Crown Imperial: An Alt British Monarchy

GIV: Part 1: Prince of Fools
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    King George IV
    (1820 - 1827)

    NB: A Simplified Timeline of George IV's reign can be found by clicking here.

    Part One: The Prince of Fools

    Haddon Hall is a perfect example of the English country house. Tucked neatly in a bend in the River Wye near Bakewell in Derbyshire, it is acknowledged as one of the most impressive country estates in the county today. Visitors can marvel at Haddon’s exquisite 15th century frescoes or the spectacular 110ft Smythson designed Long Gallery. That is, of course, if they haven’t already been distracted by the Banqueting Hall with its original medieval Dais table, behind which hangs a tapestry gifted by a visiting King Henry VIII; or the walled gardens which have provided herbs and vegetables for the Haddon kitchens since the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

    Unlike other properties of its type which have been transformed into National Trust landmarks, country house hotels or public schools, Haddon remains in the possession of the (albeit extended) Manners family [1]. In days gone by, Haddon was yet another estate in the vast property portfolio of the Dukes of Rutland, first coming into their possession in the 17th century. But whilst the house itself contains many fascinating artifacts relating to Haddon’s long history and the Manners family who still call it home, there is one room in the house which inspires morbid curiosity.

    The State Bedroom boasts a four poster Tudor bed with sumptuous draperies. Of all Haddon’s royal guests who have slept in this bed, only one seems to have captured the imagination of visitors to the house; so much so that in 1816, a ferocious looking wrought iron railing was installed to enclose the bed and keep curious callers at a respectful distance. However interesting the tapestries or frescoes in Haddon’s other rooms may be, every visitor seems to want to see the room (and indeed the bed) where the Prince Regent died on the 24th of June 1815.


    The State Bedroom at Haddon Hall

    Elizabeth, Duchess of Rutland, was one of England’s most beautiful hostesses, distinguished in society for her reputation for fine food, comfortable rooms and lavish entertainments. The châtelaine of Belvoir Castle as the wife of John Manners, the 5th Duke of Rutland, Elizabeth had stunned Leicestershire society by selling seven villages surrounding the Castle near Grantham. Much of the estate land was included raising an enormous sum which was ringfenced to fund an extravagant restoration of Belvoir which had stood since the Norman Conquest. James Wyatt[2], "the aristocrat’s architect", had redesigned hundreds of English country houses infusing them with romantic and eccentricity in the Gothic revival style which had become so fashionable. Following Wyatt's design for the improved Castle would cost approximately £120,000 (the equivalent of £9.25 million today) setting Belvoir on course to become one of the most impressive private houses in England.

    In stark contrast to the wonders of Belvoir stood Haddon, largely ignored by its owners and rarely used for anything more than a useful overnight bolt hole for the Duke of Rutland on his frequent trips from Leicestershire to Surrey where his world-famous stud, Cheveley Park, was situated. Whilst Haddon was not exactly modern by the standards of 1815, it had one saving grace; country sports. Haddon could offer trout fishing in four rivers that crossed the estate, shooting on the neighbouring moors and hunting with the Meynell which had crossed the estate since 1793.

    So it was that in June 1815, the Duke and Duchess of Rutland decided that the interior renovations at Belvoir would make it quite impossible to host even a modest house party comfortably and decided to relocate their guests to Haddon. In a moment of genius, Elizabeth Rutland engaged 22 carpenters known for their work at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane to install painted scenery boards in the public rooms where the guests would dine, gamble or dance. Displays of flowers, fruits and tree branches were banked along the walls with candelabra sent from Belvoir to transform the somewhat neglected Haddon for the duration of the party.

    Of the 18 invited guests, two stood out. The first was the Duke of York, Prince Frederick, with whom the Duchess had maintained an erratic intimate relationship with for over a decade.[3] The liaison was no great secret in society and was seemingly so openly accepted that upon the Duchess of Rutland’s death, the Gentleman’s Magazine informed its readers solemnly that “a dispatch had been immediately forwarded announcing the afflicting event to His Majesty”. Whilst Elizabeth courted royalty in her boudoir, the Duke of Rutland impressed royalty at his stables. Among his most ardent admirers was the Prince Regent, the second royal guest who would join the house party at Haddon in June 1815.

    The Prince Regent had been sworn into office in 1811 when his father, King George III, was finally declared unfit to rule after years of physical and mental instability. Frequent bouts of unpredictable behaviour saw the King retreat to Kew Palace for “treatment” but by 1811 it had become clear that the monarch could no longer carry out his duties. Those at court had expected such a drastic outcome for years but many had also feared it. The dynamic between the King and his eldest son, George, Prince of Wales, had been a constant clash of wills resulting in very public displays of animosity and on one occasion, a physical altercation[4]. The King saw his eldest son and heir as nothing more than a self-righteous indulgent bon vivant with no aptitude for the duties expected of him by the Crown.

    This was a view shared not only by the King’s wife, Queen Charlotte, but by many in government, in the church, in high society and (most worryingly for George III) among the wider public. Whilst the King was respected as pious and reserved, academic and studious, his eldest son was regarded as frivolous and ostentatious. It was said that when a courtier announced the arrival of the Prince of Wales one evening, the King scoffed and bellowed “No Prince of Wales he Sir, that man is the Prince of Fools!”

    The Prince Regent (as Prince George would become in 1811) seemed not to care about his public image to any serious degree. His pursuit of pleasure was driven by an insatiable appetite for sex, gambling and high spending which continues to promote the image of the Regency period as one of glamour and romance. In reality, millions were stuck in extreme poverty with little hope of improvement in their daily lives. Inconveniently for public figures, steam printing had enabled the mass circulation of printed material in which publishers gleefully shared the latest gossip from court with thinly veiled attacks on the rich and powerful. The Prince Regent and his coterie of mistresses proved the most popular muse.

    George's popularity had reached an all time low by 1815. Just six months earlier, his wife Caroline of Brunswick had finally grown tired of being humiliated and ignored and returned to her homeland for a few weeks before taking a tour of Switzerland and Italy. Popular with the people but despised by her husband, she had been forbidden from all but limited contact with her only child, Princess Charlotte of Wales, until she could take no more. Caroline struck a deal with her estranged husband; for an annuity of £35,000, she would leave Britain. The Prince Regent reveled in his new found freedom and with the power the Regency Bill had given him, he felt emboldened in his behaviour. The public however, had never loathed him more.

    News of the Duke of Wellington's triumph at Waterloo brought some respite as patriotism surged and celebrations had erupted throughout London when the news came on the 20th that “the little corporal” had finally been smashed once and for all. According to the London Gazette, Major Henry Percy, son of the Duke of Northumberland, was given the task of relaying the news to the Prince Regent. George was dining with friends in London when Percy was said to have “brought in Napoleon’s eagles before the Prince who blessed God, wept for the dead and promoted Percy”. Lord Liverpool, the Prime Minister, suggested that the Prince Regent might attend a special service of celebration at St Paul’s Cathedral. The Prince declined. He had accepted the invitation to attend the Rutlands house party at Haddon Hall and would begin his journey to Derbyshire the following morning. Lord Liverpool then asked if the Duke of York might deputise for the Prince but York also declined. His excuse was not so self-absorbed as that of the Prince Regent however. He would not be going to Haddon because an attack of gout prevented him from leaving his bed. [5]


    Elizabeth, Duchess of Rutland

    The Prince Regent arrived at Haddon with the Marchioness of Hertford, his mistress de jour. Isabella Ingram-Seymour-Conway had entered the Prince’s affections in 1807 and was still in favour with the Prince even if the rest of his inner circle where a little wary of her. To the Tories, she was “Britain’s Guardian Angel”, known for her cunning and ability to change the Prince Regent’s mind, seemingly on a whim. The Duchess of Rutland had no great affection for the Marchioness but her dyed-in-the-wool Tory husband held no such objections. Accommodated in the State Bedroom, the Prince asked that Isabella be given rooms adjoining his. This proved difficult because the medieval layout of Haddon meant that most guests were forced out into the courtyard with no direct access to the adjoining rooms. His Royal Highness complained bitterly about this upon his arrival, as did Lady Hertford but his personal staff travelling with him had bigger worries in the servant's quarters. One of the Prince’s manservants later remarked that there was “more water on the floor of the bed chamber than in the river running by”.

    If the Duchess of Rutland was disappointed in the Duke of York’s absence, she did not show it. Reflecting the victory at Waterloo, she served the finest wines and encouraged the guests to eat more than their fill of the rich food on offer. There were frequent toasts to the King, the Prince Regent and the Duke of Wellington in the Banqueting Hall that night with the Prince said to be “in gay spirits, quite jolly and with no trace of temper or sulking which he was often taken by after drinking brandy”. Well fed and looking forward to a day’s hunting the following morning, the house party broke up at around 3am and the Prince went to his room to be undressed and put to bed.

    The following morning, two of the guests did not appear for breakfast. The first, Edward Sacheverell Wilmot-Sitwell, had arrived from neighbouring Stainsby three days earlier. He was acting as the land agent for the Rutlands at Haddon, his own family being gentry in all but name and now living in reduced circumstances. The second was Major General Benjamin Bloomfield, the former Member of Parliament for Plymouth, and Aide-de-Camp to the Prince of Wales. It was around 10.30 in the morning of the 21st of June 1815 that a local doctor, William Pencell, was woken by his wife at their home in the tiny hamlet of Alport. Pencell took a pony and trap to Haddon where he examined the two gentlemen confined to their beds. Both were suffering from colic, he counselled, no doubt the consequences of the banquet the night before. Pencell later said, “I did not like to accuse gentlemen of taking too much strong drink but it was in my mind that both the agent and the Major General could attribute their malaise to that”

    Pencell left Haddon and returned home. Meanwhile, the remaining guests, amused by their fellow revelers laid low by excess, set out for a day’s hunting. The ladies remained at the house before being led through a tour of the Elizabeth Walled Garden by the Duchess. The scene was much as it might be at any country house party in the early 19th century until the peace of the garden was broken by the clattering of horses hooves. The Prince Regent had also fallen ill and wished to rest. The Duchess sent a message to Dr Pencell to return to Haddon immediately whilst Lady Hertford dispatched a note to London asking for Sir Gilbert Blane, the Prince’s personal physician to attend him.

    Dr Pencell advised the Duchess to break up her house party immediately. He feared that Mr Wilmot was showing the early symptoms of typhus. It was not an uncommon disease and epidemics had occurred with alarming regularity in England for decades. Yet there was no epidemic at the time and so the Duchess dismissed Pencell, sending a messenger for a different doctor from Bakewell to attend Haddon immediately. At 9.30 in the morning of the 22nd of June, Dr Philip Strudley found the Prince Regent in a stable condition “but with a most definite fever”. He did not agree with Pencell that the mystery ailment was typhus and thought Lady Hertford’s dispatch to London “somewhat premature”.

    It took two days for Gilbert Blane to reach Haddon, a horse journey of 14 hours broken by a night’s rest at an inn near Northampton. It was therefore Strudley who attended to the Prince. The Rutlands sent their remaining guests’ home, those remaining at Haddon being those taken already ill, the Prince’s staff, the Marchioness of Hertford and the two local doctors. At 8pm on the 22nd of June, Mr Wilmot died. Major General Bloomfield however showed some signs of improvement. Both Pencell and Strudley were baffled. The latter examined the Prince once more who was, according to Lady Hertford, “half mad with fever, babbling and screaming in a most frightening way”.

    News of the Prince’s illness finally reached Buckingham House and Kensington Palace. The King was not informed, his own state of health so precarious that he probably would not have registered the news even if it had been passed on to him. At Kew, Queen Charlotte showed “indifference”. Her Lady of the Bedchamber, the Countess of Cork, later remarked; “Her Majesty seemed totally unmoved; indeed, she made no comment at all. She simply stood up and walked out into the gardens. When I attempted to follow, she waved a hand at me and I fell back, uncertain of what I should be about"

    Whilst the Prince Regent’s brothers were all informed immediately, Princess Charlotte was told nothing of her father’s condition. Lord Liverpool asked the Duke of York to remain in London but the Dukes of Clarence and Cumberland set off for Derbyshire attended by the Bishop of London, William Howley, at the Prime Minister’s insistence. Meanwhile, Liverpool asked the Duke of York, the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker of the House of Commons to attend him at Fife House in Whitehall. The situation now seemed serious and the Prime Minister, with the lack of any real indication of how grave the Prince's condition actually was, sought advice from those at the very top of government.

    Lord Eldon, the Lord Chancellor, was asked to consider two very realistic possibilities. The first was what stipulation the Regency Act of 1811 (known as the Care of the King During His Illness Act etc) made should the Prince Regent also succumb to a long period of illness or even die before his father. The second was how the Act might be amended urgently to make new provision for “His Majesty’s care” if the government felt the existing arrangements were not satisfactory. Eldon’s advice was simple. The Regency Act did not require a Council of Regency as required by previous legislation. It had been felt in 1811 that as the Prince Regent was heir apparent, he would assume full powers upon his father’s death. It was clear to Eldon at least that such a council must now be appointed and convened at the earliest opportunity.

    To affect this, Eldon suggested that the Prime Minister follow the precedent set in late 1810 for the passage of the Regency Act. Without the Kings consent, the Lord Chancellor had affixed the Great Seal of the Realm to letters patent naming Lords Commissioners. Their resolution (to provide a regent for the King in the person of the Prince of Wales) was not debated by both Houses of Parliament, rather they were simply approved by a majority vote of both houses. The Lords Commissioners, appointed in the name of the King, granted Royal Assent to the 1811 bill which discharged functions in the name of the King to the Prince of Wales and named him regent.[6]

    Liverpool proposed that new Lords Commissioners should be appointed and a new bill introduced to parliament the following morning. The Duke of York would succeed his brother as regent until a regency council would be established. Even then, it was agreed that the Duke should act as the head of this council. The Speaker of the House of Commons, Charles Abbott insisted that the Privy Council be consulted before any such appointments were made, something the Duke of York agreed with. Who the Commissioners should be, let alone who should be appointed to the Regency Council, was a matter for another hour. The meeting at Fife House concluded, Liverpool began to receive parliamentarians in groups of four or five to advise them of the ongoing situation. Only now was a bulletin published informing the public that the Prince Regent was seriously ill.

    At Kew Palace, Queen Charlotte was informed of the Fife House meeting and elected to return to Buckingham House to consult her son, the Duke of York, personally. Whilst it was no secret that the Queen despised her eldest son, especially given his treatment of her husband and enforcing their separation some years earlier, she doted on the Duke of York. Whilst the Prince Regent was invariably “the son” or “the monster”, the Duke of York was “the baby” or “the beloved one”. The Countess of Cork accompanied Queen Charlotte to Buckingham House where she was attended by her daughters, Princess Augusta Sophia and Princess Elizabeth. Whilst the latter paced nervously and seemed genuinely grieved, Lady Cork noted “something akin to boredom in the Queen, almost as if she simply wished to know one way or the other if her eldest child was dead or alive”.

    At the Queen's insistence, no member of the Royal Family was permitted to travel to Derbyshire. But when the royal doctors attending the King forbad any possibility of the Prince Regent being brought to London, Her Majesty relented and agreed that it might be prudent for his elder brothers to travel to Haddon. Whilst nobody dared state the obvious, it was felt better than they be present to accompany the coffin back to London if the worst happened. Meanwhile, Lord Liverpool requested an audience with the Queen to discuss the arrangements laid out at Fife House. For someone frozen out of decision making since her husband’s illness became permanent, the Queen found “a new fortitude and bore all with stillness and calm”.


    Queen Charlotte

    Blane arrived at Haddon at around 10pm on the 23rd of June. He was briefed on the Prince’s condition by Pencell and Strudley and was then admitted to the State Bedroom. He immediately diagnosed cholera. An inspection of the kitchens, water closets and the eastern courtyard told Blane all he needed to know. Haddon’s neglect had led to pools of stagnant water in which cholera thrived. In his view, “it was a small mercy so few had contracted the disease”. Blane’s report was sent back to London by urgent message. The Prince was administered large doses of calomel and opium but Blane feared the worst. The following morning, the Dukes of Clarence and Cumberland arrived at Haddon with the Bishop of London. The Duke of Clarence asked for Blane’s honest assessment of the outcome; “With regret Sir”, Blane said quietly, “I believe the Prince will die”.

    Clarence dispatched another rider to London by stagecoach with two letters; one for the Prime Minister and one for Queen Charlotte.

    “Georgie nears the end of his life and I believe we cannot place much hope in the treatment administered by Dr Blane, though I beg you understand that he is a most competent physician and he approaches Geo. [sic] with the utmost care still. I fear we must ready ourselves for the worst and I pray that I may impart more joyful news in the days to come. These sentiments expressed however, I urge the arrangements discussed in London these past nights to be put into place with expediency for regardless of the outcome of this horror, my dear brother can no longer deputise for His Majesty for some time even if his condition improves in the coming days”

    By the time the Duke of Clarence’s letter arrived in London, the Prince Regent was dead. He died at 4pm on the 24th of June 1815. Of the six members of the Rutlands’ house party who contracted cholera, only Major General Bloomfield survived though he was left with “permanent sickness” for the rest of his life. Lady Hertford was at the Prince Regent’s bedside in the last hours, something the Bishop of London protested but which the Duke of Cumberland said would bring his brother comfort. The Duke of Rutland sent word to the local constable who rallied volunteers to guard Haddon's gates should public anger paint the Rutlands as responsible for the Prince’s death before the Prince’s body was removed from Haddon and the Rutlands could safely return to Leicestershire.

    With no word from London on what should happen next, the Dukes of Clarence and Cumberland took control. A local undertaker who had already collected two bodies from Haddon was called in to dress the Prince and place him in a coffin of English oak. Fearing deterioration of the corpse on the journey, he was covered in blankets on which chunks of ice from the Haddon icehouse were laid and sprinkled liberally with rock salt. The coffin was closed and at 10.30pm when darkness had settled, the royal princes accompanied the coffin in their stagecoaches as it was removed to the church at St James’ Church at Bonsall. Here the coffin waited with the Dukes standing vigil until London sent a reply with further instructions.

    At Buckingham House, a flurry of letters arrived within the space of a few hours. The first informed the waiting parties that the Prince had cholera. The last informed them he had died. Queen Charlotte “said little and withdrew with Lord Liverpool, remaining secluded for some time before the Duke of York was summoned to join them”. Word was sent to Kensington Palace to inform other members of the Royal Family of the Prince Regent’s death. Princess Charlotte, until now deliberately kept in ignorance of her father’s illness, was taken into the gardens of the palace by her aunt Princess Augusta Sophia. The young princess broke down and wept. In a letter to Prince Leopold of Saxe Coburg Saalfeld, the young man she had settled to marry against the wishes of her father, she wrote; “I feel quite alone for now I should be no better than an orphaned child. My father is gone and poor dear Mama is kept so far away”. Within the hour, a coach arrived at Kensington to bring the Princess to her grandmother, the Queen, at Buckingham House.

    The London Gazette was the first printed publication to inform the public of the Prince Regent’s death. It came as a total shock to the people of London given that they had only learned of the Prince’s illness the previous evening. In spite of the widespread animosity felt towards him, London “surprised herself” with shops closing their shutters and with garlands of white carnations and black crepe ribbons appearing on the facades of galleries, churches, museums and other civic buildings. Public houses closed, all theatrical performances were cancelled and crowds (albeit not very large ones) settled in churches or outside the royal residences to express their sorrow at the Prince Regent’s death.

    The public mood proved fickle. Perhaps inspired by the newspapers (who were not exactly glowing in their praise in their praise of the deceased prince), it seemed that permission had been given to simply ignore what had happened and carry on with life as usual. Whilst there were signs of public mourning in other areas of the country, the establishment seemed united in its indifference. One London newspaper suggested that the Prince Regent was “mourned as a son of His Majesty the King but not as a great wit, academic or orator for he was undoubtedly none of those things”. Another went so far as to print a spoof obituary notice which closed with the lines; “For were his love of his duty and his people greater than that of his love for his courtesans and silly fashions, more may feel sadness at his loss. As the former was deficient, so too is our grief”. [7]

    Nowhere was this more clear than on the route the Prince’s coffin took on it’s way from Derby to Windsor. The procession took two days with stops arranged at Peterborough Cathedral and then at Oxford. The route was lined with a smattering of mourners, mostly elderly women, who stood silently as the cortege moved past them. The Duke of Clarence noted in his diary that “there was genuine grief but I fear Georgie had exhausted the people of their goodwill”. Just outside Windsor, a small demonstration had to be moved on by the local constables. A group of drunken labourers shouted and jeered at the procession and one threw a large rock at the coach carrying the Prince’s coffin.

    The Prince’s widow, now the Dowager Princess of Wales, was informed of her husband’s death whilst at her villa at Lake Como. Her response is not recorded but in the same month, she and her household left Italy for Germany. If she made any attempt to return to England for the funeral, it is not documented, though some months later she was invited by her mother-in-law to visit Princess Charlotte. Unlike visits of the recent past, this was unsupervised and mother and daughter were able to build a relationship free of the jealousy that had constrained them during the Prince Regent’s lifetime.


    Frederick, Duke of York and Albany

    Prince George’s funeral was held at St George’s Chapel, Windsor on the 2nd July after three days of lying-in state. During this time, members of the public were allowed in to pay their respects to the Prince Regent. There was no great rush but a steady trickle of mourners passed by his coffin, presumably more intrigued by the royal chapel itself or the chance of seeing members of the Royal Family. They were mostly disappointed. Whilst the Prince’s surviving siblings all attended the lying-in-state, they did so hidden from the public behind a screen. The King did not attend; indeed, he was not informed of his eldest son’s death on the strict instructions of the Queen and with the eager approval of his doctors. Queen Charlotte attended only briefly, just after midnight on the 27th. According to the Countess of Cork; “She did not linger, nor did she shed a tear. She laid a small posy of flowers upon the coffin and then withdrew from the chapel”.

    Seated in St George’s as his brother’s funeral oration was read, the Duke of York wept openly for a brother he had felt a true affinity with. Despite their differences, they had enjoyed a close friendship. An announcement that evening in the London Gazette confirmed what his fellow mourners in the chapel knew that day but which had been kept confined to the corridors of Whitehall since the Fife House meeting. Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, would succeed his brother as Prince Regent. He was now second in line to the throne after his niece Princess Charlotte but time would soon show Frederick’s future to be far from certain.

    [1] Haddon is now leased to the present Duke of Rutland's brother and his wife, Lord Edward Manners.

    [2] Wyatt's most famous work was Fonthill Abbey. He died in 1813 but as the redevelopment of Belvoir under the 5th Duke began in 1799, he would have been the ideal candidate to redesign the so-called "fourth castle" even if he never saw the work completed.

    [3] This may be gossip I've butterflied for the TL but I found it interesting that this obit of the Duchess from 1825 mentions the Duke of York specifically:

    [4] I confess to using Alan Bennett's The Madness of King George for this one!

    [5] This allows for the Duke of York to live and the Prince Regent to exit as per the original POD.

    [6] I wanted to broaden out the regency a little to lay some groundwork for the next phase of the timeline.

    [7] I modeled this on real obituaries of King George IV as the Prince Regent actually became in 1820. They were not exactly obsequious!

    [Note] With the Prince Regent out of the way, Princess Charlotte's death in 1817 will push Frederick to the front of the line. George III dies in 1820 making Frederick the new King who honours both his father and late brother by taking the name of George IV. The next installment will deal with the death of Charlotte, the marriages of Frederick's siblings and a butterfly (or two) to give Frederick a new wife ahead of his reign.
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    GIV: Part 2: Princess Charlotte, England's Hope
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    King George IV

    Part Two: Princess Charlotte, England's Hope

    Prince Frederick Augustus was born on 16th August 1763 at St James’ Palace. The second son of King George III and Queen Charlotte, he was just six months old when he became Prince-Bishop of Osnabrück under the terms of the Peace of Westphalia which stated that the city would alternate between Catholic and Protestant rulers with the Protestant Bishops elected from the cadets of the House of Brunswick-Lüneberg. This gave Frederick a substantial income which he retained until the city was incorporated into Hanover in 1803 during the German mediatization.

    Known as “the soldier prince”, the choice of an army career was made for Frederick by his father. Gazetted as a colonel in 1780, Frederick was sent for training and study in Hanover alongside his younger brothers, Prince Edward, Prince Ernest, Prince Augustus and Prince Adolphus at Göttingen. His military career saw him join the Grenadier Guards until he was appointed colonel of the Coldstream Guards in 1784. As a General, Frederick led the British contingent of the Coburg army in Flanders during the War of the First Coalition and quickly won the respect of privates and the general staff alike. Indeed, his position as Commander in Chief in 1795 allowed Frederick to introduce long overdue reforms. In the opinion of Sir John Fortescue, the Duke of York (as he became in 1784) had done “more for the army than any one man has done for it in the whole of its history”.

    Despite his closeness to the Prince of Wales, Frederick rejected the lavish lifestyle so enjoyed by his elder brother. Considered his parents’ favourite child, Frederick maintained a country residence at Oatlands in Surrey but was seldom there, preferring instead to focus on his work at the British army’s headquarters at Horse Guards. It was not all work, however. Like many of his contemporaries, Frederick was greatly taken by London’s night life and like his elder brother, he had an insatiable appetite for gambling. He was plagued by persistent debt and his household was in a constant state of instability as his income waxed and waned according to his success at the card tables.

    There were mistresses too. The most famous was Mary Anne Clark, the wife of a humble stonemason who left him when he went bankrupt. She enjoyed a string of romantic entanglements with prominent married officials until she was introduced to the Duke of York, then still Commander in Chief of the Army. Whilst this was well known in London society, Frederick and Mary’s relationship was not considered remotely scandalous until 1809. Unable to keep Mary in the style to which she had become accustomed, the Duke's mistress turned on the Duke, testifying before the House of Commons that she had sold army commissions with Frederick’s blessing.

    The Duke of York was subjected to public mockery and he was forced to resign his post. Mary was cut off and met an ignominious end. Prosecuted for libel in 1813, she was imprisoned for nine months, fleeing to France to escape the public humiliation. She died penniless in Boulogne-Sur-Mer in 1852. Whilst for some Princes, the Clarke scandal might have been ruinous to more than just his career, Frederick’s situation was a little different. Many felt amused at his being duped by Clarke but retained a degree of sympathy because his home life was deemed so miserable. Indeed, it did not take long for the Duke to be reinstated as Commander in Chief and whilst he did take other mistresses (Elizabeth, Duchess of Rutland being one of them), Frederick was far more discrete than he had been before.


    Frederica, Duchess of York.

    Frederick had been married at the age of 28 to his cousin Princess Frederica of Prussia, the daughter of King Frederick William II and Princess Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Lüneburg. On paper, the match was as perfect a union as the King and Queen could have hoped for though it was not without it's problems. Frederica was no great beauty and her mother had been put under house arrest in Germany for causing a public scandal when she tried to elope with her lover. However, this paled in comparison to the scandal that was engulfing the British Royal Family at the time the marriage between Frederick and Frederica was arranged.

    The Prince of Wales had illegally married his Catholic mistress Maria Fitzherbert and whilst he had several other brothers to provide the British throne with heirs, they too were more concerned with keeping their mistresses content than touring the continent looking for suitable brides. Frederick was far more pliable to his parents’ demands and also had a greater understanding of the severity of the situation than his siblings. But there were benefits to the union. Not only would it please his father but parliament had promised to pay the Duke of York’s debts if he married. There was also talk of a more generous annuity which would allow for the restoration of Oatlands Park.

    This is not to suggest that Frederick married Frederica for purely monetary reasons. Upon being introduced to his future bride, he thought her “not a beauty but not plain, affectionate in nature and really very gentle”. The couple were married to the delight of Frederick’s parents on the 29th of September 1791 at the Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin before a second marriage took place at Buckingham House on the 23rd of November. Queen Charlotte wrote to the Queen of Prussia assuring her that “she shall find in me not only a mother but a friend”. The public was equally taken with the new Princess. When touring England in the first year after her marriage, the Duchess of York was widely celebrated and seen as the perfect model of royal duty. Things quickly unravelled.

    Though she was described as “clever and well-informed”, the Princess disliked public ceremony which bored her. She enjoyed high society but refused to mix with her siblings-in-law if their mistresses were present. This gave the impression to many that she was haughty or aloof and as time went by, she even frustrated Queen Charlotte who found her daughter-in-law, “more suited to a convent than to a palace”. [1] The strictness of the German court had no doubt rubbed off on Frederica, yet those friends she made in England were gushing in their praise of her despite her grandiosity. Lady Salisbury, wife of James Cecil, the 6th Earl of Salisbury, served as Lady in Waiting to the Duchess of York from 1791 until 1794. In her view, the Duchess was; “a pearl and treasure, dutiful, generous, witty and kindness itself. She displayed no poor trait and was devoted to her household but was always most fond of her animals”.

    The York marriage had been hastily arranged to provide an heir to the British throne in the absence of any other. By the time Lady Salisbury left the household at Oatlands, no such heir had arrived. Indeed, the Duchess simply couldn’t seem to conceive leading many to question if the marriage had been consummated at all. The Duke had been devoted to his bride for the first few months but had quickly tired of life at Oatlands. His wife’s running of the household was suited more to the harsh and exacting standards of German court life than the English countryside and by 1792, the Duke rarely visited the Duchess at all. When he did, the nearest they came to spending time with each other was on sporadic walks through the gardens of their estate.

    Queen Charlotte initially attempted to mediate, urging Frederica to do more to take an interest in Frederick’s hobbies. She scolded Frederick for not paying enough attention to his wife but by 1794, the Queen’s opinion of her daughter-in-law had changed. In Her Majesty's view, the Duchess of York was “stubborn, obstinate and not at all the docile angelic child we thought her to be”. Frederica responded by becoming more obstinate. She rejected any plans to reconcile with her husband and tt was rumoured that the couple had not been physically intimate for years, if they ever had been at all, gossip which later offered a lifeline to both the Duke and Duchess to escape the monotony of their failed marriage. [2]

    With the Prince Regent’s death in 1815, the new Lords Commissioners presented an amendment to the 1811 bill in parliament which allowed for the regency to pass to the Duke of York. Because the Duke was not heir apparent (this being Princess Charlotte of Wales), the amendment made provision for a Regency Council. Parliament approved the resolution, the sudden death of the Prince of Wales leaving little time for debate. The Duke of York was sworn in as Prince Regent at Buckingham House on the 26th of June but insisted he would only take up his duties following the funeral of his elder brother. He also wished to be known as ‘the Duke of York’ and not ‘Prince Regent’, a title he felt best allowed to die with the previous incumbent.

    The ‘Council of Regency’ was convened at Kensington Palace in the King’s Drawing Room. Those adopted to the Council included; Queen Charlotte (previously alienated from the regency at the insistence of her eldest son), the Duke of York (acting as President of the Council), the Duke of Clarence, the Duke of Kent and the Duke of Cumberland. For each royal personage, a deputy was appointed from the Privy Council; Lord Aberdeen (for the Queen), Lord Amherst (for the Duke of York), Sir William Adams (for the Duke of Clarence), Hugh Elliot (for the Duke of Kent) and Sir Vicary Gibbs (for the Duke of Cumberland). Lord Beresford, Comptroller of the Household since 1812, was to serve as Secretary to the Council and the Lord Chancellor, Lord Eldon, was to attend regular meetings in the role of “Extraordinary Officer”.

    Whilst the Prince Regent assumed many of the day-to-day duties of the monarch carried out by his elder brother, the Council assumed some acts of the royal prerogative such as declarations of war or the signing of peace treaties which required a majority vote. Parliament still retained the lion’s share of power however and many politicians regarded the Council of Regency as little more than a rubber stamp, concerned more with the stability of the Crown than the country. In the first few weeks, it's members seemed to do nothing else but squabble and bicker over endless requests for increases to their allowances to settle extravagant royal expenditure. But the Duke of York displayed positive signs of leadership, deciding that the Council's first priority (after the King's condition) must be to settle his niece's future.


    Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold.

    Princess Charlotte was 18 years old and had long been determined to marry Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. The Prince was popular in England, his military service earning him the respect of the middle classes and the establishment was impressed with his royal lineage and ambition. Whilst some were nervous about a foreign prince holding influence over the future Queen, many were moved by the very genuine affection the pair had for each other. The Duke of Wellington was heard to beg the Prince Regent when he refused to allow an engagement; “She will need love Sir, give her that and she shall praise you till the end of her days”. The Prince Regent had other ideas. He wished her to marry the Prince of Orange and though he found Leopold charming, he was not inclined to give up just yet.

    In August 1815, the Duke of York met with Princess Charlotte. He asked her if she truly wished to marry Prince Leopold. When she insisted that her feelings toward Leopold were unchanged, the Duke of York replied, "Then my dear, you shall have your prince and may God bless you for it". On the 16th August 1815, the Council of Regency announced the engagement between Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold. A bill was to be put before parliament to give Prince Leopold British citizenship and to secure him an annuity. Camelford House on Park Lane was leased as a home for the couple with funds for renovations allocated by parliament the following month. A wedding date was set for the 2nd of May 1816 but Prince Leopold was invited to relocate to Britain so that he might spend time with his future bride and learn “the intricacies of the British court and constitution”.

    There were two other outstanding issues to be resolved following the Prince Regent's death. The first was what to do with the Dowager Princess of Wales, recently arrived back in England to comfort her daughter. The Duke of York was well aware of Caroline's popularity with the people and did not wish to subject his niece to any further misery. As a result, Caroline was invited to reside with her daughter as long as she wished. She no longer needed permission to visit England and her annuity was guaranteed. The Duke of York could be content that he had provided well for his future Queen. The state of her inheritance however demanded even more attention.

    A few weeks after Charlotte’s marriage, riots broke out in Littleport, Cambridgeshire. High unemployment and rising grain costs only added to the general sense of unrest that had followed the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars. On 22nd May 1816, a group of residents in Littleport met at The Globe Inn. Fuelled by alcohol, they began demanding money from wealthier passers by before destroying property. Far from a local altercation, the riot soon spread to Ely where magistrates tried to calm matters by ordering poor relief and fixing a minimum wage. The protestors were undeterred and encouraged by Lord Liverpool, a local militia was formed to put down the riots. At the trial which followed, 19 were sentenced to be transported to the penal colony of New South Wales whilst five were hanged from the gallows at Parnell pits in Ely. A plaque erected near the site read; “May their awful fate be a warning to others”.

    It did not prove to be so. By the end of the year, similar riots had broken out in Loughborough as the Luddites attacked bobbinet lace machines which they feared would replace their labours and leave them destitute. In Islington, the revolutionary Spenceans delivered a petition to the Duke of York demanding the aristocracy be abolished, that land be taken into communal ownership in towns and villages and that universal suffrage be introduced to elect a national senate which would replace the Houses of Parliament. When no reply was forthcoming, the Spenceans rioted with the aim of taking the Tower of London and the Bank of England. They made it as far as the Tower but when soldiers refused to hand it over, the rioters dispersed quietly.

    As amusing as the latter was to high society, the Duke of York failed to see the humour as the tale was retold over the dinner table. The stresses and strains of his office were exacerbating his existing health conditions. Arthritis, gout, palpitations and fatigue had plagued him since the turn of the decade. The Duke of Wellington recalled how the Duke said sadly; “I shall live to see [Charlotte] proclaimed Queen but I shall not live to see her crowned”. The royal physicians treated the Duke with all kinds of experimental concoctions until it was determined that he should try and take more fresh air away from London. Reluctant to return to Oatlands, the Duke decided to deal with the second outstanding problem left to him by the Prince Regent.

    Begun by the Prince of Wales in 1787, the Royal Pavilion in Brighton was initially proposed to be a seaside retreat. Built in the Indo-Saracenic style prevalent in India, plans for the final stage of the Pavilion’s completion had been agreed with the architect John Nash in April 1815 but had stalled following the Prince Regent’s sudden death. For a year, all work had been halted leaving the Pavilion a half-completed eyesore on the seafront. The Duke of York was loathe to increase royal expenditure for such a project but Lord Liverpool seemed confident parliament would vote him the money to finish the Pavilion if they knew it could prove beneficial to the Duke’s health.

    Work began on the Pavilion as a long-term retreat for members of the Royal Family on the Sussex coast but as a short-term measure, it was proposed that the Duke might visit Bad Bevenson, a small spa town in Lower Saxony located just half a day’s carriage ride from Hanover. The trip would allow for a period of rest and recuperation coupled with various meetings with officials in Hanover and a few public appearances to increase goodwill among the people there.

    Frederick’s brother, the Duke of Cambridge had been resident in Hanover for just a few months following his appointment as Viceroy by the Council of Regency on the advice of the Government. Being a firm admirer of his brother, Frederick welcomed the chance to see him and accepted the need to spend some time away from England. He arrived in Hanover in February 1817 once the celebrations for Christmas had drawn to a close and a safe passage could be arranged for him. Taking the waters at German spa towns was not an uncommon practise for wealthy Europeans and like many fellow travellers, the Duke travelled under an assumed name ‘Lord Guelph’. After three weeks, his health was much improved and he moved on to Herrenhausen Palace refreshed and reinvigorated.

    Upon his arrival at Herrenhausen, there was news to cheer him further. Princess Charlotte was expecting a baby. The royal succession would be secured and to celebrate, the Duke of Cambridge held several banquets where toasts were given to the King, Queen and the young Princess and her future child. Perhaps it was this promising news which put the people of Hanover in great spirits for the Duke of York’s visit, nonetheless, he seemed popular wherever he went. He walked freely among the people and in the Old Town, won hearts when he accepted the offer of a stein of beer from a publican. His down to earth approach left a positive impression and when he left, he was presented with various gifts which he insisted be sold and the money given to the local hospital.

    Back in London, the Duke of York payed a visit to Marlborough House where Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold had established their household. Charlotte was radiant, her pregnancy now showing and the country devouring the smallest detail of her condition via regular bulletins (official or otherwise) from the newspapers. The presence of her mother had undoubtedly cheered her and Caroline showed no animosity towards the Royal Family in the slightest. But behind the well ordered and happy scene, there had been tragedy that did not bode well for the future.

    Unbeknown to the general public, Princess Charlotte had suffered two miscarriages since her marriage and the royal doctors were determined not to allow this pregnancy to end in tragedy. Charlotte was starved of food and regularly bled, much to the protestations of Baron Stockmar, Prince Leopold’s confidante and personal physician. Stockmar could see that something was clearly amiss in the treatment of the Princess but he was also well aware that (the English attitude to foreigners being what it was), if anything went wrong he would make the perfect scapegoat.

    Determined to avoid this fate, he urged the English doctors to allow the Princess to eat more and insisted that bleeding her would have serious consequences for the health of mother and child. When they refused to listen, he begged Prince Leopold to intervene. The Prince could not dissuade them either. Stockmar reasoned with Princess Caroline that her daughter was being made seriously ill. He urged her to speak to Queen Charlotte to demand better treatment but Caroline, fearful of being denied access to her daughter again, said nothing.


    Henry Howard's 'The Apotheosis of Princess Charlotte of Wales'

    The so-called “lowering treatment” was maintained until November. On 4th November 1817, the Duke of York was informed that his niece was in labour at Marlborough House. Accompanied by the Queen, the Dowager Princess of Wales, Princess Augusta Sophia and the Duke of Clarence, the royal party assembled in a sitting room near to the Princess’ bedroom where they could hear her agonising and exhausting screams for relief. With tensions running high, Queen Charlotte took Caroline into the gardens to ease her anxieties. Later that evening, the birth said to be imminent, the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury arrived to “witness” the royal arrival, a peculiar tradition designed to avoid the swapping of a newly arrived prince with a foundling child.

    The labour continued throughout the night and well into the next day, the royal party now exhausted and seriously concerned for the Princess’ condition. At 9pm on the 5th of November, the Princess was finally delivered of a son. He was born dead. The ladies present consoled the Princess. It was not unusual and she was still very young, just 21 years old in fact. There would be plenty of future opportunities and she should not feel too disappointed. Exhausted, the Princess sobbed until she was hysterical. Her doctors began plying her with wine to “fortify her blood”. At around midnight, the Princess began screaming for Baron Stockmar. When he entered the room, Charlotte cried out; “They have made me tipsy!”

    Stockmar saw the Princess in a horrifying state of distress, clearly unwell and obviously being neglected. He withdrew to recall the Queen and the Duke of York back to Marlborough House whilst Prince Leopold roused the Dowager Princess of Wales. Charlotte wailed “Stocky! Stocky!” but as he returned to the room to console her that her mother was en route, the death rattle came to her throat. She tossed herself violently from side to side, drew up her legs and then, it was over. Princess Charlotte was dead. Upon entering the room, Prince Leopold fell to his knees in shock. The Princess’ mother screamed so loudly it was said that it could be heard for miles. Stockmar put on his topcoat and left for Buckingham House to inform the Queen.

    [1] I cannot find any mention of how the relationship between the Duchess of York and Queen Charlotte developed, however it's important to the TL that Charlotte becomes frustrated with Frederica for what comes later.

    [2] This will allow the marriage between the Yorks to be dissolved as quickly as possible with as little scandal as possible. In the OTL of course, they remained married until Frederica's death even though they had little to no contact from around 1795 onwards.

    [Note] This installment is mostly background but there's a few subtle changes in place from the OTL to lay the foundations for the next installment. With Charlotte dead, Frederick will now be King if he outlives his father King George III. He'll be put under increasing pressure to put his wife aside and make a new marriage as his siblings rush around Europe trying to secure their own brides to produce an heir.
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    GIV: Part 3: The Price of Madness
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    King George IV

    Part 3: The Price of Madness

    Following Princess Charlotte’s sudden death in November 1817, the Council of Regency met to discuss two major problems the British Royal Family faced. The first was a looming succession crisis. Though George III and Queen Charlotte had twelve surviving legitimate children, they had no legitimate grandchildren. Of their twelve children, only three were married; the Duke of York (to Princess Frederica of Prussia), the Duke of Cumberland (to Duchess Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz) and Princess Mary (to her first cousin Prince William Frederick, the son of her uncle the Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh). None of these marriages had resulted in children and it was now abundantly clear that the royal princes would have to step up quickly and "do their duty".

    The second issue was not only a personal problem for the Duke of York but threatened to cast a shadow over his reign the moment it began. Effectively separated from his wife since 1795, Queen Charlotte had tried to convince the Duchess of York to reconcile with her husband and to return to court to support him as regent. When the Duke became King, he would (the Queen insisted) rely on his consort just as much as George III had relied on Charlotte. But as things stood, the Duchess of York was refusing to leave Oatlands where she had created her own court from her household staff and her menagerie of pets.

    Lord Liverpool sweetened the pot for the unmarried royal princes by offering to raise their income and pay their debts if and when they got married. At Kew Palace, Queen Charlotte leapt into action as matchmaker, trawling her own family tree for suitable brides. But the Duke of York's situation was a little more complex. At 55 years old, the Duke had a myriad of minor health problems brought about his excessive eating. Overweight and constantly tired through overwork, his intention before the Prince Regent's death was to maintain the status quo. The Duchess was happy at Oatlands and the Duke was content at his London residence, occasionally kept company by the Duchess of Rutland. But since 1815, the Duke had been forced to cut all ties with Elizabeth Rutland, many in society placing the blame for the Prince Regent's death at her door.

    The Duke agreed with his mother that as King, he would require a consort who was willing to undertake the public duties Queen Charlotte had made a part of the role. Not only that but the King and Queen were supposed to project an image of the model couple, a living rule for others to follow in their own marriages. Reluctantly, he traveled to Oatlands for Christmas where he put the reality of the situation to his wife. If she were willing to reconcile with him, he would ensure that her duties were few and that she could spend as much time at Oatlands as possible. The couple would tackle their future role as friends, not lovers, and every effort would be made to keep the Duchess happy and comfortable. Frederica declined. She either wished to stay at Oatlands permanently or be sent back to Germany. She would consider nothing else. [1]


    Oatlands, the home of the Duke and Duchess of York.

    Somewhat dejected, Frederick returned to London to discuss the matter with his mother. For the Queen, there was only one solution; the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of York must be dissolved. Lord Liverpool was less enthusiastic. The Duchess of York was popular with the general public and a royal divorce would pose a number of constitutional problems. Firstly, the divorce bill would have to go before parliament if the Duke wished to divorce with a view to taking a new wife in the future. There was no guarantee that such a bill would be passed and intimate details of the York's private life would form the basis of a debate that could last months. Secondly, whilst there was no law preventing a divorced person from becoming King, the Archbishop of Canterbury was hardly likely to look kindly on a head of the church who had stepped outside of the church's teachings on marriage. He may even refuse to crown them King.

    The Lord Chancellor, Lord Eldon, was consulted on the "York question" in January 1818. Whilst he made no judgement on the rights and wrongs of putting the Duchess of York aside, he offered a glimmer of hope in resolving the situation. In 1793, the Duke of Sussex married Lady Augusta Murray, daughter of the 4th Earl of Dunmore. Despite two wedding ceremonies (one in Rome and another in London), the marriage contravened the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 and was dissolved; not by parliament but by the Court of Arches, the highest ecclesiastical court in the Church of England. The marriage had simply been annulled on the grounds that both ceremonies had been performed outside of the law and were thus, illegal.

    This provided a precedent which Lord Eldon felt could be adapted slightly to fit the needs of the day. Whilst there was no question that the Duke and Duchess of York were legally married, an annulment could be provided by the Court of Arches for other reasons. To obtain a declaration of A vincula matrimonii from the Arches Court, a husband needed to prove either that the marriage had not been consummated within two years, that his wife was "frigid" (that is, his wife had deserted her husband or shown no willingness to reconcile) or that his wife was a lunatic. Such grounds were ripe for argument and appeal but if one could be proven, the ecclesiastical court would declare the marriage to be annulled, both parties would be free to remarry and, in the Duke of York's case, there could be no constitutional or religious barriers to his accession and coronation.

    On 10 January 1818, the Duke of York and Queen Charlotte met with the Bishop of London, William Howley, and the Dean of Windsor, Henry Hobart. The latter was specifically invited by the Queen on the grounds that as the clergyman most familiar with members of the Royal Family, he would be regarded as a reliable source of information. In reality, Hobart was renowned for his lack of tact and sensitivity, and the Queen was hoping that he may help in securing the desired outcome. [2] Also present was the Duke’s personal physician, Andrew Halliday, who had treated both the Duke and Duchess for many years. The Duchess of York meanwhile was at Oatlands inspecting her latest acquisition for her farm; two Irish Moiled cows.

    The Bishop of London made the situation as plain as possible. The Duke had not expressed a wish to annul his marriage before, what had changed now that required the immediate attention of the Court of Arches? The Duke replied, "Because my wife refuses to reconcile Sir and the King must have a wife who has the will to serve the country as he does". The Bishop seemed placated by this, enough to introduce the question of grounds. After a long and rambling explanation of the whys and wherefores, he asked if the marriage had been consummated. Rumours [3] had circulated for years that it had not and this had been given as a reason by the Duke of York's supporters during the Clarke scandal as to why he had been so indulgent of his mistress. The Duke said that it had not. Andrew Halliday interjected that it may be difficult to prove this without subjecting both the Duke and Duchess to the humiliation of medical examinations. The Bishop moved on.

    "And is the Duchess unwilling to reconcile with you?"

    "She is"

    "She refuses to reside with you, even to receive you?"

    The Duke explained that he held no animosity for his wife, indeed, it was his hope that after the annulment of their marriage, she should continue to live at Oatlands and he would care for her as "a brother cares for a sister". Again, the Bishop moved on. When asked if he thought his wife “displayed signs of lunacy”, the Duke replied; “It is hard for one who sees only her finest qualities to reach such a conclusion. She is certainly very childlike and her personality lacks progress"

    Halliday put the situation far more bluntly. In his view, the Duchess' refusal to attend court, her eccentric way of running Oatlands and her fondness for animals over people had led to a "self-enforced seclusion" that could only "weaken the state of the mind". Halliday felt that the Duchess was suffering from "a stunted personality, a personality that seems best suited to a child. This would explain why the Duchess has no great desire to reconcile or to serve her husband or country as any other well minded woman would". Hobart added that he had not seen the Duchess for some time but that in his opinion, the Duchess was "not a dangerous lunatic" but she was "without doubt feeble brained". The Bishop of London gave his verdict. If the Duchess was brought to London before the Arches Court and if the court found her to be displaying signs of madness, an annulment may be granted. The Duke asked if the officials of the court could not visit her at Oatlands where the Duchess was more comfortable. The Bishop agreed.

    Lady Salisbury was present when the proctors of the Court of Arches arrived at Oatlands. She described the scene later in her diary;

    "They asked her the most peculiar questions, such as if she had ever conversed with her animals on topics of the day or indeed, if the animals of the farm had conversed with her. They asked her about God and if she believed herself to be Christ and so many other nonsenses that the whole display was quite insulting. When they left, Halliday remained behind and said that she had answered the questions well. But he would not tell her the reason for the proctors' visit and Her Royal Highness kept asking, 'But who were those gentlemen?', to which Halliday kept repeating 'They are doctors Ma'am'. The Duchess laughed and replied, 'Such funny little doctors with their funny little questions. I did not think them very good at their work"

    Unfortunately for the Duchess of York, the proctors were very good at their work indeed. By the time they returned to London, the House of Commons had been informed by Lord Eldon that the Duke of York was seeking an annulment to his marriage. Newspapers and parliamentarians were predictably skeptical. If the Duke of York had genuine concerns for the Duchess' mental state, if the marriage had indeed never be consummated, surely His Royal Highness would have sought a resolution years ago? In response, the Lord Chancellor told the Commons; "The Duke has acted most generously these last ten years, had his position remained unchanged then he would have continued to provide for the Duchess of York without hesitation or complaint. But we must look to the future and the role the Duke may play therein. He seeks only to ready himself for the heavy burden of kingship should it come, and to protect his wife who seems to suffering a great deal from the events of recent months".


