Crown Imperial: An Alt British Monarchy

Opo

Monthly Donor
Basically a declaration of war. Not sure that the king or PM would be allowed to use such language
On those grounds, war would have been a weekly occurrence during Queen Victoria's reign! She seemed to spend most of her time shouting at her ministers, though naturally they never returned fire - but Mr Gladstone came very close...
 
On those grounds, war would have been a weekly occurrence during Queen Victoria's reign! She seemed to spend most of her time shouting at her ministers, though naturally they never returned fire - but Mr Gladstone came very close...
The more I read about victoria the more I think she's a terrible person
 

Opo

Monthly Donor
The more I read about victoria the more I think she's a terrible person
I think Victoria was very lucky in that she seemed to become the symbol for the Victorian age and so people tend to attribute the progress made during her tenure to her personally in some way. In reality, her reign saw the biggest rise in republicanism since the English Civil War simply because the monarchy pretty much ceased to function and was totally hidden from public view. Had it not been for her son and daughter-in-law making breakthroughs in the 1870s/80s, there's a case to be made that the monarchy may not have survived the century. So as Queen she wasn't exactly one of our greatest monarchs, but as a person?

Prone to mood swings, violent temper tantrums and prolonged bouts of sulking, insanely jealous of her eldest daughter, always suspicious of her eldest son, unreasonable and unkind to her other children (with the possible exception of Princess Beatrice) and generally rude and unpleasant to most who came into contact with her...that's the Victoria most of her inner circle knew. That said (and though I generally think it's a bad idea as a rule to diagnose historical figures with mental health difficulties) Victoria clearly struggled from a young age (whether nature or nurture) to such a pitch that Baron Stockmar seriously considered the possibility that she had inherited the "madness" of her grandfather.

We know now that wasn't the case but I find it interesting that her symptoms were so severe that they resembled those displayed by George III, enough to be noticed and to be likened to his condition. Albert's death clearly brought about a crisis where Victoria was concerned and the treatments she was given were actually the standard treatments for "melancholy" at the time so even her own physician must have believed that her mood swings were caused by something the medical profession recognised even at that time as being a mental health issue and not a physical one.

Having said all that you can equally find stories about Victoria which show a happier and more likeable side of her nature. Prince Michael of Kent has spoken of her sense of humour, apparently she was very quick witted and loved practical jokes. One of her favourite stories to tell was about an old Admiral who was very hard of hearing and was telling the Queen a long and boring story at dinner about how he was restoring an old clipper.

Victoria tried to change the subject but the Admiral continued, clearly not hearing her intervention;

"How is your sister?"

"...and do you know Ma'am, we had to turn her over and scrape her bottom before she'd float again..."

Cue hysterical laughter from Victoria. Princess Alice (Athlone) also said she was a brilliant grandmother and recalled how the Queen used to give the children a pound if they lost their baby teeth. When Alice hadn't seen her for some time, she'd lost three and Victoria replied "Three? Oh dear me, that's very expensive". The flip side of course is that Victoria's interfering and personal whims saw Alice's brother removed from his family in childhood and sent to Coburg alone, later on becoming a rather eager member of the Nazi Party...

Anyway, I digress from the thread at hand a little here but I have to say I share your view on Victoria and it's for that reason that I began to write this TL. It's not entirely a world without Queen Victoria as she's headed off to the Netherlands in TTL but a Britain without Queen Victoria? That's always been a fascinating idea to me.
 
I think Victoria was very lucky in that she seemed to become the symbol for the Victorian age and so people tend to attribute the progress made during her tenure to her personally in some way.
True that... It's weird how she came to define the age while not really doing much to bring it about herself.
In reality, her reign saw the biggest rise in republicanism since the English Civil War simply because the monarchy pretty much ceased to function and was totally hidden from public view. Had it not been for her son and daughter-in-law making breakthroughs in the 1870s/80s, there's a case to be made that the monarchy may not have survived the century.
Now that's a very intriguing possibility for an AH...
So as Queen she wasn't exactly one of our greatest monarchs, but as a person?

Prone to mood swings, violent temper tantrums and prolonged bouts of sulking, insanely jealous of her eldest daughter, always suspicious of her eldest son, unreasonable and unkind to her other children (with the possible exception of Princess Beatrice) and generally rude and unpleasant to most who came into contact with her...that's the Victoria most of her inner circle knew. That said (and though I generally think it's a bad idea as a rule to diagnose historical figures with mental health difficulties) Victoria clearly struggled from a young age (whether nature or nurture) to such a pitch that Baron Stockmar seriously considered the possibility that she had inherited the "madness" of her grandfather.

We know now that wasn't the case but I find it interesting that her symptoms were so severe that they resembled those displayed by George III, enough to be noticed and to be likened to his condition. Albert's death clearly brought about a crisis where Victoria was concerned and the treatments she was given were actually the standard treatments for "melancholy" at the time so even her own physician must have believed that her mood swings were caused by something the medical profession recognised even at that time as being a mental health issue and not a physical one.
That's interesting - I never knew that they were that severe.

If that was the case...odds are that her marriage didn't exactly help. Like, I know that she was clearly thoroughly in love with Albert, but...I do remember reading on this site that he wasn't that pleasant an individual, and was...well, his behaviour towards her at times would today be considered at least gaslighting, and probably full-on mental abuse.
Having said all that you can equally find stories about Victoria which show a happier and more likeable side of her nature. Prince Michael of Kent has spoken of her sense of humour, apparently she was very quick witted and loved practical jokes. One of her favourite stories to tell was about an old Admiral who was very hard of hearing and was telling the Queen a long and boring story at dinner about how he was restoring an old clipper.

Victoria tried to change the subject but the Admiral continued, clearly not hearing her intervention;

"How is your sister?"

"...and do you know Ma'am, we had to turn her over and scrape her bottom before she'd float again..."

