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The Reign of Queen Anne - (Concluded) page 16


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Bolingbroke was now prime minister, and he hastened to arrange his cabinet entirely on Jacobite principles. So far as he was concerned, the country was to be handed over to the pretender and popery on the queen's death. He would not run the risk of a new antagonist in the shape of a lord treasurer, but put the treasury in commission, with Sir William Wyndham at its head. The privy seal was given to Atterbury; Bromley was continued as the other secretary of state; and the earl of Mar, the rankest of Jacobites, was made secretary of state for Scotland. Ormonde, long engaged in the pretender's plot, was made commander-in- chief - a most significant appointment; Buckingham was made lord president, and Harcourt lord chancellor. As for the inferior posts, he found great difficulty in filling them up. "The sterility of good men,'' wrote Erasmus Lewis to Swift, "is incredible." Good men, according to the unprincipled Bolingbroke's notions, were not to be found in a hurry. There were plenty of candidates ready, but it may give an impressive notion of the state of that party, that there was scarcely a man beyond those already appointed that Bolingbroke could trust. The cabinet never was completed. What his own notions of moral or political honesty were, may be imagined from the fact that he did not hesitate to attempt a coalition with the whigs. He gave a dinnerparty at his house in Golden Square to Stanhope, Walpole, Craggs, general Cadogan, and other leaders; but though Walpole, when minister himself, boasted that every man had his price, Bolingbroke had not yet discovered Walpole's price nor that of his colleagues. They to a man demanded, as a. sine qua non, that the pretender should be compelled to remove to Rome, or to some place much farther off than Lorraine, and Bolingbroke assured them that the queen would never consent to such a banishment of her brother. Nothing but the lowest opinion of men's principles could have led Bolingbroke to expect any other result from these whig leaders. Perhaps he only meant to sound their real views; perhaps only to divert public attention from his real designs, which the very names of his coadjutors in the ministry must have made patent enough to all men of any penetration. The very same day that he thus gave this whig dinner he assured Gualtier that his sentiments towards the king were just the same as ever, provided his majesty took such measures as would suit the people of England. Time only was wanting for this traitor-minister to betray the country to its old despotisms and troubles, but such time was not in the plans of Providence. The end of Anne was approaching faster than was visible to human eyes; but the shrewd and selfish Marlborough had a pretty strong instinct of it, and was drawing nearer and nearer to the scene of action, ready to secure himself whichever way the balance inclined. He was at Ostend, prepared to pass over at an hour's notice, and to the last moment keeping up his correspondence with the two courts of Hanover and Bar-le-duc. Both despised and suspected him, but feared him at the same time. Such was still his influence, especially with the army, that whichever party he adopted was considered pretty sure to succeed. That it was likely to succeed was equally certain before Marlborough did adopt it. Lockhart of Carnwath, one of the most active and sagacious Jacobites, and likely to be in the secrets of the Jacobite party, says that the pretender, to test the sincerity of Marlborough, asked the loan of one hundred thousand pounds from him, as a proof of his fidelity. He did not abide the test, but soon after offered twenty thousand pounds to the electoral prince, to enable him to come over to England. The moment that he was prepared, with his deep-rooted love of money, to do that, it might be certainly pronounced that he was confident of the success of the Hanoverians.

