Crown Imperial: An Alt British Monarchy

GV: Part Two, Chapter 15: Exits and Entrances
  • King George V

    Part Two, Chapter Fifteen: Exits and Entrances

    The Christmas of 1839 could only ever be described as bittersweet for the Royal Family. As they gathered at Windsor Castle to celebrate the festive season, George V noted in his diary that “there seemed far fewer of us than ever before”. The Dowager Duchess of Clarence had hoped to go to Windsor but just before setting off from Clarence House, she developed a chill. She was advised by her physician that if she still intended to accompany the Cambridges (and the Princess Royal) to Germany in January, she must stay in London to recover. At Frogmore, Princess Augusta was deemed too unwell to make the short journey to the castle. She had been in poor health for some time but now, she appeared to be entering the final phase of her illness. Nursed by her sister Princess Sophia, Augusta believed she would not see out the year (a family trait of pessimism where sickness was concerned) and had even begun ordering her servants to tie white ribbons around objects she had reserved to be given to the Royal Collection upon her eventual demise.

    A new face at Windsor that year meant that a familiar one elected not to attend. In a gesture of goodwill, the King and Queen had asked the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to join them for the Christmas celebrations. They were to stay at Royal Lodge and not at the castle itself, and the invitation was only extended for luncheon on the 25th and for a ball to be held in the evening of Boxing Day; the Sussexes were not to join the Royal Family for the traditional Christmas Eve gift exchange or supper. Still, this proved too much for Princess Mary who opted to spend Christmas at Frogmore with her two sisters, only seeing the King and Queen in person for the Christmas morning service at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Mary was still incensed that the King had sanctioned the Sussex marriage; his decision to offer formal recognition to the Duke’s bride meant that she was now entitled to the style of Royal Highness.

    The gathering on Christmas Eve was therefore smaller than before with only the King and Queen, the Princess Royal, Princess Charlotte Louise and the Cambridges present. The Queen was to begin her confinement in a matter of weeks, her second child due in just two months, and though Dr Allison had asked her to bring her laying in forward by a month, the Queen refused; she would not miss a single moment with Missy ahead of her departure from England on January the 10th the following year. Yet amidst the sadness of their parting on the horizon, the King and Queen did their best to have a jolly time. The King gifted his wife a pair of 17th century Delftware tulip vases for her collection; unfortunately, everybody had heard of the Queen’s fondness for the ceramics, and she was inundated with jars, vases, plates, cups, saucers and even a bowl which the sender had clearly not realised was actually a shaving dish. Shortly before supper was served on Christmas Eve, Queen Louise nodded to Charlie Phipps who opened the doors to the Great Hall and amid excited yaps and coos of approval, two King Charles Cavalier Spaniel puppies came bounding in towards the family.

    One of these puppies was a Blenheim boy, the white of his muzzle broken up with a ‘Blenheim Kiss’, a blot of chestnut fur in the middle of the forehead. He was a gift for the King, the Queen becoming increasingly concerned that her husband’s childhood canine friend Jack was nearing the end of his days. George was thrilled and named his new companion Harry. Harry quickly asserted himself as top dog and took a shine to the Queen’s spaniel, Diamond. Harry and Diamond would give the Royal Family more puppies, the spaniels becoming the favoured royal pet for decades. The second puppy was a gift for the Princess Royal and was a black and tan female who was given the name Holly. Holly would go with Missy to Bautzen, though she made quite the first impression on Lady Dorothy Wentworth when she became too excited and wet on Dolly’s skirt. The Cambridges had no idea that the Queen was to give new pets as presents and added to the chaos when they presented the Queen with an African grey parrot named Sybil.

    Another gift which raised eyebrows was the arrival of a box from St Petersburg and which was laid among the other presents in the Great Hall. The box came from the House of Bolin, the most important jeweller in Russia before that most coveted spot was challenged by Fabergé in the late 19th century. Bolin had been commissioned by the Tsarevich to create something special for his intended; the jeweller did not fail his client. The Tsarevich’s gift was a devant de corsage, a large piece of jewellery intended to be worn on the centre panel of the bodice of a dress. But Bolin had gone beyond producing yet another fashionable stomacher. This piece boasted a large emerald as the focal point and by turning three small clasps, the diamond pendants could be removed leaving the emerald surrounded by brilliants as a stand-alone piece to be worn as a brooch – with or without a diamond drop at it’s base. When the King saw the gift, he could no longer placate himself that the Russian match was still not a serious prospect. Sasha’s intentions were clear for all to see. [1]


    The Bolin Stomacher gifted to Princess Charlotte Louise by the Tsarevich. The piece no longer exists but this is the original design found in Bolin's archives.

    But far away from the extravagant presents and lavish suppers at Windsor, Christmas 1839 was a thoroughly miserable time for the vast majority of the King’s subjects. The food crisis had reached breaking point, and many have suggested that had it not been for the announcement of a general election, the riots which occurred across England with alarming regularity may have been much larger and far more impactful. Others have suggested that the reason such riots did not gather more interest was nothing at all to do with the election (the working classes cared more for bread than the ballot) but because most were simply too hungry to make the long journeys to cities and towns to join the uprisings. At Crowhurst, the Prime Minister gave the green light to introducing the so-called Russell mechanism as soon as parliament sat again the new year. This would tie the price of bread to the supply and make wheat and other grains more affordable. But it was only a short-term solution and not one that brought much comfort in the days of the Winter of Discontent.

    Lord John Russell was pleased to see his proposal taken up (not that Edward Stanley had left Lord Cottenham much choice) but he felt a definite sense of frustration too. He could not see any way in which the Whigs might convince the electorate to stay the course and he seriously worried that many of his colleagues would find themselves ousted from the Commons. The Russell Group was mostly comprised of backbenchers in marginal seats. If their seats were taken by the Tories (or worse, the Unionists), then he would find his cabal of supporters stuck outside the walls of the Palace of the Westminster and whatever happened in the general election, Russell might once again find the top job eluded him. Sir James Graham had no such anxieties. In his mind, the Whigs were a busted flush. They would be out of office by the Spring and the Tories returned to government. To that end, he gave a party at his London townhouse to celebrate the New Year where the Tory grandees toasted the future ahead with champagne – and jostled for Cabinet posts between glasses.

    One politician who shared Graham’s confidence was not a prospective Cabinet minister but an incumbent one. Lord Melbury had become something a royal favourite and the King had taken him into his confidence as a close friend. In later years Melbury would say that whilst he still felt a knot in his stomach when he recalled his earlier clash with George V, it had “broken the ice and allowed us to speak our minds, to put aside position and rank, and to enjoy a friendship which I consider to have been sincerely cherished by both parties”. Melbury was invited to attend the ball given on Boxing Day at Windsor and whilst there, he privately warned the King that he may soon be facing a change of government. In the Foreign Secretary’s view, the Tories were likely to win a decent majority and the Whigs would remain in the political wilderness for quite some time. George noted this in his journal but attributed no opinion of his own to Melbury’s predictions.

    Indeed, George’s diary entries during the Winter of Discontent do not focus so much on politics but rather on the departure of the Princess Royal and the impending confinement of his wife. He was certain her second child would be a boy and jotted down that he had already chosen the name of the new Prince of Wales. He was to be called William Edward George Frederick, William in honour of the late Duke of Clarence, Edward in honour of the King’s late brother, George for the King and Frederick for the King’s late father. But there are two other names which appear in the pages of the King’s journal at this time which are of great interest to royal historians. Prince Alexander of Prussia had been a close friend to the King for years and from 1839 onwards, Alexander became a regular at court once more. He was accompanied by his mistress, Rosalind Wiedl. Whilst many in London society frowned on this relationship, the Queen knew that the King could only see the good in Alexander and so she extended a welcome to Wiedl too, the two women becoming close friends themselves.


    Rosalinde Wiedl.

    George wished the Prince to remain in England for a while, presumably to help cheer him when the Princess Royal had left and when his time with his wife was to be heavily restricted according to the customs surrounding childbirth in this period. But perhaps George also saw that Alexander was spiralling somewhat. He drank to excess and even though Rosalinde Wiedl was his primary companion, there were other women too – usually found in the brothels of whichever grand city Alexander found himself in. The King offered the Prince and his friend the use of Fort Belvedere on the Windsor estate for a few months before it’s redecoration. At New Year, George gifted his sister Marlborough House with the lease placed in her hands for the duration of her lifetime, not the King’s. He had intended to gift her the Fort too but he had opted instead to refurbish the property and wait and see what happened with Charlotte Louise’s marriage prospects.

    It was after visiting Prince Alexander at the Fort that for the first time beyond a mention of her name, the King gives his impression of Rosalinde Wiedl. The thirty-year-old widow was well liked by the Cambridges and distinguished herself by using her existing friendship with the Sussexes to make the new Duchess feel comfortable in a room full of gossips who were clearly fascinated that she had finally been welcomed to court as a member of the family [2]. “Frau W. is a lady with a most excellent sense of humour and one can quite see what Alexander finds so appealing in her character. She made a wonderful addition to the party and Sunny told me that she thought it a great shame that Fritz and Lulu consider her a bad influence for there is little evidence that any of Xander’s poor behaviour is encouraged by Rosa. I found the opposite to be true for it was Rosa who stopped X from taking more wine at luncheon when he was already quite intoxicated. Sunny was most put out as he became a crashing bore but afterwards agreed with me that Rosa had rescued the gathering by being so very witty”.

    Another guest present in the New Year’s celebrations at Windsor was Decimus Burton. Burton was something of a workaholic and instead of arriving simply to have a good time, he brought with him his revised plans for the Regent’s Park development. Building on the work he had already contributed to John Nash’s original designs; he had produced something that delighted the King and mid-ball, George took his Uncles Cambridge and Sussex into his study with Burton to show them the plans for the first time. Both agreed that the end result would be very impressive indeed if the works could be afforded. But the King was not to be dissuaded. He was boosted by Burton’s second gift that evening; the news that Hanover House at Broadwindsor would be completed by the autumn at the very latest; “Then that is where we shall spend next Christmas”, the King cried happily, “And Uncle Cambridge, I shall have no excuses – you shall be back with us at Hanover House next year – those old ruins at Herrenhausen can’t have you all the time, what?”

    The King had finally made his peace with the idea that this Uncle would be leaving England. He had also accepted that his daughter would go with him. But on the 10th of January 1840, the reality of these separations could no longer be spoken of as future plans. The Cambridges, accompanied by the Princess Royal in the charge of Lady Dorothy Wentworth, left Windsor Castle for London. There they would spend a night at Cambridge House and the following day, joined by the Dowager Duchess of Clarence, they would travel to Harwich to board the Royal Yacht for their journey to Germany. The King and Queen’s stoic approach to bidding their daughter farewell could not fail to impress. They did not shed a tear, insisting that any displays of sorrow might upset Missy and distress her. So it was that they watched the parade of carriages leave Windsor and rattle through the George IV Gate, carrying their daughter away for her new life at Bautzen. The moment the coaches disappeared from sight, the Queen fell to her knees and let out a painful scream. The King rushed to her aid, now openly weeping himself. Charlie Phipps and the Duchess of Sutherland assisted George in getting Louise safely to her bed. Sutherland said of the incident; “I had never before seen the Queen so desperately wounded, so utterly tormented. Dr Allison came and prescribed a sleeping draught, after which Her Majesty slept soundly”.

    For the next week, a pall of sadness drew itself over Windsor. The King waited anxiously for news that his daughter had arrived on the continent safely, whilst his wife entered her confinement, ate alone in her room and slept as much as possible to hide from the agonizing reality of what had just occurred. When he could bear it no longer, the King made his way on foot to Fort Belvedere where he tried to enjoy the company of Prince Alexander. But Alexander had become churlish and unpleasant company. When he was not drunk, he was suffering from terrible hangovers that left him riddled with anxiety and self-loathing. He was hardly the company George needed at such a difficult time. When George made his way to the Fort for dinner one evening, Frau Wiedl gave her apologies. Alexander had passed out cold after yet another binge. The King made to leave but then hesitated; “I wonder if I might impose and take supper with you then Frau Wiedl?”, he said sadly, “I simply cannot bear to go back to my study tonight”. The pair ate together, Frau Wiedl trying her best to raise the King’s spirits by playing some of his favourite tunes on the piano when their meal was over. George found himself smiling. And so it was that this tête-á- tête was repeated the next evening. And the next.

    There was a brief moment of hope on January the 13th when word came from Germany. Sadly, it was not from the Duke of Cambridge. Rather it was a letter from Bad Homburg; the King’s aunt Elizabeth had died on the same day the Cambridges had left England. As Princess Mary had predicted, the Duke was too late to catch Elizabeth’s final hours and by the time he reached Hanover, the Hesse-Homburgs had held a funeral service for his sister and interred her coffin beside that of her husband Frederick VI at the Mausoleum of the Landgraves. George had never really known his aunt but perhaps inspired by the sober mood of the day, he insisted that 14 days of court mourning be observed and there was a memorial service for the Princess at St George’s Chapel, Windsor which was held in the evening of the 15th of January. It was attended by the Princesses Mary and Sophia. The Sussexes had returned to London and Princess Augusta was too ill to leave Frogmore. The Queen was represented by the Duchess of Sutherland.

    All seemed to be doom and gloom and not at all the bright start to the new decade the King had hoped for. Then, on Friday the 31st of January, the King invited some of his closest friends to Windsor for a hunting weekend. The Duchess of Sutherland thought this quite disrespectful given the circumstances, but Dr Allison chided her; “There is nothing wrong with Her Majesty that the first sight of her baby will not cure, and it’ll do the King some good to be out in the field”. Those in attendance included Prince Alexander (in a rare few days of sobriety), Lord Melbury and Henry Glazebrook, Melbury’s financial advisor. The King wanted an outside opinion on Burton’s plans for the Regent’s Park development and Glazebrook was invited to Windsor solely for the purpose of casting an eye over the designs and offering a frank assessment of the economics of the project. It was whilst George was showing Melbury and Glazebrook the Burton plans in his study that a beaming Charlie Phipps arrived with an urgent message from The Hague. Princess Victoria had given birth.

    Princess Victoria Paulina of the Netherlands was born on the 24th of January 1840, the first child to be born to Prince William and his wife Victoria. The little Princess’ arrival raised eyebrows both with regard to her name and to her sex. The Prince wished to name her Wilhelmina in honour of his ailing grandfather King William I but his wife put her foot down. Her daughter would be named after her mother and grandmother. Fortunately, the Prince was not in one of his more capricious moods and gave in, but he insisted that the second name of his new-born daughter honour her Dutch relations. Still somewhat stubborn, Victoria discounted Wilhelmina entirely and (avoiding any real connections to the House of Orange) selected Paulina in honour of the baby’s paternal great-grandfather, Emperor Paul I of Russia. Many expected William to be angry that his first born child was not a son. Yet he was delighted with his daughter and refused to hear mention of the fact that his wife had failed to produce a fine prince instead.


    The Henry Bone portrait of the two Victorias given to Princess Victoria of the Netherlands (née Kent) in 1840 by George V.

    King George and Queen Louise were invited to serve as godparents to Victoria Paulina (known as Linna within the family) with Prince Alexander of the Netherlands standing proxy for the King and Victoria’s sister-in-law Princess Sophie standing proxy for the Queen. King George responded to the message with an unusual gift; he ordered Phipps to find a portrait of Princess Victoria with her mother and dispatch it to The Hague. Victoria had grown up with every picture of her mother, the late Duchess of Kent, hidden from her and when she received the Henry Bone portrait which showed the Duchess and her infant daughter together, she wept tears of joy. It would forever find a home in Victoria’s bedroom, and it is said that when she died in 1901, she looked up to the portrait and said softly, “Dearest Mama” before she breathed her last.

    In the first week of February 1840, parliament was prorogued ahead of the March general election. George was in a much happier mood, buoyed by the good news from the Netherlands and anxiously awaiting the arrival of his son. Dr Allison predicted that it would not be too long before the little one made his appearance and the King, eager for his child to do so, did not stray too far from the castle so that he might be called the moment Queen Louise started her labour. For the most part, he spent his time studying the Burton plans (which Glazebrook believed were financially sound, though he warned that the end result might not return a profit for some time and would only ‘wipe it’s face’ for the first ten years). Supper was taken in his study alone, except for two occasions when he was joined at the castle by Prince Alexander and Frau Wiedl.

    Suddenly, these quiet hours were disrupted when Dr Allison informed His Majesty that he should summon the various VIPs who had to be on hand to witness the royal birth; these included the Archbishop of Canterbury (or York, whichever was easiest to track down), the Home Secretary, the Lord President of the Council, the Lord Chancellor and other establishment figures who came to regard such a formality as a good excuse to enjoy royal hospitality. They could expect three or four days of the very best food from the royal kitchens (not to mention the same quality in wines from the royal cellars) and often those who took part in this ancient ritual were disappointed when the baby arrived, and their weekend of gluttony was ended.

    For those who assembled to witness this royal birth, their revels were to be cut even shorter. The Queen began her labour around 8.30pm on the 16th of February. By 2am, the Queen’s bedroom in the private apartments was filled with the screams of a very healthy baby girl. The King was waiting anxiously for news. In the back of his mind, he could not shrug the nagging worry that there might be a complication as there had been during Missy’s birth. But his worries were quickly eased by Dr Allison; the Queen and her baby (weighing 8lbs 3oz) were in the very best of health. The King stepped into his wife’s bedroom, kissing Louise tenderly on the forehead and taking his daughter in his arms from the Duchess of Sutherland. The Queen looked nervous; “I had so hoped I would give you a son this time Georgie”, she said softly. The King smiled at his wife. He was disappointed not to be cradling a little Duke of Cornwall in his arms but one look at his daughter’s face and any sentiments of that nature dissipated; “She is a fine little girl. And as beautiful as her mother”.

    Content though the King was, he had been so certain that he would have a son this time around that he hadn’t considered names for a daughter. But the Queen had. George had taken the lead when Missy was born and so this time, he bowed to his wife’s preferences. Not that the Queen had chosen anything particularly unexpected, indeed, she looked to the King’s own family and not her own. The little girl was given the names Victoria Mary Charlotte Elizabeth; Victoria in honour of Princess Victoria of the Netherlands, Mary in honour of the Dowager Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh, Charlotte in honour of the King’s sister and Elizabeth as a tribute to the recently deceased Dowager Landgravine of Hesse-Homburg. Princess Victoria would be known as Toria. Her godparents were Princess Victoria of the Netherlands, Princess Mary, Dowager Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh and Princess Augusta of Cambridge, the Duke of Sussex (a typically kind-hearted gesture from the conciliatory Queen), the Queen’s brother Hereditary Grand Duke Frederick William of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Prince Alexander of Prussia. The King approved, though he wondered how on earth he would get his aunt Mary to the christening in the presence of his Uncle Sussex.


    Prince Alexander of Prussia.

    The news of the royal birth was received with muted happiness in England. Whilst most were to be considered “the new royalists” described by Charles Greville, it was difficult to feel too much joy when the vast majority were facing so many problems of their own. With this in mind, the King ordered that special gift boxes ranging from £5 - £15 be sent out to all collegiate churches in the country to serve as poor relief. This gesture was a kind and well-intentioned one but sadly, unscrupulous clergy opted not to use the King’s gift immediately and simply added it to the overall fund for the year (with the result that many gift boxes went straight into the pocket of the parish councillors). Nonetheless, the usual messages of congratulation poured in and the King and Queen were relieved when Dr Allison confirmed that little Toria was healthy in every way with no trace of any difficulties. For a brief moment, the Queen especially had feared that Missy’s deafness may be hereditary and might show itself again in their second child.

    As soon as she could leave her bed, the Queen asked the Duchess of Sutherland to help her cast Princess Victoria’s hand in plaster. The sleeping princess had her right hand dipped into a bowl of gypsum (ironically the Princess would grow up to be left-handed) and the result was placed on the Queen’s dresser in her bedroom. A second cast was taken to be dispatched to Missy in Bautzen. It was accompanied by a note from Queen Louise; “For my darling elder sister whom I shall love and cherish always”. Louise could allow herself to be happy despite wishing the Princess Royal was with her parents to see the new arrival. Yet she could also allow a moment of relief that she had “done her duty”. Whilst she may not have provided a son and heir, she had produced two daughters. The Line of Succession to the British throne was secure for another generation.

    The King too refused to be glum. He celebrated his daughter’s birth with a glass of champagne, a rare break in his abstinence from alcohol. As the Queen slept, the King sat in his study with Prince Alexander and Frau Wiedl, the latter congratulating the King on the latest addition to his family.

    “I’d have liked a boy”, the King replied smiling, “But it appears I am destined to be surrounded by women. And very beautiful ones at that”.

    He drained his glass and bid his friends goodnight, sleeping soundly in his bed for the first time since Missy had left for Germany.

    [1] Bolin was the favourite court jeweller in St Petersburg, and he specialised in multi-purpose jewels which could be worn two or three ways. I suppose when you’re buying gems as big as plover’s eggs, you want to be able to show them off in many varieties!

    [2] Cecilia was already Duchess of Inverness but here she is the “new” Duchess of Sussex in addition to her previous title.

    [3] See Appendix I in Threadmarks.


    The next instalment is written and ready to go and it's that one which contains our set-up for the Palace of Westminster poll. Apologies to those who expected it in this one as promised (a calendar mix up on my part) but you won't have long to wait!
    GV: Part Two, Chapter 16: Counting Chickens
  • King George V

    Part Two, Chapter Sixteen: Counting Chickens

    The Whig election campaign did not get off to the best start possible. To begin with, Lord Cottenham caught a cold and so the entire Whig platform had to be set by Edward Stanley on his behalf with most MPs already on their way to their constituencies with no briefing as to the kind of thing their speeches should contain. To add to their woes, the Tory press began running daily interviews with widows of troops lost at Bala Hissar and with working men who had lost their jobs or faced starvation. In one newspaper, a column appeared entitled ‘Woes of the Whigs’ and kept people up to date with the latest campaign news.

    It was hardly edifying political journalism. The ‘Woes’ reported included news that Sir George Strickland, the Whig MP for the West Riding of Yorkshire, had decided to stand in Preston instead; unfortunately, he entrusted the first leg of his journey to the newly created York and North Midland Railway and ended up stuck in a siding overnight missing the first hustings. Another Whig MP, William Marshall, Member for Carlisle, had been pelted with mud during his hustings and when the local magistrate asked why Mr Ernest Willis had done so, Willis replied, “I’d have thrown flour Sir, but none of us have any”.

    By contrast, the Tories were enjoying a promising start to their campaign. They were committed to upholding the Corn Laws, but Sir James Graham promised to introduce a mechanism to impose a sliding scale of import duties based on the overall value of goods which would make wheat, corn and other grains more affordable. This was exactly what the Whigs were about to do before Cottenham called a general election and now, Graham took the initiative and the credit. In areas where the workhouses had become full, Graham committed the government to introduce programmes of work for the unemployed and he pledged to release more money from the Civil Contingencies Fund for areas badly affected by food shortages. His message was clear; the Whigs had overspent and had been distracted by Palmerston’s foreign adventures and Russell’s liberal values. Britain must get back on her feet through hard work and self-reliance, but he conceded that the government had a role to play in helping people along a little to “get over the worst of the Whigs”.


    Sir James Graham.

    That is not to say that Graham had no challenges of his own to face. Though he wanted to fight the election on domestic issues, many demanded to know what Graham would do in relation to the new problems posed by China and the existing power vacuum in Afghanistan. His answer was simple; the Opium trade was to be abhorred (he stopped short of promising to abolish it) and China had every right to stop the import of such a dangerous drug into her ports. Palmerston had promised a war to assert British interests, Graham refused to countenance another expensive foreign policy mistake. He would send a delegation to China to see the Emperor personally and resolve the crisis by treaty, not gunboat.

    On Afghanistan, he had been invited to attend the upcoming Brighton Conference at the end of the month and whilst there, he would make it abundantly clear to the Russian delegates that the British would no longer tolerate aggression in British India and that an agreement must be concluded on Afghanistan to prevent any further loss of life (and expense to the Treasury). The relationship with Russia must be “repaired in an atmosphere of trust and goodwill”, he said, “Moving away from the sabre-rattling policies of Lord Palmerston and back to an age of treaties and agreements which press the British interest but do not inflame the United Kingdom’s rivals to act in such a way which forces us to protect those interests with military action”.

    The latter pledge was a little optimistic. Lord Cottenham and his ministers would still be in office when the Brighton Conference was held, and Cottenham had only invited Graham as a courtesy. The government may well change in March but until then, it was Lords Melbury and Granville who would lead the British delegation at Brighton. Graham would be there only in his capacity as an interested observer. This was taken up by the Unionists, the biggest challenge to the Tory campaign. However persuasive Graham might be, the Unionists threatened to split the vote and let the Whigs back in with a reduced majority. But the Unionists were still using old tactics to gain support. They insisted that Cottenham would resign the moment the Whigs had a majority, and that Russell would waltz into Downing Street with a raft of policies that would prove nothing short of an attack on the Crown, Parliament and the Church. They said nothing on the food shortages other than blaming the Whigs for imposing harsher restrictions on landlords which had forced estates to raise rents and ultimately, evict tenants.

    When it came to the Tories, some Unionists in Whig/Tory marginals hinted that their supporters should “weigh the balance”. It should be remembered that the vast majority of Unionists were former Tories, and, in their view, the Whigs had a safety net in the Repeal Association which could only be undone if the Whigs were crushed at the polls in significant numbers. One Unionist candidate was deselected mid-campaign for publishing a leaflet which told the electorate in his constituency that a vote for the Tories was still a vote for the Unionists as both parties shared the same anti-Whig views. Graham cheerfully remarked; “The Unionists are the best asset we have in acquiring Whig seats” and Lord Winchelsea privately urged his party grandees to cough up more money to circulate copies of a new magazine called The Unionist to repair the damage done by his own prospective parliamentary candidates. The pamphlet lasted just three weeks and was quickly shut down when it’s second edition saw the Unionists threatened with legal action for suggesting one Whig MP was a drunkard and that a Tory MP was about to divorce his wife.

    At Buckingham Palace, the King continued to meet with Lord Cottenham. Both knew that regardless of the outcome, the Prime Minister’s days in office were numbered and so these meetings were more general in their scope, Cottenham now unable to offer any long-term commitments. The King apologised that he could not invite the Prime Minister to the christening of Princess Victoria in the first week of March; for Cottenham to be seen in the royal presence so close to polling day was unthinkable. This left the King and the Prime Minister only one issue to focus on: Russia. With the Brighton Conference looming ever closer, Lord Melbury had kept the King well informed of what the government intended to propose to the Russian delegation. But George was more concerned at the Russian proposal his sister may be about to receive. If she was right and if the Tsarevich did ask for her hand in marriage at Brighton, the King faced an extremely difficult situation. Whilst the government could not withhold consent for such a marriage, it could still raise objections.

    When they had discussed Princess Charlotte Louise’s possible marriage to the Tsarevich before, Cottenham had spoken of Cabinet concerns. Now, George and Cottenham revisited those objections but this time the King was better prepared. He acknowledged that the concerns of Cottenham’s ministry were valid, though before he had disapproved of the way in which they were raised. That being said, the King was not prepared to entertain Lord Cottenham’s suggestion that parliament might introduce a bill which would allow members of the Royal Family to renounce their succession rights. In his view, this would give parliament an authority to involve itself in matters concerning the marriages of the Royal Family (and the succession) which George insisted would set a dangerous precedent; “How long before pressure is applied in parliament to force members of my family to make use of such a bill, simply because parliament does not approve of their marriage whilst the King does?”. Lord Cottenham had not been entirely thorough in his proposal for such a bill, but he agreed with the King that this would be a most unfortunate consequence.

    The birth of Princess Victoria had lessened concerns regarding the line of succession. Whilst it was still entirely possible that Princess Charlotte Louise might succeed her brother one day, the possibility looked to be a very remote one.

    “If a guarantee were still demanded”, Cottenham reasoned, “I do have another suggestion which Your Majesty may wish to consider”. The King lit a cigarette and took a paper from the Prime Minister. At the top, it read; “Amendment to the Act of Settlement”.

    “The Act of Settlement?”

    “Yes Sir”, Cottenham explained, “Passed in 1701 to settle the succession to the Crown on Protestants only. It deposed the descendants of Charles I with the exception of Queen Anne and which eventually settled the throne upon Your Majesty’s ancestress, the Electress Sophia of Hanover”

    George muffled a sigh.

    “Yes, I know all that Prime Minister”, he said tersely, “But what has that got to do with my sister’s marriage?”

    Cottenham drew a breath and affixed his pince-nez, looking down at his notes as he put forward his “guarantee”.

    “You see Your Majesty”, he began, “The Act of Settlement barred Roman Catholics from the throne. And any prince who married a Catholic was also barred. The concept of course was to uphold Protestantism as the state religion in the person of the Sovereign who is also Supreme Governor of the Church of England. As a man of the law Sir, I would interpret the Act of Settlement as having two distinct consequences; the first being that the succession was settled on the non-Catholic heirs of the Electress Sophia but the second being that the Sovereign must be a member of the Anglican communion”


    Electress Sophia of Hanover.

    “I don’t follow Cottenham…”

    “Well Sir, when you acceded you became the reigning monarch and by definition the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. By taking the coronation oath, you have accepted all conditions attached to it by statute. And that translates, in my humble opinion, to a pledge that Your Majesty will uphold the Anglican communion as the State Church and as Your Majesty’s practised faith. The Sovereign must therefore, again, in my humble opinion Sir, be a member of the Anglican communion. Her Royal Highness, and by default, her children, will not be members of that communion as the Princess will be required to convert to Orthodoxy if she marries the Tsarevich of Russia. Were the Princess to find herself first in line, I believe that is how the Act of Settlement would be interpreted and applied. In short Sir, the Princess could not be crowned unless she reverted to the Anglican faith, neither could any of her children. Thus, personal union between the Crowns of Britain and Russia is impossible”

    The King took in Cottenham’s words. He had great respect for the Prime Minister’s legal background and what he said rang true. [1]

    “We are placing great store in an anomaly Sir but great legal precedents have been set on such irregularities and if my party were in office if the situation presented itself as described, I would offer Your Majesty some reassurance that if the interpretation was not enough in and of itself, the government would, and I believe I speak for the Tories as well Sir, introduce an amendment to the Act of Settlement which corrected that anomaly and made the position clear without impinging on the rights of the Sovereign to consent to marriages within His Majesty’s family”.

    Yet there were still the political objections to consider. Even those who expressed concerns about a possible succession crisis still maintained that such a marriage would lead Britain into an alliance with Russia which no British government could accept, whether Whig or Tory. This was not so easily solved. The King made it clear that he intended to speak with the Tsarevich personally (if he did indeed propose at Brighton) that he could only give his consent if it was made abundantly plain to the Tsar and his ministers that this would be a marriage with none of the usual political obligations which usually featured in royal marriage contracts of the day. This would not be a union between two great Empires; indeed, it would be expressed in the bluntest terms possible that Britain and Russia would continue to follow their respective foreign policies - even when that meant the two nations found themselves opposed to each other. The conference at Brighton aimed to bring those foreign policies into a form of mutual agreement where Asia was concerned but both now and, in the future, Russia could not rely on Britain’s support in military conflicts (or even in every day diplomatic relations) simply because their future Empress was the sister of the British Sovereign. “Politics are to be left to the politicians”, George told Cottenham, “If the Russians will not accept that then I am minded to withhold my consent until they do”.

    The Prime Minister nodded his agreement; “Of course Sir, not every royal marriage is political in nature. And I am appreciate of Your Majesty’s reassurance on this point which I believe is a very sound and sensible view to take. I only hope the Russians can appreciate it too. But I must ask Sir…do you really believe the Princess will be happy in Russia? I hope Your Majesty will not consider me intrusive, but I am fond of the Princess, as are we all in Cabinet, indeed we wish her every happiness. But I cannot believe she will truly find her happiness in St Petersburg”

    This worry had crossed the King’s mind too. After all, what did his sister really know of life in Russia? Could she ever truly accept and embrace her new country, her new family and her new religion when all three were so different to what she had experienced in her homeland? The King was determined to make the Princess think seriously about accepting the Tsarevich not because he wished to dissuade her in any way but rather because he feared she may be trying to grasp her first real chance of happiness since her disappointment over Prince Albert. Such a kneejerk reaction might well lead to her a life of misery. That said, if the Princess really was sure, the King was determined to give her what she wanted. He would fight tooth and nail to prove to the naysayers that her marriage would not lead to catastrophe…but only if he believed she was sincere in her feelings. It was Cottenham who offered a solution.

    “I have taken an interest in this matter Your Majesty”, he said kindly, “And if I may…has Her Royal Highness actually met with any Russian who isn’t connected to the Imperial Family? I’m not speaking of Count Medem or the like. Rather, someone who could give her a more subjective view of the country?”

    The King laughed, lighting another cigarette, “As unusual as it may seem Prime Minister, we do not often entertain Russian peasants here at the Palace”

    “No Sir”, Cottenham said, not quite catching the King’s joke, “Now as I recall, there used to be an Orthodox congregation in Greek Street – hence the name. Their church was confiscated for some reason or other, but I understand they moved to the Russian Embassy in Chesham Place. I’m sure you’d find a Russian émigré or two there Sir” [2]

    George thanked Cottenham for his advice. It was an absurd idea. Or was it? When the Prime Minister had kissed the King’s hand and left his study, the King called Charlie Phipps into the room. The King’s Private Secretary was quite used to unexpected requests but this one seem more unexpected than most. The King asked Phipps to go along to the Russian Embassy on Sunday afternoon (“One assumes they worship on Sundays like the rest of us”) and to see if he could find an Orthodox Russian who spoke good English and who was “respectable” enough to bring back to the Palace to be introduced to Princess Charlotte Louise before she headed to Brighton. Phipps agreed. And then immediately wondered what constituted a “respectable Russian”.


    Chesham Place and the building which once housed the Imperial Russian Embassy in London.

    In the meantime, the King had an audience with Sir James Graham. It was quite usual during general election campaigns (which at this time could last as long as three months) for the Sovereign to meet with the Leader of the Opposition at regular intervals. This was entirely practical, as though the monarch would no doubt be familiar with them, Prime Ministers enjoyed spending far more time with the monarch than they do today in a social capacity. It was considered that these meetings helped to put the Leader of the Opposition at his ease; and for those who had once served as Prime Minister and been ousted, there was the cushion of still remaining within the royal inner circle until such a time as it seemed prudent to ditch them entirely from the Buckingham Palace guestlist. George expected Graham to brief him on the Tory election campaign. Or to discuss his ambitions to put right the food crisis or to put down further uprisings in the North of England, or in Wales. But he didn’t.

    Instead, Graham asked the King if he might be so kind as to introduce Sir James to Decimus Burton. It was not for himself of course; Graham had no vision of building a grand country house or London villa. Rather, he intended to revisit something in the first few days of his premiership (Graham being a great one for counting his chickens before they hatched) which needed urgent resolution. During the Great Thames Flood, the foundations of the new Palace of Westminster (and the scaffold) had been badly damaged. Worryingly, the foundations which had been laid were fashioned from Magnesian Limestone from the Anston quarry of the Duke of Leeds. [3] The stone had been hurriedly quarried and was badly handled. When the water was pumped from the foundation, the limestone foundation appeared to be covered in thick green slime and was badly pockmarked from the debris that had swamped it. Graham believed it prudent to return to the design stage and ask whether Melbourne’s preference was in fact the right choice before the foundations were replaced.

    Graham was being a little disingenuous. In fact, he had two reasons for wishing to address the situation at the Palace site. Firstly, there was the spectacle of the thing. Graham would be able to announce in his first few days that it was a new decade and a new political era, something which should be commemorated with a new parliament that wasn’t mired in Gothic brown stone. He also saw an opportunity to slash the budget in light of the Great Thames Flood earning a little public goodwill from Londoners. But his main objective was entirely political. The Tories had disliked the Barry and Pugin design and there were claims of cheating and fraud during the selection process. Here was a chance to kick the Whigs when they were down. Indeed, during a hustings speech, Graham pledged to rebuild the palace of Westminster at a reduced cost "free of Whig corruption". In this, he was referring to the fall out from the “competition” held to find a new design. Of the 97 entrants, 34 complained that Barry and Pugin had cheated.

    Their evidence was to be found in the corner of the Barry and Pugin design; both men had signed it. This was quite usual, except the competition rules which regulated the submission of designs made it clear that each entry was to be marked with a pseudonym or symbol which could later be used to identify the architect responsible for the winning design from a list held by the Speaker of the House of Commons. In the view of those who had not been successful, Barry and Pugin had broken this rule and should therefore be disqualified, and their design scrapped. Their petitions to parliament were ignored – Melbourne liked the Barry/Pugin design and that was the design the Royal Commission (comprised mostly of Whigs) plumped for. But the Tories were not so keen. Whilst a handful (such as Sir Robert Peel, a close friend of Barry) were in favour, most objected not so much because of the “victory of the Gothicists” but rather because they felt the process was “crooked and corrupt”. They wanted to re-open the commission.

    Graham knew that the first few months of his premiership might not be easy. He needed a distraction. He found one in the design for the new Palace of Westminster. In his defence, it was an urgent matter. Parliament had been without a proper functioning home for 6 years. The budget for the Barry and Pugin design was predicted to spiral beyond the £700,000 allocated and the Great Thames Flood had set the building work backward by an estimated 14 months. But it is more likely that Graham felt a debate on the future look of the new palace of Westminster would catch the imagination of MPs and Peers of all political persuasions, giving him ample time to assemble his Cabinet and fix a list of priorities without every decision being scrutinised too closely in the Commons and Lords. And the Lords would feature very prominently on that list of priorities.

    In 1832, Earl Grey had convinced the Duke of Clarence to create 76 new Whig peers to break the political stalemate following the Days of May crisis [4]. Graham might well win a majority in the Commons, but the Whig-heavy Lords would throw each and every bill into the rubbish bin the moment it crossed the despatch box. Graham would have no choice but to ask the King to “balance the Lords”, something which was likely to be controversial and unpopular. It was far better that politicians of both houses of parliament should preoccupied looking elsewhere when the inevitable happened. Sir James had peaked the King’s interest with his mention of Burton. Suddenly their meeting was derailed when George lost focus and brought out the plans for the Regent’s Park redevelopment. “Of course, these will be laid before Cabinet for their approval”, George said, waving a hand over the blueprints.

    “But Sir, you do not require Cabinet approval for this project”, Graham replied, quite sincerely.

    “No but I should welcome it just the same”, said the King, “I shan’t be accused of being extravagant. When the time comes, if there is opposition in parliament, I want it to be said honestly, truthfully, that my government has faith in these plans and that it has approved the way the project shall be funded”

    Naturally, he agreed to put Graham in touch with Decimus Burton to discuss the issue of the new Palace of Westminster. But Sir James was cunning. For as long as his audience with the King remained on what Graham’s priorities would be in his first 100 days in office (if he won the election), there was a risk that they might stray into controversial territory; the Tory approach to the Corn Laws, China, Afghanistan…the House of Lords. It was far better to leave things vague and to distract the King temporarily. Graham was not due to meet the King again until after the general election; when he left Buckingham Palace, the King sang his praises to Charlie Phipps; “He really was very interested in these plans you know Charlie”, he said happily, “I think that shows great vision, what?”

    Phipps wisely agreed. Besides, he had more pressing matters to discuss with His Majesty. He had carried out his errand to the Imperial Russian Embassy (not an easy feat) and had returned with a name for the King; a so-called “respectable Russian”. They did not come more respectable than Mother Barbara Shishkina, a Russian-born Orthodox nun who had travelled to England with the hope of founding an Orthodox convent. Unfortunately, she had overestimated the requirement for such an establishment and had since found herself as the housekeeper of the Russian Embassy in Chesham Place. She was happy to remain so because this gave her unrestricted access to the Orthodox Chapel which she found an appropriate place to wait until God gave her another sign. Mother Barbara was renowned at the Embassy for capturing wealthy Russian aristocrats visiting Belgravia and pleading her case in the hope that they might donate generously to her convent fund. Few did. She was somewhat taken aback to be approached by the smart gentleman who explained that he had questions about Russia and the Orthodox faith. At first, she told him to go and speak to a priest but then she noticed his signet ring and tie pin. This was a man of means.


    Mother Barbara Shishkina, painted c. 1841/2

    On the following Tuesday afternoon, the King invited himself to Marlborough House for tea. Princess Charlotte Louise had yet to formally take up residence there, but she was spending much of her time (distracting herself from the possibility of Sasha’s impending proposal of marriage) by touring the property and seeing which things she might like to change. The first casualty was a vast portrait of her mother which still loomed large from above the fireplace in the dining room. When asked where she would like the portrait to be stored, the Princess replied, “Throw it into the fireplace below for all I care”. Her new Private Secretary, Sir John Reith, thought better of carrying out her orders and sent it to Windsor instead where it was hidden away in a cellar room covered only by a thick dust sheet. The portrait was eventually rediscovered in 1958 and is now on display in the picture gallery at Buckingham Palace.

    Princess Charlotte Louise was excited to see her brother, having just received news that the Tsarevich would arrive at Southampton bound for Brighton in just a few days. She would leave London the moment she heard he had docked. Only the King didn’t arrive at Marlborough House that day; Charlie Phipps did. He extended the King’s apologies to the Princess and asked if she might receive the other guests the King had invited to join them regardless of his absence. Somewhat taken aback, the Princess agreed and was even more surprised when two women dressed in black robes and long veils shuffled into her presence. They curtseyed deeply and then rushed forward, dropping to their knees and kissing the Princess’ hands. Charlotte Louise looked startled as Phipps offered an introduction instead of an explanation; “May I present Mother Barbara and Sister Anna from the Imperial Russian Embassy, Ma’am”.

    Charlotte Louise was about to get a small glimpse of what her future might hold.

    [1] This anomaly was actually addressed during the OTL revisions made in the Succession to the Crown Act 2013. Cottenham is interpreting the Act of Settlement much as it was in recent years; whilst the Act at this point in TTL clearly states that no person who “holds Communion with the See or Church of Rome or [professes] the Popish Religion or shall marry a papist” can be King, it doesn’t stress that the Sovereign must be an Anglican…except it makes it impossible for him not to be. Technically Princess Charlotte Louise could succeed her brother as an Orthodox Christian – but she could not be Crowned. That’s what Cottenham is relying on here in his advice to the King.

    [2] In fact, the Greek Orthodox Church at what is now Greek Street was confiscated in 1684 because of a court case in which the manservant of the founding Archbishop (of Samos, Joseph Georgerines) accused him of being “a Popish plotter”. The court upheld the complaint, and the church was handed over to Huguenot refugees from France. Thereafter, the Eastern Orthodox community (both Greek and Russian) worshipped at the Imperial Russian Embassy which in 1840 was still located at Chesham Place in Belgravia.

    [3] This was actually a concern in the OTL, but it was overlooked. By 1849, there was a great deal of “I told you so” when much of the stonework showed signs of extreme weather damage. We’ve got an excuse to ramp this up here with the aftermath of the Great Thames Flood. It’s also true that in the OTL, many Tories opposed the new palace design because they saw it as a convenient excuse to have a bash at Lord Melbourne. But Melbourne stayed in place until 1841 in the OTL and therefore, their complaints were ignored. Not so here.

    [4] See:
    GV: Part Two, Appendix II: The Palace of Westminster
  • Appendix II: The Palace of Westminster

    Following his audience with King George V in February 1840, Sir James Graham asked his personal private secretary, Theodore Williams, to gather information on the Royal Commission which had approved the Barry and Pugin design for the new Palace of Westminster. If elected, Graham only wished to provide a distraction; he did not wish to derail the project entirely. Rather than re-open the competition which had been held to find a new design, or recall the Commission, which was mostly led by Whigs anyway, Graham intended to appoint a cross-party committee to consider whether the Barry and Pugin design should be retained. But to tempt the committee to choosing a less expensive design (thereby allowing Graham to boast he had made a substantial saving to the enormous £700,000 budget allowed by parliament), he decided to put two alternatives before them.

    Alongside the Barry and Pugin design, Graham would ask the committee to consider whether the designs which had placed 2nd or 3rd in the ballot following the competition might prove better options. The first alternative belonged to Thomas Hopper. Hopper was a prominent English architect who had enjoyed royal patronage during the lifetime of the Prince Regent and the reign of George IV. He had made improvements to the Shire Hall in Monmouth and had contributed to the refurbishment of Windsor Castle. The second alternative belonged to William Kent. Kent was an 18th century architect and a great favourite of King George II. He built the Royal Mews (which were replaced in 1834), the Royal State Barge and Horse Guards as well as making additions to Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace and the former Treasury building at Whitehall. Kent died in 1748 but he left behind many plans for incomplete works. One of these works had been taken up by none other than James Burton who proposed a slightly modified version of a design for a new parliament building Kent had designed in 1738. James Burton was the father of Decimus Burton.

    The three designs were to be put to a cross party committee as follows…

    The Barry and Pugin Design


    It remains unclear just how much of this design belonged to Barry and how much was actually the achievement of his young apprentice, Augustus Pugin. Both men were passionate about the Gothic Revival sweeping Britain but Barry lacked inspiration for his palace design; he therefore went abroad, to Belgium, seeking influence from Flemish civic architecture. The plan was to create an enfilade which would allow the Speaker of the House of Commons to sit in his chair and look through the line of the building to the throne in the House of Lords. There were to be 1,180 rooms with 126 staircases, 2 miles of corridors and 11 courtyards. In addition, there would be residences constructed within the palace complex to offer accommodation to 200 people, most notably the Speaker who was to gain a new “cottage” comprised of some 26 rooms.

    Pugin’s contributions cannot be overlooked. It was Pugin who designed the central hall which would allow access to both chambers and the long corridor which provided access to a suite of libraries, committee rooms, refreshment rooms and outer courtyards which aimed to give as much comfort to the inhabitants of the palace as possible in their working day. When told that their design was “too much like a Cathedral” by those opposed to it, Pugin replied; “Is democracy not sacred Sir?”. It was a poignant response, but it did little to silence the critics. Some asked why an ugly brownstone Gothic building was to be placed by the Thames when all around it, fresh and modern Neoclassical buildings were popping up to create a bright city space in Portland Stone. Nonetheless, Barry and Pugin won the competition and with Lord Melbourne’s backing, were commissioned to begin their work in 1838 at a cost of £700,000. Some estimates were put higher when Barry insisted on making additions to the design in the summer of 1839.

    The riverside front of the building was already in construction and the scaffold erected for the laying of other foundations when the Great Thames Flood hit in the Winter of 1839. What had been built was swept away and there were serious concerns that the stone Barry had personally selected was of poor quality. In the ensuing argument over a return to the design stage, one Tory MP who loathed the design went so far as to bring a piece of Magnesian Limestone from the Duke of Leeds’ quarry at Anston from the building site outside and place it on the desk before them. He brought down a hammer on the limestone which shattered into pieces. If Barry and Pugin were allowed to continue, he argued that the whole palace complex would crumble within a century…

    The Thomas Hopper Design


    Thomas Hopper had been one of those who complained about the process used to select the design for the new palace of Westminster. He petitioned parliament but was ignored and later threatened with a libel case when he publicly stated that he believed Barry and Pugin had cheated their way to victory. Hopper withdrew his claim but fumed on in private, arguing with friends in parliament that the competition should be rerun. When he heard that Graham had it in mind to revisit the selection process, he supplied fresh copies of the design he had proposed which saw him come in second. Like Barry and Pugin, Hopper was a gothicist and he had enjoyed many years of royal patronage. Indeed, his design for the new parliament building was dedicated to the Duke of Sussex.

    In 1840, Hopper was working on designs for Butterton Hall in Staffordshire, the prints of which were to be exhibited at the Royal Academy. Hopper had convinced his commissioners (the Pilkington family who also owned Chevet Hall) that they should follow the fashions of the day and in stark contrast to the Palladian majesty of Chevet, they should instead embrace the Gothic Revival. But Hopper was not biased. Indeed, he believed that “It is the business of an architect to understand all styles and be prejudiced in favour of none”. That said, he applied Gothicism to his design for the new parliament building which has since been taken as evidence of his preferences.

    Hopper’s design was perhaps the most ambitious in that he wished first to embark on a process of restoration. He wanted to return St Stephen’s Chapel to its former glory as a home for the House of Commons and then duplicate it for the House of Lords. But that wasn’t all. Hopper also wished to duplicate Westminster Hall in New Palace Yard with each of the “two halls” topped off with Fonthill-style towers. The result would be a gigantic riverside palace which drew inspiration from the neighbouring Westminster Abbey more than it did Buckingham Palace. Those who opposed Hopper’s designs considered them far too extravagant and costly; Hopper insisted that he could bring the whole thing in under budget, others estimated that the budget would need to be doubled to make Hopper’s palace a reality. With its vast vaulted ceilings, chapels, courtyards and over 2,000 rooms, Thomas Hopper stood by every brick and plank in his design. But he was also realistic. He advised that his dream palace would take nearly 25 years to be completed, if not more. And he could not even begin to contemplate any actual building until the restoration of St Stephen’s and Westminster Hall was finished…

    The Kent Burton Design


    William Kent had been a favourite of King George V’s personal hero (and ancestor) King George II. It was George II who (with support from the United Kingdom’s first Prime Minister, Robert Walpole) wished to herald a new era with a wholesale demolition of medieval London and replace it with Georgian neo-classical palaces and mansions which better fit the times. William Kent helped George II make some of his vision come true. The most prominent example is perhaps Horse Guards, completed some time after Kent’s death, which shows his devotion to the Palladian style of architecture which George II asked him to apply to an unexpected commission, the redesign of parliament.

    George II despised the pre-1834 structure of parliament and with this in mind, he asked Kent to create something which not only changed the exterior of parliament – but the interior too. Kent’s design would have seen a 444-foot-long building of bright white stone placed on the Thameside with towers reaching high into the skyline of London to inspire awe in those who saw it from the ground. It truly was more palace than parliament, indeed, when George II saw Kent’s design he is said to have considered commissioning it himself and then reclaiming Westminster as a royal residence with parliament forced to go elsewhere.

    But just as the outside of the parliament would have been vastly different from the pre-1834, so too was the inside. Instead of the two sides of politicians facing each other as they always had, Kent envisaged an amphitheatre. After all, the only reason the pre-1834 seating arrangements existed was because that’s how St Stephen’s Chapel had been laid out when the Commons sat there. Kent proposed that both Commons and Lords Chambers should be built in the round with circular galleries and huge chandeliers to provide light. But his most radical departure from the established order was to install a huge royal chamber in between these two amphitheatres with Commons and Lords forced to file towards the centre of the parliament building to hear the King’s speech from the throne. This chamber was to be rectangular and housed a raised throne for the Sovereign accessible by a marble staircase housed under a gilded canopy. The Commons would stand in the interior before the King whilst the Lords would gaze on from a balcony of recessed archways, positioned slightly higher than the Commons floor but lower than the King’s throne.

    When the competition to find a new palace of Westminster design was established following the Burning of Parliament, James Burton, a property developer who had worked with John Nash on the redevelopment of Regent’s Park (and whose son Decimus later joined, and eventually made a reality the palace complex there), took up Kent’s designs. He made a few subtle changes but submitted the work, according to the rules, using the pseudonym, William Foster. The design was chosen third in the competition but was disqualified in the final round because somebody recognised that it was not a brand-new work, rather it had been revived from a past proposal.

    Graham disliked the Burton/Kent design intensely. He thought it gaudy, vulgar and “far too American”. In his view, the amphitheatre approach was a slap in the face to British tradition and he found the idea of the King entering parliament and sitting on “a throne like Caesar’s” to be “most disgusting”. He included it only because he believed the Whigs might prefer it (indeed many had spoken in it's favour) and the design was considered to be more expensive than the Barry/Pugin deign. His Tory colleagues would share his view and probably opt to retain Barry/Pugin or opt for Hopper. But Graham could claim that the Whigs were still addicted to spending money and that they did not value British tradition - as previously seen in their attacks on the established Church. But just in case, Graham gave himself an insurance policy. He wished to bring Decimus Burton into the discussion to see if he might be able to amend his father's Kent-inspired design if by some fluke it was chosen in place of the Barry and Pugin design – which Graham still expected to win the day…

    The Poll

    So as promised, here's our poll! I've had to stage this before the election result so that I can include your choice in an organic way dropping little details into the instalments before we reach the chapter where the decision is finally made.

    I have story options for all three choices so feel free to choose whichever design you prefer. I'll keep the poll running until after the weekend and then remove it (I'll screencap and post the results) so that it doesn't act as a spoiler for new readers in the future.

    The poll is at the top of this thread.

    P.S - Credit to @Ogrebear who first inspired this idea when they reminded me of the Hopper design and what might have been!
    Last edited:
    GV: Part Two, Chapter 17: A Glimpse of the Future
  • King George V

    Part Two, Chapter Seventeen: A Glimpse of the Future

    A requisite skill of royalty is to find themselves in strange situations and to make it appear as if there was nothing out of the ordinary at all. This quality was put to the test at Marlborough House in mid-February 1840 when Princess Charlotte Louise unexpectedly found herself playing host to two Russian Orthodox nuns. Mother Barbara Shishkina and her protégé Sister Anna Yumasheva were the Princess’ first glimpse at what life might be like for her in St Petersburg and even though the Princess met them in familiar surroundings, she was still taken aback by their appearance. There was also the question of deference. Whilst any visiting English rector and his wife might display the usual obeisance and then wait to be offered a chair, the nuns had to be convinced that it was quite alright for them to be seated in the royal presence. Then it appeared they expected some kind of opening address. Russian court etiquette was clearly far more complex than that in England, where once a person had mastered the Order of Precedence and the endless forms of address, they could usually feel they had a reasonable grasp on protocol.

    The British King and the Russian Tsar were not cut from the same cloth. In the United Kingdom, the Sovereign reigned, and parliament ruled. This did not mean the Crown was not treated with the utmost respect, but the Royal Family had worked hard (especially in recent years) to be seen as an ordinary British family in an extraordinary position. Checks and balances were the key to the monarchy’s relationship with parliament and with the people as a whole. The vast majority of George V’s subjects were part of the “new royalist” movement which swept Britain when the King married and had only been reinforced by his coronation and his approach to Kingship. [1] But he could take nothing for granted. Things were a little different in Russia. A key feature of the autocracy was the Tsar’s role as Tsar-Batyushka (or Tsar-Dear Father). Unlike his British counterpart, the Tsar of Russia was seen as a great patriarch of an imperial family and his subjects were the children of that family who required his love, care and protection. This was carefully underpinned by Orthodox Christianity; the Tsar was not just responsible for the social welfare or national safety of his subjects, he had to tend to their spiritual needs too.


    Tsar Nicholas I

    Influenced by the Byzantine concept of imperial authority, the Tsar was regarded as “an emissary of God”, someone who had both absolute power to impose temporal laws on earth but also an absolute responsibility to see that those laws were inspired by the divine in heaven. When the Russian Tsar was anointed at his coronation, he was wedded to his people and like any good husband, he had to consider their needs as well as his own. Since the reign of Peter the Great, the Russian Tsar had become (in practical terms), the head of the Orthodox Church in Russia. Certainly, his word held greater authority over that of the Patriarch in Moscow. The Russian people lived by the secular laws instituted by their Sovereign; but they believed those laws to be divinely inspired because the Tsar would never take a decision that stood contrary to God’s law. He loved them. He protected them. He guided them. Consequently, the Tsar was to be treated with devotion, reverence and deference by his subjects. Of course, this did not stop many of his “children” from wishing to murder the Tsar and put an end to autocracy once and for all. [2]

    Princess Charlotte Louise was about to see how this operated in practise when she met Mother Barbara and Sister Anna. When they finally lowered themselves nervously onto the settee opposite the Princess, they fell silent and avoided eye contact with her. The Princess was a little daunted but rose admirably to the challenge.

    “I understand you are with the Embassy?”

    Mother Barbara nodded. But she said nothing in reply.

    “How interesting”, the Princess replied, hoping for her maid to return with tea as soon as possible so that she might have something to focus on other than the awkwardness of the situation before her, “I have not visited, I’m afraid to say. Is it a nice building?”

    Again, the silent Mother Barbara nodded eagerly.

    Then an idea came to the Princess. She stood up and made her way over to a table in the corner of the room where two portraits of the Tsar and his wife (signed in their own hand) stood in silver frames with a little crown at the top. Charlotte Louise picked them and turning back to the nuns, saw them standing once more. Awkwardly, she motioned that they should resume their seats and handed the picture frames to them with a smile and a little nod, the Tsar handed to the elder of the two and the Empress to the younger. The nuns were immediately sent into a frenzy of chatter in Russian, Mother Barbara running her fingers over the Tsar’s signature, letter by letter. This seemed to break the ice somewhat.

    “The Tsar sent those to me at Christmas time”, she explained, suddenly aware that she had no idea if the two women actually spoke English. She relied on the good old-fashioned British approach of raising her voice and speaking slowly. “They are very lovely pictures”, she said patronisingly. Mother Barbara nodded. Silence returned.

    The clock on the mantle chimed a quarter past the hour. The nuns had only been at Marlborough House for 15 minutes and yet it seemed like an eternity.

    “Well, I…no…ah yes, I know”, the Princess found a suitable topic, “Would you like to tell me a little about yourselves? What brought you to England?”

    Mother Barbara cleared her throat. Despite a strong Russian accent, she spoke perfect English.

    “Yes, Royal Highness, we came here to build a new monastery but now we live at the Embassy. It is the only chapel for us in London”

    “Oh really? How tiresome for you”, Charlotte Louise replied, “Have you been to Westminster Abbey? It’s very impressive”

    Mother Barbara frowned a little; “No Royal Highness, we have not. We do not pray with the non-Orthodox”

    “I see. And why is that?”