Cue hysterical laughter from Victoria.
OK, that's funny XD
Princess Alice (Athlone) also said she was a brilliant grandmother and recalled how the Queen used to give the children a pound if they lost their baby teeth. When Alice hadn't seen her for some time, she'd lost three and Victoria replied "Three? Oh dear me, that's very expensive". The flip side of course is that Victoria's interfering and personal whims saw Alice's brother removed from his family in childhood and sent to Coburg alone, later on becoming a rather eager member of the Nazi Party...
Whenever I think of Victoria, I admit I think of that quote attributed to the RL George V:
My father was frightened of his mother; I was frightened of my father, and I am damned well going to see to it that my children are frightened of me.
Not an attitude that TTL's George seems to have, thankfully...
Anyway, I digress from the thread at hand a little here but I have to say I share your view on Victoria and it's for that reason that I began to write this TL. It's not entirely a world without Queen Victoria as she's headed off to the Netherlands in TTL but a Britain without Queen Victoria? That's always been a fascinating idea to me.
Oh, I agree.

From how he's been written, of course, and the fact he's still comparatively young, could be that TTL's George defines his era the same way Victoria did hers.

On a general subject, something just occurred to me. OTL, IIRC, the Crimean War was a major reason why the system of buying promotions in the Army - ie the system that let people like Lord 'Noble Yachtsman' Cardigan gain regimental and higher command positions - got shut down finally. Without it or a similar large modern war in George's reign, it might linger on...
 
I just found this TL a few days ago and am making my way through it to the detriment or work and family. Amazing TL. So far I am especially stuck by the Dowager Queen Louise - a really convincing villain who somehow manages to be somewhat sympathetic.

I apologize if this has already been answered, but with Victoria in the Netherlands, what will be the name of the age? We have already had Georgian, so not that presumably. Or will the name be unconnected with the monarch, since George V will not reign as long as OTL Victoria.
 
Prone to mood swings, violent temper tantrums and prolonged bouts of sulking, insanely jealous of her eldest daughter, always suspicious of her eldest son, unreasonable and unkind to her other children (with the possible exception of Princess Beatrice)
I believe that she also was quite fond of her son Prince Leopold.
 
I think Victoria was very lucky in that she seemed to become the symbol for the Victorian age and so people tend to attribute the progress made during her tenure to her personally in some way. In reality, her reign saw the biggest rise in republicanism since the English Civil War simply because the monarchy pretty much ceased to function and was totally hidden from public view. Had it not been for her son and daughter-in-law making breakthroughs in the 1870s/80s, there's a case to be made that the monarchy may not have survived the century. So as Queen she wasn't exactly one of our greatest monarchs, but as a person?

Prone to mood swings, violent temper tantrums and prolonged bouts of sulking, insanely jealous of her eldest daughter, always suspicious of her eldest son, unreasonable and unkind to her other children (with the possible exception of Princess Beatrice) and generally rude and unpleasant to most who came into contact with her...that's the Victoria most of her inner circle knew. That said (and though I generally think it's a bad idea as a rule to diagnose historical figures with mental health difficulties) Victoria clearly struggled from a young age (whether nature or nurture) to such a pitch that Baron Stockmar seriously considered the possibility that she had inherited the "madness" of her grandfather.

We know now that wasn't the case but I find it interesting that her symptoms were so severe that they resembled those displayed by George III, enough to be noticed and to be likened to his condition. Albert's death clearly brought about a crisis where Victoria was concerned and the treatments she was given were actually the standard treatments for "melancholy" at the time so even her own physician must have believed that her mood swings were caused by something the medical profession recognised even at that time as being a mental health issue and not a physical one.

Having said all that you can equally find stories about Victoria which show a happier and more likeable side of her nature. Prince Michael of Kent has spoken of her sense of humour, apparently she was very quick witted and loved practical jokes. One of her favourite stories to tell was about an old Admiral who was very hard of hearing and was telling the Queen a long and boring story at dinner about how he was restoring an old clipper.

Victoria tried to change the subject but the Admiral continued, clearly not hearing her intervention;

"How is your sister?"

"...and do you know Ma'am, we had to turn her over and scrape her bottom before she'd float again..."

Cue hysterical laughter from Victoria. Princess Alice (Athlone) also said she was a brilliant grandmother and recalled how the Queen used to give the children a pound if they lost their baby teeth. When Alice hadn't seen her for some time, she'd lost three and Victoria replied "Three? Oh dear me, that's very expensive". The flip side of course is that Victoria's interfering and personal whims saw Alice's brother removed from his family in childhood and sent to Coburg alone, later on becoming a rather eager member of the Nazi Party...

Anyway, I digress from the thread at hand a little here but I have to say I share your view on Victoria and it's for that reason that I began to write this TL. It's not entirely a world without Queen Victoria as she's headed off to the Netherlands in TTL but a Britain without Queen Victoria? That's always been a fascinating idea to me.
It is interesting that Victoria as a monarch didn’t seem to take as active a role in ruling, especially since it looked like she was in the beginning of her reign. I wonder if it’s because of that expectation that women weren’t supposed to in charge of everything, especially since Victoria wasn’t a beacon of feminism herself. Though I think it was mentioned before that both otl Victoria and ttl George V were advised not to be more direct, so it could just be the difference in personality and expectations between these two. Either way, George’s desire to take a more active approach and his actions in wanting to achieve that do give this timeline more intrigue to me.
 
I apologize if this has already been answered, but with Victoria in the Netherlands, what will be the name of the age? We have already had Georgian, so not that presumably. Or will the name be unconnected with the monarch, since George V will not reign as long as OTL Victoria.

@Opo gave the following explanation previously -

The Georgian Era, 1700 - 1900.

Broken down as follows:-

Early Georgian Era, 1700 - 1810: King George I, King George II and pre-regency King George III
The Long Regency, 1810 - 1840: Prince George, Prince Regent and Frederick, Duke of York standing regent for King George III until his death in 1820. Then the brief reign of King George IV* and a return to regency for a young King George V under the Duke of Clarence and the Duke of Cambridge.
New Georgian Era, The 1840s - mid 1880s: Majority reign of King George V
 

Opo

Monthly Donor
That's interesting - I never knew that they were that severe.

If that was the case...odds are that her marriage didn't exactly help. Like, I know that she was clearly thoroughly in love with Albert, but...I do remember reading on this site that he wasn't that pleasant an individual, and was...well, his behaviour towards her at times would today be considered at least gaslighting, and probably full-on mental abuse.
Prince Albert was really quite shocked after their marriage by just how violent her tempers could be. A favourite trick of Victoria's was to "clear the decks" when she was angry, whereby she ran about sweeping things off of desks and tables. But as you rightly say, Albert wasn't exactly a saint either and I think it's interesting that she always remembered him as being so perfect and so free from any kind of flaw when actually he could be just as severe - especially where the children were concerned.

