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.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Queen Anne

Wynnstay: Dec. 1838.—I have been dipping into the ' Political State of England' of the year 1714, at the account of the death of Queen Anne, in which several things have astonished me; but none so much as the statement that, from the suddenness of her seizure, her state during the short time that she survived it, &c. &c., she died without 'being able to receive the holy Viaticum!'

In this publication, which seems evidently the parent of our ' Annual Register,' I am surprised to see how little appearance of regret was shown for a sovereign who, weak and foolish as she was, had a most prosperous and even glorious reign—for a woman to whom all parties, I believe, have given the credit of good intentions.

However, certain it is that the sure thermometer of British public feeling, the Funds, rose upon her first apoplectic seizure, fell the day when there seemed to be a rally and an expectation of prolonged existence, and rose again the following day when she died. A few months before she had written a very harsh letter to the Electress Sophia, which is said to have hastened the death of that princess, who died of apoplexy just three months before Queen Anne.

The orders for the mourning are curious: for six months the order is for the deepest mourning (long cloaks excepted ; query, were the women to wear the close cap of widows ?)—' that no person whatsoever, for the first six months, use any escutcheons of armes or armes painted on their coaches, nor use any varnished or bullion nails to be seen on their coaches or chairs.'

The anniversary of the landing of King William was of course then, as now, kept; but much more is said of that (the l7th Nov.) of the happy inauguration of Queen Elizabeth's glorious memory; houses illuminated, bonfires in the streets, &c.; which, by the bye, three month after the death of Queen Anne, when everybody was in this deepest mourning, must have had a queer effect.

Queen Anne had a larger and more noble household then Queen Victoria. Groom of the Stole and Lady of the Robes, Duchess of Somerset; Lady Privy Purse Mrs. (Lady) Masham. Ten Ladies of the Bed-chamber —three of whom were duchesses, and five countesses.*

Editor’s note
* It appears from Lady Cowper’s Diary that the situation of Lady of the Bedchamber to Caroline, Princess of Wales, was a prize eagerly contested by duchesses.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Pretender at the Coronation

Polnitz in his 'Memoirs' (vol. iii. p. 254) gives a contemporary account of the incident at the coronation of George I., which Sir W. Scott has in ' Bed Gauntlet' introduced as taking place at that of George III.; and I remember to have read it also in some of the publications of the former period thus :

Immediately after the champion's challenge, a lady's glove was thrown from the gallery containing a written defiance, and an invitation to the ring in Hyde Park for the following day. At the appointed time a considerable crowd was assembled. No champion appeared, but there was an old woman observed moving round different parts of the circle, supposed to be a noted swordsman in disguise. The following note is by my brother Charles.

'My grandmother often repeated to me the account which she had herself received from Lady Primrose of Charles Edward's visit to London in 1750 (a letter from the historian Hume to Sir J. Pringle, published in "Gentleman's Magazine," May 1788, relating the same incident, assigns to this visit the date 1753).*

She described her consternation when Mr. Browne (the name under which he was to go) was announced to her in the midst of a card party, among whom were many who she felt might have seen him abroad and would very probably recognise him. Her cards almost dropped from her hands, but she recovered herself, and got him out of the room as quickly as she could. He slept at her house that night only, and afterwards went to that of a merchant in the city. The impression he left on the mind of Lady Primrose, a warm and attached partisan, was by no means favourable.

I have read myself among the Stuart papers a minute of the heads of a manifesto in Charles Edward's own handwriting, among which appeared, "My having in the year 1750 conformed to the Church of England in St. James's Church." Some idea may be formed of the extent of the panic felt at the time of his advance to Derby from the account given by an old workman at Wotton, of his having at that period assisted in burying by night all the family plate in the garden.—C. W. W. W.'

The recantation here mentioned is a circumstance quite new to me, and seems to remove the only one redeeming point among the many base ones which marked the character of Charles Edward. I always thought he had, like the rest of his unfortunate race, been a sincere bigot. His weakness and cowardice seemed to be proved beyond a doubt. In the letter above quoted in the ' Gentleman's Magazine,' Hume says that Helvetius assured him that, when Charles Edward embarked at Nantes for the Scotch expedition (1745), he took fright, and would not go on board; and his attendants, ' thinking the matter had gone too far, &c. &c., 'literally carried him into the ship by night
pieds et poings lies.''

It is a singular proof of the forbearance of the reigning family, and also of the fidelity of the adherents of the fallen race, that even now the real character of Charles Edward is so little generally known. The veil thrown over the drunken dissolute close of his career seems never to have been fully withdrawn by any English writer; and even Alfieri attached, probably married, to the woman who had certainly been unhappy and much ill used by Charles while she was his wife, is unwilling to speak of him or his brother, laudare non li potendo, ni li volendo biasimare, but tells enough to prove him an odious and brutal monster.

I do not understand how, among the many Italian tourists who have indulged us with so many histories of bad fare, hard beds thickly inhabited, there has not been one who has enriched his pages with some of the many traditions still extant, still easily authenticated, at Florence and Rome, referring to the two last Stuarts.
They were the last; therefore there could not now be any objection; and though the records could not be very interesting, they would probably sell.**

Editor's notes
* Hurne speaks of a second visit on the authority of Lord Hulderness, and adds, ' You see this story is so near traced from the fountain-head as to wear a great trace of probability. Query, what if the Pretender had taken up Dymock's gauntlet ? ' Miss Strickland, in her Life of Mary II., says, ' This incident has been told as a gossip's tale pertaining to every coronation of the last century which took place while an heir of James II. existed. If it ever took place, it must have been at the coronation of William and Mary. That there was a pause at this part of the ceremony of above two hours, and that when the champion appeared the gauntlet was heard to he thrown, hut nothing that was done could be seen on account of the darkness of the evening, all this rests upon the authority of Lamberty, the historian and diplomatist,'
** Since this was written, the most complete exposure has been made in a book, a thin quarto printed in 1843 for the Roxburgh Club by Earl Stanhope, entitled The Decline of the Last Stuarts -Extracts from the Despatches of British Envoys to the Secretary of State.