    Lord Eldon, Lord Chancellor.

    The Court of Arches informed the Lord Chancellor that it may take many weeks for them to reach a conclusion. In the meantime, the Duke of York traveled to Oatlands to explain the situation to his wife. Lady Salisbury recalled; "It was all handled with as much kindness as it could be, indeed, though I wanted to dislike the Duke for his treatment of the Duchess, I could not for he was so very gentle with her". Frederick promised that whatever the outcome, Frederica could stay at Oatlands for as long as she liked. She would not be sent back to Germany and she could, if she wished, remarry in England without fear of retaliation or humiliation. Further to this, the Duchess would be given an annuity of £30,000 which would double to £60,000 when the Duke of York became King. She would be welcome at court if she wished to attend and her household staff and ladies in waiting would be free to stay in her employ with any costs met by the Crown. The Duchess replied mournfully; "So this is the price of madness Sir?"

    In public, the Duke faced hostility for the first time since the Clarke scandal. His carriage was booed in the street and the newspapers did not hold back in printing critiques. The most prominent came from Brownlow North, the Bishop of Winchester. Whilst he did not mention the Yorks by name, there was little doubt as to who his sermon was aimed at. "Can one image Christ deserting those most in need, especially those who had previously displayed nothing but companionship and love?", he asked, "Such a lack of compassion is expected in those who turn their back on Christian teaching but for those who must be bound to it by virtue of their station in life, the example they set must always be Christ-like. To cut loose a father, mother, brother, or indeed a wife, who through no personal flaw or fault, finds that they are in need of greater care than in years past, shows a weakness of character but most importantly, a weakness of faith".

    With the mood turning against him, the Duke of York was quickly advised to head to Coburg. His younger brother, the Duke of Kent, was to marry Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (the sister of Princess Charlotte's widower, Prince Leopold) at a ceremony held at Schloss Ehrenburg on the 29th May. The Court of Arches was asked to give their resolution to the York case before the Duke returned. Queen Charlotte hoped that the arrival of a new princess in England would change the narrative and give the people something else to focus on. As the Duke left England, the Court of Arches asked Andrew Halliday for his final assessment of the Duchess of York's health.

    He delivered the coup de grace those in favour of the annulment had hoped for. Addressing the Proctors, Halliday said; "The Duchess of York is a gentle and kind soul, indeed, I agree with the assessment of others in the field that she is very childlike. She enjoys somewhat immature pursuits and interests, her condition would not cause concern in the average spectator, they might merely consider her naivety and innocence to be endearing. But if Her Royal Highness has disassociated from reality, if she cannot function as an adult, then we must ask if the Duchess can realistically have ever performed her duties not only as a wife but as a member of the Royal Family. I would suggest this is the cause of her self-imposed seclusion at Oatlands. I will admit that she is not prone to violent displays, I could not, would not, counsel confinement but gentlemen...would we be failing our duty of care towards the Duchess of York if we did not release her from a clearly unhappy marriage that may have affected her mind to bring her to the state we find her in today? There is clearly evidence of diminished responsibility and I believe that if the Duchess is not released from the burden of expectation which could be placed upon her in the future, she may suffer a complete and total nervous collapse"

    One of the Proctors, clearly still skeptical, asked; "That being the case Dr Halliday, do you find Her Royal Highness to be suffering from lunacy or not Sir?"

    Halliday replied, "She would undoubtedly become a lunatic if the marriage is allowed to continue longer. Of that I am certain"


    Frederica, Duchess of York and Albany.

    The Court of Arches adjourned. They deliberated for three days before returning a conclusion by which time, the Duke of York had left England for Coburg. The result was therefore dispatched by special messenger. The day after the Duke of Kent’s marriage to Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, the Court of Arches officially annulled the marriage between the Duke and Duchess of York on the grounds of the Duchess’ lunacy. It was widely suggested that the court had not believed for a second that the marriage had not been consummated in the 27 years it had lasted but on the grounds of lunacy, they had found the Duchess “nervously indisposed to a significant degree”. Perhaps out of kindness for Frederica, the Proctors made clear that whilst the annulment was given on the grounds of lunacy; “it was a fear for her future state of health which prompted this decision, not the current state of her nerves which, though enough to convince us that the marriage should be dissolved, does not warrant urgency of care for Her Royal Highness”.

    With the news of their annulment made public, the Duke experienced a frosty welcome on his return to England from Coburg. Accompanying his brother and new sister-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, to London from Dover, there was some booing and jeering but most seemed more interested in catching a glimpse of the new Duchess of Kent. Frederick himself believed he was right to dissolve his marriage in favour of a wife who could help him with the task that would ultimately be his. Nonetheless, he visited Oatlands far more regularly than he had during his marriage to Frederica and consistently sent gifts to ensure his former wife was comfortable, which some attributed to guilt. He honoured his promise and allowed Frederica to remain at Oatlands until her death in 1820.

    The Duke was now free to marry again and with a flurry of marriage ceremonies taking place during the summer of 1818, Queen Charlotte wasted no time in dispatching invitations to her relations in Germany hoping that a suitable bride would present herself as quickly as possible. She understood that the only advantage she could offer a future daughter-in-law was the allure of a crown. Whatever the truth of the situation affecting his first marriage, unkind gossip in the royal houses of Europe suggested all kinds of drawbacks; the Duke was impotent, he was disloyal and had grown bored of his last wife, there was even a suggestion that he was at death’s door and any bride would be a widow within the year. Whilst the annulment had been easier to obtain than anybody assumed it might be, finding a future Queen might prove harder than anybody had imagined.

    [1] In the OTL, the Yorks stayed married (though stayed separated) until 1820 when the Duchess died. I think it's realistic that Frederick would need a wife who would carry out the duties of Queen consort (few as they were at this time) and by butterflying (slightly) Frederica's stubbornness, this lays the path clear to get the Duke a new wife for the start of his reign.

    [2] When Victoria gave birth to the future King Edward VII in November 1841 in the OTL, Hobart congratulated her on "thus saving us from the incredible curse of a female succession" - o_O

    [3] See Part 2!

    [Note] I was really unsure of how to arrange Frederica's exit. At first I thought of keeping the Yorks married until 1820 when Frederica died. The Duke (As King) would then be free to remarry. But in this TL, there'd be a sense of urgency given the POD removes both the Prince Regent and Princess Charlotte. I also considered something along the lines of the Pains and Penalties Bill 1820 but again, it seemed too late. By then, Victoria would have been born and would there be any need for the Duke to remarry even when he was ultimately widowed in 1820?
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    GIV: Part 4: The Old Goat and the Shepherdess
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    Monthly Donor
    King George IV

    Part 4: The Old Goat and the Shepherdess

    The Summer of 1818 saw four royal weddings but this was not accompanied by months of public celebrations in the streets of London. The royal marriage rush was seen by some as being indecorous or even distasteful. People spoke unkindly of “new imports from Germany” and were generally indifferent to the ceremonies held behind closed doors at Buckingham House. The first of these was the marriage of Princess Elizabeth to her much-longed for lover, Prince Frederick of Hesse-Homburg. Queen Charlotte wept throughout, opposed from the start but later relenting, fearful that her daughter would move to Germany and never return. The other ceremonies took place on the continent but in July there was a double celebration at Kew. In a joint ceremony, the Duke of Clarence married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen whilst the Duke of Kent took the opportunity for a second ceremony, having already married Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld in Coburg.


    Victoria, Duchess of Kent.

    With the glut of nuptials concluded, the Queen turned her attention to the Duke of York. Whilst the Duke saw no great rush to the finish line considering his brothers had now done their duty (and paid off their debts in the process), the Queen wished to get the matter of the Duke of York’s marriage settled. Whilst the royal guests for the London weddings were restricted to close family members, the Queen examined any eligible princess in attendance and ordered them to visit her at Kew where they were subjected to an interrogation. Whilst there were some prospective candidates who pleased the Queen, it quickly became apparent that Frederick's brothers had beaten him to the chase by snapping up the last remaining eligible princesses in Europe.

    A cartoon was published in the non-conformist Liberal newspaper the Manchester Observer depicting the Duke’s younger brothers arm in arm with their wives across a finish line with a bloated and panting York trailing behind. A similar sketch appeared in The Observer (the London edition) which showed the Duke being offered a series of pigs dressed in bridal gowns by his mother, whilst behind him stood a crowd of beauties selling roses from baskets. It accompanied an opinion piece which asked; "Why can Her Majesty, the orchestrator of this flurry of royal nuptials, not see the beauty in her own garden? It appears that a Prince in need of a wife may only find his treasure in the castles and palaces beyond the Kingdom and not from within".

    This was more than a commentary on the nationality of the new intake of royal duchesses, though it was highlighted as "a curious thing that a family so determined to prove it has abandoned its foreign roots clings ever closer to them on the question of suitable royal brides". Its main theme was to address something many people had come to realise (and dislike) in recent years; Queen Charlotte's restoration at court after the Prince Regent's death had left her with a taste for power. Why could the Duke of York not find his own bride? And why was the Queen, apparently now ailing, still a member of the Council of Regency? It caught the public mood well. It became commonplace for Queen Charlotte to be met with booing when she travelled, indeed on one occasion she responded to the crowd with a short address, complaining that it was "deeply hurtful to be treated in such a way after such long service".

    The Duke of York had hoped to find his own bride, he even had sympathy with the view that the public would welcome an English wife drawn from the daughters of the English peerage. However, the Duke was also realistic and appreciated that the Queen saw it as an important part of her duties to arrange marriages for her children. He also seemed to be aware of his own shortcomings. In a letter written to his sister, Princess Elizabeth, Frederick wrote: "I see myself as Mama's favourites see me; a fat old goat with a crown as his only advantage". Elizabeth replied with a pencil sketch of a huge goat wearing a crown and holding an ear trumpet. She captioned it, "The kindest old goat in the Kingdom, whom I love so very dearly".

    The Duke’s sister, Princess Augusta, and his new sister-in-law, the Duchess of Kent had their own ideas about whom Frederick should marry. For Augusta, there was a very obvious choice far closer to home than Germany; Princess Sophia of Gloucester. In her 40s (and thus assumed to be past childbearing age), Sophia was the daughter of the Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh and had been considered as a potential bride for the Duke of Clarence. Indeed, Prince William had favoured a match with Sophia which Queen Charlotte had tried to arrange just a few years earlier. But Sophia turned William down.

    Augusta was certain that "a match between Freddie and Sophia would be one forged in long friendship that would undoubtedly be a success" but when news of this reached Queen Charlotte at Kew, she admonished Augusta for interfering. She also forbad any discussion of Sophia as a potential bride. "If she did not want my son William, she will not have my son Freddie", the Queen snapped at the Countess of Cork. Years later when Princess Sophia was told she had been overlooked as a potential bride for the Duke of York on the orders of the Queen, Sophia laughed and said, "Then God bless the memory of dear Aunt Charlotte!".


    Kew Palace.

    The Duchess of Kent, now a regular visitor to Kew, had her own candidate in mind. She proposed her niece, Duchess Marie of Württemberg [1]. Marie was the daughter of the Duchess of Kent’s sister Antoinette and her husband Duke Alexander. Raised at Schloss Fantaisie in Bayreuth, Marie now lived at Jelgava in modern-day Latvia where her father was serving as the Military Governor of Belorussia. Marie was present at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Kent in Coburg and now, the Duchess relayed Marie’s many advantages to her mother-in-law. The Queen was unconvinced, the Duke of York even less so. Marie was just 19 years old and whilst there was a large age gap between the recently married Duke and Duchess of Clarence (William was 53, his wife was 26), both the Queen and the Duke of York felt Marie “little more than a child”. The Duchess was rebuked for taking an interest in “family matters” by the Queen and Marie was cast out of the running.

    In the Queen’s view, there was only one candidate worth considering. In June 1818, the Duke of Cambridge married Princess Augusta of Hesse-Kassel. Born and raised at Rumpenheim Castle in Offenbach am Main, Hesse, Augusta was a great-granddaughter of King George II, her grandmother being George II’s daughter Mary. Augusta’s new husband was therefore her second cousin. Her pedigree was exemplary, her uncle being recently “upgraded” with a much-desired upward notch in hierarchy in 1803 when he became the Elector of Hesse. Augusta had recently acquired other links to the British Royal Family too. Her sister Marie married the Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen Charlotte's nephew, the previous year. The entire Hesse-Kassel family had attended Augusta's wedding to the Duke of Cambridge at Rumpenheim in May 1818 but Augusta's sister Luise had missed out on the celebrations because of a head cold caught whilst out riding in the rain. After much pleading, Luise was allowed to travel to London with her new brother-in-law and sister so that she could attend their second wedding at Buckingham House. [2]

    Luise was lodged not with her sister but with the Queen at Kew. Uncomfortably cramped and very much “on approval”, Queen Charlotte thought Princess Luise “gentle in manner, pretty of face and uninterested in the political or philosophical”. The Princess, like her sister, was a good Lutheran and had been raised somewhat modestly with no great taste for luxury or lavish entertainments. She had a reasonable command of English which could no doubt be improved but the Queen found her taste in clothes “quite ugly and in need of attention”. Luise was just 24 years old and had no idea why the Queen was taking such a keen interest in her.

    It remains unclear as to when the Duke of York and Princess Luise first met during that visit but it is said that they danced together at the ball held at Buckingham House to celebrate the Cambridges wedding. The Countess of Cork recalled; “The Princess was very enthusiastic about everything, she professed to finding England very beautiful and said that London was far more exciting than Rumpenheim. The Queen kept her at her side all evening, allowing her only to dance occasionally and always with the Duke of Cambridge or the Duke of York. The poor princess grew a little tired and irritable at this which did not impress the Queen at all”.


    Princess Luise of Hesse-Kassel.

    The Cambridges finally wrestled Luise free of the Queen after the wedding. Even then, the Queen suggested that as the Cambridges would not return to Hanover until August, Luise should remain with her sister in London until such a time as Luise could be safely accompanied back to Germany with the Duke and Duchess. In the interim, the Queen wasted little time in arranging meetings between the Duke of York and Princess Luise. For her part, the Princess found the Duke of York, “very kind and very interesting, with many stories that are most amusing or informative. He is an old man but a generous one and his main interest seems to be in everything military”. She wrote to her father in the first week of August; “The Duke of York took me to see Windsor which is a very impressive place but quite cold and not very happy. He made it all quite interesting. He will be King soon because his father is unwell. I did not meet His Majesty because of that.”

    At this stage in time, the Duke seemed somewhat indifferent to Luise. He liked her company but the only talk of marriage between the couple was at Kew where Queen Charlotte wondered why nobody had made the first move towards an engagement yet. When Luise left England, she said she would like to return one day but was also full of talk about seeing Hanover. “Nobody could really be sure of her feelings”, the Countess of Cork said later. Upon returning to Hanover, the Duchess of Cambridge found that she was expecting a child. By the end of the month, the Duchess of Clarence and the Duchess of Kent were also confirmed to be pregnant. This was undoubtedly happy news but it made the Duke of York question if he really needed to marry again.

    His brother, the Duke of Sussex, warned him that the annulment of his first marriage had been accepted on the premise that he wished an able and dutiful second wife to assist him during his reign as King. Not to honour this might revive gossip that he was simply bored of Frederica of Prussia and wanted to put her aside. Queen Charlotte was also determined not to let Luise slip through her fingers. If he wouldn’t propose to Luise, there were very few options left and who could tell if Luise might not catch someone else’s interest in Hanover? The Queen put her foot down. The Duke had a month to consider Luise. If he would not take her, he must take the next candidate the Queen put forward without argument or delay.

    The Duchess of Cambridge used her confinement as an excuse to keep her sister in Hanover. At Herrenhausen, she kept Luise away from handsome young officers and visiting eligible princes were told that Luise had a fever or that she was out riding if they came to call. She tried her best to prepare Luise who was still a little naïve at the plans being made for her at Kew. The Duke of York was not against the idea of marrying Luise but he did find her “a little immature and very skittish”. Nonetheless, he wrote to her asking if she had enjoyed her stay in England and casually mentioned that he may be visiting Hanover in the coming weeks and hoped to see her there.

    But the Duke’s visit to Hanover was delayed. In October 1818, Queen Charlotte showed signs of decline and her doctors feared her heart had been compromised by a series of small strokes. She was confined to her rooms at Kew, the Duke visiting her daily. The Countess of Cork’s memoirs do not mention if the marriage issue was discussed, though later historians have suggested that the Queen practically commanded Frederick to propose at the earliest opportunity. She begged him to go to Hanover at once but he refused to leave her bedside. In a final letter to her son, Queen Charlotte wrote: “You know that I am low in spirits and the matter at hand causes me great worry and concern. Please do not linger in your approach for if you do, I fear you will find yourself without a better prospect. I do believe we are of one mind, that we both appreciate how important this matter is and I only ask that you seriously consider your position and make arrangements to go to Hanover at once”.

    Though she did not know it, the Queen might have been cheered to learn that the Duke of York had begun a regular correspondence with Luise. Their letters do not reveal a blossoming romance, indeed they read more as a light-hearted, friendly exchange between acquaintances. He tells her of a military parade he has recently attended; she speaks of the ponies she has just acquired as a gift from her father. Their topics of conversation strayed no further than the weather or the condition of the Duchess of Cambridge, expecting her first child in just a few months. But one letter gives an indication that the Duke had, even before Queen Charlotte’s death, decided to propose marriage. On the 2nd of November, he wrote; “I am greatly looking forward to seeing you at Herrenhausen, I have thought much about you in these last days and hope you see that I hold you in very high esteem”.

    On the 17th of November 1818, Queen Charlotte died at Kew. Sitting in a chair, the Duke of York sat next to her and held her hand. She had been lucid until the end, very weak but losing none of her faculties. The day before her death, she dictated her will to her husband's secretary, Sir Herbert Taylor. In another possible indication that the marriage had been discussed at this late stage, the Queen’s will instructed that her jewels be bequeathed first to her husband, unless he remained in his state of insanity, in which case the jewels were to be given to the future Duchess of York. Luise was not included by name, however. If the Duke of York did not marry, the jewels would become heirlooms of the House of Hanover. The Queen’s funeral was held at St George’s Chapel, Windsor on the 2nd December 1818 so as to allow the Dukes of Cambridge and Cumberland to return to England in time. Her husband, King George III, was not told of his wife's death.

    It was decided that the Duke of York would return to Hanover with his brother Prince Adolphus and propose to Princess Luise after Christmas. The Duchess of Cambridge used the festivities to prepare her sister for what was to come. She wrote to her father; “I took Luise into the gardens and told her that the Duke of York was coming to Herrenhausen soon and that he had it in mind to propose to her. She did not seem surprised by this but neither did she show any signs of disappointment or resistance to the idea. I believe she likes him and that she sees the importance of such a match. It is quite impossible to determine her true feelings which I know would make you, dearest Papa, feel so much more certain about things”.

    Landgrave Frederick wrote immediately to the Duke of Cambridge. If the Duke of York was to propose marriage to Princess Luise, Frederick would rather it happen at Rumpenheim but the Duchess of Cambridge was now in confinement ahead of giving birth and could not travel. The Landgrave decided he would go to Herrenhausen instead. Whilst he had been kept informed of the interest of the Duke of York in his daughter, Frederick had not been asked directly for his views, no doubt because such a declaration of interest was not in the Duke of York’s mind until recently. Any animosity the Landgrave might have felt about this however quickly dissipated. Upon their arrival in Hanover at the end of January 1819, the Duke of York expressed an interest in visiting Rumpenheim. By the time he returned to Herrenhausen, the Duchess of Cambridge may have given birth and he could be present for the baptism before returning to England. The Landgrave later wrote to his daughter Augusta; “That he showed such respect and consideration cheered me greatly and I confess to enjoying his company a great deal”. His wife, Princess Caroline, felt differently. She wept the moment she laid eyes on the Duke of York, already unhappy at the match between Princess Augusta and the Duke of Cambridge.

    “But he is an old man!”, she protested.

    “An old man who will soon be King of England”, her husband noted.


    Schloss Rumpenheim.

    In the days the Duke of York spent at Rumpenheim, nobody discussed the idea of marriage too loudly. They certainly didn’t speak of love. It was rare enough in royal marriages, regarded as a happy accident if it developed in the years that followed a wedding, but not essential when matching dynasty to dynasty. But in a romantic move, on the 14th of February, St Valentine’s Day, the Duke of York took Luise for a walk. Standing on the bank of the River Main which ran beside Rumpenheim, he proposed. Luise accepted.

    The engagement was only celebrated within the family with letters dispatched to the siblings of the couple to inform them of the happy news. The Duke of York still required the permission of the Council of Regency and had to inform the British government of his intentions. The couple proposed to return to Hanover for the Duchess of Cambridge’s impending delivery before going to England where the Princess would be temporarily housed at Kew until the wedding. This meant that any announcement made before their return would see the engagement celebrated in Hanover before it could be celebrated in London, something the Duke of York was keen to avoid.

    Nonetheless, the families of the future bride and groom did their best to celebrate privately. Letters of congratulation poured in for them but one pleased the Duke of York more than any other, so much so that he kept it in his desk for the rest of his life. It was a sketch from his sister Elizabeth. This time, the old goat stood with a farmer's daughter, the two holding hands and smiling with crowns on their heads. It was captioned, "The old goat and the shepherdess".

    [1] In the OTL, Marie didn't marry until she was 33, becoming the 2nd wife of Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, becoming the step-mother of Prince Albert.

    [2] In the OTL, Luise remained unmarried until 1833 when she married a General in the Hanoverian Cavalry, Graf George von der Decken.
    GIV: Part 5: The Kew Scandal
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    King George IV

    Part 5: The Kew Scandal

    The wedding of the Duke of York and Princess Louise (her name now anglicised) was set to take place at Buckingham House on the 1st of July 1819. Leaving Rumpenheim for a brief stopover at Hanover, the couple’s time at Herrenhausen proved bittersweet. The Duchess of Cambridge was safely delivered of a son (named George for his grandfather) but the Duchess of Clarence’s daughter (named Charlotte for her grandmother) died just a few hours after she was born. Princess Louise wanted to stay in Hanover for the baptism of her nephew but the Duke of York insisted that they return to England to begin making preparations for their wedding and to introduce Louise to London society.

    In the absence of the King, the Duke’s marriage needed the approval of the Council of Regency. As this was mostly comprised of his brothers and privy councillors, he was assured of their agreement, especially as Princess Louise had never been married and was not a Roman Catholic. Lord Liverpool offered congratulations to the Duke of York and the engagement was gazetted. But there was now the question of where the couple would live after their marriage. Throughout his life, the Duke had owned a variety of properties ranging from Allerton Castle in North Yorkshire to Dover House in London. These had all been vacated, mostly sold, in order to help the Duke pay off gambling debts. Before his change in circumstances in 1817, Frederick had mostly lived in a small collection of spartan rooms at Horse Guards in London but since Princess Charlotte’s death, he had made use of a suite of rooms at Buckingham House.


    Buckingham House pictured in 1710.

    Buckingham House had been purchased by George III in 1761 and was intended to be a private retreat for Queen Charlotte. Accordingly, it had become known as The Queen’s House. A 1775 Act of Parliament settled the property on the Queen in exchange for her rights to Somerset House. Upon her death, the property became part of the Crown Estate and its only permanent resident in recent years had been the Duke of York. So taken with the property was the Duke, that he decided that Buckingham House should become his marital home with Kew serving as a kind of retreat in place of Oatlands. These arrangements were of little interest to anybody until the Duke requested a meeting with Lord Liverpool on the 1st of March 1819.

    The Duke explained to the Prime Minister that both Buckingham House and Kew were in desperate need of work to make them habitable residences. [1] He asked if the Civil List might be increased to cover the costs. Lord Liverpool was initially reluctant. Britain was burdened with heavy taxation and enormous debt that had spiralled out of control during the Napoleonic Wars. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nicholas Vansittart, caused outrage when he only reduced property tax instead of abolishing it. The tax was abolished in parliament against his wishes and he was forced to borrow heavily. The nation’s finances were being closely examined by the Opposition and by the press. Allocating more funds to the Royal Family would not go unmissed, neither would it be popular.

    The Duke had a second request concerning money. When Lord Liverpool had agreed to cover his debts upon his marriage, this agreement had been made just after the annulment of his first marriage when the debts stood at a modest sum. But since 1817, Frederick had become Duke of Cornwall and was entitled to the revenues of that Duchy which had been set aside to provide an income for the heir apparent. Rather than pay off his debts personally with his increase in income, the Duke had simply found he had far more to play with. His gambling addiction had always proved problematic, he adored the card table but had no great aptitude for it. Since 1815, his interest had turned to horses and racing. Whilst before 1817 his debts were high but manageable, since 1817 they had risen by two thirds. The Duke had already felt the strain. The £30,000 annuity he had promised to his ex-wife at the time of their parting couldn’t be afforded and the Duchess had to “make do” with little over half of that sum, £17,000 a year.


    Lord Liverpool.

    Lord Liverpool was not surprised that the Duke found himself in financial difficulty. His gambling problem and his lack of financial discipline had been well known for years. But the Prime Minister was concerned that this bail out could become a regular request, something neither the country nor Lord Liverpool could afford to sustain. With that in mind, the Prime Minister offered a compromise. He would increase the Civil List in order to pay for the Duke’s wedding, to pay off his debts, to refurbish Buckingham House and to redesign Kew. There would also be enough to add £3,000 a year to Princess Frederica’s allowance. In return, the Duke must make a gentleman’s agreement that the Civil List would remain frozen for five years and that when it came to renegotiations upon his accession, the Duke (as Sovereign) would not be allowed to request any further increase if his accession fell within those five years as expected. The Duke agreed.

    Buoyed by a new sense of financial stability, the Duke settled Princess Louise at Kew. There, they began to invite a series of architects to draw up plans for a redesign of the palace. It had been decided that the old Castellated Palace should be demolished. Parliament had allocated £40,000 in 1800 to salvage the existing structure but by 1819, the cost to do so would stand at around £590,000. To the Duke, he was now providing a saving to the Exchequer rather than asking for an increase. With the Castellated Palace gone, he asked the architect Sir Jeffrey Wyatville to come with designs that added a large extension to the so-called Dutch House which would remain standing and which was currently housing Princess Louise. The proposed cost of this project stood at around £90,000.

    Princess Louise was enthused by the plans for Buckingham House and Kew. Her future husband had offered her the chance to refurbish both properties to her own tastes and she busied herself consulting with the most fashionable (but most expensive) interior designers of the day. Costs quickly spiralled and though no work had begun on either residence, the court was abuzz with (unfair) gossip that the Princess had arrived from Rumpenheim and declared the royal residences to be ugly and impractical. Rumours abounded that the future Queen had very expensive tastes and that she had only agreed to a marriage if the Duke would match the annuity given to his ex-wife in a personal income for herself. Most damaging of all, that she had demanded an extension at Kew to accommodate the dreaded “dames d’horreurs”.

    At the time, it was customary for the Prime Minister to appoint members of the Royal Household but only those of the King, the Queen and the Prince of Wales. Princess Louise was not yet married and her household was her own affair for the time being. Even then, in the normal way of things, the future Queen would have retained the services of one or two of the most senior of her predecessors’ ladies of the bedchamber. This provided a smooth transition at court and was also regarded as a friendly gesture to those who had given many years of service to the Royal Family. By convention, these ladies departed royal service after a year or so to allow the Prime Minister to replace them. But Princess Louise had other ideas.

    In arranging her household at Kew, she retained none of Queen Charlotte’s ladies and instead relied entirely on six women from her father’s court. They came from good German noble families but none could outrank the ladies formerly engaged by Queen Charlotte. Dismissed from service, the Countess of Cork gave the ladies the nickname “the dames d’horreur”, a play on the French “dames d’honneur”. They were regarded as too strict, too grand and unwilling to conform to English customs. One particular sticking point was the reduction in meals to be served, the Princess and her ladies being not only fussy eaters but irregular ones. With less to do, this allowed the Comptroller of the Household (always eager to cut costs) to dismiss junior servants who found they had nothing to do. Those who remained at Kew were put out in other ways. Naturally, the Princess and her ladies conversed only in German. Disgruntled junior servants nicknamed Kew “the German House” (instead of the Dutch House) and Louise was resented for imposing far stricter rules than Queen Charlotte ever had. The Comptroller reminded those who complained that this was only temporary. After her marriage, the new Duchess of York would have to toe the line when it came to the appointment of her household. [2]

    Yet none of this was done out of spite or grandeur. Princess Louise had been advised in all things by her mother and had taken that advice as the only way to approach court life in England. Her popularity both inside her palace and outside it was rapidly dwindling as rumours swirled in London. Most were nonsensical but they still took hold and were even printed in newspapers as fact. One suggested that the Princess had refused to wear Queen Charlotte’s jewels and wanted new creations made specifically for her at great expense. Every rumour ended the same way; if Louise did not get what she wanted, she had threatened to go back to Germany. The Duke did not want to be humiliated and so gave in to her every demand.

    The Duchess of Kent in her confinement at Kensington Palace heard these rumours and realised how serious the aftereffects could be. She wrote to Princess Louise asking her to be “most careful with the arrangements because the English regard any foreigner with suspicion”. She advised Louise to bring back a senior lady of Queen Charlotte’s household and not to be seen to buy too many new clothes or ornaments for Kew. Louise disregarded the letter. She had heard that the Duchess had proposed her niece, Marie of Württemberg, as a wife for the Duke of York. In the retelling at court, this had translated to the Duchess wanting to outnumber the Hesse-Kassels at the English court. The Duchess of Kent was simply jealous, Louise decided, and continued with her plans. Whilst for a week or so, the Duke’s dire financial situation and the poor choices of Princess Louise were just court politics, on the 11th of March 1819, things took a dramatic and very public turn.


    Sir Francis Burdett.

    Sir Francis Burdett was the Member of Parliament for Westminster, a former Tory who had become more radical with the passing years. A keen reformer, his parliamentary career had been dramatic. In 1810, the Speaker issued a warrant for Burdett’s arrest and he was taken to the Tower of London. Burdett brought legal action against the Speaker but the courts upheld the action of the House. Nonetheless, a crowd of supporters had gathered to wish Burdett well, his reputation for honesty, transparency and reform making him a prominent MP with respect for his work present on all sides of the House. He had also had a previous run-in with the Duke of York. In 1809, it was Sir Francis who led the calls for Frederick to be stripped of his position as Commander in Chief following the Clarke scandal. The Duke was later reinstated, a move which Burdett criticised in the Commons.

    Ten years later, Burdett was about to settle that old score. As questions were being put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nicholas Vansittart, Sir Francis relayed information he had been given which troubled him. “Could the Right Honourable Gentleman offer clarity on a matter of concern to many in the House?”, he began, “For I understand it is now the intention of the government to increase the Civil List to fund an extension of Kew Palace for the Duke of York and his future bride. I confess I find this a curious spending commitment in the current financial situation, but I would also remind the Chancellor that under the terms of the Civil List Act 1760, it is for parliament to examine, balance and approve all increases to the royal expenditure. It is not a matter to be decided by gentleman’s agreement at Buckingham House”. Vansittart replied that he was not familiar with the version of events put forward by Burdett but the touch paper had now been lit.

    Royal finances had long been a matter of controversy. With the accession of King George III in 1760, it had been agreed that the Crown would surrender the hereditary revenues from the Crown Estate to parliament for the duration of his reign. In return, Parliament would assume responsibility for most of the costs of the civil government. Parliament would continue to defray the expenses of the Royal Household but the King would retain his income from the Duchy of Lancaster. In recent years however, there seemed to be endless demands for increases and pay rises to cover costs. The Whigs, in Opposition in 1819, disagreed with the way the government was approaching the financial crisis in general. They especially resisted the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s scheme which handed military and naval pensions to contractors, which had largely been chaotic and caused a shortfall in payments.

    When Burdett introduced the issue of royal finances to the Commons, the Whigs seized an opportunity to attack the government’s approach to spending. Henry Brougham was well respected as an advocate of liberal causes including the abolition of the slave trade and parliamentary reform. He was regarded by some as a future leader of the Whig Party but in 1812 he was heavily defeated in his seat in Liverpool and had been forced to leave parliament until 1816 when he was returned for Winchelsea. He had lost none of his reforming zeal and quickly asserted his place as one of the loudest voices in the House of Commons. Brougham demanded that the full details of current royal expenditure be brought before the Commons and that any details of commitments to increases in the Civil List made between members of the Cabinet and the Council of Regency be published in full.

    Other Whigs tried to focus on the government rather than individual members of the Royal Family. For Lord Grey, the issue was not an increase in the Civil List, which he personally took no great stance against, rather the matter cut to the heart of the Tory government’s approach to the public finances which he condemned as “unjust and unruly”. For some time, the Whigs had encouraged those outside Westminster to engage with political debates, particularly among the middle classes and the newspapers they favoured. It was the press who dubbed the latest turn of events “the Kew Scandal” and relayed the situation as follows: The Duke of York’s new wife had demanded a new palace to be built for her at Kew. Lord Liverpool had given his word at Buckingham House and was now trying to sneak in a Civil List increase to pay for it under the guise of “much needed renovations” to the royal residences.

    Unfortunately for Lord Liverpool and his government, the public mood was ripe for exploitation. In 1817, a crowd had marched to London to deliver a petition to the Council of Regency demanding parliamentary reform. Magistrates read the Riot Act and the crowd dispersed. The ringleaders were detained for several months under emergency powers introduced to suspend habeas corpus and by September, the so-called “Blanketeers” were again arrested for urging striking weavers to use violence against their employers.

    As recently as January 1819, 10,000 cotton loom weavers were rallied by the radical Henry Hunt. He wanted the Council of Regency to dismiss Liverpool and appoint new ministers who would commit to repealing the Corn Laws. These rallies quickly spread to Birmingham and London. The government were working to find legal justification for the magistrates to send in troops to disperse a meeting when a riot was expected but not actually begun. Lord Sidmouth felt a “general uprising” was imminent. The Kew Scandal was to provide petrol to the flames of unrest.

    Demonstrations broke out not only in London but in Manchester too where they had turned into full scale riots which needed police intervention to restore order to the streets. At St Peter’s Fields, a popular meeting place for radicals, the demonstrators numbered almost 20,000 and local magistrates began to panic that they could not be dispersed. Whilst the majority of the furore was aimed at the government, the Royal Family did not escape public outrage. On her way to Kensington Palace, Princess Augusta’s carriage was pelted with eggs and fruit from a nearby market stall. The Princess was unharmed but deeply shaken. The Duke of Sussex, leaving a meeting at the Freemason’s Hall in London, was struck on the shoulder as he tried to battle through crowds to get to his carriage. He headed for Kew as soon as possible. The mood was now at boiling point.

    Lord Liverpool’s first response was to restore public order. He would then find a way to calm matters politically. He introduced emergency legislation known as the Magistrates Act [3]. This allowed magistrates the power to order that any meeting of 50 people of more in public be dispersed by force. Opportunities for bail were reduced to allow for speedier court processing and habeas corpus was once again suspended. Magistrates were also given powers to provide for more punitive sentences for the authors of opinion pieces which they felt encouraged sedition or rioting. Liverpool’s majority saw the act passed. Brougham called it “the descent into dictatorship” whilst Lord Sidmouth defended the measures as “entirely necessary to curb the gross violations of law and order encouraged by the Whigs, Radicals and other seditious elements in society”.

    Within a few days, the demonstrations had fizzled out. Consistently put down by force, only those in Manchester and Birmingham remained committed to the cause for a public fight for reform. In the House of Commons, the Prime Minister insisted that the Duke of York had acted “with dignity and integrity”. It was, he insisted, perfectly reasonable for the regent to request an increase to the Civil List which parliament was always going to have the opportunity to debate and vote upon. The matter had not been brought before the House prior to Burdett’s intervention because, the Prime Minister revealed, the Duke had made a proposition which the government needed time to consider; that this increase was entirely necessary but that His Royal Highness appreciated the current financial situation. Wishing the monarchy to be held to the same principles as everybody else, the Duke had asked that the Civil List be frozen for five years after the increase, a proposal he wished to enshrine in law and which he would not renege upon even after his accession when the existing law allowed for renegotiation. The suggestion that Kew was to be extended was nothing more than gossip, Liverpool added. The main focus of the increase would be Buckingham House and to remove unsafe structures at Kew.


    Wyatville's proposed extension for Kew Palace.

    If the Whigs and Radicals had hoped for Liverpool’s scalp, they were bitterly disappointed. Brought to heel, the Press now issued a flurry of grovelling retractions and explanations. How fine it was, one newspaper said, that the Duke recognised the plight of so many of his future subjects. The royal residences were essential to the everyday functioning of the monarchy and whilst an extension of Kew did seem excessive, they were cheered to learn that this was only a proposal and that Princess Louise had never demanded a new residence for herself at all. The press blamed politicians for “causing unrest through opportunistic slurs and slanders” and Burdett in particular was condemned, many remarking that he remained bitter over the Clarke Scandal of 1809 and had “allowed a childish, personal dislike to trigger a dangerous situation for the entire country”.

    Privately, the Duke of York heaved a huge sigh of relief. His reputation had been damaged, his future wife cast as a villainess in a palace drama that had incited rioting and violence. But it was now clear to Frederick that his gambling had almost cost him everything and he resolved never to approach the gaming tables or the races ever again. He confessed his financial troubles to his brothers and Lord Liverpool assured him that parliament would now approve the increase to the Civil List on the terms agreed with “some noise but noise that won’t be heard outside of the Commons any longer”. But there would have to be sacrifices. The extension of Kew was to be abandoned. Publicly this was wrapped in sentiment; no member of the Royal Family could bring themselves to live there after the death of Queen Charlotte whose presence was “still very much felt in the corridors of her beloved little red house”.

    The Duke’s debts would be paid in full but no future bail out would be given. The monies agreed by parliament in the Civil List would also not be renegotiated until 1824 at the earliest. His financial situation resolved, the Duke agreed that he would only undertake a modest redesign of Buckingham House and make it his permanent residence for the foreseeable future. Frederick and Louise could now turn their attention to their wedding which the Prime Minister suggested should be kept as modest as possible to avoid any more allegations of royal extravagance. The Kew Scandal had been a close-run thing and the public mood could easily reverse back to outrage and anger.

    At the close of the scandal however, there was an opportunity for some positive Royal news. On the 24th of May 1819, the Duchess of Kent gave birth to a daughter; Princess Alexandrina Victoria. The middle classes were diverted for a time, lapping up titbits from Kensington Palace nursery where the latest royal arrival slept peacefully in her bassinet. But the working classes were not so easily swayed. The radicals in Manchester would not abandon their cause and across the city, plans were afoot for a much bigger fight.

    [1] When Kew was offered to the Duchess of Kent around this time in the OTL, she declined because Kew was "an old house quite unfit for the princess and me to occupy, being very inadequate in accommodation and almost destitute of furniture". George IV in the OTL also spent a small fortune restoring Buckingham House/Palace after his accession because it had not been redecorated or the structure made sound for over 50 years.

    [2] This sets the stage for a version of the Bedchamber Scandal which occurred in the OTL during Victoria’s early reign.

    [3] A precursor to the Six Acts of the OTL which followed the Peterloo Massacre. This still takes place in this TL with the Kew Scandal acting as another catalyst.
    GIV: Part 6: Excess and Squalor
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    King George IV

    Part 6: Excess and Squalor

    In June 1819, the King’s health rapidly declined. Now totally blind with cataracts and no longer able to speak, the Comptroller of the Household, Lord George Beresford, advised the Duke of York that George III may not live much longer. The Duke rushed to Windsor but within a few days, George III’s condition (though still precarious) stabilized. Frederick seemed “shocked, even a little frightened” at the prospect that his reign was about to begin and he departed Windsor as quickly as possible once the King’s doctors had assured him that his father’s death was not imminent.

    Meanwhile at Kew Palace, Princess Louise’s thoughts were very much with her future role. Though not yet married, she had wasted no time in giving people a glimpse as to what the court would look like in the near future. One casualty of this was Louise’s sister-in-law, the Duchess of Kent. The rivalry between the Princess and the Duchess stemmed from court gossip that the Duchess of Kent had somehow promoted her niece, Marie of Württemberg, as a candidate for the Duke of York’s second wife against the interests of Princess Louise. Whilst this was not entirely true, it was enough for Louise to take a dislike to the Duchess of Kent, encouraged by others at the English court who felt the Duchess to be “an intriguer, schemer and plotter”.

    Louise had an early opportunity to publicly display her dislike of the Duchess when the Duke of Kent asked his brother for a small increase to his household budget in light of the recent birth of his daughter, Princess Alexandrina Victoria. But the fallout from the recent Kew Scandal meant that the Duke of York had no option but to refuse. The Duchess of Kent felt this to be out of Frederick’s character. She blamed Louise and when it came to the christening of the little Princess, only Frederick was asked to stand as a godparent; the future Queen was not. Louise responded by freezing the Kents out of court life. Taking the hint, the Duke and Duchess decided to move into more modest premises away from the pettiness of St James’ or Kew. They leased Woolbrook Cottage on the seaside near Sidmouth, much to the sadness of the Duke of York who bemoaned that he would have few opportunities to see his niece.

    Whilst the Duke of Kent made trips to London frequently, his wife did not. Princess Louise had taken to telling anybody who would listen that the Duchess of Kent was cuckolding her husband with his equerry, Captain John Conroy. Conroy was the son of a barrister who had been given a good education before joining the army. He was not particularly well liked and his fellow officers remarked on his “somewhat remarkable ability to avoid battle”. A social climber with lofty ambitions, the court was only too pleased to match two villains together and within weeks, the Duchess of Kent was more disliked than ever before.

    But Louise had not entirely won the court over. Indeed, many were still put out by the presence of her German ladies in waiting and had only relented in their complaining with the reassurance that after her marriage, the Prime Minister would reorganize the household. With the public on high alert for any excessive spending at court, the wedding of the Duke of York and Princess Louise was to be a modest affair. Because Buckingham House was being refurbished, the ceremony itself took place on the 1st of July 1819 at the Chapel Royal at St James’ Palace. There were only 50 guests but representation from the immediate families of the bride and groom was limited. From the Duke’s siblings, only two of his brothers (the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of Cambridge) and one of his sisters (Princess Augusta) were in attendance. From Louise’s family, only her brother, the Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and her sister, the Duchess of Cambridge, were present.


    The Wedding of King George IV and Queen Louise at the Chapel Royal of St James' Palace.

    There was no grand ball or evening entertainments and though the newspapers dutifully reported on the happy occasion, the event did not particularly capture the public’s interest. The press was now under the constraints of the Magistrates Act and toed a very careful line to avoid accusations of printing anything designed to inflame public opinion. They kept their account of the ceremony brief but for a lengthy description of what the Princess wore. To a keen eye, the suggestion was that whilst the wedding itself was modest by royal standards, the Princess had spared no expense on her attire. According to the Manchester Observer, “the German Princess” wore a “fine gown of French silver satin trimmed with lace which was especially imported from Plauen in Saxony. Her father, the Landgrave, sent her a magnificent tiara of diamonds which she paired with a suite of jewels belonging to the late Queen Charlotte”. To use foreign satin and lace rather than English materials at a time when so many weavers, especially in the north, were without work and destitute, was a subtle criticism but appeared harmless enough to would-be censors.

    In the immediate aftermath of their wedding, the couple moved to Kew Palace as the final renovations were made to Buckingham House. The Times told Londoners that “the rooms formerly occupied by Their Majesties have been transformed with every detail overseen personally by Her Royal Highness”. When the household finally moved to Buckingham House, those who had been in royal service for some time were taken aback by what they saw. Lord George Beresford remarked that rooms which had previously “been replicas of anyone might find in any English country house” now seemed “more suited to the excesses of a European palace”. Viscountess Melville thought the Duchess’ rooms; “particularly horrid and not at all practical”. But the Duke was content that the hard-won refurbishment had made Buckingham House more comfortable and he praised his new bride for her hard work in the redesign of their new home.

    The move to Buckingham House brought other changes. Though he was not yet King, it had been customary since the Regency Act of 1811 for the Prime Minister to continue to appoint members of the Royal Household for the late Prince of Wales and his daughter (and more recently the Duke of York) in the expectation that they could accede to the throne at any time. This was made all the more expedient in light of the King’s recent decline in health and the advice from His Majesty’s doctors that George III had months, not years, left to live. Privately, senior courtiers were delighted that now the Princess was a member of the British Royal Family, she would be brought under this arrangement and her “German ladies” could be replaced by the wives of English peers.

    Lord Liverpool selected six such women to serve as Ladies of the Bedchamber, all of whom would continue in service after the accession of the Duke and Duchess as King and Queen. The two junior ladies in waiting appointed were Lady Charlotte Campbell (who had served in the household of the Dowager Princess of Wales before her return to Germany) and Lady Charlotte Lindsay, the daughter of the former Prime Minister, Lord North. Next came Viscountess Melville and Viscountess Sydney, both of whom had served Queen Charlotte. The last remaining appointments were the Countess of Westmeath and the Marchioness of Cholmondeley.

    The Cholmondeley’s had been at court for many years and despite court gossip, were trusted and well-liked by the Royal Family. It was rumoured that Georgiana was an illegitimate daughter of the Prince of Wales, though this had not proven a barrier to her serving the Dowager Princess as a Lady of the Bedchamber in 1795. Her husband, George, 1st Marquess of Cholmondeley, was Lord Steward of the Household and had supposedly been elevated from an Earl because of a love affair between Georgiana and the Duke of Wellington. It was the Duke of York who proposed Georgiana to serve as First Lady of the Bedchamber with a view to being appointed Mistress of the Robes in the future. Lord Liverpool had been agreeable to this too but the one person who bitterly resented the reorganization, particularly the appointment of Lady Cholmondeley, was the Duchess of York.


    Georgiana Cholmondeley, the Marchioness of Cholmondeley.

    At first, Louise simply refused to allow any of the new appointments into her presence. Whilst she occupied the Queen’s Apartments with her four German ladies in waiting, the English ladies were made to sit in the Audience Chamber where they were given menial tasks such as mending to carry out. Louise, apparently keen to show everybody that she was not as extravagant as they thought, had decided that all of Queen Charlotte’s dresses should be unpicked and the materials used to make dresses for her household. The Marchioness of Cholmondeley therefore found herself occupied making a gown for a German baroness whom she outranked.

    Eventually, Lord Cholmondeley raised the matter with the Prime Minister, who in turn reminded the Duke of York that it was his right to make appointments to the Royal Household, appointments that carried political significance. Whilst the German ladies had no political allegiances in England, they were creating ill-feeling and those prominent figures who had expected more invitations to Buckingham House after their wives had been appointed to important positions only had so much patience. The Duke agreed but proposed a compromise. Two of the ladies from Hesse could stay at the court as unpaid companions to his wife but she must allow the Prime Minister’s appointed ladies to serve her. Louise agreed in theory but in practice, things quickly descended into childish games.

    Every morning, the remaining German ladies rose early to wash and dress the Duchess. When the English ladies arrived, they found their services were not required and they were sent back to the Audience Chamber as the Duchess played cards with her German companions. When the First Lady of the Bedchamber, the Marchioness of Cholmondeley, asked for the Duchess’ instructions on the daily routine her ladies should follow, she was referred to one of the German ladies instead of being allowed to speak to the Duchess directly. At church, the German ladies sat next to the Duchess. The English ladies were placed in the row behind. When travelling, the English ladies were forced to ride together in a carriage behind that in which the luggage was being carried. The German ladies travelled with the Duchess.

    The situation became unbearable for all concerned and when the Duke ordered Louise to dispense with her German ladies, she threatened to go back to Germany with them. It’s unlikely that she truly countenanced this. Those sympathetic to Louise have highlighted the fact that she was only 25 and that she was simply trying to assert her position in a court which had already shown her animosity. Others have suggested that Louise had quickly learned how important she now was and intended to use her position to get the things she wanted. The Duke of York did not want to send the German ladies back to Hesse and distress his wife but he also had to respect the Prime Minister’s right to appoint the household.

    Louise ultimately overplayed her hand. When her husband once again reminded her of the Prime Minister’s wishes, she sent invitations to Countess Grey and Baroness Greville to take tea with her. These were the wives of prominent Whig politicians and though Louise protested that other noble English ladies married to Tory politicians, such as the Countess of Mulgrave, had been present, the Prime Minister was not amused. He advised the Duchess that she should not continue inviting the wives of Opposition to the Palace for as long as she ostracized the wives of Tory peers from her service. Louise would not relent. Friends of Lady Grey, also the wives of Opposition MPs, were invited to tea or to accompany the Duchess of York to picture galleries or the opera. After a week, Lord Liverpool put his foot down. The Duchess was to dismiss her German ladies, accept the appointments he had made and limit her contact with the wives of Opposition MPs or else he would resign. [1]

    The Prime Minister had little time to indulge childish royal squabbles. Since the introduction of the Magistrates Act earlier that year, the radical elements in the north of the country seemed to have found more support rather than less. [2] The Act gave magistrates the power to order any meeting of more than 50 people in public be dispersed by force if they considered it to be a breach of public order but the act did not, could not, prevent such meetings being organised in the first place. Neither could magistrates do anything about meetings held in private houses or other buildings, whatever the intention and however large the company. The newspapers had generally been wary of stoking division, publishers now aware that they could be fined or even given short jail sentences for printing things which could be interpreted as “encouraging sedition”. But some, like the Manchester Observer, continued to cover meetings of radical groups such as the Manchester Patriotic Union, led by Joseph Johnson. A fine was issued to the Observer in July 1819 but the paper remained in print and continued to publish news of radical meetings.


