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Royalty Restored or London under Charles II
Chapter XVI
by Molloy, J. Fitzgerald


A storm threatens the kingdom.--The Duke of York is touched in his conscience.--His interview with Father Simons.--The king declares his mind.--The Duchess of York becomes a catholic.--The circumstances of her death.--The Test Act introduced.--Agitation of the nation.--The Duke of York marries again.--Lord Shaftesbury's schemes.--The Duke of Monmouth.--William of Orange and the Princess Mary.--Their marriage and departure from England.

Whilst the surface life of the merry monarch sped onward in its careless course, watchful eyes took heed of potent signs boding storms and strife. The storm which shook the kingdom to its centre came anon; the strife which dethroned a monarch was reserved for the succeeding reign. These were not effected by the king's profligacy, indolence, or extravagance, but because of a change in the religious belief of the heir-apparent to the crown.

The cloud, no bigger than a man's hand, which presently spread and overcast the political horizon, was first observed towards the beginning of the year 1669. The Rev. J. S. Clarke, historiographer to George III., chaplain to the royal household, and librarian to the Prince Regent, in his "Life of James II., collected out of Memoirs writ of his own hand," tells us that about this time the Duke of York "was sensibly touched in his conscience, and began to think seriously of his salvation." Accordingly, the historian states, "he sent for one Father Simons, a Jesuit, who had the reputation of a very learned man, to discourse with him upon that subject; and when he came, he told him the good intentions he had of being a catholic, and treated with him concerning his being reconciled to the church. After much discourse about the matter, the Jesuit very sincerely told him, that unless he would quit the communion of the Church of England, he could not be received into the Catholic Church. The duke then said he thought it might be done by a dispensation from the pope, alleging the singularity of his case, and the advantage it might bring to the catholic religion in general, and in particular to those of it in England, if he might have such dispensation for outwardly appearing a protestant, at least till he could own himself publicly to be a catholic, with more security to his own person and advantage to them. But the father insisted that even the pope himself had not the power to grant it, for it was an unalterable doctrine of the Catholic Church, not to do ill that good might follow. What this Jesuit thus said was afterwards confirmed to the duke by the pope himself, to whom he wrote upon the same subject. Till this time his royal highness believed (as it is commonly believed, or at least said by the Church of England doctors) that dispensations in any such cases are by the pope easily granted; but Father Simons's words, and the letter of his holiness, made the duke think it high time to use all the endeavours he could, to be at liberty to declare himself, and not to live in so unsafe and so uneasy a condition.

Inasmuch as what immediately followed touches a point of great delicacy and vast importance, the words of the historian, mainly taken from the "Stuart Papers," are best given here, "His royal highness well-knowing that the king was of the same mind, and that his majesty had opened himself upon it to Lord Arundel of Wardour, Lord Arlington, and Sir Thomas Clifford, took an occasion to discourse with him upon that subject about the same time, and found him resolved as to his being a catholic, and that he intended to have a private meeting with those persons above named at the duke's closet, to advise with them about the ways and methods fit to he taken for advancing the catholic religion in his dominions, being resolved not to live any longer in the constraint he was under. The meeting was on the 25th of January. When they were met according to the king's appointment, he declared his mind to them on the matter of religion, and said how uneasy it was to him not to profess the faith he believed; and that he had called them together to have their advice about the ways and methods fittest to be taken for the settling of the catholic religion in his kingdoms, and to consider of the time most proper to declare himself, telling them withal that no time ought to be lost; that he was to expect to meet with many and great difficulties in bringing it about, and that he chose rather to undertake it now, when he and his brother were in their full strength and able to undergo any fatigue, than to delay it till they were grown older and less fit to go through with so great a design. This he spoke with great earnestness, and even with tears in his eyes; and added, that they were to go about it as wise men and good catholics ought to do. The consultation lasted long, and the result was, that there was no better way for doing this work than to do it in conjunction with France, and with the assistance of his Most Christian majesty." Accordingly the secret treaty with France was entered into, as already mentioned.