Their most well-documented clash was over the Princess Royal of course; Albert began to spend lots of time with Vicky to prepare her for her post-marital life in Germany - and probably just to spend time with her given they would only meet occasionally after that - which infuriated Victoria to such a pitch that she banned Vicky from eating with the family, insisted the whole marriage with Fritz had been forced upon them and that she had never liked him anyway. She told her all kinds of horror stories about what to expect and frightened the poor girl half to death until Albert stepped in and said if Victoria didn't change her ways, he'd leave with Vicky too. It was probably an idle threat but it swung Victoria's mood back to devoted hausfrau and that's how he preferred her to be.

From how he's been written, of course, and the fact he's still comparatively young, could be that TTL's George defines his era the same way Victoria did hers.

On a general subject, something just occurred to me. OTL, IIRC, the Crimean War was a major reason why the system of buying promotions in the Army - ie the system that let people like Lord 'Noble Yachtsman' Cardigan gain regimental and higher command positions - got shut down finally. Without it or a similar large modern war in George's reign, it might linger on...
On the first point, I think our George V stands a good chance of racking up some real achievements as a contribution to the age rather than accidentally becoming the symbol of that age. Where the army is concerned, he will definitely play a part what with his interests in all things military, so watch this space. ;)

I just found this TL a few days ago and am making my way through it to the detriment or work and family. Amazing TL. So far I am especially stuck by the Dowager Queen Louise - a really convincing villain who somehow manages to be somewhat sympathetic.

I apologize if this has already been answered, but with Victoria in the Netherlands, what will be the name of the age? We have already had Georgian, so not that presumably. Or will the name be unconnected with the monarch, since George V will not reign as long as OTL Victoria.
That is so kind of you, thank you so much and I'm thrilled to hear that you're enjoying the TL! As to your question on the name of age, here's how I think historians would categorise it:

The Georgian Era, 1700 - 1900.

Broken down as follows:-

Early Georgian Era, 1700 - 1810: King George I, King George II and pre-regency King George III
The Long Regency, 1810 - 1840: Prince George, Prince Regent and Frederick, Duke of York standing regent for King George III until his death in 1820. Then the brief reign of King George IV* and a return to regency for a young King George V under the Duke of Clarence and the Duke of Cambridge.
New Georgian Era, The 1840s - mid 1880s: Majority reign of King George V

I believe that she also was quite fond of her son Prince Leopold.
She was though one always has to remember with Victoria how much she liked to re-define her relationships with those who had died after the event. We've seen how she overlooked Albert's flaws to canonize him but she did the same too with her mother. Whilst she was fond of Leopold, it was only after his death that she spoke of him in glowing terms as if they had never had a crossed word. Likewise with her daughter Alice who had quite a few choice phrases for her mother and the way she'd raised Alice and her siblings. Ironically, Victoria then took a huge role in raising Alice's children.

It is interesting that Victoria as a monarch didn’t seem to take as active a role in ruling, especially since it looked like she was in the beginning of her reign. I wonder if it’s because of that expectation that women weren’t supposed to in charge of everything, especially since Victoria wasn’t a beacon of feminism herself. Though I think it was mentioned before that both otl Victoria and ttl George V were advised not to be more direct, so it could just be the difference in personality and expectations between these two. Either way, George’s desire to take a more active approach and his actions in wanting to achieve that do give this timeline more intrigue to me.
That's a very good point. I think Victoria was very much manipulated into thinking she couldn't possibly take on any kind of role without Albert on hand to guide, at least by the time he died. Stockmar made them both think that Albert really was this enlightened genius who kept the whole thing going and though she was reluctant to let him play a part in her duties at the start of their marriage (he started out as an ink blotter!), by 1863 he was not only attending her audiences with her Prime Minister but he was also drafting official letters to foreign heads of state in Victoria's name. When he died, Victoria seemed to convince herself there was no point trying as Albert had always done her work so perfectly that she could never measure up. Either that or she simply didn't care after he was dead. It's ironic to think that when the marriage was first arranged, people had misgivings because they worried Albert might want to rule in Victoria's stead...

In terms of the differences in the OTL Victoria and TTL's George, I'm glad you're enjoying George's attempts to take a more active approach as I think it really does change so much - or at least, has the opportunity to. In many ways he's just doing what the OTL George IV and William IV, a style of "Kingship" which Victoria moved away from on the advice of Baron Stockmar but which I think our George would absolutely want to maintain. He saw at close hand how the Duke of Clarence managed the regency and that has given him the idea that he doesn't just have to cut ribbons and lay foundation stones. At this stage in the TL however, he's trying to get over that voice in his head (a left over from his mother no doubt) that he's not good enough or that he'll face too much resistance to try. In a weird way, whereas Albert took over and almost ruled for Victoria, Louise (George's wife) is encouraging him to do more. Which is yet another reason I figure their relationship would be such a strong one. He needs a lot of reassurance and encouragement which his wife is only too happy to give.
 
I wonder who would have had the worst tantrum?
Victoria or Henry VIII?
I think Henry because Victoria's tantrums, as far as I know, never led to her executing people. In fairness, Henry's tantrums would have been more restrained if he lived in the 19th century and had the restrictions to royal power that the Hannovers had, and who knows what Victoria would have done if she lived in Tudor times.
 
I think Henry because Victoria's tantrums, as far as I know, never led to her executing people. In fairness, Henry's tantrums would have been more restrained if he lived in the 19th century and had the restrictions to royal power that the Hannovers had, and who knows what Victoria would have done if she lived in Tudor times.
Victoria probably would have ordered Sir John Conroy executed due to how he tried to manipulate her in her childhood.
 

Opo

Monthly Donor
Certainly pairing Victoria with William III in TTL was an interesting match to me as it was one William IV favoured but which (given William III's own...well...volatile personality) would hardly be a happy one IMO.
 
The Georgian Era, 1700 - 1900.

Broken down as follows:-

Early Georgian Era, 1700 - 1810: King George I, King George II and pre-regency King George III
The Long Regency, 1810 - 1840: Prince George, Prince Regent and Frederick, Duke of York standing regent for King George III until his death in 1820. Then the brief reign of King George IV* and a return to regency for a young King George V under the Duke of Clarence and the Duke of Cambridge.
New Georgian Era, The 1840s - mid 1880s: Majority reign of King George V
Thanks for the response (and thank you to @wwbgdiaslt for also answering my question). I assume there will be the inevitable jokes about Regency novels, Long Regency novels and possibly Very Long Regency novels.