    Lord Sidmouth.

    John Thacker Saxton, the editor of the Manchester Observer, and the publisher, Richard Carlisle, were both arrested on 10 July 1819 after they printed information about a proposed “great assembly” to be held at St Peter’s Field the following month. The King’s Dragoon Guards had become used to breaking up rallies and meetings at St Peter’s Field. For a month or two, it became an almost daily routine. More than 50 people would gather to hear a speech or an address. A magistrate would read the Riot Act and cite his new powers under the Magistrates Act, after which the Guards would remove the protesters, arresting a few here and there but mostly those present left quietly. By printing a public notice of assembly, Saxton and Carlisle had fallen foul of the Magistrates Act but not enough to warrant gaol. They were fined instead.

    Lord Sidmouth, the Home Secretary, worried that some of the magistrates in Lancashire were “sympathetic to the manufacturing classes”. He reminded them that “misplaced sympathy may allow radicals, rebels and revolutionaries to exploit your good nature and bring the entire county into full and open revolt which may take much violence to put down”. In truth, it was not misplaced sympathy that made many magistrates loathe to impose harsh sentences but a fear of inflaming tensions over relatively small misdemeanors. The government was determined to “combine the severity of the law with that of the sword” when it came to radical reformers and their meetings but those locally did not see the likes of Joseph Johnson or Henry Hunt, a radical orator from Wiltshire, as being as much of a threat to the country as Sidmouth or Liverpool did.

    Hunt intended to lead a meeting (known as the “great assembly” to the radicals) at St Peter’s Field on the 16th of August 1819. The purpose was to highlight the poverty in Manchester, to express discontent with the current law and to demand parliamentary reform. The government intercepted letters sent from Hunt arranging this meeting and were thereby able to prepare to put it down before things got out of hand. But preparations were not handled well. Initially proposed to be held on the 9th of August, Lord Sidmouth advised General Sir John Byng to ready himself for a clash with radical demonstrators. Byng said he was quite willing to assist but he had a horse running at York Races that day and surely “the civil authorities would not be deterred from doing their duty, thus preventing the need for my involvement in the first place”?

    On the day of the Assembly at St Peter’s Field, contingents from Oldham, Royton, Crompton, Lees, Saddleworth and Mossley met with contingents from Middleton, Rochdale and Stockport. They numbered to as many as 60,000 people, all dressed in their Sunday best and all discouraged from bringing weapons. The radicals took some magistrates present by surprise. There was no drunkenness and no violence or vandalism. But the numbers assembled quickly exceeded the limit of 50 allowed by the Magistrates Act. It was decided that the decision on dispersal was to be left to William Hulton, the chairman of the magistrates, watching proceedings from a house on the edge of St Peter’s Field. By the time the magistrates had met at Mount Street to seek Hulton’s advice on how to disperse such large crowds, it was too late.

    Things changed when Henry Hunt arrived. The enthusiastic reception he was given by the crowds panicked Hunt and he requested immediate military assistance. He dispatched a letter to Major Thomas Trafford, the commanding officer of the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry Calvary and to the overall military commander of Manchester, Lieutenant Colonel Guy L’Estrange. It read:

    “Sir, as Chairman of the Select Committee of Magistrates, I request you to proceed immediately to no. 6 Mount Street, where the magistrates are all assembled. They consider the Civil Power wholly inadequate to preserve the peace”.

    Stationed just a few streets away in readiness, the commanders leapt into action. Sixty cavalrymen of the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry led the charge to St Peter’s Field. The scene quickly descended into chaos. Whilst the organisers on the dais addressing the crowds were quickly arrested, it was harder to disperse the remaining radicals who began to fight back. The Cheshire Yeomanry arrived on the scene and, with bayonets fixed, began “cutting at everyone they could reach”. It took ten minutes to disperse the crowds at St Peter’s Field. 11 were killed and 600 were injured. Riots broke out throughout Manchester, spreading to Stockport, Macclesfield and Oldham. Reports of the “massacre at St Peter’s Field” shocked the nation the following morning. Nicknamed “Peterloo”, newspapers broke rank and ignored the restrictions of the Magistrates Act. The public response was one of indignation and outrage. [3]


    The Massacre at Peterloo, August 1819.

    Demonstrations erupted in Leeds, Liverpool and London. Across England, taverns and other public buildings flung open their doors to those sympathetic to the radical cause and meetings could be found on most street corners in working class areas to debate the next step forward. The situation was dangerous and the government decided to act with caution in the short-term. Those arrested at Peterloo, and in the demonstrations across the country that followed it, were mostly given fines or short sentences in gaol. Even Henry Hunt and Joseph Johnson were sentenced to just a year’s imprisonment. Lord Liverpool resolved to crack down on reform even more harshly and decided that the Magistrate’s Act was not enough to hold the radicals. Instead, he would introduce the so-called Six Acts which would provide a much clearer raft of restrictions and curtailments for magistrates to follow.

    In the meantime, demonstrations continued but were quickly dispersed until the public appetite for them diminished. In their place, local “debates” were held instead to discuss the situation at hand and find new ways to guarantee reform. Lord Sidmouth heaved a sigh of relief. Peterloo had the potential to trigger a general uprising but it had passed. In a moment of high spirits, he wrote a letter to the magistrates of Manchester which was read aloud in the streets near St Peter’s Field. In this letter, Sidmouth said he wished to “pass on the sincere thanks of the Council of Regency, in particular His Royal Highness the Duke of York, for [William Hulton’s] swift actions in the course of preserving the public peace”.

    In a debate held in London, Robert Wedderburn, the Jamaican born ultra-radical leader and anti-slavery advocate voiced what many radicals had begun to address at their meetings; “What is the Duke or the King to us? We want no King. He is no use to us at all”. The Whig MP Henry Brougham was said to comment; “the King has been a stranger to the people all these years. You cannot hope them to feel any loyalty or love for a captive crown”. But it was the comment of Sir Frances Burdett, arrested for publishing a pamphlet praising the “martyrs of Peterloo” that summed up the general view; “Whilst the princes of this realm revel in excess, their future subjects wallow in squalor”. In fairness to the Duke of York, when he heard that Sidmouth had put his name to his letter he admonished him for it. Yet many historians agree that his complaint was hollow considering that had he seen the letter first, he no doubt would have allowed its publication with his name attached anyway.

    A sense of urgency now spurred Liverpool to deal swiftly with matters at court. If the Duchess wouldn't do as she was told, the Duke must act on her behalf. Her German ladies were sent away and the Marchioness of Cholmondeley was instructed to give the Duke a list of any guest Louise intended to invite to Buckingham House. Feeling cut off and alone at court, the Duchess withdrew from her husband and sulked in her apartment at Buckingham House. She would never forgive the Prime Minister personally, referring to him always as “the Cold One”. She blamed him for removing her last links with her homeland and though she slowly came to accept her English ladies, even retaining one or two of them for many years, she refused to receive the Prime Minister privately, tolerating his presence only in the company of others on occasions where it was vital he attend. [4]

    But this sulking continued for almost a month and Louise’s ladies became concerned that her withdrawal had led to illness. By September 1819, she was clearly unwell and was refusing to eat. She protested that she could not eat because, unlike her German companions, the Marchioness of Cholmondeley didn’t know what Louise liked. "The food here is as horrible as the company", she said bitterly. Complaining of headaches and vomiting, Sir Henry Halford, the physician to the Royal Family, was asked to examine Louise. The Duchess had refused to see her husband since he had packed her German ladies off to Dover in the middle of the night without allowing her to say goodbye. Now he paced nervously in her sitting room as Halford attended her. Expecting bad news, the Duke drank port as he waited. When Halford came out of the Duchess’ bedroom, the serious expression he wore as he entered had been exchanged for a smile.

    “May I offer you my sincerest congratulations Sir”, said Halford, “Her Royal Highness is with child." [5]

    [1] This is a kind of watered-down version of the Bedchamber Crisis of Queen Victoria’s early reign in the OTL. Maybe we’ll call this one the “Teapot Crisis” ;)

    [2] This refers to the Magistrates Act of this TL as introduced in the previous installment.

    [3] I’ve kept Peterloo pretty much to the OTL with one slight butterfly that the magistrates in Mount Street dithered a little. Under the Act introduced in this TL, any meeting numbering over 50 people had to be dispersed, but as the crowds would have assembled so quickly, I think it’s reasonable they would have sought the opinion of the Chairman, Hulton, allowing for more people to arrive as they deliberated. It doesn't alter the actual events of the day or the immediate aftermath.

    [4] This will prove important in a future installment. Battle lines have been drawn!

    [5] Goodbye Queen Victoria...
    Last edited:
    GIV: Part 7: England's Son
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    King George IV

    Part 7: England’s Son

    The news of the Duchess of York’s pregnancy was not made public immediately but at court there was much celebration and excitement. The Duke of York had not expected to become a father and though the Duchess remained aloof with him, she softened enough to receive him again. Extending an olive branch to his wife, he asked if she would like her mother to come to London to support her and even agreed that it should be left to the Landgravine to bring with her a suitable midwife. This didn’t please the Medical Household but the Duke had not forgotten the advice of Baron Stockmar during the pregnancy of the late Princess Charlotte. He was determined to see both his wife and child survive and he refused to allow the pride of his doctors to get in the way of making practical decisions on their behalf.

    It was in this atmosphere that the Duke and Duchess of Clarence returned to England. Sadly, the pregnant Duchess suffered a miscarriage on their journey and was confined to Clarence House. The Duchess of York began writing letters to Adelaide which sparked a close and long-lasting friendship. As soon as she was well enough, Adelaide was received at Buckingham Palace where she assisted in making arrangements for the Duchess of York’s laying in and the arrival of Louise’s mother. The Duke of Clarence praised his wife’s selflessness and the Duke of York thanked her profusely declaring Adelaide to be; “the most dear, the most tender and the most compassionate sister, friend and companion” to his wife. Whilst many at court still hadn’t warmed to Louise, there was a general thaw in attitudes.

    Louise wanted her sister, the Duchess of Cambridge, to accompany her mother to London from Hanover but Louise had only given birth to a son, Prince George, a few months earlier and did not feel she could leave. Instead, the Duchess of Clarence met Landgravine Caroline at Dover just before Christmas 1819 and travelled with her to Buckingham House. Caroline’s arrival cheered Louise but caused turmoil in the royal household. She brought with her four ladies in waiting, two midwives and a wet nurse, and announced that the obstetrician who had cared for the Duchess of Cambridge in Hanover was on his way from Herrenhausen to London. Sir Henry Halford took this as a personal insult and asked to be released from royal service. The Duke of York, scared that any stress would endanger his wife and child, accepted his resignation.

    Sir Andrew Halliday was appointed in Croft’s place. He had been instrumental in the annulment of the Duke’s first marriage but had also spent time in Hanover in recent years, earning him praise from the Duchess of Cambridge. He was therefore “let in” to the medical decisions being made concerning the birth of Louise’s child but he confessed to finding himself “surrounded by Germans who regard all English doctors as butchers”. But Halliday main's responsibility was the condition of King George III. On a visit to Windsor in early January 1820, he reported that the King was “confined to bed, his faculties totally diminished and the end expected to follow in days”. The news was not a shock to the Royal Family but it was clear that Frederick and Louise would be King and Queen in a very short time indeed.

    Whilst at Windsor, Halliday received an urgent message from Devon. The Duke of Kent was ill with a bad chest cold and the local doctors were not to the Duchess of Kent’s liking. Halliday, with little to do at Buckingham House now the German medical team had been assembled, travelled to Sidmouth to examine the Duke of Kent. Halliday diagnosed pneumonia. The Duke had days to live, if that. Halliday was one of the few at court who enjoyed the company of the Duchess of Kent but even he remarked on her indifference to her husband’s condition. He also noted that the presence of the Duke's unpopular equerry, Captain John Conroy, was "a significant distraction" and it concerned Halliday enough for him to commit it to paper.

    “Whilst I examined His Royal Highness, the Duchess sat with Conroy in the drawing room. When I left the room to inform her of the Duke’s condition, I was told that she was out walking with Conroy on the sands and that I should leave a note with my instructions”. Halliday took a room at a local tavern and decided to remain in Sidmouth for the next few days. He dispatched a note to the Duke of York informing him of the Duke of Kent’s condition but it was too late for Frederick to make any attempt to see his brother one last time. On the 23rd of January 1820, the Duke of Kent died.


    Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn.

    The Duke’s funeral took place at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. His daughter, barely a year old, was kept at Sidmouth in the care of her nanny, Louise Lehzen. The Duchess of Kent travelled to Windsor from Devon with Captain Conroy, arriving to a court which had been feasting on gossip that the pair were having an illicit affair. Worse still, Halliday’s account of the Duke’s last hours had spread like wildfire. It was said that as the Duke of Kent lay dying, his wife was parading in public with John Conroy.

    Whether the Duke of York believed the rumours or not [1], he greeted his sister-in-law with anger, not sympathy. When she entered the castle with Conroy, Frederick barked; “How dare you Madam! How dare you bring that creature to this place”. For her part, the Duchess said nothing and simply walked away to the rooms allocated for her stay. But those present had heard the Duke’s words and took it as confirmation that Conroy was the Duchess of Kent’s lover. The Duchess didn’t seem much affected by this.

    She had no great desire to remain in England after her second husband’s death. She had a palace in Coburg which was maintained thanks to the revenues she had inherited from her first husband, the Prince of Leiningen. But the Duke of Kent had left her substantial debts and the Kew Scandal had seen a freeze on any increase in royal expenditure for five years. The Duchess was offered a small suite of rooms at Kensington Palace as a permanent residence on the condition that she dismiss Conroy. The Duchess declined both offers. She would return to Coburg after closing the house in Sidmouth. She would take her daughter Victoria with her.

    This troubled the Duke of York greatly who wished to see his niece raised at the English court. Though his wife was pregnant, Victoria was still third in line to the throne after the Dukes of York and Clarence and Frederick knew only too well how uncertain life could be. He therefore asked the Duchess of Kent to wait until his child was born before returning to Germany. The Duchess agreed on condition that she be allowed to determine her own staffing arrangements (thereby retaining the services of Captain Conroy) and that the Duke of York would at least consider paying some of the Duke of Kent’s debts, if not all. [2]

    As the Duchess prepared to leave Windsor to return to Devon, Halliday asked for an urgent meeting with members of the Royal Family. The King’s condition had significantly declined. The end appeared near. The Archbishop of Canterbury who had led the Duke of Kent’s funeral remained at Windsor to lead prayers as the Dukes of York, Clarence and Sussex sat by George III’s bedside. Just six days after his son’s death, the King breathed his last on the evening of the 29th of January 1820. A tearful Duke of York was led from the King’s bedroom to the Great Drawing Room where Lord Liverpool had assembled various members of the Cabinet and the Privy Council. Frederick was now King. They knelt as the Archbishop of Canterbury prayed for the new sovereign who asked that he reign not as King Frederick but as King George IV, a tribute to his late father and to the elder brother who might have reigned under the same name.

    At Buckingham House, the news of the King’s death was conveyed to the new Queen. Her ladies of the bedchamber curtseyed deeply and comforted her as Louise waited patiently for her husband to return from Windsor. The regency was at an end after 9 long years. Britain mourned King George III as a much-respected monarch but many felt that his death was a merciful release. However unfairly, George III would go down in history as the King who descended into madness and was declared unfit to rule. But he had reigned longer than any British monarch before him and this alone saw an outpouring of public sympathy. As the new King’s carriage passed from town to town on the journey from Windsor to London, people lined the streets to bow their heads, to throw flowers and to try to catch a glimpse of the man they would now call His Majesty.

    George III’s funeral was set for the 16th of February at Windsor but his successor had to return to London in the interim for the Accession Council. Held at St James’ Palace on the 2nd of February, the new King swore the oath before the council in which he pledged to “maintain and preserve the Church of Scotland” under the Acts of Union of 1707. Immediately after this, the Garter King of Arms stepped out onto the Proclamation Gallery overlooking Friary Court to announce the accession of King George IV. The small crowd allowed to assemble inside the courtyard cheered but the King made no public appearance and remained at St James’ receiving a long list of establishment figures who kissed his hand and were given a moment or two “in the presence”.


    The funeral procession of King George III.

    Before the old King was buried, a meeting took place to determine the date of George IV’s coronation and most importantly, how it would be funded. The Kew Scandal had frozen all royal expenditure for five years but even the most ardent critic of the monarchy could accept that the coronation was a special case and that a budget for it should be agreed as quickly as possible. Lord Liverpool secured a budget of £30,000 from government funds with an additional £30,000 made available from the huge war reparations of 100 million francs which had been forced on France by the Treaty of Paris in 1815. [3]

    However, the King himself did not favour a particularly extravagant ceremony. He knew that his reputation for lavish spending had not been served well by recent events and he intended to use his coronation to restore a little goodwill among his people and those in the establishment who were determined to see him fail from the off. The ceremony was planned for the 1st of August 1820 [4] and was to be organised by the Lord Great Chamberlain, Lord Gwydyr, and the Earl Marshal. However, the post of Earl Marshal was hereditary and in the possession of the Dukes of Norfolk who were Catholic. Therefore, a Deputy had to be appointed with Lord Henry Howard-Molyneux-Howard (the Duke of Norfolk’s Anglican brother) stepping into his shoes.

    At the King’s request, the procession was cut short missing out Westminster Hall altogether. There was to be no coronation banquet with a “coronation breakfast” offered to 200 of the most important guests at Buckingham House immediately after the ceremony. The King and Queen would travel to and from Westminster Abbey in the Gold State Coach made for George III in 1762 which would give the people a chance to see the new Sovereign on the journey from St James Palace.

    Public entertainments for the coronation were scaled back but the King personally funded special “coronation breakfasts” with city halls and other large public venues throwing their doors open in poorer areas. Those present for these celebrations were given a basic meal and a ration of beer or barley water “with the compliments of Their Majesties”. The idea of coronation breakfasts quickly caught on and throughout the country, local aristocrats and the gentry were encouraged to open their homes to their tenants and offer a “hearty repast and a little beer to cheer the King”. [5]

    Few took up the offer but it gave the press an opportunity to write glowing tributes to George IV who “by his consideration for the poorest in this way has indicated to us the sort of King he shall be; a generous and kindly one worthy of respect and admiration”. Some Tory leaning newspapers were less impressed however, believing that the lack of public ceremonies was “mean-spirited” and “a missed opportunity to revive patriotism among the people in light of recent events”.

    The main expenditure for the coronation came in the form of what the King and Queen would wear. The coronation robe of King George III was brought out of storage but George IV could not fit the cloth of gold suit made for his father, therefore he elected to wear his army uniform underneath the robe of 36 yards of crimson velvet decorated with 116 yards of broad gold lace. The Queen would wear a gown of gold brocade (but with shorter sleeves than that traditionally worn by the Queen consort) and with a wired standing collar. Louise asked that the floral emblems of England, Scotland and Ireland be embroidered on the dress thereby starting the tradition. But when Queen Charlotte’s coronation robe was brought out of storage it was found to be damaged and so a new one had to be made by Ede & Ravenscroft at a cost of nearly £3,000.


    The Coronation Robe of George III & George IV. The gold suit is a replica of that worn by George III, George IV choosing to wear the robe over his army uniform instead.

    There was also the question of the Crown Jewels. Most of them had been inherited from George IV’s ancestors but had not been used for some time. St Edward’s Crown, made in 1661, was actually only a gold frame with most of the jewels hired to be set in it when it was needed. This brought with it a cost of £24,000. As for the Queen’s crown, that made for Mary of Modena in 1685 was seen as too theatrical and in a poor state of repair. The Modena crown was ruled “unfit for Her Majesty’s use” and Rundell & Bridge were commissioned to create a new crown for Queen Louise. She objected to the practice of hiring jewels for her crown and thus, diamonds were taken from some of the jewels she had inherited from Queen Charlotte to be installed into the new frame. [6]


    The Queen's Diadem made by Rundell & Bridge for Queen Louise in 1820. The pearls are a later addition.

    The Queen was due to give birth in April and so it proved impossible to fit her for her coronation gown. Somewhat unwisely, it was determined that Ede & Ravenscroft would make three gowns in different sizes which could be altered to suit the Queen by the time of the coronation. Much of the cost of the event therefore came from the Queen’s wardrobe, something which was reported and criticised in the popular press and even in parliament. Whilst the King had managed to win public support with his economies for his coronation, the Queen’s reputation as a lavish spender was being reinforced, especially when it was also reported that she had commissioned another piece of jewelry from Rundell & Bridge to wear for the coronation breakfast; a crown of diamonds known today as the Queen’s Diadem. [7] Diamonds were taken from jewels already in the Queen’s possession but the design was so elaborate that other stones had to be added to it. The additional diamonds cost £800 to hire but they were never actually returned to Rundell & Bridge and remain in the Diadem today.

    Security for the coronation was heightened, again at an additional cost. During the planning of the ceremony, the Cato Street Conspiracy to assassinate the Prime Minister and other members of the Cabinet was revealed and the conspirators arrested and sentenced to death. They would become the last criminals in Britain to be sentenced to death by being hung, drawn and quartered but in the event, the executioner drew the line at dismembering the bodies. In the aftermath of Peterloo, Lord Liverpool had busied himself with introducing the so-called Six Acts to parliament which attempted to suppress so-called revolutionary activity. The Cato Street Conspiracy had given the Prime Minister the justification he needed to maintain the restrictions but radicals still existed and fears that they may make the King and Queen their new targets on coronation day would see a huge military presence on the streets of London.

    With the basic arrangements now settled, thoughts turned to the funeral of King George III at St George’s Chapel, Windsor on the 16th of February. The Queen could not attend as she approached the last remaining months of her pregnancy. Her confinement at Buckingham House had begun and preparations were being made for the arrival of the King’s child. The funeral itself was “modest but fine, a ceremony full of sober reflection on the loss of a great King and much-loved public figure”. In the aftermath, the late King’s coffin was placed in the Royal Vault which George III himself had constructed but his successor announced to the assembled mourners afterwards that he intended to build a mausoleum to hold the remains of his parents in the near future. When the coronation budget ran over by some £40,000, the project was abandoned and George III and his wife remain buried in the Royal Vault at Windsor today.


    His Majesty King George IV.

    A much happier event preceded the coronation later that year when on the 20th of April, Queen Louise finally gave birth to her child. Her labour lasted 13 hours and she was attended by her mother Landgravine Caroline, her sister the Duchess of Cambridge and her sister-in-law the Duchess of Clarence. The King, accompanied by his brothers, sat nervously in the Queen’s Sitting Room next door to the bedroom where the Queen lay, her screams flooding the air and filling all present with anxiety. Most of the assembled company had been present for the delivery of Princess Charlotte’s baby. All had seemed well until the last when Charlotte’s child was born dead. Hours later, the Princess herself would die. The King was said to be “in a terrible state, pacing the floor and praying loudly that all would be well. He became very bad tempered as the day progressed and at one point, he slapped a servant who tried to give him brandy to calm his nerves. His Majesty offered an apology to the wretched servant but all present knew his nervous state was very precarious indeed”.

    At just after 2am on the morning of the 20th of April 1820, the royal baby, now first in the line of succession to the British throne, was born at Buckingham House. The German medical team who had attended the Queen informed the King immediately that his wife was in good health and that his child was “of good and substantial weight, in rude health and of perfect constitution”. The King entered the Queen’s bedroom to find his wife tired but smiling as Landgravine Caroline cradled the baby in her arms. Curtsying to the King, she walked towards him and put the baby in his arms.

    “You have a son Your Majesty”, she said softly, “England has a son.”

    News of the royal birth spread quickly and there were spontaneous celebrations in the streets. In Hyde Park, local tavern keepers rolled barrels of beer and fortified wines onto the grass and the public drank and danced to music provided by street buskers. The crowds quickly grew and under the terms of the Magistrates Act, should have dispersed but under the circumstances, a blind eye was turned. The revelers cheered as a gun salute was fired to announce the royal birth and at the Tower of London, the crowds grew so large to see the salute given that four spectators were pushed into the Thames. The Times reported; “Even this unfortunate incident could not diminish the public’s joy in the happy news”.

    The King himself seemed to be in a state of shock. Writing to his brother Ernest Augustus in Hanover, he said; “To think that I should have a son, a son who shall one day succeed me, fills me not only with joy but with an awe for the Almighty who has ordered this so very perfectly”. But the news of the royal birth was not greeted with delight everywhere. A meeting of radicals was broken up in Oldham where news of a new Prince was received with angry denunciations of the monarchy.

    A radical preacher was arrested on the streets of York for proclaiming the baby illegitimate because the King’s second marriage was “falsified, as he remains married in the eyes of God to the mad Duchess of York”. And in the corridors of Kensington Palace, the Duchess of Kent was said to have “shown great indifference to the news, retiring early and refusing to celebrate with other members of the Royal Family”. Regardless of this, the Queen slept soundly that night knowing that she had done her duty. Her husband shared her contentment. The future looked bright.

    [1] I have left the relationship between the Duchess of Kent and Conroy as ambiguous here as it is in the OTL. It’s a debate that’s not pertinent to this TL really but adds a little drama into it, especially as the Duchess was already not much liked by the Duke’s brothers.

    [2] In the OTL, the Duchess of Kent was all set to return to Germany after her husband’s death. She chose not to because her daughter’s position in the line of succession guaranteed her a certain standard of living she might not have had in Coburg. Because Victoria’s position changes in this TL, the Duchess is more inclined to Coburg than Kensington for the future.

    [3] The amount allocated in the OTL was much higher and went wildly over budget. However, Frederick is not the same man the Prince Regent was and given past events in this TL, I modeled this segment on the coronation of King William IV and Queen Adelaide instead of that of the late Prince Regent.

    [4] This was the original date set for the coronation of George IV in the OTL but it was delayed when his estranged wife returned to England demanding to be crowned alongside him. The Pains and Penalties Bill pushed George IV’s coronation back to July 1821 but in this TL, the original date of the 1st August has no barrier.

    [5] In the OTL, these events were staged for the coronation of King Edward VII, though they took place before the event because Edward VII fell ill with appendicitis and his coronation had to be delayed. I felt they fitted quite nicely into this TL.

    [6] As was done by Queen Adelaide in the OTL.

    [7] The George IV Diadem from the OTL.
    Last edited:
    GIV: Part 8: Wicked Women
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    King George IV

    Part 8: Wicked Women

    The death of King George III on the 29th of January triggered a general election which returned Lord Liverpool’s Tories with a substantial majority over the Whigs. The sixth parliament of the United Kingdom was dissolved on the 29th of February with the new Parliament summoned to meet on the 21st of April, the day after the birth of the King’s son. His Majesty was therefore in high spirits as he rode to parliament to open the new session. George IV used his speech to pay tribute to George III; “In meeting you personally for the first time since the death of my beloved father, I am anxious to assure you, that I shall always continue to imitate his great example, in unceasing attention to the public interests, and in paternal solicitude for the welfare and happiness of all classes of my subjects”. [1]

    The King also took the opportunity to “extend the sincerest thanks to you, my Lords and Gentlemen assembled, and to those beyond this place, who have offered their warmest congratulations on the birth of my son, the Duke of Cornwall, whom I have been pleased to name George Frederick William”. A polite round of applause met the King’s announcement, though some of the radical members of the Commons were noticed to roll their eyes and refused to join in. The speech also made mention of the recent “distress of the labouring classes” and the King condemned “acts of open violence and insurrection” whilst praising “the vigilance and activity of the magistrates, and the zealous cooperation of all my subjects whose exertions have been called forth to support the authority of the laws”.


    The Lords Chamber as it existed before the fire of 1834.

    There was one part of the King’s speech however that caused concern. Following the Kew Scandal, George IV (then Duke of York) had made a gentleman’s agreement with the Prime Minister, which was then relayed to parliament to placate them and diminish the Kew furore; the Civil List would be frozen for five years. Though the King had the right to renegotiate the settlement on his accession, he had pledged not to do so. But when George addressed parliament, he left the matter of royal expenditure somewhat ambiguous; “I do not desire any arrangement which might lead to the imposition of new burdens upon my people and I can have no wish, under circumstances like those present, that any addition should be made to the Settlement so recently adopted by parliament. I leave entirely at your disposal my interest in the hereditary revenues in the meantime, with sensible arrangements for you to consider on this subject deferred from advancement until such a time as the present distresses are peacefully resolved”.

    Those on high alert for an indication as to whether the King would honour his agreement were left anxious. On the one hand, he appeared to be reconfirming his commitment to ask for no increase. On the other, “sensible arrangements to be deferred from advancement until…” left the door open to the prospect that within the next five years, His Majesty may well break his promise. Why George IV chose to be so vague is unclear, perhaps he wanted to assert his authority in parliament at the earliest opportunity. But he certainly didn’t need any more money, indeed, his finances were incredibly sound. Upon his accession, King George IV received an annual Civil List of £845,727. In addition to this, the King was also in receipt of the revenues from the Duchy of Lancaster, the Duchy’s separate identity preserving it from being surrendered with the Crown Estates in exchange for the Civil List by George III in 1760.

    The costs of the planned coronation for August 1820 would be made available by the government as previously agreed following George III’s death and Lord Liverpool considered this a perfectly reasonable expense, especially as the new King had promised a more modest ceremony with economies to be made where possible. The King had also managed to keep his gambling debts low and affordable and whilst he had not inherited anywhere near the personal savings George III had once received from his father, George IV’s personal finances were not in any jeopardy. [2] But those concerned that the Kew agreement may be broken raised the matter in the Commons following the King’s speech. Liverpool insisted that the King “had spoken of advancement only in relation to the coronation ceremonies” and that “the government had made clear its position that no increase to the Civil List [would] be considered for the period of five years”. This time, the King was given the benefit of the doubt.

    In the meantime, Queen Louise began making preparations for the christening of Prince George. Whilst it was customary for royal children to have four godparents as Princess Victoria had been given, the Queen decided that her son should have six. From the immediate families of his parents, his godparents were; his maternal grandfather Landgrave Frederick of Hesse-Kassel-Rumpenheim, his maternal aunt the Duchess of Cambridge, his paternal uncle the Duke of Clarence and his paternal aunt by marriage the Duchess of Clarence. In an effort to show goodwill to the Dutch with whom relations were somewhat tense following disputes arising from the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814, the King of the Netherlands was invited to stand as a godfather (represented by the Duke of Cambridge) whilst the Empress of Russia stood as another godmother (represented by Princess Sophia). [3]


    Charles Manners-Sutton, Archbishop of Canterbury.

    The ceremony was led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Manners-Sutton, and was held at the Chapel Royal at St James’ Palace on the 22nd of May 1820. On the same day, Prince George was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester by his father. [4] The assembled guests were not given any refreshments, much to the irritation of Queen Louise who wished to hold grand celebrations to mark the occasion, because court mourning was still being observed for King George III. Prone to sulking, she was said to scowl throughout the ceremony and when the Archbishop of Canterbury splashed holy water in the baby’s eyes leading the little Prince to scream loudly, she was heard to mutter; “What a foolish man!”. Her mood did not improve when she suddenly realised that her mother, who had been resident at the English court since the start of the Queen’s pregnancy, would now be returning to Rumpenheim. With the Cambridges returning to Hanover, Louise was to be left with none of her relations at court and she once again felt lonely and abandoned.

    She complained bitterly that Buckingham House was far too small and though the private apartments of the King and Queen had been renovated at a controversial cost of £70,000 the previous year, now she wanted to redesign the building itself. The King was not unsympathetic. Buckingham House was in a state of disrepair and whilst the rooms they had used before their accession were comfortable and spacious, the other rooms in the mansion were barely ever used. In the usual way of things, the royal residences would be redesigned, refurbished or repaired with money allowed specifically for the purpose by parliament in addition to the existing Civil List. This was not a possibility under the terms of the Kew agreement but the King sided with his wife that the works were urgent. He thereby devised a plan, approved by the Prime Minister, that he would fund the works from the existing Civil List and that any shortfall would be met by selling off Carlton House, the late Prince Regent’s Westminster mansion.


    Nash's proposal for the new Buckingham Palace, 1820.

    The Prime Minister advised the King to wait a year before any construction began but keen to give his wife something to focus on, George IV summoned John Nash, the Official Architect to the Office of Woods and Forests, and invited him to work with the Queen on transforming Buckingham House into a palace. Nash’s proposal was to enlarge the building by extending the central block and rebuilding the two wings to the east entirely. This would enclose a grand forecourt with a triumphal arch in the centre that would form part of a ceremonial processional approach to the Palace (known as the New Avenue) which would celebrate Britain’s recent naval and military victories. The art collection at Carlton House, along with all furniture and furnishings from the mansion, were sent to Kew until they could find a permanent home at the new Buckingham Palace. The Queen added to the collection by taking advice from the newly appointed President of the Royal Academy, Sir Thomas Lawrence. Lawrence recorded his belief that the Queen had “no perception of what made a good purchase or not” and said that she “bought as an amateur would despite my advice, advice which allowed the Prince Regent to amass a very fine collection”.

    Whilst one Palace was being made fit for a King, another was home to a member of the family who had already proven to be a thorn in George IV’s side. The Duchess of Kent had accepted the King’s offer of a suite of rooms at Kensington as a temporary measure and had agreed to remain in England until the birth of the King’s son. These gestures were not made with any kind sentiment to them, rather, both sides had ulterior motives. The Duchess hoped that by giving the King what he wanted, he would relent and pay the late Duke of Kent’s debts, debts which her private secretary Captain Conroy had found were significantly higher than first thought. The Duchess needed the King’s assistance, otherwise, far from returning to her palace in Coburg with her daughter, the Duchess might be forced to sell it and remain in her shabby suite at Kensington on a very limited annual income.

    Since her arrival in England in 1817, the Duchess of Kent had forged few friendships at court. She was regarded as haughty and grand, aloof and a terrible gossip. Despite her precarious position, and ignoring warnings from Conroy, the Duchess grew too bold in assuming that, as she was leaving for Coburg anyway, she was practically untouchable. When she heard about the proposed transformation of Buckingham House into a palace, she wasted no time in criticising the Queen’s lavish spending and bemoaned the fact that the King had money to provide himself with a grand residence but could not honour the memory of his late brother (or secure the future fortunes of his niece) by paying off her late husband’s debts. For three weeks, the Duchess told her visitors that “the wicked little Queen will bankrupt England” and even suggested that the King was growing tired of her constant demands for paintings, furniture and jewels and may "put her aside as easily as he did the other one".


    The Duchess of Kent.

    It did not take long before this tittle tattle reached the ears of the King and Queen. Something would have to be done about the Duchess of Kent, and quickly, but there was still a sticking point the King could not find a solution for; he did not want his niece to leave England. It wasn’t only family loyalty but there were practical considerations too. What if his son died in infancy? What if he had no more children? What if the Duchess of Clarence, now expecting again, never had a child live beyond three or four months? Victoria’s position remained somewhat uncertain and would until the Prince of Wales reached maturity. Until he could be sure all was well, the King wanted his niece to remain in England. But he also knew his wife wanted the Duchess of Kent to leave the court as soon as possible. The court could not withstand another public scandal but both parties were stuck between a rock and a hard place. “Why is he bargaining with that woman at all?”, the Queen asked her ladies, “She should be sent away and the little Princess kept here”.

    Since the Accession, none of Queen Louise’s ladies of the bedchamber had been removed or replaced as she had previously threatened to do. Indeed, despite her initial reluctance, she had become fond of them and had even taken the Marchioness of Cholmondeley into her confidence. Her husband, the Marquess, had been promoted to Lord Chamberlain of the Household and the couple were quickly becoming favourites of both the King and Queen. Now Georgiana Cholmondeley saw an opportunity to cement this position, ever aware that the Queen was prone to changing her attitudes on a whim. Visiting Kensington Palace, supposedly to to take a gift to Princess Augusta from the Queen, the Marchioness paid a visit to the nursery where the redoubtable Mrs Brock was protecting her charge, Princess Victoria.

    Since the death of the Duke of Kent, Mrs Brock, the Princess’ nursemaid, had bombarded Lady Cholmondeley’s husband with complaints. Though she was nursemaid to the Princess and nominally the head of the nursery whilst more junior nursemaids were present, the true power in the nursery was Louise Lehzen. Born in Hanover, Lehzen had come to England as the Governess of the Duchess of Kent’s elder daughter Feodora, born of her first marriage to the Prince of Leiningen. But Lehzen had been thrilled to have such an important baby in her nursery as Princess Victoria and she was increasingly haughty with Mrs Brock who felt her position was constantly being undermined. [5] Lady Cholmondeley had advised her husband to ignore Brock’s protests but when a letter came a few days after the Queen had complained about the Duchess of Kent, Lady Cholmondeley saw a way to secure the Queen’s favour once and for all.

    The Marchioness sent an invitation to Mrs Brock to take tea with her where all the grievances she had could be aired. As Brock sat and bemoaned Lehzen’s dominating and unfair nursery regime, Lady Cholmondeley nodded in agreement. She then set her trap. The most worrying thing in her mind, the Marchioness cautioned, was that now the Duchess of Kent was to go back to Germany, Lehzen would undoubtedly take full charge of Princess Victoria and poor Mrs Brock would be left behind in England. “But do not worry Mrs Brock”, Lady Cholmondeley said kindly, “I am sure I could find you a place in the nursery at Buckingham House. Of course, it would be a more junior post…”

    Mrs Brock broke down in tears. The idea of losing her precious royal charge was too much to bear, let alone her nursery rival winning the ultimate battle. Lady Cholmondeley continued. It was such a shame, she said, that the relationship between the King and his sister-in-law had deteriorated so. He was even minded to keep Princess Victoria in England when the Duchess of Kent left but this was unlikely. The only thing that would prompt him to take such an extreme decision was the suggestion of scandal. Whilst there were vicious rumours (“quite unsubstantiated I am sure”) that there was something corrupt or immoral in the relationship between the Duchess of Kent and Captain Conroy, nobody could prove it. Of course, if they could that would be another matter entirely. Mrs Brock quickly caught on.


    Louise Lehzen.

    Whether there was any truth to her statement or not, she allowed herself to be talked into signing a letter to the Queen (“Who is far more likely to show leniency than His Majesty”) in which she said the entire household of the Duchess of Kent was in turmoil. Her relationship with Captain Conroy was causing “scandal to touch the palace” and she had serious concerns that it may “poison the reputation of the little Princess, something she may carry well into the future and which may even make a good marriage impossible”. In all likelihood, these were simply Lady Cholmondeley’s words committed to paper in Brock’s name. Either way, the Marchioness promised Brock she would not be separated from the little Princess and took the letter to Queen Louise.

    The Queen put the letter before the King who, armed with supposed proof that his sister-in-law was having a love affair with John Conroy, made his final decision. The Duchess of Kent must leave England but she would not take his niece with her. How this was to be arranged was another matter entirely. At first, the King tried a soft approach. He was willing to leave the door open for the Duchess to make regular visits to England to visit her daughter who would be lodged with the Duchess’ brother, Prince Leopold. Prince Leopold, the widower of Princess Charlotte and still resident in England, was summoned to Buckingham House. Accompanied by his advisor and confidante, Baron Stockmar, Leopold promised to try and mediate between the King and his sister-in-law, though he left the donkey work to Baron Stockmar.

    Stockmar tried to see the Duchess in person but she refused to receive him. She had been estranged from her brother since his love affair with the actress Caroline Bauer had been made public. Unfortunately, Caroline was also Stockmar’s cousin and so the Duchess of Kent left Conroy to meet with Stockmar instead. Stockmar pleaded with Conroy to force the Duchess to see the bigger picture. A brief separation from her daughter would allow things to calm down somewhat, the late Duke of Kent’s creditors would be placated by the payment of a first installment and the Duchess could at least return from Coburg when she wished to visit Victoria. The Princess would be lodged with her uncle who could only have the same best interests at heart for her and after a time, the King may even relent and allow the Duchess to return permanently to England, her debts paid for and her reputation improved. It is unclear as to whether Conroy put this plea to the Duchess personally but when Conroy made a return visit to Stockmar, he made it abundantly clear that the Duchess would not be separated from her daughter under any terms. Neither would she allow her to lodge with Prince Leopold for as long as he was in a relationship with Bauer and Stockmar was in his employ.

    Patience with the Duchess ran so thin as to reach breaking point. Stockmar informed the King that Prince Leopold had been unable to mediate with his sister and that the Prince would support the King in whatever course of action he chose to pursue. Unfortunately for the Duchess of Kent, the King asked Queen Louise what should be done, eager to allow her to feel that same sense of importance and influence that his mother had enjoyed when she was Queen consort in all family matters. It was the Queen who passed sentence. The Duchess of Kent would return to Coburg with Princess Feodora and Princess Feodora’s governess, Louise Lehzen. But Princess Victoria would be kept in the charge of Mrs Brock in England. If the Duchess refused to allow Victoria to live with her uncle Leopold, then she would be sent to Clarence House to be raised by the Duke and Duchess of Clarence. Officially, the Duchess of Kent would be said to have returned to Coburg to oversee the running of her estates there and would return regularly to visit Victoria. Privately however, it would be made clear to the Duchess that if she returned without permission of the King or Queen, if she caused scandal, or if she continued to gossip against them, the debt payments would stop and she would never see her daughter again.


    Baron Stockmar.

    As for Conroy, his ambition far outweighed any sense of loyalty to the Duchess of Kent. He had seen royal service as the quickest route to riches and a position of influence as a courtier but he was still a Captain in the army when all was said and done had not officially left military service. The Marquess of Cholmondeley decided a commission would be found for Conroy in Ireland. Despite his relatively short length of time in royal service, he would be given a knighthood and a small pension. The pension would be cut off if he engaged in tittle tattle beyond palace walls. The King did not welcome the idea of honouring Conroy but Lord Cholmondeley assured His Majesty that it was the safest way to handle the situation. There could be no hint of scandal for, if there was, the King would hardly honour Conroy in such a way on his departure if he were guilty of adultery with the Duke of Kent’s widow.

    It was left to the Queen to impart the judgement, a task she no doubt relished. When the Duchess of Kent arrived at Buckingham House on the 1st of June 1820, she had no idea what was about to transpire. If she had, she might not have been so foolish as to ask Captain Conroy to accompany her. Whilst she was aware of the gossip that surrounded them at court, she refused to be cowed by it and Conroy too wished to impress on everybody that he had nothing to hide and had carried out his duties in an exemplary fashion. It has even been suggested that Conroy asked to accompany the Duchess to her audience with the Queen in the mistaken belief that he might impress Her Majesty and be invited to remain in England to serve another member of the Royal Family after the Duchess of Kent had departed for Coburg. He was quickly disavowed of any such illusions when he was refused entrance to the Queen’s presence. Only the Duchess’ was to be admitted to the audience.

    Queen Louise had chosen the cast well. On one side stood her ladies of the bedchamber with the Marchioness of Cholmondeley closest to the Queen. On the other stood the Dowager Princess of Wales, the Duchess of Clarence, Princess Augusta and Princess Sophia. The Duchess of Kent must have known by this assemblage how serious her situation was, nonetheless, Lady Campbell recorded that she; “curtseyed and smiled toward Her Majesty, nodding to her sisters-in-law but ignoring the Queen’s ladies entirely. I thought her most rude but if she had any inclination of what was to follow, she did not show it and one could almost admire her early calm”. The Queen was “somehow taller, more bold in manner, as if she were trying to infuse herself with the spirit of the late Queen who was always so composed yet so firm in such situations”.

    The Queen was disarmingly kind to the Duchess at first. She asked if she had closed her house in Sidmouth without too many difficulties and inquired as to the well-being of Princess Victoria. Then she changed course.

    “Where is Conroy?”, the Queen asked.

    “He is outside Your Majesty”, the Duchess replied.

    “That is good”, Queen Louise nodded, “Lord Cholmondeley wishes to speak with him about his new posting. To Ireland”.

    The Duchess of Kent may have been surprised by this, even frustrated or upset, but according to Lady Campbell’s account of the meeting, she did not show it; “She stood upright and said nothing but avoided the gaze of the ladies assembled. She dared not look at the Queen in that moment”.

    “You will travel soon too, I understand”, the Queen continued, “To Coburg?”

    The Duchess replied that regretfully, she would. She had wished to stay in England where she felt her daughter should be raised, indeed, she felt it was what her late husband would have wanted. But with his debts unsettled, she had no choice but to withdraw to Germany with her daughter.

    “I think not”, the Queen said coldly, “We have taken advice and we do not believe that Princess Victoria should be raised in Coburg...”

    The Duchess of Kent moved forward. The Queen held up a hand. The Duchess froze. She must now have realised that something was afoot, something that would cost her dear. Lady Campbell recalled; “Her voice was suddenly tremulous, she began to talk of the Duke of Kent’s debts, of the King’s past kindness to her, of the poor conditions at Kensington, of her brother Prince Leopold and all manner of things until the Queen held up her hand and the Duchess fell silent”.

    “You will make your arrangements to return to Coburg”, the Queen finally dealt the blow, “But Princess Victoria will remain here. With the Duchess of Clarence”.

    The Duchess of Kent let out a yelp “like a wounded animal”. She fell to her knees and began to plead with Queen Louise.

    “Do not take my daughter from me”, she begged, “No mother could bear the pain of such a thing!”

    The Queen gestured toward the Dowager Princess of Wales. [6]

    “She bore it well enough”.

    The Duchess now became so hysterical that Princess Sophia stood up to hold her still. Lady Campbell recorded that the Princess seemed to offer sympathy which only enraged the Queen all the more.

    “Did you really believe Madam we did not hear of your whoring with Conroy? Or that we would let it continue?”, Queen Louise spat, “Your own household brought the proof to us and do you imagine we should let you take His Majesty’s niece to Coburg with the lover you paraded so indecently before the court?”

    The Duchess protested that she had never bedded Conroy, she had been foolish to rely on him but she was a poor widow with many difficulties, she had never been liked at court and she had no friends or allies.

    “We shall cover your debts”, the Queen said, ignoring her pleas, “And then Madam, you shall take your devious servants and faded fineries and go to Coburg where you will remain. You will return to England only at my invitation and I must tell you Madam, that shall prove a long time in coming”.

    With that, the Duchess of Kent, shaking and weeping loudly, clutched to Princess Sophia who led her from the room. “We all felt very much for her in that moment but the Queen did not. As she was carried out by the Princess, the Queen called after her ‘Look upon her not with pity my ladies, for she is a most wicked woman’. It was all quite horrible but we were in full agreement among ourselves that Her Majesty was quite right to act as she did for if Conroy’s sordid behaviour was ever made public, the scandal would be most vicious and put us all in danger of ridicule”. The Duchess of Kent found the corridor outside empty. Conroy had already been given his new commission and had left Buckingham House. The Duchess was shown to her carriage which would take her back to Kensington where she would make her final arrangements to leave England.


    The infant Princess Victoria.

    But there was one final indignity left for the Duchess of Kent to face. When she arrived back at Kensington, she found Louise Lehzen and Princess Feodora weeping and comforting each other. Mrs Brock, accompanied by men from the King’s household, had taken the little Princess Victoria to Clarence House. The Duchess was not to be allowed to bid her daughter farewell. Ten days later, the Duchess left England for Germany. The Times reported that Her Royal Highness had decided to withdraw to her private residence in Coburg for a time but wished her daughter to remain in England until the New Year. Until her mother's return, Princess Victoria was to live in the care of her uncle, the Duke of Clarence. All had been arranged personally by the Queen, the report said, “who is so very fond of the child as she is of all small children”.

    At Buckingham House, the King expressed regret that the situation had deteriorated so. He wrote to Prince Leopold and promised him that he would always be welcome both at court and at Clarence House to visit his niece; “We were grateful for your efforts and I regret that you could not bring that woman to heel, for the situation had become quite untenable”. The Queen meanwhile was “in vulgar good humour” that night, contented that she had rid the court of the Duchess of Kent whilst also pleasing her husband. Lady Cholmondeley was satisfied too. She had secured her position as the Queen’s favourite, if only temporarily.

    But outside of the Queen’s Household, other royal retainers knew the truth of the matter and many felt the Duchess of Kent had been cruelly treated and horribly betrayed. Whilst she had never been wildly popular during her time in England, most thought it a heartless thing to separate her from her daughter, especially to forbid her the chance of a farewell. Some even referred to the Queen as “a wicked woman”.

    It did not take long for their gossip to travel outside Palace walls. Whilst the King’s reputation was improving slowly with the passage of time, the Queen’s seemed to be on a course of rapid decline. With his coronation looming, support for the monarchy was dropping but the King seemed oblivious and believed that peace and order had been restored to his court. In the coming months, he would find out just how wrong he was.

    [1] This is a modified version of the speech George IV (Prince Regent) gave in the OTL.

    [2] These figures are based on the finances of 1820 in the OTL.

    [3] Her husband stood as Princess Victoria’s godfather in the OTL and around this time Alexander and Elizabeth had reconciled, therefore it makes sense she would be considered. It also allows a little one upmanship between the Queen and the Duchess of Kent.

    [4] If this seems a little quick, bear in mind that George IV (Prince Regent) was created Prince of Wales when he was just a few days old in the OTL. By the same token, in the OTL Queen Victoria created her eldest son Prince of Wales when he was only a month old.

