« PreviousContinue »
apathy he, on different occasions, discovered to the lady's open infidelity, “ neither angry with rivals, nor in the least nice as to being beloved,” substantiate this opinion. The mode in which his intimacy with the French lady (afterwards Dutchess of Portsmouth) commenced, and her introduction at Whitehall, are extremely, characteristic of all the parties concerned. The Duke of Buckingham had fallen out with the Dutchess of Cleveland, and, after attempting to detach the king from her, by leading him to form various new connexions, he finally met with an auxiliary, who did the business effectually. Having observed the “ king pay particular attention to a certain Mad. Querouaille, a maid of honour to madame, his sister, at the time when he went to meet the latter at Dover, he said to him " that it was only a decent piece of tenderness for his sister, to take care of some of her servants. So the king consented to invite her over. The duke also, when at Paris, assured the King of France, that he could never reckon himself secure of his master, but by giving him a mistress that should be true to his interest. The matter being settled, Buckingham sent her, with part of his baggage, to Dieppe, and said he would presently follow; but being, of all men, the most inconstant and forgetful, he never thought of her more, and went to England, by the way of Calais. Hearing of this, the ambassador, Mountague, sent over for a yacht for her; and despatched some of his servants to wait on her, and defray her charges till she was brought to Whitehall : and then Lord Arlington took care of her. Thus did Buckingham bring over a mistress, whom his own strange and capricious conduct threw into the hands of his enemies. The king was presently taken with her, and she studied to please and observe him in every thing. Mr. Evelyn often saw them, on her first arrival at Euston, a seat of Lord Arlington's, where he said, “ it was with confidence believed she was first made a misse, as they call those unhappy creatures, with solemnity," the stocking having been flung after the manner of a married bride. “ Nay, it was said that I was present at the ceremony, but it is utterly false.” He acknowledges to have seen fondness and toying enough with that young wanton, as he unceremoniously calls her; but though he had observed all passages with sufficient curiosity, he saw no. thing more. Though generally held to be one of the prime beauties of the day, she appeared to him of a childish, simple, and baby face. The king passed away the rest of his life in great fondness for her, and kept her at an enormous charge; she, by many fits of sickness, some real, and others thought only pretended, gaining of him every thing she desired. With what success she had acted her part with the royal lover, we may form some conception, from another passage of Evelyn, dated so late as 1683 :
“Following his majesty this morning through the gallery, I went with the few who attended him into the Dutchess of Portsmouth's dressing-room within her bed-chamber, 'when she was in her morning loose garment, her maids combing her, newly out of bed, his majesty and gallants standing about her: but that which engaged my curiosity, was the rich and splendid furniture of this woman's apartment, now twice or thrice pulled down to satisfy her prodigal and expensive pleasures, whilst her majesty's does not exceed some gentlemen's ladies, in furniture and accommodation.”
She was not, however, absolutely without a rival in his favour and affections. Madame de Sevigné, speaking of her in one of her letters, says, " she amasses treasure, and makes herself feared and respected by as many as she can. But she did not foresee, that she should find a young actress in her way, whom the king doats on; and she has it not in her power to withdraw him from her. He divides his care, his time, and his health, between these two. The actress is as haughty as Mademoiselle : she insults her, she makes grimaces at her, she attacks her, she frequently steals the king from her, and boasts whenever he gives her the preference. She is young, indiscreet, confident, wild, and of an agreeable humour. She sings, she dances, and she acts her part with a good grace. .... This creature gets the upper-hand, and discountenances and embarrasses the dutchess extremely.” The lively young lady was no other than Mrs. Ellen Gwyn, whom Burnet, with more than usual gaiety, characterizes as “ the wildest and indiscreetest thing that ever was in a court;" who acted all persons in a lively manner, and was such a constant diversion to the king, that even a new mistress could not drive her away. The Duke of Buckingham told him, that when she was brought to the king, she asked only £500 a year, and the king refused it. But at the time he told him this, four years after her first introduction, she had got of the king above £60,000.
In Charles's extravagant expenditure of money, there was a singular compound of parsimony and profusion. “ While he sacrificed all things to his mistresses, he would use to grudge, and be uneasy at their losing a little of it again at play, though ever so necessary for their diversion. Nor would he venture five pounds to those who might obtain as many thousands, either before he came thither, or as soon as he left off*.” He sometimes, however, ventured deeper.
* Sheffield Duke of Buckingham's Character.
Mis from Francat that tineugh
the under ung of h; but it, but",
“ 6th Jan. 1622.- This evening, according to custom, his majesty opened the revels of that night, by throwing the dice himself, in the privy-chamber, where was a table set on purpose, and lost his £100.-(The year before he won £1500.) — The ladies also played very deep. I came away when the Duke of Ormond had won about £1000, and left them still at passage cards,” &c.
