Crown Imperial: An Alt British Monarchy


Monthly Donor
You would never have known you struggled with this chapter. It flowed as beautifully as ever. And George's behaviour makes absolute sense. Our brains don't stop growing until our mid-20s and he's undergone a lot of change in the past few years. Of course he's going to act irrationally at times.

Take care of yourself ❤
Thank you so much, this was very kind of you. And I'm so glad you picked up on that. I think any 20 year old in George's position would have moments of struggle but his life thus far hasn't exactly been plain sailing and so that definitely shapes some of his reactions in these early years.

A really great chapter
Will we see more of George’s diplomatic talents in the future?
Thank you! George will be travelling a lot more than his OTL counterpart and with Palmerston out of the Foreign Office, soft-diplomacy via the monarchy is going to become an important resource for the UK in the coming years.
GV: Part Two, Chapter 26: The Rising Star


Monthly Donor
King George V

Part Two, Chapter Twenty-Six: The Rising Star

As a grandson of King George III, the only son of the Viceroy of Hanover and as a first cousin to King George V, Prince George of Cambridge was born into a world of privilege with an impressive career of military service and royal duties laid out before him. He spent much of his childhood in Hanover at Herrenhausen with his parents and his teenage years with his two younger sisters Augusta and Mary Adelaide at Cambridge House in London. At the age of just 16-years-old, George was gazetted a colonel in the Hanoverian Army by his uncle, the late Duke of Clarence, and since that time the Prince had followed in his father’s footsteps embarking on a military career that had most recently seen him attached to the staff at Gibraltar. But behind closed doors, George was turning into anything but an officer and a gentleman. He had quickly developed a taste for vice and with his parents’ home in Piccadilly serving as a very grand bachelor pad when they returned to Hanover. The Prince was fast gaining a reputation as a prolific gambler and womaniser. When this spilled over into rumours that he had just made Lady Augusta Somerset, daughter of the Duke of Beaufort, pregnant, he was sent to Ireland and as we have seen, the King made every possible effort to try and help George wipe the slate clean. But the Prince did not exactly embrace his opportunity for a fresh start.

The 21-year-old Prince might have been suitably chastised by his cousin into moderating his behaviour but George showed no real appetite for contrition. Instead, he caused a stir at the Richmond Barracks upon his arrival at Inchicore, Dublin in July 1840, complaining that his rooms were “damp, horribly tiny and still crammed with the previous occupant’s possessions”. The previous occupant was in fact Henry John Cumming [1], the Colonel of the 12th Royal Lancers who had voluntarily vacated his rooms so that the Prince might be more comfortable. George refused to stay in the barracks until the situation was resolved and took himself off to the Shelbourne Hotel on St Stephen’s Green where he took a suite of rooms which on his very first night in Ireland turned into a makeshift casino. Trying to impress his fellow officers (though not Colonel Cumming), George hosted nine of his comrades in his sitting room where they drank whisky and played cards for stakes the Prince absolutely could not afford.


Richmond Barracks.

The following day, Colonel Cumming personally went to the Shelbourne to see Prince George. He demanded the Prince return to the Richmond Barracks and hastily paid the hotel bill from regimental funds, disciplining those who had joined the Prince for his little party but not metering out any real punishment to the Prince himself. Within a few weeks, George had settled down at the Barracks but if Colonel Cumming thought George had corrected his behaviour he was about to get a very nasty shock. During his early days in Dublin, Prince George made a close friend in Lawrence King-Harman, the 24-year-old younger son of the Viscount Lorton. Whilst his elder brother Robert stood to inherit the Viscountcy and his father’s estate at Rockingham, at the age of 22 Lawrence inherited Newcastle, the largest landed estate in County Longford, at Ballymahon, from his maternal grandmother. This made Lawrence a very wealthy young man and with his wife of three years, Mary, he soon became one of the most prominent figures in Dublin high society, preferring to stay in Ireland rather than migrate to England as others of his background and class were prone to do.

It was therefore natural that the King-Harmans would seek out and befriend Prince George of Cambridge during his time in Ireland and he was only too pleased to make their acquaintance and take advantage of their generosity. King George V had engaged a private detective to follow his cousin’s movements in Ireland to be certain that he was behaving himself and when the early reports came back, they were not only mostly favourable but always included mention of the King-Harmans who were described as “a most suitable couple of very good background and both widely respected and admired here in Dublin”. When he was not on duty at Richmond, Prince George was said to spend “almost all of his time with the King-Harmans, often attending the theatre together and then dining at Mr Harman’s townhouse or at the Castle Hotel on Great Denmark Street”. After a few months the King believed all was well and so the detective was recalled to London. But this was not entirely the case. Whilst outwardly the young Prince was corrected in his behaviour, behind closed doors and out of sight of the private detective, Prince George had begun an intimate liaison that threatened to unleash an almighty scandal on the British Royal Family back home in England.

Prince George first met the 28-year-old Margaret Douglas just two weeks after his arrival in Dublin when she was presented to him following an evening performance she gave at the Adelphi Theatre. Pretty soon, Margaret found herself included in the King-Harmans' house parties and she even managed to bag herself an invitation to Abbeville House as a guest of the Cooper family. When the Prince had a few days to himself, he spent them at the Harmans’ townhouse – but the Harmans were not always there. Mr Harman had allowed Prince George to use his Dublin home to entertain his new lover whenever the mood took him. Margaret always arrived the evening before if the Harmans were present and would not leave until well after the Prince had gone. To anybody looking on, all they could report was that the Prince was often in the company of an actress (the King’s detective did not) but had they done so, this was hardly a criminal offence. At the very least, Prince George seemed to be conducting this affair discretely. [2]

This might have remained the case had Margaret Douglas (“a rising star of the Irish stage”) not given a rather brilliant matinee which earned her a glowing review in the News Letter, a paper published in Belfast but circulated island wide. The Tory unionist run daily loved nothing more than to report on British royalty and for some time they had taken great pleasure in telling their readers that Prince George of Cambridge was now resident in Dublin; naturally in their review of Miss Douglas’ performance at the Adelphi in Pearse Street they commented that “among her most ardent admirers in the audience was the dashing Prince George of Cambridge who led a standing ovation at the conclusion of a very fine performance”. A small sketch of Miss Douglas accompanied the review captioned; “The Rising Star”.

The News Letter was widely read and it must have come as quite a shock to Captain William Marsden of Rochestown, Cork, when he sat down to breakfast with the daily paper only to see an undeniable likeness of his wife, Ada, looking back at him. He later said; “I knew it to be more than a woman who bore a remarkable likeness to my wife because I saw that she had adopted the name Margaret Douglas, which was the name of her deceased mother”. Captain Marsden had not seen his wife for two years after she had announced her intention to abandon him leaving their comfortable manor house in Rochestown and disappearing without trace. In order to avoid scandal, Marsden told his friends and neighbours that his wife was unwell and had gone to a sanatorium on the coast; yet here she was being toasted as one of the finest theatrical talents in all Ireland. Captain Marsden immediately left his two children in the care of a maid, packed a small trunk and headed off for the Adelphi Theatre in Dublin.

Back in England, King George V was in a much happier mood than he had been in recent weeks. Slowly emerging from his sulk, there was much to be positive about. In later life, the King was quoted as saying of his personal approach to his role as sovereign; “I do not act, I react”. In the aftermath of his knuckle-rapping from Professor Albrecht in Hanover, he had done just that. The monarch’s personal relationship with his subjects in Hanover had been “cordial but distant” for many years now and the King admitted that he should have expected some to look for signs of a change in attitude. His ancestor King George I, had spent much of his time in Hanover, indeed one fifth of his reign was spent in his Electorate with months-long visits paid in 1716, 1719, 1720, 1723 and 1725. The British people were not keen on this arrangement, already suspicious of a King who spoke no English and who’s coronation had seen widespread riots against “Old German George”. The historian Thackeray suggests that, had the King not “spared us from the poison of Popery, he might well have been rejected by his people or forced to relinquish his primary inheritance”. [3]


King George I.

Whilst George II shared his father's approach to Hanover (making twelve trips between 1727 and 1760), George III took great pains to avoid similar criticisms. He saw Hanover as “that horrid Electorate that has always lived upon the very vitals of our poor country” and he tried to project an image of a fine old English gentleman who just so happened to have inherited German land which he would never visit but which he retained for sentiment’s sake [4]. The closest link to Hanover in England was a suite of rooms set aside in St James’ Palace named the “German Chancery” which dealt with all matters relating to Hanover. George IV was only too happy to allow this state of affairs to continue. Like his father, he never visited Hanover during his reign and so by 1840, almost eight decades of muted relations with the British Royal Family’s German possessions had set the standard for how Hanover should be viewed from the United Kingdom. It was a personal possession of the Crown, a kind of overstuffed country estate which the British monarch just happened to call his own. On occasion, the Head of the German Chancery (Count von Ompteda) called on the King to present memoranda from the Privy Council of Hanover but mostly, the Chancery had no great role to play and was only familiar to those in England who assiduously studied the Court Circular.