    [5] There is some truth to this in that Lehzen eventually pushed Mrs Brock out of the royal nursery in 1824 to be given sole charge over Princess Victoria in the OTL. Lehzen remained with the Princess after her accession until a few years after Victoria’s marriage. Unable to warm to Prince Albert, Lehzen took herself back to Hanover and out of royal service.

    [6] The Prince Regent’s widow in this TL who had once been separated from her daughter, the late Princess Charlotte of Wales.

    [Note] I found myself in a knot here. The Duchess of Kent had no reason to stay in England in this TL, even if her debts were paid. Her position was uncertain and her residence run down and cramped. She was also universally unpopular. Returning to Coburg meant a much happier life in every way. Whilst in the OTL, she chose to sacrifice that to gamble on her daughter’s position, that position in this TL changed somewhat with the birth of Prince George.

    But I wanted to keep Princess Victoria in England for later in the TL. And I doubted the King or his brothers would have approved of her being raised in Germany with the ambitious Conroy and the Duchess making decisions for her, i.e. her later education and marriage prospects. In the OTL, Prince Leopold and Baron Stockmar were instrumental in persuading the Duchess of Kent to stay in England, it seemed right that they should feature here but put Victoria before the Duchess, especially with the estrangement between brother and sister.

    Laying the groundwork for the Queen and the Duchess to become rivals meant a clash was inevitable and using some palace intrigue and nursery squabbles allowed me to separate mother and daughter in a way that was (IMO) believable and logical given the TL so far.
    Last edited:
    GIV: Part 9: Old Friends and New Favourites
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    King George IV

    Part 9: Old Friends and New Favourites

    By the time of the King’s coronation on the 1st of August 1820, the original budget of £60,000 allocated by the government had almost doubled. Despite limiting public entertainments and sacrificing part of the processional route, the cost had spiralled quickly with members of the Royal Family charging bills for their attire, carriages and servants to the coronation committee. The bills ranged from £3 to pay a Mrs Mary Jerrold, who supplied flowers to Princess Augusta and her household for a pre-coronation dinner, to £130 paid to Ede & Ravenscroft for the hire of coronets and robes for the King’s extended family. Ede & Ravenscroft had been working round the clock to provide robes for the peers who would attend the coronation, so much so that those who left it too late found themselves frantically consulting theatrical costumiers in the hope that nobody would be able to tell the difference. A popular joke at the time was that ermine was in such short supply, there wasn't a white cat to be found in all of London.

    One person would be conspicuous by her absence at the ceremony. At Oatlands, Princess Frederica (the former wife of the King), was in such poor health that her household asked the King to dispatch Sir Andrew Halliday to examine her. The Princess had been consumptive for some time but now she seemed to be lapsing in and out of consciousness and her ladies in waiting were concerned that the end was near. Since the annulment of her marriage, she had refused to receive the royal physicians, especially the recently promoted Halliday who had all but declared her mad at the Court of Arches. Instead, a local doctor from Weybridge was asked to attend to Princess. When he saw Frederica, he knew she was in a very grave state of health indeed. “Do not trouble His Majesty”, the Princess said sadly, “I do not wish to add to his anxieties”.

    The Princess was not invited to the coronation, presumably because she had been unwell for some time or because she had not attended court since the annulment of her marriage two years earlier. Both were sound reasons but naturally there was gossip (mostly manufactured) that the King had wished to invite her but the Queen had forbidden it. As the King prepared for the most important day in his life, he at least appeared to think of the Princess at Oatlands, writing to the housekeeper, Mrs Peverell, with instructions to “furnish the Princess with the finest food and wines in celebration of the day and of an old and cherished friendship”. The Princess could barely leave her bed, let alone enjoy such a repast. Still, on her orders, the King was told nothing of his former wife’s condition.

    On the day of the coronation, the heavens opened. Whilst rain poured from the sky, the temperature stayed warm and very quickly the city was so humid that it was said that the cobbled streets steamed. At St James’ Palace, the Royal Family and members of the Household began dressing for the day’s events. One of the Queen’s ladies in waiting, Lady Campbell, recorded that, “every window in the palace had to be opened and even then there was no breeze to be had. The heat was truly unbearable and rainwater gushed in soaking everything it touched. The Queen was in a terrible temper and I had to soothe her with a handkerchief dipped in ice water as the other ladies tried to dress her”.

    Because the Queen had been pregnant when her coronation gown had been commissioned, Ede & Ravenscroft had made three identical dresses hoping that one would fit her perfectly. None did. In the sweltering heat, the largest of the dresses had to be altered and the Queen sewn into it to prevent it from slipping. All was well until the heavy velvet and ermine robes were fixed to her shoulders and the front of the gown was forced downward exposing her bosom. Queen Louise flew into a rage as her ladies hastily made more alterations but by now, the Queen’s hair was soaking wet with sweat and had to be restyled. When her jewels were finally put on her by Lady Cholmondeley, the Queen burst into tears shrieking; “It is all too heavy! I cannot walk, I shall never be able to walk!”.


    The Coronation Procession of King George IV and Queen Louise, 1820.

    Meanwhile the King had been quite as badly affected by the heat but the Lord Chamberlain noted in his diary that “His Majesty had to be poured into his uniform like custard into a mould and everything was so sodden with sweat that he complained of painful rashes on his arms and legs within the hour”. Other members of the Royal Family began arriving from their respective residences. Princess Augusta refused to leave her carriage even in the pouring rain because “I should rather be drowned in the street than boiled alive in the palace”. But the balmy conditions did not deter the crowds who lined the route and many hoped to make extra money that day by selling street foods and souvenirs. The mood was joyous, the public fully embracing the pageantry of the occasion and forgetting any misgivings they might have had in years gone by about the Royal Family.

    The Gold State Coach left St James’ Palace at 9.00am and began the procession toward Westminster Abbey. In days gone by, public entertainments would have been staged in the royal parks until the return of the King and Queen to the Palace but given the weather and the lack of anything much to do, the crowds quickly dispersed once the coach had trundled past them on it’s first outing. Escorted by the Life Guards, the route saw the King and Queen pass through Charing Cross before the Coach turned along Whitehall to the Abbey. The temporary stands for spectators which had been erected could hold up to three thousand people but on the day, they held significantly less.

    Once they arrived at Westminster Abbey, there was a misunderstanding as to which door the King and Queen would be entering by. The Coach stopped early and they began to alight, aided by coachmen, heading towards the Central Doorway of the North Transept. The King noticed the error and taking the Queen by the arm, their enormously heavy robes carried by panicking and perspiring Pages, Their Majesties were forced to pretend this was a deliberate gesture as they walked across the grass to the courtyard of the West Entrance. The crowds were delighted by this, cheering and shouting at the royal couple and seizing the opportunity to get a far better view of them. But the carriages bringing other members of the Royal Family had stopped at the correction door and now the courtyard became a chaotic scramble for position as everybody tried to find their places.

    The rest of the ceremony seemed to go pretty much as planned and was modelled closely on the coronation service of King George III in 1761. Though the traditional girding of the sword or donning of armills were omitted, and the Nicene Creed was spoken and not sung, everything else remained much as before with Handel’s Zadok the Priest and Hallelujah Chorus providing a suitably uplifting soundtrack to the proceedings. There was one small incident just before the crowning of the King in which one of the sapphires hired to be set into St Edward’s Crown came loose and rolled across the floor. Nobody dared retrieve it until after the ceremony by which time, a light-fingered guest had taken it home with them as a souvenir. But the King hadn’t noticed and looked “dignified and quite moved” as the Archbishop put the crown upon his head. Lady Campbell recalled; “Her Majesty shed a small tear for the King, which touched us all for she had been in such poor humour until that time. Then she went forward to be crowned herself and I suspected she may weep but she did not”. [1]

    When the newly crowned King George IV and Queen Louise left Westminster Abbey (by the right door) at 3.30pm, the bells rang out and those who had bothered to remain along the route cheered them. But both must have noticed that the turn out was now a third of what it had been that morning, even with the rain holding off for most of the afternoon. The Gold State Coach splashed its way through puddles and mud until it reached Buckingham House where a “coronation breakfast” was to be held. Princess Sophia gave voice to everybody’s thoughts by asking, “Isn’t it rather late for breakfast?”. Nonetheless, the 200 guests invited enjoyed lavish hospitality that far exceeded the banquets of old, leading some to wonder why it had been replaced at all. A “coronation breakfast” was never held again and the banquet of old was revived the next time around.

    The following morning, the Queen complained of sickness and fatigue, no doubt brought on by the previous days weather and exertions. But when she had not shown signs of improvement two days later, the Mistress of the Robes, Lady Cholmondeley, asked for Sir Andrew Halliday to examine Her Majesty. To everyone’s surprise (and delight), the Queen was expecting again. The King was in such a joyous mood from the coronation that he was “practically floating on air” and even took a walk in Hyde Park with the Marquess of Cholmondeley, beaming at passers by as he went. Despite their differences, the King and Queen had learned to appreciate one another, at least enough to do their duty in the royal bedchamber. On Sunday 6th August 1820, the King and Queen attended church and prayers were said for the future prince or princess. In his contentment, the King had no idea that at Oatlands, Princess Frederica had just breathed her last.


    Frederica, Princess of Prussia.

    The news reached the King the following morning. Lord Bloomfield, acting as Private Secretary to the Sovereign, wrote; “When the King was consulted upon the subject of the funeral, he at once determined that every wish of his lamented former spouse should be complied with; and directions were accordingly given that the obsequies should be performed as she had requested, with as little ostentation as possible”. This was relayed to parliament and the press but again, the court gossip mongers saw to it that another version of events seeped out into the public arena. According to their account of things, the King had wanted to give his former wife a grand ceremonial funeral at Windsor with an internment at St George’s Chapel. The Queen had forbidden it. This caught the public imagination quickly, especially given the popularity of the late Princess. The diarist Charles Greville noted; “Probably no person in such a situation was ever more really liked than the Duchess of York. She has left £12,000 to her servants and to some children in the local village whom she had cause to be educated”.

    The funeral was held at St James’ Church, Weybridge on the 13th of August. Several members of the Royal Family were in attendance and Frederica’s coffin was lowered into the chancel which the King later restored so that a permanent memorial could be installed. So grieved by her loss were the local villagers that they collected money to erect a sundial on the village green near Oatlands paying tribute to “Frederica Charlotte Ulrica Catherina, Duchess of York, who resided for upwards of thirty years at Oatlands in this parish, exercising every Christian virtue, and died, universally regretted on the 6th Day of August 1820”. The King was moved by the public outpouring of grief for his former wife and spent the night at Oatlands for the first time in well over a decade. He mourned her as an old friend and though Lady Campbell noted that the Queen showed “no jealousy or animosity to this”, the public thought otherwise. As Greville noted; “That the Queen could not bring herself to attend the funeral of the beloved Duchess is a stain on her character that the people will never allow to be purged. Diminished in mind she may have been, but in her heart, the Duchess was more good, more virtuous and more loved by this nation than her successor could ever be”. [2]


    The memorial to Frederica in Weybridge.

    Viscountess Sydney, one of the Queen’s ladies of the bedchamber, represented Queen Louise at Frederica’s funeral. Upon her return to London, the Queen asked for a report of the day’s events. Lady Sydney was in her early 80s and prone to displays of emotion. She felt the loss of the Princess very deeply as she had once been very close to her. She began to weep, relaying that the Princess was “very sincerely mourned by the people”. When she finished her account, the Queen stood up without a word and left the room followed by Lady Melville and Lady Campbell. When the poor Viscountess rose to do the same, the Queen barked; “Do not approach!” and the doors were closed leaving a confused Lady Sydney out of the royal presence for the rest of the day. This continued for a week until the Mistress of the Robes was forced to go to a frantic Lady Sydney and advise her that the Queen no longer required her services at court. The Viscountess had been in royal service for almost 60 years. She ended her days at Frognal in Sidcup, dying in solitude at a small dower house on the estate, at the age of 90.

    Many feared that the Queen may battle with the Prime Minister again over appointments to her household but to everybody’s relief, she did not. Viscountess Sydney was replaced by Lady Elizabeth Somerset, the 23-year-old daughter of the Duke of Beaufort. Lady Elizabeth was the goddaughter of the Marquess of Cholmondeley, he being a close friend of the Beaufort family. Indeed, many historians suggest that it was the Marquess who proposed Lady Elizabeth as a candidate for the post of lady of the bedchamber to the Prime Minister after a weekend spent with the Beauforts at Badminton. Though she accepted the appointment in principle, the Queen made life difficult for Lady Elizabeth before relenting and allowing her to join her other ladies in her company to play cards. The Duke of Beaufort had hoped that by securing her a place in the Queen’s household, his daughter might make a good match. [3]

    In September, the court moved to Windsor. The entire Royal Family were invited, including the Clarences. The Queen had insisted the Duchess attend even though she was heavily pregnant. The King wished to see his niece, Princess Victoria, who had been lodged with the Clarences since the departure of the Duchess of Kent earlier that year. The King noted that his niece was “a content fat little baby with a sweet nature” and Victoria was allowed to play in the nursery which housed her cousin, the Prince of Wales, who was equally fussed and fawned over by members of the extended family. But after a few days, the little Princess was growing restless and noisy and the Duchess asked Lady Elizabeth Somerset to take her for a walk in the park. The King also happened to be out walking that afternoon and stopped to admire his niece. He also found much to admire in Lady Elizabeth too.


    Lady Elizabeth Somerset.

    Over the coming weeks, the King seemed to spend more and more time with the Queen but only, Lady Campbell noticed, when Lady Elizabeth was present. He invited the Duke of Beaufort to Windsor for dinner where he “sang the praises of Lady Elizabeth most profusely, indeed, we thought the King had taken too much wine for he began reciting poetry, very romantic poetry at that, to the young lady in the company of the Queen. The Queen was not amused in the least and suggested Lady Elizabeth return to Badminton with her father for a few days on a little holiday. But the King would not allow it and said that he wanted Lady Elizabeth by the Queen’s side because, the Queen expecting once again, needed much attention and care”. Lady Elizabeth had captured George IV’s interest and their love affair began in earnest, the pair spending more and more time together privately away from the Queen.

    The court was predictably discrete. It was not unusual for the King to take a mistress; it was less unusual that one of the Queen’s ladies might take his eye from time to time. As Duke of York, George IV had sustained several relationships whilst married to his former wife and though, until now, he had been faithful to the Queen, it was inevitable that one day he would enjoy a flirtation outside of the royal marriage. The Ladies of the Bedchamber were not in the least scandalised by the King’s interest in Lady Elizabeth and could not understand why, when the love affair became obvious to all, the Queen reacted quite so badly. “Her Majesty’s condition will undoubtedly make her prone to emotional outrages”, Lady Campbell noted, “But she seethes and sulks all day when she knows the King is with the young lady and makes the time very disagreeable. When Lady Melville asked, quite reasonably, if the Queen would like to take supper a little early, Her Majesty banished her from her presence and refused to eat, saying that poor Lady Melville had ruined her appetite”.

    Whilst the Queen may have been a little naïve as to the conventions of royal marriages, the King seemed to become so besotted with Elizabeth Somerset that he occasionally failed to act with the discretion which usually came with such arrangements. Elizabeth was given an allowance to spend on clothes which none of the other ladies of the bedchamber had available to them and her collection of jewels began to increase rapidly. But where the King was foolish, Lady Elizabeth was sensible. She took every insult from the Queen with calmness, she did not flaunt her position as the King’s mistress too boldly and most importantly, she always gave the King what he wanted. As His Majesty’s mood improved; court life suddenly acquired a sense of fun it had not had for some time. On the 12th of November, a costume ball was held at Lady Elizabeth’s suggestion. The Queen did not attend and the King, dressed as his predecessor King Edward IV, spent the entire evening in the company of his mistress who just so happened to be dressed as Elizabeth Woodville. [4]

    On the 10th of December 1820, the Duchess of Clarence gave birth to a daughter, Princess Elizabeth. The Duchess had lost both of her previous babies at birth and when the new Princess arrived six weeks early, there was panic at Clarence House. She was christened by the Bishop of London later that day at St James’ Palace in a sombre atmosphere. Nobody expected her to live. Meanwhile, the court returned to London from Windsor to celebrate Christmas but Queen Louise elected to remain at Windsor instead. Somewhat insensitively, she wrote a long letter to the Duchess of Clarence bemoaning her fate and complaining bitterly about the King’s “obsession with the Beaufort”. The Duchess replied full of kindness and generosity considering her situation but her ladies were quietly furious with the Queen for “adding to Her Royal Highness’ terrible burden with silly problems of her own”. Adelaide nursed her daughter for 12 weeks but in vain. Princess Elizabeth died on the 10th of March 1821.

    A month earlier, the King sold Oatlands Palace. Initially, George suggested that it was his intention to take a new country house as a gift for the Queen on the birth of her second child and the proceeds from the sale of Oatlands would pay for it. He had settled on Gloucestershire as a location for this generous present and was to head to the county for three weeks to inspect properties there. He would stay at Badminton House as a guest of the Duke of Beaufort. Nobody was fooled for a moment. The King wanted a bolt hole to entertain his mistress away from the prying eyes of the court – and the Queen. Whilst touring Gloucestershire with Lady Elizabeth, staying in some of the grandest houses in the country, it was suggested that His Majesty might consider a visit to Lechlade Manor which had recently come up for sale again.



    Lechlade had been a manor in possession of the Crown until the 16th century when it was sold. [5] An imposing building with a considerable estate, it’s most recent occupant and owner was Sir Jacob Wheate, a Gloucestershire baronet who was forced to sacrifice Lechlade to pay his enormous gambling debts. The estate changed hands twice between 1777 and 1821 before it was put up for sale again with an asking price of £5,000 (the equivalent of around £460,000 today). The previous owners had refurbished the manor at great personal expense before moving on and thus Lechlade required no costly refurbishment. Whilst the furniture was not included in the price, the King decided he could easily kit out his new country house from what was currently in storage from Oatlands. Lechlade was perfect. The King purchased the house and upon acquiring the deed, placed it in a wooden box with a note witnessed by the Marquess of Cholmondeley which said that upon the King’s death, the house and all its contents were to be bequeathed to Lady Elizabeth Somerset.

    Soon after the purchase of Lechlade, Lady Elizabeth left the Queen’s Household. She did not leave in disgrace, neither did the Queen force the King to have her dismissed by the Prime Minister. The most logical explanation is that the King had decided to prolong his relationship with her and did not wish her to remain in the household of his wife where her every movement would be followed by the Queen or her ladies of the bedchamber. But she did not disappear from court, rather, she attended as a personal guest of the King in her own right rather than as a member of the Royal Household. The King visited Elizabeth as often as he could at Lechlade and even invited her to join him on his proposed tour of Ireland in August.

    In the past, courtiers had often felt sympathy for royal wives where the King’s mistress was concerned but nobody expressed any sentiment of regret for the hurt feelings of Queen Louise. Rather than accept her husband’s mistress as a somewhat unpleasant by-product of life as a Queen consort, Louise became even more ill-tempered and brusque than usual. Heavily pregnant, she refused to receive the King at all at Windsor and when she heard that he had purchased a country house, supposedly on the pretext that he wished to give her a gift to mark the birth of their second child, she swore never to set foot there. Most knew she was unlikely ever to receive an invitation to Lechlade anyway.

    With tensions running high and the Queen’s ladies determined to try and find ways to please her, Lady Cholmondeley breathed a sigh of relief when the King instructed her to invite the Queen’s mother to England for last months of the Queen’s pregnancy. He also commanded the Marchioness to recruit the same medical team from Hanover which had delivered the Prince of Wales the previous year. Landgravine Caroline accepted and returned a letter with the names of the household and medical staff she intended to bring with her. One name on the list was new to Lady Cholmondeley, that of the recently appointed Deputy Steward of Landgrave Frederick’s Household at Rumpenheim. In a few months’ time, the entire court would know only too well the name Joachim Pepke.

    [1] This account of the Coronation is a blend of a watered-down version of the Coronation of George IV (Prince Regent) in the OTL, which remains the most expensive on record, and a more traditional version than the OTL Coronation of William IV, which had to be changed to fit the political atmosphere of the day.

    [2] Bloomfield’s words here are actually from an obituary of the Duchess of York in the OTL whilst I’ve added on a little to what Greville actually wrote in his diary to fit this TL. Otherwise it’s pretty much word for word.

    [3] Beaufort was a Tory in good standing with many daughters available to attend the Queen consort. Lady Cholmondeley’s son in the OTL married a daughter of the Duke, Lady Elizabeth’s sister Susan, in 1830.

    [4] Masquerades were all the rage at this time in the OTL with costume balls a particular favourite. The King and Lady Elizabeth’s costumes are not only a nod to their affair in this TL but to the Plantagenet Ball later held by Queen Victoria in the OTL in 1842.

    [5] There may be a butterfly here but it’s not a huge one. Lechlade was almost definitely leased in 1821 but who actually owned the property is a little more vague. To save getting bogged down in 19th century deed ownership (!), I decided to eject the renters to make the house vacant possession for purchase.

    [Note] The photograph of Lechlade used here is the Victorian rebuild and not the one the King would have known in this TL. Unfortunately I can’t find an image of the original Lechlade.
    Last edited:
    GIV: Part 10: The Fawn of Rumpenheim
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    King George IV

    Part 10: The Fawn of Rumpenheim

    Landgravine Caroline of Hesse-Kassel-Rumpenheim arrived in England on the 23rd of March 1821 bringing with her a far bigger entourage than she had travelled with on her previous visits. Her status as the mother of the Queen of Great Britain was displayed for all to see as her procession of twelve carriages made its way to Royal Lodge, Windsor where the Queen had decided to spend her confinement. As well as Caroline’s ladies in waiting, she brought with her the medical team who had delivered the Prince of Wales and the Deputy Steward of her husband’s household, Joachim Pepke. A 32-year-old cavalry officer from Hanover, Pepke’s arrival created much the same stir in Windsor as it had in Rumpenheim. At 6ft 2” tall and with a mass of chestnut brown curly hair and wide brown eyes, Pepke’s beauty was unrivalled but it was his wit, charm and efficiency that impressed his employer most. He had become an essential part of the household at Rumpenheim and the Landgravine had insisted that he accompany her to England that Spring.


    Landgravine Caroline.

    When Caroline arrived at Royal Lodge, there was a tearful reunion between mother and daughter. Queen Louise was due to give birth in a matter of weeks but her husband was nowhere to be seen. Initially it had been proposed that the King stay at Windsor Castle where he could be kept informed of his wife’s condition as her delivery date drew near, but George had become bored and had set off for Lechlade. The royal marriage was the talk of the court and whilst many today may have sympathy with the Queen for being deserted during the last months of her second pregnancy, few in her employ felt anything other than indifference. Lady Melville wrote in her diary; “His Majesty is in such good humour but the Queen always finds a word to wound him and so he visits less and less. This in turn infuriates the Queen who turns her temper on her ladies who then feel very little sympathy for her situation”.

    But the court had a new object of fascination outside of the royal marriage that Spring; Joachim Pepke. Predictably, the ladies of the court were enthralled by his presence from the off and Lady Campbell was reprimanded by Lady Cholmondeley for “thinking too well of him” when she was found walking in the grounds of Royal Lodge with Pepke when she should have been attending Her Majesty. As for Queen Louise personally, she did not meet Pepke for some time after his arrival, the only men allowed into her suite of rooms being those who comprised the Medical Household. But she was said to be intrigued by the stories her ladies told her about Pepke, and though most were probably exaggerated to amuse, it is said that it was Queen Louise who gave Pepke his nickname even before their meeting. At court, he became known as “the Fawn of Rumpenheim”, no doubt on account of his wide eyes which Lady Campbell noted as “by far his most endearing feature”.

    On the 16th of April 1821, the Queen gave birth to her second child, a “healthy and fat little daughter” who was given the name Charlotte Louise Augusta in honour of her paternal grandmother, her mother and her maternal aunt, the Duchess of Cambridge. The King returned from Lechlade the moment he received news that his daughter had been born. He wrote that he was “greatly cheered” by the arrival of the little Princess who “brings with her much joy and happiness”. The King elected to remain in Windsor but not at Royal Lodge with his wife. Instead, he lodged himself at the Castle with Lady Elizabeth Somerset. Celebrations were held to mark the birth of the Princess but the Queen, still recovering from childbirth, was not present and remained at Royal Lodge. Landgravine Caroline was said to be furious when she arrived at the Castle to find Lady Elizabeth sat next to the King toasting the birth of her new granddaughter with fine wines whilst the baby’s mother was at Royal Lodge with only her ladies of the bedchamber for company.

    Historians agree that it was only after the birth of Princess Charlotte Louise that the Queen met Joachim Pepke for the first time. He must have become a regular fixture in her presence by the time of Princess Charlotte’s christening however because he is mentioned in a letter from Queen Louise to the Duchess of Cambridge in which she describes him as “our good friend Pepke”. For as long as her mother remained in England, Pepke became a permanent figure in the Queen’s Household and though he had no official post in England, he was included in almost every daily activity. His passions in life were artistic and he played the harpsichord “with an unrivalled talent”. The Queen began to stage concerts at Windsor at great expense bringing musicians from far and wide to play for him. Immediately after the christening of Princess Charlotte Louise on the 25th of May 1821, the Queen returned to London with her household (the King remaining at Windsor with Lady Elizabeth) and for the first time, she began to attend theatre performances at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden [1], the Adelphi and the Old Vic. She seemed not to mind the occasional booing as she took her place in the Royal Box, accompanied as she always was by two of her ladies of the bedchamber, her mother and of course, Pepke.

    Rumours began circulating that the Queen had taken her revenge on the King for parading his favourite so openly. Pepke was not easily overlooked, his height and good looks setting him apart from the crowd. But his presence seemed to give Louise confidence and her public appearances increased, somewhat improving her poor reputation. These visits were mostly to art galleries or museums. It was Pepke’s influence that saw the Queen take a great interest in the redesign of the British Museum by Sir Robert Smirke which would later cause the King and Queen to come to blows. Following George III’s death, it was unclear as to what would happen to the enormous library he had collated and which had been stored at Buckingham House. There was some debate as to whether the library belonged to the Crown or to the King personally. George IV had no great interest in the library per se but he was keen that the library should be kept together. [2] It was sent to Windsor when building works at Buckingham House began and it was here that the Queen ordered an exhibition of some of the finer works to be displayed for Pepke’s pleasure.


    The British Museum.

    Pepke said that the collection was so fine it should be sent to the British Museum as a permanent exhibition for all to enjoy. The Queen took this advice as a kind of commandment from the man she was increasingly becoming infatuated with and without consulting the King, did just that. George IV was furious, demanding that the exhibition be cancelled and threatening to sell the entire library to the Russian Tsar to end the debate over its future once and for all [3]. For the first time, the King was annoyed by Pepke and somewhat ungenerously, asked to know when the Queen’s mother would be leaving, thus removing Pepke at the same time. Lady Melville recalled; “Their Majesties were, for the first time, very publicly opposed and there were raised voices and the atmosphere was most tense. We had expected the King to forbid the Fawn to see the Queen again, because His Majesty was very sore over the matter of the library, but he relented and to everybody’s great surprise, allowed Pepke to remain”.

    There were several reasons why the King’s decision was not a great surprise to the men of the court. The first was that his presence seemed to please the ladies of the bedchamber and kept them from the petty rivalries and arguments that usually dominated the Queen’s Household. If they were vying for the attention of Pepke rather than the Queen, Her Majesty might find them easier to tolerate. The second was that the King needed the Queen to be in a forgiving mood. Unbeknown to anyone but the King and his closest advisors, “the Beaufort” had been sent to Lechlade and would not be attending court for the foreseeable future. She was expecting. It was inevitable that the Queen would notice or word would reach her and whilst previous consorts had been prepared to look the other way at the King’s mistress falling pregnant and birthing an illegitimate child, Queen Louise’s temperament suggested this was very unlikely. Thirdly, the King had been made aware of something about Joachim Pepke that made him certain that the friendship which existed between the dashing calvary officer from Rumpenheim and his wife was nothing more than that.

    During their stay in London, the Queen had taken Pepke to Buckingham House to view the art collection which was to be put into storage at Kew whilst the redesign was taking place. She introduced him to Sir Thomas Lawrence, President of the Royal Academy, who had become an unofficial advisor to Louise when it came to purchasing works of art and Lawrence in turn, impressed by Pepke’s good taste, introduced him to a promising English artist at the Academy called Gilbert Cottesloe. Cottesloe was a 28-year-old portrait artist who had studied under Lawrence and had carved out a moderately successful career. His patron was his lover, the Tory politician William John Banks, a keen Egyptologist and amateur architect whom he met through Lawrence and who leased a house for Cottesloe in Brook Street. His neighbour was Sir Jeffry Wyatville, the architect who had once designed the controversial extension to Kew Palace. Pepke seems to have visited Brook Street for the first time in the first week of June 1821 where Cottesloe began painting his portrait having been commissioned to do so by the Queen.


    Pepke by Cottesloe, 1821/22.

    In the same week, Landgravine Caroline returned to Rumpenheim but Pepke remained in England. Whether at the Queen’s invitation or not is unclear but by July 1821, Pepke had been replaced in Rumpenheim as Deputy Steward and was permanently resident in London. His friendship with Louise continued to grow closer and when the Queen took Lady Elizabeth Somerset’s absence from court as a sign that her husband had grown bored of his mistress, there was a reconciliation between the King and Queen that came as a relief to the court given the Queen’s temper tantrums were diminished. Keen to find a more permanent reason to keep Pepke close, the Queen asked if he might be found a position in the Royal Household. The King, happy to keep his wife as calm and content as she had become, gained the approval of Lord Liverpool for Pepke to join the household of the infant Prince of Wales. This was more a ceremonial appointment, the Prince being barely more than a year old, but it did give Pepke a legitimate reason to spend time with the Queen.

    With his wife preoccupied with entertaining her new favourite, the King proposed that it might not be a good idea for her to accompany him to Ireland in August. He reasoned that the journey was long and the crossing liable to be rough. He would much prefer it if she remained in England where he knew she would be well cared for. In reality, the King was simply taking an opportunity to solve a very different problem. Whilst the Duke of Clarence had many illegitimate children, Lady Elizabeth Somerset’s baby would be the first born to a reigning monarch since that of Melusina von der Schulenburg in 1693, the natural daughter of King George I and his mistress, Melusine, Duchess of Kendal. It would be far more prudent for Lady Elizabeth to accompany the King to Ireland where she could remain behind at Vice Regal Lodge to have her baby in peace – and far away from the Queen and her gossiping ladies. Lady Elizabeth was less than thrilled with this suggestion but she agreed.

    The King arrived in Howth on the 12th of August 1821 and was greeted with a city enthused by the royal visit. Dublin was flooded with banners, flags and bunting and there was a firework display to mark the King’s arrival with free porter distributed to spectators paid for by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The following morning, His Majesty made his formal entrance into the city via Sackville Street with his carriage leading a procession of 200 dignitaries. Lady Elizabeth did not accompany him on this journey, remaining at Vice Regal Lodge where she entertained the wives of prominent Irish peers, most of whom had no idea who she was or why she was so important to the King. Regardless of any confusion, the King wooed the people of Dublin by “drinking toasts, shaking people by the hand and calling them all Jack and Tom, like a popular candidate come down upon an electioneering trip”. [3]


    The visit of King George IV to Ireland.

    The visit was so successful that there was even a suggestion that a petition be launched to fund the building of a Royal Palace in Dublin. The uptake was somewhat lacklustre but it did raise enough funds for a new bridge across the Liffey that would be given the name ‘King’s Bridge’ on its completion. But at the close of the visit, the King seemed to enjoy himself a little less. On a visit to the Albany New Theatre in Hawkins Street, he was said to be “somewhat morose” and instead of attending a grand supper as planned, he returned to Vice Regal Lodge to take his last dinner with Lady Elizabeth Somerset before his return to England. According to a letter written by Somerset to her sister Susan; “The poor dear man wept at the very prospect of our parting. He assured me that all would be well and that we would be reunited soon but I fear that he may grow distracted in England and I shall be left all alone here in this terrible place”. When the King left Ireland on the 3rd of September 1821, he was said to have remarked; “Whenever an opportunity offers wherein I can serve Ireland, I will seize it with eagerness”. He was soon to have a chance to prove his words were not hollow.

    Upon his return to England, the King’s mood was low. His obsession with Lady Elizabeth Somerset had boosted his mood considerably in recent months but it had also proved a distraction. The state of his marriage was the subject of constant gossip and chatter and without his mistress to occupy him, he tried to rekindle the early affection and friendship he had enjoyed with the Queen. He found the Queen almost entirely disinterested. Her priority was now her own favourite, Joachim Pepke. Indeed, at Christmas 1821, she all but demanded that the King create Pepke a Baron in Hanover and personally saw to it that he was given a far more generous salary than he had ever enjoyed in Rumpenheim. [5] The King knew that Pepke’s relationship with his wife was entirely platonic and yet plagued by his own lovesickness for “the Beaufort” could not see the potential Pepke’s presence gave for scandal.

    Those “in the know” were amused when people suggested Her Majesty took Pepke to her bed. But because homosexuality remained a criminal offence in England, that could never be confirmed and London society had already decided that the Queen was cuckolding her husband with Pepke. If his sexuality were to be confirmed however, it still posed a problem that could perhaps become a far a bigger scandal than that of an extra-marital dalliance in the royal bedchamber. At first, Pepke had been discreet both about his position at court as the Queen’s favourite and about his sexuality, especially his relationship with Cottesloe. But now Cottesloe was joining Pepke at court regularly and though there were no open displays of affection between the two, the men of the court were well are of the situation between them.

    As predicted, this only raised eyebrows at court but outside, the rumours concerning the true nature of the Queen’s relationship with Pepke were flying around London, embellished every time with even more shocking – but salacious – tittle tattle. It was even said that the Queen had refused to go to Ireland because she wanted to take Pepke and the King refused to allow it. Another version had the Queen threatening to leave England if Pepke was not made a Baron. The most damaging was that the Queen wished to divorce the King and marry Pepke instead. But some inside the court found it distasteful that the Queen was relying on “a man of that character who so openly displays it with a portrait artist already spoiled by yet another of that type”. [6]

    Once again, the Queen found herself the subject of angry gossip. This time, the consequences were more serious. She was on her way to Moorfields where the London Dispensary for Curing Diseases of the Eye and Ear had just been relocated from its former site at Charterhouse Square. Louise had been invited to become its royal patron and to open the new hospital building. She was accompanied by Lady Cholmondeley and Baron Pepke in her carriage which passed through cheering crowds banking either side of City Road before coming to a halt at Peerless Street. As Lady Cholmondeley descended from the carriage, a woman rushed forward from the crowd screaming “Death to the Queen!” and attacked Cholmondeley, pushing the Marchioness to the ground before kicking her. The woman had no weapon and the quick thinking Pepke slammed the carriage door shut before it lurched forward. Lady Cholmondeley was aided into the building and given time to recover but was mostly unharmed spare for a few bruises. Still, it could have much been worse.

    The event was reported nation wide but nobody seemed particularly shocked. Whatever the Queen did, whatever her reasons, however genuine they might be, she was decidedly unpopular. This marked a turning point too in that Pepke’s name could now be published. The press did not hold back and whilst they did not directly allege a love affair in so many words, a cartoon appeared in the Manchester Observer portraying Pepke as a poodle at the Queen’s feet with the caption “The Queen’s Most Favourite Pet”. This in itself was not so scandalous until one looked behind the Queen’s throne where the King was depicted weeping and sobbing with the caption “Tears of a Cuckold”. The Prime Minister decided to raise the matter in an audience with the King the following month. His upcoming address to parliament was worrying Liverpool far more than the so-called “War of the Favourites” between Lady Elizabeth Somerset and Baron Pepke.

    It was Liverpool’s intention to introduce a bill to allow Roman Catholic peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords. Previous attempts at Catholic emancipation had been derailed and in 1801, Pitt the Younger had been forced to resign when his attempt to introduce concessions to Catholics had been strongly opposed by King George III who felt that the reforms contravened his coronation oath. Whilst as a royal duke King George IV had shown no great interest in politics, especially the issue of Catholic emancipation, the King’s brothers were not so shy about making their position known. The late Prince Regent had made it clear that he would never countenance the prospect of giving royal assent to any form of emancipation law on the same principle as his father. The 1822 bill was expected to pass House of Commons but in the House of Lords, the Duke of Cumberland had earned a reputation for delivering ferociously anti-Catholic speeches and Lord Liverpool was concerned that if the King took a position before the bill was introduced, Cumberland may rally support to defeat it.


    Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland.

    Liverpool asked to see the King at Windsor. Whilst it was true he had shown no great interest in politics outside of the military before now, the King regretfully explained to Lord Liverpool that he felt much the same as his father had about Catholic emancipation. Whilst he personally had no great issue with Catholic peers, his coronation oath demanded his loyalties must be with the Church of England. He reassured the Prime Minister that he would make no public indication of his views but he could not direct the Duke of Cumberland to remain silent on the bill, it was his right as a member of the Lords to make speeches and rally support against bills he did not agree with. Liverpool was disappointed, especially in light of the King’s statement in Ireland that he would “seize every opportunity” to help his Catholic subjects. He had hoped that the King might repeat the sentiment in his address to parliament but it was clear the King was not inclined to do so.

    But Liverpool had another concern too; royal expenditure. Since his accession, the King had honoured his agreement to ask for no increase in the Civil List under the five-year plan which followed the Kew Scandal. His 1821 speech made no mention of royal finances at all but with the works at Buckingham House (now renamed Buckingham Palace) going well over budget, Liverpool anticipated that His Majesty intended to abandon his promise. “It is a matter of personal regret that I did not raise this matter with the King at Windsor”, Liverpool later wrote, “If I had, the course might have been very different indeed”. Instead, the Prime Minister urged the King to consider the importance of the Queen’s popularity (or lack of it) and whilst she had not attended the State Opening of Parliament since the accession due to pregnancy, her presence would prove to be “of great importance for the spectators”. The Queen declined. She preferred to remain at Royal Lodge, now her favourite residence, with Pepke where they had begun work on a tapestry depicting the Royal Family tree.

    It was the Royal Family, or rather the extended Royal Family, who began to make the King consider the presence of Pepke at his court rather more seriously. In Leiningen, the Duchess of Kent had heard about the Queen’s new favourite and had wasted no time in embroidering the story to it’s very worst and sharing the gossip with her relatives in Coburg. In a complicated game of royal Chinese whispers, the end result was that Princess Augusta, the King’s sister, received a letter from Princess Elizabeth in Frankfurt which shocked her to the core. It appeared that every European royal court was gleefully indulging themselves on the Duchess of Kent’s stories from England which cast the King as a “silly old fool who has taken an ugly Duke’s daughter to his bed” and the Queen as “besotted with a man she frequently lays with and whom many believe is the true father of the little Princess”. This is why, it was explained to those feasting on the tale, the King had not been present for the birth of Princess Charlotte Louise and why she had not been made Princess Royal.


    Princess Augusta.

    This was categorically untrue, of course. Pepke had only arrived in England during the Queen’s second pregnancy and hadn’t met Louise until after Charlotte Louise was born. She had not been made Princess Royal because the King’s sister Charlotte (Queen of Württemberg) still held the title and it was simply not available. The King hadn’t attended the birth because he was at Lechlade with his mistress and for all her faults, the Queen could hardly be accused of bedding a man whom the entire court knew was actually deeply in love with a male portrait artist in Brook Street. Whilst Princess Augusta most likely knew this to be the case, she clearly felt the gossip damaging to her family and took Princess Elizabeth’s letter directly to her brother, the King. The entire family, she insisted, wanted to see Pepke dismissed and the Queen strongly disciplined for her behaviour. She said nothing of Lady Elizabeth Somerset.

    Though she protested that the Duchess of Kent was always bound to be bitter and spread gossip after her departure from England, Queen Louise objected that the King knew there was no truth to the rumours circulating in Europe at all. She absolutely refused to give up Pepke and insisted she would never receive Princess Augusta again for “peddling vicious and filthy tales”. A compromise of sorts was made. Pepke could no longer accompany the Queen in public or attend court outside of his official post with the household of the Prince of Wales but he would be allowed to visit the Queen occasionally at Royal Lodge, Windsor. The Queen reluctantly accepted. on condition she was free to invite Pepke to Royal Lodge whenever she wished. The King agreed, feeling the bargain fair. Pepke would be out of the public eye yet his wife would still be content with a man she had come to rely on, if only for emotional support. Perhaps there was a trace of guilt too. In Ireland, the King’s mistress was only a few months away from giving birth to his illegitimate son.


    Frogmore Cottage pictured in 1872.

    Whilst the King readied himself to address parliament, the Queen was at Royal Lodge with Pepke. Her relationship with her sister-in-law Augusta had been cordial and friendly since her arrival in England but now she made it clear that Augusta had blotted her copy book. She was not invited to join the Queen at any time during her stay at Royal Lodge and furthermore, the Princess would have to face the reason why on a daily basis. In the gardens of the Princess’ residence, Frogmore House, stood Frogmore Cottage built by Queen Charlotte in 1801. It had been vacant since the Queen’s death but now it was offered to the Queen’s favourite; Baron Pepke. Louise promised that he would be given a generous sum to refurbish it to his own taste and furthermore, he would be allowed a larger household staff which the Queen would personally pay for. When the Lord Chamberlain questioned the cost, the Queen said, “But we shall save a fortune now we are not bound to pay the debts of the Coburg creature”. To punish his sister-in-law for her gossiping, the King had suspended any future monies set aside under their agreement to pay the late Duke of Kent’s debts.

    Money was the issue of the day in London too. As Lord Liverpool feared, the King made his address which included the following; “For as much as I appreciate the careful consideration of my Lords and Gentlemen assembled in my interest in the hereditary revenues of the Crown, it has been many years since these arrangements were advanced before you. Measures regarding this matter, in which I ask only for sensible progress, will be laid before you”. In the King’s presence, nobody dare make a sound but Lord Liverpool felt the weight of the world suddenly thrust upon his shoulders. The King had broken his promise. Not only that but he had forced Liverpool to lie to the House when just a few days earlier, the Prime Minister had asserted that there would be no increase to the royal expenditure. Whilst the King’s domestic troubles had thus far proven stressful, this was to be nothing compared to what was to come in the latter half of 1822.

    [1] Now the Royal Opera House.

    [2] A small butterfly here. In the OTL, George IV (Prince Regent) dragged this argument out until 1823 when he finally gave the library to the nation. Parliament then agreed the library should be stored at the British Museum. But it’s a useful tool for drama here and the George IV of this TL was a) distracted by other things and b) not nearly as interested in collecting as his late brother was.

    [3] As the OTL George IV considered.

    [4] This is modelled on the visit of the OTL George IV (Prince Regent).

    [5] This wasn’t unusual. Louise Lehzen was created a Baroness in Hanover by George IV (Prince Regent) in the OTL so that Princess Victoria wasn’t served by commoners in the royal nursery.

    [6] Obviously as a gay man myself this is not my attitude to homosexuality but a historical one included for accuracy!

    [Note] All images from Wikipedia. The portrait of Pepke here is a work from around that time titled "Gentleman in Yellow" which seemed a good fit for the character, much like the portrait of an unknown woman used to represent Lady Elizabeth Somerset in the previous installment. The image of the Duke of Cumberland is from the NPG.
    GIV: Part 11: Scotland's Beloved Sovereigns
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    King George IV

    Part Eleven: Scotland’s Beloved Sovereigns

    In the immediate aftermath of George IV’s address to parliament, Lord Liverpool met with the King at St James’ Palace. The audience was tense. The King had given no indication that he would submit proposals for an increase to the Civil List, or that he would break his promise just days after the Prime Minister had reassured parliament that he would not. Lord Liverpool made his position clear. Believing himself to have the full backing of his Cabinet, he threatened that the entire government would resign if the King insisted on bringing forward demands for an increase in the Civil List. But the King had already taken advice. Unbeknown to Lord Liverpool, there were those in his Cabinet who had dined privately with the King in the days that preceded George IV’s address and they were far more amenable to the King’s request. In reality, Lord Liverpool himself might have been agreeable to an increase too but feeling that the King had wrong footed him, not to mention forcing him to lie in parliament, the Prime Minister felt he had no other option but to resign. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nicholas Vansittart, followed suit. But the Tories had a strong majority and few in the Cabinet felt it worth risking for a matter that could easily be resolved through compromise.

    The King asked Liverpool whom he should appoint as the Prime Minister’s successor. Liverpool proposed George Canning, the President of the Board of Control. Canning was popular both inside and outside of parliament and had been a strong supporter of Catholic Emancipation. But his recent attempts to introduce a bill to allow Roman Catholic peers had been defeated in the House of Lords, mostly due to the King’s brother, the Duke of Cumberland, rallying support against it. Canning was received by the King on the 7th of February 1822 where the King asked if he would form a government. Canning had two conditions; that any increase to the Civil List would be delayed for a year and that the King would not speak publicly if a Canning administration tried to introduce further measures regarding Catholic emancipation. Whilst His Majesty was willing to compromise on the former, he could give no assurance to the latter and thus, Canning declined the appointment.

    The King had honoured convention by asking the departing Prime Minister whom he should call as his successor but when Canning refused to take up the office, the field was widened to those the King felt he could personally rely on for support. Among the Liverpool ministry, the most obvious choice was Lord Eldon. Eldon had proved his loyalty to the Crown time and time again and was once regarded as “the Prince Regent’s man”, fighting his corner in parliament and in public whenever the opportunity arose. Eldon had continued to demonstrate that loyalty as Lord Chancellor during the latter years of the regency of George III, particularly in helping George IV put aside his first wife via the Court of Arches. The King trusted Eldon to sympathise with his demands for an increase to the Civil List but he also appreciated Eldon’s anti-Catholic zeal which had earned him a reputation as “the valiant Anglican”. Indeed, when Canning’s recent bill concerning Catholic peers had been defeated, Eldon was said to have “drank a toast to the year 1688 and the glorious and immortal memory of William III”. [1]


    Lord Eldon, Prime Minister.

    Lord Eldon was received at St James’ Palace on the 8th of February 1822 and accepted the King’s offer to form a government. He would replace Lord Liverpool as Leader of the House of Lords but required a staunch Cabinet ally to serve as Leader of the House of Commons; he found one in Robert Peel, the recently appointed Home Secretary considered to be a rising star among leading Tory parliamentarians. [2] The new Chancellor was a political ally of Peel, and like him, known for his anti-Catholic views; Goulburn was promoted from his post as Under-Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. These appointments made clear the direction Lord Eldon would take as Prime Minister and unsurprisingly, staunch supporters of Catholic Emancipation such as the Foreign Secretary, Lord Castlereagh, were replaced in a reshuffle which would see the appointment of the so-called “Orange Cabinet”.

    In the early days of the new government, the King chose not to press for his pay rise. Presumably because he believed Lord Eldon would introduce the measures in the coming weeks, George held audiences with the new Cabinet ministers before departing for Lechlade in the third week of February. The King waited anxiously there for the reunion he had longed for since his visit to Ireland the previous August; the Beaufort was returning to England. She was not alone. On January 14th 1822, Lady Elizabeth Somerset had given birth to a son. The question of what to do about the king’s illegitimate son had fallen into the lap of his newly appointed Private Secretary, Sir William Knighton. The auditor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Knighton had made financial arrangements to provide Lady Elizabeth and her child with a generous allowance during their time in Ireland and this would continue now they had returned to England. Knighton had also found a solution to the tricky matter of the child’s surname.

    Lady Elizabeth’s son was named Granville Frederick Henry in honour of Lady Elizabeth’s brother Lord Granville Somerset, the King and Lady Elizabeth’s father, the Duke of Beaufort. He was given the surname Fitzroy Somerset, a clear confirmation of his royal parentage and on February 25th, 1822, he was baptised at St Lawrence’s Church in Lechlade with Letters Patent issued creating the baby boy Earl of Ulster, Viscount Fitzroy and Baron Lechlade. [3] He was to be raised at Lechlade but neither he nor his mother were to be kept away from court. Indeed, less than two months after her return from Ireland, Lady Elizabeth made the journey to Windsor. Lady Campbell recorded that “the Queen was furious to be confronted with the Beaufort and the bastard child in the courtyard and though at a distance, the Beaufort curtseyed which only seemed to anger Her Majesty more. She was in such a rage that she withdrew again to London and refused to receive His Majesty before departing”.

    At court, there was absolutely no doubt that Lady Elizabeth’s child had been fathered by the King and many noted that His Majesty “doted on the little boy who was no stranger to the royal nursery whilst at Windsor”. Queen Louise was painfully aware that Lady Elizabeth was to remain a permanent fixture at court. According to Lady Campbell, “Her Majesty resigned herself to the fact but forbad any mention of the Beaufort or her child in her presence”. Frustrated and tired, the Queen took this opportunity to break her promise to her husband and travelled to London with Baron Pepke. They were once again seen in public together, the “handsome Baron resplendent in a fine military uniform with a glittering diamond at his breast said to be a gift from the Queen and purchased from the Raja of Jaipur by Her Majesty at great expense”.

