Age of Victoria


The death of Queen Elizabeth II is a momentous event in modern British history. This special episode contains some facts about her life, reflections on events, thoughts about King Charles III, the Royal Finances, the constitution, national decline, the Commonwealth, and possibilities for the future.

This episode covers;

  • Intro 
  • Birth, coronation & television
  • WW2 & the ATS
  • Post war austerity, the Elizabethan rebirth, more television
  • The start of the Commonwealth & retreat from Empire
  • Famous friends, anecdotes and gin
  • Internationalism
  • Royal finances
  • Constitutional problems
  • Colonialism, anti colonialism, reparations and artefacts
  • The Koh-i-Noor
  • Troubled waters ahead.
  • A last note of hope?

If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria. Don’t forget to leave a review on Apple Podcasts, it takes less time than making a coffee. You can also subscribe for free on most major podcast apps. To support the show on Patreon, either CLICK HERE or you can go to Patreon and search for Age of Victoria podcast or my name. Take care and bye for now.


The essential guide to the Victorian class system. There was more to being middle class than drinking tea, and the working class weren’t all up the Chimney. From the well dressed footman, to the Haymarket prostitute, to the pie seller, and duke. All of Victorian life is here.

  • This episode covers. 
  • Intro. 
  • A discussion of what is Class.
  • A tiny bit of Marx.
  • Life at the top.
  • I say, those young people today, they are frightfully uptight.
  • We are a most humble Queen.
  • Prince Albert knows his place, and he doesn’t like it.
  • The Spencers.
  • The middle class – super stars and clubs.
  • The middle class – the rest.
  • The vibrant skilled working class and their poets.
  • Upstairs, Downstairs.
  • Beaulieu; all hands to the pumps.
  • The desperate poor on the scrap heap.
  • Anglo Indians, and the native Indian Aristocracy.
  • Travellers.
  • Minorities and the oppressed.
  • The great north south divide.
  • North & South; Gaskell and industrialists.
  • The outsiders; Superstars and the Out of Place.
  • “This Green and Pleasant Land”.

If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria. Don’t forget to leave a review on Apple Podcasts, it takes less time than making a coffee. You can also subscribe for free on most major podcast apps. To support the show on Patreon, either CLICK HERE or you can go to Patreon and search for Age of Victoria podcast or my name. Take care and bye for now.


This much requested episode deals with the important but fun topic of women’s clothes and fashions in the 1840s. If you want to understand how a Victorian woman dressed and why, this is the episode for you. 

  • This episode covers. 
  • Intro & reviews.
  • The importance of dressing well.
  • We don’t do business casual. 
  • Victoria, a Goth.
  • Starting the day, the chemise
  • Bloomers, and worries about the French.
  • Stockings, colours and fun.
  • The corset – Patriarchy not included.
  • The corset – exploding the myths
  • The corset – tight lacing, narrow waists, health hazards and missing ribs.
  • Corsets – a big hit with the men.
  • Dresses, daywear and sewing.
  • Don’t forget your hat, I mean bonnet.
  • Some shoes, and dressing for the weather. 
  • Riding outfits.
  • Evening dresses, and gowns fit for an Empress. 
  • What you wear is not a political statement yet.

If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria. Don’t forget to leave a review on Apple Podcasts, it takes less time than making a coffee. You can also subscribe for free on most major podcast apps. To support the show on Patreon, either CLICK HERE or you can go to Patreon and search for Age of Victoria podcast or my name. Take care and bye for now.


This episode deals with the real and harrow position for women during with contraception, pregnancy, and abortion in the Victorian era. Campaigners like Annie Besant attacked the patriarchy, and fought for the right to be heard. Women risked their lives getting dangerous abortions, in constant fear of the law, whilst the great scandal of the Victorian era, infanticide, loomed in the background. From the courts to the back alleys, join me in experiencing the reality of life before the pill. 

This episode covers. 

Intro & reviews.

Musings on the direction of the podcast

The basics of periods

What the doctor though – 1840s style.

Women’s underwear and period pain.

Menstrual leave, a feminist issue.

Ovulation and fertility.

Birth control.

Annie Besant goes on the warpath.

Mortality and unstable families.

Victorian Birth Control

Abortion and the criminal law

Religion and gender.

Abortion in practice.

Abortion – a personal account by Mary Wolfe

Murder charges

When things went wrong.

Illegitimacy as a motivation.

Infanticide, the great scandal.

The crime of concealment of birth.

Criminals preying on the vulnerable.

A tough lot.

If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria. Don’t forget to leave a review on Apple Podcasts, it takes less time than making a coffee. You can also subscribe for free on most major podcast apps. To support the show on Patreon, either CLICK HERE or you can go to Patreon and search for Age of Victoria podcast or my name. Take care and bye for now.

ALBUMAN PRINT: “Fading away” by Henry Peach Robinson

‘Fading Away’

This is the famous work “Fading Away” by Henry Peach Robinson. He took 5 different negatives and put them together to form one stunning photo of a girl dying surrounded by family. It was highly controversial. Many critics complained that it was essentially a fake, whilst others bitterly attacked the intrusive nature of the photo on the intimate moment of family death. This criticism was somewhat unfair since Robinson was creating a composite photo and therefore wasn’t intruding at all. The work was highly commercially successful, and illustrated Robinson’s desire to create art using photographs, rather than just using photos to document real things. “Fading Away” was highly approved by Prince Albert, who bought copies.

A similar, early work “She never told her love” seems to have been used as the study for the dying girl in the centre of “Fading Away”

Henry Peach Robinson

ALBUMAN SILVER PRINT: Portal of the Temple of Khonsu, Karnak Théodule Devéria

Portal of the Temple of Khonsu at Karnak, Egypt. Photo by Theodule Deveria circa 1859

Deveria was a noted photographer and cataloguer of French Egyptology. He was vital in a key expedition with Auguste Mariette in 1859 which excavated Karnak.

Daguerreotype “Peasant Woman & Child” Félix Jacques Moulin

Peasant woman with children: photographer Felix Jacque Moulin 1855

Moulin was, like Braquehais mostly known for his female nudes. These were called Academies and used for artists. Moulin skated the line with pornography and was jailed for a month for the possession and sale of obscene objects. He was released and continued his photographic career. He travelled and took photo’s, as well as photographing domestic French scenes. This scene is interesting as an illustration of French female working class dress. From the pigeon’s and mess it is likely that it really was an outdoor photo, rather than staged indoors.

Daguerreotype “Standing Female Nude in Diaphanous Gown”

Standing Female Nude in Diaphanous Gown (photo by Bruno Braquehais) 1854

This is one of many of Bruno Braquehais’s female nudes, which were used as still life’s for artists in place of live models. It was intended for art classes and would not have been viewed as pornographic. It was probably colourised by his wife Laurie.

Daguerreotype Prince Albert 1842

Prince Albert 1842

This Daguerreotype was taken at a studio in Brighton. The photographer was probably William Constable, working under a daguerreotype license from Richard Beard. It is extremely faded, and would have been far sharper when first taken. It was the first photo of a member of royalty in world history, and underlined Prince Albert’s fascination with modernisation.


This anniversary is a memorable event and naturally deserves to be photographed by the paparazzi. But what was the story of the invention of the photograph, and how did it become a Victorian icon? A story filled with invention, persistence, a lot of daring do, and possibly holding back some manly tears. Not to mention artistic nudes, pioneering thinking from governments, lots of chemicals and real dedication. 

 This episode covers. 

  • Intro & reviews.
  • Some all time great photographs.
  • The veil of history.
  • Early steps towards photography.
  • No invention is a vacuum.
  • The Daguerreotype and patents
  • Henry Fox Talbot & the Calotype.
  • The Collodion process
  • Photography spreads out around the world.
  • What was photography for?
  • Photography in India.
  • The unflappable Samuel Bourne.
  • Yes, but it it art?
  • The female nude.
  • It’s not just naked women; other uses for photographs.
  • The artist creates the truth by destroying it; making fake photos for art.
  • What is art, truth and how did all this matter?
  • A plea for support
  • Thank you’s.
  • The Daguerreotype and patents

If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria. Don’t forget to leave a review on Apple Podcasts, it takes less time than making a coffee. You can also subscribe for free on most major podcast apps. To support the show on Patreon, either CLICK HERE or you can go to Patreon and search for Age of Victoria podcast or my name. Take care and bye for now.


Our dive under the covers continues. How did sex and religion come together in the Victorian era? How was the bible such an influence on men & women’s sexuality? Should a religious Victorian be having sex? Some evolutionary pitfalls, social problems and a couple of wedding nights to talk about.

This episode covers.

  • Intro & reviews.
  • The duties of Eve.
  • A morally ambiguous bible.
  • Seems risky.
  • Those teenager cave people.
  • Wars, unrest and shipping em off to the Empire.
  • Art and desexualisation.
  • Is she really a seamstress?
  • Queen Victoria enjoys herself…….
  • Ruskin and Effie do not.
  • On that bombshell, it’s good night from me.

If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria. Don’t forget to leave a review on Apple Podcasts, it takes less time than making a coffee. You can also subscribe for free on most major podcast apps. To support the show on Patreon, either CLICK HERE you can go to Patreon and search for Age of Victoria podcast or my name. Take care and bye for now.


Why yes, we will be asking what Victoria did with Albert. We will be asking about the how’s and why’s of Victorian sex & sexualities. There’s a lot to say, so we are getting started with just how reserved were they really, and did the have a lot of sex?

This episode covers.

  • Intro & reviews.
  • General biology
  • Darwin & sex
  • Public health – a deceiving lens
  • No, people really do like sex.
  • Poor Bonny Bet
  • A porn writer remembers…….

If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria. Don’t forget to leave a review on Apple Podcasts, it takes less time than making a coffee. You can also subscribe for free on most major podcast apps. To support the show on Patreon, either CLICK HERE you can go to Patreon and search for Age of Victoria podcast or my name. Take care and bye for now.


What could be more of a traditional Victorian Christmas than carols by candlelight with an orchestra, piano and harp? Quite a bit actually. Victorian piano’s were a late addition and the carols were a really new thing. Find out how carols and piano’s go together like new age German synth and wannabe edgy 20 somethings.

