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About the Author
Dennis Friedman is a psychiatrist and author of innovative studies of phobias, sexual problems, and other psychological disorders. He is the author of Inheritance: A Psychological History of the Royal Family, Ladies of the Bedchamber and The Lonely Hearts Club.
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The Enigma of King George V
By Dennis Friedman
Peter Owen PublishersCopyright © 1998 Dennis Friedman
All rights reserved.
They are such ill bred, ill trained children, I don't fancy them at all
On 3 June 1865 the birth of Prince George, the second son of Princess Alexandra and Prince Edward the heir apparent, was welcomed unreservedly by the people of Great Britain. He was christened George Frederick Ernest Albert at St George's Chapel, Windsor, on 7 July 1865 and was henceforward known as 'Georgie' within the family. In the year of the Prince's birth, the Prime Minister Lord Palmerston died – to be eventually succeeded by William Ewart Gladstone – and Karl Marx published Das Kapital, which was destined to alter the fundamental perceptions of the individual and the state. A few years earlier (1859) Darwin had sown the seeds of radical change with The Origin of Species which laid the foundation of modern evolutionary theory. During the course of King George V's life, industrialization and new technology, the decline of the British Empire and an unprecedented war contributed to the transformation not only of the material world but also to the transformation of the old moral order.
There seemed no more stable symbol of the old world than the British Crown. Queen Victoria, Prince George's grandmother, was both the world's mightiest sovereign and the incarnation of the Anglo-Saxon Protestant values to which she believed she owed her enormous prosperity. For Queen Victoria, however, the year 1865 and the birth of Prince George did little to relieve her deep mourning for her husband Prince Albert, who had died four years earlier. For the young Princess Alexandra and Prince Edward, however, Prince George's arrival enhanced what was thought to be a felicitous marriage. Their influence on the personality of a monarch who was to see Britain through radical social changes and world upheavals cannot be in any doubt. They passed on the well-intentioned, if not always well-thought-out, parenting they had themselves experienced.
In the early nineteenth century Britain's Royal Family (the precursor of the present House of Windsor) was, in common with other upper-class families, concerned more with instilling the virtues of correctness and discipline into their children and with suppressing their spontaneous feelings than with allowing them to develop at their own pace in a secure and loving environment. The system of child-rearing to which King George V and his parents were exposed was less impressed with the psychological welfare of children, about which little was then known, than with preserving the image of the Royal Family, that inflexible monolith currently known as the 'Firm'. The 'Firm's' members are expected to carry out functions such as attendance at ceremonial and social occasions and to behave in such a way as not to bring other (particularly more senior) members of it into disrepute.
The rigid and often sadistic upbringing to which King George V's father, Edward Prince of Wales, was exposed throws light on the behaviour of his son. As a child, the Prince of Wales rebelled helplessly against 'blind' authority. As an adult, he contested the morality thrust upon him before he was ready for it. As a parent, he was destined to dump his rage, his lack of self-assurance and the unresolved anxieties of his childhood on to his second son, the future King George V. King Edward VII's eldest son, the Duke of Clarence, died at the age of twenty-six, leaving the stage to his younger brother Prince George. It was to be several generations before the bewildering, exploitive, overdisciplined and intimidating upbringing to which both father and son were subjected would be regarded as anything other than normal.
Edward Prince of Wales, who was the second of Queen Victoria's nine children, was born to a fanfare of trumpets. Much was expected of him, not only by his mother but also by her subjects. The Queen, whose first baby was Victoria the Princess Royal, was overjoyed when she gave birth to a son. Prince Edward was the first male heir to be born to a reigning sovereign for seventy-nine years. He was also Queen Victoria's only male blood relative, since her father, the Duke of Kent, had died from pneumonia when Princess Victoria was only eight months old.
If Queen Victoria was expecting the infant, Prince Albert Edward, named after her father the Duke of Kent, to compensate her for his loss, she was disappointed. Prince Edward was unaware that his mother's approval was dependent upon his being a replica either of her father or of her husband Prince Albert, and he behaved like any other child. He soon discovered, however, that this was not what was expected of him. As a child and, later, as an adult, Queen Victoria had been dependent on elderly, wise and worldly men for advice and support. Prince Edward hardly came into this category and it was not long before his mother transferred the resentment she felt towards her father for leaving her on to her infant son.
The novelty of motherhood soon passed for Queen Victoria, but despite finding pregnancy disagreeable she had nine children. She would not have realized that being pregnant represented more a need to convert Prince Albert into a father than to produce children. The demands of her infants (other than those of her daughter whom she regarded as an extension of herself) were largely ignored. Shortly after Prince Edward's birth Queen Victoria wrote to her Uncle Leopold, King of the Belgians: 'You will understand how fervent my prayers are and I am [sure] everybody's must be, to see him resemble his angelic dearest father in every, every respect, both in body and mind. Oh! My dearest Uncle, I am sure if you knew how happy, how blessed I feel, and how proud I feel in possessing such a perfect being as my husband, as he is, and if you think you have been instrumental in bringing about this union, it must gladden your heart! How happy I should be to see our child grow up just like him!' It was not long before Prince Edward found these expectations difficult, if not impossible, to live up to. Not having herself benefited from the presence of a father, Queen Victoria envied her children for possessing one.
