Crown Imperial: An Alt British Monarchy

The first christmas without a loved one is always difficult - I hope you can find some joy in the holiday period :)
Thankyou so much for your kind words, a happy holiday season to you!
Wow, I didn't expect George would ever make this decision!
I'm excited to bring Agnes into our TL in her new position...we shall see if George stands by his decision as we progress in time. Thankyou for reading!
Thanks for the amazing timeline. I hope that you and your loved ones have a very merry Christmas.
You're so welcome and thank you so much for being so keen a supporter of Crown Imperial since it began - wow, over a year ago I think? - have a lovely Christmas.
Excellent chapter!

Very glad to see that George thought things through and was determiend to put things right before his second marriage!

And really hope Albert gets Pedro the wife he deserves.
A lovely update! Hopefully there can be peace between George and the Strelitzes soon enough :)
From the moment they were declared husband and wife, Agnes would become Queen consort of the United Kingdom, of Ireland and of Hanover.
I think there might have been a mistake here. Ireland is part of the UK :)
Excellent chapter!

Very glad to see that George thought things through and was determiend to put things right before his second marriage!

And really hope Albert gets Pedro the wife he deserves.
Thankyou! I'll be sure to make a mention of Pedro's bride when we get there.
Thank you, Opo. And a Happy/Merry Christmas to all.
Thankyou, a Merry Christmas to you and thankyou for all your support this year.
A lovely update! Hopefully there can be peace between George and the Strelitzes soon enough :)

I think there might have been a mistake here. Ireland is part of the UK :)
Oops! Why on earth did I do that? I shall edit, thankyou for pointing it out and for reading!
Indeed. Continues to be one of my favourite TLs on this site.

Unless TTL’s 1798 went down differently and @Opo didn’t mention it XD
That's so kind of you, thank you so much!
I loved this chapter. I’m glad that George found love again. Though, I think that Agnes’s childlike naïveté might be a bit unsettling at times for the King. I loved George going head to head against Metternich and winning. Also, it looks like curtains for Sir James.
GV: Part Three, Chapter Twenty-Five: A Lady of Letters
King George V

Part Three, Chapter Twenty Five: A Lady of Letters

In the mid-19th century, European royalties were prolific letter writers. Their frenetic flurry of correspondence could see as many as twenty or thirty missives dashed off per day to parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins across the continent and special post bags had to be manufactured to accommodate the bulk of this which would be more easily recognisable as “priority mail” when it was loaded aboard a packet steamer bound for its destination [1]. This being said, whilst we may think today that a delay of a week to receive a letter sent from a friend is unacceptably inefficient, such delays were part and parcel of New Georgian communications and when a letter was dispatched from London, it was fully expected that the recipient in Berlin would not get to devour the intriguing contents for at least two weeks or more. George V never embraced letter writing as a hobby, though he became a keen diarist. He sent regular letters to his sister in St Petersburg and to a handful of friends who lived throughout Germany but when it came to his extended family, his dedication to maintaining regular correspondence slipped fairly early on. By contrast, his cousin Victoria, Princess of Orange, sent an enormous quantity of mail which led to George to nickname her “The Old Scribe” in later years. But this was not entirely an affectionate moniker. Victoria adored gossip and never passed up an opportunity to convey a whisper of some rumour or other she had half-heard, embroidering the story for full effect as it was committed to paper. But she also had a tendency to offer unsolicited advice or to pass judgement on situations she knew little about and to send these assessments to her myriad of relations without a single thought as to the trouble they may cause. And in September 1844, Victoria’s haughty scribblings did exactly that.


Victoria, Princess of Orange, 1844.

Princess Victoria was the King’s first cousin but they represented two very different sides of the European family tree. Victoria was an only child and as the result of her unconventional upbringing, the only relations she could consider close ones by birth were her half-siblings in Leiningen (born of Victoria’s mother’s first marriage) and her British first cousins; King George V, the Tsarevna of Russia, the Hereditary Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, the Earl of Tipperary and the Earl of Armagh. Her childhood playmates had been George V, Maria Georgievna and on occasion, the Cambridge children, but she hardly ever saw her Leiningen relations and only became close to her half-sister Feodora after Victoria married and settled in the Netherlands [2]. It was expected at the time that Victoria would adopt her Dutch relations as her own but she failed to build the same close friendships as her cousin Maria Georgievna had when she arrived in Russia. By contrast, King George V could claim descent from the Hesse-Kassels and he married into the Mecklenburg-Strelitzes, two dominant families in Europe which could boast illustrious relations in almost every corner of the continent. As a result, his circle was much wider than Victoria’s and as the loneliness of her marriage and her self-imposed seclusion at Het Loo continued, she came to see the King’s extended family as her own despite the fact that her blood ties were nowhere near as close – if they existed at all [3].

This often-inspired Victoria to involve herself in matters which didn’t really affect her but which she felt most important to comment upon. In September 1844, Het Loo had been flung into an unexpected (and somewhat macabre) form of mourning which saw Victoria howl herself hoarse with tears each day for the tragic loss of a Russian Grand Duchess she had only actually met once. The poor soul in question was the Grand Duchess Alexandra Nikolaevna, known to European royalty as Adini. Readers may remember at this stage that it was Adini to whom the Tsarevna Maria Georgievna became especially close after she married into the Russian Imperial Family in 1840 (“Where you find Adini, you will find Lotye”) and indeed, Adini had stood as godmother to the Tsarevna’s eldest child the Grand Duchess Alexandra Alexandrovna (Sashenka) for whom she was named. Adini was the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas I and the niece of the Dutch Queen Anna. In January 1844, St Petersburg was shocked when Hereditary Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel (a first cousin to the Tsarevna) arrived in the Russian capital and far from courting the Grand Duchess Olga whom he had been invited to meet, pursued the 18-year-old Adini with whom he fell head over heels in love [4]. The Tsar gave his consent and the couple were quickly engaged but then the Grand Duchess Alexandra suddenly fell ill. She had contracted tuberculosis.

Adini’s doctors declared her fully recovered but those closest to her knew that all was not well. Maria Georgievna makes frequent reference to “poor Adini” in her diaries at this time and notes that she was consistently afflicted with prolonged bouts of exhaustion well after she was said to have overcome TB. Nonetheless, Adini was so in love with Fritz that she readily accepted him and the pair were married. Within a few months, there was happy news that the Grand Duchess was expecting her first child and this was a great cause of celebration for the Romanovs, Hesse-Kassels and their extended family in Neustrelitz, Herrenhausen, London, Berlin, The Hague etc. Yet suddenly, all turned to ashes. Three months before she was due to give birth, Adini went into an extremely arduous labour and delivered her child prematurely. Mother and child died within hours. The loss was so deeply felt across Europe that many declared court mourning be observed for Adini, just as they had for the late Queen Louise in England in 1842. When news reached George V of the Grand Duchess’ death shortly after he returned from Hanover, three days of court mourning were observed – though it has been unkindly suggested that this was more to court the Tsar with whom Metternich had suggested the King meet as soon as possible if Britain wanted to reach any sort of agreement on the Straits Pact. This is a rather uncharitable observation however as whilst George did not know Adini, he was fond of his first cousin Fritz and he would have known how deeply Adini’s death would have affected his sister to whom he was always so devoted.


