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


The King's character.--His proverbial grace.--He tells a story well.--"A warmth and sweetness of the blood."--Beautiful Barbara Palmer.--Her intrigue with my Lord Chesterfield.--James, Duke of York.--His early days.--Escape from St. James's.--Fights in the service of France.--Marriage with Anne Hyde.--Sensation at Court.--The Duke of Gloucester's death.--The Princess of Orange. --Schemes against the Duke of York's peace.--The "lewd informer."--Anne Hyde is acknowledged Duchess of York.

Whilst the kingdom was absorbed by movements consequent on its change of government, the court was no less engrossed by incidents relative to the career it had begun. In the annals of court life there are no pages more interesting than those dealing with Charles II, and his friends; in the history of kings there is no more remarkable figure than that of the merry monarch himself.

Returning to rule over a nation which, during his absence, had been distracted by civil strife, King Charles, young in years, brave in deeds, and surrounded by that halo of romance which misfortune lends its victims, entirely. gained the hearts of his subjects. Nature had endowed him with gifts adapted to display qualities that fascinated, and fitted to hide blemishes which repelled. On the one hand his expressive features and shapely figure went far towards creating a charm which his personal grace and courtesy of manner completed; on the other, his delicate tact screened the heartlessness of his sensualism, whilst his surface sympathies hid the barrenness of his cynicism.

With the coolness and courage he had shown in danger, the shrewdness and wit he continually evinced, and the varied capacities he certainly possessed, Charles II. might have made his reign illustrious, had not his love of ease and detestation of business rendered him indifferent to all things so long as he was free to follow his desires. But these faults, which became grievous in the eyes of his subjects, commended him to the hearts of his courtiers, the common purpose of whose lives was pursuit of pleasure. Never was sovereign more gracious to those who came in contact with him, or less ceremonious with his friends; whilst abroad he had lived with his little band of courtiers more as a companion than a king. The bond of exile had drawn them close together; an equal fortune had gone far towards obliterating distinctions of royalty; and custom had so fitted the monarch and his friends to familiarity, that on his return to England neither he nor they laid aside a mutual freedom of treatment which by degrees extended itself throughout the court. For all that, "he was master," as Welwood says, "of something in his person and aspect that commanded both love and admiration at once."

Among his many gifts was that of telling a story well--a rare one 'tis true in all ages. Never was he better pleased than when, surrounded by a group of gossips, he narrated some anecdote of which he was the hero; and, though his tales were more than twice told, they were far from tedious; inasmuch as, being set forth with brighter flashes of wit and keener touches of irony, they were ever pleasant to hear. His conversation was of a like complexion to his tales, pointed, shrewd, and humorous; frequently--as became the manner of the times--straying far afield of propriety, and taking liberties of expression of which nice judgments could not approve. But indeed his majesty's speech was not more free than his conduct was licentious. He could not think, he gravely told Bishop Burnet, "God would make a man miserable for taking a little pleasure out of the way." Accordingly he followed the free bent of his desires, and his whole life was soon devoted to voluptuousness; a vice which an ingenious courtier obligingly describes as a "warmth and sweetness of the blood that would not be confined in the communicating itself--an overflowing of good nature, of which he had such a stream that it would not be restrained within the banks of a crabbed and unsociable virtue."

The ease and freedom of his continental life had no doubt fostered this lamentable depravity; for his misfortunes as an exiled king by no means prevented him following his inclinations as an ardent lover. Accordingly, his intrigues at that time were numerous, as may be judged from the fact of Lady Byron being described as "his seventeenth mistress abroad." The offspring of one of his continental mistresses was destined to plunge the English nation into civil warfare, and to suffer a traitor's death on Tower Hill in the succeeding reign.

"The profligacy which Charles practised abroad not being discontinued at home, he resumed in England an intrigue commenced at Brussels a short time before the restoration. The object of this amour was the beautiful Barbara Palmer, afterwards, by reason of her lack of virtue, raised to the peerage under the titles of Countess of Castlemaine, and Duchess of Cleveland. This lady, who became a most prominent figure in the court of the merry monarch, was daughter of William, second Viscount Grandison, a brave gentleman and a loyal, who had early in life fallen in the civil war whilst fighting for his king. He is described as having, among other gifts, "a faultless person," a boon, which descended to his only child, the bewitching Barbara. In the earliest dawn of her womanhood she encountered her first lover in the person of Philip Stanhope, second Earl of Chesterfield. My lord was at this time a youthful widower, and is described as having "a very agreeable face, a fine head of hair, an indifferent shape, and a pleasant wit. He was, moreover, an elegant beau and a dissolute man--testimony of which latter fact may be gathered from a letter written to him in 1658, by his sister-in-law, Lady Essex, to prevent the "ruin of his soule." Writes her ladyship: "You treate all the mad drinking lords, you sweare, you game, and commit all the extravagances that are insident to untamed youths, to such a degree that you make yourselfe the talke of all places, and the wonder of those who thought otherwise of you, and of all sober people."

