Crown Imperial: An Alt British Monarchy

GV: Part 1, Chapter 5: "Farewell Mother"
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    King George V

    Part One, Chapter Five: "Farewell Mother"

    In the aftermath of Prince Edward’s death, the Clarences arranged for Queen Louise to be brought from Abbotsford to Windsor for the funeral. The Duke wrote a letter to the Dowager Queen informing her of the arrangements he had made whilst the Duchess ensured that Royal Lodge was aired and fresh food and bedclothes were dispatched from Windsor Castle to provide Louise with everything she might need. But the Queen had no intention of returning to Windsor for her son’s funeral. She was therefore absent as members of the British Royal Family gathered at St George’s Chapel on the 14th of January 1829 to see Prince Edward laid to rest beside his father, King George IV, in the Royal Vault. Also absent were the royal children. Baron Stockmar felt the event would “prolong melancholy” and so instead, ordered the King’s tutor, George Cottingham, to take the children to Eton for the day where they were given a tour of the college. The young King was to enrol as a boarder there in a year’s time but his first impressions were not good. He found the college “unfriendly and cold” and he also realised that as a boarder, he would be removed from Windsor and the company of his sister. Recent events had made him more dependent on her friendship than ever.

    Since the death of her husband, the Dowager Queen had retreated to Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott which the late King had leased as a holiday home for the period of ten years. But with George IV's death, the lease had come to an early close and the entire sum had to be paid to Scott’s creditors from George IV’s private fortune. Queen Louise had been given the opportunity to extend the lease and had asked the Duke of Clarence to arrange this out of King George V’s inheritance as a trustee but the Duke refused to do so. This was not, as Queen Louise insisted, a petty act designed to upset her but rather an attempt by the Duke to force Louise to return to her children at Windsor. Louise was more concerned with maintaining her lifestyle at Abbotsford however, a place she had very much made her own and where she was able to hold court among a group of sycophants who overlooked her faults and foibles.


    Abbotsford House.

    These included Sir Walter Scott, the Duke and Duchess of Gordon and her former lady-in-waiting, Baroness Pallenberg. Pallenberg had accompanied Louise to England in 1819 but had found herself ceremonially dismissed when the Queen refused to accept the appointment of other ladies in waiting by the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool. Louise had come to accept the situation, even becoming close to the Liverpool appointments she had once gone to such lengths to reject. But in 1827, the Marchioness of Westmeath had been divorced and therefore had left the Queen’s employ. With the change in government, the last of the Liverpool intake, Lady Melville, was also to be replaced and, believing that as she was not resident in London it did not matter who served in her household, Louise invited Baroness Pallenberg to join her in Scotland.

    The Duke of Wellington cared little for domestic squabbles in the Royal Household. He advised the Queen that he was more than content for Pallenberg to serve in her household as long as she accepted his appointments; Susannah, Countess of Harrowby (wife of the Lord Privy Seal) and Sarah, Baroness Lyndhurst (wife of the Lord Chancellor). When Lady Harrowby arrived at Abbotsford, she was appalled at the situation. She wrote scornfully of the Gordons who “puff up the Queen in her hauteur and encourage her selfish nature. They shower her with praise for the most mundane things and she has come to rely on the Duchess who has a religious mania that is quite exhausting”.

    The Gordons liked to portray themselves as the very model of aristocracy, spending most of their time on their Scottish estates in Aberdeenshire which included Huntly Castle on the crossing of the Rivers Deveron and Bogie, and Glen Tanar, the third largest area of the Caledonian Forest through which the Water of Tanar flows into the River Dee. They had an impressive townhouse in London too where the Duke stayed when his presence was required in parliament but by 1829, these appearances became less regular as he established a reputation as something of an extreme reactionary. He opposed Catholic emancipation and deeply disliked the Duke of Wellington whom he regarded as a “naïve reformer and traitor to the protestant faith”. Whilst Lord Eldon had indulged the Duke of Gordon, Wellington did not and he found himself with few allies in the Lords, even among the Ultra Tories. As a result, he spent more and more time in Scotland in his post as Lord Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire and Governor of Edinburgh Castle.

    These lofty appointments were not reflected in the Duke’s income. Overwhelmed with debts and consistently forced to sell off parcels of his inheritance to keep himself from sinking into bankruptcy, the Gordons were playing a constant game of deception. To the untrained eye, they lived a life of great luxury and had land and treasures to spare. Yet everybody in society knew that the Gordons had nothing and that their marriage had soured after the Duchess had failed to provide a much sought-after male heir. In the late 1820s, she became horrified by the revelations of what life was really like in London’s high society and as a result, she sank into a religious fervour that saw her make a complete renunciation of her worldly goods. Fortunately for the Duke, this meant the great wealth she inherited which he wasted no time in losing at the card table. The Gordons became a permanent fixture at Abbotsford, the Duke boasting of his friendship with the King’s mother to any who would listen, the Duchess giving long and dull sermons to Queen Louise who seemed oddly comforted and enthused by them.


    General George Duncan Gordon, 5th Duke of Gordon.

    It was the Gordons who provided the catalyst for Queen Louise’s dramatic departure from England that summer. Whilst visiting Huntly Lodge, the run-down castle in Strathbogie which the Gordons called home, Queen Louise was taken for a tour of the Glen Tanar estate. Sensing a financial opportunity, the Duke dropped not so subtle hints that he would have to part with more of the estate in the future but he had hopes that friends would buy the land so at least the Gordons could still visit occasionally. Queen Louise was not without money. She had a generous annuity and a healthy personal inheritance left to her by George IV. Whilst she had intended to give in and simply purchase Abbotsford from the creditors when they were forced to sell the property, she now saw a solution to her problem. Glen Tanar would make the perfect site for a new house that she could design and furnish to her own tastes. She could remain in Scotland for as long as she wanted without giving into the Duke of Clarence, whom she believed had only refused to extend the lease on Abbotsford to force her to return to Windsor. With money before his eyes, the Duke of Gordon proposed that Louise could choose the land she wanted but that there would be no further personal inconvenience because the exchange would be dealt with entirely by her solicitors.

    The house itself would be built on the banks of the Allt na Cloch River, with the back of the property shielded by woodland. This would give ample access to the grouse moor and stalking at Black Craig. The new property would enjoy almost total seclusion with the Glen Tanar estate owned by the Gordons some 30 miles away. At the Duchess of Gordon’s suggestion, architect John Smith was commissioned to produce designs for the new house which was to be given the name Queen’s Taigh (Queen’s House). Smith had previously worked on Cluny Castle, Castle Fraser and Craigievar and came highly recommended. Queen’s Taigh was designed to incorporate eight-bedroom suites, a ballroom, dining room, picture gallery and music room along with two drawing rooms, two morning rooms and a vast library. The house was to be encased in pink Peterhead granite with grey slate rooves.

    These plans went ahead in Scotland with no word sent to Windsor. Indeed, the Duke of Clarence only found out that his sister-in-law planned to buy Glen Tanar land and had already commissioned John Smith when the Duke of Wellington brought him the news at one of their weekly audiences. Clarence was furious, not because he begrudged his sister-in-law a residence in Scotland, but because she had made absolutely no attempt to contact her children in months. The Duke of Wellington was uneasy for other more pressing reasons. Whilst Buckingham Palace was now in use as a royal residence, the architect John Nash had not yet completed the project and his designs seemed to be getting more fanciful by the day. Just when the Office of Public Works deemed the work to be nearing completion, Nash would submit another set of designs that included all kinds of expensive novelties. One such idea was to run a canal along the length of what is now Pall Mall and to connect it to the Serpentine in Hyde Park. The final straw came when the Office of Public Works were asked to raise more money to fund the construction of a triumphal arch to serve as a state entrance to the cour d’honneur of the Palace. Nash was removed as the architect and Edward Blore appointed to finish the works once and for all. [1]


    Edward Blore, architect.

    But Blore would still need additional funds to complete the Palace to his new designs, even though they were much plainer. The Duke of Wellington accepted this as necessity and indeed, he felt that even though there was likely to be opposition in parliament to a Civil List increase to fund the works, the change of architect and a definitive completion date would get the bill over the line with ease. But Wellington feared a repeat of the Kew Scandal [2] if parliament was made aware of the Dowager Queen’s plans for a brand-new residence in Scotland. To be fair to Queen Louise, she could easily afford to fund Queen’s Taigh from her own means and there was no suggestion at all that public funds would be used. But the Queen had not been seen in public since her husband’s death and the public mood was against her. Many could not forgive her for not returning to England when Prince Edward died and though the press were kind enough to report that her “enormous grief precluded Her Majesty from undertaking the long journey and thus she mourned privately at Abbotsford”, those in the know were not impressed. Blore was a great personal friend of Sir Walter Scott and convinced him to ask Louise to at least postpone her purchase of Glen Tanar by a year.

    Writing to her brother-in-law the Duke of Clarence, she raged that she had “only ever sought to comply with [the Duke’s] wishes as regent and being shown little kindness in my mourning, I retreated to Scotland where I found a peace in my loneliness that I could not find at Windsor”. She continued; “My position has been stripped of me, my ladies dismissed and my home here taken away by grubby solicitors acting on your instructions. I see no reason why I should delay my plans at Glen to accommodate the petty squabbles over the cost of my son’s palace in London, a palace in which I shall clearly never reside as my late husband intended. To this end, I shall abandon my plans at Glen but I see now that you shall not be contented until I am a stranger to this country and an even greater distance is put between His Majesty and his mother”. Louise announced that she would return to Windsor briefly in the summer of 1829. She would stay at Royal Lodge and whilst there, she would gather her belongings and depart for Hanover where she would stay at Herrenhausen with her brother-in-law and sister, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, for the foreseeable future.

    This put the Duke of Clarence in a very difficult position. He knew that whilst in Germany, Louise was likely to mix with relations and courtiers who would be only too happy to spread gossip that he had forced the Dowager Queen to leave England and that he had somehow hijacked the young King for his own greedy ambitions. But the Duke, though vain, was also a man who had become devoted to his niece and nephew and he seemed genuinely concerned that the Queen’s departure would be a horrible blow to King George and Princess Charlotte Louise. Even the unsentimental Baron Stockmar could see the situation may have a seriously negative effect on the children, especially when they had only just lost their younger brother. Clarence and Stockmar tried one last attempt, despite their personal dislike of Queen Louise, to convince her to stay in England.


    Queen Louise wearing the Rumpenheim Tiara, c. 1822.

    Clarence wrote to Queen Louise in Scotland. “I am grieved Majesty that you would take such a drastic step”, he said, “Whilst I appreciate your feelings, I must confess that I have only ever sought for my own part to do the duty laid down to me by my late brother and I feel that your departure from England would give many great sadness, not least His Majesty and Her Royal Highness. Therefore I ask you to reconsider and meet with me when you return to Royal Lodge and I pray we may find a solution to this unhappy state of affairs for us all”. Louise did not reply. When she arrived at Royal Lodge in June 1829, she found it much as she had left it, though the Duchess of Clarence had personally seen to it that the house was as welcoming as it could be. She left a note asking Queen Louise to inform Baron Stockmar the moment she wished to receive her children and promised that they would be ready and waiting at Windsor to greet their mother “whom they love so very much and whose absence has troubled them greatly”. Instead, Queen Louise summoned the Master of the Household, Sir Frederick Watson, and gave him a list of belongings she wished returned to her before her departure for Hanover. She had no interest whatsoever in seeing her children.

    Watson took the list directly to the Duke of Clarence. Whilst for the most part Queen Louise wished personal items such as a miniature of the late King, a clock from the Queen’s Bedroom at Windsor and letters from her mother stored in the Round Tower, further down the list was a more troublesome request. She wished the Master of the Household to retrieve items of jewelry for her which were being stored in the vault at Buckingham Palace; the Rumpenheim Tiara, gifted to Queen Louise by her father on her wedding day, the Clans Tiara, a gift from the Chieftains of the Clans of Scotland presented to her during her first trip to Scotland with George IV in 1822 and the Rose Parure gifted to her by her late husband (first worn at the Dutch state banquet at St James’ Palace in 1825) made by Garrards and comprised of a tiara, necklace, earrings, two brooches and two bracelets set with diamonds and Burmese rubies. The Duke refused. According to tradition, the Queen’s jewels (along with those of her predecessors) were stored together and considered an extended part of the Crown Jewels for which Garrards, as Crown Jeweller, had full responsibility. This responsibility did not, according to the Duke of Clarence, extend to seeing the pieces leave the country. His compromise was to allow the Rumpenheim Tiara to be sent to the Queen as this had been a gift from her father. The rest of the Queen’s jewels would remain in England.

    Whether Clarence was right or wrong in his assertion, this only fuelled Queen Louise’s hatred of him. When Sir Frederick Watson returned to Royal Lodge with only the Rumpenheim Tiara, she refused to take it and said, “If William wants my jewels for his wife that sorely, he may keep the lot”. In the coming years, she would appear at dinners in Hanover wearing no jewels at all and if anybody commented (usually prompted by Louise), she would tell them that all of her jewels had been seized when the King died by the Duke of Clarence and that the Duchess of Clarence was swanning around London wearing Louise’s wedding tiara “as if it were her own”. But this pettiness paled into insignificance for Clarence when Louise left Royal Lodge without seeing her children. She left no note, no gift and no explanation. For the next eight years, Louise communicated only with her son, King George, and even then, letters were sporadic. As for Princess Charlotte Louise; “My mother became a total stranger to me. She displayed no interest in my life or wellbeing and this placed such a heavy burden upon me that I confess I wept often for the maternal warmth I was so cruelly denied”. The relationship between mother and daughter was never repaired.

    Though she returned to England in 1837, Queen Louise was not invited to attend either of the two ceremonies which comprised her daughter’s wedding in 1840 and she was never introduced to Charlotte Louise’s children. “I am strangely grateful that she displayed to me a poor example of motherhood”, Charlotte Louise later wrote, “For it made me determined to be the most loving mother I could be to my own dear children”. The effect of this departure on the young King was equally gruelling. When it was explained to him that his mother had left Royal Lodge without seeing him, he asked where she had gone. "To Hanover, to see your Aunt Augusta for a time", Honest Billy lied. The young King spent the afternoon painting a picture of the two ladies together. At the bottom, he wrote; "Farewell Mother, love Georgie".


    Royal Pavilion, Brighton.

    Whilst Baron Stockmar was content to see the back of Queen Louise (“the King has been spared a most bitter influence”), the Duke of Clarence was troubled by it. His response was to insist that the royal children (King George, Princess Charlotte Louise and Princess Victoria) now be raised as if they were siblings. They were to be accommodated in adjoining rooms and they were to share a household. The Clarences saw the children every day and in school holidays, they took them to stay at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton where the children were allowed to swim in the sea and play on the beach. Prince Leopold arranged for the Coburg princes to return in the summer of 1829 and though the Duke of Clarence had to return to London, he leased a townhouse on Brunswick Terrace overlooking the sea front so that the royal children (accompanied by the Duchess and a handful of servants including Honest Billy) could extend their stay at the seaside. Stockmar objected to this. He believed that the King was now old enough to be directly involved in some of the big debates of the day and he had envisaged allowing King George V to attend parliamentary debates concerning the Roman Catholic Relief Act. The Duke of Clarence refused to bend to Stockmar on this occasion and whilst emancipation was debated in Westminster, the King paddled in the sea.

    The Duke of Clarence had his concerns about the proposed relief act and this necessitated his return to London from Brighton, where no doubt he would have preferred to have stayed. As promised, the Duke of Wellington had met with Daniel O’Connell to find a compromise to the emancipation issue. The proposal was to introduce two bills; the Parliamentary Elections (Ireland) Act and the Roman Catholic Relief Act. Whilst the latter repealed the Test Act 1872 and the remaining Penal Laws in Ireland, in Westminster it allowed members of the Catholic church to sit in parliament. Daniel O’Connell could therefore finally take his seat in the Commons. But there was a sting in the tail. To get the bill through the Lords, the Parliamentary Elections Act had to accompany it. The legislation disenfranchised minor landholders in Ireland and raised the economic qualifications for voting. Whilst Roman Catholics could now sit at Westminster, the Parliamentary Elections Act made it unlikely they would be elected in the first place.

    Wellington was determined to see the bill through, even going so far as to stake not only his premiership but his life upon it. When the Earl of Winchelsea accused the Duke of “an insidious design for the infringement of our liberties and the introduction of Popery into every department of the State”, Wellington challenged him to a duel. They met on Battersea fields, the Prime Minister firing wide to the right in a delope and Winchelsea firing into the air rather than at the Duke of Wellington. Honour was served and Winchelsea was forced to publish a grovelling apology. Now dubbed “the Iron Duke” by the popular press, even the Ultra Tories had to concede that Wellington had proved his intentions were honourable and the Parliamentary Elections Act offered many parliamentarians who had sat on the fence thus far the security they needed to support the Relief Act. The bill narrowly passed and however reluctant he may have been to do so, the Duke of Clarence gave it Royal Assent on behalf of the King.


    A popular cartoon shows Daniel O'Connell being celebrated by the poor of Ireland, perhaps ironically.

    In the short term, all parties seemed content with the compromises made but it didn’t take long for things to unravel. In Ireland, O’Connell was scorned for going back on his word. Whilst he tried to rationalise the Parliamentary Elections Act to his constituents, across Ireland many spoke out against O’Connell for what they regarded as disenfranchising them for his own self-interest. The Elections Act reduced the Irish Catholic electorate from 216,000 to just 37,000. The tariffs and fees to be paid by candidates and voters alike meant that the vast majority couldn’t afford to participate in elections and thus, O’Connell was accused of abandoning the rural masses for the gentry of Ireland. The French philosopher and diplomat Alexis de Tocqueville noted a pamphlet published by the Ribbonmen; “We have a little land which we need for ourselves and our families to live on, and they drive us out of it. To whom should we address ourselves? Emancipation has done nothing for us. Mr. O'Connell and the rich Catholics go to Parliament. We die of starvation just the same”.

    In London, Wellington was congratulated by many parliamentarians for achieving what many considered impossible. But as he dined with colleagues at Apsley House and toasts were given to peace in Ireland, a revolt in the Tory Party seemed inevitable. Led by the Duke of Newcastle, the Ultra-Tories (who perhaps had never foreseen that emancipation would actually become a reality) banded together and made a private pledge to derail any further attempts at constitutional reform. Come hell or high water, Wellington would not be able to convince them otherwise and the divisions that had erupted in the last two years now came to a feverish head. Wellington had a majority in the Commons (albeit a slightly reduced one from that of Lord Liverpool) and a general election was several years away. [3] Newcastle and his allies in the Lords and Commons began to hold a series of private meetings at which a Vote of No Confidence in the Prime Minister was proposed as a tool to oust Wellington. Meanwhile, Wellington, not so naïve as to believe his party divisions would now be forgotten, began to assemble his strongest allies in parliament. The Iron Duke was about to fight the greatest political battle of his life.

    [1] This follows the OTL with Blore replacing Nash in 1829/1830.

    [2] See King George IV, Part 5 of this TL.

    [3] This is notably different from the OTL (mostly because of Liverpool's early departure and the lack of an 1830 general election) and it's where British politics will begin to shift and change quite a lot in this TL.
    GV: Part 1, Chapter 6: Lessons to be Learned
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    King George V

    Part One, Chapter Six: Lessons to be Learned

    With the summer at an end, the Duchess of Clarence and the royal children returned to Windsor. It had always been the intention that the King should attend Eton College and to that end, he had been given private tuition by one of Eton’s teaching professors, George Cottingham, by way of preparation. This was an experiment devised by Stockmar and the late King. No member of the Royal Family, let alone a reigning monarch, had attended a public school before. [1] At this time in England, education was only compulsory in certain areas of the country with very few schools available outside of the larger towns and cities. The wealthy sent their children to fee-paying schools but there was no set age at which boarders might enrol. [2] Eton College accepted boys from the ages of 8-11 as day boarders and thereafter, as full-time boarders, but the focus was entirely on academic skill and there was little room for encouraging creativity or developing vocational talents. That being said, Eton naturally taught more than the three Rs. Boarders could expect to learn the social niceties expected of them at grand formal dinners offered by House Masters and they were encouraged to take out their frustrations and growing pains on the playing fields. Day boarders often attended for a year before moving permanently to the college during which time they were expected to have learned the strict daily routine that gave wealthy parents the security of knowing Eton would turn their sons into upstanding, disciplined young men.

    George V had visited Eton before he became a day boarder and took an immediate dislike to the college. But in September 1829, the full horror of what was to become his life full-time in just 12 months came as a terrible shock. Juniors (day boarders were considered juniors regardless of how long they had attended the college) were subservient to senior boarders and thus had to act as “fags”* or servants to those in the upper years. Forced to clean, cook and run errands for the seniors, juniors were often victims of relentless bullying. Pranks were taken to extreme levels and in 1831, Sir John Carmichael-Anstruther, a young baronet, was fatally shot dead when several pupils rigged up a pistol to startle anyone who entered the dormitory. Tragically, the boys miscalculated and pistol shot the 13-year-old dead. [3] There were frequently reports of scaldings, broken limbs and even brandings when junior students failed to please seniors. Officially, such behaviour was grounds for immediate expulsion. Unofficially, the Masters tended to turn a blind eye. It was all part of the process of “making men” of the boarders.


    Eton College.

    The Masters were unlikely to be shocked by violence given their proclivity to employ corporal punishment for any minor misdemeanor. Birching was held in full view of fellow pupils on a special wooden birching block over which the offender was held. House Masters alone could use the birch, House Captains had to make do with administering justice with a cane whilst Prefects were restricted to the use of their own hands to slap the poor offender in the face. This often got out of hand and boys were regularly beaten for the most harmless of crimes such as failing to make their bed properly or forgetting their schoolbooks. There was a distinct lack of home comforts too. The food for juniors was incredibly poor whilst seniors ate much better fare with House Masters or Captains. Windows were deliberately left open in junior dormitories so that the boarders had to sleep in the cold with rain or snow blowing into the room. If a junior was spotted by a Prefect on his first day and considered an easy target, he might well be given the bed closest to the window and given the gift of an “apple pie bed”. The sheets were folded in such a way that the poor boy would wake up the next morning unable to free himself and in the winter, found his bedclothes wet through. [4]

    There were to be no apple pie beds for the King of course. Stockmar had decreed that the King be treated the same as any other day boarder and though the Duke of Clarence objected, he was enrolled as George Hanover. [5] Nobody at the College was to refer to him as ‘Your Majesty’ as members of the Royal Household did and there was to be now bowing and absolutely no preferential treatment. In spite of this, everybody knew who the boy was and for the first two weeks as a day boarder, far from being targeted by bullies, Georgie was completely ignored and isolated. Nobody approached him during break times and he ate his luncheon entirely alone as nobody else dared sit with him. At 5pm every day, he would be collected by Honest Billy who returned him to Windsor Castle where the poor boy sobbed as he was forced to endure yet more lessons with George Cottingham and to complete his homework for the next day. This naturally meant that Georgie saw very little of his sister and whilst Charlotte Louise had Cousin Victoria to keep her company, Georgie had nobody.

    After six weeks, Stockmar was summoned to Eton by the Headmaster, John Keate. Keate had helped to provide the Royal Household with Cottingham as George’s tutor but now he had reservations about the experiment's success. George V was the first member of the Royal Family to attend a public school on the recommendation of Baron Stockmar. His father, George IV, and his uncle, the Prince Regent, had been educated in emulation of the French royal custom with tutors being brought in to teach them academic subjects and governors and sub-governors introduced to oversee “discipline and morals”. But Stockmar had felt that George V would benefit from a different type of education and that his lessons with Cottingham would prepare him well for “regular” schooling. The government were only too happy to see the proposal put into action and much was made of the King being “a normal child seeking to better himself through his academic pursuits”. Not that many “normal” children of the day had such opportunities. Queen Louise had not been keen on the idea of sending her son to Eton but she had agreed some years ago because she felt it important for him to mix with other boys of similar (though naturally not identical) backgrounds. Stockmar saw the merit in that but sadly, Georgie found himself ostracised by his classmates.


    John Keate.

    Keate’s assessment of the young King was that his position made it impossible for the other boys to fully accept him as one of their own. Nobody dared play a prank on the monarch, neither did anyone seek out his friendship thinking others would accuse them of trying to ingratiate themselves with royalty. When one boarder said good morning to Georgie and accidentally called him ‘Your Majesty’, a senior put a toad in his bed. Nobody else was going to risk being tarred with the same brush. The result of this of course was that Georgie didn’t excel academically. His education had been more than adequate at home but in a strange environment confronted with boys he could neither relate to or become friends with, he simply switched off in the classroom and sat silently without reading or writing until it was time for him to leave at the end of the day. Stockmar was furious. He attributed this behaviour not to loneliness but to laziness and warned the Duke of Clarence that the King was “stubborn and arrogant”. He even asked Keate to ensure the young King was “not spared his share of beatings for bad behaviour”. Keate responded that no Eton staff member nor student would dare raise a hand against the Sovereign, even if he was a ten-year-old boy.

    Stockmar refused to give up on the Eton plan. He lectured the King on the importance of study and reminded him that it had been his father’s wish that he receive a proper education. Georgie was unmoved. The Duke of Wellington recalled how, when he approached the King and asked him how he liked Eton (being an alumni himself), the young boy replied; “I hate it Sir, I hate it more than I hate anything else in the world”. It was decided to temporarily remove Georgie from Eton with a view to enrolling him for a second attempt at success in a few months’ time. Whilst Stockmar felt this an unnecessary interruption, the Duke of Clarence was concerned that the young King was becoming withdrawn. It was Prince Leopold who proposed a solution. He suggested that his nephews, Hereditary Duke Ernst and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha join the King for two terms at Eton in the new year. In this way, the King would have friends of his own age and background whom he knew and liked. The Duke of Clarence agreed but Stockmar warned that this was “tantamount to indulging slovenliness” and suggested that it would “distract His Majesty from his studies and further interrupt the process agreed by the late King to ensure a robust education”.

    Georgie was delighted to be joined by the Coburg princes at Eton the following year but their presence did little to improve the situation. Though nobody dared approach the King, many boarders were willing to approach the two new arrivals from Germany whom they were unfamiliar with (having been enrolled as Ernest and Albert von Coburg). On the first day of the term just after the King’s 10th birthday, one of the seniors demanded that Prince Albert fetch him a clean neckerchief from his room. Albert refused and as punishment, a crowd of pupils watched as mud was smeared on Albert’s face. Georgie was furious at this and took it upon himself to kick the senior in the shins. Forgetting himself, the senior brawled with the young King until there was a fist-fight that resulted in Georgie being hauled before Headmaster Keate with a split bottom lip. In normal circumstances, Keate would have birched the boy before the entire college for such behaviour but he could not bring himself to do so when the boy in question was the monarch. Reluctantly, he sent the King home and summoned Stockmar once again. If a student could not be disciplined, he could not remain at the college. Keate had no option but to politely request that the King be removed from Eton “for his own sake as much as that of his fellows”.

    Stockmar was livid. He had carefully plotted out Georgie’s education and Eton had always been the school of choice, not so much because of its academic credentials but because it sent a clear message to the country that the King might be a child but that he was working hard to prepare himself for adulthood (and most importantly) for Kingship. Stockmar called an emergency summit at Clarence House attended by the Duke of Clarence, the Duke of Wellington, Prince Leopold, Headmaster Keate, George Cottingham and the Bishop of London. All were agreed that the Eton experiment had failed spectacularly but Stockmar was not yet ready to give up on institutional learning. “If His Majesty cannot enrol in a public school”, he warned, “How can we expect him to undertake military training later?”. In Stockmar’s view, the obvious answer was to send the King abroad for his education. The Duke of Wellington was bitterly opposed.


    A postcard of Stockmar from a portrait painted by Winterhalter.

    Firstly, to send the King abroad for his studies might reflect badly on England’s public schools. Secondly, the only benefit to schooling abroad would be anonymity and even then, it surely wouldn’t take long before his identity was revealed? Thirdly, the idea of the monarch living abroad for almost five years was unthinkable and he was certain that the Cabinet would never agree. The Duke of Clarence was inclined to agree with the Prime Minister but he also saw the advantages. However, Stockmar overplayed his hand when he suggested that the King might be educated in Hanover. Queen Louise’s recent departure for Hanover had cast a long shadow. It was decided therefore that if the King could not go to school, school must go to the King. Cottingham was dismissed and new tutors were engaged from Trinity College, Cambridge and Christ Church, Oxford. The King’s routine would change dramatically with all extra-curricular activities forbidden and three hours learning a day added to his schedule. Sunday afternoons were to be the only free time allocated to him and even then, he was expected to deliver a short essay explaining that morning’s sermon to Stockmar before he could do as he wished.

    After three weeks of this, Georgie longed to spend some quality time with his sister Charlotte Louise and his cousin Victoria. Seizing the opportunity of his tutor being late to class, Georgie snuck out of the schoolroom and ran along the corridor to where the two princesses were waiting for their governess to take them for a walk in Windsor Great Park. Without thinking, the three children made a break for it and ran giggling all the way out of the State Apartments and through the Gateway recently named in honour of Georgie’s father, George IV. From there, they made their way down the Long Walk and began to climb trees. When the King’s tutor arrived at the school room and found the King had absconded, he knew where to look first. He found the governess, Mrs McKay, sobbing anxiously into her handkerchief. The memory of Prince Edward’s tragic accident was all too recent and the disappearance of the royal children caused a panic that saw every member of the household dispatched to find them. They were not far from the George IV Gateway; indeed, a guard had seen them walk past and assumed it to be their day off from their lessons. The princesses were spanked and put to bed with no supper and Dash, the puppy so beloved by Princess Victoria, was not allowed to sleep in her bedroom for a week. Princess Charlotte Louise was to forego ballet lessons for the same period.


    Royal Lodge, Windsor.

    But the harshest punishment meted out by Stockmar was to the King. As it had been Georgie who encouraged his sister and cousin to play truant with him, he must take full responsibility. To prevent him being distracted and tempted to repeat the experiment in the future, Stockmar decided that the King would no longer live in the State Apartments in the adjoining rooms allocated to the royal children by the Duchess of Clarence. He would be allowed to sleep there on Saturday evenings after his studies and spend Sundays with Charlotte Louise and Victoria. But for the rest of the week, the King would live at Royal Lodge with Honest Billy. Only his tutors and members of the Household would be admitted until Stockmar was persuaded that Georgie was at the academic level Stockmar believed he should be. The King was allowed to take his puppy, Jack, with him but was only allowed to spend time with the dog in the evenings. The Duke and Duchess of Clarence felt this unnecessarily harsh but Stockmar convinced them when he suggested that if the King was to continue in this vein where education was concerned, he might well end up a dunce. Stockmar’s report informed the Clarences that the King’s handwriting was “childlike”, his numeracy “poor” and his reading skill “no more advanced than it was two years ago”. Georgie’s character was described as “unreliable with a tendency towards laziness and disengagement” and his discipline was “lacklustre because he has been consistently over indulged”.

    A new phase of the Stockmar System was now introduced. In later years, George V would describe Stockmar as “that old monster” and it was perhaps his own experiences at this time that saw him make a solemn promise in later life that none of his children would ever be discouraged from their interests, neither would they ever be subjected to corporal punishment or isolation from their siblings as a form of correction. George V’s daughter, Princess Victoria (1840 – 1922), later remembered how her father paid a visit to the schoolroom at Windsor once a week to ensure his children were not being treated too harshly but this did not mean he was at all indulgent of any bad behaviour. “He would withdraw special treats such as sweets or fancies at teatime”, the Princess wrote in her unpublished memoirs, “But even then, the following day one seemed to have twice as much. I never heard my father raise his voice and the most terrible punishment in his armory was to look very sad and say how disappointed he was in our poor behaviour. I believe that was enough to crush our spirits until we wept and begged forgiveness which of course, was always given freely and with affection. He was a remarkable father for the time in which he lived and I believe this was the result of those awful days he spent at Royal Lodge under Stockmar’s tyranny”.


    Honest Billy.

    But there was a bright light of kindness at Royal Lodge which shone through the King’s dark schooldays. Honest Billy, the Crown Equerry, was to become a vital source of support and when he felt the King had had a particularly bad day, he would sneak him sweets or cakes from the kitchens when Stockmar had left following his afternoon inspection of the King’s schoolwork. John Lawton, the King’s tutor from Cambridge, was also kind to the boy and turned a blind eye when Honest Billy allowed Jack (the King’s puppy) to wander into the schoolroom and doze at the boy’s feet. Billy became a much-loved friend to the young monarch and in later life, George recalled that “he spent most of his wages on toys and treats for the schoolroom which he was expert in hiding from my tutors until such a time as I could recover and enjoy them”. And come rain or shine, from March 1830 onwards, Billy always ensured that every Sunday, Princess Charlotte Louise and Princess Victoria were taken to Royal Lodge in a pony and trap to visit the King. The children played together in the garden and so as to give them more time together, Billy even helped the King with his “sermon reports”, deliberately sneaking in a few minor errors so that Stockmar believed the boy had written them himself.

    In June, the royal children were once again joined by the Coburg princes for a Whitsun holiday. This time, the Duchess of Clarence took them to Southend-on-Sea on the Essex coast where the first section of a new pleasure pier had been constructed. For a third farthing (1/12th of a penny), visitors could ride the horse tramway to and from the pier head and the royal children were reported as taking the journey “three times before Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Clarence had to persuade them to try another activity”. But it was also at Southend-on-Sea that the King took part in his very first official public function. Southend’s status as a seaside resort had grown with the coming of the railways and the visit of the late Princess of Wales (Caroline of Brunswick) who had taken a summer residence on the seafront. It had been decided by local officials that the parade of houses should be renamed Royal Terrace and a memorial fountain was installed on the clifftop closest to Princess Caroline’s former summer residence bearing an inscription to her. On the 6th of June 1830, George V, accompanied by his aunt the Duchess of Clarence, his sister Princess Charlotte Louise and his cousin Princess Victoria, dutifully cut a ribbon tied between two posts beside the fountain to rapturous applause from the local dignitaries assembled. The national press was delighted with the visit and even quoted the King as saying that Southend-on-Sea was “a very fine resort indeed”. Whether Georgie actually said these words is debatable but that summer, record numbers flocked to Southend-on-Sea to experience the royally approved seaside town for themselves.


    The horse drawn tramway on Southend on Sea Pier.

    Stockmar was intrigued to notice that the King’s academic record was improving. He was getting higher marks than ever before and he seemed genuinely interested in the subject matter before him. Naturally Stockmar took this as proof positive that his new system had been a success and extended the arrangement. In reality, the King was happier than he had been at Eton and with a little kindness here and there, was enthused to learn. Whilst it may appear that the continuation of the Stockmar system might have been a negative influence on Georgie’s mood, his continued improvements pleased Stockmar so much that he was far more open to bending the strict schedule than he once might have been. Honest Billy and Mr Lawton invented educational trips, some of them requiring two or three days in London. The two young princesses were allowed to go even though their limited education was considered to be nearing its end. Within a year, Stockmar was even allowing the King both Saturday and Sunday away from his studies and the sermon reports became a thing of the past.

    As the King grew older, his education began to focus more on the constitution and politics. Whilst he naturally was expected to remain impartial (though his predecessors had tested this requirement to the limit at times), it was seen as important that the King understand fully the way parliament worked and what the big issues of the day were. For Georgie, he could have no better resource than both the Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, and his opposite number, Lord John Russell. Both men were warned by Stockmar not to try to persuade the King to sympathise with their cause, they were simply to answer Georgie’s questions. Lord John Russell later said of the King; “He was a keen young man and asked very intelligent questions of me, indeed, I had to apologise on more than one occasion for I could not think of the answer to his inquiry”. The Duke of Wellington was impressed too, noting how the young King; “asked all the right questions in all the right places, a skill many parliamentarians never acquire however long they sit on the benches of the House”. Of particular interest to the King that year was the prospect of a hung parliament. It must have been awkward for the Duke of Wellington to explain a situation he was desperately hoping to avoid but nonetheless he did so, apparently giving a good enough answer to satisfy Georgie’s curiosity.

    In retaliation to the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829, the so-called Ultra Tories led by the Duke of Newcastle had decided to engineer a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister. To affect this, a motion would be introduced in the House of Commons by Sir Richard Vyvyan, a key supporter of the Ultra Tories and a supposed “mastermind” of the Cumberland Plot. [6] Newcastle did not expect the motion to be successful but he wished to use it as a trap to force Wellington to make his peace with the Ultra Tories and at the same time, dissuade him from making any attempts at further parliamentary reform. Newcastle predicted that if the motion did not pass, Wellington would seek revenge on those who had introduced it. In the absence of a formal party system, this meant Wellington could try to convince the three trustees who selected candidates for each constituency to choose from new list ahead of the next general election which did not include Ultra Tories. But Newcastle assured Ultra Tories in the Commons that there was absolutely no chance of this because Wellington did not wish to risk a snap general election which could result in a hung parliament, or worse, a defeat for the Tories. [7]


    Henry Pelham-Clinton, 4th Duke of Newcastle.

    The motion of no confidence in the government, introduced on the 10th of September 1830, was defeated in Wellington’s favour by 92 votes, enough for the Prime Minister to believe he need not resign. But he could not let the attempt to depose him go unpunished and despite Newcastle’s surety to the contrary, Wellington rose to his feet in the House of Lords and made a short address that would end the division in the Tory party once and for all. He would call a snap election. He felt confident that the Tories would be returned with an increased majority and he did doubted that the Ultra Tories standing on independent or rival tickets would be re-elected in any great number with his strict vetting procedure communicated to the selection board trustees. Newcastle was horrified. As he left the House of Lords, some of his fellow Ultra Tories booed and jeered him. His plan to oust Wellington had backfired and he was seen as endangering the entire party for his own petty ends.

    Whilst their places in the Lords were secure, if Wellington pulled off an election victory with an increased majority, the Ultra Tories would lose their presence in the Commons entirely. When Wellington was warned that the Ultra Tory peers would override their moderate counterparts in the Commons, he replied, “We can always fit in more benches”. In other words, Wellington was minded to create a small army of peers from the moderate wing of the Tory party to outnumber the Ultra Tories. [8] That evening, Wellington made his way to Clarence House to request that parliament be prorogued. Clarence agreed and Commissioners were appointed and dispatched to the Palace of Westminster the following morning to announce that parliament had been prorogued for a period of 28 days during which time a general election would take place. [9]

    Some moderate Tories were nervous that Wellington had been overzealous in his reaction to the Ultra Tories. These included the Chancellor of the Exchequer, William Huskisson, who argued publicly with Wellington after his speech in the House of Lords and stormed off to Downing Street in a terrible temper. The Prime Minister tried to reassure his supporters that the Ultra Tories posed no real threat to the Tory majority and that most would not wish to be cut off from government by representing a splinter group whose major objection was an issue which had already been put to bed. Most Ultra Tories rallied behind Sir Edward Knatchbull and decided to stand once again in the same constituencies but as Ultra Tories instead of Tories. For those who enjoyed prominent local status as landowners and employers, they knew the electorate dare not vote them out and expected to be returned to the Commons with increased majorities. Other Ultra Tories were not so certain of their prospects.

    The Prime Minister intended to launch his campaign on the 15th of September 1830. He was due open the new Liverpool and Manchester Railway, which connected the two cities, by travelling on one of the eight inaugural trains. He would be accompanied by various dignitaries and notable figures of the day and crowds were encouraged to line the track at Liverpool to watch the train depart for Manchester. Also present that day was the Chancellor of the Exchequer, William Huskisson. The first leg of the journey was a success with crowds cheering as the Duke of Wellington’s special train, pulled by the locomotive Northumbrian (driven by George Stephenson, the so-called Father of the Railways), passed through various small towns along the route. At Parkside railway station, the train stopped to take on fuel and water. Ignoring a warning to stay inside the carriage, Huskisson took the opportunity to be seen approaching the Duke of Wellington before the crowds, no doubt hoping that rumours of their falling out could be buried at the very start of the Tory election campaign. Huskisson stepped down from the carriage into the rails below.


    Huskisson's fatal accident illustrated for The Times of London, 1830.

    Huskisson was known to be clumsy. Prone to regular trips and falls, he had twice broken his arm and had never fully recovered the use of it. He was just a few weeks post-surgery as the result of another accident and had ignored his doctor’s advice to stay on strict on bed rest believing it more important that he been seen in public with the Prime Minister on friendly terms. On his way back to his own carriage, there came a shout; “An engine is approaching! Take care!”. The voice belonged to Joseph Locke, Stephenson’s assistant and a prominent engineer in his own right. He was driving Rocket, a steam locomotive of 0-2-2-wheel arrangement designed by George Stephenson’s son Robert. Realizing the danger, Huskisson panicked. He tried to cross to the other line but seemed to change his mind and returned to the Duke’s private carriage attempting to pull himself up onto the train. Locke tried to throw Rocket into reverse but it was too late. Huskisson fumbled for the door to the Duke of Wellington’s carriage but it hadn’t been latched. The result was that the door swung open and put Huskisson directly into the path of Rocket. He was hit and fell in a crumpled heap on the tracks in front of the train. His leg was mangled but amazingly, he was still alive. [10]

    In the ensuing panic, Wellington helped wrench a door from a railway building. Huskisson was placed on it and taken into the carriage. The train set off without delay and at the next stop, Eccles, Huskisson was taken to the local vicarage. A doctor was called but it became clear that the situation was a grave one. The doctor could not perform a field amputation and so Huskisson was given opium and brandy to keep him comfortable in his final hours. He died at 9pm that night. Campaigning for the General Election was postponed for 48 hours out of respect. Wellington was devastated by the loss of Huskisson and in later years suffered traumatic flashbacks to the accident of which he had been the primary eyewitness. Returning to his election campaign, an advisor tried to enthuse the Duke for the hustings. He replied; “What does it matter now? What does any of it truly matter?”.

    For the Duke of Wellington, 1830 marked a turning point in his political career. The final outcome of the snap election would not be clear immediately and whilst he had been confident when he called the snap election, Huskisson’s sudden and tragic death seemed to impact him greatly. Whilst the two had endured a sometimes-fractious relationship, Wellington saw Huskisson’s death as a kind of omen. His confidence faltered and he truly believed that he would be defeated at the ballot box. A note in the Duke’s diary suggests that he even considered resigning before the final result was known but was advised not to by the Duke of Clarence. As he waited to learn whether his great gamble had paid off, Wellington came to the sudden realization that he had been mistaken in believing the election to be the hardest political battle of his career. What was to follow would prove an even greater challenge.

    [1] Some male members of the Royal Family had completed two or three terms at University but had never been formally enrolled to complete an actual academic year before.

    [2] This came much later when education became compulsory and a standard school age was introduced.

    [3] True story.

    [4] Again, true. In the OTL, Prince George, Duke of Kent was subjected to the "apple pie bed" trick at Dartmouth Naval College.

    [5] This was standard since the reign of George I for whenever members of the Royal Family wanted to travel incognito. It's survived to this day (i.e William Wales, Beatrice York).

    [6] See Part Three of this TL.

    [7] In the OTL, the situation was somewhat different because there had been an election in 1830 which saw the Tories win a plurality over the Whigs but still allowed Earl Grey to form a government when Wellington lost a motion of no confidence and resigned. Obviously here we don't have the same 1830 General Election in the same circumstances.

    [8] A common-place strategy before later reforms.

    [9] It should be pointed out here that general elections took far longer to arrange in the 1800s with people voting not just on one day but for weeks at a time. A month was generally considered ample time for a conclusive result.

    [10] This may sound like butterflies but this is entirely accurate. The only change is that Huskisson's row with Wellington in the OTL was far more prolonged and led to him resigning from government. The situation in this TL means he would have stayed in his post and the argument has a different catalyst (the snap election).

    *Not the modern-day slur but Eton parlance. Because the rich do that sort of thing apparently.
    GV: Part 1, Chapter 7: The Innocent and the Wicked
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    King George V

    Part One, Chapter Seven: The Innocent and the Wicked

    With the young King now living at Royal Lodge, his sister Princess Charlotte Louise and his cousin Princess Victoria became ever closer forging a friendship that would last their entire lives. Unlike the King, their education was limited and took the form of three hours a day with a French governess called Louise Fillon. There were crash courses in British history, religion and naturally they learned languages (French and German) but this was the extent of their academic nurturing. Madame Fillon was charged with raising the princesses to be “kind, genteel and respectful young ladies” and etiquette was considered far more important than the philosophy and politics King George V studied. Both girls greatly enjoyed painting with Princess Victoria showing a particular flair for watercolours. Princess Charlotte Louise preferred ballet and Madame Fillon arranged for lessons to be taken with the ferocious Eugénie Renique.


    A portrait of Renique painted on a wooden door discovered at her former home in Saint-Amand-les-Eaux, Valenciennes.

    Renique had wowed Parisian audiences since her debut in 1800 at the Opéra de Paris but her professional career had taken something of a backseat when she met General André Masséna. Becoming his mistress, Renique could not bear to be parted from her lover (later created the Duke of Rivoli and Prince of Essling by Napoleon) and even dressed in men’s clothing so that she might accompany him to the front during the Napoleonic Wars. For a time, she enjoyed the high life in Bagneux where the Duke of Rivoli provided her with a chateaux of her own and a generous allowance to live on but by 1811, Masséna had been admonished for being distracted by his mistress and he put Renique aside. Living on the charity of her brother, the impoverished Renique would never dance professionally again but her high society contacts saw her much in demand as a teacher of ballet. In 1829, she traveled to London to teach the two Princesses but spent most of her lessons telling them gruesome tales from the battlefield instead. Princess Charlotte Louise adored her, though Princess Victoria was more than a little terrified.

    Madame Fillon was quite a character too. At 66 years old, she was unkindly described by a contemporary as being “as tall as she was wide” with a deep voice and a mass of grey hair which she wore piled high on her head like a cottage loaf. She had traveled to England to become a tutor when she was widowed at the age of 50 and after serving with several prominent aristocratic families, found herself engaged by the Duchess of Clarence in 1829 to replace poor Miss Wolfe. Charlotte Louise and Victoria were hugely fond of Miss Wolfe and did not take kindly to seeing her position usurped. Madame Fillon found patience to be the order of the day as at first, the two Princesses refused to speak in her presence or do anything she asked them to. After a few days of the silent treatment, the girls did speak – but only in a language they’d invented themselves called Loplish. The rules were simple. Every other word had ‘lop’ added to the front of it whilst names of things, places or adults had to be reversed and ‘lop’ added to the end of it. Madame Fillon spoke French, German, English and had some grasp of Portuguese but the one language she never mastered, was Loplish. The girls soon relented and Loplish was abandoned with one exception. Poor Madame Fillon was forever known to the Princesses (and later to the entire Royal Household) as Nolliflop.

    The Princesses soon became incredibly fond of Madame Fillon. She won them over by teaching them how to bake cakes which appalled some in the Royal Household but delighted the Duchess of Clarence. One teatime, Madame Fillon led Charlotte Louise and Victoria in bearing their efforts. Princess Charlotte Louise’s cake had failed to rise and so she had smothered it instead with whipped cream and crystallized fruits. Princess Victoria had more success with gingerbread. The Duchess of Clarence took a healthy serving of each and praised the girls for their hard work; “I have never baked anything in my life”, she exclaimed, “And yet my very pretty nieces can make delights such as these!”. She gave the girls a shilling each which in addition to their three shillings a week pocket money meant a healthy sum to spend on their regular outings. [1] These afternoon trips saw the Princesses taken first to something that considered educational such as the York Gate Collections (now the Royal Academy of Music Museum) or the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Afterwards, the girls were taken to the park to hear the band where they could buy ice creams or to a toy shop in Pimlico which sold dolls and other exciting oddments.


    Covent Garden Market, 1830.

    But Madame Fillon’s outings sometimes proved to be a little chaotic. On one occasion, she took the Princesses to a matinee performance at Drury Lane and fell asleep. The young girls quickly grew bored of Macbeth and wandered out into the foyer where they discovered a small puppy which belonged to the chief usher. Determined to take the dog home to meet Dash, the Princesses smuggled the puppy into the auditorium but it quickly wriggled free and began running riot up and down the aisles and causing the audience to scream and laugh in equal measure as poor Lady Macbeth tried to wash her hands clean. On another occasion, Madame Fillon decided that it would be good for the girls to learn what it was like to live on an average poor person’s wage. Each girl had sixpence each and they were instructed to purchase what they thought they might need to feed an imaginary family for the day. But Madame Fillon didn’t take the girls to Borough Market as she intended. Instead, she accidentally headed for Covent Garden Market which at that time, was still a popular location for prostitutes to ply their trade. It was also home to bare-knuckle boxing and cock fights (these were not made illegal until 1835). The little Princesses were oblivious as to why Madame Fillon quickly took them home, abandoned the experiment and spent the rest of the day blushing and apologizing to the Duchess of Clarence for her error. The Duchess found the entire incident hilariously funny and it became one of her favourite stories to share at dinner parties. [2]

    Charlotte Louise and Victoria had one thing in common; both found themselves without their mothers. Whilst Queen Louise had left England temporarily (albeit it for five years) for Hanover, Princess Victoria’s mother had been effectively exiled from England during the reign of King George IV. The Duchess of Kent had withdrawn in disgrace and was forbidden any contact whatsoever with her daughter. When her annual allowance was stopped and her finances ran dry, she was forced to sell her Palace in Coburg and moved to Rosenau with her brother Ernst. But she never recovered from being separated from her daughter and in 1825, in a frail mental state, she was admitted to an asylum at Siegburg as a patient of the German psychiatrist, Carl Jacobi. The young Princess Victoria had no portraits of her mother at all and the Duchess of Kent was never spoken of. When she asked where her mother was, Madame Fillon would change the subject or say vaguely, “She is travelling”.

    For Princess Victoria, this raised more questions than it answered. When she died in 1901, her daughter, Princess Victoria Paulina (1842 – 1921) discovered a leather-bound book locked away in a wooden box in her mother’s desk. Inside were almost 200 letters written by Princess Victoria as a child her to mother, the Duchess of Kent. They were never sent and never read by the recipient but they are written as if they had been replied to. Victoria’s mother had become her imaginary friend and though Victoria was devoted to her aunt and uncle, she never quite came to terms with never forming a bond with her real parents. But whilst the Duchess was a forbidden subject, the Duke of Kent’s portrait was everywhere for Victoria to see. She was told of his army career and of his time in Canada, minor triumphs always being inflated to heroic and valiant deeds. In later life, Victoria said of her father "from all what I heard, he was the best of all" and she came to see him as a kind of saintly figure in whom she took great pride. [3]


    Princess Victoria as a child.

    Princess Charlotte Victoria was led to believe much the same about her own father, the late King George IV, but whilst Princess Victoria had neither parent to reach out to, Princess Charlotte Louise’s mother was alive and well in Hanover. After her arrival at Herrenhausen in 1829, Queen Louise corresponded only with her son and even then, very infrequently. No letters ever came for Princess Charlotte Louise. To try and remedy this, the Duchess of Clarence wrote letters in Queen Louise’s name so that whenever King George got a letter from his mother, Charlotte Louise had one too. But Charlotte Louise was a bright girl and quickly realised that the handwriting was different. Eventually she told her aunt in a matter-of-fact way; “It’s quite alright Aunt Adelaide, I know Mama does not care for me”. The Duchess of Clarence was known to be a gentle and mild lady with no hint of temper to her character but this proved too much. She wrote Queen Louise a damning letter in which she accused her of being “wicked and cruel”. “If you could hear your child weep as I have to for a mother who shows her no love or kindness”, Adelaide said, “You would pray to grow wings and fly back to her without delay for she yearns for you desperately. I pray Ma’am that you will relent in this and send word to Lottie for she feels so very badly when His Majesty is presented with a letter and she is not”. Queen Louise didn’t reply.