As I wrote before, love the TL but I am finding your commentary on OTL equally enlightening, my knowledge of Queen Victoria previously was limited to Lytton Strachey's bio.
 
I can see them now,
The Madness of King George
The badness of Queen Louise(George’s mom)
The Fatness of King George IV
The Sadness of Princess Charlotte
The Gladness of Queen Louise(George’s wife)
 
GV: Part Two, Chapter 35: A Question of Honour

Opo

Monthly Donor
King George V

Part Two, Chapter Thirty-Five: A Question of Honour

Sir James Graham smoothed down his coat, adjusted his waistcoat and took a deep breath as he prepared to enter the House of Commons. He did so at the tail end of a particularly dull debate concerning proposals to build a memorial to the late Sir Walter Scott in Edinburgh [1]. Whilst nobody was going to object to an allocation of funds to commission a statue in Scott’s honour, the debate had turned from a series of glowing tributes to a tit-for-tat over whether the memorial should be placed at Prince’s Street or St David’s Street (in the event it was placed on the axis of both). At this time, the Commons was sitting in the Court of Requests chamber just a stone’s throw from Westminster Hall, as Barry and Pugin’s gothic revivalist vision of a new Palace of Westminster began to take shape. Yet despite the smaller venue and the rather dreary topic of the day, the chamber was packed to the rafters – so much so that older (and possibly wiser) MPs arrived at the very start of the Scott debate to secure a seat and not end up jammed into a crowd of late comers hovering in the doorway. The Prime Minister was to give a statement on the so-called “China Question” and every party had a vested interest in the matter. Some intended to vent their fury that Royal Navy gunships were not already cutting their way to Hong Kong. Others wanted to protect their stocks, shares and bonds in trading companies operating in Kowloon. And some saw that no party was more divided on the issue than the Tories; and they wanted to exploit that division to their advantage.

Sir James Graham had always stood squarely against military action in Hong Kong during the dying days of the Whig administration. Palmerston had naturally been eager to send a fleet to beat the Chinese into submission and extract British ownership of Hong Kong at the ensuing peace talks [2]. But his successor, Lord Melbury, had managed to persuade the former Prime Minister Lord Cottenham to try a more diplomatic approach first. Arguably that had failed spectacularly for since the Kwun Tong Incident, reports were coming in thick and fast of similar attacks on British homes in Hong Kong and the Chinese authorities were not only maintaining their new blockade of the Pearl River but had closed all diplomatic channels. Sir Henry Pottinger, the Chief Superintendent of Hong Kong, was consistently refused a meeting with Lord Qishan and he could do nothing now that the British offer of compensation to the Chinese from fines levied against ships carrying contraband had been refused. It was clear to Pottinger that the British had two choices; to ban the trade of opium outright and avert conflict or to commit themselves (and their gunboats) to war against China.

368px-Sir_Henry_Pottinger%2C_1st_Baronet.jpg

Sir Henry Pottinger

Whilst some Tories believed that military action was inevitable and that control over Hong Kong made a military campaign worthwhile, most were still firmly in the anti-war camp. The Cabinet too was divided. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alexander Baring, had concerns about the cost of intervention and yet Britain stood to lose much needed trade routes, the expense of a foreign campaign therefore being easier to justify than he at first believed. Yet the Home Secretary, William Gladstone, was so committed to his position that the trade of opium was a “vile and poisonous action” and should be banned entirely as the Chinese demanded, that he even threatened to resign if the Prime Minister went to war to protect it. Then there were those in the centre of the debate like the Foreign Secretary, Lord Stanley. He was ambivalent where the trading of opium was concerned but he could not sit by and see British subjects murdered, their homes and businesses destroyed and the British representative in Hong Kong reduced to begging for a few words with a minor local official. He was no warmonger but Stanley made his position clear to the Prime Minister; that with every passing day, the Chinese rubbed their hands with glee knowing they had free reign to do whatever they liked to the British in Hong Kong for as long as the British government prevaricated. The Chinese were happy to watch vigilantes’ chip away at the British presence in Hong Kong, seemingly confidant that the United Kingdom was not preparing to retaliate.

Where the backbenches in the Commons were concerned, most Tory MPs were more in tune with the general attitude of the electorate, the majority of the public believing that the trade of opium was abhorrent and that to fight a war against China to preserve even a limited import of the drug made the United Kingdom little more than a seedy backstreet dealer turned violent gangster. To maintain a disgusting market of contraband to please a handful of wealthy investors was a stain on the British character and public meetings condemning the continued sale of opium were commonplace in cities and towns across England. Cynics were quick to point out that many Tories in the Lords had a healthy packet of stocks, shares and bonds in Jardines or the East India Company which they were keen to protect and these individuals just so happened to be some of the largest donors to the Tory Party. Naturally Sir James rejected this allegation in the strongest terms. The position he outlined to his Cabinet, to Parliament and to the King, was that he could not countenance a war with China when he believed a diplomatic solution might still be reached. Yet he would not close the loophole in the existing legislation regulating the trade of opium until the Chinese indicated that they were willing to come to terms if he pursued that diplomatic solution. This fence sitting did not go down well in the Commons. Everyone could see that goodwill had been exhausted with previous agreements; the Chinese had no reason to trust the British to behave honourably and now the Qing officials were just as clear in their position as Lord Stanley; the trading of opium must be banned or the Chinese were willing to fight to keep the British away from their shores.

The Whigs were far more unified in their position on the China Question than the Tories, though a power struggle was still raging as to which faction might lead the charge. Even Lord Melbury, once so keen to see a diplomatic solution over a military campaign, accepted that the situation called for harsh recriminations against the Chinese, not so much because he was committed to the opium trade but because the situation had now developed into something far more serious; it was a question of honour. The Kwun Tong Incident alone warranted a swift and firm reaction but the continued attacks on British subjects in Hong Kong, which had earned praise from the highest offices in Peking, could not be allowed to continue. If the Chinese would not meet the British Chief Superintendent, there was no hope for a diplomatic solution. Lord John Russell and Earl Spencer agreed; war was inevitable and the Tories had wasted an early advantage in the conflict by refusing to dispatch gunboats when the situation first began to turn against the British interest. In taking this view, the Whigs found themselves singing from the same hymn sheet as the Unionists, something which the Tories tried to use to rally a little political capital. The Unionists were seething that the Tories had allowed the chaos in China to continue for so long and they demanded immediate military action. In the House of Lords, the Earl of Winchelsea condemned the Prime Minister for “turning a blind eye to the continued oppression and persecution of British subjects in Hong Kong who now live in fear of state sponsored arson, assault and murder”.

