OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Chapter V, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 4


Pages: 1 2 3 <4>

" The excitement occasioned by the gaudy pageant of the coronation," says a contemporary writer, "had no sooner subsided, than the attention of the people was turned to the enormous expenses incurred, and which were to be defrayed from the public purse. The single item of twenty-five thousand pounds for the robes of the king, which were only worn for a few hours, and then to be deposited as useless lumber on the shelves of the royal wardrobe, naturally met with the indignant reprobation of the people. They beheld their interests sacrificed, their distresses aggravated, their feelings trifled with, for the mere purpose of gratifying an inordinate love of pomp and pageantry. With the last light that was extinguished at the banquet scene at which an hour before shone the pride of English beauty and of English chivalry - with the last retiring step from the deserted hall - gradually subsided the public interest in the pageant; and it was then discovered that, with the exception of the aristocracy and the immediate dependents of the court, its retainers and its minions, the public voice deprecated the ceremony; and that so far from adding to the popularity of the monarch, it abrogated from him all claim and title to the character of a patriotic king. The venal crew hired for the purpose to exclaim ' God save the king! ' and to hiss the queen, were people of a different stamp and character from those who but a few days before had led the ranks and filled up the van of public opinion. They were the vain, the aristocratic, and the wealthy, who could pay for such exhibitions; while the spacious area in view was filled by the king's partisans selected from subordinate stations in society. Many even of these hung their heads with shame, as if conscious to themselves of the mean and dastardly part they were acting, in direct opposition to the general voice of their countrymen. This, indeed, was not a time that the king could stoop to feel; it was the general holiday of hypocrisy and dissimulation. After the day of the coronation, the mask dropped from the royal face. The carnival was over, and the royal actor approached the crisis of his policy. The blow had taken effect; it had struck on the heart of the unhappy queen. Private insult and secret persecution she could endure; but open insult, in the presence of the people, who but a few days before had attended her in triumph, accomplished her destruction. Her former invincible resolution failed to support her. She saw what the innocent look to, after trial and acquittal, to be of no use to her. She was still persecuted, still overlooked, and even her judges shunned her. " Their triumph," she said, " only precedes mine by a few hours. It is their turn next, and may God forgive them!"

After the coronation, the queen resided at Brandenburgh House, determined to lead a life of dignified retirement. But the violent agitation and excitement, and the terribly painful mortification to which she was subjected in her ill-advised attempt to form part of the coronation pageant, were too much for her constitution. The functions of the body were therefore wholly deranged. An obstruction of the bowels took place, which terminated in inflammation and mortification. As soon as it was evident that her end was approaching, much public sympathy was excited, and the vicinity of her residence was incessantly thronged with persons of all classes making anxious inquiries about her health, and solicitous for her restoration. On the 4th of August, when her professional advisers were receiving instructions about the disposition of her property, one of them suggested the propriety of sending a messenger to Italy to seal up her papers, in order to prevent them from falling into the hands of her enemies. " And what if they do? " she exclaimed; " I have no papers that they may not see. They can find nothing, because there is nothing, nor ever has been, to impeach my character." One of them said that he was aware of that, but her enemies might put there what they did not find. She replied, " I have always defied their malice, and I defy it still." Nevertheless, it was her conscious failure in her efforts to make the public believe this, coupled with the public humiliation to which she had been subjected, that bowed down her spirit at last, and gave the victory to her enemies. She had painted their characters in vivid colours in her private diary, and might have transmitted their punishment to posterity, had she ordered it to be preserved and published; but she gave directions to have it destroyed, and it was burnt in her presence, by one of her foreign maids. After suffering intensely for four or five days, she sank into a stupor, from which she never woke, and on the 7th of August, after an entire absence of sense and faculty for more than two hours, expired Caroline of Brunswick, queen consort of George IV., in the fifty-fourth year of her age. She had by her bedside in her last hours her faithful friends and constant attendants, lord and lady Hood, and lad Anne Hamilton; alderman Wood, who had been devoted to her interests from the first, was also present, as well as her legal and medical advisers. Lord Holland, who had been one of her defenders, gives the following estimate of her character in his diary: -

" She was at best a strange woman, and a very sorry and uninteresting heroine. She had, they say, some talent, some pleasantry, some good humour, and great spirit and courage. But she was utterly destitute of all female delicacy, and exhibited in the whole course of the transaction relating to herself very little feeling for anybody, and very little regard for honour and truth, or even for the interests of those who were devoted to her, whether the people in the aggregate, or the individuals who enthusiastically espoused her cause. She avowed her dislike for many, scarcely concealed her contempt for all: in short, to speak plainly, if not mad, she was a very worthless woman." Nearly to the same effect is the sketch of her character given by one who knew her much better than lord Holland: - " I have never known a more extraordinary person than the princess," says lady Charlotte Bury. " She writes occasionally with much spirit, and many of the copies of her letters to the prince are both clever and touching. Sometimes there is a series of exalted sentiment in what she says and does that quite astonishes me, and makes me rub my eyes and open my ears to know if it is the same person who condescends to talk low nonsense, and sometimes even gross ribaldry. One day I think her all perfection, another I know not what to think. The tissues of her character are certainly more uneven than of any other person I was ever acquainted with. One day there is tinsel and tawdry; another worsted; another silk and satin; another gold and jewels; another de la boue, de la crasse - que'dirais je? et peut-Ítre f ai trop dit."

