« PreviousContinue »
marriage, were illegitimate, and incapable of inheritance.
But this was by no means the circumstance in this delicate affair, which made the most considerable impression on the public mind. What excited the greatest sensation was, that Mrs. Fitzherbert was educated in the principles of the Roman Catholic religion. She might have retracted those principles, it was said ; but was that retraction, it was rejoined, even supposé ing it had been made, worthy to be believed? There were not wanting those who believed, or were willing to have it thought so, that the marriage ceremony had been actually solemnized; and a pamphlet was written by a man of no slight vigour and subtlety of parts (Mr. John Horne Took) to shew, that the royal marriage act itself was a nullity, and consequently, that Mrs. Fitzherbert was absolutely mar
ried to the Prince of Wales, she became ipso facto Princess of Wales, by which style she was addressed throughout his performance.
The act of settlement, by which the house of Brunswick was called to the British throne, expressly declared a prince, who married a Catholic, incapable of inheriting the throne. But this provision it might be urged was made at a time when we had just reason to apprehend danger from the intrigues of the Catholics against the established religion of the country; but now that those intrigues were no longer to be feared the provision was of course to be regarded as obsolete.
It is scarcely, however, to be credited, how deep an impression was made by this supposed marriage on the minds of many well-meaning individuals. They saw in their prospects into futurity every reason to expect the horrors of a civil war; and in their zeal for our civil and religious liberties some of them were ready, in case of the demise of the sovereign, to have taken up arms against his natural successor, by way of antidote and precaution.
Among this number more particularly was Lord George Gordon,* then
* Lord George Gordon on his trial commented with great freedom on the connection supposed to have taken place between Mrs. Fitzherbert and the Prince of Wales. On being in. terrogated whât particular motive he had for wishing to have the benefit of that lady's testi. mony, he replied, that he had conversation with Mrs. Fitzherbert in Paris, relative to some in. trigues of the French and British courts, which Jie wished that lady to substantiate. Previous to his trial, his lordship called at Mrs. Fitzherbert's house in order to serve a subpæna upon her, but was turned out of doors by her servants. The newspapers of the day, adverting to this circumstance, observed, 6 that Lord George Gordon caused a letter to be delivered to Mr. Pitt, before he went to the house, acquainting him, that he had received a visit from Mr. Walter Smyth, brother to Mrs. Fitzherbert, accompanied by GORDON." Mr. Smyth and Mr. Aston were afterwards brought into the King's Bench, and obliged to enter into securities to keep the peace towards Lord George Gordon,
under prosecution in the court of king's bench, for a libel on the Queen of France and Count d’Adhemar, ambassador from the court of Versailles. His fanaticism, which in the
1780 had burnt with such memorable and destructive zeal against the Catholics, now took fresh alarm, and, on the rumour of a marriage between a Catholic lady and the heir apparent, pro
Mr. Aston, threatening to call him to an account if he went to Mrs. Fitzherbert's again, or took liberties with her name; to this he made answer, that he must still apply to Mrs. Fitzherbert, to himself, or to Sir Carnaby Haggerstone, till a written answer was sent concerning the just title of their sister, just as if he had not called upon him."
Ile concludes, I think it my duty to inform you, as prime minister, with this circum. stance, that you may be apprised of, and com. municate to the House of Commons, the overbearing disposition of the papists. 66 I have the honour to be,
bably would have flamed out into fresh excesses, equally pernicious and dangerous as his former ones, had the spirit of the times been the same.
But the dreadful riots of 1780, in which he bore so conspicuous a part, and which were then fresh in every one's recollection, were too recent for the populace to be propelled by a similar cause to similar acts of violence; and Lord George Gordon had lost much of his favour as a popular demagogue, by certain eccentricities in his behaviour, though he had not then embraced the Mosaic ritual, which nearly altogether alienated the attachment of his former adherents. But, notwithstanding the disadvantages which this once popular and formidable leader now laboured under, it is certain that the notice he took of the connection between the Prince of Wales and Mrs. Fitzherbert caused that affair to be more particu