Monarchy with David Starkey (2004–2007): Season 3, Episode 5 - Survival - full transcript

Weathering the antiroyalist storm breaking on the Continent, Great Britain stands strong against the military might of Napoleon. By the mid-19th century, Queen Victoria accedes to the throne, reinventing the British monarchy as a ...

DAVID STARKEY: On 21 January 1793,

King Louis XVl of France
was led to the guillotine...

...the revolutionary killing machine

which had just been introduced
to humanise and industrialise

the process of execution.

Everything was done
to rob Louis of his dignity

both as a king and as a human being.

He was condemned as a mere citizen,
Louis Capet,

his hairwas roughly cropped
on the scaffold

and he was ignominiously strapped
to a movable plank

before having his head and neck

thrust beneath the 12-inch
heavilyweighted blade.

Once severed, the bleeding head
was held up to the mob

before head and bodywere buried
10ft deep in quicklime.

Few foreign events have provoked
such horror in England.

Audiences demanded that the curtain
be brought down in theatres

and the performance abandoned.

The whole House of Commons
wore mourning

and crowds surrounded
King George lll!s coach

crying, ffWarwith France!!!

Instead the French
seized the initiative.

On 1 February 1793, the new republic
declared war on Britain.

The war lasted 18 years, cost more
in men and money than any before

and rewrote the rules of politics.

Henceforward monarchies
would be measured

by their ability to respond to
this new post-revolutionaryworld.

Those which could adapt survived,

those which could not died,
usually bloodily.

Which the British monarchywould do

was by no means
a foregone conclusion.

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In 1789,
when the Bastille was stormed

and the revolution broke out,

nothing seemed less likely in Britain
than a cataclysmic warwith France.

There was, for instance,

no comment from the normally
voluble King George lll.

But then he was onlyjust recovering
from his first bout of madness

when he!d been subject
to a brutal cure

by the mad doctors here at Kew.

By August, however, George!s wife,
Queen Charlotte,

was reacting
with a horrified sympathy

to the mounting humiliation
ofthe French royal family.

WOMAN: France furníshes

I often thínkthat
thís cannotbe the 18th century

ín whích we líve atpresent,

can hardlyproduce

anythíngmore barbarous and cruel
than ourneíghbours ín France.

But much ofthe political elite
welcomed the revolution,

which they saw in terms of
France belatedly catching up

with Britain!s own
Glorious Revolution of 1689

when Parliament had imposed
legal limitations on the monarchy.

One man who did notjoin in the cheers
was Edmund Burke MP.

Crucial was Burke!s interest
in the sublime.

This he defined as a young man
in a pioneering essay

as ffa sort of delightful horror.

FfA tranquillity tinged with terror

ffthat we get from the contemplation
of darkness, danger and death.

Fflfthe restraining bonds of custom
and tradition were cut

ffviolence and terror might also exert

ffa powerful and dangerous attraction
in politics.!!

It was this insight
which enabled Burke to grasp

long before anyone else the enormity
ofthe French Revolution.

And it turned him from politician
to prophet.

Burke published his fReflections on
the Revolution in France! in 1790,

three years before
the execution of Louis XVl.

The revolution was then
barely a year old.

The Bastille had fallen,

absolutism and feudalism
had been abolished

and the rights of man proclaimed.

But the Terror,
the abolition ofthe monarchy,

the revolutionarywars
that convulsed Europe

and led to the deaths of millions
still lay in the future.

Burke, however, prophesied them all.

He correctly identified the governing
principle ofthe revolution

as an abstract, inhuman reason

that thought that it could and should
remodel society, politics,

even humanity itself from scratch.

This levelling reason saw history,

habit and tradition
as mere obstacles to progress,

that, like any human opposition,
were to be destroyed

in ajoyous, all-consuming
bonfire ofthe vanities.

For Burke, on the other hand,

history and tradition were
the foundation of civilisation

and habit the thing
that made us human.

From time to time,
they might need reform,

but it was reform that should
preserve, not destroy their essence.

Monarchy, as a supreme embodiment
of history and tradition,

thus became a test case.

Was it the key obstacle
to the forging of a newworld,

as the French maintained,

orwas it the guarantor of stability,
as the British had decided in 1689?

Burke urged his generation
to stick by the principles

ofthat earlier, sounder revolution.

