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Subject: British Monarchial History 1830 - 1936

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Date Posted: 06:51:13 03/18/03 Tue

1830-1931 - Trace the fortunes of the monarchy and the House of Lords

Why did the monarchy and the House of Lords survive?

William IV 1830-1837
William, the third son of George III, was born at Buckingham Palace in 1765. He entered the navy in 1779, and saw service in America and the West Indies. In 1789 he was granted the title, the Duke of Clarence and given an allowance of 12,000 a year. William remained in the navy and by 1811 had reached the rank of admiral.
Like his brother George IV, William rebelled against his father's strict discipline. He lived with his mistress, the actress Dorothy Jordon, who bore him ten children. William also against his father's political views. Whereas George III preferred the Tories, William was a Whig, and at once time even considered becoming a Member of Parliament. In the House of Lords the Duke of Clarence supported Catholic Emancipation and showed signs he favoured parliamentary reform.
After the death of George IV's daughter, Princess Charlotte, in 1818, there was a royal scramble to marry an heir to the throne. Soon after Charlotte's death, William married Adelaide, eldest daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg. The couple had two daughters but they both died in infancy.
When his brother, George IV, died in 1830, the Duke of Clarence became king. Like his father and brother, William IV was prone to strange behaviour. On the day he became king he raced through London in an open carriage, frequently removing his hat and bowing to his new subjects. Every so often he stopped and offered people a lift in his royal carriage. His habit of spitting in public also helped to obtain for him a reputation as an eccentric.
At first William IV was very popular. The people were pleased when he announced that he would attempt to keep royal spending to a minimum. People became convinced that he meant what he said when it was discovered that William's coronation only cost a tenth of the expense incurred by George IV's ceremony in 1821. In November 1830 Lord Grey and the Whigs came to power. The king told Grey that he would not interfere with Whig plans to introduce parliamentary reform.
In April 1831 Grey asked the king to dissolve Parliament so that the Whigs could secure a larger majority in the House of Commons. Grey explained this would help his government to carry their proposals for an increase in the number of people who could vote in elections. William agreed to Grey's request and after making his speech in the House of Lords, decided to walk back through cheering crowds to Buckingham Palace.
After Lord Grey's election victory, he tried again to introduce parliamentary reform but once again the Lords refused to pass the bill. On 7th May 1832, Grey and Henry Brougham met the king and asked him to create a large number of Wigg peers in order to get the Reform Bill passed in the House of Lords. William was now having doubts about the wisdom of parliamentary reform and refused.
Lord Grey's government resigned and William IV now asked the leader of the Tories, the Duke of Wellington, to form a new government. Wellington tried to do this but some Tories, including Sir Robert Peel, were unwilling to join a cabinet that was in opposition to the views of the vast majority of the people in Britain. Peel argued that if the king and Wellington went ahead with their plan there was a strong danger of a civil war in Britain.
When the Duke of Wellington failed to recruit another significant figures into his cabinet, William was forced to ask Grey to return to office. In his attempts to frustrate the will of the electorate, William IV lost the popularity he had enjoyed during the first part of his reign. Once again Lord Grey asked the king to create a large number of new Whig peers. William agreed that he would do this and when the Lords heard the news, they agreed to pass the Reform Act.
William IV resented the fact that Lord Grey had forced the Reform Act on him. However, Grey was so popular with the general public that he was unable to take action against him. After Grey resigned in 1834 and was replaced by Lord Melbourne, the king was in a stronger position.
In November 1834 William IV dismissed the Whig government and appointed the Tory, Sir Robert Peel as his new prime minister. By this time the king had developed an intense dislike for the Whig reformers such as Lord John Russell and Henry Brougham.
As there were more Whigs than Tories in the House of Commons, Sir Robert Peel found government very difficult. Peel was only able to pass legislation that was supported by the Whigs and on 8th April 1835 he resigned from office. The Tories were replaced by a Whig government and once again William had to preside over a series of reforms that he profoundly disagreed with. William IV died on 20th June 1837.

