In order to qualify Barbara Palmer for such a position, it was necessary she should be raised to the peerage. This could only be accomplished by ennobling her husband, unless public decency were wholly ignored, and she was created a peeress in her own right, whilst he remained a commoner. After some faint show of hesitation, Roger Palmer accepted the honours thrust upon him by reason of his wife's infamy. On the 11th of December, 1661, he was created Earl of Castlemaine, and Baron Limerick in the peerage of Ireland, when the royal favourite became a countess.
And now the merry month of May being arrived, the queen was speedily expected; and on the night of the 13th joyful tidings reached London that the "Royal Charles," accompanied by the fleet, was in sight of Portsmouth. At which news there was great rejoicing throughout the town, church bells ringing merrily, and bonfires blazing brightly; but before the Countess of Castlemaine's house, where the king, according to his custom was at supper, there was no fire, though such signs of joy burned "at all the rest of the doors almost in the streets, which was much observed."
Next day the fleet arrived in the harbour of Portsmouth, about four in the afternoon. Heath says the people gathered to receive the bride with all possible demonstrations of honour, "the nobility and gentry and multitudes of Londoners, in most rich apparel and in great numbers, waiting on the shore for her landing; and the mayor and aldermen and principal persons of that corporation being in their gowns, and with a present and a speech ready to entertain her; the cannon and small shot, both from round that town and the whole fleet echoing to one another the loud proclamations of their joy." These good people were, however, destined to disappointment; for though the bride was impatient to land, because suffering from prostration consequent on a rough voyage and severe illness, she was not, in observance of court etiquette, permitted to leave the ship until the king arrived. This did not take place until six days later, Charles being detained in town by reason of some important bills then passing in Parliament, which it was necessary for him to sign. He had, however, despatched his royal brother of York, then Lord High Admiral of England, to meet her at sea, and give her greeting in his name. Accordingly the duke had encountered the fleet at the Isle of Wight, and gone on board the queen's ship, when she received him in her cabin seated under a canopy on a chair of state. His royal highness expressed his joy at her arrival, presented "his majesty's high respects and his exceeding affection for her," and paid her many compliments. Lord Chesterfield, who had been appointed chamberlain to the queen, tells us: "Although James, in consequence of his near connection with the sovereign, might have saluted the royal bride, he did not avail himself of this privilege, out of a delicate regard to his majesty's feelings, that he might be the first man to offer that compliment to his queen; she coming out of a country where it was not the fashion." The Duke of York presented some noblemen who had accompanied him; after which she introduced the members of her suite. The queen and her brother-in-law then held a conversation in the Spanish language, when James assured her of his affection, and besought her to accept his services. To these compliments she replied in like manner, when he arose to depart. The queen advanced three paces with him, not withstanding that he protested against such courtesy, bidding her remember her rank. At this she smiled, and answered with much sweetness, "She wished to do that out of affection, which she was not obliged to do"—a reply which made a favourable impression on his mind. Whilst she continued on board, the duke and his suite visited her daily, entering freely into conversation with her, and finding her "a most agreeable lady." Probably at the desire of the king, she left the ship before his arrival, and was conveyed to his majesty's house at Portsmouth, where she was received by the Countess of Suffolk, first lady of the bedchamber, and four other ladies who had been appointed members of her household. One of her first requests to these was—as may be learned from a letter of Lord Sandwich, preserved in the Bodleian library—"that they would put her in that habit they thought would be most pleasing to the king." Before leaving the "Royal Charles" she spoke to all the officers of the ship, thanked them for their services, and permitted them to kiss her hand. She then presented a collar of gold to the captain, and gave money to be distributed among the crew.
When at length the parliamentary business was concluded, the king found himself in readiness to depart. The last words he addressed to his faithful commons before starting are worth recording: "The mention of my wife's arrival," said he, in the pleasant familiar tone it was his wont to use, "puts me in mind to desire you to put that compliment upon her, that her entrance into this town may be made with more decency than the ways will now suffer it to be; and to that purpose I pray you would quickly pass such laws as are before you, in order to the mending those ways, that she may not find Whitehall surrounded with water."
At nine o'clock on the night of the 19th of May, his majesty left London in Lord Northumberland's carriage, on his way to Portsmouth. Arriving at Kingston an hour later, he entered Lord Chesterfield's coach, which awaited him there by appointment, and drove to Guildford, at which town he slept the night. In the morning he was up betimes, and posted to Portsmouth, where he arrived at noon. The queen, being ill of a slight fever, was yet in bed: but the king, all impatient to see the bride which heaven had sent him, sought admittance to her chamber. The poor princess evidently did not look to advantage; for his majesty told Colonel Legg he thought at first glance "they had brought him a bat instead of a woman." On further acquaintance, however, she seemed to have afforded more pleasure to the king's sight, for the next day he expressed the satisfaction he felt concerning her, in a letter addressed to the lord chancellor, which is preserved in the library of the British Museum, and runs as follows:
"PORTSMOUTH, 21st May (Eight in the Morning).
"I arrived here yesterday about two in the afternoon, and, as soon as I had shifted myself, I went into, my wife's chamber, whom I found in bed, by reason of a little cough and some inclination to a fever: but I believe she will find herself very well in the morning when she wakes. I can now only give you an account of what I have seen abed, which, in short, is, her face is not so exact as to be called a beauty, though her eyes are excellent good, and not anything in her face that in the least degree can shock one: on the contrary, she hath as much agreeableness in her looks altogether as ever I saw; and if I have any skill in physiognomy, which I think I have, she must be as good a woman as ever was born. Her conversation, as much as I can perceive, is very good, for she has wit enough, and a most agreeable voice. You would wonder to see how well acquainted we are already. In a word, I think myself very happy; for I am confident our two humours will agree very well together. I have no more to say: my Lord Lieutenant will give you an account of the rest."
The king was attended by Lord Sandwich during this interview, and his lordship, in a letter addressed to the lord chancellor, informed him the meeting between his majesty and the infanta, "hath been with much contentment on both sides, and that we are like to be very happy in their conjunction." Next morning the Countess of Suffolk, and other ladies appointed to wait upon the bride, dressed her according to the English fashion, in "a habit they thought would be most pleasing to the king," in which she was married. The ceremony was first performed according to the rites of the Catholic Church, by the Rev. Lord Aubigny, brother to the Duke of Richmond, in the queen's bedchamber; that apartment being selected for the purpose, as affording a privacy necessary to be maintained, by reason of the prejudice then existing towards Catholicism. There were present the Duke of York, Philip, afterwards Cardinal Howard, and five Portuguese, all of whom were bound over to keep the strictest secrecy concerning what they witnessed. Later in the day, Dr. Sheldon, Bishop of London, married their majesties according to the form prescribed by the Church of England. The latter ceremony took place in the presence chamber. A rail divided the apartment, at the upper part of which the king and queen, the bishops, the Spanish Ambassador, and Sir Richard Fanshaw stood; the lower portion being crowded by the court. When Dr. Sheldon had declared their majesties married, the Countess of Suffolk, according to a custom of the time, detached the ribbons from the bride's dress, and, cutting them in pieces, distributed them amongst those present.
Feasting, balls, and diversions of all kinds followed the celebration of the royal nuptials, and for a time the king was delighted with his bride. Four days after the marriage he writes again to the lord chancellor in most cheerful tone:
"My brother will tell you of all that passes here, which I hope will be to your satisfaction. I am sure 'tis so much to mine that I cannot easily tell you how happy I think myself, and must be the worst man living (which I hope I am not) if I be not a good husband. I am confident never two humours were better fitted together than ours are. We cannot stir from hence till Tuesday, by reason that there is not carts to be had to-morrow to transport all our GUARDE INFANTAS, without which there is no stirring: so you are not to expect me till Thursday night at Hampton Court."
They did not reach the palace until the 29th of May, that being the king's birthday, and, moreover, the anniversary of his entrance into London; a date which the Queen's arrival now caused to be celebrated with triple magnificence and joy. When the coach that conveyed their majesties drew near, the whole palace seemed astir with happy excitement. Double lines of soldiers, both horse and foot, lined the way from the gates to the entrance. In the great hall the lord chancellor, foreign ambassadors, judges, and councillors of state awaited to pay homage to their majesties; whilst in various apartments were the nobility and men of quality, with their ladies, ranged according to their rank, being all eager to kiss the new queen's hand. Sure never was such show of gladness. Bells rang people cheered, bonfires blazed.
