Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Fabulous Leicester

[An image showing ]I am proud to be a good Essex boy, having been born at Rochford and having lived in the county for many years.

However, I`m also proud to be a citizen of Leicester. This fabulous city, right in the centre of England, has been my home for 25 years now, and I love it.

Hugely historic (we reinterred King Richard III last year), wonderful sporting heritage (Leicester City`s magnificent Premier League success), culturally and ethnically diverse (and yes, we all get along very well together).

Leicester is a truly great city. If you haven`t visited us yet, make sure you do so soon.

Who Are All These Kings?: George IV

George IV was king in the early 19th century, having been Prince Regent for nine years previously.

He has few, if any, rivals for the title of our most unpleasant monarch. Perhaps the nicest thing about him was his nickname "Prinny". although towards the end of his life this had changed to "Prince of Whales".

George was born at St. James`s Palace in London in 1762, the eldest son of George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg.

Unlike so many of the Hanoverians, George did not have an unhappy childhood, indeed his parents doted on him. He also had a fine education, mostly at Kew Palace, and this plus the fact that he was a very spoilt child undoubtedly turned him into the confident young man who had no regard for the wellbeing or feelings of others.

In his early teens, he began drinking heavily, gambling and womanising, often in the company of Charles James Fox and the Opposition. The king complained that his behaviour was frequently detailed in the newspapers, although at this period he was generally popular.

At 16, in 1779, George embarked on his first affair, with the actress Mary "Perdita" Robinson. This lasted for a short while until George shifted his attentions to another, and his father had to pay a princely sum for Mary`s silence, and to stop her selling George`s love letters.

Over the next seven years, he ran through at least a dozen other mistresses, and the king had to pay similar sums to each of them. In the case of Madame Hardenburg, her husband was told by the king to take her abroad.

In 1785, he fell in love the twice widowed Catholic Mrs Maria Fitzherbert, who was six years older than George. Maria declined to be his mistress however, and George, ever one for tantrums, threatened to stab himself and did cause himself a minor injury. Eventually, Maria agreed to marriage, and a form of wedding took place in Park Lane, conducted by a Fleet parson.

George knew that he could not succeed to the throne if he married a Catholic, and that he needed the agreement of the King and the Privy Council to marry. But he went ahead with it anyway, even though the marriage was not valid in English law. Rumours of the marriage started to circulate, and George persuaded his friend Fox to deny it. Fox was soon embarrassed to learn that the denial was a lie.

Marriage did not stop him from having affairs, and there was a particularly torrid one with the Countess of Jersey. The king tried hard to control his son`s excesses, as he was now eating too much, drinking too much and becoming violent. His spending, especially on his new home at Carlton House, was getting out of hand and threatening to bankrupt the country.

George III insisted in 1795 that, in return for the fortunes spent on him, his son must now take a legal wife. Unfortunately, the lady chosen was Princess Caroline, daughter of Charles II, Duke of Brunswick, and George`s cousin.

Caroline had a reputation for sexual wildness, and was also careless about her personal hygiene. Indeed, she was advised to have her underclothes washed before coming to England. In addition to this, she was subject to tantrums to match George`s.

George and Caroline met three days before their wedding. George announced that the sight of her made him physically sick, and asked for a brandy, while Caroline retorted that he was fat and in no way handsome.

The two clearly deserved each other.

The wedding took place at St. James`s Palace. George was drunk throughout the ceremony and throughout the wedding night, but managed to father a daughter, Princess Charlotte.

Soon after the birth, George and Caroline separated, with George denying his wife any part in Charlotte`s upbringing. Caroline established an orphanage in Kent in 1797 and George found more mistresses. In 1800, Mrs Fitzherbert, still regarding herself as his rightful wife, returned to live with him for a while.

George felt slighted when he was not allowed to undertake military service during the Napoleonic War. But it was felt that the heir to he throne should not be put in personal danger, and anyway George had received no military training.

A dispute over Charlotte led to her being handed over to be looked after by George III. George accused Caroline of being mother to one of the children in her orphanage, and a "delicate investigation" was held by Parliament into her conduct. She had become notorious for dancing topless at parties, and although the investigation stopped short of saying it directly, her affairs were common knowledge.

George III finally became unfit to rule in 1810, and his son George was given the title Prince Regent in 1811. Although his powers were restricted, he was now closer than ever before to being the king, and he spent money lavishly. He was now very fat, was drinking heavily and was dependent on laudanum. Many worried about what would happen if the king and regent both became mentally unstable.It was during this Regency period that the Royal Pavilion at Brighton was spectacularly rebuilt by John Nash, who also designed Regents Park and Regent Street in London. The streets of London were illuminated by gas from 1814, while Waterloo Bridge was opened in 1817 and Southwark Bridge in 1819.

Napoleon was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, and George lavishly entertained the King of Prussia and the Emperor of Russia to celebrate the victory.

George`s only child Charlotte, who had married in 1816, died after giving birth in 1817. George was genuinely grief stricken by this, and of course it meant that he now had no descendant to be his heir.

There was growing unrest among the working class, particularly among soldiers who had returned from the war and were unable to gain employment. This came to a head in Manchester, when a protest gathering in St. Peter`s Square was dispersed by the authorities, causing eleven deaths and four hundred injuries. This is remembered as the Peterloo Massacre.

In 1820, George III finally died after a long reign which had included years of illness. The Prince Regent now became George IV, and this was greeted by the Cato Street Conspiracy, which had assassination of Cabinet members and Government overthrow as its aims..

