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Reign of George III. (continued.) page 8


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One of the most remarkable circumstances connected with the passing of this act, was that it induced Charles Fox to resign his post of chief commissioner of the admiralty. Like lord Holland, he was opposed to the marriage act of lord Hardwicke, and he considered this royal marriage act as an extension of it. He therefore resigned, on the plea that he would then be at liberty to oppose both. Gibbon wittily observed that " Charles Fox had commenced patriot, and was attempting to pronounce the words, country, liberty, corruption, and so forth; with what success time will discover." As yet, however, he did not succeed completely; Iiis necessities were too great; his passion for gambling was intense; he swallowed the royal marriage act, and reentered the ministry as one of the lords of the treasury.

Junius did not forget to exult over the royal kinship to the Luttrells through Mrs. Horton. He reminded the people that this marriage of his sister was one of the rewards of colonel Luttrell for pushing Wilkes from his seat. " The forced, unnatural union of Luttrell and Middlesex was an omen of another unnatural union. If one of these acts was virtuous and honourable, 4 the best of princes,' I thank God, is happily rewarded for it by the other."

But these were by no means the total of the royal troubles at this period. The youngest and most beloved of George III.'s sisters, Caroline Matilda, had, as already stated, been married to Christian VII. of Denmark. This young man, who was the son of Louisa, a sister of George II., a queen beloved by the Danes, was, nevertheless, little better than an idiot, and the poor princess was married to him at the age of sixteen. Such monstrous things are often royal marriages, and no one need wonder at their frequently terrible results. Caroline Matilda is described as remarkably handsome - indeed, the handsomest woman of the Danish court; naturally lively, amiable, and affectionate. The marriage of this young couple, and their ascent to the throne, were nearly simultaneous; and, contrary to the usual custom of a monarch, it was deemed advisable that he should travel. In his tour he fell in with the celebrated Struensee, a young physician of Altona. Christian VII., like all weak monarohs, must have favourites. Struensee speedily became the perfect master of Christian's mind and actions, and on their return to Copenhagen he was raised to the rank of count, and soon after was made prime minister. The venerable Bernstorf was dismissed; Holk, the former favourite, removed from court; Ranzau, a former minister, recalled at the instigation of Struensee, who had been joint editor of a paper with him at Altona. Brandt, a disgraced gentleman of the bedchamber, was recalled and ennobled. The brother of Struensee was made a counsellor of justice.

No sooner was Struensee installed in ministerial power, than he began a most sweeping and extraordinary series of reforms. He was a disciple of the new French school, and he attacked the ancient feudal institutions of the country with a vigour which would have delighted Rousseau or D'Alembert. He exhibited in his own person a whole board of administrative reform. He attacked ruthlessly the corruptions and assumptions of the nobles. He abolished not only sinecures and unmerited pensions, but numerous offices that were useless, and placed the necessary ones in the hands of active men of business. He dissolved the privy council, which had gradually usurped all the royal prerogative; took measures for sending the aristocracy from the capital, where they spent their time in dissipation and schemes of self- promotion, to live upon their estates. He abolished serfdom; the torture; reduced the state expenditure; encouraged the arts and literature; gave free toleration to all religions; and, in order to promote and support his reforms, established the freedom of the press.

The execution of such wholesale reforms would have insured the destruction of the most powerful native nobleman that ever lived. The more just, the more necessary, the more admirable the reforms, the more inevitable the destruction of the reformer. But to a stranger, of plebeian origin, they foretold a speedy and annihilating ruin. That which destroyed the Gracchi in Rome, agrarian reform, was certain to do the same for Struensee in Denmark. The landed aristocracy was sure to prove too powerful for him. But, in enfranchising the press, he committed the error of Joseph II. of Austria. It was immediately bought up by his enemies, and turned against him. It denounced him on every side with all the fury of the most diabolical malice.