He continued; “The government dithers and delays, proffering yet more scraps of paper instead of committing to a firm and robust course of action we all know must now be followed”. Sir James replied that that the Whigs and the Unionists had urged war before, both parties having been supportive of the Afghanistan campaign; “I advise those beating the drum of war in this House, and in the Other Place, to remember the path they trod before and where it led us”. But one of the Prime Minister’s own number stood up and intervened next, causing the opposition parties to jeer and flap their order papers in the air. William Gordon, a Scottish naval commander and the Tory MP for Aberdeenshire, stood to remark; “This foul display of Chinese aggression and arrogance must be rejected with the utmost urgency Mr Speaker, for it stands not only against the principles embraced by all nations that we must be free to pursue profitable trade as we see fit, but moreover because it stands as an insult to the Crown”. Sir James felt the mood of his own backbenches shift with every second of Gordon’s intervention. The cheers from behind him were growing louder. As the Speaker tried to keep order, the Prime Minister found it hard to make himself heard above the din. When he finally got to his feet to speak, he promised that the China Question would be resolved and the dignity of the Crown maintained in foreign shores. The opposition began to bellow “How?” and “When?”. Upon his return to Downing Street, the Prime Minister locked himself away in his office. He had much to consider and even at this late stage in the proceedings, it appears he still hadn’t made a decision on which road he should take. Later that day, notes were sent to Lord Stanley and to William Gladstone. But Stanley could not meet the Prime Minister’s request to join him for dinner as he was instead a guest that evening at Buckingham Palace. George V had taken a keen interest in the situation in Hong Kong but now the matter seemed to be reaching a crucial moment, the King felt he needed more information than his briefings were giving him.

In the King’s Dining Room, the King entertained Lord Stanley, the Duke of Sussex, the Earl of Armagh, Lord Bessborough and Lord Heytesbury to a light supper given the intensity of the summer heat. The men were not joined by their wives which allowed for more robust political discussion and the moment the plates were cleared away, port and cigars were dolled out the conversation turned to the China Question. The evening newspapers were reporting that Sir Henry Pottinger had been forced to leave his residence on the Peak and head to a safer property owned by a British merchant in Wu Kwai Sha. From here, he wrote a letter to the Foreign Secretary begging the government for further instruction and admitted that he had “quietly advised those with whom I dined yesterday evening that it would be eminently sensible to gain passage for their wives and children to leave Hong Kong as soon as possible for it is no longer safe for them to reside here and I could not in all good conscience withhold such advice when so many are now a target for the Chinese gangs which pick off houses in the settlement with the Viceroy’s support”. It appeared the letter had been leaked to the press, though Lord Stanley was adamant he had never seen Pottinger’s briefing.

The King puffed at his cigar and listened intently.

“Well however the newspapers got hold of the thing, it’s a ghastly state of affairs for poor Henry, what?”, the King mused, “For all of them in fact. I cannot imagine the dread they must all feel, the chaos and the not knowing. Quite awful”.

Those present nodded in agreement.

“Very profound sentiments Sir”, Bessborough said, a little pompously, “I know if Your Majesty’s words were to be relayed to your people in Hong Kong it would be of great comfort to them. But really Stanley, what the devil is Graham playing at? I say ban the damn opium and have done, I'm afraid I stand outside of my party's line on this. The Chinese will come to terms regardless, they have to, after all they need our traders as much as we need theirs”

“I’m afraid it’s beyond that now Bessborough”, the Foreign Secretary sighed, “Besides which, even if we ban opium and avoid war, the Chinese have no reason to give us what we want in Hong Kong. I fear that opportunity has passed”

“And what is it we want exactly?”, the Duke of Sussex asked, rubbing his bald head under his velvet cap, “I’ve never understood why we’re so keen on the place. Sounds like a midden to me, horrid little island, no home comforts, not even a parade of shops to be had”

The Foreign Secretary gave the Duke a polite smile. In fact, the British demands in Hong Kong had changed dramatically from the original objective when the Qing government undertook a policy review of the opium trade in 1836. By this time, the British had managed to carve out trading posts in Hong Kong and many merchants had settled there attracted by the get-rich quick scheme of importing opium. The Chinese then confined the British to the Canton factories and cut off their supplies, skirmishes followed in the peninsula and the trade became a difficult one to navigate. The British resident in Hong Kong turned their efforts to other forms of business just as they had in other colonies but what made Hong Kong different is that the island was not British territory and as such, they had no protection. Even though the British had provided a Chief Superintendent, Chinese law still applied and the Qing officials refused to bend to the British demands that British subjects in Hong Kong should have codified rights upheld by a British official resident on the island. The Chinese were clear; Hong Kong was Chinese territory. It would never be given up to the British, whatever the financial incentive offered and however loudly the British complained that their people there were being badly treated. Yet Hong Kong was vital to British trade in Canton. Sooner or later, one side or the other was going to have give grounds and compromise but the British government was insistent it would not be the United Kingdom. [3]

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The Toong-Koo Encampment where previous negotiations between the British and Chinese had been held in Hong Kong in 1836.

The King sat back and allowed his guests to talk shop for a time. He had learned from his recent experience with Sir James at Hampton Court that whilst the Prime Minister was becoming more relaxed to the idea that George might play a bigger part where diplomacy was concerned, the King did not want to be seen to take advantage of that. When the after-dinner speech making concluded, George stood up without a word on the subject and thanked his guests for their company. Lord Stanley came to wish the King good night but the King had otherwise. He said quietly; “Before you go, I wondered if you would cast an eye over the notes I’ve made for the French visit. I haven’t a clue where to put them or what to feed them but I shan’t have the Queen bothered with it all, she needs her rest”. Stanley followed the King into his study and the two men sat down, the King offering the Foreign Secretary another glass of brandy.

“Do take that coat off Teddy”, the King said removing his own, “Damnably hot, I can’t bear another second in mine. What you said in there…do you really think war is inevitable?”

