Crown Imperial: An Alt British Monarchy

GV: Part Two, Chapter 36: Love & War


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King George V

Part Two, Chapter Thirty-Six: Love & War

King Louis-Philippe and his wife Queen Maria Amalia arrived in London aboard the paddle frigate Gomer, it's construction having been completed just a few weeks before the royal couple left France, in the first week of September 1841[1]. The impressive vessel was akin to a floating palace with comfortable banquettes in rich red velvet trimmed with gold braid and heavy brocade draperies at the windows to keep out the sunlight to maintain a comfortable temperature in the relatively small berth. Unfortunately this did little to keep the devil of seasickness at bay and King Louis-Philippe, a life-longer sufferer from the condition, spent much of his voyage crying out for relief crouched on the floor with a bucket in his hands. When Their Majesties finally sailed into St Katharine Dock, the Duke of Sussex was forced to stand about in the blazing end of summer heat for almost two hours as the beleaguered King was so sodden with sweat that he could not pull himself into his uniform until he had been sponged down and dried off with great handfuls of cornflour. [2]


The Gomer.

Fortunately for Louis-Philippe, he was spared further water-based excursions. Though King George V intended to use Hampton Court Palace as a venue for all future state visits (and indeed, the vast majority in his reign were hosted there), he opted to stick with Buckingham Palace for the time being so as to save the Queen the ordeal of the rattle and shake of a long carriage ride to Richmond. Not that Queen Louise wished to be accommodated in such a way, indeed, hosting the visit in London backfired on the King slightly because it presented far more opportunities for public engagements attached to the state visit than would have been forthcoming at Hampton Court. Yet none of this was up for discussion. The King and Queen were still very much at odds with each other over the programme set for King Louis Philippe’s visit and a stalemate had come to pass with neither prepared to compromise. As far as George was concerned, the Queen might well attend the welcome ceremony and the state banquet, these were hardly arduous activities and took place in their own home. Besides which, Louise would be sitting down for the majority of their duration. But the Queen was still insistent that she would accompany the French Queen consort to Petty France to conduct a series of engagements, something her husband was adamant must be cancelled.

In truth, the visit to Petty France was not an essential outing for the Queen. State visits, even today, are often misinterpreted as expensive gestures of friendship and whilst it is true that the ceremonial planned for the 1841 state visit of the King of the French was very much the foundations on which the event was built, it was the discussions to be had away from the ballroom that mattered most. The British had extended the invitation not just because it was felt the French couple were owed it given their own generous display of hospitality shown to King George and Queen Louise in Normandy in May 1840, but because the British wanted to secure French support (as they had in Berlin) ahead of the talks to be held in Vienna whereby the quotas set by the Straits Pact were to be agreed. The British were not actively working against the Russians in this, rather they wanted to ensure that that their own quota was as favourable as it could be, regardless of whether that meant it was more generous than that given to the Tsar. Such matters were to be resolved by ministers of both the British and French crowns in what is now Whitehall but to ensure the French were in no doubt as to the British desire for mutual support and co-operation, the hospitality offered by the King and Queen at Buckingham Palace was a strong reminder that the two countries desired a better relationship than they might previously have enjoyed or endured as the case may be.

As the French royal couple made their way inside the Palace to be greeted by their hosts, King George and Queen Louise stood in awkward silence, exchanging very few words. The atmosphere was thick with tension and both were thoroughly miserable. Still, their duty demanded they put on the best show possible and so it was that they welcomed their guests with all the bonhomie they could muster. The King insisted a chair be brought for Louise to sit in. It remained empty, much to his aggravation. After the usual pleasantries, a private luncheon was held attended by the Duke of Sussex and Princess Mary. It was clear to both that all was not well as the meal passed in almost complete silence, King Louis-Philippe hardly eating a thing and not yet recovered enough from his voyage to offer anything in the way of fascinating conversation. Queen Maria Amalia was brighter and offered one or two interesting points of discussion so that the meal was not a complete disaster but nobody present could ignore the fact that their hosts seemed very much set in an acrimonious sulk. This continued well into the presentation of gifts after luncheon but this exchange also served to remind the King of his wife’s considerable skills as a hostess. In the library, the gifts from both sides had been put on display but it was only when he saw them assembled that George realised he had no idea what he was actually giving his French guests as a present. The Queen always handled that side of things and had she not pressed ahead with her own arrangements, there could have been an embarrassing faux pas with no reciprocal gifts offered to Louis-Philippe and Maria Amalia.

A few hours later, the King was in his study with Major Smith. George was in short temper and was insistent that his insignia of the Ordre royal de la Légion d'honneur (presented to George V by King Louis Philippe ,somewhat begrudgingly, in May 1840) was not affixed to his Windsor coat in the right place. Because the breast star was quite heavy, it had been sewn to the coat and the King was picking at the thread with a paper knife, determined that it must be positioned slightly further over. Honest Billy had known the King since he was a boy and he knew that he was simply spoiling for an argument to blow off steam, his real source of anxiety being the prolonged absence from his wife. At that moment, Princess Mary sailed into the study unannounced, a surprised Charlie Phipps hovering in her wake.

“Oh now what?”, George snapped unkindly, “Can’t you see I’m busy with this blessed thing”

Princess Mary pointed her hand-fan at Major Smith and then pointed to the door. She said not a word, her wand of office telling him that he should make himself scarce.

“Give that to me”, Princess Mary said, offering to take the coat from the King.

“I am quite capable; I don’t need nurse maiding!”

“Oh?”, Mary said haughtily, “But Sunny does it seems…”

The King looked up and rolled his eyes heavenward.

“If you have come to lecture me on Sunny’s behalf then I shouldn’t bother”, he whined, “I don’t wish to discuss it”

“I am not here on Sunny’s behalf”, his aunt replied curtly, “I am here to make you see sense. My goodness Georgie, I have seen some tantrums in this place in my time but you beat the band, you really do. I have never known anybody to take so happy a thing as the birth of a baby and turn it into such a beastly quarrel”

George threw his coat into a corner in a fit of peak and shot up out of his chair.

“I beg your pardon?!”, he raged, “Do you forget whom you address Madam?”

But Princess Mary was more than a match for her nephew. In her 65 years she had seen three Kings at close quarters; her father, her brother and now her nephew. Regardless of their rank, Mary had spoken her mind to all three very much in the model of her mother Queen Charlotte. Indeed, Mary had often been called “Mama’s tool” by her siblings because she was so obedient to her late mother’s wishes - which usually entailed a forthright dressing down. The Princess believed there was a right way and a wrong way and her brother the Duke of Cambridge once joked that when Mary got to heaven, God would have no time left to hear anyone’s prayers because He would be far too busy listening to Mary’s complaints. Still earthbound for the time being however, Princess Mary had been restored to royal favour during the reign of her nephew, mostly because both the young King and Queen so clearly adored her. Indeed, in his later years George wrote of his aunt; “ She was as dear to me as a grandmother and though at times I resented her little interferences, I could never take against her for it. I thank God for the days we had to know her and I am still saddened that we have known so many days since without her”. That evening in the King's Study in 1841 was a prime example perhaps of one of Mary’s “little interferences”.

“I do not forget!”, she boomed, “You cannot hide behind the Crown with me Georgie, I have lived with it for too long. You may be King but you are also the same little boy I put across my knee for stealing biscuits. Now you are too tall and I am too old so you shall have to listen to what I have to say and you shall have to like it because I shan’t be leaving this room until the matter is settled. Do you doubt it?”

“It isn’t me who started all this!”, George protested, “I’m sure Sunny has been telling you quite a different tale but I have been more than reasonable. She doesn’t care for reason, she simply won’t be told!”

“And who are you to tell her?”, Mary argued, “Dr Alison-“

“Oh Alison, blast Alison!”, George ranted, “I’ve heard quite enough from him these past few days, he-“

He is a doctor. A very capable one who has served you both well enough these years to know that Sunny is perfectly healthy and does not need to be shut away like a poor unfortunate to calm your worries. My goodness Georgie, after all the care and devotion she has showed to you, this is how you repay her when she needs you most?”

George stood silently for a moment. He knew his aunt was right. But he could not bring himself to admit it.

“You are being quite unreasonable Georgie”, Mary scolded, “Poor Louise is thoroughly miserable, everybody is sneaking about for fear you’ll shout the roof in, you haven’t even been to see her for two days. And you’ve upset poor Dr Alison into the bargain, such a kind man and far more knowledgeable on the matter of babies than you are. Now pull yourself together and for heaven’s sake, go and see your wife before this dreary dinner begins”

“No”, George sulked, “If she won’t let me help then I won’t have any part in it”

“Help?”, Mary laughed, “That’s a fine idea! What help is it to keep her shut away with nothing to do? She is not made of glass Georgie!”

“And what will you all say when she loses this child? Like she did before? I won’t be so spoilt and ignorant then, will I?”

Princess Mary deflated a little. Her tense brow relaxed and she softened somewhat.

“Georgie dear…”, she sighed, “What happened before was so very sad, it was a most tragic thing and I know you felt the loss very much, we all did. But that is a fact of life. None of us are in control of it, we must accept God’s will”

George felt warm tears gather in his eyes.

“And what if it is his will that it happens again?”

“Then you will bear it”, Mary replied gently, moving forward to comfort her nephew, “But you will only bear it if you have Sunny with you. And look at you now, so far apart. To cherish her as you do is to your credit, nobody can deny that you only ever have her best interests at heart. But you cannot go on this way Georgie. You will push her away and then where will you be? You are letting your fears destroy the thing you love most. Unnecessarily in my opinion. Why, I had a housekeeper once and her cousin was a dairy maid at some estate or other. Well, she was in the sheds milking one morning and there it was! Scooped the child up with the bucket and went about her business”


“Goats butt, chickens cluck”, Mary said dismissively, “End this now Georgie. End it before it destroys your happiness for good”.

And with that, Princess Mary marched from the King’s study leaving George alone. As he sat in the silence of his inner sanctum, he was suddenly consumed by an overwhelming sense of shame and regret. How could he have been so foolish? After a time, he rang the bell on his desk for Major Smith.

“Your Majesty?”

“Fix that”, George said tersely, pointing to his discarded coat, “Whilst I sit here and think how I can fix everything else”.

The State Banquet for King Louis-Philippe and Queen Maria Amalia was by far one of the grandest occasions to be held during George V’s early reign. Whilst the King and Queen were used to the grandeur of Versailles, they could not fail to be impressed by the show put on by the British in their honour and once again, it was a testament to the skills of Queen Louise as a hostess that they were made to feel so welcome and so comfortable. The dining room was set with the Nash River Table, the first time it was used in George V’s reign, the channel in it’s centre filled with water and 50 real goldfish who swam gently up and down as the guests feasted on Tortue à la Anglais (Turtle Soup), Purée de Vollaile à la Reine (Pureed Chicken in bouillon with cubes of savoury custard), Turbot, Côtelettes de Mouton avec Purée de Marron (Mutton cutlets with chestnut puree), Supréme de Perdraux (breasts of partridge with a cream sauce), Chicorée à la Crème (creamed chicory), Savarin à l’Orange (Rum baba in an orange and cognac syrup) and Gélee de Champagne aux Fruits (Champagne jelly with seasonal fruits). Had Princess Mary had her way, the guests would have been confronted with course after course of garlic laden dishes which she thought the best thing to serve to a Frenchman. Fortunately Queen Louise rescued the menu at the last. The guests ate from the Junior Service, first used in 1825, but as a thoughtful touch, the Queen commissioned a new suite of stemware to be created at Whitefriars especially for the occasion.

During the early 1800s, a fashion developed in continental Europe for glassware to be just as richly decorated as flatware. Whilst English country houses took some time to adopt the fashion, Queen Louise would have been familiar with the coloured glassware of the German courts which was all the rage in Bohemia where the best craftsmen turned an ordinary wine glass into a thing of beauty. Now aptly known as the French Service, Queen Louise commissioned the glassmakers of Whitefriars to produce an 80-piece collection of stemware which could be used alongside the existing glassware in the Royal Collection. Each lead crystal goblet has a deep red band of around half an inch from the rim, edged in gold. On the clear glass is engraved an emblem designed by the College of Arms depicting the crossed flags of France and the United Kingdom set on a laurel wreath. Above this are the two crowns of Great Britain and the July Monarchy, tied together with a ribbon [3]. King Louis Philippe was absolutely delighted with this display of Anglo-French friendship and when he returned to Paris, he commissioned a similar service to bear his own coat of arms. The French Service has been used many times since it’s creation in 1841 and many visiting French officials have marvelled at its history as they have toasted the Anglo-French relationship over the decades.