    In 1830, Princess Victoria turned 11 and Princess Charlotte Louise turned 9. For both girls, there were birthday tea parties at Clarence House. They had no friends beyond palace walls (at Stockmar’s insistence) and so the guests were limited to members of the Royal Family. Princess Victoria had always been close to her cousins but around this time, many began to notice that she was especially fond of the young King. Some had commented that something more may develop as the pair grew older but the Duke of Clarence did not wish to encourage such talk. Whilst he wanted a love match for both his niece and nephew and would probably not have opposed a marriage between the two when the time was right if it was truly what both parties desired, he believed that the childhood infatuation would quickly pass and both should be steered in different directions as they entered their teenage years. But such talk was not limited to Clarence House tea parties. In Europe’s palaces, there was no shortage of matchmakers and Queens, Grand Duchesses and Princesses spent much of their time pondering future marriages for their children. Princess Charlotte Louise and Princess Victoria had exceptionally good credentials and even at the ages of 9 and 11 respectively, portraits of the two girls were already be circulated on the continent. There was little doubt that the very best offers would come their way in time and some even referred to the princesses as “Queens in Waiting”. [4]


    A young Princess Charlotte Louise.

    One person who was determined that no such conversations should take place in his presence was the Duke of Clarence. Whilst he accepted the interest there would be in his nieces from foreign courts, he refused to discuss any possible suitor until Princess Charlotte Louise and Princess Victoria had turned 15. They would then be given time to choose their own suitors from those who showed interest but neither would marry before the age of 18 and neither would be forced to marry anybody they didn’t truly love. The Duke of Clarence had become a doting uncle to his brother’s children and whilst the late King had insisted that Queen Louise should arrange the marriages of his own two children, the Duke’s only interest in marriage games at this stage was to ensure no decisions were made and no proposals entertained. They were to remain in the safety and security of his protection and whilst he acknowledged that they should be well prepared for later life, he did not seek to rush his nieces or nephew into duties and expectations beyond their years. There was a sentiment attached to his position too. He knew that the likelihood was that the Princesses would leave England when they married, something he said he “couldn’t bear to contemplate for it saddens me so that I find myself weeping at the thought”.

    Stockmar was far less emotionally invested. Against the Duke of Clarence’s wishes, he kept a regular list of the births of foreign princes and princess, acquired sketches and paintings of them where possible and ranked them in order of suitability. When the time came, Stockmar would be well prepared. But if the Duke held fast to his late brother’s wishes, such decisions would fall not to Prince William or to Baron Stockmar but to Queen Louise. Whilst she rarely communicated with her children whilst she was in Hanover, we do know that she kept similar records to the ones Stockmar compiled but for very different reasons. Louise despised Prince Leopold and she believed him to be a greedy and ambitious man who had taken a keen interest in his nephews, Ernst and Albert, for the sole purpose of marrying them off to the most eligible brides in Europe. “He is selling swine as pearls”, she wrote to her sister Marie, “For only one will inherit a duchy which is little more than ten acres of the wood and there is no great fortune either. Whichever unfortunate girl marries Ernst will have to live in that dreadful bear garden of a court and as for Albert, I hear he is very shy, stutters and of course he will inherit nothing. So his poor bride will find herself little more than a housefrau eating from dirty plates. Or worse, she shall have to support him financially whilst he grows as old, fat and ugly as all the Coburgs eventually do. What do you think of that?”.

    But Queen Louise was shortly to be proven wrong about Prince Leopold’s insatiable greed for power and position. Following the Greek War of Independence, a conference was held in London between the three Great Powers (the United Kingdom, France and Russia) to amend the decisions of a protocol agreed in 1829 and to establish Greece as an independent, sovereign state. The Greek Third National Assembly of 1827 entrusted the governance of the nation to Ioannis Kapodistrias who met frequently with representatives of the Great Powers to discuss the way forward for the new state. All three agreed that the only way Greece could ever be stable was if it became a monarchy and in the absence of any other obvious candidate, they were agreed on one man for the job; Prince Leopold. Offered the Greek throne in London in 1830, Leopold refused to consider the proposal seriously and rejected the offer. Two years later (and after Kapodistrias had been assassinated), the Bavarian Prince Otto took the Greek throne. But a second throne would become vacant in 1830 and this time, Prince Leopold’s answer would be a little different.


    The Belgian Revolution depicted by Gustaf Wappers.

    In August of 1830, riots broke out in Brussels. Theatregoers inspired by the nationalistic opera La muette de Portici by Daniel Auber left their seats at the opera house and joined the mob. Inspired by the July Revolution in France, Brussels saw widespread uprising against Dutch rule in a push for Belgian independence. At first, order was restored by the Dutch King William I but secessionist groups proved more convincing than King William had anticipated. He sent his two sons, Crown Prince William and Prince Frederick to quell the riots in the Southern Provinces of the Netherlands (as Belgium then was) but when the Crown Prince arrived, he found no resistance and instead, he was met by the Burghers of Brussels who asked him to attend a meeting where the situation could be worked out peacefully. William agreed that the administrative separation of north and south was a logical and practical proposal but his father rejected the idea completely and ordered 8,000 troops commanded by Prince Frederick to retake Brussels. The result was a bloody street battle that lasted for three days at the end of September and the Dutch were forced to retreat to the fortresses of Maastricht, Venlo and Antwerp. By October, a National Congress had been called and a Declaration of Independence agreed.

    In December, a conference was held in London bringing together representatives of Austria, the United Kingdom, France, Prussia and Russia. All were concerned that Europe could once again return to the bloodshed and chaos of the Napoleonic Wars and some were wary of the immediate and unconditional support for Belgian independence given by the French who had so recently seen a revolution of their own that had installed the July Monarchy under King Louis Philippe I, ousting the previously restored Bourbon King Charles X. All present agreed that the Provinces of the Netherlands should remain united but for different reasons. As far as the British were concerned, an independent Belgium would be open to a French annexation and this would undoubtedly lead to a costly and prolonged war in Europe which the United Kingdom could ill-afford to participate in. But as resolved as they were to support the Netherlands in the dispute, rebellions and economic crises in their own countries saw the assembled powers fail to match their lofty declarations with equipment or troops.

    The previous month, the National Congress of Belgium had created a constitution for the new state and decided that Belgium would become a popular, constitutional monarchy. But by February, the Kingdom of Belgium had yet to be formally recognized by most of the countries present at the London Conference in December and the throne remained vacant. The Congress would not consider any candidate from the House of Orange-Nassau and instead, they drew up a short list. But the majority of the candidates on this list were of French origin and this in itself caused division. Prince Leopold was the only candidate upon whom all candidates could agree and so in April 1831, a delegation of the National Congress was sent to Marlborough House to offer Leopold the throne. At first, Leopold refused. Until Britain recognized Belgium, he could not accept the position. But the delegation was steadfast. They did not wish to go back to Brussels without him and they explained that if he declined, the most likely outcome was the collapse of the National Congress and a possible Civil War. Leopold asked for an audience with the Duke of Clarence and the Duke of Wellington. Whilst officially Wellington’s government would not recognize Belgium, privately he urged Leopold to accept. The Duke of Clarence gave his blessing too. Leopold left England for Brussels and became King of the Belgians on the 21st of July 1831.


    King Leopold I of Belgium.

    At Herrenhausen, Queen Louise was appalled. She pompously gave her low opinion of Prince Leopold to anyone who would listen but everybody knew the real cause for her concern. With Leopold now King of the Belgians, he had even more cause to promote his nephews. She even suggested that Leopold would seek to amend the new Belgian constitution so that he could marry his former mistress, Caroline Bauer, and make Hereditary Duke Ernst his heir. “And then he shall come sniffing around Clarence’s heels for my daughter or the Kent girl”, she predicted, “These Coburgs will not be content until every corner of Europe is stacked in their favour and nobody seems to act to prevent this terrible situation though I do warn everybody just how ghastly this would be”.

    One of those Louise warned was none other than the Duke of Wellington. The snap General Election of 1830 had not gone entirely to plan. Wellington had underestimated the support for the Ultra Tories in their constituencies and of the 88 former Tories, 53 were returned to parliament as Ultras. But in focusing on outdoing his former colleagues at the ballot box, Wellington had overlooked the rising support for the Whigs. Whilst Wellington’s Tories took 229 seats, the Whigs took 224. [5] Wellington’s majority had been slashed to just 5 and in an attempt to silence his Ultra Tory rebels, he had unwittingly made them the King makers in parliament. Whilst they absolutely had no intention of supporting the Whigs on any matter, the Ultra Tories were now under no pressure whatsoever to put party loyalty first and support Tory policies they didn’t like. Wellington despaired. He would have to dramatically scale back his agenda and seek to introduce more controversial policies slowly or not at all.

    Of course, not all of the MPs returned in the election were Whigs, Tories or Ultra Tories. There were also radicals and independents too. Whilst some of these independents, such as John Atkins (one of two Members for Arundel) sat on an “Independent but Tory-leaning” ticket, most independents voted on a bill-by-bill basis. Wellington could not construct a government on independent support and he certainly couldn’t rely on the radical vote either. Minority government would be chaotic and there was a serious possibility his own party could bring him down if just a handful of his own MPs disliked a bill. This would undoubtedly lead to another general election which in turn would be taken not only as a personal failure of Wellington’s but as a sign that the Tory party itself was irreparably damaged. Something would have to be done. The situation was desperate and demanded that the Prime Minister move quickly.

    In assessing the result with Robert Peel, Wellington was at first minded to resign but Peel asked him to wait until he could sound out what senior Whigs were proposing. Peel knew that the Whigs would never (could never) work with the Ultra Tories, neither would they bank on independent or radical support either. Electing Viscount Althorp as the official Leader of the Opposition (the first time since 1821), the Whigs came forward with two proposals. The first was a formal coalition with Wellington’s Tories but this would require parity in the ministries and the opportunity to introduce legislation which the Tories would be expected to support. Wellington refused. There had not been a coalition government since the Fox-North administration in 1783. Charles James Fox (a Whig) had joined forces with Lord North (previously a Whig but in 1783, a Tory) to form a government that could oust Lord Shelburne’s ministry which both Fox and North detested. King George III had despised the government (particularly Fox) but no other solution could be found and thus, with the Duke of Portland as Prime Minister, a Whig/Tory coalition took office. But within a matter of months, the government came under strain following the Treaty of Paris and after just 9 months, the coalition collapsed.


    John Charles Spencer, Viscount Althorp (later 3rd Earl Spencer)

    Althorp’s second proposal was a confidence and supply agreement with the Tories on a bill-by-bill basis thus offering security to a Tory minority government. As part of the agreement, Althorp demanded that he be allowed to attend Cabinet meetings but otherwise, the Duke of Wellington would remain in office as Prime Minister and control the parliamentary agenda. Wellington was none too keen on this proposal either but he knew the only alternatives were to attempt to govern with a majority of 5 (which was bound to collapse in months, if not weeks), to resign and let Peel attempt to pull things together (which he felt sounded too much like deserting his post) or accept Althorp’s offer. On the 20th of November 1830, Wellington went to see the Duke of Clarence to tell him what he had decided to do. The Tories would lead a minority government supported by a confidence and supply arrangement with the Whigs for the period of twelve months, after which time the situation would be reviewed. Lord Althorp would be appointed Minister without Portfolio to allow him to attend Cabinet.

    Wellington put a brave face on things. He was still Prime Minister and the Tories were still able to set the agenda. Yet many in the Tory party felt that Wellington had scored an own goal. They felt humiliated every time they had to walk past their former colleagues who had been re-elected on Ultra Tory tickets and some even felt that it made far more sense to reach out to them than to the Whigs. The Duke of Wellington would face huge struggles in trying to keep everyone on side and content with the direction of things and to add to his worries, the new intake of MPs included Daniel O’Connell, re-elected for County Clare. [6] The Irish Crisis had been calmed but not quelled and now the Prime Minister would have to toe a very fine line. If he went too far, his own MPs could rebel and oust him. And if he did not go far enough, the Whigs could pull their support and collapse the government, not to mention the Irish could return to violence and spark an uprising at any time.

    It was little wonder therefore that when Queen Louise wrote to him with her list of speculations and petty accusations against King Leopold, he was brusque in his response. If the Dowager Queen cared so much for the affairs of England, and if she was concerned with the possible ambitions of King Leopold in regard to Princess Charlotte Louise, then she should return to London as soon as possible. After all, everybody respected the late King’s wishes that Queen Louise should have the final say on the matter of her children’s marriages and how could she be consulted in the future if she was not resident in the United Kingdom?

    But Louise had no intention of returning to England. She was exactly where she wanted to be. Another of her late husband’s wishes was that the Duke of Cambridge, her brother-in-law, should become Deputy Regent for her son. But the Duke of Cambridge was Viceroy of Hanover and Louise felt that the Deputy appointment should have been offered to her instead. If she could not convince Clarence to dismiss Cambridge and appoint her in his place, she would have to convince Cambridge to rely on her instead. To assist her in this scheme, she intended to recruit the Duke’s wife, Louise’s sister Augusta, to influence the Duke of Cambridge enough to see that she was right and her future role agreed. If Clarence died before the King reached the age of 18, the Duke of Cambridge would become regent. Louise intended to become his deputy and what’s more, she wanted to ensure that Cambridge proposed and appointed her himself.


    Prince William, Duke of Clarence.

    The Duke of Clarence was not foolish or naïve enough to believe that Queen Louise had traveled to Hanover just to spend time with her sister. He knew full well that whilst at Herrenhausen, Louise would plot to try and bring the Cambridges under her control. He believed his brother, Prince Adolphus, was not the sort of man to be so easily convinced but with each passing year, Clarence felt the aches and pains of old age fast. He was now 65 years old and like his elder brothers, his health had been impacted by years of poor diet and a lack of physical exercise. His duties as regent were stressful too and took up more and more of his time, especially in light of the new minority government which would undoubtedly see him called upon to play arbiter on a regular basis. With this in mind, the Duke decided that he would see his physician daily rather than twice weekly and at a small dinner given by the Clarences for the Cabinet, the Duke took too much wine and began to openly berate Queen Louise as “a most wicked woman, a most wicked woman indeed”. To a slightly embarrassed audience and with his wife trying to calm him, the Duke was heard to say, “My only hope now is that I live long enough to see my nephew crowned and that that woman is kept as far away from him as possible until that happy day comes”. [7]

    [1] Worth about 48p in 2021, four shillings was the weekly wage a farm labourer could expect to earn in 1830 for ten hours work a day, six days a week.

    [2] Covent Garden Market had been allowed to open again in 1830 but prostitutes such as Betty Careless refused to leave and so many Londoners avoided it believing it to be no better than a red-light district.

    [3] An actual quote from Victoria.

    [4] This seems incredibly young to the modern reader but bear in mind, in the OTL Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter Vicky was only 11 when she was first pushed towards the Crown Prince of Prussia by her parents. The marriage came much later but the "relationship" was engineered as early as possible once Prince Albert had decided whom she should marry.

    [5] At this time, the number of seats in the Commons was 658 but far more MPs sat as independents than they do today. Therefore the total number of Tories, Whigs and Ultra-Tories comes to 506. Independents could change the outcome of a bill's success in the Commons given how many of them there were but in the OTL as in this TL, they couldn't be counted on to shore up a government.

    [6] At this election, Daniel O’Connell would have represented the Repeal Party as he did in the OTL. More on that in the next chapter.

    [7] A famous saying attributed to the OTL William IV is that he said in his latter years that he only wished to live long enough to see Victoria become Queen and that the Duchess of Kent be kept as far away from power as possible. This slight variation works just as well for this TL.

    And for those keeping an eye on Cabinet changes:

    The 2nd Wellington Ministry
    • First Lord of the Treasury and Leader of the House of Lords: The Duke of Wellington
    • Chancellor of the Exchequer: Robert Peel
    • Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs: Henry Goulburn
    • Secretary of State for the Home Department and Leader of the House of Commons: Alexander Baring
    • Secretary of State for War and the Colonies: Sir John Pollen, 2nd Baronet
    • Lord Chancellor: John Copley, 1st Baron Lyndhurst
    • Lord President of the Council: William Bentinck, 4th Duke of Portland
    • Lord Privy Seal: Dudley Ryder, 1st Earl of Harrowby
    • First Lord of the Admiralty: The Duke of Clarence
    • President of the Board of Control: Edward Law, 1st Earl of Ellenborough
    • Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster: George Hamilton Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen
    • Master-General of the Ordnance: William Beresford, 1st Viscount Beresford
    • Minister without Portfolio: John Spencer, Viscount Althorp (later 3rd Earl Spencer)*
    *Whig, appointed under the terms of the 1830 Confidence and Supply Agreement for the Wellington Minority Government.
    Last edited:
    GV: Part 1, Chapter 8: All Change
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    King George V

    Part One, Chapter Eight: All Change

    To everyone’s surprise (and the Duke of Wellington’s relief), the minority government got off to a relatively successful start. The Prime Minister was in a difficult position. Whilst some moderates in his party favoured parliamentary reform and hoped the confidence and supply arrangement with the Whigs would force the issue, Wellington himself was conflicted. Whilst he accepted that there was a need for some parliamentary reforms which he regarded as practical and efficient, he was steadfastly opposed to the wholesale reform of the electoral system demanded by the Whigs. Peel was more inclined to support electoral reform and suggested that now was the perfect time to introduce it; after all, wasn’t it better to introduce moderate reforms the Tories could live with rather than risking the collapse of the government, a Whig administration in its place and a dramatic overhaul of the electoral system the Tory party would despise? But Wellington disagreed. In the first few months of the minority government, much of the legislation of the day was formed minor bills dubbed “the Bread and Circuses Acts”. These included the Beerhouse Act which liberalised the regulations concerning the brewing and sale of beer, the Game Act which protected game birds and introduced licenses and the need for permanently appointed gamekeepers in an effort to reduce poaching and the London Hackney Carriage Act which introduced penalties for unscrupulous cabbies who charged too much or refused to take passengers on journeys they considered to be too short or unprofitable. [1]


    The Duke of Wellington.

    Aside from the ‘Bread and Circuses Acts’, there were more weighty bills introduced. The Forgery Act consolidated into one bill all legislation which imposed the death penalty for forgery whilst the Law Terms Act made various overdue changes to the court system of England and Wales. Building on Robert Peel’s earlier success in introducing the Metropolitan Police Act which founded the Metropolitan Police Service in the capital, his successor Alexander Baring introduced the Special Constables Act which provided a long-term framework for the appointment and operation of a part-time volunteer reserve of statutory police forces. The Pay of the Navy Act improved the way Royal Navy personnel received their salary (though there was no increase) whilst the National Debt Act attempted to address the economic after-effects of the Napoleonic Wars without a return to the much-hated tax rises of Lord Liverpool’s government. On these bills, the Tories and Whigs proved to be of one mind but the Whigs had not agreed to prop up a minority government to improve sailors’ wages and regulate beer sales. They wanted something more concrete and even more radical to send a clear signal to the electorate that they could influence the government’s agenda.

    With Wellington refusing point blank to address parliamentary reform, Viscount Althorp and Earl Grey decided to push for another Whig cause: the abolition of slavery. The anti-slavery movement in Britain first became organised in 1783 with the formation of the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade established in 1787. The leader of this movement was William Wilberforce, a former independent Member of Parliament who had tried (and failed) to force an abolition bill through the House of Commons under successive governments. The Slave Trade had already been made illegal throughout the British Empire but slavery remained a common practice in many British colonies. The Duke of Wellington had supported moves to introduce practical measures to assist slaves and to compensate slave owners who found themselves poorer as a result of the enforcement of the Slave Trade Act but this was where his abolitionist sympathies ended. Wellington stood four-square behind the “West India interest” which counted dozens of MPs, peers and prominent businessmen (and Tory party donors) among those who directly profited from slavery. As Ambassador to Paris from 1814 – 1815, Wellington’s brief was to negotiate for the suppression of the slave trade but by the time he became Prime Minister, he held no truck with the abolitionist movement and his views were more in line with those of Robert Peel who believed that any moves to further address the issue would create “two distinct and separate races in a free society which should prove a very great problem indeed”. In his opinion; “moral improvement led by civilized nations is the only route to preparing Africans for freedom”. [2]


    William Wilberforce.

    For the Whigs, abolitionism was the cause they were prepared to champion if Wellington would not consider electoral reform. They insisted on introducing legislation to abolish slavery once and for all and expected Wellington to pay up for their support of his minority government. Wellington instead took this opportunity to solve a problem left over from the departure of the Ultra Tories from his party. Whilst in the Commons their voice had not been silenced as he had hoped by the 1830 snap general election (which returned 53 Ultras), in the Lords there was a possibility that they could be outnumbered. In order to do this, Wellington would have to ask the Duke of Clarence as regent to create 16 new Tory peers but he was concerned the Whigs would protest this move. He used abolitionism as his motivation. In a meeting with Viscount Althorp and Earl Grey, Wellington mused that it might just be possible to see an abolition bill through the Commons if they were prepared for the fight but any such bill would be immediately defeated in the Lords. To prevent this unfortunate situation, Wellington would need to create a few more Tory peers to shore up support before the bill was introduced but he could not do so with the possibility that the Whigs would publicly object to what amounted to packing the upper chamber in the Tory party’s favour. Althorp and Grey agreed that they would refrain from public criticism of the creation of 16 new peers providing the abolition bill they wanted was introduced within the next three months.

    Whilst some in the Cabinet hoped for advancement to the peerage, none of those who sat in the Commons could be considered for elevation because it would mean the loss of an all-important Commons seat. Wellington therefore looked to party donors and former army comrades to introduce to the Lords instead. The 16 included Sir George Bampfylde, a wealthy Devonshire baronet who had consistently donated large sums to the Tories in exchange for a seat in the Commons but had twice failed to be elected. He now entered the Lords as Baron Poltimore. Admiral Sir James Saumarez, the hero of the Battle of the Gut of Gibraltar, was similarly elevated as Baron de Saumarez. But there was one new peer whose ermine robes ruffled feathers among the Whigs. Charles Bathurst had served in the Liverpool and Eldon governments but chosen not to contest his seat at the 1830 election. His pedigree was exemplary, having served previously as Treasurer of the Navy, Secretary at War, Master of the Mint, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and President of the Board of Control and most recently as Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. Born Charles Bragge, he married Anne Bathurst, the granddaughter of Sir Benjamin Bathurst who was the youngest brother of the 1st Earl Bathurst, known for his extreme high Tory views and zealous Anglicanism. His son Henry became equally prominent, serving as Lord High Chancellor in the reign of George III with the incumbent Earl (Charles’ cousin by marriage) serving under Lord Eldon as Lord President of the Council.


    Charles Bathurst, Viscount Bathurst.

    Wellington elevated Charles Bathurst (he assumed the surname by Royal license in 1804 when he inherited Lydney Park in Gloucestershire from his maternal uncle Poole Bathurst) to the peerage as Viscount Bathurst of Lydney in the County of Gloucestershire. [3] Bathurst was considered to be a friend to both the Tory moderates and Ultra Tories, taking each issue on its own merits. He had served in the Orange Cabinet but he was not ferociously opposed to Catholic emancipation. At the age of 76, he was unlikely to sit in the Lords for a long time but it was his interests in the Slave Trade that proved controversial and perhaps inspired Wellington to appoint him. His grandfather in law Sir Benjamin Bathurst had held senior appointments in the Royal Africa Company and the East India Company. As a result, his interests in the slave trade had made him an incredibly wealthy man and with his fortune made, he purchased Cirencester Park and left a vast sum of money great enough to endow all three of his sons with country estates. Charles had his own associations with the slave trade having been made an honorary freeman of the Society of Merchant Venturers for voicing his own opposition to abolitionism. The jig was up. If Wellington had created 16 new peers to ensure the passage of an abolition bill in the Lords, he would not have elevated men like Charles Bathurst. Althorp and Grey wanted answers.

    As the row over the Wellington peerages grew, the Prime Minister needed an urgent distraction. It presented itself in the first week of August 1831. On the 4th of August that summer, the alarm was raised at Kensington Palace at around 5pm when a fire broke out in the State Rooms. In a move to enforce cost saving measures at the royal residences, beeswax candles had been replaced with tallow ones. Tallow was unpopular because of its smell (tallow candles were produced from beef or mutton fat) but it also dripped more than beeswax and burned quicker needed to be frequently replaced. The cause of the fire was later believed to be the result of a tallow candle falling out of a chandelier in the King’s Privy Chamber which set fire to the draperies and tallow candles were banned from ever being used again.

    The blaze spread quickly to the King’s Drawing Room, the Cube Room, the Nursery and Queen Caroline’s Drawing Room before taking hold in Queen Mary’s Privy Chamber and Queen Anne’s Dining Room. In 1830, only Princess Sophia was in permanent residence at Kensington Palace though her sister Princess Augusta had a suite of rooms there. Their brother the Duke of Sussex lived on the Kensington estate at Nottingham Cottage and from here, he raced to help extinguish the blaze aided by members of the Royal Household and the ad-hoc collection of local firefighters which comprised rudimentary fire brigades. Fortunately, nobody was hurt or injured in the blaze but the fire spread into the second and third floors which weakened the fourth and saw the roof collapse. Kensington Palace was all but gutted with only the King’s Gallery, the Presence Chamber and the King’s Grand Staircase untouched due to the courtyard separating them from the main body of the fire. [4]


    A view of Kensington Palace before it was destroyed by fire.

    The following day, the Duke of Clarence and the Duke of Wellington traveled to Kensington to assess the damage. The Palace was deemed beyond repair. Kensington had fallen into a state of neglect in recent years and as it was home only to the sisters of King George IV it was felt an unnecessary expense to renovate it, especially given that Princess Augusta spent most of her time at Frogmore House in Windsor. Both Clarence and Wellington agreed that the cost of building a replacement for Kensington would be both unpractical and unpopular. It therefore came as a shock to the Duke of Clarence when Alexander Baring informed the House of Commons that the government would release monies from the Consolidated Fund to pay for a new palace to be built on the Kensington site. Clarence was baffled. Neither he nor any member of his family had asked for such a project to be undertaken and he believed the Duke of Wellington shared his view. But Wellington needed a distraction from the abolition debate and a row over royal expenditure never failed to dominate the Commons whenever it was introduced.

    After days of debate (in which Wellington deliberately avoided the Duke of Clarence), Wellington staged a climb down. “At the request of His Royal Highness the Duke of Clarence”, he announced, “Proposals to pay for the construction of a new palace at Kensington from the Consolidated Fund have been abandoned”. In a gesture perhaps intended to be serve as an apology to the Duke, Wellington further announced that the sum voted for the Civil List from 1831 onwards would be restricted to the expenses of the Royal Household alone. There would no longer be any financial responsibilities associated with the cost of civil government, severing the link between the Sovereign and the cost of the civil government. Wellington felt that this would help to avoid any confrontation with Clarence regarding the bizarre announcement concerning a new Kensington Palace but in reality, it put the Duke in the firing line. It was reported (inaccurately and unfairly) that when the government had pulled out of funding a replacement for Kensington Palace, the Duke had angrily responded by demanding the monarch no longer be responsible for costs incurred by the Civil Government. In this way, the Duke would have more money to construct a new palace at his own expense – or rather, at the expense of the young King George V.

    This was unfortunate because it temporarily dented the Duke of Clarence’s popularity. But it also soured the friendship between the Duke and the Prime Minister for a time. The only positive to come from the debacle was the creation of the London Fire Engine Establishment [5] under the leadership of James Braidwood who had founded the first professional, municipal fire brigade in Edinburgh. Whilst the row over Kensington had bought Wellington a little time, he could not escape the demands of the Whigs forever. To add to his worries, Viscount Althorp had ensured that every Ultra Tory in the Commons and Lords knew that Wellington was flirting with the idea of allowing an abolitionist bill to be introduced (this was of course totally untrue). The Ultras were furious but following the Kensington row, they learned the truth. Wellington was losing his grip. It was entirely possible that the Whigs may take office or that another general election would be required. This time, they would be well prepared.

    At his townhouse in London, the Duke of Newcastle held a meeting attended by 48 of the 53 Ultra Tories in the Commons and a handful of trusted Ultra Tory peers. Newcastle believed that the Ultra Tories had not done better at the 1830 snap election because they appeared to be nothing more than a splinter group. That had to change. Over the course of three days in August 1830, the Ultra Tories debated their positions on everything from emancipation to abolition and electoral reform. There was no hope of healing the rift with Wellington’s moderate Tories. It was time to strike out alone. The Portman Square Declaration was signed by 68 Ultra Tories and committed them to a series of policy positions. These included the repeal of the Catholic Emancipation Act, a commitment to defeating any attempts to introduce abolitionism or electoral reform and a pledge that they would always uphold the interests of the Anglican communion and of the Union above all else. The result was a new political party in Britain. They called themselves The Unionists. [6]


    Portman Square where the Unionist Party was founded.

    A main concern of the Unionists was the situation in Ireland. In the 1830 snap general election, Daniel O’Connell had been re-elected but this time he represented the Repeal Association. Established shortly before the general election, the Association was a political movement that saw a massive influx of new members in Ireland and which campaign for a repeal of the Acts of Union of 1800 between Great Britain and Ireland. Whilst the Unionists’ position was that the Union must be preserved come hell or high water (they were committed to the use of force to quell any uprisings in Ireland), Wellington felt personally betrayed by O’Connell whom he felt had u-turned on his promises at their meeting not to stir up any further division in Ireland if Catholic emancipation was introduced. If anything, the situation had deteriorated, not improved. In March 1831, the Tithe War had erupted in Ireland and saw a campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience in reaction to the enforcement of tithes on the Roman Catholic majority to pay for the upkeep of the established state church, the Church of Ireland. Tithes had to be paid regardless of an individual’s faith and if they could not be afforded with money, yeomen were given permission to take livestock or possessions instead.

    Whilst at first the so-called Tithe War was relatively peaceful, in March violence returned when a force of 120 yeomanry tired to enforce seizure orders on cattle belonging to a Roman Catholic priest. Encouraged by his Bishop, the priest had tried to prevent people from being forced to pay tithes by placing their stock under his ownership. If they had no money or livestock, the tithe could not be paid or enforced. The yeomanry arrested the priest which caused an outbreak of riots in County Kilkenny. Similar protests broke out in County Wexford too. O’Connell had always disavowed violence but in this case, he had no choice but to defend those who rioted. Indeed, O’Connell represented those arrested in court and managed to secure several acquittals. Whilst O’Connell favoured maintaining a connection with Britain in a personal union of the crowns of the Kingdom of Great Britain and a restored Kingdom of Ireland, he felt personally let down by Wellington and from this point on, he would be regarded more and more as “the Liberator of the Irish Nation” in Dublin but as a troublemaking radical at Westminster.

    Closer to home, Wellington’s refusal to consider electoral reform brought violence to Wales in May 1831 when coal miners took to the streets of Merthyr Tydfil to demand higher wages and to protest against a lack of enfranchisement and general unemployment. The protest spread to nearby industrial towns and villages and it is believed that the Merthyr Rising marked the first time the red flag of revolution was flown as a symbol of a worker’s revolt which would later be adopted international as a symbol of socialism and communism. As the situation grew worse, the mood turned against not only the government but the whole British establishment. There were cries of “I lawr â'r Brenin” (“Down with the King”) and a march of 10,000 workers brought the town to a complete standstill. They formed themselves into guerrilla detachments and those with military experience trained their fellow rioters to establish an effective central command. For 8 long days, the men and women of Merthyr Tydfil held control of the town and were able to issue demands to the authorities but it could not last forever. Government representatives managed to divide the rioter’s council with conflicting promises of reform and as the council fell into disagreement, 450 troops were marched into Waun above Dowlais with leveled weapons.


    The Merthyr Rising.

    The riots were over but it had been a close-run thing. Worse still, the news of what had happened in Wales spread throughout the country at a time when news of revolution on the continent was flooding in daily. The Unionists predicted revolution in Britain too. They called for a permanent armed presence in cities or towns that had shown sympathy with rioters in the past, especially in the north, and they proposed harsh penalties (including capital punishment) for any who dared encourage their neighbours to rebellion or revolt. Their speeches in the Commons were deliberately alarmist in rhetoric and some moderate Tories became nervous, even going so far as to mutter ‘hear, hear’ after a speech given by Sir Richard Vyvyan in which he predicted “nation wide revolution fuelled by anarchists, rebels and Catholics if the rise of radical sympathies is not quickly put down, by force if necessary”. For Wellington, time was running out. Sooner or later, he would have stop kicking the can down the road and accept that his minority government was about to lose control.

    Meanwhile at Clarence House, a dazed and confused Princess Sophia found herself homeless following the fire at Kensington Palace. Though she rarely used her own apartment at the Palace, Princess Augusta was equally put out at losing her London residence. As luck would have it, King Leopold had returned Marlborough House to the Crown when he accepted the offer to become King of the Belgians. Leopold had spent a small fortune on making Marlborough House as comfortable as possible and so the Duke of Clarence elected to offer it to his sisters as a new place to live in the capital. Princess Augusta did not relish the idea of sharing a house with her younger sister, however. Sophia was eccentric and known for her lacklustre approach to keeping her accounts in order.

    Augusta did not want to be held responsible for Sophia’s debts and neither did she wish to be served by Sophia’s staff, most of whom were in their dotage. Clarence therefore divided Marlborough House into apartments. The first apartment was comprised of the Dining Room at the front of the property and two of the drawing rooms at the back. Named ‘Apartment A’, there was a private entrance through the colonnade which led to three spacious rooms which were incorporated into suite. The second apartment (‘Apartment B’) was comprised of two drawing rooms at the back of the property, the library, an anteroom and the music room. Both apartments were served by the same kitchen with accommodation for servants provided in an exterior building. Upstairs, the rooms were more evenly divided to create two more apartments which were intended to be used as temporary accommodation for guests.


    Marlborough House today.

    The rubble of Kensington Palace was cleared and the last remaining rooms which had been untouched by the fire were demolished. In its place, the Duke of Clarence personally funded the creation of a new public garden complete with memorial fountains to King George III and Queen Charlotte. This was somewhat ironic as George III despised Kensington Palace and after his accession, never visited the property. The Duke of Clarence “gave” this site and the 265 acres of parkland which had served as the private gardens of the Palace to the Borough of Kensington which was elevated to the status of a Royal Borough. Nottingham Cottage was vacated by the Duke of Sussex who took an upstairs apartment at Marlborough House, the cottage becoming the home of the Royal Kensington Park Keeper and Head Gardener. The Royal Borough had to pay for the cottage (only the parkland was free) and Sussex used the funds to buy a townhouse in Belgravia as soon as he realised that residing at Marlborough House meant cold food and providing an audience to the constant clashes between his bickering sisters Augusta and Sophia.

    Meanwhile, the Duke of Clarence set the condition that the Royal Borough of Kensington must maintain the park well and that it should never be sold or used for the construction of private housing. It must also be opened to the general public and there must be no charge for entrance introduced anywhere in the park. This led to an intriguing court case in 2002 when the public lavatories built in the park in 1922 were installed with new pay turnstiles. The Friends of Royal Kensington Park took the Royal Borough’s Parks Department to court on the grounds that the 80p charge for the use of the lavatories was a charge for entrance which was prohibited under the terms of the gift made by the Duke of Clarence back in 1830. The Friends were successful and today, the public lavatories are once again free to use. Clarence’s gift was no doubt very well intended but it was somewhat short sighted. In the future, George V would have seven children and trying to fit the British Royal Family as a whole into the apartments at Buckingham Palace, St James’ Palace, Marlborough House, Clarence House and Windsor proved a constant nightmare. It also meant that George V would have to consider building a new palace to accommodate some of them but finding a site as convenient as Kensington proved difficult.

    Whilst the Duke of Clarence saw to domestic matters, the Duke of Wellington could no longer avoid squabbles in his government. The Whigs had finally lost their patience with constant delays and presented him with an ultimatum. Either he introduce an abolition bill, consider Lord John Russell’s proposals on electoral reform or they would withdraw themselves from the confidence and supply agreement and introduce another Motion of No Confidence in the government. Wellington could not count on the support of the newly created Unionist Party to support him if such a motion went forward but neither could he bring himself to support abolition or electoral reform. He offered a compromise in a bill introducing some minor parliamentary reforms which he had always regarded as long overdue but the Whigs were not satisfied. On the 10th of September 1831, a year exactly since the Motion of No Confidence in Wellington’s government had been introduced that saw him call a snap general election, the Whigs introduced a motion of their own. Wellington had been Prime Minister since 1828 and just two weeks before the third anniversary of his taking office, he traveled to Clarence House to offer his resignation to the Duke of Clarence. He was exhausted and had no desire to fight another general election, nor did he expect his government to survive the vote on the Motion of No Confidence.


    Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey.

    The Duke of Clarence was caught in a difficult position. The Tories had a plurality in the Commons, albeit by only five members, and Robert Peel expected that Clarence would seek to appoint him Prime Minister in the wake of Wellington’s resignation. But the Motion of No Confidence had not been laid against the Prime Minister personally, rather it had specified that the House had no confidence in the government as a whole; a government in which Robert Peel served. Another general election was unavoidable and instead of calling Peel, the Duke of Clarence summoned the Lord President of the Council, William Bentinck, 4th Duke of Portland to act as a caretaker Prime Minister instead. Portland’s father, the 3rd Duke, had served twice as Prime Minister; the first occasion was during the Fox-North coalition whilst his second term lasted from 1807 until 1809. The Duke of Clarence felt badly for Peel. He was a popular and bright politician of many talents who deserved a chance at leading a government. But Clarence had (benign) ulterior motives. Immediately after summoning Portland, he asked to see Peel. The Duke explained that whilst he believed Peel was the right man to serve as a caretaker Prime Minister, he privately believed that the Whigs may be elected with a majority in the next general election. If that were so, Peel might be tarnished with the Tory defeat which would prove a stain on a very promising career. Peel wrote in his diary; “I had intended to treat His Royal Highness with contempt and to decry his actions but as soon as he addressed me in this very fatherly and kindly way, I confess I felt moved to tears and could not have thought better of him”.

    The Duke of Wellington returned to Apsley House. He was now 62 years old and felt it time to retire from politics. Whilst he would naturally continue to contribute to debates in the House of Lords, he did not expect to hold any political office in the future and prepared to spend the last years of his life working on his memoirs and occasionally visiting the regiments of which he would no doubt remain Colonel in Chief. The Duke of Clarence held no grudge and where possible, Wellington was invited to Buckingham Palace or to Windsor Castle as a friend of the Royal Family. He was particularly moved to be asked to stand as a godfather to King George V’s eldest daughter and firstborn child Princess Marie Louise, the Princess Royal (later Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine) in 1838 and he embraced his role as elder statesman, unofficial advisor and friend to the King from the late 1830s until Wellington’s death in 1852.

    The 1831 general election result came as no surprise. The Tories lost their majority of 5 returning 184 MPs overall. It was a crushing blow to Wellington personally and for some months, he could not face appearing in public, blaming himself for the Whig victory. The Whigs won an overall majority with 256 seats whilst the Unionists bolstered their presence in parliament with 66 seats, an increase of 13 from the previous general election when they had been returned as Ultra Tories. The Duke of Portland resigned as caretaker Prime Minister and the Duke of Clarence called a triumphant Earl Grey to Clarence House where he invited him to form a government. After 24 years in opposition, the Whigs were finally back in government. [7]

    [1] These were introduced in 1831 but I’ve brought them forward as Wellington would want to fill the legislative timetable with ‘Bread and Circus’ bills to put off the inevitable clash over electoral reform/abolition as would be pushed by the Whigs.

    [2] Direct quotes from Robert Peel.

    [3] Butterflies! Viscount Bathurst would have been chosen to distinguish him from Earl Bathurst and Baron Bathurst, the latter being the courtesy title of the Earls Bathurst. In the OTL, Charles was not elevated to the peerage but it’s crucial to the story in this TL that he is.

    [4] More butterflies. Kensington Palace did not burn in 1831 and in the OTL, it was far busier with the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria in residence.

    [5] Introduced in 1833 in the OTL.

    [6] Two points here. The first is that obviously this refers to a political party in the early 18th century sense. It’s as organised as the Tories and the Whigs were at this stage but would still be considered a grouping of like-minded individuals compared to the modern set up of political parties. The second is that in the OTL, circumstances were very different and as the Whigs entered government the Tory party had time to repatriate most of the Ultras. This doesn’t happen in our TL of course because of the political situation I’ve created. Thus The Unionists are born.

    [7] I must correct myself slightly here. This was the first wholly Whig government since 1783.
    Last edited:
    GV: Part 1, Chapter 9: The Days of May
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    King George V

    Part One, Chapter Nine: The Days of May

    With the general election over and majority government restored, the new Prime Minister Earl Grey, began to settle into his post and appointed a new ministry. But the arrival of new ministers also meant the departure of several key figures in the Royal Household who had served the Royal Family for many years. As a Tory, the Earl of Jersey was replaced by the Whig supporting Duke of Devonshire. Lord George Beresford left his post as Comptroller of the Household and was succeeded by Lord Robert Grosvenor. Other departures included the Countess of Harrow and Baroness Lyndhurst from the Household of Queen Louise but these had proved to be only nominal appointments. The Dowager Queen was still living in Hanover and showed no signs of returning any time soon. Instead, the two ladies appointed to her household by the Duke of Wellington served the household of the Duchess of Clarence whilst officially being in the employ of Queen Louise. Finding replacements for these ladies of the bedchamber was to prove difficult.


    Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, Prime Minister.

    Not only were none of the ladies approached to take on the post willing to relocate to Herrenhausen with an indefinite return date but the Queen’s reputation preceded her. Since her arrival in England in 1819, Louise hated the custom of appointments to the Royal Household being cut short or extended based on the change of government. She had always much preferred to choose her own ladies of the bedchamber and fortunately for her, the Duke of Wellington had turned a blind eye. At this time, she relied entirely on Baroness Pallenberg who had been appointed an extra-lady of the bedchamber by the previous Prime Minister in an attempt to avoid the usual hysterics which followed new appointments to Queen Louise’s Household. But the new Prime Minister did not enjoy the same relationship with the Royal Family as his predecessor and now, there was an issue raised in parliament which could no longer be ignored.

    Not only was it the right of a Prime Minister to make appointments to the Royal Household but Queen Louise was also in receipt of an annuity of £45,000, the highest sum paid to a member of the Royal Family after the King. Shortly before Christmas 1831, John Lee Lee, one of the two Members of Parliament for Wells, raised a question in the Commons asking if Her Majesty Queen Louise intended to now reside permanently in Hanover. If so, did the government believe the Civil List should be amended to reflect that fact? The Prime Minister did not necessarily agree with the sentiment but he did have concerns that the row could escalate. To that end, he asked the Duke of Clarence to try and convince his sister-in-law to return to Britain. Knowing that this would only encourage Queen Louise to extend her stay in Hanover, the Duke tried another method. He invited the Cambridges and the Dowager Queen to come to Windsor to celebrate Christmas. At the same time, the Prime Minister appointed Louisa, Marchioness of Lansdowne (wife of the new Lord President of the Council), to Louise’s household with the suggestion that she begin her service in the Queen’s employ in the new year when hopefully Louise had returned to England permanently from Hanover.


    Schloss Herrenhausen.

    Herrenhausen had proved to be a much preferable residence for Queen Louise than Royal Lodge. As Dowager Queen of Hanover, she only outranked her brother-in-law (the Duke of Cambridge) and his wife as the Vice Regal couple in the order of precedence but this gave her an immediate sense of authority which she enjoyed. Whilst she had no formal role, position or power in Hanover, Louise seemed lost in a fantasy world where she was actually Queen of Hanover and that her wishes must be respected and obeyed without question. Whilst her relationship with her sister Augusta had always been a close one, now cracks began to appear. Augusta had no great longing for authority, neither did she care all that much about position, protocol or precedence. But she quickly became tired of being forced to attend to her younger sister as if she were a lady in waiting and on several occasions, Louise seemed to make a concerted effort to humiliate Augusta. At a banquet given for officers of the Hanoverian Army, Louise arrived uninvited and late forcing the entire gathering to stand in the middle of the meal. She then made her way to the middle of the table where her sister Augusta was seated as the highest-ranking lady present – that was, until Louise arrived. Without saying a word, Louise waited until Augusta left her place and sat down in her chair, dismissing Augusta’s half eaten dinner and then launching in a monologue about the poor quality of her rooms at Herrenhausen which she intended to refurbish.

    It was in this atmosphere that the Duke of Clarence’s invitation to Windsor came and naturally, the Cambridges jumped at the opportunity. Queen Louise refused to return to England and when pressed by her brother-in-law, Louise replied indignantly; “I am Queen of Hanover, I shall find more friends here than I ever have in England”. The Cambridges departed for England taking their two children, Prince George and Princess Augusta, with them. Queen Louise gave her sister nothing to take to England for her own children but staged elaborate Christmas celebrations at Herrenhausen which cost a small fortune and left a significant dent in the Viceroy’s annual budget. On Christmas Day itself, Louise gave presents to her household but refused to present smaller gifts to the servants as was the custom. Instead she delegated this task to Baroness Pallenberg. She also caused offence when she failed to deliver the customary Christmas Box to the pastor of the Kreuzkirche. Given that he was not allowed to profit directly from the weekly collection, the Viceroys of Hanover had always set aside a generous financial gift at Christmas time which supplemented his income through the rest of the year. The Duchess of Cambridge put the situation right when she returned to Herrenhausen but word had already circulated that the pastor had been disrespected by Queen Louise and her reputation in Hanover began to suffer just as much as it had in England.

    Christmas was far more jolly at Windsor Castle that year, though the party was smaller than it had been on previous occasions. Two guests most keenly missed were the Coburg princes, Ernst and Albert. The young King always enjoyed the company of the Coburgs but the Christmas of 1831 saw them spend the holiday season with King Leopold in Brussels. It was not only the King who missed them. It was the Duchess of Clarence who was first made aware my Madame Fillon that the twelve-year old Prince Albert had been writing letters to the nine-year-old Princess Charlotte Louise since his last visit. They were harmless, childish letters but it escaped nobody’s attention that clearly the young Prince had a special fondness for the Princess. The letters were hardly romantic, indeed, in one he asks if Charlotte Louise “has grow taller yet because you are very small and I now can stand much higher than you”. In another, he accuses the Princess of stealing his playing cards; “which you said Georgie had taken but which I know you took because I saw you with them”. But there was a touching admission of fondness too; “Papa says we must spend Christmas with Uncle Leopold but I think that is quite silly because you will not be there and so I will not enjoy it at all”.


    Adelaide, Duchess of Clarence.

    The Duchess of Clarence thought the exchange very sweet and decided to pretend she knew nothing about it. If the letters changed in tone or became unsuitable in any way, she would raise the issue with King Leopold but for now, it seemed a healthy friendship that required no interference from the adults. Some time later, the exchange was brought out into the open as Princess Charlotte Louise could speak of nothing else but Prince Albert and that he might be coming to England in the summer. Innocently, the Duchess of Clarence asked Princess Victoria if she had received any letters. Pouting she replied, “Yes but only from silly Ernst and I’m not sending a reply to him because he has a funny head”. At the Christmas festivities in 1831, the children were once again indulged by their aunt and uncle. The Clarences went above and beyond to give them happy memories and in later life, Princess Victoria recalled that “There were never Christmases as wonderfully merry as those we enjoyed with Uncle William and Aunt Adelaide at Windsor”.

    That Christmas brought with it an unexpected announcement at court from Baron Stockmar which delighted the King but irritated the Duke of Clarence. King Leopold wanted Stockmar to return to his employ and whilst Stockmar wished to return to Coburg, he had agreed to serve as a kind of ex officio advisor to the court at Brussels. [1] For the Duke of Clarence, this marked a turning point. He now saw Stockmar as a “vain and ambitious creature” and resented what he regarded as “an abandonment of the duties he promised to carry out because he sees more rewards in Belgium than he does in England”. Stockmar addressed the issue himself in his memoirs published sometime after his death but his reasons for leaving England have been embroidered a little. He claims that the deciding factor was “a long and mutually close friendship with King Leopold” and that he felt the post in Brussels would prove more challenging. Yet he also says that he had decided to retire by this time and that his new post with King Leopold was “a more informal, more casual appointment which allowed me to reside at my home in Coburg whilst still being of use to His Majesty”.

    But in a letter written to a friend shortly after his departure from England in 1832, Stockmar is far more truthful about his reasons for leaving England. Firstly he felt “a complete lack of support for the system of education agreed with the late King which has never been enforced by the Duke of Clarence who is far too indulgent of his nephew”. Secondly, he disliked life in England and “had never intended to remain in the country outside of the service of [King Leopold]”. Another passage in the missive might give some clue as to the real reason why Stockmar decided to leave England; “because the long-term prospect was not a reliable one and there was little guarantee that my position would be secure when His Majesty came of his age”. This suggests that Stockmar was well aware (and perhaps even expected) that King George V would hold to his childhood resentment of the strict disciplinarian Stockmar represented in his early life and dismiss him at the earliest opportunity. Stockmar therefore faced a choice between a further five years of service in England only to be ousted when the King reached the age of majority or secure a post in Brussels where he could exert his influence and authority for as long as he wished without the threat of dismissal.


    Baron Stockmar in retirement.

    The Duke of Clarence rewarded Stockmar for his service by making him a Knight Commander of the Royal Guelphic Order but there was to be no pension, something not guaranteed to members of the Royal Household at this time and given solely at the discretion of the King (or in this case, his regent). Clarence appointed John Lawton, the King’s tutor from Cambridge, as the King’s Private Secretary which in effect gave Lawton control over George V’s education and lifestyle. Stockmar left a detailed report on the King’s progress thus far and a detailed essay on his recommendations going forward; Lawton conveniently misplaced them. His first decision was to liberate George V from the solitude of Royal Lodge and George was allowed to return to his rooms adjoining those of his sister and cousin in the State Apartments of Windsor Castle. Lawton also relaxed the number of hours the King was to study but in an important change of direction, he also abandoned the syllabus that Stockmar had implemented. Lawton saw the King’s interests lay in military history and philosophy and he allowed George to spend more time on these subjects rather than forcing him to spend hours learning Greek or studying English literature for which he showed no aptitude or interest. But Lawton also abandoned any prospect of the King being educated at a public school and most importantly, he brought to an end the seclusion enforced by Stockmar from boys of his own age.

    Lawton created a social circle for the young King taken from the children of prominent members of the Royal Household. The most senior was Henry Fitzalan-Howard, the Earl of Arundel (and future 14th Duke of Norfolk) who was five years older than the King. Though he was a Roman Catholic, he was also heir to the hereditary offices of Earl Marshal and Chief Butler of England and Lawton felt installing an older influence into the group essential to keeping order. Next came John Henry Campbell, Earl of Campbell and his brother George (the future 8th Duke of Argyll) who were the nephews of the childless Lord Steward, George Campbell, 6th Duke of Argyll. The youngest son of the Earl of Jersey, the Honourable Francis Child Villiers was included as was Frederick Blomfield, one of the sons of the Bishop of London. George had never had friends of his own age outside of the extended Royal Family before and initially, Lawton noted that he was withdrawn and shy, seemingly unwilling to introduce himself or enter into conversation with his new social group. But this did not last long. The ice was broken when the Earl of Arundel asked if the boys might see the King’s collection of lead soldiers and before long, the Great Hall of Windsor Castle had been transformed into a battlefield as the boys debated strategy, becoming friends in the process.

    Perhaps as a result of this, or because of his passion for military history at this time, the young King asked his uncle, the Duke of Clarence, if his friends might have special uniforms because they were to create their own special regiment. The Duke indulged this (though the regiment was never officially created of course) and the Windsor Brigade was formed. George gave himself the position of Field Marshal whilst the other members of the group (which was expanded to include the Coburg princes and Prince George of Cambridge) were Brigadiers. The young King designed the uniform personally which was formed of a dark blue high-necked frock coat with silver buttons bearing the King’s monogram. Brigadiers wore silver tabs and a small crown was embroidered on the epaulettes. To complete the overall look, they were given dark blue cocked hats edged with silver brocade trim sporting a plume of three ostrich feathers and each was given a miniature sword (blunted to avoid unfortunate accidents).

