Crown Imperial: An Alt British Monarchy

GV: Part Four, Chapter Five: Looking Away


Monthly Donor
King George V

Part Four, Chapter Five: Looking Away

For Queen Agnes, her first royal tour in her new role did not exactly get off to the joyous start she might have wished. It had been decided that Their Majesties should travel via train from the newly opened ECR terminus at Shoreditch, which in 1845 could take passengers as far as Norwich via the Eastern Counties Railway which had begun laying new lines and erecting new stations as early as 1839. The King and Queen arrived early but were subjected to a long delay as their personal carriage would not couple. As George V became increasingly ill tempered, the Queen complained that sitting in the stationary carriage in the high August temperatures was making her feel unwell. Eventually the setback was overcome and the train departed amid crowds of cheering spectators as the royal party set off for Colchester, the first stop on their long journey ahead. From there, the King and Queen climbed into a carriage to take them to Harwich where the royal yacht, the Royal Sovereign, awaited them. But though the Sovereign had been furnished with items from Hanover House and Buckingham Palace to give the vessel a homely feel, Her Majesty (who before now had prided herself on being quite a stalwart sailor) could not enjoy these comforts as she was almost immediately gripped by terrible seasickness.

For twelve hours, Agnes was confined to her modest suite on board, clutching desperately at the Duchess of Grafton who kept the Queen well supplied with a fiery mixture of ginger, vinegar and lemon barley which Dr Alison had proscribed for all passengers regardless of whether they were affected by the rocking of the Sovereign or not. George V refused to take the remedy and was highly amused when the Royal Physician himself was found to have locked himself away in his cabin, losing his special remedy faster than he could actually drink it. When the Sovereign finally arrived at Bremerhaven, the Earl and Countess of Armagh waited patiently to welcome the royal couple, the latter being somewhat concerned that “the poor little Queen looked so very exhausted that I begged her to rest aboard for a time before we continued to Geestermünde but she insisted we go on and within an hour or a little thereover, she seemed quite well recovered from her ordeal”.


The Royal Sovereign

Before Their Majesties could progress to Herrenhausen, they had been asked to make a brief stop at the neighbouring village of Geeste to the north of the seaport at Bremerhaven. In 1827, the Kingdom of Hanover had sold land to the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen to build a new port that would serve as an entry point to northern Germany, yet very quickly the Hanoverian government regretted their decision. Geeste was selected as the site of a rival seaport and with the plans agreed and the funds secured, King George V and Queen Agnes were asked to lay a foundation stone at the proposed site of the new harbour. Geeste was only home to around 50 people at this time and so George’s subjects from the surrounding villages and towns were corralled together to provide a welcome committee. The problem was that the moment the King and Queen stepped off the Sovereign onto dry land, the heavens opened and those who had made the long journey to see the royal couple had to make do with a fleeting wave from a closed carriage. The foundation stone laying at Geeste was decided to have taken place by virtue of the fact that the King and Queen had at least been in proximity to the site – though a plaque today still maintains that the stone itself was settled “by gracious consent of Their Majesties the King and Queen” even though neither ever stepped foot in Geeste in 1845 – or in the future, come to that.

By the time the King and Queen arrived at Herrenhausen, it was late evening, and both were exhausted. They took a light informal supper with the Armaghs and then retired to bed. The following day there was to be a formal welcome parade in the gardens to mark the start of Hanover Week with the Guelph Day celebrations. On this particular Guelph Day, it was announced from Herrenhausen that morning that the Queen and the Prince of Wales had been admitted to the Royal Guelphic Order in the ranks of Dame Grand Cross and Knight Grand Cross respectively – the latter being given a small miniature version of the insignia which was placed over his sailor’s suit. But when the royal party gathered outside Herrenhausen for the celebrations, the King could not help but noticed that the crowds were far smaller than in previous years. When the assembled members of the order began the procession to the Guelph Chapel in their blue and white robes with plumed hats, the spectators who had turned out dutifully cheered and applauded but their limited number perturbed the King. Throughout the service, he was seen to be distracted, even a little disinterested, and eventually he asked the Earl of Armagh why so few people had turned out to see him – and their new Queen consort. Armagh had waited for this opportunity and after luncheon that day, the King and the Viceroy retreated to the library to discuss a situation which (until now) had been kept from George V by the German Chancellery in London.

1845 was a year of great division in the Kingdom of Hanover. There had long been disagreements between conservatives and liberals on constitutional reform and for almost 30 years, the two factions had held fast to their respective positions. The Conservatives believed in a limited role for the Landtag, that monarchic principle was to be emphasised in all offices of state and that ministers of the Crown should control the executive by virtue of the fact that they were appointed by the Sovereign. They accepted that the constitution should guarantee basic individual rights but that this should be restricted to avoid the established structure of Hanoverian society breaking down at a time when liberal ideals were taking hold beyond Hanover’s borders. They held firm to the idea of a Hanover within but without the German sphere, that is to say that Hanover’s identity was unique among the German states by virtue of the personal union that existed between the Crowns of Great Britain and Hanover. The conservatives opposed Prussian dominance of the German states through the Zollverein and to that end, they had formed the Steuerverein as a rival customs union with the Duchy of Brunswick, the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg and the Principality of Schaumburg-Lippe. By 1845, the conservatives were facing growing pressure to accept that the Steuerverein was a busted flush, that the constitution needed widescale reform and that many in Hanover wanted at least some of the more popular liberal ideals of the day implemented through legislation in the Landtag. One such example was the Viceroyalty Act of 1845, introduced by Emil Tebbel.

Tebbel was a leading light in the Liberal faction though he was (by modern standards) a moderate. Like most liberals in Hanover at this time, he believed that the Landtag must be afforded the same authority as the House of Commons in England, that the feudal role of the aristocracy in Hanover must be restricted and that monarchic principle should exist only within a constitutional framework. His liberal colleagues believed that Hanover should have a new constitution which imposed a series of new checks and balances on who could, and who could not exercise power, how ministers should be appointed and even how long they could serve in office. The liberals did not object to the idea of Hanover having a unique identity among the German states, indeed they wanted the personal union to continue for as long as it was beneficial. Yet it could not be denied that the Steuerverein had been terminally weakened when Brunswick defected to the Zollverein in 1841. The liberals saw the Zollverein as a necessary evil and argued that the agricultural economy of Hanover was being deliberately held back by the conservative devotion to a rival customs union that had failed to bear fruit. In short, they claimed that the Steuerverein was making Hanoverians poorer and that though they strongly objected to Prussian dominance in the German states, the Steuerverein was a prime example of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. But it was the Viceroyalty Act which redrew these carefully carved out positions and both conservatives and liberals now declared a new priority; to settle the matter of constitutional reform once and for all. For the conservatives, this meant opposing reform to the point of repealing the 1830s amendments to the Hanoverian constitution they did not like, thus protecting the status quo. For the liberals, the only course of action they could accept was the introduction of a new constitution entirely – one which could only be repealed in part or in full by a wholly democratic Landtag which had full legislative authority.


Emil Tebbel, photographed in 1885.

