Bombshell (4)
To everyone in the British Isles — indeed, to everyone in the world who was following the case — St.-Leger's allegation was a bolt from the blue. No one had seen this coming.

The great question, of course, was whether or not to believe it. To George IV himself, here was a sign that the wife he hated had deserved his hatred from the beginning; that Canning had betrayed him long before his resignation; and that the daughter who had turned against him had never been his in the first place. Everyone (even his allies, though they tried to hide the fact) thought him a hateful, worthless man who had driven away his wife, his daughter and everyone else who was not an inveterate flatterer, but now he had evidence that he had been right all along, that his cause was just, that he was as wronged and misused as he felt himself to be.

As for the king's political allies, even they did not truly respect him. The idea that the great philanderer was a cuckold had, perhaps, a certain charm. And certainly the claim was in character with everything they had been saying about Caroline… although they had certainly not expected Canning's name to come up. Nonetheless, it had to be looked into.

This was the official position of Lord Liverpool's government. "We cannot allow such a terrible charge against our Royal family and a valued servant of the Crown to go unanswered," said Castlereagh, demanding the recall of George Canning (a man with whom, as many now recalled, he had once fought a duel).

Caroline denied the allegation at once — as did Mr. Canning, as soon as he learned about it. (The Cannings had at this point arrived in Vienna. Upon hearing the news from London, Metternich immediately had them escorted to Rijeka and hired a ship to take them home.)

As for the Queenites, they not only considered the claim a lie, they believed they knew whence it had come. According to the pamphlet The Plot Against Our Princess (still in circulation at this point) the Tories had a scheme afoot to disinherit Charlotte Augusta in favor of little Victor Alexander — and had the government not brought Aloïse St.-Leger to London at great expense, paid her to utter these dreadful lies and returned her safely as soon as her work was done? What more proof could anyone ask for? And there was only one reason why the Tories would want to cast the princess aside — they intended to do away once and for all with the last traces of freedom in the British Isles, and knew that she would never stand for it…

In a dozen cities, not just Manchester and Glasgow, the Radicals were preparing for civil unrest. Although neither Burdett nor Wilson nor, certainly, Brougham had any intention of initiating violence, none of them had any doubt as to the will of Lords Liverpool and Castlereagh. Unemployed workingmen met in the fields outside the cities to drill like soldiers — which many of them had been not long ago — training themselves in the art of organized protest.

And then the other shoe dropped…
Bertrand Martineau and P.G. Sherman, The Great Scheme

Saturday, July 22
About 2 p.m.
The Tower of London

One good thing about having an office in the Tower of London, Wellington thought, was that there were several layers of walls between yourself and the angry mobs.[1] Good solid stone walls, too, and a wide stretch of ground. You could hardly hear them at all.

Not that Wellington was ignoring the public unrest. Just this morning Thomas Erskine, Earl of Kellie, had handed him a very long anonymous letter he had received, which included some alarming passages: “Castlereagh may calculate upon the support of the army to degrade the Queen, against the wishes and will of the people, but I will tell him, not one hair of her head falls to the ground by the consent of the brave soldiers who owe her their allegiance as their rightful queen… if he will contrive to bring all the troops around the metropolis together, he may ascertain their feelings towards the conspirators against her Majesty.”[2] Wellington wished he could have laughed it off, but from what he was hearing from his own subordinates, he wasn't so sure.

There was a knock on the door.

"Come in."

"Message from Lord Castlereagh, Your Grace," said the boy, handing him a sealed envelope. "He says it requires your immediate attention… begging your pardon."

"Thank you." Wellington was not in the habit of allowing unread correspondence to pile up on his desk. The last time he had put off reading a message was five years ago at Roxbury, and he had been preoccupied with winning a battle at the time. He took the note. It couldn't possibly be as bad as the news he'd gotten at Roxbury.

"By your leave, sir," said the messenger, and ducked out. Probably he had been ordered to leave immediately, and not to attempt to find out what this was.

Wellington read the note.

It was worse than the news he had gotten at Roxbury.

[1] Here, as IOTL, Wellington is currently serving as Master-General of the Ordnance.
[2] Erskine got this letter in September IOTL.
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The Great Scheme Revealed (1)
Saturday, July 22
About 4:30 p.m.
The Brougham residence

"Well, this is interesting," said Henry Brougham.

"What?" said his wife.

"His Grace the Duke of Wellington requests the pleasure of our company at Apsley House tonight."