No further movement towards professing the catholic religion was made by the king or his brother for some time. The tendencies of the latter becoming suspected, his actions were observed with vigilance, when it was noted, that although he attended service as usual with the king, he no longer received the sacrament. It was also remarked the Duchess of York, whose custom it had been to communicate once a month, soon followed his example. Her neglect of this duty was considered the more conspicuous as she had been bred a staunch protestant, and ever appeared zealous in her support of that religion. Moreover, it was noted that, from the beginning of the year 1670, she was wont to defend the catholic faith from such errors as it had been charged withal.

These matters becoming subjects of conversation at court soon reached the ears of Bishop Morley, who had acted as her confessor since her twelfth year, confession being then much practised in the English Church. Thereon he hastened to her, and spoke at length of the inferences which were drawn from her neglect of receiving the sacrament, in answer to which she pleaded business and ill-health as sufficient excuses. But he, suspecting other causes, gave her advice, and requested she would send for him in case doubts arose in her mind concerning the faith she professed. Being now free from all uncertainties, she readily promised compliance with his desire, and added, "No priest had ever taken the confidence to speak to her on those matters."

The fact that she no longer communicated becoming more noticed as time passed, the king spoke to his brother concerning the omission, when the duke told him she had become a catholic. Hearing this, Charles requested him to keep her change of faith a secret, which was accordingly done, none being aware of the act but Father Hunt, a Franciscan friar, Lady Cranmer, one of her women of the bedchamber, and Mr. Dupuy, servant to the duke. In a paper she drew up relative to her adoption of the catholic religion, preserved in the fifth volume of the "Harleian Miscellany," she professes being one of the greatest enemies that faith ever had. She likewise declares no man or woman had said anything, or used the least persuasion to make her change her religion. That had been effected, she adds, by a perusal of Dr. Heylin's "History of the Reformation;" after which she spoke severally to Dr. Sheldon, Archbishop of Canterbury and Dr. Blandford, Bishop of Worcester, who told her "there were many things in the Roman Church which it was very much to be wished they had kept--as confession, which was no doubt commanded by God; and praying for the dead, which was one of the ancient things in Christianity--that for their parts they did it daily, though they would not own to it."

The duchess pondered over what she had read and heard, and being a woman accustomed to judge for herself, and act upon her decisions, she, in the month of August, 1670 became a member of the Catholic Church, in which communion she died seven months later. For fifteen months previous to her demise she had been suffering from a complication of diseases, with which the medical skill of that day was unable to cope, and these accumulating, in March, 1671, ended her days. The "Stuart Papers" furnish an interesting account of her death. Seeing the hour was at hand which would sever her from all earthly ties, she besought her husband not to leave her whilst life remained. She likewise requested that in case Dr. Blandford or any other of the bishops should come to visit her, he would tell them she had become a member of the Catholic Church; but if they insisted on seeing her she was satisfied to admit them, providing they would not distress her by arguments or controversy.

Soon after she had expressed these desires, Bishop Blandford arrived, and begged permission to see her, hearing which the duke went into the drawing-room, where his lordship waited, and delivered the message with which the duchess had charged him. Thereon the bishop said, "he made no doubt but that she would do well since she was fully convinced, and had not changed out of any worldly end." He then went into the room, and having made "a short Christian exhortation suitable to the condition she was in," took his departure. Presently the queen came and sat by the dying woman, with whom she had borne many wrongs in common; and later on, the Franciscan friar being admitted, the duchess "received all the last sacraments of the Catholick Church, and dyed with great devotion and resignation."

Though no mystery was now made concerning the faith in which she died, the duke, from motives of prudence, continued to preserve the secret of his having embraced the same religion. He still publicly attended service on Sundays with the king, but continued to absent himself from communion. At last, the Christmastide of the year 1672 being at hand, his majesty besought Lord Arundel and Sir Thomas (now Lord) Clifford to persuade the duke to take the sacrament with him, "and make him sensible of the prejudice it would do to both of them should he forbear so to do, by giving the world so much reason to believe he was a catholick." To this request these honest gentlemen replied it would be difficult to move the duke to his majesty's desires; but even if they succeeded, it would fail to convince the world his royal highness was not a catholic. With these answers Charles seemed satisfied; but again on Christmas Eve he urged Lord Clifford to advise the duke to publicly communicate on the morrow. His royal highness, not being so unscrupulous as the king, refused compliance with his wishes.