When Barbara was sixteen, my lord, then in his twenty-third year, inherited the title and estates of his grandfather: he therefore became master of his own fortune and could bestow his hand where he pleased. That he was in love with Barbara is, indeed, most true; but that his passion was dishonourable is likewise certain: for though he wrote her letters full of tenderness, and kept assignations with her at Butler's shop, on Ludgate Hill, he was the while negotiating a marriage with one Mrs. Fairfax, to whom he was not, however, united. His intrigue with Barbara continued for upwards of three years, when it was temporarily suspended by her marriage to one Roger Palmer, a student of the Inner Temple, the son of a Middlesex knight, and, moreover, a man of the most obliging temper, as will hereafter be seen. Barbara's loyalty to her husband was but of short duration. Before she had been nine months a wife, we find her writing to her old lover she is "ready and willing to goe all over the world" with him--a sacrifice he declined to accept! though eager to take advantage of the affection which prompted it. A little while later he was obliged to quit England; for it happened in the first month of the year 1660 he quarrelled with and killed one Francis Woolley, a student at law, to avoid the consequences of which act he speedily fled the country.

Arriving at Calais, he wrote to King Charles, who was then preparing to return, throwing himself on his mercy, and beseeching his pardon; which the king granting, Lord Chesterfield sought his majesty at Brussels. Soon afterwards Barbara Palmer and her complaisant husband, a right loyal man, joined the king's court abroad, when the intrigue begun which was continued on the night of the monarch's arrival in London. True the loyal PARLIAMENTARY INTELLIGENCER stated "his majesty was diverted from his pious intention of going to Westminster to offer up his devotions of prayer and praise in publick according to the appointment of his Majesty, and made his oblations unto God in the presence-chamber;" but it is, alas, equally certain, according to Oldmixon, Lord Dartmouth, and other reliable authorities, he spent the first night of his return in the company of Barbara Palmer. From that time this abandoned woman exercised an influence over the king which wholly disgraced his court, and almost ruined his kingdom.

Another prominent figure, whose history is inseparable from the king's, was that of his majesty's brother, James, Duke of York--a man of greater ambition and lesser talents than the merry monarch, but one whose amorous disposition equalled the monarch's withal. At an early period of his life the Duke of York was witness of the strife which divided his unhappy father's kingdom. When only eight years old he was sent for by Charles I. to York, but was forbidden by the Parliament to leave St. James's Palace. Despite its commands he was, however, carried to the king by the gallant Marquis of Hereford. That same year the boy witnessed the refusal of Sir John Hotham, Governor of Hull, to admit his majesty within the gates; and James was subsequently present at the siege of Bristol, and the famous battle of Edgehill, when his life at one period of the engagement was in imminent peril.

Until 1646 he continued under the guardianship of his father, when, on the entrance of Fairfax into Oxford, the young duke was found among the prisoners, and by Cromwell's orders committed to the charge of Sir George Ratcliffe. A few months later he was removed to St. James's Palace, when in company with his brother, the Duke of Gloucester, and his sister, the Princess Elizabeth, he was placed under the care of Lord Northumberland, who had joined the Republican cause.

Though by no means treated with unkindness, the young duke, unhappy at the surveillance placed upon his actions and fearful of the troubles quickly gathering over the kingdom, twice sought escape. This was a serious offence in the eyes of Cromwell's Parliament; a committee was accordingly sent to examine him, and he was threatened with imprisonment in the Tower. Though only in his fourteenth year he already possessed both determination and courage, by reason of which he resolved to risk all danger, and make a third effort for freedom. Accordingly he laid his plans with much ingenuity, selecting two men from those around him to aid his undertaking. These were George Howard and Colonel Bamfield. The latter had once served in the king's army, but when the fortunes of war had gone against his royal master, had professed himself friendly to the Republicans. No doubt the young duke saw the gallant colonel was still true at heart to the Royalist cause, and therefore trusted him at this critical juncture.