When he wrote the fReflections!
he was a voice crying in the wilderness,

but over the ne fewyears

public opinion swung increasingly
strongly in his direction.

George, the Prince ofWales,
the eldest son of George lll,

was the barometer of fashion.

Handsome before he ran to fat,
intelligent, charming,

sensual and a brilliant mimic,

his relations with his father
followed the usual Hanoverian pattern

of mutual loathing and contempt.

He thought his father
mean and puritanical.

His father thought his son
a wanton and a wastrel.

The Prince ofWales also followed
the traditions of his house

by putting himself at the head ofthe
Opposition party of radical Whigs.

Led by Charles James Fox.

Burke had once been
their leading ideologue.

At first, the Prince
dismissed the fReflections!

As ffa farrago of nonsense!!.

But as the killings
in France multiplied

he changed his mind about Burke
and about his father.

He made his peace with the King,
broke with the Opposition

and declared his enthusiastic support
for the Tory prime minister.

He even toyed with the idea
of serving as a volunteer

in the war against France.

The Prince led the flight away from
the implications ofthe revolution.

Much ofthe Whig Party followed,

joining the Tory prime minister
in a coalition

to wage war under the standard
of an hereditary monarchy

against republican France
and all that she stood for.

This increasingly ideological war
condemned the Whigs to the wilderness

for more than a generation.

The great beneficiary
was the monarchy.

For much of his reign,
George lll could do no right.

Now, increasingly living here

at his favourite residence
ofWindsor Castle,

he could do no wrong.

Indeed the less he did, the better

as he turned,
in the popular mind at least,

from a meddlesome would-be absolutist
into the benign father of his people.

Uxorious, moral, modest, frugal

and the very embodiment
of a modern 18th-century monarch.

The result was the astonishing
popular success of his golden jubilee

on 25 October 1810.

But that very day, George,

who!d already suffered
from two mysterious episodes

of apparent mental illness, began his
permanent and irreversible descent

into a twilight world
of blindness and deranged senility.

At the time of his father!s collapse,

the Prince ofWales, disrespectfully
known as fPrinny! to his cronies,

was already 48.

Under the combined influences
of drink,

drugs - like the opium compound
laudanum - and a gargantuan appetite,

his youthful good looks
were fading fast

and his skin had turned
a deep coppery hue.

He spent gigantically too.

The pavilion he built at Brighton

being the most gorgeous example
of his taste for excess.

His own treasurer declared
that his debts were beyond

all kind of calculation whatever.

But worst of all
was his disastrous marriage.

The marriage began hopefully

as part ofthe closing of ranks
within the royal family

in the wake ofthe French Revolution.

In return for the payment
of his debts,

the Prince agreed
to George lll!s urgent wish

that he should marry
and father an heir.

German custom, however, dictated
that his bride should be royal too.

Best of a bad bunch
of available Protestant princesses

seemed to be his cousin
Caroline of Brunswick.

But when she arrived in England,
it was loathing at first sight.

She was coarse, ill-educated
and none too clean.

After his marriage at
the Chapel Royal at St James!s,

George knocked himself out
with brandy

and spent his wedding night
with his head in the hearth.

The following morning, however,

he!d recovered sufficiently
to get Caroline pregnant,

and a daughter, christened Charlotte,
was born in January 1796.

It was the first and the last time
that the couple slept together

and they quickly separated.

Such was the man who,
on his father!s descent into madness,

became Prince Regent
ofthe United Kingdom

with the duties
but not yet the status of a king.

The great cartoonists had a field day
with his shape and his private life.

Posterity on the whole
hasn!t been much kinder.

But George did
instinctively understand

the cohesive power of ceremony
and display.

Once again it all goes back
to the French Revolution.

Burke!s final prophesy
to the French had been that

ffsome popular general would arise

ffand become the master
ofyourwhole republic!!.

This prediction was fulfilled by the
meteoric rise of Napoleon Bonaparte.

In 1804, Napoleon crowned himself
emperor ofthe French

in an eraordinary ceremony
held in the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

The event set new standards
for pomp and procession

which the established monarchies
rushed to copy.

The republic had been bad enough
for the Prince ofWales,

but this upstart emperor
was farworse.

And doing him down and outdoing him

became, insofar as the Prince!s
easygoing personality allowed,

an obsession.

