30th Anniversary Address by Tom Richmond
The Hills Lodge, Castle Hill – 11 January 2012
Australia’s links with the British monarchy date, of course, from 1788, when the First Fleet arrived. From then on, we have our own story of the kings and queens of Australia, and of the loyalty that we have sworn to them.
At sunset On 26th January, 1788, a group of British naval officers gathered at the edge of Sydney Cove, where earlier in the day, selected members of the First Fleet had landed. The Union Jack was flying at a flagstaff erected for the occasion.
Some marines fired several volleys, between which the Governor and officers drank the healths of His Majesty the King and the Royal Family. His Majesty was thereby installed, by this first act of lickspittle loyalty, as the first monarch to preside over the British settlement in New South Wales.
He was George III of England, who was, in reality, George I of Australia.
Sadly, the significance of the occasion may not, have impressed His Majesty greatly. Within a few short months of that first formal ceremony, George III was being driven in a carriage through the grounds of Windsor Castle.
The newly toasted King of New South Wales asked the driver to stop and alighted from the vehicle. He shook hands with a branch of a nearby tree and began to talk to it, having recognised it as his old friend the King of Prussia.
Observers could not help but note that the ways of royalty were indeed strange!
Of course, his subjects in far away Australia were gravely concerned that His Majesty’s mental health had suddenly deserted him. They were, therefore delighted to receive the news when he recovered. In fact, the officers sent him a message wishing the “… long life and prosperity of His Majesty and his illustrious House.”
Their wish for his long life was granted, but they had less luck with the illustriousness of his “House.” Indeed, too, there was less luck with the remainder of George’s life. His serious mental illness returned in 1810 and he spent the rest of his life in seclusion in Windsor Castle. Gradually he went blind and deaf.
The first monarch of Australia died in 1820, one year after the famous poet, Shelley, had penned this immortal description of England in 1819:
An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying king, —
Princes, the dregs of their dull race, who flow
Through public scorn, — mud from a muddy spring, —
Shelley’s reference to “Princes, the dregs of their dull race”was aimed at the children who formed the “illustrious house of George III.” The children of George III and his Queen Charlotte were numerous.
One of the children made a career out of the army and was responsible for a number of reforms. Sadly for him, however, he is best remembered for his defeat in the Battle of Tourcoing, which is said to have given rise to the traditional song. This prince
had the title, Duke of York, and featured in a traditional army song:-
The grand old Duke of York,He had ten thousand men;
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.
His Royal Highness did make some contributions to Australia. Colonel John Gibbes, head of customs in NSW and John Molloy, pioneer of Augusta, Western Australiawere both said to have been illegitimate sons of the Duke of York, no doubt sired between marching exercises.
Another son of George III was Edward, Duke of Kent, who was a soldier, best remembered for his excessive use of flogging, which caused a mutiny at Gibraltar in 1803. Edward returned to England in disgrace and died just before his father, leaving a heavy trail of debt behind him as well as a daughter, Victoria, who later became well known in her own right.
Another of George III’s brood was Ernest Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland and, eventually, King of Hanover. It was rumoured that he murdered his valet and fathered a son by his sister, Princess Sophia. It was also suspected that he intended to murder his niece, Queen Victoria. His descendants were removed from the British royal family for siding with the Germans in World War I.
These were the sons of George III who did not become monarchs of Australia. Unfortunately, two did. George IV and his brother, William IV both graduated to this sanctified position.
When the “old, mad, blind, despised and dying king” neared the end of his days, he occasionally went into mourning “In memory of George III, who was a good man”. Here in New South Wales, the mourning for his real death was most impressive. The Governor and his staff paraded to church in deep military mourning. There, Rev Cowper spoke of the late King’s virtues, emphasising his “munificent mind”, despite the fact that he was a lunatic, and other qualities which a “grateful and feeling nation”would never forget.”
When George III deteriorated to the point, a decade previously, of being too insane to do his job, his son was appointed as Prince Regent to rule on his behalf. The son became George IV (actually George II of Australia) when his father died in 1820.
