King George V
Part Two, Chapter Twenty-Three: On Tour – II
The atmosphere at the Château d’Eu at the start of that May weekend was decidedly frosty. Whilst it may appear that King Louis Philippe was deliberately trying to wrong foot the British royal party with the inclusion of King Leopold and Baron Stockmar in the festivities, it should be remembered that Leopold was Louis Philippe’s son-in-law and Stockmar a key advisor and companion to the King of the Belgians. That said, George privately raged to his wife in their rooms at the Château that Louis Philippe had behaved badly and that the whole weekend was “reduced to the level of a Drury Lane farce” before it had even begun. At the informal luncheon held to welcome Their Majesties to France, things got off to a precarious start. The King and Queen were accompanied by the Honourable George Smythe (later the 7th Viscount Strangford) in his role as Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs. This irritated the French who had expected Smythe’s senior, Lord Derby, to attend the talks instead. They were even more annoyed when they found that Derby was in fact on his way to St Petersburg to discuss the Oriental Crisis in person with the Tsar, rather than being in Normandy to meet the French King. This led to an awkward moment when Smythe tried to engage the King in conversation, only for Louis Philippe to turn his back on him and walk away.
Meanwhile, King Leopold and Baron Stockmar were testing George V’s patience. Seated together in a corner of the room following the luncheon, coffee and petits fours were served whilst King Leopold proudly showed off his two sons. His wife Louise of Orléans, was expecting another child and so did not make the journey to Normandy with her husband but Leopold insisted on taking Crown Prince Leopold and Prince Philippe with him. The Belgian princes were 5 and 3 years old respectively and brought into the room after luncheon by a governess. King Louis Philippe, their grandfather, insensitively remarked to Queen Louise; “We are blessed in this
family to have so many fine sons”.
Queen Louise blushed. King George bit his tongue. French court gossip had it that the King and Queen had an Achilles heel in their otherwise happy marriage; that being that George V was disappointed his wife had yet to give him the son and heir he longed for. Indeed, Madame Adélaïde referred to George V as “Le Petit Henri
”. There was no basis in fact to this unkind chatter of course, the King adored his wife and his two daughters. Whilst he would have liked Princess Victoria to be a boy, he did not feel that Louise had let him down in any way and as we have seen, he scolded those who make reference to it. But in the drawing room of the French King, he could not so easily put the assembled company in its place as he might at home and so he had to stay silent as his wife fidgeted uncomfortably with the lace trim on her cuffs.
“I am very ambitious for my princes”, Louis-Philippe smiled, lifting Crown Prince Leopold into the air and smiling at him, “We must all be ambitious for our sons”
“Or our nephews…”, George muttered. Damn. He had let his temper get the better of him.
The Queen jumped to his rescue; “How is Albert?”, she said sweetly, “Such a dear boy, we hear so little of him now”
“A devoted husband and father and very well liked in Brazil, I am happy to say”, Stockmar retorted, “But then he
was always very receptive to the advice of his tutors. He was never indulged as a child and so he embraces responsibility”
King Leopold nodded; “He is a very serious young man. Sometimes too serious. Though as Stockmar says, he has many new responsibilities, so his nature suits his purpose”
In December 1839, a resolution was proposed to a sticky issue at the Brazilian court. The factious regency for Pedro II had seen attempts by politicians of all sides to bring the young Emperor under their sway. From 1835, a debate had raged that the General Assembly should lower the young Emperor’s age of majority instead of waiting until he turned 18 to allow him to assume full imperial authority. Those opposed had proposed his sister Januária should be declared regent until Pedro turned 18 and with her marriage to Prince Albert in 1838, this faction saw the stabilising influence of the new Duke of Paraíba (as Albert became on his wedding day) as something to tip the scales in their favour.  Their opponents snapped back that Albert was a foreigner barely acquainted with his new home land. All that changed in February 1840 when Albert and Januária’s first child was born; a son named João Carlos. Under the terms of his marriage contract, Albert thus became a Prince of Brazil in his own right with the rank of Imperial Highness. He had won the support of many nay-sayers and in April 1840, the General Assembly narrowly voted to proclaim the Princess Imperial the new regent for her brother Pedro.