This episode covers.

  • Intro & reviews.
  • The Victorian carols hitlist.
  • Good King thingy and the famous Reverend Doctor Neale.
  • Queen Victoria’s rather gaudy piano.
  • The Victorian piano market.
  • A quick note about the class system.
  • Industrialisation & piano’s.
  • So what should I use for a Victorian Carol Concert?
  • A nice little story.

Golden C18th Style Grand Piano, made by French firm S & P Erard, it was gilded and painted by the miniature painter François Théodore Rochard.

If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria. Don’t forget to leave a review on Apple Podcasts, it takes less time than making a coffee. You can also subscribe for free on most major podcast apps. To support the show on Patreon, either CLICK HERE you can go to Patreon and search for Age of Victoria podcast or my name. Take care and bye for now.


Marriage isn’t easy, even in the early days, especially a royal marriage. It’s even harder if you are an intellectual who dabbles in cutting edge music, but your wife only thinks of you as a sex object. It wasn’t easy being Albert. Victoria had a lot of on her plate too, what with being a new Queen, starting her journey to Empress, and that pesky pregnancy. Oh and saving the political system of the U.K.

  • Intro & reviews.
  • Albert & the music.
  • Beethoven.
  • The invention of the neutrality of the crown.
  • Corruption, reform & sexual politics.
  • A woman’s role as queen.
  • India sounds interesting.
  • Good governance.
  • Pregnancy & child birth.
  • A might have been.

If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria. Don’t forget to leave a review on Apple Podcasts, it takes less time than making a coffee. You can also subscribe for free on most major podcast apps. To support the show on Patreon, either CLICK HERE you can go to Patreon and search for Age of Victoria podcast or my name. Take care and bye for now.


An ancient tradition, but surely one that the Victorians didn’t celebrate? Wrong, they did celebrate. Oh boy was it a big dangerous, flaming drunken party of a holiday. Join me to explore a Victorian Halloween.

This episode covers

Intro & reviews.

The birth of Halloween.

The ancient rites.

Religion & superstition.

The loss of the old ways.

Queen Victoria’s Halloween’s.

Parties, games, drinks and danger – a typical Victorian Halloween.

If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria. Don’t forget to leave a review on Apple Podcasts, it takes less time than making a coffee. You can also subscribe for free on most major podcast apps. To support the show on Patreon, either CLICK HERE you can go to Patreon and search for Age of Victoria podcast or my name. Take care and bye for now.


This is a very simple one. Try making a basic vanilla sponge or lemon cake, then gather your unmarried daughters and nieces. Remind them that the family requires them to marry a knight, a major, or at least a vicar with a good income and help them find true love (or at least an income of £400 a year and a maid) with this fortune telling cake.

Make according to any good recipe for a plain cake; not a word must be spoken after the work begins; three or four girls beating eggs, measuring, sifting, etc., in perfect silence.  When it is poured into the pan, some married lady takes it, and, unobserved, hides in it a ring, a coin, and a button.  It is iced thinly and placed in the oven again, after baking, for the icing to brown.  When served it is cut into as many pieces as there are guests (unmarried of course).  Every branch of the work — secreting the tokens, icing and cutting, must be done in perfect silence.  Every slice must be eaten or crumbed in silence until the tokens are found and displayed, when the spell is broken.  The finder of the ring will be married first; the coin betokens wealth, while a life of single-blessedness falls to the finder of the button.”


With the hardships of the voyage across the ocean over, the settlers had to build a life in South Africa. An unsettled land, with slavery, war, opportunity, growth and social conflict, early colonial South Africa was no paradise for the rich and idle of Britain. For the lucky and hard working, their were opportunities and fortunes, but for most their was only dust, sweat and blood.

This episode covers

  • Intro & reviews.

  • A new land.

  • Opportunities for all

  • Order & the social hierarchy; know your place.

  • The 80:20 rule

  • Missionaries & evangelism

  • Slavery & Empire

  • Xhosa & settler relations

  • Language evolves

  • Growth and danger

  • Rise of the Zulu

  • The great Boer Trek

  • A profitable war


If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at

The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria Podcast. Don’t forget to leave a review on Apple Podcasts, it takes less time than making a coffee. You can also subscribe for free on most major podcast apps. To support the show on Patreon, either CLICK HERE you can go to Patreon and search for Age of Victoria podcast or my name. Take care and bye for now.


An empire lives on the backs of people; its own or those it conquers. For the British, South Africa needed colonists to clear the forests, build the farms, and man the armies. But getting them from Britain to South Africa was no easy task. Learn about the hard start to a colonists voyage from the frozen Thames to the heat of the tropics to the far south, and for the unlucky, the horrors of being lost at sea.

This episode covers

Intro & reviews.

An insatiable need for manpower.

The horror of slavery in early South Africa.

The 1820 settlement scheme organisation and planning

The colonists; almost honest and upstanding.

The ships; HMS Weymouth.

What was the voyage like.

The horror of the Abeona.

Life aboard, and the people.

A glympse of the future.

Patreons special promo.

If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria. Don’t forget to leave a review on Apple Podcasts, it takes less time than making a coffee. You can also subscribe for free on most major podcast apps. To support the show on Patreon, either CLICK HERE you can go to Patreon and search for Age of Victoria podcast or my name. Take care and bye for now.


The story of the British Empire in South Africa continues. The first battles were being won, but the cost was blood on the soil, spilt by the British and shed by the native peoples as well as the soldiers in red. This episode covers

Intro & reviews.

Col Graham and the imperial mindset.

Warfare is a continuation of culture by other means.

The clash between British and Xhosa mindsets.

The problems perspectives on history can cause.

War, brutality, and the British establishment.

The New Men: Lord Somerset & Dr Barry.

What Florence Nightingale thought of the Doctor.

Well that is a mystery.

Lord Somerset has a plan.

Come settle me boyo’s, there’s land for all.

A new utopia.

History of Africa Podcast promo.

If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria. Don’t forget to leave a review on Apple Podcasts, it takes less time than making a coffee. You can also subscribe for free on most major podcast apps. To support the show on Patreon, either CLICK HERE you can go to Patreon and search for Age of Victoria podcast or my name. Take care and bye for now.


  1. Drum roll then because it is time to meet Victoria herself.

  2. I want to emphasise now that it was originally unlikely that the young girl would go on to be Queen. The Hanoverian and British King George III had four legitimate male children. His oldest, George would be the Prince Regent and later King George IV. He would be despised as few other English monarchs. He had married to his Catholic mistress in a secret ceremony before eventually marrying the Protestant Princess Caroline. The couple would come to hate each other with a passion almost unequalled in royal history. The Prince was loathed by a huge number of his subjects. Princess Caroline was given more sympathy, including by Jane Austin.

  3. If you listened to my previous episodes on the Mt Tambora eruption and the subsequent climate disasters they unleashed which lead to famine and mass epidemics, as well as the episode on the Peterloo massacre of 1819, you will know that he took the Maria Antoinette line of letting them all eat cake. He had compounded this with his immense spending and love of fashion whilst the people starved in poverty. He seems to have approved of the repressive measures of his Prime Minister Lord Liverpool. His carriage was stoned on one occasion, so it wasn’t just his wife who loathed him. The fickle British public turned on her when the Regent became King and he barred her from the coronation.

  4. They did manage to have a daughter, during the marriage, Princess Charlotte. She was the legitimate heir to the Throne, since the legions of illegitimate children of the various Hanoverian Dukes were excluded. When she married Prince Leopold of Coburg, the nation rejoiced. Princess Charlotte was being fetished into the perfect future monarch, an antidote to her hated father George IV. He and Charlotte had a difficult relationship and there were times when he treated her with appalling viciousness. One area where he did pay her attention was when it came to using her to wring money out of the public purse to keep her in the style the Hanoverians had become accustomed to. Lord Liverpool eventually agreed to an allowance of £50,000, plus £10,000 for the Princesses maids, and an addition £60,000 pound for furniture. This was the kind of figure that was undreamed of by almost the entire population, and could have easily paid for and outfitted a full ship of the line – sort of like if the US decided to spend the cost of an aircraft carrier on a Presidents 4 year wages. Since this was at the height of the year without summer, and the massive famines, it was incredibly resented. Her wedding dress cost an additional £10,000.

  5. Still, unlike her father at his wedding, she and the groom were deeply in love. Popular adulation of the couple reached a fever pitch. Prince Leopold was unlike the Regent; he didn’t have rages and spend recklessly or turn into a belligerent drunk. You might want to remember Leopold, the man who was almost King because he will pop up in this podcast more than once as Victoria’s Uncle Leopold.

  6. I’d like to point out that if you only know about the Prince Regent from the old Blackadder show, s3 when he was played as a loveable idiot by Hugh Laurie then this might be shocking. Blackadder went easy on him. That’s because TV can’t make a main character too unlikeable otherwise you won’t support them. Usually the way they do it is by making a nasty person a bit stupid, a bit out of touch and more self centred than nasty. That works for TV, but it hides the real character of the historical person. The people of Britain in 1819 would probably have absolutely killed to have the Blackadder version.

  7. The real Prince Regent was vain, arrogant, totally selfish, petty, spiteful, clever, vindictive and ultra conservative. He was also obscenely impatient for his father to die so he could be king. Astonishingly the Duke of Wellington loathed him, and considered him worse than Louie XVIII. When he eventually became king, he weighed 245 pounds, was addicted to Opium and had a 51” waist. He was a huge Jane Austin fan, purchasing Sense and Sensibility before it was released and offering her suggestions for improvement, but she hated his guts. Plus telling Jane Austin how to write is the ultimate piece of Mansplaining.

  8. His wife said he was a bad king but would have made a great hairdresser. He certainly had an eye for art, and he was at least responsible for a large part of the exquisite restoration and redesign of Windsor Castle. He had the overall Gothic design rolled out to the whole building, including increasing the height of the grand tower, more striking battlements, new towers, new apartments, new grand corridors and a riot of incredible styles inside the rooms. Work wasn’t finished till after his death, but the modern skyline of Windsor Castle is down to George IV. Typically of him it cost an absolute fortune whilst the poor continued to starve and suffer.

