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Visit of George IV. to Ireland page 5

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On Sunday, the 2nd of September, the king attended divine service at the Chapel Royal, Dublin Castle, when the sermon was preached by Dr. Magee, the son of a presbyterian minister, then bishop of Raphoe, afterwards archbishop of Dublin, who created great ecclesiastical commotion subsequently by a charge, in which he said " the Roman catholics have a church without a religion - the dissenters have a religion without a church." On this day lord Kinsale asserted his hereditary right of appearing before the king with his hat on.

On Monday, the 3rd, the king took his departure from Ireland. On his way to Dunleary he paid a visit to lord Powerscourt, driving with his usual rapidity through Dundrum, the Scalp, Enniskerry, and arriving at Powerscourt at three o'clock. Triumphal arches were erected at several points on the road. Among the noblemen there invited to meet him was the earl of Fingall, the chief of the Roman catholic peers. The king, laying his hand on his shoulder, said, " To-morrow you shall see my letter; I think it will please you." A banquet awaited him in the grand saloon of that princely mansion. Entering with the dowager lady Powerscourt leaning on his arm, he ordered the superb chair of state to be removed, and took an ordinary one. He was pleased to take wine with many of the company, and altogether made himself very agreeable. A melody, written by Thomas Moore, for the prince of Wales's birthday, in 1810, was sung on this occasion with great effect. The following stanza, however, was omitted: -

"Contempt on the minion who calls you disloyal!
Tho' fierce to your foe, to your friends you are true;
The tribute most high to a head that is royal
Is the love from the heart that loves liberty too;
While cowards who blight
Your fame, your right,
Would shrink from the blaze of battle array, -
The standard of green
In front would be seen, -
Oh, my life on your faith! were you summoned this minute,
You would cast every bitter remembrance away,
And show what the arm of old Erin has in it,
When roused by the foe on her prince s birthday."

It being announced that his carriage was ready, lord Powerscourt proposed a bumper to his safe return to England. He returned thanks, expressing the delight he had experienced during his stay in Ireland, and particularly on that day. His majesty reached Dunleary at seven o'clock, finding the road for two miles covered with a train of carriages, and crowds on foot. About Dunleary every one of the surrounding eminences was crowded with people, all conducting themselves with the most perfect order. The pier, nearly an English mile in length, was occupied by persons of distinction. The harbour and the offing were literally covered by vessels of war, royal yachts, pleasure boats, and a vast number of small craft.

The king was received on alighting by the lord-lieutenant, the lord mayor, and other official personages. He was in the undress of the Windsor uniform, with white trousers and a round hat. The lord mayor presented hin: with an address from the inhabitants of Dublin, in which it was stated that at his approach discord ceased and every prejudice fled, and that he had vanquished every bad passion in six millions of the Irish people (which, if real, would have been certainly the most important victory ever achieved by any British king) - " a victory," they said, " much more deserving of the laurel crown, now most respectfully presented to your majesty (and intended with all humility to be replaced by one of emeralds) than any of those blood-stained triumphs which have heretofore been honoured by the wreath of the conqueror."

Upon receiving the address, his majesty seemed much affected, and he expressed himself to the following purport: - " Gentlemen, I approached your shores with pleasure; I now quit them with regret. May God Almighty bless you all until we again meet! "

