« AnteriorContinuar »
mind they should. Her voice too was captivating, and her hands beautifully small, plump, and graceful."* M. Chasles pronounces her portrait at Windsor to offer "the true type of German beauty," in the form of a lofty figure and développement puissant, a high forehead, serene and contemplative, eyes thoughtful and deep, the profile droit et noble, the lines of the mouth delicate, and-the lips thick. Sir Walter Scott describes her well in the memorable interview with Jeanie Deans. "The lady who seemed the principal person had remarkably good features, though somewhat injured by the small-pox. ... Her eyes were brilliant, her teeth good, and her countenance formed to express at will either majesty or courtesy. Her form, though rather embonpoint, was nevertheless graceful; and the elasticity and firmness of her step gave no room to suspect, what was actually the case, that she suffered occasionally from a disorder the most unfavourable to pedestrian exercise. Her dress was rather rich than gay, and her manner commanding and noble." Jeanie's own account of her Majesty, in the letter to old David Deans, is also noteworthy: "And I spoke with the Queen face to face, and yet live; for she is not muckle differing from other grand leddies, saving that she has a stately presence, and een like a blue huntin' hawk's, whilk gaed throu' and throu' me like a Hieland durk."§ It is observable how closely Sir Walter follows Horace Walpole's lead in these outlines of physical portraiture.
It has been affirmed that Lord Hervey's Memoirs of the Reign of George II. place before us a picture of a court quite as profligate as that of Charles II., and yet more repulsive. George the Second, observes one reviewer of that work, loved pleasure just as much as Charles the Second, and hated business just as cordially; while his consort, a woman of great sagacity and ambition, patted his profligacies on the back, overlooked the wife in the queen, made a mere nonentity of her husband,—and, confiding in Sir Robert Walpole, ruled the country like a second Queen Elizabeth assisted by Lord Burleigh. "No woman ever made greater domestic sacrifices to attain the ends of her public ambition; but beyond sagacity and daring there was nothing to admire about her. Religion was with her a mere state observance; and her placing Dr. Butler, the author of the Analogy of Religion,' as clerk of her closet, was a mere pretext to preserve the decencies of the palace in the eyes of those who were not anxious to look very far."|| We have seen what Mr. Carlyle says of her not being very orthodox in Protestant theology. Mr. Walter Bagehot appends to his remark that of Butler's personal habits nothing in the way of detail has descended to us, and that not only was the good Bishop never married, but that no evidence exists of his "ever having spoken to any lady save Queen Caroline," the following passage: "We hear, however, for certain that he was commonly present at her Majesty's philosophical parties, at which all questions, religious and moral, speculative and practical, were discussed with a freedom which would astonish the present generation. Less intellectual unbelief existed probably at that time than
* Walpole's Reminiscences of the Courts, &c., ch. vii.
there is now, but there was an infinitely freer expression of what did exist." At no meeting of the higher classes, it is added, certainly at none where ladies are present, is there a tenth part of the plain questioning and bona fide discussion of primary Christian topics, that there was at the select suppers of Queen Caroline.* In Eliot Warburton's (edited) Memoirs of Horace Walpole we read: "To speak the exact truth, the death of Queen Caroline was as unedifying as her life. She had nurtured an unholy hatred of her first-born; she had practised a selfish toleration of her husband's vices; she had systematically discountenanced genuine religion, and when her last hour arrived, there was only too positive evidence that she had no claim to the title of Christian." sentence refers to a story which runs counter to Pope's élogeHang the sad verse on Carolina's urn,
And hail her passage to the realms of rest,
All parts performed, and all her children blest.‡
Unless, indeed, we are to assume as much real irony in the "all parts performed," as there is appearance of it in the aspect of that unrestricted benediction. The story in question occurs in a paragraph of Walpole's description of her Majesty, which relates how she made divinity her chief study, but had rather weakened her faith than enlightened it. "She was at least not orthodox; and her confidante, Lady Sundon, an absurd and pompous simpleton, swayed her countenance towards the less-believing clergy. The Queen, however, was so sincere at her death, that when Archbishop Potter was to administer the Sacrament to her, she declined taking it, very few persons being in the room. When the Prelate retired, the Courtiers in the ante-room crowded round him, crying,' My lord, has the Queen received?' His Grace artfully evaded the question, only saying, most devoutly,' Her Majesty was in a heavenly disposition' -and the truth escaped the public.
"She suffered more unjustly," adds Horace Walpole, "by declining to see her son, the Prince of Wales, to whom she sent her blessing and forgiveness; but conceiving the extreme distress it would lay on the King, should he thus be forced to forgive so impenitent a son, or to banish him again if once recalled, she heroically preferred a meritorious husband to a worthless child."§
Earl Stanhope describes the death-bed of "this high-minded Princess" as having been not wholly free from blame, still less from the malignant exaggerations of party. She was censured, he says, as implacable in hatred even to her dying moments: as refusing her pardon to her son, though he had sent humbly to beseech her blessing.