  9. As I said in the previous main episode on Peterloo, even after the massacre he was immensely unpopular and was the subject of vitriolic attacks in the press and from reformers. I mentioned the vicious satire that went on after the massacre targeting the despised Prince Regent.

  10. Princess Charlotte soon fell pregnant and the nation was enraptured. She was determined to please her serious husband and live up to his ideals. That included the always popular habit of promptly settling bills rather than running up debts. The increasingly fat and unhealthy Prince Regent would surely not live a long life and now the heir was on the verge of having an heir. Leopold shrewdly used the opportunity to press his sister, Victorie on one of the Prince Regents Brothers, The Duke of Kent.

  11. The future seemed rosey. Disaster struck during the pregnancy. Princess Charlotte was weak and listless. The royal doctors argued and Sir Richard Croft took over sole treatment of the patient. He decided what was needed was to reduce the weight of the baby and mother, so a rigorous course of diet and bleeding was required. In November a long labour stretched to 36 hours. A nearly starved Charlotte lost all her energy by the end. The doctors panicked. They came to the view forceps would be needed, but the lack of sterility meant these often killed even no one understood why. No doctor wanted to be blamed for killing the only legitimate heir to the throne. Almost inevitably the poor child was still born.

  12. Only after birth did the doctors decide to do something. They tried to remove the placenta with their bare hands and gave the grieving Leopold a powerful sedative. He would not wake up in time to see his wife’s agonising death. Charlotte was left alone after the birth in an act of breath taking complacency. She later woke in incredible pain and died bleeding badly. The nation was plunged into grief and despair. Bryon would include lines in his great poem Child Harold about the event.

  13. That sounds like medical incompetence and we will often see during the podcast that Royal medical care was usually bad because the doctors were appointed for the wrong reasons and were too busy sucking up to their patient to do the job properly. Still we haven’t been into the history and life story of these doctors. Plus their tools and medical knowledge lacked some of the most important parts of modern medicine like germ theory. Picture some men dressed a little like Mr Darcy in a Jane Austin adaptation with nothing more than brandy, needle and tread, forceps, scalpels and clamps, and perhaps a tincture of poppy juice. That’s not much to work with for a modern doctor during a difficult labour. Let alone with Regency era medical knowledge. They had no ultra sounds or even a basic stethoscope. Sir Richard Croft never recovered from the experience. At another difficult birth, he broke down, took out a pistol and blew his brains out.

  14. The nobility were equally upset, except for the Prince Regents surviving brothers. The race to be the first to produce a legitimate heir to the throne was on.

  15. Ok, let’s break that down a bit. The Prince Regent couldn’t produce a legitimate heir unless he could divorce the wife he loathed and re-marry. He would be King if he outlived his father, but the throne would have to go to a legitimate brother. Historian Kate Williams notes in her excellent book “Becoming Queen”
    [QUOTE] The King was wailing in madness at Windsor and the Prince Regent was estranged from his wife. Unless the Prince or one of his siblings had a child, the Hanoverian line would be at an end. It has been calculated that George III had an astonishing 56 grandchildren but did not have one legitimate heir. The vision of Charlotte had sustained the people through the direst years of the Regency. Without her all hope seemed gone. [END QUOTE]

  16. The nation was horrified. The Prince Regents daughters were all too old to have children. I’m afraid this means we need to pause and have a look now at the complex family tree of the Hanoverians. At the top we have George III. The mad king. I emphasise mad, because the spectre of his madness would haunt the family & be used as a weapon against Victoria.

  17. He had four legitimate sons.

  18. Since the Royal Marriages Act 1772 said the sons could only marry with Royal Approval, which would never be given for the marriage to a mistress, they were unmarried and not producing legitimate heirs. Succession was by Primogentiure. The Throne passed to the sons in order of birth, then passed to the daughters in order, going down the line. So a king with 2 sons means that the eldest son gets the throne, but if he dies childless it would then go to his brother. If however the son who inherited the throne had a daughter, she would inherit the Throne, but if she had a younger brother it would skip down to him.
    For us then, remember that the Prince Regent was 1st in line for the Throne, then Frederick, then William, then Edward. You can see how dramatically an heir would change things for the individuals in a family.

  19. The Duke of York was estranged from his wife. He would be heir presumptive for a while when the Prince Regent became George IV, but died too soon. He is mostly remembered for the Nursery Rhyme “The Grand Old Duke of York” which is totally unfair since he did in large part reform the army & much of the Napoleonic British Army was a result of his activities. History can be like that, and at least everyone will remember him. The Duke of Sussex was in an illegal marriage so ruled himself out.

  20. That left the Dukes of Clarence, Cambridge, and Kent as possibly able to produce a legitimate heir. This wasn’t a trivial thing. The monarchy was the central foundation of the constitution, albeit that most functional power rested with Parliament. A vacant throne could lead to anything from minor squabbling to all out European war as various claimants appeared out of the woodwork.
    The brothers were all hated almost as much as the Prince Regent. The thought of the brutal Ernest, Duke of Cumberland becoming King seemed terrifying and he was surrounded with rumours of murder and incest. Of them all, the Duke of Kent was regarded as probably the best. All of the brothers had illegitimate children, so surely if they married at least one would produce an heir at least. Parliament was also adamant – “Get on with it” As soon as Charlotte died, the brothers were pressed to get married.

  21. First off when the starting gun fired was the Duke of Cambridge, who proposed to Augusta Princess of Hesse-Cassel in 10 days.

  22. William, Duke of Clarence aged 52 quickly followed with a marriage to Princess Amelia of Saxe Meinengen despite him being in love with another woman who he had got involved with after jilting his long term mistress and another suitor. Princess Amelia was only 25. Still she was intelligent, kind and willing to be step mother to the Dukes 10 illegitimate children. Her patience must have been nearly saintly.

  23. In 1814 Ernest, Duke of Cumberland married Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz but the pair were intensely disliked and their daughter was still born in 1817. Dark rumours surrounded them concerning murder, and their daughter had been still born.

  24. Finally the Prince Edward, Duke of Kent entered the race. He had been eating breakfast with his long term mistress Thérèse-Bernardine Montgenet when they learned from the paper of the prospect of all the brothers racing to marry, with the Duke of Kent ’s name linked to some of Leopold’s sisters. The Duke of Kent naturally reassured his lover of 28 years that he would never, ever leave her. Nice try there but we all know how that’s going to turn out when the throne of the United Kingdom is up for grabs.

  25. It was vital for the dukes, all of whom had been living in massive debt, & were expecting the public to bail them out eventually. Even the rockiest rock of the establishment, bastion of the old order par excellence and supporter of Loius XVIII, the Duke of Wellington considered them [QUOTE] The damnedest millstones about the necks of any government that might be imagined. [END QUOTE]

  26. Still, someone had to be put on the Throne. If not one of the Dukes with a child, then to whom could the nation turn? A foreign duke? An English one? A descendent of the House of Stuart? One of the Habsburg’s? All of these prospects were fraught with immense difficulties. Could England by wrecked by a War of English Succession as Spain had been. Were England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales really ready to play the Game of Thrones? Was England to become a battleground for Austria, Prussia and Spain with rival claimants. Would thousands die, fortunes be drained and fields burnt by rival claimants & continental mercenaries & adventurers? Could the United Kingdom splinter like Italy? The country was in dire straights as you know from the Mt Tambora & Peterloo episodes I did. To add a war of succession would have been catastrophic.

  27. To ensure stability the Duke of Kent was adamant that he was prepared to make the supreme sacrifice of becoming King or father of the heir. He was doing it for his country, trusting only that they would give him a generous allowance and pay off his small debts as he called them, which was frankly stretching the term small. He had a genuinely mixed military record ranging from being AWOL, to being brave enough to be mentioned in dispatches & receiving the thanks of Parliament for his West Indies campaign, and he did excellent military & civil engineering work in Nova Scotia. But he was trained as a harsh disciplinarian, perhaps against his natural character. This lead to him being sent to Gibraltar to restore order to the forces there, only to tip them into outright mutiny with his brutality. In fairness, things were already especially bad there so it was perhaps unavoidable. His mistress stood by him through all this, making the later abandonment of her particularly harsh.

  28. Victoria’s father did have good qualities. He was brave, self disciplined, and according to the Duke of Wellington, he was an excellent public speaker. He was 6’ tall, tough, well muscled & didn’t live a wild life of drinking and parties like his brothers. He was a bit of a romantic. He had smuggled love letters for Princess Charlotte to Leopold, and seems to have been her favourite uncle. He was a patron of 53 charities, he was a liberal as understood in the early C19th, intelligent, and interested in good government unlike his brothers. He supported popular education, Catholic emancipation, and the abolition of slavery. Princess Victorie had rebuffed him once before Charlotte died when he was secretly hunting for wives behind his mistresses back to get himself out of debt.

  29. The death of Princess Charlotte changed things immensely. The Duke was penniless but in line for the throne. He was in robust good health and confident he would outlive his dissolute brothers. Leopold was determined his sister would marry the Duke. Intense negotiations followed and Victorie finally agreed once her terms were met. It long shot as it was with all the other brothers, but who knew, maybe she would be Queen of the United Kingdom or at least the Queen Mother.

  30. Victorie was a fine match. She got points straight away for not being French or having any Napoleonic attachments. She was from Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, that had suffered from Napoleon’s snatch of Germany territory, but was Protestant, known to be fertile and had a pleasant personality combine with a cheery nature, rosy cheeks, brown hair and a plump short figure. They soon found themselves, against the odds, actually in love. In later life Queen Victoria read her mothers notebooks after the Duchess died, and was amazed by [QUOTE] How very, very much she and my beloved father loved each other. Such love and affection, I hardly knew it was to that extent. [END QUOTE] As a digression, the sad thing about quoting Victoria’s diaries is that it can’t show you the wonderful emphasises that she does in her text with underlining and italics that show you that she was probably writing just how she would have spoken.

  31. Whilst Parliament was pleased with marriages, it was not happy with paying large allowances. The Prince Regent redoubled his efforts to get a divorce from his hated wife.

  32. On 29 May in 1818 the Duke and Duchess of Kent married in Coburg in Germany, then returned to England. The Prince Regent had agreed to have the wedding solemnised at Kew by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Theythen moved back to Germany to save money, escape the Dukes growing debts and make the Duchess Victorie happier.

