« PreviousContinue »
A SPLENDID AQUATIC PAGEANT.
shore, going to meet and conduct the new Queen from Hampton Court to Whitehall, at the first time of her coming to town. In my opinion it far exceeded all the Venetian Bucentoras, etc., on the Ascension, when they go to espouse the Adriatic.”
All this splendour and rejoicing must have seemed like a keen satire to poor Catherine, after all the humiliations she had lately been subjected to, and the misery she was suffering still.
But there was yet much more that she was to be called upon to endure. Only a fortnight after her triumphal entry into the capital, we hear of her having to drive away
from a ball given by the Queen-Mother at Somerset House, in one coach with the King, Lady Castlemaine, and young Crofts (afterwards Duke of Monmouth). Well might she reply to Lady Castlemaine—who bounced into her bedroom one day, as she was at her toilet, saying, impertinently, “I can't think how you can have the patience to sit so long a-dressing; well might she reply, “Madam, I have so much reason to use patience, that I can well bear such a trifle.”
HAMPTON COURT UNDER CHARLES II. AND JAMES II.
AFTER Charles II.'s long sojourn with his Queen at Hampton Court in the summer of 1662, he rarely came to stay for any considerable time, as he much preferred to pass his. time amid the gaieties and dissipations of Whitehall or Newmarket. Nevertheless, he paid occasional visits here, and the State Apartments were always kept ready for his reception; and alterations and improvements were continually being made in and about the palace. Among these was the fitting up of a suite of rooms for the use of Lady Castlemaine, who always insisted in being most luxuriously housed in all the royal palaces.
In the meantime the palace was frequently visited by
foreigners of distinction, who in this reign came in considerable numbers to travel in England, and of whom several have left us records of their impressions.
Among them was the Duc de Monconys, who drove down here in a coach and six on the 23rd of June, 1663, accompanied by M. de la Molière ; and who remarked of the country which he traversed, that it was wonderfully beautiful, like it is everywhere in England. What struck him most in the palace itself was the mass of towers, turrets, cupolas, pinnacles and ornaments of all sorts which produced a confusion that was not unpleasing. In the garden he noticed the fountain, “composed of four syrens in bronze, seated astride on dolphins, between which was a shell, supported on the foot of a goat. Above the syrens, on a second tier, were four little children, each seated, holding a fish, and surmounting all a large figure of a lady—all the figures being of bronze, but the fountain itself and the basin of marble." This description evidently refers to the same fountain as the one noticed by Evelyn, the statues of which he states to be by Fanelli. The figure at the summit was, according to the Inventory of 1659, a statue of Arethusa : though as she holds a golden apple in her hand, it seems probable that it represents Venus.
It was afterwards moved by William III. into the centre of the great basin in Bushey Park, where it has since been known as “the Diana fountain”—a misnomer, which it probably acquired from the sylvan surroundings of its present position, and which it would now be difficult to correct.
After August, 1662, we do not hear of Charles or his Queen being at Hampton Court until June 29th, 1665, when they retired here from Whitehall, on account of the plague, which had been raging already for some time in London, and which was now rapidly increasing and spreading, the deaths in the capital alone amounting to two thousand a week.
Here the Court remained about a month, in comparative security and isolation; though the King went frequently to Sion to transact business with the Council, which met there for greater safety.
The quarantine between London and Hampton Court
ANECDOTE OF VERRIO.
was not so strict, however, that it did not allow of Pepys coming down to the palace occasionally. On Sunday, July 23rd, he notes : “To Hampton Court, where I followed the King to chapel and there heard a good sermon; and after sermon with my Lord Arlington, Sir Thomas Ingram, and others, spoke to the Duke about Tangier, but not to much purpose. I was not invited anywhere to dinner, though a stranger, which did also trouble me; but yet I must remember it is a Court, and indeed where most are strangers ; but, however, Cutler carried me to Mr. Marriott's, the housekeeper, and there we had a very good dinner and good company, amongst others Lilly the painter."