George V wished to make amends. For weeks, the King spent time poring over family documents in his new library at Hanover House and making drafts of a plan he felt confident would boost the presence of the Crown in Hanover. Drawing inspiration from the annual festivities that surrounded Garter Day in June, the King had in mind a similar celebration that might be held in Hanover each year before he made his return journey to England after the king and Queen had visited the Princess Royal and other family relations in Germany. ‘Hanover Week’ was to see Their Majesties take up residence at Herrenhausen for just seven days with a welcome parade hosted by the Viceroy, an address made to the Assembly, a luncheon held in honour of the Privy Council, a garden party and a State Ball but the highlight was to be a parade and thanksgiving service focused on the Royal Guelphic Order founded by the late Prince Regent before his death in 1815.

It was an ambitious programme and essentially amounted to the King and Queen taking their calendar for 52 weeks of the year in England and applying that to just seven days in Hanover. George felt he had achieved a great deal, an early example of how well he could ‘react’ to a problem. He took great pains to plan each and every detail of Hanover Week which were presented to a curious Count von Ompteda, Head of the German Chancery, who noted in his diary; “His Majesty was most enthused about these proposals which were heavily illustrated with sketches in his own hand. The Queen sat with us for a time and she often remarked how clever the King was saying ‘Isn’t that a good idea?’ and ‘Oh Georgie! How clever you are for thinking of that!’. I was very intrigued to see Their Majesties at work in this way for clearly the King had spent many days explaining his ideas to his wife who was equally as eager to see them made a reality”.

The King wished to put these proposals before the Prime Minister as soon as possible but by the time their weekly audience came in London, there were far more important matters to discuss. Sir James Graham had the latest developments in the Oriental Crisis. The Great Powers had issued a ‘Convention on the Pacification of the Levant’ which gave Ibrahim Ali exactly thirty days to surrender to the advancing European fleets which would strike at Beirut and Acre if he did not [5]. Graham was confidant Ali would concede, without the French or Spanish as guarantor he faced annihilation should he attempt to press on to take Constantinople. There were even rumours coming in from the region that the defected Ottoman Fleet which Ali so desperately needed was on the verge of mutiny and were to humbly beg forgiveness from the Sultan in who’s name they were once again willing to fight. The Prime Minister predicted “great success without a single shot fired” and this would pave the way for a conference in London for the victors to carve up the spoils between them. The King beamed. He felt proud that he could claim a small part in this optimistic turn of events. But now Sir James looked a little nervous.

“On another matter Your Majesty, I fear I must prepare you for some unpleasantness in the coming days”

George raised an eyebrow and lit a cigarette; “Unpleasantness? To what order?”

Sir James decided he could prevaricate no longer.

“Sir, I have tried to keep this from your door for some time now but it really cannot be avoided any longer. In a few days’ time, parliament shall open the debate on the matter of the financial arrangements for the marriage contract of Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte Louise”

“Ah”, the King muttered sarcastically, “My favourite subject”.

“The fact is Sir”, the Prime Minister began, “I fear that the Tsar has been too greedy in his demands and I must warn Your Majesty most regretfully that many of my colleagues, in agreement with those on the opposition benches, do not feel they can approve the figures for the dowry or annuity presented to us in the amendment to the Civil List as agreed last week”.

The King nodded; “Well I can agree with you there Sir James, the Tsar is being most unreasonable in my view, £60,000 indeed! But I have already prepared my sister for the fact that parliament will not approve that amount, that is why I gave my word to Disraeli last week that I thought Gladstone’s proposal of £30,000 was more than generous”.

The Prime Minister sipped at his sherry.

“The Tsar has not made his position any more welcome with his offer to purchase the lease of Claremont House”

“Outrageous!”, the King agreed, “I wrote to Sasha on that point. And I told my sister that she must not be bullied into supporting such a thing. I suppose you know I have been black balled?”

The Prime Minister looked puzzled; “Black balled Your Majesty?”

“In my own house, what?”, George said half-seriously, “They all ganged up on me. The Queen, my sister, even Aunt Mary. I’m now to attend a blessing ceremony at the Imperial Russian Embassy and if that were not enough, I’ve to host a reception here at Buckingham Palace and then throw a party for that old bore Nicholas and his stick of a wife at our Embassy in St Petersburg”

"Yes...I had heard”, Graham said kindly, “I sympathise Your Majesty. But even so, I cannot promise that my colleagues in the House of Commons will not protest the matter of the dowry. In other words Sir, I am preparing you for the fact that parliament may show its displeasure at the sum presented to them…by…”

“Out with it man”, the King encouraged the Prime Minister, “By what?”

“By rejecting the amendment to the Civil List, Your Majesty”

To Graham’s surprise, the King simply nodded.

“I am pleased you told me that”, he replied, “I had expected it as a possibility. Well Sir James, you have my gratitude in this matter. As ever, I shall take your advice if the situation follows your prediction”

Feeling the mood was unusually more relaxed, the Prime Minister felt it possible to bring up another delicate matter. But just as he opened his mouth to change the subject, a clock chimed and the King stood up, Graham jumping to his feet and bowing as George thanked the Prime Minister for his time. Graham left the room and shook his head. He supposed the “other matter” could wait for a week or two more, after all, it was only gossip at this stage and he doubted there was any real danger in it. How wrong he was.

As July turned to August, the Royal Family prepared themselves to lose one of their most beloved members. Princess Augusta Sophia, the King’s aunt and sister to Princess Mary, was now so gravely ill that a bulletin was issued informing the public that her condition was “most serious” and that her physicians were “regretfully in agreement that Her Royal Highness is reaching the end of her life” [6]. The older members of the Royal Family were devastated by this turn of events, though it was naturally expected. Princess Augusta had been unwell for the last year and on two occasions a doctor had been urgently called when she had taken turns for the worst. Now the inevitable seemed a matter of days away, weeks at the most. A heartbroken Princess Victoria was informed and sent word from Het Loo that she would make her way to England without delay to bid farewell to her aunt but sadly, she would be arriving without her husband William. The situation with his grandfather was no better, the old man still threatening to abdicate. She hoped to remain in England until Princess Charlotte Louise’s wedding festivities began which she assumed would not be interrupted by court mourning for Princess Augusta when the inevitable happened. It was best for little Linna to remain in Holland, she added.


Princess Augusta.

It was a terrible backdrop to the debate in parliament over Princess Charlotte Louise’s dowry and the press did not shy away from printing the strongest criticisms offered in the House. Russophobia was still rampant and though MPs shied away from casting any blame or censure in the direction of the King’s sister, the Tsar was not best pleased to receive reports that parliament would concede only £35,000 as a dowry with an annuity of just £8,000 a year. They totally rejected any offer made to purchase the lease of Claremont too. Even William Gladstone stood with those offended by these overtures stating that “King Leopold leased the property from the British nation, there is no question of the lease itself being sold without the consent of the owners of the Claremont estate which in this case are represented solely by the elected members of this House”. When Princess Charlotte Louise complained to her brother that MPs were being unreasonable and that the wider press were printing the most bitter and negative stories about her future husband and his family, the King replied, “And didn’t I try to warn you?”. It wasn’t much comfort.

For the most part, the wider British public were totally unenthusiastic about Princess Charlotte Louise’s upcoming marriage. Whilst they were admittedly intrigued by the handsome young Tsarevich, this could never counterbalance the huge public affection there had always been for the young Princess. The British people had watched her grow up without a father, they had admired the Royal Family for how they had raised her to become a beautiful and generous young lady; they were not too pleased at the idea that she was about to leave them behind for a country which many still felt was untrustworthy, even dangerous. A few press stalwarts were loyal, speaking of the Tsarevich as an accomplished and intelligent man who would prove a loving husband to “our good Princess” but there were simply too many negatives for many who objected on the grounds of the nationality of the groom and even the religious conversion of the bride. If Princess Charlotte Louise expected crowds of eager spectators to gather to see her off and wish her well when the time came, she would be bitterly disappointed. [7]

But it was the matter of money that caught the public imagination most, especially when the Manchester Observer reported that the Tsar had demanded the British government sell him Claremont House to be used as a Russian holiday retreat in England and furthermore, that the Tsarevich was said to be deeply upset at the “mean and hard-nosed English” who refused to give his bride a suitably impressive dowry. This more radical newspaper, not exactly known for its royalist sympathies, bent the truth a little but the basic gist was enough to inflame public anger. The Tsar and his wife would expect the British King and Queen to go to Russia for the wedding and to pay for the entire ceremony, the Observer claimed, the Tsar had insisted that the King pick up the shortfall in the difference between what he wanted for Charlotte Louise’s dowry and what parliament were actually willing to give. At a time when so many were still finding it hard to pull themselves out of poverty, the vastly inflated sums reported sent shockwaves throughout Britain and there was even talk of anti-monarchists preparing to protest the Tsarevich when he arrived in England in September.

In the midst of this turn in public opinion, the Earl of Liverpool (as Lord Steward of the Household) was giving one of his regular supper parties at his townhouse in Ebury Street. One of his guests was Lord Abinger, the former Attorney General, who remained oddly quiet throughout the evening’s entertainments. Just before he left, Abinger asked if he might have a private word with Lord Liverpool in his study. The two men sat down to brandy in high-backed oxblood porter’s chairs and smoked cigars as Abinger became the first to relay a situation he thought someone in the Royal Household should be made aware of. It concerned Prince George of Cambridge.

