Nor was this the last of his majesty's numerous risks, for being presently left alone, he stood thoughtful and somewhat melancholy by the fire, resting one hand on a chair; and the landlord, coming in and seeing him engaged in this manner, softly advanced, suddenly kissed the king's hand, and said, "God bless you, wherever you go." Charles started, and would have denied himself; but the landlord cried out, "'Fore God, your majesty may trust me; and," he added, "I have no doubt, before I die, to be a lord, and my wife a lady."
That night, the last his majesty was to spend in England for many years, he was sad and depressed. The scenes of bloodshed he had witnessed, the imminent dangers he had escaped, were vividly present to his mind. The past was fraught with horror; the future held no hope. Though a king, he was about to become an outcast from his realm. Surmising his thoughts, his companions sought to cheer him. Now the long-desired moment of escape was at hand, no one thought of repose. The little vessel in which he intended sailing lay dry upon the shore, the tide being at low water. The king and his friends, the merchant, the captain, and the landlord, sat in the well-lighted cosy parlour of the seaport inn, smoking, playing cards, telling stories and drinking good ale.
With all such diversions the hours wore heavily away. Their noisy joviality had an undercurrent of sadness; jokes failed to amuse; laughter seemed forced; words, mirthful in leaving the lips, sounded ominous on reaching the ear. At four o'clock the captain rose to survey his ship, and presently returned saying the tide had risen. Thereon the king and his friends prepared to depart. A damp, chilly November fog hung over the sea, hiding its wide expanse without deadening its monotonous moan. A procession of black figures leaving the inn sped noiselessly through darkness. Arriving at the shore, those who were not to accompany his majesty, knelt and kissed his hand. Then he, with Lord Wilmot and the captain, climbed on board the vessel and entered the cabin. The fog had turned to rain. Four hours later, the tide being favourable, the ship sailed out of port, and in due time the king was safely landed in France.
Celebration of the Kings return.—Those who flocked to Whitehall My Lord Cleveland's gentlemen.—Sir Thomas Allen's supper.—Touching for King's evil.—That none might lose their labour.—The man with the fungus nose.—The memory of the regicides.—Cromwell's effigy.—Ghastly scene at Tyburn.—The King's clemency.—The Coronation procession.—Sights and scenes by the way.—His Majesty is crowned.
The return of the king and his court was a signal for universal joy throughout the nation in general and the capital in particular. For weeks and months subsequent to his majesty's triumphal entry, the town did not subside from its condition of excitement and revelry to its customary quietude and sobriety. Feasts by day were succeeded by entertainments at night; "and under colour of drinking the king's health," says Bishop Burnet, "there were great disorder and much riot."
It seemed as if the people could not sufficiently express their delight at the presence of the young king amongst them, or satisfy their desire of seeing him. When clad in rich velvets and costly lace, adorned with many jewels and waving feathers, he walked in Hyde Park attended by an "abundance of gallantry," or went to Whitehall Chapel, where "the organs and singing-men in surplices" were first heard by Mr. Pepys, a vast crowd of loyal subjects attended him on his way. Likewise, when, preceded by heralds, he journeyed by water in his barge to open Parliament, the river was crowded with innumerable boats, and the banks lined with a great concourse anxious for sight of him. Nor were his subjects satisfied by the glimpses obtained of him on such occasions; they must needs behold their king surrounded by the insignia of royalty in the palace of his ancestors, and flocked thither in numbers. "The eagerness of men, women, and children to see his majesty, and kisse his hands was so greate," says Evelyn, "that he had scarce leisure to eate for some dayes, coming as they did from all parts of the nation: and the king being as willing to give them that satisfaction, would have none kept out, but gave free access to all sorts of people." Indeed his loyal subjects were no less pleased with him than he with them; and in faith he was sorry, he declared, in that delicate strain of irony that ran like a bright thread throughout the whole pattern of his speech, he had not come over before, for every man he encountered was glad to see him.
Day after day, week after week, the Palace of Whitehall presented a scene of ceaseless bustle. Courtiers, ambassadors, politicians, soldiers, and citizens crowded the antechambers, flocked through the galleries, and tarried in the courtyards. Deputations from all the shires and chief towns in the three kingdoms, bearing messages of congratulation and loyalty, were presented to the king. First of all came the worshipful lord mayor, aldermen and council of the city of London, in great pomp and state; when the common-sergeant made a speech to his majesty respecting the affection of the city towards him, and the lord mayor, on hospitable thoughts intent, besought the honour of his company to dinner, the which Charles promised him most readily. And the same day the commissioners from Ireland presented themselves, headed by Sir James Barry, who delivered himself of a fine address regarding the love his majesty's Irish subjects bore him; as proof of which he presented the monarch with a bill for twenty thousand pounds, that had been duly accepted by Alderman Thomas Viner, a right wealthy man and true. Likewise came the deputy steward and burgesses of the city of Westminster, arrayed in the glory of new scarlet gowns; and the French, Italian, and Dutch ministers, when Monsieur Stoope pronounced an harangue with great eloquence. Also the vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford, with divers doctors, bachelors of divinity, proctors, and masters of arts of the same learned university, who, having first met at the Temple Church, went by two and two, according to their seniority, to Essex House, that they might wait on the most noble the Marquis of Hertford, then chancellor. Accompanied by him, and preceded by eight esquires and yeomen beadles, having their staves, and three of them wearing gold chains, they presented themselves before the king, and spoke him words of loyalty and greeting. The heads of the colleges and halls of Cambridge, with some masters of arts, in like manner journeyed to Whitehall, when Dr. Love delivered a learned Latin oration, expressive of their devotion to royalty in the person of their most illustrious monarch.
Amongst others came, one day, my Lord Cleveland at the head of a hundred gentlemen, many of them being officers who had formerly served under him, and other gentlemen who had ridden to meet the king when coming unto his own; and having arrived at Whitehall, they knelt down in the matted gallery, when his majesty "was pleased to walk along," says MERCURIUS PUBLICUS, "and give everyone of them the honour to kiss his hand, which favour was so highly received by them, that they could no longer stifle their joy, but as his majesty was walking out (a thing thought unusual at court) they brake out into a loud shouting."
Then the nobility entertained the king and his royal brothers with much magnificence, his Excellency Lord General Monk first giving at his residence in the Cockpit, a great supper, after which "he entertained his majesty with several sorts of musick;" Next Earl Pembroke gave a rare banquet; also the Duke of Buckingham, my Lord Lumley, and many others. Nor was my lord mayor, Sir Thomas Allen, behindhand in extending hospitality to the king, whom he invited to sup with him. This feast, having no connection with the civic entertainments, was held at good Sir Thomas's house. The royal brothers of York and Gloucester were likewise bidden, together with several of the nobility and gentry of high degree. Previous to supper being served, the lord mayor brought his majesty a napkin dipped in rose-water, and offered it kneeling; when his majesty had wiped his hands, he sat down at a table raised by an ascent, the Duke of York on his right hand, and the Duke of Gloucester on his left. They were served with three several courses, at each of which the tablecloth was shifted, and at every dish which his majesty or the dukes tasted, the napkins were moreover changed. At another table in the same room sat his Excellency the Lord General, the Duke of Buckingham, the Marquis of Ormond, the Earl of Oxford, Earl of Norwich, Earl of St. Albans, Lords De la Ware, Sands, Berkeley, and several other of the nobility, with knights and gentlemen of great quality. Sir John Robinson, alderman of London, proposed his majesty's health, which was pledged standing by all present. His majesty was the while entertained with a variety of rare music. This supper was given on the 16th of June; and a couple of weeks later, on the 5th of July, the king went "with as much pompe and splendour as any earthly prince could do to the greate Citty feast, the first they had invited him to since his returne."
But whilst entertainments were given, and diversions occupied the town, Charles was called upon to touch for the evil, an affliction then most prevalent throughout the kingdom. According to a time-honoured belief which obtained until the coming of George I., when faith in the divinity of kings was no longer possible to the most ignorant, the monarch's touch was credited with healing this most grievous disease. Majesty in those days was sacred, and superstition rife. Accordingly we read in MERCURIUS PUBLICUS that, "The kingdom having for a long time, by reason of his majesty's absence, been troubled with the evil, great numbers flocked for cure. Saturday being appointed by his majesty to touch such as were so troubled, a great company of poor afflicted creatures were met together, many brought in chairs and baskets; and being appointed by his majesty to repair to the banqueting house, the king sat in a chair of state, where he stroked all that were brought to him, and then put about each of their necks a white ribbon with an angel of gold on it. In this manner his majesty stroked above six hundred; and such was his princely patience and tenderness to the poor afflicted creatures, that though it took up a long time, the king, being never weary of well doing, was pleased to make inquiry whether there were any more that had not been touched. After prayers were ended the Duke of Buckingham brought a towel, and the Earl of Pembroke a basin and ewer, who, after they had made their obeysance to his majesty, kneeled down till his majesty had washed."
