Crown Imperial: An Alt British Monarchy

Louise is lucky George didn't find the letters she hid from his sister--he'd have been even more pissed at her, IMO. I thought he was going to start hitting her when she went into her self-justification defense...

I would feel sorry for her, but she brought it entirely upon herself, IMO...
I hope Leopold and Stockmar are punished in some way for what they did to Albert. Maybe George denies an alliance between him and Leopold or he just backhands Stockmar(unrealistic but I think it would be an awesome scene)


Monthly Donor
ETA for Part Two, Chapter One is tomorrow. Though I can't promise any backhanding of Baron Stockmar XD
Darn. Was Hoping for a good Stockmar slap. Anyway, when Prince Albert gets married, I think he is going to start crying at the alter because he is in a forced marriage to a woman he does not care about. And everyone will think that he is so happy but only stockmar( I think he would be attending) will know why Albert is really crying. Also, I wonder if Albert will accidentally call Januaria”Charlotte” and land in hot water as a result?
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GV: Part Two, Chapter 1: The Two Alexanders


Monthly Donor


King George V
(1827 - 1885)

Part Two
Young King George

Chapter One: The Two Alexanders

With the cheers and adulation of the crowds still ringing in their ears, King George V and Queen Louise made the long journey to Worcestershire where the Dowager Duchess of Clarence was to play hostess to the wider British Royal Family and their invited guests at Witley Court. The Coronation had proven a huge success and had done much to cement the young royal couple in the affections of the British public. The diarist Charles Greville wrote; “The spontaneous outpouring of well-wishes for the King and Queen must have proven as much a surprise to them as to those of us who not so long-ago predicted doom and decline for the monarchy. It is all a far cry from the days of leering lazy princes and their scandals, and the British people seem to have willingly plunged themselves into a glorious collective amnesia where the Crown was always as respected and beloved as it is now. I suspect time may well chip away at the edifice of this newfound zeal for royalism though it is hard to predict what calamity would have to wreak havoc on the Royal Family to induce such a change of heart. Everywhere one goes, one is confronted with syrupy tributes paid to the young King and his beautiful wife and it is said that both inspired much confidence and devotion during the Coronation, which everybody agrees was most impressive”.


Charles Greville, Diarist.

Such sentiments were also being expressed by the British press and on his way to Witley, the King was shown copies of articles which predicted “a new golden age for the British monarchy”. Phipps proudly showed George one article which said the coronation had been “a most wonderful rebuke to republican voices both here and on the continent” but George was less enthused when the same article obsequiously bewailed the absence of the Queen Mother from the proceedings; “who has been taken ill and is expected to withdraw from public life permanently. Many hearts across the country will grieve this departure but none more so than His Majesty who wept upon hearing the news that his devoted mother would not at last see him crowned in the great Abbey at Westminster”. It had been two months since the Dowager Queen had been confined to Kew and nobody at court dare mention her. The King stood by his decision to effectively place his mother under house arrest, but this did not mean he did not feel guilt or that he did not frequently question whether he had gone too far.

The holiday at Witley Court therefore came as a great opportunity to forget recent troubles but also to assert the new order of things. In a marked change from the previous reign, George V’s aunts and uncles found themselves not only restored to favour but were frequently asked to accompany the King and Queen on their travels. Joining the royal couple at Witley that August were Princess Charlotte Louise, Princess Mary (the Dowager Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh), Princess Augusta, Princess Sophia and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children, Prince George, Princess Augusta and Princess Mary Adelaide. Foreign royal guests who had yet to return to their homelands and who had invitations extended to join the Royal Family at Witley included Prince William and Princess Victoria of the Netherlands, Prince William’s brother Prince Alexander, the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg Strelitz and their eldest son the Hereditary Grand Duke Frederick William, the Tsarevich of Russia and his entourage, and Prince Alexander of Prussia.

Indeed, Witley was to be so full that the Dowager Duchess of Clarence was forced to rely on the kindness of neighbouring estates to accommodate the vast number of royal guests and their servants. Whilst most brought only an equerry or private secretary and a ladies’ maid, the Tsarevich of Russia had a vast retinue which included the Chamberlain of his Household, Count Vladimir Ivanovich Tatischev, Adjutant General Nikolai Islenev, the Commander of the 1st Brigade of the 1st Guards Infantry Division which provided the Imperial bodyguard and Count Pavel Ivanovich Medem. The male-only group were attended by 32 domestic servants, most of whom were engaged temporarily for the duration of the Tsarevich’s time in England except for his two valets and his personal barber. So it was that the Dowager Duchess of Clarence requested from her neighbours, the Vernons at Hanbury Hall, to offer their house to the Russian delegation for a fortnight with some of the senior entourage spilling over into the Dower House at Wood Farm in Shrawley.


Hanbury Hall.

Berrow’s Worcester Journal
reported that Witley and the surrounding villages and estates were “a hive of activity with fortunate local residents able to catch many glimpses of the distinguished persons present as they moved from one great house to the next in their carriages”. It was even reported that one lucky publican was fortunate enough to serve the Duke of Cambridge with a pint of ale when he made a brief stop on the way to Hanbury. Indiscrete local traders revealed that Witley’s bills had tripled for the fortnight, and one even boasted that the Tsarevich of Russia had particularly asked for more local cheese to be delivered which he had a great liking for. The shopkeeper enjoyed a brief period of local celebrity even putting a sign in the window to indicate the type of cheese of which His Imperial Highness had apparently been so fond.

The British were suspicious of all things Russian at this time and yet, they could not hide their curiosity. The British press responded to this demand for more information and supplied the public with engravings and accounts of the sort of young man Alexander (known as Sasha) was. However, these reports are often contradictory. More conservative newspapers commented on the Tsarevich's "great style but average intelligence" whilst more liberal newspapers outright branded him as "lazy and self-indulgent, as most Russian Grand Dukes are". But even those closest to the Tsarevich had trouble assessing his character. He showed no interest in politics or in military affairs (to the disappointment of his father) and he flipped between imperious declarations to be expected of a future autocrat and softer, even liberal, concessions to different points of view. In the male dominated Russian court, the Tsarevich was seen as being weak when compared to other Romanov Grand Dukes. They feared he favoured his mother too much and that he might even be tempted to listen to public demands for reform when he came to rule. Considered to be more German Prince than Russian Tsarevich, those who accompanied him on his tour of Europe between 1838 and 1839 could only agree that he showed passion for three things; pretty women, card playing and chain smoking.

Despite the celebratory atmosphere at Witley Court, two subjects were verboten. The King had forbidden any mention of his mother’s departure from court and though it proved a favourite subject of gossip for months both at home and in Europe, nobody at Witley dare raise the matter. The other recent development which should be ignored at the King’s request was the news that Prince Albert had married Princess Januária of Brazil at the Imperial Chapel in Rio de Janeiro. Indeed, in his reply to Princess Victoria’s pre-coronation letter asking if the Dutch couple might bring Prince William’s brother Sasha with them to serve as a distraction to Princess Charlotte Louise, the King made it clear that he “would be most upset if anybody should give Lottie cause for further grief or disappointment where matters of the heart are concerned”. Whilst the King was gentle in his rebuke to his cousin, the Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston would encounter a very different reaction during his last audience at Buckingham Palace before the Royal Family left for Worcestershire.

During the Coronation celebrations, the Tsarevich had been introduced to Princess Charlotte Louise and had immediately written to his father that he found her; “by far the most beautiful Princess I have yet to meet in Europe”. Though their initial meeting had been brief, the Tsarevich was impressed by the King’s sister and Count Medem enthusiastically wrote to the Tsar that there were “great signs of promise”. But Medem had previously only raised the prospect of a Russian match with the Dowager Queen, the Duke of Cambridge and Lord Palmerston. Whilst the Tsar and his wife had agreed that if the Tsarevich showed an interest in the King’s sister whilst in England, they would be only too happy to open negotiations with the British on a possible marriage contract, Medem had yet to gauge the reaction of the King who was the only person who could give the necessary permission needed for formal talks between the British and Russian governments to begin. Princess Charlotte Louise’s feelings did not warrant consideration among those seeking to secure her hand in marriage but were upmost in the King's mind at this time.