“Ah you have nothing to be concerned about there”, Liverpool grinned, “The King has clipped his wings for him, and I hear quite glowing reports about his progress in Dublin”

“On the contrary Charles”, Abinger corrected, “I have heard something quite different. It appears the Prince has become involved with a young lady of some reputation”

Liverpool nodded; “The Beaufort girl. Oh we know all about that James, all dealt with too, at great personal expense to His Majesty I might add. That’s why the Prince was sent to Dublin, you see? A few months there seems to have dampened his ardour”

“Not quite”, said Abinger. He leaned forward and lowered his voice, “Are you aware that he’s taken up with an Irish actress? Gone AWOL too so I’m told. This woman, Douglas her name is, or rather, it isn’t her name at all, has tricked the boy. Turns out she’s a married woman with two children, abandoned her husband and now the husband has found her and intends to divorce her”


“You heard me correctly”, Abinger said solemnly, “An old colleague of mine told me that the husband, a Captain Melrose or Marlow if I recall correctly, wishes to divorce the woman and he intends to name the Prince in the doing of it”.

Liverpool was no longer smiling. He put down his brandy glass and leaned in.

“You can’t be serious?”

“I have never been more-so”, Abinger replied gravely, “From what I gather, the woman fancies herself an actress. Changed her name and took herself off to Dublin. This was a very silly thing because then she gained something of a reputation, a newspaper published her picture and the husband recognised her. Then he went to the theatre, confirmed his suspicions, and she told him he could make his way back to Cork, or words to that affect, because she was now protected by none other than His Royal Highness”

Liverpool stood up and buttoned his coat. Shaking Abinger’s hand, he thanked him profusely, ringing the bell for his valet to summon a hackney carriage to take him to Buckingham Palace without delay.

“My God”, he said nervously, “How on earth am I to tell the King?”

[1] General Sir Henry John Cumming who was Colonel of the 12th Royal Lancers from 1837 until 1856.

[2] This is very much in George Cambridge's wheelhouse. Both before and after his OTL marriage to the actress Sarah Fairbrother, he had many mistresses but most of the time he kept these liaisons discrete after his earlier brush with scandal re: Lady Augusta Somerset. Unfortunately for the George Cambridge in TTL, he's picked the wrong actress to play house with.

[3] A quote taken from The Virginians by William Makepeace Thackeray.

[4] I found this quote here:

[5] Based on the OTL Convention but amended to suit our altered TL here.

[6] I've actually held off on reporting the many occasions Princess Augusta's doctors published a bulletin to say that she was dying. These began in the OTL in September 1839 and went right through until her actual death in September 1840. By which time most people had assumed she'd already died because they had become bored of keeping track with the endless announcements that she was "near the end".

[7] I think this is a fair reaction to include. An Anglo-Russian match was never going to be easy and through all the trials and tribulations behind Palace walls it has caused, we haven't yet seen all that much of the public reaction. Which I believe would be mostly negative, even if the people are fond of Princess Charlotte Louise.
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Looks like George is quite the naughty boy. I wonder how this will impact his future career?
And The tsar is sure pushing his luck with Claremont House
His great personal hero, his great-grandfather King George II, had spent much of his time in Hanover, indeed one fifth of his reign was spent in his Electorate with months-long visits paid in 1716, 1719, 1720, 1723 and 1725. The British people were not keen on this arrangement, already suspicious of a King who spoke no English and who’s coronation had seen widespread riots against “Old German George”. The historian Thackeray suggests that, had the King not “spared us from the poison of Popery, he might well have been rejected by his people or forced to relinquish his primary inheritance”. [3]​


King George II.
Tiny persnicketty nit pick...did you actually mean King George I, who reigned from 1714 to 1727?
And even if it were George II, it would be great great grandfather. Poor Fred! ☹️

George V
George IV - father
George III - grandfather
Fred - great grandfather
George II - great great grandfather


Monthly Donor
Looks like George is quite the naughty boy. I wonder how this will impact his future career?
And The tsar is sure pushing his luck with Claremont House
George will certainly face an ultimatum in the coming weeks that will define his future one way or the other...

Tiny persnicketty nit pick...did you actually mean King George I, who reigned from 1714 to 1727?
Oops! This was actually a much longer section from a first draft that went into a pottered history of the personal union and in my brutal edit, I managed to muddle the Georges and their relationship to our one! Many thanks for pointing this out so I can edit.
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GV: Part Two, Chapter 27: Births, Marriages and Death


Monthly Donor
King George V

Part Two, Chapter Twenty Seven: Births, Marriages and Death

In her later years, Empress Maria Georgievna (as Princess Charlotte Louise became) would insist that she considered herself to be married on the 23rd of October 1840 rather than on the 29th of November when she processed through the splendour of the Grand Church of the Winter Palace in St Petersburg to be married according to the Orthodox Rite before her imposing father-in-law Tsar Nicholas I. But the Empress also declared that she might never have married at all had it not been for the kindness shown to her by her sister-in-law, Queen Louise. The King had reluctantly come to accept the inevitable and in this spirit, he asked his wife to ensure that Princess Charlotte Louise had every assistance she needed in preparing for her departure from the United Kingdom. The King and Queen were to accompany her to Russia so that the King might be spared a tearful farewell at Southampton, George finally agreeing that he must bow to Russian custom and not only present himself at the wedding but that he must also show appreciation the Tsar’s welcome to the Princess by hosting a “return banquet” for the Russian Imperial Family before the King and Queen made their way back to England.

As there was no British Embassy or Consulate in St Petersburg at this time, the Dowager Princess Baryatinskya kindly offered the King and Queen the use of her palace on the banks of the Neva. This did not please the Tsar as the hospitality shown to the Tsar and his wife by the King and Queen was not supposed to compete with the lavish celebrations hosted by the Imperial couple; the Baryatinsky Palace was not exactly modest and even the grandest Romanov Grand Duke could not deny that the Dowager Princess’ residence was far superior to their his mansion in St Petersburg. It was decided to keep the British representation in St Petersburg fairly small and though Princess Charlotte Louise begged Princess Mary to agree to accompany the King and Queen but the Princess declined; “I am much too old for St Petersburg”, she said wistfully, “And besides, I should not give that old crow [the Dowager Princess] the pleasure of putting me in some rat trap of a bedroom in her crumbling old house”.


The Chapel Royal of St James' Palace.

Denied the chance of a wedding in St George’s Chapel before a second ceremony in Russia, Princess Charlotte Louise had (with the assistance of Queen Louise) managed to win a truce that pleased all parties. Initially, the Tsar had agreed to a blessing ceremony to be held at the Imperial Russian Embassy in Kensington but the Tsarevich had worn him down a little to accept an alternative. On Friday the 23rd of October 1840, a special service of thanksgiving was to be held for “the marriage of Her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte Louise” at the Chapel Royal of St James’ Palace. After weeks of negotiations, Archpriest Belov had gained the agreement of the Bishop of Smolensk that he could offer a blessing at the conclusion of such a service, though he was advised that the Tsarevich should not stand for the Anglican blessing which was to come at the start of the thanksgiving service at the Chapel Royal with the Archbishop of Canterbury holding his hands “toward, but not over the heads of” the engaged couple – who remained seated. After this service, the King was to host a reception at Buckingham Palace and a week later, the King, Queen, Tsarevich and Princess Charlotte Louise were to set sail in the HMS George for St Petersburg.

Queen Louise commissioned Mary Bettans to provide suitable attire for Princess Charlotte Louise to wear for this service, the closest thing she was to have to a wedding in England. Though the usual etiquette might demand a ‘Sunday’ look with jacket and hat, Louise convinced her husband to declare the service to be a state occasion and therefore, Charlotte Louise could wear a gown and tiara, though it was deemed inappropriate for her to wear a veil. Bettans designed a beautiful dress in silver satin trimmed with ruffles of white chiffon speckled with brilliants with a small train and instead of a veil, Charlotte Louise was to wear a plume of white ostrich feathers behind the Oak Leaf tiara gifted to her by Princess Mary. The King commissioned a diamond necklace for his sister as a wedding present, the Queen adding two diamond bracelets to the order from Garrards & Co. As for the Tsarevich, the King announced that he intended to make his future brother-in-law a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, the insignia of which he might wear to the service, but he stopped short of giving Sasha an honorary commission in the British Army which raised eyebrows in St Petersburg.

At Buckingham Palace, the King was talking his sister through his reasons for this arrangement. It had to be stressed that the marriage was non-political, to give Sasha any kind of military honour may bring that into question from those still very much opposed to the marriage. The Bath was the best the King could do. Princess Charlotte Louise understood her brother was not being spiteful and she was not angry or offended, but she was nervous. For some time, she wondered what her brother’s reaction might be if she asked to go and see their mother at Kew. Now she was about to find out. It was not so much that she felt obligated to visit the Queen Mother, nor was it that she hoped to patch things up or build a new relationship. Rather, in an odd way the Princess felt she owed it to the memory of her late father. The King bit his tongue as his sister presented her request; if he was agreeable, she would write to the Dowager Queen at Kew and ask if she might go and see her before her departure for Russia. The King gave his consent but when Princess Charlotte Louise sent a note to Kew asking if it might be convenient for her to call upon the Queen Mother, a reply came from the housekeeper which read; “With regret, Her Majesty must decline your invitation for reasons she feels are already familiar to you”.

On the same day as the King gave an audience to his sister, he was preparing for bed when Charlie Phipps entered his room. Lord Liverpool had arrived back at the Palace with an urgent request to speak with the King.

“Liverpool?”, George replied curiously, “Oh damn it all Charlie, I’m worn out after today. Tell him to come back tomorrow, I’ll see him after Derby in the afternoon”.

