When the eighteen year old, innocent Queen Victoria ascended the throne of Great Britain the English thought they had finally after years of badly behaved childless Kings, received the perfect monarch.
It was much like the adoration of Princess Di, except this Princess had become Queen of England without the need of a husband!
She could do no wrong and was dearly loved where ever she went. However, all was not well at Buckingham Palace. Victoria had an obsessive hatred for her mother’s personal assistant, Sir John Conroy. She suspected he was having an affair with Lady Flora Hastings, her former lady in waiting. So, when Lady Flora Hastings arrived back at court, having travelled from Scotland in a post-chaise alone with Sir John, she was incensed.
In those days the only asset a single girl had were her marriage prospects and those prospects, especially in the royal court, had to be spotless. Even a suggestion of a liaison, no matter how innocent, could spoil your chances of a good marriage match.
Then, shortly after this whispered gossip, Lady Flora began to look decidedly plump around her middle. Queen Victoria seized this as an opportunity to ruin Sir John’s reputation and the unfortunate Lady Flora would be the combat casualty. The ‘ladies of the palace’ declared it was improper and unacceptable for Lady Flora to remain at the royal court of their innocent young Queen. As long as stories were whispered, they could be denied, but then Lady Portman, the Queen’s main lady, wrote to Lady Flora insisting that she be medically examined. Lady Flora refused and insisted that she was not ‘with child”. The scandal was leaked to the press and soon every household, not only in England, but across Europe, were discussing “The Lady Flora Hastings Affair’.
The Hastings family, both influential and wealthy were enraged and wrote to the newspapers defending Lady Flora’s position. What has to be understood was that such a sordid and discreditable scandal was now associated with the Queen and soon the case of Lady Flora was being used as a political weapon in the hands of the Tories against the Whigs.
Lady Flora, who had previously been examined over her dress, now came to the conclusion that however distasteful she must submit to this indelicate enquiry. She chose close females companions to be present at the internal medical examination and they dissolved into tears through out the mortifying experience.
The result of the examination was Lady Flora’s vindication. She was proved to be a virgin and on Queen Victoria’s next outing, the crowd hissed and had turned against her.
This is but one of the significant episodes which defined the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign. The remarkable events are brought to life in accurate detail in the new historical novel “Victoria’s Royal Secret” by Philippa Dissel.