Mr. O'Connell, at the head of a deputation of ten, then approached the king, and on his knees presented him with a laurel crown. His name had been announced by lord Sidmouth, and his majesty took particular notice of him, shook him cordially by the hand, and accepted the tribute in a manner which indicated that he was much gratified by the gift. This occurred in a tent which had been erected for the accommodation of the king. Mr. O'Connell was loudly cheered as he retired from the royal presence, When about to embark, his majesty, appearing much affected, addressed those around him, saying, "My friends, when I arrived in this beautiful country my heart overflowed with joy; it is now depressed with sincere sorrow. I never felt sensations of more delight than since I came to Ireland; I cannot expect to feel any superior, nor many equal, till I have the happiness of seeing you again. Whenever an opportunity offers wherein I can serve Ireland, I shall seize on it with eagerness. I am a man of few words: short adieux are best. God bless you, my friends. God bless you all." He then descended the sloping avenue that led to the royal barge, and jumped into it with great activity. At this moment the police were swept from their stations by the surging multitude, which the attraction of royalty seemed to draw irresistibly into the sea. Four gentlemen clung to the rudder for a considerable time; three of them fell into the water and swam ashore, having their loyalty considerably cooled: another held fast till the king ordered him to be lifted on board. The crowd was so immense that the difficulty of retiring was inconceivable. Files of hussars had to keep the road open for the return of the carriages of the lord- lieutenant; pedestrians were obliged to creep for fifty yards under the necks of horses; many of the public houses had to shut up because their stock of liquors was exhausted; and water was sold at threepence a quart. The car-drivers, of course, availed themselves of this golden opportunity, and in many cases got from ten shillings to a pound for a sixpenny jaunt.

The royal squadron was detained for several days by unfavourable weather. On the 9th it reached Milford Haven; and on the 15th his majesty arrived at his palace in Pall Mall, after an absence of forty days, twenty-two of which were spent in Ireland, The day after the king's embarkation the following letter appeared in the newspapers: -

"Dublin Castle, Sept. 3, 1821.

"My Lord, - The time of the king's departure from Ireland being arrived, I am commanded by his majesty to express his entire approbation of the manner in which all persons, acting in civil and military situations in the city of Dublin and its neighbourhood, have performed their several duties during the period of his majesty's residence in this part of the kingdom.

"His majesty is pleased to consider that to your excellency his acknowledgments are particularly due. He is conscious of how much he owes to your excellency's attention and arrangements; and his majesty gladly avails himself of this occasion of declaring the high sense which he entertains of the ability, temper, and firmness with which your excellency has uniformly administered the great trust which he has placed in your hands.

"I am further commanded to state that the testimonies of dutiful and affectionate attachment which his majesty has received from all classes and descriptions of his Irish subjects, have made the deepest impression, and that he looks forward to the period when he shall re-visit them with the strongest feeling of satisfaction. His majesty trusts that in the meantime not only the spirit of loyal union which now so generally exists will remain unabated and unimpaired, but that every cause of irritation may be avoided and discountenanced, mutual forbearance and goodwill observed and encouraged, and a security be thus afforded for the continuance of that concord amongst themselves which is not less essential to his majesty's happiness than to their own, and which it has been the chief object of his majesty, during his residence in this country, to cherish and promote.

"His majesty well knows the generosity and warmth of heart which distinguish the character of his faithful people in Ireland; and he leaves them with a heart full of affection towards them, and with a confident and gratifying persuasion that this parting admonition and injunction of their sovereign will not be given in vain. - I have the honour to be, with great truth and regard, my lord, your excellency's most obedient and faithful servant, Sidmouth. - To his excellency the lord lieutenant," &c. &c.

This letter produced a feeling of the highest gratification in the public mind, and nothing was thought of but the erection of some great national monument to commemorate the royal visit. Various meetings were held upon the subject, and different plans were eagerly proposed and keenly discussed. The majority were for erecting a magnificent palace, fit for his majesty's reception when he should honour the country again with his presence. Mr. O'Connell stated at a public meeting that he had subscribed twenty guineas for a memorial, but should a palace be decided on, he would give a hundred guineas more, and fifty pounds a year until it was finished. A most influential committee of noblemen and gentlemen was appointed to raise funds, and the most comprehensive arrangements were made for a grand national tribute. But the fever of loyalty was too violent to last. The excitement very soon subsided the subscriptions, which were expected to flow in rapid streams, did not come in; and the only memorial of the visit of George IV. is a diminutive obelisk surmounted by a crown, resting, with a look of instability, on four small globular stones like cannon balls, on the spot from which he embarked, with an inscription recording the event. The town itself, however, is the best monument of the visit. The name was changed from Dunleary to Kingstown.