Phipps related this to Liverpool and was somewhat surprised when Liverpool replied, “Good God man, I wouldn’t disturb the King unless it was absolutely necessary. I must see His Majesty at once”. Phipps had no option but to help the King into his dressing gown and to show Lord Liverpool into the King’s sitting room.

“What the devil is all this?”, George said gruffly as Liverpool stood and bowed before him, “Don’t you know what time it is?”

Liverpool apologised and then, calmly and clearly, explained what Lord Abinger had told him just an hour or so earlier. The King was appalled. He asked how soon this was all to become public knowledge. Liverpool hoped for a few days respite during which time some sort of response could be worked out. Unfortunately, time had run out. The following morning, The Times, became the first to break the news that Captain William Marsden was to present a Private Member’s Bill seeking a divorce on the grounds that his wife was guilty of adultery with none other than His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge. For the next three days, the newspapers seized upon every sordid detail they could lay their hands on.

They had not been able to feast on the particulars of a royal scandal for some time and even amid the so-called new royalism, the press barons found the public appetite for such things was still as great as it had ever been. People were fascinated by the Marsden story and the aggrieved Captain was portrayed as the very model of the respectable English gentleman, so cruelly cuckolded by his wife with none other than the King’s cousin. Marsden was hailed as “a most respected gentlemen in his home parish and there is much good feeling toward him there as he has struggled alone these past two years with two small children and yet has found the time in all things to be amiable and generous to those in his service”. By contrast, Prince George was “indolent and self-indulgent” and had taken up with Marsden’s “evil creature of a wife” to the shock and horror of Dublin’s high society.

This was not necessarily accurate; Dublin’s high society had seen far worse in it’s time than an illicit love affair between a Prince and an actress. Yet in London’s high society, Prince George was already the focus of gossip thanks to his dalliance with Lady Augusta Somerset, now apparently heavily pregnant in Madrid with the Prince’s love child. They automatically believed every word they read and when some suggested Margaret Douglas had misled or tricked the Prince by hiding his real identity, they were reminded that George had already displayed all the characteristics of an outright cad. In their private apartments at Herrenhausen in Hanover, the Cambridges remained in blissful ignorance of the brewing storm clouds gathering about their son’s head. The Duke was preparing to return to England to bid a final farewell to his sister Princess Augusta, who then lay dying at Clarence House. Meanwhile, the Duchess (who had never been particularly fond of her sister-in-law) had decided to take advantage of her husband’s absence and head to Lake Como with her two daughters, Princess Augusta (of Cambridge) and Princess Mary Adelaide. With the Duke of Cambridge on his way to England and the Duchess on her way to Italy, Prince George’s parents knew nothing of the impending trials and tribulations of their son and heir until well after the news broke in The Times newspaper.


A sketch of Margaret Douglas (Mrs William Marsden) which appeared in The Times.

Much was made of the scandal which had all the ingredients necessary to shock. Margaret Douglas was public enemy number one, described as “a most wicked and vain creature who used all her cunning and guile to snare the Prince” but it was also noted that Prince George had been “sent to Ireland to be corrected for prior misdemeanours” and instead he had “begun an illicit liaison with Mrs Marsden whilst neglecting his duties in the Army”. The King and Queen were spared any criticism, quite rightly so, for they could hardly be held responsible for Prince George’s behaviour. But the press reminded people that in his current situation, George was displaying “all the characteristics of the late Prince Regent who showed no care or consideration for his duties and put all his efforts into frivolous pastimes. Until the Princess Royal and her young sister come of age, the monarchy will be forced to rely upon those such as the Prince to carry out the many duties expected of the Crown and the people will not be blind to the tarnish one of its number has brought upon that Crown with yet another Prince more committed to his own comforts than to his responsibility to serve King and Country”.

The King couldn’t agree more with the assessment of the situation as featured in The Times. He had tried his very best to rehabilitate his cousin and felt that Ireland had been a good opportunity for Prince George to prove his gratitude for that help; the Prince had failed spectacularly. This was the first royal scandal of the King’s reign and he was at a loss as to how he might deal with it. At first, he asked Lord Liverpool to go and see Captain Marsden with a view to persuading him to withdraw his private member’s bill. Divorce was very much considered a last resort in the mid-19th century, the process made deliberately expensive and prolonged to deter those who might wish to dissolve their marriage. It ended careers and often caused social ruin for one or both parties involved and the King hoped that Marsden could be made to see how he had nothing to gain from pursuing the process. Liverpool advised the King against this. Marsden had retired from a long career in the military, he was currently serving as a magistrate and as a man of both means and respected social standing, he was unlikely to bend to royal pressure. Besides, there was every possibility that Marsden would reveal the King’s attempts to convince him to withdraw his case and that could make the developing scandal much worse. There was nothing else for it; the Royal Family would have to brace themselves for scandal.

The Duchess of Cambridge was well-known to be indulgent of her children, particularly in the case of her eldest son Prince George whom she doted upon. Every previous wrongdoing had been ignored by Augusta who always took his side, much to the frustration of the boy’s father who genuinely feared that Prince George was “in every way displaying an indolence and conceit that can only lead to wasted opportunities”. The Duke’s predictions had come true and now, commanded to return to London immediately, Prince George did what any young man in his position might do; he panicked and fled. Seeking the help of the King-Harmans, he left for Abbeville where he wrote a letter to the King explaining that he had “found himself in a most dreadful situation”. He apologised profusely for his ”lack of foresight” and laid the full catalogue of disasters before his cousin. It did not make for pleasant reading as the Prince gave an account which reveals the true extent of just how precarious a position he had put himself in.

George’s charge sheet reveals that he was frequently disciplined for his lack of punctuality, for being absent without leave and for drunkenness. This had led to three months suspension of pay which did not help the Prince’s financial situation. His father had cut his allowance (as well he might having been forced to hand over hundreds of pounds to Lady Augusta Somerset in Madrid) and he had no other form of income, having no property of his own. To that end, he had traded on his rank in Dublin and managed to amass significant debts to the tune of £760 – a shocking £45,000 today. Much of this money was owed to the Dublin based West of Chapel Street, a prominent Irish Jeweller, they having provided an emerald brooch, two ruby hairpins and a demi-parure of sapphires for the Prince in the space of eight weeks as gifts for Mrs Marsden. Other debts had been racked up at hotels and restaurants but the bulk of George’s debt not owed to Wests was the result of gambling for high stakes. The reality was that that George couldn’t even afford his passage back to London.

There were letters too. George had not learned from his previous debacle with the Beauforts and had left rambling, clumsily written love letters to Mrs Marsden which were always delivered by hand to the Adelphi, passed on by the stage doorkeeper. As Lord Abinger remarked upon being asked to read George’s account of his behaviour; “The boy has done everything he could to provide as much evidence against himself as possible”. The paper trail linking the Prince to Mrs Marsden was overwhelming and there was absolutely no doubt in anybody’s mind that receipts and testimonies from those involved in George’s affair with Ada Marsden would form the main body of proof given in parliament when Captain Marsden’s divorce bill was introduced. Consequently, these details would be laid bare before ravenous journalists who wasted no time in printing every twist and turn. They did not print copies of George’s letters, neither did they quote from them directly, but when it was revealed that Prince George had spent hundreds of pounds on jewels for his mistress, the public were outraged. So much so in fact, that crowds gathered at Dover to boo and jeer at the Duke of Cambridge when he arrived in England; the poor Duke had no idea why the people were so angry with him.

He immediately travelled to Buckingham Palace where the whole sorry mess was laid before him by his nephew. The King needed to act swiftly. He could not prevent the divorce bill from appearing in parliament but he could step in to ensure that Prince George’s humiliation (and by extension, the embarrassment felt by the monarchy as a whole) might be limited. He was not inclined to be lenient and yet, the King did not want to make matters worse. He summoned Lord Hill, then Commander in Chief of the British Army, to see what options were left open to the Prince and how he might be protected from total ruin. Lord Hill informed the King that among his contemporaries, there was “a glut of ill-feeling on the matter”. The Prince had shown a very bad example in Ireland where military discipline mattered most but not only that, but he had also absconded and was still absent without leave. That alone was grounds for a court martial and whilst the Prince had been shown leniency before, losing only his pay packet, now his commanding officers wanted him confined to barracks for six months at least by way of retribution. However, that was their view before the Marsden Scandal broke; now there was talk of the Prince being dismissed in disgrace.


The Duke of Cambridge

The Duke of Cambridge shocked the King. In his view, dismissal must be the obvious outcome and he made it clear that he would not raise a single objection if Lord Hill chose to pursue it. The King could not understand how his uncle could be so harsh, that he did not seem willing to fight for his son’s interests. When the two men were left alone, the King implored the Duke to see reason. George was not yet 25 years old and had many years of public service ahead of him if this scandal could be overcome. Dismissal would condemn Prince George to a life of idleness and based on his current record, what other scandals might he subject himself (and the Royal Family) to if he had nothing to do? Cambridge was silent. When his brother, the late King George IV, had been caught in a similar situation he had been forced by parliament to resign his post as Commander in Chief. The Duke expected no less severe a punishment for his own son; he could no longer continue in the army without a stain on his character and Cambridge was resolute in his belief that Prince George must be dismissed from the army.

