Author Topic: Was George V blackmailed into opposing Nicholas coming to England?  (Read 1693 times)

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Offline Pat C

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Historians have long puzzled over why King George V first prompted the British Government to invite his cousin Nicholas II and his family to come to Britain following the February Revolution and then changed his mind and became adamantly against their coming, to the surprise and embarrassment of his Government.   One royal biographer described it as “the most perplexing act of his reign: The abandonment of a loyal ally and much-loved cousin to degradation and death”.

There is little doubt that there has been a cover up of the events surrounding the refusal. Meriel Buchanan, daughter of Sir George Buchanan, the British ambassador to Russia in 1917, wrote in her book The Dissolution of an Empire:

 “Later on, when he had retired from the Diplomatic Service, my father had, I know, the intention of including in his book the truth about the attempt that was made to get the Imperial family out of Russia, but he was told at the Foreign Office, where he had gone to examine some of the documents, that if be did so, he would not only be charged with an Infringement of the Official Secrets Act, but would have his pension stopped,... The account he gives of the promise of the British Government to receive the Emperor in England ... is therefore a deliberate attempt to suppress the true facts.”

The Royal Archives contain almost no documents dealing with what happened to the Tsar between March 1917 and May 1918. All telegrams sent from the Palace dealing with Nicholas appear to have been removed. Even David Lloyd George, British prime minister during the War, was denied access to documents and told not to mention the events in his memoirs.

The usual explanation is that George feared that opposition, particularly working class opinion, might endanger his throne. That is very difficult to take seriously. Firstly, while there might have been some opposition it would have hardly been enough to threaten the dynasty.  Secondly, George was an unimaginative, deeply conventional, court bound man. The idea that he was genuinely in touch with working class opinion is risible. If the idea had got into his head that the Bolsheviks would be at the gates of Buckingham Palace then someone must have put it there. The questions then become who, why and how?

Who? It could only have been Lloyd George. He would have had to do so against the opposition of Conservative members of his National Government but he had the ear of the King because he saw him alone in his weekly audience.

Why? That goes back to earlier events. In 1915 Britain had agreed in secret to the long held desire of Russia to annex Constantinople, assuming the War was won. By 1916 the British were also in serious discussions with Zionist leaders about setting up a national home for the Jews, which resulted in the Balfour Declaration in 1917. The real reason for the Declaration was that it was the key to US entry into the War.  Lloyd George must have feared that Nicholas coming to England could easily have revived monarchist fortunes – the King over the water. The Provisional Government was very shaky, as the Bolsheviks showed soon after. A restoration  would have revived the claim to Constantinople, something which Lloyd George opposed for murky reasons. He wanted it to go to Greece. Tsarism was also notoriously anti-semitic, which would have meant the Balfour Declaration would be dead in the water. Without the US, winning the War would have been very difficult, if not impossible.

How? It must have been more than simple argument. Some arm-twisting must have been involved. Was George bribed?  Were secret funds sent from Russia to support the Tsar in exile used? The case of Peter Bark, the Tsar’s last Finance Minister who escaped to Britain after the revolution and was rewarded with a knighthood by the King and large loans from the Bank of England is curious to say the least. He was hardly your typical refugee. Did he know something embarrassing?

More bizarrely, was George blackmailed? There have been persistent rumours that Anthony Blunt, art historian, Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures and notoriously, Soviet spy, was George’s illegitimate son. Certainly George and Blunt’s parents were well acquainted and there is a striking resemblance between Blunt and George’s eldest son, who became Edward VIII. The reasons why Blunt was never prosecuted and remained in all his posts after his confession in 1964 until finally unmasked in 1979 have never been satisfactorily explained.  Did Lloyd George know of the rumours and did he use them? 