    Whilst the Queen may have taken some comfort in the fact that she still had the support and comfort of her close friend Pepke, the Baron himself was growing increasingly tired of life at court. Since being granted the use of Frogmore Cottage by the Queen, the renovations to the property had landed him in debt when the Lord Chamberlain refused to reimburse his costs. His early popularity at court had shifted to a general attitude of suspicion and disapproval and many of the gentlemen of the court refused to talk to him. Even the ladies of the bedchamber had begun to find Pepke tiresome, his enthusiasm for the arts, music and theatre forcing them to travel widely to take in performances or visit museums and galleries. But more than this, Pepke’s attitude had changed and he had begun to revel somewhat in his position as the Queen’s favourite. He was now becoming arrogant and far less discrete than he had been, installing his lover Gilbert Cottesloe with him at Frogmore.


    Frogmore Cottage, said to have been painted by Cottesloe, 1821.

    Queen Louise remained oblivious to both Pepke’s falling popularity and his growing disinterest in her. Whilst he was undoubtedly fond of the Queen and considered her a friend, the return of Lady Elizabeth Somerset had brought out a possessiveness in Queen Louise which Pepke found hard to take. She expected him to take breakfast with her every morning and when he was late after walking in the grounds of Royal Lodge with Cottesloe, the Queen sulked and forced him to sit alone in the library for hours, refusing him permission to leave. When he returned to his home in Brook Street instead of staying at St James’ Palace with the Queen on a visit to London, the Queen sent a carriage to collect him in the middle of the night and wailed and wept until he was brought safely back to her. Pepke needed an escape and fast. He knew he could not return to Rumpenheim, his reputation there had declined as court gossip had reached his former employers. Instead, he and Cottesloe decided to leave England for good on the pretext of a brief art tour. Like many homosexuals of the early 19th century, they had decided to resettle in the Mezzogiorno of Italy where homosexuality was tolerated if not fully accepted and which had drawn many British gay men to embrace Italy as their home.

    Pepke’s plan backfired. When he informed the Queen that he was to tour Italy with a view to seeking out some new pieces for her collection, Queen Louise was delighted. So enthused was she by the idea that she insisted on accompanying Pepke. She immediately ordered her ladies of the bedchamber to begin preparations for “a grand tour” and even summoned the new Foreign Secretary, Lord Sidmouth, to ask for his help and advice on the matter. Sidmouth was clear that any such journey would be a private one with no public engagements scheduled or diplomatic meetings arranged. He also asked when the tour was proposed to begin. Following the success of the King’s visit to Ireland, the Liverpool government had begun to consider a similar visit to Scotland and the new Prime Minister, Lord Eldon, intended to stick with the proposal. The Scottish tour was scheduled for August and it was felt vital that the Queen accompany the King, her absence in Ireland the previous year not going without mention in the press. Sidmouth tried to impress the importance of the Queen’s presence in Scotland as much as he could, without drawing attention to the obvious; she was deeply unpopular and needed to grasp every opportunity she could to restore her reputation. But the Queen was unmoved.

    The King’s visit to Scotland was by far the grandest event planned since his coronation and took many weeks of planning. The government asked Sir Walter Scott, the author of Ivanhoe and Rob Roy, to plan every detail of the visit with the aim of endearing the Crown to the people of Scotland and Scott immediately set about staging a visit packed with pageantry. When the committee planning the visit met with the King, Scott convinced him that he was not only a Stuart prince but also a Jacobite Highlander and as such, could rightly wear a highland outfit of bright red tartan complete with gold chains, dirk, sword and pistols. Greatly taken with this notion, the King commissioned George Hunter & Co of London to provide him with his “Scotlander Uniform” which he would wear as he greeted an impressive assembly of Highland societies and Clan chieftains. Every man in the royal party would wear a kilt, a form of dress once proscribed, but now given full royal approval.


    The HMS Royal George at Leith.

    The King and Queen were to stay at Dalkeith House some seven miles from Edinburgh as Holyrood Palace was not in a fit state to accommodate them. Their entry into the city was planned in such fine detail that a booklet was even published outlining what members of the public should wear; for gentlemen, a uniform blue coat, white waistcoat and a cockade in the form of St Andrew’s Saltire on a blue background and for women, “tartan ribbon to be worn as a sash over a white dress with the flowers of Scotland given priority over English blooms and blossoms”. The peers of Scotland would entertain Their Majesties at a “Highland Ball” and it was specified that “no Gentleman is to be allowed to appear in anything but the ancient Highland costume”. To everyone’s surprise, public enthusiasm for the visit skyrocketed and cities, towns and villages planned their own celebrations and events, even those miles from Edinburgh where the King and Queen were not scheduled to visit.

    For as much as he believed his wife to be more popular than she was, the King was not as oblivious as she to the evident animosity that existed towards Queen Louise. He felt that her presence in Scotland could provide an opportunity for a clean break and a careful rebranding of her public image. He was also well aware that the royal marriage was the subject of intense gossip thanks to the return of Lady Elizabeth Somerset and the child in her arms. For Their Majesties to be seen publicly, united as a couple, devoted to duty and dedicated to their country, was crucially important. Furthermore, the government was placing the highest hopes for the visit to Scotland to go well and if it did not, they may be unlikely to remain sympathetic to the King’s requests for an increase to the Civil List. For the first time in their marriage, the King was to put his foot down and order his wife to obey him. She would not go to Italy. She would instead, accompany him to Scotland.

    The Queen did not respond to the order well. In a fit of rage, she withdrew to Royal Lodge and forbad any of the King’s household into her presence to discuss the visit. She refused to be fitted for the gowns that had been designed for her to wear and feigned sickness when the King visited so that she didn’t have to converse with him. The King played his hand well. “If the Queen is unwell, she must not be bothered by frivolous people”, he commanded Lady Cholmondeley. Baron Pepke was not to visit the Queen and to make sure this arrangement was honoured; the King placed a guard outside Royal Lodge to ensure Pepke was not admitted. This suited Pepke who seized the opportunity to abandon Frogmore Cottage for Brook Street to prepare for his tour of Italy. After a few days of solitary confinement, the Queen softened somewhat. She agreed to view the proposed itinerary for Scotland. Her change of attitude did not last. Lady Elizabeth Somerset was to be included in the royal party.

    The King and Queen would sail to Scotland aboard the royal yacht, the HMS Royal George, with a brief visit to Brighton en route to Southampton where work on the Royal Pavilion begun by the Prince Regent had finally been completed. The Pavilion was to play host to a garden party with the King and Queen receiving important local dignitaries and those who would join them on their visit to Scotland. It was during this garden party that those who hoped the royal couple might put aside their differences for the sake of duty grew concerned. After just ten minutes meeting and greeting invited guests, the Queen said that she had a bad headache and would prefer to rest. The King stayed but was visibly angry and was overheard to complain that the Queen was “an impossible woman”. Their overnight stay at the Pavilion gave the opportunity for a grand dinner which the Prime Minister attended as well as other members of the Royal Family; but the Queen was absent. “I shall not eat at the same table as the King’s whore”, she declared, “No man can ask that of me”.

    George IV and Queen Louise arrived in the Firth of Forth at noon on the 14th of August 1822 but the landing had to be postponed due to torrential rain. Despite the weather, Scott rowed out to see the King and presented him with a jewel designed and embroidered by the ladies of Edinburgh. Encrusted with rubies, emeralds, brilliants and topaz, the jewel was inscribed with “Righ Albainn gu brath” – “Long Life for the King”. For the Queen, there was also a gift of jewellery in the form of a tiara, again designed by the ladies of Edinburgh but presented as “a token of great esteem and affection by the Chieftains of the Clans of Scotland”. Nicknamed the Clans Tiara, the bandeau is formed of diamonds and sapphires with five detachable buttons which can be worn as brooches. “The Queen was in good cheer at the presentation of the gifts and thanked Sir Walter most charmingly”, recalled Lady Melville, noting also that Scott presented her with a bouquet of wildflowers and heather “which delighted her”.


    Sir Walter Scott

    When they finally landed the following day at the quayside of The Shore in Leith, Their Majesties stepped ashore onto a red carpet strewn with flowers to greet the crowds. The Times reported that those who had assembled to greet them “were counted into many thousands” and that “the rowdy and loud shouts from the Scots people amused and cheered the King and Queen greatly”. As they entered their carriage, there were cheers and applause, the King impressing his Scottish subjects when he noticed a little girl holding a bunch of heather trying to force her way through the legs of a crowd of adults. Bending down, the King lifted the little girl aloft and took her to the side of the carriage where she handed the Queen her gift. The Queen smiled warmly and stroked the little girl’s hair with her gloved hand. Putting her back down, the King laughed gaily and waved triumphantly to the crowd which roared with approval. As they approached a specially constructed gateway to the city of Edinburgh, the King was presented with the keys to the city and in an impromptu address, he thanked the people of Edinburgh for their kind welcome which “won all hearts”.

    Those in the Royal Household accompanying the King and Queen noted that in public, both were careful to appear happy and contented. In private, the Queen was still hurt that the King had included Lady Elizabeth Somerset in the party but any feelings of jealousy or anger were suppressed as Louise seemed to grasp the importance of their tour. She stuck fast to her rule that she would not dine with her husband’s mistress and, perhaps as a peace offering, the King struck his mistress from the guest list of all public dinners. In private, he dined with Lady Elizabeth alone as the Queen ate with her ladies of the bedchamber. On the 15th of August, the royal schedule was cleared to allow the King and Queen a day of privacy at Dalkeith but they spent only an hour in each other’s company. The Queen had still not given up hope of joining Pepke in Italy and raised the matter with the King as they took tea together. Without a word, the King slammed his hand down upon the tea table and marched out of the room.

    The pageantry for the visit was far more medieval than it was Highland and perhaps because of this, accounts of the tour captured the public’s imagination in England as well as in Scotland. Indeed, many Britons in border towns risked making the long journey to Edinburgh hoping to catch sight of the royal couple. Since their marriage, Queen Louise’s public appearances had been few and whilst she was unpopular on the whole, many were intrigued to see if the woman they had been led to dislike was really as bad as was suggested. The public’s affection for the King however had not been dampened by the change of government and his role in it. Whilst naturally there were still radical anti-monarchist elements in the north of England, Lord Eldon had slowly relaxed some of the harsher restrictions on public assembly imposed by Lord Liverpool following Peterloo and many made the assumption that this was somehow the result of the King’s influence. The Times spoke of George IV as “an enlightened prince” and “a man of great dedication and duty to his subjects, indeed, he has travelled the length of his Kingdom within just a few years of his accession to greet his people who prove time and time again they are devoted to the man himself and the Crown he represents”. In Scotland, newspapers hailed the King and Queen as “Scotland’s Beloved Sovereigns”.

    On the 20th of August, a ceremony dubbed The King’s Drawing Room was held wherein 457 ladies were presented to His Majesty. Custom required that he kiss each one on the cheek and the King was said to find the whole event so amusing that he frequently collapsed into giggles, the young ladies doing likewise and leading all present to comment on his good humour and sense of fun. The Queen too seemed to have relaxed into the visit by this time and was reported to have stood beside her husband as he greeted the ladies of the Drawing Room, tears of laughter streaming down her face and quickly taking up the custom herself, kissing the chuckling debutantes as they passed by. Both the King and Queen had greatly taken to the Scottish people and seemed to genuinely enjoy their tour. There was rapprochement too. On the evening of the Drawing Room, the King arranged for Lady Elizabeth Somerset to be entertained by Walter Scott at his home whilst the King and Queen spent the evening together for the first time in months. They played cards, drank wine and even sang a little together as Louise played the harpsichord. In his diary, the King noted “A forgotten love was rekindled in Scotland”.

    Over the next few days, the schedule became somewhat more gruelling. There was a Grand Procession in the driving rain from Holyrood to Edinburgh Castle, the King refusing to close his carriage so that he could be seen. When an official commented on the weather, George declared loudly, “Rain Sir? I feel no rain! I am here to cheer the people as they have cheered me”. Following the procession, there was a visit to Portobello Sands where the King and Queen honoured the Clans with a quick journey back to the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh for a grand ball where a display of Scottish country dancing was staged. Though they did not know the steps well, “Their Majesties entered into the spirit, both clad in Highland dress, and attempted a reel much to the delight of the assembled company”. After further visits to St Giles’ Cathedral, a civic dinner at Parliament House and a visit to the theatre to see a performance of Scott’s Rob Roy, the final engagement was a tour of Hopetoun before joining the royal yacht once more at South Queensferry.


    Their Majesties arrive at Hopetuon.

    Boarding the yacht, the King could not help but notice that Lord Cholmondeley appeared distracted. The Marquess had received an urgent bulletin from London and took the King to one side to inform him of a gruesome discovery. On the 20th of August 1822, as the King and Queen laughed gaily with the ladies of the King’s Drawing Room, a man called Wilbur Rossington, a friend of Joachim Pepke, had arranged to meet the Baron at the Royal Academy. When Pepke failed to appear, Rossington made his way to Brook Street where he found the door slightly ajar. Upon entering the house, nothing seemed to have been disturbed with the exception of an open trunk in the morning room which looked to have been turned over. Mounting the stairs to the second floor of the house, Rossington saw no sign of Pepke’s servants or of the man himself. Nonetheless, the door being ajar concerned him and so he decided to inspect the house thoroughly. Making his way down to the basement where the servants’ quarters were located, he noticed a trail of blood leading to the open door of the coal cellar. In the dim light, Rossington made out two bodies slumped against a built-up pile of coal. They were the bodies of Pepke and Cottesloe.

    [1] In the OTL, Eldon did this in 1825 at the defeat of Francis Burdett’s Emancipation Bill but with this change in government, that won’t be brought forth and the anecdote serves best here.

    [2] In the OTL, Peel was still very much against Catholic Emancipation. He didn’t change his position on the issue until 1828.

    [3] This is based on the titles granted to the eldest illegitimate son of William IV in the OTL. After he became King, he created his son George FitzClarence ‘Earl of Munster, Viscount FitzClarence and Baron Tewksbury’. In this TL, George IV held the title of Earl of Ulster until his accession as King.

    [Note] Apologies that this new installment took a little while, I hope to be putting up regular installments again from now on! The visit to Scotland here was adapted from the OTL visit to Scotland of George IV (Prince Regent). All pictures are from Wikipedia.
    Last edited:
    GIV: Part 12: A Cruel Court
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    King George IV

    Part Twelve: A Cruel Court

    At Frogmore Cottage the Queen lay on the floor of the drawing room sobbing loudly as she mourned her closest confidant and friend. Though their relationship had grown stale from Pepke’s point of view in the last days of his life, the Queen’s infatuation with the Baron had never waned. The decision to keep the news of his death from her until the royal party returned to Windsor from Scotland had perhaps been a mistake, allowing her to languish at the home she had given to “the Fawn of Rumpenheim”. By order of the King, the cottage had been cleared entirely of Pepke’s belongings before the Queen returned. In the empty rooms, the Queen walked for days on end refusing to eat or sleep, wailing and weeping like a ghost. She insisted on full court mourning for Pepke but only her ladies of the bedchamber observed the ritual, clothing themselves in black crepe, the Queen herself shielding her face from view with a thick black veil. She had also demanded that Pepke be given a funeral at St George’s Chapel, Windsor but Pepke’s body had not yet been released by the coroner investigating the evident murder of the Baron and his lover Cottesloe. When the body was released, it was immediately dispatched to Rumpenheim for burial at the King’s insistence.


    Lord Cholmondeley.

    Whilst for the Queen the death of Pepke was a crushing blow, the King seemed to have settled into his role as Sovereign enough by this time to understand the importance of avoiding any scandal connected to the Brook Street murders. Lord Cholmondeley and Sir William Knighton were dispatched to the owners of the London newspapers who were not-so subtly warned that any mention of the deaths should be handled with the utmost discretion and “charity towards the Royal Household” or else face the consequences. The Prime Minister too sought to exert pressure. The true nature of the relationship between Pepke and Cottesloe was to remain hidden from the public and whilst an obituary of Cottesloe was printed announcing “a sudden and tragic loss of a promising young talent”, no mention of Pepke was made at all until six weeks later. On the fourth page of the evening edition of the London Times, a small story appeared reporting that the “Tutor of the Prince of Wales, Baron Joachim Pepke, died in Italy this morning as a result of a sickness that developed during his voyage”.

    The investigation into the Brook Street murders continued in as discrete a manner as was possible. It was not until 1955 that the true nature of Pepke and Cottesloe’s demise was made public, every document relating to the case sealed and protected in the National Archives before being lost to time. The official conclusion was that the pair had been startled by an intruder who attacked Cottesloe and killed him with a blow to the head. As Pepke ran for the door to escape, the intruder must have strangled him from behind and then taken the bodies down to the coal cellar to conceal them. The intruder had made off with jewellery and money but unfortunately, could not be traced. The case was closed and the bodies released, Pepke’s remains being transported to Rumpenheim where he was buried in the grounds of the castle whilst Cottesloe’s body was buried quietly in an unmarked grave at Kensal Green Cemetery.

    For the court, Pepke’s death was unkindly regarded as an inconvenience. When they departed from Scotland, the King and Queen seemed to have rekindled their marriage to a point where even the Beaufort had been replaced in the King’s affections for a few days. Many were hopeful that the Scottish tour had been so successful that future tours would go ahead throughout England and restore the beleaguered public image of the monarchy. Certainly the tour had bolstered the government’s position on royal expenditure and without it, the increase to the Civil List might not have been so readily agreed by parliament as requested by the King. The increase on the existing sum of £845,000 brought the expenses allocated to the Sovereign to £960,000 with an additional £40,000 allocated for the continuing redesign of Buckingham House into a palace. With the public somewhat entranced by the recent glowing reports of the tour of Scotland, MPs who stood against the increase were accused by a friendly press of being “unpatriotic” and were even branded “wretched radicals” by obsequious London journalists.

    But there was a sting in the tail for the Eldon administration. Whilst the Prime Minister assumed that the new arrangements would be subject to a renewed Kew Agreement, that being that the King would not ask for an increase for another five-year period after 1822, the King regarded the agreement as dead and buried. If he wished, he could ask for an increase annually as he saw fit. With this in mind, John Nash was asked to make revisions to some of his plans for Buckingham Palace with far grander works being substituted to reflect a higher budget. The King’s Drawing Room was perhaps the best example of this. Originally designed in a French Neoclassical style, Nash had drawn inspiration from furnishings at Carlton House which had been purchased by the Prince Regent and which were intended to find their new home at Buckingham Palace. With an increase in funds however, it was decided to double the length of the Drawing Room to become the State Ballroom. [1] A clash of styles emerged, the King’s tastes being somewhat incongruous with those of Nash, and instead of the clean white ceiling mouldings set off by gold chandeliers as initially proposed, the King commissioned a fresco for the ceiling which would feature members of the Royal Family depicted as Greek gods and goddesses looking down from the clouds. Naturally George IV was Zeus whilst Queen Louise was Hera and the Prince of Wales, Apollo. The Duke of Clarence was Poseidon, reflecting his naval career, whilst Princess Augusta was Athena.


    The King's Drawing Room today which was never extended to accommodate Nash's ballroom proposals but was still furnished according to the King's tastes. The proposed fresco of divine Greek inspiration was also abandoned.

    Queen Louise had little interest in such frivolities. Two months had passed since Pepke’s death and her grief had been replaced by anger, suspicion and bitterness. She blamed the King for forbidding her from travelling to Italy with Pepke. Had she not been in Scotland (she reasoned), Pepke would have been safe at Royal Lodge with her and not at Brook Street. Lady Cholmondeley fell out of favour almost immediately, the Queen raging that the Lord Chamberlain had never been kind to Pepke and “would no doubt have rejoiced at the news of his death”. Lady Campbell recorded that the Queen “spent her days either weeping or raging at those she felt had not shown Pepke respect” and when Lady Melville wore a purple gown (half mourning) instead of a black one, the Queen dismissed her from her presence. Prayers were said for Pepke in the Queen’s presence every morning and at Frogmore Cottage, the Queen commissioned a stone memorial dedicated to “The Beloved Memory of the Queen’s Friend and Servant”. Her relationship with her husband once again diminished and Princess Augusta noted that Louise had become “bitter and harsh, any trace of youthful kindness or promise drained from her countenance to be replaced by a hard and cold expression of permanent displeasure”.

    Just before Christmas 1822, it was confirmed that the Queen was once again expecting a child, presumably conceived in Scotland during the King and Queen’s brief reconciliation. As happy as the King was, the Queen made no attempt to put Pepke behind her and refused to receive her husband once more on the grounds that she was ill. Furthermore, Lord Eldon had decided to make changes to the Royal Household to appoint new ladies of the bedchamber, a frequent change the Queen never resigned herself to for as long as she lived. The Queen’s pregnancy laid her low, her doctors becoming concerned that “an excess of grieving” might endanger both the Queen and her unborn child. Sir Andrew Halliday, Royal Physician to the King, prescribed a special diet for the Queen to be accompanied by total and absolute rest.


    Sir Andrew Halliday.

    Every morning, the Queen was served a mixture of rum, milk and a raw egg yolk before she was lifted out of bed so as not to disturb the remedy. She was then to be wheeled into the garden in a special bath chair and left to “take the air” for two hours. Her breakfast was comprised of meat dishes such as jugged hare or a selection of offal (which the Queen hated) served with copious amounts of beef tea and port. She was forbidden lunch with a further two hours in the open air preceding an early dinner of thin broths and served with port into which chloral had been stirred in to aid sleep. A popular sedative of the day, Halliday was treating the Queen for “melancholy” but this regime quickly exhausted her. She complained of constant stomach pains and forbidden to walk, she developed gout in her left foot which was so intense that she could not bear to sleep with bedclothes. She quickly caught a chill and a fever developed. The fever broke and Halliday took this as confirmation that his treatment was proving effective. [2]

    On the 11th of January 1823 however, the Queen’s household was awoken in the early hours of the morning to agonising screams from the Queen’s bedroom. They found her covered in blood and writhing in pain. She had miscarried. The King was devastated at this loss but rather than showing his wife sympathy, blamed her for allowing herself to “wallow in excesses of melancholy for that devil fawn”. Halliday apologized profusely to the King only to be reassured by His Majesty that it was “the Queen’s own doing”. Louise’s sister, the Duchess of Cambridge, attended her in the aftermath of the loss of her child and tried to cheer her. Rather than sinking further into depression, Louise had become “even more hard, even more bitter” and a few weeks later, Lady Campbell noted that the Queen had taken a walk in the morning mist, dressed in her funereal black, “a spectre of the happy young Queen she was just two years ago”. Louise was becoming even more haughty, even more demanding and arrogant. When she discovered that the King had cancelled her commission of a tombstone for Pepke, she declared indignantly “What a cruel court this is”.

    At the end of January, the King paid a visit to the British Museum to mark the first display of the collection of George III which George IV had finally agreed to donate. [3] Some 65,000 books and 19,000 pamphlets, maps and drawings had been given “for the study and enjoyment of academics and the people alike”. His Majesty was accompanied by Lady Elizabeth Somerset, the Queen declining all invitations. One event she could not decline to attend however was a State Banquet to be given at Windsor Castle in honour of the Tsar of Russia. Lord Eldon had proposed the visit in response to Greek War of Independence to assuage fears expressed in Cabinet that Russia may take unilateral action against the Ottoman Empire. Britain and Russia had initially been uniformly hostile to the Greek Revolution and were united in their view that the status quo must be preserved to maintain peace in Europe. Shortly after this unified stance had been taken, Tsar Alexander dispatched an ultimatum to Constantinople which forced the Sultan to make concessions to the Tsar but war had been avoided.


    Tsar Alexander I and his wife.

    Lord Sidmouth, the Foreign Secretary, felt this was only a temporary amnesty and that the Tsar, considering himself to be protector of the Orthodox Church, may break rank. On his part, the Tsar had been frustrated with the British reassurance given to the Turks that for as long as they respected Christian subjects in their Empire, friendly relations would be maintained. Whilst the British had ordered the Commissioner of the Ionian Islands to allow the Greeks to cut off certain areas which the Turks depended upon to get important provisions, the Russians were not convinced that the British were showing enough open hostility to the Ottomans and were more concerned with increasing their own influence in the region. Russophobia was growing among the British elite who regarded the Tsar as a war monger and a tyrant but Lord Eldon’s government remained committed to their position that only by securing a united front between the Great Powers of France, Britain and Russia could a full-scale war be avoided. The Russians had tried to force the issue at the Congress of Verona the previous year but the British (supported by the Austrians) had managed to drop the matter from the talks. Now the situation needed direct discussion and so it was that the Tsar was invited to Britain in March 1823. [4]

    The Russian Imperial Party was comprised of the Tsar and his wife, recently reconciled following years of estrangement, and the Tsar’s brother Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich. The Tsar’s Ministers and advisors numbered nearly 40 in total and the servants who accompanied the Imperial couple were double that amount, with lodgings found for them all over Windsor because the Castle could not accommodate them all. The Tsar and his wife were welcomed at Dover by Lord Sidmouth before beginning their journey to Windsor where the King and Queen waited to receive them. Lady Campbell wrote in her diary that; “Their Majesties waited for the Russians in complete silence, the Queen persuaded to come out of mourning clothes and dressing instead in a pale lilac gown. But not one word passed between them and the situation was most delicate”. The mood changed somewhat when the Tsar arrived but any hopes that the visit might be focused and have a clear outcome quickly evaporated.

    At the banquet itself held that evening in the Queen’s Ballroom, the King was more concerned with relaying tales he had heard concerning the recent clash between the British Army and the Ashanti in what is now modern-day Ghana. A keen military strategist, the King seized items from his place setting (and that of the Tsarina seated next to him) and spent an hour explaining to her the finer points of where Sir Charles McCarthy, the British governor, should attack the Ashanti following the collapse of talks between the two parties. The Tsarina’s boredom could only have been matched by that of Queen Louise who, seated next to the Tsar, was subjected to a passionate lecture on the importance of mysticism in the Orthodox religion. When the dinner was over, the King and the Tsar did not discuss Greece at all and turned instead to discussing the wildlife of Africa with the King ordering books be brought from the Royal Library to show the Tsar drawings which had been discovered in the transfer of documents from Windsor to the British Museum. Behind the scenes, the British and Russian ministers discussed the situation in Greece but without the Tsar present, the Russian ministers could not commit to any new united position.

    The following day, the Queen gave the Tsarina tea at Royal Lodge whilst the King excused himself with Lady Elizabeth Somerset so that the Tsar could meet with members of the British government. “It is a curious thing that your King may not attend these talks”, the Tsar noted to Lord Eldon, “These men are his ministers and yet they are not his to command in their approach”. Lord Eldon noted later that he found the Tsar to be “somewhat delirious with his own importance”. He wrote in his diary; “The Tsar spoke at length on the importance of preserving the Orthodox religion and shattering the Turks who threatened God fearing Christians but it appeared empty bluster”. Nonetheless, Eldon was reassured that there seemed “no immediate appetite for unilateral action” and an informal agreement was made that Britain and Russia would work together (with France) to maintain the Concert of Europe.


    Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich.

    The Russian visit provides an interest insight into how the marriage of the King and Queen was viewed outside the British court. Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich wrote to his sister, the Grand Duchess Maria, shortly after leaving England and referred to “a strange court full of whispers and secrets”. He described the King as “a great fat drunkard who bores everybody with his military talk and carries his mistress about with him as if she were a prized jewel”. The Queen fared no better in his estimation; “She is a thin and gaunt creature, her eyes hollow and sad, and nobody at all has a kind word for her. She has disgraced herself in recent years by parading her lover who was exiled and died in Italy and so now she mourns for him constantly. She is not yet 30 but has the demeanor of an old woman, her voice is cracked and her manner rude and unfriendly. Contrary to this, the royal children are quite delightful though they too will no doubt transform into hideous replicas of their parents who seem to have no joy in their hearts at all”.

    In Europe, the rumour that Baron Pepke had been the Queen’s lover had been taken as fact, especially when the exiled Duchess of Kent gave her full support to the claims. It was the Duchess who was once again to add grist to the mill when she wrote a letter to her sister Antoinette in Russia who had relayed Grand Duke Michael’s assessment of the Imperial visit to Windsor. In this letter, the Duchess of Kent corrected the Grand Duke; “The Fawn was not exiled, rather, he sought to take the Queen with him to Italy to continue their romance but the British ministers foiled the plan and saw to it that he did not leave England alive”. Once again, a convoluted chain of Chinese whispers flashed through the continent with the royal palaces of Europe feasting on every detail of the sordid saga of Baron Pepke. When the rumours reached Prince Leopold, still resident in England, he decided to take action. Perhaps to bolster his own standing with the King, or maybe out of genuine concern, Leopold ensured that his frustration with his sister’s gossiping well known personally to the King. He did not wish to be tarnished with her bitterness, he said, and furthermore, he wished to thank the King for removing her “most poisonous influence” from his niece, Princess Victoria.

    But the Duchess of Kent was not the only one with theories as to how Pepke and Cottesloe had died. The court was abuzz with it's own version of events and conspiracies were a popular topic of dinner conversation among the aristocracy. For many years, the files concerning the Brook Street murders were sealed but in 1955, more detail came to light. Initially, the intruder story was accepted by the British authorities, enough for the case to be closed and the bodies of Cottesloe and Pepke to be released for burial. But the coroner’s report shows that this version of events may not have been entirely accurate - indeed, some of the evidence suggests the coroner's report is little more than an invention to protect reputations. Whilst Pepke had indeed been strangled, he had also been stabbed in the left side causing excessive bleeding. Cottesloe’s cause of death was noted as “conclusive with evidence of the use of poison”. When the Brook Street house was examined for evidence, it was found that Cottesloe had been smoking opium and that he possessed bottles of laudanum, chloral and morphia. Whilst none of these were found near to the location of the bodies, the presence of blood in the servant’s quarters, on the steps and floors, suggested that Pepke had been dragged to the cellar by his assailant. The coroner’s notes also recorded that Pepke had died “before Cottesloe but by how long, it remains uncertain”.

    In a letter discovered in the papers of Lord Cholmondeley by the National Archives in 2002, Sir Harold Ventham, a retired coroner and friend of Cholmondeley’s asked to assess the findings concluded only one realistic explanation; only Pepke had been murdered. In his view, Cottesloe had killed his lover in a drug induced rage, stabbing him in the side. When this failed to kill Pepke, Cottesloe strangled him to death before taking the body down to the coal cellar where he drank poison and died next to Pepke. But even today, there are those who refuse to accept this as a definitive account. The bodies were discovered because of the door to Brook Street was ajar. Whilst the Ventham theory possibly allows for an escape attempt by Pepke, surely Cottesloe would have closed the door once Pepke was dead and relocated to the coal cellar? Wilder theories have emerged over the years, pointing the finger of suspicion at Cholmondeley or those acting on his orders to rid the court of Pepke. Yet Pepke was set to leave England for Italy, what would be Cholmondeley’s motive? To prevent him talking about his life at court on the continent? To finally end the Queen’s infatuation with the Baron?

    Whatever the truth of the case, the Brook Street murders made a long-lasting impression on the Queen. She did not seek to replace Pepke in her affections and becoming deeply suspicious of those around her, she became loathe to trust her household once more. But more than this, she sought to protect herself in a way she had previously never considered; by making powerful allies outside of the court. Sentiment would suggest that she was fuelled by a desire to seek revenge for Pepke’s murder against those she believed to be responsible but her motivation seems to have been more self-preservation than anything else. When it was confirmed in June 1823 that Lady Elizabeth Somerset was once again pregnant with the King’s child, the Queen did not react as the Royal Household predicted. Instead of rage, there was quiet resignation. She threw off mourning for Pepke and to everybody’s surprise, began to spend more time at St James’ Palace where she gave audiences to Bishops and Tory politicians. She did not discuss politics with them of course, rather she seemed to impress them with her desire to learn more about the church and parliament respectively. No longer was the King forbidden from her presence and though she continued to refuse to receive the Beaufort, she agreed with Sir William Knighton that a tour of England would be a positive step forward after the success of the royal visit to Scotland.

    As the tour was planned, the Queen visited Buckingham Palace for the first time in months and gave her blessing to the new designs created by Nash and the King. She appeared enthusiastic and began making inventories of items at Kew and Windsor which might be transferred to London to furnish the completed rooms. The King, cheered that his wife seemed to have dispensed with her melancholia and appeared eager to finally embrace her official role, treated her to a visit to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, a public appearance they had never made together but which allowed the people of London to see the King and Queen enjoying each other’s company. Around this time, the Queen requested that the tour of England be postponed for a few months but she had genuine cause. Her mother, Princess Caroline, was in ill health and the Queen’s sister Marie urged Louise to visit Caroline at Rumpenheim as soon as possible. The King naturally agreed but after waving his wife off from Dover aboard the HMS Royal George, Lord Eldon noted in his diary that “His Majesty was overcome by a curious mood and appeared half in fear and half in jest when he joked to me; ‘My God Sir, do you suppose she will come back?”

    [1] The State Ballroom wasn't added in the OTL in 1837. The proposals in this TL will be scaled down in a future installment due to excessive cost.

    [2] This is based on an actual treatment plan recorded by Dr. G. Fielding Blandford in 1871 but which had been in use for some time previously as a cure for melancholia.

    [3] Donated earlier in this TL than the OTL.

    [4] This visit was invented to suit the narrative of this TL.
    Last edited:
    GIV: Part 13: Revenge and Reunion
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    George IV

    Part Thirteen: Revenge and Reunion

    On the 17th of August 1823, Landgravine Caroline of Hesse-Kassel died at Schloss Rumpenheim. At her bedside were her three daughters; Marie, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge and Queen Louise. Back in England, the King seemed strangely perturbed by his wife’s absence and although their relationship had declined in recent months following the Pepke Affair and the second pregnancy of his mistress, courtiers noted that; “His Majesty was seized in a nervous grip and he sought news from Germany daily. When none came but the death of his mother-in-law, the King wept openly. Yet his weeping was not for the Landgravine, to whom he had never formed any real affection, but to his wife who had not corresponded with him in weeks”. George IV ordered court mourning be observed for his mother-in-law and in a move that surprised the court, he sent Lady Elizabeth Somerset to Lechlade in anticipation of the Queen’s return.

    But Queen Louise had no intention of returning to the “cruel court” of recent months. Shortly after the funeral of her mother when she was expected to make her way back to England, she instead opted to travel with her sister and brother-in-law to Hanover where she put into action a plan that she had devised shortly before her departure from England for Rumpenheim. The court at Hanover were far more sympathetic to Louise than their English counterparts and indeed, the Hanoverian people welcomed her as she never had been welcomed in London. When she arrived at Schloss Herrenhausen in mourning for her mother, her face obscured by a long black veil, the crowds who had gathered to see her arrive spontaneously knelt as her carriage passed them. Whether by design or genuinely moved by this gesture, Louise drew back her veil and moved among them, receiving kisses from the women and white roses from the children. The Times reported; “Her Majesty said that in Hanover she found a peace in her sorrow that she would forever carry in her heart and the crowds were united in their affection and love for their Queen”.


    Schloss Herrenhausen, Hanover.

    These reports seemed only to make the King’s longing for his wife more intense. She sent word to Sir William Knighton that she would remain with her sister in Hanover for the time being, her heart too heavy with the loss of her beloved mother to return to England. Historians are divided on whether or not this was part of a strategy or a legitimate sentiment but whatever her motivation, absence most definitely made her husband’s heart grow fonder. Finally, Lord Cholmondeley wrote to his wife who had accompanied the Queen to Rumpenheim and begged her to; “insist upon Her Majesty the serious decline in the King’s character and his great distress at her continued absence”. He continued that; “His Majesty takes little food and weeps for the Queen; he has even refused to conduct affairs of state until she is returned to him. I venture that this serious situation can only be remedied by word from Her Majesty and I beg you my dearest heart to make her see that the King truly desires her to come back to him as soon as she feels able”.

    At Windsor, the King was examined by Sir Andrew Halliday who diagnosed melancholy which “would very quickly be remedied if he were to be reunited with Her Majesty”. This episode seems to demonstrate that despite the tensions and bitterness that had dominated their marriage, the King had a genuine love for his wife. Whilst it may not have been reciprocated as strongly, the Queen spoke of her affection for the King frequently around this time to Lady Cholmondeley who passed Louise’s words to her husband. When the Prime Minister found he was unable to see the King for a sixth consecutive week due to his illness, Lord Eldon took the unprecedented step of involving himself in the royal marriage. He wrote to the Queen at Rumpenheim begging her to “make amends with His Majesty for there is not one amongst us who does not grieve this current situation and wishes to see Your Majesty return to us and the King cheered”. Her strategy had paid off. Queen Louise finally wrote to her husband in October 1823, four months after her departure.

    Of all the letters the King and Queen exchanged during their marriage, the letter from Herrenhausen stands out as an anomaly. Instead of her usual brusque phrases, it is a missive full of compliments and an uncharacteristic display of self-awareness. Louise begins with an apology to “the finest husband a wife could ask for, a most noble and loving gentleman who rules my heart as he does his Kingdom; with sincerity and softness. That my absence has caused you such sorrow, dearest husband, pains me so very greatly and I confess to feeling so very wretched that I have inflicted such agonies upon your heart as you have filled mine with only happiness in the years since we have been together as one”. She goes on to berate herself as a “stubborn and silly person, quite ashamed of my past behaviours” and says that she cannot return to England for “the shame of my ingratitude towards you lays too heavy upon me. If I were to see your darling face I should weep knowing the pains I have settled there and I feel now that I may never return until I know that I will be forgiven for it all”.


    Schloss Rumpenheim.

    The letter from Herrenhausen also addresses, for the first and last time on paper, the King’s relationship with Lady Elizabeth Somerset. Though not mentioned by name, the Queen refers to “Your Majesty’s companion at Lechlade” and “mourns most strongly that she has become first in the King’s affection for it has caused such a sorrow these many months which I find quite impossible to put aside”. To add to her woes, the Queen was “humiliated and the subject of the most cruel gossip at the hands of Your Majesty’s sister-in-law who seeps poison and whose bitter untruths have turned all hearts against me, even at Rumpenheim”. In short, the Queen was only too willing to return to the King but felt she could not until her “reputation and position were fully repaired” and until that time, she “grieved most strongly that I should remain in Hanover separated from my heart’s true love and the King rightfully adored by all who know the tenderness of his spirit”.

    It is very unlikely that the Queen came across any resentment based on the Duchess of Kent’s gossip at Rumpenheim or Herrenhausen but she was somewhat accurate in that her relationship with Pepke had dealt a blow to her reputation in the courts of Europe. The Duchess of Kent had been kept at arms’ length by her brother Leopold and even by those who had once shown her kindness among the British Royal Family but this was motivated more by a desire to please the King than the Queen. Whilst the King had stopped paying the debts as agreed following the Duke of Kent’s death, as the mother of Princess Victoria, the Duchess of Kent had still been in receipt of a small allowance paid personally by the King and had been promised that she could return to England for a brief reunion with her daughter at Clarence House for Christmas in 1823 if Prince Leopold was present. Upon receiving his wife’s letter, the King was said to “sob like a small child” bemoaning his “most cruel treatment” of the Queen and immediately set about putting things right.

    Queen Louise had successfully made the Duchess of Kent a scapegoat. In a furious rage, the King ordered that every portrait of the Duchess be removed from Clarence House and that her name was forbidden to be spoken by anyone within the Royal Household, including the nursery staff who cared for his infant niece Princess Victoria. All letters from the Duchess were to be returned undelivered and she was to have no contact whatsoever with her daughter. Her stipend from the Crown was withdrawn with immediate affect and her personal belongings which remained in England were seized and stored at Windsor. Her name was removed from the list of Royal Family members prayed for in the Chapel Royal and the King commanded that she never again be allowed to return to England. In a painful and uncharacteristically cruel letter to his sister-in-law, the King wrote; “Princess Victoria shall be spared all your poisons and I shall protect my brother’s daughter as if she were my own by declaring you all but dead to her”. A Baroness in the Duchess of Kent’s employ later recalled how the Duchess of Kent received this news; “Like a wounded animal she screamed until she could not be restrained and ran into the gardens calling for her daughter and scratching at her face until she bled”.


    The last portrait of the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria together. Hidden from view by order of the King, it was gifted to Victoria in 1840 by King George V.

    Next, the King turned his attention to his mistress. He travelled to Lechlade one last time, remaining in Lady Elizabeth’s company for just one night. She was to be put aside. Heavily pregnant with the King’s child, the King informed her that their relationship must come to an end. He would continue to provide for her and Lechlade would be hers as promised. Their son, the Earl of Ulster, would always be under the King’s protection and care but neither he, nor his mother, could ever be received at court again. Furthermore, the King wished her to travel to Ireland where her child would be born. She would be accompanied by Captain Edward O’Brien, the son of the former High Sheriff of Clare who resided at his family estate, Ennistymon House, in County Clare. It was the King’s “most fervent wish” that she should marry O’Brien before the birth of her second child so as to legitimise the child [1]. Unlike before, the King would not recognise Lady Elizabeth’s baby as his own. Elizabeth was said to be “resigned to the situation, sorrowful but quite prepared to carry out His Majesty’s wishes”. Regardless of her position at court, she would forever have an attachment to the King through her son and perhaps this is why she accepted both O’Brien’s sudden proposal and the King’s decision to end their affair.

    The King presumably relayed his actions to the Queen personally but his letter has been lost. What we do know is that the King travelled to Harwich to welcome his wife back to England on the 8th of December 1823. Dressed in pale lilac to reflect half mourning for her mother, the Queen acknowledged the crowds before joining her husband in his carriage where it was noted by The Times that she “took His Majesty’s hand and kissed it tenderly in a most affectionate reunion”. The King and Queen travelled to Windsor and at a lavish banquet that evening, a slightly inebriated George stood unsteadily to propose “toast after toast to his wife which the assembled company found quite baffling and even a little amusing”. The Queen was reunited with her children too, the Prince of Wales and Princess Charlotte Louise brought from the nursery to be with their mother. Also present that evening were the Duke and Duchess of Clarence with Princess Victoria. To the court’s surprise, the Queen asked that Victoria be brought to her. She pulled the little girl up onto her lap and kissed her forehead at which the little Princess laughed causing the courtiers present to applaud.

    Amidst this happy scene, the full extent of the Queen’s revenge was being felt by the two women she had successfully banished from her husband’s life for good. On the 22nd of December 1823, Lady Elizabeth Somerset gave birth to a daughter. She was named Isabella O’Brien and her birth certificate made no mention of her true parentage. The King never received his daughter but did provide an allowance of £60 a year for the duration of his lifetime. Lady Elizabeth was widowed the following year and was allowed to return to Lechlade. As Lady Elizabeth O’Brien, she hoped that the King might visit her and rekindle their romance but he never did. Following the King’s death, the allowances paid to Lady Elizabeth and her children were withdrawn and facing huge debts, she married Major General James Orde on the 11th of November 1829. Orde treated his wife terribly and had a series of affairs until eventually, he withdrew to Ireland. Unable to petition for divorce, Elizabeth had to accept her fate. She was widowed in 1850. She died at Lechlade in 1876 at the age of 78, almost penniless after having given half of her fortune away to a 24-year-old military officer who had proposed marriage and fled once her money was his. [2]

    As for the Duchess of Kent, a far more distressing fate awaited her. In the immediate aftermath of the King’s ruling, Victoria wrote endless letters to both him and her brother Prince Leopold (still resident in England) begging him to reconsider. Her treaties were ignored. When letters came from the Duchess, they were ordered to be returned to her unopened and those sent to Clarence House were destroyed. The Duchess of Clarence felt uneasy about this, confiding in a friend that whilst the Duchess of Kent had behaved appallingly, “the Queen could never really want her to suffer so”. By 1825, the Duchess had been forced to sell the estate she had inherited from her first husband, Prince Carl of Leiningen. With no income, she settled for a while with her brother Ernst, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld at Rosenau in Coburg but her increasingly erratic behaviour frustrated him.


    Duke Ernst I of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

    Shortly after arriving at Rosenau, the Duchess of Kent was found wandering in the grounds in her night gown in the pouring rain screaming for her daughter. Ernst immediately asked his physician to find more suitable accommodation for his sister and Victoria was sent to Bonn where she was examined by the psychiatrist, Carl Jacobi. Jacobi was the director of the newly constructed lunatic asylum at Siegburg and with the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld’s agreement, suggested that Victoria be treated there for a time until she was well enough to return to Rosenau. She never would. Whilst at Siegburg, she contracted tuberculosis and died on the 25th of May 1833, the day after her daughter’s 14th birthday. The Duchess was 47 years old. Even in death, she was forbidden to return to England. Instead, her brother Leopold, by then King of the Belgians, arranged for her to be interred in the crypt at the Church of St Moritz in Coburg. Her coffin was later transferred to the Ducal Family Mausoleum in Coburg in 1860 and in the same year, Princess Victoria commissioned a small memorial to her mother which was placed in the Royal Crypt of the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft. [3]

    The reunited King and Queen began 1824 with a renewed passion for each other and with her demands now met, Queen Louise seemed to fully embrace her role as Queen for the first time since her marriage. The tour of England which had been postponed when Landgravine Caroline died was now planned for the spring and was to see an ambitious programme lasting three months which would see Their Majesties pay official visits to Oxford, Coventry, Birmingham, Derby, Nottingham, Manchester and York. In the autumn, the King and Queen would set off again visiting Bath, Salisbury, Yeovil, Dorchester, Exeter and Plymouth. In the interim, there were scheduled visits from the King of the Netherlands and the King and Queen of Hawaii to be hosted at St James’ Palace. In preparation for the tour, the peers of England were encouraged to throw their doors open to host the royal party en route and the royal tailors were commissioned to provide 33 waistcoats, 22 tailcoats and 16 pairs of pantaloons for the King and 38 gowns, 26 hats and 88 pairs of white gloves for the Queen. Dubbed “the Royal Progress of England” to evoke a historic nature to the tour, bulletins were placed along the route causing huge excitement, even in areas where anti-monarchist demonstrations had been held during the aftermath of the Peterloo Massacre.

    The night before their departure for Oxford, the King and Queen attended a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Sadler’s Wells led by the celebrated actor Edmund Kean. A drawing of the royal couple appeared on the front cover of The Times and was so well liked that demand for reproductions ahead of the visit soared. It quickly became one of the most reproduced images that year and could be seen pasted to the windows of houses and public buildings all along the route of the King and Queen’s progress through England. The King’s Private Secretary, Sir William Knighton, had produced a template for the tour which was replicated in every city en route. Welcomed by local dignitaries on a dais in a suitable location, the King and Queen watched performances of traditional dances or songs before moving on to mingle with selected guests in the open air when the weather permitted. A civic luncheon was held before a reception for important local guests and there were visits to sites of historic interest where plaques were unveiled. Whilst the King focused his attention on visiting civic buildings, the Queen visited hospitals and schools and in the evenings, they were hosted at the nearest large estate before moving on to the next leg of the tour. On Sundays, they attended religious services at the Anglican Cathedrals en route and two days a week were allocated for the King and Queen to rest.

    By June, the royal couple were back in London to welcome the King of the Netherlands who was present for the conclusion of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty. The Treaty was designed to solve the issues arising from the British occupation of Dutch colonial possessions during the Napoleonic Wars, in particular, the Dutch demand that the British abandon Singapore. In March 1824, it was agreed that the Netherlands would cede all establishments in Dutch India to the British whilst Britain would cede its possessions in Bengkulu and Sumatra. Singapore was to remain a British possession but the UK agreed not to establish offices on the Carimon Islands or in Batam, Bintan or Lingan. Java was returned to the Dutch for the sum of £100,000 which was to be paid by the Netherlands to London by the end of 1825. The Dutch King and Queen were hosted at St James’ with a lavish banquet held in their honour. It was at this gathering that Queen Louise proudly displayed a new gift from her husband, presumably given as a token of his renewed affection. Guests marvelled at her jewels, a parure of a tiara, necklace, earrings, two brooches and two bracelets made by Garrards of London and fashioned from diamonds and Burmese rubies. The parure was designed around the theme of an English rose and was later worn on the second leg of the royal progress of England. As a reward for their work, Garrards was appointed as the first ever official Crown Jewellers. [4]

    With the departure of the Dutch came the anticipation of a visit by King Kamehameha II and Queen Kamamalu of Hawaii. Hawaii was unified in 1810 and had been transformed into an independent constitutional monarchy fashioned in the European tradition. Recognised by the great European powers, King Kamehameha II and his wife commissioned the British whaling ship L’Aigle to carry them to London after a brief stopover at Rio de Janeiro where they were to be received by Emperor Pedro I. Initially, King George IV was aloof towards the prospect of meeting the Hawaiian monarchs and a letter exists in which he asked the Foreign Secretary, Lord Sidmouth, whether it would be necessary to gift any British honours to King Kamehameha. Sidmouth confirmed that it would and so the insignia of a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath was prepared in advance. The Queen meanwhile commissioned Garrards to produce a diamond brooch that she could gift to Queen Kamamalu.


    King Kamehameha II and Queen Kamamalu at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1824.

    Accepting that King Kamehameha II was worthy of full diplomatic honours, the King dispatched the Foreign Secretary and Frederick Gerald Byng (then a Gentleman Usher) to greet the royal couple at Portsmouth. The press was confused by the Hawaiian visitors and their curiosity was unfortunately coupled with a great deal of derision too. Byng was charged with ensuring the King and Queen had appropriate attire for the duration of their visit which both found uncomfortable to wear given that the sizes were wrong. Both Kamehameha and his wife were over six feet tall and when they finally arrived in London, the public turned out to gawp and jeer rather than give them a friendly welcome. The press was less than impressed when the King refused to enter Westminster Abbey because he did not wish to desecrate a burial place based on the Hawaiian tradition that only a blood relative of the deceased should enter a mausoleum. That evening, the King and Queen attended the theatre ahead of a busy schedule of public engagements before they were to be received by King George IV and Queen Louise on June the 21st.