Emil Tebbel knew that his proposed bill would be struck down at the knees by the Conservatives but he also knew that he had prompted the government into action. They were simply waiting for their own preferred candidate in George zu Münster to be appointed in London so that they could embark on their new course. Tebbel used this delay to his advantage and in mid 1845 he met with the so-called Göttingen Seven (Wilhelm Albrecht, Wilhelm Weber, Friedrich Christian Dahlmann, Georg Gottfried Gervinus, Heinrich Ewald and Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm) to codify their proposed reforms into one document that he believed should serve as the foundation of a new constitution for Hanover. On the 30th of July 1845, shortly before King George V and Queen Agnes arrived in the Kingdom for Hanover Week, Emil Tebbel began to circulate some of these writings ahead of a public meeting where he would attempt to rally the people to the liberal cause. Predictably, the government heard of this and sent guards to the proposed site of the meeting in a beer hall in List and prevented the public from gathering. Tebbel had been forewarned and didn’t make the journey to List after all. Had he done so, he would most likely have been arrested. This incident had set tongues wagging in Hanover but it had also set the course for an inevitable clash. People became wary of assembling in public and thus, even the colourful pageant at Herrenhausen could not draw them out onto the streets.

George V was familiar with Tebbel and his supporters by virtue of the Viceroyalty Act but as we have seen, Count von Ompteda kept the harsh reality of the situation from the King. The Earl of Armagh as Viceroy was in a position (and some might argue had an obligation) to inform the King as to just how tense things had become in Hanover and yet the Prince opted to wait until he was face to face with his cousin to approach the subject. This he did in the library of Herrenhausen on that August day in 1845. Armagh explained that as Viceroy, he had no objection to the principles of the Viceroyalty Act but that he naturally had to bend to the will of the government. He could express no political opinion in public because he represented the Crown and like the Crown, was expected to be impartial. Yet he could see the writing on the wall and he feared that if the conservatives pressed ahead with their goals to repeal parts of the constitution and to silence Tebbel and his supporters, the possibility of civil unrest in Hanover was not only a likely one but almost unavoidable. George listened to Armagh’s assessment of the situation, interrupting only to ask for a little more background on the key figures at play. When Armagh concluded, the King nodded and fell silent, mulling over the situation in his head.

“I accept all you say”, he said quietly, “But why in God’s name did Ompteda tell me nothing of this?”

“Because he is the catalyst”, Armagh replied gravely, “Or rather, his recommendation for his successor shall be. You see Georgie, if he appoints Münster, the Conservatives will feel emboldened, and they shall carry out their proposed agenda. Yet if he appoints his nephew, they shall feel a victory has been handed to the liberals”.

“But Ompteda’s nephew is no liberal?”

“No but he opposes the repeal of the clauses in the constitution the Conservatives do not like”, Armagh explained, “And in that event, he should appeal to me as Viceroy to intervene. Or at the very least, he shall exercise his own authority to recommend that certain pro-repeal ministers be replaced…”

“I see”, the King sighed, “One way or another, it comes to my door…”

Here we may pause a moment to consider George V’s personal politics [1]. In Great Britain, the monarchy is required to be politically impartial and to show no preference to one side or the other but that does not mean that monarchs have not privately indicated a view or that we cannot possibly know their political leanings. Indeed, some of George V’s more immediate predecessors did not shy away from aligning themselves with Whigs or Tories and as we have seen, some members of George’s own family played a prominent public role in political debates of the day as members of the House of Lords. But George V’s personal politics are harder to pin down than say, those of the Duke of Clarence or the Duke of Cumberland. It would be easy in a broad overview to place George V as a moderate leaning liberal but in doing so, we only see half the story. And so instead we must look at certain issues of the day on which we know the King did take a position, at least privately.

For example, in 1845 around the same time that George V left England for Hanover, Frederick Douglass was arriving in London from the United States to lecture in churches and chapels [2]. The King never met Douglass but from William Gladstone’s journals we know that George V had heard of him, most likely via the British newspapers which offered biographies of Douglass before his arrival. According to Gladstone, George referred to “that man Douglass” as “a curious fellow” and expressed a concern that he would not “cause too much trouble among the working classes”. Yet Gladstone also tells us that when the subject of Douglass’ background as a slave in Maryland was discussed, the King “became very enthusiastic on the matter and said that he could not understand why those who called themselves Christians could ever sanction something so barbarous and evil”. We cannot know if these were the precise words used by George V but in 1850, the King came face to face with the results of slavery in his own Palace and it is from this incident that we may look further into George’s own views on the matter.

In 1848, Captain Frederick Forbes travelled to West Africa on a British diplomatic mission where he met King Ghezo of Dahomey with a view to ending his country’s role in the Atlantic slave trade. Among the gifts the King gave Forbes was a seven year old girl called Aina whom Forbes estimated had been enslaved from the Oyo Empire by King Ghezo some two years earlier. In Forbes’ assessment, he wrote of Aina as being a girl of high birth as had she been captured in the usual way, she would most likely have been sold to European slave traders. This view was compounded when King Ghezo stated that he wished Aina to be presented to King George V as a “gift”. Though reluctant, Forbes knew that if Aina stayed in Dahomey she might be a victim of human sacrifice as high born slaves were often offered in this way as part of Dahomey’s annual religious ceremonies. As a result, Forbes took Aina back with him to England as King Ghezo demanded. He renamed her Sara Forbes Bonetta (after himself and his ship the HMS Bonetta) and thereupon took her to Buckingham Palace to present her to the King. [3]

George V was given advance notice of this presentation by Charlie Phipps and it is from Phipps’ journal that we learn not only of George’s immediate reaction but perhaps his wider views on slavery. Forbes intended to introduce Aina as “Princess Sara”, certain as he was that she was high born. But this did not stop him from explaining that she was a “gift” for the King and that in Dahomey, she had the status of a slave. “His Majesty was most animated”, Phipps writes, “He is aggrieved that Forbes should have taken the girl in the first place and stressed to me that he would not countenance the idea of her being brought to court”. But George seems to have relented when Aina’s status was mentioned. Thereafter, he agreed that she might be presented only if she was accorded the same dignity as would be offered to any other visiting royal from another country. To that end, the King put one of the junior royal landaus at her disposal and insisted that she be announced to him as “Her Royal Highness Princess Sara of Yoruba” [4]. This did not please certain members of the court who found themselves obliged to bow or curtsey to a person of colour and yet the King treated Aina as he would a Princess of Prussia or Denmark. She sat beside him at dinner, she joined the Queen and her ladies for tea and after a visit of two days, George called Phipps to his study to discuss what should be done for Aina’s future. After all, she certainly could not return to Dahomey.


Aina or Princess Sara.

Phipps proposed that Aina be fostered by a suitable family drawn from the various missionary societies which existed in London at this time. He further proposed that she might return to Africa with one of those societies with a sum of money put in trust for her so that she might have the best start in life. The King thought this outrageous as he believed any other European princess in a similar position would never be adopted into the middle classes, let alone packed off with the missions. So it was that the King made provision for Aina to be allowed to live on a small cottage on the Windsor estate with a governess employed from the London City Mission. She would be privately educated and even allowed to come to court on occasion so that the King could follow her progress, but this was arranged on the understanding that when she turned 15 years old, Aina might be allowed to decide for herself where she might wish to live – whether that be in England or back in Africa. Phipps remarked to the King that he thought this a very kind and generous gesture and George’s reply perhaps indicates far more than his attitude to Aina personally; “She has her own dignity”, the King said, “I shall not take that away because she has a black face. Any man who does such a thing has no right to call himself a Christian – or indeed, a gentleman”. [5]

This incident suggests that the King may have held quite liberal views and that he may have had sympathy with the positions taken by politicians of the day such as William Gladstone. And yet, we also have evidence that he could be quite conservative and curiously, this seemed to make itself known in his relations with his “other” Kingdoms, namely Hanover but also when it came to Ireland. Up until now, George V had professed no real interest in Ireland. Whilst he followed his father’s example in making a tour of Scotland (indeed, he adopted Scotland as a favourite holiday destination as the years went by), he did not do as George IV had in the 1820s and made no plans for a similar trip to Ireland. It is possible that the King had become aware by 1845 that his frequent foreign trips were not popular or that they should be curtailed at the very least to a few weeks a year. It is also possible that because of this, George felt he had a choice to make and in doing so, he chose to look toward Hanover rather than Ireland [6]. But in 1845 during his visit to Hanover, George V would come face to face with an issue that would force him to think more about Ireland than he ever had before and ironically, it began in the fields of his German Kingdom.

