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Charles II page 6

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On assembling at that time they were alarmed by Clarendon with rumours of fresh conspiracies in every part of the country« The object was to obtain the death of more of the regicides. The commons fell readily into the snare. To make a spectacle of disaffected men, they ordered three eminent commonwealth men - lord Monson, Sir Henry Mild- may, and Sir Robert Wallop, to be drawn with ropes round their necks from the Tower to Tyburn and back again, to Remain perpetual prisoners. But this did not satisfy them, they must have more blood, and though Charles had promised their lives to Sir Harry Vane and general Lambert, they demanded their trial and execution; and Charles, who haid no more regard for his word than his father, complied. They were to be tried the next session. Parliament then proceeded to draw up a more stringent conformity bill, and it passed both houses. This bill enacted that every clergyman should publicly, before his congregation, declare his perfect assent to everything contained in the common prayer, and that every preacher who had not received episcopal ordination must do so before the next feast of St. Bartholomew. They added some new collects, in one of them they styled the lecherous monarch "our most religious king;" they made the 30th of January a holiday for ever, in memory of king diaries the martyr - of despotism; and voted the king a subsidy of one million two hundred thousand pounds, and a hearth tax for ever. The king then prorogued them on the 19th of May, 1662, with many professions of economy and reformation of manners, one of which he observed as much as the other.

Of the improvement of his morals he soon gave a striking example. The duke of York had married Anne Hyde, the daughter of the chancellor, though she had been his mistress, and was on the point of being delivered of an illegitimate child, which Charles Berkeley publicly claimed as his own, and brought forward the earls of Arran, Talbot, Jermyn, and others to testify to her loose conduct. Berkeley was afterwards brought to contradict his own statement, but these circumstances, and James's gloomy and bigoted temper, rendered it desirable that Charles should marry. Heirs and heiresses he had in abundance, had they been legitimate. Besides Lucy Walters or Barlow, by whom he had the duke of Monmouth, though the paternity of the child was generally awarded to the brother of Algernon Sidney, for Mrs. Walters or Barlow was very liberal of her favours, he had, on arriving in London, established a connection with the wife of a Mr. Palmer, whose maiden name was Barbara Villiers. The husband's connivance was purchased with the title of earl of Castlemaine, and the countess was afterwards advanced to the rank of the duchess of Cleveland.

As it was requisite for Charles, however, to marry his ministers looked about for a suitable wife. Nothing could reconcile him to the idea of a German bride, and the catholic princesses of the south were regarded by the nation with suspicion, both from the memory of the last queen, and the suspected tendency of Charles himself to popery. Whilst Charles was in France, in 1659, he made an offer to the niece of cardinal Mazarine, which that shrewd politician, but no prophet, politely declined, for Charles was then a mere fugitive royalty, and the cardinal did not foresee so sudden a change.

On the recall of Charles to the throne, both Mazarine and his master, Louis XIV., saw their mistake, for they had not only treated Charles with as much indifference as if it were a moral certainty that he could never again reach the throne of England, but had even sent him out of the country at the demand of Cromwell. Mazarine now offered his niece, but the scene was changed, and Charles no longer stooped to the niece of a cardinal. Louis, who had no suitable princess of France to offer him, and who wanted to prevent Portugal falling into the power of Spain, strong^ recommended to him Donna Catarina of Braganza, the Portuguese monarch's sister. Could he accomplish this match, Louis, who was bound by treaty with Spain to offer no aid to Portugal, might be able to do it under cover of the king of England. The king's ministers, after some apprehension on the score of the lady's religion, were of opinion that the match was desirable if it were only for the dowry offered - five hundred thousand pounds, the settlement of Tangier, in Africa, and Bombay, in the East Indies, besides a free trade to all the Portuguese colonies. De Mello, the Portuguese ambassador in London, was informed that the proposal met the approbation of the king. To link the interests of France and England closer, the princess Henrietta, Charles's youngest sister, was married to the duke of Orleans, the only brother of the French king.

But like his father, Charles was still not unwilling to run from the engagement if anything more to his interest might offer. No sooner did Vatteville, the Spanish ambassador, become aware of the negotiations, than he alarmed his court, from which a speedy announcement was made to Charles that the king of Spain claimed Portugal as his right, and would not give up that claim. That Catherine was well known to be incapable of bearing children, and that his marriage with her would inevitably lead to a war, and compel Spain to prohibit its lucrative trade to the English. After these warnings, offers were made of either of the two princesses of Parma, with the dowry of a princess of Spain. Charles thought it as well to ascertain the attractions of these princesses, and despatched the earl of Bristol to take ä private view of them; but though Bristol was strongly opposed to the Portuguese alliance, the sight of the ladies as they went to church, compelled him to forego all hope from that quarter, for one was so plain, and the other so fat, that even he could not recommend the connection.