Grand Duchess Alexandra Nikolaevna - 'Adini' - painted in 1843.

But whilst Queen Anna naturally mourned the loss of her niece and the Prince of Orange of a first cousin, Victoria took Adini’s death particularly hard. She wore black for months after official court morning at The Hague had ended and she had a copy of a portrait of the Grand Duchess placed in the entrance of Het Loo draped in purple velvet and surrounded by white roses. Guests were “invited” to offer prayers for Adini before they were received only to be told that Victoria was far too overcome with sorrow to see them after all. We have explored Victoria’s relationship with grief before and it is true that she always welcomed an opportunity to adopt mourning as a way of life. However, on this particular occasion it is entirely possible she was motivated by something far more personal and which makes her reaction more understandable. Since the birth of her second child and eldest son Prince William in 1843, Victoria had refused to leave Het Loo because of a desperate need to be close to him. The baby had displayed signs of bruising and seizures and whilst doctors had tried to examine the child (offering a rudimentary diagnosis of epilepsy), Victoria would now allow them to examine him further. Today, we know that Prince William was suffering from haemophilia and indeed, this was later formally diagnosed. But as her infant son lay in his crib suffering from a serious illness which had convinced Victoria that he may die at any moment, news from Russia that the Grand Duchess’ new-born had died could only serve to heighten that fear in Victoria. Sadly, her relations were not quite so tolerant. They had seen Victoria’s excessive displays of grief before and most found it performative given that “she never really knew the Grand Duchess anyway”.

The Princess of Orange began to write to the Tsarevna of Russia daily. She consoled her with pages and pages of platitudes, prayers and promises to hold the memory of the Grand Duchess dear forevermore. But she also wrote to others, expressing that she was “so desolate and so lost in grief for poor darling Adini”. Indeed, when news reached her from Hanover that her cousin the Earl of Armagh had welcomed his first child, Victoria’s response was hardly one of profuse congratulation and instead focused more on the death of Grand Duchess Alexandra. The first child of the Earl and Countess of Armagh arrived on the 2nd of September 1844 and was named George Augustus. As he was the first member of the British Royal Family to be born after the introduction of the Royal House Act, he was styled His Highness Prince George Augustus of Hanover, though in the fullness of time he would naturally succeed his father as Duke of Cumberland. George and Auguste were delighted with their new-born son and though they too were in court mourning (Adini was Auguste’s sister-in-law, a much closer link than Victoria could claim), they relaxed it somewhat so that guests at Prince George Augustus’ baptism in the Royal Guelphic Chapel would not be required to wear black. King George V was a godparent to the little Prince (with Sir Michael Reith, the Earl of Armagh’s ADC standing proxy) whilst Victoria too served as a godmother (Lady Reith likewise standing proxy for her at the ceremony). But in thanking the Armaghs for the honour they had done her by asking Victoria to be a godmother to their son, they must have been perplexed when Victoria explained she had sent no gift to the new-born because “nothing I see gives me any pleasure in these very sad times”.

Victoria went on to say how brave she thought the Countess was “for your own sorrow must be so very deep and yet you have done all good things to welcome your child into the world as poor Adini’s was so cruelly taken out of it”. Her letter then goes on to give the first indication of the difficulties Victoria was about to cause King George V too. Though news of the King’s engagement to Princess Agnes of Anhalt-Dessau was not yet public, the intricate network of family ties made it impossible to keep the news to the confines of the immediate families of the bride and groom and by late September 1844, Victoria had heard that her cousin had proposed to Princess Agnes of Anhalt-Dessau a few weeks earlier via her aunt, the Duchess of Cambridge. Sworn to secrecy, Victoria supposed the Earl of Armagh knew what had transpired (he did) and took this opportunity to express her feelings on the matter – they did not make for pleasant reading and are reproduced here:

Poor Aunt Augusta is so very sad at this Dessau business for it has upset Aunt Marie dreadfully and it is not difficult to see why. I do not recall a time in which I have received the Dessau girl and though by all accounts she is very charming, her arrival into our family cannot be met with any real celebration for what else can recent events remind us of but the loss of our poor darling Sunny. I imagine she is much in Aunt Marie’s thoughts these days, especially with the tragedy in Russia, and I am told that Georgie has really been so very indifferent to her in failing to consider her feelings when he set about proposing marriage to the Dessau princess. I do wonder if he really has given every consideration to all this for, however lovely he may feel her to be, that girl will never – could never! - take the place of our beloved Sunny, neither in the family, nor in the country.

I tell you my dear cousin, I still grieve so for Louise, whom I loved so very dearly, and I assumed that Georgie was equal to the feeling – it has only been two years when all is said and done – but to think that he should press ahead so eagerly…it does not look well on him. I should have advised him to wait a time but I have well-accepted by now that I count for little in the family these days. O! It is all so very sad isn’t it? I am put in a horrible predicament myself for how can I do other than support Aunt Marie in all this? I feel it is what Sunny would expect of me and whilst I love Georgie more than I can express, I sincerely hope that this engagement will not be paraded about too much for there are many of us who cannot welcome it - especially at such a sad time for you and dear Guste.

Needless to say, the Earl of Armagh did not share Victoria’s feelings. He knew and liked Princess Agnes and he was delighted to see the King so happy in love once more. But Victoria was not the only one who despaired at news that the King was to be married again.

Upon their return from Hanover to Dessau, Princess Agnes and her aunt the Dowager Princess Caroline found a very frosty reception awaiting them as Agnes had presented her engagement as an accomplished fact rather than a proposal that needed careful thought and discussion. Duke Leopold was happy for his daughter. She was of marriageable age and seemed to have found in George V that rare combination of pedigree and love. Regardless of his own position, alliances or even sentiments on the matter, Leopold could hardly deny that his daughter had bagged quite the trophy in the King and his first response upon receiving Agnes’ letter relaying this news was to remark quietly “My little Nessa…Queen of England…”. He was somewhat hurt that his future son-in-law had not consulted him first, though a letter from George inviting the Dessaus to England (and which did not mention the engagement) coupled with the Dowager Princess Caroline’s account of events at Herrenhausen soothed his disappointment. He understood that his daughter had, understandably, been a little too enthusiastic and very quickly he decided to forget the unconventional circumstances of the engagement and do all he could to support his daughter in her decision. However, the same could not be said for Leopold’s wife.