Palmerston promised Medem that he would raise the subject with the King when he saw him before the Royal Family and their guests departed for Witley. Medem was to accompany the Tsarevich, and Palmerston assured him that he would arrange an audience between the Count and His Majesty where the two could discuss the Tsar’s feelings towards an Anglo-Russian marriage and the Tsarevich’s apparent interest in the King’s sister. The Foreign Secretary warned Medem that he would have to be tactful. Princess Charlotte Louise was still in a delicate state given her recent romantic disappointment and the King was still prone to outbursts of temper following the dismissal of his mother from court. But Palmerston also had private concerns that a Russian match would prove unpopular with the British public. Russophobia was a fast-growing sentiment among the British establishment, and this was being filtered down to the general population in newspapers which carried horror stories of a tyrant Tsar and his autocratic regime of pampered princes. The Foreign Secretary warned Medem that if he played his hand too strongly, the King was likely to advise the Prime Minister not to consider a Russian proposal at all and if that were to happen, it would undoubtedly result in a diplomatic incident causing further ill-feeling between the British and Russian governments.


Tsarevich Alexander on his tour of Europe.

The Foreign Secretary therefore tried to smooth the way for Medem at Buckingham Palace during an audience with the King. In a roundabout way, Palmerston raised the subject of Prince Albert’s marriage. In doing so, Palmerston wasn’t just keeping his word to Count Medem. Arrangements were currently being made for a conference to be held in London where the Great Powers would finally come to a formal agreement on the recognition of Belgium and its borders. The resulting treaty would see the British open new diplomatic relations with Belgium but there would also need to be a slight redress of Anglo-Dutch relations. King Leopold could no longer be ignored or kept away from Britain, neither could the Dutch be placated that the British had sympathy with their loss of territory. The last thing the British government needed was for personal grievances among the Royal Families of Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium to impede progress.

The King had no intention of allowing such sentiments to interfere with diplomacy. He understood the importance of the London Conference and expressed his view to Palmerston that the Dutch had been unreasonably obstinate since the Belgian Revolution. He blamed the conservatives who advised and rallied around King William I for causing unnecessary tensions in Europe to satisfy those in the Dutch parliament who refused to let go of their pride and accept that Belgium was now a separate country with a new King, constitution and parliament. Though he did not betray his personal feelings to Palmerston, George could also not blame King Leopold for acting as he had in recent months. Indeed, Leopold had been quite reasonable in asking for a clear indication of the British attitude towards his nephew. When no reply came, he was entitled to make other arrangements for Prince Albert, even if those arrangements had caused such hurt and misery to George’s own sister. This was the first indication of the kind of monarch the King would be in later years. He strongly believed that the Crown must come first and that personal attitudes had no place in the way the monarchy operated; though it must be said he did not always act according to this belief.

It must also be said that the King was beginning to display another, less proud-making, trait. With the stresses of his new life, George had come to develop a quick temper. Palmerston discovered this for himself when he raised the subject of future proposals for Princess Charlotte Louise. He revealed that Count Medem had, for some time, been trying to arrange a meeting with the King to discuss the Tsar’s interest in the princess as a future bride for his son, the Tsarevich, but George’s reaction was far from positive. He raged at Palmerston, rebuking him for entertaining any such overtures from the Russians at a time when the Princess was still in a precarious emotional state. “If my sister is to marry at all”, George barked, “It shall be at her request, when the time is right and when she is sure with her whole heart as before”. The King expressly refused to meet Count Medem at Witley and forbad Palmerston from meeting privately with Medem again on the subject.

But Count Medem was not to be deterred. After all, his master was the Tsar of Russia and he had given his word that if the Tsarevich showed an interest in Princess Charlotte Louise, Medem would encourage it. Against Palmerston’s advice, Medem arranged for the Tsarevich to host a garden party at Hanbury during the two weeks visit to Worcestershire on the pretext of a congratulatory gesture from the Tsar (represented by his son) to the King on his recent coronation. Princess Victoria was delighted to accept an invitation as she too was ignoring the King’s wishes and saw the party as a perfect opportunity to push her brother-in-law, Prince Alexander, towards her cousin Princess Charlotte Louise. These manoeuvres did not go unnoticed. When Princess Sophia suggested that both young men had possibilities, her sister Augusta replied, “Nonsense dear. One is an invalid and the other might as well be a Catholic”.


Alexander of the Netherlands.

The Princess was perhaps being a little ungenerous to Prince Alexander of the Netherlands. Born in 1818, Sasha developed into a bright and energetic young man who inherited his father’s easy-going nature but often clashed with his elder brother’s more conservative views. It quickly became apparent to those at the Dutch court that the Prince and Princess of Orange favoured Sasha over their eldest son and there was a suggestion that the future King William II remarked on several occasions that Sasha would by far have made the better successor than his older brother. He was less serious than William (though by no means less intelligent, indeed, the opposite was true) and was known for his sense of humour, once appearing at a costume ball in The Hague dressed from head to toe in a suit of armour.

In the winter of 1836, the Dutch Royal Family narrowly avoided tragedy when the 18-year-old Sasha suffered a serious accident. Whilst returning from Leiden with his elder brother during a terrible storm, the brothers abandoned their carriage and decided to proceed on foot to The Hague. Suddenly, a tree fell in their direction. William avoided injury but Sasha was pulled down in the mud and trapped underneath some heavy branches. Prince William called for help as those in the vicinity rushed to help dig the Prince out of the debris but by the time they got to Sasha, he was badly injured and unconscious. Though he survived, the accident had long lasting effects. Sasha would forever suffer from lung issues thereafter, presumably because his chest had been crushed in some way that had not fully healed or been properly treated in the chaos of the initial accident. Court gossip now had it that the Prince had contracted consumption and though he lost none of his enthusiasm for life, his avoidance of anything too energetic seem to confirm the rumours that Sasha was permanently disabled in some way.

In taking Sasha to England, Victoria had set tongues wagging on both sides of the water. The British Royal Family were not so naïve as to believe that Prince Alexander had accompanied his brother and sister-in-law to the Coronation by accident. He had once visited England before, possibly as an alternative suitor for Victoria if she did not take to his elder brother, and during that visit he had been widely complimented on his good manners and friendly nature. It could not be denied that he would make a good match for Princess Charlotte Louise, though only the Dowager Duchess of Clarence seemed to guess that Victoria had her own happiness in mind rather than that of her cousin. But in The Hague, the Prince and Princess of Orange were aware too that Princess Charlotte Louise had recently been confirmed as back in the marriage market now that Prince Albert was married. Yet William and Anna were not enthused. The Dutch King had warned his son privately that he would not consider a second English marriage and the Princess of Orange had her own reasons to object to Sasha going with his brother to Britain for the coronation festivities.

Her first misgiving was that Sasha’s presence in England at the same time as the Tsarevich would upset her brother the Tsar. Princess Anna knew only too well of the Russian interest in Princess Charlotte Louise and was also well aware that the Tsar was receiving daily reports on his son’s progress throughout Europe. If Count Medem mentioned that the Dutch had dispatched Prince Alexander to England and that Princess Victoria was pushing her brother-in-law toward the King’s sister, the Tsar would be extremely offended. But her second objection was borne of rumours at the Dutch court which had begun to surround the relationship between Prince William, his wife and his brother. It was no secret that the marriage of Prince William and Princess Victoria had not got off to the best start. Princess Anna had her own concerns that the couple had proved to be very poorly matched and reports from Princess Victoria’s ladies in waiting that the pair had yet to consummate their marriage gave for very grim reading. With King William I’s health in serious decline, it was likely that William and Victoria would find themselves Prince and Princess of Orange at any moment and Princess Anna was worried that the added pressure would lead to a complete collapse of the marriage of her eldest son and his English princess.


Princess Victoria.

But there were other troubling factors too. A rumour had reached the Princess of Orange that there was talk in the Dutch court that in the absence of any real affection from her husband, Princess Victoria had become closer to her brother-in-law. Sasha spent much of his time at Soestdijk, and more than one courtier had remarked how much better it might have been had Victoria married Sasha instead of William. There were even rumours that Victoria was in love with Sasha and not her husband. William’s parents knew that had already taken a mistress and though it was unthinkable that Sasha would ever approach his brother’s wife in such a way, that had not stopped the gossip mongers exploiting the situation for their own amusement. The Princess of Orange wished to put distance between Victoria and Sasha as a matter of urgency and his accompanying William and Victoria to England was the last thing Princess Anna had in mind.

Meanwhile, Princess Charlotte Louise was much improved. In contrast to the start of the year, her melancholy had lifted and whilst she would never truly be recovered from her disappointment, she was at least resigned to recent events. King George had been right to hide the truth of their mother’s role in the drama of the past year and though nobody mentioned Prince Albert’s marriage, she quietly commented to Lady Anson on the 8th of August; “I suppose they are now married?”. It had been almost 9 months since she had discovered that Albert was engaged to another, and their romance was at an end. But despite all that had happened, the 17 years old Princess showed that as intelligent as she might be, she could often be somewhat unsophisticated when it came to the opposite sex. When Lady Anson commented that the Tsarevich was being very attentive towards the Princess, Charlotte Louise replied, “Oh Anna, you are silly!”

