False Rumours About The Queen
IN 1832 the cholera made its appearance in many parts of the country,
and claimed many victims. At Brentford the people disputed hotly about
it, some alleging it was not Asiatic cholera, fearing that the
prevalence of that epidemic would be detrimental to the little trade of
the town. At the parish meetings feeling ran so high that the
disputants almost came to blows, and Colonel Clitherow 'never had so
in keeping them in decent order.'
In the autumn of the previous year Earl Howe[*] had been dismissed, at
the request of Lord Grey, from the post of Chamberlain to the Queen. As
this office had always been regarded as independent of the Ministry of
the day, the incident attracted a good deal of attention at the time,
and formed the subject of a question by Mr. Trevor in the House of
Commons, to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Althorp,
returned a diplomatic reply. Yet, however unusual the action taken by
the Government may have been, there can be little doubt that,
considering the feeling of the country respecting reform, their
decision was a wise one. Earl Howe had twice voted against the Reform
Bill, and it might have been inferred that he had been influenced in
this action by the Queen against the King's wish. His dismissal did
not, apparently, prevent rumours to this effect becoming current, and
the Queen and her friends were much annoyed at the imputations thus
implied and expressed. That these somewhat natural inferences had no
substantial foundation is made clear by a letter written from Boston
House, April 11, 1832:
[*] Richard William Penn Curzon-Howe, second Viscount Curzon; born
1796, created Earl Howe 1821, his maternal grandfather, the celebrated
Admiral, having previously borne that title.
'We are often annoyed at the unaccountable falsehoods put about of our
dear Queen. The world now says she and the King are on such bad terms
that she is going to Germany. My brother called on Lady Mary Taylour[*]
(she is Princess Augusta's Lady of the Bedchamber), who said she had
that morning read a letter from the Queen to the Princess, in which she
said she had been very unwell, her anxiety was so great about the
Princess Louise; her mother was ill, and her sister not coming, but,
she added, "My comfort and consolation is the extreme kindness of the
King. Nothing can exceed it.' This is from one you may believe. When we
were at the Pavilion, early in December, she was too ill to come out of
her room, but sent for Mrs. Clitherow after dinner, and she had a
tete-a-tete with her for an hour. She spoke much of the insult to her
of dismissing Lord Howe, but what hurt her most was her fear lest the
King should be blamed, for she was sure he never would have done it
could he have helped himself. I think now, if you hear the report, you
may contradict it on sure grounds. I do believe her excellent and good.'
[*] Eldest daughter of the first Marquis of Headfort, born 1782.
Within a week or two after this, Colonel and Mrs. Clitherow again
visited Windsor by the Royal commands, and Miss Clitherow, in her
minute chronicle, shows that, while they cherished no pride of pomp or
station, they fully appreciated the honour of the King's friendship:
'BOSTON HOUSE, 'May 13, 1832.
'Thank God the cholera does seem subsiding! And in what mercy has that
scourge visited England compared to other countries! Yet, such is the
fatal blindness of the multitude, they see none of God's mercies, and
only provoke Him more and more by increasing wickedness. The downfall
of our Church seems the first object. But you know as much as I know,
and a truce with the subject.
'I will tell you of our Courtly doings, and how thankful we are that we
just take the cream, free and independent, without rank or place--no
troubles, turmoils, or jealousies. We receive the most flattering
notice--and it can be from no other motive than liking us--a rare
occurrence at Court, and of which we have a right to be proud.
'Lately a command came to my brother and Mrs. Clitherow to come to
Windsor Castle on the Monday and stay till the Wednesday. There were no
other visitors. Nobody breakfasts with the Queen or takes luncheon
unless sent for. You have your breakfast in your own sitting-room, or
at the general breakfast, as you prefer. We always take the latter, but
this visit Jane was with her at every meal, the King the only gentleman
admitted at breakfast, and only his sons, or very few, at luncheon.