Victoria 1837-1901
Alexandrina Victoria, the only child of Edward, Duke of Kent and Victoria Maria Louisa of Saxe-Coburg, was born in 24th May 1819. The Duke of Kent was the fourth son of George III and Victoria Maria Louisa was the sister of King Leopold of Belgium. The Duke and Duchess of Kent selected the name Victoria but her uncle, George IV, insisted that she be named Alexandrina after her godfather, Tsar Alexander II of Russia.
Victoria's father died when she was eight months old. The Duchess of Kent developed a close relationship with Sir John Conroy, an ambitious Irish officer. Conroy acted as if Victoria was his daughter and had a major influence over her as a child.
On the death of George IV in 1830, his brother William IV became king. William had no surviving legitimate children and soVictoria, became his heir. William's health was not good and he feared that Conroy would become the power behind the throne if Victoria became queen before she was eighteen.
William IV died 27 days after Victoria's eighteenth birthday. Although William was unaware of this, Victoria disliked Conroy and she had objected to his attempt to exert power over her. As soon as she became queen in 1837, Victoria banished Conroy from the Royal Court.
Lord Melbourne was Prime Minister when Victoria became queen. Melbourne was fifty-eight and a widower. Melbourne's only child had died and he treated Victoria like his daughter. Victoria grew very fond of Melbourne and became very dependent on him for political advice. Melbourne was leader of the Whig party and although radical in his youth, his views were now extremely conservative. Melbourne had been a member of Earl Grey's government that had passed the 1832 Reform Act, but he had privately been against the measure. Melbourne attempted to protect Victoria from the harsh realities of British life and even advised her not to read Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens because it dealt with "paupers, criminals and other unpleasant subjects".
Victoria and Melbourne became very close. An apartment was made available for Lord Melbourne at Windsor Castle and it was estimated that he spent six hours a day with the queen. Victoria's feelings for Melbourne were clearly expressed in her journal. On one occasion she wrote: "he is such an honest, good kind-hearted man and is my friend, I know it."
Some people objected to this close relationship. When on royal visits, some members of the crowd would shout out "Mrs. Melbourne". Lord Melbourne's old friend, Thomas Barnes, the editor of The Times wrote "Is it for the Queen's service - is it for the Queen's dignity - is it becoming - is it commonly decent?" In the autumn of 1837 a rumour circulated that Victoria was considering marrying Lord Melbourne. Queen Victoria wrote in her diary that she was growing very fond of Melbourne and loved listening to him talk: "Such stories of knowledge; such a wonderful memory; he knows about everybody and everything; who they were and what they did. He has such a kind and agreeable manner; he does me the world of good."
In 1839 Lord Melbourne resigned after a defeat in the House of Commons. Sir Robert Peel, the Tory leader, now became Prime Minister. It was the custom for the Queen's ladies of the bedchamber to be of the some political party as the government. Peel asked Victoria to replace the Whig ladies with Tory ladies. When Victoria refused, Peel resigned and Melbourne and the Whigs returned to office.
Soon after the return of Lord Melbourne as Prime Minister, Victoria saw Lady Flora Hastings, one of her ladies-in-waiting, getting into a carriage with Sir John Conroy. A few months later Victoria noticed that Lady Hastings appeared to be pregnant. When Victoria approached Lady Hastings about this she claimed that she was still a virgin and had not had a sexual relationship with Conroy. Victoria refused to believe her and insisted that she submitted to a medical examination. The queen's doctor discovered that Lady Hastings was indeed a virgin and that the swelling was caused by a cancerous growth on the liver. The story was leaked to the newspapers and when Lady Hastings died of cancer a few months later, Victoria became very unpopular with the British public. Soon afterwards an attempt was made to kill Victoria while she was driving in her carriage in London. Further assassination attempts took place in 1842 (twice), 1849, 1850, 1872 and 1882.
Queen Victoria's cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, visited London in 1839. Victoria immediately fell in love with Albert and although he initially had doubts about the relationship, the couple were eventually married in February 1840. During the next eighteen years Queen Victoria gave birth to nine children.
Lord Melbourne resigned as Prime Minister in 1841. However, by this time, it was Prince Albert, rather than Melbourne, who had become the main influence over Victoria's political views. Whereas Melbourne had advised Victoria not to think about social problems, Prince Albert invited Lord Ashley to Buckingham Palace to talk about what he had discovered about child labour in Britain.