Nonetheless, Princess Charlotte Louise could not help but be struck by the Tsarevich when she first met him, neither could she ignore the fact that almost every woman at court was talking about him. Tall and slender with a fair complexion, his eyes were bright blue and his hair a kind of sandy blonde. He was immaculately dressed, extremely well groomed and considered by far the most handsome foreign visitor there had been to the court since the days of the ill-fated ‘Fawn of Rumpenheim’. He spoke good English, but his accent gave him a mysterious air which coupled with his affable and confidant nature made him a figure of great curiosity. Whilst primarily interested the King’s sister, the Tsarevich was careful not to make the thing too obvious and when the Duke of Cambridge suggested he might like to dance with the Princess, the Tsarevich replied; “If she shall forgive me, I should like to dance first with her charming aunt. The Duchess of Cambridge is still the beauty my father spoke of”. The Duchess was delighted. Princess Charlotte Louise was intrigued but nowhere near smitten.


Hereditary Grand Duke Frederick William.

As the fortnight’s holiday at Witley came to an end, the various royal guests made their preparations to leave for home. Princess Victoria begged her husband to allow them to reschedule their return to The Hague, but William was strict in his refusal. Victoria sulked all the way to Harwich, weeping and wailing in her carriage that she did not see how a few weeks more in England could possibly make any difference. Queen Louise was in a much happier mood. She was now to return to London to begin her confinement at Buckingham Palace, having decided that she wished her first child to be born there. Her parents would remain in England until the birth, though her brother sadly had to return to Neustrelitz to deputise for their father. Shortly before his departure, Hereditary Grand Duke Frederick William asked the Duke of Cambridge permission to write to his eldest daughter, Princess Augusta. The Duke was taken aback but agreed, nonetheless.

The Tsarevich had much the same idea and asked the King if he had any objection to a similar correspondence taking place between the Russian heir and Princess Charlotte Louise. The King, somewhat rudely, shrugged his shoulders and said, “I suppose not but only if you absolutely must” before wandering away. Princess Charlotte Louise thanked the Tsarevich for being so attentive to her and he kissed her hand before promising he would write to her. At this time, such a display would have been regarded as a formal expression of romantic interest. If the Princess wished to refuse the Tsarevich’s overtures, she had only one option; to thank him for his kindness but politely say that she was not very adept at writing letters. The hopeful young man might still write, but if no reply came then he was honour bound to desist and find another girl who was more receptive to his charms elsewhere.

But again, the Princess was still a little naïve in such matters and so she did not entirely refuse the Tsarevich’s offer to begin a correspondence outright. Instead, she replied; “I should very much like to hear more about your country, though Aunt Adelaide always scolds me for not replying very efficiently to her letters so I hope you will not be too disappointed if I am tardy”. This was as flirtatious as a royal princess could hope to be (at least in a public setting) in the early 19th century, thought it must be said that this may not have been the Princess' intention. She had not rejected the Tsarevich’s interest, but she had not encouraged it either, perhaps because she was genuinely interested in learning more about Russia or perhaps because she was cheered by the fact that a handsome and charming young man was taking an interest in her when just weeks before she was determined she should die a lonely old maid.

Overhearing this conversation, the Dowager Duchess of Clarence took her niece to one side, out of earshot of the beaming Tsarevich.

“What a thing to say!”, she admonished the Princess quietly, though only in jest, “I have never scolded you so!”

Adelaide winked. She was happy to see that her niece was recovering so well. The Princess laughed. For the first time since Albert’s departure from England so long ago, she felt her old sense of self returning. Her confidence had been dented but not destroyed.

“You are feeling better, aren’t you?”, the Dowager Duchess observed with a smile. She kissed her niece tenderly on the cheek, “And I am very glad for it. I shall miss you all when I am so far away”.

Adelaide’s health had recovered somewhat following her near fatal illness whilst in Meiningen in the spring of 1837 but she was still quite frail and had been advised by Dr Alison that a change of climate was essential if she was to stand a chance of regaining her strength. Following his orders, the Dowager Duchess of Clarence had taken a villa on Malta for three months and in October would depart England aboard the HMS Hastings with a brief stop at Gibraltar en route. With a twinkle in her eye and a sudden bounce in her step, Adelaide’s niece hugged her aunt warmly.

“Then you shan’t have to miss us!”, she cried happily, “We shall come with you! To Malta!”

The Dowager Duchess waved the idea away until she realised that her niece was perfectly serious. She agreed that Princess Charlotte Louise and Lady Anson could go to Malta with her on two conditions; firstly, that the King give his permission and secondly, that the young ladies explored the island and did not feel duty bound to stay by her side for the duration of their stay.

Princess Charlotte Louise immediately relayed the idea to her brother who felt a surge of relief. For the first time in many months, his sister was happy and seemed to have rediscovered her enthusiasm for life. It was a far cry from the worst days of her disappointment at Windsor and the King happily agreed that his sister should accompany their aunt to Malta. But he also had an ulterior motive. If the Tsarevich was to pursue the Princess, the King wished to delay his interest until he was certain that such a romance would not set his sister’s recovery back. He would not stoop so low as his mother had; indeed, the King would always support Princess Charlotte Louise as much as he could. Yet his concern that the Princess might be hurt once more was perhaps only a secondary concern. He feared losing her too.
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Monthly Donor
And for those keeping track of such things...

The Second Melbourne Ministry (1838 - 1839)
  • First Lord of the Treasury and Leader of the House of Lords: William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne
  • Chancellor of the Exchequer: Thomas Spring Rice (replacing John Ponsonby, 4th Earl of Bessborough)
  • Leader of the House of Commons: Lord John Russell (replacing 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: Constantine Phipps, 1st Marquess of Normanby (replacing Lord John Russell)
  • Secretary of State for War and the Colonies: Lord John Russell
  • Lord Chancellor: Charles Pepys, 1st Earl of Cottenham
  • Lord President of the Council: Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne (replacing John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham)**
  • Lord Privy Seal: George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon (replacing George Howard, 6th Earl of Carlisle)
  • First Lord of the Admiralty: Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, 2nd Earl of Minto (replacing 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
*Lord John Russell has been replaced at the Home Office by the Marquess of Normanby and instead, he now holds the office of Leader of the House of Commons and SoS for War and the Colonies. This will be explored in the next instalment.

**In 1838, Lord Durham was appointed Governor General and High Commissioner for British North America charged with finding a solution to the Rebellions of 1837 in Upper and Lower Canada. Again, we'll look at this in a little more detail in the next instalment.
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Lots of manoeuvring for a hand that might want to be taken there. I feel Princess Charlotte Louise will marry when and whom she wants to as her brother, the King will always back her up.

Though I can also see a Holland marriage to Alexander as part of the wider game of Diplomacy going on re: Belgium.

Nice that Whitley Court is getting such high level visitors - long may it continue.

Not many non-Lords in that Cabinet are there....

Good to read this again, thank you @Opo


Monthly Donor
Lots of manoeuvring for a hand that might want to be taken there. I feel Princess Charlotte Louise will marry when and whom she wants to as her brother, the King will always back her up.

Though I can also see a Holland marriage to Alexander as part of the wider game of Diplomacy going on re: Belgium.

Nice that Whitley Court is getting such high level visitors - long may it continue.

Not many non-Lords in that Cabinet are there....

Good to read this again, thank you @Opo
Thank you for reading!
GV: Part Two, Chapter 2: A Princess is Born


Monthly Donor
King George V

Part Two, Chapter Two: A Princess is Born

TW: This instalment contains references to antisemitism and to difficulties during childbirth. Please bear this mind when reading ahead.

Upon their return the London, the King and Queen experienced separation for the first time since the King attended the Royal Military College though fortunately they at least remained in the same building. Confinement was a serious business and was governed by strict social norms. The King was permitted to see his wife for an hour a day until she was safely delivered and even then, he was often busied out of the room by nurses and midwives who fussed around his wife who grew increasingly bored. However, Louise at least had the joy of spending these last weeks of her pregnancy with her mother, the Grand Duchess Marie. Marie could barely hide the fact that Louise was her favourite child, neither could she conceal her worries about her daughter giving birth for the first time. Dr Alison reassured the Grand Duchess that the Queen was in perfect health and that an excess of fatigue and physical discomfort was to be expected in a first-time pregnancy. The Queen trusted Alison implicitly and asked him to engage an obstetrician to oversee the delivery of her baby.