    The Duke of Clarence was delighted. Though this may have appeared to be a childish game of playing soldiers, nobody could fail to be impressed when the future King spent hours drilling his troops in Windsor Great Park. He even ticked off a guardsman who failed to salute to the Earl of Arundel when he passed by, objecting that the young man was a Brigadier and entitled to respect from a junior rank. It was possibly the Windsor Brigade which also gave the King his life-long love of uniforms. During his reign, he would take a personal interest in the redesign of British military dress and he would also extend the use of the Windsor Uniform introduced by King George III in 1777 with a variation established for senior courtiers. He also loved insignia and whenever he was presented with a new order of chivalry from a visiting diplomat or head of state, he would commission a special box to store it in and write a detailed account of its history, when it was given and how it was to be worn. He took this further in 1880 when he established the Royal Georgian Order, a dynastic order of knighthood created to recognize personal service to the monarch.

    With Stockmar’s departure, the King’s life became far happier and he began to excel in his studies. He deeply impressed Earl Grey during an audience when he asked what the Prime Minister made of the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. After some discussion of the issue, the young King disappeared and returned with his copy of Leviathan; “I have made some notes on this matter”, George announced seriously, “I should be grateful if you would tell me if you believe them to be good observations”. In a report to the Duke of Clarence, Lawton praised the King’s “natural curiosity for answers, his serious approach to the subjects he finds of interest and his respectful and disciplined nature in the school room”. It was not a universally glowing report however and Lawton observed that “His Majesty shows no real flair for poetry and has very little interest in literature. Indeed, he finds it to be a bore. Yet he does read for pleasure, even if these are more serious works. As yet these do not include religious works and I confess that I do have some concerns at his lack of interest in the subject overall”. Lawton was not the only one to notice the King was not particularly enthused by religion. The Bishop of London raised eyebrows when George quoted Voltaire in an audience and one Sunday as the Dean of Windsor preached on the subject of forgiveness, the young King was heard to remark; “This is all very dreary”.


    Charles James Blomfield, Bishop of London.

    The one subject conspicuously absent from the King’s schedule was politics. Whilst he was educated on the constitution and how parliament worked, it was felt important not to encourage him to take a stance on the big issues of the day, at least not until he was much older and even then, he must be taught the importance of the Sovereign’s role in relation to the political arena. In later life, the King resented this; “During the years of my education, I might have been toppled by revolution and sent to the guillotine, yet I knew nothing of this because politics were verboten to me”. The King was perhaps over exaggerating slightly but there was a very real prospect in 1832 that England was to face its biggest upheaval since the Civil War. The catalyst was the Great Reform Act and the resulting chaos was dubbed ‘The Days of May’. [2]

    As Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington had spent his tenure resisting calls for electoral reform. This had ultimately toppled his government, split his party and had rewarded the pro-reform Whigs with a majority. Earl Grey’s Reform Act of 1832 [3] sought to to radically overhaul the electoral system in England and Wales. It proposed to abolish tiny districts, introduce increased representation to cities and to change the selection process for Members of Parliament to avoid one powerful patron installing their preferred candidates. But by far it’s most ambitious aim was to expand the franchise to the give the vote to small landowners, tenant farmers, shopkeepers and householders who paid a yearly rental of £10 or more. Whilst some exemptions were to be introduced allowing for lodgers to vote, the act would only expand the franchise to qualifying men and there would be an explicit statutory bar to women voting by defining a voter as a “male person”.

    At the Committee Stage, opponents of the bill slowed its progress by introducing tedious and long-winded objections to minor details but ultimately this proved futile; the Whig majority meant the bill would sail through the Commons at the voting stage before it moved on to the House of Lords. Nonetheless, Earl Grey anticipated the bill’s defeat. The Whigs had no majority in the Lords and whilst the Tory party had split, there was still unanimous agreement between the moderate Tories and the Unionists that the Reform Bill should be opposed. Many saw it as a threat to their financial interests or as an attempt to gerrymander. The Duke of Newcastle, the leader of the Unionists in the House of Lords, decried the bill as “indulging the radical mob” and said that if it passed, the Whigs might never leave office. Grey had predicted this response but he could not foresee that when the bill came to the vote, it would be the Lords Spiritual who defeated it.

    Some Tory peers had concerns that the public mood was not only pro-reform but violently so. They worried that if the bill failed, the country might sink into insurrection. Unwilling to be blamed for this, they refrained from voting entirely so that they could be seen as neither supportive nor opposed to the Reform Act. But this voting deficit made the defeat of the bill a certainty and unwittingly made the Lords Spiritual the scapegoat. It was the Bishops who saw the bill rejected by 41 votes and a cheer went up in the chamber as the result was read. None could have predicted that the consequences would be immediate. The Birmingham Political Union, founded in 1829 by Thomas Attwood, had held public meetings since 1830 on reform and counted some 15,000 people among its membership. It’s aims were much the same as those contained in the Reform Bill and when it came to the evening of the vote on the 5th of May 1832, the BPU had staggered runners from Westminster to other large cities and towns so that the result could be passed quickly from place to place.


    A painting of the Attwood Rally in Vauxhall.

    Naturally, London was the first city to see the full effects of the bill’s defeat. [4] Initially, Thomas Attwood addressed a crowd of around 3,000 people in Vauxhall in a pre-organised rally to respond to the inevitable defeat of the bill in the Lords. By the end of his address that evening, the crowd had grown to 20,000 and the atmosphere was so tense that the recently formed Metropolitan Police asked for reinforcements from the army should the situation escalate quickly. When the news finally came of the bill’s defeat however, neither Attwood nor these reinforcements keep order. The crowd broke free in the chaos and swarmed toward Regent Bridge [5] toward the Palace of Westminster. When they could not get close to entering the palace, the crowd immediately dispersed into the surrounding streets. As the news of the bill’s defeat travelled, their numbers increased. Diarist Charles Greville noted; “There seemed no man in the city who did not share the anger of the rioters and who was determined that his neighbours should know of it. Looking down from my window, I estimated there to be some 200 men in Greek Street alone and the dull roar of greater crowds could be heard all over the city”.

    In most cases, the army managed to contain the crowds by forming barricades at the ends of streets and forcing them away from the Palace of Westminster. In other cities across England, the number of soldiers was not enough to keep order and the mob was quickly joined by those who didn’t much care about the political situation but saw the opportunity to engage in violence. It did not help matters that in most cities, the news that the Reform Act had not passed coincided with the closure of the public houses and drunkards spilled out onto the streets looking for trouble. In Bristol, the city jail became a target and prisoners were freed en masse. They joined the riots whilst seeking out their jailors for revenge. Control of the city was quickly lost and for three days, the city centre burned causing £300,000 of damage and 250 casualties. The scene was recreated in Derby and Sheffield whilst in Birmingham, the local magistrates were overrun and locked in the holding cells of the local goal.

    In many places, the reaction was uncoordinated and saw random attacks which often had more to do with local grievances than the national situation. But in Nottingham and London the protesters had set upon one very clear target; the Duke of Newcastle. The leader of the Unionists whose words on the Reform Act had been the most opposed and most widely reported, the rioters intended to make him pay the price. Nottingham Castle saw a huge surge of people who wasted no time in setting the building on fire. It was burnt to the crowd as the mob then made their way to Clumber Park, the Duke’s secondary estate in Nottingham where his family were in residence. Fortunately, Clumber was successfully protected with minimal damage. The case was very different in London where the Duke had insisted on leaving the Palace of Westminster to return to his Portman Square townhouse. According to Robert Peel, he was heard to say “I shall not be intimidated by radicals” as he boarded his coach and left the Palace.


    Nottingham Castle burns on the first night of the Days of May.

    As his coachman approached the Duke's home, he noticed an ominous glow in the distance. Portman Square was on fire. The coachman immediately tried to turn into a side street but the crowds beyond the area had become aware of the Portman Square blaze and were heading towards it from behind the Duke of Newcastle’s carriage. At this time, it was commonplace for peers to display their coats of arms on banners hanging from the doors of their coaches. This proved fatal for the Duke of Newcastle. As he leaned out of the coach to try and bring the banners in, his coachman panicked and deserted him. One of the protesters, William Edmonton, spied the Duke leaning from his coach and cried out “There he is! There’s Newcastle!”. The mob swarmed towards the coach. The Duke tried but failed to latch the doors and six men entered, dragging Newcastle from his coach just before the horses reared and overturned the coach, killing two protesters in the chaos. The men threw a rope around Newcastle and bound him, carrying him on their shoulders to Portman Square Garden.

    The Metropolitan Police had been made aware of the situation and were on their way but were slowed trying to quell other riots going on throughout the city. The mob was so large that it stalled them in Upper Berkeley Street by which time, the Duke of Newcastle had been kicked to death. Not content with their kill, they hoisted the Duke’s body onto their shoulders and paraded him for a time before perhaps realizing the gravity of their actions and dropping him into a fountain. The crowd began to flee as the police began to filter through onto the scene but they were too late. Portman Square was engulfed in flames, Newcastle had been murdered and in the ensuing rush to flee the scene, 56 people were trampled to death. Soldiers were dispersed throughout London but again, the sheer number of people meant the streets were difficult to navigate. As news reached the Palace of Westminster at the chaos growing across the city, the Lords locked themselves into the chamber for safety.

    This undoubtedly saved many of them from sharing Newcastle’s fate. A crowd had broken into Lambeth Palace and had ransacked the building, finally setting it alight before fleeing the scene. The Bishop of London’s residence, Fulham Palace, was given the same treatment. But some in the Commons had already left and for Unionists and Tories, this meant taking a serious risk. One who did so was the Unionist leader in the House of Commons, Sir Richard Vyvyan. He made the catastrophic error of trying to fight back the crowd from his door and fired a pistol, killing a 20-year-old rioter. The mob retaliated, disarmed him and used his own pistol against him. His body was then stolen by two rioters who threw him into the Thames after looting it for any valuables they might find. Inside Vyvyan’s residence, his lover appeared at the door wrapped in nothing but a fur blanket and yelled to the crowds; “Do not attack me gentlemen, I was only hired for the evening!”. The crowds roared with laughter and she was carried on the shoulders of a handful of men to the safety of a nearby inn. Vyvyan’s house was burned.


    Henry Pelham-Clinton, 4th Duke of Newcastle, 1785 - 1832. Seen here with the Portman Square Declaration which founded the Unionist Party.

    At Clarence House, the Duke and Duchess were quickly led to the wine cellar where they were hidden and protected by armed guards. The Duke was said to remain calm (“They have no dispute with us my dear”) but the Duchess was hysterical and quickly began screaming that she was to be “slain like Marie Antoinette!”. [7] Curiously, the royal residences were spared the crowd’s wrath. Whilst soldiers were dispatched to protect Buckingham Palace and Clarence House, the worst they saw were a handful of stones, bricks and bottles thrown over the walls. A small group tried mounting the gates at Buckingham Palace but were quickly convinced to come down by the soldiers present. The Duke of Clarence was correct in his assessment. The rioters had no quarrel with the monarchy. Yet Clarence knew the next steps he took would be crucial and if he put a foot wrong, that could rapidly change with catastrophic consequences.

    As the country burned and the streets descended into anarchy, Earl Grey did all he could to ensure that the full force of the law was enacted against those who rioted. Whatever sympathies he might have for their cause, he knew that restoring public order at any cost must be his priority. As they had in Merthyr Tydfil, some of the rioters waved red flags and some even took up arms against the military. Grey feared if he could not restore order, revolution was inevitable. Fortunately, London was not only the first city engulfed by violence and fire-setting but the first to have order restored. Bristol followed after three days. Liverpool and Manchester would take longer, with rioters managing to maintain control of the cities for almost a fortnight. It seemed there would be a respite from uprising but nobody in parliament could fool themselves that violence would return if the bill was introduced and failed once again. Ironically, the Days of May had proven something to Earl Grey, and to his opponents; the public wanted reform and if it was denied to them in parliament, they would take it for themselves on the streets. Even the most ardent opponent of reform had to concede this fact. At Apsley House some days after the riots finally settled down, the Duke of Wellington was heard to remark; “We have a clear choice before us now; reform or revolution”. The choice was soon to be made.

    [1] Stockmar left England for Coburg in 1830 when Prince Leopold became King of the Belgians. He served him as an advisor but eventually was sent back to England when Victoria became Queen in the OTL. Both she and Prince Albert welcomed Stockmar and he became a much-valued advisor to them but in this TL, naturally he will not return to England. I did ponder if he would have valued his position in the British court more than the one he took on in Brussels but as the TL says, I figured he would not be so naïve as to think George V would want to retain his services when he reached the age of majority.

    [2] Obviously this is a very different ‘Days of May’ to the one in the OTL but it's based loosely on the same major events in English cities. The timing is different because of the extended tenure of the Duke of Wellington etc in TTL and so some of the events have been sandwiched together, delayed or exaggerated to fit the new narrative. But it's not a vast departure from the events of the OTL which were considered by some to be the beginnings of a revolution.

    [3] We don’t have the First Reform Bill in this TL so the act itself will just be called the Reform Act, colloquially still the Great Reform Act. It comes in 1832.

    [4] In the OTL, it was Derby but again, we’re dealing with a different situation/timescale here.

    [5] Now Vauxhall Bridge, Regent Bridge was the name of the original bridge that stood there in 1832.

    [6] Again, delayed in this TL.

    [7] Queen Adelaide in the OTL was haunted by Marie Antoinette’s fate and when the 1831/32 riots broke out, she was heard to say this so it's a direct quote.
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    GV: Part 1, Chapter 10: The Battle for Reform
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    King George V

    Part One, Chapter Ten:
    The Battle for Reform

    The Times of London begrudgingly congratulated the Whig government for “quickly bringing the country to heel” in the aftermath of the Days of May but laid the blame for the riots and uprisings that had caused millions of pounds worth of damage all over the country and had left an estimated 260 people dead at the Whigs’ door. “Had they not charged forth on the folly of reform”, one columnist (who wisely stayed anonymous) wrote, “Britain might not have been brought as low as Paris”. Much was made of the murders of the Duke of Newcastle and Sir Richard Vyvyan and the public mood was considered so volatile that the funerals of both men had to be held as privately as possible. The Prime Minister was advised not to attend. Both men would become political martyrs for the Unionists and in the days that followed, 13 Tories elected at the 1831 general election defected to the Unionist grouping in the Commons. They believed that Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington had lost control of the Tory cause and balked when Robert Peel offered a statement in the House of Commons supporting Earl Grey’s attempts to restore public order. The ‘May Thirteen’ felt that the statement should have been used to force Grey’s resignation which Peel felt was “ill-advised and disrespectful”.

    Mass arrests had taken place in putting down the Days of May riots and many local magistrates were forced to hear cases with ten or twelve defendants presented to them at a time. This in itself caused outcry because many felt this was a violation of their rights to a fair trial. In Hereford, there were too many defendants to pack into the court room at one time and so the hearings were heard in a church hall. None of the sentences given were enforced however because the magistrate forgot to have the Royal Coat of Arms brought over and thus the case was not deemed to be heard in a proper setting and the sentences were revoked. Those who were not so lucky included the Edmonton brothers who were arrested and charged with the murder of the Duke of Newcastle. They confessed their crime proudly and were said to walk through the streets with their heads held high as they were taken to Horsemonger Lane Gaol and hanged in public.


    Horsemonger Lane Gaol in Southwark.

    In Bristol, a magistrate provoked a mini riot which had to be put down by force when he sentenced Thomas Mattheson to be hanged for his part in the riots and for his remains to be gibbeted. His corpse was fixed in irons and suspended in a cage exposed for permanent view by the riverside at Broad Pill. This was widely reported and caused nationwide disgust, so much so that the Home Office issued instructions that all gibbets be removed across England and Wales without delay. The last man to face this ignominious end was James Cook, a bookbinder in Leicester convicted of the murder of his creditor, in August 1832. The magistrate who ignored the Home Office’s instructions was removed from his post and gibbeting was never again practiced in the United Kingdom. Whilst other rioters were hanged for their part in the Days of May uprising, the most common sentence was transportation for criminal damage, affray or a breach of the peace. In London alone, 89 men, 44 women and 6 children were transported to the Colony of New South Wales as punishment. The youngest was just 7 years old, a boot boy from Peckham, called Charles Rawlins. Rawlins died en route to the penal colony.

    The political consequences of the Days of May were about to get even more chaotic. One of those arrested in London was Thomas Attwood, the leader of the Birmingham Political Union. As with the vast majority of those arrested and charged, Attwood was charged with a common law offence, in his case, incitement. As an inchoate offence, it was alleged that whilst Attwood had not personally rioted or caused damage to property, he had encouraged others to carry out such acts at the rally held in Vauxhall on the 5th of May 1832. The case caught the public imagination and became the subject of fierce debate. Wellington referred to Attwood’s trial as a “test of the freedoms of speech” (we do not know what position he took on Attwood’s guilt or innocence) and whilst many Tories opposed Attwood’s views and deplored his actions during the Days of May, it was not uncommon to hear them talk of a man’s right to speak to his views to an assembly. Robert Peel’s opinion was clearer than the Duke of Wellington’s; “As abhorrent as a man’s views may be, he none the less has a right to speak them and cannot be held accountable for the violent acts committed by others who may have misinterpreted his words or who had not the good sense to walk away”. Attwood’s trial was to be held at the Central Criminal Court as Attwood’s alleged offences had taken place in the jurisdiction of London and Middlesex. He was to be charged on two counts; incitement to affray and incitement to sedition.


    Thomas Attwood.

    In an attempt to keep the trial from causing any further disturbances, the press was embargoed by the Lord Chamberlain from printing details of when the hearings would be held but naturally the Birmingham Political Union were kept informed and made the details as public as possible. They called on everyone who supported Attwood (and by extension, the Reform Act) to march peacefully to the Old Bailey to demonstrate their strength of feeling. 57 members of the BPU gathered at Attwood’s house in Harborne, Birmingham and set off for London. En route, they were joined by fellow BPU members, abolitionists, reformists, radicals, dissenters and non-conformists. By the time they reached the Old Bailey, they were around 10,000 people strong and to indicate that they did not intend to recreate the violence of recent weeks, they carried white banners emblazoned with olive branches. Even so, there were reported skirmishes when some groups tried to join the march carrying the red banners they had raised during the riots. Fearing these may become targets for trigger-happy soldiers, these groups were asked to leave the red banners behind and heated arguments occasionally bubbled over into the odd brawl.

    Earl Grey was deeply concerned about the outcome of the Attwood trial. If he was found guilty of incitement to affray, the most likely outcome was a heavy fine. But incitement to sedition was a far more serious charge and could potentially see the death penalty imposed. The case hinged on two opposing arguments. The prosecution stated that Attwood was guilty of incitement to sedition under the Sedition Act of 1661, in particular, that Attwood had “fostered disaffection against the government and constitution of the United Kingdom, as by law established, and had excited His Majesty’s subjects to attempt other than by lawful means, the alteration of the constitution by committing crimes in disturbance of the peace and raising discontent”. This seemed a very clear-cut charge. Attwood had clearly rallied people to his cause and the result was mass rioting throughout the City of London which led to the disturbance of the peace. Two witnesses were brought forward to attest to this as required by the Treason Act of 1695.

    The defense naturally took a different view. Whilst the Sedition Act of 1661 did make it a crime to incite His Majesty’s subjects to committing crimes in disturbance of the peace, they contested that Attwood had done nothing of the kind. Affidavits were provided to attest to the content of the address Attwood had given at Vauxhall which showed that he had not incited violence, rather he had; “Pointed out errors or defects in the constitution as by law established with a view to their reformation” which the Sedition Act of 1661 clearly stated was not a crime. Furthermore, he had only advocated the change of the alteration of the constitution “by lawful means” and whilst Attwood accepted that these had “produced feelings of ill-will between classes of His Majesty’s subjects”, his actions were not seditious in intent. Furthermore, Attwood noted that he had not criticized the government as he was in agreement with them that the Reform Act should be passed, neither had he said one word against the monarchy, parliament or any other authorities. His address had criticized the position of Unionists, Tories and the Lords Spiritual who had opposed the Reform Act. This, Attwood believed, was entirely lawful; “And not only is it lawful but surely it is the very example of the rights and privileges afforded to every Englishman to speak his mind according to his conscience”.


    Sir Nicholas Conyngham Tindal

    The trial was heard by Sir Nicholas Conyngham Tindal as Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. After three days, a verdict was finally given. On the first charge of incitement to affray, Attwood was found not guilty. He could not reasonably be held accountable for breaches of the peace and criminal damage committed by others, even if the perpetrators of such actions had been present at the BPU Vauxhall Rally. The second charge was more complex and took up the bulk of the hearing. The verdict, again, was not guilty. Sir Nicholas explained to the court that the jury could only convict of incitement to sedition if they were satisfied that the defendant meant that “the people should make use of physical force or if his intention were to excite the people to take power into their own hands or to excite the people to tumult and disorder”. Whilst some were insistent that this was precisely what Attwood had done, the jury disagreed. Sir Nicholas summed up the case as follows; “I find that the defendant spoke according to his conscience in accordance with the law and at no time did he incite, encourage or otherwise excite those present in Vauxhall on the evening of the 5th of May to violence, disorder or criminal damage. Whilst I regret the events of that evening most sincerely, I do not believe they can be attributed to the actions of Mr Attwood and he is therefore free to leave the court with no stain upon his character”. [1]

    At Clarence House, a relieved Prime Minister relayed the verdict to the Duke of Clarence. Clarence was privately suspicious of Attwood and was not altogether convinced that the jury had reached the correct verdict. Nonetheless, he noted that Grey was “a man wracked with anxieties and had to be fortified with brandy before we came to the main business”. The main business was Grey’s response to the defeat of the Reform Act in the House of Lords. In response, the House of Commons passed a motion with a substantial majority which reaffirmed its confidence in the government. This insurance policy was not of Grey’s design but rather was led by senior Whigs who did not want Grey to backtrack or doubt the clear path ahead. With this in mind, Grey informed the Duke of Clarence that he had no choice but to ask for parliament to be prorogued as the same bill could not be introduced twice in the same session. Before the next session was opened, Grey intended to submit the names of 76 new Whig peers to be created which would give the Whigs an outright majority in the Lords and ensure the passage of the Reform Act when it was reintroduced.

    This put Clarence in an invidious position. Personally he did not share Grey’s zeal for electoral reform and politically was closer in his views to the moderate Tories. He had no sympathies with the Unionists whom he saw as “traitors to their party for their own petty gains” but neither could he align himself with the majority Whig view. Creating a huge raft of new peers was bound to be controversial, it may even make Clarence personally unpopular in the country and in parliament. To refuse to do so would force Grey to resign and only a Whig could be appointed in his stead who would be just as committed to the proposals to pack the Lords as Grey was. The Duke had been horrified at the events of the Days of May and whilst the Clarences in London had been spared the ire of the crowds, in the north of England there were demonstrations which called openly for the abolition of the nobility and of the monarchy itself. Clarence asked if there was any alternative.


    The House of Lords, 1832.

    The Prime Minister was steadfast. Not only did he believe he had a mandate to take such a drastic step (and would resign if the Duke refused) but there was a conference proposed to take place any day to form a union of MPs, Peers, prominent businessmen, party donors and other key establishment figures to act as a pressure group to force reform. The National Political Union was the result and two days after Grey’s meeting with the Duke of Clarence, they delivered a petition to the House of Commons which demanded that MPs withhold supply until the House of Lords gave in and accepted the Reform Bill. The Duke of Clarence had asked for a few days to take advice on Grey’s proposals. Eventually he asked for a compromise. He would be willing to do as Grey asked but only if every possible alternative was exhaustively explored before parliament reconvened. If the Prime Minister remained committed to such a course, Clarence might then be inclined to accept the need for the creation of the new Whig majority in the House of Lords for the sake of maintaining public order. [2]

    With parliament prorogued, the entire political establishment went into overdrive. Meetings were held between every interested party and whilst most of this was bluster and there seemed no big indication of massive changes of opinion, peaceful rallies in favour of reform were held in London which advocated non-payment of taxes. These groups even tried to force a run on the banks. Signs appeared all over London which read; “Go for Gold!” and in the first day of the campaign, almost £2m was withdrawn from the Bank of England (out of £7m in the bank’s possession). Time was running out. The Unionists were determined not to shift in their opposition. Their new leader, the Earl of Winchelsea, warned any Unionist who even considered voting for the Reform Act would be “hounded out like the rat he is” and that a change in the Unionist position would be “the gravest and most despicable insult to the memory of our fallen colleagues who were brutally slain by a radical mob”. Naturally they also called for a retrial in the case of Thomas Attwood with Winchelsea stating publicly that the only acceptable outcome was “for Attwood to be hanged for all to see”.

    The Tory benches had different concerns. Many of them agreed with the Unionists that in principle, the Reform Act was an assault on the constitution that they could not support but there was something else to consider; it had been their lack of votes which had seen the bill defeated by the Lords Spiritual. To counteract this from happening again, Grey would create dozens of new Whig peers who would take their seats for the duration of their lifetime and thus, the Lords would be stacked against the Tory interest for some considerable time. It would also undoubtedly cause a headache for the next Tory government as they might be forced to create just as many new peers to redress the balance. In doing so, the House of Lords might find itself the new target of radicals and reformists and what then? The Duke of Wellington distributed a letter to Tories he felt may see the danger ahead and begged them to reconsider their opposition to the Reform Act. A further 14 peers defected to the Unionists. They saw Wellington as having given in.

    In July 1832, two important developments saw further political division after parliament was recalled but before the Reform Act was reintroduced. The first was the announcement via the Speech from the Throne that the government intended to push ahead with reforms to the administration on the structure and revenues of the Church of Ireland. A bill would legislate for administrative changes and reorganize (and reduce) the number of Bishoprics and Archbishoprics in the established protestant church in Ireland. It would also make changes to how church lands would be leased which could result in secular appropriation of ecclesiastical property. In effect, this would mean a redistribution of the wealth of the Church of Ireland from the richest to the poorest bishoprics. Many regarded this as the Whigs' revenge on the Lords Spiritual for defeating the Reform Act but even some Whig MPs and peers had concerns about the bill. The Unionists called the proposals “the Irish Bribe” and the Church of England’s response was to accuse the government of threatening disestablishment if the Lords Spiritual refused to vote with the government when the Reform Bill was reintroduced. [3]


    John Keble.

    The most well-known response, and most influential, came from John Keble. Keble was a former curate and Anglican writer who had gathered a large following thanks to his writings in The Christian Year, a book of poems for Sundays and feast days of the Church Year. It’s publication and positive reception saw Keble appointed to the Chair of Poetry at Oxford and he was invited to contribute regular articles to newspapers on church matters. But it was his sermon in response to the Whig proposals for the Church of Ireland, named the National Apostasy, which earned him political recognition for the first time. The sermon was an astonishing attack on the government and taking the first Book of Samuel as his text, Keble accused the Whigs of “trampling on the good Christian people of England”. He warned that “if the Apostolical Church should be forsaken and degraded, I cannot conceive a kinder wish on her than that she may, consistently, act in the spirit of this most noble sentence. If such a calamity should happen, the Church would have to be constant in intercession”. But he went beyond calls for prayer. Whilst stopping short of proposing rebellion against what he predicted would become “an apostatized state”, he urged those listening to him to “uphold and restore the endangered Church” as “in the days of pagan persecution”. The National Apostasy sermon proved to be electric and copies were circulated and read throughout England.

    The Earl of Winchelsea was particularly impressed. Whilst he was not a man with any great interest in theological disputes, he recognized a convenient political ally when he saw one. Keble was invited to give his sermon in person to a meeting of the Unionists. The response was mostly loud applause and thumping of the tables but a few raised eyebrows. Keble was regarded as a “High Anglican” which some believed far too close to Roman Catholicism for comfort. Nonetheless, Keble could be deployed as a useful ally in the future and thus, Winchelsea was happy to endorse Keble’s sermon as “a powerful defense of our Church”. He went further, stating that the sermon had “touched my soul in a most profound way” and promised that if he were Prime Minister, he would never forget Keble’s teachings and make them the foundation of a Unionist government’s approach to church matters. Many of the Lords Spiritual believed Keble to be little more than a would-be Catholic who didn’t have the guts to cross the Tiber. Others agreed with him. Both sides were united however in their support of the Unionist position that any Church of Ireland bill must be defeated and that they would not be bribed or blackmailed with the threat of its introduction.

    The second development was connected with the Unionists once again but fell closer to home for the Duke of Clarence, and the King in particular. As the United Kingdom seemed to have narrowly avoided revolution in the Days of May, similar rioting had been seen on the streets of Paris in June as republicans led an anti-monarchist insurrection in an attempt to reverse the 1830 establishment of the July Monarchy of King Louis Philippe. 82 were arrested in a bloody clash with the authorities and would be forever immortalized in the Victor Hugo novel Les Misérables. The news of the Days of May and of the Paris Uprising had reached the courts of Europe and one person in particular was incensed by the reports she read. Queen Louise immediately dispatched a letter of condolence to the 21-year-old Duke of Newcastle who had succeeded his father and had taken his seat in the House of Lords with the Unionists. But Louise’s letter was not just a personal expression of sympathy. In her missive, she spoke of the “despicable crimes of the mob who only bring destruction and chaos with their Godless views”. She paid tribute to the Duke’s murdered father as “one of the greatest sons of England” and said that she would “always see his efforts as an example of loyal and devoted service to His Majesty and to the people of the United Kingdom”. The letter found its way into the hands of the Earl of Winchelsea.


    George Finch-Hatton, 10th Earl of Winchelsea.

    Fortunately for Queen Louise, Winchelsea did not publish the letter because it was deemed impolite to share such a missive in public that was written for private view (unless it was to serve as evidence in a criminal trial). This was doubly true when the author was royalty. But Winchelsea did boast about its contents, supposedly telling a group of Tories that “the Queen stands with us”. Word trickled to Downing Street and Earl Grey immediately departed for Clarence House in a furious temper. The Duke of Clarence assured him that he had no idea that Queen Louise would write a letter to Newcastle, neither did he share her sentiments beyond her expressions of sympathy that the young Duke had lost his father in such ghastly circumstances. He promised to admonish Louise but Earl Grey had already promised to do just that; “You may indicate to Her Majesty that my previous demands that she return to this country may have been ignored but His Majesty’s government has not changed it’s view. If she does not return to this country by the end of the year, I will personally see to it that her allowance is removed and she will not receive a single penny until she is back here on English soil, where I shall ensure that she knows the true extent of my feelings on the subject of her political interference”.

    With tempers flared, the Duke of Clarence tried to calm Lord Grey. He asked if there had been any progress on finding an alternative to the creation of new Whig peers. Grey’s response was one which the Duke had been dreading. The Prime Minister intended to submit a list of peers to be created to represent the Whigs in the House of Lords the following morning. Unkind historians of a dramatic nature have suggested that Queen Louise was personally responsible for forcing Grey’s hand. Had she not provoked him to temper, he would not have doubled down on his threat. But this is inaccurate and has little basis in fact. Whilst Earl Grey was furious with the Dowager Queen, he had already made up his mind that he would petition the Duke of Clarence for the creation of new peers. Neither is it true that the Duke of Clarence felt unable to oppose Earl Grey’s demand once Queen Louise had taken a political stance and involved herself in the row. The Duke had already resigned himself to agreeing to Grey’s wishes and was simply waiting to hear if the Duke of Wellington’s pleas to his fellow Tories to step down their opposition for the greater good had been successful. They had not. The Duke of Clarence asked the Prime Minister for one promise in return; that Grey postpone any introduction of a bill concerning the Church of Ireland, a bill the Duke absolutely and categorically stood firmly opposed to as a member of the House of Lords. Grey agreed.

    The response to the creation of 76 new peers was ferocious. Even moderate Tories were outraged and this only seemed to encourage them to double down on their decision to block the bill; only now they could not. As the new Whig peers approached the Lords to take their seats, the Earl of Rosslyn called out “Lock the doors!”, inspired by the tradition to do the same in the Commons during the State Opening of Parliament. Some of the younger peers attempted to do just that before order was restored and the Whig peers were finally admitted. They were booed and jeered as they entered and took their seats. The Reform Bill sailed through and would be sent to the Duke of Clarence as King’s Regent to give Royal Assent. Earl Grey breathed a sigh of relief. The Duke of Wellington shook his head. The Earl of Winchelsea was incandescent and stormed out of the House of Lords. Around the country, supporters of reform celebrated into the night. Those who opposed it became determined to demonstrate their anger. The diarist Charles Greville summed up the situation as follows; “And so the Age of Liberalism has begun. I can't help but wonder if dear little England is ready for it?”

    [1] I'm really not a legal expert here so I apologize in advance if some of the processes or legal terms are misused in this installment. I've done my best to put something together based on what I could research but I'm only too happy to make amendments if someone more familiar with the law spots any major errors!

    [2] In the OTL, King William IV did consider allowing Earl Grey to pack the Lords but the need to do so disappeared when Wellington convinced enough Tories to back down and abstain on the Reform Act. See my note below for a little more detail on why things are different in this TL.

    [3] This mostly lines up with the OTL but the parliamentary timetable here means that there's a clash and that Grey can use his plans for church reform to try and get one over on the Lords Spiritual before they vote. I did not feel it realistic that the Bishops and Archbishops would relent in their original position so they take a stand here and commit to their position as they did in the OTL. Church reform just gives a little more flavour and as it was a Whig proposal anyway (dropped in the OTL in 1834), it does no harm to bring it forward by a few months.

    General Note

    Two installments today because I had written Part 9 yesterday but had no time to post it and Part 10 is fresh off the presses. Well, my keyboard at any rate!

    There are obviously big political changes here (as promised earlier) and it's really the result of extending Wellington's tenure and giving the Ultra Tories a little more support in previous installments as a result of the decisions Wellington made in his career ITTL which obviously was much shorter in the OTL. With the Ultra Tories becoming a more clearly identifiable grouping too (as the Unionists), there's a home for disaffected Tories as their party has split far more than it did in the OTL. But also, with Wellington being ousted from office quite unceremoniously, he's not only no longer called upon to serve as PM a second time when Grey resigns as in the OTL but his influence in the Tory Party is weaker than in the OTL.

    The consequence of these factors combined is that the political landscape begins to divide among new lines but also, the Duke of Clarence isn't spared the demand to create a raft of new Whig peers. It's been discussed here before but in the OTL, Grey not only considered doing this to push the Reform Bill through but the Duke of Clarence (as King William IV) dropped his initial opposition and was about to agree when Wellington managed to convince enough Tories to abstain and the need disappeared. Things are different in this TL and so what we get is a Whig majority in the Commons AND in the Lords which will make for a very interesting few years ahead politically.

    For those who are following the royalty aspect of this vs the politics, my apologies, we'll be back to tantrums and tiaras very soon!

    And for those readers keeping up on such things...

    The Grey Ministry (from 1831 until this installment)
    • First Lord of the Treasury and Leader of the House of Lords: Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey
    • Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons: John Spencer, 3rd Earl Spencer
    • Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs: Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston
    • Secretary of State for the Home Department: William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne
    • Secretary of State for War and the Colonies: F. J Robinson, 1st Viscount Goderich*
    • Lord Chancellor: Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux
    • Lord President of the Council: Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne
    • Lord Privy Seal: John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham
    • First Lord of the Admiralty: HRH The Duke of Clarence
    • President of the Board of Control: Charles Grant, 1st Baron Glenelg**
    • Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster: Henry Vassall-Fox, 3rd Baron Holland
    • Postmaster-General: Edward Ellice, 1st Baron Ellice***
    *In this TL, he did not serve as Prime Minister between 1827 and 1828 but still defected from the Tories to the Whigs.

    **Defected to the Whigs as a Reformist. In this TL, he was elevated to the peerage with the 1832 intake and not in 1835 as in the OTL.

    ***In the OTL, this post was actually held by the Duke of Richmond, an Ultra Tory who defected to the Whigs because he opposed Catholic emancipation. However, in this TL because the political situation is different, he would not have defected to the Whigs but gone over to the Unionists with Newcastle etc. Ellice is therefore elevated to the peerage from the Commons in 1832 with the 'Clarence' intake becoming Baron Ellice.
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    GV: Part 1, Chapter 11: Family Ties
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    King George V

    Part One, Chapter Eleven: Family Ties

    In the Spring of 1832, it was announced that the newly installed King Leopold of the Belgians was to marry again. This was a subject of great interest in Britain even though at this time, the British government had yet to formally recognize Belgium as an independent sovereign nation out of sympathy (and economic interests) with the Dutch. Leopold’s first wife had been the late heiress presumptive to the British throne, Princess Charlotte of Wales, and since her death Leopold had lived in Britain supported by the Civil List as a kind of ex-officio member of the British Royal Family. He attended court regularly, had served as an unofficial advisor to the King’s Regent and was widely respected for the way he had remained in England and contributed to public life even after the death of his wife. Yet now, Leopold was the King of a foreign country. He had vacated his residence at Marlborough House and found himself in a curious position where the British government recognized him as a King and but didn’t recognize his country. This posed a headache for the Duke of Clarence on a personal level but in parliament, King Leopold’s diplomatic status was a secondary concern. His finances however were now used to force an issue the Prime Minister wished to see resolved as a priority.

    Since his marriage to Princess Charlotte, Leopold had been given an allowance of £50,000 a year by an act of parliament. Upon leaving England to sit on the throne of Belgium, Leopold announced in a grand gesture that he did not consider it right that this should continue. He would voluntarily return £30,000 of his annuity to the Treasury but in a letter to Lord Grey, King Leopold explained why he was not minded to return all of it; “I have maintained my establishments here upon their accustomed footing and that, consequently, there remain to be fulfilled and discharged pecuniary engagements and outstanding debts to an amount which it is quite impossible for me to state at the present time with precision”. These debts included salaries, pensions and allowances paid to members of his household staff but King Leopold also wished to continue to support the charities he and his late wife had chaired or patronised and he wished Claremont, his country home in Esher, Surrey, to be maintained as unlike his former residence Marlborough House, he did not wish to relinquish it. Leopold had sent a canary into the mine. [1]


    King Leopold I of the Belgians.

    His proposal was that he establish a trust in England to be overseen by the Treasury. They could deposit the remaining £20,000 a year left from his annuity into this trust which would then be used to fund only his English financial interests with no money drawn from it to contribute to his expenses as King of the Belgians. Unusually, Parliament found itself unanimous in its opposition to such a proposal but were divided on what the resolution to the situation should be. Radicals like William Cobbett and Samuel Whalley demanded that the £20,000 a year be scrapped entirely or else put into a public trust to fund charity schools or hospitals in the capital. Whigs such as Lord John Russel felt the £20,000 should continue to be paid for as long as it took to settle Leopold’s debts, after which time, the matter could be reviewed.

    The Tory MP George Robinson wanted the House of Commons to be allowed to examine Leopold’s financial records to indicate whether or not he was telling the truth about his financial situation. The Unionists not only wished the £20,000 to be removed as an annuity but for any monies received by Leopold since he took up residence in Brussels to be repaid to the Exchequer. Sir William Heathcote, now the leader of the Unionists in the Commons since the death of Sir Richard Vyvyan, even raised the spectre of war; “In a conflict between Britain and Belgium, we might find ourselves contributing to the war chest of an enemy sovereign, a situation that must be resolved today given that we have no guarantee that we might not soon be called upon to assist our protestant allies in the Netherlands if they seek to reclaim their former territory”.

    Lord Grey had very little to like about Heathcote but he was delighted when the MP raised a different theme in the debate; “Can it ever be considered just that a member of a foreign royal family with no connection to this country other than through his status as a widower, might continue to be in receipt of a substantial allowance such as this when he will never again be a permanent resident here, nor serve the Crown to which he no longer has any allegiance beyond family ties?”. Heathcote might well be describing Queen Louise who was still refusing to countenance a permanent return to England from Hanover against the wishes of the British government.

    Grey did not need the Dowager Queen to be raised by name in the debate, the fact that the principle had been discussed (and widely agreed with on all sides and in both Houses of Parliament) was enough to exert a little more pressure. This was not just about settling a personal vendetta for Lord Grey. In recent weeks, Queen Louise’s newfound zeal for Unionist politics had seen her continue to correspond with senior Unionist peers, something even her sister Augusta could not seem to prevent her from doing. For Louise, this was not the result of a sudden interest in affairs of state; she simply knew that it was causing her brother-in-law, the Duke of Clarence, stresses and strains as he tried to reassure the Prime Minister that she acted only in her name and against his wishes. Louise was playing a dangerous game.

    She upped the stakes when she suddenly left Herrenhausen for Berlin, supposedly at the invitation of the King of Prussia, on a month’s long visit. In reality, she did not stay with the King of Prussia but with her brother-in-law, the Duke of Cumberland. The so-called Cumberland Plot had destroyed the Duke’s reputation in Britain and even though he maintained connections with former political allies and friends, he had been forced to go into a kind of self-imposed exile in Berlin as a result of his public disgrace. Cumberland was not overly fond of Queen Louise and had been left sore when she had failed to jump to his defense when the Cumberland Plot was exposed. Instead, she too had left England. But now word reached the Duke from Unionist peers that Louise was involving herself in political issues on their behalf, most recently in sending a furious letter to the Duke of Clarence almost quoting the Duke of Richmond word for word opposing the creation of dozens of new Whig peers and giving the government an instant majority in the House of Lords. Clarence had not responded but Cumberland saw an opportunity to use the Dowager Queen to restore his standing with former Ultra Tories who had been left publicly humiliated for supporting the plot to make Cumberland regent for King George V with Queen Louise as his deputy.


    Queen Louise.

    Earl Grey despised Cumberland more than he disliked Queen Louise and he knew the stir that would be caused when it was revealed publicly that Queen Louise and the Duke of Cumberland were once again in clandestine meetings together. Provoked by the Dowager Queen, Grey made good on his threat to hit Louise where it would really hurt; her finances. The debate on King Leopold’s annuity was the perfect cover and the government announced that in order to resolve the issue on royal salaries, the Civil List would be reviewed. Grey had no intention of cutting Louise’s allowance entirely, neither did he believe it necessary to remove the remaining £20,000 from King Leopold’s finances. In the latter’s case, the government said that it should be considered a pension for the many years of devoted service given to the United Kingdom by a man who may once have been Prince Consort. The government accepted however that as the King would never again be a permanent resident in the United Kingdom, the allowance should never be increased in any future acts of parliament, though it could be removed entirely if a state of war ever existed between Britain and Belgium. A state of war was about to erupt between the Prime Minister and the Dowager Queen. With the Duke of Clarence’s agreement, her allowance was to be cut from £45,000 per annum to £25,000.

    Earl Grey explained his reasons for this change to the Queen (now back in Hanover from Prussia) in a letter; “Your Majesty’s position is different entirely from that of King Leopold in that you remain Madam, the mother of our beloved sovereign with all the dignities and privileges such a position rightfully affords to the bearer of such prominent and important status. But Your Majesty must appreciate that the payment of such a high annuity to one who no longer wishes to reside within the United Kingdom must be treated under the same principle as that which has been agreed concerning the annuity of the King of the Belgians. I would stress however that the Cabinet is unanimous in it’s view that this situation should, and would, be immediately reviewed at such a time as Your Majesty returns to reside in England permanently, as it is unanimous in it’s view that these new financial arrangements are entirely appropriate”.


    Earl Grey.

    Louise was incandescent with rage. Naturally she blamed the Duke of Clarence for somehow convincing Grey to cut her allowance but because the Prime Minister had (perhaps deliberately) invoked the name of King Leopold, the insult was even more painfully received. It also came at a particularly difficult time for Louise financially. She had committed to refurbishing her suite of rooms at Herrenhausen and forbidden from using the Viceroy's budget for such frivolous means, she had been forced to meet the costs personally. But this had only become apparent after she had commissioned the team of architects and interior designers, upholsterers, restorers, carvers and gilders who would undertake the work. Not wishing to be seen as beholden to her brother-in-law, the Duke of Cambridge, she decided to pay the exorbitant bills herself and the work had begun. The cut in her allowance would mean she could no longer afford to pay for the renovations as planned and she might even be forced to seek an increase to her personal revenues to clear the remainder of the bills which now looked worryingly as if they would become substantial debts.

    But though Queen Louise had lost this particular battle, King Leopold (to the Dowager Queen’s fury) had emerged victorious. His proposals for the Belgian succession would only serve to enrage Louise further. France had generously welcomed Belgium’s declaration of independence from the Netherlands and now sought to cement the alliance further through marriage. King Leopold would take as his second wife the daughter of the King of France, Princess Louise. The match was an arranged one and took only political expediency into account rather than romance. Princess Louise was twenty-two years younger than her new husband and was bitterly opposed to leaving France and her family. A shy and retiring lady, Louise wanted to live a quiet life in the countryside and had no interest in the role of a Queen consort. She was also overwhelmed to realize that her primary function would be to provide an heir for the Belgian throne, the succession to which in 1832 was uncertain.

    The Belgian Constitution gave rights of succession to the throne only to the legitimate descendants of King Leopold. As he had no legitimate descendants in 1832, it was decided that if this situation continued after his marriage, the King would be able to name his heir presumptive to parliament which would then approve (hopefully) his preferred candidate. The Constitution would then be amended to give rights of succession to the legitimate descendants of the heir presumptive when he became King of the Belgians upon the death of King Leopold. King Leopold was a particularly ambitious character but not so much for himself as for his family. He privately indicated at this time that in his mind, there was only one candidate he could propose if his new wife failed to give him the heir he needed; his nephew, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Whilst his elder brother Ernst would inherit Coburg and Duke Ernst I’s moderate fortune, Albert stood to inherit nothing. He must either find himself a vacant throne with the backing of the Great Powers or marry into a reigning family to improve his position in the model of his uncle if he wished to be more than a minor German princeling among the grand courts of Europe.


    Queen Louise of the Belgians by Winterhalter.

    King Leopold knew that Albert would be supported by France, Great Britain and Prussia (provided recognition had come by then). If this was to become a reality, Albert would have to be raised in Belgium and special attention given to his education - and to his future bride. Securing the succession if Albert was proclaimed heir presumptive would become an immediate priority and as marriage negotiations could take some considerable time (especially when the stakes were as high as finding a wife for a future King of the Belgians), it seemed wise to begin looking at potential candidates even though Prince Albert was only 13 years old. In this matter, King Leopold recruited Stockmar as his senior advisor but there was an issue that both would have to overcome if Albert was going to be seriously proposed as Leopold's heir in the event that he had no legitimate children with his new Queen; religion.

    When Leopold accepted the throne of Belgium, he did so on the condition that he would not be required to change his religion. Belgium was a Catholic majority country, a key cause of the revolution that saw Belgium split from the protestant United Provinces of the Netherlands. Leopold accepted that a Catholic country should have a Catholic monarch and as a result, he sought only to take a Catholic bride. A papal dispensation had been granted by Gregory XVI which recognized Leopold’s marriage to Louise on condition that any children be raised in the Catholic faith, thus allowing for Leopold's heirs to reign as Catholic Kings. But if these heirs did not appear and if Leopold named Albert as his heir, Albert too would have to marry a Roman Catholic unless he considered converting himself. Not to do so might flirt with antipathy (or worse) towards the protestant monarchy in proudly Catholic Belgium and Leopold knew only too well the difficulties this could cause. Once offered the throne of Greece, he had declined and the position had instead gone to Prince Otto of Bavaria. Now as King Otho, many in Greece resented their sovereign who refused to even consider converting to Orthodoxy. [2]

    But there were other factors to consider too. At this time, nobody in Belgium knew how long the Great Powers (with the exception of France) would take to relent and recognize Belgium as an independent sovereign nation. Brides from countries that were likely to remain opposed (such as Russia) could not be considered on these grounds as well as the religious differences. As for Prince Albert himself, there was only one girl at this time he had any interest in at all; Princess Charlotte Louise of the United Kingdom. Their friendship (for that is what it remained at this very early stage) had always been seen as nothing more than a childish infatuation but in recent weeks, Albert had begun to talk openly to his friends about Charlotte Louise as “that great love of mine”. As a teenage boy facing puberty, it was only natural that he would experience the first pangs of romance and as he had spent so much time in England, it was perhaps to be expected that Charlotte Louise would become the focus of these feelings.


    A sketch of a young Prince Albert.

    They were not entirely reciprocated. Princess Charlotte Louise was precocious but still only ten years old. She saw Albert as nothing more than a close friend, perhaps even more as a sibling than a future husband. She was wise enough to know (and had been educated to appreciate) that her life would be defined by the man she married but there was no pressure put upon her from any corner to think about this as anything more than inevitable but many years away. The Duke of Clarence had decided that neither of his nieces would be married before the age of 18, nor did he even wish to entertain proposals of marriage before that time. Naturally they would still come. Already the Empresses, Queens and Grand Duchesses of the grand courts of Europe were consulting the Almanac de Gotha for suitable future brides for their powerful sons and word had already reached England that the Tsar of Russia was seriously considering the two English princesses as possible matches for the Tsarevich. In the Netherlands too, Charlotte Louise and Victoria were frequently connected to the Prince of Orange but there was one stumbling block for Charlotte Louise that did not exist for Victoria. Until King George V married and had children, Charlotte Louise remained heiress presumptive. As the King's sister, her prospects were time sensitive depending on the future role she was likely to play in the United Kingdom.

    In the midst of these ruminations, King Leopold married Louise of France. Within a month, she was pregnant and Leopold was reassured by her doctors that given her healthy appetite and the way she was carrying her child, there was little doubt that it was a boy. During Queen Louise of the Belgian’s pregnancy, Prince Albert’s prospects were still being discussed in relation to Belgium by King Leopold, Duke Ernst I of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Baron Stockmar. But the birth of King Leopold’s son and heir Crown Prince Louis Philippe in 1833 put pay to the idea that Albert might become King of the Belgians after his uncle. The notion was briefly raised again following the sudden death of the Crown Prince two years later, but the birth of a second son for King Leopold in 1835 meant that Prince Albert had lost his chance of reigning in Belgium. Nonetheless, King Leopold still regarded his nephews as important ambassadors for the Coburg family and Stockmar was asked to give serious consideration to their future brides as they grew closer to marriable age.

    Because of the personal connection between the British and Belgian monarchies, the Grey government felt it important to stress that they had no intention of recognizing Belgium and to prove it, they issued an invitation to the King of the Netherlands and his family to visit England in the Spring of 1833. William II was a a godfather of King George V and since the conclusion of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824, relations between the two countries had improved significantly. The government did not wish to sour these relations again by being seen as hypocrites, on the one hand securing allowances for King Leopold and on the other, promising the Netherlands that British sympathies were with the Dutch.

    The Prince of Orange and his wife, Anna, (née Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna of Russia) came to England in April that year, their visit falling during the celebrations for the 13th birthday of King George V and the 12th birthday of Princess Charlotte Louise. The Dutch couple brought with them their three eldest sons; William, (born in 1817), Alexander (known as Sasha, born in 1818) and Henry (born in 1820). Princess Anna had her own network of spies in St Petersburg who had relayed to her that both Princess Charlotte Louise and Princess Victoria were being considered by the Tsar as future brides for his son. But the future King and Queen of the Netherlands also had the girls in mind as potential matches for their own son and heir who would succeed his father as Prince of Orange. Their visit allowed them to subtly declare their interest, Princess Anna presenting Charlotte Louise with a glittering diamond and sapphire brooch set in 24 carat gold. Each of the three Dutch princes stepped forward with gifts of a gold bracelet, a pair of gold earrings and a gold necklace. Lord John Russell who was present at the celebrations commented wryly that it was; “Like the arrival of the Magi to the stable”.


