The Tsar of Russia, the King of Prussia and other European sovereigns landed at Dover on the 6th of June 1814 for a visit lasting just over two weeks to celebrate the Peace of Paris and the abdication of Napoléon Bonaparte, who had been exiled to Elba.
The pursuits of the illustrious strangers while in London, consisted of visiting our public institutions; and their total indifference to pomp and parade, with the consequent facility afforded to exhibit the national good feeling and respect, elicited the admiration of the entire population, manifested by the loud shouts of welcome with which they were universally greeted.
In the painting above, you can see the young Prince Augustus of Prussia (on the left-hand side of the portrait) turning his head to speak to Lord Charles Bentinck who is standing directly behind him. Lord Charles was the Prince Regent’s friend, equerry and putative former son-in-law and was a constant presence throughout the festivities, often found at the prince’s side. He is also the direct ancestor of the royal family and one of the subjects of our second book, A Right Royal Scandal. No doubt, Lord Charles Bentinck was present at the review which took place in Hyde Park, attended by the Allied Sovereigns, on 20th June 1814. But, before that, the dignitaries had been seen out riding.
The Emperor Alexander, in the dress of a private gentleman, and accompanied by the Duchess of Oldenburgh, his sister, frequently promenaded in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, at an early hour in the morning; and their Majesties, accompanied by the officers of the household, took an airing on horse-back in Hyde Park on the 12th of June, remaining nearly three hours, much to the gratification of the company there assembled.
All was pomp and ceremony on the day of the review, however.
But the review of the household cavalry, and volunteer and regular infantry of the metropolis ordered for the 20th of June, was probably the most interesting exhibition that occurred during their stay in London; the novelty of the assemblage of two foreign crowned heads, accompanied by veteran leaders of their armies, to witness a military spectacle in the suburbs of our metropolis, and in the presence of the Prince Regent: with the singular coincidence of the proclamation of peace on the same day, at the usual places, and at which ceremony also, a portion of those troops were afterwards called upon to assist, combined to produce a general feeling of pride and satisfaction, as shewn in the faces of the countless multitudes who were seen hurrying at an early hour towards the scene of action.
The various regiments took up their position by 9 o’clock in the morning, and the arrangements being completed soon after ten, a scene then presented itself which was never surpassed on a similar occasion, being greatly enhanced by the serenity of the weather, the sun beaming in all his glory, shedding his bright refulgence on the scene. At half-past eleven a royal salute of twenty-one guns announced the arrival of the royal party at the park gate, at the same moment the deafening cheers of the populace were heard at all parts of the park.
The Prince Regent entered the park with his hat off, bowing to the vast assembly, the Emperor Alexander riding on his right hand, and the king of Prussia on his left, the magnificent Staff which followed, comprised nearly three hundred persons, of all nations, among whom the veteran Field-Marshal Blucher, and the Hetman Platoff shone conspicuous.
After their Majesties had inspected the line, a general feu de joie was discharged, and the regiments afterwards passed in review order. The illustrious visitors having expressed the greatest satisfaction at the discipline and general appearance of the troops to the officer in command, the corps marched off the ground, highly gratified by the flattering encomiums passed upon them by some of the greatest warriors of the age.
The public anxiety was so great on this occasion, to witness the proceedings, that every tree was filled with people, and in consequence several melancholy accidents happened, by limbs of the trees breaking and falling on the heads of those standing beneath, the pressure of the crowd rendering it impossible to escape.
We have also written about the visit of the Allied Sovereigns for our great friend and fellow author, Laurie Benson. You can find our guest blog in her Cozy Drawing Room.
Source: Historical Recollections of Hyde Park by Thomas Smith (of Mary-le-bone), 1836