Page images

when the Protector entered into possession of Hampton Court. Certain it is, at any rate, that they were claimed by his family after his death as his private property.

Cromwell seems to have taken some interest also in the gardens and parks of Hampton Court, for we find that, soon after his coming into possession of the manor, he gave orders that the bridges and banks of the New or Longford River, which, as we have seen, was made by Charles I. to supply the fountains and ponds at the palace, should be repaired and the water made to flow again. The supply had been interrupted in 1648, when the inhabitants of the parishes of Feltham, Hanworth, Bedfont, Hampton and Teddington, through which its course lies, taking advantage of the political disorders, stopped its passage by sinking the bridges, and throwing down stones and gravel. They did this on accouut of the injury which, as it was alleged, this artificial watercourse had frequently done them, by overflowing its banks and drowning the corn and hay in their fields, and ruining and rotting their sheep. Cromwell's action in restoring the obnoxious water-course was, therefore, not at all relished in the neighbourhood of Hampton Court. But he was now too secure to heed any disapproval: so much so, that having re-established the flow, he went on to divert it into the “Hare-warren” (that part of Bushey Park which lies along the north of the road from Kingston to Hampton Court), where he caused two ponds to be dug, which were thenceforward known as “the Hare-warren Ponds," a name now corrupted into “the Heron Ponds,” and sometimes absurdly enough called “the Herring Ponds.” At the same time he barred the passage, which had been considered an immemorial right of way, through the Hare-warren from Hampton Wick to Hampton Court, erecting palings across it, much to the dissatisfaction of the inhabitants of the Wick. But no open protest was ventured during the Protector's lifetime, though in an anonymous satirical piece, hawked about the streets of London at this time, entitled “The Picture of a New Courtier, drawn in a conference between Mr. TimeServer and Mr. Plain-heart," "Time-server," as one of Cromwell's sycophants, while contemplating with “trembling heart and shaking bones” the contingency of a change in the Government, is made to refer to this unpopular act in ask



ing: “Who will have the fine houses, the brave parks, the pleasant fields and delightful gardens, that we have possessed without any right, and built at other men's cost? Who shall enjoy the delight of the new Rivers and Ponds at Hampton Court whose making cost vast sums of money, and who shall chase the game in the Harewarren, that my dear master hath inclosed for his own use, and for ours also that are timeservers ?

Cromwell was, besides, very fond of music, often entertaining those who were proficient in it; and patronizing John Hingston, a scholar of Orlando Gibbons, by appointing him organist and music master to his daughters. During his banquets at the palace he usually had music played, and after dinner, when the gentlemen joined the ladies in the drawing room, there was instrumental music and singing, Cromwell himself sometimes intoning a psalm for the company. He took besides, like his secretary Milton, great delight in the organ, and had two very fine ones put up in the Great Hall, the larger of the two being a gift from his friend, Dr. Goodwin, president of Magdalen College, Oxford, who took upon himself to remove it from the College and present it to the Protector. It is pleasant to picture to oneself the scene in the Hall of Hampton Court at this time, when Milton would seat himself at the organ under "the high-embowed roof," with the

“Storied windows richly dight,
Casting a dim religious light,"

and would make “the pealing organ blow," while Cromwell and his family and attendants sat listening enraptured at the reverberations of the solemn music.

The identical organ is now in Tewkesbury Abbey, to which it appears to have been presented by the authorities of Magdalen College, after having been returned to them at the Restoration.

Another glimpse that history gives us of Cromwell's life at Hampton Court at this period, exhibits him to us with his family seated in the Chapel-probably in the royal pewattending the sombre Presbyterian service; or listening to the sermons of the servile ministers, who, like the Court chaplains under the monarchy, framed their discourses, when they had the privilege of preaching before his Highness, so as to flatter and please their chief auditor. There is record, for instance, "of a sermon preached before the Lord Protector at Hampton Court, by the minister of Hampton, about the latter end of Aug., 1655 :” in which he drew “a parallel between David cutting off the top of Saul's garment, and the cutting off the late King's head; and how David was troubled for what he had done, though he was ordained to succeed Saul”—which was a delicate way of justifying the King's murder, and Cromwell's usurpation, doubtless very pleasing to his Highness.