This was on the 23rd of June, a few days earlier than the date fixed by Evelyn as that on which the king first began "touch for ye evil." A week later we find he stroked as many as two hundred and fifty persons. Friday was then appointed as the day for those suffering from this disease to come before the king; it was moreover decided that only two hundred persons should be presented each week and these were first to repair to Mr. Knight, his majesty's surgeon, living at the Cross Guns, in Russell Street, Covent Garden, over against the Rose tavern, for tickets of admission. "That none might lose their labour." the same Mr. Knight made it known to the public he would be at home on Wednesdays and Thursdays, from two till six of the clock; and if any person of quality should send for him he would wait upon them at their lodgings. The disease must indeed have been rife: week after week those afflicted continued to present themselves, and we read that, towards the end of July, "notwithstanding all discouragements by the hot weather and the multitude of sick and infirm people, his majesty abated not one of his accustomed number, but touched full two hundred: an high conviction of all such physicians, surgeons, and apothecaries that pretend self-preservation when the languishing patient requires their assistance." Indeed, there were some who placed boundless faith in the king's power of healing by touch; amongst whom was one Avis Evans, whom Aubrey, in his "Miscellanies," records "had a fungus nose, and said it was revealed to him that the king's hand would cure him. And at the first coming of King Charles II. into St. James's Park, he kissed the king's hand, and rubbed his nose with it, which disturbed the king, but cured him."
The universal joy which filled the nation at the restoration of his majesty was accompanied, as might be expected, by bitter hatred towards the leaders of Republicanism, especially towards such as had condemned the late king to death. The chief objects of popular horror now, however, lay in their graves; but the sanctity of death was neither permitted to save their memories from vituperation nor their remains from moltestation. Accordingly, through many days in June the effigy of Cromwell, which had been crowned with a royal diadem, draped with a purple mantle, in Somerset House, and afterwards borne with all imaginable pomp to Westminster Abbey, was now exposed at one of the windows at Whitehall with a rope fixed round its neck, by way of hinting at the death which the original deserved. But this mark of execration was not sufficient to satisfy the public mind, and seven months later, on the 30th of January, 1661, the anniversary of the murder of Charles I., the bodies of Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton, and John Bradshaw were taken from their resting places in Westminster Abbey, and drawn on hurdles to Tyburn, the well-known site of public executions. "All the way the universal outcry and curses of the people went along with them," says MERCURIUS PUBLICUS. "When these three carcasses arrived at Tyburn, they were pulled out of their coffins, and hanged at the several angles of that triple tree, where they hung till the sun was set; after which they were taken down, their heads cut off; and their loathsome trunks thrown into a deep hole under the gallows. The heads of those three notorious regicides, Oliver Cromwell, John Bradshaw, and Ireton are set upon poles on the top of Westminster Hall by the common hangman. Bradshaw placed in the middle (over that part where the monstrous high court of justice sat), Cromwell and his son-in-law Ireton on either side of Bradshaw."
Before this ghastly execution took place, Parliament had brought to justice such offenders against the late king's government and life as were in its power. According to the declaration made by the king at Breda, a full and general pardon was extended to all rebellious subjects, excepting such persons as should be hereafter excepted by Parliament. By reason of this clause, some who had been most violent in their persecution of royalty were committed to the Tower before the arrival of his majesty, others fled from the country, but had, on another proclamation summoning them to surrender themselves, returned in hope of obtaining pardon. Thirty in all were tried at the Old Bailey before the Commissioners of Oyer and Terminer and a special jury of knights and gentlemen of quality in the county of Middlesex. Twenty-nine of these were condemned to death. The king was singularly free from desires of revenge; but many of his council were strangers to clemency, and, under the guise of loyalty to the crown, sought satisfaction for private wrongs by urging severest measures. The monarch, however, shrank from staining the commencement of his reign with bloodshed and advocated mercy. In a speech delivered to the House of Lords he insisted that, as a point of honour, he was bound to make good the assurances given in his proclamation of Breda, "which if I had not made," he continued, "I am persuaded that neither I nor you had now been here. I pray, therefore, let us not deceive those who brought or permitted us to come together; and I earnestly desire you to depart from all particular animosities and revenge or memory of past provocations." Accordingly, but ten of those on whom sentence of death had been passed were executed, the remainder being committed to the Tower. That they were not also hung was, according to the mild and merciful Dr. Reeves, Dean of Westminster, "a main cause of God's punishing the land" in the future time. For those destined to suffer, a gibbet was erected at Charing Cross, that the traitors might in their last moments see the spot where the late king had been executed. Having been half hung, they were taken down, when their heads were severed from their trunks and set up on poles at the south-east end of Westminster Hall, whilst their bodies were quartered and exposed upon the city gates.
Burnet tells us that "the regicides being odious beyond all expression, the trials and executions of the first who suffered were run to by crowds, and all the people seemed pleased with the sight;" yet by degrees these cruel and ghastly spectacles became distasteful and disgusting. "I saw not their executions," says Evelyn, speaking of four of the traitors who had suffered death on the 17th of October, "but met their quarters mangled and cutt and reeking as they were brought from the gallows in baskets on the hurdle. Oh the miraculous providence of God!"
Seven months later, the people were diverted by the more cheerful pageant of the king's coronation, which was conducted with great magnificence. "Two days," as Heath narrates, "were allotted to the consummation of this great and most celebrated action, the wonder, admiration and delight of all persons, both foreign and domestick." Early on the morning of the 22nd of May, the day being Monday, the king left Whitehall, by water, for the Tower, in order that he might, according to ancient custom, proceed through the city to Westminster Abbey. It was noticed that it had previously rained for a month together, but on this and the next day "it pleased God that not one drop fell on the king's triumph." At ten o'clock the roaring of cannon announced the procession had left the Tower on its way to Whitehall, where his majesty was to rest the night. The splendour of the pageant was such as had never before been witnessed. The procession was headed by the king's council at law, the masters of chancery and judges, who were followed by the lords according to their rank, so numerous in all, that those who rode first reached Fleet Street, whilst the king was yet in the Tower.
No expense was spared by those who formed part of that wonderful cavalcade, towards rendering their appearance magnificent. Heath tells us it was incredible to think "what costly cloathes were worn that day. The cloaks could hardly be seen what silk or satin they were made of, for the gold and silver laces and embroidery that was laid upon them; the like also was seen on their foot-cloathes. Besides the inestimable value and treasures of diamonds, pearls, and other jewels worn upon their backs and in their hats, not to mention the sumptuous and rich liveries of their pages and footmen, some suits of liveries amounting to fifteen hundred pounds." Nor had the city hesitated in lavishing vast sums towards decorating the streets through which the king was to pass. Four triumphal arches were erected, that were left standing for a year in memory of this joyful day. These were "composed" by John Ogilby, Esquire; and were respectively erected in Leadenhall Street, the Exchange on Cornhill, Wood Street, and Fleet Street.
The thoroughfares were newly gravelled, railed all the way on both sides, and lined with the city companies and trained bands. The "relation of his majesty's entertainment passing through the City of London," as narrated by John Ogilby, and by the papers of the day, is extremely quaint and interesting, but too long for detailed description. During the monarch's progress through "Crouched Friers," he was diverted with music discoursed by a band of eight waits, placed upon a stage. At Aldgate, and at several other stages of his journey, he was received in like manner. Arriving at the great arch in Leadenhall Street, his ears were greeted by sounds of trumpets and drums playing marches; when they had finishes, a short scene was enacted on a balcony of the arch, by figures representing Monarchy, Rebellion, and Loyalty. Then the great procession wended its way to the East India House, situate in the same street, when the East India Company took occasion to express their dutiful affections, in a manner "wholly designed by person of quality." As the king advanced, a youth in an Indian habit, attended by two blackamoors, knelt down before his majesty's horse, and delivered himself of some execrable verse, which he had no sooner ended than another youth in an Indian vest, mounted on a camel, was led forwards and delivered some lines praying his majesty's subjects might never see the sun set on his crown or dignity. The camel, it my be noticed, bore panniers filled with pearls, spices, and silks, destined to be scattered among the spectators. At Cornhill was a conduit, surmounted by eight wenches representing nymphs—a sight which must have rejoiced the king's heart; and on the tower of this same fountain sounded "a noise of seven trumpets." Another fountain flowed with wine and water; and on his way the king heard several speeches delivered by various symbolic figures. One of these, who made a particularly fine harangue, represented the River Thames, as a gentleman whose "garment loose and flowing, coloured blue and white, waved like water, flags and ozier-like long hair falling o'er his shoulders; his beard long, sea-green, and white." And so by slow degrees the king came to Temple Bar, where he was entertained by "a view of a delightful boscage, full of several beasts, both tame and savage, as also several living figures and music of eight waits." And having passed through Temple Bar into his ancient and native city of Westminster, the head bailiff in a scarlet robe and the high constable, likewise in scarlet, on behalf of the dean, chapter, city, and liberty, received his majesty with great expressions of joy.