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

    Princess Anna was greatly impressed with Princess Charlotte but again, her position as heiress presumptive to King George V meant that a contingency candidate would be needed. Anna felt that the Tsar might prefer Victoria to Charlotte Louise because she was his goddaughter (and because she was now very unlikely to inherit the British throne). The Dutch royal couple decided to keep both princesses in play. Victoria was given gifts and encouraged to spend time with the Dutch princes during their stay just as much as Charlotte Louise. The Prince of Orange considered that if Charlotte Louise succeeded her brother, his second son Alexander would make the perfect Prince Consort. If she did not, she would do just as well as Queen of the Netherlands married to the future Prince of Orange. If the Russians got there first, Victoria would have to do, though Prince William was not as impressed with her as he was with Charlotte Louise, commenting that "of the two English princesses, Charlotte is by far the sweeter in nature and the prettiest, which is unlikely to change all that much". The English princesses had their own comments to make on appearances. Whilst Charlotte Louise though Prince Alexander was "shy but pretty", Victoria believed all three of the Dutch princes to be "very plain, very heavy and very dull".

    Charlotte Louise agreed when it came to Prince William of the Netherlands. She was unimpressed when she asked William what he had been reading, only to be told that he found such intellectual pursuits boring and "fit only for would-be preachers and parsons". In a letter to Prince Albert, who must have been very relieved, Charlotte Louise said the Prince of Orange was "a very stocky and dull boy" who "ate too much and spat". Fortunately for both, the Duke of Clarence was not going to relent on his promise that neither princess would marry before they were 18. [3] The Dutch were well aware of the Duke's pledge but nonetheless asked him to "be mindful of the future links our two families may share" and reminded him of the importance of “protestant princes being united against orthodoxy and popery on the continent”. The following month, Prince William asked his wife to write to the Duchess of Clarence to see if it might be possible to begin preliminary negotiations for a marriage contract in the near future between Princess Victoria and the Prince of Orange. The Duke of Clarence was not naive and had already calculated his response. He favoured such a union but he would ask the Dutch to wait until his niece turned 15 years old. In that time, he saw no reason why the two teenagers should not continue to meet and if they liked each other, an engagement at 16 with a view to a wedding when Victoria turned 18 was not unthinkable.

    But before the Princess of Orange could send a letter and secure interest in their future daughter-in-law, news came from Germany which meant any talk of negotiations, engagements and weddings came to a sudden halt. At the Siegburg Asylum near Bonn, Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, succumbed to tuberculosis and died on the 25th of May 1833. She was 46 years old. The Duchess had been effectively exiled from England a decade earlier. She had not seen or communicated with her daughter since that time but in her room at Siegburg, stacks of letters were discovered which she had written to her daughter but which had always been returned to her unopened. These letters were sent to England by the Duchess' doctors but disappeared and never found their way into Princess Victoria’s hands. It is speculated that the Duke of Clarence kept them until Victoria turned 18 but that they were destroyed before they could be passed on. Victoria had no idea of her mother’s true fate until much later in her life and felt great shame that her mother had died in an asylum. It became a verboten subject of discussion for the rest of her life.


    The last portrait of Victoria, Duchess of Kent. Painted before she was admitted to Siegburg Asylum.

    The Duchess of Clarence broke the news of the Duchess of Kent’s death to her daughter Victoria in the first week of June 1833. Victoria was said to have wept for a time but then seemed to recover quite quickly. Her grief was not prolonged, simply because she had never really known her mother. For the last ten years, she had believed the Duchess of Kent to be travelling in Germany, the standard response given when she inquired after her. But she had never seen a portrait of her mother, neither had she ever been given letters from her to read. Her grief seemed to be for the idea of a mother she had perhaps invented and not the woman she had not seen since she was a toddler and whom she could not really remember. The Duchess of Kent’s body was taken to Coburg where she was buried in the crypt of the Church of St Moritz. She had wished to be buried alongside her late husband at Windsor but the Duke of Clarence felt this would be too much for her daughter to bear. Instead, he arranged for a private memorial service to be held in the Chapel Royal of St James' Palace. The Duchess' coffin was later transferred from the Church of St Moritz to the Ducal Family Mausoleum in Coburg in 1860. In the same year, Victoria commissioned a small memorial to her mother which was placed in the Royal Crypt of the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft.

    At Herrenhausen, Queen Louise was informed of the death of her great rival. In reality, she had gained nothing from her efforts to destroy the Duchess of Kent. Much like her sister-in-law, Louise had been forced to leave England and had no real relationship with her children. Indeed, Louise had become less popular than the disliked Duchess ever was at court and few would welcome her if she ever returned. Upon hearing that the Duchess of Kent had died, Louise replied only with a barked admonition to Baroness Pallenberg; “You know only too well that I have forbidden that woman’s name to be mentioned in my presence”. But she didn’t let the event pass without further comment. Made aware that the King of the Netherland was seriously considering her niece by marriage as a future wife for the Prince of Orange, Louise wrote to Princess Anna. It was typical of the Dowager Queen's penchant for poison.

    Louise wrote; “The tragedy at Bonn these past weeks has come as a great shock to us all but poor Victoria had suffered so in recent years. The stories of her behaviour at Coburg before she was sent to Siegburg were chilling, indeed, one must ask what the people there thought when she became so erratic. I have heard that at times she even became most violent and so in the end the Duke had no choice but to send her away. I do fear this will take a great toll on poor dear little Drina in England and we must hope that she will be well cared for by her own physicians in her grief. For we must never forget, we in such great positions of responsibility for the care of our children, that her grandfather died mad and her mother was sent to the asylum for much the same reason. I do hope this has no ill-bearing on her future for she is such a lively girl, if not a little unpredictable in mood".

    When no word came from The Hague as expected, the Duke of Clarence asked if subtle inquiries could be made as to the state of things. Had the Dutch so quickly changed their minds about his niece? He did not wish to force the issue but the silence seemed ominous. Clarence was quickly informed about the contents of Queen Louise's letter. There were rumours that the elderly King William I was none too pleased by the prospect of a match with Victoria over Charlotte Louise and had told his son and heir that he should only seriously consider Victoria if her dowry was substantial and if she was subjected to extensive tests by a qualified physician who could absolutely rule out any possibility of "madness" in her. The Duke of Clarence's usual calm temperament shattered. He threw a vase, bellowed that the Prime Minister be summoned immediately and the Duchess of Clarence ran from the room weeping when, for the first and only time in their marriage, he shouted at her as she tried to calm him down. “I will do anything and everything in my power to silence that vicious creature”, the Duke raged, “And the government will support me or else I shall resign my post without delay”.

    Queen Louise was about to discover that her luck had run out and the dangerous game she had played since her husband's death was to be brought to a swift and unpleasant end.

    [1] Leopold’s letter is quoted directly here though this debate moves forward a little in TTL as opposed to 1834 in the OTL.

    [2] In the OTL when this situation was considered, the Belgian parliament was divided on this issue. Some felt that Leopold’s named heir (in the lack of a natural one) should be a Catholic, others felt it was enough for them to marry a Catholic.

    [3] Clarence won't relent on this but naturally he will have to consider proposals before then and possibly even engagements as was quite usual at the time. It was felt more important to secure a marriage with an engagement and have a wedding take place a year or two later than lose the best candidate in the game.
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    GV: Part 1, Chapter Twelve: Clarence's Revenge
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    King George V

    Chapter Twelve: Clarence’s Revenge

    In July 1833 the Duke of Clarence received the Dutch Ambassador, Andre Tuyl, at Clarence House. Tuyl reassured the Duke that the Dutch King had paid no attention to Queen Louise’s letter and that there was no suggestion at all that the Prince and Princess of Orange had ruled out Princess Victoria of Kent as a suitable bride for their eldest son. Indeed, Princess Anna had been most impressed with Victoria and wrote to her sister, the Grand Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (née Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia) that she “found much to be admired in the girl”. Anna continued; “There is an understated attractiveness though her nose is a little narrow and her eyes a little wide. But it is her personality which cannot fail to impress for she is a serious girl with a modest and friendly nature which quite charmed us both”. Though Anna stressed that “Duke William (sic) will not contemplate a marriage before the age of 18 for his niece”, it appears that by August of that year the Oranges had decided that they wanted Princess Victoria for their daughter-in-law and future Queen Consort of the Netherlands.

    Queen Louise’s attempts to cause difficulties between the Dutch royal couple and her brother-in-law had failed. Indeed, by this time Louise’s reputation abroad had suffered just as much as it had at home. The complicated family tree of European royalty meant that Louise’s poison pen letters were often shared across borders and whilst at the beginning there were those who loved to feast on the tittle tattle from the British court (which always seemed to think itself so superior to its contemporaries), by 1833 many had become bored as the novelty wore off. But for the Duke of Clarence, Queen Louise had committed the ultimate crime in trying to derail the future of his favourite niece. Whilst the Duke adored King George V and Princess Charlotte Louise just as much, Princess Victoria had arrived at Clarence House at such a young age that William could never see her as anything other than his own daughter.


    King William II and Queen Anna of the Netherlands.

    He was pleased to hear from Tuyl that the Dutch had not been moved against Victoria by Queen Louise. Whilst he would not countenance any serious negotiations at this time (Victoria was still just 14), he told Lord Grey that “there could be no finer match if the interest proves to be sustained”. As for the young Prince William of the Netherlands, the Duke thought him “robust and well mannered” and wrote to his brother the Duke of Sussex that; “His rough edges will smooth with time I believe and it would be hard to overlook the merits of a marriage with a Prince who shall one day be the King of an allied nation, a close neighbour and a Protestant one at that”. Naturally there was no talk of love or even friendship, though the Duchess of Clarence proposed that she take Victoria to The Hague later in the year to see if William and Victoria could develop such a friendship away from the British court. It was also important to Adelaide that Victoria took an interest in what could be her future home. She knew only too well the difficulties of adjusting to life in a new country and if it appeared that a marriage might one day take place, she believed Victoria should be well-prepared “learning the language, customs and intricacies of life at the Dutch court”.

    Earl Grey was supportive of the idea of a Dutch match for Princess Victoria, though there was some concern that such a marriage may raise a diplomatic issue; Victoria’s uncle was King of the Belgians, a country which the Netherlands still refused to recognize. The British had shown unity with the Dutch by following suit but this could not continue for long. If Victoria became engaged to the future Prince of Orange and the Netherlands remained stubbornly opposed to recognition for Belgium, Britain might find itself in an awkward position as a result of the close family ties between the ruling families of the Netherlands, Britain and Belgium. Clarence reassured Grey that if an engagement did arise, it would be far into the future by which time the Dutch and the Belgians would no doubt have come to amicable terms. Though there would be interest in Princess Victoria at this time in other European courts, the Duke of Clarence had privately decided that the Dutch match was by far the best opportunity for his niece.

    However relieved he was that the Dutch had not been put off by Queen Louise’s meddling, he was still incensed by his sister-in-law’s behaviour. The question over Louise’s continued absence from England was gaining ground with radicals and backbench Whigs who were keen to make changes to the Civil List. Renewed annually, the United Kingdom was still facing large debts and the Civil List had consistently been increased since the death of King George IV. Some wanted to introduce an amendment to the legislation which set the Civil List for a period of five years before it could be increased, something the Duke of Clarence wished to avoid. But in the midst of the debate both in parliament and around the dinner tables of Belgravia, one issue united all sides; it was ridiculous that Queen Louise should be in receipt of £45,000 a year when she was no longer resident in England. Not only that but her presence at Herrenhausen had seen the expenses for the Viceroy almost double.

    Louise had always been extravagant but by 1833, her habit for lavish spending had caught up with her. Her renovations to her suite of rooms at Herrenhausen had gone way over budget and because Herrenhausen was an official residence of the British Sovereign (as King of Hanover), she insisted that the cost be met by the Viceregal budget. Unable to refuse, the Duke of Cambridge wrote a worried letter to his brother, the Duke of Clarence, asking for advice. Unfortunately for Louise, this came just after her efforts to derail the Dutch interest in Princess Victoria. The Duke of Clarence was in no mood to be kind. In the past, he had always managed to maintain a calm approach where his sister-in-law was concerned but now, Queen Louise had pushed the Duke too far. The final straw came not from Hanover but from London when a letter appeared in the Times in August 1833 which threatened to give rise to yet another royal spending scandal.


    A Birmingham silver medal struck to commemorate Joshua Scholefield in 1844.

    Joshua Scholefield was the radical liberal MP for Birmingham and a founding member of the Birmingham Political Union. He served alongside Thomas Attwood as the Union’s Chair until the Union’s aims were achieved with the passing of the Reform Act. Scholefield was at a dinner party when a guest referred to Queen Louise as “the Beggar of Herrenhausen”. In his diary, Scholefield noted; “Talk then turned to why he should refer to the Queen in this way and so it was explained that with her allowance cut in half, Her Majesty has taken to writing begging letters to Unionists asking to defend her interests when the Civil List is once again before the Commons for debate. There is talk of growing debts which cannot be paid and naturally she will not return to England so long as the Duke of Clarence has a hold on the royal purse strings so her full annuity will not be restored. Regardless, they say she spends money as if she were sowing seeds”.

    Unlike most dinner party gossip, these rumours were actually true. Louise made no attempt to economize and with her annual allowance now cut to £25,000 a year, even her sister Augusta could not reason with her to curb her spending. Scholefield's letter to the Times took aim as follows; “Parliament shall now be asked to consider yet another increase to the Civil List, which in spite of savings made recently by the Treasury, still remains unacceptably high. Most recently we concluded that it would be quite wrong to continue to fund royalties in foreign lands who no longer serve this nation. Those in receipt of such annuities must remember the contract forged between the Crown and Parliament and I urge my fellow parliamentarians to demand that every economy that can be made is made for the people expect us to justify every penny that is spent, whether that be in England or in Hanover”. Scholefield didn’t name Queen Louise (indeed, Lord Winchelsea said that if he had, he would have challenged him to a duel for insulting the Queen personally) but nobody could be blind to his intended target. The Duke of Clarence was concerned by the letter, fearing another Kew Scandal was about to erupt. But before he could raise the matter with the Prime Minister and ask for advice, his hand was forced.

    In September 1833, the Duchess of Clarence received a letter from the Duchess of Cambridge. Heavily pregnant, Augusta was being driven to breaking point by her sister at Herrenhausen. But the letter had an urgency to it and contained an unpaid bill from Fossin, the Parisian-based jeweler later to become the House of Chaumet. Sore at not being able to remove certain pieces from the Royal Vault when she left England, Queen Louise had initially eschewed wearing jewelry as a tactic to plead mistreatment when anybody asked where her tiara was. But her sister Augusta had a healthy collection of jewels of her own and pretty soon, Louise grew tired of appearing as the poor relation. Whilst Garrards & Co was the official Crown Jeweller, Louise refused to patronize them for as long as she was not resident in England, fearing that the Duke of Clarence might stop Garrards taking commissions from her. Instead, she had chosen to summon a representative from Fossin to Hanover where she placed orders mostly for relatively inexpensive demi-parures. That changed in the summer of 1833 when the agent from Fossin presented a recent acquisition which he believed the Dowager Queen might be interested in.


    Ishwari Sen, 13th Raja of Mandi wearing the original necklace purchased by Queen Louise in 1833.

    Like their contemporaries, Fossin had agents present in the so-called “jewel capitals” of Southeast Asia where precious gems and stones would be assessed and then returned to Paris, Berlin, London or Rome and then sold to wealthy clientele. Whilst most agents dealt in quality gemstones that had either been discovered or acquired in their raw natural state, the most prestigious agents were sent to countries such as India or Burma to ingratiate themselves with the ruling families and convince them to part with larger pieces which could then be brought back to Europe for sale. This was not always a fair arrangement. Some unscrupulous agents would engage conmen who would promise to take pieces from wealthy families to Europe so that they could be copied. A deposit was paid (usually 1/4th of the value) but these conmen would then quickly disappear. The pieces would be sent to Europe, broken up so that they were unrecognizable and the original owners were left cheated. Fortunately, other agents were more honest and built up a regular clientele of moderately wealthy princes who were only too keen to part with family heirlooms for a good price when their private fortunes took a nosedive. One such client was the 14th Raja of Mandi, Zalim Sen.

    The Raja was first approached by Henri Sulis, one of Fossin’s most renowned and respected agents, in 1828 shortly after he succeeded his father, the 13th Raja, Ishwari Sen. Through Sulis, Zalim Sen had sold many pieces in his collection to the House of Fossin but these were almost always broken up and reset to suit European tastes in jewelry. In 1833, the Raja had decided to part with an exquisite necklace that belonged to his father but which the Raja personally care for. The Mandi necklace was assessed by Sulis, his report noting that it contained twelve large cabochon emeralds the size of quail’s eggs totaling 220 carats with a circular pendant made of 150 rose-cut diamonds. In the center of the pendant was a large round-cut 25 carat ruby (said to have been a gift from King Bodawpaya of Burma) with a pear shape drop emerald dangling below estimated to be 30.6 carats. Fossin purchased the necklace for £500, a vast sum of money and one of their most expensive acquisitions at the time. With Queen Louise now a regular client, Sulis was asked to leave India and take the necklace to Hanover to give the Dowager Queen first refusal.

    When Queen Louise saw the Mandi necklace, she was immediately attracted but as was common, she disliked the design. Sulis had thought ahead. He took with him designs for a parure which could be created from the necklace once it had been broken up. The designs were impressive. The centrepiece was to be a circlet based on an oak leaf motif with six acorns set in emeralds and diamonds suspended from diamond and pearl arches. The remaining emeralds would be set into a stunning collar which used most of the remaining diamonds and pearls in its design. However, Fossin already had stones from a previous acquisition from the Raja of Mandi which could be included in the commission to provide earrings, two brooches, a bracelet and two aigrettes. The total cost to produce the Mandi Parure would be £1,800 and could be completed by the end of the year. Louise didn’t hesitate. She signed a purchase order with Sulis and agreed to pay the full amount upon receipt of the parure but advanced Sulis the sum of £800. This meant that Louise now owned the necklace (or rather, the stones in the necklace) and she awaited the delivery of her new suite of jewels in a state of great excitement. She never saw them. [1]


    Chaumet in Paris, the building once housed Fossin before the House of Chaumet succeeded it.

    With Fossin working at breakneck speed, the parure was completed ahead of schedule and now, the jeweler wanted his money. Louise didn’t have it. She had already accrued debts with almost every dressmaker in Hanover, so much so that those she hadn’t yet commissioned refused to visit Herrenhausen for fittings. They knew only too well that she would never pay them and word quickly got round that Louise was known for issuing promissory notes which were never honoured. If the merchants were lucky, the Duke or Duchess of Cambridge would step in and pay the bill but many lost money and Queen Louise’s reputation was badly damaged. When Louise couldn’t pay and ignored Fossin’s final demands, the jeweler wrote to the Duchess of Cambridge. In turn, she wrote to the Duchess of Clarence. If the bill was not paid, Fossin would have no choice but to take legal action against the Dowager Queen. In that event, scandal would be unavoidable.

    With these threads woven together, the Duke of Clarence now moved to put an end to his sister-in-law’s bad behaviour once and for all. He had the upper hand and he intended to use it to its full impact. At an audience with the Prime Minister at Clarence House, the Duke laid out his battle plans. He would send Louise an ultimatum. If she returned to England as the government had frequently demanded, her debts would be paid and her full allowance of £45,000 a year would be reinstated. Baroness Pallenberg was to be allowed to remain in her household and she would be free to visit Hanover at her leisure for six weeks a year to spend time with her sister, the Duchess of Cambridge. In addition, the refurbishment of her rooms at Herrenhausen would be completed and her bills at Fossin and with her dressmaker would be paid.

    For his generosity, Clarence expected the Queen to cease interfering in political matters, to stay out of any marriage negotiations for Princess Victoria and to curb her spending once her financial situation was put right. The alternative was a harsh one but the Prime Minister felt it entirely fair and backed Clarence to the hilt. If Louise would not return to England, her allowance would be cut in half again and her debts would remain unpaid. If that happened, her creditors were likely to seize her belongings in England which would be publicly (and humiliatingly) sold at auction. Furthermore, he reminded Louise that Herrenhausen was not a private royal residence but an official residence of the Sovereign as King of Hanover. This gave Clarence as Regent the right to admit to the Palace whomsoever he liked. It also gave him the right to remove people from the Palace too. Queen Louise now faced financial ruin and eviction from Herrenhausen if she did not submit.


    The Duke and Duchess of Clarence.

    When Clarence’s letter reached Herrenhausen, Louise flew into a rage that even shocked the resilient Baroness Pallenberg. She later recalled how; “Her Majesty quite lost her composure and she tore at the draperies, kicked the furniture and tore the letter in two. She swore she would never return to England whilst the Duke of Clarence was living and was all of a fury on the matter for days”. The Duke of Cambridge tried to reason with her. Clarence was a man of his word. Cambridge had little reason to doubt that he would make good on his threats and in that event, he could do nothing (even as Viceroy) to prevent Louise being evicted from Herrenhausen.

    After two weeks, Louise wrote to the Duke of Clarence. She had been considering returning to England, she insisted, but had delayed because she wished to remain in Hanover to see her sister’s third child born before returning to Windsor. She now believed she had been mistaken to consider leaving Hanover; “for now I see that England will forever be hostile to me and that you wish to see my humiliation above all else”. She insisted that the Duke had no right to remove her from Herrenhausen and that if he tried, she would waste no time in “relaying this most outrageous action to my friends in parliament whom I have no doubt shall raise the matter in my defense for there are still good men in England who recognize the service and sacrifice I have always given to my adopted homeland, though it has never been appreciated by those who are determined to see me ruined in an attempt to keep me from His Majesty the King”.

    Backed by the Prime Minister, the Duke of Clarence ordered that any letters from Queen Louise to England be intercepted, just as Queen Louise had once demanded of the letters sent by the late Duchess of Kent. Though she did indeed write to powerful friends in the Unionist Party and other sympathetic peers, they never received her letters. Instead, there was radio silence and for a time, Louise was allowed to believe that she had won and that Grey and Clarence had given up their scheme to force her return to England. She was sorely mistaken. With her sister now in the last month of her pregnancy, Louise was kept from Augusta on the grounds that her confinement was proving difficult and her doctors wished to keep her as calm as possible. In reality, this was a ruse that allowed Augusta to claim later that she had no forewarning of what was about to occur. Returning from a walk in the grounds of the Palace with Baroness Pallenberg, the Dowager Queen returned to her rooms at Herrenhausen only to find the doors had been bolted. Two Officers of the Guard stood before them, barring Queen Louise and Baroness Pallenberg from entry.

    Louise ran to the rooms of her brother-in-law and sister but found the Duke of Cambridge had already departed for Neustrelitz to pay a four-day visit to Augusta and Louise’s sister Marie and her husband Grand Duke George. Louise later said this was “cowardice on the part of my brother-in-law who left his wife, heavy with child, quite alone so that he would not have to play a part in such a ghastly assault on the mother of the King”. She could not gain entry into her sister’s rooms and therefore ran back to the doors of her suite and demanded she be allowed inside. The Guards informed her that they had orders not to admit anybody but Baroness Pallenberg and only then if they were given an assurance that the Baroness would be preparing the Dowager Queen’s personal belongings for her return to England. Louise withdrew to the Salon of the palace where she sat and stewed for three hours. Eventually, Pallenberg was dispatched to the suite, allowed entry and began packing.

    The following morning, a coach arrived and was made ready for a long journey. Accompanied only by the Baroness, the Dowager Queen departed Herrenhausen for the last time. She dispatched a letter to her son as she boarded the coach; “Your poor dear Mama has been so cruelly treated by your Uncle William who now forces her to remove herself even further from her dearest darling boy. I take you with me in my heart and you must believe me when I say that I should wish for nothing more than to return to you and be with you. But Clarence makes this impossible and so I must continue to be parted from you. You must never forget my darling Georgie, that I am devoted to you and I only pray we may soon be reunited when my tormenter no longer holds authority over you”. Louise’s coach headed south to Rumpenheim.


    Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge.

    The Duchess of Cambridge later wrote; “I shall never know what changed in my sister to make her so troublesome. She was always such a dear, sweet girl and yet now she causes such upset to us all”. Historians have long speculated on this question too. The traditional view is that Louise was left disappointed and resentful at what she regarded as a total loss of position and influence when her husband died. Whilst some of her contemporaries could expect to be useful and to retain access to the machinery of state by taking an active role in a regency, this was denied to her (by none other than her own husband). During her tenure as Queen consort, Louise had always craved attention and to prove her importance by seeing just how much she could get away with. This only became heightened when her husband died and she was seemingly pushed out of the inner royal circle.

    But to those who are sympathetic to Louise, there exists a view that she was wrenched away from her family, sent to a strange country and was simply unsuited to the British way of life. It should also be remembered that however close King George IV and Queen Louise became, their marriage was an arranged one which suffered a prolonged period of estrangement, especially after she had provided her husband with a much-needed heir. The rejection she felt during the days of the late King’s infatuation with Lady Elizabeth Somerset was perhaps the turning point in Louise’s personality which made her hard and bitter. Royal biographer Anna Bailey suggests that Louise may also have suffered a kind of nervous breakdown following the death of her youngest son Prince Edward. The fact that she never came out of mourning and could not bear to hear his name mentioned suggests that far from being unfeeling as many claim, she was deeply affected by such a loss and thereafter adopted a tough exterior to hide how brittle she was underneath.

    Whichever side one falls on where Louise is concerned, it is clear that even her own family in Rumpenheim held little sympathy for her situation. When Queen Louise arrived unannounced at her father’s palace on the banks of the River Main, she did not receive the warm welcome she had imagined. Landgrave Frederick was 86 years old, widowed and in poor health. His eldest son William had kept his sister at arm’s length in recent years, embarrassed by her behaviour which he believed “stained the reputation of the entire family”. He had even written to the Duke of Clarence assuring him that “We share a position in many ways and I support you in your attempts to ensure a decent and honourable upbringing for our nephew which I understand can sadly not include my sister”.


    Landgrave Frederick of Hesse-Kassel-Rumpenheim.

    William had naturally passed on every piece of tittle tattle to his father who was said to remark that he would “cast the petulant child out of the palace” if she ever returned to Rumpenheim. Now was his chance to make good on his promise but the Landgrave was extremely frail and confined to his bed for most of the day. He listened patiently as Louise sobbed and wept, recounting her plight and demanding that he take some action on her behalf. But the Landgrave did nothing. He allowed her to stay at Rumpenheim but warned that the British would not be made fools of; “They will take your crown and then what shall you be?”.

    Meanwhile in England, the Duke of Clarence had no idea that his sister-in-law had fled for Rumpenheim. He assumed that she would buckle when he closed the doors of Herrenhausen to her and that with no money and nowhere to go, she would naturally submit and return to England. Anticipating this, he made good on his side of the bargain. Royal Lodge was prepared for her arrival, the Marchioness of Lansdowne was asked to ready the Queen’s Household and he began to settle her financial problems. Whilst most were paid from the Privy Purse, the bill at Fossin was paid from the Duke’s own private fortune. With the outstanding amount paid, Fossin dispatched a messenger to England carrying with him a large red leather box in which sat the Mandi Parure. Earl Grey agreed that government funds could be used to pay off the contractors in Hanover and the works at Herrenhausen completed as part of a general refurbishment effort whilst the Queen’s dressmakers were happy to finally have some recompense after nearly eleven months of issuing final demands. When the Duke heard Queen Louise would not be returning after all, he used the very last remaining weapon in his armoury; the King.

    A Letter from the Duke of Clarence to Dowager Queen Louise, December 1833.

    “It is with regret Madam that I have learned of your journey to Rumpenheim, a course of action I feel can only increase the frustration that exists here on this most exhausting matter. I must therefore inform you that with the agreement of His Majesty’s government, there shall be a further decrease in the monies paid from the Civil List which I feel appropriate given the position of the Prime Minister that such a generous annuity can no longer be given to one who no longer wishes to reside in a country which has given her so very much. I must also inform you Madam that I have been made aware of certain sentiments expressed to His Majesty personally that seek to poison his heart against me. This I take as a most grievous insult for I have only ever tried to serve His Majesty as I believe my beloved brother, the late King, would expect and I am content that the relationship which exists between His Majesty as Sovereign as myself as His Majesty’s Regent is one of mutual trust and admiration, as it must be for the future success and stability of the Crown of England.

    To that end Madam, it is with the greatest reluctance that I act as I do so now. I am minded of the departure from this country of another who sought to cause division at court and within my family, one whom not so recently departed this life after some years of living in no better circumstances than a beggar. I am also minded that at that time, Your Majesty was most pleased by the outcome of that matter as you believed then, as did I, that my brother, His Late Majesty, was acting to preserve the dignity of the Crown and of our family. I can therefore only follow his example when a similar threat to that dignity arises. It is my intention therefore to spare you none of the censures which were applied at that time. With regret Madam, I must beg you return to England or I shall have no course of action left to me but to forbid you any contact with His Majesty the King forthwith. To do so would, I fear, turn the King against his primary advisors at a very delicate time in his development and do irreparable damage to that relationship which is designed to foster in His Majesty a character well-prepared to reign over the people of this nation for many years to come.

    I urge you Madam to think well on this matter. Whatever the path which has brought us to this most regrettable place, I say now in all honesty that I would happily restore friendship and forget all previous quarrels and hardships if you will return to England as soon as possible. I ask you to consider what is best, not for yourself, but for your son, His Majesty the King, whom I have never, and will never, turn against a loving mother who may yet put this terrible situation right with so easy and simple a gesture. I await word from you Madam and send my best wishes to the court at Rumpenheim, a court to which my family has always shown generosity and kindness as it would readily do so once again”.

    The Duke of Clarence’s letter did not move Louise to compromise. Though they despaired at her actions, her eldest brother and father had no choice but to allow Louise to remain at Rumpenheim. Clarence upheld his promise and cut her allowance to £10,000 a year in 1834 and threatened a further reduction by half the following year. For 18 months, Queen Louise dug in her heels and refused to concede defeat but defeated she was. She finally returned to England in 1835, her full annuity restored but her standing within the Royal Family forever diminished. She had become a stranger to the people and to her children and her future looked increasingly lonely as the years went by. Her reunion with the King when she finally made her way back to Windsor was stilted and emotionless. She held out her arms to embrace him but Georgie simply bowed and walked away. Whilst she remained the most senior lady at court, her position in the immediate aftermath of her return was severely damaged and she was unable to reconstruct any kind of relationship with her siblings-in-law. For two years, she lived at Royal Lodge almost entirely alone except for the constant companionship of Baroness Pallenberg.

    But there was hope for her yet. 1837 would mark a turning point for Louise, one which would see her sink or swim...

    [1] These figures are based on the sums Prince Albert spent on a new parure for Queen Victoria in the OTL a year after their marriage.
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    GV: Part 1, Chapter 14: The Queen Returns
  • Opo

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    King George V

    Part One, Chapter Fourteen: The Queen Returns

    In the latter half of 1834, Queen Louise left Rumpenheim for Schloss Neustrelitz, the home of her sister Marie and Marie’s husband, Grand Duke George of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Louise had grown tired of life at Rumpenheim, the warm reception she had expected on her homecoming found wanting as her elderly father and her eldest brother William showed more sympathy with the British Royal Family than with her. Louise’s niece, the future Queen consort of King Christian IX of Denmark, recalled her aunt’s final days at Rumpenheim; “Nobody in the family much cared for her by that time. She was full of complaints and she insisted on taking precedence over my mother because she was the Queen of England (sic) which caused much unpleasantness. She meddled in everything. I recall my mother being very upset when she dismissed servants she did not like and my father eventually made it clear that Aunt Louise was no longer welcome at Rumpenheim”.


    A postcard of Neustrelitz Palace, c. 1920.

    Louise also recalled the weekly tea parties her aunt would host in the salon of Rumpenheim for her nieces and nephews; “We all dreaded them. She reduced my sister Augusta to tears because she saw she was a shy child and she always told us that we were very beastly children who made too much noise so she could not sleep in the afternoons as she liked to do. We always tried to make excuses not to be in her company but she had a curious way of commanding a person that made you feel you dare not oppose her. I’m afraid we all grew to despise her and that is perhaps why she became even more bitter and cruel. She might have otherwise been a cherished member of the family but I am certain she enjoyed being so ghastly. I only met her a few times after my marriage but on each occasion she was sure to say something horrid which would upset somebody and so we stopped offering invitations. We simply could not bear to be in her company”.

    Of all her siblings, the only one she had managed to maintain friendly relations with was her younger sister Marie and so it was in August 1834 as her son arrived in Europe for his first tour that Queen Louise was once again on the move. She arrived totally unannounced at Neustrelitz and immediately caused chaos. Schloss Neustrelitz was not a particularly large residence (by palatial standards of the day) and the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess had four children who were all of an age where they had left the nursery for rooms of their own. Life at Neustrelitz would be something of a squeeze and as at Rumpenheim, Louise’s haughty demeanor caused upset in the household of the Grand Duke. She replaced servants, changed menus and altered mealtimes and like their cousins, Marie’s children were summoned once a week to take tea with their aunt which they found a chore. But Marie Strelitz was endlessly forgiving. A woman who tried to see the best in everybody, she would make excuses for her sister’s behaviour and withstood Louise’s imperious demands and brutal rudeness. Marie's daughter Caroline later said; "My mother was powerless where Aunt Louise was concerned. She always gave in to her. Always".


    Marie of Hesse-Kassel, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

    By this time, Queen Louise knew she could not stay in Germany much longer. Her allowance had once again been cut and whilst the Duke of Clarence had settled her debts, she was quickly descending once more into financial difficulty. But the idea of returning to England intimidated her. Louise was not so foolish as to believe that she could ever recover a meaningful relationship with either of her two children, neither did she believe her brother-in-law was being truthful when he said that past squabbles would be forgiven and forgotten upon her return. The silence of her other in-laws would mean no allies at court when she was finally forced to go back to Royal Lodge at Windsor and she realized that she needed some kind of insurance policy that would give her at least some of the influence at court she had once enjoyed during the reign of her late husband. Ironically, it was King George IV who provided Louise with that insurance policy in his will.

    George IV was under no illusion that his wife was deeply unpopular in England and for that reason alone, he had sought to remove her from any position of authority by keeping her as far away from the regency for his son and heir as possible. But this is not to say that he did not love his wife, indeed, he seems to have put distance between Louise and power for her own good. The one responsibility he deemed to be hers by right was that she should be allowed to arrange the marriages of the couples’ children following the precedent set by his mother Queen Charlotte. Until this time, Louise had shown no interest in the matter. The Duke of Clarence had taken up the responsibility where Princess Charlotte Louise was concerned but in his view; “It is for His Majesty to decide for himself when he has reached the age of majority, though he must act quickly in this to secure the succession”. Queen Louise saw an opportunity to return to England with a purpose. Writing to the Duke of Clarence in December 1834, she announced that she would leave Neustrelitz for Windsor in the New Year. “His Majesty’s 15th birthday brings him to an age where a suitable marriage can no longer be a secondary concern”, she wrote, “It is therefore my intention to return to England to carry out my husband’s wishes and find a bride for my son whom he may marry as quickly as possible following his 18th birthday”.


    Marlborough House today.

    For his own part, the Duke of Clarence intended to honour his promise to his sister-in-law. Upon her return, her allowance would be reinstated in full (from £10,000 per annum to £45,000) and he would welcome her to court as if the battles of the last few years had never occurred. But this would have been far too simple for Louise and naturally she had to find a way to make her return as unpleasant as possible. Whilst she intended to take up residence at Royal Lodge once more, she stressed the importance of having a London residence now that the King was spending more time in the capital. She overlooked its connections with King Leopold and demanded that she be given the use of Marlborough House.

    Since the fire at Kensington Palace, Marlborough House had been home to Princess Sophia, the King’s aunt and the youngest surviving daughter of King George III. Initially Sophia had shared Marlborough House with her sister Augusta and her brother the Duke of Sussex but the Duke could not stand the constant bickering between the two spinsters and left Marlborough House for a town house of his own in Belgravia. Augusta had grown so tired of Sophia that she barely spent anytime in London, preferring to remain at her primary residence at Frogmore. Sophia had become used to having the run of the mansion to herself but now, she was asked to move into a small apartment at St James’ Palace so that Queen Louise might move into Marlborough House as a permanent London residence. Regardless of their quarrels, Princess Augusta was furious at the way her sister had been treated and as a form of protest, promised she would never again be in the company of the Dowager Queen.

    As the Royal Household prepared for the Queen’s return, one of her rivals would not be there to greet her. Earl Grey had finally made good on a constant threat and on the 17th of September 1834, he traveled to Clarence House to offer his resignation as Prime Minister. Grey was increasingly being seen as “yesterday’s man”, someone more akin to the moderate Tory view than to the pro-reform Whigs and his Cabinet colleagues were becoming frustrated with his lacklustre approach to their agenda. Lord John Russell was heard to ask why, with both Houses of Parliament under their control, Grey did not embark on a legislative agenda that would secure Whig government for another generation. But as Grey had grown older, his appetite for reform had diminished. He could be proud of his achievements in passing the Reform Act and the Abolition Act but now, he found himself frequently agreeing with his Tory foes rather than with his Whig friends. His time had come and Grey opted to retire from frontline politics. He recommended the Duke of Clarence either call Lord John Russell or Lord Melbourne as his successor.

    Both men had been allies of Lord Grey but had equally proved to be a thorn in his side in recent months. Russell was known to be an advocate of wide-spread reform, particularly where the Church was concerned, and he believed that Grey was missing an opportunity to take full advantage of the Whig majority in both Houses to deliver a “golden age of progress”. But Russell’s speech on the Irish Tithes Bill had made many of his colleagues nervous. He argued that the revenues generated by tithes justified by the size of the Protestant church in Ireland which many had sympathy with, regardless of the turmoil tithes were causing across Ireland. He alienated many colleagues by adding that a proportion of the tithe revenue should be appropriated for the education of the Irish poor, regardless of denomination. Whilst this view was popular among supporters of Daniel O’Connell, many Whigs were troubled that O’Connell’s support was a poisoned chalice. By 1834, O’Connell had founded the Repeal Association which campaigned to repeal the Acts of Union between Great Britain and Ireland. If Russell was named Prime Minister, Grey had no doubt that his domestic agenda would be beneficial for the country as a whole but warned the Duke of Clarence that his Irish policy may pose a serious rift among the Whigs.


    Lord John Russell pictured here in 1861.

    By contrast, Lord Melbourne was seen as a compromiser. He had once been opposed to the Reform Act but later supported it as a necessary measure to prevent revolution. However, he was not universally popular within his own party. He had opposed the abolition of slavery calling it “a great folly” and said that if he had been Prime Minister, he would have “done nothing at all”. Again, Grey advised Clarence that Melbourne’s domestic agenda could only be positive for the country but he may divide the Whigs and cause political turmoil. There was a crucial difference between the two candidates Grey recommended; Russell wanted the job, Melbourne did not. Indeed, when he heard that Lord Grey had proposed him as his possible successor, Melbourne said to his secretary, Tom Young; “I think it’s a damned bore. I am in many minds as to what to do”. Young believed his boss to be the best possible successor to Earl Grey and tried to convince Melbourne that he should accept if the offer came his way; “Why, damn it all, such a position was never held by any Greek or Roman; and if it only lasts three months, it will be worth while to have been Prime Minister of England (sic)”. [1] The Duke of Clarence despised Lord John Russell with a passion, branding him “that dangerous little radical”. In his mind, there was no contest. Though they disagreed on many issues, especially Melbourne’s attitude towards reforms in the colonies, out of the two men who might succeed Grey, Melbourne was the most tolerable.

    But friends of Russell’s in the press knew that Grey had recommend him to the Duke and they intended to sway Clarence towards their man. The newspapers were suddenly filled with reports about yet another sex scandal to plague Lord Melbourne. It was alleged that Melbourne had been having an affair with the society beauty Caroline Norton and her husband had issued a demand for £1,400 in damages. The case was to go to a court hearing. Initially, the Duke of Clarence did not see why such a scandal should derail Melbourne’s career. But neither could he wait until after the trial. [2] He had to make a decision and appoint a Prime Minister. Though convention would have it that the King (or in this case, the King’s Regent) should make his decision on whom to appoint based on the recommendation of the outgoing officer holder, there was no legal barrier to the monarch or his representative appointing a different candidate altogether.

    Initially, the Duke considered Lord Palmerston but he could see no possible successor to Palmerston at the Foreign Office among the Whigs who could boast the same expertise - or whom he could trust. Finally, Clarence found the answer in his own house. Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne, was a former Chancellor of the Exchequer and Home Secretary who could command the respect of both wings of the Whig party, indeed, even moderate Tories praised his calm and steady approach to the great matters of the day. His wife, Louisa, had been appointed as Mistress of the Robes to Queen Louise but unwilling to go to Hanover, had instead been serving in the household of the Duchess of Clarence. Lansdowne had no great appetite for high office but he felt a personal debt towards the Clarences. He truly believed that there were other men more suitable for the job and he privately noted that “the most important decisions seem to be taken on the personal likes and dislikes of the Royal Family”. Nonetheless, he reluctantly agreed and on the 18th of September 1834, Lord Lansdowne was appointed Prime Minister.


    Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne.

    This put the government in a curious position. The country now had a caretaker Prime Minister when it did not need one. Even Lord Palmerston felt the Duke of Clarence had allowed his personal politics to interfere with his approach to government appointments and there was quiet chatter at the dinner tables in political households that the Duke would have dismissed the government entirely had the option been available to him. Lord John Russell referred to Lansdowne as “the Prince’s Pup” and his supporters were none too pleased that Lansdowne appeared to favour a “business as usual” approach as favoured by Lord Grey. Their only hope was that Lansdowne would quickly tire of his new position and during his tenure, they could work together to present just one candidate to the Duke of Clarence as his successor. Other Whigs however were delighted to have a steady hand at the tiller, especially one who did not have the baggage of Melbourne or the reputation of Russell.

    Lansdowne has been remembered by history as a particularly weak Prime Minister, partly because of his reluctance to accept the position in the first place but also because despite the large Whig majority in the Commons, he seemed reticent to introduce anything too controversial. Historians have suggested that he only ever felt himself a temporary Prime Minister and that he did not wish to drag himself or his party into debates that he had no interest in seeing through to the bitter end. But his weakness gave his political enemies an opportunity they were not going to allow to slip through their fingers. 1834 marked the start of the so-called “Dirty Campaign”. Over the next 12 months, the Unionists led by the Earl of Winchelsea staged a bitter public campaign against the government (and moderate Tories whom they dubbed ‘the Little Russells’) full of personal attacks and smears on their opponents.

    Their claims were somewhat sensationalist but they successfully tapped into the fears of many disaffected Tory voters. By portraying Russell as “the power behind the throne”, Unionist candidates held regular rallies at which they turned to old enemies to encourage anti-Whig (and anti-Tory) sentiments. If the Whigs won the next election, the Unionists claimed, they would begin the dismantling of the Church in Ireland and give in to Daniel O’Connell’s demands for a repeal of the Act of Union. Free of the Irish problem, Russell would be installed in Lansdowne’s place and he would then begin a radical programme of public expenditure, advance a new Factory Act, cut the defence budget and reduce the number of Anglican Bishops in the House of Lords just as the Whigs had done with the Irish protestant clergy in the Church Temporalities Act. But worst still, the Unionists claimed that Russell wanted to re-establish full and formal diplomatic relations with the Holy See. The response from the electorate was (predictably) one of outrage. [3]

    The first signs that the Unionist message was having a very real impact on the electorate came in the first week of October 1834. Lord Lansdowne had been invited to a luncheon hosted by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths on Foster Lane in the City of London. As he was leaving the luncheon, a young man stepped from the crowd carrying a pistol and took aim at Lansdowne. He fired but missed, his bullet firing through one of the windows of Goldsmith’s Hall instead and doing minor damage to a painting inside. Lansdowne was severely shaken by the assassination attempt and at his trial, Francis Bull, the would-be assailant, claimed that he had seen no other choice but to kill the Prime Minister to “protect England from the Pope”. The Unionists were roundly condemned by the political establishment for inciting violence but the Earl of Winchelsea simply claimed they were presenting the British people with the Whig agenda as it would be under Lord John Russell when he (inevitably, according to Winchelsea) took office.

    But by far the most serious consequence of the Dirty Campaign came two weeks later on the 16th of October 1834. At this time, the traditional use of tally sticks had been dispensed with and Richard Weobly, the Clerk of Works, was given instructions by the Treasury to destroy the remaining stocks. Instead of giving them away as souvenirs, Weobly chose to burn the tally sticks in the two heating furnaces under the House of Lords. But the furnaces had been designed to burn coal and not wood. The high flames began to melt the copper flues in the walls in the Peer’s Chamber and by 4pm, those inside the House of Lords could smell burning and feel heat coming up from the floor through their boots. By 6.30pm, a huge fireball burst in the centre of the chamber and brought down the roof. The resulting fireball could be seen from Windsor Castle. Despite their best efforts, firefighters could not bring the blaze under control quick enough to stop the flames destroying both the House of Lords and St Stephen’s Chapel where the Commons had met since 1547. Fortunately, a quick-thinking fireman, James Braidwood (Head of the London Fire Engine Establishment) focused his efforts on saving Westminster Hall. By cutting the roof away that connected the Hall to Speaker’s House, the medieval structure of the building was saved though the worst possible damage had already been done.


    The Burning of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, 1834, by J.M.W Turner

    The glow from the burning Palace could be seen for miles and news quickly spread through the city that the Houses of Parliament were on fire. Crowds quickly gathered with one journalist noting; “there were huge gangs of light-fingered gentry in attendance who doubtless reaped a rich harvest, and who did not fail to commit several desperate outrages”. The crowds became so large that many hopped into small fishing boats and rowed out into the Thames to get a better view. Among them was the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle who noted; “The crowd was rather pleased than otherwise and they whew’d and whistled when the breeze came as if to encourage the flames. They shouted; “There’s a flare-up for Russell – A judgement for his Popery! A man sorry anywhere I did not see”. [4]

    As the flames still licked the building, gossip began to ripple through the crowd. The fire was obviously the fault of Catholic rebels or Irish revolutionaries taking advantage of weak Whig rule, just as the Unionists had warned they would. The crowd quickly became a mob and with no clear target, they moved towards Downing Street where the Grenadier Guards who had been helping to put out the fire at the Palace of Westminster had to struggle to hold them back. The clash did not last long but there were arrests and injuries. The next morning, the Office of Woods and Forest issued a report outlining the damage to the building promising that “the strictest enquiry is in progress as to the cause of this calamity, but there is not the slightest reason to suppose that it has arisen from any other than accidental causes”. The Times even carried the first mention of tally sticks but most were unconvinced. The Unionists claimed conspiracy. In their view, the “Whig press is out to protect the seditious rebels responsible for this terrible crime”. Lord Lansdowne was deluged with anonymous letters, many of them death threats but most urging him to believe them when they said that the fire was an arson attack caused by pro-Russell Catholic revolutionaries. [5]

    The Duke of Clarence felt these claims to be “ludicrous ravings” and accepted that the fire had been entirely accidental. He offered the use of Buckingham Palace as a replacement to parliament but MPs declined on the grounds that the building was too small. Instead, they would temporarily sit in the Lesser Hall and Painted Chamber of the Palace of Westminster which had not been destroyed by fire and which were hastily re-roofed and furnished for the State Opening of February the following year. Architect Robert Smirke was engaged to design a replacement for the Palace of Westminster with a Royal Commission formed to make a final decision before building work could begin once. But this was by far the easiest damage to repair. In the fall out from the burning of parliament, a mood gripped the country that saw Whig MPs (and some Tories) become the target of public outrage. Whigs in particular found it difficult to move around the country. One MP reported being pelted with eggs whilst another had his face slapped by a woman in the street.

    It was in this tense national atmosphere that King George V celebrated his 15th birthday at Windsor Castle. Though she was now resigned to returning to England, his mother did not coincide her arrival with the festivities. On the 11th of February 1835, the Duke and Duchess of Clarence walked out to the Lower Ward of Windsor Castle, joined by senior courtiers and members of the Royal Household, as a coach rolled through the Henry VIII Gate and came to a slow stop. The coachmen descended, bowing to the Duke and Duchess, then opening the door. Queen Louise stepped down from the carriage wearing a black crepe dress and a large black hat trimmed with white ostrich feathers. The Clarences were said to have performed their role impeccably, the Duke stepping forward to kiss his sister-in-law’s gloved hand and bowing his head whilst the Duchess hovered behind and sank into a deep curtsey. Queen Louise gestured toward the coach. A girl of 17 with blonde hair and bright blue eyes dressed in pale blue silk with yellow flowers in her hair followed.

    “My niece…Louise”, the Dowager Queen smiled with a wave of her hand, “She was kind enough to accompany her old aunt on her travels, a great help given that nobody greeted me at Southampton”.

    The Duke was momentarily surprised but nodded towards the girl who blushed and offered a curtsy. Without waiting for an invitation, Queen Louise held out her arm and the girl took it, the pair processing up the hill of the Lower Ward to the Norman Gateway and on to the State Apartments. As we have seen earlier, her son King George was not entirely overwhelmed by his mother’s return. But he was momentarily intrigued by the pretty young woman who stood behind his mother during their reunion.

    “This is your cousin Louise”, the Dowager Queen said brightly, “She has come to visit you. Isn’t that nice Georgie?”

    Duchess Louise curtseyed. George V paused for a moment. Then he walked away. But his mother was not offended by this, indeed, she had possibly expected such a cold reaction from the son she barely knew. Turning to her niece, she said quietly; “Do not worry my dear. The King will like you. I shall make sure of that”.

    [1] This exchange was recorded by the diarist Charles Greville. In the OTL, Melbourne was convinced to take the post but here, Clarence offers the post to Lansdowne.

    [2] Slight butterflies here. William IV was not keen on many of the Whigs in the OTL (he once said he would rather dine with the devil than any member of the Cabinet) but in the different political atmosphere of TTL, he cannot do as he did in the OTL and try and install a Tory government instead. By moving the Melbourne scandal a little earlier and by considering William IV’s dislike of the majority of Whigs, Lansdowne wins by the process of elimination. It should be noted that Lansdowne was offered the chance to be PM twice in the OTL but refused both times. Here, I believe he would accept reluctantly.

    [3] These were all positions which Russell held in the OTL but at this time, they’re nothing more than quotes from speeches he gave in Commons debates. It’s unlikely Clarence would ever call Russell as PM but the Whigs in TTL can’t say that to the electorate, all they can do is publicly voice their support for Lansdowne and oppose the Unionists. It puts them in a difficult position politically, as the Unionists would want.

    [4] I’ve amended this true quote from Carlyle to suit the narrative. The original was directed at the Lords and was proclaimed judgement for the Poor Law Bill.

    [5] I’ve used real quotes here to fit the narrative of TTL.


    The Lansdowne Ministry

    • First Lord of the Treasury and Leader of the House of Lords: Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne
    • Chancellor of the Exchequer: John Spencer, 3rd Earl Spencer
    • Leader of the House of Commons: Sir John Hobhouse, 1st Baron Broughton
    • Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs: Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston
    • Secretary of State for the Home Department: John Ponsonby, 4th Earl of Bessborough
    • Secretary of State for War and the Colonies: Thomas Spring Rice
    • Lord Chancellor: Charles Pepys, 1st Earl of Cottenham
    • Lord President of the Council: John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham
    • Lord Privy Seal: George Howard, 6th Earl of Carlisle
    • First Lord of the Admiralty: George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland
    • President of the Board of Control: Charles Grant, 1st Baron Glenelg
    • Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster: Henry Vassall-Fox, 3rd Baron Holland
    • Postmaster-General: Charles Poulett Thomson, 1st Baron Sydenham
    GV: Part 1, Chapter 15: The Puppet Princess
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    King George V

    Part One, Chapter Fifteen: The Puppet Princess

    Duchess Luise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz [1], born in 1818 at Schloss Neustrelitz, was the eldest daughter of Grand Duke George of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and his wife, Princess Marie of Hesse-Kassel. She had been named for her godmother, now the Dowager Queen who had brought her from Germany to England. Luise had been raised in a loving but modest family, the Grand Duke enjoying a position of authority but (compared to his counterparts across Germany) not one that brought great wealth. Her childhood was a simple one spent in the company of her three younger siblings Hereditary Grand Duke Frederick William, Duchess Caroline Marianne and Duke George August but there were frequent trips to Rumpenheim to visit her grandfather Frederick, her uncle William and her cousins Karoline, Marie, Louise (later Queen consort of Denmark), Frederick William and Auguste. From an early age, Luise was nicknamed “Sunny” by her father Grand Duke George who called her “the brightest and happiest of all my children”. Queen Louise of Denmark later said of her; “She inherited Aunt Marie’s ability to see the good in all people and even as a child, she never complained”. Indeed, Duke Georg August wrote of her; “When we were given treats as children, she was only too happy to part with her own because of the happiness it gave her to see us enjoy more of the same”.