In the evening news was brought that the Duchess of York was being rowed to Hampton from town; hearing which, the king, with a blithe heart, betook his way to meet her through the garden, now bright with spring flowers and fragrant with sweet scents, till he arrived at the gate by which the silver streak of the pleasant Thames flowed past. And presently on this calm May eve the sound of oars splashing in the tide was heard, and anon a barge came in sight, hung with silken curtains and emblazoned with the arms of royalty. From this the Duchess of York disembarked, aided by the king. When she had offered her congratulations to him, he, taking her hand, led her to his bride, that such fair speeches might be repeated to her majesty. And coming into the queen's presence the duchess would have gone upon her knees and kissed her majesty's hand; but Catherine raised her in her arms, and kissed her on the cheek. Then amidst much joy the happy evening waned to night.
The royal palace of Hampton Court, in which Charles had decided on spending his honeymoon, had been raised by the magnificent Wolsey in the plenitude of his power as a place of recreation. Since his downfall it had been used by royalty as a summer residence, it being in truth a stately pleasure house. The great pile contained upwards of four hundred rooms. The principal apartments had cedar or gilded and frescoed ceilings, and walls hung with rare tapestries and curtains heavy with gold. Moreover, these rooms contained furniture of most skilful design and costly manufacture, and were adorned by the choice works of such masters of their art as Holbein, Bellini, Vansomer, Rubens, and Raphael; and withal enriched with Indian cabinets, such as never were seen in England before, which the queen had brought with her from Portugal.
The great hall had been the scene of many sumptuous banquets. The chapel was rich in carved designs. Her majesty's bedroom, with its curtains of crimson silk, its vast mirror and toilet of beaten and massive gold, was a splendid apartment—the more so from its state bed, which Evelyn says was "an embroidery of silver on crimson velvet, and cost L8,000, being a present made by the States of Holland, when his majesty returned, and had formerly been given by them to our king's sister, ye Princess of Orange, and being bought of her againe, was now presented to ye king." Around this noble residence, where the court was wont to tarry in summer months, stretched broad and flowerful gardens, with wide parterres, noble statues, sparkling fountains, and marble vases; and beyond lay the park, planted "with swete rows of lime-trees."
And here all day long, in the fair summer time of this year, pleasure held boundless sway. Sauntering in balmy gardens, or seeking shelter from sun-rays in green glades and leafy groves, their majesties, surrounded by their brilliant court, chased bright hours away in frolic and pleasantry from noon till night. Then revelry, gaining new life, began once more, when courtly figures danced graceful measures to sounds of mirthful strains, under the lustre of innumerable lights.
For a while it seemed as if a brave prospect of happiness was in store for the young queen. Her love for her husband, her delight in his affection, her pride in his accomplishments, together with her simplicity, innocence, and naivete, completely won his heart. These claims to his affection were, moreover, strengthened by the charms of her person. Lord Chesterfield, a man whom experience of the sex had made critical, writes that she "was exactly shaped, has lovely hands, excellent eyes, a good countenance, a pleasing voice, fine hair, and, in a word, what an understanding man would wish for in a wife." Notwithstanding the attractions of her majesty's person which he enumerates, he adds his fears that "all these will hardly make things run in the right channel; but, if it should, our court will require a new modelling." In this note of alarm he forebodes danger to come. A man of his majesty's character, witty and careless, weak and voluptuous, was not likely to reconstruct his court, or reclaim it from ways he loved. Nor was his union calculated to exercise a lasting impression on him. The affection he bore his wife in the first weeks of their married life was due to the novelty he found in her society, together with the absence of temptation in the shape of his mistress. Constancy to the marriage vow was scarcely to be expected from a man whose morals had never been shackled by restraint; yet faithlessness to a bride was scarcely to be anticipated ere the honeymoon had waned. This was, however, the unhappy fate which awaited Catherine of Braganza.
It happened early in the month of June, whilst the court was at Hampton, my Lady Castlemaine, who had remained in town through illness, gave birth to a second child. The infant was baptized Charles Palmer, adopted by the king as his own, and as such subsequently created Duke of Southampton. This event seemed to renew all his majesty's tenderness towards her. Wearied by the charm of innocence in the person of his wife, his weak nature yielded to the attraction of vice in that of his mistress. He, therefore, frequently left Hampton Court that he might ride to London, visit the countess, and fritter away some hours in her presence; being heedless alike of the insult he dealt the queen, and the scandal he gave the nation.
The while my Lord Castlemaine lived with the lady who shared his title, and whom he called his wife; but their continuance to abide in harmony and goodwill was, soon after the birth of this child, interrupted for ever. My lord was certainly a loyal subject, but he was likewise a religious man, as may be judged, not by that which has been recorded, but from the narration which follows. Having been bred a Catholic, he was anxious his wife's son should be enrolled a member of the same community. To this end he had him baptized by a priest, a proceeding of which the king wholly disapproved; not because his majesty was attached to any religion in particular, but rather that he resented interference with the infant whom he rested satisfied was his own child. Accordingly, by the king's command, Lady Castlemaine's son was rebaptized by the rector of St. Margaret's, Westminster, in the presence of his majesty, the Earl of Oxford, and the Countess of Suffolk, first lady of the bedchamber to the queen and aunt to the king's mistress.
This exasperated my Lord Castlemaine to such a degree that high words passed between him and his lady: on which he resolved to part from her for ever. However, she was more prompt to act in the matter than he; for, taking advantage of his absence one day, she packed up her jewels, plate, and household treasures, and departed to the residence of her uncle, Colonel Edward Villiers, at Richmond. This step was probably taken, if not by his majesty's suggestion, at least with his full approval; for the house she selected brought her within an easy distance of Hampton Court, into which the king designed promptly to introduce her.
Now rumour of the king's liason had spread beyond the English nation, and had been whispered even at the secluded court of Portugal, into the ears of the bride elect. And the queen regent, dreading the trouble this might draw upon her daughter, had counselled her never to admit his majesty's mistress into her presence. This advice the young queen determined to act upon; and accordingly when Charles, a couple of days after their marriage, presented her with a list of those appointed to her household—amongst whom was my Lady Castlemaine—her majesty drew a pen across the name of the dreaded favourite. The king, if surprised or indignant, made no remark at the time, but none the less held to the resolution he had taken of appointing the countess a lady of the bedchamber. No further attempt of intruding his mistress's presence upon his wife was made until Lady Castlemaine came to Richmond.
It happened on the afternoon of the day on which the favourite arrived her majesty sat in the great drawing-room, surrounded by a brilliant throng of noble and beautiful women and gay and gallant men. The windows of the apartment stood open; outside fountains splashed in the sun; music played in a distant glade: and all the world seemed glad. And as the queen listened to pleasant sounds of wit and gossip, murmuring around her, the courtiers, at sound of a well-known footstep, suddenly ceasing their discourse, fell back on either side adown the room. At that moment the king entered, leading a lady apparelled in magnificent attire, the contour of whose face and outline of whose figure distinguished her as a woman of supreme and sensuous loveliness.
His majesty, suceedingly rich in waving feathers, glittering satins, and fluttering ribbons, returned the gracious bows of his courtiers to right and left; and, unconscious of the curious and perplexed looks they interchanged, advanced to where his wife sat, and introduced my Lady Castlemaine. Her majesty bowed and extended her hand, which the countess, having first courtesyed profoundly, raised to her lips. The queen either had not caught the name, or had disassociated it from that of her husband's mistress; but in an instant the character of the woman presented, and the insult the king had inflicted, flashed upon her mind. Coming so suddenly, it was more than she could bear; all colour fled from her face, tears rushed to her eyes, blood gushed from her nostrils, and she fell senseless to the floor.
Such strong evidence of the degree in which his young wife felt the indignity forced upon her, by no means softened his majesty's heart towards her, but rather roused his indignation at what he considered public defiance of his authority. But as his nature was remote from roughness, and his disposition inclined to ease, he at first tried to gain his desire by persuasion, and therefore besought the queen she would suffer his mistress to become a lady of the bedchamber. But whenever the subject was mentioned to her majesty, she burst into tears, and would not give heed to his words. Charles therefore, incensed on his side, deserted her company, and sought the society of those ever ready to entertain him. And as the greater number of his courtiers were fully as licentious as himself, they had no desire he should become subject to his wife, or alter the evil tenor of his ways.