Now for a fortnight previous to the night on which he designed to escape, James made it his habit to play at hide-and-seek every evening after supper with his brother and sister, and the children of the officers then located in the palace; and in such secure places did he secrete himself that his companions frequently searched for over half an hour without discovering him. This of course accustomed the household to miss him, and was cunningly practised for the purpose of gaining time on his pursuers when he came to be sought for in good earnest.

At last the eventful night fixed for his escape arrived; and after supper a pleasant group of merry children prepared to divert themselves in the long dark halls and narrow winding passages of the grim old palace. James, as usual, proposed concealing himself, and leaving his companions for the purpose, disappeared behind some arras; but, instead of hiding, he hastened to his sister's chamber, where he locked up a favourite dog that was in the habit of following his footsteps wherever he went, and then noiselessly slipped down a back stairs which led to an inner garden. Having taken care to provide himself with a key fitting the garden door, he quickly slipped into the park. Here he found Colonel Bamfield waiting, who, giving him a cloak and a wig for his better disguise, hurried him into a hackney coach, which drove them as far as Salisbury House in the Strand. From thence they went through Spring Garden, and down Ivy Lane, when, taking boat, they landed close by London Bridge. Here entering the house of a surgeon friendly to their adventure, they found a woman named Murray awaiting them, who immediately provided a suit of woman's wearing apparel for the young duke, in which she helped to attire him. Dressed in this costume he, attended by the faithful Bamfield, hastened to Lion Quay, where they entered a barge hired for their conveyance to a Dutch frigate stationed beyond Gravesend.

Meanwhile, the children not being able to discover their playfellow in the palace, their elders became suspicious of the duke's escape, and began to aid the search. Before an hour elapsed they were convinced he had fled, and St. James's was thrown into a state of the utmost excitement and confusion. Notice of his flight was at once despatched to General Fairfax at Whitehall, who immediately gave orders have all the roads from London guarded, especially those leading to the north; for it was surmised he would in the first instance seek to escape into Wales. The duke, however, had taken a safer course, but one which was not unattended by danger. He had not sailed far in the barge when its master became suspicious that he was aiding the escape of some persons of consequence, and became frightened lest he should get into trouble by rendering them his services. And presently his surmise was converted into certainty; for looking through a cranny of the barge-room door, he saw the young woman fling her leg on the table and pull up her stocking in a most unmaidenly manner. He therefore at once peremptorily declared to Colonel Bamfield they must land at Gravesend, and procure another boat to carry them to the ship; for it would be impossible for the barge to pass the block-house lower down without being observed, and consequently inspected, as was the custom at this troubled time. On hearing which Colonel Bamfield was filled with dismay; but, knowing that at heart the people were loyal towards the Stuarts, he confided the identity of his passenger, and begged him not to betray them in this hour of peril. To give his appeal further weight, he promised the fellow a considerable sum if they safely reached the frigate; for human nature is weak, and greed of gold is strong. On this, the bargee, who was a loyal man, promised he would help them to the best of his powers; the lights were therefore extinguished, the oars drawn in, and, the tide fortunately answering, the barge glided noiselessly down under cover of night, and passed the block-house unobserved. In good time they reached the frigate, which, the duke and Colonel Bamfield boarding, at once set sail, and in a few days landed them at Middleburgh. James proceeded to the court of his sister, the Princess of Orange, and later on joined his mother in France.

At the age of twenty he served in the French army, under Turenne, against the Spanish forces in Flanders, and subsequently in several campaigns, where he invariably showed himself so brave and valiant that the Prince de Conde declared that if ever there was a man without fear, it was James, Duke of York. Now it happened that in 1658 the Princess of Orange went to Paris in order to visit the queen mother, as the widow of Charles I. was called. The Duke of York was in the gay capital at this time, and it soon became noticed that he fixed his attention overmuch on one of his sister's maids of honour, Anne Hyde. This gentlewoman, then in her twenty-first year, was the possessor of a comely countenance, excellent shape, and much wit. Anne was daughter of Edward Hyde, a worthy man, who had been bred to the law, and proved himself so faithful a servant to Charles I., that his majesty had made him Privy Councillor and Chancellor of the Exchequer. After the king's execution, in 1649, the chancellor thought it wise for himself and his family to seek refuge in exile, and accordingly joined Charles II., with whom he lived in the closest friendship, and for whose return he subsequently negotiated with General Monk.