“I do Your Majesty”, Stanley replied, “I’m afraid to say I really do. The Prime Minister announced in the House today that he seeks to protect British subjects in Hong Kong but that he remains opposed to a war fought to secure a trade he abhors. With respect Sir, he cannot have it both ways. One cancels out the other because the only way to protect British subjects is to gain greater control over the island of Hong Kong itself. And we cannot do that unless we are prepared to use force, regardless of whether we ban the trade of opium or not”.

“And so…?”

“And so Sir, I believe we have no choice but to at least give the impression that we are willing to fight. The Chinese are behaving aggressively because they are no doubt aware that the government has committed itself to an anti-war position. Yet I believe that could be advantageous to us. I have advocated a two-fold approach in Cabinet. First we send an ultimatum. The Chinese must immediately cease to give legitimacy to these anti-British gangs in Hong Kong and end their blockade. That is paramount. If they will do so, we shall abandon the current arrangement and ban the trade of opium without hesitation, in the clearest terms, through an act of parliament. We would then expect a new raft of negotiations to find a permanent solution to this mess”

The King nodded slowly; “And if they will not agree to that?”

“Then it will be war Sir”, the Foreign Secretary said gravely, “I can see no other alternative, though I fear the Prime Minister will not accept it. I believe after today’s debate in the House, many of my colleagues have come around to my way of thinking. Even the Treasury seems to see the writing on the wall. But we must act soon Sir. The Chinese have a great advantage on land but they cannot hope to hold out against us at sea, providing we make our move quickly. The campaign itself would be swift enough, Fremantle believes we could take Hong Kong by force within six months”

George raised an eyebrow. In his brief reign, he had seen many politicians make bold predictions of victories both politically and militarily within such time frames. Most had failed to deliver on those forecasts. The King, safe in the privacy of his Study, finally offered his point of view to Lord Stanley; the opium trade should be abolished without delay. He believed it to be a “scourge on the British character that we should stoop so low as to poison a nation for profit”. He agreed that the Chinese must offer greater protections for his subjects in Hong Kong and he offered Lord Stanley his full support for the ultimatum he described.

“But if you are willing to take my advice…”, he said tentatively, “Do not make this a trade war. The public are against those who would preserve the opium trade and I am in agreement with them. If you are to have the support of the country for this, if it is indeed to be war, you must make them see that the objective is to protect British subjects in Hong Kong; not to squeeze the last drops from a vulgar trade they all despise”.

Stanley nodded his agreement and promised the King that he would relay his words privately to the Prime Minister.

“He fears Gladstone will resign if it is war”, he explained, “And he knows the Whigs will make heavy weather of that. It would mean the Prime Minister abandoning a position he seemed so very committed to before his election”

“Well don’t you resign Stanley”, the King joked, “I’m quite serious about the French, haven’t the slightest clue where to start, I may need you to help me choose menus. The Queen always makes it look so terribly easy”.

In fact, the King had drafted in the help he needed to plan the forthcoming State Visit of King Louis-Philippe and Queen Maria Amalia in the form of the redoubtable Princess Mary. This struck the household staff as very strange indeed, considering that not only was it the Queen’s responsibility to put together such arrangements but because she always did it so effortlessly and so efficiently. Queen Louise herself was puzzled too. Just two weeks after their return from Germany, she suddenly found her diary to be empty. Three engagements in Southwark had been cancelled because the Bishop of Winchester had been taken unwell [4]. But there was also an unexpected change to her routine which seemed just as odd. Each Monday, the Queen met with the Master of the Household and the Head Housekeeper of whichever residence the royal couple were staying in at the time to discuss the week ahead. Rooms were allocated to guests; menus were planned and other domestic arrangements which needed the Queen’s approval were submitted. But she had not seen either the Master of the Household or the Head Housekeeper for almost a fortnight.

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Sir Charles Murray.

It is perhaps worth noting here that Queen Louise was not universally beloved by all members of the Royal Household, most notably she seemed to irritate the Master of the Household, Sir Charles Murray, for the approach she took to directing the domestic side of palace life. In previous reigns, the Master of the Household might expect to relay the Queen’s wishes to the Housekeeper but Queen Louise much preferred to meet with the Housekeeper personally. This meant that Sir Charles was joined in his audiences with Queen Louise by Mrs Irene Cooke, the Head Housekeeper at Buckingham Palace, a woman he disliked and whose close proximity to the Queen irked him. He regarded Queen Louise’s innovation as “thoroughly middle class”, a nod to those oh-so unfortunate housewives who might rely only on the help of a butler, cook and a house-parlour maid to run their households without more senior servants to call upon as go-betweens. This snobbery extended further below stairs. Queen Louise did not see why the kitchen staff should not be allowed use of the larger Servant’s Hall, even though they never ate with the other servants because they had to take their meals at different times so as to allow them to serve the upstairs meals at more regular hours. The kitchen staff had always had a smaller Servant’s Hall to themselves but it was distinctly shabby and caused some ill-feeling. When the Queen gave the kitchen staff permission to use the larger facility, Sir Charles considered it "akin to inviting the Boot Boy to a State Banquet".

Tension below stairs often ran high. The Chief Cook, Charles Francatelli, was equally aggrieved by the elevation in status of the Head Housekeeper [5]. In English houses, the cook was only referred to as the Chef if he was French. Francatelli was Italian and so did not qualify, even though in his previous employment at Crockford’s, a gentleman’s club in St James’ Street, he was known as the Chef de Cuisine despite his nationality. But however essential the cook, English custom also had it that they did not have control of the stores which held the ingredients they needed for their work. Instead, a small pantry would be stocked each week under the supervision of the Housekeeper who had ownership of the key to the larger pantries where the household’s supplies were kept. Francatelli resented Mrs Cooke’s hold over what he saw as a vital department which directly affected his kitchen and clashes between the two were common. These increased when he, quite reasonably, asked why he was not asked to discuss the menus with the Queen as he might discuss them with any other employer. Mrs Cooke was firm; her patron could do no wrong and if Sir Charles and Francatelli did not like it, they could lump it. Eventually Francatelli grew tired of the pettiness below stairs at Buckingham Palace and resigned in 1842. He was replaced with a Frenchman headhunted from the Athenaeum who was readily given the title ‘Chef de Cuisine’, though Mrs Cooke remained his superior.

