Tuesday, 8 September 2015

The Almack’s Patroness VIII

William IV

Rumblings from the British government about Lieven interference meant another visit from Matuscewitz in May and Christopher was once again recalled to Russia. Dorothea accompanied him to Warsaw, from whence Christopher hoped to visit Courland. In a trip that took a mere 55 hours, Dorothea hurried back to London where much had changed in her absence.

The death of George IV, on 26th June 1830, and his replacement by his brother William did not result in a change of ministry. Dorothea would have to work with Wellington as Prime Minister for the foreseeable future.

While Dorothea was away Wellington visited the children in his role of godfather to Arthur. On the strength of that Dorothea now invited him to visit. She wrote to Alexander;

‘The Duke of Wellington came to see me yesterday, and we ended by saying quite tender things to each other, and you may rest assured that we are once more on an excellent footing.’[i]

In July Christopher fell seriously ill in a small Polish village en route to St Petersburg, and Dorothea feared for his life. At home Dorothea’s carriage was overturned and her back was strained.

‘’I have been terribly upset by the accident from which my husband so narrowly escaped. Thank God, he is now all right again, and I have only a strained back.’[ii]

In August Dorothea was having problems walking and in September was visiting Lady Cowper at Panshanger before trying sea bathing at Brighton, a self-help method proclaimed as efficacious for all ills. Dorothea was still having trouble walking in October.

Revolutions Abound
Louis Philippe
The 1830 revolution in Paris in July[iii] meant that the arbitrary Charles X was replaced by his cousin, Louis-Philippe[iv] who styled himself King of the French rather than King of France. The possibility of revolution in Europe was unwelcome to the Czar and his ministers and Dorothea was concerned about Grey’s liberal views.

Talleyrand arrived in London as the new ambassador; following Aberdeen’s advice Wellington recognised the new government. Dorothea wrote;

‘The Duke of Wellington, who is never wanting in tact and perception when his own security is at stake, very promptly realised that he must recognise “la Nouvelle France” or resign. He chose the former course at an opportune moment.’[v]

William I
Encouraged by the French success, the Belgians demanded separation from rule from den Haag
[vi]. The Dutch king William I, sent in the troops whom the Belgians promptly defeated and proclaimed independence from the Netherlands. All this revolutionary success abroad unsettled the mood in England. 

Dorothea believed that diluting Wellington’s cabinet with politicians like Lord Melbourne[vii] and her friends Palmerston and Grey would bring about a pro-Russian, and at the same time an anti-revolutionary, cabinet.

Palmerston was not prepared to work with Wellington without the support of like minds and Wellington was not a political genius. His government lost the vote on 15th November and Grey was asked to form an administration.

Paul Lieven was posted to Paris and Dorothea was able to see him when Paul was sent as a special messenger to London in September. Dorothea wrote to her brother to ask Nesselrode to grant Alexander some leave; her son was serving in the Foreign Service in Madrid and Dorothea was concerned about the effect of the climate there on Alexander’s health. Her letter to her brother once again included a request for information about Constantine who was a poor correspondent at best and a continual concern to his parents.

A Liberal Government

Dorothea had long cultivated Grey and her greatest friend Emily Cowper, was Palmerston’s lover and Melbourne’s sister. Christopher did not return from Russia until November by which time Grey was in power and Dorothea ensconced as Grey’s discreet adviser along with Emily Cowper.

It was Dorothea who suggested that Palmerston be given the post of Foreign Secretary.

‘Lord Palmerston tells me everything, and it is I who listen, and by these little methods I am well enough placed to serve your master’[viii]

Grand Duke Constantine
Dorothea informed St Petersburg of the news; with Christopher still absent in Russia it was down to her to collect the information required by the Czar and Nesselrode. Czar Nicholas was not pleased by the winds of change that had brought Dorothea’s friends into power. Grey’s views on parliamentary reforms were ‘detestable’ in Nicholas’ eyes. At the end of November the Poles revolted against Russian rule and Grand Duke Constantine[ix] fled the scene on the 30th.

The revolt meant that the Russian government was focussed solely on its own domains much to the relief of other European governments. Constantine was with the Russian forces and Dorothea could still get no information on what her son was doing. London was focussed on its own internal dissension; there had been troubles in the provinces and by early November the troubles reached London.

Neighbours Fall Out

The Prince of Orange pressed by the crowds during the 1830 uprisings
In December1830 the great powers decided to recognise Belgium and the Prince of Orange was top of the list when it came to deciding who would take the throne. In the event it was decided, in June 1831, that Leopold be given the throne. but two months later, a sore loser and supported by the Russians, King William sent the troops in again. French troops went in, in support of the Belgians and stayed when the Dutch troops went back home. Talleyrand’s reputation was not of the best and his interference in the affair of Belgium and the French troops in there raised fears of fresh French hegemony in Europe.

By September 1831 the Russians had crushed the Polish rebellion but their methods appalled the British liberals. Dorothea wrote to Alexander;

‘Not withstanding the indiscreet words he [Grey] may have uttered before becoming Prime Minister….[he had] been the most pronounced enemy of revolutions, revolutionists and of disturbance in general wherever it shows itself.’[x]

This may very well have been wishful thinking on Dorothea’s part. She was not quite the astute observer that she believed herself.