The agitation which the queen underwent on the night of the 27th, when she dismissed Oxford after a long and fierce altercation, produced a marked change in her health. The council was only terminated, having sate to consider who should be admitted into the new ministry, by the queen falling into a swoon. Being got to bed, she passed the night, not in sleep, but in weeping. The next day another council was held, but was again broken up by the illness of the queen, and was prorogued to the 29th of July. To Dr. Arbuthnot, her physician, Anne declared that the disputes of her ministers had killed her; that she should never survive it. Lady Masham, struck by the queen's heavy and silent manner, apprehended the worst. On the 29th, as the hour for the meeting of the council approached, Mrs. Danvers, an old and attached lady of the household, found, to her astonishment, the queen standing before the clock in the presence- chamber, gazing fixedly upon it. Alarmed at the appearance of the queen, Mrs. Danvers asked u whether her majesty saw anything unusual there in the clock? " Without answering the queen turned her eyes with such ghastly expression upon her, that the alarmed Mrs. Danvers called aloud for assistance, saying afterwards that "she saw death in that look." The queen was got to bed, when she was found by her summoned physicians in a high fever. The imposthume in her leg had been checked, and the gouty humour had flown to her brain. The next day she had an apoplectic attack; and the rumour of her approaching end getting out, the funds rose, but fell again on her being cupped, and to a degree recovering. This was a certain indication, whatever might be the personal regard for Anne, that her late policy had endangered the throne and the constitution, and that a little more of life to her might have been death to the liberties and religion of the nation. Bolingbroke and his Jacobite colleagues were thunderstruck by this sudden crisis. They assembled in council at Kensington, in a room not far from that of the dying queen, but they were so stupefied by the blow that they could do nothing. On the other hand, the whigs had been quite alert. Stanhope had made preparations to seize the Tower, to secure the persons of the ministers and the leading Jacobites, if necessary, on the demise of the queen\ to obtain possession of the outports, and proclaim the king. A proof of this concert was immediately given by the dukes of Argyll and Somerset, who belonged to the privy council, but, of course, had not been summoned, suddenly entering the council chamber, stating that, hearing of the queen's critical position, they had hastened, though not summoned, to offer their assistance. No sooner had they said this, than the duke of Shrewsbury rose and thanked them for their courtesy. It was evident to the now more than ever confounded ministers that this was concerted. They remained helpless in the hands of their opponents, though the Jacobites had for some time made even a parade of their own party organisation, wearing at their button-holes a small gold, silver, or brass fusee or miniature gun as a signal on the expected day of struggle.

The whig dukes immediately demanded that the queen's physicians should be called and examined as to her probable continuance. The physicians in general were of opinion that her majesty might linger some time, but Dr. Mead declared that she could not live many days, perhaps not many hours; from the apoplectic symptoms she might be gone in one.

It was proposed to send a notice of her state to the elector of Hanover. Mead declared that he would stake his reputation that her majesty would be no more long before that intelligence reached Hanover. Argyll and Somerset thereupon declared it absolutely necessary that the post of lord treasurer should be filled up, as it was requisite that, at such a moment, there should be a recognised prime minister, and proposed that the duke of Shrewsbury should be nominated to that office. Bolingbroke felt that his power and all his plans were at an end, and sat like one in a dream. The members of the council then proceeded to the queen's apartment, and Bolingbroke followed them, as it were, mechanically. The queen was sensible enough to be made aware of their errand, and expressed her approval of it. Shrewsbury, however, with that singular hesitation which always characterised him, refused to take the white staff, except from her majesty's own hand. It was, therefore, handed to her, and she extended it towards Shrewsbury, saying, "For God's sake, use it for the good of my people!" Shrewsbury was already chamberlain, and he presented the staff of that office in resignation of it, but the queen bade him retain both; and thus the man who all his life had been refusing office, or insisting on resigning it when in his possession, and had tormented king William with his backwardness, entreating that he might be allowed to be " an insignificant cypher instead of a bad figure," found himself in the unprecedented possession of the three highest offices of the kingdom at a most momentous crisis. He was at once lord treasurer, lord chamberlain, and lord lieutenant of Ireland.

