Wednesday, February 27, 2013

London: Summer of 1814

Everyone who was anyone was there.
Equally, (with the exception of Peter the Great's visit in 1698) this would be the first time in over two centuries, since the days of Henry VIII and Elizabeth, that foreign crowned heads were paying a visit to Britain--a not insignificant event, then.

From the British point of view, there were a few minor problems though.  With the exception of the rather run-down and lived-in-by-his-ailing-parents Windsor Castle, the Prince Regent didn't have a superlative setting for statecraft--there were no Hermitages or Palais du Louvre or Versailles here.  (Which may go some way to explaining his later mania for building and improving the royal residences...)

Instead, the royal Dukes were chucked out of their apartments in Cumberland House and their rooms rapidly refurbished:  the Duke of Cambridge's rooms assigned to the Emperor of Russia and his royal aides, the Duke of Cumberland gave up his rooms for the Emperor of Austria, and Clarence's rooms were to be  used by King Frederick William III of Prussia.

In early May, it was announced that Princess Charlotte would marry--in the presence of all those Crowned Heads (!)--William, the Prince of Orange, who had already arrived in Harwich and was travelling under the name of "Captain H. George".  This royal wedding was to be the highlight of the royal visitation!

It was all to be a Peace Celebration such as the world had never seen, and the Brits were ready to party!  Or were they?

May went by without any royal visitors arriving.  By the end of the month, it was said that the Austrian Emperor would not be visiting at all, and that the Tsar's visit was also delayed.

Then, at last, on 3 June, the Foreign Secretary, Lord Castlereagh, arrived back in Dover (following his six months abroad representing Britain in the Allied sovereigns' control tent) with the details of the Treaty of Paris which had ended France's hegemony in Europe, and the announcement that the sovereigns would be arriving on the following Monday.

The Dover Road was besieged by those wishing to get a glimpse of the Royal Liberators.  Carriages and foot-traffic alike battled for position along the road.  Union Jacks were flying as were the flags of the Allied nations--Prussia, Russia and Austria.  But they were to be disappointed.

The sovereigns didn't land until late that night.  Word also spread that other illustrious visitors had slipped ashore late Sunday evening--a company of Don Cossacks, the Austrian foreign minister, Prince Metternich, the Russian commander, Count Barclay de Tolly...

London waited too as the east wind grew colder. (Read entire post.)

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