  33. This might surprise you, but the couple actually seemed to have a happy marriage. The Duke was patient with his wife’s poor English, he gave her affection and she seemed to enjoy having a man to rely on. He enjoyed her good looks, her connection to Leopold and even congratulated himself on having treated his mistress so well during the breakup, although I don’t think she entirely agreed.

  34. The Duke was happy to go to Germany, and now we introduce some really key players in Victoria’s early life. Princess Victorie had a daughter from her previous marriage named Feo dora, who would be Victoria’s half sister, and the Duke of Kent brought to the family ensemble a 32 year Irishman called Sir John Conroy. If you have even a passing knowledge of Victoria’s childhood and life you will know what an immense impact he would have on her.

  35. News came in November 1818 that the Duke of Clarence’s child died after a premature birth. The Duke of Kent knew that they had to get back to England now to put their expected child into the limelight. Sir John Conroy was an efficient organiser and sorted the trip so in March 1819, despite being 8 months pregnant, the Duchess of Kent travelled to England on the royal yacht, grudgingly sent by the Prince Regent.

  36. After a short 6 hour labour, the Duchess of Kent gave birth to a health baby girl. The event was witnessed by the Duke of Wellington, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, the future Prime Minister George Canning, the Duke of Sussex and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Duke of Kent himself. No one would be able to question the little girls legitimacy or the circumstances of her birth at 16:15 on 24 May 1819 at Kensington Palace. She was 5th in line to the throne. A series of unlikely deaths brought her to the throne.

  37. The family and relatives were overjoyed. The baby was described as a
    [QUOTE] pretty little princess, as plump as a partridge [END QUOTE]. The Duchess of Kent was delighted. She even decided to breast feed the baby. This really wasn’t common for noble women at the time and probably caused a few raised eyebrows. It also had the critical effect of delaying any further pregnancies.

  38. Ironically very nearby in Saxe-Coburg, the sister in law of Leopold and the Duchess of Kent gave birth to a boy called Francis Charles Augustus Albert Emmanuel better known to history as Prince Albert, delivered by the same obstetrician Frau Charlotte Siebold. He was Victoria’s first cousin. The Duke of Kent was thrilled with having a healthy daughter, and was happy to boast about it.

  39. The Prince Regent was less than thrilled about hearing the news. The Prince Regent might be fat, hated, ill and often heavily dosed with laudanum but he could still manage to be spiteful. He declared the child would only get a small christening. No dress uniforms or public celebrations. This was a big slap in the face for the Duke of Kent. In an age when symbolism really, really mattered, forcing a low key minor ceremony denied the Kents and the child the proper level of ceremony that was due their social rank.

  40. Much to the Prince Regents irritation, Tsar Alexander of Russia offered to sponsor the child and even the Prince Regent couldn’t outright reject the powerful Tsar.

  41. The Tsars intervention made the naming difficulty. Originally she was going to be named Victorie Georgiana Alexandrina Charlotte Augusta. Now at this point you are probably thinking, “Hang on, you are supposed to be telling us about Victoria, the English Queen. Are you sure you’ve got the right baby? She sounds like a German aristocrat with connections to Russia.” I hear you metaphorical listener. But bare with me here. We really have got the right baby. That or Barry Allen has been messing with the time lines again.

  42. Anyway the night before the christening the Prince Regent decided he wasn’t happy with the name. He couldn’t put his feminised name ahead of the Tsars name, only the actual King could do that without giving offence. But being the Prince Regent and frankly a bit of a dick, he wasn’t going to go after the Tsars name either so he did what he did best. He made it all about him and told everyone he was going to choose the names. Charlotte as a name was out for a start. Which you can at least understand due to the grief of losing his but still.
    Not that he made up his mind quickly. At 15:00 on 24 June 1819, the actual heir to the English throne and all the guests including the Archbishop of Canterbury were in the Cupola Room at the christening in Kensington Palace waiting on the name. I like to think of the Archbishop there, in his absolute finery, dropping hints about how this would be a lot easier if the baby had an actual name for this event. He probably said he would even notte spelling.

  43. The Prince Regent decided she was going to be called Alexandrina. The Duke of Kent asked if she could have a second name, as you know was the custom and we did give you a long list remember. How about Elizabeth the Duke suggested. That’s got pedigree. The Prince Regent said no, reducing the Duchess of Kent to tears, and then he virtually snapped and said [QUOTE] Give her the mothers name also then, but it cannot precede that of the Emperor. [END QUOTE] So if any of you are still baffled by why the whole country hated the guy, it is stuff like this.

  44. Importantly for us though, the little girl and possible heir to the Throne had a name; Alexandrina. Future Queen Alexandrina of England. Wait, what? Ok well the full name was Alexandrina Victoria. According to Historian Kate Williams at a lecture she gave in Winchester, the name Victoria was chosen as the mothers name Victorie was French and so to Anglicise it and turn it into Latin it had to be turned into Victoria. Which is the first time the name is ever used in England. Seriously, Queen V was always going to be a trend setter. Not that anyone called her Queen yet, or V or even Victoria. When she was a baby her mother referred to her as “Vickelchen.” Mostly she was called by her nickname “Drina” short for Alexandrina. When she became Queen she decided to adopt Victoria as a regnal name and drop the Alexandrina. Like everything else in her childhood, things had been rough and unfair to the little girl. We will find out more next time.

  45. Before we go then, I’ve got some scheduling announcements. As you know, it is December and Christmas is a big thing for the family & I. So I will be releasing some kind of short episode just before Xmas – I’ve got an idea or two up my sleeve.

  46. There will not be a release of a main narrative show till February. I simply won’t have time over Christmas to sort it out. So the next main show will be on 01 February. I’ll try to give you a nice minisode in January to tide everyone over. If I can grab a enough time I’ll also try to start re-mastering the first three episodes of the show.

  47. Right, I’ll get on with the Christmas show, wrapping presents, and doing my new role at work, which is incredibly challenging. One day I might do a podcast series on it or write a book for posterity.


In this show we are going to cover one of the key events in the lead into the period of Victoria’s life. It was very much a pebble that started a landslide throughout the Victorian era. We will be talking about Manchester and the Peterloo massacre. 

  1. The United Kingdom in 1819 was not a happy place. In fact it teetered on the brink of disaster. If you’ve listened to my episodes on the year without summer 1816, and  heard about the climate disasters that caused food shortages and famines world wide, then you will know that not only was Britain struggling with a post Napoleonic War slump, but it was doing it during a period massive climate disturbance. Against the backdrop of all the daily struggles, a historic even occurred. The notorious Peterloo Massacre.

  2. Against the backdrop of all the struggle, a historic event occurred. The notorious Peterloo Massacre. Food rioting had continued since 1816 as desperate people tried to get food. Remember when I say desperate, I mean really desperate because they and their families were literally starving to death with no prospect of employment, and when I say people I mean huge portions of the population. 

  3. There was a popular song written in the 1820’s called “Hand Weavers Lament” sung quite often by the Lancashire weavers that captures the feeling of the masses during the period up to 1830. [QUOTE] You gentlemen and tradesmen, that ride about at will, Look down on these poor people; its enough to make you chill,  Look down on these poor people, as you ride up and down. I think there is a God above will your pride quite down. Chorus You tyrants of England, your race may soon be run.You may be brought to account for what you’ve sorely done. You pull down our wages, shamefully to tell. You go into markets and say you cannot sell and when that we do ask you when these bad times will mend. You quickly give an answer ‘when the wars are at an end’ [END QUOTE]

  4. Well the wars were over, but times were desperately hard for nearly everyone outside the upper class, or the upper middle class. The climate disaster caused by Mt Tambora and the post war economic collapse had left people utterly destitute.

  5. The problems in British society were more deep rooted. The main view people usually have when they talk about the industrial revolution is that everyone except a few aristocrats started out poor, but then the industrial revolution happened and everyone got richer. If pressed they might say that perhaps people working in the factories had it hard, but in the end everyone was better off. This kind of fits with the history as an upward progress view that a lot of people have. You know the kind you see on the wall chart at school. We start off with the stone age, and they are really badly off and it is terrible, then comes the farmers and everyone is better fed, then the Egyptians and this people from the bible with the complicated names, and then there’s the Greeks and Romans and things get really good, and those ungrateful barbarians ruin it all for everyone, but then we get to the middle ages and the Reneissance, and then the enlightenment which is when we doing amazing science, then the industrial revolution happens and everyone gets better food and clothes, then we get the craziness of WW1 and WW2, then we finally get to now at the top of the chart.

  6. As you carry on listening to this show you will start to notice how silly this wall chart really is. History isn’t a march of progress, although a lot of Victorians might have claimed it was. Instead, the chart we talked about is really showing a history of the development of technology. That’s fine, I’d accept that for most purposes the development of writing is a really fantastic achievement and the phonetic alphabet is superior to the hieroglyphic one. The problem with this chart, is it really doesn’t take account of individuals and what we might call everyday realities. Think of history as more like a tide coming in on a beach in a cove. Most of the time, the tide is coming up the beach, so it is rising, but sometimes the waves retreat a little bit more than the previous waves did. Perhaps some of the tide washes over a beloved sandcastle and cuts some people off from shore. At the end of the day the tide is in, the fishing boats can go out and everyone is basically better off, but a few trapped people drowned along the way. 

  7. Maybe not my best metaphor, but I think you can see why the wall chart is a bit off. What I’m saying is that even if society appears better off, it doesn’t mean individuals or even huge numbers of people in society can’t be worse off even as technology improves. A lot of it depends on your perspective. For those of us living in the modern Western World (including Australia) looking back, the industrial revolution was great, we got railways, refrigeration, modern medicine, mass education and sanitation, but those weren’t immediate or universal. Plus we also got unbelievably deadly weapons by historical standards. Guns like the Martini Henry, effective out to 400 yards firing 12 rounds a minute. That was welcomed by the Victorian British soldier, but it brought deaths to tens of thousands of people around the world. The views of a Native American or the Australian Indigenous people’s on how the wall chart really looked, and where they appeared on it, would be very different.