In 1844, Benjamin Disraeli described Ireland as having “a starving population, an absentee aristocracy, an alien established Protestant church, and in addition, the weakest executive in the world”. Successive British governments had failed to grapple with the difficulties Disraeli described but by 1845, the culmination of over 40 years of poor decisions in London was making itself widely felt across Ireland with the vast majority of families living under extreme deprivation. Most lived in slum conditions in wooden cabins for which they had to pay extortionate rents to the (as Disraeli had it) absentee landlords and for many, the only sustenance they could count on was the meagre crop they were allowed to grow for themselves. This crop consisted almost entirely of potatoes as these were the only crop which could adequately feed a family in the limited quantity an Irish tenant farmer could grow. This monoculture was adopted by two thirds of the population which in 1841 stood at just over eight million and was even known as the “potato wage” among the Irish workforce. In 1845, this dependency on one crop was to lead to mass starvation and a social crisis that would have a major impact on Ireland’s future and George V’s attitude towards the country he would come to describe as “that bitter place”.

At the same time Disraeli wrote of Ireland’s woes, in the Eastern United States farmers were battling against a disease which had blighted their own potato crop for almost two years. By 1845, that same disease was making itself known to farmers in Ireland but also in Holland, Belgium, France – and Hanover. Reference was made to this in George’s meetings with the Privy Council of Hanover but it was seen to be an inconvenience, something which would apply pressure to those who grew potato crops but who had other alternative sources of food and income from other crops or livestock. Described at the time as “cholera in potatoes”, the worst effects of potato blight would inevitably be felt in Ireland and yet the severity of the disaster was yet to wreak it’s worst there and early reports in England of “potato cholera” took very much the same view as Hanoverian politicians – that it was just another of those bothersome poor yields which would raise prices for a time. Certainly this is how George V saw it too and so when news was passed to him as he prepared to leave Hanover that the situation in Ireland was deteriorating due to this mystery potato shortage, he uttered a phrase which has been misconstrued over the centuries to imply that he simply didn’t care. Perhaps because he was so invested in the political difficulties in Hanover, perhaps because his focus was on his increased diplomatic role in Russia, George read the report from the Foreign Office and in a letter sent to Lord Melbury, remarked; “There is always a tendency to exaggerate in Irish news and Morpeth reassures me that the population may find other food sources in cabbages or turnips”. Over time, this has invariably been misquoted as the King saying (in true Marie Antoinette fashion) “The Irish exaggerate and should eat cabbages instead”.

Secure in the faith that the British government was observing the situation in Ireland carefully, the King maintained his focus on Hanover. He promised the Earl of Armagh that he would meet with Ompteda the moment he returned to London and that he would send further instruction once those talks had been concluded. But it appears that the moderate, liberal George we have seen at work concerning other issues was far more conservative in his outlook toward Hanover. Indeed, he told Armagh that he would insist Ompteda resign and appoint George zu Münster as his successor. Furthermore, the King implored Armagh to do his best to resist being seen in the company of Tebbel or his more prominent supporters and that if Tebbel was arrested at any time, Armagh should “let this alone to stand as a matter for the government and not the Crown”. In a letter to the Duke of Cambridge, the Earl of Armagh writes “I have agreed to this for I feel it the best course of action but I do not seem to have impressed on the King the depth of public feeling in this regard, neither does His Majesty seem to understand or appreciate that any move to silence Tebbel shall only serve to cause yet more public outrage”. The Duke of Cambridge wrote back to his nephew that he would meet with the King at the first opportunity to “explain the situation in more detail” but apologised that this could not be sooner “for Georgie does not return to us from Russia for a month yet and we shall be in Florence until November as Augusta complains bitterly about the English climate which is far inferior to that which we enjoyed in Hanover”.

From the archives of Lord Morpeth, we know that Ireland was discussed once more before the King arrived in Russia, albeit very briefly during George V’s stopover in Rostock as a guest of the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Yet Morpeth notes only that the King “was informed on the situation in Ireland” and we cannot know just how much detail was given to him. If he was in possession of all the facts, chiefly that by September 1845, one third of Ireland’s potato crop had succumbed to blight, we have no mention of his reaction. Instead, Morpeth’s papers show that the King was entirely focused on Russia and what outcome he might reasonably expect to achieve in his meetings with the Tsar. This was undoubtedly important for George V's visit to Russia was not purely a social, family visit. Yet in years to come, the King would be tarnished by the (admittedly very unfair) characterisation of him as being totally apathetic to the outbreak of the Great Famine in Ireland. “Whilst his people in Ireland starve”, a Repeal Association MP in the House of Commons said at a public meeting, “His Majesty sips champagne and dines on caviar in the palaces of Europe…where is his concern? For it cannot be seen, felt or appreciated in Ireland”.


[1] I know some readers had a few questions on George’s politics, particularly where slavery was concerned and this seemed the best place to offer a little insight.

[2] As he did in the OTL.

[3] Again, as in the OTL. The only difference here is the way Aina is treated when she arrives. Queen Victoria was generous to her but a little more patronising. She adopted her as a goddaughter, renamed her Sally and then when the novelty wore off she passed “Sally” to a missionary family who took her back to Africa. When Aina returned to England, Victoria renewed her interest and even invited her to Princess Alice’s wedding – which she attended. Thereafter Victoria arranged a marriage for her and sent her off to Portugal. Here, George V is a little more respectful of Aina’s personal autonomy which I feel he would do when viewed through the prism that she was said to have royal rank – and we have a precedent here in some ways in how non-white foreign royalty was received about this time.

[4] Though incorrect, this is how many British newspapers referred to Aina.

[5] I believe this would be George’s view on slavery, viewed through the prism of his religious belief. It isn’t exactly a progressive view and we’ll explore this theme again later on in this timeline but certainly there’s a precedent for this attitude in the Royal Family. I’ve borrowed the language used here from a comment made by Edward VII whilst he was Prince of Wales. He was visiting India when he heard some of the soldiers in his bodyguard made racist remarks. Bertie dismissed them and told his equerry “Every man has the right to dignity and respect, no matter how brown his face is or what his religion might be”. Not exactly very PC language but the sentiment seemed one our George V might share and voice in a similar way.

[6] I feel if George had a choice between visiting Hanover or Ireland…it’s obvious which he’d choose, rightly or wrongly.

Yay for Lottie! I'm glad Russia is suiting her, even if she doesn't have the easiest relationship with her mother-in-law.

Of course she'd create the Russian equivalent of the Royal walkabout - good on her!

Thank you for that chapter, it was a breath of fresh air after all the political machinations in the previous chapters l, although I am watching the Hanover situation with bated breath, and am intrigued by the family feud you hinted at with Princess Mary and the jewels.

