Crown Imperial: An Alt British Monarchy

Edmund Blackadder can be the ITTL version of John Brown . John Brown was Queen Victoria’s personal attendant after the death of Prince Albert. Maybe, Edmund can help cheer up George.
 
GV: Part Three, Chapter Two: Best Laid Plans

Opo

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King George V

Part Three, Chapter Two: Best Laid Plans

The Christening of the Prince of Wales in March 1842 marked a turning point in the King’s grief. Whilst he did not snap back into a familiar routine and whilst he was nowhere near recovered from the tragic loss that had befallen him, he was no longer inclined to continue with his almost monastic seclusion from the world. Though he could not face a return to the rooms he had once shared with his late wife in the Private Apartments, the King had grown tired of the four walls of the Cambridge Room on the Nursery Floor at Windsor Castle. In the first sign that he was looking to the future and not the past, he made arrangements to settle himself elsewhere. A note was sent to the Master of the Household informing him that the vacant suite of rooms in the Augusta Tower, formerly occupied by Princess Charlotte Louise, should be aired and a list of furniture and personal items was supplied which the King wished to fill the space with. The Augusta Tower, which can be seen just to the left of the Castle’s George IV Gateway as one approaches by the Long Walk, remains more of a maisonette than an apartment and benefits today as it did then from its own private entrance accessible from the South Terrace but hidden from public view by a row of tall shrubs. [1]

On the lower floor was an elegant entrance hall with a Page’s Closet, a kind of check-in desk manned at all times by a Page of the Backstairs who was under strict instructions to admit nobody to the floors above unless their names featured on a daily call sheet supplied by the King’s Private Secretary each morning. Climbing the stairs to the first floor, there was a modest waiting room which led on to a comfortable sitting room, a private dining room and just beyond this a small but well stocked library. Another staircase led to the second floor which gave access to a drawing room, study, dressing room and bedroom. Behind a green baize door was a servant’s staircase which allowed the King’s personal staff access to the Augusta Tower’s inner sanctum via a door to and from the Visitor’s Apartments. This was not universally popular, especially when it came to the service of meals, and it wasn’t until the 1850s that a dumb waiter was installed to spare the King’s footmen the stairs. Still this was not much comfort to Major ‘Honest Billy’ Smith who, after just two days at the Augusta Tower, slipped and hurt his back putting him out of commission for the rest of the summer as Crown Equerry. If Smith hoped that the Tower would be a temporary billet, he was to be disappointed. King George V would use these rooms as his personal apartments for the rest of his life, even when the Private Apartments were reopened in 1845.

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The King's Sitting Room, the Augusta Tower, Windsor, pictured in 1855.

In addition to his relocation, the King sent an invitation to Downing Street asking Sir James and Lady Graham to join the Royal Family at Windsor for the Easter weekend on the 27th of March. The Prime Minister heaved a sigh of relief. The State Opening of Parliament had been postponed following the Queen’s death and whilst this was to be expected, the King’s private audiences with the Prime Minister had also been shelved. Sir James had not been received by His Majesty in audience since the last week of January and there was much to discuss beyond setting a date for the State Opening. But it must be said that the Prime Minister did not push the King to resume his official duties, neither did he apply pressure to force a decision on the State Opening. Even in the worst of his grief, the King continued to work through the boxes of state papers delivered to him from Whitehall and though communication between the Royal Household and Downing Street had lapsed, Sir James remarked that the way George continued to work on through such an extremely difficult time was admirable. Princess Mary agreed that her nephew's work ethic was impressive yet she worried that the King was trying to do too much too soon. He was still prone to breaking down and there were often disagreements when he agreed to something but found he could not bring himself to actually do it; then he would claim that he never agreed to the idea in the first place and that people around him were expecting too much of him.

One example of this precarious mood concerned the decision taken by the King to remove Fraulein Hauser, the Hesse-Kassel family governess, from the Royal Nursery just weeks after her arrival in England. They had clashed on a daily basis until the King insisted that she go back to Neustrelitz when the late Queen’s parents returned. Hauser was only too pleased to do so; she despised England for its weather, food and the lack of co-operation she received from His Majesty, but her departure meant there was no Governess to hold sway over the nursery floor. The King was determined to choose Hauser’s successor personally and he asked Princess Mary to put together a list of those she considered best suited to the position but when she presented that list to her nephew, the King snapped; “Can’t you even manage that? I asked you to choose Aunt Mary, I don’t know the first thing about nursery maids”. Princess Mary indulged her nephew. He needed more time.

It is unfortunate that Grand Duchess Marie, the King’s mother-in-law, did not take a similar approach when dealing with George’s unpredictable moods. The Strelitzes were naturally just as devastated by the loss of their daughter and the Grand Duke in particular was never quite recovered. But Grand Duchess Marie saw that she still had a responsibility to the late Queen Louise. Since the Princess Royal began her specialist education in Germany, the Strelitzes had acted as her unofficial guardians keeping an eye on the way Princess Augusta of Cambridge and Lady Dorothy Wentworth arranged things at Bautzen. But more practically, the Strelitzes had often been the ones to return the Princess Royal to her school in Leipzig after she had paid a visit to England or Rumpenheim to be reunited with her parents. With the late Queen buried and the Prince of Wales baptised, the Strelitzes felt that it was time for them to return home – and for Missy to return to school. She had already missed 8 weeks of the new term after all. Grand Duchess Marie informed Phipps that the Strelitzes would be leaving England just after Easter. The King seemed to accept this and even ordered Phipps to cancel the crossing he had booked for the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess and prepare the Royal Yacht for their use instead. The Grand Duchess began to make plans to leave England, with the Princess Royal in tow, on the Tuesday after Easter Sunday. [2]

Most of the other members of the Royal Family still resident at Windsor did likewise using Easter Monday as a departure date. Despite the protestations of his wife, the Prince of Orange made arrangements for the couple to head for Raby Castle in County Durham where they would spend a few days with the Dowager Duchess of Cleveland who had been recently widowed, the Vanes being close friends of the Dutch Royal Family [3]. Princess Victoria complained that she did not wish to go to Raby and would make her own way to Harwich to reunite with her husband ahead of their return to the Netherlands but William did not trust that his wife would honour her promise and might find an excuse to stay in England a while longer. The Sussexes and the Cambridges made similar preparations, both couples heading for London (the latter with their three children), whilst the Earl of Armagh supposed he might return to his new home at Bushy Park. Princess Mary would remain at Windsor with the King until he felt ready to move the court to Buckingham Palace ahead of State Opening of Parliament, which at this time he was determined to attend personally, even if the ceremony itself was to be pared down slightly to reflect court mourning which was to last another four months.

Amidst these planned departures came two new arrivals at court: Lady Maria Beauclerk and her younger brother Captain Lord Frederick Beauclerk, the eldest daughter and third son respectively of the late Duke of St Albans. The Beauclerk family had a long-established association with the British Royal Family (they descended from Charles Beauclerk, 1st Duke of St Albans who was an illegitimate son of King Charles II by his mistress Nell Gwynn) and Maria and Frederick’s mother (wife of the 8th Duke) had been a close friend to Princess Mary which prompted Mary to readily accept the offer of acting as godmother to both. Princess Mary was a generous godparent and because the Beauclerks had no country seat, she decided that they must be that rare combination of poverty-stricken aristocrats. Nothing could be further from the truth, the Beauclerk family simply preferred to lease grand houses for a time before moving on. When Maria and Frederick’s brother William, the 9th Duke, married the actress Harriet Mellon in 1827, unkind society gossips said it was because she was expecting a little Earl of Darlington out of wedlock and that William had been forced either to marry her or fight a duel with the painter Sir Thomas Lawrence who was devoted to her. Princess Mary wouldn’t stand for such tittle-tattle and explained to any who would listen that the only reason William was marrying an actress was because she was a very wealthy woman, having inherited a vast fortune from her first husband Thomas Coutts - the founder of the London bank which still bears his name. When Harriet Mellon died in 1837 and left her entire fortune to her step-granddaughter from her first marriage, Princess Mary was furious but she also took it as a further sign that the Vanes were penniless and so she took a renewed special interest in her godchildren.