Therefore in their conversation they cited to him the example of his grandfather, King James I., of glorious memory, who had not dissembled his passions, nor suffered the same to become a reproach to those who returned his love; but had obliged his queen to bear with their company, and treat them with grace and favour; and had, moreover, raised his natural children to the degree of princes of the blood. They told Charles he had inherited the disposition of his grandsire, and they were sure he would treat the objects of his affection in like manner as that king had done. Lady Castlemaine, her friends moreover argued, had, by reason of her love for his majesty, parted from her husband; and now that she had been so publicly made an object of the queen's indignation, she would, if abandoned by him, meet with rude contempt from the world. To such discourses as these the king lent a willing ear, the more as they encouraged him to act according to his desires. He was therefore fully determined to support his mistress; and firmly resolved to subdue his wife.
Meanwhile, all joyousness vanished from the court; the queen seemed thoroughly dejected, the king bitterly disappointed, and the courtiers grievously disturbed. Moreover, rumours of the trouble which had risen between their majesties became noised abroad, and gave the people occasion of speaking indifferently of their lord the king. Now Charles in his unhappiness betook himself to the chancellor, who was not only his sage adviser and trusted friend, but who had already gained the esteem and confidence of the queen. My lord, by reason of his services to the late king, and his friendship towards his present majesty, took to himself the privilege of speaking with freedom and boldness whenever his advice was asked by the monarch. As Burnet tells us, the worthy chancellor would never make any application to the king's mistress, nor allow anything to pass the seal in which she was named; nor would he ever consent to visit her, which the bishop considered "was maintaining the decencies of virtue in a very solemn manner." The king knowing my lord was the only one of all the strangers surrounding the queen whom she believed devoted to her service, and to whose advice she would hearken with trust, therefore bade him represent to her the advisability of obedience.
Whereon the chancellor boldly pointed out to him "the hard-heartedness and cruelty of laying such a command upon the queen, which flesh and blood could not comply with." He also begged to remind the monarch of what he had heard him say upon the occasion of a like indignity being offered by a neighbouring king to his queen, inasmuch as he had compelled her to endure the presence of his mistress at court. On hearing which King Charles avowed it was "a piece of ill-nature that he could never be guilty of; and if ever he should be guilty of having a mistress after he had a wife, which he hoped he should never be, she should never come where his wife was; he would never add that to the vexation, of which she would have enough without it." Finally my lord added that pursuit of the course his majesty had resolved on, was a most certain way to lose the respect and affections of his people; that the excesses he had already fallen into had in some degree lost him ground in their good esteem, but that his continuance of them would "break the hearts of all his friends, and be grateful only to those who desired the destruction of monarchy."
Charles heard him with some impatience, but in his reply betrayed that graciousness of manner which, never forsaking him, went far in securing the favour of those with whom he conversed. He commenced by telling the chancellor he felt assured his words were prompted by the affection in which he held him; and then having by a pathway of courteous speeches found his way to the old man's heart, his majesty broached the subject uppermost in his mind. His conscience and his honour, he said, for he laid claim to both, led him to repair the ruin he had caused Lady Castlemaine's reputation by promoting her to the position of a lady of the bedchamber; and his gratitude prompted him to avow a friendship for her, "which he owed as well to the memory of her father as to her own person," and therefore he would not be restrained from her company and her conversation.
Moreover, he had proceeded so far in the business, that if not successful Lady Castlemaine would be subjected to all imaginable contempt, and be exposed to universal ridicule. If, he added, the queen conformed to his wishes in this regard, it would be the only hard thing he should ever require of her; and, indeed, she might make it very easy, for my lady must behave with all possible respect in her presence, otherwise she should never see his face again. Then he begged the chancellor to wait upon her majesty, lay bare his arguments, and urge her to receive the countess with some show of favour. The chancellor, though not pleased with his mission, yet in hope of healing private discord and averting public scandal, undertook to counsel the queen to obedience, and accordingly waited on her in her private apartments.
Now her majesty's education had been such as kept her in complete ignorance of the world's ways. The greater part of her life had been spent in the peaceful retirement of a convent, which she left for her mother's country palace, a home scarcely less secluded. Maynard, in a letter preserved in the State Paper Office, written from Lisbon when the royal marriage was proposed, says the infanta, "as sweete a disposition princess as everr was borne," was "bred hugely retired. She hath," he continues, "hardly been tenn tymes out of the palace in her life. In five years tyme she was not out of doores, untill she hurde of his majestie's intentions to make her queen of Ingland, since which she hath been to visit two saintes in the city; and very shortly shee intends to pay her devotion to some saintes in the country."
From a life of innocence she was brought for the first time face to face with vice, by one who should have been foremost in shielding her from its contact. All her training taught her to avoid the contamination sought to be forced upon her; all her new-born love for her husband prompted her to loathe the mistress who shared his affections. A stranger in a strange land, a slighted queen, a neglected wife, an outraged woman, her sufferings were bitter, Her wrongs were hard to bear. Therefore when my lord chancellor came and made known the object of his visit, she broke into a passion of tears, and could not speak from force of sobs that seemed to rend her heart, and wholly choked her utterance.
The chancellor then retired with some dismay, but waited on her again next day, when he found her more calm. She begged he would excuse the outburst of feeling he had witnessed, but added very pitifully that when she thought of her misfortunes "she sometimes gave vent to that passion which was ready to break her heart." The advice, or, as he terms it, "the evidence of his devotion," which the chancellor gave was worthy of a courtier and a philosopher. He told the young queen he doubted "she was little beholden to her education, that had given her no better information of the follies and iniquities of mankind; of which he presumed the climate from whence she came could have given more instances than this cold region would afford." Had she been properly instructed, he furthermore hinted, she would never have thought herself so miserable, or her condition so insupportable; and indeed he could not comprehend the reason of her loud complaint.
At this she could no longer suppress the tears which came into her dark eyes, and cried out she did not expect to find her husband in love with another woman. Then my lord besought her submission to the king; but she remained unshaken in the resolution she had formed. She was ready to ask his majesty's pardon for tiny passion or peevishness she had been guilty of, but added, "the fire appearing in her eyes where the water was," she would never endure the presence of his mistress; and rather than submit to such insult she would "put herself on board any little vessel" and return to Lisbon.
Back went the chancellor, with a heavy heart and a troubled face, to the king. He softened the queen's words as much as possible, and assured his majesty her resistance to his will proceeded "from the great passion of love she had for him, which transported her beyond the limits of reason." But this excuse, which should have rejoiced a husband's heart, only irritated his majesty's temper. That night a violent quarrel took place between the husband and wife, yet scarce more than bride and bridegroom. When they had retired, the king—being inflamed with the words of his courtiers, who assured him the dispute had now resolved itself into a question of who should govern—reproached the queen with stubbornness and want of duty; upon which she answered by charging him with tyranny and lack of affection. One word borrowed another, till, in his anger, he used threats when she declared she would leave the kingdom. "The passion and noise of the night reached too many ears to be a secret the next day," says the chancellor, "and the whole court was full of that which ought to have been known to nobody."
When the royal pair met next morning, they neither looked at nor spoke to each other. Days passed full of depression and gloom for the young wife, who spent most of her time in seclusion, whilst the king sought distraction in the society of his courtiers. The chancellor, after his second interview with the queen, absented himself from court, not wishing to be furthermore drawn into a quarrel which he saw himself powerless to heal. During his absence the king wrote him a letter which evinced determination to carry out his design. This epistle, preserved in the library of the British Museum, runs as follows:
"HAMPTON COURT, THURSDAY MORNING.
"I forgot when you were here last to desire you to give Broderich good council not to meddle any more with what concerns my Lady Castlemaine, and to let him have a care how he is the author of any scandalous reports; for if I find him guilty of any such thing, I will make him repent it to the last moment of his life.
