« PreviousContinue »
BIRTH OF WILLIAM, DUKE OF GLOUCESTER. 295
“London Gazette,”—“about four o'clock in the morning, her Royal Highness the Princess Anne of Denmark was safely delivered of a son at Hampton Court. . . . Her Royal Highness and the young Prince are very well, to the great satisfaction of their Majesties, and the joy of the whole Court, as it will, doubtless, be of the whole kingdom.”
The birth of a young prince-a fact which would, at any rate for a while, allay the national anxiety as to the succession-could not fail to be received with delight, not only by the partisans of the Revolution, but also by the many Englishmen whose chief concern was for a peaceful solution of the political difficulties. At various places the news was hailed with public rejoicings, with the ringing of bells, and the burning of bonfires. William himself, in spite of the aversion with which he regarded the Princess Anne, was careful to mark his sense of the importance of the event by standing sponsor to the child, and giving him his own name, William. Compton, Bishop of London, formerly tutor to the Queen, was selected to perform the baptism ; and the accomplished Dorset, who was then Lord Chamberlain, and with whom the Princess had taken refuge just eight months before, when she deserted her father, represented the King of Denmark. Lady Halifax, wife of the famous "Trimmer,” now Lord Privy Seal, was godmother.
The ceremony took place on Saturday the 28th of July, in the evening, in the Chapel, where just a hundred and fifty years before had been baptized Henry VIII.'s infant son, Edward. The King declared at the font that he was to be known as the Duke of Gloucester.
In the meanwhile the works for the new palace were being actively proceeded with ; and by the time the Prince was born, the demolition of the old Cloister Green Court would appear to have been completed, and the foundations of the new building already laid. John Evelyn tells us that he went to Hampton Court on the 16th of July, 1689, on business, the Council being there, and that “a great apartment and spacious gardens with fountains was beginning in the Park at the head of the canal."
The canal, which, as already explained, was dug by order of Charles II., and which originally reached close up to the old East Front of the Tudor palace, had been laid out in such a direction as to make its central line intersect that frontage at right angles, exactly through the middle of the gateway. Naturally, therefore, this was now the ruling limitation in the planning of the foundations of Wren's new State Apartments, the intention being—as is clearly shown by a delineation made by Sir Christopher for William III., and preserved among his papers in the Library at All Souls' College, Oxford—that the line of the Long Canal, and those of the diverging side avenues, should converge on the centre point of the new East Front, where, of course, the main entrance on that side would be. The length of the East Front is 300 feet, and the width of the east range 68 feet. As the shape of the new buildings was to be rectangular, according to the rules of pseudo-classic architecture, the direction of the South Front was at once determined. Its length is 315 feet, and the width of the range 78 feet. Thus we have two of the sides of the new quadrangle; which was completed, on the north by a range 42 feet wide, built parallel to the Chapel, and on the west by a low connecting gallery or screen, 109 feet in width, not extending in height above the first floor, and erected only a few feet distant from the old western side of Henry VIII.'s Cloister Green Court. The internal dimensions of this quadrangle—now known
the Fountain Court”-do not, it is strange to say, form a perfectly rectangular space, for though the north and south sides are each 116 feet 10 inches long, the east and west sides differ in length to the extent of 13 inches, the east side being 110 feet 1 inch, while the west is only 109 feet long. How this arose, there is nothing to show.
Such was the ground-plan of the edifice which Evelyn saw rising on the site of the recently demolished Tudor court; and from the configuration of the walls, so far as then completed, he can have seen that though the projected building might be grand, massive, and spacious, it would be · wanting in most of the elements of originality or picturesque
By the “spacious gardens with fountains beginning in the Park,” Evelyn means the present Great Fountain or Public Garden, which lies on the east side of the palace. The preliminary steps towards forming a new garden out of the park had already been taken, it would seem, by Charles II.,
who planted the large semicircle of lime trees on this side of the palace.
It was indeed a fine idea of his thus to link together the converging ends of the great avenues with a grand and bold curve of lime trees, which, sweeping round to the line of the East Front of the palace, and to the walls of the old gardens, inclosed a great semicircular space of 93 acres : and the design of laying out this space as a splendid fountain-garden, was equally apt and judicious on the part of William and Mary. The bird's-eye view after Kip's contemporary engraving will give the reader an idea of the whole scheme.
The plan of the gardens, we are assured by Defoe in his account of Hampton Court in the “Tour through the whole Island of Great Britain," was "devised by the King himself; and especially the amendments and alterations were made by the King or the Queen's special command, or both, for their Majesties agreed so well in their fancy, and had both so good a judgment in the just proportion of things, which are the principal beauties of a garden, that it may be said they both ordered everything that was done.”
In carrying out their magnificent scheme, they invoked the aid and advice of George London, a pupil of Rose, the famous gardener of the time of Charles II., and his successor in the post of Royal 'Gardener, to which he was appointed immediately after the Revolution, at a salary of £200, and in addition made a page of the backstairs to Queen Mary. With London was associated another ingenious gardener named Henry Wise, who entered into a sort of partnership with him, and worked in conjunction with him in all the improvements that he carried out in the gardens and parks of Hampton Court. It is doubtless to London or Wise that Defoe alludes, when, in mentioning the gardening operations undertaken by William and Mary at Hampton Court at the beginning of their reign, he tells us that “the fine parcel of limes, which form the semicircle on the south [? east] front of the house, by the iron gates, looking into the park, were, by the dexterous hand of the head gardener removed, after some of them had been almost thirty years planted in other places, though not far off.”
This remark—had we not the authority of Switzer for ascribing the great semicircle to Charles II.-would have
THE GREAT SEMICIRCULAR GARDEN.
led us to suppose that the lime trees in question were first planted at this time by William and Mary; but we conceive that on this point Switzer's positive and certain statement must be conclusive, as he shows intimate acquaintance with Hampton Court, and probably worked in these very gardens himself, under London and Wise, whose pupil he was, and whose works he details ; while Defoe wrote thirty-five years after the event from hearsay information, which he may have misunderstood or misapplied.
It may, however, be that the semicircle was at this time enlarged and extended, and the lime trees shifted further eastward in the park; though it is equally probable that Defoe is alluding to the subsequent removal, in 1699 and 1700—five years after the death of Queen Mary—of those lime trees, which were on the circumference of the semicircle nearest the palace, and the shifting of which was necessitated, as we shall see when we reach that period, by the extension of the gardens down to the river on the south, and to the Kingston Road on the north, so that the limes in front of the palace no longer form a complete semicircle, but only a segment of one, and instead of reaching to the line of the façade, turn off at a distance of fifty yards from it, in a parallel direction.
Throughout the months of August and September in the year 1689 William and Mary remained in seclusion at Hampton Court; but on the last day of September, William left Hampton Court for Newmarket, in order to be present at the autumn meeting, and returned to the palace on the Ioth, quite "cleaned out," for besides having had a bad time of it on the race-course, he was very
" hard hit” at cards, at which he played every night, and lost as much as four thousand at one sitting. A few days after, instigated perhaps by the remonstrances of his ministers and the complaints of the public against his being at a distance from London, he removed from this palace to Holland House for the winter.