King Louis-Philippe.

For most of the evening, the King and Queen were parted by the seating plan or the demands of the post-banquet entertainment. They were of course expected to open the ball that followed the banquet by dancing with their opposite number, the King leading Queen Maria Amalia and King Louis Philippe leading Queen Louise. But when this had passed, the Queen retired to a settee in the corner of the ballroom to sit with the Earl of Armagh and Princess Mary whilst the King did the rounds and gave a few moments of his time to each of his guests. Every time George looked over to where his wife was sitting, he saw her smiling and laughing and though he dearly wanted to charge over to her and take her in his arms, he could only make small talk in broken French with those who had come with King Louis Phillipe from Paris. For her part, the Queen wished too that their contretemps could be forgiven and forgotten but she did not want to risk a further quarrel. Instead, she listened to the Earl of Armagh’s plans for the renovation of Bushy House and offered to help him.

“Which you must accept”, Princess Mary commanded, “I have seen perfectly charming houses ruined by the tastes of young men. It’s all antlers and billiard tables. Then they marry and the house has to be done over from top to bottom, it's the first chore a wife must face and it only ever causes unpleasantness.”

“Maybe George will marry sooner than we think Aunt Mary”, Louise teased gently, “Are you still writing to Cousin Auguste?”

The Earl of Armagh nodded.

“I am and I like her very much. But I do not think she would ever accept me”

“Whyever not?”, Louise protested.

“Because he can't see”, Mary said bluntly, without a trace of sensitivity.

“Aunt Mary!”

“No no”, Prince George said kindly, “Aunt Mary is quite right. I fear her father might have concerns that were our friendship to develop further, she may become more nurse maid than wife”

“Well that is silly”, the Queen said shaking her head, “You must keep writing to her George. I think you are very well suited”.

By September 1841, the Earl of Armagh and Princess Auguste of Hesse-Kassel had been writing to each other frequently since their meeting earlier that year at Neustrelitz. He was thinking seriously about proposing to Auguste despite this brief acquaintanceship, simply because he thought her charming and witty and because unlike others he met, she did not make him feel that his sight problems were a barrier to a potential courtship. But he had another worry. Whilst he would inherit the Dukedom of Cumberland in the fullness of time (which also meant investing quite a significant property portfolio with homes at Windsor and Kew), there was unlikely to be any hard cash available to him when his father died. The King had given his cousin an allowance of £5,000 when he became Ranger of Bushy Park and the Lieutenant of Hampton Court Chase but to keep up the Cumberland inheritance, the Earl would require an allowance of at least double that which he certainly didn’t intend to petition for and which he believed wouldn’t be granted to him by the Civil List as parliament may have questions as to how much he could contribute given his disability. For as long as this remained the case, Armagh believed it best not to press his future relationship with Princess Auguste (whatever that may turn out to be) as his prospects were simply not impressive enough.

When the ball was concluded and as weary guests clambered into their carriages home, the King made his way to the Private Apartments. He could bear no more of this animosity. He missed his wife. He missed her laughter. He missed her company. He set off along the corridor to offer his apologies to his wife and to bring the whole sorry mess to a swift conclusion but when he got to the Queen’s bedroom, the Duchess of Buccleuch informed him that Her Majesty was already sleeping. She would be taking breakfast on a tray before heading out to Petty France with Queen Maria Amalia whilst the King toured Westminster Abbey with King Louis Philippe. But King George could not bear another hour of radio silence between the couple. Despite the busy day ahead of him, the King sat up for hours in his study, chain smoking and composing a letter to his wife which he thought he may add to her breakfast tray. Yet the words wouldn’t come and everything he penned failed to express the true depths of his feelings. He would have to think of something else. It came to him at 3am. He hastily wrote a note which he left on Phipps’ desk and then took himself off to bed, praying that his proposed olive branch would go off without a hitch and that all would be made well.

Queen Louise’s tour of Petty France the following day was so well reported by the London press that The Times had to print a supplement to pack in the detail their readers demanded. The Queen’s dress was described to the last stitch (“a pale blue mousseline covering a white cotton day dress trimmed with white lace, the cotton itself embroidered with the most delicate flowers embellished with silver thread which shimmered in the afternoon sun”) and there was even a direct quote from Louise who was reported as telling a fortunate journalist that she thought Petty France “such a lovely part of the city”. At the French market, the Queen purchased a straw basket woven by a Madame Jean Gosse who tried to give the basket to Her Majesty as a gift but Louise insisted she pay Madame Gosse for her labours. The Times informed its readers that the Queen “quite ignored the pleas of the officials with her, taking her time to meet all who had turned out to see her which extended the visit to the market in York Street by a good half an hour or more”. Queen Maria Amalia received one or two kind compliments but most of the supplement was taken up with sketches of Queen Louise in suitably regal scenes: receiving a posy of flowers or shaking the hand of an elderly veteran.

Across the city, the King was less enthusiastic about his visit to Westminster Abbey. The Abbey was almost always included in the schedule when foreign visitors came to London and whilst usually the King might have been enjoyed such an outing, today he could only think of what was about to happen back at the Palace. It was around 3pm. Sunny would be back now. She’d be sitting in her little salon with the Duchess of Buccleuch and her other ladies, possibly gossiping about the dress Queen Maria Amalia chose. Sunny wouldn’t say anything unkind of course. She never did. It wouldn’t be long before Phipps entered the room and invited the ladies to go to the Music Room. Sunny would be puzzled. He wished he could be there, to see her face as his surprise was unveiled. Phipps would gather the ladies in neat rows, the French Queen sat next to Sunny, possibly quite intrigued that her hostess had no idea what was to happen next. Charlie would do the thing well, of that the King was certain. He would make a little speech and introduce the handsome young man with long brunette locks and wide eyes, neatly stacked papers in hand. The Queen would beam with happiness as her guest sat before his audience and began to read from his latest work – The Old Curiosity Shop.

Charles Dickens had visited the Queen once before, shortly after her marriage, in 1838 [4]. Louise was perhaps Dickens’ most fervent admirer and she had followed his career with great enthusiasm since he had read an excerpt from The Pickwick Papers for her at Windsor. Dickens admitted in his diary that his visit in 1841 was “a great surprise to me but a welcome one” and just as he had been impressed by the Queen’s friendly nature before, he wrote of this meeting; “She is as beautiful and as charming as ever and had very kind words for me. She reminded me that Pickwick was the first English publication she had ever read and paid me a great compliment in asking if Nickleby could ever reappear for she enjoyed it so” [5]. Not everybody was impressed with the private reading given by one of England’s best-loved authors, however. The Duchess of Buccleuch wrote later that she could “never comprehend the admiration Her Majesty had for the man” whilst Princess Mary fell asleep during the reading of Pickwick and then asked Dickens if he thought he’d bother to write any more serials given that his current work (Curiosity Shop) was “so very unpleasant in theme”.


Charles Dickens in a portrait circa 1839.

As peace offerings go, a personal reading from Dickens must surely rank very highly. After she had given him tea and thanked him for his time, Louise asked Phipps when the surprise had been arranged. Smiling, Phipps handed her a small card with pink roses on the front. Inside, the King had written; “Forgive me dearest darling and let us be friends once more”. When the King returned to the Palace, he had barely removed his hat and coat before he saw the Queen hurtling towards him. She threw her arms about him and kissed his cheek, smiling at him so widely that it quite shattered the gloom of previous days.

“Oh Georgie”, she said softly, “Thank you…thank you, thank you”

King Louis-Philippe grinned; “I should be as fortunate as you to receive such a warm welcome home”, he quipped to King George.

The real royal rapprochement came after the French King and Queen departed. Reassured by the rehabilitated Dr Alison that all would be well, the King took his wife’s suggestion that they should spend a few weeks together at Hanover House. They were to be joined later by those in their immediate circle of friends and relations but for the next two weeks, the “little house” was their shelter away from the storm. They walked together in the gardens and the King read to the Queen in the afternoons as she gave a little ground and began to take afternoon naps to ease her husband’s worries. They also came to an agreement on the details of the Queen’s confinement. She would carry out no further public engagements and at Christmas time, the entire family would go to Windsor for a grand celebration, the previous year’s festivities overshadowed by their sad loss. Invitations were to dispatched to relations in Neustrelitz, Rumpenheim, The Hague, Herrenhausen and St Petersburg and no expense was to be spared in hosting the extended Royal Family at the Castle. Missy was to brought from Leipzig a little earlier so that the King and Queen would spend some time with her (and with their daughter Toria) as a family before the hoards descended and as soon as the celebrations for Christmas and the New Year were over, Their Majesties would return to London (the Strelitzes staying on for a time) so that the Queen could enter her confinement and give birth to her baby at Buckingham Palace. Both agreed that this was most important, given that the Queen had been convinced by her husband that her child was to be a boy.

After a fortnight alone, the King and Queen played host to a small party of friends at Hanover House. These included the Buccleuchs, Frau Wiedl and Lord Melbury, the Sussexes, Princess Mary and the Earl of Armagh. The Duke of Buccleuch was fresh from his successes in two first-class cricket matches played for the Marylebone Cricket Club [6]. The King had attended the latter of these two matches and greatly enjoyed himself. Though he never took to the game as a player, as a spectator he became quite enthusiastic and in 1855, he became patron of the newly founded Beaminster Cricket Club, providing them with an impressive new ground and pavilion just on the edges of his Hanover House estate. The Beaminster Cricket Club was renamed the Royal Cricket Club at Beaminster in 1860 and the facilities George V provided them with are considered to include one of the best cricket grounds in the United Kingdom. In 1863, George V established the King’s Cup, a five-match test series played at Beaminster in July each year. A special Player of the Match award was instituted in 1866 (known as the King George V Medal today) which has been won by some of the greatest names in the sport and is highly valued in the cricketing world.

Their holiday at Hanover House did much to bring the King and Queen back together again, both delighting in the peace and quiet of “the little house” but word then came from London that the Prime Minister needed an urgent audience with His Majesty. As Graham could not leave the capital, he was forced to ask the King to return to Buckingham Palace. This was highly irregular and at first, George was none too pleased that the comforts of his romantic idyll in Dorset were to be cut so short. Yet he also knew that the Prime Minister would never make such a request unless it was absolutely essential. Not wishing to interrupt their carefully laid plans, the King proposed that Queen Louise remain in Dorset for a time. To his amazement, she readily agreed, though she made her husband promise that he would return to Hanover House as soon as he could. Accompanied by Major Smith and Charlie Phipps, the King made his way back to London. He had an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach.

At the Palace, the King was greeted by an anxious looking Lord Stanley. He made his apologies. The Prime Minister was still at Downing Street and he had asked the Foreign Secretary to attend the audience with King George instead.

“What the devil is going on Teddy?”, George asked, slipping out of his coat and handing it to Honest Billy, “I’ve been dragged back here cutting my holiday with the Queen short and now the Prime Minister isn’t even here, it really is too bad.”

“If we might talk in private Your Majesty…”

“What? Oh, yes, of course…Billy, I’d like something on a tray please, I’m famished after that journey. Bump and rattle all the way. I’m thinking of getting myself one of these new railway carriages, it’s all the thing you know. Much faster, what? More comfortable too I should think”. [7]

In the seclusion of the King’s Study, George fell into an armchair only for his spaniel pup Harry to launch himself onto the royal lap. The King fussed Harry as Stanley waited for an invitation to sit down.

“Oh sorry Teddy, can I get you anything?”

“No Sir”, Lord Stanley replied quietly, pacing a little instead of taking the invitation of a chair, “I’m afraid there is a very urgent situation at hand which I admit has taken us all quite by surprise and which at this very moment, the Cabinet are meeting to discuss. I have made my position on the matter clear so that I might come to present the facts as they are to Your Majesty”

“Well Teddy? Let’s have it then”

Stanley cleared his throat and withdrew a sheaf of papers from a battered leather case. But instead of reading them out loud, he thought better of it and handed the top-most note to the King. George looked down at it. As he read, he leaned forward, shaking his head.

“When was this received?”, he asked.

“Two days ago Sir. We sent for Your Majesty as soon as possible”

The King stood up quickly; “Thank you for that. And Lady Pottinger? She’s been informed has she?”

“Yes Sir”, Stanley nodded, “Fortunately she left Kowloon a week ago, along with some of the other wives of the staff there”

“Poor creature”, George replied, “I shall see to it a letter is sent, you’ll let me have the address? What now? What does the Prime Minister intend to do?”

