empire, Egypt and the Danubian principalities had increased by 300%. Already the French and Austrian governments had signalled their intention to summon all Foreign Ministers from signatory states (excluding Russia) to Paris in order to issue sanctions against Russia for violating the pact they had signed. But If those sanctions did not work, the Pact allowed for signatories to send an instruction to the Sultan that he should close all access to the Dardanelles for all but his allies – in effect, closing off the Mediterranean to the Russians but keeping open access to the Black Sea for France, Austria, Prussia and the United Kingdom.

“The Tsar will never swallow that”, the King replied bluntly, “The whole purpose of economic sanctions was a deterrent, they must be explored to their most effective ends before anybody considers anything else”

“I quite agree Sir”, Betchworth said, “And I want to assure Your Majesty that this will be the position I relate to my colleagues in Paris. But I really must urge caution. It may well be that others push for harsher recriminations and we should be powerless then to oppose them – after all, we proposed the penalties in the first place...”

The King shuffled in his seat a little nervously. He recalled only too well his difficulties at the time in trying to put forward his own views on the matter only to be faced with claims of political interference by the Prime Minister. Nonetheless, he had managed to help Graham and the Foreign Secretary of the day, Lord Stanley, come to terms along the lines then adopted by the Straits Pact signatories which made it crystal clear that no signatory could be allowed to violate their quota of ships without serious consequences. Perhaps he too was aware of the King’s role in the Straits talks but if he was, Betchworth was careful to avoid any mention of the part George V had played in securing the Pact. Excusing himself with sincere apologies, Betchworth promised the King that he would be kept informed.

“Yes, I appreciate that”, George replied kindly, “And thankyou…Henry…for coming up here as you did. I…I’m grateful for your efforts”.

Betchworth bowed and disappeared to his room. The following day he would begin his journey back to London where tempers were bound to be high and where he faced an enormous test of his diplomatic skills as he made his way to Paris for urgent talks with his counterparts from other other Great Powers.

The following morning, the King awoke to find Betchworth had already left. He went into the dining room at Crathes to find Princess Mary, her plate loaded with fried eggs, bacon and sausages, tucking in greedily.

“Aunt Mary?”, the King said almost accusingly, “I don’t believe I have ever seen you take breakfast in a dining room before…”

“When in Rome dear…”, Mary replied through hearty mouthfuls, savouring a particularly crisp piece of bacon rind, “Ladies do not take breakfast in their rooms in Scotland. Do not ask me why, it was ever thus”.

At that moment, John Burnett appeared clad in thick country tweeds. He was accompanied by a dour looking gentleman of some 60 years, his gaunt features padded out somewhat by a vast grey beard with streaks of white that gave him the look of a disgruntled Father Christmas.

“Your Majesty, may I present my ghillie, Alistair Downie”

The King nodded his acknowledgement of Downie, noticing that the old boy made no attempt to bow his head at all and instead merely tapped the peak of his cap. Burnett opened his mouth to proffer an invitation to the King but Downie broke completely with royal etiquette (not waiting for the King to address him first) by saying gruffly, “It is the last of the roe. Will you walk out?”

George raised his eyebrows a little. He wasn’t used to being spoken to so directly by a servant, especially someone not in his own employ.

“Walk out?”

Princess Mary gave a little clap of her hands.

“Oh you must Georgie!”, she enthused, “Oh it’s quite the done thing up here you know”

Downie nodded toward Princess Mary approvingly. Against his better judgement, the King found himself accepting Downie's invitation and for the first time in his life, that afternoon set out stalking with Downie leading Mr Burnett, Honest Billy and Freddie Beauclerk out onto the hills. The King was surprised to find that he was expected to lay on the cold ground and shuffle along by his elbows keeping pace with Downie who every now and then paused and urged the party to look in a certain direction.

“I should think they’ve more sense than to wander about in this weather”, he complained in a whisper.

“Aye you’re right there”, Downie replied in agreement, “They’re just like us in that regard…they’ll keep to the warm as we would. But I have seen does in colder weather than this and it is dry, they welcome that”

Alas, the King’s first stalking experience did not result in a trophy but as the party returned to Crathes, they passed a small stone-built cottage on the very edge of the estate where a woman dashed out holding a parcel of brown paper tied with string. She gave a quick bob in Burnett’s direction but ignored the King entirely.

“You forgot your piece”, she said, clearly exasperated, “And you’ve been out there wasting your day away, you can feel the mist in the air, there’ll be no does up there now”

“My wife Sir”, Downie said by way of introduction.

Mrs Downie didn’t turn to acknowledge the King in the least.

“All well Mrs Downie?”, Mr Burnett said cheerfully.

“Aye it is”, Mrs Downie replied, “Except for this old fool. Will you come in?”



Somewhat puzzled, the King found himself traipsing inside the Downie’s cottage where a roaring fire belched heat and a large wooden kitchen table was laid with a simple crocheted cloth on which was a large homemade crusty loaf of bread and a socking great lump of cheese. The men sat about the table as Mrs Downie fetched some wooden boards which served for plates. Mr Downie fetched a bottle of whisky from the dresser in the kitchen and poured generous glasses. Talk quickly turned to the end of the season and a curious situation in which a neighbouring estate had complained of a poor run. Not having anything to contribute, the King sat quietly taking in the unusual situation in which he found himself. Suddenly he felt Mrs Downie’s hand on his shoulder as she offered him some more bread and cheese. [2]

“You’ll be him then”, she said matter-of-factly.