Meantime, a lowering and lynx-eyed foe was watching his career with secret exultation. Juliana Maria, the queen dowager, stepmother of Christian VII., bent on raising her own son to the throne, and burning with hate to the young queen, who won all hearts from her, entered into conspiracy with the incensed nobles, the disbanded privy councillors, and the military, who were enraged at the dismissal of the royal guards. The gay and unsuspicious conduct of the young queen, who was scarcely more than a child, though she had now two children of her own, a son, and a little daughter still at the breast, gave only too much opportunity to the merciless enmity of this female demon.

Caroline Matilda, who found her husband a hopeless imbecile, had been treated by his favourite, Holk, with great insolence, and the king had been instigated by him to behave in like manner. Struensee not only showed her all the deference which was due to his queen, and was natural towards a young and intellectual lady, but prevailed on the king to manifest equal respect. But it was impossible to make anything but a fool of Christian. In England he had excited the wonder of the courtiers by his ridiculous figure and eccentric manners. But now his mind had sunk under his early excesses, and his delight was to romp and scuffle, and play all kinds of practical jokes, like a great schoolboy, with his ministers and favourites. He insisted that they should not think of him at all as a king. Brandt and his physician, Buger, were constantly with him. They kept him as much as possible in the country, and never, if they could help it, let him go out of their sight. He would insist, amongst other follies, on the young queen riding out in a man's clothes with himself and Struensee. A negro and a little girl of ten years old were his constant playfellows; and not a statue in the gardens, a window in the castle, or a chair in the rooms, was safe from their riotous and boisterous play.

Al! this especially favoured the plans of the base queen dowager, who, in league with the hostile nobles, feigned a plot against the queen; obtained from him, in his bed at midnight, an order for the arrest of the queen, Struensee, Brandt, and others. The queen was seized on half dressed. She endeavoured to fly to the king and was carried off by Ranzau, who had deserted his benefactor, to Cronborg Castle. The vilest calumnies were propagated by the queen dowager and her party against her. She was accused of adultery with Struensee; and Juliana Maria urged not only her divorce, which took place, but that she should be tried for her life, with the purpose of setting aside her children in favour of her own son. In this purpose, which lay at the root of the whole proceeding, the queen dowager was disappointed. Struensee and Brandt were executed with especial barbarities; but the king of England interfered to save his sister, and to procure the succession to her son. The unhappy young queen, however, was separated for ever from her two children, and conveyed to Zell, in Hanover the same castle or prison where the unhappy wife of George I. had pined away her life. She was not allowed to carry with her little daughter at her breast. As the English ship of war bore her away from Cronborg, she remained on deck, with her streaming eyes still fixed on that castle, till its topmost towers sunk beneath the horizon.

At Zell, a little court was found her; but George III., who knew that no real proof of her criminality had been brought forward, and who must have had a denser brain than even his enemies gave him credit for, not to see the palpable motives for her accusation, should have brought her home in proof of his assurance of her innocence, and shamed the miserable court which had thus treated her. As it was, the poor young queen preserved portraits of her children, and fixed them on her chamber walls, and was frequently heard addressing them as present. Her only other consolation was music; but these could not supply the loss of honour and affection, and in three years after her removal from Cronborg she sank of a broken heart, dying on the 10th of May, 1775, only twenty-four years of age.

In her last illness she was attended by Dr. Zimmermann, the celebrated author of the work on " Solitude," and by M. Roques, pastor of the French protestant church at Zell. " Just before she died," said M. Roques, " after I had recited her the prayer for the dying, she said, in a voice which seemed to acquire strength in the effort, 'I am going to appear before God. I now protest that I am innocent of the guilt imputed to me; and that I never was unfaithful to my husband."' The nobility and states unanimously voted an address to George III., as elector of Hanover, to obtain permission to erect at Zell a monument to the unfortunate queen, who had won all hearts there by her amiability and intelligence. In Denmark, it is only just to say, there was a strong party who never for a moment doubted the innocence of Caroline Matilda, or ceased to lament her fate; and it is some satisfaction to know that her son succeeded to the throne, and that the queen dowager and her accomplices lived to see themselves held in unfeigned abhorrence by the whole nation. As for the feeling regarding Caroline Matilda in England, it showed itself when Sir Hyde Parker and Nelson bombarded Copenhagen, sixteen years after her death. Though her own son, the crown prince, defended the town, yet the English sailors did not forget the treatment of Denmark to the English princess when they stormed its capital, and fought all the more determinedly. This fatal occurrence had, no doubt, a disastrous effect on the subsequent relations of the two countries. Though of a kindred stock, of language still closely allied, from maritime position and character apparently destined to league together for mutual strength and benefit, for long years we never showed a cordial regard for each other, and no matrimonial connections were attempted between the royal houses of England and Denmark until that so happily consummated in 1863.