The Regent had already had an interesting life. He was a spendthrift and addicted to gambling, which caused him to mount up some huge debts.
His relationships with women were also a problem. He actually married Maria Fitzherbert, quietly and unofficially, without the permission of the King and in breach of the laws pertaining to royal marriages.
His other mistresses, most of whom received money from him, included an actress, Mary Robinson, a socialite Grace Dalrymple, Elizabeth, the mother of Lord Melbourne, Elizabeth Billington, wife of a double-bass player at Drury Lane, Elizabeth Armistead, future wife of Charles James Fox, Anita Crouch, a singer, Frances, Lady Jersey, a 41 year old grandmother but still attractive,Isabella, Lady Hertford and Elizabeth,Marchioness of Conyngham.
Women, of course, in those days, could have expensive tastes. By 1795, George owed £ 630,000, an enormous amount in those days. In return for the debts being repaid, he agreed to marry Caroline of Brunswick, his cousin. Unfortunately, he did not like her at all. Reputedly, she was not fond of bathing.
George celebrated the wedding night on the floor of the bedroom, dead drunk. He woke in the morning, consummated the marriage and, happily and fortunately, the Princess fell pregnant. His daughter, Princess Charlotte, was very popular, but died in childbirth in 1817.
By then the Prince Regent had separated from his Princess and she had moved to Italy. She returned when George became king, but he locked her out of his coronation, keeping her out with the use of burly guards dressed as page boys. George tried to divorce her, but she was tremendously popular, despite rumours that she dallied in sexual liaisons with partners of both sexes.
The Duke of Wellington told one group of her supporters, “May all your wives be just like her.”
By the time he succeeded to the throne, George IV was obese and addicted to laudanum. The Duke of Wellington commented that “the quantity of cherry brandy he drank was not to be believed.” George IV Increasingly withdrew in later years, possibly mentally ill. He ate huge amounts of food and drank huge quantities of wine
He died in 1830, his death hastened by his self-indulgent behaviour. The Times , in London reported:-
There never was an individual less regretted by his fellow-creatures than this deceased king. What eye has wept for him? What heart has heaved one throb of unmercenary sorrow? … If he ever had a friend — a devoted friend in any rank of life — we protest that the name of him or her never reached us.
The Duke of Wellington, however, told the House of Lords that George was the most accomplished man of his age. Here in NSW, the Sydney Gazette turned to verse in an effort to say something good about the man:-
Mourn, mourn and forget that the spirit that’s fled
Would sometimes in error’s paths walk;
Oh the virtues of all are but flowers in a bed,
With rank weeds and poisonous plants overspread;
Let memory gather the flowers — they will shed
Sweet odours though snapped from their stalk.
So, George IV passed on. He left no children to assume the throne, so his eldest living brother took over. He became known as the “Sailor King”because he had been in the navy all of his adult life. In fact, he had been the Lord High Admiral, although the Duke of Wellington said that he had been “a very bad head of the navy”.
Nevertheless, William IV was popular with the people of England, largely because they compared him favourably with his predecessor. He presented the image of a “respectable old admiral”. He took over George IV’s racing stable but knew little about horses. When asked which of them should start at Ascot, he answered, “Take the whole fleet. I suppose some of them will win.”
William and his wife contacted with the ordinary people and he even walked out, alone, on the streets, meeting people. He would not, however, have been a member of the family had he not had one or two interesting quirks.
Before marrying Queen Adelaide, he had spent a number of years living with an actress, Mrs Dorothea Jordan. During that period, when he was the Duke of Clarence, he had fathered ten illegitimate children, known as the Fitzclarences. When he became king, his understanding wife accepted them as part of the household and Windsor Castle, according to one observer, was “ quite full of bastards.”
