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Category: Almost Kings

  1. Almost Kings - Henry Stuart, Prince of Wales

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    Another one of those “could have changed the course of history” princes, Henry Stuart's arrival was greeted with immense relief by the Scottish court. But it wasn't long before his birth showed the stark division between his parents, which would set the scene for the rest of their marriage.

    Born in Stirling Castle on 19 February 1594, baby Henry was the first child of King James VI and his wife, Anne of Denmark. The couple had married in Oslo in November 1589. The years between the marriage and Anne falling pregnant had led to rumours that the couple could not conceive a child together. The birth of a living, healthy male child promptly put a lot of concerns to rest.

    The childhoods of James and Anne could not have been more different. James' mother Mary Queen of Scots had been arrested in June 1567 when her son was just a year old. Eventually she was imprisoned in England before being executed. His father Henry Darnley had been murdered months after his birth. A variety of Regents had come and gone from the young James' life, their own lives cut off by murder, execution, and illness. Thus James grew up with no real sense of a close, loving family life. Anne on the other hand had been initially raised in the home of her maternal grandparents in Mecklenburg, before returning to the Danish court. Her mother Sophia was a dedicated and diligent parent who personally nursed her children through a range of childhood illnesses.Henry Stuart, Prince of Wales

    Thus Anne might have expected to be able to create a warm, homely Royal nursery, starting with baby Henry. Instead James placed the infant in the care of the the Earl of Mar at Stirling Castle, and appointed his own childhood nurse to the household. Anne was furious that she was to have no say in the way Henry was raised, and consistently argued that she should be allowed custody of her own son. James not only refused, but gave instructions that Anne was not even allowed to have custody should James die while the boy was still in his minority. Anne had a miscarriage in 1595 that was reportedly caused by how upset she was over James' refusal.

    In 1603 Queen Elizabeth died, making James the new King James I of England. Anne finally got her chance to see her son again, refusing to move south to join the King unless she could have custody of Henry. James finally agreed, and mother and son travelled down from Scotland to London together. By this point Henry was an older brother to Elizabeth and Charles, a baby sister named Margaret had died a few months after her first birthday in 1600. Elizabeth joined her mother and brother on their journey to England, but Charles was a sickly child. Rather than risk his life and health with a strenuous journey, he was left in the care of Lord Fyvie until he was well enough to join the family a year later.

    Henry's education had begun in Scotland under the tutelage of Sir George Lauder, apparently with regular input from James, who took a keen interest in his son's learning. Henry was educated with his future in mind, studying current national affairs as well as the usual subjects. Unfortunately this put him on course to clash with his father. Not only did he disagree with his father on policy, he disliked his father's favourites and the running of the court. He was reportedly strict on his own household, fining members who were caught swearing, and ensuring the whole household attended regular church services.

    His position as heir to the throne also put Henry in the same danger as his father. The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 had the intention of killing both father and son in the explosion. Assuming that Charles would either be killed or too weak to pose a problem, the plotters intended to put Henry's sister Elizabeth on the throne. She was young enough for a Regency to be needed, she could be raised as a Catholic and married to a Catholic prince, and through her the country would return to Catholicism. The discovery of the plot led to a sense of national relief that the King and his heirs had survived, and created a boost of popularity.

    As he grew older the gulf between father and son also grew. Henry was handsome, physically strong, and intelligent. His younger brother Charles appears to have emulated him, and his attempts to keep up with his brother led to positive changes in his health over the years. Henry was confident and appears to have been a natural leader. He was interested in affairs of state, was kept abrest of activities in Ireland and the American colonies, and was not afraid to debate policy with his father. In one incident he and James argued while out hunting near the King's favourite lodge in Royston, Hertfordshire. The pair nearly came to blows before Henry decided to leave, and some members of the court followed him rather than stay with the King. They were already starting to mark the rising star, and the potential rewards that would follow when he inherited the throne.

    The matter of Henry's future marriage was a key policy area for many years. In 1605 James began to investigate a Spanish match for his eldest son. This was apparently at the suggestion of Queen Anne, who wanted highly prestigious marriages for her children. Spain had Infanta Anne, born in 1601, and Infanta Maria Anna, born in 1606, the original proposal may have been for Anne (who later became Queen of France). By 1612 the Spanish were refusing the match unless Henry converted to Catholicism. Even if James had been willing to support such a demand, Henry had been raised with a series of Calvinist preachers in his household and was a dedicated Protestant.