"And now I am entered on this matter, I think it very necessary to give you a little good council in it, lest you may think that by making a farther stir in the business you may divert me from my resolution, which all the world shall never do; and I wish I may be unhappy in this world and in the world to come, if I fail in the least degree of what I have resolved, which is of making my Lady Castlemaine of my wife's bedchamber. And whosoever I find in any endeavours to hinder this resolution of mine (except it be only to myself), I will be his enemy to the last moment of my life. You know how true a friend I have been to you; if you will oblige me eternally, make this business as easy to me as you can, of what opinion soever you are of; for I am resolved to go through with this matter, let what will come on it, which again I solemnly swear before Almighty God.
"Therefore, if you desire to have the continuance of my friendship, meddle no more with this business except it be to bear down all false and scandalous reports, and to facilitate what I am sure my honour is so much concerned in. And whosoever I find is to be my Lady Castlemaine's enemy in this matter, I do promise, upon my word, to be his enemy as long as I live. You may show this letter to my lord lieutenant, and if you have both a mind to oblige me, carry yourselves like friends to me in this matter."
The chancellor was, soon after the receipt of this letter, summoned to Hampton Court, when his majesty, with some passion, declared the quarrel was spoken of everywhere, and wholly to his disadvantage. He was therefore anxious to end it at once, and commanded my lord to wait again upon the queen, and persuade her to his wishes. The chancellor informed the king he "had much rather spend his pains in endeavouring to convert his majesty from pursuing his resolution, which he did in his conscience believe to be unjust, than in persuading her majesty to comply with it, which yet he would very heartily do." Saying which, he departed on his errand; to which the queen answered, her conscience would not allow her to consent that the king's mistress should be one of her attendants. Then the chancellor besought his royal master, saying he hoped he might be no more consulted with, nor employed concerning an affair, in which he had been so unsuccessful.
By reason of this opposition the king was now more resolved than ever to honour his mistress and humble his wife; and, with a cruelty unusual to his nature, determined to break her majesty's spirit, and force her into obedience.
On coming to England the young bride had brought in her train some Portuguese gentlewomen and nobles, whom she was anxious to employ in various offices about her person, that she might not feel quite in the midst of strangers. These his majesty believed were in some measure answerable for the queen's resistance to his desires, and therefore decided on sending them back to their own country; knowing moreover, this was an act which would sorely grieve her majesty. Therefore, without first deigning to inform, the Queen of Portugal, he named a day for them to embark. This was a sad blow to the hopes of the Portuguese, who had entertained high expectations of being placed in advantageous circumstances about the court; nor did the king by any show of liberality help to lessen their disappointment. The queen was indeed afflicted at the prospect of their loss; and her mortification was the greater because, having received no money since she came into the kingdom, it was out of her power to make them compensation for their services.
The thought of being deprived of her people in her present unhappy condition rendered her so miserable, that she besought the king to allow some of them to remain; and, likewise, she employed others to make the same petition on her behalf. Therefore one of her ladies, the Countess of Penalva, who had been her attendant since childhood, and who now, because of weakness of sight and other infirmities, scarce ever left her apartments, was allowed to stay, as were likewise "those necessary to her religion," and some servants employed in her kitchen.
But these were not the only means the king took to thwart her majesty and all connected with her. He upbraided the Portuguese ambassador for not having instructed the queen "enough to make her unconcerned in what had been before her time, and in which she could not reasonably be concerned." Moreover he reproached him with the fact of the queen regent having sent only half the marriage portion; and so harassed was the ambassador by royal wrath, that he took to his bed, "and sustained such a fever as brought him to the brink of the grave." Regarding that part of the dowry which had arrived, Charles behaved in an equally ungracious and undignified manner. He instructed the officers of the revenue to use all strictness in its valuation, and not make any allowances. And because Diego de Silva—whom the queen had designed for her treasurer, and who on that account had undertaken to see the money paid in London—did not make sufficient haste in the settlement of his accounts, he was by the king's command cast into prison.
These various affronts grievously afflicted her majesty, but the insults she had to endure before the whole court wounded her far more. For meanwhile the king lodged his mistress in the royal household, and every day she was present in the drawing-room, when his majesty entered into pleasant conversation with her, while his wife sat patiently by, as wholly unheeded as if unseen. When the queen occasionally rose and indignantly left the apartment to relieve her anguish by a storm of tears, it may be one or two of the courtiers followed her, but the vast number of the brilliant throng remained; and Lord Clarendon adds, "they, too, often said those things aloud which nobody ought to have whispered."
Charles no longer appeared with the grave and troubled expression his face had worn at the commencement of the quarrel, but seemed full of pleasantry and eager for enjoyment. Those surrounding him took their tone from the monarch, and followed his example the more because he "did shew no countenance to any that belong to the queen." Her majesty, on the contrary, took her misery to heart, and showed dejection by the sadness of her face and listlessness of her gait. There was universal diversion in all company but hers; sounds of laughter rang all day and far into the night in every apartment of the palace but those appropriated to her use. Charles steadily avoided her, and the attendants who replaced her countrywomen showed more deference to the king's mistress than to his queen. The solitary condition to which the helpless foreigner and forsaken wife was reduced increased day by day, her gloom deepened hour by hour, until, worn out by the unequal conflict, her spirit broke. "At last," says Lord Clarendon, "when it was least expected or suspected, the queen on a sudden let herself fall, first to conversation, and then to familiarity, and even, in the same instant, to a confidence with the lady; was merry with her in public, talked kindly of her, and in private used no lady more friendly."
From that hour her majesty never interfered with the king's amours, and never again did a quarrel rise between them even to the day of his death.
Their majesties arrive at Whitehall.—My Lady Castlemaine a spectator.—Young Mr. Crofts.—New arrivals at court.—The Hamilton family.—The Chevalier de Grammont.—Mrs. Middleton and Miss Kirke.—At the queen's ball—La belle Hamilton.—The queen mother at Somerset House.—The Duke of Monmouth's marriage.—Fair Frances Stuart.—Those who court her favour.—The king's passion.
On the 23rd of August, 1662, their majesties journeyed from Hampton Court to the palace of Whitehall by water. The gay and goodly procession formed on that occasion has been described as "the most magnificent triumph that ever floated on, the Thames." First came barges belonging to city companies, beginning with the mercers and grocers, most of them being attended with a pageant, and all of them richly adorned as became their affection and loyalty. Then followed barges of statesmen, nobility, and courtiers, with their retinues, brave in numbers, gay in colours, and attended by bands of music. And finally came the king and queen, seated side by side in a galley of antique shape, all draped with crimson damask, bearing a canopy of cloth of gold, supported by Corinthian pillars, wreathed with ribbons, and festooned with garlands of fragrant flowers.
The whole city was abroad, watchful of their approach; the Thames was covered with boats to the number of ten thousand; and the banks were crowded with spectators beyond reckoning. On this fair August day the sky had not a single cloud to mar its universal blue; the sun shone gloriously bright, turning the river to sheets of gleaming gold: whilst the air was filled with roaring of cannon, strains of music, and hearty shouts of a loyal multitude.
Mr. Samuel Pepys, though he offered as much as eight shillings for a boat to attend him that day, could not obtain one, and was therefore obliged to view this gallant procession from the roof of the royal banqueting hall, which commanded a glorious view of the Thames. But what pleased his erratic fancy best on this occasion was, not the great spectacle he had taken such trouble to survey, but a sight of my Lady Castlemaine, who stood over against him "upon a piece of Whitehall." The worthy clerk of the Admiralty "glutted" himself with looking on her; "but methought it was strange," says he, "to see her lord and her upon the same place walking up and down without taking notice of one another, only at first entry he put off his hat, and she made him a very civil salute, but afterwards took no notice of one another; but both of them now and then would take their child, which the nurse held in her arms, and dandle it. One thing more: there happened a scaffold below to fall, and we feared some hurt, but there was none; but she of all the great ladies only ran down among the common rabble to see what hurt was done, and did take care of a child that received some little hurt, which methought was so noble. Anon there came one there booted and spurred, that she talked long with. And by-and-by, she being in her haire, she put on her hat, which was but an ordinary one, to keep the wind off. But methinks it became her mightily, as everything else do."