    Duchess Luise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, c. 1837 [2]

    But Luise was also a shy and timid girl, never one to push herself forward. Her daughter Princess Victoria (1840 – 1922) later wrote; “Of all the memories shared with me of my poor dear mother, all had a common theme; that she was that rarest of creatures who had a natural goodness, a total lack of self-interest and a desire only to make those around her happy”. There are no records of Luise’s reaction to being uprooted from her family in Neustrelitz and taken to England with her godmother but in her letters home to her parents, there is no trace of bitterness or complaint. She is full of compliments for the British Royal Family and praises her aunt for her kindness and generosity. Susannah, Countess of Harrowby (who had served the Dowager Queen Louise as a lady of the bedchamber) noted that “The little Duchess could see a goodness in her aunt that nobody else could. Indeed, of all those around the Queen it was only her niece who had a kind word and a generous thought for her. This was surprising given that the Queen treated the poor girl as a kind of unpaid companion and she was never allowed to go out by herself”.

    From her modest life at Neustrelitz, Duchess Luise was thrown into life at the Court of St James’ with very little preparation. The first barrier was the language. Whilst she spoke a little English, she was hardly fluent and Queen Louise refused to allow her to speak German, insisting that she must improve her English-speaking skills without delay. She engaged a tutor for the purpose who praised the young Duchess to his employer; “She already has an enviable command of German, French, Russian and Italian and her ear for languages is quite remarkable”. Queen Louise replied, “I do not care for her ear, I care for her to be properly educated as quickly as possible”. But Luise was well educated. Her father, Grand Duke George, had insisted on a programme of school building when he succeeded his father in 1816 and by the end of his reign, the vast majority of his subjects could read and write which was far from the norm. Regardless of their gender, the Grand Duke had provided a well-rounded education for his own children too and Luise was both an avid reader and a talented poetess.

    Naturally it was Luise’s beauty which first caught the attention of the English court. In his diary, Charles Greville describes the first time he saw the Duchess, albeit from a distance, as she made her way to Marlborough House after a luncheon party; “She is without a doubt an incredibly beautiful young lady with long golden curls and they say she has bright blue eyes and skin as clear as fine porcelain”. She dressed simply, though not fashionably, rejecting the leg-o-mutton sleeve which was still popular and dispensing with the heavily embellished skirts of the day. Instead, she embraced romantic fashions with a more natural silhouette, her gowns cut from patterned cottons and mousselines rather than the heavy silks with complicated embroidery and lace frills still very much in favour. Her blonde tresses were parted in the centre and brushed smoothly over her ears into a chignon at the back of her head, again a departure from the elaborate styles of the day and she was a great devotee of modest decoration of the hair with flowers or ribbons. In England, this would become known as the Mecklenburg Style, the English believing as they did that every young lady in the Grand Duchy dressed that way. Soon after her arrival in England, and as newspapers began to print stories and sketches of her, middle class girls embraced Luise’s style and so slowly the previous fashions of the 1820s and early 1830s were abandoned.


    A dress worn by Duchess Luise in 1836.

    When she first arrived in England, Luise followed her aunt everywhere. At Royal Lodge, she was given two rooms at the back of the house in which to sleep and dress with an adjoining sitting room. Her accommodation at Marlborough House was far more comfortable as she was given the apartment formerly occupied by the Duke of Sussex. This suite of rooms included a private salon, a large bedroom, a study, a dining room, dressing room and bathroom. This particularly impressed Luise as the plumbing at Neustrelitz was rudimentary at best. Her father sent portraits of the family so that she could decorate her rooms with them but she had few possessions of her own. This was not the result of poverty of course; she simply did not feel she needed to surround herself with clutter.

    If she had one criticism of her aunt, it was that; “She does so like to acquire little things which are very pretty but which must be such a chore for the servants to organise”. The Dowager Queen opened an account for Luise with a Knightsbridge dressmaker, Madame Yvonne, but Luise never commissioned a dress unless she was instructed to by her aunt ahead of a function or fete. She was given a lady’s maid, Beryl Whigham, who later said that she often found Luise had dressed herself and styled her own hair leaving her with nothing to do; “Her wardrobe was very simple too and I was shocked when she mended a small tear in the hem of a dress with very fine stitching. I am sure other ladies in her position would have thrown the dress away but she did not”.

    Luise was not naïve and must have known why her godmother, absent for so many years in her life, had suddenly taken an interest in her. The Clarences too understood why Luise had been brought to England. The Duke felt his sister-in-law’s meddling to be “far too obvious” and complained that “[Queen Louise] has no style in these things, no elegance or decorum. It is all far too matter of fact – not to mention presumptuous”. But that is not to say that the Duke did not approve of Duchess Luise, on the contrary, on the day she arrived at Windsor he noted in his journal that she was “a sweet girl of good protestant stock with sound and well-liked parents. That she should be named for the Queen is a burden she should not bear for the two are so very different in personality. Pray God that remains so”. However, the Duke was still insistent that his nephew should be allowed to choose his own bride when he came of age and whilst he felt Luise was more than a suitable match, he did not intend to join in the Dowager Queen’s matchmaking. Besides, the King was only 15 years old. If George took an interest in Luise in the future, it would be “all to the good” but Clarence made it clear that he would not “push His Majesty into a hasty marriage for which he is not fully prepared and which should not be his priority at this time in his life”.

    As far as Queen Louise was concerned, the Duke of Clarence’s views on the King’s marriage were of no consequence. Her late husband’s will gave her the right to decide who and when her children would marry and if she chose to present her niece as a fait accompli, the King would simply have to accept her as his bride. There was a flaw in this plan, however. The Queen had no real relationship with her son and he was not enthused or excited by her return to England. He did not rush to spend time with her and their first few meetings were brief, usually in passing, with no real opportunity for the Dowager Queen to introduce the King to his cousin in any meaningful way. Louise’s past behaviour was putting obstacles in her way and she could not count on her in-laws to assist her. Princess Augusta condemned the Queen bringing Luise to England as “the most vulgar scheme”, whilst the Duke of Sussex said that whilst he was greatly impressed with “the Mecklenburg girl”, the Queen was “handling the whole thing so blatantly and so boorishly that it [is] almost indecent”.

    The Duke of Clarence had resolved not to battle with his sister-in-law and where possible, to bite his tongue. Fortunately for the Duke, the Dowager Queen now had a project she could focus her attentions upon and not only that, but she also had her full allowance restored from the Civil List which allowed her to spend money, a past time which always made her happy. For weeks after returning to England, Louise spared no expense where her niece was concerned. She was horrified that Luise showed no interest in filling her rooms with the same clutter the Dowager Queen preferred and when she found that Luise was not placing regular orders with Madame Yvonne in Knightsbridge, she took control. The result was an endless array of packages containing dresses, hats, scarves, bonnets and shoes which were not to Luise’s taste and which she only ever wore when dining alone with her aunt at Marlborough House to show gratitude. For Luise’s 17th birthday on the 31st of May 1835, the Dowager Queen presented her with a demi-parure fashioned from pearls and diamonds by Garrards & Co. The wary jeweller had demanded payment in advance. Queen Louise used the occasion to introduce her niece to London society and to the King.


    The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

    Luise’s first birthday in England was marked with a trip to the theatre and then a late supper party given at Marlborough House. The Clarences were surprised to be invited, though the Duchess noted that she felt this was more to secure their support for Luise than a gesture of apology or reconciliation. The King and Princess Charlotte Louise, Princess Victoria and the Duke of Sussex were also present, though the Duke of Clarence’s two sisters did not receive invitations. The party was not exactly a jolly affair and got off to a bad start. The Dowager Queen had asked Baroness Pallenberg to arrange a visit to the theatre before the supper party began. Not a natural lover of the arts, Pallenberg had bought tickets to the first play she had seen advertised. Dressed in their best, the Dowager Queen and Duchess Luise arrived at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane to see a production of Virginius, an 1820 tragedy by the Irish writer James Sheridan Knowles starring Charles Kemble. When the audience saw the Dowager Queen enter the royal box, there was no round of applause as was customary, indeed, there were even a few boos from the stalls below. Within half an hour, the Dowager Queen had decided the play was quite unsuitable and in the middle of a scene, the royal party left and returned early to Marlborough House.

    None of the guests were aware that the Dowager Queen would be home from the theatre early, neither were the servants. They were still preparing the ballroom and Louise flew into a temper berating them for their laziness and lacklustre approach to their work. She remained in a foul mood for the remainder of the evening. With no attempt at discretion whatsoever, she seated Luise opposite the King at supper but made the mistake of putting the Duke of Richmond next to her niece. Richmond took far too much wine and monopolised the girl so much that she could barely exchange more than a few pleasantries with the King who clearly wasn’t enjoying himself and left early, much to his mother’s anger. As the King left the ballroom, the Dowager Queen retired to bed leaving her guests to wonder whether they too should go home early. There was not a hint of disaster in Luise’s letter to her mother; “Aunt Louise was most kind and took me to the theatre and then gave a small supper party for my birthday. I enjoyed the play very much and the supper was pleasant too. The King came and wished me well and he gave me a small silver box as a gift which is very pretty and was most kind of him. I enjoyed my birthday very much”.

    The Duchess of Clarence was the one member of the Royal Family who dared to point out the obvious in a letter to her sister Ida, now living in Weimar with her husband Prince Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach; “She is much kinder to [Luise] than she ever was to her own children, indeed, she might well be taken for her mother which is so very difficult to understand, especially given that she has not once extended an invitation (or even shown an interest) in seeing poor Lottie”. Princess Charlotte Louise was not particularly hurt by this. As far as she was concerned, she did not have a relationship with her mother and whether the Dowager Queen resided in Germany, England or on the Moon, she had lost nothing because there never was a closeness there to begin with; “I felt very much that I had disappointed her for a time”, she later wrote, “But then I realized that she did not know me and so could not be disappointed. Indeed, as she cared only for her own interests, even if I were to have disappointed her in some way, she would not have shown the slightest indication of it and so I came to regard her as someone who existed only in the conversations of others or in portraits on the walls of Buckingham Palace”.

    Queen Louise’s grip on her niece meant that the Duchess was rarely seen outside of her company. She did not mix with the King or Princess Charlotte Louise, nor was she able to accept invitations to Clarence House kindly extended by the Duke and Duchess because Queen Louise had sworn never to step foot there. But one invitation she was thrilled to accept came in June 1835 from King George V. Both the Dowager Queen and her niece were invited to Buckingham Palace where the King was to host his very first reception to be held in honour of the various Ambassadors at the Court of St James’. Lord Palmerston had proposed the idea as a way of introducing the King to the diplomatic corps and the reception became an annual tradition, though the date was later moved to be held in January. The King wished the entire Royal Family to be present to support him but again, Princess Augusta declined, thereby keeping her word never to find herself in the presence of her sister-in-law so long as she could help it.

    King George welcomed his guests in the ballroom of the palace with each being formally presented as he sat on a chair set on a dais. After everybody was presented, the King circulated so as to spend a few minutes with each Ambassador and their wives. The Duke of Clarence had advised the King to dance with these ladies rather than the women of the court whom he saw regularly and this frustrated the Dowager Queen who had hopes that might ask his cousin to dance. But George did not ignore Luise entirely. In the moments they spent together that evening, he politely inquired as to how she liked living at Marlborough House. Luise replied that she thought the property “very nice indeed”. A bumptious Queen Louise interjected; “Yes but I am sure Luise would like to see more of the Palace here. Perhaps His Majesty might like to show her some of the paintings in the gallery?”. The King smiled politely and nodded, moving on to greet Cristóvão Pedro de Morais Sarmento, the Envoy Extraordinary of Portugal to the Court of St James.


    Count di Borgo.

    Also present that evening was Count Carlo di Borgo, the Corsican politician who had so bitterly opposed Napoleon and had entered the Russian diplomatic service leading Bonaparte to consider him a traitor to France. Di Borgo’s presence was not popular with the Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, who was incredibly rude, perhaps because the Russian diplomat had once been the lover of Palmerston’s mistress, Lady Cowper. Di Borgo was not only present that evening as a courtesy. Relations between Russia and the United Kingdom were strained with a rise in Russophobia in England following the Greek War of Independence. Russians were consistently characterised in the British press as backward and militaristic and their rulers no better than tyrants. Palmerston himself was suspicious of Russia and one of his great aims was to prevent Russia establishing itself on the Bosporus. His reputation in St Petersburg was poor, especially after his openly hostile arguments against the Treaty of Hünkâr Īskelesi of 1833, a mutual assistance pact between Russia and the Ottomans.

    Unknown to the British, Di Borgo had been given a special assignment by Tsar Nicholas I, one which Di Borgo was warned to keep absolutely top secret. The Tsar had heard of the Dutch interest in Princess Victoria of Kent as the future bride of the Prince of Orange. Whilst the Tsar was (unkindly) inclined to believe gossip that Victoria was either illegitimate or had some kind of inherited “madness” from her grandfather or from her mother, he had begun to seriously consider the possibility of an Anglo-Russian match for his eldest son, the Tsarevich Alexander. For the Tsar, such a marriage was purely one of political convenience. He hoped that by forging a closer bond between the two dynasties, the British may soften in their anti-Russian views and be more inclined to support – or at least, stay neutral – in future international disputes. [3]

    Princess Charlotte Louise was just 14 years old but any marriage between the Tsarevich and the Princess was likely to take a long time to negotiate. Furthermore, the Princess would have to change her religion and learn to speak Russian, neither being particularly easy (or fast) hurdles to overcome. Di Borgo was asked for a report on Princess Charlotte Louise’s looks and character. If the Tsar found both agreeable, he may well add her to a list of potential brides he was already considering for his son and heir. Oddly, the Tsar did not consider his eldest daughter, the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna, as a match for King George V. This was based not in diplomacy but in sentimentality. Maria was the Tsar’s favourite and he did not wish her to leave Russia. She would eventually marry the Duke of Leuchtenberg, the Tsar only giving permission for the match on the understanding that the couple remain close to him in St Petersburg.

    Di Borgo’s report to the Tsar was brief. He found Princess Charlotte Louise to be “a beauty in the English fashion, a little bold in personality but generally a pleasant girl”. Her education had been limited, he pointed out, but she was “adept in conversation” and “evidently close to her older brother, the King”. But Di Borgo made clear to the Tsar that any suggestion of marriage between the Princess and the Tsarevich must be handled delicately; “The Duke of Clarence insists that neither of his nieces must marry before they are 18, indeed, he would keep them with him forever if he could, that is the strength of his affection for them. It must also be said that in England, the Queen Dowager (sic) decides all royal marriages but as she apparently shows little interest in her daughter, she is unlikely to oppose such a union. It appears at present there is some correspondence with one of the Coburg princes but I am told this is not serious in any way and that Queen Louise would never countenance a marriage with either one for she despises the family”.


    Tsar Nicholas I.

    But unlike King George V, Di Borgo had noticed Duchess Luise. In his report to the Tsar, he spoke of “A Mecklenburg Duchess who is being put forward by the Dowager Queen as a bride for her son. He shows no real interest in her but she is a modest type, very beautiful and of marriageable age. I believe her to be worth consideration if the English Princess is found to be unsuitable. The Duchess also has a younger sister Caroline who may prove to be of interest too”. Even if Queen Louise’s plan to wed her son to her niece failed, it was clear that Luise’s arrival in England was creating a stir and that she would not find it difficult to make a good match for herself in another of Europe’s royal courts. Unfortunately for Di Borgo, the Duchess of Cumberland heard gossip in Berlin that the Tsar was interested in Duchess Luise for the Tsarevich and wasted no time in sending a letter to the Dowager Queen informing her of the fact. Louise was initially furious but when she learned that Di Borgo had primarily been asked to report back to the Tsar on Princess Charlotte Louise, the course of action became clear to her; she must ensure that her daughter was promoted in Russia whilst her niece was promoted in England.

    The Duke of Clarence was kept ignorant of the Russian interest but he noted with irritation the way in which his sister-in-law pushed her niece forward. Even when the King invited his mother to tea (out of duty rather than affection), the Dowager Queen insisted on bringing the young Duchess with her. But more than that, Clarence was concerned that Luise may find herself “a puppet princess”. It did not take long for the Duke to work out what Queen Louise’s ambition was. If she could marry her niece to her son, Duchess Luise would forever owe her position to her mother-in-law. Whilst the Queen had no hold over the King, it was entirely possible she could claw back influence and position at court through her successor. The Duke made a decision. If the King showed no real interest in Luise within a year, he would insist that she be sent back to Neustrelitz. But this was not based in any desire for revenge against his sister-in-law. It appears the Duke was genuinely concerned for Luise’s welfare; “It cannot be good for the girl to be separated from her parents in such a way and I do not think it fair that she miss out on other opportunities because she is being kept a prisoner at Marlborough House, prepared for a role that will never come her way”.

    For Luise, she was quite content to remain in England whatever the future may hold. She had taken to the country and its people and though she had no independence or freedom, she wrote to her sister Caroline that she “loved the English countryside so very much that I could not dream of being parted from it. I should like to have a small house of my own like the ones I see in English paintings and I would grow roses and sit by the stream taking tea all day”. However, whilst Luise was shy and quiet and seemingly the very model of charm and grace, there was once incident in July 1835 that offered a glimpse of something strong and perhaps even a little defiant. She had received an invitation to take tea with Princess Sophia at St James’ Palace, an invitation the Dowager Queen refused on her behalf. Sophia was becoming increasingly eccentric in her advancing years but she was also incredibly lonely. Her eyesight was poor (she would be completely blind by 1838) and with the exception of the occasional visit from the Duchess of Clarence or her sister Princess Mary, she rarely socialised. She had heard much from her sister Augusta about the Mecklenburg Duchess and wanted to see her for herself.


    Princess Sophia of the United Kingdom.

    The Dowager Queen had declined Sophia’s invitation, purely on the basis that Louise herself was to attend the opening of a new exhibition at the British Museum that afternoon. Luise was due to go with her but complained of a headache and so was excused. Left alone except for the company of the household staff, Luise dressed herself and styled her hair before stepping outside via the gardens of Marlborough House and across the street that led to the entrance to Friary Court at St James’. Princess Sophia’s butler had never seen the Duchess before but as soon as she told him who she was, he raced to the Drawing Room to tell his mistress that Luise had come for tea. Delighted, Princess Sophia welcomed Luise with a kiss on each cheek and then ordered tea be brought in. Luise was enchanted and Sophia reported to her sister Augusta that Luise was; “the most charming little thing, so very curious about us all and her manners are impeccable. She promised to come again and I have to confess, I really was very sad when she left”.

    Luise managed to get back to Marlborough House before her aunt returned from the British Museum. At supper that evening, a sour-faced Baroness Pallenberg entered the room holding a pale pink scarf.

    “I believe this to be yours, Your Highness”, Pallenberg said in an accusatory tone, “It was left with Princess Sophia this afternoon”.

    Queen Louise put down her glass of wine and fixed her niece with a ferocious stare.

    “Am I to understand that you defied me and took tea at St James' today?”, she glowered, “I declined that invitation and you were supposed to be unwell with a pain in your head”

    Luise looked sheepishly across the table to her aunt.

    “I am sorry”, she began, “But I felt better and I did not want to seem rude so I went across the gardens to see the Princess”

    There was a tense silence. The Dowager Queen stood up and made her way slowly to where Luise was sitting, nervously looking down to her half-eaten meal.

    A sharp snap of flesh meeting flesh shattered the atmosphere. As Luise sat there, her cheek red and her eyes filling with tears, her aunt held her roughly by the chin and as she looked into her eyes dangerously.

    “If you ever defy me again”, she growled, “I shall keep you here with me until those pretty blonde locks are white as snow. Do you understand me child?”

    Luise nodded her head. Her aunt released her. Taking Baroness Pallenberg’s arm, Queen Louise made for the door.

    “Thankyou my dear”, she said in a sickly-sweet voice, “My niece is apparently unwell. See to it that she goes to her room and is undisturbed until I call for her”.

    For Duchess Luise, the start of two long years of captivity at Marlborough House had begun.

    [1] Both Louises were baptised as Luise but would have had their names anglicized to Louise in the Court Circular. To make it easier to distinguish between the two, I’ll refer to Duchess Luise with the original German spelling of her Christian name.

    [2] Actually a portrait of Mrs Charles Sabine Thellusson (née Georgiana Theobald, 1828-1883) by Margaret Sarah Carpenter painted in 1850 but this was the portrait I used to base the description of Duchess Luise on and unfortunately, I cannot find any real images of her to use instead.

    [3] If this seems a little early, Tsar Nicholas I was already considering Princess Victoria as a possible bride for the future Tsar Alexander II when she was much younger than Charlotte Louise is here.

    N.B: The production of Virginius at Drury Lane was staged between 1834 and 1835 but I can't find any exact dates so it's possible the production had closed by May 1835. If so, do forgive!
    GV: Part 1, Chapter 16: Comings and Goings
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    Monthly Donor
    King George V

    Part One, Chapter Sixteen: Comings and Goings

    On Christmas Day 1835, the British Royal Family gathered at Windsor Castle. The Clarences had opted for a small celebration but though the festivities were on a much smaller scale than in recent years, those present agreed that, by comparison to some of the guests, the Clarences were the perfect hosts. In a move that surprised everybody, Queen Louise accepted the Duchess of Clarence’s invitation to join the Royal Family for the holiday season but as was her wont, her acceptance was conditional with a list of demands sent to the Duchess on the 23rd of December via Baroness Pallenberg. The Queen did not enjoy the English tradition of celebrating Christmas on the 25th of December and so would not attend the luncheon to be held in St George’s Hall that day. However, she would attend the exchange of presents after tea on Christmas Eve and the supper party that followed. Naturally she would be accompanied by her niece, Duchess Luise. For the Duchess of Clarence, these demands were, unusually, quite welcome. Princess Augusta had refused to attend the Christmas Day luncheon if Queen Louise was present and clearly expected the Clarences to side with the Duke’s sister rather than the Dowager Queen. The Duchess of Clarence thanked heaven for small mercies, not wishing to face either in battle.

    As planned, Queen Louise and her niece arrived at Windsor Castle from Royal Lodge on the Windsor Estate after tea. They added their gifts to the long table set in the middle of St George’s Hall and then stood together ignoring the other guests until the King arrived. Queen Louise was visibly irritated when her son greeted the Duke and Duchess of Clarence before her but her bad mood didn’t last when he wished Duchess Luise a Happy Christmas and offered to help her retrieve her gifts from the gifts table. From the Dowager Queen, there was a rather hideous heavy marble mantle clock which was overtly funereal in design and which looked suspiciously familiar to the adults in St George’s Hall. It was in fact a clock sent to the Dowager Queen by the King of France as a token of sympathy following the death of her husband in 1827 and had recently been whisked away from her boudoir by Baroness Pallenberg to be presented as a gift to Duchess Luise.


    The Charles X Clock, now housed at the British Museum.

    Fortunately, the other gifts on the table were far more thoughtful. The Clarences gave Queen Louise a silver punch bowl with 8 matching cups which could be hung from tiny hooks around the circumference of the bowl. Each of the cups was engraved with Queen Louise’s coat of arms. Louise had brought nothing with her for the Clarences. Neither did she bother to bring a gift for her daughter, Princess Charlotte Louise but as she had during the Queen's long absence, the Duchess of Clarence had thought ahead and had written a label on the Dowager Queen’s behalf which she attached to a collection of leather-bound poetry books. When the young Princess approached her mother and thanked her, Queen Louise nodded without smiling and said coldly, “You may kiss me”. Charlotte Louise dutifully kissed her mother’s cheek and the Queen then ignored her daughter for the rest of the evening. For the King, there was a gift of a set of maps of the world commissioned by the Duke of Clarence. Queen Louise presented her son with a hip flask, which everybody agreed was a ridiculous present for a 15-year-old boy. Once again, it was not purchased by the Dowager Queen but had belonged to George IV. But the gift which set tongues wagging was the one given by King George to his cousin Luise.

    On the table there sat three identical green leather boxes from Garrards & Co; one for Princess Charlotte Louise, one for Princess Victoria and one for Duchess Luise. Each box contained a brooch in the form of a flower. For Princess Charlotte Louise, there was a Morning Glory, the petals created from amethysts with diamonds and a small yellow sapphire in the centre. For Princess Victoria, there was an Iris created in the same colour gemstones as Princess Charlotte Louise’s brooch. But for Duchess Luise there was something slightly different; a Lily of the Valley created from diamonds and emeralds. Floriography had been introduced to England by Mary Wortley Montagu in 1717 and its appeal had proved long lasting. Indeed, in 1830 a popular gift for young women about to come of age was a copy of Joseph Hammer-Purgstall’s Dictionnaire du languages des fleurs. Published in 1809, it was agreed that this was the absolute authority on flowers and their meanings and if a young lady received a posy from a gentleman, she could look at what each bloom meant to work out the message he was trying to convey. [1]


    A mid 19th century postcard on the 'Language of Flowers'.

    It is unclear as to whether King George V was familiar with floriography but the commission notes at Garrards specifies; “Three fine floral brooches in silver with AM/D x 2 and D/EM x 1; MG, IS & LV. Created for His Majesty the King, Christmas 1835, £600 – paid upon delivery”. It is also hard to know whether Duchess Luise was familiar with the English passion for the “language of flowers” but certainly Princess Charlotte Louise and Princess Victoria would have been and possibly knew immediately that the King was trying to convey messages of affection and trust respectively. Taking Duchess Luise’s brooch and applying floriography, one might suggest (as did some of the ladies in attendance that Christmas Eve) that George was trying to communicate “sweetness” or “humility” to his cousin. But did he believe her to be sweet? Was he reminding her to be more humble? As ridiculous as it may seem to a modern audience, this was debated for weeks after the Christmas celebrations of 1835 by all who were present; with the exception that is of the Duchess herself. She was just thrilled to have been given such a pretty brooch.

    Since her arrival in England, Luise had spent alternate Sundays in the company of the King when he called at Royal Lodge after church to take tea with his mother. These had begun as unpleasant and awkward affairs and Queen Louise was shocked when she began to talk about the Duke of Cumberland only to be reminded by her son that “Uncle Cumberland is not a subject we discuss at court”. Later that afternoon, the Dowager Queen hissed at Pallenberg; “He has been made Clarence’s creature just as I said”. But the one highlight of these visits quickly became the presence of the King’s cousin. That isn’t to say that he fell in love with Luise or even that he found her attractive. But compared to his glowering mother and the sour disapproving looks of Baroness Pallenberg, the beautiful Duchess with her warm smile and bright eyes could only be a consolation. By Christmas 1835, the King had come to look forward to his Sunday visits to Royal Lodge and whether it pleased his mother or not, he began to genuinely enjoy being in the company of Duchess Luise. “She is quite like you”, he told his cousin Princess Victoria, adding playfully “But prettier of course”.

    Whilst some of the King’s relations felt the Queen was behaving “almost indecently” in the way she tried to push her son and her niece together, the Duke of Clarence was reassured when he saw them together one afternoon after church. The Duchess dropped her shawl and the King quickly picked it up, draped it around her shoulders and then the pair engaged in brief conversation before the King offered her his arm to lead her back to Royal Lodge for the much-dreaded post-church service tea with the Dowager Queen. Clarence wrote to his brother, the Duke of Sussex; “Whilst I should never have acted in the brazen fashion our sister-in-law has demonstrated in this matter, I see now that Georgie is neither encouraged nor dissuaded, despite her efforts. I believe his interest in the Duchess will wane in time but at present, I should not be concerned if the boy forms an attachment to her as all young men must fall in love and have their hearts broken more than once before they are ready for marriage”.


    Queen Anna of the Netherlands.

    The same did not apply to young ladies of course. By the New Year of 1836, the Duchess of Clarence had received a letter from the Queen of the Netherlands concerning Princess Victoria. Her recent visit to The Hague impressed the Prince of Orange and his wife and now they were quite determined to declare their interest in her as a bride for their eldest son before another eligible European bachelor took a fancy to her as well. Victoria was now 16 and a half years old. Though the Dutch royal couple respected the Duke of Clarence’s wishes that his niece could not be married before she turned 18 years of age, Princess Anna asked if there would be any objection to an engagement in six months’ time when Princess Victoria turned 17 with a view to marriage after her 18th birthday. King William I also wanted a reassurance that no other offers were being considered. Princess Anna had heard rumours via her sister the Grand Duchess Maria in Weimar that their brother Tsar Nicholas I was seriously considering a British princess for the Tsarevich and that she had heard very good reports had been sent to St Petersburg concerning Princess Victoria.

    In actual fact, Grand Duchess Maria was mistaken. The Tsar was considering a British princess for the Tsarevich’s future bride but it was Princess Charlotte Louise who had taken his interest. Count Di Borgo’s report had pleased Nicholas I but he wanted more information. The first priority was to see if Di Borgo could obtain a portrait of the Princess. But the Tsar knew only too well that portraits were not always reliable (neither were courtiers) and so he wrote to the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, who had met both Princess Charlotte Louise and Princess Victoria, for an honest assessment of their characters. Charles Frederick reassured his brother-in-law that both Princesses were “attractive (after the English fashion), polite, respectable and friendly” but added jokingly; “I’m afraid your dear sister Anna has beaten you there old man - she has already snapped up Victoria of Kent to be a little Hollander!”.

    The Clarences were unsure as to what to do about the situation regarding the future “little Hollander”. The Duchess considered the Princess of Orange's request to be entirely reasonable, indeed, if the Duke was not supportive of such a match he would never have allowed his wife to take their niece to The Hague “on approval”. For days, the Duke of Clarence refused to discuss the matter, insisting that he had somewhere else to be. Then he became irritated when it was mentioned, snapping at his wife; “Do not interfere Adelaide! I shall not be bullied by excited women!”. It was clear to the Duchess, even if it was not to the Duke, that his reluctance was caused by something that had been 16 and a half years in the making; Clarence did not want his niece to go. He had come to adore her as his own daughter, devoted to ensuring her happiness in all things and now it appeared their life together was coming to an end. If Victoria left for the Netherlands, it was unlikely Clarence would see his niece again for some time. Visits would be rare, letters their only reliable form of communication, and as she settled her into new role as the future Prince of Orange’s wife, her time would be taken up with a new family, new friends and new responsibilities. “And after all that, will she still have any time left for her poor old uncle?”, the Duke noted sadly in his journal.

    The Dutch needed an answer. The Duchess of Clarence advised her husband to ask the Prime Minister, Lord Lansdowne, what he thought they should do. Lansdowne knew of the interest expressed by the Dutch in Princess Victoria and perhaps a little ignorant to the Duke’s sensitivity on the issue, he replied; “But there could be no better match for Her Royal Highness surely? We shall wave the Princess off to Holland with a hearty cheer for a happy future”. In his diary Lansdowne recorded; “The Duke then wept like an infant, so much so that I had to comfort him. I felt quite embarrassed but the Duchess quickly relieved me of my duty and I left the room, hearing her say ‘Now come Billy, do not carry on so’ as his sobs grew louder”. The Duke knew what he had to do. He decided to spend some time with his niece at Windsor before asking her whether she felt she could accept the Dutch proposal, keeping to his promise that he would never force Victoria to marry anybody she did not like.


    The Duke of Clarence in the final year of his life, drawn by his daughter Sophia de L'Isle and Dudley.

    The week did not exactly play out as Clarence might have hoped. On the second day of their stay, the Duke was out walking in the Great Park with the Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, when he suddenly collapsed. Clutching at his stomach in agony, he writhed in pain on the wet grass, his cloak covered in mud as his whole body appeared to go into spasm. Palmerston shouted to the guards nearby to fetch the Royal Physician, Sir John Forbes, as the Duke of Clarence cried out “Adelaide! I must have Adelaide at the last!”. A group of guardsmen rushed to the Duke’s aide and carried him back to the Castle where he was put to bed. A nervous Duchess of Clarence paced outside the bedroom, certain that her husband had suffered a heart attack and was about to die. Clarence’s health had been in steady decline for some time and he was now 70 years old. It appeared the end was near. [2]

    To everybody’s relief, Forbes found that the Duke had not suffered a heart attack but rather, a gallbladder attack caused by a rich diet and too much fortified wine. A period of rest was essential if the Duke wanted to avoid further attacks, after which Forbes promised a complete recovery. But for the Duke of Clarence, the situation was all too reminiscent of his older brother’s decline. Shortly after being treated for gallbladder problems, George IV had suffered a series of strokes that had led to his death in 1827. Clarence believed he did not have long left to live. When he was well enough to receive visitors, he called Princess Victoria to his bedroom. For the first time, he addressed her as an adult. A keen diarist, Victoria wrote in her journal;

    Poor Uncle William looked so very pale and tired and I kissed his forehead and sat upon the edge of the bed. He took my hand and told me that he had something very important to discuss with me. I had no idea what it could be and I felt quite nervous as he told me that whatever my answer to his question might be, he would honour it and not force me to do anything I did not feel to be right in my heart. Then he told me that the Dutch Prince wanted me for his wife and that Queen Anna had written to Aunt Adelaide to ask Uncle William’s permission for us to be engaged soon. I was so surprised that I must admit that I cried and this upset poor dear Uncle William so that we held each other until we were quite exhausted with tears. He told me that I must think about it all very carefully and that Aunt Adelaide would be able to answer any questions I might have but I must confess that I had not expected any of this and I do not know what answer I should give. Oh! How I wish I could stay here with darling Uncle William forever and ever.

    Victoria does not make another entry in her diary for six days. But on the 3rd of February 1836, she writes;

    The Prince and Princess of Orange are to bring the Prince to London for my birthday celebrations in May. Our engagement was announced in-Council by Uncle William this morning at Windsor.

    The Duke of Clarence was now fully recovered from his gallbladder attack but his brush with death had awoken a need in him to put his affairs in order. He did not put pressure on his niece to give a response, far from it, but perhaps during his recovery he saw the situation a little differently. That said, he remained sentimental. In a letter to his brother, the Duke of Sussex, he wrote; “I realise that it is not enough to have prepared Drina for a happy life. I must now allow her to live it”. Whether or not Victoria accepted the Prince of Orange freely or reluctantly, her diary entries from this point on until long after her marriage became matter of fact accounts about her daily activities. She does not indicate her feelings towards her future husband one way or the other and it is not until later entries that we learn that she accepted the proposal only after being reassured by the Duchess of Clarence that she still had a year following her engagement to change her mind.

    “You might even delay the wedding until you feel you are ready”, the Duchess advised.

    “And if I am never ready?”, Victoria replied.

    “Then you will know it in your heart”, her aunt said gently.


    Princess Victoria in 1836.

    Whilst the Cabinet and Privy Council were informed that Princess Victoria was to be engaged on the 24th of May, nobody in the Royal Family with the exception of the Duke and Duchess of Clarence (and naturally, Princess Victoria) were to be told until the evening of Princess Victoria’s 17th birthday. But Victoria’s marriage was not the only thing the Duke of Clarence wished to see settled. Laid low at Windsor for a week, he pondered on what might have been had he suffered a heart attack and died. King George IV had stipulated in his will that his brother, the Duke of Cambridge, should serve as Deputy Regent for his son if the Duke of Clarence became indisposed. If Clarence died, Cambridge was to serve as regent for King George V until he reached the age of majority. But the Duke of Cambridge was still living in Hanover where he had served as Viceroy since 1816. It would take weeks, perhaps even months, for Cambridge to return to England and in that time, there would be a chasm of authority leaving the King without a regent. It was now essential that the Duke of Cambridge come home as soon as possible.

    Lord Lansdowne agreed with the Duke of Clarence and asked him to recommend a successor who might be sent to Hanover to serve as the new Viceroy. Clarence was keen that it should be a position that remained in the family and that there should be no political interference in the appointment whatsoever. But among the Royal Family, there were only two possible candidates to succeed the Duke of Cambridge. The first was the Duke of Cumberland, now living in Berlin and still persona non grata in England following the disastrous consequences of his first-hand involvement in the political plots and schemes of 1828. Cumberland was an unthinkable choice and was immediately discounted. The only other candidate therefore was the Duke of Sussex, the sixth son and ninth child of King George III and Queen Charlotte. Born in 1773, Sussex had lived a curious life so far, admonished by his family for his poor choice of female companions but equally regarded as reliable and capable of carrying out duties on behalf of the Crown.

    By 1836, the Duke of Sussex was dividing his time equally between his posts as Chief Ranger and Keeper of St James’ and Hyde Parks and President of the Royal Society. He had also married for a second time in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act of 1772. His second wife was Lady Cecilia Buggin (known as Lady Cecilia Underwood by Royal License), a widow 12 years younger than the Duke who was regarded as being of inferior rank and thus, an unsuitable bride for the King’s uncle. Sussex and Lady Cecilia had married just five years earlier in 1831 but had not sought permission to do so from the Duke of Clarence (acting on the King’s behalf). Their marriage was therefore considered to be legally void and Clarence refused to back down, barring Lady Cecilia from using the style and title of Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex and forbidding his brother ever to bring her to court. Oddly, this had not soured relations between the two brothers and however resentful he might be, the Duke was content simply to live with Lady Cecilia as man and wife in their shared townhouse in Belgravia.


    Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex.

    Whilst Sussex welcomed his appointment as Viceroy of Hanover, he also glimpsed the prospect of a solution to his problem. In a letter to his brother, Sussex wrote; “I accept and do not ask you to go against your conscience or your word but there must be some compromise which allows me to honour both my wife, whom I love so very dearly, and you, my dearest brother, for whom I have nothing but respect and admiration”. The pressing issue for the Duke was that he had no intention of leaving his wife behind in England and fully intended on taking her to Hanover with him. But as things stood, Lady Cecilia could not even be seated next to her husband at dinner because of her low rank. “I ask only that you give consideration to this most difficult situation”, Sussex implored the Duke of Clarence, “And to understand that I must ask this, though I know we agreed never to discuss the matter for the sake of our mutual love for one another”.

    Clarence relented. If this was the price to pay to see a successor to the Duke of Cambridge in Hanover whom Clarence trusted and respected, it was a small one. Though the Duke of Sussex’s marriage would not be recognized, the Duke of Clarence was willing to issue Letters Patent in the King’s name creating Lady Cecilia as Duchess of Inverness in her own right. This would allow her to accompany the Duke of Sussex to at least some of his functions as Viceroy in Hanover, though she would never be accepted as a member of the Royal Family or allowed to attend state occasions in the future. Clarence wrote; “I offer this as a gesture of my personal regard for you but I must remind you that it will not change anything beyond the title and rank of the lady concerned, which I recognize is of great importance to you and which I know will reassure you as you prepare to leave England for Hanover. I wish you the best in this, dear brother of mine, and ask for God to bless and keep you in the days to come”. [3]


    Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge.

    With the Duke of Sussex preparing to leave England, the Duke of Cambridge readied himself for his return. For almost 20 years, Cambridge had lived at Herrenhausen and it had become a family home and much-loved residence. Fortunately, he had maintained a residence at Cambridge House in Piccadilly where the family stayed on their rare visits to London and he sent word that the house should be prepared for their arrival shortly before May. The Duchess of Cambridge was also sad to leave Hanover. She had enjoyed a life there that was closer to her childhood at Rumpenheim than she would ever know in England but her sadness was secondary to her delight that she would finally be reunited with her eldest son, Prince George. Prince George was separated from his parents in 1830 when he was sent to live in England so that he might be educated there, rather than continue his studies in Hanover. He lived at Windsor but saw little of his cousins when his studies were put in the hands of the Reverend J.R Wood, a canon of Worcester Cathedral. With his parents returning to England, Prince George was to join the family at Cambridge House with a Professor from King’s College, Cambridge engaged to tutor him privately at home.

    At this time, the Duke of Clarence still believed his gallbladder attack was a sign of his impending death. “I shall not see the year out”, he told Major “Honest Billy” Smith, “My brother went the same way you know”. Indeed, so pessimistic was the Duke about his state of health that he asked the Prime Minister to be prepared for the Duke of Cambridge to take over his duties as Regent at any time. Lord Lansdowne asked whom the Duke would recommend as a Deputy to the Duke of Cambridge if the worst should happen. Clarence tried to reassure Lansdowne that such a recommendation wouldn’t be necessary; “My brother is in a good state of health and should he succeed me as regent, I trust he shall know what to do for the best”. There remained just over two years left before King George V would reach the age of majority. Whilst the Duke of Clarence did not expect to see his nephew celebrate his 18th birthday, he was certain the Duke of Cambridge would. Lansdowne was not placated however and spoke privately with the Duke of Cambridge on the matter. “My mother served on the Council [of Regency] during my father’s time”, Cambridge replied, “If I should need a deputy, then my sister Princess Augusta is more than qualified to serve alongside me”.

    At Marlborough House, somebody else was being kept informed of developments concerning a future without the Duke of Clarence. Queen Louise relied entirely on reports from Baroness Pallenberg but as the Baroness was widely disliked at court, most of what she told the Dowager Queen was what she believed Louise would like to hear. As a result, the Queen thought the Duke of Clarence was “days from death” and though she had not forgiven her brother-in-law for his actions in removing her from Herrenhausen, he was undeniably a far better prospect as regent than the Duke of Clarence where Louise was concerned. Writing to her sister Marie in Neustrelitz, Louise predicted “a great change here, a turn of events in our favour which will finally right the wrong Clarence imposed upon me when my beloved husband died”.

    As far as Louise was concerned, if Cambridge needed to appoint a deputy regent for her son, it certainly wouldn’t be Princess Augusta. It would be the Dowager Queen herself.

    [1] Amazingly the floriography craze lasted for well over a century in England but was at it’s most popular in the 1830s and 1840s. It lasted until the 1880s when it disappeared, though some traces of it remain in the types of flowers considered suitable for wedding bouquets and funeral wreaths in the UK today.

    [2] Half butterflies. In the OTL, William IV’s health was in decline by 1836 and he did have issues with his gallbladder (a family trait due to their mutual love of overindulging at the dinner table). I include this here because it means Clarence begins to look to the future, something essential to setting up the all-important year of 1837 for TTL.

    [3] In the OTL, it was Queen Victoria who finally relented on the Inverness situation because she was fond of her uncle. King William IV was furious that his brother had not sought his permission to marry Cecilia Buggin but he didn’t punish the Duke of Sussex – indeed, he continued to offer him key appointments at court throughout his reign. Here I believe Clarence would be practical. He doesn’t go back on his word but he offers an olive branch. Again, half butterflies!
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    GV: Part One, Chapter 17: The Long Farewell
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    Monthly Donor
    King George V

    Part One, Chapter Seventeen: The Long Farewell

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


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

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

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

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


    Lord Lansdowne.

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

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

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


    Lord John Russell.

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

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

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

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


    Lord Brougham

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

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

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


    The Prince of Orange, aged 16 or 17.

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


    The Duchess of Cambridge with her children George and Augusta.

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

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


    The Duke of Cambridge.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

    I'll also be posting some additions to these two TLs so far in my test thread that I've been working on in the background. The first will be some more details on the illegitimate children of King George IV but I also have some other character profiles to help fill in the blanks of characters created for this TL who have since disappeared. Once again, a huge thanks for reading!
    Last edited:
    GV: Part One, Chapter 18: A Summer Romance
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    King George V

    Part One, Chapter Eighteen: A Summer Romance

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

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


    Cambridge House in Piccadilly.

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

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

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

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

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


    St James' Palace, c. 1835.

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

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

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


    The Duke of Cambridge.

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

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

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


    Ehrenburg Palace today.

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

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

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

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


    The Duke's Sitting Room at Ehrenburg.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    [1] A lovely Victorian insult meaning "a bungler" or "one who is clumsy, sometimes through drink".
    GV: Part One, Chapter 19: The Parting
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    Monthly Donor
    King George V

    Part One, Chapter Nineteen: The Parting

    The New Year was ushered in at Windsor Castle with a small and intimate gathering of the closest members of the British Royal Family. The Duke of Clarence was now confined to a wheelchair and it was deemed inappropriate for him to be seen in public in such a state of poor health. Yet the Duke was in good spirits that evening as his family gathered in St George’s Hall. Those present were impressed as he seemed to rally somewhat and even the ever practical Duchess of Clarence allowed herself a moment of hope believing that her husband might yet defy the odds and recover his strength. But the Royal Medical Household was prepared to take no risks with their charge however bright he may have seemed in recent days and when news came that there was a serious influenza outbreak in the capital, the entire Royal Family changed their plans and remained at Windsor Castle well beyond the festive season. Whilst this was inconvenient for some, the Duke of Clarence privately relished the opportunity to spend as much time as he could uninterrupted with his beloved niece, Princess Victoria.

    With her 18th birthday fast approaching, negotiations for Victoria’s marriage to the Prince of Orange had been concluded. It had taken almost a year to agree a marriage contract with two sticking points that required compromise. The first was where the marriage itself should take place. Given that travelling to Holland was out of the question for the Duke of Clarence, he was insistent that his niece should be married at the Chapel Royal of St James’ Palace so that he could attend. The Dutch quite reasonably felt that their future Queen consort should be married in The Hague. However, precedent was on the Duke’s side and like her parents in 1818, Victoria would have two marriage ceremonies; the first would be held on Victoria’s 18th birthday at the Chapel Royal. The second would take place at The Hague on the 10th June. A second quibble was raised over how Victoria would be styled as the wife of Prince William of the Netherlands. Historically the Prince of Orange was styled His Highness and though the Prince was already styled His Royal Highness, the British wanted confirmation that the same would extend to his wife when the time came with no demotion or inequality in her rank. This assurance was given and negotiations moved on to the sordid topic of coin.


    The young Victoria.

    The British were expected to provide a dowry which would include an annuity for Victoria’s lifetime. Some in the Cabinet felt the Dutch were trying to wriggle out of their own obligation to provide an annuity for the Princess and talks stalled as the two Ambassadors charged with the finer details of the marriage contract had to convince both parties to commit to the same sum. Eventually both the British and the Dutch agreed on a personal allowance of £8,000 a year (or 20,000 guilders) [1]. But far from being penny pinchers, the Dutch were actually hugely generous in providing a further lump sum of 60,000 guilders to the newlyweds for the purpose of renovating the Kneuterdijk Palace in The Hague. Kneuterdijk had been given to the Prince of Orange as an official residence but had not been refurbished for some time. It was expected and encouraged that Victoria would wish to make the residence her own and despite the huge cost, very few objected. With the marriage contract finally settled, preparations for Victoria’s wedding at St James’ began in earnest.

    The Duchess of Clarence took the role of the mother of the bride, overseeing everything from the floral displays to the design of the wedding dress. Victoria did not wish to follow the fashion of the day and wear silver or even gold and instead settled on a cream-coloured satin gown that would be heavily embellished with deep flounces of lace. But amidst the talk of which dinner service should be used at the wedding banquet [2] and where to source the freshest orange blossoms for the bride’s hair, there was one issue which could only be decided by the Cabinet; what to do about Uncle Leopold. Whilst King Leopold of the Belgians had a perfect right to be invited to his niece’s wedding, and whilst the British people remained fond of him, the British had yet to officially recognise the Kingdom of Belgium. The Dutch had even more reason to oppose such recognition and the prospect of King Leopold marching into The Hague with all the honours afforded to a foreign sovereign was unthinkable given that the Dutch still maintained that Belgium was their territory and not an independent and sovereign nation. The Dutch Royal Couple would not attend the wedding in England but there was to be a significant Dutch deputation present and thus, King Leopold had to go without an invitation. Indeed, no Coburg relations were to be invited to either ceremony.

    This grieved Princess Victoria who had always been fond of her Uncle Leopold but she accepted the diplomatic situation meant there would have to be sacrifices. The Duke of Clarence felt it mean spirited of the Dutch not to overlook King Leopold’s attendance at St James’ though he too accepted the advice of the Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston. Whilst King Leopold would have been a front runner to lead Victoria down the aisle in the absence of her father, the Princess now had to decide whom to award the honour to. Naturally her first choice was the Duke of Clarence but he graciously deferred; “All eyes must be on the bride and not her lame old uncle”. Victoria therefore asked her cousin, King George, to lead her to the altar. Princess Charlotte Louise and the two Cambridge Princesses were to serve as bridesmaids. The Prince of Orange would be supported by his brothers Prince Alexander and Prince Henry whilst King William’s brother Prince Frederick was to attend in an official capacity as chaperone to the Princess Victoria and charged with the important task of “returning Her Royal Highness to the Kingdom of the Netherlands”.


    Lady Sophia de L'Isle and Dudley.

    Just as everything seemed settled, there came news in April which threatened to throw the entire event into chaos with a possible postponement. The Duke of Clarence’s eldest and favourite daughter, Lady Sophia de L’Isle and Dudley was expecting a baby and as the Duke waited for news of the arrival of a new grandchild, tragedy struck. Lady Sophia died during the birth at the age of 40. Clarence was thrown into uncontrollable grief and for at least two weeks, he barely ate or slept. He was too ill to attend his daughter’s funeral and was represented instead by his estranged son, the Earl of Munster. A note of sympathy from Munster had given the ailing Clarence hope of a reconciliation between father and son but it was not to be. To make matters even worse, Clarence had to face the loss of his daughter alone. Another possible postponement was considered when the Duchess of Clarence had to rush to Meiningen to be at her dying mother’s bedside, only to fall gravely ill herself. Fortunately, the Duchess recovered and was able to return to her husband in England in time for the wedding but weighed down with worries, Clarence’s fragile health seemed likely to give out at any moment.

    For Princess Victoria, the preparations for her new life in the Netherlands had proven a happy distraction. Whilst the modern reader may well ask “Did she love her future husband?”, this was not a priority for those who arranged her marriage. A mutual respect or close friendship was the foundation of most royal marriages of the day and if love followed, all well and good. Victoria did not know her future husband particularly well and the focus had been not on promoting closer bonds between them but instead on ensuring that she was well prepared for her future role as Princess of Orange. Yet many years later, Victoria’s daughter, Princess Victoria Paulina wrote, “Mama never spoke of love until Papa died. As with so many marriages of the period, they married almost as strangers, but I believe they truly parted as friends. Certainly, she spoke very fondly of her wedding day”. Victoria’s new uncle-in-law spoke less fondly of the event. Frederick was appalled to find himself given a shabby suite of rooms to occupy at St James’ for the duration of his stay and wrote that he wished he had found his own lodgings in a hotel rather than be cramped into a leaky and cold St James’ with the increasingly eccentric Princess Sophia as a neighbour.

    The wedding festivities might well have been pared down a little given the Duchess of Clarence’s illness. She still needed rest, but both the ailing Duke and his sickly wife were absolutely determined to do the best by their niece, who had become as close to them as a daughter over the many years she had lived in their charge. There were to be two banquets, one held to celebrate Victoria’s 18th birthday on the evening before her wedding and one held after the wedding ceremony itself. But whilst the former would be a grand affair with peers and politicians crammed into the Buckingham Palace ballroom, the latter was a far more intimate family affair. Far from a celebratory atmosphere, this banquet would be the final farewell to the Princess and even Princess Augusta temporarily suspended her rule never to find herself in the company of her sister-in-law Queen Louise so that she could say goodbye to her niece. Even so, she stayed for only an hour before returning to Windsor, leaving St James’ Palace well before the bride and groom.

