Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

dowager, Catherine of Braganza, (still retained at Somerset House,) and all the individuals in her service, assumed mourning, by the orders of the dowager's chamberlain, lord Feversham. In short, the mourning in England for the exiled sovereign was a general fashion.

The career of William was very brief after this event. His asthma increased. He felt the decay of the feeble body which the active mind disavowed. He consulted, under feigned names, all the most noted physicians in Europe, and among the rest the celebrated Fagon, assuming the character of a curé. Fagon, who was the favourite physician of Louis XIV., seems to have suspected the real rank of his patient; he inexorably sent word to the curé, “ that he must prepare himself for death.” The bad news augmented the malady; William consulted him afresh, under a new name. The skilful Fagon recognised the case of the pretended curé. He changed not his opinion, but conveyed it in more considerate terms. He prescribed for him medicines likely to alleviate, if not to cure. The remedies were followed, and some relief experienced; but the time had arrived when William was compelled to feel the nothingness of this world, in the midst of his new projects for a general war.

The Gazette of September 17, 1701, has the following announcement : “ 'Tis said their royal highnesses the prince and princess of Denmark will return to St. James' palace a week before the king's return, which 'tis said will be about the latter end of the next month."

William accordingly arrived as usual at the end of October, his first care being to open his parliament, and take measures for attainting his uncle's orphan child, the young hapless James Stuart, and his widowed mother likewise, and to set every means in agitation to induce the English nation to enter into a new war.

The newspapers of the period were replete with their observations on the bountiful distribution of alms afforded by the princess Anne, the same Christmas, to poor-housekeepers in the parishes of St. Margaret, Westminster, St. James, and St. Anne, and elsewhere in London. The people at large looked forward to change with some anticipation that their cruel burthens would be ameliorated at the accession of the princess, who was indeed their idol. Meantime the king's party were agitating a scheme for her exclusion from the throne; some declared that the king meant to imprison the princess for life,' and send for the heir of the house of Hanover, as his successor ; all coffee-houses swarmed with political orators, who made the most disrespectful mention of her royal highness. Some affected to believe that she would refuse to sanction the coming war, out of regard to her father's last injunction ; others, with more probability, asseverated that the extraordinary measures then filling the senate with stormy debates on the expediency of attainting a child not yet out of his legal infancy, and his mother, (who was forced to protect and do her best for him,) were wholly at the instigation of Anne. It was further affirmed that she had said 56 that she dared not mount the throne, until these bills were passed !” It is possible that one clause was inserted on acc int of her alarms, which was an act to make conspirators, endeavouring to injure or destroy her, liable to the same penalties as against the heir-apparent. In regard to the attainder of her young brother and of her stepmother, Mary Beatrice, there is no other evidence that the measures originated with the princess Anne than the positive assertion of one of Louis XIV.'s ministers, Dangeau, corroborated by the fact that her friends were among the most persevering in the house of lords, in their persecuting bills, against the unfortunate widow of James II., which the house of commons threw out as indefatigably as they were presented under new forms.*

The same house of commons were then employed in tearing from William III.'s favourites the enormous grants with which he had invested them; among others, they made his friend, lord Portland, surrender the revenues of the future princes of Wales, given him, truly, with hereditary entail to his progeny ! Elizabeth Villiers, the king's mistress, had been obliged to surrender the estate of James II. in Ireland, with arrears of an income of 17,0001. The English people saw no reason why this woman was to be heiress of their late sovereign's private property in preference to his children. Whilst the inquisition concerning these grants was

1 Lidiard's Life of the duke of Marlborough, vol. i. p. 146.

* White Kennet's History, Jan. 22, 1701, vol. iii. p. 850. Dangeau's Memoirs.

Ralph's History, last pages of vol. iii.

3

4

going on, lady Orkney (Elizabeth Villiers) entered into treaty with the friends of the princess Anne, and promised, that if she might be permitted to keep her spoil, she would, by her influence with the king,' obtain the expulsion of their great enemy, lord Somers. There was no need of making so dear a bargain for this lady's offices; for lord Somers was too deep in the corruptions and misgovernment relative to the infamous partnership with captain Kidd, the pirate, to be able to look the public in the face as a minister of state just then.

King William seldom came to London during the winter of 1701. He felt convinced that death was at hand; yet he still mounted his horse for his favourite diversion of hunting, or rather, what we should call in the present day, coursing. He came but on council-days to Kensington Palace, and kept himself as much as possible in retirement at Hampton Court, where his time was spent superintending the digging of the ugly longitudinal canals, with which he was cutting up the beautiful Time-tree glades, planted by his grandsire, Charles I., in the Home Park, rendering Hampton Court as like a Dutch hof as possible, both in aspect and atmosphere. It was in the gardens of Hampton Court that he confided to lord Portland his positive conviction, that he should not survive till the end of 1701; but he charged him “not to mention it before his death to any one, lest the war should be prevented.”3

“ The king took the diversion of hunting last Saturday, and returned at night to Kensington.” Many notices of the same kind occurred during the winter months of 1702.* When in London for a few hours, the king usually dined with his favourite, Keppel, at his lodgings in Whitehall, the Cockpit, where the business of government was carried on.”