Naturally the Duke did not raise this precedent with his nephew but if King George V knew of his father’s misdemeanour (and it’s likely he did), he would also know that the precedent had a happier ending. After some time, the Duke of York was restored to favour and was allowed to carry on his military career until his accession as King George IV. When Prince George was brought before his father and the King a week later, George V had managed to calm the Duke down enough to propose an ultimatum to the ashamed young man before them, to which Cambridge had given his full approval. Whatever the outcome of the Marsden Scandal, it was clear that George must be sent abroad, this time much further away than Ireland. It was the manner of his parting that the Prince must now decide and both choices came with a non-negotiable insurance policy that Prince George would complain bitterly about for the rest of his life.

His first option was to spend three months confined to barracks in reparation for his misconduct where his professional transgressions were concerned. He would be allowed no privileges and the King warned George that he would face a long period of rehabilitation with the army top-brass before promotion could even be considered. Yet he may eventually progress and restore his reputation and to that end, the King would ask Lord Hill to transfer Prince George to another regiment. This new posting would not come with the benefit of an easy crossing home when he had leave. The Duke of Cambridge favoured sending his son to India. The other option was perhaps more severe. Having ruined his reputation in the army and unable to perform any public duty in England, Prince George would be allowed to resign from the army and thereafter, he would be sent abroad to join the diplomatic staff where he might do some good at a desk until such a time as the King felt George was ready to return to England in a private capacity. In both scenarios, the King was willing to pay the debts Prince George had accumulated but on one condition; Prince George was to be married as soon as his circumstances allowed. Only then could his character be reformed in the public eye, his reputation as a womaniser drowned out by wedding bells.

At Lake Como at the end of September, the Duchess of Cambridge sat on her hotel terrace with her two daughters enjoying a quiet luncheon when a letter was passed to her by a hotel porter. It was from the Duke of Cambridge. Princess Mary Adelaide was later asked what her mother’s reaction was when she received it. She replied, “Oh my dear, she simply vomited”. That letter spared Augusta none of the sorry state of affairs her son had found himself caught up in; George had been having an affair with a married actress, he was to be cited in parliament as the actress' lover and a divorce was likely to be granted on that basis. He had failed in his duties; he had no money and had amassed huge debts. Now he was to be corrected, sent abroad to India and thereafter married as soon as possible to whichever suitable Princess could be found. The Duke of Cambridge offered no opinion, no excuse and no explanation. “This is all of it”, he wrote, “And we must accept that”. He signed the letter, adding to the very bottom of the page; “Dearest Augusta died this morning. Do not grieve me further with objection for I gave my word to His Majesty we should co-operate in this and I cannot bear more sorrow to fall upon me when so much hurt has already been done”.

A death in the Royal Family offered some respite from the flurry of negative press and a downturn in public opinion, though it must be said this was more out of a general respect for the bereaved than any sense of genuine sympathy. The King declared just four weeks of court mourning for the Princess, any longer might have delayed the arrangements made for the pre-wedding events for Princess Charlotte Louise. This was slightly sad for poor Princess Augusta who had once been a well-liked member of the Royal Family. Haughty but witty, she died at Clarence House on the 22nd of September at the age of 71 and was deeply mourned by her surviving sisters and her sister-in-law the Dowager Duchess of Clarence. A wreath even came from Kew, though nobody could quite understand why because the Queen Mother had always despised Princess Augusta and vice versa. Her funeral was held at St George’s Chapel, Windsor on the 2nd of October, the Duke of Sussex acting as Chief Mourner in the absence of his older brother the Duke of Cumberland. Cumberland had been invited to come to England to say his goodbyes but he opted not to do so. Instead, it fell to his son (another Prince George) to write a letter of condolence to the King which was much appreciated as a kind gesture. The Duke of Sussex was forced to attend alone, Princess Mary insistent that she would not attend her sister’s funeral if the Duchess of Sussex was present. The King and Queen stood with Princess Charlotte Louise to bid the daughter of George III a fond farewell, though it had a slightly undignified conclusion when the next day the King was advised that the royal undertakers had encountered a problem; there was no more space in the recesses of the Royal Vault beneath St George’s and so Princess Augusta’s coffin had instead had to be placed on the floor.


The Royal Vault at St George's, Windsor.

The vault had been constructed in 1804 with a view to serve as the final resting place for George III, Queen Charlotte and their children – but not their spouses and their children. George V would have to make alternative arrangements to avoid a royal squeeze. So it was that George V asked Decimus Burton to design a brand-new Royal Mausoleum which would be housed at Frogmore on the Windsor estate. But the King did not commission the building work to begin until the Duke of Cambridge’s death almost a decade later and so the Royal Mausoleum was not completed until 1852. Princess Augusta therefore had to wait twelve years until her coffin was put into its rightful place and the Royal Vault was closed for good. Thereafter, the immediate family of George V were interred inside the vaults of the mausoleum with extended family members buried outside in the Royal Burial Ground. George himself was laid to rest at the Royal Mausoleum in 1885, though he was later relocated to a specially constructed memorial chapel in the Mausoleum two years later.

In the gloom of court mourning, the King perhaps became a little morbid and for the first time, he wrote his will. We do not know the contents as it was destroyed when a new will was written in 1845. But this did not last long and in fact, George could never abide what he saw as “the performance of grief”. This led him to clash with his cousin Princess Victoria (who arrived in England to say farewell to her Aunt Augusta and remained for the funeral) when she complained that the period of court mourning was not long enough. George replied, “I suspect your excess in this is born of a desire for attention, I beg you prove me wrong”. This disagreement appears to have had no long-lasting effect and Victoria soon got over her sense of loss for her aunt, admitting that she had quite enjoyed having an excuse to come to England a little earlier than planned because the situation at home in The Hague was so unpleasant. Indeed, it was only 5 days after the funeral for Princess Augusta that Victoria's grandfather-in-law abdicated as he had long threatened to do and her father-in-law became King William II of the Netherlands. To her husband’s fury, Victoria ignored demands she return to Holland and stayed on in England for the Service of Thanksgiving for the marriage of Princess Charlotte Louise and the Tsarevich of Russia some two weeks later.

If Princess Charlotte Louise worried that these events might cast a pall over her final weeks in her homeland, there was suddenly a flash of happy news which greatly cheered the spirits of all concerned. Dr Alison was called to visit the Queen’s apartments by the Duchess of Buccleuch and he was happy to confirm that Her Majesty was expecting another baby. That said, he was slightly concerned. Queen Louise had given birth to Princess Victoria just 9 months earlier and though she was only in the very early stages of pregnancy, Alison wanted to impress upon the couple that this time Louise must not take any unnecessary risks. The Queen was insistent that she wished to carry on as before but Alison made it absolutely clear that she would have far greater need of care than she had in her previous two pregnancies. Louise agreed to cut her public engagements short and enter her confinement early on one condition; that she could still go with the King to Russia for the wedding of Princess Charlotte Louise. This was only weeks away and the Queen knew that the King could not face going through the ordeal alone. Despite Alison’s protests, Louise overruled him. She would go to Russia. “But I promise I shall be very well behaved when we come back”, she said playfully, “So you mustn’t sulk at me!”.

News of a royal pregnancy went some way to cheering the public’s sentiments towards the monarchy too. Though in recent weeks there had been anger at the way Prince George had conducted himself and animosity towards Princess Charlotte Louise ahead of her marriage to the Tsarevich, the vast majority were in agreement that these matters in no way reflected badly on Their Majesties. As parliament agreed the dowry for Princess Charlotte Louise, it was announced that (somewhat conveniently) the Marsden divorce bill would not be introduced until after the recess for Christmas and the New Year. By which time, Prince George would be out of the country and Princess Charlotte Louise would be married. The King contented himself that it appeared the worst of the Marsden Scandal was over but whilst the public had been temporarily placated, the King had overlooked the possibility that not everybody in his family would fall into line in support of the way he had chosen to resolve things

At Lake Como, Princess Augusta of Cambridge and her little sister Mary Adelaide were packed up and set on course for Bautzen whilst their mother moved heaven and earth to secure an urgent passage to England.

The Duchess was on the war path.
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In her later years, Empress Maria Georgievna (as Princess Charlotte Louise became) would insist that she considered herself to be married on the 23rd of October 1840 rather than on the 29th of November when she processed through the splendour of the Grand Church of the Winter Palace in St Petersburg to be married according to the Orthodox Rite before her imposing father-in-law Tsar Nicholas I.
Are these both Gregorian, or is the Russian date (as I'd imagine) old-style?


Monthly Donor
Are these both Gregorian, or is the Russian date (as I'd imagine) old-style?
I've kept it simple here by sticking to the Gregorian calendar for both dates as I know the O.S/N.S conversion confuses the hell out of me and I didn't want to risk a muddle!
I guess now that George Cambridge has been publicly disgraced, he won’t be able to influence the army as he was able to in OTL.
I wonder how Nicholas and George will act around each other.
Here is a fun fact: Queen Louise is related to the Empress of Russia because Louise’s father’s older sister is the Empress of Russia’s mother. So, I wonder if that might ease tensions a bit.