    Victoria’s 18th birthday banquet (held the evening before she actually turned 18) was reported to have been the finest held at the Palace since George IV’s renovation of the property, supposedly to impress upon the Dutch delegation the style to which the Princess was accustomed. In reality, the Duke and Duchess of Clarence wanted to give Victoria the very best of everything before they saw her depart for the Netherlands. The Duke was prone to public displays of emotion and he could not hide his heartbreak at the impending parting. When Princess Victoria entered the ballroom dressed in a silver satin gown (and wearing the impressive Mandi Parure for the first time), the Duke burst into a flood of tears and had to be supported by the Duchess of Clarence as he stood to give his farewell address. “You have been to us as a daughter”, he choked through the emotion, “And we hope that we have been to you as dear and as loving as your beloved father would have wished us to be. As we gather to mark this new chapter in what we all pray will be a long and happy life in your new home, know that your old home will be forever tinged with longing for you dearest Drina, leaving us as you do with so many treasured memories”.


    William, Prince of Orange.

    Princess Victoria’s cousin, King George V, then gave his own speech. He praised Victoria’s beauty, charm and generosity and in a speech written for him by the Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, George spoke of “a new era of close friendship between the Netherlands and the United Kingdom forged in the happy union between the Prince of Orange and our dearest cousin Victoria”. The sadness then gave way to festivity. There were galops and polkas after a sumptuous dinner and champagne was served to the guests who finally departed the palace at 2am to a flurry of fireworks set off from St James’ Park. Princess Victoria returned to Clarence House with her aunt and uncle ahead of her wedding ceremony but before she went to bed, she had a few moments alone with the Duke. In her diary, Victoria wrote; “Dear Uncle William held my hand and promised me that all would be well. And then he presented me with a beautiful gift of a diamond bracelet which had belonged to Grandmama (Queen Charlotte). We sat for a while together and then I kissed his cheek and went to my bedroom. I could hear the poor dear old man crying long into the early hours”.

    At around 1pm on the 24th of May 1837, Mary Bettans arrived at Clarence House with the Princess’ wedding gown. Bettans had long provided gowns to the ladies of the British court but especially for the Princess. She had made the mourning clothes for Victoria upon the death of her father in 1820 and was Victoria’s first choice to provide her trousseau from Bettan’s establishment at 84 Jermyn Street in London. Victoria’s wedding dress was made from cream-coloured satin woven in Spitalfields and was trimmed with deep flounces of Honiton lace. Handmade lace motifs were appliqued onto cotton machine made net and in her hair, Victoria wore orange flower blossoms affixing a veil designed by William Dyce, head of the Government School of Design (which later became the Royal College of Art). She also wore a tiara loaned to her by her future mother-in-law, Princess Anna, comprised of large pear-shaped pearls set on a diamond band. Victoria teamed this with her engagements presents; a diamond riviere and matching earrings from her parents-in-law and a diamond and pearl stomacher from King George.

    The British Royal Family was amply represented except for the Dowager Queen Louise who feigned a headache to be excused. The Cambridges stepped in to ensure Duchess Luise did not miss out on the celebrations and though initially reluctant, Queen Louise allowed her niece to make the short trip from Marlborough House to St James’ where the young lady was given charge over the Cambridge’s youngest daughter, Princess Mary Adelaide. She managed to keep the little princess quiet throughout the entire ceremony and earned praise from her aunt Augusta for managing the feat. At the reception given at Clarence House afterwards, the King too was forthcoming with compliments for his cousin and though his heart still pined for another cousin Louise, the Duchess of Clarence noted that; “Georgie spent far more time with Luise than he usually does, indeed, he was very gay in her company”. Ironically, it seemed far easier to the couple to communicate without the dour Dowager Queen breathing down their necks and Major Smith commented; “if only the Queen would leave the King to his own business he could not fail to be impressed by the Duchess”.


    William Howley, Archbishop of Canterbury.

    The wedding ceremony itself was “simple and elegant” with the couple being married according to the Anglican rite by the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Howley. Howley raised eyebrows by referring to the Princess during the exchange of vows as Princess Victoria and not as Princess Alexandrina Victoria, her actual name. There was amusement too when Prince George of Cambridge sneezed at the very moment the Archbishop asked for objections to the marriage. Following the ceremony, the guests were treated to a second banquet but this was a far more intimate affair with those invited restricted to close family and friends of the couple. Then the moment the Duke of Clarence had been dreading arrived.

    A carriage drew into the courtyard ready to take Victoria and William to Harwich where they would board the HMS Royal George and sail to the Hook of Holland. The Duke was determined to wave his niece off on his feet and to the applause of his family, he struggled to lift himself out of his wheelchair, aided by Major ‘Honest Billy’ Smith. The Duke made his way towards his niece, his cheeks wet with tears and his voice trembling with emotion. Victoria kissed her aunt and uncle goodbye and with that, the Clarences watched their adoptive daughter leave England forever. The roar of the crowd rang in the Duke’s ears as he slumped back into his wheelchair. King George patted his uncle on the back affectionately as the Duke mopped his eyes with a handkerchief.

    It has long been said by more sentimental historians that the Duke of Clarence willed himself to live long enough to see his niece married but by the time Victoria left for the Netherlands, the Duke was an extremely sick man. Two days after the wedding of Princess Victoria and the Prince of Orange, the Duke collapsed and was confined to his bed for the last time. Lord Melbourne was informed that the Duke had just weeks to live. A steady stream of relatives made their way to Clarence House each day to visit him and whilst the Duchess hoped her husband might rally, by the 1st of June 1837, it was clear to everybody that the end was near. Princess Augusta and Sophia visited their brother each day and the Cambridges did likewise until on the 19th of June, the entire family were summoned to Clarence House for the Duke’s final hours. The Duchess had not slept properly in ten days but as exhausted as she was, Adelaide sat by her husband’s beside holding his hand as he slipped in and out of consciousness. He died in the early hours of the morning of the 20th June 1837. He was 71 years old. [3]


    The final portrait ever painted of the Duke of Clarence by Sir David Wilkie.

    The Duke of Clarence’s death was expected but nonetheless caused a huge outpouring of grief across the United Kingdom. Although they were never particularly good friends, Lord Melbourne paid a glowing tribute to Clarence calling him; “the finest example of a devoted and loyal servant to his King and country”. Even more radical politicians had to accept that Clarence had carried out his duties as King’s Regent with an unwavering enthusiasm and dedication and as plans for the Duke’s funeral were put into action, the Royal Family moved from London to Windsor where the funeral service was to be held. In the Netherlands, the Princess of Orange received the news of her uncle’s death two days later. She burst into tears and cried out; “Poor dear Uncle William!”. The strength of her grief shocked her Dutch in-laws and even though the Dutch King arranged for a memorial service at the Hague for the Duke of Clarence, Victoria was adamant she must return to England immediately. This was out of the question so soon after her marriage and Victoria, ever prone to temper tantrums, gave significant cause for concern during her first few months at the Kneuterdijk Palace.

    For King George, the Duke of Clarence had been a constant support and was without question his favourite uncle. Having never known his father in any real way, George had clung to Clarence closely during his youth and there was a genuine love between the two. It was therefore to be expected that despite the Duke of Clarence’s request for a small funeral, the King insisted that he be given every honour possible with a state funeral scheduled for the 8th of July 1837. The King led the procession that day followed by the male members of the Royal Family, peers, privy counsellors and members of the judiciary. The Dead March from Saul was played as the Duke’s coffin was borne through the streets of Windsor draped with his royal standard and as a nod to his naval career, his Admiral’s tricorn, his sword and his Garter collar were placed on a velvet cushion on top of the casket. As was traditional, the funeral took place at sunset with the Brigade of Guards lining the route with burning torches. Minute guns were fired from 4am for the next seventeen hours until the Duke’s coffin was taken down to the Royal Vault of St George’s Chapel, Windsor where it would be laid to rest.

    The Duke of Clarence’s funeral was notable for being the first whereby the ladies of the Royal Family did not have to sit hidden from view. Though they wore long black crepe veils to hide their faces, the King asked that the ladies of his family be allowed to sit in the Quire stalls so that he could personally sit beside the Duchess of Clarence to comfort her. As the Duke’s coffin was lowered into the vault, the King led his aunt to the aisle where the Duchess curtsied and the King bowed his head. George then escorted his weeping aunt to the State Apartments where for three hours the poor widow had to receive deputations formed of Ambassadors and Members of Parliament so that they could express their condolences in person. Seated on a dais, she was supported by the sisters of the late Duke and the Cambridges. Notable by her absence was the Dowager Queen Louise. Though she attended the funeral, she returned to Royal Lodge immediately afterwards. There was no wreath from the Dowager Queen, neither did she write to her sister-in-law Adelaide expressing sympathy. For Louise, the Duke’s death evoked no emotion, rather she saw it as an opportunity. Clarence was dead. Cambridge was now the King’s Regent and with a year of regency left, Louise regarded her brother-in-law’s death as just one more obstacle she had overcome in her grand plan.


    Adelaide, Dowager Duchess of Clarence, 1837.

    Court mourning for the Duke of Clarence was set to last for 12 weeks and as a result the King’s engagements were cancelled as a sign of respect. This meant he did not attend the grand opening of Euston Station, London’s first mainline railway terminus, as planned. This was a relief for George who impressed everybody with his kindness and consideration towards his grieving aunt. According to the Duke’s will, Clarence House was to remain the home of the Dowager Duchess of Clarence for her lifetime but after that, it was to return to the Crown Estate. But Adelaide had no desire to return to Clarence House alone. Instead, she withdrew to Bushy House at Hampton Court. Her earlier illness had left her weakened and her husband’s death had left her in a precarious state. On her doctor’s advice, Adelaide rested at Bushy Park until plans could be made for her to travel abroad for a time where the improved climate was deemed beneficial to her health. Every step of the way, the young King reassured his aunt that she would want for nothing and that everything she needed would be placed at her disposal without delay.

    For the Duke of Cambridge, his brother’s death meant that he was now King’s Regent and as such, was confirmed in the position at St James’ by the Lords Commissioners. As he always intended and as had been previously agreed with the Prime Minister, the Duke of Sussex was named his deputy. But before Cambridge could begin his work, he first had to act as the executor of his brother’s estate. The vast bulk of Clarence’s private fortune was bequeathed to his niece, the Princess of Orange, but there was generous provision for his widow too. For his many illegitimate children, there were lump sums ranging from £1,000 to £5,000. The Earl of Munster was furious at what he considered a paltry inheritance and even threatened to challenge the will in the House of Lords. He had to be placated by a generous offer from the Duke of Cambridge with a private agreement providing Munster with £5,000 a year for his lifetime to be paid by the Crown.

    As he endeavoured to settle his late brother’s affairs, Cambridge had the perfect excuse to avoid meeting with his sister-in-law. The Dowager Queen was not surprised that Sussex had been named deputy regent but fortunately for Cambridge, she blamed Melbourne and the late Duke of Clarence for “tying the knots tight to deny me what is rightfully mine and which my brother-in-law would have welcomed”. This was untrue of course; the Duke of Cambridge shared the view that the Dowager Queen should be left out of any official regency matters and had gone to great lengths to keep her as far away from court as possible by sending her on a fact-finding mission to provide a new royal residence for the British Royal Family. But he could not avoid her forever and finally, he relented and met Louise at Buckingham Palace. Surprisingly, Louise did not mention the regency or the appointment of the Duke of Sussex as deputy. Rather, she was keen to see another matter settled.

    In a letter written to the Duke of Cambridge before their meeting, Louise wrote, “Our niece cannot remain in England indefinitely and whilst I accept that there is to be no concession to my position as would be expected in regard to His Majesty’s regency, I cannot forget that my late husband the King insisted of his brothers that they respect my right as the King’s mother to arrange the marriages of our children. I have not pressed this matter in recent weeks but I feel now we cannot allow the situation to continue without a clear indication of your support for my preferences in this and to settle the case once and for all”.

    For the Duke of Cambridge, there was no objection to Duchess Luise as a wife for the King. “She is a young lady of many qualities and I have no doubt that she would make a fine Queen”, he wrote to his brother the Duke of Sussex, “But I agree with the sentiments of our dearly missed brother William that the King cannot be forced into marriage, neither do I intend to insist as regent that he accepts a bride he does not find agreeable. Furthermore, I see no cause for urgency in this matter and whilst I agree that that the young lady should not stay in England indefinitely and clarity on her position would be a kindness to her, there is nothing before me which would prompt me to demand the matter be settled as the Queen wishes”.


    The Dowager Queen Louise.

    The time for negotiation was over as far as the Dowager Queen was concerned. If the King would not offer marriage to the Duchess voluntarily, she would insist and arrange the marriage herself without his approval. Cambridge would simply have to agree and if he did not, she would make it known that he was defying the will of his late brother King George IV who had, in her view, given her full permission to arrange the marriages of her children regardless of what anyone else might think. The emboldened Louise set a deadline. She had made arrangements to visit Kent for two weeks as guests of the Meade-Waldo family at Stonewall. She was considering two properties (still convinced the Cambridge offer that she find a new royal residence for the family was genuine) in the county and accompanied by Duchess Luise and Baroness Pallenberg, she was to seek them out and assess their suitability.

    The first under consideration was a country house near Westerham in Kent. Chartwell was a 14th century estate with significant acreage and a substantial brick-built manor. First put up for auction in September 1836 at Cheapside as “a suitable abode for a genteel family”, Queen Louise had heard that the house would need substantial renovations but had its charms. The second property she had in mind was Hever Castle, best known as the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. Hever had been purchased by the Meade-Waldo family in the late 18th century, but they had preferred their secondary estate at Stonewall leasing Hever to private tenants. They were not averse to selling the castle for the right price and possibly seeing an opportunity to improve their dwindling finances, they offered to host the Queen as she made her inspections of both Chartwell and Hever. By the time she returned to London, the Queen expected a decision to have been made regarding the King’s marriage one way or another. “Even if a betrothal with a period of delay before marriage is the only outcome”, she wrote, “I must demand this now or I should be failing in my duty as a mother”.

    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had mixed feelings about the situation. On the one hand, Duchess Luise was closely related to the Royal Family and was well-liked for her bright disposition. She had shown remarkable tact and generosity during her time in England and had settled into life with the British Royal Family with great ease. The King clearly liked Luise and enjoyed being in her company and he could do far worse. But on the other hand, the King was only 17 years old and whilst there was something to be said for securing a marriage as early as possible for him [4], both the Duke and Duchess knew that the only reason the Queen wished the King to marry immediately was to protect her own standing at court in the future when the King reached the age of majority and could effectively freeze her out of the royal inner circle.

    Cambridge sought to avoid an ultimatum. He believed that if the King was forced, he would either submit and resent his new bride as his late brother the Prince Regent had done or he would rebel and seek an unsuitable match like the Duke of Sussex. George was therefore invited to dinner at Cambridge House on the 18th of August 1837, ostensibly to discuss his forthcoming higher examinations ahead of his posting to the Royal Military College in Berkshire. Try as he might, the Duke of Cambridge could not steer the conversation in the right direction. Ultimately, it was the Duchess who raised the issue of her niece’s future in England. The King was not naïve. He knew that his mother had spent the best part of a year trying to force the King’s interest in Luise and he knew that she was keen for him to marry as soon as possible. For his part, the King liked Louise. He found her to be beautiful and charming, he admired her resilience and he admitted that he had enjoyed getting to know her better as time had progressed. But he did not see the reason for rushing into marriage, especially given that he would have little time when he reached the age of majority to focus on family matters.


    The Duke of Cambridge.

    “I’m afraid your mother insists that you indicate a preference”, Augusta lamented, “If nothing else because it is unfair to keep poor Luise here when she might return home to her parents”. The young King could see that to be true though he remained unmoved. He simply wasn’t ready to decide. The Cambridges tried to reason with him that, sooner or later, he must marry, and he might not find another prospective bride who pleased him as much as Luise. But their encouragement would only go so far.

    “I will not force you”, Cambridge ruled, “You must take time and you must make the decision you deem to be right for you both. Your mother demands an answer by next week, but I shall insist you be given more time if you promise me that you shall think on the matter most carefully?”

    The King was grateful to his uncle and agreed. . This was taken as a promising sign by the Duchess of Cambridge. Writing to her sister at Hever Castle, Augusta wrote; “He has not dismissed Luise entirely and if he really did not wish to marry her, or indeed, anybody at this time, he would simply have expressed that. That he did not is encouraging but I do urge you dearest sister not to press him too tightly on this. We both feel that this is too important a decision to be made in haste and I believe his time at the college will give dear Georgie the time he needs to come to terms with his future and what he must do for the best. Please believe me when I say to you that we acted in no way to provide obstacles or barriers and that we only encouraged His Majesty to think on the matter for a little while longer which I am sure you will appreciate is the best approach”.

    The following morning, the Dowager Queen stepped into a carriage bound for London, leaving Hever three days early. She would return to London without delay, telling a nervous Baroness Pallenberg as their journey began; “The time for indulging the boy is long past. I shall settle this in my favour before the week is out”.

    [1] I’ve used historical money calculators for this exchange rate but I know they can be unreliable so apologies in advance. The actual sums mentioned were based on those paid to Princess Victoria, the Princess Royal in the OTL when she married the Crown Prince of Prussia.

    [2] Royal weddings still took place in the late afternoon at this time rather than in the morning or just after noon.

    [3] In the OTL, William IV died at Windsor Castle. Here he dies at Clarence House.

    [4] Again, these things were often considered much earlier in the OTL. Brides for the future Edward VII were being considered and their families openly approached with a view to negotiating a marriage contract from the time he turned 13.
    Last edited:
    GV: Part One, Chapter 20: Marry in Haste...
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    Monthly Donor
    King George V

    Part One, Chapter Twenty: Marry in Haste...

    Whilst the Royal Family in Britain adjusted to life without two of its most beloved members, the Courts of Europe had far less sentimental reasons to pay attention to the goings on at St James’ Palace. For most crowned heads, their priority was to secure good marriages for their children and the Almanach de Gotha was as essential an addition to their library as the Bible or the works of Shakespeare. Since the early 1820s, three names had taken the interest of Kings, Grand Dukes and Sovereign Princes from Lisbon to Vladivostok but now only two remained. With Princess Victoria of Kent married to the Prince of Orange, the sovereigns of Europe were prompted to declare their interest in the remaining candidates. It was well known throughout the continent that King George V’s mother had all but decided that he would marry Duchess Luise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz but the future of the King’s younger sister, Princess Charlotte Louise, was as yet undecided. There were rumours that the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha favoured Charlotte Louise as a bride for his eldest son, Hereditary Duke Ernst. Other court gossip linked Charlotte Louise to the Tsarevich of Russia, the Crown Prince of Württemberg and even the Crown Prince of Bavaria [1].


    The young Princess Charlotte Louise. [3]

    Princess Charlotte Louise turned 16 just one month before her cousin Victoria’s wedding and it was perhaps inevitable that for the first time, the Princess contemplated love and romance. For some time, she had been exchanging letters with Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Once a familiar figure at the British court, things had changed once Albert’s uncle Leopold had become King of the Belgians. Despite his visits to Windsor being less frequent however, Prince Albert’s interest in Charlotte Louise had only grown stronger and as he approached his 18th birthday in 1837, he finally broached the issue of his marriage to his uncle Leopold in Brussels. King Leopold was ambitious for his nephews and regarded their marriages as essential to securing closer links to the Royal Families of Europe. Whilst his country remained mostly unrecognised by the Great Powers, Leopold saw his nephews as an extension of his own family and supplanted their father in taking a strong interest in their futures. His marital ties to England were now a thing of the past, his niece Victoria now the future Queen consort of a nation which did not recognise his new position. If Ernst and Albert married well, any loss of face could not only be recovered but dramatically improved when the Great Powers finally relented and offered recognition to Leopold’s Kingdom; possibly even prompted through carefully arranged royal marriages.

    Without question, Prince Albert was King Leopold’s favourite nephew and he sought only the very best match for him. He was therefore delighted when Albert privately indicated that he wished to propose marriage to Princess Charlotte Louise. Whilst she was two years his junior, the childhood friends had quickly become teenage sweethearts and the love letters exchanged between the two indicated that both felt their future included the other. King Leopold was a strong supporter of the match, seeing Prince Albert as his successor in England, a Coburg prince in a high position of influence in the British capital. Princess Charlotte Louise was after all first in line to the British throne and the succession in England was known for producing unexpected results. The possibility of a Queen Charlotte with Prince Albert as her consort was not entirely unthinkable and at this time, there was a rumour that the young King George V was prepared to abdicate to marry a German actress he had met in Coburg rather than the Mecklenburg Duchess his mother was forcing him to wed. This was enough for King Leopold to approach Baron Stockmar and order him to travel to England to raise the possibility of an engagement between Prince Albert and Princess Charlotte Louise.

    In a letter to his beloved, Prince Albert wrote, “Uncle Leopold is for us and Stockmar is to arrive at Windsor shortly to meet with your Uncle Cambridge. Hold fast to us my darling one for we have only to bear this separation a little longer before we shall never be parted again”. Princess Charlotte Louise showed Albert’s letters to Lady Anne Anson, her long-time friend and confidant. Lady Anson later wrote; “There can be no question that Prince Albert of Coburg (sic) was deeply in love with the Princess and that he wished to marry her. His uncle the King [of the Belgians] took a great interest in this for he was an ambitious sort of man, but I do not believe even he could fail to be moved by the very real and genuine affection the young Prince had for the Princess at this time”. Diplomatically, Lady Anson does not reveal whether Princess Charlotte Louise reciprocated Prince Albert’s feelings but without a doubt she did. Writing to Albert in the autumn of 1837 she writes, “I yearn for news from you my dearest for Stockmar has arrived and yet he has not been to visit me. I had hoped that all would be well and arranged by now and I feel so utterly wretched at not knowing what is to be. Oh, my darling one, I pray for us and hope all shall be good for I know my only happiness is with you”.


    The young Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

    Baron Stockmar met with the Duke of Cambridge at the end of July 1837. Whilst privately he was received as a representative of the King of the Belgians with all due respect afforded to an Ambassador, Stockmar’s visit was not gazetted so as to avoid causing a diplomatic incident with the Dutch. Cambridge knew Stockmar well, though he did not care much for him regarding him as a snob who had been given far too much influence in England in the past. Still, Cambridge was polite and a little surprised when Stockmar revealed that Prince Albert and Princess Charlotte Louise had been corresponding together for some time. The Dowager Duchess of Clarence had been aware of the blossoming romance for but as her late husband had set a rule that no marriages could be considered for the two princesses in his charge until they turned 18, she had allowed it to play out as nothing more than teenage infatuation. Cambridge was unsure of the next step to take. If Prince Albert was serious in his offer, the Duke advised that the precedent set for the Princess of Orange might be followed. A private engagement could take place now that his niece was 16 years old with a view to marriage in two years’ time if the couple still felt they wished to wed. “But I must advise you also Stockmar”, the Duke said wearily, “That arranging the marriage of Princess Charlotte will be very different from that of Princess Victoria. After all, it is my sister-in-law who will arrange it and you must know of her sentiments regarding the Coburg princes”.

    Stockmar wrote to King Leopold passing on Cambridge’s position on a proposed engagement between Prince Albert and Princess Charlotte Louise but tactfully omitted the full extent of the Duke’s advice. Because of this, King Leopold allowed himself to run away with the idea that the marriage was all but contracted. Without delay he wrote to his brothers in Coburg and Vienna announcing the good news that Prince Albert had proposed marriage to Princess Charlotte Louise and that the negotiations for a marriage contract were shortly to begin. This was perhaps not the wisest approach. King Leopold’s brother Prince Ferdinand showed the letter to his wife Maria Antonia who then wrote of the developments to her niece by marriage in The Hague, Princess Victoria. Victoria naturally told her mother-in-law, Queen Anna, who penned an urgent missive to her brother Tsar Nicholas in St Petersburg asking if he was aware that the English princess was about to be engaged and therefore any Russian interest in her prospects thus far had all been for naught.

    This royal round of Chinese whispers took some time of course but at Windsor, loose-lipped courtiers were openly discussing Princess Charlotte Louise’s future as the bride of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Many of them remembered Prince Albert and approved of the match, though much was made of his lack of prospects. The Coburgs were not exactly the wealthiest family and though increasingly well connected to the thrones of Belgium, the Netherlands and Portugal, there was a view that unless the Ducal Coburg succession changed in Albert’s favour, Princess Charlotte Louise would have very little position outside of Great Britain. Lady Anne Anson recalled; “Rumours abounded that the Duke of Cambridge had accepted the marriage proposal and that the pair were to be married at Windsor and live at Marlborough House but those of us who knew the Royal Family intimately knew this to be nothing more than idle speculation. For myself, I saw no serious proposal because I knew of the intense dislike the late Queen had for the Coburg family, a resentment forged in her early years in England. She would never countenance a marriage between her only daughter and one of the Coburg princes and that is why I do not hesitate in setting the record straight here in saying that Princess Charlotte Louise never seriously entertained the prospect of marrying Prince Albert of Coburg (sic)”.


    Lady Anne Anson.

    Lady Anson was perhaps inventing her own record of events slightly to protect the reputation of her friend and confidant, but she was quite correct in her assessment that the Dowager Queen would never have contemplated a marriage between her daughter and Prince Albert. The fate of the late Duchess of Kent was still spoken of in England as a cautionary tale and Louise had transferred her hatred of “that wicked creature” to King Leopold, his brothers and their children. The Duke of Cambridge had hoped to raise the prospect of a Coburg marriage upon his next visit to Marlborough House, but this was delayed by an official visit to Southampton. By the time the Duke was able to visit his sister-in-law, she had already been told of Stockmar’s visit (and the reason for it) by the ever loyal Baroness Pallenberg. The Dowager Queen was already in high dudgeon. She had cut short her house hunting in Kent to return to London to settle the future of her niece once and for all. She was none too pleased that the Cambridges had seemingly advised the King to take yet more time to consider his feelings towards Duchess Luise and so it was that the Duke of Cambridge stepped across the threshold of a Marlborough House possibly unprepared for what was about to transpire.

    Initially, the Duke was lulled into a false sense of security. Queen Louise led the way into the dining room for a frosty but delicious luncheon of Cotelettes de Saumon with Sauce Remoulade, Poules Panés with haricot beans and Cabinet pudding with Créme Anglaise. [2] Little conversation passed between the two, the Duke becoming increasingly uncomfortable as his efforts to raise harmless topics were met with silence. At the end of the meal, the Queen nodded to Baroness Pallenberg who ushered the footmen from the dining room. Louise stood from the table, motioning for her brother-in-law to remain seated. From a sideboard, she offered sherry, pouring two glasses and returning to the head of the dining table where she fixed the Duke of Cambridge with a determined and dangerous glare. The old soldier recognised an ambush when he saw one. He waited for the onslaught but only silence came. Then…


    The Dowager Queen brought her palm down onto the dining table, throwing herself upwards out of her chair and pacing the length of the dining room with her skirts rustling and her eyes wide with rage.

    “How dare you!”, she roared, “How dare you treat me in this way!”

    The Duke of Cambridge was taken aback. Louise continued her tirade; “I would never have thought this of you Adolphus. Clarence? Yes, oh he was always poison, he was always against me. Sussex? He would stoop so low, anything to advance his whore bride but you? To plot and scheme against me in this way, it is unpardonable!”

    Cambridge stood up. He was not going to allow himself to be intimidated.

    “I will be generous and forget this incident ever occurred”, he said calmly, “I shall leave now, and I only hope you recover from whatever ailment has caused this temporary lapse in judgement”

    Louise drew herself up to Cambridge, fixing him with her scowl.

    “You do not have my leave to go! I am the Queen”

    Cambridge sighed and fell back into his seat. He tried a different approach.

    “I can’t think what on earth has upset you so Louise dear, I came here for a quiet luncheon, and I find bedlam”

    “You have arranged the marriage of MY daughter on the orders of that pigeon-livered toad Stockmar. You forget your place Adolphus, you know only too well that George insisted that I was to arrange the marriages of our children. I go away for a few weeks and what do I find on my return? You have matched my daughter to a Coburg! A Prince of the ten acre wood who is little more than a stable hand, you and Stockmar-“

    “Louise”, Cambridge raised the volume of his voice a little, interrupting his sister-in-law, “You are misinformed. Stockmar did come to me, he did talk of a marriage between Lottie and the Coburg boy but I did not sanction anything. I came here today to ask for your opinion on the matter which I shall then relay to Stockmar. Did you really believe I would behave in such a way after all these years? Do you not know me at all Madam?”

    Suddenly, Louise was deflated. Her cheeks flushed red and she felt hot. She clutched at her sherry glass and took a long gulp, sitting in her chair once more and staring down into the wood grain of the table. Cambridge allowed a few moments of silence to pass. Regardless of her opinion towards him, Cambridge had never sought to interfere in the marriages of his late brother’s children. He respected George IV’s wish that his widow should be given sole jurisdiction over the matter, just as the late Queen Charlotte had arranged the marriages of the Duke of Cambridge and the late King to the two Hesse princesses.


    The Duke of Cambridge.

    His concern as regent extended only to ensuring that the candidates were suitable; good protestant princesses from respectable families of unimpeachable reputation. Whilst the Duke of Clarence had taken a more paternalistic approach which had been inevitable given that King George V and Princess Charlotte Louise had pretty much been raised by the Clarences, Cambridge had no such close relationship with his niece and nephew. Whilst he might seek the advice of his wife when proposals were raised, he had absolutely no intention of blocking any marriage which Louise deemed appropriate and which did not contravene the Royal Marriages Act. He explained this to his sister-in-law calmly, placing his hand on her hers and trying to reassure her.

    “Then why have you advised my son against marrying Luise?”, she snapped, only this time a little more defensive than offensive, “Is she not suitable Adolphus?”

    “Of course, she is!”, Cambridge replied kindly, “But my dear, I did not advise Georgie against her. I advised he think about the matter for a while longer. He is still so young. If you wish me to approve the marriage as his regent then naturally I will but I thought we had all agreed it was for the best that Georgie propose to the girl of his own free will?”

    I did not agree!”, Louise wailed, now sounding more like a petulant child than a ferocious matriarch, “I wanted to secure the marriage months ago and you are all against me! Even Augusta fails to help. I have never been allowed to take my true position in this wretched country, never. And now, when I wish to exercise the one right I have as the King’s mother, you all deny it to me just as I have been denied everything else”

    Cambridge sighed. He shared his late brother’s view that it was only right for Louise to arrange the marriages of her own children. But he also shared the view of the late Duke of Clarence that forcing the King to marry young could only prove problematic in the long run. As Regent, it would be Cambridge’s duty to inform the Prime Minister and the Privy Council if the King wished to marry before he reached the age of majority, something he hoped he could avoid unless the King himself indicated that he freely wished to marry Duchess Luise. Whilst he had knocked the stuffing from his sister-in-law and calmed her initial rage, he knew that he would have to bend to Louise’s wishes if she now forced the issue. If he did not, he would not only be betraying the memory of his late brother the King by ignoring his wishes but he would also not be a man of his word.

    “Louise, might I offer you a compromise?”, the Duke said generously, sipping his sherry, “Georgie thinks of nothing these days but the army. I beg you, wait until he has finished his time at the Royal Military College. It is just a few months more after all”

    “A few months more when I am to be ignored”, Louise sulked, “Victoria was engaged at his age, she is married now, nobody objected to that!”

    “Apples and oranges my dear”, Cambridge consoled, “Louise, what I say now I say as a brother to you; do not force him. If you do, he will resent you until the end of his days and you will lose him forever”

    The Dowager Queen sat motionless for a moment. Something deep within her told her that Cambridge was right. There and then she had a choice before her that would cement her future. She could relent and allow her son to choose for himself, hoping that he would appreciate and acknowledge a change of heart in his mother’s approach that might help to repair their long-broken relationship. Or she could ignore her brother-in-law’s sound advice and insist on his immediate approval for a marriage between the King and Duchess Luise. She would exercise her authority; she would use her niece as a conduit to a greater position at court and recapture the standing she had once enjoyed when her late husband sat on the throne. She turned to look into her brother-in-law’s eyes. Though she once blamed him for ejecting her from Herrenhausen, she could not deny that he had been a good husband to her sister Augusta and she did not see any of the ambition she had attributed to the late Duke of Clarence’s motives over the years. He had advised her well in recent weeks and trusted her with far more than William ever had. She rose from the table and turned towards the fireplace. Cambridge could have sworn she even wiped away a tear. Finally, the Dowager Queen broke the silence.


    Dowager Queen Louise.

    “I will visit His Majesty before he leaves for the military college”, she said haughtily, “I trust his time there will be well spent”

    The Duke of Cambridge allowed himself a sigh of relief.

    “As for that ridiculous Coburg nonsense, you will tell Stockmar to return to his Lord and Master and never raise the subject again”

    Louise now returned to the dining table after pouring herself a second glass of sherry. Cambridge felt himself on much safer ground as his sister-in-law went into a long (and tedious) account of her visit to Kent. She was sad to report that neither Chartwell nor Hever were at all suitable for a future royal residence. Chartwell was far too small and practically needed to be rebuilt brick by brick. As for Hever, she suspected the property was worth a third of the asking price and that her hosts were trying to gouge her. All was not lost however. That morning a notice had appeared in the London Times which announced that the Liberal peer Lord Foley was putting his estate at Witley Court up for auction. Foley had lost a fortune at the card table and Witley had been placed into a trust by his debtors who now wanted a quick and efficient sale. Louise had yet to visit Witley Court but by all accounts, it had possibilities.

    Cambridge sat with one eye on the mantle clock. He was eager to leave Marlborough House and return to Piccadilly for an evening of port and bridge with some gentlemen from his club. Louise noticed.

    “Oh my dear Adolphus”, she cooed, “I am so sorry, I have kept you far too long. Please, give my love to Augusta and the children”.

    The Duke stood and kissed his sister-in-law on each cheek before turning to go. As he approached the door of the dining room, Queen Louise called his name.

    “There is just one more thing”, she said with steel in her voice, “Will you ask the Prime Minister and Lord Durham to come here at their earliest convenience?”

    The Duke of Cambridge was somewhat taken aback by the request. It was well known that the Dowager Queen despised the Liberals, most of all Lord Melbourne. The only politicians the Dowager Queen ever entertained were High Tories who had not defected to the Unionists and the Unionists themselves. Cambridge doubted that his sister-in-law had any interest in the planning for the forthcoming general election, neither had she yet been informed (on the advice of the Duke of Norfolk) that the Coronation committee was soon to meet to begin discussing the ceremony which would take place 12 months from now. Louise drew herself up in her chair and smiled. It was not a warm smile.

    “His Majesty shall marry Duchess Luise before the end of the year. I will inform the Prime Minister and the Lord President personally”

    Cambridge felt his heart drop a little in his chest. The die was cast. He could give no solid reason to oppose his sister-in-law, neither could he go back on the promise he made to his late brother the King. He had kept Louise out of the King’s affairs so far as the regency was concerned but that was the extent of the protection he could offer. There was no serious objection he could raise. The King was only 17 years old but if he was old enough to be crowned within the year, he was old enough to be married. Duchess Luise was the right age, rank and religion. Whatever the implications for his nephew, and though he had always hoped that the choice would be George’s, Cambridge saw that Louise was not about to let her last opportunity to secure her position at court pass her by. She needed to install her niece at her son’s side as a last-ditch attempt to reclaim the authority and influence she had always craved. It was hopeless to believe her son’s happiness would deter her from that course.

    Cambridge nodded silently.

    “As you wish. Madam”

    He left Marlborough House in a daze. What had transpired there that day? Should he have emulated his late brother Clarence and been more forceful with the Dowager Queen? Did he have that right? Would his nephew resent him too now? As his carriage pulled away and headed to Piccadilly, he thought of the young King so eagerly engrossed in his studies. He would soon be away at the Royal Military College, pursuing the one thing that gave him the most joy. In 12 months’, time, his life would change forever; King and husband all in one fell swoop. He would need as much support as possible in those first few years and Cambridge had always intended, and had given his word, that he would offer that support in the absence of the late King. It was unlikely now that Georgie would ever want his uncle’s advice or support again.

    Returning to Cambridge House that evening, the Duke told his wife Augusta of the Dowager Queen’s decision.

    “I failed that boy”, he remarked sadly, “I failed the King”

    At Windsor, the King himself remained in blissful ignorance of what lay ahead.

    [1] Obviously the Crown Prince of Bavaria was a Roman Catholic but this wouldn't have stopped gossip-mongers matching Charlotte Louise to him, just as it didn't stop the British press matching the OTL incumbent Prince of Wales to Princess Marie Astrid of Luxembourg.

    [2] An actual menu served at Buckingham Palace for Queen Victoria in the autumn of 1837.

    [3] This is a portrait of Catharina Annette Fraser by Kruseman. I try my best to use unknown subjects to illustrate new characters but unfortunately, this is the best I can make fit here!
    GV: Part One, Chapter 21: A Mother's Wish
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    Monthly Donor
    King George V

    Part One, Chapter Twenty-One: A Mother’s Wish

    The Earl of Effingham clung fast to the window rail of his carriage as it rocked and lurched from side to side on its way along the Long Walk towards the recently renamed George IV Gateway at Windsor Castle. Effingham’s journey from his comfortable farmhouse in Essex had taken two days which included an overnight stay at a particularly grim lodging house. To make matters worse, the old man had just recovered from an especially nasty cold that his doctor pessimistically predicted would “sink His Lordship within the week”. Fortunately for Effingham, his doctor had been mistaken. The Earl had not intended to return to Windsor so soon having departed just a month earlier after a summons from the Duke of Cambridge. Elevated from the rank of Baron to Earl for his services as Deputy Earl Marshal following the state funeral of the Duke of Clarence (which Effingham had arranged), another great occasion of state was scheduled for a year’s time and Cambridge wanted Effingham to take charge of the committee which would deliver it.

    By rights, the Dukes of Norfolk (hereditary Earl Marshals since 1672) should have been given the responsibility. However, as the Dukes of Norfolk were practising Roman Catholics it was felt unsuitable for any state occasion which included acts of religious worship (and most did) to be arranged by somebody who sat so proudly outside of the Anglican Communion. Norfolk was left to arrange state visits and the State Opening of Parliament, but royal births, marriages and deaths were left to his Anglican brother Lord Henry Howard-Molyneux-Howard as his Deputy. With Lord Henry’s death in 1824, the Duke of Norfolk had recommended Lord Effingham, his third cousin, to step up to the task. Regardless of Catholic emancipation laws, Norfolk was to be cheated of the opportunity to oversee the most important occasion of state possibly just as he had been in 1820. Lord Effingham would therefore have sole responsibility for planning the coronation of King George V.


    The Earl of Effingham.

    As with the previous ceremony in 1820, the government was required to allocate a budget for the event which would be added to the Civil List for 1838. Whilst everybody agreed that the previous coronation had been a fine example of its type, Lord Melbourne was determined that the 1838 coronation would not exceed the budget set by the government as it had in 1820. Indeed, Effingham’s predecessor had managed to spend almost double the amount allocated but this time the public finances remained in dire shape and there were no French war reparations to fall back on to pick up the tab for any overspend. Lord Melbourne believed a dignified and impressive coronation could be delivered on just £50,000 but when the addendum to the Civil List was proposed in committee, even his Cabinet colleagues had to agree with Melbourne’s critics that the sum was paltry.

    Melbourne had assumed the modest budget would send a message ahead of the 1838 general election that the Whigs were taking the economic difficulties seriously and that the monarchy was not above the same spending cuts made in other areas. The public felt differently. He was jeered at in the street for trying to foist a “Penny Coronation” [1] on the British people and eventually he had to give in and allow a further £35,000. Even this vast sum was considered to be lacking (the coronation of 1820 had cost around £140,000) and when parliament passed the Civil List that year, the Lord Great Chamberlain, Lord Willoughby de Eresby, was heard to remark; “Should we ask Ede & Ravenscroft to substitute our robes of state for night shirts?”


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

    Willoughby had a reputation for pomposity. He was also no friend to Lord Melbourne. Having defected from the Whigs to the Tories, he assumed the hereditary post of Lord Great Chamberlain in 1828.* Though he received no salary, Willoughby was the most important figure in the Royal Household and had special responsibility to oversee the goings on at the Palace at Westminster. It was only natural therefore that he might expect to take charge of the Coronation Committee as His Majesty’s most senior courtier, but that honour was to go to the Earl of Effingham. An insulted Willoughby pointed out that Effingham was only Deputy Earl Marshal and so a convenient but confusing compromise was agreed whereby Willoughby served as Chief Commissioner of the Coronation Committee whilst Effingham served as Chairman. He did not occupy the Chair at sessions of the committee but had the authority to approve the most important arrangements for the great event itself. By contrast, Willoughby had the authority to chair the sessions but no power to approve the arrangements agreed.

    As if this were not complicated enough, the Committee also had to include representatives of the most important offices of state. Below Willoughby and Effingham was the Treasurer of the Committee, Sir Henry Wheatley, the Keeper of the Privy Purse, who was deputising for the (Catholic) Earl of Surrey (eldest son of the Duke of Norfolk) in his role as Treasurer of the Household. The Permanent Secretary to the Committee was the Honourable George Byng (future Earl of Strafford) in his role as Comptroller of the Household whilst Major Billy Smith represented the young King as Crown Equerry and Aide-de-Camp to His Majesty. Curiously, Major Smith was expected to excuse himself from every session of the committee to avoid any conflict of interest with the Court of Claims. The Court of Claims was a special court usually established after the accession of the new monarch to judge the validity of the claims of persons of the nobility to perform certain honorary services to the sovereign, especially at their coronation. Because there had been such a long delay between King George V’s accession and his upcoming coronation, an extra-ordinary session of the Court of Claims was to be held overseen by the Lord Steward who was to be assisted by Major Smith. Thus, Honest Billy was only nominally a member of the coronation committee.

    To confuse matters even further, there was a second committee known as the Coronation Council which dealt with the more mundane aspects of the event itself. Whilst the Committee debated changes to the service and which coaches should be used in the procession, the Council was charged with sourcing the cheapest white stockings for the pages to wear and where best to commission the 300 chairs required for the most senior courtiers who were always gifted the chairs when the ceremony was over. This Council was overseen by the Duke of Argyll and included Sir Frederick Beilby Watson as Master of the Household, the Earl of Durham as Lord President of the Council, the Dean of Windsor representing the Archbishop of Canterbury and Sir Charles Murray representing the Equerries, Private Secretaries, Chaplains, Pages, Clerks, Stewards and Comptrollers who served every member of the Royal Family from the King all the way down to Princess Sophia.

    Fortunately for Lord Effingham, it was expected that the reports and recommendations sent from the Council to the Committee were delivered in precis but in the finest tradition of the Civil Service, every document had to be copied, circulated and approved by every member of the senior committee before that precis could be delivered to Lord Effingham for his approval. It was then passed to Lord Willoughby who had no authority to change anything Lord Effingham had approved but to give the impression that he did, Willoughby would spend hours poring over the minute details at long and exhausting sessions of the committee. It was Willoughby who then presented the updated programme to the Duke of Cambridge as the King’s Regent and to the Prime Minister who in turn sent copies to the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and so on and so forth.

    Miraculously, this convoluted and bloated chain of command had delivered the last two coronations without a hitch and the idea of streamlining the process was totally unthinkable. After all, how could the Chief Commissioner approve the purchase of white stockings for the Pages of Honour if the Treasurer had not himself approved the cost which had been sought on his behalf by Sir Charles Murray’s private secretary and which had already been assessed by a clerk at Windsor against the same price paid for similar white stockings at the previous coronation? The alternative would clearly result in chaos and if the system was not broken, there was no need to fix it.


    King George V in a portrait painted by Sir William Foley, 1837. It depicts the young King still in mourning attire for the late Duke of Clarence.

    King George V himself had absolutely nothing to do with the planning of his coronation. He was far too busy studying for his higher examinations ahead of his departure for the Royal Military College in Berkshire and though he knew the committee had been officially gazetted, by curious convention he was not allowed to attend any of its meetings. It was as if the coronation was a great surprise birthday party and for months, he would have to get used to courtiers whispering in corners as they slyly swapped documents for the other’s opinion and approval. However, on that autumn weekend it was not the coronation his courtiers were gossiping about in the corridors of the State Apartments. Word travelled fast and from Cambridge House the news had reached the backstairs of Windsor that the Dowager Queen had finally put her foot down and was to force the King to marry the pretty young Duchess from Mecklenburg. The King himself had no idea and that particular weekend, he was tucked away at Royal Lodge with only Honest Billy for company as he worked through mock higher examination papers.

    The Earl of Effingham was also oblivious to recent developments and when he was summoned to Windsor on such short notice by Dowager Queen, he assumed that she wished to discuss the progress of the coronation committee before it’s next session. Effingham did not relish a meeting with her and though he had fought Napoleon’s armies on the battlefields of Europe, he once remarked that he would rather have a fist fight with Napoleon himself than take tea with the Dowager Queen. For every recommendation the committee had thus far approved, the Dowager Queen had a comment or complaint that it was too expensive, not expensive enough, too long, too short, too old fashioned, too modern…her grievances seemed to be endless.

    But on this particular day, the Dowager Queen completely disarmed Effingham. She was in a cheerful mood as she gave him tea in the Queen’s Closet, the modestly sized salon used most often at Windsor for family teas. As Effingham entered the room, he bowed to Her Majesty and steadied himself, hoping for their meeting would not take too long. The Dowager Queen never allowed anyone but her ladies of the bedchamber to sit in her presence and as such, even the oldest of courtiers with sciatica or rheumatism were forced to stand, sometimes for hours, until the Dowager Queen left the room. Effingham was therefore stunned when Queen Louise motioned for him to sit opposite her on a settee and was even more amazed to see that she poured his tea herself rather than leaving the task to Baroness Pallenberg as usual. The Dowager Queen disliked the English custom of the lady of the house serving guests but today, she made an exception. After tea was served, she clasped her hands in front of her and fixed Effingham with a smile.

    “I’m afraid I must add to your workload Effingham”, Queen Louise joked. She did not do it well and the quip came across more as a barked order than as a friendly ribbing.

    “I am only too happy to assist Your Majesty in any way I can”, Effingham replied, sipping his tea and waiting for the blow to fall.

    “In a day or two there shall be an announcement regarding the King’s marriage. To my niece you understand”, the Dowager Queen explained, “I should like you to make the arrangements for that occasion before the year is out”

    Effingham felt his heart drop slightly. Whilst he considered it a great honour to be asked to organise a royal wedding, especially that of the Sovereign, his mind lingered on the mounting stacks of paperwork on his desk at his home in Blackmore End. A wedding would no doubt double it.

    “I had no idea”, Effingham said in almost a whisper, “Then His Majesty is to be congratulated on such happy news”. Seeing the Dowager Queen pause slightly, he added hastily, “Oh and you too Ma’am, such happy news for you too”

    The Dowager Queen waved her hand as if swatting flies.

    “You flatter me Lord Effingham”, she said, taking a small notepad from a side table and turning to the first page, “Now as to the date, I believe it would be simply charming to have the wedding itself on Christmas Eve”

    “Christmas Eve Ma’am?”

    “Yes Effingham”, the Queen nodded, barely raising her eyes from her notepad, “But not in London, I could not bear to sit in that horrid little chapel at St James’. So cold and ugly it is. I believe His Majesty would much prefer St George’s here at Windsor and besides, we shall be here for Christmas at any rate”

    The Dowager Queen then turned to every possible detail imaginable for the wedding ceremony. Invitations were to be restricted to members of the Royal Family, members of the Privy Council, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and a handful of the King’s personal acquaintances. The bride’s parents would not be attending, rather they would represented by Duchess Luise’s brother, Hereditary Grand Duke Frederick William. The Grand Duke and his wife, Queen Louise’s sister Marie, would no doubt feel they must match the show put on by the British and the Dowager Queen wished to avoid causing them any financial embarrassment. In reality, she simply wanted them out of the way to reinforce her own importance. Effingham made careful notes and thanked the Dowager Queen for her time before leaving the room. Something felt odd. Something was not quite right. Effingham did not know it but he had just agreed to arrange a wedding for two people who did not yet know they were to be married in less than three months’ time.

    After changing into a new black crepe tea dress and matching lace cap, the Dowager Queen settled herself back in the Queen’s Closet. Baroness Pallenberg sat embroidering on a settee as the Queen stood by the window to catch a glimpse of Major Smith accompanying the King to see her from Royal Lodge. She allowed herself a wry smile. For years Royal Lodge had been a prison to her. Now she would once again enjoy the full run of the castle. And Buckingham Palace too. The King and his new bride could not be expected to have the first idea how the court should operate, or which rooms were suitable for the various ceremonies and receptions to be held in.


    The Queen's Closet at Windsor Castle, photographed here in 1890 after it had been transformed into a study for the Queen consort.

    The King and his new Queen consort would need her. Louise could finally clear out all those stuffy old Clarence courtiers who had always snubbed her and had never been welcoming. Things would change at Windsor. Indeed, life for the Dowager Queen would be exactly as she had wished it to be for so many years. She may have been denied her rightful place as King’s Regent, but she would now install herself as the true power behind the throne in the coming years. Perhaps her son might even see how wrong he had been to favour his uncles over her guidance. To Louise’s irritation, the King was forty minutes late to tea. Still, at least he was present and correct and at least her brother-in-law wasn’t around to interfere in the proceedings. With a wave of her hand, she dismissed Pallenberg and Smith until mother and son were left alone together in the Queen’s Closet, the silence broken only by the gentle clink of the porcelain as Louise poured tea and the ticking of a wall clock.

    Before explaining what transpired between the two that day, it should first be understood that the relationship between the Queen and her son was possibly best described at this time as lukewarm. They still met each Sunday after church, when possible, but the King could never forget that his mother had effectively abandoned her children and had made no real attempt to forge any serious bonds of love and affection since her return. That being said, the King would always yearn for maternal approval. Indeed, some biographers have suggested that George’s need in later life to seek the company of slightly older women was an effort to replace the love he had never received from his mother. This sentiment, coupled with a fear of suddenly losing those he loved (no doubt the result of the tragic death of his younger brother Prince Edward) often led him to abandon common sense and to give in to the demands of those closest to him just in case they disappeared from his life forever.

    When the King entered the Queen’s Closet, he bowed to his mother and waited to be invited to take a seat. In his mind, he thought of his usual teatime treat of a plate of Welsh Rarebit and a mug of drinking chocolate. His mother only served tea and bread and butter which was quite dull by comparison. There were no pleasantries. Louise did not even inquire as to his health or well-being. She came directly to the matter at hand, prepared for every eventuality.

    “I received your Uncle Cambridge a few days ago”, she began, “We had a very interesting talk”

    “Oh yes Mama?”, the King feigned interest in between mouthfuls of tea.

    “Yes, we spoke of your marriage”

    The room fell silent. The King looked up from his teacup. The wall clock chimed five. Then he allowed himself a small chuckle. Had everybody caught wedding fever all of a sudden? First Princess Victoria disappearing to the Netherlands with her new husband, then his sister Princess Charlotte Louise pining for news from Albert in Germany about their own future. He was not naïve of course; he knew only too well that his mother had brought his cousin Luise to England for a very clear purpose but he did not see that there was any urgency in the matter. Indeed, he had discussed marriage with Major Smith (relating to another first cousin named Louise) in months past and both had agreed that however fine the institution might be, there was no need to rush headfirst into it.

    “It is no laughing matter Georgie”, the Queen chided, “I have been most patient with you until now, but we cannot delay any longer. Things must be settled before your coronation”

    The Dowager Queen spoke with an authority that made it clear she was not to be disagreed with. Yet however much the King knew he must respect his mother and however sympathetic he might be to her wishes, he could not make such an important decision here and now. He protested that he needed more time, that after his coronation he could give more serious consideration to things. But right now he was entirely focused on his higher examinations and preparations to attend the Royal Military College. His mother shook her head; “Playing soldiers indeed. You must grow up Georgie, you cannot run about the fields in your silly uniforms forever”. George felt hurt. He took his interest in the military seriously. It was the only real connection he had to his late father. To hear it reduced to a childish play activity stung.

    At that moment, the door to the Queen’s Closet flew open and Princess Charlotte Louise, her hair slightly loose from running and her cheeks flushed, entered the room. The Dowager Queen snapped to her feet.

