Page images
PDF
EPUB

his doctor's advice, to return at once to Kensington. It must have been quite dark long before he set out, as he did not arrive till nine o'clock; and he slept almost the whole way, in spite of the jolting of the coach. On arriving at Kensington Palace, he went straight to his Great Bedchamber, and seeing his Dutch doctor Bidloe, said to him : “I have got a hurt in my arm, pray come and see it”; and then gave him the account of the accident quoted above. “Ronjat,” he added, "says there's a little bone broken; and indeed I feel some pain towards my back; there, there,” said he, pointing with his left hand to the shoulder-blade. Bidloe then examined him, and finding his pulse in good order, dissuaded him from being bled, and told him that “the right channel-bone was broke obliquely a little below its juncture with the shoulder-blade.” The King then asked if it was well set; whereon Dr. Bidloe saying it was not, a sharp wrangle ensued between him and Ronjat, who, on the King appealing to him to vindicate himself, maintained that it was well set, “but that the jolting of the coach and the loosening of the bandage had occasioned that disunion.” The fractured bone was then set again, and William went to bed, and slept the whole night so soundly that the gentlemen who sat up to watch him declared that “they did not hear him complain so much as once.”

Turning now to consider the precise circumstances of this famous accident, it is strange to find in regard to an occurrence, which caused so much excitement at the time, that almost every incident of it is involved in obscurity and doubt, and that there are considerable discrepancies in the various contemporary accounts. We need not, however, discuss these questions here, but it is not a little curious that among the many accounts, published immediately after the event, not one should mention the fact of the King's horse stumbling on a mole-hill; and we should have been inclined to suspect that the story of “the little gentleman in black velvet” was a figment of later Jacobite fancy, were it not that it is mentioned by Vernon in a private letter, two days after the event It is strange, too, to find Ralph, the Jacobite historian and William's great critic and asperser, writing in apparent ignorance of this detail in 1746, and observing that: “ Tradition says that he, who had removed

DEATH OF WILLIAM III.

351

66

a

the landmarks of kingdoms, was thrown by an anthill; but however this may be," etc.

Oldmixon, however, his apologist, in his history, published in 1734, after citing William's remark that it was strange thing, as it happened on smooth level ground," observes, “but a mole had heaved it up, and left a hole there, in which the horse's feet struck.”

It is almost superfluous, after showing the uncertainty that exists as to the place where the accident happened, to remark that all attempts which we might make to identify the exact spot of ground where William's horse stumbled, must be futile.

Nothing more definite will probably ever be known than that the accident occurred near Hampton Court, and most likely in one or other of the parks.

It is not within the purview of these annals to trace the further course of the King's illness, after his removal to Kensington Palace, nor to recount the discreditable wrangles of the rival doctors that raged around the sick-bed of the dying monarch. Though at first it seemed as if his fall would be followed by no serious results, this favourable aspect did not last long. He was seized with shivering fits and other alarming symptoms, and on the morning of Sunday, the 8th of March, 1702, the spirit of William III. passed to its account.

CHAPTER XXVII.

66 THE RAPE OF

QUEEN ANNE AT HAMPTON COURT.

THE LOCK.”

QUEEN ANNE, on whose short reign of twelve years we now enter, has but few and unimportant associations with the history of Hampton Court ; for though she visited the palace several times, her sojourns were never eventful or prolonged, her Majesty much preferring Windsor and Kensington as residences. Nor did she enter upon any con

siderable new works in the palace, gardens, or parks, though she carried on and completed such improvements as had been begun by William III., but remained unfinished at the time of her accession.

Her connection, in fact, with the subject of these pages may be summed up in the well-known lines of the third canto of Pope's “Rape of the Lock":

“Close by those meads, for ever crowned with flowers,
Where Thames with pride surveys his rising towers,
There stands a structure of majestic frame
Which from the neighb’ring Hampton takes its name.
Here Britain's statesmen oft the fall foredoom
Of foreign tyrants, and of nymphs at home ;
Here thou, great ANNA! whom three realms obey,
Dost sometimes counsel take-and sometimes tea."

The phrase, “dost sometimes counsel take," proves to have a more definite signification and appropriateness, than would be supposed by the casual reader, for Queen Anne, especially in the first few years of her reign, used frequently to come over to Hampton Court, while staying at Windsor Castle, for the purpose of presiding over meetings of her Privy Council, which were held in the Cartoon Gallery, otherwise known as the Great Council Chamber, or King's Gallery. Thus we have record of councils being held here in July and August of the year 1702, within a few months of her accession, and again in the summers of 1703 and 1704 and subsequent years.