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Captain Lord Frederick Beauclerk, from a portrait painted in the mid 1850s.

Lady Maria was unmarried and from a good family, which in Princess Mary’s book made her an ideal candidate for Governess of the Royal Nursery despite the fact that she had no children of her own and probably had never set foot in a nursery since she herself was a child. At 42, it was unlikely that “poor Maria” was ever going to marry and Princess Mary thought a life in royal service would be the ideal thing to “stop her progressing into eccentricity as so many spinsters do”. As for Captain Lord Frederick, Mary had an offer for him too; might he like to spend the summer as a temporary equerry to the King seeing that Major Smith had thrown his back out? When the court returned to London, the King would need help to settle back into the swing of things and whilst the position was only temporary (her nephew would never dismiss Major Smith), she was sure that if he fulfilled his duties well a more permanent position might be found for him. In making these appointments, Princess Mary was not simply bestowing royal favour on her godchildren as a gesture of goodwill. With eyes and ears in the Royal Nursery and in the Augusta Tower, Mary hoped to bring order to chaos in a new phase of the King’s life in which she had been promoted to a kind of unofficial matriarch of the Royal Household.

It must be said that King George V didn’t exactly decree this in any formal way, rather it seemed natural that Mary would slide into the role in the days following the Queen’s death when so many decisions had to be made and the King could not bring himself to make them personally. Her tenure as grand dame of the Royal Household would last only a few years, much to the relief of courtiers and servants alike. Mary did not try to offer continuity of any kind; she had always run her own household to the example set by her late mother and now she had an opportunity to restore a little of Queen Charlotte’s more extravagant style back to the English court. During Queen Louise’s tenure, the Royal Household had become used to a more informal approach to entertaining, at least compared to the way in which Queen Charlotte might have lived. Meals were taken in the private apartments and were simpler with more homely dishes served and courses reduced to five or six rather than the obligatory eleven or twelve served during the reign of King George III. Queen Louise also established the introduction of service à la russe, which saw each dish served sequentially by footmen which had been much disliked by the courtiers of old but which was now abandoned with service a la française restored.

King George much preferred the modern way but Mary was a diehard (not to mention a glutton) and now, those who dined with the King were faced with an enormous banquet of traditional English fare which was far less appetising and far more formally presented than that which they had become used to since 1838. But beyond the dining table, Mary also restored other "quaint" old customs which had previously been dispensed with. The Dean of Windsor had become used to selecting the hymns for Sundays himself, Queen Louise having every faith he would choose the most appropriate. Mary was having none of that however and every Saturday afternoon dispatched a list to the Deanery along with a review of the previous week’s sermon in a strange kind of code which Reverend Hobart had to decipher. In time, he learned that the numbers 1-10 were actually the number of minutes Mary felt could have been axed from his address. Other changes saw the housemaids once again forced to turn to face the wall when a royal personage approached; Queen Louise had hated the custom and abolished it in favour of a polite little curtsey but this did not meet the imperious standards of Princess Mary’s strict new regime and so the maids turned once again.

Besides the appearance of a new equerry, whom he thought most capable and amiable, the King was oblivious to this new order of things when the Royal Family gathered for Easter. He mostly kept to his new apartments in the Augusta Tower but for two regular outings. Each afternoon, he visited St George’s Chapel where he spent around 20 minutes quite alone in silent reflection. Rather morbidly, he announced these visits to his personal staff as “spending time with the Queen”. But his evenings were somewhat more cheerful. Each day at 6pm, the King dressed for dinner and then made his way to the Visitor’s Apartments to take a glass of sherry with his immediate family. However, he did not dine with them. Excusing himself, he made his way to the Upper Ward where a coach waited to take him the short drive to Fort Belvedere on the Windsor estate which since 1840 had become the permanent semi-official residence of his friend and confidant Rosalinde Wiedl. He did not spend the night of course, he dined with Frau Wiedl alone or with a few carefully selected guests from her new social circle, before returning to the Augusta Tower at about 11.30pm. Whilst Grand Duchess Marie and the Princess of Orange thought this most inappropriate, they were admonished by Princess Mary who saw the positive effect these evenings had on the King’s mood.

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Rosalinde Wiedl

Rosalinde Hermine Wiedl was a 32-year-old widow from Waldheim, Hanover who had first entered the royal circle in 1839 when she appeared at Neustrelitz as a somewhat controversial guest of King George V’s father-in-law. At this time, Frau Wiedl was the mistress of Prince Alexander of Prussia who did very little to hide this fact and which earned him the stern disapproval of most of the royal guests gathered that year at Queen Louise’s ancestral home. Yet the Queen herself was fond of Alexander and ever the peacemaker, she showed generosity and kindness toward Frau Wiedl, accepting her as she might any other guest. The King did likewise and when Alexander brought Rosalinde to England with him, she quickly became a regular guest at court. But she was already known to other members of the Royal Family before her arrival in London in 1839. Ten years earlier, she had become well acquainted with the Cambridges at Herrenhausen and then with the Sussexes during their brief tenure as Viceroys. As a result, Frau Wiedl slipped easily into the inner circle of the Royal Family and became a close companion of both King George V and his late wife Queen Louise. Even after her relationship with Prince Alexander ended, Frau Wiedl kept her position as a favourite, so much so that the King (with the blessing of his wife) offered to put her up temporarily at Fort Belvedere. Two years later, she was still there. As the future William IV once said of his “Aunt Rosa”; “She came for a weekend and stayed for 60 years”.

The nature of the exact relationship between the King and Rosalinde Wiedl continues to fascinate and divide historians even today, yet it must be remembered that in the spring of 1842 Wiedl was still very much in the throes of a passionate love affair with the Whig politician Robert Vernon Smith. Indeed, so enamoured of Wiedl was he that Smith leased a townhouse for her in Bloomsbury Square and set up accounts for her at the most fashionable dressmakers, milliners and even Fortnum and Mason. This was not a furtive relationship in the least. Everybody in society knew that Wiedl was Smith’s mistress but at this time, most marriages in aristocratic circles were surprisingly “open” in the modern sense. Vernon Smith’s wife, Lady Emma, could hardly object to her husband’s extra-marital activities when she herself had been conducting a long-standing love affair with Laurence Sullivan, the husband of Elizabeth Temple – younger sister of Lord Palmerston. However, one aspect of Wiedl’s life which was never discussed openly was her relationship with King George V, presumably because even at the time those closely connected to the court could never quite work out what that relationship really was.

Yet there are indications of just what form this friendship took. It is very unlikely that Princess Mary would ever have approved of the King’s nightly visits to the Fort if she thought there was anything untoward that existed between the King and Rosalinde Wiedl before the Queen’s death or if she believed Wiedl might have taken advantage of the King’s emotional state to swap Robert Vernon Smith for a better placed patron. But a much better insight into George V’s relationship with Wiedl can be found not in the way Princess Mary and other members of the Royal Family accepted her but in the way the situation was assessed long after both parties had died. In 1924, an extraordinary royal row took place which saw the King’s daughter, Princess Victoria, take to task those who suggested that Rosalinde Wiedl was anything more to George V than a close friend who showed him a sibling’s affection. Just a few years previously, the poet Munro Blake tried his hand at biography, presumably because there was more money to be made in studies of popular historical figures than in his usual anthologies of nonsense verse. His chosen subject was Queen Louise, the first wife of King George V, and he used his social connections forged in the morning rooms of Belgravia to secure interviews with a collection of retired royal retainers who were only too happy to share their memories and observations for Blake’s book which was published in 1924 under the title The Little Queen. [4]

Princess Victoria was approached to contribute to the book but was wary of Blake because of his reputation as a gossip and instead, she asked her niece Princess Beatrice (1866 – 1943) to meet with him instead to see if she thought him a suitable person to write a biography of Victoria’s mother. Beatrice, known in the family as Baby, was especially close to her Aunt Toria and dutifully met with Blake whom she felt was a “little too modern” and so both ladies declined to give the book a royal seal of approval. They were furious when the final product hit the shelves and they read for themselves Blake’s assessment of the relationship that existed between Rosalinde Wiedl and the late King. Blake did not explicitly allege a love affair between the two in his book, neither did he ever describe Wiedl as His Majesty’s mistress. But his catty hints were more than enough to leave his readers in no doubt that this is what Blake believed their relationship to have been.