Alison recommended Charles Locock who operated the largest obstetrical practice in London, but this raised eyebrows among some older courtiers who considered Locock to be far too “fashionable”. Having delivered most of the future peers of the realm from his Belgravia practice, it was deemed somewhat gauche by those who cared more for doctors who had previous first-hand experience of royal pregnancies. Queen Louise however would not be deterred, and she insisted that Locock be appointed Obstetrician to the Queen. Locock and Alison worked well together, despite the constant fretting of Grand Duchess Marie. By comparison, her daughter was sanguine about events to come. Deeply religious, she invited the royal chaplains to pray with her twice a day and she was delighted by the vast number of prayer cards which flooded in from well-wishers across the country. But one gift would begin a friendship which was somewhat controversial yet gives insight into the Queen’s attitudes to religion and prejudice.


Michael Solomon Wolff Alexander, Bishop of Jerusalem.

Michael Alexander was a Professor of Hebrew Studies at King’s College, London. His ancestors were Jews from Prussia and from an early age, Alexander (then Wolff) was educated in the Talmud with the expectation that he would become a Rabbi. In 1820, he emigrated to England to serve as a private tutor for prominent Jewish families whilst he completed his rabbinical training. It was whilst serving as a Rabbi in Norwich that Wolff met William Marsh from the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews. Initially reluctant to engage with this group, Alexander took the opportunity to relocate to Plymouth where he became a shochet but to supplement his income, he offered lessons in Hebrew in the surrounding area. He was quickly engaged by the Reverend Benjamin Golding, a former Jewish doctor who had converted to Anglicanism and had been ordained. Golding encouraged Wolff to follow in his footsteps and by 1825, Wolff had converted and changed his surname to Alexander. He then pursued Holy Orders, quickly gaining a reputation as an eminent teacher and skilled orator.

Alexander and his wife Deborah might have expected to enjoy the benefits of their social rank to which they would otherwise be due. He was well respected as a scholar and professor, and he was renowned for being the first to translate the English Book of Common Prayer into Hebrew. He counted many Bishops and other senior clergy among his friends, not to mention many peers who engaged him as a private tutor for their children. Yet Alexander could never escape the fact that he was born a Jew and in London’s high society, this meant he could not expect to be invited into fashionable drawing rooms as his contemporaries might be. Antisemitism among the upper classes was rife and even in parliament among those who favoured a more ecumenical approach and had campaigned for Catholic Emancipation, the same sentiment did not extend towards emancipation for British Jews. This had less to do with religious differences and was borne instead of a vicious suspicion that Jewish people were keen to ingratiate themselves with the aristocracy for financial gain. With this view being widespread even among the middle classes (where Jews were more likely to be placed in the social strata), it often proved impossible for Jewish professionals to be shown the same courtesies or kindnesses as their Christian counterparts, even if they converted to Anglicanism (as a small minority did).

Whilst it was true that antisemitism was institutionalised in England, it was perhaps not so aggressive as in Germany. Yet there were anomalies. The Mecklenburg Jewry had suffered greatly throughout the centuries with despicably unjust restrictions placed upon their living standards and opportunities for employment. And then there was the frequent threat of violence and terror. In 1492, 26 Jews were burned on a hill near the city of Sternberg with the rest banished from the land. Mecklenburg was denounced by prominent rabbis of the time as “cruel Mecklenburg” and it wasn’t until the 2nd half of the 17th century that Jewish citizens felt able to return. This was not so in the Mecklenburg of Queen Louise’s childhood. Her grandfather had become the first to call for Jewish emancipation and had approved a constitution in 1813 which declared that his Jewish subjects, their wives and children, were in fact citizens of Mecklenburg. This law was suspended at the close of the Napoleonic Wars, something which infuriated Louise’s father, Grand Duke George. As far as he was concerned, the Jews of Mecklenburg had enthusiastically volunteered for military service during the crisis and as a result, pushed for the law to be reintroduced and for further steps towards Jewish emancipation to be pursued when he came to the throne in 1816. Socially, Jewish citizens still faced discrimination but legally, they enjoyed rights not shared in other German duchies, principalities or kingdoms.


Grand Duke George of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

During her confinement, Queen Louise received a gift from Michael Alexander. He sent her a box containing dried rushes taken from the banks of the River Jordan from the supposed site of Jesus’ baptism by St John the Baptist as well as a bottle of river water. Since the Christening of King George III, water from the River Jordan had been used to baptise royal babies and Alexander presented the gift with a letter which expressed his best wishes for the Queen’s pregnancy and hoped that she would consider using the river water to baptise her child. Queen Louise was absolutely delighted with the gift and immediately sent a letter of thanks to Alexander, inviting him to call upon her when her confinement was at an end so that he might see the royal baby and that she might thank him in person. Her kind gesture was met with derision in some quarters of the court. Even the Duchess of Sutherland tried to advise the Queen against receiving Alexander, whispering; “But Your Majesty, he is a Jew”. Queen Louise was furious and for the first and only time in their friendship, she admonished the Mistress of the Robes; “He is a kind and decent man, and he should have your respect”, she chided.

This would mark the beginning of a friendship between the Alexanders and the King and Queen. But some in parliament were less shy about voicing their objections. Henry Farmer, a Unionist MP, criticised what he called “the introduction of emancipation of the British Jewry by royal invitation” and others added equally odious expressions of antisemitism during a debate called by the Unionists in the House of Commons condemning Lord Palmerston’s recent decision to establish a Vice Consulate in Jerusalem. Outside of parliament, London society was abuzz with gossip. The Queen had taken a Jewish couple as friends which almost every grand household in Westminster considered most unsuitable. The Duke of Leeds remarked that he would never welcome a Jew into his home before being corrected by his wife that the Alexanders were not Jews but Anglicans. Those who came into contact with the Alexanders at court and who wished to keep the favour of the Queen chose to take this view so as to avoid exposing their prejudices, yet if the Queen did hear such talk, she was always the first to rebuke those responsible.

Following his ordination as Bishop of Jerusalem in 1842, Alexander wrote, “This honour should not have been possible were it not for the kindness and shining example of Christian generosity, tolerance and love of Her Majesty the Queen. She is in all ways a living rule that the words of Christ are not reserved for those we deem our social equals or for those we find easy to love because we share similarities. Rather, Her Majesty loves as Christ taught us to love; across social divides, across religious barriers and in spite of the prejudice of others”. Alexander owed a great deal to the Queen personally. Despite Lord Palmerston’s reluctance, it was she who recommended Alexander become the first Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem when British and Prussian protestants established an Anglican diocese in the Palestinian capital which the Foreign Secretary deemed a step too far.

Whilst the Queen tried to bear the boredom of her confinement, the King’s attention was diverted to a brewing disagreement between two stalwarts of the Cabinet. Lord Melbourne could hardly ignore his political woes following the general election and when he felt able, he embarked on a reshuffle. Most of the changes were to be expected as the incumbents had expressed a desire to retire or had indicated a preference for a change of portfolio. But Lord John Russell had been surprised to find himself removed from the Home Office and instead, placed at the Department for War and the Colonies. Melbourne was well aware that this would displease the Russell Group who were bound to see the move as a demotion. For good measure, Melbourne had therefore appointed Russell as Leader of the House of Commons into the bargain. This would give Russell far more influence in the Commons but his supporters did not immediately see it that way. As far as they were concerned, Melbourne had moved Russell because he feared a challenge.


Lord Melbourne.

The Cabinet was mostly made up of pro-Melbourne peers, something Russell disliked and which he felt had been deliberately designed to force him to offer his resignation when the inevitable clash on policy occurred. But Melbourne had overlooked the growing support on the Whig benches that existed for Russell. Many Whigs now feared being ousted from government in the coming years and unless Melbourne would agree to a radical programme of reform, they were inclined to demand his resignation as Prime Minister. Melbourne however did not appreciate that there was any real threat of removal. He did not consider the 1838 General Election to have been the disaster his colleagues felt it had been and believed that the British public had given their approval for his slow and steady programme of measured reforms. He cited bills which had transformed the state’s relationship with education and the church as evidence that he shared the zeal of his colleagues for change but this was not enough to convince those sympathetic or supportive to Lord John Russell that Melbourne was the right man to continue occupying Downing Street.