Duchess Frederica was a snob of the highest order and on paper, one might have assumed she would have been delighted to see her daughter (whose prospects might have been considered limited) set course for a new life as a Queen in one of the greatest courts in the world. But as we have explored previously, Frederica had a strong dislike of the British Royal Family and she wasted no time in expressing how horrified she was at what had transpired in Hanover. Indeed, she fired off a lengthy missive to her half-brother the Earl of Armagh at Herrenhausen in which she accused him of “betraying our darling Mama’s memory by encouraging this match which is built on nothing more than childish infatuation”. The Duchess demanded that the Earl speak with the King “at the earliest convenience to press upon him the unsuitability of this dreadful notion for I am confident that no good shall come of it”. Inevitably she criticised the King as a “petulant and arrogant young man” for his failure to consult the Dessaus before he asked their daughter to marry him and she deemed her daughter Agnes to be “a foolish, silly little girl who has quite abandoned her reason”. Notably, Frederica made no mention of the birth of Prince George Augustus - she was far too wrapped up in her own predicament to welcome her new nephew to the world.

Of course, none of this was known to King George who, now being resolved to marry Agnes, had settled himself at Buckingham Palace with his Aunt Mary to discuss how best Agnes could be helped to settle into her new life. George hoped that Princess Mary would serve as a kind of tutor to Agnes, a practical decision given that Mary had effectively governed the Royal Household for the past two years. Mary proposed that Agnes come to live in England before her marriage just after the engagement was made public but she deemed it “quite unsuitable” for the Princess to stay at any of the Royal residences before she was married. The King did not share this rather archaic view but conceded that some who shared Mary’s traditional views might not take Agnes’ presence at Buckingham Palace before her wedding in the right spirit. To that end, the King suggested that, for the first time since the death of his first wife, he might reopen Hanover House in Dorset where Agnes could settle with her family for a few months and from there, begin to acquaint herself with the duties and responsibilities expected of her. This met with Princess Mary’s approval as Hanover House was conveniently located near to her seaside residence in Weymouth and would allow Mary to “train” Agnes far away from the prying eyes of the court at Windsor or St James’.

But this also raised the question of where Agnes would live after her marriage. Since the death of Queen Louise in 1842, the apartments she had used at Buckingham Palace and at Windsor had been sealed shut. The bedroom in which she died had remained untouched, her personal belongings set exactly where she had left them whilst her dressing room still filled with her clothes. George accepted that his new bride would expect to inhabit the rooms reserved for the Queen consort (in fact, Agnes had no such expectation and had not even considered it) and so, reluctant as he still may have been, he asked Princess Mary to open the apartments and to carefully remove Louise’s personal effects which were placed into large wooden trunks and then stored in the Round Tower at Windsor. Sadly, they were badly stored and so when they were uncovered some years later, many of the pieces Mary placed in the trunks were badly damaged but today two dresses worn by the late Queen can be seen on permanent display at Hanover House after being painstakingly restored to their former glory.


The Queen's Apartments, Buckingham Palace, as they were in Queen Agnes' later years.

There were other considerations beyond where the new Queen consort would live which went far beyond the bed she would sleep in or the jewels she might wear. As soon as the Prime Minister was informed that the King intended to marry again, an audience was given to the Comptroller of the Household, Benjamin Disraeli, to discuss the important matter of what the Queen’s Household might look like. It was still the custom for the Prime Minister of the day to appoint the offices which would serve this new household, a tradition designed to curb allegations of political partisanship or undue influence but which had been deeply unpopular with some of Agnes’ predecessors, most famously her would-be mother-in-law at Kew. But when the King met with Disraeli to discuss this, neither could not avoid the elephant in the room – whilst it was well within Sir James Graham’s privilege as Prime Minister to make such appointments, it was looking increasingly likely that by the time the King married, the United Kingdom would have a new government and these appointments would be consigned to the rubbish bin without ever having been promulgated. Nonetheless, the two men had to go through the pantomime of drawing up a list of suitable candidates for the posts of Lord Chamberlain, a Treasurer, a Comptroller, a Private Secretary, an Assistant Private Secretary, three Lords-in-waiting, six Ladies of the Bedchamber (including the most senior, the Mistress of the Robes), two equerries, a Chaplin-in-Ordinary and a Physician in Waiting. All would have to be drawn from Tory families (or at least, families without obvious political leanings) and must be of good social standing, free from scandal and keen to serve the Crown above all else. But on a personal level, these were to become the new Queen’s inner circle, a group dedicated to helping her settle into her new role. One addition was perhaps obvious to the King even if it wasn’t to Disraeli.

It was the King’s considered opinion that one of the six Ladies of the Bedchamber to serve the new Queen consort should be Rosalinde Wiedl. After all, Wiedl was integral to the way George and Agnes’ relationship had progressed and His Majesty believed that she should become just as much a friend to Agnes as she had been to the late Queen Louise. Disraeli was not surprised at this request but it did pose a problem. Firstly, Rosalinde Wiedl had no social rank and ladies of the bedchamber were traditionally drawn from the ranks of the aristocracy – no woman below the rank of Duchess had held the post of Mistress of the Robes since 1808, for example. Then there was the question of politics. Though she was not herself a daughter of a great political dynasty, she was well known in society as a Whig hostess. Disraeli was far too much of a gentleman to mention it but it was true that at that very moment Frau Wiedl was in France expecting the baby of her lover, a prominent Whig MP expected to gain Cabinet rank if the Tories were ousted from government. But the King was insistent. He argued that Frau Wiedl entertained just as many Tories as she did Whigs and that she could not be accused of having any political leanings herself as “she is a foreigner”. As for social rank, the King had an easy solution – he would elevate Wiedl to the rank of a Baroness in the peerage of Hanover [5]. Whilst she could not serve as Mistress of the Robes, plenty of Baronesses had served as Ladies of the Bedchamber and he believed both Sir James Graham (who had met Wiedl many times and liked her) and Lord Melbury (Graham’s potential successor) would agree to having her serve in the Queen’s Household as His Majesty wished. Disraeli promised to put the matter before the Prime Minister, adding Frau Wiedl’s name to a list which included the wives of prominent Tory politicians and peers. Ironically, none on the list would be appointed with the exception of Frau Wiedl, created Baroness Wiedl in January 1845.

The United Kingdom went to the polls once more on the 21st of October 1844 after a fraught campaign which one Whig MP described as “trying to swim upstream in a river of treacle”. Election day itself was controversial when many Chartist supporters formed polling stations demanding to vote even though they did not meet the criteria, a reminder that at this time only men over the age of 21 who owned property or had enough capital to pay certain taxes which served as a qualification for the ballot. But the process of voting itself was not yet secret either. Though some moves had been made which offered concessions to the Chartists (such as paying MPs an annual salary), and whilst the Whigs had committed themselves to exploring further constitutional and electoral reforms, many found themselves turned away with clashes up and down the country as the would-be electors of constituencies throughout England raised merry hell in protest that they could not exercise their democratic right to choose their own representatives in the House of Commons. The Home Office had to provide additional peace-keeping forces and magistrates were told to read aloud a proclamation that reminded the populace that attempting to vote when one was not qualified to do so was considered a very serious offence indeed.

