Page images

The total disappearance of Königsmarck, which was gradually to set in motion one of those extraordinary volumes of rumour that in the end make their theme everybody's business, remained unnoticed for a few days. On July 3 Cresset reports from Celle that the ‘Electoral Prince

continues at Berlin, and the Princess sick at Hanover. On the 13th, however, the Secretary of Legation, Kpatchbull, writes that “the foul business at Hanover grows rather

worse than better, and may have fatal consequences. On the 20th he says that his chief will write about this business, but there is no reference to it by Cresset till the 27th, when he shows his dependence upon hearsay by repeating some wild rumours as to Königsmarck being still alive. By this time inventive brains were at work to deepen the mystery, and Lewis XIV. himself condescended to worry the Duchess of Orleans by questioning her at table whether the least probable version of it was founded on fact. Before long the passionate exertions of the lost man's sisters, and more particularly of Aurora, in whose personal fortunes these transactions proved the turning-point, had all but fanned the agitation which arose into a conflict between Saxony and Hanover. But this violent inquiry into Königsmarck's fate collapsed, with most of the fictions to which it had given rise, * before the stolid dignity of the Hanoverian Government. Everything was done to efface the remembrance of his having been received at the Elector's Court or held a commission in the Electoral army. He was to be as one who had not been, and so, unless reliance is to be placed on Horace Walpole's ghastly tittle-tattle,f he remained.

Meanwhile the Electoral Princess had been removed to the magistrate's house at Ahlden, a lonely 'castle' or

sertions of the whose personad all but fann

* The most elaborate and futile of these, according to which Königsmarck was, after a long detention, induced to commit semipublic suicide, was afterwards retailed by Aurora's son, the Marshal de Saxe. See the extract from his Memoirs, ap. Weber, u.s.

+ See Reminiscences of the Court of George I. and George II.' as to the discovery in the Palace at Hanover, under the floor of the Electoral Princess's dressing-room, of remains which were identified as Königsmarck's. "The discovery,' says Walpole, was hushed up; George II. entrusted the secret to Queen Caroline, who told it to my father.' Walpole, whose account of the catastrophe itself is quite imaginary, introduces some superfluous inaccuracies by confounding Königsmarck with his elder brother, and entitling Sophia Dorothea Duchess of Halle.'

grange on the Aller, some twenty miles from Hanover, but in the Celle territory. On August 14 Cresset mentions that he has been several times shooting with the Duke just under the walls of the house where his daughter is confined. His rescript to Bothmer, already mentioned, accounts for her detention there by the statement that when the Princess had refused to await her husband's return at Hanover, and her parents had declined to receive her, they had directed her to remain at Ahlden, which, it was boldly asserted, lay 'on the way' between the two capitals. Her lady-in-waiting, the document continued, had at the Duke's request been placed under arrest at Hanover. On this flimsy substructure the divorce suit which was hereupon, after consultation between the Hanover and Celle Governments, instituted against the Princess was, with the aid of unscrupulous statesmen and servile judges, brought to the desired issue. But there are unmistakeable signs that efforts had in the first instance been made, both in the examination of the confidante and otherwise, to secure evidence of a different kind against the Princess. A fragmentary memorandum among the papers used for the judicial inquiry takes joint note of the disappearance of Königsmarck and of the arrest of Fräulein von dem Knesebeck; and another note refers to letters received by her, her sister, and Königsmarck in the course of the previous three months. Manifestly, both those who directed and managed the divorce proceedings and those to whom a full knowledge of them was communicated or descended, suspected the relations between the Princess and the Count, and concurred in burying these suspicions in silence.*

From the incomplete series of records which have accidentally been preserved of the proceedings connected with the divorce of Sophia Dorothea we know that the sentence of the Special Court was pronounced on the ground of her wilful desertion of her husband, re-marriage being prohibited in her case as tbat of the guilty party. Throughout the course of the inquiry she had confessed to no act of infidelity, but had steadily, and as if assured that this and nothing else was expected of her, adhered to her declared

* We have no space left for entering into these transactions or the history of the suit; but they have alike been subjected to a searching inquiry by Dr. Köcher. We now also know that after the disappearance of Königsmarck Sophia Dorothea herself, in ignorance of his fate, was trying to intervene on his behalf. See the letter cited from • Zeitschr. d. histor. Ver. für Nieders.,' 1882, by Beaucaire, p. 143, resolution not to live with the Prince any more. On December 31, 1694, she accepted the sentence, and a month later she wrote to her former husband, and to his mother, beseeching them to pardon her past faults, and humbly entreating the favour of being allowed to see her children. So much was never granted to her. She had by this time been again brought from Lauenau, in Hanover, whither she had been removed at the time of the divorce case, to the

castle' at Ahlden. Here, as is known, she spent with brief intervals the remaining thirty-two years of her life in a barely disguised captivity. She was no longer a member of the Electoral (destined many years before her death to become a royal) family, but was called the Duchess of Ahlden from the estate on which she was confined, and over which certain formal rights were granted to her. She saw her mother again, who survived till 1722, but not her father, who died in 1705. When her own death befel at last, on November 13, 1726, King George I. prohibited a general mourning in the electorate, though Celle, of which she had remained a princess, now formed part of it. With this exception, he is not known to have ever taken note of her name. Nor, notwithstanding the gossip to the contrary, is there any evidence to gainsay Lord Hervey's statement that King George II. never mentioned his mother. *

A few attempts have been made to deck out the long last act of her melancholy story with unauthenticated anecdotes. But neither such aids as these, nor even the impression that a buoyant spirit was here gradually laid low, are needed to move our pity for a broken life. If, as we believe, Sophia Dorothea, much sinned against, had not herself been free from guilt, there are few but will hold it to have been, humanly speaking, expiated by her long years of solitude and suffering.