In one passage he described how “the cunning Hanoverian courtesan installed herself at the Fort, thereby increasing the King’s reliance on her” and in another he says that the King “pampered Rosa to the exclusion of all others from his affections”. His most serious charge however was that in distributing Queen Louise’s collection of jewels following her death in 1842, the King had “offended his Aunt Mary by handing over a suite of emeralds which had once graced the elegant décolleté of Queen Charlotte and which had been among his late wife’s most favoured possessions. Could there be a more clear indication of the esteem and affection in which the King held this simple widow from Waldheim?”.

At her home at Bagshot Park, Princess Victoria (then aged 84 years old) flew into a rage. She was so outraged that she immediately wrote a lengthy missive to Blake and another to his publisher threatening legal action. She then wrote a letter to her friend and confidant Miss Damaris Roberts which amazingly has been preserved in the Roberts family for nearly a century and which is quoted here for the very first time:-

“That vulgar little man Blake has sent no apology to us for the wicked intimations he made in that ghastly, filthy book, though his publisher assures me that they are to take steps. Steps! I ask you my dear, what steps can now be taken when the damage is already done? This poisonous creature says such dreadful things to be read by all and sundry (even people of the lowest class with no education at all) and you know as well as I do that they shall believe his lies simply because they are put into print! I wrote to him myself and told him that he is not only mistaken in his allegations (they are not allegations my dear, they are lies, outright deceptions in fact) but I demanded to know who told him such things because certainly Baby and I made it quite clear to the family that nobody should meet with him or give him any kind of interview – I am made quite ill by the whole wretched business and so I cannot now come to you as I had hoped. You will understand this I am sure”.

But Victoria was far more explicit in a letter to Princess Beatrice found in the Royal Archives:-

“Missy writes that I should not concern myself with the matter for people will write such dreadful tales – and she should know better than all of us on the account – but I cannot move beyond it. The filthy little book in question has been withdrawn from sale, I am happy to hear that at least, but I know it was read quite widely so the damage is done. Needless to say my dear, there was no truth in any of it. You well remember how kind and sweet a soul Aunt Rosa was, so very kind to us all. If I thought there was anything more to her friendship with your Grandpapa I should be frank about it but the things that vicious man wrote in his ugly book are quite beyond the truth. It is so very cruel for I think you know that Aunt Rosa was very supportive when Aunt Lottie left for Russia, that is how they became friends, do you see? So Papa always saw Rosa as a sister and that was quite how they went about. Oh but my dear, those nonsenses about the emeralds! You will understand that my poor Mama had such a very feeble collection of jewels when she died and those she did have were given to your Aunt Missy, to me and to your Mama when she joined us. And your Aunt Missy has said much the same, though she has her own trials to bear at present and did not write a very long reply to mine. But this I will tell you and it comes from us both; everything that odious man said in his gutter press novelette is nothing more than lies and slander”.

Princess Victoria was evidently left reeling from the very suggestion that Rosalinde Wiedl was ever her father’s mistress. But perhaps in her anger, or perhaps because she wanted it that way, Victoria's letter to Princess Beatrice omits one important detail. It appears that in the aftermath of Queen Louise’s death, the King asked Frau Wiedl to help him distribute her personal effects; a portrait was sent to the Duchess of Buccleuch as a keepsake, a clock was given to Mrs Alexander, the wife of the Bishop of Jerusalem and a crystal vase was sent to her sister in Denmark. Yet when it came to the late Queen’s jewels, the King seems to have directed the gifts personally as it is his handwriting that appears in a ledger which details the various pieces in question and lists who they were to be given to. For example, the Queen’s Laurel Tiara which she purchased from Garrards ahead of her visit to Normandy in 1840 was bequeathed to her eldest daughter the Princess Royal along with a pair of diamond earrings and a diamond and pearl drop brooch gifted to the late Queen by her parents on her wedding day and on the day of christening of the Princess Royal respectively.

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Queen Louise's Laurel Tiara.

Princess Victoria herself received an equally impressive suite; a ruby and diamond parure inherited by her mother from the late Queen’s aunt and godmother, the Dowager Princess Consort of Thurn and Taxis (much to the chagrin of the late Duchess of Cumberland). Yet Blake was correct in describing a gift of emeralds from the late Queen’s collection which found their way to Rosalinde Wiedl. The most impressive of these was the emerald ferronnière said to have been fashioned from jewels once belonging to Louise of Mecklenburg-Güstrow, Queen consort of King Frederick IV of Denmark and which came to England as part of the Thurn and Taxis inheritance. When Baroness Wiedl died in 1901, the ferronnière was inherited by her niece and put up for auction in 1903. It was sold to an anonymous bidder and in 1987, surprised royal watchers when it suddenly made a reappearance in the Royal Collection. Further inquiries show that the piece was brought back into the family by none other than Princess Victoria who paid £750 for it, the equivalent today of nearly £60,000. The suggestion that Wiedl took any part of the Queen’s collection for herself out of greed is unkind and most likely inaccurate but it is curious that by 1924, Princess Victoria claimed she had no idea what Blake was talking about where a gift of emeralds from the late Queen’s collection was concerned when in fact part of the bequest was tucked away in Victoria’s safe at Bagshot Park.

On Easter Sunday 1842, the Royal Family gathered at St George’s Chapel, Windsor for a private church service. Just weeks earlier, they had been in the chapel to bid goodbye to Queen Louise. Now those assembled were preparing to leave England. After church there was a luncheon in the Great Hall and during the conversation, the Prime Minister was heard to ask Grand Duchess Marie if she was worried about her forthcoming voyage home.

“We have known some terrible crossings in our time Ma'am”, he said with a smile, “But I am told the channel is quite calm at present...”

“His Majesty has been most kind and is allowing us to sail aboard the George”, Marie replied, “Missy is so very excited by it all”

The King, seated next to the Grand Duchess and engaged in conversation with the Duchess of Cambridge, slowly turned his head toward his mother-in-law and snapped; “What did you say Mama?”

“Only that Missy will enjoy the crossing on the yacht”

“Missy isn’t going to be on the yacht”, George said flatly, “She is staying here. With her brother and sister”.

An icy silence descended. Nobody quite knew what to say. Princess Mary tried to mediate.

“I understand you will be met by Lady Dorothy at the port? Such a treasure. I told Maria, she has much to live up to there”

But the Grand Duchess remained silent. She turned to her son-in-law.

“Are you telling me that you are refusing to allow Missy to return to her school?”

The King blushed red.

“I do not wish to discuss this matter over luncheon…”

“Well I do Georgie”, Marie began, her temper rising, “We cannot go back without her, you cannot expect her to miss one day more of the new term, Sunny would-“

George slammed his hand down onto the dining table causing the glassware to rattle and the cutlery to bounce. Those serving withdrew immediately. The Royal Family sat in an awkward stillness.

“The Princess Royal is to remain here at Windsor until I give her leave to go”, the King spat, “And if you do not care for those arrangements Madam, I suggest you lump them for they will not change so long as I am master in my own house”

The Grand Duchess rose in stately fashion. She did not weep; she did not shout back. She simply curtsied and left the room. The King surveyed the remaining lunch guests. At the very end of the table, the Prime Minister looked awkwardly at his plate.

“Oh damn you all to hell!”, he barked. And with that, he stalked his way out of the Great Hall, snatching up his cloak from Captain Beauclerk and stomping his way across the Upper Ward to make for the Fort on foot.

“Well that went well”, Princess Mary sighed, “Really Prime Minister, I do think you might have waited until the pudding to create such a row”

Those left in the Great Hall were left in no doubt that as much as the worst of the King’s grief had turned a corner, he was a long way from being truly recovered.