“At least he has something to do in Rio”, Louis Philippe said snidely, “It is nice to know the boy’s talents are being put to good use. I never did see him as an English Duke cutting ribbons....”
“Neither did I”, George snapped. Silence reigned. Sensing that the tone of the conversation was descending into a possible brawl, the King’s guests were invited for a tour of the gardens of the Château d’Eu. George took the opportunity to retreat to his room for a while, citing a headache from his long day’s travels. But the Queen diplomatically stepped in and signalled that she would be delighted to see the grounds. She would come to regret her decision. As they stepped out onto the gravel paths and walked among the flower beds, Madame Adélaïde suddenly turned and looked Louise up and down. With a pitying roll of her eyes, she said loudly; “Is that really
the English fashion today? How dreary for you”.
Louise had barely recovered from that barb when Queen Maria Amalia asked how Louise’s brother Fritz was.
“He is in Switzerland”, Louise replied kindly, “He is studying at Bern”
“Studying?”, Madame Adélaïde scoffed, “What is he studying?”
“The law”, Queen Louise replied, “He is doing so well there”
“How interesting for you”, came the acerbic response from Madame Adélaïde, “To have a lawyer for a brother and not a King. And how brave of you to applaud him for it, I should think I would be horribly embarrassed”
Queen Maria Amalia was nowhere near as chilly as her sister-in-law and noting the Queen’s blushes, tried to offer a friendly salve for the sting.
“Will he see you at Rumpenheim?”
“No, he has to stay in Bern”
“I should do the same if I
were forced to stay in that horrid little castle”, Madame Adélaïde sneered, “It must be so very cramped for you all”
After a further 45 minutes of these poisonous taunts, the Queen was finally allowed to go back to her room. Her initial response was to break down into floods of tears, but she couldn’t risk upsetting her husband further. He had already indicated that in his view, the whole visit was nothing but an opportunity for the French royal party to openly insult them knowing they could not leave when the diplomatic situation between the two countries was so precarious. Indeed, he told an exasperated Smythe that he thought it far better that the talks were brought forward to the next morning, allowing the King and Queen to escape Normandy two days earlier than planned for Holland. It was Queen Louise who insisted they stay.
That night, King Louis-Philippe was to host a banquet, nominally in honour of the visiting British royal couple. Once again, Madame Adélaïde tried to humiliate the young Queen Louise. It had been made clear that as the dinner was to have an informal atmosphere, Louise needn’t bother to wear a tiara as none of the French ladies of the court would be doing so. Here, the Queen asked the Duchess of Buccleuch for her advice; “From memory Ma’am, I have never known even the most informal dinner party fail to bring out every diamond and pearl in Paris”. Louise thought likewise. She would not be demeaned again. Before she left, Mary Bettans had convinced the Queen to take just one gown in the French fashion with her in case the opportunity presented itself. It had.
Standing before the vast doors of the dining room at the Château d’Eu with its fabulous gold carvings were two footmen in richly embroidered livery. They pulled the doors open with a chivalrous bow to reveal the room inside, a sumptuous display of French extravagance with gold plate glinting in the candlelight, the French royal family and their guests huddled together at one end leaving a vast distance for George and Louise to travel in order to greet their hosts. Madame Adélaïde had planned it thus. As the doors were opened however, a very audible gasp filled the air. There was King George V, standing proud in his Windsor uniform complete with the deep blue of the sash of the Order of the Garter, its breast star made of diamonds which twinkled and glittered. He wore velvet breeches and white silk stockings, his black patent shoes polished and buffed as if they were mirrors, each topped with a diamond buckle. His long brown hair was swept back at the sides with the aide of beeswax, the rest allowed to fall in chestnut brown waves which complimented his eyes and high cheekbones. The ladies (in their tiaras) were deeply impressed at just how handsome the King appeared.