If you are interested there is much more detail on this topic at www.royal-betrayal.uk

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Re: Was George V blackmailed into opposing Nicholas coming to England?
« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2016, 03:51:07 PM »
Well, one theory is impossible.  At the start of the War, Nicholas II had all overseas bank accounts returned to Russia. Once the Revolution took place and Nicholas was arrested, his Russian bank accounts were seized. There was no access to the money and virtually no way to transfer large sums to England even if they had wanted to and it would have been nearly impossible to hand carry a large sum of money.  There were quite literally no accounts designated to support the Emperor in Exile, Nicholas had never been able to make such arrangements.  So, Bark was never paid off by that method anyway.  The Book "The Lost Fortune of the Tsars" is a comprehensive tracing of the Emperors money and wealth and pretty much it is all accounted for and there was nothing left.


Offline Pat C

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Re: Was George V blackmailed into opposing Nicholas coming to England?
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2016, 06:38:03 AM »
Thanks for the reply. William Clarke's The Lost Fortune of the Tsars is a brilliantly thorough piece of investigative journalism, ironically written by a banker, much the best thing written on the subject.  It's not quite true that all Russian accounts were closed at the beginning of the War. Some who had properties or business in Britain or France did keep them open. I agree that money could not have been transferred  from Nicholas's account after he was arrested but that's beside the point. Money was transferred from Russia all the time to pay for armaments and supplies. Bark himself came to London several times during the War  to arrange loans. There's a picture of him in London with Lloyd George and the French Finance Minister Alexander Javot.  It would have been easy for him to set up other accounts if he had wanted to. Then there is the question of the secret fund. Bark gave him 200,000 rubles  in cash from the fund, worth over $1 million today, a few days before he abdicated. It's there in Bark's memoirs. I checked. Clarke also mentions it but doesn't take it further. Why did Nicholas need cash? Who is going to ask a Tsar to pay? The fund was worth about 10 million rubles in 1917, more than $70 million today. Bark clearly had control of it right until the last few days of Tsarism. What happened to it?

Offline NicolasG

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Re: Was George V blackmailed into opposing Nicholas coming to England?
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2016, 09:55:35 AM »
George V was certainly an unimaginative person and, as such, liable to become obsessed with an idea: in this case, that the arrival of the Russian Imperial Family was a danger for the British monarchy. The idea came from someone close to him, whom he trusted (certainly, Lloyd George does not fit in that definition): his secretary, Lord Stamfordham. There is no need to look for conspiracies.

Why would Lloyd George maneuver to use the King to block a decision he had already taken as Prime Minister?

Other parts of the theory do not fit. The Russian Provisional Government did not initially renounce the claim to the Straits.

"Miliukov, who was in charge of foreign policy [in the Russian Provisional Government, after the February revolution], went his own way... From Trepov's revelations the preceding December, it was known that the Allies had promised Russia Constantinople and the Straits. Miliukov did not wish to renounce this claims for two reasons: such renunciation would raise doubts in the West about Russia's commitment to stay in the war, and it would open the floodgates to German peace propaganda...
At a press conference on March 22, Miliukov outlined the Government's war aims. These included the "liberation" of the Slavic peoples of Austria-Hungary, the "fusion" of the Ukrainian territories of Austria-Hungary (i.e. Galicia) with Russia, and acquisition of Constantinople and the Straits."

Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolution, Collins Harvill, 1990, p. 330

Offline Pat C

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Re: Was George V blackmailed into opposing Nicholas coming to England?
« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2016, 11:01:27 AM »
I'm not sure what evidence there is that Stamfordham was opposed to Nicholas coming. Lloyd George on the other hand certainly was. Meriel Buchanan wrote:
"My father told me that the whole plan of the Emperor’s journey to England had been wrecked because Mr. Lloyd George had warned the King that the feeling in the country was violently against the Russian Imperial family, that the Labour members had sworn to create trouble if they were re­ceived, and that it would be very unwise to risk offending them at that critical juncture of the war. "

Why would Lloyd George maneuver to use the King to block a decision he had already taken as Prime Minister? Because his government was dominated by Conservatives who were in favour. Take Foreign Secreatary Balfour's reply when George first requested Nicholas did not come:
 while His Majesty’s ministers quite realize the difficulties to which you refer in your letter .. they do not think that, unless the position changes, it is now possible to withdraw the invitation which has been sent and they therefore trust that the King will consent to adhere to the original invitation which was sent on the advice of His Majesty’s Ministers.
Balfour to Stamfordham 30 March 1917

Miliukov's statement of war aims was the motherhood and apple pie of Russian ambitions. There was no way an increasingly war-weary Duma would have stomached it if things continued to get worse in the war, which they did. In any events the Bolsheviks renounced it when they revealed the existence of Sykes-Picot and other secret treaties.