“Yes”, George replied, “I expect I am indeed him

“Well there you are. Him.”, Mrs Downie replied with a cheeky grin, “You’re welcome at our table Sir. Though you’ll learn to drink up a bit faster with these two about you”.

George grinned. He had never been so comfortable in all his life. For the next week, the King threw himself into everything the Crathes estate had to offer and was disappointed that he could not pursue more country sports, it being the wrong time of year for most things. But he came to greatly enjoy hillwalking and though up until now he had always been very much a town mouse, he remarked to his Aunt Mary; “I feel for the first time I can truly breathe up here. It’s all such a revelation to me”. It is little wonder therefore that the King extended his stay at Banchory by another two weeks, not only because Frau Wiedl had indicated that she was on her way to join him but that he had formed a new routine full of long afternoon rambles (whatever the weather) and cosy fireside suppers where the atmosphere was kept deliberately informal. When Rosalinde Wiedl arrived, she found the King “much changed” and remarked that he looked “so very healthy and hearty, so relaxed and at ease with himself”. Phipps agreed with this assessment, writing later that “His Majesty came to love Scotland not only for its beautiful landscapes but for its people who always welcomed him warmly, respected him enormously but never jockeyed for his attention because of his rank or station. In the Highlands, His Majesty felt truly at peace and so it was to be expected that he should want to make himself a home there”.

The King’s troubles seemed to be a thousand miles away during his time at Banchory. The only time he thought about his domestic troubles was to express his disappointment that the Armaghs could not join the house party at Crathes. The Countess was unwell and the Earl did not like to travel such great distances by himself. Even state affairs seemed to fade from George’s mind for a time as images of Russian warships cutting through the Bosporus and heated debates over grain prices and taxes in the Commons were replaced by lush Scottish scenery, happy evenings spent with the Burnetts and lessons on rural life from the Downies. “Had I not been who I am”, the King mused to Phipps on one of their final evenings at Crathes, “I should have been a Scottish Laird”.

“Well you could still be that Sir”, Phipps teased gently, “What could be more appropriate than for the King of Scots to have his own estate up here?”

The King laughed.

“Graham wouldn’t like it”, he replied, “He only sent me here to stop me interfering in things”

Phipps peered into his glass of whisky awkwardly.

“You thought I didn’t know that didn’t you?”, George teased, “Well I do. And I say let’s give the old duffer what he wants eh? Because you’re quite right you know Charlie, why shouldn’t I have my own place in the middle of all this?”

Mr Burnett entered the library to bid the King goodnight.

“I say John”, the King asked tentatively, “You wouldn’t happen to know of an estate near here would you…not too expensive mind…”

Mr Burnett thought for a moment.

“Aye Sir…I believe there’s a place not far from Ballater, about 30 miles from here, one of Lord Aberdeen's estates. It was leased out of late to a chap by the name of Gordon but he…well…”


“He died Sir. He…”

“Oh come on now John, what is it?”

“He choked to death on a fish bone” [3]

There was a moment of silence before the King, Phipps and Burnett burst out laughing.

“Poor fellow”, the King said mopping his eyes with a handkerchief, “A nasty business indeed. What’s this place called…the estate I mean?”

“Tis only a modest place Your Majesty but it’s a beauty alright. It’s called Balmoral”.


[1] Church politics will become an important theme in our next few instalments but here it gets a fairly brief mention owing to the difference in the monarch’s position in the Church of Scotland vs the Church of England.

[2] I’m no expert on country pursuits but the King’s visit apparently coincides with the “last of the Roe”, the final week of March where people stalk Roe deer. The mind boggles. Apologies if some of the terminology isn’t quite correct here, the important thing is that George is getting a far warmer welcome here than he did in the cities.

[3] Poor Sir Robert Gordon did indeed die from choking on a fish bone in the OTL but it actually happened in 1847 which allowed Prince Albert to take on the remaining lease of Balmoral in 1848. Here Sir Robert meets his unfortunate end a little earlier because I wanted to settle an estate in Scotland a little earlier for reasons which will be become clear.

I hope this detour through Scotland was enjoyable, I suddenly realised that we've not actually been back there since the George IV timeline and though George V has been more interested in London, Windsor and Hanover, I thought it was about time we added another setting! As ever, many thanks for reading!
Great chapter as always, and although Georgies tour of Scotland was lackluster for the most part at least it was able to finish in a positive note.

Oh dear, let's hope the situation with russia does not escalate, specially with Mary carrying a child, the last thing she needs is the stress of her home country beign at war with her new one.
Great chapter. I’m glad that George loves Scotland. I can definitely see the change it has in George. He was even nice to Betchworth. I do hope that Sir James actually lets George participate in government more.


I may have found a continuity error, Opo. Near the end of Part 3/18, the King departs London for Scotland by sea:
As the King boarded the HMY Royal George, he could not help but long to stay in London where so much seemed unresolved, quite the opposite of what he had envisioned ahead of his departure. Yet he sailed off with Princess Mary accompanying him
While the beginning of Part 3/19 has him traveling overland by carriage:
As the carriage procession bearing the King and Princess Mary began winding its way through the city of London and out towards Tilbury,


Finally, the skies cleared and despite a three-day delay, the King left Orsett and made his way to Tilbury where the royal party boarded the Royal Yacht and headed for the Firth of Forth
And here it is resolved . . . I spoke too soon. Being out of time sequence confused me.