Meantime Louis had zealously and adroitly pressed forward the choice of the Portuguese princess. He not only dwelt in a secret correspondence through his envoy, Bastide, on the many advantages of the Portuguese alliance, but offered to make it more so himself; to furnish him with money to buy up parliamentary votes, to lend him fifty thousand pounds whenever he might need it, and to furnish two millions of livres should a war with Spain actually occur. Thus was laid the foundation of Charles's disgraceful dependence on the artful French monarch, for which he sacrificed the honour and interests both of his own country and of all Europe. This species of eloquence prevailed, as it always did with this king. Montague, now lord Sandwich, was despatched with a fleet to bring the Portuguese princess to England, and the Spanish ambassador, enraged at the defeat, conceived a design which might be thought possible only in a barbarous age. He publicly avowed his intention to revive the old dispute of precedeüce betwixt the French and Spanish crowns.

The Swedish ambassador, Brahe, being just about to arrive, he prepared to take the lead of the French ambassador in the procession on his landing, and to assert it by force. Destrades, the French ambassador, prepared also to maintain the ascendant. He called on all the French in London to attend him on the occasion, and support the honour of their country. He sent for reinforcements from Boulogne, and appeared on the tower wharf, where Brahe was to land, followed by a hundred of his countrymen on foot, and forty on horseback, armed with carbines and pistols. Vatteville, at the same time, appeared in his carriage attended by only about forty Spaniards in livery, but he had taken a precaution of the most vital consequence to success. He had had substituted for ordinary traces to his carriage iron chains, so that they could not be cut, and covered them with leather. The moment that the Swedish ambassador entered his carriage, the rival ambassadors dashed forward to secure the place next to him. The crowd,- who entered zealously into the contest, hurrahed loudly at the sight; the two parties came into violent contact, each fought desperately for the victory, and men fell dead on each side; but the Spaniards cut the traces of the French ambassador, and as his followers found they could not effect the expected retaliation, the Spaniard secured the precedence. But the French, superior in numbers, returned to the change again and again, as the procession drove through the streets. The Spaniards, with whom the people took part, probably as being the least in number, gallantly defended themselves, and maintained their place. Fifty people were killed or wounded in this extraordinary conflict, and Louis XIV., extremely chagrined at the result, instantly ordered Fuensaldegna, the Spanish ambassador at Paris, from the kingdom, and threatened Philip of Spain with war, and was not appeased till Philip recalled Vatteville from England, made suitable apologies, and promised that his ambassadors should. always absent themselves from public ceremonies where they might be likely to come into collision with his own. Then Louis, in the true spirit of French gasconade, pretended to glory in the affair, declaring that nothing more glorious to France had ever happened; that it was a kind of homage that must convince even their enemies that the French crown was the first in Christendom. That the tumult in London was a misfortune, but that it would have been a misfortune if it had not happened. Cetoit un malheur quece tumulte de Londres; ce seroit maintenantun malheur qu'il ne fat pas arrive

On the 13th of May the Portuguese princess arrived at Spithead; Charles was not there to receive her, pretending pressure of parliamentary business, but he sent to request of her that the marriage ceremony after the catholic form, which he had promised, might be waived. Catherine would not consent. On the 20th, Charles having arrived at Portsmouth, they were, -therefore, married in private by Catherine's almoner, Stuart D'Aubigny, in the presence of Philip, afterward« cardinal Howard, and five other, witnesses, and afterwards publicly by the bishop of London.

On the journey to Hampton Court, and for a few days afterwards, Charles appeared extremely pleased with his wife, who, though she could not compete in person wit£ the dazzling lady Castlemaine, and has been described by some contemporaries as a homely person, as "a little swarthy body, proud, and ill-favoured," is stated by others to have been "a most pretty woman." According to Lely's portrait of her, she is a very pleasing brunette beauty, and by all accounts she was extremely amiable; but the misfortune was, that she had been brought up as in a con« vent, completely secluded from society, and therefore was little calculated, by the amount of her information, or the graces of her manners, to fascinate a person of Charles's worldly and volatile character. Thomas Maynard, who was at the court of Portugal, says in his report to Charles's secretary of state, Nicholas, "She is as sweet a dispositioned princess as ever was born, a lady of excellent parts, but lived hugely retired. She hath hardly been ten times out of the palace in her life. For five years she was not out of doors until she heard of his majesty's intention to make her queen of Great Britain."