On another occasion lady Charlotte returns to the same subject. " The tissues of all human character are more or less uneven; but I never knew greater inequality than that of this very extraordinary woman; posterity will never do justice to her memory, for as, in most cases, the bad and inferior parts of her character were tangible and prominent to the observation, while those alone who lived in her intimate society knew of the many good and great ingredients which formed part of the heterogeneous mixture, it ought to be recorded to the honour of the princess that until she was goaded to madness she never felt any hatred against the prince's friends as such; only against persons who had been her adherents, and turned from her to bow the knee to Baal, did she show any resentment."

It was a great aggravation of the difficulties and wrongs of the queen, that she was made alternately the instrument by which whigs and tories advanced their own party interests. When the former made capital of her grievances as princess of Wales, the latter put forth all their energies to blunt or break the instrument in the hands of their opponents. Again, when the tories stood upon her shoulders to climb into power, she was thrown into the hands of the whigs. In proportion to the earnestness with which the opposition bewailed her grievances and urged her claims, was the vehemence of the ministers in hurling against her the bolts with which they were supplied by their royal master. She seems to have had a presentiment that she must succumb at last to the storm of persecution that never ceased to beat upon her. A touching incident illustrating this fact is recorded by lady Charlotte Bury: - "There was a small and very agreeable party at supper with the princess at Kensington; they sat at table till a late hour, when some one ventured to hint that morning was at hand. 1 Ah,' said the princess, ' God, he knows when we may all meet again. To tell you God's truth, when I am happy and comfortable I! could sit on for ever.' There was heaviness in her mirth, and every one seemed to feel it as they sat on. At last; they rose, and most of the guests went away. Scarcely had Sir H. Englefield, Sir William Gell, and Mr. Craven reached the ante-room, when a long and protracted roll of thunder shook the palace to its very foundations, a light brighter than the sun flashed into the drawing-room, a violent hissing noise followed, and a ball of electric fluid, very like what is represented on the stage, seemed to fall close to the window where the princess and lady Bury were standing. Scarcely had they recovered the shock when all the gentlemen returned, stating that the sentinel at the door was knocked down, and a great portion of the gravel walk torn up. 'Ah,' said the princess, undismayed, but solemnly shaking her head, ' this forebodes my downfall.'"

The king, who had set out on his long-premeditated visit to Ireland, leaving his wife on her death-bed, was already at Holyhead when he received the tidings of her decease. From that port lord Londonderry wrote a note to the lord chancellor, in which he said, I add this private note to the letter which the king has directed me to write, to say that his majesty is quite well, and has evinced, since the intelligence of the queen's death was received, every disposition to conform to such arrangements and observances as might be deemed most becoming upon an occasion which cannot be regarded in any other light than as the greatest of all possible deliverances, both to his majesty and to the country. The king feels assured that the events to which my letters refer, once in your hands, will be sifted to the bottom and wisely decided; and to the advice he may receive there will be every disposition on his majesty's part to conform; but where papers connected with his daughter, as well as other branches of his family, are in question, your lordship will estimate the deep interest the king takes in your giving the whole your best consideration.

"The king proposes to pass over to Dublin to-day. The wind is so unfair that his majesty intends to avail himself of the conveyance of a steam-packet, by which, the sea being very tranquil, he hopes to reach Howth in seven or eight hours, and to pass quietly to the Phoenix Park, where his majesty will remain in privacy till the queen's remains have been embarked for the continent."