  8. I’m going to quote from historian E.P.Thompson on how uneven the gains of the industrial revolution actually were [QUOTE] In fifty years of the Industrial Revolution the working class share of the national product had almost certainly fallen relative to the share of the property owning and professional classes. The average working man remained very close to subsistence level at a time when he was surrounded by the evidence of the increase national wealth, much of it transparently the product of his own labour, and passing, by equally transparent means, into the hands of his employers. In psychological terms this felt very much like a decline in standards. His own share in the benefits of economic progress consisted of more potatoes, a few articles of cotton clothing for his family, soap, candles, some tea and sugar and a great many articles in the Economic History review [END QUOTE]

  9. Now as I’ve often said reality is far, far more complicated. Even if this linear progress view was right, it still meant upheaval for people swept along with the tide. But ask yourself, do you really think the bulk of the population knew about the macro economic changes, the future potential, or that they would have cared if they did, when they and their 8 year son were working 12 hour days for pennies in immensely dangerous conditions whilst their wives and daughters did piece work, scrimped and schemed to make tiny amounts of food last for weeks. In my view it is a persistent failure of economists that they can’t understand what is good for the wider economy can have no effect on large numbers of individuals. There was real anger out there in Britain in the period known as old corruption after the Napoleonic Wars. The pressure for reform was intense, but the resistance was stubborn.

  10. Journalist William Hazlitt was vitriolic about the Tory government. I’m going to give you a quote of Hazlitt’s from the abridged quote in Simon Schama’s History of England. Hazlitt gave a scathing description of a Tory who was  [QUOTE] a blind idolator of old times and long established customs…. A Tory never objects to increasing the power of the Crown, or abridging the liberties of the people, or even calls in question the justice or wisdom of any measure of government. A Tory never objects to increasing the powers of the Crown, or abridging the liberties of the people or even in calls in question the justice or wisdom of any measures of government. A Tory considers sinecure places and pensions as sacred and inviolable, to reduce or abolish which would be unjust and dangerous….accuse those who differ with him on political subjects of being Jacobins, revolutionaries, and enemies to their country. A Tory highly values a long pedigree and ancient families, and despises low born persons (the newly created nobility excepted), adores coronets, stars, garters, ribbons, crosses and titles of all sorts. A Tory deems martial law the best remedy for discontent….considers corporal punishment as necessary, mild and salutary, notwithstanding soldiers and sailors frequently commit suicide to escape from it, sees no hardship a persons being confined for that years in Fleet prison, on an allowance of 6p a day for contempt of the Court of Chancery. A Tory is averse to instructing the poor, lest they should be enabled to and reason and reads no poetry but birthday odes and verses in celebration of the battle of Waterloo. [END QUOTE]

  11. There’s quite a lot of journalistic exaggeration in there, and as Schama rightly notes a lot of the Whig reformers could be pretty aristocratic. Plus Hazlitt was a man who went on a 4 day grief stricken bender when he heard Napoleon  had lost Waterloo, so he’s not exactly unbiased when it comes to the establishment. What makes it so compelling is there are lots of sources that back a lot of this up. The Tory government, and the Prince Regent were dead set against any kind of reform.

  12. So if you were a poor worker or unemployed soldier who sees that there is no way the government is going to bring in reforms to help, what do you do? Anger and frustration build up. What’s the old phrase of John F Kennedy’s? Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent revolution inevitable. 

  13. One of the places the dam was about to break was in Manchester. During the Victorian period it could rightly claim to have been one of the most important cities in the world. At the moment, all you need to know is that Manchester was becoming a mass industrial city, was experiencing colossal economic upheavals and massive unemployment, especially amongst the hand weavers & ex-soldiers, at a time when it was struggling to cope with mass immigration and huge urban growth. 

  14. Cotton from around the world flowed into Liverpool docks and then into Manchester. India, America, or Egypt all sent cotton to Manchester where it was transformed by the great engines of industry – machine and human. Washing, bleaching, spinning, dying, packing. Manchester had an unquenchable thirst for cotton to feed its machines. That thirst stretched to humans to run the factories and mills, in conditions that were slavery in all but name. Like any boom town, it grew and grew. Farm houses and fields were buried under urban sprawl. Hills were flattened, and trees felled. Maps could barely keep up with the changes. Poor Irish mingled with desperate English labourers. They were joined by Scots fleeing the Highlands or Glasgow, along with Greeks in the 1820’s and Italian’s in the 1840’s. In 1801 it was the second largest city in the United Kingdom. Urban planning and sanitation was completely absent. Levels of squalor amongst the poor were shocking. It was the very definition of the boom town, one of the first in the world.

  15. It is ironic to note that many major towns and cities were, according to Thompson, experiencing a decline in standards of planning, sanitation and overall quality of life compared to the early first wave of industrial development in the 1770s, and were markedly less wholesome than the country living patterns they replaced despite the rural poverty and hunger.

  16. Machester was also experiencing religious upheaval with a huge mix of church of England and non-conformists butting heads. The non-conformists were typically Baptists, Quakers, Presbyterians, Unitarians and other dissenters. Often these religious networks helped industrialists make fortunes especially amongst the Quakers, who networked furiously. The downside of these tight knit religious groups was that they viewed success as coming from God, so therefore poverty was a result of sin or being pre-ordained by God, especially for the Calvinists. Some of more extreme non-conformists viewed long hours and long wages as a divine requirement, and Manchester suffered badly from a lack of public spaces like parks, gardens or public squares. This had the impact of making sanitation  even harder and air quality lower, quite apart from making the lives of most citizens pretty bleak.

  17. It was a deeply unsettled city and had experience riots and demonstrations since at least 1812 with little evidence of change for the better for the bulk of the population. The rich were becoming increasingly screened off from the poor, and had little knowledge of the hellish life in the slums and hidden courtyards. None of the rich had to queue for water from a public drinking tap whilst standing in an open sewer. Probably the tap was shared by several streets, and whilst you have to watch your children play in the garbage. Perhaps you can see why the army was such an attractive prospect after all. 

  18. But for the desperate people, there was hope. His name was actually Henry Hunt. Radical speaker. Champion of reform and the people. A wealthy gentleman farm, he was criticised by the establishment for his activism, and nearly everyone for his peacock like vanity, but no one on any side doubted his bravery or his gift for oratory. He was scheduled to speak at a rally in Manchester. The crowd were excited and chanted jaunty slogans like “Unity and Strength” and also “Liberty and Fraternity” but most provocatively of all to the establishment, “No corn laws” Many mothers and children were there, some luckier ones with food for picnics. Henry Hunt wasn’t the only reformer by any means.  Church groups and workers groups were present. Some religious groups lined up with the establishment, whilst others sympathised with the poor. Strangely some of the establishment were more frightened if the great demonstration wasn’t a violent rabble, but a peaceful and well ordered one. It hinted to the establishment mind that the Waterloo veterans in the amongst the demonstrators had been drilling them in military training and that could only mean one thing..…revolution.

  19. Naturally this caused the Manchester authorities to go into a panic. Because if there is one thing the British establishment have always hated, it is any suggestion that the population is entitled to protest. They were expected to bare their terrible situations with appropriate fortitude, keeping calm and carrying on, and not moan about starving to death and threaten their betters with disorder. This wasn’t a trivial point. It was a rigid cultural belief. As real to many as the notion of say the right to freedom of speech is today. The authorities believed in a hierarchy, usually with God and Monarchy at the top. To disturb that order, was to create anarchy and the kind of murder they associated with the middle ages and the French revolution, or to invite dictatorships in the style of Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, or Tsar Alexander. If you are still struggling to get into the aristocratic mindset, you might like to think about the Samurai. Imagine you went in your time machine to convince a British aristocrat that there should be a labour rights movement, votes for all and the abolition of the old social order.   He says the whole point of the restricted voting system is to prevent the population having a say because are a dangerous, uneducated, stupid mob who would vote to steal property without working for it, and ruin the country. You can’t get him to agree. Perhaps he keeps talking about the natural order of things, about breeding and class, and the need for an organised society based on custom. You perhaps experience the modern feelings of disgust? 

  20. Well now imagine you went to Japan in your time machine. You meet a young Samurai whose lord has told him he has shown cowardice in a conflict of some kind. You listen and it is a trivial fight in a village. The young Samurai was clearly outnumbered and it was sensible for him to back down. He insists that he has dishonoured his family and his Lord. He didn’t display adequate fortitude and his Lord has lost face, bringing great shame on his family. He is adamant that he will commit Sepuku and is grateful that his Lord is allowing him this honour to redeem himself with a good death. 

  21. To a modern person, it is crazy, we wouldn’t commit suicide just because we back down from a fight where we were outnumbered and sure to lose. But the young Samurai might reply “that’s because you are weak. Inferior. You have no concept of honour or loyalty or duty, or a good death.”  A lot of modern people, especially if they watch martial arts movies and listen to podcasts, pretty much go “I don’t agree, but I accept that was the Samurai culture and it was very rigid and they weren’t going to give it up for anyone. I totally understand how this was part of their identity.” Yet those very same hypothetical listeners struggle with the idea that the world view of the British upper or middle class property owner of the early 1800’s was just as fundamental to him and he wouldn’t flex it anymore than the Samurai would. Now when you’ve got your head round that, you need to think how you would react if you lived in New York city and a group of ISIS supports announced they were going to have a march supporting the abolition of the US government and the establishment of a really hard line theocracy. And 60,000 of them are going to be turning up for this march. Because for the Manchester authorities and the wider establishment, that’s exactly what this protest felt like. 

