In August 1836, King William IV celebrated his last birthday in style. He invited the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria to stay at Windsor Castle from the 13th – Queen Adelaide’s birthday – until his own birthday on the 21st. However, the Duchess of Kent told him that she wanted to have her own birthday – on the 17th – at Claremont and would arrive on the 20th. The King was infuriated, and matters only became worse when he visited Kensington Palace while the Duchess was away and saw that she had taken over 17 rooms.
He seethed all the way back to Windsor Castle and arrived there at 10 in the evening where the court and several guests were still talking after dinner. He went over to Princess Victoria, took her hands in his and told her how happy he was to see her and that he wished to see her more often. He then turned to the Duchess of Kent and scolded her for taking the rooms, “not only without his consent, but contrary to his commands, and that he neither understood nor would endure conduct so disrespectful to him.” The entire room fell silent, and the Duchess of Kent looked down at her hands, humiliated.
The following day, at the King’s official birthday dinner with 100 guests, he rose to speak and immediately launched into a tirade. “I trust in God that my life may be spared for nine months longer, after which period, in the event of my death, no regency would take place. I should then have the satisfaction of leaving the royal authority to the personal exercise of that young lady (he pointed at Princess Victoria) the heiress presumptive of the Crown, and not in the hands of a person now near me, who is surrounded by evil advisers and who is herself incompetent to act with propriety in the station in which she would be placed. I have no hesitation in saying that I have been insulted – grossly and continually insulted – by that person, but I am determined to endure no longer a course of behaviour so disrespectful to me.”
He went on to say that Princess Victoria had been “kept away from my court; she has been repeatedly kept from my drawing-room, at which she ought always to have been present, but I am fully resolved that this shall not happen again. I would have her know that I am King, and I am determined to make any authority respected, and for the future, I shall insist and command that the Princess do upon all occasions appear at my Court, as is her duty to do.”
Princess Victoria had burst into tears and her mother the Duchess sat stony-faced. The Duchess wanted to leave immediately, but she was persuaded to remain until the following day as was planned so it would not create a scandal. Of course, it nevertheless became public knowledge, and many were shocked by the King’s tirade. He was far beyond caring, and he “would not stand it any longer.”1