The king rejoiced too soon. The announcement to the public of the queen's death was the knell of the popularity which he had recently acquired. It was natural enough, from his past relations with her, that he should feel her death to be what he so candidly avowed, " the greatest of all possible deliverances" - the happy conclusion of a long-protracted and disgraceful war, which had divided the nation into two parties. The woman fell in the struggle which she had so courageously maintained; for on the side of the oppressor there was power. But his triumph was disastrous. Death seemed to atone for all the errors of his victim, and no one now seemed inclined to draw " her frailties from their dread abode." There was an immediate and powerful reaction in the public mind against the king, which was strengthened by the ungracious measures adopted in connection with her funeral. There was a clause in her will to this effect: - "I desire and direct that my body be not opened, and that three days after my death it be carried to Brunswick for interment; and that the inscription on my coffin be, 'Here lies Caroline of Brunswick, the injured queen of England.' " The government were very anxious to have the corpse sent out of the kingdom immediately, in order that its presence might not interfere with the festivities in Ireland; they therefore wished to have the remains dispatched at once to Harwich for embarkation. Lady Hood appealed in vain to lord Liverpool for some delay, on the ground that the queen's ladies were not prepared to depart so soon, at the same time protesting against the proposed military escort. She received a discourteous answer, that the arrangements were made and could not be altered. They, whose great object was to thwart the queen's wishes in life, were now most scrupulous in attending to her wishes after death, laying hold upon the clause of the will about the removal of her body, because it severed their own purpose, and hypocritically pretending to comply with it most religiously. The military guard was an ostensible honour; but its real object was to prevent popular manifestations detrimental to the government in connection with the funeral. The friends of the queen could not even learn by what route the body would be conveyed. It should have gone through the city, where the mayor and corporation announced their intention of following the hearse; but to prevent that honour, it was ordered that the corpse should be sent round by the new road to Romford. When the undertaker appeared to carry out the arrangements of the government, the queen's executors, Dr. Lushington and Mr. Wilde, entered the room and protested, in right of the legal power invested in them, against the removal of the body till arrangements guitable to the rank and dignity of the deceased should be made. But the government officers insisted on obeying their orders. The procession set out on the line which had been prescribed; but the indecent proceeding was an outrage on public feeling to which the people were determined not to submit. The funeral passed from Hammersmith to Kensington Church without obstruction; there the conductors were turning off from the way to the city, in order to get into the Bay s water Road, when they were met by a loud cry of wrath and execration from the multitude. In a few minutes the road was dug up, barricaded, and rendered impassable. The life guards and the chief ' magistrate of Bow Street appeared, and seeing the impossibility of forcing a passage, they ordered the cortege to proceed on the direct route through the city, amidst thundering shouts of victory that might have appalled the king, had he heard them. In the meantime the multitude had been rushing through the parks in mighty surging masses, now in one direction and now in another, according to the varying reports as to the course the procession was to take. Orders had been issued from the government that it should go through the Kensington gate of Hyde Park, but the people closed the gates, and assumed such a fierce and determined attitude of resistance, that the authorities were again compelled to give way, and again the popular shouts of victory sounded far and wide. Peremptory orders were given by the government to pass up the park into the Edgware Road, either by the east side or through Park Lane. In the effort to do this the line of procession was broken, the hearse was got into the park, and hurried onwards to Cumberland Gate; but the people had outrun the military, and again blocked up the way in a densa mass. Here a collision ensued: the populace had used missiles; the military were irritated, and having had peremptory orders, they fired on the people, wounding many and killing two. The people at length gave way, and the hearse of England's queen passed over the blood of her friends. But the people, baffled for the moment, made another attempt. At Tottenham Court Road the guards found every way closely blocked up, except the way to the city. In this way, therefore, they were compelled to move, amidst the exulting shouts of the multitude. Seeking an outlet to the suburbs at every turn in vain, the procession was forced down Drury Lane into the Strand. The passage under Temple Bar was accompanied by the wildest possible excitement and shouts of exultation. The battle between the people and the sovereign, contending for the dead body of the queen, had been waged with varying fortunes for seven hours. The depth and intensity of the popular excitement may be inferred from the fact that, though the day was stormy and cold, and it rained heavily and the streets were covered with mud, they assembled in such vast multitudes, and remained so long exposed to the inclemency of the weather. The corporate functionaries assembled in haste and accompanied the funeral to Whitechapel. On the whole way to Romford, we read, that not only the direct, but the cross roads, were lined with anxious spectators. The shops were closed, the bells were tolling, mourning dresses were generally worn, and in every direction symptoms abounded of the deep feeling excited by the death of the queen. The funeral cortege rested for the night at Colchester, the remains being placed in St. Peter's Church. There the plate with the inscription "injured queen" was taken off, and another substituted. At Harwich the coffin was unceremoniously conveyed to the Glasgow frigate, attended by lord and lady Hood, lady Anne Hamilton, Mr. Austin, Dr. and Mrs. Lushington, and Count Vasally, the body being now under the charge of Captain Doyle, who, a quarter of a century before, had helped the royal bride on board the Jupiter. At length the remains arrived at their last resting-place, in a vault beneath the cathedral of St. Baiqe, at Brunswick, surrounded by the monuments of her illustrious ancestors.

<<< Previous page <<<
Pages: 1 2 3 <4>

Pictures for Chapter V, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 4

The Regalia of England
The Regalia of England >>>>
Marquis of Anglesey
Marquis of Anglesey >>>>
Coronation of George IV
Coronation of George IV >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About