  22. There’s a circular issued by the Methodist Committee that shows just this mindset, expressing [QUOTE] strong and decided disapprobation of certain tumultuous assemblies which have lately been witnessed in several parts of the country in which large masses of people have been irregularly collected (often under banners bearing the most shocking and impious descriptions) calculated both from the infidel principles the wild and delusive political theories and the violent and inflammatory declamations to bring all government into contempt and introduce universal discontent, insubordination and anarchy. [END QUOTE]

  23. There’s one big difference though, and that’s the mindset of the Samurai was built around a really conservative philosophy. It was one that didn’t include a political system with checks and balances that was designed to provide mechanisms for social and legal change. The British system did have what you could call the safety valves of the enlightenment, freedom of the press, and the rule of law. Feudal Japan couldn’t create reformers like Henry Hunt or a free press, capable of changing the minds of the aristocracy and the establishment. Can you imagine 60,000 Japanese peasants turning up outside the Shogun’s castle or the Emperors Palace and demanding land reform? But in Britain there was a view that you certainly were allowed to do this kind of protest by long establish right and custom. The population felt their ancient liberties to assemble and protest weren’t being respected. Later, after Peterloo, at the trial of Henry Hunt, the Judge introduced proceedings by stating that the right of assembly and petition did exist, but it had to be done in a formal way and be called by the Lord Lieutenant of the County to present a petition to the King or Parliament. You can imagine how often that would happen in practice. He expressly stated that it couldn’t just be an assembly called by anyone, otherwise anyone could decide to assemble a group of protestors and that wasn’t constitutional; he made the comparison to ancient Athens and pointed out that yes the citizens certainly could assemble to discuss laws as per the Ancient Athenian constitution, but they didn’t let just everyone do it, why slaves were rightly excluded he chortled. I can’t imagine that made Henry Hunt feel reassured when the trial opened.

  24. In the run up to the protest, one local magistrate, had written to the Home Office expressing his concerns about revolution and got this reply from Henry Hobhouse, under secretary at the Home Office  [QUOTE] strongly confirms the opinion long held by his Lordship that your Country will not be tranquillised, until Blood shall have been shed either by the Law or the Sword. Lord Sidmouth will not fail to be prepared for either alternative, and is confident that he will be adequately supported by the Magistracy of Lancashire. [END QUOTE]

  25. Throughout June the Home Office had been urging the magistrates to make mass arrests at protest meetings, but the magistrates seem to have been worried that mass trials would blow the cover of their net work of informants and sources. The Home Office was clearly getting exasperated at the lack of arrests, but the magistrates were in a serious bind. The meetings during June were all peaceful, with no weapons or incitements to violence or anything else that could justify arrests.

  26. Minds made up, the local magistrate issued a warrant for Henry Hunts arrest. Now since this is before Sir Robert Peel formed the first police force, getting someone to perform the arrest was tricky. The local court staff and thief takers wouldn’t be up for the job in front of the huge crowd. The special constables sworn in weren’t going to be up to the job either. Instead they decided the best thing was to send in the yeoman cavalry. Naturally as this was a military deployment against unarmed civilians in a potentially tense situation, it would have to be handled delicately. Sadly for everyone, the situation at Peterloo was going to be very different from previous protests. The government had wanted to take a very strong line with the reform movement in Manchester, but the local authorities wanted to be even tougher than perhaps the government planned.

  27. The problem the government and local authorities had is that they don’t have a police force in the way we understand it today. Instead there was a patchy arrangement of local constables, sworn in for specific events and perhaps local court officers and thief takers to back up the magistrates. 

  28. The city of Glasgow has established a actual police force in 1800, but it was tiny. Less than 100 men,  and that was if you included the 68 back up city watchmen. The city of Manchester was huge and the demonstration was expected to be up to 60,000 people. That’s a huge number even for a modern police force. The special constables that the Manchester authorities appointed didn’t have access to the huge array of tools that modern police had. They had at best, horses, clubs of some form and maybe sabres with none of the complex logistic and planning resources a modern police force has available.

  29. That’s might still sound pretty nasty, but if there’s only a few hundred of you against a crowd of 60,000 well that wouldn’t seem a whole lot would it? Maybe it’ll be ok, and the crowd will be peaceful, but what if it isn’t? The press of that huge number of people alone could overwhelm a small number of constables or the yeomanry. To put it in perspective, those numbers are almost as large as a couple of French corps at Waterloo. When you look at it just on the numbers, it is terrifying to deal with even if you are committed to minimising any risk of people getting hurt and the Manchester Authorities certainly weren’t by the way.

  30. So if you are the authorities what do you do? Well you turn to the one institution that you know you can rely on. You turn to the military. Now there’s a problem with using soldiers like this. There’s a great quote from the new Battlestar Galactica about this problem “There’s a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people,”

  31. The government had appointed Sir John Byng, Earl of Stafford, as military commander of the northern forces. He was a tough military veteran of Waterloo, where he had commanded the 2nd Guards Brigade, which was involved in defending Hougemont. He was ok with taking this command. He arranged to make sure he has overwhelming forces for the job too. He arranged to have the 15 Hussars, the Dragoon Guards, the 88th Foot and the 31st foot ready on a war footing and he persuaded the Duke of Wellington to give him a couple of 6 pounder horse artillery. It isn’t exactly the choice you would think a government would make to lead a peace keeping police action against its own citizens. Still, the government precisely didn’t really see them as their own citizens. They were viewed as potential rebels and traitors. The idea of legitimate protest for much needed political change simply wasn’t recognised.

  32. Another big problem was a split in command. On previous occasions, when the military were sent to Lancashire to put down protests, senior military officers usually took control of the local yeomanry and militia’s away from the control of the local authorities and firmly subordinated them to the military command structure. Responsibility was clear.

  33. The Earl of Stafford didn’t take critical step. His predecessor, Sir Thomas Maitland when he had put down the luddite rebellions had taken over command of the local yeoman, and constables, and put them firmly under military command, not under civilian command. The Earl of Stafford didn’t do that. The local yeoman, the local cavalry and the local constables were all answering to the local magistrates. The professional soldiers were all under the command of Earl of Stafford. That’s going to be a huge issue in this narrative, because in a stroke of appalling timing, on the day of the Peterloo massacre, the Earl of Stafford wan’t there. 

  34. On previous occasions, when the military were sent to Lancashire to put down protests, responsibility was clear. On the day of the protest, the military and civilians were answering to very difficult people, with very different idea’s of what to do. But at Peterloo, that critical clarity of mission and rules of engagement weren’t present. The Earl was supreme military commander of the north, so he would obviously be able to outrank any civilian or militia officer if he wanted. But what about his deputy Col L’Estrange? Was he supposed to assume command, or just hang back and wait for a call for help, or was he supposed to defer to the local authorities?

  35. When the orator Henry Hunt had arrived in Manchester, the authorities had panicked a little and overreacted with some hysteria. This got to the point of seriously annoying the Earl, who felt they were jumping at shadows. Basically he told the authorities, look don’t keep asking for soldiers if there’s nothing going on. You’ve got your men, I’m going to be in York for a while and that’s absolutely nothing to do with attending the famous horse races, but you’ve got my deputy Lt Col Guy L’Estrange, and a good size force there so stop bugging me every five minutes. The magistrates then sent him a letter saying basically yes you’re right, sorry to have been so jumpy we don’t need you here because everything seems to have calmed down.

  36. On the fateful day of the meeting, whilst the Earl attended the famous York races, a huge crowd formed in Manchester as planned. Henry Hunt himself had taken the precaution of even going to the authorities the weekend before the event and they told him, nope its all fine. Go ahead there are no plans to arrest you and this is all legal.

  37. On 16th August 60 – 80,000 people gathered on St Peter’s Field, an area  in Manchester at a meeting for parliamentary reform. Now when I’m talking about St Peter’s Field, I’m not talking about a field in the countryside outside the city. It was actually a large city square. It was surrounded by a maze of streets and a really big street called Peter’s Street that runs through it.

  38. The local authorities were present with the constables and yoeman cavalry. The local magistrates were often inexperienced and in total there were 400 special constables armed with long wooden truncheons. They also deployed 60 yeomanry troops from Manchester with another 420 from Cheshire in reserve. These didn’t anything like the standard of discipline the military had. They were notorious in the city for being recruited from shopkeepers and tradesmen. They were often seen as young, perhaps they were over excited by the imagined status the military uniform gave them. Some sources saw them as hotheaded young men, or the armed wing of the Tory party. They were referred to as a joke, or drunk and almost acting as mafia style enforcers for local businesses against the workers who wanted better wages. Quite a few owned pubs or were ironmongers. Another striking thing is that they all had really elaborate uniforms. At least as fancy as the finest of the line cavalry regiments, paid for by their local aristocratic commanders. They were sort of like toy soldiers for the local gentry. Elaborately dressed, badly trained and with a lot of new members.

  39. My personal view is that these are absolutely not the people you want facing a dangerous crowd control situation. Their colonel had even had the sabres specially sharpened to ensure they had the combat  edge. They were looking for trouble, and you know what they say – if you go looking for trouble, you will find it.

  40. The crowd was absolutely huge. Those figures I gave you are estimates. No one really knows. They were from all over the city and local area. The organisers had expressly told people attending it was to be peaceful demonstration to pile the pressure on the authorities, but also because the authorities couldn’t disperse a peaceful meeting by reading the riot act if there wasn’t any violence. The crowd had everything to lose from violence and nothing to gain. Some even turned up in their Sunday best clothes. There are women’s protests groups present and members of the churches. This was devastating for local businesses. Mills and factories found their workforce had deserted them for the day. Profit was at risk. Local Tories had sent some of their families away from the city for safety from the expected revolution.

  41. The protestors know the authorities really want to arrest Henry Hunt, reassurances or not, so they decide to form what was basically a human chain around the area he was going to be speaking. That way no constable could physically serve an arrest warrant on him. All this was being closely watched by government agents and spies. One spy caught by the reformers and given a beating, which inevitably seemed to confirm this was the beginning of a revolution that would march burn the city and bring about a reign of terror complete with madam guillotine. Those of you who listened to my joint show with Shawn Warswick on the American History podcast when we covered the American War of Independence, might notice how strikingly similar the response of the British authorities was.

  42. Just after 1:00pm the Yeomanry received an order that the Chief Constable had an arrest warrant which he needed assistance to execute, and sixty cavalrymen of the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry, led by Captain Hugh Hornby Birley, moved into the crowd. Captain Birley was a real establishment kind of guy. He wasn’t just leading the yeoman cavalry, he was also a local magistrate and a mill owner. Pretty soon they get stuck by the sheer weight of people.

  43. The regular army were watching this. They are not really that impressed with the yeomanry. See lots of those yeoman knew the army were Waterloo veterans, and the wanted a bit of that reflected glory.