Now James, after his fashion, made love to Mistress Hyde, who encouraged his advances until they reached a certain stage, beyond which the judicious maiden forbade them to proceed unless blessed by the sanction of holy church. The Duke, impatient to secure his happiness, was therefore secretly united to Mistress Hyde in the bonds of matrimony on the 24th of November, in the year of grace 1659, at Breda, to which place the Princess of Orange had returned. In a little while, the restoration being effected, the duke returned to England with the king, leaving his bride behind. And Chancellor Hyde being presently re-established in his offices, and settled in his residence at Worcester House in the Strand, sent for his wife and children; the more speedily as he had received an overture from a noble family, on behalf of "a hopeful, well-bred young gentleman," who expressed himself anxious to wed with Mistress Anne.

The same young lady had not long returned, when she informed her husband she was about to become a mother; whereon the duke, seeking the king, fell upon his knees before him, laid bare his secret, and besought him to sanction his union, "that he might publicly marry in such a manner as his majesty thought necessary for the consequence thereof;" adding that, if consent were refused, he would "immediately take leave of the kingdom and spend his life in foreign parts." King Charles was astonished and perplexed by this confession. James was heir, and as such it behoved him to wed with one suited, by reason of her lineage, to support the dignity of the crown, and calculated by her relation towards foreign powers to strengthen the influence of the throne. The duke was fully aware of this, and, moreover, knew he could without much difficulty have his marriage annulled; but that he did not adopt this course was an honourable trait in his character; and, indeed, his conduct and that of the king was most creditable throughout the transactions which followed; an account of which is set forth with great minuteness in the "Continuation of Edward Hyde, Lord Clarendon's Life."

Without the advice of his council, the king could give no satisfactory reply to his brother. He therefore summoned two of his trusty friends, the Marquis of Ormond and the Earl of Southampton, whom he informed of the duke's marriage, requesting them to communicate the same to the chancellor, and return with him for private consultation. The good man's surprise at this news concerning his daughter was, according to his own account, exceeding great, and was only equalled by his vast indignation. His loyalty towards the royal family was so fervent that it overlooked his affection to his child. He therefore fell into a violent passion, protested against her wicked presumption, and advised that the king "should immediately cause the woman to be sent to the Tower, and to be cast into a dungeon, under so strict a guard that no person should be admitted to come to her; and then that an act of parliament should be immediately passed for the cutting off her head, to which he would not only give his consent, but would very willingly be the first man that should propose it." All this he presently repeated to the king, and moreover, assured him an example of the highest severity, in a case so nearly concerning himself, would serve as a warning that others might take heed of offences committed against his regal dignity.

News of this marriage spread throughout the court with rapidity, and caused the utmost excitement; which in a little while was somewhat abated by the announcement that the king's youngest brother, Henry, Duke of Gloucester, was taken ill of small-pox. This young prince, who is described as "a pretty boy," possessed parts which bade fair to surpass his brothers. He was indeed associated by his family with their tenderest memories, inasmuch as he had been with his father on the sad day previous to his execution. On that melancholy occasion, Charles I. had taken him upon his knee, and said to him very tenderly, "Sweetheart, they will cut off thy father's head," at which the boy shuddered and turned pale. "Mark, child, what I say," continued the unhappy king, "they will cut off my head, and, perhaps, make thee a king; but mark what I say, you must not be made king as long as your brothers Charles and James are alive, for they will cut off thy brothers' heads when they catch them, and cut off thy head at last; and therefore I charge you not to be made a king by them." To which the lad replied very earnestly) "I will be torn in pieces first." Sometime after the death of his father he was allowed to join his family in France, and, like his brother James, entered the army of that country. On the restoration, he had returned with the king, and, three months later, this "prince of very extraordinary hopes" died, grievously lamented by the court, and especially by his majesty, who declared he felt this loss more than any other which had previously fallen upon him.

