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1772. RELIEF OF PROTESTANT DISSENTERS. 317
GeorgeSavile as a leading gentleman in the county of York. The arguments on both sides were nearly the same which have been repeated and continued even down to the present day. On the one hand some zealous churchmen urged that . since the laws in question were never on any occasion put in force the Dissenters could have no valid reason to complain; on the other hand it was contended that even when no injury was inflicted, a reproach might still be conveyed. Among the Ministers and Ministerial supporters the prevailing wish was to comply with the request of the Dissenters, and to unite with them so far as possible in a Protestant league against the Roman Catholics. With this feeling the Bill passed the House of Commons speedily, and with only a slight and insignificant minority against it. In the Lords it was supported by the high authority of Camden, of Shelburne, of Chatham, and even of Mansfield. But some of the principal prelates, – Drummond, Archbishop of York, Terrick of London, Lowth of Oxford, Hinchcliffe of Peterborough, and Barrington of Llandaff, - opposed it with much warmth, as did also Lord Bruce and Lord Gower; and on a division the Bill was rejected by a large preponderance, if not of arguments, yet certainly of numbers. It was apparently during one of these debates that Lord Chatham ventured to describe the Church of England as being Popish in her Liturgy, Calvinistic in her Articles, and Arminian in her Clergy, - “a shallow witticism,” observes Mr. Gladstone, “little worthy of so illustrious a man.”” Such light expressions are indeed of little weight, but they may serve for a sample of the vehemence and exaggeration which on both sides of this question prevailed. How strange to find such vast advantages promised and expected from either the repeal or the retention of a law which, while it remained, all parties by common consent agreed was not, and never would be, put in execution!
* See Mr. Gladstone's “Church Principles,” p. 452. ed. 1840. This saying of Lord Chatham is not to be found in the meagre Parliamentary reports of that day, but was mentioned by Burke many years afterwards in the House of Commons (Debate, March 2. 1790). Another passage of the same speech, “the College of Fishermen,” to which Burke also alludes, I have had occasion to cite elsewhere. (See vol. iii. p. 17., and the Parl. IIist., vol. xvii. p. 441.) That passage (unless indeed Lord Chatham twice repeated the same taunt) fixes the date of the whole speech in 1772, although Burke's expression, “on the Dissenters' second application," would rather point to 1773.
WHILE public affairs, so long perturbed, began to flow in a smoother and more tranquil current, the King, although in some measure relieved of care for them, was sorely tried by afflictions in his own family. Among his brothers and sisters he had to mourn over the untimely death of some, and the erring conduct of others. The next in birth to himself, Edward Duke of York, a young man as yet careless and unthrifty but of many generous feelings, had set forth upon his travels in 1767, and had died of a fever at Monaco. The youngest, Prince Frederick, at the age of only fifteen expired of consumption. Henry Duke of Cumberland had grown to manhood, but was noted only for his libertime amours. He attached himself to a young and beautiful woman, Henrietta Vernon Lady Grosvenor, whose husband, it must be owned, afforded her no slight grounds of alienation. This lady he secretly followed into Cheshire, meeting her in disguise, yet not unobserved, at various times and places. On the discovery which ensued Lord Grosvenor, though from his own conduct hopeless of divorce, brought an action for Criminal Conversation, at which for the first time a Prince of the Blood appeared in the situation of Defendant. Besides other evidence his own letters were produced, showing him to be no less faulty in his grammar than in his morals. The verdict was of course against him, and damages were awarded to the amount of 10,000l. Immediately afterwards the Duke deserting his victim openly engaged in a new intrigue with the wife of a wealthy timber merchant. Here at least there was no dread of a second trial, since, as Horace Walpole tells us, it seemed uncertain which was most proud of the distinction, the husband or the wife. * 1772. MARRIAGE of THE DUKE of GLoucestER. 319
* Memoirs, vol. iv. p. 356.