Notes

[1] The Augusta Tower was home to the OTL Princess Louise (1848 - 1939) and it's from a description of the rooms when she acquired them before her marriage to the Marquess of Lorne (later Duke of Argyll) that I've established them as King George V's new residence at Windsor.

[2] Easter Sunday fell on March the 27th in 1842.

[3] In fact, the Prince of Orange was at Raby with the Duke of Cleveland in the OTL when he found out his father had died and he was now King William III of the Netherlands in 1849.

[4] Blake has been invented for this TL.

This chapter has been a bit of a headache (it was written and rewritten endless times over the Bank Holiday weekend!) as I'm aware that languishing in grief-torn Windsor another instalment isn't the most fascinating of updates - any biography of the OTL Queen Victoria can get boring because of the same. But when I tried to move us on to London, it felt far too rushed and there was too much unresolved. So my apologies to anyone who is missing war news, the political cut and thrust or general social history, I can only promise a return to our usual pace in the next chapter and hope that this one was still enjoyed! I'm hoping that our little glimpse into the future was compensation enough and in the next instalment we'll head back to London where the pace of life will be much quicker.
 
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A great chapter!
I do feel bad for George but I can understand where he is coming from. He just lost his wife and now with his daughter leaving, he can’t bear it.
 
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It must be said that King George V didn’t exactly decree this in any formal way, rather it seemed natural that Mary would slide into the role in the days following the Queen’s death when so many decisions had to be made and the King could not bring himself to make them personally. Her tenure as grand dame of the Royal Household would last only a few years, much to the relief of courtiers and servants alike. Mary did not try to offer continuity of any kind; she had always run her own household to the example set by her late mother and now she had an opportunity to restore a little of Queen Charlotte’s more extravagant style back to the English court. During Queen Louise’s tenure, the Royal Household had become used to a more informal approach to entertaining, at least compared to the way in which Queen Charlotte might have lived. Meals were taken in the private apartments and were simpler with more homely dishes served and courses reduced to five or six rather than the obligatory eleven or twelve served during the reign of King George III. Queen Louise also established the introduction of service à la russe, which saw each dish served sequentially by footmen which had been much disliked by the courtiers of old but which was now abandoned with service a la française restored.

King George much preferred the modern way but Mary was a diehard (not to mention a glutton) and now, those who dined with the King were faced with an enormous banquet of traditional English fare which was far less appetising and far more formally presented than that which they had become used to since 1838. But beyond the dining table, Mary also restored other "quaint" old customs which had previously been dispensed with. The Dean of Windsor had become used to selecting the hymns for Sundays himself, Queen Louise having every faith he would choose the most appropriate. Mary was having none of that however and every Saturday afternoon dispatched a list to the Deanery along with a review of the previous week’s sermon in a strange kind of code which Reverend Hobart had to decipher. In time, he learned that the numbers 1-10 were actually the number of minutes Mary felt could have been axed from his address. Other changes saw the housemaids once again forced to turn to face the wall when a royal personage approached; Queen Louise had hated the custom and abolished it in favour of a polite little curtsey but this did not meet the imperious standards of Princess Mary’s strict new regime and so the maids turned once again.
This is a funny image for sure, the food especially!
 
Poor George… I must say who is fun seeing Mary take the reins of the Royal Household (and George oblivious to the changes around him)…
 
I don't want to be fun police, but Rowan Atkinson walking across the stage and winking feels kind of inconsistent with our almost ninety plausible updates. There's heartfelt, plausible content here that deserves more than that.
 
I'm glad we didn't rush away from Windsor, it has to be said. George is still so torn up by Louise's death that it would have felt wrong to ignore that.
But he's trying, poor man. He's trying, and I love him for it.

I wonder if Missy will ever go back to Germany? I could see him insisting that some of the teachers come over to her, actually. She's the Princess Royal of Great Britain, not your average deaf child. Surely some allowances must be made for her status? And besides, given what's happened, I could see George deciding that, whatever his old plans for Missy's future, things have changed and he needs her in England.

I don't want to be fun police, but Rowan Atkinson walking across the stage and winking feels kind of inconsistent with our almost ninety plausible updates. There's heartfelt, plausible content here that deserves more than that.
I agree, but plenty of us write outtakes/ design Cast Lists for period dramas set in our AUs as a bit of world building. The Blackadder references could easily slot into that.

Speaking of which, @Opo have you thought of a cast list for Crown Imperial yet? If not, do you want me to see if I can draw one up? I'd be happy to!
 
There was a cast list presented at one point, from what I recall.

Rather than a Blackadder reference in the context of the TL itself, perhaps have an ITTL version of Blackadder 3 that takes place during the reign of George 5th rather than the Regency? I did something similar for a previous Georgian TL where Blackadder and Baldrick were sent as servants to Melusine von der Schulenberg when she was exiled to Northern Scotland by the Queen.
 
Louise (2019)

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Here it is
Louise is a 2019 British biographical drama film directed by Roger Michell with a screenplay by Abi Morgan. It stars Emma Thompson, Rebecca Ferguson, Jim Broadbent and Imelda Staunton.

The film had its world premier at the Venice Film Festival on the 1st of September 2019 and was released theatrically on the 29th of September 2019. It was released for digital streaming on the 10th October 2019 by Netflix and is based on the 209 biography Louise R by Anna Bailey about the life of Queen Louise of the United Kingdom.

The film has received mixed reviews from critics.

Cast
  • Emma Thomson as Queen Louise
  • Rebecca Ferguson as the Young Queen Louise
  • Jim Broadbent as the Duke of Clarence
  • Imelda Staunton as the Duchess of Clarence
  • John Sessions as King George IV
  • Michelle Dockery as Lady Elizabeth Somerset
  • Catherine Flemming as the Duchess of Kent
  • Harriet Walter as Princess Caroline of Nassau-Usingen
  • Peter Bowles as the Duke of Cumberland
  • Lesley Manville as the Duchess of Cumberland
  • Ben Mendelsohn as the Duke of Cambridge
  • Samantha Bond as the Duchess of Cambridge
  • Alex Jennings as the Duke of Wellington
  • Hugh Bonneville as Lord Liverpool
  • Charles Dance as Earl Grey
  • Tom Hughes as Baron Pepke
  • Jordan Waller as King George V
  • Michelle Fox as Princess Charlotte Louise
  • Amy Nuttall as Duchess Luise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
  • Celia Imrie as Baroness Pallenberg

Speaking of which, @Opo have you thought of a cast list for Crown Imperial yet? If not, do you want me to see if I can draw one up? I'd be happy to!
 

Opo

Monthly Donor
A great chapter!
I do feel bad for George but I can understand where he is coming from. He just lost his wife and now with his daughter leaving, he can’t bear it.
Thankyou! I reasoned that George was only able to let Missy go in the first place because he had the support of his wife. He's very keen on keeping family close too, it's a defining trait of his, and I think that for now at least, he would want Missy to stay with him.
This is a funny image for sure, the food especially!
Those poor servants! And all that food, especially at a time when the divide between the rich and poor was so vast. Still, the Hanoverians ATE. I was looking through some menus from the time and I honestly wonder where they put it all. Hollow legs I think!
Poor George… I must say who is fun seeing Mary take the reins of the Royal Household (and George oblivious to the changes around him)…
x'D Mary has a few years at the helm but she'll certainly make the most of them!
I don't want to be fun police, but Rowan Atkinson walking across the stage and winking feels kind of inconsistent with our almost ninety plausible updates. There's heartfelt, plausible content here that deserves more than that.
That's such a kind compliment and much appreciated, thankyou!

And yes, I agree. As much as I love the suggestion and think it's very cute, I try not to break the fourth wall too much because I've always wanted TTL to read like an actual biography as if the people and events of TTL were real. It's my attempt at a Pope-Hennessy style book really, which is why I like to give as much attention to the drawing room as to the world beyond it. Which limits the fun that can be had with OTL references. Even when naming a throwaway character for the latest chapter, I had originally given a nod to Lady Prudence Fairfax of Upstairs, Downstairs fame but I thought better of it, though the reference was very obscure!