Lloyd George certainly did not want Russia to have Constantinople. He wanted it for Greece, with, it turned out, disastrous results. A million Greeks kicked out of Asia Minor, which had been home to Greeks for over two thousand years.

Offline NicolasG

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Re: Was George V blackmailed into opposing Nicholas coming to England?
« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2016, 03:14:43 PM »
I'm not sure what evidence there is that Stamfordham was opposed to Nicholas coming. Lloyd George on the other hand certainly was. Meriel Buchanan wrote:
"My father told me that the whole plan of the Emperor’s journey to England had been wrecked because Mr. Lloyd George had warned the King that the feeling in the country was violently against the Russian Imperial family, that the Labour members had sworn to create trouble if they were re­ceived, and that it would be very unwise to risk offending them at that critical juncture of the war. "

Why would Lloyd George maneuver to use the King to block a decision he had already taken as Prime Minister? Because his government was dominated by Conservatives who were in favour. Take Foreign Secreatary Balfour's reply when George first requested Nicholas did not come:
 while His Majesty’s ministers quite realize the difficulties to which you refer in your letter .. they do not think that, unless the position changes, it is now possible to withdraw the invitation which has been sent and they therefore trust that the King will consent to adhere to the original invitation which was sent on the advice of His Majesty’s Ministers.
Balfour to Stamfordham 30 March 1917

Miliukov's statement of war aims was the motherhood and apple pie of Russian ambitions. There was no way an increasingly war-weary Duma would have stomached it if things continued to get worse in the war, which they did. In any events the Bolsheviks renounced it when they revealed the existence of Sykes-Picot and other secret treaties.

Lloyd George certainly did not want Russia to have Constantinople. He wanted it for Greece, with, it turned out, disastrous results. A million Greeks kicked out of Asia Minor, which had been home to Greeks for over two thousand years.


George Buchanan is not a reliable source, because he was part of the cover-up to shield George V and put the blame on Lloyd George. The original documents (letters and reports of meetings) show that the initiative came from George V, through his secretary, Lord Stamfordham. A good compilation (with a kitsch title) is A lifelong passion: Nicholas and Alexandra. Their own story, by Maylunas and Mironenko

If Lloyd George threatened or blackmailed or warned George V that there could be plenty of problems if the Russian Imperial Family arrived in Britain, why did he approve the request of the Russian Provisional Government to offer them asylum?
Your answer is that he could not oppose his Conversative partners in the government, so he had to show his acceptance in public while at the same time pressing the King privately to cancel it. But that does not make sense. If the conversation Meriel Buchanan wrote about had taken place, George V (or rather, Lord Stamforham) would have contacted immediately the Conservative Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, David Balfour, and told him about the source of his misgivings. So all the machiavelian maneuvers of Lloyd George would have been exposed.

On the other hand there are hints that show that the person who put pressure on George V was his secretary, Lord Stamforham. On 24 March Stamforham send two letters to Balfour. In the second one, he wrote: "I would particularly call your attention to an article in last Thursday's Justice by Hyndman who condemns the invitation, and implies that it has come from Their Majesties."
On the 28th Stamfordham wrote in a note of meeting "I saw the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street, and tried to impress upon him the King's strong opinion that the Emperor and Empress of Russia should not come to this country.... I showed Mr Lloyd George an article by Mr Hyndamn in last week "Justice", and quoted what other people had said as to the disastrous results which would inevitably accrue from the visit."

So, it was Stamforham who tried to convice Lloyd George, and he used the very same article he wrote Balfour about: an article by Hyndman, one of the leaders of the Independent Labour Party, a small splinter of the Labour Party, published in a publication with very limited circulation.

