‘Before making any decision, however, he consulted the Privy Council. The spring of 1806 stood at the centre of a great crisis in the history of Europe. Less than six months before the little will was written, Britain’s hero, Admiral Lord Nelson, had died saving his nation from invasion at the battle of Trafalgar. The French army that had been waiting to be carried across the Channel had turned east. Just over a month later the armies of Britain’s allies Austria and Russia had been shattered at Austerlitz. Napoleon was the master of most Europe. At his instigation, King George’s Electorate of Hanover had been given to the Prussians. And on top of all that, Britain’s brilliant Prime Minister, William Pitt, had died heartbroken and exhausted. The coalition that replaced him, known optimistically as ‘the ministry of all the talents’, was negotiating for peace with Napoleon.
Yet at that most desperate moment, some of the men who had been entrusted with the safety of the nation were asked to devote time to discussing the implications of a will written on impulse by a lonely ten – year – old child.
To anyone who knew the truth, their judgement cannot have been encouraging. They agreed that Mrs Campbell was responsible.
Mrs Campbell was asked to resign, and Dr Nott, overwhelmed with remorse and frustration, took to his bed and stayed there for several weeks. Charlotte was told only that Mrs Campbell had resigned on grounds of ill health. She wrote in her misery to George’s mother, Lady Albemarle:
“Poor dear Mrs. Campbell is going away, for her health is so bad. If you have any regard to me, you will write to her and try to console her. Do it if you love me. I lose great deal when she leaves me. Indeed she is a charming woman, that is far above Mrs. Udney, for the more I see of Mrs. Campbell, the more I love [her], but Mrs. Udney I still continue to dislike. When you come to town I wish to have a conversation with you about her…You have no idea how unhappy I am.”
Picture: A portrait of Charlotte as a child http://www.pinterest.com/pin/554153929121829364/
[an extract from ‘Charlotte&Leopold’ by James Chambers]