    The match may have been renegotiated were it not for Henry's early death. In October 1612 Frederick, Count Palatine of the Rhine, arrived at the English court as the betrothed of Henry's sister Princess Elizabeth. Their mother Anne disapproved of the match, she wanted Elizabeth to be a Queen. However Henry and Frederick appear to have become good friends in a short space of time. Elizabeth was close to her older brother, and was relieved that he got on well with her future husband.

    Sadly the friendship did not last long. During the celebrations for Frederick and Elizabeth, Henry suddenly fell ill with typhoid fever. He died on 6 November 1612 at St James' Palace, plunging the previously joyful court in to deep mourning. Charles and Elizabeth were devastated at the sudden loss of their brother, and Queen Anne was so upset that it permanently affected her health. Henry was buried in Westminster Abbey on 7 December, with Charles as chief mourner.

    Like the Black Prince and Arthur Tudor, Henry was considered one of the great losses to English kingship. Charles' problems as King may have been avoided had it been Henry on the throne. In reality Henry may have faced the same accusations of acting like a tyrant, depending on how his own policies turned out.

  2. Almost Kings - Sons of Edward I

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    Edward I and his wife Eleanor of Castile are known for having a large brood of children. Eleanor is believed to have given birth to sixteen children. However many of these children died young, and it took a long time before they had a surviving male heir. Edward of Carnarvon was the youngest of the sixteen and the fourth boy born to the couple. Had they survived, any of his brothers would have been King of England instead of him.

    John

    Naming the eldest son after their paternal grandfather was very common, but it might have been best to skip it in the case of baby John. Edward’s grandfather King John had been disaster. But that doesn’t seem to have stopped Edward and Eleanor using the name, perhaps they thought they might be able to ensure that King John II would be a better monarch? When baby John was born on 13 July 1266 he was the fourth child and first boy. However his three sisters had all died by the time of his birth. Eleanor’s first daughter had been stillborn in 1255, Katherine had died in 1264 at just three years old, and Joanna had died in 1265 before her first birthday.

    John seems to have been healthier than his sisters as he lived longer than any of them. But he died weeks after his fifth birth, in August 1271. At the time of his death his parents were on Crusade, John had been left in the care of Richard, Earl of Cornwall, the younger brother of Edward’s father King Henry III. The extended family arranged for John to be buried in Westminster Abbey.Prince Henry

    Henry

    Henry was born sometime in the spring of 1268 at Windsor Castle. At the time of his birth his older brother John was still alive, making Henry the “spare” to the heir. He was named for his English grandfather. The family don’t appear to have recycled first names but had John died before Henry then he may have taken his brother’s name as well as his place in line for the throne.

    Henry’s parents left on crusade in 1270, leaving Henry also in the care of Great Uncle Richard. After John’s death in 1271 Henry became the new heir to the throne. John's death was followed by Richard in April 1272, at which point Henry seems to have been moved to live with his paternal grandmother Eleanor of Provence. This was followed by the death of King Henry III in November 1272, while Edward was still in the Middle East. Henry was now just one step away from the throne. Had Edward died in Crusade a long regency would have ensued before King Henry IV would have been of age. In 1273 he was betrothed to Joan of Navarre, who would have been Queen of England (she instead became Queen of France). Toys were provided for the growing boy including a small trumpet and a set of toy arrows.

    Sadly Henry predeceased his father too. He fell sick in 1274 while residing at Guildford. Having spent several years in the care of his paternal grandmother Eleanor of Provence it was fitting that she looked after him in his final illness. Edward and Eleanor have come in for criticism for not making the short journey from London to Guildford to visit him. However they had been abroad for most of Henry's short life, his grandmother was the better person to be with him. His mother was also pregnant at the time and it may have been fear of infection that kept the Royal parents away from their son. Like his brother he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

    AlphonsoAlphonsoOfEngland

    Alphonso, Earl of Chester, has his own earlier blog post on this site. He was born in November 1273 while his parents were residing in Gascony. With big brother Henry still alive at the time there was nothing to suggest that Alphonso would one day be King, he was the spare to the heir. But Henry's death in October 1274 propelled the 11 month old forward in the line of succession.