The Prince Regent had
over a decade to wait,

but then, on 18 June 1815,

at Waterloo,
to the south of Brussels,

Napoleon engaged with a British army
commanded by Arthur Wellesley,

Duke ofWellington.

Each side played to their strengths.

The French attacked with brio,

the British doggedly resisted
in defensive formation.

FfLet!s see who can pound longest,!!
said Wellington.

In the event, the British did,

holding out until the arrival
ofthe Prussian Allied Army

gave them an overwhelming advantage.

On 6 July, the Allies entered Paris,

and on the 13th Napoleon wrote
the most remarkable letter of his life.

It was addressed
to the Prince Regent.

FfAltesse Royal...!!

FfRoyal Highness,!! it began.

MAN: l have termínated
mypolítícal career.

Iputmyselfunderthe protectíon
ofBrítísh laws,

whích l entreat
of YourRoyalHíghness

as from the mostpowerful,
the most constant

and the mostgenerous ofmyfoes.

In this contest ofthe imperial eagle
and the royal popinjay,

the popinjay it seemed had won.

But even in defeat

Napoleon!s vision for France
continued to fascinate his enemies.

And none more so
than the Prince Regent.

It began with a contest of capitals -
London versus Paris.

Like many despots,
Napoleon was a megalomaniac builder

who started to refashion the then
largely medieval warren of Paris

into the worthy capital of an empire

which, at its height,
stretched from the Bay of Biscay

to the gates of Moscow.

This was to throw down
the gauntlet to Britain,

since London, fattened
by overseas empire and trade,

already dwarfed Paris
in size and wealth.

Now, Prinny decided,
the city must look the part.

The man charged with realising
his dreams was John Nash.

Nash!s briefwas simple -
he must outdo Napoleonic Paris.

And, thanks to his unusual
combination of qualities

as both visionary architect
and shrewd property developer,

he largely succeeded.

His scheme, which involved
both landscaping and town planning

on an heroic scale,

created a grand processional route

from the newly laid out
Regent!s Park in the north

to Pall Mall and the gates
ofthe Prince!s London residence

in the south.

Long since, alas, demolished.

Nash worked in sweeping curves
and artful vistas,

whilst his buildings,

which were really terraces
of upper middle-class brick houses,

were covered in stucco plaster

and painted to look like
a succession of noble palaces.

This is architecture
as urban stage set,

as theatrical as Napoleon!s
coronation and as successful.

In 1820 there arrived the day

forwhich the Prince had waited
almost as eagerly

as for Napoleon!s downfall.

For almost a decade
after he became regent,

his father, King George lll,
had lived the life of a recluse

here at Windsor
in a little 3-roomed apartment.

Dead to the world, he spent hours
thumping on an old harpsichord.

But his condition suddenlyworsened
and he died on 29 January.

The regent was now king at last

and he was determined
that everybody should know it.

His coronation -

delayed for over a year by his
disastrously misjudged attempt

to divorce his estranged wife,
Caroline -

finally took place on 19 July 1821 .

It was, he resolved,

to be the best organised and
most magnificent in British history.

It was certainly the most expensive,

costing almost
a quarter of a million pounds

whilst his father!s had been done
for less than £10,000.

This is Sir George Nayler!s

fThe Coronation of His Most Sacred
Majesty King George lV!.

It was undertaken at His Majesty!s
especial command

and it received
a £3,000 royal subsidy

because it had to be the best.

Or, at any rate,
better than Napoleon!s.

Napoleon had commissioned
a history of his coronation

and George was not
going to be outshone.

Indeed, he was measuring himself
against the Emperor, literally,

since his tailor
had been sent to Paris

to copy Napoleon!s coronation robe.

The result imitates Napoleon!s,

but being even more thickly
embroidered and befurred

it took eight pageboys to carry it.

But there was more to this
than the clash oftwo monstrous egos,

for George!s coronation, with its
more than Napoleonic magnificence,

was a triumphant reaffirmation

that the British monarchy
had survived

two ofthe greatest threats
to its existence...

...the ideological challenge
ofthe French Revolution

and the military threat of Napoleon,

to emerge once more
as the arbiter of Europe

and the onlyworld power.

Burke!s vision of monarchy as
an integral part of national identity

was being triumphantly realised.