* Memoirs of the Reign of George II., vol. ii. p. 542, where see Croker's shrewd, but over-confident, conclusions.

ART. IV.-1. Hunting. By the DUKE OF BEAUFORT and MOWBRAY MORRIS. 7th edit. Badminton Library. Lon

don: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1894. 2. The Pytchley Hunt, Past and Present. By H. O. NETHER

COTE. London: Sampson Low & Co., 1888. 3. The Quorn Hunt and its Masters. By WILLIAM C. A. BLEW.

London: John C. Nimmo, 1899. 4. The History of the Belvoir Hunt. By T. F. DALE. London:

Archibald Constable & Co., 1899. 5. The Essex Hounds. By RICHARD FRANCIS BALL and

TRESHAM GILBEY. London: Bailey & Co., 1900. 6. Kings of the Hunting Field. By THORMANBY.' London:

Hutchinson & Co., 1899. 7. Hunting. By J. Otho PAGET. “Haddon Hall Library.'

London: J. M. Dent & Co., 1900. W e owe fox-hunting, like many other cherished institu

' tions, to the eighteenth century. The varied pleasures of the chase had long engaged the attention of the people of England. Most of our wild animals had, in turn, been hunted, and some completely exterminated. But all hunting, at a very early period, ceases to be a means of supplying food or clothing. It becomes a recreation which to many men is the most delightful amusement that the world affords. In this country five beasts are still regularly pursued with hounds—the red and the fallow deer, the fox, the otter, and the hare. Of these the fox now stands ahead of all the others as a beast of the chase. About three hundred packs of hounds are to-day maintained solely for its pursuit. It is impossible to calculate, even roughly, how many thousands are each year, directly or indirectly, spent upon fox-hunting. The sport is considered by foreigners the characteristic amusement of the British. It has been introduced at a few places on the Continent where Englishmen pass the winter. The Duke of Wellington, during the Peninsular campaign, kept a pack of hounds at head-quarters, and imitated Edward III., who, during his French wars, had with him no less than one hundred and twenty couple of hounds. But while the Duke of Wellington hunted foxes, Edward pursued the stag and the hare, for the diverting pleasures of fox-hunting had not yet been discovered. In fact our great national sport is of very modern growth; and fox-hunting, as we understand it to-day, was unknown before the beginning of

the eighteenth century. Once the merits of the fox as a beast of the chase were brought to light the sport made rapid progress. We propose to examine its origin and trace its early history.

The early writers on the art of hunting are very numerous. They begin with William Twici, the huntsman of Edward II. They end with Peter Beckford, the famous author of

Thoughts upon Hunting,' who may be said to begin the modern school. The earlier writers are, for the most part, silent upon the subject of hunting foxes. When the fox is mentioned it is as a marauder who is to be destroyed by the easiest means at hand. To place nets over the entrance of the earth, to smoke out the inmates, and kill them with clubs was considered an excellent method. Where dogs were employed it was only to bolt the fox and chase him from one hole to another. Gervase Markham (who published his Country Contentments' in 1611) says of the fox and badger that they are chases of a great deal less use or cunning than any of the others. Richard Blome (who published his

Gentleman's Recreation’ in 1683) regards the chase of the fox as not so full of diversity as that of the hare. Other writers hold the same, or like, language; and it does not appear that foxes were up to that time ever pursued on horseback. In many parts of the country the parish records show that a price was set upon the fox's head, and that a small reward was paid by the parish authorities for each fox's mask or brush which was brought to be nailed to the church door. It is clear that in the seventeenth century vulpicide was not recognised as an offence. As to this we have the opinion of the Solicitor-General in 1641. It is true,' said he in his speech against Strafford before the House of Lords, that 'we give law to hares and deer, because they are beasts of chase; but it was never accounted either cruelty or foul play to knock foxes and wolves on the head as they can be found, because they are beasts of prey.

Although we cannot pretend to trace any connexion between the two, the rise of fox-hunting and the great Whig revolution were almost contemporaneous. The former is a sport which seems to have been discovered by chance, and to have spread because the country had become suitable and there was a large class of country gentlemen with opportunities for pursuing it. The eighteenth-century country life, among which fox-hunting sprang up, was more rustic than anything we can now picture to ourselves. The surface of the country was little intersected by roads. Travel was

« PreviousContinue »