« PredošláPokračovať »
princess Anne continued still to reside at Windsor Castle, the place where she had seen him expire. She had left St. James's Palace, the previous May, a happy and proud mother ; she returned to it with her bereaved consort in mourning, childless and desolate, November 25, 1700. Her grief was still deep and enduring; bishop White Kennet observes, with more feeling than is usual, in his narrative: “But grief upon this sad occasion seemed to be confined to within the Palace of St. James, and to centre in a more sensible manner in the breasts of the prince and princess of Denmark, who mourned not only for themselves but for the whole nation. For never was so great a loss so little lamented, which may be ascribed to the
different parties then dividing England, two of which, I mean the Jacobites and the Republicans, looked upon that hopeful young prince as an obstacle to their future designs. The duke of Gloucester was a prince whose tender constitution bended under the weight of his manly soul, and was too much harassed by the vivacity of his genius to be of long duration,” --an acknowledgment that the species of tuition to which he had been subjected had injured his health. “ He had,"continues bishop White Kennet, describing the boy according to what he considered a proper pattern rather than from fact, “ early sucked in his mother's piety, was always very attentive to prayers, but he had a particular averseness to dancing and all womanish exercises--in a word, he was too forward to arrive at maturity.'
Formal visits were exchanged between the princess and William III. after his return to England in the winter of 1700-1 ;; they merely observed the terms of conventional civility in their intercourse.
Scarcely had the bereaved mother recovered from the teasing and irritating series of vexations which her cruel brother-in-law contrived to mingle with her cup of sorrow, than she began to experience how much the death of Gloucester had changed her worldly importance, even in her own household. It will excite no surprise in those who have followed this narrative from the first rise of her favourite, when the fact is shown that this change was first manifested
1 Flying Post Newspaper, Nov. 1700. Brit. Museum.
to her by the intolerable insolence of that most ungrateful woman: Sarah of Marlborough had just formed the strongest alliances, had strengthened her hands, and prepared herself to rule imperiously over a monarch faineant, as did the “mayors of the palace" over some king of the Carlovingian dynasty in France; she was an exulting mother, glorying in a promising heir, and she had just married her two beautiful girls to the heirs of two statesmen of the ancient blood of England. In the contemplation of her boundless prospects, she wholly forgot what was due to her who had raised her. Anne's manner had become more humble than ever to her imperious ruler: her style in writing lower in its prostration. When the favourite was absent, her royal highness wrote to her four or five times every day. “Your poor, unfortunate, faithful Morley," was now her form of signature, having adopted the two first epithets to mark her own sense of her forlorn and helpless state since Gloucester's death. Whatsoever wrong the princess Anne might have done, nothing but unbounded kindness and indulgence had ever been shown by her to Sarah of Marlborough and her family, therefore a heart of marble must that person have borne when she added her insults to the other sorrows of the princess. From no person did Anne receive such visible indications that the death of her son had indeed reduced her to the state of a “poor unfortunate” helpless shadow of reversionary royalty, than from the graceless parvenue whom she had puffed up by her own absurd condescensions. This person's arrogance became absolutely maniacal, after the princess lost all prospect of being otherwise than a queen without heirs. If she had gloves to present, or any other office of the kind to perform, lady Marlborough was often seen to turn up her nose as she presented them, and avert her face as if there was something inexpressibly disgusting in the person of her too indulgent friend. Such proceedings could not long continue unobserved, even by Anne's dense perception, and it was known, by those most skilled in the politics of the backstairs, that the bonds which held her and lady Marlborough still united were only those of early intercourse.
It was mere accident, however, joined to lady Marlborough's extreme recklessness, in regard to the terms of insult
1 Horace Walpole,
in which she indulged, when not immediately in the presence of the princess, which revealed to her royal highness the real nature of her favourite's feelings towards her. The story is but traditionary, and though generally known among all ranks of the people, has, perhaps, never before been circumstantially related, which it now is, from the reminiscences of a venerable countess who had passed half a century at the court of her late majesty queen Charlotte. The family of this lady bad been fast friends of the royal house of Stuart, both of those individuals on whom the crown devolved, and those deprived of it; and the tradition certainly came from Abigail Hill herself.
“One afternoon, not many weeks after the death of the duke of Gloucester, the princess Anne noticed that she had no gloves on; she therefore told Abigail Hill, who was in attendance on her toilet, to fetch them from the next room, as she remembered that she had left them on the table. Mrs. Hill obeyed her royal highness, and passed into the next room, where she found that lady Marlborough was seated reading a letter, but the gloves of the princess were not on the table, for lady Marlborough had taken them up by accident, and put them on. Abigail most submissively mentioned to her that she had put on, by mistake, her royal highness's gloves.' "Ah" exclaimed lady Marlborough, “have I on anything that has touched the odious hands of that disagreeable woman!' then pulling them off
, she threw the gloves on the ground, and exclaimed violently, Take them away! Abigail obeyed silently, and retired with her usual stealthy quietude, carefully closing the door after her, which she had previously left ajar ; directly she entered the room where she had left the princess, she plainly perceived that her royal highness had heard every word of the dialogue. But neither discussed the matter at that time, and the incident remained a profound secret between them; for it so happened that the princess had had no one but Mrs. Abigail Hill in the room with her. Lady Marlborough soon left the adjoining saloon, and certainly remained for ever unconscious of what her mistress had overheard.”