But also I try as much as possible to use people who actually lived at the time, even if I have to invent their personalities. One thing TTL has taught me is that the 19th century establishment was so finely interwoven between families that when you introduce one person with even a tenuous link, an opportunity for an interesting plot point suddenly presents itself. And as you say, it makes it all more plausible too.
I'm glad we didn't rush away from Windsor, it has to be said. George is still so torn up by Louise's death that it would have felt wrong to ignore that.
But he's trying, poor man. He's trying, and I love him for it.

I wonder if Missy will ever go back to Germany? I could see him insisting that some of the teachers come over to her, actually. She's the Princess Royal of Great Britain, not your average deaf child. Surely some allowances must be made for her status? And besides, given what's happened, I could see George deciding that, whatever his old plans for Missy's future, things have changed and he needs her in England.
That's such a good way of putting it! He's trying. And he's still a very young man who has experienced so much loss in his life so far that I thought it would be unfair to rush him away from his bubble at Windsor too quickly. Whilst the purpose of TTL is to look at the time period without a monarch so totally lost in grief that the head of state almost ceased to function, such a big loss wasn't something I could gloss over too quickly - and I'm glad you liked the way it was handled!

The only thing I would say with Missy going back to Germany is that in my research on Heidecke, the approach seemed to be to educate deaf children alongside other deaf children so that they could progress together. Pupils were not separated by age either so that the younger ones saw what could be achieved and could also be helped by fellow deaf students who had been through the programme already. So that will factor in the decision making here as it did when Missy was first sent away. George could easily afford to import tutors from Leipzig but then, that would go against the founding ethos of the school and as before, I doubt they would be agreeable to that. We shall see how things turn out for little Missy in the very near future.
Speaking of which, @Opo have you thought of a cast list for Crown Imperial yet? If not, do you want me to see if I can draw one up? I'd be happy to!
So far there's two Crown Imperial related casts, the first from a 1973 drama on the life of George IV which you can find here: https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/opos-palace.521627/#post-22626574

And then as @nathanael1234 linked, a Netflix movie about the Dowager Queen Louise which he kindly linked above but can also be found in my test thread here:

But these only deal with the life of George IV and not George V.

I have thought about putting together a Crown style Netflix cast list for Crown Imperial but haven't got round to it yet - if you (or any other readers) fancy a go at casting the story then I'd be thrilled to see your suggestions! Absolutely feel free to do so! ♥️
 
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Opo

Monthly Donor
There was a cast list presented at one point, from what I recall.

Rather than a Blackadder reference in the context of the TL itself, perhaps have an ITTL version of Blackadder 3 that takes place during the reign of George 5th rather than the Regency? I did something similar for a previous Georgian TL where Blackadder and Baldrick were sent as servants to Melusine von der Schulenberg when she was exiled to Northern Scotland by the Queen.
This sounds fun! Yes, I'm sure we could work something into a test thread post, inspired by rather than a part of the actual TL - though I wonder if our George would be as easily parodied as the Prince Regent was in Blackadder the Third. ;)
 
Thankyou! I reasoned that George was only able to let Missy go in the first place because he had the support of his wife. He's very keen on keeping family close too, it's a defining trait of his, and I think that for now at least, he would want Missy to stay with him.

Those poor servants! And all that food, especially at a time when the divide between the rich and poor was so vast. Still, the Hanoverians ATE. I was looking through some menus from the time and I honestly wonder where they put it all. Hollow legs I think!

x'D Mary has a few years at the helm but she'll certainly make the most of them!

That's such a kind compliment and much appreciated, thankyou!

And yes, I agree. As much as I love the suggestion and think it's very cute, I try not to break the fourth wall too much because I've always wanted TTL to read like an actual biography as if the people and events of TTL were real. It's my attempt at a Pope-Hennessy style book really, which is why I like to give as much attention to the drawing room as to the world beyond it. Which limits the fun that can be had with OTL references. Even when naming a throwaway character for the latest chapter, I had originally given a nod to Lady Prudence Fairfax of Upstairs, Downstairs fame but I thought better of it, though the reference was very obscure!

But also I try as much as possible to use people who actually lived at the time, even if I have to invent their personalities. One thing TTL has taught me is that the 19th century establishment was so finely interwoven between families that when you introduce one person with even a tenuous link, an opportunity for an interesting plot point suddenly presents itself. And as you say, it makes it all more plausible too.

That's such a good way of putting it! He's trying. And he's still a very young man who has experienced so much loss in his life so far that I thought it would be unfair to rush him away from his bubble at Windsor too quickly. Whilst the purpose of TTL is to look at the time period without a monarch so totally lost in grief that the head of state almost ceased to function, such a big loss wasn't something I could gloss over too quickly - and I'm glad you liked the way it was handled!

The only thing I would say with Missy going back to Germany is that in my research on Heidecke, the approach seemed to be to educate deaf children alongside other deaf children so that they could progress together. Pupils were not separated by age either so that the younger ones saw what could be achieved and could also be helped by fellow deaf students who had been through the programme already. So that will factor in the decision making here as it did when Missy was first sent away. George could easily afford to import tutors from Leipzig but then, that would go against the founding ethos of the school and as before, I doubt they would be agreeable to that. We shall see how things turn out for little Missy in the very near future.

So far there's two Crown Imperial related casts, the first from a 1973 drama on the life of George IV which you can find here: https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/opos-palace.521627/#post-22626574

And then as @nathanael1234 linked, a Netflix movie about the Dowager Queen Louise which he kindly linked above but can also be found in my test thread here:

But these only deal with the life of George IV and not George V.

I have thought about putting together a Crown style Netflix cast list for Crown Imperial but haven't got round to it yet - if you (or any other readers) fancy a go at casting the story then I'd be thrilled to see your suggestions! Absolutely feel free to do so! ♥️
I'll see what I can do. I'll draw on your lists and the portraits so that the two casts look like they can be related!
 
Bear in mind that The Crown covers approximately ten years per season, so Season 1 of an equivalent would likely cover the Clarence/Cambridge Regency with the second presumably spanning a shorter period up to the death of Queen Louise.

The Crown also aimed to show every Prime Minister so they will need to be cast as well as our "Main Cast".
 
GV: Part Three, Chapter Three: Party Games

Opo

Monthly Donor
King George V

Part Three, Chapter Three: Party Games

On the day after Queen Louise's death, a bulletin was published from the Deputy Earl Marshal;

“In pursuance of His Majesty’s commands, this is to give public notice that upon the melancholy occasion of the death of Her Majesty the Queen, it is expected that all persons do forthwith put themselves into decent mourning”. [1]

This was followed by more detailed announcements specifically directed at courtiers and those who might find themselves in close proximity to the Royal Family, instructing them what they should wear and which activities were barred to them. But the strictures of court mourning only applied to the court itself and whilst the general public of all classes had expressed their grief and sympathies, by late April 1842 life for most had resumed its usual pattern. The aristocracy were aggrieved that court mourning was to last so long; the general guidelines published in etiquette books of the day proscribed just 12 weeks mourning to be observed for the King and Queen, 8 weeks for a son or daughter of the Sovereign, 4 weeks for a brother or sister and just 2 weeks for a nephew or niece. Foreign sovereigns were accorded 10 days and more distant relations, just 7 days. But the King decreed that half the year was to be devoted to remembrance and even three months after the event, there was no sign that His Majesty had tipped the nod to Princess Mary (now chatelaine of the Royal Household) that half mourning would be permissible. [2]

In practical terms, this meant that nobody quite knew what the season of 1842 would look like or how much of it could go ahead. To the working classes, the idea that the upper crust might have to forego their usual round of balls and sporting events was hardly likely to keep them up at night with worry yet it would be churlish to think that the social season was simply a calendar of frivolous gatherings designed to keep the idle rich from lapsing into boredom. It was the season which provided opportunities to the great and good, especially the political class, to jockey for position in government (or opposition), to affect advantageous marriages for their children and to exert their much-coveted influence around the dining tables of Belgravia. Whilst most were genuine in their sympathies for the King, those who were not regulars at his table and had no position at court felt quite able to “go on with the dance” free from reproach, provided that their guests wore black and that the entertainments provided were not too raucous or extravagant.