Queen Victoria had a good relationship with the next two prime ministers, Sir Robert Peel and Lord John Russell. However, she disapproved of Lord Palmerston, the Foreign Secretary. Palmerston believed the main objective of the government's foreign policy should be to increase Britain's power in the world. This sometimes involved adopting policies that embarrassed and weakened foreign governments. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, on the other hand, believed that the British government should do what it could to help preserve European royal families against revolutionary groups advocating republicanism. This was very important to Victoria and Albert as they were closely related to several of the European royal families that faced the danger of being overthrown.
Victoria and Albert also objected to Palmerston's sexual behaviour. On one occasion he had attempted to seduce one of Victoria's ladies in waiting. Palmerston entered Lady Dacre's bedroom while staying as Queen Victoria's guest at Windsor Castle. Only Lord Melbourne's intervention saved Palmerston from being removed from office.
In the summer of 1850 Queen Victoria asked Lord John Russell to dismiss Palmerston. Russell told the queen he was unable to do this because Palmerston was very popular in the House of Commons. However, in December 1851, Lord Palmerston congratulated Louis Napoleon Bonaparte on his coup in France. This action upset Russell and other radical members of the Whig party and this time he accepted Victoria's advice and sacked Palmerston. Six weeks later Palmerston took revenge by helping to bring down Lord John Russell's government.
In 1855 Lord Palmerston became Prime Minister. Queen Victoria found it difficult to work with him but their relationship gradually improved. When Palmerston died she wrote in her journal: "We had, God knows! terrible trouble with him about Foreign Affairs. Still, as Prime Minister he managed affairs at home well, and behaved to me well. But I never liked him."
Prince Albert died of typhoid fever in December 1861. Victoria continued to carry out her constitutional duties such as reading all diplomatic despatches. However, she completely withdrew from public view and now spent most of her time in the Scottish Highlands at her home at Balmoral Castle. Victoria even refused requests from her government to open Parliament in person. Politicians began to question whether Victoria was earning the money that the State paid her.
While at Balmoral Queen Victoria became very close to John Brown, a Scottish servant. Victoria's friendship with Brown caused some concern and rumours began to circulate that the two had secretly married. Hostility towards Victoria increased and some Radical MPs even spoke in favour of abolishing the British monarchy and replacing it with a republic.
In 1868 William Gladstone, leader of the Liberals in the House of Commons, became Prime Minister. Gladstone's government had plans for a series of reforms including the extension of the franchise, elections by secret ballot and a reduction in the power of the House of Lords. Victoria totally disagreed with these policies but did not have the power to stop Gladstone's government from passing the 1867 Reform Act and the 1872 Secret Ballot Act.
In 1874 the Tory, Benjamin Disraeli, became Prime Minister. Victoria much preferred Disraeli's conservatism to Gladstone's liberalism. Victoria also approved of Disraeli's charm. Disraeli later remarked that: "Everyone likes flattery, and when you come to royalty, you should lay it on with a trowel." Queen Victoria was very upset when Gladstone replaced Disraeli as premier in 1880. When Disraeli died the following year, Victoria wrote to his private secretary that she was devastated by the news and could not stop crying.
Gladstone's relationship with Victoria failed to improve. As well as her objection to the 1884 Reform Act, Victoria disagreed with Gladstone's foreign policy. William Gladstone believed that Britain should never support a cause that was morally wrong. Victoria took the view that not to pursue Britain's best interest was not only misguided, but close to treachery. In 1885 Victoria sent a telegram to Gladstone criticizing his failure to take action to save General Gordon at Khartoum. Gladstone was furious because the telegram was uncoded and delivered by a local station-master. As a result of this telegram it became public knowledge that Victoria disapproved of Gladstone's foreign policy. The relationship became even more strained when Gladstone discovered that Victoria was passing on confidential documents to the Marquess of Salisbury, the leader of the Conservatives.
In 1885 the Marquess of Salisbury became Prime Minister. He was to remain in power for twelve of the last fifteen years of her reign. Victoria shared Salisbury's imperialist views and was thrilled when General Kitchener was successful in avenging General Gordon in the Sudan in 1898. Victoria also enthusiastically supported British action against the Boers in South Africa. Queen Victoria died at her house on the Isle of Wight on 22nd January 1901.