Unlike today, it took some time for the ballots cast across the country to be collected, counted and the results verified and announced. Whilst this was perhaps more dignified than incumbent MPs being ousted live on television in the small hours of the morning, it did lead to stalemate as candidates were forced to wait at home, pacing the floor nervously awaiting a formal summons by the returning officer to hear the result proclaimed in the market square. Old hands confident of their re-election rarely bothered to attend the declaration, preferring instead to make their way to London ahead of parliament sitting once more. In some cases, election agents read the acceptance speech of a candidate despite the fact that the newly elected MP hadn’t even seen the speech in question. Increasingly nervous as the tally of declarations came in, Sir James Graham considered leaving the capital for his country estate. His aides and advisors pressed upon him the negative impression that may give and Graham managed to steady himself enough, braced for what may come. His hat and topcoat were brushed and to hand, his coach on standby. The moment the final result was in, and whatever that result may be, the Prime Minister would travel to Buckingham Palace to meet with the King – either to be invited to continue in his office or to offer his resignation.

At the Palace, the King was kept informed of the declarations as each constituency reported but this was a long and arduous process over three or four days and so it was very much business as usual. He met with Bishops, he received government deputations and Ambassadors and he accepted an invitation to become the patron of the British Archaeological Association which was granted a royal charter to become the Royal Archaeological Institute with its headquarters at Burlington House in Mayfair. On the afternoon of the 26th of October 1844, the King received Sebastien Garrard, the Crown Jeweller. As yet, His Majesty had not presented a ring to his intended and now that the Duke of Anhalt-Dessau had accepted the King’s invitation to come to London ahead of Christmas with his family, George wanted to find the perfect piece to present to his fiancée to seal their engagement. Garrard brought with him a large selection of rings with extremely beautiful stones in a variety of exquisite settings but none pleased the King. Instead, George gave Garrard a commission of his own design inspired by a French fashion which began in 1796 when Napoleon Bonaparte proposed marriage to Josephine de Beauharnais with a ring known as a “Toi et Moi” – the complimentary close George V always used in his correspondence with Princess Agnes and which translates simply as “You and Me”.


Queen Agnes' 'Toi et Moi' engagement ring.

‘Toi et Moi’ rings had become just as fashionable in London in the 1830s and 40s as they had become in Paris in the early 1800s and the style had become traditionalised as two different stones in matching sizes and cuts set into a by-pass band that coils around the finger. Handing Garrard a sketch to illustrate exactly what he wanted, the result was a beautiful example of a ‘Toi et Moi’ band which features a 2-carat Burmese ruby alongside a 2-carat diamond set in an 18-carat gold setting. Four single carat old cut European diamonds stud the band itself with silver set topped gold. As the ring would be given at Christmas time, the King asked Garrard to find an accompanying piece which might serve as a Christmas Eve gift to pair with Agnes’ engagement ring. George eventually selected a simple but beautifully executed design of a cross formed of Calibré cut rubies framing a diamond set foliate. Naturally Garrard was not told who the pieces were for, or why they were being given, though he may have suspected because ‘Toi et Moi’ rings were only ever purchased to be given as engagement rings and the jeweller had already produced a piece (an enamel brooch) for Princess Agnes the previous year. Nonetheless, discretion was Garrards’ watch word and he dutifully set about producing the pieces which are still in the possession of the British Royal Family today. As Garrard left the Palace, he noticed a messenger dashing inside, rather indecorously leaping the stairs so as to find his way to his destination as quickly as possible. The election result was now confirmed.

The Tories had gone into the general election with their nerves jangled and their prospects looking decidedly grim. It must be remembered that the Unionists had rejected Sir James’ offer of an electoral pact which would see candidates stood down in seats where the Conservative or Unionist candidate might see their vote split in favour of the Whigs – and it is also worthy of note that the campaign that followed saw the Unionists attack the Tories just as much as they did the Whigs. The Prime Minister himself predicted he may soon become “yesterday’s man” and Lord Melbury was said to have ordered himself a new beaver fur collar to wear when he strolled along Downing Street for the first time as Graham’s successor. Talk of the “Great Decline” had come to define the campaign and many expected a Whig landslide, ousting the Tories from government with a sizeable majority with which to change Britain forever. Yet it was not to be that simple. In the overall horse-trading of independent seats, former radical strongholds, Tory safe seats and Whig marginals, the electorate of Britain served up a surprising result.

The Whigs were undoubtedly the winning party, increasing their number in the Commons by 63 seats. The Unionists gained 20 seats but lost 11 – Bernard Jallick was heard to remark that Winchelsea had doomed the party’s fortunes when he rejected Graham’s offer of a pact – whilst the Repeal Association’s presence dipped slightly by 8 seats. But the most intriguing story of the 1844 general election campaign was the so-called “Independent Retreat” whereby the larger parties gained seats which had traditionally not been held by one side or the other. This was perhaps to be expected as British politics was becoming more tribal and people felt compelled to pick between the larger two parties against independent candidates. That said, a handful of radicals retained their seats and to the shock – and concern – of many in the establishment, two Chartist candidates were elected in Wales, the very first under the Chartist banner to be elected to the House of Commons. But the Tory losses were not quite so severe as had been predicted. From 240 seats, they dwindled to 222 giving the Whigs a majority over the Tories of 34.

Before the 1844 election, and despite Lord Winchelsea’s refusal to form an electoral pact with Sir James, the Unionists had (almost) always voted with the Tory government. How could they not when the party itself was comprised mostly of former Tory MPs? The problem now was that if the Tories and Unionists continued to vote together in a bloc (as they undoubtedly would), the Whigs would have to rely on radical, independent and Repeal Association votes to pass anything in the Commons. It must also be remembered that Sir James had packed the House of Lords with Tory peers to “rebalance” the red benches – and these were not likely to go along with the progressive platform the Whigs had in mind without a fight. In other words, Lord Melbury’s Whigs had won a pyrrhic victory. Convention dictated that the King must summon his old friend to the Palace to invite him to form a government because he led the largest party in the Commons and so in this way, the Whigs had successfully ousted the Tories from office. Yet as to how long this government could last and what it might achieve? Only time would tell. The King was discussing this unexpected turn of events with Charlie Phipps ahead of Sir James' arrival at the Palace to offer his resignation when a letter arrived.

The King ran his paper knife through the seal and opened it, his face suddenly flushing red as he made his way to the second page. Phipps did his best not to try and peek at the letter but he knew it could not be good news. Eventually he broke the silence and asked, "Is everything quite alright Your Majesty?"

George placed the letter on his desk and scowled at it. He did not reply, his cheeks now crimson. Without warning, he slammed his palms down onto his desk and fumed silently. Phipps allowed his eyes to fall upon the paper. He could just make out the signature.

Your Ever Loving Cousin,


[1] It’s estimated that Victoria produced (on average) 2,500 words a day in both letters and in her journals. From the letters she sent to her daughter Vicky in the OTL, we see that she would often send two or three a day to the same recipient – usually to berate them for not replying quickly enough. We also know that Victoria loved to gossip and frequently caused problems as a result. Only in the OTL, nobody dared tell her off for it…

[2] Different from the OTL because we removed the Duchess of Kent extremely early.