One ofthe spectators
at the coronation

was the Scottish historian
and novelist Sir Walter Scott,

who was bowled over

by the combination of gay,
gorgeous and antique dress

which floated before the eye.

Profoundly influenced by Burke,

Scott!s writing was steeped
in history and tradition.

Scott, who!d first met George
in 1815,

was given the opportunity to
turn his fiction into the reality -

ifthat!s the right word -
of a grand, historical pageant

when he was put in charge

of organising the King!s visit
to Edinburgh in 1822.

The visit, the first to Scotland
by a reigning monarch

since Charles ll!s coronation
as King of Scots in 1651 ,

began at Leith on 14 August
with the King!s ceremonial landing.

At Edinburgh Castle, George inspected
the Scottish regalia,

which had been recently unearthed
by Scott himself.

Throughout his stay,
at Scott!s insistence,

all the gentlemen wore
Highland dress, including the King,

whose ample figure was compressed

into something like
the necessary shape

by corsets and flesh-coloured tights.

The climax came with a great banquet
held in the Parliament House,

where a century earlier Scotland!s
separate political existence

had been einguished
by the passage ofthe Act of Union.

The King called for a toast to
the clans and chieftains of Scotland.

To which the chief of Clan Macgregor
replied with one,

ffTo the chief of chiefs, the King.!!

It was all, as the hard-headed
have not ceased to point out

from then till now, nonsense.

But, thanks to Scott!s genius
as a impresario,

it was inspired, romantic nonsense.

Above all,
it was successful nonsense.

It gave Scotland
a proud cultural identity

that for over a hundred years
dwelt in a sort of parallel universe

to the political subordination
required by the union.

And, as the ardently Tory Scott

it firmly anchored
this renewed Scots national identity

to the British monarchy
and the Hanoverian dynasty.

George lV!s taste
for theatrical pageantry

harnessed and domesticated
the wild horses of nationalism

unleashed by the French Revolution.

For that parading through the streets
of Edinburgh in corsets and a kilt

was a small price to pay.

George lVwas unable to keep up
the flurry of activity

which marked the beginning
of his reign.

His health and mobility declined
and his self-indulgence grew

as he washed down
vast amounts of food

with even larger quantities
of alcohol.

He died unlamented at Windsor
on 26 June 1830

and was succeeded
by his eldest surviving brother,

William, Duke of Clarence.

At first sight, William lV,
who was already aged 64,

was not a promising prospect as king.

After early service
in the Royal Na,

whither he!d been packed off
at the age of only 13,

he!d spent most of his life as
a relatively impecunious younger son.

He was also personally ridiculous
with a strange pineapple-shaped head

and a tendency to talk at length
and at some distance from the point.

On the other hand,
he was a moderate in politics,

in contrast to the rabid Toryism
of other members ofthe royal family,

whilst his naval service had
given him both a common touch

as well as robust common sense.

He was also, in striking contrast
to his predecessor,

completely indifferent, even hostile
to pomp and circumstance.

This, for instance,
is Clarence House,

the elegant but comparatively modest
London residence built for William

whilst he was still
heir to the throne.

The King continued to live here
after his accession

and showed no wish at all

to move into the neighbouring
Buckingham Palace -

George lV!s last and grandest
building project,

which he!d failed to complete.

Impatient on one occasion

at the delays in getting
the state coach ready

for the dissolution of Parliament,

William threatened to go
in a hackney carriage,

the ancestor ofthe modern taxi.

Never in short has Britain
come nearer to a bicycling

or, at any rate, to a taxiing
monarchy than under William lV.

But would these decent,
unpretentious qualities be enough?

Barely a month
after William!s accession

there came a brutal reminder of
the fate of unsuccessful sovereigns.

Paris rose in the days of July.

The King of France,
whose monarchy had been restored

after the fall of Napoleon, was
ignominiously driven from his throne.

William reluctantly allowed
the French king, Charles X,

to stay in Edinburgh,

butjust how secure
was his own throne?

For, despite 40-odd years
of almost uninterrupted Tory rule,

ideas from France
had taken root in Britain.

But would they result in revolution
or in reform?

For even radicals thought change
could be brought about

within Britain!s
existing institutions

and by peaceful means,
not revolutionary violence.

The striking thing is that
the target oftheir agitation

was not the monarchy,
as it was in contemporary France

and had been in 17th-century England,
but Parliament.

