Friday, August 25, 2006

The Emperor Nicholas

Extract from a letter to Miss Williams Wynn, dated ‘St Petersburg’ Feb 2, 1826

We are here in the midst of most interesting events. The accounts given in the newspapers respecting the Empress mother heading the troops, or taking any steps to cover the ‘pusillanimous’ Nicholas, are totally without foundation. He showed himself worthy of his situation by the courage and presence of mind he displayed.

At one moment, he was alone conversing with and explaining to the peasants the reasons for their being called on to take a new path, when his aide-de-camp said in his ear, ‘Come away, you might be surrounded by assassins; some of the troops marching up belong to the mutineers.'

The Emperor immediately mounted his horse, and in a loud voice called to his aide-de-camp in Russian, to lead those troops (pointing to the mutineers) to the place du senat (the place to which he saw them marching); to place the Paulofsky here, the 2nd regiment there, the Dragoons here, &c. &c. and added in a low voice in French, 'Ne faites rien; je ne sais pas encore sur lequel des regimens je
dois compter.'

It was a trying moment, and had the attack been made two hours later, we should probably not have seen the end of it so soon.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Touching the King's Evil

Feb. 1839.—Found at Bodryddan* in the sermons of Bishop Bull, who died 1710, one on St. Paul's Thorn in the flesh; and the following passage :—
'The gift of miracles, and particularly the gift of curing diseases without natural medicine, was so given by Christ to His Apostles as not to be at their absolute disposal, but to be dispensed by them as the driver should think fit. St. Paul, though as great a worker of miracles as any of the Apostles—though he even raised the dead to life, yet could not cure himself of that thorn in the flesh, that painful disease which Satan, by God's permission, had inflicted on him.

Hereby it appears, that this gift of God was so bestowed on the Apostles that they could not exercise it arbitrarily and at their own pleasure, but only when, where, how, and on whom God pleased to direct them to use that power, that so the glory of all the wonderful cures wrought by them might at last redound to God the author, and not to man the instrument.

And perhaps this is the best account that can be given of the relique and remnant of the. primitive gift of healing for some hundreds of years past, visible in our nation, and annexed to the succession of our Christian kings. I mean the cure of that otherwise incurable disease, the King's Evil. That divers persons desperately labouring under it have been cured by the touch of the royal hand, assisted by the prayers of the priests of our Church attending, is unquestionable, unless the faith of all ancient writers and these consentient reports of hundreds of the most credible persons in our own age, attesting the same, be questioned.

And yet, they say, some of the persons return from that sovereign remedy re infecta. How comes that to pass ? God hath not given this gift of healing so absolutely to our royal line, but that He still keeps the reins of it in His own hands, to let them loose or restrain them as He pleaseth.'

In Brady's Clams Calendaria, I find :—
'Edward the Confessor was the first monarch of this country who possessed the privilege, alleged to have been continued to his successors, and to have been practised by them till the accession of the House of Brunswick, of curing that dreadful malady the King's Evil.'

In another part of the same work, from the ' Mercurius Politicus' of June 28,1660, is quoted the account of the ceremony, concluding in this manner: "His Majesty (Charles I.) stroked above 600; and such was his princely patience and tenderness to the poor afflicted creatures, that though it took up a very long time. His Majesty, who is never wearied with well-doing, was pleased to enquire whether there were any more who had not yet been touched."

My brother Charles supposes that in those times it was of great importance to keep up every ceremony which could tend to establish the divine right of the reigning family. Thus he explains the unaccountable credulity of Bishop Bull, asserting the existence of the miracle instead of adopting the line of conduct now so universally practised by the more enlightened of the Roman clergy, who walk in processions, send their mules to be blessed, nay, even crawl up the Scala Santa, professing that they do not believe in the efficacy of any of these mummeries, but are afraid of shocking the weak consciences of the ignorant by omitting them.

Upon the same principle Charles supposes that George I. was unwilling to subject his disputed title to the crown to a test so likely to fail. At the same time, I am inclined to believe that the angel of gold which the King tied round the neck of the patient must in many instances have proved a very efficacious remedy.
Editor's note
* The seat of William Shipley Gonway, Esq. (her nephew), near St. Asaph.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Old-fashioned manners

Sir William Williams, my great-grandfather, seems to have been addressed by his children, and dependants with much more respect than we have lately seen evinced in writing to the Queen. The tutor of his sons always writes from Oxford of my grandfather as My Master, of his brother as Mr. Robert, and addresses Sir William as 'Your Honour.'

In 1714 my grandfather writes for Sir J. Wynn,
'He has desired me to acquaint you that, if you approve of it, he would be highly glad if you could meet us at St. Albans to conduct us into town, for he is the most apprehensive of danger betwixt that place and London of any; he is by no means for my staying in London any longer than the Mellins are delivered, and if possible, to return to Barnet or Highgate that night, but hope, sir, you will send him word that it is not practicable for me to return sooner than the Monday following, suppose we come in Friday or Saturday night.

The noise of our going is spread all about the country, and somebody has told 'him that Prichard the Highwayman is gone abroad, which makes him under ye greater concern, so would gladly have returns for some parte.
' Dear Sir,
'Your ever dutiful son,
' wat. williams.'

In a letter dated 'Duke Street, January 30, 1729,'
he says—
'Nothing spoken of but ye great acconomy at St. James's, there are so many astonishing instances that it would be too tedious and something dangerous to mention them — the great man is in ye judgement of mankind in a very uneasy situation. Stocks fell very much upon ye publishing ye treaty of peace. Her Majesty is very uneasy at ye English ladies for going so fine ; she says they rivall even majesty itself.

And, forsooth, if waiting women in this country go as fine as German princesses, she would therefore have none but noblemen's ladies wear silk, and none jewells, nor laces—stuffs full good enough for country gentlemen's wives, and every servant maid to wear a badge of her profession on her shoulder. The Queen wears calf-skin shoes, and the eldest princess scour'd deaths, and ye youngest patched coats.