On the 26th of July the King went down the river for the day to Greenwich and Woolwich, where he was met by Pepys, who came the day after to Hampton Court to see him and the Queen set out for Salisbury, whither they went on account of the increase of the plague in the environs of London. Afterwards he saw the Duke and Duchess of York, who were going northwards; and he kissed the duchess's hand; "and it was the first time I did ever, or did see anybody else, kiss her hand, and it was a most fine white and fat hand. But it was pretty to see the young, pretty ladies dressed like men, in velvet coats, caps with ribbons, and with lace bands, just like men.”
Charles II. continued to the end of his reign to pay occasional flying visits here; and to his latter years belongs an anecdote told of Verrio the painter, who had done much decorative work for the King in the way of painting ceilings and staircases. Verrio, it seems, was very extravagant, and kept a most expensive table, so that he often pressed the King for money with a freedom, which his Majesty's own frankness indulged. “Once at Hampton Court, when he had but lately received an advance of £1,000, he found the King in such a circle that he could not approach him. He called out: 'Sire, I desire the favour of speaking to your Majesty.' 'Well, Verrio,' said the King, 'what is your request?' 'Money, Sir, money; I am so short of cash, that I am not able to pay my workmen ; and your Majesty and I have learnt by experience, that pedlars and painters cannot give long credit.' The King smiled and said he had but lately ordered him £1,000. “Yes, Sir,' replied he, “but that was soon paid away, and I have no gold left.' "At that rate,' said the King, “you would spend more than I do, to maintain my family.' ‘True,' answered Verrio, 'but does your Majesty keep an open table as I do?;»
The reign of James II. was, as far as the history of Hampton Court is concerned, an uneventful one; for it is not certain whether, as King, he ever passed a single night in the palace; though he seems to have held a Council here about the 29th of May, 1687, at which “the militia was put down and the licensing of ale-houses was put in other hands than the justices of the peace."
James, however, was frequently in the neighbourhood of Hampton Court, namely at Hounslow Heath, which adjoins the outskirts of Bushey Park, and on which was encamped during the year 1687 the army of 16,000 men, on whose support he relied to carry out his schemes against the liberties of the English people. But his armed force was regarded, by his subjects, with little else but derision; of which we have a good example in the contemptuous irony of the following lines, published at the time:
“Near Hampton Court there lies a Common,
We have a reminiscence, also, of this reign in the canopy, now in the Queen's Audience Chamber, which was removed here from Windsor Castle, and under which King James there received the Papal Nuncio—an incident which gave deep offence to his Protestant subjects—and another in the old cast-iron fire-back in the Queen's Gallery, which bears the royal arms, his initials, I. R., and the date 1687.
ACCESSION OF WILLIAM AND MARY.
WILLIAM AND MARY AT HAMPTON COURT.
The accession of the Prince and Princess of Orange to the English throne marks as great an epoch in the history of Hampton Court as it does in that of England, for it was during their reign, and under their superintendence, that the greater part of the old Tudor State Apartments was pulled down, the new palace erected, and the parks and gardens laid out in the form in which we behold them at present.
Until their proclamation as King and Queen, on February 13th, 1689—the day after Mary's arrival in London, and three months after the landing of William at Torbay, William had been too engrossed with affairs of State to find time to visit any of the royal palaces out of London ; but when once firmly seated on his father-in-law's throne, he began to look about him for some place where, without being too far away from his ministers, he might be free from the press and crowd of Whitehall, and give full indulgence to his unsociable inclinations.
With this object in view he soon turned his attention to Hampton Court, and, ten days after the proclamation, came down with the Queen to spend two or three days here.
With its situation, and the aspect of the surrounding landscape, William was at once captivated : for not only did the flatness of the country remind him of the scenery of his own dear home in Holland, but even from the very windows of the palace he could look out on a long straight canal, fringed with avenues of lime trees, such as met his eye at Haarlem and the Hague. The seclusion of the place also, combined with its convenient proximity to the capital, rendered it just such a residence as he was in search of.
Accordingly, after paying several short visits to this palace, he and Queen Mary moved hither for a more prolonged stay, at the beginning of March.