    Given that Alphonso was the last surviving son to be born in to the family for 11 years (a baby boy died shortly after birth sometime in 1280 or 1281, 5 daughters were born between Alphonso in 1273 and Edward in 1284), precautions must have been taken for his health. The Royal nursery appears to have been situated in the Tower of London while the Royal couple resided in Westminster. This gave the King and Queen easy access to their children while keeping them away from the crowds at court.

    And like Henry with his toy arrows, Alphonso received his own set of playthings including a model castle and possibly some toy soldiers. As he grew older he was given more grown-up presents, including hawks and greyhounds for hunting. A wife was also proposed for him. Rather than pick up the dropped Joan of Navarre, Alphonso was betrothed to Margaret of Holland. A beautiful psalter was created as one of the wedding gifts for the future happy event.

    Bad luck struck the family once more in August 1284, when Alphonso died suddenly while his parents were in Wales. The family were devastated, not only was Alphonso starting to reach the age when he could have been groomed for government, but his death left the only son as a tiny 4 month old boy, Edward. The psalter created for his wedding was instead gifted to his sister Margaret when she married John of Brabant, and now resides in the British Library.

    Altogether there were three boys who could have been, between them, King John II, King Henry IV, or King Alphonso I. Instead England got King Edward II. It didn't work out well.


    Last month's Almost King was William Adelin


     

  3. Almost Kings - William Adelin

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    Born on 5 August 1103 William Adelin would have been the first Anglo-Norman King, reflecting the changes in English society since the Conquest. While his father was King Henry I of England, the youngest son of William the Conqueror, his mother was Matilda (formerly Edith) of Scotland. Her mother had been a granddaughter of the old Anglo-Saxon kings, and had married King Malcolm III of Scotland in 1070. William Adelin might even have had a claim on the Scottish throne if he had survived.

    William AdelinWilliam’s Anglo-Saxon credentials were further enhanced by his birthplace, the old capital of Winchester, and his epithet. “Adelin” was a Normanised version of the old Anglo-Saxon word “Aetheling”, the name given to the heir to the throne. However his first name still indicated his father’s Norman origins.

    At the time of his birth William had one older sister, also called Matilda. While King Henry had a large brood of illegitimate children, William and his sister were the only two legitimate children from his marriage. Whether this was by choice (some chroniclers claimed that the Queen was so pious she requested a celibate marriage after the birth of an heir) or through bad luck is unknown. But William seems to have been a healthy child so there was no need for his parents to worry too much.

    Queen Matilda had received an excellent education at the convents of Romsey and Wilton and led a cultured, sophisticated court with her husband. She would have ensured that both her children received a good education themselves, although Princess Matilda was sent off to Germany at the age of six to await the crown of Holy Roman Empress. Details on William’s education are unknown, but he would have been expected to learn Latin and French. One small glimpse of family life can be seen in 1114 when Queen Matilda took her son to visit the newly founded Merton Priory. When Henry left England to visit Normandy in 1116 he left his wife as Regent, and charters from this time were also witnessed by William, suggesting that Matilda was helping her son learn the ropes through her supervision.

    William’s mother Queen Matilda died in 1118. As William was now fifteen Henry appointed him regent, albeit with a council of advisors, during his absences. He also had a political role to play in alliances. Normandy’s long-term dispute with neighbouring Anjou frequently broke in to periods of war. In an attempt to secure Anjou’s loyalty William had been betrothed to Matilda of Anjou, the daughter of the Count, in 1113. The pair married six years later in 1119. Little is recorded of their relationship, but presumably they were happy together as after William’s early death Matilda refused to remarry, and joined a convent instead.

    Following his wedding William spent a year with his father, travelling around Normandy and learning how to keep the peace in a region known for discontent and rebellion. In 1120 he became the nominal Duke of Normandy in order to pay homage for the Duchy to King Louis VI of France (Henry felt that as King it was beneath him to pay homage for anything). However, he never formally wielded power in the Duchy. However he was starting to be named as “king designate”, suggesting that to the chroniclers at least he was being lined up for some kind of dual-kingship system similar to that in France. The French monarchy tended to crown the heir during the lifetime of the father, it might have been Henry's intention to do the same.

    Having lived a relatively healthy life until that point there was no reason to think that William would not become King William III. However the “White Ship Disaster” led to the death of William and several of his illegitimate half-siblings. William had managed to make it to the safety of the medieval equivalent of a lifeboat. But an attempt to rescue his drowning half-sister led to his boat being capsized and the heir to the throne drowned with the rest. His wife had been in a different ship otherwise she probably would have died too.