It was notable the countess did not accompany her majesty in the procession to Whitehall, as one of her attendants; but in fact she had not obtained the position sought for, though she enjoyed all the privileges pertaining to such an appointment. "Everybody takes her to be of the bedchamber," the lord chancellor writes to the Duke of Ormond, "for she is always there, and goes abrode in the coach. But the queen tells me that the king promised her, on condition she would use her as she doth others, that she should never live in court; yet lodgings I hear she hath." Lodgings the countess certainly had provided for her in that block of the palace of Whitehall, separated from the main buildings by the old roadway running between Westminster and the city.
A few days after their majesties' arrival at Whitehall, the queen mother returned to town, and established her court at Somerset House, which had been prepared for her future abode. She had arrived in England before the king and queen left Hampton Court, and had taken up her residence at Greenwich Palace. The avowed object of her visit was to congratulate them upon their marriage. Charles and his bride therefore took barge to Greenwich, one bright July day, followed by a brilliant and illustrious train, that they might wait upon her majesty. And she, being made aware of their approach, met them at the portal of the palace. There Catherine would have gone down upon her knees to this gracious lady—the survivor of great sorrows—but she took the young queen in her arms, and calling her beloved daughter, kissed her many times. Then she greeted her sons Charles and James, likewise the Duchess of York, and led them to the presence-chamber, followed by the whole court. And presently when Catherine would, through her interpreter, have expressed her gratitude and affection, the elder queen besought her to lay aside all ceremony, for she "should never have come to England again except for the pleasure of seeing her, to love her as her daughter, and serve her as her queen." At these sweet words the young wife, now in the first days of her grief, was almost overcome by a sense of thankfulness, and could scarce restrain her tears; but she answered bravely, "Believe me, madam, that in love and obedience neither the king nor any of your children shall exceed me."
The court of the merry monarch and that of the queen mother being now settled in town, a period of vast brilliancy ensued, during which great festivity and much scandal obtained, by reason of intrigues in which the king and his friends indulged. Whitehall, the scene of so much gaiety and gallantry, was a palace by no means befitting the luxurious Charles. It consisted of a series of irregular houses built for different purposes at various periods; these contained upwards of two thousand rooms, most of which were small, and many of which were without doors. The buildings were intersected by grassy squares, where fountains played, statues were grouped, and dials shadowed the passing hour. At hand stood St. James's Park, with its fair meadows and leafy trees; close by flowed the placid Thames, bearing heavily laden lighters and innumerable barges. Attached to these dwellings, and forming part of the palace, stood the great banquet hall, erected from designs by Inigo Jones for James I. Here audiences to ambassadors, state balls, and great banquets were held. The ceiling was painted by Rubens, and was, moreover, handsomely moulded and richly gilt. Above the entrance-door stood a statue of Charles I., "whose majestic mien delighted the spectator;" Whilst close by one of the windows were the ineradicable stains of blood, marking the spot near which he had been beheaded.
Now in the train of the queen mother there had travelled from France "a most pretty sparke of about fourteen years," whom Mr. Pepys plainly terms "the king's bastard," but who was known to the court as young Mr. Crofts. This little gentleman was son of Lucy Walters, "a brown, beautiful, bold creature," who had the distinction of being first mistress to the merry monarch. That he was his offspring the king entertained no doubt, though others did; inasmuch as young Mr. Crofts grew to resemble, "even to the wart on his face," Colonel Robert Sidney, whose paramour Lucy Walters had been a brief while before his majesty began an intrigue with her. Soon after the boy's birth that beautiful woman abandoned herself to pleasures, in which the king had no participation. He therefore parted from her; had her son placed under the guardianship of Lord Crofts, whose name he bore, and educated by the Peres de l'Oratoire at Paris. The while he was continually at the court of the queen mother, who regarded him as her grandson, and who, by the king's command, now brought him into England. The beauty of his face and grace of his figure could not be exceeded, whilst his manner was as winning as his air was noble. Moreover, his accomplishments were numerous; he danced to perfection, sang with sweetness, rode with skill; and so gallant was his nature that he became at this early age, as Hamilton affirms, "the universal terror of husbands and lovers."
The king betrayed the greatest affection for him, and took exceeding pride in being father of such a brave and comely youth, at which my Lady Castlemaine was both wrathful and jealous, fearing he would avert the royal favour from her own offspring; but these feelings she afterwards overcame, as will be duly shown. His majesty speedily showered honours upon him, allotted him a suite of apartments in the royal palace of Whitehall, appointed him a retinue befitting the heir apparent, created him Duke of Orkney and of Monmouth, and installed him a knight of the garter.
But, before this had been accomplished, there arrived in town some personages whose names it will be necessary to mention here, the figure they made at court being considerable. These were Sir George Hamilton and his family, and Philibert, Chevalier de Grammont. Sir George was fourth son of James, Earl of Abercorn, and of Mary, sister to James, first Duke of Ormond. Sir George had proved himself a loyal man and a brave during the late civil war, and had on the murder of his royal master sought safety in France, from which country he, in the second year of the restoration, returned, accompanied by a large family; the women of which were fair, the men fearless. The Hamiltons being close kin to the Ormond great intimacy existed between them; to facilitate which they lived not far apart—the duke residing in Ormond Yard, St. James's Square, and the Hamiltons occupying a spacious residence in King Street. James Hamilton, Sir George's eldest son, was remarkable for the symmetry of his figure, elegance of his manner, and costliness of his dress. Moreover, he possessed a taste shaped to pleasure, and a disposition inclined to gallantry, which commended him so strongly to the king's favour, that he was made groom of the bedchamber and colonel of a regiment.
His brother George was scarcely less handsome in appearance or less agreeable in manner. Another brother, Anthony, best remembered as the writer of Grammont's memoirs, was likewise liberally endowed by nature. Elizabeth, commonly called "la belle Hamilton," shared in the largest degree the hereditary gifts of grace and beauty pertaining to this distinguished family. At her introduction to the court of Charles II. she was in the bloom of youth and zenith of loveliness. The portrait of her which her brother Anthony has set before the world for its admiration is delicate in its colours, and finished in its details. "Her forehead," he writes, "was open, white, and smooth; her hair was well set, and fell with ease into that natural order which it is so difficult to imitate. Her complexion was possessed of a certain freshness, not to be equalled by borrowed colours; her eyes were not large, but they were lovely, and capable of expressing whatever she pleased; her mouth was full of graces, and her contour uncommonly perfect; nor was her nose, which was small, delicate, and turned up, the least ornament of so lovely a face. She had the finest shape, the loveliest neck, and most beautiful arms in the world; she was majestic and graceful in all her movements; and she was the original after which all the ladies copied in their taste and air of dress."
Now, about the same time the Hamiltons arrived at court, there likewise appeared at Whitehall one whose fame as a wit, and whose reputation as a gallant, had preceded him. This was the celebrated Chevalier de Grammont, whose father was supposed to be son of Henry the Great of France. The chevalier had been destined by his mother for the church, the good soul being anxious he should lead the life of a saint; but the youth was desirous of joining the army, and following the career of a soldier. Being remarkable for ingenuity, he conceived a plan by which he might gratify his mother's wishes and satisfy his own desires at the same time. He therefore accepted the abbacy his brother procured for him; but on appearing at court to return thanks for his preferment, comported himself with a military air. Furthermore, his dress was combined of the habit and bands pertaining to an ecclesiastic, and the buskins and spurs belonging to a soldier. Such an amalgamation had never before been witnessed, and caused general attention; the court was amazed at his daring, but Richelieu was amused by his boldness. His brother regarded his appearance in the dual character of priest and soldier as a freak, and on his return home asked him gravely to which profession he meant to attach himself. The youth answered he was resolved "to renounce the church for the salvation of his soul," upon condition that he retained his beneficed abbacy. It may be added, he kept this resolution.
A soldier he therefore became, and subsequently a courtier. His valour in war and luck in gambling won him the admiration of the camp; whilst his ardour in love and genius for intrigue gained him the esteem of the court, but finally lost him the favour of his king. For attaching himself to one of the maids of honour, Mademoiselle La Motte Houdancourt, whom his most Christian Majesty Louis XIV. had already honoured with his regard, Grammont was banished from the French court.