Similar discussions were taking place on the Tory benches. With Robert Peel now considered a flop having been unable to fight back the Unionist threat, the Tories found themselves in chaos. Whilst some favoured a lurch to the right led by a reliable figure from past glory days such as Lord Melville or Lord Bathurst (son of the former Lord President of the Council), others saw a need to pursue a Peelite course but with a new voice to espouse its virtues. They grouped around Lord Aberdeen or Sir James Graham. Aberdeen was lauded for his diplomatic successes of the past which most notably included organizing the coalition against Napoleon in 1812 but even those who admired him had to agree that he was a poor speaker and was somewhat dour and awkward. On the other hand, Sir James Graham was a brilliant speaker, expertly polished and based in Peelite principles but he tended to pomposity and his speeches were often so long that his audiences quickly lost interest. He also wished to be a great statesman and in his own words, he embarked on a “devious career” to ensure he would be remembered as such. Both Graham and Aberdeen were unacceptable to the right of the Tory party who pushed strongly for Lord Melville. There was a risk of the Tories splitting again as a result of these (often highly charged) debates but none threatened the stability of the government as the growing rift between Lord Melbourne and Lord John Russell did.

The catalyst for a great clash between the two men came in the latter half of 1838 and concerned British foreign policy in regard to Afghanistan. Lord Palmerston had become increasingly concerned that Afghanistan and the Sindh was becoming unstable and in 1837, he began to rattle his sabre in Cabinet that the Russian Tsar might well consider Afghanistan an easy conquest. If the Russians took Afghanistan in the so-called “Great Game”, they would have an open path to taking British India which would lead to a war between Britain and Russia in which they might find they had few European allies. By 1838, it had become clear to the Prime Minister that the Tsar had no such intentions towards British India and Palmerston had to find another reason to justify his calls for action in Afghanistan. Palmerston gave a dinner party for Lord Melbourne after which he presented a new (and more accurate) version of events.

Palmerston wished to enter negotiations with Dost Mohammed Khan, the Ruler of Afghanistan, and the Qajar Ruler of Persia to form an alliance against Russia. Melbourne had approved of this whereas Russell had regarded it as “the unnecessary provocation of the Russian bear”. But at this time, Lord John was still at the Home Office and Melbourne was free to register his concerns but ignore them. Palmerston had carved out such a successful role for himself at the Foreign Office that the slightly disinterested Lord Melbourne always allowed Palmerston to dictate policy for both the Foreign Office and the Department for War and the Colonies. That was until the talks in Afghanistan collapsed and Lord John Russell was moved from the Home Office. Some historians suggest that Melbourne did this to tame Palmerston as a potential successor, others suggest it was to force a clash between the Prime Minister and Lord John which would lead to the latter’s resignation. Whatever Melbourne’s motivation, when the issue of Afghanistan was raised again, it set the two on a collision course.


Lord John Russell.

Dost Mohammed Khan and the Persian Shah had entered negotiations of their own and had formed an alliance to extinguish Sikh rule in Punjab. If this was allowed to happen, Palmerston feared an invading Islamic army surging into British India with the princely states taking up arms in rebellion. Palmerston felt that the cost of such an eventuality would be the Empire itself and he proposed to join the East India Company in playing up the threat of Russian aggression to force Afghanistan’s rulers to abandon their new alliance. In Palmerston’s view, the British should invade Afghanistan on a prextext of aiding the deposed leader, Shuja Shah Durrani and restore him to the throne. Using troops stationed in India, 8,000 British soldiers would take Kabul and force regime change which would put Afghanistan’s focus on Britain and not Russia. Palmerston believed the campaign would be quick and decisive, citing the fact that the Emirate of Aghanistan had no organised army and instead relied on tribal chiefs contributing fighting men who were poorly trained and had precious little equipment. Melbourne gave Palmerston his full support and promised to raise the matter with the King to ask his permission to commit troops to what would become the First Anglo-Afghan War.

The following morning, with the King’s agreement, Lord Russell attended cabinet to hear what had been decided in relation to Afghanistan. He was furious. Whilst he agreed in principle with the Afghan plan as put forward by Palmerston, he had concerns about the aftermath of the campaign, not to mention the cost. But what really fired his opposition was that he had not been included in the discussions on the British response to the situation. He pointed out that it had been he who had stood alone in voicing opposition to Palmerston’s disastrous attempt to enter into an alliance with Dost Mohammed Khan and the Qajars and though he could see the necessity of military action, was there any guarantee that Shah Shuja would be able to hold onto his throne once it was restored to him?

Equally, what was to stop the Shah of Persia giving exile to Dost Mohammed Khan who might in turn negotiate an alliance with Tsar Nicholas thus leading to the very Anglo-Russian crisis Melbourne seemingly wished to avoid? After all, the Qajars had already been given Russian support for the Siege of Herat, their unsuccessful attack on the Afghan city the previous November. Palmerston corrected Russell. Whilst the Russians had initially supported the Qajars, they had withdrawn support as soon as Royal Navy warships had arrived in the Persian Gulf and the Tsar had been forced to recall his ambassadors in Afghanistan and Persia and publicly condemn them for exceeding their authority (even though they only acted on the Tsar’s orders). Count Vitkevich was instructed to commit suicide as reparation for his mistakes. In Palmerston’s view, the Russians would not make the same mistake twice and risk humiliation a second time.

Melbourne favoured Palmerston's policy and committed British troops to action in Afghanistan. The King had his own concerns, fearing those outspoken critics of the move such as the Duke of Wellington and Lord Aberdeen were right in their assertion that Palmerston was underestimating the Afghan forces and that the aftermath would most likely lead to chaos which the British would be unable to contain. “It is stupid”, Wellington declared in the House of Lords, “for us to try and assert authority through a hasty and ill-conceived campaign fought in a land of rocks, sands, deserts, ice and snow”. Russell privately agreed and took his concerns directly to Melbourne. He was still sour at not being included in the initial discussions on Afghanistan and when Melbourne tried to dismiss his concerns as being entirely personal, Russell stormed out of Downing Street and demanded an audience be arranged with His Majesty.

The King was sympathetic to Russell. He considered it bad form that Palmerston was effectively in charge of all foreign policy, even when military action was clearly Russell’s responsibility. But George was in a difficult position. Whilst he agreed with Russell that the Afghan campaign raised serious questions about what might come next, and whilst he too feared that the “Great Army of the Indus” may face a much tougher battle than Palmerston predicted, the King was also duty bound to accept the advice of the Prime Minister over members of his Cabinet. Melbourne was in favour of the intervention; thus, the Crown must be seen to take that as the collective view of the Cabinet, regardless of whether it was or not. Lord Russell left the Palace and attended a meeting with senior members of the Russell Group to decide what his next move should be.

TW: The following contains references to a difficult childbirth. Please read on with this in mind. For those who don't wish to read on, the salient point is that Princess Marie Louise is born half-deaf as a result of complications during her birth.

In the midst of trying to calm both sides, the King was reading reports from Lord Melbourne at Buckingham Palace at midnight on the 10th of November 1838 when the Duchess of Sutherland sent urgent word with a page that the Queen was in labour. The King raced to the Queen’s Bedchamber where he waited outside until Drs Lacock and Alison appeared. Though the King and the Duchess of Sutherland were tight with nerves, Dr Alison placed a hand on the King’s shoulder and smiled; “Her Majesty is doing very well indeed Sir”, he reassured George, “You’ll be a father soon enough”.

The Queen’s parents sat with the King, desperate for the sound of a cry and for Dr Locock to confirm that all was well with mother and child. Inside the room, the birth progressed well until the last few moments. As the baby was delivered, Locock saw that the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby's neck. He acted quickly, severing the cord and rushing the baby behind a screen where he wrapped the little girl in a towel and began furiously rubbing her back and chest. After what seemed an eternity for those present, the baby let out a shrill cry. Locock presented the baby to the Queen; “You have a daughter Your Majesty. A very fine and healthy one at that”.

Alison took Locock behind the screen. He knew all had not been as seamless as Locock was suggesting. Locock explained that the baby had been deprived of oxygen but he could not say how long for. She would need round the clock care and intensive monitoring in the first 48 hours of her life. Dr Alison swore Locock to secrecy. He wished to cause no distress to the Queen and instead, opened the door of the bedroom to allow the proud father and grandparents in to see the new Princess. King George wept tears of joy as he held his daughter for the first time. As the eager grandmother seized charge of the baby, Alison led the King and Grand Duke George back into the corridor. He explained that the birth had not been without its complications and that the baby must receive additional care in the next two days to see if there had been any lasting damage caused. Alison insisted that the news be kept from the Queen. Any post-natal stress could be extremely dangerous and the King, reluctantly, agreed that his wife should not be told the full extent of the situation. Grand Duke George reassured his son-in-law that he was certain no lasting damage had been caused. They returned to the room with smiles affixed, the King mopping his wife’s brow and kissing her gently.