528f0c435ed275b05dab943e62154e1d.jpg

A 'Queen Charlotte' Debutante from an 1810 fashion plate.

Yet quiet pressure from the palace saw the Derby at Epsom cancelled and it was also confirmed that Garter Day would not take place either. In a courtly game of Chinese whispers, the grand hostesses of London’s high society were informed that if they wished to proceed with their plans to open their townhouses and host the usual round of dinner parties and the like, the King would not object. However, His Majesty was resolute that no member of the Royal Family would attend any of the more public set-pieces of the season, neither would any of these events take place at any of the royal residences. This upset many a society matriarch with a debutante daughter for though the King let it be known that he did not necessarily mind if Queen Charlotte’s Ball went ahead as planned in May (on the grounds that its primary function was to raise money for the Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital at Lisson Green, Marylebone), it would not be held at Buckingham Palace and no debutantes would be presented at court. This was a crucial step in the path to womanhood for the daughters of aristocratic families, indeed, convention had it that one could not entertain a proposal of marriage unless one had “come out” in the presence of the Sovereign first. The Duke of Wellington offered Apsley House as an alternative venue until his sister, Lady Anne Culling Smith, advised him against it. For the first time in 62 years, Queen Charlotte’s Ball was cancelled, as nobody wanted to risk being seen to be insensitive by opening their house to the tiara and feather brigade.

On the 20th of April 1842, the State Opening of Parliament took place but given the smaller venue (the Palace of Westminster still being reconstructed after the 1834 fire) and that court mourning was still to be observed, the King insisted on certain changes to the ceremonial. The most significant change was that the royal procession (which had already been amended to suit the temporary home of the peers) was cut entirely, the King indicating that he would arrive “fully robed”. He would travel in a closed carriage from Buckingham Palace to Westminster and there would be no excess of pageantry with the King’s escort still clad in funereal black. The peers too were expected to make a concession in their attire, their red robes being considered far too garish. With less than a month’s notice, peers were instructed that His Majesty had personally selected a more appropriate choice of costume and Adams & Ede were sieged by anxious peers who each had to pay as much as £40 for their new “mourning robes”. These were actually fairly inexpensive open black gowns with winged sleeves to be worn over a uniform or court dress as appropriate but they were altered slightly so as to provide two hidden hooks to the nape which allowed peers to remove the detachable ermine cloak from their red robes and affix it to their new black ones. Mourning ribbons were to be affixed to shoe buckles and instead of wigs, the peers wore simple black caps – with the exception of the Lord Chancellor. The result was incredibly medieval in style and the peers themselves hated it because unlike their red robes, the mourning robes had no bands of ermine to denote rank so nobody could tell a Duke from a Baron. [3]

Despite their best efforts, the King did not get the opportunity to see his sombre designs in person. Just two days before the State Opening was due to take place, the King arrived back at Buckingham Palace as the court finally moved from Windsor to London. An audience with the Prime Minister scheduled to take place that evening was cancelled and a note sent from the King’s Private Secretary to the Prime Minister informing him that; “It is with the deepest regret that His Majesty does not feel able to attend to the State Opening personally and has commanded that the Lord Chancellor give the address from the throne with His Majesty’s blessing”. On the day itself, nobody quite knew where they should be or when and it fell to the Speaker of the House of Commons, Charles Shaw-Lefevre, to hastily put together a small procession in which the Crown was carried before the Lord Chancellor and set upon a table, the Lord Chancellor standing just to the right of it to give the King’s speech. Perhaps because the King himself was not present, or perhaps because they felt all too ridiculous in their new attire, the Peers and Commons assembled were somewhat restless and instead of hearing the speech in silence as was customary, some actually called out with jeers of “too bad” or “here here”. Sir James Graham stood nervously as he listened to the government’s agenda being proposed. He knew that one announcement in particular would be badly received, even among the Tory peers; the return of the dreaded income tax.

Income tax was first introduced in Great Britain by Pitt the Younger in 1798 to ready the country’s armouries ahead of the Napoleonic Wars. The tax was set at tuppence in the pound on incomes over £60 a year but could rise as high as 2 shillings on incomes over £200. Abolished in 1802, income tax returned less than a year later and remained an unpopular levy for the next twelve years until finally it was scrapped entirely on the basis that the country’s finances were in a healthy enough state to do without it. Even in the darkest days of the Winter of Discontent, the Graham government had ruled out a return of the income tax but by March that year, it became clear that the British economy was on the brink of collapse. The early innovations of the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th century now matured but in terms of the nation’s finances, progress had come at a cost. Britain was heading for a recession as surplus outweighed demand and prices tumbled. But at the same time, costly wars in Afghanistan and China and the disruption they brought to essential trade routes conspired to batter the Treasury in ways it had not expected.

Following the British defeat at Bala Hissar, the Russians had given unwavering support (not to mention financial assistance) to Dost Mohammed Khan, the ousted ruler of Afghanistan who had once offered the British peace talks to maintain the status quo. The British refused and continued to back the Durrani dynasty which now lay broken and bruised in the aftermath of the Anglo-Afghan War. With the British forced to retreat and with no attempt to retake Kabul in favour of yet another Durrani prince, Dost Mohammed Khan had been able to march his way back into the Afghan capital and, with Russian backing, declare himself King Mohammed I of Afghanistan, Head of the restored Barakzai dynasty. He was showered with honours by the Russian Tsar, who even “gifted” King Mohammed a generous sum of ready cash to build himself a new palace in place of the ruined fort at Bala Hissar. But in practical terms, this meant that British economic interests were put under enormous pressure – most notably, the poppy fields which produced two thirds of the world’s opium became impossible to harvest. Packed up by the British, opium from Afghanistan was usually taken off to China to be sold (in contravention of diplomatic assurances otherwise) for huge profit, the money trickling back into the British Treasury at a very healthy rate. But now, British traders in Afghanistan had been forced to leave and set up new concessions in the Sindh (far less profitable concerns) and until the British brought the Chinese to terms and the China War ended, opium, tea and other valuable resources to the British economy lay on a dockside going mouldy in the damp morning air.

AlexanderBaring.jpg

Alexander Baring, 1st Baron Ashburton.

However, it wasn’t just interrupted trade routes or the ripening fruits of the Industrial Revolution that were causing financial difficulties for the British. Because of the increased Russian presence in Afghanistan, more resources had been put at the disposal of the British in the Sindh where it was feared the Russians may encourage anti-British sentiment among the populace leading to a spate of costly uprisings. The War Office was haemorrhaging money at an alarming rate as a result. Yet the Treasury itself was facing its own woes. Unthinkably, Britain was facing a tea shortage and many pointed the finger of blame squarely at the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alexander Baring. Tea had been imported at huge cost since the 17th century but as a rich person’s drink of choice, the government had felt quite comfortable keeping a heavy import fee on the crates that came into the Port of London. But by the early 19th century, tea had reached the working classes and was even considered an everyday necessity among labourers. It was cheaper than beer and though the price of coffee had decreased, the poorer classes preferred tea because it was seen as an economical beverage which went much further even when diluted. To ease the worst privations of the Winter of Discontent which saw the price of bread skyrocket and thousands left facing starvation, Alexander Baring had slashed import tariffs on what he felt were essentials such as wheat, corn and barley but had raised tariffs on “luxury” goods. Disrupted trade routes meant that tea was now considered to be one of these luxuries and the price quickly spiralled out of control as the supply waned.