A large part of the Queen’s daily responsibilities was to ensure that such disagreements between the “Upper Ten” did not cause too much disruption and in reality, this is probably why she welcomed Mrs Cooke's increased involvement in handling the domestic arrangements at the palace [6]. The fact that neither Sir Charles nor Mrs Cooke had attended their regular audiences with the Queen was troubling enough but it was made all the more curious by the fact that neither had sent their apologies for missing the meetings through the Mistress of the Robes as they might usually do if they were unwell or otherwise detained. Unbeknown to Queen Louise, there was skulduggery afoot, though very well-intentioned skulduggery. Upon confirmation from Dr Alison that the Queen was expecting again, the King ordered Charlie Phipps to go and see Sir Charles Murray and give him the following directive: from now on, all requests which would usually be submitted to the Queen were instead to be put before Princess Mary. Murray was thrilled. Furthermore, Phipps was ordered to clear the Queen’s diary and to offer a few little white lies to keep that diary empty. Phipps was uncomfortable with this deception but the King reasoned that his wife needed to rest now that she was enceinte and that she would never willingly reduce her daily activities as the King believed she must. This held for just two weeks until the Queen became suspicious that all was not as it should be. And she intended to get to the bottom of it.

As the King looked over the latest raft of papers from the Foreign Office, the Queen made her way to his study and as had become her wont, she immediately walked over to the windows to open them with a tut of disapproval at how smoke-filled the room was. The King looked up and immediately set down his papers, stood up and walked a little too quickly over to his wife.

“Sunny my darling, you shouldn’t be here”, he said sweetly.

“Oh I know”, the Queen replied with a sigh, “But I am told Winchester doesn’t need me today after all so I have nothing to do. Would you like to come for a walk with me in the garden? It really is so stuffy inside today and I am sure you need the air. Really Georgie, you smoke far too much now”

“Yes I do, now Sunny…”, the King said, holding his wife gently by the elbows and leading her to the settee, “Why don’t you just sit down there for a moment, you really shouldn’t exert yourself so much”

“By walking along the corridor?”, Louise said with a giggle, “I’m perfectly well, in fact I thought I might see Charlie, I want to ask him about the French visit, is he here today?”

The King nodded, now trying to force a blanket over the Queen’s knees despite the heat.

“Yes he is Sunny, but you needn’t worry yourself over all that, I have asked Aunt Mary to take over the planning for the French visit so you can just go back to your drawing room and enjoy the peace and quiet-”

“Aunt Mary?!”

“Yes, she’s doing it all wonderfully too, so…”

The Queen was no longer smiling. What on earth was going on?

“Georgie, why have you asked Aunt Mary to take over my duties?”

The King grinned proudly, “Because I know you need your rest and that’s what I’m going to give you, we can’t have you troubled with all that now can we?”

“Can’t have me troubled?!”, the Queen cried, “Georgie, what are you about?”

Suddenly the King noticed that his wife was not smiling. Indeed, she almost looked cross with him. The King was about to learn that his wife’s devotion had its limits. At that moment, Charlie Phipps entered the room.

“Charlie, come here please”, Louise said brusquely, “And I want you to tell me the truth. Did the Bishop of Winchester postpone my engagements today?”

“The visit was postponed Ma’am, because of the delay on the window you were to unveil, from Whitefriars…”

“But that isn’t what you told me Charlie. Did you not tell me that the visit was postponed because the Bishop of Winchester was unwell?”

Phipps flailed for a moment. He was in an extremely awkward situation and he looked to the King to rescue him.

“I postponed it Sunny”, the King said, finally offering Phipps a much-needed lifeline, “It would have been too much for you”

“Too much for me? Georgie I cannot think what has come over you. Do you mean to tell me that you have been cancelling my engagements and handing out my duties these past two weeks?!”

“But you must rest my dear, Dr Alison says…”

The Queen was no longer in the mood to listen. She was hurt and upset.

“I know very well what Dr Alison said”, she replied tersely, “And at no time did he say I must be locked up and left to sit about with nothing to do for the next 7 months. Georgie, I do not like this. I do not like it one bit. Charlie, would you kindly ask Princess Mary to join me for tea this afternoon, I wish to look over her plans for the visit of King Louis-Philippe”

“Sunny…”

“And in future”, Louise snapped, “I expect to see Mrs Cooke in my apartments on Monday morning at 11am precisely. Without fail. Now if you will excuse me, I must find Charlotte. We have so very much to do”.

This uncomfortable scene proved only to be the first of the day. Later that afternoon, the King was working at his desk when he realised that the Home Office had sent him a draft of a pardon to be signed and not the official document itself. He wandered out into the corridor, half paying attention, as he read the accompanying note describing the crime the individual to be pardoned had committed and why the Home Secretary was petitioning the Sovereign for clemency on his behalf. In his distracted state, the King wandered into the corridor in the Private Apartments and not through the door from his Study into the anteroom where Charlie Phipps worked each day. Looking back down at his papers, he turned slowly in the doorway when he heard a rustle of skirts pass by. He briefly looked up.

“Hallo Aunt Mary”, he said airily, seizing a pencil from behind his ear to cross off a line of text in the draft before him, “What are you about?”

“I am taking tea with Sunny”, Mary replied.

“Good, good”, the King replied, only half-listening.

“Yes”, Mary said as she passed, “She wants to see my lists”

“Good, good”, the King repeated. Then he snapped back into the present and quickly darted after his aunt, by now well on her way to the Queen’s salon.

“Lists?”

“Yes dear”, Mary said with a smile, brandishing a stack of papers with glee, “For the French visit of course”

George rolled his eyes heavenward and dashed ahead of his aunt, jumping through the door of the Queen’s rooms and rushing towards his wife with a pained smile. He kissed her on each cheek and took her hand in his.