The baby born at 01.24am on the 11th of November 1838 at Buckingham Palace was named Princess Marie Louise Augusta Charlotte, Marie for her maternal grandmother and Louise for her mother, Augusta for her two great aunts and Charlotte for her late great-grandmother. But within the family, the little Princess was forever to be known as Missy. This came as a great relief to Princess Augusta who felt the choice of name “far too continental” because “it has French overtones”. She was reassured that if the Queen had no sons and if the baby girl succeeded her father, she would reign as Queen Mary III and not as Queen Marie Louise. Princess Augusta thought that “very fine indeed”. The Royal Family were delighted with the new arrival and an announcement was quickly made to the public that the United Kingdom had a new heir. Mother and baby were in the very best of health and the customary commemorations marking a new royal birth were put into full force with gun salutes and the ringing of church bells.


A watercolour of Princess Marie Louise, the Princess Royal. It is believed to have been painted by her mother, Queen Louise, in 1841.

Though it would not become apparent until some time later, as a result of her difficult birth, Missy would be permanently and completely deaf in one ear with very little hearing left in the other. When it became known that their daughter struggled with her hearing, the King insisted that she be treated no differently when in the company of her siblings as he did not wish her to feel excluded or inferior in any way. Nonetheless, the King frequently engaged doctors and specialists who hoped to improve Missy’s hearing until she was in her late teens. The King worried that what little hearing his daughter had left may disappear altogether and he swore to it that this should not hinder her future happiness or prospects.

It was on the first wedding anniversary of the King and Queen, Christmas Eve 1838, that Princess Marie Louise was christened at the Chapel Royal of St James' Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was assisted by the Rev. Michael Alexander at the Queen's request, the Archbishop using the Holy Water gifted to the Queen by Alexander during her confinement and which had come from the River Jordan. Missy's godparents were the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Prince William of the Netherlands (for whom Prince George of Cambridge stood proxy) and the Duke of Wellington, Grand Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Princess Augusta of the United Kingdom and Duchess Caroline of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the Queen’s sister, for whom the Queen herself stood proxy. On the same day, the Princess was created Princess Royal, just as the King had been created Prince of Wales at his own christening.

It had been over a month since his daughter’s birth and there were no obvious signs of any difficulties caused during her birth. The King was delighted to be reassured by Alison and Lacock that all was well and to show his gratitude, both were created Knights Commander of the Order of the Bath. Lacock was also paid £50 in addition to his £60 fee. The King and Queen were immediately devoted to Missy and as the Queen recovered from her pregnancy, she apologised to her husband that their first child had not been a son.

“I know people will say that”, she sighed, “But I hope you are not disappointed Georgie”

The King took the Queen’s hand and kissed her forehead.

“You have given me the greatest gift possible”, he said sweetly, “I am a father, you are a mother and with our darling child we shall be the happiest family”.


Two instalments today as I have been busy putting these together over the weekend but needed to do some more research before they were ready for publication.

For information about antisemitism in the UK and Germany, I've used the Jewish Encyclopaedia. For the pertinent article on Strelitz, you can visit their website here: I also used this article from the NLI:|txTI--------------1

I'd like to stress that I've tried to make it apparent in the relevant paragraphs that I find historic antisemitism to be just as odious as contemporary antisemitism but at the same time, I can't pretend this was not the prevailing attitude of the 1830s. There are several occasions in the reign of Queen Victoria and King Edward VII in the OTL where both invited more prominent Jewish figures in society to court, though it was Edward VII who first appointed an openly Jewish person to his Household and frequently berated those who held racial prejudices.

I wished to include the Alexanders here because I felt it would give a wider overview of what society was like in general where religion was concerned. I think we tend to focus on Catholic emancipation as the only form of religious prejudice in the early 19th century (which featured heavily in Part One), but I wanted to show this was far from true. I hope nobody feels including this to be gratuitous in any way. This plot point serves to show Queen Louise's character and to reflect historically accurate views which will later be challenged by existing characters in our TL.

In a similar vein, as with the death of Prince Edward in Part One, I've included a trigger warning on the difficulties experienced during Princess Marie Louise's birth. Again, this is not intended to be gratuitous, rather it serves to remind us that childbirth was often dangerous (especially for first time mothers) in the 1830s and 40s and opens up an opportunity for us to look at how disabilities were treated in Europe both by the medical profession but also by Royal Families who were divided on whether such physical health problems should be considered a disadvantage to future prospects.

I hope everyone understands why I include themes like this in my TLs; it's to give as wide a view of society as possible through the experiences of the Royal Family, their courtiers and subjects rather than pretend all was rosy in the garden.

Thankyou for reading!
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Congratulations King George and Queen Louise! Good health and long life to Princess Missy.

Melbourne and Palmestone are on the wrong track with this foreign policy - I actually want Russel to challenge Melbourne now just to stop the madness and death an Afghanistan invasion will cause.

I like Bishop Alexander, he seems a thoughtful man.

Be nice if this Royal Family employed some Jews along with representatives from all over the Empire.
Ooh, if Missy is mostly deaf, that means she might struggle to learn to speak as well. That could make for some interesting family dynamics...
One hopes that if we can't save the army from Afghanistan, we can at least save it from Elphy Bey...

Excellent work, as always!


Monthly Donor
Ooh, if Missy is mostly deaf, that means she might struggle to learn to speak as well. That could make for some interesting family dynamics...
This will absolutely be a theme in Missy's life, well spotted!
One hopes that if we can't save the army from Afghanistan, we can at least save it from Elphy Bey...

Excellent work, as always!
Thankyou so much! Afghanistan may certainly prove to be Melbourne's Waterloo...
Thanks for the latest installments!
You're so welcome and thankyou for reading!
GV: Part Two, Chapter 3: Russell's Gamble


Monthly Donor
King George V

Part Two, Chapter Three: Russell’s Gamble

The New Year of 1839 was celebrated with additional excess at Buckingham Palace. The birth of Princess Marie Louise had not only brought great personal joy to the King and Queen, but the British people too had combined their usual Christmas celebrations with a spontaneous (and surprising) outpouring of festivities to celebrate the birth of the Princess Royal. All over England, churches bent to public demand for thanksgiving services for the safe delivery of the King’s daughter and in Norwich, the Lord Mayor proudly boasted that his city would be the first to formally honour the Princess by renaming Gentleman’s Walk Princess Royal Road. These celebrations perhaps confirm the rise of what diarist Charles Greville referred to as “the new royalism”. So popular were the King and Queen (and their new daughter) that the London Times introduced a royalty supplement which for the first time printed the Court Circular [1] in addition to articles and engravings of both British and foreign royalty. Known as “The Royal Digest”, this became so popular (especially among women) that some shopkeepers removed the digest and sold it separately for an inflated price. It was reported that one retailer had sold a copy of the digest for as much as £2 when every other copy had been sold and a woman in Bridgewater outbid her neighbours to ensure her collection of the Digest was complete.

At the Palace, the Queen made appointments to the Royal Nursery, the first reorganisation of the “junior household” since the childhood of King George V. On the advice of Princess Augusta, the Queen had approached Madame Fillon, the former governess of Princess Charlotte Louise and Princess Victoria of the Netherlands, to come out of retirement and become Governess and Chief Superintendent of the Royal Nursery. Affectionately known as ‘Nolliflop’, Madame Fillon was now in her early 80s but the previous generation of royal children had loved her so much that she had been given a grace and favour cottage on the Windsor estate and was never too far from the Royal Family. Fillon was delighted to return to royal service but her advanced age meant that her role was very much that of a general supervisor rather than as a maid of all work as she had previously been. The Duchess of Sutherland recommended Lady Maria Jocelyn, the younger sister of the Countess of Gainsborough (one of the Queen’s ladies of the bedchamber) to be appointed as Sub Governess and it was Maria (known to the Royal Family as Milla) who would come to rule the royal nursery with a rod of iron.


Lady Maria Jocelyn.

In addition to the Governess and Sub-Governess, the Royal Nursery had a permanent staff of twelve. These included Mrs Hannah Wadley, the wife of a dairy farmer from Windsor, who served as wet nurse to the Princess Royal, four permanent nursery nurses, three nursery maids, a monthly nursery physician and a nursery “tweenie” who served as a general dogsbody to all who came before her in the pecking order. There were also two pages to fetch and carry. The Royal Nursery operated as its own little kingdom within the Royal Household and Governess Fillon (raised to the rank of Baroness in the peerage of Hanover by the King to mark her appointment and give her social superiority over Lady Maria Jocelyn) laid down strict rules which were never to be broken. Until her christening, the Princess was to be known as ‘Baby’. After that time, every member of the nursery staff was to refer to the child as ‘Her Royal Highness’ or ‘The Princess Royal’. Only Baroness Fillon and Lady Maria were allowed to call her Missy, the nickname given to the baby by her mother in the days before her christening. Even then, they would not dare do so in the presence of the King and Queen. Everything from meals to baths to the changing of linens was so finely tuned that the King remarked he should have made Nolliflop a General in the British Army rather than a Baroness. [2]

The British Army was foremost in the King’s mind that January. News came from Punjab in the first week of the New Year that that the ‘Great Army of the Indus’ (comprised of 21,000 British and Indian troops under the command of Lord Keane) had set out for the Bolan Pass some 75 miles from the Afghan border. The British press were suitably jingoistic and rather than focus on the anti-war sentiment that was now dominating the Afghanistan debate, they happily reported that the so-called Great Army was to be joined by 38,000 camp followers and 30,000 camels. One regiment took a pack of foxhounds whilst another took two camels to carry a supply of cigarettes. There were reports of special orders of claret and preserved game being shipped to the senior officers who saw no reason why they should do without their home comforts and one newspaper even suggested (perhaps inaccurately) that a nameless Major had taken six servants with him to carry his collection of walking sticks.