This King's or Cartoon Gallery is one of the finest rooms at Hampton Court, and looked magnificent when the seven great cartoons of Raphael, for the reception of which it was built, still hung on its walls. The chimney-piece is a fine bas-relief in white marble of Venus drawn in a chariot by cupids ; but of its beauty, as well as that of the carving of the capitals of the oak pilasters, and of the cornice and

the doorways, only a visit can give an adequate idea.

The other rooms composing the King's suite of State Apartments were, doubtless, also occupied by Queen Anne whenever she was at Hampton Court; as well as two or three rooms of the Queen's suite, which, having remained unfinished at the death of William III., were probably com

CLAMOROUS CREDITORS OF ROYALTY.

353

pleted for her use about this time. As to which bedchamber she slept in, when residing at the palace, we cannot say for certain; most likely it was the “ Queen's State Bedchamber," in the east side of the Fountain Court, though its ceiling was not decorated until after the accession of George I. Her bed, at any rate, is traditionally identified as the one now in that room—a magnificent four-poster, with rich hangings of fine silk velvet, worked with an elaborate pattern, of architectural designs and conventional vases and flowers, in orange and crimson, on a white ground.

In the meantime various works were proceeded with, in the parks and gardens, with the object, as we have said, of putting the finishing touches to what William III. had begun.

Her Majesty, however, as far as concerned expenditure on Hampton Court, or indeed, on any of her palaces, was always the reverse of profuse; and it was with the greatest difficulty, and only after a most persistent "dunning,” that the workmen, who had been employed on the Hampton Court works for many years by the late King, and whose accumulated arrears of debts against the Crown amounted to thousands of pounds, could succeed in getting paid what was due to them.

Among the first and most clamorous of these creditors of royalty was Verrio, the painter, to whom there was owing a sum of £1,190 on account of the painting of the King's Great Staircase and the Little Bedchamber, of which we have spoken on a former page. The necessities of Verrioor “Signor” Verrio, as he preferred to call himself in his memorial, imagining that it was a title of honour—“were very pressing for money, and without speedy assistance he was like to be reduced to great extremity.” In response to this appeal her Majesty directed the payment to him of £600; and having done so, forthwith commissioned him to paint the ceiling of "the Great Room," so that eighteen months later we find him again crying out for cash, and stating that he wanted it for colours, etc., to finish the great room at Hampton Court; that he had received only £200 ; but that another“ £500 would serve for his subsistence and charges until the room was complete." His memorial was

A A

referred to Sir Christopher Wren, who recommended that he should have the £500 “till the room be finished, measured and allowed in proportion to his other works.”

The room in question is the Queen's Drawing Room, the central room of the East Front, and one of the finest of the suite, being 41 feet long, 35 feet wide, and 30 feet high. From it the visitor can judge of the real taste of this reign, which was nothing better than an imitation of the bastard classic of Louis XIV., as distinguished from the socalled “Queen Anne style,” which never had any existence at all, except an imaginary one in the brains of modern æsthetes and china-maniacs.

Verrio's ceiling represents Queen Anne in the character of Justice, with scales in one hand and a sword in the other ; her dress is purple, lined with ermine. Over her head a crown is held by Neptune and Britannia; while surrounding her, and floating in the clouds, are various allegorical figures representing Peace, Plenty, etc. « On the sides of this room,” we are told in 1741, are more paintings of Verrio, representing the British fleet, and Prince George of Denmark pointing to it; and the four parts of the world, shown by four figures ; but these were thought so indifferent that they are now concealed and covered over with hangings of green damask.” A flock paper, affixed to a stretched canvas, now takes the place of the old hangings; but the painted walls behind them remain as they were. It is worthy of consideration, whether it would not be well to uncover the painted walls, and show the room as it was in the time of Queen Anne, that the visitor to Hampton Court may have a truer idea of the decoration of that period.

Soon after painting this room, Verrio's eyesight failed him ; and it is stated by Walpole that “Queen Anne gave him a pension of £200 a year for life, but he did not enjoy it long, dying at Hampton Court in 1707," doubtless in his apartments in the palace.

Other creditors of the Crown had equal, if not more, difficulty in getting their bills attended to, to say nothing of their being settled. Thus Richard Stacey, master-bricklayer, who was owed £6,481 os. 11 d. for work done at Hampton Court and elsewhere, and who stated that “

part of the work at Hampton Court was finished in her present Matys

« PreviousContinue »