  44. Col L’Estrange had really carefully deployed his troops. There were a maze of streets, but if you imagine for a moment that St Peter’s field is at the centre of a box, then just around the sides of that box on nearby streets, the government forces are deployed along each side. You’ve got the Manchester Yeomanry on the right hand side near the top corner, you’ve got the 31st Regiment at the top of the box, you’ve got the Cheshire Yeomanry on the left side edge of the box, and you’ve got the 15 Hussars and more Yeomanry down at the bottom. Tucked away in some of the side streets, you’ve got the Royal Artillery and the 88th Regiment (Connaught Rangers).

  45. Apart from the Yeomanry, these were really good troops.The regiment watching most closely at first was the 15th Hussars. It had battle honours most regiments would give their right arms for. Parts of the regiment fought the best cavalry in the French Imperial Guard Grenadiers à Cheval of the Old Guard at Waterloo and supported the mighty charge of the heavy brigade. Col Dalrymple commanding was wounded in action and knighted. This was a regiment whose honour in military terms was second to none. It is a fascinating regiment. If you wanted to write a military history of the Victorian period, you could do a lot worse than doing it from the point of view of the 15th Hussars. They served in most of the key parts of the Empire from Scotland and Ireland to India and Afghanistan and in the Boer War. They were even in Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. They weren’t local youths or hotheaded wannabe soldiers. They were the real deal and now they have a decision to make.

  46. The 15th Hussars were supported by the 88th, tucked away in side streets. It was the hard fighting Irish regiment that Wellington often used as his elite chock troops. They were famous for being the spearhead of urban assaults and were nicknamed The Devils Own and had been present at the storming of Cuidad Rodrigo and Badajoz. I’m not sure how they were suitable for policing a peaceful protest, but to put down an urban rebellion they were a perfect choice. The artillery was hidden, and L’Estrange has effectively deployed his men so that they could act against the crowd from multiple directions, and respond rapidly. It was an almost perfect military deployment for attacking a military enemy in a nurban setting. But these aren’t an enemy force. They were a crowd of unarmed civilians, so the military simply waited to see what the civilian authorities will do.

  47. Just after 13:00 the Yeomanry received an order that the Chief Constable had an arrest warrant which he needed assistance to execute. Immediately things started going wrong. They are going to keep going wrong and lead to one of the most notorious incidents of the age, one that would be instrumental in collapsing a lot of the old political order further down the road. It was the first in the chain of dominoes and right here, the first domino was pushed over. The note was supposed to go to Col L’Estrange as well, but it got to the Manchester Yeomanry first and a group of them immediately tore off towards the crowd. In their desperate rush, one of the riders crashed into a young woman, knocking her two year old son out of her arms and he died from the fall. The first death of the day was a two year old child.

  48. At about 13:40 60 cavalrymen of the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry, led by Captain Hugh Hornby Birley, moved into the crowd itself. Now they could see a crowd of up to maybe 60,000 people. They tried to push through to get to the platform to execute the warrant, but can’t get through the crowd, so they started hacking at people with their sabres, and they are trapped by the press of people. The yeomanry were clearly trapped. What were the 15th Hussars to do? Charging the civilians sounds to us like the ultimate act of cowardice. A peaceful civilian crowd, and yet the regiment was only a around 600 strong that day so were out numbered literally thousands to one. The scene was deeply confused. The regimental website is clear that the 15th were present and says the following [QUOTE] Conflicting eye-witness accounts exist as to whether the civilian deaths were caused by volunteer soldiers, the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry, or by the regular troops (the 15th Hussars). The yeomanry were first on the scene, arriving at 13:40, and as they advanced into the crowd panic ensued, the horses rearing and the inexperienced amateur soldiers drawing their sabres and striking out. When the 15th Hussars arrived on the scene at about 13:50, the yeomanry soldiers were in danger of being overcome by the angry crowd. Inquiries into the massacre concur that the regular troops attempted to minimise the violence – an unnamed officer of the15th Hussars attempting to strike up the swords of the Yeomanry, crying – “For shame, gentlemen: what are you about?” Many hundreds of civilians were sabred and trampled by the horses in the melee. [END QUOTE]

  49. That quote is a bit incomplete shall we call it. At about 13:50, Lieutenant Colonel Guy L’Estrange commanding the 15th Hussars arrived; was met by the local magistrate who he ordered them into the field to disperse the crowd with the words: “Good God, Sir, don’t you see they are attacking the Yeomanry; disperse the meeting!

  50. This is a positive order to the officers of the regiment. They have been told that the Yeomanry cavalry are under attack and they were being ordered in to the rescue. That seemed right to Col L’Estrange, he was here to support the civilian authorities, they were under attack and asking for support, so what else was he supposed to do. Some officers diaries definitely agreed with this view.  

  51. The cavalry formed a long line and charged. The powerful veterans of the Peninsular Wars and Waterloo, were about to unleash the same kind of powerful charge they had visited on Napoleon’s finest. Almost immediate as they hit the crowd, the Cheshire Yeoman Cavalry charged in from the other direction and also hit the crowd. They laid about themselves with sabres. There’s a I’m not sure if fascinating is the word. Maybe compelling. A compelling spreadsheet you can download that has the names of the injured and many victims or key witness and soldiers. It gives you the occupations, their role and how they were injured, and you can see row after row of “sabre cut to the head. Sabre cut to the arms, sabre cut to the breast.” These are all consistent with blows coming from above. I’ve not got a full source, but it is likely the 15 Hussars would be armed with the brutal 1796 light cavalry sabre. It was a ferocious weapon and the crowd naturally panicked. People began to down in the press, and they got trampled by other people or by the horses. One victim is described as having fallen into a cellar when the press of the crowd broke the railings and shoved her in. The list of casualties is horrific. Hundreds trampled on, some get crushed or have bones dislocated or end up spitting up blood for days. If you got a sabre cut to the face for instance, you could be horrifically maimed, fall to the ground and then get trampled.

  52. By this point, people were desperate. Absolutely desperate. They are trying to get out of this square and race for the main exit. The exit where Col L’Estrange, the clever military veteran has deployed his trump card; the 88th. His highly disciplined shock troops. They are there, waiting for the crowd, bayonets fixed.  Despite being horrifically outnumbered, the 88th can be relied on to be absolutely rock solid. That’s when the word bayonet starts appearing in the list of injuries on that spreadsheet and so does the word shot.

  53. This is pretty different from the shall we say popular history you get of this event. It is sometimes portrayed as if this was an important event, where a local magistrate lost their head and the cavalry and yeomanry lost control and the crowd panicked. The 88th and Royal Artillery are almost unmentioned. Sometimes there are just occasional references to “the infantry” It is almost in some accounts half a tragic accident. A situation that got out of hand.

  54. When you dig deeper though, you can see this for what it was. This was a well planned military operation that worked just the way it was supposed to. The only problem was that it should never have been the plan in the first place. If it had been used against a load of French troops, it would have been perfect. But this was the inevitable outcome of the military deployment Col L’Estrange chose. Now he and the authorities might have said “well we never planned to have it actually unfold this way. We expected the crowd to let the soldiers do a simple arrest, overawed by military power, and there would never have been any need to actually commit the regular troops.” 

  55. The problem there is that the plan made it unavoidable. Once the request for military aid went out, the plan had to evolve the way it did. There were no radio’s to recall orders to the 88th or to call for a path for escaping civilians, and reading these sources you get the feeling that the authorities wouldn’t have wanted to anyway. If you’ve actually looked at how Napoleonic tactics work, like we have in the past shows in a lot of depth, you will see this is the combined arms system working like clock work. Col L’Estrange hits an enemy with an unexpected cavalry charge, causing panic, and forcing them in the direction he wants them to go, a 2nd charge from another angle magnifies the chaos, and the whole enemy force loses cohesion, panics and runs only to be hit by disciplined infantry. The only difference between this and a full Napoleonic action is that the 88th did’t give regular volleys and the Royal artillery don’t pour canister and shrapnel fire into the panicking mass.

  56. The military were doing exactly what they are designed to do, and just like the Battlestar Galactica quote says, this is exactly why you don’t put them in this kind of situation. When the crowd finally escaped, the casualty figures that we know of are horrific. There’s probably a lot of people who were also injured and didn’t get into the official reports, but we can put the figures of civilian very accurately from the casualty returns that were kept.

  57. The Guardian newspaper published a centenary edition article on the massacre that I’m going to quote [QUOTE] 654 people were sufficiently injured to require medical treatment. The figure is that precise because, in the following weeks, names, addresses and details of injuries were drawn up by newspapers, radicals and a relief committee set up to raise funds to help the wounded and their families. Contrary to the assertions of the authorities, fewer than a quarter were crushed in the crowd: more than 200 were sabred, 70 battered by truncheons, and 188 trampled by horses. [END QUOTE]

  58. One of the victims was [QUOTE] James Lees, 25, had fought at Waterloo and was now a weaver with two children. He received two deep sabre cuts to the head, but when he went to the infirmary a doctor asked him whether he had had enough of political meetings. Lees said no, and was promptly turned away. Before he died, three weeks later, he told a relative: “At Waterloo there was man to man, but here it was downright murder.” [END QUOTE]

  59. That’s pretty heart wrenching isn’t it. He was a Waterloo veteran and now he was dead, killed by comrades who had also fought at Waterloo. One special constable at the scene of the massacre watching bodies being moved, and recognising the injured Lee being moved, laughed at him saying “This is Waterloo for you” 

  60. Pretty quickly after this, the city of Manchester experienced riots, and the authorities started pushing their version of events. Magistrate William Hay wrote to the Home Office on the night of the massacre to say [QUOTE] The Riot act was read, and the mob was completely dispersed, but not without very serious and lamentable effects….one of the Manchester Yeomanry, Mr Hulme, was, after the parties were taken, struck by a brick-bat; he lost his power over his horse, and is supposed to have fractured his skull by a fall from his horse. I’m afraid that he is since dead; if not there are no hopes of his recovery. A special constable by the name of Ashworth has been killed – cause unknown; and four women appear to have lost their lives by being pressed by the crowd; these, I believe, are the fatal effects of the meeting. A variety of instances of sabre wounds occurred but as to their effect, save in one instance deposed to before Colonel Fletcher, we have no account. [END QUOTE]

  61. The official view was that the crowd was a dangerous mob. The high casualty figures were ridiculed by the Prime Minister George Canning in Parliament, who also said that the whole event was the fault of a mob trying to tear down society, whilst government friendly press like the Aston Manchester Herald wrote poems praising the actions of the yeoman and soldier.

