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much ground of complaint as the King had in regard to Madame de Saint-Georges; and we cannot but feel pity for her, when we remember that she was still a mere girl of sixteen years of age, in a foreign country, and among a people and in a Court alien in religion and language, and with only her own French attendants to whom she could look for any assistance or sympathy.
That in these circumstances, she should sometimes have behaved injudiciously is not surprising, especially when we consider the difficult position in which her religion was continually placing her. We have a striking instance of this in her refusal to be crowned with the King by the Archbishop of Canterbury, when that ceremony, which had been deferred on account of the plague, took place on February 2nd, 1626, about a month after the Court returned to London from Hampton Court
This act, though it did her credit as a conscientious Catholic, who could not, consistently with her religious professions, take part in what she regarded as an heretical rite, performed by men in revolt against the Church of God, was naturally a cause of deep offence to Charles and his people. Indeed, it was interpreted as an intentional slight offered to the religion of England, which was never forgiven, and which rankled particularly in the breasts of the bitter-hearted Puritans.
After this, things went on from bad to worse, and at last they reached such a pass that Charles, after removing the French attendants from Court, finally expelled them from the kingdom altogether, bag and baggage.
The letter to Buckingham, in which he gave the final order for their removal, is too remarkable not to be cited in full : " Steenie
“I have receaved your letter by Dic Greame. This is my answer. I command you to send all the French away by tomorrow out of the Towne. If you can, by faire meanes (but strike not long in disputing), otherways, force them away, dryving them away lyke so manie wylde beastes, until ye have shipped them, and so the Devill goe with them. Lett me heare no answer, but of the performance of my command. So I rest “Your faithfull constant loving friend
"CHARLES R. “Oaking the 7 August 1626.”
CHARLES I. “IN A GREAT PASSION.”
So peremptory a measure naturally excited the greatest commotion at the French Court; for, however necessary it may have been politically, it was undoubtedly a flagrant violation of the treaty of marriage, and gave the French only too good reason to rail against “la facilité des Anglais à tout promettre et leur effronterie à ne rien tenir.” In fact, it would have at once led to a war between the two countries, had not Richelieu preferred diplomatic measures, and despatched the Marshal de Bassompierre, an accomplished and able diplomatist, as a special envoy to try and arrange a compromise.
After a good deal of preliminary conferring between Bassompierre and Buckingham, and a formal reception of the French envoy by King Charles, he was again received by the King in a long audience in one of the galleries of the palace. His Majesty, according to his Excellency, "put himself into a great passion," complained of the intrigues and factions of the French-their malice in endeavouring to wean the Queen's affections from him, and their insolence in setting her against England, the language, and everything English. At last he got so angry as to exclaim to the ambassador, “Why do you not execute your commission at once, and declare war?” To which Bassompierre answered firmly and with dignity, “I am not a herald to declare war, but a Marshal of France to make it when declared.” In his account of the interview Bassompierre proceeds to say, “I witnessed there an instance of great boldness, not to say impudence, of the Duke of Buckingham, which was, that when he saw us the most warmed, he ran up suddenly and threw himself between the King and me, saying, 'I am come to keep the peace between you two.' Upon which I took off my hat, and as long as he stayed with us I would not put it on again, notwithstanding all the entreaties of the King and of himself to do so; but when he went, I put it on without the King desiring me. When I had done, and that the Duke could speak to me, he asked me why I would not put on my hat while he was by, and that I did so so freely when he was gone. I answered that I had done it to do him honour, because he was not covered and that I should have been, which I could not suffer; for which he was much pleased with me, and often mentioned it in my praise. But I had also another reason for doing so, which was, that it was no longer an audience, but a private conversation, since he had interrupted us, by coming in, as a third, upon us. After my last audience was over, the King brought me through several galleries to the Queen's apartments, where he left me, and I her, after a long conversation, and I was brought back to London.”
The negotiations were continued after this for some time, but they resulted in no substantial concessions from Charles; for it was impossible to shake his determination to be rid of the people who had worked so much mischief in his household and his home.
CHARLES I. AS KING AND CAPTIVE,
FROM 1626 to 1630 no events of any importance took place at Hampton Court, though Charles was frequently here with his Court, often two or three times a year, and at all seasons. On these occasions the Duke of Buckingham, who was now at the summit of his influence, was of course always in attendance on the King; and to this period belongs the curious picture of him and his family, painted in 1627 and attributed to Honthorst, which may be seen at Hampton Court, and of which we here insert an engraving.
After the assassination of Buckingham, on August 23rd, 1628, until the beginning of the troubles of the Civil War, Charles paid only occasional visits to the palace. He was here, for instance, in November, 1630, when a play, founded
upon a piece of Persian story," was, by the Queen's express desire, presented at Hampton Court; and again in the summer of the year 1636, when, on June 12th, Strafford kissed hands on his appointment as Lord Deputy of Ireland, and had a final and secret audience before starting for that country.
FAMILY OF GEORGE VILLIERS, IST DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM.
(From the picture at Hampton Court by Honthorst.)
The plague was again at this time very prevalent in London, and a proclamation was issued forbidding anybody from that town coming within ten miles of the palace, or plying by barge up and down the river, or bringing any goods or commodities to and fro. These prohibitions were, of course, osten broken, and the blockade run by adventurous persons who saw their way to making a profit thereby; and several persons were summoned for this offence before the Lords of the Privy Council, and severely punished. Great complaint was also made that “divers Londoners obtained houses near Hampton Court and Oatlands, and these in habit going daily to and from London, which cannot be without great peril to their Majesties,” and the Justices were commanded to remove such persons from their houses, and to enjoin those who had settled there before neither to go to London themselves, nor allow their servants to go there, on pain of being turned out, and having their houses shut up.
The continuance of the plague kept the Court at Hampton Court all through the autumn and winter, until Christmas time; but the fear of contagion did not prevent the players being summoned from London, and “commanded to assemble their company, and keep themselves together near the Court, ready to give frequent performances in the Great Hall of the palace."
The plays performed at Hampton Court on this occasion included, among a great many others, “The Moor of Venice” and “Hamlet”; and it is interesting to note that we have here conclusive evidence that in the Great Hall of Hampton Court Shakespeare's plays were acted by his own contemporaries before Charles I. and his Court.
When Charles came to this palace on these occasions, we may presume that he sometimes dined in public in the Great Hall or some other of the State Rooms, as he did when in London. At any rate we have an interesting reminiscence of the custom in an old picture preserved at this palace, which was painted by Van Bassan for Charles, and is inscribed with the date 1637. Though the architecture indicates that the chamber depicted was not one at Hampton Court, yet in other points the picture is sufficiently illustrative of similar scenes at this palace. The King and Queen are seated at the table side by side, with the little Prince