“Now Sunny, I thought we had discussed this”, he began, possibly unaware of how patronising he was being to his wife, “I have asked Aunt Mary to handle the French visit so you can just sit there quietly-"

“And I have asked Aunt Mary to come and discuss the visit with me Georgie”, the Queen replied tersely, “I have had quite enough peace and more than enough quiet and I will not sit here like an old statue when there is so much to do”

“Sunny…”

The King’s voice suddenly became harsh. The Duchess of Buccleuch gave the nod to the ladies of the bedchamber waiting on the Queen that afternoon, all offering a hasty curtsey before leaving the room. In the corridor, the Duchess whispered to Princess Mary who held back – but leaned sufficiently into the doorway so as to hear what was going on inside. As the King began to explain his case, Louise pretended not to hear and began to speak over him. She began to chatter in mid air about the dress she was having made for the state banquet to be held in honour of the French royal couple, she wondered if she might have a smaller version made for Toria. Did the King remember which pudding was served at the Chateaux d’Eu, she vaguely recalled Queen Maria Amalia saying it was her favourite and Louise was certain Francatelli would know it. The Queen thought the King and Queen would prefer the Blue Suite to the Strelitz Suite but she supposed as a visiting head of state they would expect to get the same apartments as others had enjoyed. Though the Blue Suite was more comfortable…

Sunny!”

The Queen fell silent.

Enough!”, the King hissed, “I say, enough! I will not hear another word on the subject. I have asked Aunt Mary to attend the banquet in your place, she has planned it all, everything is arranged. Now you will do as you are told and you will rest!"

“No Georgie!”, the Queen shouted back, “I won’t have it, I really won’t. Dr Alison says –“

“And you trust him do you?”, George spat angrily, “After he lied to us before? When everything was to be so well? Well let me tell you Sunny, I’ve been thinking about Alison’s position here, I really have and-“

The door opened and Princess Mary sailed in.

“Not now!”, the King barked.

“No!”, the Queen shrieked, Mary hovering in the doorway, “She does not have my leave to go. I want to see Aunt Mary!”

The King stood silently for a moment. He looked at his wife and then at his aunt, her face looking extremely stern and disapproving as she shook her head at her nephew.

“Oh to hell with it!”, he snapped, “Do as you please. And if anything should happen, on your own heads be it!”

And with that, the King marched out of the room and stormed his way down the corridor back into his study with a slam of the door that ricocheted along the passage. Queen Louise began to cry. Princess Mary shook her head once more and moved forward, taking the Queen in her arms and rocking her gently.

“There there dear”, she said softly, “Don’t cry now, I’m afraid Georgie is being a very silly little King today. I shall have words with him, you see if I don’t. Now wipe those pretty eyes and let’s have tea shall we? And I can tell you all about the plans I have, I’m sure together we can work it all out. Oh look! You have those teacakes I like so much; how clever you are!”

And with that, Princess Mary led the Queen to the tea table, Louise mopping her eyes.

But the bad atmosphere between the King and Queen hovered over the palace for days. As the situation grew more tense, Louise made it abundantly clear to Charlie Phipps that not only would she be taking over her the arrangements for the French state visit from Princess Mary but that she intended to play a full part in the visit itself, regardless of what the King thought. She would attend both the welcome ceremony and the state banquet but she would also accompany Queen Maria Amalia on a visit to the French Market in Petty France, so called because supposedly a community of Huguenots settled at Broadway and Queen Anne’s Gate and made the street their own. Phipps dare not tell the King and hoped that the couple would make amends quickly so as to avoid any tensions during the state visit itself.

19_York_Street%2C_Westminster_%281848%29.jpg

19 York Street, Petty France; home to John Milton and later occupied successively by Jeremy Bentham, James Mill and William Hazlitt.

Despite their happy marriage, George and Louise were not forever in agreement. There were clashes and disagreements, though none could ever remember raised voices and slammed doors featuring in such arguments before. Most of their quarrels were quickly laid to rest and forgotten about but this one seemed different. As the King grumbled away in his study and the Queen ignored his protests and busied herself as she usually would, it seemed the rift between Their Majesties had the potential to linger. As the Royal Household prepared itself for the arrival of the French King and Queen, Phipps met with Princess Mary to ask her advice. The kitchen staff had been given contradictory instructions, the pages did not know which rooms King Louis-Philippe and Queen Maria Amalia should be put in. Though Mary had supplied her orders backed by the King, the Queen had submitted her own. Which instructions should they follow? Princess Mary sighed and put down her tea plate, licking marmalade from her fingers and dusting crumbs from her skirts.

“Well Phipps”, she boomed, waving a hand at him to help her up from her chair, “I believe this situation calls for an interfering old woman - and as everybody calls me such, I believe I fit the bill on this occasion. Well then...lead on MacDuff. I have some heads to bang together.” [7].


Notes

[1] Scott did appear in our George IV timeline as the architect of the royal tour of Scotland and as a friend to the Dowager Queen Louise. He died in 1832 but a monument wasn't considered until 1841, unveiled the following year to mark ten years since his death.

[2] As in the OTL.

[3] Again, this is the same situation as in the OTL, we’ve simply delayed it a little with Palmerston’s departure from office. What is different is how the two sides are now set up, the British advantage dented somewhat.

[4] At this time, Southwark fell in the boundaries of the Diocese of Winchester. It would not become its own Diocese with it’s own Bishop until 1891 but only after being temporarily transferred to the Diocese of Rochester from 1877 to 1891.

[5] Francatelli has appeared before in our TL, he being the creator of Mecklenburg Pudding, more details on which can be found in this chapter; https://www.alternatehistory.com/fo...british-monarchy.514810/page-17#post-22871327

In the OTL, he was Chief Cook to Queen Victoria very briefly, leaving royal service in 1842 because he felt he was not being treated as a Chef de Cuisine should be.

[6] The Upper Ten (and Lower Five) was the common name for the most senior household servants even if all ten positions were not actually filled. They usually included the House Steward (in the larger country houses he ranked above the butler), the Head Housekeeper (again, larger houses had more than one), the Groom of the Chambers, the Butler, the Cook, the Head Coachman etc etc.

These servants were regarded as superior (though they were still servants) and often ate separately to the rest of the household staff. They could also expect a pension and a grace and favour residence when they retired, whereas the Lower Five were usually regarded as being more dispensable as the position of Footman, Housemaid, Parlourmaid, Scullery Maid, Kitchen Maid, Boot Boy etc often saw a high turnover of employees with very few sticking around for any great length of time as they progressed or were dismissed. Upper Ten became a synonym for ‘Senior Servants’ well after households had dispensed with the more superfluous positions of old, the term lasting well into the 1920s until the decline of domestic service altogether.

[7] A misquotation but a popular one in common use as much then as it is now.
 
Seems like war is inevitable.
I hope Princess Mary gives George a good slap on the wrist. I really liked this chapter
 
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