Page images

lowest of the sex; and which, had he been

respect to his mistress . The queen, with a spirit which does honour to her character, in several conferences, absolutely refused : and it was not till after receiving the most shocking treatment from his majesty, that she would vouchsafe to have any intercourse with her. Afterwards the lady, for some years, was allpowerful.-But his majesty was far from confining himself to a single mistress; or making a scruple of having it known, that he entertained familiarity with many. In the latter end of his days, in a progress to Winchester, he took Nell Gwin with him; and Dr. Ken's house, which he held in right of his prebend, was marked for her use: but the doctor, to bis honour, refused her admittance, and she was forced to seek other lodgings. The king, indeed, was ashamed of nothing: nor did he care what foreign nations, or his own people, might think or say of him. This is evident from the grant of Lewis XIV. of France, to the duchess of Portsmouth, of the duchy of Aubigny; in which it is recited, “ that he, in regard to the king of Great Britain, had, by his letters patent, granted to the lady Lovise Renée de Penencourt de Keroualle, duchess of Portsmouth, the said territory of Aubigny, with all right to the same belonging, for her life; remainder to such of the natural children as she shall have by the king of Great Britain, in tail male, by the said king to be named ; remainder to the crown of France. And whereas the said king of Great Britain had appointed prince Charles Lennox, duke of Richmond, his natural son, master of the horse, and knight

Ken's Life,

* Clarendon's Continuation, vol. II. p. 329-39. by Hawkins, p. 9. 8vo. Lond. 171%.

indeed possessed of that great good-nature,

of the garter, to succeed the said duchess of Portsmouth in the said inheritance; he, the said king of France, being willing to annex to the said inheritance a proper title, and such as should be agreeable to the illustrious birth of the said duke of Richmond; and, at the same time, to confer honor on the said duchess of Portsmouth--erects the said town, &c. into a dutchy and peerdomn of Francea.”— Madame de Sevigne, in one of her letters, speaking of this lady, says, “ Mademoiselle de K- has not been disappointed in any thing she proposed. She desired to be mistress to the king (of England), and she is so: he lodges with her almost every night in the face of all the court: she has had a son, who has been acknowledged, and presented with two dutchies. She amasses treasure ; and makes herself feared and respected by as many as she can. But she did not foresee that she should find a young actress in her way, whom the king doats on; and she has it not in her power to withdraw him from her. He divides his care, his time, and his health, between these two. The actress is as haughty as Mademoiselle: she insults her, she makes grimaces at her, she attacks her, she frequently steals the king from hier, and boasts whenever he gives her the preference. She is young, indiscreet, confident, wild, and of an agreeable humour. She sings, she dances, she acts her part with a good grace. She has a son by the king, and hopes to have him acknowledged. As to Mademoiselle, she reasons thus: “This duchess,' says she, • pretends to be a person of quality: she says, she is related to the best families in France: whenever any

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

for which he has been often celebrated,

person of distinction dies, she puts herself in mourning. If she be a lady of such quality, why does she demean herself to be a courtesan? She ought to die with shame. As for me, it is my profession: I do not pretend to any thing better. The king entertains me; and I am constant to him at present. He has a son by me: I pretend that he ought to acknowledge him; and I am well assured he will, for he loves me as well as Mademoiselle.' This creature gets the upper-hand, and discountenances and embarrasses the duchess extreamlya."—What a figure must such a prince make in every discerning eye! Sir William Throckmorton, in a letter to Coleman, speaks of " the debauchery of the kings house, which,” adds he,“ has made it so odious to all the nation and the world b."--He was not, however, to be reclaimed. In his last sickness, “ the duchess of Portsmouth sat in bed, taking care of him as a wife of a husband; and, with his dying words, recommended her over and over again to his brother. He said, he had always loved her, and he loved her now to the last; and besought the duke, in as melting words as he could fetch out, to be very kind to her and to her son. He recommended his other children to him: and concluded, Let not poor Nelly starve. This was Mrs. Gwino,” [the actress abovementioned).

Besides these, Charles had other mistresses.--Machiavel observes, “ that nothing makes a prince more odious, than usurping the properties, and debauching the wives of his subjects d.” On this his antagonist remarks, " that a selfish, unjust, violent, and cruel

c Burnet, vol. I

· Letter XCII. p. 607, 609.

Coleman's Letters, p. 76. d Prince, ch. xxix.


he could not possibly have been guilty

prince, cannot fail to be hated by his subjects; but it is not so with respect to gallantry. Julius Cæsar," continues the illustrious writer, “ whom they styled at Rome the husband of all their wives, and the wife of all their husbands: Lewis XIV, who was a great lover of women: the late Augustus, king of Poland, who enjoyed them in common with his subjects: none of these princes were hated on account of their amours. And if Cæsar was assassinated; if Rome, for its liberty, plunged so many daggers in his breast; it was because Cæsar was an usurper, not because he was a man of gallantry. It may be objected, perhaps, in favour of our author, that the kings of Rome were expelled for the attempt upon the modesty of Lucretia. I answer, it was not the love which young Tarquin made to Lucretia, but the violent manner in which he made it, that raised the insurrection at Rome: and as this outrage revived in the memory of the people the other violences committed by the Tarquins, they took that opportunity of avenging themselves, and vindicating their liberty. After all, the adventure of Lucretia is, perhaps, a meer romance. I am far from saying this by way of excuse for the gallantry of princes, which may be morally bad: I only touch upon it, to shew that (gallantry does not make a prince odious. The amours of a good king are always deemed a pardonable weakness, if they are not attended with injustice and violence. Make love like Lewis XIV. or Charles II. king of England; or Augustus, king of Poland; and you will be respected and caressed: but beware of imitating the amours of a Nero or a Davida."

Anti-Machiavel, p. 209.

of?.--I shall only add, that, with re.

; Whether the sentiments of Machiavel, or his refuter, on this subject, are most agreeable to morality or policy; the reader will determine. I shall only observe, that adultery is always attended with injustice.

? Had he been possessed of good-nature, he could not have been guilty of.] Charles is spoken of, in general, s as familiar, easy, and good-natured “;" as “ pleasant and easy in company; where he bore his part, and was acceptable even to those who had no other design than to be merry with him b.” This is his common character. But the late lord Orrery has observed, “ that our historians have represented him as a good-natured man; ignorantly, or rather wilfully, mistaking good-humour and affability for tenderness and good-nature: neither of which last," adds he, are to be reckoned amongst this monarch's virtues.”—Goodhumour and affability are, undoubtedly, very different from tenderness and good-nature. The former are cultivated by those who are fond of riot; though they will not risk a moment's trouble to serve, or save, their most favourite, companions : the latter, by such who retain the feelings of humanity; and are awake to the calls of honour, virtue, and friendship.Abroad, men appear disguised, for selfish purposes : in private and domestic life, nature exerts herself, and the real characters are displayed. If men, in their cool moments, can deliberately do very hard and cruel things; goodnature cannot possibly be ascribed to them.---Whether Charles was capable of this, let the reader judge from the following narratives. " The revenue be

a Sheffield, vol. II. p. 59. Qrrery's State Papers, fol. 1742.

• Halifax, p. 32.

Preface to

« PreviousContinue »