"I think I can survive a short carriage ride," said Margaret, who was (as best they could tell) about seven months pregnant. "But I should say it's a little late in the day to be sending out dinner invitations."

"I dare say he's been quite busy today — as indeed have I," said Brougham. "No doubt this has something to do with the rather dramatic news from Calais."

"What dramatic news from Calais?" said Mrs. Brougham.

"You haven't heard?"

"For some reason," said Mrs. Brougham, cradling her belly, "I have not been out and about much of late. Pray tell me before I run mad with anticipation."

"Or walk mad, rather," said Brougham. She threw a cushion at him.

"Very well," he said. "After Madame St.-Leger's rather dramatic testimony, Lord Sidmouth had her and M'sieur Jeannot escorted onto a steamboat bound for Calais. No sooner had these two worthies stepped off the boat onto French soil than they repudiated every single word of their testimony before the Lords. More than that — they claimed that Lord Liverpool and his cabinet had coached them in what to say."

Mrs. Brougham was stunned into momentary silence.

"So," he continued, "shall we to the lion's den for supper?"

"I wouldn't miss it."
"Very well," he said. "After Madame St.-Leger's rather dramatic testimony, Lord Sidmouth had her and M'sieur Jeannot escorted onto a steamboat bound for Calais. No sooner had these two worthies stepped off the boat onto French soil than they repudiated every single word of their testimony before the Lords. More than that — they claimed that Lord Liverpool and his cabinet had coached them in what to say."
Ouch! Well that tells even the most ardent (and naive) tory that this trial is a farce and a personal vendetta of one man against his wife.
"Very well," he said. "After Madame St.-Leger's rather dramatic testimony, Lord Sidmouth had her and M'sieur Jeannot escorted onto a steamboat bound for Calais. No sooner had these two worthies stepped off the boat onto French soil than they repudiated every single word of their testimony before the Lords. More than that — they claimed that Lord Liverpool and his cabinet had coached them in what to say."

Man this does not bode well for George IV. Man I wish this would not have happened. I seriously do not want to see Charlotte on the throne. I would love to see a male scion on the throne.
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And with that comment you make a typical mistake. You let your jodgement be coloured by the knowledge of events which might not even happen. All the reasons to hate the Prussians do not exist yet. That came much later.

Barbarossa Rotbart

I wouldn't say all, as Prussia already has a substantial history of militarism but there is still plenty of opportunity to avoid the highly militerised Prussia/Germany of OTL. However in general agreement that PulkitNahata is making a hell of a lot of assumptions.

Its going to be interesting now as the good? ship George IV seems to be heavily holed and shipping water fast. However this will force a change of government and end of the trial and start easing George and the ultra-Conservatives out of power without major bloodshed and chaos.



As I lay asleep in Italy
There came a voice from over the Sea,
And with great power it forth led me
To walk in the visions of Poesy.

I met Murder on the way -
He had a mask like Castlereagh -
Very smooth he looked, yet grim;
Seven blood-hounds followed him:

All were fat; and well they might
Be in admirable plight,
For one by one, and two by two,
He tossed the human hearts to chew
Which from his wide cloak he drew.

Next came Fraud, and he had on,
Like Eldon, an ermined gown;
His big tears, for he wept well,
Turned to mill-stones as they fell.

And the little children, who
Round his feet played to and fro,
Thinking every tear a gem,
Had their brains knocked out by them.

Clothed with the Bible, as with light,
And the shadows of the night,
Like Sidmouth, next, Hypocrisy
On a crocodile rode by.

Last came Anarchy: he rode
On a white horse, splashed with blood;
He was pale even to the lips,
Like Death in the Apocalypse.

And he wore a kingly crown;
And in his grasp a sceptre shone;
On his brow this mark I saw -

-- Percy Shelley
Apologies for the delay. I've been busy learning ESL/EFL instruction.

Last came Anarchy: he rode
On a white horse, splashed with blood;
He was pale even to the lips,
Like Death in the Apocalypse.

And he wore a kingly crown;
And in his grasp a sceptre shone;
On his brow this mark I saw -

-- Percy Shelley

You know what's perfect about this image? Liverpool, Sidmouth, Castlereagh, Eldon and the rest are all trying so hard to be a force for Order, while serving a king who is practically Chaos made flesh.
The Great Scheme Revealed (2)
I wanted to put the Crowning Moment of Conversation between Wellington and Brougham all in one post, but that's taking too long, so here's the first part.