In the early 19th century,

Parliament met in the medieval
Royal Palace ofWestminster,

which had long been abandoned
by the monarchy

and handed over to the Lords,
the House of Commons

and the law courts.

The result was
a kind of physical embodiment

of Burke!s ancient constitution,

the buildings almost imperceptibly
altered and adapted over centuries.

It was also ramshackle,
jerry-built and prone to fire.

Much the same could be said,
by its critics,

ofthe House of Commons itself.

Many important and fast-growing towns
had no MP at all

whilst tiny, half-inhabited villages
returned two MPs each

at the command ofthe owner
ofthe ffrotten borough!!,

as such constituencies were known.

A handful of rich
and powerful noblemen

owned a dozen or so
such rotten boroughs each

and could make and break governments.

It was William!s misfortune that
the pressure for parliamentary reform

suddenly intensified
at the beginning of his reign.

For, five months after his accession,
the Tory Government fell

and a Whig administration took office

for the first time
in almost 50 years.

Over the ne two years, three reform
bills were submitted to Parliament.

The first was defeated in the Commons
and provoked a general election

which, even on the unreformed
franchise, produced a Whig landslide.

The second was defeated
in the House of Lords,

and it looked as though

the intransigent Tory majority in the
Lords would do the same to the third.

The onlyway it seemed
to break the deadlock

was for William to create
enough peers

to give the Whigs a majority
in the Lords as well.

So far, William had given
the prime minister, Earl Grey,

his unstinting support.

He did so on practical grounds

since he sawthat reform was
the only alternative to revolution.

But he also acted on principle
since he saw it as his duty,

whatever his personal wishes,

to support the prime minister
ofthe day

so long as he kept
the confidence of Parliament.

But the creation of up to 50 peers,

which would radically dilute
the composition ofthe Lords,

was a step too far.

William refused, Grey resigned

and, on 9 May 1832, the King invited
the Tories to form a government.

There had been rioting
the year before,

but now England had its days of May

when it looked as though London
and other cities would follow

in the steps of revolutionary Paris.

There were mass demonstrations
and strikes in Birmingham.

A speaker at a rally proclaimed
Tory incompetency to govern

and invoked the people!s right to arm
in the face of oppression.

When the American rebels
had used language like that

George lll had dug his heels in.

William lV instead sought compromise.

Why didn!t the Tories simply abstain,
he suggested privately.

After all, reform was inevitable

and that way theywould at least
retain their in-built majority

in the Lords.

But it was a bitter pill to swallow

and the Tories resisted
as long as possible.

Finally, the Tories,
led by the Duke ofWellington,

had to admit they
couldn!t form a government.

William now had no choice
but to recall Grey

and to agree in writing to his demand
for the mass creation of peers.

It was the most humiliating document

a king had signed
since the Civil War.

But William turned it
to his advantage

by informing the Tory leaders
ofwhat he!d done.

Certain nowthat they!d be swamped
even in the Lords,

they abandoned their resistance
and the Reform Bill went through.

On 7 June, the Reform Act received
the royal assent,

but in William!s absence.

Grey had wanted him
to give the assent in person,

but William, because he disapproved
ofthe popular clamour, refused.

It was perhaps his only false step
in the whole affair.

Unencumbered by such doubts,

the first House of Commons
returned under the Reform Act

had itself proudly memorialised.

Two years later, on the night
of 16 October 1834,

the chambers of both houses
of Parliament

and all the rest ofthe Palace of
Westminster apart from the Great Hall

were consumed by a raging fire.

Reconstructing Parliament
from scratch

now ceased to be a disputed metaphor

and became instead
a practical necessity.

King William lV did not long survive
the Reform Act and the fire.

Now in his late 60s,

his health was declining
and his tetchiness increasing.

He was kept going only by his
determination to live long enough

to make sure that his detested
sister-in-law, the Duchess of Kent,

did not become regent on behalf
of her young daughter, Victoria,

who, in view ofWilliam!s own failure
to father a legitimate child,

was heiress presumptive
to the throne.

William made it with days to spare.

Victoria celebrated her 18th
birthday, her royal coming of age,

on 24 May 1837,

and William, his goal achieved,
died 20-odd days later, on 20 June.

Victoria was at Kensington Palace
when her uncle died.