Stanley stood up and moved a little closer to the King.

“That is why I am here Sir”, he said nervously, “To give you this and to ask for Your Majesty’s immediate assent to it”

The King took the piece of paper from the Foreign Secretary.

It was a Declaration from the Department for War and the Colonies.


[1] The Gomer was built in 1841 and by 1843 had become the Royal Yacht of King Louis-Philippe. It takes on that role a little earlier here for no other reason than I cannot find the name of the former Royal Yacht (if there was one) and that the Gomer was used when the King came to England much later. My source also mentions that the King forever suffered with seasickness which I’ve included here for accuracies sake!

[2] I took this from an account of Lord Mountbatten’s trials with the heat ahead of Trooping of the Colour. His uniform was so hot and heavy that to pour him into it, he had to be rubbed down with talcum powder and laid down in the back seat of his Bentley to ease the burden just enough before going on horseback for two hours. Yikes! In this time frame, the popular predecessor of manufactured talcum powder was cornflour.

[3] This expensive gesture was actually begun by the Prince Regent who discovered the joy of engraved and coloured glass on a visit to Liverpool in 1806. Once he adopted the fashion for personalised glassware, the entire British Royal Family wanted similar sets and the owners of the big country houses followed suit. Several of these special services were created over the years for all kinds of events (weddings, jubilees and state visits) until it became seen as old fashioned and a bit gauche to plaster your monogram over your own wine glasses.

[4] Their previous meeting was in 1838 and is recorded here:

[5] These works were published as serials at the time so it is more likely that his readers might expect certain characters to re-appear at this stage before Dickens’ stories were published as stand-alone novels.

[6] As in the OTL.

[7] Royal Train anybody? Well, the origins at any rate. This ties in quite nicely with the OTL as the first carriage made exclusively for royal use was commissioned in 1841 and completed in January 1842 for Queen Adelaide. Queen Victoria used it too but did not commission her own “royal train” until 1869.

I'm aiming to put out another instalment tomorrow but it needs a little more polishing so if I don't get around to publishing it, I'd just like to say an enormous thank you to everyone who has read and given their feedback on Crown Imperial over the last 12 months. I can't believe it's been a year since this TL began and that we've gone through 25 years of a history that began as a "Well...what if there was no Queen Victoria?" musing and led me to find this amazing community. This TL is a joy to write and there'll be lots more to come but for now, I just want to thank each and every one of you again for your kindness and contributions thus far!

Whilst we're looking forward, Part Two will conclude over the next week. I'll then take a week out to update my notes and to plot out the second half of Part Three which will take us to about 1850. Part Two has been a little longer than I initially planned and I may quicken the pace *slightly* for Part Three but it really will depend on where our characters lead us.

I hope you'll all want to read more in the future and I'm excited for you to see where George V's reign goes from here on out.
King George V

Part Two, Chapter Thirty-Six: Love & War

I hope you'll all want to read more in the future and I'm excited for you to see where George V's reign goes from here on out.
I, for one, am absolutely loving this story! I most definitely want to read more in the future. This is alternate history at it's best!


Monthly Donor
This new entry is a treat!
Thank you so much!
Don't feel like you need to quicken it on our account, as we're all enjoying the journey your characters take us on.
That's great to hear, thank you! I think naturally the pace ebbs and flows a bit depending on the situations but I'm glad to hear that my fears we'd slowed too much aren't shared by my readers.
I’m glad that everything turned out good between George and Louise. Also, I wonder how the war will turn out.
Me too! It was hard to write them at odds because they're such a great couple but I didn't want to stray too much into Sound of Music territory where things are a little too saccharine. Every couple, even the happiest, have little spats and it'd feel a bit odd if George and Louise didn't occasionally clash.
I, for one, am absolutely loving this story! I most definitely want to read more in the future. This is alternate history at it's best!
Oh that's so very kind! Thank you, that's so sweet of you to say.
GV: Part Two, Chapter 37: From Discord, Harmony


Monthly Donor
King George V

Part Two, Chapter Thirty-Seven: From Discord, Harmony

The United Kingdom officially declared war on China on the 25th of September 1841. Historians have been divided on the name given to the conflict for decades and for very good reason too. There are two schools of thought on what Britain’s real motivation for the war was. For some, the First Opium War was little more than a grubby campaign to seize Hong Kong so as to preserve existing trading routes and open up new ones whilst turning a blind eye to the continuing import of opium to China. For others, the First China War was a campaign fought to reassert Britain’s standing in the world after the disastrous Afghan campaign which preceded it. These arguments raged back and forth at the time too, yet most now agreed that the events which took place at Wu Kwai Sha on the 12th of September 1841 could not be allowed to stand unchallenged and arguably, China had given its consent (even its approval) to the continued attacks on the British residents of Hong Kong which demanded an urgent and immediate response regardless of existing quarrels over trade. Those in the latter camp are keen to point out that Sir James Graham had been an outspoken member of the anti-war faction in the Tory Party, indeed he could not possibly countenance a war fought with China to protect the opium trade. Amid rising tensions, the Prime Minister was now privately committed to introducing a new bill in parliament which outright banned the sale of opium, hoping this would be enough to bring the Chinese to the negotiating table once again. Yet on the 12th of September 1841, all that changed.

At 5am on the 23rd of September 1841, Sir James Graham was woken by his butler at Downing Street [1]. There was an urgent briefing from Kowloon. Sir James sat in his dressing gown as a dishevelled Lord Stanley read the letter out loud, having himself been roused an hour before at his townhouse in Craven Street. Walking over to Number 10, Stanley pulled his beaver fur coat close about him to keep out the chill of the early morning mist. The streets were remarkably busy at this time, the gas lamps offering little bulbs of hazy light illuminating the roads now filled with market traders hauling their barrows, coal merchants readying their horses for the day’s deliveries and flower sellers scouting their best pitch before the morning rush began as London sprang into life. As he turned into Downing Street and headed inside, the night porter raised his eyebrows as Stanley gave the instruction to wake the Prime Minister.

“What is it Stanley?”, Graham asked, tying the cord of his robe about his waist. He knew it could not be good news.

“It’s Pottinger”, Stanley replied gravely, “He’s been murdered”.



There were few details in the briefing that offered any insight beyond this terrible conclusion. It appeared that whilst staying at Wu Kwai Sha following his departure from his official post at the Peak, Pottinger and his chief of staff woke to a house in flames. They tried desperately to get out but the falling timbers trapped them inside. Both perished in the fire which was clearly an example of yet another arson attack inflicted on British residents by Chinese vigilante gangs in Hong Kong. It is unlikely that the gang who lit the fire at Wu Kwai Sha that night knew that Pottinger was staying there but the fact that it was a large house owned by a British merchant was enough to make it a target. When the Chinese authorities heard what had happened, Lord Qishan issued an immediate statement of sympathy and regret. He even went so far as to call for those who had perpetrated the crime to be caught and dealt with most severely, which he had failed to do as previous attacks had erupted throughout the settlement. His words came too late.

“This is an act of war James”, Stanley said abruptly, “And if you will not accept that, I must tell you now that I shall resign”

After a moment or two, Graham walked over to the window and looked into the street below. The first rays of the morning sun were lighting up the cityscape.

“No Teddy”, he said softly, “It is a declaration of war. And by God we shall match it”.

Later that day, the Commons benches sat in silence to hear the Prime Minister give a glowing tribute to Sir Henry Pottinger. Born in 1789 at his family estate at Mount Pottinger in Ballymacarrett, County Down, Pottinger had distinguished himself with service in India and Persia before rising through the ranks to prove himself a reliable and eminently capable diplomat. He had raised concerns at the time of his appointment that Hong Kong might prove far more complicated an issue to resolve than the British government believed it to be and he had doubts that the Chinese authorities would be as open to negotiation as the Foreign Office seemed to think it would be. Yet none of this featured in Sir James’ eulogising of course. Pottinger was “the noblest of men, a gentleman of honour and quiet dignity, devoted to his King and Country, serving both with magnanimity and a commitment to justice, honour and the British sense of fair play”. There were murmured “Here Heres” from all corners of the Court of Requests [2]. Now was not the time to apportion blame at Westminster, though privately many on the opposition benches upheld their view that Pottinger’s murder might never have happened had the Tory government acted more decisively from the very beginning. The tributes paid; the Prime Minister paused for a moment. He took a deep breath.:-

“This assault, as with all those we have seen committed against British subjects in recent days in Hong Kong, cannot and will not stand”, he said gravely, “It has always been my fervent wish to strive for a world in which disputes and disagreements are not settled by the tools of conflict but by the greater assets of agreement, negotiation and peaceable settlement. In this matter, I had believed that our adversaries might see the benefit in that and I tell all members of this House today that there can be no greater burden set upon the shoulders of a Prime Minister than to commit himself to a course of action he knows will lead to the terrible sacrifice of battle. Yet it is my solemn duty to inform the House that His Majesty’s government, in possession of the facts before us, can draw no other conclusion from these shocking and terrible events; that the Chinese seek war and that they shall not deviate from that destructive path. To that end, they have made an act of war upon this country and we shall not be found wanting in our response to that action. It is therefore my unhappy duty Mr Speaker, to confirm to the Right Honourable and Honourable Members here gathered this afternoon, that we must now consider the United Kingdom to be in a state of war with China”.

In the days that followed, King George V received endless deputations from military and government officials at Buckingham Palace as the nation’s newspapers announced the latest developments to the general public. As the King had predicted, the majority of the British people had stood firmly against the notion of a war fought with China to protect the trade of opium but the murder of Sir Henry Pottinger marked a sea change in their sentiments. War with China was now regarded almost as an obligation to be fulfilled. British honour was at stake and must be satisfied. This was the general view of the military’s top brass too. Both Lord Hill (Commander in Chief of the British Forces) and Sir George Cockburn (Admiral of the Fleet and First Naval Lord) were in agreement that regardless of Britain’s misadventures of recent years, the United Kingdom must seek restitution by force. A task force of 4,000 British and Indian troops and twenty war ships (of which five were steam ships) was ordered to set sail for Singapore [3]. The first target was to be the Zhoushan Islands (known to the British as Chusan) which Hill and Cockburn hoped would be easily captured and provide a doorway into mainland China. But the Qing officials handling the Chinese war plans were not intimidated by the idea of British warships sailing towards Chusan. The army of the Eight Banners alone boasted 16,000 men and nobody could doubt that the Chinese had the advantage on land. They would fight the British fleet on a local level, the idea being to cut the number of British troops making landfall in half. These would easily be pushed back to the sea by the Qing forces long stationed in their local positions. As the Chinese Admiral Kwan put it; “The British will spend one morning in Zhoushan and an eternity in hell”.


British Ships approach Chusan.

Though the British political landscape had been thoroughly divided on the China Question in the past few months, Fleet Street was not about to miss out on a chance to seel newspapers. The best way to do that was to take a united front and invest time and effort in some good old fashioned jingoism. Those who had opposed the war before were suddenly keen to point out that the Prime Minister had been poised to ban opium before the Chinese “so callously, cruelly and with intent to provoke, assassinated Sir Henry”. Those who felt the Prime Minister had been too slow to act congratulated him on "a bold and decisive course of action". This also led the British public to the view that, whilst they could never support a war against China to keep an illicit exchange of drugs afloat, they could (and did) support such a war when it was fought on the notion of upholding British values in foreign parts.

“This is a conflict pursued with a bold proclamation to all those who may ever have doubted the indomitable British spirit”, The Times declared, “That our commitment to justice, freedom and fairness shall be defended in every corner of the world. This brutal assault on the Chief Superintendent was the bloody consequence of that vile decree from the Chinese Emperor in Peking that just as he maltreats his own subjects, he asserts his right to meter out the same viciousness to those subjects of foreign sovereigns. If other nations will not stand up to this fatuous Manchu warlord with his devilish notions, then it is for Britain alone to stand as she often does and must, to declare to those of his kind loudly and with resolute confidence, that the British Empire shall always endeavour to protect her peoples wherever they may be in a world so transformed by the virtues and values that Empire has come to represent to so many”. [4]

Wardrum editorials such as these were extremely helpful to the government in changing the public mood but the establishment too began to close ranks around the agreed position that war with China was unavoidable given the incident at Wu Kwai Sha. The Archbishop of Canterbury even went so far as to say that the conflict was “a just and Christian endeavour”. The King too issued a statement to be read to both Houses of Parliament in which George V said, “Events have happened in China in recent weeks which have deeply shocked me, events to which I am giving the most serious attention. It is with sorrow for those of my subjects affected so very tragically by these terrible incidents and with pride in our armed forces that I pray most sincerely that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels”. [5]

But in private, the King warned the Prime Minister that he should not allow himself to be swept up in the nationalistic rhetoric now employed by the press barons. He had seen how bullish ministers could be when faced with so-called certainties and whilst the public were easily carried away on poetic platitudes, George expected his ministers to keep their feet firmly on the ground. The King had no doubt that the British would emerge victorious in the China War but many had been just as certain of a swift victory in Afghanistan and these predictions had not only proved to be unfounded but had led to a sudden and dramatic switch in public opinion. No amount of flag waving could repair the damage done when the public had read the news from Bala Hissar; the King hoped similar buyer’s remorse would not become the defining mood of the day if the British adventure in Hong Kong turned just as sour.