    “What is the meaning of this?”, she barked, “I did not ask to receive you

    Princess Charlotte Louise took a deep breath and curtseyed deeply. She had rehearsed every word and now, she intended to give her very best recitation.

    “Mama, I am sorry but I must insist that you listen to me”, she barely paused, “Albert has written to Uncle Cambridge and has asked for my hand in marriage and I love him Mama, very deeply, and if you would give your permission for us to be promised to each other I should be-“

    Queen Louise charged towards her daughter and slapped her face.

    “Impudent girl!”, she hollered, “You will go to your room and remain out of my sight until I leave this castle. How dare you intrude upon us like this. I have dealt with Albert’s letter and Stockmar’s interference. You will marry whomsoever I choose and until then, you shall obey me or else you shall never marry. Now go from sight at once”

    The King stood to comfort his sister, but she was gone, dashing from the Queen’s Closet in a flurry of tears, her cries echoing through the corridors as she ran. The Dowager Queen closed the door and returned to her chair, falling into it and shaking her head.

    “So like that girl to cause my heart so much trouble”, she spat angrily, “Sharper than the serpent’s tooth is an ungrateful child Georgie, I pray you shall never have such a daughter as I”. After a few moments, the Dowager Queen calmed herself and allowed the interruption to pass by. Then, from the table by her chairside, the Dowager Queen brought forward an engraving of the coronation of King George IV. She smiled down at the picture, sweeping her hand over it and laying it before her son. She pointed to her late husband.

    “Papa…you see him there?”, she cooed, “And look…right there…next to him…it is me!”. George gave the drawing a cursory glance. “We were very happy Georgie”, the Queen said wistfully, “And do you know, your Papa trusted my judgement in everything?”

    “Yes Mama”, the King nodded. He was desperate to tear after his sister and console her.

    “It will be hard for you Georgie”, his mother continued, “To be without a wife when you are crowned. That is why your Papa asked me to find you a bride when the time came”

    The King had always known that one day, his mother would present him with a wife. This was not a custom particular to the British Royal Family, but one commonly practised across Europe. Mothers sought out the best candidates whilst Fathers negotiated the diplomatic and financial aspects. The bride and groom had little say in the matter, though things were slightly different when the groom was already the monarch. In the usual way of things, Georgie would have married as Prince of Wales before his accession. Once he reached the age of majority, nobody could force him to marry against his will, though he had always intended to respect any young lady his mother (or any of his female relatives for that matter) seemed suitable.

    “That time has now come”. The Dowager Queen smiled. It was not a warm smile.

    “Oh Mama!”, George protested, “I need time to think about this!”

    “We do not have time Georgie!”, Louise snapped, “When you are crowned, not one moment will be your own, you will have new advisors, new courtiers, they will push and pull you to their own plots and schemes, you must rule them all and you cannot do that as a child!”

    “I am not a child Mama”

    “Oh, but you are”, his mother hissed, “Too long you have played your games and wasted the hours on nonsenses but now you will be a man. You will face up to your duty, you will honour your late father and you will respect my wishes. You will marry Luise”.

    “Uncle Clarence said-“

    “Do not talk to me of Clarence!”, the Dowager Queen spat back at him, “Do you think that old man would have hesitated in forcing that hideous niece of his upon you if I had not forbad it? You didn’t know that did you? How I fought for you, how I kept you away from his foolish plans”

    It was the first the King had ever heard of any such proposal. Indeed, he had once been enormously fond of his cousin Drina but he never suspected that his late uncle wished them to marry.

    “If he had lived, Clarence would be giving you the same talk with we are having now. That was his duty. To marry Luise is yours”

    The Dowager Queen had absolutely no qualms in lying to her son but in her mind, she was not entirely bending the truth. She had always insisted that the Duke of Clarence wished his niece to marry the King and that once they had wed, he would enact revenge on Louise by treating her in the same way she had treated Victoria’s late mother, the Dowager Duchess of Kent. These bitter fantasies had plagued Louise for so long that she now almost believed them to be true and when she spoke of them, she did so without any hint of self-doubt.

    George felt heat flush his cheeks. He felt trapped, unable to see a way to buy himself more time. Part of him wanted to prove just how mature he was by jumping to his feet and refusing to do as his mother wished. But part of him still yearned for her approval. He always knew he must marry, every monarch had to secure the line of succession, he knew that from Stockmar’s odious lectures on Kingship. But he had no idea it would come so soon and that he would have little to no say in the matter. Time. If only there were more time.

    “You have your duty Georgie, and this is mine”, the Queen said, her voice now soft and almost kind, “Your darling Papa made me promise that I would find you the right bride and I have. She is here, now, in the castle, just waiting for you. Do not let him down Georgie my little one, do not disappoint your Papa”

    The King looked into his mother’s eyes. He was fond of Luise. Indeed, he had been taken with her from the moment she arrived in England and the more time they had spent together, the more he had delighted in her company. Even when his affections landed on another as they had recently at Rumpenheim, there was a strange comfort in knowing that Luise was still there. He could not imagine her not being there and yet, he did not yet know if he wanted her to be present as a friend and companion or as a wife. His mind swirled with what he must do and what he wanted to do. He tried to think of Stockmar’s lessons, of Uncle William’s advice, of Luise, of his coronation, of his parents. Looking into the Queen’s eyes, one emotion surged above all others in that moment. He saw an opportunity to make her proud of him.

    “Very well Mama”, he said softly, “If you think it best then…then I shall do as you ask”

    The silence of the room was broken by a shriek of delight from the Dowager Queen. She rushed forward toward the King and embraced him, kissing his cheeks and holding his face in her hands. He had never seen her so happy, so affectionate…so proud of him.

    “Oh Georgie! Oh, you are such a clever boy, oh Liebchen!”, Louise cried, “And you shan’t regret it, she is a pearl Georgie! I have prepared everything, and you won’t have a thing to do. And she will be good for us Georgie, you shall see, so very good for us”.

    And then, it was as if the Dowager Queen saw herself from above. Her smile lowered at the corners, her voice became quiet, and she smoothed down the front of her dress as if to smarten herself after her exertions. She avoided her son’s gaze for a moment and then walked behind him, placing a hand on his shoulder.

    “I shall ask her to come in”, she said, quickly withdrawing her touch and quietly making her exit from the room.


    'Her Majesty and Diamond', a portrait from 1838 depicting the then Queen Luise with her engagement present from her husband, a puppy named Diamond.

    Next door in the King’s Closet sat Duchess Luise, a sour Baroness Pallenberg guarding her as if the poor girl was under house arrest. Pallenberg looked with wide eyes at her mistress as she entered, Queen Louise nodding with a wry smile towards her loyal pet. Without a word, she took Duchess Luise by the hand and led the girl to the door, ushering her through it and leaving it ajar not so much for propriety’s sake but so that she could hear her master plan finally come to fruition. Luise curtseyed to the King, her pale blue dress sweeping the hardwood floor and her blonde tresses catching the sunlight from the window which seemed to trace her head like a halo. The King blushed. He motioned for her to sit beside him. What happened next was recorded by Duchess Luise in her journal:-

    “The King was a dear and put his hand on mine so very softly. He did not look into my eyes whilst he spoke, but I knew that was because he was nervous. He said that we did not know each other well but that the times we had shared he had enjoyed very much and that if I felt that way too, I might like to stay in England and share more time together. It was all so very lovely, and I saw in that moment what a charming and kind person he is. Then His Majesty asked if I would like to stay at Windsor, with him, as his wife. Aunt Louise had prepared me for this but he I think was not so for it took him some time to put the proposal to me.

    I said that I should be happy to stay in England forever by his side if he wanted me to and then I kissed his cheek. We sat for a time, not speaking together but occasionally looking into each other’s eyes. Then Aunt Louise and the Baroness came into the room and the King told them that we had agreed to be married and both wished us well. I was very surprised then for Aunt Louise gave a ring for Georgie to pass to me, which he had not given when he proposed marriage, but which was so pretty I did not mind for perhaps he forgot in his excitement to ask for my hand to collect it from her. It fits me well and I am happy.”

    The ring in question had been obtained for the princely sum of £3,000 [2] from Rundell & Bridge of London, the Dowager Queen using the opportunity to deliver a snub to the Crown Jewellers who had allowed the late Duke of Clarence to seize the Mandi Parure which was now being worn by the Princess of Orange at The Hague. If the Dowager Queen could not wear the suite she had coveted so badly, the future Queen consort would not wear an engagement ring from the Crown Jewellers either. Open-set in gold, the ring’s most eye-catching feature was an octagonal step-cut Burmese ruby within a border of twenty cushion-shaped brilliants in transparent silver collets [3]. The band was inscribed with “GR-L-SEPT-37”, a bold move by the Dowager Queen considering she could not be certain the engagement of her son to her niece would actually take place.

    As soon as the more intimate members of the Royal Household (such as Baroness Pallenberg and Major Smith) were informed that the King was now engaged to be married, the Deputy Earl Marshal was summoned and ordered to take the news personally to the Duke of Cambridge and the Prime Minister in London. It would then be gazetted for the world to see. The only ones who were left entirely in the dark as to what had transpired at Windsor that evening were the bride’s parents. Though she naturally wrote to them to tell them her good news, the Dowager Queen had got there first.

    In place of a personal informal letter full of congratulation (or even an invitation to England), she simply included a clipping from the London Gazette announcing the engagement of His Majesty the King to Her Highness Duchess Luise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz with a small note which read “With my compliments, your sister, Louise R”. It had taken the Queen almost two years, her patience wavering only at the last, but as she settled into bed that night, she allowed herself to feel proud of her work. All had been arranged just as she had wished and now, her position was secure. She had snatched a happy ending from the jaws of a pitiful future, and never again would anybody forget that she was the King’s mother. As she drifted off into sleep, she truly believed that a new era was about to begin; an era in which she would be front and centre.

    [1] The 'Penny Coronation' was actually a name given to Lord Melbourne's budget for Queen Victoria's coronation in the OTL.

    [2] This was the price paid for Victoria’s engagement ring by Prince Albert in the OTL.

    [3] Based on the design of the Coronation Ring made for the OTL Queen Victoria by Rundell & Bridge in 1837/8.

    *The position of Lord Great Chamberlain is actually a shared one but the reasons for this are so complicated that it would possibly take up an entire chapter to itself to make explain! Nonetheless, Lord Willoughby was the senior of the joint holders of the post at the time and so I've simplified things a little here by sticking with just the one.
    GV: Part One, Chapter 22: "In Faith Abiding..."
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    King George V

    Part One, Chapter Twenty Two: "In Faith Abiding, I'll Still Be True"

    The King’s engagement to Duchess Luise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was gazetted on the 19th of August 1837 with congratulations pouring in from the great and good of the British establishment. The public had been captivated by the beautiful Duchess whenever she was mentioned in the press and though they had little opportunity to see her in person, newspapers dutifully added a romantic fairy tale spin to the engagement which captured the hearts of the nation. The reports mentioned only that the King and his fiancé were to be married “before the end of the year with the modern equivalent of a “royal source” indicating that the Duchess’ preference was for a Christmas wedding. The ceremony was to be “an intimate affair” and the English press had been briefed that the bride’s parents would not be attending. The London Times noted “the difficulties of the crossing of the channel at this time of year” as the most realistic cause for their absence but the truth of the matter was that they simply hadn’t been invited.


    George, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

    The Dowager Queen had come too far to allow her plans to be disrupted at the last and possibly fearing objections from her brother-in-law, she set out to keep the Strelitzes away from the wedding of their eldest daughter. Perhaps she had concerns that her sister Marie might talk Luise out of the marriage or perhaps she worried that news of how poorly Luise had been treated in her aunt’s care would reach the bride’s parents and they would whisk her back to Germany. Whatever the reason, Louise had only extended an invitation to her nephew, Hereditary Grand Duke Frederick William, to spend Christmas with his sister in England. When his parents accepted on his behalf, they had no idea that their daughter would be married on Christmas Eve and much to his surprise, the Hereditary Grand Duke found himself the only representative of his family at his sister’s wedding.

    Throughout Germany, the Hesse-Kassels and the Mecklenburg-Strelitzes were deeply offended at the way George and Marie had been treated. The Grand Duke was concerned that no formal negotiations between the two families had taken place and, expecting to be asked to pay a substantial dowry or to provide his daughter with a private income, he immediately wrote to Lord Palmerston asking to be reassured that the British government were aware of how the marriage between the King and his daughter had been arranged. Meanwhile, his wife wrote to her daughter begging her to delay the wedding so that her parents could attend. Duchess Luise never received her mother’s note. Her letters were kept back from her on the orders of the Dowager Queen. Similarly, Luise’s letters were not dispatched to Germany. The only channel of communication which remained open was that between the Strelitzes and the Cambridges but letters took so long to cross the channel in the winter months that by the time Grand Duchess Marie’s letters reached Piccadilly, it was far too late for the Duchess of Cambridge to do anything about the situation.

    Lord Palmerston invited Hereditary Grand Duke Frederick William to tea shortly after his arrival in England and reassured him that the British had no intention of opening any kind of financial negotiations once the King and the Duchess were married. He extended the personal (but private) apologies of the Prime Minister for any offence that had been caused to the Grand Duke and his wife and regretted that they would not be present at Windsor to see their daughter married. The Hereditary Grand Duke relayed to his father later that Palmerston had “condemned Aunt Louise’s actions and said that he was saddened that such a happy occasion would be blighted by the unfortunate situation she had caused”. Grand Duke George was touched by Palmerston’s generosity, but Grand Duchess Marie was not to be placated so easily; “She may have cheated me of seeing my daughter married”, she said, “But she will not rob me of seeing my daughter crowned Queen”. Naturally the Dowager Queen felt she had done no wrong and when her sister Marie’s letter of complaint finally reached her, Louise retorted; “I should have thought you would have thanked us for everything we have done and after all, we have spared you a great expense which might otherwise have been demanded and which everybody knows you can ill-afford. Do not be thankless sister dear and remember the honour done to you, and to George, in all I have arranged for your daughter”.


    Marie of Hesse-Kassel, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

    The bride and groom to be were blissfully unaware of this unpleasantness. The King had initially reacted to being corralled into marriage with a prolonged period of sulking. He refused to dine with his Uncle Cambridge as planned and Honest Billy was taken aback when, for the first time, the King scolded him and, in a temper, swore at him. Things might have been better had George at least been able to spend time with fiancé after his proposal but almost immediately his mother whisked Duchess Luise back to London where she was once again kept in confinement at Marlborough House. This not only irritated the King but deeply upset Princesses Augusta and Sophia who hoped to offer their congratulation to their future niece by marriage in person. Princess Augusta offered to host a luncheon party at Frogmore for the couple, but her invitation was sent back by Baroness Pallenberg and when she offered to loan the Duchess her senior lady in waiting, the Countess of Shaftesbury, to help her settle into life at the British court, the Dowager Queen sent an imperious note of reply by hand by way of a refusal.

    But it was not all disagreement and ill-feeling, indeed, Duchess Luise was blissfully happy. Despite his sour mood, the King sent daily letters by hand to his future bride which for the very first time revealed his true sentiments towards her. In one he promises to “bring every happiness to your days” whilst in another he begs Luise to send a lock of her hair so that he might “tie it with ribbon and place it in my breast pocket so that I may keep you close to my heart”. Princess Charlotte Louise was delighted to see her brother engaged and writing to her future sister-in-law she told Duchess Luise to “ignore Georgie’s silliness for he is so kind and dear and I am certain that he shall grow to love you as a wife as much as I shall love you as a sister”. Within a few weeks, the King had calmed down and accepted the situation at hand just enough to invite his fiancé to dine with him at Buckingham Palace so that he could introduce her to a few of his close friends; namely the members of the Windsor Brigade and Prince Alexander of Prussia who was once again visiting England. This marked a turning point for when the King admitted to Prince Alexander that he was unsure as to whether he should marry Luise or not, Alexander replied, “Please don’t. Then I can take her back to Berlin and marry her myself, for I could not find another as beautiful and as kind in all Prussia”.

    Meanwhile, the Dowager Queen was in her element making arrangements, not for the wedding ceremony itself but for what would come after. Much to his consternation, she summoned the Master of the Household, Sir Frederick Beilby Watson, to London to discuss the post-marital living arrangements of her son and daughter-in-law, dragging him away from Windsor at a time when he had both a wedding and a coronation to help plan for. He had been appointed as Master of the Household in 1827 by the late Duke of Clarence and as a result, the Dowager Queen had little time for Watson. Nonetheless, she summoned him to Marlborough House shortly after the royal engagement was gazetted to give him instructions which she expected to be followed to the letter. Firstly there was the matter of where the Duchess should live before her marriage. Watson had presumed that Luise would stay at Marlborough House with her aunt but Queen Louise wished to get her niece out of London as quickly as possible. Since the engagement had been announced, society hostesses had sent invitations to the young Duchess in the hope of securing patronage for various charitable endeavours. These invitations were not only customary but intended to welcome the future royal bride into the drawing rooms of the upper echelons of society so that she might get to know the most important figures of the day.

    The Dowager Queen was steadfastly against such introductions. Too many new influences may give her niece ideas that following her marriage she would be mistress of her own household, something her aunt was determined to avoid. She arranged for Duchess Luise to be taken to Windsor where she would spend two months living at Fort Belvedere. Restored by Sir Jeffrey Wyatville during the reign of King George IV, the Fort had stood vacant for some time but occasionally provided extra accommodation for important visitors to Windsor. Now it was to serve as a temporary royal residence for the future Queen consort. Watson protested that there was no permanent staff at the Fort and therefore, the Duchess would not be well looked after during her time there. “Nonsense!”, the Dowager Queen replied, “I am sending Pallenberg with her and she will take some of my servants from here to the Fort”. Watson asked who would take care of the Dowager Queen if half of her household were to relocate to Windsor. This brought Louise to her next set of instructions.


    Fort Belvedere as it was before Wyatville's re-design in 1827.

    King George IV and Queen Louise had occupied the State Apartments at Windsor during his reign, but they were felt far too big and grand for the “boy King” to make use of until after his marriage. Whilst the King had a suite of rooms close to the George IV Gateway at the castle, in recent years, George V had occupied Royal Lodge during his mother’s absence. Watson (and other senior courtiers) had been working on the assumption that when he married, the King and his new bride would move into the State Apartments at Windsor which the late King and the Dowager Queen had once called home. Louise had other ideas. In her view, she would need to be as close as possible to the new couple; “How should it be if there is a crisis? I would have to be sent for from Royal Lodge and that would never do”, she explained.

    Instead, the Dowager Queen had decided that she would move back into the rooms in the State Apartments which she had helped redesign and refurbish at great expense; the Queen’s Bedchamber, Drawing Room, Ballroom, Audience Chamber, Presence Chamber and Guard Chamber. The King would naturally take his place in the King’s Apartments comprised of the same facilities but located on the opposite side of Brick Court. As for his new bride, the Dowager Queen generously offered to vacate the Queen’s Dressing Room and the so-called ‘Beauties Room’ which were connected to the Queen’s Bedchamber. The library would make the perfect private salon, though the Dowager Queen expected her successor to spend most of her time in attendance on her mother-in-law in the State Apartments.

    In practise, this meant that the newlyweds would be separated by the Dowager Queen’s Household and would force the King to pass through his mother’s rooms every time he wished to see his wife. Of course, this was exactly why Queen Louise wished to arrange the State Apartments that way. She would be able to keep track of every move her son and daughter-in-law made but she would also force them to see her every day. When Watson informed the Duke of Cambridge of his sister-in-law’s instructions, the Duke protested. For one thing, an entirely new household would need to be appointed to serve the new Queen consort and there would not be enough room to accommodate them in the cramped rooms set aside for her daughter-in-law by Queen Louise. But moreover, the Queen consort had a right to expect to live in the Queen’s Apartments. The idea of a permanent barrier between husband and wife in the castle was unthinkable. But fearing yet another clash with his sister-in-law, the Duke told Watson to follow her orders. After all, the new Queen would soon have the right to rearrange the household as she wished, and the situation could easily be reversed in the coming months.

    This future change of rank for her niece had not yet registered with the Dowager Queen, and if it had, she was choosing to ignore it. As the most senior lady at the court, she fully expected to take precedence over Duchess Luise even after she was married and had become Queen consort. She expected this to be reflected in everything from retaining her usual place at dinner as well as her stall in church. When carriages were used, the Dowager Queen indicated that she should be sat next to the King whilst his wife followed behind with Princess Charlotte Louise and the Dowager Queen’s ladies of the bedchamber whom she expected to attend on her daughter-in-law as well. The Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, was about to disavow the Dowager Queen of that notion at least. The new Queen consort would require a household of her own and as such, Melbourne alone had the right to make the necessary appointments. He asked the Duke of Cambridge’s advice and agreed with him that none of Queen Louise’s past or present ladies of the bedchamber should be asked to split their attentions between the two ladies and he also agreed that, where possible, ladies of the Duchess’ own age should be appointed.


    Harriet Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, Duchess of Sutherland.

    His first choice for the new Queen consort’s household would be Harriet Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, Duchess of Sutherland. Eleven years older than Duchess Luise, Harriet was the daughter of the Earl of Carlisle and was married to the Duke of Sutherland, a well liked and respected Whig peer who had endeared himself to the more progressive wing of the party with his passionate support of the Reform Act. The Duchess would serve as Mistress of the Robes and was given authority over future junior appointments to the Queen’s Household. On her recommendation, Melbourne also appointed Frances Noel, Lady Barham, the fourth wife of the future Earl of Gainsborough and the Countess of Burlington, the younger sister of the Duchess of Sutherland, as ladies of the bedchamber. But Melbourne’s final appointment to complete the Household raised eyebrows.

    Lady Frances Cowper was the Prime Minister’s niece, but her parentage was a source of gossip to the chattering classes. Her mother, Emily Lamb, married the Earl of Cowper when she turned 18 but caused scandal when her love affair with Lord Palmerston became public knowledge. It was said that Lady Frances was the result of this affair, an allegation that was revived following the Earl of Cowper’s death in the spring of 1837. Lord Melbourne wished to protect the reputation of his sister and his Foreign Secretary and thus appointed his niece to the Royal Household. In time, he hoped that this association would smooth a path to allow Palmerston and Emily Lamb to marry with royal approval. The Duchess of Sutherland was a friend and ally to the recently widowed Emily Lamb, and she promised Melbourne that she would take his niece under her wing. But Melbourne’s opponents accused him of nepotism and felt it quite unsuitable for a Prime Minister to install members of his own family so close to the Crown – especially someone on the fringes of a possible scandal. Melbourne ignored their criticisms and Lady Frances Cowper was appointed to the Royal Household regardless.

    As further preparations were made (none of which the King or Duchess Luise were consulted upon), Princess Charlotte Louise could not help but feel jealousy. Since the clash with her mother at Windsor on the day of her brother’s engagement, she had tried a different tactic. In a letter to her mother, she apologised for her “wicked and beastly outburst” and begged that the Dowager Queen “find it in her heart to at least consider” a betrothal between her only daughter and the man she loved, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The Duke of Cambridge had advised Stockmar to hold off on the matter until the coronation. Stockmar could expect an invitation and by that time, the Princess would be a little older. The King would also be able to sanction his sister’s marriage if she still felt Prince Albert to be the right man and the Dowager Queen could do nothing to prevent it. The Duke explained the situation to his niece, promising her that he would fight for her if it came to it, but that patience had to be the order of the day.

    In Brussels, King Leopold was deeply offended that the Dowager Queen had rejected the possibility of a match between his nephew and Princess Charlotte Louise so quickly. But he also had other concerns. When Stockmar returned to Belgium, he informed the King that George V was to marry Duchess Luise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz on Christmas Eve. This had the potential to change the future for Princess Charlotte Louise. George and Luise were young and may have many years ahead of them to provide an heir for the British throne. If they did, and there was absolutely no reason to expect they would not, Princess Charlotte Louise would find herself dropping down the line of succession until she was no better off than Princess Augusta or Princess Sophia. Far from being Prince Consort, Prince Albert might then find himself living the life of an English country gentleman in the Home Counties carrying out a handful of royal engagements for a modest annuity from the Civil List.


    King Leopold as he appeared on a Belgian postage stamp.

    This was not the life King Leopold had hoped for his nephew and whilst there was a slim possibility that Albert may inherit Coburg if his elder brother did not have children, that might not happen for decades yet – if at all. King Leopold became lukewarm to the English match, but Stockmar advised he wait. The Princess was too young to marry anyway, and she had eyes for nobody but Albert. The situation could be assessed in a year or so, depending on whether the King’s marriage proved to be a happy one. But King Leopold was not convinced. He asked Stockmar to begin considering other suitable matches for his nephew. Writing to his brother in Coburg, King Leopold advised Duke Ernst to; “withhold any permission for the English match until such a time as every possible avenue is explored. Whilst I have no doubt that Albert would prove his worth and be a valuable asset in England, we cannot overlook the possibility that a better opportunity may yet present itself elsewhere".

    Unbeknown to King Leopold or Baron Stockmar, a better prospect than Albert (at least in terms of position) was about to present itself for Princess Charlotte Louise. Spurred on by the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Orange and fearing that one of his preferred candidates might be snapped up by another, the Tsar of Russia intended to send his Ambassador, Count di Borgo, back to London to raise the possibility of a marriage between his son and heir, Tsarevich Alexander, and Princess Charlotte Louise. The Russians had been considering the Princess as a possible bride for the heir to the Russian Imperial throne for some time but there were other young ladies in the running too. These included Princess Victoria of Kent (now married) and the Tsar’s preferred candidate Princess Alexandrine of Baden but Tsar Nicholas did not intend to force his son to marry anybody he did not love. As long as she was neither Roman Catholic nor a commoner, the Tsarevich would be free to choose for himself. To that end, the Tsarevich was to make a Grand Tour of Europe in the spring of 1838 [1]. The Tsar had it in mind for him to be present for the coronation of King George V and to meet the King’s sister face to face during that visit to determine whether or not he thought her a good prospect.

    But before any such visit could be arranged, the Tsar wished to seek out what the most likely response to a Russian proposal might be. Heaven forbid that the Tsarevich should be turned down by an English princess or denied the chance to marry her as a result of anti-Russian sentiment at court or in the Cabinet. Di Borgo could not approach the Foreign Secretary on the matter because he had once been engaged in a love affair with Emily Lamb, now the widowed mistress of Lord Palmerston whom the Foreign Secretary planned to marry. Di Borgo had no choice but to feign illness and in his stead, Count Pavel Ivanovich Medem, Di Borgi’s predecessor as Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, was asked to serve as a special envoy to England until the question of an Anglo-Russian match was resolved. From his time in London, Count Medem knew that Palmerston would prove no great obstacle and might even prove a useful ally in initial negotiations.


    Tsarevich Alexander, painted by George Dawe in 1827.

    Whilst privately Palmerston was suspicious of Russian interests, his overall policy as Foreign Secretary had been to maintain peace and keep the balance of power in Europe that had followed the Napoleonic Wars. Whilst Anti-Russian sentiment was increasing in British political circles, Palmerston himself felt it more opportune to hide his hostile attitude towards the Russian autocracy which offended his liberal values, for the greater good. This position had its consequences for Palmerston. The English press had once dubbed him “a Russian mercenary” and later Karl Marx would describe him as “the architect of a secret agreement between London and St Petersburg, Palmerston proving to be little more than a corrupt tool of the Tsarist regime”. This might have been a little unfair to Palmerston but certainly at this time he considered his door to be open to talks with the Russian government and so he did not find it particularly unusual when Count Medem arrived in London seeking a private conference with him relating to “an intensely personal matter”.

    Medem was careful in his choice of words. The Tsar was said only to be “considering” a match between his eldest son and Princess Charlotte Louise and at this stage, Palmerston was asked not to mistake Medem’s involvement as an invitation to open formal negotiations for a marriage but the Foreign Secretary knew that this was Imperial hauteur designed to give the impression that the Russians had somehow only reluctantly come to the conclusion that the King’s sister would make a suitable bride for the Tsarevich. When Medem named other princesses who were also being considered, Palmerston correctly guessed that in reality, Charlotte Louise was most likely at the top of the list and any other candidate for Tsarevich would most likely be measured against her. He promised to make discrete inquiries and to keep the discussion on an informal footing to please Medem, advising him that it was the Dowager Queen who arranged royal marriages and that once she was informed of the Russian interest in her daughter, any casual informal approach would not last long.

    The Foreign Secretary wisely decided to put the matter before the Duke of Cambridge first. He saw no reason to bring the Dowager Queen or the Prime Minister into it the fold until the Russians made a serious declaration of interest. The Duke was dismissive of the idea. As far as he was concerned, the Princess was too young to be married and if she was to be engaged, it would be to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The Dowager Queen might have refused a Coburg match outright but Princess Charlotte Louise had only to wait until her brother reached the age of majority. After that, even Queen Louise could not refuse her daughter the husband she wanted and the King would be only too happy to sanction the match. The Russians had left things far too late. The political and diplomatic pros and cons of a union between the King’s sister and the Tsar’s son did not feature in Palmerston’s conversation with the King’s Regent. As far as both were concerned, the issue of Princess Charlotte Louise’s marriage had been all but settled and as a result, Palmerston agreed to let Medem know that whilst the British were honoured that the Tsar had even considered the Princess as a wife for his son and heir, the understanding between the King, his sister and Prince Albert poured cold water on the idea from the very start.

    Medem dutifully reported to the Tsar that “the English Princess is said to be very much in love with Albert of Coburg and shall in all likelihood be engaged to him after the coronation of King George. However, I ask Your Majesty’s indulgence that I may remain in England a while longer for the Duke of Cambridge (the King’s uncle and regent) has a daughter of similar age whom I believe might also be worthy of consideration if the Baden proposal is not taken up by the Tsarevich”. The 15-year-old Princess Augusta of Cambridge had not yet taken the interest of the Russian Tsar and Medem was asked to provide a report into her suitability. By the time the Tsarevich visited England the following year, Augusta would be 16 and if Alexander liked her, the advantages of a match with a more junior British princess might well be preferable to a match with the King’s sister. As a result, the Tsar gave Medem permission to remain in England for a further 3 months.


    Augusta of Cambridge as an infant with her mother the Duchess of Cambridge and her brother, Prince George.

    At Windsor, the Dowager Queen was concerned only with the forthcoming marriage of her son and niece. She was in the middle of selecting flower arrangements to decorate St George’s Chapel when a note was delivered by hand from Count Medem. As he was to be in England for the Christmas period, he wished to present the good wishes of the Tsar and if possible, to represent him at the wedding of King George and Duchess Luise. The Dowager Queen intended to keep the ceremony as intimate as she possibly could and if one Ambassador or Foreign Envoy was invited, the rest of the Diplomatic Corps would expect to be honoured with an invitation too. As a consolation however, she invited Medem to Windsor for tea. It is debatable as to whether Medem had decided to make one last push to see if he could secure Princess Charlotte Louise’s hand for the Tsarevich. Certainly seeking an audience with the Dowager Queen suggests that he had taken Palmerston at his word and that, if she had the authority alone to arrange the marriages of her children, he might well find a very different response to his proposal. But etiquette would also demand that he called on the Dowager Queen as he represented the Russian Tsar and so his motivations are perhaps not as clear as they might at first appear.

    Meanwhile, Princess Charlotte Louise was in better spirits than in previous weeks. Her brother had now given his reassurance that if she and Prince Albert might wait until after the coronation, he would have no hesitation in granting them permission to be married. She wrote to her beloved in Coburg begging him to “remain true to our dream” and to “hold out for me as I shall for you”. She also quoted a popular love song of the day; "Tho’ waves divide us—and friends be chiding, In faith abiding, I ’ll still be true!" [2]

    The Prince never received the letter. It was later discovered in the Royal Archives at Windsor, addressed and sealed but never dispatched. One step ahead of her children, the Dowager Queen had ordered Baroness Pallenberg to intercept any mail to or from Princess Charlotte Louise. In this way, the Dowager Queen could force a silence between Prince Albert and her daughter that she hoped Charlotte Louise would interpret as a change of heart. “She will never marry a Coburg”, the Dowager Queen insisted to her sister Augusta in a letter written shortly before the King’s wedding, “So we must find an alternative and settle the matter quickly, otherwise I am afraid Georgie’s misplaced affections will see her matched to Albert before she can realise what a terrible mistake that would be”.

    Though she did not mention him in her letter, the Dowager Queen tucked an invitation card into the envelope with her note. Might her nephew, Prince George of Cambridge, like to take tea with the Dowager Queen and Princess Charlotte Louise after church the following Sunday? Louise was yet again on manoeuvres.

    [1] The OTL Tsarevich made this same tour but the schedule has been butterflied a little here to allow for him to be present in England for the coronation of 1838. I think this would be natural given the Russian interest in Princess Charlotte Louise.

    [2] Taken from a Victorian love song "What will you do, love?" by Samuel Lover which was popular from it's publication in 1827. The rest of the lyrics can be found here:
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    GV: Part One, Chapter 23: Mama Knows Best
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    King George V

    Part One, Chapter Twenty Three: Mama Knows Best

    As the Royal Family prepared for a wedding, Lord Melbourne had bigger things on his mind than cake and champagne. With a General Election looming in the New Year, the fortunes of the Whigs were uncertain. After the stalemate government of Lord Lansdowne, Melbourne had ramped up a reformist political agenda that he hoped would calm the demands of the Russell Group and would also prevent the Whig majority being dented too harshly in the forthcoming election. Nobody believed the Whigs would increase their majority but neither did anybody fear them being ousted from government. The Parish Schools Bill was a landmark educational reform of which the Whigs could be proud and the Salaries Act of the previous year had already made an impact in the selection of parliamentary candidates for the 1838 intake of new MPs.

    Yet this was still not enough for Melbourne. The Church Temporalities Act had calmed tensions in Ireland but it raised a question among many Whig politicians as to why Melbourne had been reluctant thus far to reorganise the Church of England in a similar way. Other proposals which had been allowed to lapse under Lansdowne and which now fell into Melbourne’s lap included further reform of the Poor Laws and to address the growing issue of the working classes abandoning the countryside for a more profitable life in the cities, leading to rising food prices.


    Lord Melbourne.

    The issue of Church reform had been deliberately stalled until now as both Lansdowne and Melbourne knew that the late Duke of Clarence felt very strongly against any attempts at church reform and fearing the use of the royal veto, neither had pressed the matter preferring instead to “wait and see”. [1] This had proven a convenient excuse for Melbourne to drag his feet. In truth, he did not wish to see divisions revisited on church matters considering the upheaval the Whigs had experienced in 1834 following debates on tithes in Ireland. A temporary truce had been won in Ireland with the Church Temporalities Act which reduced the size of the Church of Ireland hierarchy and abolished the church rates. [2] But Melbourne regarded this as a mistake.

    The resentment over tithes in Ireland persisted and Lansdowne’s approach had done little to stop Irish Catholics flocking to Daniel O’Connell’s Repeal Association. In the forthcoming General Election, O’Connell was standing 80 candidates out of 100 Irish seats in the House of Commons, ironically a direct result of the Salaries Act which attracted those who before its introduction could never have afforded either to run or serve as a Member of Parliament. But church financing was also causing unrest in England too. In 1836, the Church Rate Abolition Society was founded (surprisingly with a number of liberal Anglican clergy among its members) which wanted to see church rates in England abolished as they had been in Ireland. In Common Law, parishioners in England (regardless of denomination) were forced to pay a tax to their local parish which was set by church officials and was to be used for the needs of the parish. In effect, this usually meant inflated salaries for church wardens or wasteful renovations to church premises which included the private residences of the clergy.

    The Whigs were divided on the issue of Church Rates. The situation in Ireland had been very different to that in England and whilst most agreed that rates were discriminatory against Nonconformists, these were a minority in England as opposed to being a majority in Ireland. Most Whigs supported keeping church rates [3] but agreed that tougher regulation was needed. It was clearly unfair that the charge was not uniformly imposed and it was equally outrageous that some parishes were clearly using the rates as a personal shopping account.

    But this fed into a wider call among the Whigs for reforms to church and state. The Whigs had long wished to redress the balance in England as they had in Ireland by restructuring the Anglican Church to reflect population change and to redistribute the wealth of the church from the richest to the poorest bishoprics. Melbourne agreed that the time to delay was over but he was not prepared to divide the party before a general election. Church reform meant wealth redistribution with tangible and obvious results and it wasn't until the entire Cabinet agreed the way forward that he agreed to proceed. Ahead of the 1838 General Election, voters would be convinced that the Whigs were serious about tackling the gulf between rich and poor and church reform was the first step in Melbourne's new electoral platform.

    Melbourne proposed two bills. The first would be the Church Temporalities (England) Act 1837 which would restructure the Anglican hierarchy. The most radical change would be to introduce a third province to create an Archbishop of Leicester to rank below the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. This new province would carve its way across the midlands with Bishoprics being created in industrial towns and existing Bishoprics being joined together or cleaved in two to better reflect the population and to balance the wealth of the church in each area. [4]

    The second bill would be the Church Finances Act 1837 which would regulate parish incomes. The salary of Bishops was to be tied to that of judges and church officials could not be paid more than justices of the peace. For the first time, parishes were expected to keep clear financial accounts and the Church of England was to create the Church Finances Commission which would regulate and investigate local expenditure of church revenues. Whilst parishes could still impose church rates, the bill would take up an idea proposed by Lord John Russell during the early years of the Tithes War in Ireland which forced parishes to turn 20% of that income over to the local representatives of the Poor Law Commission which had been created by the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. A further 10% was to be paid to the new parish schools which had been built under the auspices of the Parish Schools Bill of 1836.

    A supplementary bill would be added to the Church Finances Act which clarified the imposition of the church rates tax in regard to Nonconformists. Under the new legislation, there would be no exemptions for Nonconformists, Roman Catholics or Jews but these groups would be exempt from Chancel Repair Liability, an old legal obligation that allowed the parish to demand immediate and mandatory payment towards renovations or repairs to church structures. In addition, Chancel Repair Liability would be restricted only to concern places of worship and not church facilities such as village halls or vicarages. Melbourne also approved proposals to introduce a bill which would introduce civil marriage and the civil registration of births, deaths and marriages in England. He hoped that in this way everybody concerned would be placated; those Whigs who wanted church reform had it, those who wanted the abolition of church rates had a guarantee that the monies raised were being spent appropriately and those who opposed paying to religious bodies to which they did not belong had a form of compensation. Together, these bills would become known as the Melbourne Reformation.


    George Finch-Hatton, 10th Earl of Winchelsea.

    The moniker was given in fury by the Unionists when the Church Temporalities (England) Act was introduced to the House of Commons in the late autumn of 1837. Led by the Earl of Winchelsea, the Unionists had struggled to sustain momentum for their so-called “Dirty Campaign” when their alarmist predictions that Lansdowne would be ousted for the radical Lord John Russell had proven false. This was the moment Winchelsea hoped would revive their good fortune. Referring to the “Melbourne Reformation” as a “brutal and evil assault on all good Christian people of the Anglican Communion”, he argued that the Whigs were embroiled in a plot to separate church and state once and for all. In his view, they wished to “starve the clergy into submission” and he went further in accusing Melbourne of restructuring the sees in the Church of England so that he might appointed liberal Bishops to vote with the Whigs in the House of Lords. In his response, he called upon the Duke of Cambridge as King’s Regent to threaten to veto any attempt at church reform and called upon the Tory party to join him in his demands.

    Moderate Tories were frustrated by Melbourne’s proposals. Most regarded church reform as inevitable and indeed, Sir Robert Peel was a proponent of some restructuring, though for different reasons. He was also a supporter of addressing the issue of Nonconformists and in his speech to the Commons on this issue, he called for the government to “delay the bill so as to allow a royal commission to sit upon the matter to provide long lasting and effective relief to the grievances of dissenters’”. The Whigs argued that such a commission had already sat under the Grey administration and that this had given the government the evidence it needed to carry out its reforms. The previous royal commission had only reported on church revenues and had recommended no real policy implications. Regardless, the Whigs rejected Peel’s suggestion and as a result, Peel withdrew his support for the Church Temporalities Act and the Church Finances Act. The Civil Marriages Act however was a very different issue.

    Given that the act would undoubtedly pass because of the Whig majority, Peel saw no danger in allowing the Tories to vote according to their conscience. He intended to support the act, a long time proponent of allowing dissenters’ the right to have their marriages recognised beyond the existing structure. He had once been a supporter of the Test and Corporation Acts which required officials to be communicants in the Church of England but changed his mind after consultation with church leaders. He swore then only to do the same when any similar proposal came before the House in the future and by 1837, he had been convinced that Nonconformist Protestants were unfairly discriminated against in law and deserved improved standing under the law. In his address to the House, Peel raised the issue of women who were deserted by their husbands and had no access to legal redress because they had not had their marriage legalised according to the law in the Anglican tradition. This alone made him believe that he should support the bill. He was not so generous to Roman Catholics however and in supporting the Civil Marriages Act, he made it clear that he wished to state on the record that he did not intend to support either “the secularisation of marriage or the recognition of marriages sanctioned by foreign powers” (by which he meant the Pope in Rome).

    Peel was in a minority. Most Tories felt as the Bishop of Exeter did. Civil marriage was “a disgrace to British legislation, pretended to be called for to prevent clandestine marriages but which will greatly facilitate such proceedings”. In his view, “Parties involved may take one another for better and for worse without calling God to witness their plighted troth. No blessing sought, no solemn vows of mutual fidelity, no religious solemnity whatever…”. [5]. A handful of Tories were so irritated that Peel would vote for the Civil Marriages Act that they defected to the Unionists but this was seen as a grandstanding venture. Of the three who jumped ship, one was due to retire at the next election and two had majorities under 100 and were bound to lose their seat. But it could not go unnoticed that the Tories were feeling the pinch. Electorally, they faced losing seats to both the Unionists and the Whigs and there was a real concern that not enough was being done to save the Tory Party from becoming a diminished force in British politics. Peel’s days as Leader of the Opposition could be numbered. Even those who liked him and supported him agreed that the General Election would be a test of his popularity and if the Tories suffered, Peel would have to go.


    Sir Robert Peel.

    The calls on the Duke of Cambridge to involve himself in the situation regarding church reform were not new in so much as there were always calls for the monarch (or his regent) to veto bills that had parliamentary support, but which critics regarded as unacceptable. The Duke of Clarence may well have been swayed by such calls, but his successor was less inclined to exercise the royal prerogative. Quite aside from his own feelings on the matter which were best described as indifferent, he had no intention of causing a political crisis so close to his nephew reaching the age of majority. In his opinion, the Whigs had a majority. If their legislation on church reform came to him for royal assent, he would give it. Winchelsea however spied an opportunity. He had long been friendly towards the Dowager Queen and throughout the last decade, he had supported her ferociously but not entirely without ulterior motive. One day, he expected her to return the favour. Today was that day.

    At dinner with the Dowager Queen at Windsor, Lord Winchelsea urged her to make the Duke of Cambridge think again on using the royal veto where the Church Temporalities Act was concerned. Winchelsea believed that doing so would see Melbourne resign just two months before a general election and in the ensuing chaos, the Unionists could exploit the situation to their political advantage. Unfortunately for Winchelsea, the Dowager Queen knew little of politics and she was more interested in the upcoming wedding of her son.

    “Of course, Ma’am, the situation is such that if the Duke allows this attack on the established church, many in the country will question his integrity”, Winchelsea explained, “Indeed, they might even question his suitability to continue in his post as regent for His Majesty”.

    The disinterested Dowager Queen was suddenly fascinated by the matter at hand.

    “I know the Bishop of Exeter is of that opinion and he is not alone in wondering whether the Duke will enjoy the unanimous support of the upper house, even if he retains the support of the government”.

    The Dowager Queen agreed to discuss the matter with the Duke of Cambridge. Naturally she was of the same opinion as Lord Winchelsea. It was offensive for the radical Whigs to seize control of the Anglican Church and as for Civil Marriage, there could be a very real threat posed to the stability of the monarchy. After all, what if a member of the family chose to contract one of these civil marriages and found himself called to serve as Supreme Governor of the Church of England in the future? The clash between Crown and Church was unthinkable. The more she thought about it, the more the Dowager Queen was convinced that the Duke of Cambridge must veto the bill.

    “Please do not trouble yourself on this”, she told Lord Winchelsea as he left her that evening, “We know you are right, and we shall do what we can to put this situation right”.

    The Duke of Cambridge was alarmed to see that his sister-in-law was once again interfering in politics. The wedding of her son had distracted her from his house hunting scheme which was intended to keep her well away from the political arena. Now he saw that he had been naïve. For once, he was determined to put his foot down. If the bills came to him for Royal Assent, he would give it. “It is quite absurd to think I could be opposed to civil marriages for nonconformist protestants”, he reasoned, “My wife may worship as a member of the Anglican church today but are you not both Lutherans outside of the communion by birth and were you not so when you married?”. Louise smiled. Whether he vetoed or whether he didn’t, she felt she was finally gaining the upper hand and whilst she doubted her coveted prize of the regency was in her grasp, certainly she saw an opportunity to use the ensuing chaos regardless of the outcome as leverage. If she could convince the King that his uncle had made a mistake, it could only reinforce her own influence over him in the months to come, something made even more crucial after he reached the age of majority.

    The King himself was kept oblivious to the political situation which now touched his own household. The Duke of Cambridge had held fast to the same approach as that of the Duke of Clarence and whilst the King was regularly visited by politicians of all sides, they were under strict instructions not to discuss more than a general outline of the current agenda. Despatches from government were sent directly to the regent and not to the King. This wouldn’t change until he reached the age of majority, though the Duke of Cambridge had relented somewhat in allowing a one page overview to be submitted to the King each day since the Duke of Clarence’s death. George showed a remarkable appetite for these reports, often illustrating them with endless questions and comments. Unfortunately, these were never answered and the usual response was “These matters are being attended to by Your Majesty’s regent”. But the King did read newspapers and in similar fashion, he raised pertinent questions with the Prime Minister when he received him. On the issue of church reform, Melbourne noted in his diary that “His Majesty made very sound observations, so much so that I jokingly remarked that we should dispense with any constitutional barriers and make him a member of the cabinet”.

    For George, the future which had shaped every moment of his life thus far could now be seen on the horizon moving ever closer into view. He began to discuss his plans with his future bride on his twice weekly visits to Duchess Luise at Fort Belvedere. Accompanied by Honest Billy, his sister Princess Charlotte Louise and Lady Anson, the happy group sat and enjoyed relaxed evenings together which greatly cheered the King’s sister and allowed the King himself to forge even closer to bonds to his intended. Lady Anson later wrote; “There can be no doubt that His Majesty was drawn to the Queen more and more at this time. When he spoke of how he should address some matter or other when he reached his 18th birthday, Her Majesty always replied; ‘Oh yes Georgie, that would be very good’ or ‘How clever you are, that is what you should do’. She was a great support to him and for the first time I believe they displayed a very genuine affection which was quite proper but nonetheless romantic too”.

    These visits not only brought the King and his future Queen closer but they did much to buck up the spirits of the downtrodden Princess Charlotte Louise. She had heard nothing from Prince Albert in weeks and assumed that he had changed his mind. She wrote constantly, begging for him to reassure her, but her letters were always intercepted and never dispatched to the continent. She took Albert’s silence as disaffection. Perhaps the rejection of his proposal had wounded his pride so much that he had given up on her? Unbeknown to the Princess, Albert was writing daily with much the same concerns, but his letters too were being withheld when they arrived at Windsor. They steadily grew in number, locked away in the Dowager Queen’s desk in the Queen’s Closet. For her, the issue had been resolved. Princess Charlotte Louise would eventually lose interest in Albert and he in her.

    Across the Channel, Prince Albert was not the only one considering his future. Though he remained deeply committed to Princess Charlotte Louise, his Uncle Leopold had instructed Baron Stockmar to prepare a list of other suitable brides. He wished Albert to have a position beyond that of a junior prince in a foreign court and with two sons of his own, the King accepted that his nephew would no longer play any official role in Belgium. It was unlikely too that Albert would succeed in Coburg. Whilst Leopold had lofty ambitions for his nephew Ernst, he did not wish to waste Albert’s potential. He was brighter than Ernst, more modest and sensitive but with a curious ability to tackle problems and resolve them to everybody’s satisfaction. He was well-liked and respected and whilst both Ernst and Albert had been sent to Germany to study at the University of Bonn, King Leopold advised his brother Duke Ernst that the next year must be devoted to finding a suitable bride for each of them to secure their own fortunes, and that of the Coburg dynasty still resented by many of the Great Powers of Europe.


    Princess Januária of Brazil.

    Stockmar believed he had found the perfect match for Albert much further afield than Windsor. Princess Januária of Brazil was the 15-year-old daughter of Dom Pedro I and his first wife, Archduchess Maria Leopoldina of Austria. In 1835, she was given the title of Princess Imperial of Brazil as the heir presumptive of her brother Emperor Pedro II and when her sister Maria was excluded from the Brazilian line of succession in October that year, Januária’s standing improved dramatically. The following year she had made a memorable impression when, at just 14, the Princess entered the Hall of the Palace of the Senate wearing a rich gold dress with the insignia of the Grand Cross of the Imperial Order of the Southern Cross pinned to her gown. In a bold and clear voice, she swore to upkeep the Catholic faith, observe the political constitution of the Brazilian nation and be obedient to her brother the Emperor. Pedro II’s regent, the Marquis of Olinda, could not ignore the sentiment that Januária should one day take the Marquis’ place as regent for the Emperor when she reached the appropriate age and as only a Brazilian member of the Imperial House could inherit the throne, there was an urgency in seeing all three of Pedro I’s children married as soon as possible.

    There was already a link between the Coburgs and the Braganzas. King Leopold’s nephew, Ferdinand, had married Queen Maria II of Portugal in the April of 1836 and with the birth of a son in September 1837, he had been granted the title King of Portugal. There was however an issue of religious difference. Ferdinand belonged to the Koháry branch of the Coburg family founded by his father (also called Ferdinand) who married Princess Maria Antonia Koháry de Csábrág et Szitnya in 1815. After her father’s death, Prince Ferdinand (the senior) inherited his father-in-law’s lands in Hungary becoming an extremely wealthy man with properties the enormous Palais Koháry in Vienna and homes and estates in Ebenthal, Althoflein and Pest among many others.

    The elder Prince Ferdinand had converted to Roman Catholicism only after the death of his father-in-law but his son had been baptised a Catholic under the terms of the papal dispensation given for the marriage of his parents by Pope Pius VII. Whilst the elder Prince Ferdinand was not expected to convert to the Catholic faith, all children from his marriage to Princess Maria Antonia were to be raised in the Roman Catholic religion. The same dispensation had been applied to the marriage of King Leopold of the Belgians to Princess Louise of Orléans in 1832. Stockmar proposed the idea of a marriage between Prince Albert and Princess Januária shortly before the Christmas celebrations of 1837. King Leopold was immediately enthused and dispatched Stockmar to Brazil to meet with the Marquis of Olinda as soon as possible in the New Year. Whilst it was unlikely that Januária would ever reign in Brazil, Albert could prove useful if she became regent for her brother and in this way, he could carve out a role for himself that would undoubtedly make him a key ally and support to Pedro II when he reached the age of majority.

    King Leopold wrote to his nephew in Bonn. Albert reacted calmly. He appreciated that there could be no question of a marriage with Princess Charlotte Louise immediately, but he also knew that her brother was devoted to her happiness. If King Leopold could just wait until George V reached the age of majority, he would not hesitate in giving Albert and Charlotte Louise permission to wed. He did not care if this meant a minor position at the English court as opposed to a far loftier standing in Brazil. King Leopold was not an unfair man and agreed to give Albert a little more time to recover the situation with Princess Charlotte Louise. By the time Stockmar returned from Brazil, Leopold expected a clear promise from George V that such an understanding had been agreed to or, if Stockmar had found a favourable response in Rio de Janeiro, negotiations would begin for Albert’s marriage to Princess Januária and the prospect of an English marriage would be closed for good.


    Prince Albert at Bonn.