And it was here, in these rooms, that
she!d been brought up and educated.

Her education was strong
in foreign languages

and traditional
female accomplishments

like drawing and music,
at which Victoria excelled,

but it had neglected
the more rigorous male curriculum

of classics and mathematics.

However, Victoria would be
no meekly submissive woman,

her governess had
brought her up to rule

and Victoria had the appetite and
the will for the necessary hard work.

The news that she was queen was
brought at six o!clock in the morning

by the Lord Chamberlain
and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Victoria, who!d been roused
from her sleep,

received them in her dressing-gown.

The contrast between
the glowing young queen

and the sombrely dressed,
elderly male political establishment

was only reinforced
at her accession council.

Which was held later the same day

also in Kensington Palace,
in the Red Saloon.

Particularly susceptible was
the prime minister, Lord Melbourne,

and the attraction was mutual.

Charming, worldly-wise and with
the faint whiff of danger ofthe ex-roué,

Melbourne was the perfect mentor
for the inexperienced young queen.

He was also ofthe right
political colour

since Victoria had been brought up
as an ardent Whig.

Victoria!s open partiality
for Melbourne

and her blatant
political partisanship

caused a constitutional crisis
only two years after her accession

when the Tories tried
to form a government

and Victoria wrecked their chances.

Even Whigs now had to admit that
a young, unmarried girl on the throne

was a loose cannon.

Who would make a suitable husband
for the young Queen Victoria?

The frontrunnerwas Prince Albert,

second son of
the Duke of Saxe-Coburg,

a little principality in Germany.

When Victoria, who was highly
susceptible to male beauty,

had first met Albert
some years previously

she!d been very taken
by his excellent figure

and rather ethereal good looks.

Excellently educated as well,

Albert was the very model
of a modern prince.

All that he lacked was a wife.

But Victoria seemed
in no hurry to oblige.

She was enjoying
the delicious freedom

of being a young reigning monarch
far too much for that.

Nevertheless, despite her conspicuous
lack of encouragement,

Albert was sent over to England
to be inspected a second time.

He arrived at Windsor
on 10 October 1839.

Victoria was watching
from the top ofthe stairs

and she confided her feelings
to her diary.

Fflt was with some emotion
that l beheld Albert,

ffwho is beautiful,!!

She wrote with her characteristically
hea underlining.

It was love at second sight.

It was nonetheless real for that
and it lasted for both their lives.

In view ofthe disparity
oftheir status

it was Victoria who had to propose.

Theywere married at the Chapel Royal
at St James!s on 10 February 1840

and departed for
a 2-day honeymoon at Windsor.

FfWe didn!t sleep much,!! Victoria
noted oftheirwedding night.

Soon theywere revelling
in each other!s sensuality.

Albert helped Victoria
pull on her stockings,

she watched him shaving.

Victoria conceived within days

and gave birth
to a daughter in November.

A son, Edward, Prince ofWales,
came 11 months later

followed by seven more children

with never more than
two years between them.

And it was this wedded bliss which
began to alter their relationship.

From the beginning
they had had adjacent desks,

but Victoria made clear that,
as was constitutionally proper,

the business of queening was hers.

Albert was only allowed
to blot her dispatches.

But her repeated pregnancies

regularly followed by
intense postnatal depression

began to swing the balance of power.

And the change was completed

by Albert!s increasing
psychological dominance.

She was tempestuous,
he coldly rational,

and he soon turned
her temperament against her

by making her ashamed
of her uninhibited behaviour.

The result was that Victoria not only
became a submissive wife in private,

she even surrendered public business
to her husband as well,

who acted as her private secretary,

but with more power
than any private secretary ever had.

Once he!d blotted her dispatches,
now he dictated them.

This left Albert a free hand
to shape his own vision of monarchy.

He!d arrived in a Britain transformed
by the Reform Act,

which had created a new,

predominantly middle-class

and he quickly attached himself

to the most intelligent politician
ofthe mid-century,

the Tory leader Sir Robert Peel.

Peel, himselfthe son
of a cotton manufacturer,

saw it as his mission

to adapt the Tory Party
to the newworld of industry,

powerful manufacturing cities
and bourgeois morality

which we call
the lndustrial Revolution.

Peel failed and split his party
rather than converting it.

Albert succeeded in adapting
the monarchy to the same forces

beyond anyone!s wildest dreams.