Dorothea and Christopher were still out of touch with Constantine; his wild behaviour had worried his parents for some time now and Dorothea wrote to her brother;

‘I am still full of anxiety about Constantine. Where is he? Who is his chief? Can you recommend him to the care of the latter? Can you get reports of his conduct, which if good, may be passed on to my husband? Do keep an eye on him now and in the future. All this, dear Alexander, lies very close to a mother’s heart.’[xi]

Friends Fall Out

Prince Adam Czartoryski
When Prince Adam Czartoryski[xii] fled from the Russian repression to England Grey received his old friend. Czartoryski was invited to dine with members of the British cabinet; Dorothea was outraged and informed Grey so in no uncertain terms. On 4th January 1832 Grey received Christopher’s formal protest about the meetings with an enemy of an ally. Grey objected to foreign interference in the matter of whom he chose to invite to dinner, saying to Palmerston;

‘It really is too much for a Foreign Minister to interfere with respect to the private society which any member of the government to which he is accredited, may think fit to cultivate.’[xiii]

By the end of 1831 Grey and Palmerston had come to realise that the impasse in the negotiations over Belgium was being aggravated by the Russian support of the Dutch. Over the Christmas break, staying at a house he had purchased in East Sheen[xiv], Grey intimated to Dorothea that King William’s intransigence was beginning to grate.

Baron Heytesbury
Grey additionally ordered Heytesbury to impress Nicholas and his advisers with British dissatisfaction with events in Poland. This was not received well[xv], the dinner incident also grated, Czartoryski had been an adviser to Czar Alexander and the empress’ lover.

The demolition of certain of Belgium’s border fortresses was also in question and Palmerston was decidedly against the French having any input into the decision. The Czar was not pleased with certain parts of the agreement and was furious that Christopher had signed up to it. Palmerston told Heytesbury to inform the Czar that Britain would go ahead without Russia and agree the treaty if they had not heard from St Petersburg by the end of January.

The Canning Affair

The British ambassador in Russia, Heytesbury, was insisting on returning home, he had been in Russia too long and had been asking to be recalled for some time. Grey planned to send his son-in-law the Earl of Durham[xvi]. Radical Jack Lambton fancied himself as a champion of the people, hardly appropriate to send to autocratic Russia. But Dorothea recommended to Nesselrode that Durham be fêted.

Radical Jack Lambton
The Russians followed her advice and Durham was flattered and returned in October 1832 advocating working with the Russians rather than the reactionary French. Palmerston commented;

‘Durham was thoroughly bamboozled by the Emperor and Nesselrode.’[xvii]

In Durham’s place Palmerston now insisted on sending Stratford Canning[xviii] to Russia as ambassador. Dorothea advised against sending him, as the Czar was unlikely to receive him. Durham too was incensed, seeing it as a personal insult; he’d advised his father-in-law against Canning’s nomination.

But Grey and Palmerston were fed up with Russian intransigence in world affairs and the Lievens’ interference in British politics. Dorothea had advised that Nicholas refuse to meet Canning. The British were incensed with the idea that a foreign monarch could influence their choice of ambassador and both sides became entrenched.


Melbourne – David Cecil, The Reprint Society Ltd 1955

The Princess and the Politicians – John Charmley, Penguin Books 2006

Talleyrand – Duff Cooper, Cassell Biographies 1987

Wellington – Christopher Hibbert, Harper Collins 1997

Paris Between Empires – Philip Mansel, Phoenix Press Paperback 2003

The Life and Times of George IV – Alan Palmer, Book Club Associates 1972

Sailor King – Tom Pocock, Sinclair Stevenson 1991

Princess Lieven’s Letters – Lionel G Robinson (ed), Longmans, Green & Co 1902

The Russian Empire – Hugh Seton-Watson, Oxford University Press 1988

Arch Intriguer – Priscilla Zamoyska, Heinemann Ltd 1957

Melbourne – Philip Ziegler, Fontana 1978

[i] Arch Intriguer - Zamoyska
[ii] Princess Lieven’s Letters - Robinson
[iii] Also known as the July revolution, a reaction against the policies pursued by Charles X
[iv] Leader of the Orléanist party; he abdicated in 1848 and lived in exile in England
[v] Arch Intriguer - Zamoyska
[vi] Linked together by the Treaty of Vienna
[vii] He was to be the mentor of the future Queen Victoria
[viii] Arch Intriguer - Zamoyska
[ix] Appointed by his brother to rule Poland
[x] The Princess and the Politicians - Charmley
[xi] Arch Intriguer - Zamoyska
[xii] Head of the Polish national government and outlawed by the Russians
[xiii] The Princess and the Politicians - Charmley
[xiv] Near to where the Lievens lived in Richmond, Palmerston had an estate at Temple Grove also in East Sheen
[xv] The Czar had turned to new advisers and the harshness used in crushing the rebellion was assumed by Heytesbury to be the first fruits of this collaboration between the two. In their turn the Russians were not impressed at being criticised by a country that had used brute force to repress Ireland
[xvi] A thorn in Grey’s side
[xvii] The Princess and the Politicians – Charmley
[xviii] Formerly ambassador to the Ottoman Empire

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