The Residences of the Duke of Kent

Overseas and in England, writes Mollie Gillen, Queen Victoria’s father held several commands during the course of his active life.

Some time in December 1790, Prince Edward, fourth son of George III, serving in the garrison of Gibraltar, welcomed to the Rock ‘a young woman... who has every qualification which an excellent share of good temper, no small degree of cleverness, and above all, a pretty face and a handsome person can give to make my hours pass away pleasantly in her company’.

From the moment of her arrival, the lady who became known as Alphonsine Thérèse Bernardine Julie de St Laurent, Baronne de Fortisson (‘Madame of an hundred names and titles’, governor John Wentworth of Nova Scotia would write later) never lived apart from her prince for the next twenty-seven years, except for a short interval in 1798, when reasons of personal discretion caused the prince to place her at a separate establishment in Knightsbridge.

Where they lived in Gibraltar at this time is not known, but the prince indignantly repudiated the delicate plan of his confidential agent, a Monsieur Fontiny, who had found this ‘Mile de St Laurent’ for him, to lodge the lady in an apartment in the town.

‘You have heard from my own lips more than twenty times before you left for Marseilles that under no consideration would I ever consent to lodge under another roof than mine the person who would become my companion and my friend,’ wrote the prince to Fontiny: and to Mademoiselle, ‘I wait with open arms to place in your hands the running of my little establishment... I will keep the cottage warm and expect that from the moment of your arrival our life will begin to be happy and content.’

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