Monthly Donor
I guess now that George Cambridge has been publicly disgraced, he won’t be able to influence the army as he was able to in OTL.
I wonder how Nicholas and George will act around each other.
Here is a fun fact: Queen Louise is related to the Empress of Russia because Louise’s father’s older sister is the Empress of Russia’s mother. So, I wonder if that might ease tensions a bit.
George Cambridge does have a chance at redemption, it's whether or not he takes that chance. But as King George has a strong military interest, it may well be that even without his influence, the British Army is much improved. We shall have to see whether George Cambridge decides to take the initiative and correct his behaviour.
Will be interesting to see if george gets his son and heir (probably also called George :noexpression: ) this time!
I must admit, keeping track of all the Georges in TTL has turned me entirely against the name! x'D
GV: Part Two, Chapter 28: A Family United


Monthly Donor
King George V

Part Two, Chapter Twenty-Eight: A Family United

In the second week of October, a British Royal Family reunion of a kind was taking place at Buckingham Palace. Though still in court mourning for Prince Augusta, and with the Marsden Scandal hanging over their heads, the King and Queen had decided that enough misery had gone by and that this was the perfect time for a family celebration to lift the spirits. It had it’s PR benefits too. By coming together as one in a time of crisis, the Royal Family were showing a united front in the face of difficulty without actively defending one of their own (namely Prince George of Cambridge). To achieve this, the King put his foot down. Guests received commands to attend, not invitations and George would no longer tolerate any petty family squabbles. The family was preparing to say goodbye to Princess Charlotte Louise as she headed off for a new life in Russia. Nothing was to be allowed to spoil that and George V sent firmly worded notes to would-be troublemakers that he was in no mood for disruptive bickering. Princess Mary was especially put out when she was told her attendance at the Palace was mandatory. For the first time, she would find herself in the same room as her sister-in-law, the Duchess of Sussex. She was not best pleased when she found out that the King had put Mary in the same carriage as “the little Duchess” in a procession that would see the Royal Family driven the short distance to St James’ but nonetheless allowed the public a chance to see them all en fête. Mary made a point of avoiding eye contact with Cecilia but accepted that she must do as she was told and tolerated her presence none the less.

The ladies of the Royal Family all looked to the Queen for advice on what they should wear to the Service of Thanksgiving. This was to be a state occasion and not merely a Sunday church service where they may expected to wear large hats with day dresses and coats. To complicate matters, though court mourning for Princess Augusta would be finished by the time of the service, half-mourning was still to be observed with the ladies of the court restricted to the choice of colours they could wear. Therefore it fell to Queen Louise to lead the way. For all events connected to Princess Charlotte Louise's marriage, half-mourning was to be temporarily lifted. Whilst the older ladies of the family still stuck to greys and lilacs, the younger members were told they should wear whichever colour they liked which did not please Princess Mary at all. Indeed, she was originally minded to stubbornly wear black as a protest but her affection for Princess Charlotte Louise was greater than her love of etiquette and she met the Queen half way by choosing a purple satin gown trimmed with white lace. For the gentlemen, the choice was made easier with the King indicating that he would prefer to see them in military uniform but without black armbands.

For one member of the family, the grandeur of this occasion was all very unfamiliar. Fresh from their meeting at the funeral of the King of Prussia, George V had been greatly impressed by the personality of his cousin Prince George of Cumberland. When George wrote to the King expressing sympathy for the recent loss of his Aunt Augusta (and with no word from the Duke of Cumberland), the King personally replied to his cousin inviting him to attend the festivities for Princess Charlotte Louise’s wedding. He would be lodged at Buckingham Palace and when the King realised that George might appear underdressed, he ordered Charlie Phipps to provide his cousin with a Windsor Uniform. There was no clearer indication that the King considered Prince George to be “one of us” and in a letter sent to Queen Louise thanking her for her generous hospitality, the Prince wrote, “To be among you all on so happy an occasion, to truly be counted as one of your number, was so very moving to me. I find I can only express my gratitude in the simplest words but know that in my heart the sentiment is most cherished”. Princess Mary saw George in the Windsor Uniform and unkindly quipped, "One George out, one George in!".

On that subject, and despite the King’s pleas for family unity, another member of the Royal Family threatened to upset the apple cart as soon as they arrived in England. The Duchess of Cambridge sailed from Italy the moment she read of the King’s plans for her son (another Prince George, this one conspicuous by his absence during the wedding festivities) and she was in no mood to let sleeping dogs lie. When she arrived back at Cambridge House, she clashed bitterly with her husband who ultimately ordered her to accept the situation and to keep the peace. But Augusta was not minded to do so and she felt that as a maternal aunt to both the King and Queen, she had every right to speak her mind. Whilst she fully accepted that Prince George needed to face some consequence for his actions, she did not seem to believe the situation was nearly as bad as it really was and thus she was absolutely adamant that her son would not be sent to India; “I shall not have my boy sent to that ghastly country, left to die in the heat or felled by some native disease as so many young officers are”, she said. But the thing she was most furious about was the question of her son’s marriage.

It was perhaps an eagerness to see the crisis resolved that encouraged the King to hand the matter over to his wife. Without consulting the Duchess of Cambridge, George asked Louise to put together a list of eligible brides for his cousin with a view to passing that list to the Cambridges. But there was a slight mix up when the Queen handed the list to the Duke of Cambridge who presented it to his wife as a fait accompli. The Duchess of Cambridge saw this as gross violation of her rights as the Prince’s mother and it can’t have been made any easier by the fact that the list was made by her young niece without any accompanying note to explain why the King had asked his wife to act so quickly. The list itself did little to calm Augusta down. The problem was that the Queen was hardly spoilt for choice among the princesses listed in the Almanac de Gotha. Most were too young, too old or too Catholic. And those who were considered suitable were hardly likely to be enthused by taking on Prince George in the midst of a scandal which exposed him as a womanizing gambler.


The Duchess of Cambridge, photographed c. 1859.

We do not have a copy of this list but from surviving correspondence between the Duchess of Cambridge and her sister Grand Duchess Marie in Neustrelitz, we know that Queen Louise seems to have put Alexandrine of Baden forward as the most obvious choice. At some point in time, Sophie of the Netherlands must have featured in the preliminary discussions too as the Duchess remarked bitchily “She is so hideously ugly that I should hate to look at her face each day!”. There is also a reference to Agnes of Anhalt-Dessau who was branded “a silly little girl with no promise at all” by her would-be mother-in-law. Agnes later became well known for her talents as a painter and her enthusiasm for charitable work. But it was the suggestion of Alexandrine of Baden that really infuriated Augusta. Though she was undoubtedly the right age, the right religion and considered reasonably attractive (though no great beauty), she carried with her something which the Duchess of Cambridge found most disagreeable; Alexandrine’s father was born morganatisch. The very word was always spoken in hushed, pejorative tones in royal circles. [1]

Alexandrine’s father was Grand Duke Leopold of Baden and by 1840 he lived in great style at the lavish Karlsruher Schloss which dominated his capital. But when he was born in 1790, Leopold’s prospects were extremely limited. His father was Margrave Charles Frederick of Baden who married Caroline Louise of Hesse-Darmstadt in 1751. The couple had four sons and a daughter and so when Caroline Louise died in 1783, nobody much objected to the Margrave taking a second wife who was not his equal. Charles Frederick married Louise von Geyersberg in 1787 and had five children with her but as the marriage was morganatic, these children had no rights in Baden and were instead styled as Counts and Countesses of Hochberg. Behind closed doors however, Charles Frederick indicated that he saw his marriage as being perfectly legitimate and in no way morganatic. He made an agreement with the three sons of his first marriage which reserved decisions on the succession rights of the sons born from Charles Frederick’s second marriage to be made by Charles Frederick at a later date. Various decrees were signed (though never promulgated) which confirmed his intention to “wait and see” with regards to the succession rights of the Hochbergs.

Charles Frederick's eldest son was seen as the favoured son who did everything the "right way". He married Louise of Nassau-Usingen, ironically a first cousin of the Duchess of Cambridge through her maternal line, and it was expected that he (not his half brother Leopold) who eventually succeed in Baden. But tragically he died in 1817 and left no legitimate children. The next in line was a "legitimate" son Louis but Louis had not made nearly as good a marriage as his elder brother, indeed, he too married morganatically when he took Katharine Werner (later Countess of Goldelsheim and Langenstein) as his wife in 1818 after already fathering three illegitimate children with her. Charles Frederick knew the time had come. Just weeks before his death, he declared that the children of his second marriage were now to receive the title, rank and style of Princes and Margraves of Baden and that they would hold full succession rights. By the time of his death, his descendants from his first wife were dying out and to prevent Baden passing to the Kings of Bavaria, Charles Frederick's grandson changed the succession laws in Baden to give the Hochbergs full dynastic rights. This was confirmed by Baden's 1818 Constitution and recognised by the Great Powers (and the Kings of Bavaria) in the Treaty of Frankfurt in 1819. Therefore, Leopold was taken from morganatic son to reigning Grand Duke in the space of two decades. [2]

But Leopold still faced difficulties and so had to improve his status amidst the other German courts. With this in mind, his elder half-brother arranged for Leopold to marry his great-niece, Princess Sophie of Sweden. This marriage united the descendants of Charles Frederick’s two wives which caused a flurry of gossip throughout Europe but went some way to offset the stigma of Leopold’s morganatic birth. With this in mind, Queen Louise proposed Alexandrine (her second cousin through her maternal line) because she knew her well from childhood but mostly importantly she considered that Grand Duke Leopold (the Queen's second cousin) would not object to Prince George’s circumstances. The match with Britain would undoubtedly raise the family’s standing even further in Europe, so much so that she assumed Leopold would be able to look past any red flags. She was quite correct to assume so but she had not bargained on the Duchess of Cambridge taking the whole proposition as a great personal affront. “My son is not so damaged in reputation that he must stoop to take a wife from a house of parvenus”, she declared bitterly. But her husband was far more agreeable. He argued that the couple would have time to get to know each other and that even if the marriage did not work out, Alexandrine was likely to join George in his posting abroad where they could discretely live apart if the marriage proved to be an unhappy one. The Duchess retorted; “It is a pity Sir that you would be so cold as to condemn your only son to a marriage you predict to be so unhappy”.