Never had there been so goodly a show so grand a procession; the citizens, still delighted with their young king, had certainly excelled in doing him honour, and some foreigners, Heaton says, "acknowledged themselves never to have seen among all the great magnificences of the world any to come near or equal this: even the vaunting French confessed their pomps of the late marriage with the Infanta of Spain, at their majesties' entrance into Paris, to be inferior in its state, gallantry, and riches unto this most illustrious cavalcade." Amongst those who witnessed the procession was Mr. Pepys, who has left us a realistic description, without which this picture would be incomplete. He tells us he arose early on this day; and the vain fellow says he made himself as fine as could be, putting on his velvet coat for the first time, though he had it made half a year before. "And being ready," he continues, "Sir W. Batten, my lady, and his two daughters, and his son and wife, and Sir W. Pen and his son and I, went to Mr. Young's, the flag-maker, in Corne-hill; and there we had a good room to ourselves, with wine and good cake, and saw the show very well. In which it is impossible to relate the glory of this day, expressed in the clothes of them that rid, and their horses and horses' clothes; among others, my Lord Sandwich's embroidery and diamonds were ordinary among them. The Knights of the Bath was a brave sight of itself. Remarquable were the two men that represent the two Dukes of Normandy and Aquitane. My Lord Monk rode bare after the king, and led in his hand a spare horse, as being Master of the Horse. The king, in a most rich embroidered suit and cloak, looked most noble. Wadlow, the vintner, at the Devil, in Fleet Street, did lead a fine company of soldiers, all young comely men in white doublets. There followed the Vice-Chamberlain, Sir G. Carteret, and a company of men all like Turkes. The streets all gravelled, and the houses hung with carpets before them, made brave show; and the ladies out of the windows, one of which over against us, I took much notice of, and spoke of her, which made good sport among us. So glorious was the show with gold and silver, that we were not able to look at it, our eyes at last being so much overcome with it. Both the king and the Duke of York took notice of us as they saw us at the window. The show being ended, Mr. Young did give us a dinner, at which we were very merry and pleased above imagination at what we have seen."
The next day, being the feast of St. George, patron of England, the king went in procession from Whitehall to Westminster Abbey, where he was solemnly crowned in the presence of a vast number of peers and bishops. After which, surrounded by the same brilliant company, he passed from the Abbey to Westminster Hall, the way being covered with blue cloth, and lined with spectators to the number of ten thousand. Here his majesty and the lords, spiritual and temporal, dined sumptuously, whilst many fine ceremonies were observed, music of all sorts was played, and a great crowd of pretty ladies looked down from the galleries. And when the banquet was over, and a general pardon had been read by the lord chancellor, and the champion had drank out of the king's gold cup, Charles betook himself to Whitehall. Then, after two days of fair weather, it suddenly "fell a-raining, and thundering and lightning," says Pepys, "as I have not seen it do for some years; which people did take great notice of."
The King's character.—His proverbial grace.—He tells a story well.—"A warmth and sweetness of the blood."—Beautiful Barbara Palmer.—Her intrigue with my Lord Chesterfield.—James, Duke of York.—His early days.—Escape from St. James's.—Fights in the service of France.—Marriage with Anne Hyde.—Sensation at Court.—The Duke of Gloucester's death.—The Princess of Orange.—Schemes against the Duke of York's peace.—The "lewd informer."—Anne Hyde is acknowledged Duchess of York.
Whilst the kingdom was absorbed by movements consequent on its change of government, the court was no less engrossed by incidents relative to the career it had begun. In the annals of court life there are no pages more interesting than those dealing with Charles II, and his friends; in the history of kings there is no more remarkable figure than that of the merry monarch himself.
Returning to rule over a nation which, during his absence, had been distracted by civil strife, King Charles, young in years, brave in deeds, and surrounded by that halo of romance which misfortune lends its victims, entirely gained the hearts of his subjects. Nature had endowed him with gifts adapted to display qualities that fascinated, and fitted to hide blemishes which repelled. On the one hand his expressive features and shapely figure went far towards creating a charm which his personal grace and courtesy of manner completed; on the other, his delicate tact screened the heartlessness of his sensualism, whilst his surface sympathies hid the barrenness of his cynicism.
With the coolness and courage he had shown in danger, the shrewdness and wit he continually evinced, and the varied capacities he certainly possessed, Charles II. might have made his reign illustrious, had not his love of ease and detestation of business rendered him indifferent to all things so long as he was free to follow his desires. But these faults, which became grievous in the eyes of his subjects, commended him to the hearts of his courtiers, the common purpose of whose lives was pursuit of pleasure. Never was sovereign more gracious to those who came in contact with him, or less ceremonious with his friends; whilst abroad he had lived with his little band of courtiers more as a companion than a king. The bond of exile had drawn them close together; an equal fortune had gone far towards obliterating distinctions of royalty; and custom had so fitted the monarch and his friends to familiarity, that on his return to England neither he nor they laid aside a mutual freedom of treatment which by degrees extended itself throughout the court. For all that, "he was master," as Welwood says, "of something in his person and aspect that commanded both love and admiration at once."
Among his many gifts was that of telling a story well—a rare one 'tis true in all ages. Never was he better pleased than when, surrounded by a group of gossips, he narrated some anecdote of which he was the hero; and, though his tales were more than twice told, they were far from tedious; inasmuch as, being set forth with brighter flashes of wit and keener touches of irony, they were ever pleasant to hear. His conversation was of a like complexion to his tales, pointed, shrewd, and humorous; frequently—as became the manner of the times—straying far afield of propriety, and taking liberties of expression of which nice judgments could not approve. But indeed his majesty's speech was not more free than his conduct was licentious. He could not think, he gravely told Bishop Burnet, "God would make a man miserable for taking a little pleasure out of the way." Accordingly he followed the free bent of his desires, and his whole life was soon devoted to voluptuousness; a vice which an ingenious courtier obligingly describes as a "warmth and sweetness of the blood that would not be confined in the communicating itself—an overflowing of good nature, of which he had such a stream that it would not be restrained within the banks of a crabbed and unsociable virtue."
The ease and freedom of his continental life had no doubt fostered this lamentable depravity; for his misfortunes as an exiled king by no means prevented him following his inclinations as an ardent lover. Accordingly, his intrigues at that time were numerous, as may be judged from the fact of Lady Byron being described as "his seventeenth mistress abroad." The offspring of one of his continental mistresses was destined to plunge the English nation into civil warfare, and to suffer a traitor's death on Tower Hill in the succeeding reign.
"The profligacy which Charles practised abroad not being discontinued at home, he resumed in England an intrigue commenced at Brussels a short time before the restoration. The object of this amour was the beautiful Barbara Palmer, afterwards, by reason of her lack of virtue, raised to the peerage under the titles of Countess of Castlemaine, and Duchess of Cleveland. This lady, who became a most prominent figure in the court of the merry monarch, was daughter of William, second Viscount Grandison, a brave gentleman and a loyal, who had early in life fallen in the civil war whilst fighting for his king. He is described as having, among other gifts, "a faultless person," a boon, which descended to his only child, the bewitching Barbara. In the earliest dawn of her womanhood she encountered her first lover in the person of Philip Stanhope, second Earl of Chesterfield. My lord was at this time a youthful widower, and is described as having "a very agreeable face, a fine head of hair, an indifferent shape, and a pleasant wit. He was, moreover, an elegant beau and a dissolute man—testimony of which latter fact may be gathered from a letter written to him in 1658, by his sister-in-law, Lady Essex, to prevent the "ruin of his soule." Writes her ladyship: "You treate all the mad drinking lords, you sweare, you game, and commit all the extravagances that are insident to untamed youths, to such a degree that you make yourselfe the talke of all places, and the wonder of those who thought otherwise of you, and of all sober people."