How was such a woman to support her influence with such a man against the beauty and determined temper of lady Castlemaine, a woman as dissolute and unprincipled as she was handsome. In her fits of passion she often threatened the king to tear their children to pieces, and set his palace on fire; and when she was in these tempers, a contemporary says, "she resembled Medusa less than one of her dragons." Charles was the perfect slave of her charms and her passions. She had wrung from him a promise that his marriage should not cause him to withdraw himself from her, and having born him a son a few days after his marriage, she only awaited her convalescence to take her place as one of the queen's own ladies. Catherine had heard of his amour before coming to England, for it was the talk of all Europe, and her mother had bade her never to allow her name to be mentioned in her presence.' But very soon the king presented her a list of the ladies of her household, and the first on the list she saw, to her astonishment, was lady Castlemaine. She at once struck it out, and notwithstanding the king's remonstrances, declared that sooner than submit to such än indignity, she would return to Portugal. But she was not long in learning that no regard to her feelings was to be expected from this sensual and unfeeling monster. He brought the obnoxious woman into her own chamber, leading her by the hand, and presenting her before the assembled court. Such a scandalous offence to public decorum, such a brutal insult to a young wife in a strange land, was perhaps never perpetrated before. Catherine, who did not recognise the name uttered by the king, received her graciously, and permitted her to kiss her hand; but a whisper from one of the Portuguese ladies made her aware of the outrage. She burst into tears, the blood gushed from her nostrils in the violent effort to subdue her feelings, and she fell senseless into the arms of her attendants. Instead of feeling any compunction for the pain thus inflicted on his wife, the demoralised reprobate was enraged at her for thus, as he called it, casting a slur on the reputation of the fair lady. He abused the queen for her obstinacy and' perversity, and vowed that she should receive her as a lady of her bedchamber, as a due reparation for this public insult. It was in vain, however, that he stormed at his unhappy wife, she remained firm in her resolve, either to be freed from the pollution of the mistress's presence, or to return to Portugal. Clarendon and Ormond ventured to remonstrate with Charles on his cruelty, but Charles was especially indignant that they should " level the mistresses of kings and princes with other lewd women, it being his avowed doctrine that they ought to be looked upon as above other men's wives." However opposed such a doctrine may be to the more refined taste and purer morality of the present age, it was quite in harmony with the habits and feelings which regulated the social system of Europe at that period. Charles was at least no worse than Louis XIV., whose mistresses were admitted to the intimacy of married ladies of approved virtue and chastity. The same, too, may be said of the English court under the first two kings of the House of Brunswick.

The part which Clarendon played on this occasion is greatly at variance with that reputation for honour, wisdom, virtue, and true dignity with which his admirers invest him. It shows that however much he might recoil at it, however deeply disgraceful and degrading lie might feel it, he was ready to stoop to this disgrace and degradation, rather than sacrifice his interest at court. Accordingly Charles let him know that he expected him not only to cease to object to his unmanly conduct to his wife, but to make himself the instrument of inducing her to submit to the ignominy; and the hoary moralist, the great minister and historian, showed himself humbly pliant, and set to work in earnest to bend the mind of this virtuous and outraged woman to the shame of receiving her husband's harlot as her daily companion and attendant. And this the great Clarendon did perseveringly, and at length successfully. When she talked of returning to Portugal, he bade her understand that she was utterly in the power of her husband; that so far from going to Portugal, she could not even go out of that palace without his permission; and in fact, he so effectually worked up o her terrors, backed by the savage threats of the king, that he ultimately broke her spirit, and taught her to acquiesce in an example of profligacy, which at once scandalised and corrupted the morals of the age. Charles, when Catherine repeated her determination to return to Portugal, told her rudely that she must first see whether her mother would receive her, and that he would send her Portuguese servants to ascertain that point; and he at once discharged all her attendants. Thus left abandoned in a foreign country, the miserable queen told the chancellor that she had to struggle with greater difficulties than any woman of her condition before; but that pattern minister only showed her that it was the more necessary to submit, and, continues Clarendon himself: - "In all this the king preserved his point; the lady came to court, was lodged there, was every day in the queen's presence, and the king in continual conference with her, whilst the queen sate untaken notice of; and if her majesty rose at the indignity and retired into her chamber, it may be one or two attended her; but all the company remained in the room she left, and too often said those things aloud which nobody ought to have whispered. She alone was left out in all jollities, and not suffered to have any part of those pleasant applications and caresses which she saw made abroad to everybody else; a universal mirth in all company but in hers, and in all places but in her chamber, her own servants showing more respect and more diligence to the person of the lady than towards their own mistress, who, they found, could do them less good. All these mortifications were too heavy to be borne, so that at last, when it was least expected or suspected, the queen of 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 nobody more friendly."

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