Forty years have made great changes in Ireland; and perhaps the improvements effected since the visit of George IV. could not be more strikingly represented than by the transformation effected in the harbour where he landed. Dunleary was then a mere fishing village on the coast of Dublin Bay, about seven miles from the city; now it is a large and beautiful town, with commodious quays, magnificent piers, a railway from Dublin, with trains every half-hour, a splendid mail boat to Holyhead twice a day, conveyed by steamers far superior to any that cross the Channel between England and the Continent, the mail train running down to the side of the boat. Kingstown would not be known now by an inhabitant of old Dunleary; it looks like a continuation of the metropolis; the country for miles round is covered with handsome villas, the residences of the prosperous citizens who go in to business daily by the railway.

If the scandalous gossip of the court may be trusted, the king did not allow affairs of state and public displays or the death of the queen to wean him even for a week from his attachment to lady Conyngham. Mr. Free- mantle, a rather cynical commentator on public affairs, wrote as follows: -

"Lady C. has been almost constantly at the Phoenix Park, but has not appeared much in public." Again, the same writer remarks, "I never in my life heard of anything equal to the king's infatuation and conduct towards lady Conyngham. She lived exclusively with him during the whole time he was in Ireland at the Phoenix Park. When he went to Slane, she received him dressed out aß for a drawing-room; he saluted her, and they then retired alone to her apartments. A yacht is left to bring her over, and she and the whole family go to Hanover. I hear the Irish are outrageously jealous of her, and though courting her to the greatest degree, are loud in their indignation at lord C. This is just like them. I agree in all you say about Ireland. As there is no chance of the boon being granted, no lord-lieutenant could have a chance of ingratiating himself, or of fair justice done him, with the king's promises and flattery."

The king had a stormy and rather perilous passage across the Channel. Of this voyage and its dangers he gave himself a graphic description: - "We sailed again yesterday morning," writes his majesty, "between four and five o'clock, with a most promising breeze in our favour to make the Land's End. About two or three in the evening the wind shifted immediately in our teeth. A violent hurricane and tempest suddenly arose; the most dreadful possible of nights and of scenes ensued, the sea breaking everywhere over the ship. We lost the tiller, and the vessel was for some minutes down on her beam ends; arid nothing, I believe, but the undaunted presence of mind, perseverance, experience, and courage of Paget preserved us from a watery grave. The oldest and most experienced of our sailors were petrified and paralysed. You may judge somewhat, then, of what was the state of most of the passengers; every one almost flew up in their shirts upon deck in terrors that are not to be described."

Mr. W. H. Freemantle sarcastically alludes to the feelings of the royal passenger in connection with this voyage: - " The king in his journey home overtook lord and lady Harcourt, now the bosom friends of lady Conyngham, stopped them, got out of his carriage, and sat with them for a quarter of an hour on the public road, recounting all his perilous adventures at sea, and flattering reception in Ireland. Lady Harcourt told me his pious acknowledgment for his great escape of being shipwrecked was quite edifying, and the very great change in his moral habits and religious feelings was quite astonishing, and all owing to lady Conyngham." "I cannot help suspecting," observes another letter-writer of the time, " that his majesty's late journey to see his kingdoms of Ireland and Hanover will not on the whole redound much to his honour or advantage. His manners are no doubt, when he pleases, very graceful and captivating; no man knows better how to add to an obligation by the way of conferring it; but on the whole he wants dignity, not only in the seclusion and familiarity of his more private life, but on public occasions. The secret of popularity in very high stations seems to consist in a somewhat reserved and lofty, but courteous and uniform behaviour. Drinking toasts, shaking people by the hand, and calling them Jack and Tom, gets more applause at the moment, but fails entirely in the long run. He seems to have behaved not like a sovereign coming in pomp and state to visit a part of his dominions, but like a popular candidate come down upon an electioneering trip. If, the day before he left Ireland, he had stood for Dublin, he would, I dare say, have turned out Shaw or Grattan."

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