When Barbara was sixteen, my lord, then in his twenty-third year, inherited the title and estates of his grandfather: he therefore became master of his own fortune and could bestow his hand where he pleased. That he was in love with Barbara is, indeed, most true; but that his passion was dishonourable is likewise certain: for though he wrote her letters full of tenderness, and kept assignations with her at Butler's shop, on Ludgate Hill, he was the while negotiating a marriage with one Mrs. Fairfax, to whom he was not, however, united. His intrigue with Barbara continued for upwards of three years, when it was temporarily suspended by her marriage to one Roger Palmer, a student of the Inner Temple, the son of a Middlesex knight, and, moreover, a man of the most obliging temper, as will hereafter be seen. Barbara's loyalty to her husband was but of short duration. Before she had been nine months a wife, we find her writing to her old lover she is "ready and willing to goe all over the world" with him—a sacrifice he declined to accept! though eager to take advantage of the affection which prompted it. A little while later he was obliged to quit England; for it happened in the first month of the year 1660 he quarrelled with and killed one Francis Woolley, a student at law, to avoid the consequences of which act he speedily fled the country.
Arriving at Calais, he wrote to King Charles, who was then preparing to return, throwing himself on his mercy, and beseeching his pardon; which the king granting, Lord Chesterfield sought his majesty at Brussels. Soon afterwards Barbara Palmer and her complaisant husband, a right loyal man, joined the king's court abroad, when the intrigue begun which was continued on the night of the monarch's arrival in London. True the loyal PARLIAMENTARY INTELLIGENCER stated "his majesty was diverted from his pious intention of going to Westminster to offer up his devotions of prayer and praise in publick according to the appointment of his Majesty, and made his oblations unto God in the presence-chamber;" but it is, alas, equally certain, according to Oldmixon, Lord Dartmouth, and other reliable authorities, he spent the first night of his return in the company of Barbara Palmer. From that time this abandoned woman exercised an influence over the king which wholly disgraced his court, and almost ruined his kingdom.
Another prominent figure, whose history is inseparable from the king's, was that of his majesty's brother, James, Duke of York—a man of greater ambition and lesser talents than the merry monarch, but one whose amorous disposition equalled the monarch's withal. At an early period of his life the Duke of York was witness of the strife which divided his unhappy father's kingdom. When only eight years old he was sent for by Charles I. to York, but was forbidden by the Parliament to leave St. James's Palace. Despite its commands he was, however, carried to the king by the gallant Marquis of Hereford. That same year the boy witnessed the refusal of Sir John Hotham, Governor of Hull, to admit his majesty within the gates; and James was subsequently present at the siege of Bristol, and the famous battle of Edgehill, when his life at one period of the engagement was in imminent peril.
Until 1646 he continued under the guardianship of his father, when, on the entrance of Fairfax into Oxford, the young duke was found among the prisoners, and by Cromwell's orders committed to the charge of Sir George Ratcliffe. A few months later he was removed to St. James's Palace, when in company with his brother, the Duke of Gloucester, and his sister, the Princess Elizabeth, he was placed under the care of Lord Northumberland, who had joined the Republican cause.
Though by no means treated with unkindness, the young duke, unhappy at the surveillance placed upon his actions and fearful of the troubles quickly gathering over the kingdom, twice sought escape. This was a serious offence in the eyes of Cromwell's Parliament; a committee was accordingly sent to examine him, and he was threatened with imprisonment in the Tower. Though only in his fourteenth year he already possessed both determination and courage, by reason of which he resolved to risk all danger, and make a third effort for freedom. Accordingly he laid his plans with much ingenuity, selecting two men from those around him to aid his undertaking. These were George Howard and Colonel Bamfield. The latter had once served in the king's army, but when the fortunes of war had gone against his royal master, had professed himself friendly to the Republicans. No doubt the young duke saw the gallant colonel was still true at heart to the Royalist cause, and therefore trusted him at this critical juncture.
Now for a fortnight previous to the night on which he designed to escape, James made it his habit to play at hide-and-seek every evening after supper with his brother and sister, and the children of the officers then located in the palace; and in such secure places did he secrete himself that his companions frequently searched for over half an hour without discovering him. This of course accustomed the household to miss him, and was cunningly practised for the purpose of gaining time on his pursuers when he came to be sought for in good earnest.
At last the eventful night fixed for his escape arrived; and after supper a pleasant group of merry children prepared to divert themselves in the long dark halls and narrow winding passages of the grim old palace. James, as usual, proposed concealing himself, and leaving his companions for the purpose, disappeared behind some arras; but, instead of hiding, he hastened to his sister's chamber, where he locked up a favourite dog that was in the habit of following his footsteps wherever he went, and then noiselessly slipped down a back stairs which led to an inner garden. Having taken care to provide himself with a key fitting the garden door, he quickly slipped into the park. Here he found Colonel Bamfield waiting, who, giving him a cloak and a wig for his better disguise, hurried him into a hackney coach, which drove them as far as Salisbury House in the Strand. From thence they went through Spring Garden, and down Ivy Lane, when, taking boat, they landed close by London Bridge. Here entering the house of a surgeon friendly to their adventure, they found a woman named Murray awaiting them, who immediately provided a suit of woman's wearing apparel for the young duke, in which she helped to attire him. Dressed in this costume he, attended by the faithful Bamfield, hastened to Lion Quay, where they entered a barge hired for their conveyance to a Dutch frigate stationed beyond Gravesend.
Meanwhile, the children not being able to discover their playfellow in the palace, their elders became suspicious of the duke's escape, and began to aid the search. Before an hour elapsed they were convinced he had fled, and St. James's was thrown into a state of the utmost excitement and confusion. Notice of his flight was at once despatched to General Fairfax at Whitehall, who immediately gave orders have all the roads from London guarded, especially those leading to the north; for it was surmised he would in the first instance seek to escape into Wales. The duke, however, had taken a safer course, but one which was not unattended by danger. He had not sailed far in the barge when its master became suspicious that he was aiding the escape of some persons of consequence, and became frightened lest he should get into trouble by rendering them his services. And presently his surmise was converted into certainty; for looking through a cranny of the barge-room door, he saw the young woman fling her leg on the table and pull up her stocking in a most unmaidenly manner. He therefore at once peremptorily declared to Colonel Bamfield they must land at Gravesend, and procure another boat to carry them to the ship; for it would be impossible for the barge to pass the block-house lower down without being observed, and consequently inspected, as was the custom at this troubled time. On hearing which Colonel Bamfield was filled with dismay; but, knowing that at heart the people were loyal towards the Stuarts, he confided the identity of his passenger, and begged him not to betray them in this hour of peril. To give his appeal further weight, he promised the fellow a considerable sum if they safely reached the frigate; for human nature is weak, and greed of gold is strong. On this, the bargee, who was a loyal man, promised he would help them to the best of his powers; the lights were therefore extinguished, the oars drawn in, and, the tide fortunately answering, the barge glided noiselessly down under cover of night, and passed the block-house unobserved. In good time they reached the frigate, which, the duke and Colonel Bamfield boarding, at once set sail, and in a few days landed them at Middleburgh. James proceeded to the court of his sister, the Princess of Orange, and later on joined his mother in France.
At the age of twenty he served in the French army, under Turenne, against the Spanish forces in Flanders, and subsequently in several campaigns, where he invariably showed himself so brave and valiant that the Prince de Conde declared that if ever there was a man without fear, it was James, Duke of York. Now it happened that in 1658 the Princess of Orange went to Paris in order to visit the queen mother, as the widow of Charles I. was called. The Duke of York was in the gay capital at this time, and it soon became noticed that he fixed his attention overmuch on one of his sister's maids of honour, Anne Hyde. This gentlewoman, then in her twenty-first year, was the possessor of a comely countenance, excellent shape, and much wit. Anne was daughter of Edward Hyde, a worthy man, who had been bred to the law, and proved himself so faithful a servant to Charles I., that his majesty had made him Privy Councillor and Chancellor of the Exchequer. After the king's execution, in 1649, the chancellor thought it wise for himself and his family to seek refuge in exile, and accordingly joined Charles II., with whom he lived in the closest friendship, and for whose return he subsequently negotiated with General Monk.
Now James, after his fashion, made love to Mistress Hyde, who encouraged his advances until they reached a certain stage, beyond which the judicious maiden forbade them to proceed unless blessed by the sanction of holy church. The Duke, impatient to secure his happiness, was therefore secretly united to Mistress Hyde in the bonds of matrimony on the 24th of November, in the year of grace 1659, at Breda, to which place the Princess of Orange had returned. In a little while, the restoration being effected, the duke returned to England with the king, leaving his bride behind. And Chancellor Hyde being presently re-established in his offices, and settled in his residence at Worcester House in the Strand, sent for his wife and children; the more speedily as he had received an overture from a noble family, on behalf of "a hopeful, well-bred young gentleman," who expressed himself anxious to wed with Mistress Anne.