    Suddenly Mother Barbara was on familiar ground. The one thing she knew was her faith. And so she began, enthusiastically and forgetting any anxieties she might have had when she first crossed the threshold. “Orthodoxy means ‘right believing’”, she began in an authoritative tone, “Our church has never deviated from the traditions and doctrines of the early church. We are an unbroken line to Christ himself. In Orthodoxy, truth is proclaimed and preserved. It would therefore be a great sin if we were to pray among those who deny it is so”. [3]

    Princess Charlotte Louise felt a little uncomfortable. The Hanoverians were not known for their religious piety. Whilst wedded to the preservation of the Church of England, George I had insisted that his role as protector of the Lutheran churches in Hanover held equal importance and his Anglican subjects were never truly reconciled to the idea that the King was surrounded by Lutheran preachers at his court. George II cared more for the battlefield than the pulpit and whilst George III was raised strictly Anglican and expected his children to fully adopt “the English church” and be seen to worship solely within the confines of its traditions, both George IV and George V would possibly best be described as apathetic ecumenicals.

    George V and Princess Charlotte Louise had been raised as Anglicans because all good upper class English children were. Both prayed daily (and sincerely), they attended church on Sundays, and they lived (mostly) by the tenets of Christianity. But compared to the religious fervour of Queen Louise, they were not exactly devout. For Princess Charlotte Louise, Orthodoxy sounded as if it encouraged (or demanded) a level of piety which might be beyond her. For a brief moment, she pondered changing the subject. But besides members of the Imperial Family and a handful of their diplomats, Princess Charlotte Louise had never really met an Orthodox Christian before. At least not one she could approach the subject with.

    In truth, the Princess had regarded the need for her conversion to Orthodoxy if she accepted the Tsarevich’s offer of marriage as a practicality. She did not really believe it was something that required any real change of heart. But as their conversation continued, Mother Barbara quickly disavowed her of that notion. She spoke of icons and processions, of Eucharists and Divine Liturgies – there was a mention of something called the Royal Hours – and the more Mother Barbara spoke, the young nun next to her silently agreeing with well-placed nodding, the more the Princess found it all quite overwhelming. When the nun spoke of the Tsar he was “Holy”. From what the Princess knew of him, Tsar Nicholas was a very religious man but amid the anti-Russian propaganda and sentiments of the last decade, it was hard to see him in a "holy" light. This time, she decided to move the conversation on.

    “Is St Petersburg as beautiful as I have heard?”, she asked kindly, pouring tea which neither Mother Barbara nor Sister Anna touched, “They say the palaces there are quite impressive”

    “All Russia is beautiful”, Mother Barbara replied flatly, “Because it is sanctified and led to glory by the Tsar”

    At that moment, Lady Anne Anson entered the room. The Princess’ carriage was waiting to take her to Buckingham Palace. Charlotte Louise stood up. The nuns followed suit. She thanked them for their time and Lady Anne looked on totally baffled as the two figures clad in black robes backed out of the room, almost on their knees. Each carried the frames they had been given to look at. Mother Barbara seemed to believe they were gifts. As much as the Princess put on a brave face and tried to make light of what had happened that afternoon, her guests had put a worrying thought in her head; Russia wasn’t just different, it seemed another world entirely. How could she ever understand it all? Could she believe in it? Could she live among those who did? In the days that followed, Charlotte Louise scoured the library at Buckingham Palace for books on Orthodoxy, finding just a few tomes which were not written from the Anglican viewpoint that Orthodoxy was far too close to Catholicism to be considered of value to the Christian world. Sasha would soon be in England. She had to resolve this new uncertainty before she saw him again.


    Lord Melbury.

    The Russian conference at Brighton was also at the forefront of the Prime Minister’s worries too. The Whig election campaign was struggling, and even pro-Whig newspapers were finding it hard to be as vocal in their support as they once had been. Even in constituencies considered to be “safe”, Whig candidates found hostility. With the general election just two weeks away, Edward Stanley had to warn Lord Cottenham that the Whig majority in the Commons was now “in play”. Newspapers were reporting that Sir James Graham was holding meetings with Tory party grandees with a view to presenting a full list of ministers to the King if he was victorious; he wanted to hit the ground running. It must be said that Graham was being somewhat complacent, but Cottenham did not have it in him to use this against his rival. After all, whatever happened, Cottenham was to resign the moment the result was known. With this in mind, and fearing the worst, the Prime Minister allowed himself to be bullied by the Leader of the Opposition into securing him not only an observer seat at the Brighton talks but also a private audience with the Russian delegates before they returned to London. “After all”, Graham reasoned, “Any agreement made there shall have to be put into practise by my party, not the Whigs”.

    Sir James Graham was not the only one making demands for the upcoming conference. At the eleventh hour, Count Medem indicated to Lord Melbury that he had assumed that there would be delegations from Austria and Prussia present, but he could not find any mention of these representatives in the official programme. Russia had already committed herself to a coalition of the Central Powers where the Oriental Crisis was concerned, and the delegates could not discuss the situation in Egypt unless her allies were also present. Melbury indicated that the British had not invited delegates from Austria or Prussia because the first item on the agenda was Afghanistan. But Medem was confused. What else was there to discuss? Afghanistan was a closed chapter. The British had already indicated that if all diplomacy failed where Muhammed Ali Pasha was concerned, they would be prepared to join the coalition of Central Powers to secure the position of the young Ottoman Sultan, Abdulmejid I. But the British had arranged this conference before Bala Hissar when they still believed they had the upper hand and even with the retreat in mind, they did not consider that their problems in Afghanistan meant the Russians were free to march in and take over where the British left off. Far from it.

    The Melbury-Granville Plan sought to gain an agreement with Russia that they would no longer interfere in Afghanistan or British India if the British accepted the Peshawar Agreement proposed by Dost Mohammed Khan. The Russians believed they hadn’t interfered at all, at least not in any way that threatened British interests in the region. This was far from true. The moment the British had retreated from Kabul, the Tsar sent a message to Dost Mohammed Khan telling him not to reintroduce the idea of the Peshawar Agreement and pledging to offer him any assistance he might need to retake Afghanistan as King if he honoured the Tsar’s wishes. But the British did not know this and were relying on outdated intelligence which suggested that Khan’s forces were still depleted and unable to pose any real threat whilst the British mediated with the Russians. For a brief moment following Bala Hissar, the Prime Minister urged Melbury to cancel the conference. He was persuaded to stick with it because to cancel might indicate weakness. The British hoped that the tide would turn again as soon as they had better intelligence from the ground, but they didn’t. As a result, just a few days before talks began the British had no clear objective. The Russians did.

    They did not intend to waste time. In June 1839, Muhammed Ali’s son destroyed the Ottoman Army in Southeastern Turkey putting the whole of Syria under his control. He intended to march on and take Constantinople. The entire Eastern Mediterranean was at risk, and this posed a serious problem for Russia. In 1833, Russia had defeated the Ottomans and had forced them to sign the Treaty of Hünkâr İskelesi which demanded that the Ottomans close the Dardanelles to warships of non-Black sea powers. The Ottomans themselves were deeply resentful of this treaty and intended to overturn it but oddly, the Russians now found that they must defend the Ottomans to ensure that the terms of Hünkâr İskelesi could be met. If Muhammed Ali gave the green light for a siege of Constantinople, the Dardanelles would no longer be under Russian control and the entire Russian foreign policy of the last century would collapse. The only reason Muhammed Ali had not ordered his son Ibrahim Ali to take Constantinople was because he felt the mere threat of doing so was enough to risk war in Europe and that the Great Powers would have no choice but to bend to his demands in order to resolve the situation diplomatically instead. [4]


    Muhammed Ali

    With Palmerston now gone, his plans to send the British Mediterranean Fleet to the Syrian coast and to proceed to Beirut thus flushing out the Egyptians and ultimately forcing Muhammed Ali’s officials to leave Syria, were shelved. Much was being made of this in the palaces of power across the continent; Gunboats had replaced by “Dinner Party Diplomacy”. Everybody knew the weakness of the other; France promised to support Muhammed Ali, but the Russians knew King Louis-Phillipe could not afford war. Britain had yet to pick a side but likewise, its economic position was poor, and its foreign policy split into three spheres of interest: Afghanistan, the Levant and China. When the British and the Russian delegations met at Brighton, there had to be an agreement which resolved at least one of those; the Russians believed they could resolve two. Melbury advised Lord Cottenham that Brighton was looking to prove itself a complete waste of time and resources. Unless something else could be found to dominate the agenda, the British would seem to be in total chaos, staging talks with no clear agenda. In a precarious state ahead of the general election, the Whigs could not afford such headlines.

    When Cottenham would not make a clear decision one way or the other, Melbury took matters into his own hands. Whilst the Prime Minister may be on his last legs politically, Lord Melbury did not intend to be sent packing into opposition without a fight, neither did he want his legacy to be that of a man sent to the wicket with a broken bat. His solution was a risky one. It would require him to take advantage of a newly forged friendship, but he could see no other way. Melbury went to visit King George. The situation was explained as follows; the Russians were likely to play hardball and make demands the British government could not agree to. The British wanted Russian assurances which they were unlikely to give unless Melbury could gain a little ground as the talks progressed. Stalemate was inevitable and the repercussions dire for both the Anglo-Russian relationship and the British government. But if there were something else the two parties could focus on if the talks stalled, something that promoted co-operation and friendship rather than old grudges and ambitions, it might buy just enough time until a new round of talks could be held with more up to date briefings from Afghanistan, Beirut and Lord Granville in Paris. To achieve this, the ace up his sleeve Melbury wanted concerned Princess Charlotte Louise’s marriage.

    King George had taken very careful and measured steps where the Tsarevich was concerned. He allowed his sister to go to Brighton to meet with him privately because he believed that the Tsarevich would not propose marriage until he had permission from the King to do so. This would be an indication of the King’s consent to the union and negotiations could then begin. But George V wanted this kept off the table at Brighton because the Prime Minister had indicated there were already growing concerns about the political ramifications of an Anglo-Russian match and to reinforce that this marriage was in no way political, the King believed that any talk of an engagement must be put off until after the conference at the Royal Pavilion. When the conference was concluded, the Tsarevich and Princess Charlotte Louise would have had the chance to discuss their future plans, they would return to London and the King would have a private audience with the heir to the Russian throne to give the necessary consent. The engagement would be announced and then, and only then, would a marriage contract be put to the appropriate departments of state to discuss.


    The Russian Tsarevich, the future Alexander II.

    What Melbury wanted was for the King to play host at the conference instead, arriving two days before it began and welcoming the Tsarevich to Brighton on the same day he was to be reunited with Princess Charlotte Louise. By bringing this audience forward, the Tsarevich would be able to ask permission to propose before the conference started and if he did, and if the King gave permission, and if the Princess accepted, when a stalemate reared its head (or when the British felt they could not agree to Russian demands), the engagement could become the dominant topic of discussion. It would derail the talks, but it would keep all options on the table and buy time. If the King was agreeable, Lord Melbury would ask him to make the entire visit to Brighton a family affair with as many members of the Royal Family attending as possible so that if the conference was a failure, it could be said afterwards that the talks were only ever going to discuss the diplomatic issues between Britain and Russia in passing. The main priority of bringing the two delegations together was to open negotiations for the marriage contract of the Tsarevich and Princess Charlotte Louise.

    George did not receive Melbury’s briefing with great enthusiasm. On a personal level, he simply wasn’t ready to broach the issue with the Tsarevich. Now it felt as if he was being rushed into accepting something he still had grave concerns about, concerns he believed many in the Cabinet shared. Indeed, had he not already tried to resolve some of their worries with the Prime Minister by clearly separating the Royal Family from politics?

    “I appreciate that Sir, I do”, Melbury reasoned, “But I must ask this. Regardless of whether we remain in government or not come the Spring, this conference was arranged before Bala Hissar when we had better cards to play. We could not cancel it, though I admit I should not have regardless. I believe in diplomacy Your Majesty, I want us to explore every option at the negotiating table, but I cannot go to Brighton and face the Russians without something to turn the tide in our favour or at the very least, to serve as a distraction”

    “The marriage of Her Royal Highness is not a distraction”, the King snapped in reply, “Damn your eyes Melbury, here I am trying my best to ease anxieties in the government and now you come to me asking me to do the very thing the Prime Minister said you wanted me to avoid. How am I to win?”

    Melbury held his nerve.

    “Sir, I must ask you, I must advise you even, that if this conference fails then the possibility of Britain being forced to join the coalition of the Central Powers in order to protect our interests in British India and Afghanistan is inevitable. I do not see another way we can convince the Russians to accept our demands. And in that situation, neither Lord Granville nor myself, nor the Prime Minister for that matter, cannot promise you that this country will not find herself at war with France once more within the year”.

    “Rubbish”, the King scoffed, “Louis-Phillipe has half a shilling less than us and our purse is empty as it is. I won’t have it Melbury. I won’t have my sister’s marriage used to patch up this ramshackle conference just because you can’t get your way with those bloody Russians. So, I suggest you go back to Downing Street and you tell the Prime Minister from me that I will absolutely not be forced into putting this marriage on the negotiating table because my government cares more about some tinpot prince in a desert Kingdom than it does for the sister of its own Sovereign. Do I make myself clear?”

    Melbury was forced to retreat.

    At Marlborough House, Princess Charlotte Louise began packing for Brighton. Her trunks included the jewellery box given to her by her aunt, Princess Mary. If Sasha proposed to Charlotte Louise, and if she accepted, she would wear the tiara at the ball scheduled to be held on the last day of the Brighton meeting. But even at this eleventh hour, fully expecting that the Tsarevich would propose, Charlotte Louise was undecided. She loved Sasha. That much she believed she could be certain of. And that was a damn sight more than some of her counterparts could claim. She had heard gossip on the royal grapevine that since the birth of their daughter, Prince William of the Netherlands had once again found a new mistress and her cousin Victoria was left just as miserable as she had been before the arrival of the little Princess Victoria Paulina. But Charlotte Louise’s brief introduction to Russian culture had not exactly reassured her. This could well be the first leg of a journey into a life totally at odds with everything she had ever known.

    Across the way at Buckingham Palace, Melbury sent further briefings to the King to try and underline the seriousness of the situation. George was furious with himself for ever agreeing to allow this Russian business to get so far. Now he saw exactly what his sister’s marriage would mean. They would forever be on opposing sides. What if Charlotte Louise had already married Sasha and she, encouraged by her husband and his family, agreed with them that Russia should be allowed to expand wherever it liked despite the risk that posed to British interests abroad? And what if the situation in the Levant got worse and Britain allied herself with France instead of Russia? It was unlikely but still, George imagined Europe torn in two with his sister on one side and he on the other. They wouldn’t be able to see each other. They wouldn’t even be able to write to each other. And then what? Would Lottie be lost to him forever? The King went to bed that evening with his head spinning; he had had a glimpse of the future. And it scared him to death.

    [1] Not a movement per se, at least not in a political sense, more a general viewpoint in the UK at this time. in TTL as described by Charles Greville.

    [2] I know autocracy and the Tsar's role within it is hotly debated, I chose to fall on the point of view put forward here:

    [3] I believe it is still the case that (technically at any rate) Orthodox Christians can enter non-Orthodox places of worship (they were never forbidden as in Catholicism) but they cannot take part in services or it becomes a sin. In the OTL, plenty of Russian family members attended Lutheran services during Queen Victoria's reign but they did not actually take part, usually remaining silent to indicate they were not congregants.

    [4] On this plot point, this is where we depart from the OTL. Something drastic will change here which will cause a major shift in the Oriental Crisis.


    Just a brief P-S to say that the result of our poll will be introduced soon so fear not, I didn't forget! I just needed some advanced knowledge of the result before I could begin weaving it in.

    The next chapter will focus entirely on Brighton and will hopefully have a little something for everyone with royal romance, political arguments and world affairs thrown in for good measure.

    Many thanks for reading!
    GV: Part Two, Chapter 18: "Give me your hand..."
  • King George V

    Part Two, Chapter Eighteen: “Give me your hand…”

    The Royal Pavilion in Brighton stands as a shining example of the Prince Regent’s love of excess. With it’s Indo-Saracenic style adding domes and minarets to the local skyline, it was completed during the reign of George IV and its interiors were mostly the work of the Dowager Queen Louise. Pooling resources to fill its rooms from the vast collection of paintings, furniture and objet d’art acquired by her late brother-in-law, the consort of George IV had created a summer retreat which was considered to be a testament to extravagance rather than good taste. Chinoiserie might find itself displayed next to objects imported from British India, the splendour of the Mughal clashing with the delicate porcelain of Peking and more traditional English patterns and prints. Whilst George V had spent his childhood summers at the Pavilion, as an adult he cared little for it. It existed only to accommodate members of the Royal Family on their brief visits to the seaside and it had remained mostly disused since George’s accession.

    Perhaps it was the constant reminders of his mother which turned him against the property. In particular, the Banqueting Hall was dominated by a vast portrait of the Dowager Queen in which she was depicted in a ghastly appropriation of what was considered to be “oriental fashion”. Draped in silks to serve as a saree, the Queen Mother wore a French aigrette in her hair tucked in place behind the Rumpenheim Tiara as she lolled on a Louis XIV chaise surrounded by spider monkeys, parrots and palms. This remains one of two surviving portraits of the Dowager Queen by the ill-fated Joachim von Pepke and without a doubt was painted from his rather muddled imagination and not from any real reference to Indian fashion or culture. When Princess Charlotte Louise arrived at the Pavilion in late February 1840, she ordered the portrait to be removed and (as he had done at Marlborough House), her private secretary Sir John Reith was charged with its disposal. But instead of wrapping it up in linen and hiding it away in a castle cellar, Reith actually took the portrait home with him to his country house in Kent. There it remained until it was sold at auction in 1966. The Royal Family did not enter a bid, but the National Portrait Gallery did. It hangs there to this day.

    George V displayed a stubbornness at this time that would reappear throughout his life; he absolutely refused to go to Brighton or to allow any talk of his sister’s marriage to be raised with the Russian delegation. Lord Melbury pleaded with the King to change his mind, but he quickly found that the friendship between a monarch and a subject can often be one-sided. Officially, the King would not be going to Brighton because the Queen could not leave London so soon after the birth of Princess Victoria but unofficially, everybody knew that it was simply because he did not wish to open the door to a possible gazumping from the Tsarevich. If Sasha proposed to the Princess, he would come to the King to ask his permission in the capital; the King would not be seen to wait about on the Tsarevich in his own seaside retreat on the off chance that the Tsarevich might pop the question. But the King offered a small concession. Melbury’s last ditch attempt to secure George’s presence relied on the use of protocol. The Russians might be offended if there was nobody of senior rank to host the Tsarevich. Lord Cottenham had wondered if the Duke of Sussex might step in – Brighton was in the borders of his Duchy after all. The King put his foot down; his Uncle Sussex had retired. He would never again represent the Crown.


    Arundel Castle.

    Because of a lack of accommodation at the Pavilion, the King asked his Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk, to play host to the Tsarevich and the more senior members of the Russian delegation at Arundel Castle. He saw no reason why the Duke could not welcome the Tsarevich on the King’s behalf, after all, wasn’t the most senior British peer good enough for the Tsar’s son? As usual, it was the peace-making Queen Louise who put things right. Quite aside from protocol, she was taken aback that the King had not thought to send anybody to Brighton with Princess Charlotte Louise. She was not in any danger of course but who would she be able to turn to if Sasha did propose marriage? Queen Louise gently scolded her husband (“It is so typical of men not to think about such things!”) and immediately wrote to Princess Mary asking if she might step in to act as chaperone. George scoffed; “She’s got Annie Anson, hasn’t she? Why does she need old Aunt Mary clumping about the Pavilion too?”. But Queen Louise won the day. Princess Mary was to share the King’s suite with the Princess, and she would formally welcome the Tsarevich on Their Majesties’ behalf before he set off for Arundel.

    Princess Mary revelled in her new position as hostess and chaperone. Though Princess Charlotte Louise had already met with the chef de cuisine and the housekeeper of the Pavilion, Mary swept in a day later and changed everything. Whilst Princess Charlotte Louise had asked for a continental menu with dishes mostly French or German in origin (the usual fare at the Imperial Russian dinner table), Mary thought this to be pretentious and silly; “They have come to England and they shall eat English food”, she proclaimed. The chef de cuisine, Monsieur Durand, was left disappointed when his opportunity to showcase the best of his Paris training was replaced by an order for a saddle of lamb with roast potatoes and brown gravy. That said, Princess Mary did not stint elsewhere. The footmen were ordered to wear state livery complete with spectacular silver braid and powdered wigs. The very best china and glassware were brought from Windsor and Mary bought out every ticket available at the Theatre Royal so that the assembled guests could enjoy a night of entertainment away from the confines of the Pavilion.

    At Arundel, it fell to the Earl of Surrey to play host to the Russians when they were not under Princess Mary's watchful eye. Henry Howard was heir to the Dukedom of Norfolk and had become the first Roman Catholic to sit in the House of Commons after Catholic emancipation, representing Horsham and then West Sussex. A Privy Councillor and Treasurer of the Household, Surrey was the ideal blend of royal courtier and Whig politician to entertain the Russians, though the Prime Minister was always more suspicious of Surrey than he was of his other rivals. Surrey was a passionate member of the Russell Group, and it was well known that his ambitions stretched well beyond his hereditary post of Earl Marshal and Chief Butler of England. Lord Surrey spared no expense in preparing Arundel for his Russian guests and household accounts show that food, wine, additional servants, the hire of carriages and other provisions cost the princely sum of £3,000 – well over £180,000 in today’s money. The bulk of this fortune was spent on redecorating the rooms to be used by the Tsarevich (known today as the Russian Suite). The Countess of Surrey spent a further £600 (£40,000) on renovations to the State Rooms too. The Norfolks could well afford this bill, but it gives some idea to the modern reader both to the overindulgence the Russians were treated to at Arundel and (by comparison) further evidence of the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor at the start of the new decade.

    At Arundel that February the Surreys played host to an impressive gathering. At the head of the Russian delegation was Prince Alexander Mikhailovich Gorchakov, then a senior minister in the Imperial Foreign Ministry under Count von Nesselrode. Prince Gorchakov was joined by Count Pavel Ivanovich Medem and Count Nikolai Kiselyov, the Chargé d’affaires from Russia to the United Kingdom. Accompanying the Tsarevich were the Chamberlain of his Household Count Vladimir Ivanovich Tatischev and Adjutant General Nikolai Islenev, the Commander of the 1st Brigade of the 1st Guards Infantry Division. These men had come to England with the Tsarevich before when the Russian heir joined the Royal Family’s post-coronation holiday at Witley Court and General Islenev was heard to remark how curious it was that no English country house was ever big enough to accommodate the Russian party. This was not curious to the British who saw the small army of valets, military aides and other Imperial servants the Russians travelled with as a vulgar display of wealth.

    The British delegation was formed of the Foreign Secretary Lord Melbury and his Under-Secretary of State, Lord Leveson. The Earl of Granville was in Paris and so the Department for War and the Colonies was represented by another Under-Secretary of State, Robert Vernon Smith. Sir James Graham was in attendance as an observer with his wife, that famous society beauty Lady Frances Callander (known as Fanny). At the very last moment, the Prime Minister and his wife withdrew from the proceedings. Lord Cottenham had a bad head cold. There was also an unforeseen issue in that the Russian delegation had not brought their spouses. Princess Mary was therefore forced to boost the numbers for the social side of things at the Pavilion by inviting the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland and Lord and Lady Barham from the Queen’s Household. At the last minute, Lord Melbury asked that Lord and Lady Ponsonby be added to the guestlist, Ponsonby having previously served as the British Ambassador to the Sublime Porte. It was hardly an exciting assembly but after all, these talks were predominantly aimed to resolve a diplomatic dispute despite lashings of British hospitality.

    Somewhat understandably, Princess Charlotte Louise didn’t care a fig for true nature of the conference at Brighton; she had other pressing concerns on her mind. She had not seen Sasha since that gathering at Witley Court and that was almost 18 months ago. Their relationship had intensified through letters and though this correspondence had become increasingly romantic in nature (the Tsarevich sending her locks of his hair, for example) but now she was to be confronted with the inevitable result of such a relationship. For his part, Alexander had fallen head over heels in love with the Princess, though he was ever conscious of his father’s desire that the Tsarevich should settle and marry quickly. There could be no more delay. If she turned him down, Alexander would have to put aside his emotions and find someone else. Sasha was certain he would not be refused but it is worth noting that the Tsar still kept a list of alternatives close at hand just in case his son was mistaken.


    The engagement ring given to Princess Charlotte Louise by the Tsarevich of Russia, created by Bolin in 1839/40.

    Just before he left Russia, the Tsarevich was visited by the Imperial Jeweller, Bolin, who had created the emerald and diamond stomacher which the Tsarevich gave to Princess Charlotte Louise for Christmas 1839. Bolin had been given unprecedented access to the Imperial vaults and told that he could fashion a ring from a number of heirlooms which were not already in use by the ladies of the dynasty. The body of the ring was a huge salt water pearl taken from a pendant necklace once worn by the Empress Elizabeth. It was surrounded by two rows of gemstones: eight rose cut diamonds, eight old mine diamonds and four rubies, the rubies taken from a brooch owned by Catherine the Great, the diamonds provided from a bracelet owned by the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Bolin teamed this ring with a matching necklace and earrings featuring yet more pearls, diamonds and rubies taken from Romanov heirlooms. These additional gifts were to be given to Charlotte Louise as engagements gifts from her future parents-in-law…if she said yes. It is little wonder that with a seriously impressive collection of jewels at her disposal already, Princess Charlotte Louise is perhaps most remembered for the additions she made to this vast array of jewellery (said to be enough to cover four billiard tables) from 1839 until her death in 1902.

    The Tsarevich and Princess Charlotte Louise were allocated just 40 minutes alone when he arrived at the Royal Pavilion on the 25th of February 1840. After an official welcome by Princess Mary, the pair were led into the Music Room Gallery with its sumptuous gold draperies and crimson carpet which was often rolled up to allow guests to dance before supper. The great double doors with their white panelling and gilt scrollwork were left slightly ajar for decency’s sake and Princess Mary and Lady Anson sat next door in the Saloon awaiting news from within. Proposals such as this were carefully co-ordinated affairs which relied on strict protocol being followed. Formally, the Tsarevich could propose marriage, but he could not be accepted until the King had indicated to his sister that she would be given his consent to do so. This allowed the Princess to “consider” the proposal for a time, and if her brother announced his decision to grant the necessary permission “in-council”, only then could Charlotte Louise give her answer properly. A handful of privy councillors and government officials would then be appointed to meet to draw up a marriage contract, negotiated between Russia and the United Kingdom, which was to be signed before the wedding and which would set the terms the couple were to live by for the rest of their lives.


    The Music Room Gallery at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton.

    But British propriety be damned. Alexander was a passionate young man and he had waited to see his intended for far too long to be held back by court etiquette. The moment they were alone together in the Music Room Gallery, Sasha almost ran towards the Princess and took her in his arms, kissing her on each cheek and then holding her hands in his. Charlotte Louise was a little taken aback. He seemed different. He was still handsome of course, immaculately dressed and his voice just as sweet and charming as she remembered. But in that moment, she could not relate the Sasha of his letters to the Sasha before her. This was no longer a relationship in the abstract. Things were suddenly all too real. The couple made their way to a hand carved gold and crimson Mughal banquette placed before the windows which gave views out to sea. Princess Charlotte Louise sat but Sasha immediately kneeled. He looked up adoringly at her. Surely, he wasn’t going to ask for her hand so suddenly?

    “It is a shame you couldn’t see the Pavilion in the summer months, it really is far more beautiful then”, Lottie began nervously, “We used to come here as children with my Uncle Clarence and Aunt Adelaide. We hardly ever visit now”

    Sasha smiled. He could tell she was nervous.

    “Lotya my darling”, he said softly, “You are the true beauty of Brighton”

    In England, Princess Charlotte Louise’s nickname would always be Lottie but her Russian nickname was Lotya - which she always hated, especially when a visiting diplomat told her that in Sanskrit the word meant "to deceive". She looked down at Sasha. But she couldn’t seem to smile. In her mind, she saw images of nuns of in black robes, she saw the terrible scenes of the reign of Ivan the Terrible she had been reading about, she saw palaces packed with spies and murderous scheming princes and grand dukes hiding about the alcoves with malicious intentions. This was the Russia most British schoolchildren learned about in the 1830s and 40s. It was a vast, dangerous land which represented the tyranny of absolutism and the strange, almost occult, world of orthodoxy. The recent glimpse into just how different a life she might have in Russia had kept her awake, her worries and fears bubbling over into her dreams.

    “Beloved one”, Sasha said, a tear rolling down his right cheek, “You know what I want to ask you and you know that I asked you to be patient for I feared not being able to find the words when I was with you again, but I find that the words come easily to me now. So much so that I cannot delay any longer. I have so dreamed of this moment. I know there is much to be settled, so many things to overcome. But if you will allow it, I will spend my life devoted to your happiness. I shall love you more than a person has ever been loved. So, before I go to your brother, I must know…I must know now, this very moment, that you will accept me when I ask if you will be my wife”.

    In 1948, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer recreated this scene in their motion picture The Little Empress. The 16-year-old Princess Charlotte Louise (played by Deborah Kerr, hot on the heels of her success in Black Narcissus) is convinced by her future husband the 30-year-old Tsarevich (played by Ralph Truman, some 20 years Kerr’s senior) to marry him despite the fact that she does not love him, and her heart still belongs to Prince Albert in Rio (portrayed in the motion picture by Franchot Tone). The Tsarevich is depicted as a lecherous playboy ordered by his imperious father (Basil Rathbone) to wed the English princess in order to force Britain into a war with the French. Naturally this version of events was liberally peppered with artistic license; Charlotte Louise was 19 and not 16, Sasha was only a few years her senior and in no way a debauchee determined to trick an angelic English Rose into a web of Russian deception and intrigue. Yet the proposal scene in The Little Empress has come to dominate how the events that transpired that day are remembered. The Tsarevich did not say (as the movie’s most famous quote would have it); “Give me your hand and I shall give you Russia”. Neither did the Princess reply; “My hand is yours, but my heart shall always belong to another”.

    In reality, Charlotte Louise simply said “I will accept you”. It is certainly true that she still had reservations about marrying the Tsarevich and it is widely accepted that (at least at the start of their relationship), Sasha loved his intended far more than she loved him. In a letter written to her cousin Princess Augusta (later Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz) in Germany announcing her engagement, the Princess says, “The love I feel is tethered by my anxieties and I can now only pray that these worries shall be dissolved with the passage of time until all that is left is my admiration for Sasha - which I certainly do feel”. In another letter to her aunt the Dowager Duchess of Clarence, she writes, “There can be no doubt that I cherish Sasha most sincerely and I know that the worries I feel now are natural ones which will dissipate as the years go by until there is naught by happiness left”. Whatever her true feelings at this time, it is possibly fairer to say that she loved Sasha but was not in love with him as she had once believed herself to be. Conversely, the Tsarevich was deeply in love with Lottie, so much so that he immediately wrote to his father; “In haste Sir – she has accepted me, and I thank God for the gift of her love which is the dearest and most wonderful thing I could ever wish to possess”.


    The Tsarevich depicted around the time of his engagement.

    Sasha presented Lottie with the ring he had brought from St Petersburg. She was awed by it and kindly kissed him on the cheek. But she could not accept it – neither could she wear it. She was not engaged. She had simply indicated that she would become so if her brother agreed. This knocked the Tsarevich for six. This was not how he had pictured his engagement and all the dreams and hopes he had for a grand romantic reunion with future bride were instead replaced by something rather formal and even unfeeling. He put the ring back into his pocket and suddenly felt terribly uncomfortable and awkward. After exactly 40 minutes, Princess Mary and Lady Anson crossed from the Saloon into the Music Room Gallery. Princess Charlotte Louise didn’t say a word. She simply gave a weak smile and nodded. Her rotund aunt clattered towards the couple releasing her grip on her walking stick which fell with a thud to the floor and embraced her niece.

    “My little one”, she said sweetly, “I am so very happy for you”

    And then, turning to Sasha, Mary nodded towards him imperiously and said, “You may kiss me”.

    He offered a polite peck on each cheek and Mary motioned for the four of them to be seated. Lady Anson gave the Princess’ hand a discrete squeeze. She had known her mistress long enough to see that all was not as it should be.

    “Now my dears”, Princess Mary said quietly, “You understand that we cannot discuss this any further for the time being. I shall arrange for you both to go to London when the talks are ended, and His Majesty will receive you. So you must be patient”

    The Tsarevich was not pleased. He was so enthusiastic to share his happy news that he wanted to rush into the Banqueting Hall where the Russian delegates were assembling and shout the news of his engagement as loudly as he could. Instead, he had to content himself with waiting until he was in his rooms at Arundel where he told Prince Gorchakov before telling his personal staff. They offered hearty congratulations with vigorous handshakes and shots of vodka from their hip flasks. But that was all. It was as if the engagement had never happened and many years later, Sasha would reflect on his confusion in that brief time he spent alone with Charlotte Louise; “I was sure she had accepted me but then I spent a week pondering whether she really had or if I had just dreamed it”.

    The Tsarevich was not to attend the talks in Brighton and so he spent a whole week at Arundel, bored stiff and somewhat put out when Princess Mary made it clear that it would be indecent for him to be seen publicly with Princess Charlotte Louise. He began to get frustrated, and his mood shifted from that of a joyous young man in love to a short tempered and somewhat demanding prince. He wouldn't have another chance to be with his fiancé in private again for a further two weeks. When they met at the Pavilion during the various social functions that padded out the programme of the conference, Princess Charlotte Louise was forever accompanied by Lady Anson and she seemed timid and shy. When he did try and approach and ask her to dance, Lottie replied nervously, “I couldn’t do that Sasha, Aunt Mary would not like it. Dance with Annie instead”.

    On the fourth day of the conference, as the two delegations turned their attention to Egypt, Princess Mary too became aware that the atmosphere between her niece and the Tsarevich seemed very unsuited to a couple who had just agreed to be married. When she had spoken to Lottie before, Mary believed that her niece was a young girl in love – now she was not so sure. She decided that she would take the Princess on a little outing. Mary bundled her niece into her carriage and the pair headed for Worthing where they checked into a hotel on the seafront as Mrs Fairford and Daughter. Taking tea in the hotel, they did not stay the night but availed themselves of the facilities changing into suitable attire before taking a stroll along the promenade. The February winds were particularly unkind and the sky grey and miserable.

    “Why did you accept him?”, Mary said suddenly, not one to beat around the bush.

    “Because I love him”, Charlotte Louise replied. She didn’t sound very sincere.

    “That is very curious”, Princess Mary replied sarcastically, “Young girls in love who have just accepted a proposal of marriage usually have something to smile about. And yet your face is as glum as those clouds up there”

    Princess Charlotte Louise stopped in her tracks. When she turned to face her aunt, there were tears in her eyes.

    “Oh, Auntie dear”, she said, sounding as if she might crumble beneath the weight of her decision, “Have I made a terrible mistake?”

    Mary took her niece by the elbows and fixed her with a serious stare. She was no longer playful.

    “Have you girl? Answer me honestly now Lottie. Have you made a mistake? Because if you believe you have, I promise you I shall put everything right the moment we are back at the Pavilion. But this is your last chance to be sincere in this. Tell me truthfully.”

    Lottie looked out to sea. The waves gently lapped at the promenade walls and seagulls shrieked in the air above. For a moment, all she could think of was Albert. Would she have been so anxious with him? Would she have doubted her decision then? Why was she suddenly so scared? Ahead of her lay weeks of confusion. If Georgie allowed, the negotiations for the marriage contract would begin and she would be bombarded with the unfamiliar. Every day might bring a new worry, a fresh discovery about her future homeland which might convince her that she should have turned Sasha down when she had the chance. Should she have ever let things get this far? And had she done so simply because Sasha was there when Albert departed?

    The two women stood in silence for a time. Tears splashed down Lottie’s cheeks.

    Finally, she said pleadingly; “Oh let us go home please Auntie. I want to go home”.


    I wanted this to serve as a stand alone chapter solely handling the engagement. We'll go into what is agreed at Brighton in the next instalment. Thanks for reading!
    GV: Part Two, Chapter Nineteen: "No to Weymouth"
  • King George V

    Part Two, Chapter Nineteen: "No to Weymouth"

    As the Russian Tsarevich and the King’s sister brought their romance to its inevitable conclusion, the Duke of Sutherland held court in the Banqueting Hall at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. The Russian delegation demanded a neutral chairman and at the very last, Sutherland was asked by the King to step in and keep order over the proceedings though Sutherland himself sat with the Whigs in the House of Lords. The talks would last for one week and whilst both parties had agreed to approach these discussions in a spirit of renewed co-operation, the British and Russian delegates had different ideas of what the priority of the conference should be. Both sides had submitted their proposed agendas and finally, it was agreed that that the first session lasting two days should focus on Afghanistan and the situation there since the British retreat at Bala Hissar. A power vacuum now existed and most expected Dost Mohammed Khan to return victorious and proclaim himself ruler once more. The Russians had already made overtures to Khan that he had always had their support and now they offered further assistance in exchange for a clear pathway into the Khanates. For the British, they accepted their presence in Afghanistan had been severely damaged – but they could not yet admit total defeat.

    The absence of Lord Cottenham from the talks was a serious blow to the confidence of the British delegates. Whilst he was not a man known for making bold decisions, Sir James Graham had been given the status of an observer. Whilst he could not formally address the meeting, he would be included at the social events which underpinned the talks. It was the perfect opportunity for Graham to further cement himself as the Prime Minister in waiting. When the two sides finally sat down in the Banqueting Hall, sustained by a running cold buffet of pickled herring, pigeons in aspic, beef salad, oysters, sorbets and white wine, the atmosphere was not as constructive as it might have been had the British not taken a severe dent to their credibility in Kabul just a few months earlier. Still, the Foreign Secretary saw this as a chance not only to distinguish himself in his brief but to give a little lustre to his name which might well be considered among the Whig party grandees who may succeed Lord Cottenham.


    Lord Melbury.

    Melbury had three clear objectives for the conference; 1) To demand the Russians respect Afghan sovereignty and not to use Dost Mohammed Khan as a vehicle to further inflame anti-British sentiment both in Afghanistan and in the Punjab, 2) To secure a permanent British force of peacekeepers in Kabul to ensure they did so and 3) To make it clear to the Russians that despite their shared condemnation of Muhammed Ali Pasha’s adventures in Syria, Britain could only ever join the coalition of the Central Powers in conflict against him as a last resort. Even then, that could not be at the risk of war with France and Spain. Leading the Russian delegation, Prince Gorchakov had his own objectives; 1) To demand the British respect Afghan sovereignty and not to use Dost Mohammed Khan as a vehicle to further inflame anti-Russian sentiment in the Khanates to block further Russian advances in the region, 2) To oppose a permanent British force of peacekeepers in Kabul to ensure the British could not do so and 3) To make it clear to the British that despite their shared condemnation of Muhammed Ali Pasha’s adventures in Syria, only Russia and her Prussian and Austrian allies were taking the threat to Constantinople seriously and that whatever the position of the French and the Spanish, the remaining Great Powers must support the Ottomans against Muhammed Ali.

    Lord Ponsonby, Britain’s former Ambassador to the Sublime Porte, had been drafted in to support Melbury. This was not just a courtesy because he had spent time in Constantinople (Melbury had too) but because he firmly stood against Palmerston’s approach to foreign policy and favoured diplomatic solutions instead. Indeed, it was Ponsonby who had been dispatched to Buenos Aires in 1826, and Rio de Janeiro in 1828, to gather support for an independent Uruguay which might act as a buffer state between Argentina and Brazil. Lord Cottenham hoped he could apply the same strategy in Brighton. Behind closed doors, Ponsonby had handed Melbury a proposal to put before the Russians. They were unlikely to admit to their trouble making where Dost Mohammed Khan was concerned and would undoubtedly demand that Britain refrain from trying to pull him towards the British side in the Great Game. They would be justified in doing so given that Britain was now in retreat from Kabul and Russia, having committed no troops, was quite entitled to continue to support Khan through aid as they had for well over 25 years.

    Britain had not formally recognised Khan as the restored ruler of Afghanistan. He was on the march through the Bolan Pass with nothing to stop him proclaiming himself Emir once more when he reached the site of Britain’s recent humiliation. The United Kingdom could not afford to continue to support a rival and so had been forced to reconsider the Peshawar Agreement which Khan offered before Bala Hissar when the British position in Kabul was stronger. The Tsar was trying to convince Khan to forget all about the agreement, but Ponsonby believed he could play Nicholas at his own game. Russia wanted Britain to respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty. Britain wanted the same of Russia – well, almost. The solution therefore was an agreement to be signed by both countries which forced Dost Mohammed Khan into a permanent state of neutrality. He could not favour one country over another and thus, Afghanistan would become a buffer state.

    But Ponsonby realised this would be a hard sell. To sweeten the pot, he suggested the following terms; the first was that Britain’s recognition of Dost Mohammed Khan was conditional on his neutrality, the second was that this neutrality did not apply to trade policy which would be established by a future agreement made at Peshawar, and which would ensure both British and Russian interests were respected. As a gesture of goodwill, the British would continue to send envoys to the Khanates to force the release of Russian merchants taken prisoner and they would support Russian demands that they be free to trade in the region without fear of capture. Ponsonby expected the Russians to demand more. After all, the Russians wanted commercial agents to be given permanent residency in Bukhara and Khiva and free navigation of the Amu Darya, which Britain could not support.

    The trump card was troop movement. The Russians were unlikely to accept a British peacekeeping force in Kabul. Neither could the British force such a presence on Dost Mohammed Khan. But if the Russians agreed to the British proposals on Afghanistan, the British would instead move such a force from Kabul and instead station it at Jalalabad. This was hardly a hefty bargaining chip. It would be impossible to station British troops at Kabul anyway after Bala Hissar – unless Melbury wanted to stage another invasion. But Ponsonby saw that by offering this relocation, the Russians could not counter that a peacekeeping force designed to protect British interests in the Punjab was not necessary unless the British had ulterior motives. Ponsonby’s plan allowed the British to keep a foothold in Afghanistan which was not that strategically inferior to their former presence in Kabul.


    John Ponsonby, 1st Viscount Ponsonby

    Melbury liked what he heard, though it brought to mind the Duke of Wellington’s criticism of the new Foreign Secretary’s reliance on “little scraps of paper”. For two days, the British and Russian delegations examined the Ponsonby Plan. To Lord Melbury’s delight (and surprise), the Russians agreed without hesitation. Their only caveat was that the agreement on Afghanistan was only binding for as long as the British kept their troops at Jalalabad. One step into Kabul and the whole thing would be null and void. Gorchakov smiled. Now came the difficult part. Russia wanted the British to join the coalition of Central Powers in support of Sultan Abdulmejid I. The Ottoman fleet had deserted and now, Muhammed Ali’s forces stood poised to take Constantinople. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire meant the Russians would lose their control of the Dardanelles, something they had fought hard to secure with the Treaty of Hünkâr İskelesi.

    This Treaty forced the Ottomans to close the Dardanelles to any foreign warship the Russians did not wish to pass through them. The Treaty had enraged Lord Palmerston, but he was not alone; Austria, France and Prussia were equally furious. Fighting against Muhammed Ali Pasha with the Russians meant (in practise) shoring up a tottering Ottoman Empire which would be indebted to Russia and would undoubtedly honour her treaty commitments with a renewed fervour (even if the Ottomans disliked the Treaty as much as the British). But the British could not afford to let the Ottoman Empire crumble into dust. Nor could it allow Russia to be the primary victor when Muhammed Ali was inevitability forced to withdraw his forces from Syria and accept Ottoman rule in Egypt once more. It was evident that Britain had to take some form of action and the Russians intended that to be a clear declaration of support for the Russian-led coalition. Melbury disagreed.

    King Louis-Philippe of France had pledged his support for Muhammed Ali Pasha. He had little choice. The French had just taken Algeria and they wished to expand their presence in North Africa. Muhammed Ali was essential to their ambitions. The question was, how far was Louis-Philippe willing to go to protect his ally? The British government had serious concerns that any conflict in Egypt might spill over into Europe forcing the Great Powers to return to the dark days of the Napoleonic Wars, which the United Kingdom could ill afford. To this end, Lord Granville had been dispatched to Paris to try and make the French see that nobody wanted a war in Europe and that the French were misguided in putting their forces behind Muhammed Ali Pasha in the first place. For the Russians, they saw British involvement as crucial to a swift resolution and swift it would have to be; reports suggested that Ibrahim Ali (Muhammed Ali’s son) was just days away from taking Constantinople.

    At the talks in Brighton, Count Nikolai Kiselyov, the Chargé d’affaires from Russia to the United Kingdom, laid out the Russian position. The threat of war in Europe was not unthinkable but the Russians flattered the British with the suggestion that one sight of the Royal Navy on the coast off Beirut would be enough to see Muhammed Ali turn tail and drop his demands of the Sultan. Abdulmejid I would thereafter be dependent on the Great Powers who assisted him and between them, they could carve out new trade routes in the region thereby freezing out their rivals. Melbury was not prone to sweet talk. If Muhammed Ali’s forces took Constantinople, that would quite another matter. Britain would feel compelled to act. But she must act independently if there was even the slightest suggestion that France might declare war on coalition states. Consequently, Britain preferred to see what news came from Lord Granville in Paris and it would then review its position. Melbury favoured sending an envoy to Muhammed Ali Pasha making it clear that he faced a very grave outcome indeed if he took Constantinople. The threat of this alone would make him rethink.

    But it wasn’t enough for Prince Gorchakov or Count Kiselyov. They would not return to Russia empty handed and time was of the essence. If the British delayed, the Russians would simply lead the coalition without them and Britain would not be invited to the peace talks thereafter, losing any influence they might have gained with the Ottomans and sacrificing valuable opportunities waiting to be claimed from a grateful Sultan. If France declared war, so be it. The Russians had sent Napoleon packing, Louis Philippe was small fry compared to him. Melbury put forward a compromise; if the Russians could give a written guarantee that it would re-open talks on the future of the Turkish Straits when the Egyptian Crisis was over, Britain would prepare a fleet to send to Beirut. However, that fleet would only be dispatched and engage if the British envoy failed in his audience with Muhammed Ali Pasha or if Ali’s forces took Constantinople, whichever came first. The Russians were not pleased. The Austrians and Prussians had both demanded the same conditions when they signed up to the coalition. The Russian grip of the Dardanelles was looking a little less firm.


    Prince Alexander Mikhailovich Gorchakov

    The British terms, however, were reasonable. In addition to what Melbury proposed, Ponsonby suggested a further condition that the British would not join the coalition formally but that if the Royal Navy did intervene, the British were to have a seat at the peace talks where the Straits Question was to be discussed. The Russians accepted if this was defined as the Royal Navy having engaged with the defected Ottoman fleet, the intention to send gunboats would not be enough. Melbury thought this to be reasonable, so long as the Russians understood that with Britain not a formal member of the coalition, she would not be expected to join a war against France unless France declared war on the United Kingdom for its independent role in the Crisis. A draft of the Brighton Agreement was put together and the delegates retired to change for dinner. At Arundel, the Tsarevich paced nervously awaiting his carriage to take him to the Pavilion. He had begged Princess Mary to add him to the guestlist. His recent encounters with his intended had left him nervous, not to mention frustrated. Princess Charlotte Louise had seemingly accepted him and yet on the nights in between their talk and now, she wouldn’t even dance with him.

    Princess Mary played mediator. On a visit to the Tsarevich at Arundel, she warned him that he must not be too forceful with Princess Charlotte Louise. Mary well remembered just how devastated her niece had been when her relationship with Prince Albert was cut short. When Sasha protested that he had promised always to cherish the Princess, Mary held up a hand to silence him.

    “You did not meet her mother”, she snapped, “That woman couldn’t bring herself to display one ounce of love or affection for Lottie. My brother died when she was little more than a babe in arms, her childhood friends have abandoned her, her only experiences of love are fleeting ones built on sand. If you push her too hard, you will force her to turn back. You know…”

    Princess Mary began tucking into a toasted tea cake, the butter dripping onto her chin and into the lace frills of her dress as she spoke with her mouthful.

    “I married for convenience, not love”, she said wistfully, “A man in your position might do the same. But you have found a girl whom you love, and I believe she loves you. Why else would she bring the box?”

    “Box? What box?”

    Princess Mary licked the butter from her fingers and heaved herself forward to grab another teacake.

    “Oh dear. No jam. How disappointing”, she muttered, “The box dear boy. I gave her something very special to wear if she intended to accept you. And she brought it with her to Brighton. My maid told me so. That means she intends to accept. But if you bully her my dear boy, that box will stay locked up and my lovely earrings will go to waste. Oh really, it is too bad, is there not even a little honey or curd?”

    The Tsarevich leaned forward and passed Princess Mary a glass dish full of blackcurrant jam she had overlooked. She broke into a broad grin and began spooning great dollops onto her teacake.

    That night at the Royal Pavilion, the guests assembled in what a local publication called “the most glittering occasion since the late Prince Regent first came to love our dear little resort”. The Russians were resplendent in uniforms festooned with medals, the British ladies elegant in silk gowns in vivid blues, reds and greens covered in diamonds. Princess Mary sailed around the room like a well upholstered barge in a dress of bright yellow satin with thick black stripes. One ungallant male guest said it was like seeing an addled bumblebee searching for a flower to doze in after supper. But Mary gave as good as she got that evening. She seemed to take an instant dislike to Sir James Graham and when he approached and began speaking to her at a perfectly reasonably volume, she barked; “You are not in the House of Commons now Sir James, kindly do not shout!”. He further offended her when he dropped a canapé onto the carpet during her conversation (“That was a waste of perfectly good food!”) and then again when he spilt a glass of water at the dinner table (“And now we are all at sea, honestly, that man is all thumbs”). Even Lady Graham did not escape Mary’s criticism. When Lord Barham said he liked Lady Graham’s gown (which was not in any way outrageous), Mary retorted: “Why has she come in fancy dress?”.


    Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh

    For the first time since his arrival, the Tsarevich had something to smile about. When the doors opened and the royal party entered, there was Princess Charlotte wearing a beautiful pale pink gown trimmed with white lace and studded with little flowers crafted from white plover’s feathers. She was wearing Princess Mary’s diamond and pearl pendant earrings – though the rest of the guests were far more awed by the impressive Oak Leaf tiara which indicated to Princess Mary that her niece had gotten over the worst of her worries. At least for the time being. Immediately after dinner, Mary dispatched a brief note to the King in London; “No to Weymouth”. This was the agreed signal from the Princess to her nephew that Princess Charlotte Louise had accepted the Tsarevich (pending George V’s consent of course) and that Mary would now not be taking the Princess to Weymouth to recover from another romantic disappointment before the baptism of Princess Victoria. The King was instantly put in a bad mood by the note. Though he had slowly come around to the idea, his instinct was still to sulk.

    There was another important after-dinner event which is worthy of note. When the ladies left the Banqueting Room to repair to the Saloon, the gentlemen assembled at the top end of the table for port, brandy and cigars. The Tsarevich hadn’t yet had a chance to tell his intended how beautiful she looked but he wouldn’t get one now; Lord Ponsonby collared him and engaged him for 40 minutes, asking what he knew about truffle hunting as he was inclined to try it out for himself by importing both the truffles and a menagerie of pigs from Périgord. Meanwhile, Prince Gorchakov had a more serious mission. He deliberately sought out Sir James Graham, still a little bruised from his clash with Princess Mary. The two men wandered over to a window. Melbury watched from a far, trying to lip read whilst also finding himself engaged in conversation with the Duke of Sutherland who had taken far too much wine at dinner and kept repeating himself.

    “I believe it may not be long before there is a change in Downing Street”, Gorchakov said quietly, “Do you expect to win your election?”

    Graham smiled.

    “I am honoured that my candidacy is so well known in Russia”, he said kindly, “And though I should not like to count my chickens, I do believe we can expect a reasonable chance of a return to government”.

    “Count chickens?”

    “It doesn’t matter”, Graham shook his head, “I only mean to say that I have every hope I shall soon be in a better position than I am now”

    Gorchakov nodded seriously.

    “But if you are in that position in a week or two”, he said, almost whispering, “Am I to understand you will honour our agreement tomorrow?”

    Sir James Graham nodded profusely; “I can give you that assurance most wholeheartedly Sir. I am here only as an observer, but I believe in this instance I find it easy to support the foreign policy of this government. Not that I should make a habit of that”. He laughed. Gorchakov didn’t. He just nodded sternly and wandered away. The following morning, Graham was informed that he was to act as a witness to the agreement. As an observer, this was quite a usual request but, in this case, he had been asked specifically on the demands of Prince Gorchakov. Whatever happened in the general election, the Russians would not be cheated. Graham was present at the talks, he gave his backing and to that effect, he must now sign his name. Graham had doubts. He sincerely believed that Melbury and Ponsonby had proposed a solid agreement, but he did not wish to be seen approving Whig foreign policy during a general election campaign, even if on this occasion that policy was something the Tories could lend their support to.

    Regardless, he signed. The Brighton Agreement, and all it’s conditions, proposals and promises, was signed on the 28th of February 1840. Melbury could return to London with a spring in his step. He had saved the conference and produced an agreement he felt proud of, with a little help from Lord Ponsonby. The Foreign Secretary also returned to London with an idea set in his mind. Cottenham had told the Cabinet that he intended to step down the moment the election result was known. Melbury was 45 years old, and, in his already impressive career, he had served as an attaché to the British embassies in St Petersburg, Constantinople, Naples and the Hague and had also served as the Secretary of Legation in Florence and the Secretary of Embassy in Vienna. His tenure as Foreign Secretary had been brief thus far but he saw no reason why he should not believe his name might be put forward for the King’s consideration. His friendship with George V was likely to stand him in good stead if it was.

    A week later, the Royal Family gathered at the Private Chapel at Buckingham Palace for the christening of Princess Victoria. At this time, the Chapel Royal of St James (a more traditional venue for such an occasion) was considered to be out of action because though it had been spared any damage from the Great Thames Flood, the reception rooms were undergoing renovation as a direct result of the ceiling giving way to the excess rainwater. Princess Victoria was therefore the first and last royal baby to be christened at Buckingham Palace. Whilst her younger brother William was christened at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, thereafter all royal children were baptised at St James’. Most were treated to what Victoria’s younger brother Edward described as “the bookends”, being christened at the Chapel Royal of St James’ Palace at the start of their lives and then being returned to it’s walls much later on when the Chapel provided a final night’s rest ahead of their funeral: thus, the chapel served as “bookends” to royal life.

    The Christening of Princess Victoria was an intimate affair and because of the General Election campaign, no government minister was invited to attend (usually the Prime Minister at least could expect a place). Also missing from the proceedings was the Tsarevich of Russia. Queen Louise had suggested a last-minute switch of godparents, Sasha being put in the place of her brother Frederick William whom she was sure would understand and could serve as a godfather to her next baby instead. But the King wouldn’t hear of it. He wouldn’t even allow his future brother-in-law to attend the service, though the Queen insisted Sasha be invited to the breakfast that followed. All through this reception, George could not take his eyes off of the Tsarevich; who did he think he was? Strutting about in his finery, flirting with the women and making supposedly witty comments which George certainly didn’t find amusing. As he stood there quietly seething, he felt a hand take his; it was Lottie. She kissed him gently on the cheek and smiled.

    “Will you see Sasha now?”

    The King looked nervously over to the Queen. From across the room where she was busy bouncing baby Victoria on her knee, she grinned and nodded enthusiastically. He felt his shoulders relax a little.

    “Oh, very well Lottie”, he said, but not unkindly, “I'll see him and then you can all stop badgering me about it”

    Just a few days later, the people of Britain woke up to two announcements from Buckingham Palace in the morning newspaper. The first was perhaps a little unsurprising. Lord Cottenham had resigned. He would spend the remainder of his days at Crowhurst, returning to London only briefly when he felt a debate in the Lords needed some sound legal precedent explained. When his health declined, he went to recover in the warmer climes of Tuscany where he died just 11 years after leaving office at the age of 70. Cottenham's time at Downing Street lasted for just 187 days, Britain's shortest serving Prime Minister, a record he still retains today. His successor as Prime Minister was Sir James Graham. The Tories had ousted the Whigs from government by slashing their majority in a landslide. The 285 seats the Whigs had won under Lord Melbourne in 1838 had tumbled to just 193 two years later. The Tories claimed victory with 249 seats, the remaining Whig losses spread between radicals, independents and even a handful of Unionists (though Winchelsea was furious not to overtake the Whigs as the official party of His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition).


    Sir James Graham

    After 9 years of Whig rule, the Tories were back in office. Sir James Graham was summoned to Buckingham Palace shortly after Lord Cottenham departed for the last time as Prime Minister and the King invited him to form a government. It was therefore Sir James who was the first outside of the Royal Family (with the possible exception of Charlie Phipps) to be told the happy news which provided Buckingham Palace with it’s second announcement of March the 15th 1840; The King had given his consent to the marriage of his sister, Her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte Louise of the United Kingdom, to His Imperial Highness the Tsarevich of Russia. If Graham was taken aback, he didn’t show it. But neither was he particularly enthusiastic.

    “I shall put it before the Cabinet Your Majesty”, he said a little nervously.

    “No Prime Minister”, the King replied firmly, “You shall inform the Cabinet of our decision”.

    Our. George had never used the "royal we" before.