He began at home.

This is Osborne,
the seaside holiday house

built by Albert on the lsle ofWight.

The contrast with
the Prince Regent!s Brighton pavilion

couldn!t have been greater.

In place of
the fantastic architecture

and fantastic cost overruns
all was sobriety and efficiency.

The site was bought
at a bargain price

and the building works completed
to time and to budget.

The layout was innovatory.

Servants and the business of state

were shunted offto
the household wing on the left

while the family pavilion
provided the setting

for the home life of our dear queen,
which was really Albert!s creation -

a model of modern, almost bourgeois
privacy and respectability.

FfThat damned morality
will undo us all,!!

Snorted Victoria!s first old school
prime minister, Lord Melbourne.

Albert, on the contrary,
sawthe moral monarchy

as the one means bywhich royalty
could appeal

to the new middle classes,

perhaps even lead them.

Albert, who had a seemingly limitless
interest in technology

and technical education,

grasped the opportunity to promote
Britain!s manufacturing role

in the world
when he was invited to be president

ofthe Society for the Encouragement
ofArts and Manufactures.

The society conceived the idea
of an international exhibition,

but it took all Albert!s drive
and determination

to overcome the objections.

The crowds would riot.

The fine elm trees on the Hyde Park
site would be damaged.

None ofthe 245 submitted designs
for an exhibition building would work.

The daywas saved
by Joseph Paon!s scheme

for a prefabricated
crystal palace of iron and glass,

like a gigantic conservatory.

Albert took only nine days

to get the most advanced building
ofthe 19th century accepted.

Four months later it was completed.

On 1 May 1851 ,

Victoria, wearing silver and pink
and with Albert standing at her side,

opened the Great Exhibition.

Fflt was the greatest day
in our history,!! she wrote,

ffthe triumph of my beloved Albert.!!

The statistics are staggering.

The palace was 1 ,848ft long,

108ft high,

easily accommodating
the threatened elms,

and covered in 300,000
panes of glass.

Inside, 16 acres of exhibition space
displayed 100,000 exhibits

from 14,000 exhibitors
drawn from Europe and the world.

And it was visited
by 6 million people,

or a third of Britain!s
entire population.

Eight months later,
on 3 February 1852,

Victoria and Albert opened another,
very different building.

Indeed, at first sight,
it looks as reactionary

as the Crystal Palace
was progressive.

Forwhen the rules were announced
for a competition

to rebuild the Palace ofWestminster
after the fire of 1834,

it was specified

that the design must be in
the Gothic, or Elizabethan, style.

Classicism was out ofthe question,

tainted by its association
with the republican idea

ofthe French Revolution.

Every inch ofthe palace is covered

in a riot of
medievally inspired ornament.

Especially rich is the sequence
of magnificent spaces

designed as the stage set
for the state opening of Parliament.

Albert was heavily involved
as chairman ofthe committee

which chose the artists and the
subjects for the wall paintings.

Under Albert!s guidance,
only British subjects were chosen.

Mythological, like Arthur
and the Knights ofthe Round Table

in the Royal Robing Room.

Or historical, like
the best painting in the sequence -

the gigantic, heroic death of Nelson
at the Battle ofTrafalgar,

in the huge Royal Gallery.

The sequence of rooms culminates
in the gilded splendours

ofthe House of Lords.

The layout and decorative scheme
has been described and denounced

as bacard-looking and Tory.

Albert would have been astonished.

He considered himselfto be liberal,
progressive, constitutionalist.

He saw no contradiction between
history and progress

or between the Crystal Palace
and the Palace ofWestminster.

And he regarded
the state opening of Parliament

as the perfect reconciliation
of medieval and modern,

in which the institutions
of English government

showed themselves at once
durable and flexible,

and the monarchy under his,
Albert!s, guidance most of all.

But, only a decade later,
Albert was dead,

worn out with overwork.

His vision of monarchy
marching hand in hand

with a middle-class electorate
didn!t long survive him.

The franchise widened twice more

but Victoria had little respect
for public opinion

and was firm that she would never
be queen of a democracy.

Thus, by the dawn
ofthe 20th century,

advancing modernity threatened
yet again

to outstrip the Crown!s ability
to keep pace with a changing world.

To survive, monarchywould have
to reinvent itself once more.