For a few days, all seemed chaos and disorder as one delegation after another trooped in to the King’s Study with maps and briefings. The King was keen to play his part and Major Smith recalled how “His Majesty was most adept at affixing little red paper flags to the positions described in his briefings, moving them with each bulletin and giving his observations on the strategy employed”. But with the exception of a handful of additional meetings here and there and an addition of new briefings from the Department of War and the Colonies in the King’s daily box of state papers, the normal business of the Crown continued much as it had done before the declaration of war. This was a war to be conducted without a home front and as such, once the initial debates, strategy meetings and political wranglings were over, all anybody could do was wait for favourable news from the front so far away. This is not to say that the King lost interest in the situation at hand, far from it. George sent frequent letters to the commanders of the British forces in Singapore offering encouragement and expressing gratitude to the troops and he was in constant contact with Lord Hill and Admiral Sir George Cockburn, not to mention the Prime Minister and other members of the Cabinet. But besides giving advice where it was sought, counsel where it was needed and encouragement where it mattered most, there really wasn’t much else for George to do, despite his country being in a state of war, than to sit tight and wait.

Naturally the King was eager to get back to Hanover House to be reunited with his wife but he was uneasy at the idea of leaving London for Dorset where naturally it would take so much longer for news from Whitehall to reach him. He sent word to the Queen that she had best move on to Windsor without him and that he would remain at Buckingham Palace for the time being. When possible, he would see to it that Phipps cleared the royal diary so as to allow the King to go to Windsor for long weekends but at this time, such journeys were still pretty arduous and were made exclusively by coach. The journey to Windsor from London took two days in good weather but the roads themselves were bumpy and potted and even the King’s horses were still prone to casting shoes. Yet there was a modern alternative, not yet embraced by the Crown as such but which was becoming increasingly fashionable; the railway. The railway boom of 1836 had rocked England with many wowed by its speed and convenience, yet others firmly stood opposed to it. To these naysayers, the railway was not only dangerous and dirty but it threatened the English way of life in its entirety. The countryside was to be riddled with tracks, the great movement of people would undoubtedly shatter the status quo which so many had enjoyed in their towns and villages for decades if not centuries. [6]

The Royal Family had dipped a toe in the water where the railway was concerned but it wasn’t the new generation who led the way - that honour fell to the Dowager Duchess of Clarence who (because she tended to move about the country a great deal) had become quite fond of this new innovation. It wasn’t politics that had kept the King away from the railway until now but more a kind of resignation to the fact that the Royal Family had many comfortable carriages at their disposal and had no real need (or wish) to dash about the country at any great speed. However, during his time at Hanover House in recent weeks, the King had been fascinated by the Duke of Buccleuch’s announcement that not only was he going to allow the railway to cut across his estate at Bowhill to accommodate a new railway with a station at Cardenden on the Edinburgh and Northern Railway’s proposed Dunfermline Branch, but that he was seriously considering funding a private railway station at Bowhill itself and that he had already been looking at designs for his own private railway carriage [7]. This was more than big boys’ toys, it was all part of a rush for a new status symbol very few could afford and the King was perhaps a leader in what became a general scramble of the wealthy to transform rail travel from the "great equaliser" with all classes moving about the country together to a two tier system whereby the rich could avail themselves of Britain’s new railways in luxury and style.

As grand as it all sounded in his conversations with Buccleuch, the King remained a little uncertain. To this end, he decided to conduct an experiment to see what he thought of the railway and whether it might prove itself useful for the regular trips between London and Windsor the King would have to make from now on. George proposed that he and Charlie Phipps make the journey from Paddington to Slough, on a branch of the Great Western Railway established in 1838. They would travel totally incognito and rather than settle themselves into one of the three first-class carriages on offer where they might be seen by someone they knew, the King instructed Phipps to purchase two second class tickets which cost 11s 3d each (around £35 today) with a slight reduction for an open day return [8]. Phipps was uneasy about the whole adventure and said that he would happily give his seat to Major Smith and travel by carriage instead but the King was having none of that; “Goodness me Charlie, if old Aunt Adelaide can rattle herself up and down the line from here to there without injury or complaint then I’m sure you can manage, what?". Phipps smiled weakly. He could barely hold his stomach on a rowing boat on the Serpentine; the idea of rail travel terrified him. [9]

As part of this grand day out, King George V sent word to Queen Louise that he would be back at Windsor in a few days at most. When he arrived much earlier than that, he could proudly reveal that he had travelled by train rather than coach. Almost beside himself with excitement, the King managed to go quite undetected at Paddington Station and he happily took his seat in second class, sitting opposite a baker and his wife who happily shared their sandwiches with the man who introduced himself as Mr York. Phipps remained incredibly nervous but he needn’t have been. It was hardly a rollercoaster ride and the train shunted its way slowly along the track until it reached Drayton. There, in the great tradition of the British railway, the train sat motionless for two and a half hours as clueless passengers sat restlessly wondering what on earth the trouble was; in fact, a herd of cows from a neighbouring farm had wandered onto the track and were in no great rush to move on. The farmer had to be located and summoned to remove the beasts before the train could set off again. This greatly amused the King and he laughed about it for the remainder of his journey. At Slough railway station, the King and Charlie Phipps alighted and the King went forward to tip the driver as many wealthy patrons of the railway believed was expected when the railway was still in its infancy. Then, the two men got into a coach summoned from Windsor which conveyed them to the Castle. The entire journey from London had taken just four- and three-quarter hours.

“Georgie!”, the Queen exclaimed, surprised but delighted as her husband marched into the private apartments grinning from ear to ear, “But your letter said you would not be here until Thursday!”

“You’ll never believe it Sunny...”, the King said proudly, “...we came by railway!”

“By railway? My goodness, Georgie I should have been terrified if I had known. And look at your clothes, so dirty!”

But the Queen’s ladies of the bedchamber couldn’t wait to hear more about the King’s outing and he was only too happy to detail the journey from the speed of the train itself to the comfort of the second-class carriage which he thought “perfectly adequate for any clerk or parson”. From this moment on, George V would become a railway enthusiast. He followed the progress of each new line the moment it was commissioned and he even kept maps carefully marked with each new station to be built, detailing how many passengers the trains could carry, how many carriages of each type were used and how fast the trains could travel from one place to another. Shortly after Christmas that year, he commissioned his very own railway carriage from the London and Birmingham Railway, known as the King’s Saloon. It was built at Euston Works and the body created by a coach builder in Gough Street, London who based the carriage on the stagecoaches of the time with plush upholstery and curtains to give privacy. But the real marvel was a mechanism which allowed the King to pull a small lever at one end of the carriage which lowered the back part of one of the seats to be lowered down and joined to a banquette thereby forming a very comfortable bed. The panelling on the exterior was painted with the Royal Coat of Arms and the small footing at the coupe even allowed the King to make a public appearance when the train was in motion [10]. Other members of the Royal Family were less enthusiastic. Queen Louise thought the railway was “dirty, smelly and intrusive” whilst Princess Mary was finally convinced to try the carriage out in a journey from London to Windsor in 1843 but never repeated the experience.

However, even the Queen saw the great value of the railway that October when disaster struck on the banks of the Thames. On the 30th of October 1841 in the dead of night, a publican in Cross Lane looked out of his bedroom window to see smoke billowing from the Bowyer Tower in the centre of the North Wall of the inner enclosure surrounding the Tower of London. He immediately dashed out into the street to raise the alarm but fortunately the Tower’s own fire engines were on hand. Unfortunately, the supply of water guaranteed to the Tower had run dry in the summer heat and engines from the city were (quite amazingly) prevented from passing through the Tower gates by the guards. Within half an hour, the Bowyer Tower was engulfed by the fire. Within an hour, the armouries and the storehouse by the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula were ablaze too. The Martin Tower was the next to fall to the flames as the inferno spread; the Martin Tower was home to the Jewel House where the Crown Jewels were then stored. The city engines had now been allowed through Tower Gate and throughout Tower Hill and the environs, citizens rushed to help contain the fire. A group of them rushed to the aid of the Keeper of the Jewel House but in a state of shock, he realised that he had misplaced his key to the outer room which allowed entry into the vault where the Crown Jewels were kept. The only other key was held by the Lord Chamberlain and he was at Windsor. A small team of policemen, firefighters and helpful local residents seized chains and crowbars and smashed the lock on the gates of the Outer Room but once inside, they found the barred cabinets which protected the Crown Jewels themselves too strong to force apart. As the flames licked around them, two men had to withdraw to prevent being overcome by smoke.


The Tower of London fire, 1841.

But one policeman, Harry Trebor, was determined not to give in. With sheer brute strength, the remaining rescue party managed to bend one of the bars just enough to allow Trebor to push his arm into the cabinet beyond the grille and pass out the Crown Jewels piece by piece. Some had to be pulled through with such force that they were dented or scratched but this was a small price to pay considering that the whole lot might have been lost in the fire entirely. Trebor was able to relay this tale of bravery to the King himself who presented him with £10 as a gesture of gratitude. But whilst the Crown Jewels were saved, the fire at the Tower raged until 3am and destroyed the Boyer and Brick Towers, the White Tower and the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula. Though no member of the Royal Family had lived at the Tower for centuries, it remained a royal palace and it would fall to King George V to decide what should be done to restore the damage – if indeed, he wished to restore the Tower at all. [11]

In the first week of November, the King returned briefly to London by train to survey the damage to the Tower. He thanked all those who had fought so bravely to prevent the entire building being lost forever and he was especially grateful that his priceless collection of jewels had been saved. Yet he would not be drawn on the details of what would happen next. Indeed, when he did discuss the incident briefly with Benjamin Disraeli, he seemed to be under the impression that any restoration was a government matter. George’s finances were in very good shape, far better than any of his most recent predecessors in fact, but the ongoing construction work at Lisson and the repairs to St James’ Palace following the Great Thames Flood the previous year had not come cheap. George argued that the royal family did not use the Tower as a royal residence and that it’s historic value to the nation meant that any repairs should fall to the government and not the Crown. Consumed as it was by war business, the Treasury issued a brief statement in the Commons in which it pledged to assess the damage to the Tower at the King's request after the Christmas recess but privately, Alexander Baring was none too keen to release money from the Consolidated Fund to repair the Tower of London. Sir James Graham happened to agree with the Chancellor but eager as he was to keep the King on side at the time, he rubber stamped a letter from Baring to the King which promised to “review the matter of the restoration of the Tower in the New Year”.

To everybody’s relief, the closing months of 1841 brought some much needed good news. The British advance on Chusan had not been the disaster the Qing Admiral Kwan had predicted, indeed, the British expeditionary force seized the port at Dinghai within hours forcing the commander of the Chinese garrison there to surrender. A small fleet of Chinese junks were destroyed and British marines flooded into the hills in the south flushing out any resistance they came across. Days later, the British unleashed an intense naval bombardment of Chusan from the port and within two days, the Chinese surrendered or withdrew. The United Kingdom had opened a crucial door into mainland China. It was a great achievement (from the point of view of the British) and there was much celebration as a result. Chusan would now serve as Britain’s staging point for all future operations and this greatly cheered those who were still nervous as to whether the China War would prove to be another Bala Hissar. But to the Qing officials, there was disbelief and shock. How could the British have so easily sailed into the port at Dinghai and captured the city when the Chinese had a clear advantage over the British forces on land? They would have to re-evaluate their entire strategy in the wake of the Battle of Chusan and quickly. [12]


The British take Chusan .