    William’s death left his father with no legitimate male heir. Henry married a second time, to Adeliza of Louvain, but they had no children together. When Henry I died in 1135 the country was up for grabs and was claimed by both William’s sister, Empress Matilda, and their cousin Stephen of Blois.


    Last month's Almost King was Frederick, Prince of Wales.

  4. Almost Kings - Frederick, Prince of Wales

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    Unless he thought about changing his name, as later Kings did on accession, then Britain could have had it's first King Fred in the 17th century. On his birth in 1707 the idea that the Electors of Hanover would become Kings of Great Britain was becoming more obvious. Queen Anne had no surviving children, and Frederick's great-grandmother Sophia was Anne's nearest Protestant relative. Frederick in a white wig with a tan coat and blue sash

    When Frederick's grandfather George became King in 1714 it signified the start of immense changes in the young prince's life. Not only did his grandfather travel to Britain to take up his place as King, but Frederick's parents (George, now Prince of Wales, and Caroline of Ansbach) were summoned to take up their place in court too. However Hanover still needed a figurehead, so Frederick was left behind in the care of his great-uncle Ernest Augustus. At this point Frederick was George and Caroline's only son, his three sisters all accompanied their parents to Britain. Separating a child from his family for fourteen years was not the best way to create positive family feeling.

    In many ways though it helped shelter Frederick from the worst actions of his grandfather. When Caroline gave birth to a second son, another George, an incident at the baby's baptism led to the King banishing his son and daughter-in-law from court, while simultaneously seizing custody of their children. Baby George only lived for three months, but the three princesses were handed over to the care of the Duchess of Portland. At least Frederick was spared the sight of his parents being forced from court, but the King also banned them from visiting their eldest son in Hanover. They were also refused any influence over his education or future. At the age of 16 he was the figure of the first serious marriage negotiations for his future Queen. King George had identified a Princess of Prussia as a suitable consort for his grandson, but again his parents were banned from having any influence in the choice or negotiations. The King also issued a series of new titles to his grandson, including Duke of Edinburgh, which made Prince George suspicious that his father would bypass him in the succession and elevate Frederick to King.

    When King George I died in 1727 it seemed to be time at last for a proper family reunion. Frederick was now 21 years old, still unmarried as the Prussian negotiations were trailing on (and ultimately failed). The geographical distance and lack of communication between parents and child meant that the new King and Queen were ambivalent, even hostile, to their eldest son. They preferred the son they had been allowed to keep, Prince William, and viewed Frederick with distrust. He was the enduring symbol of his grandfather's behaviour and actions, and all the anger they felt towards the dead King was now turned on their eldest son.

    Prince Frederick finally arrived in England in December 1727, having missed his father's coronation. Although he behaved impeccably in the company of his parents, at night he took up a variety of mistresses. He was reportedly part of a group of young courtiers who ran through London's streets, smashing the windows of houses. He quickly became good friends with Lord John Hervey, the pair spent a lot of time together and shared a mistress, Anne Vane. Hervey was bisexual, married to Mary Leppell, he had affairs with multiple women and had a ten year relationship with Lord Stephen “Ste” Fox. His relationship with Ste only ended when the other man married. How far Hervey and Frederick's relationship went is still debated, not helped by the fact that Hervey's grandson destroyed a series of letters between Hervey and Frederick. But ultimately the pair fell out over Anne Vane. Hervey instead became close friends with Queen Caroline and continued to encourage the family's hatred of their eldest son. Frederick in a blue and gold coat and a fur-lined red robe of state

    In 1736 Frederick's future was finally settled with a proposal to marry Princess Augusta of Saxe-Coburg. The choice was made by his father, and Frederick simply replied that he was content to marry as his father directed. In reality he was heavily in debt and hoped that a marriage would lead to Parliament granting him an additional allowance. Princess Augusta was seventeen, didn't speak English, and was was married to the Prince less than two weeks after she set foot in England. She reportedly spent the first weeks of her marriage still playing with her childhood dolls, which had been in her trousseau.