About 6 p.m.
Apsley House

Given the urgency of the situation, Wellington was finding it hard to keep the dinner conversation on a light note. He didn't like Henry Brougham, and he had invited the man here for a reason.

Finally he broke the ice. "First, Mr. Brougham," he said, "whatever you may think of their Lordships, they did not conspire with St.-Leger, nor with any other witness, to defame the parentage of Charlotte Augusta." Wellington almost said as far as I know or to the best of my knowledge, but he stopped himself. He did not want to give Brougham an opening to drive a wedge between him and the Government. Inviting the man to dinner was chancy enough.

"Quite so," said Brougham. "Even Sidmouth, I think, would not be such a fool as to coerce lies out of witnesses when he would have no power to hold them to their stories once they were out of his grasp."

"Forgive me, gentlemen," said Catherine. "but this has become rather confusing. Did that Frenchwoman lie when they questioned her, or when she arrived home?"

"She lied on both occasions," said Wellington. "The only thing she said that we know to be true is that she perjured herself before the Lords."

"What about that pamphlet?" said Catherine. "The one telling those horrible stories about their Lordships? Where did that come from?"

"I suspect our guest," said Wellington, glancing toward Brougham, "could tell you more about the origins of those calumnies than I could."

Brougham nodded. "If you're speaking of the allegations in The Plot Against Our Princess," he said, "I can't prove anything, but I have a suspicion that those stories came from someone in France… possibly Talleyrand himself."

"And scarcely three months later, along comes Aloïse St.-Leger to provide the mob with something that looks like proof," said Wellington. "And now the Regency Council is sheltering her and Jeannot."

Brougham nodded. "Fouché has taken them into 'protective custody,'" he said. "No doubt he is already returning them, considerably wealthier, to the obscurity from which he plucked them in the first place.[1]"

"Do you think Fouché is behind this scheme, or Talleyrand?"

“More likely, the two of them together,” said Brougham. "They're both born conspirators. If the two of them were to join forces and plot our ruin… well, circumspice.”[2]

"In case anyone was worried that he'd forgotten his Latin," said Mrs. Brougham, smiling.

"The key to the whole thing," Brougham continued, "is that this fellow Browne, the King's agent in Paris — I believe it was our two French witnesses who first approached him, and not the reverse. Am I correct in that?"

"You are," said Wellington.

"Well then — three years ago, when our queen first moved to Paris, Fouché planted them in her household as a matter of course. I doubt he expected anything to come of it at the time — he keeps track of everyone of any importance in France.

"Then along came Browne. I don't know how quickly he made a name for himself, but last year, when my wife and I went on our honeymoon in Paris, he had already become something of a local legend… the Non-Secret Agent. Is it such a great leap to suppose that, with all France already knowing Browne for a spy, Talleyrand would discover who he truly reported to?"

"Not at all," said Wellington.

"So — our witnesses attached themselves to Browne and served as double agents. They told him what his paymasters wanted to hear, which was nothing of any value to Lanjuinais or the Regency Council… and who knows what secrets they extracted from him in return?"

Wellington suddenly remembered something he had read in some bit of correspondence — that according to Browne, Jeannot was a great anglophile and very curious about all things British. A professional spy would have been on his guard against such manipulative flattery, but Browne was no professional.

"The whole world has known for many years how matters stand between George and Caroline," Brougham continued. "As soon as it became clear that the King's government would aggressively pursue divorce proceedings, and that this would meet some opposition, Fouché and Talleyrand realized the true potential for mischief in the situation and devised the great scheme which we now see bearing fruit."

"And you deduced all these things by yourself?" said Catherine. "You really are a genius!"

"Oh, don't go swelling his head," said Mrs. Brougham lightly. "We might have to widen the doorframe to get him out of the room." She caressed her husband's arm. Why do loving couples always have to flaunt their happiness? thought Wellington.

[1] This is the part where I admit that Jeannot and St.-Leger (I mentioned here that those weren't their real names, which was a hint that they weren't on the level) are the only two characters (apart from the newborns, of course) that I invented. I needed two people that the British Foreign Office would never have heard of and wouldn't suspect until it was too late, so… we'll say that IOTL they existed, but never distinguished themselves enough to come to the attention of history.
[2] “Look around you.”
The Great Scheme Revealed (3)
The remains of dinner had been cleaned up. Wellington and Brougham sat in the drawing-room, enjoying a repectable old single malt. Catherine was giving Mrs. Brougham a tour of the house.

"Between the two of us," said Wellington, "do you really believe the queen has not committed adultery?"