    In desperation, Prince Albert wrote a letter not only to King George but to his prospective mother-in-law, the Dowager Queen Louise. In the letter, he wrote that he was deeply aggrieved at her reluctance to consider a marriage between the Prince and her daughter but that he loved her very sincerely and wished only to secure their future happiness. Out of respect for her current position, the Prince felt it ungentlemanly to approach the King without first making his case to his mother, whom he acknowledged had the right to arrange and approve the marriages of her children. “Whilst I know our families have not always enjoyed a cordial friendship”, Albert pleaded, “I beg you Madam to reconsider my case. The love I hold for your daughter is immeasurable and I believe it to be reciprocated in its entirety. I ask only that I be allowed to put that same case to His Majesty and with your blessing Madam, to come to England when the time is right and marry the girl to whom my heart shall always belong”.

    Albert was not so naïve as to believe that the Dowager Queen would share his letter with her son and so, with etiquette satisfied, he sent a second letter to the King along with the first. He explained that his uncle Leopold had now found him an alternative bride in Brazil and that if Albert could not guarantee an understanding that George V would grant permission for Charlotte Louise and Albert to be married despite the Dowager Queen’s opposition, he must obey his uncle’s wishes and marry elsewhere. In other words, there was a sense of urgency that Albert hoped could be stayed with a simple reply from King George. Unfortunately for Prince Albert, the Dowager Queen had ordered all letters from Coburg be put before her and when she was handed the two notes from Baroness Pallenberg, she opened each in turn. Quietly folding the letters and returning them to their envelopes, she placed them in her desk and locked the drawer. There they would remain but the contents had given the Dowager Queen everything she needed to draw a line under the Coburg match once and for all.

    As the King and Duchess Luise, Princess Charlotte Louise, Lady Anson and Honest Billy sat at Fort Belvedere reading ghost stories, a popular pastime of the age, rain hammered the stained glass windows and threatened to flood the forecourt. It scared them all half to death therefore when the bell of the Fort was rung and moments later, a footman announced the arrival of the Dowager Queen. All rose to their feet and were instantly dismissed by the King’s mother, with the exception of His Majesty and Princess Charlotte Louise.

    “I understand that you have a little agreement”, the Dowager Queen began, seating herself by the fire and gesturing for her children to sit opposite her, “Concerning the Coburg boy”.

    Brother and sister fell silent.

    “If you do, I feel you should know that you are quite mistaken”, their mother continued icily, “I have received a letter today which will finally draw this entire Coburg nonsense to an end”

    Princess Charlotte Louise felt her heart drop in her chest. Had there been word from Albert? Why had he not written to her? She was trapped between longing for news and fearing the finality her mother seemed so sure of.

    “Prince Albert is engaged to be married”, the Dowager Queen lied, “To Princess Januária of Brazil. I understand they are only waiting for the approval of the Pope before it is announced formally, and the boy goes away from Bonn”

    Princess Charlotte Louise yelped like a wounded animal. She fell from the sofa onto the floor at her mother’s feet. A look of disgust set itself into the Dowager Queen’s sour features. And…was that a trace of a cruel smile? She stood up and looked down at her sobbing daughter.

    “Oh Mama, Mama! Please, no Mama, please, there must be something!”

    King George rushed forward to comfort his sister as their mother shook her head, stepping over the body of her devastated daughter and making for the door. She looked back to see her son cradling the broken Princess in his arms as she wept and rocked backwards and forwards.

    “I warned you child”, she drawled coldly, “Perhaps in the future you will learn that your Mama knows best”.

    [1] In the OTL of course, church reform was the final straw for King William IV and Melbourne leading to the last time a British monarch dismissed a government based on his own political preferences. Not so here.

    [2] This is much the same as it was in the OTL. It doesn't stop O'Connell and indeed, here other factors actually boost his standing as explained in this instalment.

    [3] Even Lord John Russell wanted to keep them but only because he felt they should be put into poor relief rather than be used by the parish officers for their own needs.

    [4] This was Melbourne's plan when the OTL William IV dismissed him. In this version of events, he gets his way.

    [5] An actual quote from the OTL from the Bishop of Exeter.

    General Note

    It's worth pointing out that some of the bills here are the same as they were in the OTL but the political development of this TL means that certain bills have been brought forward or delayed as we've gone through the various years. For example, the Civil Marriages Act was actually introduced in 1836, not 1837.

    I also wanted to include an update on the political side of things as this timeline is intended to tell the story of Britain through it's monarchs as any other history of the monarchy would. Because 1837 has had a fair few instalments all to itself, I wanted to take this opportunity to carry that forward ahead of the royal wedding and the subsequent general election and coronation.
    Last edited:
    GV: Part One, Chapter 24: The Turning of the Tide
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    King George IV

    Part One, Chapter Twenty-Four: The Turning of the Tide

    The Christmas of 1837 would be very different for the Royal Family than any before or since. It was dominated by the wedding of King George V and Duchess Luise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz which was to take place in the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Traditionally, royal weddings had been held in the evening, but the King did not wish to dispense with the usual celebrations and thus the wedding was moved to 1pm at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. This would now become the fashion for all royal weddings to come with a wedding breakfast held directly after the ceremony. The Dowager Queen had intended to keep the ceremony strictly to members of the British Royal Family and was slightly put out when news reached her that the Dowager Duchess of Clarence had invited Prince William and Princess Victoria to stay with her for the festive period and thus, they too would be present at Windsor.

    The Dowager Duchess meant no ill-will. For one thing, it was entirely natural that she would wish to see her niece at Christmas time and her precarious health meant that crossing the channel to the Netherlands was out of the question. It was equally to be expected that Princess Victoria should wish to be present when her cousin was married. But there was another reason for the Dowager Duchess extending an invitation. Victoria’s first few months of married life in The Hague had not been without its problems and Queen Anna had asked if Victoria’s aunt could step in and help to ease her transition to her new position. Victoria was delighted to have the opportunity to return to England so soon after her marriage and wishing to ease his wife’s rather frustrating emotional state, her husband urged her to accept without delay.


    The Dowager Duchess of Clarence.

    The Dutch royal couple were to stay at Windsor Castle for the duration of their visit and so it was that the King arranged a programme of events for the Christmas period that would be truly memorable. His wedding would take place on Christmas Eve with a grand ball held the following evening to celebrate. On Boxing Day, he had scheduled a buck shoot in the Great Park and on the 27th of January the entire Royal Family and their guests would be treated to a performance of Elizabeth, Queen of England by Rossini staged by the company of the King’s Theatre who had first performed the opera in 1818 to great acclaim. The Great Hall at Windsor was to be turned over to an appropriate theatre space with a stage constructed at one end and raised seating offered at the other. At the end of the performance, theatre manager Pierre François Laporte would deliver an address of welcome to Duchess Luise as the new Queen consort and as a gift from the company, the King’s Theatre was to be renamed Her Majesty’s Theatre. [1]

    Following a New Year’s banquet at Windsor, William and Victoria were to travel with the Dowager Duchess of Clarence to Worcestershire for a two week holiday. The Dowager Duchess was not keen to return to Clarence House alone and had decided to lease a house there which had recently gone up for sale and which she believed would provide the perfect environment in which to recuperate. The house was Witley Court. Whilst the trustees of Witley were delighted that a member of the Royal Family wished to lease the estate (and thus bump up the eventual asking price), the Dowager Queen was less than thrilled. She had heard about Witley and wanted to visit after her son’s wedding to see whether it might provide a suitable residence for the extended members of the British Royal Family. The Duke of Cambridge was glad Witley was out of the running as it would have proved to be a seriously expensive venture but whilst his sister-in-law had not even seen Witley, she made it perfectly apparent that in her view, the Dowager Duchess had been incredibly rude to lease it without asking her first and that now she would have to go back to the drawing board in finding something which fit the Duke of Clarence’s brief for a new royal residence.

    The Duke of Cambridge had no interest in the petty squabbles of his family. Parliament would soon go into recess for Christmas and the New Year but before it did, votes were to be held on four bills: the Church Temporalities (England) Act, the Church Finances Act, the Civil Marriages Act and the Registration Act. Whilst the latter two were only slightly controversial, the former two threatened to cause the Duke of Cambridge some degree of discomfort. Without question, Cambridge intended to give all four bills the royal assent. The government had a majority in both houses and there was no question of him giving in to the opponents of church reform led by Lord Winchelsea and the Bishop of Exeter. For Cambridge however, this meant the likelihood of awkward discussions, possibly parliamentary debates, on how he had acted as the King’s Regent on the issue. He was informed by the Bishop of London, a close friend, that some among the Lords Spiritual were deeply unhappy at the restructuring of the Church of England and saw the King’s Regent as the only barrier to delaying it, if not stopping it altogether. In their view, Melbourne should be forced to withdraw the legislation before royal assent was given.

    The Prime Minister on the other hand had no intention of doing so and Cambridge suspected that if he even gave even the slightest nod to the opponents of the legislation that Melbourne would resign. “And he would be quite right to do so”, Cambridge reasoned, “It is not for me to tell the elected government what they can and cannot introduce, neither is it for me to tell parliament that it cannot have its way when it so roundly demands it”. Lord Winchelsea indirectly threatened to raise the suitability of the Duke of Cambridge as the King’s regent following the winter recess if he gave the bills the royal assent. The Duke was unconcerned. If it came to that, Melbourne’s Whigs would stand by him and besides, he very much doubted it was anything other than a hollow threat and a last-ditch attempt by Winchelsea to get his way. As an old soldier, the Duke had engaged in many a standoff. He was not about to be intimidated by someone like Winchelsea. The bills came before Cambridge just before the recess and he dutifully gave them royal assent before heading to Windsor for the wedding of his nephew.


    The Duke of Cambridge.

    On Christmas 1837, the British Royal Family gathered at St George’s Chapel, Windsor dressed in their finery. The question of clothes had caused something of a headache before the ceremony, the King being in the unusual position of being Head of the British Armed Forces but not having been gazetted to any military rank. A solution was found in that the wedding would take place at Windsor and thus, all men present would be wearing the Windsor Uniform. Introduced by King George III in 1777, the full dress uniform included a dark blue jack with red facings trimmed with gold braid. [2] The frock coat was to be worn with a white single breasted waistcoat with gilt buttons bearing the Garter star and was worn with matching dark blue knee-length breeches trimmed with braid over white stockings. The King was to wear this for his wedding, with the full insignia of the Order of the Garter of which he was Sovereign but without the Collar of the Order which he considered too heavy and uncomfortable.

    As for the bride, Duchess Luise had favoured engaging Mary Bettans who had designed the wedding dress of Princess Victoria for her wedding in the spring but the Dowager Queen refused to allow Bettans to submit a design. Instead, the Dowager Queen engaged the services of the Knightsbridge dressmaker Madame Yvonne, better known as Elsie Fitch. Fitch had provided the court ladies with gowns throughout the reign of George IV and was a favourite of the Dowager Queen. Whilst Duchess Luise favoured a simple gown in cream satin as Princess Victoria had worn, the Dowager Duchess insisted that English tradition be honoured and instead, the wedding dress was made of silver satin covered with transparent silk net embroidered with English roses. The sleeves were trimmed with Honiton lace and the six-foot train was embroidered with a joint monogram designed for the King and his new bride to use after their marriage by the Royal College of Arms. The dress cost almost £10,000 [3] and was to be worn with the Rumpenheim Tiara created by Fossin for the Dowager Queen as a gift from her father on her own wedding day. King George gifted his bride a pair of diamond earrings from Garrards & Co but around her neck she chose to wear a simple silver cross on a chain, a christening present from her mother.

    With the exception of a few senior members of the Royal Household, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the Lord President of the Council and the future Queen’s ladies in waiting and their husbands, the ceremony itself was attended only by members of the British Royal Family and three others; Prince William and Princess Victoria of the Netherlands, and the Hereditary Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz who would lead his sister down the aisle to the altar. The Duke of Sussex had been unable to return from Hanover for the wedding owing to bad weather and the Cumberlands had received an invitation but had thought better of it. Thus, the stalls of St George’s were only half full as the bride made her way along the aisle as the choir sang Ave Verum Corpus by Mozart. The chapel was kept deliberately dark so as to light the entire chapel with candles as would have been the way with an evening ceremony and many guests noted how the bride’s tiara sparkled as she processed with her brother to the altar. There, waiting for her, was the 17-year-old King.


    St George's Chapel, Windsor.

    The two Cambridge princesses served as bridesmaids whilst Prince George of Cambridge was a supporter to the King. They stood either side of the couple as the Archbishop of Canterbury celebrated the wedding service, the King slipping a plain wedding band of Welsh gold onto her finger and kissing her gently on the cheek. From her stall, the Dowager Queen smiled as she watched her long-held dream cement itself before her eyes. Whether it was the romance of the occasion or because he held the King in special regard, Lord Melbourne recorded in his journal that he was “quite overcome to see the young couple turn to the congregation, newly married with their whole lives before them”. Princess Augusta noted Melbourne’s reaction, chiding him for “weeping like an old maid during the service” at the wedding breakfast afterwards. Princess Sophia also caused a stir at the reception when she mistook Lord Palmerston for the bride’s father (whom she had never met) and congratulated him on his daughter’s marriage by kissing him on each cheek.

    For all his earlier misgivings, the King committed his memories of that day to paper, writing in his journal; “That I should have such a beautiful bride joined to me before God was the most moving and wonderful moment of my life. When I took her hand after the ceremony, I told her that I loved her very deeply and I truly was sincere in it for though we have been led to this, I would not be led elsewhere for tonight I am the happiest man in the Kingdom”. The new Queen Luise was equally contented. “My darling one was so very brave and all went so well that I shall never forget the joy we have shared today. When I left the Fort, the carriage took me past cheering crowds and they waited so long in the bitter cold that we asked the carriage to take us back after the ceremony for a short time so that we could greet them again. They stayed quite late and so Georgie sent them out little pastries and warm ale which encouraged them to remain along the Long Walk with no thought of the cold! How dear he is”.

    Britain was not entirely gripped by wedding fever, the age of royal weddings as a public spectacle not yet established, but every newspaper proudly congratulated the King and welcomed the new Queen consort warmly. Across England, people cut out an engraving of the couple printed on the morning of Christmas Eve and placed it above the fireplace, toasting the image with whatever they had to drink for the Christmas festivities. There was a popular story that in Rochdale, a publican had promised a free mug of beer to every customer to celebrate the royal wedding but had partaken so much of it himself that he couldn’t recognise returning customers and thus the happy crowds drank the place dry. Another report on the public reaction came from Plymouth where the ladies of a town’s guild had set about making 500 Christmas puddings with donations given by local merchants and landowners which were decorated in royal icing with a G on one side and an L on the other. These were then given to the poor. This so caught on that many people began to decorate their Christmas puddings with the royal initials, a tradition kept up well beyond George V’s reign.



    Another sweet that was to catch the imagination of the public that Christmas was the invention of the soon-to-become English favourite; Mecklenburg Pudding. Whilst it was not served at the wedding breakfast itself, it was served to members of the St James’ Club (also known as Crockford’s Club) and was created by their Chief Chef, the Anglo-Italian Charles Elmé Francatelli. Francatelli created the pudding by taking inspiration from the popular dish Rote Grütze which was widely served in the Mecklenburg region. Redcurrants were traditionally allowed to boil with the addition of sugar and semolina until a red porridge had formed. Francatelli developed this into an almond flavoured steamed pudding filled with redcurrant jam and served with custard. The receipt for this dish was published in various magazines at the time of the royal wedding and within months, Mecklenburg Pudding was being featured on the menu of some of the grandest hotels in the country. Given that it was cheap to produce, the working classes too came to enjoy it, though the availability of redcurrants meant that most preserved them in sugar syrup throughout the summer months to make Mecklenburg Pudding in the wintertime. Today, the dish is still served throughout the United Kingdom.

    Now married, the royal couple spent their first night together in the King’s Apartments at Windsor Castle but the following day, they awoke to find the Dowager Queen residing in the Queen’s Apartments next door as she had planned. The King summoned Sir Frederick Beilby Watson to ask why the Queen had not been given the rooms seemingly occupied by his mother. Sir Frederick could only respond that those had been the Dowager Queen’s orders. Unwilling to clash with his mother during his honeymoon and amid the festivities to come, the King promised his new bride that he would see that changes were made in the New Year when his mother had returned to Marlborough House. Until that time, he saw no reason why they should not share his apartments. This was unthinkable to the Georgian upper classes. Whilst their sexual promiscuity is well documented, appearances were important, and husbands and wives maintained separate rooms to at least give the impression that they had not spent the night together. This was all rather ridiculous and was said to be arranged so as not to embarrass the servants. But the King’s view was that his servants would expect nobody other than his wife to share his bed and so, until the Queen’s Apartments were vacant, that is where Queen Louise would stay.

    Princess Charlotte Louise had managed to maintain her composure during her brother’s wedding. Heartbroken and desolate, she had managed to make her way through the ceremony and the wedding breakfast but asked to be excused from further festivities. The King naturally agreed and ensured she was well cared for her in her rooms at Windsor, explaining that she had caught a slight chill in St George’s Chapel and needed rest. He was deeply aggrieved for his sister but also confused. He had considered Prince Albert to be a friend and most importantly, a gentleman. If he had been engaged, whether willingly or on the orders of his uncle, he was not the sort of man who would simply ignore his promises to another. The fact that Albert had not written to the Princess, or even to the King, troubled George deeply. “There are those who would challenge him to a duel”, he remarked, half in jest. He hoped that the pain would not last long for his poor sister and that when the time was right, she would fall in love with another and be happily married – preferably in England where brother and sister would not be parted. He brooded on writing a stern letter to Prince Albert demanding an explanation but decided to give things time to calm down a little instead.

    Meanwhile, the happy couple were feted by those in attendance who showered them with gifts and congratulations for three or four days. The high point was of course the performance of Elizabeth, Queen of England and when Pierre François Laporte announced that the King’s Theatre was to be renamed in the Queen’s honour, the King stood up and said, “Then you must allow us to return the honour Sir and attend this opera again at Her Majesty’s Theatre”. The festivities were a happy mixture of wedding celebrations and Christmas cheer and together, all present agreed that no finer occasion had ever been seen at Windsor before. The close to these events was a grand New Year’s Ball which, ever popular, was to be held in costume on the theme of ‘The Seasons’. The King dressed as the Winter King (a character popular in Christmas stories at the time) whilst his wife came as the Queen of the May. The Dowager Queen did not feel it appropriate that she should appear in costume, but other members of the family truly embraced the spirit of the occasion with the Dowager Duchess of Clarence dressed as a lilac flower to reflect half-mourning for her late husband whilst still joining in the fun. The Duchess of Cambridge was Mother Nature whilst the Duke of Cambridge was Old Father Time.


    Her Majesty's Theatre on the Haymarket, London. It was rebuilt in the early 20th century but retains the same name it received in 1837.

    The following morning, the guests were gathered for a formal audience in the Garter Throne Room before their departure. The sumptuous blue salon had been installed by the King’s father and was intended to serve as a gathering place for the Knights of the Garter to witness new knights being invested. However, the Garter Throne Room was also used by the monarch to make more general pronouncements affecting the court and today, there was some much-needed housekeeping to attend to. Firstly, it had been decided that to distinguish her from her daughter-in-law, the Dowager Queen would now be styled Her Majesty Queen Louise, The Queen Mother. [4] Secondly, the King announced the creation of a new order of chivalry, his final wedding gift to his wife. The Order of Queen Louise was to honour women whose service was worthy of high recognition. A similar order, the Luisen-Orden had been founded in 1818 by Frederick William III of Prussia to honour his late wife who was Queen Luise’s aunt and in an age when few women in Britain were formally recognised for their achievements, the establishment of this new award certainly gave a clear indication as to what kind of King George V would be in the future.

    The medal of the order featured a profile of Queen Louise in the centre of a cross and was struck in gold affixed to a badge made of pink and white ribbon. Unlike its Prussian counterpart, the order was to be given in one grade only and came with no title, rather it was intended to be a prestigious award in the name of the new Queen consort to honour those she believed to be worthy of it. The motto was to read “With Gratitude”. Whilst the King would act as Sovereign of the new order, the Queen would serve as Lady Chancellor and the Queen’s birthday, the 31st of May, would see new appointments made and the order celebrated with a special service of thanksgiving at St George’s Chapel. In a similar vein, the King let it be known that every senior female member of the Royal Family (with the notable exceptions of the Duchess of Cumberland and the Duchess of Inverness) were to be honoured with his Royal Family Order which was currently being crafted by Garrards & Co and which would be presented to the Queen, the Dowager Queen, the Duchess of Cambridge and Princesses Augusta and Sophia on the King's 18th birthday in April. This continued the tradition of presenting family orders begun by George IV and whose ribbon was white. George V had decided that his ribbon should be pale yellow. [5]

    It was a new year and a new era at the English court, something nobody could afford to miss that evening. With many of their guests now departed, the King and Queen had decided to give a modest dinner (by royal standards at least) for the senior members of their court who had worked hard to help deliver a memorable and happy wedding. As was usual, the members of the Royal Family present at Windsor gathered in the ante-room to take their place in the procession into the dining room but instead of bowing to his mother as was usual and offering her his arm to take, the King kissed his wife on the cheek and offered her his arm. From behind the couple, the Queen Mother gave a warning cough. She did not expect to be outranked by her niece and pushed Sir Frederick Beilby Watson forward to lead the Queen into dinner instead. Queen Louise made to move but the King stopped her.

    “That is very good of you Sir”, George said confidently, “But I shall lead my wife into our dining room this evening”.

    With that, the King and Queen entered the dining room and a shocked Dowager followed in their wake, hanging onto Sir Frederick’s elbow and making towards her usual place at dinner. Here too there was change. The Queen was to sit beside her husband where the Queen Mother had previously sat. Now, the Queen Mother was placed on the other side of the King. Whilst it was just one place on from where she usually sat, it rankled with the Queen Mother more than it might others. Further reminders came in the coming days. When the Royal Family attended church, the Dowager Queen was once again forced to walk in after her daughter-in-law. Her usual stall was given to her niece and she had to sit in a stall behind next to the Duchess of Cambridge.

    Likewise, when carriages were readied to transport the Royal Family to London, the Queen Mother was not placed in the same carriage as her son but in a carriage of her own behind that which carried the King and his new bride. The Queen Mother was no longer the highest-ranking lady of the land, something she may have tried to ignore but which the King and his household were determined to enforce. When Sir Frederick Beilby Watson was summoned by the Queen Mother to explain why he had not listened to her instructions where precedence was concerned, he replied, “Because the order of precedence is determined by His Majesty, Madam”. He had nothing to lose. He retired from royal service that same week and as a token of gratitude, was given a 30-year grace and favour property on the Windsor Estate by the Duke of Cambridge as a thanks for his long tenure as Master of the Household.

    In London, the situation regarding precedence and accommodation was much easier to manage. The Queen Mother had assumed that the King and his new bride would spend more time at Windsor, giving her ample opportunity to arrange the State Apartments at Buckingham Palace in the same way as she had at Windsor. But the court moved before she could do anything about it and consequently, the King and Queen took the apartments intended for the monarch and his consort whilst the Queen Mother was given a guest apartment on the floor above. When she protested that the suite was too small, the King said, “Well Mama, your house is just across the park”. Marriage had made the King bolder. He was finding his voice at last and testing his authority. There were only a few months of regency left and now he was married, he found that those around him treated him as a man rather than as a boy.

    The Duke of Cambridge began to share despatches with him, the topics of conversation were broader and included political issues he was previously kept away from and suddenly, George was being asked for his opinion rather than being given the opinion of others. He was frequently visited by the Earl of Effingham who wished to consult him on arrangements for his coronation, such as what he would wear and if everybody, he wished to be present had been invited. At the top of this list were his in-laws. Robbed of the chance of seeing their daughter married, George was determined to have George and Marie of Mecklenburg-Strelitz present to see their daughter crowned. But crowned with what?

    In 1820, George IV had followed precedent by hiring jewels to be set into St Edward’s Crown and had worn a simple cap of state en route to the Abbey in a brave attempt at a cost saving measure. But his wife had rejected proposals that she wear a renovated crown which had been used for Mary of Modena and had commissioned a brand new crown formed of diamonds taken from jewellery belonging to the late Queen Charlotte. She had also commissioned the Queen’s Diadem, an extravagant smaller crown to be worn in the procession.


    The State Crown of Mary of Modena.

    As far as everybody on the Coronation Committee was concerned, the same procedure would be followed this time. Queen Louise would wear the Queen’s Diadem until she reached the Abbey, thereafter it would be removed, and she would be crowned with Queen Louise’s Crown (created for her mother-in-law). But the Queen Mother had other ideas. To her, both the crown and diadem created for the coronation of her late husband belonged to her and as such, she intended to wear her own crown at her son’s coronation. When George V was asked his opinion on what should be done, he said simply; “Let Mama wear her crown. The Queen can wear the diadem and we shall have the Modena crown refurbished for the ceremony”.

    Created in 1685 for the wife of King James II, the Modena crown had been set with 523 small diamonds, 38 large diamonds and 129 large pearls. It was decorated with crosses pattée and fleur-de-lis with four half-arches surmounted with a monde and another cross pattée. In 1820, George IV agreed with his wife that the Modena crown was far too theatrical for her use and besides which, it was in a considerably poor state of repair. The diamonds had been removed to use in other pieces and were replaced with quartz. The pearls remained – mostly – but the frame itself needed restoration and the purple cap and ermine replacing. George V saw no reason why this couldn't be achieved and offered to fund the work personally rather than take it from the budget allocated for the coronation. For his own crown, His Majesty was content to hire jewels for St Edward’s Crown but felt that a new state crown should be created for him to wear in the procession before the ceremony itself. This would be the crown he would wear at the State Opening of Parliament each year from 1838 onwards.

    To cut expenses however, the King required Garrards & Co only to set this new state crown with gemstones which the Royal Family itself would provide from their collection. These would be added into the altered frame of the State Crown worn by George V’s great-great-great grandfather, King George I, which had been emptied of it’s hired stones and left to tarnish in the jewel house. The restored State Crown of King George V would be the closest model to those worn by his predecessors Charles II and William III. The arches were set with diamonds taken from the jewellery collection of the late Queen Charlotte whilst the Black Prince’s Ruby was set into the front of the crown. The 265 pearls needed to restore the state crown were taken from various sources with four large pearls discovered in the royal vaults which would top the fleur-de-lis and were said to have belonged to Queen Elizabeth I. The aquamarine monde was unaltered whilst the Stuart sapphire was placed at the back of the piece. In total, the entire renovation cost £33,000 which was seen as entirely reasonable given how much the King might have spent had he insisted on an entirely new crown to wear to his coronation. [6] His mother's crown created in 1820 had brought in a bill of almost double that amount.


    The empty frame of the State Crown of King George I. It was emptied of it's stones to provide a new Imperial State Crown for the coronation of King William IV in 1886.

    Once again, the Queen Mother had tried to reinforce her position and failed. Now the guests at the coronation would marvel at the newly restored crown of Mary of Modena worn by her niece and not the lavish piece designed for the Queen Mother back in 1820. She had also lost her chance to wear her own diadem and would now have to wear one of her existing tiaras, which did not please her. New coronation gowns and robes were made for the new Queen consort by Ede & Ravenscroft, whilst the Dowager Queen’s household had to fend for themselves. But these minor grievances were nothing compared to what really irked the Queen Mother. When she had married the Duke of York and been crowned beside her husband, everything she purchased or commissioned was published in the newspapers, invariably accompanied by stinging allegations that she was a lavish spender who must be reigned in. Criticism had reached a fever pitch during the Kew Scandal and even after that, the King and Queen had been forced to think carefully before making large investments or spending commitments. Yet here her son and daughter-in-law were seemingly doing much the same thing, and nobody seemed to attack them for it.

    There were two very good reasons for this. The first was that the economic situation was improving in England whereas times were still bleak financially back in 1820 following the Napoleonic Wars. In the seventeen years that had passed since she was crowned beside King George IV, the Dowager Queen had continued to spend unwisely and so the idea that she was wasteful and extravagant had become ingrained into the public’s perception of her. By contrast, it was reported that both King George V and his wife did not wish an excessive display or for any indulgent expenses to be accrued on their behalf. The idea that the King and Queen were approaching their coronation with a “make do and mend” attitude was lauded across the country. One popular cartoon of the day showed George and Louise haggling for old hats in a marketplace and choosing crumpled ones instead of fancy new feathered hats. The tagline read; “Second Hand Crowns but Their Majesties are First Rate!”.

    The tide had begun to turn…

    [1] It is now Her Majesty’s Theatre but was renamed for Queen Victoria in 1837 in the OTL. Here it is named for Queen Luise.

    [2] The braid was dropped in 1936 in the OTL by King Edward VIII.

    [3] Roughly the price of Queen Victoria’s wedding dress in the OTL.

    [4] This title was used for Queen Victoria’s mother in the OTL around this time where she was gazetted as the Queen’s Mother rather as than The Queen Mother. Here it serves to distinguish one Queen Louise from the other as undoubtedly the English would anglicise Luise to Louise once again as they did when the Duke of York married Luise of Hesse-Kassel. A consort doesn't have to be the mother of a female sovereign to use this style but it is not an official title and she would remain The Dowager Queen whilst Luise is The Queen.

    [5] Slight butterflies as it was the OTL Prince Regent (George IV) who created this and who chose white for his order ribbon. Yellow is the colour of the Royal Family Order of the OTL Queen Elizabeth II.

    [6] Bear in Mind, Queen Victoria had a new “Imperial State Crown” made for her coronation in 1838 at almost double this cost but containing much of the same gems of historic interest. It's also half the price of the 1820 bill in TTL.

    Double helpings today as I have a busy week ahead and I'm not sure if I can get another instalment out to you before next weekend. Enjoy!
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    GV: Part One, Chapter 25: New Beginnings and Old Scores
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    King George V

    Part One, Chapter Twenty-Five: New Beginnings and Old Scores

    The marriage of the King not only signalled his impending coming of age, but it also meant a new era had begun at court. The Queen’s Household had been carefully appointed by the Prime Minister and unlike her predecessor, Queen Louise was determined that from the very beginning of her tenure her ladies of the bedchamber should feel welcome in her home. To that end, the Queen proposed to make the Green Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace her own private salon and granted the use of the adjoining Yellow Drawing Room to her ladies. On their first day of service in the Queen’s employ, each of the Queen’s companions were gifted a brooch mounted on a pale lilac ribbon with the initials ‘LR’ in diamonds. As she presented them, the Queen gave a small address to her ladies asking them to “guide her in all things” and she wrote to Lord Melbourne thanking him for “his generosity and kindness in thinking of me in the fine appointments you have made”.

    The Green Drawing Room was quickly to become a hive of activity with prominent establishment figures determined to see their wives invited for tea so that they might forge bonds with the new Queen. Invitations to dine flooded in from the best households in London and whilst these had been rejected by her aunt and mother-in-law in the past, the King was insistent that as many as possible be accepted. He also wished the public to see their new Queen as much as possible and to that end, Major Smith was asked to take the lead in making plans for a royal tour. Keen to waste no time however, the King asked for a series of engagements to be scheduled in the capital which would allow the British people the best glimpse possible of his bride. These were to include a visit to Southwark Cathedral and the National Gallery which was to open to the public for the first time in April and which had just become the new home of the Royal Academy of Arts. But the King raised eyebrows when he also suggested a visit to St Katherine’s Docks and Petticoat Lane Market. These were very much working-class areas of the capital known for high rates of crime, disease and poverty.


    Petticoat Lane Market in Spitalfields, c. 1890.

    Lord John Russell, the Home Secretary, applauded the King for wishing to visit such areas but the Cabinet were divided on the proposal. Lord Cottenham, the Lord Chancellor, likened royal visits to such areas as “trying to stage a ballet in a bear garden” whilst the Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, raised concerns that Spitalfields was “a breeding ground for prostitutes rife with disease, radical working men and packed to the rafters with foreign assassins”. But Lord Melbourne was inclined to support the King; “If His Majesty cannot visit the poorer parts of the capital, the message sent out to the people is that he is King only in the better areas or worse still, that this government cannot keep His Majesty safe when he walks among his people. Whilst I share the reservations of my colleagues in Cabinet, I believe His Majesty should be applauded for this venture which I have little doubt shall prove an enormous success with the public”. But Melbourne had an ulterior motive.

    He instructed his private secretary to ensure that he was present during the royal visits to St Katherine’s Docks and Spitalfields, believing that appearing with the King and Queen in poorer areas of London would provide a boost to his election campaign. The King was somewhat naïve in not seeing Melbourne’s approval of his proposed visits for what they truly were, and some Tories and Unionists responded in the House of Commons with criticism of the Prime Minister “using the Crown for personal political gain”. When these comments reached Buckingham Palace, the King was advised to postpone his visits to St Katherine’s Docks and Spitalfields until after the general election the following month which irritated the King and for the first time, he admonished Lord Melbourne at their private audience. Melbourne was taken aback, promising not to join the royal couple on their scheduled visits and apologising for his lack of tact. He recorded in his journal that he felt; “Both ashamed of the instance but proud that the young King exerted his authority, quite properly, with no sense of arrogance or hauteur but a desire only to correct me for something I should never have allowed myself to consider in the first place”.

    On the 13th of January 1838, news came that the former Prime Minister Lord Eldon had died at his home in Hamilton Place at the age of 86. Lord Eldon had been a great friend and ally to the King’s father, it had been Eldon after all who had secured the annulment of George IV’s first marriage to Princess Frederica of Prussia enabling his second marriage to Luise of Hesse-Kassel. Unusually, King George V indicated that he would personally attend Lord Eldon’s funeral which was to be held in Kingston, Dorset. The Queen would not accompany her husband to the ceremony as she had not met Lord Eldon but it was decided that she should go to Dorset with the King and that this county would have the honour of seeing the Queen make her first solo public engagement. Weymouth was selected as the ideal venue for such a visit given that the resort owed much of it’s attraction to it’s royal connections. The King’s uncle, the late Duke of Gloucester, had built a grand residence on the seafront known as Gloucester Lodge and King George III had holidayed at Weymouth even venturing into the sea in a bathing machine. Gloucester Lodge was still owned by the late Duke of Gloucester’s widow, Princess Mary.


    John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon.

    The Duchess of Gloucester was delighted to play hostess to her new niece-in-law. She was even more delighted when news came that the Queen Mother would not be accompanying Queen Louise because she had caught a chill and had been instructed to rest by her physician. The Duchess of Gloucester seized the opportunity and invited her sisters Princess Augusta and Princess Sophia to join her at Gloucester Lodge, thus making for a happy “ladies only” gathering. It was the first time the King’s aunts were able to get to know the new Queen without the shadow of the Queen Mother hovering in the background. Queen Louise’s visit to Weymouth was reported in the national and local press where it was announced that Her Majesty would “officially open the newly built Guildhall, a fine example of modern architecture so recently completed by Talbot Bury” and where she would “join Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Gloucester and her sisters, the Royal Princesses, in unveiling a memorial clock tower on the esplanade erected in the memory of the late Duke of Gloucester who so loved Weymouth and its people”.

    From Weymouth, the Queen would be reunited with the King at Encombe House, the country seat of the Earls of Eldon and now inherited by Lord Eldon’s son, the 3rd Earl of Eldon, before the couple moved on to Highcliffe Castle, the home of Baron Stuart de Rothesay, the former British Ambassador to France. Lord Stuart had built Highcliffe between 1831 and 1835 and it had gained a reputation as one of the most beautiful country houses in England with gardens laid out by Capability Brown which offered a stunning vista of the Isle of Wight and The Needles. The honour of hosting the royal couple enthused the county except for Lord Digby who felt aggrieved that the King and Queen had accepted the invitation of the Stuarts and had declined his offer to host them at Sherborne; “His Majesty’s late grandfather paid us the compliment in 1789”, he wrote in his diary, “And it is sad to think that dear Sherborne is to be neglected so”.

    On the 21st of January 1838, the King and Queen set out for Dorset, spending one night at an inn in Southampton where they checked in as “Mr and Mrs King”. The innkeepers had no idea that their guests were actually King George V and Queen Louise and in later years, the King would happily relate how the furious innkeepers wife woke them up by hammering on the bedroom door to tell them that they had yet to pay for breakfast and she wouldn’t serve it to them until they did. She was suitably stunned when the King handed her a pound note, then the equivalent of a week’s wages for the working class Georgian. From Southampton it was on to Dorset where the King and Queen parted ways, the King heading to Encombe and the Queen to Gloucester Lodge where she was cheerfully welcomed by the Duchess of Gloucester.

    As the King attended the funeral of Lord Eldon at St James’ Church in Kingston, Queen Louise descended the steps of Gloucester Lodge accompanied by the three princesses and the Duchess of Sutherland. The crowds were said to have numbered well into the thousands with every possible spot seized by eager locals and tourists alike to get a glimpse of the new Queen. Bunting had been placed on every store front, Union flags were waving the sea breeze and a local brass band was on hand to play the national anthem as the royal party climbed into their carriages to make their way to the Guildhall where they would be met by the Mayor and other important local dignitaries. 8 year old Pamela Willis had been selected to present the Queen with a posy of flowers but was overcome by nerves and burst into tears the moment the Queen approached. Without hesitation, the Queen crouched before Pamela and wiped away her tears, taking a flower from the posy and gifting to her. The tears ceased and the crowd applauded and cheered their approval.


    Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh.

    After a lunch at the new Guildhall, the Queen cut a ribbon and unveiled a plaque to commemorate her visit. As the royal party left and prepared to return in their carriages to the esplanade for the statue unveiling, it became apparent that one of the horses had no intention of making the journey and refused to be moved. “Oh dear”, Queen Louise said brightly, “It does not matter, I am sure the Mayor will accompany us on foot”. Grinning from ear to ear, the Mayor of Weymouth George Oakley, dashed forward in his ceremonial attire and offered his arm to the Queen and together, the royal party made the short journey back along the Esplanade, waving to the crowds as they passed. They stopped briefly to lay flowers at the statue of King George III before moving to Westham Road where the statue of the late Duke of Gloucester stood covered with a red velvet curtain.

    Just as the royal party arrived, there was confusion when an elderly lady rushed forward from the crowd with her arms outstretched towards the Queen. “I am the Duchess of Dorset”, the elderly lady cried out, “I have come to see the Queen!”. Whilst those around her panicked, Queen Louise simply walked over to the elderly lady and took her hand. “It is very nice to see you Your Grace”, she said, “Might I ask you to go with this man who will find you something to eat?”. The lady was led away smiling. It was later reported that she had recently escaped from the Dorset County Lunatic Asylum at Forston House.

    The accounts of the Queen’s visit to Weymouth spread from town to town via newspapers, magazines and journals. Those fortunate enough to see the Queen were asked to recount every detail of their encounter and the reports of Her Majesty’s conduct made her an instant favourite with the general public. Senior courtiers were delighted with the success of the visit but one or two remarked that the Queen Mother had initially shown great promise and popularity in the early days of her marriage. A footnote in one newspaper gave slight cause for concern too. As the Queen left Weymouth for Encombe House, a small group in Radipole Park Gardens had been noticed holding anti-monarchy banners. They were said to be “disaffected radicals” who were handing out printed pamphlets which were “deeply unpatriotic and offensive to Their Majesties” but the newspaper reassured its readers that “this sour bunch did nothing to infringe upon the happiness of the people of Weymouth and they certainly caused no offense to Her Majesty the Queen”. The group belonged to the South West Working Men’s Association, a branch of a national protest movement which had been dubbed the Chartists.

    The Chartists had their roots among the working classes who felt betrayed by the Whig government. They believed that the Reform Act and the Poor Law Amendment had served to alienate the poorest in society from the relief they needed and that far from being more enfranchised, the working classes had been pushed further away from shaping the future of the country by a growing middle class. In 1836, William Lovett and Henry Hetherington founded the London Working Men’s Association which had quickly seen branches pop up across Middlesex and then into other counties where at public meetings, members gave speeches on worker’s rights and the need for electoral reform. All associations under the umbrella of the WMA signed up to a list of demands they wished to see implemented, a list known as the People’s Charter – hence the nickname ‘Chartists’. This charter called for a vote for every man over the age of 21 regardless of whether they owned property or not, a secret ballot to protect electors in the exercise of their vote, no property qualification for MPs, equal sized constituencies for fairer representation and annual parliamentary elections to prevent bribery, intimidation and corruption. Their sixth and final demand was that these rights should be incorporated into a codified constitution which could only be changed through a public referendum. [1]


    A bill from the 1840s calling on Chartists to attend a demonstration at Kennington Common, London.

    The majority of Chartists were members of other “radical associations” who migrated to the movement because it was far better organised. Large scale meetings were held in Birmingham, Glasgow and Lancashire but resolutions that had been passed, or speeches given by prominent supporters such as Joseph Rayner Stephens were recorded in a Chartist newspaper, the Charter and Star. John Bates, a Chartist activist, said of the movement; “There were radical associations all over the county but there was a lack of cohesion. One wanted the ballot, another manhood suffrage and so on. When the People’s Charter was drawn up it clearly defined the urgent demands of the working class. We felt we had a real bond of union”. [2] There was still divergence in the aims of some groups however most were anti-monarchist and in these early days of the movement, royal visits where lots of people they felt might be receptive to the goals of the People’s Charter gathered proved to be popular meeting points for protestors. Chartism was in its infancy but over the next decade, it would become a permanent fixture in Britain and would make its presence felt throughout every corner of the country.

    The King and Queen settled for a few days at Encombe House before moving on to the second leg of their trip to Dorset. At Highcliffe, the couple walked in the gardens together and the Queen told her husband how much she had enjoyed her trip to the South West. “I should like to come here often”, she said, “Might we holiday here Georgie?”. The King was delighted to see his wife so happy and content. They began to discuss the possibility of taking a house in the area to use as a permanent holiday home away from London and Windsor but curiously, both had the same vision that it would not be a luxurious palace or great country estate. Rather, they wished a modest residence free from the grandeur of their position where they could be “Mr and Mrs King” together. The King inquired of his host, Lord Stuart de Rothesay, if he knew of any such properties in the vicinity. Fortunately, Lord Stuart knew of the perfect location. Ironically named Broadwindsor, a 15,000-acre estate was currently on the market but had proved a hard sell because the existing property had been demolished the previous year and the asking price was deemed far too high simply for the land alone. The King asked Major Smith to dispatch an agent to the estate to report on its suitability.

    Meanwhile, the Queen Mother was recovered from her chill and was receiving visitors at Marlborough House. She was less pleased by the news reports from Dorset and wrote a strongly worded letter to her niece that she “must never be seen to mix too freely with the working people for they take advantage and demand more and more of one’s time. I was grieved too that you saw fit to accept invitations from those who contribute so little and only invited you to their homes to elevate their position in society; society being that thing which we deplore for its immorality and lack of deference. You must not regard such people as friends, rather they are as barnacles attaching themselves to stately ships hoping to travel great distances but who ultimately sink those who carried them so far”.

    She was even less impressed to hear that the King had sent an agent to Broadwindsor. After all, she had been tasked with finding a suitable royal residence by the Duke of Cambridge and her brief was very different to that of the King and Queen. The Queen Mother was quickly discovering just how marriage had given her son a taste of independence and with access to his personal fortune just months away, she feared that his plans for a “modest” residence at Broadwindsor would not only be regarded as a personal indulgence but furthermore, did not seem to feature plans for the Queen Mother to join the couple there.

    As she ruminated on how to protect her interests, the Queen Mother’s day was interrupted by the arrival of Count Medem. Shortly to return to Russia, he had finally received word from St Petersburg that the Tsar was willing to put the idea of a marriage between the Tsarevich and Princess Charlotte Louise on an official “to be negotiated” footing. He was not the only ruler entering talks on matching dynasty to dynasty. In Brussels, King Leopold finally had word from Baron Stockmar in Rio de Janeiro. The Marquis of Olinda had reacted favourably to the possibility of Princess Januária of Brazil marrying Prince Albert but there were issues which needed to be resolved before formal talks were opened. Olinda had heard good reports about Prince Albert and believed he would be a true asset to the Imperial Family. If Princess Januária was to be declared regent when Olinda retired, he could see the benefit of having someone like Prince Albert by her side. Brazil had also seen many Belgians relocate to colonies in Southern Brazil following independence in 1822 and the links between the Coburgs and the Braganzas had thus far proved enormously popular in Portugal.

    But there were stumbling blocks. Princess Januária was deeply devout and whilst Olinda was certain that the Vatican would agree to a papal dispensation along the lines of that which had secured the King of Belgium’s second marriage, it was unlikely that the Imperial Family would welcome a member of the Lutheran Evangelical Church into their ranks even if any children born of the marriage were raised Roman Catholic. Secondly, there was ongoing debate in Brazil as to what should happen with the regency for Pedro II. Fuelled by disputes between rival factions, some wished the age of majority to be lowered so that the Emperor could assume full powers to unite the country and put an end to republican sentiments and local rebellions between political groups. Whilst this would mean that Princess Januária would not become regent as Olinda favoured, until the marriage of the Emperor and the birth of his first child, she was heir to the throne. If the worst happened, Januária could be propelled to the role of Empress at any time and in such a case, the Brazilian people might object to her consort being a foreign stranger who might be seen more as a puppet of his uncle rather than being truly committed to the nation of Brazil. [3] King Leopold would now have to make a decision once and for all; allow Albert to wait and pursue Princess Charlotte Louise or open formal negotiations for a marriage contract between Albert and Princess Januária. Either way, the Prince himself would learn his fate by letter whilst studying at Bonn.


    The Tsarevich of Russia.

    In London, the Queen Mother knew nothing of these talks beyond the fact that King Leopold had asked Stockmar to investigate the possibility of a match between Prince Albert and Princess Januária. She had committed to her lie however that the match had been agreed and that an engagement would soon be announced, something she now passed on to Count Medem. It was little more than gossip exchanged as Medem brought the subject round to marriage but she unwittingly gave Medem the confidence to press the Russian interest as he could now report to the Tsar that rumours that Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was poised to propose to the King’s sister were unfounded. It was with this knowledge that he finally put the Tsar’s interest to the Queen Mother. The Tsarevich was to tour Europe later in the year and was hoping to be present for the coronation of King George. Whilst in London, the Tsarevich hoped to meet Princess Charlotte Louise and if he liked her, the Tsar would then approach the British government to open talks on what such a marriage would mean for the future of Anglo-Russian relations.

    The Queen Mother was stunned. It was the first she had heard of the Russian interest in her daughter and very little escaped her where such matters were concerned. But she did not dismiss the matter as out of hand. Politics aside, there were advantages to having a daughter in such a position. The Romanovs were extremely wealthy for one thing and for another, most of the Tsar’s siblings had married German princesses whom the Queen Mother was either related to or had known in childhood. It would mean that her daughter would come to outrank her as in the fullness of time Charlotte Louise might find herself Empress of Russia but on the other hand, Russia was as far away from Britain as it was possible to get. Breaking the bonds between brother and sister might give the Queen Mother a much better chance of exerting influence over her son and whilst the King had expressed a wish that his sister marry Prince Albert and settle close to him in England, he could hardly deny that marriage to the Russian Tsarevich had far more opportunity and comfort than with a junior prince from a small and not particularly important German duchy.

    But the Queen Mother had not yet ruled out a match between her daughter and her nephew, Prince George of Cambridge as a last resort if the matter could not be settled before the King turned 18 and insisted that his sister not leave the country. The Queen Mother thanked Medem for visiting her and promised to think on the matter, she might even consult the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary. But she did not promise to consult her daughter or her son for that matter. For Charlotte Louise and Prince Albert, time was running out. Both had just a few months to wait before the King could approve their marriage and in those few months, one or both of them might find themselves engaged to someone else. Whether it be Russia or Brazil, the distance put between them would destroy any hopes of a continued friendship let alone the end of their romance. The Duke of Cambridge had already been approached by Medem on the Russian interest. In his view, shared by his wife, the Queen Mother was being deliberately stubborn and unfairly obstinate. Charlotte Louise should be allowed to marry Albert; “After all, love is so rare in these things and to have it as a foundation of their marriage would, I am sure, bring not only happiness to the young couple but would inspire the people who always warm to such fairy tales”.

    Returning from Dorset to Windsor, the King and Queen had a week’s respite before carrying out their visits in the capital. It was decided that the royal couple should stay in London until the result of the general election was known ahead of the State Opening of Parliament that would follow. Nobody expected there to be much in the way of change. Lord Melbourne was likely to remain Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues did not fear a reshuffle. The revival of the Dirty Campaign by the Unionists had not caught the public imagination in the same way as it had before, yet there was now a new bogeyman in British politics, the Chartists. Lord Winchelsea deliberately referred to them as “radicals”, usually twinning a mention of the group with Lord John Russell whom he still considered to be “the Prime Minister in waiting” and “the most dangerous man in the country”. Yet people seemed to be growing tired of such alarmist rhetoric and some within the Unionist Party had begun to regard Winchelsea as “yesterday’s man”. Not only would the General Election of 1838 determine the future of Sir Robert Peel, but Lord Winchelsea too might also find himself forcibly retired.

    On the 2nd of February 1838, the King and Queen gave a small supper party at Buckingham Palace for the Prime Minister ahead of the general election. This was customary at the time, a non-political gesture given to those who had served as Prime Minister regardless of whether they might be returned to office or not. During the election campaign, the audiences held between Lord Melbourne and the Duke of Cambridge would not take place so as to allow the Prime Minister to travel further afield to campaign and so the Cambridges were in attendance to give the impression of a fond farewell to a Prime Minister everybody knew would shortly be returned to office. Cambridge was only too pleased to see another recess. As predicted, giving the royal assent to the Church Temporalities Bill and it’s counterparts had earned a strong rebuke from the Lords Spiritual and the Times newspaper had printed a letter from eight Bishops calling on the House of Lords to demand that the Duke of Cambridge be brought to parliament and asked to defend his decision to “uphold the Whig attack on the established state church”.

    Cambridge saw this as nothing more than sour grapes but Lord Winchelsea jumped on the chance to exploit the matter to boost his personal popularity. In his pre-election meetings and appearances, he openly criticised the Duke for not defending the Church of England, something he said was Cambridge’s duty given that as King’s Regent, he had an obligation to uphold the state church. He had stopped short of calling for Cambridge to be removed as Regent, something he possibly wished to keep in his back pocket as an option should his approach prove difficult to defend in public. But Winchelsea knew his audience well and at a meeting on the 30th of January 1838 in London, he called upon “all good Christian men to do what Cambridge would not and defend the Church of England”. Some men took Winchelsea’s words to be a command.


    Cambridge House as seen on a 1799 map showing Shepherds Market and Snoads Court.

    As the Cambridges dined with the King and Queen at Buckingham Palace, a 48 year old Unionist supporter called Sidney Brownlow had made his way through Shepherds Market and was hiding in the stable yards at Sneads Court. In the marketplace, he had drained oil from a lamppost and was soaking rags with it safely hidden from view as the last shopkeepers and stallholders left their posts and headed to the Cambridge Arms on the corner of Half Moon Street. At around 10.45pm, Brownlow left Snoads Court and climbed over the wall on White Horse Street that closed off the gardens of Cambridge House from the road. Carefully removing a panel of glass in the door of the Music Room which led to the terrace, Brownlow tipped his bundle of rags onto the floor, dousing a sofa with leftover oil for good measure. He then wound a string from the centre of the room through the empty windowpane and onto the terrace which he lit with a match. Within moments, the Music Room was ablaze, and smoke billowed from Cambridge House into the night air.

    In the rooms above, the young Cambridge Princesses slept peacefully, their governess dozing in a chair in the nursery, blissfully unaware of the danger tearing through the house just below her feet.

    [1] This was not a demand of the OTL People’s Charter but around this time it was a common theme among radicals and as one of the demands (payment for MPs) has already been fulfilled in TTL, I’ve added this to keep the original “Six Demands” of the Chartists.

    [2] Actual quote from 1838 from John Bates, Chartist.

    [3] Talks to reduce the age of majority for Pedro II were in place as early as 1835.