The only occasion on which Charles evinced any thing like jealousy and passion in love, was at the time he paid court to Miss Steward, whom the queen's mother had brought over with her from France. To the repeated infidelities of the Dutchess of Cleveland, at that time the reigning favourite, he was perfectly callous; even though one of them, by the artifice of Buckingham, was brought under his own observation, the party concerned leaping out of the window. She was a woman of great beauty, says Burnet, but most enormously vicious and ravenous; foolish, but imperious ; very uneasy to the king, and speaking of him, to all persons, in a manner that brought him under general contempt; always carrying on intrigues with other men, while yet she pretended to be jealous of him. Her abuse, infidelity, and the libels of all sorts, which she circulated freely, gave him no concern; but Miss Steward gained so much upon him, and yet kept her ground with so much firmness, that he seemed to meditate legitimatizing his addresses to her, if possible, since he saw no hope of succeeding any other way. She was courted by the Duke of Richmond; and the king, hoping to break that matter secretly, pretended to take mighty care of her interests, and would have good settlements made her, which, he well knew, the duke was in no condition to do. He was told, whether false or true, that Lord Clarendon had advised the lady to consider well before she rejected the duke. It was hinted he did this in order to reserve the succession to the crown to his own grand-children, whose prospects any new marriage of the king's would most effectually blight. At length the lady was prevailed upon to leave Whitehall privately, and marry the duke, without giving his imajesty notice.
It happened that the Earl of Clarendon's son, Lord Cornbury, was going to her lodgings, upon some assignation she had given him about her affairs. He met the king in the door-way, coming out full of fury; and the latter immediately suspecting that Lord Cornbury was in the design, spoke to him, as one in a rage, that forgot all decency, and, for some time, would not hear him speak in his defence. It is said, that this incident made so deep an impression upon the king's mind, that from that time he resolved to take the seals from Lord Claren
beforat Lord ondition de
other timany tokens of instance we kn
don.”* This is the only instance we know, of his having exhibited any tokens of what might be called passion; at all other times his love appears to have been an easy, gentle, and quiet sort of sensation, which never disturbed that tranquillity of spirits he was so careful to maintain, or gave him the least annoyance. Indeed he was not a man of strong passion at all,
-he neither hated nor loved,—nor sought revenge,-nor pursued ambitious schemes with any degree of vehemence or energy. To use the expression of Sheffield, he sauntered through life, and hated, above all things, to be obliged to alter or mend his pace.
The time, which was not devoted to attendance on his ladies, or to business, (the latter need hardly have been mentioned, it was too inconsiderable) he spent in walking in the park, where he usually exercised himself for three or four hours, at a pace, which made it difficult to all about him to keep up with him. Whilst his brother's levees were crowded, and his anti-chambers full, Charles had scarce company about him to entertain him ; and he walked about with only a small body train of necessary attendants, whilst the duke had a vast and splendid following. This drew a lively reflection from Waller, the celebrated wit. He said “the House of Commons had resolved, that the duke should not reign after the king's death : but the king, in opposition to them, was resolved he should reign even during his life.”
. His habits, indeed, and pleasures, were all, except in the sumptuousness in which he frequently indulged, those of a private individual, and he had many little petit amusements, which are usually held below the notice of a sovereign. “He took delight," says Evelyn, “ in having a number of little spaniels follow him, and lie in his bed-chamber, where often he suffered the bitches to puppy and give suck, which rendered it very offensive, and, indeed, made the whole court nasty and stinking." Another amusement was to stock the canal, which formed a decoy, in St. James's Park, with various kinds of wild fowl, which Evelyn has been at the pains to enumerate; and to feed them with his own hand, was one of his daily pleasures: He used to maintain, that, take one day with another, and you may be out more days in the open air in England, than in any other country in Europe, and his own practice illustrated his doctrines, for he rarely allowed himself to be deprived of his daily exercise. When, however, the weather made it impossible, or when lameness, as in the last year of his
life confined him within doors, he spent much of his time in his laboratory, (for he was a great chemist,) where he employed himself in running a process for the fixing of mercury. In the evenings on ordinary days, he had his companions in private, to make him merry, at the Dutchess of Portsmouth's, Chiffinch's and Bess May's !* It may appear superfluous thus minutely to particularize his habits and amusements, but we know not whether the character of a man is not as clearly manifested in the little detail of private life, as in the more important concerns of public business. Charles II. and his grandfather Henry IV. are the only monarchs of our acquaintance who appear to have possessed the power of stripping themselves entirely of their royalty, and taking up the habits, and along with them the feeling, and comforts, and sympathies, of private individuals. It was the ambition of each, whilst sitting on a throne, and swaying the sceptre of a mighty kingdom, to live as happily and pleasantly as any of their subjects; nor during these intervals of privacy did uneasy recollections of their own importance and grandeur ever obtrude themselves upon their quiet: but here all comparison ends ; Charles was adapted by nature for the sphere of a private gentleman, and for that only--whilst Henry, equally well fitted to shine in the domestic circle, was, as soon as he had stepped out of it, formed to play the part of the greatest of kings.
To conclude this account of Charles's private life and habits, with a brief description of his person, may not be unacceptable to the reader.
“ Of a tall stature, and of sable hue,
sings Andrew Marvell in doggrel rhyme; and what is wanting to complete the picture is supplied by Evelyn, from whom we learn, that his countenance was “ fierce, his voice great, proper of person, every motion became him.” “He was,” says Sheffield, “ an illustrious exception to all the common rules of physiognomy; for, with a most saturnine harsh sort of countenance, he was both of a merry and merciful disposition.”— The first we allow—the last we deny—but here, for the present, we will terminate the discussion; and, as the life of the merry monarch is a fruitful source of varied and powerful interest, with leave of the reader, we will resume the inquiry at a more convenient season.
* Wood's Athena.
VOL. VII. PART I.