“In my opinion, Caroline is pure in-no-cence,” said Brougham, drawing out the last word so it wasn’t quite clear whether he was saying innocence or in no sense, and smiling as he did so.

This man is entirely too much in love with his own wit, thought Wellington. Well, two can play at that game. “Then may your wife be like her.”

“If I were such a fool as to treat my Margaret as shabbily as our king treated our queen, I would deserve far less than that,” said Brougham, not missing a beat.

Wellington sighed. "Very well, then. His Majesty is a great baby in his temperament, a drunken, gluttonous, lecherous wastrel in his appetites, and a lout and a blackguard in his… everything. I concede these truths readily, Mr. Brougham. Did you suppose I ever believed otherwise? Do you think we Tories bow down to him five times a day? We are not on his side, but on the side of peace and order.

"Which brings me to why I invited you here. Peace and order, which are in greater danger than at any time since the Jacobite risings. I won't allow that. If Her Majesty loves her adopted kingdom, she won't allow it either."

"You sound as though you wish her to surrender the baby rather than split it," said Brougham. "And though I have no doubt of your sincerity, I note that you are making this appeal not to the King and your fellow ministers, but to me, and through me to her Majesty. Perhaps we seem more… susceptible to reason?"

"Take it as a compliment, if you like."

"I most certainly shall. But I must tell you that Her Majesty has suffered too greatly to surrender now, or to allow slanderers and paid liars to prevail over her good name. Nor will Her Highness be denied her rightful place."

"At what price?" said Wellington. "I have heard the story — by all means correct me if I have heard it wrong — of how you yourself remonstrated with the princess the night she ran away from home. 'The multitude will fill the streets and the park, the soldiers will be called out, blood will flow, and in a hundred years it will never be forgotten that you were the cause of the mischief. The English people so hate blood that you will never get over it.'[1]

"Is that not true now? Is the name of Queen Consort — a title which holds no real power — worth seeing her supporters cut down and shot in the streets? Is her reputation worth the hatred and bitterness that would ensue?"

"I detect a veiled threat beneath your tone of concern," said Brougham. "A rabble of mechanics and artisans being killed or driven off by cavalry, or perhaps a 'whiff of grapeshot' — is that how you believe it would happen? Does it seem tolerable to you that such things should come to pass in our cities? If so, I must warn you the time has already come and gone when we could have been crushed so easily. There are soldiers on both sides, Your Grace — soldiers and officers, as I think you know.

"In fact," Brougham continued in musing tones, "I believe those loyal to the queen now outnumber those who favor the king, particularly if one includes the many discharged veterans who are searching these isles for gainful employment. Now, if you were on king’s side, that by itself would ensure the two sides were more evenly matched. If you were to choose the queen’s side, of course, the war would be over almost as soon as—”

“Why, you overgrown schoolboy!” Wellington suppressed the urge to grab the man by the shoulders and shake him. “Listen to yourself! Sitting there, blithely speaking of civil war on Britain’s shores — have you ever seen war? Have you the least notion of its horrors?”

“I have not,” said Brougham matter-of-factly, “but you have.”

The duke’s blood ran cold. Brougham might be a pampered civilian, but he was also a dangerously intelligent man. His calculation of the respective strength of the king’s faction and the queen’s had been very close to Wellington’s. For Caroline’s supporters to overwhelm the established order and march triumphant into Whitehall would be bad enough, but a protracted conflict between rival factions of near-equal force…

Wellington’s mind, educated by decades of warfare, had no trouble conjuring up images of the conflict. Briton killing Briton on land and sea, England’s countryside ravaged like that of Spain or Italy… her overseas possessions snapped up by France or the United States or whichever power was close at hand and feeling opportunistic… India, Ireland, perhaps even Scotland rising in rebellion… in the end, it would hardly matter who won the civil war. The British Empire would have fallen, never to rise again.

And Brougham knew it. That was the real meaning behind his bland and airy words. Join us, betray your king, help us crush your allies and friends… or watch your country burn and by your own actions pour more oil on the fire. Your choice.

"Damn you," he said.

"It was not I who conjured up the spectre of bloodshed here," said Brougham.

No, but there is bloodshed and there is BLOODSHED, thought Wellington. Britain can survive the use of force against an angry mob or two, and would probably be the healthier for it. It can't survive civil war. But since Brougham's supporters would be in those mobs, only a fool would expect him to see things that way.

Wellington drew a breath. Bullying Brougham into submission had been a strategem he hadn't wanted to use. Now it was time for the strategem he really didn't want to use.