But the men were even more taken aback by La Petit Souris.
In a pair of gold satin heeled slippers, Queen Louise was the same height as her husband (who stood at 6’2), her golden tresses parted in the centre with ringlets of blonde curls draped over one shoulder in the French fashion. On her head she wore the Laurel Wreath tiara, every inch of its leaves catching the light and sparkling brilliantly in the glow of the chandeliers above. But as impressive as her new jewels were, it was her gown which drew the eye of every Frenchman in the room that evening. The Queen’s dress was cut in the French fashion in a pale gold satin which revealed the Queen’s décolleté in which nestled the diamonds of her new Garrards necklace. Instead of lace, Bettans had gathered swags of gossamer chiffon speckled with brilliants with a raised and structured cape giving height to the Queen’s shoulders and producing a collar effect. La Petit Souris
was transformed into La Petit Papillon
and much to the irritation of the French ladies of the court, King Louis Philippe quite forget his petty campaign and stepped forward kissing Queen Louise on the hand. “Votre Majesté”, he said warmly, “Tonight, the only beauty in the world is yours”.
There was silence. The King’s son and heir and his wife, the Prince and Princess Royal, were introduced to George and Louise, the Princess Royal Hélène taking everybody by surprise by embracing Queen Louise with the words “Meine liebste cousine”, she being a Mecklenburg Duchess by birth. The Prince too was far more welcoming than his father and aunt, asking George if it was true that he had in his possession a Louis XIV console which was listed in one of the Prince’s many catalogues. 
“I really don’t know”, George said smiling, “Sunny dear, do we have that piece?”
Louise beamed, “Oh of course we do my darling, it is in your library. You must come and see it, it really is a very pretty thing”
“If I may Votre Majesté”, Ferdinand Philippe replied graciously, “So are you”
The King and Queen had found much needed allies and when Stockmar tried to approach the King, the Prince Royal carefully guided the King towards a portrait of his grandmother, Marie-Adélaïde de Bourbon, which hung above the fireplace. Hélène spoke animatedly to Queen Louise in German, saying loudly enough for Stockmar to hear; “Such a funny old man, he really is so very pompous”. At dinner, Queen Louise sparkled next to King Louis Philippe whilst King George charmed Queen Maria Amalia by telling her how he had tried to simplify things at the English court; “We have tried to do the same!”, she said enthusiastically, “The Tuileries was so very stiff and pompous, I could not bear it. And it is not good for us to be seen to live so extravagantly. We eat this way now because it is so much simpler, it makes us feel closer to the people”.
King Leopold tried his own charms on Queen Louise, asking when the royal couple would do him the honour of visiting Brussels.
“Oh, what a pity!”, Louise exclaimed, “Had you been there we might have been able to call on you when we pass through Brussels on our way to visit Drina”
The evening had been an undoubted success. It ended with the King, who had taken far more champagne that he intended to, raising several toasts to the “beautiful young English Queen”. Across the table, King George caught his wife’s eye. She smiled and raised her glass to him. He couldn’t have been prouder of her than he was in that moment. The French newspapers were filled with descriptions of Louise’s beauty, her charm and of course, her gown. One French gardener,
Monsieur Beaufoy, even created a champagne-coloured hybrid tea rose named “La Reine Louise” in the Queen’s honour. These roses were later imported en masse by George V and can still be found at almost every royal residence in England. At the end of the night, George and Louise returned to their suite far happier than they had both been just a few hours earlier. As they prepared for bed, a tapping came at the door. The Duchess of Buccleuch opened it, where a nervous looking French courtier asked for a moment with the King. George nodded and the man glided in holding a red leather box.