William IV of England ( actually William I of Australia) wore the crown from 1830 to 1837. He was unable to produce any legitimate heir to the throne, but it is worth noting that Lord Delisle, the last British Governor-General of Australia was a descendant from William and Mrs Jordan. Another who stems from that union is David Cameron, the prime minister of Great Britain. Perhaps it is a pity that Mrs Jordan’s genes did not flow through the official royal family!
As for old King William himself, the Sydney Gazette printed the following summary of his earlier years:-
At female chastity, he laughed; to drunkenness he was oft addicted; swearing was his common diversion; excesses of every kind were frequently committed by him, and continued to invest him with a painful notoriety.
So, in 1837 the Sailor King passed on to the great flagship in the sky, leaving the people of England with his niece, Victoria, who became Queen Victoria I of Australia. William’s final prayer was answered because he wanted to live until Victoria turned eighteen, so that her mother could not act as regent.
Victoria married Prince Albert and they had nine children. After his death in 1861, she went into deep mourning for the rest of her life, retiring to the seclusion of Windsor Castle and rarely emerging.
In the 1860s, she formed a close relationship with a manservant from Scotland, John Brown, and was sometimes described cruelly as “Mrs Brown”. Victoria survived several strong movements towards republicanism and a few assassination attempts.
The Australian journalist and stirrer, John Norton, composed an ode for Victoria’s 73 rd birthday:-
The Queen has lived for seventy years, for seventy years and three,
And few have lived a flatter life, more useless life than she;
She never did a clever thing or wrote a clever line,
She never did a noble deed in coming times to shine,
And yet we read and still we read in every magazine
The praises of this woman whom the English call the Queen,
Whom the English call the Queen,
The dull and brainless woman whom the English call “the Queen”.
Norton pointed out that Victoria’s statue in Queen’s Square had one eye ogling the mint and the other taking in the half-naked figure of Prince Albert on the opposite corner.
None the less, Norton cried “God Save the Queen” —
. . . if only to keep her rascal of a turf-swindling, card-sharping, wife-debauching, boozing, rowdy of a son, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, off the throne.
Ultimately, the man with this impressive CV became King Edward VII of England ( King Edward I of Australia.)
His eldest son, did not, however succeed him. Prince Albert Victor died at the age of 28, with various rumours surrounding him. He probably was not Jack the Ripper and his connection with the male brothel in Cleveland Street was unproven. Nor is it accurate to claim that he was pushed off a cliff on the orders of Lord Randolph Churchill to prevent him from one day becoming king.
Because of Prince Albert’s death, we got the second child, the Duke of York, who became George V of England ( George III of Australia). This George was harmless enough, and, indeed, had actually visited Australia. He married another descendant of mad King George III and his wife became Queen Mary. She is probably best remembered as a woman who died in 1953 without ever speaking on a telephone.
George V was succeeded by his eldest son, King Edward VIII King Edward II of Australia), who gave away the throne in order to continue his love affair with an American divorcee. There are still some questions as to who ended up with some of the jewellery!
When Edward abdicated, in 1936, he was succeeded by his brother, the Duke of York.
He became George VI of England ( George IV of Australia). He has recently been featured in the film, The King’s Speech.
John Norton was charged with sedition for his comments on Queen Victoria and her son. I therefore intend to make no similar comments about the lady who currently wears the crown. It may, however, be appropriate to mention a little of her husband’s family ties.
The Duke’s sister, Cecilia, married the Grand Duke of Hesse, who was obviously a German. When they were killed in a plane crash in 1937, they were buried at a funeral that was a gathering point for the Nazi hierarchy.
Philip had another sister, Sophie, who married Prince Christoph of Hesse. Their eldest son was named Karl Adolph, after Hitler. The Prince became a colonel on Himmler’s SS staff.
These links appear to have been largely concealed from the loyal public. Philip himself had a distinguished war record and actually earned some of the medals that he wears. So did his son, Andrew, the Duke of York..
To conclude, I have to tell you that I do not really care if the English people like to have a king or queen. That is their own business. How we, in Australia, have managed to maintain lickspittle loyalty to those who have worn the crown is quite beyond my understanding.