"I have a proposition," he said, "that ends the matter without dishonor to Caroline. When next Parliament meets, I should like you to put it forward as though it were your own. Take credit for it, if you wish. I shall merely work to rally the Government and the Tories behind it." What he was about to suggest was, he thought, the sort of ploy Brougham himself might plausibly come up with.[2] Certainly it was nothing he wanted his own name attached to.

"Do you not recall," Wellington continued, "that at the time George and Caroline were joined in holy matrimony — or some sort of matrimony, at least — he was already married?"

Brougham looked a little surprised by this, but nodded. "If you are speaking of Maria Fitzherbert," he said, "that marriage was and is null and void, according to the Act of '72."

"'What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder'," quoted Wellington. "Parliament overstepped its bounds with that act. Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Jewish… a marriage is a marriage.

"Then do you see that there is no need for these proceedings at all? As a victim of bigamy, Caroline's marriage would be annulled at once, with no blame nor opprobrium attached to her. She would be free to marry again, if she chose. As Duchess of Brunswick, a goodly sum would be settled on her, and she would be free to come or go from the kingdom as she pleased." Wellington took a breath. As much as he had come to despise the King, this felt hideously wrong. "As for George of Hanover… as husband to a Catholic he would be required to vacate the throne."

"But not in favor of his daughter," said Brougham. "Very clever, Your Grace — but if you rule the king’s marriage to Caroline null and void, you declare Charlotte Augusta illegitimate and bar her from the throne as surely as if Canning were in truth her father. And from the perspective of the Whigs, King Frederick would be no great improvement over King George." Wellington had had his own disagreements with the Duke of York, but had to admit Frederick was a far better man than his brother… and, of course, even more of a Tory.

"I do have a counterproposal, however," said Brougham. "I propose that Her Majesty bring her own divorce proceedings against the king. You must admit that for her to prove adultery and cruelty on his part would be simplicity itself.

"Of course, we could hardly keep him on as king under the circumstances. We shall have to pension him off as Prince-Viceroy of Bengal or something, name Caroline the Queen Mother, and give the crown and all its attendant powers to the one legitimate heir."

“That girl?”

“That ‘girl’ is a woman now. A lady of twenty-four, with a husband and two children. Elizabeth was only one year older when she took the throne — and that was in a far more perilous age than this. And you have made it abundantly clear that His Majesty is a liability you and the other Conservatives would be willing to part with."

“Not to replace him with a monarch under your control!”

Brougham laughed. “With all due respect, Your Grace,” he said, “if you had spent any great length of time in Her Highness' company, you would not suspect her of being under anyone’s control. She is as stubborn as her father, as forthright and outspoken as her mother, and a good deal cleverer than either.”

"God help us all," said Wellington. "And for all your talk of 'suspicion' that Talleyrand was the source of the lies put forward in that pamphlet, I think you know more than you are telling. Does it trouble you at all that you are in effect conspiring with the French?"

“You might as easily say the King was conspiring with the French,” said Brougham. “It was he who set all this in motion, you know. He had a plan to divorce his wife and live out the days of his reign in the style of one of the more notorious Roman emperors. Seeing this, Caroline devised a plan to retain her crown by placing herself squarely on the side of myself and the other Whigs and enlisting our support.

“Lords Liverpool and Sidmouth in their turn devised a plan to tie Caroline to the Whigs in the public mind, and then to discredit both by painting her as a shameless adulteress. Fouché and Talleyrand had yet another plan — to make use of all these other plans to exacerbate the divisions in Britain until the kingdom was torn apart.

“And now there is my plan — which is to thwart the French plan, preserve the peace and give Britannia a real monarch again… one we can all take pride in, one who is not a disgrace to the kingdom and a walking broadsheet for republicanism.

“Now tell me, Your Grace — what’s your plan?”

[1] This isn't an exact quote, but it's fairly close to what Brougham said to Charlotte. (Her father was trying to marry her to the Prince of Orange, and she didn't like it.)
[2] In fact, it was exactly the sort of ploy Brougham himself did come up with IOTL as a solution to the Caroline affair… but of course the circumstances were different.
Lycaon pictus

Fascinating intrigue and maneuvering. I think Wellington has been rather painted into a corner, although that was a nasty trick he tried, attempting to get Charlotte declared illegitimate. Hopefully things can be calmed down a bit. However having George IV formally declared an adulterer is going to cause rumptions of its own. Plus I'm not sure whether that would force him to quit the throne. However have to see how things develop.