Monday, July 11, 2022

Guest Post: King Victor, House of Hanover

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History co-written with Allen W. McDonnell.

18 June, 1853 - King Victor celebrates Waterloo Day

Regiments of the Royal Armies of Britain and Hanover celebrated Waterloo Day by marching down the Mall from Buckingham Palace to Horse Guards Parade for an inspection by their new Commander-in-Chief, King Victor.

His Imperial Majesty had willingly accepted the post following the Duke of Wellington's death the previous September. Ironically, Wellington's Anglo-Allied army of 1815 had been predominantly German-speaking (and victory delivered by the Prussian Marshal Bl├╝cher), a glaring fact hidden by this impressive demonstration of British militarism. The other European monarchies had traditionally enjoyed a more authoritative role and, as a consequence this demagoguery and martial power play, sharply raised eyebrows around the world. With the benefit of hindsight, it was a turning point for the nineteenth century. At thirty-four, King Victor had already ruled for sixteen years, and yet the sweeping changes of the Victorian Era really began to rapidly accelerate after Waterloo Day 1853.

It was fortuitous that a big part of the Industrial Revolution occurred during his reign at a time when Great Britain was increasingly looking to military application. The subsequent rise of an Anglo-Hanoverian super-state was largely the result of the king being an enthusiastic proponent of the Anglification of several important colonies including South Africa, Kenya/Uganda highlands, New Zealand, British Columbia, Falklands Islands, and Patagonia. These colonial leaders emerged at the foreground of the festivities for the Diamond Jubilee, celebrated after Victor surpassed his grandfather George III as the longest-reigning monarch in British history.

The origin of these visiting luminaries was particularly noticeable because many were Hanoverian subjects and sponsors. The underlying significance was that Europe had reluctantly accepted the so-called "four Germanies" solution. This Anglo-German arrangement suited the super-state but was less enthusiastically embraced by the Hohenzollerns in Prussia and also Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who sought a German Confederation to counter-balance British hegemony. They also dreamt longingly of a "place in the sun," while Anglo-Hanoverian politicians scoffed at a return to the Holy Roman Empire dismantled by Napoleon prior to Waterloo.

Due in part to these rising tensions, the twentieth century promised to usher in an era of unprecedented change. King Victor passed away on 22 January 1901. By the time of his funeral, the United States had eclipsed Great Britain, and German nationalism was on the rise. With these dual threats on the horizon, it remained to be seen whether Britain could continue to rule the waves.

Author's Note:

In reality, Prince Albert declined to accept the post of commander-in-chief because he felt that his fit place was to be always near the queen - that he ought to identify himself with the Queen, with her position and with her interest. Due to the Salic Law preventing a woman from ascending to the Crown of Hanover, Ernest Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland became king following the death of William IV. This ended the Personal Union. The prime ministers of all the self-governing Dominions were invited to London for the festivities of the Diamond Jubilee.

Provine's Addendum:

The Hohenzollerns chafed for over a century at the British-Hanoverian connection foiling their aspirations of a union of German-speaking peoples led by Prussia. After making extensive gains in the east and building a camaraderie with Russia, Prussia at last came to war against the Austrian Empire to the south, ironically over the question of Schleswig-Holstein in the north. The war quickly turned in Prussia's favor, but Hanover, fearing an even stronger Prussia on its borders, sabre-rattled with threats of joining Austria's side. If not for the masterful diplomacy of Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Duke Ernest II's younger brother, the whole of Germany might have fallen into war. Instead, the borders were redrawn with the four powers: Hanover in the northwest, Prussia in the middle and east, Austria in the southeast, and the Bavarian-led German Confederation in the southwest. Some historians wonder if an earlier war at this time might have stopped much of the bloodshed in the coming Great War.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century, each portion of German-speaking peoples moved in different directions. Hanover grew closer as a part of the British Empire, becoming a vital port and center of manufacturing. Prussia attempted colonial ventures in Africa and the Pacific but found itself constantly short of manpower needed for widespread settlement, though it maintained its prominent place in European affairs, building a formidable alliance with Russia and France and later Italy. The Austrians felt their empire begin to crack, soon sharing rule as the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The German Confederation attempted to remain neutral, though it was clear war would soon again tear apart the continent.

The Great War began with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, setting off a powder keg of complex alliances. Eventually the sides formed up with Prussia, France, Russia, and Italy on one with Serbia and Britain-Hanover, Austria Hungary, and Japan on the other. The war spilled over into the Balkans, often studied as more of a parallel war, with Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, and the Ottoman Empire. Even nations that attempted to remain neutral like Belgium and the German Confederation were soon occupied. Both sides appealed to the United States for aid, which it supplied to Britain-Hanover before confirming its neutrality as the war proved in favor of Prussia and its allies despite Britain's major victories in French and Prussian colonies.

Terms for surrender in the Prussian-led treaty negotiations were harsh for the losers. Austria-Hungary was broken up, and the rump Austria itself was forced along with Hanover into the expanded German Confederation. This congress that was majority-ruled by Prussia thanks to its local population, making leaders glad few had left for the colonies the century before. George V balked at his title as Duke of Hanover making him, King of the United Kingdom, fairly subservient to the Kaiser in German matters. The issue proved minor, however, as issues overseas increasingly demanded British attention, primarily the independence movement in India. Prussia finally found itself as the unquestioned central power of Europe, although the dream gradually evolved into a nightmare as the linguistically similar "empire" proved to have vastly different political ideals, leading to violent revolutionary movements throughout the coming century.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Site Meter