And unforgiving, unforgiven dies!
writes Chesterfield in some powerful lines which were circulated at the time. "The real truth seems to be, as we find it stated in a letter only two days afterwards, that she absolutely refused to see the Prince of Wales, nor could the Archbishop of Canterbury, when he gave her the
* See the Essay on Bishop Butler in Bagehot's "Estimates."
Memoirs of Horace Walpole, edited by Eliot Warburton, vol. i. (1851).
Reminiscences of the Courts of George the First and Second, ch. vii.
Sacrament, [?] prevail on her, though she said she heartily forgave the Prince. In justice, however, to her memory, we should not forget how recent were the Prince's insults, and how zealously he had seized every occasion to treat her with studied slight and disrespect.
"If, indeed, we could trust the assurances of Horace Walpole, Lord Orford, to Mr. Coxe, we might assert, that the Queen had sent both her forgiveness and her blessing to her son, and said that she would have seen him with pleasure had she not feared to irritate the King. But the authority of Horace Walpole will seldom weigh with a dispassionate historian, unless when confirmed, or, at least, not opposed, by others. As is well observed by Mr. Hallam on another occasion,this want of accuracy or veracity, or both, is so palpable (above all in his verbal communications), that no great stress can be laid upon his testimony." "§
The Queen's last word (her censors should remember) was pray She died at ten on the night of Sunday, the 20th of November (1st December), 1737. According to Lord Hervey, all she said before she died was, "I have now got an asthma. Open the window:"--and then : "Pray." Upon which the Princess Emily began to read some prayers, of which she had scarce repeated ten words before the Queen expired. "The King kissed the face and hands of the lifeless body several times." On the preceding Sunday he had kept talking perpetually to Lord Hervey, the physicians and surgeons, and his children, of the Queen's good qualities, his fondness for her, and the irreparable loss her death would be to him; repeating incessantly that he had never tired in her company one minute; that he was sure he could have been happy with no other woman upon earth for a wife, and that, if she had not been his wife, he had rather have had her for his mistress than any woman he had ever been acquainted with; that she had not only softened all his leisure hours, but been of more use to him as a minister than any other body had ever been to him or to any other prince; that with a patience which he knew he was not master of, she had listened to the nonsense of all the impertinent fools that wanted to talk to him, and had taken all that trouble off his hands; and that there would be no bearing a drawingroom when the only body that ever enlivened it, and one that always enlivened it, was no longer there. Poor woman, how she always found something obliging, agreeable, and pleasing to say to everybody! Comme elle soutenoit sa dignité avec grace, avec politesse, avec douceur !" ||
The King was aware of the organic lesion from which Caroline had been suffering for several years, but which was never told, except to Lady Sundon. The symptoms became very serious on the Sunday fortnight before her death; but she "persisted in concealing the nature and seat of her danger." She often said, indeed, "I have an ill which nobody knows of," but by this she was supposed to mean nothing more than that she felt what she could not describe, and more than anybody imagined. She would not put herself straightforwardly in the way to be cured,
* Mr. Charles Ford to Swift, November 22, 1737. (Mahon, vol. ii. p. 209 3rd edit.)
Coxe's Life, p. 550.
Constit. Hist., vol. iii. p. 383.
See the concluding pages of Lord Mahon's seventeenth chapter.
Lord Hervey's Memoirs, edited by J. W. Croker, vol. ii.
Jan.-VOL. CXXX. NO. DXVII.