George Eden, the author of the Simla Manifesto which had prompted Palmerston’s decision to commit British troops to war in Afghanistan, wrote a letter to be published in the newspapers which promised “an efficient campaign” which was bound to deliver “peace and stability not only in Afghanistan but throughout British India”. The King was not so sure. In recent weeks, he had entertained the Duke of Wellington and was convinced that Melbourne and Palmerston were about to lead the British Army into a disastrous campaign that may have serious consequences not just in Afghanistan but in India too. Any loss for the British could well be interpreted as weakness and at a time when the fear of uprisings and rebellions against British rule in India were a genuine concern in London, Wellington believed the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to have acted on the worst possible advice.

But the King could not share such views with his Prime Minister, or with Lord Palmerston. The Duke of Wellington was a close friend to the Royal Family and Lord Melbourne did not resent that fact. When asked if he thought it suitable for a former Tory Prime Minister to stand as a godparent to the Princess Royal, Melbourne replied, “He is more than that Sir. He is the hero of Waterloo and truly deserving of such an honour”. Even so, Melbourne was unlikely to be as generous to Wellington if the King urged caution in Afghanistan based on the Duke’s advice. George was learning all too soon the restrictions that came with his position, yet his interest and commitment to the British Army pushed him to intervene as best he could. He opted to do so via dinner party diplomacy. In the third week of January, the King invited General Sir George Scovell from the Royal Military College at Sandhurst to dine at Buckingham Palace. This “celebration of old soldiers” also included the Duke of Wellington, General Sir Colin Halkett, Lieutenant General Sir John Hope and General Sir Thomas Bradford. These great military veterans came together with a vast wealth of experience from Waterloo to Bombay and the Iberian Peninsula and it was considered quite usual for such distinguished guests to be honoured by the King with a private dinner party.


The Duke of Wellington.

King George however, had an ulterior motive. He wanted advice from the very best military minds and after the meal was concluded and port and brandy were served, the King openly asked; “Well Gentlemen, what say you about this Afghan business?”. For three hours, the great military veterans gave their frank and honest assessments. Halkett took over the dining room using cruets and decanters to show how he would approach such a campaign, whilst Bradford called the entire thing “Melbourne’s folly” and predicted nothing but disaster. Sir John Hope took a more balanced view. In his opinion, if the British made substantial progress through the Bolan Pass and could fight off raiders from the Baloch tribal forces, they stood a good chance of flushing Dost Mohammed Khan into exile and might consider the campaign to have been a success. But he urged caution too. In his view, it was unlikely that Shah Shuja could maintain order and he would need significant British support to preserve his authority. This was likely to cost the British a small fortune, and besides the financial burden, it would drain the British forces in India. It was not so much the Afghan campaign which concerned Hope, more so it was the aftermath. The King agreed.

In doing so, George was aligning himself with the Tory position on the Anglo-Afghan War. But he was also putting himself firmly in the same court as Lord John Russell. Russell had had many weeks to consider his next step and encouraged by his supporters and colleagues from the Russell Group, he was being urged to challenge Melbourne at the earliest opportunity. The Tories had caught wind of the quarrel between Melbourne and Russell and when parliament returned after the Christmas recess, the new Leader of the Opposition, Sir James Graham, made a concerted effort to portray the Prime Minister and his Foreign Secretary as lacking the confidence of the wider Whig party for what he dubbed “Palmerston’s misadventure”. The Unionist benches agreed with Graham. They smelled blood too and Henry Farmer wasted little time in branding the Prime Minister “so disinterested in foreign policy that he allows the Foreign Secretary to engage British troops in a misguided mission to prevent catastrophies which only exist in the mind of the Right Honourable Gentleman and have little bearing in reality”. The Tories and the Unionists urged Melbourne to reconsider Palmerston’s position as Foreign Secretary. Melbourne stated that he had every confidence in Palmerston and that the government was committed to its campaign in Afghanistan “for the peace, security and prolonged stability of the Empire”.

As Melbourne sat down, he was passed a note from the Leader of the House of Commons. It was his resignation. To a stunned silence, Lord Russell stood and delivered a brutal political (and very personal) attack against the Prime Minister which was nicknamed “Russell’s Gamble”. British troops were now committed to the campaign, Russell accepted, but it was a commitment made without the full backing of the cabinet. As Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, Russell revealed that he had known nothing of the plan to invade Afghanistan and depose Dost Mohammed Khan until Melbourne had agreed the path forward with Lord Palmerston. In this, Melbourne had shown a lack of confidence in Russell “which I regret to say I must tell the House that I share in the Right Honourable Gentleman”. He went on to describe the Whigs as a family in which disagreements were to be expected as in any other family; "Yet in our household, there are two members joined perhaps closer than most by their association away from this place". Melbourne grimaced. Some Whigs booed. Russell was clearly alluding to Melbourne's sister with whom Palmerston had long been having an affair and now wished to marry. Many senior party grandees felt this a step too far and there were cries of "Bad form man, sit down!".

The remainder of Russell’s speech was nothing less than a personal manifesto. He chided Melbourne for failing to address the economic woes of the United Kingdom whilst allowing for expensive and costly wars abroad. He berated him for failing to make the most of the Whig majority and redressing the widening gap between rich and poor. “But moreover”, Russell concluded, “The Prime Minister has failed to consider that those of us who sit on these benches owe our allegiance to the Crown, to the United Kingdom and to its people first and foremost. Where we see that the interests of the British people are secondary to the personal irrationalities of those in a position of authority, we must ask ourselves if the time has finally come for those who take advantage of old friendships in assuming unquestioning loyalty, to make way for a Prime Minister who shall not be brow beaten into acts of war he knows to be flawed and foolish”. The reaction in the House was electric. The Tories and Unionists jumped to their feet and waved their order papers, cheering in agreement. But worryingly for Lord Melbourne, there were significant “hear hears” from his own benches.


Lord John Russell.

In tying Melbourne and Palmerston together as the architects of failure, Russell was attempting to set a trap for the Prime Minister and his Foreign Secretary. If the Afghan campaign was proven to be a disaster, both Melbourne and Palmerston would have to pay the political price and step down. Palmerston was one of Russell’s most obvious rivals for the post of Prime Minister and now, all Lord John had to do was wait. If his predictions came true and the Afghan campaign ended in failure, the door to Downing Street would undoubtedly swing open in his favour. Melbourne was furious at Russell’s disloyalty and on the journey back to Number 10, he remarked; “That was the most disgusting display of betrayal I have ever witnessed, even by the standards of that cesspit of a place”. That evening, Lord Melbourne was to face his weekly audience with the King. He thought it best not to mention Russell’s resignation speech but naturally word travelled fast, and the King was well aware of what had transpired at Westminster.

The King had made up his mind to casually refer to Hope’s cautionary advice from the previous evening in a round about way but when Melbourne arrived, he found him unexpectedly buoyant. Reports from the front line suggested that there had been fewer raids in the early days of the crossing of the Bolan Pass than expected and General Keane’s prediction was “a smooth and mostly unchallenged crossing into Ghazni, from where Kabul surely must lay in easy reach”.

“The news is therefore good Your Majesty”, Melbourne smiled, sipping his glass of sherry.

“Indeed”, the King replied, “Though might it not be better to say the news is conditionally good Prime Minister? There is a possibility that things will not progress as easily as General Keane suggests?”

Melbourne put down his glass and nodded at the King.

“Your caution does you credit Your Majesty. But I wish to assure you that General Keane is not a man prone to exaggeration”, he began, “The government has every faith in him and in his report and-“

The King’s nerves got the better of him. For the first time in his reign, he would have express disagreement with his Prime Minister and it was not a prospect he relished, however well-rehearsed or well researched his objections.