The King was naturally delighted by the news from China and immediately conferred Knighthoods on Sir Gordon Bremer and Lieutenant General George Burrell for their efforts in commanding the British forces at Chusan. Then came further good news of a more personal nature. The King had initially been upset that his invitation to his sister and her husband to return to England for Christmas at Windsor had gone ignored for so long, yet finally a letter came from St Petersburg. Whilst regrettably the Tsarevich and Tsarevna could not make the journey as the King hoped, they had the best possible excuse; the Tsarevna was expecting her first baby (the Grand Duchess Alexandra Alexandrovna, known as Sashenka in the Russian Imperial Family). The King could therefore not possibly have been more delighted than he was when his extended family began to gather at Windsor Castle for the Christmas of 1841. In addition to the King, the Queen, their two daughters (Missy being brought home earlier than planned by Princess Augusta of Cambridge), the Sussexes, Princess Mary and the Earl of Armagh, the Cambridges returned from Herrenhausen with the rebuked but rehabilitated Prince George and their youngest daughter Princess Mary Adelaide.

Though the Oranges opted to stay in the Netherlands (much to the chagrin of Princess Victoria), the Queen’s parents Grand Duke George and Grand Duchess Marie brought their children Hereditary Grand Duke Frederick William (Fritz) and Duke George August (Augo) with them. Both the Duchess of Cambridge and Grand Duchess Marie were to enjoy a family reunion of a kind as Queen Louise had extended invitations to Prince William of Hesse-Kassel and his wife Louise Charlotte who were joined by their son Hereditary Prince Frederick and their daughter Princess Auguste. The Earl of Armagh had not expected to be reunited with Auguste quite so soon but his conversation with Queen Louise during the French state visit seemed to have set an idea in motion in her mind. Louise was not a traditional matchmaker and was happy to leave such things to the older generation to whom such things apparently meant so much. Yet she knew when she saw a couple who made each other happy, as George Cumberland and Auguste Hesse Kassel seemed to do. It was early days for the pair of course, though Queen Louise saw no reason why the match shouldn’t be encouraged and over the Christmas festivities at Windsor, George and Auguste spent a great deal of time together. He even invited the Hesse Kassels to stay with him before they returned to Rumpenheim, supposedly because he’d like them to see the refurbishments he had made to Bushy House but Prince William knew better than that. The Earl of Armagh was clearly a young man with his mind on marriage.

His cousin Prince George of Cambridge however had failed to act upon his own mission to set wedding bells chiming. The King did not press the matter, he was in too happy a mood to cause any upset on the subject. Yet it had now been some time since Prince George was ordered to take a keen interest in Alexandrine of Baden and whilst the King was under the impression that the pair had been corresponding and that their relationship was a friendly one, the lack of any clear indication of his cousin’s intentions might have caused a contretemps had the general mood at Windsor not been so jolly. Instead, the King welcomed his cousin warmly. When he asked about Princess Alexandrine, Cambridge (possibly with his fingers crossed behind his back) told His Majesty that he had passed on the King's good wishes to the Baden princess in a letter Cambridge sent to her for Christmas. But in reality, George Cambridge had stopped writing to Princess Alexandrine altogether, ignoring her last two letters entirely. Alexandrine had become concerned for George and sent a note to his mother, the Duchess of Cambridge, asking for reassurance that he was well and to seek advice on whether or not she should keep writing to him. But the letter reached Herrenhausen just after the Cambridges had left. Alexandrine would simply have to wait. Meanwhile, not wishing to dwell on the subject, the King simply nodded. Yet he then said something which the Duke of Cambridge found rather strange. Moving away from the Cambridges to talk to Princess Mary, the King remarked to Prince George; "Keeping up with the war news are you?". The Duke couldn't know that when the King had given his cousin an ultimatum to marry quickly or find himself posted to foreign parts, the destination in the King's mind had been none other than Hong Kong. In a meeting with Lord Hill, the King had proposed that his cousin might join the staff of the then newly appointed Chief Superintendent Sir Henry Pottinger. Prince George's face flushed red. He nodded eagerly. The King wandered away stirring his cup of tea.

That Christmas was a memorable one for all gathered at Windsor, for though the King had insisted that some of the celebrations be muted a little to reflect the fact that Britain was in a state of war, it was still a very happy occasion. For a year that had begun under such a sad shadow, 1841 was set to end with a Royal Family that had weathered scandals and disagreements looking ahead to brighter days, with new babies to be born and new romances blossoming. The King decided to immortalise the occasion in a painting, commissioning Winterhalter to paint a group portrait of the extended family at Windsor. It was sadly never completed, yet some of Winterhalter’s sketches were later used to produce individual portraits of some of those present. In his diary, the King noted; “The true mark of a man’s happiness can be measured not in the things he has about him but in the people. This I believe most strongly to be true and that being the case, I am truly blessed to be happiest of men for those I have about me are surely the most loving and good of all”. Yet a small addition to this entry offers a telling glimpse into something the King still felt was missing from Windsor that year. Inserted on a separate piece of notepaper and dated the following morning, George wrote; “Only soon this shall have seemed so very incomplete for next year, I shall have all this and more; I shall have a son”.


[1] In the days when Downing Street still had a full domestic staff headed by a butler. This wouldn't have seen the same butler however as the PM had in his employ at his own home. The Downing Street domestic staff were "inherited" by every PM until the Thatcher years when it seems the post of butler went out and the office of "House Manager" came in. The British PM still has one today. He get's a salary of £50k and apparently his formal role is concerned only with "hospitality offered on behalf of the government", not to cater to the personal whims of the incumbent. Nuff said.

[2] I've always been unsure as to whether it's "Here Here" or "Hear Hear" but I've found a raging debate on both sides online so I have no idea which is the "official".

[3] As in the OTL.

[4] Obviously I don't share these sentiments in the least but it's fits what I believe would be the narrative of the time. I also had to double check as to how prevalent the use of the term "Empire" was at this time. From my research, I found it was actually being used in the British press in the mid 18th century but had first been used in 1570 well before the Act of Union in 1707 by mathematician and alchemist John Dee.

[5] This is based on the OTL statement offered by Queen Victoria which read: "Events have happened in China which have occasioned an interruption of the commercial intercourse of my subjects with that country. I have given, and shall continue to give, the most serious attention to a matter so deeply affecting the interests of my subjects and the dignity of my Crown".

[6] If any of you have read or seen Cranford, you'll know the kind of sentiments described here. There was a general feeling that the railway would put people out of work (rather than allow them to seek better paid employment elsewhere), that it would carve up the traditional boundaries of each village and town and that it would ultimately bring far too many new people into those places which actually thrived on being quite isolated. Poor Miss Deborah...

[7] This is my own invention based on the source material at hand. There was a new Dunfermline Line proposed around this time and there was to be a station at Cardenden which could theoretically have crossed through one of the Buccleuch Estates. The Duke was also a wealthy man and I've no doubt would have been one of many caught up in the railway fever of the rich.

[8] This was the first railway journey taken by the OTL Queen Victoria in 1842. On the cost however, I've had to do my best with the one source I have which tells me that between 1840 and 1842, third class fares were set at a penny a mile and first class fares were tuppence a mile. There's no fare specified for second class so I've had to be inventive.

[9] Not an uncommon fear at the time. Many thought the trains would explode or that they'd be poisoned from the fumes. There was also a theory (featured in Cranford) that the speed could make your eyeballs pop and so some took the wise precaution of keeping their eyes shut whilst travelling.

[10] These are actually the details of Queen Adelaide's Saloon commissioned in 1842 and now on display at a museum in York.

[11] As fantastic as this sounds, this was based on an actual account of the fire at the Tower in October 1841. The whole thing sounds farcical, from lost keys to engines being barred from entering the gates because the guards didn't know what they were about, but amazingly that's how the story was recorded at the time. Sadly I couldn't find the name of the policeman who saved the Crown Jewels (oddly he's only referred to by his occupation) but it is true that he brought each piece through the bars one by one "until his uniform was quite charred".

[12] As in the OTL, the Qing officials were so convinced that the sheer size of their army and their familiarity with the terrain would see the British pushed back into the sea within days of the conflict. Yet even with a head start in our TL, I believe the same fate would have befallen Chusan and I don't see a way of avoiding the British taking it so quickly and so definitively.

I had initially planned to split this into two chapters but time is against me with this week so I've opted to go for a slightly longer instalment than usual so we can fit in the big events we needed to before moving ahead. In terms of where we are in the overall story, though this would be a good place to end "Season 2", there's a kind of one-off special on the way which will neatly tie things off ahead of Part Three.

All will become clear in the next few days and until then, as always, many thanks for reading!
Looks like everything is going well with the war. Hopefully, it doesn’t become another incident like Bala Hissar:
Also, it seems that every landmark in London gets destroyed in some way.
And, I was wondering when Alfred, Lord Tennyson would enter the scene. He was poet laureate during Queen Victoria’s reign and I was thinking that Louise could introduce to George.


Monthly Donor
Also, it seems that every landmark in London gets destroyed in some way.
It's amazing to think that some of the best known London landmarks are actually Victorian replacements for much older buildings but it's bizarre that the reason they had to rebuild them was because so many landmarks burned down. The fires we've seen all took place in the OTL, the only exception being the Kensington Palace fire; which did happen but which didn't actually destroy the palace entirely and it was subsequently restored. I can only assume that fires were so prevalent at the time because people relied on it so much to heat their homes etc which presented all kinds of risks. Whilst you no longer had the "tinder-box streets" in London after 1666, it seems fires were still pretty common place and tended to get out of hand quickly because of a poorly organised (and paid) fire service in the city.
And, I was wondering when Alfred, Lord Tennyson would enter the scene. He was poet laureate during Queen Victoria’s reign and I was thinking that Louise could introduce to George.
AFAIK Tennyson was appointed Poet Laureate by Prince Albert (technically QVR) in 1850 but I believe Victoria didn't actually meet ALT until after the Prince Consort died in 1861, to thank him for a memorial poem he wrote. But certainly he's likely to make an appearance somewhere in our TL as we roll along.
[8] This was the first railway journey taken by the OTL Queen Victoria in 1842. On the cost however, I've had to do my best with the one source I have which tells me that between 1840 and 1842, third class fares were set at a penny a mile and first class fares were tuppence a mile. There's no fare specified for second class so I've had to be inventive.

[9] Not an uncommon fear at the time. Many thought the trains would explode or that they'd be poisoned from the fumes. There was also a theory (featured in Cranford) that the speed could make your eyeballs pop and so some took the wise precaution of keeping their eyes shut whilst travelling.

[10] These are actually the details of Queen Adelaide's Saloon commissioned in 1842 and now on display at a museum in York.
Jago Hazzard has a good clip on the line to Winsor, might be of use to you at some point?

Nice chapter and your not wrong the Qing had fallen so far behind Europe and everywhere else for that matter they were going to get there ass handed to them it was more of a question of who than when.

Heck look at what the pirates did years before where they smashed the Qing in multiple engagements and neglected their fleet and army even after that mess.
This timeline is really interesting and the POD is pretty creative in my opinion.

I do wonder with how Hannover seems to be in a Personal Union with Great Britian in the long term how that's going to affect German Nationalism and the push for a unification of Germany. Since unlike most of the german states in the German Confederation Hannover is in a personal union with a foreign power, and with that foreign power being The British Empire that will cause further conflicts I imagine. As I doubt many Germans in favor of national unification will be very happy with Hannover being tied to the hip with a 'foreign power' and I have my doubts the U.K. will be very willing to let go of Hannover with how it seems George V has started to make it state/Royal policy to properly tie Hannover into the Empire it is tied to via personal union and had been for more than a century.

...Speaking of the Hannover connection that may cause a major fissure in the policy of 'Spendid Isolation' as the interests of the Kingdon of Hannover is still tied to British State interests due to the personal union between the two so Britian may focus more on continental affairs in the 19th century compared to OTL.
This timeline is really interesting and the POD is pretty creative in my opinion.

I do wonder with how Hannover seems to be in a Personal Union with Great Britian in the long term how that's going to affect German Nationalism and the push for a unification of Germany. Since unlike most of the german states in the German Confederation Hannover is in a personal union with a foreign power, and with that foreign power being The British Empire that will cause further conflicts I imagine. As I doubt many Germans in favor of national unification will be very happy with Hannover being tied to the hip with a 'foreign power' and I have my doubts the U.K. will be very willing to let go of Hannover with how it seems George V has started to make it state/Royal policy to properly tie Hannover into the Empire it is tied to via personal union and had been for more than a century.

...Speaking of the Hannover connection that may cause a major fissure in the policy of 'Spendid Isolation' as the interests of the Kingdon of Hannover is still tied to British State interests due to the personal union between the two so Britian may focus more on continental affairs in the 19th century compared to OTL.
The Prussians beat the French and Austrian armies to achieve unification, they can manage the British.
Eh, the French never truly recovered from the Napoleonic Wars and were busy stagnating in their population by this point. Also Prussia was able to invade them and Austria was an unstable mess for basically the entire century.