The same young lady had not long returned, when she informed her husband she was about to become a mother; whereon the duke, seeking the king, fell upon his knees before him, laid bare his secret, and besought him to sanction his union, "that he might publicly marry in such a manner as his majesty thought necessary for the consequence thereof;" adding that, if consent were refused, he would "immediately take leave of the kingdom and spend his life in foreign parts." King Charles was astonished and perplexed by this confession. James was heir, and as such it behoved him to wed with one suited, by reason of her lineage, to support the dignity of the crown, and calculated by her relation towards foreign powers to strengthen the influence of the throne. The duke was fully aware of this, and, moreover, knew he could without much difficulty have his marriage annulled; but that he did not adopt this course was an honourable trait in his character; and, indeed, his conduct and that of the king was most creditable throughout the transactions which followed; an account of which is set forth with great minuteness in the "Continuation of Edward Hyde, Lord Clarendon's Life."
Without the advice of his council, the king could give no satisfactory reply to his brother. He therefore summoned two of his trusty friends, the Marquis of Ormond and the Earl of Southampton, whom he informed of the duke's marriage, requesting them to communicate the same to the chancellor, and return with him for private consultation. The good man's surprise at this news concerning his daughter was, according to his own account, exceeding great, and was only equalled by his vast indignation. His loyalty towards the royal family was so fervent that it overlooked his affection to his child. He therefore fell into a violent passion, protested against her wicked presumption, and advised that the king "should immediately cause the woman to be sent to the Tower, and to be cast into a dungeon, under so strict a guard that no person should be admitted to come to her; and then that an act of parliament should be immediately passed for the cutting off her head, to which he would not only give his consent, but would very willingly be the first man that should propose it." All this he presently repeated to the king, and moreover, assured him an example of the highest severity, in a case so nearly concerning himself, would serve as a warning that others might take heed of offences committed against his regal dignity.
News of this marriage spread throughout the court with rapidity, and caused the utmost excitement; which in a little while was somewhat abated by the announcement that the king's youngest brother, Henry, Duke of Gloucester, was taken ill of small-pox. This young prince, who is described as "a pretty boy," possessed parts which bade fair to surpass his brothers. He was indeed associated by his family with their tenderest memories, inasmuch as he had been with his father on the sad day previous to his execution. On that melancholy occasion, Charles I. had taken him upon his knee, and said to him very tenderly, "Sweetheart, they will cut off thy father's head," at which the boy shuddered and turned pale. "Mark, child, what I say," continued the unhappy king, "they will cut off my head, and, perhaps, make thee a king; but mark what I say, you must not be made king as long as your brothers Charles and James are alive, for they will cut off thy brothers' heads when they catch them, and cut off thy head at last; and therefore I charge you not to be made a king by them." To which the lad replied very earnestly, "I will be torn in pieces first." Sometime after the death of his father he was allowed to join his family in France, and, like his brother James, entered the army of that country. On the restoration, he had returned with the king, and, three months later, this "prince of very extraordinary hopes" died, grievously lamented by the court, and especially by his majesty, who declared he felt this loss more than any other which had previously fallen upon him.
Scarcely had he been laid to rest in the vault containing the dust of Mary Queen of Scots and Lady Arabella Stuart, when the Princess of Orange arrived in England to pay the king a visit of ceremony. No sooner was she settled at court, than rumour of her brother's marriage reached her; on which she became outrageous; but her wrath was far exceeded by that of the queen mother, who, on hearing the news, wrote to the duke expressing her indignation "that he should have such low thoughts as to marry such a woman." The epistle containing this sentence was at once shown by James to his wife, whom he continually saw and spent much time with, unknown to her father, who had given orders she should keep her chamber. Parliament now sat, but no mention was made of the duke's marriage by either House; and, inasmuch as the union so nearly concerned the nation, this silence caused considerable surprise. It was surmised the delay was made in deference to the feelings of the queen mother, who at this juncture set out for England, to prevent what she was pleased to term "so great a stain and dishonour to the crown." The king regarded his brother's alliance in a lenient spirit, and not only spoke of it frequently before the court, but expressed his desire of bringing the indiscretion to a happy conclusion by a public acknowledgment.
The queen mother, being an ambitious woman, had cherished certain schemes for extending the power of her family by the respective marriages of her sons, which the duke's union was, of course, calculated to curtail. She therefore regarded his wife with the bitterest disdain. Whenever that woman should be brought into Whitehall by one door, her majesty declared she would leave it by another and never enter it again. The marriage was rendered all the more disagreeable to the queen, because the object of her son's choice was daughter of the lord chancellor, whose influence over Charles II. had frequently opposed her plans in the past, and threatened to prevent their realization in the future. The monarch, however, paid little attention to his mother's indignation. He was resolved no disgrace which he could hinder should fall upon the family of one who had served him with disinterested loyalty; and, by way of proving his friendship towards the chancellor on the present occasion, he, before setting out to meet his mother on her arrival at Dover, presented him with twenty thousand pounds, and left a signed warrant for creating him a baron, which he desired the attorney-general to have ready to pass the seals at his return.
In the meantime a wicked plot, for the purpose of lessening James's affection for his wife, and ultimately preventing the acknowledgment of his marriage, was promoted by the chancellor's enemies and the duke's friends, principal amongst whom were the Princess of Orange and Sir Charles Berkley, "a fellow of great wickedness," Sir Charles was his royal highness's most trusted friend, and was, moreover, devoted to the service of the princess and her mother. He therefore determined to hinder the duke from taking a step which he was of opinion would injure him irretrievably. Accordingly, when James spoke in confidence concerning his marriage, Sir Charles told him it was wholly invalid, inasmuch as it had taken place without the king's consent; and that a union with the daughter of an insignificant lawyer was not to be thought of by the heir to the crown. Moreover, he hinted he could a tale unfold regarding her behaviour. At this the duke became impatient to hear what his good friend had to say; whereon that valiant gentleman boasted, with an air of bravery and truth, of certain gallantries which had passed between him and the lady. On hearing this, James, being credulous was sorely depressed. He ceased to visit his wife, withdrew from general company; and so well did Sir Charles's scheme succeed, that before the queen's arrival, the duke had decided on denying his marriage with one who had brought him dishonour. The king, however, put no faith in these aspersions; he felt sure "there was a wicked conspiracy set on foot by villains."
It therefore happened the queen was spared the trouble she had anticipated with her son; indeed, he humbly begged her pardon for "having placed his affections so unequally, of which he was sure there was now an end"—a confession most gratifying to her majesty. The duke's bitter depression continued, and was soon increased by the death of his sister, the Princess of Orange, which was occasioned by smallpox on the 23rd of December, 1660. In her last agonies Lord Clarendon says "she expressed a dislike of the proceedings in that affair, to which she had contributed too much." This fact, together with his royal highness's unhappiness, had due weight on Sir Charles Berkley, who began to repent of the calumnies he had spoken. Accordingly, the "lewd informer" went to the duke, and sought to repair the evil he had wrought. Believing, he said, such a marriage would be the absolute ruin of his royal highness, he had made the accusation which he now confessed to be false, and without the least ground; for he was very confident of the lady's honour and virtue. He then begged pardon on his knees for a fault committed out of pure devotion, and trusted the duke would "not suffer him to be ruined by the power of those whom he had so unworthily provoked, and of which he had so much shame that he had not confidence to look upon them."
James was so much relieved by what he heard that he not only forgave Sir Charles, but embraced him, and promised him protection. Nor did his royal highness longer withhold the reparation due to his wife, who, with the approval of the king and the reluctant consent of the queen, was received at court as Duchess of York. Such was the romance connected with the marriage of her who became mother of two English queens—Mary, wife of William of Orange, and Anne, of pious memory.
Morality of the Restoration.—Puritan piety.—Conduct of women under the Republic.—Some notable courtiers.—The Duke of Ormond and his family.—Lord St. Albans and Henry Jermyn.—His Grace of Buckingham and Mistress Fairfax.—Lord Rochester.—Beautiful Barbara Palmer.—The King's Projected marriage.—Catherine of Braganza.—His Majesty's speech.—A Royal love-letter.—The new Queen sets sail.
A general idea obtains that the libertine example set forth by Charles II. and his courtiers is wholly to blame for the spirit of depravity which marked his reign. That it was in part answerable for the spread of immorality is true, inasmuch as the royalists, considering sufficient aversion could not be shown to the loathsome hypocrisy of the puritans, therefore fell into an opposite extreme of ostentatious profligacy. But that the court was entirely responsible for the vice tainting all classes of society whilst the merry monarch occupied the throne, is false.