    Not only did Frederick struggle to get the extra money but his relationship with his parents grew worse. He consistently opposed his father's policies, encouraging his friends to vote against the bills that were favoured by the King. He also manipulated his wife in to snubbing his family. Caroline simply remarked that she pitied the poor woman. By 1737 Augusta was pregnant with her first child. The pair were staying at Hampton Court Palace when she went in to labour in July 1737. Determined to avoid his parents having any control over the birth, Frederick risked the life of his wife and child by carrying her to their carriage and having her driven back to St James' Palace. A baby girl, Princess Augusta, was born on a tablecloth. There wasn't even a bed ready for the labouring princess. Frederick also used the opporunity of his expanding family to go to the House of Commons requesting a greater allowance. The King was furious that his finances might be publically examined, and although Frederick ultimately lost the vote the couple were banned from court. They eventually set up their own establishment at Leicester House, causing huge problems for courtiers who wanted to keep the favour of the current King without risking the displeasure of the future one.

    Queen Caroline's death in November 1737 could have brought the family closer together. But she refused to see her eldest son one last time, or offer him any forgiveness. Instead father and son tended to try and avoid each other. Hostesses were careful to ensure that both men would not be present at the same party at the same time. At one point George appealed to Frederick to help save Robert Walpole from being dismissed in 1742, but the prince refused. He was also resentful that his father refused to call him to any military role during the Jacobite Rebellion. Instead Frederick was a devoted father and paid close attention to the education of his children. He personally drafted a work on good government for his eldest son, Prince George. The children were all granted space in the garden that they were expected to tend themselves, and they were encouraged to play various sports outdoors as well. The Prince of Wales was also known for his taste in art and patronage of both painters and writers. He is also credited with increasing the interest in cricket, a game that he played and supported financially. 

    Sadly though Frederick managed to maintain the Hanover family's dislike of the heir. Prince George was the eldest but his brother Edward was the favourite of both parents. George was naturally shy and lacked self confidence, but his parents seem to viewed it as laziness. Frederick in particular found his quiet eldest son quite exasperating. But the paper he wrote on good government for his son shows the concern that he had for the boy's future. Perhaps if he had become King he would have been keen to train his son in the role of Prince of Wales better than his own father.

    Frederick himself never got his chance to enact his ideas for governing a country. In March 1751 he suddenly fell ill, possibly with pneumonia. Although he appeared to be improving a sudden coughing fit one evening suddenly proved fatal. He died in the arms of one of his servants from what's now believed to be a pulmonary embolism. Princess Augusta was pregnant with their daughter, Princess Caroline Matilda, their ninth child. His dedicated wife burned his private papers shortly after his death, ensuring that any incriminating letters or writings were destroyed.

    Frederick's death led to only the second time in English history that a grandson inherited the throne, when Prince George finally became King George III in October 1760. The first of course had been King Richard II, who had been deposed. Although George faced huge problems during his reign he at least didn't face the same fate as Richard.


     

    Last month's Almost King was Edward, the Black Prince

    Unless he thought about changing his name, as later Kings did on accession, then Britain could have had it's first King Fred in the 17th century. On his birth in 1707 the idea that the Electors of Hanover would become Kings of Great Britain was becoming more obvious. Queen Anne had no surviving children, and Frederick's great-grandmother Sophia was Anne's nearest Protestant relative.

    When Frederick's grandfather George became King in 1714 it signified the start of immense changes in the young prince's life. Not only did his grandfather travel to Britain to take up his place as King, but Frederick's parents (George, now Prince of Wales, and Caroline of Ansbach) were summoned to take up their place in court too. However Hanover still needed a figurehead, so Frederick was left behind in the care of his great-uncle Ernest Augustus. At this point Frederick was George and Caroline's only son, his three sisters all accompanied their parents to Britain. Separating a child from his family for fourteen years was not the best way to create positive family feeling.

    In many ways though it helped shelter Frederick from the worst actions of his grandfather. When Caroline gave birth to a second son, another George, an incident at the baby's baptism led to the King banishing his son and daughter-in-law from court, while simultaneously seizing custody of their children. Baby George only lived for three months, but the three princesses were handed over to the care of the Duchess of Portland. At least Frederick was spared the sight of his parents being forced from court, but the King also banned them from visiting their eldest son in Hanover. They were also refused any influence over his education or future. At the age of 16 he was the figure of the first serious marriage negotiations for his future Queen. King George had identified a Princess of Prussia as a suitable consort for his grandson, but again his parents were banned from having any influence in the choice or negotiations. The King also issued a series of new titles to his grandson, including Duke of Edinburgh, which made Prince George suspicious that his father would bypass him in the succession and elevate Frederick to King.