Anne had hitherto borne daily insults with patient humility, when they had only cast contempt on her mental capacity; but this unprovoked manifestation of personal disgust and ill-will, she never forgot or forgave. The
whole story is completely in keeping with Sarah of Marlborough's own descriptions of her usual sayings and doings ; it is withal, in some degree, corroborated by the incertitude perceptible in all her subsequent contests with Anne, in which she seems, in a puzzled manner, to seek for the original cause of offence she had given, without ever finding it. Late in life she received vague hints, that the whole was connected with some story about gloves, yet it is evident that she had not the least clue to the truth, as the following passage appears in one of her letters, dated nearly half a century subsequently: “Mr. Doddridge writes a good deal to me, and expresses his satisfaction at reading the book, but wishes I had added more to the clearing of my character, as the king of Prussia has written a book in which he imputes the ruin of Europe to have happened from a quarrel between queen Anne and me, about a pair of gloves. I did once hear there was such a book printed, and that his majesty said, that the queen would have her gloves made
before mine, which I would not suffer the glover to do.'” Sarah of Marlborough proceeds to deny the story entirely, but the
very passage shows that there was some tale circulating in Europe, that the division between her royal mistress and herself, originated with some trifling occurrence regarding a pair of gloves. It may be believed that she was wholly ignorant of the real incident, having forgotten her petulant and injurious words as soon as uttered, at the same time being totally unconscious that Anne had been within hearing of them. Her royal highness, contented with the insight she had gained, by this slight accident,“ into lady Marlborough's real feelings to
1 An erroneous version of this incident was current in France, and is thus recorded by that caustic historical essayist, Voltaire; after speaking of the insolence of the duchess of Marlborough to her royal benefactress, he says, “ A pair of gloves of a particular fashion which she refused the queen, and a jar of water that she let fall on lady Masham's gown by an affected mistake, changed the destinies of Europe.”—Voltaire's Age of Louis XIV., Smollett's Translation, p. 262.
* Private Correspondence of the Duchess of Marlborough, vol. ii. p. 458, April, 1742.
3 Conduct by the Duchess of Marlborough, printed in 1742. By the“ book," Doddridge means the Conduct.
* This court tradition has been preserved orally, from the narrative of the late countess of Harcourt, of the elder line, the widow of Simon, earl of Harcourt. This noble lady was nearly a centegenarian, and had every means of knowing correctly the internal history of the English court since the days under discussion.
wards her, never brought the matter to discussion. As for Abigail Hill, she was the most silent and secretive of human creatures, and in all probability never detailed the anecdote until her courtly life and all concerning it had for ever passed away.
Perhaps it is as well to mention, that lady Marlborough's disgust and loathing at having touched the gloves of the princess Anne, had no rational foundation, excepting perhaps some degree of feminine envy of the chief beauty her royal highness possessed. The hands and arms of Anne were like those of her mother, very fine, and considered the most perfect in Europe, in regard to delicacy and form.
At this period, was renewed the extraordinary offer of adoption of the son of James II. by William III. which had formed one of the secret articles of the peace of Ryswick; it was well enough known to be mentioned in all histories, even in those which asserted the most strenuously the fiction that this unfortunate prince of Wales was not the son of his own mother. Perhaps, the justice of the step had been urged to the Orange king in the letters of the noble-minded protestant heiress of the crown of Great Britain, Sophia, electress of Hanover, at the period of her recent visit at Loo, which has been mentioned. There is every reason to suppose, that Sophia would write to the king, concerning the exiled prince,' at least as fully and freely as she did to his ministers, for she had known William from his youth upwards, had carried him in her arms in his infancy, and seen him daily in his boyhood, when she lived with her mother, thequeen of Bohemia, at the Hague. Many circumstances combined to sway the mind of William towards his unfortunate kinsman,—his failing health—the movements of an awakened conscience, which from time to time are seen to glimmer through the anecdotes his contemporaries have preserved of him—and above all, his abhorrence of the princess Anne, his hatred to her husband, and his ardent wish to exclude her from the succession.
Notwithstanding her recent profession of penitence, it is not probable that the princess Anne would have approved of William's determination in behalf of her brother, for her
1 Vol. IX., Life of Mary Beatrice, where the evidences are discussed. See likewise Dalrymple's Appendix, and Lord Dartmouth's Notes to Burnet's Own Times, vol. vi. VOL. XII.