Whereas the British Empire is presently at its height of power and Prussia can't invade them the way they could France or Austria.
Eh, the French never truly recovered from the Napoleonic Wars and were busy stagnating in their population by this point. Also Prussia was able to invade them and Austria was an unstable mess for basically the entire century.

Whereas the British Empire is presently at its height of power and Prussia can't invade them the way they could France or Austria.
Fair points, but the British Army is compared to both Austria and France: a. smaller - no conscription; b. more spread out in colonies and c. OTL rather stagent(although ITTL, it could well be that between the Duke of York being around for longer and George V's interest in the Army you could see some change on that front?).

I would also argue that in a 19th century war the chances are that if Prussia over ran havover then that would "it", there would not be a Second World War style continued resistance and return.
The Prussians beat the French and Austrian armies to achieve unification, they can manage the British.
Problem is the assumption that Hanover wants to be in a Prussian Empire more than its relationship with Britain. Its also easy to beat armies one by one but say a possible Franco-Prussian War analogue that is actually France, a revenge seeking Britain and possibly also has an unhappy Austria/Russia ( family links ) distracting Prussia? Prussians were not invincible, stack the odds and they can lose ( attacking all your neighbours in an opportunist manner for a couple of hundred years can come back and bite you.)
GV: Part Two, Chapter Thirty Eight: Cradle Song


Monthly Donor
King George V

Part Two, Chapter Thirty-Eight: Cradle Song

TW: This chapter contains themes which some readers may find upsetting.

SLEEP, the bird is in its nest;
Sleep, the bee is hushed in rest;
Sleep, rocked on thy mother’s breast.
To thy mother’s fond heart pressed,

As the Royal Family welcomed in the New Year of 1842 at Windsor Castle, all seemed well with their world. The King and Queen could not have been more content spending every moment possible with their infant daughters Princess Marie Louise and Princess Victoria. Though most of their guests for the Christmas celebrations of 1841 had now left for home, the Queen’s parents, Grand Duke George and Grand Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, were to remain in England until their new grandchildren made an appearance. George V and his wife adored these moments ‘en famille’ and in a world before instant communication was possible across vast distances, opportunities to be reunited with parents, siblings and children were always much longed for and much cherished occasions. With the war bulletins mostly positive in theme, the King took advantage of the lull in his official duties and closed out the rest of the world from Windsor. Settling into his role as patriarch of his dynasty, George took a keen interest in the blossoming romance of his cousin, the Earl of Armagh, now on his way to Bushy Park with the Hesse Kassels. The Cambridges had gone with them, Bushy offering a much-needed break on the road back to London before they returned to Hanover. The King could not deny that his cousin and Princess Auguste were well suited and though he gently teased his wife that she was at risk of morphing into Princess Mary (with all her “little interferences”) he remained hopeful that the couple might find a way forward.


An 1841 greetings card depicting Windsor in the snow.

This time at Windsor was mostly kept to intimate friends and relations but there was one notable visit on the 2nd of January 1842 when the Reverend Michael Alexander came to call upon the Queen for tea. She had promised to enter her confinement immediately after Christmas but the King made a special exception to her receiving “outside” visitors as the Alexanders were about to make the long journey to the Holy Land. This was no mere sight seeing trip and Queen Louise had secretly had a hand in setting the couple on their new course. In 1841, the Church of England and the Evangelical Church of Prussia (backed by their respective governments) had entered into a unique agreement whereby a Protestant Bishopric would be established in Jerusalem. When Queen Louise heard this, she immediately summoned Benjamin Disraeli as Comptroller of the Royal Household with a plan in mind. Louise liked Disraeli and found him to be “the most charming company”. But he was also a direct line to Downing Street and other departments of state. She pondered who the new Bishop of Jerusalem might be and wasn’t it a shame that poor Reverend Alexander had never really been considered for such an office in England. Disraeli was well aware of Alexander. Both men were Jews who had converted to Anglicanism (though for very different reasons) and both still struggled to reach the offices they might otherwise have done because of the spectre of antisemitism which ran deep in the British establishment. But with Queen Louise as his champion, both the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury quickly warmed to the idea of Alexander until he became the obvious choice.

Ahead of their departure for Jerusalem, the new Bishop and his wife came to call on the Queen. They both knew that she had worked hard to secure Alexander’s appointment and wished to express their thanks in person. They took tea together and the Queen presented Bishop Alexander with an illustrated copy of the Book of Common Prayer, embossed with his initials in gold and inside, inscribed in Louise’s own hand to; “My dear friend the Bishop of Jerusalem, from his dear friend, Louise R, 1842”. The Bishop was most moved and promised that the moment he arrived in the Holy Land, he would dispatch somebody to fetch water from the Jordan, to be used at the baptism of the Queen’s baby. But there was one more guest the Queen insisted upon receiving before she entered her confinement. The Governess of the Royal Nursery, Baroness Fillon, had finally accepted that retirement was beckoning. Both the King and Queen were devastated to see the going of Nolliflop (the nickname given to the Baroness by Princess Victoria of Kent, now Princess of Orange, and Princess Charlotte Louise, now Tsarevna of Russia, when they were in her care) but agreed the time had come. From St Petersburg, Maria Georgievna wrote; “Oh how sad! She is such a dear soul to all of us and the nursery won’t be the same without her”. Princess Victoria was less kind. Her brusque “tribute” read; “It really is too bad of her to leave you when you need her most but I suppose it is for the best for the last time I saw her she was so unsteady on her feet that I do think you kept her for far too long anyway”.

Baroness Fillon had been with the Royal Family for 25 years but recently the majority of the nursery work fell to the Sub Governess, Lady Maria Jocelyn, the younger sister of the Countess of Gainsborough (one of the Queen’s ladies of the bedchamber). But as much as Milla (as Jocelyn was known) ruled the nursery with a rod of iron, Queen Louise didn’t care much for her since she declined to go with Missy to Bautzen on account of the fact that she did not wish to live in Germany and risk being snapped up by a German husband. Milla’s comments were probably not meant to cause offense but they did and as a result, the Queen did not wish to promote her to Governess. The Queen wanted Nolliflop to recommend a successor but in the Baroness’ considered opinion, there was only one person suited to the role and that was Lady Dorothy Wentworth. But the Queen would not countenance Dolly leaving Missy and so an alternative had to be found. The candidates proposed by the Queen’s ladies were all found wanting. Most had overt political connections and the Queen did not want to risk a clash with the Prime Minister who had given her some leeway on appointments in the nursery.

It fell to the Queen’s mother, Grand Duchess Marie, to solve the conundrum. She dispatched a letter to her brother William at Bushy Park asking him if he thought Fraulein Hauser, governess to William’s children, might be tempted out of retirement. Hauser had been the governess at Rumpenheim for almost 40 years and nobody could doubt both her devotion to the children in her care or her credentials. That being said, Louise had concerns that Hauser wasn’t of a sufficiently high enough rank for the nursery at Windsor. The English court expected the royal children to be raised by people from good families, preferably with a title or some independent means. Grand Duchess Marie was not so snobbish as English courtiers however and remarked; “We have tea trays older than Nolli’s title and wasn’t she the very best for you?”. The Queen relented and Hauser was appointed, an urgent summons sent to Rumpenheim along with the fare for a passage to England. With this matter now settled, the Queen could finally enter her confinement. All anybody could do now, was wait.


The Queen's Bedroom at Windsor, photographed in 1852.

For the remainder of January, the Queen was attended by Dr Alison but on the 20th of the month, he was suddenly called home to Scotland; his father was dying. Though he fully intended to stay put at Windsor, the Queen insisted that the doctor go home. She would be perfectly well served by her Obstetrician Sir Charles Locock (who had presided over the birth of the Princess Royal and Princess Victoria) and it was Locock who now produced the daily bulletins sent to the King keeping him informed of how things were progressing in these final stages of the Queen’s pregnancy. “I struggle to do this”, Locock confided to Charlie Phipps, “For how many ways can there possibly be to say the same thing; that Her Majesty is in the very best of health”. This didn’t much please the King who quietly disliked Locock. In private, he blamed him for the difficulties that arose during the birth of the Princess Royal. Queen Louise wouldn’t hear of him being dismissed however and so he remained in royal service. She even insisted that he was granted a knighthood, something George wanted to withhold from Locock but which all others in his position had received after the birth of a royal baby. Sir Charles was seemingly unaware of the King’s animosity toward him and he continued about his work as Windsor began to buzz with activity. Fleets of nursery maids in white starched aprons over the pale blue dresses marched up and down the corridors, a wet nurse (Mrs Winifred Bales) was found among the Windsor tenant farmers and put on standby and a nervous junior page (Mr John Parker, aged just 14) was pulled away from his usual duties and given one solitary task to perform; he was to sit on a chair outside the Queen’s bedroom.

At the first sign of an impending royal arrival, Parker was to inform the King immediately. It did not take long for Parker's cheeky nature to endear him to the Queen and her ladies. Louise called Parker “my little friend outside” and though she only actually spoke to him twice, the Queen made quite an impression on the young man. He later recalled; “I was new to service in those days and when the Queen asked after my family, I didn’t know that I should have just said all was well and thanked her for being so kind as to ask. Instead I told her all about my sister who was getting married. The Queen didn’t mind, she was very generous that way. But then the second time I had occasion to speak to her, she handed me a little box and inside was a lovely little thing; a handkerchief with violets embroidered in all four corners. She said, ‘Now John, would you please give this to your sister and tell her that I hope it will only ever dry happy tears’. And that was the lady I remember”. Parker would later join the household of the Duke of Sussex, remaining with the Duke’s widow until her death in 1873. He then joined the Household of the Duke of Clarence and served there as Chief Butler until his retirement in 1906.


Queen Louise.

As January came to its close, Windsor was blanketed with snow. The Queen was thoroughly bored during her confinement but she was at least able to sit and watch the blizzards rush and billow in the cold winds outside from her window. The King came each day to read to her and her mother kept her company, the pair settling to embroidery or playing cards. Then on the 28th of January, there was a huge panic as the Queen yelled out in the middle of the night. Parker shot into action and summoned the King, Grand Duchess Marie appeared from her bedroom in her nightdress and cap and a message was urgently sent to London to demand the ministers required to witness the birth had better put some fire under their tails or else they would miss it. Dr Locock calmed the situation. The Queen still had another two weeks to go by his estimation and this was nothing more than a classic case of a false start. But the Queen herself seemed agitated and restless. Locock said it was nothing more than frayed nerves and reassuring all in the Queen’s bedroom that night, he gave Louise a sleeping draught. All was quiet at the Castle once more.

SLEEP, the waning daylight dies;
Sleep, the stars dream in the skies;
Daisies long have closed their eyes;
Calm, how calm on all things lies.

The Queen slept well until 11am on the 30th of January 1842. She woke up, ate a little porridge and then sat patiently as she was washed and dressed by her ladies who helped her to the chaise in the salon. Her mother read to her a little from a newspaper. But then the Queen began to fret. She wanted to go for a walk. The Grand Duchess was adamant that her daughter should stay put but Queen Louise became so troubled and so insistent that Marie called for Dr Locock. Again, he stressed that the Queen was “simply in an exaggerated state of nervousness” following the false alarm of the previous night and that this was quite usual. Marie disagreed. She knew her daughter and could tell something was not quite right. She dispatched an urgent note to Dr Alison in Scotland, begging him to return to Windsor as quickly as possible. But she said nothing to her son-in-law, indeed, she asked Dr Locock to say nothing about the Queen’s anxiety in his daily report to the King so that he shouldn’t become equally as worried.

Locock agreed. The final bulletin he submitted to the King on Queen Louise’s condition, issued at 4.30pm on the 31st of January read; “Her Majesty has slept well and has taken a healthy supper”. In truth, the Queen had eaten nothing since that morning and now she complained of feeling hot and said that she had pains in her legs and hips. Indeed, Grand Duchess Marie saw that the Queen was sweating quite profusely and seemed somewhat disorientated. Dr Locock ordered the fire to be extinguished in the Queen’s bedroom until the morning when the chill outside tended to drop the interior temperature of the Castle. He gave Louise another sleeping draught. As a result, the King had no opportunity to see his wife’s condition for himself because he was advised by the Mistress of the Robes that the Queen was resting. He didn’t wish to disturb her and said he would attend the Queen a little earlier the next morning.

