The Duke of Kent was convinced that his future child would have a good chance of inheriting the throne, even though the Duchess of Clarence (Adelaide – wife of the future King William IV) was also pregnant. Besides, the Duchesses of Cumberland and Cambridge were also pregnant – though their children would be below any Kent baby in the succession. The Duke of Kent decided to bring his wife to England so that she could give birth there and so that dignitaries could confirm his child’s legitimacy.
He wrote to his brother the Prince Regent (the future King George IV) requesting a yacht, £1,200 for travel expenses, rooms in Kensington Palace and a house by the sea. The Regent refused as he was keen that the Duke of Kent should stay away. Both the Duchesses of Cambridge and Hanover were to have their children in Hanover. However, the Duke of Kent did not give in so easily, and his friends managed to raise money for his journey. Their efforts doubled when the Duchess of Clarence’s daughter died within a few hours of her birth in November 1818. On New Year’s Eve, the Duke of Kent wrote to his wife, “This evening will put an end, dear beloved Victoire, to the year 1818, which saw the birth of my happiness by giving you to me as my guardian angel… All my efforts are directed to one end, the preservation of your death health and the birth of a child who shall resemble you, and if Heaven will give me these two blessings I shall be consoled for all my misfortunes and disappointments, with which my life has been marked.”
By March, the Duke of Kent had finally raised about £15,000 through loans, bonds and gifts. He wrote again to the Regent asking for the Royal Yacht, and finally, the Regent consented – fearing criticism from the newspapers. The Duchess of Kent was nearly eight months pregnant when they set off for England on 28 March. She was driven to Calais by the Duke himself so they would not have to pay for a coachman. It was nearly 430 miles over appalling roads. Behind the Duchess of Kent’s coach came more coaches containing their belongings, Princess Feodora and her maids, several servants and even a surgeon and a female obstetrician – just in case the Duchess went into premature labour. They reached Calais on 18 April but had to wait a week before the weather was good enough to sail. Finally, on 24 April they embarked for England. After three hours on a rough sea, they finally arrived and set off for Kensington Palace. Their apartments had been empty since 1814 when Caroline of Brunswick – the Regent’s estranged wife – abandoned them. A thorough renovation was required, and the room where the Duchess would give birth received its final touches on 22 May. The following evening at 10.30, her labour began. After six hours of labour, at 4.15 in the morning, the Duchess of Kent gave birth to “a pretty little Princess, as plump as a partridge.”1