In her later letters, many of them to her Uncle Leopold, the Queen rarely mentioned Prince Edward. When she did, she robbed him of his identity by merely referring to him as 'the boy'. She was more enthusiastic about her firstborn, Princess Victoria, her dearest 'Pussy' and on 10 January 1843 she wrote to her Uncle Leopold, her mother's brother: 'She is very well and such an amusement to us, that I can't bear to move without her; she is so funny and speaks so well, and in French also, she knows almost everything.' Seven months later, she commented admiringly: 'We find Pussette amazingly advanced in intellect, but alas! also in naughtiness.' Prince Albert made no secret of the fact that Pussy was also his favourite child and, despite the arrival on the scene of her brother Prince Edward, she remained so.
At the age of twenty Queen Victoria, who was insufficiently confident of her ability to cope with new situations on her own, depended heavily on the support and kindness of her uncle. She also leaned on the advice of a dogmatic and fashionable German doctor, Baron Stockmar, who had befriended her uncle Leopold after his wife had died in childbirth. Dr Stockmar made himself indispensable to Prince Albert (a nephew of King Leopold) and after his marriage to Queen Victoria managed little by little to extend his influence over the British monarchy.
Queen Victoria first met Baron Stockmar when she was eighteen years old. He commented that he found her 'unintelligent and unattractive'. When he discovered that he was able to influence the Queen and to dictate techniques of parenting that were to affect the British Royal Family for five generations he changed his tune. Like Rasputin he became the power behind the throne and, after Prince Albert's marriage to his cousin Queen Victoria, the mentor to the English Court itself. The Baron's aim was to restore the monarchy to the moral high ground it had lost as the result of the sexual promiscuity of some of Queen Victoria's uncles, the brothers of her late father the Duke of Kent. Focusing his efforts on moulding Prince Edward into a model of morality, Stockmar laid the foundations for the hypocrisy which became the sine qua non of the Victorian era. He persuaded Prince Edward's parents that it was important to suppress their son's spontaneity and to instil in him a fear of his father and his teachers. Stockmar's interference was responsible for Prince Edward's later rebellious attitude to the social mores of his mother's puritanical court.
In Prince Albert's own childhood there also had been no question of 'unconditional' love. He had been only four years old when his mother, Princess Saxe-Coburg-Altenburg, was banished from the Court of Coburg for having a liaison with the Court Chamberlain and was forbidden to see her son again. Prince Albert's adult life was presumably overshadowed by this 'disgraceful' affair, and he was clearly not disposed to tolerate similar behaviour in his son. To have lost his mother because of her love for a man – other than himself (or his father) – when his closeness to her was fundamental would have left him not only motherless but also with a permanent curiosity about the sexual activities of those closest to him.
The Baron's was not a lone voice. In nineteenth-century Germany Dr D.G.M. Schreber's book on child-rearing methods was the nursery bible. Schreber was a popular physician and pedagogue whose advice to parents was to crush the spirit of their children before they reached the age of four so that they would remain for ever compliant. One hundred and fifty years later such recommendations would have attracted the attention of the social services. Although extreme, Schreber's attitudes were not entirely alien to Victorian parents to whom four-hourly feeds for babies, discipline and control, obedience, respect for elders and the injunction to be seen and not heard were regarded as essential. This child-rearing pattern was far removed from that of the late twentieth century when feeding on demand, the minimum of rules and few restrictions have become, for many, synonymous with love.
As an infant Prince Edward was much admired by his mother's subjects. This was manifest in his travels around the British Isles with his governess Lady Lyttelton, the eldest daughter of the second Earl Spencer, whom the Queen had appointed to look after him. Prince Edward was growing up to be quiet and dreamy and often seemed lost in a fantasy world, possibly because the real world did not provide the love and attention to which every child is entitled. A nervous boy, he was unable to bond with a mother whose own views on child-rearing were overruled by those of the ever-present Baron Stockmar. The Prince found great comfort, however, in the hands-on mothering of Lady Lyttleton who loved and protected him and also, whenever the royal entourage toured the country, in the admiration of the people. The seeds of love and attention were sown not in the arms of a loving and attentive mother but in the arms of a surrogate. They were later to germinate when, as a young adult, Prince Edward demonstrated an insatiable need for stimulating input from women. This need forced him into a life-style that distracted him from attending to the needs of his wife and children.