At 1.30am on the 1st of February 1842, John Parker was woken from his slumber by a beaming Duchess of Buccleuch shaking his shoulder.

“Fetch His Majesty boy!”, she said happily, “It is time!”

Parker ran as fast as his feet would carry him. He found the night page sleeping on a chair outside the King’s bedroom and in a blind panic, rushed past him and yelled out; “Your Majesty! It’s time! Excuse me Sir but it’s time…now!”

The King leapt out of bed and threw on his robe, pushed his feet into his bedroom slippers and excitedly tore down the corridor to the Queen’s bedroom. As he entered the room, he saw the Queen smiling at him from her bed, gesturing for him to go to her. He raced to her side and kissed her forehead. Grand Duchess Marie was holding Louise’s hand whilst her father Grand Duke George seemed heavily engaged in hushed discussion with Dr Locock.

“I promise I shall give you a son this time my darling”, Louise said, a little breathlessly.

“Come now”, George replied softly, “We shall love our child whatever it may be. I shall go and talk to Locock now but I shan’t be too far away, I’ll be just outside”

“No Georgie”, the Queen said suddenly. There was fear in her voice. “No please don’t go, I want you to stay with me”

The King looked across the room toward Dr Locock. He broke off his conversation with the Queen’s father and walked towards the bed.

“I assure you Ma’am”, he said kindly, “All shall be well and His Majesty will be just beyond the door until the worst is passed”

“I am here Sunny, I shall stay”, Grand Duchess Marie comforted her daughter.

“Oh Mama…”, the Queen sighed, tears forming in her eyes.

The King was nervous. He had not seen his wife like this before. Dr Locock reassured him that this sometimes happened, that he had given the Queen some pain relief and that this often made the patient a little emotional or tearful. Nodding, George kissed his wife again on the forehead; “I am with you Sunny. Now be a good girl and do everything the doctor tells you”.

And with that, the King left the room to join Grand Duke George in the ante room where they would set up camp for the night. Within an hour, Princess Mary arrived and within two hours, Mr Gladstone (the Home Secretary) and a handful of other junior ministers from the Home Office arrived at Windsor, drenched through and reeling from the rushed journey to Windsor. Gladstone quietly complained that he had been told to make himself available no earlier than the 20th of February. Princess Mary overheard and snapped; “God does not keep to your diary Mr Gladstone”. The Home Secretary was suitably admonished and the King led the men along the way into his study where he gave them brandy. It did not take long for the cries of the Queen to be heard throughout the Private Apartments. The King was so tense he began chain smoking and even took a few glasses of brandy, a habit he never much cared for. By 5.30am, there was still no sign of the baby, yet the Queen’s labour continued. Then, bursting into the room with a wave of her hand to clear the cigar smoke, Princess Mary bounded into the King’s study; “She’s done it!”, she said proudly, “Georgie! She has done it!”.

Those present let up a round of applause and murmured congratulation. The King accepted handshakes as he passed through the crowded room and followed his aunt Mary, his father in law behind him, to the Queen’s bedroom. As they neared, they could hear Grand Duchess Marie’s tinkling laughter and the small cries of a new-born. Propped up on pillows, her blonde tresses hanging loose and her eyes firmly fixed on the swaddled infant in her arms, the Queen said quietly; “Well Georgie my darling…I think you had better come and meet your son”. Tears falling down his cheeks, the King kissed his wife and then took the little bundle from her. There was the boy he had longed for, a tiny red face with tightly shut eyes, his small hands reaching out, a mop of thick blonde hair on his head.

“My son…”, George said, his voice breaking with pride, “Oh Sunny…we have a son!”

And in that moment, the King had everything he had ever wanted and ever dreamed of. All was complete. The King and Queen sat for a time together, the doctors, nursery maids, ministers and relations giving them just a few precious moments of peace, quiet and privacy. The King sat next to his wife on the bed, she cradling the new-born Prince in her arms.

“He is perfect isn’t he?”, Louise sighed, “Don’t you think so Georgie? Such a perfect little boy. What should we call him?”

“Well…”, the King began a little hesitantly, “I know that we should really name him for your father, or for mine. But there’s far too many of us Georges in the family already and…well…I…”

“I think we should name him for your Uncle William”, the Queen said with a little grin, “And he looks like a William”

The King grinned and kissed his wife on the cheek. He wasn’t fooled for a moment.

“Well if that’s how you’d like it Sunny, I shan’t argue. William it is”

Queen Louise let out a deep yawn. She was quite clearly exhausted.

“Now come my darling, you must let Mama take him to the nursery and you must get some rest. I shall come back in a few hours”.

The Queen nodded, kissing her husband’s hand as Grand Duchess Marie came in to take the little boy. And then a curious thing happened. As the King left the room, about to close the door behind him, he heard his wife call his name.

“Yes Sunny?”

“Draußen ist es warm? Mir ist so heiß...”

No fire had been lit and outside the snow continued to fall rapidly. Yet it wasn’t this that caused the King to pause before leaving his wife alone to her slumber. She had spoken in German, a language he very rarely heard her communicate in at home. Since her marriage, Queen Louise had insisted on speaking English so that she could improve it but also because she disliked the idea of anyone branding her a foreigner. This was a common criticism of the Royal Family during the reigns of her husband’s predecessors and she wanted to avoid any suggestion that either she, or her children, were anything but British subjects from toe to tip. Occasionally the Queen might speak French in front of the servants when trying to be discrete and sometimes she struggled to find an English word, using the German one instead until she was corrected. But for her to address her husband in German…was unusual.

“Träum süss meine liebe”, the King replied gently, closing the door behind him and leaving his wife to drift off to sleep.

At 9am that same day, an almighty clattering shattered the peace and quiet of the Queen’s Apartments. A passing housemaid was the first to hear it as she made her way along the corridor. John Parker had been told never to open the door to the Queen’s rooms but he did so. Horrified, he saw the Queen on the floor beside her bed. She had upset the table sending a clock, a small picture frame and a vase tumbling to the floor. Parker daren’t approach but the housemaid, Mary Michaels, did so. She noticed that the Queen was drenched with sweat and was trembling. She felt incredibly hot to the touch. Parker dashed from the Queen’s room to raise Dr Locock who was availing himself of a few hours sleep in a guest bedroom before making his return journey to London. Locock summoned the night nursery staff and then sent word to the Strelitz Suite. Finally, Parker was told to go and rouse the King without delay. Locock, his two-night nurses and a nursery maid helped him put the Queen back into bed. Her nightgown was soaked through and she was so delirious that she began to babble in a mixture of English and German, asking the doctor to fetch her mother one moment, and then asking one of the nurses why she couldn’t go out to play with the dogs as she wanted to.

“Georgie came to her side”, Grand Duchess Marie wrote to her cousin Karoline at the Winterpalais in Gotha, “But she was in such a very poor state that she did not know him. Neither did she know me. We cried out to her and tried to hold her down for she was fitting so terribly. Then Locock gave her laudanum which gave her some respite and we moved away from the bedside to hear the worst”. The doctor did not even attempt to give the King false hope. The Queen had developed a fever. Her skin was pale and she complained of feeling cold, yet just hours before she had said she felt too hot. Her forehead was burning. Locock offered his grave diagnosis; the Queen would soon reach a stage of crisis. If she survived that, Louise would live. But that was in God’s hands. Locock could provoke the crisis by applying heat treatments or bleeding the Queen but in his view, that would cause the Queen more distress than he was prepared to make her endure. In other words, Locock believed the Queen's life now rested in the hands of providence. Grand Duchess Marie tried to scream but found no sound came. The King simply stood with his eyes fixed upon his wife, her nurses now trying to sponge the sweat from her brow as the Queen kept on babbling; “Where is my little Missy?”, she said hoarsely, “I am taking her to the park. She likes the park”.

Grand Duchess Marie turned to her son-in-law.

“Fetch the children”, he said coldly, “I want her to see them”.

As the opiates Dr Locock administered began to calm the Queen, her three children were brought in to her bedroom. The nurses stood at a discrete distance. Grand Duchess Marie cradled Prince William, whilst Grand Duke George held Princess Victoria in her arms. The King carried the Princess Royal over to her mother. She gently kissed the Queen’s forehead and Louise smiled.

“Little one…”

The children were then led from the room. Princess Mary arrived. She said nothing. She kissed her nephew on the cheek tenderly and tried to wipe the tears from his eyes with a gloved hand. Then she crossed to the bed and bent down to kiss the Queen. She steadied herself and sank into a deep curtsey. Silently, she turned around and left the room. The moment she was at safe distance from anyone who might see, she let out a huge, heavy sob. Could there ever be anything as cruel as this? The King sat down on the edge of the bed. There was so much he wanted to say and yet he could not speak. There were words inside him and yet he could give sound to them. All he could do was watch…and wait. The Queen’s parents sat with their daughter for a time. Grand Duchess Marie took over the nursing for a little while. The Duchess of Buccleuch prepared the Queen’s Household for the worst. Then Henry Hobart, the Dean of Windsor, arrived. Entering the Queen’s bedroom, he saw the pitiful scene; the young woman in her bed, deathly pale and her breath shallow, her devastated husband sat so devotedly by her side willing her to recover at the last, her parents trying their best to bear the shock and the sadness of it all. He began to read Psalm 23…

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures…”

There was no crisis. Perhaps that had already come. Just after ten o’clock on the morning on the 1st of February 1842, Queen Louise slowly drifted from consciousness and died moments later.

She was just 24 years old.

SLEEP then, sleep my heart’s delight,
Sleep and through the darksome night,
Round thy bed God’s angels bright,
Guard thee till I come with light,

GV: Part Two: Epilogue


Monthly Donor
King George V

Part Two: Epilogue


Queen Louise of the United Kingdom
1818 - 1842

In the United Kingdom in the 1840s, one woman in every 200 who gave birth would die during or shortly after childbirth. Queen Louise was among them in 1842. Whilst her cause of death was officially recorded as childbed fever (now known as puerperal fever or maternal sepsis), some medical historians doubt this conclusion. It is clear that the Queen had struggled with her previous pregnancies. The Princess Royal’s birth was a difficult and traumatic one risking the lives of both mother and baby. Whilst the birth of Princess Victoria was relatively smooth, the Queen then suffered a miscarriage during her third pregnancy and not long after that, fell pregnant for a fourth time. Whilst post-partum infection would make most sense when studying the medical bulletins provided by Dr Lacock (and previously by Dr Alison), and whilst most modern obstetricians agree that the Queen was actually suffering from pre-eclampsia or even chorioamnionitis, there are those who maintain that Queen Louise may have been suffering from a hypertensive disorder, a rare genetic condition which can see a sudden onset of increased blood pressure, often triggered in adults during their first pregnancy. Were this to be the case, the Queen would ultimately have developed renal failure by the time she was thirty-years-old and in 1842, that was just as much a death sentence as any pre- or post-natal complications.

What is so very tragic in Queen Louise’s case is that the King now faced the torment of the fact that whilst he had worried so terribly that his wife may miscarry, he had never considered the possibility that she herself may die. The Royal Family had experienced childbed fever before, just a few years in fact before King George V was born when Princess Charlotte of Wales died in 1817 when she was only 21 years old. But in Princess Charlotte’s case, her son had died too. Now the King found himself a widower at the same age his cousin Charlotte had been when she died. But he was also a father to a new-born son and two daughters both under the age of five. For a young man who had already experienced the absence of his parents, the death of his younger brother Prince Edward and the loss of his favourite uncle the Duke of Clarence, not to mention the departure of both his cousin Princess Victoria and his sister Princess Charlotte Louise to live abroad, this latest parting could not have hit him harder. This is borne out by Grand Duchess Marie’s letter to the Duchess of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg in which she describes what happened following her daughter’s death:-

“Georgie could not bring himself to leave her and sat by her beside for some hours. Princess Mary explained that the undertakers must be allowed to carry out their duties but the poor boy would not countenance it. Then I went to see him and I told him that he must let her go. He sobbed in my arms and I in his. And then we said a last goodbye to my sweet darling angel and they took her. Georgie went back into the room after the undertakers had left and would not leave it. I found him there sometime later with the baby. He would not speak. He does not speak. He is too burdened with the horrors of all that has happened to us. Our Sunny is no more and we shall never be resolved to a world without her smile, her laughter or her kindness of spirit. How much poorer we all are that we shall never see her face again and I can only pray that her dear children will cherish her memory, though they will most likely not remember her. How utterly cruel that is”.