[3] Without delving into the complexity of the tree too much, our George V could claim a closer link to the Hesse-Kassels than Victoria who was only related to them by marriage – Augusta of Hesse-Kassel being her aunt by virtue of her marriage to the Duke of Cambridge. In TTL, Augusta is George’s aunt twice over and her sister Marie is not only his aunt but his (almost) former mother-in-law.

[4] As in the OTL, this leaves Olga free to marry. Metternich had proposed her as a bride for Pedro II of Brazil, etc etc.

[5] This was often done at court to raise the rank of an individual who didn’t come to royal service in the usual way – such as with Baroness Lehzen in the OTL.

And so Crown Imperial is back underway!

I've been updating notes and planning out some new plot points over the last few days so in the spirit of housekeeping, I just wanted to mention that Part Three will end with the marriage of the King and Princess Agnes in 1845 - roughly equivalent to the same number of chapters in Parts One and Two.

We've covered less ground in terms of actual time in Part Three but it was a particularly important few years for George V and I felt we needed to detail the aftermath of Louise's death and Agnes' arrival a little more intensely otherwise it would feel that Louise was thrown away and Agnes introduced without any real impact.

We've still a few more chapters before we reach Part Four of course and I'm going to try and include two appendices as I did for Prince Albert giving an update on what's been happening to Victoria and Charlotte Louise in a little more detail than recent instalments have allowed before moving on from 1845 into Part Four.

As ever, many thanks for reading and for your continued support!
RIP adini, another kind soul taken too soon.

At least thinga are progressing quite nicely for george and Agnes.

Uh-oh, what has victoria written?


I'm so glad to see this first chapter of the new year. This story continues to be one of my favorite reads.

TTL Victoria is significantly more of a mess than OTL's.
Uh-oh, what has victoria written?
Hold that thought!
I'm so glad to see this first chapter of the new year. This story continues to be one of my favorite reads.

TTL Victoria is significantly more of a mess than OTL's.
Thank you so much, that's much appreciated!

That's a great observation too and before I publish the next chapter in a moment, I think it's worth me explaining why I'm taking Victoria on this character arc.

We know that Victoria was a very complex individual and that for all her good points, she equally had just as many flaws. The general consensus among her biographers (at least from those I read) was that though their relationship was rocky at times (moreso than we've been led to believe over the years), Prince Albert really was the stabilising force in Victoria's life. He managed to successfully control her temper tantrums, to encourage her to take certain points of view and not to react too hastily to things she did not like. But when Albert was gone, Victoria reverted to type.

In TTL, Victoria never marries Albert and so that stabilising force is gone. Her marriage is an unhappy one, she's failed to form any real bonds in Holland or build a vital support network and I think that, combined with the boredom she would have felt having little to do (by her own choice), this would have seen Victoria reveal her flaws far more than she did in the OTL around this time. Including her love of gossip, her view that she had a special place in the extended family tree which made her opinion count for far more than it did in some quarters and of course, her tendency to interfere in other people's affairs.

So our Victoria is perhaps not the Victoria we know from the OTL but that is definitely a deliberate choice on my part in trying to imagine not only a UK without Queen Victoria but a Victoria without Albert.

Thankyou for reading!
GV: Part Three, Chapter Twenty-Six: Fallout
King George V

Part Three, Chapter Twenty-Six: Fallout

20th August 1844, Het Loo, HRH the Princess of Orange to HM King George V

My dearest sweet cousin Georgie,

I write to you from my sad little house at Het Loo where all is still and where the happy memories of those lost to us both feel so very close these days. I have written to dear Lottie whom I know shall be so tortured these past weeks by the loss of poor Adini. Her tragic death is a reminder to us all that we must cherish those we love and hold dear and this is the spirit in which I send this letter to you. I ask you to remember that all I say is borne of an affection that has always been so very dear to me. I think of our poor dear Uncle William and how he would consider all things so very carefully – his example was always important to you Georgie, you sought always to emulate him in all you did. You will agree with me, I think, that he never acted in haste – I think of him very much these days as I hope you too shall think of him, not just with fond and happy memories of times past but on how we may follow his example of calm, considered things at a time when so much is upset.

So then Georgie I think we must talk about unpleasant things for a time, things you may not have considered but which I feel compelled to ask you to give very serious reflection and sober deliberation. You will know I think that I have always corresponded with dear Aunt Marie who has been so very kind to me these many years and that I consider her to be a fine woman of estimable qualities, qualities which were so apparent in our darling Sunny whose memory I cherish and whom I have thought much about in these past days. The tragedy in our family last month can only serve to remind us all of how cruelly taken from us Louise was and how her absence is still so keenly felt. When I have been with you since her death, I see her empty place at table and I weep for I can never forget the sunshine and the happiness she brought to us, to you and to your dear children.

In this continued grief therefore, it pains me to think of another taking the place that was once so joyfully filled by our darling Sunny. Though death has parted us, I feel her presence very keenly and so it is only natural that I should not welcome the prospect that someone else may one day soon occupy that position which in all our hearts will forever belong to Sunny. I know the loneliness of grief for I have lost many to whom I have given my affection – poor Uncle William, my darling Papa, Mama, Louise, Adini…but I know that I cannot hope to share that which was reserved for them by settling those same cares on another to whom they do not belong. This is not to say that I believe we cannot love another when the ones we have adored are so mercilessly taken from us. But in taking a new love to our hearts we must consider if we do so because our sentiments are true or because we hope to feel that same love we once enjoyed with another.

We must not forget too Georgie that we occupy a most unusual station in this life and that with this great burden comes many expectations. You will remember with the same gratitude as I, the very sincere outpouring of grief in the country which followed poor Sunny’s death. Just as we, your family, struggle to reconcile with the steps you now take, I fear the people too may never adjust to a stranger standing in the place of the one they loved so dear. This is not to express any doubt that the Princess of Dessau [sic] is a fine girl with many wonderful qualities for no such reservations exist in my mind despite the things I am told. You are worthy of happiness and if you have truly found it in this quarter then I am well contented – how could I not be when I wish for you to know nothing but happiness? But she remains, to me, to our family and to your people, a foreigner, and I do not see that haste will bring her closer to us.

So my dearest Georgie, I must ask you to consider these things which I have said and I express again that I am motivated in this only by love of you. Your news should bring us all so much joy and delight and yet you will be aware of the ill-feeling and sadness that exists in our family and which could so easily be put right. We shall not speak of these things again for I believe they are unpleasant things which grieve us both. But I know that you will reflect wisely on what I have said, that you will seek to make amends and that you will – as you have always done thus far – try to imitate our poor dear uncle William in this matter for I know that he taught you well and that he would put the strength of our family before any personal wish for the good of us all and for the country.

Do not be angry darling Georgie that I have shared these sentiments with you for I do so knowing you have always loved me as a sister and it is with a sibling’s affection that I speak as I do. I should hate you to continue in your chosen course on this matter unaware of just how united our family is in its concern and so my petitions, which I offer on behalf of us all for there is not one among us who can say they feel differently, are offered with a remembrance that whichever path you pursue, we shall always find it within ourselves to agree to it even though we may not understand.