    At Marlborough House, Lady Anson helped Princess Charlotte Louise cut the engagement announcement from the newspaper and paste it into a fresh scrap book. Over the next few days, letters and notes from well wishers were all added to the collection until one morning, the Princess asked Anson to bring her a pair of scissors for the day’s additions and was stopped in her tracks by what she saw before her.

    When she opened the newspaper, she was confronted with a drawing of a rose garden full of beautiful red blooms wearing tiny coronets. And in the centre of that garden was a huge angry black bear with blood dripping from his bared fangs. He wore a lopsided crown and in his paw, he clutched a rose which was labelled in red ink…

    "Poor Princess Charlotte Louise"
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    GV: Part Two, Chapter 20: Rumblings
  • King George V

    Part Two, Chapter Twenty: Rumblings
    It was Queen Louise who gave her husband the moniker of "the Ostrich", only partly in jest. When King George V stumbled across something that wasn't to his liking, he simply stuck his head in the sand and pretended it wasn't happening. He would miraculously find overdue papers or pressing issues to be resolved that dragged him away from the real priorities and this was very much the case in the weeks following the engagement of Princess Charlotte Louise. His meeting with his future brother-in-law, the Tsarevich of Russia, was brief and thereafter, he simply wasn't available to meet with him for the remainder of Sasha's time in London. The first excuse was a mercy dash to Windsor where Princess Augusta's condition took a turn for the worst. The ailing daughter of George III was in the final months of her life and had suffered another minor stroke. Then, the King had to prepare the briefing for the redevelopment of Regent's Park for the Cabinet which he wanted Sir James Graham to approve before work could begin. When that was speedily wrapped up (the Prime Minister not being in a position to refuse or reject the proposals as the redevelopment was to take place on Crown land), George V turned his attentions to his friend Prince Alexander of Prussia. In a dreadful state from his over indulgence, the King had sought medical experts to treat him for his growing addiction to alcohol. And when this was put in motion, the King still had other things to do; namely to worry and fret over the appointments being made by his new Prime Minister.

    It had been almost a decade since the Tories were last in office and though Sir James Graham and his colleagues celebrated well into the small hours at their victory, there was not much enthusiasm among the general population. The new Prime Minister was inheriting crises on all fronts and the worst of the Winter of Discontent had yet to lift its grim shadow in many poorer areas of the country. To this end, Graham’s first act was to keep his promise and introduce a sliding scale of import duties linked to the overall value of goods. With the cost of a 4lb loaf standing at almost 10d in the inner cities, bakers could (in theory) now take advantage of cheaper wheat and drop their price by around 6d. Graham boasted that this might well see bread prices set at their lowest since 1779 and in theory, he was correct. But in practise, bakers had taken such a financial hit in recent months that most kept their prices high to reimburse themselves for their previous losses. The Prime Minister reassured the public that the prices would fall as the market stabilised but that was little comfort to those facing starvation. It was clear that Graham would need a strong team around him to turn Britain’s fortunes around and from the 15th to the 18th of March, he set about appointing a ministry that combined all talents – but most importantly, which silenced all factions within the Tory Party. Come what may, Graham would not be forced into the same position as his Whig predecessors, held back from taking any steps to ambitious reforms because of in-party back biting.


    William Ewart Gladstone, Leader of the House of Commons.

    Graham had already composed his new Cabinet long before the election result was declared, the result of weeks of negotiations at the Carlton Club and gentleman’s agreements made at the dinner tables of the great and good of Belgravia. His choice for Chancellor of the Exchequer was Alexander Baring. A prominent financier, Baring had served as a Member of Parliament for over 30 years before finding a place in the House of Lords as Baron Ashburton. But Baring’s appointment was not exactly a reward for long service, indeed, he had never held a government post before. Rather, Lord Ashburton was the biggest financial donor to the Tory Party at this time (unsurprising as he was one of the wealthiest men in England). The son of the founder of Barings Bank, Ashburton's father made his fortune in the slave trade and whilst he had fought passionately against abolition and failed, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer had been generously compensated to the tune of £10,000, the equivalent of £750,000 today, for “loss of assets” in British Guiana and St Kitts. It would be fair to say that Lord Ashburton’s appointment was not entirely based in merit. Upon being asked to appoint Ashburton as Chancellor, George V remarked; "Lord knows he has paid well enough for it".

    As Leader of the House of Commons, Graham selected William Ewart Gladstone. Initially a High Tory, he might have been a prime candidate to join the break away of Lord Winchelsea’s Unionists but his loyalty to the Tory party proved more important. [1] His reputation at this time was somewhat tainted by his stances on child labour (he voted against the Factory Acts for example) and slavery. Indeed, Gladstone went to great lengths to guarantee compensation for his father Sir John Gladstone, one of the largest slaveowners in the British Empire. Yet it was his stance against Palmerston’s foreign policy that distinguished him. He was a fierce opponent of the Opium trade and when asked if he might serve as Leader of the House of Commons, Gladstone only did so after reassurance from Sir James Graham that the government would not embark on a war to protect “that infamous and atrocious trade” in the China Seas. But there was an ulterior motive at play in his appointment; Gladstone was a far more liberal voice when it came to Ireland (he was sympathetic to calls for increased self-government) and Graham did not want to have such a skilled orator sniping at him from the backbenches when Graham made clear to Daniel O’Connell that there was no hope that the Tories would countenance the reforms the Whigs had agreed to.

    The new Foreign Secretary was the 14th Earl of Derby. Derby loathed Lord Palmerston and he famously described Bala Hissar as “the mill-stone cast around the neck of the Empire by that devil Palmerston”. He was fully supportive of the Brighton Agreement (a caveat which he had to accept if he wished to be appointed to the Foreign Office) and the same was expected of the new Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, Sir Thomas Fremantle. The remaining cabinet posts were dished out to the party grandees and their protégés with the Duke of Buccleuch and the Earl of Haddington joining the Graham ministry as Lord President of the Council and First Lord of the Admiralty respectively. But there was a familiar face returning to government in Sir Robert Peel. Though he had been ousted as Tory party leader for failing to push Lord Melbourne from office in 1838, Graham owed much of his success to Peel. He offered Sir Robert the Home Office, never believing he would actually accept the post. But Peel did and though his promotion raised eyebrows among some on the Tory benches, Graham kept his word and brought his former mentor back into government.

    There were to be changes too in the Royal Household and this provided the King with yet another distraction. Any senior post held by a Whig (or their spouse) was now considered to be vacant and it was Sir James Graham’s right to appoint Tories to these positions. The new Lord Steward of the Household was the 3rd Earl of Liverpool, the younger half-brother of the former Prime Minister (Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl) who died in 1828, allowing Charles Jenkinson to inherit the Earldom. The new Lord Chamberlain was George Sackville-West 5th Earl de la Warr with the Marquess of Bristol taking up the position of Treasurer of the Household. But the new Comptroller was of great interest to the gossips of Westminster. Graham appointed the 36-year-old backbencher Benjamin Disraeli to the office, against the advice of his private secretary Sir Theodore Williams. Other Cabinet ministers had reservations too, though they expressed them quietly for fear of jeopardizing their own positions at this early stage in a new era of Tory rule.

    Benjamin Disraeli had great ambitions but was not entirely well-liked in political circles. He had once stood as a radical candidate, and he held surprisingly liberal views which made him a keen advocate of constitutional reform. He had once been reluctant to support either of the two big parties of his day saying, “Toryism is worn out and I cannot condescend to be a Whig” [2]. But by 1840, that had all changed. With the patronage of Lady Londonderry, Disraeli carved out a niche for himself as a passionate speaker and enthusiastic young Tory who yearned for ministerial office. Yet two things held him back. The first was a scandal which saw Disraeli become the second of two lovers taken by Lady Henrietta Sykes, the first being Lord Lyndhurst, the former Lord Chancellor so recently awarded the Order of the Garter by King George V. It wasn’t the love affair that shocked high society, rather that it appeared Disraeli conducted the liaison solely for the purpose of making introductions to Tory party grandees. This bled into the second barrier Disraeli faced; his Jewish heritage.


    Benjamin Disraeli

    At the age of 12, Disraeli had been baptised into the Anglican Communion on the advice of Sharon Turner, a solicitor and advisor to Benjamin’s father Isaac. Isaac was not a devout Jew and had faced constant disputes with the authorities of the Bevis Marks Synagogue where the Disraelis worshipped. Whilst Isaac left the synagogue not particularly eager to attach himself to another faith, Turner advised him that it would be better for his children if they (at least nominally) became Christians. Indeed, Disraeli could never have hoped for a political career had he remained an active member of the Bevis Marks. But socially, Disraeli was always going to face the narrow-minded prejudices of those great society hostesses. Antisemitism was rife and just as the Queen’s friend and confidant Reverend Michael Alexander faced prejudice even after his conversion and taking of Anglican Holy Orders, so too did Disraeli [3]. Whilst any other ambitious young Tory would have been congratulated for seeking ministerial office so quickly, the establishment saw things differently in Disraeli’s case; he was simply trying to ingratiate himself with the upper classes for his own financial gain. Though the Queen had set an example by condemning this vile bigotry in her own household, antisemitic views such as these still dominated Westminster and its environs.

    Fortunately for Disraeli, Sir James Graham did not hold such views - at least not to the same extent as some of his colleagues. But he did have concerns that Disraeli may prove to be “my Lord John” and to that end, he was not inclined to promote him too quickly. Disraeli hoped for a role as an Undersecretary showing particular interest in the Treasury, but this was unthinkable for Graham who had to accommodate demands from party grandees who all seemed to have very loyal nephews they wished to see elevated given their family’s generosity to the Tory Party’s election campaign. Instead, Graham made use of a vacancy in the Royal Household and appointed Disraeli as Comptroller of the Household. This was a junior post, the most junior ministerial role a backbencher could hold in fact where the Household was concerned, but it did have its compensations. Disraeli would accompany the King and his family to diplomatic and social events, giving him direct (almost daily) access to the Crown. It was often hoped that ambitious backbenchers who were appointed to the post of Comptroller might find a life of royal service far more comfortable than that of a parliamentary career and jump ship to a non-government appointed role in the Royal Household. [4]

    But by far the most important change to the household where the King was concerned was the departure of the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland as Lord Steward and Mistress of the Robes respectively. The Sutherlands had been a key part of the Royal Household for many years now, the Duchess in particular becoming one of the so-called “Four Gospels”, her role blurred into that of close family friend and companion and not just the most senior appointee in the Queen’s Household. Longer serving courtiers held their breath nervously. Queen Louise’s aunt and predecessor had always despised the changes made to her household, going so far as to refuse to accept them. With the King seeking any dispute to inflate in order to avoid further discussions concerning his sister's marriage, many feared the Queen might respond likewise. Fortunately, Queen Louise was more practical. When the Duchess of Buccleuch became the new Mistress of the Robes in 1840, Her Majesty welcomed her warmly. She would miss the Duchess of Sutherland (“my dearest Harriet”) but wrote to the Prime Minister thanking him for “such a generous and well-appointed successor in the Duchess of Buccleuch whom I like very much”. But still a clash hovered on the horizon.


    Charlotte Montagu Douglas Scott

    The Prime Minister made further appointments where the Queen’s ladies in waiting were concerned. Joining the Duchess of Buccleuch were Emma, Countess of Derby and Maria, Countess of Haddington. Maria brought with her Lady Ellen Fane, her cousin and wife of Colonel John Fane whom the King invited to join his Household as an Assistant Private Secretary to Charlie Phipps. The final appointment was to be Lady Selina Fremantle, the sister-in-law of Sir Thomas Fremantle, the new Secretary of State for War and the Colonies but this proved to test just how different to her predecessor the Queen was. The Prime Minister wished to appoint Lady Selina as a replacement to Lady Dorothy Wentworth, she being the daughter of the Whig 5th Earl Fitzwilliam. Dolly was in Bautzen as de facto head of the Princess Royal’s Household and naturally Sir James believed he had a perfect right to expect her to leave royal service given her proximity to a rival party. But both the King and Queen were horrified at the suggestion. They were adamant that Dolly was to be exempt from any changes made to the Royal Household. The Queen insisted that Dolly was not a courtier, rather she was the Governess to the Princess Royal and could not be removed from that post as it was not traditionally considered to be a post the government had a hand in.

    However, Sir James Graham was not fully aware of the circumstances surrounding Missy’s removal to Germany. He had also made a promise that Lady Selina would be given a post in the Royal Household and he felt that a post in the Princess Royal's Household (for that was how the nursery at Bautzen was referred to) now came into the government's purview. To that end, he wrote a letter to the Queen insisting that Her Majesty; “be reassured that I have no great desire to disrupt the household of Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal, but that the convention which allows me to make such appointments has long applied to all senior members of the personal households of members of the Royal Family and an exception cannot be made for Lady Dorothy Wentworth”. The Queen did not need to protest to her husband, he was in full agreement. Reports from Leipzig concerning the Princess Royal were positive. She had settled well and was “in all ways a most happy and contented child”. Princess Augusta of Cambridge wrote of Lady Dorothy; “She is quite devoted to Missy and Missy to her; indeed, Dolly has taken it upon herself to attend some of the classes at the college which teach adults how to speak with their hands for if this is to be the only remedy to poor Missy’s condition, Dolly intends that she should be fluent in this most fascinating skill”. That progress could not be disrupted now.

    At their first audience following Sir James’ appointment, the King put his foot down. Dolly was a non-negotiable presence in his daughter’s life and the King would not, and could not, contemplate her replacement. But as a concession, the Queen had invited Lady Selina to join her own Household as a lady of the bedchamber.

    “But Your Majesty, that is not the point”, Graham objected, “I understand that Lady Dorothy is a friend of Her Majesty’s and no doubt greatly loved by the Princess Royal, but she is also the daughter of a Whig peer...”

    “Who lives in Germany now and cannot possibly exert any political influence”, George countered brusquely, “I am sorry Prime Minister, the Queen and I must insist upon this. We have been content to see some of our closest friends leave our Household with the change of government, I have also given you some assurance that we shall curtail our connections to Lord Melbury and the Sutherlands but that must be the sum of it. Lady Dorothy must remain in her post".

    Sir James bowed to royal pressure. He did not intend to start his premiership with a clash with the Crown and however reluctantly, he accepted that Lady Dorothy must be allowed to keep her post. Lady Selina Fremantle joined the Queen’s Household instead but only briefly. She bored of court life easily and asked to be relinquished from the Queen's service. Graham's decision on this appointment would have a long-standing repercussion in that, whatever post she enjoyed in the Royal Household, “Aunt Dolly” always fell outside of the usual political appointments to the Household. She would never be threatened with removal again and thus, she would ultimately achieve seven decades of royal service under Prime Ministers of all political banners. The disagreement over appointments was forgiven and forgotten, though Sir James still didn’t know why the Princess Royal was in Germany beyond what the public had been told; she was recovering from an infection of the chest. He did not pry, rather the Prime Minister hoped that eventually he would win just enough royal trust to be told the truth.

    That first audience between King George V and Sir James Graham naturally focused on the Tory priorities of their first 100 days in government. The King praised the Prime Minister for his swift action on pricing and hoped that food shortages and spiralling prices could be further curtailed in the coming weeks. But there two other issues which threatened to make the meeting a little more tense. It must be said that the King later came to like and respect Graham but in these early days, he was wary of him. As a young man, the King had come to know the same familiar faces at his court, and he had allowed a certain degree of familiarity. He was not yet inclined to do so with Sir James who struggled in his first year or so as Prime Minister to gain the Royal Family’s trust. Still, Graham did not take this personally; “I accepted that for His Majesty, the change of government of 1840 meant a wholesale replacement of those closest to him and this he had not yet experienced. Therefore, I was respectful of this and did nothing to push the King to accept things he might find disagreeable".

    The first issue which delayed the two men forging a better working relationship was the Prime Minister’s response to the gazetted engagement of Princess Charlotte Louise to the Russian Tsarevich. The Cabinet had been briefed that the King had given his consent and that now, negotiators were to be appointed to begin preliminary discussions of the marriage contract. The Russians were well ahead on this but were insisting that the talks be held in St Petersburg, not in London. The Tsar and his wife were far more enthusiastic about the match now that it was official, though the King was still a little shellshocked. The Tsarevich would spend another month after the Brighton talks in England where he could (with a chaperone) spend more time with his intended before his return to Russia. Sir James stressed that whilst the Cabinet was united in its desire to see the King’s sister happily married to the man she loved, the engagement had not been received with the usual outpouring of public affection one might expect and many in high society had reservations. Russophobia still ran deep, and the worries Lord Cottenham’s ministers had expressed were shared by the new intake. The King let his frustration get the better of him.

    “For heaven’s sake man”, he snapped, “I have made it abundantly clear that there is to be no political connotations to this marriage, I have given my word on that, and I have been assured that every possible objection can be countered with a practicable solution. I cannot do more”. Whilst his sister's engagement had filled the King's mind for weeks, he had overlooked the fact that for Sir James, this was new territory.

    “But with respect Sir”, the Prime Minister replied, “Those assurances were given to my predecessor. I have no idea of what was previously agreed, and I must be able to return to the Cabinet with some guarantee that every step will be taken to ensure this marriage has no diplomatic or dynastic consequences”.

    “Is the King’s word not good enough?”

    “Your Majesty”, Sir James reasoned, “I ask only that we be privy to the agreements made with my predecessor, agreements I am certain my colleagues will respect. But I cannot make appointments for negotiators as Your Majesty asks of me unless I know what has already been agreed...”

    “Oh, damn it all!”, George barked, “I shall have Charlie send you a briefing, I am sick to the back teeth of this marriage before it’s even begun.”

    Sir James decided to try another angle.

    “I can understand that Sir”, he replied kindly, “It must be of great concern to Your Majesty, and if I may, I know that you will feel the departure of the Princess very deeply. But I am here to assist Sir, not to challenge. There are things I must know now if I am to provide that assistance. For example, should the government expect Your Majesty to appoint a deputy of some kind whilst you are in Russia” [5]

    “In Russia?”, the King was startled, “Who said anything about my going to Russia?”

    “For the wedding Sir”, Sir James replied, “Naturally I would have expected to have met with the Duke of Sussex during Your Majesty’s absence, but I understand His Royal Highness is now retired from service and I- “

    “I shan’t be absent!”, the King protested, “My sister shall be married at St George’s, just as I was. Russia indeed. Oh, damn it all, can’t we move on to something else?”

    The Prime Minister had unwittingly addressed something the King had not considered. The Tsar was insistent that his son and heir would marry in St Petersburg. As Charlotte Louise would one day succeed her mother-in-law as Empress consort, it was unthinkable that she should not be married on Russian soil. But the King had assumed she would marry in England, perhaps with a service of blessing in her new homeland after her arrival as the Tsarevich’s wife. He was sorely mistaken. This was not a battle he could win either, Princess Charlotte Louise had already discussed the venue for her marriage with her fiancée and she understood the importance of her being married in Russia even if her brother did not. Sir James silently reorganised his papers and moved on. He could tell the King’s patience was wearing thin today yet there was one more subject he must raise urgently.

    “There is a matter I must bring before Your Majesty”, he continued, “Which I have to say I wish I did not. It concerns the House of Lords. As Your Majesty will no doubt be aware, my majority in the Commons will be dependent on support from Unionist members from time to time but we have every expectation that our programme shall be implemented relatively easily. But in the upper house Sir, the appointment of Whig peers during the regency put my party at a disadvantage. The creation of yet more Whig peers since 1832 gives them a huge majority in the Lords. That is something that my party must balance out if we are to govern." [6]

    “Balance out?”, the King replied, somewhat confused, “Why?”

    It was now Graham’s turn to express his frustration, though he did it politely.

    “Because I cannot deliver the bills in Your Majesty’s upcoming speech unless my party has a working majority in the upper house as well as in the Commons Sir. Every bill we pass through the Commons shall be rejected by the Lords by a staggering number we could not hope to overturn with the usual annual elevations. Therefore, I must ask Your Majesty to create new peers to- “

    "No Prime Minister!”, the King bellowed, “Absolutely not Sir! My Uncle should never have given into those demands before; he always regretted it. I shall not be swayed on this. To get you a majority I should have to create dozens of new Tory peers and then what? Your successor would ask for dozens more, there wouldn’t be enough room for them all. Everybody but the tinker and the tailor would be swanning about in ermine. No Sir James, I’m sorry but you must find another way”.

    The Prime Minister stood up slowly and gathered his papers together.

    “Your Majesty”, he began tersely, “I am afraid there is no other way. I share your view that the creation of so many Whig peers was a mistake, but it is a mistake that has been made and must now be rectified. I shall ask my Private Secretary to submit to Your Majesty the new creations I am seeking, and I can reassure you Sir that I shall look into further measures to prevent the House of Peers from swelling further in the future. I bid Your Majesty a good morning and if you will excuse me Sir, I must attend a committee concerning the proposals for the new Palace of Westminster”

    And with that, Graham bowed and left the King’s Study. Charlie Phipps entered the room slowly. The Prime Minister had left 25 minutes earlier than planned. The King lit a cigarette and slumped into his chair at his desk. He had hoped a change of government would ease his workload, not increase it. He had perhaps underestimated Graham. Whilst Lord Cottenham was easier to push into a direction George felt more comfortable with, his successor was not to be driven so easily. Charlie cleared his throat tentatively. He knew all too well that the King was quick to temper when he was in such moods.

    “Your Majesty, I have a message for you from the Queen”, he said softly, “She regrets that she has a slight head cold and asks that you understand she cannot accompany you to the theatre this evening”

    “Oh, it’s too bad of her Charlie, really it is”, George whined, “After the day I’ve had too. I was looking forward to that. Very well, send Allison and I shall go and see her after lunch. And for God’s sake send a message to Melbury will you? He can bring his wife with him...”

    “Sir…” [7]

    “Ah. Of course. Well in that case, invite Prince Alex, he's back from Windsor now isn't he?”

    Charlie felt he was dancing a tarantella on eggshells.

    “Your Majesty, Prince Alex left the Fort two days ago for Surrey”.

    “What the devil is he doing there?”

    “Shooting I believe Sir, though I understand he was not very happy. Lady Manning did not extend an invitation to Frau Wiedl”.

    The King shook his head. “Damn snobbery”, he muttered. “Where is she now?”

    “I believe she is staying at Brown’s on Albermarle Street. They say it’s really quite comfortable, for an hotel”. [8]

    “Well that fixes that then Charlie, ask Rosa along would you? We'll take supper at the theatre. And let’s have Manso and yourself along too, what? Make a party of it”.

    The summer of 1840 would see a change in the King’s relationship with Rosalinde Wiedl and one which has led many historians over the years to puzzle over the true nature of their association. Eventually tired of Prince Alexander of Prussia’s excessive drinking and gambling, Wiedl began to spend more time in London as he gadded about England being hosted by obsequious aristocrats on their country estates who loved nothing more than adding a Prince to their guest list - however badly behaved he was. But most would not be as generous to Frau Wiedl as the King and Queen were and she got bored of being left out. By September 1840, Prince Alexander’s physical relationship with Wiedl ended, though they remained close friends. Instead, Rosalinde became a regular at court Queen Louise went to great lengths to include her in the royal social calendar. Her Majesty genuinely seems to have enjoyed the company of Frau Wiedl but perhaps by keeping her close by, she was also trying to prevent any gossip or scandal at court by making it clear that Rosalinde was a friend to both the King and Queen. If Frau Wiedl (known to the Royal Family as Rosa) attended a ballet or a dinner with George, it was always with Louise’s knowledge – and blessing. But what exactly was the motivation behind this arrangement?

    Some historians insist that this was a classic ménage à trois, the Queen accepting the King’s new mistress into her home and showing her kindness and extending the hand of friendship to keep the peace. Such niceties were not observed during the reign of George V’s father; George IV's affair with Lady Elizabeth Somerset had not been taken well by the Dowager Queen Louise and is arguably what began her on a downward path which saw her eventual confinement at Kew and her prolonged estrangement from her son. These same historians believe that precedent suggests that George was intimate with Wiedl, at least for a time, and that the Queen simply accepted this as extra-marital affairs in royal circles were not only tolerated but expected. They consider it naïve to believe that such a relationship could only be platonic and that a handsome King in his early 20s would not have a roving eye for a pretty lady, especially given that George V liked the company of women slightly older than himself who mothered him – as Wiedl undoubtedly did.


    Rosalinde "Rosa" Wiedl.

    History records Wiedl as a royal mistress, yet technically this was not true in the case of Prince Alexander of Prussia and neither can it be proven so regarding King George V, at least not in the early years of their friendship. Prince Alexander was not married after all and however unsuitable she might have been from his parent’s point of view, Wiedl was Alexander’s companion and lover and not his mistress. Their physical relationship is well documented but where George V was concerned, friends, confidants and courtiers who served the Royal Household took great pains in later years to stress that the King was always faithful to his wife. He couldn’t be anything else. His love for her was intense, he was often overprotective of her interests, and it is doubtful that he would ever break his marriage vows to her. The fact that the Queen welcomed Wiedl openly as a friend might suggest she was generous of spirit, that she turned a blind eye to her husband’s dalliance as many of her predecessors had when their husbands found it impossible to resist the charms of a pretty girl. But it is widely accepted that this was not the case. The Queen simply liked Wiedl. She had nothing to fear from her. She trusted her husband implicitly and there is no evidence that there was any hint of a physical relationship between the King and Frau Wiedl at this time. Their relationship was described by Charlie Phipps as being “more like siblings, especially after Princess Charlotte Louise left England”.

    Whatever it’s true nature however, in the summer of 1840 Frau Wiedl accompanied the King on fourteen separate occasions when his wife was not present. It wasn’t that the Queen disliked society or (as her predecessor had) was turning away from public appearances. On the contrary, following the birth of Princess Victoria, Queen Louise threw herself into her work with a renewed vigour, ever mindful that her mother-in-law had earned the ire of the British public for her failure to go amongst them. Queen Louise opened hospitals, she attended bazaars, she visited museums and galleries, she even visited a workhouse in Bethnal Green in June 1840 against all advice; “I have nothing to fear from the poor”, she said, “I am going as their friend, not as their Queen”. This was certainly how the public came to see Queen Louise. The new royalism owed much of its enthusiasm to her and when the King attended the State Opening of Parliament in March that year, the Queen accompanied him – something her mother-in-law had never done during the reign of George IV. She was openly cheered as her carriage passed by the crowds and one man was reported as presenting her with a dozen white roses as she left Westminster Hall. [9]

    On this occasion, the King added something unusual to the end of the address, announcing in person before the assembled Lords and Commons that “We have been pleased to give our consent in-council to the marriage of our well-beloved sister, the Princess Charlotte Louise”. But he did not say to whom she was now engaged. Neither did the King visit Marlborough House which he would soon come to describe as “Little Russia” because of the endless parade of delegates, courtiers, advisors and tutors who were sent to England by the Tsar and his wife to help prepare Princess Charlotte Louise for her marriage. As much as she tried, the Queen could not force the King to address the situation head on, though the mild-mannered "Sunny" broke her placid disposition around this time when the King said he couldn't possibly go to Marlborough House because he had to attend to something very important. When the Queen called in to the study, she found him colouring in little diagrams of footmen and carriages. He was unhappy that some of his aunts and uncles were using the red and blue colours of his livery and the light brown of the royal phaetons. He had decided therefore to give each household new colours to use; the King and Queen retained gold, red and blue, the Cambridges had gold and green as Viceroys of Hanover, the remaining brothers and sisters of his late father were to use silver and navy blue and as for coaches, the King and Queen would adopt maroon with the Cambridges allowed to use light brown and all other family members permitted only to travel in carriages painted in light grey. Insignia for the royal couple would be painted on the carriages in gold, everybody else (including the Cambridges) must make do with silver.

    "Oh Georgie, really!", the Queen exclaimed, "And this is why we could not dine with Lottie and Sasha tonight?! Oh you really are too silly. I shan't travel in any carriage with you so long as you keep up this behaviour. Well you may please yourself, I am going to dine with them tomorrow evening and you can sit here all by yourself playing with your silly drawings".

    The King blushed. He was not used to be admonished by his wife. And he knew she was quite right too.

    At Downing Street, Sir James Graham was carrying on regardless. He compiled his list of nominated peers with his secretary Sir Theodore Williams and at his first Cabinet meeting, passed on the King’s assurances that the upcoming marriage of Princess Charlotte Louise would not be a political or dynastic union but simply a private love match. The new Foreign Secretary, Lord Derby, was unconvinced but he agreed with the Prime Minister to wait and see what Charlie Phipps' briefing contained. Nonetheless, Derby still appointed three junior ministers from the Foreign Office to lead the marriage negotiations for the United Kingdom, but he warned them that the King was likely to make heavy weather of things. Yet at least the Russians would not be quite so boisterous, he predicted. The Brighton Agreement had opened new possibilities in the Anglo-Russian relationship and Lord Derby was certain that the Russian enthusiasm for the Agreement might make the marriage contract from their side far less stressful than it needed to be. That was to prove easier said than done.

    It was with this positive outlook in mind that a cheery Lord Derby left the Cabinet Room at Downing Street to head back to the Foreign Office. An urgent memorandum awaited him. News had come from Egypt, yet unconfirmed, that Muhammed Ali Pasha had just been deposed by his son and heir, Ibrahim Ali – and it appeared the British may be partly responsible. Now ousted from government, Lord Granville had done much to reassure the French that Britain did not seek a war in Europe. The French were still not prepared to abandon Muhammed Ali Pasha, they remained committed to his cause – yet rumours swirled that the French government had reviewed their position and the military support Muhammed Ali Pasha was counting on was likely to experience “delays”. Ibrahim Ali had never trusted King Louis Philippe to provide the assistance he promised in the first place and these rumours only spurred him to act quickly. Constantinople was in his sights yet his father would not advance. Whispers were everywhere. If Muhammed Ali Pasha was deposed peacefully, perhaps by a family pact, Ibrahim Ali could succeed and force the Ottomans into a corner securing the greatest possible future for the Ali dynasty with Constantinople as a bargaining chip. [10]

    It appeared those favourable to such a plan had just acted on Ibrahim Ali's behalf. Lord Derby turned pale and asked for a glass of brandy.

    “Do you hear that Curzon?”, he asked his private secretary.

    “No Sir?”

    “It is the rumblings of war Curzon. The rumblings of war”.

    [1] Gladstone was a High Tory in his early career but slowly embraced a more liberal point of view over the years, as did many of his contemporaries. At this time, he's still very much a passionate Conservative of the Peelite tradition.

    [2] An actual Disraeli quote.

    [3] You can read more about Alexander (and the social attitude towards British Jewry at this time) here: Once again, I stress that these are historically accurate views expressed in the 1830s and 40s and ones I find repellent.

    [4] Comptroller was also a post within the Royal Household which did not require a peerage as a qualification.

    [5] Counsellors of State were not appointed until 1911. Before that time, a senior member of the Royal Family would act unofficially as regent whilst the monarch was abroad (which admittedly didn't happen very often). They could not exercise any powers of the Crown but they could deputise for the Sovereign at official functions or in planned meetings with government officials or ambassadors.

    [6] In TTL, Wellington had the Duke of Clarence create 16 new peers in 1831. Lord Grey then convinced Clarence to create 76 new Whig peers the following year when the Whigs returned to government. You can read more about this here:

    [7] Melbury can still dine with the King and Queen in private as a friend (though rarely) but he cannot be seen in public with them, this might risk a constitutional crisis.

    [8] Brown's was opened in 1837 but the upper classes had a remarkably snobbish attitude to people staying in such places. It suggested you couldn't afford a separate town house or that you were doing something illicit. The most they could accept was young middle class bachelors renting rooms in boarding houses but the well-bred did not stay in hotels. Perish the thought.

    [9] As best I can find, the State Opening was still taking place at Westminster Hall as it was not damaged by the fire which necessitated the building of a new palace. Supposedly the Hall was spared only because of a change in the direction of the wind during the night.

    [10] Butterflies! As I said in a few posts previously, this is where we shall depart from the OTL where the Oriental Crisis is concerned. It couldn't well stay the same once Palmerston was gone and the British signed the Brighton Agreement. That said, I hope by now I've shown that I'm not one for taking massively divergent PODs on a whim.

    This one has been carefully plotted out (thanks to Marc David Bauer's excellent book The Ottomans which I've been using for background research) to use both Afghanistan and Egypt (Syria, etc) to give us a different world to play in and not just a wander through the same old history with a fictional royal family.

    Thanks for reading!
    GV: Part Two, Chapter 21: The Best of Us
  • King George V

    Chapter Twenty-One: The Best of Us

    The news of Muhammed Ali Pasha’s fall from grace was confirmed on the 16th of April 1840, the full details passed to London by the Russian Ambassador. For some time, there had been disagreements between Muhammed Ali and his son Ibrahim on how far they could press their newfound advantage against the Ottomans. Quite aside from Egypt, Syria, the Sudan and the Acre, Ibrahim was firmly focused on Constantinople. He believed his father was about to waste a once in a lifetime opportunity in failing to advance and take the city, thus dealing a mortal blow to the Ottomans. But Muhammed Ali felt very differently. He believed that he need not go so far for as long as he had French support. King Louis-Phillipe had pledged that he was willing to fight the Great Powers to preserve the fortunes of the Ali dynasty and this was enough to reassure Ali that he could win his great objective without going so far as to try and take Constantinople. His son believed this to be French bluff. How could Louis-Phillipe possibly commit to such a war when he was already facing a costly crisis in the Rhine? [1] What if the British sent gunboats to Beirut as they threatened, and the French were nowhere to be seen?

    Ironically, Muhammed Ali had not allowed his son to push ahead to Constantinople and had kept his son’s ambitions in check precisely because this made it far less likely the French would continue to support him. The British delay was a welcome one as Muhammed Ali tried to reason with Ibrahim. Whilst Palmerston would have sent a fleet months ago, Lord Cottenham and Sir James Graham favoured diplomacy over gunboats. Ali tried to make his heir see that the Brighton Agreement would buy yet more time, the British still pursuing a solution through a special envoy rather than the Royal Navy. To take Constantinople, even if were in reach would be absolute folly; the British would then (under the terms of the Brighton Agreement) act and though not formal members of the coalition of the central powers, would tear Ali’s forces in two as they faced a naval battle they could not win and a land battle against the great armies of Europe. In such a scenario, the French might be found wanting [2] and Ali’s carefully considered approach to his conquest of Ottoman territory would fall apart in days. Ibrahim was being greedy and reckless. But Ibrahim’s allies agreed that Muhammed Ali Pasha was wasting a golden opportunity. Constantinople was the ultimate bargaining chip.


    Ibrahim Ali.

    If the Ali dynasty held Constantinople, they could forget serving as mere viceroys under the Ottoman rulers; they could mop up territories left, right and centre and proclaim their own Empire in the Middle East – perhaps an Empire far greater than that ruled by the young Sultan Abdulmejid. There would be plenty of spoils to share, if only Muhammed Ali Pasha wasn’t so timid. He had not always been so. Perhaps the old man was losing his touch. Or even his mind. It would not be long before Ibrahim took his father’s place anyway and even among the Ali family, those with great influence and prestige had buzzed around the successor and not the incumbent for some time now, all jostling to find favour in the future. Brothers, sons, cousins, courtiers and generals now turned against the man they had so dutifully served and knowing themselves to be committing to a lie, signed a declaration which declared Muhammed Ali Pasha to be of diminished responsibility. He was deposed and replaced with his son, Ibrahim, the old man kept under house arrest and allowed no contact with the outside world.

    Lord Derby refused to believe that Ibrahim Ali really would take Constantinople. The Brighton Agreement had set a red line and Ibrahim was no fool; he must know that even the combined Ottoman and French fleets were no match for the Royal Navy. But Derby was hoping that the French could be made to see that too. Lord Granville had managed to shift the French position slightly on his visit to Paris, but it had been cut short by the change of government. Granville’s report from his time in the French capital gave Derby confidence. France’s campaign in Algeria was causing anxiety in Paris. It was prolonged and expensive, and the French Cabinet was divided; most believed that France was not ready for war. King Louis-Philippe wanted peace, but he also wanted Britain to believe that France would fight if she had to. It was a matter of honour. The French Foreign Minister, Adolphe Thiers, disagreed with the King’s approach and offered his resignation. Louis Philippe refused to accept it and there was a danger now, in Lord Granville’s view, that the Brighton Agreement may push Louis-Philippe to a more pro-war stance for fear that Britain was becoming far too cosy with Russia. Yet Granville believed the French could be persuaded to drop their support of the Alis – something Lord Derby believed was more likely now that he had been deposed in favour of his son and that Constantinople was under threat.

    A charm offensive against the French was needed and there was only one man who could lead it: King George V. The French must be made to feel that Britain held no animosity towards them, that they were a trusted and respected neighbour and that the United Kingdom had gone to great lengths in Brighton to prevent a war between the two countries, regardless of Russia’s rather flippant attitude to the prospect. There hadn’t been a state visit for decades [3] and Derby believed that the French would be honoured that the first of George V’s reign would be to Paris. Against a backdrop of pomp and pageantry, Lord Derby and Sir Thomas Fremantle would try to impress upon anti-war French Cabinet ministers the importance of dropping their support for the Ali dynasty. The French need not join the anti-Ali coalition formally, all they had to do was remove their patronage. That said, if they took a similar stance to Britain (active but independent contributors in the Oriental Crisis) then Britain was prepared to insist that France be given a seat at the peace talks when the campaign (not yet a war) was concluded.

    King George was an essential tool in this process. If he could convince his French counterpart of Derby’s objectives, it would bring King Louis-Philippe into line with his Foreign Minister, France would throw her lot in with the coalition powers and a costly, chaotic war would be averted. Derby made discrete inquiries at the French Embassy, finding a keen ally in the Comte de la Porte. De la Porte was just days away from resigning his post as French Ambassador to the United Kingdom, believing that King Louis-Philippe was listening to all the wrong advice when it came to Egypt. In later years, Adolphe Thiers would describe de la Porte’s view (which he agreed with) as; “apprehension at seeing France engaging in the Oriental question, to find herself the only one of that opinion, and from that moment on to be reduced to the alternative of either ceding or risk a universal war over an object that was not worth it”. Thiers had managed to convince the King not to recall de la Porte just yet. De la Porte heard Louise-Philippe intended to recall him anyway and drafted a letter of resignation. Derby had to act quickly. [4]


    The Earl of Derby.

    But when the Foreign Secretary called on the King at Buckingham Palace, he found the King to be in a sulk. He did his best to brief His Majesty (who was only half-listening, toying with his Regent’s Park plans) and explained that the moment Ibrahim Ali advanced toward Constantinople, the Russians expected the Royal Navy fleet to be dispatched and engaged.

    “Humph”, the King scoffed, “The Russians are certainly dispatched and engaged at Marlborough House”.


    “Haven’t you been there Derby?”, the King replied sarcastically, “My wife tells me you can’t move for them all.”

    George was only slightly exaggerating. From the moment the engagement between Princess Charlotte Louise and the Tsarevich had been received in Russia, the Empress had quickly assembled a team to travel to London immediately to “take charge” of her future daughter-in-law. It would come as something of a shock to Lottie to find that Marlborough House was now turned into a kind of imperial finishing school from which she could not excuse herself. This was the reality of her acceptance of Sasha’s proposal and these lessons in all things Russian would dictate the success of the early years of her marriage. Naturally the most important thing she had to learn was the Russian language, but she also needed a crash course in Russian history free from the prejudice and bigotry of English writers. Though she had reservations, the Empress dispatched a former tutor who had educated her in the days before her marriage to then Grand Duke Nicholas.

    Vasily Andreyevich Zhukovsky was Russia’s foremost poet of the early 19th century and a leading figure of Russian literature. He had been engaged to help Princess Charlotte of Prussia learn the Russian language, though he didn’t have much success. Empress Alexandra Feodorovna never quite mastered Russian to fluency and she blamed Zhukovsky for this, saying that he was a far better poet than he was tutor. [5] Her husband disagreed however and engaged Zhukovsky as court tutor to his children. The Tsarevich liked him, and it was from Zhukovsky that Sasha first discovered the more liberal views that would define his reign in later years. Tsar Nicholas and his son therefore agreed that Zhukovsky was the obvious choice to help Charlotte Louise on her journey. The next priority was religion and to assist the Princess in her conversion to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Empress dispatched Archpriest Tikhon Ivanovich Belov, an assistant priest to the Bishop of Smolensk and a royal favourite, to catechise Charlotte Louise.

    Joining this happy band at Marlborough House was the Dowager Princess Baryatinskya. This imposing figure was the widow of Prince Ivan Ivanovich Baryatinsky, one of the wealthiest men in Russia and a close friend to the Romanov dynasty [6]. His wife had been born in Germany and like Charlotte Louise, had been subjected to rigorous training to prepare her for a new life in Russia, learning to speak the language fluently but also becoming the very model of a perfect pious Orthodox wife. So grand was the Dowager Princess, that many wealthy Russians sent their daughters to her so that she might school them in court etiquette. There could be no better figure in all St Petersburg to handle Princess Charlotte Louise’s transition to Russian Grand Duchess, though the Dowager Princess was not exactly a patient soul. She barked orders regardless of rank, she demanded absolute dedication to the task ahead and she was in no way impressed by Charlotte Louise’s status as the daughter of the King of England – she was on a mission from an Emperor after all.

    The Dowager Princess despised Marlborough House and told her protégé so. It was small, cramped and not all what she was used to, her own palace on the banks of the Neva was twice the size of Buckingham Palace with double the number of servants. She brought some of these with her and they were so numerous that they had to be accommodated at Cumberland Terrace, complaining bitterly that they could not be housed properly at Marlborough House with their mistress. Only her personal chaplain and lady’s maid could fit into the suite occupied by the Dowager Princess and she upset the resident English servants by demanding that the Music Room be converted into a chapel as she did not wish to make the journey to the Imperial Russian Embassy each time she wished to attend services. The one aspect of English life the Dowager Princess did approve of was afternoon tea which she called “a very civilized affair”, though she found the food to be “stale and dull” with the exception of cheese scones which she apparently enjoyed. Even then, when she was introduced to Princess Mary, Baryatinskya was horrified; “In Russia she would not be allowed to grow so fat”, she said unkindly – and in Princess Mary’s hearing.


    Vasily Zhukovsky

    Though Princess Charlotte Louise would never be reconciled to the Dowager Princess Baryatinskya, she greatly warmed to Vasily Zhukovsky. He made her enthusiastic to learn more and he was greatly impressed by how quickly she seemed to understand the technicalities of the Russian language. He pronounced her accent to be “quite ridiculous”, yet this was said in friendly jest, and he praised her for her efforts. She enjoyed learning about Russian history and was particularly intrigued by the life and times of Catherine the Great. She fared less well with Archpriest Belov. He was not used to catechists disagreeing with him, they were usually eager to learn and accept his teachings. Yet Charlotte Louise had been raised to question things and speak her mind. That said, when she was shown a few icons brought from Russia as a gift from the Empress, she thought them “most beautiful” and she would come to collect them in enormous numbers in later years. She attended her first Orthodox service around this time too, an arduous experience as she found the prolonged standing far too gruelling. She also didn’t understand a word and was intimidated by how foreign the form of worship seemed. When she sat for a moment, the Dowager Princess shot her an appalled look across the room and Charlotte Louise promptly snapped up to her feet once more. “I was very relieved when it was all over”, she wrote to her cousin Augusta in Bautzen, “If it is possible, the whole thing made Marlborough House even more glum and dreary!”.

    At Buckingham Palace, the Queen was trying to persuade the King to be more supportive. Yet still, he would only meet her half-way. He visited Marlborough House rarely and he was not impressed with the Russian deputation now in charge of his sister’s future. He thought the Dowager Princess “obstinate and rude”, he believed Zhukovsky to be “snide and pompous” and even Archpriest Belov was branded “ridiculously attired and unkempt”. He did however allow the Queen to invite them all to Buckingham Palace with Princess Charlotte Louise for tea, the King usually excusing himself to study the Regent’s Park plans which now filled most of his days. With the Cabinet approval he wanted, an announcement was published in the newspapers detailing the proposals; most newspapers were united in their praise; “King Gifts Park to Public” or “Generous George!” but some questioned the sensitivity of such a display of excess in a time of national suffering. The King noted this criticism carefully and ordered Decimus Burton to respond in a letter; the works would not begin until the country’s fortunes were improved but it should be stressed that such works would provide a source of employment for many in the capital even at this preliminary stage.

    The King was still in “ostrich mode” and Lord Derby had provided him with yet another excuse to stay away from Marlborough House. There was absolutely no question of His Majesty going to Paris; “We are far too busy”. Once again, he was using the royal ‘we’ which his former Whig ministers had learned meant the issue was not to be discussed further – but Derby was uninitiated and pressed on. He explained that Europe was on a precipice facing “a universal war” as de la Porte described it. The French King might well see Ibrahim Ali to be a far less reliable ally and it was hard to see even Louis-Philippe digging his heels in if Constantinople really was under threat. But the recent Anglo-Russian talks had worried him. He felt left out. A visit from one Sovereign to another, with plenty of gifts and compliments, might go a very long way. It would have to be agreed quickly of course, time was running out.

    “Oh, really Derby”, the King protested, “Can’t you see I’m buried under all this as it is? Put it all in a briefing to Charlie, would you?”

    Lord Derby sighed. “Very good Your Majesty”. And he left the King’s Study leaving George in a smoky fug poring over his maps of London. Out in the corridor, Derby shook his head.

    “Leave it with me Foreign Secretary”, Phipps said quietly, “His Majesty is doing all he can at the moment to avoid thoughts of the inevitable, but it isn’t working. He’s dreading the day when his sister leaves and that’s all he can think about. But I believe I know how to get the King to agree....”

    Lord Derby raised his eyebrows; “If you can Charlie, I shall go to Paris myself and dance in the streets. Naked”.

    Phipps laughed. Turning on his heel, he made his way to the other end of the King’s Corridor where the Queen’s Private Apartments were located. He found Queen Louise surrounded by her new ladies of the bedchamber. The Countess of Derby was playing a tune on the piano whilst the Duchess of Buccleuch was helping to unpick dresses.

    “Charlie!”, Queen Louise beamed as he entered the room, “This is very unexpected, do come and join us, though I’m afraid I may ask you to help. I am having all these gowns unpicked and we’re going to turn them into cushion covers and sell them for the blind hospital at Moorfields”.

    Phipps smiled.

    “A very worthy cause Your Majesty…I hate to impose but I wondered if I might speak with you for a few moments?”

    Queen Louise looked up from her work.

    “Oh yes, of course, Duchess would you be a dear? I have left my book in the other room; might you go and retrieve it for me?”

    The Queen’s ladies knew the signal well. They rose as one, curtseyed and bustled out of the room.

    “Do sit down Charlie”, the Queen motioned to chair, “I’m afraid my new ladies are very sweet, but they don’t like to laugh very much. I much preferred the others. But don’t tell anybody I said that”

    “Of course, not Ma’am”, Phipps smiled, taking a seat, “The fact is, the Foreign Secretary has it in mind that Your Majesties should make a state visit to Paris. It really is rather important but the King…well, he isn’t enthusiastic about the idea Ma’am. My worry is that if war comes, and we all hope it will not, some members of the government may feel His Majesty did not do his best to help avert it”

    Queen Louise nodded; “Oh really Charlie, he is being too silly. All he can think about is Lottie’s marriage, but he won’t listen to reason. It really is most tiresome of him. Is it very important that we go to Paris? I suppose it must be if you are coming to me. Very well Charlie dear, I shall try my best. If you will walk me down to the study that is, I really don’t like walking these corridors on my own. I think I’m a little frightened of Buckingham Palace you know?”

    Phipps guided the Queen down to the King’s Study. She found her husband putting little pieces of paper into a table board.

    “Oh darling”, she sighed sweetly, “You needn’t worry about that, I have already seated everybody for supper this evening”

    “Yes, I know”, George said, not looking up, “But you’ve made a mistake Sunny. You’ve still got Harriet in here; you know we can’t have her anymore. And look at that, the precedence is all wrong there too”.

    George V could be remarkably petty at times. This was noted by his son, Prince Edward, Duke of Clarence, many years later when he recalled that his father could be “most particular when it came to matters of precedence”. When the King and Queen dined with Lord and Lady Melbury at their house in Grosvenor Square some years later, he admonished Lady Melbury for seating a visiting Portuguese Count next to her with the Earl of Dalhousie pushed further along. “That is quite incorrect”, he announced loudly as he entered the dining room, “And I am not pleased to see it”. [7] These moments of grandeur struck him when he was particularly nervous or worried about a certain situation. As we have seen previously, for the most part, he could often surprise people with his informality. The Duke of Clarence recalled how, during the Golden Jubilee celebrations of 1877, an elderly lady waiting to see the King and Queen leave Westminster Abbey was pushed from behind and fell into a puddle.

    The King rushed forward, picked the old woman up and put his coat around her arms which he insisted she must keep for her journey home. Closer to home, the King once disrupted a luncheon party in the late 1840s when the young Prince of Wales rushed into the room shouting “Papa! I have found a rabbit!” – no doubt snatched from the hutches in Windsor where they were bred for the table. The King moved his dinner plate and with a horrified Bishop of Bath and Wells looking on, George placed the rabbit on the table and said “Now that is a very fine rabbit indeed Willy. I shall keep him here and you go and find another one. We’ll have a race”. And so, they did, the King kneeling on the floor with two rabbits hopping about the dining room in the Private Apartments, his guests thoroughly confused and unsure if they should join in or continue eating. Yet at other times, George V could, in the words of his son Prince Edward; “be a rather pompous old thing when the mood struck him”.

    This was certainly borne out by his recent decision to change the livery colours for members of the Royal Family, and he’d caused some unhappiness when it was made clear that his aunts and uncles would have to fund the new liveries and repainting of their carriages in the appropriate colours themselves. Princess Mary protested that she had bought her footmen new liveries just three years ago at great expense and she had no intention of spending a penny more. “And as for my carriage”, she wrote to her sister-in-law Augusta in Hanover, “I should rather not go out at all if I am made to pay for such an extravagance. No, Georgie is being very unreasonable, and I shall tell him so when I see him”. She didn’t have to. Ever the peacemaker, the Queen stepped in and paid for Princess Mary’s servants and carriage to be decked out in new colours as the King wished. “Dear little Sunny”, Mary wrote of her, “She is quite the best of us”.

    The ”best of us” now worked her magic on her husband.


    Queen Louise.

    “Charlie tells me they would like us to go to Paris soon?”, she said tentatively, opening a window to let some of the cigarette smoke escape. She disapproved of this habit and would never tire of making a fuss about it, much to the irritation of her husband, “That’s a good idea isn’t it, Georgie?”

    “A good idea?”, Georgie laughed, “Heavens no Sunny, it’s a waste of valuable time, especially when we’re needed here”

    “Why are we needed here?”, Louise replied.

    “We just are”, Georgie insisted, “We can’t go running about Paris now, it’s unthinkable”

    Louise sidled up to her husband and pretended to take an interest in his drawings for a moment.

    “Hmmm”, she murmured gently, “That is a shame. Not that I want to go to Paris any more than you do my darling, but I did think it might have let us take our summer holiday a little earlier…I had considered asking Dolly to take Missy out of school sooner, and then we could have gone to Gaussig for a week or two before our visit Mama and Papa”

    The King looked the Queen in the eye, the slight trace of a smile coming into the corners of his mouth.

    “I say…that’s a thought. What about Toria though?”

    “Oh, I don’t suppose a month would have made all that much difference, we could have asked Rosa to take her to Gaussig for us and then she would have been there with Missy when we arrived. Now wouldn’t that have been fun Georgie? So much nicer for us than our hurried little trip” [8]

    “But Mama and Papa, they wouldn’t be ready for us...”

    “Oh!”, the Queen laughed, “Mama and Papa would walk to England on foot if they could see us, you know that. Still, I am sure you are right my darling, Paris would be so inconvenient, and they really shouldn’t expect you to do such things at such short notice.”

    Louise kissed her husband on the forehead gently.

    “Well, I shall leave you to your work, I can see it’s all coming along very nicely. Shall I send Charlie in after me?”

    George grinned. His wife could always get him to do exactly what she wanted, though she never took unfair advantage of this. He trusted her enough to take her suggestions on board and even if he disagreed, he never pulled rank or expected her to defer to him simply because she had promised to "love, honour and obey". Their letters, some of which were published in 2002 in a special volume, reveal that they often debated problems through notes rather than face to face and if there were disagreements, they were always gently presented. Though he could be quick to temper, the King tried especially hard not to bark or snap at the Queen. In a noted dated June 1841, there is a suggestion that he had failed in this and sought to make amends; "for you are the dearest and brightest and I feel so very wretched that I shouted. You must believe me very beastly and your silly Georgie sends you this note to beg your forgiveness and to remind you that he loves you and loves you and loves you". The Queen's reply survives; "Your little Sunny is happy and forgives you and loves you and loves you and loves you".

    Phipps entered the room, playing his role perfectly.

    “Your Majesty?”

    “Let's have Derby back here tonight Charlie”, the King said kindly, “I want to talk to him about Paris.”

    Phipps nodded. As he left the room, Georgie called after him; “You two are thick as thieves!”

    The King smiled and rolled up his maps. He had something far more pleasant to distract himself with now, though far less pleasant diversions were just around the corner.

    [1] I haven't gone into the Rhine crisis here in detail because it's only noteworthy in passing for purposes but the general gist of it the demand by Adolphe Thiers that the German confederation recognise the River Rhine as France's border in the east which would see the loss of 32,000 km2 of German territory.

    [2] The French position on Egypt wasn't exactly set in stone and was open to change. In the OTL, they waited until October before withdrawing their support from Ali and backing the coalition instead.

    [3] The visit of George IV to Ireland (in the OTL and in TTL) was described at the time as a State Visit but in the modern sense, the last inbound was during the Congress of Vienna and the last outbound...well, I can't find mention of it anywhere sadly. Certainly they were not as regular as they are today (Queen Victoria only made one in the OTL) but arguably they would have been had Prince Albert's death not seen Queen Victoria withdraw from public life. Her son Edward VII made several state visits abroad and saw them as integral to British foreign policy.

    [4] In the OTL, de la Porte was recalled not long after because he refused to support the King's continued pro-war stance.

    [5] Again, based on an actual quote from Alexandra Feodorovna.

    [6] His son Alexander would later distinguish himself as a Russian General and Field Marshal, and Governor of the Caucasus - though not always for very pleasant reasons it must said.

    [7] In this situation, the Earl of Dalhousie takes precedence because even though his rank is equal to that of a Portuguese Count, when two men of the same rank are dining at the same table the British title comes before the foreign one even if the creation of the latter was earlier than the former. For those who worry about such things.

    [8] By "a month earlier", Louise means that Princess Victoria would have been considered old enough to be taken abroad at around 5 months old providing she was in good health. For example, in the OTL, Queen Mary made her first foreign visit to Schloss Rumpenheim when she was 5 months old.
    GV: Part Two, Chapter 22: On Tour - 1
  • King George V

    Part Two, Chapter Twenty Two: On Tour - I

    Lord Derby breathed a sigh of relief when he was recalled to Buckingham Palace and King George agreed to visit Paris. A date was set for the 2nd of May 1840 but within the week, the complications began. King Louis Philippe was more than willing to receive the King and Queen in France, but he did not share Derby's view that a State Visit would be an honour paid to the French, rather he regarded it as an imposition. Within weeks the United Kingdom and France could be enemies once more, something the King of France wished to avoid. But he also did not wish to send a message to Austria, Prussia, Russia (and indeed Spain and Egypt) that he was in any way wavering in his previous position of support for the Ali dynasty; “And such a visit would be horribly expensive anyway”, he said. If King George and Queen Louise were to go to France, it would be in a far less formal, almost private capacity – and they would not be hosted at Versailles. Rather, Louis-Philippe offered a weekend house party at the Château d’Eu in Normandy, his summer residence.

    The King and Queen would spent just four days at the Château with only one formal dinner offered by the French monarch. Any other guests might have expected a courtesy note from the King’s sister, Madame Adélaïde (who dominated the French court as the King’s hostess at this time), but whether she was deliberately trying to snub them or whether there simply wasn’t time, no note was forthcoming. The King’s advisors were equally tight lipped. This caused a headache for George and Louise who had no idea what to pack but it also caused anxieties for Charlie Phipps. Lord Derby sent a note asking if His Majesty intended “to bestow any honours on the French King, as I have been made aware this may not be reciprocated and I should hate for His Majesty to be embarrassed at any presentation”. Phipps passed the note to George who raised his eyebrows and scoffed; “Well I’ll be damned if I give him the Garter”. [1]


    King Louis Philippe.

    But the King was worried. In the usual run of things, it might be expected to see a provisional guest list, an agenda of some kind or even a dress code. But nothing had been forthcoming. George also had another problem. The trip to France had now turned into something of a Royal spring tour of the continent because the moment Princess Victoria in The Hague heard that her cousins were to be in France, she begged her husband Prince William to take a villa in Normandy so that she could see her British relations there. William refused. The Dutch were edging towards a crisis thanks to the changes to the constitution required after the recognition of the Kingdom of Belgium and the old King William I was resisting. He could not accept that the Southern Provinces had rebelled and that his decade long opposition to that fact was to be forcibly ended by his ministers. He was threatening to abdicate. The Dutch Royal Family was riven in two, the situation made even more complicated and unpleasant by the King’s desire to marry his mistress Henrietta d’Oultremont (later Countess of Nassau, ironically a Belgian Catholic) but also by bitter resentment of his allies at court which manifested itself in rudeness towards Princess Victoria. She was King Leopold’s niece after all. Prince William’s father might find himself King of the Netherlands at any moment; it was unthinkable that his son and daughter-in-law would leave the country at such a time.

