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Reign of George II page 9

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The king's message to his son had been delivered by several great officers of state, headed by lord chancellor Hardwicke; and his determined rejection of it struck the public as something very ungracious. Walpole stated the fact of the king's offer of the day before, and added that fifty thousand pounds a year, with the revenue of the duchy of Cornwall, about ten thousand pounds more, was a sufficient allowance for an heir-apparent. He remarked how highly indecorous it was to interfere betwixt father and son, and he replied to the historical references of Pulteney to the establishments of heirs-apparent, by denying that there was any case of such interference as the present, except in the reign of Henry VI. - a prince so weak, that parliament was compelled to exercise certain rights to which they were not properly entitled. Pulteney replied, and described the prince's necessary expenses as amounting to sixty-three thousand pounds a-year, whilst his income was only fifty-two thousand pounds, leaving him nothing to bestow in the exercise of benevolence, and dependent on the minister of his father.

The imminent danger of the king, however, was more persuasive with many than any other arguments. They were not willing to run counter to a prince apparently on the point of ascending the throne, and Walpole would have found himself in a minority had Wyndham, as he hoped, brought the tories to vote for the prince. But forty- five Jacobites, who could not bring themselves to vote for an heir of the house of Hanover, though they would by that have done a serious mischief to the Hanoverian usurper, as they styled him, rose in a body and quitted the house. The Jacobites in the house in the preceding parliament were reckoned to be fifty, so that we have here a pretty clear test of the amount of that party in the house. On the division, the ministerial party amounted to two hundred and thirty - four, the opposition to only two hundred and four - being a majority for ministers of exactly thirty. The next day the same motion was made in the lords by Carteret, but was rejected by a large majority - one hundred and three to forty.

This decided repulse ought to have shown the prince the violence that he was doing to the public sense of decency, and the mischief to his own character; but the disappointment only the more embittered him, and increased his miserable obstinacy. Time had no effect in abating his unnatural resentment Though this parliamentary decision took place in February, he continued so much in the same temper, that the very last day of the following July, his wife being seized with symptoms of labour, he suddenly determined to remove her from Hampton Court, where all the royal family then were, and hurry her off to London.

The event of this first accouchement of the princess was duly expected, and all the necessary measures taken for it, though the prince had never once announced the fact of the princess's pregnancy to the king and queen; and in the middle of the night he suddenly hurried her away at the risk of her life. With all his haste, the birth had nearly taken place at a roadside inn, where there was nothing proper for the occasion - no accoucheur, no medical attendance, nor any of the necessary witnesses of the birth of a probable heir to the crown.

Fortunately, the princess was safely delivered at St. James's, though the house was altogether unprepared for such an emergency - the rooms and beds being unaired, and no adequate suite of servants. The moment that the king heard of this extraordinary conduct of the prince, he dispatched Walpole and lord Harrington to attend the birth, but they were too late. The queen set out, also, with all haste, and was with the princess at seven in the morning at St. James's. Horace Walpole says, "The gracious prince^ so far from attempting any apology, spoke not a word to his mother, but, on her retreat, gave her his hand, and led her into the street to her coach, still dumb; but a crowd being assembled at the gate, he kneeled down in the dirt, and humbly kissed her majesty's hand. Her indignation must have shrunk into contempt."