With my sincerest love and affection to Aunt Mary, to the children, and to you my dearest cousin Georgie,

Your Ever-Loving Cousin,


When King William III of the Netherlands died in 1890, his widow Victoria embarked upon a curious project. Recruiting the assistance of her daughter, Princess Victoria Paulina, she began to sift through almost 50 years of drawings, journals and letters and marked each with a number from 1-3. Those marked with a one were to be deposited in the Royal Archives at Windsor. Those marked with a two were to be sent to the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague. Those marked with a three were to be destroyed after her death. This latter category, from which the above letter is reproduced in full for the first time, miraculously survives in tact and in the public domain and though Victoria took great pains to avoid this, it is from these letters that we can truly build a portrait of her and better understand the relationships she had with her husband, children and extended family members such as King George V in England. For readers pondering how such intimate documents became public, we must fast-forward a little to examine the relationship between Queen Victoria and her daughter, Princess Victoria Paulina (known to European royalty as Linna).

Victoria’s failure to bond with her daughter from birth led to a life long awkward relationship between mother and child. From the moment Prince William was born in 1843, Linna saw even less of her mother than she had before and it was no secret among Dutch courtiers that the ill-fated Prince was Victoria’s favourite. Fortunately, the Prince of Orange adored Linna and just as the Princess favoured her eldest son, so too the future King William III showed a strong preference among his three children to his only daughter. However, when William became King of the Netherlands in 1849, the demands on his time were so great that he rarely had time to visit Het Loo where his wife, now Queen consort, insisted her household would remain despite the accession and the new duties demanded of her. As a result, Linna was forced to spend much of her early life with her mother and as she grew older, Victoria’s apathy toward her daughter saw Linna cast in the role of a kind of unpaid lady in waiting or private secretary. So it remained for the next 43 years.


Victoria with her daughter Princess Victoria Paulina in 1845.

By the 1870s, William III and his wife were completely estranged from each other and did their level best to avoid each other’s company. The Dutch public knew the royal marriage had failed and William made no attempt to hide his extra-marital relationships [1]. Indeed, in 1872 when Victoria was openly criticised for purchasing a castle at Poeke in East Flanders, Belgium as a summer residence, William openly told his advisors that he (very hypocritically) shared the public mood and ordered Victoria to sell Poeke – which she refused to do. He then gave serious consideration to divorcing Victoria but found his government staunchly opposed – they suspected, quite rightly, that such a move was only ever designed to allow the King to marry his mistress and that it had nothing to do with Victoria’s lack of popularity at all. For better or worse however, the couple remained married until William III’s death in 1890. Victoria was said to be totally perplexed by the public display of sympathy and when she was told of the huge numbers gathered outside the Noordeinde Palace to pay their final respects as the King’s cortege passed them by, she asked, “Can that really be true?”.

It is widely agreed by historians today that Victoria wanted to erase any trace of her own contribution to her poor public image in the Netherlands. Indeed, the “best face” of Victoria’s personality is evident in the material she wished to send to the Royal Archives in Windsor – possibly knowing that they might be more likely to emerge into the public domain there than they would in the Netherlands. The documents she wished to bequeath to the Royal Library in the Hague are mostly ordinary in theme – letters from grateful recipients of her charity and the like. But those documents she sought to have destroyed show us that Victoria was often the source of family disagreements and that she was even responsible for long-standing rifts which were never repaired. Why she kept these letters for so long and why she did not destroy them personally before her death is a mystery but she went to her grave believing that her daughter would carry out her wishes and protect Victoria’s image from declining any further after she was gone. Linna inherited a small fortune from her mother, property in the form of the Lange Voorhout Palace in the Hague and of course, Victoria’s written archive. But she had no intention of honouring her mother’s last wish.

Princess Victoria Paulina did indeed send some of the material she inherited to England and she deposited some documents as instructed in the Netherlands. But those letters Victoria wished to see destroyed after her death remained with the Princess until her death in 1921. Combined with Linna’s own personal archive, the entire collection was shipped to England where they were placed in the custody of the Princess’ friend and confidant, Mrs Annabel Ross, with whom Linna frequently holidayed in England. When Mrs Ross died in 1930, her daughter Millicent put everything she found into a bank for safe keeping and when she died, these were included in the personal effects offered for auction at Bonham’s in 1988. Thus, the entire anthology of the late Queen Victoria’s writings became available to the world for the first time (despite protests of both the British and Dutch Royal Families) and it is thanks to Princess Victoria Paulina that we can see the letter sent to King George V in England in 1844 which caused so much difficulty for the extended Royal Family at this time. Inevitably, Victoria’s writings horrified and angered George V and though he had learned to contain his temper, he considered her interference so unjust and so unkind that he swore there and then never to receive his cousin again. He ordered his aunt Mary to withdraw the invitation he had extended to the Prince and Princess of Orange to visit England for Christmas 1844 and an engraving of a nine year old Victoria by Thomas Woolworth which the King kept on his desk in his study was removed.

Though she was not inaccurate in her suggestion that the Strelitzes felt particularly grieved that the King was to marry again (something the King already knew), Victoria was wrong to suggest that they opposed his marriage to Princess Agnes of Anhalt-Dessau because they felt that their late daughter was being replaced in any way. Indeed, their bone of contention was that they believed George might have made more of an effort to reassure them by telling them face to face what the true nature of his relationship with Agnes was before he proposed and whether they were correct to expect such sensitivity or not, we know that the King had some sympathy with their view. But Victoria’s worst offence was to hint that George was only marrying Agnes because he missed his late wife so much that he could not bear to be alone and so had transferred his affections for Louise to Princess Agnes. George considered this an outrageous slur on his motives and he insisted that he could never forgive his cousin for “using the memory of Sunny against me”. In his rage, he told his aunt Mary that Victoria was “driven by spite” and that “she wishes everyone to be as miserable as she for she has never really known any happiness, the absence of which is entirely of her own making for she makes herself unlovable by her outrageous behaviour”.

Though Victoria’s letter put the King in a frightful rage for days to come, it also seemed to make him more determined to put the arrangements for his second marriage in place. When confirmation came from the Dessaus that they would arrive in England in the second week of November, George V set about making every preparation possible for their comfort and asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to make himself available to discuss the finer details of the wedding which was proposed to take place on the 2nd May 1845. George had not discussed any of the arrangements for the wedding day itself with his intended, possibly because he wanted to secure everything in place to display his commitment to Agnes in spite of what others thought of his plans. To this end, the venue for the wedding was discussed and selected without any consultation with Princess Agnes who only learned when and where she would be married after the matter was settled with the appropriate authorities in England. In a letter to her brother the Duke of Cambridge, Princess Mary writes; “I expect it shall be a small wedding at the Chapel Royal in Buckingham Palace as we had for Augusta and Fritz” and certainly there was a feeling among those in the know that a second wedding would not seek to exceed the celebrations for the first when George V married Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in the relatively modest surroundings of St George’s Chapel, Windsor.