    Shortly before the meeting however, word reached King George that the Queen of Hawaii had fallen ill after visiting the Royal Military Asylum. Sir Andrew Halliday was dispatched to the Caledonian Hotel where the Hawaiian royal party was staying and diagnosed measles. With no immunity to the disease, Queen Kamamalu quickly declined and on the 8th of July 1824, she died. Her grief-stricken husband, also now infected with measles, died just six days later. At the King’s order, the bodies of the Hawaiian monarchs were taken to the crypt of St Martins in the Fields Church where they awaited transportation back home. High Chief Boki, a senior courtier in the King’s party, was received by George IV at St James Palace instead and in a gesture of sympathy, Boki was awarded the Order of the Bath originally intended for King Kamehameha II. Queen Louise kept the brooch intended for Queen Kamamalu with High Chief Boki’s wife Kuini Liliha gifted a silver hand mirror instead.

    With the rest of the royal progress not scheduled until the autumn, George IV and Queen Louise departed London for Windsor where they settled at Royal Lodge. In his diary, George would record this to be “his happiest summer” and free from official duties and reunited with his wife, his contentment was plain to see. The royal couple were often seen arm in arm walking in the grounds of Royal Lodge and the King commissioned a portrait of them in which they were depicted as a Roman consul and his wife. Once completed, the portrait hung above the King’s bed at Windsor and he often referred to it as “a glimpse of heaven”. Lord Eldon, the Prime Minister, remarked at this time that he had “never seen the King and Queen so much in love” and it did not take long before Sir Andrew Halliday confirmed that Queen Louise was once again expecting a child. She was now 30 years old however, then considered a dangerous age to fall pregnant, especially considering her miscarriage the year before. The King was delighted that his wife was to have another baby and to mark the occasion, he commissioned Garrards to fashion a bracelet of gold into which were set the milk teeth of the Prince of Wales and Princess Charlotte Louise.

    With the anniversary of her mother’s death approaching, the Queen could be satisfied that she had achieved her objective. Her rivals had been banished, her reputation somewhat improved by her public appearances and finally, she had the full attention of her husband. Though she was not overjoyed to be expecting another baby (and thus would have to miss the second half of the royal progress), those closest to her remarked on her change in attitude. She seemed softer and more mature but she had also realized something that would prove crucial in the years to come; she could catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Whilst she still had temper tantrums and remained prone to sulking when things did not please her, she now concentrated on forging alliances with important courtiers and being somewhat over-friendly towards their wives and families. But whatever her true motives, the King could not be more pleased. In his diary he wrote; “She is my greatest gift and my happiness her greatest achievement. We forge ahead renewed, truly content in the things we share and no longer burdened by those things which caused such sorrow and which I deeply regret. I only wish this paradise to last forever and I regard this to have been my happiest summer”.

    [1] In the OTL, Elizabeth married O’Brien in 1823 but I’ve butterflied the date slightly to accommodate the narrative of this TL.

    [2] There is no information about Elizabeth’s second marriage to be found anywhere so I’ve invented a narrative of my own for her to suit this TL and add a little drama.

    [3] Major butterflies here! But how else could the Duchess’ story end in this TL?

    [4] In the OTL, this didn’t occur until 1843 but it makes sense to bring it forward a little here.


    Many apologies that this has taken a month since the last installment! The good news for those enjoying this is that I've now written three further installments so you'll be getting updates fairly regularly again. I hope it was worth the wait! All images from Wikipedia.
    GIV: Part 14: The King's Troubles
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    King George IV

    Part Fourteen: The King's Troubles

    With the Queen pregnant once again, the King was to undertake the second leg of the so-called “Progress of England” alone. He was accompanied by his private secretary, Sir William Knighton, the Lord Chamberlain, the Marquess of Cholmondeley and Sir Andrew Halliday, his personal physician. Also in the royal party was 28-year-old Captain William Smith (known to the King as ‘Honest Billy’) who had been appointed temporary equerry to the King during the Spring tour. A Captain in the Coldstream Guards, Billy Smith became an immediate favourite of the King who appreciated his dry wit and brutal frankness. George appointed Billy his permanent equerry shortly before the Autumn tour began and provided him with a special uniform of blue velvet and silver braid with the King’s monogram embroidered on red velvet lapels. The King’s household was not overly fond of Billy as he quickly became a permanent fixture with personal responsibility for the day to day needs of the Sovereign. Yet the King came to rely upon Billy for everything and was heard to remark; “I have known none so worthy of trust as my Honest Billy”.


    'Honest Billy', later Major General Sir William Smith, Crown Equerry to King George V.

    The first stop on the Autumn tour was Bath to be followed by Salisbury, Yeovil, Dorchester, Exeter and Plymouth. Whilst for the majority of the progress the aristocrats and landed gentry of England had flung open their doors to entertain the monarch in grand style, at Salisbury the King opted to stay at Barley Mow, an inn on Greencroft Street close to the Cathedral Church of St Mary. Billy Smith paid the innkeeper, Mr Walter Travers, £10 to clear the inn of all other guests and the King dined on sausages, chops and cheese before spending the night in the largest bedroom the inn had to offer. When the local residents of Salisbury found that the King had spent the night at their local watering hole, Barley Mow was inundated with visitors and Mr Travers took full advantage of his newfound fame charging people a ha’penny to see the room the King had slept in.

    After a visit to Yeovil, the royal party made its way to the village of Athelhampton some six miles from Dorchester. Athelhampton was home to Athelhampton Hall, a 15th century country house set in 160 acres of parkland and renowned as one of England’s finest examples of Tudor architecture. The estate belonged to Marquess Wellesley, the elder brother of the Duke of Wellington, currently serving as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. With Athelhampton vacant, the Duke arranged for the King to have use of the house for the weekend with temporary staff brought in to cater to His Majesty’s needs. The housekeeper, Mrs Ambrose, kept meticulous records at Athelhampton and it is from her personal archive that we gain an important glimpse into the King’s lifestyle at this time which also helps to explain why Yeovil became the last stop on the progress.

    George was no longer able to ride before breakfast, a past time he had loved all his life but which hemorrhoids now made impossible. He liked to breakfast in style, choosing to take the meal in the Dining Room rather than the Drawing Room as was customary at the time. Nonetheless, breakfast was a relaxed informal meal which the King liked to take with his personal staff. After a cooked breakfast of eggs, kidneys, sausages and chops, there was a “sweet course” which included the King’s favourite plum cake, almond cake and brioche. Whilst the King’s staff drank tea or hot chocolate, the King himself preferred to drink beer. A few hours later at around 1pm, the King sat down to luncheon which during his stay at Athelhampton consisted of cold pigeons, pork pies, slices of cold cow’s tongue, honey cake and a selection of fruit. All this was served with Tokaji, a sweet wine which travelled with the King and came from a vast supply of 60 crates sent as a gift from the Emperor of Austria for the King’s birthday the previous year.


    Athelhampton Hall and Gardens.

    Whether he ate alone or entertained guests, the King’s dinner was always a lavish affair and whilst he preferred local produce, vegetables hardly ever featured on the menu unless they were smothered in a rich butter sauce (another of George’s favourites). His most beloved dish however was a whole goose served on a bed of potatoes that had been roasted inside the bird and which was then covered with a spiced bread sauce containing sultanas. Whilst his guests made do with slices of the goose, the King was served a whole bird to himself – and he always picked the bones clean. As if this were not enough, at Athelhampton, the King then dined on partridges wrapped in bacon and served with butter sauce before taking three helpings of flummery, a popular creamy jelly which was richly decorated with seasonal fruits and marzipan shaped resemble flowers, fruits, or even small animals. This extravagant feast was washed down with wine, sherry and port. Whilst in his bedclothes and tucked in for the night, Honest Billy would bring George a silver tray on which was placed six rounds of hot buttered toast which the King ate with stewed cheese, mustard and cold game to be accompanied by a glass or two of madeira.

    Whilst the King had always had a big appetite, it seemed to increase ten-fold in 1824. From his increased waist size in the records available at Ede & Ravenscroft, it is estimated that within 18 months George had gained around 60lbs which gave him a 44-inch waist and by modern standards made him morbidly obese. It was during his last few days at Athelhampton that the consequences of this gluttony first made themselves painfully apparent. At 4.30am on the 10th of October 1824, the King woke the entire household at Athelhampton with anguished cries from his bedroom. Sir Andrew Halliday found the King writhing in agony, clutching his side and rocking from side to side. Covered in sweat and begging for pain relief, Halliday diagnosed an attack of the gallbladder. When the pain did not subside, Halliday insisted the rest of the tour of England be cancelled and when the King’s condition allowed, the royal party should return to London immediately where the King could be further examined with a view to possible surgery.

    The King’s health was of such concern to Halliday that he made a daily list of his symptoms and ailments which was then hand delivered to the Prime Minister with a note from Halliday detailing the treatments proposed. In October 1824, the King was suffering from hemorrhoids, oedema in the right leg, boils in his armpit, gallstones and “lacklustre movements of the bowel”. But Halliday also recorded a conversation with the King about the state of his health.

    The King’s troubles grow daily. I ventured to His Majesty that his symptoms may be eased by applying restrictions to his diet and this did not please him at all. I drew His Majesty’s attention to certain excesses in his intake which I considered to have caused his attacks and at this, the King grew quite furious. “Do you dare to call the King fat Sir? I shall have none of that, none of that at all, how dare you call the King fat Sir when I venture your own belly hides your feet! Ha! What do you think of that Sir?”. I explained to His Majesty that it is healthy for the belly to protrude a little for even if the diet is rich, the digestion may still operate as expected. But in His Majesty’s case the digestion does not and therefore, the diet is too rich. At this, the King dismissed me from his presence and was in poor temper for the duration of the afternoon. His Majesty ate well at dinner.


    Sir Andrew Halliday, the King's physician.

    Despite his bravado, the King continued to suffer attacks of his gallbladder and upon returning to London, a makeshift operating theatre was assembled at St James’ Palace where a team of surgeons including Henry Cline (former President of the Royal College of Surgeons) and William Lynn (then incumbent President) carried out a cholecystostomy. Believing it fatal to remove the gallbladder entirely, the procedure involved making an incision into the gallbladder, removing any stones present and then draining fluid which would provide immediate relief. Ether was accepted as the most reliable form of anaesthetic at this time but post-surgical infections and other complications were commonplace making surgery an extremely dangerous venture. Nonetheless, the King’s operation was regarded as a complete success when his gallbladder attacks immediately ceased and both Cline and Lynn were made Baronets for their services to the King. George’s recovery was slow and though he was spared infection of his wound, the oedema in his right leg had grown worse and he could only walk with the aid of a stick, taking Honest Billy’s arm for further support.

    Halliday warned the King that his condition would return if he did not improve his diet and for a time, aided by the Queen, the Royal Household managed to persuade the King to forego some of his favourite treats. Bizarre as it may seem in the modern day, Halliday suggested the King take up smoking a pipe as tobacco was believed to restrict appetite but the King found the habit “most deplorable and unpleasant” and quickly dispensed with it. Inevitably, George returned to his poor diet within weeks. His consumption of alcohol increased too, presumably as a form of anaesthetic as his intake seems to rise at the same time as Halliday notes further ailments including a fistula (a common consequence of early gallbladder surgery) and oedema in the right hand which made it difficult for the King to write.

    The King’s health was of great concern to Lord Eldon. The Prime Minister had consented to the King being operated upon but it raised a worrying prospect. The Prince of Wales was just four years old and if the King had died during or as a result of his surgery, there were no plans in place for a regency. Eldon also felt that the public were unlikely to stand another period of royal chaos which had defined the previous regency and it was Eldon’s belief that the government must make arrangements for any eventuality with the King and Queen so as to provide continuity and clarity should the worst happen. In the King’s mind, there was no immediate reason to discuss this. His view was that, if he died before his son reached the age of majority, the constitution already allowed for parliament to pass a regency act. But Eldon had another worry which he did not share with the King. With memories of Queen Charlotte ruling the Council of Regency from Kew Palace in previous years, and well aware that Queen Louise was not regarded well by the majority of MPs and the people alike, Eldon wished to keep her away from any such arrangement in the future.

    George himself gave the matter some thought when Eldon brought the issue to him after his surgery. The King agreed that a Council of Regency had been “a messy affair” and believed that there should be one regent for his son and heir in the event of him acceding to the throne whilst still in his infancy. For George, there was no better candidate than his brother, the Duke of Clarence. Still devoted to the memory of his late brother however, the King let it be known to Eldon that he did not relish the prospect of his brother using the title of ‘Prince Regent’ and proposed instead that the title of ‘Lord Protector’ be revived. Eldon vetoed this suggestion on the grounds that the title had republican overtones and could not be wrestled from the public memory as belonging to Oliver Cromwell. The compromise was found in that the Duke of Clarence, if so-called upon, would use the title of The King’s Regent. His deputy would be appointed by the Prime Minister with the King indicating a preference for the Duke of Cambridge. The Queen however was to have no role to play, George wishing Louise to “concern herself only to raising our children to be fine servants of this great nation in the model of their beloved late grandfather of happy memory, King George III”.

    Queen Louise was predictably displeased. She felt that it was her right to make decisions on behalf of her infant son and she was especially concerned that she may be kept away from the Prince of Wales if he became King at a young age. Whether truly concerned with gaining political power or not, the Queen urged her husband to reconsider but George refused to be drawn on the subject. Instead, he gave his wife a solemn promise that he would leave strict instructions on how he wished the Prince of Wales to be educated, wishes he knew that his brother William would honour. He also indicated that on the subject of the marriages of his children, the Queen’s wishes must be respected above politics and that “following the example of the lamented late Queen Charlotte, it is the responsibility of Her Majesty to consider, arrange and contract marriages for the royal children which I pray to be happy and fruitful ones blessed as my own has been”. This is the closest King George IV ever came to making a will. Whilst he was usually devoted to paperwork and order in his personal affairs, the subject of death seemed to unnerve him and he refused ever to commit to allowing a will to be prepared for him. When asked, he simply replied; “The Queen shall know what to do”.

    The Christmas celebrations of 1824 were almost deliberately more lavish than at any other time during the King’s reign. Feeling himself fully recovered from his surgery and with the Queen preparing to go into her confinement at Royal Lodge, the festivities were noted to be “more fine and more abundant than at any time in the courts that came before”. The King threw himself into the excesses on offer and rose so late on Christmas morning after overindulging on Christmas Eve that the church service had to be postponed by two hours to allow him to be washed and dressed. Halliday notes that on Boxing Day 1824, the King complained of “terrible pains in his stomach” which was little wonder considering that (as Halliday records), George had eaten his way through an astonishing 16 servings at dinner.

    King George IV in a study from 1824.

    Once again laid low, so much so that the proposed celebrations for New Year were cancelled, the King went into 1825 with two immediate priorities. The first was the State Opening of Parliament which he was eager to attend in a fit state of health and without need of a walking stick or Honest Billy’s support. “I will not have those devils see their King weakened”, he remarked somewhat bitterly. Ede & Ravenscroft were asked to prepare a new set of clothes for the King to wear as those from the previous ceremony the year before not longer fit him. The King’s second priority was the imminent arrival of another child as at Royal Lodge, the Queen prepared to give birth. Unlike the births of the Prince of Wales and Princess Charlotte Louise, a team of English doctors were to deliver the baby and whilst she was attended by her sister Augusta, the Duchess of Cambridge, it was the first time Louise had given birth without her mother present. In a letter to her sister Marie, the Queen wrote; “I only pray that it is a daughter to whom I can bestow the name of Caroline as a final gift to our dearest darling Mama”.

    The King was to be disappointed on the 3rd of February 1825 as he made his way to the Palace of Westminster for the State Opening of Parliament. Whilst he had managed to walk a short distance without any support at St James’ Palace, this had been practiced without the accouterments of the day and burdened under the weight of his robes the King had no choice but to depend on ‘Honest Billy’ to escort him to the throne in the House of Lords. Frustrated by this, the King was noticeably bad tempered and halfway through his address snapped loudly at John Maberly, the Tory MP for Abingdon, who was suffering from a cold and kept coughing close to where the King was sitting.

    “Do you wish to make your King unwell Sir?”, George barked.

    “I should not wish His Majesty any ill at all”, Maberly protested.

    “Then clear out man! You are a disgrace to yourself”, the King glowered.

    Viscount Newry recorded his observations of that day in his diary noting that; “His Majesty appeared in a most shocking state, his face blotched and flushed, his poor temper most visible. He stumbled through his address (which was quite paltry in content I thought) and there was a great deal of hushed commotion when it came time for him to depart for the poor equerry could not lift him out of the throne. It required assistance from a page to take the King’s left side to heave him upward. His Majesty, clearly embarrassed by this, turned to the House and said, “Gentlemen, I beg you pray for your King as he prays for you”. This was quite moving and I believe all of us were sincere in feeling most sorry for His Majesty who appeared on the verge of tears as he finally departed”.

    The month of February ended with the King in a far happier mood than he had been at the start of it. In the early hours of the 22nd, the Queen gave birth to a son. Though she had wished for a daughter, Louise was delighted with the addition to her family whom she described as being “very fat, very rosy and very dear”. The new prince was named Edward Charles Adolphus; Edward in honour of the late Duke of Kent, Charles (an anglicised form of Karl and the male version of Caroline) both in memory of the Queen’s mother and grandfather and Adolphus, in honour of the Duke of Cambridge. The King’s happiness continued when he appeared to enjoy some respite from his poor health. Whilst he would remain plagued with health problems for the rest of his life, the month he spent with the Queen at Royal Lodge and his children proved advantageous to his overall mood and encouraged by Honest Billy, he felt able to take walks in the grounds each morning and even curbed his diet skipping luncheon and supper altogether. Though his breakfasts and dinners remained excessive, Halliday reported that the King had lost a little weight and had even been able to walk without the help of Billy Smith (though he retained the use of a walking stick).

    In London, the majority of the renovations to Buckingham House (now called Buckingham Palace) had been successfully completed to a stage where the King and Queen could once again reside there. In April, the court moved to Buckingham Palace which was to become the principal primary residence of the British sovereign. The Palace was furnished from a vast supply of antiques, paintings and other artifacts taken from Carlton House and Kew with additional furnishings and furniture having been purchased by the Queen. The first banquet held at the Palace on the 1st of June 1825 was notable as being the first time the Queen’s Service was used, a magnificent silver gilt dining service also known today as the Junior Service as it is compromised of half the number of items in the Grand Service commissioned by Prince George as Prince Regent. A special table was also created for the event known as the River Table. Designed by Nash, the 12-foot-long table was fashioned in English oak and decorated with carved acorns and leaves. In the centre was a specially designed channel into which water was poured and real goldfish encouraged to swim up and down as the guests ate.


    The first banquet to be held at Buckingham Palace following it's renovation.

    An unfortunate downside to the banquet was that some of the guests were so overawed at the occasion and were so enthused at being the first to attend such an event at the new Palace that they sought souvenirs. Items from the Queen’s Service including teaspoons and cruets disappeared and had to be replaced and a note in the Royal Archives records that of 33 goldfish placed into the River Table, only 27 were found once the event was over. Nonetheless, the King was proud of his new residence and greatly enjoyed the sprawling gardens which had just been completed and which included a pond on which a small rowing boat could be set out and which became a favourite pastime of the young Prince of Wales. At 5 years old, the little Prince was healthy and strong, a little rotund but considered to be exceptionally bright. As a result, the King now turned to attention to what form his son and heir’s education should take.

    Baron Stockmar was a regular visitor to the English court and was widely respected. Educated as a physician, he became the personal doctor of Prince Leopold in 1816. During the tragic final days of Princess Charlotte’s life, Stockmar had begged the royal physicians treating her to change their approach in order to save her but he had been ignored with terrible consequences. Stockmar was now serving Prince Leopold as a kind of private secretary and was called to Buckingham Palace by King George IV to “advise on the approach that should be undertaken for the education of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales”. The Stockmar System, as it became known, urged the King and Queen to waste no time in the education of their son. From the age of 5 until the age of 8, the Prince of Wales was to take afternoon classes in basic reading, writing and arithmetic with a tutor provided from Eton College. After that time, he would begin a rigorous and exhaustive programme of studies in languages, mathematics, the sciences, history and religious studies combined with two hours a day of physical such as gardening or assisting on the farms at Windsor. This would become the Prince of Wales’ life until it was old enough to be sent away to school where Stockmar advised he be treated like any other student. A period of military training was also proposed, preferably in Hanover where his position might not precede him as much as in England.


    Baron Stockmar.

    In wistful mood, the King put his thoughts about this to paper in July 1825. “That we hold such a responsibility, to nurture and to educate this fine young mind to carry out the duties which one day will fall upon his shoulders is such a great burden to my heart. But Georgie has one advantage denied to me and that is he shall not be an unexpected King. I pray that when his time comes, O God willing many years from now, he shall be worthy of this great task which no man can truly say he enjoys but which any man to whom it comes must find a way to endure with strength and humility”. Perhaps the reason for the King’s descent into such wistfulness was prompted by the departure once more of the Queen. The birth of Prince Edward had not been without its difficulties and she needed longer to recover than before. Initially she had wished to travel to Hanover again but the King was so anxious at the prospect of his wife being overseas that he begged her not to go abroad. Instead she had settled on Scotland.

    The Queen was to stay at Culzean Castle, the recently completed estate of the 10th Earl of Cassilis located on the Ayrshire Coast. The Earl was on tour in Italy and the Marquess of Cholmondeley, a friend of Lord Cassilis, made inquiries as to whether he would be willing to let the Queen use Culzean as a home for the summer. Queen Louise arrived in Ayrshire on the 25th of July accompanied by her ladies in waiting and the wives of a few prominent members of the Cabinet. At Windsor, the King could not bear to be separated from his wife a moment longer and in the middle of the night ordered Honest Billy to cancel all engagements and appointments and ready the court to join the Queen in Ayrshire. Sir Andrew Halliday concerned that the swelling in the King’s leg and right arm was growing worse, begged George not to travel but His Majesty was insistent. Accompanied by a nervous household, the King began his long journey to Scotland, his travels interrupted by frequent stops along the way in order for him to be administered laudanum by Halliday to calm him. “The King’s nerves are exhausted. Lord Cholmondeley raised the spectre of His late Majesty and said, 'We must not forget that the King died mad' but I admonished him for this for there is no indication that the King's mind is at all damaged in this way”, Halliday noted in his diary, “But with this said, I fear that if His Majesty continues on this dangerous course, he shall not return from Scotland at all”.
    GIV: Part 15: A Terrible Winter
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    King George IV

    Part Fifteen: A Terrible Winter

    By the time George IV arrived at Culzean, his state of health was considered “most precarious” by Sir Andrew Halliday. In addition to his physical symptoms, he had developed a nervousness that made him extremely dependent on his wife. This came as a surprise to George’s courtiers considering that it was not so long ago that he was happily parading his mistress before them with the Queen very much out of favour. It is unclear what caused George’s change of heart but his poor physical health seems to have drawn him closer to his immediate family. Nonetheless, Halliday soon came to believe that being in Scotland for a time had proven beneficial to the King’s health. Free from the day-to-day duties of the Sovereign and kept away from the badgering of politicians and other establishment figures, George was able to relax and his mood was markedly improved in a short time. There was no doubt that the Queen adored her time in Scotland too. Before their planned return to Windsor, she began paying house calls to prominent Scottish peers with a view to seeking out a Scottish estate as a holiday residence for the Royal Family.

    This was criticised by some politicians who felt that the extensive and costly renovations to Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle should preclude the acquisition of yet another royal residence. In private Lord Eldon was of the view that there was “no price too great to secure the continued good health of His Majesty the King” but he also worried that royal expenditure would need to be increased again and with a general election looming, he expressed concerns to the Lord Chamberlain that the idea should be temporarily shelved. Eldon was confident that he would secure a mandate of his own rather than the one he inherited from Lord Liverpool and with an increased majority, he hoped to be able to finally draw a line under Catholic emancipation and calls for constitutional reform. He expected to be returned to government with an increased majority, after which time, he promised to support any proposals for a Scottish retreat for the King and Queen.


    Abbotsford in an 1880 painting of the house as seen from the River Tweed.

    But a more cost-effective short-term solution presented itself as George IV and Queen Louise returned to Windsor. They had been invited to spend their last few days in Scotland with Sir Walter Scott who had so successfully arranged their tour in 1822. Around the same time, Scott had expanded his estate on the south bank of the River Tweed near Melrose and renamed it “Abbotsford”. Abbotsford was a prominent example of Scottish baronial architecture and Scott completely overhauled the property adding turrets and stepped gabling, stained glass windows with heraldic designs and panelling of oak and cedar in the largest rooms which were intricately carved with coats of arms. Though undoubtedly one of the finest private houses in Scotland, Scott had spent an enormous sum increasing the acreage of his estate until it included nearly 1,000 acres which also included the nearby mansion house of Totfield which was renamed ‘Huntlyburn’. Already in substantial debt, Scott’s financial problems worsened when the UK was hit by a banking crisis.

    The Panic of 1825 saw the stock market crash and twelve banks closed their doors overnight. Transitioning from a war time to a peace time economy had proven difficult and unpopular tax rises had been scrapped for political gain. A black hole in the public finances could not be filled without such rises and whilst the Bank of England was saved from collapse by an infusion of gold reserves from the Banque de France, many found they had lost their fortunes overnight. Investors had ploughed their money into speculative interests in Latin America; some were even persuaded to part with vast sums to invest in Poyais, a country ruled by Cazique Gregor MacGregor. Government bonds and land certificates were issued for extremely profitable plantations in Poyais with MacGregor managing to convince people to put their entire life savings into building projects in his country. The only problem was that Poyais did not actually exist. MacGregor was a fraudster and though his confidence trick was exposed, for those who had fallen victim to his scheme they could not recover the money they had already parted with.

    For Walter Scott, the Panic of 1825 wiped out his entire fortune. Publicly ruined, Abbotsford was to be placed in a trust belonging to his creditors the month after the King and Queen visited. Scott gave a “last hurrah” for the couple offering them the finest food and wine whilst the King took full advantage of fishing on the Tweed. The King knew Scott was bankrupt but he also knew Scott would not accept financial support from his friends and admirers. Shortly after the King and Queen left Abbotsford, George asked Lord Cholmondeley to inquire as to whether the creditors would be prepared to lease the house to the King and Queen as a summer residence for the period of ten years. Whilst this would not cover the cost of the property itself, it would pay Scott’s debts and allow him to sell Abbotsford after the lease ended. The creditors agreed and Scott was able to remain living at Abbotsford for the majority of the year, departing for Malta in the summer months where he could live cheaply and which gave the King and Queen the use of a Scottish holiday home.

    The royal couple returned to Windsor to find young Prince Edward suffering from croup. With a high fever and a barking cough, the little Prince was placed into a small room where iodine was vapourised into the air to assist his breathing. But the royal doctors treating the Prince were concerned that his croup was a symptom of a far more serious disease – diphtheria. When the King and Queen entered the royal nursery, they found their infant son struggling for breath and prepared for the worst, they were advised that the next 48 hours would be crucial in determining Edward’s survival. The Queen sat next to the bedside of her child throughout the night whilst the King, himself not a well man, kneeled on the cold hard stone floor of St George’s Chapel for 12 hours in silent prayer. In his diary, the King noted; “I should give my Crown, my Kingdom and my riches to the lowliest beggar if the Lord spares dear little Eddy”. Following a tense few hours, the Prince passed “the crisis”, his breathing became regular and within a few days, his cough had all but disappeared.

    But secretly, the royal doctors had concerns that the little Prince would always remain a sickly child. Sir Andrew Halliday noted; “He is no longer the fat and rosy cheeked baby he was and whatever he is fed, he seems stunted in his ability to gain weight. His condition must be monitored carefully though I fear he shall never grow to adulthood and if he does, his prospects will be limited because of his very weak constitution”. This was kept from the King and Queen who considered themselves extremely fortunate to have been spared the death of their youngest child. Until now, Queen Louise had not displayed a particularly keen maternal instinct but from this time onwards, she insisted that the royal children spent two hours per day in her company and she frequently visited the nursery during the day to ensure that the children were happy and well. When she saw a nursery maid spank Princess Charlotte Louise for some minor misdemeanor, the Queen dismissed her at once without a reference and when the Prince of Wales fell on a gravel path and cut his knee, the Queen raged at his nanny for days threatening her with instant dismissal but relented because of how fond the Prince was of her.


    George, Marquess of Cholmondeley

    As Christmas 1825 approached, the King was dealt a personal blow when Lord Cholmondeley offered his resignation as Lord Chamberlain. Cholmondeley was 76 years old and in increasingly poor health, unable to perform his duties and looking forward to a quiet retirement at Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire. The position of Lord Great Chamberlain had become that of a kind of general factotum of the Royal Household during George IV’s reign because of his personal respect and admiration for Cholmondeley. But the position was hereditary and whilst the King welcomed the idea of Cholmondeley’s son and heir, the Earl of Rocksavage, as Cholmondeley’s successor, the Queen did not.
    The Earl of Rocksavage was courting Lady Susan Somerset (he later married her), daughter of the Duke of Beaufort and sister to Lady Elizabeth Somerset. For this reason, the position of Lord Great Chamberlain returned to its original form with the Earl spending little time at court. Though Lady Susan might otherwise have found herself welcomed at court as the intended of the Great Chamberlain, she was deliberately ostracised and this anti-Beaufort feeling in the Queen’s Household also saw the Marchioness of Cholmondeley leave court with her husband that year. Lord Eldon replaced her with Anne, Duchess of Buckingham.

    On the 15th of December 1825, the court prepared for the upcoming Christmas festivities at Windsor. The King had a busy morning receiving the Foreign Secretary, Lord Sidmouth, George Henry Law (the Bishop of Bath and Wells) and the Earl of Dalhousie, then Governor-General of British North America. After lunch, the King was to receive a deputation from the Royal Society of Literature which had recently been granted a royal charter and wished to present the King with a gift as a token of their gratitude. Following this audience, the King was to meet privately with Lord Radstock to personally express his condolences upon the death of his father, the 1st Baron Radstock, who had once served as Governor of Newfoundland. It was during this audience that the King suddenly began slurring his speech. When he tried to stand, he collapsed and for an instant, it appeared that George had died. Sir Andrew Halliday revived the King but it was evident that he had suffered a stroke.

    News of the King’s condition was sent immediately to Lord Eldon who raced to Windsor for a full assessment of the situation. Left partially paralysed for the rest of his life and confined to a wheelchair, the King could still talk (albeit it with a stammer) but he was easily tired and often confused. The Queen became a diligent and devoted nurse to her husband, refusing to leave his side and for the first time in their marriage, she eschewed separate bedrooms so that she could be with George day and night. She wheeled his chair in the grounds of the castle for him to take the air and helped him to recover to the stage where he could feed himself and write a little with his left hand. But the King refused to be seen in public and even when he was well enough to travel to London, he refused to appear in an open carriage for fear that people would see him as a weak man.

    The shock of the so-called “terrible winter” saw the King’s remaining hair turn a bright white and his sight was left blurred so that he could not make out faces unless someone stood at close proximity. Halliday wrote to the Prime Minister that in his view, the King remained mentally competent and that “though weakened by his attack, there is no reason to believe that His Majesty is incapable of carrying out his duties albeit on a more relaxed schedule so as to allow time for a full recovery to be made”. Eldon accepted this but in January 1826, he visited the Duke of Clarence in London to discuss the King’s condition. There was also discussion of the upcoming General Election in June, something which was relayed to the Queen who wrote a furious letter to her brother-in-law in which she admonished him for “seeking to remove the King from affairs of state which remain his and which are no concern to you whatsoever”. Clarence apologised to the Queen, protesting that it had been Lord Eldon who raised the matter of the General Election but it was clear that the true source of the Queen’s anger was the realisation that she may soon lose any influence she had at court.


    Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne

    Louise was still furious that she was to be cut out of the decision-making process for her son if a regency was required. The King’s close brush with death reinforced the idea of a future in which the Queen had little say or position which alarmed and frustrated her in equal measure. In the months after the King’s stroke, the Queen began receiving important establishment figures including Lord Lansdowne, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer. These visits were supposedly an opportunity to reassure key politicians that the King was able to continue in his post without the need for a regency but in reality, Queen Louise used them to discuss her own role in the future. Lansdowne noted in his diary that the Queen was; “most perturbed that the Duke of Clarence would effectively outrank her and that she would have no say in the day-to-day decisions affecting the Crown. She said that it was unthinkable that she should not be extended the same privilege as the late Queen [Charlotte] and I confess that she presented her case so well that I found it impossible to counter her reasoning. That said, I had to explain that it was not a matter I could raise in the House [of Lords] without giving rise to the notion that the King is incapable and Her Majesty seemed to accept this though she expressed disappointment that the matter could not be resolved”.

    The King was unable to attend the State Opening of Parliament in February 1826. Whilst Lord Eldon proposed that his address be read on his behalf by the Duke of Clarence, the King took the decision to leave the task to the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Earl of Rocksavage. George had always enjoyed a close friendship with his younger brother and it highly unlikely that this decision was not taken under the influence of the Queen. Indeed, requests by the Duke of Clarence to visit the King were denied on the grounds that the King was not well enough to receive him but both the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex were admitted to the royal presence and given tea by the Queen after their audience with His Majesty. It was clear that Clarence was being frozen out of the court by his sister-in-law which the Prime Minister privately noted to the Prince was “incredibly short sighted for if the worst happens and Your Royal Highness is called upon to deputise for the Prince of Wales, Her Majesty may find herself desirous of a charity which she has failed to demonstrate in this sudden change of heart which I find most unreasonable”.

    But not everybody disapproved of the Queen’s behaviour. The Duke of Cambridge wrote a letter to his brother the Duke of Clarence praising the Queen as “the most devoted wife, putting His Majesty first in all things”. Cambridge advised his brother to “ignore the gossip of the troublemakers of the court and do not think poorly of Louise for she is truly acting in the interests of our dear brother, the King. without a moment’s thought for her own position or needs”. But the Queen majorly overplayed her hand in May 1826, just a month before the General Election was held. Whilst her earlier meeting with the Whig politician Lord Lansdowne could be explained away that he wished to express his sympathy for the King’s poor state of health on behalf of his colleagues on the Opposition benches, further meetings took place with a clear view to the Queen trying to convince the Opposition to push for her involvement in a regency in the future if and when such a bill to provide for the arrangement came before parliament. Lord Eldon was furious that just weeks before he put his case to the public in a general election, the Queen had ignored the demand for political impartiality and had even been seen visiting a gallery with Lord Lansdowne’s wife, Lady Louisa.


    William, Duke of Clarence.

    In the event, Eldon was returned with the increased majority predicted. He secured 428 seats for the Tories with Lansdowne’s Whigs winning only 198. In the aftermath of the General Election, there were riots in areas of London with a large Irish population as it became clear that under Eldon as Prime Minister, Catholic emancipation was to be dropped from the political agenda entirely. This would have wider ramifications later on but the riots were quickly put down and Eldon settled into forming his new ministry. Queen Louise was kicked into touch when Eldon asked his ministers to ensure that the Duke of Clarence was given access to government papers usually reserved for the attention of the Sovereign alone. Eldon also wished the Duke to be present during the Prime Minister’s audiences with the King. Whilst the Queen had hoped to keep the Duke away from her husband, she found a solution to this by moving the King to Royal Lodge at Windsor on the pretext that it was a more comfortable place for him to recuperate. In reality, it meant that the Queen herself could be present for the Prime Minister’s audiences and whenever Eldon asked for a private word with the King, the Queen excused herself and the Duke of Clarence forcing him to leave the room. Eldon referred to this as “a grubby little pantomime” and from this point on, he became more boisterous in his private criticism of the Queen.

    Her next step was to remove the King from the political scene altogether. Against the advice of his doctors, the Queen insisted that the court move to Abbotsford for the summer months. The lease of the estate had been accepted by Sir Walter Scott’s creditors and the Queen insisted that though the journey would be arduous for the King, the benefits to his health would be worth it given how much better he had felt in Scotland previously. Whilst all other members of the Royal Family were invited to visit Abbotsford during the summer, the Duke and Duchess of Clarence were not. Instead, they remained in London where it became apparent that once again they were being kept away from the King on the orders of the Queen. The Duchess of Clarence wrote to the Duchess of Cambridge expressing her surprise at the way in which Louise was treating them given that she had “shown nothing but kindness to the Queen since her arrival in England”. She lamented “a forgotten friendship” and admitted to feeling “somewhat nervous for the future when, as things stand, we shall be called upon to serve in a way that can only offend the Queen further”.

    Lord Lansdowne felt the obvious solution to the problem was to make the Queen a kind of deputy regent to the Duke of Clarence if the time came. Clarence could perform his duties as expected but the Queen would feel she had a clear position and would thus be less inclined to cause difficulty. Eldon disagreed. He believed that the public would resent the concept of a foreigner being involved in decisions of the highest level and besides, the King himself had made clear his intention that the Queen should have no part to play in a regency. The Queen was “a stubborn and headstrong woman who may exert far too much influence in such a position”, Eldon said, “Further to which, her recent display of political bias makes clear how unsuitable it would be for her to have anything to do with the official functions of the Crown”. The Prime Minister also noted that for all her devotion to the King in the first few months after his stroke, she had “risked the King’s life with a foolish journey to Scotland which we all advised against and wish she demanded he undertake to suit her own petty agenda”.


    "His Majesty at Work", painted in 1825 by Sir David Wilkie.

    At Abbotsford, the King was blissfully unaware of the chaos his wife was causing and though the after-effects of his stroke were not to subside, he was said to be “in good spirits and high humour”. Halliday noted that his speech was improving but the paralysis was unchanged. However, the King’s eating habits had massively improved and he had lost a substantial amount of weight. He had stopped drinking alcohol entirely and his more simple diet had eased some of his other ailments. But this was only to be a temporary respite. Returning to Windsor in September 1826, the King’s decline was clear for all to see. He was now plagued by oedema of the legs and arms and was diagnosed with “dropsy” by his doctors. To modern physicians, the King’s health problems at this time clearly point to congestive heart failure but at the time, Halliday was more concerned with the King’s short-term condition rather than looking to any future complications.

    On the 20th of October that year, the King suddenly took a turn for the worse in the middle of the night. Queen Louise woke the household screaming “His Majesty is dying! Oh God, save him, save him!”. The King was not in fact dying but had suffered an episode of sleep apnoea. Nonetheless, the shock of almost losing her husband gave the Queen such a fright that from this time onward, she refused to sleep at night so that should watch the King sleep instead. The Duchess of Buckingham recorded that Louise was “so desperately tired but refuses to leave His Majesty’s side for a second. She fears he shall die and that she will be removed from court by the Duke of Clarence, forbidden from seeing her children and locked away from public view. There is nothing as callous in the Duke of Clarence’s nature but the Queen is not soothed when we express this, rather she weeps and becomes most anxious”.

    In view of the King’s decline, it was agreed that there would be no lavish festivities for Christmas or New Year and George IV was attended constantly by his doctors. Though conscious and able to speak a little, he was now confined to his bed which left him with agonising sores that had to be frequently treated causing him so much pain that he screamed into his pillow. The Queen paced nervously around his bedroom, bringing the children from the nursery to see him for one hour a day. The Duke of Clarence was not refused admittance to the King’s bedchamber but he was never to be left alone with his brother and thus, was frequently accompanied by the King’s sisters. When Princess Augusta saw the King on the 10th of November 1826, she wrote in her diary; “He appears so very frail and every movement causes him anguish and great discomfort. The Queen was kind to me, asking if I wished to have some time alone with him but I could not face it for there seemed nothing to say that would not upset or trouble him further. It is all such a sad business and I wept when I left him for I saw in his face that he is preparing his goodbye to us. But whilst I hope it may be a merciful release for His Majesty, I fear the rest of us will be bruised and battered in the turmoils of what is to come”.
    Last edited:
    GIV: Part 16: Good King George
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    King George IV

    Part Sixteen: Good King George

    Though regular bulletins concerning the King’s health had appeared in newspapers, none were permitted relating to his final illness. Indeed, it wasn’t until after Christmas Day in 1826 on the 29th of December that a London newspaper was allowed to report on the “concern all true Britons feel for His Majesty the King in his time of trial”. This rather flimsy reporting gave the public the first indication that George IV was gravely ill. The response was resigned but genuine sadness. George had been an unexpected King and though at times he had faced scandal and even outright criticism from certain corners, the country as a whole had come to see him as a benign monarch. He had no interest in politics or involving himself in the great matters of the day. Rather, he was happy to be seen and not often heard, present but not involved. His public appearances had drawn large crowds who were happy to have the chance to see the Sovereign after the long seclusion of King George III. Churches across the country opened their doors inviting people to pray for the King. The press reported a “steady stream of good Christian men and women who braved the cold night air to offer their fervent pleas to God to bring peace, comfort and good health to His Majesty”.

    Shortly before leaving the Royal Household, Sir Andrew Halliday was asked to provide an account of the King’s final days by the government. It is a sentimental document and not necessarily the more formal report one might expect from a physician. That said, Halliday had been in the King’s service for his entire reign and was considered a close personal friend of George IV’s. In that spirit, some of Halliday’s anecdotes seem to be embroidered with emotion and many historians doubt that his account is entirely genuine. He opens with a description of the King on Christmas Day 1826. According to Halliday, George IV; “was visited in his bedchamber by the Dean of Windsor who offered the King the greetings of the season before praying with Their Majesties. The King was sorrowful that he could not attend church but the Dean reassured him that this should cause him no concern. Immediately after the Dean left, the King was dressed and with great effort, allowed himself to be placed in an invalid’s chair. The royal children were then admitted and the King was much pleased to see them”.

    Queen Louise was said to be devoted to her husband’s care but according to Halliday; “Her Majesty had accepted that the King’s condition was most grave and though she never gave him anything but warm and tender care, she excused herself from the room upon the sight of the King with the children for she could not withhold her tears”. The Duchess of Buckingham later said that Queen Louise was “exhausted and prone to weeping” at this time and clearly a conversation had taken place to prepare her for the worst. The Duchess records how the Queen hated to leave the King “in case she missed his final moments” and at the turn of the New Year, Queen Louise asked that everybody else leave the King’s bedchamber so that they could be alone together for a time. The following morning, the Queen asked Sir William Knighton, the King’s Private Secretary, to send word to his siblings that the King appeared to be in the last days of his life and that if they wished to see him one last time, they should make their way to Windsor immediately.


    Princess Augusta Sophia.

    The last of his siblings to hear the King speak was his sister, Princess Augusta Sophia, who visited the King on the 2nd of January 1827 after walking to the castle from her home at Frogmore. According to a letter written to the Duchess of Clarence some time later, the Princess said; “Our poor dear brother looked so very anguished and though his speech was so very badly affected, he asked me to read a little to him from a book by his bedside which I believe Knighton had acquired for him. I read a little and he smiled, saying softly ‘My dear sister’ before he closed his eyes and fell into sleep. I kissed his forehead gently and left the room. I knew then that he could not last”. In the early hours of the 3rd of January 1827, George IV suffered another stroke. His condition was so grave that the Prime Minister and the Archbishops of York and Canterbury were immediately summoned to Windsor. Lord Eldon recalled seeing members of the Royal Family pacing in the grounds awaiting the latest update from Halliday and later said that despite recent tensions between them, when he kissed the Queen’s hand in greeting she clasped it firmly and said, “You are a great comfort to me”.

    For the duration of the 4th of January, the King lay silent in his bed, his breathing shallow and his face “clearly distorted from his sufferings”. The Dean of Windsor prayed with members of the Royal Family and the royal children were brought in to kiss their father’s forehead before being led out of the room by their nurse. The Dukes of Clarence, Cambridge, Cumberland and Sussex stood by the window of the King’s Bedchamber, Queen Louise sat on a chair next to the King’s bed holding his hand. Her sister Augusta, the Duchess of Cambridge sat beside her. The Duchess of Clarence, Princess Augusta Sophia and Princess Sophia Matilda stood behind them whilst Prince Leopold had come from Marlborough House to offer his own sympathies and stood at the foot of the King’s bed with Baron Stockmar. According to Halliday, this remained the scene until the King’s death but we know this to be untrue as Prince Leopold wrote a letter to his sister Victoria, Duchess of Kent in the evening in which he described various members of the Royal Family kissing the King goodbye and leaving the room. He also states that he ate with Princess Augusta and Princess Sophia at Frogmore where he was to stay that night.

    Halliday also suggests in his account that “the Queen never left His Majesty’s side for a moment at the end”. We know that Queen Louise had exhausted herself by keeping a constant watch during the King’s last weeks but the Duchess of Buckingham writes in a letter that the Queen “was woken by Sir William Knighton at 2am to tell her that His Majesty was at the end of his life” which suggests that the Queen retired to her own bedroom the night the King died. Both Halliday and the Duchess agree however that the Queen was holding the King’s hand when he died at 3.45am on the morning of the 5th of January 1827. He was 63 years old. Sir William Knighton’s diary confirms that he woke the Queen and that she was with him when the King died; “Her Majesty fell to her knees by the King’s bedside and wept before recovering herself. I found myself in great admiration of her as she tenderly kissed the King’s forehead and then departed the room, not even allowing herself a glance back at the King’s body. She asked that he be left alone until the undertakers came and all the lights were extinguished in the room and bedchamber door locked at Her Majesty’s insistence”.


    A portrait silhouette of George IV which accompanied his obituary in The Times.

    The King’s body was subjected to a post-mortem led by Andrew Halliday. George IV’s official cause of death was given as “dropsy” (oedema) but Halliday also noted that the King’s heart was enlarged with heavily calcified valves surrounded by a large fat deposit. At his own request, the tradition of allowing members of the Royal Household to see the King’s body before he was placed in his coffin was not observed. Instead, those who had served George during his reign were asked to line the corridor leading to the King’s Bedchamber where they knelt as the coffin was carried past them. This took some time as the undertakers struggled with the weight. George’s body had been placed inside a lead coffin with a plaque bearing his name and the dates of his birth and death, the lead coffin then being placed inside a second coffin made of English oak.

    The King’s coffin was taken to the King’s Drawing Room in the State Apartments where the lying in state was to be held. The Times described the scene: “The mortal remains of His Majesty were placed upon a bier covered with dark purple velvet and atop the coffin covered with a black cloth and draped to one side with the Royal Standard, was displayed the Royal crown and the insignia of the Order of the Garter of which, as King, His Majesty had been Sovereign”. Members of the Royal Family and of the Royal Household stood in the King’s Drawing Room as the Archbishop of Canterbury led prayers and four officers of the Coldstream Guards, the regiment the King had once served with in his military career, flanked each corner of the bier with their heads bowed standing vigil throughout the night. The King’s death was announced in the evening edition of newspapers across the country but official proclamations were not to be given until the following morning and thus, most people did not know the King had died until they made their way to market the next day.

    To everybody’s surprise, there seemed to be genuine public grief at the King’s death. In his obituary, The Times referred to the late King as “Good King George” and paid tribute to his “steadfast devotion to duty, a duty he could not have expected to inherit but which he did so with a forbearance that was to be found in abundance in his character as a soldier and as a gentleman”. This seemed to capture the public mood and across England houses were decorated with black crepe, their curtains were drawn and in a symbolic gesture that would start a new tradition, white flowers were displayed in vases placed on doorsteps to indicate mourning. It is believed that this began when a florist in Peckham began handing out white flowers in memory of the King from her barrow and once reported in the press, people across the country dashed out to obtain white blooms to decorate their doorsteps with. This would become a popular funerary custom in England but fell out of favour at the turn of the century.


    The lying in state of King George IV.

    The King’s funeral was to take place in the evening of the 9th of January 1827 [1] just four days after his death. As news of the King’s death travelled, thousands began to arrive in Windsor, far more than the town could accommodate. Food and beer supplies ran low and innkeepers were criticised for increasing their prices to take full advantage of the sudden influx of people. The lying in state itself proved somewhat chaotic and unfortunately, some were more interested in viewing the spectacle than they were offering genuine sympathies. There were reports of members of the public being knocked to the floor by those who refused to observe the movement of the line and wished to stand for as long as possible before the King’s coffin. As the lying in state ended, some members of the public deliberately stalled so that they could blend in with the admission of the 7,000 people who had been allocated tickets to watch the funeral procession make its way from the State Apartments to St George’s Chapel. As a result, the Lower Ward was filled way over its capacity and it proved difficult to keep the crowd quiet.

    At 7.30pm on the 9th of January 1827, the procession assembled at the Norman Gateway. Traditionally, women did not take part in the funeral procession itself and so Queen Louise, the King’s sisters and the ladies of the Queen’s Household went ahead of the procession in closed carriages. The King had requested that (as an old soldier) his coffin should be covered with a black pall and transferred to a gun carriage after which the King’s remains would be taken from the State Apartments through the Norman Gateway and down from the Middle Ward of Windsor Castle to the Lower Ward into St George’s Chapel for the funeral service itself. However when the undertakers reached the Norman Gateway where the gun carriage was waiting for its charge, they found that one of the wheels refused to turn. There was a long delay as they tried to get the carriage moving but eventually had to concede that the King’s coffin would have to be carried down the steep hill of the Lower Ward on foot.