Looking forward to more, as always!
Many apologies @FalconHonour, I realised I hadn't replied to your very kind comments on the last installment! I'm so glad you enjoyed it and we'll soon get into "that" royal jewels row which I hope people will enjoy!
Will George bring one of his dogs with him to Russia?
Probably not at this time, though the royal menagerie was carted around England, even Queen Alexandra as Princess of Wales (who was mad for lap dogs) didn't travel with her pets. But maybe we can have him acquire a new pup in a gift maybe? I think that might be a sweet idea.
I am loving this story (congratulations on getting runner-up on this year's Turtledove!) I wanted to let you know that

The Epilogue to Book 1 is missing its threadmark.
Thank you so much! I'm so glad you're enjoying the TL and thankyou too for your very kind comment on the Turtledoves. I want to thank everybody who voted for TTL, I'm thrilled to know it's still being very well received!
I totally need to catch up on this 😩
I'm trying desperately to provide some kind of catch up for new readers/readers trying to dive back in but work has been a little insane of late and as such the free time I have for Crown Imperial has to be focused on new updates. But I will try to put something together when I can. Thankyou for your support for the timeline, it's always much appreciated!

I've almost finished the next two updates but they need a little polishing which I'm working on now. Hopefully I can have these with you before the weekend is out!
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Her Majesty (who before now had prided herself on being quite a stalwart sailor) could not enjoy these comforts as she was almost immediately gripped by terrible seasickness.
She's pregnant, isn't she??? 🧐🧐
I accept all you say”, he said quietly, “But why in God’s name did Ompteda tell me nothing of this?"
Well done, George, that's a very reasonable response. Now to see whether you can make anything of it.

I also very much appreciate George's treatment of Aina. It really was very much the best he could do under the circumstances.
"I do not seem to have impressed on the King the depth of public feeling in this regard, neither does His Majesty seem to understand or appreciate that any move to silence Tebbel shall only serve to cause yet more public outrage”.
Oh dear. Perhaps I overestimated George's capabilities a bit. This and the Irish Comment are going to come back to bite him, aren't they?
I believe it was mentioned earlier that Agnes' three top charitable causes are poor children, nursing, and something else we don't yet know. It's possible the third one ends up being famine relief (which could have butterflies in India).

Incidentally, if Agnes' plans for nursing work out, it could massively improve healthcare for the British armed forces, much like Florence Nightingale's actions did OTL.
Georgie's ideas on racism and slavery are interesting and with that touch of religiosity,
his impressions of his problems in Hanover ( perhaps these questions, if they become too tense, can be brought to the federal assembly or the bundesversammlung )
are also very well done even if underestimating Ireland I'm afraid it will backfire (but all in all his idol is his great-great-grandfather, so the focus is on Germany it's normal)
by the way nice chapter
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Very good chapter
I’m interested to see how the Hanover conflict turns out. I’m also hoping that the Russia visit goes off without a hitch.
Does George bring his kids with him to Russia?
Amazing chapter as always! Aina's story has me wondering though, about what might happen to Prince Alemayehu, if he ends up with the British ITTL.


Monthly Donor
Oh dear. Perhaps I overestimated George's capabilities a bit. This and the Irish Comment are going to come back to bite him, aren't they?
I think it would be natural for George, who has the desire but not the experience yet, to make a few unwise comments or decisions when it comes to foreign policy. Rome wasn't built in a day and all that. But what's important is that he learns from his early mistakes and puts that right as we move into the future - where he really can show just how capable he is.
Agnes might be of significance here, what with her interest in charity, and the fact that she's been saving up her allowance for her nursing project.
Spot on!
I believe it was mentioned earlier that Agnes' three top charitable causes are poor children, nursing, and something else we don't yet know. It's possible the third one ends up being famine relief (which could have butterflies in India).

Incidentally, if Agnes' plans for nursing work out, it could massively improve healthcare for the British armed forces, much like Florence Nightingale's actions did OTL.
Yes to both of these, Agnes will certainly have a role to play here and going forward when it comes to healthcare for the Armed Forces.
Georgie's ideas on racism and slavery are interesting and with that touch of religiosity,
his impressions of his problems in Hanover ( perhaps these questions, if they become too tense, can be brought to the federal assembly or the bundesversammlung )
are also very well done even if underestimating Ireland I'm afraid it will backfire (but all in all his idol is his great-great-grandfather, so the focus is on Germany it's normal)
by the way nice chapter
Thankyou! And yes, well spotted, his connection to George II is very much directing his interests.
There is the famous incident of the dinner Bertie hosted for King Kalākaua of Hawaii. Some Duke or other asked indignantly why Kalākaua was seated next to Bertie at the head of the table, above him. "Because he's a King,that's why!"
I've always loved this quote, yet another reason why it's so sad that the OTL Edward VII is so poorly judged by history.
Very good chapter
I’m interested to see how the Hanover conflict turns out. I’m also hoping that the Russia visit goes off without a hitch.
Does George bring his kids with him to Russia?
Many thanks! William and Victoria are in Russia, Marie Louise however has stayed in Leipzig as she's already missed quite a large chunk of the term at her school.
Amazing chapter as always! Aina's story has me wondering though, about what might happen to Prince Alemayehu, if he ends up with the British ITTL.
Thankyou so much!
GV: Part Four, Chapter Six: Brothers and Sisters


Monthly Donor
King George V

Part Four, Chapter Six: Brothers and Sisters

Schloss Ludwigslust, that most luxurious of royal retreats, stands in the town of the same name some 25 miles from the ducal capital of Schwerin which in 1845 played host to King George V and Queen Agnes as they made their way to St Petersburg. Known as the Versailles of the North, the 22 year old Grand Duke Frederick Francis II had inherited the property when he succeeded his father in 1842, and it was agreed that the King and Queen should stay with the Grand Duke at Ludwigslust for two days before moving on to Rostock ahead of their departure for Russia [1]. Frederick Francis was a second cousin to Queen Agnes and had often seen her at family gatherings in Berlin, and in Dessau, but much had changed since their last meeting. Not only was he now the reigning Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Agnes Queen consort of Great Britain, Ireland and Hanover but Frederick’s sister Luise was Empress consort of Brazil. This had improved Frederick’s standing among the royal courts of Europe for though he was not as wealthy as some of his counterparts, he was considered a most eligible bachelor. Yet Frederick Francis was in no rush to marry and at Ludwigslust, he surrounded himself with a coterie of pretty (though low-born) women just as his father had done before him. This puzzled Queen Agnes for she could not understand why Frederick Francis showed no inclination to settle down. In this aspect, the answer lay solely with the royal couple’s hostess for their visit; the Queen’s first cousin Princess Alexandrine of Prussia, now Dowager Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.

The Dowager Grand Duchess was by no means an aged widow in a bath chair, rather she was just 39 when her husband died. Because Grand Duke Paul Frederick had ignored her once the succession in Schwerin was secured, Alexandrine had become the equivalent of a modern-day helicopter parent. Her daughter’s marriage to the Emperor of Brazil earlier that year had given Alexandrine hope that her son might do better than a minor German princess for a bride and as a result, she came to affect a certain air of imperiousness which startled George V but which highly amused Queen Agnes. Though many had proposed their daughters as a match for her son, Alexandrine refused them all, determined to find the Grand Duke the very bride she could - though at this time, Frederick Francis was quite happy with things the way they were. Agnes and Alexandrine were left alone together when the Grand Duke took the King hunting, whereupon Alexandrine began to talk about her son and his illustrious future. This thoroughly bored Agnes who then excused herself on the grounds that she felt tired after her long journey from Hanover. But this was not entirely a fib. Lady Harriet Anson notes in her journal at this time that the Queen was still prone to bouts to sickness which “have not really relented all that much since we sailed from England”.