Each evening the Queen called Jane to her sofa and work-table, where,
also, no one approaches but by her invitation, and on the Tuesday
morning the King took my brother all round the Castle with Wyattville,
giving orders and directions. I fear greatly the improving mania is
coming upon His Majesty, which, in these times, will be very
'The Queen took my brother and Jane a long drive in her barouche.
'Now, in this kind of social visit you get at much of a person's mind
and opinions. The Queen seemed to enjoy a freedom of speech with
friends. Poor thing! how seldom can she feel that! She terms Jane her
"friend who tells her true." I can safely say, in contradiction to the
abominable reports circulated to her disadvantage, that she and the
King are on the best terms possible. In all her conversation, her
anxiety was on his account, lest he should get blamed. She has strong
sense and good judgment. She said: "I must have my own opinion, but I
do not talk to the King about it. It would only make him unhappy, and
could do no good."
'After the drive she took them into her room, and clasped a bracelet
round Jane's arm, begging her to wear it for her sake, and, as the
stone was an amethyst, the A would remind her of Adelaide, and then she
kissed her cheek. To my brother she presented a silver medallion of the
King, telling him her name was on the back, and he must keep it for her
sake. She always has something obliging and kind to say. She sent a
ticket for her box at Drury Lane. It was "Admit Colonel and Mrs.
Clitherow." Jane asked her if that meant two places. "No, no; the whole
box, to be sure. It holds eight. But, when I name one of you, I cannot
help naming both."
'King William IV. forgot little me when he sent his commands. On their
going in he said: "Where is Miss Clitherow? I hope illness has not
prevented her.' On an explanation, "Then next Monday meet us at dinner
at Bushey, and bring your sister with you.' And we did meet them. The
King came over with Wyattville to inspect Hampton Court Palace. The
Queen followed, to dine with him at their dear Bushey. They returned to
Windsor at ten, the Princess Augusta to town. Only Lady Falkland and
Miss Wilson attended the Queen. The company were the inmates of Hampton
Court, where we have never visited, and therefore to me the dinner was
At this time there was a grave political crisis through the action of
the House of Lords respecting the Reform Bill. The Cabinet advised the
King to create a batch of peers to form a Whig majority, as had been
done by Harley in 1711. This, however, the King refused to do, and Lord
Grey consequently resigned. The letters which passed between Lord Grey
and the King at this time are of considerable interest, and show that
the King exercised a greater influence and tact as a ruler than has
generally been ascribed to him. The Duke of Wellington was summoned,
but could not meet with sufficient support to accept office. Earl Grey,
therefore, returned to power, and the deadlock was removed by the King
persuading the Duke of Wellington and some of the peers who supported
him to absent themselves from the division on the Reform Bill, and thus
allow it to pass.[*] Miss Clitherow touches but lightly on this
subject, but it seemed desirable to put the facts before the reader.
Her letter proceeds:
[*] There are several letters on this subject towards the end of vol.
ii. of 'The Correspondence of the Late Earl Grey with H.M. King William
IV., and with Sir Hubert Taylor,' edited by his son, and published by
John Murray in 1867. Anyone desiring to have a clear idea of the
political anxieties which Miss Clitherow tells us harassed the King
would do well to consult this interesting work.
'The Thursday after we went to see Lady Falkland, who is on a visit to
papa King. We found her, her widowed sister Lady Augusta Kennedy, and
Miss Wilson very comfortably at work. They were the two Fitz-Clarences;
we saw a good deal of them when they lived at Bushey.
'A page soon came to conduct my brother to the King, another to desire
we would take luncheon in the Queen's room. On entering the King called
Jane by him, the Queen me; she rose up and shook hands with both. My
brother went down to the general luncheon. Nothing could be more
good-humoured and pleasant than they were. The King was cheerful but
silent; 'twas the day after Lord Grey's resignation. The Queen
certainly in particular good spirits; the King's firmness respecting
the making no peers had delighted her. They went to his apartments, and
we to Lady Falkland's, and were preparing to depart, when a message
came. The Queen had not taken leave of us, and hoped we were in no
hurry, but would stay and Walk with her. Of course we did. The party
consisted of the Queen, Miss Eden (Maid of Honour), Miss Wilson, Lord
Howe, Mr. Ashley, Mr. Hudson, Sir Andrew Barnard, and our three selves.