By the age of six, when his formal education began, Prince Edward had grown up to be ever more distant from his mother. He was to become more directly under the influence of his father who thought nothing of beating him if he was 'noisy' and of Baron Stockmar. Having given responsibility to Lady Lyttleton for her son's care in the nursery, Queen Victoria now decided that the time had come for him 'to be given over entirely to the Tutors' and 'taken entirely away from the women'. Lady Beauvais, a sister-in-law of Lord Melbourne, the Prime Minister, is quoted in the diaries of Charles Greville on January 1848 as having overheard the Queen commenting that '[Edward] is a stupid boy'. Greville, clerk of the Privy Council from 1821 to 1859 and very much involved in the day-to-day events of the royal household, elaborated on this gossip by adding 'that the hereditary and unfailing antipathy of our Sovereign to their Heirs Apparent seems thus early to be taking root, and the Queen does not much like the child' (Cowles, 1956). Another entry in Greville's diary, five years later, on 4 April 1853, quotes the eleven-year-old Prince's governess, Lady Lyttleton, now the Queen's Lady-of-the-Bedchamber and well placed to know, reporting to Greville that the Queen was 'severe in her manner, and a strict disciplinarian in the family'. The Queen may have been 'ecstatic' when her son was born but her interest in him seemed steadily to be waning.
If Prince Edward felt unloved at home, this was reinforced by his fear of the highly critical Baron Stockmar. By the time Edward was seven, Stockmar advised his parents that Henry Birch, formerly an assistant master at Eton, be appointed as his tutor. Despite his unfortunate name, Mr Birch was a humane and just man. He and his pupil got on well with one another; too well perhaps, because after two years Stockmar persuaded Prince Albert to replace him with the unsmiling and far more strict Frederick Gibbs, who remained responsible for the Prince's education for the next eight years. Prince Edward, sad at the loss of the man to whom he had grown close, did not take to his new tutor. Soon after his appointment Gibbs noted in his diaries (Cowles, 1956) that Edward was becoming prone to outbursts of uncontrolled rage and that the Queen had drawn his attention to his habit of spending much of his time staring gloomily at his feet.
The once happy infant was developing into a sad and angry child. His hangdog expression could well have been one of the first signs of a depressive mood that was later to cause him to seek inappropriate compensation, not only in his demands for approval from women but also for approval from his sons. While Stockmar's aim might well have been the restoration of the morals of the monarchy, he was in fact undermining them.
Frederick Waymouth Gibbs, Prince Edward's new tutor, was thoroughly approved of by Stockmar, not least because he kept the Baron informed on a daily basis as to the Prince of Wales's educational progress. Mr Gibbs's diaries, however, recorded the gradual deterioration of his pupil's mental state and, when frustrated, his worrying outbursts of anger which he could only take out on his tutor. Gibbs's hope was that in time the Prince would take to him, but he never did. The over-strict regime advised by Stockmar led to bottled-up rage in the Prince. Had this not been relieved from time to time by his outbursts of temper it would certainly have exacerbated his depression, some of the signs of which – apathy and lack of enthusiasm – were already beginning to become apparent. Mr Gibbs may well have been Prince Edward's tutor, but the 'headmaster' of the school for two (Prince Edward was educated with his younger brother Prince Alfred) was undoubtedly Baron Stockmar.
For the next eight years intense pressure was put upon Prince Edward. There was no let-up from the overwhelmingly dull and intensive teaching regime proposed by the Baron and faithfully carried out by his tutor. Although sympathetically commented upon by the courtiers, Prince Edward's ordeal was completely ignored by his parents, other than when his father expressed his dissatisfaction at his son's lack of progress.
Prince Edward was thirteen when he was taken on his first holiday. Accompanying his parents on a state visit to the Court of Napoleon III gave him a glimpse of the glamorous life that he later believed could be found only in France. His nose-to-the-grindstone education in England had prepared him neither for the comeliness of French ladies nor for the grandeur of the French capital. On a drive through the streets of Paris with the Emperor he whispered, in a damning indictment of his father: 'I should like to be your son.'
Excerpted from Darling Georgie by Dennis Friedman. Copyright © 1998 Dennis Friedman. Excerpted by permission of Peter Owen Publishers.
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Table of Contents
ContentsIntroduction: The Man Behind the Monarch,
1 They are such ill bred, ill trained children, I don't fancy them at all,
2 Darling Georgie,
3 Inclined to be lazy and silly this week,
4 None of us could speak, we were all crying so much,
5 Rum, buggery and the lash,
6 The Gay Hussar,
7 One feels capable of greater things,
8 Killing animals and sticking in stamps,
9 The Queen has gladly given her consent,
10 I am very glad I am married and I don't feel at all strange,
11 What a hard task it is for us women to go through this very often,
12 George says he isn't ready yet to reign,
13 Wake up, England,
14 I know what's best for my children,
15 An overgrown schoolboy,
16 I have lost my best friend and the best of fathers,
17 We shall try all we can to keep out of this,
18 If any question why we died, tell them that our fathers lied,
19 The King is dead and has taken his trumpeter with him,
20 And it all goes into the laundry, but it never comes out in the wash,
Royal Family trees,