Other causes had long been tending to produce this unhappy effect. The reign of the Commonwealth had not been, remarkable for its virtue, though it had been notable for its pharisaism. With the puritan, words of piety took place of deeds of grace; the basest passions were often hidden under sanctimonious exteriors. Even Cromwell, "a man of long and dark discourses, sermons, and prayers," was not above reproach. Bishop Burnet, who has no harsh words for him, and few gentle ones for Charles, states the Protector's intrigue with Lady Dysart was "not a little taken notice of;" on which, the godly man "broke it off." He therefore, Heath records, began an amour with a lady of lesser note—Mrs. Lambert, the wife of a puritan, herself a lady devoted to psalm singing and audible prayer when, not otherwise pleasantly engaged.
The general character of many news-sheets of the day proves that morality under the Republic was at a low ebb. Anarchy in a kingdom invariably favours dissoluteness in a people, inasmuch as the disturbance of civil order tends to unsettle moral law. Homes being divided amongst themselves by political strife, paternal care was suspended, and filial respect ignored. In the general confusion which obtained, the distinction of social codes was overlooked. Lord Clarendon states that; during this unhappy period, young people of either sex were "educated in all the liberty of vice, without reprehension or restraint." He adds, "The young women conversed without any circumspection or modesty, and frequently met at taverns and common eating-houses." An additional description of the ways and manners of young maidens under the Republic is given in a rare and curious pamphlet entitled "A Character of England as it was lately presented in a Letter to a Nobleman of France"; printed in the year 1659, for Jo. Crooke, and sold at the Ship in St. Paul's Yard. Having spoken of taverns where "fury and intemperance" reign, and where, "that nothing may be wanting to the height of luxury and impiety, organs have been translated out of the churches for the purpose of chanting their dithyrambics and bestiall bacchanalias to the tune of those instruments which were wont to assist them in the celebration of God's praises," the writer continues: "Your lordship will scarce believe me that the ladies of greatest quality suffer themselves to be treated in one of those taverns, where a curtezan in other cities would scarcely vouchsafe to be entertained; but you will be more astonish't when I shall assure you that they drink their crowned cups roundly, strain healths through their smocks, daunce after the fiddle, kiss freely, and tearm it an honourable treat." He furthermore says they were to be found until midnight in company with their lovers at Spring Garden, which seemed to be "contrived to all the advantages of gallantry." From which evidences it may be gathered, that London under the Commonwealth was little less vicious than under the merry monarch.
The court Charles speedily gathered round him on his restoration was the most brilliant the nation had ever witnessed. Those of birth and distinction who had sought refuge abroad during the late troubles, now joyfully returned: whilst the juvenile branches of noble families living in retirement in England, to whom royalty had been a stranger, no less eagerly flocked to the presence of the gay young king. The wit and politeness of the men, the grace and beauty of the women, who surrounded Charles II. have become proverbial; whilst the gallantries of the one, and the frailties of the other, savour more of romance than reality.
That the condition of the court on its establishment may be realized, it is necessary, at this stage of its history, to introduce briefly some of the chief personages who surrounded his majesty, and occupied prominent attention in the annals of his reign. Notably amongst them were the gallant Duke of Ormond and his family. His grace, now in his fiftieth year, was distinguished for his commanding appearance, gracious manner, and excellent wit. During the troubles of the civil war, he had proved himself a most loyal subject, inasmuch as he had vested his fortune and ventured his person in service of the late king. Subsequently refusing liberal offers made him by Cromwell, on condition of living in peaceful retirement, he, after the execution of Charles I., betook himself to France, and shared exile with the young king until the restoration. In consequence of his proven fealty, honours were then deservingly showered upon him: he was made grand steward of the household, first lord of the bedchamber, and subsequently lord lieutenant of Ireland. The duchess, who had participated in her husband's misfortunes with a courage equal to his own, was a high-minded and most virtuous lady, who had brought up her family with great care. Scarcely less distinguished in mien and manner than the duke, were his two sons, Thomas, Earl of Ossory, and Lord Richard Butler, afterwards Earl of Arran. My lord of Ossory was no less remarkable for his beauty than famous for his accomplishments: he rode and played tennis to perfection, performed upon the lute to entrancement, and danced to the admiration of the court; he was moreover a good historian, and well versed in chronicles of romance. No less was the Earl of Arran proficient in qualifications befitting his birth, and gifted with attributes aiding his gallantry.
A third member of this noble family played a more remarkable part in the history of the court during her brief career than either of her brothers. This was the Lady Elizabeth Butler, eldest daughter of the duke, who, unfortunately for her own happiness, married my Lord Chesterfield at the Hague, when, a few months before the restoration, that nobleman fled to the continent to escape the consequences of Francis Woolley's murder. In Lely's picture of the young Countess of Chesterfield, her piquancy attracts at a glance, whilst her beauty charms on examination. Her cousin, Anthony Hamilton, describes her as having large blue eyes, very tempting and alluring, a complexion extremely fair, and a heart "ever open to tender sentiments," by reason of which her troubles arose, as shall be set down in proper sequence.
Henry Jermyn, Earl of St. Albans, and his nephew, "the little Jermyn," were also notable as figuring in court intrigues. The earl was member of the privy council to his majesty, and moreover held a still closer connection to the queen mother; for, according to Sir John Reresby, Madame Buviere, and others, her majesty had privately married his lordship abroad—an act of condescension he repaid with inhumanity. Madame Buviere says he never gave the queen a good word; and when she spoke to him he used to say, "Que me veut cette femme?" The same authority adds, he treated her majesty in an extremely ill manner, "so that whilst she had not a faggot to warm herself, he had in his apartments a good fire and a sumptuous table." [This testimony concerning the queen's poverty is borne out by Cardinal de Retz. In his interesting Memoirs he tells of a visit he paid the queen mother, then an exile in Paris. He found her with her youngest daughter, Henrietta, in the chamber of the latter. "At my coming in," says the Cardinal, "she (the queen) said, 'You see, I am come to keep Henrietta company; the poor child could not rise to-day for want of a fire.' The truth is, that the Cardinal (Mazarin) for six months together had not ordered her any money towards her pension; that no tradespeople would trust her for anything and there was not at her lodgings a single billet. You will do me the justice to think that the princess of England did not keep her bed the next day for want of a faggot... Posterity will hardly believe that a princess of England, grand-daughter to Henry the Great, hath wanted a faggot in the month of January, in the Louvre, and in the eyes of the French court."] Pepys records that the marriage of her majesty to the earl was commonly talked of at the restoration; and he likewise mentions it was rumoured "that they had a daughter between them in France. How true," says this gossip, "God knows."
The earl's nephew, Henry Jermyn, is described as having a big head and little legs, an affected carriage, and a wit consisting "in expressions learned by rote, which he occasionally employed either in raillery or love." For all that, he being a man of amorous disposition, the number of his intrigues was no less remarkable than the rank of those who shared them. Most notable amongst his conquests was the king's eldest sister, widow of the Prince of Orange—a lady possessing in no small degree natural affections for which her illustrious family were notorious. During the exile of Charles II., Henry Jermyn had made a considerable figure at her court in Holland by reason of the splendour of his equipage, entirely supported by his uncle's wealth; he had likewise made a forcible impression on her heart by virtue of the ardour of his addresses, wholly sustained by his own effrontery. The effect of his presence on the princess soon became visible to the court. Rumour whispered that as Lord St. Albans had already made an alliance with royalty, his nephew had likewise followed his example; but scandal declared that young Jermyn and the princess had omitted the ceremony which should have sanctioned their happiness. The reputation of such an amour gained him the immediate attention of many women, whose interest in his character increased with the knowledge of his abilities, and helped to associate him in their memories with tenderest emotions.
Another figure prominent in this gay and goodly assembly was George Villiers, second Duke of Buckingham. The faultless beauty of his face, and graceful symmetry of his figure, would have rendered him distinguished in a court less sensuously impressionable to physical perfection, even if his talents had not dazzled, and his wit amused. On the death of the first Duke of Buckingham, "styled the handsomest bodied man in England," the late king of pious memory undertook the charge of the young duke, and had him educated with his own sons. Subsequently he was sent to Cambridge, and then travelled into France, the better to acquire that polish of manner and grace of bearing for which he became distinguished. But, whilst abroad, word was brought him of the distress of his master, the king; on which the young duke hastened back into England, became a cavalier, and fought his majesty's battles with great gallantry. Soon after Charles I. had been beheaded, his faithful servitor went abroad; but being loyal to the Stuart cause, he journeyed with Charles II. to Scotland, and afterwards fought beside him in the bloody battle of Worcester. Whilst the monarch was hiding in Boscobel Wood, the duke betook himself to London, where, donning a wizard's mask, a jack-pudding coat, a hat adorned with a fox's tail and cock's feathers, he masqueraded as a mountebank, and discoursed diverting nonsense from a stage erected at Charing Cross. After running several risks, he escaped to France. But alas for the duke, who was born as Madame Dunois avows, doubtless from experience—"for gallantry and magnificence," he was now penniless, his great estates being confiscated by Cromwell. However, conceiving a scheme that might secure him part of his fortune, he hastened to put it into execution.
