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regard for the English people, never received in private any English of either sex, and was almost entirely ignorant of the language ; none even of his principal officers were admitted to his chamber in the morning to dress him, nor in the evening to undress him, as had been the custom of the Court till his time. Here, accordingly, at a distance from London, and with no royal duties to discharge, he felt himself thoroughly at home.
The only occasions on which George I. appeared in any state, was on his arrival at or his departure from the palace. When he returned to London he walked, or was carried in a sedan-chair, to the riverside, with six footmen in front, and six yeomen of the guard behind, accompanied by the courtiers and attendants; and the whole party embarked in State barges hung with coloured cloth.
This agreeable mode of travelling to and from Hampton Court was the favourite one with the Prince of Wales, who, in the summer of 1716, when the King went to Hanover, was appointed Regent, and allowed by the King to reside at Hampton Court. Here, accordingly, they established themselves; and during their sojourn they lived in semi-regal state, and made use of the beautiful suite of apartments in the eastern range of the new palace, formerly occupied by Queen Anne, and still known as the Queen's State Rooms.
Of the State Bedchamber we append a sketch. The ceiling had just been painted by Mr., afterwards Sir James, Thornhill
, who had succeeded Verrio and Laguerre as a decorator of palaces and public buildings. It was by Halifax's influence that Thornhill was employed. The Duke of Shrewsbury, who had become Lord Chamberlain on George I.'s accession, intended that it should be executed by Sebastian Ricci ; but Halifax, who was then First Commissioner of the Treasury, preferring his own countryman, told the Duke that "if Ricci painted it he would not pay him.” The power of the purse, of course, prevailed, and Thornhill was given the commission.
This ceiling is, in truth, the best at Hampton Court. The design shows Aurora rising out of the ocean in her golden chariot, drawn by four white horses, and attended by cupids; below are Night and Sleep. In the cornice are portraits of George I., with the crown, over the bed; of
Caroline, Princess of Wales, over the fireplace; of George II., as Prince of Wales, opposite his wife, and of their son, Frederick, Prince of Wales, at this time a boy of nine years of age, over the window.
The bedroom is 30 feet long by 251 feet broad, and 30 feet high. The bed, with furniture to match, which, as we remarked in a previous chapter, is believed to have been Queen Anne's, and was doubtless used by the Prince and Princess of Wales when occupying the palace this summer, has remained undisturbed ever since. The material has suffered much from age, but it reveals, when closely inspected, a workmanship of great delicacy.
A beautiful chandelier of silver elaborately decorated with glass balls, hangs from the centre of the ceiling.
Here, at Hampton Court, their Royal Highnesses, on this occasion at any rate, were determined to show how gracious and amiable they could be; and how gay and splendid a Court they could hold. Their motive was, doubtless, to exhibit a sharp contrast to the stiff formality of the King's conduct, which had already excited disgust in England.
Accordingly, we find that all that England could then boast of wit, intelligence, and beauty, was welcomed at the palace. Here came Philip Dormer, Lord Stanhope, afterwards third Earl of Chesterfield, who had been appointed, the year before, a gentleman of the bedchamber to the Prince, and who, though but twenty years of age, was already acknowledged as without a rival in that brilliant wit for which he became so famous; Carr, Lord Hervey, and his more celebrated, though not more clever brother, John; Lord Scarborough, Charles Churchill, brother of the Duke of Marlborough, and many others. Among the ladies were Lady Walpole, Sir Robert's wife, Mrs. Selwyn, mother of the well-known George, and the famous Mrs. Howard.
But the most delightful members of that charming society were the beautiful and vivacious ladies-in-waiting to the Princess, and especially those two paragons, Miss Bellenden and Miss Lepell. Of Miss Mary Bellenden, who, with her sister Margaret, was celebrated by Gay,
“Madge Bellenden, the tallest of the land,
THE PRINCE AND THE LADIES-IN-WAITING. 363
Walpole, in his account of the society which used to meet in Mrs. Howard's apartments in the palace, says: "Above all for universal admiration was Miss Bellenden. Her face and person were charming, lively she was almost to étourderie, and so agreeable that she was never afterwards mentioned by her contemporaries but 'as the most perfect creature they had ever known.'
It was not to be expected that the Prince should be insensible to such charms. But the lively lady-in-waiting treated his Royal Highness with singular spirit and pertness. She records herself, how she used to stand in his presence, with her arms saucily crossed before her, and when he asked her whether her hands were cold, she told him they were not, but that she crossed them because she liked to stand so.” The Prince, however, was a persevering admirer; and never ceased to ply her with attentions, without receiving anything in return but saucy remarks or playful scorn.
There was also at Hampton Court this year her friend and companion, "youth's youngest daughter, sweet Lepell," who, in the estimation of most persons, equalled, if she did not excel her, in all these courtly charms :
“What pranks are played behind the scenes,
And who at court the belle;
And others say Lepell."
“Dear Molly Lepell,” as Pope called her, was indeed endowed—if we are to credit the unanimous testimony of all her contemporaries, such as Pope, Gay, and Chesterfieldwith every charm that can engage affection and regard. Her beauty was only equalled by the vivaciousness of her manner, and the brilliancy and wit of her conversation; and Lord Chesterfield, who was no mean judge on such a question, declared that she was a perfect model of the finely-polished, high-bred, genuine woman of fashion. “She had been bred,"
“all her life at courts, of which she has acquired all the easy good-breeding, and the politeness, without the frivolousness. No woman ever had more than she had 'le ton de la parfaitement bonne compagnie, les manières engageantes, et le je-ne-sçais-quoi qui plait.
In the summer of this year these charming maids of
honour had every opportunity of exercising their social talents. Every day was absorbed by one long round of amusement and gaiety. In the morning the Prince and Princess usually went on the river in barges finely carved and gilt, and hung with crimson silk curtains. As they were rowed along by the stout oarsmen dressed in the royal liveries, something of the restraint that royalty imposes was discarded in the flow of wit and repartee, and the lively chatter of the maids of honour; or, perhaps, they sang a glee or a ballad, while the plash of the oars was stilled for a few minutes as they floated idly down the stream.
In the middle of the day they came home, when the Prince and Princess dined in public in the Princess's apartments with the whole Court, the lady-in-waiting serving at table. In the afternoon the Princess saw company, or read and wrote letters; and later on, as evening came on, usually walked for two or three hours in the gardens. The rest of the Court found occupation in strolling among the fountains, and beneath the shady lime groves, or in loitering by the water edge of the canals; or they repaired to the bowlinggreen at the end of the terrace walk by the riverside, reminding one of the lines in Dryden:
“Hither in summer evenings you repair
Some of the gentlemen played bowls, while the rest looked on with the ladies, or strolled along the terrace, to gaze over the wall at the Thames flowing beneath, or sat flirting in the shady nooks and arbours that were judiciously disposed around. The four pavilions, also, that stood at each corner of the bowling-green, were adapted for intimate converse. They were fitted up as drawing rooms, boudoirs, and card rooms, where those who would might join in a game of ombre or commerce, or sip coffee or tea, while listening to some fair musician accompanying herself to one of Lansdowne's songs on the spinet.
Here they lingered long into the evening; and the Prince, we make no doubt, was frequently of these parties. The Princess, too, after her evening walk, often joined the company, and would stay playing cards at the Pavilions till long