This headstrong and disgraceful conduct of the prince produced that disgust in the public mind, that he soon felt it necessary to make very humble apologies and submissions to both his parents. He professed that the confinement of the princess took place before it was expected, and, therefore he thought it best to take her to where she could have the best assistance, rather than wait till it arrived, and that in his hurry he had forgotten to apprise their majesties. Every one knew that this was all false, and the king treated such an apology with silent scorn. Not only his enemies, but his friends, and Bolingbroke foremost amongst them, blamed his conduct in thus cruelly and dangerously removing the princess. As he had been undignifiedly passionate before, now he became as meanly humble. He continued to make such humble apologies as could only proceed from an ignoble nature. But if the son was grossly culpable, the father was no less so. He had been penurious and harsh towards his son; the son was now disposed to humble himself, and the father should have been satisfied. On the contrary, George remained true to his self-willed and brutal nature; he would do nothing towards closing this frightful and revolting breach in a family, which by its position wag exposed to the eyes of all Europe. Lord chancellor Hardwicke is said to have laboured hard and honourably to produce a reconciliation; but Walpole is accused of taking the contrary course, and hardening the king in his hatred to his son. The prince, now reduced to an extremity of self- abasement, resolved to proceed to the king's presence, and there personally entreat his pardon; but the queen, who, no doubt, knew the implacable mood of her husband, advised her son to delay this intention for a few days; and during that interval Walpole, at the king's dictation, drew up a very violent message to the prince. This was then submitted to the judgments of lords Hardwicke, Wilmington, and Harrington. Hardwicke counselled much gentler terms; Wilmington advised that the letter should go as it was, and Harrington said nothing. So this harsh and unwise message was sent on the 3rd of August. It was to express the king's resentment in the highest degree at the removal of the princess under the circumstances already mentioned. The prince again expressed his sorrow, and George took no notice whatever of the expression. A peremptory order was issued for the baptism of the child on the 29th of August, and then the king proceeded to still harsher and more unnatural measures. Though the prince continued to express sorrow for his conduct, the king remained wholly unmodified, and determined to expel the repentant son from the palace. At the conference on this subject lord Hardwicke again urged conciliation, but Walpole is reported by Hardwicke to have said, "It would be better to be short at first." Walpole must now have made up his mind that he had sinned unpardonably against the successor, and therefore took no care, except to gratify the morose desire of the king.

On the 9th of September, therefore, was dispatched a long letter from the king to his son, after having been submitted to and approved by all the lords of the cabinet council then in town. It was carried by the duke of Grafton, the duke of Richmond, and the earl of Pembroke. It said that the king could not be imposed on by the words of the prince, so contrary to his actions. It reiterated at great length the conduct of the prince regarding the confinement of the princess, all which the prince had repeatedly expressed his sorrow for; that until he renounced the company of all those by whom he was mischievously counselled, it was the king's determination that he should not reside in his palace; that he would receive no reply; but that, when his conduct evinced his proper return to duty and submission, the king might be induced to pardon him; that he required him to quit the palace with all his family as speedily as could be done without injury to the princess; and he intimated that he should leave the little daughter just born in the care of the princess till such time as he should see fit to take her away for her education.

Perhaps in all the annals of kings and of nations there is no example of a father expelling his son from his house, after the most earnest expression of sorrow for his faults, and of entire submission, with so hard and unchristian a spirit as this. Never was there so revolting a display, not of mere lack of affection, but of downright hatred and malice, as in this family. Father against son, and son against father, one generation after another, and it descended still farther down. The Stuarts were tyrants, but they had strong affections generally towards each other; but the present dynasty presented to the whole world the most revolting and astonishing exhibition of family discord and paternal and filial hate which had amazed mankind since the days of Atreus.

This harsh conduct was not the way to reclaim an erring son, but to indurate him in the wrong. It had the immediate effect of driving the prince more completely into the arms of the opposition. He betook himself to Norfolk House, St. James's Square, and there all the opponents of his father's government collected around him. The prince was now the head and centre of the opposition himself. Though the king and his ministers might have clearly foreseen this, such was George's exasperation, that he directly issued an order that every person who visited his son at Norfolk House should be excluded from the royal presence in any palace where he might be residing. Not content with this, George had an account of the affair and the correspondence betwixt himself and the prince drawn up and sent to all the foreign ambassadors in London. Thus did this stupid monarch spread the disgrace of his family rancour over the whole civilised world. Causes, too mysterious to be unveiled to the public, were attributed to this odious state of things. "Sir Robert Walpole," says lord Hardwicke, "informed me of certain passages between the king and himself, and between the queen and the prince, of too high and secret a nature ever to be trusted to this narrative. From these I formed great reason to think that this unhappy difference between the king and queen and his royal highness, turned upon some points of a more interesting and important nature than have hitherto appeared."