The Duchess of Grafton put this down to nerves “for we sail again in a few days and Her Majesty will no doubt be anxious that she will be unsettled by the sea once more” but the Dowager Grand Duchess would not hear of such excuses and instead called for her personal physician to examine the Queen. This caused unpleasantness when Dr Alison (who was included in the royal party) returned from accompanying the King on his hunting trip, especially when the Grand Duchess’ doctor suggested that “Her Majesty has not been in the receipt of a daily tonic which surely any physician would prescribe on such a long journey for one so young and inexperienced”. Extracting herself from the tension between the two physicians, Agnes insisted that she was simply tired and needed to rest ahead of the journey to Rostock and onto St Petersburg and by the time the King returned and the couple joined the Grand Duke and his mother for dinner, she felt quite rejuvenated “without the need for a tonic”, a fact she proudly confirmed to the Schwerin doctor in Dr Alison’s earshot which pleased him enormously.

Yet unfortunately this proved to be hubris on the Queen’s part. Though she was wary of returning to the Sovereign, when the royal party boarded at Rostock on August the 31st, accompanied to the harbour by the Grand Duke personally, Agnes once again was almost immediately beset by the same horrible sea sickness she had experienced when the royal yacht left Harwich. Dr Alison was called for, but he too was experiencing similar discomfort. Instead of examining the Queen, he simply sent her more of his “remedy”, a rare lapse in devotion from the royal physician but quite understandable given that Lord Beauclerk remembered this particular voyage and how “Alison pinned himself to the floor of his cabin, shaking like a wet dog so profuse was his sweating, holding fast to the frame of the bed in the hope that he might steady his stomach”. This is worthy of note because it meant that the Queen was not properly examined by her own doctor until well after she arrived in St Petersburg. Mercifully, the following morning brought radiant sunshine and calm seas and so smooth was their journey into the Baltic that even Her Majesty felt able to leave her cabin and go up on deck, noting in her journal that she had “marvelled at the sight of seals and porpoises off the coast of Gotland” as they passed. By their third day at sea, the Queen was so well recovered from her earlier bouts of sea-sickness that she played games with the Prince of Wales and Princess Victoria on deck, the most popular being skittles. The King meanwhile spent the duration locked away with Lord Morpeth and Lord Shelburne discussing the best way to make headway with the Tsar.

On the 5th of September 1845, the harbourside of St Petersburg was transformed into a spectacular carnival of colour as it prepared for the Sovereign’s arrival. Though the Tsar would not personally welcome King George V and Queen Agnes to his country at the port, almost every member of the extended Romanov family had been instructed to play a part in the welcome parade. Led by the Tsarevich, the Russian Imperial Family turned out in carriages processing toward the dock to the cheers of joyous crowds as every possible lamppost and balustrade was festooned with flags. The bands of the Preobrazhensky and Semyonovsky Regiments provided military marches whilst the remaining fanfare bands and corps of drums gathered en masse at the port itself to play God Save the King as George V and Queen Agnes disembarked from the Sovereign and made their way to a vast dais covered in floral arrangements and a huge relief of the Imperial Coat of Arms. Streamers in the Imperial colours were draped from the corners and at the precise moment the King and Queen stepped onto Russian soil, the cool summer air was shattered by the pealing of the bells from St Isaac’s Cathedral and a 21-gun salute fired from the Peter and Paul Fortress.


The Anichkov Palace.

In a touching gesture (which the Tsar later remonstrated him for), the Tsarevich allowed the Tsarevna to greet the King first, kissing her brother on each cheek whilst Alexander kissed the Queen’s hand. Maria Georgievna could hardly believe her eyes when her old school-room playmate and teenage confidant Lady Charteris (formerly Lady Anne Anson) emerged from the Sovereign too, the Tsarevna trying to contain her tears of joy as Lady Charteris curtsied and kissed her old friend. Then, flanked by the elder of the Tsarevich’s siblings and his uncle Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich, the King and Queen took their place on the dais whilst national anthems of Russia and the United Kingdom were played before a march past comprised of soldiers and sailors began to process past them. An hour later and the King and Queen were invited into an open carriage, joined by the Tsarevich and his wife, which took them along the Rhizsky Prospect across the Egyptian Bridge and along to the Anichkov Palace where the Tsar had agreed the royal couple might take a private, informal luncheon before making their way to the Winter Palace for tea with the Empress. George and Agnes would not be received by the Tsar personally until they appeared in the Pavilion Hall for the official exchange of gifts. Then they would move to the Small Throne Room where the Tsar would give a speech of welcome which would mark the start of the State Banquet to be held in St George’s Hall, the guests then invited to dance in the White Hall which had only recently been renovated since a fire in 1837. At midnight, the Imperial Family, the British Royal Party and 120 more esteemed guests would move to the Arabian Hall for a more intimate party and a buffet supper before a fireworks display closed the evening at 3am. It perhaps serves to remind us of the splendour in which the Tsar’s lived that this was simply the first of seven days of festivities to be hosted in honour of King George V and his wife. This was very much considered a standard welcome for a visiting Head of State and not in the least excessive, though it is somewhat remarkable that of all the celebrations staged for George V on his State Visit to Russia in 1845, the welcome banquet was later considered to be the simplest affair of all.

Whilst the Tsarevna had lobbied her father-in-law to allow her brother and sister-in-law to be accommodated at the Anichkov Palace so that she might spend more time with them, the Tsar (affectionate though he was towards her) refused to break with precedent. The King and Queen were to stay in the guest wing of the Winter Palace but as a concession, the Tsar agreed that his son and daughter-in-law might host their own gala dinner for George V and Queen Agnes at the Anichkov on the third day of the State Visit and that on the penultimate day, the Tsarevna might host her brother and his wife at the Yelagin Palace. But the Tsar did agree with the Tsarevna’s proposal that the Prince of Wales and Princess Victoria should be lodged at the Anichkov for the duration. Maria Georgievna reasoned that this would ensure they did not disrupt proceedings at the Winter Palace too much but in reality, she wished her own children to spend as much time as possible with her British nephew and niece. This was a lifelong obsession for Maria Georgievna who consistently tried to ensure that her sons and daughters had close relationships with their British cousins. Some historians have interpreted this as a political move on the part of the Tsarevna to “keep the British influence strong” among her children (most notably her son Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich) because she wanted them to be exposed to more liberal ideals than they might find in the homes of their Russian cousins. But whatever her motivation, it was at the Anichkov Palace in 1845 that the three year old Prince of Wales and the five year old Princess Victoria were first introduced to the Grand Duchess Alexandra Alexandrovna (who was the same age as Prince William) and the Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich (who was just a little over a year old).