    Instead, Victoria (in very low spirits) wrote to Queen Louise begging the British royal couple to call upon her in Holland; “After all, it has been such a long time since we have been together, and Holland is not so very far for a detour. Your little Drina does miss you both so and I’m afraid I may not be able to travel for a while yet”. The King had always been devoted to his cousin and though initially reluctant, he was well aware that she was deeply unhappy. Prince William had another mistress and Victoria was finding it hard to adjust to life as a young mother. She showed little interest in her daughter declaring her to be “an ugly little frog” and leaving her in the care of her nursery maids. [2] She saw Linna just once a day and it wasn’t until many years later that Victoria became totally dependent on her, refusing all offers for Victoria Paulina’s hand so that she might stay with her. From Normandy, the King and Queen would travel (incognito as Mr and Mrs King) to Het Loo in Apeldoorn and spend a few days with Princess Victoria before heading to Bautzen.

    But news travelled fast on the European royal grapevine and now the Duchess of Cambridge wrote to Queen Louise with another demand on the royal couple’s itinerary. Schloss Rumpenheim had always been intended to serve as a place for family gatherings and she had not seen her daughter Augusta for months. [3] She was sure that the Strelitzes would prefer Rumpenheim as it allowed her sister Marie (the Queen's mother) to see her Hesse relations, and she proposed “that we all of us meet there after you have finished your little visit to France”. Queen Louise had longed to returned to Neustrelitz and the King had not planned to call at Rumpenheim whilst he was in Germany but at the same time, Rumpenheim had long been a focal point for royal reunions and they could think of no reasonable excuse to decline the invitation and head for Neustrelitz instead, especially as Augusta was quite right; Grand Duchess Marie always jumped at the chance to stay at her childhood home.

    “Oh, damn it all”, George snapped, “I told you this visit would cause nothing but trouble, didn’t I? Very well, we shall go to Rumpenheim but only after we’ve been to Gaussig. I shan’t have Missy’s schooling disrupted to please the Hesses”. But in fulfilling their family obligations, the King and Queen were committing to being abroad for almost two months and this posed a serious problem for the Prime Minister. Every time Charlie Phipps tried to present the list of nominated peers (which numbered a staggering 110 new creations), the King changed the subject. Graham was getting nervous. The Lords had obeyed convention and did not reject the government’s budget, but the rest of the Tory agenda could not be introduced until the Whig majority in the upper chamber was curbed. Time was running out.

    When the Prime Minister asked for his weekly audience to be brought forward, the King sent his apologies instead. He was far too busy preparing for his trip to France and would not be able to receive Graham. Instead, George summoned his new Comptroller of the Household, Benjamin Disraeli. Disraeli had responsibility for arranging ceremonial events at all royal residences (where those events did not fall under the purview of a higher officer of the Household) and the King wished to see the Comptroller to impress upon him how important it was (for the time the royal couple were absent), that everything at Buckingham Palace ran smoothly and to schedule. As a pat on the head for behaving so well since his retirement, the King had asked his Uncle Sussex to hold the fort whilst George and Louise were abroad. This opportunity was a gesture, but it was not one made lightly, or without restriction. When Disraeli reached the King’s study, he found George V studying the note from the Foreign Secretary to Charlie Phipps on the tricky matter of French gift-giving.

    “Have you seen this?”, the King said, pushing the note towards Disraeli, “I don’t know what they expect me to do...”

    “I assume Your Majesty does not wish to award the King of France the Order of the Garter?”, he began, “Might I therefore propose that Your Majesty’s acceptance of the invitation to visit the Château d’Eu is presented to King Louis Philippe by Lord Cowley, along with the gift of the insignia of the Order of the Bath. In this way, the King will have to wear it in your presence in Normandy and if His Majesty does not return the gesture, it will not be a reflection on you Sir, for the honour will have been gazetted before Your Majesty’s departure as a thanks for the invitation and not for the hospitality of the King whilst you are in France. And if His Majesty does reciprocate, you shall already have fulfilled your side of the exchange unprompted. Of course Sir, I might also add that in the event that the King of France does not grant Your Majesty a French honour, custom dictates that you should wear the Garter, a superior order in rank to that of the Bath which King Louis-Philippe shall be wearing”. [4]



    George smiled; “Yes Disraeli. I like that. Very good indeed. And I’m appreciative of your advice. Now, whilst we are away, I have asked the Duke of Sussex to deputise for me, but I wanted to make a few things clear in case the old devil tries to take advantage”

    “I am sure His Royal Highness would not dishonour Your Majesty’s kind gesture in that way”

    “Are you?”, George said. He found Disraeli’s old-fashioned deference in addressing him amusing rather than obsequious but it would take some getting used to, “Because I’m not. I’m letting him stay here in the Strelitz Suite, but I don’t want them in the Private Apartments. [5] He can use the Green Drawing Room to receive deputations and I’ve said they can use the Saloon. But I have told him that the Duchess isn’t to accompany him when he’s representing me, and I don’t want any additional entertaining whilst I’m gone. If they must have guests, they can give them a light supper in the Blue Drawing Room but keep them out of the Closet will you Disraeli? The Queen doesn’t mind but I don’t want them to get too comfortable, we’ll never shift them out, what?”

    Disraeli smiled and nodded.

    “All shall be done as you wish Your Majesty”, he bowed low, preparing to leave.

    “Have you another appointment?”

    “No Sir”

    “Then sit-down man”, the King smiled, gesturing to a chair, “I want another pair of eyes on these drawings. They tell me Hanover House will be ready for us to visit when we get back and I can’t decide which of these rooms we should reserve for entertaining. I’m having no state rooms there, I was most insistent on that point, but that’s your job, isn’t it? Where to put us all?”. Disraeli gave a polite smile. Whilst he greatly enjoyed the access to the Royal Family his new position had given him; it was hardly a taxing one. Indeed, most of the time he was thoroughly bored by his duties, but he also found that those who had once given him the cold shoulder for his ambition (or his Jewishness) now opened their doors to him because they sought invitations to the splendid occasions hosted almost solely at the palace now that the King was using Windsor only in the winter months. Lady Londonderry in particular had made no secret of the fact that she expected her protégé to repay her patronage by adding her to the list of dinner parties and balls she might otherwise miss out on. If nothing else it gave her a chance to show off the new jewels she had acquired with the money pouring in from her lands in the Durham Coalfield.

    Jewels were also on Queen Louise’s mind ahead of their visit to Normandy. Though the King of France had made it clear this was to be an informal visit, the Queen did not intend to be caught out and made to look a dull Deborah standing among the ladies of the French court in their exquisite parures. Queen Maria Amalia was well known for her fashionable, but extravagant tastes and the King’s sister Madame Adélaïde was likely to dress to impress too. The vaults of Buckingham Palace were hardly empty of course but most of the major pieces there had been recovered from Marlborough House when the Queen’s predecessor was taken to Kew. The most recognisable to readers of this story so far would be the Rumpenheim Tiara (which the Queen had worn on her wedding day), the Clans Tiara (which she had never worn) and the English Rose Parure (which had not seen the light of day since 1825).

    All had been accumulated by her mother-in-law and were therefore associated with the Queen Mother by design; the Rumpenheim was a gift from Prince Frederick of Hesse-Kassel when his daughter married the future King George IV, the Clans was given by the people of Scotland when George IV and his wife made their tour there and the English Rose was a gift from George IV to wife so that she might have something impressive to wear when the Dutch royal couple visited England in 1825. None of these seemed at all suitable today, especially given that the King might recognise their origin and be displeased that his wife had chosen to wear items which reminded him of his estranged mother. George had been generous to his wife, but she did not yet possess a grand suite of her own; the Queen preferred to wear hair ornaments which were lighter and complimented her delicate features and the occasion had not presented itself in which she might need to rally the big guns from the Crown Jewellers to make an impression. Until now.

    Queen Louise was in every way the opposite of her predecessor and thought it silly to spend excessively. We have already seen how she unpicked her own dresses to fashion items to be sold for charity and how the King and Queen curtailed excessive entertaining to save money. But Queen Louise’s preference for thrift (something inspired by her strong Christian beliefs) extended much further. Her ladies of the bedchamber were told that they need not wear brand new gowns at every state occasion (something which had been de rigueur in the previous reign) and she caused some irritation among the more junior staff when she told the royal chefs de cuisine that the meat budget for below stairs was far too high and that more economical solutions must be found. The result was a glut of stews with cheaper cuts which the servants disliked, especially in the summer months when stew was hardly a light meal. They had become used to eating well, a perk of the job, but now they were put on the Queen’s economy.

    With this sense of frugality in mind, the Queen invited Sebastian Garrard of Garrards & Co to call upon her at Buckingham Palace. She asked him to bring along a selection of “stock” jewels, pieces kept in reserve and usually hired by ladies who needed an impressive tiara or ornate necklace to wear for an important occasion but who otherwise couldn’t afford to invest in new family pieces to wear regularly. These pieces were constantly redesigned and reset so that eagle-eyed hostesses would not spy the “loaners” on a dozen different heads in the same season. The Duchess of Buccleuch was appalled at the idea that the Queen should pay a visit abroad (especially to France) in rented jewels, but Queen Louise thought it wasteful to spend lavishly on new pieces she didn’t really like to wear anyway. The Duchess would not relent however and fearing that her new mistress would be the subject of nasty continental gossip, she asked Charlie Phipps to explain the situation to the King. George was equally horrified at Louise’s cost-cutting approach to such things (“Think of the gossip Sunny!”, he whispered, “And in France of all places!”) and ordered Garrard to return the next day with a new selection from his shop in the Haymarket.

    It is testament to Queen Louise’s modest character that whilst she was a wealthy woman in her own right, her first thought was to “borrow” something suitable from a jeweller. It is also testament to the King’s love for her that he could not bear the thought of people spreading nasty rumours about his wife behind her back if it ever came to light that she had rented her jewels for a state occasion. This concern cost him £1,400 (the equivalent of £95,000 today). Louise chose what she thought looked the least expensive, but Garrards designs were deceptive. Her first purchase was a tiara now known as the Laurel Tiara, so-called because it features two intertwined laurel branches set in diamonds with a supporting arch (also set with diamonds) on a raised band underneath. Her second investment was a three-strand necklace made from a spectacular array of diamonds (the largest of which were 60cts) and which allows the wearer to remove two strands to create two diamond bracelets. The Queen would pair these two items with the diamond earrings (also purchased from Garrards) gifted to her by her husband on her wedding day and a diamond brooch in the shape of a bow with a pearl drop which Louise’s parents gave her as a present to mark the birth of the Princess Royal (and which ultimately went to Darmstadt with Missy when she eventually married in 1861).


    Queen Louise's Laurel Wreath Tiara.

    Whilst insistent that far too much had already been spent, the King commanded that his wife invest in new gowns for the French leg of their tour. These were provided by Mary Bettans, now given the official title of Dressmaker Extraordinary to the Queen. Bettans found Queen Louise a difficult patron and she could not convince her that the French fashions of the day were for bold gowns in rich jewel tones with pinched waists and the weight of the gown placed in the skirt with the fullness at the shoulder moving down to the arm. Queen Louise was something of a trendsetter herself. Since her arrival in England, she had pioneered the so-called Mecklenburg Style which favoured a more natural silhouette with simple cottons and mousselines taking the place of heavy silks. Many of the fashions of the 1820s and 1830s in England began to give way to this new style as fashionable ladies tried to emulate the Queen’s simpler tastes. Bettans could not convince her to adopt Parisian innovations no matter how hard she tried and so she had to design a gown in the Mecklenburg Style that could hold its own among the ladies of the French court.

    Two days before their departure from London for Portsmouth, the King finally received Sir James Graham. The matter of the new intake of peers could no longer be avoided. Graham wanted the King’s approval so that the new creations could be gazetted in batches of 15 or 20 during George V’s absence from Britain and slowly the Whig majority in the House of Lords would be eroded with a slow lapping tide of ermine-clad Earls and Barons. Sir James and his private secretary Sir Theodore Williams had taken great pains to organise these elevations not in order of precedence but (on the advice of Charlie Phipps), in order of those most familiar to the King. For example, the former Foreign Secretary Henry Goulburn who had served in the Wellington ministry had withdrawn his candidacy as a Member for Cambridge University in the 1840 general election on the promise of a peerage and he was to be created the Earl of Betchworth in the town of Dorking, Surrey and Viscount Vere in the County of Middlesex in the Crown Colony of Jamaica and the Dependencies. But even those who were familiar names did not please the King; “For heaven’s sake man, you’ve got Arthur Paget on this list, what will come first; his peerage or his coffin?” *.

    Graham was in no mood to debate.

    “Your Majesty, if you will not accept these nominations then I must be frank”, Sir James began seriously, “I shall resign”

    “Oh, come now Graham, you don’t really mean that”

    “I’m afraid I do Sir. You leave me with no alternative, I cannot govern as the people have directed”

    For the first time in his reign, George faced the very real possibility of a constitutional crisis of his own making. He remembered only too well how bitterly the Duke of Clarence had regretted giving in to Lord Grey and creating a raft of new Whig peers and yet Clarence had done so because the alternative was the very same hornets nest facing his nephew today.

    “I have not been excessive Sir”, Graham continued, “Indeed, I have taken great care to elevate those who have performed great service to this country and who would naturally expect to sit in the upper house as a result. I have not proposed one peerage more than is necessary and I give Your Majesty my word…my word Sir…that I shall not nominate any further peers for the duration of this parliament if Your Majesty will accept the list before you. There is no successor in my party who would not ask the same of you Sir”

    In this way, Sir James was making it abundantly clear to George that if he resigned, the King might find himself opposed to the public will. The Crown would have indicated a political preference, which was ironically something George had already considered in the aftermath of the Great Thames Flood when he briefly pondered dismissing the Whigs from office. In that moment, George got the measure of his new Prime Minister. He was not bluffing, and George believed he had the will and the conviction to fight this battle. It was not one the King could win. What would Uncle Clarence do? This was the question George puzzled over for the next two days, pledging to give the Prime Minister an answer one way or the other before he boarded the Ariel at Portsmouth for Le Tréport. The King would accept Graham’s request to create 110 new Tory peers but on one condition; if Graham proposed creating even one more peerage during the next parliament, George would demand his resignation regardless of the consequences. The Prime Minister accepted and wished the King and Queen well on their travels.

    Of particular interest to the Portsmouth Herald was the King and Queen’s luggage. It was reported that “Their Majesties availed themselves of three carts bearing 14 trunks” and a special mention was made of the delivery of a hand painted pink and white rocking horse with a real horse-hair mane “believed to be a gift for the Princess Royal”. This rocking horse is now on display at Schloss Weilburg. Also noteworthy was the fact that King George and Queen Louise did not avail themselves of the HMS George and instead, travelled on a paddle steamer called Ariel. This steamer took Their Majesties across the English Channel to the harbour at Le Tréport where they arrived on the 2nd of May 1840. King Louis Philippe’s barge was sent to collect the royal couple from the Ariel to the shouts and cheers of crowds who had assembled, hoping for a glimpse of George and Louise as they climbed the steps of the jetty. But the King of France himself was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Their Majesties were formally welcomed by Madame Adélaïde who rode in an open carriage leading George and Louise to the Château d’Eu. It was noted that George and Louise rode in a closed carriage behind that of the King’s sister.


    Château d’Eu

    Upon their arrival at the Château, there was a brief return to the pomp and pageantry which might be expected on such visits. In the courtyard, barely visible to the crowds who were kept at what seemed to be an unusually excessive distance, a dais had been set up where the carriages stopped before rows of the French National Guard who presented arms. A Regimental band played as King Louis Philippe and his wife made their first appearance of the day, he dressed immaculately in his military uniform (complete with the insignia of the Order of Bath) and Queen Maria Amalia fashionably attired in a silk green dress trimmed with white lace and a large white chip bonnet. Queen Louise alighted from the carriage first and was “assisted in a gentlemanly display of affection by His Majesty the King of the French, who kissed Her Majesty on both cheeks before kissing her hand. Queen Maria Amalia kissed Queen Louise too and the two of them were engaged in conversation for a brief time whilst King Louis-Philippe welcomed King George with a strong and amiable handshake. The national anthems of both countries were played to much applause from the crowds and King Louis-Philippe then led the royal party into the Château d’Eu where a luncheon was given. The welcome ceremony was a credit to the people of France and King Louis Philippe’s personal affection for Their Majesties”.

    The Portsmouth Herald’s report is typical of the day where royalties were concerned. They were always happy to see each other, always beautifully attired and always gracious in their duty. But in reality, George and Louise were confused by the lukewarm reception they received. The fact that the King did not personally welcome them at the jetty but that he then appeared to provide an honour guard and stepped out (as Disraeli had predicted) wearing his British decoration made it hard for King George to read the tone of the visit. There had been fears at the Foreign Office that the French King might be hostile, even insulting, but as the King and Queen made their way to the Château’s drawing room, there was little evidence to suggest that Louis Philippe intended to wrong-foot them in some way.

    That was until the doors of the drawing room opened and the King and Queen caught sight of the other guests who had been invited for the weekend. Most were unknown to them, presumably extended cousins or friends of the royal couple; but then two familiar faces turned to face the King and Queen, a pair of men George knew well from his childhood.

    “And here he is”, one of the said with a broad smile on his face, extending his arms to embrace the King.

    George did his best not to look shocked as King Leopold of the Belgians approached him. Hot on Leopold’s heels was none other than Baron Stockmar. [6]

    King Louis-Philippe grinned. It would not be the last little surprise he had up his sleeve.

    *The King was right. Paget was so unwell that he couldn’t accept a peerage anyway and died within 6 weeks of the offer. Instead, Graham simply offered the peerage intended for Arthur to his son Stewart Henry Paget who became the 1st Baron Bayley to distinguish him from Paget cousins who were the Marquesses of Anglesey who used Lord Paget as a subsidiary title. Lord Bayley never married, and the title passed to the youngest of Arthur Paget’s sons, Sir Augustus Berkley Page who married Countess Walburga von Hohenthal, later a senior lady-in-waiting and companion to George V's daughter Princess Alice.

    [1] Louis Philippe was given the Garter in 1844 in the OTL, partly because the Oriental Crisis was avoided and the Anglo-French relationship had improved enough for such an honour to be given. We're well ahead of that in TTL and so whilst it would still be expected that an exchange of honours would take place, the King of France couldn't expect the Garter at this stage.

    [2] Queen Victoria famously thought all babies were ugly and took very little interest in her children until they were much older. Prince Albert often had to scold her for the way she spoke about their infant children and "frog" was a favourite description Victoria applied liberally to newborns.

    [3] Augusta now being resident with Missy in Bautzen. Schloss Rumpenheim was the favoured spot for royal family reunions as most could link themselves to the Hesse-Kassels. Rumpenheim was therefore extended, refurbished and renovated with these gatherings in mind in the early 19th century - though Queen Victoria was loathe to involve herself. She even used "Rumpenheim" as a synonym for anti-Prussian sentiment and made endless excuses as to why she couldn't go there. Here that doesn't apply of course but it stresses how important Rumpenheim was as a venue.

    [4] Disraeli was noted for his elegant use of language when he was addressing royalty. Queen Victoria was initially wary that he was trying to flatter her but eventually she remarked that "He always gave us good news in his way" and looked forward to her meetings with him.

    [5] The Belgian Suite in the OTL, renamed here for the Queen's parents.

    [6] Leopold was Louis Philippe's son-in-law and was always included on such occasions. Stockmar was still nominally in Leopold's service though by now he had mostly retired. Whilst the diplomatic situation here is much the same as it was in the OTL (with Belgium now recognised by the Treaty of London), privately there would still be some animosity; in Leopold's case because of what happened with Prince Albert and Princess Charlotte Louise and in Stockmar's case...well...because George V despised him.
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    GV: Part Two, Chapter 23: On Tour - II
  • King George V

    Part Two, Chapter Twenty-Three: On Tour – II

    The atmosphere at the Château d’Eu at the start of that May weekend was decidedly frosty. Whilst it may appear that King Louis Philippe was deliberately trying to wrong foot the British royal party with the inclusion of King Leopold and Baron Stockmar in the festivities, it should be remembered that Leopold was Louis Philippe’s son-in-law and Stockmar a key advisor and companion to the King of the Belgians. That said, George privately raged to his wife in their rooms at the Château that Louis Philippe had behaved badly and that the whole weekend was “reduced to the level of a Drury Lane farce” before it had even begun. At the informal luncheon held to welcome Their Majesties to France, things got off to a precarious start. The King and Queen were accompanied by the Honourable George Smythe (later the 7th Viscount Strangford) in his role as Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs. This irritated the French who had expected Smythe’s senior, Lord Derby, to attend the talks instead. They were even more annoyed when they found that Derby was in fact on his way to St Petersburg to discuss the Oriental Crisis in person with the Tsar, rather than being in Normandy to meet the French King. This led to an awkward moment when Smythe tried to engage the King in conversation, only for Louis Philippe to turn his back on him and walk away.

    Meanwhile, King Leopold and Baron Stockmar were testing George V’s patience. Seated together in a corner of the room following the luncheon, coffee and petits fours were served whilst King Leopold proudly showed off his two sons. His wife Louise of Orléans, was expecting another child and so did not make the journey to Normandy with her husband but Leopold insisted on taking Crown Prince Leopold and Prince Philippe with him. The Belgian princes were 5 and 3 years old respectively and brought into the room after luncheon by a governess. King Louis Philippe, their grandfather, insensitively remarked to Queen Louise; “We are blessed in this family to have so many fine sons”.

    Queen Louise blushed. King George bit his tongue. French court gossip had it that the King and Queen had an Achilles heel in their otherwise happy marriage; that being that George V was disappointed his wife had yet to give him the son and heir he longed for. Indeed, Madame Adélaïde referred to George V as “Le Petit Henri”. There was no basis in fact to this unkind chatter of course, the King adored his wife and his two daughters. Whilst he would have liked Princess Victoria to be a boy, he did not feel that Louise had let him down in any way and as we have seen, he scolded those who make reference to it. But in the drawing room of the French King, he could not so easily put the assembled company in its place as he might at home and so he had to stay silent as his wife fidgeted uncomfortably with the lace trim on her cuffs.

    “I am very ambitious for my princes”, Louis-Philippe smiled, lifting Crown Prince Leopold into the air and smiling at him, “We must all be ambitious for our sons”

    “Or our nephews…”, George muttered. Damn. He had let his temper get the better of him.

    The Queen jumped to his rescue; “How is Albert?”, she said sweetly, “Such a dear boy, we hear so little of him now”

    “A devoted husband and father and very well liked in Brazil, I am happy to say”, Stockmar retorted, “But then he was always very receptive to the advice of his tutors. He was never indulged as a child and so he embraces responsibility”

    King Leopold nodded; “He is a very serious young man. Sometimes too serious. Though as Stockmar says, he has many new responsibilities, so his nature suits his purpose”

    In December 1839, a resolution was proposed to a sticky issue at the Brazilian court. The factious regency for Pedro II had seen attempts by politicians of all sides to bring the young Emperor under their sway. From 1835, a debate had raged that the General Assembly should lower the young Emperor’s age of majority instead of waiting until he turned 18 to allow him to assume full imperial authority. Those opposed had proposed his sister Januária should be declared regent until Pedro turned 18 and with her marriage to Prince Albert in 1838, this faction saw the stabilising influence of the new Duke of Paraíba (as Albert became on his wedding day) as something to tip the scales in their favour. [1] Their opponents snapped back that Albert was a foreigner barely acquainted with his new home land. All that changed in February 1840 when Albert and Januária’s first child was born; a son named João Carlos. Under the terms of his marriage contract, Albert thus became a Prince of Brazil in his own right with the rank of Imperial Highness. He had won the support of many nay-sayers and in April 1840, the General Assembly narrowly voted to proclaim the Princess Imperial the new regent for her brother Pedro.

    “At least he has something to do in Rio”, Louis Philippe said snidely, “It is nice to know the boy’s talents are being put to good use. I never did see him as an English Duke cutting ribbons....”

    “Neither did I”, George snapped. Silence reigned. Sensing that the tone of the conversation was descending into a possible brawl, the King’s guests were invited for a tour of the gardens of the Château d’Eu. George took the opportunity to retreat to his room for a while, citing a headache from his long day’s travels. But the Queen diplomatically stepped in and signalled that she would be delighted to see the grounds. She would come to regret her decision. As they stepped out onto the gravel paths and walked among the flower beds, Madame Adélaïde suddenly turned and looked Louise up and down. With a pitying roll of her eyes, she said loudly; “Is that really the English fashion today? How dreary for you”.

    Louise had barely recovered from that barb when Queen Maria Amalia asked how Louise’s brother Fritz was.


    Madame Adélaïde

    “He is in Switzerland”, Louise replied kindly, “He is studying at Bern”

    “Studying?”, Madame Adélaïde scoffed, “What is he studying?”

    “The law”, Queen Louise replied, “He is doing so well there”

    “How interesting for you”, came the acerbic response from Madame Adélaïde, “To have a lawyer for a brother and not a King. And how brave of you to applaud him for it, I should think I would be horribly embarrassed”

    Queen Maria Amalia was nowhere near as chilly as her sister-in-law and noting the Queen’s blushes, tried to offer a friendly salve for the sting.

    “Will he see you at Rumpenheim?”

    “No, he has to stay in Bern”

    “I should do the same if I were forced to stay in that horrid little castle”, Madame Adélaïde sneered, “It must be so very cramped for you all”

    After a further 45 minutes of these poisonous taunts, the Queen was finally allowed to go back to her room. Her initial response was to break down into floods of tears, but she couldn’t risk upsetting her husband further. He had already indicated that in his view, the whole visit was nothing but an opportunity for the French royal party to openly insult them knowing they could not leave when the diplomatic situation between the two countries was so precarious. Indeed, he told an exasperated Smythe that he thought it far better that the talks were brought forward to the next morning, allowing the King and Queen to escape Normandy two days earlier than planned for Holland. It was Queen Louise who insisted they stay.

    That night, King Louis-Philippe was to host a banquet, nominally in honour of the visiting British royal couple. Once again, Madame Adélaïde tried to humiliate the young Queen Louise. It had been made clear that as the dinner was to have an informal atmosphere, Louise needn’t bother to wear a tiara as none of the French ladies of the court would be doing so. Here, the Queen asked the Duchess of Buccleuch for her advice; “From memory Ma’am, I have never known even the most informal dinner party fail to bring out every diamond and pearl in Paris”. Louise thought likewise. She would not be demeaned again. Before she left, Mary Bettans had convinced the Queen to take just one gown in the French fashion with her in case the opportunity presented itself. It had.

    Standing before the vast doors of the dining room at the Château d’Eu with its fabulous gold carvings were two footmen in richly embroidered livery. They pulled the doors open with a chivalrous bow to reveal the room inside, a sumptuous display of French extravagance with gold plate glinting in the candlelight, the French royal family and their guests huddled together at one end leaving a vast distance for George and Louise to travel in order to greet their hosts. Madame Adélaïde had planned it thus. As the doors were opened however, a very audible gasp filled the air. There was King George V, standing proud in his Windsor uniform complete with the deep blue of the sash of the Order of the Garter, its breast star made of diamonds which twinkled and glittered. He wore velvet breeches and white silk stockings, his black patent shoes polished and buffed as if they were mirrors, each topped with a diamond buckle. His long brown hair was swept back at the sides with the aide of beeswax, the rest allowed to fall in chestnut brown waves which complimented his eyes and high cheekbones. The ladies (in their tiaras) were deeply impressed at just how handsome the King appeared.

    But the men were even more taken aback by La Petit Souris. In a pair of gold satin heeled slippers, Queen Louise was the same height as her husband (who stood at 6’2), her golden tresses parted in the centre with ringlets of blonde curls draped over one shoulder in the French fashion. On her head she wore the Laurel Wreath tiara, every inch of its leaves catching the light and sparkling brilliantly in the glow of the chandeliers above. But as impressive as her new jewels were, it was her gown which drew the eye of every Frenchman in the room that evening. The Queen’s dress was cut in the French fashion in a pale gold satin which revealed the Queen’s décolleté in which nestled the diamonds of her new Garrards necklace. Instead of lace, Bettans had gathered swags of gossamer chiffon speckled with brilliants with a raised and structured cape giving height to the Queen’s shoulders and producing a collar effect. La Petit Souris was transformed into La Petit Papillon and much to the irritation of the French ladies of the court, King Louis Philippe quite forget his petty campaign and stepped forward kissing Queen Louise on the hand. “Votre Majesté”, he said warmly, “Tonight, the only beauty in the world is yours”.

    There was silence. The King’s son and heir and his wife, the Prince and Princess Royal, were introduced to George and Louise, the Princess Royal Hélène taking everybody by surprise by embracing Queen Louise with the words “Meine liebste cousine”, she being a Mecklenburg Duchess by birth. The Prince too was far more welcoming than his father and aunt, asking George if it was true that he had in his possession a Louis XIV console which was listed in one of the Prince’s many catalogues. [2]

    “I really don’t know”, George said smiling, “Sunny dear, do we have that piece?”

    Louise beamed, “Oh of course we do my darling, it is in your library. You must come and see it, it really is a very pretty thing”

    “If I may Votre Majesté”, Ferdinand Philippe replied graciously, “So are you”

    The King and Queen had found much needed allies and when Stockmar tried to approach the King, the Prince Royal carefully guided the King towards a portrait of his grandmother, Marie-Adélaïde de Bourbon, which hung above the fireplace. Hélène spoke animatedly to Queen Louise in German, saying loudly enough for Stockmar to hear; “Such a funny old man, he really is so very pompous”. At dinner, Queen Louise sparkled next to King Louis Philippe whilst King George charmed Queen Maria Amalia by telling her how he had tried to simplify things at the English court; “We have tried to do the same!”, she said enthusiastically, “The Tuileries was so very stiff and pompous, I could not bear it. And it is not good for us to be seen to live so extravagantly. We eat this way now because it is so much simpler, it makes us feel closer to the people”.


    King Leopold.

    King Leopold tried his own charms on Queen Louise, asking when the royal couple would do him the honour of visiting Brussels.

    “Oh, what a pity!”, Louise exclaimed, “Had you been there we might have been able to call on you when we pass through Brussels on our way to visit Drina”

    The evening had been an undoubted success. It ended with the King, who had taken far more champagne that he intended to, raising several toasts to the “beautiful young English Queen”. Across the table, King George caught his wife’s eye. She smiled and raised her glass to him. He couldn’t have been prouder of her than he was in that moment. The French newspapers were filled with descriptions of Louise’s beauty, her charm and of course, her gown. One French gardener, Monsieur Beaufoy, even created a champagne-coloured hybrid tea rose named “La Reine Louise” in the Queen’s honour. These roses were later imported en masse by George V and can still be found at almost every royal residence in England. At the end of the night, George and Louise returned to their suite far happier than they had both been just a few hours earlier. As they prepared for bed, a tapping came at the door. The Duchess of Buccleuch opened it, where a nervous looking French courtier asked for a moment with the King. George nodded and the man glided in holding a red leather box.

    “With my sincere apologies Your Majesty”, he began bowing low, “But I must confess an error on my part. His Majesty asked me to deliver this to you with his compliments before this evening’s banquet but in my haste, I failed to do so. His Majesty has asked me to bring it to you now, as a token of his respect and gratitude”. Inside the box was the insignia of the Ordre royal de la Légion d'honneur in the rank of Grand Cross. King George offered his thanks and ordered Charlie Phipps to prepare the insignia to be worn with George’s military uniform the following morning when the only two public appearances of the visit were scheduled to take place. The first was a (somewhat reduced) honour parade in the courtyard of the Château which was staged before luncheon held for local dignitaries to meet the British King and Queen. Then, the two Queens set off for the Notre-Dame et Saint-Laurent, a collegiate church dedicated both to the Virgin Mary and to St Laurence, a 12th century Archbishop who fell ill at Eu on his way to meet the English King Henry II in 1180. Beatified in 1186 and canonised in 1225, his relics are still held at the church today, and these were proudly displayed by the Cardinal Archbishop of Rouen who personally gave Queen Louise and Queen Maria Amalia a tour of the 12th century walls built by Richard the Lionheart.

    Meanwhile, the King remained at the Château with King Louis-Philippe. The time had come to put aside royal hospitality and to discuss the true nature of George V’s visit. The French Foreign Minister, Adolphe Thiers, made the journey from Paris and together with George Smythe and the British Ambassador, the gentlemen sat in the salon to turn their attention to the Oriental Crisis. Initially, Louis-Philippe was unmoved. Naturally he had revised his personal opinion of the King and Queen somewhat but that didn’t mean he was about to ditch his foreign policy on account of a good dinner and a pretty gown. Much to the chagrin of his ministers, the King insisted that it was the Ottomans who were supporting Abd al Qadir in French Algeria and that without Muhammed Ali’s support in Egypt, Algeria may become a power vacuum. The British were pledged to support the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire and so Algeria, which had cost millions of francs and French lives in the last decade, would be lost. [3]


    King Louis-Philippe

    Louis-Philippe reinstated this position in person to the assembled parties at the Château d’Eu. The French could not pull support from the Ali dynasty without risk – a risk that posed a serious threat to the popularity of the July Monarchy which had made Algeria something of a rallying cry for a new era of French influence in North Africa. Smythe was prepared for this, and Lord Derby had briefed him well. But he was not prepared for Louis-Philippe to make accusations against the British for which he had no prepared defence.

    “I know that the British have been in discussions with Qadir to support him against me”, he said tersely, “You cannot deny that”.

    “We have had no discussions with Qadir since well before the Treaty of Tafna”, Smythe assured the King, “And even then, the discussions we had with him amount to little more than a handful of diplomatic letters. Qadir wanted our support, we did not give it”

    “Lord Melbourne did not give it”, Louis-Philippe corrected, “But the British took his side, you promised to establish counsels”

    “With respect Sir”, Smythe countered, “We explored the possibility only after Tafna when the French government handed Qadir territories in Oran, we did not press ahead because Qadir’s other requests were unacceptable to us and then the treaty was abandoned. Thereafter, we had no contact with him because we did not seek to interfere with French interests in the region”

    “What were Qadir’s requests, Smythe?”, King George asked lighting a cigarette from a silver box on the table, “I didn’t see that in my briefing”

    Smythe fiddled with his papers and presented a note to the King.

    “Qadir wished to meet you in an Algerian port Sir, in '36”, he explained, “The idea was never presented to the late Duke of Clarence because the government did not wish the Crown to act as mediator between the two sides and because both the proposed meeting and the prospect of dealing with Qadir…well…it was deemed absurd”

    “Quite right too”, George replied with a smile, “You see Louis, my ministers do think of me sometimes”.

    But the King was in no mood for levity.

    “All we ask is a guarantee that our interests in Algeria will be respected”, Louis-Philippe said tersely, “You gave far more to the Russians for far less. What you are asking us to do is to put France at the risk of a misadventure on the scale of your own recent military defeat in Afghanistan, and all to have Algeria taken from us and handed to Ottoman-backed rebels”.

    Smythe opened his mouth to interject. But it was King George who took the lead.

    “But we have nothing to fear from your interests in Algeria”, he said, “I grant you; we cannot speak for other governments but surely you realise that if France is left out of the talks after this crisis is resolved, you stand even less chance of getting what you want?”

    “I think what His Majesty means to say is…”, Lord Cowley began.

    “I have to say I’m confused by your position Louis”, George continued, “This Qadir chap is a thorn in your side, you’re spending a fortune to keep the beggar down and yet as I understand it, he’s taking all his inspiration from your man in Cairo. This Muhammed Ali Pasha is his great hero, what? Surely to goodness this Muhammed fellow and his mad son will only double cross you in the end and give their support to Qadir? And heaven forbid we’re all drawn into a war on the continent which I know you don’t want, none of us can afford to fight on two fronts like that. Why keep yourself isolated for a man who will more than likely drag you into something you never wanted in the first place, all for a reassurance that you know you don’t need anyway.”

    There was silence. Louis-Philippe looked deep in thought.

    “But…”, he began, “The position of your government…”

    Suddenly, George stood up.

    “It’s very warm in here, isn’t it? I could do with a turn in the garden before supper”

    What on earth was happening?

    “I suggest we go for a little walk and leave the rest to these gentlemen”, George said, wandering towards the double doors that led into the grounds of the Château. The French King stood up. He began to follow George.

    “But we have much more to discuss!”, he protested, more out of surprise than anger.

    “Oh, let them do that”, George said, patting Louis Philippe on the back, “I always do. Why else do we pay them, what?”

    A stunned King Louis-Philippe found himself being led out of the room into the gardens where George asked if he might obtain some cuttings from a wisteria; “I’d like to give them to my cousin Drina you know”, he explained, “Never know what to give people. Goodness me, is that a Hollyhocks? How do you get them to grow that tall? Ours look like they’ve been hit on the head and are frightened to stand up”.

    “But I…”

    “It’s no good Louis”, the King replied, “Can’t possibly discuss anything else without my ministers present you understand. Now I wonder when Sunny will be back?”

    When King George and Queen Louise left Normandy two days later, they did so in a very different atmosphere to that in which they had been received. The French King and his wife travelled in a carriage with them to the jetty where they once again boarded the Ariel which was to take them to Holland. A gun salute was fired to whoops and cheers of applause from the vast crowds assembled to catch a final glimpse of the British King and his wife as they kissed their hosts goodbye and climbed down into the barge which took them to their ship. George Smythe bowed to the King and shook his hand. In his pocket bag, he carried the document signed just after dinner at the Château d’Eu the previous evening. Thiers left the Château for Paris immediately afterwards.


    Adolphe Thiers

    Addressing the Chamber of Deputies, he announced that following news from the Levant that Muhammed Ali had been deposed by his son Ibrahim, and upon hearing further reports that Ibrahim Ali was to strike at Constantinople, His Majesty (in full agreement with his ministers) had agreed to withdraw all support, military and financial, from the dynasty. France was to follow the British example discussed at the Château d’Eu, engaging independently against Ibrahim Ali but not formally signing up to a Russian-led coalition of central powers. The King and his ministers had not taken this decision lightly; indeed, the King had summoned the British sovereign to Normandy personally to insist that the United Kingdom respect France’s presence in Algeria and to give Britain’s assurances that she would not support any power either in the region itself or at talks which may be held once the Oriental Crisis was concluded, who sought to damage France’s expanding influence in North Africa. [4]

    Smythe was more succinct when he returned to London alone, leaving the royal party to continue the private leg of their tour of Europe. When he arrived at Downing Street to brief Sir James Graham personally, he recounted the way the King had led Louis-Philippe out into the grounds of the Château and how when presented with the notes from the talks that ensued, the French monarch had seemed enthusiastic – not reluctant – to put his name to the agreement that followed. Whilst it was true that Louis-Philippe could not allow himself to appear to have u-turned, especially not on account of a British royal charm offensive, and so had indicated it was the threat to Constantinople which had changed his mind and not British reassurances that France would be allowed to retain Algeria in the ensuing peace talks no matter what the Ottomans demanded, one thing was certain; King George had handled the entire thing admirably. “I really do believe we should not have convinced the French King to abandon Ali without his calm and measured approach”, Smythe told the Prime Minister, “And when he linked Muhammed Ali with Al-Qadir…it was a masterstroke. We had Louis-Philippe in our corner from that moment. I should never have thought of it myself”.

    But Graham seemed lukewarm in his response.

    “He wasn’t too puffed up, was he?”, he asked Smythe.

    “The King? No Sir…but…it was a triumph Prime Minister”

    “Best not to tell him that”, Graham said pouring himself a brandy, “I admit His Majesty distinguished himself in Normandy, but we must not give him a taste for authority or influence. Thank goodness he’s only visiting now. I’d hate to see what his newfound enthusiasm for diplomacy might tempt him to. No Smythe, brief the Foreign Office that His Majesty played a very small role in this” [5]

    “But Prime Minister…”

    “Incidentally Smythe”, Graham interrupted, “I was wondering if you might serve on this new commission I’m putting together for the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster. You served before and I believe you felt then that Melbourne hadn’t behaved well. The position of Chair is vacant, it shouldn't distract you too much from your other duties. And naturally I should grateful for your support in this matter.” [6]

    Smythe was dumbfounded.

    “That’s settled then. You are to be congratulated on your work in France”, Graham said patronisingly, “And it was your work, George. Remember that”.


    [1] Butterflies here and a little update on Albert's progress for those wondering what had become of him after his marriage. Princess Januária was proposed to serve as regent for her brother Pedro II in the OTL in order to break the deadlock on whether or not he should be proclaimed to have reached the age of majority earlier. As I understand it, the idea had support but a bone of contention was the fact that she was not married. Enter Prince Albert.

    As we're not going to head to Brazil all that much, I'll give the full POD I'm using as a background here which is that Januária serves as regent until 1843 when her brother reaches the age of majority. Albert proves his worth and much as he did in England, cements his reputation as a reliable and capable figure behind closed doors. He becomes a kind of mentor to Pedro II and when Pedro's two sons die young as in the OTL leaving Princess Isabel to succeed her father, Albert (fearing the worst) convinces Pedro to allow Albert's son Prince João Carlos to marry his cousin (with the necessary papal dispensation of course).

    I don't wish to distract from our UK based storyline here but this is what I've had in mind for Albert which every so often will get a mention in our TL for obvious reasons.

    [2] Ferdinand Philippe was a passionate collector, indeed he spent almost 150,000 francs from his Civil List allowance on art purchases or cultural patronage each year until his death.

    [3] My main source for this section of the TL can be found here:

    [4] In the OTL, the French did change course but not until October 1840. From my research, it appears Algeria was always the sticking point but Palmerston's rush to send in gunboats saw the French dig their heels in until the last. Here the situation is very different thanks to Ibrahim Ali's decision to head for Constantinople. Which I believe would be enough on it's own to see the French u-turn but I also can't see that they wouldn't raise Algeria at these talks. I haven't mentioned the Rhine Crisis here because I felt it would be too much of a distraction but that would probably contribute too.

    [5] However unfair this is, I believe this is how Graham would respond. He's just had a clash with the King over the creation of 110 new peerages which the King didn't wish to do but had to accept because he saw that he had no authority to avoid it without causing a constitutional crisis. Graham really doesn't need George V to get a taste for achievements where government policy decisions are concerned.

    [6] We've finally got to the result of our poll, unfortunately it just didn't fit anywhere until now. Apologies for the delay!
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    GV: Part Two, Chapter 24: On Tour - III
  • King George V

    Part Two, Chapter Twenty-Four: On Tour – III

    With the cheers of the French crowds still ringing in their ears, King George and Queen Louise left France and sailed for the Hook of Holland. From there, the King of the Netherlands provided coaches to take them to Apeldoorn. It should be noted that it might have been far quicker for the royal couple to pass through Brussels but this was to be avoided at the King’s request before they left Britain. He could have no idea that King Leopold would be included in the house party at the Château d’Eu of course, and this greatly irritated George who felt he had needlessly added three days travelling to avoid Brussels when King Leopold wasn’t in residence there after all. Still, the King did not let this inconvenience tarnish his buoyant mood from his huge personal success at the Château d’Eu. Regardless of Sir James Graham’s assessment, historians agree that without George the agreement with the French would never have been concluded and France may have continued to support the Ali dynasty in Egypt possibly leading to a bloody and long-lasting conflict on the continent once more. When Tsar Nicholas heard that George V had successfully brought Louis-Philippe into the coalition (albeit informally, on the same terms as the United Kingdom), Nicholas remarked; “I have underestimated the boy”.

    So it was that George and Louise arrived at Het Loo in high spirits. Het Loo was built in the 17th century as a “pleasure house”, the grandeur of its design and the extravagance of its interiors standing at odds with the Dutch Royal Family’s insistence that Het Loo was not a palace but a “fine gentleman’s residence”. With the rest of the Dutch Royal Family in The Hague carefully awaiting the next move from King William I (still intent on abdicating), Princess Victoria was quite alone at Het Loo when she received her cousin and his wife there in the second week of May 1840. The Dutch King didn't even send a representative to meet the British royal couple when they arrived in his country. Closer to home however, Queen Louise was more intrigued at how much Princess Victoria had changed since their last meeting; “She has grown really quite stout and her face is all puffed up about the chin”. The King too commented on Victoria’s appearance in a letter to his Uncle Cambridge, though he was far more succinct (and perhaps a little less kind) than his wife; “Drina has grown very fat and looks thoroughly miserable as a result”.


    Princess Victoria of the Netherlands, c. 1840.

    But the King also noted that his cousin had developed “an unattractive hunger for gossip” too. The moment George and Louise arrived, they were given a luncheon which the Queen wrote, “Was so sparsely attended that we were grateful for dear Charlotte (the Duchess of Buccleuch) who had so very much to say to Drina and helped us avoid the unpleasantness she wanted to discuss”. [1] The “unpleasantness” in question was a brewing scandal which Drina felt the King and Queen should know about before they arrived at Rumpenheim. Back in England, the 21-year-old Prince George of Cambridge was celebrating his independence (and taking advantage of his parent’s absence in Hanover) by turning Cambridge House in Piccadilly into something of a private member’s club for his army pals. The Duke of Cambridge’s housekeeper, Mrs Elizabeth Frisby, had entered the service of the Cambridge family in 1831 and was affectionately known as ‘Frizzie’ [2]. Frizzie had been hurt not to be asked to join her employers in Hanover and still in a sulk, found herself “a keeper of the zoo” (as Prince George’s sister Augusta put it) trying to maintain order in a house that was now little more than a glorified barrack room.

    The Duke of Cambridge sent his equerry, Sir Philip Durham, back to England to assess the situation. His report was not pleasant and it so shocked the Duchess that she unwisely put the details in a letter to her niece Victoria; she might just as well have printed the contents in every newspaper in Europe. In her bored and lonely state, Victoria had a thirst for rumour and intrigue and she gained a reputation for being something of a gossipmonger. Durham’s report contained much of what we might expect of a rich young prince living free of parental guidance in a large Piccadilly residence for the first time in his life. Bills had sky-rocketed, the skeleton staff who had not joined the Cambridges at Herrenhausen were in high dudgeon and threatening to leave, and even dear old Frizzie had reached the end of her tether. It wasn’t so much the gambling or drinking at all hours she objected to, rather it was the “presence of several young ladies who have been hosted at Piccadilly”, Durham wrote, “And I regret to say some of them, without chaperones, stay well into the early hours of the next morning”. One of these young ladies made the Duke of Cambridge distinctly nervous; Lady Augusta Somerset.

    Lady Augusta Somerset was the daughter of the 7th Duke of Beaufort but she was also the niece of someone well known to the older generation of the Royal Family; Lady Elizabeth Somerset, the mistress of King George IV who had given him two illegitimate children. George V had no idea that the Earl of Ulster was his half-sibling, a decision to that effect had been taken (and imposed ruthlessly) by his mother. Lady Elizabeth Somerset had been married off to an Irish Captain to give legitimacy to George V’s half-sister Isabella and upon the death of her first husband, she had married Major General James Orde. Orde was a cad of the first degree, renowned in the army for an incident in 1812 when he was nearly cashiered for overzealously flogging some of his men and even defrauding his quartermaster. Full of cunning, he had still managed to gain a promotion from Colonel to Major General and his marriage to Lady Elizabeth had given him an introduction to high society as the son-in-law of a Duke. But this had not given Orde the satisfaction he hoped for and within two years, he had returned to his native Ireland where he lived with his mistress and left his wife on a pitiful allowance (taken from her own bank account). [3]

    Unable to petition for divorce, Lady Elizabeth had retreated to Lechlade, the country house purchased for her by the late King, but she had long had a taste for the best things in life and she quickly amassed debts. Her son could do little to help (though he was generously provided for by George IV), her brother point blank refused to keep funding her expensive tastes and her husband was devouring her fortune at an alarming rate. Lady Elizabeth turned to the Duke of Cambridge. Begging letters regularly appeared and to protect his brother’s memory and to keep scandal from the gates of Buckingham Palace, he sent her cheques of varying amounts to save her from her debtors. He even stepped in and secured her son a place at Sandhurst. But now Lady Elizabeth’s niece seemed she may follow in “the Beaufort’s footsteps” and Lady Augusta Somerset had begun a passionate love affair with Prince George of Cambridge. For a time this seemed a harmless liaison. It was expected that young princes would take mistresses and though the Duke of Cambridge might have hoped his son would take a lover who wasn’t so wrapped up in a family that had already provided a royal mistress, it must be said that Lady Augusta was the daughter of a Duke and not exactly a chorus girl. [4]


    Prince George of Cambridge.

    But in April 1840, the liaison became dangerous. Lady Augusta had been sent away to Madrid by her father on the pretext that she was ill. Rumours swirled that she was in fact pregnant and that Prince George was the father of her unborn child. [5] No letters exist to confirm or deny this and whilst we know that Lady Augusta received daily visits from a Spanish doctor during her time in Madrid, it is impossible to know whether his was because she really was ill or because she had given birth to a child. What we do know is that the Duke of Cambridge sent a cheque to Lady Augusta for the sum of £500 (the equivalent of £30,000 today) which was cashed in Madrid. We also know that the Duke immediately arranged for his son and heir to be sent to Ireland immediately with the 12th Royal Lancers. “You can accept this”, he wrote to his son tersely, “Or I shall find somewhere far more remote for you to serve”. Needless to say, George would not attend the family reunion at Rumpenheim but Princess Victoria made sure that he was very much the focus of things at Het Loo where try as she might, the Duchess of Buccleuch could not steer the Princess away from the “rotten and wicked talk” circulating about Prince George. Eventually the King threatened to leave for Bautzen early if Drina did not let the subject alone. She complied.

    The visit to Het Loo was notable too for the fact that Princess Victoria’s daughter and namesake was not there. In a typical display of controlling behaviour, Prince William had insisted that if Victoria wished to “be so silly and rush off to Het Loo at such a troubling time”, she was quite welcome to. But she would do so alone – and that meant without little Linna in tow. Queen Louise was most disappointed not to see her niece and goddaughter, especially as she had taken great pains over a gift to take to her, a carved wooden toy parrot which flapped its wings and opened its beak when a string was pulled. Louise noted; “Drina hardly talks of the baby and we saw only one little sketch of her so we still do not know what Linna looks like. George was most put out because one of Drina’s reasons for us coming to Het Loo was to see the child. And now we have delayed our trip to Bautzen for quite a depressing visit which neither of us have enjoyed much”.

    Fortunately, there was the best remedy of all awaiting them in Germany, their much longed for reunion with their eldest daughter, the Princess Royal. Both her parents were understandably excited to see Missy again after she had been away from England for almost 5 months. But they were anxious too. Would she recognise them? Would there be any signs of progress at this early stage in her education at the Heinicke School? Princess Augusta of Cambridge and Lady Dorothy Wentworth spent days preparing Gaussig for the arrival of the King and Queen, and the latter was delighted when Miss Sarah Higham arrived ten days before George and Louise direct from England with little Princess Victoria in her charge. “It is so very curious to me that the first time Missy meets her sister it shall be without her parents standing by”, Dolly noted in her diary, “But I am so very eager to meet little Toria myself for if she is half as delightful as Missy I shall have double the joy in my care”.

    Finally, on the 26th of May 1840, the King and Queen were reunited with the Princess Royal. Queen Louise wrote to her mother; “Simply to hold her little hand and feel her dear little fingers wrap themselves around mine was so sweet a reward after months of longing. We spent our first day here quite alone with the children and Georgie was so determined we should not miss a moment of our time with them that we even ate on trays in the nursery! I think Dolly was quite shocked by it”. The King was clearly thrilled to see his eldest daughter but privately, he had concerns. Understandably, he hoped there might have been some progress and yet how much could the Heinicke School have realistically achieved in just 5 months? This served as a reminder that the Princess Royal would never have the same upbringing as her younger sister. Indeed, with the exception of the six years between 1855 and 1861 when she lived at Windsor, Missy spent the rest of her life in Germany. In later years, she would insist that she was (and had always been) “German to my fingertips” and earned herself a strong rebuke from her sister Alice when she spoke of an English relative as "a foreigner".


    A portrait of the Princess Royal, aged 4 or 5.

    As George and Louise played on the lawn with their children and staged tea parties with dollies and teddy bears, they were able to forget all their troubles and simply be “Mama and Papa”, the roles they loved best. Princess Victoria would later say of her father; “Though he could be very serious at times, he never lost that childlike love of play and when grandchildren began to arrive, he was often to be found lining up toy soldiers with the boys or showing the girls how to paint with watercolours. His favourite activity was to stage egg and spoon races for us which I believe we played one Eastertime and which he enjoyed so much we played at these races forever after. He laughed very loudly when the eggs broke. He liked skittles too but he was sure to always let one of the children win and if we lost and sulked he would say ‘You did not win at this but remember how you won at that?’ and so we were then happy again. He loved the noise of children, something I myself do not, but to him it was like very fine music. It made him smile and I do not remember a moment in his company when I did not feel he was happiest when among his children and grandchildren”.

    After two weeks at Bautzen, the royal couple prepared to move on to Rumpenheim. Originally they had wished to spend a quiet month at Neustrelitz with the Queen’s parents but the Duchess of Cambridge had intervened and staged a family reunion at Rumpenheim instead. This posed something of a problem for George and Louise. Grand Duke George and Grand Duchess Marie had longed to see their two granddaughters together for the first time but the King was nervous that the extended family, whom he believed knew nothing of Missy’s deafness, might talk out of turn and that her condition may become public. Initially, he ruled that Missy should stay behind and the King and Queen would return to Gaussig before they went home to England. Queen Louise put her foot down; “Let them talk Georgie”, she insisted, “We have nothing to be ashamed or sorrowful about, Missy is the most perfect child and she shall never be excluded from things”. The King accepted he was being a little overprotective (after all, he had previously expressed that Missy should never be treated any differently to her siblings) and so George and Louise, Missy and Toria, left Gaussig and headed for Rumpenheim with a brief stopover at Hallstadt for lunch at an inn which delighted the Queen when the innkeeper insisted that he knew her husband well - they had once worked in a salt mine together. George couldn't reason with the man so just agreed and said "Yes, it was a very happy time wasn't it?".

    Rumpenheim that summer was fit to bust with the sheer number of relatives crowded into its rooms. The guest list reads as a Who’s Who of the Hesse-Kassel family:
    • Landgrave William and his wife Louise Charlotte (born a Princess of Denmark), uncle to both King George V and Queen Louise
    • Princess Marie Luise and her husband Prince Frederick of Anhalt-Dessau and their three daughters, Marie Luise being William and Louise Charlotte’s eldest daughter and first cousin to both King George V and Queen Louise
    • Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel, Landgrave William’s eldest son (known as Frittie) and a first cousin to King George V and Queen Louise, forgiven for his recent bad behaviour on his bachelor's tour of Europe
    • Princess Auguste Sophie of Hesse-Kassel, Landgrave William’s youngest daughter and a first cousin to King George V and Queen Louise
    And from the older generation:
    • Prince Friedrich Wilhelm and Prince George Karl, the Hesse-Kassel brothers of George V’s mother Louise and uncles to both King George V and Queen Louise
    • The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their daughters Augusta and Mary Adelaide, the Duke being the King’s paternal uncle, the Duchess being maternal aunt to both George V and Queen Louise, the Cambridge children being their first cousin
    • Grand Duke George and Grand Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (the Queen’s parents but Marie was also George V’s maternal aunt) and their children Fritz (Hereditary Grand Duke and the Queen’s brother), Caroline (the Queen’s sister) and Georg August (the Queen’s youngest brother)
    In addition to these Hesses and Strelitzes were a small smattering of extended relations from Denmark, most notably Princess Louis Caroline and her husband Friedrich Wilhelm, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, who brought with them six of their ten children, one of whom was Prince Christian who would later marry Princess Louise of Hesse-Kassel, the pair becoming King Christian IX and Queen Louise of Denmark. [6] It was quite the royal gathering but the atmosphere was deliberately kept informal. Everybody was known by their Christian names or nicknames, there were no bows or curtsies, no titles or styles whatsoever. Every guest was allowed to bring only one or two “essential” servants (a valet and a lady’s maid) which Princess Marie Luise of Anhalt-Dessau insisted was because "we like to live simply when we get together at Rumpenheim". It wasn't all that simple of course. There were still grand dinners, hunting parties and balls. But the entire atmosphere of these occasions could often surprise those who saw it from the outside.

    Much was made of how immature the guests behaved. They staged races, they had food fights, Queen Louise even took to skidding along the polished floor of the Great Hall on pillows with the children and her sister Caroline to whoops and hollers of delight from the older relations who watched. The men loved nothing more than to play pranks on each other, spraying each other with water hoses or dumping buckets of sand in each other's beds. These gatherings were held every year from 1840 onwards, though not always at Rumpenheim. Prince William of Hesse (the King's uncle) often staged them at his summer residence in Denmark, the Charlottenlund Palace, until they were permanently relocated to Denmark (taking place at Fredensborg) in 1864 following Prince Christian’s accession as King there the previous year. George V only missed four of them in his lifetime but it was his absence in 1868 which rankled with him forever after; he had been asked to skip a year because in 1867, he and Fritz Strelitz took a royal pastime too far. Guests invited to Fredensborg were asked to sign their names on the window panes with a diamond each year to record their visit but Fritz and Georgie took to scratching in little drawings instead. They began quite innocently enough with the addition of a pig or a dog…until the two men added a sketch of a cat next to the name of the King of Greece and annotated it with the words; “Cat’s bottom, that’s what you are!”. It cast a shadow for days and Queen Louise (of Denmark) felt a stand should be taken the following year. But all was eventually forgiven and forgotten and George V would tease his Greek cousin endlessly by adding little drawings of a cat to the Christmas cards he sent to Athens thereafter. [7]


    An 1845 portrait of King George V. He disliked it saying the painting made him appear "as a junior clerk in a bank or town hall".