Oxford had sent round a circular to every whig lord in or near London who had ever belonged to the privy council, warning them to come and make a struggle for the protestant succession. This was one of the most decided actions of that vibratory statesman, and was no doubt prompted by his desire to avenge his recent defeat by Bolingbroke, and to stand well at the last moment with the house of Hanover. In consequence of this, the Jacobite ministers found themselves completely prostrate and helpless in the midst of the strong muster of whigs. Even the aged and infirm Somers made his appearance, and threw the weight of his great name into the scale. Prompt measures were taken to secure the advent of the new king. Four regiments were ordered to London; seven battalions were sent for from Ostend, where Marlborough was said to have secured their zealous fidelity to the elector; a fleet was ordered to put to sea to prevent any interruption of his transit, and to receive him in Holland. An embargo was laid on all ports, and the queen the next morning having sunk again into lethargy, the council ordered the heralds-at-arms and a troop of the life-guards to be in readiness to proclaim the successor. Mr. Craggs was sent express to Hanover, to desire the elector to hasten to Holland, where the fleet would be ready to receive him. They also sent a dispatch to the States-General, to remind them of the fact - which for a long time and to this moment the English government appeared itself to have forgotten - that there was such a thing as a treaty, and that by it they were bound to guarantee the protestant succession. Lord Berkeley was appointed to the command of the fleet, and a reinforcement was ordered for Portsmouth. A general officer was hastened to Scotland, where much apprehension of a movement in favour of the pretender existed; and, in short, every conceivable arrangement was made for the safe ascension of the protestant king.

Still, during all this time, though the tory ministers in the council appeared paralysed, the Jacobite lords assembled in secret junto in the very palace where the council was sitting and the queen dying. Lady Masham's apartments were the scene of the last convulsive agitation of Jacobitism. From her the distracted leaders of that faction received the accounts of the progress of the queen's illness. Amongst these were Buckingham, Ormonde, Atterbury, and, when he was not at the queen's bedside, Robinson, of London. That prelate, when he attended to administer the sacrament to the dying woman, received an earnest message from her, which he was bound by the duchess of Ormonde to promise to deliver, though it cost him his head. Probably it was some last remembrance to her brother, the pretender; though it was supposed by some to be an order to the duke of Ormonde, the commander-in-chief, to hold the army for the Stuart, Nothing, however, of the nature of this message ever transpired; but the duke of Buckingham, on the separation of the council, which had just obtained the affixing of the great seal to a patent providing for the government of the country by four-and-twenty regents till the arrival of the successor, clapped his hand on Ormonde's shoulder, saying, u My lord, you have four-and-twenty hours to do our business in, and make yourself master of the country." It was a forlorn hope. That evening lady Masham entered her apartments in great agitation, saying, "Oh, my lords, we are all undone - entirely ruined! The queen is a dead woman; all the world cannot save her!" Upon which one of the lords asked if the queen had her senses, and if lady Masham thought she could speak to them. She replied, "Impossible; her pain deprives her of all sense, and in the interval she dozes and speaks to nobody." "That is hard indeed," said another of the lords. "If she could but speak to us, and give us orders, and sign them, we might do the business for all that." "Alas!" replied another lord, "who would act on such orders? We are all undone!" "Then we cannot be worse," said another, plainly meant for Ormonde. "I assure you that if her majesty would give orders to proclaim her successor in her lifetime, I would do it at the head of the army. I'll answer for the soldiers." "Do it, then!" swore the bishop Atterbury, for he did not etick at an oath. "Let us go out and proclaim the chevalier at Charing Cross. Do you not see that we have no time to lose?" Lady Masham told them they might waive debate; there was nothing to be done; her majesty was no longer capable of directing anything. On which the duko of Ormonde exclaimed, "Lord, what an unhappy thing this is!

What a cause is here lost at one blow!" Such is the relation of Peter Rae, in his "History of the Rebellion."

And thus terminated this miserable scene of insane despair. Bolingbroke, with all his showy abilities, was evidently- destitute of diplomatic depth, or he would have long perceived that the heart of the nation was firmly set against any return of the bigoted Stuarts.

The queen expired at seven o'clock on Sunday morning, the 1st of August, not having recovered sufficient consciousness to receive the sacrament, or to sign her will. During her intervals of sense she is reported to have repeatedly exclaimed, "Oh, my brother, my dear brother, what will become of you!" There can be no doubt but that remorse for her part in casting a slur on his birth preyed on her mind during her latter years, and increased with her increasing debility; and that nothing but his persistence in his rooted attachment to popery prevented her acknowledging him her successor. She was still only in her fiftieth year, and the thirteenth of her reign. Bolingbroke wrote to Swift – "The earl of Oxford was removed on Tuesday, and the queen died on Sunday. What a world is this, and how does fortune banter us!"

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