Recollections of Three Reigns

By Colin Welch; Frederick Ponsonby | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
The King's first official trip abroad -- Portugal -- Gibraltar -- Malta -- Naples -- The visit to the Pope -- Rome -- Paris -- L'Entente Cordiale

KING EDWARD had always been a lover of European travel, but as Prince of Wales his various visits to European capitals or spas were strictly unofficial. Shortly after his accession to the throne, however, he determined to make a Mediterranean tour which should include several official visits. Whether he anticipated opposition on the part of the Government to these official foreign visits I never knew, but the arrangements which he made for his tour early in 1903 were kept a dead secret and most of the suite had no idea where they were going. The King kept the whole arrangements in his own hands and knew that he could rely on the discretion of the various members of his Household to keep everything as quiet as possible. Everything was in water-tight compartments, so that the person who was responsible for the orders to be given to the yacht knew nothing about the telegrams and letters that were being sent to foreign capitals. Beyond the fact that I was to form one of the suite, I knew nothing at all about the arrangements.

The suite consisted of the Hon. Charles Hardinge, 1 Minister Plenipotentiary and Assistant Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs; Major-General Sir Stanley Clarke, Acting Master of the Household; Rear-Admiral the Hon. Hedworth Lambton, Equerry and in command of the Royal yacht; Captain the Hon. Seymour Fortescue, Equerry; Sir Francis Laking, the King's physician; Chevalier de Martino, the marine painter; and myself as Equerry and Acting Private Secretary. The Marquis de Soveral, the Portuguese Ambassador, came as far as Lisbon, which was to be our first port of call.

In Queen Victoria's reign it was the custom for a Cabinet Minister to accompany the Sovereign, but King Edward made a new departure in taking with him a comparatively unknown Secretary from the Diplomatic Service. At first it was said that Hardinge had been selected because he had married one of Queen Alexandra's Ladies-in-Waiting, but this was quite wrong. King Edward had with unerring judgment discovered Hardinge as the rising man in diplomacy, and thought he would be far more useful than a Cabinet Minister, who would probably be unable to talk French or German.

____________________
1
Later 1st Baron Hardinge of Penshurst. Assistant Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 1903-4; Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 1906- 10 and 1916-20; Ambassador to Russia, 1904-6; Viceroy of India, 1910-16; Ambassador to France, 1920-22.

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