And the Straits question still does not fit as one of the motives of Lloyd George. It would have required that Lloyd George had: 1) perfect knowledge of what was going on in Russia shortly after the February revolution, 2) the ability to foresee the future. The moves to block the arrival of the Russian Imperial Family in Britain were taking place around 17-28 March 1917. At that time the Russian Foreign Minister was still commited to war aims that included Constantinople and the Straits for Russia. He stated it during a press conference on March 22 (Old style, Julian calendar still used in Russia), April 4 in Britain. So Lloyd George should have foreseen that, in the conflict between the Duma politicians in the Provisional Government and the socialists and Soviets, the latter would get the upper hand.

The conclusion is that Lloyd George had nothing to do with the rejection of the offer of asylum. He was the fall guy that was sacrificed to shield the monarch in what was a dishonourable matter. 

Offline Pat C

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Re: Was George V blackmailed into opposing Nicholas coming to England?
« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2016, 04:29:59 AM »
Buchanan's memoirs of the events certainly aren't reliable. His daughter Meriel says so in her book Dissolution of an Empire. According to her he was threatened with the Official Secrets Act and having his pension stopped if he wrote about what actually happened. "The account he gives of the promise of the British Government to receive the Emperor in England ... is therefore a deliberate attempt to suppress the true facts.”

There's no doubt that Stamfordham and the King were at one in not wanting Nicholas to come. The question is why and did they come to the conclusion themselves or were they put up to it? Stamfordham's waving of a copy of Justice with article by Hyndman points if anything to his being fed information. The idea that the King was familiar with the contents of a tiny circulation ultra-left journal, with minimal influence, is difficult to take seriously. Hyndman wasn't even a mainstream left politician by then.  It's a bit like the present Queen discussing the leader in Socialist Worker.

The idea that George could go behind LG's back and spill the beans to Balfour doesn't hold water. If he did that he would be in real trouble with his prime minister, who may well have had information on him that he did not want broadcast. In any event, who would he be more afraid of, LG or Balfour?

On the question of Constantinople, Grey had conceded Russian annexation in secret in 1915, before LG became PM. LGs partiality for Greece and Greek control of Constantinople goes back well before then. For example, in his magisterial account of the Asia Minor campaign Ionian Vision: Greece in Asia Minor 1919-1922  Michael Llewellyn Smith wrote:

"The seeds of Venizelos's [Prime Minister of Greece 1910-20, 1928-32] policy were sown before the Great War in the secret talks he held with Lloyd George, Churchill and Sir John Savridi in late 1912 and early 1913. What animated Venizelos and Lloyd George was the idea of an Anglo-Greek entente. Greece was to be the coming power in the Mediterranean, and in place of the crumbling Ottoman Empire it would be the pillar of Britain's policies and the protector of Britain's imperial communications: the Suez Canal and the route to India. In return Greece would have Britain's diplomatic and material support, vaguely specified but potentially very important."

LG had never wanted Russian control of Constantinople. That had always been British policy since at least the Crimean War, a fact admitted even by Grey. He was simply reverting to the traditional British position.

That George behaved dishonourably is beyond doubt. The question remains why?





Offline Horock

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Re: Was George V blackmailed into opposing Nicholas coming to England?
« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2016, 12:30:52 PM »
Its surprising that no one has mentioned what happened what happened to the secret fund.  It was used to pay for the second gunman on the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza on 22nd November 1963 and later for the murders of Elvis Presley and Princess Di.

Offline Pat C

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Re: Was George V blackmailed into opposing Nicholas coming to England?
« Reply #8 on: August 26, 2016, 06:42:20 AM »
You forgot to mention the Wall Street Mafia, the Freemasons and the Illuminati. I too am extremely sceptical of conspiracy theories, which is probably why the few that are true tend to succeed.

Offline TimM

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Re: Was George V blackmailed into opposing Nicholas coming to England?
« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2016, 07:04:26 AM »
Shhh, the Men In Black might be listening!