    When King George I died in 1727 it seemed to be time at last for a proper family reunion. Frederick was now 21 years old, still unmarried as the Prussian negotiations were trailing on (and ultimately failed). The geographical distance and lack of communication between parents and child meant that the new King and Queen were ambivalent, even hostile, to their eldest son. They preferred the son they had been allowed to keep, Prince William, and viewed Frederick with distrust. He was the enduring symbol of his grandfather's behaviour and actions, and all the anger they felt towards the dead King was now turned on their eldest son.

    Prince Frederick finally arrived in England in December 1727, having missed his father's coronation. Although he behaved impeccably in the company of his parents, at night he took up a variety of mistresses. He was reportedly part of a group of young courtiers who ran through London's streets, smashing the windows of houses. He quickly became good friends with Lord John Hervey, the pair spent a lot of time together and shared a mistress, Anne Vane. Hervey was bisexual, married to Mary Leppell, he had affairs with multiple women and had a ten year relationship with Lord Stephen “Ste” Fox. His relationship with Ste only ended when the other man married. How far Hervey and Frederick's relationship went is still debated, not helped by the fact that Hervey's grandson destroyed a series of letters between Hervey and Frederick. But ultimately the pair fell out over Anne Vane. Hervey instead became close friends with Queen Caroline and continued to encourage the family's hatred of their eldest son.

    In 1736 Frederick's future was finally settled with a proposal to marry Princess Augusta of Saxe-Coburg. The choice was made by his father, and Frederick simply replied that he was content to marry as his father directed. In reality he was heavily in debt and hoped that a marriage would lead to Parliament granting him an additional allowance. Princess Augusta was seventeen, didn't speak English, and was was married to the Prince less than two weeks after she set foot in England. She reportedly spent the first weeks of her marriage still playing with her childhood dolls, which had been in her trousseau.

    Not only did Frederick struggle to get the extra money but his relationship with his parents grew worse. He consistently opposed his father's policies, encouraging his friends to vote against the bills that were favoured by the King. He also manipulated his wife in to snubbing his family. Caroline simply remarked that she pitied the poor woman. By 1737 Augusta was pregnant with her first child. The pair were staying at Hampton Court Palace when she went in to labour in July 1737. Determined to avoid his parents having any control over the birth, Frederick risked the life of his wife and child by carrying her to their carriage and having her driven back to St James' Palace. A baby girl, Princess Augusta, was born on a tablecloth. There wasn't even a bed ready for the labouring princess. Frederick also used the opporunity of his expanding family to go to the House of Commons requesting a greater allowance. The King was furious that his finances might be publically examined, and although Frederick ultimately lost the vote the couple were banned from court. They eventually set up their own establishment at Leicester House, causing huge problems for courtiers who wanted to keep the favour of the current King without risking the displeasure of the future one.

    Queen Caroline's death in November 1737 could have brought the family closer together. But she refused to see her eldest son one last time, or offer him any forgiveness. Instead father and son tended to try and avoid each other. Hostesses were careful to ensure that both men would not be present at the same party at the same time. At one point George appealed to Frederick to help save Robert Walpole from being dismissed in 1742, but the prince refused. He was also resentful that his father refused to call him to any military role during the Jacobite Rebellion. Instead Frederick was a devoted father and paid close attention to the education of his children. He personally drafted a work on good government for his eldest son, Prince George. The children were all granted space in the garden that they were expected to tend themselves, and they were encouraged to play various sports outdoors as well. The Prince of Wales was also known for his taste in art and patronage of both painters and writers. He is also credited with increasing the interest in cricket, a game that he played and supported financially.

    Sadly though Frederick managed to maintain the Hanover family's dislike of the heir. Prince George was the eldest but his brother Edward was the favourite of both parents. George was naturally shy and lacked self confidence, but his parents seem to viewed it as laziness. Frederick in particular found his quiet eldest son quite exasperating. But the paper he wrote on good government for his son shows the concern that he had for the boy's future. Perhaps if he had become King he would have been keen to train his son in the role of Prince of Wales better than his own father.