It is necessary to mention, as briefly as possible, the circumstance which plunged Europe into a war, that was deeply connected with the future disquiet of the princess Anne. Don Carlos II., the imbecile and invalid king of Spain and the Indies,” had sunk into a premature grave, leaving no children to inherit his dominions. The lineal heir was the dauphin duke of Burgundy, the young grandson of Louis XIV., and his consort, the infanta of Spain, Maria Teresa. It is true, that by the marriage treaty of this princess, she had relinquished all claims on the Spanish succession for herself and her heirs—an abrogation treated as a mere formula by the partisans of her grandson in Spain. William III., as the generalissimo of the emperor and the confederated princes of Germany, determined to oppose this inheritance, and under the plea that Louis XIV. would become too powerful by his influence over his grandson, they formed a coalition to divide the dominions of Spain in three parts, of which England was to take one share, Austria another, and Holland a third. Such was the precursor and precedent of the partition of Poland, which was actually effected at the end of the same century.

Bibl. Birch. 4224. MS. Biographical Anecdotes. * See Shrewsbury Papers; although edited by a most partial historian, Coxe, no one can read them without indignation.

3 White Kennet's History, vol. iii. p. 826.

* The Postboy, Jan. 27, 1701-2.

As soon as the design of the Spanish partition was known, the English parliament strongly opposed it, expressed horror at the iniquity, and wanted to impeach the contrivers. Another plan had to be found to raise effectually the tocsin of war, and this was to place Charles of Austria, the brother of the emperor, on the throne of Spain, as the next male heir. The Austrian prince was about twenty-three, while young Philip of France was a minor. Moreover, as in the present day, the northern half of Spain, the Basques, the Catalans, and Arragonese, were loth to acknowledge the line of the females, till every male heir failed. The allies, therefore, took advantage of internal division to foster a civil war in Spain; the north for the heir-male of Ferdinand of Arragon, Charles of Austria, while the south of Spain remained loyal to the next heir of Isabella of Castile, Philip of France. The valuable prize of the Spanish Netherlands laid perfectly convenient to be fought for between the confederated armies

? This scheme was peculiarly unrighteous in regard to William III. He had been, from his youth upwards, the hired general of Spain, and now to turn and rend the vitals of the realm that had so long paid him with her treasure, seemed scarcely consistent with moral justice.

2 This is according to the ancient constitution of Arragon, to which the proud Arragonese still cling.

3 The truth is, that the ancient laws of Arragon and the north of Spain militate strongly against female succession, while Castile has, from the earliest times, acknowledged female heirship. Arragon and the north was, as now, always in a state of revolt during the reign of Joanna, (the mother of Charles V.,) although her son, the most powerful mind among the royalty of Europe, reigned as regent.

2

of England and Germany, and the military power of France: it had been the object of all William's battles and sieges for nearly thirty years. It was to prove the fighting ground of Marlborough's subsequent victories. After William III.'s partition-scheme had sunk amid the execrations of all who were expected to be concerned in it, the object for which England was to be induced to enter into war seems indistinct. A rich slice of the Netherlands, howsoever dishonest the acquisition might have been, was something tangible; but to win the Netherlands for Charles of Austria, if more morally honest, was a very Quixotic excuse for manslaughter by wholesale. As for the aggravation given by Louis XIV., by his acknowledgment of the son of James II. as king of England, France, Scotland, and Ireland, de jure, it would be difficult to prove what made it a greater injury than recognising the title of the father, which was equally done since the peace of Ryswick ?

A real historian must repudiate with scorn the false plea of religious warfare, the alleged support of the protestant cause against Roman-catholic cruelty, clearly because, with all his bigotry, Louis XIV. was a less culpable bigot than any prince of the Spanish-Austrian line; and the worst persecutions of protestants in France had not, in the worst of times, equalled the common proceedings every year of the inquisition in Spain. As there is no intention of suffocatiny the biography of queen Anne with her continental warfare, our readers must be contented with reference to this rapid statement of its original causes.

William III. had amused and gratified his departing spirit by laying the train for this European conflagration, which only waited the usual campaigning season to burst into a blaze.

The king had (perhaps to keep him out of political mischief at home) given the earl of Marlborough the command of his military preparations in Holland, and, in case of his own death, had expressed his opinion that the talents in war of that general ought to entitle him to command the allied forces. Thus, without the least bellicose propensities on her own part, every circumstance tended to make foreign warfare and the reign of Anne commence simultaneously.

It had been well known in England that king William had been dangerously ill at Loo the preceding autumn of 1701; but his state of health had been carefully concealed

« PredošláPokračovať »