The following Easter he likewise refrained from communicating. Evelyn tells us that "a most crowded auditorie" had assembled in the Chapel Royal on this Sunday; possibly it had been drawn there to hear the eloquence of Dr. Sparrow, Bishop of Exeter--probably to observe the movements of the king's brother. "I staied to see," writes Evelyn, "whether, according to costome, the Duke of York received the communion with the king; but he did not, to the amazement of everybody. This being the second year he had forborn and put it off, and within a day of the parliament sitting, who had lately made so severe an act against ye increase of poperie, gave exceeding griefe and scandal to the whole nation, that the heyre of it, and ye sonn of a martyr for ye Protestant religion, should apostatize. What the consequence of this will be God only knows, and wise men dread."

That the nation might no longer remain in uncertainty concerning the change the duke was suspected to have made, a bill, commonly called the "Test Act," was, at the instigation of Lord Shaftesbury, introduced into the House of Commons, on its reassembling. In substance this set forth, that all persons holding office, or place of trust, or profit, should take the oaths of supremacy and allegiance in a public court; receive the sacrament according to the Church of England in some parish church on the Lord's Day; and deliver a certificate of having so received communion, signed by the respective ministers and church-wardens, and proved by two credible witnesses on oath. After prolonged debates upon this singular bill, it was passed through both houses of parliament, and received a reluctant consent from the king. [This act continued in force until the reign of George IV.]

A great commotion followed the passing of this Act. Immediately the Duke of York resigned his post of lord high admiral of England. Suspicion now became certainty; he was truly a papist. His enemies were elated with triumph, his friends dejected by regret. Before public feeling had time to subside, it was thoroughly startled by the news that Lord Clifford, who was supposed to be a staunch protestant, had delivered up his staff of office as lord treasurer; and Lord Bellasis and Sir Thomas Strickland, papists both, "though otherwise men of quality and ability," had relinquished their places at court. The king was perplexed, the parliament divided into factions, the nation disturbed. No man knew who might next proclaim himself a papist. As days passed, excitement increased; for hundreds who held positions in the army, or under the crown--many of whom had fought for the king and his father--by tendering their resignations, now proved themselves slaves of what a vigorous writer calls the "Romish yoke: such a thing," he adds, "as cannot, but for want of a name to express it, be called a religion."

Public agitation steadily rose. Evelyn tells us, "he dare not write all the strange talk of the town." Distrust of the king, fear of his brother, hatred of popery and papists, filled men's minds and blinded their reason with prejudice. That the city had seven years ago been destroyed by fire, in accordance with a scheme of the wicked Jesuits, was a belief which once more revived: the story of the gunpowder plot was again detailed. Fearful suspicions sprang up and held possession of the vulgar mind, that the prosecutions suffered by protestants under Queen Mary might be repeated in the reign of the present monarch, or of his brother. That heaven might defend the country from being overrun by popery, the House of Commons besought his majesty to order a day of fasting and humiliation. And by way of adding fury to the gathering tempest, the bishops, Burnet states, "charged the clergy to preach against popery, which alarmed the court as well as the city, and the whole nation."

The king therefore complained to Dr. Sheldon, Archbishop of Canterbury, that the discourse heard in every pulpit throughout the capital and the kingdom was "calculated to inflame the people, and alienate them from him and his government. "Upon which Dr. Sheldon called the bishops together, that he might consult with them as to what answer he had best make. Whereon these wise men declared "since the king himself professed the protestant religion, it would be a thing without a precedent that he should forbid his clergy to preach in defence of a religion, while he himself said he was of it." The next action which served to inflame public prejudice against catholicism, was the marriage of the Duke of York to a princess professing that faith.

Soon after the death of his wife, it was considered wise and well his royal highness should marry again. Of the four sons and four daughters the duchess had borne him, three sons and one daughter had died before their mother, and the surviving son and another daughter quickly followed her to the tomb; therefore, out of eight children but two survived, Mary and Anne, at this time respectively aged nine and seven. It being desirable there should be a male heir-presumptive to the crown, the king was anxious his brother should take unto himself a second wife. And that a lady might be found worthy of the exalted station to which such a union would raise her, the Earl of Peterborough was sent incognito to report on the manners and appearance of the princesses of the courts of Neuburg and of Modena. Not being impressed by the merits of those belonging to the former, he betook himself to the latter, where, seeing the young Princess d'Este, then in her fifteenth year, he came to the conclusion no better choice could be made on behalf of the duke than this fair lady. On communicating this opinion to his royal highness and to his majesty, the king commissioned him to demand the hand of the princess in marriage for his brother.