    Princess Augusta noted that this resulted in “a most undignified performance with the undertakers stopping every so often which was certainly not the way things should have been done”. The last-minute change of transportation also meant that nothing could remain on top of the coffin until it was safely in St George’s Chapel, least of all the Crown which the undertakers feared would topple off as they processed along the Lower Ward. The procession itself was formed of the Dukes of Clarence, Cumberland, Cambridge and Sussex as well as the Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh and Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. The Knights of the Garter, the Military Knights of Windsor, the Heralds of Arms and the King’s most senior courtiers preceded the incumbents of the Great Offices of State including the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. At the sides of the procession, military personnel bowed their heads with their guns reversed as a sign of respect and pages holding lanterns aloft were evenly spaced so as to light the procession route.

    The Great Bell of St George’s tolled as the King’s coffin was taken up the West Steps and into the chapel itself. The Duke of Clarence served as Chief Mourner (a post again denied to women at this time even if they were the spouse or eldest child of the deceased). He sat in a black covered armchair at one end of the coffin with the other Royal Princes sitting in their stalls as Knights of the Garter. Queen Louise and the royal princesses sat in the small gallery adjoining the altar on the north side of the quire known as the Queen’s Closet. In this cramped room, the Queen was at least able to weep for her husband away from prying eyes but Princess Augusta complained that the delay to the procession meant that the ladies were “stuffed shoulder to shoulder into the Queen’s Closet and we felt most uncomfortable for a terribly long time”.


    The Royal Burial Vault, Windsor.

    The burial service itself was almost entirely chanted until finally, at 11.00pm, the late King’s style and various titles were proclaimed by Sir George Nayler as Garter Principle King of Arms. The coffin of King George IV was lowered by machinery into the underground passage leading to the Royal Burial Vault where it was temporarily housed on a platform before being placed into a recess in the vault just beneath the coffin of King George III and next to that of the late Prince Regent. At the end of his proclamation, Sir George Nayler announced, “God Save King George V” and the band outside the chapel played God Save the King. The crowd assembled in the Lower Ward sang with such gusto that nobody could hear the rockets let off from the Long Walk. In leaving the chapel, the guests (perhaps exhausted by the day’s events) forgot all protocol and swarmed for the West Steps. As a result, the Royal Family had to wait behind (being seated furthest from the doors) until a path could be cleared for them to exit via the South Door. But the crowds had yet to be dispersed and the carriages intended to return the female guests to the State Apartments could not get through. In the event, Queen Louise and the King’s sisters were forced to wait inside the South Door for an hour before they could be collected.

    In London the day after the King’s death, the Accession Council was held at St James’ Palace to give directions for the proclamation of the King’s successor, his eldest son, the Prince of Wales. There was some delay in this when Queen Louise suggested that her son would take the regnal name of King Frederick in honour of both his father’s Christian name and that of her own father, Landgrave Frederick of Hesse-Kassel. However, when the six-year-old King was finally proclaimed across the city of London the following morning, he was proclaimed as King George V. It is unclear as to how this happened but historians have disproved the assertion of Queen Louise in later life that the Duke of Clarence intervened. He was not at the Accession Council, neither did he correspond with any of its members before, during or after it’s meeting. However, the Duke did meet with the Prime Minister at Windsor Castle after the funeral of King George IV to discuss the arrangements for the imminent regency.

    King George V was the youngest Sovereign at the time of his accession since King Henry VI in 1421. Henry VI had been just 8 months old. Arrangements for a regency had already been discussed but as parliament had been prorogued upon the death of the Sovereign, the bill to secure the Duke of Clarence as The King’s Regent could not be introduced immediately. According to the Succession to the Crown Act of 1707, parliament was to be recalled as soon as possible and to proceed to act in the usual form. This was scheduled for the 15th of January 1827 and so in the interim, Lord Eldon summoned the Lord Chancellor to Windsor where he affixed the Great Seal of the Realm to Letters Patent naming Lords Commissioners to appoint the Duke of Clarence as regent as the Duke of Cambridge as his deputy according to the late King’s wishes. This was irregular but had precedent, the same procedure being employed in 1811 to provide a regency for the incapacitated King George III. When parliament met again for the first time after the death of King George IV, much of their time was taken up with the Oath of Allegiance to the new sovereign and a vote on an Address to the Crown officially expressing condolences upon the death of King George IV and pledging loyalty to King George V. Thus, it took a further two weeks before the Regency Act 1827 was introduced, debated and passed, confirming the arrangements made at Windsor on the night of George IV’s funeral.


    The Duke of Clarence, The King's Regent.

    In the first days of the Regency, the Duke of Clarence returned to London where he received important deputations at Clarence House. He was also asked to sign hundreds of appointments reinstating civil servants and other officers of the Crown who had lost their position as a result of George IV’s death. This practise was later abolished but in the rush of this procedure, it was impossible for Queen Louise to meet with her brother-in-law which she took as a personal affront. In her grief, the Queen’s anxiety that she was to be put aside and kept away from her son became a constant obsession and royal doctors were forced to give her sedatives to calm her. She protested to the Duchess of Buckingham that she believed Clarence had always secretly favoured the Duchess of Kent over her and now he would welcome Kent back to England and treat Louise as George IV had treated Victoria. There was absolutely no basis of truth to this, indeed, the Duke of Clarence had always despised the Duchess of Kent and had no intention of inviting her back to England.

    But the Queen’s fears were exacerbated when her agreed meeting with the Duke was postponed and panicked, she travelled to Buckingham Palace where she summoned the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister explained to her that the Duke of Clarence wished to conduct his official duties as regent from Clarence House and that as soon as was possible, he would come to see Louise at the Palace and explain what had been taking place in the days since her husband’s death. The Queen raged at this, insisting that she should have present at all meetings and that any official business in the name of her son, the King, should take place at Buckingham Palace. Furthermore, she insisted that she should have a daily report of the Regent’s diary and that she had the right to be consulted on all matters relating to the King’s day to day schedule. It was now, for the first time, that the Prime Minister felt able to address the Queen in the manner many had wished possible some years ago.

    According to the Duchess of Buckingham, Eldon; “informed Her Majesty that she would always be afforded the dignity and respect owed to her as a Dowager Queen and that her maternal interest in the King’s wellbeing would always be considered before any decisions were made. When the Queen protested that she should take the place of the Duke of Cambridge, the Prime Minister became exasperated. He said, ‘Madam, I have simply carried out the wishes of His late Majesty in this. These are the things he wished and which I, as his chief minister and most obedient servant, was duty bound to carry out’. The Queen responded, ‘And what of my wishes Sir? Are they to count for nothing?’. The Prime Minister replied, ‘This is the way of things Ma’am. I am troubled that they grieve you so but this must be the way of things’. He then departed leaving the Queen visibly shaken”. For Louise, the realisation of what her husband's death meant for her began to sink in. Though she would remain at court for most of her son's early reign, she would never again be able to command things as she had. In the words of the Duchess of Buckingham, "Her wings were clipped and she lamented the days of old".

    A new reign had begun.

    [1] The funerals of George III and the OTL George IV (Prince Regent) took place at 8pm in the evening and not in the daytime as we’ve become used to.

    [2] The funeral arrangements here were based on those of George III and the OTL George IV (Prince Regent). The regency arrangements follow the same procedure of 1811.

    And that concludes the King George IV timeline! A huge thanks to everyone who has been following this, it was my first TL here and I absolutely loved researching and writing it. So much so that I clearly can't leave it here.

    The sequel to this timeline will be a much longer one given that George V's reign will obviously last a lot longer than that of his father. We'll go through the "Second Regency" until George V reaches adulthood and there'll be royal marriages for the King's children as well as Princess Victoria of Kent. Then it's on to the second half of George V's reign as we experience a Britain without Queen Victoria. And of course, Queen Louise's fate will be included!

    Because George V's reign will be so long, my plan is to split the Timeline in two. After the first half of his reign, there'll be the biography of Princess Victoria of Kent before we go back to George V. This seems the easiest way to handle it without becoming too sidetracked.

    I'm excited to start work on this and I really hope you'll stick with this TL as it moves into the new reign. Because the next installment will be a sequel, I'll continue to post in this thread. Many thanks again!
    Last edited:
    GV: Part 1, Chapter 1: The Boy King
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor

    King George V
    (1827 - 1885)

    Part One
    From Regency to Coronation

    Chapter One: The Boy King

    As the snow fell in the second week of January 1827, Captain William Smith (known to all as ‘Honest Billy’) watched with a gentle smile as his young charge played in the falling flurry. It had been the general consensus that court mourning would not apply to the royal children and as such, the 6-year-old boy who had just a week earlier become King George V carried on as any small child would in the winter excitement. He could have no idea at this time that in the castle he called home, tensions between those who would become the foundation of his early reign threatened to erupt throughout the panelled corridors hung with the portraits of his predecessors. Neither had he the slightest inkling that his own position had changed. Wrapping the boy in a fur cloak after a time, Honest Billy took the Prince to his rooms where his devoted nanny, Elsie Cable, ran him a warm bath and playfully scolded the Captain for letting the child spend so long in the freezing winter air. In just a few days, young Georgie would travel to Buckingham Palace where he would meet with his uncle and regent, the Duke of Clarence. There he would learn that he was now King and everything would change.

    From the age of five, Georgie had begun to take afternoon classes in basic reading, writing and arithmetic under the tutelage of George Cottingham, a tutor from Eton College who came highly recommended by the college’s headmaster John Keate. The lessons were the brainchild of Baron Stockmar, Private Secretary to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, who had been asked by King George IV for his advice on how the then Prince of Wales should be educated. Unaware that by the time the next phase would begin the Prince would be King, the so-called Stockmar System proposed a rigorous and intense programme of studies in languages, mathematics, the sciences, history and religious studies. These were to be accompanied by extracurricular activities such as gardening or assisting on the farms at Windsor. Due to begin when George turned 8, it was decided to introduce the next phase when the King turned 7 instead. But no consideration had been given to providing playmates for the young Prince who studied entirely alone. As a small child, he had been able to socialise only with his younger sister Princess Charlotte Louise but her education was to be limited and handled by a German governess appointed by her mother. Now Georgie didn’t even have Lottie’s company in the schoolroom. [1]


    A portrait of King George V aged 8 by Sir Martin Shee. [2]

    Neither had anyone considered how and when to explain to the Prince of Wales the nature of his position in life. King George IV had learned that he would be King in his mid-50s by which time he had lived almost entirely independently with a freedom he was rarely forced to restrict. Things would be very different for ‘the Boy King’ and whilst George IV had hoped to live long enough to explain the situation to his son personally, now the responsibility fell to the King’s Regent, the Duke of Clarence. The Prime Minister, Lord Eldon, met with the Duke shortly before this meeting to establish the composition of the new Royal Household. Whilst some office holders would remain in place, the nature of the Second Regency meant that some courtiers were no longer needed. Sir William Knighton, the late King’s Private Secretary, became Private Secretary to the Duke of Clarence. As for ‘Honest Billy’, so well-liked was he by the Royal Family that he was appointed the first Crown Equerry with the intention that he would serve as a confidant and exemplary model of military discipline to the young King.

    To her horror, the dedicated Elsie Cable saw the young King leave her charge as it was decided that the King would no longer take meals in the royal nursery. Instead, he would eat with Honest Billy, the Duke of Clarence or senior courtiers who could prompt and encourage educational dinner conversation. Georgie’s living quarters were to change too. The Duke of Clarence wished to remain resident at Clarence House and so it was that Georgie occupied the King’s Apartments at Buckingham Palace and at Windsor Castle which were slightly modified to make them more child friendly. The downside of this was that his time with his sister and younger brother Prince Edward became extremely limited and in London, servants were forced to watch as the young King kicked a ball in the gardens alone or sat sadly on a wall by himself. When a footman broke rank and began to race with the King, he was instantly dismissed without a character.

    The King’s 7th birthday on the 20th of April 1827 could not be celebrated with any grand ceremony or festivities as the court remained in mourning for his father. Nonetheless, the Duke of Clarence arranged an intimate gathering of the Royal Family at Windsor where tea was served and a birthday cake was wheeled in for the wide-eyed boy who naturally became over excited. He rushed around the room brandishing a toy sword he had been gifted by the Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh and Princess Augusta left early complaining that the noise of the royal children was far too loud. This was enough to convince Baron Stockmar that his programme of education should indeed be brought forward by a year and that “there was absolutely no harm in advancing the implementation of the system, indeed, if we do not I fear the King may find it difficult to adjust after a year of doing relatively little other than fill his time with childish pursuits”.

    Baron Stockmar, now promoted to Physician to His Majesty the King to replace the outgoing Sir Andrew Halliday, was intended to serve more as a moral guardian and tutor than just a doctor. Stockmar answered to the Duke of Clarence but Prince Leopold, whom the Duke liked and whom Stockmar had served for many years, became a permanent fixture again at court. For Stockmar this proved essential as some of his more harsh suggestions were initially rejected by the Duke of Clarence only to be accepted later when Prince Leopold had voiced support for them. One particularly unpleasant decision concerned a rabbit farm at Windsor. As part of his new educational programme, Georgie was given charge of six rabbits which lived in hutches near to the castle in the Home Park. As they reproduced, Georgie was to tend the rabbits and raise the babies to adulthood.

    The young King became devoted to his rabbits as any child would and whenever he was at Windsor for the next year, he raced to the Home Park to visit them. He drew each rabbit and named them, keeping careful records of their diet and pedigree. One morning, Georgie raced to the rabbit farm only to find the hutches were gone. Stockmar considered the activity to have been a success but saw no reason why the King should want to keep the rabbits now that the educational advantage had been gained. To add insult to injury, Georgie was served some of his former pets for supper. Stockmar insisted this was the best way to demonstrate how many of Georgie’s subjects lived on their own farms but the young King promptly vomited at the dining table and screamed until he had to be calmed down by Honest Billy. Stockmar was concerned at this reaction, writing a note to the Duke of Clarence that he hoped this was not a sign of “excessive sentimentality or emotional weakness which might indicate instability in his character”.


    Baron Stockmar.

    Baron Stockmar’s weekly schedule for the King was rigid and unbending. There were to be no deviations to the programme and Honest Billy was charged with ensuring that the King was always present and punctual. After a breakfast restricted to warm porridge with honey and a little dried fruit, the King was taken for a half an hour walk by Billy come rain or shine. After this, he was to change into a kind of school uniform and his lessons began. From 8.30am until 4.00pm, Cottingham lectured on everything from important military battles of the last 100 years to the mating habits of dragonflies. When he was 12, the subject material would include more detail on constitutional matters. But as a 7-year-old boy, Georgie came to long for afternoon tea at four o’clock when his lessons had come to an end and when he was permitted to take tea with his mother, Queen Louise, and his siblings in the King’s Drawing Room. At first, this was an awkward ceremony with the Queen and Princess Charlotte Louise (Prince Edward still in infancy) expected to curtsey to the boy and wait for his permission to begin eating. Stockmar insisted on this etiquette being strictly observed so as to reinforce Georgie’s position to his younger siblings from the very start and fortunately, within a few months, it became second nature and far less uncomfortable for those involved.

    Saturdays were spent on the farms on the Crown Estate whilst Sundays began with church after which time, the King spent two hours in the company of his mother before receiving those the young Georgie nicknamed ‘the Four Old Men’; the Duke of Clarence, the Prime Minister, Baron Stockmar and Prince Leopold [3]. Together, the ‘Four Old Men’ questioned the young King on his activities of the week and prepared him for what was to come in the next seven days. Whilst these meetings were a bore for Georgie, there was one advantage he greatly looked forward to. Every Sunday evening when he met with the ‘Four Old Men’, the Duke of Clarence would bring him a gift of a box of tin soldiers. The Duke would explain the regiment, the rank and the role they played and Honest Billy created a model battlefield so that the young King might re-enact famous battles as his collection grew. This created a long-held obsession in Georgie who prized his collection of tin soldiers his entire life, so much so that by the time he died, he had amassed thousands of them representing regiments from across all corners of the globe. Naturally Stockmar approved enormously of this activity.

    In his diary, the Duke of Clarence records the moment he first explained to Georgie that he was now King; “At first I feared he may weep or become tearful and so I elected to discuss with him his history lessons and I addressed the reign of King Edward VI. After a time, he seemed to understand the situation but who can truly know if the matter is fixed in his mind or what effect it will have upon him”. But the Duke had high hopes for his nephew; “He displays a fine character and a degree of comprehension that is rare in one so young. I believe his education will smooth any rough edges there may be and whilst I believe his current influences to be wholesome, I agreed with Stockmar that it would be quite unwise to widen these beyond the family and trusted officials at this time. We must never forget that to those outside he is the King and they will undoubtedly treat him as such which at such a crucial age may impart an arrogance in him which must be avoided at all costs”.

    Whilst the Duke of Clarence had carried out his brother’s wishes to the letter regarding the King’s education going forward, there was one matter he could not avoid and which caused significant unpleasantness at court in the first year after George IV’s death. It had been the late King’s wish that the Duke of Clarence serve as regent for his son and that a Deputy should be appointed in the person of the Duke of Cambridge. Lord Eldon had agreed with this, though the Duke spent much of his time in Hanover and rarely involved himself in any official way in the King’s upbringing. Queen Louise was to be kept away from any kind of official role though she remained the most senior woman at the British court. But Louise was loathe to accept this and in the first few weeks after the King’s death, she became obsessed with the idea that the Duke of Clarence was going to put her aside and send her back to Germany. She confided to the Duchess of Buckingham that she feared William favoured the Duchess of Kent over her and was planning to “exact revenge on her for what had happened in the years previous”.


    Queen Louise depicted in mourning in 1827.

    The Duke of Clarence had no such intentions and he insisted that Queen Louise be reassured that she was free to see her son whenever she wished. But Stockmar’s schedule restricted these opportunities and immediately, Queen Louise decided that Stockmar was the true threat to her position. This only intensified when she learned that she was no longer entitled to certain privileges she had enjoyed during her husband’s lifetime. She blamed Stockmar for cutting her number of ladies in waiting and in restricting her access to certain jewels in the royal vaults. It was explained to Louise that the life of a Dowager Queen in England that of ‘The’ Queen were different. Whilst she would still enjoy precedence over all other women in the Royal Family, her position as the King’s mother did not give her any constitutional role, indeed, arrangements had been made to provide a regent to avoid this. Queen Louise summoned the Duke of Clarence to her presence at Windsor Castle and raged at him, accusing him of giving Stockmar too much influence. The Duke reminded her that she and the late King had been only too happy to accept Stockmar’s advice before and that he felt Stockmar a reliable and resourceful advisor. Queen Louise demanded he be dismissed which the Duke of Clarence politely refused. As a result, Louise withdrew in great temper to Royal Lodge where she remained for three weeks refusing even to receive her son, the King.

    Louise faced no retaliation for this behaviour from the Duke of Clarence. He was not a petty man and in many ways, he sympathised with her situation. He was pleased to see her take tea with the King each day and when he heard that Stockmar intended to cancel their Sunday meeting in order that Georgie serve an extra day on the farms on the Royal Estate, the Duke admonished Stockmar and told him always to ensure that Georgie saw his mother on Sunday afternoons. It would be easy to assume that Queen Louise was unhappy with what we may regard as far too intense a schedule for a child of seven years old or that she was grieved by his lack of friends or playmates. However, Louise’s motivation was neither of these things. The Duchess of Buckingham later wrote that she felt that Louise “mourned her loss of influence, power and position far more than she did the late King. And as for her son, she was furious if ever he missed a meeting but thought nothing of failing to turn up for them herself if a more interesting activity came along”.

    Nonetheless Queen Louise had endless complaints and these were always put in writing to the Duke of Clarence which form a substantial part of her archive. In one letter, she raises objections to how much the King is being served to eat for breakfast, in another she bemoans he is being served too little. There is a missive sent to the Duchess of Cambridge in which Queen Louise accuses the Duke of Clarence of indulging the King in his newfound passion for watercolour painting at a cost to his studies. Yet just a few days later, Louise writes to the Duchess of Clarence fuming on the lack of free time the King is being given and begging that he be allowed “a little more time to enjoy his painting which he so much enjoys and which can hardly be injurious to his learning”. Lord Eldon considered Louise’s behaviour “petty and of no consequence” but the Duke of Clarence began to grow increasingly frustrated with his sister-in-law, especially when she admonished him for allowing the young King to spend the afternoon with his cousin Princess Victoria at Clarence House instead of taking tea with his siblings. The Duke explained that Princess Charlotte Louise had a cold and it was felt unwise for the King to be exposed to any infection, thus he felt it “perfectly well-ordered” that the King take tea with Princess Victoria instead. Queen Louise responded that she; “accepted the reason on this occasion but I should not be so accommodating were the incident to repeat itself in the future”.


    Princess Charlotte Louise depicted in a portrait from 1828.

    Again, whilst some may believe that Queen Louise was merely being protective of her son, or that she was displaying some natural maternal instinct, she showed no such interest in the arrangements made for her daughter. Princess Charlotte Louise was to remain in the nursery and was taught basic reading, writing and arithmetic by a governess from the age of five. But after the age of eight, the Princess would take a very different course to her older brother. There would be classes in languages and some recent history but otherwise her education was to be confined to music, ballet, art appreciation and “suitable literature, preferably that of a religious nature”. Stockmar felt it likely than in the years to come Charlotte Louise, as the daughter of a British King, could make an impressive marriage but that any future husband (hopefully one of the highest rank) would be deterred by a girl with too much education. It is possible that Queen Louise agreed with Stockmar on this and so never raised objections but notes sent to the royal nursery by Queen Louise at this time pertain only to Prince Edward. None mention Princess Charlotte Louise at all and in later years, the Princess would have no relationship with her mother whom she always referred to as “Her Majesty” and never as “Mama”.

    The Duke of Clarence meanwhile had no time to indulge his sister-in-law’s persecution complex. The death of his elder brother had triggered a General Election and whilst Lord Eldon considered that the public had “enormous and genuine affection for their King”, this was not universally true. Radicals still existed and since the King’s death, anti-government protests led by Irish communities in England had broken out on a regular basis condemning the decision of the so-called “Orange Cabinet” to withdraw any future proposals for Catholic emancipation. Whilst no Tory would dare support such public disorder, many had sympathy for the cause and on the Opposition benches, there was a feeling that a new reign should mark a turning point with a view to constitutional reform being seriously considered. In the face of two threats made against the young King’s life being discovered in March 1827, security for the royal children was dramatically increased and the Duke of Clarence feared that Lord Eldon risked splitting his own party on the matter of emancipation and reform. He also had concerns that some MPs might wish to force certain issues now that he was regent and was known for being more sympathetic to liberal ideas than his father or brothers. [4]


    Sir Robert Peel.

    In the 1827 General Election, of the 87 seats gained by the Tories in 1826, 28 were lost. Eldon was keen to point out the whys and wherefores and to minimise the reasons for the losses which he insisted were due to a mixture of “election fatigue” and “the rise of some temporarily and inconvenient radical elements”. But the Tories still had a substantial majority in the House of Commons and whilst he accepted there were some differences of opinion in certain quarters of his party, he felt able to reassure the Duke of Clarence that there was no political crisis on the horizon. For all his confidence, the Tory Party benches were home to malcontents. These individuals “felt that the Cabinet was overtly “ultra-Tory”, in other words, that men like the Chancellor of the Exchequer, William Huskisson, and Lord Camden, still a Minister without Portfolio from the Liverpool ministry, would not even countenance a compromise on issues they felt would increase division and inflame tensions in public. The ultra-Tories rejected their moniker and insisted that they represented the majority view on Catholic emancipation and Constitutional reform. [5]

    There was one man in the Cabinet however who concerned Lord Eldon more than any other. Robert Peel, Home Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons, had served under Lord Liverpool and had happily joined forces with Lord Eldon when he became Prime Minister. Just 24 months earlier, Peel had voiced support for Eldon’s position on both subjects but now he seemed open to the view being expressed by the malcontents in the Tory party. Indeed, some of these were even beginning to regard Peel as a suitable alternative to Eldon. Eldon confided these concerns to the Duke of Clarence who “was kind enough to offer reassurance” but there was a feeling in parliament that Eldon was very much “yesterday’s man” and that his premiership had hit a rough patch which he would need to do his best to steer himself out of and quickly. Whilst Eldon seemed secure enough for the immediate future, he became more aware of those expressing criticism of his positions among his own backbenches, however mild or well intentioned that criticism may be. The Duke of Clarence felt Eldon to be overly concerned by such matters and advised him to “stay the course”.

    The Duke was now over 60, his hair grey and his portly figure giving him a slight waddle when he walked. For all the stresses and strains of his new role, he still found time to devote to his wife and his niece Princess Victoria at Clarence House. Both the King and Princess Charlotte Louise agreed in later life that, in Princess Charlotte Louise’s words, the Duke was; “the most superb uncle and playmate”. She recalled how he “fashioned a ship from two settees and in between and at the front he used very tall candlesticks draped with sheets to form the sails. We children hopped into this creation and Uncle William was the captain, taking us to all sorts of wonderful and interesting places. He narrated everything we saw in such marvellous detail that I truly believed I had visited Africa and India and of course we loved best the part when we inevitably hit a rock and with much dramatic gurglings and cries we pretended to fall overboard. Then Aunt Adelaide would appear and see us convulsed in giggles upon the rug with dear Uncle William laughing loudest of all and she would chivvy him for exciting us so. But I also saw her laugh with us on many occasions and though she would never board our little ship, she once agreed to play the part of a tribal princess who gave us all strawberries which we pretended never to have seen before”.


    Adelaide, Duchess of Clarence and St Andrews.

    Whilst the King had a more restrictive upbringing around this time than his younger siblings, they remained incredibly close. “Georgie” and “Lottie” were as devoted to each other as they both were to their little brother “Eddy” and both enjoyed nothing more than being allowed to take the baby out in his perambulator in the gardens of Buckingham Palace. Princess Charlotte Louise treated him as a living doll and became quite infuriated when the royal nursery staff wouldn’t allow her to pick him up and feed him whenever the mood took her. She recalled later; “I was not at all discouraged when he made horrible messes or pulled my hair for he was such a happy and charming little baby and so full of joy at everything we did”. The King also later recalled in his adulthood how “the best memories of my rather unusual childhood were those moments we three spent together. I do not believe we were spoilt children at all and we found happiness in silly imaginings, playing games together which I still remember so very fondly to this day”. But neither the King nor Princess Charlotte Louise mention their mother in their diaries, letters or memoirs of later years with any affection at all. She is referenced only in passing.

    It would be unfair to suggest however that Queen Louise made no effort to provide her children with happy childhood memories and indeed, she did go to great lengths in 1827 to insist that they be given a holiday from their studies and join her in Scotland. The lease of Abbotsford for ten years provided the royal children with a four week break in Scotland and whilst the majority of the British Royal Family were not invited, invitations were sent to relatives of Queen Louise in Germany making for a lively house party. For the young King, his holidays in Abbotsford had a particularly poignant meaning for these marked rare occasions when he had the opportunity to mix with other children his own age. Queen Louise’s sister and brother-in-law, the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, brought their children Luise, Caroline and Georg whilst the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were included along with their children George and Augusta. In 1827, Queen Louise’s eldest brother William also attended with his children Karoline, Marie, Louise, Friedrich Wilhelm and Auguste but his wife Louise remained in Denmark with their 8-month-old daughter, Sophie [6]. Invitations were not sent to the Duke and Duchess of Clarence and Princess Victoria, neither were any other of the King’s aunts or uncles (with the exception of the Cambridges) asked to stay.

    Still, Abbotsford provided a stage for some of King George V’s happiest memories and he was greatly taken with his Danish cousins whom he regarded as “far more outgoing and friendly” than his Strelitz relations. He was incredibly fond of his uncle William and later recalled how the Prince took a party of the children into the grounds of Abbotsford and threw each one into the River Tweed finally allowing himself (“with false protests”) to be dragged into the water too. Princess Charlotte Louise remembered “skating competitions” in the entrance hall where the children would slip velvet covers onto their shoes and slide up and down the polished stone floor until “Aunt Marie Strelitz would appear from the library to scold us and lecture us on how badly we might injure ourselves. I’m afraid to say we took no notice of her very sound and wise advise and continued with many bruises and bumps occurring as a result”.



    Despite their coldness towards Queen Louise in later life, both King George V and Princess Charlotte Louise speak of her kindly in relation to Abbotsford. Princess Charlotte Louise recalled “how much lighter in spirit she was there” and the King later told one of his grandchildren that he had only ever seen his mother truly happy when she was in Scotland. He also remembered how he and his siblings would “wail and cry when the time came to leave Abbotsford for we knew we had to return to our studies and the very dull business of responsibility”. For Baron Stockmar, these four weeks were the only exception he was willing to make and even Christmas or Easter celebrations were not allowed to disrupt his precious system. Indeed, Christmas 1827 saw the young King remain in lessons on both Christmas Eve and Boxing Day with only Christmas Day itself allowed as a holiday. Whilst some historians suggest this is because the first anniversary of George IV’s death and funeral was fast approaching, this remained the pattern until the King reached the age of majority with very few exceptions.

    Beyond the walls of the Palace, the British public found themselves fascinated by every small detail of their new King’s lifestyle and daily habits. Whilst some in government had been concerned that the British people would resent “the Boy King”, public interest overflowed with demands for information that became so constant that newspapers offered large sums to palace servants for any morsel of information they could include in their daily editions. When this was discovered, eight servants from Buckingham Palace and four from Windsor Castle were dismissed and palace moles had to become a little more adept in their spying. However, nothing harmful was ever printed, indeed, the public would have been angry if any newspaper had anything but pleasant stories about the King in print. The names George and Charlotte became instant favourites with the public with the majority of babies born that year given the royal names at their baptisms, moreso than when the royal children had been born. Far from resenting him, the British people had very much taken the “Boy King” to their hearts. It remained to be seen how long that would continue.

    [1] This is based on the educational programme Stockmar created for the infant Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) in the OTL.

    [2] This is actually a portrait of Shee's son but it fits well here so I've adopted the image for a young George V.

    [3] Prince Leopold remained an important figure at the British court. Naturally his influence increased when Victoria became Queen in the OTL (and he King of the Belgians) but as he was a close friend of the Duke of Clarence and given his relation to Baron Stockmar, I've increased that influence a little early. This will also suit a later narrative I have planned.

    [4] As King, William IV was more friendly to liberals than his predecessors had been despite having previously taken the opposite stance on the issues of Catholic emancipation and Constitutional reform. He didn't change his mind but he tried to remain more neutral than his father or brother, which I feel he would apply as Regent in this TL.

    [5] This TL erases George Canning as Prime Minister but the internal politics of the Tory party remain similar (if not heightened because of the makeup of the Cabinet and Eldon's backtracking on the big issues of the day). This is the first mention of the changing political situation I've designed for this TL.

    [6] Princess Sophie died in December 1827.
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    GV: Part 1, Chapter 2: The Four Old Men
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    King George V

    Part One, Chapter Two: The Four Old Men

    In later life, King George V looked back on the first year of his reign as being entirely controlled by a group he dubbed “the Four Old Men”. These were; his uncle and regent The Duke of Clarence, the Prime Minister of the day Lord Eldon, his physician Baron Stockmar and the widow of his late first cousin Princess Charlotte of Wales, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha [1]. Whilst George would always resent Baron Stockmar for his strict and unforgiving regime, he was enormously fond of the other three parties. As he grew older, he enjoyed audiences with Lord Eldon where the Prime Minister explained the constitution in a far more entertaining and engaging way than his tutor Cottingham. The Duke of Clarence meanwhile became a kind of surrogate father to the young King and George recalled how during a particularly bad period in which he suffered almost constantly from nightmares, the Duke sat by the young King’s bed reading poetry to him to calm and reassure him. But it was Prince Leopold who contributed the most to George V’s childhood memories and as a result, became a key fixture in the King’s early life.

    Stockmar’s rigid system of education had many advantages but one major oversight was a total lack of social interaction. The Duke of Clarence had proposed that boys of the King’s own age be invited to Windsor for playdates. Selected by Cottingham from the boarders at Eton, the Duke suggested that (coming from some of the best families), this could provide an important opportunity for George to build long lasting friendships with individuals who might one day serve as his courtiers. But Stockmar rejected this entirely. In his view, such a plan left the young King open to “bawdy and unreliable influences” and he had concerns that if unsuitable friendships were made, it might prove impossible to break them without the young King rebelling against the figures of authority in his life for removing his newfound social group. The Duke of Clarence put his foot down. His nephew was clearly developing into a lonely child and Stockmar was asked to overcome his scruples and find the boy some friends.


    Prince Leopold, later King of Belgium.

    It was Prince Leopold who provided the solution. His elder brother, Ernst I, was the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and had two sons who were roughly the same age as King George. The eldest was Hereditary Duke Ernst, born in 1817, the younger was Prince Albert, born in 1819. The young Coburg princes had found themselves in difficult circumstances when in 1826, their parents divorced and their mother, Louise of Saxe-Coburg-Altenburg, left the duchy. Ernst I was not a man noted for his strict morals, neither was he a devoted father to his sons who mostly relied on the Court Chamberlain for guidance during their childhood. They also relied on Prince Leopold, a gregarious and kind figure in their lives. Whilst his visits to Coburg were rare, they made a strong impression on the two boys with Prince Albert noting later how; “Uncle Leopold would arrive with gifts and toys but there was nothing as precious to us as the time he gave to us”.

    History remembers Prince Leopold as an ambitious man, keen to advance his own position and that of his family. In proposing that his nephews be brought to England for a time to serve as childhood friends to King George, it is entirely possible that he had ulterior motives. Queen Louise wrote to her sister Augusta bemoaning Leopold’s influence on her son and as early as 1828, noted her suspicion that; “Leopold seeks to advance himself and the two Coburg princes who are little better than bastards of the wood. Their father was never faithful to poor dear Louise and even Leopold parades his mistress with no regard to his reputation. I have tried to make our brother-in-law see that the Coburg influence is a terrible thing to encourage but my word counts for nothing at court any longer and even those who I know to agree with me on the subject refuse to say so because they only seek to promote their own petty interests”.

    However, Queen Louise is not entirely a reliable source given her situation at the time. Since the death of her husband, she had retreated to Royal Lodge with her ladies in waiting and had become the doyenne of the poison pen letter. Very few were spared her vitriol as missives flew between Windsor and Rumpenheim. The Duke of Clarence was branded “pompous and power mad”, his wife “a silly little shrew” and Lord Eldon “a bloated booby with no authority”. The late King’s sisters were “sad, faded, fat old spinsters” whilst Prince Leopold was “a snake in the grass waiting to strike”. It is not surprising therefore that the Dowager Queen found herself with few friends and very little to occupy to her time with. She had failed to forge any real friendships in England since her relationship with Joachim Pepke came to a sudden and shocking end and even her remaining ladies in waiting found her to be cold and unfeeling. She saw her son regularly but even in these meetings, she ignored him and spent the time berating Honest Billy for what she regarded as the failures of “the Four Old Men”.


    Albert and Ernst (L-R) pictured in an engraving made in 1835.

    In her son's mind however, nothing could be more welcome in his life than the arrival of the two Coburg princes. Initially, Ernst I was reluctant to let his children depart for England for an extended summer visit. As pointed out by Queen Louise, Prince Leopold had begun a love affair with none other than Baron Stockmar’s cousin Caroline Bauer. An actress notable for her striking resemblance to the Prince’s late wife, Princess Charlotte, Leopold arranged for Caroline to take up residence at Longwood House a few miles from his own residence at Claremont. Caroline would later claim that the pair engaged in a morganatic marriage but no records have ever been found to support this. Nonetheless, their relationship was considered somewhat scandalous and however hypocritical it may have been on Ernst’s part, he had reservations about allowing his sons to reside at Claremont whilst Leopold’s priority seemed to be his mistress.

    Ernst eventually relented. In the summer of 1828, Hereditary Duke Ernst and Prince Albert came to England for the first time and were introduced to the children of the Royal nursery; King George V, Princess Charlotte Louise and Prince Edward. This arrangement cheered the young King enormously and he became especially close to Prince Albert who was far less boisterous and chaotic than his brother Ernst. Princess Charlotte Louise on the other hand was not impressed by the sudden disruption and went so far as to recruit a nursery maid to help her make “No Boys May Enter Here” signs which she pinned all over the State Apartments at Windsor. When this didn’t work, she wrote notes to would be intruders. One such note read; “Dear Ernst, you are a cat’s bottom and you have silly eyes”. In retaliation for this outrageous slur on his character, Ernst stole one of Charlotte Louise’s favourite dolls and attempted to ransom her for cake. Beside herself at this loss, Charlotte Louise cried for hours until Prince Albert managed to purloin the doll from his brother and return to it a very grateful young Princess. Her gratitude did not last long however and Prince Albert found himself the recipient of a note from Charlotte Louise which accused him of being "a very silly boy with ugly knees". Charlotte Louise was delighted when the ratio of boys to girls in the nursery was made almost equal with her cousin Princess Victoria invited to join the party and a life-long friendship between the two soon developed.

    In April 1828, the Zoological Society of London opened a “display of the natural world for scientific research” in London’s Regent’s Park. Commonly known as London Zoo, the site had been developed for the purpose by Sir Stamford Raffles and was open to fellows of the Zoological Society, their guests and those with written permission from a member who were privy to the collection of wildlife. George Cottingham regarded an outing to the zoo as an important educational trip for the royal children and they were accompanied by their aunt, the Duchess of Clarence, on the 26th of June, the first children ever to be admitted to London Zoo. They were shown a curious assembly of animals such as the now extinct Quagga and a troop of Orangutans. With attitudes to animal welfare somewhat different than they are today, the royal children were allowed to play with some of the animals considered to be safe and at the end of the visit, Joseph Sabine, Vice Chairman of the Zoological Society, presented the young King with the gift of a new-born Marmoset named Raffles. This gift would begin a life-long passion for wildlife and nature in the King and he later considered his patronage of the ZSL as the most rewarding of his life. The Duchess of Clarence was less impressed when, on the carriage ride home, Raffles stole the wax fruit from her hat, ate it and then vomited on her dress.


    London Zoo, pictured in 1828.

    The outing to London Zoo was reported widely in the national press but only two days after the visit had actually taken place. This was upon the insistence of Lord Eldon who was becoming increasingly concerned at the number of death threats aimed at the royal children the Home Department was intercepting at this time. Whilst there had always been fanatics with such ideas, there was a clear cause for this sudden surge and it was an issue that the Prime Minister could no longer ignore. Catholic emancipation had long been a dividing issue for the Tories and whilst Eldon's predecessor Lord Liverpool had been inclined to support some measures towards the removal of restrictions on Roman Catholics in the United Kingdom, Lord Eldon himself remained totally opposed to any such relaxation. Eldon’s cabinet had been dubbed “the Orange Cabinet” for precisely this reason but those who wished to see Catholic relief saw an opportunity to set the government against members of its own party who felt Eldon’s refusal to pursue a course of reform on the issue was short sighted and morally unjustifiable. Calls for wider constitutional reform had become an integral part of the debate on Catholic emancipation but in the past, such ideas had been easily shut down, aided in part by the vocal opposition of the monarch to any steps toward emancipation.

    Whilst the Duke of Clarence had been opposed to Catholic emancipation and constitutional reform, as regent he had determined to stay silent on political matters as much as possible. But the whiff of reform had caught the public’s imagination, especially in Ireland. With the prospect of emancipation raised and then dashed, Roman Catholics in the United Kingdom had become far more vocal in their demands for change. This increased ten-fold when in the summer of 1828, Daniel O’Connell won the seat of County Clare from the Tories in a by-election. O’Connell was the leader of the Catholic Association, a campaign group founded to fight for Catholic emancipation. But though elected with almost 70% of the constituency vote, O’Connell could not take his seat in the House of Commons. The first Catholic to be returned in a parliamentary election since 1688, he could not swear the Oath of Supremacy which required MPs to acknowledge the King as Supreme Governor of the Church of England and therefore forswear the Roman communion. O’Connell urged his supporters to reject violence. “No political change”, he said, “is worth the shedding of a single drop of human blood”. But the situation was a precarious one. Whilst even the most devout Protestants in Eldon’s cabinet, such as Robert Peel (nicknamed "Orange Peel") and Sir Edward Knatchbull, saw the danger in not taking urgent steps to allow O’Connell to take his seat, the Prime Minister refused to consider any such move. He relied on the support of men such as Lord Camden and Lord Melville who were in total agreement that the Oath of Supremacy should not, and would not, be amended. This led to stalemate in the Orange Cabinet and many Tories became nervous that Eldon was about to lead them headfirst into a rebellion or uprising in Ireland.


    Daniel O'Connell by Sir George Hayter.

    So-called Ultra Tories rallied around Eldon supporting him in the Commons and the Lords and decrying those who supported emancipation. Those in favour of emancipation however looked to others within the party who could appeal to opponents of reform and convince them that an urgent change of heart was required. They put their hope in none other than the Duke of Wellington. The Duke had once been a mild supporter of continued restrictions but over the course of his career, he changed his position entirely. Born in Ireland, he warned his colleagues of the grievances that existed among Catholic communities there and whilst serving as Chief Secretary for Ireland, he pledged to enforce remaining penal laws against Catholics as mildly as possible. Further to this, Wellington had fought alongside Catholic soldiers during the Napoleonic Wars and later remarked; “Their loyalty is as inspiring and as true as that of any protestant man”. By 1828, Wellington felt able to take a bold and very public stance in favour of emancipation. It put him at odds with the Prime Minister and many in the Cabinet but it gave hope to those Tories who genuinely feared a civil war in Ireland.

    The Duke of Wellington had long been a personal friend of the Duke of Clarence and so it was that they dined together “informally” at Clarence House on the 30th of June 1828. The party was intimate and not overtly political, comprising of the Clarences, the Duke of Wellington, the Marchioness of Westmeath (lady in waiting to the Duchess of Clarence), the Bishop of London and Mrs Blomfield, Princess Augusta and the Dean of Windsor, Henry Hobart. When the ladies left the table at the end of the meal, the gentlemen remained and drank port, their conversation inevitably turning to the situation at hand. Whilst the details of their conversation are lost to time, it is clear that the Duke of Wellington must have advised the Duke of Clarence on the matter and without doubt, raised his fears of an Irish Civil War. The following afternoon, Lord Eldon was summoned to Clarence House where the Duke of Clarence urged him to “give serious consideration to that prospect”. In Clarence’s view, an Irish Civil War would prove disastrous in Britain’s economic situation and “nothing would be more injurious to Britain’s reputation and standing in her colonies around the world if Ireland were to be lost”. Lord Eldon was furious. The so-called ‘Clarence House Conference’ would mark a turning point for his premiership and for the Tory Party as a whole.

    For a time, it appeared that there would be continued stalemate on the issue until Eldon carried out a reshuffle of his cabinet. The most important change was the demotion of Robert Peel. Peel had served in the Orange Cabinet as Secretary of State for the Home Department and Leader of the House of Commons. His position on Catholic emancipation had changed yet now he allied himself (at least privately) with the Duke of Wellington and found himself dropped from Eldon’s government. It was a huge political scalp and did nothing but crack a cavern into the Tory Party that threatened to erupt into a very public and very angry collapse. Peel’s successor was Sir Edward Knatchbull, promoted from Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, and this sent the clearest message yet that Eldon was not to be moved on the issue of Catholic emancipation. Knatchbull was a leader of the Ultra-Tory grouping in the House of Commons and was known to be fervently anti-Catholic. The lines had been drawn for battle but the catalyst set in Westminster predictably erupted not in London but in Ireland. [2]

    Barred from taking his seat in the Commons [3], O’Connell returned to County Clare. Whilst he had very publicly disavowed violence, the authorities in Ireland believed him to be a dangerous figure because of his ability to rally a crowd. On the 11th of September 1828, O’Connell addressed a public meeting of the Catholic Association in Tulla, County Clare. Whilst the meeting was intended for Catholic Association members, it quickly drew crowds of around 400 people. Speaking in the marketplace, O’Connell’s speech was not all that radical. He pledged to find a loophole in the existing law to allow him to take his place in the Commons and he urged those who could stand for election to do so, thereby forcing the British government to address the issue of the Oath of Supremacy. Among the 400 were several prominent local leaders of the Ribbonmen, a popular movement of poor Catholics in Ireland which supported the Catholic Association. Organised into Lodges, there had been outbreaks of violence between the Ribbonmen and the Orangemen in recent years but mostly, the Ribbonmen concerned themselves with taking action against landlords so as to prevent them from evicting their tenants.


    A "Ribbon Society" lodge meeting.

    Market days often saw the presence of British soldiers to keep public order. On the 11th of September 1828, four of these soldiers were patrolling the market in Tulla and quickly became concerned at the rapidly growing number listening to Daniel O’Connell. One of the soldiers, George Henry Fitch, noted that a group of men produced green ribbons during O’Connell’s address and placed them in their button-holes, a clear symbol that identified them as Ribbonmen. This was enough for Fitch to justify breaking up the crowd. But the British soldiers were far outnumbered and could not disperse the crowd. Fitch fired his rifle into the air. Believing that their colleague had opened fire, the remaining three soldiers began firing on the crowd. In the confusion and chaos, 26 people were trampled to death and those who could not escape the marketplace turned on the British soldiers. Fitch was wrestled to the ground by two Ribbonmen, Evan Donlan and Darragh Hanneen, as Daniel O’Connell attempted to call for calm from his platform. It was too late. Donlan beat Fitch to death with his rifle butt as Hanneen held him down. The pair then fled the scene. In total, 102 people were killed that afternoon in what the British press would name “the Tulla Riot”.

    When news of the riot reached London, Eldon gave a passionate speech in parliament mourning the loss of Fitch and pledging that every assistance would be given to the British army in Ireland to put down similar violence. The Ribbonmen were to become a proscribed organisation through amending existing legislation that had dealt with earlier uprisings led by the so-called Whiteboys and public gatherings in Ireland were to be limited to no more than 30 people. Furthermore, troop numbers in Ireland were to be doubled and there would be a zero-tolerance policy on those “preaching insurrection and rebellion in public places”. Listening to this speech, the Duke of Wellington hung his head before eventually leaving halfway through. This departure did not go unnoticed. Those who supported him in the House of Lords rose and followed him. By the time Eldon finished his address, only the Ultra Tories remained in place. He fell into his seat “puzzled and anxious” but still believed wholeheartedly that he was pursuing the right course of action.

    This put the Duke of Clarence in a difficult position. As regent for his nephew, he had sworn to represent the Crown in as politically impartial a way as he could. Yet his own personal feelings had always been to oppose emancipation as his father, George III, had done. That being said, he knew the country could ill-afford a war, especially one as prolonged and as costly as a civil war in Ireland was bound to be. To fund such a project, the government would have to increase taxes and William remembered only too well the consequences of this during his late brother’s reign. He also had genuine fears that republicans and radicals saw the regency as a target and that the monarchy might easily be dispensed with if these groups could play on the notion of a child King being unable to represent the people as well as an adult President. Among his cabinet allies, Lord Eldon knew there was no appetite (and no money) for a Civil War in Ireland. But he also knew he could not back down from the position he had taken. Despite this, he reassured the Duke of Clarence that there was no risk of the government collapsing and that he was certain the measures he was taking in response to the incident at Tulla would put down any similar outbreaks of violence in the future.

    At Apsley House, the Duke of Wellington’s house at Hyde Park Corner, those Tories now firmly against Lord Eldon’s actions gathered for an emergency conference. Robert Peel was among them. In his mind, there could be no doubt that the Prime Minister was about to tear the Tory party to shreds and that their majority would be “smashed on the altar of Ireland”. Those assembled roundly condemned the Prime Minister and the so-called “Orange Cabinet” but this meeting would have had little effect were it not for a late arrival. The Chancellor, William Huskisson, disliked the prospect of Catholic emancipation but he disliked the idea of an expensive Civil War in Ireland even more. At Apsley, Huskisson made it clear that he was minded to vote against any proposals to introduce relief for Roman Catholics in the United Kingdom but that he feared the destruction of the Tory party if Eldon continued on his current path. In his view, the Prime Minister no longer had the confidence of the cabinet or the party and in short, he had to be convinced to step aside for someone who would avoid rebellion or civil war in Ireland whilst also healing the rift in the Tory party which Eldon seemed oblivious to. Huskisson must have known the full impact of his presence. Some later alleged that he had arrived late to the meeting at Apsley because he could not make up his mind whether to support Wellington and Peel or continue to serve in the cabinet as Chancellor under Lord Eldon. In reality, he was late because his horse cast a shoe and he always intended to make an appearance at Apsley.


    The Duke of Wellington.

    Lord Eldon found himself with few remaining allies in his Cabinet. He could not dismiss the Chancellor without confirming a serious rift in his government but neither did he wish to backtrack on the stance he had taken in relation to Ireland. He summoned the Cabinet to Downing Street on the evening of the 15th of September 1828 and put his case before them. Lord Camden was ferocious in his support. He called on the Prime Minister to stay the course and to “cleanse the Cabinet of allies of popery who have undertaken to undermine the authority of the government in a most devious way”. But Camden was in the minority. Even those who agreed with Eldon on Catholic emancipation could not sanction an approach which everybody knew would inevitably lead to a rebellion in Ireland at least, and at worst, a full-scale Civil War. The unanimous view seemed to be that whilst they opposed reforms and supported Eldon’s anti-Catholic policies, they feared a civil war in Ireland could not be won. “If we were to fight such a cause”, Lord Westmorland said, “We gamble with the Union in it’s entirety. That is an outcome I cannot contemplate and yet it is the outcome I believe we would face”.