Caroline, now in a relationship with an Italian courtier named Bartolomeo Pergami, decided that she wished to return to England and take her place beside George as Queen. The honour involved was apparently more important to her than the 50,000 a year that George offered her to stay away from England, and she duly returned.

Another enquiry into Caroline`s behaviour was eventually dropped,which gave her friends, and the public, the opportunity to claim that she was blameless.

George`s coronation took place at Westminster Abbey in 1821. No expense was spared and it remains the most flamboyant and extravagant of all British coronations. Caroline presented herself at the abbey and was denied admittance.

Three weeks later, Caroline died, to George`s relief, from an inflammation of the bowels.

George then made a royal progress through his kingdom, during which he became the first of the Hanoverians to visit Scotland, which Sir Walter Scott had been successfully romanticising. Scott stage managed this part of the tour, during which George wore a kilt over pink tights. In spite of his corpulence and general unpopularity, George was quite well received during the tour.

George`s ten year reign , and the Regency before it, was the period of Beau Brummell, Lord Byron, Thomas Gainsborough, Leigh Hunt, John Keats, Beau Nash, John Nash, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Joshua Reynolds, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Robert Southey, William Wordsworth and many more glittering personalities.

His reign did not itself sparkle, though. The one positive was the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, which allowed Catholics to hold public office. George and the Duke of Wellington, however, only reluctantly accepted this.

He was, however, a worthwhile, if extravagant, patron of the arts and a lover of fine architecture.

George died in 1830, at the age of 67, of respiratory problems, at Windsor Castle, and he was buried at St. Georges Chapel.. His dandyism, selfishness, extravagance and temper had left him an unloved lonely man. He was succeeded by his brother William IV.

Maria Fitzherbert survived George, dying in 1837 at Brighton, where she was buried at St. John the Baptist Catholic church.

Caroline died in 1821 at Hammersmith, and was buried at Brunswick.Their daughter Charlotte died at Esher in 1817 and was buried at St. George`s Chapel at Windsor.

George also had at least two illegitimate children. By Grace Dalrymple. Georgina, born 1782. By Ekizabeth Nilbanke, George. Born 1784.

Trade Show at the NEC

I went to another group travel trade show recently.

This time it was Best of Britain and Ireland (BOBI), which is only a few years old, but has established itself as one of the major shows of the year.

BOBI takes place at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham.

As always, it was a pleasure to be able to chat to friends old and new.

Haunting Time for Scouts

[An image showing ]I led a private version of my very popular Ghost Walk "Haunted Leicester" recently.

This time it was for Syston Scouts.

I took them through the lonely streets of Leicester`s half forgotten Old Town, where many ghosts are said to lurk.

And I told them the ghastly story of the terrifying Black Annis, who is said to haunt the Newarke area.

Do get in touch if you would like me to lead this walk for your own group.

Guided Walks in London

I recently had another of my days where I lead two different Guided Walks in London.

I worked in the City in the 60s (as a clerk) and in the West End in the 70s (managing cinemas).

The walks this time were "Southwark and Bankside" at 1pm; and "Haunted London" at 5pm.

I always thoroughly enjoy doing this in the capital!

Group Visit to Breedon-on-the-Hill

I led a Guided Walk in Breedon-on-the-Hill for a visiting group recently.

They were the Leamington Friendship Circle, and they had made the journey from Leamington Spa.

When they arrived, I took them on a short stroll at ground level around the village.

But the main attraction was taking them in their coach to the top of the hill, and seeing the exhilarating views across Charnwood Forest and the Trent Valley towards the Peak District, followed by a visit to the wonderful St. Mary and St. Harduph Church.

Nowhere near as well known as it should be, this is one of the ecclesiastical gems of England. Nobody who visits can forget the amazing Anglo-Saxon sculptures and friezes housed in the church.

If you would like me to show your own group Breedon-on-the-Hill, do get in touch.

Grahame Lloyd Talk at Grace Road

I went to another meeting of Leicestershire Cricket Society recently.

This well supported society, which meets at Grace Road, is brilliant at bringing cricket lovers together to talk about the game during the long close season.

The speaker on this occasion was Graham Lloyd, who spoke about his recently published book "Howzat: the Six Sixes Ball Mystery" about the ball with which Garfield Sobers scored his famous six sixes in an over.

If you love cricket, and you live anywhere near Leicester, you ought to consider coming along!

French Students See Stamford

[An image showing ]I led a private Guided Walk around historic Stamford recently.

I had been asked to do so by Stamford School, who were playing host to some students from France.

I was able to show them some of the historic and beautiful aspects of this lovely old town, which was England`s first ever Conservation Area.

They saw several mediaeval churches, the tranquil River Welland and the well tended grave of Daniel Lambert.

I`m always happy to lead Guided Walks in Stamford.

Essex Travel Trade Show

I went to another of the group travel trade shows recently.

This time it was the annual show organised by Carol Jolly of Visit Essex. The venue this year was the Charter Hall at Colchester, returning here after a few years at Brentwood and a few more at Tolleshunt Knights.

As always, it was great to make some new friends and to chat with plenty of old friends.

After the actual show, there was an interesting familiarisation visit to the fabulous Colchester Castle. It had been many years since I had been in the cellars, the foundations of the Temple of Claudius.

Clueless

[An image showing ]I helped out BBC Radio Leicester recently.

They have a feature on Sunday mornings called "Clueless", in which a presenter has to find his or her way to a treasure, by following mostly cryptic clues set by the Dastardly Doctor.

I was asked to be around to give advice and guidance on routes, but not to divulge answers, by the Dastardly Doctor himself.

All good fun, and it ended at St. Nicholas Church.