Difficulties regarding this desired union now arose. The young lady, having been bred in great simplicity and ignorance, had never heard of such a country as England, or such a person as the Duke of York; and therefore had no mind to adventure herself in a distant land, or wed a man of whom she knew nought. Moreover, she had betrayed an inclination to spend her days in the seclusion of a convent, and had no thought of marriage. Her mother, the Duchess of Modena, then regent, by reason of her husband's death and her son's minority, was anxious for so advantageous an alliance. And being unable to gain her daughter's consent, she sought the interference of the pope, who wrote to the young princess, that compliance with her mother's request would "most conduce to the service of God and the public good." On this, Mary Beatrice Eleonora, Princess d'Este, daughter of the fourth Duke of Modena, consented to become Duchess of York. Whereon the Earl of Peterborough made a public entry into Modena, as ambassador extraordinary of Charles II.; and having agreed to all the articles of marriage, wedded her by proxy for the royal duke.

Meanwhile, news that the heir to the crown was about to wed a papist spread with rapidity throughout the kingdom, carrying alarm in its course. If sons were born of the union, they would, it was believed, undoubtedly be reared in the religion of their parents, and England in time became subject to a catholic king. The possibility of such a fate was to the public mind fraught with horror; and the House of Commons, after some angry debates on the subject, presented an address to the king, requesting he would abandon this proposed marriage. To this he was not inclined to listen, his honour being so far involved in the business; but notwithstanding his unwillingness, his councillors urged him to this step, and prayed he would stop the princess, then journeying through France on her way to England. This so incensed him that he immediately prorogued parliament, and freed himself from further interference on the subject.

On the 21st of November, 1673, the future duchess landed at Dover, where the duke awaited her, attended by a scant retinue. For the recent protestations, made in the House of Commons against the marriage, having the effect of scaring the courtiers, few of the nobility, and but one of the bishops, Dr. Crew of Oxford, ventured to accompany him, or greet his bride. On the day of her arrival the marriage was celebrated, "according to the usual form in cases of the like nature." The "Stuart Papers" give a brief account of the ceremony. "The Duke and Duchess of York, with the Duchess of Modena her mother, being together in a room where all the company was present, as also my Lord Peterborough, the bishop asked the Duchess of Modena and the Earl of Peterborough whether the said earl had married the Duchess of York as proxy of the duke? which they both affirming, the bishop then declared it was a lawful marriage."

This unpopular union served to strengthen the gathering storm; Protests against popery were universally heard; an article in the marriage settlement, which guaranteed the duchess a public chapel, was broken; and the duke was advised by Lord Berkshire to retire into the country, "where he might hunt and pray without offence to any or disquiet to himself." This counsel he refused to heed. Until his majesty should command him to the contrary, he said, he would always attend upon him, and do such service as he thought his duty and the king's security required of him. His enemies became more wrathful at this reply, more suspicious of popery, and more fearful of his influence with the king, They therefore sought to have him removed from his majesty's councils and presence by act of parliament.

Consequently, when both Houses assembled on the 7th of January, 1674, the lords presented an address to the monarch, praying he would graciously issue a proclamation, requiring all papists, or reputed papists, within five miles of London, Westminster, or Southwark, to depart ten miles from these respective cities, and not return during this session of Parliament. A few days afterwards an act was introduced into the House of Commons proposing a second test, impossible for catholics to accept, the refusal of which would not only render them incapable of holding any office, civil or military, or of sitting in either House of Parliament, but "of coming within five miles of the court." This unjust bill, to which, if it passed both houses, Charles dared not refuse assent, threw the court and country into a state of renewed excitement. Knowing it was a blow levelled at the duke, his friends gathered round him, determined to oppose it by might and main; and after great exertions caused a clause to be inserted excepting his royal highness from the test. This was ultimately carried by a majority of two votes, which, says Clarke, "put the little Earl of Shaftesbury so out of humour, that he said he did not care what became of the bill, having that proviso in it."