“With my sincere apologies Your Majesty”, he began bowing low, “But I must confess an error on my part. His Majesty asked me to deliver this to you with his compliments before this evening’s banquet but in my haste, I failed to do so. His Majesty has asked me to bring it to you now, as a token of his respect and gratitude”. Inside the box was the insignia of the Ordre royal de la Légion d'honneur
in the rank of Grand Cross. King George offered his thanks and ordered Charlie Phipps to prepare the insignia to be worn with George’s military uniform the following morning when the only two public appearances of the visit were scheduled to take place. The first was a (somewhat reduced) honour parade in the courtyard of the Château which was staged before luncheon held for local dignitaries to meet the British King and Queen. Then, the two Queens set off for the Notre-Dame et Saint-Laurent
, a collegiate church dedicated both to the Virgin Mary and to St Laurence, a 12th century Archbishop who fell ill at Eu on his way to meet the English King Henry II in 1180. Beatified in 1186 and canonised in 1225, his relics are still held at the church today, and these were proudly displayed by the Cardinal Archbishop of Rouen who personally gave Queen Louise and Queen Maria Amalia a tour of the 12th century walls built by Richard the Lionheart.
Meanwhile, the King remained at the Château with King Louis-Philippe. The time had come to put aside royal hospitality and to discuss the true nature of George V’s visit. The French Foreign Minister, Adolphe Thiers, made the journey from Paris and together with George Smythe and the British Ambassador, the gentlemen sat in the salon to turn their attention to the Oriental Crisis. Initially, Louis-Philippe was unmoved. Naturally he had revised his personal opinion of the King and Queen somewhat but that didn’t mean he was about to ditch his foreign policy on account of a good dinner and a pretty gown. Much to the chagrin of his ministers, the King insisted that it was the Ottomans who were supporting Abd al Qadir in French Algeria and that without Muhammed Ali’s support in Egypt, Algeria may become a power vacuum. The British were pledged to support the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire and so Algeria, which had cost millions of francs and French lives in the last decade, would be lost. 
Louis-Philippe reinstated this position in person to the assembled parties at the Château d’Eu. The French could not pull support from the Ali dynasty without risk – a risk that posed a serious threat to the popularity of the July Monarchy which had made Algeria something of a rallying cry for a new era of French influence in North Africa. Smythe was prepared for this, and Lord Derby had briefed him well. But he was not prepared for Louis-Philippe to make accusations against the British for which he had no prepared defence.
“I know that the British have been in discussions with Qadir to support him against me”, he said tersely, “You cannot deny that”.
“We have had no discussions with Qadir since well before the Treaty of Tafna”, Smythe assured the King, “And even then, the discussions we had with him amount to little more than a handful of diplomatic letters. Qadir wanted our support, we did not give it”
“Lord Melbourne did not give it”, Louis-Philippe corrected, “But the British took his side, you promised to establish counsels”
“With respect Sir”, Smythe countered, “We explored the possibility only after Tafna when the French government handed Qadir territories in Oran, we did not press ahead because Qadir’s other requests were unacceptable to us and then the treaty was abandoned. Thereafter, we had no contact with him because we did not seek to interfere with French interests in the region”
“What were Qadir’s requests, Smythe?”, King George asked lighting a cigarette from a silver box on the table, “I didn’t see that in my briefing”
Smythe fiddled with his papers and presented a note to the King.
“Qadir wished to meet you in an Algerian port Sir, in '36”, he explained, “The idea was never presented to the late Duke of Clarence because the government did not wish the Crown to act as mediator between the two sides and because both the proposed meeting and the prospect of dealing with Qadir…well…it was deemed absurd”
“Quite right too”, George replied with a smile, “You see Louis, my ministers do think of me sometimes”.
But the King was in no mood for levity.
“All we ask is a guarantee that our interests in Algeria will be respected”, Louis-Philippe said tersely, “You gave far more to the Russians for far less. What you are asking us to do is to put France at the risk of a misadventure on the scale of your own recent military defeat in Afghanistan, and all to have Algeria taken from us and handed to Ottoman-backed rebels”.