In later years, Princess Victoria would describe “Aunt Lottie” as “the finest and most dear woman I ever knew”, though when they met in 1845, Toria was overcome with shyness. This upset Maria Georgievna who remarked sadly, “Oh Georgie…she hardly knows me!”, but this was to be expected in that the British royal children had only met their Aunt once since her marriage in 1840. Yet the Tsarevna took a special interest in Toria, perhaps because she knew only too well what it was like to be the sister to a future King or because she knew what life was like for a young girl growing up at the Court of St James’. After luncheon at the Anichkov on the first day of the State Visit, Maria Georgievna announced that she had a little gift for William and Victoria and took them by the hand, leading them up to the Nursery Floor to an ante room that led from the bedroom they would share during their stay. Lady Maria Beauclerk noted; “The Tsarevna took the children there and made them count to five before she pushed the double doors open and there…oh! What a sight it was! Every possible surface was covered with toys, teddy bears and the most beautiful dolls, simply hundreds of them! I shall never forget the wonder on the faces of the children who were a little shy until now but who, at the Tsarevna’s insistence, set upon these toys as if they had never seen the like before. Then Her Imperial Highness said, ‘And when you go home, we shall make sure they all come with you’. It was a most generous gift, and I thanked the Tsarevna for it because by now the children were too excited to remember their manners. Her Highness smiled at me and said, ‘It pleases me that they might play with the toys in the rooms I played in as little girl’ and then she sat upon the floor and played with the children! For quite some time too, the little blonde Grand Duchess being brought to join them. Toria was most taken with the Princess [sic] and by the end of the evening, they really had become quite inseparable!”.

Yet happy as the children were at the Anichkov, even this serves to demonstrate how different an upbringing the Prince of Wales and Princess Victoria would have to their Russian cousins. At home, Princess Victoria was quite used to being taken for days out to the Zoo or the Park, or even to a children’s matinee in Shaftesbury Avenue. It was not unheard of for Lady Maria Beauclerk to take William and Victoria to museums or exhibitions when they grew older and for the most part, they blended in with the rest of the crowds, Lady Maria and an accompanying policeman giving the impression of any other married couple and their children. Yet in Russia, it was unthinkable that the Imperial children should leave the safe confines of their parent’s palace and when they did, they were escorted in closed carriages by an army of guards to protect them from onlookers. If they wished to visit a park, the entire acreage would be sealed off and emptied of the general public so that they were completely protected – but it also meant that they were totally cossetted from the world beyond palace walls too. The day after their arrival, the Tsarevna arranged for Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich’s daughter, the Grand Duchess Catherine, to come and watch over the children as the King and Queen began their first full day’s programme in the Russian capital. The Prince of Wales and Princess Victoria were treated to a marionette show, a display of exotic birds and a teddy’s bears picnic but all within the confines of the Anichkov. Speaking later of this experience, Princess Victoria recalled “Whenever I thought of Cousin Sashenka, I saw her in a cage and I was so very terrified”. As Lady Dorothy Wentworth put it, “The Russian children had everything they could wish for, but they were denied more than we can ever truly appreciate”.

The King and Queen’s arrival at the Winter Palace was yet another display of Russian extravagance. George V and Queen Agnes were led to the Empress’ rooms where she received them sitting down, apologising for this fact on the grounds that she was still unwell. She had just returned from Palermo but her fragile state of health had not improved much. For this reason, she would also be unable to attend the State Banquet that evening and as consolation, wished to present her own gifts to the King and Queen in her salon that afternoon as a token of her esteem and friendship. Borne into the room by a Cossack, a large box bound in yellow leather was laid upon a table and the top removed to reveal a glinting silver tea and coffee service within. Comprised of two teapots, a coffee pot, burner, milk jug, sugar bowl, two bon bon dishes, tongs and a large tea tray, this was created by Nicholls & Plincke. Until they were supplanted in the Imperial Family’s affections by the renowned Peter Carl Fabergé, Charles Nicholls and William Plincke were English silversmiths who relocated to St Petersburg in 1804, gaining Russian citizenship and opening a silver business in the Russian Capital in the 1840s. By 1844, they had received the patronage of the Imperial Family – especially that of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna – and were regularly called upon to provide Easter and Christmas gifts for the Russian Court as well as insignia for various Russian orders of chivalry and even the embellishments on the fireplace in the Malachite Hall of the Winter Palace.


St George's Hall, The Winter Palace

Queen Agnes thought the Empress to be “quite a cold and unwelcoming person” but it must be remembered that Alexandra Feodorovna was not feeling her best at this meeting and later the Queen revised her position saying that the Empress was “very charming and so much more cordial than on previous occasions”. But for the King, the whole ritual of afternoon tea with Alexandra was somewhat frustrating. These occasions were limited in scope and suitable topics of conversation, such as gardening or interior decorating, were a far cry from what he had come to Russia to discuss. Some of the Russian ladies noticed that George V seemed a little preoccupied and understandably so, for he had now been in Russia for nearly 6 hours and had not yet set eyes on Tsar Nicholas himself. When tea was concluded, the King and Queen made their way back to their suite in the Winter Palace to dress for the evening’s festivities and though the opportunity to discuss the serious business of the State Visit would not present itself until the following day – if the Tsar was agreeable – Lord Morpeth and Lord Shelburne were admitted to the King’s dressing room so that they could go through sheets of crib notes as he was attired. In her rooms, the Queen was also dressing for dinner, her hair carefully coiffed to accommodate the enormous Bolin Diadem which had been a gift to her from the Tsar and which she wore in it’s senior setting (the only occasion on which she did so) and which was already causing her some discomfort because of it’s sheer size and weight.

Nonetheless, Their Majesties looked splendid in their evening dress and progressed to the Pavilion Hall for the official exchange of gifts. Almost immediately, they were outdone. The Tsar, surrounded by his personal staff, waited for George and Agnes to be announced and welcomed them both with the customary greeting of a kiss on each cheek before George led him to a table on one side of the room which had been laid out with the presents Agnes had selected for their Imperial host. The star of this selection was a desk set for the Tsar provided by Barr, Flight and Barr at the Royal Porcelain Works in Worcester comprised of an inkwell hand painted with English flowers and the reservoirs topped with gilded acorn finials, a matching blotter, desk tray, pen tray and paper knife. This was supplemented by a tantulus which itself was the product of a culmination of talents under the auspices of the Association of Royal Tradesmen [2] and featured a wooden box in English oak made by Gillows decorated with silver motifs provided by Rundell & Bridge in which sat three decanters made by James Powell & Sons with matching silver labels. There was also a gift from Princess Mary in the form of a Roccoco maroon vase made by Samuel Alcock from Staffordshire, heavily gilded and painted with a landscape of Weymouth Beach, and a set of dessert plates hand painted with summer fruits from the Dowager Duchess of Clarence. The King topped this off with two sets of insignia for the Royal Guelphic Order, His Majesty having awarded this order in the rank of Knight Grand Cross to the Tsar and the Tsarevich that morning (the Tsar already had the Order of the Garter but this was the first British order for his son and heir).

But although this display of gifts was most generous and very impressive indeed, the Tsar then led the King and Queen to the other side of the room where no less than three tables heaved under the weight of picture frames, cigar boxes and cases, vases, a porcelain coffee service, a set of four statuettes modeled on the figures of Roman Gods and Goddesses seen in the White Hall at the Winter Palace, a pair of matching desk clocks and one item which proved to be of particular interest to Queen Agnes, a silver posy holder set with emerald cabochons. We have already seen how Agnes might be described as something of a hoarder in terms of correspondence, we know that she kept every card, letter and gift tag she ever received and how these have been painstakingly preserved in the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle. But we have yet to encounter one of the Queen’s lifelong passions (one which caused her husband endless difficulties as the years went by) which was quite simply, collecting. It began with posy holders for Agnes had yet to see these innovative creations until she went to Russia in 1845. Favoured by wealthy ladies in Paris (and therefore in St Petersburg), these conical objects were stuffed with muslin at the tip so that when a posy of flowers was carried, any residual water from a vase would not drip down onto the skirts and mark the silk.