Within ten days after the arrival of the news of the arrest of Caroline Matilda, her mother, and the king's, the princess dowager of Wales died of a cancer, in her fifty- third year. Whatever may have been her private virtues,. her public conduct had exerted a mischievous influence on this country. Her connection with the marquis of Bute was maintained to the last, in utter defiance of public opinion. By her influence he was enabled to acquire his pernicious power over the king, and to seize the reins of government to the great misfortune and dishonour of the country. By the neglect of the education of her children, though most ample provision was made for it by the country, she contributed most materially to the national losses and misfortunes of George III.'s reign, and to stigmatise royalty in the person of.her illiterate and debauched son, the duke of Cumberland.

At the same time with the events just recorded in Denmark, a revolution took place in Sweden. The senate, on the death of Charles II., had instantly usurped, and still retained, the greater part of the royal prerogatives. But now Gustavus III., a young and ambitious king, determined to recover this ancient power to the crown. Ever since the usurpation of the senate, the country had been divided into two factions, under the names of the Hats and the Caps. Gustavus availed himself of these divisions. He courted the caps - that is, the citizens and the people - and thus received the services of the burgher guard of the capital. The caps were only too ready to assist in pulling down the haughty and oppressive aristocracy. A dearth of corn worked them up to the proper pitch. Gustavus was assisted with money from France. Suddenly he surrounded the senate, and took the members all prisoners. The revolution was complete. The army, the officers, both civil and military, and the citizens at large, took the oath to the ancient form of the constitution, and Sweden was no longer an oligarchy but a regal despotism. Gustavus summoned a diet, which, surrounded by troops and with artillery pointed at the hall in which they assembled, took the oaths dictated by the king.

Catherine of Russia professed great indignation at this arbitrary overthrow of the institutions of Sweden, an-d threatened to take the field for the restoration of the powers of the nobles, whom she had been able to bribe so as to keep Sweden subservient to her own views. But the czarina was too much occupied with maintaining her own seat at home to carry out her measure against Gustavus III. Her usurped throne, from the hour of her murder of her husband, Peter III., had been continually in danger from rivals or impostors. We have seen that she seized and imprisoned again Ivan, the nephew of the czarina Anne, who had been left her heir, but had been dethroned by the czarina Elizabeth, and whom Peter had compassionated and set at large.

Catherine confined the unhappy youth in the doleful castle of Schlusselburg, on an island in the Neva, and it was given out that he was dead. Rumours of his being still alive, nevertheless, continued to circulate, and his place of captivity became known to one who hated the czarina, and determined to liberate him. This was Vasili Mirovitch, the grandson of the Mirovitch who lost his estates by engaging in the rebellion of Mazeppa with Charles XII. of Sweden in the Ukraine. Mirovitch, now a lieutenant of the regiment of Smolensko serving in Schlusselburg, had petitioned the czarina in vain for the restoration of his estates, and now resolved in revenge to liberate Ivan, and proclaim him the true emperor. Inducing one or two brother officers to engage in the scheme, on the 4th of July, 1764, they marched at midnight up to the door of the cell where Ivan was confined, and demanded admittance in the name of the emperor. Ivan's guards, however, refused to admit them, when they fired on the door and endeavoured to force it in. Suddenly it was flung open, and the body of the murdered Ivan was presented to their view. The officers in charge had had standing orders, that on any attempt to rescue the prisoner they should instantly dispatch him. They had executed their order, and said, pointing to the bloody corpse, " Here is your emperor! "

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Pictures for Reign of George III. (continued.) page 8

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