Alexandrine of Baden.

Augusta’s complaints soon reached the ears of the wider family. Princess Victoria, never one to miss out on an opportunity to insert herself into a family dispute, wrote a letter to her aunt saying she very much doubted Alexandrine would want to marry George anyway because she knew that Prince Albert had recommended Alexandrine to Baron Stockmar as a possible bride for Albert's brother Ernst. This was cited as a further reason why Alexandrine was so unsuitable by the Duchess of Cambridge to the King who made discrete inquiries as to just how serious Ernst was about taking Alexandrine as a bride. Charlie Phipps was put in the embarrassing position of explaining that whilst Ernest liked Alexandrine and was interested in marrying her, he had been advised to wait because he was presently suffering from a venereal disease contracted in the brothels of Brussels. Ernst had agreed to wait for a time until he was fully recovered. The King sighed and remarked sadly, “I always knew Ernst would ruin himself. He is not half the man his brother is”. [3]

In a meeting between the King and Queen, the Cambridges and Princess Mary held the day before the Service of Thanksgiving on the 23rd of October, the matter was aired in full, the King hoping to clear any bad atmosphere before his sister’s blessing ceremony. The Duchess was resolute. Her son would not be ordered to marry anyone he didn’t love, neither would she allow him to be sent to India. She was a lone voice of protest. She told the King that Alexandrine was most unsuitable, not only because she was born to a morganatic family but also because her brother Louis was said to be severely unstable, requiring regular visits to a sanatorium for the mentally ill. Augusta was insistent that this was the cause of Grand Duke Leopold’s marriage to his great-niece and she feared that whilst Alexandrine showed no signs of disability, “my heart should stop every time she produced a child, if indeed she can, for how can we possibly know it would not share Louis’ troubles?”. Queen Louise countered that the Badens were well known to the British Royal Family and indeed, there were family ties between the Hesses and the Zähringens which would make the whole thing appear more natural and would no doubt ease the tension of the Prince and Princess finding themselves pushed together. The Duchess snapped back; “And what if my son is as reluctant to take a bride ‘found’ for him by his mother as Georgie was?”. She had gone too far.

The King slammed his hand on the table before them causing Princess Mary’s teacup to overturn.

“What a clever little trick”, she said gaily, trying to break the frosty atmosphere in the room. But the King was in no mood for jokes.

“Your son has brought shame and disgrace on his regiment and on our family”, he seethed, “You may live in a fool’s paradise where George is no doubt blameless but the rest of us do not Madam. You have always been a great support to us and we cherish you but I shall have no hesitation in sending you back to Hanover immediately if you will not concede that we have no choice in this.”

The Duchess of Cambridge began to cry.

“But you do have a choice Georgie! Send him abroad, I concede that much, though I could not bear it to be India, but please do not condemn him to misery. I could not live if I saw him forced into such an unhappy marriage”

The King calmed down a little. He rose from the table and kissed his aunt’s cheek.

“Very well”, he said, “It won’t be India. That I will promise you. And I will give you until the New Year to find somebody else. But if you do not, it shall be Alexandrine and I shall write to Cousin Leopold to arrange a meeting between your son and his daughter in the Spring. That is if Ernst Coburg doesn’t get there first. That is the very best I can do Aunt Augusta”

Princess Mary nodded in agreement; “I consider that most fair dear, Augusta you must listen to reason...”

The Duke of Cambridge who had been silent for most of the meeting stood up and shook the King’s hand.

“You have my word on this”, he said, “We are grateful for your consideration and your help. Both of you”.

Amidst talk of marriages that might be, the Royal Family now turned their attentions to a marriage that had been years in the making. A handful of specially invited Russian guests arrived in England around this time with the Tsarevich accompanied on his journey to London by his uncle Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich and a coterie of the most senior Imperial courtiers. They were to stay at the Imperial Russian Embassy and were quite taken aback to find that despite a formal welcome at Southampton given by the Duke of Sussex, they were taken to Kensington and left there with no arrangements made to entertain them in any way before the Service of Thanksgiving. The Tsarevich had hoped for a reunion with his bride-to-be at Marlborough House before the blessing ceremony but Princess Mary forbad it and so he had to wait until the big day itself to see Charlotte Louise again after months of separation. For her part, the Princess waited nervously at Buckingham Palace where she stayed the night before the service so that the Queen’s ladies of the bedchamber could dress her the next day. Any doubts she may once have had about marrying Sasha were forgotten, though she remained deeply anxious that in the brief procession from Buckingham Palace to St James’, she may be booed by the crowed.

She needn’t have worried. Regardless of any prior declarations of opposition, the people of London could not resist cheering for a blushing bride. The Princess rode with the King in the first carriage to great applause with the Queen travelling behind in the second carriage with the Tsarevich. The other guests followed, though some of the Russian guests were put out that they were expected to walk on foot to the Chapel Royal earlier that morning because there were not enough carriages to take them all. When she arrived to find them seated in the Chapel, Princess Mary joked “there are more of them than there are of us!”, the British side being a little thin on the ground as the Cambridge children were all absent and at the last moment, Princess Sophia caught a cold and couldn’t attend. This left only the King and Queen, the Dowager Duchess of Clarence, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Princess Mary, the latter being accompanied by Prince George of Cumberland to whom she remarked; “I have never cared for your father, or your mother. But you are a most pleasant young man”. George Cumberland didn’t take this personally, rather he relayed it to the King with a chuckle.


Prince George of Cumberland.

The service itself lasted just 45 minutes. To the tune of the Hallelujah Chorus by Handel sung by the choristers of the Chapel Royal, the King led his sister not to the altar but to two chairs positioned just to the right of it. There stood the Tsarevich who bowed to the King, George kissing his sister on his cheek as she then curtsied to him. With the King taking his place next to the Queen, the Archbishop of Canterbury then asked everybody to bow their heads in prayer as he intoned a blessing for the couple. It was noted that the Tsarevich did not bow his head or close his eyes – he was on strict instructions that he should not do so. After a reading from Corinthians (“Love is patient, love is kind”), the Archbishop gave a brief sermon on the importance of the institution of marriage; “It is only in the coming together of two people before the Lord in all sincerity that we are made worthy of Christ. There can be no greater sacrament than this”. The Lambeth Palace archives show that the Archbishop wisely scrubbed out the rest of this statement which followed on; “Those who violate it can never be truly whole in the sight of God” but he did include “And so we rightly celebrate when those of pure heart step forward together in His love to proclaim their own”.

With the service concluded, there was an awkward period of silence in which nothing happened. The Orthodox Archpriest Belov had summoned assistants from the Imperial Russian Embassy but none of the five clergymen had ever been in the Chapel Royal at St James’ before, neither had they attended an Anglican service in a language which was not their own. They were unsure as to whether the Archbishop of Canterbury had actually finished and so began a curious back and forth where they edged forward before the altar, then shuffled back and then performed the choreography all over again. The Archbishop motioned that he had indeed finished and the Orthodox clergy began to chant. Princess Mary rolled her eyes and said a little too loudly; “Will that din last for very much longer?”. It lasted for nearly an hour. Archpriest Belov seemed to think he had to match the service as performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and so the British guests were forced to sit through an Orthodox ceremony which they didn’t understand and which was made all the less romantic by the Duke of Sussex falling asleep in the middle, snoring his head off until his niece Princess Victoria jabbed him in the ribs to stop him, consumed as she was by a fit of the giggles.

Despite this, the Tsarevich and Princess Charlotte Louise beamed happily as they walked arm in arm from the Chapel Royal; notably they did not kiss before the congregation but during the Orthodox blessing they did join hands. From there, they were allowed to take the head of the procession in the first carriage together for the journey back to Buckingham Palace, the King and Queen following behind. A grand reception had been arranged by Queen Louise to which the great and the good had been invited as they might have been following a wedding at St George’s Chapel. Though it was not a wedding at all, a “Celebration Breakfast” was served that deeply impressed those lucky enough to attend, the royal kitchens having gained a reputation of late for serving far more simpler fare. The menu was comprised of; Potage Brunoise (a consommé made from carrots, parsnips, leeks, onion, celery and garden peas), Turbot avec Sauce Homard et Hollandaise (Turbot dressed in Hollandaise sauce with lobster meat), Tournedos à la Moelle garnis de Pommes (Small fillets of beef dressed with a bone marrow gravy and served with potatoes), Les Bécassine (Roast Snipe) served with Les Artichauts Lyonnaise (artichoke hearts in a white sauce made from butter, lemon and white wine) and Salade Russe (vegetables in mayonnaise set in an aspic jelly). As if this were not enough, guests then had a further three courses to get through. Immediately after the Snipe, a fruit course was served of Courte aux pommes (poached apples) with creamed rice followed by Les Meringues à la Chantilly (meringues and vanilla cream) and then Les Gateaux Genoises au Chocolat (an orange sponge cake frosted with chocolate cream and decorated with crystallised fruits and almonds). [4]

As if this were not enough, guests were treated to glasses of Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes, Chateau Pichon Bordeaux and Arbois Grand-Imperial Champagne. After speeches given by the King, the Duke of Cambridge, the Prime Minister, the Tsarevich and Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich, the guests were given a few hours respite to allow the ladies to change before the dancing began. If anybody was still hungry, they could avail themselves of a cold buffet of Baron of Beef, Wild Boar’s Head, Game Pie, Brawn, Woodcock Pie and a Terrine de Foies Gras. Or they could pick a selection of petit fours from tall silver stands placed around the ballroom offering small cakes, sweets and crystallised fruits. Those present agreed it was by far the grandest occasion staged in the King’s reign thus far and the Duchess of Buccleuch noted that she was “most impressed by the gowns of the ladies, and their jewels which I am sure shamed even those of the ladies of the Russian court”. The Duchess would soon have a chance to find out as she was to accompany the King and Queen to St Petersburg for the wedding of the Princess and the Tsarevich.