For Queen Agnes, “one” truly was the loneliest number and from 1845 until 1847, she began to amass vast quantities of posy holders in the first of her many “collections”. As the years went by, she would go on to favour fans, miniature animals, porcelain fruits, skirt lifters, glove holders, hat pins, shoe buckles, carved umbrella handles, trinket dishes, inkwells, card cases, perfume bottles, hair combs, lorgnettes, cameo brooches and chatelaines. Whilst the King also indulged in collecting, he at least limited himself to Meerschaum pipes, and many was the occasion in later years that the Queen had to be reminded that her annuity was not without it’s limits and that even Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle could only accommodate so many display cases. On one occasion, George V had to lay down the law and forbid his wife from purchasing anything else for her collections for at least 6 months. She circumvented this by giving money to her ladies in waiting, asking them to buy the things she wanted, and then had them presented to her on her birthday where she feigned surprise at being given exactly what she needed. And it all began in 1845 with a posy holder.


George V's insignia as a Knight of the Order of St Alexander Nevsky.

Whilst the King had given over his family order to the Tsar and the Tsarevich, the Tsar even made this appear a paltry gesture when he gave the King not one but four Russian Imperial Orders in addition to the Order of St Andrew he already possessed [3]. George V was created a Knight of the Orders of St Alexander Nevsky, the White Eagle, St Anna (1st Class) and St Stanislaus (1st Class) whilst Queen Agnes received her very first foreign order from the Tsar who made her a Dame Grand Cordon of the Order of St Catherine. The honours did not stop there. The Prince of Wales, a mere three years old, was given the Orders of St Alexander Nevsky and the White Eagle but was also named an Honorary Brigadier in the Imperial Russian Army and an Honorary Captain, 1st Rank, in the Imperial Russian Navy. Suitably appropriate miniature uniforms were presented, with full scale versions offered to the King who was appointed an Honorary General of the Imperial Russian Infantry and an Honorary Vice Admiral in the Imperial Russian Navy. The British had not foreseen these appointments and so the King could not respond likewise, struggling for words as the Tsar then nodded to an aide who brought forward a gift for the King’s children – a wobbling basket with tiny yapping sounds emanating from inside. Queen Agnes undid the bow on the basket to reveal two Siberian Husky puppies, a male and a female, which the Tsar informed the Queen had already been named Misha and Manya. The King thanked the Tsar, already troubled by visions of how the royal spaniels would take to these Russian arrivals in the kennels at Windsor.

The royal party then moved to the Small Throne Room where the Tsarevich, Tsarevna and other members of the Imperial Family, senior military officials and senior courtiers had gathered to hear Nicholas I give his formal welcoming address to his British guests. This speech was not given in Russian or English, rather it was given in French and the assembled company (including the British Foreign Secretary and Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs), stood obediently to attention as the Tsar spoke of his happiness at having the opportunity to receive the King and Queen in his Palace. But it was one phrase in particular which gave the British delegation hope for the success of the State Visit. At the very end of his address, the Tsar set down his papers and spoke unscripted. “The United Kingdom and Russia are bound together by close family ties. Let us reflect this in our combined efforts for peace, progress and prosperity for all our peoples as we renew our commitment to the very same as brothers across the seas”. This phrase was widely printed back in England and was taken as a sign that the Tsar was keen to work with the British to resolve their long standing disagreements and possibly to bring an end to the rivalry which had dominated for so long in the Great Game. Not all editors took this line of course. Some branded the Tsar “a bear in sheep’s clothing” who could not be trusted, whilst Chartist supporters issued pamphlets which condemned the King for consorting with “his imperial brother, that great enemy of our cause, Nicholas the Autocrat”.

It is perhaps easy to forget that this State Visit, and those like them, were often opportunities for family reunions and festivities but that they had a very serious objective behind them. In this case, the British wanted to resolve long standing tensions between the United Kingdom and Russia in the Concert of Asia and to tighten the protocols agreed to in Vienna regarding the Straits Pact. The priority however, was to try to force Tsar Nicholas to adopt a neutral stance toward Afghanistan so that his advances in Bukhara might be halted. To convince Nicholas of this course, Britain was offering to make concessions in renewed renegotiations on the Straits Pact, namely that the United Kingdom would be agreeable “in principle” to backing Russia’s demands that her quota of vessels allowed to pass through the Dardanelles should match those allocated to the United Kingdom – providing that the composition of that quota was reset and then maintained to ensure that Russia was sending trade ships – and not gun boats – through the Straits. Britain would drop all requests to reduce Russia’s quota in light of previous violations if the Russians agreed that in future, the consequences Britain had sought to pursue against Russia for her transgressions in this regard (that the quota be suspended or reduced) would then be enforced. Naturally there was no opportunity however to discuss any of this over dinner, neither could the King corner the Tsar at the ball and supper dance afterwards, Nicholas spending the entire evening dancing with the Tsarevna or Queen Agnes, or drinking ice cold vodka with his personal staff. The King simply could not relax and enjoy himself until he was assured the Tsar was agreeable to talks starting the next day but when he tried to gauge the Tsar's interest and hinted that he might like an idea of when talks would begin, Nicholas simply patted George on the back and said “All in good time my boy, all in good time”. George went to bed that evening no more confident of the trip’s success than he had been before his arrival.

On the second day of his visit, there proved to be even fewer opportunities to speak with the Tsar. George V and Queen Agnes were to visit the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan on the Nevsky Prospekt before going their separate ways, the Queen taken to tour the gardens at the Peterhof whilst the King was to tour the Admiralty and the General Staff Building. They would not be reunited until the returned to the Winter Palace later that evening but even though the programme had proposed that the Tsar personally escort George V on his afternoon in St Petersburg, at the very last the Tsar asked his brother Grand Duke Michael to deputise for him instead. Worse still, it appeared that the Russian ministers who were due to meet with the British ministers at Gatchina (the proposed site for their talks), had not yet been given formal permission to open discussions and as a result, Lord Morpeth and the rest of the British delegation could do nothing but wait in the hope that the Tsar would signal his approval that their deliberations should begin. When the King heard of this, he was outraged but was reassured that the Tsar had cleared his diary for the next afternoon and had invited the King to take a private luncheon with him in his apartments. When this luncheon came however, the Tsar spent two hours talking about St Petersburg’s cathedrals and then sent for a variety of his favourite icons to be shown to the King. As the icons were brought in, the Tsar walked out.

George was furious and in the privacy of his suite, raged to a sympathetic Queen Agnes that the Tsar was being thoroughly unreasonable. For half an hour, the King accused Nicholas of getting him to St Petersburg on false pretences and whilst he was glad to be in Russia for the sake of a reunion with his sister, his chance to show his diplomatic flair and test his skills in that direction were being deliberately thwarted. But furthermore, the Russian ministers were being just as evasive in their talks with Lords Morpeth and Shelburne and the King could only conclude that the entire State Visit was “a pointless exercise, nothing more than a pantomime, and a costly one at that”. The Queen commiserated with her husband but in truth she was only half paying attention to his complaints. The Duchess of Grafton was busy dressing her for a visit to the Hermitage Theatre that evening, a particularly important evening for St Petersburg’s high society as they were to be treated to a concert by one of the greatest musical stars of the age, Franz Liszt. Liszt was a Hungarian composer and pianist who owned much of his success to the patronage of Tsar Nicholas’ sister, the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, who appointed Liszt as her Kapellmeister extraordinaire at the court in Weimar where she lived as Grand Duchess consort of Grand Duke Charles Frederick of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. She had “loaned” Liszt to her brother for the British State Visit, a very impressive gesture given that Liszt was not only considered a musical genius but also an extremely attractive man who set the hearts of his female audiences a flutter every time he appeared. So it was that when the King and Queen arrived at the Anichkov Palace for dinner after the concert at the Hermitage Theatre, Agnes was seated between the Tsarevich and Franz Liszt, automatically becoming the envy of every lady present – including the Tsarevna who had to make do with her brother the King and Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich as her dinner companions.


