The National Sound Archive
section of The British Library holds a number of recordings by Anne
and Peter, one of which is the BBC radio play Advice To A Queen
featuring Anne as Lady Flora Hastings.
During Marianne’s visit to
London in May 2004, we went to the library to listen to this play,
as well as Peter’s Toad Of Toad Hall EP. Although Advice To A
Queen lasted 1½ hours, we became totally wrapped up in the events
and wished it could have gone on even longer. We were both blown
away by this version of the very sad but true story about Lady
Flora, movingly portrayed by Anne. We would love the BBC to
rebroadcast the play or release it on CD/audio tape so we could hear
Advice To A Queen was
written by Ian Cullen and first broadcast on Radio 4 on 1 February
1975 in the Saturday-Night Theatre slot.
The play was directed by Christopher Venning and starred:
Trevor Howard as Lord
Anne Stallybrass as Lady Flora Hastings
Prunella Scales as Queen Victoria
Rosalie Crutchley as the Duchess of Kent
The story takes places
during the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign. The young Queen
was very popular when she came to the throne but the public’s
indignation at Lady Flora’s treatment shook the monarchy and the
Lady Flora Hastings, whose
family home was Loudoun Castle in Ayrshire, was a Lady of the
Bedchamber to the Duchess of Kent, Queen Victoria’s mother.
Despite not being in perfect health, she left her home to return to
court and was accompanied on the journey only by a family friend,
Sir John Conroy, Comptroller of the Duchess’s household. The Queen
heartily disliked Sir John and was not terribly close to her mother
Shortly after arriving, Lady
Flora’s health deteriorated and her stomach began to swell.
The Queen’s ladies in waiting, always fond of gossip,
spread a malicious rumour that she was pregnant by Sir John.
Victoria believed the worst and became involved in the rumour
mongering. The Queen’s doctor, Sir James Clark, confirmed Lady
Flora was expecting despite having given her only a cursory
examination. The Queen sought the advice of Lord Melbourne, the
Prime Minister, to whom she was very close. He did not deal with the
matter sufficiently firmly and the scandal escalated.
When told what was being
said of her, Lady Flora was horrified by the accusation and fiercely
denied she was pregnant, claiming she was still a virgin. The
Duchess of Kent sided with Flora against her daughter. She appealed
to her brother, Lord Hastings, for help and he came down to London.
Eventually Flora underwent a thorough and degrading examination that
confirmed she was telling the truth and revealed she was suffering
from a liver disorder.
The full story was published
in the newspapers, causing the Hastings family great distress, but
the public came down heavily in Lady Flora’s favour.
The Queen’s popularity plummeted and she was even hissed
at. The matter was also
taken up in parliament, with the Tories coming out against Melbourne
and his Whigs.
Lady Flora’s health
continued to worsen and she died shortly after at the age of
thirty-three. A book of her poems was published after her death and include
these sad lines:
not that I die young. Is
it not well
pass away ere life hath lost its brightness?”
anyone be interested in visiting the National Sound Archive, details
of the recordings held and instructions on booking appointments,
obtaining a pass, etc. can be found via The British Library website