Offline NicolasG

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Re: Was George V blackmailed into opposing Nicholas coming to England?
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2016, 08:04:51 AM »

There's no doubt that Stamfordham and the King were at one in not wanting Nicholas to come. The question is why and did they come to the conclusion themselves or were they put up to it? Stamfordham's waving of a copy of Justice with article by Hyndman points if anything to his being fed information. The idea that the King was familiar with the contents of a tiny circulation ultra-left journal, with minimal influence, is difficult to take seriously. Hyndman wasn't even a mainstream left politician by then.  It's a bit like the present Queen discussing the leader in Socialist Worker.


There are two possibilities:

1. Stamfordham kept George V informed about what The Manchester Guardian said:

"Except for The Times, he [George V] scarcely recognized the existence of newspapers...The Queen, however, told the King what was in The Daily Telegraph, and Stamfordham took the Manchester Guardian." King George V, Kenneth Rose.

During the war Stamfordham might have provided the King with some kind of weekly "press summary" report, including samples from newspapers further to the left than the Manchester Guardian.

2. Stamfordham wrote to Balfour on March 24:
"His Majesty receives letters from people in all classes of life, known or unknown to him...." about the Russian Imperial Family arriving in Britain.
Some Mr. Jones, retired schoolteacher from Leeds, might have mentioned Hyndman's article in his letter. He might even be as kind as to attach the press cutting.

Whatever way, what it shows is that George V, encouraged or led by Stamforham, overreacted to what was a really tiny risk for him.

Reading the original documents I cannot see how Lloyd George could be the source of pressure which made George V go back on his word. It is not likely that that fact could be ignored by Stamfordham, which controlled the King's agenda and correspondence. And George V sent Stamfordham on March 28 to talk to Lloyd George, with a view to convice him to withdraw the offer of asylum.

Your theory would imply that:

1. Lloyd George was pressing George V so the King blocked the decision that he, Lloyd George, had taken as Prime Minister.
2. Lord Stamfordham, the King's secretary, did not know anything about it.
3. George V sent Stamfordham to talk Lloyd George into agreeing to withdraw the offer of asylum.

What might be the purpose of that charade? Fooling Stamfordham? Covering the tracks?

It seems too complex and machiavelian, I cannot picture either George V or Lloyd George doing that. 
« Last Edit: August 26, 2016, 08:07:17 AM by NicolasG »

Offline Pat C

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Re: Was George V blackmailed into opposing Nicholas coming to England?
« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2016, 10:35:29 AM »
Stamfordham may have read all sorts of things but where's the evidence that he did or was in any way influenced by minority left-wing opinion?

According to Kenneth Rose, Stamfordham first met LG to discuss Nicholas on 22 March 1917 and in his minute wrote: "It was generally agreed that the proposal that we should receive the Emperor in this country ... could not be refused." Eight days later came the first intimation of a change of mind, which Balfour, plainly embarrassed, rejected. By the 6 April Stamfordham was writing to Balfour "Every day the king is becoming more concerned about the question of the Emperor and Empress coming to this country. " and six hours later comes another missive "He must beg you to represent to the Prime Minister that from all he hears and reads in the press, the residence in this country of the ex-Emperor and Empress would be strongly resented by the public".  This isn't a case of a monarch carefully weighing the pros and cons of an action. It's someone clearly agitated to the point of compromising his dignity. What put the fear of God into him?

Rose also says: "Only once throughout four years of war did the King persuade Lloyd George to change course on an important matter of policy. It proved in retrospect  to be the most perplexing act of his reign: the abandonment of a loyal ally and much-loved cousin to degradation and death." Why that one thing? LG took no notice of anything the King wanted. As Rose remarked over an honour for an ambassador which LG opposed, "Even on such a trivial issue the King could not prevail over his graceless Prime Minister."

Lloyd George had enough on his plate -- the conduct of the war, supporting the weak Russian Government, finalising the Balfour Agreement, cajoling the US into the war, not to mention his murky dealing with Zaharoff. Nicholas coming could only add to his problems. He wouldn't have wanted it and in my view Rose had it the wrong way round. LG once again prevailed over George's initial wish. Meriel Buchanan says as much. Was she lying?