Franz Liszt, depicted here in an 1847 portrait.

In her conversation with Liszt, the composer had mentioned that one of his favourite places in St Petersburg was the Nikolsky ryady, a market place set inside rows of townhouses on Sadovaya Street which had been established in 1789 and was well known for it’s popularity with the impoverished nobility who could always get a good price for treasures they were forced to part with. Collectors often descended on the Nikolsky market in the hope of snapping up a bargain and this appealed very much to Queen Agnes who had no engagements planned the following day. When the dinner was over and the guests left, the King and Queen, and the Tsarevich and the Tsarevna, came together in the Rose Salon at the Anichkov.

“What did you think of our Mr Liszt?”, Maria Georgievna said playfully to her sister-in-law, “I do not care much for his music but it cannot be denied he compensates for that quite well…”

Agnes giggled. It was the first time she had really been able to get to know the Tsarevna without battling for position among her ladies. “He is quite dashing isn’t he?”, Agnes whispered discretely, “And quite fascinating too. In fact, he told me of this lovely little market, I think I shall pay a visit tomorrow afternoon, if nobody objects?”

The Tsarevich was pouring brandy when he overheard Agnes making this suggestion.

“What’s this?”

“Mr Liszt told me about a market at the…Nicholas…Nicholasky…I was asking Lottie here if she might like to come with me, I should like to go and see it tomorrow”

Alexander smiled awkwardly.

“Oh that won’t be possible I’m afraid”, he said, a little tersely, “The Nikolsky isn’t in the best part of the city, it is a little crowded and some of the merchants there no better than pickpockets. Of which there are also many. No no dear Nessa, you would be much better off walking in the gardens here…or perhaps you might call on Mama for tea? She is feeling quite recovered…”

“You see dear”, Maria Georgievna said quickly, taking Agnes’ hand, “It isn’t really the sort of place ladies go to alone”

“But I shan’t be alone”, Agnes laughed, “I shall have May and Harriet with me…and Butty, you would defend our honour wouldn’t you?”

“I should consider it a pleasure Ma’am”, Colonel Arbuthnot smiled, “And an opportunity to acquire something fascinating for myself into the bargain”.

“There”, Agnes grinned, “That’s settled then”.

“I’m afraid it isn’t”, the Tsarevich said, through slightly gritted teeth, “You are kind, Colonel, to wish to assist the Queen in this but I cannot allow it. It is much too dangerous”

“Dangerous, Sasha?”, Georgie queried, lighting a cigarette, “In what way?”

“It is marked as a site of special interest”, Alexander replied airily, “It is watched night and day for anarchist activity, it is a favoured meeting point for such people”

“Oh but…”

“Now my darling”, George said gravely, “If Sasha says it isn’t safe, then it is not safe and I shan’t have you endanger yourself. Lottie will think of something you can amuse yourself with I’m sure, Sasha, I wonder if you’d show me that portrait over there…it’s your grandfather isn’t it?”

The two men walked away from the crestfallen Queen and the Tsarevna now trying to console her.

“I hope I did not upset Nessa”, Sasha said kindly, “It is just that…”

“Not at all old boy”, Georgie smiled, “I quite understand. But I had hoped to get you alone at some point this evening…you see, we are at something of a loose end tomorrow and…well…I would rather we were not”

“Lotye is a miracle worker”, Sasha beamed, “She will surprise you with some activity, there is never a dull moment with her”

“Quite”, George nodded, “But my point is Sasha, I have been here for three days now and as yet, the purpose of my visit…what I mean to say is, I should rather be engaged in meetings with your father’s ministers"

“I do not have any say in these things”, the Tsarevich replied quietly, sipping his brandy, “Really, it is not something I can involve myself in”

“But Sasha, surely you realise that as much as we are happy to be here to spend time with you and Lottie, and the children, it is imperative that we –“

The King’s pleas were cut short by a wail of shock from the settee where the Queen and the Tsarevna were sitting. A gasp from the ladies present went up as they rushed forward. Agnes had fainted.

“Oh, my goodness!”, Lottie cried, “Georgie! Sasha! It is Nessa, Nessa is unwell! Open a window somebody, it is so very warm, she is quite overcome, May! Anna dear, fetch some smelling salts! Quickly!”

“Charlie”, George snapped, “Fetch Alison at once”.

Half an hour later, Queen Agnes was laid on the sofa, the room cleared of everybody but Dr Alison, the Duchess of Grafton and the Tsarevna. Alison examined Agnes who by now had come to but was feeling nauseous and weak.

“There now Ma’am”, Alison soothed, “You just rest there for a moment and we’ll have you taken to your room. Your Imperial Highness, might I have a word…”

Alison and the Tsarevna moved to the corner of the room as May Grafton applied a wet handkerchief to the Queen’s brow.

“What is it, Alison? Is it serious?”, Lottie whispered, “She was perfectly well this evening, goodness me, you don’t suspect it was something she ate do you? I knew the pudding was far too rich but Sasha insisted –“

“No Ma’am”, Alison grinned, “I can say with absolutely certainty that Her Majesty’s condition is not related to your excellent menu”

“You seem very sure”

“Aye Ma’am”, Alison replied warmly, “I am that – because...quite simply…Her Majesty is with child”

The Tsarevna beamed, clasping her hands together excitedly.

“Oh Alison!”, she cooed, “Oh that is marvellous news! Do you think it would be alright for me to tell my brother now? Agnes too of course, but I should so dearly love to be the one to break the news to him…”

“My instincts exactly Ma’am”, Alison laughed, “Go on and tell His Majesty…though I might advise taking him a glass of that brandy…”

And with a delighted shriek, Lottie dashed to the door, barely able to contain herself.

“Oh, it’s marvellous news!”, she repeated as she walked away, “Just marvellous!”


[1] Schwerin Castle would have been the usual venue but in 1845 it was undergoing major renovation work and was uninhabitable.

[2] The forebear of the Royal Warrant Holders Association.

[3] This was a standard practise, as was the appointment to honorary military roles, and is modelled on the very same given to Edward VII in 1844 in the OTL when he was still Prince of Wales (and just three years old).

And so we begin our time in Russia! We'll stay there for another installment before moving on to Denmark but Lottie fans, fear not, she'll be coming with us - and we'll also get that update on Victoria in the Netherlands too. As ever, many thanks for reading.
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Aww i'm sure george will be just thrilled! hopefully motherhood will help agnes settle into her new role more and hopefully she'll start feeling better before it's time to leave russia.
Aw! George must be frustrated at not being able to get on with what he came to Russia to do, but at least he's having a good time with his sister, and I'm sure the news that he's to be a father again will be a great consolation prize!
Amazing chapter
I hope George gets to flex his diplomatic muscles and I’m glad that Agnes is expecting now. I guess in the future, we will see a spaniel husky mix which I don’t think have ever heard of IOTL
Hopefully, George will be able to get down to business with the Tsar soon enough. And congratulations to the young couple! I do wonder if George will feel worried about Agnes being pregnant, considering what happened to Louise. Either way, I’m sure they’ll both get through this together.