  62. The official view is that the crowd was throwing missiles at the Yeomanry but that won’t stand up, so the line is then “well these were dangerous revolutionaries and they ignored the magistrates ordering them to disperse so what did you expect.” The authorities claimed the magistrates had actually read the riot act, but no one seems to have heard and and anyway, the riot act gave an hour for the people hearing it to cease their activity and disperse so that wouldn’t work. Still the local authorities gave the troops a hearty thank you and naturally enough the Prince Regent wrote to send his congratulations. A junior officer, Lt Jollifee of the 15th said [QUOTE] The Hussars drove the people forward with the flats of their swords but sometimes, as is almost inevitably the case when men are placed in such situations, the edge was used … I must still consider that it redounds to the humane forbearance of the men of the 15th that more wounds were not received.[END QUOTE]

  63. Now there’s a few nuggets in there to pick up on. Herding panicking crowds of enemy soldiers was a job of light cavalry to get them to move to where they needed to go and maintain the panic. The idea was say you wanted panicked French troops off a bridge and they started running, but got pressed in, you didn’t want to actually kill them and clog up the bridge, you wanted to keep them panicking and running so you beat them with the flat of the blade. I can sort of see how that might actually be a possibility. If the Hussars had actually gone in at the full gallop when they charged, points first, and swinging to kill, then the casualties would have been enormous. Far higher than the actual total, but the injuries show the hussars certainly did switch to sabre slashing with the sharp edge of the blade, so the Lt is at best downplaying events to put a better gloss on them.

  64. Not that the authorities were in the mood to ask searching questions or ask why crowds weren’t left with escape routes if all that was supposed to happen was serving an arrest warrant. The official stitch up was in. Henry Hunt, Samuel Bamford and others were put on trial at York assizes on 16 March 1820 charged with illegal assembling.

  65. An event like this can’t just be arm waved away though just because the government said it was fine. Many locals would remember the event for their entire lives. Journalists, and reformers were outraged and determined to force the issue into the lime light. The Manchester Observer ran the headline ‘The Peterloo Massacre‘ The Duke of Wellington remained unmoved by the idea of reform, saying “Beginning reform is beginning revolution

  66. There was a national outcry, but the government and local authorities reacted with increased troop presence, and harsh legislation was passed against trade unions. Stamp duty was increased on pamphlet’s and newspapers. This is astonishingly similar to the early response of the British Government to the American colonists before the War of Independence.

  67. This is actually one of those fairly major events in British history that no one has ever heard of. It is a touch stone in the story of the labour movement. One of the sources for this episode is the epic classic work “The making of the English Working Class” by EP Thomas. It is a little dated, but still an amazing historical work and on the cover of the edition I’ve got is the famous print “The Manchester Reform Meeting Dispersed by Civilian and Military Power.” from August 1819 – a depiction of the event. That was the kind of impact this event had at the time, and still has. But as Thompsons approach rightly points out, we mustn’t only think of this as a grand political event. For everyone there, this was a personal event too. How did the magristrates feel as they gave the order to disperse the crowd? What about the parents with children, suddenly receiving a cavalry charge? How did the troops feel later as they returned to barracks, to clean blood and mud off their blades and boots? Did any think back to Waterloo and wonder how it had come to this? Or were the lower class the enemy of society, as terrifying to them as Al Qaeda was on the day after 9/11.

  68. There’s been a fair intense debate in academic circles over who was fundamentally to blame for the massacre. Was it just the magistrates panicking? Or were they already thirsting to crack down on the protestors? Was it the fault of Byng for failing to be present to command the military and take control of the situation? Did the Home Office really urge restraint and was caught flat footed by the event, or did the Home Office encourage the magistrates to take strong action? Publicly the Home Office seems to have counselled restraint, but there are hints in the Home Office Secret Papers of the period between Lord Sidmouth at the Home Office and Byng is slightly ambiguous and could be read in a number of different ways. I think if you want a firm answer, you’d need to read the papers themselves and consult some specialist academics. 

  69. To no one’s surprise, the Prince Regent confirmed his position as the most loathed person in the country by declaring his thanks to the authorities for [QUOTE] prompt, decisive and effective measures for the preservation of the public peace. [END QUOTE]

  70. The loathing for the Prince Regent was well expressed in a phamplet called “The Political House that Jack Built” in 1819. It was written by William Hone. He had long been an establishment critic and had been subject to political prosecutions in 1817 for targeting the Prince Regent. He was surprisingly acquitted and continued his exposure of corruption. He said of the Prince and aristocracy [QUOTE] The Dandy of Sixty, who bows with a grace, and has taste in wigs, collars, cuirasses and lace, Who, to tricksters, and fools, leaves the state and its treasure, And, when Britain’s in tears, sails about at his pleasure’. [END QUOTE]

  71. Above this was a picture of the Prince Regent by the brilliant illustrator Cruikshanks. You might want to remember that name because he will be illustrating Charles Dickens books amongst many other things. To truly capture the likeness of the Prince Regent he drew a fat, aging dandy in a red military coat stretched over tight over his enormous belly, with skin tight white breeches, and a corkscrew hanging from his pocket to symbolise his immense drinking.

  72. The establishment remained profoundly touchy about the incident for a long time. Even as late as the 1870’s murals from Ford Maddox Brown were not allowed to include references to Peterloo if they were going to decorate the new town hall.

  73. The shockwaves from the event couldn’t be ignored so easily. John Edward Taylor was a journalist, and was sued for libel by the leader of the Manchester Tories, John Greenwood. Greenwood lost, and Taylor used the winnings to found the Manchester Guardian newspaper, which would go on to become the world famous Guardian newspaper – a noted left of centre paper that prides itself on investigative journalism and scientific fact, although its editorial stances are not always up to the standards of its best journalism. Still as Manchester rose to power during the C19th, so did the prominence of the Guardian. It was quoted in Parliament by Sir Robert Peel, and led the opposition to the Boer Wars. 

  74. The city of Manchester would be key to the labour and reform movement during the C19th. It was a lynch pin of industry, a powerhouse of the world, an economic giant, an oppressive city full of brutal poverty, disease and pollution. It would be visited by Vicroys, Grand Dukes, merchants, inventors and industrialists keen to learn how to copy its successes, as well as thousands and thousands of immigrants desperate to become as the novel said “a Manchester man.” The C19th version of the American dream, where a hardworking decent man joined the ranks of the mill owners through work, cleverness and industry. 

  75. Manchester would inspire artists and see more injustices such as the widely hated execution of Irish Fenians for the alleged murder of a police officer. It would inspire books and the world changing work of Engels and Marx. It would never forget Peterloo, and the events would be remembered from that day to this. Manchester would change beyond recognition but her spirit, industrious, clever, resilient, yet somehow slightly rebellious without being revolutionary would surely remain the same across the centuries. 

  76. Thanks for listening everyone. If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria. Don’t forget to leave a review on Apple Podcasts, it takes less time than making a coffee. If you want to support the show on patreon, there’s a link in the show notes, or you can go to Patreon and search for age of victoria podcast or my name. Take care and bye for now.


The British Empire was vast, but it didn’t spring up over night. South Africa was a vital imperial staging post, then a fledgling colony. The story of how it got to be is intimately linked to the land and the people. Start the next series on empire, this episode covers

Intro and reviews

Why South Africa?

Mythbusting: Africa, a continent of cities and kingdoms.

The many African migrations throughout History.

South Africa: The land – beauty and danger.

Islands and ship wrecks.

The Dutch arrive, and the Napoleonic Wars.

Ours by right of conquest – the British take the Cape from the Dutch.

The Dutch Boer migrations begin.

The Xhosa & War.

The British decide to remove the Xhosa from the neutral zone.

Col Graham and the first British Imperial War in South Africa.

If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria. Don’t forget to leave a review on Apple Podcasts, it takes less time than making a coffee. You can also subscribe for free on most major podcast apps. To support the show on Patreon, either CLICK HERE you can go to Patreon and search for Age of Victoria podcast or my name. Take care and bye for now.


Prison is never nice, but the Victorian prison of Port Arthur in Van Diemen’s Land combined starvation, deprivation, desperation, and isolation. It was considered a hell on Earth. This episode covers:

  • Intro & reviews.
  • Guest podcast promo’s
  • A vision of a better future.
  • Reality check – isolation and mental health
  • Narrowly avoiding prison
  • The problems of institutionalisation
  • Post release problems
  • A modern inmate speaks out.
  • Convict labour, exploitation capitalism, big companies, echos of slavery.
  • The convict melting pot
  • A dispossible labour force.
  • Convicts and convict ancestors – image and identity in Australia.
  • The unfortunate Hannah Herbert, an epitaph

If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria. Don’t forget to leave a review on Apple Podcasts, it takes less time than making a coffee. You can also subscribe for free on most major podcast apps. If you want to support the show on patreon, or you can go to Patreon and search for age of victoria podcast or my name. Take care and bye for now.


To celebrate the 4th anniversary, the episode will be all about Lovelace and Babbage; the true inventors of the computer age. The episode covers

  • Intro & reviews.
  • “There must be an easier way to do this” – why being lazy can change the world
  • What were these engines?
  • Ada Lovelace, a life in Technicolour
  • Ada’s Victorian childhood – of course it was awful.
  • Mentorship and marriage.
  • Lovelace and Babbage – a very productive partnership.
  • Lovelace’s really quite brilliant idea’s.
  • Ada writes a really not very nice letter.
  • Oh what might have been; Bernoulli numbers and more besides.
  • Lovelace and cancer.
  • Babbage becomes yesterday’s man.

If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at, follow me on twitter @ageofvictoria, visit the website at

The show also has a facebook page and group. Just search for Age of Victoria. Don’t forget to leave a review on Apple Podcasts, it takes less time than making a coffee. You can also subscribe for free on most major podcast apps. If you want to support the show on PATREON, or you can go to Patreon and search for age of victoria podcast or my name. Take care and bye for now.