Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

regarding all moral obligations, gave birth to sons, who, reared under their baneful influence, carried the precepts of their parental tempters into an extremity far exceeding what even those exemplary parents could have anticipated. In Philip, Duke of Wharton, the world beheld, happily, almost the last of that series of rich, profligate, bold, and desperate men, who, like the second Buckingham, gilded a few fair points of character by the aid of resplendent talents. It was the destiny of Lord Peterborough to reap disappointment and chagrin from the seed which he had sown in the mind of his eldest son and heir, John Lord Mordaunt, whom he sur

vived. *

* The Earl married, first, Carey, daughter of Sir Alexander Frazer, and, secondly, the accomplished Anatasia Robinson, the daughter of a painter. The story of his lordship's lovesuit to this lady shows at once the licentiousness and the eccentricity of his character. Whilst he admired the virtues of Miss Robinson, and her efforts in her vocation as an opera singer and a teacher of music and Italian, to support an agerl father, he did not deem it beneath him to endeavour to make her his mistress. His arts were unsuccessful, and Anastasia became privately his wife. In 1735 it suited his fancy to proclaim his marriage. Being at Bath, in the public rooms, a servant was ordered to call out distinctly, “ Lady Peterborough's carriage waits ;" on which every lady of rank and respectability rose, and wished the new Countess joy.-Granger, vol. ii. p. 45.

The regard of Lord Peterborough at this period for the Duchess of Marlborough was as assiduous as his enmity towards her and the Duke became afterwards remarkable. In a letter written soon after their common loss, he urged upon the bereaved father the necessity of seeking in society the solace to his mournful reflections. In other effusions of friendship, addressed to the Duchess, the Earl is profuse in the language of gallantry; and, if we might believe in professions, felt an ardour of admiration which led him to declare, “that he feared no other uneasiness than not being able to meet those opportunities which might contribute to what he most desired, the continuation of the Duchess's good opinion.”

These expressions had a deeper meaning than compliment; and Lord Peterborough sought also a closer connexion than friendship with the exalted house of Marlborough. The Lady Mary Churchill, the youngest daughter of the Duke and Duchess, and, at the time of her brother's death, the only unmarried daughter,

one of the most distinguished of her family for beauty, as well as for the higher qualities of the mind and heart. Twenty-two

* Private Correspondence, vol. i. p. 4.

" *

was

years afterwards, Lady Mary Wortley Montague, speaking of this lovely woman, described her as still so pre-eminent in her hereditary charms, that she might then (in 1725)“ be the reigning beauty, if she pleased."* Lady Mary, afterwards the object of her mother's aversion, was, in her early days, the pride and darling of both parents, and the frequent subject of mention in her father's letters. Even in her sixteenth

year there were many suitors who aspired to her hand, and amongst others the son of Lord Peterborough, the young Lord Mordaunt, whose suit was urged by his father, but rejected by the Duke of Marlborough, on account of the dissolute character of the young nobleman. It was probably this disappointment which first chilled the friendship of Lord Peterborough, and turned it into rancour.

Proposals of marriage from the Earl of Huntingdon, son of Lord Cromarty, were also made to Lady Mary, but in vain ;f the character of his father, Lord Cromarty, who was, according to Cunningham, “ long looked upon as a state mountebank,” probably operating against the young man's addresses ; for the Duchess sought to extend and strengthen her connexions, and not to en

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

danger the stability of her fortune by an alliance
with the weak or the disreputable. Political
reasons, it has been said by historians, decided the
destiny of the fair victim, than whom “ there
was not in England,” says Cunningham,
more acceptable sacrifice to be offered

up
for

appeasing the rage of parties," and caused her finally to become the wife of Lord Monthermer, eldest son of the Earl of Montague. Marlborough, as Cunningham relates, before setting out on his latest campaign, “ fearing lest Whigs and Tories should combine together to ruin him, recommended to his wife to propose a marriage of one of his daughters to the Earl of Montague's son, as a means of their reconciliation, and the establishment of his own power.

The projected alliance, in mostimportant respects, appeared to be highly advantageous. The House of Montague, anciently Montacute, was already connected with some of the wealthiest and most powerful among the nobility. Resembling, in one respect, the Churchill family, the progenitors of the young man on whom Lady Mary's hand was ultimately bestowed, had been devoted to the service of the Stuarts. There is a tradition that one of the race, Edward Montague, who held the office of Master of the Horse to Queen

* Cunningham, b. vi. p. 328.

He was ap

Katharine, wife of Charles the Second, was removed from his post, for venturing to press

the hand of his royal mistress,—an offence not likely to be of frequent occurrence, if historians have not done great injustice to the amiable but ungainly Katharine of Braganza.

The father of John Duke of Montague, who married Lady Mary Churchill, was a singular instance of something more than prudence,even cupidity,—combined with liberality and a great mind. This nobleman enjoyed a fortunate, if not a happy life. pointed ambassador at the Court of France, by the especial favour of Charles the Second ; and conferred on his station, as such, as much honour as he received from so distinguished a mission. During his residence at Paris, he secured the hand of the Countess of Northumberland, a rich widow, who had quitted England to escape the disgraceful addresses of Charles the Second. By this union he secured an income of six thousand a year; which was farther increased, upon his return to England, by his purchase of the place of Master of the King's Wardrobe, for which he paid six thousand pounds. The prosperity of the family was, however, checked during the reign of James the Second, who, in consequence of Lord Montague's known

« PredošláPokračovať »