Of course, it would be easy to look back on any tea shortage in England through a comedic prism; could there ever be anything so distressing to an Englishman as being denied his 4pm cuppa? Yet it was no laughing matter and as time went on, other resources became scarce and the import tariffs on these were increased too. Baring was determined not to raise the price on the real necessities (such as grain), something the Prime Minister felt would be “a betrayal of every assurance we gave to the British people before our election to office” but something had to give. Though the war news from Hong Kong was favourable and whilst Baring predicted a sudden financial boom when the China War was resolved in the United Kingdom’s favour, the economy was in such a precarious position that he felt he had no choice but to introduce a windfall tax, which at this time was very much how the income tax was viewed. The Cabinet agreed to a temporary reintroduction on the undertaking that it be abolished again within twelve months which both Graham and Baring felt was more than reasonable. But the presentation of the income tax as a safety net did little to silence those opposed to it, especially when it came to the Tories in the House of Lords. The Home Secretary, William Gladstone, was privately in agreement with them. In his view, far better to grasp the nettle and abolish the Corn Laws once and for all to spare a return to the income tax. The Prime Minister was in favour of a relaxation of the Corn Laws, indeed, he had researched and published a 114-page pamphlet on proposed reforms before he became Prime Minister after seeing for himself the damage they had done. But he opposed major reform and certainly wouldn’t consider outright abolition. The income tax was the next best thing and so, despite rumblings from the front bench and the back bench alike, Graham’s government reintroduced the levy at 5d in the pound for incomes over £80 a year. For those earning over £150, the rate was set at 2s 6d. [4]

At Holland House, the political salon of the Whig party, the opposition was handed a huge opportunity. Left in the political wilderness after their election defeat under Lord Cottenham, the party had split into three distinct groups; those who supported Lord John Russell, a liberal reformer who believed in a wholesale restructuring of society, Lord Melbury, a more traditional Whig voice but who set himself apart from men like Melbourne and Palmerstone by favouring diplomacy over war, and Earl Spencer, who appealed to the old guard who controlled the party finances and thought the best figurehead for the party was to be found among the country estates of England. But Earl Spencer had no such interest in a return to frontline politics and when he made this clear to his supporters in the Lords, the race was on for either Russell or Melbury to seize the Whig crown. The reintroduction of the income tax was a golden opportunity for this new party leader to make his mark and to set the Whig agenda for the future – yet the Whigs kept navel-gazing, the “Spencerites” unwilling to move to one camp or another.

This delay gave the Tories a chance to soften the blow of the income tax and newspaper magnets were wined and dined with a view to helping the government rebrand the levy from a wealth tax to something far more palatable to Tory voters. Overnight, those who opposed the tax were accused of “displaying an unpatriotic selfishness, for every penny raised is a penny for a soldier in battle”. Others said that the tax was “imposed on the British not by Mr Baring but by the Chinese, for had they not provoked the country into war the economy should not have been damaged and there should be no need for it”. The Chancellor took up this line in the House and he reassured the naysayers that when the war was won and trade routes were secured once more (not to mention due compensations in both money and territory), there would be a surge of investment and goods, and that the income tax could be abolished as the nation’s finances stabilised. Baring got his way. But he might soon wish he had not.

At Buckingham Palace, the King showed very little interest in the Chancellor’s attempts to balance the nation's books. Most of his time was spent taking daily trips to the site of the future Lisson Park which was now well into the construction stage with the redevelopment of Regent’s Park (which was to become a public leisure ground) almost complete. His audiences with his ministers slowly resumed and he was greatly affected by the news that Captain Sir Humphrey Fleming Senhouse had died aboard his flagship, the HMS Blenheim, from a fever contracted during the British advance on Canton, even though the advance was a huge success and many believed the Chinese would concede and come to terms within weeks as a result. The King ordered that a public memorial for Senhouse be held at St Paul’s Cathedral and he indicated that he would attend personally. His evenings were spent in the company of Princess Mary or his Cambridge cousins (who had remained in England though their parents had returned to Hanover) and word was then sent to the Earl of Armagh at Bushy Park that the King had put an apartment at the vacant Marlborough House at his disposal which he “hoped” he would make full use of during the summer months – in other words, George missed his cousin’s company and wanted him to move to the capital post-haste.

In the second week of May, a little light broke through the grey clouds when happy news came from St Petersburg that the Tsarevna of Russia had given birth to her first child. George V was now an uncle. Maria Georgievna’s daughter was born on the 22nd of April 1842 and was named Alexandra in honour of her father, though the Grand Duchess Alexandra Alexandrovna would always be known in royal circles by the nickname Sashenka. The King sent his congratulations, though he asked Charlie Phipps if he thought he might be asked to stand as a godparent and if so, could he accept given that his niece was an Orthodox Christian and he was the Head of the Church of England? The King was reassured that there was no barrier to such a thing, the Tsarevna having stood as a godparent to the Prince of Wales who would one day succeeded King George V as Supreme Governor. But as delighted by the news as the King was, he did not feel able to host any kind of family celebration, something he expressed feeling quite guilty about. [5]

425px-Alekszandra_Alekszandrovna_orosz_nagyhercegn%C5%91.jpg

Grand Duchess Alexandra Alexandrovna, aged 5.

Princess Mary intended to relieve that guilt. She felt that a small intimate party of close friends and family members would be the very thing to cheer the King’s spirits and would be in keeping with the strictures of court mourning. But she knew better than to arrange anything when it had been made clear that the royal residences were off-limits for the rest of the season. Initially, she asked Princess Augusta of Cambridge to do the honours in Piccadilly but for reasons which we shall explore further in the next chapter, Augusta was forced to decline. Then Princess Mary hit upon an idea – why not ask Frau Wiedl instead? When the court moved to London, Rosalinde Wiedl did not take up residence at Buckingham Palace in much the same way she was never given accommodation at Windsor Castle and was instead lodged at the Fort a half-an-hour carriage ride away. But she did not need the King to grant her lodgings at Marlborough House or St James’. Frau Wiedl was already in possession of her own townhouse, a gift from her lover Robert Vernon Smith, which was familiar to the King because he had visited shortly after Wiedl took the property on ahead of its refurbishment.

The King’s aunt believed that Frau Wiedl’s home at 5 Bloomsbury Square would make the perfect setting for a modest gathering, not so much because the King would feel comfortable there by virtue of his close friendship with the owner, but because it would force the King from his rooms at Buckingham Palace where he seemed at risk of “digging in”. No public engagements could be scheduled whilst the court remained in “deep mourning” and so besides a few audiences here and there, and the odd walk in the gardens or a trip to Lisson, the King had very little to do other than sit and brood. He was still smarting from the abrupt departure of the Strelitzes (without the Princess Royal in tow) and he was oddly determined to keep even his closest friends from his drawing room, preferring only to be in the company of his family – and of course, Rosalinde Wiedl.

Frau Wiedl’s townhouse in Bloomsbury had come to her when Robert Vernon Smith spied an investment opportunity. Born to a middle-class family of modest income, Smith married well in 1823 when he took for his bride Lady Emma Fitzpatrick, daughter of the 2nd Earl of Upper Ossory. The 2nd Earl had produced a fine and healthy son to inherit his estates, the only problem being that this son was illegitimate. When Lord Ossory died in 1818, his son was given a few scattered properties of no great worth which he carefully invested, later being created Baron Castletown in his own right. But the bulk of the Ossory fortune (including the family seats of Ampthill and Fermyn Woods) were divided between Ossory’s step-son, Lord Holland, and his daughter, Lady Emma. What was Lady Emma’s quickly became Robert Vernon Smith’s and he used his newfound wealth to acquire as much property as he could in London. Fortunately for Smith, the Duke of Bedford decided to demolish his grand property in Bloomsbury and sell off the land to developers who erected a neat row of fashionable townhouses. One such townhouse was leased to none other than Isaac Disraeli (the father of Benjamin) and another, the house next door in fact, was gifted to Rosalinde Wiedl. Vernon Smith was even more generous in setting aside a sum of £5,000 with which his mistress could refurnish the house to her own tastes, the result being a very smart residence despite the fact that since the Bedford’s withdrawal from Bloomsbury, it was no longer considered quite so fashionable a part of the capital.