She took us through the slopes to her Adelaide Cottage and her
flower-garden to see Prince George of Cambridge at gymnastics, with
half a dozen young nobility from Eton, who came once a week to play
with him. We were walking nearly two hours. The Queen is very animated,
and Mr. Ashley and Mr. Hudson full of fun and tricks, and amused us all
much. In short, I have but one fear when with her--forgetting in Whose
presence I am; her manner is so very kind, but there is dignity with it
that keeps us in order.'
Before Miss Clitherow wrote again to her old friend, the Queen's little
niece, Whose illness has been already alluded to, had passed away. Her
Majesty was tenderly attached to the young Princess, and had shown her
every possible attention during her illness. She was greatly grieved at
her death, and the sorrow and anxiety seem to have affected her health
for some little time.
'WINDSOR CASTLE, 'September 3, 1832.
'Here I am writing with Royal pens, ink, and paper, which last I
dislike of all things, it being glazed.
'We have not seen our dear, amiable Queen since the Ascot week, and,
poor thing! she has gone through a great deal, but her conduct through
the whole was beautiful. Princess Augusta gave us the account of the
closing scene, and with tears in her eyes described the feeling and
resignation of the Queen, and the extreme kindness and attention of the
King to all her little wishes at the time of the funeral, which, by all
accounts, was the best managed and most affecting thing possible. She
has very much recovered her spirits, which are naturally very cheerful,
but she is still most miserably thin.
'The King is particularly well.
'The visitors here besides ourselves are the Duke and Duchess of
Gloucester[*]--she is too unwell to appear--Prince George of Cambridge;
the Duke of Dorset; Mademoiselle d'Este; Sir Henry and Lady Wheatley,
with two daughters; Lady Isabella Wemyss (Lady of the Bed-chamber), a
most pleasing, lovely woman, sister to Lord Errol; Miss Johnson (Maid
of Honour); Miss Wilson (Bed-chamber-woman); Mademoiselle Marienne,
Lord and Lady Falkland, Sir Herbert and Lady Taylor, Sir Andrew
Barnard, Sir Frederick Watson, Colonel Bowater, Mr. Hudson, Mr.
Shifner, and Mr. Wood.[**] Princess Augusta and Lady Mary Taylour came
every day from Frogmore, which, with the household medical man, Mr.
Davis, makes a party of thirty, reckoned here a small party.
[*] H.R.H. was the King's cousin, and the Duchess was the King's fourth
sister, Princess Mary.
[**] Many of these are obviously members of the household rather than
'The dinners are always princely, gold plate, quantities of wax-lights,
and servants innumerable, yet very agreeable and with less of form than
you could suppose possible.
'Yesterday threatened much rain, but after luncheon it cleared, and we
started, four carriages, four in each and a number on horseback, and
went to the Fishing Temple by the Virginia Water to see a model of a
vessel to be moved by clockwork. After seeing it exhibited we all took
boat, and in parties rowed about that beautiful lake. We had the
six-oared boat and various little boats. Prince George and Mr. Hudson
rowed Her Majesty about, and the whole had so much ease and good-humour
it was very delightful.
'Our evenings are always the same, the band playing most beautifully,
work-tables and cards for those who chuse.
'The first evening the Queen called us both to her table; the second
she sat with the Duchess of Gloucester till her bedtime, so that we had
not much of her company. She is always about some elegant work, which
she does remarkably well, and has a great deal of cheerful conversation.
'This is our third day, and we leave on Monday. Our invitations say
when we are to come and when to go, which is very agreeable. We have
our time to ourselves in our own sitting-room from breakfast till
luncheon at two.
'So I have scribbled to you, though no post goes till to-morrow. A trio
of kind regards.
'Yours truly, 'M. CLITHEROW.'