Accordingly, in the second year of the merry monarch's reign he presented himself at Whitehall, and was received by Charles with a graciousness that served to obliterate the memory of his late misfortune. Nor were the courtiers less warm in their greetings than his majesty. The men hailed him as an agreeable companion; the ladies intimated he need not wholly abandon those tender diversions for which he had shown such natural talent and received such high reputation at the court of Louis XIV. He therefore promptly attached himself to the king, whose parties he invariably attended, and whose pleasures he continually devised; made friends with the most distinguished nobles, whom he charmed by the grace of his manner and extravagance of his entertainments; and took early opportunities of proving to the satisfaction of many of the fairer sex that his character as a gallant had by no means been exaggerated by report.
Amongst those to whom he paid especial attention were Mrs. Middleton, a woman of fashion, and Miss Kirk, a maid of honour, to whom Hamilton, in his memoirs of Grammont, gives the fictitious name of Warmestre. The former was at this time in her seventeenth summer, and had been two years a wife. Her exquisitely fair complexion, light auburn hair, and dark hazel eyes constituted her a remarkably beautiful woman. Miss Kirk was of a different type of loveliness, inasmuch as her skin was brown, her eyes dark, and her complexion brilliant. As Mrs. Middleton was at this time but little known at court, Grammont found some difficulty in obtaining an introduction to her as promptly as he desired; but feeling anxious to make her acquaintance, and being no laggard in love, he without hesitation applied to her porter for admittance, and took one of her lovers into his confidence. This latter gallant rejoiced in the name of Jones, and subsequently became Earl of Ranelagh. In the fulness of his heart towards one who experienced a fellow feeling, he resolved to aid Grammont in gaining the lady's favours. This generosity being prompted by the fact that the chevalier would rid him of a rival whom he feared, and at the same time relieve him of an expense he could ill afford, the lady having certain notions of magnificence which her husband's income was unable to sustain.
Mrs. Middleton received the chevalier with good grace; but he found her more ready to receive the presents he offered, than to grant the privileges he required. Miss Kirk, on the other hand, was not only flattered by his attentions, but was willing to use every means in her power to preserve a continuance of his friendship; Therefore out of gratitude for graces received from one of the ladies, and in expectation of favours desired from the other, Grammont made them the handsomest presents. Perfumed gloves, pocket looking-glasses, apricot paste, came every week from Paris for their benefit; whilst more substantial offerings in the shape of jewellery, diamonds, and guineas were procured for them in London, all of which they made no hesitation to accept.
It happened one night, whilst Grammont was yet in pursuit of Mrs. Middleton, that the queen gave a ball. In hope of winning her husband's affection, by studying his pleasures and suiting herself to his ways, her majesty had become a changed woman. She now professed a passion for dancing, wore decollete costumes, and strove to surpass those surrounding her in her desire for gaiety. Accordingly her balls were the most brilliant spectacles the court had yet witnessed; she taking care to assemble the fairest women of the day, and the most distinguished men. Now amongst the latter was the Chevalier de Grammont; and amidst the former, Mrs. Middleton and Miss Hamilton.
Of all the court beauties, "la belle Hamilton" was one of whom Grammont had seen least and heard most; but that which had been told him of her charms seemed, now that he beheld her, wholly inadequate to express her loveliness. Therefore, his eyes followed her alone, as her graceful figure glided in the dance adown the ball-room, lighted with a thousand tapers, and brilliant with every type of beauty. And when presently she rested, it was with an unusual flutter at his heart that this gallant, heretofore so daring in love, sought her company, addressed her, and listened with strange pleasure to the music of her voice. From that night he courted Mrs. Middleton no more, but devoted himself to "la belle Hamilton," who subsequently became his wife.
Meanwhile, the merry monarch behaved as if he had no higher purpose in life than that of following his pleasures. "The king is as decomposed [dissipated] as ever," the lord chancellor writes to the Duke of Ormond, in a letter preserved in the Bodleian library, "and looks as little after his business; which breaks my heart, and makes me and other of your friends weary of our lives. He seeks for his satisfaction and delight in other company, which do not love him so well as you and I do." His days were spent in pursuing love, feasting sumptuously, interchanging wit, and enjoying all that seemed good to the senses. Pepys, who never fails to make mention of the court when actual experience or friendly gossip enables him, throws many pleasant lights upon the ways of the monarch and his courtiers.
For instance, he tells us that one Lord's day—the same on which this excellent man had been to Whitehall chapel, and heard a sermon by the Dean of Ely on returning to the old ways, and, moreover, a most tuneful anthem sung by Captain Cooke, with symphonies between—whom should he meet but the great chirurgeon, Mr. Pierce, who carried him to Somerset House, and into the queen mother's presence-chamber. And there, on the left hand of Henrietta Maria, sat the young queen, whom Mr. Pepys had never seen before, and now thought that "though she be not very charming, yet she hath a good, modest, and innocent look, which is pleasing." Here, likewise, he saw the king's mistress, and the young Duke of Monmouth, "who, I perceive," Pepys continues, "do hang much upon my Lady Castlemaine, and is always with her; and I hear the queenes, both of them, are mighty kind to him. By-and-by in comes the king, and anon the duke and his duchesse; so that, they being all together, was such a sight as I never could almost have happened to see with so much ease and leisure. They staid till it was dark, and then went away; the king and his queene, and my Lady Castlemaine and young Crofts, in one coach, and the rest in other coaches. Here were great stores of great ladies. The king and queen were very merry; and he would have made the queene mother believe that the queene was with child, and said that she said so. And the young queene answered, 'You lye,' which was the first English word that I ever heard her say, which made the king good sport."
Others besides Mr. Pepys had begun to notice that the young Duke of Monmouth hung much upon the Countess of Castlemaine, and that her ladyship lavished caresses upon him. Whether this was to provoke the uneasiness of his majesty, who she hoped might find employment for the lad elsewhere, or to express her genuine affection for him, it is impossible to say. However, the duke being come to an age when the endearments of such a woman might have undesired effects upon him, the king resolved to remove him from her influence, and at the same time secure his fortune by marriage.
He therefore selected a bride for him, in the person of Lady Anne Scott, a young gentlewoman of virtue and excellence, who was only child of Francis, Earl of Buccleugh, and the greatest heiress in Great Britain. Their nuptials were celebrated on the 20th of April, 1663, the bridegroom at this time not having reached his fifteenth birthday, whilst the bride was younger by a year. The duke on his marriage assumed his wife's family name, Scott; and some years later—in 1673—both were created Duke and Duchess of Buccleugh. From this union the family now bearing that title has descended. A great supper was given at Whitehall on the marriage-night, and for many days there were stately festivities held to celebrate the event with becoming magnificence.
Now at one of the court balls held at this time, the woman of all others who attracted most attention and gained universal admiration was Frances Stuart, maid of honour to Queen Catherine. She was only daughter of a gallant gentleman, one Walter Stuart, and grand-daughter of Lord Blantyre. Her family had suffered sore loss in the cause of Charles I., by reason of which, like many others, it sought refuge in France. This young gentlewoman was therefore bred in that country, and was, moreover, attached to the court of the queen mother, in whose suite she travelled into England. Her beauty was sufficient to attract the attention of Louis XIV., who, loath to lose so fair an ornament from his court, requested her mother would permit her to remain, saying, he "loved her not as a mistress, but as one that would marry as well as any lady in France."
No doubt Mrs. Stuart understood the motives of his majesty's interested kindness, of which, however, she declined availing herself, and therefore departed with her daughter for England. At the time of her appearance at Whitehall, Frances Stuart was in her fifteenth year. Even in a court distinguished by the beauty of women, her loveliness was declared unsurpassed. Her features were regular and refined, her complexion fair as alabaster, her hair bright and luxuriant, her eyes of violet hue; moreover, her figure being tall, straight, and shapely, her movements possessed an air of exquisite grace. An exact idea of her lineaments may be gained unto this day, from the fact that Philip Rotier, the medallist, who loved her true, represented her likeness in the face of Britannia on the reverse of coins; and so faithful was the likeness, we are assured, that no one who had ever seen her could mistake who had sat as model of the figure.
