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CHARLES'S UNSHAKABLE DETERMINATION. 275
In these circumstances he was certainly hesitating to discharge the task assigned to him, if he was not actually endeavouring to thwart the King in his project, when he received from his Majesty the following peremptory letter:
Hampton Court, Thursday morning. “For the Chancellor.
“I forgot when you were here last to desire you to give Broderick good counsel not to meddle any more with what concerns my Lady Castlemaine, and to let him have a care how he is the author of any scandalous reports, for if I find him guilty of such a thing, I will make him repent it to the last moment of his life. And now I am entered on this matter, I think it very necessary to give you a little good council, lest you may think that by making a farther stir in the matter you may divert me from my resolution, which all the world shall never do, and I wish I may be unhappy in this world, and in the world to come, if I fail in the least degree of what I resolved, which is of making my Lady Castlemaine of my wife's bed-chamber, and whosoever I find endeavouring to hinder this resolution of mine, except it be only to myself, I will be his enemy to the last moment of my life. You know how much a friend I have been to you: if you will oblige me eternally, make this business as easy to me as you can, of what opinion you are of; for I am resolved to go through with this matter, let what will come of it, which again I solemnly swear before Almighty God; wherefore, if you desire to have the continuance of my friendship, meddle no more with this business, except it be to beat down all false and scandalous reports, and to facilitate what I am sure my honour is so much concerned in : and whomsoever I find to be my Lady Castlemaine's enemy in this matter, I do promise upon my word to be his enemy as long as I live. You may show this letter to my Lord Lieutenant, and if you have both a mind to oblige me, carry yourselves like friends to me in this matter.
" CHARLES R.” The import of this letter there was no mistaking; and “the Keeper of the King's Conscience” had the disagreeable alternative plainly put before him, either of resigning the Great Seal, and incurring the King's eternal enmity, or of employing all his powers of persuasion and argument, to induce a friendless and inexperienced young woman, specially committed to his care, to enter into most intimate relations with a woman, whom he thought too infamous to associate with his own wife !
Clarendon was not long in making his election : and inexhaustible were the plausible sophistries-set out with great diffuseness in his autobiography-with which, after the manner of politicians anxious to retain place and power, he
tried to excuse to his own conscience and to the world, his adoption of the baser alternative. It was, of course, not that he feared the displeasure of the King, nor that he clung to the lucrative post of the Lord Chancellorship. Not at all ! It was only his overwhelming sense of what was due to his sovereign and master, and his deep appreciation of the imperative exigences of the political situation, which compelled him to waive any objections he might have had, and to subordinate his individual predilections to the good of the State. With verbose and laboured cant of this sort, did Clarendon seek to justify himself for assuming the disgraceful rôle assigned him by the King !
Clarendon's first interview with Queen Catherine of Braganza, to try and induce her to conform to the King's wishes, was not much of a success. For when, in expressing his regret at the misunderstanding that had arisen between their Majesties, he coolly did so in such a way as to show that the King imputed much blame to her, hinting also that he himself shared that view, she protested so passionately, and with such a torrent of tears, that there was nothing for him to do but to retire, stiffly observing “that he would wait upon her in a fitter season, and when she should be more capable of receiving humble advice from her servants, who wished her well.”
Next day he came to see her again, and found her much more composed, and she vouchsafed to excuse the excitement which she had betrayed the day before, pathetically remarking that “she looked upon him as one of the few friends she had, and from whom she would most willingly at all times receive counsel, but that she hoped he would not wonder at, nor blame her, if having greater misfortunes upon her, and having to struggle with more difficulties, than any woman had ever been put to of her condition, she sometimes gave vent to that passion that was ready to break her heart.” To this Clarendon hypocritically replied that "such was his devotion to her, that he would always loyally say to her what was best for her to hear, though it might not please her, and though it should render him ungracious in her eyes."' On which Catherine humbly told him “that he should never be more welcome to her than when he told her of her faults.”
Of the permission thus accorded him, his lordship at once CLARENDON'S INTERVIEW WITH THE QUEEN. 277
took advantage, by explaining that her education, which had been almost entirely in a convent, had been such as to give her but little information “of the follies and iniquities of mankind,” adding that otherwise “she could never have thought herself so miserable, and her condition so insupportable as she seemed to think it to be.” Whereupon with some blushing, some confusion, and some tears," she stammered out that “she did not think that she should have found the King engaged in his affection to another lady_” and being unable from emotion to proceed further, gave the Chancellor the opportunity, as he tells us, of saying “ that he knew well that she had been very little acquainted with or informed of the world.” He added “that he came to her with a message from the King, which if she received as she ought to do, and as he hoped she would, she would be the happiest Queen in the world. . . . That he now dedicated himself entirely and without reserve to her; and that if she met his affection with that warmth and spirit and good humour, which she well knew how to express, she would live a life of the greatest delight imaginable.” This, and a great deal more in the same strain, Catherine heard with evident pleasure, thinking it all a prelude to an announcement that the King meant to renounce his design with regard to Lady Castlemaine. She accordingly begged Clarendon to help her “in returning thanks to his Majesty and in obtaining his pardon for any passion or peevishness she might have been guilty of, and in assuring him of all future obedience and duty.”
But the wily old Chancellor, having wheedled her up to this frame of mind, then proceeded to expound to her how fitting it was that her Majesty "should gratify this good resolution, justice and tenderness in the King, by meeting it with a proportionable submission and resignation on her part to whatsoever his Majesty should desire of her”; and he then straightway proceeded to insinuate the full purport of his mission, namely, that the King wished her to make Lady Castlemaine a lady of her bed-chamber.
He had, however, no sooner hinted at this, than she again burst out “with all the rage and fury she had shown yesterday, but with fewer tears, the fire appearing in her eyes, where the water was, declaring that the King's insisting on such a condition could only proceed from hatred to her person, and his desire to expose her to the contempt of the world, who would think her worthy of such an affront, if she submitted to it, which rather than do so she would put herself on board of any little vessel, and so be transported to Lisbon,” and many other similar expressions, which outburst Clarendon coldly interrupted by remarking that “she had not the disposal of her own person, nor could go out of the house where she was, without the King's leave”; and he, therefore, advised her not to speak any more of Portugal, where many enough at Court already wished her to be; and so, after advising her not to irritate the King by exhibiting any such feeling as she had shown to him, or by giving him any definite or positive refusal to comply with his request, he left her.
Such was the sort of chivalrous sympathy, which the highly religious and moral Clarendon thought it becoming to extend to the unfortunate Catherine !
He next had an interview with Charles, in which he told him of all the kind and conciliatory things she had said of him, assuring him that it was only her passionate love for him that made her, for the present, obdurate, and entreating him not to press her on the subject just for a few days.
But Charles had other counsellors, who represented to him that what he contended for was not of so much importance in itself, as the manner of obtaining it; that the point now involved was who should rule at Court, he or the Queen; and that if he yielded now he would ever after be under the thumb of his wife. Advice of this sort was only too consonant with Charles's present mood, and that night, when he and Catherine met, "the fire flamed higher than ever," he reproaching her with stubbornness and want of duty, and she him with tyranny and want of affection; talking loudly “how ill she was treated, and that she would return again to Portugal.” To this he replied that she had better find out first whether her mother would care to have her back; and that he would give her an opportunity of knowing this by sending to their home all her Portuguese servants, and that he would forthwith give orders for the discharge of them all, since they behaved themselves so ill; for to them and their counsels he imputed all her perverseness.”