The Mellerio Amethyst Parure.

At the close of the festivities, the King called for silence. The guests assembled gathered round as the King motioned to a page who brought in a large leather box which was placed on a table before His Majesty. As he opened it, the assembled company broke into applause, the ladies cooing their approval. Inside the box was a sumptuous parure comprised of a tiara set on a hair comb, a pair of pendant earrings, three brooches and a bracelet, the suite being crafted from 40 large cabochon amethysts in total all set in gold with floral spacers. This was considered most fashionable for the time but its origin turned heads. Rather than commission the parure from the Crown Jeweller in London, the King had given the task of producing his wedding gift for his sister to Mellerio of Paris [5]. This was no snub to Garrards, the Queen had advised that the Russian court favoured French designs and so the King went straight to the source where many a Russian Grand Duchess purchased her jewels. Princess Charlotte Louise openly wept and embraced her brother, who likewise burst into tears and held her tight in his arms. They had just a few weeks left before Charlotte Louise would be married in St Petersburg, thereafter, only to return to England when her responsibilities in Russia allowed.

When the guests had departed and the King sat quite alone in the ballroom in quiet contemplation of the day’s events, he felt two hands rest upon his shoulders.

“I knew you would find me”, he said with a smile. The Queen kissed the top of his head softly.

“I was so proud of you today Georgie”, she sat as he turned round to embrace her, “So very proud. And I know it was not easy”

“It was made easier because of you”, the King replied, “Do you think we put on a good enough show?”

“Of course!”, Louise laughed, “Poor Sir James, will Aunt Mary ever be reconciled to him do you think?”

The King grinned; “I doubt it. The poor man is a nervous wreck in her company, he trod on her foot twice tonight and then knocked a bowl of custard out of her hand”

The Queen dissolved into giggles as the King held her close.

“I do thank God for you every day Sunny”, he said quietly, “You do know that, don’t you?”

The Queen nodded; “I know”

“Because what Aunt Augusta said…about our meeting…it wasn’t true”, he said eagerly, “The moment I saw you I knew I loved you”

And with that, the King kissed his wife. “I hope Lottie will be as happy with Sasha as we are with each other”

The Queen gazed into her husband’s eyes; “Oh Georgie”, she said, “Nobody could be as happy as we are”.

And with that, the couple walked away hand in hand leaving the footmen clearing the tables to exchange knowing smiles. History records the marriage of King George V and Queen Louise as one of the monarchy’s most successful. Whilst so many princes and princesses found their future spouses picked for them, few developed so close a bond as the King and Queen. George's approach to family matters also proved of great value to the Crown. Regardless of the negative headlines of recent weeks, the sight of a united family seemed to melt the hearts of the outraged and every newspaper carried glowing articles praising Their Majesties for "restoring all that is good in the monarchy in the face of adversity". Without doubt, the King could never have managed this without the help of his wife. In the coming months, George would come to rely on the Queen’s support more and more and whilst some marriages might experience strain or tension as the result of too much closeness at times, the King and Queen were very much the opposite. Undoubtedly their happiness was clear to all who saw them together. They had endeared themselves to the people of Britain and charmed the people of France.

It now remained to be seen if they could just as easily impress the people of Russia.

[1] In the OTL, Augusta’s daughter Mary Adelaide married Francis, Count von Hohenstein (later Duke of Teck) who was born to a morganatic marriage between Duke Alexander of Württemberg and Countess Claudine Rhédey von Kis-Rhéde. Augusta only got past her scruples on morganatic marriage in this case because nobody else was willing to take on poor “Fat Mary” and the Duchess felt it better for her daughter to actually be married rather than remain a spinster, especially as she had such a passion for spending money which poor Prince Frank did little to control. Pauline of Wied (née Württemberg) often used to tease the very grand Queen Mary (Mary Adelaide's daughter) that she descended from “the morganatisch”. Which perhaps explains why Queen Mary really didn’t care to see her paternal relations if she could possibly avoid it!

[2] The Baden succession was far more complicated than this but it would need a chapter of it's own to explain, so this is a condensed version to suit our purposes.

[3] Prince Albert did arrange the match for his brother with Alexandrine but as in TTL, Ernst had to wait until he was free from the worst side effects of his STI which his doctors feared may mean he could never have children. In 1842, he was only moderately recovered but wouldn’t wait any longer and he married Alexandrine. After their wedding, he returned to his womanizing ways and cruelly blamed Alexandrine for not being able to give him the son and heir he wanted. It’s more likely that he passed on his illness to his young bride who was then left unable to conceive. That said, Alexandrine was devoted to Ernst and refused to hear a bad word said about him. What a woman.

[4] Whenever I list a menu, the dishes have invariably been researched from this brilliant resource I know many of you will enjoy:

[5] The Russian Imperial Family always preferred to buy their jewels from the French jewellers Fossin (later Chaumet) or Mellerio. Even though the Tsars appointed court jewellers in Russia, the Grand Duchesses felt that French designs were far superior and that they could not be replicated in Russia. So Chaumet and Mellerio became the favoured suppliers with most continental Royal Houses following their lead. It was only in the United Kingdom that the Royal Family chose to stick with British designers, though very occasionally they might purchase a piece from Paris.
I wish I could see a portrait of Charlotte Louise in that parure! I bet she would look spectacular. And how thoughtful that George ordered something that would be fashionable in Russia
I do thank God for you every day Sunny”, he said quietly, “You do know that, don’t you?”

The Queen nodded; “I know”

“Because what Aunt Augusta said…about our meeting…it wasn’t true”, he said eagerly, “The moment I saw you I knew I loved you”

And with that, the King kissed his wife. “I hope Lottie will be as happy with Sasha as we are with each other”

The Queen gazed into her husband’s eyes; “Oh Georgie”, she said, “Nobody could be as happy as we are”.
SOOOOOO CUTE. My heart melted when I read this. Fantastic update
I've spent the last few days binge reading this and it has proved extremely entertaining!

With that said, if anybody has any questions about all this, please feel free to ask! I've spent about 8 weeks researching and designing this so I have lots of useless information to share if requested.
Regarding your edit of Regent's Park, I half-thought it was a genuine proposal until you stated otherwise, your work was that good.
Are any of the villas outside of the Inner Circle in Lisson Park associated with certain positions or appointments?
Is the detached area to the west still considered part of Lisson Park, or does it have a distinct name?


Monthly Donor
I wish I could see a portrait of Charlotte Louise in that parure! I bet she would look spectacular. And how thoughtful that George ordered something that would be fashionable in Russia
It's a seriously impressive suite isn't it? I traced it from a Christie's sale, it was made in 1840 by one of the French jewel houses but nothing else is known about it's origin which made it perfect for me to adopt for Charlotte Louise. ;)

Thank you so much for reading!

SOOOOOO CUTE. My heart melted when I read this. Fantastic update
Sometimes you just have to throw in a little romance. And George and Louise lend themselves to it so naturally. I'm so pleased you enjoyed it, thankyou!

I've spent the last few days binge reading this and it has proved extremely entertaining!

Regarding your edit of Regent's Park, I half-thought it was a genuine proposal until you stated otherwise, your work was that good.
Are any of the villas outside of the Inner Circle in Lisson Park associated with certain positions or appointments?
Is the detached area to the west still considered part of Lisson Park, or does it have a distinct name?
Wow. I was thinking today that this timeline has now been going for 10 months and covers 25 years of alt history. I'm so grateful to everyone who has stuck with it for so long and I'm seriously impressed when new readers discover it and I see their "likes" racking up over a few days as they catch up to the latest chapter. I'm really thrilled you've enjoyed it so far and thank you for your kind comments on my work.

As to Regent's Park, the area to the west sits in between St John's Wood and Mayfair today and is known as Lisson Grove in the OTL. When I was trying to find a suitable name for the development in TTL, I researched the origins of the Lisson name which suited what I had in mind perfectly. So in TTL, that area from the Marylebone Road to Lord's Cricket Ground would still be known as Lisson Grove but not considered part of the park/palace complex.

And yes, absolutely, the villas outside of the Inner Circle would be grace and favour residences for those fortunate enough to hold senior positions in the Royal Household. When we get Lisson built in a future instalment, I'll provide a list as to how these were divided up. Once again, many thanks for reading and for your generous compliments!


Monthly Donor
Just a heads up that I've had a weekend without internet (quite frightening to realise how dependent EVERYTHING is on a connection) so the next update will be published either tomorrow or Wednesday. Apologies for the wait!