It happened that my Lord Fairfax, one of Cromwell's great generals, had allotted to him by the Protector a portion of the Buckingham estates that returned five thousand pounds a year. The general was, moreover, placed in possession of York House, which had likewise belonged to his grace.
Now it happened Lord Fairfax, a generous-tempered man and brave soldier, had an only child, a daughter destined to become his heiress; aware of which the duke resolved to marry her, that he might in this manner recover portion of his estate. The fact of the lady never having seen him did not interfere with his plans; that she would reject his suit seemed an impossibility; that she would succumb to the fascination he invariably exercised over woman was a certainty. Nor did it matter that Mistress Fairfax was no beauty; for the duke, being grateful for past favours liberally bestowed by the opposite sex, had no intention of becoming under any circumstances churlish enough to limit his devotion to one lady, though she were his wife.
Carefully disguising himself, he journeyed to London, where he was met by a faithful friend, who promised he would aid him in winning Mistress Fairfax, towards which end he promptly introduced the duke to that estimable gentlewoman. Having once obtained speech of her, the remainder of his scheme was comparatively easy of accomplishment. She loved the gay and graceful gallant at first sight, and through years of bitter wrong and cruel neglect continued his faithful and devoted slave.
Though she had become clandestinely acquainted with him, she was too good a daughter to wed without her father's consent. But this she had not much difficulty in obtaining. Though Lord Fairfax had fought against his king, he was not sufficiently republican to scorn alliance with nobility, nor so thoroughly puritan as to disdain connection with the ungodly. Accordingly he gave his sanction to the union, which was celebrated at his mansion at Nun Appleton, within six miles of York. Now, my Lord Fairfax had not consulted Cromwell's goodwill concerning this alliance, the news of which reaching the Protector in due time, made him exceedingly wroth. For he had daughters to marry, and, that he might strengthen his power, was desirous of wedding them to scions of nobility; Buckingham being one of those whom he had mentally selected to become a member of his family. His anger was therefore at once directed against Fairfax and his grace. The former he could not molest, but the latter he committed to the Tower; and if the great Protector had not been soon after seized by fatal illness, the duke would have made his last journey from thence to Tower Hill. As it fell out he remained a prisoner until within a year of the coming of Charles, whom he welcomed with exceeding joy. Being bred with the merry monarch, he had from boyhood been a favourite of his majesty, with whom he shared a common love for diversion. He was, therefore, from the first a prominent figure at Whitehall; his handsome person and extravagant dress adorned the court; his brilliant wit and poignant satire amused the royal circle.
His grace, however, had a rival, the vivacity of whose temper and piquancy of whose humour went far to eclipse Buckingham's talent in these directions. This was the young Earl of Rochester, son of my Lord Wilmot, who had so successfully aided the king's escape after the battle of Worcester, for which service he had been created Earl of Rochester by Charles in Paris. That worthy man dying just a year previous to the restoration, his son succeeded to his titles, and likewise to an estate which had been preserved for him by the prudence of his mother. Even in his young days Lord Rochester gave evidence of possessing a lively wit and remarkable genius, which were cultivated by his studies at Oxford and his travels abroad. So that at the age of eighteen, when he returned to England and presented himself at Whitehall, his sprightly parts won him the admiration of courtiers and secured him the favour of royalty. Nor was the young earl less distinguished by his wit and learning than by his face and figure; the delicate beauty of his features and natural grace of his person won him the love of many women, whom the tenderness of his heart and generosity of his youth did not permit him to leave unrequited.
Soon surfeited by his conquests in the drawing-room, he was anxious to extend his triumphs in another direction; and, selecting the sea as a scene of action, he volunteered to sail under my Lord Sandwich in quest of the Dutch East Indian fleet. At the engagements to which this led he exhibited a dauntless courage that earned him renown abroad, and covered him with honour on his return to court. From that time he, for many years, surrendered himself to a career of dissipation, often abandoning the paths of decency and decorum, pursuing vice in its most daring and eccentric fashion, employing his genius in the composition of lampoons which spared not even the king, and in the writing of ribald verses, the very names of which are not proper to indite. Lord Orford speaks of him as a man "whom the muses were fond to inspire, and ashamed to avow; and who practised, without the least reserve, that secret which can make verses more read for their defects than for their merits." More of my Lord Rochester and his poems anon.
Thomas Killigrew, another courtier, was a poet, dramatist, and man of excellent wit. He had been page in the service of his late majesty, and had shared exile with the present monarch, to whose pleasures abroad and at home he was ever ready to pander. At the restoration he was appointed a groom of the bedchamber, and, moreover, was made master of the revels—an office eminently suited to his tastes, and well fitted to exercise his capacities. His ready wit amused the king so much, that he was occasionally led to freedoms of speech which taxed his majesty's good-nature. His escapades diverted the court to such an extent, that he frequently took the liberty of affording it entertainment at the expense of its reputation. The "beau Sidney," a man "of sweet and caressing temper," handsome appearance, and amorous disposition; Sir George Etherege, a wit and a playwright; and Charles Sackville, Earl of Dorset, a poet and man of sprightly speech, were likewise courtiers of note.
Among such congenial companions the merry monarch abandoned himself wholly to the pursuit of pleasure, and openly carried on his intrigue with Barbara Palmer. According to the testimony of her contemporaries, she was a woman of surpassing loveliness and violent passions. Gilbert Burnet, whilst admitting her beauty, proclaims her defects. She was, he relates, "most enormously vicious and ravenous, foolish but imperious, very uneasy to the king, and always carrying on intrigues with other men, while she yet pretended she was jealous of him." Pepys testifies likewise to her physical attractions so long as she reigned paramount in the king's affections; but when another woman, no less fair, came betwixt my lady and his majesty's favour, Mr. Pepys, being a loyal man and a frail, found greater beauty in the new love, whose charms he avowed surpassed the old. To his most interesting diary posterity is indebted for glimpses of the manner in which the merry monarch and his mistress behaved themselves during the first months of the restoration. Now he tells of "great doings of musique," which were going on at Madame Palmer's house, situated in the Strand, next Earl Sandwich's, and of the king and the duke being with that lady: again, in the Chapel Royal, Whitehall, he observed, whilst Dr. Herbert Croft prayed and preached, "how the Duke of York and Mrs. Palmer did talk to one another very wantonly through the hangings that part the king's closet and the closet where the ladies sit." And later on, when he witnessed "The Humorous Lieutenant" performed before the court, he noted the royal favourite was likewise present, "with whom the king do discover a great deal of familiarity."
Presently, in February, 1661, exactly nine months after his majesty's return, Mrs. Palmer gave birth to a daughter. To the vast amusement of the court, no less than three men claimed the privilege of being considered father of this infant. One of these was my Lord Chesterfield, whom the child grew to resemble in face and person; the second was Roger Palmer, who left her his estate; the third was King Charles, who had her baptized Anne Palmer Fitzroy, adopted her as his daughter, and eventually married her to the Earl of Sussex.
Soon after the restoration the subject of his majesty's marriage was mooted by his councillors, who trusted a happy union would redeem him from vice, and, by bringing him heirs, help to establish him more firmly in the affections of his people. The king lending a willing ear to this advice, the sole difficulty in carrying it into execution rested in the selection of a bride congenial to his taste and equal to his sovereignty. King Louis of France had no sisters, and his nieces had not commended themselves to the merry monarch's favour during his stay abroad. Spain had two infantas, but one was wedded to the King of France, and the other betrothed to the heir of the royal house of Austria. Germany, of course, had princesses in vast numbers, who awaited disposal; but when they were proposed to King Charles, "he put off the discourse with raillery," as Lord Halifax narrates. "Odd's fish," he would say, shrugging his shoulders and making a grimace, "I could not marry one of them: they are all dull and foggy!"
Catherine of Braganza, daughter of Don Juan IV. of Portugal, was unwedded, and to her Charles ultimately addressed himself. Alliance with her commended itself to the nation from the fact that the late king, before the troubled times began, had entered into a negotiation with Portugal concerning the marriage of this same infanta and his present majesty; and such was the esteem in which the memory of Charles I. was now held, that compliance with his desires was regarded as a sacred obligation. The Portuguese ambassador assured the merry monarch that the princess, by reason of her beauty, person, and age, was most suited to him. To convince him of this, he showed his majesty a portrait of the lady, which the king examining, declared "that person could not be unhandsome." The ambassador, who was of a certainty most anxious for this union, then said it was true the princess was a catholic, and would never change her faith; but she was free from "meddling activity;" that she had been reared by a wise mother, and would only look to the freedom of practising her own religion without interfering with that of others. Finally, he added that the princess would have a dowry befitting her high station, of no less a sum than five hundred thousand pounds sterling in ready money.