    Amid all the fun at Rumpenheim that summer, a sober moment struck when news came from Berlin that the King of Prussia was dying. Charlie Phipps received an urgent note from London which briefed His Majesty to “follow the course of things as necessary” – in other words, if King Frederick William III died then George was to go to Berlin to pay his respects to the King of Prussia’s successor, Frederick William IV. When Frederick William III died on the 7th of June 1840, a slow trickle of royal relations began to leave Rumpenheim together to journey to Berlin for the funeral. This caused a minor argument between the King and Queen because Louise was concerned they may lose time with Missy before their return to England. She wanted to return with Dolly and the two princesses to Gaussig but the King insisted the girls remain at Rumpenheim with Dolly whilst the King and Queen went on to Berlin. In the end, Grand Duchess Marie resolved the dispute; King Frederick William’s first wife Louise was a Strelitz, the sister of Grand Duke George (Queen Louise’s father). Grand Duchess Marie would take the children to Neustrelitz with her but Louise must accompany the King.

    The King and Queen arrived at the Charlottenburg Palace just a day or so after the old King of Prussia had died. Word was sent ahead by Charlie Phipps to see if a uniform might be “borrowed” for the King; he was after all an Honorary Colonel of the 1st Foot Guards Regiment in the Royal Prussian Army. Likewise, insignia of the Order of the Black Eagle (another honour given to George V on his visit to Prussia by the late King Frederick William III in 1834) had to be borrowed so that the King could appear before the new Prussian sovereign suitably attired. Queen Louise meanwhile had to adopt the strict funerary dress expected and spent much of her time in dimly lit salons wearing a long black crepe veil surrounded by the other female relations not allowed to actually take part in the funeral services. Here there was a far more unpleasant reunion. [8]

    The Duke and Duchess of Cumberland had lived in Berlin for many years by 1840 and were not only guests at the Prussian court on a regular basis but there were also family ties; the Duchess was a sister-in-law to Frederick William III and the Duke was related through his mother Queen Charlotte who was Frederick William III’s aunt. King George V had not seen his Cumberland relations for years but their recent interactions had not been pleasant ones. Arguments over inheritances and annuities had seen a frosty atmosphere develop between the King and Queen and the Duke and Duchess, the Duchess offering Louise a perfunctory nod before ignoring her for the rest of their time together. The Duke was more bold in his approach. He kept grasping King George V by the arm and saying loudly; “Look at my nephew! Such a fine young man he is, such a fine King he is!”. In a note to his cousin Augusta back at Neustrelitz, George said of Cumberland; “He remains an insufferable donkey's arse and I thank God he shall never live in England again for I could not bear his company with any kind of regularity - she is even worse than you might remember. Prune faced!”.

    However, George’s dislike of his aunt and uncle did not extend to his cousin, also called George, who accompanied his father to the King of Prussia’s funeral. Prince George of Cumberland was the same age as King George V but had spent almost his entire life in Germany. The two cousins had only met once or twice in any meaningful way but this marked the first time they met properly as adults. George V wrote to his sister Charlotte Louise back in London; “One cannot help but admire him for he is totally blind but so very stoic about it all. He even joked about it which I thought took tremendous courage. It is so hard to see how those two horrors ever produced such a charming and friendly person and Louise quite agreed with me what a shame it is that we do not see more of him which we undoubtedly would if his parents were not about him, especially Aunt Freddie who is so terribly rude and very ugly now. But I feel Cousin George knows his father is not well-liked because he said, ‘Animosity is not hereditary you know’ and I laughed. I felt he put things very well indeed. I must confess it was a pleasure to be with him”.


    Prince George of Cumberland in his later years.

    George Cumberland must have impressed the King because he was invited to attend the festivities for the wedding of Princess Charlotte Louise later that year. The two Georges would become great friends in the future and though George’s father was never invited back to England (and diplomatically never mentioned in conversation), the King felt that his cousin was “amiable, reliable and dependable – if he makes a decent marriage, I see no reason why he should not assume some kind of role here in England when the time is right”. Presumably the King meant “when his father is dead and George is Duke of Cumberland” but that is supposition on the author’s part. Nonetheless, when the Duke of Cumberland died in 1851, his son George was offered Royal Lodge at Windsor as a permanent residence. He lived there with his wife and children until his death in 1878, forever on hand as a companion and friend to the King, much loved and respected by the next generation of British royalty. When he died, King George V was bereft and would often sit in the grounds of Royal Lodge weeping for his cousin. [9]

    Back in Prussia in June 1840, George and Louise left Berlin and returned for a brief stay at Neustrelitz where they bid farewell once more to Missy. These partings would become the norm for many years but the Princess Royal’s parents did not find them any easier to bear despite their regularity. In later life, Missy would write; “It was very difficult when I was a small child to have these wonderful people arrive and shower me with affection, only for them to leave again. It took some time for me to recognise them as being the people in the portraits in my bedroom which I knew to be of Mama and Papa. But eventually I accepted the situation and came to understand it”. Queen Louise never did. Upon their return to England, she was often to be found in floods of tears and it wasn’t until Princess Charlotte Louise asked for help with her wedding plans that she cheered somewhat and was able to distract herself once more.

    The King and Queen returned to a much calmer England. The new government’s budget had passed and the cost of living was decreasing to manageable levels again. George was not particularly happy with the backlash the new Tory peers were receiving but mercifully those opposed directed their ire at Sir James Graham and not at the Crown. In order to deflect this chorus of angry voices, Graham opted to revisit the proposals put forward for the new Palace of Westminster. Like many Tories, he had come to regard the designs adopted as “Melbourne’s Palace” and in an attempt to steer attention away from the bloated House of Lords he had just created, Graham had established a commission (chaired by George Smythe) to reassess the decision made by the Whigs in light of the Great Thames Flood and the damage done to the foundations Barry & Pugin had seen swept away in the surge. In an effort to skew the committee, Graham asked them to choose between three designs; the Barry and Pugin design, the Hopper Design and a design modified by the King’s favourite architect, Decimus Burton. [10]

    It was a close-run thing. To the Prime Minister's alarm, the Tories on the committee backed the Burton design – which Graham himself really did not care for. But by a handful of votes, the Whigs and their allies on the committee preserved the Barry and Pugin design as that which should be built and so today the Palace of Westminster stands as anomaly amongst its closest neighbours. In the rebuilding of London following the Great Thames Flood, the King’s patronage of Decimus Burton would not go unnoticed and many wealthy gentlemen followed George’s example. So sprang up all about Westminster new townhouses in a neo-classical design – leaving the poor old Gothic brownstone Palace of Westminster looking somewhat out of place despite its impressiveness. Burton called it; “The rotten tooth” because it stood out so among the clean, crisp white Portland stone of his buildings but he was well compensated for his loss. One such reward was his elevation to a Baronet upon George and Louise’s return to England, a thankyou from Their Majesties now that Hanover House in Broadwindsor was completed and ready for them to use at their leisure.

    As the King had planned the previous year, he could now play host to the Royal Family next Christmas at “the Little House”; “I want us all together, Rumpenheim really did refresh my spirits Sunny, it is important we all get together when we can”.

    “Yes dear”, Louise agreed, embroidering before the fireplace in the Blue Closet, “It will seem strange without Lottie this year”

    The King misheard her.

    “Yes, she was missed wasn’t she?”, he said, “Still, she had more important things to do”. There was a trace of a sulk.

    “No Georgie”, the Queen corrected, “I mean that she will not be with us at Christmas”

    “Why do you say that?”

    The Queen lowered her embroidery and sighed.

    “Oh my darling”, she said wistfully, “Will you ever look beyond tomorrow?”

    [1] In the OTL, the Duchess of Buccleuch became great friends with Queen Victoria, the pair being of similar age.

    [2] These members of the Cambridges' Household are based on their real counterparts here: 40 Household of Adolphus.pdf

    [3] This liaison between George Cambridge and Lady Augusta did happen in the OTL but I've butterflied the dates a little to include it in this chapter. Also, the Orde 'flogging' business did happen in the OTL as described here and he did marry (and then abandon) Lady Elizabeth. The rest of this paragraph is of my own invention of course as in the OTL, we didn't have the same George IV who took a Somerset mistress.

    [4] In the OTL, George Cambridge eventually married an actress...

    [5] Again, OTL inspired but events slightly skewed for our purposes.

    [6] King Christian IX, Queen Louise and their children will remain the same in TTL as in the OTL, though some marriages will be different.

    [7] Inspired by an anecdote told by Queen Margrethe II who still asks guests to sign their names on the window panes at Fredensborg. The "Cat's Bottom" can be found on these windows and is Queen Margrethe's favourite to show visitors - though I can't recall who was the original target!

    [8] For more on George's Prussian honours, see here:

    [9] Butterflies because George of Cumberland was not King of Hanover in TTL.

    [10] See here for more information:
    Last edited:
    GV: Part Two, Chapter 25: Home Again George
  • King George V

    Part Two, Chapter Twenty-Five: Home Again George

    Upon their return to England from the continent, the King and Queen were widely applauded for the success of their first official foreign visit of George V’s reign. The British press were effusive in their collective praise, publishing glowing reports of how George and Louise had “charmed the French, His Majesty proving himself a very skilled ambassador for British interests supported as ever by Her Majesty’s elegant appeal which won the hearts of all those fortunate enough to see the King and Queen in Normandy”. Naturally these accounts of the royal visit to King Louis-Philippe were not always entirely accurate but facts could not be allowed to get in the way of obsequious testimonies to the royal couple’s achievements. Most popular was a series of sketches (drawn from imagination in London) which appeared as a ha’penny supplement and quickly ran out among the enthusiastic British public. This did not please Sir James Graham who had hoped to “keep His Majesty in the Drawing Room and out of the Cabinet Office”. He feared that the King might now have a taste for foreign travel and was concerned that “His Majesty might now fancy himself a diplomat”.

    The Prime Minister’s anxieties were not entirely without foundation. At Buckingham Palace, the King began to invite Lord Derby and Sir Thomas Fremantle for increased private audiences and lunches where he presented maps annotated with his own notes on how the Oriental Crisis might be resolved now that the French had withdrawn support from Ibrahim Ali. Whilst this troubled the Prime Minister, Lord Derby actually welcomed the King's interest. "His Majesty shows a respectable grasp of the situation", he wrote, "And we must not forget that the previous government failed to take advice which arguably may have let to quite a different outcome at Bala Hissar. Sir Thomas Fremantle praised George too for his “very keen interest which is far from a hinderance for he has spent many days consulting his briefings and applying them to maps so as to gain a better understanding of the situation in Egypt”. Sir James warned both ministers not to encourage the King; “His Majesty’s wings must be clipped if we are to avoid Buckingham Palace becoming an extension of the Foreign Office”, he wrote in a private note to senior cabinet officials. Sir James needn't have worried. In July 1840, the King would find his attentions diverted to family matters on three fronts; the first concerning his cousin Prince George of Cambridge, the second concerning his recent travels and the third concerning the ongoing negotiations to settle his sister's marriage contract. He would have little time to play the diplomat.


    Prince George of Cambridge.

    As soon as the King and Queen were settled back at Buckingham Palace, the King summoned his cousin Prince George for a private audience. Rumours of his relationship with Lady Augusta Somerset were now rife in London and George was to be sent to Ireland with the 12th Royal Lancers as soon as possible. The King wanted to see just how bad the situation was, his knowledge of the matter restricted to the gossip passed onto him by his cousin Victoria when he visited her at Het Loo earlier that year. A bashful Prince George admitted that he had kept Lady Augusta as his mistress and that she had now left England for Madrid but he could not promise that the scandal would not escalate; "There are letters" he said nervously. The Duke of Cambridge had made financial arrangements for Lady Augusta in Spain but Prince George had not dared tell his father that she was still in possession of letters from the Prince which in his words "may cause future difficulties". It was imperative that the letters were retrieved and they now languished in a safe in a solicitor's office in Berwick Street. He had offered to compensate his paramour for their return but he could not afford the price she had in mind. The King agreed to pay the sum and see to it that the letters were destroyed.

    This generosity cost George V the princely sum of £800 (the equivalent of £50,000 today). But in the event, Prince George found the collection was incomplete. Lady Augusta had held some back and nobody could be sure where she was keeping them. The King bid his cousin farewell as he prepared to leave for Dublin, promising to do all he could to protect Prince George's reputation but this came with a warning; "There is only so much I can do for you", the King said tersely, "If you cannot keep control of your own affairs, it is far better not to engage them in the future". It appears the King did not feel this caution was enough and unbeknown to Prince George, the King instructed a private detective to follow the Prince when he was in Ireland. After a few months it seems His Royal Highness had redeemed himself enough to be left to his own devices once more and the private detective was released from his commission. The King wrote to his uncle in Hanover; "I have settled this matter and believe that George is now suitably corrected in his behaviour. We shall not speak of it again". The Duke of Cambridge replied thanking the King for his generosity and hoped that Prince George would "find some way to repay you for all your kindness and consideration in recent days".

    Ironically, it was another letter from Hanover which made it's way into the King's possession and caused him further stress. At the Carlton Club in St James’ Street, the Prime Minister was enjoying a few pre-theatre drinks with friends when George Smythe, the Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs, asked for his advice. A curious note had come from Hanover and had made it's way to Smythe's desk. A Professor by the name of Wilhelm Albrecht had read newspaper accounts of the time the King and Queen had spent in France, the Netherlands and Germany and far from being overcome with admiration for the royal couple, he was deeply offended – how had King George V come so close to Hanover and yet not paid even a brief courtesy visit to his subjects there? The letter was clearly written in high dudgeon and controversially for the time, seemed to offer a personal criticism of the King.

    “There can be no greater disappointment to the people who cherish the bonds which exist between the two Kingdoms than to be so wilfully ignored by those who receive that affection so freely. A great many of us here in Hanover are left disheartened by the lack of reciprocity of our sentiments and we do feel deeply aggrieved that the warmth and fondness so widely held for Their Majesties should be so readily ignored and not considered worthy of acknowledgement. This letter is written with my profound regret that this situation was allowed to transpire and I can only hope most sincerely that such an oversight shall not become habitual as it was in the last two reigns”.


    Wilhelm Albrecht

    Professor Albrecht was a constitutional lawyer at the University of Göttingen, that noble seat of learning founded by King George II in 1734 to promote the ideals of the Enlightenment. King George III sent his own sons Adolphus, Ernest Augustus and Augustus Frederick to Göttingen to study and the university also boasted Prince von Metternich and the philosopher Schopenhauer among the ranks of its illustrious alumni. It should be noted that Professor Albrecht was no radical. He held no sympathy with republican views and he had welcomed the 1833 constitution in Hanover (which remodelled the old aristocratic government in a more liberal direction) only because he saw it as the best way to maintain the personal union that existed between the Crowns of Britain and Hanover. He later insisted that he had never intended for the King to see the letter, much less to offend him personally. But when George Smythe gave Albrecht’s letter to the Prime Minister, Sir James Graham saw the perfect way to cool the King’s appetite for foreign affairs.

    “Add this to His Majesty’s box for this evening”, he said with a wry smile, “On the top mind you, the very top. And His Majesty might like to see the first briefing from the Russian talks too, I had thought to wait a little longer but now I see that would be most incorrect”.

    By "the Russian talks", the Prime Minister was referring to the latest developments in the negotiations for Princess Charlotte Louise's marriage to the Russian Tsarevich. Progress had been made whilst the King was away with the non-political nature of the union successfully stressed in the opening rounds. The Tsar hadn't expected the British to approach the talks in any other way but that didn't mean he would overlook the usual requirements, formalities and niceties which must be observed when two royal houses arranged a wedding. First on the Tsar's list of priorities was the dowry of Princess Charlotte Louise. He knew that the Princess had a modest fortune of her own, though it was nowhere near as impressive as that enjoyed by her brother King George. In 1839, she was granted £23,000 as an annuity from the Civil List and was also given a lump-sum of £20,000 with which to establish her own household at Marlborough House. The King had specifically arranged for this and had made cuts to other family allowances to provide it; but he, like his ministers, were well aware that the £23,000 per annum salary would be revisited the moment the Princess was engaged to be married. The King had also been working on the assumption that his sister would wish to keep Marlborough House as a permanent home in London but even if she did not, the £20,000 paid by parliament to establish the property as her official residence was hardly chump change and must be reflected in any dowry paid on the occasion of her marriage.

    The Tsar was working on a very different set of assumptions. He believed that his future daughter-in-law would retain her £23,000 a year and that she was in line for a dowry which could reasonably be expected to range from £50,000 - £60,000 based on calculations drawn from previous royal marriages. He knew that parliament would have to vote on the matter and to sweeten the pot, he very generously offered to compensate the British Treasury for the renovations made at Marlborough House to prepare it for Princess Charlotte Louise to use as her official residence. He acknowledged that she had only lived there for 16 months and as he did not feel it at all appropriate that she should keep an official home in London, he was prepared to pay any outstanding costs on his future daughter-in-law's behalf. But the Tsar was content for the Princess to maintain a private country residence in England she could return to occasionally and to that end, he wished to make a formal offer on the lease of Claremont House on her behalf. Claremont had been purchased in 1816 by the British Nation via an act of parliament as a wedding present to Princess Charlotte and the then Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg. Leopold lived at Claremont before he became King of the Belgians in 1831 but he still retained Claremont's 120 year lease - of which there were still 96 years remaining. The Tsar offered to buy the lease from King Leopold at the price of a 100 year lease to compensate him further, and King Leopold was eager to accept. He didn't visit Claremont anymore and besides, he was not as financially well off as his British or Russian counterparts. [1]


    Claremont House photographed in 1860.

    The next matter outstanding was perhaps more important than the Princess' dowry or property portfolio; where would the marriage actually take place? Princess Charlotte Louise believed that she would follow the precedent set by her cousin Princess Victoria when she married Prince William of the Netherlands and that she would have two wedding ceremonies; the first being held according to the Anglican Rite in England (preferably at St George's Chapel, Windsor) and the second held according to the Orthodox Rite after her reception into the church in St Petersburg. The Tsar quickly disavowed her of that notion. The Tsarevich and his bride would be married at the Grand Church of the Winter Palace in St Petersburg, indeed, the Empress had already begun making preparations for the ceremony and would soon dispatch the necessary invitations to King George V and Queen Louise. Russian custom dictated that they would be required to host a banquet at their Embassy for the Russian Imperial Family as a gesture of thanks for the extravagant wedding ceremonies staged for Princess Charlotte Louise by the Tsar and his wife. This banquet would not come cheap; the British Royal Family would be expected to offer something equally lavish but at the same time, it should not overshadow the hospitality provided by the Russian Imperial couple. [2]

    As for an Anglican marriage service prior to the Orthodox ceremony, this was quite out of the question. As an Orthodox Christian, the Tsarevich could not take part in such a ceremony without committing a sin. Orthodox Christians were welcome to attend church services in another denomination but they must not take an active part or else they were considered to have violated church teaching. In this, the Tsar was acting on the advice of Metropolitan Serafim Glagolevsky of the Most Holy Synod who insisted that it would not only be sinful for the Tsarevich to be married in a ceremony held according to the rites of another church but that it did not inspire confidence that the Princess was truly committed to embracing her new faith if she still felt an affinity with the Anglican Communion. How could she be married in the Church of England one day and then withdraw from that Church the next when she was received into the Orthodox Church? The concept of two wedding ceremonies was ruled out by Tsar Nicholas, though he did concede that Metropolitan Serafim had indicated there was no barrier to some kind of ceremony which offered a blessing in both denominations which could be held at the Imperial Russian Embassy in London prior to the Princess' departure for St Petersburg. [3]

    Amidst these demands were smaller, some may say far more petty, requirements. The Tsar explicitly rejected any suggestion that his daughter-in-law might take on the style of Her Imperial and Royal Highness, even though that would have been the appropriate form of address for Charlotte Louise once she was married. When in England, she was to be gazetted only by her Russian titles and by her new Orthodox name which the Tsar had been reluctant to approve but had now accepted. In her meetings with her catechist in London, Archpriest Belov explained the importance of Charlotte Louise selecting a name which honoured both her new religion and the dynasty she would marry into. She chose the name Maria Georgievna; Maria in honour of the Virgin Mary (but also for the Tsar's late mother) and Georgievna in honour of her late father, brother and the many other Georges in her family tree. Tsar Nicholas was delighted that Charlotte Louise had chosen Maria as it was a religiously sound choice but also he was touched for the reason given, that it paid tribute to his mother who had taken the name Maria too when she converted to Orthodoxy and married the Tsar's father (Paul I) in 1776. But he disliked the patronymic of Georgievna and advised that the Princess might instead prefer to take Feodorovna. He was wary that she seemed to wish to stress her English connections and suggested that some in his court might be a little suspicious of this. The Tsarevich intervened. His fiancée wished to avoid Feodorovna as she was so determined to take the name Maria whilst "still allowing the name of my beloved grandmother of happy memory to stand alone in the hearts of the Russian people". It wasn't quite true but it worked.


    Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia, née Duchess Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg

    It was the Tsar's final requirement which was certain to set King George's teeth on edge. Nicholas asked for assurances that when Charlotte Louise returned to England for holidays or family gatherings, she would take precedence over the other ladies of the Royal Family - coming second only to the Queen. Nicholas must have known this would never be accepted and it is possible that he included this requirement so as to get his way with other demands when he conceded the matter of precedence in England was not his to ordain. Nonetheless, all these claims were put into the first round of talks and submitted to the King in his nightly box from the Cabinet Office for his consideration. So it was that after a meeting with Lord Derby, feeling content that he was doing so much good in offering his advice on the Oriental Crisis, the King sat at his desk in his study and opened the leather bound case which contained his daily collection of state papers. [4] His cheerful disposition was about to crash around his ears. First he read the letter from Professor Albrecht in Hanover, so meanly placed before anything else on the Prime Ministers' orders. Putting the letter on his desk, he looked to the next page assuming there would be some kind of government memorandum to advise him on how to deal with the letter. Instead he found the papers from the Russian negotiations - and the Tsar's demands.

    It would be fair to say that nobody on duty in the vicinity of the King's Study that evening could fail to have heard the King's views on these developments. Amid shouts for his Private Secretary, Charlie Phipps entered the King's Study to find George V had cleared his entire desk with a violent sweep of his arms and now papers, picture frames, statuettes, a clock, an ashtray and other ephemera were scattered all over the room. The King was raging with temper and Phipps immediately ran to collect the Queen and 'Honest Billy' Smith to help him calm the King down. After much pleading, George was placated just enough to go with the Queen to her rooms whilst Phipps and Smith cleared up the mess.

    "His Majesty's temper is becoming a problem Smith", Phipps complained, "I find myself holding back on things I should tell him for fear that he will react badly. But this...this is beyond anything I have seen of him before"

    "He feels too much", Smith nodded, "But if anybody can get through to him then it's the Queen".

    Smith was right. In many ways, Queen Louise had to be wife, companion, confidant and lover to her husband; but she also had to adopt the role of a mother. Only she could calm him and in a letter sent to her predecessor as Mistress of the Robes, the Duchess of Buccleuch wrote to Harriet Sutherland; "There are times when His Majesty is most distressed by family difficulties and though he controls his temper admirably most of the time, there are occasions when he blows up so dramatically that he is prone to tears and then the Queen must sit with him and hold him like a little boy until he is calm again". The King would later grow out of this habit, his temper seemingly diminished by the time his children reached adulthood. Certainly they are in agreement in their recollections that George V never displayed a foul temper in their presence, quite the opposite in fact. He was nothing but patient and calm with them, even when they pushed him to the limits of that patience when they were older. But at this time, the 20 year old King was still adjusting to his role and when the mood struck him, he could behave like a sulky teenager overcome with anguish or rage one moment and then play the mature young man focused on his duties the next. No doubt this was a hangover from his topsy-turvy childhood and whilst it dissipated in later years, in 1840 this dynamic was still very much in evidence.

    The Queen cheered her husband by proposing they leave London for a little while. Neither had any engagements scheduled for a month as they had asked for time to recover from their travels; why not pay an impromptu visit to their new home at Broadwindsor? Hanover House had been completed during their absence, the small army of craftsmen engaged to make it comfortable finished six weeks early. Queen Louise was certain a visit to Hanover House was just what the King needed and as ever, she convinced him that what she proposed was good for him. The King agreed but like a petulant and moody child offered some kind of reward after a tantrum, he said he would only go if the Queen "made a jolly party of it". Queen Louise knew this meant she must include Frau Wiedl, now all but separated from Prince Alexander of Prussia but still very much liked by the King and Queen. She also invited Lord Melbury and his then love interest Miss Sarah Adderley, Colonel and Lady John Fane and the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch.

    Hanover House took almost two years to build and was a fine example of the neoclassical architecture Decimus Burton and his royal patron so admired. The intention with Hanover House was that it should serve as a holiday retreat on the 15,000-acre estate at Broadwindsor acquired by the King for £25,000 in 1838, and according to that brief the house was to be modest yet comfortable. But Hanover House quickly established itself not only as a holiday home but as a place the King ran too when he was displeased. “Nothing can soothe the spirit as the little house does”, he later said. That is not to say that he only ever used Hanover House as a place to seethe or sulk, it became his most favourite residence and during his reign he would all but ignore Windsor as a country retreat using it only for the odd weekend house party in the summer months when he was not abroad in Germany visiting the Princess Royal or his extended relations at Rumpenheim. The “little house” was a place where the King and Queen had hoped they could be themselves, totally private and free from any of the formality expected at Buckingham Palace, or later at Lisson Park. Yet “little” the house was not.

    Burton had originally designed a small manor house much like a parsonage, taking the King and Queen at their word when they said they wished to enjoy a private residence without too much grandeur. But by 1839, Hanover House had grown and developed to see two large wings added so that the completed property was now comprised of 17 rooms on the ground floor, 12 on the upper and 14 on the so-called Nursery Floor – though these rooms were far smaller and were to accommodate the servants employed at Hanover House from neighbouring Beaminster. The finest craftsmen were engaged to provide the archways and pillars that supported the “spine” of the house, a long gallery accessible from the lower floor by two grand staircases which were dominated in the centre by an imposing statue of King George II sculpted by Sir Richard Westmacott who also provided the impressive marble balustrades which allowed visitors to peer down from the gallery into the vast entrance hall below.


    Hanover House.

    The Queen invited Morel & Seddon, the favoured furniture suppliers of the late Prince Regent, to assemble a team of interior decorators to furnish Hanover House with heavy silk draperies, damask wallpapers, gilt carvings and furniture, some of which had been taken from the vast collection that had once been stored at Carlton House and other pieces which had been saved from the fire at Kensington Palace. The result was a lavish but elegant home, far more intimate and comfortable than Buckingham Palace but no less magnificent in its décor. Stuffed full of antiques and treasures taken from the Royal Collection, the high ceilings and tall windows flooded the rooms with light and each “suite” was themed to suit the Queen's tastes. There was the Chinese Drawing Room with hand-painted wallpaper depicting scenes of Chinese village life, a Japanned cabinet made by Chippendale proudly displaying jars, vases and other porcelains collected when Chinoiseries was all the rage in the previous century and which Queen Charlotte had so admired. The Crimson Suite, comprised of a bedroom, dressing room, small sitting room and personal bathroom took its name from the rich red curtains, carpets and upholstery within, it’s cousin in the east wing identically kitted out but in a yellow that everybody agreed was really closer to gold in hue. The George IV Room was the closest thing to a state dining room and was naturally dominated by a vast portrait of the King’s father proudly bearing down on guests from its home above the fireplace with it’s marble surround intricately carved with columns and cascading foliage.

    The “little house at Broadwindsor” caused quite a stir among those fortunate enough to be extended an invitation to visit. When Lord Melbury first saw the property he noted in his journal that it “was indeed a little house when compared to Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle but in every way the rooms are highly decorated to an excessive degree and one cannot help but feel awed by the grandiosity of the design”. He was not alone in his assessment. Lady Ellen Fane thought Hanover House “a charming and elegant place, quite well-suited to Their Majesties tastes and interests”. Others were less impressed. The Duke of Buccleuch remarked that Hanover House was “a King’s interpretation of a parson’s manor – if the parson in question was Pope Gregory”. His wife, the Duchess, loathed spending time there calling it “the little prison” because there was simply nothing to do, the surrounding estate not really proving suitable for any kind of country pursuit other than walking. The only entertainments were to be found inside the house and even then, no house party ever numbered more than a dozen guests because Hanover House simply couldn’t accommodate any more.

    But Their Majesties adored the house and details of their time there offer a unique insight into their relationship. They took breakfast every morning together in the Supper Room which was located just off of the Queen’s Bedroom; it was noted salaciously by the Duchess of Buccleuch that “Her Majesty does not dress until after breakfast…” and that the King “attends her in the Supper Room after she has woken without being called”. Even more intriguing to the servants at Hanover House was the Windsor Room which adjoined the Supper Room. This was Their Majesties’ shared bedroom, small and intimate and totally out of bounds to even the most trusted of servants or Royal Household employees. The euphemism “Gone to Windsor” quickly caught on at Hanover House among the staff who knew that the moment two footmen appeared in the corridor outside the Queen’s Bedroom, the entire upper west wing of the property was barred to them.


    The Floorplan of Hanover House, the Lower and Upper Floors (Nursery Floor not shown). [6]

    After breakfast, the King and Queen took full advantage of the lower floor and all it had to offer. The King spent much of his time moving between his Sitting Room, the Smoking Room and his Study accessible via the Library which now housed the family archives brought from the Round Tower at Windsor. The Queen had her own Sitting Room, Music Room and the curiously named Silk Closet where she took her afternoon nap – often accompanied by her husband. She also favoured the Hanover Room which led out to the terrace overlooking the sprawling gardens, the Strelitz Room next door used to host guests for afternoon tea or a light supper when the George IV Room was not considered suitable. But on the floor above too, the King and Queen had more than enough space to relax, each with their own “Suite” comprised of a second Sitting Room, Bedroom and Salon. Guests fortunate enough to be issued an overnight invitation could be accommodated in the Yellow Suite or the comfortable bedrooms across the Gallery corridor in the Dutch Room or the Kensington Room.

    Of particular interest to those intrigued by the King's relationship with Frau Wiedl is the Crimson Suite, the rooms in the west wing located next to the King's Bedroom. In 1844, an interconnecting "false" door was added to give the King easy access to the Crimson Suite, something he specifically said he did not want installed when the house was built because he wanted his rooms in Hanover House to be totally private and inaccessible to anybody without his prior permission. Fraud Wiedl never slept anywhere else in the property but the Crimson Suite and from around 1845 onwards, she was encouraged to bring some of her own possessions and furnishings to make the rooms feel more like her home away from home. She even stayed at Hanover House alone on occasion until by the 1860s, she was in permanent residence there. On the King’s instructions, his servants became hers for the duration and she would ultimately became the sole resident of the property after George V’s death, spending her last years at Hanover House until she died there in 1901.

    After a few days at Hanover House, the King's mood was dramatically improved. Both the Queen and Frau Wiedl accompanied him on walks around the estate where they listened to his plans to install an Orangerie. He wondered if part of the estate might even be suitable for racing, a sport he enjoyed but had never really taken as big as an interest in as his father or uncles had. He talked too of how he might repair the damage done in Hanover. He understood that Professor Albrecht had been temporarily dismissed from the University of Göttingen which he now felt was quite unfair. After all, the chap had raised a reasonable objection and it had been short-sighted not to think to pay a visit to Hanover. Not that the King would take the blame of course. It had all been Aunt Augusta's fault. Had she minded her own business and allowed the King and Queen to visit Neustrelitz instead of Rumpenheim, Albrecht might never have written his "beastly letter". The King would write to the Duke of Cambridge and instruct him to see that Albrecht was reinstated with the King's compliments. [5] Perhaps it might be possible for Their Majesties to spend a week in Hanover next summer, the King mused. He was sure something could be arranged, perhaps even a parade or garden party so that his subjects there had a better opportunity to see him.

    But he was less conciliatory when it came to his sister's marriage negotiations. He bitterly complained about the Tsar's demands calling him "a vicious old booby" and on two occasions he left his guests feeling somewhat awkward when he lectured them on "the savagery of the Russians". This was all for show of course but the Queen's patience was wearing thin. Like it or lump it, the King must finally accept that Princess Charlotte Louise was to be married and would leave England. If he wanted their relationship to remain as close as it could be (and always had been), the Queen insisted he must do his best to respect her wishes, whatever they may be.

    To that end, Princess Charlotte Louise was invited to come to Hanover House with her aunt Mary to discuss the path forward. After days of pushing, Queen Louise managed to get the King to make her a promise; if Princess Charlotte Louise wanted to follow the Tsar's instructions on how and where she would be married, the King must give his blessing for her sake. But Queen Louise could only go so far in resolving any animosity that existed within her own family. She could not, for example, ease the worries of government ministers who were equally put out by some of the Tsar's demands. Neither could she do anything to prevent the debate in parliament on Princess Charlotte Louise's dowry (or the Tsar's purchase of the lease of Claremont House in Surrey) from turning into a Russophobic free-for-all as the Leader of the House of Commons, William Gladstone, feared it might become.

    However reluctant he may have been in recent months to confront uncomfortable family matters head on, the King was about to find that as head of that family, he could no longer stick his head in the sand. The "new royalism" had successfully put a sticking plaster on the past. The British people had allowed tales of scandalous princes with their loose living mistresses, bitter duchesses with their vicious rivalries and lavish spending and royal greed slip away into the past only because they had not been reminded it of it. They had come to regard the Royal Family of recent years as something far more worthy of respect and deference. George and Louise had even been called role models for a new age. But this could only be maintained if the monarchy was kept free from scandal or public outrage.

    George had built the foundations of his early reign well thus far. He was soon to find out how much stress those foundations could bear and how ignorance was not always bliss.

    [1] In the OTL, King Leopold retained Claremont until 1851, visiting frequently because of his close relationship to the Queen and Prince Consort. That doesn't exist here of course and given the state of his finances, I think it reasonable to assume he'd jump at the chance of a cash injection for a property that at this stage is costing him more to upkeep than is actually worthwhile. That said, the Tsar is being very presumptuous (though no doubt well-intentioned).

    [2] This was the case in 1866 when Princess Dagmar of Denmark married the future Alexander III in the OTL. King Christian IX and Queen Louise could not afford to put on such extravagant festivities and so had to stay away from their daughter's marriage ceremonies entirely.

    [3] In the OTL, two wedding ceremonies (one Anglican and one Orthodox) took place when Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh married Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia in 1874. But this was only agreed to on the basis that the Orthodox wedding came first and perhaps made more sense given that the Grand Duchess was to live in England thereafter and raise her children in the Anglican tradition and not the Orthodox. The Church's advice was politely rebuffed by Tsar Alexander II and he did not forbid his daughter to take part in an Anglican wedding service when she arrived in England but here the situation is reversed and Tsar Nicholas was a much more devout man than his son, so I believe he'd hold firm to what the Holy Synod says and not what his future daughter-in-law would prefer.

    [4] I've avoided the term 'red box' here as I believe it wasn't until much later that the box actually became red. I've seen various takes (Gladstone preferred red, Prince Albert demanded red...who knows?) but in the lack of a definitive I'll keep the colour vague for now!

    [5] Albrecht here is the famous Albrecht of Göttingen Seven fame and he will reappear in the future. In 1837 when Ernest Augustus became King of Hanover, he tried to undo the 1833 constitution and earned a sharp rebuke from the lawyers who had helped make the Hanoverian Constitution more liberal. The situation is different here but the Seven will make an appearance in a reduced way.

    [6] I'm afraid I'm no architect so this is the best I can manage for a floorplan sadly! It's difficult to illustrate a brand new building that doesn't actually exist but I hope it's just enough to give a rough idea of which rooms are where for future reference in chapters set at Hanover House. I will try and offer a better diagram in the future when things are not so topsy-turvy!

    I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for your very kind messages in recent days. They've all been very much appreciated at a very difficult time and I hope you'll all take this extended chapter as my thanks. I'll admit it's been tricky to get back into the swing of things and so apologies if this instalment feels in any way a place holder but I needed to take some time away and then found it a bit of a challenge to pick up from where I had left off. Once again, many thanks for reading!
    GV: Part Two, Chapter 26: The Rising Star
  • King George V

    Part Two, Chapter Twenty-Six: The Rising Star

    As a grandson of King George III, the only son of the Viceroy of Hanover and as a first cousin to King George V, Prince George of Cambridge was born into a world of privilege with an impressive career of military service and royal duties laid out before him. He spent much of his childhood in Hanover at Herrenhausen with his parents and his teenage years with his two younger sisters Augusta and Mary Adelaide at Cambridge House in London. At the age of just 16-years-old, George was gazetted a colonel in the Hanoverian Army by his uncle, the late Duke of Clarence, and since that time the Prince had followed in his father’s footsteps embarking on a military career that had most recently seen him attached to the staff at Gibraltar. But behind closed doors, George was turning into anything but an officer and a gentleman. He had quickly developed a taste for vice and with his parents’ home in Piccadilly serving as a very grand bachelor pad when they returned to Hanover. The Prince was fast gaining a reputation as a prolific gambler and womaniser. When this spilled over into rumours that he had just made Lady Augusta Somerset, daughter of the Duke of Beaufort, pregnant, he was sent to Ireland and as we have seen, the King made every possible effort to try and help George wipe the slate clean. But the Prince did not exactly embrace his opportunity for a fresh start.

    The 21-year-old Prince might have been suitably chastised by his cousin into moderating his behaviour but George showed no real appetite for contrition. Instead, he caused a stir at the Richmond Barracks upon his arrival at Inchicore, Dublin in July 1840, complaining that his rooms were “damp, horribly tiny and still crammed with the previous occupant’s possessions”. The previous occupant was in fact Henry John Cumming [1], the Colonel of the 12th Royal Lancers who had voluntarily vacated his rooms so that the Prince might be more comfortable. George refused to stay in the barracks until the situation was resolved and took himself off to the Shelbourne Hotel on St Stephen’s Green where he took a suite of rooms which on his very first night in Ireland turned into a makeshift casino. Trying to impress his fellow officers (though not Colonel Cumming), George hosted nine of his comrades in his sitting room where they drank whisky and played cards for stakes the Prince absolutely could not afford.


    Richmond Barracks.

    The following day, Colonel Cumming personally went to the Shelbourne to see Prince George. He demanded the Prince return to the Richmond Barracks and hastily paid the hotel bill from regimental funds, disciplining those who had joined the Prince for his little party but not metering out any real punishment to the Prince himself. Within a few weeks, George had settled down at the Barracks but if Colonel Cumming thought George had corrected his behaviour he was about to get a very nasty shock. During his early days in Dublin, Prince George made a close friend in Lawrence King-Harman, the 24-year-old younger son of the Viscount Lorton. Whilst his elder brother Robert stood to inherit the Viscountcy and his father’s estate at Rockingham, at the age of 22 Lawrence inherited Newcastle, the largest landed estate in County Longford, at Ballymahon, from his maternal grandmother. This made Lawrence a very wealthy young man and with his wife of three years, Mary, he soon became one of the most prominent figures in Dublin high society, preferring to stay in Ireland rather than migrate to England as others of his background and class were prone to do.

    It was therefore natural that the King-Harmans would seek out and befriend Prince George of Cambridge during his time in Ireland and he was only too pleased to make their acquaintance and take advantage of their generosity. King George V had engaged a private detective to follow his cousin’s movements in Ireland to be certain that he was behaving himself and when the early reports came back, they were not only mostly favourable but always included mention of the King-Harmans who were described as “a most suitable couple of very good background and both widely respected and admired here in Dublin”. When he was not on duty at Richmond, Prince George was said to spend “almost all of his time with the King-Harmans, often attending the theatre together and then dining at Mr Harman’s townhouse or at the Castle Hotel on Great Denmark Street”. After a few months the King believed all was well and so the detective was recalled to London. But this was not entirely the case. Whilst outwardly the young Prince was corrected in his behaviour, behind closed doors and out of sight of the private detective, Prince George had begun an intimate liaison that threatened to unleash an almighty scandal on the British Royal Family back home in England.

    Prince George first met the 28-year-old Margaret Douglas just two weeks after his arrival in Dublin when she was presented to him following an evening performance she gave at the Adelphi Theatre. Pretty soon, Margaret found herself included in the King-Harmans' house parties and she even managed to bag herself an invitation to Abbeville House as a guest of the Cooper family. When the Prince had a few days to himself, he spent them at the Harmans’ townhouse – but the Harmans were not always there. Mr Harman had allowed Prince George to use his Dublin home to entertain his new lover whenever the mood took him. Margaret always arrived the evening before if the Harmans were present and would not leave until well after the Prince had gone. To anybody looking on, all they could report was that the Prince was often in the company of an actress (the King’s detective did not) but had they done so, this was hardly a criminal offence. At the very least, Prince George seemed to be conducting this affair discretely. [2]

    This might have remained the case had Margaret Douglas (“a rising star of the Irish stage”) not given a rather brilliant matinee which earned her a glowing review in the News Letter, a paper published in Belfast but circulated island wide. The Tory unionist run daily loved nothing more than to report on British royalty and for some time they had taken great pleasure in telling their readers that Prince George of Cambridge was now resident in Dublin; naturally in their review of Miss Douglas’ performance at the Adelphi in Pearse Street they commented that “among her most ardent admirers in the audience was the dashing Prince George of Cambridge who led a standing ovation at the conclusion of a very fine performance”. A small sketch of Miss Douglas accompanied the review captioned; “The Rising Star”.

    The News Letter was widely read and it must have come as quite a shock to Captain William Marsden of Rochestown, Cork, when he sat down to breakfast with the daily paper only to see an undeniable likeness of his wife, Ada, looking back at him. He later said; “I knew it to be more than a woman who bore a remarkable likeness to my wife because I saw that she had adopted the name Margaret Douglas, which was the name of her deceased mother”. Captain Marsden had not seen his wife for two years after she had announced her intention to abandon him leaving their comfortable manor house in Rochestown and disappearing without trace. In order to avoid scandal, Marsden told his friends and neighbours that his wife was unwell and had gone to a sanatorium on the coast; yet here she was being toasted as one of the finest theatrical talents in all Ireland. Captain Marsden immediately left his two children in the care of a maid, packed a small trunk and headed off for the Adelphi Theatre in Dublin.

    Back in England, King George V was in a much happier mood than he had been in recent weeks. Slowly emerging from his sulk, there was much to be positive about. In later life, the King was quoted as saying of his personal approach to his role as sovereign; “I do not act, I react”. In the aftermath of his knuckle-rapping from Professor Albrecht in Hanover, he had done just that. The monarch’s personal relationship with his subjects in Hanover had been “cordial but distant” for many years now and the King admitted that he should have expected some to look for signs of a change in attitude. His ancestor King George I, had spent much of his time in Hanover, indeed one fifth of his reign was spent in his Electorate with months-long visits paid in 1716, 1719, 1720, 1723 and 1725. The British people were not keen on this arrangement, already suspicious of a King who spoke no English and who’s coronation had seen widespread riots against “Old German George”. The historian Thackeray suggests that, had the King not “spared us from the poison of Popery, he might well have been rejected by his people or forced to relinquish his primary inheritance”. [3]


    King George I.

    Whilst George II shared his father's approach to Hanover (making twelve trips between 1727 and 1760), George III took great pains to avoid similar criticisms. He saw Hanover as “that horrid Electorate that has always lived upon the very vitals of our poor country” and he tried to project an image of a fine old English gentleman who just so happened to have inherited German land which he would never visit but which he retained for sentiment’s sake [4]. The closest link to Hanover in England was a suite of rooms set aside in St James’ Palace named the “German Chancery” which dealt with all matters relating to Hanover. George IV was only too happy to allow this state of affairs to continue. Like his father, he never visited Hanover during his reign and so by 1840, almost eight decades of muted relations with the British Royal Family’s German possessions had set the standard for how Hanover should be viewed from the United Kingdom. It was a personal possession of the Crown, a kind of overstuffed country estate which the British monarch just happened to call his own. On occasion, the Head of the German Chancery (Count von Ompteda) called on the King to present memoranda from the Privy Council of Hanover but mostly, the Chancery had no great role to play and was only familiar to those in England who assiduously studied the Court Circular.

    George V wished to make amends. For weeks, the King spent time poring over family documents in his new library at Hanover House and making drafts of a plan he felt confident would boost the presence of the Crown in Hanover. Drawing inspiration from the annual festivities that surrounded Garter Day in June, the King had in mind a similar celebration that might be held in Hanover each year before he made his return journey to England after the king and Queen had visited the Princess Royal and other family relations in Germany. ‘Hanover Week’ was to see Their Majesties take up residence at Herrenhausen for just seven days with a welcome parade hosted by the Viceroy, an address made to the Assembly, a luncheon held in honour of the Privy Council, a garden party and a State Ball but the highlight was to be a parade and thanksgiving service focused on the Royal Guelphic Order founded by the late Prince Regent before his death in 1815.

    It was an ambitious programme and essentially amounted to the King and Queen taking their calendar for 52 weeks of the year in England and applying that to just seven days in Hanover. George felt he had achieved a great deal, an early example of how well he could ‘react’ to a problem. He took great pains to plan each and every detail of Hanover Week which were presented to a curious Count von Ompteda, Head of the German Chancery, who noted in his diary; “His Majesty was most enthused about these proposals which were heavily illustrated with sketches in his own hand. The Queen sat with us for a time and she often remarked how clever the King was saying ‘Isn’t that a good idea?’ and ‘Oh Georgie! How clever you are for thinking of that!’. I was very intrigued to see Their Majesties at work in this way for clearly the King had spent many days explaining his ideas to his wife who was equally as eager to see them made a reality”.

    The King wished to put these proposals before the Prime Minister as soon as possible but by the time their weekly audience came in London, there were far more important matters to discuss. Sir James Graham had the latest developments in the Oriental Crisis. The Great Powers had issued a ‘Convention on the Pacification of the Levant’ which gave Ibrahim Ali exactly thirty days to surrender to the advancing European fleets which would strike at Beirut and Acre if he did not [5]. Graham was confidant Ali would concede, without the French or Spanish as guarantor he faced annihilation should he attempt to press on to take Constantinople. There were even rumours coming in from the region that the defected Ottoman Fleet which Ali so desperately needed was on the verge of mutiny and were to humbly beg forgiveness from the Sultan in who’s name they were once again willing to fight. The Prime Minister predicted “great success without a single shot fired” and this would pave the way for a conference in London for the victors to carve up the spoils between them. The King beamed. He felt proud that he could claim a small part in this optimistic turn of events. But now Sir James looked a little nervous.

    “On another matter Your Majesty, I fear I must prepare you for some unpleasantness in the coming days”

    George raised an eyebrow and lit a cigarette; “Unpleasantness? To what order?”

    Sir James decided he could prevaricate no longer.

    “Sir, I have tried to keep this from your door for some time now but it really cannot be avoided any longer. In a few days’ time, parliament shall open the debate on the matter of the financial arrangements for the marriage contract of Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte Louise”

    “Ah”, the King muttered sarcastically, “My favourite subject”.

    “The fact is Sir”, the Prime Minister began, “I fear that the Tsar has been too greedy in his demands and I must warn Your Majesty most regretfully that many of my colleagues, in agreement with those on the opposition benches, do not feel they can approve the figures for the dowry or annuity presented to us in the amendment to the Civil List as agreed last week”.

    The King nodded; “Well I can agree with you there Sir James, the Tsar is being most unreasonable in my view, £60,000 indeed! But I have already prepared my sister for the fact that parliament will not approve that amount, that is why I gave my word to Disraeli last week that I thought Gladstone’s proposal of £30,000 was more than generous”.

    The Prime Minister sipped at his sherry.

    “The Tsar has not made his position any more welcome with his offer to purchase the lease of Claremont House”

    “Outrageous!”, the King agreed, “I wrote to Sasha on that point. And I told my sister that she must not be bullied into supporting such a thing. I suppose you know I have been black balled?”

    The Prime Minister looked puzzled; “Black balled Your Majesty?”

    “In my own house, what?”, George said half-seriously, “They all ganged up on me. The Queen, my sister, even Aunt Mary. I’m now to attend a blessing ceremony at the Imperial Russian Embassy and if that were not enough, I’ve to host a reception here at Buckingham Palace and then throw a party for that old bore Nicholas and his stick of a wife at our Embassy in St Petersburg”

    "Yes...I had heard”, Graham said kindly, “I sympathise Your Majesty. But even so, I cannot promise that my colleagues in the House of Commons will not protest the matter of the dowry. In other words Sir, I am preparing you for the fact that parliament may show its displeasure at the sum presented to them…by…”

    “Out with it man”, the King encouraged the Prime Minister, “By what?”

    “By rejecting the amendment to the Civil List, Your Majesty”

    To Graham’s surprise, the King simply nodded.

    “I am pleased you told me that”, he replied, “I had expected it as a possibility. Well Sir James, you have my gratitude in this matter. As ever, I shall take your advice if the situation follows your prediction”

    Feeling the mood was unusually more relaxed, the Prime Minister felt it possible to bring up another delicate matter. But just as he opened his mouth to change the subject, a clock chimed and the King stood up, Graham jumping to his feet and bowing as George thanked the Prime Minister for his time. Graham left the room and shook his head. He supposed the “other matter” could wait for a week or two more, after all, it was only gossip at this stage and he doubted there was any real danger in it. How wrong he was.

    As July turned to August, the Royal Family prepared themselves to lose one of their most beloved members. Princess Augusta Sophia, the King’s aunt and sister to Princess Mary, was now so gravely ill that a bulletin was issued informing the public that her condition was “most serious” and that her physicians were “regretfully in agreement that Her Royal Highness is reaching the end of her life” [6]. The older members of the Royal Family were devastated by this turn of events, though it was naturally expected. Princess Augusta had been unwell for the last year and on two occasions a doctor had been urgently called when she had taken turns for the worst. Now the inevitable seemed a matter of days away, weeks at the most. A heartbroken Princess Victoria was informed and sent word from Het Loo that she would make her way to England without delay to bid farewell to her aunt but sadly, she would be arriving without her husband William. The situation with his grandfather was no better, the old man still threatening to abdicate. She hoped to remain in England until Princess Charlotte Louise’s wedding festivities began which she assumed would not be interrupted by court mourning for Princess Augusta when the inevitable happened. It was best for little Linna to remain in Holland, she added.


    Princess Augusta.

    It was a terrible backdrop to the debate in parliament over Princess Charlotte Louise’s dowry and the press did not shy away from printing the strongest criticisms offered in the House. Russophobia was still rampant and though MPs shied away from casting any blame or censure in the direction of the King’s sister, the Tsar was not best pleased to receive reports that parliament would concede only £35,000 as a dowry with an annuity of just £8,000 a year. They totally rejected any offer made to purchase the lease of Claremont too. Even William Gladstone stood with those offended by these overtures stating that “King Leopold leased the property from the British nation, there is no question of the lease itself being sold without the consent of the owners of the Claremont estate which in this case are represented solely by the elected members of this House”. When Princess Charlotte Louise complained to her brother that MPs were being unreasonable and that the wider press were printing the most bitter and negative stories about her future husband and his family, the King replied, “And didn’t I try to warn you?”. It wasn’t much comfort.

    For the most part, the wider British public were totally unenthusiastic about Princess Charlotte Louise’s upcoming marriage. Whilst they were admittedly intrigued by the handsome young Tsarevich, this could never counterbalance the huge public affection there had always been for the young Princess. The British people had watched her grow up without a father, they had admired the Royal Family for how they had raised her to become a beautiful and generous young lady; they were not too pleased at the idea that she was about to leave them behind for a country which many still felt was untrustworthy, even dangerous. A few press stalwarts were loyal, speaking of the Tsarevich as an accomplished and intelligent man who would prove a loving husband to “our good Princess” but there were simply too many negatives for many who objected on the grounds of the nationality of the groom and even the religious conversion of the bride. If Princess Charlotte Louise expected crowds of eager spectators to gather to see her off and wish her well when the time came, she would be bitterly disappointed. [7]

    But it was the matter of money that caught the public imagination most, especially when the Manchester Observer reported that the Tsar had demanded the British government sell him Claremont House to be used as a Russian holiday retreat in England and furthermore, that the Tsarevich was said to be deeply upset at the “mean and hard-nosed English” who refused to give his bride a suitably impressive dowry. This more radical newspaper, not exactly known for its royalist sympathies, bent the truth a little but the basic gist was enough to inflame public anger. The Tsar and his wife would expect the British King and Queen to go to Russia for the wedding and to pay for the entire ceremony, the Observer claimed, the Tsar had insisted that the King pick up the shortfall in the difference between what he wanted for Charlotte Louise’s dowry and what parliament were actually willing to give. At a time when so many were still finding it hard to pull themselves out of poverty, the vastly inflated sums reported sent shockwaves throughout Britain and there was even talk of anti-monarchists preparing to protest the Tsarevich when he arrived in England in September.

    In the midst of this turn in public opinion, the Earl of Liverpool (as Lord Steward of the Household) was giving one of his regular supper parties at his townhouse in Ebury Street. One of his guests was Lord Abinger, the former Attorney General, who remained oddly quiet throughout the evening’s entertainments. Just before he left, Abinger asked if he might have a private word with Lord Liverpool in his study. The two men sat down to brandy in high-backed oxblood porter’s chairs and smoked cigars as Abinger became the first to relay a situation he thought someone in the Royal Household should be made aware of. It concerned Prince George of Cambridge.

    “Ah you have nothing to be concerned about there”, Liverpool grinned, “The King has clipped his wings for him, and I hear quite glowing reports about his progress in Dublin”

    “On the contrary Charles”, Abinger corrected, “I have heard something quite different. It appears the Prince has become involved with a young lady of some reputation”

    Liverpool nodded; “The Beaufort girl. Oh we know all about that James, all dealt with too, at great personal expense to His Majesty I might add. That’s why the Prince was sent to Dublin, you see? A few months there seems to have dampened his ardour”

    “Not quite”, said Abinger. He leaned forward and lowered his voice, “Are you aware that he’s taken up with an Irish actress? Gone AWOL too so I’m told. This woman, Douglas her name is, or rather, it isn’t her name at all, has tricked the boy. Turns out she’s a married woman with two children, abandoned her husband and now the husband has found her and intends to divorce her”


    “You heard me correctly”, Abinger said solemnly, “An old colleague of mine told me that the husband, a Captain Melrose or Marlow if I recall correctly, wishes to divorce the woman and he intends to name the Prince in the doing of it”.

    Liverpool was no longer smiling. He put down his brandy glass and leaned in.

    “You can’t be serious?”

    “I have never been more-so”, Abinger replied gravely, “From what I gather, the woman fancies herself an actress. Changed her name and took herself off to Dublin. This was a very silly thing because then she gained something of a reputation, a newspaper published her picture and the husband recognised her. Then he went to the theatre, confirmed his suspicions, and she told him he could make his way back to Cork, or words to that affect, because she was now protected by none other than His Royal Highness”

    Liverpool stood up and buttoned his coat. Shaking Abinger’s hand, he thanked him profusely, ringing the bell for his valet to summon a hackney carriage to take him to Buckingham Palace without delay.

    “My God”, he said nervously, “How on earth am I to tell the King?”

    [1] General Sir Henry John Cumming who was Colonel of the 12th Royal Lancers from 1837 until 1856.

    [2] This is very much in George Cambridge's wheelhouse. Both before and after his OTL marriage to the actress Sarah Fairbrother, he had many mistresses but most of the time he kept these liaisons discrete after his earlier brush with scandal re: Lady Augusta Somerset. Unfortunately for the George Cambridge in TTL, he's picked the wrong actress to play house with.

    [3] A quote taken from The Virginians by William Makepeace Thackeray.

    [4] I found this quote here:

    [5] Based on the OTL Convention but amended to suit our altered TL here.

    [6] I've actually held off on reporting the many occasions Princess Augusta's doctors published a bulletin to say that she was dying. These began in the OTL in September 1839 and went right through until her actual death in September 1840. By which time most people had assumed she'd already died because they had become bored of keeping track with the endless announcements that she was "near the end".

    [7] I think this is a fair reaction to include. An Anglo-Russian match was never going to be easy and through all the trials and tribulations behind Palace walls it has caused, we haven't yet seen all that much of the public reaction. Which I believe would be mostly negative, even if the people are fond of Princess Charlotte Louise.
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    GV: Part Two, Chapter 27: Births, Marriages and Death
  • King George V

    Part Two, Chapter Twenty Seven: Births, Marriages and Death

    In her later years, Empress Maria Georgievna (as Princess Charlotte Louise became) would insist that she considered herself to be married on the 23rd of October 1840 rather than on the 29th of November when she processed through the splendour of the Grand Church of the Winter Palace in St Petersburg to be married according to the Orthodox Rite before her imposing father-in-law Tsar Nicholas I. But the Empress also declared that she might never have married at all had it not been for the kindness shown to her by her sister-in-law, Queen Louise. The King had reluctantly come to accept the inevitable and in this spirit, he asked his wife to ensure that Princess Charlotte Louise had every assistance she needed in preparing for her departure from the United Kingdom. The King and Queen were to accompany her to Russia so that the King might be spared a tearful farewell at Southampton, George finally agreeing that he must bow to Russian custom and not only present himself at the wedding but that he must also show appreciation the Tsar’s welcome to the Princess by hosting a “return banquet” for the Russian Imperial Family before the King and Queen made their way back to England.