This noble earl, who was chief among the royal duke's enemies, was a prominent figure in the political history of the time. Mr. Burnet tells us his lordship's strength lay in the knowledge of England, and of all considerable men. "He understood," says the bishop, "the size of their understandings and their tempers; and he knew how to apply himself to them so dexterously, that though by his changing sides so often it was very visible how little he was to be depended on, yet he was to the last much trusted by all the discontented party. He had no regard to truth or justice." As rich in resources as he was poor in honour, he renewed a plan for depriving the Duke of York from succession to the crown; which, though it had failed when formerly attempted, he trusted might now succeed. This was to declare the Duke of Monmouth the king's legitimate son and heir to the throne of England, a scheme which the ambitious son of Lucy Walters was eager to forward.

His majesty's affection for him had strengthened with time, and his favours had been multiplied by years. On the death of the Duke of Albemarle, Captain General of the Forces, Monmouth had been appointed to that high office; and some time later had been made General of the Kingdom of Scotland, posts of greatest importance. Relying on the monarch's love and the people's admiration for this illegitimate scion of royalty, Lord Shaftesbury hoped to place him on the throne. As the first step necessary in this direction was to gain his majesty's avowal of a union with Lucy Walters, he ventured on broaching the subject to the king; at which Charles was so enraged that he declared, "much as he loved the Duke of Monmouth, he had rather see him hanged at Tyburn than own him as his legitimate son." There was, however, another man engaged in a like design to the noble earl, who, if not less scrupulous, was more daring.

This was one Ross, a Scotsman, who had been made governor of the young duke on his first coming into England, and who had since acted as his friend and confidant. Now Ross, who had not failed to whisper ambitious thoughts into his pupil's head, at this time sought Dr. Cosin, Bishop of Durham, and according to the "Stuart Papers," told him "he might do a great piece of service to the Church of England in keeping out popery, if he would but sign a certificate of the king's marriage to the Duke of Monmouth's mother, with whom that bishop was acquainted in Paris. Ross also told the bishop, to make the thing more easy to him, that during his life the certificate should not be produced or made use of." The same papers state that, as a bishop's certificate is a legal proof of marriage, Dr. Cosin's compliance would have been invaluable to the duke and his friends. His lordship, however, rejected the proposition, and laid the matter before the king, who expelled Ross from court.

Horror of popery and fear of a papist sovereign increased with time, care having been taken by my Lord Shaftesbury and his party that the public mind, once inflamed, should be kept ignited. For this purpose he spread reports abroad that the Irish were about to rise in rebellion, backed by the French; and that the papists in London had entered into a vile conspiracy to put their fellow citizens to the sword on the first favourable opportunity. To give this latter statement a flavour of reality he, assuming an air of fright, betook himself one night to the city, and sought refuge in the house of a fanatic, in order, he said, that he might escape the catholics, who had planned to cut his throat.

A tempest, dark and dangerous, was gathering fast, which the court felt powerless to subdue. The king's assurance to parliament that "he would endeavour to satisfy the world of his steadfastness for the security of the protestant religion," had little avail in soothing the people. Many of them suspected him to be a catholic at heart; others knew he had accepted the bounty of a country feared and detested by the nation. Deeds, not words, could alone dispel the clouds of prejudice which came between him and his subjects; and accordingly he set about the performance of such acts as might bring reconciliation in their train.

The first of these was the confirmation, according to the Protestant Church, of the Lady Mary, eldest daughter of the Duke of York, and after him heir presumptive to the crown; the second and more important was the marriage of that princess to William of Orange. This prince was son of the king's eldest sister, and therefore grandson of Charles I. As a hero who, by virtue of his statesmanship and indomitable courage, had rescued Holland from the hateful power of France, he was regarded not only as the saviour of his country, but as the protector of protestantism. Already a large section of the English nation turned their eyes towards him as one whom they might elect some day to weald the sceptre of Great Britain. Subtle, ambitious, and determined, a silent student of humanity, a grave observer of politics, a sagacious leader in warfare, he had likewise begun to look forward towards the chances of succeeding his uncle in the government of England--in hopes of which he had been strengthened by the private overtures made him by Shaftesbury, and sustained by the public prejudices exhibited against the Duke of York.