Moreover, by way of addition to this already handsome portion, the Queen of Portugal was ready to assign over and annex to the English crown, the Island of Bombay, in the East Indies, and Tangier on the African coast—a place of strength and importance, which would be of great benefit and security to British commerce. Nor was this all. Portugal was likewise willing to grant England free trade in Brazil and the East Indies, a privilege heretofore denied all other countries. This was indeed a dower which none of the "dull and foggy" German princesses could bring the crown. The prospect of obtaining so much ready money especially commended the alliance to the extravagant taste of his majesty, who had this year complained to Parliament of his poverty, by reason of which he "was so much grieved to see many of his friends come to him at Whitehall, and to think they were obliged to go somewhere else for a dinner."
The merry monarch was therefore well pleased at the prospect of his union, as were likewise the chancellor and four or five "competent considerers of such an affair" whom he consulted. These worthy counsellors and men of sage repute, who included in their number the Duke of Ormond and Sir Edward Nicholas, Secretary of State, the Earl of Manchester, and the Earl of Southampton, after regretting it was not agreeable to his majesty to select a queen who professed the protestant religion, gave it as their opinion there was no catholic princess in Europe whom he, with so much reason and advantage, could marry as the infanta of Portugal. They, moreover, added that the sum promised as part of her portion, setting aside the places, "was much greater—almost double to what any king had ever received in money by any marriage." The council, therefore, without a dissenting voice, advised him to the marriage.
On the 8th of May, 1661, his majesty, being clad in robes of state, and wearing the crown, rode in great pomp to open Parliament, which he addressed from the throne. In the course of his speech, he announced his approaching marriage in a singularly characteristic address. "I will not conclude without telling you some news," he said, "news that I think will be very acceptable to you, and therefore I should think myself unkind, and ill-natured if I did not impart it to you. I have been put in mind by my friends that it was now time to marry, and I have thought so myself ever since I came into England. But there appeared difficulties enough in the choice, though many overtures have been made to me; and if I should never marry until I could make such a choice against which there could be no foresight of any inconvenience that may ensue, you would live to see me an old bachelor, which I think you do not desire to do. I can now tell you, not only that I am resolved to marry, but with whom I am resolved to marry. If God please, it is with the daughter of Portugal. And I will make all the haste I can to fetch you a queen hither, who, I doubt not, will bring great blessings with her to me and you."
Next day addresses of congratulation were presented to his majesty by both Houses. This gratifying news was made known to the Portuguese ambassador, Count da Ponte, by the lord high chancellor, who visited his excellency for the purpose, attended by state befitting such a great and joyful occasion; two gentlemen preceded him, bearing respectively a gilded mace and a crimson velvet purse embroidered with the arms of Great Britain, and many others following him to the ambassador's residence. A month later, the marriage articles were signed; the new queen being guaranteed the free exercise of her faith, and the sum of thirty thousand a year during life; whilst the king was assured possession of her great dowry, together with the territories already mentioned, one of which, Bombay, ultimately became of such vast importance to the crown.
Charles then despatched the Portuguese ambassador to Catherine—from this time styled queen—in order to make arrangements for her journey into England. Likewise he wrote a letter, remarkable for the fervour of its sentiments and elegance of its diction, which da Ponte was commissioned to convey her. This courtly epistle, addressed by Charles to "The Queen of Great Britain, my wife and lady, whom God preserve," is dated July 2nd, 1661, and runs as follows:
"MY LADY AND WIFE,
"Already, at my request, the good Count da Ponte has set off for Lisbon; for me the signing of the marriage act has been great happiness; and there is about to be despatched at this time after him one of my servants, charged with what would appear necessary, whereby may be declared, on my part, the inexpressible joy of this felicitous conclusion, which, when received, will hasten the coming of your majesty.
"I am going to make a short progress into some of my provinces; in the meantime, whilst I go from my most sovereign good, yet I do not complain as to whither I go, seeking in vain tranquillity in my restlessness; hoping to see the beloved person of your majesty in these kingdoms already your own, and that with the same anxiety with which, after my long banishment, I desired to see myself within them, and my subjects, desiring also to behold me amongst them, having manifested their most ardent wishes for my return, well known to the world. The presence of your serenity is only wanting to unite us, under the protection of God, in the health and content I desire. I have recommended to the queen, our lady and mother, the business of the Count da Ponte, who, I must here avow, has served me in what I regard as the greatest good in this world, which cannot be mine less than it is that of your majesty; likewise not forgetting the good Richard Russell, who laboured on his part to the same end. [Richard Russell was Bishop of Portalegre, in Portugal, and Almoner to Catherine of Braganza.]
"The very faithful husband of your majesty, whose hand he kisses,
London, 2nd of July, 1661.
During many succeeding months preparations were made in England to receive the young Queen. The "Royal Charles," a stately ship capable of carrying eighty cannon and six hundred men, was suitably fitted to convey her to England.
The state room and apartments destined for use of the future bride were furnished and ornamented in most luxuriant manner, being upholstered in crimson velvet, handsomely carpeted, and hung with embroideries and taffeties. Lord Sandwich was made commander of the gallant fleet which in due time accompanied the "Royal Charles." He was likewise appointed ambassador extraordinary, and charged with safely conducting the bride unto her bridegroom.
In due time, my lord, in high spirits, set sail with his gallant fleet, and on arriving at Portugal was received with every remark of profound respect, and every sign of extravagant joy. Stately ceremonies at court and brilliant rejoicings in public made time speed with breathless rapidity. But at length there came a day when my Lord Sandwich encountered a difficulty he had not foreseen. According to instructions, he had taken possession of Tangier before proceeding for the queen; and he had likewise been directed to see her dowry put on board one of his ships, before receiving her on the "Royal Charles."
Now the Queen of Portugal, who acted as regent since the death of her husband, being strongly desirous of seeing her daughter the consort of a great sovereign, and of protecting her country from the tyranny of Spain by an alliance with England, had gathered the infanta's marriage portion with infinite trouble; which had necessitated the selling of her majesty's jewels and much of her plate, and the borrowing of both plate and jewels from churches and monasteries all over the land. The sums accumulated in this manner she had carefully stowed away in great sacks; but, alas, between the date on which the marriage treaty had been signed, and arrival of the English ambassador to claim the bride, Spain had made war upon Portugal, and the dowry had to be expended in arming the country for defence. Therefore, when my Lord Sandwich mentioned the dowry, her majesty, with keen regrets and infinite apologies, informed him so great were the straits of poverty to which her kingdom was reduced, that she could pay only half the stipulated sum at present, but promised the remaining portion should be made up the following year. Moreover, the part which she then asked him to accept was made up of jewels, sugars, spices and other commodities which she promised to have converted by arrangement into solid gold in London.
The ambassador was therefore sorely perplexed, and knew not whether he should return to England without the bride, or take her and the merchandise which represented half her dowry on board his ship. He decided on the latter course, and the queen, with her court and retinue, set sail for merry England on the 23rd of April, 1662.
The king's intrigue with Barbara Palmer.—The queen arrives at Portsmouth.—Visited by the Duke of York.—The king leaves town,—First interview with his bride.—His letter to the lord chancellor.—Royal marriage and festivities.—Arrival at Hampton Court Palace.—Prospects of a happy union.—Lady Castlemaine gives birth to a second child.—The king's infatuation.—Mistress and wife.—The queen's misery.—The king's cruelty.—Lord Clarendon's messages.—His majesty resolves to break the queen's spirit.—End of the domestic quarrel.
Whilst the king conducted the negotiations of his marriage with Catherine of Braganza, he likewise continued the pursuit of his intrigue with Barbara Palmer. The unhappy fascination which this vile woman exercised over his majesty increased with time; and though his ministers declared a suitable marriage would reform his ways, his courtiers concluded he had no intention of abandoning his mistress in favour of his wife. For Barbara Palmer, dreading the loss of her royal lover and the forfeiture of wealth accruing from this connection, had firmly bound him in her toils. Moreover, in order that he might continually abide under her influence, she conceived a scheme which would of necessity bring her into constant intercourse with him and the young queen. She therefore demanded he would appoint her one of the ladies of the bedchamber to her majesty, to which he, heedless of the insult this would fix upon his wife, readily consented.