    As there was no British Embassy or Consulate in St Petersburg at this time, the Dowager Princess Baryatinskya kindly offered the King and Queen the use of her palace on the banks of the Neva. This did not please the Tsar as the hospitality shown to the Tsar and his wife by the King and Queen was not supposed to compete with the lavish celebrations hosted by the Imperial couple; the Baryatinsky Palace was not exactly modest and even the grandest Romanov Grand Duke could not deny that the Dowager Princess’ residence was far superior to their his mansion in St Petersburg. It was decided to keep the British representation in St Petersburg fairly small and though Princess Charlotte Louise begged Princess Mary to agree to accompany the King and Queen but the Princess declined; “I am much too old for St Petersburg”, she said wistfully, “And besides, I should not give that old crow [the Dowager Princess] the pleasure of putting me in some rat trap of a bedroom in her crumbling old house”.


    The Chapel Royal of St James' Palace.

    Denied the chance of a wedding in St George’s Chapel before a second ceremony in Russia, Princess Charlotte Louise had (with the assistance of Queen Louise) managed to win a truce that pleased all parties. Initially, the Tsar had agreed to a blessing ceremony to be held at the Imperial Russian Embassy in Kensington but the Tsarevich had worn him down a little to accept an alternative. On Friday the 23rd of October 1840, a special service of thanksgiving was to be held for “the marriage of Her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte Louise” at the Chapel Royal of St James’ Palace. After weeks of negotiations, Archpriest Belov had gained the agreement of the Bishop of Smolensk that he could offer a blessing at the conclusion of such a service, though he was advised that the Tsarevich should not stand for the Anglican blessing which was to come at the start of the thanksgiving service at the Chapel Royal with the Archbishop of Canterbury holding his hands “toward, but not over the heads of” the engaged couple – who remained seated. After this service, the King was to host a reception at Buckingham Palace and a week later, the King, Queen, Tsarevich and Princess Charlotte Louise were to set sail in the HMS George for St Petersburg.

    Queen Louise commissioned Mary Bettans to provide suitable attire for Princess Charlotte Louise to wear for this service, the closest thing she was to have to a wedding in England. Though the usual etiquette might demand a ‘Sunday’ look with jacket and hat, Louise convinced her husband to declare the service to be a state occasion and therefore, Charlotte Louise could wear a gown and tiara, though it was deemed inappropriate for her to wear a veil. Bettans designed a beautiful dress in silver satin trimmed with ruffles of white chiffon speckled with brilliants with a small train and instead of a veil, Charlotte Louise was to wear a plume of white ostrich feathers behind the Oak Leaf tiara gifted to her by Princess Mary. The King commissioned a diamond necklace for his sister as a wedding present, the Queen adding two diamond bracelets to the order from Garrards & Co. As for the Tsarevich, the King announced that he intended to make his future brother-in-law a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, the insignia of which he might wear to the service, but he stopped short of giving Sasha an honorary commission in the British Army which raised eyebrows in St Petersburg.

    At Buckingham Palace, the King was talking his sister through his reasons for this arrangement. It had to be stressed that the marriage was non-political, to give Sasha any kind of military honour may bring that into question from those still very much opposed to the marriage. The Bath was the best the King could do. Princess Charlotte Louise understood her brother was not being spiteful and she was not angry or offended, but she was nervous. For some time, she wondered what her brother’s reaction might be if she asked to go and see their mother at Kew. Now she was about to find out. It was not so much that she felt obligated to visit the Queen Mother, nor was it that she hoped to patch things up or build a new relationship. Rather, in an odd way the Princess felt she owed it to the memory of her late father. The King bit his tongue as his sister presented her request; if he was agreeable, she would write to the Dowager Queen at Kew and ask if she might go and see her before her departure for Russia. The King gave his consent but when Princess Charlotte Louise sent a note to Kew asking if it might be convenient for her to call upon the Queen Mother, a reply came from the housekeeper which read; “With regret, Her Majesty must decline your invitation for reasons she feels are already familiar to you”.

    On the same day as the King gave an audience to his sister, he was preparing for bed when Charlie Phipps entered his room. Lord Liverpool had arrived back at the Palace with an urgent request to speak with the King.

    “Liverpool?”, George replied curiously, “Oh damn it all Charlie, I’m worn out after today. Tell him to come back tomorrow, I’ll see him after Derby in the afternoon”.

    Phipps related this to Liverpool and was somewhat surprised when Liverpool replied, “Good God man, I wouldn’t disturb the King unless it was absolutely necessary. I must see His Majesty at once”. Phipps had no option but to help the King into his dressing gown and to show Lord Liverpool into the King’s sitting room.

    “What the devil is all this?”, George said gruffly as Liverpool stood and bowed before him, “Don’t you know what time it is?”

    Liverpool apologised and then, calmly and clearly, explained what Lord Abinger had told him just an hour or so earlier. The King was appalled. He asked how soon this was all to become public knowledge. Liverpool hoped for a few days respite during which time some sort of response could be worked out. Unfortunately, time had run out. The following morning, The Times, became the first to break the news that Captain William Marsden was to present a Private Member’s Bill seeking a divorce on the grounds that his wife was guilty of adultery with none other than His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge. For the next three days, the newspapers seized upon every sordid detail they could lay their hands on.

    They had not been able to feast on the particulars of a royal scandal for some time and even amid the so-called new royalism, the press barons found the public appetite for such things was still as great as it had ever been. People were fascinated by the Marsden story and the aggrieved Captain was portrayed as the very model of the respectable English gentleman, so cruelly cuckolded by his wife with none other than the King’s cousin. Marsden was hailed as “a most respected gentlemen in his home parish and there is much good feeling toward him there as he has struggled alone these past two years with two small children and yet has found the time in all things to be amiable and generous to those in his service”. By contrast, Prince George was “indolent and self-indulgent” and had taken up with Marsden’s “evil creature of a wife” to the shock and horror of Dublin’s high society.

    This was not necessarily accurate; Dublin’s high society had seen far worse in it’s time than an illicit love affair between a Prince and an actress. Yet in London’s high society, Prince George was already the focus of gossip thanks to his dalliance with Lady Augusta Somerset, now apparently heavily pregnant in Madrid with the Prince’s love child. They automatically believed every word they read and when some suggested Margaret Douglas had misled or tricked the Prince by hiding his real identity, they were reminded that George had already displayed all the characteristics of an outright cad. In their private apartments at Herrenhausen in Hanover, the Cambridges remained in blissful ignorance of the brewing storm clouds gathering about their son’s head. The Duke was preparing to return to England to bid a final farewell to his sister Princess Augusta, who then lay dying at Clarence House. Meanwhile, the Duchess (who had never been particularly fond of her sister-in-law) had decided to take advantage of her husband’s absence and head to Lake Como with her two daughters, Princess Augusta (of Cambridge) and Princess Mary Adelaide. With the Duke of Cambridge on his way to England and the Duchess on her way to Italy, Prince George’s parents knew nothing of the impending trials and tribulations of their son and heir until well after the news broke in The Times newspaper.


    A sketch of Margaret Douglas (Mrs William Marsden) which appeared in The Times.

    Much was made of the scandal which had all the ingredients necessary to shock. Margaret Douglas was public enemy number one, described as “a most wicked and vain creature who used all her cunning and guile to snare the Prince” but it was also noted that Prince George had been “sent to Ireland to be corrected for prior misdemeanours” and instead he had “begun an illicit liaison with Mrs Marsden whilst neglecting his duties in the Army”. The King and Queen were spared any criticism, quite rightly so, for they could hardly be held responsible for Prince George’s behaviour. But the press reminded people that in his current situation, George was displaying “all the characteristics of the late Prince Regent who showed no care or consideration for his duties and put all his efforts into frivolous pastimes. Until the Princess Royal and her young sister come of age, the monarchy will be forced to rely upon those such as the Prince to carry out the many duties expected of the Crown and the people will not be blind to the tarnish one of its number has brought upon that Crown with yet another Prince more committed to his own comforts than to his responsibility to serve King and Country”.

    The King couldn’t agree more with the assessment of the situation as featured in The Times. He had tried his very best to rehabilitate his cousin and felt that Ireland had been a good opportunity for Prince George to prove his gratitude for that help; the Prince had failed spectacularly. This was the first royal scandal of the King’s reign and he was at a loss as to how he might deal with it. At first, he asked Lord Liverpool to go and see Captain Marsden with a view to persuading him to withdraw his private member’s bill. Divorce was very much considered a last resort in the mid-19th century, the process made deliberately expensive and prolonged to deter those who might wish to dissolve their marriage. It ended careers and often caused social ruin for one or both parties involved and the King hoped that Marsden could be made to see how he had nothing to gain from pursuing the process. Liverpool advised the King against this. Marsden had retired from a long career in the military, he was currently serving as a magistrate and as a man of both means and respected social standing, he was unlikely to bend to royal pressure. Besides, there was every possibility that Marsden would reveal the King’s attempts to convince him to withdraw his case and that could make the developing scandal much worse. There was nothing else for it; the Royal Family would have to brace themselves for scandal.

    The Duchess of Cambridge was well-known to be indulgent of her children, particularly in the case of her eldest son Prince George whom she doted upon. Every previous wrongdoing had been ignored by Augusta who always took his side, much to the frustration of the boy’s father who genuinely feared that Prince George was “in every way displaying an indolence and conceit that can only lead to wasted opportunities”. The Duke’s predictions had come true and now, commanded to return to London immediately, Prince George did what any young man in his position might do; he panicked and fled. Seeking the help of the King-Harmans, he left for Abbeville where he wrote a letter to the King explaining that he had “found himself in a most dreadful situation”. He apologised profusely for his ”lack of foresight” and laid the full catalogue of disasters before his cousin. It did not make for pleasant reading as the Prince gave an account which reveals the true extent of just how precarious a position he had put himself in.

    George’s charge sheet reveals that he was frequently disciplined for his lack of punctuality, for being absent without leave and for drunkenness. This had led to three months suspension of pay which did not help the Prince’s financial situation. His father had cut his allowance (as well he might having been forced to hand over hundreds of pounds to Lady Augusta Somerset in Madrid) and he had no other form of income, having no property of his own. To that end, he had traded on his rank in Dublin and managed to amass significant debts to the tune of £760 – a shocking £45,000 today. Much of this money was owed to the Dublin based West of Chapel Street, a prominent Irish Jeweller, they having provided an emerald brooch, two ruby hairpins and a demi-parure of sapphires for the Prince in the space of eight weeks as gifts for Mrs Marsden. Other debts had been racked up at hotels and restaurants but the bulk of George’s debt not owed to Wests was the result of gambling for high stakes. The reality was that that George couldn’t even afford his passage back to London.

    There were letters too. George had not learned from his previous debacle with the Beauforts and had left rambling, clumsily written love letters to Mrs Marsden which were always delivered by hand to the Adelphi, passed on by the stage doorkeeper. As Lord Abinger remarked upon being asked to read George’s account of his behaviour; “The boy has done everything he could to provide as much evidence against himself as possible”. The paper trail linking the Prince to Mrs Marsden was overwhelming and there was absolutely no doubt in anybody’s mind that receipts and testimonies from those involved in George’s affair with Ada Marsden would form the main body of proof given in parliament when Captain Marsden’s divorce bill was introduced. Consequently, these details would be laid bare before ravenous journalists who wasted no time in printing every twist and turn. They did not print copies of George’s letters, neither did they quote from them directly, but when it was revealed that Prince George had spent hundreds of pounds on jewels for his mistress, the public were outraged. So much so in fact, that crowds gathered at Dover to boo and jeer at the Duke of Cambridge when he arrived in England; the poor Duke had no idea why the people were so angry with him.

    He immediately travelled to Buckingham Palace where the whole sorry mess was laid before him by his nephew. The King needed to act swiftly. He could not prevent the divorce bill from appearing in parliament but he could step in to ensure that Prince George’s humiliation (and by extension, the embarrassment felt by the monarchy as a whole) might be limited. He was not inclined to be lenient and yet, the King did not want to make matters worse. He summoned Lord Hill, then Commander in Chief of the British Army, to see what options were left open to the Prince and how he might be protected from total ruin. Lord Hill informed the King that among his contemporaries, there was “a glut of ill-feeling on the matter”. The Prince had shown a very bad example in Ireland where military discipline mattered most but not only that, but he had also absconded and was still absent without leave. That alone was grounds for a court martial and whilst the Prince had been shown leniency before, losing only his pay packet, now his commanding officers wanted him confined to barracks for six months at least by way of retribution. However, that was their view before the Marsden Scandal broke; now there was talk of the Prince being dismissed in disgrace.


    The Duke of Cambridge

    The Duke of Cambridge shocked the King. In his view, dismissal must be the obvious outcome and he made it clear that he would not raise a single objection if Lord Hill chose to pursue it. The King could not understand how his uncle could be so harsh, that he did not seem willing to fight for his son’s interests. When the two men were left alone, the King implored the Duke to see reason. George was not yet 25 years old and had many years of public service ahead of him if this scandal could be overcome. Dismissal would condemn Prince George to a life of idleness and based on his current record, what other scandals might he subject himself (and the Royal Family) to if he had nothing to do? Cambridge was silent. When his brother, the late King George IV, had been caught in a similar situation he had been forced by parliament to resign his post as Commander in Chief. The Duke expected no less severe a punishment for his own son; he could no longer continue in the army without a stain on his character and Cambridge was resolute in his belief that Prince George must be dismissed from the army.

    Naturally the Duke did not raise this precedent with his nephew but if King George V knew of his father’s misdemeanour (and it’s likely he did), he would also know that the precedent had a happier ending. After some time, the Duke of York was restored to favour and was allowed to carry on his military career until his accession as King George IV. When Prince George was brought before his father and the King a week later, George V had managed to calm the Duke down enough to propose an ultimatum to the ashamed young man before them, to which Cambridge had given his full approval. Whatever the outcome of the Marsden Scandal, it was clear that George must be sent abroad, this time much further away than Ireland. It was the manner of his parting that the Prince must now decide and both choices came with a non-negotiable insurance policy that Prince George would complain bitterly about for the rest of his life.

    His first option was to spend three months confined to barracks in reparation for his misconduct where his professional transgressions were concerned. He would be allowed no privileges and the King warned George that he would face a long period of rehabilitation with the army top-brass before promotion could even be considered. Yet he may eventually progress and restore his reputation and to that end, the King would ask Lord Hill to transfer Prince George to another regiment. This new posting would not come with the benefit of an easy crossing home when he had leave. The Duke of Cambridge favoured sending his son to India. The other option was perhaps more severe. Having ruined his reputation in the army and unable to perform any public duty in England, Prince George would be allowed to resign from the army and thereafter, he would be sent abroad to join the diplomatic staff where he might do some good at a desk until such a time as the King felt George was ready to return to England in a private capacity. In both scenarios, the King was willing to pay the debts Prince George had accumulated but on one condition; Prince George was to be married as soon as his circumstances allowed. Only then could his character be reformed in the public eye, his reputation as a womaniser drowned out by wedding bells.

    At Lake Como at the end of September, the Duchess of Cambridge sat on her hotel terrace with her two daughters enjoying a quiet luncheon when a letter was passed to her by a hotel porter. It was from the Duke of Cambridge. Princess Mary Adelaide was later asked what her mother’s reaction was when she received it. She replied, “Oh my dear, she simply vomited”. That letter spared Augusta none of the sorry state of affairs her son had found himself caught up in; George had been having an affair with a married actress, he was to be cited in parliament as the actress' lover and a divorce was likely to be granted on that basis. He had failed in his duties; he had no money and had amassed huge debts. Now he was to be corrected, sent abroad to India and thereafter married as soon as possible to whichever suitable Princess could be found. The Duke of Cambridge offered no opinion, no excuse and no explanation. “This is all of it”, he wrote, “And we must accept that”. He signed the letter, adding to the very bottom of the page; “Dearest Augusta died this morning. Do not grieve me further with objection for I gave my word to His Majesty we should co-operate in this and I cannot bear more sorrow to fall upon me when so much hurt has already been done”.

    A death in the Royal Family offered some respite from the flurry of negative press and a downturn in public opinion, though it must be said this was more out of a general respect for the bereaved than any sense of genuine sympathy. The King declared just four weeks of court mourning for the Princess, any longer might have delayed the arrangements made for the pre-wedding events for Princess Charlotte Louise. This was slightly sad for poor Princess Augusta who had once been a well-liked member of the Royal Family. Haughty but witty, she died at Clarence House on the 22nd of September at the age of 71 and was deeply mourned by her surviving sisters and her sister-in-law the Dowager Duchess of Clarence. A wreath even came from Kew, though nobody could quite understand why because the Queen Mother had always despised Princess Augusta and vice versa. Her funeral was held at St George’s Chapel, Windsor on the 2nd of October, the Duke of Sussex acting as Chief Mourner in the absence of his older brother the Duke of Cumberland. Cumberland had been invited to come to England to say his goodbyes but he opted not to do so. Instead, it fell to his son (another Prince George) to write a letter of condolence to the King which was much appreciated as a kind gesture. The Duke of Sussex was forced to attend alone, Princess Mary insistent that she would not attend her sister’s funeral if the Duchess of Sussex was present. The King and Queen stood with Princess Charlotte Louise to bid the daughter of George III a fond farewell, though it had a slightly undignified conclusion when the next day the King was advised that the royal undertakers had encountered a problem; there was no more space in the recesses of the Royal Vault beneath St George’s and so Princess Augusta’s coffin had instead had to be placed on the floor.


    The Royal Vault at St George's, Windsor.

    The vault had been constructed in 1804 with a view to serve as the final resting place for George III, Queen Charlotte and their children – but not their spouses and their children. George V would have to make alternative arrangements to avoid a royal squeeze. So it was that George V asked Decimus Burton to design a brand-new Royal Mausoleum which would be housed at Frogmore on the Windsor estate. But the King did not commission the building work to begin until the Duke of Cambridge’s death almost a decade later and so the Royal Mausoleum was not completed until 1852. Princess Augusta therefore had to wait twelve years until her coffin was put into its rightful place and the Royal Vault was closed for good. Thereafter, the immediate family of George V were interred inside the vaults of the mausoleum with extended family members buried outside in the Royal Burial Ground. George himself was laid to rest at the Royal Mausoleum in 1885, though he was later relocated to a specially constructed memorial chapel in the Mausoleum two years later.

    In the gloom of court mourning, the King perhaps became a little morbid and for the first time, he wrote his will. We do not know the contents as it was destroyed when a new will was written in 1845. But this did not last long and in fact, George could never abide what he saw as “the performance of grief”. This led him to clash with his cousin Princess Victoria (who arrived in England to say farewell to her Aunt Augusta and remained for the funeral) when she complained that the period of court mourning was not long enough. George replied, “I suspect your excess in this is born of a desire for attention, I beg you prove me wrong”. This disagreement appears to have had no long-lasting effect and Victoria soon got over her sense of loss for her aunt, admitting that she had quite enjoyed having an excuse to come to England a little earlier than planned because the situation at home in The Hague was so unpleasant. Indeed, it was only 5 days after the funeral for Princess Augusta that Victoria's grandfather-in-law abdicated as he had long threatened to do and her father-in-law became King William II of the Netherlands. To her husband’s fury, Victoria ignored demands she return to Holland and stayed on in England for the Service of Thanksgiving for the marriage of Princess Charlotte Louise and the Tsarevich of Russia some two weeks later.

    If Princess Charlotte Louise worried that these events might cast a pall over her final weeks in her homeland, there was suddenly a flash of happy news which greatly cheered the spirits of all concerned. Dr Alison was called to visit the Queen’s apartments by the Duchess of Buccleuch and he was happy to confirm that Her Majesty was expecting another baby. That said, he was slightly concerned. Queen Louise had given birth to Princess Victoria just 9 months earlier and though she was only in the very early stages of pregnancy, Alison wanted to impress upon the couple that this time Louise must not take any unnecessary risks. The Queen was insistent that she wished to carry on as before but Alison made it absolutely clear that she would have far greater need of care than she had in her previous two pregnancies. Louise agreed to cut her public engagements short and enter her confinement early on one condition; that she could still go with the King to Russia for the wedding of Princess Charlotte Louise. This was only weeks away and the Queen knew that the King could not face going through the ordeal alone. Despite Alison’s protests, Louise overruled him. She would go to Russia. “But I promise I shall be very well behaved when we come back”, she said playfully, “So you mustn’t sulk at me!”.

    News of a royal pregnancy went some way to cheering the public’s sentiments towards the monarchy too. Though in recent weeks there had been anger at the way Prince George had conducted himself and animosity towards Princess Charlotte Louise ahead of her marriage to the Tsarevich, the vast majority were in agreement that these matters in no way reflected badly on Their Majesties. As parliament agreed the dowry for Princess Charlotte Louise, it was announced that (somewhat conveniently) the Marsden divorce bill would not be introduced until after the recess for Christmas and the New Year. By which time, Prince George would be out of the country and Princess Charlotte Louise would be married. The King contented himself that it appeared the worst of the Marsden Scandal was over but whilst the public had been temporarily placated, the King had overlooked the possibility that not everybody in his family would fall into line in support of the way he had chosen to resolve things

    At Lake Como, Princess Augusta of Cambridge and her little sister Mary Adelaide were packed up and set on course for Bautzen whilst their mother moved heaven and earth to secure an urgent passage to England.

    The Duchess was on the war path.
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    GV: Part Two, Chapter 28: A Family United
  • King George V

    Part Two, Chapter Twenty-Eight: A Family United

    In the second week of October, a British Royal Family reunion of a kind was taking place at Buckingham Palace. Though still in court mourning for Prince Augusta, and with the Marsden Scandal hanging over their heads, the King and Queen had decided that enough misery had gone by and that this was the perfect time for a family celebration to lift the spirits. It had it’s PR benefits too. By coming together as one in a time of crisis, the Royal Family were showing a united front in the face of difficulty without actively defending one of their own (namely Prince George of Cambridge). To achieve this, the King put his foot down. Guests received commands to attend, not invitations and George would no longer tolerate any petty family squabbles. The family was preparing to say goodbye to Princess Charlotte Louise as she headed off for a new life in Russia. Nothing was to be allowed to spoil that and George V sent firmly worded notes to would-be troublemakers that he was in no mood for disruptive bickering. Princess Mary was especially put out when she was told her attendance at the Palace was mandatory. For the first time, she would find herself in the same room as her sister-in-law, the Duchess of Sussex. She was not best pleased when she found out that the King had put Mary in the same carriage as “the little Duchess” in a procession that would see the Royal Family driven the short distance to St James’ but nonetheless allowed the public a chance to see them all en fête. Mary made a point of avoiding eye contact with Cecilia but accepted that she must do as she was told and tolerated her presence none the less.

    The ladies of the Royal Family all looked to the Queen for advice on what they should wear to the Service of Thanksgiving. This was to be a state occasion and not merely a Sunday church service where they may expected to wear large hats with day dresses and coats. To complicate matters, though court mourning for Princess Augusta would be finished by the time of the service, half-mourning was still to be observed with the ladies of the court restricted to the choice of colours they could wear. Therefore it fell to Queen Louise to lead the way. For all events connected to Princess Charlotte Louise's marriage, half-mourning was to be temporarily lifted. Whilst the older ladies of the family still stuck to greys and lilacs, the younger members were told they should wear whichever colour they liked which did not please Princess Mary at all. Indeed, she was originally minded to stubbornly wear black as a protest but her affection for Princess Charlotte Louise was greater than her love of etiquette and she met the Queen half way by choosing a purple satin gown trimmed with white lace. For the gentlemen, the choice was made easier with the King indicating that he would prefer to see them in military uniform but without black armbands.

    For one member of the family, the grandeur of this occasion was all very unfamiliar. Fresh from their meeting at the funeral of the King of Prussia, George V had been greatly impressed by the personality of his cousin Prince George of Cumberland. When George wrote to the King expressing sympathy for the recent loss of his Aunt Augusta (and with no word from the Duke of Cumberland), the King personally replied to his cousin inviting him to attend the festivities for Princess Charlotte Louise’s wedding. He would be lodged at Buckingham Palace and when the King realised that George might appear underdressed, he ordered Charlie Phipps to provide his cousin with a Windsor Uniform. There was no clearer indication that the King considered Prince George to be “one of us” and in a letter sent to Queen Louise thanking her for her generous hospitality, the Prince wrote, “To be among you all on so happy an occasion, to truly be counted as one of your number, was so very moving to me. I find I can only express my gratitude in the simplest words but know that in my heart the sentiment is most cherished”. Princess Mary saw George in the Windsor Uniform and unkindly quipped, "One George out, one George in!".

    On that subject, and despite the King’s pleas for family unity, another member of the Royal Family threatened to upset the apple cart as soon as they arrived in England. The Duchess of Cambridge sailed from Italy the moment she read of the King’s plans for her son (another Prince George, this one conspicuous by his absence during the wedding festivities) and she was in no mood to let sleeping dogs lie. When she arrived back at Cambridge House, she clashed bitterly with her husband who ultimately ordered her to accept the situation and to keep the peace. But Augusta was not minded to do so and she felt that as a maternal aunt to both the King and Queen, she had every right to speak her mind. Whilst she fully accepted that Prince George needed to face some consequence for his actions, she did not seem to believe the situation was nearly as bad as it really was and thus she was absolutely adamant that her son would not be sent to India; “I shall not have my boy sent to that ghastly country, left to die in the heat or felled by some native disease as so many young officers are”, she said. But the thing she was most furious about was the question of her son’s marriage.

    It was perhaps an eagerness to see the crisis resolved that encouraged the King to hand the matter over to his wife. Without consulting the Duchess of Cambridge, George asked Louise to put together a list of eligible brides for his cousin with a view to passing that list to the Cambridges. But there was a slight mix up when the Queen handed the list to the Duke of Cambridge who presented it to his wife as a fait accompli. The Duchess of Cambridge saw this as gross violation of her rights as the Prince’s mother and it can’t have been made any easier by the fact that the list was made by her young niece without any accompanying note to explain why the King had asked his wife to act so quickly. The list itself did little to calm Augusta down. The problem was that the Queen was hardly spoilt for choice among the princesses listed in the Almanac de Gotha. Most were too young, too old or too Catholic. And those who were considered suitable were hardly likely to be enthused by taking on Prince George in the midst of a scandal which exposed him as a womanizing gambler.


    The Duchess of Cambridge, photographed c. 1859.

    We do not have a copy of this list but from surviving correspondence between the Duchess of Cambridge and her sister Grand Duchess Marie in Neustrelitz, we know that Queen Louise seems to have put Alexandrine of Baden forward as the most obvious choice. At some point in time, Sophie of the Netherlands must have featured in the preliminary discussions too as the Duchess remarked bitchily “She is so hideously ugly that I should hate to look at her face each day!”. There is also a reference to Agnes of Anhalt-Dessau who was branded “a silly little girl with no promise at all” by her would-be mother-in-law. Agnes later became well known for her talents as a painter and her enthusiasm for charitable work. But it was the suggestion of Alexandrine of Baden that really infuriated Augusta. Though she was undoubtedly the right age, the right religion and considered reasonably attractive (though no great beauty), she carried with her something which the Duchess of Cambridge found most disagreeable; Alexandrine’s father was born morganatisch. The very word was always spoken in hushed, pejorative tones in royal circles. [1]

    Alexandrine’s father was Grand Duke Leopold of Baden and by 1840 he lived in great style at the lavish Karlsruher Schloss which dominated his capital. But when he was born in 1790, Leopold’s prospects were extremely limited. His father was Margrave Charles Frederick of Baden who married Caroline Louise of Hesse-Darmstadt in 1751. The couple had four sons and a daughter and so when Caroline Louise died in 1783, nobody much objected to the Margrave taking a second wife who was not his equal. Charles Frederick married Louise von Geyersberg in 1787 and had five children with her but as the marriage was morganatic, these children had no rights in Baden and were instead styled as Counts and Countesses of Hochberg. Behind closed doors however, Charles Frederick indicated that he saw his marriage as being perfectly legitimate and in no way morganatic. He made an agreement with the three sons of his first marriage which reserved decisions on the succession rights of the sons born from Charles Frederick’s second marriage to be made by Charles Frederick at a later date. Various decrees were signed (though never promulgated) which confirmed his intention to “wait and see” with regards to the succession rights of the Hochbergs.

    Charles Frederick's eldest son was seen as the favoured son who did everything the "right way". He married Louise of Nassau-Usingen, ironically a first cousin of the Duchess of Cambridge through her maternal line, and it was expected that he (not his half brother Leopold) who eventually succeed in Baden. But tragically he died in 1817 and left no legitimate children. The next in line was a "legitimate" son Louis but Louis had not made nearly as good a marriage as his elder brother, indeed, he too married morganatically when he took Katharine Werner (later Countess of Goldelsheim and Langenstein) as his wife in 1818 after already fathering three illegitimate children with her. Charles Frederick knew the time had come. Just weeks before his death, he declared that the children of his second marriage were now to receive the title, rank and style of Princes and Margraves of Baden and that they would hold full succession rights. By the time of his death, his descendants from his first wife were dying out and to prevent Baden passing to the Kings of Bavaria, Charles Frederick's grandson changed the succession laws in Baden to give the Hochbergs full dynastic rights. This was confirmed by Baden's 1818 Constitution and recognised by the Great Powers (and the Kings of Bavaria) in the Treaty of Frankfurt in 1819. Therefore, Leopold was taken from morganatic son to reigning Grand Duke in the space of two decades. [2]

    But Leopold still faced difficulties and so had to improve his status amidst the other German courts. With this in mind, his elder half-brother arranged for Leopold to marry his great-niece, Princess Sophie of Sweden. This marriage united the descendants of Charles Frederick’s two wives which caused a flurry of gossip throughout Europe but went some way to offset the stigma of Leopold’s morganatic birth. With this in mind, Queen Louise proposed Alexandrine (her second cousin through her maternal line) because she knew her well from childhood but mostly importantly she considered that Grand Duke Leopold (the Queen's second cousin) would not object to Prince George’s circumstances. The match with Britain would undoubtedly raise the family’s standing even further in Europe, so much so that she assumed Leopold would be able to look past any red flags. She was quite correct to assume so but she had not bargained on the Duchess of Cambridge taking the whole proposition as a great personal affront. “My son is not so damaged in reputation that he must stoop to take a wife from a house of parvenus”, she declared bitterly. But her husband was far more agreeable. He argued that the couple would have time to get to know each other and that even if the marriage did not work out, Alexandrine was likely to join George in his posting abroad where they could discretely live apart if the marriage proved to be an unhappy one. The Duchess retorted; “It is a pity Sir that you would be so cold as to condemn your only son to a marriage you predict to be so unhappy”.


    Alexandrine of Baden.

    Augusta’s complaints soon reached the ears of the wider family. Princess Victoria, never one to miss out on an opportunity to insert herself into a family dispute, wrote a letter to her aunt saying she very much doubted Alexandrine would want to marry George anyway because she knew that Prince Albert had recommended Alexandrine to Baron Stockmar as a possible bride for Albert's brother Ernst. This was cited as a further reason why Alexandrine was so unsuitable by the Duchess of Cambridge to the King who made discrete inquiries as to just how serious Ernst was about taking Alexandrine as a bride. Charlie Phipps was put in the embarrassing position of explaining that whilst Ernest liked Alexandrine and was interested in marrying her, he had been advised to wait because he was presently suffering from a venereal disease contracted in the brothels of Brussels. Ernst had agreed to wait for a time until he was fully recovered. The King sighed and remarked sadly, “I always knew Ernst would ruin himself. He is not half the man his brother is”. [3]

    In a meeting between the King and Queen, the Cambridges and Princess Mary held the day before the Service of Thanksgiving on the 23rd of October, the matter was aired in full, the King hoping to clear any bad atmosphere before his sister’s blessing ceremony. The Duchess was resolute. Her son would not be ordered to marry anyone he didn’t love, neither would she allow him to be sent to India. She was a lone voice of protest. She told the King that Alexandrine was most unsuitable, not only because she was born to a morganatic family but also because her brother Louis was said to be severely unstable, requiring regular visits to a sanatorium for the mentally ill. Augusta was insistent that this was the cause of Grand Duke Leopold’s marriage to his great-niece and she feared that whilst Alexandrine showed no signs of disability, “my heart should stop every time she produced a child, if indeed she can, for how can we possibly know it would not share Louis’ troubles?”. Queen Louise countered that the Badens were well known to the British Royal Family and indeed, there were family ties between the Hesses and the Zähringens which would make the whole thing appear more natural and would no doubt ease the tension of the Prince and Princess finding themselves pushed together. The Duchess snapped back; “And what if my son is as reluctant to take a bride ‘found’ for him by his mother as Georgie was?”. She had gone too far.

    The King slammed his hand on the table before them causing Princess Mary’s teacup to overturn.

    “What a clever little trick”, she said gaily, trying to break the frosty atmosphere in the room. But the King was in no mood for jokes.

    “Your son has brought shame and disgrace on his regiment and on our family”, he seethed, “You may live in a fool’s paradise where George is no doubt blameless but the rest of us do not Madam. You have always been a great support to us and we cherish you but I shall have no hesitation in sending you back to Hanover immediately if you will not concede that we have no choice in this.”

    The Duchess of Cambridge began to cry.

    “But you do have a choice Georgie! Send him abroad, I concede that much, though I could not bear it to be India, but please do not condemn him to misery. I could not live if I saw him forced into such an unhappy marriage”

    The King calmed down a little. He rose from the table and kissed his aunt’s cheek.

    “Very well”, he said, “It won’t be India. That I will promise you. And I will give you until the New Year to find somebody else. But if you do not, it shall be Alexandrine and I shall write to Cousin Leopold to arrange a meeting between your son and his daughter in the Spring. That is if Ernst Coburg doesn’t get there first. That is the very best I can do Aunt Augusta”

    Princess Mary nodded in agreement; “I consider that most fair dear, Augusta you must listen to reason...”

    The Duke of Cambridge who had been silent for most of the meeting stood up and shook the King’s hand.

    “You have my word on this”, he said, “We are grateful for your consideration and your help. Both of you”.

    Amidst talk of marriages that might be, the Royal Family now turned their attentions to a marriage that had been years in the making. A handful of specially invited Russian guests arrived in England around this time with the Tsarevich accompanied on his journey to London by his uncle Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich and a coterie of the most senior Imperial courtiers. They were to stay at the Imperial Russian Embassy and were quite taken aback to find that despite a formal welcome at Southampton given by the Duke of Sussex, they were taken to Kensington and left there with no arrangements made to entertain them in any way before the Service of Thanksgiving. The Tsarevich had hoped for a reunion with his bride-to-be at Marlborough House before the blessing ceremony but Princess Mary forbad it and so he had to wait until the big day itself to see Charlotte Louise again after months of separation. For her part, the Princess waited nervously at Buckingham Palace where she stayed the night before the service so that the Queen’s ladies of the bedchamber could dress her the next day. Any doubts she may once have had about marrying Sasha were forgotten, though she remained deeply anxious that in the brief procession from Buckingham Palace to St James’, she may be booed by the crowed.

    She needn’t have worried. Regardless of any prior declarations of opposition, the people of London could not resist cheering for a blushing bride. The Princess rode with the King in the first carriage to great applause with the Queen travelling behind in the second carriage with the Tsarevich. The other guests followed, though some of the Russian guests were put out that they were expected to walk on foot to the Chapel Royal earlier that morning because there were not enough carriages to take them all. When she arrived to find them seated in the Chapel, Princess Mary joked “there are more of them than there are of us!”, the British side being a little thin on the ground as the Cambridge children were all absent and at the last moment, Princess Sophia caught a cold and couldn’t attend. This left only the King and Queen, the Dowager Duchess of Clarence, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Princess Mary, the latter being accompanied by Prince George of Cumberland to whom she remarked; “I have never cared for your father, or your mother. But you are a most pleasant young man”. George Cumberland didn’t take this personally, rather he relayed it to the King with a chuckle.


    Prince George of Cumberland.

    The service itself lasted just 45 minutes. To the tune of the Hallelujah Chorus by Handel sung by the choristers of the Chapel Royal, the King led his sister not to the altar but to two chairs positioned just to the right of it. There stood the Tsarevich who bowed to the King, George kissing his sister on his cheek as she then curtsied to him. With the King taking his place next to the Queen, the Archbishop of Canterbury then asked everybody to bow their heads in prayer as he intoned a blessing for the couple. It was noted that the Tsarevich did not bow his head or close his eyes – he was on strict instructions that he should not do so. After a reading from Corinthians (“Love is patient, love is kind”), the Archbishop gave a brief sermon on the importance of the institution of marriage; “It is only in the coming together of two people before the Lord in all sincerity that we are made worthy of Christ. There can be no greater sacrament than this”. The Lambeth Palace archives show that the Archbishop wisely scrubbed out the rest of this statement which followed on; “Those who violate it can never be truly whole in the sight of God” but he did include “And so we rightly celebrate when those of pure heart step forward together in His love to proclaim their own”.

    With the service concluded, there was an awkward period of silence in which nothing happened. The Orthodox Archpriest Belov had summoned assistants from the Imperial Russian Embassy but none of the five clergymen had ever been in the Chapel Royal at St James’ before, neither had they attended an Anglican service in a language which was not their own. They were unsure as to whether the Archbishop of Canterbury had actually finished and so began a curious back and forth where they edged forward before the altar, then shuffled back and then performed the choreography all over again. The Archbishop motioned that he had indeed finished and the Orthodox clergy began to chant. Princess Mary rolled her eyes and said a little too loudly; “Will that din last for very much longer?”. It lasted for nearly an hour. Archpriest Belov seemed to think he had to match the service as performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and so the British guests were forced to sit through an Orthodox ceremony which they didn’t understand and which was made all the less romantic by the Duke of Sussex falling asleep in the middle, snoring his head off until his niece Princess Victoria jabbed him in the ribs to stop him, consumed as she was by a fit of the giggles.

    Despite this, the Tsarevich and Princess Charlotte Louise beamed happily as they walked arm in arm from the Chapel Royal; notably they did not kiss before the congregation but during the Orthodox blessing they did join hands. From there, they were allowed to take the head of the procession in the first carriage together for the journey back to Buckingham Palace, the King and Queen following behind. A grand reception had been arranged by Queen Louise to which the great and the good had been invited as they might have been following a wedding at St George’s Chapel. Though it was not a wedding at all, a “Celebration Breakfast” was served that deeply impressed those lucky enough to attend, the royal kitchens having gained a reputation of late for serving far more simpler fare. The menu was comprised of; Potage Brunoise (a consommé made from carrots, parsnips, leeks, onion, celery and garden peas), Turbot avec Sauce Homard et Hollandaise (Turbot dressed in Hollandaise sauce with lobster meat), Tournedos à la Moelle garnis de Pommes (Small fillets of beef dressed with a bone marrow gravy and served with potatoes), Les Bécassine (Roast Snipe) served with Les Artichauts Lyonnaise (artichoke hearts in a white sauce made from butter, lemon and white wine) and Salade Russe (vegetables in mayonnaise set in an aspic jelly). As if this were not enough, guests then had a further three courses to get through. Immediately after the Snipe, a fruit course was served of Courte aux pommes (poached apples) with creamed rice followed by Les Meringues à la Chantilly (meringues and vanilla cream) and then Les Gateaux Genoises au Chocolat (an orange sponge cake frosted with chocolate cream and decorated with crystallised fruits and almonds). [4]

    As if this were not enough, guests were treated to glasses of Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes, Chateau Pichon Bordeaux and Arbois Grand-Imperial Champagne. After speeches given by the King, the Duke of Cambridge, the Prime Minister, the Tsarevich and Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich, the guests were given a few hours respite to allow the ladies to change before the dancing began. If anybody was still hungry, they could avail themselves of a cold buffet of Baron of Beef, Wild Boar’s Head, Game Pie, Brawn, Woodcock Pie and a Terrine de Foies Gras. Or they could pick a selection of petit fours from tall silver stands placed around the ballroom offering small cakes, sweets and crystallised fruits. Those present agreed it was by far the grandest occasion staged in the King’s reign thus far and the Duchess of Buccleuch noted that she was “most impressed by the gowns of the ladies, and their jewels which I am sure shamed even those of the ladies of the Russian court”. The Duchess would soon have a chance to find out as she was to accompany the King and Queen to St Petersburg for the wedding of the Princess and the Tsarevich.


    The Mellerio Amethyst Parure.

    At the close of the festivities, the King called for silence. The guests assembled gathered round as the King motioned to a page who brought in a large leather box which was placed on a table before His Majesty. As he opened it, the assembled company broke into applause, the ladies cooing their approval. Inside the box was a sumptuous parure comprised of a tiara set on a hair comb, a pair of pendant earrings, three brooches and a bracelet, the suite being crafted from 40 large cabochon amethysts in total all set in gold with floral spacers. This was considered most fashionable for the time but its origin turned heads. Rather than commission the parure from the Crown Jeweller in London, the King had given the task of producing his wedding gift for his sister to Mellerio of Paris [5]. This was no snub to Garrards, the Queen had advised that the Russian court favoured French designs and so the King went straight to the source where many a Russian Grand Duchess purchased her jewels. Princess Charlotte Louise openly wept and embraced her brother, who likewise burst into tears and held her tight in his arms. They had just a few weeks left before Charlotte Louise would be married in St Petersburg, thereafter, only to return to England when her responsibilities in Russia allowed.

    When the guests had departed and the King sat quite alone in the ballroom in quiet contemplation of the day’s events, he felt two hands rest upon his shoulders.

    “I knew you would find me”, he said with a smile. The Queen kissed the top of his head softly.

    “I was so proud of you today Georgie”, she sat as he turned round to embrace her, “So very proud. And I know it was not easy”

    “It was made easier because of you”, the King replied, “Do you think we put on a good enough show?”

    “Of course!”, Louise laughed, “Poor Sir James, will Aunt Mary ever be reconciled to him do you think?”

    The King grinned; “I doubt it. The poor man is a nervous wreck in her company, he trod on her foot twice tonight and then knocked a bowl of custard out of her hand”

    The Queen dissolved into giggles as the King held her close.

    “I do thank God for you every day Sunny”, he said quietly, “You do know that, don’t you?”

    The Queen nodded; “I know”

    “Because what Aunt Augusta said…about our meeting…it wasn’t true”, he said eagerly, “The moment I saw you I knew I loved you”

    And with that, the King kissed his wife. “I hope Lottie will be as happy with Sasha as we are with each other”

    The Queen gazed into her husband’s eyes; “Oh Georgie”, she said, “Nobody could be as happy as we are”.

    And with that, the couple walked away hand in hand leaving the footmen clearing the tables to exchange knowing smiles. History records the marriage of King George V and Queen Louise as one of the monarchy’s most successful. Whilst so many princes and princesses found their future spouses picked for them, few developed so close a bond as the King and Queen. George's approach to family matters also proved of great value to the Crown. Regardless of the negative headlines of recent weeks, the sight of a united family seemed to melt the hearts of the outraged and every newspaper carried glowing articles praising Their Majesties for "restoring all that is good in the monarchy in the face of adversity". Without doubt, the King could never have managed this without the help of his wife. In the coming months, George would come to rely on the Queen’s support more and more and whilst some marriages might experience strain or tension as the result of too much closeness at times, the King and Queen were very much the opposite. Undoubtedly their happiness was clear to all who saw them together. They had endeared themselves to the people of Britain and charmed the people of France.

    It now remained to be seen if they could just as easily impress the people of Russia.

    [1] In the OTL, Augusta’s daughter Mary Adelaide married Francis, Count von Hohenstein (later Duke of Teck) who was born to a morganatic marriage between Duke Alexander of Württemberg and Countess Claudine Rhédey von Kis-Rhéde. Augusta only got past her scruples on morganatic marriage in this case because nobody else was willing to take on poor “Fat Mary” and the Duchess felt it better for her daughter to actually be married rather than remain a spinster, especially as she had such a passion for spending money which poor Prince Frank did little to control. Pauline of Wied (née Württemberg) often used to tease the very grand Queen Mary (Mary Adelaide's daughter) that she descended from “the morganatisch”. Which perhaps explains why Queen Mary really didn’t care to see her paternal relations if she could possibly avoid it!

    [2] The Baden succession was far more complicated than this but it would need a chapter of it's own to explain, so this is a condensed version to suit our purposes.

    [3] Prince Albert did arrange the match for his brother with Alexandrine but as in TTL, Ernst had to wait until he was free from the worst side effects of his STI which his doctors feared may mean he could never have children. In 1842, he was only moderately recovered but wouldn’t wait any longer and he married Alexandrine. After their wedding, he returned to his womanizing ways and cruelly blamed Alexandrine for not being able to give him the son and heir he wanted. It’s more likely that he passed on his illness to his young bride who was then left unable to conceive. That said, Alexandrine was devoted to Ernst and refused to hear a bad word said about him. What a woman.

    [4] Whenever I list a menu, the dishes have invariably been researched from this brilliant resource I know many of you will enjoy:

    [5] The Russian Imperial Family always preferred to buy their jewels from the French jewellers Fossin (later Chaumet) or Mellerio. Even though the Tsars appointed court jewellers in Russia, the Grand Duchesses felt that French designs were far superior and that they could not be replicated in Russia. So Chaumet and Mellerio became the favoured suppliers with most continental Royal Houses following their lead. It was only in the United Kingdom that the Royal Family chose to stick with British designers, though very occasionally they might purchase a piece from Paris.
    GV: Part Two, Chapter 29: Goodbye Lottie
  • King George V

    Part Two, Chapter Twenty-Nine: Goodbye Lottie

    In 1948, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer took several liberties with the truth for their motion picture The Little Empress. One of these inaccuracies concerned the arrival of Princess Charlotte Louise in St Petersburg and her subsequent wedding to the Tsarevich on the 29th of November 1840. In the film, the Tsar (Basil Rathbone) forbids the Princess (Deborah Kerr) from seeing any of her visiting family because he takes an immediate dislike to her when she is cheered by crowds of shivering peasants lining the Nevsky Prospect. He locks Charlotte Louise away in a tower to prevent her from seeing her brother and sister-in-law during the pre-wedding festivities and then claims she is ill after the ceremony robbing her of a last goodbye to the King. Of course, this serves the invented narrative of the film well (Charlotte Louise eventually telling the Tsar on his deathbed that one day she shall rule Russia…) but it bears little relation to the actual events surrounding the wedding of George V’s sister to the Russian Tsarevich.

    The King was determined that he wouldn’t enjoy a single second of his time in Russia. He was deliberately obstinate in delaying his preparations for the trip and kept complaining that the Tsar and his wife were “crashing old bores” who would “make the whole thing vulgar and prolonged”. The Queen on the other hand was greatly looking forward to their trip. Empress Alexandra Feodorovna was in fact Louise’s cousin (Alexandra’s mother Louise was the Queen’s aunt), though the pair hadn’t actually met because Alexandra married just before Queen Louise was born. To that end, the Russian Empress had invited every Mecklenburg-Strelitz relative she had to St Petersburg and so as the King would not feel outnumbered, she extended the same generosity to the Hesse-Kassels too. Whilst the Queen said how nice that would be, the King retorted, “Oh not another family reunion Sunny, I’m worn out with them all crowding about us at every turn”. When Louise reminded him that the Empress was a relation, the King replied; "Aren't they all?". [1]

    There would however be one less immediate family member for George to worry about. Princess Victoria had extended her visit to Britain following the death of her aunt Augusta to attend the Service of Thanksgiving for her cousin’s marriage. She intended to travel with the King and Queen to Russia to be present at the wedding ceremony itself but that all changed when her grandfather-in-law, King William I of the Netherlands, abdicated. It was now imperative that Victoria return to Holland as soon as possible as her father-in-law’s inauguration and the accompanying festivities were to be held on the 28th of November. But Victoria had other ideas. She insisted that she would still be going to St Petersburg for Princess Charlotte Louise’s wedding on the 29th of November and feeling that she had found just the ruse needed to get her own way, she wrote to her husband saying; “I really should be in St Petersburg and after all, Mama is the Tsar’s sister and she should be represented by someone of senior rank in the family”. The Prince of Orange wrote back a ferocious note reminding his wife that if anyone was to represent the new Queen Anna in Russia, Queen Anna herself would decide who that was to be. In actual fact, she’d already taken care of that, asking her sister Maria (Grand Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach) to do the honours. [2]


    The inauguration of King William II of the Netherlands. Victoria can be seen standing to the right hand side of Queen Anna.

    In a sulk, Victoria left her return travel plans distinctly vague much to the frustration of her husband. Eventually he booked Victoria a passage for the 20th of November and told her that if she was not on board when the ship sailed, he would divorce her. This was an idle-threat on William’s part (he was prone to fits of bad temper in which he intimidated his wife with all kinds of horrible consequences when he felt she had slighted him) but when Victoria complained to her cousin King George about the situation, he sided with his cousin-in-law and admonished Drina for being “quite unreasonable and very silly”. Victoria ultimately returned to the Netherlands as arranged, though the Dutch court knew full well that she had caused unhappiness and some felt slighted that once again she seemed to put her British relatives over her duties in the Netherlands. They were further put out when Victoria left the inauguration ball early on the 28th of November complaining of a headache, yet the following morning she was seen riding out in her carriage with her ladies in waiting. In a letter to her cousin Charlotte Louise, she wished her every happiness in Russia but insensitively warned; “You must of course expect to be hated in your new country because all English princesses are in foreign courts. We are treated most unreasonably because they all know that they are mostly the muddled offspring of princelings and parvenus, whilst we are granddaughters of King George III”.

    Meanwhile, another royal cousin proved himself far amenable. Prince George of Cumberland did not expect to be invited to join the King and Queen in Russia and was making arrangements to go home to Berlin. But when King George V heard this, he protested; “But then you’d miss our Christmas at Hanover House! No no, you must stay here and I will make sure you have everything you need”. So it was that Prince George ended up staying on at Buckingham Palace. This did not please the Duke of Cumberland at all however and he wrote to his sister Mary that for Prince George to be included in family events whilst the Duke and his wife were not “is so very spiteful and I am afraid poor Freddie is laid low by the whole ghastly business”. He added somewhat imperiously; “The King should not forget that I am his uncle when all is said and done and I should take precedence over my son. Neither should the Queen forget that Freddie is her aunt and so has as much right to be invited to such events as that dreadful little Underwood creature, perhaps more so”. Cumberland later claimed it was the promotion of his son in the King’s affections at the cost of his own continued exile that made his wife unwell. The Duchess of Cumberland died in June the following year aged 63. [3]

    The British government were much in agreement with the sentiments of the unenthusiastic King but dreaded the forthcoming wedding for very different reasons. A particularly unkind piece had appeared in a newspaper (no doubt motivated by Russophobic opinion on the part of the editor) which said “His Majesty has now committed to a further six weeks abroad which has the unhappy consequence of making the King absent from these shores yet once again. In these last twelve months, the King has spent almost 5 of them outside of his Kingdom – yet these travels did not include a visit to Hanover, as was so controversially pointed out earlier this year – and we have to wonder whether he will ape his ancestors in making England his part-time residence, preferring the comfort of continental courts to the his many English estates”. Of course this was derided by those in the know as deeply unfair. George V extended his summer holiday to Germany only to accommodate the wishes of his government in making a trip to Normandy; likewise, it had been the Foreign Secretary who asked him to prolong his absence to represent the United Kingdom at the funeral of the King of Prussia. George was hardly in a position to refuse and as far as Russia was concerned, had the Tsar allowed two wedding ceremonies to take place the King might not have found himself obligated to head for St Petersburg in the first place.


    The HMS Royal Sovereign.

    Charlie Phipps was determined to nip this criticism in the bud and cleverly, he suggested that the Royal Party might prefer to travel on the Royal Sovereign and not the Royal George, departing from London instead of Southampton. [4] Phipps reasoned that the Sovereign was not only bigger and more comfortable but that it had a special connection which the Russians would appreciate; at a review of the fleet in 1814 held to celebrate the Treaty of Paris, the Tsar’s predecessor and older brother Alexander I had joined the Prince Regent and the King of Prussia on board the Sovereign to lead fifteen ships of the line and thirty-one frigates out to sea. The King was impressed by this thoughtful gesture and was certain the Tsar would be too. In reality, Phipps knew the Sovereign to be a faster vessel than the George which would cut the King’s trip abroad in half from six weeks to just three [5]. The only problem was that there might not be enough room to accommodate everybody on board. Fortunately, circumstances intervened and the Cambridges elected not to join the King and Queen in Russia on the grounds that the Duchess was suffering from a head cold. It’s more likely they did not want to be met with gossip about their son and heir. Instead, the Duke of Cambridge sent some money to his daughter Augusta and told her to join her grandparents in Neustrelitz so that she could represent the Cambridges in St Petersburg instead. Augusta was delighted as it meant an opportunity to see her cousin Fritz (the Queen’s eldest brother) once again. The two had kept up some correspondence for some time and everybody in the family saw the prospect of wedding bells in the future.

    George’s visit to Russia marked the first ever made by a reigning British sovereign but he was only to make the journey in a private capacity; this was no state visit but a personal one for an intimate family occasion, though just how intimate a ceremony that hosted 800 guests could be is perhaps left to the interpretation of the reader [6]. Whilst it was custom for a delegation from the Foreign Office to join the Sovereign whenever he travelled abroad, the King had tried to maintain the non-political nature of his sister's wedding by asking the Prime Minister if he had any objection at all to the King taking the Joint Clerk of the Privy Council William Bathurst with him instead of someone more senior. Sir James was more than content with this arrangement until news came from Egypt just days before the King and Queen were to leave for Russia; Ibrahim Ali had capitulated. Faced with an ultimatum and the loss of the defected Ottoman Fleet which proclaimed their allegiance for the Sultan once more, any hopes of his taking Constantinople had been dashed. He must now await the outcome of the London Conference the following year. [7]

    Politically this was a great triumph for the Tories. They roared their approval in the Commons as the Whigs, led by Henry Labouchere on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition Lord Normanby, tried to deny just how close to a Europe-wide conflict the Great Powers had come. They were reminded in no uncertain terms that had the Whigs remained in power, Lord Palmerston would have insisted on sending gunboats whilst Sir James Graham’s government had wrestled victory from the Alis without a single shot fired. This was very much the tone the majority of the newspapers took and there was much talk of how the improved Anglo-Russian relationship had prevented a terrible crisis. Consequently, anti-Russian sentiment seemed to thaw just enough to see the odd favourable comment made in the Tsar’s favour. This would prove to be a huge relief to the King who was concerned that nobody would turn out to see his sister’s departure from St Katharine’s Dock but it was also something that saw Sir James Graham about face, wishing now to warm the Russian relationship further ahead of the all-important peace talks in February 1841. Rather than the Joint Clerk of the Privy Council, Lord Derby himself was to accompany the royal party to Russia which confused the King who remarked; “So much for this thing being kept in the family”. Also joining the royal party on their journey to St Petersburg were the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch, Major Billy Smith and Charlie Phipps.

    On the evening before the Sovereign was due to set sail, the King gave a small family dinner party at Buckingham Palace for the Tsarevich and Princess Charlotte Louise. It was an incredibly simple affair, very much to the private tastes of the King and Queen. Indeed, there were no servants with the Queen ordering a simple hot and cold buffet to which those invited could help themselves. The Sussexes, Princess Mary, the Cambridges and Princess Sophia were all invited to bid their niece goodbye and there was much toasting with champagne and long drawn-out speech giving for the duration. As the guests departed, only a handful held back; Princess Mary, the Duke of Cambridge and of course the Tsarevich and Princess Charlotte Louise. Princess Mary’s farewell to her niece was particularly touching. In her diary, Queen Louise recorded how; “Poor Aunt Mary really was so very overcome which surprised us all. She kept weeping and kissing dear Lottie on the cheek and holding her hand very tightly. She said, ‘Now do not forget your silly old Aunt Mary little one’ and begged her to remember to write often. When she finally came to leave, Aunt Mary seized Sasha in her arms and kissed him too saying ‘You must bring her back to us whenever you can, you must promise you will do that’. And then she tottered away and we could hear her crying all the way!”.

    The following morning, a great procession was staged from the early hours of the morning as carts were loaded up to take the King and Queen’s luggage to St Katharine’s Dock, as well as Princess Charlotte Louise’s personal possessions she had chosen from Marlborough House to take to her new home. But inside Marlborough House, there was another parting to be concluded. Charlotte Louise’s lady in waiting, childhood friend and most devoted companion Lady Anne Anson had asked if she might be spared waving the Princess off from the dockside. “I could not bear to see you grow smaller and smaller in the distance Ma’am”, she said sadly. Lady Anson had been the closest thing to a sister Charlotte Louise had, she was perhaps even closer to Anne than she was to her cousin Princess Victoria. It had been Charlotte Louise’s wish to take Lady Anne with her to Russia as a lady-in-waiting but Lady Anne’s husband saw no life for the pair in St Petersburg and besides, the Empress forbad it. “It would be quite improper for you to bring an English lady with you”, she said, “For I have taken great trouble and care to choose ladies from my own household who would be most upset if you were to favour an old friend over new acquaintances”. Lady Anson would always remain a close friend to Princess Charlotte Louise, indeed they corresponded for decades to come and the Ansons made frequent trips to Russia to visit. But for Charlotte Louise, it now became apparent that every link she had to her homeland was being removed from her; she was to travel to Russia with only her husband to support her following their marriage.

    By the time the carriages carrying the King and Queen and Princess Charlotte Louise and the Tsarevich left Buckingham Palace, quite a crowd had formed which was sustained all the way to Tower Hill. It was an enthusiastic one too, though some miserly journalists suggested this was more because Londoners always enjoyed a bit of pageantry to brighten their dull working day and in no way reflected any change of heart concerning the Princess’ marriage. It was noted that some Russian emigres had joined the crowds to present Princess Charlotte Louise with a posy of flowers before she boarded the Sovereign and it was also noted that she removed the taffeta scarf keeping her hat secure so that she might use it to wave goodbye to those who had come to wish her well. “There was no public farewell in a formal sense”, the Times reported, “For His Majesty was present and will say a private goodbye to his dear sister in the grandest of settings, no doubt a more comfortable experience than it might have been had the King been forced to wave his sister off to her new home from the noisy London dockside”. Princess Charlotte Louise recalled later that she wished she had been able to see the crowds from the deck of the ship as she left but her eyes were simply too full of tears.

