'He will do everything himself. He wishes to be the universal man.'
WELLINGTON found the King in bed wearing a dirty silk jacket and an even scruffier turban night cap. 1 He had been ill for some time, suffering from gout and rheumatism; and was deeply concerned by the resurgence of Harriette Wilson, now living in Belgium as Mme Rochfort, who was threatening to publish further stories about his murky past. He cheered up at the sight of the Duke, however, called out, 'Arthur, the Cabinet is defunct', and proceeded to entertain him with imitations of its members so skilfully executed that he contrived not merely to sound like them but actually to look like them too. The Duke had 'never seen anything like it'. It was all 'so lively, so exact and so amusing'. 'It was quite impossible to restrain from fits of laughter.' 2
But the King's cheerful mood did not last long. He listened to the Duke's proposed candidates for office with increasing gloom, objecting particularly to Peel, whom he had never liked, and positively refusing to consider Lord Grey. It was not long before Wellington, having got his own way about Peel, who became Home Secretary, wished that he had never undertaken the task with which the King, more peevish and fretful day by day, had entrusted him: he might have avoided 'loads of misery'. He was particularly upset that he had been unwillingly induced to relinquish his resumed appointment as Commander-in-Chief, it being considered incompatible with that of Prime Minister.
At the first meeting of his Cabinet, one of his Ministers thought that they all displayed to each other 'the courtesy of men who had just fought a duel'. 3 Most of them were at least in agreement that the Prime Minister himself was 'domineering', a verdict with which the King at that time concurred. Already of the opinion that Wellington was 'incapable of flexibility', that he set about a question 'like a battery of