Smythe opened his mouth to interject. But it was King George who took the lead.
“But we have nothing to fear from your interests in Algeria”, he said, “I grant you; we cannot speak for other governments but surely you realise that if France is left out of the talks after this crisis is resolved, you stand even less chance of getting what you want?”
“I think what His Majesty means to say is…”, Lord Cowley began.
“I have to say I’m confused by your position Louis”, George continued, “This Qadir chap is a thorn in your side, you’re spending a fortune to keep the beggar down and yet as I understand it, he’s taking all his inspiration from your man in Cairo. This Muhammed Ali Pasha is his great hero, what? Surely to goodness this Muhammed fellow and his mad son will only double cross you in the end and give their support to Qadir? And heaven forbid we’re all drawn into a war on the continent which I know you don’t want, none of us can afford to fight on two fronts like that. Why keep yourself isolated for a man who will more than likely drag you into something you never wanted in the first place, all for a reassurance that you know you don’t need anyway.”
There was silence. Louis-Philippe looked deep in thought.
“But…”, he began, “The position of your government…”
Suddenly, George stood up.
“It’s very warm in here, isn’t it? I could do with a turn in the garden before supper”
What on earth was happening?
“I suggest we go for a little walk and leave the rest to these gentlemen”, George said, wandering towards the double doors that led into the grounds of the Château. The French King stood up. He began to follow George.
“But we have much more to discuss!”, he protested, more out of surprise than anger.
“Oh, let them do that”, George said, patting Louis Philippe on the back, “I always do. Why else do we pay them, what?”
A stunned King Louis-Philippe found himself being led out of the room into the gardens where George asked if he might obtain some cuttings from a wisteria; “I’d like to give them to my cousin Drina you know”, he explained, “Never know what to give people. Goodness me, is that a Hollyhocks? How do you get them to grow that tall? Ours look like they’ve been hit on the head and are frightened to stand up”.
“It’s no good Louis”, the King replied, “Can’t possibly discuss anything else without my ministers present you understand. Now I wonder when Sunny will be back?”
When King George and Queen Louise left Normandy two days later, they did so in a very different atmosphere to that in which they had been received. The French King and his wife travelled in a carriage with them to the jetty where they once again boarded the Ariel
which was to take them to Holland. A gun salute was fired to whoops and cheers of applause from the vast crowds assembled to catch a final glimpse of the British King and his wife as they kissed their hosts goodbye and climbed down into the barge which took them to their ship. George Smythe bowed to the King and shook his hand. In his pocket bag, he carried the document signed just after dinner at the Château d’Eu the previous evening. Thiers left the Château for Paris immediately afterwards.
Addressing the Chamber of Deputies, he announced that following news from the Levant that Muhammed Ali had been deposed by his son Ibrahim, and upon hearing further reports that Ibrahim Ali was to strike at Constantinople, His Majesty (in full agreement with his ministers) had agreed to withdraw all support, military and financial, from the dynasty. France was to follow the British example discussed at the Château d’Eu, engaging independently against Ibrahim Ali but not formally signing up to a Russian-led coalition of central powers. The King and his ministers had not taken this decision lightly; indeed, the King had summoned the British sovereign to Normandy personally to insist that the United Kingdom respect France’s presence in Algeria and to give Britain’s assurances that she would not support any power either in the region itself or at talks which may be held once the Oriental Crisis was concluded, who sought to damage France’s expanding influence in North Africa. 
