'I may call you Jane but you must not call me Victoria.'
PRINCE LEOPOLD described John Conroy as a 'Mephistopheles'; but the Prince's sister, the Duchess of Kent, did not know what she would do without him. He had been a 'dear devoted friend' of the Duke, she said, and he had not deserted the widow, doing all he could to help her by dealing with her affairs, financial and otherwise. Whereas Leopold was cautious and deliberate, inclined to see difficulties before advantages, Conroy exuded a confidence which the Duchess, comforted by positive men, found reassuring.
Although of Irish descent, with forbears who were proud to trace their lineage back to a royal chieftain of the early fifth century, Conroy had been born in Wales in 1786. He had obtained a commission in the Royal Artillery when he was seventeen and had been transferred to the Horse Artillery two years later. But thereafter he had not progressed as well in the Army as he considered his talents deserved, despite his marriage to a General's daughter, the rather nondescript, indolent niece of the Duke of Kent's friend, Bishop Fisher, by whom he was to have six children. He had not served in either the Peninsular War or the Waterloo campaign; and the Duke of Kent's attempts to find him a suitable staff appointment had not been successful. He had entered the Duke's household as equerry in 1817; and the death of the Duke three years later had given him the opportunity to worm his way into a position far more rewarding and influential than he could have hoped for in the Army.
The same age as the Duchess, he was a good-looking man of insinuat-