    The Sovereign’s route to St Petersburg took seven days across the North Sea, along the Skagerrak and Kattegat, into the Baltic Sea and across the Gulf of Finland. Empress Alexandra had sent a very detailed catalogue of what the British arrivals should expect but surely nothing could prepare them for the welcome staged on their behalf by the Tsar and his wife. A beautiful barge highly decorated was sent out to bring the party ashore, the dock teeming with people craning their necks so that they might be the first to spy their future Tsarevna [8]. It was 2 degrees below and so against the pure white of the snow that covered everything in sight in an elegant soft blanket, the colours of the Union flag and the Imperial standard were made that much brighter. A huge dais had been constructed with almost every member of the Tsar’s family waiting to receive the British party, the ladies covered in sumptuous furs with small silver boxes filled with coals hidden in their muffs to keep their gloved hands warm in the freezing temperatures – an idea supposedly imported from Manchuria. The men tried their best not to shiver in their military uniforms.


    The Palace Square, Winter Palace, St Petersburg, 1840.

    When the royal party arrived at the dais, the Tsar greeted the King before he greeted his own son. Kissing George on each cheek and shaking his hand, the Empress did likewise, taking Queen Louise in her arms before kissing her future daughter in law. Then the carriages arrived. The Tsarevich and Princess Charlotte Louise might be the happy couple but they were to travel in the second landau – the first was reserved for the Tsar and his wife. After them came smaller carriages for King George and Queen Louise, the rest of the Romanov clan and the court officials. Lord Derby was surprised to find himself sharing a carriage with the Tsar’s daughter the Grand Duchess Maria (Duchess of Leuchtenberg) who noticed how cold the Foreign Secretary looked and who nodded to her coachman who then produced a bottle of vodka from his coat. “Never have I welcomed the sight of strong drink as I did that day”, Derby later remarked. He would need some sustenance. Instead of being driven directly to the Winter Palace for the welcome reception, the Tsar had planned a procession around the city with his guests treated to the magnificent sights of Kazan Cathedral, the Bolshoi Theatre and St Isaac’s. It would be another hour before the British contingent found themselves in the splendour (and warmth) of the Winter Palace.

    The welcome reception was quite informal by Romanov standards. The King and Queen were given a suite of rooms to use temporarily so that they might change out of their travelling clothes but they were a little unsure as to what they should wear for what appeared to be a kind of buffet-style afternoon tea. The Empress sent word to the Duchess of Buccleuch that she wanted to know what Queen Louise had decided to wear for the occasion. Sensing a French-style trick at hand, the Duchess replied, “Oh something warm and comfortable”. The reply came back; “It is only that Her Imperial Majesty wished to know whether or not the Queen was still observing half mourning for the late Princess Augusta and should like to have shown sympathy if that were the case”. The Duchess of Buccleuch was suitably admonished and when the King and Queen finally appeared in what might best be described as country estate comfortables, the Tsar took great interest in the tweed of the King’s jacket. George would later send him bolts of a similar material for Nicholas to have made up into suits.

    There was of course to be much formality over the next few days but in this corner of the Winter Palace, everything was put onto the level of a family get together. The King and Queen’s extended family would not arrive until the next day but the Empress made a point of talking about her Strelitz relations to put the Queen at ease whilst the Tsar and the Tsarevich gave the King and Lord Derby a tour of one of the many picture galleries. As they wandered, the Tsar noticed that the King looked a little on edge; “Well gentlemen”, he said as if the idea had just struck him, “What say we leave the ladies for a brief moment and have a smoke”. Lord Derby would note later that he had never seen anyone light up as happily as the King did that afternoon. For someone who had dreaded his trip, the King admitted in a letter to his uncle Sussex that “The Tsar and his wife really have gone to great lengths to make us feel very welcome and most comfortable, though I do find all the excess of the place a little vulgar”.

    In this, George was possibly referring to his billet for the duration of his stay in Russia. The Tsar had decided to give the Anichkov Palace, that grand 18th century imperial palace at the intersection of the Nevsky Prospect and the Fontanka River, to the Tsarevich and his bride as their St Petersburg home. It had been renovated by Alexander I some 20 years earlier when the Grand Duchess Elena vacated it but it showed no signs of age. Anichkov was grand and imposing of course but the private rooms were almost cosy. “I do not want you to think we did not want you to stay with us here”, the Empress explained as she bid the Queen farewell on the journey to Anichkov, “But I thought that it might be nice for Lotya to spend her first night in her new home with her English family. That way she will always think of you there and not so far away in London”.

    At Anichkov, the King and Queen were given a small army of servants to care for them with valets and ladies’ maids on hand to provide anything Their Majesties might need. Even their breakfast trays had been carefully thought out with tea provided instead of coffee and the Empress had even ordered her Chamberlain to order “English sundries” from London with two large hampers especially brought over from Fortnum & Mason packed with jams and marmalades, gentlemen’s relish and even Scotch Eggs which the Empress assumed was some kind of breakfast food. [9] The same comforts were extended to Princess Charlotte Louise of course, though she had far more important things to worry about than what she was to eat first thing in the morning. In her suite, she was introduced to the ladies of the court set aside to help her prepare for the two important ceremonies ahead; her reception into the Orthodox Church and of course, her wedding day. But she needn’t have worried. The Empress travelled to Anichkov personally to put her at her ease and when the Princess responded in Russian, Alexandra kissed her gently whispering kindly; “Oh no my dear, they would much prefer French”. [10]


    Anichkov, 1850.

    The Tsar was uncertain as to whether the King and Queen would want to attend the ceremony for Charlotte Louise’s reception into the Orthodox faith, after which there was to be a “family-only” reception. “On the contrary”, the King replied, “We must see the way things are done here”. He possibly regretted the decision when a few hours later he found himself forced to stand in the Grand Church of the Winter Palace for what seemed an eternity. He didn’t understand a single word, though Grand Duke Michael stood beside the King and Queen trying helpfully to explain what was happening. The King muttered; “We brought Missy into our church within 25 minutes”. Fortunately, Princess Charlotte Louise was far more moved by the experience. Dressed in a white gown embroidered with an olive branch motif, she was anointed with chrism oil in the sign of the cross on her forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth, breast, hands and feet so as to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Empress stood as her godmother and was the first to say out loud the name by which the Princess would now be known for the rest of her life; Maria Georgievna. [11]

    Though she was never as pious as some of her relatives (or indeed her own children), Maria Georgievna was nonetheless a sincere convert to Orthodoxy. She came to appreciate its traditions and rituals, though it was noted that she nonetheless continued to celebrate Christmas Eve on the 24th of December as she did in England as well as celebrating the occasion according to the Russian Orthodox liturgical calendar later in January. Her children were always grateful for this and indeed, her daughter the Grand Duchess Maria (later Queen of the Netherlands) recalled how for nearly a whole month her mother celebrated Christmas with parties and gift-giving well before the other Romanovs began their own festivities. Her son Grand Duke George remembered how his mother “Introduced us all very early to the traditions of an English Christmas, though none of us were ever reconciled to that horrid fruit pudding she so adored, neither did we care for English songs which we all thought sounded very ugly”.

    After the reception ceremony, there was a grand luncheon held at Anichkov where the extended Hesse-Kassel and Mecklenburg-Strelitz relations had finally arrived. “Everything had an atmosphere of comfort and ease to it”, Maria Georgievna later recalled, “I was very grateful to my mother-in-law for that for she made a very difficult thing so very easy. I was allowed to take my first steps in my new homeland surrounded by those I knew and loved well and I hope my own children feel I did the same for their husbands and wives when the time came for them to marry”. For Queen Louise, the whole mood of the trip was now transformed as she could spend time with her parents and siblings. The King too enjoyed being with his Hesse relations, though he noted later that he couldn’t help but wonder if they had been invited because “the Empress still has more children to see married off yet”. That evening there was another banquet, this time to push the focus to the following day’s wedding ceremony. It was here that the Tsar and his wife presented gifts. For their new daughter-in-law, there was a large ikon of St Edward the Martyr, King of England from 975 until 978 and venerated as a Saint in both the Anglican and Orthodox churches. Lord Derby perhaps took the shine off this gift when he said, a little too loudly, “Murdered, wasn’t he?”.

    Then came the other gifts in the form of orders of chivalry. Three velvet cushions were brought forward by footmen, two bearing the Order of St Catherine in the rank of a Dame Grand Cordon, awarded to Maria Georgievna and Queen Louise respectively. For King George, there was the Order of St Andrew which fortunately had been mentioned ahead of time and so the King was able to present the Tsar with the Order of the Garter in return. There were also gifts of jewellery, a diamond and ruby brooch for Queen Louise and a diamond cravat pin for the King. The other Romanov relations offered clocks, tapestry cushions and even perfumes which unsettled the King and Queen as they had no idea whether they should have brought small tokens for each of Maria Georgievna’s new in-laws. The evening was finally brought to a close not with dancing but with a speech by the Tsar in which he gave his blessing to the couple ahead of their big day.

    At 11.30am on the morning of the 29th of November 1840, the Empress Alexandra departed the Winter Palace for Anichkov. By tradition, she would bring Maria Georgievna to the Grand Church to be married. It was the Empress who would place one of her many tiaras upon daughter-in-law’s head. The Imperial Jeweller also delivered a diamond necklace and matching earrings which had belonged to Catherine the Great for her to wear, though Maria indicated that she would prefer to wear her amethyst parure which her brother had given to her shortly before her departure from England. “I shall see your jewels are brought with us”, her mother-in-law said kindly, “Then when you change into your evening dress, you can put them on for us all to admire”. The bride’s dress was widely complimented by the ladies of the Russian court who dressed her and the English newspapers noted that whilst the ivory satin gown had been made in Russia, the Princess’ veil was made in England from Honiton lace and amidst the Imperial Eagles “one could clearly see the emblems of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland as well as the heraldic supporters of the Lion and the Unicorn”.

    Though St Petersburg was blanketed in snow and the weather extremely cold, Maria insisted that she would not travel in a closed carriage. She wanted to be seen by the people, something the Tsar acknowledged and congratulated her for. That said, to keep her warm she had to be covered with a huge fur blanket with a second draped around her shoulders which left her feeling sweaty and hot. Fortunately there was just enough time for her to be made presentable once more before the wedding began. At 12pm precisely, the canons of the Peter and Paul Fortress rang out to announce that His Imperial Highness the Tsarevich was about to marry his bride. The Tsar and his wife led the procession with the King and Queen walking behind. Once at their place before the altar of the Grand Church of the Winter Palace, the groom arrived with his young brothers. And then, finally, in the last steps of a journey that had seemed to last forever, Princess Charlotte Louise – now Maria Georgievna – began her procession. She was followed by the older Romanov ladies, then the Tsarevich’s sisters with Princess Augusta of Cambridge leading some of the younger Hesse-Kassels and Strelitzes.

    Archpriest Ivan Popov, the Imperial confessor and chief of the palace clergy, led the ceremony with the rings presented and the couple formally betrothed in front of the congregation. At the very last moment, the Tsar sent a chamberlain to whisper into King George’s ear. Though the King was not Orthodox, Nicholas felt George should have the honour of holding the nuptial crown above his sister’s head whilst Grand Duke Michael did the same for the groom. Unfazed, the King held aloft a diamond crown above Maria Georgievna’s head as the bride and groom were led around the lectern three times. With a final prayer, Alexander and Maria were finally proclaimed man and wife to the applause of all within the Grand Chapel. Queen Louise wrote of the experience; “It was so very moving and I’m afraid I wept absolute tears! Though we were all shaken out of that when suddenly every church bell in Petersburg rang out and there was gunfire from the fortress which we had not expected and which caused all of us to cry out in alarm much to the amusement of the Russians”.


    Alexander and Maria Georgievna on their wedding day.

    At the subsequent wedding breakfast, the King gave a speech in which he praised his sister’s beauty, elegance and charm, her courage and her determination. Though he bid her a fond farewell, this was not his real goodbye. That came much later when George and Louise prepared themselves to leave St Petersburg following the return banquet held at the Dowager Princess Baryatinskya's palace on the banks of the Neva. The Tsar complimented the King on how splendidly everything had been arranged, though there was a sting in the tail; the Empress remarked that she was glad to see Russian hospitality had not been overshadowed. This was presumably a compliment, had the banquet at the Baryatinsky Palace outshone any of the celebrations staged by the Romanovs it would have been taken as an insult. Still, the Empress' remark did not cast a pall over the proceedings and the guests went home satisfied that all due honour had been done.

    At the Anichkov Palace the following morning, Queen Louise kissed her sister-in-law goodbye and wished her well; “When the baby is born, you must both come to England”, she said gaily, “I won’t take no for answer!”. With a knowing nod, Sasha led Louise out of the room leaving George and his sister alone together. An awkward silence filled the room. Neither knew what to say.

    “You look happy”, George said eventually, holding Maria’s hands in his, “And I am so very proud of you.”

    “If I am happy it is because you made it so”

    “Oh I doubt that”, the King grinned, “I haven’t been very co-operative in all this. But I…I didn’t want to lose you Lottie. I’ve never wanted to lose you”

    Maria began to weep. She held her brother close and whispered in his ear; “You will never lose me Georgie. I’m always with you. Remember that”

    Now it was the King’s turn to cry. He smoothed down his coat and tried to ignore the tears falling from his eyes.

    “Now you listen to everything Sasha tells you”, he said, his voice breaking with emotion, “And you’ll visit us soon so it won’t be too long before we’re back together again. And I want a letter every day, no excuses now, what?”.

    The King made to leave. Just as he reached the door, he turned back to look at his sister. She did look happy. And then George raced forward, throwing his arms about his sister and kissing her cheek.

    “I love you Lottie, so very much”, he said, “And I shall love Sasha and your children, I shall love every happiness you know, I shall love every memory you make here. But I shall still love you as if it were just us. We will always be our father's children.”

    “How proud he would be”, Lottie nodded through sobs, “How very proud”.

    George wiped his eyes. He slowly made toward the door. He didn’t look back. He couldn’t bear to. Just on the other side was the Queen. She held out her hand to her husband and kissed him.

    “Let’s go home Georgie”, she said softly, “Let’s go home and meet our baby”.

    [1] I had to include this as it always fascinates me as to how members of Royal Families seem far less concerned about their genealogy than we are. In the Duke of Kent's recent memoirs, he mentions his Russian relations ("But I'm not sure how they fit in"). Ah that we should all have such grandmothers...

    [2] This is very Victoria. She didn't care so much for whether or not she should be present for grand occasions but rather based her decision to attend on whether she wanted to be present. There's a story about a military review in Aldershot in 1867 which she refused to attend because she was still in mourning. After being told that meant the Princess of Wales would have to go (Victoria already being tired of Alexandra's popularity), she claimed she'd always intended to go to Aldershot and that her mourning must come second to her duty. That was all well and good until the Emperor Maximilian got shot and Victoria found a good excuse to cancel the whole thing.

    [3] But not in Hanover of course where (in TTL), she was never Queen consort.

    [4] At this time, the British Royal Family had access to three royal yachts still in service from the reign of King George III. Sovereign was the largest.

    [5] I've had to use a calculator to work out how long the journey would have taken. The Sovereign being capable of 10-12 knots, the nearest I can approximate from the Port of London to St Petersburg is 7 days. But I stand to be corrected here as nautical speeds are not my speciality!

    [6] It's widely reported that the first visit made by a reigning British sovereign to Russia was the state visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1994. However, Edward VII made a state visit to Russia in 1908 and I believe he had paid a private visit to Russia before then after his accession. From my records, I believe George's visit here is the first visit made but again, I'm happy to be corrected if someone has other statistics.

    [7] A knock on effect from our earlier butterflies where the Oriental Crisis is concerned.

    [8] Originally a title for the daughters of the Tsar, by the time Alexander II married Marie of Hesse and by Rhine in the OTL, it had come to be used for the wife of the Tsarevich.

    [9] Fortnums had been in business for well over 100 years by this time and boasted the Tsar of Russia among the ranks of their grandest patrons.

    [10] The language of the Russian Court was French, Russian was only really spoken in private with German following a close second.

    [11] And we'll call her Maria from now on.


    Better late than never! This chapter is a little longer than usual as I have a busy weekend ahead so the next might not be till Monday or Tuesday.

    Sadly, this is where we leave Charlotte Louise for a while. With these sorts of marriages, it's hard to go into too much detail without derailing our main focus which is of course King George. As with Princess Victoria, I'll try to drop in little updates here and there and Maria Georgievna will make return visits to England. I'll also try to make sure her children get a mention as they arrive too. But certainly for a little while, she's relegated to a B character rather than an A character.

    Many thanks for reading!
    Last edited:
    GV: Part Two, Chapter 30: A Tale of Two Georges
  • King George V

    Part Two, Chapter Thirty: A Tale of Two Georges

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

    At St Katharine’s Dock, a respectable crowd had turned out to see the return of the Sovereign following it’s 8 day crossing from St Petersburg to London. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex waited patiently on the dockside until the royal yacht finally came into view, it’s flags fluttering in the crisp December air, the throngs of people who had gathered letting out cheers and rounds of applause. The London Times reported that “the people perched precariously on window ledges in the very highest buildings for a glimpse of Their Majesties but were left somewhat disappointed. For after an hour or more, a closed carriage arrived to replace the phaeton in which the Duke and Duchess had travelled to Tower Hill. By which time, it had begun to rain. Yet still the crowd did not disperse but were ill-rewarded for their patience for the only sight any of us saw emerge from the Sovereign were two figures with umbrellas, under which I am reliably informed walked the persons of the King and Queen, who then drove away without their customary warm greeting which Londoners have so come to enjoy. Their Majesties must have been eager to return to Buckingham Palace where they shall spend only two days before leaving the capital once more for their home in Dorsetshire”.


    St Katharine Dock, London, from an 1828 print.

    The King and Queen had very little choice other than to return to the Palace as quickly as possible. The last leg of their journey across the North Sea had been particularly rough and Queen Louise had been taken unwell. Dr Arthur Ballinger, a junior physician attached to the Royal Household, had joined the royal party on their trip to Russia and later remarked that the only person on board the Sovereign not to be afflicted by sea sickness was the King. For the others, Dr Ballinger prescribed a hot mixture of brandy, lemon juice, honey and ginger but in most cases, the alcohol simply made the situation worse. The Duchess of Buccleuch was particularly badly affected and when the Queen complained that Ballinger’s remedy was making her feel worse, the Duchess pitched the entire jug of the concoction overboard. But worryingly, whilst everybody else recovered soon after the waters calmed, Queen Louise remained in her sick bed. “She could keep nothing down at all, not even a little cold tea”, the Duchess of Buccleuch noted, “And we were all so very worried for Her Majesty that Ballinger got a terrible ticking off from the King, His Majesty insistent that his remedy had in fact made the Queen a great deal worse. For her part, Her Majesty simply kept saying ‘I shall be perfectly alright’ and bore the ordeal with great stoicism”.

    But sadly, the Queen was far from alright. The moment she returned to Buckingham Palace Dr Allison was called to examine her. He gave her a sleeping draught and told the Duchess of Buccleuch to ensure she administer the same draught for the next few days. Then he made his way to the King’s Study where George V was pacing anxiously.

    “I am so very sorry Your Majesty”, Allison said softly, “Her Majesty has suffered a miscarriage”.

    The news came as a terrible blow to the King. The arrival of another baby, a baby he was so determined was to be a son, was the promise of happiness he had clung to as he endured his farewell to his sister in St Petersburg. In a few days, the King and Queen were to travel to Hanover House for Christmas with their most intimate friends and relations and it was planned that the Queen would be able to stay there and enjoy the peace and calm of “the little house” given Dr Allison’s advice that this pregnancy may take a higher toll than the last. The King immediately wanted to go to his wife but she was already sleeping. She would recover, Allison said, and this sad turn of events did not mean she could have no further children in the future. Nonetheless, the Queen’s loss was deeply distressing to both George and Louise and naturally the celebrations for Christmas at Hanover House were immediately cancelled. The Queen could not travel in time and so it was that Their Majesties faced a more sombre Christmas at Buckingham Palace instead.

    Fortunately, the Cambridges were still in England having delayed their return to Hanover until after Christmas. The Duchess was one of many who had experienced similar tragedies and she reasserted herself in the affections of the royal couple by devotedly nursing the Queen through the worst. The Duke consoled his nephew as much as possible too, inviting him and Frau Wiedl to dine at Cambridge House as a much-needed distraction. It was unfortunate therefore that just days after the King and Queen returned to London, alarming news came from Sandhurst where Prince George had been confined to barracks pending a decision on his future in the British Army. Evidently this detention had only served to make the Prince less penitent and he now resented the harshness of his punishment so much that he had made a decision for himself. In a letter to his father, the Prince said that he no longer wished to serve in the army and would take up Lord Hill’s offer to resign without a stain on his character. Thereafter, he would go to Canada – with Ada Marsden. As soon as she was free to marry, they would do so. Princess Alexandrine of Baden could marry “another unfairly maligned prince”, he said, “Nothing will force me to take her, or any other spinster cousin, for a wife for as long as I live”.

    These were nothing but immature threats borne of frustration which aimed to provoke a response from a strict parent. Prince George was clearly bored and wanted free of the consequences of his actions. Yet the Duke of Cambridge did not see it that way. He was genuinely concerned that his son and heir meant what he said in his letter and he saw that there was no further time for delay; a decision on the Prince’s future must be made before the year was out. To make matters worse, there was also a letter from Lord Hill. He had reports that far from being well behaved in the presence of the soldiers put on watch to ensure he did not go AWOL again, he had enraged one by gambling with him for high stakes which he then refused to pay once he lost at cards. All three were disciplined but it was yet a further sign that Prince George was far from being corrected in his behaviour. Cambridge had hoped to keep this latest development from the King given the circumstances but George knew when his uncle was out of sorts. After a few glasses of brandy following their dinner, the Duke came clean. He gave the King a copy of the Prince’s letter and closed his eyes.

    “I simply don’t know what else to do with the boy”, he said sadly, “Haven’t we done everything to try and save him from himself?”

    The King carefully folded the letter and put it in the inside pocket of his coat.

    “Not everything, no”, he said sternly, “But by God I shall see to it that we do”.

    By contrast to his cousin and namesake, Prince George of Cumberland was making his presence at court felt in a very different way. He was to join the Royal Family at Hanover House for Christmas but when those plans were cancelled, the King still extended his invitation for the Prince to remain in London as his guest. Prince George had very little to do with his time and so called on the relations he had never really had a chance to get to know before. He spent time with the formidable Princess Mary who seem to have a complete lack of tact and spent much of their time together telling George how awful his parents were. Princess Sophia was far more friendly but she was by now almost completely deaf and when the Prince asked what memories of his grandfather she might share, Sophia replied; "I think there's a slice left but it's yesterdays". In the evenings, George dined with the King, the Cambridges or the Sussexes. His blindness meant that he could not explore the city as he might have liked and as for most people with a disability in these times, life could be quite boring and lonely. One afternoon, faced with another day of nothing to do, he made his way to the Queen’s Apartments and asked the Duchess of Buccleuch if he might have a moment with his cousin. From a chaise where she was laying down, Queen Louise heard George’s voice and invited him inside.

    “Forgive me but I just wanted to bring you a little something”, he said kindly, “It’s the new Dickens. I heard that you liked his work and well…I asked Simpson to go and fetch you this from Cecil Court”.

    He handed a copy of Master Humphrey's Clock to the Duchess of Buccleuch who smiled and presented it to the Queen.

    “There's a new serial in it; The Old Curiosity Shop. I want to read it myself but I’m afraid Simpson doesn’t care for Dickens very much”

    Queen Louise made to stand up but the Duchess moved forward to prevent her.

    “Oh really Charlotte”, Louise said brusquely, “I am not an invalid, I am allowed to stand!”

    She moved towards Prince George and kissed him on the cheek.

    “That was very kind of you George dear”, she said, “And if you want to hear it, I shall be happy to read it with you”.


    Master Humphrey's Clock.

    This marked a turning point in the Queen’s recovery. She had been confined to her bed for almost a week and as anyone might expect, she was extremely depressed, blaming herself for the loss of her baby. Dr Allison insisted that there was nothing she could have done to prevent her miscarriage but the Queen thought he was just being kind. Prince George offered her something which nobody had thought to do; he gave her the chance to be needed. Each afternoon, he made his way to the Queen’s Apartments for tea and there, Louise read a chapter of The Old Curiosity Shop. It did not take long before laughter was heard in the Queen’s Apartments once more and when George suggested that they take a walk before the next instalment, Louise took the Prince by the arm and together they pottered in the gardens talking about their favourite characters and what they thought might happen. From the window of his study, the King looked on and smiled. The Queen was slowly returning to her old self once more. The pain would always be there of course, thoughts of what might have been. But she was smiling again. And that pleased the King.

    The King was watching from his window during an audience with the Prime Minister, the last to be scheduled for that year. The King was distracted but not entirely by the positive signs of recovery in his wife. The Cambridge issue was dominating his thoughts. He was hardly paying attention as Sir James Graham gave an overview of the achievements of the government over the last 9 months; food prices had stabilised and though there was continued unrest in some cities the Home Secretary believed there to be no credible threat of a return to the dark days of the Winter of Discontent. The situation in Afghanistan was best described as “temperate”, Dost Muhammed Khan now having secured Kabul once more and awaiting the outcome of next year’s London Conference to see where his bread was best buttered. But there was an ongoing situation that would need urgent attention in the New Year.

    “I fear we must address the situation in China. I am afraid my predecessor applied a patch to a tear that is now fraying”, Graham continued, not looking up from his papers and so overlooking the fact that the King was not entirely enthused by their conversation, “And now that Elliot has resigned, I am loathe to send our new man into the field with a broken bat. You see Sir, we have bought time with the Chinese but it shall not hold and that means a review of our foreign policy. I’m quite in agreement with Lord Derby that we must push further but I cannot do that…”

    The Prime Minister glanced up. The King stood at the window, looking down into the gardens below where the Queen was out walking with Prince George of Cumberland, Princess Mary and little Princess Victoria in her bassinet. He smiled.

    “Perhaps Your Majesty might like to end the audience a little early?”

    “What? Oh no, do forgive me Prime Minister. It’s just that…well, the Queen is so much improved of late”

    “I am very glad to hear that Sir”, Graham smiled, “I well remember when Lady Graham and I suffered a similar loss. It took time for us both to accept but we did so. And we were drawn much closer because of it”

    The King nodded; “Thank you for that Prime Minister. Now do go on, the situation in China, I believe we had reached a kind of agreement with the Emperor on trade?”

    “Not quite Sir”, the Prime Minister replied, “The policy we inherited from the last government proved only to be a holding tactic. Nothing was actually agreed as it were, it was merely a gentleman’s understanding”

    In fact, the “understanding” was anything but gentlemanly. Before the Whigs were ousted from office in March 1840, they committed themselves to the Melbury-Granville Plan. It marked a significant change of course in British foreign policy with Palmerston’s gunboat diplomacy abandoned following the disaster of Bala Hissar and Melbury’s preference for negotiations, conferences and treaties offered up in its place. It was hoped that the Chinese may be brought to terms regarding a permanent British presence in Hong Kong if the United Kingdom was seen to make stronger efforts to curb the trade of Opium as the Chinese wanted. Lord Melbury introduced a bill which appeared to ban the trade but which in reality served as a kind of smoke screen that would allow opium to be sold just as before yet gave the Chinese the impression that the British had had a change of heart. The bill only made mention of the East India Company but Lord Melbury felt this was perfectly adequate given that the Chinese themselves had highlighted the company as the main culprit. Ostensibly, all ships flying the company flag were now banned from trading in opium and if they did, the British Chief Superintendent in China (Charles Elliot) could issue a penalty notice which forced the East India Company to pay a fine fixed at 10% of the value of their cargo.

    But there was a glaring loophole; the East India Company was still able to hire “runners” which collected the cargo from the East India Company’s ships well off the coast of China and which then took the contraband to the port. The runners sold it for an inflated price which would cover the cost of the 10% penalty if the ship was caught and impounded by the Chinese authorities. In effect, all Lord Melbury had done was introduce a new tariff on opium which the East India Company was happy to pay because a) it could afford to do so and b) because the alternative was that they could not sell their most valuable commodity at all. The Tories voted with the bill because whilst most claimed to be against the Opium trade, they did not want to sacrifice their stance on free trade or endanger their own investments in similar trading companies that might be affected. It seemed that everybody was getting what they wanted and whilst opium was still pouring into China, it allowed the British authorities to claim that they had banned the trade of opium and had even introduced deterrents to stop those traders who fell outside of their jurisdiction. If the Chinese wanted more co-operation, they would have to allow the British increased authority in the region – namely, they would have to allow the British to take more control in Hong Kong where a Chief Superintendent would enforce British justice. Of course, this came with an added request that the Chinese allow British merchants to trade more freely in Amoy and Shanghai to make up for the shortfall in the profits lost to British merchants from the opium trade.

    The Tories upheld this policy when they came into government. Lord Derby believed that Lord Melbury had not pushed far enough in his demands but he could not make too much noise where the Opium Trade was concerned. The Tories had tied themselves up in knots on the subject during the general election campaign and whilst Sir James Graham had spoken in favour of banning the trade of opium altogether, his free trade principles made him reluctant to take further action when the restrictions he inherited from Lord Cottenham’s government were proved to be inadequate. So the situation had gone by for the last six months with Lord Qishan, the Viceroy of Liangguang, reporting that he could see for himself that the British restrictions were not working – indeed, he suspected that they were never intended to work in the first place. He called a meeting with the British Chief Superintendent, a veteran naval officer, Charles Elliot in the first week of November 1840 to raise this issue but Elliot could offer nothing to ease the tension. He bought a little time by telling Qishan that a change of government in England always meant delays in changing matters of foreign policy but he knew himself that this was a weak response unworthy of his post.

    Charles Elliot was appointed by Lord Palmerston but was kept on by Lord Melbury and Lord Derby because Elliot was so widely respected in both the Royal Navy and in the Diplomatic Service. When Elliot first saw the Melbury Plan on the opium trade, he gave it the benefit of the doubt but now it was evident to all concerned that nothing had changed. The last straw was a comment from an East India Company agent who told Elliot; “They can raise the fine to 80%, we’ll always find someone out here to buy the damn stuff for what we say it’s worth”. Elliot’s sense of honour would no longer allow him to be drawn into an elaborate confidence trick. He immediately wrote to Lord Derby offering his resignation; “No man entertains a deeper detestation of the disgrace and sin of this forced traffic on the coast of China than I and I have steadily discountenanced it by all the lawful means in my power. Yet these lawful means are now being used as a foundation for a great deceit in which I shall play no part, though it shall inevitably mean the total sacrifice of a position I have held with great personal enjoyment for some years past”.


    Charles Elliot.

    In the same briefing, Elliot warned the British government that they were sleepwalking toward catastrophe. In his view, the Chinese were growing impatient and far from being inclined to reach an agreement with the British on increased trading rights or a permanent presence in Hong Kong, Chinese officials were preparing a report to the Emperor which proposed a zero-tolerance policy. The Chinese would inevitably attack British ships and the British government would have to retaliate by sending a fleet of gunships to the China seas as Palmerston had wanted to a year earlier. There would be war, a war which the British were ill-prepared for. When Lord Derby read this, he voiced concerns that this might threaten to turn the public against the Tories just as Bala Hissar had turned the public against the Whigs. As a holding gesture, Lord Derby suggested that the penalty for trade in opium be increased to 15% and that 5% of that should be given to the Chinese authorities as compensation. It meant that the East India Company would once again have to raise its prices but surely the Chinese were not so high and mighty as to turn down such a beneficial arrangement? Elliot was furious. Derby’s proposal was little more than state sanctioned bribery. He refused to put the proposal to Lord Qishan before his departure and later said he had never felt so ashamed of his home country as "when her ministers stooped to blackmail to preserve a most ruinous and un-Godly trade".

    As he listened to the Prime Minister, the King suddenly became more curious about Hong Kong.

    “What is our ultimate objective there?”, he asked, interrupting Sir James, “It cannot be simply to keep exporting opium?”

    “Not at all Sir. Your Majesty’s subjects in the region are gravely mistreated”, the Prime Minister explained, “They are frequently arrested on spurious charges, there are attacks on their homes and businesses, they have no security. We want the Chinese to cede Hong Kong under the authority of a British administration to ensure they are protected. And of course, to secure our trade routes in the Far East which as I have explained Sir, are left very much to the whim of the Chinese which cannot be allowed to continue. They can inflict great economic damage to us without notice and in such a situation, we shall have no option but to declare war and fight for our interests”

    The King leaned forward and lit a cigarette. He said nothing for a time and allowed Sir James to embark on another lengthy monologue.

    “The new man…to replace Elliot…who had you in mind?”

    “Sir Henry Pottinger”, the Prime Minister replied, “I believe his service in India qualifies him for such a post”

    “I should like to see him before he leaves”

    The Prime Minister nodded; “Naturally Sir, I am sure Sir Henry would be honoured”.

    “And if that is all for today….”

    Aware that his time with the King was now at an end, Sir James stood up and bowed. A little bell rang and the door to the King’s study opened. Charlie Phipps handed the Prime Minister his hat and coat and then entered the room to hand the King a stack of letters freshly arrived from Russia. The King looked down at the letter on the very top. He smiled. It was Lottie’s handwriting.

    “Charlie?”, he said, calling Phipps back before he could leave, “Tomorrow I shall be seeing Sir Henry Pottinger. And then I should like you to make my apologies to the Queen but I shan’t be able to dine with her in the evening, I’ll be going to Windsor for a day or two. Don’t bother them at the big house, Frau Wiedl and I will stay at the Fort”.

    Phipps nodded obediently.

    It was a bitterly cold afternoon at Sandhurst with a gentle flurry of snow descending on the parade ground. In his room, Prince George laid on his bed half dressed, smoking a cigar and gazing at the ceiling. His father must have had his letter by now. All the Prince wanted to know is how soon he could be released from this hellish situation. He day dreamed of what he’d do first. He’d go to Liverpool of course. That was where Ada Marsden was staying. They could get a passage to Canada easily enough from there, though it was likely to be pricey. No matter, he had kept back a little something his mother had sent him to make up for the shortfall in his allowance. The army had been thoroughly petty in his view, cutting his wages by two thirds until his new posting was concerned. Oh well, he had got in before them this time hadn’t he? In a few weeks he’d be on a ship bound for Canada with his girl, his father and the army disappearing into the distance as he travelled across the Atlantic. Suddenly, George was rudely shaken from his daydreaming by a figure standing in the doorway. It was the King.

    George shot up from his bed and pulled his braces over his shirt, rolling his sleeves down and making an effort to appear presentable. The room stank of stale beer and old smoke. The King looked down at an open trunk by the wardrobe. Half of its contents had spilled onto the floor. There was a silver picture frame on the top – the likeness of Mrs Marsden half-smiled from behind the glass. His Majesty kicked the trunk with the toe of his boot.

    “Going somewhere are we?”

    The Prince began to mumble.

    “Sit down George. This shan’t take very long”

    His face flushing red, the Prince sat down. The King towered over him.

    “I dined with Uncle Cambridge last week. He showed me a letter. Did you write it?”

    Prince George nodded solemnly.

    “Then I am glad to discover that despite being a cad and a drunkard, you have not become a liar into the bargain”, the King snapped sarcastically. He pulled out the letter and put it gently into his cousin’s lap, “I suggest you destroy that. I shan’t pay out again if it should fall into the wrong hands”

    “Georgie I…”

    “No no”, the King said, holding up a gloved hand, “I am not here for the purpose of a debate. I have tried to be reasonable. But it appears that I was wrong to do so. I tried to tame you. Now I see that I shall have to break you first. Have you a bottle of brandy?”

    The Prince nodded.

    “Then pour yourself a glass cousin. I think you shall have need of it”.
    GV: Part Two, Chapter 31: Negotiations
  • King George V

    Part Two, Chapter Thirty-One: Negotiations

    The Christmas of 1840 was a tense one for all concerned. The King was still furious with Prince George of Cambridge but he declared a truce for the festivities as he sensed everybody in the family needed a respite from unpleasantness. Still, the Duchess of Buccleuch wrote that she had “never known a Christmas like it” with all the usual fun and noise replaced by “a quiet, morose sort of affair”. There were none of the usual games and even though presents were still exchanged and a grand luncheon offered to guests on Christmas Day, everybody noted how subdued the members of the Royal Family were. It was also noted that the Earl of Tipperary [1] made himself scarce where possible, hiding away in the room allocated to him and only venturing beyond it’s four walls when his presence was deemed absolutely necessary. By contrast, Prince George of Cumberland proved himself once again to have a talent for cheering people with his relaxed and friendly manner. The highlight for many, which even brought the Duchess of Cambridge to helpless laughter, was the moment Cumberland presented his Aunt Mary with the most unexpected of gifts; a white kitten called Snowbell. Snowbell was no doubt intended to keep the old lady company and initially Princess Mary was delighted with her gift. That was until the kitten got a little too excited and climbed its way up the folds of Mary’s dress, settling itself on the Princess’ shoulder where it dispatched a nasty little message down her back.

    By New Year's Day, the Queen felt well enough to travel and she asked if she might go to Windsor. The King was not at all keen on the idea and tried to talk his wife out of making the journey. He was eagerly backed in this endeavour by the Cambridges and Princess Mary. Windsor was far too cold and damp at Christmas, that's why they had enjoyed being at Buckingham Palace so much for the occasion. Far better, they said, to wait for a week or two. It was all a ruse of course, a great surprise delayed a little but nonetheless something the older generation of the family knew the Queen really needed to cheer her spirits. The Duchess of Cambridge had written urgently to her sister (the Queen’s Mother, Grand Duchess Marie) the moment the Queen had suffered her unfortunate loss. Marie snapped into action and made arrangements to leave Neustrelitz for England as soon as possible, arriving in London on the 3rd of January 1841. The Duke of Sussex was dispatched to meet her and at a small family party held that evening, the King and Queen were half way through supper with the Sussexes, the Cambridges and Princess Mary when all of a sudden, Augusta stood up and tapped the table with her knuckles. The King was puzzled. The Queen watched her aunt nod toward a footman poised by the double doors to the dining room.

    There was a great clatter of cutlery dropping onto plates as the King and Queen bolted from their chairs and ran towards the open door. There stood Grand Duchess Marie. In her arms, she held a bright eyed and beaming Princess Marie Louise. Missy was home.

    “Mama!”, the King cried out, kissing her on the cheek with tears in his eyes, “When did you arrive?!”

    “This afternoon!”, Grand Duchess Marie said with a smile, “Though I had to be hidden away!"

    "Oh darling Mama!", the Queen sobbed merrily, "How long will you be with us?"

    "For a week or two", the Grand Duchess replied, "But only if you promise to take me to Covent Garden. You never have and I am simply longing to go!"

    “In that case, Covent Garden shall come to you Mama”, the King said laughing loudly, “Phipps, invite the company here for a private performance on Sunday evening would you? And my charming mother-in-law shall list her favourites, I want her to hear them all”.

    If the Earl of Armagh had managed to bring the Queen through the worst of her tragedy, it was Grand Duchess Marie who gave both her daughter and her son-in-law the lift they truly needed. Whilst Missy’s visit would not be a long one, it cheered the King and Queen greatly to see their two daughters together and reminded them perhaps that though they had both suffered a great loss, they had already been given many blessings in the form of Princess Marie Louise and Princess Victoria. There was to be another happy surprise during that visit too that gave the royal couple a much-needed glimpse of hope. A few days after their arrival, Grand Duchess Marie and Missy were sitting with the King and Queen in the nursery as the King tried to help his eldest daughter build a tower from wooden blocks. When the blocks fell in a heap, Missy babbled out with delight.

    “Did you enjoy that Missy?”, the King said, eagerly stacking the blocks again.

    “More!”, the little girl said loudly. Everybody in the room sat in stunned silence. Missy spoke. But more than that, she seemed to have responded to the King’s voice; she heard him. Dr Allison was immediately called to examine the Princess.

    “I can say nothing more than what you saw for yourself. Her Royal Highness heard you Sir”, Allison beamed, “And that is a fine indication that her treatment is of great benefit”.

    It has since been speculated that the Princess Royal was not completely deaf but that her hearing loss was still significant enough to slow her progress and make life extremely challenging for her. Most historians agree that she had no hearing at all in her right ear and only around 30% in her left. This still presented major challenges which no doubt her specialist education helped to resolve but she was spared the added trials of being mute (as many deaf children were at this time) [2], though her parents were warned that her speech might yet be limited and her hearing might degenerate further as she grew older. Nonetheless, even these caveats could not dull the King and Queen’s happiness and so it was that the new year began in a much happier atmosphere than the old year had ended.


    The Princess Royal, painted in 1842 by Winterhalter.

    But there was still a trace of anxiety to be had behind palace walls. The Cambridges were forced to leave England earlier than they might have liked, their priority being to remove themselves from London before Captain Marsden’s Private Members’ Bill petitioning for divorce was to be read in the House. They had been braced for the worst. It was likely that letters would be produced from the Prince which would hardly make for edifying reading and though the public interest in the Marsden Scandal had ebbed a little over Christmas, it was likely to be the nation’s favourite topic of conversation until it was concluded. There was also talk of heavy damages to be paid which Prince George could ill-afford and when the Duke of Cambridge asked his son what exactly he had agreed with the King at Sandhurst, the Prince would say nothing other than “I gave my word I would do the right thing and I will”. This ambiguity did not reassure the Duke or the Duchess as they prepared to weather the storm.

    Though she remained privately aggrieved that the King had insisted on Prince George being married (with Princess Alexandrine of Baden as his preferred candidate), the Duchess of Cambridge had finally agreed that seeing her son settle down was the only way to restore his reputation at home and abroad. Prince George was sent back to Herrenhausen with his parents in the new year of 1841, officially returning for further training with his Hanoverian regiment for the foreseeable future. In reality, he was being subjected to a kind of house arrest, kept under the close watch of his parents who now dictated his every move. The Duchess was kinder than her husband, the Duke insisting that their son couldn’t even go out into the gardens at Herrenhausen without an escort in case he decided to make a bolt for it. Augusta arranged little excursions for her son as distractions to his predicament, selecting one or two of her most trusted courtiers to accompany him to the theatre or a restaurant but choosing those who were a little more lively in their company than the crusty old retainers the Duke preferred.

    It is fair to say that King George V only preferred Alexandrine of Baden as a candidate for the future bride of his Cambridge cousin because she was of the right age, the right religion and because her parents were not entirely in a position to reject Prince George based on his well-catalogued misdemeanours. The Grand Duke was of morganatic birth and his wife’s family had been chased out of Sweden following a series of coups that had seen her grandfather murdered, her father deposed and her brother disinherited in favour of a French general called Bernadotte. [3] Furthermore, the couple had become estranged, the imperious Grand Duchess Sophie proving to be deeply unpopular with the people of Baden. The Grand Duke was still well-liked but there was constant talk of his peculiar ancestry and the dynasty seemed to be built on very shaky foundations indeed. A British marriage would enhance the reputation of the Badens whilst helping to settle Prince George and this being the priority, the King pushed Princess Alexandrine’s dance card towards the Cambridges on the understanding that his Aunt do all she could to secure an introduction.

    This proved to be easier said than done. At Karlsruhe, Augusta's letter imposed on an already frosty relationship. Grand Duke Leopold of Baden had married his half-niece Princess Sophie of Sweden in 1819 for one reason and one reason only; to improve his standing among his counterparts who did not have the worry of the dreaded “morganatische”. Sophie belonged to the House of Holstein-Gottorp through her paternal line which had only reigned in Sweden since 1751 but which descended from the royal House of Vasa which seized the Swedish throne in the 16th century. Indeed, Sophie’s grandfather King Gustav III expressed a wish that his royal house be known as Vasa as a continuation of the line but nobody paid much attention and his dynasty was always known as that of Holstein-Gottorp. Eventually the Swedish nobility grew tired of Gustav III and assassinated him, the throne passing to Sophie’s father Gustav IV Adolf who escaped assassination but was nonetheless deposed in a coup in 1809. Sophie’s brother (another Gustav) was disinherited and when Sophie’s childless uncle Charles XIII died, he was succeeded by the French general Jean Bernadotte as King of Sweden. [4] Grand Duchess Sophie was therefore perceived to hail from an exhausted dynasty with no standing, no influence and no money. Yet she was a royal princess and this was all Leopold needed to steady his own lineage for the next generation of Grand Dukes of Baden.


    Grand Duchess Sophie of Baden.

    Sophie was imperious and haughty, bitter and resentful that she had been denied her rightful place at the court in Stockholm. She refused to speak Swedish yet pretended that nothing had changed there. Her brother, created the Prince of Vasa by the Austrian Emperor, was (to Sophie’s mind at least) a King-in-Exile and this gave her the right to expect absolute deference and respect; she never tired of comparing herself to the French Madame Adelaide who held great authority at her brother’s court, yet at least King Louis-Philippe actually had a court instead of a modest mansion in Saxony staffed by only a handful of servants and the odd courtier of yesteryear who couldn’t face the reign of the Bernadottes in Stockholm. This made Sophie unpopular in Baden, though the people were kind to her when she first arrived there. All that changed when a young man called Kasper Hauser appeared in Baden claiming to have spent his formative years in a dungeon cell on the orders of the Grand Ducal Family. He claimed he was the rightful heir to Baden and his tale quickly caught the attention of people not only in the Grandy Duchy itself but as far away as Vienna and Rome. In 1833, Hauser was found stabbed to death leaving a cryptic clue to his assailant’s identity but many didn’t need a Poirot style trail to lead them to the perpetrator; many believed Grand Duchess Sophie had ordered Hauser to be killed as he posed a threat to her position. [5]

    The ensuing scandal was enough for Grand Duke Leopold to become permanently estranged from his wife who became even more indignant and overbearing in an effort to remind people that it was she who had “made the Hochbergs respectable”. In a way, her personality was very similar to that of the British Queen Mother, the Dowager Queen Louise, who tried so hard to reinforce her importance than people simply tired of her and as a result, her influence actually diminished until her presence was resented. It should therefore come as no surprise that when the Duchess of Cambridge wrote to Grand Duke Leopold inviting him and his family to Herrenhausen for a visit, the Grand Duchess Sophie did not respond favourably.

    She was no fool. Much of her time was spent attending to the daily glut of letters on her desk from Europe’s capitals, particularly Vienna, where many members of Sophie’s immediate family, their friends, courtiers and supporters, had settled following the 1809 coup in Stockholm. The Grand Duchess had a great interest in politics and a small army of correspondents kept her well informed as to what was happening in London, Paris and Rome. She knew therefore that the Cambridges had left England to return to Hanover to duck the worst fall-out from a divorce bill in the British parliament which named their son and heir as a cad and a scoundrel – the son they now needed to marry off as quickly as possible. No doubt their attention had settled on Leopold and Sophie’s eldest daughter Alexandrine to whom the British King and Queen could claim some vague connection Sophie thought too far removed to be of any great interest. [6]

    Sophie forbad Leopold from accepting the invitation; or rather, she tried to. “You may pay court to those British horrors”, she said grandly, “But I shan’t go with you and you shan’t take Alexandrine either”. Unfortunately, everything Grand Duke Leopold needed from his wife had long been extorted and her opinion on this matter was not of any great value in his decision making. Sophie protested that Alexandrine already had a good prospect in the Hereditary Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha but Grand Duke Leopold reasoned that if Ernst was seriously considering marriage with their eldest daughter, he would not have delayed declaring his interest after his attitude towards the relationship had once seemed so enthusiastic. It is possible that Grand Duke Leopold had heard the rumours about Hereditary Duke Ernst too, that he could not consider marriage whilst he was being treated for sexually transmitted infections picked up in the brothels of Europe. Either way, the Grand Duke put his foot down. [7] The British interest in Alexandrine was evidently born of a need for them to settle Prince George as quickly as possible. Such a match would be advantageous both to Alexandrine and the wider Baden family, though naturally much would hinge on the outcome of the Marsden Scandal.

    With Prince George now in Hanover and the first reading of the Private Members’ Bill which would resolve the Marsden Scandal one way or the other a month away, the King allowed himself some time with his family as Missy prepared to return to Germany with her grandmother. This time the parting, though still difficult to bear, was perhaps made easier by the feeling that it was becoming routine. In a few months the King and Queen would be reunited with their daughter at Rumpenheim or Neustrelitz and so the prolonged absence of the Princess Royal from England was broken into something far less daunting and more manageable. Travelling with Missy and Grand Duchess Marie was the Earl of Armagh, his long visit to England now at an end. The King almost begged George to stay, suggesting that he might like to use Marlborough House, now empty since the marriage of the King’s sister, but the news from Berlin that the Duchess of Cumberland was not faring well and that her illness might prove to be far more serious than had first been thought saw the young man return to Germany, at least for a time. The King promised that Armagh would be invited to Rumpenheim or Neustrelitz as the case may be in the summer.

    In the second week of January, the King and Queen were invited to tour Regent’s Park where metal tent pegs had been driven into the ground and strung with ropes to mark off each area to be developed. Work was to begin as soon as the weather improved but the January chill did little to put off the crowds who assembled to catch a glimpse of the royal couple. It was reported that he told one spectator; “This part of the park will be yours to use whenever you should like. I hope you will spend many happy hours here”. The concept of recreational time in 1841 was very different to that which we know today. The vast majority of George’s subjects worked 6 days a week, some only scraping a half-day a week on a Sunday morning to call their own and which was inevitably spent in church. There were far more wide-open spaces in cities (especially in London) than we see in 2022, yet these spaces were privately owned and so a brand-new public park captured the imagination in a way we may not quite appreciate today. Whilst the development of Regent’s Park saw the space split into three, it was decided that the main priority was the “big house” in the inner circle in what would become Lisson Park. With the foundations laid there, work could then begin in creating public pathways, planting avenues of trees, erecting statues and monuments and landscaping flower beds.


    The redevelopment plan of Regent's Park. [3]

    The King and Queen were always happy when they were among their people and it is testament to George’s character that he appeared to enjoy the company of the ordinary working man far more than he the Mayors and other officials who usually fawned over royalty and stuck to the same obsequious script. One such encounter came at the foundation stone laying for Lisson where an elderly man in flat cap and shabby trousers held up by a length of twine stood in the King’s eyeline shaking his head and looking down at the pit where the stone was to be laid. Curiosity got the better of the King and so he walked over to the man and asked what he thought of the redevelopment of the park.

    “Bugger the park”, the man said, “Where’s the vegetables gone?”

    Prior to 1841, the inner circle had been devoted to a cluster of allotments which provided fresh produce to the neighbouring terraces. The King explained that a new farm was to be built further along to the southeast of the current park which would provide fruit and vegetables to the new houses of the inner circle.

    “No it won’t”, the man replied, “See, I dug here for years and there’s nothing down there but clay Sir. You’d be lucky to get a spade in”

    “You worked here?”, the King replied smiling.

    “Oh yes King”, the man said cheerfully, warming to his theme, “I’ve been a gardener all my life. That’s how I know you won’t grow a thing down there. Let me show you…”

    And to the confusion of the officials gathered around the foundation stone, the amusement of Queen Louise and the delight of the crowds, the King let the man lead him down to where Home Park sits today. The two men spoke for fifteen minutes, Charlie Phipps eventually stepping in to suggest the King might consider returning to the Inner Circle as the weather was bound to turn and the Queen was eager to return home.

    “Quite so Charlie”, the King replied, “Now this man is Mr Dawson. And he’s to be my Head Gardener of the Home Park. For now, I’ve said he can give us a hand down in Dorset. See to it, there’s a good chap”.

    Mr Samuel Dawson was 73 years old when he joined the Royal Household as a gardener. He would spend the next twenty years in the service of the King, transferring back from Hanover House when Home Park was finally established in 1843. He retired at the grand old age of 93 and was given a grace and favour cottage to live in on the Windsor Estate where he died five years later. He always called George V “King” (not Your Majesty) which pleased George enormously, so much so that whenever he wrote to Mr Dawson, he signed his notes “Your friend, King”.

    On the 26th of January 1841, the King attended the State Opening of Parliament. He was not accompanied by the Queen, officially the reason given was that she had caught a chill whilst visiting a hospital in Watford, but the King had actually forbidden his wife from taking part in the ceremony because he feared it might put too much strain on her. After all, the “full rig” was incredibly heavy and Dr Allison had yet to declare the Queen fully recovered.

    “I don’t know why he won’t let me go”, the Queen sighed, “Sometimes I think he would like to wrap me up in a little blanket and keep me in a drawer so I’d always be right there where he left me”.

    One interesting bill announced in the Speech from the Throne that year was the introduction of a Census Act. The Population Act 1840 had prepared the way for a much more robust census which would collect far more data about the general population of England and Wales than any previous attempts to do so. For the first time in British history, the census would record not only people’s names and addresses but their ages and occupations. Census forms were delivered to around 16 million people across the United Kingdom and then collected by enumerators from each household by hand. More often than not, the enumerators were forced to help people complete their census form as many were illiterate. The King felt this to be a very interesting idea, though he had no idea how he should record himself when the census form reached Buckingham Palace later that year in June. The issue was that the form asked for an “Occupation – If Any”. Charlie Phipps advised the King should simply enter his name as The King and then leave the Occupation field blank as it was hardly appropriate for the Sovereign to describe his job on a civil registration document.

    “I won’t have them say I do nothing!”, the King muttered, “I shall write ‘Sovereign’”.

    And so, on the 1841 census, the first of its kind now repeated every decade in the United Kingdom, George V is listed as The King, aged 21 years, The Sovereign. Technically, it was an offence to enter anybody on the form who was not resident when the census form was returned to the enumerator but Queen Louise said she couldn’t list Princess Victoria and not the Princess Royal. So even though Missy was back in Germany, according to the 1841 census she was actually living with her parents at Buckingham Palace. This caused quite a headache for future biographers who could not understand how the little girl had managed to travel from Leipzig to London and back again in the space of 24 hours.

    Another highlight of the Speech from the Throne was the amendment to the Prohibited Goods (Trade) Act of 1840 which set higher penalties against the sale of Opium by British ships in the China Seas. This legislation allowed the Treasury to collect and determine “a fair compensation” to be paid to the Chinese authorities when the increased penalty for trading in contraband (22.5%) was levied on British ships exporting the drug. A copy of this bill was sent with Sir Henry Pottinger to Guangdong where it was hoped it would prove enough for Lord Qishan to report to his Emperor that the British government were taking the controversial trade of opium far more seriously than before. Unfortunately, Pottinger arrived too late. Just days before his arrival in Hong Kong, the Chinese opened fire on a runner in the Bay of Kowloon, the site of a previous skirmish that had almost brought Britain and China into a state of conflict. The runner was packed with opium chests.


    The view of Hong Kong from Kowloon, 1841.

    The Foreign Office had hoped their pledge to tighten existing regulations through legislation might buy them a little more time, at least until the London Conference following the Oriental Crisis had been concluded in February. But the patience of the Chinese had been exhausted. Whilst the authorities were still willing to meet with Sir Henry Pottinger to discuss a new agreement, until such a time as the British gave the Chinese what they wanted, all British ships trading in the China Seas would be boarded by port authorities, searched and then issued with a certificate to dock and unload their cargo. If their cargo was found to be contraband, the ship would be impounded and the crew placed under arrest. The cargo would be destroyed and the British government billed for the expenses accrued. Lord Derby called this “a petty little insult” but he did not believe it to be anything of concern or something which could not be overcome with gentle persuasion. After all, the British government had banned the trade of opium, it was inevitable that the loophole in the existing legislation would be discovered and that the Chinese would demand it be closed.

    “We shall present new assurances to the Chinese”, Sir James Graham promised the King at their weekly audience at Buckingham Palace, “And I believe these, with the added promise of financial renumeration from the penalties imposed on runners, will be enough to calm the tension”

    “But they sank one of our ships Prime Minister”, the King replied cautiously, “That sounds to me as if they have tired of talking”

    “It was not one of our ships Your Majesty”, Graham reasoned, “It was a runner in the employ of Jardines I believe, they knew the risks involved. Now had the Chinese sunk a Company ship…well that would be quite different”.

    The King lit a cigarette, pointing the extinguished match toward Sir James.

    “And what if they do sink a company ship? As they did before in Kowloon?”

    The Prime Minister fixed his lips into a tight smile. It was not a very genuine smile and did little to hide his true feelings.

    “There will be no war with China Your Majesty”, he said tersely, “You have my word on that”. [8]


    [1] As we have three Georges in play at the moment, we'll use subsidiary titles to help differentiate where possible. The Earl of Tipperary is George of Cambridge. The Earl of Armagh is George of Cumberland.

    [2] The lack of proper educational facilities in England meant that most deaf children were never offered help to communicate in other ways such as sign language or even writing. Most were listed as being both deaf and mute because at this time it was believed that the two went hand in hand. We now know this not to be the case, mostly based on the studies of men like Heinicke who developed the sort of programmes for deaf children Missy is attending in Leipzig.

    [3] Gustav III, Gustav IV Adolf and Gustav, Prince of Vasa respectively.

    [4] A pottered history, I've kept the detail to a minimum so we don't get distracted!

    [5] Again, we're skimming this but Sophie was one of many suspects considered to have had a hand in Hauser's demise.

    [6] There were tenuous links to the Hesses and the Nassau-Usingens through Leopold's paternal line and through both George and Louise's maternal line. Enough to see Leopold treated as a cousin at least.