Scarcely had he been laid to rest in the vault containing the dust of Mary Queen of Scots and Lady Arabella Stuart, when the Princess of Orange arrived in England to pay the king a visit of ceremony. No sooner was she settled at court, than rumour of her brother's marriage reached her; on which she became outrageous; but her wrath was far exceeded by that of the queen mother, who, on hearing the news, wrote to the duke expressing her indignation "that he should have such low thoughts as to marry such a woman." The epistle containing this sentence was at once shown by James to his wife, whom he continually saw and spent much time with, unknown to her father, who had given orders she should keep her chamber. Parliament now sat, but no mention was made of the duke's marriage by either House; and, inasmuch as the union so nearly concerned the nation, this silence caused considerable surprise. It was surmised the delay was made in deference to the feelings of the queen mother, who at this juncture set out for England, to prevent what she was pleased to term "so great a stain and dishonour to the crown." The king regarded his brother's alliance in a lenient spirit, and not only spoke of it frequently before the court, but expressed his desire of bringing the indiscretion to a, happy conclusion by a public acknowledgment.

The queen mother, being an ambitious woman, had cherished certain schemes for extending the power of her family by the respective marriages of her sons, which the duke's union was, of course, calculated to curtail. She therefore regarded his wife with the bitterest disdain. Whenever that woman should be brought into Whitehall by one door, her majesty declared she would leave it by another and never enter it again. The marriage was rendered all the more disagreeable to the queen, because the object of her son's choice was daughter of the lord chancellor, whose influence over Charles II. had frequently opposed her plans in the past, and threatened to prevent their realization in the future. The monarch, however, paid little attention to his mother's indignation. He was resolved no disgrace which he could hinder should fall upon the family of one who had served him with disinterested loyalty; and, by way of proving his friendship towards the chancellor on the present occasion, he, before setting out to meet his mother on her arrival at Dover, presented him with twenty thousand pounds, and left a signed warrant for creating him a baron, which he desired the attorney-general to have ready to pass the seals at his return.

In the meantime a wicked plot, for the purpose of lessening James's affection for his wife, and ultimately preventing the acknowledgment of his marriage, was promoted by the chancellor's enemies and the duke's friends, principal amongst whom were the Princess of Orange and Sir Charles Berkley, "a fellow of great wickedness," Sir Charles was his royal highness's most trusted friend, and was, moreover, devoted to the service of the princess and her mother. He therefore determined to hinder the duke from taking a step which he was of opinion would injure him irretrievably. Accordingly, when James spoke in confidence concerning his marriage, Sir Charles told him it was wholly invalid, inasmuch as it had taken place without the king's consent; and that a union with the daughter of an insignificant lawyer was not to be thought of by the heir to the crown. Moreover, he hinted he could a tale unfold regarding her behaviour. At this the duke became impatient to hear what his good friend had to say; whereon that valiant gentleman boasted, with an air of bravery and truth, of certain gallantries which had passed between him and the lady. On hearing this, James, being credulous was sorely depressed. He ceased to visit his wife, withdrew from general company; and so well did Sir Charles's scheme succeed, that before the queen's arrival, the duke had decided on denying his marriage with one who had brought him dishonour. The king, however, put no faith in these aspersions; he felt sure "there was a wicked conspiracy set on foot by villains."

It therefore happened the queen was spared the trouble she had anticipated with her son; indeed, he humbly begged her pardon for "having placed his affections so unequally, of which he was sure there was now an end"--a confession most gratifying to her majesty. The duke's bitter depression continued, and was soon increased by the death of his sister, the Princess of Orange, which was occasioned by smallpox on the 23rd of December, 1660. In her last agonies Lord Clarendon says "she expressed a dislike of the proceedings in that affair, to which she had contributed too much." This fact, together with his royal highness's unhappiness, had due weight on Sir Charles Berkley, who began to repent of the calumnies he had spoken. Accordingly, the "lewd informer" went to the duke, and sought to repair the evil he had wrought. Believing, he said, such a marriage would be the absolute ruin of his royal highness, he had made the accusation which he now confessed to be false, and without the least ground; for he was very confident of the lady's honour and virtue. He then begged pardon on his knees for a fault committed out of pure devotion, and trusted the duke would "not suffer him to be ruined by the power of those whom he had so unworthily provoked, and of which he had so much shame that he had not confidence to look upon them."

James was so much relieved by what he heard that he not only forgave Sir Charles, but embraced him, and promised him protection. Nor did his royal highness longer withhold the reparation due to his wife, who, with the approval of the king and the reluctant consent of the queen, was received at court as Duchess of York. Such was the romance connected with the marriage of her who became mother of two English queens--Mary, wife of William of Orange, and Anne, of pious memory.

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