Westminster Abbey, c. 1845.

Princess Mary was correct in her assessment that the King would not wish to marry at St George’s. The chapel at Windsor was not only full of memories of his first marriage but it also marked the final resting place of his late wife. The idea that he might marry there was unthinkable but something else concerned George in his planning which made him equally consider the Chapel Royal at Buckingham Palace to be unsuitable. Around this time, George summoned Sir Frederick Pollock, the outgoing Attorney General, to ask for one final piece of advice. When the King married Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, he had already succeeded his late father George IV but had not yet been anointed and crowned at Westminster Abbey. This allowed for Queen Louise to be crowned alongside her husband as tradition demanded. However, as Agnes of Anhalt-Dessau would marry the King after his coronation, George wanted to know if a separate coronation ceremony for his new Queen consort would be required or whether a form of the coronation service should be included in the wedding service to allow Agnes to be crowned Queen.

Pollock explained that from the moment the King took Agnes as his wife, she would legally become Queen consort of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, of Hanover etc. Though there had been separate coronations of Queen consorts during their marriage service (the last being that of Anne Boleyn in 1553), the practise was dispensed with during the reign of King Charles II who did not see that his consort, Catherine of Braganza, warranted a separate coronation (or even the presentation of a Crown) when he married her in 1662 just a year after his own coronation in 1661. George queried whether the people would understand that, though she had not been formally crowned, Agnes would still be Queen consort. Pollock replied that there could be no such misunderstanding but this was not enough to convince George and so it was that he decided that he should marry not at St George’s Chapel in Windsor or the Chapel Royal at Buckingham Palace but rather that he should marry in full public view at Westminster Abbey. It is understandable that he would wish to do and he reasoned with his aunt that the prestige of the Abbey and it’s place in national life as the seat at which the Kings and Queens of England, etc, are crowned would convey an image of Agnes to the people as every bit a Queen consort as the late Queen Louise had been. Mary accepted this, knowing her nephew to be highly sensitive to any criticism of his relationship in the light of Princess Victoria’s letter, but this did not mean that she did not harbour reservations. “Far from appearing a way to confirm a successor”, she wrote to her brother, “I fear it may invite comparisons to be drawn in an unfavourable way – might the people not ask why the new Queen was worthy of a wedding in the Abbey yet the late and much loved Queen was not?”

By this time, the first stories allowed to mention Princess Agnes of Anhalt-Dessau beyond the Court Circular were being printed in English newspapers. The very first mention came in the Illustrated London News and for many, this would have been their first glimpse of their future Queen consort too. Founded in 1842, Illustrated London became immediately popular with the public despite the relatively expensive price (it sold for sixpence) when compared to other periodicals because it always contained around 30 wood engravings which could be cut out and kept providing cheap artwork to the masses. Scrap-booking became a popular hobby with highly decorative volumes devoted to different themes such as well-known West End actors, scenes from capital cities around the world or – always the most popular – European royalty. It was only natural therefore that Illustrated London would include a portrait of Princess Agnes and a biography of her but this went further than the usual profile of an eligible princess offered by Illustrated London. On this occasion, special mention was given to the fact that the magazine could exclusively reveal (though plenty of other publications were given the same information by the Palace to report) that Agnes had twice been received by His Majesty the King in the last year – firstly at a party given by Prince Frederick of Prussia at Burg Rheinstein and then again in Hanover during the celebrations for the investiture of the new Viceroy as Princess Agnes was on a tour of Germany with her aunt, the Dowager Princess of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt. Nothing more was said of the interaction between the King and the Princess beyond this but Illustrated London (and other English newspapers, magazines etc) all faithfully reported that Agnes was “a great beauty, renowned in the courts of Europe as a most charming and elegant young woman of many attractive qualities”. The News of the World falsely reported that the King of France considered her as a bride for his son the Duke of Aumale but “conceded defeat when the Princess absolutely refused to embrace the Catholic religion, so committed is she to the practise of her Christian faith in the Lutheran tradition”.

However, this glowing testimonials to Princess Agnes’ beauty, personality and other highly-sought after virtues in a bride may not have taken the public’s interest quite as much as the Palace had hoped. The only topic of conversation on people’s minds at this time was the fallout from the general election and what it could mean for the future, talk of the Great Decline having successfully instilled a widespread sense of panic in the country that the forthcoming winter would be an exceptionally difficult one. The election result did little to assuage people’s fears. Though a Whig victory might otherwise have calmed such anxieties, the newspapers were keen to point out that the Whig government would be shackled to other groups in the Commons to push through it’s reforming agenda. “By banding together”, one newspaper told it’s readers, “The Tories and the Unionists may plunge Britain into a permanent state of impasse until the new administration must concede it cannot govern and Britain shall no doubt then find itself with the old guard restored to positions which the people of this country so roundly decided they were no longer fit to occupy”. Predictions were made that Lord Melbury would have to resign before Christmas and that the King would then invite Sir James Graham to return to office in the hopes that his support in the Commons would be enough to provide the United Kingdom with a stable government. But in some quarters, the first stirrings of something more serious were emerging.

The diarist Charles Greville, who so enthusiastically recorded the “new royalism” of the age for posterity in his journal makes mention of “the rumblings of rumour” that the King had absolutely no intention of inviting Sir James to serve as Prime Minister again if the Whig government collapsed. Greville writes “This is no great surprise to me for it is well known to the political class that His Majesty has no great fondness for Graham”. Yet he follows this with an observation that many in high society had begun to talk openly about – that “the King should not abandon a friend and undoubtedly Lord Melbury is one of the dearest friends he has”. The relationship between George V and Melbury had previously caused unpleasantness in government circles and had inspired tension behind the closed doors of Buckingham Palace and Downing Street, yet this was the first time people openly began to discuss the fact that the King may find it difficult to be politically impartial in the future because of his friendship with Lord Melbury. Greville even comments on the first audience between the two after the election; “Where the King was said to give Melbury a glass of champagne and toasted his success”. Melbury later denied this ever happened and said that the King, almost a tea totaller, “would never have offered sherry at 10am, let alone a glass of champagne – indeed, I do not recall partaking of anything stronger than a glass of milk in His Majesty’s company”. However, the narrative was being set in the mind of those closely connected to the establishment. There were even hushed whispers that Melbury had encouraged the King to take an active role in diplomatic matters, for which he had a great interest, and that now he may want to see the favour returned if things became difficult for the new Whig administration.


Lord Melbury.