But though Cromwell was so comfortably established at Hampton Court, he was soon awakened again to the constant danger threatening him from his secret foes by the discovery, at the beginning of the year 1657, of another conspiracy against his life, known to history as “Syndercomb’s plot.” The assassins, who, on this occasion, received encouragement and assistance from Don Alonzo, a former ambassador of Spain in England, again selected one of Cromwell's journeys to Hampton Court as the best opportunity for effecting their devilish purpose. A spot at Hammersmith was chosen, where they intended "planting an engine which, being discharged, would have, upon occasion, torn away coach and person in it, that should pass by.” This seems to be the first recorded instance of an attempt to use an infernal machine; and it is strange to find the Duke of York, afterwards James II., and his brother, Charles II., calmly discussing, like a couple of dynamiters, such designs for "removing” the usurper—and the Duke, in a letter to his brother, speaking of it with approval, as “better laid and resolved on than any he had known of the kind.”

No wonder that the frequent discovery of conspiracies like these, and the suspicion that he was perhaps encompassed in his own palace by spies and traitors, should have begun to shake even Cromwell's iron nerves, and that the heart, which had never quailed in battle, should have been made to flinch at last before the haunting terror of unknown and invisible foes.

We are assured by Heath that "he began to dread every MARRIAGE OF OLIVER'S DAUGHTER.


person or strange face he saw (which he would anxiously and intently view) for an assassin, that book of 'Killing no murder' perpetually running in his mind. It was his constant Custom to shift and change his lodging, to which he passed through twenty several locks, out of which he had four or five ways to avoid pursuit. When he went between Whitehall and Hampton Court, he passed by private and back ways, but never the same way backward and forward, he was always in a hurry, his Guards behind and before riding at full Gallop, and the Coach always filled, especially the Boot, with armed persons, he himself being furnished with private weapons; and was now of more than difficult access to all persons."

Nevertheless, he continued to receive his intimate friends and supporters at Hampton Court, and among those who associated on familiar terms with him and his family was Thomas, Viscount Falconbridge, who, after a short courtship, which Cromwell encouraged, became engaged to Mary Cromwell, his third daugher. The marriage was publicly solemnized in the chapel of the palace on Thursday, November 17th, 1657, by one of Oliver's chaplains, but the same day they were also privately married, according to the form prescribed by the Church of England, by Dr. Hewitt, with the privity of the Protector, who pretended to yield to it "in compliance with the importunity and folly of his daughter”—who was a staunch member of the Church of England-though he was doubtless also swayed not a little by the fear that, in the event of a Restoration, the marriage might otherwise be afterwards invalidated. The language in which the wedding was announced in the gazette of the day, the “Mercurius Politicus,” shows how completely the political scribes of the time adopted the language of courtiers in treating of the doings of the Protector's family:

Tuesday, Nov. 17th. “Yesterday afternoon his highness went to Hampton Court, and this day the most illustrious lady, the lady Mary Cromwell, third daughter of his Highness the Lord Protector, was there married to the most noble lord, the Lord Falconbridge, in the presence of their highnesses, and many noble persons.'

Cromwell's behaviour, however, at these festivities was not always consonant with such magniloquent phrases; for at the marriage of his daughter Frances to Mr. Rich, a short time before, he amused himself with such vulgar horse-play as throwing about “the sack posset amongst all the ladies to spoil their clothes, which they took as a favour, and daubed all the stools where they were to sit, with wet sweetmeats.”

In the following summer we again find Cromwell residing here; when, on July the 17th, there arrived his son, or as the “Mercurius Politicus” puts it, “the most illustrious Lord, the Lord Richard, who being returned from the western parts, was received by their Highnesses with the usual demonstrations of their high affection towards his Lordship.” And on the 30th of the same month arrived "the most noble Lord Falconbridge, with his most illustrious lady the Lady Mary, being safe returned out of the North.”

It was, in truth, in his domestic life, and in the society of his children and grandchildren, that Cromwell now found his only solace, amid the besetting cares that darkened the last years of his life—the disaffection among the people, the clamour in the army on account of the arrears of pay, the constant plots against his life, and the falling away of so many of his old friends, who viewed with a very deep and natural disgust his abandonment of all his former principles, and his turning his back on the professions of his whole lifetime.

By gathering his family about him, and cherishing their love, he sought to mitigate, in some degree, the feeling of desertion and isolation that all these troubles caused him. But even in his domestic relations he was now to meet with disappointments, still more painful. One of these was the defection of his son-in-law Fleetwood, to whom he had been especially kind and indulgent, but who now began ostentatiously to court the Republican party, and to set his wife against her father; and though he was living close to Hampton Court, refrained from visiting Cromwell. But the bitterest trial to him of all was the serious illness of his favourite daughter, Elizabeth Claypole, the news of which was suddenly brought to him at the end of July in London, where he had gone for a few days on important business. He at once hastened back to Hampton Court, and put aside

« PreviousContinue »