Page images
PDF
EPUB

had the heart to have practised towards the

which all the world shall never do: and I wish I may be unhappy in this world, and in the world to come, if I faile in the least degree of what I have resolved; which is, of making my lady Castlemaine of my wives bedchamber; and whosoever I find use any endeavours to hinder this resolution of mine (except it be only to myself), I will be his enemy to the last moment of my life. You know how true a friende I have been to you: if you will oblige me eternally, make this businesse as easy to me as you can, of what opinion soever you are of; for I am resolved to go through this matter let what will come on it, which again I solemnly swear, before Almighty God: therefore, if you desire to have the continuance of my friendship, meddle no more with this businesse, excepte it be to beate downe all false and scandalous reports, and to facilitate what I am sure my honor is so much concerned in; and whosoever I finde to be my lady Castlemaines enemy in this matter, I do promise, upon my word, to be his enemy as long as I live. You may shew this letter to my lord lieutenant"; and if you have both a mind to oblige me, carry yourselves like friends in this matter.

CHARLES R.This letter had its effect on the lord chancellor: for it appears, by his own account, that, instead of throwing up his post like a man of honour and virtue, and bidding an everlasting adieu to the court of so infamous a master; instead of doing this, he took on himself the mean and wicked office of attempting to persuade her majesty to comply with the king's resolution with

• Ormonde, appointed lord lieutenant of Ireland, Nov. 4, 166).

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 his honour, refused her admittance, and she was forced to seek other lodgings 6. - 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. 1713.

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 peerdom of France.”—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

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 her, 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

she can.

a Collins's Peerage, vol. I. p. 204. last edit.

for which he has been often celebrated,

He was not,

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." 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. Gwin,” [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

a Letter XCII.

< Burnet, vol. ho

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

p. 607, 609.

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, po 209.

1

« PreviousContinue »