Regardless of the prospects ahead, Lord Melbury was officially invited to form a government on the morning of the 27th of October 1844 after Sir James Graham had been given a final audience with the King in which to offer his resignation. Graham later wrote “His Majesty was most kind and wished me very well for the future and though I deeply regretted that I should be leaving the office I so enjoyed, I was confident that the business of government would continue to be overseen by a Sovereign so dedicated and so committed to the prosperity of this country which for so long has been privileged to have in that role an individual as devoted as King George V”. By contrast, Lord Melbury (who wrote no memoir of his time in office) describes his first audience with the King as Prime Minister in a letter to his brother John Fox-Strangways as “a humbling experience made all the more memorable by His Majesty’s generosity who gave me luncheon when our official business was at it’s close and who said how happy he was that we should no longer have to ration our meetings so as to avoid scorn from the dreaded Graham!”. But Melbury’s letter also contains a reference to “discussions over new appointments to the Household” which suggest that the audience (and perhaps the subsequent luncheon) was not entirely as sympatico as the bulk of his letter suggests. Towards the end of his letter to his brother, Melbury notes that there was “some hesitation on new appointments to the Household - G.W not a popular suggestion for Comptroller so some work to be done there”.

G.W refers to Major General Lord George William Russell, the second son of the 6th Duke of Bedford and brother to Lord John Russell, now awaiting his own high office in Cabinet. G.W Russell was not overtly political though he had sat in parliament for some time as the Whig MP for Bedford. He left the Commons in 1831 and entered the diplomatic service with appointments to the British Embassies or Consulates in Lisbon, Württemberg and Berlin, the latter earning him the honour of becoming a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath and a promotion to the rank of Major-General [2]. On paper, he was an ideal fit for the post of Comptroller of the Royal Household but there was one small problem; whilst the King did not dislike Russell, he very much liked the outgoing Comptroller, Benjamin Disraeli. The King had always respected and upheld the principle that the government of the day should choose officers in the Royal Household yet he had become enormously fond of Disraeli and valued his service. “It seems a shame that someone so capable and so good at his task should have to make way for a totally untested (and dare I say, unremarkable) successor simply because the man falls on the wrong side of the House”, the King wrote to his sister Maria Georgievna, “I do not intend to oppose Foxy on this but I really do question the common sense of this arrangement, especially when things are so uncertain”.

Whilst he did not say it outright, it must have crossed the King’s mind that there was a distinct possibility that if the Whig government collapsed, Disraeli could find himself back in post within weeks. And what did that really say about the King's confidence in his friend Lord Melbury’s ability to govern the United Kingdom?


[1] As in the OTL, the character of William III remains unchanged so that I can explore Victoria’s life with a very different husband than she had in Prince Albert.

For those keeping up to date with such things, I'll include the list of the Melbury Ministry with our next instalment as it focuses more on the politics we're going into and some of the players need a more in depth introduction than I could add in here.

Many thanks for reading!
The combination of Victoria and Willem III is such a massive disaster that I am actually amazed the Netherlands doesn't go full republic mode in the end. Then again clearly the House of Oranje-Nassau has an actual line of succession this time around, which is so much more than real life
But Victoria and tact really do no go hand in hand and also trust Victoria to use her children more like aids then children
Jesus... the letter was a 1000 times worse than i could have ever predicted!
But by no means the worst of her!
Victoria-either OTL or ATL-was not particularly noted for tact...
Absolutely! This was actually a fun letter to compose as I worked from a selection of Victoria's real letters published in Dearest Child: Letters between Queen Victoria and The Princess Royal to try and get some of her phrasing and actually, the letter I put together for our Victoria is pretty tame compared to some of the things she wrote to her family members in the OTL! Even her comments on her favourite child, Prince Leopold, are quite awful:

"Leopold is the ugliest of all my children. I think he is uglier than he ever was"

"Leopold is the ugliest and least pleasing of the whole family"

"Leopold walks shockingly and is dreadfully awkward. He holds himself as badly as ever and his manners are despairing, as well as his speech, which is dreadful. It is so provoking as he learns so well and reads quite fluently; but his French is more like Chinese than anything else; poor child, he is really very unfortunate"

And as for tact, she actually wrote and sent this to her eldest daughter without a thought as to how it might be received:

"I never cared for you near as much as you seem to about the baby; I care much more for the younger ones - poor Leopold perhaps excepted"


But Victoria and tact really do no go hand in hand and also trust Victoria to use her children more like aids then children
I love this observation because it feeds into another of Victoria's traits I wanted to bring out - that because she was never particularly maternal, she came to believe that the only value in her children was in what they could do for her. The most famous example is Princess Beatrice who was only allowed to marry Battenberg after he gave a solemn promise to the Queen that he would not take Baby away to live in Germany and that instead, they'd live as much as possible in Victoria's pocket. Her reasoning was that she simply couldn't manage without Beatrice whom she regarded to be "the very best secretary I have ever had". But that was all Beatrice was - a useful assistant. It's really quite sad and little wonder that very few of Victoria's children had any real affection for her.

That said, we know Victoria was totally capable of rewriting her relationships with her family. Even though she thought him ugly and ill-mannered, Leopold became her favourite when he became unwell and after he died, the idea that she ever criticised him for anything was totally forgotten and he became the perfect child. Much like Princess Alice whom Victoria loved to chastise and criticise - the moment she went to her eternal reward? Alice was an angel who never caused Victoria the slightest worry.

Also worth noting here the use of 'poor' which I employ a lot in this timeline when royalty speaks to or about royalty. I don't know if this began with Victoria or is a much older thing but in The Quest for Queen Mary, James Pope-Hennessy explains that royalty use the word 'poor' in quite a confusing way. It never actually means reduced financial circumstances but it can either mean "they've had a bad time" or "I don't like them". "Dear" could mean "I like you" or "I think you are wrong" whilst everything was emphasised with the use of "so", "very" or both. Houses were always little or small, even when referring to grand palaces or stately homes. Nicknames were always used and a curious by-product of that is that even Queen Victoria frequently gets titles wrong in both her letters and journals.

Sir James’s reign is over. Lord Melbury has come a long way from his spat with the King several years earlier.
Another great chapter
Thankyou so much! I've really enjoyed creating Lord Melbury's rise to power as I wanted to get away from the big hitters of the day so that the future of the timeline isn't dominated by the same old politicians. Though it must be said, it's not the last we've seen of Sir James. ;)
latter earning him the honour of becoming a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath and a promotion to the rank of Major-General [2].
I think there's an absent footnote here.

Whilst he did not say it outright, it must have crossed the King’s mind that there was a distinct possibility that if the Whig government collapsed, Disraeli could find himself back in post within weeks. And what did that really say about the King's confidence in his friend Lord Melbury’s ability to govern the United Kingdom?
I wonder if it was ever considered to have a 50:50 split in the political membership of the royal household?
I think there's an absent footnote here.

I wonder if it was ever considered to have a 50:50 split in the political membership of the royal household?
Oh you're quite right! My apologies. The footnote was only to point out that G.W was in fact the first British Ambassador to Germany but I will be sure to edit and add that into the post.

As to the 50:50 split, that's a fascinating idea and eminently sensible. I can't find any mention of that ever being proposed, though I do know that exceptions were made for the widows of opposition politicians if they had served for some time as ladies of the bedchamber. But I shall keep researching this because it might be an interesting theme to pursue for TTL so thank you for the idea!