Soon after her arrival in England, she was appointed one of the maids of honour to Queen Catherine, and as such was present at all festivities of the court. Now, at one of the great balls given in honour of the Duke of Monmouth's nuptials, the fair Frances Stuart appeared in the full lustre of her charms. Her beauty, her grace, and her youth completely eclipsed the more showy gifts of my Lady Castlemaine, who on this occasion looked pale and thin, she being in the commencement of another pregnancy, "which the king was pleased to place to his own account." The merry monarch had before this time been attracted by the fair maid of honour, but now it was evident his heart had found a new object of admiration in her surpassing beauty. Henceforth he boldly made love to her. The countess was not much disturbed by this, for she possessed great faith in her own charms and implicit belief in her power over the king. Besides, she had sufficient knowledge of mankind to comprehend that to offer opposition in pursuit of love is the most certain method to foster its growth. She therefore resolved to seek Miss Stuart's society, cultivate her friendship, and constantly bring her into contact with his majesty. This would not only prove to the satisfaction of the court she had no fear of losing her sovereignty over the monarch, but, by keeping him engaged with the maid of honour, would likewise divert his attention from an intrigue the countess was then carrying on with Henry Jermyn. Accordingly, she made overtures of friendship to Miss Stuart, invited her to private parties, and appeared continually with her in public.
Concerning these ladies and the merry monarch, Pepys narrates a strange story which Captain Ferrers told him as they "walked finely" in the park. This was, that at an entertainment given by my Lady Castlemaine, towards the end of which his majesty played at being married with fair Frances Stuart, "with ring and all other ceremonies of Church service, and ribbands, and a sack posset [A drink composed of milk, wine, and spices.] in bed, and flinging the stocking. My Lady Castlemaine looked on the while, evincing neither anger nor jealousy, but entering into the diversion with great spirit." Nor was this the only indiscretion of which she was culpable, for, in the full confidence of her charms, she frequently kept Miss Stuart to stay with her. "The king," says Hamilton, "who seldom neglected to visit the countess before she rose, seldom failed likewise to find Miss Stuart with her. The most indifferent objects have charms in a new attachment; however, the imprudent countess was not jealous of this rival's appearing with her, in such a situation, being confident that, whenever she thought fit, she could triumph over all the advantages which these opportunities could afford Miss Stuart."
No doubt Lady Castlemaine's imprudences arose from knowledge that Miss Stuart was devoid of tact, and incapable of turning opportunities to her own advantage in the king's regard. For though the maid of honour was richly endowed with beauty, she was wholly devoid of wit. She was not only a child in years, but likewise in behaviour. She laughed at every remark made her, delighted in playing blind man's buff, and was never more happy than when building castles of cards. At this latter amusement she continually employed herself whilst the deepest play was taking place in her apartments; being always attended by groups of courtiers, who were either attracted by the charm of her beauty, or were eager to make court through her favour. As she sat upon the floor, intent on her favourite occupation, they on their knees handed her cards, traced out designs for her, or built elaborate structures rivalling her own.
Amongst those who attended her in this manner was the gay, graceful, and profligate Duke of Buckingham, who became enamoured of her loveliness. Not only did he raise the most wonderful of card mansions for her delight, but having a good voice, and she possessing a passion for music, he invented songs and sung them to pleasure her. Moreover, he told her the wittiest stories, turned the courtiers into the greatest ridicule for her entertainment, and made her acquainted with the most diverting scandals. Finally, he professed his ardent love for her; but at this the fair Stuart either felt, or feigned, intense astonishment, and so repulsed him that he abandoned the pursuit of an amour over which he had wasted so much time, and thenceforth deprived himself of her company.
His attentions were, however, soon replaced by those of the Earl of Arlington, a lord of the bedchamber, and a man of grave address and great ambition. Owing to this latter trait his lordship was desirous of winning the good graces of Miss Stuart in the present, in hopes of governing his majesty in the future, when she became the king's mistress. But these sage and provident intentions of his were speedily overturned, for early in the course of their acquaintance, when he had commenced to tell her a story, his manner so forcibly reminded her of Buckingham's mimicry of him, that she burst out laughing in the earl's face. This being utterly uncalled for by the circumstances of his tale, and still less by the manner of its narration, Lord Arlington, who was serious, punctilious, and proud, became enraged, abruptly left her presence, and abandoned his schemes of governing the king through so frivolous a medium.
A man who had better chances of success in winning this beautiful girl was George Hamilton, whose name has been already mentioned. It was not, however, his graceful person, or elegant manner, but his performance of a trick which gained her attention. It happened one night that an Irish peer, old Lord Carlingford, was diverting her by showing how she might hold a burning candle in her mouth a considerable time without its being extinguished. This was a source of uncommon delight to her; seeing which, George Hamilton thought he would give her still further entertainment. For being furnished by nature with a wide mouth, he placed within it two lighted candles, and walked three times round the room without extinguishing them, whilst the fair Stuart clapped her pretty hands in delight, and shouted aloud with laughter.
A man who could accomplish such a feat was worthy of becoming a favourite. She at once admitted him to terms of familiarity; and he had a hundred chances of paying her the attentions he greatly desired, and which she freely accepted. Grammont, foreseeing that Hamilton would incur the royal displeasure if his love for Miss Stuart became known to the king, besought him to abandon his addresses; but this advice did not at first sound pleasant to the lover's ears. "Since the court has been in the country," said he, "I have had a hundred opportunities of seeing her, which I had not before. You know that the dishabille of the bath is a great convenience for those ladies, who, strictly adhering to all the rules of decorum, are yet desirous to display all their charms and attractions. Miss Stuart is so fully acquainted with the advantages she possesses over all other women, that it is hardly possible to praise any lady at court for a well-turned arm, and a fine leg but she is ever ready to dispute the point by demonstration; and I really believe that, with a little address, it would not be difficult to induce her to strip naked, without ever reflecting upon what she was doing. After all, a man must be very insensible to remain unconcerned and unmoved on such happy occasions."
Hamilton was therefore not willing to renounce Miss Stuart, but upon Grammont showing that attentions paid the lady would certainly provoke the king's anger, he resolved on sacrificing love to interest, and abandoning the company of the fair maid of honour for evermore. The truth was, his majesty loved her exceedingly, as was indeed evident, for he constantly sought her presence, talked to her at the drawing-rooms as if no one else were by, and kissed her "to the observation of all the world." But though she allowed Charles such liberties, she refused to become his mistress, notwithstanding the splendid settlements and high titles with which the monarch engaged to reward the sacrifice of her virtue. And so, though a king, it was not given him to be obeyed in all. And though generally loved for his easy ways and gracious manners, he was continually harassed by his mistresses, reproved by his chancellor, and ridiculed by his courtiers. Indeed, they now spoke of him in his absence as "Old Rowley;" the reason of which is given by Richardson. "There was an old goat," writes he, "in the privy garden, that they had given this name to; a rank lecherous devil, that everybody knew and used to stroke, because he was good-humoured and familiar; and so they applied this name to the king."
The Duke of York's intrigues.—My Lady Chesterfield and his royal highness—The story of Lady Southesk's love.—Lord Arran plays the guitar.—Lord Chesterfield is jealous.—The countess is taken from court.—Mistress Margaret Brooke and the king.—Lady Denham and the duke.—Sir John goes mad.—My lady is poisoned.
The while his majesty devoted himself to pleasure and intrigue, neglectful of affairs of state, and heedless of public scandal, his brother of York, whose disposition was not less amorous, likewise followed the bent of his inclinations. Soon after her appearance at court he professed himself in love with the beautiful Elizabeth Hamilton, whom to behold was to admire. But the duke being a married man, and she a virtuous woman, he dared not address her on the subject of his affection, and was therefore obliged to confine the expression of his feelings to glances. These she refused to interpret; and he, becoming weary of a pursuit which promised no happy results, turned his attentions to the Countess of Chesterfield, who seemed in no way loath to receive them.
This charming woman had married my Lord Chesterfield in compliance with a family arrangement; and discovered too soon she had no place in the heart of him whose life she shared. His coldness to her was only equalled by his ardour for Lady Castlemaine, whose lover he continued to remain after his marriage. The affection his wife had offered and he had repulsed, in the dawn of their wedded life, changed by degrees to disdain and hatred.