This open breach of the royal family was quickly followed by the death of the queen. Besides the misery of seeing her son and husband so awfully at variance, she had long been struggling with a complaint which, out of false delicacy, she had carefully concealed. "The queen's great secret," says Horace Walpole, "was her own rupture, which, till her last illness, nobody knew but the king, her German nurse, Mrs. Mailborne, and one other person, lady Sundon. To prevent all suspicion, her majesty would frequently stand some minutes in her shift talking to her ladies, and, though labouring under so dangerous a complaint, she made it so invariable a rule never to refuse a desire of the king, that every morning at Richmond she walked several miles with him; and more than once, when she had the gout in her foot, she dipped her whole leg in cold water to be ready to attend him! The pain, her bulk, and the exercise, threw her into such fits of perspiration as ousted the gout; but these exertions hastened the crisis of her complaint." She continued till nearly the last to conceal from the surgeons the real cause of her sufferings, and was treated by the medical men for gout in the stomach. When the secret was at length disclosed, it was too late, though one of the surgeons declared, that, if they had been informed two days earlier, they could have saved her.

Admirable as was the character of Caroline, she has been accused of retaining her resentment against her son to the last. Pope and Chesterfield affirm that she died refusing to see or forgive her son; but Ford, though he says she would not see him, she "heartily forgave him;" and Horace Walpole not only says she not only forgave him, but would have seen him, only that she feared to irritate her husband. To Sir Robert Walpole she expressed her earnest hope that he would continue to serve the king as faithfully as he had done, and, curiously enough, recommended the king to him, not him to the king. She died on the 20tli of November, perhaps more lamented by Walpole than by her own husband, for Walpole we'll knew how much her strong sense and superior feeling had tended to keep the king right, which he could not hope for when she was gone. The king appeared to lament her loss considerably for a time, that is, till consoled by his mistress, the countess of Walmoden, whom he had kept for a long time at Hanover, and now soon brought over to England. He sent for her picture when she was dead, shut himself up with it some hours, and declared, on reappearing, that he never knew the woman worthy to buckle her shoe. Yet what are we to think of the real affection of this man, who, knowing for years that she had suffered from a rupture, nevertheless demanded her company in his walks; and never, so far as we know, took any pains to conquer her false delicacy, and induce her to have the necessary help in such a complaint.

Not long after the queen's death he brought over the countess of Walmoden, and in March, 1740, he created her baroness and countess of Yarmouth. Fortunately, like the countess of Suffolk, her predecessor, she did not interfere in politics, but was eager, like all the German mistresses, to scrape together money for her family and connections. There was, however, another lady, Anne, the princess royal, married to the prince of Orange, who would have played a different rule had she been permitted. Soon after the death of the queen she came over, evidently intending to assume the influence which her mother had exerted in the government. But the king treated her with almost as little ceremony as he did his son. He sent her immediately to Bath, and soon after, with as much peremptory abruptness, back to Holland.

A striking example was given, at the opening of the year 1738, of the manner in which party considerations blind men to the most unjust and unnatural principles. At a masquerade, Madame Hoppe, the wife of the Dutch ambassador, accosted the prince of Wales, asking him if he were afraid to talk to a lady, and introduced to him his father's mistress, Madame Walmoden. After some conversation, Madame Walmoden recommended the prince to be reconciled to his father, and the prince assenting, they proposed to meet at another masquerade better disguised. But they had been observed, and the opposition immediately took alarm. The earl of Marchmont hastened to represent to the prince the mischief that must follow from a reconciliation, or even the rumour of a reconciliation. He assured him that the quarrel was one of the strongest securities for the house of Hanover, as those dissatisfied with the government, instead of going over to the pretender, formed a hope of a remedy of their grievances much nearer home, that is, in the successor to the crown; that since the quarrel had become public, he had won greatly on public opinion, and that now he was surrounded and supported by the ablest and best men in the state - meaning Pulteney, Wyndham, Carteret, Chesterfield, Pitt, &c.

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