“But Prime Minister, does every member of the government have faith in General Keane? Or in the campaign itself?”, he replied, “I have to tell you that I do have concerns-”

“Of course you do Your Majesty”, Melbourne smiled again, “We all have concerns in a time of war. But the naysayers you have no doubt heard from are ill-informed, they will soon see the fruits of our labours in Afghanistan and I expect very good news from Ghazni in the coming months which will soon silence our critics”

“You mean Lord Russell?”. The King’s words hung in the air for a while. Melbourne appeared uneasy.

“Lord John Russell has long held a different view to the Foreign Secretary on such matters”, he said calmly, “I will confess I was surprised by his speech today. I might go further and say I was a little hurt. I had not thought he should be so brazen in his ambitions and it is true you may find others in my party who share his view. But we cannot let one dissenter deter us from our course Sir. When I see Your Majesty again, I have every confidence that you shall have glowing reports of our triumphs in Afghanistan from General Keane and those opposed to our actions shall have their fair share of humble pie to eat for supper.”

Melbourne laughed. The King gave a weak smile. He wished to counsel Melbourne on the aftermath of the campaign. In his mind, he knew the right course of action, but he was anxious too that he would overstep the bounds of his constitutional role. There was another issue too. Melbourne was a great statesman and three times the King’s age. He did not wish to add insult to injury by lecturing such a man when he had already been put through the ringer that afternoon by those he had once trusted. But ‘confidence’ was a word the King could not easily overlook. The King did not have confidence in his Prime Minister in this matter, neither it appeared did a significant majority of his own party. That could lead to a serious constitutional crisis. For the time being, George agreed to “wait and see” as Melbourne suggested. If the news from Afghanistan was as positive as Melbourne promised it would be, the King would reassess his position. Equally, if the news was not as the Prime Minister had predicted, the King would feel emboldened in his position and would take further advice on whether or not he should seek Melbourne's resignation - or even dismiss him from office.

Whilst Lord Melbourne left the palace that evening feeling that he had eased troubled waters; he was not entirely convinced himself that everything he had told His Majesty was entirely true. He had his own reservations about just how widely Lord Russell's sentiments would carry and he urgently needed some word of victory from Afghanistan to silence his critics and preserve his premiership. Upon his return to Downing Street, there was no such word. Instead, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Thomas Spring Rice, had asked for an urgent meeting. Russell’s intervention in parliament had lit the touch paper and now, those who had previously remained silent out of loyalty to Melbourne (no doubt in the hope of promotion or other favours), had begun to express more general concerns to the Chancellor that all was not as it should be.

Rice himself had warned that Britain could ill-afford a drawn-out campaign in Afghanistan but he was ignored. With no sign that the Whig economic reforms had gone far enough to prevent a financial crisis, the situation could quickly deteriorate if the war did not go the way Melbourne and Palmerston were certain it would. Again, Melbourne reassured his Chancellor that General Keane promised a quick victory, but Rice was unconvinced. Earlier that evening, Alexander Bannerman, the Whig MP for Aberdeen, a staunch supporter of Lord John Russell who was acting as a recruitment officer for dissenters in the party, had called on the Chancellor. He was clearly seeking new allies for a Russell challenge and though Rice was careful not to commit himself either way, he could not deny that Russell's speech had set a challenge for the Prime Minister which Rice had concerns his old friend and colleague might not win.


The Duke of Cambridge.

As the political establishment waited on tenterhooks for news from Afghanistan, the Duke of Cambridge requested an audience with his nephew. He too had been in communication with senior military personnel who were greatly concerned about the ongoing situation abroad but this was not primarily the reason for his visit. Upon relinquishing his role as regent, the Duke had been promised that if he waited until after the coronation, the King would put into motion the recall of the Duke of Sussex from Hanover and reinstate the Duke of Cambridge as Viceroy. The Cambridges now wished to make arrangements for their return to Herrenhausen if the King was still willing. But George was far too preoccupied with his recent meeting with the Prime Minister. Before his uncle had a chance to talk, the King jumped at the opportunity to seek his advice. Had he been too harsh? Had he not been harsh enough? Cambridge praised the King for his measured response and agreed that he should do the same as other interest parties and wait for news from the front.

“I am grateful Uncle”, the King smiled, patting his uncle on the back, “Really, we should not know what to do without you”.

The Duke of Cambridge hadn’t the heart to remind his nephew that his intention was to leave Britain and return to Germany. Instead, he turned to family matters. His wife Augusta had received a letter from the Dowager Duchess of Clarence on Malta that Princess Charlotte Louise had departed to return to England and was “fully recovered from the past year's unhappiness”. The Dowager Duchess wrote that the Princess was “bright and gay with a glow in her cheeks, which I dare to suggest may have been put there by letters from the Tsarevich”. The King was suddenly not smiling. He had only allowed the Tsarevich to correspond with his sister out of politeness. He was still hugely protective of Charlotte Louise and he instinctively felt the need to reject anything that might put her in arms way once again. That said, he did not wish to follow the example of his mother either.

The King asked the Duke of Cambridge to welcome the Princess home from Southampton on his behalf and to bring her to Buckingham Palace as soon as possible, where the King intended she should live now that she was over her disappointments and prepared once more to be seen in public. Cambridge agreed but felt the need to voice a concern both he and his wife had felt for some time. Whilst it was only natural that His Majesty should be protective of his sister and wish her to be safe and happy, she would soon be 18 years old. Though she was unmarried, a precedent had been set during the reign of King George III that his daughters were given their own households when they came of age and the Duke advised the King that he might begin to give the matter some thought. "No no", the King replied, "I know Lottie would much rather stay here with us".

“Partings will come Georgie”, the Duke said softly, “But it is how we bear those partings which defines our character and gives us the greater chance of happiness in spite of them. One day too, I shall no longer be here but I know that my advice and help will continue to serve you well. That is my hope, at least”.

George smiled. He knew his uncle was keen to return to Hanover and he intended to honour his promise. Just not so soon.

“We are a family”, the King replied beaming, “If I can preserve nothing else in my lifetime Uncle, I am determined to preserve that”. The loss of his father and younger brother, not to mention the separation from his mother, had left the King hungry for the love of a large family. This would come to define his personality perhaps more than anything else and it was around this time that the first glimpses of that motivation could be clearly seen by those closest to him. Following the Queen’s recovery from childbirth and the difficulties it had brought for mother and baby, the King had become almost obsessive, frequently visiting the royal nursery two or three times a day and demanding twice daily reports on the Queen’s activities and health. This now extended to his sister as she returned from England and whilst those affected did not complain (they knew it to be well-intentioned), it is worth noting that even though George was not averse to change, he had also come to dislike the idea of those he held most dear being too far away. In the future, he would often allow himself to lead with this fear of separation when asked to confront family difficulties and if he had a major flaw in his character, it was perhaps that his heart could all too easily rule his head.

In April 1839, news finally came from Afghanistan that the British forces had successfully crossed the Balon Pass. The rough terrain had proved no match for the troops led by General Keane and they had marched on to secure the city of Quetta with a view to progressing to Kabul in the coming weeks. From Kandahar, General Keane wrote; “We have taken Karachi and the Grand Army we have assembled is a much-feared fighting force which the tribesmen seem unwilling to tackle, and which makes for a quick advance. I predict we shall make decisive victories by June or July at the very latest and I can also report that we have made contacts with a camp of deserters of Mohammed Khan’s fighters who tell us that morale among our enemies is low and that the ex-Emir himself is to take flight to Bukhara ahead of our advance”. Melbourne breathed a huge sigh of relief. He proudly relayed the report to the King, to the Cabinet and to Parliament. Russell’s Gamble, it appeared, had not paid off for the Prime Minister's would-be successor. But how long this would hold to be true was already being debated in the drawing rooms of Westminster. As Melbourne revelled in this reprieve, those around him could not help but feel he was far from out of the woods.

[1] George III established the Court Circular to correct false reports about the whereabouts of the Royal Family, but it was only carried in the London Gazette until the Times began to print it in the 1840s. Here the Times adopts it a little earlier to reflect the rise in popularity of the Royal Family.

[2] This is modelled on the way the royal nursery operated in the 1840s/50s which is detailed in the brilliant book The Victorian Royal Nursery by Mariusz Misztal.

With regards to Madame Fillon’s elevation, this was not automatic for the Head Nurse of the Royal Nursery though some regard the elevation of Baroness Lehzen as an example that it was a title owed to the incumbent. In the OTL, George IV only raised Louise Lehzen to the rank of a Baroness because he did not wish his niece to be “surrounded by commoners”. Here, the title reflects a reward for long service but also to solve a precedence issue and would not be automatic for Fillon's successors.