LAST week we took a glimpse at a royal story from the Bankes archives, which are being archived by the Dorset History Centre in Dorchester.

Volunteer Roger Lane, of West Stafford, near Dorchester, filled us in on some fascinating diary entries by MP Henry Bankes, who lived at Kingston Lacy House in Wimborne.

Last week we heard how Caroline of Brunswick, Queen consort of the United Kingdom as the wife of King George IV, died after a short illness. It was decided a private funeral would be held, meaning the King wouldn't have to return from Ireland for a public funeral.

However, things didn't exactly go to plan as Bankes records...

"There was an undignified altercation with the organisers of the procession before the executors would allow the Queen’s body to be removed, but no force was employed on either side & the mourning coaches to the number of 13 with the hearse & an escort of the Oxford blues began to move slowly, their exact line of march being known to very few, but it being sufficiently understood that it was directed so as to avoid the City.

"An extremely heavy rain did not prevent the multitudes assembling on foot or on horseback to bear a part in the solemnity , the latter of whom were led by Sir Robert Wilson*, Mr Hume & some others of the same stamp & value. Before long the route was blockaded with carts from which the horses were taken off and other means were used for rendering it impassable. The whole procession therefore came to a halt, & a messenger was despatched to Ld Liverpool for ulterior orders. Upon his return, the route was so far changed to proceed through Hyde Park. They reached Cumberland Gate where the obstruction to their passing was renewed by closing the gate & forming a barricade & the guards endeavouring to remove these obstacles & clear the way were assailed with bricks, paving stones & such other missiles as occasion or fury supplied, which put them to their defence; about 40 or 50 shots were fired from pistols & carbines. Two men fell & others were wounded & the passage was opened."

….and the mob prevailed.

"Sir Robert Baker and another magistrate were present but the Riot Act was not read in this place before the firing commenced. Henry details the rest of their route via Edgware

Rd to Tottenham Court Rd, where they found similar obstructions opposed to their progress in every other way except that which led through the streets. A reinforcement of the Life Guards was at hand but Sir Robert Baker took upon himself to dismiss them saying that their services were not wanted & he conducted the cavalcade & horses … through Temple Bar into the City. The other magistrate objected to this departure from their orders but….the populace carried their point. The Lord Mayor met them at Temple Bar & they passed in a very orderly manner through the City, the escorts of the Blues attending, who were cheered by the citizens, as having no part in the transactions at Cumberland Gate.

They then proceeded by stages to Colchester, where the coffin was placed in the church."

Final indignities.

"Some disturbance & wrangling took place; the Executors having put upon the coffin while it lay in this church an inscription with the words “much injured Queen”, in pursuance of her will**, which was afterwards removed by those who had the body in charge and the Latin inscription prepared by the King’s orders was then for the first time fastened on, for owing to some accidents this was not done at Brandenburg House. The executors clamoured, railed & protested but they had no followers to back them & the body was put on board of the Glasgow frigate lying off Harwich on the next day, 16th"

Roger then takes up the story with Bankes' diary entries from August 1821.

Having apparently saved her husband much embarrassment, the dying Queen left a little time-bomb in a codicil to her will; Here Lies Caroline of Brunswick, the Injured Queen of England.

The reckoning - the inquests on the rioters and the dismissal of a senior officer.

Henry mentions two inquests: Richard Honey, a young bricklayer, expired immediately after he received the ball, and the other, George Francis, a working man also, expired two or three days afterwards in St George’s Hospital. ……He clearly believed that the coroner and jury were overawed into recording a verdict of wilful murder against a Life Guardsman to the jury unknown.

Further research in court archives would be needed to discover more, but Henry does record (13th February, 1822) that *Sir Robert Wilson, MP for Southwark, brought his case before the House: he had been dismissed from the army on account of his conduct on August 14th, the day of the Queen’s funeral…he wanted correspondence between the Commander-in-Chief, the Secretary of State and himself to be laid before the House.

Henry’s tone is unsympathetic…so plausible a statement…the only man in that vast crowd who was solicitous to preserve the public peace & who took reasonable steps to stop the effusion of blood. While not denying any part of his case….the prerogative of dismissing officers (was) indispensable for good government & the subordination of the military power. This was the argument used by Lords Castlereagh & Palmerston in dismissing Wilson’s claims for an inquiry & Henry clearly agrees with it.

*Sir Robert Wilson’s sensational rise from cornet to Lieutenant-General in the French wars was Napoleonic, and his Radical politics alarmed the Government. The Guardian believed his intervention on August 14th had prevented another Peterloo, but to the Duke of Wellington he was “a very slippery fellow” – an arsonist claiming credit for helping to check the fire? No specific cause was given for his peremptory dismissal and it is significant that the Whigs restored his rank, plus back pay, when they returned to power and later appointed him Governor-General of Gibraltar.

*Thanks to Roger for this look at a very dramatic royal death.