    At Buckingham Palace, three of the “Four Old Men” assembled. The Duke of Clarence expected the Prime Minister to remain his post, to reshuffle his cabinet and to press ahead. William believed this would be “a most dangerous course to pursue” and after speaking with Baron Stockmar and Prince Leopold, presumably to speak his views out loud and rehearse his approach, he summoned the Prime Minister. “I intended that I should offer my counsel to the Prime Minister as a friend and to make him aware of how the situation in Ireland troubles so many, even within his own party”, the Duke wrote in a letter to his brother the Duke of Cambridge, “And yet when he came to me from Downing Street, he was most downcast and appeared a broken man. He explained that he did not believe he could sustain his course even though he knew it to be the right one. I gave the man a glass of Madeira and he said that he had not yet settled on what he should do next. After he departed, Stockmar came and told me that Wellington had assembled supporters at Apsley. So the situation may yet resolve itself without my involvement which I feel would be much preferable”.

    In his early childhood, King George V relied on the “Four Old Men” to steer him on the right path. Within the first twelve months of his reign however, it appeared that this quartet of strong influences was to be broken. If Eldon could not restore his authority, he would have no choice but to resign. It also appeared that another of the four may soon depart. That September in Poros, Ambassadors of Russia, France and Great Britain met to determine a solution to the aftermath of the War of Greek Independence. The Conference of Poros developed an idea which determined the borders of an independent Greece with the British favouring the proposal that Greece should consist only of the Peloponnese with the rest of the territory remaining Ottoman. The Peloponnese would become a constitutional monarchy as the Kingdom of Greece with a sovereign provided by the Great Powers. One early candidate for the post informally suggested at Poros was Prince Leopold. [5] In the event that Leopold became King of Greece, Baron Stockmar was likely to go with him. The Duke of Clarence worried that the careful network of support and "beneficial influences" he had put together for his nephew was on the verge of crumbling away.

    Naturally any impending chaos was hidden from the young King who had far more important worries. The summer was over and for George, this meant the return of Ernst and Albert back to Coburg. He accompanied the princes to Harwich from where they were to sail home and Honest Billy recalled how George wept as he shook their hands and bid them farewell; “It seemed particularly poignant at a time of political crisis that the King, a small boy who knew nothing of the maelstrom swirling in his Kingdom, cared only that he was to lose his only friends”. Returning to Windsor, George stared solemnly out of the carriage window. Those who turned out to catch a glimpse of his coach saw only a sad little boy with tear-stained cheeks. He would never forget this and it perhaps explains why, in later life, he detested change and liked to surround himself with familiar faces who had no intention of leaving him. But as the boy King mourned the parting of his only friends outside of his immediate family, he had no idea that at that very moment, his Kingdom was on the precipice of war.

    [1] Leopold’s title changed in 1826 when his brother became Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. I believe in the last part I still referred to him as Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld so forgive this oversight!

    [2] Until this point, I’ve followed the OTL in Ireland (minus the Sacramental Test Act which was introduced in 1828). The change of government in this TL makes these developments in Ireland somewhat unavoidable.

    [3] He was able to in the OTL the following year because of the legal changes that came in 1828 and 1829. This doesn’t happen in this TL and so we see a PoD in Irish history from this stage onwards.

    [4] Although anti-Catholic emancipation, he did serve with Wellington and Peel in the OTL. It makes sense therefore that he would have taken a position under Eldon in this TL but later reneged for the greater good of the party and the country’s financial position which was still precarious at this time after the Napoleonic Wars.

    [5] Leopold wasn’t formally offered the throne of Greece until 1830 but according to Theo Aronson, the idea was at least informally suggested at Poros. There’s also a suggestion that this is why Leopold cut short his relationship with Caroline Bauer in mid-1829, so as to be prepared in case the offer did come as suggested at Poros in September 1827.
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    GV: Part 1, Chapter 3: The Cumberland Plot
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    King George V

    Part One, Chapter Three: The Cumberland Plot

    At the same time as the Irish Crisis gave rise to discontent in the Tory party, another issue was causing similar resentment within the Royal Family; money. King George IV had successfully increased the Civil List substantially and had also been able to leave a healthy private fortune to his son, the new King George V. But as a minor, the King could not inherit his personal wealth and it was placed into a trust to be administrated by the Duke of Clarence and the Duke of Cambridge. As Regent, the Duke of Clarence had authority over how the Civil List should be spent and this meant that he could direct increases or cuts to the allowances paid to members of the Royal Family as he saw fit. Traditionally, the widow of the former Sovereign was entitled to the highest sum which the Duke of Clarence set at £45,000 a year. There was an additional sum of £2,500 allocated for Queen Louise’s household and a further £500 put into an account with the Dowager Queen’s dressmaker to allow her to maintain an impressive personal wardrobe. Naturally Queen Louise did not believe this to be nearly high enough and within two months of her widowhood, she was already petitioning the Duke of Clarence for an increase.

    The surviving siblings of King George IV considered her requests unreasonable considering that they themselves had much tighter budgets on which to live. The Duke of Clarence was entitled to £25,000 a year as regent in a sum set by the government but the other Royal Dukes (Cambridge, Sussex, Cumberland and Gloucester and Edinburgh) received £18,000 a year. As for the royal princesses, Augusta, Sophia and Mary received £10,000 per annum because they were resident in the United Kingdom. Princess Elizabeth lived in Homburg with her husband Landgrave Frederick VI and whilst still entitled to an annuity, it was set at just £3,000 a year. [1] These allowances did not come with additional funds for expenses and almost all of George III’s surviving children struggled to live within their means. Princess Sophia caused particular difficulties in this regard, keeping in her household not only three ladies of the bedchamber but two dressers, a wardrobe maid, three housemaids, two pages, a housekeeper, house steward and a personal apothecary.


    Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale

    But by far the most extravagant of the siblings of King George IV was Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. Now in his late 50s, the Duke maintained apartments at St James’ Palace and a small house on the Kew estate but his main expenditure came in keeping a townhouse in Berlin and a large country estate in Hanover. The Duke of Cumberland insisted that he had no choice but to maintain all four residences. His wife, Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, had been so unpopular with her mother-in-law, Queen Charlotte, that the couple had been forced to live in Germany but in order to continue to receive an increased allowance from the Civil List, the Cumberlands had to spend at least six months of the year in England. In 1826, the Duke had asked for an increase claiming that he could no longer afford the school fees for his son Prince George. An increase was given on condition that Prince George reside full time in England and with Queen Charlotte dead and buried, the Cumberlands took the opportunity to return to England and lease their residences in Germany.

    Cumberland intended to live his life in the manner he believed a Prince and Royal Duke should live. His household was the largest in the Royal Family with the only exceptions being that of the King and the Dowager Queen. When he complained that his home at Kew was too small, the Duke of Clarence offered him the use of Kew Palace (then known as the Dutch House) but Cumberland declined on the basis that the property needed extensive renovations he absolutely could not afford. The Duke of Clarence then offered to renovate a suite of apartments at Kensington Palace but again, Cumberland refused. He already had a preferred residence in mind, that of Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park. This impressive 17th century house had been made the official residence of the Ranger of the Great Park by King Charles II, a position last held by Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn (the brother of King George III) but the property itself had been vacant since 1803 when Henry’s widow died. It has been suggested that Ernest Augustus only petitioned for the house because of the position that went with it. The appointment of Ranger of the Great Park was traditionally held by someone close to the Sovereign and denoted a position of great trust and personal affection. In reality, it’s likely that the Duke of Cumberland simply preferred Cumberland Lodge for its proximity to Windsor and that it was substantially larger than any of his previous residences. [2]


    Cumberland Lodge today.

    Shortly before the Irish Crisis, the Duke of Clarence appointed his younger brother as Great Ranger and allowed him the use of Cumberland Lodge. The Duke of Cumberland celebrated with a grand ball attended by almost every member of the Orange Cabinet. But also present were a number of “Ultra Tories” from the Commons and Lords, the political group known for its staunch opposition to Catholic emancipation. The Duke of Cumberland had spent his time in the House of Lords forging strong links to the extreme right wing of the Tory party and in 1807 had become the Grand Master of the Orange Lodges. He was not averse to bringing the Crown directly into the political issues of the day and frequently voiced the opinions of his father and late brother (George III and George IV respectively) in the Lords which more moderate Tories felt was unconstitutional. A temporary respite from the Duke’s famously long speeches came in 1810 when his valet was found dead. Whilst a jury found that the valet had committed suicide, Ernest’s political foes spread rumours that the Duke had been conducting an affair with his valet’s wife and had eventually murdered the poor man. There was no evidence to support these claims but the Duke limited his appearances in parliament for a year as a result.

    Scandal came again in 1813 when the Duke became a trustee of the Weymouth selection board. It was considered deeply improper for a peer to try and influence an election in the House of Commons and there was even a suggestion that a bill should be introduced to strip the Duke of his peerage. The Prince Regent had managed to avert this by sending Ernest to Europe as an observer to accompany Hanoverian troops who were engaged in a war with France. Though he saw no action, Ernest was present at the Battle of Leipzig and this led to his promotion to Field Marshal, a gesture he interpreted as a sign that his political scandal had been forgotten and he once again threw himself into politics when resident in England. Since that time, Cumberland had become a precious ally to Irish Anglicans and opponents of Catholic emancipation. He even gave speeches in the Lords reminding George IV in not-so-subtle terms that he would be violating his Coronation Oath to uphold Anglicanism if he gave Royal Assent to any bill introducing political relief for Catholics in the United Kingdom. In practice, this meant that governments felt unable to pursue emancipation knowing that many peers would vote how they believed the Sovereign wished them to vote on the say-so of the Duke of Cumberland.

    Cumberland had another personal agenda that went far beyond Catholic emancipation. In 1827, he had been furious to learn that his younger brother, the Duke of Cambridge, was to be appointed Deputy Regent instead of him. King George IV had indicated a preference for a deputy to serve with the Duke of Clarence for precisely the reason that he considered the Duke of Cumberland unpopular and far too politically engaged. For Cumberland, this was a betrayal he resented bitterly and as a result, he stepped up his political involvement and appearances in the House of Lords, presumably in a display of defiance. The Duke of Wellington was said to remark; “There was never a father well with his son, or husband with his wife, or lover with his mistress, or friend with his friend, that he did not try and make mischief between them”. [3] This was certainly true of Cumberland’s place within the British Royal Family. His sister Princess Augusta said of him; “He is the cause of so much mischief that I cannot bear to be in his presence for longer than twenty minutes”. His wife too was not much liked by her in-laws with one exception; Queen Louise. Since her widowhood and the Cumberlands' move to Windsor Great Park, the Duchess of Cumberland had become a frequent visitor to the Dowager Queen at Royal Lodge and the two women struck up something of a friendship. For the Dowager Queen this was the only friendship she was able to maintain having ostracized almost every other member of the British Royal Family including her sister, the Duchess of Cambridge.

    Much like the Duke of Cumberland, Queen Louise resented the fact that she had not been included in the regency for her son, King George V. She had come to despise the Duke of Clarence and frequently accused him of failing to carry out the official duties expected of him in a manner which would have pleased the late King George IV. Her pleas to be included in the regency had fallen upon deaf ears in all circles but she quickly found an ally in the Duke of Cumberland. He commiserated with her and agreed that there absolutely should have been a place for her in the regency. He believed the Duke of Cambridge most unsuited to the position of Deputy, especially since he spent much of his time in Hanover as Viceroy. It would have been far better, in Ernest’s view, for a regency council to have been established with all of the Royal Dukes and the King’s mother serving together as had been the case in the last years of the previous regency. But Cumberland was not entirely honest with Louise. He frequently told friends that he felt he should have been appointed as deputy regent as the next eldest surviving child of King George III but that Queen Louise was “most unsuited to any kind of official role”.

    Historians differ in their opinion of when exactly the so-called ‘Cumberland Plot’ began. Some suggest it was first mentioned during a meeting of Ultra Tories at the London townhouse of the Earl of Winchelsea, himself a passionate supporter of the cause and a close friend of the Duke of Cumberland. According to Lord Hardinge’s diary, Cumberland (who was not present at the meeting) had dined with Lord Winchelsea the previous evening and; “had suggested that the Prime Minister would find no ally in the King’s Regent concerning the Irish situation. Indeed, according to [Ernest], Clarence is minded to advise Eldon to resign and to appoint Wellington in his place with a view to a relief bill being introduced as a most urgent priority to avoid a Civil War in Ireland. Cumberland insists that his brother is no friend to the cause and that if there is any hope of the movement maintaining authority he must be removed as regent and Cumberland installed in his place. At the very least, Cumberland feels he must replace Cambridge. Winchelsea said he was minded to raise the matter with the Prime Minister but that he was not averse to taking steps to force such a change in the House”.


    George Finch-Hatton, 10th Earl of Winchelsea.

    Other historians studying the period believe that the first mention of the plot began not with the Duke himself but with Sir Richard Vyvyan, the 28-year-old landowner baronet and Ultra Tory who sat in the Commons as Member of Parliament for the constituency of Cornwall. Vyvyan had not met the Duke of Cumberland but was considered a protégé of the Earl of Winchelsea. It is suggested that Vyvyan first proposed the idea of replacing the Duke of Clarence as regent for King George V with the Duke of Cumberland following the Duke of Clarence’s “broken man” meeting with Lord Eldon. In Vyvyan’s view (put to paper by Winchelsea); “If the Prime Minister feels he does not have the support of Clarence, he will most definitely resign. In such circumstances, the clear successor will be Wellington and then there is no doubt whatsoever that emancipation will be introduced in a bill we may find impossible to defeat. Vyvyan said the obvious way to avoid this was to rely on the support of the Duke of Cumberland who could easily persuade Eldon to stay the course but naturally this would depend on how much influence Cumberland has, something Vyvyan suggested is a variable factor”.

    Whichever version of events is true, it is without question that the Duke of Cumberland received a deputation led by the Earl of Winchelsea on the 17th of September 1828 and according to Winchelsea’s diaries, it was here that the Duke of Cumberland agreed to approach the Prime Minister and “offer his support in every way possible. We discussed the Clarence situation and Cumberland agreed the danger of an imminent Wellington government (and relief act) comes entirely from that quarter”. But Cumberland didn’t meet with Eldon, indeed, the Prime Minister refused his requests for an audience. Whether because he had heard of the so-called Cumberland Plot to replace the Duke of Clarence as the King’s Regent or because of the enormous pressures he was facing at the time remains unclear but this left Cumberland and his backers with only one option; the matter would have to be raised directly in parliament. At first, those involved in the plot delayed but then came word from Ireland that Lord Leveson-Gower was to resign as Chief Secretary of Ireland after just four months in office. Leveson-Gower was a staunch ally of the Duke of Wellington and Wellington had advised him privately that if he resigned, Eldon would have to dramatically rethink his position on the Irish Crisis. It was even possible that Eldon may resign.

    With the Chancellor of the Exchequer also threatening to leave Cabinet if the Prime Minister did not abandon his Irish policy, the Cumberland plotters had to act quickly. In a session in the House of Lords the following day, the Earl of Winchelsea prepared the ground. In his view, “the situation in Ireland must be remedied quickly and the symptoms of rebellion, which we know of old, should be put down with force. If this cannot be effected quickly My Lords, we send a clear message to every Catholic rebel both in Ireland and in England that the government is weakened in its resolve to stand by its defining principles”. He went on; “And what then? Sensing that we have lost our nerve, the Irish rebels rise up regardless and we face losing a battle we may have won had we only acted with haste today”. The Duke of Newcastle followed suit; “Those who seek to blame us for bringing the country to the precipice of war show their true allegiance is to popery and rebellion. Failing to take action today will almost certainly leave us ripe for an uprising tomorrow”.

    But it was the Duke of Richmond who was to introduce the main ambition of the plot itself to the floor of the House of Lords. As he stood to his feet to speak, the Duke of Cumberland entered the chamber and took his seat. In the Commons, Sir Richard Vyvyan waited for a message that the proposal had been introduced. He would raise the subject with the Speaker as an urgent question thus forcing the issue to be debated in both chambers with the ultimate aim of introducing a bill replacing the Duke of Clarence as the King’s Regent with the Duke of Cumberland. In this way, the plotters believed Eldon would be buoyed by the support of the Crown and would not resign. Wellington would not be Prime Minister and Catholic emancipation would be avoided whatever the consequences in Ireland may be. The Duke of Richmond was careful in his choice of words. He reminded his fellow peers that King George III, the Prince Regent and King George IV had all voiced their opposition to Catholic emancipation in the past and that it was imperative that the King’s Regent make the same reassurance on behalf of his nephew to the Prime Minister that protecting the Anglican communion was his first priority.


    Charles Gordon-Lennox, 5th Duke of Richmond.

    Cumberland waited for the signal. Richmond had been told to follow his statement with an outright call to replace Clarence with Cumberland. But Richmond sat down without making any mention of it. Whilst the Ultra Tories appeared confused, Cumberland took his feet expecting to have been put in a position where he could “reluctantly” indicate his willingness to serve in such a position. Instead, he was thrown off his guard and unwisely, he began to ramble about the Duke of Clarence’s shortcomings as regent. Unfortunately, this descended into a lengthy account of the Duke’s strict enforcement of the Civil List and Cumberland spent much of his contribution bemoaning the state of his personal finances. No signal was given to Sir Richard Vyvyan in the Commons and by the time the Duke of Cumberland had sat down, it was evident to everyone that the Cumberland Plot had fallen before it left the starting gate. There would be no introduce of a motion in either chamber to replace the Duke of Clarence and even among the Ultra Tories, the Duke of Cumberland was derided as a “self-entitled arrogant fool” who had “all but appointed Wellington and singlehandedly made emancipation a certainty, the very thing he was to prevent”.

    Cumberland was humiliated. He retreated to Cumberland Lodge in a daze, desperately trying to piece together what exactly had gone wrong. For the rest of his life, he would lay the blame at the door of the Duke of Richmond but to the Ultra Tories, Richmond’s failure to directly propose Cumberland as regent was a minor misdemeanor. In Lord Winchelsea’s words; “Any man with a shred of intelligence and political acumen would have known to recover the issue. Instead, Cumberland presented his household accounts and bewailed that as one of the richest men in England, he was not richer still”. The newspapers sensed blood. The following day, every single publication regardless of its political allegiance slammed the Duke of Cumberland and branded him “a pompous and pathetic prince”. Even the Tory supporting Times said that the Duke had “put personal ambitions before the peace of this realm”. The Observer dubbed Ernest “the most unpopular man in England”. But the worst outcome was the allegation in the Whig press that Lord Eldon had known about the plot, supported it and must now resign for encouraging Cumberland’s “greedy manic ambitions”.

    This was unfair to Lord Eldon. It’s unlikely that he had any knowledge of it outside of hushed rumours of what was to transpire. Nonetheless, the Cumberland Plot forced his hand. That evening, the Prime Minister travelled to Clarence House. According to the Duke of Clarence’s diaries; “He gave every assurance that not only was he unaware of the underhandedness of those who pursued this foolish nonsense but that he in no way agreed with the sentiment”. Eldon then explained that the resignation of the Chief Secretary of Ireland and the impending resignation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave him no option but to resign himself. He felt he no longer had the confidence of his cabinet and that he risked splitting the Tory party beyond repair if he stayed in office. In his view, there were two possible successors whom the Duke of Clarence should call to Clarence House; William Huskisson or the Duke of Wellington. Eldon accepted this inevitably meant Catholic emancipation would be introduced but said; “I must accept that my attempts to prevent this have brought us to the brink of a disaster and I cannot condemn myself to history as the man who lost Ireland to Catholic rebellion”. After six years in office and despite a large majority in the Commons, Lord Eldon was no longer Prime Minister. The Orange Cabinet had collapsed.


    Sir Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.

    To the fury of the Ultra Tories, the Duke of Wellington was invited to Clarence House the following afternoon and appointed Prime Minister. At Cumberland Lodge, Ernest ordered his manservant to begin packing. The Cumberlands were to return to Berlin. The Duke did not wait to be admonished by his brother; indeed, they never discussed the subject, neither did they meet following the failed coup against the Duke of Clarence. Instead, the Cumberlands left Windsor Great Park and returned to Germany within a month of the failed plot. They would not return to England again in the Duke of Clarence’s lifetime and less than a year into his appointment, the Duke of Cumberland was relieved of his post as Great Ranger of the Park and replaced by the Duke of Sussex. [4] Nobody had much sympathy with Cumberland. He had overplayed his hand and lost spectacularly. In the words of the Duke of Wellington; “He allowed sycophants and dreamers to employ him in their fantasies and paid the price for it”.

    At Royal Lodge, Queen Louise was devastated at the departure of the Cumberlands. She truly believed that the Duke would replace Prince William and that she would be made Deputy Regent for her son. But on a more personal level, she was now completely without friends at court. It did not take long for the Duke of Clarence (and the wider Royal Family) to come to believe that she had encouraged Cumberland in his actions and she was branded as much a traitor to the family as he was. She withdrew from Windsor to Abbotsford in the autumn of 1828 where she would remain almost a year with no contact with her children. Whilst there, she complained in letters to her relations in Germany that the Duke of Clarence had forbidden her from seeing her son and that he was exacting revenge for the Duchess of Kent just as she predicted. In reality, the Duke gave the young King the choice; did he wish to visit his mother in Scotland or did he wish to remain at Windsor? George V chose to remain with his uncle at Windsor and so was lost any opportunity Queen Louise had to form a bond with her son in his childhood. In later years, Louise would insist that the Duke of Clarence was a “schemer and intriguer”, “a poisonous old man” and a “cold and heartless monster”. To her son, he was “the most kind, the most generous and the most devoted servant to his country I believe I have ever known”.

    The Duke of Clarence was privately glad to see Wellington take the reins of power but Wellington had inherited an immediate crisis which would not be easily resolved. Whilst he felt he could calm matters in Ireland and prevent further violence, he knew that doing so would split his own party and potentially shorten his time in office. Nonetheless, as he began to assemble his Cabinet, Wellington believed Civil War in Ireland had been averted at the eleventh hour and that if he achieved nothing else during his time in office, “I shall at least have preserved our United Kingdom”. At Apsley House, he gathered his allies in the Tory party and explained what his approach to the Irish Crisis would be. Whilst those who had opposed the Ultra Tories were appeased by this, they still had doubts that Wellington could heal the rift in the party as a whole. At Windsor, Stockmar explained this situation as best he could to the young King. How much he understood is debatable but one thing was certain; the first of the Four Old Men had departed and a new era of government had begun.

    [1] These figures are taken modeled on the household accounts of Princess Sophia Matilda who was receiving £8,000 in 1826 but £14,000 by 1830.

    [2] I've butterflied this. In the OTL, Cumberland was equally pushy with regard to his living arrangements in England because he believed (despite the line of succession putting his niece Victoria before him) that he would either be King of Great Britain or Hanover or both. In this TL, he's just as pushy but the circumstances are different and this sets up the plot narrative nicely for later in the installment.

    [3] This is a genuine quote from Wellington.

    [4] This appointment lines up with the OTL. Whilst it was vacant I took the opportunity to use it to suit the narrative.
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    GV: Part 1, Chapter 4: The Greatest Loss
  • Opo

    Monthly Donor
    King George V

    Part One, Chapter Four: The Greatest Loss

    Trigger Warning: This installment contains subject matter towards the end which some readers may find distressing, in particular, there are references to suicide and the loss of a child. Please bear this in mind if you choose to read this installment as I know for some these are painful themes.

    The Duke of Wellington became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on the 23rd of September 1828. The date held significance for Wellington as his appointment fell on the 25th anniversary of the Battle of Assaye in which Major General Arthur Wellesley (now Duke of Wellington) had led British troops to defeat the combined Maratha army of the Maharajas of Gwalior and Nagpur. The battle was Wellington’s first major victory and one he personally believed was his finest accomplishment, even more so than that of his famous victory at Waterloo. This provided the theme of a popular cartoon published in London’s Morning Chronicle which depicted Lord Eldon as a defeated Maharaja surrounded by angry and resentful members of the Orange Cabinet sharpening scimitars. Wellington was shown on horseback about to lead a charge against them with the troops behind him made up of Tory grandees such as Robert Peel and William Huskisson. But in reality, as much as Wellington may have liked to have purged his new ministry of his political foes, he knew the divisions in the Tory party were far too precarious to risk such a bold move. His cabinet would have to include some of his former rivals if his change of direction was to prove successful, especially when it came to the most urgent business of the day; the Irish Crisis.


    The Duke of Wellington as Prime Minister.

    Robert Peel had served as Secretary of State for the Home Department and Leader of the House of Commons throughout the whole of the Eldon ministry but had been replaced with the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, Sir Edward Knatchbull, in a last-ditch attempt by Eldon to unite his cabinet around his Irish policy. Wellington wanted to restore Peel to the post and offered Knatchbull the opportunity to resume his old post at the Department for War and the Colonies, knowing full well that Knatchbull would not accept. As a prominent Ultra-Tory, Knatchbull would never approve of attempts to introduce Catholic emancipation in the Commons, neither would he allow himself to be humiliated with a demotion from a post he had held for little more than a month. Knatchbull returned to the backbenches but his influence among the rank-and-file Tory MPs remained significant. William Huskisson had threatened to resign, one of the last nails in the coffin of the Eldon premiership but chose to stay in his post of Chancellor of the Exchequer under the Duke of Wellington.

    Lord Lyndhurst had opposed Catholic emancipation under Lord Eldon but signalled his willingness to concede if Wellington could persuade his new ministry to take a collective stance one way or the other. He remained Lord Chancellor but was seen as “neither fish nor fowl”, willing to support any side of the argument which seemed to be the majority view of the day. The Foreign Secretary, Lord Sidmouth, was far more direct in his stance. If Catholic emancipation was even considered by the Prime Minister, he would resign and ally himself to the Ultra Tories in the Lords to defeat it. His replacement was the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Henry Goulburn. Goulburn was opposed to Catholic emancipation but he agreed with his long-time friend and political ally Wellington that without reforms, Ireland would descend into a civil war the British simply couldn’t win. [1] Reluctantly, he agreed to serve in the Cabinet on condition that he might abstain on any bill concerning emancipation. Believing he could change Goulburn’s mind at the eleventh hour, Wellington appointed him as Foreign Secretary.

    Of the remaining changes, the Duke of Clarence was asked to serve as Lord High Admiral and thus, as First Lord of the Admiralty. Wellington had his reasons for such a prominent appointment. Firstly, the position would be mostly ceremonial but would give the Duke something to do other than rubber stamping acts of parliament as the King’s Regent. Secondly, and most importantly, it would force the Duke to vote on any emancipation legislation in the House of Lords. Wellington knew the Duke would be minded to vote with the government on Catholic relief and if he did so, those in the House of Lords seeking guidance from the Crown on the line they should take would quickly follow Clarence and deliver the result Wellington wanted. Whilst he had sworn not to involve himself in politics and the appointment was potentially problematic constitutionally, there was nothing preventing the appointment at least being offered. Perhaps against his better judgement, the Duke of Clarence’s one flaw was his vanity and combined with his passion for the navy, he could not refuse the post and happily accepted. [2]


    A medal commemorating the appointment of the Duke of Clarence as Lord High Admiral.

    The Wellington Ministry was notable for the departure of Lord Camden. Despised by the people of Ireland, he had served as Minister without Portfolio under both Lord Liverpool and Lord Eldon. Eldon had been minded to appoint Camden as Chief Secretary of Ireland when the news came that Lord Leveson-Gower was to step down. In a move that surprised nobody, Camden was removed from Cabinet and offered no foreign posting, least of all to Ireland. As Leveson-Gower had not yet left Dublin, the Duke of Wellington asked him to stay on his post as Chief Secretary which Leveson-Gower accepted on the condition that he might leave office within 12 months. But the ministry was also memorable for two appointments which would come to define the spirit of the Wellington Cabinet. The Earl of Harrowby had served as Lord President of the Council under Lord Liverpool but had refused to serve under Lord Eldon. His belief in emancipation not only for Roman Catholics but for Protestant dissenters and his commitment to electoral reform made it impossible for him to serve in the Orange Cabinet and he had returned to life at his family seat of Sandon Hall in Staffordshire. His appointment was a clear message from Wellington that reform was very much on the agenda but Harrowby’s return to government was not just political theatre; Wellington respected and admired Harrowby’s commitment to his convictions and felt him a valuable asset to his ministry. [3]

    But the second appointment sent a different message and was far more controversial. William Vesey-Fitzgerald had previously served in Cabinet as Paymaster of the Forces. He was widely respected by the more moderate Tories and had been considered as a possible successor to Lord Liverpool before Lord Eldon was appointed instead by King George IV. Fitzgerald was a supporter of Catholic emancipation but ironically, he lost his seat in County Clare to none other than Daniel O’Connell. O’Connell could not swear the Oath of Supremacy and thus could not take his seat in the Commons. So the Irish crisis which pushed the Duke of Wellington to his new position as Prime Minister began. O’Connell’s failure to take his seat in the Commons had seen a new writ issued for a second by-election. Wellington appointed Fitzgerald as President of the Board of Trade and Treasurer of the Navy but he would have to contest the seat of Clare again in the upcoming by-election and win in order to take the post. Wellington felt this appointment crucial. It sent a clear message to the people of Ireland that whilst he felt O’Connell should have been able to take his seat in the Commons, his preference would naturally be a Tory representative in County Clare who supported Catholic emancipation.

    With the Cabinet appointed, the Duke of Wellington addressed the House of Lords and made clear that he would not continue with his predecessor’s Irish policy. He called upon those in rural communities across Ireland to withdraw from acts of violence immediately and spoke of his personal experiences in Dublin where he felt the Penal Laws had often been unfairly implemented with undue harshness. He promised to review these laws if the violence was brought to an end and he pledged to meet with Daniel O’Connell privately after the County Clare by-election whatever the outcome. But most importantly, Wellington indicated that the government would support a bill which was due to be introduced by the Opposition; the Sacramental Test Act. This bill would repeal the requirement that government officials take communion in the Church of England and the bill’s author, Lord John Russell, had already had meetings with Robert Peel to discuss cross-party co-operation on its introduction. Not only did existing law (the Corporation Act 1661 and the Test Act 1673) bar Roman Catholics from holding civil and military offices appointed by the Crown, it also meant that in theory, Protestant dissenters were barred too. This was often overlooked with an annual Indemnity Act passed to ensure that dissenters could hold public office.


    Lord John Russell.

    Wellington argued this was immoral and unjust and that by supporting the bill, the government would send a clear signal to the people of Ireland that it was listening to their grievances and was willing to address reform. It was a slow approach to emancipation and whilst Ultra Tories saw it as the thin end of the wedge, some were inclined to support the bill on the grounds that it would abolish the need for Indemnity legislation to be passed. Nonetheless, the majority of Ultra Tories were still bitter from their sudden and unwelcome departure from government and Lord Camden took the lead on introducing wrecking amendments. Against convention, Lord Eldon moved that the words “I am a Protestant” must be included into any new declaration whilst the Bishop of Llandaff fought to include “upon the true faith of a Christian”. The Bishop was successful. Eldon was not. The Sacramental Test Act was introduced with cross-party support but it was Peel who secured it’s passage. He met with the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishops of Durham, Chester and Llandaff and persuaded them to allow the bill to pass through the Lords. Placated by a few compromises here and there, no Bishop voted against the legislation and after passing the Commons by 237 votes to 193, the Lords passed the Sacramental Test Act which then went on to receive the Royal Assent by the Duke of Clarence as the King’s Regent. [4]

    Whilst Wellington had signalled a very different course to his predecessor, the violence in Ireland was sustained. Peel noted that the situation was manageable but there was a general view that the upcoming County Clare by-election could prove a turning point. If O’Connell won again and could not take his seat in the Commons, the government would have to introduce a Catholic relief bill or face rebellion in Ireland. And even if Fitzgerald was re-elected and able to take up his Cabinet posts, the Irish were unlikely to simply settle down and wait for the next opportunity to return an Irish Catholic MP to Westminster. Nonetheless, the by-election brought Wellington and his ministers a little time. Scheduled for November, Wellington hoped that Fitzgerald would seize victory but he conceded privately that he doubted he would. Whilst surprisingly popular with County Clare Catholics, the Catholic Association had launched a campaign which encouraged County Clare voters to seize the opportunity to force the British government to introduce Catholic emancipation. It was unlikely the electorate would reject such an offer.

    At Windsor Castle, the Duke of Clarence breathed a sigh of relief that Wellington seemed far less head strong than his predecessor. Whilst the Royal Family had been (and remained) close friends of Lord Eldon, Clarence had no doubt that he was quite mistaken on his approach to the Irish Crisis. The Duke agreed with Peel and Huskisson that whatever the rights and wrongs of the emancipation issue, an Irish Civil War would bankrupt the country and would, most likely, be lost damaging the internal strength of the Union. It might also send a message further afield to the colonies that Britain could no longer defend her interests there. “When my nephew comes of age”, the Duke remarked, “I intended to hand him his inheritance intact. That is my only ambition in what remains of my life”. It must also be said that the Duke of Clarence welcomed the appointment of the Duke of Wellington for more personal reasons. Not only was he a great friend and admirer of the Prime Minister, but he was also greatly moved to be appointed Lord High Admiral. It was during a fitting for his new uniform however that sad news reached Windsor. The Duke’s eldest sister, Princess Charlotte, had died.


    Charlotte, Princess Royal and Queen of Württemberg.

    Princess Charlotte was the eldest daughter of King George III and Queen Charlotte and was born in 1766. Created Princess Royal by her father in 1789, she married Hereditary Prince Frederick of Württemberg in 1797. During the Napoleonic Wars, her husband (now Duke) had joined Napoleon’s short-lived Confederation of the Rhine and whilst this elevated Charlotte to the rank of Queen consort, it made her an enemy of both her father and her country of birth. King Frederick’s last-minute switch to support the Allies improved his standing and at the Congress of Vienna, Württemberg was recognised as a Kingdom. Queen Charlotte’s later years had not been altogether joyful. Following her husband’s death in 1816, she longed for England and missed her siblings more than ever before. Over the years, she received visits from the Duke of Kent, the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of Cambridge but she was perhaps closest to her sister, the Landgravine of Hesse-Homburg (née Princess Elizabeth of the United Kingdom). Charlotte had briefly visited England in 1827 following the death of her brother King George IV and had been minded to leave the Ludwigsburg Palace near Stuttgart for good and relocate to Windsor. She died before she could make any such arrangements.

    The Duke of Clarence, on behalf of the King, announced that court mourning would be observed for a period of three months. This was far longer than was usually afforded to a member of the British Royal Family but was observed in recognition of Charlotte’s rank as a Dowager Queen. A memorial service was held for her at St George’s Chapel where the Duke of Clarence stood as Chief Mourner. The late Dowager Queen’s goddaughter, Princess Victoria of Kent, sat next to the Duchess of Clarence and caused something of a stir when she loudly asked, “But where is the coffin? Has Aunt Charlotte forgotten to come?”. As the only similar experience Victoria had known had been the funeral of her late uncle the King, she was clearly confused by the proceedings. The Duchess of Clarence quietly explained and quieted the girl who seemed placated. Even in the depths of their grief, Princesses Augusta and Sophia could not help but stifle a giggle behind their black veils.

    Perhaps inspired by this loss, the Duke invited the extended British Royal Family to Windsor to celebrate Christmas 1828 together. Those invited included the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children Prince George and Princess Augusta, and the Landgrave and Landgravine of Hesse-Homburg (Princess Elizabeth and her husband Frederick VI). Frederick was not a well man, suffering as he was from complications relating to an old wound in his leg that had never fully healed. Nonetheless, Elizabeth wished to go and uncomfortable with the idea of her travelling alone, Frederick asked his brother Gustav and Gustav’s wife Louise (née Princess Louise of Anhalt-Dessau) to accompany Elizabeth to England. Gustav and Louise were an intensely private couple who had married in the same year as Elizabeth and Frederick. Seeing this as an opportunity to make close friends of the couple, Elizabeth was dismayed when they invariably rejected her invitations to socialise. This was not particular to Elizabeth; they simply preferred a quiet life at Homburg. But on this occasion, they did not wish to appear rude and whilst Gustav did not wish to go to England personally, he sanctioned his wife travelling with his sister-in-law to Windsor along with their children, Princess Caroline and Princess Elisabeth.


    A watercolour sketch of the Duke and Duchess of Clarence.

    Also on the guest list that year were the stepchildren the late Princess Royal (Queen Charlotte) but a miscommunication meant that the only one who accepted the invitation was Prince Paul. Paul’s wife, Princess Charlotte of Saxe-Hildburghausen, was a grandniece of the late Queen Charlotte and therefore a second cousin to the Duke of Clarence and his siblings. But she was also somewhat pushy and overbearing and took it upon herself to extend the Duke’s kind invitation to her daughter Charlotte and son-in-law (Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich of Russia), as well as to her brother Joseph (a Duke of Saxe-Altenburg), his wife Amelia (of Württemberg) as well as Joseph and Amelia’s children; Princess Marie, Princess Pauline, Princess Therese and Princess Elisabeth. To the young King George V’s delight, Prince Leopold arranged for the Coburg princes to attend as well. Those conspicuous by their absence were the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland (who naturally received no invitation) and Queen Louise (who did). She had elected to remain in Scotland at Abbotsford where she would spend Christmas alone. She did not send for her children to join her, neither did she send gifts to Windsor for them.

    Despite this, Princess Charlotte Louise would later describe the Christmas of 1828 as “the happiest we ever knew”. The young King George V clearly felt the same way and for good reason. An increasingly lonely child, he was thrilled to see Hereditary Duke Ernst and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha return to Windsor after their happy summer together and as if that were not enough company, he had a sudden influx of playmates of his own age to tear around the Castle with. The Clarences spared no expense in giving their guests the very best of everything and a grand ball was held which Princess Charlotte Louise remembered for the “seemingly endless parade of beautiful gowns and the most impressive suites of jewellery”. Instead of a formal sit-down affair, a string quartet played popular dances whilst food was served from long tables heaving with rich and luxurious food. The guests ate from the Junior Service commissioned by Dowager Queen Louise to mark the first banquet held at Buckingham Palace in 1825 and were served the finest wines and liqueurs available. In addition, every guest woke up on Christmas morning to find a small but very expensive gift arranged the Clarences (but given in the name of the King) on their dressing tables. Commissioned from Garrards, the Crown Jewellers, the men were given silver snuff boxes with enameled blue lids bearing a painted miniature of King George V on ivory surrounded by diamonds. The year 1828 appeared beneath the miniature and was decorated in yet more diamonds. The women were given similar boxes to serve as jewelry caskets, cast in silver but with enameled pink lids bearing the same likeness of King George V and the year in which the gift was given.

    The gifts for the children present were far less expensive but possibly more welcome. Every girl received a doll with two changes of clothes whilst every boy was given a set of lead soldiers with paints and a booklet to explain which colour was to be placed where on the soldiers’ uniforms. The Clarences also ensured that the royal children were thoroughly spoiled. For Princess Victoria, there was a pink velvet cloak trimmed with silver fox fur and an easel, canvases and watercolours to encourage her artistic talents. Princess Charlotte Louise received a similar cloak but in pale blue and the same art supplies in the hope that the two girls would spend their time together doing something constructive. For King George V, there was a coat from Ede and Ravenscroft trimmed with black bearskin collar and cuffs and a child’s version of the uniform of the Lord High Admiral. This was given half in jest, the Duke of Clarence clearly amused to see a smaller version of himself, but it revealed an ambition that his nephew might follow in his footsteps as a naval man rather than in the footsteps of the late King who was so well known for his attachment to the army. Prince Edward, being the youngest, was given a selection of wooden “educational” toys such an abacus and building blocks but he seemed more interested in being bounced on the knee of the Duke of Wellington than his actual presents.


    "Jack" in a portrait by an unknown artist but labelled as "Jack, His Majesty's Companion and Friend, 1828 - 1840"

    But the Clarences coup de grâce was a gift which struck dread into the hearts of the royal nannies and nursery maids helping the children gather up the wrapping paper from their Christmas gifts. The Duke of Clarence asked the assembled company to be quiet and to spread out leaving the centre of St George’s Hall empty. He clapped his hands and the doors were opened by the footmen resplendent in their crimson jackets and powdered wigs. After a brief delay, there came the noise of very fast scuttling on wooden floors. To the cries of delight from all assembled children, two King Charles Spaniel puppies came bounding into the Hall. The white and sable puppy was a gift to Princess Victoria whom she named Dash. [5] The white and russet puppy was a gift to King George V, Princess Charlotte Louise and Prince Edward. After days of careful deliberation, the dog was finally named Jack. Whilst the gift of the puppy was intended to be shared, Jack quickly became devoted to the young King and so it was that a life-long love of spaniels was born. Throughout his life, the King was never without these companions and at one time, he had as many seven who followed him from room to room as he wandered through the corridors of Windsor Castle. Though the children were delighted, an existing royal pet was less impressed with these very loud arrivals. Raffles, the Marmoset given to the King when he visited London Zoo, had to be relocated and went to live for a time with Honest Billy in his cottage on the Windsor Estate. Eventually he was given back to London Zoo when he attacked and killed Billy’s pet parrot, Lorna.

    The Duke of Wellington had cause to celebrate too that Christmas. Though the inevitable had happened and Daniel O’Connell had indeed won the second by-election in County Clare, O’Connell had shown willing by holding a large rally in Tulla (where the riots which marked the start of the Irish Crisis broke out) and calling for calm. Wellington had dispatched a messenger to O’Connell explaining that he would meet with him as soon as was possible and find a way to allow O’Connell to take his seat in the House of Commons. Again, this was a holding tactic but for the first time in months, the violence in Ireland had been calmed (if not completely quelled) and Wellington had high hopes that the New Year would mark the start of a challenging but ultimately rewarding programme for his government. If he could get Catholic relief to pass through parliament, he stood a very real chance of maintaining peace in Ireland and drawing it well away from the precipice of Civil War. Not only would this help to silence his critics in his party and the more right-wing Tory press but it would remind the country as a whole that he was a reliable pair of hands who could be trusted with the business of government. 1829 was ushered in at Windsor with toasts and parlour games, the Grand Duke Michael leaving the assembled guests in fits of laughter as he mimed the part of a toad. The Duchess of Clarence became so overcome with the giggles that tears poured down her face and forever after, she would refer to Michael as “my sweet little Frog”. As Princess Charlotte Louise later wrote, “Nobody could have been merrier than we that evening”.

    By the end of the first week of the new year, the guests had departed Windsor to return to Germany and the Clarences were preparing the children to return with them to London. In the absence of Queen Louise, it had been practical for the royal children to stay with their Uncle and Aunt at Clarence House or Buckingham Palace and so it was that a thrown together family unit emerged of the Clarences, King George V and his siblings, and Princess Victoria of Kent. They were enormously happy together, so much so that it did not take long for the Duke of Clarence to make a somewhat obvious observation. When the Duke of Portland visited Buckingham Palace on the 7th of January 1829, he noted in his diary that the young King was very fond his cousin Victoria and that the pair (now approaching ten years old and nine years old respectively) seemed “quite devoted to each other”. The Duke remarked on this to the Clarences, the Duke beaming and tapping his nose mysteriously with his finger; “Let us leave it entirely in the Lord’s hands”. Portland noted that the Duke added somewhat wistfully, “Wouldn’t that be something?”

    TW: See above before reading further.


    The Gardens at Buckingham Palace, 2021.

    But looking to happy unions of the future was painfully shattered by a tragic event in the present. On the 9th of January 1828, the royal children were playing together in the gardens of Buckingham Palace. 9-year-old Drina, 8-year-old Georgie, 7-year-old Lottie and 4-year-old Eddy were amusing themselves by rolling a cartwheel up and down the gravel paths to each other, whooping with joy the longer they could keep it upright. The older children became so excited that they raced ahead of young Prince Edward and out of sight of Honest Billy and Clara Wolfe, their governess, who were taking tea on a small table as the children played. Miss Wolfe became irritated that the children had disobeyed her for moving beyond her view and sprang into action marching towards the direction of the children’s shouts. Honest Billy chuckled to himself. Miss Wolfe was known for being something of a Jekyll and Hyde, devoted to the children in her care one moment and furious with them the next.

    In the commotion, nobody had noticed the 4-year-old Prince Eddy had been left behind and had wandered over to the pond installed by his late father, King George IV. The children had often played together on the banks of the pond and enjoyed being taken out on a small rowing boat, usually skippered by Honest Billy, the late King or the Duke of Clarence. When Miss Wolfe couldn’t find Eddy, she alerted Billy and the pair immediately began calling out for the boy in the vastness of the gardens. The noise of the children’s screams whilst playing with the cartwheel had masked the sound of a splash. By the time Billy discovered the full horror of what had happened, the little Prince had drowned. His body was recovered from the pond but it was too late. Miss Wolfe rushed the children into the Palace and wrapping the boy in his coat, Billy took the body of Prince Edward to his room in the Palace and laid him upon his bed. He then went to break the news to the Duchess of Clarence who was taking tea with Lady Beresford. Lady Beresford shared her memories of that awful day in her memoirs published many years later:

    “Her Royal Highness was as pale as I have ever seen a person and immediately let out a terrible scream. I too felt my knees buckle at the dreadful news and I confess that I have had many sleepless nights thinking of that poor dear child in the coldness of the water. The Duchess composed herself and sent word to her husband whilst I assisted her in breaking the awful news to His Majesty and Princess Charlotte Louise. Neither spoke. Neither cried. They were simply stunned into silence. Neither the Duchess or I could bear to enter the poor child’s room and so we knelt by the door in silent prayer, tears falling from our cheeks, until the Bishop of London arrived to assist with the laying out of the body”.

    This dreadful and unexpected event left a lasting impression on King George V. He would always refer to the death of his younger brother as “The Greatest Loss” and for the rest of his life on the 9th of January when the anniversary of Eddy’s death came around, the King would take himself into St George’s Chapel where he wept for hours, just as if the tragedy had occurred an hour before. The situation was made even worse for both the King and his young sister by the complete absence of their mother. The Duchess of Clarence sent word to Queen Louise in Scotland immediately. Whilst her reaction to the news has not been documented, we know that she remained in Scotland and did not attend her son’s funeral at the Chapel Royal of St James’ Palace or his burial in the Royal Vault at Windsor. She sent no communication to her surviving children and for the rest of her life, the Dowager Queen refused to allow any mention of Prince Edward in her company. The only sign that something had changed in Louise was the sudden absence of colour from her wardrobe. From Prince Edward’s death until her own, she only ever dressed in black.

    There was one final sting in the tragic tale. The children were devoted to their somewhat unpredictable governess, Miss Wolfe, and had come to rely on her presence in their lives. Though prone to temper tantrums and a strict disciplinarian, Clara Wolfe was also sweet, loving, generous and indulgent to the children in her care. After Prince Edward’s death, the children never saw her again. According to Honest Billy, Miss Wolfe had resigned her post and had gone to live with her mother in Crewe. In truth, it was Billy’s mother who lived in Crewe and Miss Wolfe had not resigned. Two days after the funeral of Prince Edward and wracked with guilt over the death of the little Prince, Clara Wolfe jumped into the Serpentine in Hyde Park and was drowned. When King George V learned this in adulthood, he added a plaque to the stone memorial by the pond that claimed the life of his younger brother erected in Eddy’s memory in 1829. Beneath the inscription for Prince Edward he added the words; “And also to the cherished memory of the King’s governess and companion, Clara Wolfe, Died aged 24 years”. 1829 had begun in the worst way possible for the Royal Family. Princess Charlotte Louise later wrote of the incident; “All that was left to us was to pray. We prayed for our dear brother’s soul and we prayed that our happiness would soon return”.

    [1] It should be noted that Wellington himself was against Catholic emancipation until not long before he became Prime Minister. He stated his opposition until such a time as he could no longer find a reason to vote against the relief acts. In this TL, the situation is more urgent and being a military man, I believe he’d understand the importance of avoiding a prolonged and costly Civil War and so drop his opposition to emancipation as he did in the OTL around the same time.

    [2] The Duke of Clarence took up this post in 1827 in the OTL.

    [3] In the OTL, Harrowby refused to serve in any government that would not introduce electoral reform or Catholic emancipation. When these issues finally came before the Commons he was invited back into government but refused because he felt he could not serve King George IV (Prince Regent). Obviously in this TL, that isn’t an issue as we had a different George IV who in 1828, is a year since dead.

    [4] This follows the basic timeline of this legislation in the OTL with a few minor butterflies over the date it was introduced because of the nature of this TL’s government being somewhat different. Some might question why Wellington (with a majority) would back an opposition bill but remember, he has inherited a deeply divided Tory party and would need opposition support to get such a bill through. He would therefore be unlikely (as he was in the OTL) to stand on principle that the government should be the authors of the legislation.

    [5] Okay, Dash arrives a year earlier on the scene and call me sentimental but I just couldn’t separate Victoria from her favourite pooch!

    And for those who want to follow such things:

    The First Wellington Ministry
    • First Lord of the Treasury and Leader of the House of Lords: The Duke of Wellington
    • Chancellor of the Exchequer: William Huskisson (until 1830, see Chapter Six).
    • Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs: Henry Goulburn
    • Secretary of State for the Home Department and Leader of the House of Commons: Robert Peel
    • Secretary of State for War and the Colonies: Alexander Baring
    • Lord Chancellor: John Copley, 1st Baron Lyndhurst
    • Lord President of the Council: William Bentinck, 4th Duke of Portland
    • Lord Privy Seal: Dudley Ryder, 1st Earl of Harrowby
    • First Lord of the Admiralty: The Duke of Clarence
    • President of the Board of Control: Edward Law, 1st Earl of Ellenborough
    • Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster: George Hamilton Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen
    • Master-General of the Ordnance: William Beresford, 1st Viscount Beresford
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