But, like the owner of a foul disease,
Mistaken as her course might be, there was a deal of silent heroism about it, first and last. We find Pope writing to Mr. Allen, on the occasion of this decease, that the Queen showed, by the confession of all around her, the utmost firmness and temper to her last moments, and through the course of great torments. "What character historians will allow her, I do not know; but all her domestic servants, and those nearest her, give her the best testimony, that of sincere tears." But the public, adds our Alexander the Great, is always hard: rigid at best, even when just, in its opinion of any one.†
Mr. Thackeray's portrait of Caroline is that of a princess remarkable for beauty, for cleverness, for learning, for good temper-one of the truest and fondest wives ever prince was blest with, and who loved him, and was faithful to him, and whom he, in his coarse fashion, loved to the last. "It must be told to the honour of Caroline of Anspach, that, at the time when German princes thought no more of changing their religion than you of altering your cap, she refused to give up Protestantism for the other creed, although an Archduke, afterwards to be an Emperor, was offered to her for a bridegroom. Her Protestant relations in Berlin were angry at her rebellious spirit; it was they who tried to convert her (it is droll to think that Frederick the Great, who had no religion at all, was known for a long time as the Protestant hero), and these good Protestants set upon Caroline a certain Father Urban, a very skilful Jesuit, and famous winner of souls. But she routed the Jesuit; and she refused Charles VI.; and she married the little Electoral Prince of Hanover, whom she tended with love, and with every manner of sacrifice, with artful kindness, with tender flattery, with entire self-devotion, thenceforward until her life's end." In subsequent paragraphs our Biographical Historian of the Four Georges recurs to the one inscrutable attachment this inscrutable woman had-to which she was faithful through all trial, neglect, pain, and time; and records how, save her husband, she really cared for no created being; was good enough to her children, and even fond enough of them, but would have chopped them all up into little pieces to please him; how perfectly kind, gracious, and natural she was, in her intercourse with all around her, -but then as perfectly so with one set, and the next, and the next to that, as with its predecessors. "If the King wants her, she will smile upon him, be she ever so sad; and walk with him, be she ever so weary; and laugh at his brutal jokes, be she in ever so much pain of body or heart." Well may it be alleged that Caroline's devotion to her husband is a prodigy to And well may we ask with the caustic analyst of the Georgian Era, what charm had the little man? what was there in those wonderful letters of thirty pages long, which he wrote to her when he was absent (and to his mistresses at Hanover, when he was in London with his wife)? Why did Caroline, the most lovely and accomplished Princess of Germany, take a little red-faced staring princeling for a husband, and refuse an emperor? Why, to her last hour, did she love him so? She killed herself because she loved him so. She had the gout, and would plunge
*Hamlet, Act IV. Sc. 1.
† Pope to Allen, Nov., 1737.
her feet in cold water in order to walk with him. With the film of death over her eyes, writhing in intolerable pain, she yet had a livid smile and a gentle word for her master. You have read the wonderful history of that death-bed? How she bade him marry again, and the reply the old King blubbered out, Non, non, j'aurai des maîtresses.' There never was such a ghostly farce. I watch the astonishing scene-I stand by that awful bedside, wondering at the ways in which God has ordained the lives, loves, rewards, successes, passions, actions, ends of his creaturesand can't but laugh, in the presence of death, and with the saddest heart."*
By one author already quoted, it is made a reproach on Queen Caroline that she died as she had lived. By Mr. Carlyle, on the other hand, it is made a commendation. Died as she had lived, he says of her, with a graceful modest courage and endurance; sinking quietly under the load of private miseries long quietly kept hidden, but now become too heavy, and for which the appointed rest was now here. "Little George blubbered a good deal; fidgeted and flustered a good deal. The dying Caroline recommended him to Walpole; advised his Majesty to marry again. Non, j'aurai des maîtresses (No, I'll have mistresses)!' sobbed his Majesty, passionately. Ah, mon Dieu, cela n'empêche pas (that does not hinder)!' answered she, from long experience of the case. There is something stoically tragic in the history of Caroline with her flighty vapouring little King: seldom had foolish husband so wise a wife."+
Some eight years before the Queen's death, Sir Robert Walpole had Lord Chancellor King to dine with him alone one day, and "on this occasion," writes the latter, in his private Journal, "he [Sir Robert] let me into several secrets relating to the King and Queen-that the King constantly wrote to her [from Hanover] by every opportunity long letters of two or three sheets, being generally of all his actions-what he did every day, even to minute things, and particularly of his amours. . . and that the Queen, to continue him in a disposition to do what she desired, returned as long letters, and approved even of his amours scrupling to say that she was but one woman, and an old woman,§ and that he might love more and younger women, and she was very willing he should have the best of them. By which means, and a perfect sub
*The Four Georges.
Why Mr. Carlyle italicises him is manifest from a paragraph in Horace Walpole's Reminiscences, wherein we read that the Queen was constant in her protection of Sir Robert, and that the day before she died she gave a strong mark of her conviction that he was the firmest supporter the King had. "As they two alone were standing by the Queen's bed, she pathetically recommended, not the Minister to the Sovereign, but the Master to the Servant. Sir Robert was alarmed, and feared the recommendation would leave a fatal impression; but a short time after, the King reading with Sir Robert some intercepted letters from Germany, which said that now the Queen was gone, Sir Robert would have no protection: On the contrary,' said the King, 'you know she recommended me to you.' This marked the notice he had taken of the expression; and it was the only notice he ever took of it: nay, his Majesty's grief was so excessive and so sincere, that his kindness to his Minister seemed to increase for the Queen's sake."WALPOLE'S Reminiscences of the Courts, &c., ch. vii.
Carlyle's History of Friedrich II., vol. ii. book x. ch. iv.
At the period in question, 1729, this complaisant wife was but forty-six. She was fifty-four when she died.