    Frederick himself never got his chance to enact his ideas for governing a country. In March 1751 he suddenly fell ill, possibly with pneumonia. Although he appeared to be improving a sudden coughing fit one evening suddenly proved fatal. He died in the arms of one of his servants from what's now believed to be a pulmonary embolism. Princess Augusta was pregnant with their daughter, Princess Caroline Matilda, their ninth child. His dedicated wife burned his private papers shortly after his death, which some historians have speculated could have included love letters to Lord Hervey, and plans for what to do in the event of the death of the King.

    Frederick's death led to only the second time in English history that a grandson inherited the throne, when Prince George finally became King George III in October 1760.


    Last month's Almost King was Edward, the Black Prince.

     

  5. Almost Kings - Edward, the Black Prince

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    One of the most famous losses to the English throne, Edward the Black Prince was extremely popular for most of his life, but ended it a sick, bitter man.

    Born in 1330 Prince Edward was just what the royal family needed. His father, King Edward III, was a puppet king controlled by his mother Isabella of France and her lover Roger Mortimer. Baby Edward was barely four months old before his father led a daring plot, arrested Roger Mortimer and had Isabella put under house arrest. Mortimer was executed and King Edward III now ruled in his own right. Edward the Black Prince

    His family were very close, a fact that is primarily attributed to his mother. Queen Philippa had her children all raised in the same royal nursery together, along with a selection of children and infants from noble families. Other children raised alongside the Royal family included Blanche of Lancaster, who married Edward's brother John of Gaunt, and Joan of Kent.

    At the age of thirteen Edward was officially named as Prince of Wales, and acted as a "symbolic regent" in England while his father was off on military campaigns. He was granted extensive estates in Cornwall, Wales and Chester, which gave him an income suitable for the household of the heir to the throne. As a teenager his father also began to include him in the numerous battles that were fought in France. He helped win victory at the Battle of Crécy, and was part of the naval Battle of Winchelsea, which helped him gain fame as a great leader and future warrior-king. He developed a reputation as a brave prince, talented military commander and a model of chivalry, as well as an excellent jouster taking part in tournaments as an adult. To many at the time he was the epitome of what one expected from a king-in-waiting, and the bonus was that it came without any of the family troubles that Henry II had faced with his brood of sons.

    But in 1361 Edward caused a bit of a scandal by marrying Joan of Kent. Not only did they reportedly not ask King Edward's permission to marry, but Joan was a widow with several children. As the heir to the throne Prince Edward was expected to marry a foreign princess, not an English lady with four children to her name. After a more public wedding ceremony the couple moved to Gascony, where Joan gave birth to Edward of Angouleme and Richard of Bordeaux.

    Sadly for Prince Edward his later years saw the shine of glory wear off as England lost numerous military campaigns, and he developed more of a reputation for brutality. He was persuaded to help King Pedro of Castile regain his throne in 1366, and left Gascony at the head of an army in early 1367. Although they were successful, and Pedro was back on his throne by April 1367, the Prince was ultimately betrayed by his ally. Pedro consistently evaded repaying the English their share of the costs of the campaign (Pedro himself had paid for very little, most of the financial burden had been taken on by the Prince). While waiting in Valladolid for the promised money the English soldiers contracted dysentery. The Prince himself fell dangerously ill and never fully recovered. Eventually they returned to Gascony and Aquitaine, having never been repaid by Pedro. Prince Edward had to raise taxes in Aquitaine as he was now facing serious financial problems. This led to problems in the area as the people saw no reason why they should pay the cost of Pedro's broken promises.

    Naturally the problems in Aquitaine meant that the French could take advantage of English weakness in the region, and they pressed their advantage. When the town of Limoges surrendered to the French after a siege, the Prince was furious. The English retook the town, and on Prince Edward's orders the people of Limoges were slaughtered. Although Edward had taken part in similar actions in the past, it was this in particular that permanently tainted the memory of him.

    Now a sick man who was unable to sit on a horse, Edward's shining reputation for chivalry and an unblemished military record was quickly being forgotten. The prince was in no fit state to try and bring Aquitaine back under control, and so he and Joan arranged to return to England. Their son and heir Edward of Angouleme died shortly before they left, there wasn't even time for the grieving parents to bury their own child.

    On his return to England the Black Prince was largely confined to his bed, occasionally being carried to parliament in a litter. He eventually died on 8 June 1376, a year before his own father, leaving his second son Richard of Bordeaux to become King Richard II in 1377.


    Last month's Almost King was Eustace of Boulogne!