Naturally Robert Vernon Smith did not hand over a sizeable townhouse to his mistress without ulterior motive and it is here that we must delve a little into the complex network of prominent Whig families and how they divided themselves. Vernon Smith had served as Undersecretary of State for War and the Colonies in the Cottenham cabinet but he sought much higher office than that. Through his marriage, he could claim a link to the Holland family which had then been headed by Henry Vassall-Fox, 3rd Baron Holland. Lord Holland had served in the Melbourne government as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The Hollands had long been prominent in Whig circles and they were regulars at Holland House in Kensington, that great political salon previously referred to. Therefore, they had great influence and Lord Holland had used this to pull the Holland House set away from supporting Lord John Russell when he became a headache for the party way back in Lord Melbourne’s day. But since Lord Holland’s death in 1840, his son had not exactly carried the same prestige and in the absence of a Kingmaker in the Holland family who might push the so-called Spencerites in one direction or another, Robert Vernon Smith took it upon himself to fill the void. He loathed Russell and favoured Melbury and so it was that he turned to his mistress to turn her home in Bloomsbury Square into a kind of rival to Holland House where he could canvass the Spencerites in favour of Lord Melbury without the wider Fox-Holland clan pulling him back from his self-appointed position as would-be head of the political dynasty.

This was even more important given that Lord Melbury himself could not undertake the canvassing himself. It wasn’t that it was unseemly for a front runner at the party leadership to do so, indeed, that was really what Holland House was for. But owing to a curious family feud, Lord Melbury could not even get a foot in the door of Holland House and thus, he could not present his credentials to those Whigs currently sitting on the fence who might push Russell aside in his favour. Melbury belonged to the Strangways branch of the dynasty which held the Earldom of Ilchester and could trace he his line back to Sir Stephen Fox, the son of a yeoman farmer from Hampshire who so distinguished himself in his support of the exiled King Charles II that come the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Fox became one of the richest men in the country practically overnight. Sir Stephen had eight children by his first wife and four by his second, his sons from this second marriage amassing influence and wealth thanks to royal patronage - but there was a divide.

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Sir Stephen Fox

The elder of the two sons from Fox’s second marriage, also named Stephen, took the additional surname of Strangways from his wife under the terms of her inheritance, an arranged marriage for the bisexual 1st Earl of Ilchester which boosted the family fortunes further and which brought with it the Melbury estate in Dorsetshire. The younger, Henry, was equally fascinating a figure who squandered his share of the Fox fortune and then eloped with Lady Caroline Lennox, the great-granddaughter of King Charles II by his mistress Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth. This marriage secured Henry the title of Baron Holland, Holland House in Kensington and a series of Cabinet posts including that of Secretary of State for War. But Henry bitterly resented his brother Stephen who not only had more money but was also created an Earl – a title Henry Fox coveted and desperately campaigned for, only to be thwarted. He forbad his son Charles from having anything to do with the Strangways branch of the family and thus, a long-standing family feud was born. As the Foxes still owned Holland House, those belonging to the Strangways side of the family tree were routinely barred from its drawing room and thus, left out of the Whig social set. As the 2nd son of the 2nd Earl of Ilchester, this ancient rivalry applied just as much to Lord Melbury (created such in his own right as a Viscount in 1839) as it did to his ancestors and this presented Melbury with a unique problem; how to canvass the party grandees at Holland House when he could not step foot through the door? Vernon Smith had the answer - and the venue.

When Princess Mary asked Frau Wiedl to host the King at Bloomsbury Square, she had no idea that she was putting Rosalinde in a very difficult position. Now that Wiedl was back from Windsor and the season had begun (and given the political situation of the day which demanded a sense of urgency from the Opposition), Vernon Smith wanted her to become a political hostess throwing grand dinner parties for the undecideds who might be pushed into declaring for Lord Melbury. Wiedl had no objection to this for, though she was not a political animal, she was fond of Lord Melbury whom she had met through the King (Melbury being one of George V’s closest friends). If she could help in any way she would do so but now she was faced with cancelling the first of these Whig social gatherings which could not have come at a worse time. She tried to explain to Princess Mary, without being too explicit, that she already had guests on the evening Princess Mary suggested and that whilst she would be only too happy to host His Majesty and other members of his family at any other time, she could not cancel her plans at the last moment. However, refusing an order from Princess Mary was a little like trying to push a battleship up a hill – theoretically it could be done, but why would anybody waste the effort?

“Who are your guests?”, Mary asked accusingly, “They are decent gentlemen I trust?”

“Oh yes Ma’am”, Wiedl replied, “Well…there’s Lord Clarendon, Lady Clarendon too of course, and…Freddie and Georgina Spencer…Oh and Lord Melbury…”

“Lord Melbury?”, Mary exclaimed with a grin, “Oh how fortunate. The King does so like Lord Melbury. Well my dear, in that case I suggest you forget all about our little party…”

“Oh thank you Ma’am”, Rosalinde replied with a sigh of relief.

“Yes. You invite the King to your little gathering instead. He’d much prefer the company of young men of his own age and it’ll do him good to get away from us all. I’m quite worn out as it is and you…well…you’re so very capable at keeping His Majesty entertained and…everything…”

Frau Wiedl tried her best; “But Ma’am, I had understood that His Majesty would not be attending any dinners outside for the duration of court mourning?”

“Oh no dear, you’re quite mistaken”, Princess Mary replied cheerfully, “I spoke to the King this morning. He is to allow half mourning within the week, I have asked my maid to bring out all my purple, though at my age one's friends drop with such alarming regularity that I sometimes feel I should wear nothing but black and be done with it. No my dear, a little quiet supper with his friends outside is just what His Majesty needs”

Frau Wiedl bravely attempted to deter Princess Mary but to no avail.

“You’ve been a wonderful help to me child”, Mary said, waving a hand that signalled that their meeting was at an end, “I am sure His Majesty will have a delightful evening, goodbye my dear!”

And with that, Rosalinde made her way to the Private Secretary’s Office to inform Charlie Phipps that she was hosting a small dinner party at her home in Bloomsbury and that if he wished to attend, the King would be most welcome. Phipps nodded politely and promised to pass the message on with a smile. He could see Princess Mary’s hand in these arrangements and like the King’s aunt, he felt it about time that His Majesty dipped his toe back into society, especially when he had been so prone to low spirits in recent days. But initially, the King was reluctant to accept Frau Wiedl’s invitation.

“Oh I don’t know Charlie…”, George mused, “I don’t think I could face it…and you know how people talk…”

“I understand Frau Wiedl has also invited the Earl of Armagh and Lord Melbury”, Phipps replied encouragingly, “I know His Lordship is most keen to see Your Majesty”

The King smiled.

“I’m sure he is. Good old Foxy. Oh dash it all Charlie, yes, tell Rosa I’d be happy to dine with her tomorrow night. And tell Cousin George he can share my carriage. But Phipps? Don't tell Aunt Mary about any of this will you? There's a good chap. I don't think she'd be too impressed with the notion of the Crown in Bloomsbury..."


Notes

[1] This is adapted from a real notice issued by the Deputy Marshal in the OTL when the Prince Consort died.

[2] From information I found in Old Court Customs and Modern Court Rule by the Hon Mrs Armytage, published in 1883.

[3] This is only half-invented. The OTL Queen Victoria looked into something similar when the Prince Consort died but she went further expecting the peers to supply a complete new set of robes in black but with full ermine bands, gold braid etc etc. She was politely informed that the cost would prohibit some members from attending and the idea was dropped. But I liked it so much that I included a pared down version here.

[4] Oddly, though we have taken a different route to get here, this was exactly the economic position in the UK in 1842 in the OTL.

[5] Just a note on dates here. Up until now, characters have died according to their OTL date. But this won't be the same in all cases, such as the Grand Duchess Alexandra Alexandrovna, born a little earlier here and who will survive infancy.
 
Looks like the economy is on the downturn! I hope everything turns out well. George is climbing out of his sadness bit by bit. I think he will eventually send Missy back to Bautzen.
 
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