The proposed union between him and the heiress presumptive to the crown was regarded by the nation with satisfaction, and by the prince as an act strongly favouring the realization of his desires for sovereignty. Cold and grave in temperament, sickly and repulsive in appearance, blunt and graceless in manner, he was by no means an ideal bridegroom for a fair princess; but neither she nor her father had any choice given them in a concern so important to the pacification of the nation. She, it was whispered at court, had previously given her heart to a brave young Scottish laird; and her father, it was known, had already taken an instinctive dislike to the man destined to usurp his throne. In October, 1677, the Prince of Orange came to England, ostensibly to consult with King Charles regarding the establishment of peace between France and the Confederates; but the chief motive of his visit was to promote his marriage, which had some time before been proposed, and owing to political causes had been coolly received by him. Now, however, his anxiety for the union was made plain to the king, who quickly agreed to his desires. "Nephew," said he to the sturdy Dutchman, "it is not good for man to be alone, and I will give you a help meet for you; and so," continues Burnet, "he told him he would bestow his niece on him."

The same afternoon the monarch informed his council that "the Prince of Orange, desiring a more strict alliance with England by marriage with the Lady Mary, he had consented to it, as a thing he looked on as very proper to unite the family, and which he believed would be agreeable to his people, and show them the care he had of religion, for which reason he thought it the best alliance he could make." When his majesty had concluded this speech, the Duke of York stepped forward, and declared his consent to the marriage. He hoped "he had now given a sufficient testimony of his right intentions for the public good, and that people would no more say he designed altering the government in church or state; for whatever his opinion on religion might be, all that he desired was, that men might not be molested merely for conscience' sake."

The duke then dined at Whitehall with, the king, the Prince of Orange, and a noble company; after which he returned to St. James's, where he then resided. Dr. Edward Luke, at this time tutor to the Lady Mary, and subsequently Archdeacon of Exeter, in his interesting manuscript diary, informs us that on reaching the palace, the duke, with great tenderness and fatherly affection, took his daughter aside, "and told her of the marriage designed between her and the Prince of Orange; whereupon her highness wept all that afternoon and the following day." Her tears had not ceased to flow when, two days after the announcement of her marriage, Lord Chancellor Finch, on behalf of the council, came to congratulate her; and Lord Chief Justice Rainsford, on the part of the judges, complimented her in extravagant terms.

This union, which the bride regarded with so much repugnance, was appointed to take place on the 4th of November, that date being the bridegroom's birthday, as likewise the anniversary of his mother's nativity. Dr. Luke gives a quaint account of the ceremony. "At nine o'clock at night," he writes, "the marriage was solemnized in her highness's bedchamber. The king; who gave her away, was very pleasant all the while; for he desired that the Bishop of London would make haste lest his sister [the Duchess of York] should be delivered of a son, and so the marriage be disappointed. And when the prince endowed her with all his worldly goods [laying gold and silver on the book], he willed to put all up in her pockett, for 'twas clear gains. At eleven o'clock they went to bed, when his majesty came and drew the curtains, saying, 'Hey! St. George for England!'"

For a time both court and town seemed to forget the trouble and strife which beset them. Bonfires blazed in the streets, bells rang from church towers, the populace cheered lustily; whilst at Whitehall there were many brilliant entertainments. These terminated with a magnificent ball, held on the 15th instant, the queen's birthday; at the conclusion of this festivity the bride and bridegroom were to embark in their yacht, which was to set sail next morning for Holland. For this ball the princess had "attired herself very richly with all her jewels;" but her whole appearance betrayed a sadness she could not suppress in the present, and which the future did not promise to dispel. For already the bridegroom, whom the maids of honour had dubbed the "Dutch monster" and "Caliban," had commenced to reveal glimpses of his unhandsome character; "and the court began to whisper of his sullennesse or clownishnesse, that he took no notice of his princess at the playe and balle, nor came to see her at St. James', the day preceding that designed for their departure."

The wind being easterly, they were detained in England until the 19th, when, accompanied by the king, the Duke of York, and several persons of quality, they went in barges from Whitehall to Greenwich. The princess was sorely grieved, and wept unceasingly. When her tutor "kneeled down and kissed her gown" at parting, she could not find words to speak, but turned her back that she might hide her tears; and, later on, when the queen "would have comforted her with the consideration of her own condition when she came into England, and had never till then seen the king, her highness replied, 'But, madam, you came into England; but I am going out of England.'"

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