The shock felt at Windsor that day did not take long to make itself known in every town, village and city throughout the United Kingdom. Queen Louise had been an incredibly popular figure, far more so than her namesake, predecessor and aunt. This young and beautiful German Duchess came to England in somewhat unusual circumstances and yet in the brief time she lived among the British people, they took her to their hearts with such love and affection that nobody could quite believe what had happened. It was made all the more tragic by the fact that the Queen had died in childbirth. What was to be so happy an event had turned to ashes in the space of a few short hours and many historians have remarked on the fact that the birth of the future King William IV was so overshadowed by the loss of his mother that it barely registered with the people until his baptism that they had a new Prince of Wales at all. People became intense in their grief, turning out in their thousands in mourning clothes simply to stand in the market square or the churchyard, silent but united in a national outpouring of sorrow. Within days, shops and businesses across the country closed their doors and shuttered their windows. All theatre performances were cancelled. Even delivery men muffled their horses’ hooves so as not to make too much noise in the streets. Until the Queen’s funeral, people stayed at home as much as they could, their curtains drawn, vases of white flowers placed on the doorsteps. Portraits of the Queen were displayed in windows, sales of black crepe doubled and even the lamp lighters kept the gas low so as to keep the city as dim as possible.

The State Opening of Parliament was postponed but Commons and Lords were recalled a few days after the Queen’s death to offer tributes to her memory. The Duke of Wellington wept his way through his eulogy for Queen Louise saying that Her Majesty was “the brightest of hearts, the most noble of souls and the very best of us all”. The Prime Minister, Sir James Graham, spoke of her as “the golden thread that tied the nation together, in happiness at the time of her arrival and marriage and now in our terrible grief at the time of her death”. The Archbishop of Canterbury ordered every church to open its doors until the funeral was held, mourners being invited in to join candlelit vigils. “There was no man left untouched by the death of that beloved Queen”, the diarist Charles Greville wrote, “I saw them weep openly in the street at the sight of her portrait. There seemed a great multitude of people in the city so deeply affected by the tragedy and even the poorest who knew neither the person of the Queen or could hope never to know the worldly comforts she enjoyed in this life, moved about as if burdened heavy with a grief we all understood for we all shared in it”.

Across Europe as news reached the courts of Paris, Berlin, The Hague and more, European royalty too expressed its profound sense of loss. The King of Prussia ordered that the bells of every church (led by the great Berliner Dom) in his capital should toll for two hours and he decreed that court mourning should be observed until the day of the Queen’s funeral. Similar scenes played out in Paris and St Petersburg. In the Netherlands, King William II and his wife attended a special service of prayer in honour of Queen Louise led by their daughter in law Victoria. In Denmark, King Christian VIII ordered a gun salute to be fired and ordered the ladies of his court to adopt mourning dress. And though they had never met and though the lives of the faithful in England were still subject to much prejudice, Pope Gregory XVI was said to have offered prayers for the repose of the Queen’s soul at the Apostolic Palace. The entire Western world it seemed, yearned to express their sorrow at such a tragic loss.

The Queen's funeral was held at Westminster Abbey on the 16th of February 1842. This was the first royal funeral to be held at the Abbey since that of Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn in 1790 and the first funeral of a royal consort held there since Queen Mary II in 1695. It was widely attended with members of royal families in Europe sending the most senior delegations possible. For the first time since the funeral of Queen Anne in 1714, women were allowed to take part in the procession from St James' to Westminster Abbey - though they were driven in closed carriages and did not walk behind the coffin. The funeral was held at 1pm, a marked change from previous ceremonies which always took place after sunset. This was to allow the vast crowds lining the route to attend and to see the full procession. The King walked behind the cortege, joined by Grand Duke George of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Prince William of Hesse-Kassel, the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex, the Earl of Armagh and Prince George of Cambridge. They were followed by members of the Queen's household, peers, privy counsellors, the judiciary and other office-holders. Regimental bands played the Dead March in Saul. As today, those bearing arms (swords or rifles), whether lining the route or marching in the procession, carried or held them reversed as a sign of mourning. Minute guns were fired every five minutes for 12 hours, the last fired just as the funeral for the Queen concluded and the bells of Westminster Abbey tolled.

In another marked change (and though members of the Royal Family and their guests all wore black), the mourning colours adopted for Queen Louise's funeral were actually white and purple. The Queen's coffin was placed in a hearse lined with purple velvet whilst the coffin had a white pall over which was draped Louise's coronation robes. Her crown was placed on the top of this with a wreath of white lilies offered by the King. Banners displaying her coat of arms were displayed at the rear and front of the hearse but the glass was left unobscured. The horses wore purple with white plumes and white plumes were also displayed a-top the hearse. Records show that the King himself planned every moment of his wife’s funeral to the last detail. He specifically requested that the late Queen should be dressed in her wedding gown and that a replica of her bridal bouquet be placed in her hands. During the funeral service itself, the congregation sang the Queen's favourite hymn Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. Before this time, hymns were not usually communally sung at royal funerals but the King insisted; his wife had always enjoyed singing hymns on Sundays. Ein feste burg was also sung in German and not English as a gesture to the Queen's parents. Her body was then taken to the Chapel Royal of St James'. The King refused to leave the chapel until well after midnight. The next day, a second procession was held which saw the coffin taken to Windsor. As it passed through every street in every town en route, people came out en masse to say a final goodbye to Queen Louise. After a private committal ceremony attended only by immediate family at St George's Chapel, the Queen's coffin was lowered down into the Royal Vault where it remained until the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore was completed in 1852. She now lies at rest beside her husband in the Queen Louise Memorial Chapel.

In her later years, Queen Louise's daughter Princess Victoria contributed to an official biography of her brother King William IV written by Sir Michael Phelps. Phelps kept detailed accounts of the interviews conducted and it is from Victoria that we get the best sense of how Queen Louise's death impacted the Royal Family:

“I should like to pretend that I have a claim to her memory in that I might be able to tell you that I recall the sound of her voice or the way she smiled. Sadly I cannot because I was far too young when she died. But I do know that when the initial shock of it had passed and when my father had been given time to come to terms with her loss, he resolved to keep her memory alive so that my elder sister, my younger brother and I, could all feel that we at least had some tangible connection to her. So whilst I cannot tell you that I personally remember something she said or the way she dressed her hair, I can tell you many happy stories about her and even though they may be second hand, they are nonetheless of such great comfort to me because in the telling of them I feel closer to her.

That my father, so young and so desolate in his grief, could find a way to bestow that very special gift upon us in the depths of his bereavement tells you a great deal about the man he was. When we were very small, I recall my father used to say, ‘Let us sing Mama’s song’ and we would sing that very old tune which begins Sleep, the bird is in its nest… I believe it was called Cradle Song and whenever we would sing it, my father would weep. But as we grew older, my father no longer wept when we sang the Cradle Song. He would smile. I believe he had come to reflect that as devastating a loss as it was to him, the joy of having known and loved my mother, even for the brief time they were allowed together, made the pain of that loss easier to bear and ultimately, worth every tear shed”.

End of Part Two

I'll admit to writing and rewriting the last chapter of Part Two over and over in recent weeks. I actually felt quite cruel in killing off poor Louise and I'm sure those of you who really enjoyed the relationship between George V and his wife might feel a little disappointed. But here's why I felt it was the right decision.

Queen Louise was always going to die in 1842. When I began plotting out this TL, I decided it would be easier to stick to the RL birth and death dates as much as possible for our characters who actually existed. So both Part One and Part Two were written knowing that Louise would ultimately not feature in our story when we reached this point. If you go back through the TL so far, you'll possibly notice that whenever the future is mentioned, Queen Louise isn't. But I didn't want the way Louise departed the TL to be a stunt put in purely for a dramatic twist of events. The sad reality is that many women died in childbirth and I knew Louise would be one of them. But it's also why I gave Louise the difficulties with her first pregnancy and with her miscarriage - it slowly prepared the way for what was to come.

The relationship that developed between George and Louise was so enjoyable to write but that brings me to the second reason as to why now was the right time to write her out of the story. I wrote Louise to be a perfect wife for George and in a way, she may have been too perfect. I had to ask myself if 50 years of marital bliss with barely a crossed word would give enough interest in the long term and I came to the conclusion that whilst she was a great character in the short-term, she might get a little grating as time went on. But also, removing Louise from the story opens up so many other avenues for the remaining characters - most importantly, it will colour the relationship between the King and the Prince of Wales. And it's no great spoiler to reveal that the King will marry again and that he will have more children. This is a further exploration of how things might have been in the OTL had Albert died earlier or had Victoria married again - not to mention how different things would have been for the monarchy without a Sovereign so consumed by grief that the Crown almost ceased to function.

So as sad as it is for our poor George, I feel the death of Queen Louise wasn't just a realistic outcome in terms of the TL but for me as the writer, it made more sense to let her go now than to keep her hanging about with little to contribute as the decades go by. I'll admit to being inspired by the departure of Lady Marjorie Bellamy in Upstairs, Downstairs too. Everybody wondered how on earth 165 could ever function without her and she was a hugely popular character. Yet the series ultimately benefitted from her departure because of the fall out from her death and how each character was affected by it. In other words, if you're very angry with me for killing off our poor Queen, please forgive me!

So now we've reached the end of Part Two which I believe means we've covered 27 years of history in one year. I'll be taking a week away to plot out the rest of Part Three and update my character sheets, family trees etc and Part Three will pick up where we left in the aftermath of Queen Louise's funeral. Once again, a huge thank you to everyone who has stayed with the TL for so long. I always love to read your feedback, it gives me new ideas and ways of looking at the story and I hope you feel that's reflected in the timeline itself.


Monthly Donor
Jago Hazzard has a good clip on the line to Winsor, might be of use to you at some point?

A huge help, many thanks! Researching the birth of the British railway system has been great fun but much of it is new to me so links like these will prove very useful indeed.
Nice chapter and your not wrong the Qing had fallen so far behind Europe and everywhere else for that matter they were going to get there ass handed to them it was more of a question of who than when.

Heck look at what the pirates did years before where they smashed the Qing in multiple engagements and neglected their fleet and army even after that mess.
Thankyou @kelgar04! I read several different accounts of the Opium Wars and the one common conclusion was that the Qing officials believed the way they had always fought wars in the past was practically perfect. They didn't see the need to change anything and thus, they relied on fighting from vulnerable positions that were easily taken to their detriment.
This timeline is really interesting and the POD is pretty creative in my opinion.

I do wonder with how Hannover seems to be in a Personal Union with Great Britian in the long term how that's going to affect German Nationalism and the push for a unification of Germany. Since unlike most of the german states in the German Confederation Hannover is in a personal union with a foreign power, and with that foreign power being The British Empire that will cause further conflicts I imagine. As I doubt many Germans in favor of national unification will be very happy with Hannover being tied to the hip with a 'foreign power' and I have my doubts the U.K. will be very willing to let go of Hannover with how it seems George V has started to make it state/Royal policy to properly tie Hannover into the Empire it is tied to via personal union and had been for more than a century.

...Speaking of the Hannover connection that may cause a major fissure in the policy of 'Spendid Isolation' as the interests of the Kingdon of Hannover is still tied to British State interests due to the personal union between the two so Britian may focus more on continental affairs in the 19th century compared to OTL.
Many thanks for your comments! The role of Hanover has been an interesting one to explore so far and it's something we'll get into much more as the TL progresses into Part Three. It's an interesting idea to keep the personal union for as long as possible and I think the dynamic could prove fascinating if you keep the links going into the 1850s and 1860s; most intellectuals in Hanover favoured the continuation of the union so long as it played a bigger part. But the general population seem to have felt the union was an imposition and didn't see why they should be burdened with it. In this case, we've got an added theme which we didn't have in the OTL; a King who is emotionally attached to Hanover. In the OTL, nobody in England much grumbled about it's loss. Successive British governments sought to water the relationship down before the accession of Queen Victoria anyway. So it may be we see a clash between Crown and Parliament here; one side wanting to fight to keep Hanover and one side only too happy to let it go. But more of that later!

Incidentally, I meant to add to my epilogue post that in the downtime between Part Two and Part Three I'll finally be putting together a 'Catch Up' of George IV and both parts of George V in my Test thread so that new readers can get the gist of what's happened up until now without having to read the whole lot through - I've found that it's impossible to do whilst working on a new segment so the little break will prove a handy opportunity to provide something so long overdue.

I've also been putting the finishing touches to a PDF version of my George IV TL which I'll link here and which I hope will allow new readers to avoid spoilers from the posts in between the chapters or what has come later.