Smythe was more succinct when he returned to London alone, leaving the royal party to continue the private leg of their tour of Europe. When he arrived at Downing Street to brief Sir James Graham personally, he recounted the way the King had led Louis-Philippe out into the grounds of the Château and how when presented with the notes from the talks that ensued, the French monarch had seemed enthusiastic – not reluctant – to put his name to the agreement that followed. Whilst it was true that Louis-Philippe could not allow himself to appear to have u-turned, especially not on account of a British royal charm offensive, and so had indicated it was the threat to Constantinople which had changed his mind and not British reassurances that France would be allowed to retain Algeria in the ensuing peace talks no matter what the Ottomans demanded, one thing was certain; King George had handled the entire thing admirably. “I really do believe we should not have convinced the French King to abandon Ali without his calm and measured approach”, Smythe told the Prime Minister, “And when he linked Muhammed Ali with Al-Qadir…it was a masterstroke. We had Louis-Philippe in our corner from that moment. I should never have thought of it myself”.
But Graham seemed lukewarm in his response.
“He wasn’t too puffed up, was he?”, he asked Smythe.
“The King? No Sir…but…it was
a triumph Prime Minister”
“Best not to tell him that”, Graham said pouring himself a brandy, “I admit His Majesty distinguished himself in Normandy, but we must not give him a taste for authority or influence. Thank goodness he’s only visiting now. I’d hate to see what his newfound enthusiasm for diplomacy might tempt him to. No Smythe, brief the Foreign Office that His Majesty played a very small role in this” 
“But Prime Minister…”
“Incidentally Smythe”, Graham interrupted, “I was wondering if you might serve on this new commission I’m putting together for the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster. You served before and I believe you felt then that Melbourne hadn’t behaved well. The position of Chair is vacant, it shouldn't distract you too much from your other duties. And naturally I should grateful for your support in this matter.” 
Smythe was dumbfounded.
“That’s settled then. You are to be congratulated on your work in France”, Graham said patronisingly, “And it was your
work, George. Remember that”.
 Butterflies here and a little update on Albert's progress for those wondering what had become of him after his marriage. Princess Januária was proposed to serve as regent for her brother Pedro II in the OTL in order to break the deadlock on whether or not he should be proclaimed to have reached the age of majority earlier. As I understand it, the idea had support but a bone of contention was the fact that she was not married. Enter Prince Albert.
As we're not going to head to Brazil all that much, I'll give the full POD I'm using as a background here which is that Januária serves as regent until 1843 when her brother reaches the age of majority. Albert proves his worth and much as he did in England, cements his reputation as a reliable and capable figure behind closed doors. He becomes a kind of mentor to Pedro II and when Pedro's two sons die young as in the OTL leaving Princess Isabel to succeed her father, Albert (fearing the worst) convinces Pedro to allow Albert's son Prince João Carlos to marry his cousin (with the necessary papal dispensation of course).
I don't wish to distract from our UK based storyline here but this is what I've had in mind for Albert which every so often will get a mention in our TL for obvious reasons.
 Ferdinand Philippe was a passionate collector, indeed he spent almost 150,000 francs from his Civil List allowance on art purchases or cultural patronage each year until his death.
 My main source for this section of the TL can be found here: https://www.persee.fr/doc/remmm_003...83#remmm_0035-1474_1974_num_18_1_T1_0047_0000
 In the OTL, the French did change course but not until October 1840. From my research, it appears Algeria was always the sticking point but Palmerston's rush to send in gunboats saw the French dig their heels in until the last. Here the situation is very different thanks to Ibrahim Ali's decision to head for Constantinople. Which I believe would be enough on it's own to see the French u-turn but I also can't see that they wouldn't raise Algeria at these talks. I haven't mentioned the Rhine Crisis here because I felt it would be too much of a distraction but that would probably contribute too.
 However unfair this is, I believe this is how Graham would respond. He's just had a clash with the King over the creation of 110 new peerages which the King didn't wish to do but had to accept because he saw that he had no authority to avoid it without causing a constitutional crisis. Graham really doesn't need George V to get a taste for achievements where government policy decisions are concerned.
 We've finally got to the result of our poll, unfortunately it just didn't fit anywhere until now. Apologies for the delay!