But His Royal Highness once more proving inconstant next became enamoured of Mrs. Horton, the daughter of an Irish Peer, Simon Luttrell Lord Irnham, and the widow of a private gentleman in Derbyshire. This lady required marriage, to which the weak Prince agreed, and in October 1771 carrying off his prize to Calais he there espoused her according to the rites of the Church of England. The King in high displeasure forbade them both his Court. Nevertheless another of his brothers, William Henry Duke of Gloucester, seized this opportunity to avow and declare a marriage contracted by him several years before with Maria, an illegitimate daughter of Sir Edward, and grand-daughter of Sir Robert, Walpole, and Countess Dowager of Waldegrave. Of these two marriages thus made public at nearly the same time it might be hard to determine which was the more offensive to the just pride of the Royal Family. On the one hand the stain of illegitimacy, even in her inferior birth, attached to Lady Waldegrave. But on the other side there was an especial sting in finding that the scheming widow thus foisted into the rank of the princesses was no other than the sister of that Colonel Luttrell, by Court favour the candidate, and by a violation of the law the Member, for Middlesex. Such a circumstance was heightened to the best advantage in all the party libels of the day. Thus had written Junius: “The forced unnatural union of Luttrell and Mid“dlesex was an omen of another unnatural union. If one “of those acts was virtuous and honourable, the ‘best of “‘princes,' I thank God, is happily rewarded for it by the “other!” + Degrading as these alliances may have been in Royal estimation they were wholly cast into the shade by the disastrous news which came from Copenhagen. A sister of George the Third, the Princess Caroline Matilda, had some years before espoused Christian the Seventh King of Denmark. Queen Matilda was young and beautiful, pure and gentle-minded.* She had borne her husband two children; a son about four years of age, and a daughter whom at this period she was nursing. Unhappily in her marriage she was linked to an abject wretch, destitute alike of sense and of virtue. Already while travelling in England he had been noticed for his ridiculous figure and eccentric manners. But since that period his mind, never strong and unnerved by his early excesses, had given way, and he was verging by degrees to a state of utter imbecility. During his travels he had attached to himself one Struensee, then a physician at Altona; a young man of handsome person and aspiring talents. On his return to Copenhagen Struensee became at first in fact, and ere long also in name and title, his Prime Minister. To be Prime Minister under such a sovereign was in reality to be absolute master of the King and kingdom. It was by him, and next to him by his coadjutor Brandt, that all measures were decided and all appointments bestowed. In such a state of things it was natural, may necessary, that Queen Matilda should have frequent communication with Struensee on public affairs. But her enemies alleged that during these communications she had forgotten, or rather perhaps remembered too well, her half-witted husband, and had betrayed her conjugal duty. And although, as I believe, this accusation was unfounded, it certainly derived no little colour from her own imprudence. Imprudence of a different kind, but at least in an equal degree, may be justly imputed to Struensee himself. He entered upon a course of violent and arbitrary measures, some of them tending to useful reform, but many more partaking of rash innovation. The numerous persons whom he had offended, the numerous classes which he had alarmed, united in one common league against him, taking for their * Queen Matilda is described as follows by an accomplished Dane, the Comte de Falckenskiold: — “la plus belle femme de la Cour, d'un carac“tere doux et reservé, et qui aurait 6té vraisemblablement fort heureuse,
* Letter lxvi. To the Duke of Grafton, November 28. 1771. In another passage he commemorates “the King's brother-in-law Colonel Luttrell, and old Simon his father-in-law."
1772. QUEEN MATILDA CAST INTO PRISON. 321
chief the step-mother of Christian, the Dowager Queen Juliana Maria. Under such auspices a secret and daring conspiracy was formed. The time fixed for its execution was at the close of a masqued ball to be given by the Court on the 16th of January 1772. Then some of the conspirators bursting into the King's chamber at midnight with well simulated zeal assured him that his life and throne were in peril, and that his consort was plotting to depose him. The stupified monarch nearly unconscious of what passed around him, and animated only by a dastardly terror for himself, signed at once the orders of arrest that were laid before him. Under such an order Struensee and Brandt were seized by a party of guards, loaded with irons, and cast into a dungeon. Under such an order Queen Matilda also was roused from her slumbers and informed of her arrest. Little respect was paid either to her station or her sex; and on her attempting to reach the chamber of her husband she found the bayonets of the soldiers crossed before her. Only half-attired (since no longer time was granted), and with her infant in her arms, she was led into a close carriage, an officer with a drawn sword being stationed by her side, and thus was she hurried away a prisoner to the castle of Cronenburg.* So hateful had the Favourite become, that this revolution in the palace, however violent and sudden, was far from unwelcome to the people. The whole power of the State now devolved upon the Dowager and her confederates. Struensee and Brandt, who deserved dismissal, but not death, were brought to trial with only a slight semblance of the forms of justice; of course they were found guilty, and they ended their lives upon the scaffold. In like manner proceedings of
* Colonel (soon afterwards Sir Robert Murray) Keith was at that time the British Minister at Copenhagen. IHis despatches on this delicate transaction are missing from the series which I have seen at the State Paper Office, and his private letters, as published in 1849, seem to me of little value. I cannot forbear from here expressing my admiration of the skill with which the incidents of this conspiracy have been wrought by M. Scribe into his drama of Bertrand et Raton. The sketches (as was said) of Prince Talleyrand as Bertrand and of M. Laffitte as Raton, whether just or unjust, are drawn by the hand of a master.
Mahon, History. V. 21