    [7] Most people in royal circles did know that Ernst was undergoing treatment for a "social sickness". It would be surprising if Grand Duke Leopold did not, though some accounts suggest he couldn't possibly have known as he'd never have allowed Ernst to marry Alexandrine in the OTL.

    [8] A knock on effect of Palmerston's early departure from the Foreign Office means that whilst in the OTL Britain was already engaged in a war against China, conflict has thus far been avoided in TTL.

    On a personal note, you'll probably notice that at the moment instalments have been just once a week. Unfortunately we're still dealing with the fall out of things here and my free time isn't as free as it was a month ago for obvious reasons. So we'll stick with once a week for a little while longer and if I can publish an additional chapter here and there, I will. I'm hoping that we can return to our normal pace as soon as possible. Once again, many thanks for reading!
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    GV: Part Two, Chapter 32: The Calm Before the Storm
  • King George V

    Part Two, Chapter Thirty-Two: The Calm Before the Storm

    Of his many duties and obligations as Sovereign, it is fair to say that King George V’s role as the nation’s host to foreign heads of state or visiting diplomats became a very firm favourite with him quite early on in his reign. King Christian IX of Denmark once said that of all the palaces of Europe, Buckingham Palace was by far the most comfortable; not because of its grandeur but because the King went out of his way to keep an incredibly detailed log book of the things his guests liked and didn’t like. For example, his carefully kept records show that King Christian’s wife Louise did not enjoy eating rich food and so when the Danish royal couple visited England, they were always served simple fare with plenty of salads and fresh fruit on the table. Guests were also (wherever possible) put in the same rooms they had stayed in before and the same household staff were assigned to look after them so that they felt their surroundings were familiar and therefore they were far more relaxed on their second visit than on their first.

    State Visits today follow a very strict routine with the same general approach employed for each regardless of whether the visiting head of state is a King or a President, whether he represents a superpower or a developing nation. The foundations of this well-oiled diplomatic machine can be traced back to George V. Before his reign, state visits were irregular occasions and the way a visiting head of state was received depended very much on the personal relationship (if any) that existed between the King and his guests or the objective of the visit from the point of view of the government. But George liked routine and he had a special flair for ceremonial. This was to prove extremely useful in 1841 as the United Kingdom prepared to host the London Conference. This conference was to see the foreign ministers of Austria, Prussia, France, Russia, Spain and the Ottoman Empire gather together to reach a conclusion to the Oriental Crisis. But set as it was against the ongoing ‘Great Game’ and the threat of war in China, the Foreign Office saw the Conference as an opportunity to refresh Britain’s beleaguered foreign policy and to impress on other nations that the British had not realigned their interests, neither had they abandoned any of them.

    The London Conference of 1841 was not actually held in London, though it was concluded in the capital at Westminster Hall [1]. Initially, the Foreign Office had made inquiries to host the conference at Exeter Hall, that imposing auditorium built in 1831 on the north side of the Strand by the architect Joseph Michael Gandy on a site previously owned by the Earls of Exeter. However, Downing Street vetoed the venue as it had developed strong ties to liberal causes thanks to the meetings held there by organisations such as the Protestant Reformation Society and the Anti-Slavery Society. The Duke of Wellington offered Apsley House but Sir James Graham could hardly allow his illustrious predecessor to play host. The King offered Buckingham Palace but again, the Prime Minister politely declined; the Palace was simply too small to accommodate everybody and the comings and goings of the delegates would cause great disruption. George was naïve to the fact that Graham had deliberately declined Buckingham Palace as a venue not because of its size but because he wished to keep the King in the background, still worried that His Majesty may develop a taste for involving himself in foreign policy as he had in France.

    Two days later, the King summoned the Foreign Secretary, Lord Derby. The Prime Minister was quite right of course, Buckingham Palace was too small…so why not host the conference at Hampton Court instead? Lord Derby was far more amenable to the King’s involvement in foreign affairs than the Prime Minister and he later criticised Sir James Graham for “failing to appreciate the great asset we had in the person of His Majesty”. Derby not only appreciated the King’s efforts but he also knew that the conference was likely to raise some difficult questions and that the British may have to charm certain delegates to win a few victories at the negotiating table. Whilst the conference was being held ostensibly to determine the outcome of the Oriental Crisis with regards to the Ottoman relationship with Egypt and Syria, the schedule would also feature proposals for a new agreement regarding the Turkish Straits which the Russians had agreed to review at Brighton the previous year. Whilst Afghanistan and China were not the focus of the conference, Lord Derby intended to raise both outside of the formal sessions of the meeting to see what the general consensus was among the Great Powers before setting a new approach to both regions. To do this, Derby needed the delegates to stay in one place each day and not head back to their respective embassies – or worse, to each other’s leaving the British out of the after-dinner conversation altogether. Ignoring the Prime Minister’s concerns, the Foreign Secretary accepted the King’s kind invitation and promised to send his secretary to the palace to discuss the details of the forthcoming conference.


    Wren's South Front of Hampton Court.

    No monarch had resided at Hampton Court since the reign of King George II. Indeed, King George III never set foot in the palace after his accession because he associated the state apartments with a humiliating scene from his youth when his grandfather had berated him (and struck him in the face) for some imagined slight. That said, Hampton Court had not been allowed to deteriorate like St James’. The Palace was used to house grace and favour residences who had served the Crown well over the decades and when the Great Hall began to show signs of wear and tear, George III allocated an enormous sum of money to restore it, the work finally being completed in 1838. There had been talk of opening the palace as a public attraction but no agreement had been reached on whether the Crown might charge some kind of entry fee (something George III was against but which the Duke of Clarence felt was sensible, if only to repay the vast sums needed to restore the Great Hall and Gatehouse). King George V had visited Hampton Court as a child and had visited for the day in 1838 to see the completed renovations but with his mind firmly on Lisson as a new London residence for the Royal Family, Hampton Court risked being neglected once again by the monarch.

    The London Conference of 1841 heralded a new phase in the life of Hampton Court Palace. The King assembled a small committee of his most senior advisors and courtiers to help him implement his vision; Hampton Court would become the preferred site to entertain heads of state for decades to come and though the palace ceased to function as a diplomatic venue in the 1890s, arguably it only survives today with its lavish interiors and impressive architecture so well preserved because George V found a use for it beyond that of a public attraction. The Great Hall provided the perfect backdrop for conferences or treaty talks by day but by night it served to impress for galas or state banquets. Visitors could be well accommodated in the East Front, the Colonnade offering an impressive backdrop to the Guard of Honour assembled in Clock Court. But by far Hampton Court’s biggest asset was not the building itself but the unique experience offered to guests by Their Majesties on their journey to the palace.

    Naturally the foreign ministers and their retinues would sail into the Port of London but rather than make the journey to Hampton Court by carriage, the King proposed something far more impressive. Each delegation would be welcomed formally at dais constructed at St Katharine’s Dock as the King had seen when he travelled to St Petersburg for his sister’s wedding the previous year. But instead of his guests being loaded into carriages and taken for a tour of the city, they would instead be invited to take a seat in one of the three royal barges in the King’s possession. These were stored at Windsor and had not been used for some time [2]. The most impressive was Prince Frederick’s Barge, designed by William Kent for the Prince of Wales in 1732 but there was also Queen Mary’s Shallop (constructed in 1689 as a gift from William III to his co-monarch spouse) and the State Barge of King Charles II (last seen on the Thames to carry the coffin of Lord Nelson to St Paul’s Cathedral for his funeral). The Royal Barge Master John Roberts was ordered to spruce up the barges at the Royal Barge House at Windsor and to ready an accompanying flotilla of vessels crewed by the Royal Watermen of which there were 48. These barges would host the Heralds from the College of Arms and other court officials dressed in their best and forming a kind of floating Guard of Honour during the three-hour journey from Westminster Pier to Hampton Court Palace, a journey still enjoyed by many London tourists today though in far less grand vessels than the Royal Barges.

    At Hampton Court itself, there was to be a second Guard of Honour provided by the Household Cavalry before the guests were welcomed inside to enjoy a welcome banquet hosted by the King and Queen and attended by the most important figures of the establishment, from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Speaker of the House of Commons. On the second day of the conference, the King proposed a luncheon to be hosted in the Orangery built by William III for use as a private greenhouse but now redeveloped as an additional dining room. On the evening of the third day ahead of the final session, the King and Queen would host a state banquet in the Great Hall and at the conclusion of the conference, Their Majesties would receive each delegation privately in the State Apartments where honours would be handed out and gifts exchanged before a royal farewell saw the delegations packed off in carriages bound for London once more. Nobody dared rain on the King’s parade by pointing out that the weather in February made these (admittedly very impressive) plans likely to result in a literal wash out. In later years, state visits were always scheduled in the summer months to avoid the inconvenience posed to the river pageants by the English weather.

    As ever, the King was supported in this project by the Queen and all was hustle and bustle as deputations from the Royal Household and the Foreign Office hastened to Hampton Court to prepare it for the opening day of the conference. It was Queen Louise who pointed out that Hampton Court had no permanent staff beyond it’s domestics and whilst servants were drawn from Windsor and London to provide valets, ladies maids, footmen and butlers to the visiting dignitaries, the King elected to provide Hampton Court with a permanent household which could be on hand if ever Hampton Court was used again for the purpose of entertaining foreign guests. Whilst many visitors today believe the Yeoman Keepers of Hampton Court Palace have their origins in Henry VIII's court, they were in fact established by King George V in 1841 ahead of the London Conference. Based on the Yeoman Warders at the Tower of London, the Yeoman Keepers were so named because they were not military guardians but ceremonial custodians. Headed by a Chief Keeper (comparable to the office of Chief Warder at the Tower), the Yeoman at Hampton Court included a Master of the Cellars, a Warden of the Clock Court and a Royal Gatekeeper, all with a special responsibility over their ward of the palace. [3]

    There were 22 Yeomen in total, all recruited from retired members of the Royal Household. Their duties were fairly light, in fact most were only ever resident at the palace for 6 weeks a year on average. For their brief return to work, they were paid the princely sum of £5, 6s and 4d a year, the equivalent of £320 a day today which was roughly equal to one month’s wage working wage for a skilled tradesman. In the days before the State Pension, this boost to the finances of retired household employees was very welcome indeed - though the Yeomen objected to having to provide their own stockings and shoes which in other royal residences might be provided for them. Their uniforms were made by Ede & Ravenscroft and consisted of a red tunic, white breeches, white stockings and black shoes with gold buckles. The tunic itself was embroidered with gold thread scrollwork but rather than displaying the monogram of the King on the front as the Yeoman Warders wore at the Tower, the tunics of the Yeoman Keepers were embroidered with the Tudor Rose and a gold crown. To top off this fine ensemble, the Keepers were given black Tudor bonnets edged in gold with three white feathers tucked into a band of red silk which were universally disliked. From 1854, the uniform included a black cloak when a rare winter state occasion was held at Hampton Court and during court mourning, the Keepers replaced their plume of white feathers for black but did not adopt the use of armbands as did other members of the Royal Household.

    At first, few were eager to take up the role of Yeoman Keeper but from 1845 onwards, the position suddenly became regarded as extremely beneficial as George V gave the Keepers six cottages on the Hampton Court estate as grace and favour residences. Whilst this meant sharing a house with three or four fellow keepers, most who held the post found this extremely beneficial as they had no immediate family (servants of the Royal Household were dismissed if they married) and quite enjoyed spending their twilight years at Hampton Court with old colleagues sharing the burden of the cost of old age [4]. The Keepers continued to care for the palace until 1890 when their number was cut in half by King William IV (though he did increase their salary to £10 by way of compensation). Hampton Court became an impractical option to host foreign visitors, though the much-loved river pageants lasted well into the 1870s despite the fact that Hampton Court got it's own railway station in 1849. Eventually however, George V was convinced that the three hour river cruise had had it's day and from then on, guests travelled via the Royal Train [5]. The last state banquet held at Hampton Court was for King George I of the Hellenes in 1893. However, Yeoman Keepers are still appointed today (though they have no responsibilities within the Royal Household) as a kind of thankyou present when old retainers leave royal service. Their privileges no longer include a grace and favour residence but once a year they don their uniforms and are treated to a private luncheon with the Sovereign. They are still paid a salary too; each year on the monarch’s official birthday, they receive a crisp £10 note.

    Perhaps because he was so distracted with the impending London Conference, the King managed to inadvertently upset his cousin Princess Victoria who wrote to the Queen asking if she might come to stay in England for a few weeks at the now vacant Marlborough House. George told Louise to put Victoria off, the royal couple being too busy to see her. Little did the King know that Princess Victoria was in a terrible state of anxiety since her husband, the Prince of Orange, had put forward a new lady-in-waiting for her household to his mother Queen Anna. The lady in question was actually William’s new mistress, Elisabeth van Lynden, who later fell pregnant with his child and delivered him an illegitimate son. Victoria was under no illusion that her husband would ever be faithful to her but this was a step too far and she felt humiliated and desperate to escape.

    But sadly for Victoria, this was the norm for many princesses in Europe and when she complained to her mother-in-law, she was told to “See nothing and say nothing”. When Queen Louise wrote to Victoria asking if she might delay her visit to England, Victoria was both disappointed and offended and immediately wrote to her aunt the Dowager Duchess of Clarence protesting that the King had no time for her anymore. Unfortunately, the Dowager Duchess was in Gibraltar and so Victoria’s letter was not read for another three months. By this time, Victoria had written to her cousin Maria Georgievna in St Petersburg begging for room at the inn there instead but here too she found she was rebuffed because the Tsarevna was too busy renovating her new home at Anichkov. Victoria fell into a deep sulk and as a last resort, took herself off, unannounced (lest another relative refuse her), to Schloss Herrenhausen to stay with the Cambridges.


    The garden façade at Schloss Herrenhausen.

    The Cambridges had allowed themselves a well-earned sigh of relief in recent days. Just before the London Conference of 1841, news came from Britain that Captain Marsden had withdrawn his petition for divorce and that his private act of parliament would no longer be read. This was obviously very good news for Prince George in that he had narrowly managed to avoid the most intimate details of his love affair with Captain Marsden’s wife being made public. Yet the reason for the bill’s withdrawal proved to be of even greater public interest than the divorce hearing might have been. Marsden had been advised to withdraw his suit not because he believed his estranged wife might reconcile with him (or that she had not committed adultery) but rather because his legal team had been made aware of an anomaly in his marriage that may see his case thrown out on a technicality. The Marsdens had married at St Olave’s Church in Hart Street, London and in gathering the required documentation from the parish register to prove that Marsden had married Margaret Douglas in 1835, his solicitor discovered something curious in the parish archives. Whilst the marriage was entered in the usual fashion, there was no record of the banns of marriage being published whatsoever. The rector who married the couple at St Olave’s died in 1838 and as such, nobody could quite see why the banns had not been recorded as with any other marriage or vouch that they had been issued in accordance with the law.

    The Duke of Cambridge’s legal advisors were provided by Burrows and Sandys of Chancery Lane and when the news broke that Marsden had withdrawn his private act of parliament seeking divorce, they discovered that he had instead appealed to the Court of Arches for an annulment of the marriage. This was of course a far cheaper option though it was generally not considered when the marriage had resulted in children. In the Marsden case however, it appears that the Captain had been advised he could save himself both time and money by making use of a legal wrinkle to see his marriage declared null and void without the costly and prolonged (not to mention socially ruinous) process of divorce. Under the provisions of a 1753 law introduced by Lord Hardwicke, a marriage could only be legally valid if banns had been called, that is that they had been read aloud on the three consecutive Sundays before the wedding ceremony was held. And in the Marsden case, it appeared they had not been. [6]

    Almost immediately, the conspiracy theories began. Some said that the Cambridges had paid a small fortune for the parish register to be destroyed so that Prince George would be spared the public humiliation of a divorce trial. Others said that the banns had not been read because Margaret Douglas was already married and had contracted a bigamous marriage which she sought to hide from the poor Captain before she duped him into a fraudulent wedding. Another story ran that she was actually a Roman Catholic and that the banns were not read because she did not wish the Pope to know she was “marrying-out”. All of these nonsenses were gulped up with great enthusiasm by the public and whilst it remained embarrassing for Prince George to have been caught up in the Marsden Affair, the focus of public interest shifted from Miss Douglas’ royal connections to the unusual circumstances surrounding her marriage. In April 1841, the Court of Arches confirmed that they could find no record of the banns of marriage having been read and that, as a result, the Marsdens’ 1835 marriage was null and void under English law. But they also took the unusual step of issuing a jactitation of the marriage to prevent Mrs Marsden from claiming in the future that she had ever been married to the Captain - presumably to stop her claiming any financial assistance from her erstwhile husband. Prince George had been saved from ruin at the 11th hour. Yet though the King was relieved that his cousin had not been dragged through a sleazy and arduous process which might well have forced him to pay huge damages to Captain Marsden on top of a battering to his reputation, His Majesty was in no way inclined to drop his demand that his cousin be married as soon as possible.

    Thus, the Cambridges found themselves bound to their word regardless and as a result, they were forced to invite the Grand Duke of Baden and his family to Herrenhausen as soon as possible. Grand Duke Leopold’s wife Sophie absolutely refused to countenance such an arrangement and so took herself off to Vienna with her youngest children for an early spring holiday. Officially, the Grand Duke was headed for Berlin to visit a military college in which he wished to enrol his two sons Frederick and Wilhelm later that year and was only stopping over at Herrenhausen on the journey. But this unusual detour did little to fool anybody, after all, why would the Grand Duke take his eldest daughter to Berlin unless he had a suitor in mind for the 20-year-old princess in Hanover or in Prussia? Certainly Grand Duke Leopold seems to have been enthused by the prospect of his daughter marrying into the British Royal Family (as well he might be) and though Prince George had hardly been exonerated in the Marsden Affair, it was the general consensus now that the prince had acted foolishly but clearly did not stand a chance against so professional a schemer as Miss Margaret Douglas. He had been cited on paper but not in parliament, neither had he been found to be a guilty party or made culpable to pay damages. In other words, though everybody knew Prince George had behaved badly, the outcome of the Marsden Affair saw his reputation as a debauchee rehabilitated slightly to that of “naughty boy”.


    Alexandrine of Baden.

    It is unclear as to whether Princess Alexandrine knew why she was being taken to Herrenhausen or not. Some families were very subtle when it came to match making preferring young couples to be introduced at a place of mutual convenience and see whether romance blossomed naturally, whilst others were more overt in telling their sons and daughters whom they would marry and even when to propose. Whilst Grand Duchess Sophie might have made the reason for the Hanover trip explicit to her daughter out of spite, it appears she did not do so and that allowed Grand Duke Leopold to pursue the first option. For Alexandrine’s part, she considered that her relationship with Hereditary Duke Ernst was in a kind of limbo, he had once seemed very keen but had recently fallen silent which didn’t devastate but it certainly did disappoint. Regardless of what others thought of him, Alexandrine was fond of Ernst and thought him handsome and interesting. Certainly he remained her first choice and even Grand Duke Leopold warned the Duke of Cambridge that if Ernst proposed, he would not force Alexandrine to refuse him just because the Cambridges had indicated an interest in Alexandrine as a bride for their son, even if his prospects were far superior to that of the future Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge did their best to make the Badens feel welcome and not be too obvious as to why their invitation had been extended - though both sides knew exactly why it had. That said, it was difficult for the Duchess in particular who remained wary of allying her only son to the “morganatische” and she had to overcome her scruples to please her husband who refused to allow emotion to cloud his judgement. He agreed with the King that Prince George should be married. He saw the whole thing as being practical but his wife regarded the arrangement unfolding before her eyes as nothing less than selling her son short because of what she considered to be one foolish mistake. That said, she had little time to try and push or pull Prince George in either direction during the Badens’ visit to Herrenhausen. Princess Victoria was a rather demanding presence and seemed to take over a little, hogging Princess Alexandrine’s attentions and leaving little opportunity for Prince George to spend any time with his potential new romance. So it was that the Duchess had to take desperate measures and arrange little trips out to force Princess Victoria away from the palace for a few hours each day to allow the Cambridges some time alone with the Badens. Though Grand Duke Leopold complimented Princess Victoria and thought her “a great addition to the house party, so very witty and interesting on all subjects”, it seems that Victoria did not much care for the Badens in return. In 1860, she rejected a proposal from Leopold’s son Prince Wilhelm who sought to marry her daughter Victoria Paulina on the grounds that the Badens were “an odd collection of little misfits from Karlsruhe”.

    Meanwhile in another corner of the Palace, Princess Alexandrine was greatly enjoying her time at Herrenhausen. She liked the palace itself and was particularly impressed by the gardens. But she was also impressed by Prince George. In a letter to her cousin Princess Marie Elisabeth of Fürstenberg, she wrote, “Herrenhausen is such a dear little place with lovely gardens and very comfortable rooms. The Cambridge parents are very dull I am afraid to say, the old papa is grey and fat and does not say very much and the old mama is bossy and never smiles. But the children are a delight, the little girl being only eight years old and so full of fun, though she is terrible fat and quite the pudgy puff! The son is very handsome (!) and very friendly, not at all as I thought he might be, though he tends to talk a lot about the army which I found a little boring. Later we went to the Ballhof with the Duchess and Princess Victoria (who is so very exhausting) and Prince George told me all about its history. I said I didn’t think any of what he said was true and he laughed and said, ‘You are quite right, I was only trying to impress you but I was making all of it up, every last word!’. And that was a very funny thing which happened so I liked him very much after that”.

    The Badens left Herrenhausen after just two days and did indeed go on to Berlin. The Cambridges had kept their promise to King George but it remained to be seen if this first meeting could prove a suitable foundation for a future royal marriage. The Duke wrote to his nephew in England offering a pretty vague review of things; “Girl very pleasant, father quite a bore but the visit seemed promising when all is considered in the round. Augusta believes Geo. and Pss. each enjoyed the other’s company and Geo. tells me he is writing to her. Drina still here with all her many problems. With love and affection to Louise et al – Cambridge”. The King was pleased with the development but could not allow himself to be side-tracked. The London Conference was days away and the schedule was an intense one with an official welcome ceremony, a gala, a garden party and a state banquet thrown in for good measure – all of which George and Louise had to host. The King was burdened with a mountain of dispatches from Lord Derby at the Foreign Office, each preparing him for what the demands of each delegation was likely to be and how he might help to steer the conversation in the right direction at meal times. On the other hand, Sir James Graham had himself written to Lord Derby asking him to gently remind the King that he was not actually representing Britain as a delegate at the conference and should steer clear of the Great Hall when the conference was in session.

    But Lord Derby had no time to give the King any further advice as their audience due to be held the day before the delegates arrived in London was hastily cancelled. News had come from Hong Kong, an urgent briefing which threw the Foreign Office into a state of confusion, the details only made clearer three days later with a second dispatch. On the 24th of January 1841, Chinese impatience at British ships continuing to bring Opium into Chinese ports finally ran out. Four runners bound for Canton were fired upon and sunk and an immediate blockade was announced for all foreign ships along the Pearl River [7]. This had been expected by some at the Foreign Office, realistically it was only a matter of time before the Chinese began to take a hardline position. Yet when the crew of one runner was fished from the water, they found themselves arrested and brought before a local magistrate in Kowloon, a man called Lang He. The men insisted that they had not been importing contraband (none was actually found on board their ships or in the surrounding waters) and that they were not in the employ of the East India Company or even Jardines, rather they were independent traders who mostly imported and exported ceramics. Lang He refused to believe this was anything but a cover story and sentenced the six British sailors to 12 years hard labour in the prison at Lam Tin.


    Opium ships at Lin Tin, 1824.

    Forced into leg irons and accompanied by guards, the men were paraded through the streets of Kwun Tong. They held signs which read “I am British. I poison you with opium”, the crowds watching them hissing and spitting at them as they passed by. It has been said (though never substantiated) that the magistrate paid agitators to whip the crowd into a frenzy by chanting anti-British slogans at them but whatever the trigger, a riot suddenly erupted and the crowd surged forward to beat the British prisoners to death. Far from facing arrest, the guards present actually joined in the violence with Lang He praising those responsible as “loyal sons and daughters of the Emperor who served their countrymen well in rejecting the British traders and their disgusting endeavours to make China weak on opium”. The Kwun Tong incident was a prime example of a grievance the British felt the Chinese had never taken seriously; that British subjects must have a permanent representative in Hong Kong who could meter out British justice. The new Chief Superintended, Sir Henry Pottinger, had not yet arrived and so it fell to Charles Elliot’s deputy, Alexander Johnson, to meet with Lord Qishan and protest what had happened in Kwun Tong. But Qishan refused to meet with Johnson. He had no authority, Qishan said, and besides, China had every right to administer justice to criminals in her own territory, regardless of whether they were foreigners or not. As he neared Kowloon, Pottinger wrote in his diary; “All being well we shall reach Hong Kong in three days times where I hope to gain an efficient working knowledge of the situation at hand”.

    Little did he know the chaos he was about to sail into.


    [1] Conferences seem to have been named after the place the treaty was signed rather than where the sessions to debate the terms were held. Which means that Britain had many London conferences despite them being held outside of the city itself. In this case, the resulting treaty was called the London Convention, presumably to distinguish it from the London Treaty which dealt with the sovereignty of Belgium.

    [2] Members of the Royal Family used the royal barges to navigate the Thames until the 1850s when river travel was replaced by rail. The barges were either broken up or sent to museums for public display, though the Crown Jewels were still brought from the Tower to Westminster by barge for some time after the Royal Family gave them up as a regular form of transport.

    [3] This is pure self-indulgence which I hope you'll forgive! I've always thought how sad it is that Hampton Court has long had no role to play in the functions of the Crown and here I've put that right!

    [4] The "marrying out" rule was strictly enforced until the 1950s in the OTL. In fact, there's an interesting factoid in Guy Harding's book Adventures of a Gentleman's Gentleman which says that from the 1910s on when large households found it difficult to engage new domestics, the Royal Household had a discrete preference for employing homosexual men because "they didn't wish to marry and they didn't get the housemaids into trouble". Quite what the OTL George V made of that I don't know...

    [5] The first royal train carriage was actually made in 1842 for the Dowager Queen Adelaide of the OTL (the Dowager Duchess of Clarence in ours) but it wasn't until 1869 that Queen Victoria commissioned the pair of coaches that would form the Royal Train we recognise today.

    [6] This was the Clandestine Marriages Act 1753.

    [7] This is our version of the Guangzhou incident which triggered the First Opium War in the OTL.

    My apologies for the delay on an instalment recently and many thanks for all your kind messages! I'm in the tail end of my second bout of Covid which thankfully was nowhere near as grim as the first! That said, the brain fog continues so if there are any glaring errors here then please don't hesitate to let me know. I deliberately didn't get stuck into the complexities of the London Conference in this chapter to avoid a major boo boo but the next will see the concluding treaty and will lay out the state of play between the Great Powers until the next international crisis.

    Speaking of which, I've noticed a slight error on my part in that I've been referring to the Foreign Secretary as Lord Derby since his appointment but until 1851, Edward Smith-Stanley was known as Lord Stanley. I'll go back and amend this over the weekend but it's my own record keeping that's to blame here. Once again, many thanks for reading and I hope this chapter wasn't too disappointing as I'm aware it doesn't move our story on too much, I just didn't want to rush anything or tackle anything too complicated whilst still being under the influence of the dreaded C-19!
    GV: Part Two, Chapter 33: Clipping the Wings
  • King George V

    Part Two, Chapter Thirty-Three: Clipping the Wings

    On the night before the London Conference, King George V and Queen Louise took an early supper with a few close friends at Buckingham Palace. These suppers were a mainstay of George V’s reign and in a marked departure from what had come before, these informal gatherings of five or six trusted individuals allowed the King to create a relaxed atmosphere in which his guests were more willing to speak freely. George found these occasions extremely useful as a supplement to his official briefings from various government departments, those present offering him their own opinions which he could then balance against the views expressed by his ministers. On this particular evening, the King was greatly cheered to see Rosalinde Wiedl back at court after a recent absence of three weeks. In a further sign that their relationship was (at least at this time) entirely platonic, George was fully accepting of her new paramour (Prince Alexander of Prussia having found himself a new mistress in Geneva) Robert Vernon Smith, the former Under Secretary of State for War and Colonies under the Whigs, now a Privy Councillor. Vernon Smith was married to Lady Emma Fitzpatrick, the illegitimate daughter of the Earl of Upper Ossory by his mistress Elizabeth Wilson. But Vernon Smith was not the only Whig present that night. Also in attendance was Lord Melbury, the former Foreign Secretary.

    Melbury had formed an unlikely friendship with the King after a rocky start to their relationship and whilst the change of government required that George restrict his meetings with his former ministers, Melbury was one of many over the years who seemed to be exempt from this convention – at least in the King’s view. George would always struggle with changes of government, not because he favoured one party over the other, but because he was so welcoming to incoming ministers that he forged friendships with them quite quickly [1]. He could never understand why a Tory friend should be kept away from his dining table simply because there was a Whig government, neither could he appreciate that seeking advice from these individuals (even privately) was likely to ruffle feathers – as indeed it did with Lord Melbury during his tenure as Foreign Secretary when the King consulted the Duke of Wellington over the government’s Afghan policy. Charlie Phipps had his own methods to avoid such clashes, encouraging people like Melbury to decline invitations from the Palace if they came too frequently. But by February 1841, Melbury had not been to the Palace since well before Christmas and so could not be kept at arm’s length any longer without the King becoming suspicious.


    Lord Melbury.

    The King listened intently to the latest news from the Whig camp. The election defeat of 1840 had seen Lord Cottenham put out to pasture but he left behind him a broken and weak opposition. Lord John Russell and his supporters were still trying to dominate the Whig cause but they faced opposition from other wings of the party. The old guard rallied around Earl Spencer. Known to all as ‘Honest Jack’, John Spencer (the 3rd Earl) had served in the Grey and Lansdowne governments, his most senior appointment being that of Chancellor of the Exchequer. Famed for his integrity and spirit of fair play, Spencer was regarded by his supporters as a well-liked and well-trusted party grandee. Yet Spencer himself had lost the taste for politics, indeed, having left the Treasury in 1836 and following his promotion to the House of Lords upon the death of his father in 1834, Spencer was more interested in the cattle at Althorp than he was the fortunes of his colleagues in parliament [2]. At the Reform Club in Pall Mall, the Whigs were evenly split between those who supported John Russell and those who wanted to see Earl Spencer take the lead – or at least a party figure who had the backing of Earl Spencer as a kind of anointed successor. In Melbury’s view, Spencer was a decent and honourable man but he could not fathom why so many of his fellow Whigs wanted to force him from retirement back into the main fray.

    Those not in the Russell or Spencer camp had found their way to none other than Lord Melbury himself. His record in high office was perhaps a little shaky but whilst the Melbury Plan had not been a huge success in Afghanistan (to put it mildly), Melbury’s supporters argued that the Oriental Crisis could never have been resolved as quickly and as peacefully as it had been without Melbury’s push for a conference with the Russians at Brighton. Whilst Sir James Graham’s Tories took the credit for having “won the battle without a shot fired”, the Whigs insisted that it was Melbury’s departure from Palmerston’s more aggressive foreign policy that secured victory against the Ali dynasty in Egypt. It appears that the King agreed and perhaps he invited Melbury to Buckingham Palace ahead of the conference at Hampton Court to get more details on the background of the Oriental Crisis which began when Melbury was still in office. But both the Prime Minister and pro-Melbury Whigs took the invitation to mean something quite different. For Sir James, it suggested that the King was preparing himself to get involved in the politics of the conference. For Melbury’s supporters, it was a sign from on high that when it came to the Opposition, the King favoured his old friend Melbury over Lord John Russell or Earl Spencer. [3]

    We do not know what the King and Lord Melbury discussed after supper in private but it seems logical that the King might ask Melbury for his opinion of what the United Kingdom should be bargaining for at the conference. However, the Prime Minister had no time to meet with the King before the conference began to discuss the matter and unfortunately, this put Sir James in a temper as the various delegates arrived in the capital. It also irritated him that the King was eager to show off a gift presented to him by Lord Melbury on his visit to the palace the night before; a new Spaniel puppy whom the King named Foxy in Melbury’s honour. The King’s devoted canine companion Jack had died in November 1840, earning himself the first plot in a new cemetery created at Windsor for departed royal pets. George still had several dogs; one called Harry gifted to him by the Queen who had sired puppies with the Queen’s dog Diamond giving the King three King Charles Cavalier Spaniels in addition to Harry named Jimmy, Ludo and Patch. The new addition to the pack was proudly showcased to every guest at the conference with the words; “Look at what old Foxy gave to me” or “Good old Foxy, knew exactly what I wanted, what?”.

    The Foreign Secretary, Lord Stanley, was nowhere near as irked by the King’s meeting with Melbury as the Prime Minister was – neither was he put out by the King’s new puppy. In his view, it was only natural that the King should want to speak with someone who was in office when the crisis began before hosting those who had seen the matter through to its final conclusion. Stanley even wrote to Lord Melbury some time later expressing his “deep regret” that the Prime Minister had “taken so badly to it, for I know that you would not have offered anything other than a recollection of the events as they began which surely His Majesty welcomed as I myself did when you so kindly briefed me upon my appointment”. Stanley felt Sir James was being overly paranoid and that he was not being fair to the King who, after all, had proved himself quite the diplomat in Normandy when given the chance. George could not be considered to be in any way reckless or foolish. He was well informed and spoke well to official representatives of other nations. He was, in Stanley’s view, an asset to the Foreign Office, not a hindrance.


    Prince Frederick's Barge which carried the King and Queen from Westminster Pier to Hampton Court.

    If the Prime Minister was in foul mood when the welcome ceremonies began for the delegates of the London Conference in February 1841, the festivities themselves did not serve to cheer him much. As predicted, London was treated to a grey drizzle which certainly took the shine from the river pageant the King had been so proud of when he proposed it. Canopies were erected on the royal barges to protect guests from the rain but the French delegate, François Guizot, was heard to remark; “Are they trying to drown us?”. The Spanish delegate Joaquín de Ferrer y Cafranga quipped back “No Sir, they want to put us in our beds so that they might have the floor”. That said, the damp weather did little to dissuade Londoners from turning out en-masse to see the Thames filled with boats all manned by the Royal Watermen in their bright uniforms. For his part, the King delighted in every second of the three-hour cruise from Westminster Pier to Hampton Court. When George asked Lord Stanley if he enjoyed it, the Foreign Secretary replied, “It was a most interesting experience Your Majesty”, his face telling quite a different story as he brushed down the raindrops from his frock coat sleeves.

    “Oh come now Stanley!”, the King said happily, “I’d say it was a great success and much appreciated. After all, nobody fell in, nobody drowned”

    A dour Stanley looked up to the heavens where the rain was beginning to pour down much harder and replied, “No yet Sir, no”.

    The delegates for the London Conference were a varied bunch and all came with vast retinues of personal staff who had to make the journey from London to Hampton Court by carriage. Unfortunately most were held up and so many of the delegates arrived to the palace sodden through but unable to change. Queen Louise ordered fires to be lit throughout Clock Court where most guests were to be accommodated. The Duchess of Buccleuch later remarked; “As we all sat in the Great Hall, one could almost see the guests steaming away gently like meat puddings”. Brandy was passed about to warm the delegates who had already been formally introduced at Buckingham Palace before the river pageant left the capital. France was represented by François Guizot, the new Foreign Minister who had succeeded Adolphe Thiers. He considered the entire conference a waste of time and was far more interested in returning to Paris as quickly as possible to focus on the French troubles in Algeria. From Spain, there was Joaquín de Ferrer y Cafranga who (perhaps innocently) asked if there was a Catholic church nearby where he could worship; he was quietly reminded that Hampton Court had once been the home of Cardinal Wolsey…

    The Prussians sent Baron von Werther to represent them, a man who had declined the office of Foreign Minister twice before being convinced to take on the role in 1837. Though he was regarded as domestically weak, his skill for foreign policy was widely admired and he managed to maintain good relations with France whilst keeping the Russians from making too many demands on the Prussian military. From Russia there was Prince Gorchakov, well known to the British government as he had led the Russian delegation in Brighton which had seen the United Kingdom pledge itself to taking the Russian side in the Oriental Crisis in a kind of marriage of convenience where the Ali dynasty was concerned. Prince Gorchakov had been greatly impressed by Sir James Graham and though the Prince had been difficult and haughty on his previous visit, the marriage of the Tsarevich to Princess Charlotte Louise had softened him to the English somewhat. Once again, he arrived with an army of personal staff who all had to be accommodated at Hampton Court with most bedding down in the store rooms of the Fish Court, a far cry from their comfortable billet at Gorchakov’s palace in St Petersburg.

    From Austria came Prince Metternich, the main stay of Austria’s foreign policy for almost three decades who valued the balance of power in Europe above all things. He was likely to clash with the Russian delegation for though the two nations had allied themselves against Muhammed Ali Pasha and his son Ibrahim, this was a temporary truce and did nothing to persuade Metternich that Russian territorial ambitions in Central Europe and the Ottoman Empire must be resisted at all costs. King George was quite excited to meet Metternich, one of the best-known political figures of the day but Queen Louise was less intrigued. From what she had heard of Metternich’s third wife, the Countess Melania Zichy-Ferraris was an imperious and arrogant woman who expected the very best treatment to prove she was every bit as worthy of her husband as his first wife Princess Eleonore von Kaunitz had been. But Queen Louise was relieved to find that the final delegate, Mustafa Reşid, was not nearly as difficult to host as she had been led to believe he might be. In a typical display of British ignorance, the Queen had been warned that Reşid might bring as many as 12 wives with him (in fact he was only married twice in his lifetime and not to two women at the same time) and that he would expect his own personal chef to prepare his meals as “Mohammedans do not eat European foods”. [4]

    Fortunately, the supper party at Buckingham Palace held before the conference included the Queen’s friend the Reverend Michael Alexander who advised her that Reşid did not have the coterie of consorts the Ottoman Sultans had and that so long as the menus contained no pork and offered a hearty variety of vegetable dishes, the Ottoman delegate would be more than happy to eat whatever he was presented with. Interestingly, Queen Louise seemed very intrigued as to the reasons why Muslims ate differently from Christians. A devout Christian herself (and far more active in her religious life than her husband), the Queen believed that all religions encouraged people for the better. Michael Alexander later spoke of the Queen’s interest in Judaism, Islam and even Buddhism. She collected copies of religious texts (in March 1841 she acquired a particularly beautiful copy of the Qur’an and later that year she was gifted a leather bound copy of the Book of Mormon) and she often stumped clergymen with questions as to how one religion could believe something so different to another when their desired outcome seemed to be exactly the same. [5]

    The British had a very firm objective at the London Conference, one that took priority over what should be done now that the Ali dynasty was in tatters in Egypt. At Brighton, the Russians had agreed to re-open talks on the future of the Turkish Straits and this was the bargaining chip the King had used to force a u-turn of French foreign policy which saw Ibrahim Ali Pasha so roundly defeated. Had the British not achieved this, it is arguable that with French military support still on the table Ali would have pressed on to Constantinople. In other words, Lord Stanley believed the main focus of the conference must be to loosen the Russian grip on the Dardanelles, something the Russians were unlikely to give up freely despite their earlier assurances that the Treaty of Hünkâr İskelesi would be abandoned. For the Russians however, the priority was not the talks on access to the Turkish Straits but rather to see to it that the young Ottoman Sultan Abdulmejid I was not pushed toward the major Western powers against Russia in the future. The Tsar knew that the Treaty of Hünkâr İskelesi and its privileges could not be held indefinitely and it is fair to say that Nicholas I was increasingly nervous that it made war with the other Great Powers more likely, not less. That said, the Russians would not abandon the treaty with any great enthusiasm. [6]

    The first point of agreement reached at the conference at Hampton Court was that the Ali dynasty must withdraw any remaining troops in Syria, the Hijaz, the Holy Land, Adana and Crete. Egypt and the Sudan was once again reaffirmed as Ottoman territory and was to be put under the control of an Ottoman vassal loyal to the Sultan. The Ali dynasty itself had removed Muhammed Ali Pasha from his position as Governor during the Oriental Crisis and installed his son Ibrahim in his stead and whilst there were initially suggestions that Muhammed Ali might be restored to his former position, the British and the Russians advised against this. They had little cause to like Muhammed Ali given he had always favoured French interests over their own. Likewise, the Ottomans would not accept Ibrahim Ali in any capacity, believing him to be far more aggressive than his father. But the Alis still had huge public support in Egypt, after all, it was Muhammed Ali who had the led the Albanian army into Egypt to fight back the French in the 1798 which allowed the Ottomans to keep control of Egypt, albeit through the Ali dynasty. The Sultan would have to accommodate this if he wished to avoid future clashes with his Governors. [7]

    To this end, it was announced at the conference that the Sultan had approved a new power structure in Egypt. The Alis had claimed the title (and position) of Khedive of Egypt, a higher ranking office than that of Wali or Governor. The Ottoman Sultans had never recognised this because it suggested a greater degree of autonomy for its vassal in Egypt than it wanted to give. However, now the Sultan approved the use of the title and codified the responsibilities of the new Viceroy. He would rank above the Governor and would act as a kind of buffer to curb the Wali’s powers. In a magnanimous gesture, the Ali dynasty was to be allowed to keep the somewhat hereditary post of Governor; though only one among it’s membership was considered trustworthy enough to be appointed. Abd al-Halim Bey (Muhammed Ali’s sixth son) had not signed the declaration which forced Muhammed Ali from his position, refusing to turn against his father in favour of his brother Ibrahim. Ibrahim had imprisoned Abd al-Halim but he was quickly released when other members of the family protested. Abd al-Halim was loyal if nothing else. In an addendum to the decree appointing him Wali of Egypt, the Sultan specifically named those who had signed the document ousting Muhammed Ali as being barred from ever holding the position of Governor fixing the future line upon the descendants of Abd al-Halim - at least this is how it would later be interpreted. The Alis could hardly protest this given that they had encouraged Ibrahim Ali to march on Constantinople and smash the Ottoman Empire once and for all, a move Abd al-Halim had again rejected as foolishness.


    Koca Hüsrev Mehmed Pasha

    As the new Khedive, the Sultan looked no further than a former Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire who had served briefly from 1839 until 1840 but was widely respected in all corners of the Sultan’s administration. Koca Hüsrev Mehmed Pasha was an Ottoman admiral, reformer and statesman who is perhaps best known for his rejection of the turban as part of his uniform in favour of the fez which became standard issue thanks to his reforms of the army. Hüsrev knew Egypt well, he had served as Governor in 1802 only to find himself captured by the Mamluk-Albanian army when Muhammed Ali seized power. Despite this, Muhammed Ali respected Hüsrev and restored him to his post after two days of his release. There was a certain poetic justice in Hüsrev’s appointment as the new Khedive – though he gained no real power, he was elevated among the Alis who had forced him out of Egypt altogether. The Sultan saw Hüsrev as a reliable pair of hands, a man of great experience who benefitted from having quite an impressive personal army led by generals which he himself had not only trained but whom he had raised from childhood to become strong military leaders. Hüsrev had personally adopted almost 100 children from slave markets who became his protégés and the Ottoman officer corps was nicknamed ‘Hüsrev’s Children’, so prevalent were his adopted children in the ranks. He had not been opposed to retirement but jumped at the chance to serve, especially in Egypt where his reputation was not as glorious as it was in Turkey.

    The assembled delegates were only too happy to accept this arrangement, internal Ottoman politics not really being of huge interest to them, though the Russians were wary of Hüsrev who had given one or two passionate anti-Russian speeches in his time as Grand Vizier and the French regretted that their old ally Muhammed Ali was to be consigned to the history books. But much like the British, the Russians were eager to move forward to the agreement concerning the Turkish Straits. Regardless of who governed Egypt and the Sudan, it was the Straits (and who had access to them) which would determine whether the Oriental Crisis had been worth the Russian effort to secure a coalition. Every delegate but Prince Gorchakov wanted the Treaty of Hünkâr İskelesi to be abandoned and a new access agreement put in its place. The proposal agreed and presented by the British, French, Spanish, Austrian and Prussian delegations argued that the Bosporus and the Dardanelles linking the Black Sea to the Mediterranean should be barred to all warships regardless of origin unless those ships belonged to the fleets of the Sultan’s allies in wartime. For the Russians, this meant giving up valued direct access to the Mediterranean which had been so hard won in 1833. Gorchakov had been authorised to agree to this by the Tsar but before doing so, he put forward a proposal of his own; that access to the Dardanelles exist under a new arrangement known as the Straits Pact. [8]

    Gorchakov argued that Russia had played the biggest part in assembling the pro-Ottoman coalition and that it therefore could reasonably expect that to be reflected in the agreement reached at Hampton Court. The Prince proposed that during peacetime only a set quota of warships from all nations should be allowed to pass through the Straits. In wartime, these quotas would be suspended and only allies of the Sultan allowed passage as had previously been suggested. The quotas could be set at a follow up conference with the Pact taking effect later in the year, but in this way everybody’s interests could be respected and protected. Gorchakov played his hand well. At Brighton, he had agreed only to revisit the terms of the Treaty of Hünkâr İskelesi. He had not yet revealed that the Tsar had authorised him to withdraw from it entirely. Lord Stanley was intrigued by the proposal. It certainly seemed a fair outcome, though naturally there would have to be penalties for those nations who exceeded their quota. The Austrians, wary of Russian expansion, refused to countenance the proposal until it saw what the quota system might look like in more detail. To Metternich, keeping the British out of the Black Sea and the Russians out of the Mediterranean was the only way to retain the balance of power and keep the peace in Europe, though he admitted that if the Russians did not back down the flow of Russian warships through the Turkish Straits would be just as heavy as it was before the Oriental Crisis. The Prussians declared for neither side, asking for more time to examine the Gorchakov proposal. The Ottomans remained silent; they despised the terms of Hünkâr İskelesi but they also knew they owed a great deal to Russia in winning back Egypt and the Sudan.

    The French were also wary of the Straits Pact. They had been led to believe that the matter was settled and that the Russians were going to abandon the current agreement with the Ottomans. But Guizot took the lead from Prussia and Austria; he simply wanted to examine the proposal in more detail before giving his view. Guizot had close ties to Russia, his primary confidant being the Princess Lieven who had served as Russian Ambassadress to London for twenty years and who relocated to Paris when she separated from her husband. Her brother was the Chief of the Secret Police in Russia and a close friend and confidant of the Tsar. He was therefore more amenable to giving the Russians a fair hearing, at least more so than his predecessor Adolphe Thiers. He urged all delegates to consider that they should agree nothing which might lay the foundations of future grievances and the Gorchakov proposal was therefore left on the table for discussion at a later session. The meeting was adjourned for the day and the guests treated to a sumptuous dinner hosted by King George and Queen Louise. As the delegates moved around the Great Hall, the Prime Minister kept a close eye on the King.


    Prince Metternich.

    Not so far away from Sir James, King George stood with the Ottoman delegate Mustafa Reşid and his translator. By his side was Prince Metternich. The King was animatedly explaining that he had been most surprised on his visit to Russia at how friendly the Tsar had been. Warming to his theme, he spoke of the grandeur of his sister’s new home at Anichkov and spoke of how charming those he had met in St Petersburg had been. This was little more than benign recollections of a recent trip (the King also spoke highly of Normandy and said he was sad never to have visited Vienna) but the Prime Minister was not impressed. From what he could glean from the conversation, it almost sounded as if the King was praising the Tsar but in which direction he could not make out. When Metternich said he was surprised by Gorchakov’s proposal of shared access to the Straits, the King nodded and laughed; “Well they’ll surprise you these Russians”. He had not violated convention, he had no played the diplomat, he had not offered an opinion or expressed a view; yet Sir James believed the King was doing just that. Excusing himself, he asked Charlie Phipps to arrange an urgent meeting with the King which Phipps was only too happy to do, assuming the Prime Minister wanted to seek the King’s advice or to keep him up to date with the developments of the session earlier that day.

    “May I ask what Your Majesty was discussing just now?”

    George raised his eyebrows.

    “You may”, he said kindly, “Though at risk of boring you Prime Minister, I was asking Prince Metternich what he thought of the renovations here. Apparently he is undertaking some kind of remodelling of his own palace in Vienna, I wondered if he might take any ideas from what we have done here”

    The Prime Minister seemed to have a nasty smell under his nose.

    “And to the Ottoman delegate Sir?”

    “Well he was…what is this now Sir James? Surely you don’t want an account of everything I've said to every guest in the place?”

    “With respect Your Majesty, the discussions are at a very crucial stage. Lord Stanley seems to be open to the Straits Pact proposal and I fear that the Austrians may convince the French to do likewise. Prince Metternich owes the Tsar some support given the economic concessions made in recent months. The Ottomans will accept anything that is better than what they have and the Prussians and the French are playing for time until they see which way the wind blows. I cannot risk any delegate changing his mind based on a private conversation which may be taken as the official stance of Your Majesty's government"

    The King was no longer smiling. He poured himself a glass of brandy, always a notable thing for the King rarely drank alcohol.

    “Let us get to the heart of this Prime Minister”, he said, pointing to a chair so that Sir James might take a seat. The Prime Minister did not take the invitation and remained standing. “Very well”, George sighed, “But you shall be more comfortable if-”

    “I should be more comfortable if you had not sought the advice of Lord Melbury on these matters before the conference began Your Majesty”

    George grinned and shook his head.

    “Oh so that’s what it’s all about! Oh really Prime Minister, it might amuse you to know that Lord Melbury himself gave me a ticking off once, when I asked the Duke of Wellington for some advice on something. But I assure you, I asked Foxy for no such advice. In fact, he was telling me about the Whig woes, something I’m sure you know well enough already but which I was a bit puzzled by. Half of them rabid for Russell, the other pushing that old man Spencer out of his retirement. I assure you Sir James, that was all we discussed”

    But the Prime Minister was not in the mood to be won over. He had walked a tight rope in recent months, burdened with a desperate domestic situation that had added new demands to the Treasury. Determined to keep his promise to balance the books, he was facing the very real possibility of accepting total defeat in Afghanistan which may endanger British interests in the Sindh. And then there was China, the situation now so tense that the Treasury may have to rustle up a generous war budget on a moment’s notice. He had not yet had time to pursue his own vision for the United Kingdom, mopping up the damage from the previous administration taking up the majority of the parliamentary agenda. He needed a victory; the Oriental Crisis had been just that; it would be worthless if Britain gave one inch to her rivals in these talks and the Prime Minister was worried that the King may inadvertently tip the balance in his talks with the assembled delegates.

    “I promise you, I have not said a single word about the discussions today. Damn it all, I changed the subject when Metternich asked my opinion!”

    “But he did ask you Sir. You are building a reputation as a diplomat, it has been that way since Your Majesty visited France, Metternich himself praised your skills in that arena”

    “Oh what nonsense!”, the King fired back, “If he did then I hope he praised the Queen likewise, we only softened Louis Philippe for your ministers to get what they wanted”

    “And we were grateful for that Sir”, the Prime Minister snapped, “But the Crown has no place in the Foreign Office. I am appreciative of your hospitality, it will…as you say…soften the delegates and stand us in very good stead to get the agreement we seek but when it comes to diplomacy you must leave that to your ministers”

    The King shot up from his seat.

    “Must?!”, he hissed, “Who are you to tell the King he must Sir? Remember your place Prime Minister, you owe it to my invitation”

    A frosty silence hung in the air. Suddenly the door to the anteroom opened. A smiling Queen Louise swept in, fanning herself and walking over to her husband.

    “It is so very hot in there!”, she giggled playfully, “I regret having all those fires lit now. Georgie dear, we have guests, you should not hide away in here”

    The King said nothing. Louise realised all was not as it should be.

    “Prime Minister”, she began softly, “Would you be a dear and go and ask Princess Mary to dance with you? She is so very eager for a waltz but nobody seems to ask her. They all think she’s much too old and you know she’s very fond of you” [9]

    “Sir James is…”

    “I believe Her Majesty is right Sir”, the Prime Minister interrupted, “We should not hide away. And I am sure we shall return to this matter in the future”.

    With a bow of his head, Sir James left the room. Queen Louise kissed her husband on the cheek.

    “Put a smile on that face Georgie!”, she said teasingly, “And come and dance with me”

    An hour later, the Prime Minister was in yet another anteroom, this time with his Foreign Secretary. The two men were just as much at odds with each other as the King and the Prime Minister had been earlier that evening. Stanley believed that Britain and Russia had entered a new era of co-operation which benefitted the Concert of Europe as a whole. It was entirely possible that the Russians would abandon their claims to the Dardanelles if pushed but it was equally possible that they might later try and reassert them causing even greater worries to the United Kingdom and her allies. The thought of a handful of Russian warships curbed by an agreed quota in the Mediterranean was far less worrying than an entire fleet but beyond that, it was very likely that Britain would find herself in difficulty in Afghanistan if the latest briefings at the Foreign Office were to be believed. Dost Mohammed Khan had been restored to power. He was planning a huge enthronement celebration to mark his return as King of Afghanistan and he could easily afford it given the Russians had just given a vast cash injection to his beleaguered Treasury.

    They were not being generous of course; it was a down payment on increased access to Afghanistan which would allow the Russians to resolve their own difficulties in Bukhara and Khiva. The British faced being squeezed out entirely. Lord Stanley reasoned that if the British were more receptive to Russian proposals now, the Russians might be equally as receptive when the British tried to protect their interests in Afghanistan in the future – something they clearly could not do militarily. A mechanism might be put into the Straits Pact to suspend access or cancel a quota altogether if a majority voted to do so. But Sir James took the opposite view. The Straits Pact did nothing but open the door to Russian expansion. It did not balance the Concert of Europe, rather it allowed a slow trickle of a corrosive build up which would eventually turn a stream into a flood. Sir James argued that the Tsar had clearly agreed to abandon the Treaty of Hünkâr İskelesi with his ministers, why not push for that when it was there for the taking? Lord Stanley answered back that Gorchakov might still be forced into taking that position but that as things stood, there was no official offer of a withdrawal from the treaty terms on the table. He believed it far better to be seen to entertain the Russian proposals of shared Straits access than to dismiss it entirely. Britain could then take the majority view when the other delegates made their position clear, which he expected to fall against the Straits Pact proposal anyway. It was stalemate.

    Back in the Great Hall, a slightly red-faced King George sat in his chair next to Frau Wiedl watching the Queen dance. He could not allow his guests to see him sulk and yet it was evident to everybody that he was no longer in good humour. For the King, he was facing an uncomfortable truth; that he was forever going to subject to the will of his ministers and that he could not direct his own path. No matter whether he enjoyed involving himself in foreign affairs or not, it would be up to his Prime Ministers to decide how welcome his advice or opinions were. And Sir James seemed to have made it abundantly clear that they were not welcome in the slightest. His domestic role was clearly defined and yet his role as "the nation's host" was more vague. In the King's mind, the government had been only to happy to let him assist in France when the going was tough but now they saw him as little more than a party planner, someone who put on a jolly time for visiting dignitaries but who could not be trusted with anything more than that. It was a knock to the King's confidence and he felt his wings were being unfairly clipped.

    “Do you think you would like to to Vienna?”, Frau Wiedl asked the King, desperate to break the silence, "I hear so many lovely things about it"

    “And what would be the point of that?”, the King pouted, “I shouldn’t be allowed to say anything when I got there. I can’t say anything, anywhere”.


    [1] He shares this attitude with the OTL Queen Victoria. Whilst she took it to extremes at times, she could never fathom why the ministers she liked could no longer come to court as often just because they had been voted out. The Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) was much the same and felt that once a person had left office, they should be welcomed at court regardless of the benches they sat on in the Commons or Lords.

    [2] As in the OTL. Spencer had many supporters and allies in the Whig party who saw him as their natural leader against Russell but Spencer was more interested in agriculture than in politics after he left office and so they were disappointed.

    [3] Melbury is also the nephew (by marriage) of Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne via Louisa Fox-Strangways. Lansdowne is a former Whig Prime Minister in TTL.

    [4] The word ‘Mohammedan’ seems to have been the common name used for Muslims in Victorian England. I'm not entirely sure if it's become a pejorative term these days so I apologise in advance if it has, I only use it here (as I have before) for accuracies sake

    [5] Queen Victoria received a copy of the Book of Mormon in 1841 in the OTL. Apparently she never read it and was less inclined to do so when she was sent a letter from a Mormon Bishop inviting her to repent for her sins.

    [6] Nicholas I had changed his mind on this treaty but he didn’t give any indication he was willing to abandon it until the Straits Convention came to be discussed in 1841 in the OTL. It was seen as something Russia should expect to lose given that the British had done most of the donkey work in the Oriental Crisis but here of course we have a different scenario entirely where the British and the Russians are matched in their efforts. If the Tsar can keep a hold of the existing arrangement, he'd be a fool not to make every attempt to cling to it - or something close to it.

    [7] A knock on effect because we butterflied Muhammed Ali Pasha into retirement in favour of his more ambitious son Ibrahim Ali. I toyed with the idea of ditching the Alis entirely but all things considered, I don’t think the Sultan would be so foolish as to overlook the popular support they still retained in Egypt.

    [8] Several factors have led to me to put this forward as an idea. The first is that the British are in a much weaker position in Afghanistan and the Russians would feel there’s a chance to push their luck a little. The second is that this is the first time the Russians are able to test the waters where the new era of Anglo-Russian relations are concerned. Whilst the British have made it clear that the Tsarevich’s marriage would carry no political ties, I think it would be naïve to think the Russians wouldn’t want to see just how far that position could be moved. It’s also worth bearing in mind that nobody went in to this conference demanding a full Russian withdrawal from the Straits. The aim was to renegotiate – and this is the first step in that renegotiation. See Note 6 too. The butterflies here are not exactly huge ones but they have potential to be used in the future where the Crimea is concerned.

    [9] Poor Sir James!