Now as chamberlain to the queen my Lord Chesterfield had, apartments in the palace, by reason of which the countess became an habituee of the court. The moral atmosphere of Whitehall was not calculated to strengthen her conjugal virtue, but its perpetual gaiety was destined to dissipate her sense of neglect. It was not possible for a woman endowed with so much beauty, and possessed of such engaging manners, to be disregarded, in a court entirely devoted to love and gallantry; and accordingly she soon became an object of general admiration. This was by no means pleasing to my Lord Chesterfield, who, though he had wilfully repulsed her affections, was selfishly opposed to their bestowal upon others. Accordingly he became watchful of her conduct, and jealous of her admirers.
Prominent amongst these were James Hamilton and the Duke of York. The former was her cousin, and her husband's confidant, in consequence of which my lord failed to associate him with the suspicion he entertained towards all other men who approached her: the latter he regarded with the uttermost distrust. His royal highness had before now disturbed the happy confidence which husbands had placed in their wives, as my Lord Carnegy could testify.
The story which hangs thereby had, a little while before the duke fell in love with Lady Chesterfield, afforded vast amusement to the court, and was yet fresh in the recollection of many. It happened that his royal highness became enamoured of my Lady Carnegy, daughter of the gallant Duke of Hamilton, and friend of the gay Lady Castlemaine. Lady Carnegy loved pleasure mightily, painted her face "devilishly," and drove in the park flauntingly. She was endowed with considerable beauty of form and great tenderness of heart, as many gallants acknowledged with gratitude. Now when the Duke of York made advances to her, she received them with all the satisfaction he could desire; an intimacy therefore followed, which she was the better able to entertain on account of her husband's absence in Scotland. Whilst my Lord Carnegy was in that country, his father, the Earl of Southesk, died, and he succeeded to the title and estates. In due time the new earl returned to London and his wife, and was greeted by rumours of the friendship which in his absence had sprung up between my lady and the duke. These, as became a good husband, he refused to believe, until such time as he was enabled to prove their veracity. Now, though his royal highness did not cease to honour my lady with his visits on her husband's return, yet out of respect to decorum, and in order to silence scandalous tongues, he from that time invariably called on her accompanied by a friend.
It therefore came to pass that one day he requested an honest, foolish Irishman, Dick Talbot, afterwards Duke of Tyrconnel, to attend him in his visit to the lady. He could scarcely have selected a man more unfitted to the occasion, inasmuch as Talbot was wholly devoid of tact, and possessed a mind apt to wander at large at critical moments. He had but recently returned from Portugal, and was not aware my Lord Carnegy had in the meantime become Earl of Southesk, nor had he ever met the lady who shared that title until introduced to her by the duke. When that ceremony had been duly performed and a few sentences interchanged between them, Talbot, acting on instructions previously received, retired into an ante-room and took his post at a window that he might divert himself by viewing the street, and observing those who approached the house.
Here he remained for some time, but the study of mankind which the view admitted did not afford sufficient interest to prevent him becoming absorbed in his own thoughts, and indifferent to all objects surrounding him. From this mental condition he was presently aroused by seeing a carriage draw up to the door, and its occupant descend and quickly enter the house. Talbot was so forgetful of his duty that he omitted apprising the duke of this fact or making any movement until the door of the ante-room opened, when he turned round to face the intruder. Then he started forward and cried out, "Welcome, Carnegy!" for it was no other than he. "Welcome my good fellow! Where the devil have you been, that I have never been able to set eyes on you since we were at Brussels! What business brought you here?" he continued in the same breath; and then added in a tone of banter, "Do you likewise wish to see Lady Southesk; if this is your intention, my poor friend, you may go away again; for I must inform you the Duke of York is in love with her, and I will tell you in confidence that at this very time he is in her chamber."
My Lord Southesk was overwhelmed with shame and confusion, and not knowing how to act, immediately returned to his coach, Talbot attending him to the door as his friend, and advising him to seek a mistress elsewhere. He then went back to his post, and with some impatience awaited the Duke's return, that he might tell him what had happened. And in due time, when he had narrated the story, he was much surprised that neither his royal highness nor the countess saw any humour in the fact of Lord Carnegy's discomfiture. It served, however, to make the duke break off his connection with the lady, and likewise to amuse the town.
Remembering this incident, my Lord Chesterfield kept a watchful eye upon the duke, who he observed made advances towards the countess, which she, in her generosity, had not the heart to repulse. But, as his royal highness could see her only in presence of the court, my lord derived some satisfaction from knowing he was witness to such civilities as had yet passed between them. The duke was, however, anxious to have a more particular occasion of conversing with my lady, and in accomplishing this desire her brother Lord Arran was willing to aid him.
It happened about this time an Italian, named Francisco Corbeta, who played with great perfection on the guitar, arrived at court. His performances excited the wonder and delight of all who heard him, and the instrument which produced such melody speedily became fashionable at court, to such an extent, that a universal strumming was heard by day and by night: throughout the palace of Whitehall. The Duke of York, being devoted to music, was amongst those who strove to rival Signor Francisco's performance; whilst my Lord Arran, by the delicacy of his execution, almost equalled the great musician. The while Francisco's popularity increased, his fame reaching its zenith when he composed a saraband, to learn which became the ambition of all delighting in the guitar.
Now one day the duke, not thinking himself perfect in this piece, requested Lord Arran to play it over for him. My lord being a courteous man, was anxious to oblige his royal highness, and in order that the saraband might be heard to greatest advantage, was desirous of performing it upon the best instrument at court, which it was unhesitatingly acknowledged belonged to my Lady Chesterfield. Accordingly, Lord Arran led the duke to his sister's apartments. Here they found not only the guitar and my lady, but likewise my lord, who was no less astonished than disturbed by their visit. Then my Lord Arran commenced the famous saraband, whilst the duke commenced to ogle my lady, and she to return his glances in kind, as if both were unconscious of her husband's presence. So delightful did they find the saraband, that Lord Arran was obliged to repeat it at least twenty times, to the great mortification of the earl, who could scarcely contain his violent rage and jealousy. His torture was presently increased to an immeasurable degree, by a summons he received from the queen to attend her in his capacity of lord chamberlain, during an audience she was about, to give the Muscovite ambassador.
He had from the first suspected the visit, with which he was honoured, to have been preconcerted by his wife and the duke; and he now began to think her majesty was likewise connected with a plot destined to rob him of his peace and blight his honour. However, he was obliged to obey the queen's summons and depart. Nor had he been many minutes absent when Lord Arran entered the presence-chamber where the audience was being held, unaccompanied by the duke, at which Lord Chesterfield's jealous fears were strengthened a thousandfold. Before night came he was satisfied he held sufficient proof of his wife's infidelity.
This conviction caused him intense anxiety and pain; he walked about his apartments abstracted and brooding on the wrongs from which he suffered; avoided all who came in his way; and maintained strict silence as to that which disturbed his peace, until next day, when he met James Hamilton. To him he confided an account of the troubles which beset him. After speaking of the visit paid by his royal highness, and the part enacted by my Lord Arran, whom he described as "one of the silliest creatures in England, with his guitar, and his other whims and follies," he went on to say that when Hamilton had heard him out, he would be enabled to judge whether the visit ended in perfect innocence or not. "Lady Chesterfield is amiable, it must be acknowledged," said he, "but she is far from being such a miracle of beauty as she supposes herself: you know she has ugly feet; but perhaps you are not acquainted that she has still worse legs. They are short and thick, and to remedy these defects as much as possible, she seldom wears any other than green stockings. I went yesterday to Miss Stuart's after the audience of those damned Muscovites: the king arrived there just before me; and as if the duke had sworn to pursue me wherever I went that day, he came in just after me. The conversation turned upon the extraordinary appearance of the ambassadors. I know not where that fool Crofts had heard that all these Muscovites had handsome wives; and that all their wives had handsome legs. Upon this the king maintained, that no woman ever had such handsome legs as Miss Stuart; and she to prove the truth of his majesty's assertion, with the greatest imaginable ease, immediately showed her leg above the knee. Some were ready to prostrate themselves in order to adore its beauty, for indeed none can be handsomer; but the duke alone began to criticize upon it. He contended that it was too slender, and that as for himself he would give nothing for a leg that was not thicker and shorter, and concluded by saying that no leg was worth anything without green stockings; now this in my opinion was a sufficient demonstration that he had just seen green stockings, and had them fresh in his remembrance."