Queen Victoria: A Personal History

By Christopher Hibbert | Go to book overview
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'God damme! D'ye know what his sisters call him?
By God! They call him Joseph Surface!'

SITTING AT HIS BREAKFAST TABLE in his rented house in Brussels in December 1817, Edward, Duke of Kent, fourth son of King George III, carelessly threw across the "Morning Chronicle" to his attractive mistress, Julie de St Laurent, and began to open his letters. 'I had not done so but a very short time,' he told Thomas Creevey, the witty, gossipy politician who was then also living in Brussels for reasons of economy, 'when my attention was called to an extraordinary noise and a strong convulsive movement in Madame St Laurent's throat. For a short time I entertained serious apprehensions for her safety; and when, upon her recovery, I enquired into the occasion of this attack, she pointed to [an] article in the "Morning Chronicle".' 1

This article -- adverting to the death in childbirth of Princess Charlotte, the only legitimate child of his eldest brother, the Prince Regent -- called upon the Duke of Kent and the other bachelor royal dukes to marry for the sake of the family succession. For, although it was later calculated that King George III had no fewer than fifty-six grandchildren, at this time not one of these grandchildren was legitimate.

The Prince Regent, who was to become King George IV on his father's death in 1820, was now fifty-five years old, separated from a detested wife and living languorously in sumptuous grandeur at Carlton House in London and the exotic Marine Pavilion at Brighton. The King's second son, the Duke of York, was also married and also separated from a wife who, childless, lived an eccentric life at Oatlands House in Surrey where,


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Queen Victoria: A Personal History
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