Edward VII 1901-1910

Edward, eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert was born in Buckingham Palace in 1841. He was educated privately and at Edinburgh University, Oxford University and Cambridge University.
In 1860 Edward became the first member of the royal family to tour the USA. When he returned to England he was involved in a scandal with a Irish actress. Prince Albert died a few weeks later and Queen Victoria blamed her son for her husband's death. Victoria later declared that was never able to look at the boy without a shudder.
After the death of Prince Albert Edward took his seat in the House of Lords as the Duke of Cornwall. Edward, who spoke French, German, Spanish and Italian, toured the world on behalf of the royal family. This included trips to Italy, Spain, Canada, India, Egypt, Denmark, France, Germany, Belgium and Russia.
In 1863 Edward married Alexandra, eldest daughter of King Kristian IXof Denmark. Alexandra had six children, Albert, Duke of Clarence (1864-1892), George (1865-1936), Louise (1867-1931), Victoria (1868-1935), Maud (1869-1938) and Alexander, who died soon after being born.
Edward had a regular annual routine. He spent Christmas at Sandringham, three of four weeks at Buckingham Palace, Biarritz in February and March, Easter at Windsor Castle, summer in London with regular visits to the racecourse, an official tour of a foreign country, country-house visits for grouse-shooting, three weeks at a foreign spa, October at Balmoral and November and December at Buckingham Palace.
Prince Edward had a great appetite eating five large meals a day. These meals often consisted of ten or more courses. By the time he was middle-aged he had a waist of forty-eight inches. Edward also smoked twelve large cigars and twenty cigarettes a day.
Queen Victoria disapproved of Edward's interest in horse-racing, theatre-going and yachting. Edward had several mistresses including Lily Langtry, Alice Kepple, Lady Brooke, Princess de Mouchy and Princess de Sagan. Edward was involved in several scandals. On one occasion it was discovered that he had been playing in an illegal card-game and in 1870 he was accused in court of having an affair with Lady Mordaunt. Victoria was horrified by her son's behaviour and warned that evidence of a pleasure-loving and immoral aristocracy might provoke the working class into adopting radical political ideas.
Edward attempted to gain the support of the working-class by inviting their representatives, such as Joseph Arch and Henry Broadhurst to stay at his country house at Sandringham. When Broadhurst visited Sandringham he did not take with him the right evening dress, and so he had to eat his meals in his bedroom.
Edward VII became king on the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. Although he was 59 when he became king, he restored some vitality to the monarchy. He made several royal visits and helped to prepare the way for international treaties with France and Russia. The king took a particular interest in military matters. He opposed attempts to reduce public spending on the armed forces and was a strong advocate of the Dreadnought building campaign.
Politically, the king favoured the Conservatives. He was totally opposed to the campaign by the NUWSS and the WSPU to achieve the vote for women. He disliked the Liberals, especially those such as Henry Campbell-Bannerman and Dave Lloyd George who had opposed the Boer War.
Edward VII was disappointed when the 1906 General Election brought the Liberals to power. Attempts to redistribute wealth resulted in Herbert Asquith and his government coming into conflict with the House of Lords.
After the Lords had rejected the People's Budget in 1909, Herbert Asquith and his chancellor, David Lloyd George, asked the king to create a large number of new Liberal peers to give the government a majority in the House of Lords. The king refused, insisted that the issue should be put to the electorate in a General Election to make sure that the public supported reform of the House of Lords.
In the middle of this dispute, the king became very ill. Edward VII died at Buckingham Palace on 6th May, 1910, leaving the constitutional crisis to be solved by his son, King George V.

George V 1910-1936

George, the second son of Edward VII and Alexandra of Denmark, was born at Marlborough House on 3rd June, 1865. Most of his childhood was spent at Sandringham, Buckingham Palace and Balmoral.
After being educated at home by the Rev. J. N. Dalton, George became a naval cadet at Dartmouth. By 1889 he was commander of a torpedo boat. However, in January 1892, his naval career came to an end when his older brother, Prince Edward, died of pneumonia. Edward had been engaged to marry his German cousin, Princes Mary of Teck. It was now decided she should marry George instead.
George was now heir to the throne and it was decided that he could no longer risk his life as a naval commander. He was granted the title, the Duke of York and became a member of the House of Lords. George was also given a political education that included an in-depth study of the British Constitution. However, unlike his father, he did not learn to speak any foreign languages.
George, Duke of York, married Princess Mary in 1893. Mary had six children: Edward (1894-1972), George (1895-1952), Mary (1897-1965), Henry (1900-1974), George (1902-1942) and John (1905-1919).
Edward VII died in 1910 during the Liberal Government's conflict with the Lords. His father had promised to give his support to the reform of the House of Lords if Herbert Asquith and the Liberal Party won a General Election on this issue. Although the 1910 General Election held in December did not produce a clear victory for the Liberals, George V agreed to keep his father's promise.
When the House of Lords attempted to stop the passage of the 1911 Parliament Act, George V made it clear he was willing to create 250 new Liberal peers in order to remove the Conservative majority in the Lords. Faced with the prospect of a House of Lords with a permanent Liberal majority, the Conservatives agreed to let the 1911 Parliament Act become law.
The outbreak of the First World War created problems for the royal family because of its German background. Owing to strong anti-German feeling in Britain, it was decided to change the name of the royal family from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor. To stress his support for the British, the king made several visits to the Western Front. On one visit to France in 1915 he fell off his horse and broke his pelvis.
In 1917 George V took the controversial decision to deny political asylum to the Tsar Nicholas II and his family after the Bolshevik Revolution. People where shocked by George's unwillingness to protect his cousin but his advisers argued that it was important for the king to distance himself from the autocratic Russian royal family. Some people questioned this decision when it became known that the Bolsheviks had executed Tsar Nicholas, his wife and their five children.
In 1924 George V appointed Ramsay MacDonald, Britain's first Labour Prime Minister. Two years later he played an important role in persuading the Conservative Government not to take an unduly aggressive attitude towards the unions during the General Strike. It an attempt to achieve national harmony during the economic crisis of 1931, the king persuaded MacDonald to lead a coalition government. The following year George V introduced the idea of broadcasting a Christmas message to the people.
The king had not enjoyed good health for a long time and during his final years he spent much of his time on his grand passion, philately. Patriotically, he concentrated on collected stamps from the British Empire. George V died of influenza on 20th January, 1936. His eldest son, Edward now became king.

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